Tag Archives: legislators

Rep. Akbari gets speech slot at Democratic convention

News release from House Democratic Caucus
Nashville, TN (July 21, 2016) — Democratic State Representative Raumesh Akbari (D­-Memphis) was tapped by Hillary for America and the Democratic National Committee to speak on Thursday night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. The Representative was added as a speaker today along with other notable figures such as Senator Al Franken, Governor Howard Dean, Senator Elizabeth Warren and many more.

State Democratic Party Chair and the Tennessee Delegation Chair, Mary Mancini, expressed her her delight by saying, “We are thrilled that Hillary for America and the DNC have chosen Rep. Akbari to speak at of our national convention. She is the perfect example of the future of our Party, a dedicated public servant for her constituents, and a strong advocate for smart and effective government. She will represent Tennessee well!

State Representative Akbari represents Shelby County in the 91st State House district.

The 2016 Democratic National Convention will be held at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia July 25th­28th, 2016.

The Democratic Convention is the formal nominating event for the Democratic candidates for President and Vice President. At the Convention, the Democratic Party also adopts the official Democratic Party platform.

Armstrong fights effort to call his wife as witness

State Rep. Joe Armstrong, facing trial Aug. 2 on federal tax evasion charges, is opposing prosecuting attorney Charles Atchley’s move to call his wife, Letonia Armstrong, as a witness against him, reports the News Sentinel.

“Joseph Armstrong intends to invoke the marital communications privilege at the trial of this matter,” defense attorney Gregory P. Isaacs wrote.

Unlike his longtime accountant and his business partner in the cigarette tax stamp deal at the heart of the tax evasion case — both of whom secretly recorded Armstrong and are key witnesses against him — Armstrong’s wife will not willingly lend the government a hand, Isaacs wrote.

“Additionally, upon information and belief, LeTonia Armstrong will be asserting both the adverse testimonial and the confidential communications privileges with respect to testimony related to Joseph Armstrong at trial,” the motion stated.

There is no law barring a spouse from testifying, but courts have long recognized two rights, known as “privileges,” involving spousal testimony. The first is known as the marital communications privilege, designed to protect marital confidences shared between spouses. Under that privilege, anything Joe Armstrong said to his wife in confidence about the tax stamp deal would be off-limits — although the government can challenge whether the communication was, in fact, meant to be confidential.

The second is known as the adverse testimonial privilege. It can be invoked only by the spouse who is being summoned to testify. That privilege holds that forcing a spouse to spill the beans on a partner does irreparable damage to the marriage. If LeTonia Armstrong chose to give adverse testimony against her husband, he could not use that particular privilege to stop her.

Atchley has not yet responded to the motion. For his part in the run-up to trial, Atchley seeks approval to file under seal some sort of document — he doesn’t label it. His only justification for seeking a sealing order is that the document contains “sensitive material.” Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips has not yet weighed in on the request.

Legislators helping Kelsey, other colleagues, in campaign financing

Campaign finance disclosures filed last week show state legislators facing challengers in the August Republican primary — but most of all Sen. Brian Kelsey, who is running for Congress — got considerable financial help from their colleagues.

Kelsey has now reported donations from 22 fellow senators and 26 current or former state representatives — all Republicans — in his quest become the fourth state senator to win a Tennessee congressional seat, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Collectively, the legislators have given “Kelsey for Congress (KFC)” more than $40,000 — most at $1,000 each, though a couple more and several less — and helped him to a fundraising lead among the 13 candidates seeking the GOP nomination in the 8th Congressional District. Kelsey of Germantown reported contributions of a little more than $700,000 as of July 1, a lead in fundraising, though George Flinn, a multimillionaire perennial candidate form Memphis who has loaned his campaign $2.7 million, is far ahead in spending.

Kelsey’s reported legislator contributions include $2,000 from embattled state Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, who last week suspended his own re-election campaign after a state attorney general’s report accused him of inappropriate interactions with sexual overtones involving 22 women.

The disclosures also show at least seven donations from lobbyists at the state Legislature. Tennessee law forbids direct donations to legislative candidates by lobbyists, though they frequently form — or manage — political action committees to make the contributions to avoid the law. And that law doesn’t apply when a legislator runs for Congress.

Another interesting Kelsey donor is Tom Lawless of Nashville, who serves as a board member of the state Registry of Election Finance, the panel that enforces state campaign finance law.

There’s further support for Kelsey from the judicial branch. State Supreme Court Justice Holly Kirby chipped in to his campaign, along with Bill Young, who serves as top aide to Attorney General Herbert Slatery and who is currently under consideration for appointment to a Davidson County judge position by Gov. Bill Haslam. Continue reading

McCormick gets a new corporate finance gig

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, founder of the Chattanooga commercial real estate firm of Stone Fort Properties, is now affiliated with the investment banking firm of Decosimo Corporate Finance, LLC, according to the Times-Free Press.

In addition to McCormick’s leadership with Stone Fort, he will assist Decosimo in sourcing and executing sell-side advisory engagements and debt and equity raises.

McCormick has more than 20 years of professional real estate experience stemming from his time as an industrial property appraiser at the Hamilton County Assessor of Property’s office. Since 2004, he also has served as a state representative in the Tennessee State House and has been the House Majority Leader for the past six years. McCormick spent 12 years as a commercial real estate broker before forming his own company in 2009 – Stone Fort Properties – where he will continue to serve the needs of his clients.

“The breadth of Mr. McCormick’s experience and knowledge about all facets of the real estate and business markets will be valuable to DCF and its clients as we continue to provide much-needed investment banking services to the middle market,” said Tom Decosimo, managing principal at DCF, LLC.

AFP gives top rating to 19 state senators, 54 representatives (all Republican)

Americans for Prosperity’s Tennessee chapter has completed its rating of state legislators, placing a majority of both the House and Senate members — 19 senators and 54 representatives, all Republicans — in top category, deeming them “taxpayer heroes.” House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey both are on that list.

Twenty-eight legislators — four senators, 24 representatives — are declared “taxpayer zeros,” the lowest ranking. All but one — Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville — are Democrats.

The AFP system gives or subtracts points based on votes with extra points given for sponsoring bills the group likes. Scores are on a numerical system, top rating being a score of 93 or above; lowest a score of 65 or below.

Top ratings — 105 points with bonuses for sponsorship — went to Republican Sens. Mark Green of Clarksville and Delores Gresham of Somerville along with Republican Reps. Mike Carter of Ootelwah, Martin Daniel of Knoxville and Debra Moody of Covington.

Lowest ratings — 23 points — went to House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh and Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville.

Highest ranking Democrats were Rep. John DeBerry and Sen. Reginald Tate, both of Memphis. Lowest-ranking Republican in the House was Rep. Kent Calfee of Kingston at 66. Overbey had a 54, the lowest GOP score.

The scorecard is HERE.

News release is below. Continue reading

UT trustees host country club dining for state legislators

Six legislators and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett dined with the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees at Cherokee Country Club on Wednesday night at what is being called a strictly social event that was not on the trustees’ public agenda, reports Georgiana Vines.

Gina Stafford, UT communications director, said trustees frequently have luncheons with local legislative delegations where presentations are made. Those are public at various campuses when the board meets, she said.

Dinners have never been public, she said.

“Number one, it is a social function. The things we are obligated to share or take a vote on or deliberate is public. It (the dinner) doesn’t correspond with that,” Stafford said.

…State Sen. Becky Duncan Massey, R-Knoxville, attended the dinner with husband Morton. She said she thought it was “smart on their (UT’s) part to basically facilitate communication.”

“The board hasn’t necessarily been doing that,” she said. “They need to be building relationships. I think that was a smart thing to do. People can work through things better if you have a good relationship with them.”

Legislators took issue with various UT programs this year, including defunding its Office for Diversity and Inclusion after controversial Web posts regarding gender-neutral pronouns and inclusive holiday parties. U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., R-Knoxville, also blasted UT for the website’s suggestions on holiday parties, calling the memo “ridiculous.”

Duncan, who is Massey’s brother, also was invited to the dinner but couldn’t attend, she said.

…Stafford said legislators from surrounding counties were invited, as was Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero.

Other lawmakers who attended, all Republicans, were Sen. Richard Briggs and Reps. Roger Kane and Eddie Smith of Knoxville, Sen. Doug Overbey of Maryville and Rep. John Ragan of Oak Ridge.

Sen. Yager: State law not followed in closing Scott County hospital

News release via Senate Republican Caucus
(NASHVILLE) – State Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston) said today he has contacted the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Tennessee Health Licensure and Regulation Office, and the Health Services and Development Agency in regards to enforcing state law and licensure requirements regarding the notification of closure of Pioneer Community Hospital of Scott. The action came after Pioneer employees found out on June 16 that their jobs would end in ten days when the facility is closed. Yager said this runs afoul of state law and licensing requirements.

“I have contacted Ann Rutherford Reed, who is Director of Licensure Division of Health Licensure and Regulation Office of Health Care Facilities; so that our state law is followed,” said Senator Yager. The state of Tennessee and these employees were not given proper notice. It is hard enough to find out about losing your job. Not having adequate notice makes that loss even more difficult. My focus right now is to see that these employees are treated fairly.”

Under the state’s Certificate of Need (CON) requirements, Yager said notice is required before any critical access hospital can be closed. He requested Director Reed enforce this provision against Pioneer, telling her “a 10-day notice is totally inadequate and contrary to your policy.”
Continue reading

Sunday column: On legislators in the summer spotlight

Tennessee’s legislative session may be gone, but legislators are not forgotten in the state media spotlight this summer — especially Reps. Jeremy Durham of Franklin, Andy Holt of Dresden and Martin Daniel of Knoxville.

Though getting out-of-session attention for different reasons, the three have some things in common. They’re Republicans who present themselves to voters as staunch conservatives unafraid to take controversial positions and who face opposition in seeking re-election to new terms.

In the Legislature, the three have been prominent for different reasons. Durham’s most prominent claim to fame was what he called “the Stop Obamacare Act,” a measure that required legislative approval of any Medicaid expansion in Tennessee. Gov. Bill Haslam had already promised not to act without legislative approval, but after his Insure Tennessee plan was killed, Durham and his co-sponsors claimed credit. Continue reading

Legislators urge state payment to innocent man imprisoned 31 years in prison

By Sheila Burke, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A man who spent 31 years in prison for a rape he did not commit is at the center of a battle with the state of Tennessee for compensation that supporters say he is legally owed after being robbed of decades of his life.

Lawrence McKinney, who is now 60 and works part time at his church to help support his ailing 75-year-old wife, said he trusts in God that money will come through to help pay the bills, including medical costs for his wife, Dorothy. But members of his church and two state lawmakers say they are boiling mad and tired of getting the runaround from both the Tennessee Board of Parole and the office of Gov. Bill Haslam.

McKinney was robbed of having children, building a job, getting an education and putting aside money for retirement, said Rep. Mark Pody, a Republican who represents the former prisoner’s district in Lebanon, Tennessee. Tennessee, Pody said, is morally and legally bound to compensate him.

“Our state had him in prison incorrectly. We’ve got to make this right,” the lawmaker said Wednesday.

McKinney was released from prison in 2009 after DNA evidence showed that he did not rape a woman in Memphis in 1977. Continue reading

Minorities underrepresented in legislatures of TN, most other states

A new analysis by The Associated Press finds minority residents are underrepresented — in terms of the numbers of seats they hold relative to their shares of state populations — in 47 state legislatures across the country, including Tennessee’s.

Richard Locker has taken the AP’s report and generated a Tennessee-oriented version carried in Gannet-owned state newspapers today as part of a package of stories under the title “Divided America.” An excerpt with the numbers portion:

White residents comprised 74.5 percent of Tennessee’s estimated 2014 population of 6,549,352, but white lawmakers held 84.7 percent of the total 132 seats in the state Legislature — a difference of about 10 percentage points, according to the AP analysis.

African-Americans comprise both the largest minority in Tennessee’s population and the largest bloc of seats held by minorities in the General Assembly. But they are underrepresented relative to their percentage of the state’s population: blacks comprise 16.8 percent of all Tennesseans but hold 13 percent of the legislative seats — 17 seats out of 132 (three of the Senate’s 33 seats and 14 in the 99-member House).

From there, the drop-off in minority representation is dramatic. There is an Indian-American and a Native Hawaiian in the House, counted as a minority in the AP analysis. And Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, a Texas native and granddaughter of Mexican immigrants, is considered the first Latina in the Legislature.

Despite those numbers, only 11 states have lower levels of white “overrepresentation” in their state legislatures than Tennessee. Thirty-five states have larger rates of overrepresentation by whites, several where whites hold more than 20 percent more seats than their share of populations. In three other states — Hawaii, Maine and Montana — whites hold fewer seats in their legislatures than their percentage of their state populations, according to the AP analysis.