Monthly Archives: May 2019

Alexander undergoes tumor surgery on leg

Former Govs. Lamar Alexander, left, and Phil Bredesen await the start of the inauguration of Gov. Bill Lee in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) has undergone surgery to to remove a tumor on his leg. Alexander’s chief of staff, David Cleary, put out the following statement:

This morning, Senator Alexander underwent surgery on his left leg at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

According to his surgeon, Herbert S. Schwartz M.D., Professor & Dan Spengler M.D., Chair in Orthopaedics at the Vanderbilt Department of Orthopaedic Surgery: ‘I successfully removed an atypical lipoma from Senator Alexander’s left leg. The surgery went as planned, and I will consult with my team and Senator Alexander to determine whether additional treatment is necessary.’

Senator Alexander looks forward to returning to Senate work shortly after the recess.

Rep. Jim Coley won’t run again in 2020

Rep. Jim Coley (R-Bartlett) says he won’t run for another two-year term in the Tennessee House next year, the Daily Memphian reports.

Coley suffered from serious health problems two years ago, but returned to finish his term and win re-election last year. He  decided not to seek another term after being diagnosed with early stages of dementia.

“It has been an incredible honor to serve the men, women and families of our community during my time in the House chamber, and I am proud of the progress we have made protecting our children from exploitation and abuse,” Coley said in a statement.

Coley was first elected to the House in 2006. He won the House District 97 race over Democrat Allan Creasy on a 55%-45% vote last year.

“Jim Coley has been a fierce advocate for our children and their families during his time in our General Assembly. I appreciate his service to his constituents and to our state, and I know he will be greatly missed by our members,” said House Republican Caucus Chairman Cameron Sexton of Crossville.

“The passion with which he performs his duties is unrivaled. We all wish him well on his retirement following the 2020 legislative session,” said House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland).

Kelsey denies wrongdoing in straw donor investigation

Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), right, attends a Senate Education Committee meeting in Nashville on April 16, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) is denying any wrongdoing related to questions raised about fundraising practices surrounding his failed 2016 bid for Congress.

The Tennessee Journal reported last week that the Department of Justice has been speaking to state lawmakers about donations made to Kelsey’s federal campaign after receiving contributions from his state account.

As first reported in 2017 by The Tennessean (and later augmented by a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission), Kelsey’s state committee, Red State PAC, gave thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to fellow state lawmakers, who then turned around and gave donations to his congressional account. The former state Senate Judiciary chairman also had more than $100,000 from his state account transferred to the Standard Club PAC, which then gave money to the American Conservative Union — both directly and through another committee run by conservative businessman Andy Miller Jr. The national group then made independent expenditures on Kelsey’s behalf.

“I am humbled that my congressional campaign received donations from roughly sixty of my colleagues, the overwhelming majority of whom never received a dime from Red State PAC or my re-election committee,” Kelsey said in a statement issued to the Daily Memphian.

“Both before and after those contributions were made, Red State PAC and my re-election committee donated to conservative candidates based on independent criteria including whether the candidate had a competitive race or had demonstrated political courage and leadership. I welcome any investigation because all donations were made in compliance with the law and on the advice of counsel,” he said.

Sports betting bill becomes law without Lee signature

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at an economic development announcement in Nashville on March 20, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Gov. Bill Lee has allowed the online sports gambling bill to become law without his signature.

Here is his letter to House Speaker Glen Casada explaining his actions:

RE: House Bill 0001/Senate Bill 0016 Speaker Casada:

I am letting House Bill 0001 become law without my signature.

I do not believe the expansion of gambling through online sports betting is in the best interest of our state, but I appreciate the General Assembly’s efforts to remove brick and mortar establishments. This bill ultimately did not pursue casinos, themost harmful form of gambling, which I believe prey on poverty and encourage criminal activity.

Compromise is a central part of governing, but I remain philosophically opposed to gambling and will not be lending my signature to support this cause. We see this issue differently but let me be cle ar: any future efforts to expand gambling or introduce casinos in Tennessee will assure my veto.

Respectfully,

Bill Lee

Report: Hill pressed ‘kill lists’ on committee chairmen

Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis), right, and Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) attend an NFIB event in Nashville on Feb. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Matthew Hill, a Jonesborough Republican who wants to succeed resigning Glen Casada as House speaker, pressed “kill lists” on committee chairman to try to control the flow of legislation through the chamber this year, the Daily MemphianSam Stockard reports.

Education Chairman Mark White (R-Memphis) says Hill would give him a list of bills that House leadership wanted to “survive” or “not survive” in his committee.

Hill “handed those to me, yeah. I don’t know where it came from there,” White told the publication. Hill would explain “leadership said these bills are not good for us,” he said.

“I’m not saying that’s right or wrong. I’m saying that did happen,” White said, adding that most of the instructions would be delivered during pre-meetings run by Hill and not attended by the general public.

Hill in a statement didn’t deny the existence of “kill lists.”

“The Speaker’s office would examine legislation in order to determine whether it was beneficial or harmful to Tennessee. While some of these initiatives were deemed harmful and were ultimately defeated in their respective committees, other advanced,” Hill told the Daily Memphian.

White said he declined to try to influence the votes of his colleagues.

“I left that up to each individual member, and I would judge each bill on its own merit,” he said.

Read the full report here.

 

Read Rep. Mike Carter’s letter seeking the speakership

Rep. Mike Carter takes the oath of office in Nashville on Jan 8, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) has sent a letter to Republican colleagues to declare his bid for the speakership. He pledges not to change any committee chairmanships, though he calls for an overhaul of the chamber’s rules to promote integrity. Carter says he would return most political functions to the House Republican Caucus chairman.

Carter is the second member to declare his candidacy after Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough).

Read the full letter below.

Members,

Today I am writing to request your support to serve as your Speaker. I am not asking you to serve me. I am asking for the high honor to serve you and the state of Tennessee.

I state this now, no Chairmanship, no Vice-Chairmanship, nor any other title or position currently held shall be removed. To allow that would give our opponents an opportunity to claim that any removal of a title is reflective of some conduct unbecoming of that representative. Considering what we have been through and realizing that conservative leadership is essential to the progress of Tennessee, we must balance every appearance against the effect on the reelection of our members.

I will form a PAC for the benefit of the members and work diligently to restore confidence with our contributors. I will assist the Caucus Chairman whenever he feels the office of Speakership is helpful for raising money.

We must reestablish the past tradition of the Caucus Chairman being the primary political figure. In my view the Speaker shall promote a culture to restore the trust of the citizens of Tennessee while encouraging great legislation we can be proud of and run on.

A Speaker’s leadership advisory team shall be established consisting of those who do not hold Chairman or Vice-Chairmanship positions of leadership so that the opinions of all shall direct the House. With the atmosphere we’re facing we must not only live in a glass bubble we must, with the consent of the Caucus, develop new rules and procedures to prove that integrity and trust has returned to the House of Representatives. Tennessee: First in integrity.

We must undertake a complete review of all policies, procedures and rules for committees and officers.

We will continue to lead as an equal branch of government cooperating with all but cowering to none. The House controls the purse, a duty and responsibility which we will take seriously and devote appropriate assets to lead the budget process.

You will be able to walk the halls and talk in your office without fear of eavesdropping.

Members will not be intimidated, and under no circumstance shall a member be threatened with a primary opponent because of any vote taken. They should at all times vote their conscience and district.

The bylaws of the House of Representatives Republican Caucus state, ”the speaker shall conduct his or herself with the highest ethical and moral standards representing the citizens of Tennessee and the Republican Caucus.” If we are to restore public trust, a clean break is imperative. The people of Tennessee both demand and deserve it.

Respectfully submitted,

/Mike Carter/

Mike Carter

State Representative

District 29

 

Casada’s former right-hand man is running to succeed him

Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) attends a meeting on Jan. 8, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Matthew Hill, a Jonesborough Republican who served as embattled House Speaker Glen Casada’s right-hand man, says he is running to succeed him.

WJHL-TV reports Hill announced his plans at a Johnson City Chamber of Commerce meeting on Wednesday morning.

Upon his election as speaker in January, Casada named Hill his deputy speaker and chairman of the House Ethics Committee. In that role, Hill pushed through controversial changes to House rules aimed at eliminating statements and announcements by members on the floor, imposed what Hill called a “biblical standard” of two members to file ethics complaints, and drafted an advisory opinion that one member charged was aimed at trying to “rig and predetermine” a favorable outcome for Casada.

It remains to be seen how much support Hill will garner among members who just voted this week that they had lost confidence in Casada over a text message scandal and his heavy-handed leadership style.

So who voted against the Casada no-confidence resolution?

House Speaker Glen Casada’s inner circle dines together after the Franklin Republican won the GOP nomination to lead the chamber in November 2018.

We know the final tally of the vote to declare the House Republican Caucus had lost confidence in Speaker Glen Casada was 45-24. But in the aftermath of the secret ballot, it’s been exceedingly difficult to find members who admit to have remained supportive of the embattled speaker.

“Forty-five of us stood for what was right and just,” said Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby), the first lawmaker to publicly call for Casada’s resignation. “And now, evidently, there were 68.”

We know Rep. Andy Holt made an impassioned — but unsuccessful — plea to table the resolution during the closed-door caucus meeting. But the Dresden Republican has been uncharacteristically quiet since the vote. Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet) wrote an op-ed supporting Casada on the eve of the meeting, and Rep. Robin Smith (R-Hixson) spoke in his favor during the gathering.

Rep. Tim Rudd (R-Murfreesboro) told the Daily News Journal he voted against the resolution. And presumably Casada himself voted against. So that’s five of 24.

Everyone else seems to be rushing to the winning side of the vote, including Casada’s erstwhile allies from northeast Tennessee, Matthew and Timothy Hill and Micah Van Huss, according to WJHL-TV.

Rep. Michael Curcio (R-Dickson), who was seen as working in close concert with Casada after he was appointed judiciary chairman, raised eyebrows among colleagues for issuing a statement after the vote claiming to have been on the winning side.

Casada to resign upon return from trip abroad

House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) checks his phone as he awaits the joint convention to hear Gov. Bill Lee’s first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Speaker Glen Casada plans to resign upon his return from a trip to Europe.

“When I return to town on June 3rd, I will meet with Caucus leadership to determine the best date for me to resign as Speaker so that I can help facilitate a smooth transition,” Casada (R-Franklin) said in a statement.

Casada’s long-planned vacation is scheduled to begin Friday. The decision to resign from the chamber’s top leadership post follows an overwhelming vote of no confidence from the House Republican Caucus on Monday. Gov. Bill Lee had said he would call a special legislative session if Casada did not resign.

“Speaker Casada has made the right decision, and I look forward to working with the legislature to get back to conducting the people’s business and focusing on the issues that matter most to our state,” Lee said in a statement.

Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) also lauded the decision.

“Speaker Casada announcing his intent to resign is the right decision for the legislature, the Republican Party and the statem,” McNally said. “I commend him for it. Now we move forward. I am committed to working with leadership in the House to help restore the trust that has been lost in any way I can.”

Gov. Bill Lee to call special session if Casada doesn’t resign

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters on March 19, 2019, about his proposal to introduce an education savings account program in Tennessee. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee said Monday eventing that House Republicans had sent a “clear message” in their 45-24 vote to declare they had lost confidence in the leadership of Speaker Glen Casada. “I’m prepared to call a special session if the Speaker doesn’t resign,” the govenror said in a statement.

Lee had said before a special House Republican Caucus meeting that he would await the outcome of the no-confidence vote to see whether it would serve a “signal” to whether the body wanted a special session. Apparently it did.

Casada told the caucus after the vote that he planned to spend the coming months trying to regain the confidence.

UPDATE:

House Republican leaders issued a statement calling on Casada to resign and applauding Lee’s willingness to call a special session. The statement was signed by:

  • Rep. Cameron Sexton (Caucus Chairman)
  • Rep. Ron Gant (Assistant Majority Leader)
  • Rep. Matthew Hill (Deputy Speaker)
  • Rep. Chris Todd (Freshman Leader)
  • Rep. Rick Tillis (Majority Whip)
  • Rep. Paul Sherrell (Majority Floor Leader)
  • Rep. Clay Doggett (Majority Secretary)
  • Rep. Mark Cochran (Majority Treasurer)

[House Majority Leader William Lamberth had issued a statement earlier calling for the special session.]