CPI Buzz March 1, 2016


Tennessee Voters Head to the Polls

Tennessee voters are slated to hit the polls to pick their favorites in the state's Super Tuesday presidential primary. Polls open at 7 a.m. across the state and close at 7 p.m. Visit The Tennessean after the polls close for interactive county-by-county results. Residents must bring a valid federal or Tennessee state government-issued photo ID to vote.

Voters in 12 other states will also pick their candidates for the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations. Super Tuesday primaries are the biggest test for hopefuls so far and can make or break candidates. More delegates are at stake on this day than on any other day. Many Tennessean residents — more than 385,000 — have already voted.

Early voting ran from Feb. 10 to Feb. 23 and saw 385,653 Tennesseans cast ballots, a 17.1 percent increase over the 2008 primaries in Tennessee — the most recent open primary for both parties — in which 329,154 people voted early or absentee. Tennessean (subscription)

State by State - What to Watch on Super Tuesday

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are poised to leap ahead of their competition in the Democratic and Republican primaries on the road toward their respective parties’ presidential nominations. A dozen states are holding primaries or caucuses on Tuesday, the busiest day on the primary calendar and one with the largest number of convention delegates up for grabs.

On the Republican side, a total of 595 delegates are at stake, about half of the 1,237 needed to claim the GOP nomination. For Democrats, 859 delegates will be allocated, more than a third of the 2,383 needed to clinch the Democratic nomination.

The elections will be held in a variety of regions, from the South to New England, which will provide a glimpse of the national appeal of the front-runners and any hints at their weaknesses. Dubbed Super Tuesday, the contests are one of the last opportunities for the rivals of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump to slow their march toward the convention stages in Ohio and Pennsylvania this summer.

Here’s a rundown on what to watch: Wall Street Journal

Clarence Thomas Asks 1st Question from Supreme Court Bench in 10 Years

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas drew gasps on Monday when he asked several questions during oral arguments.

Thomas, who hadn't asked a question since Feb. 22, 2006, broke 10 years of near silence during a case, Voisine v. U.S., involving a federal law preventing people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from owning firearms.

The justices were hearing appeals from two Maine men who say their guilty pleas for hitting their partners should not disqualify them from gun ownership. The hourlong session was coming to a close when Thomas leaned forward and spoke into the microphone to ask Justice Department lawyer Ilana Eisenstein whether a misdemeanor conviction of any other law "suspends a constitutional right," The Associated Press reports.

Luttrell announces his run for Congress

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell declared his candidacy for Congress at a Republican dinner in Jackson, Tennessee, Monday night.

Luttrell, 68, had been contemplating a bid for the 8th District, which is being vacated by U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher. He announced his intentions to run at the Madison County Republican Party's Reagan Day dinner, held at Union University, Luttrell confirmed to The Commercial Appeal Monday night.

"I'm a product of the 8th District. I was born in rural West Tennessee," he said by phone shortly after the announcement. "My roots are pretty deep."

Luttrell joins a crowded field jostling to replace Fincher, who has served three terms but announced on Feb. 1 that he would not seek a fourth. Memphis Commercial Appeal


Tennessee president stands by Knoxville leaders during lawsuit

The University of Tennessee president said on Monday he stood behind leaders at the Knoxville campus who have been accused in a federal lawsuit of contributing to a culture that enables sexual assaults by student-athletes.

During an interview in Legislative Plaza, UT President Joe DiPietro said he was still confident in the leadership of Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and officials in the school's athletics department.

“At this point I have no reason to be worried or vacillate on that at all,” he said. Tennessean (subscription)

State House Passes Anti-Religious Indoctrination Bill 

The bill would require local school boardThe state House approved a bill Monday that seeks to prevent religious indoctrination in public schools. Bill sponsor Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, said he filed the bill to address statewide concern about how religion is taught in public schools.s to set policy on how to appropriately include religion in curriculum and class materials. It also would require teachers of core subjects in grades 6-12 to provide a class syllabus.

In the fall, concerns arose about the portrayal of Islam and claims of Islamic indoctrination. The concern over Islam has spurred school board resolutions, town halls and requests to ban certain textbooks. Tennessean (subscription)

Ben Carson's wife: Husband won't drop out of presidential race unless God tells him to

Lacena "Candy" Carson, wife of Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, said her husband believes God led him to run for president and, even though he trails in polls for the Republican presidential nomination, he has no intention of dropping out unless he hears from God to do so.

She spoke Monday to a lecture hall full of students, Carson supporters and area residents at Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., one day before citizens across the country cast their votes in the Super Tuesday primary.

Using a phrase from the Bible, she said God called her husband to be the voice of one crying out in the wilderness about issues such as national security and the country's $19 trillion debt.  Knoxville News Sentinel


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CPI Buzz, February 19, 2016


House approves ‘heritage protection’ of Nathan Bedford Forrest bust and such

The Tennessee House has passed a bill that would make it more difficult to remove statues or rename streets dedicated to historical figures, including a state Capitol bust of a prominent Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan leader.

The chamber voted 71-23 on Thursday to approve the measure, titled the “Tennessee Heritage Protection Act.”

Calls to remove Confederate imagery from public places multiplied rapidly across the South after the slaying of nine black churchgoers last June in Charleston, South Carolina. A white man espousing racist views and who posed in a photo with a Confederate flag has been charged with murder in the killings.

The Tennessee bill would require a vote of two-thirds of the 29-member Tennessee Historical Commission to gain a waiver from a statewide ban on changing or removing historical markers. That’s an increase from the current law that requires only a majority vote. It would also prevent any changes for at least six months from the date of the petition. Humphrey on the Hill

Tennessee 'sore loser' law would block Donald Trump


Tennessee’s "sore loser" law is clear that failed primary candidates can't switch teams to run in the general election, but it's not clear how strictly the law applies in presidential contests.

Twice in the past 10 election cycles, Tennessee has seen primary losers return to the general election ballot under a different party's banner.

If, for example, Donald Trump doesn't get the Republican nomination, or Sen. Bernie Sanders doesn't get the Democratic nomination, could either appear on Tennessee's general election ballot in November as an independent?

No, according to Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, whose office oversees Tennessee’s elections.

“If a candidate doesn’t win the primary, they cannot appear on the ballot during the general election for another party or as an independent,” said Hargett's spokesman, Adam Ghassemi. He said the prohibition applies to the presidential race.

But in the historically unpredictable 2016 election cycle, it's not an abstract question.

Trump, the current front-runner for the Republican nomination, at first refused to rule out an independent bid. He later reversed course and signed a pledge saying he would support the Republican nominee. But on Monday, he renewed his earlier threat, saying the pledge isn't binding because the GOP treated him unfairly at Saturday's debate in South Carolina by packing the audience with people supporting his rivals. Tennessean/Subscription

GOP Leaders Reverse Course And Decide To Keep Gun Ban At Tennessee Capitol

Tennessee lawmakers will not be allowing guns in their offices, after all.

The reversal was announced Wednesday afternoon, after legislative leaders couldn't agree on how and when to lift the ban.

Spokespeople for Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell said the two leaders reached the decision after meeting with the Tennessee Highway Patrol to discuss security in the Capitol complex if guns were allowed.

Both leaders say they favor letting people with handgun permits carry in Legislative Plaza and the War Memorial Building, where lawmakers have their offices and hold hearings. The question was how to do so while also keeping guns out of the state Capitol, which they say falls under the jurisdiction of Gov. Bill Haslam.

Ramsey has said he wants to lift the gun ban immediately.

But Harwell, in turned out, favored waiting, because the legislature may soon be moving to the Cordell Hull Building, another office block close to the Capitol. Her spokeswoman said tax money would be better spent on that project — not modifying the security checkpoints in Legislative Plaza.

The decision is a relief to many Democrats, who opposed lifting the ban. House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh says keeping it would be a dose of sanity. WPLN

Haslam unsure he'd back Trump in the general

Gov. Bill Haslam, the former chairman of the Republican Governors Association, has declined to commit whether he would support Donald Trump should he become the GOP nominee for president.

“We hadn’t gotten to that point. We’ll see when we get there,” Haslam said today, followed by a laugh.

The country is in “unprecedented political times,” Haslam said, adding the shifting landscapes in both media and political parties is turning the tried and true practices of campaigning on its head.

“There’s a lot to be played out in the Democrat and Republican side, but I think it’s safe to say there’s a whole lot of people that didn’t see this, where we are right now, coming,” Haslam told reporters before an education presentation at the Music City Center.  Nashville Post

All About Abby: Will Twitter elect the next U.S. president?

Have you ever thought about who or what influences your attitude towards politics? What plays a major role in your political views? Has someone or something changed your political views at some point in your life? Has social media made you more or less passionate about political issues and/or certain presidential candidates? If so, will Facebook posts and Twitter rants decide our next President?

The 2016 Presidential Election is the first ever to become a social media election in the sense that it’s all about reaching out to the “uneducated” or “easily-convinced” voters who peruse different social medias for political information (sans fact-checking) and conform to voting for the candidate who has the most Facebook likes or Twitter followers. These voters also seek out the candidate they believe will give them everything they want and more — including a free bumper sticker, yard sign, and trendy t-shirt. If you think I’m crazy, I advise you to take a look at your Facebook newsfeed again. See all the political bias now?

There is no doubt in my mind this will be an unforgettable election because of the diverse candidates; however, I am not seeing very much diversity on a local level. I see lots of people out campaigning for Bernie Sanders; however, where are the campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Dr. Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump?

As a first time Presidential voter, I want to make sure I make a wise decision because every vote matters. I don’t want to make my decision purely based on some “like and share” meme that so-and-so shared on Facebook. I don’t want to make my decision purely based on the fact if I pledge to vote for so-and-so, I can get a free t-shirt and get to party it up at a local campaign rally. I don’t want to make my decision purely based on what I see as I scroll through my social media newsfeeds, though that isn’t the case for most people my age. In a Huffington Post article CEO and President of RKG Marketing Solutions R. Kay Green explains, “Candidates are naturally incorporating social media in their campaigns to stand out to millennials.

One study published in 2012 found that Facebook feeds have a significant impact on voting patterns. The findings indicate that certain messages increased turnout directly and indirectly by a total of 340,000 votes. According to research from Ipsos Mori, social media also has the potential to have more of an impact for 18 to 24 year olds. More than a third (34%) of this group indicated that reading something on social media would influence their vote, second only to televised debates. This is yet another reason why the presidential candidates are increasing their ad spending budgets on social networks.” Johnson City Press

Two Democrats file for District 8 Congressional seat

Two Democrats from Shelby County, Michael McCusker and David Vinciarelli, have picked up petitions to run for the seat held by Republican U.S. Rep.Stephen Fincher.

McCusker, who announced Monday that he's exploring a bid, has been an assistant district attorney in Shelby County since 2001 and is a decorated, retired major in the U.S. Army. He lives in Germantown.

Vinciarelli ran unsuccessfully for Memphis City Council District 7 last year. As was reported then, he was arrested for DUI in 2011 after he crashed his truck into a utility pole, and was found guilty of aggravated criminal trespassing in 1990. He also filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 1997 and in 2004. Both bankruptcies are closed.

The primary elections are Aug. 4, and the general election is Nov. 8. Commercial Appeal/Subscription

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CPI Buzz February 18, 2016

Biden urges more infrastructure investment in TN visit

Vice President Joe Biden called for greater public investment in transportation infrastructure during a Wednesday afternoon visit to a logistics yard in Fayette County, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Dignitaries in suits and railroad workers in orange vests and hard hats listened, sometimes shielding their eyes from the glaring sun as Biden spoke after touring the Memphis Regional Intermodal Facility south of Rossville near the Tennessee-Mississippi border.

In his speech, Biden said America can compete well with any nation in the world in attracting business because of favorable factors ranging from fair courts to productive workers. “But guess what?” he said. “If we do not improve our infrastructure — if we do not improve it — we will not take advantage of being able to lock down for the next 40 years that we remain the best place in the world to invest.”

Biden spoke at the a big logistics yard where cargo containers are transferred between trains and trucks. Federal funds helped pay for the facility. Humphrey on the Hill

Billboards Put Harwell on the Spot for Insure Tennessee

Billboards are popping up around town asking House Speaker Beth Harwell to do something to support Insure Tennessee—the governor's Medicaid expansion plan that died ignominiously last year in the legislature.

Two community activists—Sally Smallwood and Mary Falls—are arranging for the billboards and paying for them. There are three of them so far featuring a waitress and people with other occupations—and Smallwood says they're such a big hit that other Insure Tennessee supporters are talking about paying to put up more of them. 

"Help us, Speaker Harwell," the billboards read. "Our workforce needs Insure Tennessee. Call 615-741-0709 and ask her to help."

Harwell cannot be pleased since the billboards are putting her on the spot. From the beginning, apparently to prevent any damage to her future political prospects, she's determinedly refused to take any position on Insure Tennessee even though it's by far the most important policy proposal to come from the Haslam administration and the biggest decision for the legislature in a generation.

"When Governor Haslam presented his plan, we thought, wow, this makes a lot of sense," Smallwood tells Pith. "It makes sense for the economy of our state and it makes sense for the health of our state." Pith in the Wind

Tennessee Senate Votes To Let Therapists Avoid Clients Over Religious Objections

The Tennessee Senate has voted to let mental-health and marriage counselors turn away patients on religious grounds.

The decision came Wednesday morning, despite strong opposition from groups representing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people.

The proposal comes in response to a 2014 revision to the American Counseling Association's code of ethics.

The organization declared that counselors could not deny treatment to anyone based on religious objections. That includes gays and lesbians.

State Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, says the change upset some counselors. He says when their religious beliefs conflict with clients, counselors ought to be able to refer them to someone else.

"We're doing nothing to prohibit or restrict the ability to get counseling from someone who is trained and willing to provide that counseling," he said. "And that should be our ultimate goal."

Although LGBT groups led opposition to the proposal, but Senate Bill 1556 could be construed to mean any religious objection. Supporters and opponents alike mentioned the possibility that people could be turned away because of their faith, or because they had decided to have an abortion. WPLN

Two More for Tennessee’s 8th District

The race for the 8th Congressional District, due to be vacated following incumbent RepublicanStephen Fincher's surprise announcement of non-candidacy this year, has turned into a free-for-all on the Republican side, with controversial Republican state Representative Andy Holt joining the already full ranks of GOP hopefuls.

At least one Democrat, Shelby County assistant District Attorney Michael McCusker of Germantown, has announced his interest in running for the seat, thereby serving notice that there may well be a general election contest in the district, once counted safe for Democrats but considered Republican property following the easy victory of Fincher over veteran Democrat Roy Herron in 2010, a GOP sweep year almost everywhere in Tennessee.

A flood of Shelby County Republicans responded almost immediately to Fincher's withdrawal statement, made two weeks ago. Within an hour of hearing the news, five local GOP hopefuls had their hats in the ring.

In order of their announcement, these were: George Flinn, the wealthy radiologist, broadcast executive, and former Shelby County commissioner; former U.S. Attorney David Kustoff; Shelby County Register TomLeatherwood; state Senator Brian Kelsey of Germantown; and County Commissioner Steve Basar.

Of those five, three had made previous races for Congress — Flinn in both the 8th and 9th Districts and Kustoff and Leatherwood in the 7th, when that district lapped into the eastern portions of Shelby County the way the 8th does now after reapportionment. The new lines drawn after the 2010 census resulted in 55 percent of the 8th District's population residing within Shelby County.

Holt is a decided contrast to the more urbanized aspirants from Big Shelby. A pig farmer who hails from Dresden, in Northwest Tennessee, Holt has been under investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency for polluting the fields and streams adjacent to his property with massive amounts of waste, nearly a million gallons of it, produced by his animals. He was also the sponsor of legislation aimed at penalizing whistleblowers who reported instances of animal cruelty. Memphis Flyer

The threat of guns on Capitol Hill prompts a rare show of spine from Gov. Bill Haslam 

Harwell and Ramsey could accomplish this by fiat, the Senate speaker said, and there was no need to change state law. For her part, Harwell confirmed later that she's looking into it, although she laughed when asked if it was her idea, as Ramsey claimed.

According to Ramsey, any of the state's 400,000 handgun carry permit owners could merely drop their pistols, along with their car keys and cellphones, in the Tupperware dishes at the security entrances to the plaza. Once they showed their handgun permits to the highway patrol troopers at the station and went through the metal detectors — which we're guessing remain necessary to reveal disallowed tactical knives or machetes — they could strap back on their guns and walk proudly through the plaza into lawmakers' offices, committee hearing rooms, the cafeteria, wherever they please.

Ramsey said the signs could come down in a matter of days, and it all looked like a fait accompli — until Gov. Bill Haslam caught wind of it.

In an unusual display of fortitude, Haslam suddenly was telling the media that Ramsey needed to check himself. The governor said he is the one who decides whether guns are allowed in Legislative Plaza — not the speakers — and he produced citations of state statutes to prove it.

Haslam, who doesn't feel really strongly about much of anything, said he feels really strongly that guns should stay banned from the Capitol (where his office just happens to be). As for Legislative Plaza, he said he's willing to think about lifting the ban — but not until the highway patrol works through the logistical problem of how to rescreen visitors going from the plaza to the adjacent Capitol.

"We don't think that people should be able to bring weapons in here," Haslam said. "This is a secure building. We've got metal detectors; we've got troopers with guns."

Of lawmakers and Legislative Plaza, he said, "That's their work environment. If they decide they want to do that, I'm willing to have that conversation. But we feel really strongly about the Capitol not being that way."

Ramsey still insists the speakers control Legislative Plaza. Since the highway patrol reports to Haslam, though, the governor seems to enjoy the upper hand here.

It's easy to see this as yet another particularly odorous example of hypocrisy on guns, and to demand that these lawmakers lie in the beds of their own making. Haslam never has been a big proponent of expanding gun rights, but at the same time he's made only feeble attempts to stop it. Now he's evidently biting his nails over the possibility he himself might have to exist in this shoot-'em-up society that he's helped create.

But as Democrats pointed out, it's not only public officials who'd have to deal with guns at the legislature, it's the public too. They raised the specter of accidental shootings in the crowded hallways and warned of dangers to children — not to mention adult visitors like Scene reporters. Nashville Scene

Haslam, Colleges Agree to Outside Review of Outsourcing Plan

Gov. Bill Haslam's administration announced Wednesday that it has agreed with higher education leaders to have an outside group review the Republican's privatization plan for building maintenance at Tennessee's public colleges and universities.

Also Wednesday, Democratic lawmakers raised concerns about Haslam advisers considering the outsourcing of security at the legislative office complex, especially in light of the Republican House and Senate speakers' proposal to allow the state's half-million permit holders to be able to carry handguns within the building.

Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, said hiring private security to replace the Tennessee Highway Patrol would "add an increased threat to this body and to the citizens of this state."

A Haslam spokeswoman had no immediate comment on the security proposal.

Haslam plans to release his "business justification" for his privatization efforts by the end of the month. The governor has said the University of Tennessee and Board of Regents systems would be given the choice of opting out of the plan. Memphis Daily News

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CPI Buzz Feb 17 2016

Jeremy Durham says AG asked for his iPad, emails

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery has requested Republican Rep. Jeremy Durham hand over all electronic devices and personal email accounts as part of an investigation into sexual harassment allegations, according to information Durham provided to the Williamson Herald.

Durham told the news organization Tuesday that he provided his state-issued iPad to Slatery's office. The Herald also cites a letter that Slatery reportedly sent to Durham on Feb. 12 that states the attorney general obtained a copy of the hard drive from Durham's state-issued desktop computer. Durham says he's not going to comply with all of Slatery's requests, including providing personal emails dating to 2013, until speaking with an attorney. Tennessean/Subscription

Abortion Ultrasound Bill Dies in State House

With even pro-lifers announcing their opposition, an especially outrageous anti-abortion bill died today in the state House. This one tried to intimidate women by making them sign waivers saying they were given the opportunity to see ultrasound images of their fetuses and hear their heartbeats before they could have abortions.

Three Republicans on the House Health Subcommittee said they would vote no before the sponsor—Rep. Rick Womick, R-Murfreesboro—surrendered and withdrew his bill. The Republicans—who included the subcommittee’s chairman—said they were against the bill, not because it's an intimidation tactic and likely violation of abortion rights, but because they feared it could damage Tennessee's defense in court of abortion restrictions already on the books.

“When do we as a legislature ever—especially when it comes to the health of a woman—when do we ever wait for a bunch of judges to tell us what to do?” Womick shot back. “Because that’s what you’re doing. I don’t really care what the judges have got to say. This legislation is fully constitutional.”

Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, said the weekend death of Justice Antonin Scalia was a factor in his decision to oppose the bill.

"Especially with what has happened with the death of Justice Scalia, there is no guarantee where Tennessee’s statutes are going to stand," Hill said. "At best we’re going to have a 4-4 court on pro-life statutes. … it’s unclear whether what we have on the books will stand.”

Legislation forcing clinics to perform ultrasounds on all women has been introduced in many states—all attempts to place psychological pressure on women not to go through with the abortion. Pith in the Wind

Senate committee votes for lawsuit over refugees

A resolution directing Tennessee’s attorney general to mount a legal challenge to the federal refugee resettlement program is headed for a vote in the state Senate.

The Senate Finance Committee voted 9-1 on Tuesday to advance the measure (SJR467) sponsored by Senate Republican leader Mark Norris of Collierville. The measure would have the General Assembly hire its own lawyer if Attorney General Herbert Slatery were to decline to get involved.

The lone vote against the measure came from Republican Sen. Steve Dickerson of Nashville, who said he was concerned that the measure would be perceived as being “unwelcoming.” Humphrey on the Hill

Rep. Sherry Jones Files “Viagra Bill”

So I was absolutely thrilled to learn that Tennessee’s Rep. Sherry Jones has her own “Viagra bill” making its way through the legislature, and that it apparently passed out of the insurance and banking committee and will move on to the health subcommittee. It already has a sponsor in the Senate, by the way.

HB 1927 reads, in part:

Before issuing a prescription for a drug intended to treat symptoms of erectile dysfunction, a physician shall:

(i) Obtain from the patient a notarized affidavit in which at least one of the patient’s sexual partners affirms that the patient has experienced symptoms of erectile dysfunction during the ninety (90) days preceding the affidavit’s date, if he has never been married, emancipated by a court, or otherwise freed from the care, custody, and control of his parents;

(ii) Conduct a cardiac stress test and obtain a result, described in writing, indicating that the patient’s cardiac health is compatible with sexual activity;

(iii) Notify the patient in writing of the potential risks and complications associated with taking drugs intended to treat erectile dysfunction, as well as provide alternatives to erectile dysfunction medications, counseling regarding erectile dysfunction, and possible physical and psychological risks of taking erectile dysfunction medications, and obtain the patient’s signature on a form acknowledging the patient’s receipt of the notification; […]

Sounds perfectly reasonable to me. You know men never read directions or label warnings. Someone needs to help these poor dears. ED is a known “red flag” for heart disease, the number one killer of American men, after all.

There’s more. To get a refill, under this legislation, the ED patient has a few more hoops to jump through:

(A) Require the patient to be seen in-person by the physician in an office visit for prescribing each refill;

(B) Require the patient to undergo a cardiac stress test every ninety (90) days while the patient is taking the drug to ensure that the patient’s cardiac health continues to be compatible with sexual activity; and

(C) Require the patient to attend three (3) sessions of outpatient counseling within a period of not less than six (6) months after the drug initially is prescribed to ensure the patient’s understanding of the dangerous side effects of drugs intended to treat the symptoms of erectile dysfunction and which counseling includes information on nonpharmaceutical treatments for erectile dysfunction, including sexual counseling and resources for patients to pursue celibacy as a viable lifestyle choice. […]Southern Beale

It's OK Republican Voters, Tennessee's Lamar Alexander Is Undecided Too

For Tennessee Republicans who are still undecided in the presidential race, take heart: Sen. Lamar Alexander says he hasn’t decided on a candidate either.

But Tennessee's senior senator, himself a former presidential candidate, did take a shot at some of the frontrunners who talked over each other and resorted to name-calling over the weekend.

“I think the presidential primary has turned more like mud wrestling than the kind of debate that I would like to see," Alexander said Tuesday before speaking to the Murfreeboro Rotary Club. "It’s easy to talk about what’s wrong with the country. It’s also easy to make a list of what’s right with it. I think the next president’s job is to bring out the best in our country, and I think the most recent debates — especially the one last Saturday night — didn’t do that.” WPLN

Koch brothers' super PAC rakes in millions from Southern businessmen

Conservative industrialists Charles and David Koch and their wealthy allies are planning to spend close to $900 millionbenefiting their preferred candidates in the upcoming elections — likely more than either major U.S. political party. The billionaire brothers' network has reportedly already spent $400 million with the general election nine months away.
We now have new details about who's contributing to the Kochs' election-year political efforts — and seven Southern businessmen are among the $100,000-plus mega-donors.
While the Koch network's numerous social welfare nonprofits, think tanks, and limited liability corporations are not required to disclose their donors, the Kochs launched the Freedom Partners Action Fund (FPAF) in June 2014 as an extension of their Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a nonprofit trade organization that raises money and disperses it throughout the network. FPAF was set up as a super PAC, an expressly political operation that under law is not allowed to coordinate with candidates and is required to disclose its donors. 
Because of that disclosure requirement, we know that in 2014 FPAF spent over $23 million on independent expenditures benefiting conservative U.S. House and Senate candidates. The bulk of those funds came from a relatively small number of wealthy donors, including 15 Southerners who gave $100,000 or more.
The latest reports are in, and they show that in 2015 only 20 individuals or corporations provided most of the $11.3 million FPAF took in. The top donor was Charles Koch, whose "1997 Trust" gave $3 million. The next two largest contributors were Chicago hedge fund manager Ken Griffin and Wisconsin roofing supply billionaire Diane Hendricks, each chipping in $2 million. Other major contributors were Amway founder Richard Devos of Michigan and his wife, Helen, and broadcasting magnate Stanley Hubbard of Minnesota. Facing South



CPI Buzz Feb 16 2016

Sunday column: Voucher vibes shake supermajority

The apparent failure of school voucher legislation in the House last week shows, again, the differences in political thinking of Republican supermajority members in the lower chamber with those in the upper chamber. And maybe that relates to the way House and Senate districts were drawn following the 2010 census by the supermajority asserting itself in 2012.

In the Senate, any voucher bill is a good bill and assured of passage by a solid GOP majority nowadays. Three or four years ago, the big Senate squabble was between the lords and ladies of Legislatorland’s supermajority who thought most every student should have an “opportunity scholarship” and those who thought the state ought to go with a limited “pilot project” version — the notion embraced by compromising Gov. Bill Haslam.

When the current compromising version came up in the Senate last year, it got a quick 23-8-1 rubber stamp with very little discussion. By then, the clear majority of Senate Republicans had realized that there was no clear majority of House Republicans who embrace vouchers generally.

In the Senate vote, four East Tennessee Republicans — Sens. Doug Overbey of Maryville, Becky Massey of Knoxville, Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains and Ken Yager of Kingston — were the only members of their party to vote no. Otherwise, all Republicans were aboard the voucher train. One Democrat, Sen. Reginald Tate of Memphis, voted yes. And Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, abstained.

Over in the House, the compromise voucher bill went through long-winded and repetitious debate before getting scuttled in committee last year.  Humphrey on the Hill

Key meeting Tuesday on Haslam's outsourcing plan

Gov. Bill Haslam's administration is expected to roll out the public relations campaign for its massive facilities-management outsourcing plan over the next two weeks, including revised numbers purporting to show a contractor can maintain all state college campuses for up to $55 million a year less than the campuses' existing staffs.


But a top University of Tennessee facilities services administrator said last week those numbers are based on a dramatic understatement of projected costs that exclude many of the services UT's employees do as part of their basic operations. A contractor would be allowed to charge extra for those services, resulting in higher costs than the new estimates used to justify outsourcing.


Dave Irvin, associate vice chancellor for facilities services at UT's Knoxville campus, said the state's new estimates don't include, for example, any of the work his staff does that involves planning, programming, sustainability and recycling, special events, event setups, student move-ins, much of the landscaping and grounds work, nor the existing "rapid response team" for 24-hour repair and maintenance work on request — all work that a contractor would charge additional fees to perform.Knoxville News Sentinel/Subscription


Issues to watch: TNReady, harassment policy, wild hogs

An advisory committee tasked with reviewing the Tennessee General Assembly’s sexual harassment policy and established by House Speaker Beth Harwell will have its second meeting this week.

The committee formed after a Tennessean investigation cited concerns experts had about flaws in the legislature’s sexual harassment policy. Experts said the policy’s overemphasis on secrecy creates an environment with few ramifications or deterrents for inappropriate behavior.

The committee first gathered on Feb. 1 in a private office building and did not disclose or publicize the meeting.

Harwell's sexual harassment committee has private introductory meeting

Although the exact time and location have yet to be confirmed, as of late last week a spokeswoman for Harwell said the five-member committee will gather on Thursday at 1 p.m. It is expected to be open to the public. Tennessean/Subscription

Author Jane Mayer on How the Koch Brothers Have Changed America

What are some other examples of how American society looks different today because of the Kochs' influence?
This has been a 40-year project that Charles and David Koch have been funding with their vast fortunes to try to change the way Americans think. Another of their greatest accomplishments is in turning Americans against the idea of government being a force for good. It's not they alone who have done this, but they've pushed very hard on it, and public-opinion polls show that Americans' regard for government has just plummeted in recent years.


They've also succeeded in many ways in pushing through lawsuits that their donor group has funded. They've succeeded in gutting campaign finance laws, so many of the problems we now see in terms of unlimited spending were stirred in the first place by organizations that they've helped fund.


Speaking of unlimited funding, let's talk about Citizens United. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have said that they would use overturning Citizens United as a litmus test for Supreme Court nominees, and even Jeb Bush has criticized the decision. What's so bad about it? What has it wrought?
What Citizens United has done is equate spending money with free speech without limits. What people originally thought it would do is flood the system with corporate money, but in fact something quite different has happened: It's flooded our system with unlimited money from individual tycoons, who all have very strong opinions.


And by the way, it's not just Citizens United, there's a second case,SpeechNow, that was almost entirely cooked up by the Kochs and their allies, that lifted the limit on individual spending.


What's happened is even more pernicious, in a way, than just unlimited spending. What's happened is that "dark money" — that is, contributions from undisclosed donors — has exploded. Once individuals and companies and nonprofit corporations could spend as much as they wanted, a new form of spending exploded: spending by groups that claimed to be nonprofit, nonpolitical organizations. They're called 501(c)(4)s, and they don't disclose where their money is coming from. In 2006, only two percent of outside political spending came from these dark-money groups — which call themselves social-welfare groups. After 2010, it rose to 40 percent. Almost all of that money was spending on the right. So you're getting a flood of undisclosed spending by right-wing billionaires and multimillionaires, basically. It's creating distortions in American politics and American life.


Many studies have shown that the priorities of the super, super rich are really very different from those of the rest of the country. Ninety percent of Americans think Citizens United was a bad idea and that there's too much money in American politics. But of course the big spenders see it differently, and they're the ones who are dominating. Majorities of Americans now think that climate change is real, and that mankind is causing it, and something needs to be done about it. But, again, the big private interests have captured the government on that issue, and nothing's getting done about it. Huge majorities of Americans in both parties want to see Social Security not weakened but strengthened. The very, very rich want to privatize it; they want to shred it. They don't want to pay for it. They don't need it. Rolling Stone

Lawmaker wants to clarify Tennessee's mandatory reporting law

After Monday's ruling Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw asked state Senator Todd Gardenhire to join other state lawmakers and clarify Tennessee's mandatory reporting law. 


"This is not the first time I've had a problem with a DCS policy and it probably won't be the last," Judge Philyaw said to a full courtroom.


READ MORE | Channel 3's coverage of the Ooltewah assault investigation 


Problems within the policy like child-on-child abuse and the time frame of reporting. 


The law states anyone who believes a child is being abused or neglected must report it immediately but Judge Philyaw said that law needs to be more specific. WRCB

John Oliver Shows The Incredible Hypocrisy Of Voter ID Laws


While some states have made it easier for everyone to vote, others have taken a different approach.  

The Republicans who back voter ID laws say they're designed to protect the integrity of the ballot, make sure people only vote once and guarantee that the person who shows up to vote is actually the person who is registered. In reality, those laws often disproportionately target minorities, who are less likely to have identification. Black voters are nearly twice as likely as whites to lack ID, and Latino voters are 2.42 times as likely to lack ID. 

An ID "is just one of those things white people seem to be more likely to have, like a sunburn or an Oscar nomination," Oliver said. 

But Oliver found that many of the same legislators who claim the law is about preventing voter fraud and impersonation don't actually follow those same rules when they vote. In some states, these lawmakers not only cast their own votes in legislative sessions, they also cast ballots on behalf of absent colleagues, a practice that's known as "ghost votes." 

Tennessee lawmakers even have sticks to reach the voting buttons at nearby desks. 


"If you are going to pervert democracy, could you at least do it with a less creepy stick?" Oliver suggested. "That looks like what an evil leprechaun would use to beat a child." John Oliver w/video


Obama signs Corker's Electrify Africa Act into law


Officials from the office of Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) reported that President Barack Obama signed the Electrify Africa Act of 2015—S.2152—into law Monday night.


Corker introduced this bill in October. His sponsored legislation passed the Senate unanimously in December and passed the House of Representatives Feb. 1


In a prepared statement, Corker said:


I’m pleased Electrify Africa is now law and will enable the leveraging of private-sector resources to promote first-time access to electricity for millions of people in Africa. With limited foreign assistance dollars, we need to focus on projects like energy that can be a catalyst for long-term growth throughout the region and reduce poverty. Our legislation will establish an all-of-the-above approach to energy generation while helping implement the best practices necessary for maintaining a reliable and financially viable electric grid. I appreciate the support of my colleagues in the House and Senate and the president for enacting this fiscally responsible approach to sustainable development in Africa. Nooga

Campaign Increases Teen Voter Registration

Nashville teens have set a new record, with a nearly 85% increase in 17 and 18-year-old voters.

A public and private high school voter registration campaign brought the increase in new voter registrations.

This year, more than 28,000 students registered to vote. To be exact, there were 1,331 more registrants than last year. Newschannel 5



Joe McLean: Political Correctness Slur bogus, Allows for Rudeness

Looks like Santa may leave big lumps of coal in lots of stockings at the University of Tennessee this Christmas.

Tea Party legislators from the Speaker on down have accused Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and the entire school of the worst sin in the conservative catechism: “political correctness.”

Read more

Book: City of Rivals, by Jason Grumet

We highly recommend our friend Jason Grumet's latest book on governance, "City of Rivals: Restoring the Glorious Mess of American Democracy". Jason is founder (along with almost every living former Senate Majority Leader, including our own late Howard Baker) and president of the highly respected Bipartisan Policy Center.


Read more

Book: Political Realism, by Jonathan Rauch

Here's a thoughtful, counter-intuitive suggestion on how to make our government work again, from Jonathan Rauch at the Brookings Institution.



Read more

Is there too much outside money in Tennessee politics?

The real problem with these carpetbaggers is their demand for ideological purity, making it impossible for legislators of good conscience to sit down and arrive at workable solutions. The misleading ads and outright lies about Insure Tennessee are prime examples.

Nashville Tennessean: Is there too much outside money in Tennessee politics?


Americans for Prosperity aims for Tennessee Influence

The carpetbagging Koch Brothers twist the truth - play hardball in Tennessee. The headline is bland, but read the story below.

Nashville Tennessean: Americans for Prosperity Aims for Tennessee Influence


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