State Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson, took the opportunity to visit with state jobs officials while in England to participate in a conference for political and business leaders at Queens College in London, reports the Jackson Sun. While there, Finney paid a visit to Regents University in London, a four-year institution with a partnership with the University of Memphis Finney met with Dr. Supti Sarkar and Colm Reilly, of PA Consulting Group, Tennessee’s London-based affiliate designated to help identify, engage and recruit potential economic development projects from throughout the United Kingdom.
“The people I met with are Tennessee’s point people,” Finney said. “I was not meeting with an owner of a company. (Sarkar and Reilly) are located in London. My visit to London was not a ‘trade mission’ in the sense that I was pitching to those companies.”
Finney said the meeting helped him understand what they are dealing with and what they need in their recruitment efforts as well as to let them know that the legislature is a partner.
Finney said the three-day trip was very productive and that it was made possible through a grant and not paid for at taxpayer expense
News release from Senate Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Senate Democratic leaders released the following statement upon completion of the 2013 legislative session:
“The session was sometimes complicated by the administration sending mixed signals,” Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney said. “Be it with Medicaid expansion, teachers with guns, or withholding assistance from needy families based on a child’s grades, the administration’s contradictory positions often left our state at the mercy of his party’s most extreme elements.”
“We’ve left unfinished business by not saving our people from Washington’s gridlock and inaction, which will cause seniors to lose Meals on Wheels,” Senate Democratic leader Jim Kyle said. “We had the ability to do it, but Republicans here refused.”
News release from House-Senate Democratic Caucus
NASHVILLE – House and Senate Democrats pushed in a Tuesday press conference for a full debate and an up or down vote on a bill to allow Tennessee to expand Medicaid.
“Unfortunately, this General Assembly has been in session for more than a month now, and we’ve spent most of our time on trivial matters,” House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh said. “Whether we expand Medicaid affects the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans and has profound implications for our states budget.
“It’s time for us to do what the people sent us here to do and tackle the elephant in the room.”
Gov. Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Speaker Beth Harwell have remained open to Medicaid expansion, and Republican legislation to block expansion was taken off notice in the House and Senate.
“Accepting federal funds to expand Medicaid will create thousands of new jobs and create millions in new revenues for state government,” Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney said. “If we don’t expand, Tennessee businesses will face millions in new taxes.
“This should not be a partisan issue. This is about jobs and people.”
— Note: The Fitzhugh/Finney bill on Medicaid expansion is HB290/SB604.
Jackson Mayor Jerry Gist hopes new legislation that targets nightclub nuisance cases is well received in Nashville during the 108th Tennessee General Assembly in January, according to the Jackson Sun. “I hope officials across the state will embrace this legislation because it is well-intended,” he said. “I appreciate Sen. (Lowe) Finney for introducing this legislation.”
Over the past year, the city of Jackson has taken action against at least five bars that officials feel pose a nuisance in the community. Finney, D-Jackson, plans to present at least two bills to tackle the issues of declaring a business a public nuisance and improving communication between state and local officials during investigations of liquor and beer license violations.
“There are a couple of bills that I’m planning to file,” Finney said. “They have come about as a result of what has happened in Jackson and around the state over the last year.”
In Jackson, the latest closure of a tavern occurred in early November when the owners of Larry’s Sports Bar agreed to shut down. City officials said the bar was a nuisance because of several instances of criminal activity reported there.
News release from Senate Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE – State Sens. Jim Kyle and Lowe Finney were both reelected Wednesday to lead the Senate Democratic Caucus.
Sen. Kyle was reelected Democratic leader, and Sen. Finney was reelected to chair the Democratic Caucus.
“I owe an enormous amount of gratitude to our members who reelected me to stand for Democratic values in the state Senate,” said Sen. Kyle, who is beginning his fifth term as leader.
“I am honored by the confidence placed in me by my colleagues, and I will faithfully fight for the values we stand for,” said Sen. Finney, who is beginning his third term as chairman.
In other business, the caucus made appointments to the Senate’s fiscal review committee and to the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance.
Sens. Douglas Henry and Reginald Tate were reappointed to the fiscal review committee, and former state Sen. Bob Rochelle was appointed to the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance.
— Note: Kyle defeated Sen. Reggie Tate in the voting for leader in secret balloting — by one vote, according to some accounts.
News release from Senate Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE – Senate Democrats on Wednesday condemned the state sanctions doled out against Metro Nashville Public Schools over its denial of a single charter school’s application.
Gov. Bill Haslam, along with Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman, announced Tuesday their decision to withhold $3.4 million from Metro Nashville schools. Huffman has gone to great lengths to recruit Great Hearts Academies to an affluent Nashville neighborhood, and now kids all over Davidson County will have to pay.
But Senate Democrats added that they would oppose any bill next session that gives the state sole authority to approve charter schools over local objections.
“I can’t believe they would punish our teachers and students because a political debate didn’t go their way,” Senate Democratic leader Jim Kyle said. “We teach our kids not to be bullies, and our state leaders need to heed that lesson.”
This move by state Republicans shows a tendency to put state power over cities and counties. It could have statewide implications. Now Republicans are hinting at a change in state law so that the state can authorize charter schools over local objections.
“It’s a disturbing message Republicans have sent to cities countless times: we know better,” Democratic Caucus Chairman Sen. Lowe Finney said. “I’m saddened to see students in Nashville shortchanged like this.”
“Republicans are always so outraged at Congress over federal mandates, but when it comes to cities in Tennessee, they won’t hesitate to impose their will,” Kyle added.
Tennessee has some experience with charter schools and out-of-state companies. Existing charters have shown mixed results. K12 Inc., a for-profit company operating a statewide virtual academy, is in the bottom 11 percent of schools.
“We need to slow down, take stock of the changes we’ve made to education in Tennessee over the past couple of years, and stop pushing for charters just for the sake of charters,” Finney said. “At some point we need to support the public schools we have.”
News release from Senate Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE – Senate Democrats are calling on Secretary of State Tre Hargett to launch a full inquiry into voting irregularities across the state.
“There are a lot of questions about the integrity of the August primaries, and voters deserve answers,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle. “We didn’t have these problems four years ago.”
In Shelby and now Davidson County, there have been reports of voters getting the wrong primary ballot and voting in the wrong district. State election officials have admitted that poll worker training was inadequate. Davidson County officials were advised against using electronic poll books, but used them anyway.
“We need to know why the machines defaulted to a particular party’s ballot,” said Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney. “We need to know who made that decision, and we need to know whether these machines will be used again.”
Democratic leaders called on lawmakers to reconsider the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act, which requires that precincts use optical scanners that produce a paper ballot. The bipartisan law passed unanimously in 2008 but implementation has been delayed.
“People invest considerable time in deciding how to cast their vote, and when they leave the voting booth, they should be confident their vote counted the way they intended,” Sen. Finney said. “I hope state election officials will take these irregularities seriously and conduct a thorough review.”
News release from Senate Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE – Senate Democrats ended the legislative session Tuesday having achieved several jobs initiatives while stopping bad ideas that threatened Tennessee families and workers.
“The differences in priorities between the two parties was often very clear,” said Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney. “We were able to find bipartisan solutions and work together to put Tennesseans back to work. The majority party seemed more focused on advancing a narrow agenda that only created more problems.”
Democrats were able to work together to stop several ill-advised policies, including measures that would have increased class sizes, cut 5,257 full HOPE lottery scholarships, and enacted a 6,000 percent tax increase on solar energy equipment that would have crippled the state’s fastest growing jobs sector.
In their place, Democrats advanced a bipartisan jobs package that resulted in $25 million in funding for the Memphis Regional Megasite, unemployment benefits for trailing military spouses, and the Tennessee Works Act, which combines the strengths of the public and private sectors to get Tennesseans off unemployment and back to work quickly.
Democrats were disappointed that Republican leaders did not opt for a larger food tax cut, instead deciding to give wealthy Tennesseans huge tax breaks while promoting unlimited corporate political contributions. Republican members also voted multiple times to end Medicare in Tennessee through a health care compact bill.
“We had a chance to make a real impact on the lives of all Tennesseans through a significant cut to the food tax, but other priorities took its place,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle. “A significant reduction in the food tax will be difficult in the near future, but we will continue our efforts.”
Republicans also wasted taxpayer money on a number of intrusive, embarrassing bills while refusing to take full votes on issues important to all Tennesseans, including mountaintop removal mining and a voter photo ID requirement that threatens to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans this fall.
Marrero Running, Kyle Maybe
Sen. Beverly Marrero, thrown into the same district with fellow Democratic Sen. Jim Kyle under the final redistricting plan, says she will seek reelection. Kyle says he’s thinking about it. From the Commercial Appeal: “I am pleased to have an opportunity to run for re-election to the Senate, and I’m pleased that two-thirds of my district was kept intact (in the new District 30) because I’ve represented most of those people for nearly 30 years,” Kyle said.
Said Marrero: “It’s my district, 30, and I’m going to run. It will be interesting. Those days of women just saying, ‘You take it and I’ll go home,’ are over.” Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey
Statement from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey: The redistricting bills we have passed today are fair, legal and logical. The plans restore regional integrity protecting neighborhoods and other communities of interest. I am proud of the hard work by members of both parties that went into creating them. Most of all, I am excited that with this process completed we can all get back to giving Tennesseans what they have asked for — more jobs, less spending and smaller government. Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney
Statement from Sen. Lowe Finney: “With today’s vote to approve redistricting maps in the Senate, the majority party rushed a process that amounted to a secret reverse election. Even today, as these bills go to the Governor for his signature, members of the public have little idea who will represent them.
“The redistricting process should not be conducted this way. Tennesseans deserve openness and proper deliberation regarding such sweeping legislation.” Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris:
From TNReport: “I think it’s the best we can do. It’s the fairest and most legal redistricting plan upon which we could agree,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, who sponsored the Republican maps in the Senate. “There’s something about this plan that just about everyone can dislike a little bit, and some dislike a lot.” Sen. Andy Berke
On why he voted for the Senate redisricting bill (in Chattanooga TFP):
“Sen. Watson and I sat down and looked at a number of the precincts in Hamilton County. There were a number of precincts that made more sense to be in the 10th District because of the commonality of interest. They didn’t make all the changes I requested but they made some.” Cagle: GOP Too Clever?
Excerpt from a Frank Cagle column Tennessee has always been conservative and it has been trending Republican. Given the in-state vote in 2008 against the Democrats with a ticket led by President Barack Obama, it will be an uphill battle for Democrats this time around as he seeks re-election. As conservative Democrats from rural areas retire, they have been replaced by Republicans.
The Republicans could use a neutral computer model and likely draw districts that would result in their retaining control. But they didn’t. The question now is whether they have gone too far in trying to get a super majority and open themselves up to a court challenge and a judge intervening in the process.
Have they been too clever? We’ll see. Bipartisan Support
House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey both made a point of declaring “bipartisan supports’ for the legislative redistricting bills that won final passage on Friday.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner and Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle both made a point of saying their ‘yes’ votes were based on a deal. Basically, they agreed a to go along with the bills – even though disliking several aspects – in exchange for Republicans accepting last-minute revisions that benefited some Democrats without harming any Republicans.
The final vote on the state House redistricting bill (HB1555) was 67-25-3 in the House; 23-10 in the Senate. Seven Democrats, including Turner, voted for the bill in the House. Three backed it in the Senate. There were no Republicans voting against it, but two were officially “present but not voting.”
The final vote on the state Senate redistricting bill (SB1514) was 21-12 in the Senate and 60-29-1 in the House. Three Democrats, including Kyle, voted yes in the Senate while two Republicans – Sens. Mae Beavers of Mount Juliet and Kerry Roberts of Springfield, who lost his seat in the plan – voted no. Five Democrats, not including Turner, voted for the bill in the House.
The final vote on the congressional redistricting bill (HB1558) was 68-25 in the House and 24-9 in the Senate. Four Democratic senators – notably including Sen. Eric Stewart of Winchester, who is running for Congress – voted yes. So did seven House Democrats.
From the Tennessee Republican Party:
NASHVILLE, TN – Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney released the following statement on the election of Republican Becky Duncan Massey as State Senator for District 6.
“Tennesseans have repeatedly voiced their desire for elected officials who understand what it takes to create an environment for job creation and economic growth. Voters in Knox County once again voiced that desire by electing Becky Duncan Massey to the State Senate in the 6th District special election. Her commitment to smaller government, low taxes, and less regulations is exactly what voters in Knox County want. I congratulate Becky on this convincing victory, said Devaney.
“I also want to thank Jamie Woodson for her years of representation in this seat and interim State Senator Sue Atchley for her willingness to serve the voters of District 6 during this transition period,” concluded Devaney.
With most precincts reporting, Massey received 65% of the vote, compared to 35% for Democrat Gloria Johnson. District 6 includes a portion of Knox County.
— From the Senate Democratic Caucus:
Headlined, “Statement from Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney on Senate District 6”: “Gloria Johnson’s dedication to the State Senate District 6 race set a great example for all Tennessee Democrats,” said Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney (D-Jackson). “She fought hard to raise awareness for issues facing working families throughout Knox County, and we look forward to seeing more great things from her in the future as she serves the children and families of Knoxville while giving a voice to some of the hardest-working people in Tennessee: our teachers.”