News release from Senate Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE – With looming sequester cuts threatening everything from Head Start programs to our military personnel, leaders in Tennessee urged Gov. Bill Haslam to use the proposed increase to the state’s rainy day fund to weather the storm.
Tennessee has $356 million in its rainy day fund, with another $100 million to be added in this year’s budget. Using that $100 million to fund vital services instead would save Tennesseans from the pain of Washington’s inaction.
“The fact that Washington is acting irresponsibly does not mean we should allow Tennesseans to suffer,” Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle said. “If this isn’t a rainy day I don’t know what is. We’re calling on the governor to reduce the impact of these cuts for the neediest of our citizens.”
The Tennessee Republican Party provided on Monday a list of 109 donations to The Governor’s Leadership Fund that were solicited by Gov. Bill Haslam and House Speaker Beth Harwell, then used toward providing financial support to Republican legislative candidates.
The list of about $272,000 in donations — in amounts ranging from $100 to $10,000 — includes several lobbyists and special interest political action committees.
The top donations of $10,000 came from Federal Express’ PAC and David Johnson, part of a Nashville architecture firm.
The governor’s father and brother donated $5,000 each, according to the list provided by Adam Nickas, executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party.
The News-Sentinel reported Monday the existence of the fund, which is legal by all accounts but questioned by some as avoiding normal disclosure requirements and described as a “secret political slush fund” by a Democratic Party spokesman.
A list of candidates receiving a total of $91,800 from the fund was provided earlier, but Nickas said last week the list of contributors to the fund could not be provided. He sent the list Monday.
While Haslam and Harwell solicited donations to the “Governor’s Leadership Fund” and the money is kept in a separate bank account, it is legally treated as an arm of the Tennessee Legislative Campaign Committee, the state Republican Party’s main PAC for funding GOP candidates for the General Assembly.
Nickas said that, while Harwell and Haslam can suggest where the money should be spent, the party controls the spending — a distinction that means The Governor’s Leadership Fund does not have to register as a separate PAC and file lists of donors and contributions on its own. The list of donors and contributions are instead lumped together with all other reports on receipts and expenditures by the TLCC.
The list of about $270,000 in donations to the fund versus about $92,000 in contributions to candidates indicates the fund had substantial money still on hand at last report, dated Oct. 27. That surplus could have been sent to candidates after Oct. 27 or otherwise spent by the TLCC, which does not have to file another disclosure until the end of the year.
— Note: The list of donors may be viewed HERE.
Gov. Bill Haslam and House Speaker Beth Harwell have quietly channeled at least $91,800 to 24 Republican legislative candidates without disclosing who gave them the money to distribute.
The money maneuver, coordinated with the Tennessee Republican Party, is by all accounts legal. GOP officials checked with Drew Rawlins, executive director of the Registry of Election Finance, to make sure before setting up a separate, special bank account for money raised by Haslam and Harwell.
But Dick Williams, president of Common Cause Tennessee, said the arrangement “dilutes the whole concept of disclosure.” A Democratic Party spokesman called it a “secret political slush fund.”
The Harwell-Haslam fund was never publicly disclosed when it was set up earlier this year. Spokesmen for the governor, House speaker and state Republican Party all acknowledged its existence in response to News Sentinel inquiries, however, and Harwell’s office provided a list of 24 candidates who got donations ranging from $7,100 to $2,000 each.
All but four are Republicans seeking election to their first term in the state House. The four exceptions are incumbent Republicans facing tough re-election races on Tuesday — Reps. John Ragan of Oak Ridge, David Hawk of Greeneville, Jim Gotto of Nashville and Tim Wirgau of Buchanan.
A list of those who donated to the special account, known as the Governor’s Leadership Fund, was not provided.
Adam Nickas, executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party, said providing a list would require getting the information from the party’s comptroller and that there was no opportunity to do so last week.
News release from National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund:
Fairfax, Va. – The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) is endorsing Bob Corker for U.S. Senate in Tennessee.
“Bob Corker has fought to protect our Second Amendment rights,” said Chris W. Cox, chairman of NRA-PVF. “His strong voting record has earned him an “A” rating from the NRA-PVF, and we proudly endorse him for re-election to the U.S. Senate.”
Bob Corker voted against confirming anti-Second Amendment Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, and joined the historic briefs filed before the U.S. Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago, which argued that the Second Amendment guarantees a fundamental, individual Right to Keep and Bear Arms in Tennessee or anywhere else in America. Senator Corker signed bipartisan letters opposing any international treaty by the United Nations or any other global organization that would impose restrictions on American gun owners. He also voted for the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity amendment, which would have ensured that law-abiding Americans with a valid concealed handgun permit would have been able to carry a concealed handgun in any other state that does not prohibit concealed carry.
“We need senators like Bob Corker to continue defending our rights,” continued Cox. “We urge all NRA members, gun owners, and sportsmen in Tennessee to vote Bob Corker for U.S. Senate on November 6.”
Chris W. Cox is NRA’s chief lobbyist. He also serves as chairman of NRA-PVF. The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund is responsible for political candidate ratings and endorsements. These are based on candidate voting records, public statements and responses to NRA-PVF questionnaires.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kentucky is the worst state in the nation when it comes to toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants, according to a report released Thursday by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The analysis examined emissions from power plants in 2010, the most recent data available.
As for the other states bordering Kentucky, Ohio ranked 2nd, Indiana 4th, West Virginia 5th, Tennessee 11th, Virginia 12th, Missouri 15th and Illinois 16th. Delaware was No. 20 in the group’s “Toxic Twenty” states.
As for Kentucky, Council officials said its power plants are “poorly controlled” and that it has “failed to … adopt any kind of state law or regulation that requires substantial reduction in mercury or toxic pollution from the power sector.”
The report said Tennessee was one of the few states to increase its output of toxic air pollutants from 2009 to 2010, spewing out 9.6 million pounds of pollutants from its power plants. Power plants in Tennessee emitted 8.8 million pounds of pollutants in 2009.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An environmental group is launching a statewide television ad campaign in Tennessee to thank Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander for his opposition to an effort to block the Environmental Protection Agency from setting the first federal standards to reduce toxic air pollution from power plants.
The Environmental Defense Fund said Tuesday it is spending about $200,000 to air the ad in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Nashville, Jackson and Memphis this week. The groups said the ads are meant to applaud Alexander for what it calls taking “a courageous stand for the people of his home state.”
Alexander was among five Republicans who voted against the measure sponsored by Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma that sought to scrap an Obama administration rule aimed at curbing air pollution from primarily coal-fired power plants.
“I learned as governor that cleaner air not only means better health for Tennesseans, it means better jobs,” Alexander said in an emailed statement. “It’s been a top priority of mine in the Senate. So far as I can tell, most Tennesseans agree with me.”
Alexander spokesman Jim Jeffries said the clean air issue isn’t a partisan one.
“Which is why people from across the political spectrum have been thanking Sen. Alexander for his vote,” he said in an email. “Just in the last few days a conservative group has run radio ads in Tennessee supporting him, too.”
Jamie Satterfield has taken a long look at the indigent defense fund, through which the state pays for legal services to those facing a criminal charge without money to pay for a lawyer.
There’s a lot of background information, but the focus is on Knox County spending more from the fund than any other county in the state…. and doing so for years.
That is illustrated by this table, which accompanies the article:
A comparison of Tennessee’s most populous counties showing the percentage of the state’s $36.8 million indigent defense fund each used during the last fiscal year and the percentage of the state’s population that resides within each county.
– Knox County: 7 percent of the state’s population; 17 percent of money charged the indigent defense fund
– Davidson County: 10 percent of the state’s population; 16.6 percent of money charged the indigent defense fund
– Hamilton County: 5.4 percent of state’s population; 5.5 percent of money charged the indigent defense fund
– Shelby County: 14.6 percent of state’s population; 14.9 percent of money charged the indigent defense fund
News release from state Department of Transportation:
Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) has been notified by the Federal Highway Administration that $51.9 million in federal funds will be rescinded from the department’s federal allocation of funds for fiscal year 2011. A rescission of funds means that federal dollars promised to Tennessee have now been cancelled and will not be received.
The rescission of funds is a separate issue from the debt limit discussions currently underway by federal lawmakers.
“Nearly 50% of the department’s budget comes from the federal government, so a reduction in these funds significantly impacts the resources available to TDOT,” said TDOT Commissioner John Schroer. “This shortfall requires the department to make difficult decisions in our core highway programs,” Schroer continued, “We don’t want to make cuts anywhere that would delay the delivery of projects that are ready to go.”
TDOT is currently operating under a series of continuing resolutions through “SAFETEA-LU” (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users), the federal transportation funding bill, which expired September 30, 2009 and funds are being distributed only months at a time. However, authorized funding levels have been significantly reduced by rescissions annually since 2002, with a cumulative impact of more than $463 million.
Programs impacted by the latest federal rescission include the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) and the Transportation Enhancements Program. TDOT plans to deliver the remaining projects now under development in these programs with future federal funds.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Section 2201 of the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011, contains a $2.5 billion rescission of unobligated balances of funds apportioned to the States of which Tennessee’s share is $51,950,327.
FedEx may be a profitable Fortune 100 company, but it still sought help from the federal government to pay health benefits to workers who retired early, says the Tennessean. So did other Tennessee employers such as Nissan North America, International Paper, the state of Tennessee and the city of Nashville. The subsidies are an often-overlooked provision of health-care reform.
They were meant to help those not yet eligible for Medicare by encouraging employers not to drop health benefits for workers who retire before age 65. But much of the money has gone to large, profitable corporations, prompting Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn and other Republican lawmakers to deem it a corporate “slush fund.”
The $5 billion Early Retirement Reinsurance Program was supposed to last until key provisions of the health-care reform law take effect in 2014. But it stopped accepting applications in May after spending roughly half its funds in less than a year. The program has paid out more than $34 million to Tennessee employers.