Tennessee is plunging ahead with a plan to drug-test some welfare applicants even though a Florida judge stopped a similar program over constitutional issues and Arizona authorities caught only one welfare-receiving drug abuser in three years, according to The Tennessean. Reports from the Tennessee agency charged with implementing the drug-testing law show the state may try to catch drug-using applicants with a diagnostic quiz that includes questions such as “Have you abused more than one drug at a time?” and “Do you ever feel bad about your drug abuse?” If they failed the questionnaire, they would face urine screenings.
Tennessee passed its law last year and gave the Department of Human Services until July 1, 2014, to implement it. It’s taking cues from Arizona’s program, which went into effect in 2009.
“I don’t rule out the possibility that we’ve captured two idiots,” said Arizona state Rep. John Kavanagh, a former police detective who sponsored the legislation there. “If I was going to do it again, I would attempt to do a cross-check of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families rolls and records of drug arrests, but based on our budget, I don’t want to create that expense.
“I wish the Tennessee legislature all the luck. If they are able to crack through the judicial barriers, we will benefit from their experience.”
Tennessee’s sponsor for the drug law, Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, said he’s not discouraged by what’s happening in other states, and he would consider the law successful if it drove down the number of applicants simply because they knew they would be tested.
Groups who support drug-testing laws nationwide argue that the Fourth Amendment prohibition on searches without reasonable cause shouldn’t apply in the case of welfare applicants. Rachel Sheffield, a policy analyst for The Heritage Foundation, a right-leaning think tank in Washington, said it’s fair to require certain behavior from people who receive taxpayer assistance.
…About 51,000 Tennessee families receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, a cash payment that averages about $164 a month, according to the most recent Department of Human Services report. Adults are required to keep their children in school and participate in a work-training program. They can’t receive benefits for more than 60 months in their lifetimes, although the clock on benefits can stop and start depending on their circumstances.
Sen. Stacey Campfield is drawing national media attention again, this time for a blog post joke calling for “pressure cooker control” after pressure cookers were fashioned into bombs for the Boston marathon explosions that killed three people.
The unapologetic Campfield had an interview/argument with CNN’s Piers Morgan on Thursday, saying he was “just pointing out the hypocrisy of the left” and comparing gun control as a curb to violence to “spoon control” to curb obesity.
He also got in a few digs at Morgan, such as: “When are you going to move back to England? People in Tennessee are dying to know.” (Video HERE)
And here’s an excerpt from an ABC News story, which notes the blog post had a photo of a pressure cooker with “Assault Pressure Cooker (APC)” printed below it.: The photo had labels and arrows pointing to all of the pot’s “dangerous” features including a “muzzle break thingy that goes ‘up'” and a “tactical pistol grip.”
It’s also described as “large-capacity, can cook for hours without reloading” and the color was “evil, black.”
The blog post was titled, “Here comes Feinstein again,” an apparent dig at Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), one of the leading proponents in the battle for gun control. The image implied that pressure cookers might be her next target.
Two pressure cookers were turned into bombs in the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and wounded more than 260 people.
Campfield dismisses the criticism.
“I think it’s tasteless when Obama will drag everybody he can up to Capitol Hill and try to pass gun control,” Campfield told ABCNews.com today. “I think that was classless and tasteless. I don’t hear them complaining about that too much.”
“I was showing the hypocrisy of Diane Feinstein, the gun grabbers, of their inability to realize that it is a person that does activity, not an inanimate object, be it a gun or a pressure cooker,” he said.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A judge in northeast Tennessee is dismissing a $750,000 libel lawsuit against state Republican Sen. Stacey Campfield for publishing false information online about a Democratic candidate for the state House in 2008.
Campfield, a Knoxville Republican, blogged before the election that year that he had heard candidate Roger Byrge had multiple drug arrests, and that the mug shots were “gold.” It was later determined the arrest record belonged to Byrge’s son.
The elder Byrge lost the House race to Republican Chad Faulkner by fewer than 400 votes and later filed suit in Campbell County.
“It is a dog-eat-dog world out there, and this stuff happens,” Circuit Judge John McAfee said, according to a transcript of Wednesday’s court hearing in Jacksboro.
“Sometimes you just get beat, and that’s just the plain simple truth of the matter,” he said. He added: “Politics are politics, and it’s a big boys and big girls game. That’s just the way it is.”
After about an hour of impassioned Senate floor debate, Sen. Stacey Campfield today abandoned for the year an effort to enact legislation that calls for cutting welfare benefits to parents of children who fail in school.
Several Republican senators declared during the debate that they intended to vote against the Knoxville lawmaker’s bill (SB132). Campfield also acknowledged that Gov. Bill Haslam was opposing the legislation.
The senator acknowledged that critics of the bill had raised “good points” and the debate showed “we all have true passion to get parents involved” and “we have to do something.”
But instead of pushing for a vote – as he had indicated earlier he would do – Campfield said there should be a study of the legislation and other options to enhance parental involvement over the summer and fall. Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said the study could be arranged.
Senators voicing objections to the bill – which had cleared Senate committees with unanimous Republican support – included Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville; Sen. Becky Massey, R-Knoxville, Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville; Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville; and Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga.
Gardenhire said, for example, that he saw “unintended consequences” if the measure was enacted when children would be blamed for a loss of family welfare income and beaten.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State Sen. Stacey Campfield has given a deposition in which he is unapologetic for posting false information about a Democratic candidate on his blog, dismissive of the possibility of paying damages for that and belittling of the technological skills of fellow lawmakers.
Campfield, a Knoxville Republican, is the defendant in a $750,000 libel lawsuit brought by Roger Byrge for falsely stating on his blog in the weeks before the 2008 general election that the Democrat had a criminal record. Byrge lost the state House race to Republican Chad Faulkner by fewer than 400 votes, 8,321 to 7,930.
Campfield, in a deposition attached to a court filing last week, said he would be unlikely to pay any damages, noting that he earns about $30,000 a year.
“Like I’ve got any money to give it even if you win,” Campfield said in the deposition taken in April 2011.
“Go right ahead,” he said. “I mean, I can show you my tax returns. If you think you’re going to get money out of me, it’s laughable.”
While disagreeing on many things, Democratic Rep. Joe Armstrong and Sen. Stacey Campfield, both Knoxvillians, are united on the matter of manicures for people who can’t leave their homes.
Here’s how Campfield described the SB491 when presenting it on the Senate floor last week:
“This landmark piece of jobs legislation was brought to me by my House sponsor and will help tear off the yoke of oppressive government regulation by allowing mobile manicurists the ability to give manicures and pedicures to caregivers and custodians for those who are disabled or homebound.”
The measure passed the Senate unanimously and appears headed toward the same result in the House with Armstrong as sponsor.
It provides a new exception to state law that requires manicurists to operate out of a fixed location, allowing them to serve those who are unable to leave their homes or those caring for such people.
A House-passed bill to give children of school superintendents a 25 percent discount on tuition at state colleges and universities could not win a single vote in the Senate Education Committee, leaving it dead for the session.
Currently, the children of certified teachers get a 25 percent discount. The bill (SB402) by Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, and Rep. Bill Sanderson, R-Kenton, would give all school superintendents the same discount, even if they are not certified teachers.
Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, led objections in the Senate committee, noting that Knox County’s school superintendent “makes over a quarter of a million dollars a year.”
“I don’t think he needs a discount,” Campfield said.
Sens. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, and Charlotte Burks, D-Monterey, offered similar objections. Gardenhire said the bill was setting up a special class and suggested an amendment giving children of firefighters and law enforcement officers a 25 percent discount, saying “no one is more worthy.” He was told by the committee chair that the amendment would not be accepted as is.
In the House, the bill had won approval on a 76-17 vote after defeat of an amendment offered by House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley.
Fitzhugh’s amendment would have extended the 25 percent discount to all “full-time, noncertified employees” of schools — including people such as secretaries and custodians. His amendment was tabled, or killed, on a 60-33 vote.
Legislation to cut welfare benefits of parents with children performing poorly in school has cleared committees of both the House and Senate after being revised to give the parents several ways to avoid the reductions.
The state Department of Human Services, which worked with Republican sponsors to draft the changes, withdrew its previous opposition to SB132. But the measure was still criticized by Democrats, including Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, and Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah. It calls for a 30 percent reduction in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits to parents whose children are not making satisfactory progress in school.
As amended, it would not apply when a child has a handicap or learning disability or when the parent takes steps to try improving the youngster’s school performance — such as signing up for a “parenting class,” arranging a tutoring program or attending a parent-teacher conference.
Dennis told the House Health Subcommittee the measure now only applies to “parents who do nothing.” He described the measure as “a carrot and stick approach.”
Johnson, a teacher, said the bill will still put “the burden of the family budget on children’s performance in school” and that would mean a “huge stress on a young person who is trying to do what he can.”
A state Senate committee passed an amended version of a bill reducing federal welfare benefits for families with students who fail a grade in school, reports The Tennessean. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Stacey Campfield, would reduce a parent’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families payments by up to 30 percent for students who fail a grade. It was amended to limit maximum penalties to parents who do not attend parent-teacher conferences, enroll their child in tutoring or attend a parenting course.
Special needs students would be exempt from the law. The original legislation garnered national attention, although current Tennessee law already allows for a 25 percent reduction in some benefits based on a student’s truancy rate.
After the legislation passed out of the Senate Health Committee in a 7-1 vote, the Knoxville Republican said his intent was to help parents give their children the best education possible.
“It’s really just something to try to get parents involved with their kids,” he said. “We have to do something.”
The House gave final approval Monday night to legislation that will require all public schools to allow home school students to participate in their athletic events.
The House approved the measure 69-24 under sponsorship of Rep. Roger Kane, R-Knoxville. It earlier had passed the Senate unanimously with Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, as sponsor and now goes to the governor for his expected signature.
Under current law, the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association has developed a policy for home-schooled children trying out for public school teams, but it is left for each school system to decide whether the allow them to participate. Campfield says that roughly half do so. The bill (SB240) requires all systems to open their athletic doors to home-schooled children.
The TSSAA, which is the governing body for school athletics, has opposed the bill. Home-school organizations have pushed the idea for several years.
“This is just making it an even playing ground for everyone who is involved in sports,” said Kane.
In debate, House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh said he was concerned with setting a precedent of giving “the benefits of public schools” to those who are not enrolled in those schools. He questioned whether virtual school students would be next and, if the Legislature enacts a voucher system, whether students with a state voucher attending a private school will be going to public schools for athletics.
Rep. Joe Towns, D-Memphis, said the bill will erode local school board authority in favor of rules developed by TSSAA as body that “nobody elected.”
Kane said the parents of a home-school student “do pay taxes to the state and they do take a burden off the local school system” by not enrolling in it.
Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, argued in support of the measure. He said that youngsters from all sorts of backgrounds typically play together at younger ages on nonschool teams, “then suddenly when we get into high school we start segregating them” and “excluding children” because they are home-schooled.
“I think we’re here (as legislators) to help kids get benefits,” Dunn said. “If they can benefit, why would we deny them.”