CPI Buzz March 23, 2016

Haslam: Insure Tennessee is 'right idea' but lacks support

benefits insure tnRhetoric in support of Insure Tennessee hasn't emerged in the legislature to the degree that would bring Gov. Bill Haslam back into active campaigning for the plan.

A day after a citizen-funded campaign unveiled 20 billboards around the state imploring people to call Speaker Beth Harwell to bring Insure Tennessee — Haslam's insurance expansion plan using Medicaid funding — to the floor of the House, Haslam's office said that despite the ongoing need for the plan, support isn't there.

"The need still exists, and Insure Tennessee is the right idea," said Jennifer Donnals, Haslam's press secretary. "The governor always said something would have to change for that to happen this legislative session, and we haven't seen that opening." Donnals' comment was in response to inquiries from The Tennessean about Haslam's position now that renowned philanthropist Martha Ingram is involved with a privately funded billboard campaign, whether he asked Harwell to table the proposal and what it would take for the governor to bring back the plan. Harwell said Monday she can't "unilaterally" bring the proposal to a vote, particularly since Haslam decided "not to pursue implementation."

Insure Tennessee was pitched to the legislature ahead of a special session, as well as heard in regular session, in 2015, but Senate committees blocked the proposal over concerns with a variety of issues, including trusting the federal government to keep funding obligations, the program's roots in the Affordable Care Act and questions over whether the next president would keep the federal health law in place.

The House took up the proposal indirectly last week when a joint resolution to empower the governor to implement the program by any measure and a referendum gauging voter support were pitched. Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, the lawmaker behind the resolution, pulled the measure before the committee could vote, citing a lack of leadership and support for Insure Tennessee in the legislature.

The referendum was sent to summer study on a successful motion pitched by Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin.  Tennessean (subscription)


Fact checkers confirm Hillary Clinton is more honest than any of her 2016 opponents 

hillary honestThe trendy knock on Hillary Clinton, even among those who acknowledge that she’s the most capable and knowledgeable of the 2016 candidates for President, is the accusation that she’s just not honest. Her opponents keep insisting that she can’t be trusted, that she’s not telling the truth, and that there is therefore no telling what she might do while in office. But whenever fact checkers look at what Clinton and her opponents are saying during this election cycle, she rates out as the most honest of the bunch.

It may come as a surprise considering how often her opponents have tried to ding her for honesty issues. But according to campaign-long data from respected fact checking entity PolitFact, the picture looks very different. These sites only evaluate controversial or contentious claims made by each candidate, so if for instance they rate a candidate’s statements as being “true” half the time, it doesn’t mean the candidate is lying the other half the time. It’s more accurately an indicator of what percentage of the time a candidate turns out to have been telling the truth when he or she is specifically accused of lying.

PolitiFact has rated 24% of Hillary Clinton’s contentious claims as receiving a perfect “True” score (source link), which may not sound impressive until you consider that just 15% of Bernie Sanders’ contentious claims have rated out as “True” (source link). There are two other passable categories, “Mostly True” and “Half True.” If you add up the numbers from the top three boxes, Clinton comes out at 72% and Sanders comes out at 70%, which are both robust scores. In the bottom two boxes, just 14% of Clinton’s challenged statements have rated out as “False” or “Pants on Fire” while Sanders has fallen into those bottom two boxes 15% of the time.

Again, lest you get jaded, it doesn’t mean that either candidate is lying 14% or 15% of the time they open their mouths. This is merely a percentage of the most highly contested claims they’ve each made during this election. In other words, whenever Clinton or Sanders has been accused of lying, most of the time it turns out they were actually telling the truth. Objectively speaking, these are the two most honest candidates in the race, with Clinton receiving the slight numerical edge. Now for contrast, let’s take a look at the numbers for the top 2016 republican candidates.

It turns out Donald Trump’s statements have only rated out as being fully “True” a mere 3% of the time (source link). In fact he rates out as “False” or “Pants on Fire” an astounding 61% of the time. Ted Cruz is nearly as dishonest, rated “True” just 6% of the time, and “False” or “Pants on Fire” 36% of the time (source link). So what does this tell us?

The factual bottom line is that Hillary Clinton is the most honest candidate in the 2016 election. Bernie Sanders is a close second, making them the two most comparatively “honest” politicians in the race. In contrast, Donald Trump rates out as nearly a pathological liar, and Cruz doesn’t do much better. So much for the notion that Clinton is the one who can’t be trusted. This false perception is largely a function of her longtime status as the clear frontrunner and expected winner, causing the other candidates to take the most shots at her honesty out of desperation.

But as the above numbers irrefutably spell out, when the others accuse Hillary of lying, it most often turns out they’re the ones who are lying.  Daily Newsbin

Clinton, Trump win delegate-rich Arizona, but falter in Utah and Idaho

clinton trumpDonald Trump and Hillary Clinton scored easy victories Tuesday in Arizona, the largest and most-watched of the day’s three electoral contests.

Clinton’s roughly 20-point victory came despite voting glitches that appeared to affect Democratic voters more acutely than Republicans, who had submitted mail-in ballots at a higher rate than Democrats. The large margin is a blow to her rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, who had staked a comeback on Arizona.

Trump won by a decisive 24 percentage points over his nearest competitor, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). But Cruz defeated Trump in Utah and took all of the state’s 40 Republican delegates after winning more than 50 percent of the vote.

Sanders won handily in Utah and Idaho, but that may have done little to improve his overall standing in delegates against Clinton. Idaho’s caucusing could not begin until everyone who had gotten into line by 7 p.m. local time had entered, prompting many caucuses to start late. The state Democratic Party used its Twitter account, @idahodems, to urge voters to stay in line.  Washington Post


After Meeting Transgender Students, Some Lawmakers Change Course On Controversial Bathroom Bill

restroomA conservative lawmaker says he now thinks transgender students should be able to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with. Rep. Rick Womick's comments Tuesday led to the sudden failure of a bill that would have required students to use the restroom of their birth sex instead.

Womick, R-Rockvale, said he changed his mind after talking to his doctor, John Guenst, whose child was born with male organs but has identified as a girl for most of her life. John's wife, Valerie, says with medical help, their daughter went through puberty as a girl. "It's clear that boys at Franklin High would be upset if she showed up in the bathroom peeing beside them and putting on lipstick," Valerie Guenst told lawmakers.

The school lets her daughter use the girls' restroom, even though school records list her as a boy. Womick said he didn't see a reason to change that. "This is, to me, a bill that's government trying to get involved in something they don't need to," he said during the House education committee hearing. "Why are we going to fix something that's not broke?"

That combination of small government ideology and a personal connection also swayed Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis. He pointed to a transgender boy in the audience and said the bill would unnecessarily complicate his life.

Lawmakers voted to study the issue more this summer.  WPLN


Tennessee Abortion Clinics One Step Closer To Disclosure Rule On Fetal Remains

Tennessee senators advanced a bill Tuesday that would require physicians to report how they’ve disposed of fetal remains after abortions.  Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, said the state hasn’t been equipped to track the remains — leaving uncertainty about whether fetal parts are being sold for research.

“The problem is that no one in the Department of Health could say whether it’s happening or not in Tennessee, because we didn’t have the framework in place,” he said. Roberts says SB 2568 does nothing to restrict abortions. “It’s really about the remains and how we’re handling the remains, so that they’re not sold,” he said.

The bill comes in response to controversial undercover videos released last summer in which filmmakers tried unsuccessfully to buy fetal parts at clinics. They were later discredited, and indicted, for tampering with a government record. The only mention of the videos in the Senate Judiciary Committee came just before the vote, when Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said that he wants to give his constituents “comfort to know that those horrible practices that we saw in the videos are not taking place in Tennessee.”

Senators amended the bill slightly after a 30-minute discussion with health officials about different types of abortion — and words like “medical” and “surgical.” The committee decided that such descriptors could be confusing. They moved to use the general term “abortion” to ensure all types would be subject to the reporting requirement.

The measure awaits discussion in a House committee.  WPLN


Critics question Haslam's outsourcing plan

outsourcingTwo weeks after protesters flocked to the Capitol to express opposition to Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed outsourcing plan, a panel of lawmakers on Tuesday listened to more grievances over the idea. “We feel like the outsourcing of thousands of state jobs is overreaching, it’s going too far and it’s giving up too much authority that we currently have,” Randy Stamps, governor affairs director for the Tennessee State Employees Association, told the Senate State and Local Government Committee.

Stamps’ comments come after protesters gathered at the legislature March 8 in an effort to question Haslam’s plan, which is centered on hiring private companies to manage the state’s colleges, prisons and state parks.

While proponents of the plan say the effort will result in taxpayers saving millions of dollars, Chris Dauphin, the organization’s communications director, questioned the $35.8 million in estimated savings. The figure was mentioned by Terry Cowles, director of customer-focused government, during a presentation to the Senate State and Local Government Committee in early March.

On Tuesday, Dauphin told the same committee that the state can save money without having to outsource the facilities management on every state property. “We don’t feel like that’s a solution that matches the size of the problem,” he said. “You don’t have to blow up the house to catch a mouse.”

Dauphin advocated for a more common-sense approach before warning that outsourcing could result in cost shifting down the line. He said a private company could decide to have annual rate increases, pointing to a contract between the Texas A&M University system and Compass Group USA, an outsourcing company, that resulted in students being forced into paying more for meal plans as a result of the privatization plan.

Dauphin also explained that the 1,647 state workers at the university were forced to reapply for their jobs, with only 600 being rehired.

“We believe we can do better,” Dauphin said, after asking the panel of lawmakers to consider whether workers will be forced to reapply for their jobs and those nearing retirement will be forced out. “We’re urging you not to give up on state employees.”

Despite the concerns of state workers, Haslam has indicated that employees will not be faced with layoffs. Dauphin and Tom Anderson, a supply buyer for the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, said the state’s campus employees are very proud of their work. Anderson said the careers, livelihoods and families of campus employees are at stake under the proposed plan. “It’s not unlikely that I may lose my job,” he said, adding that while current employees are personally invested in the state’s campuses and communities, that wouldn’t necessarily be the case with a private employer.

The committee took no action on the outsourcing plan, which does not need the approval of lawmakers.  Tennessean (subscription)

Tennessee Fetal Assault Bill Fails, Allowing It To Be Struck From State Law

A small but pivotal group of Tennessee representatives voted Tuesday to discontinue one of the state’s most divisive criminal laws. Known as “fetal assault,” the measure empowered prosecutors to arrest women who use heroin or pain pills during pregnancy, if their babies were born dependent.

Two years ago, in a rising epidemic of drug-dependent births, Tennessee became the only state to explicitly allow assault charges against new mothers for prenatal drug use. The law came with a "sunset" provision that required that it either be renewed or discontinued this year.

Lengthy testimony has included doctors and criminal prosecutors, but the stories shared by addicted women helped convince East Tennessee Republican Rep. Andrew Farmer that the law isn’t helping. “Both the young ladies that stood there made the comment that they were afraid to seek treatment, and that’s why they didn’t.” Doctors, especially, argued the threat of arrest sends women into hiding. Other critics said addicts were choosing abortion over being found out and prosecuted.

Supporters of the criminal penalty tried last-minute amendments to answer these concerns. But the bill failed on a tie 3-3 vote in the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.

That leaves the power to prosecute for fetal assault on track to be taken out of state law by July.  WPLN

'Religious freedom' bill set for debate

religion politicsOn Tuesday Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, said his “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” is intended to “give the ability for people with strongly held or deeply held religious convictions the opportunity to embrace their religion or their view on marriage without legal repercussions.”

The bill specifically seeks to allow a “minister, clergy member, pastor, religious organization, organization supervised or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization, or individual employed by a religious organization" the ability to refuse to marry or provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods or privileges if doing so would “violate a sincerely held religious belief.”

Although Tennessee has a religious freedom law, the way Holt's bill is written led some opponents to believe it would provide protections to businesses similar to legislation that was proposed in Indiana in 2015.

That legislation generated significant outcry, including boycotts and bans of state-funded travel from several states’ governors, after Gov. Mike Pence signed it into law in March 2015. The following month, state lawmakers passed an amendment aimed at providing protections to the LGBT community, which Pence enacted. Tennessean (subscription)

An elected attorney general for Tennessee?

justice flagFor some, the populist anger that has fueled the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential race has tempered, maybe even terrified, their desire to let vot
ers express their will.

The Tennessee legislature, especially the House of Representatives, often reflects the rise of populism, so it will be interesting to see what happens as it takes up a resolution that would allow voters to elect the attorney general.

In a different era, Sir Winston Churchill, who was an astute observer of democratic politics if not an unabashed admirer of democracy, wrote:

“At the bottom of all the tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into the little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper — no amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly diminish the overwhelming importance of that point.”

Last year, Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, introduced the resolution to amend the state constitution to fix a problem she believed the legislature created in the 1970s, and return some modicum of electoral power to the people.

“Since the adoption of the unconstitutional Tennessee Plan (which took away the popular election of appellate and Supreme Court judges), the selection of the attorney general has been two times removed from the vote of the people,” Beavers said last January, two months after voters had finally amended the constitution to make that Tennessee Plan, gubernatorial appointment and retention election of Supreme Court justices, definitively legal.

In April, her fellow senators voted 23-9 in favor of Senate Joint Resolution 63, which would allow voters to elect the state’s top lawyer to a six-year term. The House Civil Justice Committee will consider the resolution next week. 

The proposed amendment would eliminate a point of Tennessee political uniqueness.

Tennessee is the only state where the attorney general is selected by, and reports to, the justices of the Supreme Court. The vast majority of states, 43, elect their attorneys general; in five states the AG is appointed by the governor; and the Maine Legislature elects the attorney general.

Defenders of the current system argue that the attorney general should not be a political office, and see no conflict in the state’s attorney being appointed by judges who will eventually rule on arguments their appointee makes.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee in March 2015, Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, voiced the main objection to having a statewide elected AG. “Those initials stand for ‘Almost Governor,’ ” Bell said. “It makes the office into a ‘governor in waiting’ position.” Gov. Bill Haslam’s legislative liaison echoed the senator’s view in his testimony: “The governor feels that the attorney general’s job is to be as independent as possible. He feels that the popular election of the attorney general would be interjecting politics into what should be an independent decision-making process.”

Beavers brought John Jay Hooker to the committee to help make her argument — it was not long after he had made his terminal diagnosis of cancer public, and he was warmly welcomed. “Mr. Chairman,” Hooker intoned, “the system appears on its face to be unfair. If you are a criminal defendant in a case before the Supreme Court, you are confronted by the proposition that the government is represented by the same lawyer that represents the judges.

“The attorney general should be the lawyer for the people, not the lawyer for the Supreme Court, not the attorney for the legislature,” he said. “The attorney general is the captive of the government, the captive of the special interests.” 

Tennessee’s system of selecting the state’s top lawyer gives the illusion of independence, but it effectively acts as insulation for the office to put the interests of state officials over those who elect them.

I think voters made a mistake when they gave up their constitutional right to elect appellate and Supreme Court judges in November 2014, and bought into the argument that our judicial system should be “independent of politics.” The change to legalize a system of gubernatorial appointment and legislative confirmation over a general election did not remove our judges from politics, but it did remove voters from being part of the political process.

Placing an amendment on the ballot for the 2018 election that would allow Tennesseans to choose how the attorney general is selected would be a fitting tribute to the state constitution, which begins, “That all power is inherent in the people … .”   - Frank Daniels in the Tennessean (subscription) 


Tennessee Republicans Move to Defund UT's 'War on Christmas'

war on christmasHouse Republicans slapped the University of Tennessee yet again today for disrespecting secret Santa with that famous list of tips for political correctness at campus Christmas parties.

On a voice vote, a House education committee decided to defund UT's war on Christmas and various other subversive-type activities by taking $100,000 a year from the university.  That money instead would go to pay for decals bearing the national motto "In God We Trust" for police cars. Ronald Reagan himself couldn't have thought of a better way to screw with all those twits at UT.

The bill also prohibits UT from using state funds “to promote or demote a religious holiday,” or “to promote the use of gender-neutral pronouns” or Sex Week—two more really sore subjects with Republicans in the legislature. 

The committee ignored House Democratic leader Craig Fitzhugh, who argued this bill is a crazy way to blow off steam over disagreements with UT’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion.

“I think we’ve got a super-duper knee-jerk reaction as to the consequences of this,” Fitzhugh said. “These guys screwed up. … But every time something crazy like that happens, are we going to change the budget?”

In the Senate, they’ve got different ideas about how to mess with UT. The Senate Education Committee has recommended stripping $8 million from the UT budget for diversity programs and funneling it to farm and rural outreach programs. - Jeff Woods, Pith in the Wind


Who will have the power at a brokered GOP convention?

GOP conventionWhat should the Republican Party do about Trump? That is the question on the minds of many as we go into the final round of primaries and caucuses—a round in which Trump could get the most votes, the most delegates, and perhaps even lock up the nomination. But in the past few weeks the anti-Trump forces have been getting their act together—somewhat belatedly—and the political class is salivating over the fact that there could be a brokered convention for the first time in more than half a century. How would that happen? And who are the brokers?

Following is a comprehensive list of the possibilities. I’ll be the first to admit that I have no idea what the probabilities are that each will occur.

  1. Trump wins a majority of delegates and goes on to win on a first ballot. Once he amasses the necessary delegates, Trump might pivot to the general and turn into a thoughtful, serious person who stops insulting people and stops making ridiculous statements. He cleans up his act just enough to hand him a tepid endorsement from the rest of the party. The last debate was noteworthy for the way in which Trump seemed to have reigned himself in, refraining from the gratuitous insults that were his previous stock in trade. All-in-all he seemed to be trying to be more presidential and less controversial. However, after the debate, he quickly reverted to form by telling people that there would be “riots in the street” if he didn’t get the nomination. So the “acting-like-a-president” gambit doesn’t seem like something he can sustain.

  2. Trump wins a majority of delegates and goes on to win on a first ballot…but the congressional wing of the party goes it alone. In this scenario, Trump gets a majority of delegates and wins the nomination, but the rest of the Republican Party decides to just give up on the presidency this time around. Led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, the congressional leadership separates itself from Trump and gives a back-handed endorsement to Hillary Clinton by campaigning on the need to have a solid Republican Congress in order to stop what they consider President Hillary Clinton’s worst ideas.
  3. Trump wins enough delegates to win on a first ballot but he does not have enough friends at the grass roots level of the Republican Party to elect delegates who are loyal to him. Already conservatives like Roger Stone are warning Trump to beware of “Trojan horse delegates.” The draft rules for the Republican National Convention stipulate that delegates have to vote for the person who won their state, or at least cast their votes proportionally. But these rules can be changed by a vote of the convention rules committee which is different from the Republican National Committee’s rules committee. If the convention rules committee changes the rules and all convention delegates vote to agree with them, they could open the door to defections from Trump. Then, Trump fails to get a majority on the first ballot; Cruz and Kasich make a deal and Cruz  most likely wins the presidential nomination on the second ballot, with Kasich becoming the vice presidential nominee.
  4. The outside compromise. This is a variation of option #3 except that the convention does not turn to Cruz or Kasich and instead seeks an outside compromise candidate like Speaker Paul Ryan to become their standard bearer.
  5. Trump goes into the convention with a plurality but not a majority of delegates.This guarantees a second ballot even without his opponents having to win votes on rule changes. In this scenario, there is no test vote to determine which other candidate might have the strength to put together a majority so expect either a long period of negotiations between the first and second ballot or more than two ballots. If none of the candidates who have delegates in the hall can win on a second ballot, the convention could well turn to an outside candidate.

For scenarios #3, #4, and #5 to unfold with a modicum of decorum, there need to be “brokers” so-called because they in fact “broker” the deal or conduct the negotiations. And yet the kind of brokers that were standard in old-fashioned conventions don’t exist anymore. There used to be powerful elected or party leaders who could literally tell the delegates from their state what to do because they had hand-picked the delegates. The modern system doesn’t allow power brokers to hand pick delegates anymore—they are elected in state party caucuses, conventions and, executive committees in the spring. But that doesn’t mean that a contested convention would be devoid of brokers.

For those of us who have been to nominating conventions (I’ve been to eight Democratic ones and three Republican ones) you know that every day begins with a delegation meeting. The delegation meeting features national guests but also real and aspirational state political bigwigs. Most of the discussion in those meetings has to do with how to win not just the presidency but other offices in the state. Former Speaker Tip O’Neill’s most famous line is “All politics is local,” and that is true even at conventions. A governor is apt to be quite powerful and influential within the delegation. He or she has power over contracts, lobbying and a certain amount of influence over who gets nominated for what offices. Since most convention delegates are people who want to retain or build on their political standing in the state—they will take seriously what a sitting governor says.

The Republican Party has thirty-one sitting governors and most if not all of them will be at the convention. Only a handful of them: Rick Scott (Fla.) Paul LePage (Maine) and Chris Christie (N.J.) have endorsed Trump. Six of them have endorsed one of the other candidates and three of them: Asa Hutchinson (Ark.), Bill Haslam (Tenn.) and Charlie Baker (Mass.) have said flat out that they won’t vote for Trump.

That leaves 19 powerful potential brokers. Eight of them have said they’ll support the eventual nominee and 11 have simply remained silent or undecided.   - Brookings Institution

Thought for the day - 

"The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself."
  - Benjamin Franklin


CPI Buzz March 22, 2016


Brussels Rocked by Terrorist Attacks, Killing at Least 27 People

BRUSSELS—Explosions rocked Brussels’ international airport and a subway station near European Union institutions on Tuesday in what authorities described as terrorist attacks. More than two dozen people were killed and many more injured amid horrific scenes of chaos.

A suicide bomber committed the airport attack and authorities were looking into whether some attackers could be on the run, the Belgian federal prosecutor said at a press conference.

The explosions come days after the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, one of the alleged Paris attackers who was captured in Brussels after a four-month manhunt.

The first two explosions Tuesday morning hit the city’s main airport near the check-in counters at about 8 a.m., filling the area with smoke and sending ceiling tiles crashing down. Witnesses described blood from the many injured spread across the floor and panic as people rushed to flee.

After 9 a.m. local time, another explosion hit at Maelbeek metro station, very near the heart of the European quarter in Brussels, home to EU buildings.

Officials said more than a dozen people were killed at the airport and that at least 15 were killed and 55 wounded at the station. Belgian Federal Prosecutor Frédéric Van Leeuw said it was too early to give a precise number of victims, but some were gravely injured.  Wall Street Journal (subscription)


Martha Ingram Gets Behind Insure Tennessee

insure TNBillionaire Martha Ingram joined the Insure Tennessee campaign today, ratcheting up the pressure on the legislature’s supermajority to expand Obamacare. The campaign includes 20 billboards now up across the state urging House Speaker Beth Harwell to support the plan, which died in the legislature last year.

"I'm involved in this because I'm so very disappointed" in legislators who have rejected the plan, Ingram said on a conference call this afternoon. "To have their backs turned on this . ..these legislators are really not fulfilling their responsibilities. ... I honestly don't really know how they sleep at night.”

Also, religious leaders are standing outside the War Memorial Building at the Capitol complex in what they’re calling a “Faithful Filibuster for Insure Tennessee." Organizers say they’ll “read scriptures that proclaim peace and justice for all who suffer.”

"No more kicking the can down the road,” said Mary Falls, a Nashville lawyer involved in the campaign. “The time has come for our speaker to stand up for hardworking Tennesseans, for veterans, for our economy and jobs, for our rural healthcare system and to show courage and leadership. The legislature needs to get on board with the will of the people.”

If they’re waiting for Harwell to take a stand, they should prepare for disappointment. Trying mightily to stay on the sidelines for fear she might jeopardize her possible run for governor in two years, she has refused to express an opinion on Insure Tennessee since Haslam proposed it last year.  - Jeff Woods, Nashville Scene


Harwell: I can't unilaterally bring Insure Tennessee to vote

harwell billboardHouse Speaker Beth Harwell resisted calls Monday to bring Insure Tennessee to a floor vote, citing a decision by the governor not to pursue implementation.

A statewide billboard campaign — funded by private citizens, including renowned philanthropist Martha Ingram — is pushing Harwell to bring Insure Tennessee to the House floor. In a statement to The Tennessean, Harwell said Gov. Bill Haslam decided "not to pursue the implementation of Insure Tennessee."

"As Speaker, I cannot unilaterally bring it to a vote," Harwell said. "All bills go through the committee process, and this has failed to receive the support needed to advance."

Citizens for Insure Tennessee are paying for 20 billboards in cities across the state, urging people to call on Harwell, R-Nashville, to bring Haslam's Insure Tennessee to a vote. "I'm just stunned by the leadership, or the lack of leadership, in the legislature," said Renee Frazier, retired CEO of Shelby County Common Table Health Alliance, who donated to the campaign.

Harwell alluded to an effort between House members and administration officials on "creative elements that could garner widespread support."  She said the proposal under consideration would "reflect not only a desire to assist, but also enhance, the effectiveness of our current TennCare program" that could have a solution by the middle of next month.

Mary Falls and Sally Smallwood paid for three Nashville billboards in February and received feedback from private citizens from across the state who wanted to get involved. Billboards with Harwell's number are also in Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga, the Tri-Cities, Tullahoma and other cities. Plus, The number of billboards in Nashville has increased to six. "I’m involved in this because I’m so very disappointed by the actions of many members of the Tennessee legislature," Ingram said. "I honestly don't know how they sleep at night."

Donations from more than 70 people across the state range from $10 to $4,200. Billboards can cost from a couple of hundred dollars to a couple of thousand, depending on the market. The cost of the billboards to the private donors is negligible compared to the impact Insure Tennessee would have on the state, Falls said.

Haslam proposed Insure Tennessee, a tiered system, to use federal Medicaid funding to expand health insurance coverage. Two subsets of state senators killed Insure Tennessee in 2015 before the proposal made it to either floor for discussion and a vote. Much of the opposing rhetoric characterized the proposal as a further extension of Obamacare.

Insure Tennessee has been blocked at several turns in the legislature, primarily the Senate, in 2015 and 2016. Last week, concern over presidential politics and disappointment with the lack of leadership in the legislature killed two bills regarding Insure Tennessee in a House subcommittee. Tennessean  (subscription)


Holly McCall to run as Democrat for Jeremy Durham's House seat

Holly McCallHolly McCall, a longtime communications professional and political operative, has become the first Democrat to announce plans to run for the Franklin state House seat held by embattled Republican Rep. Jeremy Durham.

McCall, a former newspaper reporter, public relations strategist and Franklin native, said she picked up qualifying papers on Monday to run in the Aug. 4 Democratic primary for state House District 65

The seat is in a solidly Republican district in dependably conservative Williamson County. But Tennessee Democrats are hoping to put the seat in play because of the recent controversy surrounding Durham, who will likely need to withstand a primary challenge to be the GOP nominee in November.

McCall, discussing her bid with The Tennessean, said the Republican-dominated legislature has “lost touch with what voters in Williamson County want and what voters in Tennessee want.”  Tennessean (subscription)


Senate leaders float Randy McNally as Ron Ramsey replacement

Senate Republican leaders are discussing a plan to make Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Randy McNally the new lieutenant governor of Tennessee. McNally, R-Oak Ridge, probably would take over on an interim basis, and wouldn't take over until after Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey's term is complete. Ramsey, R-Blountville, announced last week that he would not seek re-election.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, told reporters Monday morning he pitched the idea of McNally taking the helm after Ramsey. Norris, considered a possible Ramsey replacement himself, said McNally taking over would create a "smooth and seamless continuity of conservative leadership."

"I think everybody respects Randy and understands why he wants to serve in a transition role," Norris said. "Senator McNally has a storied career reputation here, he’s the dean of our Senate in terms of time served, and steady at the helm."

McNally, 72, has served 17 two-year sessions in the General Assembly, the last 13 as a member of the Senate. That puts him at the statehouse for more than 30 years, far before Republicans secured supermajorities in the House and Senate.  Tennessean (subscription)


Study: Knoxville has least-congested drive time in US

traffic jamKnoxvillians have the least-congested drive time in the United States, according to a new study being released Tuesday by an international navigation system maker and technology company.

The TomTom Traffic Index 2016 measures congestion on the road networks of 295 cities around the world and gives drivers detailed information on the impact congestion has on its city's travel times. According to the study, Knoxvillians get 11 minutes of extra travel time per day and 43 hours more per year.

Other cities with smooth commutes, according to the study, included Kansas City, Indianapolis, Omaha-Council Bluffs, Iowa and Dayton, Ohio. Cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and other big West Coast cities suffered from the worst commutes, but metro areas in the South were not far behind.

Fast-growing cities in the South that ranked high on the list included Houston, Atlanta, Tampa, Fla., Orlando, Fla., and Nashville. Knoxville News Sentinel


Obama to nudge Cuba on freedoms in direct appeal to citizens

chevy in cubaHAVANA (AP) - Nudging Cuba toward democracy, President Barack Obama will cast a spotlight on political repression and economic deprivation here when he meets with dissidents and speaks to the Cuban people at the close of a trailblazing trip.

Obama's rationale for coming to Havana was grounded in the notion that direct interaction with Cubans would do more to empower them and bring about change than decades of isolation ever did. So Obama's speech Tuesday at the Grand Theater of Havana offers his best chance to make his case for the U.S. and Cuba putting the vestiges of the Cold War behind them.

His meeting later with Cuban dissidents critical of President Raul Castro's government was a prerequisite for the trip, the White House said, pushing back on suggestions that Obama is rewarding a system whose limits on dissent run counter to American values.

"The United States will continue to speak up on behalf of democracy, including the right of the Cuban people to decide their own future," Obama said, standing next to Castro in the Palace of the Revolution. "We'll speak out on behalf of universal human rights, including freedom of speech and assembly and religion."

Any question about whether Obama would use his trip to Cuba to ramp up pressure on Cuba's government ended Monday during an extraordinary joint news conference that the White House negotiated for weeks with Cuban officials to arrange. On live state-run television, Castro faced forceful questioning from American journalists about the slow pace of change in Cuba and detention of political prisoners.

It was a shocking moment in a communist country where few publicly question the authority of Raul Castro or his brother, revolutionary leader Fidel Castro. Though Raul Castro seemed unsettled at times by the free-wheeling exchange, White House aides said it was a powerful reminder that open discourse and strong leadership are not mutually exclusive.

"This is pure history," said Marlene Pino, a 47-year-old Havana engineer. It's been nearly a century since the last sitting president to visit Cuba, Calvin Coolidge, arrived on a battleship.  Knoxville News Sentinel


State Senate delays vote on de-annexation bill

The state Senate voted Monday to send the controversial de-annexation bill back to committee for review, delaying a floor vote at least until Thursday and possibly to next week.

Senators also voted to call a special meeting of the State and Local Government Committee for noon Wednesday to review more than a dozen amendments filed on the bill, as well as the House-passed version of the bill that would limit citizen-led de-annexation to five Tennessee cities: Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Kingsport and Cornersville.

After winning House approval March 14, the bill’s momentum was halted Monday morning when Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, told reporters that he would vote against the bill and questioned both the fairness and constitutionality of limiting its application to just the five cities. Ramsey had filed one of the proposed Senate amendments on Friday, to remove Kingsport — the largest city in his Northeast Tennessee district — from the bill.   -Memphis Commercial Appeal


Why Tennessee Democrats Keep Pressing On Medicaid Expansion

medicaidA committee in the Tennessee legislature voted to reject Medicaid expansion yet again last week. WPLN’s Chas Sisk joins Blake Farmer to talk about who is keeping the conversation about InsureTN alive. Outside the state capitol, the vote may have seemed to come out of nowhere, but it really didn’t according to WPLN's Chas Sisk. 

Though some grumble, some EPA measures have paved way for businesses

fly ashCUMBERLAND CITY, Tenn. — As some people grumble about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and wish to see it dismantled, the agency has given rise to at least one industry that likely would not exist otherwise. The SEFA Group, which is based in Lexington, S.C., buys waste fly ash from coal-burning power plants and markets it to concrete producers.

“Our job is really to teach them how to use it, to get the maximum volume utilized,” said Jimmy Knowles, vice president market development for SEFA. “So every concrete producer has dozens of custom mix designs to make everything from driveways to poured walls to footings. Of course high-rise buildings that are post-tension and pre-stressed concrete. So there are so many different ways (to mix) and so many different strength requirements, durability and other issues.” The carbon in the fly ash reacts with the minerals in a concrete mixture to increase the strength and durability of the final product.

TVA has plenty of fly ash that is a byproduct of the “scrubbing” process that removes harmful gases released during the burning of coal. In fact TVA produced 1.4 million tons of fly ash in 2014, and of that amount, 495,000 tons were used through the federal utility’s recycle program. And TVA officials say they are now testing agricultural uses for fly ash. 

SEFA trucks away just more than 300,000 tons of fly ash from TVA’s Cumberland Fossil Plant annually. The company markets approximately 400,000 tons each year, and some comes from other TVA sites. While using recycled fly ash takes away the material that could potentially contaminate groundwater, it also helps above ground. “Every pound of fly ash used in concrete, there’s a pound of CO2 (carbon dioxide) avoided in the atmosphere on a global perspective,” Knowles said.

In 1970 the EPA implemented the Clean Air Act, which prompted industry, utilities and the government to reduce the amount of harmful emissions sent into the air.  Clarksville Leaf Chronicle


teddyThought for the day:  "The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life."  --  Theodore Roosevelt  




CPI Buzz March 18, 2016

The great unsettling

looking for americaAbout this series: What's happening in America? What does it mean to be an American? These are questions defining a campaign unlike any other. For nearly 35 days, we crossed the nation looking for answers. This is what we found.

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4

So much anger out there in America.


Anger at Wall Street. Anger at Muslims. Anger at trade deals. Anger at Washington. Anger at police shootings of young black men. Anger at President Obama. Anger at Republican obstructionists. Anger about political correctness. Anger about the role of big money in campaigns. Anger about the poisoned water of Flint, Mich. Anger about deportations. Anger about undocumented immigrants. Anger about a career that didn’t go as expected. Anger about a lost way of life. Mob anger at groups of protesters in their midst. Specific anger and undefined anger and even anger about anger.


Each presidential campaign has its own rhythm and meaning, but this one unfolded with dizzying intensity, an exaggeration of everything that came before. It felt like the culmination of so many long-emerging trends in American life. The decomposition of traditional institutions. The descent of politics into reality-TV entertainment. Demographic and economic shifts quickening the impulses of inclusion and exclusion and us vs. them. All of it leading to this moment of great unsettling, with the Republican Party unraveling, the Democrats barely keeping it together, and both moving farther away from each other by the week, reflecting the splintering not only of the body politic but of the national ideal.  Read more the Washington Post


Supreme Court to Consider Compromise to Health-Law’s Contraception Rules

mitreA four-year-old fight between the Catholic Church and the Obama administration reaches the Supreme Court on Wednesday, in a bishop’s challenge to the health-care law’s contraception requirements that could alter the boundaries of religious freedom.

Eight justices will weigh how far the government has to go to accommodate religiously affiliated employers that object to including contraception in workers’ insurance plans. The outcome could affect as many as a million Catholic nonprofit employees. The case comes after the court’s 2014 Hobby Lobby ruling that for-profit businesses could assert such objections.

The government says Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell has expended considerable effort to address religious objections to the requirement. Churches are exempt, and a carefully crafted alternative, officials say, shields religiously affiliated workplaces from funding or promoting contraception while guaranteeing plan enrollees can still get it.  Wall Street Journal



 Trump’s trade rhetoric, stuck in a time warp

trump mouth“We will keep the car industry in Michigan and we’re going to bring car companies back to Michigan.”

“They [Japan] have cars coming in by the millions and we sell practically nothing. When Japan thinks we mean it, they’ll stop playing around with the yen. They’re almost as good as China.”

“When Ford builds a plant and then they sell a car with no tax whatsoever, just like we’re foolish people, I want to say a stronger word, but I refuse to do so, but we are like foolish people.”

— Donald Trump, various statements on trade made in March 2016

When it comes to trade, Donald Trump is stuck in a time warp.

At the very least, he appears to have not been reading newspapers or economic magazines enough to understand that globalization has changed the face of the world economy, for good or bad. In an interconnected world, it’s no longer a zero sum game in which jobs are either parked in the United States or overseas.

Normally, we focus just on a single statement to fact-check. In this case, we are going to look at the overall economic picture depicted by Trump — a world in which the United States never wins at trade and is flooded by imports because China and Japan keep their currencies artificially low, a world in which high tariffs would bring manufacturing back to Michigan and other states.

Does this world exist? (The Trump campaign, as usual, refused to acknowledge our inquiries.)

The Pinocchio Test

Trump’s claims on trade, currency manipulation and manufacturing are either wrong or no longer valid. If he became president, he (and his supporters) would have a rude shock that the problems he complains about are overstated or no longer exist — and solutions such as raising tariffs might backfire. Taken together, his vision is a whopper.

Four Pinocchios


Advocates Ask Tennessee Lawmakers To Avoid Refugee Lawsuit As Ideological Test Case

Despite hearing Wednesday from vocal opponents to the joint resolution now making its way through the House, the Tennessee General Assembly is moving forward with its effort to sue the United States government over refugee resettlement.

The resolution's sponsors say they're reacting to a requirement that the state provide health benefits to refugees placed here by federal authorities. The sponsors are calling this coercion — a violation of 10th Amendment protections against federal intrusions.

At a hearing on Wednesday, they cited a 2012 United States Supreme Court case as precedent for  what Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, calls a "friendly" lawsuit, which she says will clarify questions about federal power.

The joint resolution, SJR 467, would call on Tennessee's Attorney General to take civil action against federal agencies on behalf of the state government. If the Attorney General declines, a conservative legal group called the Thomas More Law Center iswilling to take the case pro bono. SJR 467 was originally sponsored by departing Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey, among others. After passing the House State Government Subcommittee with little opposition, it's now two steps away from final passage.

Still, Wednesday's hearing demonstrated that pro-refugee advocates won't give up without a fight. Holly Johnson administers the federal refugee resettlement program for the state of Tennessee. She voiced her opposition to the resolution during the hearing, saying a lawsuit could put thousands of refugees at risk.

"At worst, it ends refugee resettlement in the state, and then there's the loss of revenue, there's the loss of our reputation as a welcoming Southern state," she said. "At best, we become fodder for late-night talk show hosts."

Johnson runs the resettlement program through her office at Catholic Charities of Tennessee. She says this resolution would use "1,600 very vulnerable people" (the refugees arriving in Tennessee each year) as guinea pigs for an ideological test case.   WPLN

Tennessee Supreme Court denies records in Vanderbilt rape case

The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled against a coalition of media organizations, including The Tennessean, that sought third-party records related to the high-profile rape case involving former football players at Vanderbilt University.

The court, in a 4-1 decision announced Thursday, said that to release such investigative records to the media and the public would jeopardize an accused person's right to a fair trial. The ruling comes 10 months after the May 28 arguments.

The court’s opinion, written by Chief Justice Sharon Lee, says that a rule related to court procedure trumps the Tennessee Public Records Act in pending criminal cases. That rule allows for release of certain information to a defendant only, the court says, and gives other individuals or organizations no rights to such information.

“Our office is pleased with the Tennessee Supreme Court decision, as it is consistent with the intent of the General Assembly,” said Harlow Sumerford, a spokesman for the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office, which argued against the release of the records.

Former Justice Gary Wade, who retired in September, wrote a dissent that cautions the majority was overstepping its role by setting public policy and expanding a public records exemption to all police records in pending cases.

Robb Harvey, an attorney at Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis who argued the case on behalf of the media coalition, said the ruling has potentially broad implications.

“We agree with Justice Wade, who stated that the majority’s public policy decision is inconsistent with the applicable rule,” Harvey said. “The decision limits transparency, and gives greater power to the police to choose what they want to release when it serves their interests and what they decline to release when it does not.”  Tennessean (subscription)


Democrats vow to continue pushing Insure Tennessee

fitzhughOne day after a House subcommittee sent an Insure Tennessee-related bill to summer study, House Democrats reaffirmed their plans to continue pushing similar legislation this year and take the issue to the campaign trail. Flanked by several of his Democratic colleagues,Rep. John Ray Clemmons of Nashville said Thursday that a bill he is sponsoring will force lawmakers to continue discussing Gov. Bill Haslam's controversial Medicaid expansion plan.

"Republican leadership, especially the governor, has failed to show compassion for those who fall in the coverage gap in the state of Tennessee, and refused to push or promote Insure Tennessee," he said. Clemmons said his bill, entitled the "Respect for Tennessee Taxpayers Act," seeks to get the state to accept "all federal funds available to provide the full extent of Medicaid eligibility expansion" allowed under the Affordable Care Act.

"As we all know, over $1.7 billion has been turned away in the state of Tennessee," he said. "The source of those reimbursement funds are taxpayer dollars." Clemmons' bill specifically requires the state treasurer to report to the legislature a summary of "investments that have been made of federal funding received by the state and for which the investments are required by federal law."

"I would hope that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, especially Republican leadership, would have respect for the taxpayers of Tennessee and make sure that our dollars are spent in Tennessee to ensure that everyone has access to quality and affordable health care," he said.

Republican leaders, including Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, have said they plan on waiting until after the November presidential election before deciding what to do with the insurance plan.

The Democrats reiterated their disappointment with the House Banking and Insurance Subcommittee’s decision to send House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh’s Insure Tennessee bill into political purgatory — bills sent to summer study are often viewed as attempts to defeat the legislation. Fitzhugh's bill sought to put a non-binding referendum on the November ballot asking whether voters support Medicaid expansion. The effort failed after Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, successfully motioned to send the measure to summer study. Rep. David Shepard, D-Dickson, who serves on the insurance and banking subcommittee, said he met with his Republican counterparts on the committee and they agreed to meet during the summer to discuss Insure Tennessee. Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, who on Wednesday withdrew a resolution that sought to empower Haslam to enact the Medicaid expansion by whatever means necessary, vowed that Democrats would not give up on the issue, despite the recent setbacks.

"We're going to take it to the voters during this election year," he said.    Tennessean (subscription)


Tennessee GOP fundraiser to feature South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley

The Tennessee Republican Party's annual Statesmen's Dinner fundraiser will feature a keynote speech by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. State GOP Chairman Ryan Haynes said Haley will present her ideas on how to "unite the divisions" that have befallen the country. The event scheduled for May 13 at the Music City Center in downtown Nashville will also honor the legacy of the late U.S. Sen. Fred Thomson, who died in November.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush spoke at last year's Statesmen's Dinner, while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie headlined the event in 2014. Other past speakers include 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney. 
Knoxville News Sentinel


Teamsters retirees push back against pension cuts

Lindon Laxton retired from Roadway Express in 2000 with a monthly pension of $3,300, $100 for each year he drove trucks around Memphis and cross country. He'd spent 100 hours a week in an over-the-road truck as a team driver in latter years of his career. At 57, he was ready to spend more time with his wife Sharon, three children and grandchildren while supplementing a retirement check with part-time income. But 15 years into a comfortable but modest retirement, the Cordova resident was jolted last October by a proposal to slice his pension in half.

The Central States Pension Fund, jointly overseen by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and employers, is warning of insolvency by 2026 unless benefits are cut now. It has proposed to reduce pensions for about 115,500 retirees, slightly more than half of current retirees.

"I feel like I've been robbed," Laxton said. "I was promised all these years that I would receive this retirement at retirement age as long as I worked the years, and now they're telling me that they have misinvested the money. I had no idea, or I'd have stayed in the truck," he said.

Laxton is among thousands of Memphis area retirees who could be affected. Central States has nearly 5,000 retirees in five congressional districts that converge on Greater Memphis, according to the Pension Rights Center in Washington. Mid-South retirees receive annual pension payments totaling $76.7 million from the fund, which contains $927 million for area retirees considered at risk by the Pension Rights Center.

Penny Pilgrim, leader of Tri-State Teamster Retirees, said, "You're talking about most of them losing over half their retirement. At our age, we can't afford that."

Congress opened the door to reduction of current retiree benefits with pension reforms approved in 2014. The Central States proposal is under review by the Treasury Department and is expected to be put to a vote of plan participants in coming months. Central States wants to implement the cuts this summer.   Knoxville News Sentinel


The night the Rolling Stones fired Donald Trump

In 1989, The Rolling Stones’ original members ended their seven-year hiatus and embarked on an ambitious and profitable 115-show tour of Europe and North America. The American leg, named after their comeback album “Steel Wheels,” began in August in Philadelphia and ended in December in Atlantic City. The final show, at the Boardwalk Hall (f.k.a Convention Center), aired on pay-per-view and — like the Miss America Pageant, also held at the Hall — was to be sponsored by the adjacent Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino.

Even in the late-‘80s, however, The Stones didn’t want to be associated with Trump. So they cut a deal with him, stipulating he wouldn’t be involved in any promotional capacity outside of Atlantic City and, amazingly, wouldn’t be allowed at the show itself. This story, told last summer and resurfaced on social media this week, illustrates just how deep the animosity went.

On the night of the event, “I get word that I have to come to the press room in the next building,” Michael Cohl, the tour’s promoter, told Pollstar last August. “I run to the press room in the next building and what do you think is happening? There’s Donald Trump giving a press conference, in our room!”

According to Cohl, Trump then tried to convince him that “they begged me to go up, Michael.”

“Stop it,” Cohl replied. “Don’t make a liar of yourself.”

Thinking he’d extinguished the fire, Cohl returned to the dressing room only to get word five minutes later that Trump (being Trump) had found his way back to the mic. “Donald,” Cohl pleaded. “I don’t know if I can control this. Stop it.” 

Again to the dressing room. Again word that Trump is promoting. This time guitarist Keith Richards offered his help: “Keith pulls out his knife and slams it on the table and says, ‘What the hell do I have you for? Do I have to go over there and fire him myself? One of us is leaving the building – either him, or us.’”

“One of two things is going to happen,” Cohl told Trump. “You’re going to leave the building and, at 6:40, The Rolling Stones are going to speak on CBS News, or you’re not going to leave the building and I’m going to go on and do an interview to explain to the world why the pay-per-view was canceled”
Then, while literally telling Donald Trump “You’re fired,” Cohl noticed Trump’s “three shtarkers he’s with, in trench coats, two of them are putting on gloves and the other one is putting on brass knuckles.” Cohl signaled his head of security, who “got 40 of the crew with tire irons and hockey sticks and screwdrivers,” effectively sending off Trump and his goons. 

“And that was the night I fired Donald Trump,” Cohl concluded.   Salon




When an individual is protesting society's refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him. 
-Bayard Rustin, civil rights activist (17 Mar 1912-1987) 


CPI Buzz, March 17, 2016

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

st. patrickSaint Patrick (LatinPatriciusIrishPádraig [ˈpˠaːd̪ˠɾˠəɟ]Old IrishCothraige) was a fifth-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Known as the "Apostle of Ireland", he is the primary patron saint of Ireland, along with saints Brigit of Kildare and Columba. He is also venerated in the Anglican Communion, the Old Catholic Church and in the Eastern Orthodox Church asequal-to-apostles and the Enlightener of Ireland.[2]

The dates of Patrick's life cannot be fixed with certainty but, on a widespread interpretation, he was active as a missionary in Ireland during the second half of the fifth century.[3] Early medieval tradition credits him with being the first bishop of Armagh, Primate of Ireland.

According to the Confessio of Patrick, when he was about 16, he was captured by Irish pirates from his home in Great Britain, and taken as a slave to Ireland, looking after animals, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family. After becoming a cleric, he returned to northern and western Ireland. In later life, he served as a bishop, but little is known about the places where he worked. By the seventh century, he had already come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland.


And now, THE NEWS:

Post-Ron Ramsey: A look at possible lieutenant governor candidates

With Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey announcing his plans to not seek re-election, discussions have already begun to figure out who could be his successor. Although the official election for Ramsey's replacement won't take place until January, here are five Republican senators who could receive consideration:

Mark Norris

The Senate majority leader has already expressed interest in the position, noting that he's been in leadership for nearly a decade. Norris has served in the state Senate since 2000.

A practicing attorney from Collierville, Norris is chairman of the rules committee and, like Ramsey, has a sizable financial advantage over others in the chamber. Current campaign holdings: $541,000.

Jack Johnson

Although some say Norris believes he has enough votes to be named lieutenant governor, others believe Johnson, a Franklin-based small-business owner, has enough backers of his own to at least give the majority leader a run for his money.

First elected to the chamber in 2006, Johnson is chairman of the chamber’s commerce and labor committee. Johnson said on Wednesday he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of entering the fray. Current campaign holdings: $177,000.

Randy McNally

While Norris and Johnson declined to say what their plans were, McNally became the first official senator to throw his name into the race to replace Ramsey.

Chairman of the powerful finance committee, the Oak Ridge Republican has longevity on his side — he’s served in the Senate since 1986.

Some insiders believe McNally, a pharmacist, would be a viable consensus candidate for those who don’t side with Norris or Johnson. Current campaign holdings: $131,000.

Bill Ketron

The Murfreesboro small-business owner on Wednesday said he also was considering entering the race to replace Ramsey.  First elected to the chamber in 2003, Ketron has served as the chamber’s Republican caucus chairman since 2013. Current campaign holdings: $140,000.

Bo Watson

A physical therapist from Hixson, Watson has served as speaker pro tempore since 2013. He has not said whether he’s interested in becoming Ramsey’s successor.  Watson was elected to the Senate in 2006. Before that, he spent two years serving in the House. Current campaign holdings: $287,000
Tennessean (subscription)


Political issues torpedo Insure Tennessee bills in House

insure tennesseePresidential politics and disappointment over legislative leadership took down two proposals regarding Insure Tennessee in a House subcommittee.

The Banking and Insurance Subcommittee heard testimony from those in favor of a measure, HJR0521, to empower Gov. Bill Haslam to enact Insure Tennessee through any means necessary.

But the sponsor, Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, withdrew the resolution after instructing the purple-clad Insure Tennessee supporters to make the health insurance expansion plan an issue in this year’s campaign for the General Assembly.

Miller, who started off calling himself heartbroken about the situation, said getting Insure Tennessee through the legislature would require leadership, which he had not seen in the House or the Senate.

A bill from Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, to put a non-binding referendum on the November ballot asking whether voters support expansion with a "yes" or "no" was thwarted by Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, who introduced — an ultimately successful — motion to send the measure to summer study.

After public opinion polls and analysis by regional universities of those eligible, it's time, Fitzhugh said, to ask "what our bosses think, and I'm talking about those who elect us."   Tennessean (subscription)

The Economist rates Trump presidency among its top 10 global risks

economistA Donald Trump presidency poses a top-10 risk event that could disrupt the world economy, lead to political chaos in the U.S. and heighten security risks for the United States, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Electing Trump could also start a trade war, hurt trade with Mexico and be a godsend to terrorist recruiters in the Middle East, according to the latest EIU forecasts. 

The well-respected global economic and geopolitical analysis firm put a possible Trump presidency in its top 10 global risks this month, released Wednesday. Other risks include a sharp slowdown in the Chinese economy, a fracture of the Eurozone, and Britain’s possible departure from the European Union.

Trump’s controversial remarks on Muslims would be a gift to “potential recruiters who have long been trying to paint the U.S. as an anti-Muslim country. His rhetoric will certainly help that recruiting effort,” said Robert Powell, global risk briefing manager at EIU.

Until Trump, the firm had never rated a pending election of a candidate to be a geopolitical risk to the U.S. and the world. The firm has no plans to include Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz or John Kasich on future risk lists.

“It’s highly unusual, and I don’t think we ever have done it where we’ve had a single politician be the center of our risk items,” Powell said in an interview, but noted that the firm has once included the transition at the top of the Chinese Communist Party as a top-ten risk as well.

“Innate hostility within the Republican hierarchy towards Mr. Trump, combined with the inevitable virulent Democratic opposition, will see many of his more radical policies blocked in Congress,” wrote EIU. But “such internal bickering will also undermine the coherence of domestic and foreign policymaking.”   Politico


Emails: Clinton sought secure smartphone, rebuffed by NSA

clinton blackberryNewly released emails show a 2009 request to issue a secure government smartphone to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was denied by the National Security Agency. A month later, she began using private email accounts accessed through her BlackBerry to exchange messages with her top aides.

The messages made public Wednesday were obtained by Judicial Watch, a conservative legal advocacy group that has filed numerous lawsuits seeking the release of federal documents related to Clinton's tenure as the nation's top diplomat.

"We began examining options for (Secretary Clinton) with respect to secure 'BlackBerry-like' communications," wrote Donald R. Reid, the department's assistant director for security infrastructure. "The current state of the art is not too user friendly, has no infrastructure at State, and is very expensive." Reid wrote that each time they asked the NSA what solution they had worked up to provide a mobile device to Obama, "we were politely told to shut up and color."

Resolving the issue was given such priority as to result in a face-to-face meeting between Clinton chief of staff Cheryl Mills, seven senior State Department staffers with five NSA security experts. According to a summary of the meeting, the request was driven by Clinton's reliance on her BlackBerry for email and keeping track of her calendar. Clinton chose not to use a laptop or desktop computer that could have provided her access to email in her office, according to the summary.

Mills also asked about waivers provided during the Bush administration to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for her staff to use BlackBerrys in their secure offices. But the NSA had phased out such waivers due to security concerns. The department's designated NSA liaison, whose name was redacted from the documents, expressed concerns about security vulnerabilities inherent with using BlackBerry devices for secure communications or in secure areas. However, the specific reasons Clinton's requests were rebuffed are being kept secret by the State Department.  Associated Press


Knoxville lawmaker: ISIS should be allowed to recruit at colleges

daneilSpeaking on behalf of a bill centered on free speech, a Knoxville-based lawmaker on Wednesday said a terrorist organization should be allowed to recruit on college campuses in Tennessee.

While presenting a billed dubbed the Tennessee Student Free Speech Protection Act, Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, fielded a question from Rep. John DeBerry Jr., D-Memphis, about whether he believed ISIS should be able to stand in the middle of university campuses and “recruit for ISIS.”

“Yes,” Daniel replied. “So long as it doesn’t disrupt the proceedings on that campus. Yes sir. They can recruit people for any other organization or any other cause. I think it’s just part of being exposed to differing viewpoints.” The remarks came after a debate about the bill, which Daniel said “would direct schools to observe freedom of speech on campus.”

While introducing the legislation, Daniel said students’ free speech on Tennessee college campuses has been diminished in recent years because of unfair policies.   Knoxville News Sentinel


Plan To Freeze Tuition When Students Enter Tennessee Universities Fails

A plan to freeze tuition rates when students enter public universities as freshmen has failed in the state legislature. The proposal was billed as combating runaway tuition. Supporters also said it would help families plan for college by locking in rates when students first enroll at the University of Tennessee and other four-year schools.

lberto Gonzales: Man of Nonsense

gonzalesPosted by Besty Phillips - Pith in the Wind

Alberto Gonzales will forever be followed by the stench of his justification of torture. But, still, one hopes that the torture thing was just one incredibly unfortunate moment, since Belmont University saw fit to make him a dean.

His editorial in USA Today arguing that Obama's Supreme Court nominee should get a vote, though, does not fill me with assurance that the man is not made of complete nonsense.

Very little makes sense. Early on, he tries to assure readers that voters are too stupid to care about the intricacies of how the Supreme Court works, "Many voters are truly uninformed about the role or work of the Supreme Court, and relatively few will cast their vote based on a presidential nominee’s views of the court." 

But my favorite part is when he waxes philosophical about what an ideal Supreme Court justice should vow to do. Get this: "If the nominee is willing to ignore the plain meaning of a statute or the Constitution in order to accommodate trending societal norms, then the Senate should reject him."

Gonzales is a lawyer, so he has to be kind of smart. He served as Attorney General for our whole nation, so you'd hope he'd be really smart. But, my god, that sentence is so dumb. I mean, yes, okay, he's being a baby about gay marriage, but since he didn't specify that he's being a baby about gay marriage, he's just established that a leading Republican thinker believes in some kind of Constitutional literalism.

You want to see gun owners have a shit fit? Let's enact a literal standard for the second amendment—gun owners are automatically enrolled in state militias and those militias are well-regulated. Pass all the gun regulations you want, Congress, because the courts are now going to weigh the first half of the second amendment as heavily as the last.

Oh, wait, no. Gun owners want the meaning of the second amendment to accommodate trending social norms—which is that the government can't regulate gun ownership at all.

There's a basic philosophy to making and interpreting laws, which is "this law or this interpretation of the law could have wide-ranging consequences." It behooves anyone who makes laws (yes, I'm talking to you, state legislators) or writes about legal things (Hello, Alberto Gonzales) to ask themselves, "Could this be used in a way I don't like?" before they propose some change.

Before you go around waxing philosophical about how dumb voters are, perhaps check yourself for raving nonsense.  Nashville Scene

Will the GOP defy its own voters?

With the increasingly loud talk of a contested Republican convention, the obscure process of picking who actually gets to be a delegate is about to get underway in states across the country — with an urgency that has not been felt in decades.

These are the 2,472 people who will be filling Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena in July, many wearing silly hats and waving placards. Normally little more than props in a week-long infomercial, delegates could instead be the power brokers who determine the nominee at the GOP convention this time around.

Nearly all will be required to vote for a specific candidate on the first ballot, based on the results of the primaries and caucuses in their states. But if no candidate wins enough delegates to clinch the nomination, there will be subsequent rounds of voting. In that scenario, the vast majority of delegates would be free to vote as they please.

With the increasingly loud talk of a contested Republican convention, the obscure process of picking who actually gets to be a delegate is about to get underway in states across the country — with an urgency that has not been felt in decades.

These are the 2,472 people who will be filling Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena in July, many wearing silly hats and waving placards. Normally little more than props in a week-long infomercial, delegates could instead be the power brokers who determine the nominee at the GOP convention this time around.

Nearly all will be required to vote for a specific candidate on the first ballot, based on the results of the primaries and caucuses in their states. But if no candidate wins enough delegates to clinch the nomination, there will be subsequent rounds of voting. In that scenario, the vast majority of delegates would be free to vote as they please.
If it comes to that, a nominating campaign that has already defied every expectation and every norm would go even deeper into uncharted territory. The Republican electorate would be further splintered, jeopardizing the party’s chances to win in the fall and its ability to restore any semblance of functionality.  Washington Post



CPI Buzz March 16, 2016

A good night for Trump and a better night for Clinton

hillaryIt was a good night for Donald Trump and an even better night for Hillary Clinton. On one of the most important days of the primary season, the two front-runners continued what has become an inexorable march to their party’s presidential nominations and a general election matchup that was unimagined when this campaign began.

For Clinton, it was a night to bounce back after her surprising defeat in Michigan at the hands of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont last week. She did so in stunning fashion. With questions swirling about her candidacy, Clinton answered her critics with a series of victories that padded a lead in delegates that now has become almost insurmountable.

For Trump, it was a night in which he won at least three states and sent one rival, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, to the sidelines. But Trump was unable to put away a second, Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Like Clinton, the New York billionaire added to his delegate lead over Kasich and his nearest competitor, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. But the overall results still left open the prospect that the GOP nomination will not be decided until the party assembles in July in Cleveland for its national convention.

The night broke early in Clinton’s direction as she rolled to an overwhelming victory in Florida and followed that quickly with wins in North Carolina and Ohio. Early Wednesday, she added Illinois to her column. The first two were expected, given the makeup of the electorates in those states. Ohio’s demographics were close enough to those in Michigan to give Sanders hope of a repeat victory, but Clinton’s success dashed those hopes and blunted whatever momentum he had enjoyed.

The Ohio results represented a back-breaking blow to Sanders. His populist, anti-establishment insurgency has fired the energies of the party’s grass-roots progressives, and there is little doubt that he has both the determination and the resources to keep fighting. His campaign has accomplished far more than almost anyone anticipated and he has shaped the issue agenda and the dialogue in the Democratic nomination contest. Dan Balz in the Washington Post

Trump: ‘I think you’d have riots’ if contested convention results in a different nominee

trumpriotsRepublican presidential front-runner Donald Trump saidWednesday that a contested GOP convention could be a disaster if he goes to Cleveland a few delegates shy of 1,237 — and doesn't leave as the party's nominee.  

"I think you'd have riots," Trump said on CNN.

Noting that he's "representing many millions of people," Trump told host Chris Cuomo: "If you disenfranchise those people, and you say, 'I'm sorry, you're 100 votes short' ... I think you'd have problems like you've never seen before. I think bad things would happen."

In a remarkable campaign fueled by anger, Trump has been under steady attack — by rival Republicans, by the Democratic candidates, by progressivesby super PACs determined to derail his candidacy, and by the president, who has twice taken shots at the GOP front-runner in recent days.  Washington Post

Obama to announce Supreme Court nominee at 11 a.m.

supreme courtWhile Senate Republicans have said they will not consider any jurist the president nominates for the nation's highest court, Obama sent out an email to supporters declaring he was prepared to do so. Late last week Obama had narrowed the list of potential nominees to three federal appeals judges: Sri Srinivasan, Merrick Garland and Paul Watford.

Both Srinivasan and Garland sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, while Watford sits on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

Today, I will announce the person whom I believe is eminently qualified to sit on the Supreme Court," he said in the email. " As president, it is both my constitutional duty to nominate a justice and one of the most important decisions that I -- or any president -- will make."

Obama wrote that he's "devoted a considerable amount of time and deliberation to this decision" and the White House has "reached out to every member of the Senate, who each have a responsibility to do their job and take this nomination just as seriously."  Washington Post


House subcommittee advances bill stripping $100K from UT diversity operations

UTA bill that would strip the University of Tennessee of $100,000 a year in state funding for certain diversity and inclusion operations began advancing in a House subcommittee Tuesday— but on a separate track than a similar effort underway in the state Senate.

House Bill 2248 as originally filed by Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Johnson City, would strip all state funding from UT's Office for Diversity and Inclusion. But Van Huss entered the House Education Subcommittee on Tuesday afternoon with an amendment that would take $100,000 a year for the next three years away from UT and use it instead to pay for decals bearing the national motto "In God We Trust" on law enforcement vehicles.

The amendment would also prohibit UT from using any state funds "to promote the use of gender-neutral pronouns, Sex Week or to promote or demote a religious holiday." The committee approved the amendment and moments later, the bill, on an unrecorded group voice vote.  Knoxville News Sentinel

Memphis Mayor Strickland: De-annexation could raise city property taxes 30-70 cents

memphisThe city could raise its property tax rate between 30 and 70 cents if some parts of the city de-annex themselves, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said Tuesday.

The Tennessee House approved a bill Monday that would allow 10 percent of people living in areas annexed since 1998 in five cities, including Memphis, to petition for a referendum to de-annex themselves. The bill now goes to the state Senate. 

Strickland told City Council members that de-annexations would result in a minimum cost to the city of $27.7 million, and up to about $79.1 million if all 10 eligible residential areas in the city voted to de-annex.

"Bottom line is, this action by the state would result in a property tax increase of 30 cents to 60 or 70 cents," he said.

Council member Edmund Ford Jr. said he thought the other cities affected by the bill — Knoxville, Chattanooga, Kingsport and tiny Cornersville in Marshall County — would join Memphis in a legal challenge.

A common argument for de-annexation is that the city would save money because it wouldn't need as many police officers, firefighters and Public Works employees. Strickland said there may be reduced costs for fire and Public Works, but no short-term savings to police.

"There might be one police station we would no longer have to maintain, but the savings would be negligible," he said.

Several council members had strong words for the House, which approved the bill in a 68-25 vote. "It's just another reminder of what the eastern part of the state thinks of us," said Janis Fullilove, who represents Super District 8-2. "The wolves are after the city of Memphis," Joe Brown, who represents Super District 8-1, said in another committee meeting earlier in the day. "It's like they're trying to get us one way or the other," said Berlin Boyd of District 7. Memphis Commercial Appeal


Transgendered Students Tell Tennessee Lawmakers Proposed Bathroom Ban Will Encourage Bullying

Transgendered students would not be allowed to use the school bathrooms of the gender they identify with, according to a proposal making its way through the Tennessee legislature.

Critics of the measure, including Gov. Bill Haslam, say it'll remove schools' discretion to set bathroom policies for trans students on a case by case basis. They also argue it will be difficult to enforce and potentially costly.

But even without the law, students and parents told a House subcommittee it's not easy to be transgendered in Tennessee schools — with bathrooms and locker rooms being a place where their gender identity is particularly sensitive. Because of bullying and bias, transgendered students say they have few options when it comes to restrooms. Even when they're not banned outright, transgendered students say they often avoid using bathrooms.

They argue a proposal that would assign them to the bathroom of their birth sex would just validate discrimination. "My sense is a lot of this issue is coming from our generation," Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, said to lawmakers. "But we are moving into a world that changes, and it is our role as adults to talk about inclusivity and treating people with respect and dignity."

They also point out potential pitfalls to the legislation. Gina Hausser, the Tennessee Board of Regents' lobbyist, notes that it has 188,000 students in its system. How, she asks, are university officials supposed to check the birth certificates of all those students and ensure they're using the right bathroom? WPLN Nashville Public Radio

Guns In Trunks On Campus? Governor Haslam Says He’ll Go Along With The Legislature

gunTennessee Governor Bill Haslam may sign a bill allowing students and faculty to store guns in their cars while parked on college campuses.  House Bill 2131, which allows guns in trunks on college campuses, isn't the legislature's first proposal to increase on-campus handgun access. Still, the governor says he considers bills on a case-by-case basis.

He says that, although he hasn't read the bill, it appears consistent with "the rules outside of college campuses." That's why he says he'll "defer to the will of the legislature," meaning he's likely to sign the bill. But Haslam is less enthusiastic about proposals with less precedent. "Some of the other bills with guns on campuses, I think those should be left to the decision of that individual campus," he said.

Haslam's referring to Senate Bill 2376, which would permit full-time employees of state universities to carry handguns on campus. The proposal was on the docket for a committee meeting Tuesday, but action has been deferred for another week.

Legislators are also angling to pass more lax firearm regulations for Tennessee's K-12 schools. One such bill, HB 1751, would let school boards decide whether someone with a permit could carry a handgun within a school or while traveling for "school functions" like sporting events and field trips. School boards would also determine acceptable manner of carry. That bill may be considered on Wednesday.

As lawmakers deliberate, gun-control advocates may be comforted by the record of similar measures in last year's legislative session — two 2015 proposals to loosen restrictions on handgun access on K-12 campuses (HB 0481 and HB 0173) never made it to the floor.  WPLN, Nashville Public Radio


Campbell judge under probe by state judicial board

justiceA Campbell County judge already the target of a criminal investigation is now under probe by a state judicial board, authorities said Tuesday.

A hearing panel of the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct has ordered a probe of at least three separate complaints filed against Campbell County General Sessions Judge Amanda Sammons. The board polices judges.

Sammons already is a target of a probe by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for ordering a charge against a Lafollette, Tenn., mother increased without authority, according to a court order. Once the News Sentinel reported the incident based on records from the Campbell County Sheriff's Office, Sammons insisted jail staff misrepresented her actions.

The Sheriff's Office publicly accused the judge of lying in a verbal and written ruling in which Sammons denied ordering the charge changed — despite records documenting the incident. Two of six jailers involved in the case asked Knoxville attorney Charles Burks, who assists law enforcers through the Police Benevolence Association, to represent them, and all six appeared at a hearing last week in Campbell County Criminal Court prepared to testify against Sammons' assertions.

Documents reviewed by the News Sentinel show the Board of Judicial Conduct is reviewing at least three complaints involving Sammons — one on the changing of the charge against Krista Leigh Smith and two on unauthorized changes Sammons allegedly made to agreed orders in her role as Juvenile Court judge.  Knoxville News Sentinel


Cohen headed to Cuba with Obama

cubaFor the second time in seven months, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen is heading to Cuba, this time with President Barack Obama, reports the Commercial Appeal.

The Memphis Democrat will be part of a bipartisan congressional delegation that will travel with Obama when he makes a historic visit to Cuba as part of his push to re-establish diplomatic relations with the island nation.

The trip, which will take place March 20-22, will mark the first time an American president has visited Cuba in 88 years.

“I am proud to be joining President Obama on this historic and important trip,” Cohen said in a statement. “I have been a longtime supporter of re-opening diplomatic relations with Cuba and have cosponsored numerous bills in Congress to advance U.S.-Cuba relations.”

“Not only is it the right thing to do,” Cohen said, “but it will also open new trade avenues for Memphis entrepreneurs, businesses, medical device companies and health-industry professionals, as well as improve Americans’ freedom to travel.”  KnoxBLogs 


The means of defence against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. -James Madison, fourth US president (16 Mar 1751-1836) 

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CPI Buzz March 15, 2016


"Beware the Ides of March." 

(Julius Caesar, Act 1, scene 2)

Ides of March

The Ides of March is the day on the Roman calendar that corresponds to March 15. It marks the day in 44BC that Roman leader Julius Caesar was assassinated by a group of Senators he considered allies. Caesar had been warned by a seer that he would come to harm no later than the Ides of March, or March 15. On his way to the Senate, Caesar supposedly joked "The ides of March have come," to which the seer replied "Aye, Caesar, but not gone."

Minutes later, Caesar was dead.

March 15 also marked the time when Roman citizens paid outstanding debts, making it another red-letter day to many people. The combination of Caesar's assassination and a version of Roman tax day gave March 15 its own historical black eye. It also marked the time of great transformation, as Caesar's death was the central event in marking the transition from Roman Republic to the Roman Empire. 


March 15 primaries: Will voting in 5 states cement front-runners?

Voters are casting ballots in all five states across the Midwest and Southeast holding primaries Tuesday — contests that could shore up the two front-runners or breathe new life into the lagging campaigns of their challengers.

The day before, presidential hopefuls in both parties made frenetic pitches. On the Democratic side, Sen. Bernie Sanders staged rallies in four of those states, trying to pull off more come-from-behind wins in states damaged by trade and claim momentum from Hillary Clinton, who enjoys a sizable lead but has not been able to seal the nomination.

For the Republicans, Tuesday offers a chance for Donald Trump’s remaining rivals to slow his march to the nomination with two winner-take-all contests that have particularly high stakes for a pair of favorite sons, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio. Multiple polls in the days leading up to Tuesday’s contests showed Sanders closing in on Clinton in three states in the industrial Midwest — Missouri,Illinois and Ohio. But polls show Clinton far ahead in Florida and in North Carolina, setting up the possibility of an outcome parallel to last week’s contests, when Sanders scored a narrow and surprising victory in Michigan, yet Clinton came away with a widened lead in the delegate count because of her resounding victory in Mississippi.

At an MSNBC town hall in Springfield, Ill., Clinton said Trump is evoking the kind of mob violence “that led to lynching.”

“When you are inciting mob violence, which is what Trump is doing in those clips, there’s a lot of memories that people have,” she told Chris Matthews. “People remember mob violence that led to lynching. People remember mob violence that led to people being shot, being grabbed, being mistreated.”

Clinton also made campaign stops Monday in Chicago and Charlotte.

Kasich, who has said he will drop out of the Republican contest if he doesn’t win Tuesday’s primary in his home state of Ohio, made two appearances there Monday with Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee. It was the first time Romney had stepped out on the trail since his recent broadside against Trump.

Romney, who has pledged to support any GOP candidate who can defeat Trump, stopped short of endorsing Kasich — but had plenty of nice things to say about him during an event at an airplane museum in North Canton, Ohio, where the backdrop included a fighter jet, a helicopter and a “Patton”-size American flag.

Tuesday could also be the last stand for Rubio, a candidate once touted as “the Republican savior” who more recently has badly trailed Trump in polls in his home state of Florida.  

Trump struck a dismissive tone Monday amid harsh scrutiny of the sometimes-violent clashes at his campaign rallies, insisting during an event in Hickory, N.C., that violence has not been an issue.   Washington Post

Tennessee Lawmakers Approve Plan To Quell Fears Of Islamic Indoctrination In Classroomsreligion wheel

School districts in Tennessee will soon have to hold open hearings on how they teach religion.

That's one feature of a plan approved Monday by state lawmakers to respond to claims schools have secretly been "indoctrinating" students with a sanitized version of Islam. The state Senate voted 29-1 to send House Bill 1905 to Gov. Bill Haslam. The move appears to cap a tumultuous eight months in which school boards across Tennessee were targeted by activists who claimed textbooks, handouts and assignments were whitewashing negative aspects of Islam. The campaign left many school boards feeling besieged.

Supporters of the measure passed by the legislature say it'll reassure parents who are uncertain what their kids are learning. "Everything's out in the open. So everybody knows what's going to be happening in the schools," says state Sen. Mike Bell, the Riceville Republican who sponsored the measure. "I know some of the complaints that I even heard locally were about school districts that were not forthcoming when parents called up and asked, 'What exactly is being taught?'"

Complaints were centered on social studies classes in middle school. That's when students take world history, and they're supposed to be introduced to the tenants of most major religions, according to updated teaching standards approved by state education officials in 2013. The criticism forced education officials to agree to a yearlong review of the standards. That began in January — two years ahead of schedule. State legislators thought about rewriting those standards but in the end stopped short. Instead, their plan leaves final decisions to the State Board of Education and local school boards. It calls on school boards to release materials to the public and allow comment on them before the school year begins. The plan also bans materials that proselytize on behalf of any religion.

The biggest criticism of the proposal came from state Sen. Lee Harris, D-Memphis, who said it leaves districts too little time to fulfill the new requirements. Backers say they'll have plenty of time if they begin preparations immediately. The proposal goes into effect as soon as it's signed by Gov. Bill Haslam. WPLN

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Tennessee Lawmakers Say University Students, Campus Workers Can Store Guns In Carsguns on campus

Students and faculty at state universities could soon be allowed to store guns in their cars parked on campus. The proposal passed the Tennessee House of Representatives last night and is on its way to the governor.

If the latest proposal becomes law, schools could still prevent students and staff from carrying guns on campus, but they wouldn't be able to punish them if they store weapons in their cars.

State Rep. Courtney Rogers, R-Goodlettsville, sponsored the measure. She said students should be able to defend themselves against thieves and attackers, including mass shooters. During debate on the House floor, Rogers cited the Kent State shooting, in which National Guardsmen opened fire on protesters, as one that could be prevented if students had been armed. Later, she said she'd misspoken.

"I was trying to think of a name of where there was a mass shooting, and I don't know why that just ... But the point was, if there is a mass shooting that someone could answer it," said Rogers. Rogers says she didn't mean to name Kent State.

Opponents of the measure said it won't prevent mass shootings; it'll instead make them easier. Administration officials will have no way of knowing, they argued, whether a person has brought a gun on campus for legitimate reasons or to harm others.

"These are younger people. In some cases their brains are still developing. They're just now learning how to become adults," said state Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville. "Don't you think it's rational for the trustees of these institutions to say, 'You know, on balance, we don't actually think it's a good idea for people to have dangerous firearms on our campus?'"  WPLN

Nashville priest's Donald Trump comments draw backlash

The email inbox of Thomas McKenzie, an Anglican priest in Nashville, is drowning in backlash after he penned an anti-Donald Trump essay in response to the Republican presidential front-runner's rhetoric and mounting success.

About a week before Tennesseans overwhelmingly picked the billionaire real-estate mogul as their Republican candidate on March 1, McKenzie, pastor at Church of the Redeemer, published "This Isn’t Funny Anymore: Why I’m Voting Against Donald Trump" on his personal blog. The priest describes himself as apolitical and doesn't think it's his place to give endorsements, but said he could no longer stay out of the fray. He said he had a responsibility to say something.

“I felt like we’ve never had a serious presidential candidate with his kind of character before,” McKenzie said. “One of the things that he says would have damned most people to never running for public office again. So I just assumed he’d go away." 

Trump has taken heat for his alienating comments, including anti-Muslim and anti-immigration stances, throughout his candidacy. Violence has broken out at his campaign rallies, which draw protesters as well as supporters. Due to clashes between both, Trump canceled a Friday rally in Chicago. 

He's not the only member of the Christian clergy to speak out against Trump. About the time McKenzie hit publish on his blog post, famed author and pastor Max Lucado was making national headlines for questioning the GOP front-runners' decency. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, also has been vocal in his opposition to Trump.  Tennessean (subscription)

House continues practice of pre-meetings

For the second straight year, members of the Tennessee House of Representatives are under criticism for their use of meetings inside lawmaker offices and conference rooms to discuss upcoming legislation.

Inside these so-called legislative pre-meetings, lawmakers frequently meet directly with lobbyists and representatives of state agencies — all before legislation goes to regularly scheduled committee hearings. Some Democrats and an open government expert question their continued usage, arguing the meetings undermine transparency.

Defenders of the pre-meetings say committee chairmen publicly announced their existence and say they simply help the legislature stay on course.The public announcement happened once in a January House floor session. Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown, who chairs the House Criminal Justice Committee, called the meetings "logistical in nature." He said the meetings are casual and more relaxed than regular committee meetings. "It helps us to be able to plan for the actual debate in committee," Lamberth said.

To mark national Sunshine Week, when media organizations seek to highlight issues with transparency in government, The Tennessean and The Commercial Appeal in Memphis attended four pre-meetings on Monday. The House Civil Justice Committee held its pre-meeting in House Speaker Beth Harwell's conference room, a different location than what was announced in January.

In a "stakeholders meeting" of House education committee members, lawmakers were surrounded by state officials, as well as lobbyists. At one point, as many as 40 people packed into a conference room on the second floor of the War Memorial Building to discuss the agendas of several education committees.

Last week, Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, said most of the decisions about bills are being made in pre-meetings, rather than in normal committee meetings, which are held in meeting rooms easily accessible to the public, live-streamed online and archived for on-demand access.

Rep. Bo Mitchell, D-Nashville, said he serves on the House Consumer and Human Resources subcommittee and has never been notified about attending a pre-meeting. “It’s outside the public eye, and anything you’re doing behind closed doors outside the public eye, for the most part, is usually not good," Mitchell said

The use of pre-meetings came up last year, after a joint effort by The Tennessean, The Associated Press, the Chattanooga Times Free Press, The Commercial Appeal and the Knoxville News Sentinel found that at least 10 of the 15 committees in the House held pre-meetings. The Senate does not hold similar meetings.

Experts called them "secretive" because the meetings were not publicly announced and, on some occasions, members of the media were initially prevented from attending.  Tennessean (subscription)

House passes controversial de-annexation billmemphis skyline

The state House of Representatives approved the controversial de-annextion bill on a 68-25 vote Monday night and it now goes to the Senate floor, possibly as early as Thursday.

The amended House version allows residents of territories annexed into Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Kingsport and tiny Cornersville in Marshall County to petition for referendums to separate themselves from their cities. If a majority of voters approve, the areas are de-annexed. The House voted to remove Johnson City from the bill because its city council voted last Thursday to de-annex the Gray community, which it had previously annexed over the objections of its residents.

But voting largely along party lines, with Republicans generally in favor of the bill, the House tabled more than a dozen amendments that would have removed the other cities — including Memphis and Knoxville — from the bill or softened its financial impacts on the cities by requiring de-annexed property owners to continue to bear more of the municipal debt on their property tax bills than what the bill already requires.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland issued a statement saying he was "disappointed in the House vote. But we will continue to share with members of the Senate the facts about the bill's impact, including the devastating effects it could have not only on Memphis but on our entire region."

The nearly two-hour discussion was at times contentious. Rep. Joe Towns, D-Memphis, called the bill a "dagger into the heart of Memphis," and that members who voted for it would "have blood on your hands." Commercial Appeal

New Anti-Trump Ad Is Just Verbatim Repugnant Things He's Said About Women 

A new anti-Trump ad is just things that candidate has said about women, read aloud by women. “A person who is very flat-chested is very hard to be a ten,” a brunette actress with glasses says thoughtfully.

Trump, a sentient wig possessed by an ancient evil, is also a veritable repository of vile thoughts about women, a group of people he openly despises.That’s the simple and effective premise of the ad, produced by Our Principles PAC, a conservative anti-Trump group that’s spent over $12 million so far in this election. The new ad was just uploaded Monday and has fewer than 1,000 views so far. It’s unclear whether it will also run on television; some of the language would make it, er, difficult.

“Women,” another actress-as-Trump declares. “You have to treat them like shit.” (The expletive is bleeped.)

Our Principles’ previous ad, produced just two days ago, focused on violence at Trump rallies, including the assault of then-Breitbart reporter Michelle Fieldsby Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.  The Slot



CPI Buzz March 14, 2016

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The legislative week ahead: Pot, abortion and bathrooms

It's going to be a busy week in your Tea Party Legislature.  The pace of the General Assembly will be hectic this week as several committees wrap up their work. The session has about one month remaining and any chance of passing some of the more controversial bills of the session must receive approval this week, or they could face legislative purgatory. Here are a few of the more interesting topics scheduled to be discussed this week:

License plates

Although it will hardly be the most important issue of the session, lawmakers will decide whether to discontinue one license plate and allow another.

bill, sponsored by Sen. Sara Kyle, D-Memphis, and Rep. Jason Powell, D-Nashville, would halt the issuance and renewal of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans license plate. According to the bill’s fiscal note, as of Oct. 1, the state had about 3,000 Confederate plates. The issue could generate conversation considering that’s what happened when a bill aimed at protecting remnants of the Confederacy was given approval in both chambers earlier this year.

Another bill — sponsored by Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, and Rep. Tilman Goins, R-Morristown — would allow Tennesseans to buy a license plate with the Gadsden flag. The historic flag, designed during the American Revolution, has become a prominent symbol of libertarians and the tea party because it contains the words “Don’t tread on me” below a coiled rattlesnake.


The House Health subcommittee has a lot of ground to cover when it meets this week. Among the 44 bills on the committee’s schedule are six related to abortion. They include a 20-week abortion ban, Gov. Bill Haslam’s abortion bill that would establish additional reporting requirements for the disposal of fetal tissue after an abortion and another one that would require written consent for any “medical experiments, research or taking of photographs” should the fetus be aborted.


Those interested in the state’s marijuana laws will want to tune in to the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee this week.

One bill — sponsored by two Democrats — is a medical marijuana bill. Essentially, it would permit the use of cannabis to help those suffering from a variety of medical conditions, including cancer, glaucoma and Alzheimer’s.

Controversial bathroom bill:                 

A contentious bill that would have required transgender students to use bathrooms that match their sex at birth will be heard in committees in both chambers this week.

Immigration, refugee resolutions

Legislation aimed at immigrants and refugees has played a significant role this year, with bills seeking to toughen employment verification programs and refugee resettlement.

Two resolutions will draw attention in the House this week. One comes from Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, and encourages immigrants coming to the United States to “learn to speak the English language proficiently.”

While some may find Sparks’ resolution offensive, there will likely be a greater outcry over a resolution that orders the Tennessee attorney general to sue the federal government over noncompliance with the Federal Refugee Act of 1980.  Tennessean (subscription)

Like Sharknado Movies, Legislature Just Keeps Getting Worse

Democracy in Tennessee is so pathetically one-sided that Republicans can maintain power year after year even while committing new outrages at every opportunity.

The legislature’s supermajority is famous for producing a hopper full of really idiotic bills each session and humiliating the entire state. With still maybe six weeks to go, this session is shaping up as possibly the ugliest yet.

We know, we know. That’s like choosing between Sharknado and Sharknado 2, right? Which one was worse?

ICYMI, this session lawmakers have decreed our official state rifle is the Barrett .50 caliber, which is so powerful it can blast commercial airliners out of the sky and has been named "among the most destructive weapons legally available to civilians in the United States.” Hooray for Tennessee!

They’re thinking about restoring gun rights to violent felons. But they won’t make it a crime to leave your loaded gun around the house so a child can pick it up and shoot it. Gun rights trump child safety.

We're refusing to take billions of federal dollars for health care, and we're near the bottom in the country in just about every important category. But we’re always No. 1 in trying to make LGBTQ people miserable. The big bill this year shamelessly targets transgender children in public schools.

Lawmakers refused to pass a pro forma resolution honoring Renata Soto, a hero of Nashville's hispanic community. They slapped down an equal-pay-for-equal-work bill in a subcommittee as the chairwoman extolled the wonders of life as a housewife. Then as if to underscore their disdain for working women, two House members went to Hooters and stiffed their waitress by leaving no tip. They were outed in social media. 

The Senate demands that we sue President Obama to try to stop Syrian refugees from resettling here. The rest of the South stopped flaunting so many symbols of the Confederacy after the Charleston, S.C., mass shooting, but our lawmakers made it nearly impossible for Tennessee to get rid of them. They nearly gave accrediting authority to a Christian school association founded by a defender of slavery who believes adulterers ought to be executed,

All that said, one name sums up why this session is really breaking bad for Republicans. That's right, we're talking about the Heisenberg of Tennessee politics—Jeremy Durham. On opening day, House Republicans closed their caucus, ejected reporters, then decided behind closed doors not to discipline Durham over accusations he sexually harassed women at Legislative Plaza. If they had made it their goal, they couldn’t possibly have looked more like politicians arrogantly engaging in a whitewash.

Not surprisingly, the scandal didn’t die (it turned out House leaders knew about the harassment for months) and now the session might end in chaos as they try to drum up a two-thirds majority to expel Durham, who is more or less insane and won’t quit. 

Could any of this bring a backlash from voters in November? Republicans are so cocky they don’t even try anymore to spin the crazy things they do as somehow beneficial to Tennessee.

House Speaker Beth Harwell hides from reporters like she’s afraid we’re contagious. She’s known mockingly in the pressroom as the sphinx because her feelings on just about everything are a complete riddle. To talk to the enigmatic Harwell, you have to put on your track shoes, catch her out in the open and chase her down, and then  she won’t say much. Her words are carefully chosen to convey as little meaning as possible.

In any normal universe, enraged citizens of the state would appear at the Capitol with pitchforks and torches to demand change.

In Tennessee, incredibly, polls consistently show relatively high approval ratings for the legislature. According to the latest MTSU poll, 48 percent of Tennessee voters approved of the job the legislature is doing, while only 26 percent disapproved. We'd like to think most people aren’t paying attention because the alternative—that they know what the legislature is doing and they approve of it—is too sad to contemplate.  Jeff Woods - Nashville Scene

After Long Debates Over Higher Ed Split, Some Tennessee Lawmakers Are 'Ready To Do This'

Gov. Bill Haslam's plan to restructure higher education in Tennessee — called the FOCUS Act — is moving quickly through the many layers of the legislature. But after a half-dozen hearings, some lawmakers seem to be getting FOCUS fatigue.

It's become a familiar scene: At most hearings, the committee or sub-committee voting on the bill asks lawmakers if they have any questions for Mike Krause with the governor's office, who has been the main spokesman for the FOCUS act. At the most recent discussion, during a Senate education committee hearing, Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, responded first.

"I think I've had plenty of discussion on this, and I'm about FOCUSed out," he said. "I think most of us are fairly ready to do this." Krause did end up testifying for a short amount of time, answering questions from other lawmakers. But even the plan's critics were less energized. At a previous hearing, officials and students from Tennessee State University testified against the bill for a full half hour, and the committee room was packed with students.

Now, TSU president Glenda Glover told the Senate education committee, most of her concerns have been addressed. "We're down to just one issue. We pretty much have the assurances and the belief that the others can be worked out," she said. Her remaining concern is this: Once the six universities in the Tennessee Board of Regents have their own governing boards, they'll each be competing individually with the entire UT system. She wants the state to have more of a role in keeping UT's power in check.

The FOCUS Act still has two more committees to go through before it makes it to the House and Senate floors.  WPLN 

Trump: There’s No Violence at My Rallies

Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump denied Monday that there is much violence at his campaign rallies. “The press is now calling this—saying, ‘Oh but there is such violence,’” Trump said during an appearance at Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina. “You know how many people have been hurt at our rallies? I think like basically none. Other than I guess maybe somebody got hit once or, but there’s no violence.”

In actuality, physical scuffles and tensions between protesters and supporters have been common at Trump rallies—especially over this past weekend, when the candidate canceled a Chicago rally due to protests. Last week, a 26-year-old protester was sucker-punched by a 78-year-old Trump fan during a rally. Daily Beast

Trump’s Long Trail of Litigation

When Donald Trump thought planes were flying too close to one of his luxury South Florida resorts, he sued Palm Beach County for $100 million in an effort to change the flight path.

When a series of concerts at the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City didn’t come off as he wanted, the real-estate magnate filed a lawsuit alleging, among other things, that the band Earth, Wind & Fire wasn’t A-list talent. He sued a Miss USA contestant for disparaging the beauty pageant on social media and elsewhere. He sued one of his own law firms for using his name in its marketing.

Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, has faced hundreds of lawsuits during his long business career. A Wall Street Journal analysis of federal and state court filings shows that he and his companies also have filed a multitude of lawsuits against others when things haven’t gone their way—or to help them get what they want.  Wall Street Journal (subscription)

Reporter who says she was manhandled by Trump campaign manager resigns from Breitbart

“I don’t think they took my side,” Fields told The Washington Post early Monday. “They were protecting Trump more than me.”

Last week, Fields recounted in a post for Breitbart how Lewandowski allegedly grabbed her by the arm and yanked her away as she attempted to ask Trump a question after a news conference in Florida. The encounter left finger-shaped bruises on the 28-year-old reporter’s arm.

The Post’s Ben Terris, who witnessed the incident, has reported that Lewandowski was the one who grabbed Fields.

Trump and Lewandowski vehemently denied the accusation, and on Friday Breitbart — which has been sympathetic to Trump throughout the campaign — published a long post by senior editor at large Joel Pollak that painstakingly pieced together the event in question before concluding that the altercation couldn’t have happened the way Fields described it. Ultimately, Pollak suggested that perhaps Terris mistook Lewandowski for a security official or that her injuries were an accident incurred in the press scrum. Washington Post

William Moore's Report from Washington

The House recessed last week while the Senate passed legislation to reduce opioid prescription abuse. Both chambers are in session this week and the Senate recesses at the end of the week. The authority for aviation spending expires March 31, making action this week essential for Congress to avoid a shutdown of air traffic control and other aviation programs.

In addition to the aviation measure, Senators hope to pass an energy policy authorization and a measure to address Flint, Michigan's water crisis. The House is scheduled to work on a small business broadband initiative and legislation to ease environmental regulation of coal refuse-to-energy plants.

The most significant agenda item this week involves the House Budget Committee's possible markup of a fiscal 2017 budget resolution. House Republicans are optimistic about a markup after a conference call Friday of committee Republicans. The outcome depends on whether Freedom Caucus members on the committee will support a plan to set discretionary spending at $1.07 trillion, as agreed to in last year's budget deal, while cutting mandatory spending programs by $30 billion over two years and $100 billion over ten years.

Some Freedom Caucus members unalterably oppose the $1.07 trillion spending topline and are pledged to killing any budget with spending that high. The House Republican Conference will meet Monday evening and Tuesday morning to determine whether they have the votes to move a budget forward. If the Budget Committee approves the plan next week, the full House would consider it the week of March 21. 

Internal House disagreements and differences with the Senate over budget strategy make a Continuing Resolution likely in September to keep government from shutting down.

President Barack Obama is reported to have whittled the list of potential nominees to succeed Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to three: Merrick Garland, Sri Srinivasan and Paul Watford. 

William Moore is a partner at ViaNovo, a strategic advisory firm for high-stakes brand, policy and crisis issues, with offices in Washington, DC, Austin, Dallas, and Mexico City.

in case you need detailed information around the water-cooler, here's the latest from our friend Dr. Larry Sabato. There are lots of links with in-depth analysis.

Storm Clouds Darken Over 2016

So now it has come to this. A near riot at Donald Trump’s Chicago rally on Friday evening may be a harbinger of things to come, not just at campaign events but in Cleveland for the Republican convention. The city’s leaders were wise to order extra riot gear recently. Whether Trump wins or loses the nomination, we suspect that tens of thousands of unhappy people will show up in the city’s streets.

For some of us, it’s a flashback to Chicago 1968 and the disastrous (for the Democrats and the Windy City) national convention that nominated Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey. The armed camp that was Chicago led to a week-long, tear-gassed melee that all but destroyed Humphrey’s chances of victory, though he came close in the end because a third-party candidate, George Wallace, drew votes disproportionately from Republican Richard Nixon. (Last year, we took a look at that divisive election in a documentary, Ball of Confusion, which is available on YouTube.) Could Nixon’s cry of law-and-order, coupled with his call for more conservative judges, be heard again on the trail this fall? The Supreme Court vacancy gives both parties an opening.

Trump’s remaining GOP challengers have blamed him in good part for the violence at his rallies. They have no choice, having whiffed at the final debate Thursday night. We celebrate the relatively civil, substantive, high-minded tone of that debate, but gaining the approval of Miss Manners doesn’t help trailing contenders very much.

This is an exceptionally close contest, with most projections putting Trump on track to win the plurality, but not necessarily the majority, of GOP convention delegates. To secure the magic number of 1,237, Trump will have to do well on what we call tomorrow’s Titanic Tuesday. He needs to defeat either or probably both John Kasich of Ohio and Marco Rubio of Florida in their home states, plus win a couple of the other trio of primaries (Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina). If he can’t do it, it’s not as though his rivals will jump ahead of him. Rather, Republicans might be headed for a contested convention -- and if you want to see what a nightmarish scenario this could be, then please read this treatise by the foremost expert on GOP convention rules, attorney and former RNC general counsel Ben Ginsberg. Our second piece in this issue of the Crystal Ball takes a more detailed look at the Tuesday contests.

An aside: It is possible the post-primary lull (June 8 to July 18, when the convention opens) will allow for behind-the-scenes negotiation to resolve the deadlock. The “brokers” would be the candidates and their staffs and agents. They had best find the famous table from the Paris Peace Talks that ended the Vietnam War, and hope that the negotiations don’t take nearly as long or require carpet bombing to achieve. Fortunately, Henry Kissinger is still active (at age 92) and might earn a second Nobel Peace Prize if he can bring the warring campaigns together.

We’ll have to see how many states Trump wins, and by what margins, as well as whether he is able to knock out Kasich and/or Rubio. Ted Cruz will be rooting hard for Trump to win the Buckeye and Sunshine states; he’s desperate to get the contest down to a two-man race, though it’s no sure thing that Cruz can triumph even then.

The obvious truth is that a large majority of high-ranking GOP officeholders and party leaders do not want either Trump or Cruz to head up their ticket. As we suggested in an earlier Crystal Ball, many of them will ignore the presidential nominee to the maximum extent possible. Yet voters may not do the same, and in an exceptionally partisan era, ticket-splitting isn’t what it once was.

A friend of the Crystal Ball who happens to be an elected Republican official recently quipped, “I’m still trying to figure out the least bad option. Then I’ll have something to hope for.” This isn’t the kind of upbeat sentiment you want to hear from the troops if you’re running Congress or the GOP.

Not incidentally, the Democrats are getting into the spirit of this divisive year and becoming quite a bit nastier. Hillary Clinton is frustrated that she is unable to shake a 74-year old socialist -- and losing young people, even young women, by a mile -- so her attacks on Bernie Sanders are escalating. Meanwhile, Sanders has become unhappy with Clinton’s broadsides and resentful of her built-in superadvantage with superdelegates.

Few doubt that Sanders will stay in all the way to the June 7 conclusion of the primary season. Sanders might even win more states than Clinton, and he’ll have a large contingent of fired-up delegates at the Philadelphia convention in late July. Sanders will demand concessions in the platform and perhaps even from a Clinton administration. His backers may insist that he be given the vice presidential nomination, which Clinton will strongly resist. The GOP may not be the only party wracked by bitter dissension this year.  Sabato's Crystal Ball, University of Virginia Center for Politics


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CPI Buzz March 4, 2016

Rivals pile on Trump in Republican candidates’ debate

DETROIT — The calamity brought upon the Republican Party by Donald Trump was laid bare Thursday by its two most recent presidential nominees, who delivered unprecedented denunciations of the candidate that set the stage for a raucous evening debate.pul my finger

Mitt Romney awoke from his political hibernation to deliver a sweeping, point-by-point indictment of Trump — of his policy proposals, his business dealings, his erratic judgments, his moral character, and his insults to women, Latinos and the disabled. The former GOP nominee, who sought and accepted Trump’s ­endorse­ment in 2012, implored Republicans to now reject the billionaire he labeled “a phony” and “a fraud.”

Trump’s three rivals took up similar attacks later Thursday night at a Fox News Channel debate in Detroit in which the ferocious sparring and name-calling revolved almost entirely around the front-runner. 

What started with Trump asserting that he was well endowed in a rejoinder to Rubio’s campaign-trail joke about his manhood devolved into an ugly affair, with the candidates yelling over each other, at times unintelligibly, as they sought to discredit one another.

Taken as a whole, the day only served to harden the divisions tearing the GOP apart and raise dire doubts about whether its factions could unite in the general election.  Washington Post

Corker warns against GOP efforts to stop Trumpcorker

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker offered words of caution Thursday for GOP leaders waging a last-ditch effort to stop Donald Trump from winning the Republican nomination for president.

"Here's my message to the Republican party leaders," Corker said in a statement. "Focus more on listening to the American people and less on trying to stifle their voice."

Corker, a Chattanooga Republican, released his remarks just hours after Mitt Romney, the party's 2012 nominee for president who lost to President Obama, excoriated Trump in a speech in Salt Lake City. Romney called Trump a "phony" who is "playing the American people for suckers" and isn't fit to be president.

Corker has not publicly backed any Republican candidate for president, and his office said his statement should not be construed as an endorsement. The senator does not plan to endorse a candidate in this election, his office said.

What's happening in the presidential race, Corker said, "is the result of two things: the fecklessness and ineptness of the Washington establishment in failing to address the big issues facing our country and years of anger with the overreach of the Obama administration. And to be candid, I think the American people should be angrier than they are."

Obama Administration Hits Medicare Payment Target Early

WASHINGTON—Obama administration officials said Thursday they were almost a year ahead of their target to change the way Medicare pays hundreds of obamacarebillions of dollars to providers for treating older Americans.

The Department of Health and Human Services had wanted the federal insurance program for seniors to make 30% of its payments to doctors and hospitals on the basis of the quality of care they provide, rather than the quantity, by the end of 2016. That was seen as a step toward hitting 50% by 2018, beyond the lifespan of the Obama administration.

Dr. Patrick Conway, the chief medical officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said Thursday the 30% goal had been met as of January 2016, and the agency estimated roughly $117 billion out of a projected $380 billion Medicare fee-for-service payments for the year were going to providers who were participating in pay-for-performance programs.

Dr. Conway said Thursday he had faced people who were skeptical the administration could push that share higher within two years. “We actually think we set an ambitious, stretch goal for the end of 2016,” he said. “We even internally questioned whether we could reach the goal or not. We are excited about the progress that has been made in reaching the goal ahead of schedule.” Wall Street Journal (subscription)


Tennessee’s Switch Back To Paper Tests Wasn’t As Simple As It Soundstest

The Tennessee Department of Education says it has shipped a million test booklets to schools over the last two weeks after abandoning computer-based exams for the year. And even paper tests have glitches.

First there was the printing. The testing company — Measurement Inc. — knew it would need a few backup paper copies, but not a million. Most districts have now received the materials, according to a TDOE spokesperson. In some cases, they were delivered directly to the schools’ doorstep. But for some, the boxes still arrived a few days late — forcing another delay. Schools can’t just unpack the tests and hand them out. Each test packet has to be checked first. 

Then there’s the issue of calculators. There was no need with the new computer-based test, which had a calculator built in. So districts are either having to go out and spend thousands of dollars on calculators like Dickson County did, or stagger testing schedules.

“We don’t want elementary, middle and high schools to all take the math test on the same day, and there’s very practical reason for that," says Metro Schools spokesman Joe Bass. "They all need to use calculators, and we don’t have enough for them to share.”

State officials are apologizing to schools administrators who are passing the sentiment along to parents and teachers. But some school leaders say they’re losing goodwill for the new test with each hiccup. WPLN

Harwell, Ramsey would support Trump as nominee

Two days after Donald Trump’s resounding victory in which he won nearly every single Tennessee county, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said they will support the Republican front-runner should he become the party’s nominee.

 “It was obvious that Donald Trump hit a nerve with people and they related to him, and if he’s our nominee I will support him,” Harwell said Thursday morning.

 "I'd support him 100 percent if he's the Republican candidate," Ramsey said, adding that although he doesn't know whom he wants to be president, he knows whom he doesn't want to win, alluding to Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Unlike other leading elected officials, such as Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who both endorsed U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, neither Ramsey nor Harwell would say which of the five Republicans on the ballot they supported before Tuesday’s election. Tennessean (subscription)


 Eddie Eagle Says Who Cares How Many Kids Die?

Who needs laws to protect children from accidental shootings when there’s Eddie Eagle? As incredible as it might seem, that’s the argument the NRA is making to the legislature this session—and it looks like Republicans are buying it.

Eddie Eagle

Another child this week has been added to the list of dead kids in this state—that makes two already this year—yet the NRA says gun rights trump child safety. So the organization opposes legislation to make it a crime to leave a loaded gun accessible to a child. The crime becomes a felony if that child either intentionally or unintentionally hurts someone with the gun.

According to the NRA—whose arrogance knows no bounds—kids need only listen to Eddie Eagle and follow gun safety rules on the NRA’s website. That's all it's taken to delay voting on Sen. Sara Kyle’s bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee. She’s bringing it back up on March 15, hoping Republicans will hear it from constituents between now and then, stop quaking in fear of the NRA and tell the gun lobby to shove it. Fat chance.

Senate speaker Ron Ramsey did a little dissembling today when he was asked about this bill, claiming the NRA's opposition has nothing to do with his party's feelings about it. Of course not. Ramsey insisted gun owners could be prosecuted now under existing law for reckless endangerment for leaving firearms accessible to children. He dismissed the Judiciary Committee testimony of a prosecutor who said it's extremely difficult to make that case.

"There's nothing wrong with being very difficult," Ramsey said. "Nothing should be easy to prosecute. You're innocent until proven guilty. So what's wrong with being difficult to prosecute somebody?"

Last year, 10 Tennessee children died when they were shot with a gun left accessible to children and 14 were injured.  The youngest was only 2. Both of the Tennessee children unintentionally killed this year were in their family car.

“We fully support gun safety education initiatives, such as the NRA's Eddie Eagle program,” said Beth Joslin Roth of the Safe Tennessee Project. "All children need to be taught what to do when they encounter a gun.

"However, many of these incidents involve young kids. Telling a toddler not to touch a gun is simply not enough. Many of the older children who have been injured or killed were familiar with guns. They knew better but they made a bad choice. We all know that kids, even good kids, don’t always make good decisions. Not storing guns responsibly is a risk no responsible gun owner would ever take.”  Jeff Woods, Nashville Scene

Tennessee House Passes Anti-Marriage Equality Resolution

The Tennessee House of Representative has passed a resolution expressing disagreement with the U.S. Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges decision — the case that cleared the way for legal same-sex marriage across the country last summer.

The resolution, which was sponsored by Representative Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet), passed in a 73-18 vote. It has no legal force, and Representative Mike Stewart (D-Nashville) called the resolution a waste of time. Representative Sherry Jones (D-Nashville) tried to tack on a resolution that would have required the state to pay any legal fees associated with lawsuits against local governments that refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but that amendment failed.  Memphis Flyer

Memphis leads nation's largest cities in women-owned business growth

Memphis had the highest growth in female-owned businesses among the nation’s 25 largest cities from 2007 to 2012, a new study points out.

The Center for an Urban Future, a New York City think tank, points to a 116 percent increase in the number of female-owned businesses in Memphis as the fastest growth from 2007 to 2012.

The ranking is in a report titled “Breaking Through: Harnessing the Economic Potential of Women Entrepreneurs.”

Fort Worth was second, with 78 percent, followed by Atlanta with 65 percent, Houston with 62 percent, Dallas with 58 percent, Detroit with 54 percent, Indianapolis with 52 percent, Austin with 51 percent, Jacksonville and Charlotte with 50 percent, and New York with 36 percent. Commercial Appeal


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CPI Buzz, March 3, 2016

Expert: Tennessee state employee lawsuit bill 'absurd'monument

A bill the sponsor says is aimed at curbing frivolous lawsuits against Tennessee could dissuade people from filing claims, including sexual harassment suits,
 against the state, in the opinion of a Nashville Democrat and a leading workplace discrimination attorney.

This law change would specifically apply to people suing a state employee over sexual harassment claims, noted Tennessee House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart. The Nashville Democrat said the legislation would make it harder than ever for people to seek legal protection in the event they are harassed by a state employee.

“At a time when the Attorney General is tasked with a wide-ranging sexual harassment investigation, it is entirely inappropriate that the Attorney General is also seeking to pass a law that will, for the first time, threaten interns, lobbyists and others working in and around the Legislature with potentially devastating sanctions for pursuing sexual harassment claims,” Stewart said in a statement. Tennessean (subscription)

Soon It May Be Even Harder To Remove Confederate Memorials In Tennessee

A plan that would make it harder to rename or remove Confederate memorials is on its way to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.monument

State senators voted Wednesday to approve a measure that would make local governments get permission from a state commission before making any changes to historical monuments.

The Tennessee Heritage Protection Act, Senate Bill 2138, would apply to everything from the statues at the Capitol to street signs and city parks named in honor of an historic figure or event. Before any changes, governments would have to go before the Tennessee Historical Commission.

There would have to be a pair of hearings over the course of six months. Two-thirds of the commission would have to sign off. Then, there would be a lengthy appeals process.

State Sen. Lee Harris, D-Memphis, opposes the measure. He says its goal is to make removing a memorial so hard no one ever bothers. WPLN

Bill would let Tennessee schools use ACT, not TNReadytest

A state senator has introduced a bill that would enable school districts to take college readiness exams in lieu of state-required tests.

The bill addresses concerns over the development and implementation of new state test TNReady, said bill sponsor Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma.

Supporters of Bowling's bill, which include at least eight school districts, say the ACT and SAT suite of assessments are more reliable and align with the state's goal of preparing students for a postsecondary education.

"We recognize that a lot of money and a lot of time and energy has gone into TNReady," Bowling said in an interview. "But as we saw February the 8th, TNReady is not ready, and a prudent person would have an insurance policy against it not being ready come this time next year."

The online version of TNReady failed in early February, forcing schools to delay testing until paper versions of the tests are shipped out. Tennessean (subscription)

Senate approves 'ban the box' billban the box

The state Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that would eliminate a question about a job applicant's criminal history while seeking employment with state government.

The effort, sponsored by Sen. Sara Kyle, D-Memphis, is one that advocates argue provides people convicted of a crime an equal opportunity.

"The bill gives them a foot in the door," Kyle said. "Should people who have been arrested for committing a criminal offense be prevented from employment?"

The policy change, which is commonly referred to as the "ban the box" effort, is one that Metro Nashville  adopted last year. Tennessean (subscription)

Changes to gun permit length, cost gain approval

bill that would reduce gun permit fees — another main piece of Gov. Bill Haslam's legislative agenda — received approval from a panel of lawmakers on Wednesday.

The House Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee advanced Haslam's gun bill, which increases the time that handgun permits are valid while also decreasing fees. Current law requires Tennessee handgun owners to pay $115 to obtain a five-year permit. Haslam's bill seeks to lower the cost to $100 while also allowing a permit to remain valid for eight years.

The bill received no discussion in the committee and heads to the chamber's full finance committee. The Senate version of the bill is scheduled to be discussed next week. Tennessean (sibscription)


Bill allowing pharmacists to prescribe birth control advances

A bill allowing pharmacists to prescribe oral contraceptives is heading to the Senate floor, putting Tennessee in line to be the third state to approve such a measure.

SB1677, sponsored by Sen. Steve Dickerson, cleared the Senate health and welfare committee on a 7-1 vote after members of the panel heard testimony from Dr. Leonard Brabson, the state chairman of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The bill would allow pharmacists to enter into collaborative agreements with physicians, if they so choose, to prescribe birth control to women 18 and older.

Dickerson pitched the bill as one way the state could help prevent unintended pregnancies, thus saving the woman, her family and, potentially, taxpayers costs associated with unplanned pregnancies. Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, proposed a similar bill this session. Tennessean (subscription)


Senate panel votes to strip UT diversity office of all state funding

The state Senate Education Committee voted Wednesday to strip the University of Tennessee's Office for Diversity and Inclusion of all but its federal funding and to transfer $8 million from the university's administration into its agricultural extension service and rural outreach programs.

The committee approved an amendment by its chairwoman, Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, to the UT budget submitted by Gov. Bill Haslam that would have the effect of defunding the diversity office at UT Knoxville — the target of conservative ire since a pair of controversial web posts regarding gender-neutral pronouns and inclusive holiday parties. The panel's action isn't final: it will require concurrence by the full Senate and the House before it could go into effect.

Anthony Haynes, UT's vice president for government relations and advocacy, said after the meeting that university officials "certainly understand the motivation behind the amendment."

"We're hopeful that we can work it out before we pass the final budget in April," Haynes said.

The amendment's approval followed an earlier 2½-hour hearing by the House education committees on diversity issues at UT and the Tennessee Board of Regents system.  News Sentinel


Romney calling Trump 'phony,' urging Republicans to shun himromney

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney charged into the increasingly divisive 2016 GOP White House sweepstakes Thursday with a harsh takedown of front-runner Donald Trump, calling him a "phony" and exhorting fellow Republicans to shun him for the good of the country and party.

"His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University," Romney said in a speech readied for delivery to a University of Utah audience.

In turning up the rhetoric, Romney cast his lot with a growing chorus of anxious Republican leaders - people many Trump supporters view as establishment figures - in trying to slow the New York real estate mogul's momentum.

"Here's what I know: Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud," Romney said in his talk, set for delivery later Thursday.

Trump, in turn, disparaged Romney in a series of tweets: "I am not a Mitt Romney, who doesn't know how to win," ''Romney, who ran one of the worst races in presidential history, is working with the establishment to bury a big 'R' win!" and Romney is "not a good messenger" to be telling Republicans how to get elected.

Romney has been chipping away at Trump in recent days, but the speech Thursday was certain to be his most forceful statement yet. Trump has responded to Romney by saying the former Massachusetts governor was a failed candidate in his own right.

Panicked GOP leaders say they still have options for preventing the billionaire from winning the GOP nomination - just not many good ones. News Sentinel


2 candidates for same race die, including the winner

By the time the votes were counted, two of the three candidates vying to be the Republican nominee for property assessor in Tennessee's Unicoi County had died. One of them was the winner.

County election administrator Sarah Bailey called the deaths "horrible, coincidental tragedies."

Interim Assessor of Property Wayne Peterson died of cancer in February, while early voting was underway. Bailey said that on election day Tuesday, candidate Margaret Seward died, apparently of a massive heart attack. Bailey says Seward was in her early 50s and her death was unexpected. Had she lived, she would have been declared the winner of the race.

It is now up to local Republican Party leaders to decide who will be on the ballot in the general election, scheduled for August. News Sentinel


The rise of American authoritarianism

A niche group of political scientists may have uncovered what's driving Donald Trump's ascent. What they found has implications that go well beyond 2016.

The American media, over the past year, has been trying to work out something of a mystery: Why is the Republican electorate supporting a far-right, orange-toned populist with no real political experience, who espouses extreme and often bizarre views? How has Donald Trump, seemingly out of nowhere, suddenly become so popular?

What's made Trump's rise even more puzzling is that his support seems to cross demographic lines — education, income, age, even religiosity — that usually demarcate candidates. And whereas most Republican candidates might draw strong support from just one segment of the party base, such as Southern evangelicals or coastal moderates, Trump currently does surprisingly well from the Gulf Coast of Florida to the towns of upstate New York, and he won a resounding victory in the Nevada caucuses.

Perhaps strangest of all, it wasn't just Trump but his supporters who seemed to have come out of nowhere, suddenly expressing, in large numbers, ideas far more extreme than anything that has risen to such popularity in recent memory. In South Carolina, a CBS News exit poll found that 75 percent of Republican voters supported banning Muslims from the United States. A PPP poll found that a third of Trump voters support banning gays and lesbians from the country. Twenty percent said Lincoln shouldn't have freed the slaves.

Last September, a PhD student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst named Matthew MacWilliams realized that his dissertation research might hold the answer to not just one but all three of these mysteries.

MacWilliams studies authoritarianism — not actual dictators, but rather a psychological profile of individual voters that is characterized by a desire for order and a fear of outsiders. People who score high in authoritarianism, when they feel threatened, look for strong leaders who promise to take whatever action necessary to protect them from outsiders and prevent the changes they fear.

So MacWilliams naturally wondered if authoritarianism might correlate with support for Trump.

He polled a large sample of likely voters, looking for correlations between support for Trump and views that align with authoritarianism. What he found was astonishing: Not only did authoritarianism correlate, but it seemed to predict support for Trump more reliably than virtually any other indicator. He later repeated the same poll in South Carolina, shortly before the primary there, and found the same results, which he published in Vox:


The Hangover: Takeaways From Stupor Tuesdaysuper tuesday

It's looked for some time now like Donald Trump was going to win the Tennessee Republican presidential primary, but to see him do it for real last night was something else. 

Trump won by almost 15 points — and in 94 of 95 counties — besting Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and adding Tennessee to his growing list of actual primary victories (as opposed to "second-place wins" which is a real thing candidates and their surrogates have said this cycle). With Trump having already won in New Hampshire and South Carolina, his Super Tuesday wins beyond Tennessee included Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Vermont and Virginia. Cruz took Alaska, Oklahoma and his home state of Texas, while Rubio came away with just Minnesota. Trump is leading the race for the nomination, but he still has less than 50 percent of the delegates awarded so far.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton was dominant in Tennessee as expected, beating Sen. Bernie Sanders by more than 30 points and winning 92 of the state's 95 counties. Clinton also won in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Texas and Virginia on Tuesday, while Sanders took Colorado, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Vermont.

It's looked for some time now like Donald Trump was going to win the Tennessee Republican presidential primary, but to see him do it for real last night was something else. 

Trump won by almost 15 points — and in 94 of 95 counties — besting Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and adding Tennessee to his growing list of actual primary victories (as opposed to "second-place wins" which is a real thing candidates and their surrogates have said this cycle). With Trump having already won in New Hampshire and South Carolina, his Super Tuesday wins beyond Tennessee included Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Vermont and Virginia. Cruz took Alaska, Oklahoma and his home state of Texas, while Rubio came away with just Minnesota. Trump is leading the race for the nomination, but he still has less than 50 percent of the delegates awarded so far.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton was dominant in Tennessee as expected, beating Sen. Bernie Sanders by more than 30 points and winning 92 of the state's 95 counties. Clinton also won in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Texas and Virginia on Tuesday, while Sanders took Colorado, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Vermont.

There has been a good bit of handwringing and speculating throughout the summer and winter (and omg spring?) about why thousands of people are not just going to Trump's rallies but actually voting for him. Is it because of his celebrity and the disproportionate media coverage his campaign has received because of his fame and his trail of outrageous statements? Is he appealing to white working-class voters who have become disenchanted with a political system they feel has left them behind in tough economic times? The truth is, those things and more are almost certainly factors. But in many cases, the conversation about Trump seems aimed at figuring out why people are supporting him in spite of a variety of unsavory statements and policy positions. Surely, some people are supporting him in spite of those things. But others just agree with him. 

Last week, I attended a debate watch party with a group of Trump supporters and spoke to a few of them. You can read the story — which went to press before last night's results came in — now or in this week's print issue, coming out Thursday. This is anecdotal, of course, but person after person responded to questions about his more controversial stands — temporarily banning Muslims from entering the country or bringing back waterboarding and "so much worse" — by basically agreeing with Trump on those issues. This probably shouldn't come as a surprise in a state where state House GOP Caucus Chairman Glen Casada called for Syrian refugees currently living in Tennessee to be rounded up and detained. Steven Hale, Nashville Scene


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Analysis: Trump win trouble for Tennessee GOP establishment

TrumpAll is not well within the Tennessee Republican Party. At least, not if you're an establishment Republican.

That's likely not a shock if you've followed politics to any degree in the Volunteer State in the past few years, but the depth and degree of that issue were further clarified with business mogul Donald Trump's dominant performance in the state Tuesday night. He won in Davidson and Shelby counties, the most urban in the state, and in the rural areas that tend to support the most conservative  candidates.

It's not a crystal ball, but the results can't provide too much joy if you're a party insider or a member of the Republican mainstream looking at a statewide race in Tennessee in 2018, when the governor's race and a U.S. Senate race are on the ballot. Tennessean (subscription)


Hillary Clinton wins Tennessee Democratic primary


Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton scored a resounding win in the Tennessee Democratic primary, as she ran up the score against rival Bernie Sanders in most of a dozen states voting on Super Tuesday.

With nearly all precincts reporting, Clinton enjoyed a more than 2-to-1 advantage over Sanders in the Volunteer State, with the liberal Vermont senator winning as few as three of the state's 95 counties – Carter, Unicoi and Washington – as of press time.

Clinton also saw significant victories in places like Virginia and Texas — key states that helped catapult her toward the Democratic nomination.

"Now this campaign moves forward to the Crescent City to the Motor City and beyond. We're going to work for every vote," Clinton said at a rally in Miami.

"It's clear tonight that the stakes in this election have never been higher. And the rhetoric we're hearing on the other side has never been lower," she said, referring to the increasingly heated battle for the Republican nomination. "Trying to divide America between us and them is wrong, and we're not going to let it work."

Clinton and Sanders were competing for their share of Tennessee’s 67 delegates, the sixth-most among Democratic primaries heldTuesdayTennessean (subscription)


Who Needs 'Adequate' Public Schools? Lawmakers Take Opening Step to Amend Constitution

Lawmakers took the first step today toward amending the state constitution to effectively strip away children’s right to adequate public schools. A House education subcommittee adopted the resolution by a 5-2 vote.

The idea is to rid the legislature of those pesky lawsuits that pop up periodically from school districts around the state demanding more education funding. Tennessee always ranks near the bottom in the country in school funding, and lawmakers apparently like it that way.

Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, is the resolution’s sponsor. A conservative Christian, he’s also the guy who keeps trying (and failing) year after year to bring school vouchers to Tennessee. So if he can’t suck money out of the system and give it to private schools, he’ll apparently try to make certain it remains seriously underfunded.

To the subcommittee, he gave a little rant against “activist judges” who could decide how many pencils each child has to bring to school and other silly edicts that won’t ever happen. More likely, as actually has occurred in the past, judges might rule the legislature is gutless and refusing to raise taxes to adequately fund public education and order lawmakers to do it. Nashville Scene


Teen, peeved at getting up for school, shoots family

An argument over getting out of bed for school Tuesday morning led a teenage boy to open fire on four family members, including his grandmother and two young children, in an East Nashville home, Metro police said.

Nashville police spokeswoman Kris Mumford said that shortly before 7:17 a.m. a relative was attempting to wake up the 16-year-old boy inside his home at Berkshire Place Apartments on Porter Road when an argument broke out.

"There was a quarrel about getting up and getting ready for the day when (at some point) the 16-year-old ran to a closet, got a 9 mm handgun and started firing," Mumford said.  Tennessean (subscription)


CNN straight-up asks Rubio: Are you in denial about beating Trump?

As Rubio continues to pitch himself as the viable alternative to Trump, CNN anchor Jake Tapper asked him straight-up: Are you in denial about your odds in this race?

"Is it possible that your quarrel is not so much with Donald Trump as it is with Republican primary voters?" Tapper asked Rubio Tuesday night.

No way, said Rubio, who accused Tapper of "mis-analyzing" the results. Rubio argued that his campaign performed above expectations for the night and looked poised to win Minnesota (as he later did). Rubio then turned to criticize Trump, railing on him for using immigrant labor on a construction project and for fraud claims around his online university.

Tapper wasn't having it. “Senator, you keep saying that, and he keeps winning states,” he said. “And you’re talking about Virginia, and that’s another state that Donald Trump won. And I’m just wondering if there’s a certain amount of denial that you’re in about this race.”

Rubio denied that he was in denial.

"There will never come a time in this race where our supporters are asking us to get out and rally around Donald Trump. What people are saying is fight as hard as you can to save the party of Lincoln and Reagan," Rubio said.

He continued: "I will fight as long and as hard as it takes to save this party and the conservative movement from someone like Donald Trump." Leaf Chronicle


Corker Means It: He’s Not Endorsing Anyone In The GOP Primary

Tennessee Senator Bob Corker says he has voted in the primary, but he won’t say for whom.

Unlike the other top-ranking Republicans in the state, he’s not coming out in the final days for Florida Senator Marco Rubio. And unlike Sen. Lamar Alexander and Gov. Bill Haslam, he’s keeping quiet on his opinion of Donald Trump.

“I just think whoever you guys decide will be our next president, that’s who I’ll work with," he told reporters in Chattanooga Monday morning. "But I just didn’t think me endorsing was the right thing to do.”

Corker says he has too many friends working on behalf of several different candidates. But Corker says he is “interested” in the outcome, saying the campaign has been a “constant source of conversation.”

Asked about Trump, Corker did say business experience has helped him in public life. But he wouldn't extend that to Donald Trump.

The billionaire businessman did get his biggest endorsement in Tennessee on Monday — Congressman Scott DesJarlais, R-South Pittsburgh.

"While there are certainly things that I admire and respect in each of the remaining candidates, I believe Donald Trump is the candidate best poised to make America great again," DesJarlais said in a statement released by his office. "I was proud to cast my vote for Mr. Trump and look forward to supporting the eventual Republican nominee, whomever that might be."

Brentwood Republican Marsha Blackburn has appeared with most of the Republican candidates, including Trump. She said Monday on Here & Now that she would support Trump if he becomes the nominee, but her office says she is not making any endorsements before the primary. WPLN

5 takeaways from Tennessee presidential primary

After months of anticipation for Super Tuesday, and in particular the "SEC Primary," Tennessee's votes are in: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton marched to commanding wins in their respective primaries.

Here are five takeaways from Tuesday's election:

1. The endorsement factor

It's too early to tell at this point whether endorsements played into voters minds heading into Super Tuesday but one thing is clear: Marco Rubio — the one candidate who received the most public support from Tennessee lawmakers  — didn't fair well. In fact, the only place where Rubio beat Trump and Ted Cruz was in Williamson County; he solidified second-place finishes in six counties.

Just days before the election, Rubio received endorsements from Gov. Bill Haslam, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Their endorsements came after more than 250,000 Republicans participated in early voting. There's an argument that those endorsements helped push Rubio over the top in Williamson, or helped him to reach some of those second-place finishes. But that's certainly a silver lining.

2. Exit polls all point to Trump

Pick pretty much any category discussed in exit polls, and Trump wins. He defeated Cruz among people who consider themselves “very conservative” (36 percent to 35 percent) and among “born-again or evangelical Christians” (44 percent to 25 percent), according to an exit poll from CNN. Half of Tennessee GOP voters who wanted a candidate who “can bring needed change” voted for Trump, according to an ABC exit poll. The same poll found 72 percent of all GOP voters in the state supported a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., echoing a proposal from Trump. All of these numbers point to reasons why the controversial business mogul beat candidates who had better organizations in Tennessee.

3. Trouble looming for GOP establishment?

Two non-establishment candidates — Trump and Cruz — not only outperformed more mainstream Republican candidates like Rubio in nearly every Tennessee county, they did so in resounding fashion.

Looking back at the scare Tea Party candidate Joe Carr gave U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander during his 2014 re-election effort — Carr lost by just 9 percent — establishment Republicans will be left to wonder whether Carr, Trump and Cruz's campaign successes were merely a fluke or possibly a sign of things to come.

With a gubernatorial race, as well as a U.S. Senate election scheduled for 2018, it remains to be seen whether a non-establishment candidate has even juice to win statewide.

4. Ground games no match for national wave

Cruz and Rubio arguably had the best ground game among Republicans, yet they finished in second and third, respectively. The Texas senator spent more money on television ads than any other candidate but he still couldn't beat Trump, who had almost no ground game, in a single Tennessee county.

Rubio and Cruz also had a slew of endorsements from state politicians, and advertised their phonebanking efforts in recent weeks. Again, the camps could argue that helped prevent losing any ground to Trump, but it's clear it didn't help them toward any substantial gains either.
5. Bernie never stood a chance

The Clinton machine was alive and well in Tennessee. The former U.S. Secretary of State visited two historically black colleges in Nashville during the campaign among other stops in Tennessee and released dozens of prominent endorsements in the days and weeks leading up to the election. Combined with a favorable electorate and the fact Sanders never entered the state — the only major campaign of either party not to come to Tennessee — and it appeared clear ahead of the election that Clinton would outperform Sanders in the Volunteer State.


“Trumped" Starring Matthew Broderick & Nathan Lane

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