University of Tennessee graduate students got some practical advice for their national energy policy ideas that might be politically unpopular from two former public figures who have governed in the real world, reports Georgiana Vines. The occasion was Thursday when presentations by a policy studies class in the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education were made to the center’s namesake, former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, acting the role of “president.”
Then walked in his friend and “vice president,” former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who’s also been a U.S. secretary of energy and a diplomat. Richardson was in Knoxville as a guest of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.
…On increasing the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon, the students recommended a 50-cent increase as a “shock” price that would see consumption go down initially; then, as consumers got used to it and started purchasing gas again, another increase would be imposed.
Bredesen said the amount might not seem like much, but when people have limited income and also need transportation, it’s not an easy idea to sell.
“This is a very privileged group of people,” Bredesen said, speaking of the students. “When you present your ideas in the public sector, you’ve got to put yourself in the shoes of those who are not.”
Think of a single mom with a kid at home, he told them.
“She’s spending a dime and then some to stay afloat,” Bredesen said.
As a parting gift before leaving the state Legislature, five outgoing lawmakers spent more than $13,000 of taxpayer money to go on a four-day junket to Chicago, according a TNReport review of state records. Taxpayers are covering the costs for everything from airfare and mileage to staying in $227-a-night hotels and taking $40 taxi cab rides during the trip. The registration fees were as high as $615 per person for the National Conference of State Legislatures annual summit in August. Some of the lawmakers, who had been defeated at the ballot box or announced their retirement, claimed five and six days’ per diem at $173 per day.
For lawmakers who knew at the time they would leave office after the November election, those bills amount to a taxpayer-funded “retirement party,” one critic said.
“People who serve in the Legislature for long periods of time tend to get a sense of entitlement about what the taxpayers owe them,” said Ben Cunningham, spokesman for Tennessee Tax Revolt, a taxpayer advocacy group.
What’s worse, he said, is that the speakers of both chambers signed off on the $13,388 worth of expense reports.
,,,The outgoing lawmakers are House Education Committee Chairman Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, and Rep. Jeanne Richardson, D-Memphis, who lost their primaries on Aug. 2, four days before the conference, and retiring lawmakers Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill; Rep. Bill Harmon, D-Dunlap; and Rep. Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington.
— Note: The article referenced above is, I think, the last story filed by Andrea Zelinski for TNReport. She’s moving to The City Paper, where she will continue to report on state government and political stuff, after a week or so vacation with her husband. The move has inspired some commentary — HERE, for Betsy Phillips, who is glad there’s a woman around among the dwindling Tennessee Capitol Hill Press Corps. I’m glad she’ll be around, too — not because she’s female, but because she’s a relatively fresh face compared to us old coots and is cool, competent and professional while actually paying a lot of attention to the ongoing process.
The News Sentinel has a flattering profile story on Susan Richardson Williams, a former state Republican chairman and current public relations practitioner who quickly collected more than $40,000 for the Romney campaign just last week.
Williams, naturally, says that Knoxville fundraising success says a lot about how great the candidate is. From the article: It also says a lot about Williams, a sought-after political pundit whose competitive drive and desire to deliver results for things she’s passionate about — including the Republican Party, the state of Tennessee, the University of Tennessee and environmental conservation — have been a hallmark of her 40-year career.
Shelby County’s loss of two seats in the state House this year means four incumbent Memphis Democrats are squaring off in two separate Midtown-centered districts this summer. Richard Locker has a rundown on the races today. In Memphis’ House District 90, Rep. John DeBerry and Rep. Jeanne Richardson are running, along with community activist Ian Richardson. In House District 93, Rep. G.A. Hardaway and Rep. Mike Kernell are running for the same seat.
Both districts are heavily Democratic and have no Republican candidates in the general election. The two districts border each other and comprise most of Midtown and Poplar-Highland areas, with extensions into South and North Memphis and up to Frayser.
…In both races, the opposing incumbents differ in legislative styles and political philosophies.
Hardaway is one of the most vocal Democrats in floor debates, while Kernell prefers a lower-key approach that — with Republicans now in control of the statehouse — he says allows him to build bridges to get things done.
And both DeBerry and Richardson agree that DeBerry is among the most conservative Democrats on social issues while Richardson is among the most progressive. She’s for abortion rights, for example, and DeBerry is not.
As a minister at Coleman Avenue Church of Christ, DeBerry spoke out during debate or voted in favor of three controversial bills sponsored by Republicans that prompted criticism by some Democratic colleagues: an abstinence-only sex education bill, a bill that would have forbidden school counselors and teachers from discussing homosexuality and a bill that protected teachers who discuss alternatives to evolution
…Richardson, who spent most of her career in social work and mental health, said the issues she advocates and has sponsored include strong public schools, protecting working people from predatory lending, equal pay for women, extending benefits for children in foster care from age 18 to 21, and for treatment for the mentally ill to keep them out of jails, which won approval as a pilot project in East Tennessee this year. Her bill to protect the old growth forest in Overton Park also passed.
And she said she’s a strong supporter of rights for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.
…In District 93, Hardaway and Kernell are emphasizing their constituent service work: helping citizens cut through the red tape of government — and their different styles.
Kernell sponsored the state’s consumer protection law, the workplace environmental hazard act, and designating Shelby Farms Forest a protected natural area.
He was sponsor of the state lottery and scholarship program.
Kernell said he believes he’s better able to represent the district in a time of GOP dominance because of his approach. “I believe I have the experience and the ability to work in this new environment of a two-to-one Republican majority in order to get things done for the good of the district and the rest of the state.”
Hardaway emphasizes his community meetings in the district, including housing and jobs conferences in which he invites officials to meet with constituents in need of assistance. “My job is a facilitator if they need help with state government,” he said.
Hardaway is known for his frequent floor speeches. He attacked last year’s “Norris-Todd” act that delayed the merger of the city and county schools, and this year the bills expediting municipal school districts in the suburbs.
“I probably speak out on more issues than most. There are times we have to get things on the record. And when I’m asking questions, I want sponsors to clarify what bills do.”
Six veteran Shelby County Democrats in the state Legislature — two senators and four representatives — are paired against each other in the primary elections as a result of redistricting and their qualifying petitions filed by Thursday’s deadline, reports Zack McMillan in a rundown on the Shelby election situation. Sens. Jim Kyle and Beverly Marrero are running against one another in the new Senate District 30.
Reps. John DeBerry and Jeanne Richardson are running in House District 90, along with Ian L. Randolph.
In House District 93, Reps. G.A. Hardaway and Mike Kernell are facing off.
…Pending the withdrawal deadline next Thursday, seven other Shelby County incumbent state legislators up for election this year would face either primary or general election opposition, or both.
Surprise developments included the emergence of a Democratic challenger, FedEx pilot and Navy veteran Robert Noziglia, to Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, in southeastern Shelby’s House District 95, and intra-party challengers to Republican Sen. Mark Norris of Collierville and Republican Reps. Ron Lollar (Bartlett) and Steve McManus (Cordova).
Kyle and Marrero agreed that running against party colleagues is uncomfortable.
“Yet it’s happening all over the country,” said Kyle, who added that the newly drawn district consists of 70 percent of his old district. “I believe I do a very good job in the Senate and I will work my best to prove my case to the constituents.”
Marrero said she’s already been visiting parts of Raleigh and Frayser added to the district and that Memphis needs “female representation” in the Senate.
“Whatever district I’m in, there will always be poor people, there will always be young people, there’ll always be people who have been abused or neglected that need a voice in Nashville,” Marrero said.
Kernell, elected in 1974, said, “I’m going to go apply to be rehired, apply for employment in the district and show people what I’ve done and what I can do to help as many people as possible.”
Hardaway decided to enter the District 93 race as opposed to the state Senate or District 86 where his home is located. He said he’ll move into the district, which is a couple of blocks from his home, by the election.
“I’ll continue to work as I’ve done to make sure that Memphis makes its own decisions when it comes to local education matters,” Hardaway said.
In House District 90, John DeBerry couldn’t be reached for comment. Richardson, who will also have to move about two blocks into the district, said several communities in her current district were shifted into it and she was born in it and attends church in it.
“A lot of progressive Democrats live there and I am a progressive Democrat. I’ve already started knocking on doors,” Richardson said.
COLUMBIA, Tenn. (AP) — Funeral services are Thursday in Columbia for William “Bill” Richardson of Tullahoma, a state legislator for 16 years. He died Monday at age 80.
Richardson, a Democrat, was elected to the Tennessee House in 1974 and then to the state Senate in 1986. He retired from elective office in 1990.
Richardson was a self-employed land surveyor and minister of the Ostella Church of Christ in Marshall County for 32 years.
Survivors include his wife and eight children
— Note: Sen. Roy Herron delivered an eulogy of sorts for Richardson on the Senate floor and the state Democratic party has posted it, HERE.
Legislation to legalize marijuana in Tennessee for medial purposes died for another year on Wednesday, but supporters say they’ll be trying again next year.
The bill (HB294) was the subject of a limited hearing Wednesday in the Senate Government Operations Committee, which cannot kill legislation but gave the measure by Sen. Beverly Marrero, D-Memphis, a negative recommendation.
From there, the bill goes to the Senate Health Committee. But that panel has closed for the 2012 session. That means the measure is dead, but House Health Committee Chairman Glen Casada, R-College Grove, nonetheless allowed a discussion of the bill in his committee later in the day. The House sponsor, Democratic Rep. Jeanne Richardson of Memphis, then took the bill “off notice,” also meaning she’s abandoned the effort for this year.
Richardson, who because of redistricting faces a tough challenge to reelection, said she was confident the medical marijuana bill would be back next year with a better-than-ever chance – with or without her as a sponsor.
Legislation to set up a system for dispensing marijuana for medical use in Tennessee cleared a House subcommittee on voice vote today.
The measure (HB294) would have marijuana growers licensed and certified by the state Department of Agriculture, enable doctors to issue prescriptions for persons suffering from designated ailments and authorize pharmacists to fill those prescriptions.
Sponsor Rep. Jeannie Richardson, D-Memphis, said the proposed system would have the tightest regulation of any of the 16 states that now authorize sales.
The bill was approved by the House Health Subcommittee. It now goes to the full committee and will have other steps beyond that. The Senate version of the bill has yet to have its first hearing, but Richardson said sponsor Sen. Beverly Marrero, D-Memphis, has indicated she will seek a vote promptly.
Shelby County would lose two state House seats and one Senate seat in a secretive redistricting process under way in the Republican-controlled Tennessee legislature, reports Richard Locker. Shelby County’s population of 927,644 entitles the county to just over 4.82 state Senate seats and 14.47 House seats. Lawmakers say that will surely translate to the loss of one of Shelby’s six Senate seats and probably two of its 16 state House seats.
Memphis Democratic Rep. Barbara Cooper said she has been told that she and Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, are being placed in the same House district.
(Note: On the rumor circuit at Legislatorland, there are also tales of Democratic Reps. Jeanne Richardson and Mike Kernell being lumped into the same district.)
Tennessee will remain one of just four states that refuse to provide a means of changing a birth certificate to reflect a change of gender for at least another year.
Rep. Jeanne Richardson, D-Memphis, said Wednesday she has decided to drop HB187, would allow birth certificates to be amended to show a change of gender upon submission of an appropriate sworn statement from a physician or other medical personnel.
“I believe there is a fair amount of homophobia in this state and that’s what is fueling the opposition,” she said after taking the measure “off notice” in a House subcommittee without attempting a vote.
Opposition to the bill makes passage impossible this year, Richardson said, but she intends to try again next year after talking with legislative colleagues and providing them with appropriate information to counter concerns.
“This is not some left-wing, crazy idea,” she said. “Almost all other states realize it’s the right thing to do… These folks now have a hard time traveling and other things because they were born in Tennessee.”
According to Richardson, only Idaho, Ohio and Texas currently join Tennessee in providing no means to revise a birth certificate for change of gender. Some states that do permit a change require a court order she said.