By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The sponsor of a proposal to strip state courts of the power to block laws enacted by the Tennessee General Assembly quietly withdrew the bill on Monday after receiving heavy criticism from both sides of the political aisle.
Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, announced without any specific explanation she was abandoning four bills including the judicial oversight measure.
“Or speaker pro tem has been telling us we need to withdraw bills or we need to dispose of them in some way,” she in brief remarks on the Senate floor. “So I’m going to do everything I can to honor that request.”
Beavers last week told The Associated Press that the bill was aimed at reeling in what she called out-of-control courts.
“As we’ve come down through the years, they’ve used case law to rule on things and we’ve gotten farther and farther from the constitution,” she said. “The courts have taken on a whole new supremacy, where they’re making the policy instead of the legislative bodies making the policy.”
That approach was disputed by several Senate colleagues, including by Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, who said that even though he often disagrees with judicial decision, Beavers’ proposal would go too far.
“That is crossing the line on separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches,” he said. “Because we make the law and they interpret the law. If you don’t like what they’re coming down with, then you do everything you can to change the court.”
The family farm of Nashville songwriter and music executive Steve Ivey would become the largest solar-power production site in Georgia under a plan announced Thursday by Ivey and a company led by former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen and two former state department heads, reports the Tennessean. A $90 million, large-scale solar-power array on the Ivey farm near Athens, Ga., would produce 30 megawatts of electricity that would be sold to Georgia Power Co. under a deal expected to get final approval by the Georgia Public Service Commission next week, said Ivey, who also owns IMI, a Music Row publishing and production house.
“The farm has been in my family since 1935,” Ivey said. “I got the idea for the solar project when I was trying to figure out a new way to heat water at my house in Brentwood. I’m in the music business and very technology-minded, and got locked into solar several years ago,” he said.
Bredesen’s Silicon Ranch Corp., a relatively new startup, has been part of the Georgia project only since last month. Silicon Ranch Corp. was started in late 2010 by Bredesen and the two members of his former administration (ECD Commissioner Matt Kisber and Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr.)
TVA is tightening its tree-cutting policies along power line rights-of-way, reports the News Sentinel. New requirements with stiff fines created to prevent blackouts are forcing the federal utility to remove most any tree capable of growing more than 15 feet high, according to TVA spokesman Travis Brickey.
TVA has been working to clear the rights-of-way under the 2,594 miles of transmission line of 230 kilovolts or greater that stretch across its seven-state territory.
So far, 1,500 miles have been cleared to the full width of the right of way, 500 miles have been partially cleared and there are 500 miles of completely uncleared right of way, according to Regg.
“We still have a long way to go, but we have made an impact,” he said.
TVA has a 15,900 miles of transmission line across its seven-state coverage area and anticipates that lower voltage lines will be included in the guidelines at some point, so the right of way area of the whole system will need to be dealt with eventually, Regg said.
Driving the effort is a set of federal regulations backed by hefty penalties, which came out of a major power failure that struck the Northeast U.S. in 2003.
Ken Whitehouse has a rundown on presidential politicking within Tennessee at this early stage. (One of the folks quoted says that, if this were a NASCAR race, the candidates would be coming out of the first turn on the track.)
Excerpt: Those power brokers, who will be behind the push for financial support from the state’s GOP supporters, include Nashville real estate investor Ted Welch. The longtime GOP heavyweight is supporting former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney again this year, as is Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty.
Tom Ingram, the political campaign guru behind Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and Gov. Bill Haslam, has cast his lot with former Utah governor and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman. Former Knoxville Mayor and Ambassador to Poland Victor Ashe is supporting Huntsman as well, and will be hosting a fundraiser for him in October.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey took to Facebook earlier this month and penned a letter offering strong support to Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Given the amount of sway Ramsey has with his GOP colleagues in the state legislature, don’t be surprised to see more elected officials join this team.
…According to the campaign of Barack Obama 2012, Nashvillians Charles Robert Bone, Bill Freeman and Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester are already in the club that has raised between $100,000 and $200,000 for the president’s re-election. Much of that money was raised for an event that was to be hosted by Congressman Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., and featured Vice President Joe Biden. But the inter-party squabble over the debt ceiling forced both men to stay in Washington and the event never happened.
Rutherford County Circuit Court Judge Don Ash, who serves on the state Court of the Judiciary and last week completed a four-year term as its presiding judge, tells the Daily News Journal that that the panel is working responsibly but he has no problem with efforts to improve it. “I think it’s important that we maintain the independence of the judiciary,” Ash said, “but it’s also important that the Legislature has a say in regaArd to the discipline process. So, I believe it’s important that both of those groups have input into the membership and the disciplinary functions and the rules about how the court operates.”
Retired Judge J.S. “Steve” Daniel isn’t quite as diplomatic.
Daniel calls efforts by the Legislature to change the scope and makeup of the court a “power” grab and possibly even an attempt to “sunset,” or end, the court, which he says isn’t so much a court as a judicial disciplinary commission.
“I think it’s basically the Legislature trying to take control over who makes these decisions,” said Daniel, who presided over the Court of the Judiciary from 1999 to 2004 and served as chief disciplinary counsel from 2007 to June 2010. “I think the court is operating as it should be.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A spokeswoman for the Nashville Electric Service says power outages to about 20 downtown buildings — including the state Capitol — are the result of a work crew accidentally cutting underground cables.
Laurie Parker told The Associated Press the accident occurred around 11:30 a.m. Thursday. It affects about a six-block radius, including state buildings the War Memorial, Tennessee Towers and Legislative Plaza.
Legislative staffers gathered in hallways with candles, flashlights and the illuminated screens of their mobile phones, after the outage. The staffers and all state employees in affected buildings were sent home for the day.
Parker said the damage was being repaired and power to most of the buildings was expected to be restored by about 4:30 p.m. Meanwhile, some buildings, like the Capitol, were running on backup generators.
Public anxiety over $4 gasoline has given U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander the chance to preach about two of his favorite energy topics, reports Michael Collins. That would be wind power and electric cars. The day after Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic bill that would have eliminated about $2 billion in tax breaks for the five biggest oil companies, Alexander stood on the Senate floor and suggested subsidies for wind power should be terminated.
“Why are we talking about Big Oil and not talking about Big Wind?” he asked.
The next day, the Maryville Republican appeared before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to argue that short-term incentives to jump-start the use of electric vehicles is the best way to use less energy and keep down gas prices.
“If you believe that the solution to $4 gasoline and high energy prices is finding more American energy and using less, this is the best way to use less,” Alexander said.
Alexander has never made a secret of his disdain for wind power, which he argues is expensive and unreliable. At the same time, he has become one of Congress’ most enthusiastic cheerleaders for electric cars.