News release from state Comptroller’s Office:
In the 2012 Report of Cash Shortages, auditors found that $563,372.50 of funds stolen from county governments, some dating back several years, had not been recovered. Details about the missing money can be found in the report, which was released today.
The news in the report wasn’t all bad: For the reporting period, auditors reported new thefts of $106,495.27 – down from $213,635.66 the year before. And – thanks to the recovery of $279,817.21 last year – the statewide balance of uncollected funds dropped from $736,694.44 cited in last year’s report to $563,372.50 in this year’s report.
Information about cash shortages is collected from the annual financial reports and special reports for the state’s 89 counties audited by the Comptroller’s Division of Local Government Audit and the six counties audited by private accounting firms.
In addition to a county-by-county breakdown of cash shortages, the report also provides explanations of how the shortages were detected, how the money was stolen, corrective steps taken by counties and legal actions taken against those responsible for the thefts.
“While it is good to see that the number of new thefts was down last year and a substantial amount of money was recovered, there’s absolutely no reason to be complacent about these statistics,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “It’s important for our local government officials to constantly remain on guard against the potential theft of taxpayer money. That means they need to have good checks and balances – what our auditors refer to as ‘internal controls’ – in their procedures for how money is collected, recorded, deposited and spent. If adequate safeguards aren’t in place, the amount of stolen money identified in future cash shortage reports is likely to rise.”
To view the report online, go to: http://comptroller.tn.gov/repository/CA/2012/2012%20Cash%20Shortage%20Report.pdf
News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
NASHVILLE — Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, will
chair the national Council of State Governments (CSG) beginning in 2014
following his unanimous election in Austin, Texas this week.
CSG is the bipartisan professional association which is the only national
organization serving all three branches of government in all 50 states and
Puerto Rico. International affiliates include the Provincial and Federal
governments of Canada.
Norris is the first Tennessean elected to the national leadership post.
“I am honored to assume this responsibility and look forward to continuing our
work throughout the United States and North America,” said Norris, who will
serve next year as Chair-elect under Senator Gary Stevens of Alaska who was also
elected to serve as 2013 Chairman. “State governments face many challenges, and
CSG is frequently on the front lines with solutions.”
Norris is an attorney with the law firm of Adams and Reese LLP. He has served in
the Tennessee Senate since 2000 and as Senate Majority Leader since 2007.
Founded in 1933, CSG’s region-based forum fosters the exchange of insights and
ideas to help state officials shape public policy. This offers unparalleled
regional, national and international opportunities to network, develop leaders,
collaborate and create problem-solving partnerships.
The organization is based in Lexington, Kentucky and also has an office in
Washington, D.C. It has regional offices in Atlanta, New York City, Chicago and
Sacramento. Norris served as Chairman of the Southern Region in 2010-2011.
The Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System bills itself as “one of the best-funded pension plans in the nation,” but some local governments have been pulling their new hires out of the plan, reports Hank Hayes. The city of Kingsport did. So did Johnson City and Tri-Cities Regional Airport. The reason: These cash-strapped political entities have found their contributions into TCRS to be too costly.
“Fifty-four (governmental entities) were at or above 15 percent of payroll (with TCRS employer contributions). … Speaking as a former county commissioner, that tells me they are under a bit of funding pressure,” said Tennessee Treasurer David Lillard Jr., who oversees TCRS.
For instance, TCRA’s TCRS contribution expense is almost 18 percent of payroll. The airport decided to go with a different defined contribution plan that would have a maximum 9 percent of payroll cost.
Kingsport’s and Johnson City’s TCRS pullout, in particular, got Lillard’s attention.
“These are all issues of concern to us because these are significant-size local governments, and they are entities participating in the system for many, many years — some going back to 1948,” he noted.
So Lillard hit the road last fall and did listening sessions with more than 200 local government officials about their future with the state’s pension plan.
Proposals from those meetings resulted in legislation passed this year to create three less costly investment options.
TCRS says the bill, scheduled to go into effect on July 1, would not apply to current local government hires, state employees, K-12 teachers or higher education workers. No local governments are required to make any changes. The provisions are only effective if adopted by local governments, according to TCRS.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday he wants to leave it up to local governments to decide whether to set their own wage requirements for contractors.
The Republican governor told reporters that he’s “not a fan of the living wage,” but that those decisions should be left up to counties and cities.
Haslam’s stance puts him at odds with some fellow Republicans in the Legislature.
Rep. Glen Casada of Franklin and Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown are sponsoring legislation seeking to ban higher wage requirements set by local governments and to repeal those standards where they have already been set in place.
“Local governments are unwittingly pricing certain employees out of jobs, especially minority teens, who do not yet have the skill set to demand high-wage, high-benefit jobs,” Kelsey said in a release announcing the bill last month.
The News Sentinel today carries a national story on state and local governments hiring lobbyists to work in Washington at a cost of $1.2 billion over the past decade – complete with a state-by-state chart on the spending.
A related story by Steve Ahillen provides more Tennessee-specific information, including a report on the University of Tennessee’s full-time lobbyist in Washingnton. t has proved worthwhile to have someone (in Washington),” said Hank Dye, UT’s vice president for public and government relations. “If you don’t have somebody up there representing you, I think you’d be missing out.”
(UT) has a full-time Washington lobbyist on its staff, Kurt Schlieter, whose title is Associate Vice President and Director of Federal Relations. He has been on the job since 2003 after serving as legislative assistant and appropriations associate on the staff of then-Tennessee Congressman Zach Wamp. He makes $132,599.96 a year.
“There’s more lobbying done by the University of Tennessee than probably any other public institution in the state of Tennessee,” said U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., R-Tenn.
And, most, but not all, is done through Schlieter.
(Note: UT also has a lobbyist in Nashville, Anthony Haynes, who on occasion — as in combating the ‘guns on campus’ bill or dealing with budget issues — is assisted by Dye and others.)