Visitors to to Tennessee state park restaurants can now enjoy an exclusive Tennessee table wine with their dinner, reports the Crossville Chronicle.. The wine, a Seyval blanc grape blend grown in Tennessee, was developed especially for the state park system by Stonehaus Winery in Crossville in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Tennessee State Park system.
“They’ve [Stonehaus] been very involved in this region for a long time and are always looking for ways to partner with others to make things good for the whole area,” said Brock Hill, deputy commissioner Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
“It’s in our interest to promote the state park and for the state park to promote us,” said Rob Ramsey as he uncorked the first bottle of the special reserve wine.”
State Rep. Cameron Sexton added, “It’s nice to incorporate regional products into the state parks. It gives an idea of what’s available in the communities. I hope it continues.”
Winemakers Fay Wheeler and Jan Nix developed the blend that’s considered a semi-dry table wine.
“It’s not super dry or super sweet,” Wheeler explained. “It’s a nice in between that a lot of people should like.”
It also pairs well with many foods.
Rob Ramsey said the grapes were grown in Johnson City, TN, making this wine a great “Pick Tennessee” product through the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s marketing program. The label was designed by Smithville graphic artist Mary Ann Puckett.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Legislation that would require schools and other organizations conducting youth athletic programs in Tennessee to adopt concussion policies is headed to the floor of the Senate.
The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville (SB882) was approved 8-0 in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday and now goes to the full Senate. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, in the House.
The measure is similar to laws passed in 42 other states and the District of Columbia that include provisions requiring students to be removed from sporting events and evaluated if they show signs of having a concussion.
NFL senior vice president Adolpho Birch, who oversees law and labor policy for the league, testified before the committee. He said the league supports such legislation and hopes all states will eventually adopt similar measures.
Under the proposal, schools are required to “adopt guidelines … as approved by the department of health to inform and educate coaches, school administrators, youth athletes and their parents or guardians of the nature, risk and symptoms of concussion and head injury, including continuing to play after concussion or head injury.”
State House candidate Flo Matheson says she “almost fainted” when first hearing that the Tennessee Republican Party had accused her of supporting a state income tax, but now she believes the GOP news release — though wrong — is helping her campaign.
The state GOP earlier this week sent media a news release on Democrat Matheson’s remarks at a candidate forum with her opponent, state Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville.
It quotes state Republican Chairman Chris Devaney as saying the comments left him wondering whether the state Democratic Party has encouraged its candidates to “adopt this extremist, big government agenda which would amount to some of the largest tax increases in our state’s history.”
The release was accompanied by an audio recording that, as first reported by The City Paper, stops just after Matheson says she supports “a progressive income tax.”
Matheson said her next words were to say she was referring to the federal income tax and made the point that, though state legislators have no impact on federal taxes, voters should be wary of candidates who want to favor the “extremely wealthy” in tax policy.
The City Paper reports that an audio tape of Democratic House candidate Flo Matheson’s remarks at a forum were edited – or at least cut short – so she would seem to be supporting a state income tax. Actually, Matheson says she was not – she was supporting the federal “progressive income tax.”
The Matheson comments formed the basis of a state Republican party news release. (Previous post HERE.)
From Stephen Hale’s story:
TNGOP Executive Director Adam Nickas told The City Paper that the state party did not cut or edit “in any way” the audio provided to them, but would not reveal where the audio came from.
The release, which does not identify Matheson by name, included an eight-minute audio recording of some of Matheson’s remarks at the Monday morning candidates forum in the East Tennessee district. In the tape, Matheson can be heard expressing support for a living wage, and opposition to the repeal of the estate tax. Her remarks about an income tax, however, begin with less than 10 seconds left in the tape and are quickly cut off.
“Also, I support a progressive income tax, which would mean, you know, more taxes on the wealthy. I do know that fe… ,” she can be heard saying, at which point the tape ends.
Forum organizers told The City Paper they did not have an official video or audio recording of the event. But a copy of Matheson’s prepared remarks, provided by Matheson, seems to provide the rest of the sentence cut off by the TNGOP audio.
“Support a progressive income tax,” her notes read. “Federal Income tax is not an issue that state representatives can resolve, but I can urge voters to remove legislators who work for the greedy super-rich, not for the middle class.”
Her opponent, Sexton, said he understood her comments differently.
“That’s not how I understood it,” he told The City Paper Wednesday morning, “because even later in the forum, I told her when we had a question, ‘You know, I’m not like Flo, I’m not in favor of a state income tax.’ She never came back and denied that she was.”
Sexton said he didn’t have anything to do with the tape.
“Maybe she went back now and she realizes, maybe she wasn’t clear enough and she wants to restate for the record, which is fine, if she wants to come out against a state income tax. But you still have the main issue that she wants a state living wage.”
Nickas said he believed the audio provided in the TNGOP release included “the majority of her comments.”
“I think it’s pretty clear that she was talking about state issues,” he said. “I know that she and probably the Democrat party are probably in damage control mode right now, trying to spin it, but I think it’s pretty simple what she said.”
News release from Tennessee Republican party:
NASHVILLE, TN – At a candidate forum on Monday, the Democrat nominee for State House in District 25 promoted the implementation of a progressive income tax and a living wage, and keeping in place the death tax.
The comments came from the Democrat nominee in District 25 at a Pleasant Hill, TN forum. (Note: She is Flo Matheson, who is opposing Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville.)
“Tennesseans have to wonder if the Tennessee Democrat Party has encouraged their candidates to adopt this extremist, big government agenda which would amount to some of the largest tax increases in our state’s history,” said Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney.
“While many Democrats in our state desperately attempt to disassociate themselves with the failed economic policies of Barack Obama, it appears the President’s big government philosophy has taken solid root within the Tennessee Democrat platform. Are these the far-left ideological policies that Democrat House Leader Craig Fitzhugh wants his party’s nominees to unite around? Will Craig Fitzhugh denounce this radical legislative agenda or will he remain silent?
“Tennessee Republicans, working with Governor Haslam, have made tremendous progress in reducing the size of government by eliminating unnecessary regulations and enacting more tax cuts in this year’s budget than any other in our state’s history. That’s the path we need to stay on; not return to the path of more taxes, more debt, and massive government,” concluded Devaney.
Audio of the comments made by the Democrat nominee in State House District 25 can be heard HERE.
— Email in response to the release from Brandon Puttbrese, communications director of Tennessee Democratic party:
As we all know, the most recent state income tax plan was carried by a Republican governor of this great state.
This is another pathetic attempt by Republicans to hide the fact that their top-down tax policies reward the wealthiest Tennesseans and shift a greater tax burden onto working and middle class families.
Their policies are a global race to the bottom for American workers. In Tennessee, pay is down and poverty is up. Confidence in the special interest-dominated legislature is falling and the unemployment rate is on the rise. That’s the GOP’s legacy.
And while Ms. Matheson’s ideas might not be a perfect solution to increase pay for working people, Tennesseans are not going to fault her for having a discussion about ideas that reward responsible, hard working families.
We’ve seen too much focus on top-down, multi-million dollar tax giveaways for the wealthy and well connected. It’s time middle class Tennesseans got a fair hearing in the legislature, too.
House Republicans soundly defeated a raft of Democratic attempts to revise their plans for state spending of $31.4 billion in the coming year Thursday and, by a closer margin, put down rebellion against closing a Taft Youth Center.
The end result was a 66-39 vote for HB3835, the budget bill submitted by Gov. Bill Haslam. It includes virtually everything that Haslam wanted along with some additions.
The additions, however, are in conflict with Senate plans and leave uncertain the prospects for enactment of the budget in time to adjourn the 107th General Assembly this week as leaders had planned.
The Senate will take up the budget today. As approved in committee, it includes several special projects that the House has axed.
The longest debate in the House – if not the most heated – came on an effort led by Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, to block Haslam’s plans to close the facility for juvenile offenders in Bledsoe County.
The Haslam administration is opposing a last-ditch effort by Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, to keep Gov. Bill Haslam from shutting down the state’s Taft Youth Development Center, reports Andy Sher. Sexton acknowledges winning his effort will be “extremely difficult.” Sexton has a budget amendment that would provide nearly $12 million to continue the Bledsoe County center for criminal teens. Finance Commissioner Mark Emkes said Tuesday the administration opposes the move to preserve the 96-bed facility.
The administration, which hopes to save $8.5 million annually through Taft’s closure, already is moving Taft’s residents to the state’s four other facilities. “I think Taft was studied very carefully and we can offer the same service at a lower cost somewhere else,” Emkes said. “We’re trying to spend taxpayer dollars wisely.”
He said many Taft employees will be able to work at the soon-to-open adult Bledsoe County Correctional Complex, which is located near Taft. Sexton acknowledged getting colleagues to agree to the amendment in the face of administration opposition “will be extremely difficult.”
News release from Rep. Cameron Sexton’s office:
Nashville, TN – Over the last few months there has been a lot back and forth about the proposed closing of Taft Youth Development Center in Bledsoe County. The Department of Children Services has maintained Taft needs $37 million in improvements to remain open.
A bipartisan coalition of legislators joined together to oppose the closing of Taft Youth Center. Senator Eric Stewart (D-Belvidere), Representative Jim Cobb (R-Spring City), Representative Bill Harmon (D-Dunlap) and Representative Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville).
A few weeks ago Representative Sexton asked Commissioner O’Day to provide an itemize list detailing the $37 million price tag for improvements.
“Yesterday, Commissioner O’Day and her staff sent the requested information to us outlining the cost to rebuild Taft. It appears from the information we received, Commissioner O’Day is more concerned about the rehabilitation of the buildings at Taft than the rehabilitation of the students. To demolish buildings simply due to their age is short-sighted and leaves me to believe there is much more behind her proposal than what is being stated publically. I think it’s time we get to the bottom of it,” Senator Stewart stated.
In the release of information from Commissioner O’Day, DCS stated that five Taft buildings would need to be demolished and replaced at a cost of $28,790,737.50 due to the age of the structures.
“I have toured the facility multiple times and I am incredulous to the department’s desire to demolish buildings based simply on the year the building was built. Using that rationale, we should demolish the State Capitol and rebuild it because it is old too, built in 1859,” said Sexton.
— Note/Update: A Crossville Chronicle article on the matter is HERE.
Democratic state Sen. Eric Stewart and Republican state Rep. Cameron Sexton have both issued news releases criticizing the Haslam administration proposal to close Taft Youth Center.
Both are reproduced below.
The House and Senate approved Saturday a bill that will provide a break to an estimated 5,000 Tennessee seniors who are now paying the Hall income tax on interest and dividends.
Current law exempts those over age 65 from paying the tax if income is less than $16,200 for individuals or $27,000 for a couple filing jointly. The bill raises those exemption levels by $10,000, to $26,200 for individuals and $37,000 for joint filers.
Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, the House sponsor, said between 4,700 and 5,000 or 51,000 Hall income tax filers over age 65 are expected to become exempt under the bill, resulting in a revenue loss to the state of about $1 million. Local governments, which get a share of Hall revenue, are projected to collectively lose about $632,000.
Gov. Bill Haslam included the anticipated loss of revenue in the revised state budget submitted to the Legislature earlier this month, which was approved earlier Saturday.
The current income levels, Sexton said, mean that those relying on Social Security for most of their income still wind up paying the tax if they have dividend or interest income.
Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, who sponsored the bill in the Senate with Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, said passage of the measure was a step toward offsetting “the oppressive nature of this tax on our senior citizens who are struggling to get by.”
Several bills were filed this session to either completely abolish the Hall tax, which brings in about $180 million to the state annually, or cover more people with exemptions. All those bills failed.
“We knew elimination entirety something could not afford,” said Yager. “We targeted the relief where it is needed the most, to our senior citizens.”