Monthly Archives: May 2017

Open records lawsuit seeks documents on failed Fall Creek Falls State Park privatization effort

The Nashville Post and Nashville Scene, sister publications with the same ownership, have filed a lawsuit in Davidson County Chancery Court against the state Department of General Services under Tennessee’s Open Records Act, contending officials wrongfully refused to release documents related to a failed attempt at outsourcing operation of the Fall Creek Falls State Park Inn.

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Bill reducing fees for expunging criminal records becomes law

News release from House Democratic Caucus

MEMPHIS-TN State Rep. Raumesh Akbari says she’s pleased that her bill reducing the expunction fee has been signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam.  The legislation will lower the expunction fee from $350 down to $180. The new law takes effect immediately.

After the signing, Rep. Akbari, (D-District 91), said “The bottom line is this- we believe that people should not be judged for the rest of their lives for the decisions they make on their worst day.  By reducing part of the financial barrier to expunction, more ex-offenders will be able to get their lives back on track; reducing the recidivism rate and strengthening our communities.”

The bill (HB418) was co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris and is part of a criminal justice reform package spearheaded by the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators, which Rep. Akbari chairs. (Note: Lead sponsor in the Senate was Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris,)

Akbari also passed two additional expunction bills.  One (HB636) makes it easier for juveniles to get criminal records expunged.  The other (HB873) allows a person who has two convictions to get a one-time expunction of both.

Note: The AP notes in a brief on the bill that the reduction in cost from $350 to $180 doesn’t include related court costs or fees. WBBJ TV of Jackson, quoting a local lawyer, apparently does so – pegging the reduction in total costs from $450 to $270. Both stories note that the state’s law on expunging records covers only relatively minor offenses.

Columnist Victor Ashe: Pro wrestler a serious contender in Knox County mayor’s race

Glen Jacobs, perhaps better known as the masked professional wrestler “Kane,” is one of at least three Republicans running for the nomination as Knox County mayor and former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe writes in his weekly column – after an interview — that he’s a serious contender.

The GOP primary will be May 1, 2018. Besides Jacobs, Knox County Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones and County Commissioner Bob Thomas are running, says Ashe in the Shopper News column (which now also runs in the News Sentinel). County Commissioner Brad Anders is a possible candidate.

Jacobs has lived in Knox County in Halls for four years with his wife, Crystal, and two daughters, Arista and Devan, who are nurses… He owns an insurance and real estate company on Maynardville Pike. His wife runs the realty company.

…Jacobs compliments Mayor Tim Burchett (who can’t seek another term) for not raising property taxes and pledges “to hold the line on taxes” if he is elected mayor. He calls county Finance Director Chris Caldwell “a very smart guy.” He is conservative in his political views.

He said he has been looking for more than a year at running for mayor. He said “lots of people are tired of the status quo” and upset “that their voice does not matter.” He has been active in the WWE, which is the largest wrestling organization. He has been in active wrestling for 22 of his 50 years and won three world championships.

Bryan Hair is his campaign manager. He attends Gospel Baptist Church in South Knoxville. He feels he needs to raise $150,000 to $200,000 to run an effective campaign.

(Three waitresses asked for Jacobs’ autograph after he and Ashe talked in a restaurant, then four other people came up and did the same)… Jacobs has star quality his competitors can only dream about. Jacobs is a contender to be taken seriously.

Vandy Poll: Trump approval at 52 percent in TN (same as Corker; bit ahead of Alexander)

Some findings in a Vanderbilt University poll of 1,005 Tennessee voters, conducted May 4-15:

-President Donald Trump’s approval rating stands at 52 percent, about 10 points higher than President Obama’s approval rating in a late November 2016 poll. He carried the state with 61 percent of the vote last November. Responding to a separate question on whether they believe Trump will change things for the better, 41 percent said yes and 54 percent said no.

-Among announced and potential candidate for governor, Republican U.S. Rep. Diane Black had the highest name recognition, 49 percent followed by Democrat Karl Dean, former Nashville mayor at 38 percent. Others: House Speaker Beth Harwell 34 percent; , Sen. Mae Beavers 28 percent, former ECD Commissioner Randy Boyd 26 percent; Sen. Mark Green 21 percent, businessman Bill Lee of Franklin and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, both 14 percent, House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, 8 percent.

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On Trump budget cuts for local governments in TN (where fed grants average $2,000 per person)

Tennessee is cited as an example of the negative impact of President Trump’s budget-cutting plans on state and local governments in a Politico story. Former Republican state Sen. Micheal Williams, now mayor of Union County and a self-described fiscal conservative, says he was stunned when he read the proposal.

“I thought, ‘Oh my God,’” Williams said. “I don’t know if they really thought this through.”

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Paul Ryan schedules Knoxville fundraiser with TN Republican congressmen

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan is scheduled to visit Knoxville Thursday evening for a private fundraiser hosted by Republican members of the Tennessee congressional delegation, according to a widely-distributed invitation.

The invitation says basic cost of admittance is $2,500 per couple — $10,000 to come early and have a photo made with Ryan and/or the congressmen. Checks go to Team Ryan, a political action committee set up by the House speaker that, in turn, is affiliated with the National Congressional Campaign Committee, fundraising arm of the U.S. House Republican Caucus.

Presumably, Tennessee congressional delegation members will get a piece of the proceeds..

The invite says you have to RSVP to get the location, but Brian Hornback reports the reception is at Knoxville’s Cherokee Country Club with another gathering apparently planned afterwards at the home of James A. “Big Jim” Haslam II, Gov. Bill Haslam’s father and founder of Pilot Corp., to benefit the governor’s political action committee. Admission to the Haslam PAC fundraiser is $25,000 per couple.

Corker says his criticism of Trump is ‘constructive,’ not ‘destructive’ — and gets White House cheers

While Sen. Bob Corker may be gaining a reputation as one of few Republican congressmen willing to publicly criticize Donald Trump – a notable example being his recent declaration that the White House is in a “downward spiral” – the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman tells BuzzFeed he makes the same points to Trump and his staff in frequent private discussions.

Coincidentally(?), Corker issued a press release Sunday basically praising Trump’s first trip overseas — after speaking with the president “at length.”

Excerpt from BuzzFeed:

Days (before the “downward spiral” remark), Corker had spoken to Trump over the phone about the firing of FBI director James Comey — an incident the Tennessee Republican publicly said would “raise questions.” And in a previous late-April private dinner, Corker said he made it clear to Trump that the turmoil in the White House was making it harder for Republicans to move forward with anything in Congress.

“I actually shared many of the same concerns, OK? Respectfully, of course,” he said in a wide-ranging interview with BuzzFeed News Wednesday afternoon.

“We’ve got close relations and talked frankly with people (at the White House) often,” he continued, repeating two words for emphasis: “Frankly. Often.”

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Sen. Mae Beavers announces intention to run for governor

News release from Sen. Mae Beavers

(May 27, 2017) State Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mount Juliet) intends to formally announce a campaign for Governor of Tennessee at Charlie Daniels Park in Mount Juliet at 1 pm on Saturday, June 3, 2017. Further details for the campaign kickoff will be announced later this week.

“Over the past several weeks, it has become increasingly clear that conservatives in Tennessee are looking for bold leadership that will not shrink from standing up and speaking up on key issues facing our state,” Beavers said in making the announcement of her intentions to run. “President Donald J. Trump is taking the lead in Washington to “drain the swamp” there; but we have our own swamp in Tennessee and I intend to do the same thing in the Volunteer State.”


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Haslam signs controversial gun bill

Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law Friday a bill (HB508) that requires city and county governments to install new security measures at public buildings where firearms are banned and makes them subject to paying triple lawyer fees of individuals or organizations that successfully sue local governments over gun issues.

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Rep. Joe Pitts won’t seek reelection in 2018

News release from House Democratic Caucus

NASHVILLE — Clarksville Rep. Joe Pitts has announced that he will retire from the State Legislature after the end of the 110th General Assembly in 2018.  In a letter to his supporters, (see attached), Pitts said, “It’s time for me to step aside and allow another citizen legislator to experience the excitement of helping their constituents…some of the finest people anywhere.”

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