State Sen. Frank Niceley has launched a blog with initial posts on topics ranging from “Rocky the squirrel” being foiled in an attempt to break into the state capitol complex (with photo) to a reminiscence on “legendary East Tennessee criminal defense attorney Ray Jenkins.”
The very first post provides a hat tip of sorts to Sen. Stacey Campfield, a fellow conservative Republican who was apparently the first state legislator to start a blog several years ago. Therein Niceley recalls a conversation with then-House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh: “Frank, you all have to do something about Campfield,” he said obviously agitated, “he has a blog!” I replied, “what’s a blog?” Naifeh paused and responded, “I don’t know but it sounds bad.” He hurried off.
The blog is entitled “Frank Niceley said, What?” with the subhead “politics, history, humor, farming.. You’ll find it HERE
With the state Senate Education Committee planning hearings on Common Core, Frank Cable has some thoughts on what’s to come: Gov. Bill Haslam’s education reforms hit a couple of speed bumps this past legislative session, but his reforms may hit a brick wall come next session. A major battle is brewing over the direction of the state’s schools pitting Haslam, Bill Frist, Bill and Melinda Gates, and the state’s business establishment against conservative groups and the legislators who listen to them.
It’s about the Common Core Curriculum, a term you may not have run across. But it has begun to rank with Obamacare as a program reviled by conservative groups.
…I have hundreds of pages of a report introducing the Common Core Curriculum. So far it just makes my head hurt. I suspect the debate in the Legislature will be based on political positions and alliances with different groups rather than on legislators actually studying those hundreds of pages.
The business community and Haslam are determined to raise educational standards. It is entirely possible for the educational reform effort in the state to get derailed over arguments about “liberal ideas” replacing traditional “American values.”
The hearings will be important. The business establishment had better be ready to handle the questions raised. Both sides of the issue need to have “truth squads” to separate fact from fiction. It is the most important issue facing our state at the moment. Let’s don’t screw it up.
Sen. Frank Niceley has filed legislation that would use any new state revenue from out-of-state retailers to lower the current sales tax on groceries.
Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, filed the bill (SB1424) Tuesday for consideration during the 2014 legislative session that begins in January. In an interview, Niceley said he adamantly opposes legislation pending in Congress that would authorize states to collect sales taxes from their citizens buying products over the internet or via mail order from companies located in other states.
But if the law is approved by Congress, the bill declares that the state finance commissioner will make an annual estimate of “surplus Internet tax revenue” and put that amount of money into the state budget for use in reducing the tax on grocery food.
Gov. Bill Haslam, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey all support the “Marketplace Fairness Act,” which passed the U.S. Senate last month but is stalled in the U.S. House, and have all indicated an interest in using some of the new revenue to reduce current state taxes.
Education officials from all over the state are saying they don’t anticipate using the new state law allowing teachers with police training to carry guns, the Tennessean reports, and many are adamant that the proposal won’t come up in their community. “We don’t want any guns in here,” said Michael Martin, director of the small Van Buren County school system. “I know most of the Upper Cumberland directors, and I don’t see us arming teachers.”
The Tennessee School Boards Association also knows of no school system planning to use the new School Security Act of 2013, but it believes conversations may heat up after July 1, when the law takes effect.
“I would anticipate more of those conversations just prior to school starting back,” said association spokesman Lee Harrell.
Metro Nashville Public Schools Director Jesse Register “has made it pretty clear that is not going to happen here,” system spokesman Joe Bass said Thursday.
Register several times voiced firm opposition to the idea when it first surfaced shortly after the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut killed 26 people — 20 of them children.
Tennessee legislators began discussing the idea of arming teachers or other school employees almost immediately after going into session in January. Filed as an alternative to letting any teachers with handgun carry permits bring their weapons onto campus, the measure passed in the state House 82-15 and was approved 27-6 in the Senate. Gov. Bill Haslam signed it into law in May.
Under the law, school systems may hire retired law enforcement officers who meet certain requirements, such as completing a 40-hour school security course. The description could apply to teachers in a school’s criminal justice program, a police officer turned teacher or a volunteer with police experience.
State Sen. Frank Niceley, one of the bill’s chief sponsors, was not concerned about the slow pace of adoption. He said the bill’s primary purpose was to give small districts a cheaper alternative to school resource officers, regular-duty police officers assigned to schools.
“I’m not convinced everybody knows about it yet,” said Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains. “It’ll sift down.”
State Sen. Frank Niceley says he’s not surprised by a poll indicating that 93 percent of Tennesseans oppose his proposal to have the Republican and Democratic nominees to the U.S. Senate selected by the partisan caucuses of the state Legislature.
“Ninety-two percent of them don’t realize that before 1913 the founding fathers had legislatures select the senators,” he said. “They just need a little history lesson. … Once you explain to them that it’s a check on the runaway federal government, they get it.”
At another point in an interview Niceley said he is troubled that, for many citizens, “the only thing that exceeds the ignorance is the apathy.”
“If you asked people should they even have a Legislature, 75 percent of them might say no,” he said. “They don’t realize the Legislature already selects the state treasurer, the comptroller and the secretary of state.”
At least a few teachers and other school personnel could take their guns to class under legislation approved Wednesday by the state Senate, but their identifies will be kept secret.
The bill touched off lengthy debate before being approved 27-6 with an amendment declaring that only the school principal, the school superintendent and local law enforcement authorities will know those authorized to carry weapons.
The House, which had approved the measure earlier, approved the Senate revisions on a 75-15 vote without debate. That sends the bill to Gov. Bill Haslam, who negotiated with legislators in drafting the overall bill.
“If I’m a parent, don’t I have a right to know if a teacher is carrying a gun or not?,” asked Sen. Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, in the Senate debate.
Sens. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, and Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, said keeping the names confidential would be a deterrent to anyone planning an attack.
“For a person who is intent on assaulting a school, one of the best pieces of information that person could have is who has a gun in that school,” said Green. “Secrecy protects the safety of students.”
A bill to raise penalties for cockfighting in Tennessee fell two votes short of passage in the state Senate Monday night after Sen. Frank Niceley depicted the measure as an attack on farmers raising livestock by animal rights’ activists.
“This bill is not about chickens, not about cockfighting. It’s about killing animal agriculture in America,” said Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains.
He contended that bill “makes it illegal to own a bantam hen” and “as written, it could outlaw hunting hogs with hounds in Tennessee.” He also said the Humane Society of the United States, which supports the bill, spent $50,000 trying to defeat him in his last campaign and “word in the hall is” that the organization is spending $90,000 on lobbying.
Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron, sponsor of the bill (SB285), said the bill would not make ownership of chickens “of any kind” illegal would merely bring Tennessee in line with 39 other states in penalizing cockfighting.
He also declared that he was not sponsoring the bill for HSUS, but because the mild penalty now was bringing crime associated with cockfighting to Tennessee. In 2008, he said the TBI arrested a group of cockfighters engaged in “multi-ton meth and heroin” shipments, working in conjunction with “Mexican drug dealers.”
The bill sets a minimum fine of $500 for both those who engage in cockfighting and spectators on first offense, though the crime would still be classed as a misdemeanor. The current minimum fine is $50.
Those convicted of a second offense for engaging in cockfighting could be prosecuted on a felony under the bill, subject to a fine of up to $3,000 and six years in jail.
Sens. Charlotte Burks, D-Monterey, and Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, expressed misgivings about the bill.
Sen. Douglas Henry, D-Nashville, repeated a remark he said was initially made by another senator years ago: “A chicken’s got a lot better chance in the ring than he does with Colonel Sanders.”
The final vote was 15-8 with nine senators abstaining or not voting. A bill needs 17 yes votes to pass the Senate.
A raft of legislation on school security filed after the Newtown, Conn., shooting tragedy was whittled down to one “consensus bill” last week after negotiations between Gov. Bill Haslam and several key legislators, but a conflict quickly developed between the House and Senate.
Under the proposal, school districts would be authorized to hire retired law enforcement officers who could carry guns in schools. Only people who have gone through regular law enforcement training, hold a handgun carry permit and take an additional 40-hour course in “school policing” would qualify.
“These are not just people we’re handing out guns to,” said Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, the House sponsor of the bill. “These are seasoned, veteran officers.”
Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, the Senate sponsor, described it as an option for “top-quality security at a real good price.” Retired officers are likely to sign up for such work for very modest wages, he said.
Haslam has included $34 million in his proposed budget for the coming year for distribution to schools statewide for security improvements. A school could use its share of that money to hire the officers if local school officials choose, an administration spokeswoman said, though it can also be used for other purposes such as equipment or building renovations.
The bill (SB570, as amended) touched off lengthy debate in the House Education Subcommittee and the Senate Education Committee in its initial airing. Both approved the measure, but in different form.
As drafted, the “consensus bill” — a term used by Niceley and Watson — grants immunity to schools for any damages or injuries caused by a retained security officer.
The House panel, however, stripped that provision from the bill at the urging of Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, who cited an incident in New York wherein a security officer’s gun accidentally discharged and hit a 5-year-old student. School systems carry insurance for such things, he said, and granting them immunity could “leave a child out in the cold” after being gravely and permanently injured.
Critics of the move said that without immunity schools would pay higher insurance premiums, and the cost would prevent many from hiring new security officers. But Stewart’s motion prevailed.
The immunity issue was not mentioned in the Senate committee debate, and the provision remained intact. Instead, senators argued over the bill’s effectiveness.
Niceley, who after the Newtown shootings initially proposed requiring a security officer in every school, defended the proposal that he said was worked out during “three or four weeks of back and forth with the governor.”
“This is as good as anything we can pass this year,” Niceley said.
Sen. Frank Niceley has postponed a Senate floor vote on a bill that would let state legislators pick party nominees for the U.S. Senate after harsh criticism of the measure Monday from Tennessee’s Democratic chairman and a Republican colleague.
Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, requested the vote be rescheduled for the last day of the 2013 legislative session. As a practical matter, given the hectic nature of proceeding on a session’s last day, that likely means it will wind up being put off until next year.
The bill (SB471) calls for the Republican state legislators to meet in caucus to choose the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate and Democratic legislators to do the same for choosing a Democratic nominee. It would take effect on Nov. 30, 2014, meaning Sen. Lamar Alexander would be selected under the present system of contested primary elections.
State Democratic Chairman Roy Herron characterized the bill Monday as an effort by “reactionary and radical Republicans” to “steal the people’s right to vote to nominate our United States senators.” He called on legislators to amend the bill so it would not apply to Democrats, leaving the party to select its nominees by election.
When the bill came up on the floor Monday night, Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, denounced the measure as “entirely self-interested” for legislators.
“This bill is anti-democratic. This bill smells of elitism and cronyism. It would open a system that could in the future be ripe for corruption,” said Kelsey.
Two other Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris and Sen. Janice Bowling of Tullahoma, urged Niceley to delay a vote so Tennesseans could become more familiar with the proposal and let their views be known.
Norris also questioned whether the measure could achieve Niceley’s stated goal — prodding the federal government, through the Senate, to show more respect for states’ rights — if Tennessee is the only state to pick Senate nominees via the Legislature. Niceley said three other states — Arizona, Louisiana and Wyoming — are considering the idea and Tennessee can be a leader.
He said the bill has already accomplished good by getting the attention of Alexander and Sen. Bob Corker.
“Our senators have called and talked to more House and Senate members in the last two weeks than they have in the last 20 years,” Niceley said.
Tennessee Democratic Chairman Roy Herron today called for removing the Democratic party from a bill by Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, that would have the party causes of the state Legislature nominate candidates for the U.S. Senate starting after the 2014 elections.
Here’s the text of Herron’s opening remarks at a news conference: Democrats believe that the People should pick the Politicians, instead of the Politicians picking each other. But now the Radical Republicans want to steal the People’s right to vote to nominate our United States Senators.
The Republicans already have made it harder for People to vote by:
*new restrictions requiring big government ID cards
*cutting back days to early vote
*cut back voting locations
*purging law-abiding citizens from voting rolls (e.g., Rep. Lincoln Davis and Rep. Butch Borchert’s wife)
*even doing away with paper verification so you don’t know if your vote is counted.
Now they don’t want Tennesseans to vote at all, even in nominating our most important representatives in Washington, our U.S. Senators.
Once again, the Reactionary and Radical Republicans want to take us back a couple of centuries, to the 1800s when the legislature picked our senators until corruption and the people finally ended the practice by Constitutional Amendment in 1913. In fact, Tennessee ratified the 17th Amendment 100 years ago today on April 1st, 1913.
Now we know what Republicans mean when they claim to be for smaller government: they want to take the People out of elections and let a small number of Republican politicians grab the power.
On behalf of the Tennessee Democratic Party, I call on the General Assembly to take the Democratic Party out of this bill. Tennessee Democrats do not want to be part of this April Fool’s Joke on the People of Tennessee.