Tennessee Democratic Chairman Roy Herron today called for removing the Democratic party from a bill by Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, that would have the party causes of the state Legislature nominate candidates for the U.S. Senate starting after the 2014 elections.
Here’s the text of Herron’s opening remarks at a news conference: Democrats believe that the People should pick the Politicians, instead of the Politicians picking each other. But now the Radical Republicans want to steal the People’s right to vote to nominate our United States Senators.
The Republicans already have made it harder for People to vote by:
*new restrictions requiring big government ID cards
*cutting back days to early vote
*cut back voting locations
*purging law-abiding citizens from voting rolls (e.g., Rep. Lincoln Davis and Rep. Butch Borchert’s wife)
*even doing away with paper verification so you don’t know if your vote is counted.
Now they don’t want Tennesseans to vote at all, even in nominating our most important representatives in Washington, our U.S. Senators.
Once again, the Reactionary and Radical Republicans want to take us back a couple of centuries, to the 1800s when the legislature picked our senators until corruption and the people finally ended the practice by Constitutional Amendment in 1913. In fact, Tennessee ratified the 17th Amendment 100 years ago today on April 1st, 1913.
Now we know what Republicans mean when they claim to be for smaller government: they want to take the People out of elections and let a small number of Republican politicians grab the power.
On behalf of the Tennessee Democratic Party, I call on the General Assembly to take the Democratic Party out of this bill. Tennessee Democrats do not want to be part of this April Fool’s Joke on the People of Tennessee.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker wants an end to what he calls a “massive ‘bed tax’ gimmick” that he says states use to “bilk the federal government” to fund their Medicaid programs, reports Andy Sher. But critics warn the move would wreck programs in Tennessee and many of the other 46 states that use health-provider taxes to draw federal matching dollars for indigent care.
Tennessee’s taxes on nursing homes and health maintenance organizations and a 4.53 percent assessment on hospitals’ net patient revenues raise $837.8 million for TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program.
Under the 65 percent federal matching formula, that money draws down an estimated $1.55 billion to help fund TennCare. The program provides health care to an estimated 1.2 million low-income children, pregnant women and disabled Tennesseans.
…Corker spokeswoman Laura Herzog said in an email that as former Tennessee finance commissioner, “Sen. Corker understands why states and hospitals like this tax, especially given rising costs and the Medicaid expansion in the new health care law.”
But she said “the bed tax scheme adds to the federal government’s fiscal problems and is something both parties agree is poor public policy.”
States rely on the taxes because Medicaid is a “broken system,” she said. Corker’s plan would phase out bed taxes over 10 years and give states “more flexibility to manage their Medicaid programs, saving them and the federal government more money,” she said.
…Ending provider taxes “would clearly have such a devastating effect on TennCare,” said Gordon Bonnyman, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, a public interest law and advocacy group.
…Tennessee Hospital Association President Craig Becker flinched at Corker’s use of the word “gimmick” for the 4.52 percent assessment on hospitals’ net patient revenues.
“I think the senator was a little harsh in his use of words,” Becker said. “I don’t think it’s a sham. I think it is a way of keeping the state whole and keeping … services for the citizens of Tennessee. I know of no other way to do it.”
Rep. Mike Turner of Old Hickory is the current House Democratic Caucus chairman, but Rep. Johnny Shaw of Bolivar in West Tennessee is challenging him in a caucus election later today. WPLN says Shaw believes Turner can be too quick to insult Republicans, who now hold a two-thirds super majority in the House. “You understand that if a guy got a gun on you, why you going to cuss him out? That’s kind of an elementary phrase, but we’ve got to find a way to work with people even if they disagree with us and even if we don’t get what we want.”
Shaw says the party also needs to come up with a strategy to start winning more seats than are being lost. He says the candidate recruiting process for the 2014 elections should already be underway.
Shaw says he believes he has support from most of the House Black Caucus. While that includes half the Democrats in the chamber, Rep. Turner still says he has the votes to retain his chairmanship.
Democrat Eric Stewart charged Friday that U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., is showing “complete disregard” to citizens in the 4th Congressional District by refusing to debate him while presiding over a mostly empty U.S. House in Washington, D.C.
In a news release, Stewart describes the congressman’s tenure at the podium as a “power-trip of having a gavel for one day and slamming it down and preventing his colleagues from talking.”
Further from Andy Sher: He said DesJarlais, who is from Jasper, Tenn., went to Washington “because he doesn’t want to listen to the concerns from people in his district that are not happy about his votes to raise the Social Security retirement age to 70 and his votes against giving our military a pay raise.”
DesJarlais was on a flight out of Washington late Friday afternoon and unavailable for comment.
But in a column this week, DesJarlais said the House session keeps President Barack Obama from making recess appointments without congressional consent.
He created a stir Friday during the session when he silenced two Democratic House members who wanted to complain about a “do-nothing Congress” and inaction on a major farm bill, The National Journal reported.
Presiding over the session, DesJarlais slammed his gavel, a sign to shut off the C-SPAN signal. That prompted protests from Democrats and shouts about the nation’s “fiscal cliff” and the farm bill, the publication reported.
According to The National Journal, DesJarlais walked off, leaving Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas, shouting about the fiscal cliff and the farm bill.
“We’re about to go over a cliff. We need to stay in session,” Cummings said from the floor. “Mr. Speaker, please don’t leave. Don’t leave, Mr. Speaker.”
In response to DesJarlais’ actions, Stewart said, “today we learned that it’s not just voters in the district, he won’t even listen to his colleagues in Congress that wanted to speak about the issues facing our farmers.”
…The House is out until after the Nov. 6 election, but members can hold a session at which no formal business is conducted.
DesJarlais said in a statement that, if the two Democrats “were really serious about working on these issues,” they should contact Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid “and ask them to return to Washington to consider the 30 House-passed jobs bills languishing in the Senate rather than engage in political theater.”
— Note: An Eric Stewart press release that touches on the matter is below.
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — The NAACP in Chattanooga is helping lead a statewide effort to recruit black ministers to get out the vote.
Joe Rowe, vice president of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County NAACP, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that nearly two-dozen ministers from different denominations already are involved (http://bit.ly/y8JXwF). From now until the presidential election in November, the ministers will organize marches, host voter registration drives and offer transportation to the polls.
The Rev. Jeffrey Wilson, pastor of Chattanooga’s New United Missionary Baptist Church, said, “We want to send out notice to the elected officials and the powers that be. We want to let them know that we are concerned, we vote and we care about what’s going on in this community.”
The NAACP effort was prompted by concerns that a new requirement for voters to show photo identification at the polls could disenfranchise thousands.
Republicans sponsored Tennessee’s voter ID law, saying it would combat voter fraud. But many Democrats say the law will discourage voters who tend to vote for their candidates, such as the poor, minorities and students.
Most forms of state or federally issued identification are acceptable at the polls. The state estimates that about 126,000 registered voters in Tennessee could be affected. About 15,000 people have received government IDs for voting since the law was approved last year. It went into effect in January.
In all, 15 states are expected to have photo ID laws in place by the November elections, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and NAACP chapters across the nation are involved in the get-out-the-vote effort.
The theme of the campaign is “Still in Crisis,” a reference to the civil rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s.
And the Rev. Kenneth Love, pastor of St. Paul AME Church and executive director of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, said that just as ministers led marches for voting rights in the 1960s, they are leading the fight to maintain those rights in 2012.
Statement distributed to media via email today from Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville:
“I will not be a candidate for Congress in 2012. I plan on running for re-election to the State Senate.”
“I am excited about the new 14th State Senate District. I am honored to continue to represent the constituents of Rutherford, Bedford, and Moore Counties and I look forward to having the opportunity to represent new constituents in Lincoln and Marshall Counties. I am committed to continuing my work on state issues to make Tennessee a better place to work and live, especially in the areas of job creation, education and transportation.”
“In making this decision, I do want to thank those who have called or sent notes regarding the congressional district. I am very thankful and humbled for the tremendous support I have received throughout Middle Tennessee both in 2010 and now.”