The General Assembly having voted this year to legalize and tax fantasy sports gambling in Tennessee, Louie Lobbyist advised in a recently distributed email that he is seeking investors for an “innovative new startup venture” called Fantasy Legislature. So I gave him a call.
Louie explained that he is creating a database with statistics on each legislator’s inclinations, effectiveness, voting record, fundraising ability and so on — just like with players in a fantasy football lineup. Players of Fantasy Legislature will take on the role of fantasy lobbyists, trying to use their influence to decide the outcome of a given game scenario.
“That means that skill will be involved, not just random chance, so it’ll be perfectly legal, just as Herbert Slatery requires,” said Louie, referring to a recent attorney general’s opinion indicating — well, more or less — that fantasy sports gambling would have been deemed unlawful under prior state law, but is OK now that the Legislature has approved.
Under a working draft, Louie says, the initial series of fantasy legislative games is set in early 2018, when Donald Trump, shortly after inauguration as president, has named Bob Corker as U.S. secretary of state. Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed himself as U.S. senator to fill the vacancy created by Corker’s departure and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally has succeeded Haslam as governor. That has created a vacancy for the post of lieutenant governor.
State Rep. Antonio Parkinson was clearly trying to make a debating point, or maybe even being sarcastic, when he proposed honoring corporate entities with official state status. But it is suggested that the former Marine from Memphis has planted a seed that could grow into a great business-government partnership.
In the waning hours of the 2015 session, Democrat Parkinson rose during House floor debate to suggest that the Legislature was plowing new ground by designating the Barrett Model M82/M107 rifle as Tennessee’s official state firearm. Republican Rep. Susan Lynn of Mount Juliet more or less said the same thing.
Lynn and Parkinson suggested that, for the first time, the General Assembly would be endorsing one commercial product over potential competitors. In this case, Barrett over other makers of guns — say, for example, Beretta, which is opening a new manufacturing plant in Tennessee and getting a bunch of state taxpayer money in the process.
If we’re going into that questionable territory, Parkinson said, he would propose that Memphis-based Federal Express be designated as the official delivery company of the state of Tennessee, and that Memphis-based AutoZone be declared the state’s “official auto parts manufacturer and distributor.”
After the official legislative endorsement of Barrett’s product was approved by the House 74-9, Parkinson followed through by formally introducing resolutions to endorse FedEx and AutoZone, corporations that have, incidentally, generously contributed over the years to legislator campaigns. They have given more that Barrett’s founder, Ronnie Barrett, who is married to a former legislator, has hosted events where legislators could shoot guns, including the M82, and has donated a few dollars here and there.
The Senate didn’t get around to backing Barrett in those last legislating hours, failing even to set up a summer study committee to ponder the ramifications. So the first official state product endorsement is left hanging until next year.
The lack of scheduled study is a shame, especially considering Parkinson’s suggestions. Any reasonable review would surely conclude that, if Tennessee is to embark upon granting official preferences (which, of course, can be used in advertising and product promotion), the benefiting corporations should pay for it. And not just through hiring lobbyists, providing campaign money to legislators or otherwise doing nice things for them, but through actual payments to the state general fund.
Noting prior post on the new $46,000 state logo that Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has adopted, an emailer sends along for free a suggested new logo for the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office:
And a couple of others:
This one suggested as the governor’s first in-house draft:
And there’s a parody YouTube video, HERE.
Mark Harmon has written a column wherein he imagines how Tennessee legislators would get along if relocated to other states. Some samples:
State Sen. Mae Beavers and state Rep. Sheila Butt headed to Iowa. They never quite fit in and had trouble pronouncing Des Moines. Iowa’s governor sent them back with a crisp note pinned to each: “Beavers and Butt? C’mon, Tennessee. Iowans know a joke when we hear it.”
Tennessee Rep. Bill Dunn had hoped to join in the Indiana gay bashing, but when that fizzled he transferred to Louisiana. It was a great match. Soon he and his Baton Rouge buddies traveled to New Orleans, where they can pretend that vouchers work. “It’s my dream location,” declared Dunn. “All public education via parochial schools.”
State Sen. Richard Briggs now hangs out in Austin honky-tonks and slowly sips on Lone Star beers. It’s the only way he can cope with being reassigned to the Texas legislature. “I defeated one Stacey Campfield; now I’m surrounded by dozens of them,” he lamented. “Were we really worse than these guys?” Briggs wondered aloud.
The answer can be found in Kentucky, where foul-and-fork-tongued state Sen. Todd Gardenhire is stationed, shackled with a GPS tracking device. It’s a state where the Affordable Care Act is working well. Gardenhire’s cognitive dissonance is so strong that almost daily he denies getting the government-sponsored health plan covering him.
State Rep. Eddie Smith and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, two of the Koch brothers’ favorites, now work together in Wisconsin. Smith is assigned to the “Eat Cheese or Die” campaign, cutting school lunches to cover the state’s growing budget deficit.
…State Rep. Andy Holt, famous for operating a hog farm without state permits but with whopping environmental problems involving the improper disposal of hog waste, naturally was farmed out to Arkansas. He entertained his new colleagues by not responding “Aye” or “Nay,” but “Sooey!” in roll call votes
Gov. Bill Haslam’s Identification and Development of Educational Acronyms (IDEA) Task Force recently issued its third annual report, listing positive steps taken to expand knowledge of existing governmental acronyms and recommending continued creation of new abbreviations as a means of streamlining state government and enhancing efficiency in communication.
IDEA, created by Executive Order 86 (XO86), works with the Public Safety Coalition (PSC) and other Haslam cabinet groups and task forces in a broad administration effort informally called TASK (Think About Stuff Knowingly). It is chaired by Mark Cate, the governor’s chief of staff (COS), with an executive committee including chairmen of administration-appointed task forces on school funding, health and wellness, services for senior citizens, veterans employment, criminal sentencing and school vouchers.
A motion to formalize TASK as an acronym was reportedly defeated at the last IDEA conference. The group did set up a subcommittee to review occasional acronym misunderstandings reported to the panel that will be designated as FORCE (Frequently Observed Reading Comprehension Errors).
An excerpt from an IDEA news release:
Acronym lists are now publicly available for five departments of state government as part of the Public Enlightenment Initiative (PIE).
“Tennessee has become a national leader in acronym creation, identification and development (ACID),” Gov. Bill Haslam said. “Every acronym reduces paperwork, eliminating the need for state employees to write out a full title or explanation. That lowers the cost of doing government business. Most businesses employ abbreviations and we are proud that our top-to-bottom review is constantly creating new acronym and abbreviation opportunities as part of making government more open and transparent.”
Cate praised Haslam’s leadership in new acronym areas, including the innovative naming of legislative initiatives. As an example, he cited the administration’s reform of state civil service rules, the “Tennessee Excellence Accountability and Management” (TEAM) Act, which has allowed the Department of Human Resources (DHR) to create a new employee evaluation mechanism known as SMART (Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant Time-Bound).
Our governor has received the Snark Bites treatment again from Scott McNutt, who sees a trend toward self-censure developing among politicians inspired by the recent reprimand of Knox County Commissioner Brad Anders.
Hearing of Anders’ planned self-remonstrance, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced he was forming a team to study the feasibility of a gubernatorial self-censure because his agenda to transform Tennessee into an autocracy suffered a series of humiliating setbacks recently.
Haslam’s latest gaffes that merit self-censure include:
– His administration was found to have violated the First Amendment rights of Occupy Nashville protesters in 2011, in a judge’s strongly worded ruling.
– His scheme to lay off more than 200 state workers was thwarted by a judge’s restraining order.
– His administration’s decision to award a $330 million contract to a company in which he once invested is raising red flags among legislators.
– His practice of paying a political consultant who also lobbies the administration has raised questions from Democrats on the arrangement’s propriety.
– He had to again admit that, “Yes, Jimmy is my brother,” candidly.
To address these embarrassments, the task force will make recommendations about the self-censure’s appropriateness as a way to distract from the governor’s increasingly ugly track record in conducting the people’s business.
“I will study the task force’s recommendations, and then ponder, ponder, ponder and ponder,” he said. “And then ponder some more, until maybe the public has forgotten whatever it was I was pondering for.”
Also, President Barack Obama is now said to be considering a self-censure for letting his administration’s controversies control its news narrative, rather than vice versa, while promising “never to let it happen again.”
More 2013 supermajority session superlatives (first installment HERE):
Celebrity of the Year: Sen. Stacey Campfield, of course. Hands down. From Jay Leno and Stephen Colbert to Jon Stewart and Piers Morgan on national TV, from TMZ to Huffington Post on the national blogosphere, they all talked with — or at least about — the red-haired Knoxville Republican on the cutting edge of red state conservatism. He’s been there before, of course, but this session his national media stature grew — and much of Tennessee’s media, including bloggers, went into an absolute tizzy, sometimes just to report that national celebrities had noticed the senator or one of his blog posts. With exceptions such as Bill O’Reilly, most of the attention was negative — much amounted to ridicule — and centered on his bill to tie a parent’s welfare payments to a child’s school performance. He never backed down in rhetorical fights, whether on TV or the News Sentinel website comment sections, but did back down from putting the bill to a Senate floor vote this year, perhaps a politically practical and tacit acknowledgment that others fret more about such things than he.
Scott McNutt’s latest Snark Bite chews on Gov. Bill Haslam’s rejection of Medicaid expansion as opening new opportunities. An excerpt:
Haslam’s refusal of the federal authorities’ offer of Medicaid expansion funds under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was prompted by the Department of Health and Human Services’ unwillingness to accede to his demands not to have to do certain chores to receive the allowance, “even after I cried and stomped my feet,” he said. He added that Tennessee’s conservative GOP supermajority was no help in his battle over the money, because “they’re too scary to even talk to about it.”
“If Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey even looks at me crosswise, I feel my knees begin to buckle,” he said, explaining that, because his spine is missing, staying upright was a challenge anyway.
Haslam developed his idea of turning Tennessee into a zombie factory after Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell told him that refusing additional Medicaid dollars would demonstrate the marvels of a free market economy and force several Tennessee hospitals to close, leaving needy populations without health care access.
“With Tennessee’s alarming incidence of chronic killer ailments like diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity, these closures could balloon the state’s death rate, which made the zombie idea a no-brainer,” Haslam said. “For the fee of one voodoo priest, we can churn out thousands of walking-corpses-for-hire.”
According to Haslam, the new state law prohibiting local governments from requiring contractors to pay workers a “living wage” also means “more Tennessee workers making a nonliving wage, which means they’ll have more opportunities to become the living dead.”
Tennesseans should view adversities like scant wages, illness and lack of insurance as opportunities for pursuing a career in zombiism, the governor counseled.
“Even if you’re jobless and on death’s door, you can still find employment as a zombie, because the undead are in high demand right now,” the Knoxville native said.
Note: In case you missed it — as I did last week — see also McNutt’s bite into the Muslim sink mop matter.