State House candidate Flo Matheson says she “almost fainted” when first hearing that the Tennessee Republican Party had accused her of supporting a state income tax, but now she believes the GOP news release — though wrong — is helping her campaign.
The state GOP earlier this week sent media a news release on Democrat Matheson’s remarks at a candidate forum with her opponent, state Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville.
It quotes state Republican Chairman Chris Devaney as saying the comments left him wondering whether the state Democratic Party has encouraged its candidates to “adopt this extremist, big government agenda which would amount to some of the largest tax increases in our state’s history.”
The release was accompanied by an audio recording that, as first reported by The City Paper, stops just after Matheson says she supports “a progressive income tax.”
Matheson said her next words were to say she was referring to the federal income tax and made the point that, though state legislators have no impact on federal taxes, voters should be wary of candidates who want to favor the “extremely wealthy” in tax policy.
The City Paper reports that an audio tape of Democratic House candidate Flo Matheson’s remarks at a forum were edited – or at least cut short – so she would seem to be supporting a state income tax. Actually, Matheson says she was not – she was supporting the federal “progressive income tax.”
The Matheson comments formed the basis of a state Republican party news release. (Previous post HERE.)
From Stephen Hale’s story:
TNGOP Executive Director Adam Nickas told The City Paper that the state party did not cut or edit “in any way” the audio provided to them, but would not reveal where the audio came from.
The release, which does not identify Matheson by name, included an eight-minute audio recording of some of Matheson’s remarks at the Monday morning candidates forum in the East Tennessee district. In the tape, Matheson can be heard expressing support for a living wage, and opposition to the repeal of the estate tax. Her remarks about an income tax, however, begin with less than 10 seconds left in the tape and are quickly cut off.
“Also, I support a progressive income tax, which would mean, you know, more taxes on the wealthy. I do know that fe… ,” she can be heard saying, at which point the tape ends.
Forum organizers told The City Paper they did not have an official video or audio recording of the event. But a copy of Matheson’s prepared remarks, provided by Matheson, seems to provide the rest of the sentence cut off by the TNGOP audio.
“Support a progressive income tax,” her notes read. “Federal Income tax is not an issue that state representatives can resolve, but I can urge voters to remove legislators who work for the greedy super-rich, not for the middle class.”
Her opponent, Sexton, said he understood her comments differently.
“That’s not how I understood it,” he told The City Paper Wednesday morning, “because even later in the forum, I told her when we had a question, ‘You know, I’m not like Flo, I’m not in favor of a state income tax.’ She never came back and denied that she was.”
Sexton said he didn’t have anything to do with the tape.
“Maybe she went back now and she realizes, maybe she wasn’t clear enough and she wants to restate for the record, which is fine, if she wants to come out against a state income tax. But you still have the main issue that she wants a state living wage.”
Nickas said he believed the audio provided in the TNGOP release included “the majority of her comments.”
“I think it’s pretty clear that she was talking about state issues,” he said. “I know that she and probably the Democrat party are probably in damage control mode right now, trying to spin it, but I think it’s pretty simple what she said.”
News release from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s office:
(March 26, 2012, NASHVILLE) – Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey tonight praised the passage of Senate Bill 3644 sponsored by Speaker Pro Tem Bo Watson (R-Hixson). Inspired by conversations the lieutenant governor had with business owners during his Red Tape Road Trips, the bill is designed to keep license holders apprised of changes in government regulation and their status as license holders. The Senate voted unanimously to approve the measure.
“This is exactly the kind of thing our Republican majority should be doing to make our state government more transparent, open and customer friendly,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “For too long small businessmen have been kept in the dark and mired in red tape. This common sense bill allows government to stay in touch with job creators trying to make a living and make their interactions with government as painless as possible.”
“This is a necessary step to increase the level of customer service state government provides,” said Sen. Watson. “Government should be open and honest with those who deal with state regulations. This bill fulfills our obligation to license holders and brings yet another aspect of state government into the information age.”
Senate Bill 3644 allows a license holder to “opt in” to receive electronic notification from an overseeing board or commission 45 days in advance of a meeting. License holders who opt-in may also receive notice of renewal of their license, certification or registration as well as any fee increases or changes in state law that may impact the license holder.
The companion House bill is sponsored by Rep. Barrett Rich (R-Somerville) and is currently awaiting action by the House Finance Ways & Means committee.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey told about 60 business leaders at Kingsport Thursday to look for future unemployment compensation system changes favoring employers, reports Hank Hayes. Ramsey, during his “Red Tape Road Trip” luncheon highlighting government’s negative effect on business, said he’s been getting an earful from employers about people opting for an unemployment check rather than seeking a job when the state’s jobless rate remains well above 9 percent.
He cited a trucking company that wants but can’t find drivers and a heating and cooling firm with unfilled technician positions.
“When does it become a benefit and when does it become a lifestyle?” Ramsey, R-Blountville, asked of the current unemployment compensation system.
Weekly unemployment pay averages $285 a week, and beneficiaries aren’t pressed hard enough to look for work, Ramsey said.
About 400,000 workers file initial and partial unemployment claims annually while approximately 114,000 employers pay premiums for unemployment insurance, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Ramsey’s special assistant, Jordan Young, found about two-thirds of state unemployment claims are rejected in favor of the employer upon appeal.
“There are jobs out there. … It may not be the job you want, but there are jobs out there,” Ramsey said.
Mike Morrow delves into the matter of whether Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey violated the law — as alleged by Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester (prior post HERE) — in the financing and operation of his anti-red tape website. Excerpt from his TNReport report: Ramsey produced a letter Thursday from Drew Rawlins, executive director of the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, dated that day, saying Rawlins is not aware that any statute enforced by the Tennessee Ethics Commission was violated when Ramsey’s PAC created the site.
But the state Democratic Party says that’s not the problem.
“What Governor Ramsey asked is not the correct question,” said Brandon Puttbrese, communications director for the Tennessee Democratic Party. “He got the answer he was looking for. The serious question here is if using his official office to promote his PAC website is a violation of the Little Hatch Act.”
The Little Hatch Act refers to a law regarding the involvement of government employees for political purposes. The law prohibits public officers and employees from participating in any political activity while on duty (pdf). Tennessee’s Little Hatch Act mirrors the federal Hatch Act.
Rawlins, when contacted by TNReport Friday afternoon, said Ramsey’s question was not submitted in writing.
The ethics commission executive director said the question from Ramsey arose because the lieutenant governor apparently “wanted to make sure there was no ethics violation by RAAMPAC paying for the website.”
“I viewed the website and did not see any ethics violation, and that’s why I wrote the letter,” Rawlins said. “But there wasn’t any written request for a letter from me.”
Rawlins said his office does not handle alleged Little Hatch Act violations. Rawlins said he wasn’t sure who would look into Little Hatch Act allegations. He said he was not asked by Ramsey if it was appropriate or a potential violation of law to have his publicly funded staff doing work on the website.
“That was not a question I was asked, and I would not have answered that one because we do not have authority over that,” Rawlins said.
It appears that Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has turned red tape into an acronym, according to a report on his first stop in a tour to promote the idea of cutting it. Red tape, the Leaf-Chronicle story says, stands for Ridiculous Employee Decisions that Affect People Everyday.
Further, it appears the big topic of discussion was not a state regulatiion or rule, which Ramsey has indicated is the focal point of his cutting promotion, or a federal regulations, which were the major topic at a recent House study committee meeting to hear complaints from businessmen.
Instead, the red tape topic was a proposed Clarksville city ordinance opposed by Councilman Nick Steward, who hosted the Ramsey roundtable. The proposed change would require anyone selling items secondhand — including antique — thrift and online stores, to verify the previous owner and keep a record of to whom the item was sold.
“The attempt is to mitigate a lot of the shoplifting that’s happening in some of the stores and then goods being sold in flea markets and (by) antique dealers and junk dealers,” Steward said. “It puts a lot of restrictions on our small businesses that aren’t a solution to the problem.”
Ramsey said the ordinance change is a good example of “red tape on steroids.”
He added, “Get a photo (identification) while you’re there, who they are, and let them at least say: Where did you get this? Write it down and you’re done. You shouldn’t have to be the policing agency.”
Steward said he also wanted to host the event to give small businessowners the chance to bring forward issues they are having with their business and how the state can help.
“The only way that issues even get addressed are them being brought to the decision makers’ attention,” Steward said. “I think we took a step in that direction today.”
Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester says Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey is violating state ethics laws by using his office to promote a website funded by PAC contributions, reports WJHL-TV.
From the TV transcript: In March, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey launched a new website. TNRedTape.com tries to solve problems created by state government.
RAMSEY: “Silly rules and redundant regulations stifle innovative entrepreneurs from starting new businesses.”
The site lets “red tape whistle blowers” contact Ramsey for help, and a blog touts “red tape success stories.” It also openly criticizes some departments of state government.
RAMSEY: “Now that we’ve got a new governor in that I can work very, very well with in Bill Haslam, I thinks it syncs up that we want to identify and solve these problems.”
The site is funded by Ramsey’s political action committee RAAMPAC. That troubles Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester.
FORRESTER: “To use the official office to promote a PAC-paid website is clearly against the law in Tennessee. And furthermore, we’re very curious as to whether Lt. Gov. Ramsey is collecting his per diem as he travels the state.”
Ramsey says he’s not collecting per diem for the Red Tape Road Trips and calls Forrester’s legal claim “100-percent wrong.”
RAMSEY: “Chip Forrester is not a Ron Ramsey fan. The reason that PACs exist is to promote issues, to promote ideas, and that’s exactly what we’re doing with this. I did not want to use taxpayer money to do this.”
GEORGE JACKSON, reporter:
Political action committees like RAAMPAC register with the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance. Executive Director Drew Rawlins told me there’s nothing in state statutes that limits a PAC to campaign contributions. I asked him about Forrester’s claim — that Ramsey is using his office to promote a PAC-paid website, thereby breaking the law. Rawlins told me, “I have to look into it.”
News release from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey:
Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey today announced a series of discussions with business owners called Red Tape Road Trips. From now until Christmas, the Lieutenant Governor will be meeting with Tennessee’s business owners and entrepreneurs to hear concerns and offer help in dealing with state government and remove any and all “red tape” in the way of those putting capital at risk to create jobs.
“If history has proven anything to us it is that government cannot create jobs. It can, however, hasten the shedding of existing jobs and prevent new jobs from being created,” said Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. “My primary goal in public service is to make Tennessee the easiest state in which to own and operate a business. These road trips are an opportunity to hear from the job creators themselves to get a clear and concrete picture of the ways government makes life harder for them. I am looking forward to hearing their stories and ideas on what we can do to get out of their way. The ultimate goal here is to make entrepreneurs interactions with state government as painless as possible.”
Partnering with Lt. Governor Ramsey on the road trips is the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). NFIB is the leading small business association representing small and independent businesses.
“This road tour is a great initiative, and NFIB is proud to be part of it,” said NFIB State Director Jim Brown. “Through direct experiences with regulators, small business owners experience the challenges of our current regulatory environment and see the opportunities to fix them. Our members greatly appreciate Lt. Governor Ramsey taking the time to listen to business owners, who simply want a fair shake from their government.”
The Lt. Governor’s first Red Tape Road Trip will be to Clarksville on Oct. 13 where he will attend a roundtable discussion on regulation sponsored by local antique and consignment shops. Following that, Ramsey will visit the Memphis Area Action Council for a luncheon sponsored by NFIB at Regions Bank. Further trips to Knoxville, Nashville, Tri-Cities and Chattanooga are currently being scheduled.
In March 2011, Lt. Governor Ramsey launched TNRedtape.com, a site designed to connect with business owners and potential business owners to ease their interactions with state government. “Red Tape Road Trips” are an extension of TNRedtape.com and Lt. Governor’s long-term commitment to eliminate red tape in state government..
RED TAPE ROAD TRIPS
Thursday, October 13
Better Homes & Garden Real Estate
108 Center Pointe Drive, Clarksville, TN 37040
Wednesday, October 19
11:30 AM CST
Q & A
6200 Poplar Avenue, Memphis, TN 38119
Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has apparently joined Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey in asking Tennessee businessmen which regulations they would like to eliminate. Back in March, Ramsey launched a website to solicit complaints about regulations and now the administration is conducting a survey, too, reports Cookeville Times. The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development is conducting an anonymous, four-question survey that will be used for informational purposes only. In order for the state to better assess their regulatory systems, Tennesseeans are encouraged to take a few minutes to respond to this survey by Wednesday, July 20.
According to survey instructions, “The purpose of this survey is to gain perspective on federal and state regulations that are burdensome to Tennessee businesses. Please note that “burdensome,” in the context of this survey, is defined as an unreasonable rule or regulation which limits, restricts, or hinders the normal course of business.”
Business leaders and citizens are asked to be as detailed as possible in answering and asked to include: (i) references to a specific rule or regulation (including rule or regulation number); (ii) the federal or state department charged with overseeing compliance for each rule or regulation referenced; and (iii) the approximate cost and/or man hours required to comply with each rule or regulation referenced.