News release from Congressman Jim Cooper:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper (TN-05) announced three new additions to his Washington office.
Chris Carroll, a Tennessee native and most recently the Washington correspondent for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, will join as Cooper’s new press secretary on August 5. At the Times Free Press, Carroll reopened the Capital Hill bureau and won several awards for his reporting. He is a graduate of East Tennessee State University’s Honors Program.
Carroll replaces Katie Hill, who has taken a job as communications director for former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords’ organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions.
Cooper also announced the addition of a new staff assistant, Vic Goetz, a Nashville native and former intern, who graduated from Bucknell earlier this year. Goetz replaces another Nashville native, Kathleen Ambrose, who joined the staff of Rep. Mike McIntyre (NC-7) this spring.
Cooper is also pleased to welcome a new health care legislative fellow, Paul Shorkey. Shorkey is a Rhodes Scholar and current candidate for M.Sci. in Global Health Science at the University of Oxford with a focus on U.S. health policy and health systems. He also holds a M.Sc. in Neuroscience from the University of Oxford and is a Morehead-Cain graduate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Shorkey will work with Cooper on health care issues until the end of the year.
Shorkey succeeds Ruth McDonald, Cooper’s health care legislative aide, who will begin graduate school this fall.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A legal opinion issued by the state Attorney General Bob Cooper outlines exactly when it’s legal for blue flashing lights to be used as part of a funeral procession in Tennessee.
The opinion requested by Republican Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet says that only full-time law enforcement officers can use blue flashing lights while escorting funeral processions — as long as it’s part of their official duty to do so. That standard applies even if they are off-duty and being paid for private security.
The attorney general said non-law enforcement may not use blue or red flashing lights of any kind, though escort vehicles can be equipped with amber lights. Note: The full opinion, answering 10 questions, is HERE.
State Attorney General Robert Cooper has emerged as a secret weapon for Gov. Bill Haslam and state lawmakers seeking to douse some of the fiery legislation put out this year, according to Chas Sisk. But his legal advice may have put his office in jeopardy. A string of high-profile opinions has shown the political clout the attorney general wields.
Though seldom a focus of public attention, the state’s top lawyer has influenced some of the year’s biggest debates, touching on topics from animal cruelty to Vanderbilt University’s nondiscrimination policy. This was not the first time the attorney general’s legal acumen carried weight. But with Republican clout on the rise, support appears to be growing for legislation that would strip the attorney general’s office of some of its duties or change how he is selected.
Cooper, a Democrat with a studious air and a lawyer’s conciseness, seems unruffled by the possibility….
“This is an issue that’s been discussed for decades,” he said. “I think it really comes down to what sort of an office do you want the attorney general’s office to be — nonpartisan or partisan?”
…Cooper refused, for instance, to add Tennessee to a legal challenge against the Affordable Care Act three years ago, even as polls showed that a large majority of Tennesseans opposed the health care reform law. Cooper argued — correctly, it turned out — that the law was constitutional.
That decision and others like it prompted lawmakers to file seven separate bills this year seeking to change the attorney general’s duties or who decides to fill the office. In April, the state Senate approved one resolution that would give the legislature the power to pick the attorney general.
…(P)olicy considerations do not come into play, Cooper said. His staff of 173 lawyers simply respond to the questions they are asked by turning to the letter of the law.
“The history and tradition of this office has been that we provide nonpartisan, nonpolitical advice,” Cooper said. “That’s how we run the office. That’s how we are perceived, and I think people value the advice they get from us because of that.”
……After nearly seven years in office, Cooper says he is uncertain whether he will seek reappointment next summer.
“One of the beauties of this not being an elected office is that I don’t have to worry about getting ready for an election campaign, don’t have to be out raising money, doing anything of that sort,” he said. “So, at this point, I’m focused on the job.”
News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander:
WASHINGTON, May 21 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today announced that the U.S. House of Representatives passed his Senate legislation which includes an immediate two-year ban to stop the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from restricting fishing below dams on the Cumberland River. The president has 10 days from the day he receives the legislation to act upon it, before it becomes law.
“When the president signs this legislation, this will end the discussion,” Alexander said. “Both chambers of the United States Congress have now told the Corps to immediately abandon its unreasonable efforts to restrict fishing and work with state agencies on a sensible policy to address safety concerns, instead of wasting taxpayer dollars and ignoring elected officials who are standing up for fishermen.”
The legislation that passed the House today – and received unanimous Senate support on May 16 – would stop the Corps from enacting any existing or new fishing restrictions for the next two years, while also delegating enforcement to state wildlife agencies.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee will receive a portion of a $500 million settlement with generic drug manufacturer Ranbaxy.
Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper announced Thursday that Tennessee will receive more than $5.5 million. The settlement resolved claims that Ranbaxy sold inferior drugs and made false statements about how they were made.
The claim sprang from a whistleblower complaint that alleged the company manufactured, distributed and sold generic pharmaceuticals that failed to meet Food and Drug Administration standards for strength, purity and quality.
The 26 products in question were made at two plants in India between 2003 and 2010.
A team from the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units conducted the settlement negotiations with Ranbaxy on behalf of the states.
— Note: The attorney general news release is below.
The state’s attorney general says a Senate-approved bill that would prohibit non-U.S. citizens, regardless of their immigration status, from working at or even entering polling places is “constitutionally suspect,” reports The Tennessean. In an opinion released Wednesday, Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper says House Bill 985, sponsored by Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, and Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, would probably violate the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment despite the arguments of some backers.
“It is not apparent that protection of the integrity of the polling place is a rationale for this citizenship requirement, particularly when state law does not otherwise require a person to be a registered voter to perform any of these functions in the polling place,” the opinion reads.
The bill would require that poll watchers be U.S. citizens and bar non-citizens from admission to voting sites.
An amended version — which gives a special exemption authorizing non-U.S. citizens who are assisting physically disabled voters to enter polls — cleared the upper chamber earlier this month. On the heels of the new attorney general’s opinion, however, the House on Thursday opted to delay voting on the bill for one week.
— Note: The full opinion is HERE.
State Rep. Barbara Cooper, who was chairman of the Legislature’s Black Caucus last year when Sen. Jim Summerville sent her a controversial email, says the senator has belatedly apologized for the remark. In August, 2012, Dickson Republican Summerville declared in an email to Cooper, “I don’t give a rat’s ass what the Black Caucus thinks.”
The missive was sent after the Black Caucus issued a news release critical of a hearing Summerville led that looked into allegations of grade tampering at Tennessee State University.
Cooper provided a copy of a new Summerville email dated Jan. 12 and addressed to “Hon. Barbara Cooper and friends in the Black Caucus.”
“Dear Rep. Cooper and friends, one of my personal hopes in the new year is to try to lead a more Christ-like life. I realize that may require making amends to people I’ve hurt in the past.
“I want to tell you, then, how much I regret losing my temper last summer over your reaction to the TSU report. You said what you did with intellectual integrity and honesty of purpose. My reaction was unbecoming to me.
“Please know that I look forward to working with each of you in the 108th General Assembly for the welfare of all the people of our great state.
“Most sincerely, Jim Summerville.”
Cooper said that, in reply, she told the senator: “You’re apology is accepted and appreciated and you are forgiven.”
News release from Attorney General’s office:
Attorney General Bob Cooper today joined the Department of Justice and other state Attorneys General in filing enforcement actions against Standard and Poor’s and its parent company, McGraw-Hill, seeking accountability for alleged misconduct by the credit rating agency. The allegations involved structured finance securities backed by subprime mortgages that were at the heart of the nation’s financial crisis.
The federal and state complaints allege that despite S&P’s repeated statements emphasizing its independence and objectivity, S&P allowed its credit rating analysis to be influenced by its desire to earn lucrative fees from its investment bank clients. Investors and others in the marketplace relied on credit rating agencies like S&P for accurate ratings because the underlying data for these securities was not publicly available.
This alleged misconduct began as early as 2001, became particularly acute between 2004 and 2007, and continued as recently as 2011.
Structured finance securities backed by subprime mortgages were at the center of the financial crisis. These financial products, including residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) and collateral debt obligations (CDOs), derive their value from the monthly payments consumers make on their mortgages.
“The complaint filed in state court today alleges that investors as well as others in the market were misled by Standard and Poor’s promises that its analysis was independent and objective. Unfortunately, as the complaint alleges, this was not the case, and ratings of mortgage backed securities and collateral debt obligations were influenced by the desire to continue earning lucrative fees,” Attorney General Cooper said.
Tennessee’s lawsuit seeks relief to stop S&P from making misrepresentations to the public; change the way the company does business; and civil penalties and disgorgement of ill-gotten profits.
The congressionally-appointed bipartisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission concluded in its final report that the financial crisis “could not have happened” without ratings agencies such as S&P.
The State’s Complaint may be found on the Attorney General’s website by going to www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral and clicking on “Filings of Interest.”
News release from attorney general’s office:
Attorney General Bob Cooper today announced that Tennessee and 45 other Attorneys General have reached a $120 million multistate agreement with a national loan default servicing company and its subsidiaries.
Tennessee will receive approximately $2.3 million as a result of its complaint and agreed final judgment with Lender Processing Services, Inc. and its subsidiaries, LPS Default Solutions and DocX, which are being filed today in Davidson County Circuit Court.
The agreement resolves allegations that LPS, which primarily provides technological support to banks and mortgage loan servicers, was “robo-signing” documents and engaging in other improper conduct related to mortgage loan default servicing. The judgment requires LPS and its subsidiaries to reform its business practices and, if necessary, to correct documents it executed to assist the homeowner.
House Republicans agreed Wednesday to suspend the nation’s debt ceiling after inserting the idea into a bill a Tennessee Democrat has been pushing for two years, reports WPLN. But the No Budget No Pay Act was changed in the process. The measure sets a deadline for passing the budget. If it isn’t met, Congressional paychecks will be diverted into escrow accounts until a deal is struck. In the original bill, Nashville Democrat Jim Cooper says members would have lost that money for good.
Still, Cooper was happy to see the idea gather momentum and pass. And he maintains the bill has teeth, even if many of the people affected are wealthy.
“Folks I know who have money love money more than anyone else. They want to get paid.”
If the policy were already in effect in either form, Senators would have been working for free for almost four years.
In the House vote, most of Tennessee’s delegation voted for the measure, although Jasper Republican Scott DesJarlais, Republican John Duncan of Knoxville and Memphis Democrat Steve Cohen all voted no.
The bill now goes to the Senate, where Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker have both signed on as cosponsors.