News release from Secretary of State’s office:
A total of 326,876 Tennesseans voted early or absentee by mail, easily surpassing the previous high for an August election during a presidential year. The previous record – in August 2008 – was 217,441.
Early voting ended Saturday. The election will be held Thursday.
It is important to compare elections with the same or similar races on the ballot because that can affect turnout. For example, the presidential election in November is expected to have a higher turnout. Also, August elections during non-presidential years tend to have higher turnout because high profile races for county mayor and sheriff are on the ballot then.
“For the last year, our Division of Elections has conducted an unprecedented voter outreach effort,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “This campaign was launched to help educate people about Tennessee’s new photo ID law. Not only have election officials at the state and the county level done a good job in informing people about that law, but they have also raised awareness about this year’s elections. We see that reflected in these record early voting numbers.”
Voters should remember to bring a state- or federally-issued photo ID to the polls with them in order to cast ballots Thursday. A voter who does not present a state- or federally-issued photo ID at the polls will not be turned away, but will receive a provisional ballot. However, the voter will need to return to the local election commission office within two business days after the election and present a state- or federally-issued photo ID in order for the provisional ballot to be counted.
Examples of acceptable forms of ID, whether current or expired, include driver licenses, U.S. passports, Department of Safety photo ID cards, U.S. military photo IDs and other state or federal government photo ID cards. College student IDs are not acceptable.
For more information, please visit www.GoVoteTN.com or call the Division of Elections toll-free at 1-877-850-4959.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee lottery officials announced Monday that the lottery has raised more than $323 million this year for state education programs, the eighth consecutive record-setting year.
The figure is a 10.2 percent increase — or roughly $30 million — over last year’s then-record of $293.4 million, officials said.
Data from the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation, which oversees lottery-funded programs, show more than 600,000 scholarships have been awarded to in-state education institutions since the lottery’s inception in 2004.
Total education funding since then stands at more than $2 billion.
“Across the corporation we’ve focused on our mission to serve Tennessee students and their families by maximizing proceeds for the education programs funded by the lottery,” said Rebecca Hargrove, president and CEO of the lottery.
A Republican-backed proposal that failed during the recent Tennessee General Assembly sought to cut students’ lottery scholarships in half, depending on lottery revenues.
News release from Scott Hughes campaign:
SEYMOUR, TN- Today, the Scott Hughes for State Senate campaign launched an informational website aimed at shedding some light on the voting record of Hughes’ opponent, State Sen. Doug Overbey. The website, HowDougVotes.com, details some areas of Sen. Overbey’s voting record that he has, so far, been reluctant to discuss with voters and includes topics ranging from taxes and spending to illegal immigration and ethics laws.
In launching HowDougVotes.com, Hughes had this to say:
“Unfortunately, truth and fact are usually the first casualties of political campaigns. All too often in election years, politicians spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on political advertising and direct mail campaigns aimed at reframing the record and injecting uncertainty and ambiguity into their voting histories. As campaigns exchange poll-tested rhetoric and one-liner accusations, voters are often left unsure about who to believe and the debate becomes less and less about where the candidates actually stand on the issues.”
“Hence, I do not feel that my opponent has been entirely forthcoming about his voting record. While he has been quick to assert that he has ‘a conservative voting record,’ after looking at his voting history for myself, I feel that his votes tell a very different tale.”
“My intention in launching HowDougVotes.com is not to personally attack my opponent. It simply reflects my efforts to ensure that voters have access to all of the relevant information needed to make an informed voting decision. Every vote discussed in the website is documented and linked back to the official voting records on the Tennessee General Assembly’s website. I would encourage voters to visit HowDougVotes.com and read over the legislative records for themselves. From taxes and spending to government bailouts and ethics laws, I believe the truth about where my opponent really stands on the issues can be found in his voting record.”
— Note: The website is easy to use and well-researched and cleverly (but, of course, not very objectively) written. An example, stemming from Overbey’s vote this year against a proposed constitutional amendment to change the state system for selecting Supreme Court judges to something along the lines of the federal judicial selection system: Voted against legislative confirmations for state judges, effectively siding with liberal billionaire George Soros in keeping judicial selection insulated from both the voters and their popularly-elected representatives (SJR 710, 2012; SB 3576, 2012)
News release from Senate Democratic Caucus:
NASHVILLE – State Senator Reginald Tate and State Representative Karen Camper have passed legislation to give citizens who committed certain nonviolent, non-sexual crimes the opportunity to clear their records after years of abiding by the law.
“All crimes are serious, and we should take their punishments seriously, too,” Tate said. “What we are finding, however, is that mistakes people made in their lives 20 years ago are keeping them from obtaining a degree, applying for jobs and moving on with their lives.”
Senate Bill 3520 allows those convicted of certain nonviolent, non-sexual misdemeanors and Class E felonies to apply for expungement of their records. Offenders would be eligible only if the crime was more than five years old and they had completed all requirements of their sentence with no further convictions.
Eligible offenses include various nonviolent theft and fraud charges, vandalism and other nonviolent crimes like failure to appear in court.
The Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference worked with Camper and Tate to create the list of eligible offenses, as well as the steps necessary to have the crimes expunged. A $350 filing fee for expungement will fund costs associated with the process, as well as provide revenue for the state’s general fund.
The legislation is expected to add more than $7 million in annual revenues to the state’s general fund, but bill sponsors and other lawmakers spoke more to the value of giving one-time, nonviolent offenders a fresh start.
“We have a duty to uphold the law, but we also have the responsibility to forgive those who serve their punishments and learn from their mistakes,” Camper said. “This legislation will provide opportunities to those who have paid their dues and are looking for ways to better themselves and provide for their families.”
The bill now goes to Governor Bill Haslam for his signature.
News release from Tennessee Lottery Corp.
NASHVILLE – Boosted by sales from a world-record jackpot and increasingly popular instant games, the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation today announced record-setting totals for the Third Quarter of Fiscal Year 2012 (note: which is the first quarter of the calendar year), including a whopping $89.96 million raised for state education programs, a 17 percent increase over the same quarter last fiscal year, and well above the previous record of $79.6 million set in the Third Quarter of Fiscal Year 2006.
Year-to-date, Lottery proceeds for education–the funds used for scholarships, grants and related programs–have now reached $234 million, up $22.44 million, or 10.6 percent, over this time last year.
When combined with Lottery funding for after-school programs– $87.1 million to date– the total Lottery funding for education-related programs now exceeds $2.3 billion since the Lottery’s inception in 2004.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A bill to close public access to teacher evaluation data is headed for a full Senate vote.
The Senate State and Local Government Committee voted 7-0 on Tuesday to advance the bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville.
Tracy said access to the data should be limited to school officials and not available to the general public. In the senator’s words: “Evaluations are supposed to be used as a tool to help teachers, it’s not going to be used for anything other than that.”
Under recent changes to state law, half of teachers’ assessments must derive from testing data, while the rest comes from classroom observations.
The companion bill was awaiting a vote in the House State and Local Government Committee on Wednesday.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Education Lottery Corp. reports record sales of $130 million in February.
Lottery officials Tuesday said it was an 11.4 percent increase over the previous record of $116.7 million last March.
They attributed the record to strong growth in instant games, a restructured Powerball and new games.
The lottery has been selling tickets since January 2004.
About $550,000 was collected for Republican spending in campaigns for state legislative seats at a recent fundraiser at Gov. Bill Haslam’s official residence, according to House Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart.
That is a new record for a legislative fundraising event, she said. It is also about twice as much as the state Republican party collected at a fundraiser held at the governor’s residence earlier this year. Adam Nickas, executive director of the state GOP, says that “leadership forum” netted about $275,000.
“If they really raised that much, that’s something,” acknowledged House Democratic Chairman Mike Turner of the $550,000 total. “I don’t know where all that money came from.”
Reports disclosing exact amounts collected and sources of the donations need not be publicly disclosed until January. Maggart said she did not know whether any money came from direct corporate contributions as authorized by a law enacted earlier this year by the Legislature because “I haven’t looked through the checks.”
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner said House and Senate Democrats have had no major fundraising events yet this year, but they plan to schedule functions in November and December.
While saying he does not anticipate the minority Democrats matching the majority Republican record, Turner said that he is optimistic that enough funding can be raised to wage competitive campaigns in selected legislative districts next year. At one recent House Democratic fundraiser with a limited invitation list, about $27,000 was collected, and checks are still coming in, he said.
Turner said Democrats are eyeing about 17 incumbent Republican freshmen and six more senior incumbents as possible targets next year, though much will depend on how Republicans draw new lines in the redistricting process under way.
Republicans have a 64-34 advantage in the House, where there is one independent, and a 19-14 advantage in the Senate.
The Tennessee Education Lottery is raking in record profits — selling nearly $1.2 billion in scratch-off tickets, nightly drawings and multistate mega-jackpot games in its latest fiscal year, reports The Tennessean. While 17 other states’ lotteries also hit all-time highs, the 7-year-old Tennessee lottery is growing faster than most, outpacing national lottery growth rates by 63 percent.
Gambling industry observers suggest that, as a result of either dreams or desperation, the soft economy may be pushing consumers to buy more tickets, while Tennessee lottery CEO Rebecca Hargrove says she believes sales would be even higher in better economic times.
Whatever the reason, one thing now appears a sure bet: With the lottery’s success paying off, Tennesseans are soon likely to see an even bigger lottery presence, with more games offered in more places for even larger prizes.
News release from state comptroller’s office:
With its high credit ratings just reaffirmed, the State of Tennessee plans to sell an estimated $584 million worth of bonds next week – the largest sale in the state’s history.
Some of the bond proceeds will be used to pay for new capital projects and infrastructure, including economic development grants for Volkswagen in Chattanooga, Wacker Chemie in Bradley County, Hemlock Semiconductor in Clarksville and Electrolux in Memphis. Those projects are expected to create 4,650 new permanent jobs, plus thousands more construction jobs and jobs in related industries.
The proceeds will also finance improvements to various state-owned buildings and properties across Tennessee, including a new research building for the University of Tennessee-Knoxville campus, a new library for the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga campus, a prison in Bledsoe County, renovations to the Supreme Court building and other state office buildings in Nashville and a new driver license center in Memphis.
Bonds will also be issued to refund (refinance) outstanding bonds to take advantage of low interest rates. Over time, the refunded bonds could save the state up to $10 million in interest costs.
The sale includes both taxable and tax-exempt bonds. Tennessee buyers must pay federal taxes on the taxable bonds, but they are not required to pay the state’s Hall Income Tax on interest earnings.
“This sale represents an excellent opportunity for people to buy Tennessee bonds,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “The major rating agencies have reaffirmed, once again, that our state is financially well-managed and therefore has strong credit-worthiness. I’m pleased that these bonds will be used to pay for a variety of needs our citizens have, including economic development projects that will create badly-needed jobs. Also, this sale represents an opportunity for us to save taxpayer money by capitalizing on low interest rates.”
Earlier this week, two of the major New York bond rating agencies – Fitch and Moody’s Investors Services – reaffirmed Tennessee’s AAA rating, which is the highest rating available. The third major agency, Standard and Poor’s, reaffirmed Tennessee’s AA+ rating, the second highest rating available. Among other factors used in determining the ratings, the agencies praised Tennessee for its sound financial management practices, low debt burden, well-funded pension plan and adequate reserves. The rating agencies expressed some concerns about a possible reduction in federal funding and the overall health of the economy – factors which are largely beyond the state’s control.
The bond sale will be held from Oct. 11-13. More information about the sale is available at www.buyTNbonds.com. The state is using an aggressive strategy to market the bonds. Senior staff members taped a presentation to provide investors with an overview of the bond offering. The web site provides information on the brokerage firms participating in the sale, as well as instructions for first-time investors on how to purchase bonds, a link to the preliminary official statement and the taped investor presentation.
The previous record for a state bond sale was $389.635 million in 2009.