Monthly Archives: November 2016

Trump schedules meetings with Corker, Blackburn

Two members of the Tennessee congressional delegation mentioned as possible candidates for appointment to a cabinet position by Donald Trump – Sen. Bob Corker and Rep. Marsha Blackburn – are among those scheduled for meetings with the president-election on Tuesday, reports Michael Collins.

Corker has been suggested as a potential secretary of state or secretary of the treasury. Blackburn, who serves on Trump’s transition team currently, issued a statement on her meeting. Corker’s office only confirmed that a meeting is planned.

Trump’s camp is reportedly split over two leading secretary of state candidates, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, according to multiple national media reports. (See, for example, Politico HERE.) That’s led to speculation that another candidate might reduce friction between Monday amid speculation he might be such a person – and Corker is mentioned, too.

“It was an honor to be a surrogate for Mr. Trump during his hard-fought campaign and to subsequently be asked to serve on the Executive Committee for his Transition Team,” Blackburn said in a statement. “Over the years, I have had the opportunity to visit Trump Tower numerous times, and I look forward to meeting with President-elect Trump in New York City Tuesday to discuss a broad range of policy issues, the transition, and to continue helping him choose the best people for his administration.”

Asked about Corker and Blackburn meeting with Trump and whether he had talked with either of them lately, Gov. Bill Haslam said: “I talk to Senator Corker a lot about a lot of different things. Obviously with the administration change in Washington I’ve talked to both Senator Corker and Senator Alexander a lot, saying what is going to mean for everything from an infrastructure plan to health care. So I’ve talked to him a lot. I haven’t talked to him specifically about that (the meeting with Trump) in the last few days. I will say I can’t imagine anybody that would be better for the president-elect to pick than Bob Corker and whether it be for Secretary of State or Secretary of Treasury he’d be great at either one of those jobs. For the country’s sake I certainly hope he picks Bob.”

Asked if he thinks Corker is in the running for either job, Haslam said: “I do but listen I don’t know anything that anybody else doesn’t. One of my observations about transitions has been there’s a scarcity of news so people tend to run with rumors a little more and you ought to wait for the actual facts before everybody says here’s who the two finalists are.”

Regardless of Trump policies, TVA committed to cutting back on coal

President-elect Donald Trump may roll back carbon limits and other environmental regulations on electric utilities, but the Tennessee Valley Authority is still moving away from coal-fired power generation, reports the Times-Free Press.

The federal utility, which two decades ago derived more than two-thirds of its electricity from burning coal, expects to get less than a fourth of its power from coal next year and only 15 percent of its generation from coal a decade from now.

Trump has pledged to bring back the coal industry and limit what he says are costly regulations on coal mining and power generation, including the Clean Power Plan proposed by President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency last year but delayed by a Supreme Court stay on its implementation.

TVA CEO Bill Johnson says the utility will continue moving toward meeting the carbon-reduction targets of the Clean Power Plan as it retires aging coal plants and replaces them with lower-carbon natural gas-fired power plants and more wind, solar and nuclear power.

“We have been following a path that is consistent with the direction of the Clean Power Plan, but we’ve been following it based on what’s the best for our customers, and they happen to line up,” Johnson told analysts and reporters on a recent conference call. “We really have been following the plan that says if we modernize the fleet as we diversify, what is the best economic and rate path to follow? And that’s really what we will continue to do in every decision we make.”

TVA has already shuttered 24 of the 59 coal-fired units the utility once operated, including all eight units at its Widows Creek Fossil plant and all five units at the Colbert Fossil plant, both in Alabama, and four units at the John Sevier plant near Rogersville, Tenn. TVA reached a settlement with environmental groups in the EPA five years ago.

TNDP ‘grassroots program’ to ‘fight back against GOP policies’

News release from Tennessee Democratic Party

Nashville, Tenn (November 28, 2016) – The Tennessee Democratic Party has announced a new grassroots program in wake of the recent elections on November 8th.

Coming on the heels of President-elect Donald Trump’s electoral victory on November 8th, the Tennessee Democratic Party has launched a new program, dubbed “The Rapid Response Team”, with the goal of engaging grassroots volunteers.

“We have been inundated with calls and emails from people looking to get more involved in the political process,” said Mary Mancini, chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party, “With Republicans in power at the state and national capitols, it’s up to Democrats to hold them accountable for the decisions they make.”

After the election, rallies sprang up in cities across the country in response to fears that President-elect Trump would enact many of the policies he supported during his campaign. Democratic organizations are hoping to work with those who opposed Trump and work together to win elections in 2018.

“People are ready to stand up and fight back against GOP policies that will hurt small business, take away health care coverage and roll back gains we’ve made for equality,” Mancini remarked, “The Tennessee Democratic Party will be on the front lines, working with our volunteers, making sure that Trump’s Republican Party knows it can’t keep supporting these terrible policies.”

Legislators poised to reject Dept. of Revenue’s online sales tax rule?

A proposed Department of Revenue rule requiring large out-of-state retailers to collect state and local sales taxes on purchases made by Tennessee residents faces a legislative hearing soon and appears at a high risk of being rejected.

“All it does is get us into a lawsuit that we’ll lose,” said Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, chairman of the House Government Operations Committee.

The rule is scheduled for review at a joint meeting of the House and Senate Government Operations Committees on Dec. 14-15. Faison and Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, chairman of the Senate panel, said they anticipate the matter to come up on the second day since other proposed rules are on the agenda ahead of the sales tax proposal and they want to allow plenty of time for testimony from both sides of the issue.

Under procedures for proposed state rules, a rejection by the Government Operations Committees would throw a final decision on approval or rejection to a vote by the full House and Senate during the 2017 legislative session. If the committees fail to act, then the rule is deemed approved – though a bill could be filed to reject it during the regular legislative session.

Faison said he is personally inclined to oppose the rule and predicted during an interview that most other members of the joint committee share his sentiments. Bell declined to predict an outcome, but did say he anticipates members – including himself – will “have a lot of questions on the constitutionality” of the proposal.

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House Democrats stick with Fitzhugh, Stewart in top leadership posts

News release from House Democratic Caucus

NASHVILLE—The Tennessee House Democratic Caucus today elected its leadership positions for the upcoming 110th General Assembly of the Tennessee House of Representatives.  Rep. Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley remains House Minority Leader and Rep. Mike Stewart retains his position as Caucus Chair.  Both were re-elected by acclimation.  Other positions elected today were as follows:

Assistant Minority Leader—Rep. Joe Towns Jr. of Memphis

House Floor Leader—Rep. Raumesh Akbari of Memphis

Minority Whip—Rep. JoAnne Favors of Chattanooga

Caucus Vice-Chair—Rep. Antonio Parkinson of Memphis

Caucus Treasurer—Rep. Karen Camper of Memphis

Caucus Secretary—Rep. Harold Love Jr. of Nashville

Leader Pro Tempore—Rep. John DeBerry of Memphis

In addition to the above, Rep. Brenda Gilmore of Nashville, Rep. Johnny Shaw of Bolivar and Rep. Larry Miller of Memphis were elected to fill the 3 House Democratic positions on the Joint Fiscal Review Committee.

Alexander promotes $6.3B medical innovation ‘game-changer’ legislation

News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander

WASHINGTON, DC – House and Senate health committee leaders have released the final “21st Century Cures” bill and announced that the House of Representatives will vote Wednesday on a $6.3 billion landmark medical innovation package that will accelerate the discovery, development, and delivery of new cures and treatments and provide new funding for the National Institutes of Health and Food and Drug Administration. The leaders said the House would also vote Wednesday to include in the Cures bill legislation that updates major mental health programs for the first time in a decade. The new funding includes $1 Billion in state grants to fight opioid abuse.

“It is time to vote on 21st Century Cures, mental health legislation, and help fund the fight against opioid abuse. The House vote on Wednesday will be an extraordinary opportunity to help almost every American family. It will advance President Obama’s personalized medicine initiative, Vice-President Biden’s cancer moonshot, Alzheimer’s research and move many treatments and cures more rapidly and safely through the regulatory process and into doctors’ offices. It will address the needs of the one in five adult Americans who suffer mental illness,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Senate HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN). “What we have in the 21st Century Cures Act is an innovation game-changer, a transformational bill to bring our health infrastructure light years ahead to best match the incredible breakthroughs that are happening by the day. And it is critical to remember that passing 21st Century Cures is the best way to ensure some of this funding occurs immediately in Fiscal 2017.”

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Lawyers seek more money in third recent Memphis police brutality settlement

Attorneys for two former University of Memphis football players beaten by Memphis police in 2011 are seeking $577,615 in legal fees and costs from the City of Memphis in addition to an earlier settlement that ended their lawsuit, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Lawyers for Dupree Lytle and Michael McDonald are seeking $577,615 in fees, expenses and costs as part of a settlement with the city of Memphis reached in September. That comes on top of $150,000 already paid to Lytle and McDonald. If the full amount of attorneys’ fees is awarded, the total cost to the city would exceed $727,000.

The city opposes the attorney fee request, countering that the lawyers should get no more than about $339,000.

But as the parties await a decision from U.S. District Court Judge Sheryl H. Lipman, lawyers for the two ex-football players are celebrating the settlement as a victory against police brutality.

“It’s a complete victory for Mr. McDonald and Mr. Lytle,’’ said Robert Spence, the men’s principle attorney, who contends his clients were beaten in connection with a ritual at MPD called “choir practice,’’ in which off-duty officers congregate in parking lots, consume alcohol and dissect the day’s events.

“Hopefully, this victory will be notification to the city that it needs to forever end choir practice.’’

…The two men suffered extensive injuries when they encountered a group of off-duty officers who had congregated in a police precinct parking lot mourning the death earlier that night of officer Timothy Warren. The officer was shot in the head while responding to a disturbance at a Downtown hotel.

…(It’s the third recent settlement by the city because of police actions.) The city agreed to pay $185,000 for attorneys’ fees, court costs and funeral expenses to the family of Aaron Dumas, who died during a botched police standoff in 2013. The city also paid $587,000 earlier this year in the death of Steven Askew, who was shot and killed in 2013 by Memphis Police Department officers Matthew Dyess and Ned Aufdenkamp.

An update on Tipper Gore: Advocating, drumming and taking pictures

Tipper Gore lives mostly in Virginia these days, spends time traveling to New York and California to visit four grandchildren, continues to take photographs, advocates for those less fortunate than she and still plays drums although it’s with family members now and not on stage.

So reports Georgiana Vines in an update on the former wife of former Vice President Al Gore Jr., who  granted an interview – on condition that politics not be discussed — after giving the keynote speech at a Nashville fundraiser for Tennessee Voices for Children, a statewide organization that she founded in 1990 when services for those with mental health issues were not as available as they are today.

“I’m enjoying where I am and particularly that I’m a grandmother,” Gore said in a rare interview.

…Rikki Harris, CEO of Tennessee Voices, said a goal of $100,000 was reached (at the fundraiser). She said Gore was excitedly responsive when asked to speak.

“She wouldn’t take a dime. She paid her own expenses and bought her own table,” Harris said.

The organization serves 50,000 children, youth, families and child-serving providers. While Gore said she’s “very touched and very proud” of what Voices for Children does, 49 percent of kids and families with needs still aren’t getting services.

… The (couple’s four) children bring Tipper and Al Gore together on family occasions, sometimes to Carthage. Each has been reported by the national media as dating others.

Tipper Gore has a second home in the Santa Barbara area, where she does volunteer work on behalf of the homeless and LGBT community. She said when she visits daughter Sarah Maiani, her husband, Patrick, a musician, and their two-year-old, that she practices the drums.

“She has a full drum set. I play when I’m visiting her and her husband,” Gore said, adding. “A couple of years back, I played with Mickey Hart in Washington.” That was during an appearance of The Grateful Dead in April 2009.

She is co-chair of the advisory board of the Diana Basehart Foundation in Santa Barbara, which assists homeless and low-income people with animal care. In 2014, she had a photography exhibit at the Wall Space Gallery to support the Pacific Pride Foundation that provides services to the HIV/AIDS and LGBT communities of Santa Barbara.

With the only reference to politics in the interview, Gore said that she had been asked to do photography leading up to the last election.

“I turned down the offer. I won’t say for whom. I do (photographs) for causes,” she said.

Armstrong sentencing delayed until Jan. 25

A sentencing hearing for former state Rep. Joe Armstrong, originally scheduled for Nov. 30, has been postponed until Jan. 25 by U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips, reports the News Sentinel.

A separate hearing is set for Dec. 12, when the judge will hear arguments from the prosecutors and defense attorney Gregory Issacs over the contents of a report prepared by the U.S. Probation Office that will have considerable impact on Armstrong’s sentence. The report is being kept confidential insofar as the public goes.

Armstrong, a 28-year veteran of the Legislature, was convicted in U.S. District Court in August of filing an income tax return that made no mention of the $321,000 windfall he made when he used Knoxville tobacco wholesaler Tru Wholesale to buy cigarette tax stamps for him at the 2006 rate of 20 cents per pack and then sell them after a 42-cent hike went into effect in 2007. Armstrong voted for the tax hike.

Failing to file a false tax return carries a maximum three-year prison term, but in the federal system those “statutory maximums” are often practically useless, a worst-case scenario rarely imposed. The true penalty range is determined via a mathematical formula laid out in federal sentencing guidelines that look to a defendant’s prior criminal history, the level and type of crime, and his or her specific role and behavior in the crime at issue.

Armstrong has no criminal history. The crime itself is low on the guidelines’ totem pole. He likely is eligible for probation, which Isaacs has made clear in post-trial interviews he will seek. (Assistant U.S. Attormey Charles) Atchley, on the other hand, has made it equally clear he wants Armstrong to go to prison.

The U.S. Probation Office is tasked with investigating all the factors that go into establishing a penalty range, and that office’s work is kept under seal throughout the case. Only the judge, the defendant and the prosecutor can see it. Armstrong’s penalty range is in that report, but it’s filed under seal so the public can’t see it. Both Atchley and Isaacs are attacking some portion of the report via motions filed in U.S. District Court but those, too, are being kept under seal.

Harold Ford Jr. eyed for Trump cabinet appointment

Former Tennessee Democratic Congressman Harold Ford Jr. is being considered for appointment as U.S. Secretary of Transportation – or perhaps another cabinet position — by President-elect Donald Trump, according to reports from Politico and the New York Times. This comes, of course, with Trump also apparently still considering a cabinet appointment for Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, who defeated Ford to first win his Senate seat in 2006.

From Politico:

The telegenic Ford — who served five terms in Congress representing Tennessee and is the son of a long-serving Democratic congressman from Memphis — has worked as a managing director at Morgan Stanley since 2011, and is a regular news analyst on MSNBC.

Ford endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race, and he and his wife, Emily, contributed to Clinton’s campaign. But Ford is also close with Trump’s children, Don Jr., Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared Kushner, an associate said.

Now the moderate Democrat is poised to potentially join the incoming Republican administration. Two sources confirmed to POLITICO that Ford has yet to meet with the president-elect, but that there have been some preliminary feelers put out about potential Cabinet-level posts, including transportation secretary, via “emissaries.” And Ford did not rule it out.

“He’s happy doing what he’s doing,” a source close to Ford told POLITICO. “If the President-elect called, then of course, he would listen carefully.”

(Ford himself told Politico he was on vacation with family and to call him at the office on Monday.)

And from the brief Times itemWhy Mr. Ford? He is a frequent guest on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” and the co-host Joe Scarborough has the president-elect’s ear.

The Tennessean has a broader article, including comments from some Tennessee politicians. Here’s an excerpt:

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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