Tag Archives: force

A Gubernatorial Task Force on Self-Censure?

Our governor has received the Snark Bites treatment again from Scott McNutt, who sees a trend toward self-censure developing among politicians inspired by the recent reprimand of Knox County Commissioner Brad Anders.
Hearing of Anders’ planned self-remonstrance, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced he was forming a team to study the feasibility of a gubernatorial self-censure because his agenda to transform Tennessee into an autocracy suffered a series of humiliating setbacks recently.
Haslam’s latest gaffes that merit self-censure include:
– His administration was found to have violated the First Amendment rights of Occupy Nashville protesters in 2011, in a judge’s strongly worded ruling.
– His scheme to lay off more than 200 state workers was thwarted by a judge’s restraining order.
– His administration’s decision to award a $330 million contract to a company in which he once invested is raising red flags among legislators.
– His practice of paying a political consultant who also lobbies the administration has raised questions from Democrats on the arrangement’s propriety.
– He had to again admit that, “Yes, Jimmy is my brother,” candidly.
To address these embarrassments, the task force will make recommendations about the self-censure’s appropriateness as a way to distract from the governor’s increasingly ugly track record in conducting the people’s business.
“I will study the task force’s recommendations, and then ponder, ponder, ponder and ponder,” he said. “And then ponder some more, until maybe the public has forgotten whatever it was I was pondering for.”
Also, President Barack Obama is now said to be considering a self-censure for letting his administration’s controversies control its news narrative, rather than vice versa, while promising “never to let it happen again.”

Haslam to Co-chair NGA Health Care Task Force

News release from National Governors Association:
WASHINGTON–As lawmakers at both state and federal levels of government look for ways to improve the quality of health care and reduce the costs of public programs, governors are developing innovative Medicaid programs and must retain flexibility to implement these measures.
To assist in these efforts, the National Governors Association (NGA) today announced the members of a new Health Care Sustainability Task Force (Task Force). Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam will serve as co-chairs of the Task Force.
Other governors serving include Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, California Gov. Jerry Brown, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin. NGA Health and Homeland Security Chair Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Vice Chair Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval will serve as ex-officio members.
“Right now states are looking to change how they do business in order to more effectively serve their constituents,” said Gov. Kitzhaber. “This Task Force will help states sit down together to figure out what’s working and what isn’t and identify how the federal government can best support these efforts.”
“Governors are working in their states to find ways to cut costs when it comes to health care,” said Gov. Haslam. “It is our responsibility to examine every possible option in an effort to make sure promising new initiatives can be fully utilized.”
The Task Force will focus on state innovations that require the redesign of health care delivery and payment systems with the objectives of improving quality and controlling costs. Through the sharing of state experiences and best practices, the Task Force will work to identify areas where federal legislative or regulatory action is necessary to reduce barriers and further support state initiatives.

Alexander Likens Reelection Effort to ‘Overwhelming Force’ Military Operation

Excerpt from a Politico article on how Republican U.S. senators – Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander being a prime example – are working diligently to assure they don’t face a serious primary challenger in 2014.
“I’m running a Colin Powell military operation, which is assemble an overwhelming force, focus on a single target and have the stomach to see it all the way through to the end,” Alexander said in an interview.
The recent Washington controversies are giving the senators a unique opportunity to woo the right — whether it’s McConnell’s rhetoric against the Internal Revenue Service, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) railing at the White House for its handling of the Benghazi attacks or Alexander slamming Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for soliciting private donations to help with the implementation of Obamacare, comparing the situation to the Iran-Contra scandal.
And some of the senators are finding ways to push issues in Washington that resonate back home, including last week, when the Senate passed a McConnell-Alexander plan they called the Freedom to Fish Act targeting federal restrictions along a river their states share.
…Alexander ended the first quarter of 2013 with $1.8 million in cash and has stepped up his fundraising considerably since then. Last month, he pulled in $430,000 at a dinner at the Chattanooga home of his fellow GOP senator, Bob Corker, just days before a Nashville fundraiser pulled in $1 million more. Alexander later secured an additional $530,000 at a dinner on May 2 in Memphis, officials said.
…In this race, Alexander clearly recognized a primary as his biggest threat and wasted no time locking up support within his own ranks. Less than a month after the 2012 elections, Alexander had awarded campaign chairmanships to every Republican in the congressional delegation except Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who was ensnared in a sex scandal. Other big name Republicans in the state who could give him a serious scare in a primary were added as well, including Gov. Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and state House Speaker Beth Harwell.
Alexander even won the endorsements of the 13 living past GOP party chairs in Tennessee.
“He said if it’s necessary he would get some who were deceased, too,” Corker quipped.
With some charm and back-slapping, Alexander is also trying to ensure no state legislator emerges against him, either. After the state legislative session earlier this year, Alexander hosted a Nashville reception for state GOP lawmakers. And that came after he addressed the GOP-dominated Legislature with a red-meat speech attacking Washington mandates
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A Task Force on Christmas Poem, of Sorts

The following was written for a Capitol Hill Press Corps seasonal holiday gathering last week and read aloud by Corps Chair Andrea Zelinski:
The Task Force on Christmas, meeting out at the residence
had cabinet members stirring, although with some hesitance.
A draft proclamation had been hung on a wall
with a Deputy Claude memo explaining it all.
Don’t-Call-Me-Dave and Silent Mike Morrow
had instructions to write puff pieces starting tomorrow.
And the gov in his necktie, with rolled-up shirt sleeves
Sat with Chrissy at a desk, completely at ease.
When at the Conservation Hall door there arose such a clatter,
Bill sprang from his chair to see what was the matter.
Away to the window he ran like a flash
Tore open the shutters and pulled out his stash.
(Pause) Of Alexia Poe talking points
The moon on the breast of the parking lot pavement
Gave the lustre of mid-day when the staff watched in amazement.,
As, what to their wondering eyes should appear,
But a busload of legislators, all dressed as red state reindeer.
With the lieutenant governor driving, and Beth riding shotgun
All knew in a moment, the new normal Supermajority was out for some fun
More rapid than eagles the reindeer Republicans came,
And the speakers whistled, and shouted, and called them by name.
“Now, Campfield! now, Beavers! Courtney Rogers, McCormick
On Kelsey, On Ketron, On, Frank Nicely and Womick
To the top with vouchers! More guns! Less tax!
No health care exchange! Let’s start a reindeer leadership PAC!
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So into the bunker the coursers they flew,
Filled with conservative joy, for the governor’s top-to-bottom review.
Bold Bill bade them welcome, and Chrissy did, too
And the task force on Christmas knew just what to do.
“We’ll study your wish list,” said Chief of Staff Cate.
“And the governor has presents to present while you wait.”
Deputy Claude’s eyes twinkled. His dimples how merry.
Emkes’ cheeks were like roses, Roberts’ nose like a cherry
Leslie brought forth packages, tied with red ribbons,
All wrapped with safety by Commissioner Gibbons.
She carried fiscal notes in one hand, in the other letters called flags
But slung across her shoulders were a couple of bags.
Leslie laid them reverently at the governor’s feet
And he smiled and said, “I have for you all a Christmas treat!”
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And his beardless chin was as white as the snow;
He had a narrow face and very little belly,
But because of recent bike riding was a little bit smelly.
He said, “For you, Ron Ramsey, a cut in the Hall tax there will be
And for you, Beth Harwell, a signed picture of me!”
“From Julius Johnson to Dolores Gresham, a renewed agriculture enhancement grant
“From Kevin Huffman to Brian Kelsey the promise of a pro-voucher slant.
“For all of you free tickets to a Cleveland Browns game
“And coffee cups bearing the Pilot Flying J name.”
“Proclamations drafted by Legal Counsel Herbert Slatery
“Will provide each Republican legislator with individualized flattery.”
He spoke lots of words: Agenda 21 he would shirk
Denounced Sharia law, called Craig Fitzhugh a jerk.
Henceforth, he said, we’ll all be best buddies
Subject only, of course, to a few task force studies.
“Finally, no I promise no Obamacare exchange.”
And the legislators cheered, and praised his name.
Then Speaker Beth sprung to the bus, Speaker Ron gave a whistle
And away red legislators flew, like the down of a thistle.
The task force heard them shout, as the bus went out of sight
“A Merry conservative Christmas to all,
Our governor’s gone to the right.”

DCS Task Force Soon to Report

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A task force on child protection wants more consistency in how reports of abuse are investigated and decisions about criminal charges are made.
The Joint Task Force on Children’s Justice/Child Sexual Abuse is putting finishing touches on its report to the governor and legislators. The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/TOAnx3 ) reported the group met Thursday to talk about how forceful and detailed the language of their final report should be if they expect to get results.
The task force has about 40 members that include Department of Children’s Services officials, doctors, law enforcement representatives, attorneys and child advocates.
The proposal includes dozens of recommendations.
“When it comes to the plan, everybody (here) already agrees with it, so the legislators are more likely to support it,” said Bonnie Beneke, task force chairwoman and executive director of Tennessee Children’s Advocacy Centers.
The consistency the group is seeking relates to Child Protective Investigative Teams. The teams exist in each county and include a detective, a prosecutor, a DSC staff member and a juvenile court representative. The task force found enforcement varies widely from county to county.
“There is a huge need for them to be attending trainings at the same time,” said Emily Cecil, CAC training coordinator. “We have this law that it has to happen, but there’s nobody to enforce it, and there’s no penalties if it’s not done correctly.”
A draft of the report due next month states there must be better communication between DCS and law enforcement and community service organizations across the state.
The department has begun a program called “In Home Tennessee” which is aimed at improving communication between DCS and community service agencies. There are 12 DCS regions and seven have initiated the program. The quarterly meetings of the task force have also given the department an avenue to update others on ongoing efforts.
Marjahna Hart, a DCS director in the Office of Child Safety, relayed DSC Commissioner Kate O’Day’s request for additional funding to hire more caseworkers and raise caseworker salaries.

Gov Receives Voucher Task Force Report (nothing decided)

News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Gov. Bill Haslam today received a report from the Task Force on Opportunity Scholarships, outlining recommendations for a potential program to expand educational options and improve achievement for low-income students in Tennessee.
The report comes a year after Haslam appointed the nine-person Task Force–made up of state education leaders, legislators and representatives from public and private schools–to consider a program to offer publicly funded scholarships for low-income students to offset tuition costs at participating schools in Tennessee.
The Task Force was not meant to evaluate the merits or disadvantages of a scholarship program. Instead, members spent months studying the public and private education landscape in Tennessee, as well as opportunity scholarship programs in other states, to determine potential design elements that would best fit within the broader context of the education reform work taking place in Tennessee. The report outlines various options for the governor’s consideration.
“I want to thank the members of the Task Force for the time and effort they spent researching and deliberating what an opportunity scholarship program could look like in Tennessee,” Haslam said. “I look forward to reviewing the Task Force’s recommendations ahead of the upcoming legislative session.”

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Voucher Task Force Can’t Agree on A Plan

A state task force charged with devising an ideal plan allowing parents to enroll their students in private schools on the taxpayer’s dime is still largely divided on the best way to go about it, reports The City Paper.
At the group’s highly anticipated final meeting, the Opportunity Scholarship Task Force struggled to agree on the specifics of a program it plans to recommend to Gov. Bill Haslam to consider pitching to lawmakers next year.
“It’s not a question of if we have more time, then we’re going to come up with the perfect solution,” said Kevin Huffman, commissioner of the state Department of Education.
“It’s a question of there are different potential options and there are pros and cons to all of them, and ultimately the General Assembly and the governor have to decide what they think,” he said.
Huffman declined to say whether or not the state should pursue a voucher program, which allows parents to send their students to private school using public tax dollars. Huffman said his job is to lay out the options and would not offer the governor further recommendations than what is in the report.

Voucher Task Force Recommendations Due This Month

A “task force” appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam is supposed to draft final recommendations this month on how a Tennessee school-voucher program should operate, reports Richard Locker.
The “Governor’s Task Force on Opportunity Scholarships” held its fourth meeting Wednesday and although differences among its members continue, its chairman, state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, made it clear that the panel’s charge from the governor is not to debate whether to have a voucher program but rather how a program should operate — its legal parameters — if lawmakers create one.
Key issues include when to launch a program; whether to put family-income limits on participation; whether to limit participation to students from low-performing public schools; the size of the “scholarships” — the amount of public money diverted to private schools per student; whether to start a program on a limited, experimental “pilot” basis in a few districts; whether to allow for-profit private schools to participate; and what kind of accountability measures should be put in place, if any, for the private schools accepting the public money.
In addition to limiting eligibility to low-income students, the bill senators approved in 2011 would have limited the program initially to Tennessee’s four largest counties, Shelby, Davidson, Knox and Hamilton, on a trial basis. School districts in those counties have formed a Coalition of Large School Systems, which has opposed vouchers because they divert public funding away from their districts and to private schools.
Advocates of vouchers say they promote school choice by allowing students from low- and moderate-income families to attend private schools that will accept them.
Despite the governor’s assignment for the task force, he said he’s still not sure if he will fully support a voucher plan. “A lot of it depends on what it looks like,” he said
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Haslam: Vouchers Not Necessarily a Done Deal

Gov. Bill Haslam, who assigned a task force to develop a school voucher program for Tennessee, says that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll push for passage of the resulting recommendation in the General Assembly next year, according to TNReport.
The governor said the state needs to have a serious discussion about a school vouchers program, but said he’s still undecided whether he’ll throw his full support behind a proposal due to him later this fall. A Haslam-appointed task force stopped short of firming up details of a proposed plan Wednesday.
“A lot of it depends on what it looks like. Let’s get the very best form, see what it looks like for Tennessee, then we as an administration will decide where we’ll be on that,” Haslam told reporters after a Nashville economic development announcement.
The state task force is still torn on key aspects of a proposal to use taxpayer money to pay for students to attend the private, parochial, charter or non-zoned public school of their choice. Major sticking points range from when the system would kick in to which students could cash in.
“You can get the policy right but still screw things up on the ground,” said Chris Barbic, a task force member and superintendent of the state’s Achievement School District, an arm of the state Department of Education charged with turning around failing schools.
Barbic, who founded a successful charter school in Texas before joining the Haslam administration in 2011, said he knows the state is juggling a handful of education reforms right now but said there’s no use in waiting to come up with a voucher plan.
“Parents get to figure out where they buy bread and toothpaste, and we’re going to limit their options on where they send their kids to school?” he said. “I have a hard time with that.”
The Republican-led General Assembly is anxious for the recommendations of the task force after the governor put off the issue of offering “opportunity scholarships” this year in favor of more study about what a voucher program would look like in Tennessee. Speakers of both chambers say they, too, expect vouchers to be a key issue in the 2013 legislative session.

Voucher Task Force: Question is When, Not If

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A task force appointed by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has skipped over the question of whether to create a school voucher program. Instead, the panel’s most spirited debate Wednesday was over how soon vouchers could be offered in Tennessee.
Former state Sen. Jamie Woodson of Knoxville, now the head of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, said that even if lawmakers approve a voucher program in the spring, properly implementing the program would take until the 2014 school year.
Republican state Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown said he was surprised at that timeline, arguing that if the legislation is passed by March, the first vouchers should be issued by fall 2013.
“It blows my mind that we would even consider not implementing it immediately,” he said. “I thought the whole point was to get it started and see how it does and move forward from there.”

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