A New York high school will continue to honor a Tennessee state senator despite controversy over his comments about the origins of the virus that causes AIDS, according to The Tennessean. The Vestal Board of Education refused to take Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, out of its high school’s Wall of Fame, despite an online petition and a public hearing on the issue Tuesday night.
A Vestal student started a campaign to take Campfield’s picture down because of his views on homosexuality. School board members said Tuesday night that Campfield’s opinions do not disqualify him from the Wall of Fame, reports the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, a sister paper to The Tennessean.
“You may be surprised to know that we have heard from many, many people, including students, who understand and agree with our position,” Board President Kim Myers read from a statement at the meeting as some audience members booed. “Many who feel intimidated and fearful to publicly state their approval for fear of being labeled a bigot or anti-gay. When you attempt to shout down opposing voices, who is the bully?”
Campfield graduated from Vestal High School in 1986 and has frequently drawn fire, especially from gay rights groups. Campfield was the primary Senate sponsor during the recent legislative session of the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would have discouraged discussion of homosexuality in elementary and middle school.
…Protesters promised to return to board meetings every two weeks until the portrait is removed.
Campfield said an interview Wednesday that the campaign to have him removed from the Wall of Fame is an attempt to squelch views that homosexuality is immoral.
“I think the homosexual community is one of the biggest bullies in politics that there is,” he told The Tennessean. “They’ll go nationwide on a national issue to try to intimidate anyone who disagrees with their lifestyle.”
In a March 24 editorial, the Wall Street Journal declared Gov. Bill Haslam “the main obstacle to reform” of Tennessee’s inheritance tax. Now Haslam has replied with a letter to the editor of the publication that appears under the headline, “I’m Not the Problem on Death Tax Reform.” The governor has, of course, now embraced the idea of complete repeal of Tennessee’s inheritance tax.
Here’s an excerpt from the editorial: A November 2011 study of tax return data by economists Arthur Laffer and Wayne Winegarden shows how people avoid state death taxes. The study compared Florida and Tennessee high-income returns. Both states have no income tax, but Tennessee is one of only two states that imposes an estate and a gift tax. (Connecticut is the other.)
The authors point out that this year there is a $5 million exemption on the federal estate tax and gift tax (a once-in-a-lifetime wealth transfer for the living), but in Tennessee the exemption is a meager $13,000 for estates and gifts. With a gift and death-tax rate that reaches 9.5%, a Tennessean with a $5 million estate would pay $462,000 more estate tax than someone living in the 29 states with no such tax, such as Florida. Tennessee is a very expensive state to die in.
The Tennessee tax really does cause the rich to flee. The authors found that in 2010 Florida had nearly twice as many federal tax returns with taxable estates (per 100,000 population) as did Tennessee. The average estate is also larger in Florida–$7.4 million versus $4.4 million in Tennessee.
Here’s the kicker: Because wealthy people avoiding the estate tax take their businesses and spending with them, the study concludes that “had Tennessee eliminated its gift and estate tax 10 years ago, Tennessee’s economy would have been over 14% larger in 2010.” They also find the estate tax cost Tennessee state and local governments over $7 billion in tax collections. Could there be a more self-defeating tax?
The main obstacle to reform in Nashville is GOP Governor Bill Haslam, who earlier this year acknowledged damage from the tax, saying “There’s a whole lot of people who used to live in Tennessee who don’t anymore because it’s cheaper to die in Florida.” But he now says the state needs the revenues, however imaginary they might be. This mistaken logic is also being used to block repeal in Nebraska.
Here’s the Haslam letter: Regarding your editorial “Death Tax Defying” (March 24): In early January I proposed legislation to raise the exemption level on Tennessee’s estate tax from the current rate of $1 million to the federal exemption level of $5 million during my time in office. (Note: Actually, the bill did not originally raise the exemption level to $5 million, though the governor declared that as a goal.)
Just last week, I cemented that proposal by recommending doing so in the next three years and worked with House Finance Committee Chairman Charles Sargent to completely repeal the tax in year four.
This is a thoughtful and realistic approach to eliminate a tax that chases capital out of our state as Tennessee slowly recovers from the economic downturn that we continue to carefully manage our way through.
Tennessee is a low-tax state, and I’m working with the General Assembly to lower taxes even further.
State Rep. Mike Stewart has filed legislation that would prohibit state-level political contributions by large financial institutions that received federal bailout funds and loosen some rules on filing lawsuits against them in Tennessee courts.
The Nashville Democrat said the “Main Street Recovery and Wall Street Accountability Act of 2012” targets “too-big-to-fail” institutions — those that received federal aid through the Troubled Asset Relief Program and have assets of more than $100 billion. That would include corporations such as Citigroup and Bank of America, but not smaller banks, he said at a news conference last week atop the Legislative Plaza with “Occupy Nashville” protesters encamped behind him.
While oversight of such mammoth financial institutions is primarily a federal matter, he said, there are things that state legislatures can do and his bill is a starting point. The measure — HB2224 — also calls for a study committee to consider other possibilities, including whether Wall Street executives could be prosecuted in state courts for actions impacting Tennessee investments and whether the state could impose new regulations on such institutions.
Stewart said TARP allowed the “too-big-to-fail” banks to “socialize the risk” from their bad investment practices and, at the same time, “privatize the profits.”
The ban on political donations by such companies, through political action committees or directly as allowed by state law, is appropriate, he said. Otherwise, he said, the institutions will effectively “take bailout money and use it to influence the political system.”
The bill also extends the period that Tennesseans can file lawsuits for recovery of funds lost through the institutions’ actions rather than have them cut off by the “statute of limitations.” The institutions financial maneuvering were so complicated that extra time is needed to figure them out and file lawsuits, he said.
“Banks shouldn’t be allowed to hide behind the complexity of these financial transactions,” he said.
Stewart said he is hopeful that some Republicans will join him in pushing the legislation, since TARP meant that they are “not working in the free market system” that many Republicans support.
“Thanks to citizen protests like the Occupy Wall Street movement, people are focused on the continuing threat to our economy posted by financial institutions that are so large that they can reap profits from risky investments when things go well, yet expect to be bailed out again and again by the taxpayers whenever things go poorly,” Stewart said
The Commercial Appeal is launching a comprehensive, paid digital content plan designed to deliver premium content to users of smartphones, tablets and other digital devices.
From the newspaper’s report on the move:
All print subscribers to The Commercial Appeal will get the full suite of digital apps at no additional charge. These subscribers will only have to register for the digital service either by going to the Apple or Android app stores or through the commercialappeal.com website. Instructions on how to register are posted in each place.
Our apps can be downloaded for free and allow limited access to content from The Commercial Appeal. To enjoy all of the content requires a paid subscription.
.. For news consumers interested in local and breaking news but who choose not to be print subscribers, a monthly digital-only subscription to The Commercial Appeal app will start at $9.99. Customers who only want to read a single day of news content from their digital devices may sign on for a 99-cent day pass.
…Obituaries, classified advertising and some breaking news will continue to be offered free on the app, and on the newspaper’s website, commercialappeal.com. Non-subscribers who use their computers to visit the website and view more than 10 articles a month will be asked to subscribe. They will have an opportunity to sign up for full access for $9.95 per month, or 99 cents a day. Once signed up, website users also will be able to access Commercial Appeal content on smartphones and tablets.