Blog Entries

Black campaigns with Ramsey, talks drug addiction at ETSU

While campaigning for governor in the Tri-Cities area Monday, U.S. Rep. Diane Black stopped by East Tennessee State University’s Bill Gatton of College of Pharmacy to participate in a roundtable discussion on drug addiction treatment and prevention research, reports the Johnson City Press.

Accompanied by former Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, who now serves as her campaign co-chair, Black listened attentively and asked many questions, even interjecting at times to ask for clarification or provide her own feedback.

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Goins becomes latest incumbent to retire from General Assembly

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Republican Rep. Tilman Goins (R-Morristown) is the latest sitting lawmaker to announce he won’t seek re-election this fall.

“It is now time to step aside so that someone else with a heart for service can bring their perspective to help continue fighting for the people of Morristown and Hamblen County,” Goins said in a release Monday.

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Blackburn bucking historic TN trend against U.S. Reps. winning U.S. Senate elections

Press release from Smart Politics:

With Stephen Fincher ending his candidacy in Tennessee’s 2018 U.S. Senate race, a new Smart Politics report examines how sitting and former U.S. Representatives from the Volunteer State have fared in primary and general elections for the state’s upper legislative chamber over the last century:

● A Smart Politics analysis finds that prior to 2018, sitting and ex-Tennessee U.S. Representatives have been victorious in eight of 22 U.S. Senate bids in the direct election era (36.4 percent) with Democrats winning seven of 15 and the GOP one of seven.

● William Brock is the only Republican U.S. Representative from Tennessee to win a U.S. Senate seat since 1913, with failed attempts by Henry Evans (1918), B. Carroll Reece (1948), Robin Beard (1970), Ed Bryant (2002, 2006), and Van Hilleary (2006).

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Alexander, Corker back bill aimed at strengthening gun background checks

U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker are co-sponsors of legislation intended to strengthen background checks for gun buyers and a White House spokeswoman says President Trump, while not endorsing a specific proposal, “is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system.”

From Michael Collins’ report:

 “We need to make existing background checks more effective,” Alexander, R-Tenn., said in a statement Monday.

The legislation would help ensure “that federal agencies and states get information about individuals who should be prohibited from buying a gun into the national background check system,” he said.

The bill provides financial incentives to states and federal agencies to work harder to comply with laws requiring them to report criminal and mental health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS.

…”I have long supported improving how our background check system operates, while at the same time ensuring that Second Amendment rights are not infringed upon,” said Corker, R-Tenn. “The Fix NICS Act meets that test, and I am proud to be a cosponsor of this piece of legislation.

“It is very important that federal agencies and state governments take the time to comply with existing federal law and submit the relevant information to NICS in order to ensure that those who have lost their right to possess a firearm are prohibited from purchasing one.”

Note: The New York Times report on Trump’s position and related gun matters is HERE.

House sub blocks push to disinter and relocate President James K. Polk’s body

The House State Government Subcommittee has rejected a legislative resolution authorizing disinterment of the bodies of President James K. Polk and his wife from a tomb on the state capitol grounds and moving them to Columbia.

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Maury County Commission chairman seeks to succeed Rep. Butt in House District 64

Maury County Commission Chairman Michael Fulbright has announced as a candidate for the Republican nomination in House District 64, now held by retiring Rep. Shelia Butt (R-Columbia), reports the Columbia Daily Herald. He says the big issue for the area is preparing for rapid growth spilling over from Nashville.

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Politico: TN one of six states with no enforcement of minimum wage rules

Excerpt from a Sunday Politico piece:

As Democrats make raising the minimum wage a centerpiece of their 2018 campaigns, and Republicans call for states to handle the issue, both are missing an important problem: Wage laws are poorly enforced, with workers often unable to recover back pay even after the government rules in their favor.

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Rally at UT brings 45 white nationalists, 250 protesters, 200 law enforcement officers

About 45 white nationalists showed up for a Saturday rally on the University of Tennessee Knoxville campus that was led by Matthew Heimbach, leader of a group known as Traditionalist Worker Party, reports the News Sentinel. So did 250 people protesting white nationalists and about 200 law enforcement officers from four different agencies.

There were no arrests, though six people were issued tickets for obstructing a highway during the protests, according to University of Tennessee Police Chief Troy Lane.

“I have repeatedly said they weren’t invited,” said UT Chancellor Beverly Davenport afterward. “We didn’t want them here. I certainly didn’t want them to come here. This is not a place that stands for hate and bigotry and prejudice. I’ve said that before and I’ll say it again.”

Heimbach is co-founder of the TWP and spent more than two hours talking to the roughly 45 people gathered with him on Saturday about his vision for a whites-only state where the purpose of women is “to have and raise children” and homosexuality is grounds for capital punishment.

Meanwhile, protesters assembled at the Humanities Amphitheater for a “No Nazis on Rocky Top” event organized by the UTK Progressive Student Alliance.

Despite a cold rain, the group later spread across campus, with many choosing not to enter a secure demonstration area police had set up outside Ayres Hall.

The crowd was a motley crew of students, faculty and local residents wielding fabric banners and poster board signs that read “no nazis in knox” and “all you fascists are going to lose.”

TN Tech research used in lobbying ‘eviscerated’ by some professors

“Growing faculty outrage” prompted a Tennessee Technological University internal investigation into the validity of the school research that was financed by a Tennessee company, then used by U.S. Rep. Diane Black in supporting the company’s viewpoint on federal air pollution regulations, reports The Tennessean. Tech’s president suggests the internal review may “exonerate the innocent.”

Professors have eviscerated the results of a $39,000 study commissioned by Fitzgerald Glider Kits, a Byrdstown-based trucking company that makes rebuilt diesel engines. The findings suggested those engines do not emit more harmful emissions than new engines.

The study, summarized in a June 2017 letter to U.S. Rep. Diane Black that was signed by university President Phil Oldham, was used to lobby to keep a measure that allows rebuilt diesel engines used in glider kits to be exempt from modern federal emissions rules.

The problem, as reported Thursday in The New York Times, is that the Tennessee Tech research is contradicted by an Environmental Protection Agency analysis that found emissions from glider kits are much more dangerous than emissions from new engines. (Note: The Times report also says Black got $225,000 in gubernatorial campaign contributions from donor tied to Fitzgerald. Previous post HERE.)

“This one has been called into some question, and so we’re following university policy to look into it based on concerns that have been expressed,” he said during a Thursday interview at the Cookeville campus. “Nothing has come to my attention at this point that concerns me but the fact that other people have raised concerns warrants us to take a look at it.”

But many professors, including members of the faculty senate, have demanded a more aggressive effort to distance the university from what they say is embarrassing research.

…In a letter to the head of the faculty senate, (interim College of Engineering Dean Darrell) Hoy recalled “urging (almost begging) that the Administration immediately suspend support for the project” during a Jan. 23 meeting.

“I realize this memo and the facts that I have brought to light may be a ‘professional suicide’ with regard to my position as Interim Dean,” Hoy wrote. “However, if that is what it takes to help force a more active response from the University and stop the damage to the College, I do it willingly and without hesitation.”

…Questions about conflicts of interest are compounded by the fact that Tennessee Tech and Fitzgerald announced a partnership in August that would allow the university to house a program in a company building on Fitzgerald’s property.

Fitzgerald did not respond to messages seeking a comment on the Tennessee Tech research or partnership.

Oldham said the partnership was not connected with the research project. He repeatedly defended the study and the protocol it followed during the Thursday interview.

He said the internal investigation could be an opportunity to “exonerate the innocent,” but he left open the possibility it might lead to changes.

Fincher drops out of Senate race, urges Corker to get back in

Former U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher (Image credit: Fincher campaign)

Former U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher (Image credit: Fincher campaign)

Former U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, the gospel signing farmer from Frog Jump, is dropping out of the U.S. Senate race and urging incumbent Sen. Bob Corker to reconsider his decision not to seek a third term.

“My campaign has always been about what’s best for Tennessee,” Fincher said in a statement released Friday afternoon. “Tennessee families need a strong conservative voice in the Senate, someone who will stand with President Trump and lead the Republican Party forward.

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