income tax

Lee orders state Capitol flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of former Rep. Ben West Jr.

Former Rep. Ben West Jr., a 26-year member of the state House, died last week at age 78. Republican Gov. Bill Lee has ordered flags at the state Capitol to be flown at half-staff on Saturday in the former lawmaker’s memory.

West, a Democrat, represented the Hermitage, Donelson, and Old Hickory portions of Nashville until his retirement in 2010. His father, Ben West Sr., was the mayor of Nashville from 1951 to 1963. His brother, Jay, was a former vice mayor and lobbyist, who died in 2017.

West considered a bid for Congress when then-U.S. Rep. Bob Clement (D-Nashville) was considering a bid to statewide office. West ultimately decided against running and the seat was won by Democrat Jim Cooper.

West had a flair for the bombastic when he was at the Statehouse, sometimes quarreling publicly with is colleagues but often defusing tension with a joke. He angered then-House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh (D-Covington) through his vocal opposition to a state income tax in the early 2000s — and his embrace of protesters who circled the Capitol beeping their horns. But Naifeh kept West on as a committee chairman until he asked to step down from leadership in 2007.

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Bill Hobbs, onetime Tennessee GOP spokesman and provocateur, dies at 54

Bill Hobbs, a onetime spokesman for the Tennessee Republican Party and income tax protester, has died. He was 54.

The cause was cancer, according to Jeff Hartline, the vice chairman of the Wilson County Republican Party.

Hobbs specialized in viral political attacks on then-presidential candidate Barack Obama (and his wife, Michelle) while he was communications director at the state Republican Party. Before that, Hobbs was a prominent figure in the protests surrounding Republican Gov. Don Sundquist’s efforts to impose an income tax.

Hobbs, a former Tennessean reporter, was also forced out from his job as a spokesman for Belmont Unversity in 2006 after publishing a caricature of the prophet Mohammad on his person blog after the Islamic world condemned provocative cartoons published in a Danish newspaper.

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