Tennessee political action committees reached record levels in both number and in handing out contributions last year as the Legislature’s new Republican supermajority was elected, according to a report by the Registry of Election Finance.
A total of 611 PACs registered to donate to Tennessee’s state-level campaigns for 2012 and gave a total of $8,185,652 in contributions, almost all to candidates running for the state Legislature, the Registry said in its annual report.
The PACs spent another $2,003,603 in “independent expenditures,” which do not go directly to a campaign but are spent independently to help elect or defeat a legislative candidate. Typically, most is money spent on attack advertising.
That compares to 540 PACs registered in 2010 and making direct donations to candidates totaling $6,777,264 plus independent expenditures totaling $1,995,503. In 2010, there was also a gubernatorial election underway – unlike 2012 – and PACs were giving more money to Gov. Bill Haslam and other candidates. In 2012, only a couple of PACs donated early to Haslam’s 2014 re-election fund.
PACs thus spent a total of about $10.2 million in 2012 trying to influence campaigns compared to $8.9 million in 2010.
(Note: The Registry 2012 report is HERE; a list of all registered 2012 PACs and their donations, HERE.)
Nearly two years ago Tennessee marked down more than 2,000 reported methamphetamine labs amid cries for reform, crackdowns and a revised approach. But today the state stands ready to log almost as many labs by year’s end, reports the News Sentinel.
Despite new laws and a new system for tracking the drug’s main ingredient, law enforcement officials around the state say they’re little better off than before.
“It’s about the same,” said Anderson County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Jim Leinart, who oversees drug investigations in the county that leads Tennessee for meth lab seizures for the year. “Our problem is still the shake-and-bake (method). It’s still mostly users making their own. Our numbers go up and down.”
Anderson County reported 115 meth labs as of October, according to statistics from the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force — more than any other county this year. Hamilton County came in second with 67 reports, and Shelby third with 61 reports.
…State officials have tracked sales of pseudoephedrine, the basic ingredient in most meth recipes, for the past seven years. Calls for change led the state to sign on in 2011 to the MethCheck electronic database, also known as the National Pseudeophedrine Log Exchange, or NPLEx.
The database, managed by technology provider Appriss and funded by pharmaceutical companies, tracks sales in 24 states and boasts the ability to track sales electronically in real-time.
Supporters say the system blocked sales of more than 26,000 boxes of pseudoephedrine pills in Tennessee in its first six months alone.
But law enforcement officials say MethCheck hasn’t lived up to its billing. They complain of a system that too often stalls, crashes or spits out data in unreadable formats.
A spring cleaning of Shelby County’s voter rolls, based on identifying names of people who had not cast ballots in any federal election since 2006, has resulted in voting rolls that as recently as March showed 611,937 voters now listing just 431,054 names, reports Zack McMillan.
The commission says there is a simple explanation for how some 180,000 names vanished from the publicly available voting rolls.
The most substantial change involved moving 151,826 people who have not voted in any of the two most recent federal election cycles to “inactive” status. Those voters remain eligible to vote, but since they have not voted in any federal election over a four-year stretch, they are no longer considered “active” voters, and the commission, under the control of county Republicans since 2010, has decided to include only the “active” voters on its registered voting statistics.
If an “inactive” voter happens to show up to vote in any federal election over the next four years, that voter moves back to active status. The election commission also notifies voters by mail that their status has changed and supplies a form and business-reply envelope the voter can send back to stay on “active” status.
But if a voter does not show up to vote in any federal election over an eight-year span and fails to otherwise contact the commission, that voter is purged from the rolls.
A smaller number of people, about 32,781, were affected by the more consequential process of being purged. Another 5,000 were purged based on other factors, including felony conviction, notification of address change or notice of death.
Add up those numbers — or subtract them, as it were — and the result, according to commission chairman Robert Meyers, “increases the accuracy of our voter registration rolls.”
It may also work to increase the credibility of the county’s voters. Take that 2008 presidential election. Presuming the voting rolls then should have been closer to the current 431,054 than the nearly 600,000 listed at the time, the voting turnout jumps to close to 90 percent.
Haslam Package Numbers
The governor’s office advises that the administration bill package was filed late Tuesday. In the House, the bills starting with HB2337 and going through HB2391 comprise the governor’s package. In the Senate, it appears the bills are numbered SB2199 through SB2253.
That’s 55 bills. Last year, Haslam had 24 bills for the administration as a whole. His Communications director, Thus, he has proposed 79 bills in the first two sessions of his term as governor, which Communications Director Alexia Poe is 57 percent fewer bills than in the first two years of the previous administration.
A note from Haslam spokesman Dave Smith:
According to our research, the previous administration (of Gov. Phil Bredesen) introduced 186 bills combined in ’09 and ’10. We’ve introduced a combined 79 in ’11 and ’12.
Seventy nine is 43 percent of 186, meaning our 79 equals 57 percent less than the previous administration’s total for ’09 and ’10.
Ramsey Backs Haslam Bills
Statement from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey on Haslam’s legislative package:
Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey made the following statement regarding the release of the governor’s legislative agenda:
“I am excited to work with Gov. Haslam to move Tennessee forward towards more jobs, less spending and smaller government. The governor has chosen his priorities well. This is a solid agenda that our unified Republican majority can proudly stand behind.”
Occupiers Provide ‘People’s Bribe’
From the AP:
Members of Occupy Nashville, a Wall Street protest group that has camped in tents on the plaza across the street from Capitol since October, lined the hallway outside both chambers before the session, calling for an end to the sales tax on food as members filed in.
After the singing of the National Anthem, someone threw pieces of green paper resembling checks onto the House floor from the gallery. They fake checks were titled “The People’s Bribe” and made out the Tennessee General Assembly for $99.99. They were signed by “The 99 Percent.”
“What they did of course violates House rules,” Harwell told reporters afterward. “But it was so insignificant, I let it go.”
Republicans and Democrats have been using different numbers in discussing the potential impact of Tennessee’s new law requiring a government-issued photo ID for voting.
For Republicans who support the law, the most-cited number is 126,000, which is the approximate number of Tennesseans who both hold a driver’s license without a photograph and are registered to vote. They will thus have to get a photo ID before voting in 2012.
Democrats who oppose the ID law prefer to say that the law could “potentially” impact 675,000 voters. That number has been questioned by some, including Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons, whose department issues driver’s licenses. He said the number is occasionally attributed to him and he is not the source and has “no idea” where it came from.
The 675,000 was first used by Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden, who with the help of staff explained it on Tuesday.
Here’s the explanation: There are actually about 230,000 Tennesseans who hold a non-photo driver’s license and who are over the of age 18, including the 126,000 who are registered to vote. But those not registered to vote could register and thus could be “potentially” impacted by having to obtain a new photo ID.
Further, the 2010 U.S. Census reported Tennessee has a voting age population of 4,850,104. Meanwhile, the Department of Safety says there are 4,390,803 persons holding a driver’s license. The difference is 459,301 – people who don’t have a license, but live in Tennessee and “potentially” could be voters and thus impacted.
Add the 459,301 to the 230,000 and you get 689,301. Some, of course, may be ineligible to vote – such as convicted felons who have not had their rights restored.
“As usual, I was being conservative (with 675,000), unlike some of my radical Republican friends,” said Herron.
“Whether there are 689,000 or 730,000 or 675,000 or 475,000, there are literally hundreds of thousands of law-abiding Tennesseans who have had their right to vote taken away from them by the Legislature,” said Herron.
Blake Fontenay, spokesman for Secretary of State Tre Hargett, was invited to comment and responded with this email:
“Based on the methodology used, we have a number of questions about that statistic. Does the Census data count people who vote absentee, illegal immigrants, felons who have not had their voting rights restored or people who have other forms of photo IDs besides driver licenses? We feel all those groups would have to be subtracted from the voting age population in order to get an accurate count. We have not had time to do that because our focus has been – and will continue to be – educating people about what the new law requires.”