Tag Archives: private

Legislators Eye Ban on Private Colleges ‘Non-discrimination’ Policies

A state representative says if Vanderbilt University does not rescind it “all-comers” rule, he will push to include private universities in a proposed law targeting non-discrimination policies, reports WPLN.
Legislation currently being debated (HB3576) would prevent colleges from forcing student groups to drop faith requirements for membership or leadership positions, as Vanderbilt has done. But the legislative proposal only covers public colleges, even though the issue hasn’t occurred there
Last night, Knoxville Republican Bill Dunn said he was considering an amendment that would include any private institution that “receives state money.” (Note: Apparently including lottery scholarship funds, for example, or TennCare funds to Vanderbilt’s hospital.) Dunn told the House Education Committee he had talked to Vanderbilt representatives, and pending their action he would hold off on the amendment – for now.
“I believe it may be prudent to give them time to come through on some of the things that we discussed, and so, what I’m gonna do is, I’m gonna withdraw this amendment right now, in the interest of time, but don’t be surprised if we see it on the House floor.” So I withdraw this amendment at this time.
Private school spokespersons say the state has no business enforcing rules on private schools that don’t get operating funds from the state budget.
…The controversial Vanderbilt “all comers” rule was adopted after several gay students were asked to leave a religious brotherhood. Christian groups on campus have argued that the policy is targeted at them.
David Mills, a lobbyist for Vanderbilt University, told the committee that the threatened action isn’t the first time the state has “interfered” with private schools’ policies.
In 1901, Mills said, the state forced Western Theological Seminary (forerunner of today’s Maryville College) to stop accepting Indians and African Americans.
It took until the 1950s, Brown v. Board of Education, for the school to get out from under the state policy of segregation, he said.

Haslam Opposes Weakening of State Open Meetings Law

(Note: This expands and replaces original post)
Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday that Tennessee’s open meetings law works well and he sees no need for changes pushed by some local government officials.
The governor said his own experience while serving as Knoxville mayor left him believing “the law, the way they have it, works.”
The Board of Directors of the Tennessee County Commissioners Association recently voted to urge that state legislators revise current law so that members of local government bodies can meet and discuss issues in private so long provided no quorum is present.
“When I was a mayor, the City Council literally followed the rules They did it right and I think it actually ended up helping the discussion,” said Haslam.
When asked whether a change in the law would be a “winning strategy” at a time when many citizens are distrustful of government officials generally, Haslam replied, “There’s no way that’s a politically popular move, so I don’t think that’s a winning strategy.”
“I think there are obviously some folks who are convinced that there’s a way to maybe be more effective. But, again, my experience was it worked pretty well the way it is now,” Haslam said.
State Rep. Glen Casada, R-College Grove, has said he will sponsor the proposed change in the present statute, also known as “the Sunshine Law” at the request of the Williamson County Commission. His home county’s commission unanimously approved a resolution urging the revision.
County commissions in Obion and Lewis counties have also approved resolutions urging the change since the association initially proposed the idea, according to the Associated Press. But similar resolutions have failed in votes by county commissions in Anderson and Rhea counties.
The current law, enacted by the Legislature in 1974, does not apply to state legislators and proponents of the revision have said it is unfair to allow legislators to meet privately while county commissioners, city councilmen and members of other local government bodies cannot.
Haslam said the distinction between local officials and state legislators raises “a fair question,” but he nonetheless supports keeping the law basically intact, though “there are some things about the law that you might want to review.”

Legislators Eye End to ‘Private Reprimands’ for Judges

Legislators are eyeing repeal of the state law that allows keeping the admonishments wayward judges receive secret and imposing stricter rules concerning when judges must bow out of a case when accused of a conflict of interest.
Judges say making public the “private reprimands” now handed out by the Court of the Judiciary would be a bad policy move, but acknowledge the Legislature could take such a step.
Changing the rules for recusal of a judge, which are now established by the state Supreme Court, also is criticized on policy grounds. But it could also be a violation of the state constitution, according to Chris Craft, presiding judge of the Court of the Judiciary (COJ).
Both proposals arose during recent hearings by an ad hoc committee appointed to review the COF and recommend changes to the 2012 legislative session. For much of the two days of hearings, the legislators listened to sometimes emotional complaints from citizens about judges they characterized as arrogant or abusive.
“I wish all the members (of the Legislature) could hear what we’ve heard,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet. “I think there is a need for serious change.”
Craft, who also is a Criminal Court judge in Memphis, defended the COJ during the proceedings. He said many of the complaints legislators heard — and the vast majority of all complaints received by COJ — are simply from

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On Those ‘Byzantine and Often-Conflicting’ Tax Rulings Recently Released

Chas Sisk has done a revealing review of recently-released rulings by the state Department of Revenue, deemed to be “shedding new light on the byzantine and often-conflicting rules that taxpayers face.”
Sometimes bizarre, counterintuitive and seemingly arbitrary, the rulings illustrate just how critical tax questions can be to businesses.
In recent months, the Department of Revenue has told a country club that it has to tax lockers. But a fitness club does not, provided it offers services like racquetball.
Revenue lawyers have also told a company that makes an injection that eliminates smile lines that its product is tax-free because users can get it only by prescription. Sunscreen remains taxable, they add.
And revenue officials have told a firm that it must collect sales taxes on its shop drawings because it prints them out. The drawings do not have to be taxed if the firm leaves them on computers.
“You know, I’ve had members calling me up about that,” said Jim Brown, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business. “There’s no question there is some complexity” in the state’s sales tax laws.
The Department of Revenue has so far released 23 so-called “private rulings” this summer.
The rulings let taxpayers — usually businesses — get a decision from the Department of Revenue up front about complex or ambiguous aspects of the state’s tax laws. Each ruling is supposed to apply only to the taxpayer that asks for it, but lawyers and accountants scrutinize them for clues as to how the law would be applied.

Note: Previous post on the partial opening of revenue rulings to the public HERE.

Bill Bans ‘Wall Street Home Resale Fees’

News release from Tennessee Land Title Association:
NASHVILLE, Tennessee – Governor Haslam took swift action to protect Tennessee homeowners by signing SB 1845 and HB 1644 to restrict Wall Street Home Resale Fees (also known as “private transfer fees”).
SB 1845, sponsored by Senator Lowe Finney (D-Jackson) and HB 1644, sponsored by Representative Vance Dennis (R-Savannah), places a ban on these fees, a dangerous new financial scheme that steals home equity, lowers home resale values and adds another layer of difficulty to selling a home.
“These fees infringe on property rights and hurt Tennessee consumers. They have no place in the Tennessee real estate market,” said Senator Finney sponsor of SB 1845.
“We’ve made sure that when a homeowner buys a new property, he or she owns that home free and clear of any unreasonable and unnecessarily burdensome liens,” said Representative Dennis sponsor of HB 1644.
“The Governor and Legislature stood up for homeowners by protecting consumers from these predatory fees,” said Mark Rosser, Tennessee Land Title Association President. “This bill is an important step in enhancing consumer protections, safeguarding the real estate market and protecting our property rights system in Tennessee.”
Manhattan-based Freehold Capitol Partners is leading the push to add these fees to home purchase contracts. The fees require that a percentage of the final sale price of a home be paid to a private third party every time the property is sold, typically for 99 years. Freehold is attempting to then sell the right to collect these fees on Wall Street–all the while padding investors’ pockets while stealing equity from homeowners.
Tennessee becomes the 35th state to have restricted the use of Wall Street Resale Fees.
The bill is the latest in a series of government actions to limit Wall Street Home Resale Fees. Tennessee joins Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington in restricting the dangerous fees. On the federal level, the Federal Housing Finance Agency has issued a proposed rule that would prevent government-sponsored entities from investing in mortgages with these fees.

The Coalition to Stop Wall Street Home Resale Fees has organized to fight the dangerous financial scheme of transfer fee covenants and to protect homeowners across the country. Together, we are fighting to ensure that homeowners keep full equity in their home, and have the freedom to buy or sell their home without paying-off a private third party.