Any thought that Rep. Gloria Johnson might not be top target for the state Republican party next year — and that the Democratic party will defend her — is surely eliminated by the following two post-session press releases, First came this from the Tennessee Republican Party:
NASHVILLE, Tenn.–As lawmakers return home following the conclusion of the legislative session, Tennesseans are reviewing the public record of their lawmakers and some of what they are finding is embarrassing.
Take, for instance, the record of Representative Gloria Johnson (D–Knoxville).
In a short four-month period as a legislator, Rep. Johnson:
•Spent the last four months harassing and opposing Governor Bill Haslam’s common sense reform agenda for education and spending.
•Voted against a bill that protects doctors who provide free medical care to low-income patients who need urgent attention.
•Filed a self-serving bill she would personally benefit from.
•Supported the implementation of ObamaCare in Tennessee.
•Voted to strip worker’s rights protections from Tennessee law.
•Stood against Knox County teachers having the ability to protect students.
•Chose to not record a vote on a ban of the state income tax that would protect Tennessee families from having more of their hard-earned money taken by government.
•Voted against a balanced state budget that meets the needs of our state and cuts taxes for all Tennesseans.
•Voted against cutting the sales tax on groceries for all Tennesseans.
•Voted against phasing out the death tax to save Tennessee families and farms from being double-taxed on their assets.
•Voted against an initiative to find and remove examples of government waste.
Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney made the following statement about Rep. Johnson’s legislative performance.
“Representative Johnson was sent to Nashville to represent her constituents and this dismal performance was anything but that. It is troubling to see that her priorities were not carrying and passing good legislation, but rather being focused on updating her social media accounts with personal attacks on our leaders. Tennesseans hold their elected officials to a higher standard and expect them to work tirelessly on their behalf. Instead, she put petty personal politics above what’s best for Tennessee.”
He concluded, “I look forward to talking about Gloria Johnson’s embarrassing track record with her constituents over the next year and a half.”
— Then, this from the Tennessee Democratic party:
State Rep. Gloria Johnson, a Knoxville Democrat who succeeded longtime lawmaker Harry Tindell last year, is just into the third month of her first term but already is a target by Republicans in 2014, reports Georgiana Vines. She was mentioned last week in a news release put out by the Tennessee Republican Party in which she was criticized for pushing a bill (HB1301) requiring cities, counties and other political subdivisions to grant an unpaid leave of absence to full-time employees for service in the Legislature. The bill died in the State Government Subcommittee for lack of a second.
Chris Devaney, state GOP chair, said in the release that Johnson, an educator, pushed the mandate on local governments to make “a change to the law that she would personally benefit from.”
“It’s a lie,” Johnson said Friday. “That law had nothing to do with me. This is for police and firefighters. It came from another representative (Antonio Parkinson of Memphis) who had already used all his bills.”
State law already allows teachers to be given a leave of absence to serve in the Legislature, she said.
She said she feels another bill failed to get a second in the State Government Subcommittee on March 27 — even though it passed the Senate unanimously — because she is the House sponsor.
The bill (HB676) required meetings of certain boards and commissions, like the Tennessee Election Commission, be made available by video streaming over the Internet. The only Democrat on the subcommittee, Rep. Johnny Shaw of Bolivar, moved for approval.
“I couldn’t get a second. Even the Election Commission unanimously supported the bill. I’m No. 1 the Republicans want to defeat,” she said.
A bill to ban “mountaintop removal” coal mining in Tennessee was killed for the sixth consecutive year Wednesday without any discussion in the Senate but with an impassioned exchange in a House committee.
“Tennessee should be a leader in protecting our mountain way of life, not for sale to the highest bidder,” Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, told the House Agriculture Subcommittee after acknowledging the bill (HB43) was dead for the year.
Johnson also said that as surface coal mining has increased in Tennessee, “We’ve watched our mining jobs plummet and our miners be replaced by machines.” And she referred to reports that a Chinese company has a major interest in a Campbell County mining company.
“As reported in today’s Wall Street Journal, Tennessee has also become the first state in America to permit a Chinese company to blast apart our mountains and take our coal. Not only are the eyes of Tennessee on us, but the world is watching,” she said.
Officially, the bill was deferred until 2014 in the House panel after being killed without a vote in the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee earlier in the day. But Johnson was allowed to speak on it and her remarks brought a rejoinder from Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden.
A bill granting teachers extra time to take mandated competency tests has won final passage under sponsorship of Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, and Sen. Becky Duncan Massey, R-Knoxville. The Senate and House approved the measure (SB268) on Thursday.
For freshman Johnson, the measure is the first she has shepherded to passage and is a matter of personal interest. In subcommittee, Johnson said she is one of about 40 Knox County teachers who had trouble meeting the original deadline for taking the tests in areas they teach. The bill extends the original deadline from Jan. 1, 2013, to Jan. 1, 2014.
In Johnson’s case, as a special-education teacher giving instruction in several areas, she has to take six tests and, along with other teachers, did not learn about the requirement until last August, she said.
The tests cost around $200 each, she said, and often require some additional study. For example, she must take a test in geometry, which she does teach, that includes sections on precalculus and trigonometry, which she does not teach and needs to review.
During hearings, legislators expressed sympathy for both the time and expense involved in the testing. Johnson said she thought they were a good idea, but an extension of time was appropriate. The bill passed the House unanimously and got just one negative vote in the Senate.
A House committee killed legislation that would have closed Tennessee Virtual Academy Tuesday after one Knoxville legislator effectively blocked another from talking to the panel about allegations the for-profit school altered the bad grades of some students.
Instead, the House Education Subcommittee approved a bill pushed by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration that puts some new restrictions on virtual schools, but only after eliminating – with the governor’s approval – a proposed 5,000-student enrollment cap that was originally part of HB151.
Democratic Rep. Mike Stewart of Nashville sponsored the bill (HB728) that would have effectively repealed a law passed in 2011 that allowed for-profit virtual schools to operate in Tennessee.
The 2011 bill was sponsored by Rep. Harry Brooks, R-Knoxville, who is now chairman of the House Education Committee and sponsor of the Haslam administration bill changing some rules for running virtual schools.
Stewart told the committee that Tennessee Virtual Academy, part of a system of virtual schools operated around the nation by K12, Inc., has proven itself in a year of operation a “bad idea” for both its students, who have had low scores in testing, and for taxpayers.
In an email reported by WTVF-TV in Nashville, an official of Tennessee’s biggest for-profit virtual school suggests that teachers erase bad grades records for some students. At the center of the controversy is the Tennessee Virtual Academy — a for-profit, online public school that Republican lawmakers touted as a way to improve education in Tennessee. Two years ago, state lawmakers voted to let K12 Inc. open the school, using millions of taxpayer dollars.
But, now, those lawmakers are concerned about standardized test results that put it among the worst schools in the state.
In fact, the email suggests that even school leaders are becoming increasingly concerned by how their students’ grades may look to parents and the public.
“That is not something I would ever be told in my school — I mean, it’s just not acceptable,” said state Rep. Gloria Johnson, a Knoxville Democrat who is also a career teacher. “Quite honestly, I was horrified.”
The email — labeled “important — was written in December by the Tennessee Virtual Academy’s vice principal to middle school teachers.
“After … looking at so many failing grades, we need to make some changes before the holidays,” the email begins.
Among the changes: Each teacher “needs to take out the October and September progress [reports]; delete it so that all that is showing is November progress.”
…”And that’s cheating in your mind?” NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked.
“In my mind, sure. I mean, yes.”
The email adds, “This cannot be late!”
“To come in and say ‘everybody who made failing grades the first two months, we need to delete those grades,’ to me that’s a huge issue,” Johnson added.
And the suggestions from K12 leaders don’t end there.
In traditional classrooms, if students score a 60 on one test and a 90 on a second test, they’re stuck with a 75 average. But the email suggests that teachers erase the bad grades, leaving students with just the good grades.
The email continues, “If you have given an assignment and most of your students failed that assignment, then you need to take that grade out.”
K12 officials refused to sit down to answer our questions, but the Tennessee Virtual Academy’s principal said in an email that the goal was to “more accurately recognize students’ current progress.”
“By going back into our school’s electronic grading system and recording students’ most recent progress score (instead of taking the average throughout the semester) we could more accurately recognize students’ current progress in their individualized learning program,” principal Josh Williams said in the statement.
“This also helped differentiate those and identify those who needed instructional intervention and remediation.”
— Note: The email text is HERE.
Legislation designed to prohibit “mountaintop removal” coal mining in Tennessee — killed in a House subcommittee for five consecutive years — is back for another try in 2013 with a new sponsor and a new committee to decide its fate.
The “Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act” (HB43) is the first bill filed by freshman Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson of Knoxville, who serves on the 19-member Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee that will rule on the proposal under a committee realignment for 2013 by House Speaker Beth Harwell.
In past years, similar legislation always died in a subcommittee of the House Conservation and Environment Committee, which was abolished by Harwell with its responsibilities over environment-oriented bills assigned the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. The latter committee also has an eight-member subcommittee — Johnson is not on the subcommittee — that will take the first action on the bill.
Georgina Vines talks with freshmen legislators about their orientation sessions…. and one who made a trip to Washington for an ALEC meeting, too. “It’s not government civics.”
That’s how newly-elected state Rep. Roger Kane, a Knoxville Republican, described orientation and GOP caucus sessions that he’s attended in Nashville to get ready for when the General Assembly begins meeting in January. The Legislature will have a large freshman class with 22 new House members and six new senators.
Representing the new 89th District in Northwest Knox County, Kane said the GOP caucus session in particular was not something he remembered studying. The vote was done by a secret ballot.
“I thought it would be more of a voice thing,” he said.
….Orientation covered everything from security to offices. A tour of the newly-renovated Capitol was given. Presentations were made by the Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education.
“They want us to be prepared so in January everything is not overwhelming and new,” he said.
Democrat Gloria Johnson, elected to represent the 13th District, also attended the sessions.
“As I am still teaching, I haven’t had the time I would like to get familiar with things there, so the day was definitely beneficial for me,” she said.
The Nashville meetings were Nov. 26-27,and then Kane went to Washington, D.C., on Nov. 28-30 to attend a conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC paid the transportation and expenses at the Grand Hyatt of freshmen legislators, Kane said.
He was the only newly-elected lawmaker from East Tennessee to attend the ALEC program, he said. Johnson did not attend, saying she chose instead to meet with constituents in her district.
…Kane said the group acknowledged it had taken some missteps and planned to focus in areas where it feels it’s the strongest. Its website said ALEC works on the principles of free markets and limited government.
“I’m being inquisitive and figuring out what these groups do for me, how I can be a part of it or not be a part of it,” Kane said.
A Tennessee Republican party TV commercial likens Democratic state House candidate Gloria Johnson to departed University of Tennessee football Coach Lane Kiffin.
The 30-second spot uses a News Sentinel video of Johnson — without the audio — as a backdrop while a narrator declares “political activist Gloria Johnson” is running for the state House with help from “her liberal special interest friends” who “support higher taxes and bigger government.”
The reference is to unions that have contributed to Johnson’s campaign, according to Adam Nickas, executive director of the state party, although the ad itself doesn’t mention unions.
At the end of the commercial, the narrator asks, “What’s Gloria Johnson’s strategy? Take the money and run.”
The video then changes to a picture of Kiffin, who was UT football coach for the 2009 season, then left for the University of Southern California.
“Hasn’t Knoxville seen this before?” asks the narrator.
Supporters of Democrat Gloria Johnson,running for the 13th District state House seat against Republican Gary Loe on Nov. 6, say Loe doesn’t live in the district, although he says he has rented a house and sleeps there.
From Georgiana Vines’s report: Loe said he’s heard Johnson doesn’t live in the district, either. She gives as her address 2506 Brice St., which Knox County tax records show she owns.
Loe, a TV production company owner, lists his address as 2713 Boright Place, owned by a friend. The same friend owns a house at 7215 Kennon Springs Lane, which was Loe’s address when he ran for the Legislature two years ago to represent the 18th District. Rep. Steve Hall won that election.
This columnist looked into Loe’s residency after Diane Humphreys-Barlow sent an email to News Sentinel editors, asking that it be checked out.
Humphreys-Barlow said in an interview that at a house party she had for Johnson, her supporters talked about Loe renting a house, but that no one had seen him at the address. She said she understood he lives in West Hills.
“Is it rumor or validity?” she asked.
A political sign for Loe is in the yard of the near northeast city residence on Boright Place. The first time this columnist went by his address, no car was there. The Kennon Springs Lane address in West Hills also was checked out. That was two weeks ago.
At the time, a grey Volvo apparently belonging to Loe was parked at the Kennon Springs Lane address. Last week, the Volvo was parked at the Boright Place address.
Loe met with this columnist and discussed the residency issue. He said questions shouldn’t be asked about his residence when there is a question about Johnson’s.
“After her supporters put a yard sign (at the Boright Place house), I thought I would take it to her. It appears nobody was at the (Brice Street) home, so I drove by (without stopping),” Loe said.
As for the Boright Place residence, “I moved in in February. In March and August, I voted at Larry Cox (Senior Recreation Center). I sleep there. I do work out of the house,” Loe said.