SMYRNA, Tenn. — While Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney acted as master of ceremonies at an event hosted by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s reelection campaign Saturday, tea party activists held an event nearby to denounce the incumbent lawmaker’s voting record.
The contrast may illustrate the split within state Republican ranks now that the party holds a supermajority in the state Legislature, the governor’s office, both U.S. Senate seats and seven of nine U.S. House seats.
“We’re just sick and tired of the Republican establishment telling us we can’t have an open debate on Lamar Alexander’s record,” said Ben Cunningham, founder of Nashville Tea Party and Tennessee Tax Revolt, who served as master of ceremonies at the “counter-rally” attended by perhaps 200 persons from around the state — including a small group from Alexander’s native Blount County.
He said Devaney “is not supposed to endorse in a primary” but is effectively doing so by boosting Alexander’s re-election campaign toward a “coronation” by “trying to intimidate” prospective opponents.
“There is no primary now,” said Devaney when asked about the comments of Cunningham and others at the tea party gathering.
See also The Tennessean, which includes this paragraph: Jim Jeffries, a spokesman for Alexander, on Saturday night said that more than 500 people showed up for the Alexander campaign event at the Smyrna Air Center to honor Middle Tennessee Republican Party chairmen.
News release from Tennessee Education Lottery:
NASHVILLE–Marking its ninth straight year of record sales, the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation today announced totals for the just-ended Fiscal Year 2013, including an all-time high of $339.7 Million in proceeds raised for state education programs, an impressive five percent increase over last year’s then-record $323.4 Million. The Lottery’s strong performance produced approximately $16.2 Million more to be used for education-related funding in Tennessee.
The Lottery also reported $1.36 Billion in total sales for FY 2013, a hefty increase of $56.3 Million over last year’s previous sales records of $1.31 Billion. The totals posted span the fiscal year from July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013.
Total Lottery funding for education-related programs in Tennessee–including funds used for scholarships, grants, and after-school programs–now exceeds $2.73 Billion since ticket sales began in January 2004.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s crisis hotline has gotten more calls over the last few months from children on the verge of suicide or in emotional distress than ever before.
The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/1cZNZyh) reports it is unclear what’s causing the increase, but noted it could mean more children in crisis or that more are aware that the hotline exists.
The Department of Mental Health and TennCare pay Memphis-based nonprofit Youth Villages to run the statewide program.
Dawn Puster, who is crisis services director for Youth Villages, says trained counselors are always available to help. In the decade since the hotline was set up, she says nearly 100,000 calls have come in with 68,000 that led to home visits.
Tennessee political action committees reached record levels in both number and in handing out contributions last year as the Legislature’s new Republican supermajority was elected, according to a report by the Registry of Election Finance.
A total of 611 PACs registered to donate to Tennessee’s state-level campaigns for 2012 and gave a total of $8,185,652 in contributions, almost all to candidates running for the state Legislature, the Registry said in its annual report.
The PACs spent another $2,003,603 in “independent expenditures,” which do not go directly to a campaign but are spent independently to help elect or defeat a legislative candidate. Typically, most is money spent on attack advertising.
That compares to 540 PACs registered in 2010 and making direct donations to candidates totaling $6,777,264 plus independent expenditures totaling $1,995,503. In 2010, there was also a gubernatorial election underway – unlike 2012 – and PACs were giving more money to Gov. Bill Haslam and other candidates. In 2012, only a couple of PACs donated early to Haslam’s 2014 re-election fund.
PACs thus spent a total of about $10.2 million in 2012 trying to influence campaigns compared to $8.9 million in 2010.
(Note: The Registry 2012 report is HERE; a list of all registered 2012 PACs and their donations, HERE.)
Tennessee’s biggest health insurer helped ensure its own fiscal health last year by boosting net income by more than 26 percent and swelling its reserves to more than 50 percent above what is legally required, reports the Chattanooga TFP. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, the state’s biggest nonprofit corporation with $5.6 billion in annual revenues, said Monday it earned record profits of $221.5 million during 2012. Even with its income gain last year, BlueCross officials said the 4 percent profit margin was still the lowest among the major health insurers operating in Tennessee.
“As a tax-paying, not-for-profit company we can operate on a lower profit margin than the investor-owned companies in our industry, but we still try to maintain a small profit margin to ensure we can continue to serve our customers and remain financially strong,” BlueCross Vice President Roy Vaughn said. “I think our customers want us to be strong financially and to do well so that they know they can depend upon our services.”
By Travis Lollar, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessean newspaper and a group of Tennessee news organizations have asked a judge to open records from the Department of Children’s Services, arguing that the public needs information that would reveal how the state handled cases where children they had investigated died or nearly died.
First Amendment attorney Robb Harvey argued Tuesday in Davidson County Chancery Court that Tennessee’s public records law requires the agency to disclose its files on 151 children who have died since 2009. The DCS had investigated the children and confirmed neglect or abuse in 47 cases.
“The public has a strong interest in knowing what has happened to these children,” Harvey said. “They were either in state custody or DCS had an investigative record on them. They are our most vulnerable citizens, and DCS is an important agency. Without these records, there is no public accountability here.”
Deputy Attorney General Janet Kleinfelter disagreed that state law requires the records to be open. She said the law requires the department to provide limited information about the deaths.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — It was likely a record weekend for gun sales in Tennessee.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Kristin Helm said in an email that the agency performed 9,772 background checks over Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That’s 500 more than the second biggest weekend on record — Black Friday and the two days that followed in November.
Background checks do not indicate how many guns were actually sold because buyers can purchase more than one.
The sales spike came after President Barack Obama called for stricter gun control following the horrific elementary school shooting in Connecticut on Friday.
John Harris, executive director of the gun rights advocacy group the Tennessee Firearms Association, said many people he knows are purchasing guns and ammunition.
“The fear is that the government is going to disregard the Constitution and try to ban weapons we’ve got a right to own under the Constitution,” Harris said. “…The thinking is that since we don’t know what’s going to happen, we need to go out and stock up.”
At the Goodlettsville Gun Shop, outside of Nashville, sales continued to be brisk on Wednesday.
Owner Phillip Arrington said in a phone interview that the store was packed and he had five check-out lines going.
“I’m so busy I don’t have time to talk,” he said.
The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association was declared the functional equivalent of a state agency Friday and declared to be subject to the Tennessee Open Records Act, reports The City Paper. Responding to a lawsuit filed by The City Paper earlier this year, Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman granted the newspaper’s motion, agreeing that the TSSAA is the state’s de facto regulatory body for high school athletics and therefore subject to records requests.
As part of an investigation into recruiting violations at Montgomery Bell Academy, The City Paper requested documents from the TSSAA in January but was denied by the organization. The paper petitioned the court for access to the records in February.
Tourism’s economic impact in the state reached a record level last year as visitor spending exceeded $15 billion, according to new figures released Thursday at the 2012 Tennessee Tourism Governor’s Conference and reported by the News Sentinel. The expenditures totaling $15.36 billion represent an increase of 8.7 percent, or $1.2 billion from 2010, the largest single year-over-year increase.
“You really should be congratulating and celebrating your success,” Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker told a crowd during her annual state of the industry address. “The impact, it’s pretty amazing.”
For the sixth consecutive year, tourism business generated more than a billion dollars in state and local sales tax revenue. All of the state’s 95 counties had an increase, including 23 counties that were up 10 percent.
…Tennessee also entered back into the top 10 ranking of states for number of visitors. The move to 9th in the nation is up six spots from the previous year when it was ranked 15th. International travel visits were up 14.6 percent, resulting in $450 million in visitor spending.
With more than two months to go before election day, Tennesseans are position to break records for the amount donated to the presidential campaign and congressional campaigns, reports The Tennessean. Already, $29.15 million has flowed from individuals in Tennessee to 2012 presidential and congressional campaigns nationwide, as well as to political parties, political action committees and outside groups such as “Super PACs,” according to the center’s breakdown of Federal Election Commission records.
If the state’s politically active continue to open their checkbooks over the stretch run, they could top the $36.78 million in individual contributions Tennessee pumped into the federal-level campaigns of 2008, the most for the state this century.
The Center for Responsive Politics recently estimated that 2012 congressional and presidential races will cost at least $5.8 billion, setting another new record.
…Nashville continues to dominate political giving in the state, with individuals there giving $11.97 million. The Chattanooga area is a distant second at $3.9 million.
The most generous ZIP codes have been 37205 ($2.48 million) and 37215 ($2.12 million), both in Nashville, followed by 37027 ($1.47 million) in Brentwood.