Tag Archives: Jim Tracy

Complaint: Tracy used state campaign money to pay fed campaign expenses

A Petersburg man has filed a complaint Tuesday against Sen. Jim Tracy claiming he may have used state campaign funds to pay federal campaign expenses for media work on his 2014 congressional race, reports Sam Stockard.

In addition, the complaint says Tracy made a $1,000 contribution from his state Senate campaign fund in March 2014 to his congressional campaign.

“At the end of the day, right is right and wrong is wrong, and everybody should be held to the same standard,” said Corey Smith, who filed the complaint but noted he has known Tracy his entire life and isn’t mad at him.

Tracy, a third-term Shelbyville legislator representing eastern Rutherford, Lincoln, Marshall and Moore counties, says the accusations are “absolutely false” and calls the matter a “typical election-type deal, 23rd hour, trying to throw something out there.”

Wrapping up a third four-year term, Tracy is being challenged by Steve Lane of Murfreesboro in Thursday’s Republican primary. Smith said he is familiar with Lane but declined to call himself a supporter.

Filed with the Registry of Election Finance by Smith, of South High Street in Petersburg, a town straddling Marshall and Lincoln County lines, the sworn complaint says Tracy paid $18,000 to Harris Media in 2015 for “Media Services” and “Consulting” from his state campaign account.

Harris Media is one of the nation’s top firms for creating and managing websites, the complaint notes. Yet Tracy’s website hasn’t been updated since 2014, according to the complaint, when he challenged U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais and lost by only 38 votes after a recount. The complaint points out Tracy’s donation page continued to show federal donation limits and disclosure rules in late July.

A review of the web page shows Tracy for state Senate and several recent social media postings that link to Tracy’s Facebook page, but it also has several mentions of his congressional race and two-year-old media items.

In addition, Federal Election Commission reports show Tracy made a $50,000 loan to his congressional campaign on July 3, 2014, and on Aug. 5, three days before the election, he held a fundraiser with U.S. Rep. Diane Black as “special guest.”

…Tracy says he signed a contract with Harris Media after the congressional race to have the company convert his congressional campaign web site to a state Senate website containing social media items and other work.

“We just looked at it. It looks like they switched everything over except the … it looks like they switched most everything over.”

…Drew Rawlins, executive director of the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, confirmed the Registry of Election Finance received the complaint, which will be presented to the Registry at the next meeting after its Aug. 10 meeting.

The complaint was filed too late for the Aug. 10 meeting, but the Registry will make a decision on whether to issue a “show cause” notice or to dismiss the complaint, Rawlins said. Tracy would be given a chance to respond before action is taken if the Registry issues a “show cause” notice, he said.

Gas tax talk in Sen. Tracy’s GOP primary

Steve Lane believes the gas tax will emerge as a key election issue as he challenges state Sen. Jim Tracy in the August Republican primary for Senate District 14, according to the Daily News Journal.

“I oppose any gas tax increase,” said Lane of Murfreesboro, a candidate running in the Aug. 4 Republican primary against Tracy of Shelbyville and fellow challenger Matt Randolph of Ardmore.

The winner of the Republican primary, which starts with early voting Friday, will face Democratic candidate Gayle Jordan of Murfreesboro in the Nov. 8 election.

Randolph declined to comment for this story because he said he needed to research the gas tax issue.

A gas tax hike won’t affect the affluent who can afford new cars that are more fuel-efficient at the same level an increase will for a guy driving an old pickup truck, Lane said.

“Sen. Tracy supports it,” said Lane, who owns and operates a home construction business. “I think that’s one of the starkest differences. The people who can least afford it, the working class and the working poor, will have to shoulder the burden of the gas tax increase.”

Tracy, however, has said he wants more information about road needs and ways to pay for them before taking any positions on new gas taxes.

“I’m opposed to any kind of increase where we are today,” said Tracy, the Senate Transportation Committee chairman. “I signed a pledge last year that I was against the gasoline tax increase.”

…”I passed a bill that requires that all the money coming from the gasoline and diesel goes right into the transportation fund,” Tracy said. “It cannot be used in the general fund. It makes it against the law to do that.”

…But Lane worries that a TDOT study will lead to a recommended gas tax hike.

“I can’t remember seeing an elected official who is a true champion of the common man,” Lane said. “I’m a blue-collar guy. … My grandfather was a truck driver, and my dad was a truck driver. So opposing a gas tax increase is actually a fight for the working class.”

Note: A campaign finance snapshot in the District 14 GOP primary:

Tracy raised $88,450 in the last quarter, spent $38,315 and had $221,635 cash on hand July 1. Lane and Randolph both reported they had not raised or spent any money.

Jim Tracy road show: A 3-year window for legislators to ‘step up’

From the Columbia Daily Herald:

State Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, hosted a hearing this week at Columbia State Community College for Maury County officials, stressing the need for the General Assembly to start taking steps in transportation tax reforms.

According to projections based on current incoming funds, legislators will have about a three-year window to act before the Department of Transportation will be unable to fund new roads, Tracy said.

“I think we are in a crucial stage,” Tracy said. “We are going to get to the point where we are not even going to get enough revenue just to do the maintenance.”

Principal Legislative Research Analyst Susan Mattson of the Tennessee Comptroller Office and Tennessee Infrastructure Alliance Chairman Bill Moore gave presentations… (Mattson) presented a number of options that legislators could use to increase funds to TDOT, including raising tax rates of fuels, indexing the tax rates of fuels to the rate of inflation or the price of fuel and applying a sales tax to fuel purchases.

Other routes of creating revenue include installing tolls, developing a mileage-based tax system and the use of debt financing through general obligation bonds and public-private partnerships.

…The meeting was the second of nine hearings Tracy will host between now and the end of October, taking place across the state from Memphis to Kingsport, in discussion of funding the Volunteer State’s roads.

“The pressure is on with the growth that we are receiving,” Tracy said considering both Middle Tennessee and the state as a whole. “There really is no magic formula. We are going to have to step up as legislators and try to come up with solutions and get the votes to do that.”

State Reps. Shelia But, R-Columbia, and Barry Doss, R-Leoma, were both present at the meeting.

“I think we have to educate people on how our roads are built and how we have paid for them over the years, how we have no debt on our roads in the state of Tennessee and we are going to do everything we can to stay on that pathway. We don’t want to use our money just for servicing debt on our roads,” Butt said after the presentations.

Dates for state Senate road show set

News release via Senate Republican Caucus
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Senate Transportation and Safety Committee Chairman Jim Tracy, (R-Shelbyville) today released a schedule for meetings across the state to discuss Tennessee’s roads and transportation needs.

Tracy said he wants to get input from a wide variety of citizens and community leaders regarding solutions to the challenges the state faces in funding Tennessee’s transportation infrastructure.

Presentations will also be made by Susan Mattson, Principal Legislative Research Analyst for the State Comptroller and Bill Moore, P.E., former Chief Engineer at the Tennessee Department of Transportation and Chairman of the Tennessee Infrastructure Alliance. Local legislators will be invited to attend as well.
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AFP: Lots of legislators against gas tax, none for it

Americans for Prosperity says about a third of Tennessee’s 132 state legislators as declaring opposition to an increase in gas taxes while Gov. Bill Haslam tries to build support for doing something to increase revenue for road construction and maintenance.

The list, posted on the AFP website HERE, included 13 senators and 35 representatives Tuesday afternoon, a quick count indicates. All others were listed as not responding to AFP in its survey; no one was listed a supporting a gas tax increase. (Note: In the news release below, AFP says the total is 45. Apparently three more were added during the day Tuesday.)

Andy Sher notes that Senate Transportation Chairman Jim Tracy is one of those listed, though his quote sounds like Tracy is talking about only the 2016 session.

“I don’t think it’s doable,” Tracy said in a phone interview. “Because we’ve got a lot of work to do to put it together.”

The AFP also asked all nine members of Tennessee’s delegation to give their position on raising taxes and none had responded. Still, AFP counts U.S. Bob Corker as supporting a gas tax increase because he has introduced legislation that includes a hike in fuel tax levies.

The AFP news release is below
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Transportation Chair Tracy: Repay road funding ‘raided’ by Sundquist, Bredesen

State Senate Transportation Chairman Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, today declared he will push to “repay” Tennessee’s highway fund the money “raided” for the general fund during the administrations of former Govs. Don Sundquist and Phil Bredesen.

The notion, of course, would seem to dovetail with House Speaker Beth Harwell’s recent call for spending state surplus money from the the just-ended state fiscal year and using it for road construction and maintenance, perhaps lessening the need for consideration of any fuel tax increase. (Note: Related previous posts HERE and, in the form of a Sunday column HERE.) A “repayment,” in other words, would be a reason for spending surplus funds on roads.

Here’s the Tracy news release as provided by the Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE, TN), August 10, 2015 – Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) today called for repayment of $280 million raided from the state’s highway fund from 2001 to 2007. Tracy said he would submit an appropriations amendment to the state budget upon the legislature’s return in January calling for the full repayment of the funds over the next two years.

“We have a covenant with our citizens that the gas tax charged by the state at the pump is dedicated to transportation-related purposes and not something totally unrelated,” said Senator Tracy. “It is such an important principle in some states that it is provided for in their Constitutions. This money should have never been diverted for other state government purposes and should have been paid back at the first available opportunity. Instead, we still have a $280 million hole at a time when we are struggling greatly to fund repairs and priority projects. It’s past time for these funds to be paid back.”
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Haslam’s new legislative director, Warren Wells, profiled in hometown paper

The Shelbyville Times-Gazette has a write-up on Gov. Bill Haslam’s new legislative director, identifying the Bedford County native in the lead paragraph as “a Cascade High School graduate.” An excerpt:

Warren Wells, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, currently serves as deputy director for legislation but will become director for legislation on Aug. 1. Leslie Hafner, the current legislative director, will become senior advisor to the governor.
“I’m extremely excited,” said Wells.

Wells, 31, attended Cascade from kindergarten through high school, graduating in 2002. He said his family lived several different places in Bedford County during that time. Wells was homecoming king and senior class president while at Cascade.

Wells attended Motlow State Community College and Middle Tennessee State University. He studied criminal justice and originally thought of that as a career. But he eventually became interested in government.

Wells served in Al Taqaddum, Iraq, working convoy security with the Army National Guard unit from Shelbyville. He earned a Combat Action Badge and Army Commendation Medal.

After he returned, he pursued a career in government. His sights were originally set on Washington, D.C., but he ended up getting an internship working for the state legislature.

That led to work as a research analyst for the Senate Transportation Committee and for State Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville. He joined the Haslam administration as a legislative liaison to the Department of Finance and Administration.

“I personally know Warren Wells, since he worked for me for several years,” said Tracy in a statement to the Times-Gazette. “From my dealings with Warren, I can tell you he is a dedicated, hardworking public servant with exceptional leadership qualities. I think Gov. Haslam made an excellent choice when he picked Warren to be his director for legislation.”

…Wells is married to the former Jessica Stinson, who he’d known since they were in kindergarten together at Cascade. They started dating while he was home on leave during his Iraq service. The couple have a son, four-year-old Walker, and they live in Murfreesboro.

Senate Transportation Committee chairman plans summer gas tax hearings

News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE, Tenn.)-Senate Transportation and Safety Committee Chairman Jim Tracy, (R-Shelbyville), said (last week) that he will hold transportation funding hearings around the state in late summer and early fall to discuss Tennessee’s transportation infrastructure funding dilemma with an eye toward promoting reform legislation next year.

“These hearings are to discuss a comprehensive solution to fund the long-term needs of Tennessee’s transportation system,” Tracy said. “I am looking forward to having this conversation with the governor, my colleagues and other Tennesseans who care about the future of our transportation infrastructure. And I am looking forward to working with the General Assembly next year to find a solution to our transportation funding problems.”

Citing a recent list sent to members of the General Assembly from the Tennessee Department of Transportation, Tracy referred to the more than $6 billion in unfunded road and bridge projects. State fuel fees were last raised in 1989.

Tracy noted that, in the last 25 years, “our population has grown, traffic is up and we’ve seen the introduction of new technologies for vehicles that no longer need gas or diesel fuel.”

“We are very near the tipping point where the cost is going to be too high and the backlog too great. If that happens, business and industry are going to choose someplace other than Tennessee to bring new jobs. Existing businesses may begin to explore options for moving to another state,” Tracy said of the backlog’s impact.
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Tracy eyes another run at DesJarlais

State Sen. Jim Tracy says he is weighing another challenge to U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais in the 4th Congressional District’s GOP primary next year after his heart-stopping 38-vote loss to the South Pittsburg physician in 2014, reports the Times-Free Press.

“I’ve thought about it and I’ve had a lot of folks contact me in the district over the last few months,” the Shelbyville senator said in an interview. “I’m going to look at it.”

Noting he is in the midst of a “busy” legislative session, Tracy said he’s in no hurry to make an immediate decision. “We’re going to evaluate it, talk to my family. You know, I made a lot of inroads last year running, built a pretty good base. Got a lot of people to help me. Came within 38 votes.”

The senator said he’d been invited to Saturday’s Lincoln Day Dinner hosted by the Bradley County Republican Party and planned to attend. Much of Bradley is in the sprawling, largely rural 4th District, which takes in all or parts of 15 counties and stretches from Bradley in the east to Rutherford County in the west. Tracy won Bradley handily in 2014.

The 2014 primary battle drew national attention as Tracy sought to oust the scandal-plagued DesJarlais, considered one of the most vulnerable Republicans nationwide at the time.

That was the result of 2012 revelations that abortion opponent DesJarlais had had extramarital affairs with patients and co-workers, urging one patient to get an abortion and going along with his former wife’s decision to have two abortions.

DesJarlais spokesman Robert Jameson said in a statement Friday that “with a close election and health issues behind him, the congressman feels he is in the strongest position yet to champion conservative principles and Tennessee values in Washington.”

DesJarlais was treated during and after the campaign for lymphoma, a cancer.