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Miscellaneous TN Political News and Opinion Notes

Legislature Inspires Prayer
Robert Houk recalls the Rev. Will Campbell, the civil rights activist and colorful Baptist preacher, who died June 3, delivering a prayer before a floor session of the Tennessee House of Representatives that included a line something like: “Oh Lord, please don’t let these legislators mess up Tennessee any more than it already is.” The same sentiment applies, he writes, in the current Medicaid expansion debate.
On Electing Scandal-Plagued County Officials
The opening line of Frank Cagle’s latest: I have always opposed taking away the people’s right to vote and have long advocated that Tennessee elect more people to office–a state attorney general and school superintendents, for example. I still think it is a good idea to elect the department heads down at the courthouse–the so-called fee offices like trustee, county clerk, register of deeds. But it’s getting harder and harder to defend.
On Electing Judges (or not)
From Frank Daniels III, writing on the Judicial Nominating Commission’s push to choose new appellate judges for vacancies that don’t exist yet:
The unseemly rush to selection by the panel is forced because next year Tennessee voters will get a chance to decide, after 40 years, whether they agree with the petite bargain forged in the 1970s that took away their right to choose who sits in judgment and replaced it with a wax-and-bailing-wire version of a judicial election process politely called the Tennessee Plan. Tennesseans had previously directly elected all their judges, but after the unthinkable happened in 1966, when Republican Howard Baker won a U.S. Senate seat, and in 1970, when Winfield Dunn, another GOP in the Democratic bastion of Tennessee, beat John Jay Hooker, the state’s political leaders feared what would happen if voters suddenly began electing all kinds of people who were not properly vetted in the backrooms and boardrooms.
John Jay Hooker ‘Right on Every Count’
Beginning of a Chattanooga Free Press editorial on the judge selection plans:
Tennessee officials are on the verge of violating the law, ignoring the state Constitution and disregarding logic, and no one seems to be putting up much of a fight. No one, that is, except for John Jay Hooker Jr., a Nashville lawyer and former Democratic candidate for governor. HERE.
Lawmaker Against Road Project Before He Was For It?
Hank Hayes chronicles the email exchanges between state Rep. Tony Shipley and Transportation Commissioners John Schroer, who had differing notions about a Kingsport area highway project. TDOT rejected Shipley’s advice and chose another option… though the lawmaker is now praising the project in speeches. HERE
Remenberiing Gay Bashing
Betty Bean recalls “what has come to be remembered as the ‘gay-bashing meeting'” of the Knox County Commission 20 years ago and how things have changed. HERE.
On UT Begging for Money, Giving Pay Raises
From Sam Venable on the University of Tennessee’s financial status: I find it astounding that UT’s brain trust can miraculously produce money to lavish on the execs, but then must go hat-in-hand to pay for routine operations.
Comptroller Can Control Cities
State Comptroller Justin Wilson tells Jackson Baker that, yes, he has authority under existing state law to take over Memphis’ budget – or that of any other city with bonded indebtedness – but he doesn’t want to do so.
“It’s pretty strong, and there’s absolutely no question that I’ve got to approve the budget. If the budget doesn’t balance, I can bring it into balance. There’s no question I can raise taxes. I want to be real clear about this. I hope we never get there. I do not anticipate that we get there. It’s the last thing in the world I want to do. This is not what I’m about. I don’t want to argue about my authority and all that kind of stuff. “

Miscellaneous TN News and Opinion Links

The Chattanooga Times-Free Press has an update on the Georgia Legislature’s push to tap into Tennessee River water. Seems the bill has stalled in the Senate after passing the House and there’s talk of a new approach – take water from Georgia streams that flow into the Tennessee instead.
In his weekly column, Robert Houk reports “a troubling feeling of déjà vu whenever I read about the exploits of the Tennessee General Assembly. Maybe it’s the fact our legislators grapple with many of the same bills year after year.”
The Jackson Sun has a long analysis article that says 54 rural hospitals in the state could be closed without Medicaid expansion. A Boliver hospital is the focus.
About 100 people showed up at Progressive Baptist Church in Nashville for an hourlong “town hall meeting” organized by AhealthyTN.org, a coalition of community volunteers formed about six months ago to support Medicaid expansion, according to The Tennessean.
The Chattanooga Free Press editorializes against a U.S. Postal Service rule that has lead to hundreds of new children’s books – purchased by taxpayers through the Governor’s Books From Birth Foundation” – being “tossed in the garbage every month.”
From a Frank Daniels’ opinion piece on the proposed judicial selection amendment to the state constitution: It is a sham the way the Tennessee Plan works. We should either correctly amend the state constitution, which, despite any opinion from the attorney general (who is appointed by the very judges whose status is in constitutional question), SJR 0002 does not do, or we should return to the what the framers of Tennessee’s constitution stipulated: that qualified voters should elect judges.
Never tire of reading about wine in grocery stores? The Johnson City Press today has an article quoting Northeast Tennessee liquor store owners and supermarket operators under the headline, “All Eyes Are on Wine Measure.”
Otis Sanford says “a rare case of reasonableness has seeped into the minds of a couple of lawmakers. Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Lebanon, are co-sponsoring a bill that would allow the use of a student ID issued by state colleges and universities for voting in Tennessee.”

Tennesseans at GOP Convention, Day 2

Haslam: From Fla. to N.C. for Romney
Gov. Bill Haslam travels to Tampa today but says he’ll soon be on the road again to North Carolina where he’ll resume his role as a Romney surrogate.reports WPLN.
The first-term governor says the choice is between four more years of the federal government telling people what to do and a government that – in his words – “takes advantage…of the free enterprise system.”
“I think the President has done a nice job on some things. I don’t think he has a real appreciation for what makes the economy grow, and I think the numbers reflect that.”
While a longtime Romney backer, Governor Haslam does not have a speaking role at the Republican National Convention.
Corker: Romney’s Like Reagan
The presidential contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is the most important race the country has seen since the 1980 matchup between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker said Monday.
More from Michael Collins:
The Chattanooga Republican said he attended an event with Romney a couple of months ago in Park City, Utah, where Romney gave a speech that sounded “incredibly Reaganesque.”
“I left there about as excited as I could possibly have been at that moment,” Corker told Tennessee delegates to the Republican National Convention. “I think when people get to see who he is, it’s going to make a tremendous difference in this race.”
Corker, one of the guest speakers at a breakfast meeting for the state’s delegates, framed the race between Obama and Romney as a choice between “individualism and really allowing people real opportunity” versus “collectivism and trying to have equal outcomes.”
…Corker offered high praise for Romney’s vice presidential running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the influential chairman of the House Budget Committee. Corker said he has spent a lot of time with Ryan on budget issues and has gotten to know him really well.
Hagerty: A Candidate Himself Someday?
State Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty, a longtime friend of Mitt Romney, is interviewed by Chas Sisk.
“I think it’s going to be a real rush, to see someone that you’ve worked so hard for get to this next level,” Hagerty…said of Mitt Romney, the man he has supported for president for more than half a decade. “It’s also going to be a real grounding sense of responsibility there, because we’ve got the race of a lifetime.”
Hagerty first met Romney when the two were young consultants based in Boston, part of a cadre of bright minds recruited from prestigious law and business schools in the 1970s and 1980s to remake blue-chip companies. He was part of a group who urged Romney to get into presidential politics six years ago, and he was a key member of the fundraising team for Romney’s first bid for the White House in 2008.
Hagerty and his wife, Chrissy, have been selected as delegates to the Republican National Convention, an honor that will let them both cast ballots to nominate their friend for president.
The campaign could be a precursor to one of Hagerty’s own. The former political aide and financial executive has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Congress or the governor’s office after Gov. Bill Haslam’s tenure has run its course in 2014 or 2018.
…Hagerty said he came to know Bill Haslam in 2008, as the then Knoxville mayor was launching a run for governor. Just as Romney did in his runs for president, Haslam committed two years to his gubernatorial campaign.
“Whether it’s a person running for a county- or city-level position or a statewide position or national position, I feel certain that people that do it and do it well are putting 120 percent of their available time into the run,” he said. “Anybody that cares as much as a candidate that wins probably does; you’re putting your all into it.”
It is that depth of commitment needed that gives Hagerty pause about running for office himself. While he said he enjoys serving in government, Hagerty doubted that most people understand how much work it takes to win an election.
“You go through really a gauntlet of stresses and pressures,” he said. “I think until you’re near a person that does that, one doesn’t appreciate how challenging it is.

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TN Primary Election Day News Notes (early edition)

Super PACs Spending to Last Hours
A few Super PACs are keeping political ads – most of them negative – on the air in Tennessee through Election Day, according to WPLN.
The biggest spending is in the 6th Congressional District. Nashville health care investor Andy Miller has spent more than $230,000 attacking Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin. He’s supporting Lou Ann Zelenik, who narrowly lost to Black in the Republican primary two years ago.
ANDREW MILLER: “I honestly believe with my entire heart that she will not be bought out by special interests.”
REPORTER: “Are you a special interest?”
ANDREW MILLER: “I suppose to some degree I am, but my interests are to see the primary process find a more level playing field.”
As the incumbent, Black has been able to raise nearly a million dollars from political action committees. She’s also gotten her own Super PAC help from the American College of Radiology.

Kernell Cries Foul on Hardaway
A campaign flyer for state Rep. G.A. Hardaway, one of the candidates in the hotly contested House District 93 Democratic primary race, drew attacks Wednesday from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen as “not honest,” while backers of state Rep. Mike Kernell, Hardaway’s opponent, say their names were used without permission in the flyer. HERE.
Slowdown in Shelby?
In an effort to make sure all voters receive the proper ballot, the Shelby County Election Commission has added an extra step that chairman Robert Meyers said could slow the voting process for everyone in Thursday’s elections. Ballot problems following redistricting of state House and Senate and U.S. House voting boundaries led to more than 3,000 voters appearing to cast ballots in incorrect races during the early voting period. The majority of the incorrect ballots involved state House party primaries, although some of those are uncontested. HERE.
Still More on Maggart vs. NRA
From a Frank Cagle column on why today’s elections are important: If the NRA defeats Maggart and some other members they have targeted, one of two things will happen. The members will bow down to the NRA lobbyists, shaking in their boots, and do what they are told. Or, they will be so angry at the tactics used against one of their own that they may revolt. Given that none of them wants $100,000 spent in a race against them in two years, I suspect it will be the former.
Incumbent Advantage in Roane?
Early voting should be moved out of the Roane County Courthouse to avoid potential problems about campaign boundaries and uniformed officers near polling places, the county’s District Attorney General says. Russell Johnson’s recommendation to the Roane County Election Commission is based on the premise that voting in the courthouse “provides what is perceived as an unfair advantage” to courthouse officeholders, the incumbents. HERE.
Hurley Signs Vandalized
State Rep. Julia Hurley said she is “sick and tired” of having to replace campaign signs due to vandalism and ready to press charges if the perpetrators can be identified. Hurley, facing a primary today against challenger Kent Calfee for the Republican nomination in the 32nd District, said the sign damage increased as the campaign progressed.
Since the campaign began, Hurley said she has replaced dozens of signs. Replacing vandalized signs has become a huge drain on campaign funds she said. … Hurley said she has had to replace many small signs that are found ripped up by the side of the road. She also lost two large signs to vandalism. The two signs alone cost more than $3,000 to replace, including the fence posts. More HERE.
An Omission in Rutherford
A printing error that left a few words off thousands of voter registration cards sent out last month shouldn’t affect voters when they go to the polls today, according to Rutherford County’s elections administrator…. The Rutherford County Election Office mailed 130,000 new voter registration cards to registered voters in July, in addition to information about 46 voting precincts and voting district lines, in preparation for today’s county general election and state and federal primary vote.
…The omitted words are on the part of the card with the voter’s name, address and voter registration card number. Just above the voter’s signature and that of Administrator of Elections Nicole Lester, the cards say, “The above is entitled to vote on and after the issuance of this card, provided the …” Missing are the words “registration has not become void.” HERE.

Some ‘State of the State’ Notes and Quotes

By the Associated Press
Reactions and impressions about Gov. Bill Haslam’s second annual State of the State address on Monday evening:
“It was an excellent speech, it was upbeat, it was forward thinking and he’s remaining true to the things he ran for this office for.” — House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville.
“It is a bold plan to change the way Tennessee government operates, to improve the economy here by creating a climate for economic prosperity, so we’re excited about his plan.” — state Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney.
“Two things stood out. He wants to run an effective, efficient government. And the other thing is it’s the taxpayers’ money, it’s not really government’s. I think those were important distinctions to make.” — Republican Sen. Randy McNally of Oak Ridge.
“The governor … knows right now with the economy like it is, we need to cut the size of government as much as possible, save those tax dollars and be able to put them somewhere else.” — Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet.
“‘Believe in Better’ seems to me to be nothing more than a campaign slogan and wishful thinking. The single issue facing Tennesseans and our country is job creation, and there was a paucity of discussion about job creation tonight.” — State Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester.
“He’s talking about doing what you do in corporate America. You do a regional search to see what the salaries are, if they’re competitive or not. And he’s going to allocate money toward that. That’s a good idea. That way we can retain top talent.” — Rep. Joe Towns, D-Memphis.
“Instead of lawmakers worried about saving their own jobs, they should be more concerned with creating new jobs for Tennesseans. And that’s what we would like to work with our governor on … going forward.” — House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley.
“Our teachers just went through a year with a different kind of ABCs. They were attacked. They were belittled. And they were criticized. This year, there seems to be new math. Fewer teachers, with bigger classrooms, is supposed to equal better results. But that really does not add up.” — Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney of Jackson.

More News & Opinions on Occupy Nashville Protests

A Cold, Surreal Scene
From Jeff Woods’s Sunday morning report:
Occupy Nashville maintained a cold vigil throughout the night at Legislative Plaza, and state troopers never arrived to enforce the governor’s curfew. At 6 o’clock as the curfew lifted, a cheer went up and protesters declared victory–at least for one day–in their free-speech fight with the state.
“We won this battle and now we’re going to win the war,” organizer Mike Anger said.
…The night took on a surreal air as the Tennessee Performing Arts Center held a gala, black-tie fundraiser on the portico of the War Memorial building overlooking the protesters. A peppy band on the portico played the Adam’s Family theme song, and patrons of the arts walked across the Plaza on their way home after the 10 o’clock curfew as if all was normal, ignoring Occupy Nashville and refusing to talk to reporters. Later, Wicked ended at TPAC, and that crowd also crossed the Plaza. State officials have said that, unlike Occupy Nashville, theater-goers have special dispensation to break the curfew.
Protesters held hands in a circle and chanted “oooohm, oooohm.”

Arrested Reporter ReportsNashville Scene’s Jonathan Meador reports on his arrest along with Occupy Nashville protestors early Saturday morning. There’s a video.
His boss, meanwhile, has called for a public apology from Gov. Bill Haslam.
Bad News for Bill?
Trace Sharp says the events are a “PR nightmare” for Haslam and Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons.
In Gail Kerr’s opinion: “Gov. Bill Haslam and the highway patrol overkill he authorized have given Occupy Nashville a major shot in the arm.”

Miscellaneous TN News Notes

More on ‘Business Impact’ Fiscal Notes
A proposal to give lawmakers more information about how their decisions will affect businesses is being greeted with enthusiasm, but there also are significant questions about how to carry the idea off, opponents and supporters say. So reports Chas Sisk.
Business groups are backing a plan to add a statement of the effect bills will have on business to each piece of legislation filed in Tennessee. The statements would help lawmakers head off costly rules and regulations, supporters say. But some say the move could backfire by making lawmakers more beholden to the opinions of lobbyists and staff members who have been criticized in the past for having too much sway over the legislature
(Previous post HERE)
Fleischmann Fundraising
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann raised more than $135,000 during the last three months, a figure that could be eclipsed by a single upcoming fundraiser, his staff told the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
The Republican freshman from Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District finished the July 1-Sept. 30 fundraising quarter with $350,000 on hand for his 2012 re-election bid.
“People are showing obvious support for Chuck’s voting record,” said Jordan Powell, a spokesman for the congressman. Fleischmann plans to boost his bottom line with an Oct. 27 Chattanooga fundraiser featuring House Speaker John Boehner, the face of conservative power in Washington.
Out of 769 total votes, Fleischmann has voted with House leadership 94 percent of the time, according to records maintained by the Washington Post.

Tea Party’s Guitar Gathering
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The head of Tennessee-based Gibson Guitar said Saturday that he strongly backs conservation as well as federal enforcement of laws meant to protect the tropical hardwoods that his company uses for instruments.
The comments by Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz follow an August raid by federal agents of Gibson factories in Nashville and Memphis. More than 10,000 fingerboards made from imported Indian rosewood were seized.
Juszkiewicz has said the company faces allegations of using wood from India that is not finished by Indian workers — a potential violation of the Lacey Act.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday at a tea party sponsored “We stand with Gibson” rally in Nashville, Juszkiewicz said he supports the intent of the act, but he called the requirement for Indian workers to finish the wood a “misuse of environmental law.”
“This is not about conservation or illegal logging, to my knowledge,” he said.
Federal prosecutors have filed court papers confirming a criminal investigation. But no charges have been filed, and specifics of the investigation by the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department are under seal.
Knoxville Occupied
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Occupy Wall Street movement has made its presence known in Knoxville.
On Friday evening, at least 200 East Tennesseans gathered to raise awareness of the gap that exists between the rich and poor, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/oZyPbM).
Occupy Knoxville supporters gathered in a park, chanting phrases like “people over profits.” Then they led a candlelight solidarity march around downtown.
Sevierville’s Betsey Rochelle was one of the organizers. She said she heard about Occupy Knoxville on Facebook and came up with the idea for the march.
Rochelle said ordinary people need a voice in government and she believes it is time to get corporate money out of politics.

On Fiscal Review’s Estimating and Proposed New Duties

The staff assigned to assess the impact of legislation on state budgeting has made some miscalculations in the past, according to recent review of bills dealing with such things as martial arts, liquor licenses and traffic offenses.
Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and some other are now proposing that the Fiscal Review Committee begin assessing the impact of bills on business bottom lines, a move that Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle sees as unnecessary and politically motivated.
The Fiscal Review Committee once estimated the cost of such business impact assessments at more than $500,000 for the first year.
The committee this summer followed up on a sample of bills enacted in the past to see what the actual cost of the legislation was in hindsight, as compared to the estimated cost at the time the bills were being considered by the General Assembly.

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