Attorneys representing Gov. Bill Haslam and various state agencies are appealing a recent federal ruling that found the state unlawfully arrested members of the Occupy Nashville group. reports the Tennessean. According to a notice of appeal filed late last week, the state objects to U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger siding with the Occupy Nashville plaintiffs.
Trauger wrote that the state “cannot make law by fiat” and that the protesters’ First Amendment rights were violated when they were arrested. The appeal, which will be heard by the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, will be spelled out in detail in about a month, when the appeal’s legal brief is filed, according to attorney Dawn Jordan, who is representing the state.
Last month, Trauger wrote that state and local agencies made a series of mistakes in the way they handled the Occupy Nashville protesters in the fall of 2011. State officials have held that the Occupy encampment on War Memorial Plaza was a public safety concern, pointing to mounting trash and reports of fights and lewd behavior.
Gov. Bill Haslam is readying plans to lay off about 200 state workers by week’s end after a state judge on Monday lifted her temporary injunction on the planned firings, reports the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. Ruling from the bench, Circuit Court Judge Amanda McClendon said state officials did not break any laws in their handling of the firings because they had no legal duty to help employees find new jobs within state government.
The judge also found no irreparable harm was done when the state froze hiring for weeks in the midst of a 60-day layoff period in May and June when officials took down their NeoGov online listings for available jobs.
Haslam’s legal counsel, Herbert Slatery, later said the administration is “generally pleased” with McClendon’s ruling lifting of the temporary restraining order she signed June 10 after the Tennessee State Employees Association and a group of 15 employees filed suit.
The Human Resources Department said the filled positions in eight departments will be “effective and off the books by the end of the week.”
The state had intended to lay off some 70 state Labor and Workforce Development employees and others June 18 and 19.
Friday is the last work day for dozens of General Services workers in Chattanooga, Nashville and other parts of the state. The state is outsourcing management and maintenance of all state-owned buildings.
Jones Lang LaSalle, the real estate services firm taking over the oversight of state buildings on July 1, hired only 31 of 126 employees, according to one state filing. Another 10 employees found other positions within state government. Some are retiring.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A federal appeals court has thrown out a 15-year-old legal agreement that mandated regular medical and dental care for the 750,000 children on TennCare, more than a third of all children in the state.
The Tennessean reported (http://tnne.ws/ZR2cKk ) the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in an opinion published Thursday voided an agreement mandating compliance with federal requirements governing the state’s version of Medicaid. The consent decree arose out of a 1998 lawsuit alleging that children were not getting regular checkups.
Last year, a federal judge ruled that the state was in substantial compliance and dismissed the case. The appeals court upheld that ruling.
Michele Johnson, an attorney with the Tennessee Justice Center that originally filed the suit, called the court’s ruling a disappointment and said more was needed for children covered by the program.
“Our daily contact with families and professionals who care for TennCare children makes us painfully aware that TennCare continues to shortchange some children, many of whom have great needs,” Johnson said in a written statement.
Fifteen years ago, a federal court found that Tennessee was not providing adequate care to children on TennCare and a consent decree made 80 percent of children on TennCare receive regular checkups and medical and dental care.
For children in state custody, the agreement went even further, requiring the state to give all of them regular checkups and medical care. The lawsuit was known as John B., named after one of the original plaintiffs.
State lawyers sought to have the consent decree dismissed in 2006, arguing that it was no longer necessary. Lawyers for some of the children disagreed, and the case stalled through years of appeals, disagreements and allegations of improper behavior by judges.
“TennCare had vastly improved its delivery of services to enrollees, and indeed become a national leader in its compliance with the Medicaid statute,” according to the opinion.
“The ruling of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recognizes the dramatic improvements TennCare has made over the 15-year history of this case,” Gov. Bill Haslam said in a written statement. “It also recognizes TennCare as a national leader in the delivery of services to children, which will continue to be a top priority in Tennessee.”
TennCare Director Darin Gordon said in a statement that they were pleased with the appeals court’s opinion.
“Today’s ruling confirms TennCare as a national leader among Medicaid programs. We are pleased that the court recognizes the dramatic improvements TennCare has made over the 15-year history of the case. We continue to strive to provide high quality comprehensive health coverage to the 1.2 million members we serve.”
— Note: Statements on the ruling from TennCare director Darin Gordon and Gov. Bill Haslam are below.
By Travis Lollar, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A federal appeals court on Friday ordered a lower court to reconsider whether Tennessee law makes it too difficult for third parties to get on the ballot.
In February, U.S. District Judge William Haynes Jr. struck down state rules requiring third-party candidates for high-level offices to be selected through a primary. He also struck down a requirement that the parties and candidates collect about 40,000 signatures and turn them in seven months before the election.
After that decision, the General Assembly changed the law to make it easier on third parties.
Under the new rules, minor political parties can still use the primary process. They also have the option of selecting nominees in accordance with their own internal rules.
If they chose to do the latter, the parties still have to collect signatures, but they don’t have to turn them in until 90 days before the election. The individual candidates don’t have to collect signatures.
The three-judge panel for the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling from Cincinnati, sent the case back to the lower court to re-evaluate the rules in light of the recent changes. The court also overturned the lower court’s determination that a prohibition on the words “independent” and “nonpartisan” in party names was unconstitutional.
On behalf of the City of Memphis, civil rights attorney George Barrett Wednesday filed an appeal to the Tennessee Court of Appeals of a recent state court decision that found Tennessee’s voter identification law to be constitutional, according to the Tennessean. His application for emergency appeal asks state officials to remove government-issued photo ID as a voting requirement in the November election. The appeal requests a hearing no later than Oct. 12. Tennessee’s early voting starts Oct. 17.
Barrett has been at war for months with state officials over the state’s voter ID law, which took effect this year. He has called the law “an unconstitutional impediment on the right to vote.”
Chancellor Carol McCoy ruled last week that neither of the two Shelby County voters Barrett represented were harmed by the voter ID law, so the question of whether the law is constitutional or not could not go forward.
The lawsuit followed a ruling by a federal judge that Daphne Turner-Golden and Sullistine Bell, the two voters, could not use library identification as valid voter IDs.
The Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that a petition drive by groups trying to recall Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield failed to gather enough dated petitions to force an election and used the wrong process for the recall, reports the Chattanooga TFP. Littlefield attorney Tom Greenholtz said the legal team is satisfied with the opinion.
“It’s good after two years to have validation from the Court of Appeals,” he said.
Jim Folkner, with Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, called the process a learning experience, but said the group will have to discuss whether to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court. The next mayoral election is just six months away.
The appeals court ruling said the recall faction didn’t have enough dated petitions, and that it should have used a three-step process — a petition, a ballot question asking if voters wanted a recall and then a recall election.
But Folkner said the side found one victory in the decision. The appeals court said the City Charter’s requirement for fewer signatures on petitions than state law would mandate is valid.
A 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling Thursday assures that Green Party candidates will have a place on Tennessee’s November general election ballot in several races – including Martin Pleasant of Knoxville as the party’s U.S. Senate nominee.
“That’s wonderful,” said Pleasant, 43, who said he now plans to take some time off his job with the Knox County Engineering and Public Works Department for campaigning.
State Election Coordinator Mark Goins said the court ruling came in requests for an expedited ruling on two issues in a lawsuit brought by the Green and Constitution parties challenging the state’s ballot access.
Currently, Democrats and Republicans are listed by party affiliation but others are listed as independents unless they go through various steps that a U.S. District Court judge in Nashville ruled in February are too burdensome. The state attorney general’s office appealed that ruling.
In Thursday’s decision, the court declared Green and Constitution party candidates must be on the ballot and listed by party name, Goins said. But the court ruled for the state in another issue up for “expedited” decision – letting stand a present law requiring the “majority party,” now Republicans, be listed first on the ballot, followed by the “minority party,” the Democrats, with others following lower on the ballot.
A nod toward states rights within the U.S. Supreme Court’s health care decision Thursday raises the possibility that Tennessee’s state government may not need multiple millions of dollars stashed away in the state budget to cover potential costs of implementing the federal health care law.
While the court held that most of the Affordable Health Care Act constitutional, it declared that a provision requiring states to expand Medicaid coverage – known as TennCare in Tennessee – is invalid.
The $32 billion state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, enacted by the Legislature in May, leaves about $225 million in surplus revenue from the current year unspent. Gov. Bill Haslam and Finance Commissioner Mark Emkes said they wanted the money on standby in case it is needed to cover potentially increased costs for states because of the federal law.
Though cautioning that they still need to fully review the ramifications of the Supreme Court decision, Haslam and Emkes said Thursday that it appears the prospective mandate – which Emkes had estimated to run $200 million per year or more – will not materialize.
Politically motivated slander suits are nothing new in Tennessee, and Davidson County Circuit Judge Joe P. Binkley seems to have found more of the same in Black v. Zelenik, going so far as to state that charges of U.S. Rep. Diane Black’s wrongdoing are “substantially true.”
So reports the Murfreesboro Post in an article that the Black campaign sharply criticizes (see end of post): David Black, husband of Diane Black (R-Gallatin), and his drug testing firm, Aegis Sciences Corporation, filed suit in the midst of a hotly contested U.S. House primary campaign against Lou Ann Zelenik in 2010 after her campaign began airing ads that accused Black of steering millions of dollars in no-bid state contracts to her husband’s firm through her position as a state senator, in violation of state law.
“The communication was true or at least substantially true,” reads the April ruling by Binkley, who sided with Zelenik and summarily dismissed Black’s lawsuit as frivolous.
Black’s firm appealed the ruling in late April, and the matter is ongoing in the midst of another primary battle with Zelenik for the Republican nomination in Tennessee’s 6th Congressional District.
Documents reveal accusations of Black and her husband profiting from her political power in the state senate were nothing new, having been copied nearly word-for-word from a Tennessee Democratic Party mailer during Black’s 2008 re-election campaign for state senate.
Additionally, Black’s actions were detailed in a December 2007 issue of The Gallatin Newspaper, and were the subject of a WSMV Channel 4 News investigation in January of the same year.
Neither Black nor her family business hauled anyone to court at that time, but, then again, she was cruising to re-election by a 2-1 margin and had poured more than $50,000 of her own money into the race, according to documents filed with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance.
Her 2010 contest with Zelenik became a much different race, not only because she was seeking higher office in U.S. Congress, but also because she had a formidable opponent. UPDATE: From Jennifer Baker of the Diane Black campaign via email after this was initially posted. “At the same time the Murfreesboro Post ran this misleading article they also ran on the cover of their publication a photo shopped photo of Lou Ann Zelenik with a gun pointed at Diane Black’s face. They are clearly engaged in a smear campaign against Diane and will go to any length to pursue their liberal agenda. Not only did they fail to contact our campaign for a response, they omitted key facts regarding Zelenik’s false and misleading ads. For example, the company that Lou Ann Zelenik paid to make the ads attacking Diane Black settled out of court and paid a financial settlement. In the settlement papers filed with the court the advertising firm states it has no knowledge of any unethical, illegal or improper behavior. “-Jennifer Baker, Black spokesman
From the News Sentinel:
Shelley Breeding cannot be a Knox County candidate for the General Assembly, a three-judge panel of the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled this morning.
The panel upheld a Chancery Court decision that Breeding is legally a resident of Anderson County. She wants to run in the Democratic primary from the newly created 89th District, which lies entirely in Knox County.
A Knoxville-Knox County-KUB Geographic Information System (KGIS) map shows part of her residential lot, including the mailbox and driveway, are in Knox County, but that her house is in Anderson County. She has challenged the accuracy of that map.
Breeding “has not produced any credible evidence” that the map lines are inaccurate, Judge Charles Susano wrote for the panel in its unanimous decision.
Facts presented in the case “show by a preponderance of the evidence” that her house is entirely within Anderson County “and that she is a resident of Anderson County and not Knox County,” Susano wrote.
Breeding still has the option of filing a request for the Tennessee Supreme Court to accept an appeal on an emergency basis. One of her attorneys, Jon Cope, said he and Breeding are discussing that possibility.