Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has officially voiced opposition to 22 bills pending in the Legislature, including measures revising the state’s motorcycle helmet law, allowing school faculty and staff to carry guns and increasing the penalty for motorists not wearing a seat belt.
The governor this year is not issuing formal “flag letters” to legislators except when there are “philosophical” objections to the measure, according to gubernatorial spokesman David Smith.
In the past, Haslam also issued “fiscal flags” against bills that called for what the governor deemed inappropriate state spending. But this year, Smith said the administration policy is to caution against any legislation that has a “fiscal note,” prepared by legislative staff, projecting a need for spending that is not part of Haslam’s budget proposal for the coming year.
“Basically, any bill with a fiscal note with at least $1 of impact on the state budget would get a fiscal flag since it’s not accounted for in the budget proposal (under prior practice),” Smith wrote in an email. “So we stopped issuing a letter because between our office issuing a letter and a non-administration bill having a fiscal note we found those efforts duplicative.”
In response to a News Sentinel request, the governor’s office provided copies of all “philosophical flag” letters that have been sent to legislators this year as of Friday. The form letters, signed by Leslie Hafner, the governor’s chief legislative liaison, do not explain reasons for opposition, but state that an administration representative will seek a meeting with the lawmaker for discussion.
“The administration understands this is an important issue to you and is cognizant of your efforts. The administration, however, respectfully disagrees with this legislation in its current form,” says a standard line in most of the letters.
Here is a list of the bills questioned by Haslam:
Excerpt from an Andrea Zelinski story on Gov. Bill Haslam mulling whether a Tennessee Health Care Exchange is to be or not to be: Thousands of Tennesseans are weighing in on the issue. Gov. Bill Haslam’s staff said they have received some 4,000 emails and 2,000 phone calls about insurance exchanges.
While the staff didn’t break down the email messages to pros and cons, almost all of the phone calls were urging the governor to say “no Obamacare in Tennessee” — a decision that is out of the state’s hands — or ditch the exchange and let the federal government handle it.
Of the rest, about 75 said they were in favor of a state exchange. Another 32 spoke out against the state running it, but changed their stance after the choices were explained, according to the governor’s constituent services staff.
Almost 30 called wanting the state to secede, and eight urged nullification of Obamacare. Six called for a civil war.
….Haslam has until Dec. 14 to decide who will run the exchange. For months he has repeatedly said the state can run the program better than the federal government could, but he has shied away from committing to that route. He blamed the holdup on a lack of information from Washington, D.C., on details of how exactly the state-run exchanges and federal exchanges would work.
For example, the state would have at least some power to choose which health insurance carriers could sell on the exchange, but it’s unclear which details will be up to state officials to determine and which will be prescribed by the feds.
The same goes if the state opts to let the federal government run the exchange for Tennessee. State officials say they have no clue whether that means the state would be totally hands-off or would still have a role to play. In addition, the state could decide to partner with the federal government to run the program.
The feds handed the state $9.1 million in grants to help it do the homework to figure out whether to pursue an insurance exchange. So far, state officials say they’ve spent less than $1.5 million of it, mostly on salaries and benefits for staff researching insurance exchanges, although they say they still don’t have enough details to put forth solid recommendations.
Gov. Bill Haslam and the Tennessee State Employees Association both emails letters to state employees today on their negotiated changes to Haslam’s civil service reform bill, (HB2384) known as the TEAM act. First, here’s the Haslam letter:
April 2, 2012
Dear State Employees,
I want to update you on recent developments regarding the TEAM Act, our administration’s proposal to update our employment system so that we are able to recruit, retain and reward dedicated and hard-working state employees.
State government’s job is to provide services that Tennesseans can’t get on their own and to do so in the most customer-focused, effective and efficient way. That’s what Tennessee taxpayers expect, and that’s what they deserve.
Beginning last fall, we held listening sessions with state employees across the state to learn about issues impacting you, our employees, and what we heard about most were challenges created by our employment system.
We also have been listening to and working very closely with state employee groups, especially the Tennessee State Employees Association in recent months on the TEAM Act. Early on in the process, we all agreed that our current system is broken, so it has mostly been a matter of working out some details.
Those discussions have been beneficial and have improved our bill through the legislative process. As I said back in January during the State of the State, this administration is most interested in getting to the right answer, not just our own answer, and I appreciate TSEA’s efforts to work with us on behalf of their membership.
Late last week, the TSEA came to us with their recommendations for final changes to our bill as it nears the finish line. As a result of that cooperation, the TSEA supports our legislation that preserves the key components to fundamentally updating our employment system.
I look forward to working with TSEA and members of the General Assembly on final passage of this bill to put you, our workforce, in a position to better serve Tennesseans. I appreciate the strong support we’ve received from the Legislature on this effort to date and appreciate their continued support in these final weeks of session.
The more comprehensive TSEA letter is below:
News release from Secretary of State’s office:
Glory, an Academy Award-winning movie released in 1989, documented the lives of African-American troops who served in the U.S. Colored Infantry during the Civil War. Now, for the first time, the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA) has a collection of letters from officers who led one of those units.
Archivists from TSLA and the Tennessee State Museum are in the midst of a project, called Looking Back: The Civil War in Tennessee, in which they plan to visit every county in the state in search of Civil War era documents and artifacts. During the county visits, local citizens bring in items that the archivists electronically scan or digitally photograph.
This ongoing statewide project, in honor of Tennessee’s Civil War Sesquicentennial, allows for the digitization of historic family documents and artifacts for public access and educational use.
While working on that project, the TSLA staff received digital copies of a previously unknown collection of Civil War correspondence penned by officers in the 16th United States Colored Infantry. The collection, “Brother Charles: Letters Home to Michigan,” Civil War Correspondence of the Wadsworth Brothers, 1861-1865, features a rare collection of writings authored by two members of the 16th U. S. Colored Infantry, which was encamped in Clarksville from 1863-1865.
The letters were written between the fall of 1861 and December 1865 by two white Oberlin College students who left their studies to enlist in the Union Army.