president obama

Obama’s clemency to 36 Tennesseans: Excessive says Duncan; not enough says Cohen

Three dozen convicted felons in Tennessee have been given a second chance in recent years through commutations and pardons by President Barack Obama. Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen hopes he’ll do more before leaving office on Friday. Republican Congressman John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr. of Knoxville says the number already granted seems “excessive.”

So reports Michael Collins. Excerpts:

“There are still so many more people in prison for non-violent offenses like marijuana convictions and due to the crack-cocaine disparity – injustices that deserve clemency,” the Memphis Democrat (Cohen) said. “I’ve been disappointed for several of my constituents who I’ve been advocating for on behalf of their relatives who haven’t received clemency.”

Obama has been much more generous than his predecessors when it comes to using his executive powers to dole out forgiveness…. Obama has commuted the sentences of more inmates than all previous presidents combined. The commutations are part of an effort by the Justice Department to rectify what it sees as overly punitive sentences from the war on drugs.

So far, 36 Tennesseans have seen their sentences reduced by the president, ranking the Volunteer State 11th in the nation in terms of commutations. The state that received the most is Florida, where Obama has reduced the sentences of 190 felons since 2011. Next is Texas, with 123.

… Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., who was a state court judge in Knox County for seven years before he was elected to Congress, agrees that sentencing reform is needed. But he thinks Obama has gone overboard in handing out commutations, most of which have come over the past two years.

…Judges should have some latitude, for example, when sentencing someone who got mixed up in the wrong crowd when they were young and had just limited drug use, Duncan said.

“To put them in the same category with big-time drug dealers is wrong,” he said. But, “I doubt if I had been president I would have done 1,100 commutations in the last two years. That sounds excessive to me.”







Obama signs bill blocking plan to ban floating homes on TVA lakes

President Barack Obama has signed into law a congressional bill that prevents the Tennessee Valley Authority from removing floating homes from its lakes, reports WJHL.

Back in May, TVA voted 7-2 on a 30 year sunset on floating homes… In September, North Carolina’s Republican U.S. Senators filed legislation in response to the TVA’s proposal.

Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis introduced an amendment to The Water Resources Development Act of 2016. Congress passed the bill. Now the new law no longer requires floating home owners to get rid of their floating homes within the next 30 years, as long as rules are followed.

“We wanted to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to safely enjoys these great natural resources that the TVA manages for the public throughout the valley,” TVA Spokesperson Jim Hopson explains.

He said those rules have not been defined yet.

“A series of requirements will be created to address specific safety, environmental, and navigational safety issues associated with having floating houses or floating cabins on TVA’s reservoirs,” he said.

He says floating home owners will have to pay fees, but it’s unclear how much… There will be a series of public hearings to determine the necessary changes that will need to be made to keep the floating homes, as well as determining how much fees will cost.

Obama commutes sentences of five Tennesseans; grants pardons to two

President Barack Obama commuted the sentences Monday of five Tennesseans jailed on drug-related charges and pardoned two others convicted of non-violent crimes, reports Michael Collins.

In all, Obama commuted the sentences of 153 people across the country, including Rodney Bates of Milan, Amilcar Butler of Nashville, Joseph Lee Gulledge Jr. of Chattanooga, Kari Nicole Parks of Bristol and Timothy Orlando Rainey of Nashville.

Seventy-eight others received presidential pardons, including Kenneth Shannon Meadows of Celina and Allen Thompson Sherwood of Ooltewah.

The White House press release is HERE. Below is a cut-and-paste of information provided therein on each of the Tennesseans.

Continue reading

Obama backs Coleman in TN Senate District 20

News release from Erin Coleman campaign

WASHINGTON — Today Barack Obama endorsed Erin Coleman in her race for Tennessee Senate District 20. Coleman is among a select group of state legislative candidates from around the country to be endorsed by Obama. Senate District 20  encompasses Davidson County, TN.


This contest has caught national attention due to Coleman’s commitment to serving her country and her community and her strong stand in favor of equal pay for equal work. Coleman is a United States Army veteran, a small business owner, and a mother of three children.


“We are thrilled that Barack Obama is endorsing our candidates in some of the most competitive races across the country,” said Jessica Post, Executive Director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. “His endorsement highlights how crucial state legislative elections are to building on the progress Obama has achieved and to continuing to move our nation forward.”

Note: Obama announced a week of so ago that he would, for the first time, make endorsements in downballot races including state legislatures — as noted in previous post HERE (2nd item in a political junkie reading list) and linking to the Politico story HERE.  The Politico story indicates as many as 150 Democratic candidates around the nation could be endorsed by election day.

Coleman is running against Republican Sen. Steve Dickerson of Nashville, who — with the help of GOP allies — has outspent her something like $10-to-$1. Latest reported GOP expenditure in the race — $750,000 spent by the Senate Republican Caucus, mostly on ads bashing Coleman. (previous post HERE.)

MTSU Poll: Obama’s TN approval now just 16 points below Haslam

News release from Middle Tennessee State University

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Tennessee voters have warmed a little bit toward President Barack Obama on the eve of his departure from the White House, but a majority still disapprove of his performance as president, the latest MTSU Poll shows.

Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s approval rating remains high and steady, and approval remains relatively high for the Tennessee General Assembly and Tennessee Republican U.S. senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker. Approval of Congress, though, is in the basement.

The MTSU Poll was conducted between Sept. 28 and Oct. 2, following the first presidential candidate debate. The sample of 600 registered Tennessee voters were surveyed via random telephone calls to landline and mobile phones. The margin of error is 4 percentage points. Continue reading


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