Erik Schelzig

Editor, The Tennessee Journal

The man from TAKL: Senate majority leader appears in TV ad for employer

Republican Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) isn’t just the chamber’s majority leader. He’s also a TV pitchman for his employer, Takl.

“Growing a business is tough,” Johnson says in the ad, according to The Tennessean. “Sometimes you have to think outside the box.”

The Franklin based company is owned Willis Johnson (no relation to Jack Johnson), who gave $8,000 to Gov. Bill Lee’s gubernatorial campaign in 2018, the paper report.

Johnson was chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee when the panel first advanced a 2018 bill to exempt “marketplace platforms” like Takl, Shipt, TaskRabbit, Handy, and Postmates, from traditional employee requirements by declaring their workers to independent contractors.

The measure became law despite concerns raised by then-Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration that the measure threatened to unravel social safety net provisions for employees, including minimum wage requirements, overtime pay, health insurance, unemployment insurance, and worker’s compensation coverage.

The bill was sponsored by Senate Finance Chairman Bo Watson (R-Hixson). Johnson disclosed his role in a the company that could benefit from the law change, but did not abstain from voting in favor of the measure.

See the ad here.

 

Some serious coin: Blackburn bill commemorating 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote passes

Republican Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn speaks at a business forum in Nashville on Aug. 15, 2018 (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn’s bill to to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women earning the right to vote is on its way for the president’s signature. The Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act, cosponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), creates a silver $1 coin minted by the U.S. Treasury.

Here’s the full release from Blackburn’s office:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Marsha Blackburn’s (R-Tenn.) bipartisan legislation honoring the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote with a commemorative coin has passed Congress and is on its way to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

The Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act, cosponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), will create a silver $1 coin minted by the U.S. Treasury. Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) led companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“Every woman in Congress has the women of the suffrage movement to thank for our right to represent our constituents today,” said Senator Blackburn, the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate in Tennessee. “The 2020 centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment is a rare moment to celebrate the milestone in American history that made it possible for women to finally have a voice in government. Ninety-nine years after women gained the right to vote, I became the first woman from Tennessee to serve in the United States Senate. I am honored to have worked with Senator Gillibrand and Reps. Stefanik and Lawrence to commemorate the pioneers and trailblazers who made it possible for us to be members of these chambers.”

“Almost a century ago, after women across the nation spoke out and fought for their right to vote, the 19th Amendment was finally passed. It was one of the greatest milestones in American history, and we should do everything we can to celebrate it,” said Senator Gillibrand. “As a New Yorker, I am especially proud to celebrate a historic movement that was born and planned in our state. Though there is still work to be done to ensure that every vote is counted, I’m thrilled that our bipartisan bill to create a commemorative coin in honor of the suffragists has passed Congress. I urge the President to quickly sign this bill into law and pay tribute to the unparalleled contributions that the suffragists had to our nation’s history.”

“I am honored to celebrate the important work of women’s suffrage activists through the Women’s Suffrage Commemorative Coin Act,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “One of the most vocal advocates for women’s suffrage, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, was born and raised in Johnstown, New York, and I am looking forward to celebrating the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment in my district next year. I’m grateful to my colleagues for supporting this bipartisan legislation, and it is my hope that this bill will encourage women across the country to continue to be active participants in civic life.”

“Ninety-nine years after women gained the right to vote, the 116th Congress brought in a record number of women members and the most diverse Congress in history,” said Representative Lawrence. “As the Chair of the Bipartisan Women’s Caucus and the Co-Chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus, I‘m proud to stand on the shoulders of the suffragists who played a vital role in rallying support for the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. As we approach the historic suffrage centennial, it is my hope that this bipartisan legislation will not only tell the story of the courageous activists who played a pivotal role in the fight for women’s rights, but will remind all Americans that the right to vote was a decades-long struggle.”

A deep dive into the Rocky Top corruption scandal

The Rocky Top investigation of the 1980s revealed bingo parlor operators had taken over state charters of legitimate Tennessee charities to run illegal gambling operations. Several state officials were indicted in the probe and two committed suicide. Randy McNally, then a backbencher in the state Senate, played a key role in the investigation by wearing a wire for FBI. Today, he’s the speaker of the Senate.

The Tennessean’s Joel Ebert has taken a deep dive into the scandal — and its lessons for the current political climate — for the paper’s its Grand Divisions podcast and in a print story with lots of great archival images.

It’s a great read (or listen) for a rainy fall day in Tennessee. Check it out here.

 

 

Lee endorses fellow ‘outsider’ Bevin in Kentucky governor’s race

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee has endorsed incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin in the Kentucky governor’s race.

Lee appeared at a Bevin campaign stop at the Casey Jones Distillery in western Kentucky on Friday. The first year Tennessee governor said Bevin had encouraged him to run last year, and that he was inspired by Bevin’s “outsider” status.

“He, too, came from the business world and he understands that the status quo and establishment is not the way to move the Commonwealth of Kentucky forward,” the Hoptown Chronicle quoted Lee as saying. “The way to move forward is to break and challenge the status quo.”

Lee said despite the two states being economic competitors, it matters to Tennessee what happens in Kentucky. Following Lee’s endorsement, Bevin took the stage to address the more than 100 people who attended the campaign stop.

 

Bevin faces Democrat state Attorney General Andy Beshear in the governor’s race. The election in on Nov. 5.

Green looks to raise money off ‘storming’ impeachment hearings he had access to

As a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, U.S. Rep. Mark Green (R-Ashland City) has access to closed-door hearings in the congressional impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. That didn’t stop him from joining 40 Republican colleagues in barging into a secure hearing room where the hearings were taking place on Wednesday.

According to the Washington Post, 13 of those joining the protest were GOP members who, like Green, serve on committees giving them access to the hearings.

But in a fundraising appeal sent out Thursday, Green says “my colleagues and I have been barred from accessing certain testimonies.”

“That’s why yesterday, my colleagues and I stormed the committee rooms where they are conducting the depositions in secret,” he said. “And, unsurprisingly, Shifty Adam Schiff wouldn’t let us in.”

It’s unclear why Green would have been blocked from a hearing he has authorization to attend.

“I need you to join me in standing with President Trump,” Green writes. “Will you chip in $25 today to help me continue to fight for the truth?”

Sethi opposes background checks, red flag laws

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi says he opposes universal background checks for gun purchases. He’s also against so-called red flag laws, which allow judges to issue orders allowing law enforcement to confiscate guns from people found to be a danger to themselves or others.

Here’s Sethi’s tweet about guns:

Sethi is running against former U.S. Ambassador Bill Hagerty for the GOP nomination to succeed retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander.

 

UAW workers at GM plant in Spring Hill narrowly reject deal

United Auto Workers union members at the General Motors plant in Spring Hill have narrowly rejected a tentative national agreement for a new contract. Workers have been on strike for more than a month.

The vote was 1,673 against the deal and 1,666 in favor. The ratification of the deal will be determined by the total UAW membership around the country. Voting is expected to be completed by Friday.

GM plants in Spring Hill and Lansing, Mich., would be in line to make a next generation midsize SUV under the deal. Making the new vehicle is projected to cost $1 billion and create 5,000 jobs.

UAW-covered workers would receive a $11,000 signing bonus upon ratification of the contract, while temporary workers would get $4,500.

Workers would receive 4% lump sum payments in the first and third years of the contract, and 3% wage hikes in the second and fourth years. The agreement also envisions an accelerated path for temporary workers to become employees.

Sethi touts immigration program in Senate race

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi is outlining a three-point immigration program.

“I’m tired of politicians who talk about illegal immigration, but don’t do anything about it. I want to actually stop it,” Sethi said in a release. “As the son of legal immigrants, we must protect the American Dream and that means standing up for American workers.”

Here’s the release from the Sethi campaign:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Republican Senate candidate and conservative outsider Dr. Manny Sethi’s campaign is releasing a 3-point Immigration Policy plan entitled “Protect the American Dream Plan” hot off the heels of his new TV Ad.

The ad, titled “Invasion,” aired nationally and statewide on October 15.

“I’m tired of politicians who talk about illegal immigration, but don’t do anything about it. I want to actually stop it,” said Dr. Manny. “As the son of legal immigrants, we must protect the American Dream and that means standing up for American workers, no matter what the left says.”

“Dr. Manny is the only candidate in this race who is proposing real solutions to our nation’s most pressing issue, not merely repeating talking points,” said Chris Devaney, Campaign Chairman. “He’s not afraid to tackle the illegal immigration issue head on, and this is the type of leadership we need to see more of in Washington.”

Below is Dr. Manny Sethi’s “Protect the American Dream” plan:.

1. Support President Trump and build the border wall.

  • In the month of May there were over 144,000 arrests of people crossing the border illegally. There would have been nearly a million crossings had it not been for President Trump getting a deal with Mexico to stop the caravans. In the past 12 months there have been more than a million arrests made at the border.
  • Our Border Patrol agents are essentially working in a war zone. Our ICE agents are overwhelmed with not only doing their job, but defending themselves from the liberal media who have made them a political target. We must fully support both and empathize with their great work to keep this country safe and uphold its laws.
  • Heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl are flowing across our borders. Violence comes along with it, and a border wall will keep both out.

2. End chain migration and return to a merit-based system.

  • We have a broken system today that favors chain migration. This leads to people coming here illegally, becoming welfare recipients, and then importing their family members who will also go on welfare. American citizens will pay the price for that.
  • We need to switch to a merit-based system that prioritizes highly-skilled immigrants, whose children will grow up understanding the American Dream, and whose presence will make America stronger.
  • Favoring higher skilled workers who will boost our economy is a win-win for our country. Allowing a family to make it in America and live the American Dream while also contributing positively to our economy is a great thing for our country. We must encourage this type of LEGAL immigration.

3. Put an end to birthright citizenship for illegal aliens.

  • We must put a stop to illegal aliens coming into our country, having kids who automatically become citizens, and are able to gain access to government programs. We must protect the rule of law, and end incentives for criminal behavior.
  • Our welfare system must put our veterans and low-income citizens ahead of illegal immigrants. We have to prioritize our own citizens.

 

 

Another Dem joins the U.S. Senate race

A third Democrat has joined the U.S. Senate race. The Nashville Post’s Stephen Elliott reports Diana Onyejiaka, a Nashville consultant and professor, has filed federal paperwork to join the race to succeed retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville).

Nashville attorney James Mackler, who stepped aside from the open 2018 race to make way for former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, joined the 2020 race in January. He’s raised close to $900,000 and spent $611,000 on that effort so far. Memphis environmentalist Marquita Bradshaw announced she was joining the race last month.

Elliott reports Onyejiaka’s firm, DC Consult, helped organize this year’s U.S.-Africa Business Opportunities and Exchange Conference at Tennessee State University this year. The daughter of Nigerian immigrants has taught law and government courses as an adjunct professor at TSU and Middle Tennessee State University.

“I felt like there was a need to have somebody like myself representing the state of Tennessee,” she told the Post. 

“A Democrat can win this race by speaking to the issues and not getting political,” Onyejiaka said. “I’m running as a public servant.”

Former state Sen. Reginald Tate has died

Former state Sen. Reginald Tate (D-Memphis) has died, state Rep. Antonio Parkinson announced on Twitter on Monday.

Tate, 65, was defeated in last year’s Democratic primary by Katrina Robinson, a business owner and nurse. A hot mic incident in which Tate vented to a Republican colleague about his frustration with Democrats questioning his party loyalty was a major flashpoint of the campaign.

“I don’t like the lies. But I won’t take time out to respond to it. But I will tell you guys, there is not one time I sold anyone else out,” Tate told his supporters during the race. “I work for $20,000 a year. It won’t pay my car note. I can’t take nothing under the table or on top of the table. I’m too tall to hide.”

Tate said he’d worked both sides of the aisle to get results for his home district. He represented the district for 12 years.