Tom Ingram and two of his associates lobbied state lawmakers this year to eliminate Tennessee’s privilege tax on professional athletes, according to The Tennessean, but you wouldn’t know it from what they disclosed about their efforts publicly. The lobbyist registration forms that Tom Ingram and his colleagues at The Ingram Group filed with the state only mentioned another lobbying firm, giving the public no indication of the special interests they were really representing in an unsuccessful bid to kill the so-called “jock tax.”
The Ingram Group’s Marcille Durham and Sam Reed registered as lobbyists for McGuiness Group, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying shop, on Feb. 25, with Tom Ingram joining them on April 17, state records show. McGuiness Group’s website says its clients include the players associations for the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association.
Dick Williams, chairman of good-government group Common Cause Tennessee and a lobbyist himself, said Ingram, Durham and Reed appear to have complied with the law. But the law, which requires only that lobbyists list their employers and that employers say who’s lobbying for them, leaves something to be desired.
“Ideally, it would be nice to have a little more clarity for the public,” Williams said. “It does leave a little vagueness.”
…Durham said the Ingram Group lobbyists’ listing of McGuiness Group as their employer was not only legal but accurate. She said McGuiness Group, run by former U.S. Senate aide Kevin McGuiness, is the “professional manager” for the pro sports players associations.
“I wouldn’t call McGuiness just a lobbyist,” Durham said Friday. “McGuiness Group was our client. Our direction didn’t come from the players associations. It came from McGuiness Group.”
Durham said she, Reed and Ingram have updated their registrations to indicate that they’re about to start lobbying directly for the hockey and basketball players associations.
,,,The privilege tax, a common practice in states with professional sports franchises, applies to pro hockey and basketball players who play in the state of Tennessee as members of the Nashville Predators, Memphis Grizzlies or visiting NHL and NBA teams. The tax does not apply to the Tennessee Titans or their opponents.
Athletes are taxed $2,500 per game for up to three games per year. A recent article in the Marquette Sports Law Review, which argues that Tennessee’s tax is unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause, says some athletes wind up paying to play here when the privilege tax and other taxes exceed their per-game wages.
State officials have quietly pulled the plug on an effort to replace a complex by Solid Savings” computer system used to track vehicles in Tennessee, after spending more than a decade and at least $40 million on development, reports Chas Sisk. The Department of Revenue confirmed this month that it has ended an ambitious project called the Title and Registration User’s System of Tennessee, or TRUST, after determining that it would never reach its goal of replacing the state’s aging mainframe-based system.
The project, which would have created a new network linking the offices of all 95 county clerks in Tennessee, is one of several information technology overhauls launched by the state in recent years, only to run aground.
Although largely hidden from public view, IT travails have been a common thread running through recent failures at state agencies, including problems at the Department of Human Services, the Department of Children’s Services and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
State officials caution against oversimplifying the situation. They note that many large IT projects undertaken by private corporations fail as well.
But Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has responded by overhauling the state’s approach to IT. Last month, 1,600 IT workers were asked to reapply for their jobs, and the state has dedicated $4 million to retraining this year alone.
Mark Bengel, the state’s chief information officer, said that many state workers in the fast-changing IT sector have let their skills fall behind — to the point where they no longer have the expertise needed to bid out projects or to supervise them once they were awarded.
“IT is changing so fast and becoming so complex,” Bengel said in an interview last week. “Staffing hasn’t kept up.”
The TRUST project did achieve some of its goals. Car owners in most counties can renew their registrations online, and a complicated system that forced county clerks to memorize dozens of codes has been replaced with easier-to-use menus.
But the project hasn’t accomplished its main goal: replacing the state’s 25-year-old mainframe with a modern system of interconnected computers. Revenue Commissioner Richard Roberts instead decided to try to keep the mainframe working for a few more years, and then start a new project once the IT sector evolves further.
…The TRUST project spans three administrations, starting at the end of Republican Gov. Don Sundquist’s, running throughout Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen’s and ending more than a year into Haslam’s. The project has passed between two sets of government agencies and has gone through a major restart.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court will struggle this week with the validity of an Arizona law that tries to keep illegal immigrants from voting by demanding all state residents show documents proving their U.S. citizenship before registering to vote in national elections.
The high court will hear arguments Monday over the legality of Arizona’s voter-approved requirement that prospective voters document their U.S. citizenship in order to use a registration form produced under the federal “Motor Voter” voter registration law that doesn’t require such documentation.
This case focuses on voter registration in Arizona, which has tangled frequently with the federal government over immigration issues involving the Mexican border. But it has broader implications because four other states — Alabama, Georgia, Kansas and Tennessee — have similar requirements, and 12 other states are contemplating similar legislation, officials say.
The Obama administration is supporting challengers to the law.
News release from secretary of state’s office:
Tomorrow (Saturday, Oct. 6) is the last day for Tennesseans to register to vote by mail if they wish to participate in the Nov. 6 election.
Mail-in applications to register must be postmarked by Monday, October 8 in order to be valid for the November election. However, the United States Post Office will be closed on Monday for the federal Columbus Day holiday. Therefore, applications need to be postmarked by tomorrow.
People may still register in person at the local election commission offices in 93 of Tennessee’s 95 counties through the close of business Monday. (Election offices in Lewis and Hickman counties will not be open Monday. Citizens in Lewis and Hickman counties who want to register to vote on Monday may take their forms to another county election commission office on Monday and those forms will be accepted in time for the November election.)
For questions about registering to vote, contact your local election commission office http://tnsos.org/elections/election_commissions.php, call the state Division of Elections’ toll-free hotline at 1-877-850-4959 or visit www.GoVoteTN.com.
Upset over reports of Democrats voting in GOP primaries earlier this month, some Republicans are reviving an previously-shelved effort to require party registration and closed primaries in future Tennessee elections.
State Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, and Mark Winslow, a member of the Republican State Executive Committee, say they met Tuesday with House Speaker Beth Harwell to advocate the idea. Harwell, a former state Republican chairman who has previously opposed closed primaries, said she is now reconsidering the proposal.
But state Republican Chairman Chris Devaney voiced opposition to closed primaries Wednesday, saying the open system has led to GOP gains throughout the state and closure could slow or stop the trend of Democrats and independents moving into the Republican fold.
Shipley, who defeated challenger Ben Mallicote by 11 votes according to unofficial Aug. 2 primary returns, said a review of records of those casting ballots in the race shows that 1,262 voters had previously voted in one or more Democratic primaries. Shipley said he believes most were Democrats who voted for Mallicote.
Election officials are holding “voter outreach” programs across the state Tuesday to explain the Tennessee law requiring a photo ID for voting, but Democratic officials said today the official efforts are “woefully inadequate.”
State Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester, joined by Democratic legislators seeking repeal of the photo ID law, held a news conference Monday at the Legislative Plaza to announce the party will have its own “voter registration and education” effort starting Saturday.
All 95 county election commissions are hosting events today – most in a “town hall” format — where citizens can hear an explanation about the new law and ask questions. That effort is coordinated by the state Division of Elections, overseen by Secretary of State Tre Hargett.
Forrester said the Division of Elections effort is inadequate because it focuses on the 126,000 persons who are now registered to vote but hold driver’s licenses without a photo, which are not acceptable for voting under the new law.
Democrats say there are about 675,000 people potentially impacted by the law. That includes people over age 18 counted in the 2010 U.S. Census who are not currently registered voters plus the 126,000 registered voters with invalid driver licenses.
The new law effectively creates “another layer of bureaucracy” to discourage those not now registered to vote from doing so, the Democrats said. Forrester cited a report finding Tennessee already ranks 49th among states in the percentage of eligible voters casting ballots.
Forrester and the Democratic legislators say their education effort will target all eligible voters with the goal of getting them registered to vote as well as in compliance with the photo ID law. Free photo identification card for voting are being offered at drivers’ license stations with 2,385 such cards issued as of Oct. 24.
The Democratic effort will continue for a year, Forrester said, to counter a law that “effectively labels 675,000 Tennesseans as second-class citizens, good enough to pay taxes but not good enough to be a voter.”
Hargett, meanwhile, said the 95-county outreach effort coordinated by the Division of Elections “is massive and certain to reach a tremendous number of voters.”
(Note: The Democratic news release and a Senate Republican Caucus release on photo ID are below.)