A bill to strengthen the state’s anti-bullying law was sidelined for the year in a House subcommittee after a remarks by Rep. Roger Kane that are being criticized as insensitive.
Kane, R-Knoxville, read from a section of the bill (HB927), which would broaden the definition of bullying to include “any conduct that substantially interferes with a student’s educational benefits, opportunities, or performance, and that is based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, ethnicity, academic achievement, sexual orientation, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, or physical appearance of either the student or a person with whom the student has an actual or perceived association. ”
He told the sponsor, Rep. Karen Camper, D-Memphis, that he could see the broad language covering a 7th grader “wearing a Texas Aggie t-shirt” being the butt of jokes from other students. Kane recalled himself “being the tallest 4th grader and being picked on because my ears stuck out.”
“That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” Kane said.
The latter remark was cited by Tennessee Equality Project, which advocates for gay, lesbian and transgender rights, in a news release declaring that Kane should be removed from the House Education Committee.
“He’s essentially saying that bullying is good for you because it toughens you up. Rep. Kane sends a terrible message to those Tennesseans who have forever lost a friend, a student, a son, or a daughter (through suicide after a bullying situation),” said Jonathan Cole with the Tennessee Equality Project.
Kane said afterwards that he was simply pointing out that the bill is overbroad. Kane said his mother was Jewish and his father Catholic, which caused him to be criticized as “a Jesus killer” as a child.
“It made me a better person – able to got to a better place because of it,” he said.
Several other members of the panel criticized the measure in lengthy debate. It was ultimately sent to to the state Department of Education for review with Kamper’s agreement. That means it will not be further considered this year.
Kane said he would work with Kamper on the bill “to refine it and make it better” for consideration next year.
— UPDATE: Asked for House Speaker Beth Harwell’s response to Kane’s comments, her spokeswoman, Kara Owen, sent this email: The Speaker takes the issue of bullying very seriously, as does this entire legislature, evidenced by the full discussion in committee on the bill. We are confident Representative Kane wishes to work toward good, solid policy on this very important issue.
News release from House Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) will be led by Tennessee’s own Rep. Joe Armstrong (D-Knoxville), who will serve as President of the organization over the next two years.
Joining him in leading the group will be Rep. Karen Camper who will continue to serve as Region IV Chair (KY, TN, VA, and WV), as well as Rep. Brenda Gilmore and Rep. Johnny Shaw who will serve as Executive Committee members at-large. Allyson Sneed, Legislative Assistant to Rep. Shaw, will serve as Chair of the staff organization.
“I am honored to be chosen by my peers to serve as the President of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators,” said Rep. Armstrong. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to expand the caucus and find new and better ways to serve our African-American constituencies.”
NBCSL, founded in 1977, is an organization dedicated to developing and promoting educational, research and training programs to help African-American legislators be more effective when considering and introducing legislation that affects their constituents.
“This is a great opportunity for me to be a voice for rural African-Americans within the Black Caucus,” said Rep. Shaw. “I hope to use this opportunity to inform other legislators about the work we’ve done in Tennessee, and to learn from my colleagues how we can be more effective in our state.”
In addition to a newly elected board, NBCSL has for the first time allocated funds to the regional chairs for the purpose of promoting policy engagement between the states.
“I am grateful to be chosen by my peers to once again serve as Regional Chair,” said Rep. Camper. “I am excited about the opportunity to use these new resources to work with other states in our area so that we can learn from each other about the best ways to help improve the lives of our constituents.”
“Too often the needs of African-Americans are neglected by state legislatures,” said Rep. Gilmore. “By amplifying our voices through NBCSL, we can ensure that important issues and programs are not forgotten as we work to make our states better places for all.”
The new NBCSL Executive Committee will take effect on February 1, 2013.
From Hank Hayes comes this report on the race in state House District 3:
Timothy Hill has been down this road before.
Hill, a Blountville businessman and former press secretary for ex-U.S. Rep. David Davis, looked like the front-runner to win the GOP primary for Tennessee’s 3rd House District seat two years ago.
Hill, the brother of GOP state Rep. Matthew Hill of Jonesborough, had name recognition in Sullivan County, a number of campaign donors, and a conservative message to go with his candidacy.
But Mountain City Republican Scotty Campbell’s base of Johnson County voters in the district showed up in droves, and Hill came in second to Campbell after splitting the rest of the primary vote with five other candidates. Campbell, a former legislative aide to ex-House Speaker Kent Williams of Elizabethton, easily defeated Democrat Joe Mike Akard and two independents in the November 2010 general election.
After one term, Campbell isn’t seeking re-election, and Hill is again seeking the seat.
And now Hill is facing another GOP candidate with considerable Johnson County name recognition — former Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons. Also in the primary race are Karen Greene Morrell and Lee White, both of Bluff City.
Doctor John Dreyzehner, Tennessee Health Commissioner, announced Monday that Doctor Karen Cline-Parhamovich will serve as Tennessee’s chief medical examiner, effective July 1st, reports the Bristol Herald Courier. Cline-Parhamovich currently works as the Director of Forensic Pathology for ETSU’s Quillen College of Medicine. She served as the Interim Chief Medical Examiner and Deputy Chief Medical Examiner since December 2010.
Cline-Parhamovich said she looks forward to making sure the state’s autopsy process is as efficient as it can be. “It’s going to expand my responsibilities to be more involved in developing initial education as well as continuing education for local county medical examiners and medical investigators,” said Cline-Parhamovich.
Michael Strayer, a former senior executive at the U.S. Department of Energy and longtime employee at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and his wife, Karen Earle, have been indicted in an alleged scheme that diverted $1.2 million in government funds to their personal use.
From Frank Munger’s report: Strayer, 69, and Earle, 48, were arraigned last week in U.S. District Court in Maryland. Both entered not guilty pleas, and a trial date was tentatively scheduled for mid-August.
The case revolves around the alleged misuse of federal funding for the SciDAC (Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing) Review, a Department of Energy publication that Strayer started soon after he left ORNL in 2004 to take a job at DOE headquarters in Washington.
As DOE’s associate director of Advanced Scientific Computing Research, Strayer used program funds for the publication to tout the work done by the agency’s scientific computing programs and related partnerships with universities.
According to the federal indictment, Strayer initiated a sole-source contracting process via ORNL to select a foreign publishing company — identified in the indictment as “Corporation A,” but reported to be IOP Publishing, based in England — to publish the SciDAC Review. In 2006, the indictment said, Strayer directed the publisher to hire Earle as a $60,000-a-year consultant “despite Earle’s lack of relevant qualifications” for the job.
“Shortly thereafter, Strayer began a romantic relationship with her and directed that the publisher later increase her consulting fees,” the Justice Department said in information released by the U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland after the 13-count indictment was returned May 16.
Over time, Earle’s role broadened, and she was allegedly paid tens of thousands of dollars to acquire articles for SciDAC Review, even though the actual articles were provided free of charge by Oak Ridge and DOE’s other national labs — at the direction of Strayer, according to the criminal charges.
News release from Senate Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE – State Senator Reginald Tate and State Representative Karen Camper have passed legislation to give citizens who committed certain nonviolent, non-sexual crimes the opportunity to clear their records after years of abiding by the law.
“All crimes are serious, and we should take their punishments seriously, too,” Tate said. “What we are finding, however, is that mistakes people made in their lives 20 years ago are keeping them from obtaining a degree, applying for jobs and moving on with their lives.”
Senate Bill 3520 allows those convicted of certain nonviolent, non-sexual misdemeanors and Class E felonies to apply for expungement of their records. Offenders would be eligible only if the crime was more than five years old and they had completed all requirements of their sentence with no further convictions.
Eligible offenses include various nonviolent theft and fraud charges, vandalism and other nonviolent crimes like failure to appear in court.
The Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference worked with Camper and Tate to create the list of eligible offenses, as well as the steps necessary to have the crimes expunged. A $350 filing fee for expungement will fund costs associated with the process, as well as provide revenue for the state’s general fund.
The legislation is expected to add more than $7 million in annual revenues to the state’s general fund, but bill sponsors and other lawmakers spoke more to the value of giving one-time, nonviolent offenders a fresh start.
“We have a duty to uphold the law, but we also have the responsibility to forgive those who serve their punishments and learn from their mistakes,” Camper said. “This legislation will provide opportunities to those who have paid their dues and are looking for ways to better themselves and provide for their families.”
The bill now goes to Governor Bill Haslam for his signature.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Democratic Rep. Karen Camper of Memphis has been selected to attend a leadership conference at the White House.
The Policy in Action Leadership Conference will be held Wednesday and will be hosted by Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser and assistant to President Barack Obama for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs.
The conference is an opportunity to learn more about how the president’s agenda and policies have helped African-American communities.
Camper says the conference is also an opportunity for leaders from various levels of government to get together and specifically discuss ways to help citizens of Memphis and the state of Tennessee.