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.”
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:
Gov. Bill Haslam’s tax package cleared the House Finance Committee Wednesday, but then House Speaker Beth Harwell said she’s developing another plan – one without a gas tax increase – that could derail the governor’s proposal next week.
The Times-Free Press says the move by Harwell, widely expected to announce as a candidate for governor after the session ends, blindsided Haslam, Senate Speaker Randy McNally and some other Republican leaders.
Responding to a suggestion at a Tennessee Press Association meeting, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally recently said the legislature “probably” should reconsider the hundreds of exemptions to the state’s Open Records Act since it was enacted in 1957 and House Speaker Beth Harwell says she’ll think about it.
When the law was first passed declaring most records of public agencies open to citizens, there were just two exceptions – medical records of public hospital patients and security information held by state military officials. Since then, legislators have enacted more than 350 exceptions, according to a Tennessee Coalition for Open Government count.
The House and Senate speakers were questioned about the exceptions and the possibility of reviewing them to determine if all are still warranted. McNally replied the exemptions could be revised to make each subject to expiration unless periodically renewed by the legislature – similar to the “sunset” system in place for all state government departments, boards, commissions and agencies. Each governmental entity must be periodically renewed by the legislature – typically every six years – or it will “sunset” and cease to exist.
“I think that’s an idea we probably need to pursue,” said McNally.
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally says Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration is revising its plans to privatize Fall Creek Falls State Park and will change provisions seen as bypassing the State Building Commission, reports the Times-Free Press.
Speaking with reporters Thursday, McNally, the Republican Senate speaker, shed additional light on the controversy that forced Department of Environment and Conservation officials to abruptly drop a request for proposals from companies interested in operating the 26,000-acre park in rural Van Buren and Bledsoe counties.
The plan includes giving whomever is eventually picked as the concessionaire some $22 million appropriated in this year’s budget to tear down and build a new park inn and convention center.
“Well, the administration has backed it up, and I think they’re going to go back through the Building Commission process, which is what we wanted,” McNally said. “They’ll have to have the plan approved there, and then the Building Commission will also have to approve the design.”
McNally described the controversy as “somewhere between a bump in the road and a roadblock. It’s not a roadblock, but it’s not as insignificant as a bump in the road.” Continue reading
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally says that he sees no need for Tennessee’s so-called bathroom bill now that President Trump has issued a new guidance on transgender students and rest rooms, reports The Tennessean.
“I think given what the Trump administration has done, my assessment would be it’s not needed,” McNally said Thursday morning.
On Wednesday, the Department of Justice and the Department of Education announced that their agencies were withdrawing a guidance advanced last year by the Obama administration that permitted students to use restrooms for their chosen gender.
A day after shouting protesters stopped two legislators from holding a Legislative Plaza press conference, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally said Thursday that a return to tighter security measures at the state Capitol complex is needed.
McNally said… that he is considering reinstating a policy that was eliminated to require visitors to the legislature to have an ID scanned and wear a badge while visiting. He said some of the behavior from protestors, like preventing them from getting on elevators and leaving “shouldn’t occur.”
“We’re in favor of going back to have a little more security,” McNally said.
The move would require a joint effort between both Senate and House leadership.
McNally said it may require an entry process similar to what is used in most schools, which require visitors to scan an ID at an entry point and wear a visitor’s badge.
“I think people having name tags on, it’s a little bit of a deterrent to being violent or disruptive,” McNally said.
Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, said constituents should have easy access to their representatives, and the House Democratic Caucus will soon begin having come-one-come-all type meetings weekly in the Plaza to allow constituents to ask questions.
“We should be bending over backwards to allow the public to come speak with us,” he said.
Note: Previous post on protesters stopping the new conference is HERE.
Excerpt from a Kingsport Times-News report:
At Friday’s Regional Legislative Breakfast, incoming Lt. Gov. Randy McNally said the chances of the IMPROVE Act passing unscathed are about 50-50.
“I think a lot depends upon whether the Senate and the House make overall changes or smaller changes,” McNally, R-Oak Ridge, said of the proposal before the breakfast held at the MeadowView Marriott and attended by about 220 business leaders and elected officials. “Personally, I don’t like the escalating clause (indexing the fuel tax to keep up with the rate of inflation). I think legislators should be able to increase or decrease the tax as needed. I just don’t like taxes tied to inflation. That could get you in a lot of trouble.”
Rep. David Hawk, a member of the House Finance Committee, commended Haslam’s proposal but said Republicans are working on an alternative plan.
“One of the concerns I had is the fact there are so many moving parts to it,” Hawk, R-Greeneville, said of the IMPROVE Act. “You’re raising this, you’re lowering this, you’re going in a lot of different directions as the issues are being debated, and that gives people the opportunity to poke a hole in the plan. … I’m working with my colleagues both in the House and the Senate to try to come up with a plan that is a little more simple, but still will achieve our transportation needs.”
Rep. Gary Hicks, also a member of the House Finance Committee, indicated there may be several proposals to fix transportation funding.
“Let’s vet it. Let’s see what’s in it,” Hicks said. “ … We need to make sure it is what we need. One of the most important pieces of that gas tax that I look at is the local piece and what it provides to local governments. … This is something we definitely have to listen to.”
News release from Lt. Gov. Randy McNally’s office:
NASHVILLE – Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) today announced additional staff appointments to the Office of the Lt. Governor and Speaker of the Senate. These appointments follow last week’s announcement of longtime McNally aide Rick Nicholson as Senate Chief of Staff.
Debbie Martin, Executive Assistant to the Lt. Governor
Lt. Governor McNally’s Executive Secretary for nine years, Martin will be involved in all aspects of Lt. Gov. McNally’s office and will serve as his chief scheduler. A 30-year veteran state employee, Martin lives in Hendersonville with her husband, Tracy. The Martins have one adult daughter and two grandchildren.
News release from Lt. Gov. Randy McNally’s office
Lt. Governor McNally (R-Oak Ridge) today announced the appointment of Senate Chief of Staff Rick Nicholson.
“I have worked with Rick closely in his various roles with the legislature. Over his career, he has consistently impressed me with his knowledge and expertise. He is a trusted and professional policy advisor. His temperament, policy expertise and executive experience make him perfectly suited to serve the Senate as Chief of Staff. I am confident he will do an excellent job.”
A 26-year veteran of the General Assembly, Rick Nicholson started with the legislature working in the Chief Clerk’s office. He was appointed Assistant Chief Clerk of the Senate under Chief Clerk Clyde McCullough in 1998. In 2001, Nicholson went to work for then Chairman McNally as a committee research analyst. In 2012, Nicholson was appointed Senate Budget Director by Lt. Governor Ramsey.
McNally also praised departing Chief of Staff Lance Frizzell whose appointment expired in January. Frizzell is leaving the General Assembly to pursue other opportunities.