Tag Archives: gerald mccormick

McCormick drops bill inspired by Armstrong case

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick has dropped an effort to change state law so that future legislators would be prohibited from dealing in cigarette tax stamps as Rep. Joe Armstrong is accused of doing.

Armstrong, D-Knoxville, faces trial in August on federal tax evasion charges stemming from what the indictment says was a profit of about $500,000 from cigarette tax stamp transactions in 2007. After reading reports of the indictment, McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said he was surprised that the transaction itself was legal and introduced HB1440 — also sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris — to make it illegal.

But McCormick said he had encountered concerns with the legislation on several fronts and ultimately decided to drop the push for passage. Officially, he took it “off notice” last week in the House Agriculture Subcommittee, which has now closed for the 2016 session.
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McCormick balks at handling Haslam BEP bill

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick says he believes an education bill pushed by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration adversely impacts Hamilton County schools and thus may step down from sponsoring the measure, reports the Times-Free Press.

Haslam’s amendment would stop phasing in a nearly nine-year-old reform of Tennessee’s massive Basic Education Program funding formula. The 2007 reform is known as BEP 2.0 and it was intended to benefit urban school districts like Hamilton County, which had threatened to sue the state.

The governor’s measure would eliminate a requirement directing the state to continue implementing the BEP 2.0 with available funds until it becomes the entire formula.

Tennessee’s original BEP was enacted in 1992 in response to smaller systems, which had sued the state charging unequal treatment. They eventually won victories in three separate suits.

Right now, the $4 billion school funding formula is split 50/50 between the original BEP, which was funded by a half-cent sales tax increase, and BEP 2.0, which was partially funded with a cigarette tax hike. And, thus, it would remain under Haslam’s proposal.

The main difference between the two formulas is over how they gauge local systems’ ability to fund their share of educating Tennessee’s estimated 1 million students.

“He [Haslam] is concerned about a small schools’ lawsuit coming in front of the state, and he feels like we need to recalculate the amount,” McCormick said in an interview Thursday.

McCormick said Hamilton County Schools and some of the state’s other large school systems would be adversely impacted by the change. Hamilton County and six nearby systems last year sued the state, charging among other things that because BEP 2.0 has never been implemented, schools are being shortchanged.

“The issue is that under current law we’re supposed to do 2.0,” said McCormick, who voted for the cigarette tax increase in 2007. Shortly after, the Great Recession struck and then-Gov. Phil Bredesen never fully funded BEP 2.0.

Haslam hasn’t increased its proportion of the formula since he took office, and now he’d like to get rid of the provision.

Asked whether he would carry the governor’s bill, McCormick responded, that’s a good question.

“I think I have an obligation to the governor to make sure his bill gets a fair hearing,” he said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean I need to personally carry it. And I think this would be a situation where I would not personally carry it and would try to affect the outcome of it, but in a way that does not harm Hamilton County and some of the other large counties.”

Columnist sees House leaders “bungling” in Durham affair

Tennessean columnist David Plazas sees “bungling” in the way House Republican leadership has handled the allegations about Rep. Jeremy Durham. An excerpt:

Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, who was approached by two women last year, opted not to take their allegations against Durham any further, instead insisting that they file formal complaints. He kept those details private until this week.

In hindsight that was a clear indication why the system to address such allegations is severely flawed and needs to be fixed.

And in an even more deplorable step, GOP House Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, a mentor and friend to Durham, chased rumors by asking women who were statehouse employees about Durham’s behavior toward them.

That has the effect of creating an atmosphere of intimidation, and it’s unlikely any woman would have felt compelled to confide in him.

Both men had an opportunity to ask for an independent investigation, which would have been far wiser.

Speaker Beth Harwell should have done the same, but has all but ceded her power by reacting to events of the day instead of making proactive decisions to deal with a rogue member of the House.

She is the Speaker of the House, and if she fails to use the tools at her disposal, she is essentially powerless.

Harwell said Wednesday night she is looking into expelling him from the legislature. On Thursday after Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, her counterpart in the Senate, told reporters that Durham had an affair with a legislator who resigned, Harwell called for the attorney general’s office to investigate Durham.

The GOP House had a chance to discuss Durham’s leadership, or even consider an investigation, at its special meeting Jan. 12 to discuss his behavior.

Instead of addressing the concerns then, lawmakers played parliamentary procedure games in a closed-door meeting that shielded Durham from any scrutiny.

It is clear that the system for reporting sexual harassment and for investigating sexual harassment is broken.

McCormick to GOP Caucus: Be careful, feds are watching

First paragraphs of an Andrea Zelinski report:

Ten years after the Tennessee Waltz sting operation marched four sitting lawmakers through Legislative Plaza in handcuffs on corruption charges, Majority Leader Gerald McCormick stood before his 73-member House Republican Caucus warning lawmakers that the former head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Public Integrity office is now in Nashville and lawmakers should “be at their toes at all times.”

The warning comes nearly a year after Jack Smith relocated to Nashville from Washington, D.C., to serve as First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, a position focused on public corruption but one with a broader scope than that of the DOJ’s office of public integrity.

“I was just hoping if anyone were starting to get lazy and feel entitled, maybe I could put a stop to it and influence their decisions down the road if we have anybody like that,” McCormick told Post Politics.

“If anyone comes in and offers to do anything in return for your vote, that is against the law,” he told caucus members last week. “And I know everybody wants to — we all naturally want to — be people-pleasers because of the business we’re in, but that’s when it’s time to be rude to somebody, kick their butt out of your office and pick up the phone and call the TBI. Or the FBI.”

Said another way:

“If somebody comes in, it’s against the law to say, ‘Well, I’ll help you with this but I want you to help me with some fundraisers this spring.’ That’s off-limits right now. We can’t talk about those things right now,” McCormick said.

Lawmakers are barred from raising money while the legislature is in session and from accepting certain gifts and trips — many of those rules born out of the Tennessee Waltz.

McCormick stressed to the caucus he did not believe any of them were “crooked,” but pointed out House Democrat Joe Armstrong, a Knoxville Republican who pleaded not guilty to tax fraud after allegations surfaced that he schemed to use his insider knowledge as a sitting legislator to benefit from a cigarette tax hike in 2007.

McCormick said too many times someone who was simply dishonest or was honest but made a stupid mistake found themselves in trouble. “I’ve also seen people from time-to-time who come in here seemingly as honest, good-intentioned people, and then their attitudes change and they tend to have a different perspective. And I wanted to hopefully keep that from happening with people,” McCormick told Post Politics, saying he didn’t have a tip to Smith’s arrival, but saw it in the newspaper.

Democratic chief calls for resignation of House GOP leaders

Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini today called for the resignations of Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell, Majority Leader Gerald McCormick and GOP Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, reports the Times-Free Press. She contends the leaders sought to shield Republican Majority Whip Jeremy Durham despite knowing of sexual harassment allegations against him.

In a news conference, Mancini attacked what she called a “culture of secrecy and coverups” and charged Republicans created a “toxic workplace” with regard to Durham, who stepped down from his caucus post on Sunday after allegations surfaced from three women who work at the Legislature regarding unwanted texts from the Franklin Republican.

“The mishandling of his offensive behavior by House Republican leadership also raises serious questions about the complicity of Speaker Harwell, Leader Gerald McCormick and Chairman Glen Casada.”

Alluding to accounts in a Tennessean news article over the weekend, Mancini said all three “knew the substance of Durham’s inappropriate behavior at least one week in advance of the caucus vote and likely much earlier.”
She said various statements from Republicans showed Durham’s “inappropriate behavior rose to the level of sexual harassment.”

On Sunday, Durham resigned his post as House Majority Whip in light of a Tennessean investigation into inappropriate text messages Durham sent to three women.

UPDATE/Note: Harwell says the Mancini missive is “absolute nonsense.” That’s toward the bottom of this post. And Mancini’s full statement is below.
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McCormick’s Hall tax bills: One repeals it, one relies on it

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick has proposed a new twist in repealing the Tennessee tax on investment income, acknowledging that it may be in conflict with a separate bill he is sponsoring for the Haslam administration.

The repeal bill (HB2118) would kill the tax at the state level, but allow local governments to enact their own Hall tax to avoid loss of local revenut. The separate bill would use the Hall tax breaks to encourage “angel investors” putting their money into relatively small and relatively new businesses.

Haslam has repeatedly opposed efforts to repeal the Hall tax — a general 6 percent levy on investment income with several exemptions and exceptions — as they come up every year. While voicing a general dislike for the tax, the governor argues against repeal without some other way of replacing the lost revenue. The tax generated $303 million in total revenue last year — about $189 million for the state with the remaining $114 million distributed to local governments.
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Legislators propose online voting registration

News release via Senate Republican Caucus
(NASHVILLE, Tenn.), January 15, 2016 – Senate State and Local Government Committee Chairman Ken Yager (R-Kingston) and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) have filed legislation providing for the establishment of an online voter registration system for Tennesseans. Voters with an unexpired driver’s license or personal identification card issued by the Department of Safety will be able to go to an official state website where they will be able to register to vote online.

“In an electronic age, it makes sense to provide electronic registration if we have proper safeguards and validation steps,” said Senator Yager. “This legislation provides those assurances to make voter registration more convenient for Tennesseans and hopefully encourages more citizens to participate in the election process.”

“Online voter registration supplements the traditional paper-based registration process and will help encourage more Tennesseans to become involved in the political process,” said Representative McCormick. “We serve at the will of the people and I look forward to having even more constituents provide their input on important legislative decisions made within the General Assembly.”
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Inspired by Armstrong case, McCormick proposes bill on cigarette tax stamps

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick has filed legislation inspired by state Rep. Joe Armstrong’s reported dealings in state cigarette tax stamps — allegations that led to the Knoxville lawmaker’s indictment on federal tax fraud charges.

The state’s political party leaders, meanwhile, have engaged in some back-and-forth partisan sniping over the legal troubles of Democrat Armstrong and Republican Rep. Jeremy Durham of Franklin, who was investigated for prescription drug fraud but not indicted.

McCormick, R-Chattanooga, introduced HB1440 last week. Armstrong was indicted in June and is facing trial Feb. 23.

Armstrong allegedly collaborated with a tobacco wholesaler to buy Tennessee cigarette tax stamps in 2007 before a tax increase that Armstrong supported. When the tax increase was enacted, the tax stamps were sold a profit of more than $500,000 and Armstrong failed to pay the appropriate federal income tax on that profit, the indictment alleges.

McCormick’s bill would require a tobacco wholesaler, in the case of a future cigarette tax increase, to promptly pay the extra tax on any stamps the dealer is holding at the time the tax increase occurs.
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McCormick bill provides in-state tuition to children of soldiers killed in TN

News release from Gerald McCormick
(NASHVILLE) —House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) announced today that he has filed HB 1407, legislation that would provide in-state tuition to any postsecondary institution in the University of Tennessee and the Tennessee Board of Regents systems for children of military parents who die as a result of a targeted attack on Tennessee soil. The in-state tuition would be available to these children regardless of their domicile or place of residence during the child’s enrollment in the institution.

“Clearly, there is no greater sacrifice than to lay down one’s life in service to their country,” said House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick. “I think being able to do this for the children of our fallen heroes is an opportunity for Tennessee to show its appreciation for the service of these men and women and it may possibly ease a future burden on the family members.”

Gerald McCormick lives in Chattanooga and represents District 26, which is part of Hamilton County.

Note: It’s HB1407. No Senate sponsor yet, according to the legislative website.

McCormick: Abolishing Correction Oversight Committee was a mistake

State House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick says he made a “mistake” in 2012 by sponsoring a bill that abolished most legislative oversight panels, including the General’s Assembly’s Corrections Oversight Committee.

With concerns now erupting over Tennessee prison overtime policy changes and the impact on staffing and safety, McCormick said the controversy underscores the need to restore some oversight panels, including the corrections oversight.

“I think we do need to reinstitute some of the oversight committees, including corrections,” said the Chattanooga Republican. “It was a mistake for me to carry that bill in the first place. Should never have done it.”

McCormick said his views began shifting last legislative session when he threw his support behind an ultimately unsuccessful effort seeking to restore two oversight panels, although neither one involved corrections.

It failed to gain traction in the Senate.

“The Legislature has an oversight responsibility and to have the oversight committee in place and meeting on a regular basis rather than waiting until something goes wrong and then reacting to a situation and holding hearings,” McCormick said.

Last week, House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, announced their chambers’ respective State and Local Government Committees, both standing committees, have scheduled hearings on the current controversy.

…Neither Harwell nor Ramsey responded specifically to questions from the Times Free Press about reinstating the Corrections Oversight Committee. Abolishing various oversight panels in 2012 was trumpeted at the time by Ramsey as saving the state taxpayers more than $700,000.