Barack Obama will visit Chattanooga on Tuesday for the first time as president to pitch his vision of helping expand middle-class jobs, reports the Chattanooga TFP. Obama will tour the 1 million-square-foot distribution center Amazon opened in the Enterprise Industrial Park two years ago. The fulfillment center in Chattanooga employs 1,800 full-time workers and is among five facilities Amazon has built in Tennessee since 2011 that collectively have added more than 5,000 full-time and seasonal jobs in the Volunteer State — the biggest job addition in the state by a private company in the past decade.
Obama will use the Amazon expansion to help highlight what he says is an improving economy but one that needs to do more to help boost the middle class.
In a speech Wednesday in Galesburg, Ill., Obama cast himself as the champion for middle-class Americans struggling to make ends meet. He chided Washington for having “taken its eye off the ball” and declared that the economy would be the “highest priority” of his second term.
White House officials said Tuesday’s speech will focus on manufacturing and high wage jobs for durable economic growth. The president is expected to promote his budget proposals to jumpstart private sector jobs with more infrastructure and education spending in the federal budget.
But Republicans object to what they see as too many government regulations and too much deficit spending by the Obama administration, which they say has failed to restore the U.S. economy. Nearly three years after the end of the Great Recession, the U.S. unemployment rate remains at a stubbornly high 7.6 percent.
“President Obama has presided over the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression, so a visit to a right-to-work state like Tennessee to learn a thing or two in how to get things done should be expected,” Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney said. “Thanks to Republicans, we’ve cut taxes, balanced our budget, and have the lowest debt of any state in the union.”
(Note: Expands and replaces earlier post)
MANCHESTER, Tenn. (AP) — The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee tried to explain tolerance to an audience in Manchester. Most wanted none of it.
William C. Killian’s speech was constantly interrupted by boos and heckling Tuesday evening at the Manchester-Coffee County Conference Center.
The meeting was billed as “Public Disclosure in a Diverse Society” and was sponsored by the American Muslim Advisory Council of Tennessee.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported shouts of “traitor,” ”serpent,” and “go home” were directed at Killian by a crowd of more than 300 people. Others, who had staged a protest outside before the meeting, were angered at being turned away when the room reached capacity.
Some who remained outside hurled labels including “communist,” ”socialist” and “Muslim” at law enforcement officials who denied them entry.
Inside, Killian told the crowd hateful speech is allowed by law, but threats are not.
Southeast Tennessee U.S. Attorney Bill Killian and an FBI agent will speak at an American Muslim Advisory Council of Tennessee event in what he describes as “an educational effort with civil rights laws as they play into freedom of religion and exercising freedom of religion.”
A Politico blogger suggests his comments to the Tullahoma News on the event – including a remark that “everybody needs to understand” internet postings can violate federal civil rights laws – translate into “vowing to use federal civil rights statutes to clamp down on offensive and inflammatory speech about Islam.”
An excerpt from the Tullahoma News story: Killian said the presentation will also focus on Muslim culture and how, that although terrorist acts have been committed by some in the faith, they are no different from those in other religions.
He referred to the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing in which Timothy McVeigh, an American terrorist, detonated a truck bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995. Commonly referred to as the Oklahoma City Bombing, the attack killed 168 people and injured more than 800.
…Killian referred to a Facebook posting made by Coffee County Commissioner Barry West that showed a picture of a man pointing a double-barreled shotgun at a camera lens with the caption saying, “How to Wink at a Muslim.”
Killian said he and Moore had discussed the issue.
“If a Muslim had posted ‘How to Wink at a Christian,’ could you imagine what would have happened?” he said. “We need to educate people about Muslims and their civil rights, and as long as we’re here, they’re going to be protected.”
Killian said Internet postings that violate civil rights are subject to federal jurisdiction.
“That’s what everybody needs to understand,” he said.
And from the Politico post: While threats directed at individuals or small groups can lead to punishment, First Amendment experts expressed doubt that the government has any power to stop offensive material about Islam from circulating.
“He’s just wrong,” said Floyd Abrams, one of the country’s most respected First Amendment attorneys. “The government may, indeed, play a useful and entirely constitutional role in urging people not to engage in speech that amounts to religious discrimination. But it may not, under the First Amendment, prevent or punish speech even if it may be viewed as hostile to a religion.”
“And what it most clearly may not do is to stifle political or social debate, however rambunctious or offensive some may think it is,” Abrams said.
A conservative watchdog group, Judicial Watch, accused the Obama administration of using federal law to specifically protect Muslims from criticism.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Here is the full text Gov. Bill Haslam’s prepared remarks to the Tennessee General Assembly on Wednesday, when he announced the state won’t expand Medicaid as part of the federal health care overhaul.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak this morning. I’m well aware this is an extremely busy time, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to come before you today. It is the first time I’ve asked to do this outside of the State of the State, but I asked for this opportunity because.
There is no more important issue, or more complex issue facing our country and our state today than healthcare, and I wanted to update you about where we are regarding Medicaid expansion.
This may look like a simple decision. On one side, people think how could we not accept federal money to expand Medicaid to cover more Tennesseans and on the other, why in the world would we accept funds tied to ObamaCare knowing the federal government can’t pay for it? But it isn’t that easy.
In what was unquestionably his best State of the State speech ever, Gov. Bill Haslam announced last week that “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” is one of his favorite movies. He especially liked the scene where the Butch and Sundance jump off a cliff.
There were a lot of other announcements in Haslam’s third State of the State (SOTS) speech, enough to make your head spin if you try to keep track of state governmental doings. That was part of the beauty of the 43-minute rhetorical ramble through dozens of topics, many the subject of proclaimed new attention by our state’s benevolent, business-loving chief executive.
It was, in a word, substantive. If you follow this newspaper, or most any other media outlet, you will see multiple follow-up reports on the various initiatives launched or issues raised in SOTS III (and some the governor didn’t mention — strategically, one suspects) that are quietly buried in his package of 59 administration bills or advanced by legislators.
Beyond that, however, the speech had just a touch of mystery — strategically, one suspects. Then, again, maybe not. Could be just weird.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday presented a $32.7 billion annual spending plan to lawmakers that includes a staffing shake-up at the troubled Department of Children’s Services, a heavy investment into construction projects around the state and a large deposit into the state’s cash savings fund.
The Republican governor also formally introduced his proposal to create a limited school voucher program in Tennessee to allow parents to use public money to send their children to private schools.
“If we can help our lowest income students in our lowest-performing schools, why wouldn’t we?” he said in his 43-minute speech to a joint convention of the General Assembly. (Note: Full text of the governor’s speech is HERE.)
According to legislation filed in the Senate on Monday, the program would be limited to 5,000 students in the school year that begins in August, and grow to 20,000 by 2016.
In his first “State of the State” speech, Gov. Bill Haslam declared a “new normal” of Tennessee government getting by with less money; his second was centered on the phrase “believe in better,” suggesting that policy changes can improve things without new spending.
The governor hasn’t said what the theme will be in his third State of theState address, scheduled for delivery this evening at a joint meeting of the state House and Senate. But he has said it will be “more of the same” in the general sense of striving to reshape state government toward being more friendly toward business and more efficient in operations.
The state budget plans presented in his speeches of 2011 and 2012 both contained a mix of spending cuts in some areas and expansion in others with overall expenditures roughly stable in the $31 billion range. With state revenue rebounding in recent months, the overall figure will likely rise in the 2013 edition of a Haslam budget, though he says projected increases in TennCare costs and other factors will eat most of the new money.
CINCINNATI (AP) — John McGlone went to the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville intent on preaching God’s word to college students but found himself tangled up with university administrators over a policy requiring student sponsorship to speak at the school.
After seeing his request denied, McGlone, a traveling evangelist from Breeding, Ky., sued the university, but lost. Now, a three-judge panel from the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati is weighing whether the university’s restrictions pass constitutional muster.
Judges Boyce Martin, John M. Rogers and John Tarnow quizzed attorneys for McGlone and the school Tuesday, pressing each side on whether there are permissible restrictions for on-campus speech and if the ones at Tennessee go too far.
“What about going to a football game?” Martin asked the school’s attorney. “Is everyone there an invitee? What if you don’t have a ticket? What if you just want to tailgate?”
On inauguration day in Washington, Sen. Lamar Alexander will be spending a lot of time with President Barack Obama, reports Michael Collins. The Maryville Republican and a handful of other Congress members will begin inauguration day by sharing morning coffee with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at the White House. Afterward, they’ll ride in the presidential motorcade to the U.S. Capitol, where the president and vice president will be sworn in for a second term and Obama will deliver his inaugural address.
Before Obama speaks, however, Alexander will take to the podium, look out on the National Mall and address the million or so spectators himself. His will be just a two-minute speech, but the whole world will be watching, so he wants to make sure he chooses exactly the right words for such a significant and historic event.
“It’s an important two minutes to me,” Alexander said. “This is a rare moment in American history, and I want to use the time well. This tradition we have of the peaceful transfer or reaffirmation of immense power is extraordinary.”
Alexander landed a speaking slot at the swearing-in ceremony Jan. 21 and an important supporting role in other inauguration activities because he is on the congressional committee that has been planning the events.
Alexander and other members of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies are in charge of the swearing-in, which will take place on the Capitol’s West Front, and a luncheon that will follow immediately afterward in the Capitol’s stately Statuary Hall. The inaugural parade, balls and other activities are handled by a separate group, the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
Many of the day’s events are dictated by tradition. The congressional inaugural committee’s job is to see that those traditions are carried out again this year and to avoid the problems that have marred previous inaugurals, like four years ago when thousands of ticket holders were left waiting in a tunnel to the National Mall and missed the ceremonies.
“We want to try to make sure we avoid those sorts of problems,” Alexander said.
Gov. Bill Haslam in a speech to 22 state House freshmen, reported by Andrea Zelinski: “There’s a way to be about good government versus a way to always be about politics… There are times when you have to come up with a political answer. That’s just the reality… But I really hope that we’re always driven by getting to the right answer.”
The governor admitted the “right” answer will likely look different to each member of the diverse class of legislators elected earlier this month to begin serving in earnest once the General Assembly convenes Jan. 8, 2013.
…Haslam said lawmakers should familiarize themselves with the state budget and how spending plans work and drive policy decisions, warning that plans to cut taxes but increase spending on a project won’t balance out.
Meanwhile, wading through policy issues is tougher than it seems, offered Haslam, who oftentimes finds himself on the fence before announcing what direction he wants to take.
“Once you get here, things tend to be a lot less clear than maybe they were before,” he said.
“I’m a person of conviction. I really am. I’m not saying that we should just be somewhere in the mushy middle and everybody’s got a great point. But we do have to realize in every discussion that the other fella might be right.”