NIOTA, Tenn. (AP) — The city of Niota is again without insurance and has shut down most city services.
According to The Daily Post-Athenian, only a skeleton staff remains in the city of about 800 residents.
Coverage through the Tennessee Municipal League lapsed at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. Athens Insurance owner Allen Carter said he received a letter from TML stating that the city did not meet the “long term results needed” for coverage to continue.
Carter had negotiated 60-day temporary coverage for the city through TML.
“Niota just needs to handle their affairs and their business correctly,” said Carter. “But right now, there’s just not that option.”
Carter said a lawsuit against the police department was a factor in TML’s decision, but noted the major issue was errors and omissions by public officials.
The insurance pool indicated in April that it wouldn’t renew the city’s insurance because Commissioners Richard Rutledge and Leesa Corum refused to participate in an investigation. A former city worker had accused both of harassment.
Rutledge said on Tuesday that the loss of insurance is not only because of the actions of him and Corum.
“If I felt in any way that it was my problem, I would step down,” Rutledge said.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported six employees were laid off Tuesday. The police department is closed, the volunteer fire department is shut down as are the library and the parks.
Mayor Lois Preece said the sewer department had been contracted out to avoid steep environmental fines from the state if it ceased working. Preece said garbage collection might go to a contractor as well.
Preece said the layoffs were not a surprise to those now without jobs.
“They knew it was coming,” she said. “I try to be very upfront with my employees.”
A bill entitled “Classroom Protection Act,” better known as the “don’t say gay bill,” died quietly and without debate in the House Education Subcommittee Tuesday.
No representative on the nine-member panel would make the necessary motion to second the bill before it could be considered. The chairman, Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, declared the bill dead for lack of a second and Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, simply said, “Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.”
Ragan had prepared an amendment rewriting the bill (HB1332), sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, but never got to explain it to the panel.
From the Tennessean: The measure’s sponsor, state Rep. John Ragan, expressed disappointment, saying he planned to present an amendment that turned the bill into a plan to deal with schoolhouse shootings — not homosexuality.
The developments appeared to put an end to this year’s fight between gay rights groups and conservative lawmakers over how to discuss same-sex relationships with schoolchildren. It fell on a day that the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a challenge to California’s ban on gay marriage, with few activists on hand for the bill’s demise.
In its original form, the bill would have prohibited lessons or planned discussions about homosexuality before high school. Guidance counselors also would have been required to notify parents if students told them of any potentially risky behavior.
Gay rights groups saw the bill as an extension of “Don’t Say Gay” measures they have fought in previous legislative sessions. They said the bill would chill discussions between students and teachers or administrators by creating a reporting requirement.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A measure to block courts from granting subpoenas for identities of anonymous commenters on news websites has passed the Senate.
The proposal sponsored by Republican Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown was unanimously approved 32-0 on Wednesday. The companion bill was also scheduled to be heard Wednesday in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee.
Currently, a person who gathers information for publication or broadcast isn’t required by a court, a grand jury, the General Assembly or any administrative body to disclose information or the source of any information “procured for publication or broadcast.”
Kelsey’s proposal adds to the current law. It does not apply, however, in cases in which defamatory comments were made.
News release from Humane Society Legislative Fund:
WASHINGTON (Nov.1. 2012) – In his first term in the U.S. House of Representatives, Scott DesJarlais scored “zero” on the Humane Society Legislative Fund’s ratings of lawmakers, and has been active in efforts to thwart enforcement of the Horse Protection Act and passage of legislation to make it a crime to bring a child to a dogfight or a cockfight.
“Caring for God’s helpless creatures is a measure of character, and Scott DesJarlais has failed that test,” said Michael Markarian, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “He not only voted against an effort to crack down on bringing children to dogfights, but he’s also tried to undermine efforts of the USDA to enforce laws against the criminal practice of horse soring.”
That issue was in the news in Tennessee and throughout the nation after an undercover video investigation into the handling of horses by Jackie McConnell, a former Hall of Fame trainer of Tennessee Walking Horses. McConnell pleaded guilty to violations of federal law and is now facing state anti-cruelty charges. DeJarlais wrote a letter stating he is “concerned” about USDA’s enforcement actions, and believes “they are unacceptable and create great uncertainty for the industry.”
DesJarlais scored a zero out of 100 percent on the Humane Scorecard for the 112th Congress, failing to support a single animal welfare policy and voting against every animal welfare measure that came to the House floor. DesJarlais has:
• Voted in the House Agriculture Committee to oppose an amendment to make it a crime for an adult to bring a child to a dogfight or cockfight (AMDT.32/H.R.6083). The amendment was approved by the Agriculture Committee, and the underlying House bill has 226 cosponsors, including 78 Republicans. The Senate passed a similar amendment by a vote of 88 to 11.
• Voted to allow American trophy hunters to import the heads and hides of polar bears killed for sport in the Arctic, even though polar bears are listed as a threatened species (H.AMDT.1008/H.R. 4089).
• Voted twice to waste taxpayer dollars on subsidies to massive factory farms, which thrive on taxpayer giveaways that keep animal feed artificially cheap, jeopardize public health, the environment, and animal welfare, while also driving smaller and more humane, sustainable family farms out of business (H.AMDT.124/H.R.1) and (H.AMDT.478/H.R. 2112).
• Voted to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on the use of aerial gunning, toxic poisons, steel-jawed leghold traps and other inhumane methods of killing predators as a federal subsidy for private livestock ranchers. (H.AMDT.471/H.R.2112).
• Not co-sponsored any of the bills to crack down on puppy mills, end the use of chimpanzees in invasive experiments, or reform the egg industry which is the top legislative priority for that agriculture sector.
HSLF is a nonpartisan organization that evaluates candidates based only on a single criterion: where they stand on animal welfare. HSLF does not judge candidates based on party affiliation or any other issue.
Setting aside the impact of personalities and local politics, insofar as that’s possible, this week’s primary elections may be seen as a Republican voter referendum on the new normal of our state’s leadership under one-party rule.
The belief that this is so is clearly illustrated by the Republican Establishment Trinity (RET) — Gov. Bill Haslam, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey — taking sides in many of the two dozen contests where incumbent Republican legislators are being challenged.
For Harwell and her chief lieutenant, House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, the selection of favorites has extended beyond incumbent protection to financial contributions in a half-dozen or so open seats where there is no incumbent. And not all incumbents have received donations.
This is understandable. By somewhat reliable rumors, Harwell was elected speaker by a single vote in the House Republican Caucus after the 2010 elections over then-House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada. The actual vote is an official Republican secret.
Tennessee Republicans are looking to tighten their grip on state government in the Nov. 6 general election by winning an even larger legislative majority than they’ve enjoyed the last two years. But TNReport reports that party leaders, particularly in the House, say a first priority is to ensure that members of their caucus survive challenges in the Aug. 2 primary. House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick and Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart both say incumbents winning primaries is a prime concern. In McCormick’s words, incumbents deserve to be “rewarded on election day” for responsibly governing since they began dominating state politics two years ago.
“Certainly, we want our incumbents to win,” said the Chattanooga Republican. “We think everyone, or close to everyone, is going to win. And then we feel like we can pick some seats up this November as a result of our staying focused on the issues voters care about.”
…”My job is to bring the incumbents back,” Maggart told TNReport. “That’s our job — my job — as the caucus leader.”
But while GOP legislative leaders say they see it as their rightful role to protect the already-in crowd, some prominent outsiders who speak for constituencies typically seen as leaning Republican argue that in reality, principles ought to take precedence over the power of incumbency.
The automatic impulse to protect incumbents is rarely the answer — and more often likely part of the problem, argues Ben Cunningham, spokesman of Tennessee Tax Revolt and a founder of the Nashville Tea Party.
“People tend to stay in office far too long and have a sense of entitlement about being re-elected, and that tends to be reinforced by the reality,” Cunningham told TNReport this week.
He said anytime voters can get candidate variety and real ballot-booth choices, it is rarely a bad thing.
“I think that’s one thing most Tea Party people have in common — that we tend to be skeptical of the sense of entitlement that comes with long-term incumbency,” Cunningham said. “I simply don’t feel any loyalty to someone because they’re an incumbent.”
Mary Mancini at Tennessee Citizen Action says a pending bill, brought forth by a recent amendment to a caption bill, could let insurance companies take advantage of consumers and is part of an overall erosion of consumer rights underway in the Legislature. With it’s shiny new amendment, HB2454 now reads that if an insurance company changes your policy and notifies you in the fine print of a flyer they send to you with your bill, the change to your policy will take effect and bind you to that change by the simple act of you paying your bill. In other words, HB2454 says that your written and cashed check or automatic bill payment is enough to allow them to completely change your policy.
And this isn’t a bill that would just hurt consumers. It would harm any entity that buys insurance — including small businesses that hire and administrative person to handle all their bill payments. How many bookkeepers read every piece of paper included in a bill and how will you be able to prove that they didn’t?
The U.S. insurance industry has trillions of dollars in assets, enjoys average profits of over $30 billion a year, and pays its CEOs more than any other industry. This is just another example of how they still engage in dirty tricks and unethical behavior at the consumer’s expense to boost their bottom line even further.
Press release from Fan Freedom Project:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Legislation supported by Ticketmaster, which already controls with its partners the vast majority of ticket sales in Tennessee, will further tighten its grip on the ticket market, specifically the resale market, while stripping ticket-buyers of their property rights.
The latest measures go so far as to declare that ticket issuers can take away consumers’ tickets “at any time, with or without cause,” and without refunds being provided. Moreover, it empowers Ticketmaster and its partners with control over all that consumers do with tickets they have purchased, including the right to give them to charity, share them with friends or resell them.
Dubbed the “Fairness in Ticketing Act of 2012,” the bill includes several provisions that significantly benefit Ticketmaster, its parent LiveNation and its affiliates TicketsNow and TicketExchange.
(Note: The bill is SB3441/HB3447, according to the PR firm sending the release. The Legislature’s website still shows the measure as only a caption bill without amendments. Its’s sponsored by Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill, and Rep. Ryan Haynes, R-Knoxville.)
News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE, TN), February 13, 2012 – A long list of State Senators in Tennessee — including Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville), Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson (R-Hixson) and Senate Judiciary Chairman Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) — are among 77 Tennessee lawmakers, the State of Florida, 25 other states, and the National Federation of Independent Business in filing as amicus parties (friends of the court) challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
The individual mandate, which is the centerpiece of the new law, is the requirement that almost all people in the United States buy health insurance or pay a penalty to the IRS for failing to do so.
The brief was filed with the Supreme Court today in preparation for the oral arguments scheduled for March 27th and is one of a multitude of briefs filed laying out the unconstitutionality of individual mandates.
“The White House plan will stifle innovation and actually increase the cost of insurance,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “It is time that states push back to let Washington know that we are not going to stand by idly when this healthcare law so blatantly infringes on the constitutional rights of the states and the personal freedoms of our citizens.”
“This is one of the most important issues to be considered by the Court in our lifetime,” said Leader Norris. “State’s rights, individual liberties and our ability to keep the federal government from infringing those rights are at stake.”
“Our personal health care decisions should be managed by us and our health care providers, not politicians and bureaucrats in Washington,” said Chairman Beavers. “Never in our history has the U.S. government required its citizens as a condition of residency to purchase a particular product from a private company or government entity.”
U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson heard the case in Florida and declared the law unconstitutional on January 31, 2011. In his ruling, Vinson struck down the entire law after finding the individual mandate violated the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, and that the mandate could not be separated from the rest of the law. On March 8, 2011, the government filed a notice of appeal with the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. The appeals court also found the individual mandate unconstitutional, but ruled the individual mandate to be severable from the rest of the law, and found the remaining provisions “legally operative.” The Court of Appeals’ ruling was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which announced on November 14, 2011 that it will hear the appeal.
The case is especially important to Tennessee and several other states because these states have enacted Health Care Freedom Acts. The Tennessee Health Freedom Act, passed in 2011, provides that every person in Tennessee is free to choose, or not choose, any mode of securing healthcare services, and to purchase or not purchase health insurance, without penalty or threat of penalty. Tennessee asserts this right to protect the freedom of its citizens under the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution. This principle is emphasized in the amicus curiae brief filed today.
Another key provision under consideration by the nation’s high court is the constitutionality of the Medicaid amendments. The case from Florida says the federal healthcare act exceeds the enumerated powers by creating such a major expansion of the Medicaid program.
Link to Briefs:
U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker are under pressure from the White House to vote to confirm Richard Cordray as the director of a new federal agency responsible for protecting consumers who deal with the financial industry, reports Michael Collins. The Obama administration said Monday it intends to wage an aggressive public relations campaign to persuade the two Tennessee Republicans and GOP senators from six other states to confirm Cordray as the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The agency was created under the Wall Street reforms that President Barack Obama signed into law last year. Obama nominated Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general, to head the agency back in June.
But Alexander, Corker and most other Republicans have said they won’t vote to confirm anybody for the position until changes are made in the way the agency operates.