Monday, June 23, 2014

Crockett Buzz 6-23-14

Corker's gas tax proposal gets mixed reviews

When Sen. Bob Corker proposed raising federal gas taxes this week, many around Capitol Hill couldn't decide if he showed political courage or political overreach.
Regardless, as Congress moves toward a summer debate over highway funding, Corker, R-Tenn., is drafting something most conservatives avoid at all costs — a tax bill.
The Tennessee senator, along with Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., wants the 18.4-cents per-gallon federal gasoline tax and the 24.4-cents per-gallon federal diesel tax to each increase by 12 cents over the next two years — and then be indexed to inflation. If the gasoline tax had been increased based on inflation since the last hike in 1993, it would stand at 30 cents now, about where Corker wants to put it.
Corker and Murphy say the federal Highway Trust Fund needs the money if the country is to repair a rapidly deteriorating transportation system, especially its roads. They emphasize higher fuel levies should be coupled with reductions in other taxes affecting businesses and families, so that the bottom line reads "revenue neutral." Click Here For More

Band of GOP legislators call for education commissioner's resignation

A group of 14 GOP legislators have signed a letter calling for the immediate resignation of embattled Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, citing last month’s delay in test scores as raising questions about the integrity of the department.
The letter accuses the commissioner of “misguided leadership,” and “dereliction of duty,” as well as potentially violating state law by waiving a requirement that teachers factor  standardized test scores in final grades after the state was late turning the test results over to districts.
“While we do not doubt your motivation or desire to see improvements in the education of all Tennesseans, we realize that we cannot begin to craft an honest solution to our education problems without first recognizing an even bigger problem: a complete lack of trust in the Tennessee Department of Education that now encompasses this state,” read the letter dated Thursday.
The legislators argue the state’s delay could mean the department is trying to “conceal the disastrous results of this years TCAP test scores” and opening up the ability for the department to manipulate the results. Click Here For More

New pro-Democrat PAC launched with $100K, makes two $10K donations

Knoxville’s state Rep. Gloria Johnson was one of two Democratic state legislators presented with a $10,000 check Thursday at a news conference announcing formation of Battleground Tennessee, a new political action committee.
Former state Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester and Bill Freeman, a Nashville businessman and Democratic activist, said the PAC has initial funding of $100,000 from two $50,000 checks written by Freeman and Olan Mills, a retired Chattanooga businessman, and a goal of spending about $250,000 to help Democrats gain ground in the Republican supermajority Legislature.
“What we’re trying to do is fight fire with fire,” said Freeman.
“For too long the progressive community has operated at a distinct disadvantage in the face of numerous right-wing PACs.,” Bill Freeman, PAC Chair said. “Today, we turn the tide with Battleground Tennessee, our answer to the Far-Right.” Click Here For More

GOP Lawmakers Demand Education Chief's Resignation

 Haslam's office is dismissing as a "political stunt" a letter signed by 15 Republican lawmakers demanding the resignation of Education Commissioner
Learn more about Kevin Huffman
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Kevin Huffman. The letter dated Thursday cites complaints from school administrators, teachers and students about Huffman's leadership style as his department implements a series of changes in K-12 education.
"Commissioner Huffman has overstepped his authority and failed to serve in the best interest of the citizens of this state," the letter said. "Anything short of his immediate removal will be unacceptable."
The lawmakers signing the letter are strongly identified with the tea party wing of the party – including Rep. 
Learn more about Joe Carr
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Joe Carr of Murfreesboro, who is challenging incumbent Lamar Alexander for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in August. Many of the signatories were involved in a legislative effort earlier this year to thwart Haslam's wishes by delaying the implementation of Common Core standards and related testing requirements. Click Here For More

State ends fiscal year with over $775,000 stolen money

The amount of money stolen from Tennessee counties grew by more than $200,000 in the 2012-13 fiscal year, according to a new report by the state comptroller’s office.
According to State Comptroller Justin Wilson, Tennessee began the last fiscal year with $563,372.50 in unrecovered cash shortages. During the year, $449,624.04 worth of new shortages were detected. Counties throughout the state recovered $237,775.42 through restitution payments, insurance claims or other means.
That left a net unrecovered shortage of $775,221.12 at the end of the fiscal year. Click Here For More

Bill Freeman: I hope Volkswagen has a forgiving spirit.

VW was considering two plants – Chattanooga and Mexico – to build the new SUV, which is supposed to arrive in showrooms in 2016. The plant expansion will mean hundreds of new jobs. If it comes to Tennessee, it will help solidify VW’s presence in Chattanooga and create new business for a variety of auto parts suppliers across the state. Chattanooga needs to win this one — dwindling demand for VW’s Passat sedan last year caused VW to cut about 500 jobs there.
But, in an attempt to muscle VW workers into rejecting the United Auto Workers, the Haslam administration abruptly withdrew an incentives offer, and Republicans stated publicly that future incentives might be tied to VW workers rejecting the union. Sen. Bob Corker’s own behavior – misleading VW’s Chattanooga workforce by, in essence, telling them that a vote for the UAW was a vote against expansion of the plant – was a disgusting abuse of Corker’s Chattanooga ties and his position as a Senator. You would expect Corker to provide more support for the city he once led – instead, he threw his hometown “under the bus.” His actions, along with Gov. Haslam, may very well have cost Chattanooga hundreds of jobs and robbed Tennessee of a stronger automotive industrial base. Click Here For More

Victor Ashe: Halls Shopper

Getting a handle on how the current contests for the three Supreme Court justices seeking retention in the Aug. 7 election are going is very difficult as there is no polling that gives us a clue. Neither side has started spending money on advertising despite rumors and stories that it will happen.
Some $600,000 has been raised to assist the three incumbents, but that is a small sum for a vigorous statewide race. That much money would be needed to penetrate the Memphis media market alone.
The truth is that few persons could name a single member of the state Supreme Court if asked. For the record, they are Cornelia Clark, Sharon Lee and Gary Wade, seeking retention, and William Koch and Janice Holder, whose terms are not up. Even fewer would know much about the decisions they have rendered on the court.
Based on past elections, about 30 percent of the voters will automatically vote “no” on keeping the incumbent.
Those seeking the ouster of the three justices, led by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, have not yet opened their media advertising. How well the ads are put together may determine the outcome of this struggle.
Ramsey strongly argued for the replacement of the Supreme Court justices at the GOP Statesmen’s Dinner in Nashville where New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie spoke. There was applause for his remarks.
Much of this battle is occurring because many Republicans want to place a Republican in the Attorney General’s office on Sept. 1, when the office must be filled by the five justices then serving on the court. The current justices have indicated they will be fair and transparent about the selection without saying more about the choice. No woman, no Republican and no African-American has ever served as Tennessee’s Attorney General. Click Here For More

Black's wealth dwarfs others in state delegation; DesJarlais, Tracy list assets, liabilities

Rep. Diane Black and her husband held assets in 2013 potentially worth $147 million, according to a financial disclosure form made public this month.
Black, R-Gallatin, listed 115 assets held by her and her husband, David Black, valued between $32 million and $146.9 million.
That compares with their 2012 range of $34.4 million to $142.19 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group.
Members of Congress have to disclose assets and liabilities only in broad dollar ranges. They also don’t have to list the value of their primary residence or automobiles. Click Here For More

Sunday column: On qualified voters getting involved in TN constitutional questions

Our Tennessee Constitution declares that justices of the state Supreme Court “shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state” and that the “right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate.”
But our state legislators have decided that first quoted phrase (Article IV, Section 3) can mean that voters don’t get to elect the judges, rather that the governor appoints them and voters can decide a couple of years later if they want to keep them.
And, as for the second phrase (Article I, Section 6), legislators have decided they can violate the right when it comes to a jury deciding how much maimed and disfigured people can get for pain and suffering or how big a financial punishment can be assessed against a wrongdoer person or corporation. The Legislature has put “tort reform” limits on that right.
The Tennessee Constitution doesn’t say a thing about abortion. But it will if the qualified voters of the state accept a decision of legislators this November.
The court system has been very much involved in two of these three matters, and it very likely will become involved in the third, all of which relate to one degree or another in matters before the qualified voters this year — and maybe a few unqualified ones, if they’ve got a passable fake driver’s license. Click Here For More

Crockett Policy Institute

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