Georgina Vines talks with freshmen legislators about their orientation sessions…. and one who made a trip to Washington for an ALEC meeting, too. “It’s not government civics.”
That’s how newly-elected state Rep. Roger Kane, a Knoxville Republican, described orientation and GOP caucus sessions that he’s attended in Nashville to get ready for when the General Assembly begins meeting in January. The Legislature will have a large freshman class with 22 new House members and six new senators.
Representing the new 89th District in Northwest Knox County, Kane said the GOP caucus session in particular was not something he remembered studying. The vote was done by a secret ballot.
“I thought it would be more of a voice thing,” he said.
….Orientation covered everything from security to offices. A tour of the newly-renovated Capitol was given. Presentations were made by the Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education.
“They want us to be prepared so in January everything is not overwhelming and new,” he said.
Democrat Gloria Johnson, elected to represent the 13th District, also attended the sessions.
“As I am still teaching, I haven’t had the time I would like to get familiar with things there, so the day was definitely beneficial for me,” she said.
The Nashville meetings were Nov. 26-27,and then Kane went to Washington, D.C., on Nov. 28-30 to attend a conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC paid the transportation and expenses at the Grand Hyatt of freshmen legislators, Kane said.
He was the only newly-elected lawmaker from East Tennessee to attend the ALEC program, he said. Johnson did not attend, saying she chose instead to meet with constituents in her district.
…Kane said the group acknowledged it had taken some missteps and planned to focus in areas where it feels it’s the strongest. Its website said ALEC works on the principles of free markets and limited government.
“I’m being inquisitive and figuring out what these groups do for me, how I can be a part of it or not be a part of it,” Kane said.
The Memphis City Council on Tuesday approved a nondiscrimination ordinance that includes workplace protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, ending a debate that began in 2010, according to the Commercial Appeal. “City of Memphis employees will go to bed tonight and wake up in the morning to hear the news that their hard work will be respected and their ability to contribute to their community will be preserved,” said Jonathan Cole, vice president of the Tennessee Equality Project, one of the backers of the legislation. “It’s a new day in Memphis, Tennessee.”
The legislation sponsored by council members Lee Harris and Shea Flinn and approved in a 9-4 vote includes protections against discrimination for “sexual orientation, gender identity, age, ethnicity, national origin and disability.”
It applies only to employment by the city of Memphis, not private individuals or groups that may contract with the city.
Council members Flinn, Harris, Harold Collins, Edmund Ford Jr., Janis Fullilove, Wanda Halbert, Reid Hedgepeth, Myron Lowery and Jim Strickland voted for the ordinance. Council members Bill Boyd, Joe Brown, Bill Morrison and Kemp Conrad voted against it.
The Memphis City Council has approved including sexual orientation in a proposed nondiscrimination ordinance, but delayed a final vote on the measure for 30 days, reports the Commercial Appeal. During the delay, legal experts will research whether the legislation would violate the city’s charter. City Councilman Lee Harris originally sponsored an ordinance to ban the city from discriminating against individuals based on “age, ethnicity, national origin and disability.”
Harris and councilman Shea Flinn amended the measure Tuesday to include sexual orientation in the list. That amendment was approved 7-5, but council members later voted to delay their final vote after the city attorney and the council’s attorney raised questions about the legality of the amendment and whether it would require a referendum.
Council attorney Allan Wade and City Atty. Herman Morris said Harris’ proposed ordinance could face legal challenges for overstepping the charter, which bans discrimination on “religion, race, sex, creed or political affiliation.”
“On the face of it, it would be an expansion of our charter and would require a charter amendment,” said Wade. “You pass this tonight and there will be a group of citizens that says, ‘This is something we should speak on,’ and we will be sued. There’s no doubt about that.”
Memphis City Councilman Lee Harris is pushing passage of a city ordinance that, as it stands, would declare the city cannot discriminate in hiring on the basis of race, age or gender, which is not very controversial. But Jackson Baker reports he’s also proposing an amendment that would add “sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.”
...And that’s where some resistance could arise, both on the Council and in the city. Harris said Sunday night he thought most of the organized opposition in the city — “90 percent” — emanates from Cordova and specifically from Bellevue Baptist Church, where pastor Steve Gaines and church members have mounted a campaign against the ordinance.
As for the population at large,l Harris doesn’t foresee much objection to the inclusion of the sexual categories, loosely characterized by the initials LGBT (for “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered/transsexual”). “We wouldn’t be doing anything radical. We wouldn’t even be moving ahead much. We’d just be catching up,” said Harris, who said most major American cities have already moved to extend workplace protection to people in those categories.
Nor does Harris believe such an ordinance would be in conflict with legislation passed by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2011 that prohibits local jurisdictions from passing anti-discrimination provisions at variance with those ordained by state law. Harris, who consulted legal authorities in and out of city government, said he was assured that, so long as his ordinance confined itself to municipal government and did not apply to “third party”employers, it would pass muster.
But Harris said his decision on whether to include the sexual categories in his anti-discrimination ordinance will be based solely on a simple practical test: “Do we have the votes? That’s it, pure and simple.” The ordinance will need 7 of the Council’s 13 votes to prevail.
And Harris was explicit on the subject. There are five Council members who would definitely support the more inclusive version of the ordinance, Harris said…Two other Council members — Wanda Halbert and Ed Ford — Harris counts as undecided, the swing voters on the issue.
In a question-and-answer session with the Cookeville Herald-Citizen, Gov. Bill Haslam raises the possibility – well, kinda, sorta, a little bit , maybe — of doing something to help the homeless at the state level and changing anti-discrimination laws to the benefit of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender persons.
On homelessness: “Most of that is being addressed by local governments, which is the right place. As a state, we are trying to look, are there things that we might do to help them.”
Responding to the question (sent to the newspaper by a reader), “Would you support changing Tennessee’s anti-discrimination policy to include protections for LGBT Tennesseans?” “I guess it depends on exactly what they mean in terms of changes in what way. Again as governor one of my responsibilities is to make sure that no one is discriminated against or subject to any kind of abuse because of that. Again it all depends on changing the laws to say what?”
On cruelty to animals and recent reports on the “soring” of Tennessee walking horses:
” I think from a state standpoint, a couple things, number one, we certainly don’t condone animal abuse of any kind period. In that case, we support animal enforcement, the horse protection act that was passed. The enforcement for that particular industry comes from the USDA, federal law enforcement comes from them.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Senate panel has rejected efforts to roll back a bill barring local governments from enacting stricter anti-discrimination standards than those held by the state.
The State and Local Government committee on Tuesday voted 6-2 against the bill sponsored by Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis.
Gov. Bill Haslam last year signed into law a measure voiding a Nashville ordinance that barred companies that discriminate against gays and lesbians from doing business with the city.
Several large employers opposed the law, including FedEx, AT&T, Whirlpool, Comcast and Nissan.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville said his understanding of the state constitution is that nothing prevents the Legislature from setting guidelines for local governments.
Kyle responded that it wasn’t constitutional question, but one of stopping “bad policy.”
Jeff Woods has been “dipping his beak” into the pile of correspondence released by three Republican state legislators in connection with a lawsuit challenging a bill that repeals a Nashville anti-discrimination ordinance.
He highlights an email to Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet, from David Fowler, lobbyists for the Family Action Council of Tennessee. Fowler shockingly treats Beavers like a puppet on a string (does the Christian fundamentalist lobby really hold such power in Nashville?) and instructs her precisely what to say about the Tennessee Family Action Council’s bill. He obviously views Beavers as not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, but useful just the same as his bill’s sponsor.
“The bill itself is not that complicated,” Fowler writes. “We don’t need more regulation of business and business sure doesn’t need the 348 different cities coming up with their own ideas of what a discriminatory practice is. That’s the line and you just repeat it like Glen Casada did last night when the bill passed the House 73 to 24.”
“Will the homosexuals be upset?” Fowler then asks. “Sure. But to be honest, they seem to be rather resigned on this bill.”
…. It’s not clear whether any of this will help the plaintiffs in the gay rights lawsuit. They need to prove that lawmakers adopted their law, not for their stated purpose of preventing burdensome new business regulations, but because of bias against gay people.
Fowler’s email can be read either way. The bill stops confusing business regulations–“that’s the line” he wants Beavers to recite. It’s certainly Fowler’s script. It may (or may not) be subterfuge.
The emails in Beavers’ file show a lot of people obsessed with gay bashing, but there’s no smoking gun.
A Nashville judge is considering whether to order a conservative lobbying group to turn over records of a secret strategy session that preceded the Legislature’s vote to overturn a Nashville anti-discrimination ordinance, the Tennessean reports. Attorney Abby Rubenfeld, who represents a coalition of council members, gay rights activists and others suing the state, said the lawsuit seeks to prove the law “was based on a desire to harm a politically unpopular group.”
Among other things, the plaintiffs are interested in records of a private strategy session in January attended by state representatives Glen Casada and Jim Gotto and a few dozen other conservatives, including Family Action Council of Tennessee leaders like businessmen Lee Beaman, Stan Hardaway and William Morgan.
Morgan wrote in an invitation to the strategy meeting that requiring all businesses in Davidson County to adopt similar nondiscrimination policies would be “the next item on the homosexual agenda if this (contractor ordinance) passes.”
“We want their communications with state legislators,” Rubenfeld said. “You can’t have government secrecy. That’s against everything this country stands for. We have transparency. We’re supposed to know what our legislators do.”
But Byron Babione, an attorney with the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing the Family Action Council, said the group’s communications are protected by the First Amendment.
“My clients make no apologies for being involved in the political process,” Babione said. “They have a right to petition their government. … The communications my clients had with fellow Tennesseans, with legislators, aren’t relevant to how the entire legislature voted. Our position is that our political opponents are not entitled to our playbook.”
The Family Action Council asked the court to quash the plaintiffs’ subpoenas of its officials. Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy said she would take the issue under advisement.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Lawmakers trying to quash subpoenas seeking information that might reveal details about why they voted for a measure that overturned Nashville’s anti-discrimination ordinance have released 2,200 documents, but plaintiffs’ attorneys said Monday they aren’t satisfied.
Counsel for Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet and Reps. Jim Gotto of Hermitage and Glen Casada of Franklin told Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy that their Republican clients don’t have any more documents to provide.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys are looking for communication the lawmakers may have had with lobbyists. The measure was signed into law earlier this year and has been adamantly opposed by several large companies.
The law prohibits local governments from creating anti-discrimination regulations that are stricter than the state’s. It repealed a Nashville city ordinance barring companies that discriminate against gays and lesbians from doing business with the city. Nashville’s ordinance was broader than the state’s anti-discrimination laws, which cover only race, creed, color, religion, sex, age or national origin.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include three Nashville councilmembers who supported the ordinance and Lisa Howe, a former Belmont University soccer coach whose departure from the private Christian university led to the city’s ordinance that passed in April. Players at Belmont said Howe was forced to leave because she came out to them with the news that her partner was having a baby.
Plaintiff attorney Abby Rubenfeld told reporters after Monday’s hearing that only about 10 documents are relevant to the case. She said the rest are mostly letters from constituents.
“We’re not trying to get their internal communications,” Rubenfeld said. “We want their communication as state legislators. They don’t have a right to lobby in secret.”
Bredesen’s Vanguard Pay Revealed
From The City Paper:
Wondering what former Gov. Phil Bredesen will receive for his service on the board of hospital chain Vanguard Health Systems? (Prevopis post HERE.) So were we — and then Vanguard told us in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Per the plan the board adopted last month, Bredesen will get a $100,000 annual retainer, $20,000 every 12 months as a member of Vanguard’s audit and governance committee and another $150,000 in restricted shares each year. On the Anonymous Mailer Matter
From Georgiana Vines, who checked out one rumor about a mystery campaign tactic and got a denial: The anonymous, anti-mayoral candidate Madeline Rogero fliers that have been distributed in newspaper boxes twice this fall are typical of many heated campaigns in the past in Knoxville. No one wants to admit to anonymity or why would they be anonymous? Whiskey Barrel Tax Discussed
A push is under way to create an unprecedented local barrel tax on Jack Daniel’s whiskey so the cash-strapped Moore County government can balance its budget and accommodate the ever-growing crush of tourists, reports the Tennessean. (Previous post HERE.) GOP Advancing in Other Legislatures
Stateline has a story on Republicans moving to take control of still more Southern state legislatures in the 2012 elections. The lead is on Mississippi, where House Democrats “were spared (in 2010) because the legislature’s seats were not on the ballot.” But with legislative elections now a month away, Republicans have a chance to extend their newfound power this year not only in Mississippi but also Virginia.
North Carolina could be next. Republicans who took over both chambers of the General Assembly last year hope to complete their sweep in 2012 by taking the governor’s mansion.
Mississippi Democrats know the trend all too well. The state Senate first flipped to Republican control a decade ago, and it remains in GOP hands today. One of the country’s foremost Republican strategists, Haley Barbour, sits in the governor’s mansion. During Barbour’s eight years in office, he has helped the GOP flourish. Meanwhile, a 2004 limiting the size of jury awards has deprived Democrats of the donations from trial lawyers that once fueled the party operation. Democrats have feuded internally and struggled to give voters a clear message of what their party stood for.
‘Gay Bias Bill’; Revisited
A Gail Kerr column begins thusly: State Rep. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, has little or no chance of getting a state law overturned that wiped out Nashville’s right to ban discrimination against gays. But she’s still doing the right thing by bringing it back up. An Angry A C?
Otis Sanford says in a column that recently reelected Memphis Mayor A C Wharton is “seething over the fact that the municipal unions put their support behind a candidate — former city councilman Edmund Ford Sr. — who clearly was not qualified to be mayor of Memphis.” “This may seem a bit arrogant and condescending,” Wharton told me in an interview last week. But the backing that Ford received from leaders of the police, firefighters and sanitation unions was a joke. And had Ford won, it would have been a national embarrassment for Memphis
.UT in on Bee Money
AMHERST, Mass. (AP) — Researchers in five eastern U.S. states are getting federal support to study the decline in native bee populations.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s $3.3 million grant is intended to help researchers find ways to maintain a diverse community of wild bees. They’re needed to keep pollinating apples, low-bush blueberries, pumpkins and other important crops.
The USDA awarded the grant to a University of Massachusetts-Amherst researcher last week.
She will work with more than a dozen scientists at the University of Maine; Cornell University in New York; the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station; and the University of Tennessee.
Researchers plan to study how the bees’ diversity is affected by factors such as landscapes, farm size and pesticide use. They will also study whether the bees are vulnerable to certain pathogens and parasites