Tag Archives: legislator

Sen. Henry, TN’s Senior Legislator, Says He Could’ve Won Another Term

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Longtime Sen. Douglas Henry said Wednesday that his health and the high cost of campaigning were factors in his decision not to seek re-election next year, even though he believes he could win if he did run.
The 86-year-old Nashville Democrat officially met with reporters about a week after his campaign manager sent an email to Henry’s supporters last week announcing his decision.
Henry, who turns 87 this month, said he had been disregarding his doctor’s request that he not run again but finally decided to heed his advice. He also said the amount of money he spent on his 2010 election was “obscene.”
“If I told y’all how much money it cost to get elected last time, you’d never believe it,” he said. (Note: His campaign expenditures for the 2010 cycle were about $582,000.)

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Rep. Lois DeBerry Undergoing Cancer Treatment

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — State Rep. Lois DeBerry is undergoing treatment for a recurrence of pancreatic cancer.
The Memphis Democrat was first elected in 1972 and is the longest-serving current member of the House of Representatives and second-longest in the entire Legislature. The 67-year-old is also the first female speaker pro tempore in the House.
DeBerry was first diagnosed with cancer in 2009 after suffering from stomach pain.
The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/10Kli31 ) reports that earlier this week House Speaker Beth Harwell appointed Democratic Rep. Karen Camper of Memphis to temporarily replace DeBerry on the House Finance Committee and its finance subcommittee.
DeBerry was excused from floor sessions on Monday and three days last week

Study of Legislator Expense Allowances Axed

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A bill calling for a comprehensive study of lawmaker allowances has been killed in a House committee after unanimously passing the Senate.
Republican state Rep. Curry Todd of Collierville made the motion in the House State Government Committee on Tuesday to delay consideration of the measure until after the Legislature adjourns next year.
The resolution sponsored by Republican Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet calls for the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations to study the daily allowances paid to lawmakers when they are conducting business at the Capitol. It passed the Senate on a 32-0 vote.
Todd called the study unnecessary because the information about costs is already available.
A separate bill would strip the $107 daily hotel allowance from lawmakers living within 50 miles of the Capitol.

Legislators’ Salary & Benefits Package Nearly $60,000 Per Year

Though state legislators talk about working for low pay, in reality, they take home more money as part-time lawmakers than most Tennesseans do in a year, reports Andrea Zelinski.
Looking at annual salary alone, lawmakers take home no less than $20,000 a year. Factor in their per diem for food and lodging, health insurance benefits and 401K, and it’s closer to $60,000.
…Lawmakers collect a legislative salary of $20,203 a year. Add in $12,000 a year for a home office — regardless whether they’ve set one up — and lawmakers make $8,000 more annually than the average Tennessean.
According to the U.S. Census, the per capita income in the state was $24,197 as recently at 2011.
State legislators also collect $173 in per diem expenses to cover their food and lodging while working at the seat of government or conducting government business, an amount tied to federal government rates. The daily automatic pay breaks down to $107 a night for lodging and $66 for meals and incidentals, whether the money is used for those reasons or not.
Sitting senators last year took home more than $14,600 on average in per diem, according to a review of state records by The City Paper. Legislators in the House of Representatives averaged more than $13,800 each in per diem.
…Lawmakers can also opt into the state’s health insurance program for state employees, which covers 80 percent of the premium. The state’s share of monthly premiums ranges from nearly $6,000 for individuals to $15,400 for families.
Long-term, sitting lawmakers also qualify to cash in on pension benefits once they leave office. After hitting 55 years of age, lawmakers who have served at least four years can begin collecting a pension that boils down to $81.73 per month for each year in the General Assembly. That’s a minimum of almost $4,000 a year for a lawmaker who spent the four years in the legislature needed to qualify
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Legislator Comments on Voucher Proposal

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday proposed a limited school-voucher program for students from poor families who attend failing schools. The program would be capped at 5,000 students this year and grow to 20,000 students by 2016. Here are some responses to the proposal:
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“I think he has made it clear that it is a very limited program for failing students in failing schools. … One of the things I respect about the governor is that it’s part of his trademark to phase it in.” — House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville.
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“I know that this year there’s going to be an effort by the press and others to say there’s a fight and Republicans aren’t getting along and things like that. There are differences of opinion, but in the end I think we’ll pass a bill that’s good for the state.” — Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, who favors a broader approach.
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“The way he rolled it out today, I like it. Eat an elephant, as the saying goes, a bit at a time.” — House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Franklin.
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“Everyone is for a school of choice. But … what size voucher, who gets it? (What’s the) impact on public education? The devil is more in the details on vouchers than almost any topic we discussed tonight.” — Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis.
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“We’re making significant gains in what really counts, and that’s student achievement. And continuing the focus on that important work was as important to me as any new program that was announced.” — Jamie Woodson, president and CEO of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, or SCORE.
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“We all are interested in education, no question about that. I think he spent the most time of his speech on that. I just have a little different philosophy about the use of public money for private schools on the vouchers.” — House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley.

Legislature’s Freshmen Getting Oriented

Georgina Vines talks with freshmen legislators about their orientation sessions…. and one who made a trip to Washington for an ALEC meeting, too.
“It’s not government civics.”
That’s how newly-elected state Rep. Roger Kane, a Knoxville Republican, described orientation and GOP caucus sessions that he’s attended in Nashville to get ready for when the General Assembly begins meeting in January. The Legislature will have a large freshman class with 22 new House members and six new senators.
Representing the new 89th District in Northwest Knox County, Kane said the GOP caucus session in particular was not something he remembered studying. The vote was done by a secret ballot.
“I thought it would be more of a voice thing,” he said.
….Orientation covered everything from security to offices. A tour of the newly-renovated Capitol was given. Presentations were made by the Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education.
“They want us to be prepared so in January everything is not overwhelming and new,” he said.
Democrat Gloria Johnson, elected to represent the 13th District, also attended the sessions.
“As I am still teaching, I haven’t had the time I would like to get familiar with things there, so the day was definitely beneficial for me,” she said.
The Nashville meetings were Nov. 26-27,and then Kane went to Washington, D.C., on Nov. 28-30 to attend a conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC paid the transportation and expenses at the Grand Hyatt of freshmen legislators, Kane said.
He was the only newly-elected lawmaker from East Tennessee to attend the ALEC program, he said. Johnson did not attend, saying she chose instead to meet with constituents in her district.
…Kane said the group acknowledged it had taken some missteps and planned to focus in areas where it feels it’s the strongest. Its website said ALEC works on the principles of free markets and limited government.
“I’m being inquisitive and figuring out what these groups do for me, how I can be a part of it or not be a part of it,” Kane said.

Legislators Get a Pay Raise, Plus a Penny More Per Traveled Mile

State legislators will be paid $1,194 more per year in salary during the 108thGeneral Assembly than they were paid last session, an increase of about 6.28 percent that will be the first boost in lawmaker’s base pay since 2008.
The increase went into effect on election day, Nov. 6, in accord with a state law enacted in 2005, according to Connie Ridley, director of the Office of Legislative Administration. The law calls for automatic increases every two years based on the increases in average state employee compensation during the proceeding two-year period.
The first year the law took effect, 2006, saw legislator pay increase from $16,500 – where it had stood since 1988 – to $18,123. In 2008, it rose to $19,009. In 2010, after two years in which state employees got no salary increase, it was not changed, officials said.
The new base salary for a lawmaker will be $20,203, where it will remain for the duration of the 108thGeneral Assembly, which will end in November, 2014.
Under the same 2005 law, the speakers of the House and Senate get three times the salary of an average legislator. Thus, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey will now be paid $60,609 per year, up from $57,027.
In addition to their base salary, legislators also get $1,000 per month as a “home office allowance,” a flat rate that is not subject to an automatic increase. They further receive a daily “per diem” expense allowance for each day they engage in legislative work, which will remain unchanged in the coming year at $173 per day. The “per diem” allowance follows a federal government standard for calculating the cost of a motel and meals in Nashville and the federal figure was unchanged this year.
Legislators are also paid mileage for driving from their home to Nashville for legislative meetings. The mileage rate, also tied to a federal formula, will increase a penny per mile for the upcoming session, from 46 cents to 47 cents, for the 108th General Assembly, officials said.
Nationwide, state legislator salaries vary dramatically, according to the National Conference of State Legislators website – from zero in New Mexico to $95,291 per year in California.
Tennessee seems ahead of most neighboring states in lawmaker base pay. Georgia, for example, pays its legislators $17,342 per year and Mississippi $10,000. Kentucky gives its lawmakers $188.22 per day and Alabama just $10 a day, the website indicates.

Andrew Miller: PAC Donations ‘a Timing Issue’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The state board that regulates campaign finance in Tennessee has launched an investigation to determine whether a Middle Tennessee health care investor used a political action committee he funded to skirt the law limiting campaign contributions.
The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance sent letters this week to Andrew Miller of Nashville and the Truth Matters PAC. The letters say the board is looking into whether Miller used the PAC as a conduit to exceed the $1,400 per election limit on individual donations to a single campaign.
Registry records show that Miller was the only contributor to the PAC, donating $71,000 to it in July. The PAC contributed to 10 legislative campaigns. Eight of the candidates, including three lawmakers, also reported receiving contributions totaling $11,300 this year from Miller.
If the investigation finds that the PAC was a conduit, the registry can levy fines that exceed the amount of the donations against Miller, the PAC and its treasurer, Tracy Miller, who is Andrew Miller’s brother. The campaigns also would be forced to return the donations.

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Delay Granted in Rep. Hawk’s Domestic Assault Case

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An East Tennessee state legislator has been granted a continuance in a domestic assault case filed by his wife.
The Greeneville Sun (http://bit.ly/K7X4ZP ) reported Greene County General Sessions court moved back a scheduled appearance by Rep. David Hawk to July 16. The Greeneville Republican lawmaker had been scheduled to appear Monday afternoon.
The five-term representative pleaded not guilty a day after the charge was filed March 18.
Crystal Goan Hawk told deputies her husband struck her in the face with his hand, knocking her down.
There was no immediate word why the legislator requested the continuance.

Nashville’s Dual Officeholders: Maybe Four More in the Future

Four members of Nashville’s Metro Council are running for seats in the state Legislature. Michael Cass’ report on them raises the question of whether they thought through the consequences of winning.
As a practical, not terribly glamorous matter, that could mean starting the day with a 5 a.m. call from a constituent whose trash didn’t get picked up and ending it with a midnight floor vote on a controversial piece of state legislation — all while trying to make a living and be a good family man.
Robert Duvall, Darren Jernigan, Bo Mitchell and Jason Potts are running for seats in the state House of Representatives this year after winning their council positions just nine months ago. If elected, each would face the choice of serving at least two years in both roles or giving up his council seat before the four-year term is halfway over.
Potts, the youngest and least politically experienced of the four, said he would tackle both jobs head-on. He said he would set his day job as a contractor aside for most of each year if elected to the House.
“I have a passion for public service,” said Potts, 33, a first-term councilman from a district anchored by Haywood Lane and Interstate 24 in southeast Davidson County. “I can do both.”
Duvall said he would do the same because he believes his part of Antioch would benefit from having the same representative at the state and local levels. Mitchell said he hasn’t made a decision, though he acknowledged that resigning from the council would essentially leave his Bellevue district unrepresented, which “a lot of people in my area would not want.”
Jernigan, who is from Old Hickory, said he might step down and focus on the state.
“My council district deserves a person that will devote their energies to District 11, and that may be someone besides myself after the November 6th election,” he wrote in an email. “I will weigh my options at that time.”
Duvall, Jernigan and Mitchell are serving their second council terms.
Pulling legislative double duty isn’t unheard of. Tim Garrett served on the council from 1983 to 1999 and in the General Assembly from 1985 through 2004, when he lost a re-election bid.
…State Sen. Thelma Harper and the late Rep. Harold Love each spent about three years on the council at the start of long careers in the General Assembly.
The more common scenario has been for council members to run for the House during the final year of their council term, then wrap up their service at the Metro Courthouse while learning the ropes in the House. Four members of Davidson County’s legislative delegation — Sherry Jones, Janis Sontany, Brenda Gilmore and, most recently, Jim Gotto — served out their final nine months or so on the council after joining Odom and Harper on Capitol Hill.
Pat Nolan, a political analyst who served in former Mayor Richard Fulton’s administration, said that probably will become more common as council term limits press in on ambitious Nashville politicos.
“You used to be able to make the council your career,” Nolan said.