Tag Archives: freedom

Obama Signs Bill to Preserve Fishing Below Dams

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Anglers who caught the attention of federal lawmakers have preserved access to fishing below dams on the Cumberland River in Kentucky and Tennessee.
President Barack Obama on Monday signed into law a bill blocking the Army Corps of Engineers from erecting barriers to prevent fishing in the tailwaters. Those tailwaters are prime fishing spots in a region known as a recreational haven.
Local officials said the restrictions would have hurt tourism, a key contributor to the region’s economy.
Congress waded into the controversy by passing the Freedom to Fish Act. It puts a two-year moratorium on any barriers that would block access to tailwaters.
Sen. Mitch McConnell praised Obama for reversing a decision to place barriers along the river.
A proposal to permanently ban barriers is pending in the House.

Note: News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander below (interestingly, it doesn’t mention Obama)

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TN GOP Leaders Now Willing to Fight the ‘Fringe’

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Before a House vote to give final approval to a contentious firearms bill last week, Speaker Beth Harwell implored her Republican colleagues to ignore demands from what she deemed “fringe” groups to make major changes to the measure.
The chamber took Harwell’s advice and passed the bill guns-in-parking-lots bill without any changes. Lawmakers have also in recent weeks drawn the line at proposals to bypass the federal government by allowing the creation an independent health care network and stopped a proposal to ban the enforcement of federal firearms laws in Tennessee.
The failure of those two bills in House and Senate committees indicates a new willingness among leaders of the GOP supermajority to reel in some of the more extreme — and likely unconstitutional — measures before they reach a floor vote, where lawmakers might have a harder time voting against them for ideological reasons.
Last year Gov. Bill Haslam decried the attention being paid to what he called the “craziest” measures, although he blamed the news media and not the lawmakers for that. It was a signal, nevertheless, that Republican leaders have worried about how some of the bills reflected on Tennessee’s image.

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AG Says Federal Gun Law Nullification Bill is Unconstitutional

A bill that declares Tennessee can declare federal firearms laws “null and void” within its borders and prosecute federal officers enforcing them is unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, according to another attorney general’s opinion released Monday.
The opinion on SB250 was requested by Senate Judiciary Chairman Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown. His committee voted 5-4 to postpone a vote on the bill by Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet, to seek Cooper’s opinion. Beavers argued that the state, through the Legislature or other officials, can nullify federal laws that exceed the federal government’s authority.
The opinion quotes a U.S. Supreme Court case: “If the legislatures of the several states may, at will, annul the judgments of the courts of the United States, and destroy the rights acquired under those judgments, the constitution itself becomes a solemn mockery . . . .No state legislator or executive or judicial officer can war against the Constitution without violating his undertaking to support it.”

Note: Full opinion HERE. Previous post HERE.

Federal Gun Law Nullification Debated, Delayed

Senate Judiciary Chairman Brian Kelsey, comparing himself at one point to Andrew Jackson in 1832, managed to delay Tuesday a vote on legislation that declares Tennessee has a right to nullify federal gun laws and charge federal agents enforcing them with committing a felony.
The committee voted 5-4 to grant Kelsey’s call to postpone a vote on the proposal (SB250) for one week while he seeks a legal opinion from state Attorney General Bob Cooper on whether it would violate the U.S. Constitution.
Sponsor Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet, said the U.S. Constitution authorizes states – through their legislatures – to decide the validity of federal laws.
She understands that lawyers believe the Supreme Court is the “ultimate arbitrator” of constitutionality, Beavers said, and that has allowed justics “setting themselves up as a dictator” and “generation after generation we have just accepted that.”
But that is wrong, she said, and the 10th Amendment lets states decide what laws are constitution and which can be ignored or nullified.
Beavers’ view was reenforced by June Griffin of Dayton, who heads the Tennessee Commission on the Bill of Rights. Griffin said Tennessee’s own constitution cast upon legislators – and sheriffs around the state – a duty to resist federal intrusion by supporting the bill.

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On the Flood of TN Legislation to Assert States’ Rights

Tennessee legislators this year are calling for a broad array of limitations on federal government authority within the state, a movement that the speakers of the House and Senate say reflects growing concern within the Republican supermajority.
“The number of bills (filed) indicates that this is a Legislature that firmly believes in states’ rights,” said House Speaker Beth Harwell. “The federal government is not running properly and state government is. … That is the driving force.”
But she and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, who ran for governor in 2010 under the theme “Give Washington the boot,” say they are still studying the pile of bills asserting states’ rights in one way or another and are not ready to declare support — or opposition — to specific proposals.
Ramsey said he has misgivings about some measures declaring that federal laws violating the Constitution are void in Tennessee. The threshold question, he said, is who decides what is unconstitutional.
“The last thing you want is some rogue sheriff out here deciding what’s unconstitutional,” he said.
Some proposals call for the Legislature to decide, notably including the Tennessee Balance of Powers Act (SB1158) proposed by Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet, and Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma. It would create a joint House-Senate committee to review federal laws and executive orders and recommend to the full House and Senate those that exceed the federal government’s constitutional authority. If the full House and Senate agree, the bill declares that those laws will be null and void within the state.

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Now We Have a TN ‘Religious Freedom Caucus’

News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE, Tenn.), February 5, 2013 — State Senators Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown; Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville; John Stevens, R-Huntingdon; Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet; Charlotte Burks, D-Monterey and Reginald Tate, D-Memphis have joined colleagues in the House of Representatives to form the Religious Freedom Caucus in the Tennessee General Assembly.
The Tennessee Religious Freedom Caucus is the 9th state caucus in the nation organized to protect religious freedom and is affiliated with the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s American Religious Freedom Program (ARFP).
“As lawmakers, we have an important role in protecting the free exercise of religion,” stated Senator Kelsey. “The Religious Freedom Caucus will help safeguard those rights and will work to strengthen protections for the diverse faith communities in Tennessee.”

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UT Football Prayers OK, Officials Say

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The University of Tennessee plans to continue allowing pregame prayers at Neyland Stadium after receiving a letter from an organization arguing that the practice is unconstitutional.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to Tennessee Chancellor Jimmy Cheek asking that the university stop the use of prayer at university functions and sporting events. Cheek released a letter Wednesday in which he said he had discussed the matter with the school’s counsel and was told that “nonsectarian prayer at public university events does not violate the First Amendment.”
Cheek told the Wisconsin-based atheist group that he had given the issue “careful consideration” but that the school would continue to allow prayers before university events.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, the Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president, said the use of the word “nonsectarian” indicates that Tennessee shouldn’t have a clergyman conducting prayers with overt Christian references.
“They’ve been praying to Jesus and inviting clergy to come lead the prayer,” Gaylor said. “Nonsectarian would be (that) you wouldn’t have a member of the clergy who’s tied to a denomination, so they’re not going to talk about Jesus. They shouldn’t be talking about the Bible. In my opinion, they shouldn’t be praying at all.”
Gaylor added that she would encourage students upset with the university’s decision to remain active about the issue.
UT-Chattanooga decided last week to stop its use of a pregame prayer after receiving a similar letter. The public address announcer instead invites the crowd before the national anthem to observe a moment of silence “in consideration of the safety of today’s players, the service of those who protect us at home and abroad and the needs of those who suffer.”
“We didn’t want our events to be something that anyone felt excluded from,” UT-Chattanooga spokesman Chuck Cantrell said. “We recognize that we have a diverse community here in Chattanooga and especially on campus, and we just didn’t want to be doing anything that made any of our guests feel unwelcome. We felt a moment of silence offered equality and parity for everybody.”

Note: This updates and replaces earlier post.

Anti-Black Super PAC Backer Says He Gave $180K

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A super political action committee is working against U.S. Rep. Diane Black in the Aug. 2 primary and its sole contributor was formerly the chief fundraiser for Black’s opponent, Lou Ann Zelenik.
Black’s campaign charges that this violates federal rules that require PACs to operate independently from campaigns. Zelenik’s campaign vigorously denies any coordination with Citizens 4 Ethics in government.
The political blog Open Secrets reported this week that thousands of dollars raised by Citizens 4 Ethics has come from Andrew Miller of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition.
The group has spent more than $30,000 on the 6th District primary, according to the Federal Election Commission. Miller told The Associated Press that he contributed the more than $180,000 raised by the PAC and that the money spent so far is to target Black, who edged Zelenik in the 2010 primary and went on to win the seat.

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Pat Summitt Gets Presidential Medal of Freedom

President Barack Obama paid tribute today to former Tennessee Lady Vols Coach Pat Summitt, presenting her with the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, reports Michael Collins.
At a White House ceremony this afternoon, Obama reflected on Summitt’s legendary career at Tennessee, her status as a role model to the young women she coached, and her tenacity in confronting the health problem that led to her retirement last spring.
“Anyone feeling sorry for Pat will find themselves on the receiving end of that famous glare,” Obama said.
Summitt was among more than a dozen political and cultural legends to receive the medal. The award is given to individuals “who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
Summitt, 59, stepped down as the University of Tennessee women’s head basketball coach in April, just eight months after disclosing that she has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.
Her remarkable, 38-year career included 1,098 victories and eight national championships. She was named NCAA Coach of the Year eight times and has been a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame since 1999. She now holds the position of head coach emeritus at UT.
Besides Summitt, others receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; singer and songwriter Bob Dylan; astronaut John Glenn; novelist Toni Morrison; Israeli President Shimon Peres; and retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stephens.

Note: The state’s Republican congressmen rushed out statements praising Pat Summitt, but somehow forgot to mention that guy who made the presentation they were applauding. A sampler is below.

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‘Tax Freedom Day’ Came Earlier in TN Than Elsewhere

News release from Tax Foundation:
Washington, DC, April 4, 2012–Tax Freedom Day, the date on which Americans will have earned enough money to pay this year’s tax obligations at the federal, state, and local levels, fell on March 31 for residents of Tennessee this year. The average date for all Americans, as announced this week by the Tax Foundation, will be Tuesday, April 17.
In the new study Tax Foundation Special Report No. 198, “Tax Freedom Day 2012,” economist Will McBride, Ph.D., also calculates how long Americans would have to work in order to close the budget deficit. In order to pay for all spending in the current year, the government would need to raise an additional $1.014 trillion in taxes, pushing Tax Freedom Day to May 14.
“This year, Americans will pay $2.62 trillion in federal taxes and $1.42 trillion in state-local taxes out of $13.86 trillion in income, for a 29.2% tax bill,” said McBride. “That means taxpayers will pay more in taxes in 2012 than they will spend on food, clothing, and housing combined.”
Historically, the date for Tax Freedom Day has fluctuated significantly. The latest-ever Tax Freedom Day was May 1, 2000–meaning Americans paid 33.0% of their total income in taxes. A century earlier, in 1900, Americans paid only 5.9% of their income in taxes, meaning Tax Freedom Day came on January 22.
Five major categories of taxes dominate the tax burden. Individual income taxes – including federal, state and local – require 40 days of work. Payroll taxes take another 23 days of work. Sales and excise taxes, mostly state and local, take 15 days to pay off. Property taxes take 12 days, and corporate income taxes take another 10.
The total tax burden borne by residents of different states varies considerably, not only due to differing state tax policies, but also because of the steep progressivity of the federal tax system. This means higher-income states celebrate Tax Freedom Day later; Connecticut (May 5), New Jersey (May 1), and New York (May 1) residents face a significantly higher total federal tax burden than lower-income states. Residents of Tennessee will bear the lowest average tax burden in 2012, with Tax Freedom Day arriving for them on March 31. Also early are Louisiana (April 1), Mississippi (April 1), South Carolina (April 3), and South Dakota (April 4).
For more information, go to http://www.taxfoundation.org/taxfreedomday.
The Tax Foundation is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that has monitored fiscal policy at the federal, state and local levels since 1937. To schedule an interview, please contact Richard Morrison, the Tax Foundation’s Manager of Communications, at 202-464-5102 or morrison@taxfoundation.org.