Tennessee U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker split their votes on confirming President Obama’s nominee to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which came after a deal averted a threats Democratic threats to invoke the so-called “nuclear option,” reports Nooga.com. Alexander voted against confirmation of Richard Cordray; Corker for.
The move came after threats by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to espouse “the nuclear option,” a procedural tactic that would have allowed the number of votes needed to confirm presidential appointees to be 51 instead of the traditional 60-vote threshold.
Reid cited repeated filibusters by Republican senators as his reason for considering the tactic, drawing criticism from Alexander and others. Elements of Tuesday’s compromise were hashed out Monday night in a closed-door meeting of senators in the Capitol’s Old Senate Chamber.
As part of their deal, two new nominees for the National Labor Relations Board will be chosen as replacements for appointees picked by Obama during a recess in 2011. Votes will also be scheduled for Department of Labor and Environmental Protection Agency nominees.
The Daily Mail, meanwhile, has a report quoting “two senior Senate aids” (anonymous) as declaring Alexander was making threats himself behind the scenes during the deal-cutting talks. Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, threatened Reid with an even bigger nuke than Reid famously threatened: a promise to retaliate by opposing every so-called ‘unanimous consent’ resolution that comes to the Senate floor.
‘Senator Alexander told Senator Reid that if he did what he thought he was going to do, the wrath of God was coming, and he was going to deliver it personally.’
Both aides confirmed that the Republicans’ leader in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, approved of the plan. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations. Alexander’s office did not respond to a request for an official comment.
….Sen. Alexander had already offered a series of different threats on the Senate floor on June 18, telling Democrats that if they changed the debate rules, he would prepare 10 pieces of legislation and pass them quickly the next time Republicans were in the majority.
New York Times political prognosticator Nate Silver, who correctly predicted the outcome of every state’s electoral votes in the 2012 presidential election, said Monday that Republicans were poised to hold either 50 or 51 Senate seats after the 2014 midterm election.
Alexander’s June 18 threats included the repeal of Obamacare, a voucher program for public education, drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, completing the Keystone XL pipeline, a national ‘right to work’ law and finishing the construction of a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.
That project is in Reid’s home state of Nevada, and he’s blocked it since 2010.
‘I think Lamar Alexander is a serous player,’ the second staffer said. ‘He’s got game, and Harry Reid blinked.’
The House approved 66-29 on Tuesday a bill that revises rules for operating for-profit virtual schools and sent it to the governor, whose administration drafted the measure as part of the Haslam administration legislative package this year.
The bill (SB157) was approved after about half hour of debate, mostly devoted to the Republican majority killing amendments proposed by Democrats. One of them, offered by Rep. Mike Stewart of Nashville, would have repealed the 2010 law that authorized operation of for-profit virtual schools in Tennessee, leading to establishment of Tennessee Virtual Academy in Union County by K12, Inc.
Another Stewart amendment would have prohibited operation within the state of a for-profit virtual school that is partly owned by a convicted felon. Stewart said that was aimed at Michael Milken, who owns an interest in K12 according to some media accounts.
The Democrat-sponsored revision attempts were all defeated on party-line votes.
The bill itself, sponsored for Haslam by Rep. Harry Brooks, R-Knoxville, imposes a 1,500-student cap on enrollment on new virtual schools launched in the state. But the limit would not apply to Tennessee Virtual Academy, the only for-profit virtual school already in operation.
The bill also declares that a virtual school that has below standard student performance for three consecutive years, can be closed by the state commissioner of education. The commissioner would also have the option of imposing an enrollment cap on such a school. The existing academy had poor performance results in its first year of operation.
Brooks said the bill gives the commissioner options in pushing to improve schools and gives students and their parents options as well.
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.
State Rep. Harry Tindell says state House District 13, which he has represented for 22 years, may be seen as a microcosm of the national presidential race when it comes to voters choosing his successor on Nov. 6.
Voters’ partisan options in the district are Democrat Gloria Johnson, a politically active school teacher, and Republican Gary Loe, a former television reporter who now runs a video production operation. Nick Cazana, a retired businessman, is on the ballot as an independent candidate.
“I don’t think anybody can tell you who is going to win,” said Tindell, a Democrat who has met with all three candidates while not declaring his support for any of them.
He basically agrees with The Tennessee Journal, a statewide political news publication, which rates the contest as a tossup between Loe and Johnson. The difficulty in political prophesy, Tindell said, rests in the fairly even balance between Republicans, Democrats and independent-minded voters — rather like the national presidential election picture and a striking contrast to most districts statewide.
While the nation has red states, blue states and swing states, Tindell said, District 13 has red precincts and blue precincts and swing precincts. The red precincts are in the south of the oddly shaped district designed by Republican-drafted redistricting earlier this year.
A key Democratic precinct in what has been state Rep. Harry Tindell’s 13th House District has been combined with another precinct by Knox County election officials and Democrats are not happy.
From Georgiana Vines: Gloria Johnson, chair of the Knox County Democratic Party and the only Democratic candidate seeking Tindell’s seat, said Belle Morris (Elementary School) was her precinct and she didn’t know the change (to Larry Cox Senior Recreation Center) was coming.
In addition, her campaign called 500 voters in the district a week ago and nobody knew the precinct had been changed, she said. She did receive a new voter registration card on Wednesday, she said.
It was included in a letter from the Knox County Election Commission notifying voters of a change in precinct, said Cliff Rodgers, elections administrator. Rodgers said he recommended Belle Morris be closed because the Cox Center is more handicapped accessible. When elections are held while school is in session, the disabled entrance at Belle Morris is locked and voters must be allowed in through the school office, he said.
A fundraiser will be held today for state Sen. Becky Duncan Massey and Rep. Harry Brooks at the Powell home of a couple who have been in the news for operating a company without a Tennessee license, reports Georgiana Vines. Massey’s brother, U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., R-Knoxville, will be the honored guest, according to the invitation.
The problems of Chris and Andrea Ball and their firm, HR Comp LLC, came to light last month after they appeared in a photo with Gov. Bill Haslam when he signed into law a new statute governing the operation of staff leasing companies.
Tom Ingram, a government affairs specialist/lobbyist who lives in Knoxville, said Friday the Balls’ competitors had been busy notifying the media of their problems.
“I’ve worked with them over a year. They have a new license. In the end, Andrea worked hard with (an) association to tighten up regulations in the industry that has been subject to abuse. They’re building a good business,” Ingram said.
Ingram said Andrea Ball worked with the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations on the legislation passed this year.
In a consent order signed April 9, the Balls’ attorney acknowledged their business had acted as an employee leasing agency without a license and the Balls had given false responses when asked about it, according to The Tennessean in Nashville.
The newspaper also reported a $10,000 fine was issued. In the consent order, the Department of Commerce and Insurance determined Andrea Ball was not of “good moral character because the Jan. 12, 2010, response she sent about HR Comp’s unlicensed activity was not true.”
The new license, which is probationary, is for HR Comp Employee Leasing. Andrea Ball said Friday she is the owner and her husband is not part of the business. She also said a $3.5 million federal tax lien is being paid off monthly.
“I’ve spent 1½ years trying to address an old situation,” she said.
Ball said former Knoxville mayoral candidate Mark Padgett has been hired to help with sales.
— Note: Previous post HERE.
State Rep. Harry Tindell will apparently vote for fellow Democrat Gloria Johnson as his successor in representing Knox County’s 13th House District, but he won’t flatly say so and says he won’t be actively campaigning for anyone.
“I don’t sell Gloria short at all. I’m just choosing not to try to push my will on voters. She’s got a lot of energy and ideas,” said Tindell explaining his official silence in an interview.
Tindell, who announced earlier this year that he won’t seek re-election to a 12th term in the state House, says he also knows the other candidates seeking to succeed him and “they all have some very positive traits.”
The others are Independent candidate Nick Cazana and Republicans Gary Loe and Vanderbilt Brabson, who are now engaged in a primary battle.
At another point Tindell said: “I am a Democrat and I vote Democrat,” but then added “I’ll make my decision in the voting booth.
“I don’t think people want to hear what I think, what I want,” he said. “It’s the voters’ decision, not retiring politicians.”
Tindell noted the Tennessee Journal has rated the 13th District as one of nine “tossup” races for the state House in November, meaning the political insider newsletter figures the seat could go either to Johnson, who is unopposed in the primary, or to the Republican nominee. Tindell said he shares that assessment.
“It’s a very mixed district,” he said of the area redrawn by the Legislature’s Republican majority earlier this year. “I think it’s going to be coin-flip close.”
The outcome, he said, will be based on “personality, work effort in campaigning, message and money.”
“The candidate who has three out of those four wins,” he said.
Earlier this year, Tindell had predicted multiple candidates would run for the seat, probably at least eight or nine, and was surprised only four filed.
He had an explanation for the relatively few candidates: “People have watched enough of the cable news networks on the problems of government and they don’t want to be part of it — particularly the ugliness of campaigns.”
News release from TACIR:
NASHVILLE–Dr. Harry A. Green has retired his post as executive director of the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) after 39 years of service to the State of Tennessee.
Dr. Green began his career with the State in 1978 as Chief of Research and Statistics for the Office of the Comptroller of the Treasury and was appointed executive director of TACIR in 1981.
The Commission was created in 1978 in response to legislative findings indicating the need for a permanent intergovernmental body to study and take action on questions of organizational patterns, powers, functions, and relationships among federal, state, and local governments. It was initially staffed by the Comptroller’s Office, the State Planning Office, and the Office of Legal Services. The Commission has served as a source of expertise to state and local officials and has been instrumental in improving education funding, local planning, industrial development, emergency communications, and the administration of the property tax.
Knoxville’s Rep. Harry Brooks abandoned Monday the effort to pass a controversial bill that could have cut lottery-funded scholarship in half for an estimated 5,000 students.
“The thought is we don’t need to do it right now,” said Brooks after taking HB2649 “off notice” during the final meeting of the House Finance Subcommittee.
The bill, as filed, would have required college students to have both an ACT score of 21 and a 3.0 high school grade point average to get a $4,000 annual scholarship.
Currently, a student can qualify by having either one. Both are not required.
Under the bill, those who have one, but not both, of the qualifications would get only a $2,000 scholarship.
State Rep. Harry Tindell, a Knoxville Democrat who’s retiring this year, received a General Assembly flag after the state House of Representatives passed a resolution describing him as a “dedicated and well-informed legislator” who worked “tirelessly” for his 13th District constituents, reports Georgiana Vines. It’s not any ordinary General Assembly flag.
The banner was designed by Sheila Adkins, a fellow Fulton High School classmate, in 1978 for a contest sponsored by the late Rep. Ted Ray Miller. Tindell represents Miller’s old district.
…(Rep. Joe) Armstrong gave the flag to Tindell (during a House floor ceremony). He also gave him a pair of cuff links.
Rep. Frank Niceley, a Republican from Strawberry Plains whose district has included parts of South and West Knoxville, was among those complimenting Tindell.
“He can kill your favorite bill and make you feel good about it,” Niceley said.
Tindell plans to join a friend in a government relations business after his legislative duties are over, he said Friday. He will work on projects and do business development, he said. He cannot do any work with or for the state of Tennessee for a year after he leaves office, which will be after the Nov. 6 election.