Tag Archives: Obama

Haslam OK with more Syrian refugees in TN

Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday he has confidence in the vetting process for Syrian refugees and and has no objection to more settling in Tennessee, reports the News Sentinel.

His comments come a day after the Obama administration announced it plans to sharply increase the number of refugees accepted by the United States to 110,000 in fiscal 2017.

During an appearance at a luncheon in Anderson County, the governor said he recently met with U.S. State Department officials and Catholic Charities and is convinced “they’re doing a good job” vetting refugees coming to Tennessee.

The Republican governor said there aren’t many times he trusts the federal government, “but I do think they have all the right controls and procedures in place” regarding background checks and vetting for resettlement.

The Obama administration said the additional refugee intake is necessary to help stem a migrant crisis gripping Europe and the Middle East. The new target is a 29 percent increase over the 85,000 refugees accepted this fiscal year and a 57 percent hike over the 70,000 allowed in each year between 2013 and 2015.

More than 10,000 Syrian refugees have been allowed into the country this year, and new figures released Thursday provide a clearer picture of where they’re resettling.

Some 240 have resettled in Tennessee, according to the State Department Refugee Processing Center. Of those, 124 are in Nashville, 112 are in Memphis, three are in Germantown and one is in Spring Hill.

…Resettlement has proven controversial in many states, including Tennessee, where the Legislature voted earlier this year to instruct Attorney General Herbert Slatery to sue the federal government for noncompliance with the Refugee Act of 1980.

Proponents argued the legal proceedings were necessary because the federal government didn’t consult with the state on the resettlements.

Haslam allowed the resolution calling for the lawsuit to take effect without his signature. Slatery, however, declined to file the suit, saying the state was unlikely to succeed.

Eight TN drug offenders get Obama sentence cuts

Eight Tennesseans are among 214 drug offenders whose prison sentences were shortened Wednesday by President Barack Obama in the largest single-day grant of commutations in the nation’s history.

further from Michael Collins:

Deborah Lucille Blue of Alcoa, Debra Brown of Nashville, Thomas Duncan of Columbia, Steve Gillespie of Greeneville, Robert L. Matthews of Memphis, Kenneth Smith of Nashville, Jimmy Walden Jr. of Morristown and Byron Willis of Knoxville will see their sentences shortened as a result of Obama’s actions.

“This is a country that believes in second chances,” Obama wrote of the commutations in a Facebook post. Continue reading

More notes on TN Democrats in Philadelphia

Bashing Trump
Excerpt from the third edition of Mark Harmon’s “Delegate Diary:”

No one can beat the Bernie Sanders delegates for great headgear. At Monday’s big events for Bernie, many of his supporters wore green felt Robin-Hood-style caps, complete with feathers on one side. These were a delightful play on Sanders’ message that wealth inequality is a consequence of the rigging of our economy and our politics. The “rob from the rich, give to the poor” metaphor was a subtle reply to the reactionaries on talk radio and Fox News.

Speaker after speaker has derided Donald Trump as divisive, and he certainly has been — but he is unifying Democrats in disgust at his candidacy. David Bone, a legislative assistant from Nashville, said, “The chickens have come home to roost on the Republican side of the ticket. You can’t spend 30 years of policies trying to make people afraid and hate, and not expect to end up with a candidate like Donald Trump.”

Dennis Patrick is a 72-year-old Vietnam combat veteran from Cleveland, Tenn. He says Trump is a bigot and only interested in helping himself.

“Trump is a loudmouth, a carnival barker trying to tell you what’s under the tent,” Patrick said. “Once you look under that tent, there’s nothing there.”

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, denounced Trump as an embarrassment, a sociopath and a narcissist.

“If we get behind Hillary, we will get the Senate and make gains in the House,” Cohen said of presidential nominee Clinton.

To him, the biggest issue will be appointees to the Supreme Court. Clinton’s nominees, he declared, would be qualified and responsible; Trump’s choices would move the court in dangerous directions for a generation.

…Nashville-area Congressman Jim Cooper added that little more than 100 days remained to work hard to “make sure America goes in the right direction.” He warned, “We cannot let Trump ruin America. … Bill Clinton carried Tennessee twice, so why can’t we carry it for his wife?” Continue reading

Obama re-nominates three TVA board members

President Barack Obama announced Thursday he is nominating Pete Mahurin, Michael McWherter and Joe H. Ritch to new terms on the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Board of Directors.

All three were first appointed by Obama to the board in 2013. Ritch has beenchairman since 2014.

Ritch is an attorney with the law firm of Sirote & Permutt in Huntsville, Ala.

Mahurin of Bowling Green, Ky., has been with Hilliard Lyons Financial Services since 1968 and has been its chairman since 2008. He is also board chairman of the HL Financial Services Holding Co. and is a board member with Houchens Industries, Albany Bancorp, First Cecilian Bancorp, Gray Construction and Jackson Financial.

McWherter, son of former Tennessee Gov. Ned McWherter, is owner and president of Central Distributors Inc. and Volunteer Distributing Co. in Jackson. He has been chairman of the board of First State Bank of Union City, Tenn. and on the board of directors of the Jackson Energy Authority.

UPDATE/Note: An emailed statement from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander:

Mike McWherter, Joe Ritch, and Pete Mahurin have helped TVA provide cheap, clean, reliable electricity to the seven-state Tennessee Valley region. I am glad the president submitted their nominations to serve additional five-year terms, and I look forward to supporting their confirmations so they can continue their good work on the TVA Board.”

Casada suggests special legislative session on transgender bathrooms

House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada has raised the possibility of a special legislative session to consider taking action against President Obama’s transgender bathroom directive, reports The Tennessean. Casada sent a survey to fellow House Republicans Tuesday asking whether they would favor the idea.

Casada, R-Franklin, said the directive, announced by the Obama administration on Friday, concerned him because he believes it is unconstitutional.

“I want our school systems to know that they can tell the (American Civil Liberties Union), who would bring lawsuits, or the Department of Justice that the state of Tennessee is going to stand with them,” he said, pointing out that he was not speaking on behalf of the Republican caucus.

Two hours after Casada sent out the survey, he said, 16 out of the 22 respondents were supportive of holding a special session. Five members were “a flat no” and one was undecided, he said.

It would take two-thirds of members in both chambers — 66 in the House and 22 in the Senate — to call for a special session. Republicans hold 73 seats in the House and 28 in the Senate.

Adam Kleinheider, a spokesman for Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, said he is not aware of any effort in the Senate to survey members about the prospect of a special session, which Casada admitted would be unnecessary if Slatery publicly expressed plans to oppose the directive.

…Also on Tuesday, Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, began circulating an online petition asking Tennesseans to sign onto a letter she plans to send to Haslam on the issue.

Another letter on Obama’s bathroom directive from TN GOP legislators

A day a group of Republican state senators sent a letter to Gov. Bill Haslam urging action against an Obama administration directive on transgender bathrooms, a group of 33 Republican state lawmakers — representatives as well as senators — have sent a similar missive to Attorney General Herbert Slatery. It calls on Slatery to “challenge the legal authority” of the federal government to enforce its directive.

Further, from The Tennessean:

State Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, wrote the new letter and circulated it to her colleagues for signatures. In the letter, she accuses the Obama administration of “mobocracy” and “bullying” to “accommodate students with gender identify disorder at the expense of the mentally healthy enrollment.”

Bowling is up for re-election this year, with one opponent in the August Republican primary and two Democrats running for their party’s nomination in the 16th state senate district, which includes Coffee, Franklin, Grundy, Marion, Sequatchie, Van Buren and Warren counties in southeastern Middle Tennessee.

The letter was signed by her and 12 of her Republican colleagues in the Senate and 20 Republicans in the House of Representatives — a minority of the GOP’s 28 state senators and 73 state representatives.

…”Our Office is just as concerned with the joint guidance letter issued by the Education Department and the DOJ as the Governor and many state legislators are. It is the most recent, and all too familiar, example of federal agencies (not Congress) telling states and now universities and local education boards what to do,” Slatery’s office said in a statement.

“We are monitoring the predictable litigation that has resulted. To the extent that our Office can assist and advance the best interests of our State, we will do so.”

Text of the letter available by clicking on this link: Letter to AG Slatery

Haslam: Courts will resolve Obama’s ‘heavy-handed’ bathroom directive

More than a week after several Tennessee Republicans bashed President Obama’s directive on transgender bathrooms (previous post HERE), Gov. Bil Haslam has joined in a perhaps somewhat milder manner in a statement distributed to media on Monday.

News release from the governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today issued the following statement on the guidance to schools released by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education:

“The White House itself has said what they issued last week is not an enforcement action and does not make any additional requirements under the law. Congress has the authority to write the law, not the executive branch, and we disagree with the heavy-handed approach the Obama administration is taking. Decisions on sensitive issues such as these should continue to be made at the local level based on the unique needs of students, families, schools and districts while working closely with the local school board counsel, understanding that this is an emerging area of law that will ultimately be settled by the courts.”

TN Republicans join in bashing Obama bathroom directive

Some Tennessee Republican politicians have joined other members of the party in bashing a directive from the Obama administration that calls on schools to allow use of bathrooms based on an individual’s “gender identity.”

Republican state Rep. Susan Lynn of Wilson County, who unsuccessfully sponsored a bill in the legislature this year mandating use of school bathrooms based on the gender designated on birth certificates, was focus of a Tennessean story after a Facebook post on the subject. Excerpt:

“Transgenderism is a mental disorder called gender identity disorder — no one should be forced to entertain another’s mental disorder and it is not healthy for the individual with the disorder,” Lynn said in a list of responses to the federal directive.

“We can and we will legistativly (sic) protect children from hormone abuse — a directive has no impact on that issue only the Orwellian redefinition of sex would do that.”

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander news release:
WASHINGTON, May 13 – Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement on the Department of Education’s guidance to local school districts regarding transgender student’s use of public bathrooms:

“This is the kind of issue that parents, school boards, communities, students and teachers should be allowed to work out in a practical way with a maximum amount of respect for the individual rights of all students. Insofar as the federal government goes, it’s up to Congress to write the law, not the executive departments. And guidance issued by the departments does not amount to federal law and should not be treated as such.” Continue reading

Four TN prisoners among 58 getting Obama sentence commutations

President Barack Obama has commuted the prison sentences of 58 drug offenders, including four from Tennessee.

From Michael Collins:

Efrem Rahoman Douglas of Knoxville, Cintheia Denise Parra of Memphis, Trevis Love of Harriman and John Herbert Talley of Chattanooga will see their sentences expire Sept. 2, the White House announced Thursday.

“As a country, we have to make sure that those who take responsibility for their mistakes are able to transition back to their communities,” Obama said in a statement. “It’s the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do. And it’s something I will keep working to do as long as I hold this office.”

Douglas was serving a sentence of 300 months in prison and 10 years of supervised release for possession with intent to distribute at least 50 grams of cocaine base. He was convicted in 2005 in U.S. District Court in East Tennessee.

Parra was sentenced in 2006 in federal court in Northern Mississippi to 235 months in prison and five years of supervised release for possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of methamphetamine. The sentence was amended last year to 188 months in prison.

Love was serving a sentence of 240 months in prison and 10 years of supervised release for conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute at least five kilograms of cocaine. He was convicted in 2005 in federal court in East Tennessee.

Talley was sentenced in 1995 to life in prison and 10 years of supervised release for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine base and for using a phone in the commission of a felony. He was convicted in federal court in East Tennessee.

To date, Obama has commuted the sentences of 306 people — more than the previous six presidents combined — and said he will continue to review clemency applications. But he said only Congress can bring about lasting changes in federal sentencing through criminal justice reform.

Bathroom bill hits Senate stall; labeled ‘mean-spirited’ by Obama spokesman

By Erik Schelzig & Sheila Burke, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The sponsor of a Tennessee transgender bathroom bill told a Senate committee Tuesday that he has to consider a state attorney general’s opinion before going forward. The move came the same day the White House called the proposal “mean-spirited.”

Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, told the Senate Finance Ways and Means Committee that he wanted another day to consider an opinion that State Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued Monday that said federal education funding could be placed at risk if the measure becomes law. A fiscal analysis said the bill could cost the state more than $1.2 billion in federal money for K-12 and higher education.

“I’m still trying to digest and understand the impact of the attorney general’s opinion,” Bell said.

Bell said he wanted to bring the bill back up Wednesday but Sen. Bo Watson, R-Chattanooga, and the vice chairman of the finance committee, warned that the projected cost of the bill will likely cause it to be placed among unfunded bills to be considered after the budget has passed. Those bills often don’t become law unless sponsors find a way to eliminate the cost or find a source of funding.
Continue reading