By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
FRANKLIN, Tenn. — A 78-mile stretch of highway that loops south of Nashville and has taken 26 years to finish will ease traffic congestion and be a boost for the economy, state officials said Friday.
Gov. Bill Haslam ceremoniously opened the final portion of state Route 840, which was to start taking on traffic at 6 p.m. Friday. Former Govs. Don Sundquist and Winfield Dunn and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander attended.
It took about $750 million to construct the divided highway that runs from Interstate 40 near Dickson to Interstate 40 near Lebanon.
The project began during the Alexander administration, but the section through Williamson County was slowed by litigation over environmental issues and regulations.
In making light of the lengthy time to build the highway, Transportation Commissioner John Schroer noted some workers spent their entire careers on state Route 840, then quipped, “some children were born during the building of 840 and now they’re working on the project.”
“We have to have some humor in the fact that this has taken a little longer to get done than we would have liked,” he said.
Read more: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/After-26-years-in-the-works-840-highway-complete-4003782.php#ixzz2BLHL4HmC
Former Republican Gov. Winfield Dunn, former Democratic Rep. Lincoln Davis and two members of former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s cabinet appeared at the Legislative Plaza Wednesday to declare support for “Fix the Debt,” an effort to pressure Washington lawmakers to reduce the federal debt.
They said former Gov. Phil Bredesen is also part of the effort, though he wasn’t on hand.
From Chas Sisk’s report: The group has launched a $30 million nationwide advertising campaign meant to build bipartisan support for reducing the nation’s $16 trillion debt through a mix of tax increases and spending cuts. The Fix the Debt campaign will urge Tennesseans to sign a petition calling for debt reduction, but it will not donate to any candidates or advertise on their behalf.
“We here in Tennessee want to be absolutely certain that we convey at every opportunity the seriousness of this indebtedness and the responsibility of every citizen to be willing to speak up and speak out,” Dunn said.
Co-chaired by former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson and former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform said two years ago that the nation could reduce its debt by eliminating many income tax deductions, reducing tax subsidies and entitlements, raising some taxes and cutting others. The commission said its plan, which it released after more than seven months of deliberations, would put the nation on track to surpluses in seven years.
The recommendation failed an initial vote in Congress and has laid dormant ever since.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Add former Gov. Winfield Dunn to the list of prominent Tennessee Republicans maintaining a careful distance from embattled U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais following revelations the congressman once urged a woman he had an affair with to seek an abortion.
Dunn has been an active campaigner for Republican candidates and causes since leaving office in 1975. But he told reporters after attending the launch of the bipartisan Campaign to Fix the Debt-Tennessee on Wednesday that he had not been asked to campaign on DesJarlais’ behalf.
“He’s got a campaign well under way, but of course he has some matters to deal with that obviously are going to cause him quite a challenge,” Dunn said. “But he’ll make his way.”
Green Party candidate Bryan Moneyhun is not given to illusions, reports the News Sentinel. He says he has no real chance to unseat 16th District State Rep. Bill Dunn, Republican. But Moneyhun, 56, feels he has already achieved a political goal by just being on the ballot, because of the exposure that will give to his party and its environment-driven ideas.
“I’m not here to bad-mouth Mr. Dunn, he is a fine man and the folks in the 16th would love to see him go back in,” Moneyhun said. “But I often hear people say, ‘Everything is in the hands of the two major parties, and I wish another party would come along with someone else to vote for.’ Well — here we are. My No. 1 issue is simply that the political process should not be monopolized by the two majority parties.”
Dunn, 51, is a veteran and effective legislator. He chairs the House Calendar and Rules Committee, through which every bill must go, and sits on the education, and state and local government committees. He is one of the state’s strongest conservatives, is active in Tennessee Right to Life, and has been named legislator of the year by the Tennessee Conservative Union.
Conventional Unity for TN GOP
At a convention where states such as Minnesota, Iowa and Maine have been divided by an insurgency led by U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, The Tennessean reports that self-identified tea party activists in the Tennessee delegation have said they want to set their disagreements aside in the interest of party unity. “I think in the state of Tennesee that we address those tea party-type issues in the legislature all the time because we agree with them,” said Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. “I just don’t think we see a lot of disunity in Tennessee.”
…”I think if you asked around, you’d have a pretty good representation of the entire spectrum of the Republican Party,” Haslam said of the delegation. “Some of that is maybe they (tea party leaders) didn’t get on the ballot to be a delegate. There’s a process you have to go through. … But I’m not certain I buy that there are no tea party people here.” Brock Credits Tea Party
Former Tennessee Sen. Bill Brock, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, said Tuesday night that he credits the tea party for much of the enthusiasm at this year’s convention. (From a Commercial Appeal convention notebook). “I love it,” he said amid the Tennessee delegation on the convention floor. “There’s a lot of different energy here. I credit the tea party a lot for bringing some real — I’m a grass-roots guy. That’s what I tried to do when I was national chairman and that’s what I tried to do in Tennessee.
Brock, 81, served one term from 1971 to 1977 then was named GOP chairman, Winfield and Beth
Former Gov. Winfield Dunn on House Speaker Beth Harwell (from a Tennessean convention notebook): “As the governor of the state of Tennessee, I had to deal with some interesting people,” Dunn said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d want to go up to the speaker of the House of Representatives in the state of Tennessee and give them a big hug and a kiss.” Ramsey Remembers
While entertaining Tennesseans at the Republican National Convention, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey hopped in the way-back machine and told the story about the day he was elected Senate speaker in 2007.
His lively retelling Monday night featured the role then-Sen. Rosalind Kurita played the day she crossed party lines to vote to, in essence, hand the Republican Ramsey the gavel, according to the Memphis Flyer.
“I walk up the front of the chamber, turn around and come back and make eye contact with her, and she just winks at me. I said, ‘Hot dang, baby. We’re still in the game here. We’re still rocking and rolling.'”
(Above from TNReport, which also has a video.)
Former Gov. Winfield Dunn recalls his first Republican convention and introducing himself to a famous fellow that everybody else was ignoring at the time, namely 1968, in a Tennessean setup story on the GOP convention. “It was Thomas Dewey,” said Dunn, now 85. “So I had an opportunity to meet and visit with him. That was very exciting for me.”
Brushes with history make up some of the appeal for more than 200 Tennesseans who will attend either this week’s GOP conclave in Tampa, Fla., or next week’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Add to those the opportunities to lobby, socialize and party with some of the nation’s top political leaders, and the conventions become more than just quadrennial pep rallies before the November presidential election.
“High energy,” said state Rep. Ryan Haynes. “If you’re not in politics, a lot of people say, ‘Political convention? Turn on CSPAN and put me to sleep.’ But it really is high energy.” Tennessee Delegation Plans
From the News Sentinel: The Tennessee delegation will hold a breakfast each morning. U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, a Chattanooga Republican who is running for a second six-year term, will hold a pre-convention fundraiser Sunday night at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. The cost to attend the Corker event is $1,000 for political-action committees or $500 for individuals.
Other extracurricular activities — many of which are invitation-only — are open to delegates and include a gun show in nearby Plant City, with concealed weapons training courses; a tribute to the South, featuring a performance by the rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd; several documentary screenings; panel discussions on everything from energy policy to financial “literacy”; and enough briefings, brunches, receptions and parties to wear out even the most energetic convention-goer.
“I was looking at the schedule, and I was, ‘Oh, my goodness! I’m going to be very tired at the end of the week,'” said Susan Mills, a delegate from Maryville. “I’m going to need a vacation after that.” A Florida Perspective on TN Delegation
From the Tampa Bay Times: During the convention in Tampa next week, nearly 250 delegates from Tennessee will be staying at the historic Safety Harbor Resort & Spa.
So the city will temporarily give Main Street a new name: Tennessee Street.
A proclamation in honor of the Volunteer State will be read. Welcome banners will be hoisted. And there will be live music at the downtown gazebo from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
But part of their focus is on what happens once the delegation leaves the Tampa Bay area.
“There are going to be some 250 Tennessee delegates who may have never stepped foot in Safety Harbor,” City Manager Matthew Spoor said. “When they get back to Tennessee, we want them to tell all their friends and family about our city. We want repeat customers. We want the city to shine. We are the jewel of Tampa Bay and we want to show that off.”
The mayor plans to hand the delegation a symbolic key to the city. In welcome bags waiting in delegates’ hotel rooms, the Safety Harbor Chamber of Commerce will include a pin in the shape of a key. Delegates sporting the pin will receive specials from about 25 participating Main Street merchants, said chamber board chair Marie Padavich.
When it came to matching up state delegations to hotel locations, Padavich said, Safety Harbor came out a winner.
“We are thrilled to have Tennessee,” Padavich said, in part because they hail from the eastern half of the United States, so “it would be a natural for them to come back and visit us once the convention is over.”
Some businesses are looking for ways to capitalize on the delegates’ presence. For example, during the convention week, wine bar and beer garden Tapping the Vine will open Sunday and Monday — days when the business is usually closed, said owner Howard Latham.
The Sen. at the Conven
In his first blog post from the Republican National Convention, Sen. Stacey Campfield reports that hurricane Isaac wasn’t that bad and wonders if a Ron Paul rally could inspire an overreaction from party powers.
Knoxville’s state Reps. Joe Armstrong and Bill Dunn drew no opponents to their re-election this year when the normal qualifying deadline passed for legislative candidates in April, but both could now wind up with challengers from the Green Party.
The Green Party of Tennessee last month nominated candidates for several offices in accord with a federal judge’s decision in February – including Calvin Cassady of Knoxville as an opponent to Democrat Armstrong in state House District 15 and Bryan Moneyhun as an opponent to Republican Dunn in House District 16.
U.S. District Court Judge William Joseph Haynes ruled that several aspects of state law dealing with third party candidates are unconstitutional, including provisions that have generally kept party names – other than Republican and Democrat – from being printed with candidate names on the ballot.
Part of ruling allowed the Green Party and the Constitution Party, which filed the legal challenge, to nominate candidates later than the regular qualifying deadline – April 5 this year – and have their names appear on the ballot with the party label.
The state, however, has appealed the judge’s ruling. A hearing on the appeal is scheduled for July 25 before the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which will decide whether the candidates will be on the ballot or not.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam is considering a funding boost for the state’s public pre-kindergarten program, a move that would put him at odds with some fellow Republicans in the Legislature.
The governor told The Associated Press in an interview this week that Tennessee’s improving revenue picture could allow the state to resume pre-K expansion.
“You’ll see us between now and when we propose next year’s budget making a decision on if it’s time to fund pre-K in a bigger way,” Haslam said. “I’m hoping that some encouraging revenue will give us a chance to look at some new things to fund that we haven’t been before, not just pre-K but also some other things.”
The pre-K program was begun as a $10 million pilot project for about 150 classrooms under Republican Gov. Don Sundquist in 1998. Under his Democratic successor, Phil Bredesen, the program was expanded by nearly 800 classrooms statewide to serve more than 18,000 children at an annual cost of about $85 million.
The state House Thursday night debated how to protect Christian groups from having to follow a university rule intended to prevent discrimination. WPLN reports that both sides claimed Jesus Christ was on their side, but the sponsor finally dropped the bill into parliamentary limbo. Vanderbilt earlier this year told campus organizations they couldn’t discriminate when students wanted to join. Christian groups said it kept them for being sure their members and leaders followed the faith. Republican Mark Pody’s proposed law just told public schools – under the state’s control – they couldn’t have such a rule.
On the House floor Republican Bill Dunn of Knoxville offered an amendment to force Vanderbilt – a private school – to follow the legislature’s wishes too. He points out that the university receives state-funded scholarship money.
Dunn also took a dig at Vanderbilt for exempting Greek organizations (fraternities and sororities) from the policy.
“And I think Vanderbilt’s a perfect example of a place where, ‘We don’t really care if we screw the religious organizations,’ but we’re gonna make sure we take care of our fraternities and sororities because that means something to us.”
After thirty minutes of religious debate, with Dunn’s opponents quoting Jesus and Paul (Note: The apostle, not Ron), the sponsor gave up and placed the bill (HB3576) on “the desk,” a parliamentary location which is usually a final resting place for issues too hot to vote on.
A state representative says if Vanderbilt University does not rescind it “all-comers” rule, he will push to include private universities in a proposed law targeting non-discrimination policies, reports WPLN. Legislation currently being debated (HB3576) would prevent colleges from forcing student groups to drop faith requirements for membership or leadership positions, as Vanderbilt has done. But the legislative proposal only covers public colleges, even though the issue hasn’t occurred there
Last night, Knoxville Republican Bill Dunn said he was considering an amendment that would include any private institution that “receives state money.” (Note: Apparently including lottery scholarship funds, for example, or TennCare funds to Vanderbilt’s hospital.) Dunn told the House Education Committee he had talked to Vanderbilt representatives, and pending their action he would hold off on the amendment – for now.
“I believe it may be prudent to give them time to come through on some of the things that we discussed, and so, what I’m gonna do is, I’m gonna withdraw this amendment right now, in the interest of time, but don’t be surprised if we see it on the House floor.” So I withdraw this amendment at this time.
Private school spokespersons say the state has no business enforcing rules on private schools that don’t get operating funds from the state budget.
…The controversial Vanderbilt “all comers” rule was adopted after several gay students were asked to leave a religious brotherhood. Christian groups on campus have argued that the policy is targeted at them.
David Mills, a lobbyist for Vanderbilt University, told the committee that the threatened action isn’t the first time the state has “interfered” with private schools’ policies.
In 1901, Mills said, the state forced Western Theological Seminary (forerunner of today’s Maryville College) to stop accepting Indians and African Americans.
It took until the 1950s, Brown v. Board of Education, for the school to get out from under the state policy of segregation, he said.