Breitbart News editor inspires TN ‘free speech’ bill

Inspired by a Breitbart News editor whose speeches have spurred protests at colleges across the country, state lawmakers on Thursday touted a bill that they said would protect free speech on Tennessee campuses, reports The Tennessean.

While discussing the bill (HB739) in a news conference, sponsors Rep. Martin Daniel and Sen. Joey Hensley referenced the protests against controversial conservative Milo Yiannopoulos, who is a senior editor at Breitbart. Violence erupted at a protest against a planned Yiannopoulos speech at the University of California, Berkeley, prompting officials there to cancel the speech. The lawmakers indicated that the violence had hampered the expression of conservative ideas at Berkeley. Similar issues have cropped up in Tennessee, they said.

Daniel, R-Knoxville, called his legislation “the Milo bill,” and said it was “designed to implement oversight of administrators’ handling of free speech issues.”

Hensley, R-Hohenwald, said the bill was specifically tailored to defend students with conservative views that he said had been silenced in the past.

“We’ve heard stories from many students that are honestly on the conservative side that have those issues stifled in the classroom,” Hensley said. “We just want to ensure our public universities allow all types of speech.”

The bill said public universities “have abdicated their responsibility to uphold free speech principles, and these failures make it appropriate for all state institutions of higher education to restate and confirm their commitment in this regard.”

TN political news and opinion roundup Jan. 8, 2017

The legislative session that begins Tuesday is the focus of much Tennessee media reporting in recent days. A sampler:

Legislative issue overviews

This week’s legislative meetings will be devoted to organization matters, followed by a recess until Jan. 30, when Gov. Bill Haslam delivers his “state-of-the-state” speech. But there’s a pile of proposals awaiting action afterwards — a gas tax increase, cuts in other state taxes, a big budget surplus, school vouchers, Sunday liquor sales, de-annexation, school bus seat belts, bathroom bills, etc. Andy Sher’s roundup is HERE; Sam Stockard’s list of main issues is HERE.

McNally profiled

The Tennessean has a well-done profile on Sen. Randy McNally, who will replace Ron Ramsey as Senate speaker and lieutenant governor on opening day.

The two have similar political backgrounds — they rose through the ranks over a long period of time — and are natural leaders. But in other ways, the differences are stark. Both have their own specialties.

“A lot of times in baseball you need to follow the guy that throws at 100 miles an hour with the guy that throws the circle change-up 75 miles an hour,” said Brad Todd, a longtime political consultant who has worked closely with both men.

McNally’s ascension this week will be the culminating act for a man who has commanded respect through his dedication to a life of public service that began in the muddy streets of Oak Ridge.

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Roundup of some recent TN political reporting and opinions, 12/18/2016

Corker for governor?

In a talk with the Jackson Sun, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker reviewed dealings with Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson, the possibility of Russian involvement with the presidential elections and other topics of national interest reported elsewhere, HERE. He was also asked if he might run for governor at some point and “did not explicitly say yes or no,” but acknowledged “the fulfillment” he felt while serving in an executive capacity as mayor of Chattanooga.

“On the other hand I’m in a place right now where I’m affecting things not only in our state but also our country and the world,” Corker said. “So again we’ll look at that over the next several months and try to make what I believe to be the best decision as it relates to offering public service.”

Faison’s folly?

That part of the headline on a review of state Rep. Jeremy Faison’s crusade – despite the misgivings of some fellow Republican conservatives — to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes by Sam Stockard. Sample quote:

“The deeper you get into understanding the goodness of that plant the more you question why in the world we ever demonized it in the first place.”

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TN political talk roundup: Outsourcing, Rusty Crowe, refugees & marijuana

Arguing over outsourcing

Randy Stamps, executive director of the Tennessee State Employees Association, did an op-ed piece a couple of weeks ago in the News Sentinel under the headline, “Outsourcing state services doesn’t save taxpayers money.”

In a rebuttal op-ed Sunday, state Department of General Services Commissioner  Bob Oglesby declares that Stamps’ article “makes misleading and factually wrong claims and chooses to back up his false premise with several charges that are equally incorrect.”

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TN political reading list, 10/23/2016 (with some observations)

Tennessee elections rigged?

Commercial Appeal columnist Otis Sanford suggests, tongue in cheek it seems, that there’s evidence of rigged elections “right there under our noses” on the state election ballot where Republican candidates are listed ahead of all others – and Donald Trump is the first name a voter sees. (That’s in accord with a state law, enacted when Democrats dominated in the state, giving the “majority party” top billing on the state ballot.)

He goes on to observe that two of 11 cases of documented voter fraud nationwide 2000-2014 – according to one often-cited study – occurred in Shelby County and both were cast against Republican Terry Roland, now a county commissioner, in a 2005 race for a state Senate seat.

Yet, Roland downplays Trump’s claims that the presidential election is being rigged. “I don’t think there is a consorted effort to manipulate the ballot,” Roland told me last week.

In fact, Roland, like most of us, is sick and tired of the whole campaign. “I can’t wait for it to be over,” he said. “I’m watching Sanford and Son, Andy Griffith and The Jeffersons on TV now rather than the news.”

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Roundup of some TN political junkie reading, 8/16/2016

TN columnists on Trump/Clinton

As with their counterparts nationally, most Tennessee mainstream media opinion commentary recently has revolved around the presidential campaign, related video tapes and the like. By and large, those published in newspapers seem generic to a national audience. But some do reference Tennessee.

Greg Johnson’s latest piece cites Gov. Bill Haslam’s refusal to vote for Donald Trump, basically endorsing the governor’s position, criticized by some other conservatives. Excerpt:

So, my question for my friends on the left: If you defended Bill Clinton in the 1990s, why do you condemn Trump now? And my question for my friends on the right: If you found Clinton’s behavior abhorrent in the 1990s, so vile you cheered his impeachment and deemed him unfit for the Oval Office, how can you back  Trump now?

Otis Sanford, a fellow with considerably more liberal inclinations than Johnson, cites the general lineup of the state’s elected Republicans behind Trump despite him acting like a “petulant, potty-mouthed juvenile”  – in particular, U.S. Rep. Diane Black – and declares their motivation is basically concern over presidential U.S. Supreme Court appointments.

Congresswoman Black acknowledged it. This is not really about the White House. This election is about control of the building several blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue that houses the Supreme Court of the United States.

The headline on Frank Daniels’s latest column asks, “What does vote your conscience even mean?” – a reference to TNGOP’s arguably ambiguous advice on voters fretting about how to cast their ballots amid infighting between party factions over Trump. He doesn’t offer a definitive answer  to the question, but points out “lots to think about.”

George Korda opines that Trump should stay in the race, contrary to Haslam’s call for resigning the nomination, but sorta complements the governor, too. HERE.

If he loses, he loses, though some of his supporters will cry foul. It’s better than him getting out and enabling them to claim conspiracy as the reason for his departure.

If he wins, he’ll find out that he has more friends than he could have realized, and many of them will be people who either kept silent, or expressed concerns about him, but will say after the election, “But I really was with you all along.”

Except Gov. Bill Haslam. He’ll be consistent on that score.

Mark Harmon recently visited the battleground state of Ohio and contrasts the situation there to things in Tennessee, where Trump is assured of victory. HERE.

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