Tag Archives: Sundquist

Al Bodie, Former Labor Commissioner, Dies at Age 59

Friends and family are remembering the life of Al Bodie, a former Tennessee Department of Labor commissioner, government affairs professional, and a mentor and leader to many in Nashville, who died last Friday following a battle with cancer, reports The Tennessean.
He was 59.
Alphonso “Al” Romeo Bodie, the eldest of five children, was born Sept. 29, 1953 in Miami, Fla. He was schooled in Jamaica and at the University of Miami, where he starred on the football field and earned a degree in marketing.
After graduation, Bodie moved to Nashville and worked for IBM, where he worked in the Data Processing Division for 17 years. In 1993, Bodie founded the Nashville-based government relations firm Bodie & Associates Inc. He served as its CEO and board chairman.
Republican Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist in 1995 tapped Bodie to lead the state’s Department of Labor. In that role, Bodie is perhaps best known for his role in overhauling Tennessee’s workers’ compensation law.
“He was a very good commissioner and a strong leader,” said Sundquist, who talked to Bodie by phone two weeks ago. “He was a fighter up until the last few days.”

Note: The legislature passed a memorializing resolution on Bodie, HERE.

Sundquist, Bredesen & Haslam Hold Civil Discourse

Gov. Bill Haslam and his predecessors — former Govs. Phil Bredesen and Don Sundquist — concurred Thursday night during a panel discussion in Knoxville that the lack of dignified civil debate and, animus among politicians and voters has proved toxic in government’s ability to get things done.
Further from the News Sentinel:
The 90-minute panel discussion on “Balancing Civility and Free Expression,” the third of three civility forums across the state, drew an overflow crowd at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy on the University of Tennessee campus.
Haslam said he has heard pleas of “please solve problems” from people across the state who have tired of the often partisan infighting, both in Tennessee and on the national level, while government grinds to a halt.
“These issues are too big to turn into petty food fights,” said Haslam.
…Sundquist said that being civil is not a sign of weakness.
“Civility is respecting the rights of others to have opinions and expressing those opinions to arrive at solutions,” Sundquist said.
“Is it possible to reduce the meanness? We have to demand it.”
Haslam, whose first political job was opening letters at Baker’s office in 1978, said civility starts with familiarity — something that’s missing all too often these days.
“The principle holds if you get the relationship right, other things tend to work out,” Haslam said.
Bredesen said incivility is nothing new.
“We have had periods in the past that were very uncivil,” Bredesen said. “I think of it more of a symptom of something else in society. What is it about American society today that people are frustrated with? I sense that people’s needs aren’t being met.”

Fitzhugh ‘Making Conversation’ About Haslam, Sundquist and a Website

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, says he was surprised to find a bumper sticker promoting his candidacy for governor on his desk at the Legislative Plaza last week.
The bumper sticker says, “Run Craig Run” and gives a website address — http://www.fitz14.com — that invites people to sign an online petition urging Fitzhugh to enter the 2014 race.
Fitzhugh, who held a news conference last week devoted mostly to legislative issues, said he knew nothing of the effort until finding the bumper sticker on his desk. The website has a disclaimer saying it is sponsored by Democratic Policy Council, a PAC with Regina Morrison Newman, a Memphis Democratic activist, listed as treasurer and very little activity reported in recent filings with the Registry of Election Finance. On it’s last filed report, the PAC listed a cash balance of $448.86.
Fitzhugh said he hasn’t decided on running, but probably will soon after the 2013 legislative session ends. Legislative leaders are predicting that will be by late April.
The lawmaker has often said he likes and respects Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who is already planning fundraisers for his re-election effort.
The closest he came to criticizing the incumbent during the news conference was to remark that Haslam has “failed to be decisive”as might be expected from a politician with a high approval rating — especially those issues pushed by the Republican Party’s “right wing.”
Asked to elaborate, Fitzhugh recalled former Gov. Don Sundquist once saying he was “irrelevant to the process” — a remark made after Sundquist was criticized for failing to sign bills passed by the Legislature allowing local governments to raise local taxes.
“I would hope that the governor (Haslam) is relevant to the process,” Fitzhugh said.
Does that mean he is comparing Haslam to Sundquist?
“No,” he replied after a long pause. “I’m just making conversation.”

Predatory Beetles Unleashed in Martha Sundquist State Forest

News release from Division of Forestry, state Department of Agriculture:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Predatory beetles that feed on hemlock woolly adelgids (HWA), an invasive pest killing swaths of hemlock trees from eastern Tennessee to the Cumberland Mountains, were released Tuesday at Martha Sundquist State Forest in Cocke County. The release was an effort by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry (TDF) to protect young eastern hemlock seedlings from the invasive exotic pest, which is responsible for killing many, if not most, of the mature hemlocks in the state forest.
“Martha Sundquist State Forest is a good site for these beetles to be released because there is a healthy population of HWA to sustain them,” said Douglas Godbee, TDF Forest Health Forester. “We will monitor these beetles over the next couple of years in hopes that they will reproduce, become an established population, and continue to prey on HWA in order to eventually control the HWA population.”
Native to Asia, the hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae) is a small, aphid-like insect that threatens the health and sustainability of eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and Carolina hemlock (Tsuga caroliniana) in the Eastern United States. It feeds at the base of the needles and can quickly populate all needles of a tree, sucking the sap and ultimately causing mortality within 3 to 10 years of infestation. The potential ecological impacts of this exotic pest are comparable to that of Dutch elm disease and chestnut blight. HWA was first reported in the U.S. in 1951 near Richmond, Va., and has since spread to 17 states, from Maine to Georgia.

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Sundquist, Comptroller, Former Banking Commissioner and State Rep Had Ties to Failed Bank

A former Tennessee governor and the state’s current comptroller are among public figures with ties to an East Tennessee bank whose closure by regulators was one of the state’s first bank failures in nearly a decade, reports The Tennessean.
Former Gov. Don Sundquist sat on the Knoxville-based BankEast’s board. He and Comptroller Justin Wilson owned shares in its holding company.
After the bank’s failure last month, and the purchase of much of its assets by U.S. Bank, their BankEast stock is considered worthless.
State Rep. Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville, also served on BankEast’s board and listed the bank as a source of income in a filing with the Tennessee Ethics Commission. He received a business loan from the bank.
BankEast failed after real estate, construction and other loans went sour amid the economic downturn. The bank’s 10 branches now fly the corporate flag of U.S. Bank. The Minneapolis-based company bought much of the failed bank’s assets, including $272 million of loans, and assumed $268 million of deposits
BankEast’s holding company, in which Sundquist, Wilson and others owned stock, wasn’t part of the U.S. Bank purchase. Typically, shareholders of a failed bank lose their money because they fall behind depositors and holders of unsecured and subordinated debt on a list of priority of creditors’ claims.
…Sundquist held 2 percent of voting shares in BankEast’s holding company at year-end 2010, according to BankEast Corp.’s most recent annual report filing with a regulator.
The ex-governor declined to comment on his ties to the bank, whose lead founder and chairman, Fred Lawson, was banking commissioner during the Sundquist administration. Sundquist was governor from 1995 to 2003 and was a congressman for a dozen years before that.

Haslam Broke Tradition With Occupy Nashville Arrests

(Note: This column was written for Sunday’s News Sentinel.)
Protesting at the Legislative Plaza and the adjoining state capitol complex has a long history, and governors have traditionally dealt with the demonstrators through an attitude of benign neglect.
Gov. Bill Haslam has broken that tradition. One suspects that he did so without a top-to-bottom review of the matter.
The traditional stance for governors — who are often, but not always, the focus of the sign-waving, chanting and such — has been to ignore the protesters with the assumption they’ll go away. Some, of course, have been harder to ignore than others over the years. But they have, indeed, eventually gone away.
Perhaps most notably Gov. Don Sundquist was pretty resolute in ignoring anti-income tax protesters, who turned out in hordes. But they went away after achieving victory in the form of enactment of the biggest tax increase in Tennessee history, based on sales rather than income.
Gov. Phil Bredesen once briefly violated the rule of ignorance by meeting with activists, some of them disabled, who occupied a hallway of the state Capitol to protest cuts to TennCare. It was a calculated show of good will toward people in wheelchairs who evoked some understandable sympathy. But it didn’t work, and Bredesen reverted to ignoring them. Eventually, they went away.
During the legislative session this year, there were protesting sieges by groups ranging from Muslims worried about the so-called Sharia law bill to tea party people worried about many things. A small group of pro-labor activists tried to disrupt a Senate committee hearing to protest anti-collective bargaining legislation.
Haslam pretty much ignored them all, though several conservative legislators verbally embraced the tea people, and Highway Patrol officers were summoned to drag protesters from the committee hearing room. The latter were being disruptive and could not be ignored.
Enter the latest group of protesters, the Occupy Nashville offshoot of the national Occupy Wall Street protest. Haslam ignored them for a couple of weeks, then decided to go active against them. The administration announced a brand new policy of requiring a permit to protest, posting a bond and, most strikingly, a 10 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew on the Legislative Plaza, where the protesters were camped.
State troopers then arrested a total of 55 protesters in two days of enforcing the new curfew. A Nashville magistrate declared the charges had no legal basis when the arrested protesters were brought before him.
A couple of days later, a U.S. District Court judge declared basically the same thing and the lawyer representing the state quickly threw in the towel, a fairly clear signal that enforcement action was illegal. Further legal action is anticipated. A lawyer for the protesters says those arrested were effectively kidnapped in the eyes of the law.
When the Occupy Nashville protesters were being ignored by the governor, they were largely being ignored by the media and everyone else. Conversations with a few of them indicate they were generally gentle folks, upset with corporate influence in the national political system but with little knowledge of specifics — even such things as Tennessee law allowing direct corporate contributions in unlimited amounts to legislative caucuses and political parties.
Haslam and Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons have, in effect, contended the protestors were disruptive by being unsanitary. The protesters do not dispute that there were some unsanitary situations but say this was because homeless people, who frequent the Capitol complex, had infiltrated their ranks. Some had also apparently been victims of thieves.
Gibbons said troopers were not going to “baby sit” protesters. So they arrested them. Also, he fretted that the protests could cost the state money through trooper overtime and such. So now the state faces costs in the courts.
The governor, commissioner and others of officialdom have been pretty silent about specifics of how they arrived at the decision to shift from ignoring to acting, citing the pending legal action for violation of First Amendment rights. It’s unclear where that will all lead. Be that as it may, it is clear that the move from benign neglect to aggressive action has dramatically enhanced the profile of the Occupiers in Nashville. The arrests have brought national attention.
And now that they haven’t been ignored, it may be a long time before they go away.

Miscellaneous TN Politically-Oriented News Notes

Ramsey Backs Business Cost Estimates on Bills
According to TNReport, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey supports the idea of having legislative staff calculate the cost to business of legislation under consideration in the General Assembly.
“Right now we’re just ignoring it (costs to companies) and putting it directly onto business,” the Blountville Republican said. “What does this cost a business when we pass a bill?
“In the long run, it will save the state money and save businesses money” to attempt to calculate those costs up front,” he said.

A Chattanooga Photo Voter ID Effort
From the Chattanooga TFP:
State Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, said she, other elected officials, churches, elected officials, fraternal, community, civic and professional organizations have formed the Tennessee Voters Assistance Coalition.
It is aimed at helping people get proper photo ID by giving them assistance in obtaining documents like birth certificates and providing transportation.

Southerland: It’s ‘Our Turn’ for Megasite
State Sen. Steve Southerland, R-Morristown, says that for folks in Northeast Tennessee “it’s our turn” for creation of a new Megasite for industrial development tells TNReport that moves are underway toward that goal. But…
State Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty said recently he had heard the subject come up in regard to Upper East Tennessee, but he downplayed the potential.
“In terms of a new large-scale megasite like West Tennessee, I think there is a lot of optimism we might be able to do that in other parts of the state, but there is nothing along that magnitude on the drawing board right now,” Hagerty said.

Estimates Could Cost Electrolux
Electrolux, which is relying on state and local government for much of its funding for a new Memphis facility, might have to reach deeper into its own pocket, reports the Commercial Appeal.
Construction bids for an Electrolux site at Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park are about $30 million higher than expected, but company executives and city officials say the Swedish appliance manufacturer remains committed to building the facility.
Sundquists Open Their Home
Don and Martha Sundquist, who moved to Townsend from the governor’s residence, are opening their home to public visits for the first annual “Fall Mountain Home Tour,” Friday, Oct. 28, reports the News Sentinel. It is one of four on the tour, a benefit for the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center. He is on the board; she is on the guild.
The house, centered on views of Mount LeConte, is designed around the outdoors. “There are no curtains anywhere in the house,” (Martha Sundquist) says. A waterfall visible from the deck prompts an explanation.
“I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to live on a mountain top or near a waterfall. Don said, ‘you can always build a waterfall later.'” She didn’t have to wait long; the landscaped water feature was her 45th anniversary gift.

Haslam: Not Joining ‘the Name-calling Deal’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday he will rise above name-calling after speakers at a tea party rally over the weekend called him weak on efforts to do away with teachers’ collective bargaining rights in Tennessee.
At the rally outside the Capitol on Saturday, the speakers likened Haslam to the late children’s television host Fred Rodgers and to former Republican Gov. Don Sundquist because he has taken a neutral stance on the collective bargaining proposal.
“You know, we’re going to be with people that are trying to fix problems, and I’m never going to be part of the name-calling deal,” Haslam told The Associated Press. “I don’t think that helps anybody.”
The Republican governor’s comments came after a ceremony at the state Capitol to swear in Jim Henry as commissioner of the new state Department of Intellectual Disabilities. Henry’s starting date had been delayed because he was undergoing cancer treatments.

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Sundquist Defending Haslam, but Not Endorsing Him

Former Gov. Don Sundquist says it’s too early for him to endorse anyone in the Republican gubernatorial primary… but then he says Bill Haslam has been unfairly attacked by rivals in the race. Hmmm.
So reports Georgianna Vines, who visited Don and Martha Sundquist at their Townsend home for an interview. Sundquist said he thinks a Republican will win the 2010 gubernatorial race, if the GOP candidates don’t beat up on each other in the primary.
Along those lines, Sundquist says criticism of Knoxville Mayor Haslam for refusal to release financial information about his income from Pilot Corp. – leveled by Bill Gibbons and Zach Wamp – was “uncalled for and unnecessary.”
Sundquist thinks the amount of information that Haslam has provided is appropriate.
“We’ve got to look back. The Kennedys had trust funds that no one ever complained about,” he said. In Haslam’s case, he disclosed a significant amount of charitable donations for which he should be praised, not criticized, Sundquist said.
“I’m not trying to protect Haslam. He can take care of himself,” he said.
Of course, an endorsement from Sundquist might not be all that helpful in some quarters. As noted in the article, there’s still some unhappiness with his unsuccessful push for a state income tax – something that, as Sundquist notes, no gubernatorial candidate, Democrat or Republican, supports these days.