Tom Humphrey

Tom Humphrey

TN Planned Parenthood leader stepping down after 17 years

Jeff Teague, long-time president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, has announced he is leaving the group Friday to “explore other opportunities,” reports the Times Free Press.

The group provides reproductive health services, including abortion, and has been at the center of any number of political and court battles in Tennessee over the years. It operates centers in Nashville and Knoxville.

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Memphis boosts grants to 1968 sanitation strikers to $70K

The Memphis City Council voted Tuesday to increase the grants going to city workers who participated in the city’s 1968 sanitation strike, reports the Commercial Appeal.

The council voted 10-0 to give the 10 retirees and four active employees $70,000 grants, with all taxes paid by the city. The council voted two weeks ago to approve Mayor Jim Strickland’s proposal to give the strikers all-taxes-paid $50,000 grants.

The council also amended the wording of the grants resolution to allow active employees to collect their grants immediately as opposed to when they retire.

Sen. Bowling questions report that forced resignation of community college president

State Sen. Janice Bowling is questioning a state Board of Regents report that led to the resignation of Motlow State Community College President President Anthony “Tony” Kinkel amid allegations of “autocratic” leadership, reports Sam Stockard. She’s asking the state comptroller to conduct an audit.

Bowling, a Tullahoma Republican, said she felt a lengthy probe of Kinkel’s presidency was inappropriate considering he’d been on the job for only a couple of years. In addition, she pointed out the report by the Board of Regents, which oversees Tennessee’s community colleges, did not take Motlow State’s performance under Kinkel into account before he was forced to resign in mid-June.

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Alexander, Corker back holding ‘vote-a-rama’ on Obamacare repeal, then split on first follow-up ballot

Tennessee’s U.S. senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, stuck with a big majority of their Republican colleagues in voting Tuesday to open debate on Obamacare repeal and/or replacement legislation. Only two Republicans voted no in the opening round of what Pollitico calls a “vote-a-rama.”

But on the second key vote, Corker was one of nine Republicans breaking ranks with the GOP Senate majority and voting no with all Democrats. The overall vote was 47 yes, 53 no, effectively killing – for the time being, at least — what The Hill describes as “the GOP repeal and a replace bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, as well as proposals from GOP Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Rob Portman (Ohio).”

The vote-a-rama continues today.

A further excerpt from The Hill story:

GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Dean Heller (Nev.), Mike Lee (Utah), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Rand Paul (Ky.) voted against the repeal-replace proposal on the procedural hurdle. No Democrats voted for it.  

The proposal was the first amendment to get a vote after senators took up the House-passed healthcare bill, which is being used as a vehicle for any Senate action, earlier Tuesday.

…Tuesday night’s vote doesn’t prevent GOP leadership from offering another repeal and replace amendment, or another version of BCRA. It could also help GOP leadership get rank-and-file senators on the record, as they try to figure out a path forward.

A vote on an amendment that would repeal much of ObamaCare is expected on Wednesday.

Note: See also the AP story Wednesday morning, HERE, which has more details. Both Tennessee senators sent out similar press release statements on their support for the first vote to open debate — Corker  HERE; Alexander HERE.

Duncan one of three congressmen voting no on Russia, Iran and North Korea sanctions bill

From Politico:

The House on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved new sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea, with the GOP-controlled chamber advancing a significant new constraint on President Donald Trump’s foreign policy.

The sanctions legislation, which allows lawmakers to block Trump from any attempt to roll back sanctions against Moscow, is expected to pass the Senate in similarly bipartisan fashion before next month’s recess.

… The House’s 419-3 vote on the sanctions bill saw only three dissenters: GOP Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan, John Duncan of Tennessee and Thomas Massie of Kentucky. Even Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), Russia’s staunchest defender on the Hill, revealed hours before the vote that he would support the measure out of support for its penalties against Tehran and Pyongyang.

Full story HERE.

Congressman Roe diagnosed with ‘early stage prostate cancer’

Statement from the Office of Congressman Phil Roe (R-Johnson City):

Following a routine physical examination, Congressman Roe was diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer. He will undergo treatment in East Tennessee during the August district work period. The prognosis is excellent, and treatment is not expected to interfere with his scheduled legislative duties. The Congressman’s offices in Kingsport, Morristown and Washington, D.C. will remain open and operate as usual. The office will provide an update after his treatment has been completed. No further updates or comments will be provided before that time. Congressman Roe thanks East Tennesseans for the privilege of serving them, and looks forward to continuing to represent them. Thank you.

The Johnson City Press adds this note:

Previously Johnson City’s mayor, Roe was first elected to the House of Representatives serving Tennessee’s 1st District in 2008. He easily won re-election in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016.

In 2015, Roe’s wife Pamela died shortly after being diagnosed with colon cancer. This year he and Clarinda Jeanes, widow of former Milligan College President Don Jeanes, married.

 

‘Bah, humbug!’ on sales tax holidays (from the Tax Foundation)

(Note: If you’ve looked at TV news, listened to the radio or read any newspaper in Tennessee the past few days or so, you will have seen reports on the “tax holiday” — no sales tax on designated purchases — this weekend. The statewide USA Today Network Tennessee version is HERE. On the other hand, there’s this.)

News release from The Tax Foundation

Washington, DC (July 25, 2017) – Sales tax holidays represent poor tax policy, costing states revenue while providing little benefit, according to a new Tax Foundation report.

More policymakers are recognizing this less-than-desirable tradeoff; Tennessee is one of only 16 states to use sales tax holidays for 2017, down from a peak of 19 states in 2010. Tennessee will offer a back-to-school sales tax holiday July 28-30.

Key Findings:
  • Sales tax holidays create additional tax compliance costs, but larger businesses tend to lobby for the holidays as a form of free advertising.
  • Most sales tax holidays involve politicians picking products and industries to favor with exemptions, arbitrarily discriminating among products and across time, and distorting consumer decisions.
  • While sales taxes are somewhat regressive, this does not make sales tax holidays an effective tool for providing relief to low-income individuals. In order to give a small amount of tax savings to those with lower incomes, holidays give a large amount of savings to higher-income groups as well.
  • Political gimmicks like sales tax holidays distract policymakers and taxpayers from genuine, permanent tax relief. If a state must offer a “holiday” from its tax system, it is an implicit recognition that the state’s tax system is uncompetitive. If policymakers want to save money for consumers, then they should cut the sales tax rate year-round.
“Sales tax holidays have enjoyed political success, but recently, policymakers are reevaluating them,” the report says. “Rather than providing a valuable tax cut or a boost to the economy, sales tax holidays impose serious costs on consumers and businesses without providing offsetting benefits.”
The full report is HERE.

Four enter guilty pleas in Pilot Flying J scam

The man dubbed by the FBI as the architect of the diesel fuel rebate scam by executives of the nation’s largest truck stop chain has struck a deal to confess, reports the News Sentinel.

The former Pilot Flying J vice president of sales, John “Stick” Freeman, and three other Pilot Flying J ex-employees have agreed to plead guilty in the multi-million-dollar fraud and, according to language in the documents filed Monday, cooperate with federal authorities in the ongoing probe.

Freeman has been repeatedly described in an FBI affidavit and an indictment filed by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Lewen and Trey Hamilton as the architect of the scam in which less sophisticated trucking companies across the country were promised certain rebates but paid much less.

Freeman is providing information to the FBI about Pilot Flying J and the diesel fuel rebate scam the corporation’s own board of directors has conceded ripped trucking firms off to the tune of millions in five years, pleadings filed Monday in U.S. District Court show.

Also striking deals to confess are: John Spiewak, a regional sales manager for Pilot Flying J; Vicki Borden, director of direct sales; and Katy Bibee, an account representative who worked directly with Freeman.

… Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lewen and Hamilton make clear in the plea agreements Freeman is a key player in their effort to show the rebate scam was pervasive as was the culture of greed that spurred it – and that former Pilot Flying J President Mark Hazelwood was looking to expand it.

…Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam has not been charged, though the FBI, indicated in testimony and court records he was a suspect. Haslam denies any knowledge of the scheme.

Petitions filed to hold vote on Hawkins County wheel tax increase

Petitions were submitted Monday calling for a referendum on whether a $40-per-vehicle wheel tax approved by the Hawkins County Commission will stand, reports the Rogersville Review.

The Commission had rejected the increase in a initial vote earlier this year, but then approved it after Jason Mumpower, deputy state comptroller, warned the officials that failure to enact a balanced county budget by July 1 would mean a state takeover of county finances.

Hawkins County Elections Administrator Donna Sharp says that, if the petitions contain enough valid signatures, a special election will be scheduled within 90 days at a cost of $70,000 or so.

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Tea party activist announces run for governor, vows to ‘drain our own swamp in TN’

Johnson City realtor and tea party activist Kay White officially her campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination Saturday at Jonesborough before a crowd of about 100 people, reports WJHL TV.

“I think we need to go back to some of the old values, of God, and country, and family, and good work ethics, that is what I believe in,” White said.

A check of the Registry of Election Finance website shows White has already filed the paperwork to raise money for her campaign. And there’s a campaign website, HERE, wherein White has a ‘drain the swamp’ comment echoing President Trump that’s somewhat similar to one by state Sen. Mae Beavers in announcing her candidacy for the GOP nomination. White had initially backed Beavers for governor, but the two had a subsequent parting of the ways (previous post HERE).

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