By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday reiterated his support for the state’s education commissioner, who has come under fire for changes to how teachers are paid.
At least two Facebook pages have been created calling for Kevin Huffman’s ouster as well as an online petition that has garnered hundreds of signatures.
The state Board of Education approved the changes last month after supporters and opponents argued for nearly two hours over the matter. The measure changes the minimum teacher salary schedule, reduces steps in salary increases from 21 to four and eliminates incentives for doctorate degrees and post-master’s training.
Haslam told reporters on Monday that the changes are needed to further education reform in the state, and that if he were to hire an education commissioner again today, it would be Huffman.
“If you look at the states that are making the most progress in education, Tennessee is at the top of that list,” said the Republican governor. “Kevin gets a lot of credit for that.”
Gov. Bill Haslam says he’ll urge Tennessee’s congressmen to vote for the internet sales tax bill, reports Richard Locker. The bill faces a much tougher vote in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives than it did in passing the Democrat-controlled Senate on Monday. Speaking to reporters after a book discussion at the small, independent Parnassus Books store (in Nashville), the governor said he’s already had conversations with some of the Tennessee House delegation and plans more. “I do think it’s critical for our state. We’re a sales tax driven state. We have folks — this bookstore — that are providing a product and collecting sales tax and other folks who are providing the same product and not collecting sales tax. And it’s not a new tax; it’s a tax that’s is owed right now but that people aren’t paying.”
…The National Conference of State Legislatures, which supports the bill, estimates that Tennessee lost $748 million in state and local sales taxes from internet sales last year….University of Tennessee economics professor William F. Fox, director of the UT Center for Business & Economic Research and a nationally recognized expert on internet sales taxes, said the issue has economic implications beyond taxation. “What we have today is an environment in which the way I buy something determines if I remit the tax. We are subsidizing out of state internet retailers at the expense of the bricks and mortar business in Germantown or on Beale Street. They’re harmed at the expense of a company operating out of Oregon.
“For our congressmen and women not to vote for this, they are saying they would rather advantage retailers out of state than allow our own retailers to compete on a level playing field,” Fox said. He said his research indicates that Walmart employs about five workers per $1 million in sales while Amazon employs one. “It tells us Amazon is really efficient but they don’t need people on a sales floor. I’m not arguing against Amazon. All I’m asking for is a level playing field.”
…Both of Tennessee’s U.S. senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, voted for the bill in the Senate, where it passed 69-27. But a survey of Tennessee’s House delegation by the Chattanooga Times Free on Monday found that only the two Democrats — U.S. Reps. Steve Cohen of Memphis and Jim Cooper of Nashville — support the bill while most of the seven Republicans haven’t decided and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, opposes it.
Haslam pointed to the bookstore he was standing in as an example of the unfair advantage out of state internet retailers have. The small store, co-owned by Nashville author Ann Patchett, employs 19 full and part time workers.
“And if you look around, Davis-Kidd and others used to be here, This is a prime example but it’s not just about books anymore,” the governor said. “I know people that buy their dishwashing detergent online now.”
While some Republicans have distanced themselves from U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, Andy Sher finds some in the 4th Congressional District standing by him despite recent revelations. “I’d heard great things about him from some other Republican folks out there,” said (Austin Maxwell) the Rutherford County Republican Party chairman, adding he was impressed with both the Jasper physician and his wife of 10 years, Amy DesJarlais. “I’ve got friends who go to church with them.”
Maxwell said he continues to stand by the anti-abortion freshman lawmaker amid revelations that DesJarlais, first elected in 2010, once encouraged a patient he slept with a dozen years ago to have an abortion.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Maxwell of the revelation that came out of records from DesJarlais’ bitter divorce with his then-wife, Susan. “Divorces sometimes can be very pleasant. But they sometimes can be very nasty. This is obviously something from 10, 11, 12 years ago from his first marriage.”
…That has resonance for retiree Tricia Stickel, president of the Maury County Tea Party.
“In the scheme of things, who he is now [and] the issues that we have in our government today, personal relationship mistakes [and] bitter divorces 12 years ago are personally insignificant,” she said.
Franklin County Republican Party Chairwoman Iris Rudder said she got to know DesJarlais and his family when he campaigned two years ago and won an upset victory over then-U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn.
“He is a good man, and I’m proud to have him as my congressman,” Rudder said. “I like the fact that he does what he says he will do. He represented the people according to their wishes” and opposed the federal health care law.
She said “talking about a divorce that’s 12 years old, the past, does not get a job for anyone in the 4th District. … It doesn’t do anything to make lives better.”
…(O)n Friday, DesJarlais got good news from the two top U.S. House leaders, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.
The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported Friday that spokesmen for the officials are maintaining their support of DesJarlais.
“He supports every Republican incumbent who is running for office,” said Cantor spokesman Doug Heye.
News release from Administrative Office of the Courts:
The Tennessee Supreme Court today upheld a trial court’s damage award against a mother who misled her boyfriend by telling him he was the child’s father when he was not. In its ruling, the Court stated that an intentional misrepresentation claim, which is already recognized in Tennessee’s courts, is broad enough to apply to circumstances where a mother intentionally misrepresents the parentage of her child.
In November 1991, Tina Hodge told Chadwick Craig that she was pregnant and that he was the child’s father. When Mr. Craig asked Ms. Hodge if she was sure he was the father, Ms. Hodge answered that she was, even though she had been having sexual relations with another man at the time. The couple married in December 1991, and Ms. Hodge’s child was born in June 1992. Mr. Craig raised the child, believing that he was the child’s biological father.
After the couple divorced in 2001, Mr. Craig began to suspect that the child was not his. Genetic tests eventually confirmed that Mr. Craig was not the child’s father. This news strained the relationship between Mr. Craig and the child. When Ms. Hodge and Mr. Craig returned to court to address custody and child support issues, Mr. Craig claimed that he was entitled to monetary damages based on Ms. Hodge’ s intentional misrepresentation that he was the child’s biological father. Following a trial in the Circuit Court for Maury County, the trial court found that Ms. Hodge had intentionally misrepresented to Mr. Craig that he was the child’s biological father and ordered Ms. Hodge to pay damages to Mr. Craig.
The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that Ms. Hodge had intentionally misrepresented the parentage of the child to Mr. Craig. But the appellate court vacated the damage award because it was a retroactive modification of child support which is prohibited by statute. Mr. Craig appealed to the Supreme Court
In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court held that existing Tennessee law allowed Mr. Craig to file an intentional misrepresentation claim against Ms. Hodge. The Court also agreed with the Court of Appeals that the evidence supported the trial court’s finding that Ms. Hodge had intentionally misrepresented to Mr. Craig that he was her child’s father. In addition, the Court held that Mr. Craig was entitled to recover damages from Ms. Hodge and that a damage award based on the amount of child support expenses Mr. Craig had paid following the divorce was not a prohibited retroactive modification of child support.
To read the Tina Marie Hodge v. Chadwick Craig opinion, authored by Justice William C. Koch, Jr., visit http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/hodgetmopn.pdf
A Davidson County grand jury has indicted three women for stealing more than $60,000 from the state Department of Human Services, reports The City Paper. Clarissa Jones, 34, Sharron Katherine Luckey, 40, and Shonnekia Peacock, 36, were each charged with one count of theft of $60,000 or more, one count of money laundering and two counts of identity theft.
According to the indictment filed Wednesday, the women rerouted child support payments and deposited them into accounts at Avenue Bank “where the funds were thereafter withdrawn with the intent to conceal or disguise the nature, location, source, ownership, or control of the criminally derived proceeds.”
The alleged theft and money laundering coincided with the identity theft of two individuals from June 1, 2008, to Sept. 30, 2009.
A spokeswoman with the Davidson County District Attorney General’s Office said information about the scope of the theft wouldn’t be available at this stage of the investigation. They are facing the highest level of felony theft charges.
Emotional appeals were directed Friday at Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and state Sen. Mike Faulk to maintain funding for a state program serving home-based family members with severe disabilities, reports Hank Hayes. About 20 families with disabled loved ones filed into the auditorium at the Kingsport Public Library to testify on behalf of keeping the Family Support Program in the state budget. Last month, Tennessee Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Jim Henry proposed the $7 million program be cut from the state budget for the coming fiscal year.
The program, run in Northeast Tennessee by The Arc of Washington County, provides support services such as respite care, day care, home modifications, equipment, nursing and counseling.
….Blind Kingsport resident Patty Fletcher said that without the program, she had no one to read mail and no way to pay her bills.
“What would you do if you were disabled and needed these services yourself?” she asked the two lawmakers.
The program, which serves 215 families in Northeast Tennessee and more than 4,000 statewide, has been funded the past two years by federal stimulus funds and the state’s Rainy Day Fund, according to advocates.
Maximum allowable direct aid per person is $4,000 each year, and the statewide average aid allocation was $1,387 in the last fiscal year, according to the program.
…Ramsey, R-Blountville, pointed out state lawmakers cut $1.2 billion from last year’s budget and still funded the program.
“If we can’t find a way out of a $30 billion budget to find $7.2 million for you, you ought to send us home,” Ramsey told the families.
Before the meeting started, Ramsey also noted: “From the bottom of my heart, I’m going to make sure we make the least amount of cuts for the most vulnerable. I have meetings with constituent groups, but this is the toughest one. You want to help and do everything you can, but we can’t be like the federal government and borrow yourself into oblivion. We have to balance the budget. We will make those tough choices, but I hope there are no cuts for these people.”
Faulk, R-Church Hill, told the group that the program’s funding goes to help families trying to help themselves.
“That contrasts with a lot of other areas in state government where money is handed out to folks who are not necessarily trying to help themselves…” Faulk said to applause. “We hear you. We heard you before you spoke today because many of you and your problems and needs are near and dear to my heart and the lieutenant governor’s heart. … Republicans are bashed all over the country as being cold-hearted, cruel, mean people because they cut budgets. In Tennessee for three consecutive years, the budgets have been cut because the money has not been there. … We have to reprioritize.”
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A flood of support for Wall Street protesters poured in after Gov. Bill Haslam imposed a curfew that led to the arrests of 55 people in Nashville, according to public records obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Of nearly 400 emails sent to the Republican governor’s office, only 11 supported his actions.
“Keep up the good work,” said an email from Sherri Tittle. “I appreciate you not being swayed by these protesters or the media.”
However, the majority voiced their disdain, some from as far away as Australia.
“I write to you from Repton, NSW, Australia, to express my strongest disapproval of the actions you are taking against the members of Occupy Nashville,” wrote Nick Rose. “Freedom of assembly is a basic right. Your actions are flagrant violations.”
News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE, TN), May 21, 2011 – The State Senate today voted 26 to 3 to approve an anti-terrorism bill that updates the Tennessee Terrorism Prevention Act that was passed shortly after the 9-11 terrorist attacks and was approved unanimously in both the House and Senate. The “Material Support to Designated Entities Act of 2011” now makes the provision of “material support” a Class A felony and helps to close the prevention gap left by the 2002 statute.
“After discussions with all interested parties the bill was rewritten to achieve a fiscally responsible way to cut off “material support” that assists those planning to commit terrorist acts in Tennessee since it is the support that typically makes the acts more likely to occur,” said Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), sponsor of the bill. “This bill is very timely, in view of the fact that an August 2010 background report showed 21 U.S. citizens were charged in terrorist cases in 2009 and another 20 were charged in 2010 between January and August.”
The trajectory of cases of homegrown terrorism includes actors such as Memphis Carlos Bledsoe who attempted to firebomb the home of a Nashville rabbi and went on to murder 24-year old Private William Long in Arkansas. Secretary Janet Napolitano has called out to states to become more active and engaged in counter-terrorism measures.
The new amendment eliminates designation of terrorist entities by the state authorities and instead, defers to designations already made by the U.S. Secretary of State and the Department of the Treasury. The bill supports the work of the Joint Terrorism Task Force in continuing the collaboration between federal and state law enforcement authorities.
Ketron said the bill is an even handed and non-discriminatory counter-terrorism measure. The bill specifically declares that it does not target the peaceful practice of any religion. It, however, prohibits using religious doctrine as a justification for terrorist acts in Tennessee.
“It should be a priority of ours to protect the citizens of our great state – there will be no prosperity without security,” he concluded.
The bill now goes to Governor Bill Haslam for his signature.