Some Northeast Tennessee legislators are opposing Gov. Bill Haslam’s voucher bill, according to Robert Houk. He suspects it’s not all a matter of philosophical differences. Now, the Republican governor and the GOP-led state General Assembly is looking to divert already limited state and local tax dollars away from public education to private schools. Haslam’s voucher plan is seeing opposition from teachers, school boards and Democrats.
And the governor’s bill is not getting any love from state Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough. Boss Hill has vowed to stand with the school boards of Johnson City and Washington County, which aren’t keen on the idea of losing precious tax dollars to private schools.
Even so, Hill is not necessarily philosophically opposed to school vouchers. Hill says he is opposed to the governor’s bill because it is aimed squarely at failing schools in urban areas (Memphis and Nashville) and not the better academically performing school systems in our area.
Freshman state Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, agrees with Hill on this matter.
“I think vouchers are a good idea, but it’s hard to say what the details of the legislation will be,” Van Huss told Press staff writer Gary B. Gray earlier this month.
Actually, it’s not. The governor’s bill is pretty specific when it comes to the particulars of the proposed voucher system.
So what’s really going on here? Why do Hill and Van Huss (and we suspect Hill’s brother, Timothy, too) appear to be solid votes against Haslam’s voucher bill? Some Capitol Hill insiders believe it’s Hill’s way of exacting some revenge for Haslam’s overhaul of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority.
Robert Houk says that state law should be changed to allow carrying of guns openly and without the need for a carry permit. Just maybe, he’s being a bit sarcastic. There’s nothing in the Second Amendment that says that an American must get a government permit to carry a gun, so why does the state of Tennessee think we need one?
I know there are some folks who say the permit is needed so that people will get the proper training in how to handle their gun. Poppycock! Everyone knows that a true American is born with gunpowder on his fingers.
The only people who might need training are liberals (because everybody knows, aside from Atticus Finch, liberals can’t shoot straight).
Meanwhile, Frank Cagle – clearly serious, not sarcastic – opines that gun owners should be taking the lead in backing sanctions against those who abuse their right to carry a weapon. He focuses on the “stand your ground” law and a couple of cases in Florida, one that’s received a lot of attention and one not so much — yet. Responsible gun owners cannot allow irresponsible gun owners to try and use law-abiding citizens’ hard-won rights and put those rights in jeopardy. Dunn has a carry permit. If he did wrong, it should not negate the responsible practices of literally thousands of permit holders nationwide.
Responsible gun owners should be in the vanguard urging prosecution of people who abuse gun rights.
Further, Otis Sanford brings up the topic in a piece declaring Gov. Bill Haslam needs to stand against more conservative members of his own party. This legislature is determined to enact a law allowing people with handgun-carry permits to bring their guns to work and keep them locked away in their vehicles — even if business owners don’t want firearms on their property.
Haslam and Ramsey disagree over whether a revised version of the bill should allow firearms on college campuses. Haslam wants colleges excluded. Ramsey thinks that’s an overreaction, but he has hinted of late that he may be willing to exempt colleges from the bill.
For his part, Haslam is no fan of the bill either way. But he knows that train has already left the station.
Pardon the pun, but Haslam should stick to his guns on this and other major issues, and not be continually swayed by a rolling tide of extreme conservatism.
— Note: The columns were written prior to the Connecticut school massacre.
Veteran state Rep. Dale Ford, R-Jonesborough, was defeated in his bid for reelection by Micah Van Huss, a first-time candidate who owes much of his campaign success to a generous benefactor in Middle Tennessee, says Robert Houk. How could a political newcomer like Van Huss pull off such a win? The answer is easy — money. And not his own. A report in The Tennessee Journal (a weekly newsletter dedicated to Tennessee politics and business) noted that Andrew Miller, a Nashville businessman, was “financing independent radio attacks on state Sen. Doug Overbey, and Reps. Charles Sargent, Debra Maggart and Dale Ford in their Republican primaries.”
…Miller’s direct involvement in the 6th District race troubles some Washington County Republicans. One asked, “Why in the world would someone in Middle Tennessee care about who we send to Nashville?”
Several local government officials also told me they were disappointed to see Ford lose his seat in the House because they considered him to be their go-to guy in Nashville. That’s not something they say of Hill.
Republicans eating their own is certainly not new, at least not in Northeast Tennessee. Ford’s defeat reminds more than a few local politicos of the 2004 GOP primary that saw Hill knock off incumbent Rep. Bob Patton, R-Johnson City. Hill was aided in that race by a series of attack ads funded by individuals who lived outside the 7th District.
Chuck Rated No. 3 by WaPo
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann is ranked No. 3 on The Washington Post’s list of the top 10 House incumbents who could lose their primaries this year (H/T Chattanooga TFP). Here’s the relevant paragraph of the list (which fails to mention the third major GOP candidate, dairy heir Scottie Mayfield): 3.. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn): Fleischmann won this east Tennessee seat in 2010 when then-Rep. Zach Wamp ran unsuccessfully for governor. But now he faces a serious primary challenge from another Wamp — Weston Wamp, the 25-year-old son of the former congressman. Wamp’s last name and his father’s connections in Washington ensure he will be a well-known and well-funded opponent for the still-new-to-Washington Fleischmann. Something to Crowe About?
Robert Houk writes in his weekly column that Sen. Rusty Crowe, senior member of the Northeast Tennessee delegation to the state General Assembly with 22 experience in Nashville, Crowe has “just about seen and done it all” – or thought so until this year. Crowe has managed to emerge from each battle unscathed and a little bit wiser. Yes, he’s seen a lot as a state senator, but even Crowe admits he has never seen anything like the “polarizing” debate about to come on the so-called “guns in parking lots” bill Bizarro World
Frank Cagle begins a column on the effort to make teacher evaluations secret by recalling that value-added testing scores have been secret for a couple of decades now – though the original intent was to make them open after the procedure was well established.
His opening line: Sometime I think I’ve entered Bizarro World when I view public policy issues being argued in the Tennessee Legislature. Targeted Fundraising
On Saturday, the final day of a political fundraising quarter that included a $2,500-per-plate dinner for U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., Democratic challenger Bill Taylor invited donors to shoot guns for 100 times less, reports the Chattanooga TFP. Taylor hosted his “Candidate Shootout Challenge” Saturday at Shooter’s Depot in Chattanooga, daring people to fire eight rounds with him in exchange for a $25 campaign donation. The gist of the Second Amendment agreement: If Taylor hit the bull’s eye more often than his donor, the donor owed the campaign an extra $10.
Taylor and Maynardville, Tenn., physician Mary Headrick are competing for the Democratic nomination in Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District in the Aug. 2 primary… An Ooltewah resident who manages physician offices, Taylor said he raised about $1,000 Saturday, adding that some donors gave him “a lot more” than his campaign asked for
In his weekly column, Robert Houk criticizes an amendment to legislation on so-called “mountaintop removal” coal mining. A popular mantra among many Republicans has been, “Drill, baby, drill!” Now we are hearing: “Blast, baby, blast!”
…Don’t be fooled by the clever semantics that are being used to distract from the real purpose of the amendment. The truth is the Tennessee Scenic Vistas Act has been hijacked by Big Coal to allow mining companies to blast off the tops of mountains in Tennessee.
One local environmentalist told me last week the amendment would allow mining companies to remove mountaintops as long as ‘they pile the rubble back on to re-form the original contours.”
This is a practice known in the industry as cross ridge mining, and as long as valley fill is not involved then it is not classified as “mountaintop removal.”
Whatever you want to call it, the end results are the same. Dawn Coppock, the legislative director for LEAF (Lindquist Environmental Appalachian Fellowship), said the amended bill repeats a federal law on what coal companies can do with “overburden,” which she calls a “sad industry pseudonym” for what is left of a mountain after it is blasted apart.
If the amended Tennessee Scenic Vistas act becomes law, environmentalists fear the measure will spell doom for ridgelines in Claiborne, Campbell and Anderson counties, where 98 percent of all coal in Tennessee is mined.
,,,,Not surprisingly, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey praised the amendment as a sensible compromise that protects Tennessee’s mountains while allowing mining companies to continue to do business in this state.
“After years of controversy on this issue, I believe we have finally reached a point that all honest stakeholders in this process can be proud of,” said Ramsey, who has collected more than $195,000 in campaign contributions from coal companies in recent years.
Not so fast. Some of those “stakeholders” say Ramsey is not being honest when he says all interested parties have had an equal place at the negotiation table. They say the coal mining industry has clearly purchased a seat at the head of the table.
Meanwhile, environmental groups weren’t allowed anywhere near the bargaining table.
“He (Ramsey) appears to be is calling the advocates of protecting our ridgelines, like LEAF, dishonest,” Coppock said. “This is ironic in light of the circumstances.”
In his weekly column, Robert Houk critiques Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s call for drug testing of those receiving government-related benefits. Tennessee’s lieutenant governor believes it’s time to get tough on those collecting a government check (not to mention such rhetoric energizes the GOP base in an election year). Ramsey recently told the Nashville Chamber of Commerce (does he ever speak to any group other than a business-related concern?) it is time for lawmakers to protect tax dollars from those on the state dole.
“Folks, we don’t need to give any support to that lifestyle,” the Associated Press reported Ramsey as telling the chamber group.
Lifestyle? I would understand what he meant by “lifestyle” if he was talking about the lifestyle of power and privilege flaunted on Capitol Hill whenever lobbyists for big business line up outside the doors of legislative leaders and ask for special treatment from state government.
Nope, Ramsey is talking about a proud middle-aged man who is collecting workers’ comp after being injured on the job. He is talking about a single mom on TennCare trying desperately to hold her family together.
If Ramsey had his way, both these people would be forced to submit to what the courts have called an unconstitutional search, not to mention a humiliating invasion of their personal privacy.
But then again that’s the Ron Ramsey we’ve gotten to know as lieutenant governor. Let’s scapegoat the poor and unemployed. Remember, Ramsey is also the guy who said back in November that collecting unemployment benefits could become “a lifestyle” for some Tennesseans.
And so can collecting a fat state pension.
If Ramsey and others are so dead-set on passing this bill, I hope they will add an amendment requiring all current members of the General Assembly, as well as retired legislators who are currently collecting a pension check, to submit to regular drug tests. They shouldn’t mind, unless they have something to hide.