roundups

Gubernatorial candidate doings, 9/13/2017

Six major candidates for governor appeared, one at a time, before a Tennessee Business Roundtable forum Tuesday and the resulting media reports focused on matters ranging from the recent state gas tax to in-state tuition for college students illegally brought to the United States as children by their parents.

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Roundup of TN media reporting on Confederate memorial matters

There is a remarkable amount of media reporting on Tennessee support and/or opposition to Confederate memorials today. Here’s a sampler:

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Some TN political junkie reading suggestions, 8/7/2017

On members of Congress running for governor

Diane Black is one of nine current members of the U.S. House who have announced as candidates for governor in their home state and a “handful of others” are mulling the possibility, reports Politico.

But most of the aspiring governors are vacating the comfy confines of safe congressional districts for what, historically, has been a bad bet. The last time this many sitting representatives ran for governor, in 2006, twice as many lost as won.

… The aspiring governors in Ohio and Tennessee have slightly better historical records to fall back on. Both states have seen three sitting lawmakers elected governor since the turn of the 20th century. But the most recent in Ohio is Democrat Ted Strickland in 2006 and in Tennessee, and it’s been nearly a quarter-century since Republican Don Sundquist won in Tennessee, Ostermeier said

TN history note: Before Sundquist, the last member of Congress elected as Tennessee governor was Democrat Ray Blanton in 1974. And before that, it was Democrat Gordon Browning in 1936 (after trying an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate in 1934).  Browning then lost a bid for reelection, but returned to win the governor’s office again in 1948.

Just a guess, but Black probably will not be emphasizing her historical predecessors in the coming campaign.

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Some suggested TN political junkie weekend reading

The Douglas Henry State Museum Commission’s efforts to block Victor Ashe, or any other board member, from making negative comments about museum operations have generated a round of negative comments about museum operations.  Here’s a sampler, along with other articles not involving Ashe or the museum appearing around the state during the past few days:

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TN politician commentary on Comey (‘Big distraction,’ says Haslam)

A roundup of some comments on former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before a congressional committee Thursday:

From Gov. Bill Haslam and former Gov. Don Sundquist, via WBIR TV:

“To me, the big issue, to me, is all of this ends up being such a big distraction,” Haslam said. “Forget your politics, which side you are on, Democrat or Republican, the unfortunate reality of this is you have something like this going on around you, you are not very effective at delivering good government.”

Haslam said from what he knows now, he does not think President Trump obstructed justice. Former governor Don Sundquist agreed.

“I learned that [President Donald] Trump is not a candidate for prosecution,” Sundquist said. “Comey, I think, is distressed over the fact he was fired. He was embarrassed, and a president has the right to name their own person.”

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Guber campaign notes: Prayerful Green, Fitzhugh on the cliff; Boyd & Lee on the road

Some notes from media reports on the developing campaign for governor:

Sen. Mark Green in a Tennessean report, after saying he was encouraged by a letter signed by 106 “conservative leaders” urging him to resume his run for the GOP nomination and that he would make a decision within a week.

“I have heard forom these leaders and many others from all parts of Tennessee asking me to run as their conservative candidate for governor,” he said. “I am examining, prayerfully, with the input of friends and family, all of my options including resuming my campaign for governor.”

House Speaker Craig Fitzhugh, Democrat, quoted by the Nashville Post from a speech to the L Club in Nashville on Saturday following an introduction by millionaire businessman Bill Freeman (who said “he’s my candidate for governor, if he decides to run”):

“I think I’m ready to jump off a cliff,” Fitzhugh told the group to loud applause. “I might go splat, but I might also land on my feet.

Another quote: “We’ve been in session, and I got behind on some other things. But we’re out now. And I’ve got some other boxes to check off and some people I want to talk to,” Fitzhugh said. “But I’m moving in that direction. I’ve got a lot of good support, some good encouragement, and my family’s on board, so I’m just almost there.”

Announced Republican candidates Randy Boyd and Bill Lee, both millionaire businessmen, continue their introductory campaign travels through the state, getting some local media attention. Recent samples:

Boyd quote from visit to Dover in Stewart County, as reported by the Clarksville Leaf Chronicle:

“I want to complete some missions I started while special adviser on higher education and while I was commissioner of Economic and Community Development,” Boyd said on a recent campaign swing through Dover. “My goal is to make Tennessee THE State of Opportunity. … When you think of Tennessee, that’s the place you go for a better education, for an opportunity for a better job, an opportunity for everyone. They don’t leave anyone behind in Tennessee.”

Lee quote from visit to the Tri-Cities area, as reported by the Johnson City Press;

The cattle farmer, businessman and family man leads his campaign by letting people know he isn’t a politician, focusing on the fact that he is a native Tennessean with the people and state in mind.

“We have growing cities, a great small business climate and improving schools,” Lee said. “But we also face challenges shared by both our rural areas and inner cities — rising crime, persistent unemployment, increasing opioid abuse and families in turmoil. While we’ve made great strides across our state, we can’t leave these communities behind.”

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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Multi-question MTSU Poll: Obamacare repeal, school bus seat belts, vouchers, etc.

News release from Middle Tennessee State University

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Tennessee voters dislike Obamacare and want it repealed, but not until they’ve seen details of a replacement plan, the latest MTSU Poll shows.

They also support banning immigration from “terror-prone regions” but think illegal immigrants already here should be able to stay and apply for citizenship, and they split about evenly over believing, doubting or not knowing what to think about President Donald Trump’s repeated claim, without supplying evidence, that millions of illegal voters prevented him from winning the popular vote during the 2016 election.

“Most of these opinions divide sharply along political party lines,” said Ken Blake, Ph.D., director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University. “But there are some perhaps surprising areas of cross-party agreement.”

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A rundown on some recent TN political columns

On kookiness in  East TN

In a Commercial Appeal column, Otis Sanford looks east to “political vitriol bubbling up” in the 2nd Congressional District, citing U.S. Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan’s refusal to hold town hall meetings because they could become “shouting opportunities for extremists, kooks and radicals.” An excerpt:

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a microcosm of the state of our political discourse in 21st Century America. The ill will has been around for several years, but it has now gotten worse. And we have to ask ourselves, did the kookiness start with the politicians or with the people who elected them?

… The lengthy diatribe from Duncan is particularly striking in that he is generally not known as someone who resorts to name-calling, even during the most heated political battle… But it’s obvious that the current national political rancor has revealed Duncan’s edgier side. And like so many other elected leaders, starting at the top, the 69-year-old ranking Tennessee congressman is no longer averse to describing some of his constituents as extremists, kooks and radicals.

In like-minded East Tennessee, who knew that deep-seated political enmity was contagious?

In Knoxville, on the other hand, George Korda writes that Duncan displayed “good judgment.”

Duncan decided to not irrigate a field seeded for conflict. A discussion in which members of Congress can hear and speak with constituents is one thing; trying to engage in conversation with people whose primary purpose is contention is another matter entirely…. Shouting down other people isn’t a meeting; it’s putting on a show for the cameras. Regardless of whether Indivisible East Tennessee members

…It’s not going to hurt him politically. In fact, it could be a positive.

Should “Mr. Nice Guy” Haslam play political hardball?

In a blog post, Hank Hayes of the Kingsport Times-News addresses the “perception that Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is too much of a Mr. Nice Guy.” While his “easygoing governing style” has worked in some ways, Hayes suggests that a lack of skill in playing“ political hardball” can also be a hindrance — say in pushing for more fuel tax revenue to build roads — and the governor should consider acting more like a couple of his predecessors.

If McWherter would have pitched a gas tax increase today, I believe he would have called every lawmaker into his office one by one and said: “Look, if you don’t support this, your district won’t get any road dollars.”

Former Gov. Phil Bredesen, another Democrat, described McWherter as one of his mentors. Bredesen was good at crafting what I’ll call the “Do This Or The End Of The World Will Happen” memo sent to lawmakers when he felt strongly about something. Bredesen also wasn’t afraid about making cold executive decisions.

Every governing style is different, but my point is there is precedent plus scenarios for playing political hardball.

So instead of telling his transportation funding reform plan’s opponents, “Show me the math on your plan,” maybe Haslam should be channeling his inner Ned McWherter or Phil Bredesen.

On Blue Cities at the mercy of a Red State legislature

In a Johnson City Press column, Robert Houk ponders the fate of “a left of center kind of gal or guy living in a Red State like Tennessee. Basically, their options are to “join a support group for local progressives,” move to a Blue State… or move to a Blue City. Excerpt:

Nashville has become a place of refuge for weary liberals. And while the Music City might never be confused for Seattle or San Francisco, members of the Republican-led state General Assembly are nonetheless paying close attention to what’s going on there.

They are determined to see that none of the liberalism found in the state’s Capital infests other municipalities in this state…. This kind of state power grab over cities is not limited to Tennessee. It goes on in most every state, and it has become even more prevalent as the divide between urban and rural communities widens in this nation.

…In the end, Blue Cities have little power in challenging the dictates of the legislatures in Red States. Just as they have gerrymandered seats in Congress, Republicans have been careful to draw safe districts for their members in statehouses.

That means support groups might become the only viable option for progressives in Red States.

Rep. Dunn, school vouchers bashed

Columnist David Hunter takes a rather harsh swat at state Rep. Bill Dunn for his renewed push for passage of school voucher legislation. Excerpt:

As of this writing, Dunn has not been able to get the voucher bill to the floor for a vote, even after his hyperbolic comparison of withholding vouchers to withholding medical care: “You could say they’re (the children) dying of cancer and we’re trying to come up with a treatment for them,” Dunn said.

I will concede that Dunn is familiar with the subject of withholding medical treatment for the poor. He is part of that altruistic bunch of Republicans who refused billions of dollars in federal funds to bring Medicaid up to a viable level for this state’s poorest people — while still presumably being able to sleep at night and look at himself in the mirror when he shaves.

 

Initial reaction to Haslam’s taxing plans

McNally likes it; Harwell ‘grateful’

Statement to media from Lt. Gov. Randy McNally:

“Governor Haslam’s proposal does what Republicans do consistently: It cuts taxes. This plan addresses our transportation funding dilemma in a way that makes sense and still reduces the overall tax burden on our citizens. In just the past few years, we have repealed the gift tax, eliminated the death tax, reduced the sales tax on food and begun the phase out the Hall Income Tax. Governor Haslam’s plan unveiled today does even more to reduce the overall tax burden on our citizens. This plan eases the tax burden on our manufacturers allowing them create jobs that Tennesseans need. The plan also takes another bite out of the food tax which gives our working and middle class citizens a tax break on the everyday necessities of life. For Tennessee’s economic growth to continue we must have the infrastructure to support it. This plan attacks the funding issue in a responsible way. I appreciate Governor Haslam bringing forth this proposal. I look forward to a spirited debate on the merits in the House and the Senate.”

Statement to media from House Speaker Beth Harwell

“I am grateful Governor Haslam has found ways to cut taxes and reduce the size of government in addition to calling attention to our infrastructure need and today putting forward a plan to address them. Transportation and infrastructure solutions are vital to ensuring our state remains competitive, creating jobs and bringing prosperity to all Tennesseans. I look forward to discussing these ideas and others to address these needs with my House colleagues.”

Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris: ‘Initially encouraging’

Statement from Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris, D-Memphis

“While we are waiting to receive more details on the Governor’s proposal later this week, particularly details on the franchise and excise tax cut proposal, the Governor’s remarks about infrastructure and public transit are initially encouraging. Democrats and many others have been pushing for solutions to solve our road issues. In my county alone, the state has $874 million in backlogged road projects, like the Lamar Avenue project, which has been shovel-ready for 15 years. Seventy-seven thousand trucks pass through Tennessee every day. It’s up to the state to ensure the highways are in good condition. As important, we have filed bills to expand public transit options by giving local governments the option to raise transit revenue, an idea the Governor endorsed this morning.  I am also initially encouraged by the cut to grocery taxes, which is the kind of broad-based reform that has the potential to give some relief, albeit minor, to all Tennesseans.  Finally, the Governor again raised the issue of cuts to the Hall Income tax, which is likely to raise concerns for local governments around our state that use that revenue for law enforcement, among other needs.  Unlike cuts to taxes on groceries, Hall Income Tax cuts only help a very limited number of individuals, around 4.3% of Tennessee households and, in some counties, like mine, less than 1% of households pay the tax.”

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh

Part of a press release:

“Investing in our infrastructure is one of the best things we can do as a state to create sustainable economic growth,” said Fitzhugh. “While I look forward to hearing more about the Governor’s plan, I also want to make sure whatever we do is equitable for all Tennesseans–regardless of their income or geographic location.”

Fitzhugh made the statement in response to Haslam’s announcement to cut $270 million dollars in taxes during the next year, of which only $55 million directly benefits Tennessee’s middle class.  The administration plans to ask for a 7 cent per gallon increase in gasoline and 12 cents for diesel engines, as well as a five dollar increase in registration fees and a $100 yearly fee for electric vehicles.

“I want a good road for our state, but for many issues in this administration and with the majority party, there has been a ‘kick the can down the road mentality,” Fitzhugh said.  “I believe in Gov. Ned Ray McWherter’s philosophy of ‘education plus roads equal jobs.’”

While Fitzhugh is happy with a proposal in the reduction of the grocery tax in Tennessee, he is troubled by the timing of the announcement.

“I applaud the governor for his intention to cut the grocery tax by a half percent, but we should have done this much sooner,” Fitzhugh said.  “I brought legislation early in the governor’s administration to reduce the grocery tax to this level. For almost 5 years, hard-working Tennesseans have paid an exorbitant tax on groceries compared to other states, while the Administration focused on cutting taxes for the wealthiest 4% of Tennesseans. This Hall Tax cut is putting local governments in a lurch and–at some point–those chickens are going to come home to roost.”

 

 

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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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