Monthly Archives: February 2020

Poll: Trump has big advantage over any Democrat in Tennessee

New polling results suggest President Donald Trump doesn’t have much to fear in his efforts to carry Tennessee again in November. According to a survey by Mason-Dixon, Tennessee voters give Trump a wide advantage, regardless of who turns out to be the Democratic nominee.

Here are the head to heads:

  • Trump 55%, Joe Biden 39%.
  • Trump 57%, Bernie Sanders 37%.
  • Trump 57%, Elizabeth Warren 36%.
  • Trump 55%, Pete Buttigieg 38%.
  • Trump 54%, Mike Bloomberg 39%.

The poll of 625 registered voters, including 247 Republicans, 207 independents, and 171 Democrats, was conducted between Jan. 28 and Jan. 30. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Tennessee Super Tuesday presidential primary is on March 3.

Tennessee delegation comments on Trump acquittal

U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) speaks at a Tennessee Titans event in Nashville on Dec. 13, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Here’s what members of the Tennessee congressional delegation had to say about the Senate’s acquittal of President Donald Trump following his impeachment trial:

U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood):

The impeachment of President Donald J. Trump was not a matter of procedure—it was an attempted coup, brought forth at the expense of the safety and prosperity of the American people. Every member of Congress must now reflect, remember, and take to heart the real legacy of this dark moment in history, when ruthless partisanship undermined due process, trampled the rule of law, and very nearly erased from precedent those rules that underpin our democratic republic.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville):

The question then is not whether the president did it, but whether the United States Senate or the American people should decide what to do about what he did. I believe that the Constitution clearly provides that the people should make that decision in the presidential election that began on Monday in Iowa.

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Memphis)

I voted for the articles of impeachment in the Judiciary Committee and on the House floor and believe the House managers proved their case in the Senate beyond a reasonable doubt. Because the Senate required a two-thirds vote to remove the President from office, he will remain. But his ignominious impeachment will always be the legacy of his reckless and lawless presidency. A bipartisan majority of Congress has voted to impeach or convict him, and that’s a blemish on his record that the American public should consider in evaluating his remaining time in office.

U.S. Rep. John Rose (R-Cookeville):

Just as we knew from the beginning, House Democrats’ impeachment process was purely partisan and an embarrassment to our country. More importantly, their focus on this process served as a distraction from the work the American people sent us to Washington, D.C., to accomplish.

U.S. Rep. David Kustoff (R-Memphis):

I commend the Senate for acquitting the President today and putting an end to this partisan endeavor. The fact is, President Trump did nothing wrong, and today’s acquittal proves just that. Now that this impeachment is behind us, I look forward to working closely with President Trump to pass real legislation that would improve our infrastructure, secure our border, and continue to boost our already thriving economy.

 

Casada to run for state House seat again in 2020

Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) greets colleagues during a House Republican Caucus meeting in Nashville on Jan. 14, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) the center of a scandal that brought down his House speakership last year, plans to run for his legislative seat again later this year.

Here’s what Casada said on his Facebook page:

After much prayer and consultation with family and friends, I have decided to run for re-election to the Tennessee House of Representatives. I am honored to serve as your voice in Nashville and remain committed to the conservative principles that make Tennessee the absolute best state in the nation. My promise is to continue fighting to help businesses grow and prosper, to be a proponent for lower taxes and less government, to ensure our constitutional rights are protected, and to always work to support the unborn. I humbly ask for your confidence, your support, and your vote in 2020.

Casada was at the helm of the House for all of 133 days before announcing he would resign amid a revolt among Republican colleagues over a text messaging scandal and his heavy-handed approach. He was the first House speaker to prematurely step down from the chamber’s top leadership post in 126 years.

Casada started the year with a combined $549,000 on hand in his campaign and political action committee  accounts— a daunting prospect for anyone who might seek to challenge him in the Republican. But Casada still has an audit pending by the Registry of Election Finance. The probe is expected to be completed next month and presented during the panel’s following meeting on March 11.

Lee’s $40.8B budget proposal in the media

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his second State of the State address in Nashville on Feb. 3, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Here’s a look at how Gov. Bill Lee’s second State of the State address played in the state media:

Chattanooga Times Free Press:

Lee, whose wife Maria is a former teacher, zeroed in on education during much of his speech, noting that “in this building, we work hard to develop student-centered education policies, but out there in the classrooms is where it happens. We make it law, but teachers make it happen.”

Daily Memphian:

Saying the “majority” of the state’s efforts must focus on traditional public schools, Lee said he is putting a $117 million increase into teacher and educator salaries, a 4% pay increase designed to push starting teacher pay to $38,000 a year.

“We make it law, but teachers make it happen,” Lee said. “No teacher I know does it only for the money, but you and I know a worker is worthy of their pay.”

Associated Press

Education advocates caution that even with a $117 million boost, it may not be enough to help teacher salaries.

“While that is a large yearly increase, it breaks down to about $1,450 per teacher, or approximately $28 a week,” said Beth Brown, president of the Tennessee Education Association, when talking about the state’s approximately 80,000 instructional staffers.

WPLN-FM

Criminal justice reform was among some issues notably lacking details. Lee, who has been an advocate, had hinted in the past that he’d focus on reforming the state’s criminal justice system. Lee said that based on recommendations made by the Criminal Justice Investment Task Force, he will propose legislation that improves community supervision and expand recovery courts.

The Tennessean:

Overall, the mood inside the House chamber was jovial, with Republicans praising Lee’s assessment and vision for Tennessee. Democrats later criticized the governor for doing too little, too late on issues like education funding and criminal justice reform.

With a proposed $40.8 billion budget, Lee’s most significant plans for the year include notable increases in public school teacher pay and the creation of the new endowment fund.

Nashville Scene:

Helping partially fulfill another Republican priority, Lee said he wants to cut the professional privilege tax from $400 to $200. In 2019, lawmakers and the governor teamed to reduce the number of professions subject to the tax. The $200 reduction in the tax — still applied to money managers, lawyers and other professionals — will cost the state $40 million.  Lee called the privilege tax “arbitrary and unfair.”

And for good measure, Tennessean reporter Natalie Allison and photog George Walker teamed up for this gem: A photo of Rep. Kent Calfee swigging from a chocolate syrup bottle on the House floor while clutching crackers in his other hand. The bottle is a favorite prop of the Lenoir Republican, who claims to drink water out of it to amuse his grandchildren. Allison’s tweet had received nearly 10,000 likes by Tuesday morning and 2,700 retweets.

The photo also ran on the front pages of the print editions of The Tennessean and the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Read the full text of Gov. Bill Lee’s second State of the State address

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his second State of the State address in Nashville on Feb. 3, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Here is the full text of Gov. Bill Lee’s second State of the State Address, as prepared for delivery on Monday evening:

Lieutenant Governor McNally, Speaker Sexton, Speaker Pro Tem Haile, Speaker Pro Tem Dunn, Members of the 111th General Assembly, Justices, Constitutional Officers, fellow Tennesseans:

It is an honor to once again be with you this evening.

Before I begin, Speaker Sexton, let me offer special congratulations to you on your election as Speaker.

I am looking forward to working with you during this session and in the years ahead as we make our state a leader in the nation.

Last year, I stood at this podium, newly inaugurated as the 50th Governor of Tennessee. It has been a rewarding year, far more rewarding than I could have ever imagined.

To serve Tennesseans, to help make their lives better, to help give them a better education, to help recruit and create good jobs, and to help make our state a leader in the nation, it has been a humbling and truly honorable experience.

To serve with you, the men and women of the General Assembly, has been a tremendous honor as well.

Thank you for your support during my first year, it means an awful lot to Maria and to me.

With all of the noise in our nation these days, whether it comes from Washington, or New York, or Hollywood, I can’t help but look across this room in Tennessee and be inspired.

Inspired by every man and woman in this chamber who sacrifices much and who is dedicated to their beliefs and to the service of their neighbors.

Thank you for what you do, and I look forward to working alongside each of you this session and in the years ahead.

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When is the voter registration deadline? Don’t ask the Dems

Monday is the voter registration deadline for Tennessee’s Super Tuesday presidential primary. An email blast from the state Democratic Party sent out on Friday alerted supporters that that deadline was on March 3 — the date of the actual primary. The party sent out a corrected release the following day.

Graphic: Tennessee Journal.

The date of the voter registration deadline was correct in the body of the email blast, but not in the headline.

All the action this year is in the Democratic primary, given that President Donald Trump hasn’t drawn any serious opposition on the Republican side.

Here’s the graphic that accompanied both emails from the Democrats:

Before it was expedient? New Hagerty ad features Donald Trump Jr.

A new ad for Bill Hagerty features Donald Trump Jr., the president’s oldest son, speaking on the Republican U.S. Senate candidate’s behalf at a fundraiser and rally in Gallatin last week. The ad also features the dubious claim by the president’s oldest son that Hagerty was “on the Trump train before it was politically expedient.”

As The Tennessee Journal reported in September:

Despite Hagerty’s heavy emphasis on his links to Trump, his relationship with the president doesn’t go back all that far. The new candidate had been an early backer of Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential bid and was named to the former Florida governor’s Tennessee slate of delegates alongside former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Nashville) and fellow former state Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd.

When Bush’s bid fizzled out, Hagerty wrote a $2,700 check to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, also of Florida, on the eve of the Tennessee presidential primary. But Trump ended up carrying all but Williamson County in that contest and was formally awarded the Republican nomination in July. [Hagerty was named a Trump bundler, or state victory finance chair, on July 1, 2016]

Hagerty contributed $2,700 to the Trump campaign in September 2016, but by that point he had already been tapped as the director of presidential appointments for the nominee’s transition team, a position responsible for selecting and vetting, more than 4,000 jobs. Hagerty had done similar work for Mitt Romney in 2012 and John McCain in 2008.

Here’s a preview of Gov. Bill Lee’s State of the State address

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

Gov. Bill Lee gives his second State of the State address on Monday evening. Here are some early excerpts of the speech on the topics of the economy, education, and criminal justice reform:

Economy:

“In 2019, we were for the first time named the #1 best fiscally managed state in the country. We’ve been named as the best business climate in the country. We’re #1 in the U.S. for advanced industry job growth and the best state for small business growth. In the past year, this state has garnered 108 project commitments to create 16,500 jobs and $3.6 billion of capital investment in Tennessee. And while we still have more work to do on rural economic development, I’m also proud that more than half of these projects have been announced in rural counties.”

Education:

“Make no mistake: we will do whatever it takes to make Tennessee the best state in America to be a student, and that means making Tennessee the best state in America to be a teacher. That means better pay, as we’ve said, but it also means better training and professional support, so that our teachers can perform at the top of their trade.”

“Literacy is the foundation for a student’s educational journey. And if we can’t get early childhood literacy back on track, our other investments and work in education will always be limited.”

“No teacher I know does it only for the money, but you and I know a worker is worthy of their pay. Teaching is a calling. We know it is passion that brings teachers to the classroom, but we also know our teachers deserve to be paid more for the important work they do.”

“To me, education isn’t just about a test score. Assessments are valuable tools, but if the adults in education are doing their job correctly, they won’t just see academic statistics improve, they’ll see the most important stat of all improve: That our students are prepared to become productive members of society, whether that’s entering the workforce, attending college, or earning a high-quality industry credential.”

Criminal Justice Reform:

“We’re making these investments because, as our state’s elected leaders, we must remain aware of serving every part and every person of our state. That’s why I’ve made criminal justice reform such a large priority, because every person in Tennessee wants and deserves to live in a safe neighborhood. When properly implemented, criminal justice reforms save taxpayer dollars, shrink the size of government, properly punish wrongdoers, and make our communities safer.”