Opponents of a new Tennessee teacher pay plan are taking their fight to social media and asking for the ouster of Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, reports The Tennessean. Two Facebook pages created just after the State Board of Education approved pay plan changes last week call for Huffman’s firing, and a Change.org petition calling for the same action has more than 800 signatures. The petition appeared to be growing Friday afternoon.
No one stepped up to claim authorship of the Facebook pages after The Tennessean posted interview requests, but one page administrator sent an anonymous message saying he or she did not want to be known.
…The author of the petition is West Tennessee parent Jennifer Proseus, who said she belongs to a group of mothers, fathers and grandparents from across the state who call themselves “Momma Bears.” The petition is addressed to Gov. Bill Haslam and states that he might not get the votes of its signers for a next term.
Haslam, the Republican who appointed Huffman, defended him in a statement, though. It reads, “Kevin has brought an innovative approach to improving education in Tennessee, and we’re seeing results. When you tackle significant change, it isn’t usually easy, but our state has lagged behind in education for far too long. We have to do better than the status quo for our children and our state.”
A group that advocates expanding TennCare to more of the state’s poor delivered a petition and stated its case to an aide to Gov. Bill Haslam on Wednesday, reports The Tennessean. A coalition that includes the Tennessee Nurses Association, Tennessee League of Women Voters, Tennessee Health Care Campaign and the Tennessee Justice Center said it has gathered more than 4,500 signatures for an online petition calling on Haslam to offer TennCare services to everyone making 138 percent of the federal poverty level or less.
The cost would be paid in full by the federal government through 2016 and in large measure until at least 2020.
Haslam put off a decision on TennCare expansion in March, saying he wanted to continue negotiating with the federal government for a plan that would let the state offer private insurance to new enrollees. He has said he expects to know whether those negotiations will pay off by the end of summer.
Don Johnson, Haslam’s assistant director for constituent services, accepted the petition on the governor’s behalf and met with several advocates. They argued that expanding TennCare would help those who currently do not have coverage as well as rural hospitals that face service cuts or closure.
Note: News release below.
People from at least 37 states had filed petitions on the White House’s We the People website by late Tuesday, asking to peacefully withdraw from the U.S. and start their own governments, reports the Tennessean. They began springing up immediately after President Barack Obama won a second term last week. Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday he’d heard about Tennessee’s petition. He’s not a fan.
“I don’t think that’s a valid option for Tennessee,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll be seceding.”
Petitions.whitehouse.gov allows anyone older than age 13 to set up an online petition for the administration’s review. If it gets at least 25,000 virtual signatures in 30 days, someone will respond. The site doesn’t explain how or in what form, and the White House didn’t answer that question late Tuesday, even though Texas and Louisiana’s petitions garnered well over the minimum.
Still, Nooga.com reports the Tennessee petition got more than 25,000 signatures.
And Michael Collins has more Tennessee secession commentary:
“We’re not going to sit on our butts and watch this government go to hell in a hand basket and do nothing about it,” said (Ron) Harwell, who stressed that he was speaking for himself and not the (Roane County) tea party (which he serves as treasurer). Brandon Puttbrese, spokesman for the Tennessee Democratic Party, called the secession petition “radical nonsense” that is “a direct result of the tea party extremism and intolerance we have seen from elected Republicans in Tennessee.”
“Sadly,” Puttbrese said, “this kind of extremism only breeds more of the division and rancor that is prohibiting our leaders from making progress on putting Tennesseans back to work and protecting middle class families.”
But Chris Devaney, chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, noted that nearly 50 percent of Americans voted against Obama. In Tennessee, Obama lost to Republican Mitt Romney by 20 percentage points.
“We can argue whether the petition is proper,” Devaney said, “but it is certainly a signal that it’s time for the president to show some leadership and work to unite America rather than divide us.”
The petition drive is just a way for angry voters to let off steam after a highly emotional and divisive campaign, said John Scheb, head of the political science department at the University of Tennessee.
Not only is secession unlikely, it’s not even legally possible, Scheb said.
Union County Mayor Mike Williams says he was wrongly excluded from running as a Republican for the state Senate and will not be backing any of the four candidates still seeking the GOP nomination in state Senate District 8.
State Republican Chairman Chris Devaney told the state election officials in an April letter that Williams is not considered a “bonafide Republican” and is thus ineligible under state law to run for office under the party banner. The letter said Williams “renounced his affiliation with the Republican party in March 2007.”
In an interview, Williams said that is not correct.
“I never left the Republican party. I never said that. I did say that I was not going to meet with the Senate Republican Caucus. I think I did say that the Republican party had left me,” Williams said.
Williams was elected as a Republican to the Senate seat, which covers six counties of Northeast Tennessee, but ran for reelection in 2008 as an independent. He lost by by about 200 votes to Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill, who is now retiring. Williams had filed a qualifying petition for the Republican primary to succeed him but his petition was rejected after Devaney’s letter.
Williams emailed a copy of his 2007 speech text to a reporter. He said that it was “carefully worded” to leave open a possible return to the party fold.
Gov. Bill Haslam says the views of 3,200 Tennesseans urging him to veto a controversial bill dealing with the teaching of evolution are important, reports Andy Sher, but he emphasized the overwhelming legislative votes are, too. “Sure, one of the things we do is we weigh input of all kinds,” Haslam said when asked about a 3,200-signature petition presented to his office last week of state residents opposed to the recently passed measure.
“It’s also worthy of note it didn’t just barely pass the House and the Senate,” Haslam said. “It passed three to one. … You take that into account as well.”
The Republican governor, who last week said “probably so” when asked if he would sign the measure, has until Tuesday to decide whether he will sign, veto or allow the measure to become law without his signature.
The measure, derided as the “monkey bill” by critics including scientists and science teachers’ groups, was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson.
Watson’s bill protects public school teachers who describe “weaknesses” in evolution, climate change and other theories.
State Rep. Kent Williams, the Legislature’s only political independent after being banished from the Republican party in 2009, has picked up papers from the Carter County Election Commission for qualifying as both an independent and as a Republican in this year’s elections.
The state GOP declared that Williams could not run as a Republican after he joined with House Democrats to elect himself as House speaker. He was replaced as House speaker in 2011 by Beth Harwell after Republicans gained a bigger majority in the 2010 elections.
Williams, who calls himself a “Carter County Republican,” said he is exploring options. But Nickas said Wednesday that the Republican State Executive Committee would have to approve Williams readmission to the party and, “It would be my guess he would find the door still shut.”
The deadline for filing as a candidate for legislative office is April 5.
News release from Tennessee Democratic Party:
NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Democratic Party launched Wednesday an online petition drive opposing Governor Bill Haslam’s proposal to eliminate average class size requirements at public schools. Chairman Chip Forrester released this statement to accompany the petition:
“Parents and teachers know first hand what difference small class sizes make in improving student learning. It’s common sense; the fewer students in a classroom, the more time a teacher can spend with each individual student.
“If our goal is to improve student learning, Governor Haslam’s plan to increase class sizes is the wrong way to go. It’s a bad idea that shortchanges our kids’ future.
“We can’t afford to settle for anything but the best in Tennessee’s classrooms because the countries our kids will be competing with for the jobs of the 21st century — China, Japan, India — aren’t settling either.
“In tough economic times, education is an easy target for cuts, but nothing could be more short-sighted. When parents are stressed at home because they’ve lost a job, children need more strong, effective teachers, not less. When jobs are scarce, there’s no better time for young people to get that degree or for workers who’ve been laid off to go back and re-train.
“It’s time to recommit to our kids, our workers, and our future by making sure Tennessee has the best educated children in the nation.”
The Tennessee Democratic Party will deliver the petition and comments to the governor’s office in the coming days.
Online at: http://tndp.org/blog/take-action/tell-governor-haslam-class-size-matters/
From Matt Lakin:
Outrage over state Sen. Stacey Campfield’s remarks on AIDS could be leading to a recall movement — even though state law won’t recognize any such effort.
About 680 people liked the Recall TN State Senator Campfield page on Facebook by Monday night, about a day after its creation. The page doesn’t list its creator, and even some fans acknowledged in posts they’re organizing in vain.
Tennessee law allows recall votes only for officials at the city and county level. State legislators can be removed only by impeachment.
The page’s fans said they don’t see any harm in spreading the word or in showing their support for the Bistro at the Bijou, whose owner, Martha Boggs, banned Campfield when he showed up for Sunday brunch.
“I’ve been posting nonstop since I heard about the Bistro,” said Gary Elgin, a former director of the Knoxville Pride and Rainbow Community Awareness Project. “He really does need to be recalled if not at least censured. He’s made us a national punchline.”
Meanwhile, others have started an online petition asking Gov. Bill Haslam, President Barack Obama and members of Congress and the Tennessee Legislature to fire Campfield. The petition boasted nearly 1,000 signatures Monday night.
The senator’s detractors said they hope to keep the spirit alive until Campfield faces re-election in 2014.
An online petition created five days ago and signed by more than 13,000 people asks Gov. Bill Haslam to overturn Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood’s decision to throw out the convictions of four people in the 2007 killings of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, reports the News Sentinel. While Channon Christian’s mother Deena Christian didn’t start the petition, she appreciates the support.
“My cousin is the one who started the petition,” she said of Brandon Sterne of Concrete, Wash. “I didn’t ask him to do that. We appreciate all the support we can get. Neither the Christian nor the Newsom families wants to do this over again.”
Dave Smith, spokesman for Gov. Bill Haslam, said Tuesday legal counsel to the governor has opined that Haslam doesn’t have legal authority to overturn Blackwood’s decision.
“The governor has previously said it is a horrific thing having to replay all that,” Smith said.
ROCKWOOD — The man who launched a recall move against the city’s mayor and a council member says the move was sparked by a council vote against rezoning land for a new industry, according to Bob Fowler. “They refused to allow a company to come in here and put jobs in the marketplace in Rockwood,” Stephen Rose said.
Rose said he submitted the proposed petition earlier this month to the Roane County Election Commission for its approval.
The action, he said, is in response to the August vote by City Council that rejected rezoning for LocoDocs Inc., an Illinois firm that had eyed Rockwood for its new headquarters.
Council in a 3-2 decision approved rezoning, but four votes were needed for passage.
The recall petition targets Mayor James Watts and Councilwoman Jane Long and alleges “malfeasance and general failure in duties.” The petition contends the officials failed to “provide proper oversight, guidance and leadership to the city and its departments and employees.”
Watts on Wednesday said he was puzzled by the recall effort since as mayor he only votes to break ties, and the decision to reject rezoning wasn’t deadlocked.