Monthly Archives: April 2017

Legislature OKs making officer-involved shooting probes public (if DA approves)

News release from House Democratic Caucus

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee House of Representatives has voted to make TBI investigative records around officer-involved shooting deaths public. Last week, the Tennessee Senate approved the bill unanimously. Senate Bill 1039 and House Bill 277 is sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris, D-Memphis, and Representative G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis.

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Senators pass & praise teaching TN history as a separate course

News release from Senate Republican Caucus

NASHVILLE, April 25, 2017 — The Senate unanimously approved a bill Monday evening that would require Tennessee’s public schools to go back to teaching at least one full semester of Tennessee history. Senate Bill 631, sponsored by Deputy Speaker Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin), is named for the late Senator Douglas Henry, who was a great devotee of Tennessee history and who devoted much of his public life to its cause.

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Sen. Green: I only labeled ‘murderous terrorists” evil (but urged doctor ‘cherry picking’ of patients?)

In apparently his first response to criticism from LGBT and Muslim groups on his nomination by President Trump as U.S. Army secretary, state Sen. Mark Green declares on Facebook that “the liberal left has cut and spliced my words about terrorism and ISIS blatantly falsifying what I’ve said. “

“The only people I have ever called evil are murderous terrorists trying to kill Americans,” he writes. “The only people I have ever suggested be crushed are the terrorist enemies of our nation.”

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Rep. Doss: No business conflict in handling Haslam’s gas tax bill

House Transportation Committee Chairman Barry Doss, R-Leoma, tells WSMV-TV that there’s no conflict of interest in his acting as lead House proponent of Gov. Bill Haslam’s legislative tax package – despite some assertions to the contrary – though he does run a paving company.

The Tennessee Republican Assembly (TRA), an arch-conservative and anti-tax group, has written House Speaker Beth Harwell to call for an ethics investigation of Doss, contending he potentially has “a direct financial interest” in increasing state fuel taxes to generate more roadbuilding/paving business. (Tennessee Star story with link to the letter, HERE.)

“First of all, I thought it was tacky that someone would use those tactics to try to fight against something that they don’t believe,” Doss said. “My family business has been in business for 36 years, and we’ve done two projects for TDOT in the history of our company. One project before I was elected, three years before I was elected, and then one after I was elected.”

Doss also pointed to a brief letter written by Drew Rawlins, Executive Director of the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, which said he found no conflict of interest based (on)… his conversation with Doss and the information found on TRA’s website.

“I am not a road builder; I can’t compete with road builders,” Doss told Channel 4. “I am a small rural general contractor who happens to do dirt work and paving. I have never paved a Tennessee road in my road in my life. I’ve never paved a city road, and I’ve never paved a county road in my life. So there is no benefit to my company because of this bill.”

TRA member Steve Gill told the station that Rawlins’ statement was inadequate because there was no investigation. He said Harwell has not responded to the letter and WSMV says she did not respond to the station’s inquiry about the matter.

Old TRA/PSC/PUC building to be sold at auction by state

More than two acres of state-owned property in downtown Nashville, formerly used by the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (previously known as the Public Service Commission and soon to be known again by its ancient label of Public Utilities Commission), is being sold at auction on June 21, reports The Tennessean.

Chattanooga-based Compass Auctions & Real Estate LLC will oversee the auction… (of) two tracts on the north side of James Robertson Parkway and Gay Street … (including) a 45,294 square foot office building on the roughly 1.18 acres at 460 James Robertson Parkway (that) once housed the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (and)… the 0.87-acre parking lot site (nearby) will be offered in two separate, but adjoining, parcels and as a whole.

David Roberson, a spokesman for the state’s Department of General Services, said state law allows sale of properties by auction. “Because this is a high-profile property, we decided an auction would produce the highest and best price for Tennessee taxpayers,” he added.

Justin Ochs, vice president of national development for auction and real estate company Compass, said the property located near the NewsChannel 5 Network headquarters is already drawing interest from across the country.

“Downtown Nashville has become a place where families want to live and businesses want to operate,” he said.

Note: The TRA, once a major player on the Tennessee political scene under the name Public Service Commission, has become somewhat incidental in the overall lay of the state governmental landscape in the last couple of decades and is deemed no longer worthy of having a headquarters building (probably appropriately). The agency’s name is also being changed again in its days of dwindling significance to its original name — or, well, pretty close to it. See previous post HERE.

Haslam budget booster amendment: Surplus money for new state library, roads

With his tax package now approved by the legislature, Gov. Bill Haslam Tuesday proposed some changes to the 2017-18 state budget plan he presented back in February.

Maybe the most notable revisions are the addition of $55 million in supplemental one-time funding (from the current budget surplus) on road projects — beyond what is envisioned in his tax bill, which includes higher gas and diesel fuel taxes — and $40 million towards the $98 million needed to build a new state Library and Archives building, advocated for years by Secretary of State Tre Hargett.

Both of those proposals are virtually guaranteed approval of the legislature as lawmakers get into serious work on the budget next week. The publicly-released documents don’t say which road projects get the new advance funding (but one could speculate that projects in the districts of legislators who voted no on his proposl might not be a high priority). It also appears that the governor is leaving about $125 million in surplus money for legislators to distribute as they, collectively, decide how to spend.

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Boyd claims $1.2M take at Knoxville fundraiser; contrasts himself with Lee

Randy Boyd says he raised $1.2 million Monday for his Republican gubernatorial campaign at a Knoxville fundraiser Monday and spoke for the first time about Bill Lee, another mulitimillonaire businessman seeking the GOP nomination, reports the News Sentinel.

“It’s overwhelming and you’d expect to do well in your hometown, but in your long lifetime you kind of forget how many people you’ve been involved with … it’s really humbling,” Boyd said before the (fundraising) dinner.

Both Boyd and Lee are businessmen who hope to use their business background and personal war chests in their respective runs for governor. The two will be coupled together in the race going forward, since neither consider themselves politicians.

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Low turnout in House District 95 early voting

Only 2,535 people cast ballots in early voting on choosing a successor to former state Rep. Mark Lovell, Shelby County Election Administrator Linda Phillips tells the Commercial Appeal. That’s 4.9 percent of registered voters in House District 95.

Of those voting early, 2,313 voted in the Republican primary and just 222 in the Democratic primary.

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Shelby Commissioner Justin Ford charged with domestic violence

Shelby County Commissioner Justin Ford was released from jail Monday afternoon following his arrest earlier in the day after his girlfriend accused him of punching and choking her during an argument, reports the Commercial Appeal.

The 32-year-old faces charges of aggravated assault/domestic violence and false imprisonment.

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Senate votes to keep secret some free out-of-state legislator travel

A bill that requires lawmakers to disclose expenses and the source of funding for travel was watered down in the Senate on Monday, reports The Tennessean.

One effect of the Senate amendment to HB275: Free trips for legislators to conventions of the American Legislative Exchange Council, sponsored by corporations interested in state policy issues, will remain undisclosed. ALEC covers costs of selected state legislators, typically freshmen or those holding ALEC leadership positions, with “scholarships.”

State law now requires disclosure of out-of-state trip expenses to such gatherings if the state pays the costs. But when the organization covers the cost, they are not reported.

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