By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Longtime Sen. Douglas Henry said Wednesday that his health and the high cost of campaigning were factors in his decision not to seek re-election next year, even though he believes he could win if he did run.
The 86-year-old Nashville Democrat officially met with reporters about a week after his campaign manager sent an email to Henry’s supporters last week announcing his decision.
Henry, who turns 87 this month, said he had been disregarding his doctor’s request that he not run again but finally decided to heed his advice. He also said the amount of money he spent on his 2010 election was “obscene.”
“If I told y’all how much money it cost to get elected last time, you’d never believe it,” he said. (Note: His campaign expenditures for the 2010 cycle were about $582,000.)
Sen. Douglas Henry, the most senior member of the Tennessee General Assembly, has announced he will not seek a 12th term next year.
“It is my intention, the Lord willing, to serve in the regular session of the General Assembly in 2014 and any special session or sessions called during that year until the November election,” Henry said in a letter to Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney.
The Tennessean reported Henry’s decision, noting he referred a reporter to a story in the Green Hills News, and quoting his long-time political ally Nick Bailey. “He asked me to let you know that he has made the decision not to seek re-election in 2014,” Bailey wrote in a letter to Henry’s supporters. “He does intend to serve the remainder of his term through next year.
“While I am convinced that Sen. Henry could have been re-elected, it was not a decision he reached based on the likely outcome of the election. Rather, it was a decision to devote his full attention to the care of his wife Lolly.”
The Green Hills News story by Drucillia Smith Fuller (pdf of the weekly paper HERE) quotes the letter to legislative leaders. An excerpt from the story: He enclosed a letter from his physician, Dr. Mohana Karlekar, written last May but only heeded a year later, advising that his continuing to work as a senator, at the pace he works, would negatively impact his health.
The decision by Sen. Henry, who turns 87 on Monday, May 13, opens the 21st District for a newcomer to the Senate, promising to spark a fierce battle between the two parties for the seat.
Henry’s quarter-century of service chairing the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee has been widely praised by colleagues in both parties. Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell recently expressed her appreciation of Henry, “You know, governors come and go. But it is Sen. Douglas Henry who has watched that budget year after year and worried about that program. It’s just a wonderful gift he has given our state to his children, to his grandchildren to have done this for state government.”
Republican State Treasurer David Lillard has called Sen. Henry, “the lion of the pension system — he guards it well,” while State Comptroller Justin Wilson credits Henry with keeping pensions fully-funded since 1972.”
Henry with his characteristic modesty thanks “my late friend Lt. Gov. John Wilder who made me chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. That made me a big, big dog!”
The Senator expressed his admiration for current Senate Finance Chairman Randy McNally, a Republican, with whom he now serves.
Henry served a term in the House in the 1950s – the 79th General Assembly, which convened in 1955 – and was first elected to the Senate during the 87th General Assembly, which convened in 1971
More Tennessee teachers are heading for the exits. Since 2008 the number is up by more than a thousand – nearly doubling – to a total last year of almost 2,200, reports WPLN. Exactly why is a bit of a mystery. Some teachers see it as a response to a couple years of politically charged upheaval in state education policy. But state officials say it’s not so clear-cut, and even go so far as to argue higher turnover has an upside.
…State education researcher Nate Schwartz agrees many teachers getting bad scores may see it as their cue to leave, in what he calls “self-selection.” He says this isn’t driven by explicit state policy. And because so much has changed in the state over the last few years, Schwartz says it’s hard to pin down a specific cause for the retirement spike.
(Note: The article has a table showing annual teacher retirements from 2008 through 2012. In 2008, there were 1,195 teacher retirements, average age 60.5 years and average experience 26.7 years. In 2012, there were 2,197 retirements, average age 61.4 years, average experience 26.7 years.)
Besides the new evaluations, many teachers were outraged when lawmakers tossed out their collective-bargaining rights in 2011, as well as the old tenure system. But the uptick in retirements might have less to do with shifting policy, says Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, and more to do with the economy.
Huffman notes people retired less “across all professions” amid the recession in 2008, “because their retirement accounts had been hit so badly.”
So if a lot of teachers already put off retiring a few years, Huffman says it’s no surprise to see more leaving now. The point he wants to emphasize is that teachers ranked at the bottom are retiring faster:
“Two years ago our best teachers and our lowest performing teachers retired at the same rate. And after last year, those rates completely diverge, so that our lowest performing teachers were retiring at twice the rate of our best-performing teachers.”
That trend points toward improving schools, Huffman says.
But it’s worth comparing more than just rates. In terms of real people, last year more top teachers retired – 129 of them, compared to 96 from the bottom. So even though 5s retired at a lower rate, there were still far more of them gone. State officials argue the rate is a more telling comparison, since in 2012 there were 6,704 teachers with 5s on the 1-to-5 scale, while 1s totaled just 2,644.
Six Tennessee legislators leaving the General Assembly this year are in Chicago this week on what could amount to a taxpayer-funded junket, according to TNReport. Four retiring legislators and two state reps who lost their bids for re-election in last week’s primary have given the state notice they plan to get reimbursed for attending the National Conference of State Legislatures annual summit in the Windy City that began Monday, a trip that could cost as much as than $2,500 in registration, airfare, hotel stay, per diem and cab rides.
They are Rep. Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, and Rep. Jeanne Richardson, D-Memphis, who lost their primaries, and retiring lawmakers Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill; Rep. Don Harmon, D-Dunlap; Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden; and Rep. Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington.
One of the General Assembly’s highest-ranking Republicans says he trusts that the departing lawmakers have good reasons behind their decisions to make the trip.
“I know it will be beneficial to the others who attend to get the benefit of their wisdom and their years of service,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville. “I think discretion is the better part of valor with these things, and obviously they’ve exercised their discretion and think it’s fine to go. I’m not passing judgment on it.”
Legislators are permitted to let taxpayers foot the bill for out-of-state legislative trips, complete with a per diem, travel and lodging expenses. Even outgoing lawmakers are entitled, said Connie Ridley, director of Tennessee’s office of Legislative Affairs.
“Members of the General Assembly serve as a legislator until the general election in November,” Ridley said in an email. “They are no longer eligible for compensation of any form the evening before the November general election.”
— UPDATE NOTE: Herron, though authorized to make the trip, reports that he did not go.
State Rep. Harry Tindell, a Knoxville Democrat who’s retiring this year, received a General Assembly flag after the state House of Representatives passed a resolution describing him as a “dedicated and well-informed legislator” who worked “tirelessly” for his 13th District constituents, reports Georgiana Vines. It’s not any ordinary General Assembly flag.
The banner was designed by Sheila Adkins, a fellow Fulton High School classmate, in 1978 for a contest sponsored by the late Rep. Ted Ray Miller. Tindell represents Miller’s old district.
…(Rep. Joe) Armstrong gave the flag to Tindell (during a House floor ceremony). He also gave him a pair of cuff links.
Rep. Frank Niceley, a Republican from Strawberry Plains whose district has included parts of South and West Knoxville, was among those complimenting Tindell.
“He can kill your favorite bill and make you feel good about it,” Niceley said.
Tindell plans to join a friend in a government relations business after his legislative duties are over, he said Friday. He will work on projects and do business development, he said. He cannot do any work with or for the state of Tennessee for a year after he leaves office, which will be after the Nov. 6 election.