State Rep. John Ragan says the fresh round of criticism he has faced for sponsorship of so-called “don’t say gay” bill is uninformed and unfair because he was trying to completely transform the bill so that it had “absolutely nothing to do” with homosexuality.
“It really irritates me in a major fashion,” said Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, in an interview.
An article posted on both The Daily Kos and The Huffington Post chides StudentsFirst, a national education reform organization, for declaring Ragan a Tennessee “educational reformer of the year” while he was sponsor of the “don’t say gay” bill (HB1332).
“The latest version would have forced select Tennessee school officials to notify parents of children who privately discussed their sexual orientation, essentially dictating forced ‘outing’ of kids, even against their own objections,” the article says. “Ragan’s proposed education bill is more than just ignorant and wrong, and bad policy, it’s downright dangerous and does anything but ‘put students first.’ ”
State Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, has been designated a “reformer of the year” by StudentsFirst, which also gave $6,500 to his reelection campaign. This has inspired a critical article in the Daily Kos after bloggers discovered that he also sponsored the so-called “don’t say gay” bill along with Sen. Stacey Campfield. (And couldn’t get a second for passage in a House subcommittee, HERE.)
Excerpt: Eric Lerum, StudentsFirst’s VP of national policy offered some responses to angry backlash on Twitter Friday night, claiming they were unaware of John Ragan’s anti-gay history and “We wouldn’t have endorsed had we known.” He alluded Ragan’s selection was a candidate vetting snafu.
As vetting goes, one need simply type “John Ragan'” into the Tennessee legislature’s website to see Ragan filed HB 1332, the “Classroom Protection Act” back on February 14, 2013. It even pops up with a great big bold lead-in that says: “Education” so this educational political action group could easily find bills of interest to them. The legislative history for HB 1332 shows seven actions were taken on the bill until late March 2013 including lots of activity in the House Education Subcommittee.
Which, of course, perhaps indicates that discerning readers of this blog are more informed about Tennessee legislators and their doings than either StudentsFirst or The Daily Kos. (Sample Ragan posts HERE, HERE and HERE.)
The Tennessean reports that the Tennessee Firearms Association plans to give away a Bushmaster AR-15 on Monday, subject to a background check for the winner of a drawing that Executive Director John Harris says has already pulled in more than 10,000 contestants. The promotion started on April 8, more than a week before the U.S. Senate voted down a proposal for expanded background checks that was promoted by the president and supported by 90 percent of Americans, according to most polls.
While Harris said the promotion had been planned for a while, the association’s website (main website HERE, gun giveaway page HERE) says the goal is “to advance the effort to resist Barack Obama, the federal government and even a few in Tennessee state government who are determined to destroy your 2nd Amendment rights!!” Supporters don’t have to give money to the association to enter the drawing, but they’re encouraged to “chip in a few dollars to help support the promotion and TFA!!!”
Linda McFadyen-Ketchum, a Nashville gun control activist, said the timing of the promotion is disturbing…. “just four months after Newtown and in the middle of our country’s debate about gun safety is in-your-face insensitive… We have to balance the right to bear arms with the right to be safe. A gun giveaway right now inflames emotions and does not help us achieve that goal.”
…If thwarting federal legislation is the point of the giveaway, (former state Rep. Debra) Maggart said it makes little sense, because Tennessee’s mostly Republican congressional delegation reliably supports the Second Amendment. So do the Republicans who make up a supermajority in the General Assembly, she said.
“This may illustrate perfectly what I’ve been saying all along: They create these issues to raise money. That just stokes the fire to frighten folks.”
Maggart gave Harris credit for “good marketing,” however, after the political backlash against the Newtown massacre led many gun owners to fear it would be tougher to buy an AR-15. The gun actually became more expensive in some places, according to national reports.
“He’s playing into the fear that’s out there that the gun lobby has helped create,” she said.
Harris, an attorney, said many of the state’s Republican politicians aren’t as reliable as Maggart thinks they are. He said Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, Tennessee’s two GOP senators, are “not soundly, consistently pro-Second Amendment.” He called the so-called “guns-in-trunks” bill passed by the General Assembly this year “an abomination” and “a disaster” because it doesn’t explicitly protect people who keep their guns in their cars at work from losing their jobs.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A judge in northeast Tennessee is dismissing a $750,000 libel lawsuit against state Republican Sen. Stacey Campfield for publishing false information online about a Democratic candidate for the state House in 2008.
Campfield, a Knoxville Republican, blogged before the election that year that he had heard candidate Roger Byrge had multiple drug arrests, and that the mug shots were “gold.” It was later determined the arrest record belonged to Byrge’s son.
The elder Byrge lost the House race to Republican Chad Faulkner by fewer than 400 votes and later filed suit in Campbell County.
“It is a dog-eat-dog world out there, and this stuff happens,” Circuit Judge John McAfee said, according to a transcript of Wednesday’s court hearing in Jacksboro.
“Sometimes you just get beat, and that’s just the plain simple truth of the matter,” he said. He added: “Politics are politics, and it’s a big boys and big girls game. That’s just the way it is.”
U.S. Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan’s assertion that 90 percent of felonies are committed by people who grew up in fatherless homes has been given a “mostly false” rating by Politifact.
The national fact-checking group looked at a comment the Knoxville Republican congressman made in a letter to a constituent: “Well over 90 percent of felony cases, all over the nation, are committed by defendants who grew up in father-absent households.”
A Duncan spokesman told Politifact that the assertion was based on “knowledge obtained from nearly eight years as a criminal court judge dealing with mostly felony cases.” And Gary Tullock, chief probation counselor, told him the figure was actually 98 percent.
Politifact looked at three studies on the issue, which pegged the number at around 60 percent.
An excerpt: Dewey Cornell, a clinical psychologist and professor of education at the University of Virginia, said that even if Duncan’s statistic were true, “it would be misleading and incomplete,” because it does not address how many people grew up in father-absent households and did not commit felonies.
“We could point out that 99 percent of felony offenders drank milk as a child, too, but it is easy to see the fallacy here because we have no preconceptions about milk the way we do about father absence,” he said. “Father absence is surely an important concern, but it is only one of a number of risk factors for felony criminal behavior.”
…The data we found supports Duncan’s impression that growing up in a fatherless home is one of the factors that contributes to eventual incarceration. But the quantitative research does not show the near-certain link between felonies and fatherlessness that Duncan portrays. We rate the claim Mostly False.
The full Politifact article is HERE.
News release from Administrative Office of the Courts:
Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct has issued a public censure and a public reprimand to Circuit Court Judge John K. Wilson of the Third Judicial District.
Judge Wilson’s censure is a result of his conduct at 2011 deposition in addition to failure to abide by a resolution and agreement previously reached with the Court of the Judiciary.
The reprimand was due to an improper ex parte hearing and improper ex parte relief granted with respect to a petition to modify a permanent parenting plan.
Because it is a public censure rather than just a public reprimand, the judge will be required to personally appear before Board of Judicial Conference at its August meeting pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. ‘ 17-5-301(g)(2) & (4).
Judge Wilson has been a judge since 1979. The Third Judicial District serves Greene, Hamblen, Hancock and Hawkins counties.
The complete text of the censure and reprimand can be found HERE.
Some legislators voiced skepticism about a $72.4 million “health and wellness initiative,” a portion of Gov. Bill Haslam’s budget that was reviewed in full for the first time on Tuesday.
The plan includes $43 million for an anti-smoking and anti-obsesity efforts. Most of that will go to programs targeting teenagers, pregnant women and women with infant children.
About $5 million goes to the obesity program with officials saying they hope to enhance the state money with $20 million to $27 million in private sector donations.
The administration is also counting $24 million for converting the University of Tennessee’s coal-fired steam plant to use natural gas as part of the “health and wellness initiative.”
The project was announced earlier as part of Haslam’s original budget proposal in February. The original proposal was altered somewhat with an amendment outlined Tuesday to the House and Senate Finance Committees.
The coal plant conversion money comes from tobacco company payments being made to the state to resolve lawsuits. Rep. Gary Odom, D-Nashville, questioned the conversion being part of a “health and wellness initiative” as well as involving tobacco money.
“I don’t see the relationship,” he said. “That’s a third of the tobacco settlement money (available to the state next year).”
“The logic behind that is that particular plant in Knoxville is one of the biggest air polluters in the region,” replied Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner, who outlined the initiative to the House Finance Committee with Finance Commissioner Mark Emkes.
The anti-smoking efforts were questioned by House Finance Committee Chairman Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga.
“That’s a lot of money and a lot of marketing,” said McCormick, suggesting the state has “some more immediate needs.” He also questioned whether it is necessary to explain the dangers of smoking, when most people are already aware of that – including smokers.
Sargent noted the state had allocated $10 million to an anti-smoking campaign in 2007 and added another $5 million two years later. He questioned whether that expenditure had done anything to reduce smoking among Tennesseans.
Dreyzehner said about 23 percent of Tennesseans smoke, according to most recent statistics, and “the needle has been moving down.” That indicates some anti-smoking efforts have been successful, he said, even though Tennessee’s spending on such programs has lagged far behind other states.
The new initiative will have long-term effect in reducing state spending on health care, he predicted, since it targets teenagers and mothers of small children.
Legislation setting the stage for election of school superintendents in some Tennessee counties faces key votes this week in both the state House and Senate with U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. among its supporters.
“When the state went to appointed school superintendents, it did not take the politics out of the process,” Duncan wrote in a March 14 letter to state Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains. “It simply put political control into a very small group of people.
“The overwhelming majority of citizens who have discussed this with me feel that they should be allowed to vote on this very important position,” Duncan wrote, saying he had been asked to do so by Claiborne County Mayor Jack Daniels.
The Claiborne County Commission has approved a resolution urging passage of the bill (SB916) Niceley is sponsoring. It is among several county commissions that have done so, although the Knox County Commission refused last month with some commissioners saying they wanted more public input and Commissioner Mike Hammond saying discussion of the issue is “a waste of time” until the bill becomes law.
A state law enacted in 1992 requires that all superintendents be appointed by school boards once those in office had served out their terms. Before that, the system for choosing superintendents varied from system to system, but many — including Knox and most other East Tennessee counties — held popular elections for superintendents.
The bill sponsored by Niceley and Rep. Kelly Keisling, R-Byrdstown, would apply only in counties or cities that had elected superintendents before 1992. In those places, the bill would authorize a local referendum on returning to elected superintendents — if the local county commission, or city council in cases of city school systems, approves the referendum by a two-thirds majority vote.
News release from Tennessee Republican Party:
NASHVILLE, Tenn.–Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus today released the following statement appointing the Republican National Committeeman from Tennessee John Ryder as the new RNC General Counsel:
“I am delighted to announce that I have appointed John Ryder as the new General Counsel of the RNC,” said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. “I am confident that John’s legal expertise and political experience make him the ideal choice. His understanding of the inner workings of the Committee from his tenure as an RNC Committeeman and a delegate will be an invaluable asset in providing the RNC with guidance and leadership as we move ahead. I look forward to working with John as we continue to assemble the resources needed to be victorious in 2013, 2014, 2016 and beyond.”
“I am delighted to have the opportunity to work with Chairman Priebus, the members of the RNC and the RNC legal staff. I know that we can build upon the solid foundation established by Chairman Priebus and our previous General Counsel and pave a constructive path forward,” said John Ryder, who lives in Memphis.
Chris Devaney, the Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, remarked, “Today, RNC Chairman Reince Preibus named Tennessee’s National Committeeman John Ryder to the post of RNC General Counsel. Tennessee has certainly been blessed to have strong leaders at the national level and John’s appointment to this important position is another indication of that. I want to congratulate John on his new role and know that he will do an outstanding job for our national Party.”
Biography for John Ryder:
John Ryder was first elected as the National Committeeman from Tennessee in May of 1996 and served from 1996-2004 and from 2008 to the present. He was the chairman of the Redistricting Committee and the RNC Presidential Nominating Schedule Committee. He was a delegate for the 1984, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Republican National Conventions. Ryder served on the Temporary Delegate Selection Committee and currently serves on the Rules Committee.
Ryder is a member of the Memphis, Tennessee law firm: Harris, Shelton, Hanover & Walsh. He is a past Chairman of the Board of Opera Memphis, a member of the Economic Club of Memphis and a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church. Previously, Ryder was the co-chairman of the Southern Region and director of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. He is vice President for Judicial Affairs for the Republican National Lawyers Association and serves as Senior Advisor to the Memphis Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society.
Mr. Ryder’s appointment is subject to RNC confirmation.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The state is taking steps to make sure mistakes made at a Massachusetts-based compounding pharmacy blamed for a fatal meningitis outbreak don’t occur at similar centers in Tennessee, the state’s health commissioner said Wednesday.
John Dreyzehner told members of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee that what happened at the New England Compounding Center was preventable.
The outbreak, discovered in Tennessee in September, is linked to steroid injections from the center. Compounding pharmacies custom-mix medications in doses or in forms that generally aren’t commercially available.
“What happened in Massachusetts was tragic, but totally preventable,” Dreyzehner said.
In Tennessee, the commissioner said the number of people sickened by the outbreak is 147 with 14 deaths. Nationwide, 693 people have gotten sick and 45 people have been killed.
Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. Fungal meningitis is not contagious.
Dreyzehner said a task force formed by the state Board of Pharmacy has been discussing preventive measures, such as more regulation, and is expected to make recommendations at a hearing on Thursday.
He acknowledged that compounding pharmacy regulation is complex, but essential.
“We need to consider how to do these things more safely to make sure they don’t happen again,” he said.
Even though the fungal meningitis outbreak was discovered in Tennessee in September, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials say the earliest deaths tied to it date to July.
Health officials say as many as 14,000 people received the steroid shots, mostly for back pain. In early October, the company issued a nationwide recall of the steroid and ceased operations. Later that month, Massachusetts moved to permanently revoke the company’s pharmacy license after inspectors found unsterile conditions at its Framingham facilities.
State officials charge the company with violating its state license, which permitted the company to make drugs only for individual patients based on specific prescriptions. Instead, state officials say, the company made large batches of drugs for broad distribution.
Last month, a bankruptcy court judge froze the assets of the four owners of the company, clearing the way for creditors to determine what’s left of the millions the owners received from the firm.