While Donald Trump gains national attention with controversial conservative commentary in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination, a fellow political junkie contends there is an informal competition underway among state legislators who would like to be known as the Trump of Tennessee.
Current summer sensation nominees are Republican state Reps. Andy Holt of Dresden, Judd Matheny of Tullahoma and Rep. Rick Womick of Rockvale.
Now, these gentlemen are not billionaires or TV celebrities. But in Trump-like fashion, they have seized on attention-getting national controversies and offered public remarks that appeal to the GOP’s right wing — and to Democrats, who love to quote them as examples of Republican extremism. As astute politicians, they have tailored their comments to Tennessee. So has state Democratic Chair Mary Mancini in news releases denouncing them.
Establishment/moderate Republicans, typified in Tennessee by Gov. Bill Haslam, are left in a hand-wringing mode, uncertain how to respond. Absent the confrontational situations posed by a presidential campaign requiring some sort of response, mostly they choose to ignore the aspiring Tennessee Trumps and hope they’ll go away — a perhaps doubtful proposition. Continue reading →
House Government Operations Committee Chairman Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, is emailing out a suggested op-ed piece to media today proposing a joint meeting between the state House and Senate and members of the Tennessee delegation to Congress.
Here it is:
In today’s extraordinary Washington DC gridlock, what is the answer? What can Tennesseans do to help break the log jam and set a leadership example for the nation?
Do we need better communication between the state and federal systems of government? Will better communication lead to a more responsive system that will lead to more accountability and protection of our besieged rights? I believe the answer is a resounding yes! Better communication and accountability always lead to positive conclusions. Along this line of thought I would like to float an idea to my fellow citizens of Tennessee, regardless of party affiliation.
How would you feel about Tennessee hosting a Bilateral Session of Congress? The concept is simple. Our Tennessee House and Senate members meet with our nine U.S. Representatives and two U.S. Senators in a public meeting to discuss the relevant issues facing us all. This dialogue will leave both levels of government with a clear understanding of each other’s needs and actions while rebuilding public confidence. Continue reading →
House Government Operations Committee Chairman Judd Mathney tells TNReport that he has some concerns about charter schools operated by Turkish Muslim Cleric Fethullah Gülen, but not necessarily with state legislators making a trip to Turkey financed by groups with ties to Gulen. (Previous post HERE.)
Mathney last year successfully sponsored legislation to limit the number of foreigners a Tennessee charter school can hire. Asked recently about his legislation in relation to the upcoming Turkey trip, Matheny told TNReport he believes “some of the Gülen schools…have brought in more foreign teachers than we would like to see in Tennessee.”
“I am very concerned about the proliferation of charter schools that are of non-United States origin and perhaps teach things that are contrary to our constitution here within our borders,” Metheny continued.
But Matheny also said that he’s not overly concerned about his colleagues being influenced by a free getaway.
“I’ve not talked personally with very many legislators that are going. Those that I have talked to seem to be in the frame of mind that they want to do the proper due diligence on both sides,” he said. “They also understand that those trips are not totally focused on charter schools.”
Matheny said that he had been invited on a past trip put on by the same group and declined the offer, but he was quick not to appear hostile.
“Turkey is a great ally, it’s not a country that we want to snub. It’s not a country that we don’t want to foster great relationships with,” he said. “I’m more worried about what’s happening domestically and what’s happening to our children. We want to make sure they are solid Americans.”
By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Sometimes a mop sink is just a mop sink.
Building managers and legislative staffers have sought to reassure some concerned Tennessee lawmakers that recent renovations at the state Capitol did not install special facilities for Muslims to wash their feet before praying.
“I confirmed with the facility administrator for the State Capitol Complex that the floor-level sink installed in the men’s restroom outside the House Chamber is for housekeeping use,” Legislative Administration Director Connie Ridley wrote in an email. “It is, in layman’s terms, a mop sink.”
The nearly $16 million renovation completed in December focused on upgrading electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems in the more than 150-year-old Capitol. Parts of the building also got new carpets, paint and security upgrades.
Senate Clerk Russell Humphrey said he had been approached by a House and Senate member to inquire about the sink, which replaced a utility sink that had been mounted higher on the wall and was used for filling and emptying buckets.
“There was concern about why it had been modified,” said Humphrey, who declined to identify the lawmakers or elaborate on their concerns.
A dispute between a Texas-based company providing aviation services at Chattanooga’s airport and the local airport authority board has taken flight and landed in the middle of the Tennessee Legislature, reports the Chattanooga TFP. TAC Air, a company providing fuel and hangar space for private airplanes at the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, is backing a bill that jumps into the dispute.
It would block future use of grants from the state’s Transportation Equity Fund to “compete” against “existing, privately owned” fixed-base operators such as TAC Air.
Three House members and a senator from outside Hamilton County are sponsoring the bill, which is scheduled to come up in the House Transportation Subcommittee and Senate Transportation Committee later this week.
(Note: The legislation is SB912, sponsored by Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, and Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma. Reps. Vance Dennis and Terri Lynn Weaver have signed on as co-sponsors with Mathney.))
The company has been fighting with the airport since officials in 2010 unveiled plans to spend $10 million on new facilities for corporate tenants and personal aircraft with the operation run by another company. Airport officials said the facilities, on which some $5 million in grants have been expended, were needed because of complaints about TAC Air.
But TAC Air executives have accused Lovell Field officials of using taxpayer money to effectively ground its existing business.
Pam McAllister, TAC Air’s Chattanooga general manager, said Monday the company is being forced to compete against its own “landlord,” the quasi-governmental airport authority, at taxpayer expense.
“How can we compete fairly when we don’t have access to the funds they do?” she said.
By Roger Alford, Associated Press
FRANKFORT, Ky. — U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is gearing up for a tough re-election fight next year in Kentucky.
He wants to prevent one, too.
McConnell is trying to head off a GOP primary challenge by cozying up to the tea party. He’s also trying to scare off potential Democratic contenders — actress Ashley Judd is one — by providing a glimpse of his no-holds-barred political tactics.
The strategy seems to be working, so far. No serious Republican opponent has emerged. Democrats haven’t fielded a candidate yet, though Judd, a Kentucky native who lives in Tennessee, is considering a run. She would have to re-establish a residence in Kentucky before she could challenge McConnell.
The lack of an opponent hasn’t kept McConnell from sounding an alarm over his potential vulnerability. It’s a tactic rooted in reality and intended to help raise money.
“We know that President Obama’s allies in Washington are doing everything they can to find a candidate to run against me in a primary or a general election,” McConnell said in a statement to The Associated Press. “They’ve made no secrets about their willingness to back anybody right, left, or center to get me out of their way.”
Tennessee legislators have been fighting over cockfighting for decades and, as with many morality matters in our state and elsewhere, the squawking boils down to whether traditional values or emerging values prevail in the pecking order of our collective consciousness.
That collective consciousness, of course, is reflected in the people we elect as our state representatives and senators, and what they can agree upon without ruffling too many feathers. It does not involve a question of which came first, as with the chicken or the egg.
The traditionalists came first. Andrew Jackson raised fighting roosters. He also had slaves. There’s an obvious and monumental difference, of course: human beings versus animals. The fate of chickens is irrelevant, inconsequential trivia in comparison to slavery.
And remember that Andy Jackson relied upon a well-armed state militia, composed of citizens with a right to bear arms, in defeating the Creek Indians and, later, the British at New Orleans. In that respect, his traditional view prevails somewhat today in our state’s collective consciousness as reflected by our pro-gun Legislature.
But, well, cockfighting is a matter of debate. Maybe as high up there as such major controversies as whether wine can be sold in grocery stores or whether guns can be kept in cars, just to pluck a couple of issues from among many wherein lobbyists are spurred into what passes these days for mortal combat in Legislatorland.
The 2013 version of legislation to increase penalties for cockfighting in Tennessee on Wednesday cleared a House subcommittee where it has died in previous years – though not without opposition.
Under the bill by Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, cockfighting would remain a misdemeanor on first offense, but the minimum fine would increase from $50 to $500. On second offense, cockfighting would be a felony punishable by one to six years in prison.
Last year’s version called for a felony classification on first offense and set the minimum fine at $2,500. The measure cleared a Senate committee, but died in the House Agriculture Subcommittee.
The House Agriculture Subcommittee, with a somewhat changed makeup from the previous legislative session, approved the bill on voice vote Wednesday. Two members, Republican Reps. Andy Holt of Dresden and Judd Matheny of Tullahoma, had themselves recorded as voting no. (Note/Update: Also, Rep. Billy Spivey, R-Lewisburg, voted no — though he had not been listed as doing so when the roll call was initially checked.)
Matheny said “a lot of people in my area – I don’t know that they’re cockfighting – raise roosters” and that he generally believes the Legislature “has better things to worry about than what to do with the lowly chicken.”
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Members of the House Republican caucus on Monday unanimously nominated Speaker Beth Harwell for another term in charge of the chamber, but ousted Rep. Judd Matheny from the No. 2 slot.
Matheny, R-Tullahoma, was defeated by Rep. Curtis Johnson of Clarksville in a secret ballot.
Matheny announced in August that he was mulling a challenge to Harwell for speaker because he felt marginalized by other Republican leaders. He said they worked to dilute his key legislative initiatives ranging from loosening gun laws to battling what he perceived as the spread of Islamic law in the United States.
He later abandoned that bid in favor of another term in his current role, but by that point, Johnson had already begun to round up support for the position.
“We all need to pull together, we should all remember that our caucus tent is big enough to have different opinions,” Johnson said before the vote.
Andrea Zelinski has a rundown on the closed-door Republican Caucus meetings for election of legislative leadership positions. The most interesting of those races will happen Monday, Nov. 26, at the AT&T Building downtown, where members of the massive House Republican caucus are expected to cast their votes for the people they want to lead them through the next two years.
Only one of those races is contested, as of publication. It’s between a sitting leader who fell on the opposite side of party leadership on a handful of conservative, controversial bills and a quiet state rep who has largely worked behind the scenes.
The job is for speaker pro tempore, the official No. 2 ranking legislator in the chamber. Job responsibilities chiefly include manning the podium when the speaker is out of pocket. But more than that, the speaker pro tempore can vote in any standing committee, giving the electee power to cast the tie-breaking vote on just about any piece of legislation.
The post is now occupied by Rep. Judd Matheny, an auctioneer from Tullahoma who has a decade of experience on the Hill. He has been the speaker pro tempore for the past two years.
In his tenure, he performed few of those official duties. Matheny rarely manned the podium for Speaker Beth Harwell — who seldom let go of the gavel — and cast few tie-breaking votes in key committees.
It’s a job that leadership, both past and present, could have utilized better to free up Harwell, the chamber’s top Republican, said Rep. Glen Casada, a Franklin Republican expected to run unopposed for a different caucus position.
“She and the rest of us are kind of learning our way around. I would say the last two years, it’s because we’re still learning where all the gears and levers are, if you will,” said Casada, a conservative who ran an unsuccessful bid for speaker two years ago against the more moderate Harwell, the first GOP-backed speaker since Reconstruction.