U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. is getting a lot of opinions from a lot of people as he weighs the pros and cons of taxing items purchased over the Internet, according to Michael Collins. Gov. Bill Haslam wants states to have the power to collect the tax, arguing it is money that is already owed. Some small businesses in Duncan’s Knoxville-based congressional district take the same position and say it’s a matter of fairness: They already are required by law to collect the tax and send it to the state, but out-of-state online retailers are not.
Calls to Duncan’s congressional offices, on the other hand, are running roughly 12 to 1 against Internet tax legislation pending in Congress. Even his own staff is divided. A couple of his close advisers are encouraging him to support the bill. Another argues it amounts to a tax increase and that he should vote no.
“I’m feeling a lot of pressure from both sides of this bill,” the Knoxville Republican conceded this week.
So where does he stand? “I don’t know,” Duncan said. “I’m still thinking about it.”
He’s not alone. The three other East Tennesseans in the U.S. House — Reps. Phil Roe of Johnson City, Scott DesJarlais of Jasper and Chuck Fleischmann of Ooltewah — all said they are undecided about the bill known as the Marketplace Fairness Act. All three congressmen are Republicans.
“From a fairness standpoint, your small local retailers are at a disadvantage and, right now, frankly, you do owe that tax,” Roe said. “The flip side of that is, hey, this is a foul. Nobody wants to pay more taxes.”
Tennessee’s two U.S. senators — Republicans Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker — both voted for the bill when it cleared the U.S. Senate earlier this month on a 69-27 vote.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — State Rep. Joe Carr on Thursday joined state Sen. Jim Tracy in the race to oust embattled U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais in next year’s Republican primary.
Carr, a Murfreesboro business consultant, made his announcement from a balcony overlooking the Middle Tennessee Medical Center, which he said “represents some of the paralysis that has engulfed this county.”
“We’ve got a state of the art medial community over here, and it’s in peril because one thing, and one thing only: and that’s the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare,” he said.
Carr said beyond his opposition to the federal health care law, his campaign would focus on supporting gun rights and tighter enforcement of immigration laws.
“At the very least the immigration reform that is being touted by some of my colleagues in the Republican Party are premature,” he said.
Carr’s exploratory committee raised about $205,000 in the first quarter of the year. Meanwhile, Tracy’s campaign reported last month that he had raised more than $436,000 in the first quarter, while DesJarlais raised $105,000.
DesJarlais, a Jasper physician, has struggled to raise money since winning re-election last year amid revelations that a phone call was recorded with him urging a patient with whom he was having an affair to seek an abortion.
The congressman denied during the campaign that he had recorded the call, but in his 2001 testimony he acknowledged that he did. DesJarlais said he was only trying to get her to admit she wasn’t pregnant.
Carr cast himself as the outsider willing to take on the entrenched interests.
“Don’t misunderstand me: This is going be difficult,” he said. “Because who we’re standing against … is some of our Republican colleagues. We’re standing against, in some respects, the establishment.”
Carr acknowledged that more than one candidate in the primary could improve DesJarlais’s chances, but predicted that conservative voters would come to embrace his positions.
Carr also said he was undaunted by Tracy’s long list of endorsements and financial backers.
“I think what the voters are looking for is more than the same good old boy politics that we’ve become accustomed to,” Carr said.
Tracy, a Shelbyville insurance agent and former college basketball referee, previously ran for Congress in 2010 before his county was moved from the 6th District as part of redistricting.
— Note: The Carr campaign announcement news release is below.
Republican state Sen. Jim Tracy’s congressional campaign says the Shelbyville lawmaker raised nearly $436,485 during the first quarter in his bid to oust “scandal-ridden” U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., in the 2014 primary, reports Andy Sher. Tracy has raised more than twice the $205,000 that state Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, said last week his exploratory committee has amassed.
And Tracy said he still has $400,000 in cash on hand after expenses.
Tracy’s finance chairman, Shane Reeves, said in a news release Sunday the senator’s “robust fundraising totals coupled with his strong grass-roots organization put him in the best position to defeat the scandal-ridden incumbent.”
,,,Campaign finance reports for the Jan. 1-March 30 period are due today to the Federal Election Commission.
DesJarlais last month held a major fundraiser in Washington. He has yet to release his first-quarter report. But Tracy’s campaign noted the senator’s first-quarter figures far exceed the $68,000 DesJarlais reported in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Reeves said Tracy’s figures “speak volumes.”
Bashing the Tennessee Legislature and legislators has become quite popular in some national media circles, but the state’s homegrown writers are pretty good at it, too – as illustrated in two Sunday pieces from opposite ends of the state. Scott McNutt’s satire blast begins thusly: As time runs out on the Tennessee General Assembly’s 2013 session, some lawmakers are pushing for Tennessee to secede from the current century.
Although much legislation that would have thrust Tennessee backward in time failed this time around, lawmakers advocating temporal secession argue that the fact that they keep promoting these regressive, time-warping bills only proves how awful the present is and, by extension, how wonderful the past was,
And here’s one excerpt: Tennessee’s ostensible lieutenant governor, Ron Ramsey, R-Happy Days, informed titular Gov. Bill Haslam that he had decided not to dissuade the Legislature’s time-secession movement.
Ramsey said, “I’m going to let them loose. We might land in the 19th century. It might be the 20th. We might overshoot and hit the ‘Land That Time Forgot.’ The governor said he’d prefer the ‘Land of the Lost,’ but I can’t control them.”
Haslam said that, while he liked some of the anachronistic legislation lawmakers had proposed, he was still taking time to study the possibility of considering the potential feasibility — while weighing the advisability — of determining if it were within the realm of theoretical probability that he might perhaps decide before the end of the century whether any 21st-century secession bills were plausible contenders for his veto.
“Or not,” he added firmly.
Over in Memphis, Wendi C. Thomas compares the Tennessee General Assembly to the Mississippi legislature – and not favorably. The Mississippi legislature waited until February to formally ratify the 13th Amendment, which in 1865 abolished slavery.
A 148-year-old oversight is embarrassing.
What the Tennessee legislature has done to the poor and working class is reprehensible.
Thomas mentions in her piece a fine example of Tennessee-trashing on the national level, which appeared in Salon.com (HERE). It begins: If you’re worried about where America is heading, look no further than Tennessee. Its lush mountains and verdant rolling countryside belie a mean-spirited public policy that only makes sense if you believe deeply in the anti-collectivist, anti-altruist philosophy of Ayn Rand. It’s what you get when you combine hatred for government with disgust for poor people.
Congressman Scott DesJarlais, as a crusader against government anti-obesity efforts, applauds a Judge;s decision striking down New York City’s attempt to prohibit the sale of large containers of soft drinks, reports Michael Collins.
“I think it does send a message that both people and the courts reject that aggressive government overreach — certainly it was evident in New York,” said the Republican from Jasper, Tenn.
DesJarlais is looking closely at the New York ruling as he contemplates refiling a bill that would stop what he calls “taxpayer-funded attack ads” against soft drinks and other food and beverages.
DesJarlais first filed the legislation last year amid reports that $230 million in federal economic-stimulus funds had been used to pay for anti-obesity efforts that, in many cases, targeted the soft-drink and fast-food industries. Industry groups, including the Beverage Association of Tennessee, have called the ads unfair and misleading.
The bill went nowhere, so DesJarlais is trying to decide whether he should try again or look for an alternative way to tackle the issue. One option would be to amend a different bill to achieve the same goal. Another option would be to delve into the issue through congressional hearings on government waste.
The court ruling and the federal government’s cost-cutting directive that went into effect last month, the congressman says, would seem to provide “a target-rich environment for going after government overregulation of this type.”
“The further we look into federal tax dollars being used as antagonists against American businesses, we’re going to probably find a playing field that’s going to look in favor of the taxpayers and against the government,” he said.
Powerful congressional Republicans shrugged off a lingering abortion scandal Tuesday, hosting a fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., as he escalated his quest for a third term, reports Chris Carroll. Six prominent Republicans, including three House committee chairmen, facilitated a closed-door DesJarlais event at an upscale Capitol Hill restaurant Tuesday evening. DesJarlais and two aides declined to comment as they walked in the door, so it was unclear how much campaign cash surfaced.
A few hours before DesJarlais allies gathered to dine and donate, one Republican leader praised the Jasper resident’s work ethic.
“DesJarlais has been a good, solid member of the [agriculture] committee,” House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said. “Very positive force in the farm bill markup last year. That’s really all I can say.”
Lucas ended the interview when asked to comment on news that rocked Tennessee’s 4th District last year.
A medical doctor, the anti-abortion Jasper, Tenn., congressman generated headlines in October and November after interviews and documents revealed he had sex with his patients and encouraged one to get an abortion. DesJarlais won a second term, but court documents later showed he supported his ex-wife’s two abortions while he was married to her.
The University of Tennessee received state approval Friday to move forward with its plan to drill oil and gas wells for hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — on university land in Morgan and Scott counties, reports The News Sentinel. The four-member executive subcommittee of the State Building Commission voted unanimously after three hours of testimony from UT officials, environmental activists and industry personnel.
The move cleared the way for documents, called a request for proposals, or RFP, that allow UT to begin soliciting bids from oil and gas companies interested in leasing land in the more than 8,000 acres UT owns in its Cumberland Research Forest.
UT intends to use revenue from the natural gas and oil produced to then conduct research on the environmental impacts and best management practices of fracking.
Any contract UT enters into with a company would have to come back before the State Building Commission for approval.
That step is likely several months away, said Larry Arrington, chancellor of the UT Institute of Agriculture.
The subcommittee heard from two dozen members of the public, most of whom were activists concerned about environmental impacts and transparency.
Because research funding would be tied to the productivity of the well and its revenues, the research could not be considered objective, Gwen Parker, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, told the committee.
“I felt the conflict of interest point was not fully understood,” she said after the meeting. “So I think our next step would be to follow up and make sure it’s communicated better.”
State Comptroller Justin Wilson asked questions throughout the testimony about both the potential for research bias and accusations that UT had tailored the RFP to a specific company. He ultimately voted in favor of the proposal.
A small throng of protesters gathered at War Memorial Plaza on Sunday in a rally organized by conservative activists, including tea party members, to oppose extending TennCare to tens of thousands of Tennessee families, reports The Tennessean. They claimed that an expansion would undermine small government values and inflate the national debt. On a bright and breezy day, about 100 demonstrators carried handwritten signs suggesting that their anger stretched beyond the issue of TennCare expansion with messages like “entitlement programs create more dependency and harm.” Many of the speakers blasted President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul as an instance of the federal government overstepping its constitutional powers.
“There are always well-intended groups suggesting that we abandon our principles contrary to sound conservative judgment,” said Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, who filed a measure in the House to bar the state from expanding TennCare. “That’s the exact mindset that got our country into the dire fiscal straits we face today.”
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais spoke in broad terms about how Obamacare represents “the socialization of our health care system.” Asked by reporters after he spoke about his position on TennCare expansion, he said he opposes it. “To look at history and say, ‘let’s double down on a failed policy’ doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
For more reporting on the rally, see Andy Sher, and WPLN.
At least 18 donors to U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais have pledged money, support or both to the congressman’s opponent, adding to a growing list of defections amid personal scandals and political fallout, according to the Chattanooga TFP. Along with 25 state legislators, the 18 DesJarlais donors publicly have endorsed state Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, in the 2014 Republican primary for the 4th District. Tracy is the only candidate so far to challenge the Jasper, Tenn., physician, whose re-election campaign and victory celebration were rocked by revelations from his long-ago divorce.
“I was not aware they’d given to DesJarlais,” Tracy said in a recent interview. “I didn’t go back and check, to be honest with you. I just called people.”
Interviews with donors established a common dichotomy: public praise for Tracy and private disappointment in DesJarlais. The former supporters simply don’t see their congressman the same way after salacious revelations spurred ethics complaints and a collective cold shoulder from current and former Republican officials,
State Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said Thursday that if Tennessee expands its Medicaid program to cover more uninsured working poor, it should follow Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s example and put stipulations into law requiring cuts if federal funding is reduced.
Further from Richard Locker: Ramsey, R-Blountville, said he expects Gov. Bill Haslam to announce his decision on whether to seek expansion of Medicaid/TennCare in Tennessee — and for the state legislature to act on Haslam’s request — before the General Assembly adjourns this spring. But he said he’s not sure whether lawmakers would go along with an expansion or not.
I’ve not polled members but it won’t be easy and that’s why I’ve told him (Haslam) that you need to be able to convince legislators it’s the right thing to do. And we need to be able to see that we, quote, got something for it or that there are statutory requirements that come into place if the federal funding changes and things of that nature,” Ramsey told reporters in his weekly media briefing.
Ramsey said he was surprised that Scott — a conservative elected with Tea Party backing — announced Wednesday that he will ask the Florida legislature to expand its Medicaid program, a key provision of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act that Scott had vowed to oppose. Scott is the latest Republican governor to propose his state expand Medicaid and is seen as the most conservative on the list to do so.
Under “Obamacare,” the federal government will pay 100 percent of the costs of expanding Medicaid to people with incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty level for three years, then drop to 90 percent over the following two years, with the state paying the rest.
Ramsey appears to have softened his stance on the issue. Last summer when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld key provisions of the Affordable Care Act — but made it optional for states to expand Medicaid — the Senate speaker and lieutenant governor called Obamacare “a disaster” and a “usurpation of our liberty … that must be resisted.”