Friends and family are remembering the life of Al Bodie, a former Tennessee Department of Labor commissioner, government affairs professional, and a mentor and leader to many in Nashville, who died last Friday following a battle with cancer, reports The Tennessean. He was 59.
Alphonso “Al” Romeo Bodie, the eldest of five children, was born Sept. 29, 1953 in Miami, Fla. He was schooled in Jamaica and at the University of Miami, where he starred on the football field and earned a degree in marketing.
After graduation, Bodie moved to Nashville and worked for IBM, where he worked in the Data Processing Division for 17 years. In 1993, Bodie founded the Nashville-based government relations firm Bodie & Associates Inc. He served as its CEO and board chairman.
Republican Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist in 1995 tapped Bodie to lead the state’s Department of Labor. In that role, Bodie is perhaps best known for his role in overhauling Tennessee’s workers’ compensation law.
“He was a very good commissioner and a strong leader,” said Sundquist, who talked to Bodie by phone two weeks ago. “He was a fighter up until the last few days.”
— Note: The legislature passed a memorializing resolution on Bodie, HERE.
Gov. Bill Haslam and his predecessors — former Govs. Phil Bredesen and Don Sundquist — concurred Thursday night during a panel discussion in Knoxville that the lack of dignified civil debate and, animus among politicians and voters has proved toxic in government’s ability to get things done.
Further from the News Sentinel: The 90-minute panel discussion on “Balancing Civility and Free Expression,” the third of three civility forums across the state, drew an overflow crowd at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy on the University of Tennessee campus.
Haslam said he has heard pleas of “please solve problems” from people across the state who have tired of the often partisan infighting, both in Tennessee and on the national level, while government grinds to a halt.
“These issues are too big to turn into petty food fights,” said Haslam.
…Sundquist said that being civil is not a sign of weakness.
“Civility is respecting the rights of others to have opinions and expressing those opinions to arrive at solutions,” Sundquist said.
“Is it possible to reduce the meanness? We have to demand it.”
Haslam, whose first political job was opening letters at Baker’s office in 1978, said civility starts with familiarity — something that’s missing all too often these days.
“The principle holds if you get the relationship right, other things tend to work out,” Haslam said.
Bredesen said incivility is nothing new.
“We have had periods in the past that were very uncivil,” Bredesen said. “I think of it more of a symptom of something else in society. What is it about American society today that people are frustrated with? I sense that people’s needs aren’t being met.”
House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, says he was surprised to find a bumper sticker promoting his candidacy for governor on his desk at the Legislative Plaza last week.
The bumper sticker says, “Run Craig Run” and gives a website address — http://www.fitz14.com — that invites people to sign an online petition urging Fitzhugh to enter the 2014 race.
Fitzhugh, who held a news conference last week devoted mostly to legislative issues, said he knew nothing of the effort until finding the bumper sticker on his desk. The website has a disclaimer saying it is sponsored by Democratic Policy Council, a PAC with Regina Morrison Newman, a Memphis Democratic activist, listed as treasurer and very little activity reported in recent filings with the Registry of Election Finance. On it’s last filed report, the PAC listed a cash balance of $448.86.
Fitzhugh said he hasn’t decided on running, but probably will soon after the 2013 legislative session ends. Legislative leaders are predicting that will be by late April.
The lawmaker has often said he likes and respects Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who is already planning fundraisers for his re-election effort.
The closest he came to criticizing the incumbent during the news conference was to remark that Haslam has “failed to be decisive”as might be expected from a politician with a high approval rating — especially those issues pushed by the Republican Party’s “right wing.”
Asked to elaborate, Fitzhugh recalled former Gov. Don Sundquist once saying he was “irrelevant to the process” — a remark made after Sundquist was criticized for failing to sign bills passed by the Legislature allowing local governments to raise local taxes.
“I would hope that the governor (Haslam) is relevant to the process,” Fitzhugh said.
Does that mean he is comparing Haslam to Sundquist?
“No,” he replied after a long pause. “I’m just making conversation.”
A U.S. Department of Labor report questions how well the state is looking after taxpayer and business dollars supporting unemployment payments to an estimated 120,000 people, according to Action Andy Sher. The report shows Tennessee has one of the highest “improper payment” rates among all 50 states. Tennessee’s rate was pegged at 14.47 percent, meaning it overpaid an estimated $310.7 million over a three-year period. Tennessee tied with Mississippi for 11th-worst in the nation.
State Employment Security Administrator Don Ingram said some aspects of the report are “misleading.” He blamed most problems on a “huge influx” of jobless Tennesseans during the Great Recession and its aftermath that overwhelmed the state’s 40-year-old mainframe computer.
Tennessee unemployment soared from 4.6 percent in March 2007 to a high of 10.8 percent in July 2009. The October rate of 9.6 percent is above the national rate of 9 percent. Last year, 418,000 Tennesseans filed claims for unemployment benefits.
“It’s not necessarily fraud, and it’s not necessarily an overpayment,” Ingram said. “We did not meet all of the requirements that the U.S. Department of Labor expects so far as processing of claims.”
Thirteen straight years of flat funding for the department’s jobs services program haven’t helped either, he said.
Rutherford County Circuit Court Judge Don Ash, who serves on the state Court of the Judiciary and last week completed a four-year term as its presiding judge, tells the Daily News Journal that that the panel is working responsibly but he has no problem with efforts to improve it. “I think it’s important that we maintain the independence of the judiciary,” Ash said, “but it’s also important that the Legislature has a say in regaArd to the discipline process. So, I believe it’s important that both of those groups have input into the membership and the disciplinary functions and the rules about how the court operates.”
Retired Judge J.S. “Steve” Daniel isn’t quite as diplomatic.
Daniel calls efforts by the Legislature to change the scope and makeup of the court a “power” grab and possibly even an attempt to “sunset,” or end, the court, which he says isn’t so much a court as a judicial disciplinary commission.
“I think it’s basically the Legislature trying to take control over who makes these decisions,” said Daniel, who presided over the Court of the Judiciary from 1999 to 2004 and served as chief disciplinary counsel from 2007 to June 2010. “I think the court is operating as it should be.”
The Court of the Judiciary, which would be abolished and replaced with appointees of the House and Senate speakers under pending legislation, has a new presiding officer and declares it is offering “new detail” about its operations in an annual report.
The report for the fiscal year ended June 30 says 350 complaints about Tennessee judges were received and action was taken on 334 were closed during the period. Fifteen judges received a reprimand during the year – nine of those reprimands made public and the other six kept private.
Link to the full report HERE.
Previous post on the legislative “task force” set up to study the Court of the Judiciary is HERE.
News release on the new presiding judge of the Court of the Judiciary and the report is below.