bill haslam

Some contrasting commentary on passage of gas tax bill

From Tea Party leader Judson Phillips, writing in Tennessee Star (excerpt):

The Tennessee Republican Party died on April 19, 2017. Ten years after the GOP became the majority party in Tennessee, led by a liberal governor, the party committed political suicide.

By voting for the largest tax increase in the history of the state of Tennessee, the Republicans in the state legislature knifed their base in the back and repudiated everything they claim to stand for. Tennessee Republicans routinely make campaign speeches talking about how conservative they are and how they believe in limited government.

Today, Tennessee’s conservative base knows this is a lie… Unfortunately, the Tennessee Republicans supermajority in the legislature chose to listen to a lame duck, feckless crap weasel governor instead of the people who put them in office.

From Gov. Bill Haslam

“The IMPROVE Act is the largest tax cut in Tennessee history, makes us more competitive as we’re recruiting manufacturing jobs and keeps our transportation network safe, reliable and debt-free for the next generation of Tennesseans. While there remains action to be taken on this legislation, I want to thank both chambers for their votes today on the IMPROVE Act, particularly Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) and Reps. Barry Doss (R-Leoma) and Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) for their work carrying the legislation.”

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‘Open container’ bill dies despite Haslam’s support

Legislation prohibiting open containers of an alcoholic beverage in moving vehicles is dead again this year even though Gov. Bill Haslam made it part of his official legislative package for 2017.

Sen. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, who has pushed the idea for years, had hoped Haslam’s backing would make a difference, reports WJHL-TV, and is disappointed by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (sponsoring SB1219 for the administration) pulled the bill without a vote.

Norris said there’s not enough support among legislators for passage and debating the matter would be “a distraction” from the push for passage of the governor’s priority bill of the year — a package of tax legislation including increases in gas and diesel fuel taxes.

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Haslam on school bus seat belts: I’m not for the bill, but would sign it

Gov. Bill Haslam’s bill responding to a fatal school bus wreck in Chattanooga last year has been moved ahead without opposition but he’s staying out of a more controversial debate over whether the vehicles should be required to have seat belts, reports the Times-Free Press.

The governor told reporters that his administration is “technical deferred” on HB395 by Rep. JoAnn Favors, D-Chattanooga. His bill (HB322) won unanimous House approval Monday. Favors’ bill has cleared a couple of key committees on close votes, but still has a long way to go.

“I think there’s a big discussion back and forth in the Legislature,” Haslam said. “Deferred means if they pass it, we’ll sign it and figure out a way to fund it. But we’re not actively engaged in that one. The proposal we made was the proposal that we obviously wanted to make certain would happen.”

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Roundup of some recent TN politics and policy writing

Gas tax debate brings new legislator titles

In a lengthy review of conservative legislator complaints that they haven’t gotten a fair hearing while opposing Gov. Bill Haslam’s tax plans, Sam Stockard depicts Rep. Jerry Sexton as “apparent leader of the ‘Fire and Brimstone Caucus’.”

Excerpt:

Sexton was so irritated he got into an argument with Tennessee Journal writer “Easy” Ed Cromer, who had the audacity to ask him if he also opposed a cut in the food sales tax, a 1 percent reduction contained in the bill.

“Why don’t you ask me if I’m against F&E and the Hall tax (cuts)? You want to pick out something,” Sexton argued.

Cromer, who could be the most laid-back member in the Capitol Hill Press Corps, bristled at the suggestion he was being unfair – at least as much as he can bristle – and after a short back-and-forth with Sexton left the scene of the crime (We’ve got a lot of folks storming out these days).

On the other hand, Tennessee Star – which has hailed Sexton’s efforts and commentary – has taken to referring to Rep. Barry Doss, R-Leoma, who has taken the lead in pushing Haslam’s bill in the House – as “Boss Doss” in criticizing his commentary.

The latest example, under the headline “Boss Doss Claim That Tennessee is Lowest Taxed State in Nation Contradicted by Kiplinger Report” is HERE.

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Gas tax maneuvers: Haslam targets 15 House votes; Harwell may flip-flop

House Speaker Beth Harwell, who last week declared her support for an alternative to Gov. Bill Haslam’s tax package proposal, now says she’s “leaning” toward support of the administration bill, reports the Times-Free Press.

The governor, meanwhile, has set up 20-minute private interviews with 15 legislators considered “on the fence” in voting for the bill, reports The Tennessee Star. There are 11 Republicans and four Democrats on the list of legislators getting an emailed invitation.

The House floor vote on Haslam’s bill is scheduled for Wednesday.

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Haslam appoints new ABC commissioner; Harwell and McNally may do same soon

West Tennessee pharmacist Richard Skiles has been appointed by Gov. Billl Haslam to the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission, filling  vacancy left on the board by the resignation in January of Mary McDaniel of Memphis.

While Skiles is the newest member of the panel, he probably won’t have that status for long, as observed by Nashville Post Politics. A bill already passed by the Senate (SB556) was approved by the House State Government Committee on Wednesday. It adds two new members to the ABC – one appointed by the House speaker, the other by the Senate speaker – to join the three now appointed by the governor.

Similar legislation passed the Senate last year, but was killed in the State Government sub about the same time the ABC’s executive director abruptly quit the post – moves that Senate Republican Leader  Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro says were related.

The House sponsor this year is Republican Rep. Bill Sanderson who shares Kenton as a home town with new Commissioner Skiles and is also chairman of the full State Government Committee.

Note: For a lengthy review of the pending bill and some of the ABC politics involved, see a News Sentinel report HERE. An excerpt:

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Haslam gas tax plan clears House Finance; no vote on Harwell alternative

Gov. Bill Haslam gas tax bill won approval of the House Finance Committee in a voice vote Tuesday after an alternative proposal promoted by House Speaker Beth Harwell was discussed, then shelved without a vote.

The Harwell alternative came in the form of an amendment sponsored by Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, that would have diverted sales tax revenue from vehicle sales to the highway fund rather than the state’s general fund. Haslam’s bill (HB534) raises the gas tax by six cents per gallon and the diesel fuel tax by 10 cents per gallon over a three-year period. It also includes cuts to other taxes.

Further from The Tennessean:

The House finance committee’s approval of Haslam’s bill assures the measure could receive a vote on the House floor, barring any last minute legislative high jinks. (It’s already cleared for a Senate floor vote.)

… Rep. Gerald McCormick moved to reject Hawk’s proposal, which led the Greeneville Republican to withdraw his amendment.

McCormick said because Hawk’s amendment would have completely rewritten the bill, the committee should be leery of taking such action.

“I’m really afraid that we could make some serious mistakes doing that,” McCormick said.

Despite pulling back his amendment, Hawk vowed to continue to fight over the measure on the House floor.

“I will state that this issue is far from being done. We will have a conversation on the floor about how we need to better fund transportation and what is the most responsible way to do that as we serve our constituents,” Hawk said. “That’s a promise. We will have a debate on the floor and we will bring an amendment to the floor.”

House panel spurns in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants

By a one-vote margin, a  House committee today shot down legislation that would grant in-state college tuition rates to undocumented students who have graduated from Tennessee high schools. Seven members of the House Education Administration and Planning Committee members voted against HB660; six for it.

A similar bill passed the Senate last year but failed on the House floor by one vote.

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Boyd campaign confession: I want to be bolder than Bill Haslam, but wouldn’t be running without him

In an appearance before the Washington County Republican Women’s Club on Monday, Randy Boyd was asked if his main goal in running for governor is to carry on Gov. Bill Haslam’s legacy, reports the Johnson City Press.

“I’ll hopefully be able to do new and bolder things, but I have to confess that I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for (Haslam), his guidance and his example,” the Knoxville native answered during a brief Q&A session.

Boyd then mentioned he was intent on fulfilling the “Drive to 55,” a state initiative that aims to put a college degree or certificate in the hands of 55 percent of Tennesseans by 2025.

“It’s something I want to see finished,” Boyd, who served as Haslam’s commissioner of economic development, said.

“I’ll say there is a difference maybe in emphasis. The focus on the technical and vocational schools will be a matter of emphasis. … The things I want to focus on is making sure we have those technical skills at our high schools and our Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology. We’re going to put a real priority on that.”

Boyd is often credited as the architect of the “Drive to 55” campaign and a fundamental element to the campaign is Tennessee Promise, a scholarship and mentoring program that covers tuition for in-state students at any of Tennessee’s 13 community colleges or 27 colleges of applied technology.

But expanding that initiative to cover tuition at all of Tennessee’s four-year colleges just doesn’t seem plausible, Boyd said.

Legislature approves subsidies for rural broadband service

The House has joined the Senate in approving Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act,” sending it to the governor for his signature.

From WBIR’s report:

The bill (SB1215) provides $45 million over three years in grants and tax credits for service providers to help make broadband available to unserved homes and businesses. It also allows Tennessee’s private, nonprofit electric cooperatives to provide retail broadband service.

The third part of the bill makes grant funding available to local libraries to help residents improve their digital literacy skills.

About 34 percent of rural Tennesseans don’t currently have broadband access at recognized minimum standards, according to the state.

Here’s the Haslam administration press release praising passage:

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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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