Saying more openness is needed on the part of Tennessee policy makers, Rep. Susan Lynn has introduced legislation that would require the disclosure of all real property they own other than their primary home, according to TNReport. The Mt. Juliet Republican’s HB 1063 would require all elected and certain appointed public officials, such as those on local and regional planning commissions or state boards, to disclose any real property owned by them, their spouses or any minor children living at home.
“Back in 2006, when we did the ethics reform, we wanted this to be part of the disclosure and simply couldn’t get it done at that time,” said Lynn, who served in the House for eight years before running for state Sen. Mae Beavers’ seat and losing in 2010.
“Leaving the legislature for two years, like I did, you start thinking about the things you wish you’d done or could have done, and this was one of those things.”
…Lynn’s bill would require the disclosure of the address of the property and the month and year of its acquisition, but not everyone in the General Assembly is in favor of it.
Many have told her that the information is a matter of public record, and that should be sufficient. Her argument is that since it is public record, “What’s wrong with putting it all in one neat, consolidated place to make that disclosure?
“I’m not feeling a warm breeze right now from the [Local Government] committee,” said Lynn, who postponed a vote on the bill until March 12. “I really feel like I’m standing out there alone. I know it’s the right thing to do, and I hope they will be amenable.”
She said she would entertain an amendment excepting state legislators from the new disclosure requirement, if it’s the only way to make it a requirement for local government officials.
The News Sentinel has a flattering profile story on Susan Richardson Williams, a former state Republican chairman and current public relations practitioner who quickly collected more than $40,000 for the Romney campaign just last week.
Williams, naturally, says that Knoxville fundraising success says a lot about how great the candidate is. From the article: It also says a lot about Williams, a sought-after political pundit whose competitive drive and desire to deliver results for things she’s passionate about — including the Republican Party, the state of Tennessee, the University of Tennessee and environmental conservation — have been a hallmark of her 40-year career.
Tourism’s economic impact in the state reached a record level last year as visitor spending exceeded $15 billion, according to new figures released Thursday at the 2012 Tennessee Tourism Governor’s Conference and reported by the News Sentinel. The expenditures totaling $15.36 billion represent an increase of 8.7 percent, or $1.2 billion from 2010, the largest single year-over-year increase.
“You really should be congratulating and celebrating your success,” Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker told a crowd during her annual state of the industry address. “The impact, it’s pretty amazing.”
For the sixth consecutive year, tourism business generated more than a billion dollars in state and local sales tax revenue. All of the state’s 95 counties had an increase, including 23 counties that were up 10 percent.
…Tennessee also entered back into the top 10 ranking of states for number of visitors. The move to 9th in the nation is up six spots from the previous year when it was ranked 15th. International travel visits were up 14.6 percent, resulting in $450 million in visitor spending.
Chas Sisk has a review of the House District 57 clash between Rep. Linda Elam and former Rep. Susan Lynn, which is something of a personality contest between two Tea Party conservatives.. Lynn said she believes she has the voters on her side. She points out that she carried Wilson County by nearly 1,700 votes in her unsuccessful effort against Beavers — a lead that evaporated in other counties.
Elam questions Lynn’s devotion to the 57th District. After reapportionment in January, Lynn’s home, off Coles Ferry Road, now lies in the neighboring 46th House District, Elam notes.
“She doesn’t even live in the district where she is purporting to want to represent people,” Elam said. “I see that as — I don’t want to say the word that came to mind. I see that as disrespectful to the voters.”
Lynn defends herself by saying that state lawmakers, including Elam, redrew the 57th District to exclude her. Although state law doesn’t require residency in a district — only that the representative live somewhere in a county that overlaps its boundaries, as is the case with Lynn — she pledged to move after the election.
“I think it’s extremely disingenuous,” Lynn said. “This is the area that I represented for eight years.”
The spat over district lines reflects the tenor of the race.
Elam is quick to highlight the contrast in style between her and Lynn, who frequently made headlines during her four terms in office. Elam conducts herself in public like the banking and commercial lawyer she once was, saying she prefers to work behind the scenes.
“I am levelheaded. I am solid. I am conscientious. I am easy to work with, and I don’t do drama,” she said. “I go down to the Capitol to do the people’s business.”
As proof, Elam points to a campaign fundraiser earlier this month in which 58 of her 63 House colleagues, including House Speaker Beth Harwell and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, were listed as co-hosts.
Lynn says she did not seek out news coverage, either, but admits that it finds her on occasion.
Attention-getting measures Lynn backed over the years include attempts to reverse the Affordable Care Act in Tennessee, reassert the sovereignty of the states over the federal government and protect people from having microchips forcibly implanted under their skin.
Such legislation was filed out of principle, Lynn said, not to grab attention.
“I don’t write the newspaper articles.”
Lynn also flips the drama accusation around. She notes that Elam was censured by the Mt. Juliet Board of Commissioners in 2007 over her handling of a sexual harassment complaint against the city’s public works director.
She also says Elam fought to hold onto the office of mayor even after 87 percent of the city’s voters cast ballots in favor of an ordinance barring city officials from holding other elected positions.
Elam defends her actions in both cases.
In the sexual harassment situation, Elam says that all she did was call the accuser to gather information about the complaint. She said the conversation had been blessed by the city attorney beforehand.
“Yes, I was censured,” she said, “but it was a very political vote on something where the city attorney (and) ethics officer said I hadn’t done anything improper.”
Andrea Zelinski has a report today on the House District 57 race in Wilson County. It seems almost an incumbent-versus-incumbent contest with the challenger, former Rep. Susan Lynn, using “re-elect Susan Lynn” yard signs. The actual incumbent, Rep. Linda Elam of Mount Juliet, can do the same, of course. “I don’t even have a logo that doesn’t say ‘Re-Elect Susan Lynn,'” said the Mt. Juliet Republican, who served four terms in the state House before launching an unsuccessful run at the Senate in 2010. Lynn says it just makes sense to try and save a few bucks by reusing signs, stickers, T-shirts, hats and other sundry political paraphernalia leftover from her House District 57 campaigns starting in 2002 and ending in 2008.
Lynn faces Linda Elam, a one-time real estate attorney, formerly the mayor of Mt. Juliet mayor and — most notably — the incumbent who enjoys the House GOP Caucus’ support going into the August 2 primary election. The winner will run unopposed in November.
Elam, who is finishing up her first term in state office, kicked off her campaign recently with an event co-sponsored by 58 fellow Republican lawmakers. The GOP establishment’s endorsement, Elam says, represents a clear and “dramatic” message to voters signaling which candidate has proven she can “work well with their colleagues, get things accomplished and work on behalf of the people rather than their own interest.”
The race is one of several that political insiders are following closely. The race will also test the electoral clout of the business-friendly caucus leaders as they try to protect Tennessee incumbents from constitution-focused Tea Party conservative challengers.
“While Susan Lynn is one of my very best friends I’ve ever had, I know that my job as leader, when I was elected by the caucus, is to help the incumbents. It’s not a comfortable thing for me at all,” said House GOP Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart of Hendersonville, who was known to socialize with Lynn when they served as seat-mates in the Legislature together. “I know Susan would understand if she was in the caucus still. She would expect me to support her just as we are doing with Linda Elam.”
Aside from calling themselves Mt. Juliet conservatives seeking “re-election,” Elam and Lynn offer voters significant differences in style and background.
Lynn won her first House election in 2002, in the aftermath of the state income tax battles in the Legislature. She made a name for herself championing limited-government constitutionalism and state sovereignty issues. Some of her most well-known bills sought to restrict the effect of Obamacare on Tennesseans, ban the government from implanting microchips in individuals against a person’s will, and requiring those on public assistance to submit to random drug tests, a measure which won approval in a different fashion this year.
…”Some people would prefer to get in front of TV cameras and go wave signs and make wild accusations and things like that rather than the hard work it takes to be a responsible legislator,” Elam said.
Elam points out that she brings a “professional, level-headed, hard-working, sensible, collegial work environment to the Capitol,” painting Lynn as something of a drama queen.
“I think that’s absolutely foolish,” said Lynn.
News release from the governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Dr. John Dreyzehner will join the administration to lead the Tennessee Department of Health. He will replace Susan Cooper, who after fulfilling her commitment to assist with the transition and the first legislative session has decided to pursue other opportunities.
“I am thankful Susan served the people of Tennessee as part of this administration,” Haslam said. “She is a passionate advocate for a healthier Tennessee, and we will continue to focus on initiatives that encourage our citizens to make positive choices to exercise and eat well. I have enjoyed working with her and wish her the best.”
“When I came to the state in 2005 from Vanderbilt University School of Nursing to develop the safety net, I had no idea that I would have the honor and privilege to serve as Commissioner of Health under two exceptional, health-focused governors, Bill Haslam and Phil Bredesen,” said Cooper, who has been commissioner since 2007. “I want to thank both governors for the opportunity to serve and their support of policies and programs that improve the health of Tennesseans.
News release from Susan Lynn:
Nashville – Former State Representative Susan Lynn will announce this morning at 9am that she will be hosting her own radio program on 880 am The Big Mouth starting Labor Day, Monday, September 5, 2011.
Her announcement will take place on the Big Joe Show, 880am, The Big Mouth.
The conservative lawmaker from Wilson County will host Let’s Save America – a reference to her grassroots beliefs that the people should and can be an active force in the affairs of their government. She will review state and national issues and provide her constitutional perspective combined with her well known support of free enterprise and Austrian economics.
The show’s web site will contain full content when it starts on Monday morning – the address is :www.susanlynn.net.
The Tennessean today features editorial columns on the idea of abolishing the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, a possibility recently suggested by Gov. Bill Haslam. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey basically echoes Haslam’s comments, saying state government should look toward shifting the agency’s functions elsewhere.
But former state Rep. Susan Lynn likens that notion – moving functions elsewhere – to moving chairs around on the deck of a ship and doubts there would be any consequential savings.
And Henry Walker, a Nashville lawyer who often appears before the TRA, says that putting the TRA under the executive branch of government would be akin to having a city mayor set electric rates for the local electric utility.
A tourism brochure estimated to cost taxpayers $15,000 wound up costing more than $100,000, according to a WSMV-TV report on the state Department of Tourist Development. Also questioned is spending of state funds on a video praising Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker and former Gov. Phil Bredesen. The tourism trail brochures called Walking Tall promote all Tennessee has to offer and are full of individual information on tourist destinations across the state. The ad agency White Thompson, which won the state bid for the brochures, indicated it would cost about $15,000 to develop six brochures, plus about $4,000 for the logo.
But when the I-Team began inspecting the invoices, it found that just a year later, the estimate to finish the brochures had doubled. The estimate for the brochure a year later jumped to about $40,000 to finish the same brochure.
In the end, it cost $64,000. Add on the printing, and the final total was more than $100,000 in tax dollars to put the brochure in tourist destinations across the state.
…Whitaker wouldn’t answer questions on camera, but her public information officer sent an email, saying that this is “an excellent use of state dollars, because of the return on the investment. Early estimates of the cost for the trails were made without any precedents to benchmark and had to be revised and approved as the work was done.”
The email noted, “We have ‘gone to school’ on what works well and what could be improved, in terms of costs of the brochures.”
…In a video that tax dollars paid for, thanking the commissioner for doing her job, executives across the state can be seen thanking her for her work promoting tourism.
It features her family and was a shown at a state tourism convention along with another video thanking then-Gov. Phil Bredesen for doing his job.
According to state invoices, those videos cost taxpayers more than $15,000.
“A video with taxpayer money, thanking them for the job they got paid to do, seems a little overboard,” said (Justin) Owen (of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research) .
The public information officer for Tourist Development said in her email that although the commissioner requested the thank-you video for the governor be made, Whitaker didn’t know there was also a video being made to thank her for her work.
It’s unclear how much the commissioner reviews her department’s spending. For the hundreds of invoices the I-Team looked at for these projects, she didn’t sign off on a single one.