There’s a rather striking difference in these two reaction press releases following the House vote to require legislative approval of any Medicaid expansion in Tennessee is hereby presented. (Previous post just below or HERE.)
One is from Americans For Prosperity, a Washington-based conservative lobbying organization which gets funding from the famous Koch brothers and describes itself as advocating “public policies that champion the principles of entrepreneurship and fiscal and regulatory restraint.”
Tennessee’s two leading support groups of charter schools are merging, according to The Tennessean. Organizers say the result is the first organization of its kind in the country to both lobby for and create new publicly financed, privately operated charters. The new organization, the Tennessee Charter School Center, combines the Tennessee Charter Schools Association, a longtime charter school lobbying arm, and the Nashville-based Tennessee Charter School Incubator, launched four years ago to help get new charters off the ground.
Leading the center is Greg Thompson, who was incubator CEO. “We hope to be a voice for quality and transparency,” he said in a Wednesday announcement, arguing that parental demand for charter schools is growing.
The Tennessee Charter School Incubator, backed financially by Boston-based Building Excellent Schools, has assisted several Nashville charters as they seek Metro school board approval: Nashville Prep, Liberty Collegiate Academy, Purpose Preparatory Academy and the newly approved Valor Collegiate Academy.
In recent years, the charter schools association has watched the state legislature pass a landmark law that opened charter eligibility to all students, and legislation that lifted the caps on the number of charters that can operate in Tennessee.
Gov. Bill Haslam has insisted that Tom Ingram, a lobbyist who gives him private advice for an undisclosed fee, does not lobby him on behalf of other clients. But WTVF reports that Haslam administration emails show Ingram clients had “enormous access” to the governor’s top advisers.
The story’s prime example is Chris and Andrea Ball, who had been cited in 2012 for operating a staff leasing company without a license, the station says. They showed up at a bill-signing ceremony shortly afterwards and a Tennessean headline on a story reprting this asked, “Who Invited This Couple?” At the time, Haslam aides told reporters it was a mystery who invited the couple to attend the signing of a bill that regulated staff leasing companies.
But emails obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates show Haslam’s administration was well aware of the couple. The Balls had hired Ingram.
His firm sent regular updates about the Balls to the governor’s chief of staff, Mark Cate.
…In March 2012, Marcille Durham of the Ingram Group sent an email to Cate, “Andrea Ball would very much like to visit with you, however briefly, regarding the Department of Insurance action that is driving her out of business.”
Cate responded that he talked with the Department of Insurance Commissioner and is “optimistic we can find a resolution.”
In April 2012, Ingram emailed Mark Cate about the Ball’s company, “Is there anytime today or tomorrow I can talk again about HR Comp Employee Leasing LLC. This is a very troubling case.”
A month after that, the Balls appeared at the bill signing.
Then in July 2012, Durham complained to Cate about a specific “fraud investigator” with the state. She was concerned about the “level of surveillance” on the Balls company.
Cate asked to be “kept in the loop.”
The emails show a level of access likely to make other lobbyists envious.
Ingram and his firm communicated regularly with Cate, even when he was on vacation in the Bahamas and on holiday weekends.
By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The growing demand for medical care that is expected to accompany the full implementation of the federal health care law in January is adding urgency to a Tennessee debate over whether nurses should be allowed to provide more independent care to patients.
Nurses currently see patients in a variety of settings ranging from private practices to retail clinics, but they want to remove a layer of supervision from physicians. Doctors’ groups oppose giving nurses more independence. A legislative fight is on the horizon.
“We’re in the ring,” said Gary Zelizer, who lobbies on behalf of doctors for the Tennessee Medical Association. “We’re warming up, but it’s coming.”
Sharon Adkins, the executive director of the Tennessee Nurses Association, said in an email that her group is “in full support of removing practice barriers and support full practice authority for all health care professionals.”
Adkins said advance practice registered nurses, or APRNs, “give as good or in some cases better care than physicians.”
Tom Ingram and two of his associates lobbied state lawmakers this year to eliminate Tennessee’s privilege tax on professional athletes, according to The Tennessean, but you wouldn’t know it from what they disclosed about their efforts publicly. The lobbyist registration forms that Tom Ingram and his colleagues at The Ingram Group filed with the state only mentioned another lobbying firm, giving the public no indication of the special interests they were really representing in an unsuccessful bid to kill the so-called “jock tax.”
The Ingram Group’s Marcille Durham and Sam Reed registered as lobbyists for McGuiness Group, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying shop, on Feb. 25, with Tom Ingram joining them on April 17, state records show. McGuiness Group’s website says its clients include the players associations for the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association.
Dick Williams, chairman of good-government group Common Cause Tennessee and a lobbyist himself, said Ingram, Durham and Reed appear to have complied with the law. But the law, which requires only that lobbyists list their employers and that employers say who’s lobbying for them, leaves something to be desired.
“Ideally, it would be nice to have a little more clarity for the public,” Williams said. “It does leave a little vagueness.”
…Durham said the Ingram Group lobbyists’ listing of McGuiness Group as their employer was not only legal but accurate. She said McGuiness Group, run by former U.S. Senate aide Kevin McGuiness, is the “professional manager” for the pro sports players associations.
“I wouldn’t call McGuiness just a lobbyist,” Durham said Friday. “McGuiness Group was our client. Our direction didn’t come from the players associations. It came from McGuiness Group.”
Durham said she, Reed and Ingram have updated their registrations to indicate that they’re about to start lobbying directly for the hockey and basketball players associations.
,,,The privilege tax, a common practice in states with professional sports franchises, applies to pro hockey and basketball players who play in the state of Tennessee as members of the Nashville Predators, Memphis Grizzlies or visiting NHL and NBA teams. The tax does not apply to the Tennessee Titans or their opponents.
Athletes are taxed $2,500 per game for up to three games per year. A recent article in the Marquette Sports Law Review, which argues that Tennessee’s tax is unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause, says some athletes wind up paying to play here when the privilege tax and other taxes exceed their per-game wages.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — As Tennessee lawmakers consider a proposal to crack down on ticket scalping, a Nashville lawyer who opposes the bill alleges that a manager of The Black Keys tried to persuade him to change his position in exchange for tickets to a performance by the band.
Attorney John Ray Clemmons said in a letter that he was disturbed by the repeated efforts by Fielding Logan, who also manages country star Eric Church, to give him tickets.
“I took time out of my schedule to come share my concerns with your committee about legislation as a member of the general public, not to be harassed by a supercilious entertainment manager,” Clemmons wrote in the letter to Senate Commerce Chairman Jack Johnson, R-Franklin. The letter was first reported by WTVF-TV.
Logan acknowledged in his own follow-up letter to Johnson that he offered the tickets to Clemmons. But he said the gesture was only meant to demonstrate how easily paperless tickets can be transferred to charities.
“I never asked — not verbally and not in writing — that (Clemmons) refrain from giving testimony in front of the Senate Commerce Committee that day,” Logan wrote. “In fact, I only said that I believed the premise of his testimony to be incorrect.”
Senate Clerk Russell Humphrey forwarded Clemmons’ letter to Nashville District Attorney Torry Johnson.
Spokeswoman Susan Niland said the prosecutor’s office had not yet received the letter and couldn’t speculate on whether any laws might have been broken.
Logan didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment Wednesday.
Opponents of the bill backed by Ticketmaster parent Live Nation Worldwide Inc. argue it would affect the legitimate transfer of tickets by individuals and organizations. Supporters say it targets online hoarding, price gouging and forgeries
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The beer industry has swung its support behind a bill to allow Tennessee supermarkets and convenience stores to sell wine as long as the measure also allows places to sell strong beer.
Tennessee Malt Beverage Association President Rich Foge confirmed to The Associated Press on Monday that his board decided to drop its long opposition to changing the law. In return, the beer makers want a provision allowing grocery stores to sell high-gravity beer, which has higher alcohol content and is currently only allowed to be sold in liquor stores.
“If the marketplace is going to change where regular beer and wine are sold side-by-side on a grocery store shelf, high-gravity beer should be, too,” Foge said.
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, and House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, have made it a priority to pass the bill seeking to allow cities and counties that already allow liquor sales to hold referendums on whether to allow supermarket wine sales.
Foge said the speakers’ strong support for the measure played into his association’s decision to change course on the bill.
“We had a long discussion about it and one of things that got serious consideration is that the speakers of both chambers urged the parties to come to the table,” he said. “And we’re heeding that advice.”
The bill opposed by liquor wholesalers and the association representing package store owners has cleared its first legislative committees in both chambers. The Senate Finance Committee was scheduled to take up the measure on Tuesday.
The Commercial Appeal takes a long look at lobbying war underway in the Legislature over HB1000, called the “Fairness in Ticketing Act” by concert operators unhappy with a secondary market for their tickets that has evolved beyond what they say they can control as the Internet marketplace has flourished. No shortage of lobbyists and public relations specialists have been hired on both sides.
Should Tennessee enact the law this coalition wants, supporters claim the state will gain first-in-the-nation protections from deceptive ticket brokers, transparency in the secondary market and stated protections for venues and artists to conduct ticketing however they see fit.
Those who oppose the bills do so on grounds they claim are grassroots: Tickets are your property, they say, and there shouldn’t be a law that restricts what you can do with them.
For such a small piece of paper, it’s turned into quite a large fight.
…The Fairness in Ticketing Act, although supported by venues and artists across the state, has not exactly sailed through the General Assembly. Late last month, four of the bill’s original sponsors removed their names from it, according to a news release from the group that trumpeted their departure.
In a Senate committee Tuesday, the distinction over the property right of a ticket dominated discussion.
An amendment eliminated a paragraph that explicitly enabled paperless ticketing, adding in its place that venues may refuse entry or kick fans out because of illegal conduct. An amendment also removed a specific reference to a ticket as a “revocable license,” a concession to bill opponents who assert tickets are private property. But it was pointed out by one senator that tickets-as-licenses has been a long-held custom in case law, meaning just because the paragraph is removed doesn’t mean courts won’t recognize them as such.
In committee debate, Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, called the amendment “a potentially substantive change” to the original bill.
And on Monday, an amendment supporters say is sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Mufreesboro, surfaced that would sweep away much of what the bill’s original proponents sought. Ketron’s amendment would make it illegal for a venue to control whether a ticket is resold and would make paperless ticketing illegal.
State Sen. Bill Ketron predicts the liquor lobby will “come to the table” next week and start negotiating details in his wine-in-grocery-stores bill as it gains momentum more than four years after he initiated it, according to the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal. “I think the liquor lobby is starting to fall apart,” Ketron said after Friday morning’s Chamber of Commerce Capitol Connection breakfast.
Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, said he expects to talk to liquor industry lobbyists to negotiate amendments allowing package stores to sell more items than liquor, wine and lottery tickets.
“It’ll be opening up to allow them to sell whatever they want to sell,” Ketron said. “It’ll open it up to allow them to purchase more than one store.”
Liquor store proprietors in Tennessee are limited to one store. But Ketron said he knows of one liquor store owner in Gatlinburg who wants to purchase four other stores there.
“Why should he be restricted to one if the other four want to sell?” Ketron said.
The bill goes to the Senate Finance Committee next and the full House Local Government Committee.
House Speaker Beth Harwell told reporters Thursday that Republican leadership was continuing to work with “all interested parties” on guns-in-lots legislation, a group she says does not include the consistently boisterous Tennessee Firearms Association.
More from the TNReport: Speaking at her weekly press conference, the Nashville Republican said her caucus is still searching for the fine line between two of the party’s primary concerns.
“This caucus is dedicated to gun rights, the Second Amendment,” she said. “We are also dedicated to property rights. And we’re going to merge those until we get to a point where we’re satisfied, or we will not. We’ll continue to work.”
Throughout the ongoing debate over the legislation, which would allow workers to store guns in their cars on company lots, the TFA has appeared to be a player, throwing grenades via press release and testifying before a House committee in support of the bill. But Harwell said they’re not in the loop on negotiations about the details of the bill.
“As far as I know, the association that reflects the Second Amendment rights in this state is the National Rifle Association, and we have had ongoing discussions with them,” she said.
…The executive director of the TFA, John Harris, told TNReport his association is working with other organizations, including tea party groups in the state, whom he says have made the issue a top priority. He said the TFA has been in contact with the NRA and is working with their lobbyist on the issue. But when it comes to the ongoing negotiations with legislators, Harris confirms that TFA is on the outside.
“The legislature has decided they’re not going to talk to TFA, which is the only state organization to have a presence in this issue for 15 years,” he said. “There are a significant amount of legislators talking to us off the record, because they’ve been threatened by leadership not to talk to us.”
Harris balked at the suggestion that the association’s frequently aggressive rhetoric might be the reason for legislators giving them the cold shoulder. He said they’re just “playing games.”