Sen. Mae Beavers, who served on the Senate Judiciary Committee for six years, tells TNReport she was not surprised when she was removed as chair of the influential committee earlier this month. Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey replaced Beavers as chair with fellow Republican Sen. Brian Kelsey, an attorney from Germantown.
When asked about the move, Ramsey said Beavers had disappointed him “time or two,” and that she had not always been a “team player.”
“I ruffled some feathers taking a stand for my constituents, really everybody’s constituents, that had a complaint about judges,” the Mt. Juliet Republican said. “You know, you ruffle feathers, and sometimes that’s just what happens.”
Beavers told several media outlets that she believed it was due to her pushing for the direct elections of judges and speaking out for judicial ethics reform. Ramsey said those were not factors in making “one of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make.
…Beavers said she was there was “a kind of a sense of relief” that she is no longer responsible for a committee that sees 700 bills every year. “Still, we’re getting complaints about judges, which will be forwarded to the new chairman of that committee,” she said. “We will continue to address those issues; file legislation when we feel it’s needed.”
All seven Tennessee Republican congressmen voted against the $50 billion Hurricane Sandy relief package approved by the U.S. House on Monday night – along with Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper of Nashville. Cooper was the only Democrat in the nation to vote not. Stephen Hale asked him about it. Pith: Why did you vote against the bill?
Cooper: The bill wasn’t paid for. In fact, it wasn’t even partially paid for. Congress really made no effort to pay for even a fracture of it, so it added $50 billion to the deficit. I did support last week $9 billion, free and clear, I did support in this legislation $20-plus billion free and clear, but the extra $30 billion really should have been at least partly paid for. This is consistent with my past votes on deficits and on disaster relief. You should read the Washington Post editorial today. It’s excellent, pointing out how Congress regularly fails to handle our emergency responsibilities.
Another thing is, this isn’t any regular period in American history here. This is a period of budget crisis, literally. Because America’s been officially out of money since the first of the year. So we added to the deficit without even lifting a finger to offset the spending is pretty irresponsible at a time like this. You know, I love New England. My friends up there, if they need help, I voted for tens of billions of help, but to have the full package not even partially offset, it’s a new level of congressional spending.
— Note: Cooper sent out a press release statement on his vote. It’s below.
A state agency has awarded Washington County $300,000 in disaster relief for damage from last month’s floods, reports the Johnson City Press. The Tennessee Housing Development Agency funds would supplement a Federal Home Loan Bank grant for housing repairs not covered by insurance or other disaster relief programs. The funds would be used to serve households at or below 80 percent of area median income and would require a 50 percent personal match.
“All of Washington County has spoken with one voice about the need for disaster assistance in our area,” state Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, said in announcing the relief in a news release. “I appreciate THDA stepping up and bringing help to those in our community who faced flooding.
“This is a great first step and I will continue working with Mayor Eldridge and other leaders to make sure we receive the help we need.”
The funds were made available from the THDA Housing Trust Fund. The funds will either be administered from the county or another agency. A decision on that will be made later this week, according to Hill’s news release.
…The Federal Emergency Management Agency ruled that the area did not meet the criteria for aid despite significant damage to scores of homes and other properties in Washington, Carter and Unicoi counties.
There was an $8.5 million threshold for the area to qualify for federal dollars to help residents rebuild what raging flood water swept away or destroyed. Affirmation would have cleared the way for residents to be reimbursed up to $30,000 for repairs.
Owners of storm-damaged homes, about 5,000 senior citizens and some expanding businesses will be eligible for state tax breaks under bills approved by the General Assembly on the last day of this year’s legislative session.
The businesses and homeowners were covered in HB1995, part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s legislative package that has several provisions dealing with tax incentives.
Before being passed unanimously by the House and Senate, the measure was amended to allow persons who had their home destroyed or damaged in West Tennessee flooding or East and Middle Tennessee tornadoes this spring to get a sales tax break.
Under the provision, homeowners who turn in their receipts for building materials needed for repairs or appliances and furniture purchased to replace items destroyed by bad weather will get a rebate from the state for all sales taxes paid in buying them.
From the House Democratic Caucus
(Nashville) — House Democrats and Republicans filed a bill Tuesday to provide tax relief for flood and tornado victims.
Tennesseans that qualify for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance authorized by President Barack Obama, under the measure, could buy appliances, building materials and home furnishings tax free through the end of the year.
“The most important thing right now is for everyone to keep all their receipts until this legislation is approved,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley). “We’ve got to help our friends and neighbors get back on their feet. We plan to move this legislation through as quickly as possible, so that Tennesseans can start putting their lives back together.”
The proposal provides for tax exemptions on household appliances up to $3,200 per item, building materials up to $500 per item and furnishings up to $3,200 per item. The exemptions are capped at $2,500 per household. Also, a $25,000 fine would be imposed on anyone who fraudulently applies for the assistance.
The deadline for filing receipts with the Department of Revenue is February 29, 2011.
“Our hearts go out to those that lost so much due to these terrible acts of nature,” said House Democratic Floor Leader Lois DeBerry (D-Memphis). “We’ll be issuing more information on how to apply for these tax refunds when the bill passes next week.”
News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced today President Obama granted a request to declare 15 Tennessee counties as federal disaster areas due to a series of severe storms, straight-line winds, flash flooding and the record flooding of the Mississippi River, beginning on April 19, 2011.
“Our first responders, local leaders and state agencies have been working around the clock to protect and save the lives of those threatened by the record flooding in Tennessee,” Haslam said. “I am happy our neighbors and communities will receive the relief they need now and the assistance to rebuild when the flood waters recede.”