Bashing the Tennessee Legislature and legislators has become quite popular in some national media circles, but the state’s homegrown writers are pretty good at it, too – as illustrated in two Sunday pieces from opposite ends of the state. Scott McNutt’s satire blast begins thusly: As time runs out on the Tennessee General Assembly’s 2013 session, some lawmakers are pushing for Tennessee to secede from the current century.
Although much legislation that would have thrust Tennessee backward in time failed this time around, lawmakers advocating temporal secession argue that the fact that they keep promoting these regressive, time-warping bills only proves how awful the present is and, by extension, how wonderful the past was,
And here’s one excerpt: Tennessee’s ostensible lieutenant governor, Ron Ramsey, R-Happy Days, informed titular Gov. Bill Haslam that he had decided not to dissuade the Legislature’s time-secession movement.
Ramsey said, “I’m going to let them loose. We might land in the 19th century. It might be the 20th. We might overshoot and hit the ‘Land That Time Forgot.’ The governor said he’d prefer the ‘Land of the Lost,’ but I can’t control them.”
Haslam said that, while he liked some of the anachronistic legislation lawmakers had proposed, he was still taking time to study the possibility of considering the potential feasibility — while weighing the advisability — of determining if it were within the realm of theoretical probability that he might perhaps decide before the end of the century whether any 21st-century secession bills were plausible contenders for his veto.
“Or not,” he added firmly.
Over in Memphis, Wendi C. Thomas compares the Tennessee General Assembly to the Mississippi legislature – and not favorably. The Mississippi legislature waited until February to formally ratify the 13th Amendment, which in 1865 abolished slavery.
A 148-year-old oversight is embarrassing.
What the Tennessee legislature has done to the poor and working class is reprehensible.
Thomas mentions in her piece a fine example of Tennessee-trashing on the national level, which appeared in Salon.com (HERE). It begins: If you’re worried about where America is heading, look no further than Tennessee. Its lush mountains and verdant rolling countryside belie a mean-spirited public policy that only makes sense if you believe deeply in the anti-collectivist, anti-altruist philosophy of Ayn Rand. It’s what you get when you combine hatred for government with disgust for poor people.
News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed Thomas R. “Skip” Frierson, II as a judge for the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Eastern Section.
Frierson replaces the Hon. Judge Herschel P. Franks, who retired at the end of 2012.
“Skip Frierson has spent the last 23 years serving in public office in East Tennessee, and he brings a wealth of experience to the bench,” Haslam said. “We are fortunate to have someone in this role with his qualifications and expertise.”
Frierson has served as chancellor in the Third Judicial District, which is comprised of Hamblen, Greene, Hawkins and Hancock counties, since 1996. In 1990, he was elected as Hamblen County General Sessions Court judge, serving in that capacity as judge of the Domestic Relations Court, Probate Court and as municipal judge for the City of Morristown.
He is a past president of the Tennessee Judicial Conference and serves as chairperson of the conference’s Tennessee Judicial Family Institute. Frierson was elected a fellow of the Tennessee Bar Foundation in 2007 and served as president of the Tennessee Trial Judges Association from 2007-2009. He was honored as “Trial Judge of the Year” by the American Board of Trial Advocates, Tennessee Chapter in 2000.
“I am deeply honored by the trust and confidence which Gov. Haslam has placed in me in making this appointment,” Frierson said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve the state on the Court of Appeals, and I will give my full effort and commitment to performing the duties of judicial office diligently and impartially while promoting trust and confidence in the Tennessee judiciary.”
Frierson, 54, attended Walters State Community College and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 1980, earning his J.D. from the University Of Tennessee College of Law in 1983.
He and his wife, Jane, have three children, Reagan Lea, Parker and Garrett, and they are members of the First United Methodist Church of Morristown.
— Note: Haslam chose Frierson over two other nominees sent him by the Judicial Nominating Commission: Former state Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill, and Chancellor Jerri S. Bryant of Athens.
In a radio ad, state Republican Chairman Chris Devaney is declaring the party’s backing for Elizabethton attorney Thomas Gray, who is opposing re-election of former House Speaker Kent Williams, the only independent member of the Tennessee Legislature.
Devaney earlier this year wrote election officials to declare Williams is not a “bona fide Republican” after the 4th House District incumbent picked up qualifying papers to run as a Republican. Williams was initially elected as a Republican, but joined with Democrats in 2009 to elect himself to a two-year term as House speaker and was subsequently booted from the GOP by former Republican Chairman Robin Smith.
The 30-second radio ad, sponsored by the Republican Party, is scheduled to run on two stations in the area, according to Adam Nickas, executive director of the state GOP. It doesn’t mention Williams.
“The election this November is the most important in our nation’s history,” says Devaney in the ad. “In Tennessee, we have a true conservative Republican running for state representative, and his name is Tom Gray.
“For the record, Tom Gray is the only Republican on the ballot in Carter County’s District 4. We need someone who can effectively work in Nashville to create more jobs for East Tennessee. Vote Republican. Vote Tom Gray this November.”
Williams, first elected in 2006, is rated a “probable” winner in the contest by the Tennessee Journal and enjoys a substantial financial advantage.
Gary has reported spending of about $5,700 so far in the campaign and had a cash balance of $3,304 on Oct. 1. He has guaranteed a $5,000 bank loan to the campaign and got $1,400 from Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough.
Williams’ reports show spending of more than $36,000 this year and an Oct. 1 cash balance of $47,242.
A Republican War on the Poor?
From Wendi C. Thomas’ Sunday column: This isn’t about fraud. What the right wants to prevent is a repeat of 2008, when a record turnout of young people, Latinos and black voters sent the county’s first black president to the White House.
In response, the GOP rammed through voter ID laws and ones to restrict early voting. It’s the party’s pitiful concession that its platform doesn’t attract and often repels black, Latino and young voters.
If you can’t convince ’em, keep ’em away.
Tennessee’s constitution has but four official requirements to vote: You must be 18, a U.S. citizen, a resident of Tennessee and registered in the county where you live.
In the margins, the GOP has added this: The poor need not apply. For Driving, No Photo Required
Sam Venable’s Sunday column concerns a 70-year-old woman who has lots of photo ID — except on her brand new driver’s license, sent as a replacement for her former license that did have a photo. Said Stallard: “Imagine my surprise when I received a blank license with the following statement printed on its face — ‘Valid Without Photo.’
Yep, the sovereign state of Tennessee doesn’t mind if Patricia Stallard and others in her age group hit the highways without photographic proof of who they are. But voting, as this demographic group is wont to do, is another matter. And It Helps Inspire Apathy?
Scott McNutt touches on the topic in the course of a satire assault on voter apathy in Knox County: Sue Pressed, an 87-year-old retiree from Inskip, credited Republican lawmakers’ voter-ID laws for helping her resist the temptation to vote.
“I haven’t had a photo ID since I retired from driving a bus 20 years ago,” she explained. “As long as I could vote with my voter registration card, I had this irresistible compulsion to go cast a ballot. But now that I have to prove I’m me to exercise my right to suffrage, I’m cured of that urge, and I want to thank Republicans for that.”
Three Tennessee 3rd House District GOP candidates addressed jobs, tourism and K-12 education during a Bristol Chamber of Commerce forum Thursday night, reports Hank Hayes. Blountville businessman Timothy Hill, former Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons and Bluff City Republican Thomas White fielded questions drawn from a glass bowl during the event held at Bristol Motor Speedway.
All three are seeking to win the Aug. 2 GOP primary, defeat Democrat Leah Kirk in the November general election, and take the state House seat held by retiring state Rep. Scotty Campbell, R-Mountain City.
When asked how they would strengthen K-12 education, Parsons indicated he favored tying teacher pay to performance.
“I think more needs to be looked at in what the teachers are actually producing,” Parsons explained.
White said the state needs to attract higher quality teachers.
“They should shine like a new penny. … Unfortunately we can’t afford to pay for that,” he said.
Then White changed the subject to talk against red light traffic cameras.
“In 2008, all the Democrats and all the Republicans decided we needed red light cameras. … Then during election time in 2010, the same fellows that made the law decided someone had implemented a bad law and wanted to get to the bottom of it. … I thought that since this is an election year, they would want to look at it again. … To me, it’s still a major issue,” White said.
Hill stuck to the K-12 question and said lawmakers need to continue to look at teacher evaluations.
“We’ve got to look at bold ideas where the money is sent with where the children go (to school),” Hill said. “We don’t need to be afraid to look at those types of options. … We need to look at vocational training. … A university education is not for everybody.”
SAVANNAH, Tenn. (AP) — A West Tennessee jury has found a school superintendent guilty of lesser charges after he carried a pistol into a middle school.
The Jackson Sun (http://bit.ly/LOweow ) reported Hardin County Director of Schools John Thomas was convicted Tuesday on a misdemeanor count of carrying a weapon in a school without intent to use it. Thomas will pay a $50 fine and have up to six months of probation.
Thomas’ attorney said that if the jury had convicted his client of the felony count he was indicted on, he would have been in violation of his employment contract.
School Board Chairman David Long said after the verdict came back that it was not an issue with the board.
County resident Jerry Fowler, who took the case to the grand jury after the local prosecutor declined to, said he was disappointed in the outcome, but satisfied that the issue came to public attention.
A Johnson City man who is running for the Democratic nomination to the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Bob Corker is also facing a felony charge in one of those counties, according to the Johnson City Press. Thomas Kenneth Owens, 36, was indicted by a Carter County grand jury on May 14 on a charge of solicitation of a minor. Owens was arraigned in Criminal Court on May 31.
When asked about his employment and financial status, Owens informed the court that he was a candidate for the U.S. Senate. He then filed an affidavit of indigency and Judge Robert Cupp appointed a public defender for Owens.
Cupp also ordered a mental evaluation. When he was contacted Monday afternoon about the criminal charge against him and what impact it would have on his candidacy, Owens said “Those charges are false charges and there should not be any publication.”
The telephone call was then disconnected. The charge stems from an investigation by the Carter County Sheriff’s Department into allegations that a 7-year-old girl was riding her bicycle in front of the apartment where Owens lived on May 21, 2011.
The girl told her mother and later Lt. Randy Bowers that Owens came out of his apartment and asked the girl if she wanted a “twisty tie” ring that he had made. When she entered Owens’ apartment, she said he gave her the ring and asked her for a hug. After she hugged him, he allegedly unzipped his pants and exposed himself, asking her to perform an inappropriate act.
The girl told Owens she had to go home and finish her chores. She then ran home.
Sanford on Gunfights
Otis Sanford envisions a college course on Legislative Politics 101 — “the fine art of grandstanding and hubris by duly elected legislators” — with a lecture theme on the current gun bill standoff. Kerr on Guns, Don’t Say Gay
Opening line of Gail Kerr’s Sunday column: If the 2012 Tennessee legislative session were a horror movie, it would be called The Things That Wouldn’t Die. Two bad proposed laws — the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and the “guns in trunks” legislation — continue to head toward floor votes despite widespread opposition. Thomas on GOP Going After Democrats
From Wendi C. Thomas’ Sunday column: Today’s gripe concerns a trio of bills championed by Republican legislators. Taken individually, they seem well-intentioned. But look more closely and you’ll see that these the bills are part of a pattern to beat back marginalized constituencies, who, not coincidentally, tend to vote Democrat.
Monkeying With Evolution on Easter
Sam Venable’s Sunday column starts like this: How ironic is it that a bill about evolution would wind up on the governor’s desk on the cusp of Easter weekend?
Easter is a celebration of Christian faith, not science. Yet the majority of Tennessee’s lawmakers persist in mixing the two under the preposterous notion they are protecting students and teachers from what is being termed the “scientific weaknesses” of evolution and global warming.
Hoo-boy. How does Tennessee manage to keep stirring this pot after nearly a century? Don’t our lawmakers have real work to do? Rep. Hurley Suffers Snark Bitte
Scott McNutt clamps his satrical teeth into state Rep. Julia Hurley’s venture to the Roane County courthouse with her dog. (If you don’t know what he’s talking about, previous post HERE.) His column begins thusly: Hundreds of dogs and humans gathered on Roane County’s courthouse lawn recently to play and chase each other in support of dogs in government. The ersatz dog park was a reaction to the ejection from the courthouse of Pepper, a hairless Chinese crested breed, along with her human, state Rep. Julia Hurley, R-Must Love Dogs.
Mizzles, a Dorgie from Loudon County and member of the Hilltop Kennel Club in Lenoir City, wore a tag reading “She stood for us. We sit for her.” as he sat on the courthouse walk, watching the crowd gather. Thomas to Legislature: Butt Out
Wendi C. Thomas quotes both sponsor Rep. Joe Towns and legislators who voted against his “saggy pants” bill before giving her opinion in a Sunday column: Legislators are not elected to be the fashion police, particularly when the style is likely a passing fad.
“The school system, there’s a lot going on and a lot…it may not be a priority,” Towns said.
Exactly. If school districts can ban saggy pants and haven’t, then why should the state step in?
Pursuing such legislation is a waste of our elected officials’ time. Bills like these only reinforce the perception that our representatives in Nashville are majoring in the minors.
If legislators think any such non-problems require legislative intervention, maybe they need a swat right above the area where saggy pants usually start. A Columnists’ Report Card
Gail Kerr ha written a Sunday column based on the question, ” Is the state winning or losing under the current General Assembly? ” and the answer, “Well, some of both.”
A Basket of Grenades
A Clay Benne cartoon depicts the 2012 General Assembly as an Easter bunny with a baket full of hand grenades instead of eggs. Link. HERE.
U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Wiseman Jr. ruled Tuesday that TennCare now meets its coverage obligations to children, dismissing a 14-year-old class-action lawsuit filed by the Tennessee Justice Center.
From The Tennessean’s report:
The legal advocacy organization said it will appeal the judge’s decision.
Wiseman in his opinion wrote that TennCare had met the requirements of a 1998 consent agreement between it and the Tennessee Justice Center. That agreement required TennCare to do early and periodic screening of 750,000 Medicaid-eligible children and to provide them with needed treatments.
The goal under the agreement was to make sure that 80 percent of the children got regular checkups and dental care. Doctors who were witnesses for the Tennessee Justice Center shared stories of children not receiving adequate access to care, but the judge based his decision largely on the state’s documentation and numbers.
“This testimony, while interesting and even compelling from a policy perspective, was for the most part not directly related to the decision of whether the state is in substantial compliance with the consent decree,” Wiseman wrote.
The state’s screening rate for Medicaid-eligible children exceeded 90 percent, he noted — 10 percentage points beyond the goal set in the consent requirement.