local government

Claude Ramsey — former deputy governor, mayor and legislator — dies aged 75

Claude Ramsey, who rose from third-generation Hamilton County strawberry farmer to deputy governor of Tennessee, died Monday at the age of 75, reports the Times Free Press.

In more than 40 years of public service, he was elected five times as county mayor, four times as assessor of property, twice to the Tennessee General Assembly and once as county commissioner. Ramsey never lost an election.

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Review finds some TN government agencies violating law on open records

A newly-released audit shows some government agencies in Tennessee are making it difficult for citizens to access public records and, in some instances, violating state law, reports the Associated Press. It covered city and county governments as well as school districts.

Open records advocates had hoped that a state law that passed in 2016 would make it easier for people to access information that should be publicly available to citizens. But the audit by the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government found that some agencies had adopted rules that were so rigid that they threatened to slow down or thwart the process of getting records.

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Haslam signs compromise short-term rental bill

Legislation setting statewide rules for short-term rental of residential property has been signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam without public comment. Similar bills have been the subject over lobbying wars for years over how much regulatory authority should remain with local government and the final version passed by the legislature was something of a compromise, worked out in a House-Senate conference committee.

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Knox County’s probable new mayor has been a wrestling libertarian

Former professional wrestler Glenn Jacobs’ win in the Republican primary for Knox County mayor – which usually means assured victory in the general election against the Democratic nominee – has inspired the inevitable comparison with former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura, who was mayor of a Minnesota town before his election as that state’s governor.

In a lengthy report on pro wrestlers as politicians, the News Sentinel says Jacobs “is expected to win handily” over Democrat Linda Haney, and includes comments from Gov. Bill Haslam (who, if Jacobs is elected in August, will be a constituent, assuming he returns to Knoxville) and a Ventura aide. Excerpt:

John Wodele was a Ventura aide serving as spokesman and political adviser for the former wrestler during his time as governor. He said people shouldn’t be surprised that wrestlers like Jacobs and Ventura have been successful.

“I mean, I would just say that in our democratic elected republic maybe it’s unusual that these wrestlers are running for office, but given the way that the WWE and other wrestling entertainment factions operate these days, they’re well-known people and they start with a base and there’s no reason they can’t run and can’t be successful,” Wodele said.

“I know a lot of people stick up their nose at wrestlers, and they did that to Ventura and he ended up looking down on them and I think that’s wonderful, I really do,” he (Jacobs) said.

…Haslam said being a mayor is an “incredibly important” position. When asked, Haslam said he’d emphasize to Jacobs that the role isn’t a political one.

“Having said that, Knox County government is like the city of Knoxville and the state of Tennessee, it’s a big service organization, we provide a lot of services to folks,” he said. “So, it’s critical that people in leadership positions understand that at the end of the day this is really not a political job. It’s about providing services all across the city or the county or the state.”

A separate article characterizes Jacobs politically as a libertarian, though he “toned down the rhetoric on the campaign trail over the past year” as compared to earlier writings and statements. And he was endorsed in his campaign by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.

Both were featured speakers at an event for the libertarian youth activist group Young Americans for Liberty in Atlanta last year.

“(Jacobs’) small government and pro-liberty philosophy of government – on education, the economy, regulation, taxes and more – is exactly what we need more of in our politics,” Paul said. “It’s why I think Glenn would be an excellent choice for mayor of Knox County.”

Nashville transit system rejected by voters, 64% to 36% in referendum

Nashville voters soundly rejected a proposed $5.4 billion overhaul of the city’s transit system in a referendum Tuesday. Funding would have come from a package of local tax increases.

The final unofficial totals: 79,327 against the proposal (64 percent); 44,636 for it (36 percent).

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Shelby County Commission to Haslam: Veto anti-sanctuary cities bill

Shelby County commissioners approved a resolution Monday that urges Gov. Bill Haslam to veto a bill that would require local and state law enforcement agencies to work with federal immigration agents on immigration matters, reports the Memphis Daily News.

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Haslam leaves open possibility of vetoing bill to protect Confederate monuments

Gov. Bill Haslam is leaving open the possibility of vetoing a bill inspired by City of Memphis’ moves to remove Confederate monuments from local parks and aimed at preventing any such actions in the future, reports the Times Free Press.

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House approves bill to end vehicle emissions testing in five TN counties

A bill seeking to do away with vehicle emissions testing in five Tennessee counties was overwhelmingly approved Monday evening by the state House and now goes to the Senate, reports the Times Free Press.

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Burchett accused of nepotism in hiring of stepson

A complaint to the state comptroller and anonymous emails to county commissioners accuse Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett of violating nepotism laws in the hiring of his stepson, a county laborer with a history of legal troubles, reports the News Sentinel. Burchett is currently running for the Republican nomination to the 2nd Congressional District seat.

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De-annexation bill dead; sponsor blames city lobbyists

An effort to enact legislation allowing disgruntled residents in some areas of Tennessee cities to vote to secede is dead for the year, reports the Times Free Press. The House sponsor, Rep. Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) blames lobbyists for municipalities.

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