Tag Archives: randy mcnally

McNally favors Matlock for House speaker

Sen. Randy McNally, likely to become speaker of Tennessee’s Senate next year, doesn’t have a vote in electing the next House speaker, but says he would like to see one of his constituents, Rep. Jimmy Matlock of Lenoir City, get the position.

“Jimmy is a very good friend and we’ve worked very well together,” McNally said in a telephone interview when asked about Matlock declaring last week that he would challenge Beth Harwell’s re-election as speaker of the House.

“Nothing against Speaker Harwell — I like her and respect her — but I’d support him (Matlock) in any of his endeavors,” said McNally, R-Oak Ridge, current chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “Jimmy would be a great speaker.” Continue reading

GOP consensus forms around McNally as Lt. Gov.

Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, has by all appearances lined up support to assure his electiontion as speaker of the Senate and lieutenant governor of Tennessee.

McNally took the Senate floor near the end of Thursday’s session to pay tribute to retiring Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and officially announce his candidacy for the office.

He said he had spoken with each of his colleagues who had also considered running — Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville, Speaker Pro Tem Bo Watson, R-Chattanooga, Sens. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville and Jack Johnson, R-Franklin — and afterward told reporters all had indicated they would back him.

…Norris said Monday that he was working to put together an agreement in which McNally would be the consensus candidate within the Republican Caucus to avoid a divisive distraction during this year’s elections. Watson had said last week he wouldn’t run for speaker if McNally did and would support him if he did.

Ramsey said later Thursday that he believes McNally will succeed him.

McNally, 72, is in the middle of a four-year Senate term and isn’t up for re-election this year, as half of his Senate colleagues are. He said last week when he told reporters he would run for speaker that he will likely run for another Senate term in 2018 but that would probably be his last.

McNally emerging as likely Ramsey successor?

Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, previously named as a prospective successor to Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey as Senate speaker, tells Andrea Zelinski he would step aside in favor of Sen. Randy McNally, the legislature’s most senior member. And McNally is definitely running.

With a 38-year tenure in the legislature, McNally, 72, doesn’t face re-election until 2018. His longevity is a stat political insiders say could make his ascent to the Senate speakership a smooth transition following Ramsey’s expected departure next year.

“I know I’m not a Ron Ramsey. He’s a good friend. I probably see myself as more of a transition-type person. This will probably be the last thing I do in politics,” he told the Post. “I’m not going to be running for anything else. This is sort of the last hurrah.”

At max, McNally said he has one more term in him, “not a couple. Maybe one more.” His short tenure would pave the way for a replacement in a few years.

“Sen. McNally is our longest-serving member,” said Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, the Senate speaker pro tempore and another hopeful for the speaker’s gavel. “He’s played a multiple number of roles for our caucus, and in many ways, he’s earned what I would consider to be the right of first refusal.”

Watson is one of several expected contenders for the prestigious top job. Others include Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and Commerce and Insurance Committee Chairman Jack Johnson, R-Franklin.

…McNally’s election to Senate speaker would open up a powerful position on the Senate Finance Ways and Means Committee. Watson, first vice chair of the committee, could then slide over to the chairman’s position and potentially ready himself for a future run for speaker, sources say.

Asked about the strategy, Watson laughed. “I don’t know about a plan,” he said.

“In terms of what that would mean to everybody else, I don’t know. What I will say is, if Chairman McNally chooses to run for speaker, I would support that effort because he’s earned it. He’s earned that right,” said Watson.

…Ketron, a recent cancer survivor, said he’s also interested in the post. “Between now and December there will be a lot of — let the games begin, a lot of jockeying for position.”

He added: “I’ve had some encouragement, texts already today, so we’ll consider it… I’ve been through a journey these last few months. I know God got me through that for a purpose, so we’ll see what he has in store for me. I’ll let him lead me.”

Other potential candidates have declined to say whether they planned to contend for the speakership, saying it was too soon to begin talking about that prospect. However, none would rule it out.

Bill reducing marijuana penalties clears committee

A Republican-sponsored bill that would make three or more convictions for simple possession or casual exchange of marijuana a misdemeanor rather than a felony passed a key hurdle on Tuesday, reports The Tennessean.

With a unanimous 9-0 vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill (SB1572) that would make changes to the prosecution of those found guilty of possessing marijuana and other controlled substances three or more times.

The move is expected to decrease the state’s incarceration costs by as much as $2 million, according to the bill’s fiscal note.

The change comes as part of a package deal. The heart of the bill was actually centered on enhancing the state’s DUIs laws.

Current law hands out a Class E felony to any person with four of more DUI convictions. The bill would alter the state’s law and give a Class C felony to anyone with six or more DUI convictions.

According to the bill’s fiscal note, Tennessee annually averages about 456 convictions for four or more DUIs. If the changes proposed in the bill were implemented, the state’s correction system would increase by 61 people, including estimates for population growth.

Factoring in recidivism rates, the fiscal note found that the state could reasonably expect 34 additional offenders, which would cost $1.6 million, to enter Tennessee’s correctional system each year as a result of the DUI changes.

With that in mind, the bill’s sponsors — Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, and Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown — amended it to include the changes to the state’s prosecution of offenses involving the possession of controlled substances.

Passage of the bill would actually result in a $342,600 decrease in incarcerations, according to the fiscal note.

“In order to reduce the fiscal effects of the bill it does reduce the simple possession or casual exchange of a controlled substance,” McNally said while introducing the bill.

Simple possession is when someone has an illegal substance and they don’t possess it for delivery or sale, said Brent Cooper, District Attorney General for the 22nd Judicial District.

Three more TN legislators launch PACs

Three Republican state legislators — Sens. Randy McNally of Oak Ridge and Janice Bowling of Tullahoma along with Rep. Pat Marsh of Shelbyville — have recently joined the trend toward lawmakers establishing their own political action committees.

McNally, the Senate Finance Committee chairman and the General Assembly’s most senior member, has founded McPAC and scheduled its first fundraiser for Monday evening, the eve of the 2016 session that starts Tuesday at noon, reports The Tennessee Journal. Once the session begins, there’s a blackout on incumbent legislator fundraising that continues until adjournment.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, a pioneer in the operation of “leadership PACs” set up by individual lawmakers, also has a Monday evening fundraiser scheduled. He launched RAAMPAC in 2004.

Bowling’s new PAC is, logically enough, registered as Bowling PAC — perhaps following the example of House Speaker Beth Harwell’s Harwell PAC.

Marsh, who chairs the House Business and Utilities Committee, chose the name Marsh for Tennessee Business PAC.

Among other recently established PACs is one set up by John Avery Emison, a former Knoxvillian who has been much involved in anti-annexation efforts over the years as a leader of Citizens for Home Rule. The registered name is Citizens for Home Rule PAC and Emison is using a post office box in his current hometown of Alamo, Tenn., as the group’s address.

McNally bill would make public names of tax-dodging businesses

At the urging of Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Randy McNally says he will introduce legislation next year to make public the names of businesses that are not paying their taxes, reports the News Sentinel. The move comes after a recent audit showed a Knoxville area hotels owe a total of $475,000 in back taxes.

In a letter to McNally, R-Oak Ridge, former state senator Burchett described a current statute making businesses with tax delinquencies confidential as providing a “loophole” in the state’s open records law.

“We don’t want businesses’ proprietary information, but I think it’s important for citizens to know who isn’t paying their taxes,” Burchett said Friday. “These groups have excluded themselves and that creates a bad situation for mischief to take place.”

The News Sentinel two weeks ago submitted a public records request for the list of tax delinquent hotels after an audit sampling 44 local hotels showed more than half were behind on payments. The county, however, has pointed to a state statute it says prevents them from releasing the business names.

Burchett said he approached McNally because the two share a history of drafting “some of the strongest public records acts in the country” together when Burchett was also a state senator.

McNally said Friday he has already asked the Office of Legal Services to draft a bill that would say “that if the tax is delinquent, then it is not protected by the taxpayer confidentiality law.”

“It seems to me that if a property owner, or a business owner for that matter, can have their name in the paper if they’re delinquent on taxes, then if someone is delinquent on their business tax, that should be open record and be available,” McNally said.

…David Buuck, Knox County’s chief deputy law director, said (Knox County Property Assessor Foster) Arnett had been collecting taxes from the hotels that sent payments but has not followed up with the hotels that did not.

“Now that we know there are some horrendous delinquencies, he’s been advised by our office what he can do and what he should do,” Buuck said.

Buuck said his office sent a memorandum to Arnett early in the audit process informing him he needed to collect the taxes.

Arnett, who spoke to a reporter on Friday, said he supported making delinquent businesses public, but declined to elaborate further. He did not return a follow-up call seeking comment on whether he had received the memo from the law department.

McNally seeks AG opinion on legal aspects of Medicaid expansion

UPDATE: News release from Senate Republican Caucus
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) today called for a committee meeting next week to study the legal issues raised by the governor’s proposed Obamacare Medicaid expansion plan. The meeting will be held Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 1:00 p.m. in 12 Legislative Plaza. The committee will hear testimony from legal experts on the questions raised by Sen. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) in his January 5 letter to the state Attorney General.

In a letter to the state attorney general, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Randy McNally has posed a series of questions about the legal validity of Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to expand Medicaid, suggesting potential problems in several areas.

“We need a lot of in-depth type questions answered,” said the Oak Ridge Republican, adding he believes the “vast majority” of Republican legislators are — like himself — undecided about the wisdom of adopting the governor’s Insure Tennessee plan and willing to listen and learn more about it.

The governor provided more details about his proposal last week, making public the formal waiver request filed with federal officials. The Legislature will take up the proposal in a special session beginning Feb. 2 “to do all that is necessary and appropriate to implement Insure Tennessee,” according to the official gubernatorial proclamation.

“My big concern is the exposure of the state in future years,” McNally said.

Some of the questions posed to Attorney General Herbert Slatery in McNally’s five-page letter involve the potential long-term financial liabilities of state government under the plan. Haslam depicts Insure Tennessee as a two-year pilot project, subject to termination if costs to the state increase.

McNally questions whether such a termination would run afoul of various laws and constitutional provisions relating to the rights of those thrown off losing coverage.

The letter also raises questions about the financial underpinnings of Insure Tennessee, an “assessment fee” imposed on Tennessee hospitals. The state is already imposing such a fee, the letter notes, with the money deposited in a special fund.
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Three GOP state senators file complaint against Nashville judge

Three Tennessee state senators have filed a complaint against Davidson County Judge Casey Moreland in the wake of his controversial decision to waive the 12-hour “cooling-off” period and release a man accused of abusing his girlfriend.

From The Tennessean:

Sens. Mike Bell, Randy McNally and Brian Kelsey have submitted the complaint to the Board of Judicial Conduct, which is charged with investigating allegations of misconduct by the state’s judges. In the complaint the senators say Moreland’s actions “have done nothing but promote distrust, suspicion and a belief that the ‘good ole boy’ system pervades the judiciary.”

On June 8, after a call from his friend and political contributor, local attorney Bryan Lewis, Moreland, a general sessions judge, overruled a 12-hour domestic violence hold on David A. Chase, who was accused of pulling his girlfriend out of his apartment by her hair. Less than three hours after his arrest, the prominent Nashville contractor was released by Moreland, and police say he returned to beat his girlfriend again while she was packing her belongings to leave.

“Reports indicate that Judge Moreland was completely disconnected but chose to insert himself into the case,” Bell, R-Riceville, wrote Friday in a statement explaining why he filed the complaint. “It is our duty as legislators to oversee the creation of laws and to check and balance our other governmental branches. We strongly feel it is within our duty to ensure that a proper complaint to the Board of Judicial Conduct is formally filed in this matter.”

Bell, Kelsey, R-Germantown, and McNally, R-Oak Ridge, accused Moreland of violating several Tennessee Supreme Court rules that govern judges. They chastised him for talking with Lewis without involving prosecutors, and they allege Lewis’ tight-knit relationship with the judge influenced Moreland’s actions.

“Judge Moreland has engaged in actual impropriety and should be severely sanctioned by the board,” the senators wrote in the complaint.

Moreland has publicly acknowledged that he and Lewis are friends. The two have vacationed together in Costa Rica, and Lewis and his wife each contributed $1,500 — the legal limit — to Moreland’s campaign in 2013.

Senator wants judicial discipline panel to investigate Nashville judges

State Sen. Randy McNally has asked the Board of Judicial Conduct to investigate whether two Nashville judges had “too close a relationship” with a lawyer involved in getting a client released from jail without spending a 12-hour “cooling off” period he was charged with domestic assault.
The Oak Ridge Republican said he was inspired to send a letter to the BJC by newspaper reports of General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland moving to promptly release Nashville contractor David Chase when Chase was charged with assaulting his girlfriend, whereupon Chase returned to the woman’s home and brutally beat her again, authorities allege.

Current state law allows a judge to order someone charged with domestic violence to spend 12 hours in jail as a “cooling off” period before release. But Moreland waived the requirement at the request of Chase’s attorney, Brian Lewis. Another judge, Night Commissioner Thomas Nelson, waived the 12-hour rule after Chase’s second arrest.

The Tennessean reported that Lewis and his wife had donated $3,000 to Moreland’s re-election campaign last November. Moreland also told the newspaper the two were close friends and had vacationed together. (Note: Previous post HERE)

McNally, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, sent the letter Friday to the BJC Chairman Chris Craft and the board’s chief attorney asking an investigation into whether Moreland violated judicial ethics rules. Under standard BJC procedure, such a letter would be treated as a complaint and investigated, though Craft says he cannot comment on any such matters – even to confirm that a complaint exists – under BJC rules.

Newspaper reports on Moreland and Nelson’s handling of the two arrests, McNally wrote, “could lead one to believe there is too close a relationship” between the judges and the defense attorney. He cited “pay to play” cases in Chicago and New Mexico of judges taking money from lawyers in exchange for favorable rulings on cases.

“These cases … continue to remind us of the importance of judicial accountability in our own court system,” he wrote. “It is important that our Board of Judicial Conduct functions appropriately to ensure that Tennessee judges are meeting the highest ethical standards and that judges who violate the people’s trust are disciplined.”

McNally has been a frequent critic of the board, saying there are cases where it appears to “whitewash” complaints against misbehaving judges. The senator said he plans to attend a Tuesday hearing on the board before the Senate Government Operations Committee.

Note: A copy of McNally’s letter is available by clicking on this link: BJCletter

McNally: Attorneys’ opinion shows Supremes ‘bitten by their own dog’ on no-politicking rule

By adopting a stricter rule against judicial politicking than a national model, Tennessee Supreme Court justices may have set a standard that three are now violating as they seek re-election to new terms, according to attorneys for the state Legislature.

A spokeswoman for the justices disputes the opinion and says it is “being used as additional fodder for a wholesale attack against the independence of our Tennessee Supreme Court.”

In a legal memorandum written at the request of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, legislative staff attorneys suggest that even joint appearances at fundraising events, joint pictures appearing on campaign websites and joint travel to events as they seek re-election can be construed as the judges endorsing one another. (Note: A pdf of the opinion is available by clicking on this link: mcnallymemo )

Chief Justice Gary Wade and Justices Cornelia Clark and Sharon Lee have engaged in all those activities as they seek new terms on the bench in a statewide Aug. 7 retention election, with Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and some conservative activists urging their defeat in the yes-no vote. All were appointed by former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen and, if they are defeated, their successors would be appointed by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.
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