Sen. Lamar Alexander, who has become the top Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, has added staffers to help him with committee work who have ties to former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson and Bill Frist of Tennessee.
More from Georgianna Vines: David Cleary, his legislative director, also will be the Republican staff director. Cleary’s background includes serving on the staff of the U.S. House’s Committee on Education and the Workforce under then-Chairman John Boehner, now House speaker.
Mary Sumpter Lapinski, Alexander’s health policy adviser, will serve as health policy director for Republicans on HELP. She was health legislative assistant to Frist from 1999-2001 and a legislative aide to former U.S. Rep. Van Hilleary, R-Tenn., when he represented the 4th Congressional District.
Peter Oppenheim will serve as education policy director and committee counsel. He has been Alexander’s legislative counsel and is a former research assistant to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.
Lindsey Ward Seidman will serve as senior policy adviser. Seidman has worked for Alexander since his first Senate campaign in 2002 and was policy director in his 2008 Senate campaign.
Michael Merrell will serve as chief counsel. He previously was on the Senate Rules Committee, where he advised Republicans on Senate rules and procedure, election administration and campaign finance. He previously worked for former U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah.
Jim Jeffries will continue to serve as communications director, overseeing press in Alexander’s Senate office and at the HELP committee. Liz Wolgemuth will move from the Senate office to serve as Republican press secretary for the HELP committee. Brian Reisinger, new to the office, will serve as press secretary in Alexander’s office.
In Alexander’s Senate office, Allison Martin will serve as deputy legislative director after serving as projects manager and legislative counsel for nearly two years. She previously worked for Thompson and Frist.
Tennessee is being ignored, as usual, in the presidential campaign this year – except, of course, for fundraising – and that is prompting a new round of talk about abolishing the electoral college system. Andy Sher rounds up some commentary on the topic. You can count former Democratic Vice President Al Gore of Tennessee and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, a Tennessee Republican, among the critics.
Both say the situation should end in which campaigns are forced to follow Electoral College strategies where the outcome trumps the national popular vote.
…But defenders of the Electoral College say no changes are needed. They argue mega-states like California and New York would dominate the popular vote and leave states like Tennessee an afterthought.
“The presidential election would basically be concentrated in the coastal cities, Los Angeles and New York,” Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney said. “And everyone else would be left behind. It would open it up more to fraud and electoral abuse.”
…Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the Republican state Senate speaker, likewise voiced support for the current system.
“We have a long-standing, time-tested mechanism for choosing our president,” Ramsey said. “This process in rooted in a tradition that protects the interests of both small as well as large states. A National Popular Vote process that would either abolish or neuter the electoral college would eviscerate that delicate balance our founders strove to achieve.”
FedEx President, Chairman and CEO Fred Smith said today that economist Arthur Laffer must have misunderstood him last week in Memphis because Smith said he’s “never taken a position” on Tennessee’s estate tax and has no plans to leave Tennessee.
From the Rick Locker report: Smith, founder of FedEx, responded today to public remarks made Monday by Laffer to a state legislative committee during Laffer’s testimony in support of legislation to phase out Tennessee’s inheritance and estate tax by 2016. Laffer is a leader in the lobbying effort to pass the bill and made a 25-minute talk to the House-Senate Fiscal Review Committee Monday in support of the bill.
Laffer gained fame as a supply-side advocate in the administration of former President Ronald Reagan and moved a few years ago from California to Nashville, where he is chairman of Laffer Associates, a consulting firm. He dropped several names during his presentation Monday, including Reagan and California anti-tax activist Howard Jarvis.
At one point, in response to a question about the economic impact on the state of repealing the inheritance tax, Laffer said: “I spent about two hours with Fred Smith three days ago up in Memphis, and he said he’s gettin’ out of this state if it doesn’t happen. And now we don’t want to lose FedEx. Fred Smith’s a couple of classes behind me at Yale and he’s a good friend.”
FedEx on Monday night said the company doesn’t comment on Smith’s personal matters. But Smith issued a statement today saying Laffer must have misunderstood him.
Over the objections of some in the funeral home industry, two Knoxville legislators are proposing the repeal of a 1959 state law that prohibits discounting funeral costs to those who pay in advance.
Sen. Becky Massey and Rep. Ryan Haynes, both Knoxville Republicans, are sponsoring SB1286 at the behest of a group called Tennesseans for Funeral Reform, which is headed by Fred Berry III, manager of Berry Funeral Home in Knoxville.
It is scheduled for votes in committees of both the House and Senate this week. In January, state Attorney General Bob Cooper issued a legal opinion declaring the law in question is valid. Cooper was responding to a Haynes question on constitutionality of the statute.
Berry, whose grandfather served 16 years as a Republican senator from Knoxville, told the Senate Commerce Committee last week that the law was not really enforced until about two years ago. Since then the state’s funeral regulatory board, housed under the Department of Commerce and Insurance, has been inspecting contracts and imposing fines for violations.
Berry said that allowing discounts in the sale of “pre-need” funerals would save consumers money and encourage more people to make arrangements in advance. He said Tennessee is the only state in the nation with such a prohibition — a point disputed by those opposing the repeal bill.
Representatives of the Tennessee Funeral Directors Association and the Tennessee Funeral Home Directors and Morticians Association testified against the bill, contending that current law protects consumers and should not be changed.
Full story HERE.
State Republican fundraiser B.C. “Scooter” Clippard appears set to run in a GOP state Senate primary, but Andy Sher reports that an email he recently sent is raising a few eyebrows with his mention of state Republican bigwigs supporting his bid. “Fred Thompson — Bill Frist — Lamar — Corker — Beth and Ron all plan on doing events for me,” Clippard enthuses in the email, which saw wide distribution.
Clippard served as national fundraising chairman in former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson’s unsuccessful 2008 GOP presidential bid and in 2010 and also was state Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey’s unsuccessful GOP primary bid for governor.
But two of the politicians cited say they’re steering clear of the GOP primary in which Steve Dickerson and Charles Williamson have already announced.
“It has been our custom not to be involved in open state legislative primaries, and we have no plans to change that practice,” said Todd Womack, chief of staff to U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., in an email.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., was quoted in the Nashville Post saying, “Scooter Clippard has been a good friend for a long time. He called to tell me he planned to run and I told him I would be happy to do an event for him after the primary.”
Fred Thompson, who made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination during the 2008 election cycle, endorsed Newt Gingrich in this year’s GOP primary race on Monday night.
More from Huffington Post: Thompson declared his support for the former House Speaker during an appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program. The announcement came as Gingrich — along with Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul — were participating in a debate in Florida.
“I have come to the growing realization that Newt Gingrich is the guy who can articulate what America is all about,” Thompson said.
Thompson served as a Republican U.S. senator from Tennessee from 1994 through 2003. He has also held acting roles on NBC’s TV show “Law & Order” and a number of action movies.
After failing to gain traction in early primary states in 2008, Thompson abandoned his presidential campaign and later threw his support behind eventual nominee John McCain.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The head of the Tennessee county mayor’s group says more than a quarter of the state’s counties report having to dip into reserve funds to balance their current budgets.
Fred Congdon, executive director of the Association of County Mayors, told WMOT-FM in Murfreesboro that he has heard from 46 of the state’s 95 counties, and 27 of those have had to tap reserve funding (http://bit.ly/nAeLt5). Several said they expect to dip into their reserves next year as well.
Congdon sent an email to association members with the aim of making them aware of the statewide scope of the problem. The responses indicate some are turning to new taxes to bolster the county budgets.
Of the 46 who replied, seven reported raising property taxes in the current budget year and 17 expect a similar hike next fiscal year.
A wheel tax was passed in six of the counties and a wheel tax increase was anticipated in nine counties.
“They’re all going to have to tighten their belts and cut spending. Hopefully, the economy will turn around soon and things will be better,” Congdon said.
Congdon urged his colleagues to talk with state lawmakers to blunt any effort to shift more costs to local governments in the next legislative session.
Congdon has been the director of the county mayors group for 21 years and previously served as the county executive, as county mayors were previously called, in Unicoi County.
Former Sen. Fred Thompson may be leading a national effort to have the United States president elected on the basis of the nationwide popular vote, but the state Republican Party – echoing the Republican National Committee – is dead set against the idea. News release from Tennessee Republican Party:
NASHVILLE, TN – On Saturday, the State Executive Committee of the Tennessee Republican Party unanimously passed a resolution supporting the constitutional Electoral College process of electing the President of the United States.
“Electing the President of the United States through the Electoral College was the method deemed best by our founding fathers. It ensures that all states, regardless of size, are included in the presidential election process, and it helps to preserve the balance of power between the federal government and state governments,” said Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney.
“I did want to let you know, I am also available for autographs and photos after the meeting.”
–Shelley Courington of AARP, speaking to the House Judiciary Subcommittee just before former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson, famed as an actor and radio talk show host, addressed the panel on Gov. Bill Haslam’s tort reform bill. He was sitting beside her.
Courington said that, afterwards one legislator – state Rep. Gary Moore, D-Nashville, did have his photo made with her. Otherwise, there were no takers