Tag Archives: other states

TN voter turnout lowest in nation (almost) in 2014

Only Texas had a lower voter turnout rate than Tennessee in 2014 elections, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts review of statistics from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Tennessee turnout was 28.56 percent, the study says. In Texas, it was 28.34 percent. The turnout list is topped by Maine at 59 percent.

The state fared better in an overview rating of the election process, coming in 34th in what Pew calls “an elections performance index.” The EPI list is topped by North Dakota.

The study has state-by-state listings of performance in different areas. The Tennessee listing is HERE.

The report doesn’t cover 2016 elections. The state had a record turnout in the March 1 presidential primary, but the turnout in the Aug. 4 primaries and local elections was well below the 2014 level.

Overbey to chair Southern Legislative Conference panel

News release via Senate Republican Caucus
Lexington, KY — State Senator Doug Overbey (R-Maryville) has been elected Chairman of the Southern Legislative Conference’s (SLC) Human Services and Public Safety Committee. The election was held during the group’s annual meeting in Lexington, Kentucky attended by delegates, legislative staff and guests.

“Senator Overbey has tremendous knowledge and experience in mental health and human services which will be of great benefit to his fellow legislators and this organization,” said Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), who served as Chairman of the national Council of State Governments (CSG), the parent organization of SLC in 2014. “His election reflects favorably upon the State of Tennessee. We are fortunate to have him as one of our members in the Tennessee Senate, and I continue to appreciate his service to the State of Tennessee and to the Southern Legislative Conference.”

The Human Services & Public Safety Committee has a broad agenda which most typically addresses the challenges states face in the areas of human services and corrections, and policies and programs utilized to meet them. The Committee has undertaken assessments of Medicaid and reform; nursing shortages; long-term healthcare; and such corrections issues as criminal justice DNA statutes; the aging inmate population; female offenders; mental health parity in prisons, and prison staffing patterns in Southern states.

Senator Overbey, who has served on the Health Committees in both the House of Representatives and Senate in Tennessee, is Vice-Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, while serving as Chairman of the Ethics Committee. He previously served as Vice-Chairman of SLC’s Human Services and Public Safety Committee.

“I’m looking forward to this new challenge and working with legislators across the Southeastern states to address the health and public safety concerns we have in common,” Overbey concluded.

Haslam, other GOP govs, talk with Trump

Gov. Bill Haslam, who at times has been critical of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, joined five other Republican governors Tuesday to meet with him in New York, according to various media reports.

From the Times Free Press:

“Gov. Haslam joined several other governors in New York [Tuesday] to meet with Mr. Trump and discuss state and federal issues,” Haslam Press Secretary Jennifer Donnals said in a statement, later declining to elaborate.

Haslam, a former chairman of the Republican Governors Association, endorsed U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida in Tennessee’s March 1 GOP primary. He has yet to endorse Trump, billionaire and former TV reality star. But the governor has also said in the past he did want to have a meeting with Trump to discuss state and federal relationships in areas like health care as well as other matters.

That happened in the expected nominee’s self-named Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Haslam has been critical or voiced concerns about some of Trump’s more controversial statements on several occasions. Just last week, he did so again, describing as “indefensible” comments Trump made regarding Gonzalo Curiel, the federal judge presiding over a case involving Trump University.

Note: While Haslam has kept quiet about the meeting, some of the other governors have had more to say. A couple of samples below. Continue reading

Alabama House speaker guilty on 12 corruption counts

By Kim Chandler, Associated Press
OPELIKA, Ala. — Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s conviction on ethics charges automatically removes him from office and could mean years in prison for the powerful Republican.

Friday night, a jury found the one-time GOP star guilty of 12 counts of public corruption for using the influence and prestige of his political stature to benefit his companies and clients. He faces up to 20 years in prison for each count.

The jury, which arrived at the verdict after nearly seven hours of deliberation, acquitted Hubbard on 11 other counts.

The conviction comes amid a season of scandal that has engulfed Republicans at the helm of Alabama’s legislative, judicial and executive branches of government. Chief Justice Roy Moore faces possible ouster from office over accusations that he violated canons of judicial ethics during the fight over same-sex marriage. And Gov. Robert Bentley has faced calls for his impeachment after a sex-tinged scandal involving a former top aide. Continue reading

Some TN reaction to bathroom lawsuit

From Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee:

“Title VII and Title IX have long prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex, and federal courts and agencies have recognized that this includes protections for transgender people. Like guidance issued by federal agencies for decades, the guidance in question does not change the law, but explains what agencies think existing law requires.

“The Supreme Court has made clear that you cannot sue an agency just because you disagree with the agency’s non-binding guidance. Moreover, because the guidance is nonbinding, this lawsuit appears to be nothing more than politically-motivated.

“But underneath all of the political bluster are real students, young people who should not have to live in fear of punishment or harassment every time they use the restroom like their peers, or be made to feel like second-class citizens merely for being themselves. We will continue to work toward a day when all students in Tennessee are treated fairly under the law.”

From Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville

“On behalf of the Senate Republican Caucus, we are pleased that Tennessee will join with other states in challenging the Obama Administration’s actions regarding the redefinition of the term ‘sex’ in connection with Title VII and Title IX and local education, and state sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment.”

“We remain hopeful that the Attorney General will demonstrate similar resolve regarding enforcement of the Refugee Act, public safety and state sovereignty pursuant to SJR467.”

From Family Action Council of Tennessee

Today the state of Tennessee, through the Tennessee Attorney General’s office, joined a lawsuit filed in Texas by that state and several other states over the Obama administration’s attempt to redefine “sex” in Title IX to mean the “gender” by which people subjectively identify themselves, risking the privacy and safety of our citizens. (Link to complaint HERE.)

We are still reviewing the complaint, but give a hearty “amen” to the following statement in it: “Defendants have conspired to turn workplaces and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over commonsense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights.”
Continue reading

AP story on 11 states (including TN) suing over bathroom directive

By Paul J. Weber, Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas and 10 other states are suing the Obama administration over its directive to U.S. public schools to let transgender students use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.

The lawsuit announced Wednesday includes Oklahoma, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Maine, Arizona, Louisiana, Utah and Georgia. It asks a North Texas federal court to declare the directive unlawful in what ranks among the most coordinated and visible legal challenges by states over the socially divisive issue of bathroom rights for transgender persons.

The Obama administration has “conspired to turn workplace and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over commonsense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights,” the lawsuit reads.

Many of the conservative states involved had previously vowed defiance, calling the guidance a threat to safety while being accused of discrimination by supporters of transgender rights. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has previously said “there is no room in our schools for discrimination.”
Continue reading

Slatery joins Texas lawsuit over transgender bathroom directive

News release from Tennessee attorney general’s office:
Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III today joined Texas and nine other states in filing a lawsuit against the United States Department of Education (DOE) and the Department of Justice (DOJ). This is in direct response to recent actions taken by DOE and DOJ in connection with Title VII and Title IX. In the joint letter referred to as the “Dear Colleague Letter” sent by DOE and DOJ to school districts across the country, DOE and DOJ redefined the term “sex” as a person’s sense of gender identity and placed federal funding at risk for schools whose facilities and programs do not comply with the new definition.

Slatery said, “The Executive Branch has taken what should be a state and local issue [under the Tenth Amendment] and made it a federal issue. Schools that do not conform under the new rules risk losing their federal funding. This is yet another instance of the Executive Branch changing law on a grand scale, which is not its constitutional role. Congress legislates, not the Executive Branch. Our Office has consistently opposed efforts like this to take away states’ rights and exclude the people’s representatives from making these decisions, or at a minimum being able to engage in a notice and comment period under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). As the complaint describes, it is a social experiment implemented by federal departments denying basic privacy rights and placing the burden largely on our children, not adults. Sitting on the sidelines on this issue was not an option.”

In 1964, Congress enacted Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, making it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Eight years later, Congress took it a step further with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, expanding those protections to federally funded education programs.

Slatery added, “Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of “sex” – defined to be a biological category based principally on male or female anatomy. The Administration is incorrectly interpreting Title IX to include self-proclaimed gender identity. By issuing this change as a “guideline,” DOE and DOJ are sidestepping the APA and infringing on a legal territory reserved for the legislature. Tennessee is initiating this lawsuit with the other states to contest the action for all of these reasons.”

Other states joining in the filing are Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Oklahoma, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Regents universities offer some big discounts on out-of-state tuition

For the first time, all six four-year universities in the Tennessee Board of Regents system will offer big discounts in out-of-state tuition to some students this fall, according to WPLN. To get the discounts, students must live within 250 miles of the university and have high ACT scores.

This new rule covers a wide area. Take Tennessee State University: If you put the school in the center of a circle, and draw radius of 250 miles in all directions, you cover as far north as Indianapolis, northwest to St. Louis, east to Asheville, and down to Atlanta.

TSU senior Jordan Gaither is from Atlanta. He and his parents currently pay all his tuition out of pocket. “With me being an out of student, it is definitely a lot,” he says.

But under the new rule, his tuition for the upcoming year will be cut by about $9,000. It’s still not quite as cheap as the in-state rate, but it’s enough to take off a big burden, he says. “I don’t take that for granted at all.”

This kind of 250-mile program first started in 2014 at the University of Memphis. The campus is right on the border, and it already gave in-state tuition to students from neighboring counties, but the school wanted to attract more students from the whole region. Vice-provost Steve McKellips says some students might even stay in Memphis after college.

“This is a major initiative that helps the university, helps the community, helps the workforce development, helps the students — it kind of has a win on all four sides,” he says.

Chattanooga payday loan operator pleads guilty to usury in New York

A used car salesman turned tech entrepreneur who operated an illegal payday lending syndicate from Chattanooga will pay $9 million in fines and restitution, as well as serve 250 hours of community service and three years of probation, after pleading guilty to felony usury in New York.

Further from the Times-Free Press:

Carey Vaughn Brown, 57, admitted to New York prosecutors that he broke the law from 2001 to 2013 by lending millions of dollars — $50 million to New Yorkers in 2012 alone — with interest rates well in excess of the state’s 25 percent annual percentage rate cap.

A Times Free Press investigation in 2011 found that Brown was making loans that, at times, carried an annual interest rate of more than 1,000 percent. Such loans would have also been illegal in Tennessee, though officials at the Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions never took any public action against Brown.

Brown’s admission of guilt came after years of denials, lawsuits against whistleblowers, and attempts to camouflage his profitable web-based payday loan business by disguising it as a network of unrelated shell companies in Chattanooga, which shut down in 2013 after banks refused to do business with him anymore.

Brown declined to comment, citing the terms of his plea agreement.

His companies sported generic names including Terenine, Area 203, ACH Federal and Support Seven, and performed legitimate marketing and technology work for well-known companies and nonprofit organizations such as the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, Focus on the Family and Precept Ministries.

But behind the scenes, the network of businesses operated as a single syndicate to generate high-interest, short-term loans through websites like MyCashNow.com, PayDayMax.com and DiscountAdvances.com.

“It’s a horrible mark on Chattanooga, and it never should have happened,” said Chris Christiansen, the former director of infrastructure architecture and design for Terenine, one of Brown’s now-shuttered shell companies.
Continue reading

Philadelphia mayor bans travel to TN over new counseling law

Tennessee’s controversial new law allowing mental health counselors to turn away LGBT clients has prompted Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney to ban publicly funded, non-essential travel by city workers to the Volunteer State, according to the Times-Free Press.

Meanwhile, a New York state assemblyman state is urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to do the same.

… Philadelphia Mayor Kenney’s order on Monday, first reported by NBC affiliate WCAU-TV, is the first action by a government over the Tennessee legislation, which Gov. Bill Haslam last month signed into law April 27 after fellow Republicans in the General Assembly passed the measure.

Kenney’s order extends his previously issued directive aimed at Mississippi and North Carolina to Tennessee and Oxford, Ala., all of which have enacted measures critics charge negatively impact lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.

In a statement, Kenney said “I am announcing this ban in response to the enactment of legislation that infringes the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in these jurisdictions.”

Kenney said he would “reconsider this ban if the States of North Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee and the city of Oxford, Alabama choose to repeal their discriminatory legislation.”

The mayor’s directive creates an exemption if the travel is deemed “essential to public health and safety.

Philadelphia’s action comes on the heels of last month’s announcement by Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican, who said the new Tennessee law was partially responsible for her decision not to attend this summer’s conference of the nation’s 50 secretaries of state in Nashville.