House Government Operations Committee Chairman Judd Mathney tells TNReport that he has some concerns about charter schools operated by Turkish Muslim Cleric Fethullah Gülen, but not necessarily with state legislators making a trip to Turkey financed by groups with ties to Gulen. (Previous post HERE.)
Mathney last year successfully sponsored legislation to limit the number of foreigners a Tennessee charter school can hire. Asked recently about his legislation in relation to the upcoming Turkey trip, Matheny told TNReport he believes “some of the Gülen schools…have brought in more foreign teachers than we would like to see in Tennessee.”
“I am very concerned about the proliferation of charter schools that are of non-United States origin and perhaps teach things that are contrary to our constitution here within our borders,” Metheny continued.
But Matheny also said that he’s not overly concerned about his colleagues being influenced by a free getaway.
“I’ve not talked personally with very many legislators that are going. Those that I have talked to seem to be in the frame of mind that they want to do the proper due diligence on both sides,” he said. “They also understand that those trips are not totally focused on charter schools.”
Matheny said that he had been invited on a past trip put on by the same group and declined the offer, but he was quick not to appear hostile.
“Turkey is a great ally, it’s not a country that we want to snub. It’s not a country that we don’t want to foster great relationships with,” he said. “I’m more worried about what’s happening domestically and what’s happening to our children. We want to make sure they are solid Americans.”
By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Sometimes a mop sink is just a mop sink.
Building managers and legislative staffers have sought to reassure some concerned Tennessee lawmakers that recent renovations at the state Capitol did not install special facilities for Muslims to wash their feet before praying.
“I confirmed with the facility administrator for the State Capitol Complex that the floor-level sink installed in the men’s restroom outside the House Chamber is for housekeeping use,” Legislative Administration Director Connie Ridley wrote in an email. “It is, in layman’s terms, a mop sink.”
The nearly $16 million renovation completed in December focused on upgrading electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems in the more than 150-year-old Capitol. Parts of the building also got new carpets, paint and security upgrades.
Senate Clerk Russell Humphrey said he had been approached by a House and Senate member to inquire about the sink, which replaced a utility sink that had been mounted higher on the wall and was used for filling and emptying buckets.
“There was concern about why it had been modified,” said Humphrey, who declined to identify the lawmakers or elaborate on their concerns.
A dispute between a Texas-based company providing aviation services at Chattanooga’s airport and the local airport authority board has taken flight and landed in the middle of the Tennessee Legislature, reports the Chattanooga TFP. TAC Air, a company providing fuel and hangar space for private airplanes at the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, is backing a bill that jumps into the dispute.
It would block future use of grants from the state’s Transportation Equity Fund to “compete” against “existing, privately owned” fixed-base operators such as TAC Air.
Three House members and a senator from outside Hamilton County are sponsoring the bill, which is scheduled to come up in the House Transportation Subcommittee and Senate Transportation Committee later this week.
(Note: The legislation is SB912, sponsored by Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, and Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma. Reps. Vance Dennis and Terri Lynn Weaver have signed on as co-sponsors with Mathney.))
The company has been fighting with the airport since officials in 2010 unveiled plans to spend $10 million on new facilities for corporate tenants and personal aircraft with the operation run by another company. Airport officials said the facilities, on which some $5 million in grants have been expended, were needed because of complaints about TAC Air.
But TAC Air executives have accused Lovell Field officials of using taxpayer money to effectively ground its existing business.
Pam McAllister, TAC Air’s Chattanooga general manager, said Monday the company is being forced to compete against its own “landlord,” the quasi-governmental airport authority, at taxpayer expense.
“How can we compete fairly when we don’t have access to the funds they do?” she said.
Tennessee legislators have been fighting over cockfighting for decades and, as with many morality matters in our state and elsewhere, the squawking boils down to whether traditional values or emerging values prevail in the pecking order of our collective consciousness.
That collective consciousness, of course, is reflected in the people we elect as our state representatives and senators, and what they can agree upon without ruffling too many feathers. It does not involve a question of which came first, as with the chicken or the egg.
The traditionalists came first. Andrew Jackson raised fighting roosters. He also had slaves. There’s an obvious and monumental difference, of course: human beings versus animals. The fate of chickens is irrelevant, inconsequential trivia in comparison to slavery.
And remember that Andy Jackson relied upon a well-armed state militia, composed of citizens with a right to bear arms, in defeating the Creek Indians and, later, the British at New Orleans. In that respect, his traditional view prevails somewhat today in our state’s collective consciousness as reflected by our pro-gun Legislature.
But, well, cockfighting is a matter of debate. Maybe as high up there as such major controversies as whether wine can be sold in grocery stores or whether guns can be kept in cars, just to pluck a couple of issues from among many wherein lobbyists are spurred into what passes these days for mortal combat in Legislatorland.
The 2013 version of legislation to increase penalties for cockfighting in Tennessee on Wednesday cleared a House subcommittee where it has died in previous years – though not without opposition.
Under the bill by Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, cockfighting would remain a misdemeanor on first offense, but the minimum fine would increase from $50 to $500. On second offense, cockfighting would be a felony punishable by one to six years in prison.
Last year’s version called for a felony classification on first offense and set the minimum fine at $2,500. The measure cleared a Senate committee, but died in the House Agriculture Subcommittee.
The House Agriculture Subcommittee, with a somewhat changed makeup from the previous legislative session, approved the bill on voice vote Wednesday. Two members, Republican Reps. Andy Holt of Dresden and Judd Matheny of Tullahoma, had themselves recorded as voting no. (Note/Update: Also, Rep. Billy Spivey, R-Lewisburg, voted no — though he had not been listed as doing so when the roll call was initially checked.)
Matheny said “a lot of people in my area – I don’t know that they’re cockfighting – raise roosters” and that he generally believes the Legislature “has better things to worry about than what to do with the lowly chicken.”
Andrea Zelinski has a rundown on the closed-door Republican Caucus meetings for election of legislative leadership positions. The most interesting of those races will happen Monday, Nov. 26, at the AT&T Building downtown, where members of the massive House Republican caucus are expected to cast their votes for the people they want to lead them through the next two years.
Only one of those races is contested, as of publication. It’s between a sitting leader who fell on the opposite side of party leadership on a handful of conservative, controversial bills and a quiet state rep who has largely worked behind the scenes.
The job is for speaker pro tempore, the official No. 2 ranking legislator in the chamber. Job responsibilities chiefly include manning the podium when the speaker is out of pocket. But more than that, the speaker pro tempore can vote in any standing committee, giving the electee power to cast the tie-breaking vote on just about any piece of legislation.
The post is now occupied by Rep. Judd Matheny, an auctioneer from Tullahoma who has a decade of experience on the Hill. He has been the speaker pro tempore for the past two years.
In his tenure, he performed few of those official duties. Matheny rarely manned the podium for Speaker Beth Harwell — who seldom let go of the gavel — and cast few tie-breaking votes in key committees.
It’s a job that leadership, both past and present, could have utilized better to free up Harwell, the chamber’s top Republican, said Rep. Glen Casada, a Franklin Republican expected to run unopposed for a different caucus position.
“She and the rest of us are kind of learning our way around. I would say the last two years, it’s because we’re still learning where all the gears and levers are, if you will,” said Casada, a conservative who ran an unsuccessful bid for speaker two years ago against the more moderate Harwell, the first GOP-backed speaker since Reconstruction.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State Rep. Judd Matheny is no longer considering a challenge to fellow Republican Beth Harwell for House speaker next year, he said Thursday.
Matheny, a strict gun rights advocate and a supporter of curbing what he sees as the spread of radical Islam in the state, announced last month that he was looking at a bid for the top post in the 99-member House because he felt marginalized by other Republican leaders.
But Matheny said in an interview in his legislative office on that he will instead seek another term in his current position as House speaker pro tempore. Besides speaker, it is the only post elected by the entire lower chamber of the General Assembly.
“It’s all sort of part of feeling your way into the majority and leadership roles,” he said. “I’ve been here 10 years now, and this has always been typically a sideline role. And I think it can be more, and I’m looking forward to it.”
As entertained as Democrats were watching Republican challengers pick off GOP incumbents in the primary election this month, the minority party says they’re concerned a wave of “extreme” right-leaning legislators would bad for legislative business.
Further from Andrea Zelinski: But House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner wouldn’t go as far as to say whether that holds true if Speaker Tempore Judd Matheny chooses to seek the top seat in the House of Representatives.
“Judd’s kind of a mixture of things. He kind of votes for working people a lot, but yet he’s kind of out there on some of the social issues, and some of the gun issues. I don’t think you can stereotype him by any means,” said Turner, D-Old Hickory, in an interview with reporters last week.
..Turner says he calls Matheny a friend, but points out that Democrats have a good working relationship with sitting Speaker Beth Harwell, a Nashville Republican who aligns herself as a moderate and the governor’s ally.
Turner stopped short of backing either Harwell or Matheny for the gavel.
“I think an endorsement from me for either one of them will probably kill their chances of being speaker, so I’m not going to get involved in their politics,” he laughed.
From a City Paper story on Judd Matheny’s talk of challenging House Speaker Beth Harwell and Gerald McCormick’s thoughts on the matter. Matheny said he has “great admiration and great respect” for Harwell, but listed the leadership’s decision to compromise on a “core constitutional principle” as a primary motivation for a challenge. The current example, he said, is the so-called guns-in-lots bill — Maggart’s lack of enthusiasm for the bill played a large role in the loss of her seat — but added, “If it can be done in one area, it can and will be done in other areas.”
He also noted concern over a lack of “fortitude” to “counter some of the forces that are coming out of Washington” and said the state “shouldn’t even be considering the expansion of the health care law.”
Matheny’s primary grievance is his assertion that he’s been shut out and marginalized by those at the top.
“I am capable of much more,” he said. “I’m capable of being involved in much more in state government, and I don’t believe some of the members of leadership have fully taken advantage of that or fully allowed me to be the most I can be.”
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick called the charge “kind of silly.” He said competition for leadership positions is a positive thing, and he doesn’t begrudge Matheny a desire to run. However, he said Matheny was “hard to get in contact with and didn’t do much” during the past two years.
Matheny said he respects McCormick, but the two simply have a “difference of opinion” on the matter. Presented with the idea that there seemed to be a group of conservatives in the state who are eager to challenge the established leadership every chance they get, Matheny concurred.
“I think that’s a good observation,” he said. “I think you can break up the state into two categories. You have a group of what I call the ‘pathminders,’ who are happy, primarily, with the status quo, they understand that we do have some problems nationally that are severe, but their timeline is unrealistic to address them and deal with them. Then you have group that I call the ‘pathfinders,’ and I consider myself one of those.”
The latter group, he said, knows “we have to alter the trajectory that we’re on or we will not be able to survive.”
News release from Scott Price (Democratic nominee in House District 47) campaign:
In response to the recent announcement that Rep. Judd Matheny is planning to challenge the leadership of respected House Speaker Beth Harwell; it seems extremely presumptuous of Mr. Matheny to be considering such a divisive move when he still has a contested general election in November.
As his opponent in this election, I feel Mr. Matheny has lost sight of the fact that the voters of District 47 have yet to speak to determine who will best represent them. This premature action on his part is just one more example of how out of touch with local voters Mr. Matheny has become. He is obviously pursuing personal political aspirations with no regard to the needs of the people of District 47. Representatives are elected every two years to go to Nashville for a limited time, and then return to their regular jobs.
As an educator for sixteen years in our district, I have no desire to be a career politician and abandon local concerns for a political title. I am willing to represent the hard working people of this district for a short time and then return to my classroom.
Seeking the position of Speaker of the House, along with his opposition to successful Republican candidates in the recent primary, Mr. Matheny has proven to be on the wrong side of even his own Party’s direction in this election. This clearly shows that Judd Matheny is seeking personal political gain instead of devoting his time to the pressing issues of this district. I am actually a little surprised that Mr. Matheny would turn his back on his own Party’s leadership.
From all accounts, Speaker Harwell has been a fair, highly respected, and responsible leader. As the new representative for District 47, I would support Speaker Harwell’s re-election as Speaker of the House if Republicans maintain the majority. I believe voters are tired of political bickering. They want a representative to attend to the true needs of
their district without wasting time and energy on personal political aspirations that clearly are not wanted by Party leaders or by the voters of our district.