Tag Archives: randy mcnally

Finance committee chairs see a Haslam push for business tax law changes in Tennessee’s future

Leaders of the legislative committee that oversees Tennessee’s tax laws say they believe a state Department of Revenue study of a downward spiral in collections from businesses will lead to a Haslam administration push for changes to the state’s franchise and excise levies next year.

“I think you’ll see a ‘technical corrections 2.0’ or something like that,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Randy McNallly, R-Oak Ridge.

“Now that we know there’s a problem, we have to logically go through the process of deciding what to do about it,” said House Finance Committee Chairman Charles Sargent, R-Franklin. “It’s a very complicated situation, but I think we’ll get there.”

Under former Gov. Phil Bredesen, the Department of Revenue would annually file a “technical corrections” bill on state tax statutes, typically with the stated purpose of closing loopholes that tax attorneys and accountants had discovered and were using to reduce company tax payments to the state.

The bills and their provisions were often roundly criticized by Republican legislators and Gov. Bill Haslam dropped the practice – and doubtless would avoid using the term “technical corrections” in any future endeavor.
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Bills pushed by Christian, Newsom families sail through Senate committee

After hearing appeals from the parents of torture-murder victims Channon Christian and Chris Newsom, the Senate Judiciary Committee members unanimously approved two bills they said could ease some of the heartbreak they suffered in the state’s judicial system.

Mary Newsom told the senators she and her husband, Gary, have joined Gary and Deena Christian in pushing for passage of judicial system changes “so no other family will have to go through the same devastation that we did.”

She focused her testimony on SB1796, which revises the rules for a judge acting as a “13th juror” at the conclusion of a criminal trial. The judge in Christian-Newsom trial did not sign a required form and, after he was removed from the bench, a successor judge decided he could not – triggering a series of problems in upholding convictions of the killers.

Deena Christian focused her testimony on SB1797, which puts new restrictions on what a criminal defendants and their attorneys can do in trying to portray a victim in a negative light before a jury. She said attorneys for defendant Lemaricus Davidson “lied to everybody about our daughter,” falsely claiming Channon had associated with Davidson and abused illegal drugs.

“The laws as they exist today protect the defendant,” she said, since their past cannot be brought up. “They are allowed to bring up the victim’s past even if they lie about it.”

Both bills passed 9-0 without debate or discussion beyond sponsor Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, explaining them and senators expressing sympathy for the families and appreciation for their testimony.

The parents said they plan to return to testify before a House committee in two weeks. House sponsor Rep. Ryan Haynes, R-Knoxville, said he is optimistic about approval there as well.

Budget bickering underway early at Legislature

Excerpt from the Chattanooga TFP:
House Finance Committee Chairman Charles Sargent warned members of his panel Tuesday that with revenues falling below projections, lawmakers are “definitely looking at a challenging year.”

He also announced new guidelines on members’ filing budget amendments seeking to add items to the state’s annual spending plan.

But House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, questioned whether things are as dire as Republican Gov. Bill Haslam says.

“I really don’t think so,” Fitzhugh said.

He noted November sales tax collections were off primarily due to Thanksgiving coming so late in the month. Figures for December won’t be reported until next month. A former Finance Committee chairman, Fitzhugh also argued that while business franchise taxes fell below estimates, the taxes are notoriously volatile.

Last week, state Finance Commissioner Larry Martin said business tax collections fell more than $54 million below projections in December, contributing more woes for what is now an estimated $175 million shortfall during the first five months of the fiscal year.

…”It appears to be a pretty tight year,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge. “It could get a lot better. It could get a lot worse.”

McNally said he wants to “drill down” into what’s happening on business taxes. In Sargent’s committee hearing, state Revenue Commissioner Richard Roberts said there are a number of factors in the falloff from projections.

Under state requirements, most companies wind up making tax payments based on estimates. But what actually occurs can be less with companies later seeking refunds or tax credits, Roberts said.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, is skeptical over how bad a situation the state faces. Kyle said he has watched governors seek to control lawmakers’ expectations on revenue any number of times during his three decades in the legislature.

“That’s a governing technique claiming you don’t have any money,” Kyle said. “Instead of saying ‘I don’t want to do a, b and C, you say we can’t afford to do a, b and c. I’m with you, but we can’t afford it.’

“And,” Kyle added, “if you move through a real quick session and people don’t have a chance to go behind those reports and numbers, that’s difficult.”

McNally to seek reelection; has things ‘left undone’ (including judiciary reform)

Oak Ridge Republican Randy McNally, first elected to the state Senate in 1986, says he has decided to seek reelection to another four-year term believing “there are a number of things sort of left undone” — notably including “reform of our state judiciary.”

“It seems the system now is more for the protection of criminals and the enrichment of trial lawyers and not for protection of the public,” he said.

McNally and state Rep. Ryan Haynes, R-Knoxville, had earlier announced plans to propose legislation requiring drug testing of all judges, citing legal challenges to convictions in the killings of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom after revelations that the trial judge, Richard Baumgartner, was abusing narcotics. The judge later resigned and pleaded guilty to drug-related charges.

After further review, McNally said last week the draft bill will be revised to avoid potential legal problems. Instead of simply mandating drug testing of judges, the legislation will allow either side in a court case to request a drug test for the judge to preside at a trial. If the judge refuses, he or she would then have to step aside and have another judge appointed to hear the case, McNally said.

The senator said he also wants to push legislation providing more scrutiny and new restrictions on state funding of criminal defense lawyers, citing a 2011 News Sentinel report that a dozen attorneys were members of a “$100,000 club” in billing for fees of more than that amount in one year. McNally said he thinks there are now lawyers in a “$1 million club.”

One proposed McNally bill: If a conviction is overturned because an appeals court finds the defendant had “inadequate legal counsel,” the lawyer providing that legal counsel would have to reimburse the state for all fees he or she was paid. The attorney could also be barred from getting fees in other cases.

“If the defense was inadequate, why don’t we (taxpayers) have a right to try and get our money back?” McNally said.

Further, the senator said he wants to push for a legislative change to court procedural rules that allow defense attorneys to “trash the victim (of a crime) just for the hell of it” while court decisions restrict remarks a prosecutor can make about a defendant.

McNally, who will turn 70 next month and chairs the Senate Finance Committee, had until last week voiced indecision about seeking a new term. He has served as a legislator since 1979 — first in the House and then in the Senate, where he is third in seniority. The state’s senior senator, Democrat Douglas Henry of Nashville, has announced he will not seek re-election next year and Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis, second in seniority, has said he might seek election as a judge instead of a new Senate term.

McNally: State shouldn’t pay The Med’s old bills for prisoner care

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Randy McNally says bills submitted to the state by the Regional Medical Center at Memphis for care of prison inmates are outrageous and the state shoudn’t pay them, according to WTVF-TV. The Med has submitted bills up to six years old, for as much as a million dollars and charging rates much higher than other facilities.

“Six years old and they can’t explain why they’re that old. I don’t think we should pay them,” McNally said.

He questioned why the hospital is consistently submitting late bills for emergency inmate care that are higher than any other county.

“It’s either incompetence or fraud — and there’s no way for us to determine, at least right now, what is behind it,” McNally said.

The Med, as it’s commonly called, claimed that it keeps finding records of inmates it treated years earlier but never submitted a bill.

For the past three years, the hospital has sent dozens of bills to a collections attorney who then sues the state.

This year, the state received a $1.4 million tab for treating 18 inmates from as far back as 2009.

The chief financial officer for the Department of Correction, Wes Landers, said those large bills are damaging the department’s budget.

“What I can’t plan for is when the service is provided in 2009, and I don’t get a bill until 2013,” Landers said.

…But the department is most concerned that the hospital routinely charges the state much more than TennCare or Medicare would pay.

“What’s a fair amount?” Landers asked. “Don’t bill us 100 percent or 103 percent of the cost just because it’s the state of Tennessee paying for it.”

The largest single bill the state received this year was for over $1 million for one inmate treated in 2009.

Among the itemized charges, $3000 dollars for an anti-fungal drug. The charge is at least five times higher than the Medicare payment limit for that same drug.

Legislators propose drug testing for judges

News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State Senator Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and Representative Ryan Haynes (R-Knoxville) said today they will introduce legislation which calls for drug testing all Tennessee judges. McNally made the announcement after meeting yesterday with Knox County Prosecutor Leland Price and the families of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom. Christian and Newsom were raped, tortured and murdered by Lemaricus Davidson, Letalvis Cobbins, George Thomas and Vanessa Coleman seven years ago.

“For a family to have to go through one trial where it involves the torturous murder of their loved one is far too painful for anyone to endure,” said Senator McNally. “But, to have to go through two trials is inconceivable and inexcusable. This legislation addresses this so that no one will have to endure this kind of lengthy and excruciatingly painful court process again due to drug abuse by a judge.”

The families of Newsome and Christian had to endure two painful trials as a result of the misconduct of Judge Richard Baumgartner, who pleaded guilty to illegally taking narcotics during the first trial of the convicted murderers in which he presided. As a result of Baumgartner’s plea, the four defendants who had previously been found guilty, were retried and convicted again.
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