School board elections could become partisan contests under legislation filed by two Knoxville legislators who say they were acting at the behest of Knox County commissioners.
Current state law calls for nonpartisan school board elections. The bill (HB420) filed by Rep. Bill Dunn and Sen. Becky Massey, both Knoxville Republicans, authorizes county commissions to convert to partisan elections instead by a two-thirds majority vote.
Dunn said the idea was initially proposed by Commissioner Larry Smith in a conversation at a recent Knox County Republican meeting and was subsequently endorsed by Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett. Massey said “a number of other constituents” had also supported the idea.
Both legislators said they also support partisan elections for school board members, though Massey said she does not plan to push forward with the bill unless the Knox County Commission passes a resolution of support.
“I personally like partisan elections,” she said in an interview. “It gives the voters a base to know a candidate’s core philosophy.”
Dunn voiced similar sentiments.
“It gives people more information,” he said. “It gives them kind of an idea what a person’s philosophy would be, whether more liberal or more conservative.”
Those who do not wish to be categorized as a Republican or Democrat, Dunn noted, can still run as an Independent.
Dunn and Massey both said the measure was not aimed at anyone now serving on a school board.
Republican incumbent Becky Duncan Massey is being challenged by Evelyn Gill, 45, who teaches special education at Carter High School, in state Senate District 6. Jim Balloch has talked with the candidates. Massey, 57, has the backing of the politically popular Duncan family, and the district lines are drawn to favor the GOP. The District stretches from the Bluegrass community to Corryton, surrounds much of Knoxville and includes rural, urban and suburban sections.
She has a record of legislative success. Of the 31 bills she introduced or co-sponsored, 22 have became law, including those that were compromised or amended.
“She thinks things out and is not easily stampeded,” said fellow GOP Sen. Randy McNally of Oak Ridge, “She has a special and personal interest in issues that effect senior citizens, and our citizens who are mentally or physically disabled. She has an easy manner, but doesn’t beat around the bush. She very much comes to the point on issues.”
Gill is originally from Mississippi. She holds a master’s degree in public planning and administration from Rutgers University. Her master’s thesis was on poverty in urban and rural areas.
She said she is waging a classic grass roots campaign. She emphasizes education, economic development and the environment. She said her experience as a teacher makes her particularly better suited to deal with education issues than her opponent is.
Gill has lived or worked in three different sections of the district for many years. That, she says, gives her a better grasp of the district’s wide geographic diversity, and the multitude of issues that arise from such a district.
“I can represent the district on a personal as well as a professional level, and make sure that all of the voices in the district are heard,” she said. “In the end, the issues of education, economic development and the environment are all tied together.”
Libby Miller was rejected as a voter for lack of proper photo identification and in a subsequent attempt to get one was told that the supposedly free card would cost $17.50, according to her parents.
At least 284 people statewide were stopped from casting a ballot in the Aug. 2 election because they had no photo ID, officials reported. But that figure doesn’t include people like Miller who did not request or receive a “provisional ballot.” No record is kept of those who were simply turned away without a provisional ballot.
Miller, a “mentally challenged” 60-year-old who has voted in every election since registering as voter at age 18, was disappointed at being turned away from the ballot box by poll workers who knew her, said her mother, Viola “Vi” Miller, 82.
A fundraiser will be held today for state Sen. Becky Duncan Massey and Rep. Harry Brooks at the Powell home of a couple who have been in the news for operating a company without a Tennessee license, reports Georgiana Vines. Massey’s brother, U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., R-Knoxville, will be the honored guest, according to the invitation.
The problems of Chris and Andrea Ball and their firm, HR Comp LLC, came to light last month after they appeared in a photo with Gov. Bill Haslam when he signed into law a new statute governing the operation of staff leasing companies.
Tom Ingram, a government affairs specialist/lobbyist who lives in Knoxville, said Friday the Balls’ competitors had been busy notifying the media of their problems.
“I’ve worked with them over a year. They have a new license. In the end, Andrea worked hard with (an) association to tighten up regulations in the industry that has been subject to abuse. They’re building a good business,” Ingram said.
Ingram said Andrea Ball worked with the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations on the legislation passed this year.
In a consent order signed April 9, the Balls’ attorney acknowledged their business had acted as an employee leasing agency without a license and the Balls had given false responses when asked about it, according to The Tennessean in Nashville.
The newspaper also reported a $10,000 fine was issued. In the consent order, the Department of Commerce and Insurance determined Andrea Ball was not of “good moral character because the Jan. 12, 2010, response she sent about HR Comp’s unlicensed activity was not true.”
The new license, which is probationary, is for HR Comp Employee Leasing. Andrea Ball said Friday she is the owner and her husband is not part of the business. She also said a $3.5 million federal tax lien is being paid off monthly.
“I’ve spent 1½ years trying to address an old situation,” she said.
Ball said former Knoxville mayoral candidate Mark Padgett has been hired to help with sales.
— Note: Previous post HERE.
Recent events illustrate that the art of compromise, historically valued in the world of politics, remains a constant in the new normal of Republican rule in Tennessee government. So does the belief that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
Gov. Bill Haslam, in his titular head role as overseer of our state’s Republicans, called last year for a one-third reduction in legislative bill filings in 2012. At the outset of the 2012, the governor thereupon introduced a legislative package of 54 bills, compared to his 24-bill package of 2011 — somewhat shy of a 33 percent reduction.
Having thus established his freedom from the hobgoblin of little-mindedness, the governor proceeded to watch as legislators filed a total of 1,725 new bills for the 2012 session, including those introduced at his behest.
This was also somewhat shy of a one-third reduction and amounts to an increase compared to the typical second year of a two-year General Assembly session. In fact, it wasn’t down even a third from the floodgate first year when 2,162 bills were introduced.
The state will pay for a “pilot project” to put ten persons suffering from “mental illness or severe emotional disturbance” into outpatient treatment instead of a psychiatric hospital under legislation approved Wednesday by the Senate.
The mental health pilot project was launched as an amendment to SB420, sponsored by Sen. Becky Massey and Rep. Ryan Haynes, both Knoxville Republicans. It follows negotiations with the state Department of Mental Health, the Helen Ross McNabb Center and others.
The measure sets up a program wherein individuals suffering mental illness and perhaps charged with a minor crime would undergo evaluation and, if need a likely candidate, go before a judge who would send them into “intensive outpatient treatment” instead an institution.
The state will provide $125,000 per year for the two-year pilot project, using money that is part of a $6.6 million shift in funding from the Lakeshore Mental Health Institute, which is closing under Haslam’s budget plan.
“I wish we were doing this statewide,” said Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, in brief Senate floor debate. He predicted the program will be successful in Knox County and eventually expanded statewide.
Overbey said he and former Sen. Tim Burchett, now Knox County mayor, began pushing similar legislation six years ago without success, mostly due to a lack of state funding. He said 46 other states already have “some form of assisted outpatient treatment.”
The bill passed the House unanimously. It is on schedule to pass the House next week.
The bill intended to strengthen enforcement of beer and liquor licensing laws has bounced back and forth between the House and Senate for three weeks as lawmakers debated what counties should be included in the pilot project.
The final version of HB3633 includes Knox, Hamilton, Cocke, Claiborne, Grainger, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson and Union. With the House signing off on the latest Senate changes, the bill now goes to the governor.
The bill makes several changes in laws governing local beer boards, which issues licenses and enforces laws dealing with beer sales, and the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission, which issues licenses and enforces laws dealing with the sale of liquor and wine. The changes take effect on July 1 in the pilot project counties only and will continue for two years.
In general, the idea is to make the two agencies coordinate their efforts, said House sponsor Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga. In the past, a local beer board has occasionally suspended the license of an establishment violations, but the business – typically a bar — remained open because the ABC license remained – or vice versa.
Examples of other changes include provisions intended to block the practice of a bar operator closing after being charged with law violations, then having the establishment reopen immediately in the same location under a new name or new ownership; and a ban on operators charged with breaking the law voluntarily surrendering their license – a move that allows them to later receive a new license with no violation on their record.
The Senate approved 29-0 Wednesday the “Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act,” which declares students will suffer no penalties for expression their religious views in doing their homework or participating in other school activities.
During floor debate, sponsor Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, was questioned on whether the measure would “blur the line between church and state.”
“Isn’t this trying to make our public schools more like Sunday schools?” asked Sen. Beverly Marrero, D-Memphis.
Roberts said that was not the case. To illustrate a situation where the bill would apply, he cited a student assigned to write an essay on “the decline of America” choosing to address religious decline rather than economic or military decline, then writing about Israel of Biblical times faltering as it “moved away from God.”
The law would assure the youth was grade on the basis of writing, punctuation and such without regard to the religious subject matter.
That inspired Massey to recall that, as a student, she once wrote an English term paper “on the humanity of Jesus.”
The bill (SB3632) awaits a House floor vote.
U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. is defending his decision to pay $7,600 in salary to his sister, son and niece for working on his campaign in light of a new report that questions the practice, reports Michael Collins. The report, by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, accuses Congress members of using their positions to financially benefit themselves and their families. (Note: The full report is HERE. In the Tennessee section, there are also items on Marsha Blackburn, Jim Cooper, Chuck Fleischmann, Stephen Fincher and Scott DesJarlais.)
“This report shows lawmakers still haven’t learned it is wrong to trade on their positions as elected leaders to benefit themselves and their families,” said Melanie Sloan, the organization’s executive director.
Campaign funds can be used to make salary payments to members of a candidate’s family as long as the family member is providing a bona fide service to the campaign and is paid fair market value. But the question of whether a payment constitutes fair market value can be difficult to determine and is rarely challenged, the report said.
According to the report, Duncan’s campaign paid $4,500 in salary to his sister, Becky Duncan Massey; $2,100 to his son, Zane; and $1,000 to his niece, Courtney Massey Kohlhepp. All of the payments were made during the 2010 election cycle, which covers two years.
False claims of military service could lead to a $500 fine or six months in jail under legislation sent to Gov. Bill Haslam for his signature by a Monday night state Senate vote.
The Senate vote on HB2491 was 33-0 with Sen. Becky Massey, R-Knoxville, as sponsor and virtually no debate. The House had approved earlier with a vote of 93-2 with Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, as sponsor.
“Apparently, there were some people putting on their tombstones that they were World War II or Vietnam veterans,” Massey told colleagues in a brief Senate floor discussion.
Dunn said earlier that a woman constituent, who he declined to identify, had seen the tombstones bearing claims of military service that she knew were bogus.Her concerns inspired him to file the bill, Dunn said.
Dunn said he considered any false claim of military service to be a “theft of valor” and there should be a penalty.
The bill exempts people wearing military uniforms in parades, acting performances or for educational purposes. The sponsors noted there’s already a state law that makes it illegal to wear military medals that were not earned in military service and said the new law will basically broaden the existing statute.
Rep. Mike Kernell, D-Memphis, one of the two representative who voted against the bill, said he thought the measure went too far and wondered whether the new law would be enforced against, for example, against teenagers wearing an Army surplus hat. Dunn said that the prosecution would require actual intent to deceive others about military service and such a situation would not meet the standard.
News release from Lt. Gov Ron Ramsey’s office:
(January 6, 2011, NASHVILLE) – Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey today announced that Senator Becky Massey (R – Knoxville) will serve the Senate as a member of the Government Operations Committee, the Transportation and Safety Committee and the Health and Welfare Committee in the upcoming session of the General Assembly.
Sen. Massey won a special election on Nov. 8 to represent District 6 and is the newest member of the state Senate.
“Sen. Massey is a strong, conservative addition to the Senate,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “Her life experience has prepared her well to serve the people of the Tennessee in a myriad of different ways. She will be a champion of good government here in the Senate.”
“I’m very eager to get to work serving the State of Tennessee on these very important committees,” said Sen. Massey. “These assignments will allow me use my experience in the private sector to keep our government small and our people safe and healthy. I’m humbled that Lt. Governor Ramsey has shown such confidence in me.”
A graduate of the University of Tennessee, Massey is currently the Executive Director of the Sertoma Center. The center serves over 100 adults with intellectual disabilities by providing vocational training, part-time employment, mental health support, life skills and residential services.
She resides in Knoxville with her husband, Morton. They have two adult daughters Courtney and Kristen.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Becky Duncan Massey has been sworn in to represent Tennessee’s 6th District in the state senate.
The Knoxville Republican was sworn in Sunday before a crowd of about 100 people inside the auditorium of Central High School in Knoxville, according to The Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/rXaFCH).
The Senate swearing in usually takes place in Nashville, but Massey asked that the ceremony be in her hometown.
Massey defeated Democrat Gloria Johnson earlier this month to win the seat that was formerly held by Jamie Woodson.