Erik Schelzig

Editor, The Tennessee Journal

Bredesen leads Blackburn 46-43 in new poll

A new independent poll finds Democrat Phil Bredesen with a narrow lead over Republican Marsha Blackburn in the U.S. Senate race in Tennessee.

Bredesen had the support of 46%, compared with 43% for Blackburn and 11% undecided, according to the Mason-Dixon poll released Wednesday. The telephone poll of 625 registered voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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McCormick lets the gavel crash in Budget Sub

As chairman of the House Finance Subcommittee, the “Black Hole” of legislative legend, Rep. Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) can make or break the funding dreams of rank-and-file members. Even when he’s had to crush those hopes, he’s tried to do so with a gentle touch. But not on Monday, when Rep. Mike Sparks (R-Smyrna) tried to pull what McCormick saw as an end-around on the budget process.

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Takeaways from the GOP gubernatorial debate in Memphis

The Memphis event was billed in advance (and again from the stage) as not being yet another meaningless gubernatorial forum in which everybody would end up restating the same platitudes, but a bona fide battle royale, a “debate.” It wasn’t.

There was little overt disagreement and minimal effort to create it. The Republican participants  — Diane Black, Randy Boyd, and Bill Lee (Harwell begged off because of legislative responsibilities) — became a virtual amen chorus to the idea that Memphis has been shafted by the state relative to other sections of Tennessee.

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Report: Mae Beavers’ husband uses epithet against critic

The husband of former Republican gubernatorial hopeful Mae Beavers used a derogatory epithet against a woman who questioned campaign finance issues related to her bid for Wilson County mayor.

The Lebanon Democrat reports that Jerry Beavers stood up and accused the questioner, Dolores Mackey, of being a troublemaker.

“The room seemed surprised, and as he sat down, he mumbled ‘stupid bitch,’” Mackey said.

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11th-hour push would dial up per diems for lawmakers

As the 110th General Assembly works its way toward adjournment, lawmakers are making an 11-hour push to pad their expense accounts.

As Andy Sher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports, the bill sponsored by House Republican Caucus Chairman Ryan Williams of Cookeville (HB1941) would stop using the federal reimbursement rate for hotels and instead use a new formula based on Nashville’s downtown business district. Williams told the House Government Operations Committee on Monday that the change would result in an additional $30 to $60 per night, depending one hotel prices. (The current federal rate is $170 per night.)

Lawmakers receive the daily hotel reimbursement regardless of the price they pay for hotels, or if they rent their own apartments when they are in town on legislative business (or even if they sleep in their offices for free).

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Retiring Corker subject of billboard campaign in Nashville

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Chattanooga) may be hanging ’em up this year, but that’s not stopping a group called Not One Penny from taking out a billboard near the state Capitol in Nashville to attack him over his vote on President Donald Trump’s tax overhaul.

The Not One Penny campaign is part of the Tax March organization that describes itself as “everyday Americans who are tired of systems that are rigged in favor of the super-rich.” The billboard says that Corker’s vote for the tax bill led enriched the senator personally.

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Sunday wine and liquor sales bill heads to governor

The Senate has approved a bill to allow wine and liquor to be sold on Sundays. The 17 votes the bill received were the bare minimum necessary to clear the chamber. Eleven senators voted against the bill sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro).

The bill will go into effect upon signature by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who has said he will defer to the will of the legislature on the matter (UPDATE: He tells The Tennessean he will sign it). That means liquor stores will immediately be able to open their doors to the public on Sundays. Supermarkets will be able to follow suit starting on Jan. 1.

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Democrat Dean reports raising $550K in first quarter

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean speaks to a business group in Nashville on March 20, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)


A release from former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean’s Democratic gubernatorial campaign:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (April 10, 2018) — The Karl Dean for Governor campaign continues to gain momentum with the total raised from contributors now topping $3 million. During the most recent fundraising period, which ended March 31, the campaign raised $549,168. The campaign currently has $2.02 million cash on hand available to spend.
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Re-vote on Polk resolution featured wild swings for and against

Rep. Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station) was among 13 members who swung their support to the Polk resolution after declining to support it the first time, while 11 switched from yes to no.

A net gain of two supporters was enough to secure passage of a resolution urging the body of President Jame K. Polk to be exhumed from the state Capitol grounds and moved to Columbia. But that doesn’t tell the whole story about the the wild swing in votes on the controversial measure.

Just 37 members voted for the resolution both times it was up on the floor. Eleven lawmakers who had voted for it when it failed on a 49-37 vote last month (one short of the 50-vote minimum) jumped ship to vote against it when it came back up on Monday night. But it gained the support of 13 members who hadn’t voted for it the first time to pass 51-37 on the re-vote.

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Haslam taps short-lived Pilot CEO for UT board

John Compton. (Photo credit: Gov. Haslam’s office)

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has tapped a former CEO of the family-owned Pilot Flying J truck stop chain to the reconstituted board of the University of Tennessee.

Haslam nominated John Compton and nine others as nominees to the UT board on Monday. Compton ran Pilot for less than six months after Jimmy Haslam, the governor’s brother, stepped aside following his 2012 purchase of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns.

Less than six months later, Jimmy Haslam decided to come back to run the company. Compton, a former president of PepsiCo Inc., was shifted into a consulting role. In April 2013, federal agents descended on Pilot’s Knoxville headquarters amid widespread fraud perpetrated by the company’s sales department.

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