State Rep. Rick Womick has reluctantly revealed that a previously secret plan is in place to allow the Tennessee General Assembly to continue functioning in the event of a terrorist attack or natural disaster.
Despite Womick’s understandable hesitancy to make public plans that could be exploited by those plotting disruption of legislative activities, he did so in trying — albeit unsuccessfully — to pass a bill with the goal of preventing such things and preparing for them should they occur. And many of us breathed a sigh of relief in learning that there’s at least a plan to assure that our legislators will be able to continue their vital tasks even if an electromagnetic pulse bomb (EMB) disables their ability to exchange text messages with lobbyists via cellphone.
“This is something I don’t like to put out publicly,” Womick told the House State Government Subcommittee. “There are provisions in place (in the event of an attack) where each one of you will be contacted and taken to an off-site location, in the state of Tennessee, and continue to conduct business. With the governor.”
Womick’s comments came as he pushed for passage of HB1327, which calls on the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security to do background checks and then grant security clearances to 10 select members of the Legislature assigned to a special Security Committee.
In remarks to a state House subcommittee, Rep. Rick Womick, R-Murfreesboro, said that an electromagnetic pulse bomb went off near Shelbyville about two years ago. The comment came in urging support for his bill (HB1327) to require that the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security provide background checks and security clearances for ten legislators serving on a special security committee. Blogger Jeff Woods reports that he has checked around with Shelbyville officials and the local newspaper – which, according to Womick, reported on the EPB in a very small story – in an attempt to verify the Womick claim. No one had heard of such an incident.
His conclusion: Yes, possibly Womick is confused. He has been known to, ahem, stretch the truth from time to time. He might be talking nonsense, just another tin foil-wrapped nutjob spinning bizarre paranoid fantasies. On the other hand, just because no one will admit that it happened doesn’t mean it didn’t. Think about it. If it did happen, would the Powers that Be talk about it? Of course not. Too many people have never heard of this E-bomb explosion. Doesn’t that make you suspicious? The plot thickens.
The House approved 71-15 Monday evening a bill that would – if the Senate agrees – reduce automatic daily expense payments to legislators living near Nashville by $107 per day.
“I find it hard to look constituents in the eye when they ask, ‘Why we paying you 107 a day for a hotel you don’t use’,” said Rep. Rick Womick, R-Murfreesboro, sponsor of HB80.
Legislators now get $173 per day as an automatic “per diem” daily expense allowance. The bill eliminates $107 of that – the amount calculated to cover the cost of a motel room – for those whose residence is within 50 miles of the state Capitol building. They would continue to receive the remaining $66, deemed the amount needed for meals, and would collect mileage from the state for commuting daily.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville criticized the proposal, saying the 50 mile rule was arbitrary and unfair. Womick said that is the standard set by the Internal Revenue Service, which considers the payments as taxable income for legislators living within 50 miles.
In fact, Womick said a secondary advantage was the IRS would collect less in taxes from the affected legislators, including himself. He said about $45 of the $107 he has been collecting has been “sent straight to Washington.”
The companion bill has been stalled in a Senate committee for weeks after Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, said he wants to consider an amendment that would instead require legislators to submit an actual motel bill receipt for reimbursement.
Rep. Johnnie Turner, D-Memphis, also criticized the bill, saying legislators, regardless of where they live, do not receive enough for their work. She quoted Gov. Bill Haslam as saying at a recent reception for legislators that he calculates legislators actually are paid about 50 cents an hour for their labors.
Republicans in the House and Senate appear at odds over a proposal to reduce the amount of money lawmakers living within 50 miles of Nashville get as a daily expense allowance.
The House State Government Subcommittee approved Wednesday the bill (HB80) as filed and sponsor Rep. Rick Womick, R-Murfreesboro, promised to reject any amendments. In the Senate State and Local Government, meanwhile, the bill has been delayed to consider an amendment proposed by Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro.
As introduced, the bill would reduce the automatic “per diem” expense payment by $107 per day – the amount calculated to cover the cost of a motel room in Nashville. Lawmakers would still get $66 per day that is attributed to meals and other expenses, plus mileage for commuting.
Ketron said in the Senate committee that he has heard of a lawmaker, living more than 50 miles from Nashville, “milking the system” by sleeping in his office to avoid a motel bill. He suggested the bill be amended to instead require all lawmakers to file receipts for their motel for payment by the state.
But Womick told colleagues “you have my word” that no such amendment would be accepted. That came after Rep. Shelia Butt, R-Columbia, expressed concern that the bill could become a “slippery slope” with revisions that with paperwork requirements “could grow to cost more than the savings.”
Legislative staff estimates that the bill would save taxpayers about $250,000 per year.
News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE) – State Senator Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) filed legislation today to end expense account payment for lodging for state legislators who live within 50 miles of Tennessee’s State Capitol Building. Haile said Senate Bill 107 is a big step forward in reforming the per diem system through which members receive reimbursement for expenses.
“I should not be reimbursed for a hotel stay if I sleep in my own bed at night,” said Senator Haile. “This legislation would end reimbursement for lodging for those who live within a 50-mile commuting distance to the State Capitol Building.”
“We are accountable to the taxpayers, and we felt it was time to change the system,” Haile added. “This fulfills a promise I made to file this legislation as my first bill of the 2013 legislative session.”
The state law that provides for the reimbursement of legislator expenses is not a permissive statute, meaning reimbursement of the expense account is not optional. If a member chooses to reimburse the state for their expense account payment, they must write a check to the state; however, they still are required to pay taxes on the full amount to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS considers the per diem payment for those living within 50 miles of the State Capitol as income, meaning affected lawmakers must pay federal taxes on it in accordance with their guidelines.
Other Senate sponsors of the bill include Senators Steven Dickerson (R-Nashville), Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) and Mark Green (R-Clarksville). The bill will be sponsored by Representative Rick Womick (R-Rockvale).
Democratic candidate Luke Dickerson said Republican state Rep. Rick Womick lacks “discernment” in making legislative decisions during their Wednesday debate at City Hall, according to the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal. “He didn’t ask about the online charter school,” said Dickerson, who contends the Tennessee General Assembly should never have funded the private education company’s request. “He has voted along party lines quite a bit.”
Womick defended his record representing the 34th District as well as the accomplishments of the Republican-controlled Tennessee House of Representatives and Senate, as well as Gov. Bill Haslam.
“I have discernment,” Womick said. “We have made a difference. You’ve seen us bring jobs to Tennessee.”
..In Wednesday’s exchange, Womick bragged that the GOP-controlled state government has brought 90,000 jobs to Tennessee, including 4,500 to Rutherford County since he took office nearly two years ago.
…Dickerson also complained that the more than 4,000 bills introduced by GOP lawmakers was not an example of smaller government. But Womick countered that 25 percent of those involved getting rid of unnecessary laws.
For incumbent 34th District state Rep. Rick Womick and challenger Luke Dickerson, education lies close to their hearts. So says a review of their race in The Tennessean. Womick, a 54-year-old Republican from Rockvale, taught school for a couple of years in Ohio before joining the Air Force in 1983. Dickerson, D-Murfreesboro, currently works as a special education teacher at Northfield Elementary.
The pair hope their experiences and message resonate with voters as they head to the polls for early voting beginning Oct. 17 and on Election Day, Nov. 6.
Tennessee’s teachers face challenges with the state’s adoption of teacher evaluation systems. Womick noted that each district was given the option of choosing from a few different models, but most went with the Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model, which drew a lot of criticism from classroom teachers and administrators alike.
“In Memphis and Chattanooga, they use TIGER, which has a lot to do with the teacher’s individual development, and they love it. I may be asking (state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman) to look at the possibility of adopting that statewide,” said Womick, now a commercial pilot who is married and has four children.
Dickerson, 28, who is entering his fourth year teaching English as a second language, said the reason many districts didn’t adopt TIGER is cost.
“The state is only supporting and funding TEAM. I think an evaluation system is important, but not worth spending $130 million like the state has. I think the most teacher growth and learning will come from Professional Learning Communities that we use here in Murfreesboro City and Rutherford County schools and having principals that are good leaders,” he said.
As Luke E. Dickerson introduces himself to supporters at a local Democratic fundraiser, The Tennessean reports, it only gradually becomes apparent that the 28-year-old is not just an aide or campaign volunteer doing legwork for someone else. He’s the candidate.
While Dickerson may be green in terms of experience compared with other candidates statewide, he is the oldest candidate in the primary election for a Murfreesboro state House district set for August. His opponent, Spencer Douglas, is a 23-year-old Rockvale resident who just graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in May.
Douglas and Dickerson are trying to unseat first-term lawmaker Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale. If either were to win the southwestern Rutherford County district, he would be one of the youngest lawmakers in the state House and the first Democrat to win that district in recent memory.
As Douglas sees it, his eligibility to run for the state House is all the requirement he needs to succeed if elected.
“At 21, you can run. I don’t see how not having much personal experience can be a disadvantage,” he said.
Mayor Tommy Bragg sent two letters to state Rep. Rick Womick in March challenging “misstatements” he made in the General Assembly about city codes enforcement to garner support for a resolution against United Nations Agenda 21, reports the Murfreesboro Daily News. Bragg sent the first letter March 19 “to correct” several things Womick said on the House floor about the city’s dealings with Papa’s Butts and BBQ Hot Sauce Store on Old Fort Parkway. The second letter, dated March 20, said Womick made other “misstatements” in a House Judiciary subcommittee meeting March 14 about Murfreesboro’s flag regulations.
“At the meeting, you began describing the event when you presented a Tennessee flag to the president of the Murfreesboro Medical Clinic (Joey Peay). You commented that after I presented it to him publicly, (he) comes to me and says, ‘Well, Rep. Womick, thank you very much for the Tennessee flag. I appreciate it, but you’re going to have to talk to the City of Murfreesboro because they won’t let me fly the Tennessee flag on my property. We’re not allowed to fly any flags. No U.S., no Tennessee, nothing.'”
…Bragg’s letter states that Womick did not contact any city staff about flag or flagpole regulations, which led to his failure to “accurately describe the situation.”
City Manager Rob Lyons spoke to Peay, who told him he made a comment in jest that he would have to “go through the process with the city” to put up the flag. Peay made no comments that the city had banned state or U.S. flags, the letter states.
Bragg’s letter points out that the city requires a flagpole permit — at no charge — to verify proper footings and wind-load design. Nineteen flagpoles have been permitted in the last three years since the permit was established and none have been rejected, the letter states.
The mayor noted that the city lost a court case over flag regulations after previously exempting the American flag from its ordinance. The court ruled that it had to treat the U.S. flag the same as all signs.
Bragg wrote that Murfreesboro Medical Clinic did not apply for a flagpole, so the city could not have denied a permit request.
….”Your comments ….created the impression that the city banned the display of the flag and damaged our reputation statewide as a patriotic community.”
American and Tennessee flags fly over city buildings, Bragg stated, and Murfreesboro police officers and firefighters wear American flag patches on their uniforms.
…The Rockvale Republican, who is serving his first term in the state House, refused to speak to a DNJ reporter when approached Thursday morning on the House floor. Asked if he would talk when the House let out for the day, Womick, said, “I don’t have anything to say.” He has declined to return phone calls.
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) — A state lawmaker was mistaken about the facts of a restaurant’s zoning issues when he used the case of Papa’s Butts and BBQ Hot Sauce Store as an example of the creeping influence of the United Nations in Tennessee, a city official said.
Republican Rep. Rick Womick cited the store’s issues with the city of Murfreesboro in remarks on the House floor to support a resolution urging the rejection of the UN’s Agenda 21 on sustainable development.
But Murfreesboro Planning Director Joseph Aydelott told the Daily News Journal for Friday’s editions (http://on.dnj.com/yMjxz8 ) that Womick had the facts wrong about the case heading for a hearing before the Board of Zoning Appeals on March 28.
And Aydelott told the paper that Agenda 21 has nothing to do with the case. “I don’t really know what that is, except for what I’ve read in the paper,” he said.