News release from Secretary of State’s office:
Here’s a quick trivia question: Can you name five Tennesseans who became president?
If you’re a good student of the state’s history, you probably won’t have any trouble naming former U.S. presidents Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson or James K. Polk. But a fourth or fifth?
It’s a trick question, because there were also Tennesseans who later became presidents of foreign countries, such as Sam Houston, who led the briefly-independent Republic of Texas, and William Walker, who was inaugurated as president of Nicaragua on this date in 1856.
Walker’s life is highlighted in one of the Tennessee State Library and Archives’ online exhibits. The exhibit can be found at http://tn.gov/tsla/exhibits/walker/index.htm.
Walker isn’t as famous as some Tennesseans chronicled at the State Library and Archives, but in his day, he was quite infamous for his efforts to colonize Central America.
Three years before he became president of Nicaragua, the Nashvillian led a group of 45 men who landed in Baja California, Mexico. Walker declared the land to be the Republic of Lower California and proclaimed himself to be the new country’s president. Mexican forces soon threw him and his troops out of the country and he was tried (but acquitted) for violating U.S. neutrality laws when he returned.
Walker then led a group of 57 soldiers into Nicaragua. After fighting a number of battles and eventually becoming president, he launched a plan to “Americanize” the country by declaring English the official language and encouraging U.S. residents to immigrate there. He was later ousted by the combined forces of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. After unsuccessfully attempting to regain the presidency of Nicaragua, he was eventually captured and turned over to the Honduran government, which executed him for piracy.
“The story of William Walker is one of thousands that can be found at the Tennessee State Library and Archives,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “Because his life is chronicled in one of our online exhibits, it is accessible to Tennesseans free of charge, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. I encourage people to visit our web site and learn more about the resources that are just a few mouse clicks away.”
FRANKLIN, Tenn. (AP) — A potential Republican presidential candidate is headlining Tennessee state Sen. Jack Johnson’s annual summer barbeque in Franklin.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, of Bowling Green, Ky., is scheduled to attend the fundraiser at the Factory in Franklin on July 28. Several hundred people have attended the event in years past. Tickets are $50.
Johnson is the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and a prominent fundraiser in the Tennessee General Assembly.
Tennessee Republicans have not voted for the eventual presidential nominee in the primary since giving the nod to President George W. Bush in 2004.
In 2008, the Tennessee GOP primary was won by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee over U.S. Sen. John McCain, and in 2012 Republicans voted for former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Michele Johnson has been named the new executive director of a Nashville group that supports greater access to Medicaid.
Johnson will succeed Gordon Bonnyman at the Tennessee Justice Center at the end of the year.
Bonnyman and Johnson co-founded the organization 17 years ago to advocate for Tennessee’s vulnerable population, particularly those struggling to find access to health care.
Johnson is nationally known for her legal work with children who have special health care needs.
Any thought that Rep. Gloria Johnson might not be top target for the state Republican party next year — and that the Democratic party will defend her — is surely eliminated by the following two post-session press releases, First came this from the Tennessee Republican Party:
NASHVILLE, Tenn.–As lawmakers return home following the conclusion of the legislative session, Tennesseans are reviewing the public record of their lawmakers and some of what they are finding is embarrassing.
Take, for instance, the record of Representative Gloria Johnson (D–Knoxville).
In a short four-month period as a legislator, Rep. Johnson:
•Spent the last four months harassing and opposing Governor Bill Haslam’s common sense reform agenda for education and spending.
•Voted against a bill that protects doctors who provide free medical care to low-income patients who need urgent attention.
•Filed a self-serving bill she would personally benefit from.
•Supported the implementation of ObamaCare in Tennessee.
•Voted to strip worker’s rights protections from Tennessee law.
•Stood against Knox County teachers having the ability to protect students.
•Chose to not record a vote on a ban of the state income tax that would protect Tennessee families from having more of their hard-earned money taken by government.
•Voted against a balanced state budget that meets the needs of our state and cuts taxes for all Tennesseans.
•Voted against cutting the sales tax on groceries for all Tennesseans.
•Voted against phasing out the death tax to save Tennessee families and farms from being double-taxed on their assets.
•Voted against an initiative to find and remove examples of government waste.
Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney made the following statement about Rep. Johnson’s legislative performance.
“Representative Johnson was sent to Nashville to represent her constituents and this dismal performance was anything but that. It is troubling to see that her priorities were not carrying and passing good legislation, but rather being focused on updating her social media accounts with personal attacks on our leaders. Tennesseans hold their elected officials to a higher standard and expect them to work tirelessly on their behalf. Instead, she put petty personal politics above what’s best for Tennessee.”
He concluded, “I look forward to talking about Gloria Johnson’s embarrassing track record with her constituents over the next year and a half.”
— Then, this from the Tennessee Democratic party:
State Rep. Gloria Johnson, a Knoxville Democrat who succeeded longtime lawmaker Harry Tindell last year, is just into the third month of her first term but already is a target by Republicans in 2014, reports Georgiana Vines. She was mentioned last week in a news release put out by the Tennessee Republican Party in which she was criticized for pushing a bill (HB1301) requiring cities, counties and other political subdivisions to grant an unpaid leave of absence to full-time employees for service in the Legislature. The bill died in the State Government Subcommittee for lack of a second.
Chris Devaney, state GOP chair, said in the release that Johnson, an educator, pushed the mandate on local governments to make “a change to the law that she would personally benefit from.”
“It’s a lie,” Johnson said Friday. “That law had nothing to do with me. This is for police and firefighters. It came from another representative (Antonio Parkinson of Memphis) who had already used all his bills.”
State law already allows teachers to be given a leave of absence to serve in the Legislature, she said.
She said she feels another bill failed to get a second in the State Government Subcommittee on March 27 — even though it passed the Senate unanimously — because she is the House sponsor.
The bill (HB676) required meetings of certain boards and commissions, like the Tennessee Election Commission, be made available by video streaming over the Internet. The only Democrat on the subcommittee, Rep. Johnny Shaw of Bolivar, moved for approval.
“I couldn’t get a second. Even the Election Commission unanimously supported the bill. I’m No. 1 the Republicans want to defeat,” she said.
Republican lawmakers are pushing legislation to slash dependent benefits for unemployed Tennesseans as a way to rein in a program that was expanded in 2009 under the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, reports The Tennessean. The bill (HB639), which cleared a key House committee with little resistance on Tuesday, would save the state an estimated $62.5 million annually, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor. Those savings are necessary, supporters say, because $141 million in federal funds given to the state under the stimulus have run out, and Tennessee employers have had to pick up the bill.
A Democratic leader in the House called the proposal a bad bill that would hurt the unemployed in the state. But Republican leadership, including Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, said the state was fixing what amounted to an unfunded mandate.
Consideration of the bill comes one week after the Department of Labor’s unemployment benefits program was blistered in a state audit that found fraud and mismanagement that “threatened the integrity” of the unemployment benefits system.
“This is the very definition of an unfunded mandate,” said state Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, adding that the state needed to halt the expanded benefits in order to preserve the health of the unemployment insurance fund. “Experts say there’s no way our fund could withstand another recession.”
Under current state law, unemployed workers receive $15 per week for each dependent, with a cap of $50 per week, in addition to their regular unemployment check. The bill, sponsored in the House by Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir City, and in the Senate by Ramsey and Johnson, would end such dependent benefits.
Unemployment checks for individuals are capped at $275 per week. A family with four or more dependents receives an additional $50 each week.
The bill cleared the House Consumer and Human Resources committee Tuesday with a voice vote, though Democrats such as Rep. Mike Turner, D-Old Hickory, expressed their opposition.
JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (AP) — Some Jonesborough residents are upset over an advertisement in the March issue of Southern Living magazine that features a photograph of their city with the words “Start Your Adventure in Johnson City.”
The advertisement was placed by the Johnson City-Jonesborough-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, and “Start Your Adventure in Johnson City” is the chamber’s slogan.
Chamber President and CEO Gary Mabrey told the Johnson City Press (http://bit.ly/10Bjxrc) said the group’s national ads often feature sites outside of Johnson City, such as the Gray Fossil Site.
“I see it as advertising this community,” he said. “I see it as Johnson City advertising a community and all that we have to offer and all that we offer around us.”
But Jonesborough resident and business owner Steve Cook said he felt it was almost false advertising. He said Jonesborough is attractive and has a lot going on but not given any credit by the chamber.
“We just thought it was real strange that they would post that, and then they come down here and want businesses to join their Chamber … and they give you a sticker that says ‘Start Your Adventure in Johnson City,'” he said. “I don’t think so.
A bill to ban “mountaintop removal” coal mining in Tennessee was killed for the sixth consecutive year Wednesday without any discussion in the Senate but with an impassioned exchange in a House committee.
“Tennessee should be a leader in protecting our mountain way of life, not for sale to the highest bidder,” Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, told the House Agriculture Subcommittee after acknowledging the bill (HB43) was dead for the year.
Johnson also said that as surface coal mining has increased in Tennessee, “We’ve watched our mining jobs plummet and our miners be replaced by machines.” And she referred to reports that a Chinese company has a major interest in a Campbell County mining company.
“As reported in today’s Wall Street Journal, Tennessee has also become the first state in America to permit a Chinese company to blast apart our mountains and take our coal. Not only are the eyes of Tennessee on us, but the world is watching,” she said.
Officially, the bill was deferred until 2014 in the House panel after being killed without a vote in the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee earlier in the day. But Johnson was allowed to speak on it and her remarks brought a rejoinder from Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden.
A bill granting teachers extra time to take mandated competency tests has won final passage under sponsorship of Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, and Sen. Becky Duncan Massey, R-Knoxville. The Senate and House approved the measure (SB268) on Thursday.
For freshman Johnson, the measure is the first she has shepherded to passage and is a matter of personal interest. In subcommittee, Johnson said she is one of about 40 Knox County teachers who had trouble meeting the original deadline for taking the tests in areas they teach. The bill extends the original deadline from Jan. 1, 2013, to Jan. 1, 2014.
In Johnson’s case, as a special-education teacher giving instruction in several areas, she has to take six tests and, along with other teachers, did not learn about the requirement until last August, she said.
The tests cost around $200 each, she said, and often require some additional study. For example, she must take a test in geometry, which she does teach, that includes sections on precalculus and trigonometry, which she does not teach and needs to review.
During hearings, legislators expressed sympathy for both the time and expense involved in the testing. Johnson said she thought they were a good idea, but an extension of time was appropriate. The bill passed the House unanimously and got just one negative vote in the Senate.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tiffany Clay says she wants to give her sons the best education possible, and that’s why the Memphis mother favors a proposal to create a school voucher program in Tennessee.
“The program allows parents to have options,” said Clay, whose 11- and 14-year-old sons attend a private school in Shelby County.
Clay said a voucher plan proposed by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam would create opportunities for other parents to send their children to better-performing schools.
Haslam’s proposal is drawing mixed response from lawmakers and educators.
A Republican-sponsored bill to create a voucher program passed the Senate in 2011 but was deferred in the House to the following session. When the delay occurred, Haslam had persuaded lawmakers to wait while a task force studied options on school choice. The governor had previously been undecided about whether he would take the lead on a voucher proposal or let lawmakers control the measure.