Legendary lobbyist Tom Hensley dies at 80

Lobbyist Tom Hensely, center, is seen outside Legislative Plaza in Nashville on Jan. 8, 2019. He is joined by fellow lobbyists Ryan Haynes, left, and Rich Foge. (Image Credit: State of Tennessee)

Tom Hensley, the legendary lobbyist known as “The Golden Goose,” has died. Hensley had been hospitalized in Nashville for two moths after sustaining a head injury in a fall. He passed away after being moved to a rehabilitation center in Decaturvillle on Friday. He was 80 years old.

Hensley began his lobbying career in the 1960s and was a ubiquitous presence at the Capitol complex, wearing his trademark three-piece suit, chomping on a cigar, and sitting in the front row of committee meetings. Hensley was best known for his work for the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Tennessee, especially during an era when state law allowed him to supply lawmakers with free bottles of alcohol and pick up the tab at restaurants and bars.

Hensley was joined in lobbying the liquor wholesalers association in 2016 by Ryan Haynes, a former lawmaker and onetime state Republican Party chairman.

Lobbyists scramble as 27-page amendment to tech privacy bill surfaces

House members attend a floor session in Nashville on Jan. 12, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A Republican bill aiming to protect users’ privacy online strikes all the right chords with people tired of having their personal information harvested and sold to third party vendors. But the devil, as always, is in the details.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Johnny Garrett (R-Goodlettsville) and Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) originally dealt with with campaign finance disclosures for corporations. But it opened 14 titles of the Tennessee Code — a classic caption bill that the serve as a vehicle for a wide variety of initiatives.

The amendment now circulating would set privacy requirements that could have far-reaching effects on a variety of businesses. There’s already talk of the measure becoming this year’s Lobbyist Full Employment Act.

Senate to block public access to committee floor

The Senate meets in Nashville on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The state Senate will continue to bar public access to committee meetings during the upcoming legislative session. According to guidelines shared with members, the restrictions will mirror the COVID-19 mitigation steps taken by the upper chamber last summer.

The House is expected to continue to allow access by lobbyists and other members of the public.

Here’s is the memo sent by Senate Clerk Russell Humphrey:

To:     Members of the Senate, 112th General Assembly

From:   Russell A. Humphrey, Chief Clerk

In consideration of the infection rates and State of Tennessee COVID-19 guidelines, Mr. Speaker McNally and Senate Leadership have set the following protocols:

  *   The Senate side of the first floor of the Cordell Hull Building and the Senate Hearing Room are only to be utilized by Senators and authorized staff.

  *   On the 7th Floor of the Cordell Hull Building only Senate Members, Senate Staff, and appointments pre-scheduled by the pubic are authorized on the floor.  Please notify Ms. Connie Ridley of Senators appointments with members of the public the afternoon in advance.  Once appointments are concluded, guest must leave the floor.

  *   The Senate Chamber and the Senate Hearing Room are arranged to provide seating at a minimum physical distance of six feet. Only Senate Members, limited Clerk’s staff, and a press pool reporter are allowed in the Senate Chamber.

  *   Members are requested to wear face covering that covers both the mouth and nose while in public areas, including the Senate Chamber and Senate Hearing Room.

  *   Staff are required to wear face covering that covers both the mouth and nose while in public areas, including the Senate Chamber and Senate Hearing Room.

  *   Testimony in Committee meetings by non-members will be conducted remotely only. Please let the Chairman’s office know if you have someone to testify on a matter.

  *   Due to space limitations, seating is limited to staff and press in the Senate Hearing Room and the Senate Gallery.

  *   No accommodations are available for Days on the Hill or local, regional or state Leadership Groups.

These protocols shall remain in effect until further notice.  Mr. Speaker McNally ask you to be flexible, as these will change as conditions improved. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Lee adminstration to forgo legislative liaisons amid Capitol closure

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at the state Capitol on Sept. 16, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee will forgo the assistance of legislative liaisons while the Capitol complex is closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Tennessean’s Natalie Allison first reported that Lee’s legislative director, Brent Easley, sent an email to lawmakers on Sunday night to inform them of the decision.

“After deliberation and conversations the Governor has had this weekend, we will not have legislative liaisons at the Cordell Hull Building tomorrow,” Easley wrote. “That will extend until a time to be determined.”

Private sector lobbyists had raised concerns that the ongoing presence of legislative liaisons while the rest of the public was kept out of the building would give an unfair advantage to the governor’s initiatives while lawmakers met behind closed doors.


Lobbyists included in Capitol ban but told remainder of session to focus on budget

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

Lobbyists are to be included in the General Assembly’s decision to close access to the legislative office complex in the face of the coronavirus crisis, but legislative leaders have told the Tennessee Lobbyists Association that lawmakers will be “encouraged to only continue with legislation pertaining to the budget and funding.”

Presumably that would mean lawmakers would put hot-button issues on ice while charging ahead on getting the annual spending plan passed. But state funding is a major focus of many lobbying activities, so it remains to be seen how the plan would work in practice.

And as several observers have noted, encouraging members to act in a certain way isn’t the same as putting a hard stop to hearings on controversial bills. One way to underscore the plan to wary advocates would be to begin shutting down major committees early in the week to allow the finance panels to become the center of attention.

“It was confirmed to me that beginning on Monday, only members, staff, and media will have access to the CHB until further notice,” Steve Buttry, the chairman of the Tennessee Lobbyists Association and a former state lawmaker, said in an email to members. “This means lobbyists will not have access to the building during the closure to the public.

“I was also told that the goal is an expedited session. Members are being encouraged to only continue with legislation pertaining to the budget and funding,” he said. “Obviously the situation is very fluid.”

Richardson named partner at McMahan Winstead lobbying firm

Anna Richardson will become a parter in the lobbying firm founded by David McMahan and Beth Winstead. Richardson joined the prominent contract lobbying outfit in 2011 after serving as a legislative staffer, including for newly-elected Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin). The firm will be renamed McMahan Winstead & Richardson on Jan. 1.

Here’s the full release:

NASHVILLE – McMahan Winstead today announced Anna M. Richardson will join David McMahan and Beth Winstead as a partner with the firm effective January 1. The firm will officially change its name to McMahan Winstead & Richardson on that date.

“Eight years ago, Anna brought her extensive legislative experience and legal expertise to our firm giving our clients unmatched representation in the Tennessee General Assembly. Her contributions have brought our firm to new heights,” said David McMahan. “Joining Beth and me as a partner is the next logical step for Anna and well-deserved. Our firm is built on honesty, loyalty and hard work. Anna displays all three on a daily basis. We could not be more excited about this new partnership.

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Former Rep. Gerald McCormick joins Ingram Group

Former House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick has joined the Ingram Group lobbying firm in Nashville, which also recently hired Alexia Poe, the former communications director for Gov. Bill Haslam.

Here’s a release from the Ingram Group:

KNOXVILLE, TN – Retiring Tennessee State Representative and former Majority Leader Gerald McCormick has joined The Ingram Group, founder Tom Ingram announced today.McCormick will provide general consulting services with an emphasis on expanding state government relations practices for the Nashville and Washington based boutique strategic consulting firm which was founded over 35 years ago.

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Claude Ramsey — former deputy governor, mayor and legislator — dies aged 75

Claude Ramsey, who rose from third-generation Hamilton County strawberry farmer to deputy governor of Tennessee, died Monday at the age of 75, reports the Times Free Press.

In more than 40 years of public service, he was elected five times as county mayor, four times as assessor of property, twice to the Tennessee General Assembly and once as county commissioner. Ramsey never lost an election.

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TennCare backs off initiative aimed at making doctors more cost conscious

After months of resisting pressure from doctors, Tennessee’s Medicaid program, known as TennCare, is slowing down an initiative meant to make physicians more cost conscious, reports WPLN. The Tennessee Medical Association has complained about the so-called “episodes of care” payment model since its inception, though doctors initially cooperated with state officials in designing the program.

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Washington lobbyist, Sprint chairman host Blackburn fundraiser

Burb from Politico Influence, a daily Politico feature on lobbying in Washington:

The lobbyist David Carmen and Elizabeth Carmen will host a fundraiser for Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who’s running for Senate, at their home in the Palisades neighborhood of Washington on Tuesday evening, according to an invitation obtained by PI. The twist: One of the co-hosts is Marcelo Claure, the new executive chairman of Sprint and the chief operating officer of SoftBank, which owns most of Sprint.

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