About two hours before Byron “Low Tax” Looper was found dead in a prison cell Wednesday morning, he reportedly assaulted a pregnant female counselor, according to the Chattanooga TFP. An incident report from the Morgan County Correctional Complex reveals what happened in the hours before the death of Looper, who was serving a life sentence in East Tennessee for assassinating his political opponent, Sen. Tommy Burks, in 1998.
The incident report accuses Looper of hitting the counselor, who was 34 weeks pregnant, in the head about 8:55 a.m. Wednesday. Guards responded to the assault and restrained Looper, the report states, “with the least amount of force necessary.”
….The report states that earlier that morning Looper was standing nearby when his counselor and a prison unit manager were talking about a request he had made. That’s when, authorities say, he held his hands out and hit the counselor on both sides of her head, knocking off her glasses.
The report doesn’t specify the request Looper made, but two sources said Looper recently had been told he was going to be placed back in the prison’s general population, and he didn’t want that because he was afraid of being hurt.
Looper, who legally changed his middle name to “Low Tax,” ran against Burks, a popular Democrat, in 1998.
Burks, who had held office in Tennessee for 28 years, was found slumped over in his truck on his farm in Monterey on Oct. 19, 1998, shot near his left eye. Looper was charged in the crime and convicted of first-degree murder.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee man was charged Wednesday in a scheme involving former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s income tax returns during the 2012 campaign.
The U.S. Justice Department said a federal grand jury in Nashville indicted Michael Mancil Brown, 34, of Franklin, and charged him with six counts of wire fraud and six counts of extortion.
Brown is accused of having an anonymous letter delivered to the PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP accounting firm in Franklin last August, demanding that $1 million in digital currency be deposited to a Bitcoin account to keep some of Romney’s income tax returns from being released. The Justice Department said Brown falsely claimed that he had gained access to the PricewaterhouseCoopers internal computer network and stolen tax documents for Romney and his wife, Ann Romney, for tax years before 2010.
Byron (Low Tax) Looper, convicted of the first-degree murder of state Sen. Tommy Burks, died this morning in Morgan County Correctional Complex, reports the News Sentinel. Looper, 48, was found unresponsive inside his cell in Wartburg, according to a news release from the communications director for the Tennessee Department of Correction.
He was pronounced dead at 11:10 a.m. He was serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for Burks’ murder.
TDOC Commissioner Derrick Schofield asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to assume the lead into the investigation of Looper’s death, according to the news release. District Attorney General Russell Johnson has approved the request.
Johnson said Wednesday afternoon details are sketchy and unconfirmed, but he was told guards performed what he was told was a “full level cell extraction” and Looper had to be contained.
The DA said he was told Looper was treated at the prison’s medical unit and was then put in an isolation cell. Looper was found dead about an hour later, Johnson said he was told.
Johnson said he notified state Sen. Charlotte Burks, D-Monterey, of the death of her husband’s murderer.
Looper was convicted of first-degree murder in the assassination on Oct. 19, 1998, of Burks, a 28-year veteran of the state Legislature. Looper, running as a Republican, was Democrat Burks’ political opponent in that year’s election.
Looper officially changed his middle name from Anthony to (Low Tax) in 1996, and was elected as Putnam County Tax Assessor that year.
The Tax Foundation has done a listing of what percentage of states’ general revenue comes from federal aid. Tennessee comes in as the sixth most dependent on federal funding, which accounts for 44 percent of the state budget, according to the Tax Foundation.
From an emailed news release: Mississippi relies more heavily on federal assistance than other states, with 49% of its total general revenue coming from federal aid. Close behind are Louisiana at 46.5% and Arizona at 45.7%. On the end of the spectrum, Alaska relies on federal aid for 24% of its general revenue, followed closely by Delaware at 25.9% and North Dakota at 26%.
A national map showing the rating of all state is HERE.
Sen. Frank Niceley has filed legislation that would use any new state revenue from out-of-state retailers to lower the current sales tax on groceries.
Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, filed the bill (SB1424) Tuesday for consideration during the 2014 legislative session that begins in January. In an interview, Niceley said he adamantly opposes legislation pending in Congress that would authorize states to collect sales taxes from their citizens buying products over the internet or via mail order from companies located in other states.
But if the law is approved by Congress, the bill declares that the state finance commissioner will make an annual estimate of “surplus Internet tax revenue” and put that amount of money into the state budget for use in reducing the tax on grocery food.
Gov. Bill Haslam, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey all support the “Marketplace Fairness Act,” which passed the U.S. Senate last month but is stalled in the U.S. House, and have all indicated an interest in using some of the new revenue to reduce current state taxes.
If Congress allows states to collect sales taxes from Internet sales, Gov. Bill Haslam and leaders of the Tennessee Legislature say they would like to put some of the new revenue generated toward reducing current state taxes.
Haslam, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey all favor the “Marketplace Fairness Act,” as the pending legislation in Congress is entitled.
“If the bill becomes law, it will allow Tennessee to collect taxes that are already due, and hopefully we can use those funds to reduce taxes elsewhere for Tennesseans,” said Harwell in an emailed statement last week.
Haslam, asked last week if he would like to lower other taxes if the bill passes Congress, replied, “Sure.” But he added some caveats.
“No. 1, I’m of the don’t-count-your-chickens-before-they-hatch school and we’ve got a long way to go before they pass that thing in the House,” he said.
The Senate has approved the bill, which would require Internet retailers with gross sales of more than $1 million per year to collect sales taxes, with support of both Tennessee U.S. Senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker. But it is stalled in the House, where many members of the Republican majority are cool — if not outright opposed — toward the idea.
“No. 2, we don’t really know what that number is” for how much new revenue would be generated for Tennessee by collecting taxes from Tennesseans when they buy online from out-of-state retailers.
The National Conference of State Legislatures has estimated that Tennesseans avoided $748.5 million in sales taxes on online purchases last year — about $400 million that would have gone to the state and the rest to city and county governments combined statewide.
But that doesn’t take into account the pending bill’s exemption for retailers with less than a $1 million gross and various other provisions.
And No. 3, Haslam said, there may be areas where the state should increase spending rather than cut taxes. The question, as he put it, is “Are there places where there’s something we’re not doing that we should be doing?”
Full story HERE.
From the Commercial Appeal:
In what was the final hearing for the fiscal year 2014 budget, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton’s administration told City Council members on Thursday that immediately fixing all the city’s financial challenges, without a tax-rate increase, could involve layoffs of as many as 3,250 city employees.
Or, going to the other extreme, raising the tax rate by $1.72 to avoid layoffs but pay for things like full restoration of payments into the city pension fund.
The mayor also brought to council a set of less dire proposals he’ll present at Tuesday’s budget committee meeting before the full council meeting.
They included cuts to employee benefits, like the elimination of the 4.6 percent pay restoration council gave back to employees at a series of impasse meetings, for a savings of $12 million. Another calls for the elimination of a college incentive program for Memphis Police Department officers to save $6.2 million.
Full story HERE
Tom Ingram and two of his associates lobbied state lawmakers this year to eliminate Tennessee’s privilege tax on professional athletes, according to The Tennessean, but you wouldn’t know it from what they disclosed about their efforts publicly. The lobbyist registration forms that Tom Ingram and his colleagues at The Ingram Group filed with the state only mentioned another lobbying firm, giving the public no indication of the special interests they were really representing in an unsuccessful bid to kill the so-called “jock tax.”
The Ingram Group’s Marcille Durham and Sam Reed registered as lobbyists for McGuiness Group, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying shop, on Feb. 25, with Tom Ingram joining them on April 17, state records show. McGuiness Group’s website says its clients include the players associations for the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association.
Dick Williams, chairman of good-government group Common Cause Tennessee and a lobbyist himself, said Ingram, Durham and Reed appear to have complied with the law. But the law, which requires only that lobbyists list their employers and that employers say who’s lobbying for them, leaves something to be desired.
“Ideally, it would be nice to have a little more clarity for the public,” Williams said. “It does leave a little vagueness.”
…Durham said the Ingram Group lobbyists’ listing of McGuiness Group as their employer was not only legal but accurate. She said McGuiness Group, run by former U.S. Senate aide Kevin McGuiness, is the “professional manager” for the pro sports players associations.
“I wouldn’t call McGuiness just a lobbyist,” Durham said Friday. “McGuiness Group was our client. Our direction didn’t come from the players associations. It came from McGuiness Group.”
Durham said she, Reed and Ingram have updated their registrations to indicate that they’re about to start lobbying directly for the hockey and basketball players associations.
,,,The privilege tax, a common practice in states with professional sports franchises, applies to pro hockey and basketball players who play in the state of Tennessee as members of the Nashville Predators, Memphis Grizzlies or visiting NHL and NBA teams. The tax does not apply to the Tennessee Titans or their opponents.
Athletes are taxed $2,500 per game for up to three games per year. A recent article in the Marquette Sports Law Review, which argues that Tennessee’s tax is unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause, says some athletes wind up paying to play here when the privilege tax and other taxes exceed their per-game wages.
Gov. Bill Haslam officially signed scores of bills into law last week, ranging from a $32.8 billion state budget. This week, he’s doing ‘ceremonial signings’ to spotlight selected legislation.
Here are some links to stories on signings, both regular and ceremonial.
On a bill lowering the sales tax on groceries from 5.25 percent to 5 percent, HERE.
On the ‘distillery bill,’ which changes rules for manufacturing liquor in Tennessee — perhaps most notably for Chattanooga whiskey and Gatlinburg moonshine. HERE.
On a bill imposing a 13-month moratorium on city annexations of residential and agricultural property. HERE.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey on Thursday joined Gov. Bill Haslam in supporting the federal legislation requiring large out-of-state Internet retailers to collect sales taxes on purchases and said that U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn is “100 percent wrong” by calling it a new and unfair tax.
Further from the Richard Locker report: “She’s wrong on this. It’s not a new tax. And how can you say it’s unfair? It’s not a new tax and it is fair,” Ramsey told reporters.
Ramsey, R-Blountville, the speaker of the state Senate, said Tennessee could use some of the estimated $748 million it looses per year in uncollected sales tax on Internet purchases to reduce or eliminate other taxes like the “Hall” tax on interest and dividend income. “I’d love to take that money and reduce the Hall Income Tax. I’m in favor of eliminating it … but I think we could for sure get to where we eliminate it for people over 65.”
His remarks further illustrate how divided Tennessee Republicans are on the Marketplace Fairness Ac, which passed the U.S. Senate with bipartisan votes Monday but faces an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled House. Tennessee’s two Republican senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, voted for the bill, and Alexander is one of its leading proponents. But no Republican in Tennessee’s U.S. House delegation has come out in favor of it.
Blackburn, R-Brentwood, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press on Tuesday, “There’s nothing fair about the Marketplace Fairness Act” and, “We don’t need the federal government mandating additional taxes on Tennessee families and businesses.”