Monthly Archives: April 2017

House OKs Senate amendments, sends gas tax bill to governor

The House went along Monday night with Senate amendments to Gov. Bill Haslam’s tax package, including increases in the state levies on gasoline and diesel fuel, giving the measure final approval and sending it to the governor for his signature.

The vote was 67-21. The House had approved the overall bill last earlier on a 60-37 vote.

The key amendment added by the Senate Thursday was to increase state-funded property tax relief for disabled veterans to cover the first $175,000 value of their home. Currently, only the first $100,000 is covered.

The House – especially those who had opposed the overall Haslam bill, known as the IMPROVE Act — had pushed to have the veterans tax relief included in a separate bill. But even some who voted against the overall bill went along with the amendments, even though protesting the procedure.

Rep. Barry Doss, R-Leoma, acting as sponsor of Haslam’s bill, said separate legislation dealing with only the veterans bill is dead in the Senate, though it has passed the House. And he said the Senate version of veterans tax relief bill raised the home value to just $135,000, not the $175,000 that is in the Senate amendment to the IMPROVE Act.

Further, from the Times-Free Press:

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Bill Lee files as GOP candidate for governor, launches statewide tour

News release from Bill Lee gubernatorial campaign

FRANKLIN, Tenn. – Conservative Williamson County businessman Bill Lee announced today that he is running for governor of Tennessee as a Republican.

“I love Tennessee, and I can’t wait to get this campaign started and get out on the road,” said Lee, chairman of Franklin-based Lee Company. “Over the next year and a half, I will travel the state to engage Tennesseans in a vital conversation about the priorities of our state. We will run the most aggressive grassroots campaign in Tennessee history. Maria and I will go to every county and work for every vote.
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TN tax revenue $70M below budget estimate in March

News release from the Department of Finance and Administration

Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin today announced that Tennessee tax revenue fell short of budgeted estimates in March. March sales tax revenues reflect retail activity occurring in February, and overall March revenues were $993.6 million, which is $100.9 million less than we collected in March of 2016 and $70.1 million less than the budgeted estimate for the month.

“March sales tax revenues recorded negative growth and were also below our budgeted expectations,” Martin said. “This is due in part to having one less day of retail activity this February compared to February 2016 and also growing over an extraordinarily high base from last year. In addition, the Department of Revenue implemented a new tax administration system this month and extended the sales tax filing deadline. The April report should capture any March outstanding liability taxpayers owe.

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Alexander praises TN moratorium on wind power generation

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a longtime critic of wind-powered electricity generation, is praising a state House vote to place a partial moratorium on such developments in Tennessee while a special committee of state lawmakers drafts rules for regulating them, reports the News Sentinel.

“This will give Tennesseans the opportunity to evaluate whether we want our landscape littered with wind turbines that are over two times as tall as the skyboxes at the University of Tennessee football stadium and produce only a small amount of unreliable electricity,” Alexander said in an emailed statement.

The bill approved by the House 85-3 on Thursday (HB1021) amounts to a compromise that sponsor Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, said had been agreed upon by “all stakeholders.” That includes Apex Energy Solutions, which has stirred considerable controversy in Cumberland County with plans to spend $130 million erecting at least 20 electricity-generating turbines on a mountain near Crab Orchard.

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Bill Lee enters 2018 GOP gubernatorial primary

Multimillionaire Bill Lee, chairman of  Franklin-based construction company founded by his grandfather, tells The Tennessean he will file paperwork to launch his campaign for the 2018 gubernatorial nomination on Monday.

Lee, 57, has never run for office and says “my life’s circumstances and my life’s experiences” – including the death of his wife in a 2000 horse-riding accident – have led him to become the third Republican to declare himself a candidate. He joins multimillionaire Randy Boyd of Nashville and state Sen. Mark Green of Clarksville – though Green has been nominated U.S. secretary of the Army and is now widely expected to drop out. There’s a long list of other prospective candidates.

Rather than political service, Lee, who still lives on the cattle farm in Fernvale where he was raised, will lean on his lifelong career at Lee Co., a full-service home services, facilities and construction company founded by his grandfather in 1944, which Lee later purchased from his father and became president in 1992.

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Alexander, Corker, Duncan seek fed focus on alleged defective guardrails

Three Tennessee congressmen – Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, along with Rep. John Duncan Jr. – are asking federal officials to consider revoking their approval for the use of highway guardrails linked to four fatalities in Tennessee, reports WJHL-TV.

In the letter, they asked FHWA Acting Deputy Administrator Butch Waidelich, Jr. to consider revoking its letter of eligibility for the X-Lite Terminal Guard rail issued in 2011.

The eligibility letter indicates the product has been tested and is eligible for federal reimbursements for states that use it.

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Sheriff pleads guilty to sex with women inmates, beating man

Fentress County Sheriff Chucky Cravens has pleaded guilty to bribing female inmates for sex and beating a male prisoner, reports the Cookeville Herald-Citizen.

Cravens, 47, pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday after an investigation that began barely more than a week before. The official charges were three counts of honest services fraud and one count of deprivation of rights under color of law. The charges stem back from July to as recently as March 1.

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AG: In TN, ‘men’ includes ‘women’ so courts may say ‘husband’ does, too

A new state attorney general opinion says a House-passed bill declaring courts must use the “natural and ordinary meaning” of undefined words in interpreting Tennessee statutes may not work when it comes to words such as “husband” and “wife,” according to a new attorney general’s opinion.

The bill in question appears to conflict with existing state law on gender-specific words and could also be at odds with the U.S. Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling, the opinion says. The bill passed the House 70-23 on March 16 and is awaiting a Senate floor vote.

Excerpt from the opinion (the whole thing is HERE):

Question 2: If a Tennessee court construed words such as “husband,” “wife,” “father,” or “mother” by their ordinary meaning as required by Senate Bill 1085/House Bill 1111 if it were to become law, would that construction be counter to the holding of the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___, 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015)?

Opinion 2: Statutes that are related to marriage or to the terms, conditions, benefits, or obligations of marriage could, in some instances, be in conflict with the holding in Obergefell if gender-specific words in those statutes were construed according to the proposed legislation. But not every statute that has gender-specific terms would necessarily conflict with Obergefell if it were construed according to the proposed legislation.

We note, however, that if the proposed legislation were to become law, it may not necessarily result in a judicial construction of statutes that preserves the literal meaning of gender-specific words. The Tennessee Legislature has already expressed its intent that gender-specific words are to be construed as gender-inclusive when they appear in the Tennessee Code. The proposed legislation could, in some instances, be in direct conflict with Tenn. Code Ann. § 1-3-104(b) which instructs that “[w]ords importing the masculine gender include the feminine and neuter, except when the contrary intention is manifest.” Any conflict between this existing statute and the proposed legislation would be resolved to allow the specific to control the more general statute. Thus, in construing certain statutes with gender-limiting words, a court would likely apply the very specific gender-inclusive requirements of Tenn. Code Ann. § 1-3-104(b) rather than the very general “ordinary meaning” requirements of the proposed legislation.

Note: The bill, and a similar measure, were inspired by a Knoxville judge’s ruling in a child custody dispute between divorcing lesbians who were legally married in another state. The ruling said only the biological mother of the child, born after artificial insemination, has any legal rights to custody. Previous post HERE.

Randy Boyd running online ad on ‘running all my life’

 

News release from Randy Boyd campaign

Nashville, TN – Randy Boyd  and his Republican  campaign for Governor today launched the first paid advertisement of the 2018 gubernatorial campaign, with a statewide digital buy designed to introduce the Knoxville businessman and state’s  former  economic and community development commissioner to more   than 500,000 proven Republican primary voters across  the state.

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Comptroller catches government thieves in Claiborne, Fayette, Jefferson, Sumner counties

The ever-vigilant state comptroller’s office reports finding thievery afoot at Powell Valley Elementary School in Claiborne County, the city recorder’s office in the Sumner County city of Gallatin, a parks office and a school system Fayette County and at the New Market Volunteer Fire Department in Jefferson County in recent auditing of local government entities.

There are also “several questions” about activities at the town of Oakland in Fayette County generally along with the indictment of an official who worked both for the town and as athletic director of Fayette County schools.

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