County Commissioner Richard Briggs said his nomination of Craig Leuthold for Knox County trustee was not a conflict of interest, reports the News Sentinel, though Leuthold’s father is Briggs’ treasurer for a Tennessee state Senate bid. “If it is a conflict, it’s a conflict by second degree,” Briggs said. “I don’t have anything to gain by Craig being in the office or not being in the office.”
Knox County Law Director Bud Armstrong said there was no conflict in Briggs’ action under county policy.
“He’s got a guy who has volunteered to run his campaign who happens to be Frank Leuthold,” Armstrong said.
Briggs said he voted rather than “disenfranchise” his 5th District constituents by recusing himself from voting for an interim trustee on Monday.
Briggs, Leuthold and other Knox County elected officials explained to the News Sentinel this week their connections and decision-making used to fill the trustee seat that John J. Duncan III resigned from July 2. Duncan pleaded guilty that day to a felony charge for giving $18,000 in unearned bonuses to himself and staff.
While local political gadflies have mused over the connections between Leuthold and the people who selected him, Briggs defended Leuthold as a commissioner who made it through “Black Wednesday” unscathed.
Leuthold worked in the Knox County Property Assessor’s Office until his Monday appointment as the county’s tax collector and was a two-term commissioner who held office when the state Supreme Court enforced term limits in 2007.
Both of Tennessee’s senators broke with their party to approve the President’s choice for head of the Environmental Protection Agency, reports WPLN. The bulk of the Senate’s Republicans worked to block Gina McCarthy at every stop along the nomination process, including an attempted filibuster. Only six GOP Senators voted in her favor.
While he deviated from the party’s efforts, Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander cited the GOP as the reason why he voted for McCarthy. In a statement, Alexander pointed out that she has worked for five Republican governors and likely has better conservative credentials than anyone else President Obama would be likely to appoint.
…Tennessee’s other Senator, Bob Corker, was heavily involved in efforts to broker a deal with Democrats, heading off their use of the so-called “nuclear option” to ensure approval of the President’s nominees.
After striking that deal, Corker voted for Richard Cordray as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
He and Alexander also helped Democrats ensure a vote on the nominee to the Labor Department by blocking any Republican chance at a filibuster. However, they did go on to vote against Thomas Perez’s confirmation, along with every other Republican.
Among celebration parties in Bartlett, Germantown and elsewhere, suburban school supporters sipped soft drinks and toasted their success Tuesday night after voters again approved the formation of municipal school districts, reports The Commercial Appeal. Back at the polls because a federal judge threw out last year’s vote approving the districts, voters turned out in smaller numbers in Arlington, Bartlett, Collierville, Germantown, Lakeland and Millington but approved the districts by an overwhelming margin.
Approval numbers ranged from a high of 94 percent in Collierville to a low of almost 74 percent in Millington. About 20 percent of the 143,000 registered voters cast ballots with about half voting early.
“It’s higher than a typical special election,” said election administrator Richard Holden.
If the districts ultimately pass legal muster, Bartlett would be the largest suburban school district with 9,000-plus students in a dozen schools. Lakeland would be the smallest with roughly 2,500-plus students in one elementary school.
At Garibaldi’s Pizza in Germantown, supporters in YES shirts supporters smiled as they took pictures, cheered and applauded as precinct totals came in.
A scaled-down version of the Farm Bill passed the US House Thursday, and Tennessee’s Congressional delegation voted along strict party lines today–with one exception. So reports WPLN.
Knoxville Representative John Duncan is one of only 12 Republicans voting no.
The bill strips out any language governing food stamps, and that’s a big reason why Democrats don’t like it.
Duncan takes issue with a measure that would expand crop insurance for farmers.
“You start a small business you have to pay 100% of your insurance, and then on top of that you
From a Wasnington Post blog, here’s a list: The dozen GOP lawmakers who bucked the party were Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Paul Cook (Calif.), Ron DeSantis (Fla.), John Duncan (Tenn.), Trent Franks (Ariz.), Phil Gingrey (Ga.), Tim Huelskamp (Kan.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), Tom McClintock (Calif.), Matt Salmon (Ariz.) and Mark Sanford (S.C.).
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The state House has unanimously approved Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to cut the state’s sales tax on groceries.
If approved by the Senate, the state’s tax on groceries would drop by a quarter percentage point to 5 percent. Lawmakers last year enacted a cut of the same amount.
The state’s sales tax on non-food items is 7 percent.
The tax reduction is projected to cost the state about $23 million in state revenue — or an average annual tax savings of about $3.56 for each Tennessean.
The companion bill is awaiting a vote in the Senate Finance Committee but is not expected to find much opposition.
In the middle of the debate over the hotly contested guns-in-trunks legislation, Rep. Joe Carr was heading to a Franklin fundraiser to boost his congressional campaign, reports The City Paper. Shortly before the final vote on the bill, Carr was excused for the day and left for a gathering at a country club of what he calls “close personal friends” supporting his bid for Congress.
“I made a calculated decision based on the votes that were necessary for passage,” Carr told The City Paper about his decision to leave before casting his vote on the controversial bill. “I don’t think it was an unreasonable choice that I made. Not unreasonable at all.”
He missed more than half the votes — including the final vote — on the guns-in-trunks bill that makes it legal for handgun carry permit holders to store their gun in their locked car in parking lots, including those of their employer.
…”I did not cast a vote on the final bill because I was not present, because I had left the chamber as a result of this prior commitment,” he said, adding he was confident the legislation would pass without him. “I think I made the right decision.”
Carr would not confirm the event for him on Thursday, Feb. 28, at Old Natchez Country Club in Franklin that morning was a fundraiser or how much money he raised. He said the gathering was “organized by some people who are asking me to take part in a 4th Congressional race.”
Meanwhile, from the Daily News Journal:
State Rep. Joe Carr has filed a statement of organization with the Federal Election Commission to run for Congress in the 4th District, but he is still hedging on official candidacy. Carr, a Lascassas Republican, filed a Joe Carr for Congress statement Feb. 19, listing Troy Brewer of Nashville as campaign controller and Murfreesboro dentist Nate Schott as treasurer.
In December, Carr formed an exploratory committee and began raising funds. The committee raised more than $5,000 toward a race, Carr said Friday, and he was required to file with the FEC.
“This means we are taking a serious look at it because the exploratory phase headed by Lee Beaman has gone better than expected,” Carr said, adding he expects to make an announcement in April.
House Speaker Beth Harwell cast the deciding vote Wednesday to keep a wine-in-grocery-stores bill from failing in a House subcommittee.
Harwell, who has the right under House rules to sit and vote on any committee, voted twice in the House State Government Subcommittee.
First, she broke a 4-4 tie on a motion by Rep. Dale Carr, R-Sevierville, to delay action on the bill (HB610) until July, 2014. Carr said the delay – which would have effectively killed the bill – would provide “time to sit down on both sides and see if we can get something worked out.”
After Carr’s motion was defeated, Harwell then broke a 4-4 tie on the bill itself. With her vote, the measure advances out of the subcommittee for a vote next week in the full House State Government Committee.
Harwell said afterwards she felt it important to “show momentum” for the legislation in the House and hopes that will “bring folks to the table” from the opposing side to negotiate some compromise – probably to be incorporated into separate legislation.
The bill as introduced by Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, would allow local governing bodies in cities or counties that already have liquor-by-the-drink and retail liquor stores to hold a local referendum on whether line could be sold in grocery stores and supermarkets within their jurisdiction.
The bill has now cleared its initial committee hurdles in both the House and Senate, though several remain before floor votes. Similar bills to straightforwardly legalize the sale wine in grocery stores – without the referendum provision – have failed repeatedly over the past five years.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The House on Thursday voted to send to the governor a contentious bill that would allow the state’s nearly 400,000 handgun carry permit holders to store firearms in their vehicles no matter where they are parked.
Before the vote, Speaker Beth Harwell assured Republican colleagues that the measure is endorsed by the National Rifle Association and that members of the business community are “holding their noses” about its passage.
The chamber voted 72-22 to pass the measure, sponsored by Republican Rep. Jeremy Faison of Cosby, after rejecting a series of Democratic proposals to maintain business owners’ rights to ban weapons on their property and to create exceptions for schools and colleges.
“We have just under 400,000 law abiding citizens who have gone through the necessary process to obtain a handgun carry permit and have proved their worth to carry a gun,” Faison said. “The least we can do is allow them to keep this gun locked in their car as they go to work and carry in their daily lives.”
When Pigeon Forge votes yet again on liquor by the drink, the News Sentinel reports that opponents plan a very different campaign, while supporters plan to concentrate on getting the vote out. And the anti-liquor group Concerned Churches and Citizens of Pigeon Forge says it wants to find an independent agency to monitor the election.
The Sevier County Election Commission voted on Thursday to set March 14 for the new referendum.
Liquor by the drink was approved on Nov. 6, but that referendum was voided by Chancellor Telford Forgety after a lawsuit brought by CCCPF. Liquor was defeated in referendums in 2009 and 2011. On Nov. 6, it passed by 100 votes, but nearly 300 votes were cast by people who were ineligible to vote in the referendum because they were not residents of or owners of property in Pigeon Forge. The election commission ultimately admitted that the results vote were “incurably uncertain.”
“We are going to rephrase our message,” said CCCPF Chairman Jess Davis. Besides campaigning against liquor by the drink, he said, “we are going point out that it was our city officials that got us into this mess.”
Davis was referring to a request in March by the Pigeon Forge City Commission to the state Legislature to override the normal two-year vote between referendums on the same issue, and add the liquor question to the Nov. 6 election. The bill was handled by lawmakers from outside Sevier County and approved.
All seven Tennessee Republican congressmen voted against the $50 billion Hurricane Sandy relief package approved by the U.S. House on Monday night – along with Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper of Nashville. Cooper was the only Democrat in the nation to vote not. Stephen Hale asked him about it. Pith: Why did you vote against the bill?
Cooper: The bill wasn’t paid for. In fact, it wasn’t even partially paid for. Congress really made no effort to pay for even a fracture of it, so it added $50 billion to the deficit. I did support last week $9 billion, free and clear, I did support in this legislation $20-plus billion free and clear, but the extra $30 billion really should have been at least partly paid for. This is consistent with my past votes on deficits and on disaster relief. You should read the Washington Post editorial today. It’s excellent, pointing out how Congress regularly fails to handle our emergency responsibilities.
Another thing is, this isn’t any regular period in American history here. This is a period of budget crisis, literally. Because America’s been officially out of money since the first of the year. So we added to the deficit without even lifting a finger to offset the spending is pretty irresponsible at a time like this. You know, I love New England. My friends up there, if they need help, I voted for tens of billions of help, but to have the full package not even partially offset, it’s a new level of congressional spending.
— Note: Cooper sent out a press release statement on his vote. It’s below.