Tag Archives: partisan

Reps. Hardaway vs. Todd in ‘a near tussle’

State Reps. G.A. Hardaway and Curry Todd got involved in “what looked like a near tussle” on the House floor Thursday before others stepped in to separate them, reports WKRN-TV, which caught some of the doings on camera.

The squabble began while Rep. Joe Towns, D-Memphis, was speaking on a bill that will make it more difficult to change the names of monuments of historic figures or remove them. (Note: It passed. Previous post HERE.)

Todd, a Collierville Republican, had moments earlier made a motion to shut off debate than failed by a few votes. Hardaway, a Memphis Democrat, approached Todd and a confrontation ensued. Secretary of State Tre Hargett, state Rep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston, and Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, all appear on the video to be trying to separate the two men.

Secretary of State Hargett declined comment, according to WKRN, while a spokesperson for Todd says it was it was just a discussion, no argument.

Further from Jeff Woods:

“Two gentlemen were having a passionate discussion,” was about all Hardaway would say about it a few minutes ago, although he did deny calling Todd “a racist sonuvabitch” as House staffers have reported it to Pith.

“I would not have called him that,” Hardaway said, laughing.

…According to staffers in the chamber at the time, Hardaway went to Todd and told him the debate wasn’t finished, and Todd told Hardaway to go back where he belonged or words to that effect—at which point chaos ensued. There was lots of finger pointing and shouting.

Reporters at the front of the chamber heard the commotion but couldn’t tell what was happening.

Legislative offices are debating who would have won the fight, and the smart money’s on Hardaway who looks stout.

“I saw the fear in Todd’s eyes,” said Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Nashville.

Rep. Eddie Smith promoted by Republicans, bashed by Democrats

Georgiana Vines has sort of an update on the doings of state Rep. Eddie Smith, R-Knoxville, who has been appointed deputy Republican whip by House Republican Whip Jeremy Durham of Franklin while being criticized by Democratic party press releases.

The deputy whip position means Smith will help count and line up votes on GOP-sponsored legislation.

That might include some that Republican Gov. Bill Haslam opposes although Smith said he wants to work with both the governor and the GOP caucus.

…. Durham said in a release that Smith has become an “extremely valuable asset” to the caucus.

“This new role will help Eddie demonstrate his leadership qualities to a broader audience and allow him to play a key role in passing priority legislation,” he said.

Durham is sponsor of a bill to outlaw health care exchanges contingent on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in King v. Burwell. Such exchanges are allowed under the federal Affordable Health Care Act. Haslam, who opposes this bill, sought to have an Insure Tennessee health insurance plan approved in a special session last month but a Senate committee killed it. (Note: Durham adamantly opposed Insure Tennessee, too.)

…Smith said the health care issue is complex. He had a bill working that would have sought a block grant for Medicaid to cover more people under TennCare without additional money but he pulled it “off notice” because he didn’t think it would get the due diligence it should, Smith said.

Smith defeated Democrat Gloria Johnson in the November election in a race in which they took opposite sides on a number of issues, particularly in education. Democrats, including Johnson, a special education teacher in Knox County, criticized Smith on Tuesday for supporting a limited voucher bill sponsored by Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville.

… “I believe in parent choice,” Smith said.

Note: See also post on voucher lobby spending on races involving members of the House committee that considers vouchers – notably including Smith’s contest.

Jim Cooper: GOP ‘crazy stuff’ will save Democrats

Excerpt from a Tennessean story on U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper’s unhappiness with defeat of Gov. Bill Haslam’s leadership abilities and Republican legislators’ killing his Insure Tennessee proposal — the sort of thing the congressman thinks might mean hope for the state Democrats down the road.

(H)e thinks the GOP running to the right will save the Democrats — “Not just to the right, but crazy stuff, embarrassing stuff,” he added. He calls it overreaching by Republicans: the conservative wing of the party highjacks the moderate agenda, irking Republicans who are closer to the political middle than the fringe.

“It’s like we used to hear a lot 20, 30 years ago, what (President Ronald) Reagan used to say: ‘Well, I used to be a Democrat but the party left me.’ Now a lot of people are saying, ‘I used to be a Republican but the party left me,'” Cooper said.

“I don’t want to disclose any confidences, but some of the most important Republicans in the state are feeling that way right now, and that’s a significant sea change. It’ll take a while for it to be felt, but it’s having a big difference.”

Republicans are pretty confident with their current footing in Tennessee politics, so Cooper might have to wait a while to see that difference come to fruition.

But he could still be in office if (or when, he hopes) that happens. Cooper’s running for re-election in 2016, and said he’ll continue to serve as long the voters will have him.

Alexander collaborates with Democrat Schumer to accomplish something in Senate

For two days last week, Democrats and Republicans allowed the U.S. Senate to work exactly the way it should and “given the hyper-partisanship that too often causes the chamber to grind to a hal,” that’s news, says Michael Collins.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander had a big hand in making it happen.

Attempting to end the dysfunction that at times has paralyzed the chamber, Alexander, R-Tenn., and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, persuaded their party leaders to let the Senate return to its normal practice of lawmaking, where Democrats and Republicans are given equal time to debate legislation and equal opportunity to file amendments.

It’s the way things are supposed to be done, but seldom are.

“I think it’s a modest step toward the kind of Senate I would like to serve in, and I think most Americans would like to see,” Alexander said. “We are here to debate and deal with contentious issues. But we’re also here to get a result.”

The back-to-bipartisanship approach was tried out on just one piece of legislation, a bill to reauthorize a $5.3 billion program providing block grants to states to help families pay for after-school and child-care programs. Two years in the making, the bill passed Thursday on a 97-1 vote after two days of debate.

Given the success of the experiment, the lawmakers are hoping in a few weeks to take the same approach on other bipartisan bills, such as sentencing reform, manufacturing and energy efficiency.

“There’s a yearning on both sides of the aisle amongst the majority of members—not all—to legislate again,” Schumer said. “That’s what we’re supposed to do.”

Alexander, who stepped down from a GOP leadership position in 2011 saying he wanted to help move the chamber beyond divisive partisanship, concurred.

“We’re supposed to debate and, where we can agree, solve problems,” he said. “And when we can’t agree, we should go on to the next thing. Sen. Schumer understands that, and I do, too. And I think a growing number of senators welcome that kind of attitude.”

TN GOP’s ‘Red to the Roots’ Program Targets Local Offices

With state-level elective offices firmly in its control, the state Republican Party is now ready to move on to local-level offices with a new “Red to the Roots” program, says Tennessee Republican Chairman Chris Devaney.
The idea is to encourage county Republican parties to designate nominees for city and county elective offices where they can. Currently, most cities and counties have nonpartisan elections for local office, though state law generally allows county parties to designate party nominees if they wish — exceptions including cases in which a city or county charter specifies bipartisan elections.
“We’ve had a lot of success with our state-level candidates,” Devaney said, referring to the GOP supermajority in the Legislature and Republicans holding the governor’s office, both U.S. Senate seats and seven of nine U.S. House seats. “Now, we’re ready to look at the local offices — county mayors, sheriffs and maybe a few judgeships.”
“These are places where Democrats still have a hold,” he said. “It’s their bench” for candidates who could in the future seek a state-level office. With local-level partisan campaigns he said, “We can build our bench.”

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Democrats Highlight Republican Legislator Infighting

Democrats said Monday that the chaotic final days of the legislative session highlighted fractures among Republican lawmakers that sank many of the GOP’s biggest initiatives for the year, reports Chas Sisk..
As legislators sprinted to finish last week before a self-imposed deadline, they stumbled over bills that would have given the State Board of Education the authority to approve applications for school charters and a plan to redraw Tennessee’s legislative districts. They also couldn’t come together on a plan to offer school vouchers and a proposal to let charter schools contract with for-profit operators.
…Democrats have spent much of the session portraying Republicans as more radical than Tennesseans bargained for.
“It seemed to be tilted toward the wealthy,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville. “Public policy should be about what’s best for most people.”
The final days of the session let Democrats open a new line of attack — infighting.
As lawmakers neared their planned adjournment time Friday, the state House of Representatives resoundingly defeated a proposal pushed by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, to eliminate two judicial districts and redraw the boundaries of six districts. The Senate responded by sending charter authorizer legislation championed by Ramsey’s counterpart, House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, back to committee.
Democrats cheered the result of that dispute and used it to suggest Republicans had tripped themselves up.
“This legislation will be right back,” said state Rep. Brenda Gilmore, the Nashville Democrat who leads the legislature’s Davidson County caucus.
Republicans acknowledged some of the differences last week, though they said those should not distract Tennesseans from their achievements.
“If there’s not a little tension between the House and the administrative branch, then we’re probably not doing our jobs,” said House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga.
“We don’t always just fall in together and work off the same page. That’s just the way government works, and it ought to work that way.” he said
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Supermajority Controlling ‘Little People’s Republic’ Local Government

Concerned with the prospect of a local government setting up what one leader called a “little people’s republic,” the Legislature’s Republican supermajority is moving on several fronts to assert state authority over cities and counties.
Some Democrats and local government officials decry the trend as an assault on local control and incongruous with Republican criticisms of the federal government for dictating to state governments.
“The level of contempt that this Republican majority has for local governments and working people is simply disgusting,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Old Hickory.
Turner’s remarks came after House approval Thursday of a bill (HB501) that declares local governments cannot put conditions on their contracts with businesses that require the businesses to pay more than minimum wages set by state or federal law, provide insurance or family leave. It also prohibits local governments from enforcing any ordinance on “wage theft,” wherein a company fails to live up to promises to pay a given wage or provide benefits.
The bill was approved 66-27 on a mostly party-line vote — Republicans for it, Democrats against — after a sometimes heated debate. House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, may have best summed up the GOP view of such legislation.

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Bill To Authorize Partisan School Board Elections Dead

State legislation that would give local governments the power to create partisan school board elections is dead, reports the News Sentinel.
Sen. Becky Massey and state Rep. Bill Dunn, both Knoxville Republicans, confirmed Thursday that because the Knox County Commission tabled a resolution to support the proposal, they will not present the bill (HB420), which they sponsored, before committee.
“I think the plan is that maybe (the commission) will look a little more into it over the next several months, but I’m not going to do anything with the bill,” said Massey.
The senator added that she and Dunn initially agreed to push the bill if the commission “had strong feelings,” but that doesn’t appear to be the case.
Officials with the Knox County Board of Education said state lawmakers and the commission did the right thing.
“I’m glad everyone is taking a common sense approach to this,” school board member Indya Kincannon said. “We don’t need more partisanship. We have plenty of issues and challenges that we’re facing in our community and schools.”
School board Vice Chairwoman Lynne Fugate agreed.
“I’m not sure how partisanship would actually improve education for the children in Tennessee,” she said. “Without it . . . helps keep the focus on education and not on politics.”
…After Commissioner Mike Hammond argued last Monday that he wanted public hearings before approving a resolution expressing support of partisan school board races, the commission tabled the matter in a 6-5 vote.
Later, Hammond acknowledged that the board would probably not discuss it further until the state takes action.
But, the General Assembly wants to adjourn by April 19. And the only way for the commission to revisit the proposal within 90 days is if someone on the prevailing side wants to bring it back, and only if the official gets two-thirds support to do so from the 11-member commission.

Bill Seeks Partisan School Board Elections

School board elections could become partisan contests under legislation filed by two Knoxville legislators who say they were acting at the behest of Knox County commissioners.
Current state law calls for nonpartisan school board elections. The bill (HB420) filed by Rep. Bill Dunn and Sen. Becky Massey, both Knoxville Republicans, authorizes county commissions to convert to partisan elections instead by a two-thirds majority vote.
Dunn said the idea was initially proposed by Commissioner Larry Smith in a conversation at a recent Knox County Republican meeting and was subsequently endorsed by Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett. Massey said “a number of other constituents” had also supported the idea.
Both legislators said they also support partisan elections for school board members, though Massey said she does not plan to push forward with the bill unless the Knox County Commission passes a resolution of support.
“I personally like partisan elections,” she said in an interview. “It gives the voters a base to know a candidate’s core philosophy.”
Dunn voiced similar sentiments.
“It gives people more information,” he said. “It gives them kind of an idea what a person’s philosophy would be, whether more liberal or more conservative.”
Those who do not wish to be categorized as a Republican or Democrat, Dunn noted, can still run as an Independent.
Dunn and Massey both said the measure was not aimed at anyone now serving on a school board.

Judicial Redistricting Talk Raises Political Fears

Republican lawmakers are planning to redraw the map of Tennessee’s court system, raising fears of gerrymandering and politicization ahead of major judicial elections next year, according to The Tennessean.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and other top Republicans in the state Senate are launching an effort to cut some of Tennessee’s 31 judicial districts and realign those that remain, in what would be the first redistricting effort since 1984.
Redistricting could shift the balance on Tennessee’s courts, which Republicans have long complained are too liberal. The effort comes as judges, prosecutors and public defenders across Tennessee prepare to run for new eight-year terms.
“I hope it’s not politics,” said state Sen. Lowe Finney of Jackson, the Senate Democratic Caucus chairman. “The speaker (Ramsey) says he has good reasons for proposing this, and in the next few weeks, I guess we’ll find out what those are.”
Ramsey and other supporters of redistricting say the state’s judicial map is outdated and already riddled with political inconsistencies. A study of caseloads released Tuesday by the state comptroller estimated that Tennessee has between six and seven too many judges, but 14 districts, including Davidson County, have too few.
Proponents say a new plan could save taxpayer money and rationalize the system by combining communities with similar needs into the same districts.
But many in the judicial branch say Ramsey’s initial proposal, circulated in the fall, made little practical sense. The shakeup would smash relationships forged among court officers, lawyers and police agencies through decades of working together, they say.
“The questions are, what are we trying to accomplish and how does this plan go about trying to accomplish that?” said Allan Ramsaur, executive director of the Tennessee Bar Association.