Tag Archives: Glen Casada

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.

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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Casada seeks legislative appointment of solicitor general

House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada proposes having the Legislature appoint the state’s solicitor general, providing what the lawmaker could be considered a legislative watchdog in the state attorney general’s office.

As things stand now, the position is filled by the state attorney general as part of his staff and is considered second only to the attorney general himself in the state’s legal power structure. Attorney General Herbert Slatery, former legal counsel to Gov. Bill Haslam, last year named Andrée Sophia Blumstein to the position.

A veteran Nashville lawyer, Blumstein served as chief justice of a special Supreme Court panel appointed by Haslam in 2014 to review a legal challenge to Tennessee’s retention election system for Supreme Court judges and wrote the opinion upholding the system.
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Bill blocks affordable housing mandates

Rep. Glen Casada and Sen. Ferrell Haile have introduced a bill that would prohibit local governments from requiring that affordably-priced homes be included in new residential projects, reports The Tennessean.

Tennessee already has a law that says local municipalities can’t control the cost of rent. Whether that restricts local governments from adopting a zoning policy that mandates affordable housing units be included in new apartment projects has been debated.

Casada’s bill would erase any doubt by explicitly prohibiting local governments from enacting affordable housing mandates over rental properties as well as for-sale homes.

“I would contend that wherever they’re implemented, it drives homebuilders out of that community and thus it drives up the cost of homes,” Casada said of the local policies that he wants to ban. “What we’re trying to do is to stop the inflated pricing and structure and let the free market continue to work. The free market can solve the problems, not government.”

Though the bill (HB1632) appears to be directed foremost at Nashville, Casada said the legislation is a response to “a movement nationwide” of cities requiring that developers pursue affordable or workforce housing. Casada, who said his effort has support of chambers of commerce and others in the business community, called the legislation one of his “top-tier bills” that he hopes to pass this legislative session.

“Everyone who has read Tennessee law feels like Nashville, or any other community, cannot do this,” he said of mandatory inclusionary zoning. “We’re just making it very clear that they cannot.”

Bill to repeal RAP expansion filed by Bell, Casada

Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, and House GOP Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Franklin have proposed a bill to block the expansion of the Revenue Accountability program, part of the state Department of Revenue’s tax enforcement efforts, reports the Times-Free Press.

The bill (SB1475), backed by much of the business lobby, would also require the department to propose formal rules for the previous program, which applied only to beer and tobacco sales.

Under RAP, wholesalers must provide a report to the department on their sales of covered products to retaliers. The department then compares the retailer’s sales tax collections to product stocking to catch tax cheats — an effort revenue officials say has been highly successful. (Note: Previous post HERE)

Bell now believes the changes passed last year were too broad.

“I know I did not expect the commissioner to implement such a broad program and require so much reporting by our businesses in the state,” he said. “I didn’t get that from the language in the bill nor in the explanation the commissioner [Richard Roberts] gave on more than one occasion before committees.”

He became aware of problems when the owner of a tiny meat wholesale operation in Bradley County, who’d been in business for decades and still does bookkeeping on paper, came to him, worried about having to buy a computer to send information to the state.

Revenue officials strongly defend the existing program and the expansion and say they’re bending over backward to address critics’ concerns. And they stress that the whole point is for retailers to send in the sales taxes they collect in a state where the levy accounts for 55 cents out of every state revenue dollar.

Fifty-seven percent of sales taxes go to K-12 education, Revenue officials like to say, as well as paying for programs from housing felons to the TennCare program for low-income women and their children.

Tennessee cities and counties also rely on them. The state rate is 7 percent (5 percent on food) while local option taxes can tag on up to 2.75 percent more.

As Revenue officials see it, RAP is getting a bad rap.

“It’s worked very well,” Deputy Commissioner David Gerregano said last week. “It’s allowed us to collect at least $60 million in sales tax that is paid by the consumer to retailers but would not have been otherwise paid over to the state.”

It also “makes things fair” for retailers who are turning over all the taxes they collect, Gerregano said.

“We know there’s a population that hasn’t been complying.”

Gerregano pointed out that wholesalers have been required to report on their sales to retailers since Tennessee created the sales tax in 1947. Now new technology lets them upload their data files to the Revenue Department and makes it easier for the state to check compliance.

And, he said, the state has responded to feedback and criticisms by collapsing the proposed 21 categories into just one, to make wholesalers’ reporting easier. And it threw out the category on “non-edible grocery” items like paper towels.

Casada pushes for secret vote on Durham ouster

House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada says he wants any caucus discussion about state Rep. Jeremy Durham’s ouster as majority whip to be held behind closed doors, reports The Tennessean.

The House GOP Caucus is scheduled to meet Tuesday, also opening day of the 2016 session, to consider whether Durham will remain in leadership after involvement in a couple of controversies.

“It’s just kind of a standard rule: If it only deals with intracaucus issues, nothing to do with caucus policy, it’s closed,” Casada said Tuesday evening. “If it deals with votes, legislation, then it’s open.”

Caucus meetings involving leadership elections have been open to the public in the past. In fall 2014, when Durham, R-Franklin, was elected whip, reporters were allowed to stay in the room during the vote. Casada acknowledged that he recommended a meeting in the past two or three years be closed, only to have the caucus overrule him.

The House lets each party’s caucus determine whether their meetings will be open, said Kara Owen, spokeswoman for House Speaker Beth Harwell.

“Speaker Harwell has always supported open meetings,” Owen added.

The Senate specifically requires caucus meetings be open. Those rules were implemented in 2007, the year Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, became the leader of the Senate.

…Casada said he expects a lawmaker will bring up Durham’s actions, but he says he hasn’t set an agenda for the meeting. He said he doesn’t think he’ll have a finalized agenda or know whether the meeting will be open or closed until the day of the meeting.

Casada said the meeting likely will take place at 1 p.m., after lawmakers meet in a floor session on the first day of the legislative calendar for 2016.

Durham rejects exit from GOP leadership post

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Embattled state Rep. Jeremy Durham said Wednesday that he won’t resign as House majority whip amid worries among top Republicans that his ongoing leadership role could hurt campaign fundraising efforts.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada confirmed that he had discussed “options” with Durham following revelations that he had been at the center of a drug task force investigation and had written a letter on behalf of a former youth pastor convicted of child porn possession.

Casada said he didn’t directly ask Durham to resign as House majority whip, but declined to elaborate on what he deemed a confidential conversation.

“I simply discussed all the options available to him,” Casada said.

Spokesman Cade Cothren said in a statement that Casada “never asked Rep. Durham to resign his whip position, though the option of doing so along with dozens of other options and outcomes were discussed.”
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More Casada refugee commentary: ‘Think of me as Paul Revere’

House Republican Caucus Chairman Gen Casada had a news conference Wednesday to follow up on his prior call for the Tennessee National Guard to round up Syrian refugees now in the state and return them to federal custody. (Prior post HERE.)

Excerpt on the Chattanooga Times-Free Press report on the news conference:

Casada noted the Islamic State itself says it is sending its “soldiers” into Europe and the U.S. And he said FBI Director James Comey has acknowledged the U.S.’s screening process on refugees isn’t perfect.

Asked whether some of what he is calling for violates protections in the U.S. Constitution, Casada said “you have to ask yourself, which is greater — life or due process?” Casada said.

He later added: “I’m just sounding the alarm. Just think of me as Paul Revere.”

And the chairman, who is considering pushing for a special legislative session, charged that the groups as well as Democrats are “more concerned about being politically correct.”

Moreover, Casada contended, “innocent blood” will be on the hands of the TN-ACLU and the immigrant and refugee group as well as Democrats if any Islamic State militants have slipped in among refugees.

In their own news conference a short while later, state House Democrats this afternoon denounced Casada’s comments with Rep. Jason Powell, D-Nashville, calling the GOP lawmaker’s effort to “round up” Syrian refugees “preposterous” and “repulsive to me as an American” and “irresponsible” as an elected official.

Democrats said state and federal officials should boost background screening efforts. And they challenged Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who has asked President Barack Obama to discontinue sending any additional Syrian refugees to Tennessee, and GOP colleagues to use part of the state’s projected $1 billion surplus to beef up the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security and other agencies.

Casada: Activate National Guard, seize Syrian refugees, hold special session

A leading Republican state legislator says the 30 Syrian refugees already settled in Tennessee should be rounded up by the National Guard and returned to federal authorities, reports The Tennessean.

“We need to activate the Tennessee National Guard and stop them from coming in to the state by whatever means we can,” said House GOP Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, R-Franklin, referencing refugees.

“I’m not worried about what a bureaucrat in D.C. or an unelected judge thinks. … We need to gather (Syrian refugees) up and politely take them back to the ICE center and say, ‘They’re not coming to Tennessee, they’re yours.’ ”

…Casada was asked to elaborate on his proposal, and whether Tennessee had the authority to detain refugees.

“Tennessee is a sovereign state. If the federal government is forsaking the obligation to protect our citizens, we need to act,” Casada said during a phone interview with The Tennessean on Tuesday.

In fiscal year 2015, only 30 of the 1,601 refugees settled in Tennessee came from Syria, according to the Tennessee Office for Refugees. But by and large, refugees are free to go to different states eventually after resettlement: A 2013 report estimated at the time there could be as many as 58,000 refugees and their family members living in Tennessee.

…Several legal scholars, cited by USA TODAY and many other outlets, argue states have no legal authority to stop the federal government from sending refugees to their states. As first reported by the Commercial Appeal of Memphis, several state Democrats, including House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart, asked for an opinion on the issue from Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery.

“I think that is one of the most extraordinarily misguided statements that I have heard made by a public official,” Stewart, D-Nashville, said in reference to Casada’s proposal.

…Casada, Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale, and at least a few other lawmakers believe it’s time to call a special legislative session to look at doing something.

“I believe we should take a long look at the entire refugee program and use any means necessary to stop refugees from entering Tennessee if they come from countries with ties to ISIS, Al-Qaeda and similar terrorist groups,” House Majority Whip Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, said in a statement.

“If the U.S. Supreme Court says the federal government cannot force states to expand their Medicaid rolls, I’m not sure how the federal government believes it can legitimately force Tennessee to accept refugees from countries with known terrorists.”

Asked if he thinks it’s reasonable to round up Syrian refugees in Tennessee, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, said “no.” He didn’t elaborate. But Norris and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said Tuesday it might be too early for lawmakers to call a special session. Emotions on every side of the issue are running high, Norris said, and it’s important to evaluate the law first before taking any action.

UPDATE/NOTE: A comment from Gov. Bill Haslam, included in an AP story on Casada’s comments: “We must not lose ourselves in the process,” Haslam said. “If we abandon our values by completely shutting our doors to those who seek the freedom we enjoy or mistreating our neighbors who made it here after enduring unimaginable hardships, the terrorists win.”

State Department Spokesman John Kirby called the idea of rounding up refugees “deeply troubling,” and said Secretary of State John Kerry had made clear in recent days that such a proposal was “certainly not in keeping with the best of American values.”

Note II: The Tennessee Immigrant and Refuge Rights Coalition is not pleased with Casada’s proposal. Statement below.
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Five legislators back Zachary in House special election

Five current Republican state legislators helped Jason Zachary report raising almost three times as much in political contributions as Karen Carson in the initial financial disclosures filed for the special election in the state’s 14th House District.

Zachary, a businessman who won almost 40 percent of the vote in losing to U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. in last year’s 2nd Congressional District Republican primary, and Knox County school board member Carson are the only candidates qualifying for election to the seat previously held by Ryan Haynes, who resigned in April to become chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party.

The winner of the Aug. 12 GOP primary is thus virtually assured of winning the seat, since no Democrat is running in the Sept. 20 general election for the seat that represents portions of West Knox County and the city of Farragut.

The initial reports filed with the Registry of Election Finance cover only the first weeks of the campaign, which officially began with Gov. Bill Haslam issuing a “writ of election” on June 14. The reports, filed Friday, end on June 30.

In that period, Zachary reported raising $16,741. That includes $2,500 each from political action committees operated by House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Thompson Station and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey of Germantown.

State Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, added another $1,500, while state Reps. Tillman Goins, R-Morristown, and Mary Littleton, R-Dickson, contributed $250 each, the reports show. Littleton was runnerup to Haynes in the state Republican Executive Committee’s voting on a new state GOP chair.
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