lobbyists

ECD deemed winner of Beacon’s TN 2017 ‘Pork of the Year’ award

Press release from Beacon Center of Tennessee

In the 12th annual Tennessee Pork Report, the Beacon Center revealed that state and local government officials wasted more than $400 million of taxpayer money this past year.

The Pork Report highlights a combination of government mismanagement, incompetence, and outright fraud. The Beacon Center allowed Tennesseans to choose the infamous “Pork of the Year” award, and it really came down to the wire. After nearly 400 votes were cast, the “winner” of the award was the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development for their Industrial Machinery Tax Credit. The department took 34% of the vote in the public poll.

In one of the most inefficient instances of corporate welfare in recent years, Tennessee taxpayers paid a whopping $67 million annually for a mere 55 jobs per year from 2011-2014, which adds up to $1.2 million per job. Even if the program’s main goal isn’t to create jobs, it is not the government’s role to help buy equipment for some private companies on the backs of Tennessee taxpayers. The $14 million of tax dollars given to the Opryland Hotel to build a waterpark (that residents are not even allowed to use) came in a close second with nearly 32% of the vote. Former Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold and the state Jobs4TN Program came in the 3rd and 4th with 19% and 15%, respectively.

The Beacon Center prints the Pork Report every year to make sure state and local governments are held accountable for how ineffectively they spend our tax dollars. The wasteful spending in this report should make Tennesseans’ blood boil. We hope that government officials will use this report to slash wasteful spending in 2018.

The 2017 Pork Report comes from state and local budgets, media reports, state audits, and independent research conducted by Beacon Center staff and scholars.

Note: The full 2017 “Pork Report” is HERE. Excerpt of some highlighted stuff as ‘nominated’ for Pork of the Year:

Jobs4TN: This state-based program has been taking millions of taxpayer dollars for years, spending more than $60 million in 2016- 2017 alone. This money then goes to a select few fortunate companies for their hiring and professional development needs, empowering government to pick winners and losers, and leaving left-out employers across the state to compete with these subsidized businesses.

Opryland Waterpark: The city of Nashville decided to give $14 million to Gaylord Opryland Hotel to construct a waterpark, and while taxpayers are footing the bill, the waterpark is open only to those staying at the hotel.

• Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD): ECD’s Industrial Machinery Tax Credit has doled out an astonishing $1.2 million in taxpayer money…per job. The tax credit has created just 55 total jobs at a cost of nearly $67 million.

• A Sheriff’s E-Cigarette Inmate Scheme: Former Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold profiteered off a captive audience of local inmates who were sold e-cigarettes from Arnold’s company—earning him and his wife nearly $75,000 over the course of their scheme, which was later exposed by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office.

Note: Arnold pleaded guilty to corruption charges and was sentenced to four years in prison. Randy Boyd, who resigned as ECD commissioner earlier this year, is running for governor.

ALEC meeting brings conservative legislators from across nation to Nashville

Conservative activists and state legislators from across the country will gather in Nashville for a summit of the American Legislative Exchange Council that runs from Wednesday through Friday, reports WPLN. Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to address the group Thursday.

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TN Beacon Center sets up ‘advocacy’ affiliate

Press release from Beacon Center of Tennessee

NASHVILLE – Today, the Beacon Center of Tennessee announced the formation of Beacon Impact, a new 501(c)(4) organization that will serve as the think tank’s advocacy partner. 

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TN Bankers Association names Heaslet as new counsel/lobbyist

News release from Tennessee Bankers Association

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Nov. 14, 2017) – Amy Smith Heaslet has been named general counsel and senior vice president of the Tennessee Bankers Association and elected secretary of its board of directors, TBA President Colin Barrett has announced.

In her new role, Heaslet will lead advocacy initiatives on legislative and regulatory issues and policies that affect the banking industry and will serve as an adviser to the TBA board of directors, officers and member banks. She was previously the TBA’s deputy counsel.

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Education lobbyist group rates legislators — seven get ‘A+,’ two graded ‘F’

In its first rating of state legislators, Tennesseans for Student Success today gave “A+” scores to seven members of the General Assembly while only two got ‘F’ grades and eight got ‘D’ grades.

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Wells steps down as Haslam administration lobbyist

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced today that Director of Legislation Warren Wells will leave the administration on December 1 to join the government affairs team at Unum in Chattanooga.

Wells, 34, has served in the Governor’s Office since 2011. He became Gov. Haslam’s chief strategist for legislation in 2015 and was instrumental to the passage of the IMPROVE Act, the Reconnect Act and the STRONG Act, landmark initiatives for Haslam.

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Lobbying trio sets up new firm

Veteran lobbyists Courtney Atnip, J.A. Bucy and Dustin Goforth launched their own company, Capitol & 5th Public Strategies, reports Nashville Post Politics.

The new lobbying firm will serve corporate, government and non-profit organizations in areas like technology, finance, tourism, food and beverage and health care.  

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Memphis council hiring lobbyists, maybe at over $100K budget

The Memphis City Council plans to hire The Ingram Group, a high-powered Nashville-based strategy firm, to serve as its envoy to state and national lawmakers, reports the Commercial Appeal.

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Legislators spend $150K per year on out-of-state travel

From 2009 through 2016, 143 Tennessee state legislators went on about 720 out-of-state trips at a cost to taxpayers of about $1.2 million, according to a Tennessean review of records— about $150,000 per year for the eight-year period. Top traveler was Sen. Reginald Tate, D-Memphis.

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Lee calls for more school choice, says ‘receptions that entertain legislators’ should be stopped

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee is calling for more school choice in Tennessee and an end to lobbyist-sponsored receptions for state legislators, reports the Associated Press.

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