Roundup of some recent TN politics and policy writing

Gas tax debate brings new legislator titles

In a lengthy review of conservative legislator complaints that they haven’t gotten a fair hearing while opposing Gov. Bill Haslam’s tax plans, Sam Stockard depicts Rep. Jerry Sexton as “apparent leader of the ‘Fire and Brimstone Caucus’.”


Sexton was so irritated he got into an argument with Tennessee Journal writer “Easy” Ed Cromer, who had the audacity to ask him if he also opposed a cut in the food sales tax, a 1 percent reduction contained in the bill.

“Why don’t you ask me if I’m against F&E and the Hall tax (cuts)? You want to pick out something,” Sexton argued.

Cromer, who could be the most laid-back member in the Capitol Hill Press Corps, bristled at the suggestion he was being unfair – at least as much as he can bristle – and after a short back-and-forth with Sexton left the scene of the crime (We’ve got a lot of folks storming out these days).

On the other hand, Tennessee Star – which has hailed Sexton’s efforts and commentary – has taken to referring to Rep. Barry Doss, R-Leoma, who has taken the lead in pushing Haslam’s bill in the House – as “Boss Doss” in criticizing his commentary.

The latest example, under the headline “Boss Doss Claim That Tennessee is Lowest Taxed State in Nation Contradicted by Kiplinger Report” is HERE.

‘Boss Hill’ for county mayor?

In a Sunday column looking ahead to 2018 elections, Robert Houk of the Johnson City Press mentions a legislator he’s nicknamed “Boss” in critical opinion pieces. Excerpt:

Closer to home, local voters will also decide races for county mayor and County Commission. Will Dan Eldridge seek a third term as mayor in Washington county, or will he set his sights on a higher office?

As usual there’s always talk of state Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, retiring. If so, Eldridge might be eyeing a run for his 3rd District seat. There’s also talk that former Johnson City Mayor Steve Darden and Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe are also considering a Senate bid.

And hold onto your hats folks — there’s talk of state Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, running for county mayor.

Boss Hill as county mayor? He’s has not exactly been a champion of local government during his tenure in the General Assembly. What makes him think his lackluster service in Nashville qualifies him to be the county’s chief executive?

‘Now or never’ for new state Library & Archives building?

Secretary of State Tre Hargett has been pushing for years to get funding ($98 million) for a new state Library and Archives building and says he will have to pursue other options – such as stashing historical materials in long-term storage where they would not be easily accessible – if the Legislature doesn’t provide the money this year.

Gov. Bill Haslam didn’t include the funding in his initial budget proposal, but indicExcerted in recent view that he was considering adding it in a “supplemental” amendment that hasn’t been filed yet. And, of course, the Legislature could add the money on its own.

Bottom line of Hargett’s opinion piece:

Funding for a new building has been in limbo for almost a decade, so we need a solution. A famous Tennessean named Elvis Presley once sang: “It’s now or never.” This is where we are with regards to this important and worthy project. Without action now, current and future Tennesseans will lose accessibility to our state’s valuable and historic records, and our ability to preserve these documents will continue to be diminished.

The full article is on the secretary of state’s website HERE. The Tennessean ran it HERE.

On the gas tax and Beth Harwell for governor

In a News Sentinel column, Frank Cagle writes that House Speaker Beth Harwell has been a “dependable ally” of Gov. Bill Haslam, but “has evidently decided that she is not going to let him throw her under the bus.”

It is apparent that Haslam has introduced, promoted and actively supported his friend and business associate Randy Boyd to be the next governor. Boyd is also a millionaire business guy from Knoxville after all, and he bought the Smokies baseball team from Haslam.

But Harwell, the first woman speaker of the House, has been gearing up to run for governor. She has a record to run on in that she has presided over abolishing the gift tax, the inheritance tax and the Hall income tax. Also a cut in the sales tax on groceries. So now Haslam wants her and her members to pass an increase in the gas tax that affects virtually every consumer in Tennessee.

Harwell’s refusal to go along is the strongest indication yet that she is running for governor. If she is bucking Haslam on this, it indicates that she does not plan to commit political suicide on his behalf. Haslam is likely angry that Harwell has come forward with a plan to increase transportation funding without a tax increase. But it’s not just Harwell that has a problem with raising taxes when the state has a surplus of revenue. Many of her House members feel the same way.

Note: Cagle’s column appeared prior to Harwell declaring that she may go along with the governor’s tax plan after all.

The House Education and Administration Planning Committee’s rejection of a bill granting in-state tuition rates to children of illegal immigrants on a 7-6 votes is lamented by Tennessean columnist David Plazas.

Nativism blamed for defeat of immigrant in-state tuition bill

The House committee’s rejection this week, however, was not based on sound education philosophy, but rather on nativism, bitter national politics and the error of conflating those who commit crimes and the majority who are trying to live and work in peace.

Terms like “illegals” and “aliens” are being used to dehumanize people who are working construction and agriculture, caring for children or going to school. The Trump administration’s rhetoric and actions have been hostile toward undocumented immigrants, although the president said he would focus on deporting criminals.

Along the same lines is guest column in the News Sentinel by UT graduate student Bradley Hinger, HERE.

3 Responses to Roundup of some recent TN politics and policy writing

  • Avatar
    David A. Collins says:

    The reason the funds for road building/maintenance is short is because years ago [the Bredeson years] the highway trust fund was raided, during a slow economic time, to balance the budget. The money was never replaced (as promised at the time) and now it is nearly broke. The long term solution is to raise the gas tax (which has historically been sufficient to maintain the road system) and don’t touch that money for anything else, like they did before. To take the funds from the surplus (which should go into the rainy day fund) to fund the highway system is the reverse of the mistake they made before and will no doubt lead to again raiding the highway fund at some point in the future when we have another economic downturn. The epitome of making the same mistake twice.

  • Avatar
    David Smith says:

    That Jerry sexton is a good Christain man….oh wait.

    Rep. Jerry Sexton just knocked over papers stacked on Rep. Eddie Smith’s desk. #tnleg

  • Avatar
    Michael Lottman says:

    David Plazas editorial is exactly right that the legislature’s denial of in-state tuition to undocumented students brought here by their families is a senseless act of cruelty and cowardice. It makes me sick. It makes me embarrassed to say I am a Tennessean. Is this kind of action what we want our state to be known for?

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