Tag Archives: Watson

Haslam Finally Fills Wildlife Commission Vacancy

After the controversial removal of William “Chink” Brown from the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission in February, Gov. Bill Haslam has finally appointed a replacement, reports Nooga.com
David Watson, an executive and part owner of Mountain View Ford Lincoln in Chattanooga, will serve out the remainder of Brown’s term as the District 4 representative on the TFWC. The TFWC is the governing body over the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
The 13 members have authority over hunting, fishing and boating regulations in Tennessee.
In the letter notifying Watson of his appointment, the governor wrote, “In the thorough and aggressive search for candidates, your individual characteristics and professional qualifications were exceptional among the number of nominees who expressed interest.”
Watson’s appointment will last until February 2015; however, insiders think it is possible that Watson will be reappointed for another six-year term at that point, although that is not guaranteed.

Annexation Moratorium Up for House, Senate Votes

City annexations across most of Tennessee would be stopped dead in their tracks for up to 27 months under bills scheduled for final consideration this week in the General Assembly, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
The bills are a compromise from initial plans by Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, and Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, to require voter consent before cities could annex territory.
After cities and their lobbyists objected fiercely to the original bill, the legislation now blocks annexations of unwilling property owners while a comprehensive study of Tennessee annexation laws is conducted by June 30, 2015.
The bill’s effects are back-dated to April 1 to block cities such as Collegedale, which in February began annexing dozens of properties in response to the original bill.
…Watson’s bill is up for consideration this afternoon on the Senate floor. He said he’s not sure whether he will move on it or wait to see what happens to Carter’s bill in the Calendar and Rules Committee, the last hurdle before hitting the House floor.
Carter, a freshman lawmaker, has been driving the legislation, adjusting it to accommodate legislative critics.
“Things look good,” said Carter, an attorney who was a top assistant to former Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey, now Gov. Bill Haslam’s deputy.
“Things look good,” said Carter, an attorney who was a top assistant to former Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey, now Gov. Bill Haslam’s deputy.
“I think we’re going to make it to the floor, and I think we’re going to win the vote on the floor,” he said, adding that little differences in the House and Senate bills would need ironing out.
Carter’s amended bill includes the moratorium but only for residential and farm properties, not commercial properties. The study would be conducted by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.
The bill has its origins in Chattanooga’s recent annexation efforts. Carter said he and Ramsey managed to stop three annexations by Mayor Ron Littlefield, but seven others went through.
All were within Chattanooga’s urban growth boundary created under a 1998 state law aimed at providing for orderly growth rather than simply revenue-snatching land grab
s.

House, Senate Split Over Provision in School Security Bill

A raft of legislation on school security filed after the Newtown, Conn., shooting tragedy was whittled down to one “consensus bill” last week after negotiations between Gov. Bill Haslam and several key legislators, but a conflict quickly developed between the House and Senate.
Under the proposal, school districts would be authorized to hire retired law enforcement officers who could carry guns in schools. Only people who have gone through regular law enforcement training, hold a handgun carry permit and take an additional 40-hour course in “school policing” would qualify.
“These are not just people we’re handing out guns to,” said Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, the House sponsor of the bill. “These are seasoned, veteran officers.”
Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, the Senate sponsor, described it as an option for “top-quality security at a real good price.” Retired officers are likely to sign up for such work for very modest wages, he said.
Haslam has included $34 million in his proposed budget for the coming year for distribution to schools statewide for security improvements. A school could use its share of that money to hire the officers if local school officials choose, an administration spokeswoman said, though it can also be used for other purposes such as equipment or building renovations.
The bill (SB570, as amended) touched off lengthy debate in the House Education Subcommittee and the Senate Education Committee in its initial airing. Both approved the measure, but in different form.
As drafted, the “consensus bill” — a term used by Niceley and Watson — grants immunity to schools for any damages or injuries caused by a retained security officer.
The House panel, however, stripped that provision from the bill at the urging of Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, who cited an incident in New York wherein a security officer’s gun accidentally discharged and hit a 5-year-old student. School systems carry insurance for such things, he said, and granting them immunity could “leave a child out in the cold” after being gravely and permanently injured.
Critics of the move said that without immunity schools would pay higher insurance premiums, and the cost would prevent many from hiring new security officers. But Stewart’s motion prevailed.
The immunity issue was not mentioned in the Senate committee debate, and the provision remained intact. Instead, senators argued over the bill’s effectiveness.
Niceley, who after the Newtown shootings initially proposed requiring a security officer in every school, defended the proposal that he said was worked out during “three or four weeks of back and forth with the governor.”
“This is as good as anything we can pass this year,” Niceley said.

A Consensus on School Security Legislation?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal that would allow school districts to hire retired law enforcement officers for security advanced in the Legislature on Wednesday after being approved by the governor.
The legislation sponsored by Republican Rep. Eric Watson of Cleveland passed the House Civil Justice Committee on a voice vote before being approved 5-2 by the Senate Education Committee.
The proposal is different from the original version, which would have allowed school teachers and faculty with handgun carry permits to be armed at school. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has said he’s against such a proposal and others like it being considered this session.
However, a representative from the governor’s office said Wednesday that the governor is OK with the bill that’s advancing.
The proposal would allow schools to hire retired law enforcement officers after they meet certain requirements, such as completing a school policing course. Total raining could require over 400 hours.

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Lawsuit Says Bradley Deputy Fired for Supporting Rep. Watson

From a Chattanooga TFP story:
The ostensible reason for firing former Bradley County deputy Dallas Longwith was that he was seen mowing the yard in December, wearing only his underwear.
The real reason Bradley County Sheriff Jim Ruth fired him a year ago, Longwith claims in a federal lawsuit, is Longwith was open about plans to support state Rep. Eric Watson if he runs against Ruth next year.
“It had nothing to do with work-related stuff — it was just to get rid of me because I had an affiliation with the man who might be the next sheriff of Bradley County,” Longwith told the Times Free Press.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga, seeks $1.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
In it, Longwith claims that Ruth, a Republican, “systematically demoted, cut pay and/or changed the shifts of Sheriff’s deputies who had openly supported” Democrat Steve Lawson.

Runoff Elections? ‘It’s Never Been Done Here’

As Georgia prepares for runoffs in primary elections that didn’t produce a clear majority winner, some Tennesseans wonder why their state isn’t doing the same thing, according to Chris Carroll.
“I got elected in 2004, and I’ve never heard it discussed in the Legislature,” said state Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, R-Hixson. “My suspicion is because it’s never been done here.”
(Chuck) Fleischmann isn’t the only one who benefited from a low-end plurality on Aug. 2. Gary Starnes captured a nonpartisan Hamilton County General Sessions judgeship with 37 percent of the vote, and notorious Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Mark Clayton achieved victory with 30 percent, allowing him to face U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., in November.
…Timing, tradition and “voter fatigue” are the main barriers between Mayfield and another bite at the apple, Watson said. But ask Hamilton County Elections Administrator Charlotte Mullis-Morgan why runoffs haven’t gained traction, and she’ll answer with one word.
“Money,” she said.
The tab for the Aug. 2 primaries in Hamilton County was $245,971, she said. “[A runoff] would cost a little less. To pin me down as to how much, I can’t tell you exactly.”
Experts said runoff elections are the product of Southern racial politics around the turn of the 20th century. States that enacted runoffs were controlled by Democrats unfriendly to the idea of “minority factions being able to win” with a small percentage of the vote, according to Bruce Oppenheimer, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University.
“Did Tennessee [refrain from runoffs] because the Republican Party was slightly more viable in Tennessee than other Southern states?” Oppenheimer wondered aloud. “Was it because Tennessee had a smaller African-American population? I don’t know. But it probably played a part.”

Haslam Backs Brooks Against Self-Funding Challenger

Gov. Bill Haslam is coming to the aid of another incumbent Republican legislator with primary opposition, namely Rep. Kevin Brooks of Cleveland, So reports Andy Sher as part of a story on legislative primary races, especially in Southeast Tennessee.
He is scheduled to be at Brooks’ scheduled campaign kickoff Monday. The three-term lawmaker, now assistant majority leader, faces opposition in his District 24 reelection bid from Jack Epperson, pastor of Fairview Worship Center.
Epperson, a one-time Cleveland policeman and a TVA retiree, said he intends to self-fund his bid.
…Cleveland’s Epperson said he decided to run against Brooks after reading the U.S. Constitution and Federalist Papers and “seeing the way government was going.”
“I think they never envisioned these career politicians” who are “just growing government … [to] make their jobs more secure,” he said.
Epperson said he’s not a tea party member but agrees with the party’s views on limited government and fiscal matters.
Brooks said he is hardly a career politician as he finishes up six years in office and seeks another term. He and other Republicans point to cuts they made this year in taxes and state programs.
Epperson’s remarks, he said, “show how out of touch with the Republican majority he truly is. I have a full-time job in Cleveland, every day. I’ve never considered myself a full-time politician.”
In District 31, Cobb faces Dayton insurance agency owner Ron Travis. Travis did not return a message left on his office phone Friday.
In House District 22, David Kimbro of Cleveland is challenging Watson. Kimbro, who said he once taught school in Dallas, Texas, but now works as a line cook, said he believes all incumbents should have an opponent. He said he intends to conduct most of his campaign via the Internet.

Haslam’s Bill to Seal Info on Companies Getting Grants Withdrawn

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam’s effort to close off public access to company information used to decide economic development grants was withdrawn Wednesday.
Republican Sen. Bo Watson of Hixson said that the decision followed a failure to reach a compromise.
“I just don’t think we could get the language right to satisfy everybody’s needs,” Watson said. “The administration sort of recognized that they were kind of at an impasse in trying to get the language right, and said we’ll just try this next year.”

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Haslam’s TRA Bill Revised, Still in Trouble

Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to overhaul the Tennessee Regulatory Authority scraped though a Senate committee last week with a “neutral” recommendation and could be headed for more trouble this week, reports Andy Sher.
Two area lawmakers pointedly told Haslam’s legal counsel, Herbert Slatery, that officials need to come up with better answers to criticisms of elements such as turning the agency’s full-time director slots into part-time positions.
“I think, going forward, you will find it much more difficult and you will need to answer the questions,” Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, warned Slatery in the Government Operations Committee hearing. Bell is committee chairman.
At one point, Slatery couldn’t recall the names of people in the regulated utilities who were asked for advice about the proposed changes.
….Haslam’s original bill called for creation of a full-time executive director, appointed by the governor.
Critics, including TRA Chairman Kenneth Hill, charged that effectively would put the governor in charge of the independent agency and its part-time board.
Haslam retreated; new language provides for an executive director jointly appointed by the governor and the House and Senate speakers for a three-year term.
On Friday, Haslam told reporters he “strongly” believes the TRA needs a full-time executive director with a professional background. Currently, directors rotate the chairmanship and management responsibilities annually.
“You can’t show me another management structure like that [which] is effective,” Haslam said.
“At the end of the day, what the TRA bill is about is providing utilities at the lowest price possible for those people who use those regulated agencies,” Haslam said.
The amended bill also would save more than $347,000 a year, the administration says.
The four full-time directors now are paid $152,400 plus benefits. Part-time directors would be paid $36,000 a year, plus benefits. Qualifications would include at least a bachelor’s degree and at least three years’ experience in a regulated utility industry or in “executive-level management,” plus expertise in an area such as economics, law, finance, accounting or engineering.

A $160 Million State Loan?

State Rep. Eric Watson, at Friday night’s Lincoln Day Dinner at Cleveland High School, announced the Tennessee legislature passed a bill on Friday providing Olin Chlor Alkali Products in Bradley County a $160 million loan for a new state-of-the-art membrane cell manufacturing facility, according to the Cleveland Daily Banner.
The construction will allow Olin to meet federal guidelines on eliminating the use of mercury in its manufacturing process.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty had earlier congratulated Olin on plans to invest the $160 million in its facilities. Construction began in July and is tentatively scheduled for completion by the end of 2012.
The technology change will allow the plant to meet the growing need for KOH that is important to the production of food, fertilizers, herbicides, soaps, detergents, airplane de-icing fluids and other key products. Once installation of the new technology is in place at the Charleston plant, mercury will not be a part of the manufacturing process.
The Olin facilities will have a capacity of 200,000 tons which will be used to produce chlorine, caustic soda, potassium hydroxide and related products.
Haslam said, “Olin is a well-respected corporate citizen in Bradley County, and we appreciate the company’s continued commitment to invest in the community. Established Tennessee companies such as Olin provide a solid foundation on which our state’s economy will continue to grow.”
“After almost 50 years in business, Olin is a great success story for Tennessee,” said Hagerty. “My department has renewed its focus on existing industries, because we understand they are by far the biggest job creators in the state. My thanks to Olin for choosing to retain these good, high-quality jobs in Tennessee.”
Olin president Frank Chirumbole said, “We are delighted to make this investment in the Charleston community, which has been home to our plant here since 1962. We are especially grateful to the state of Tennessee, which has provided generous incentives to assist with the financing of the project.”

(Note: Actually, the Legislature did not meet on Friday– unless there was a secret session I missed. Also missed seeing any such loan bill on the floor of either chamber last week.)