The vote came after a hearing in which lawmakers grilled the council’s executive director, Phyllis Qualls-Brooks, over why the council exists in the first place. Sen. Mike Bell (R) started things off by asking, “With women making up 51 percent of the population of the state, why don’t we have a men’s economic council?”
He went on, “Why don’t we have a Hispanic council, why don’t we have an African-American economic council, why don’t we have this group and that group, why do we have a women’s economic council and why is it needed?”
After Brooks responded, in part, by telling him, “Because men basically are running everything anyway,” Bell replied, “I need to tell my wife that men are running everything.” LINK
To State Lawmaker Mike BellState Senator Mike Bell represents four and a half fairly rural counties in Tennessee, but I doubt he spoke for their interests when he voted against Insure Tennessee. Bradley County, which he shares with Senator Gardenhire, at 67% urban population, is his least rural bastion. McMinn County is 60% rural, Meigs is all rural, Monroe is 76% rural, and Polk is all rural. These areas contain 1,086 veterans who are not covered by the Veterans’ administration and are between 100% and 138% of poverty level.
Senator Bell’s district is fortunate in that only one of its hospitals, Skyridge Medical Center in Bradley County’s Cleveland, is in danger of closing and having to terminate 779 employees. Bradley County’s other hospital is also in Cleveland, which means most citizens in this 329 square mile county have to travel some distance in an emergency. McMinn County’s two hospitals are in Athens and Etowah, which makes sense in a 430 square mile county. Meigs County has no hospital at all; citizens of this long, thin 195 square mile area have to go out of county for surgery. Monroe County, a 635 square mile area, has a hospital in Sweetwater. Polk County’s 435 square miles are served by one 25 bed hospital in Copper Basin – and Polk County offers tourist attractions on the Ocoee, Hiwasee, and Consauga Rivers. LINK
Rep. Butt ‘offended’ by racism accusation… and she’s not into pole dancingExcerpts from a Tennessean profile story on state Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, following the flap over her “NAAWP” Facebook post:
“I guess I’m offended that all of these things are predicated on something that they, apparently, the (House) Black Caucus, thinks I said or thinks I thought or thinks I insinuated. Not anything that’s true.”
The first thing Sheila Butt remembers about Rockford, Ill., where she was born in 1951, are her birthday parties.
“When I was growing up and had birthday parties, I had as many black children at my birthday parties as white children. That was just my upbringing, and I never thought much about it,” Butt said.
It was different when the family moved to Tennessee — where, unprompted, Butt said she saw her first segregated water fountain. Butt’s father, a shoe salesman before he became a car salesman, was an Illinois native. Her mother hailed from Florida, so the family decided Tennessee was a nice spot in the middle.
…She wasn’t always a Christian. Butt didn’t make that decision until she was 20 years old, according to her book “Everyday Princess: Daughter of the King.” She was a high school cheerleader and editor of the high school newspaper. She says in her book that she never drank alcohol or used drugs growing up, but she did date plenty of boys. LINK
Tuition Equality Bill Advances in SenateLegislation that would make undocumented students eligible for in-state tuition is advancing in the Senate.
The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga passed the Senate Education Committee 6-2 Wednesday evening. A similar measure was withdrawn from the same committee last year by Gardenhire because it didn't have the votes to pass.
Under the proposal, a student must have attended a school in Tennessee for the four years immediately prior to graduation from high school, or have obtained a GED awarded by a state-approved institution or organization. The student also has to meet certain standards, such as an overall 3.0 grade point average. LINK
The 75 Percent RuleRemember that time when state representative and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) board member Curry Todd submitted a bill to aid farmers and school children by creating an extra hour of sunlight? How about that time when he was living rent free in a lobbyist's home? Or when he killed the Influence Disclosure Act, a measure that would have required lawmakers to acknowledge the influence of outside groups on public policy?
Let's face it, this West Tennessee representative isn't the sharpest nor is he the most ethical knife in the drawer. Even if his most recent proposal doesn't overturn any natural laws, like inertia or gravity, HB241 displays Todd's usual lack of seriousness. If passed, Todd's bill will kill good legislation that helps fund our public defender system and has served Tennesseans well for 23 years. The proposed legislation, in the long run, benefits nobody but Todd's fellow ALEC member, the Corrections Corporation of America, a private company that operates three of Tennessee's 14 prisons.
I'm not suggesting that ALEC was involved in crafting this bill, but it wasn't Todd. And no matter who's responsible for drafting the language, who do you think wins when the state decides to abandon even the pretense of parity and stacks the deck in favor of the prosecution? Here's a hint: not the citizens of Tennessee.
If passed, HB241 would undo T.C.A. 16-2-518, a regulatory measure that controls disparity in the funding of prosecutors and public defenders. Sometimes called the "75 percent rule," T.C.A. 16-2-518 ensures that whatever money is budgeted for prosecutors must be matched at a 75 percent level for public defenders. In simple terms, if the county gives District Attorney Amy Weirich's office $100, they must give the public defender's office $75.
Thirty years ago, a mere decade before the creation of T.C.A. 16-2-518, fewer than 350,000 Americans were in prison. By the turn of the 21st century, that number ballooned to more than 2.3 million. That breaks down to about one of every 100 Americans being in jail. If you extend the figure to include people on probation or parole, the number drops to a shocking one in 31 Americans. More than 80 percent of the people accused of committing a crime qualify for court-appointed defense. Study after study has documented how excessive caseloads have compromised the constitutional right to counsel and clogged the judicial system. To quote former FBI Director William Sessions, America's public defense systems "should be a source of great embarrassment for all of us." LINK
Students sue over Tennessee voter ID lawA student organization filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday claiming Tennessee's voter identification law violates the rights of college students by not allowing them to use school IDs to vote.
The lawsuit comes after a four-year debate, protests and multiple failed attempts in the Tennessee General Assembly to allow use of the identification.
"For four years, the Tennessee General Assembly has rejected every attempt to add college student IDs to the voter ID list, systematically shutting young voters out of the political process just as they become eligible to vote," Jon Sherman, a staff attorney for the Fair Elections Legal Network, said in a statement.
The Fair Elections Legal Network, a national voting rights organization, and Nashville law firm Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Nashville Student Organizing Committee, a student-run social justice and civil rights organization.
Tennessee's strict voter ID law has received staunch support, and lawmakers have argued that college IDs are easier to fake and harder to verify as authentic. LINK
TN Senate Dems: Senate GOP Vote to Not Extend Women’s Economic CouncilLegislation that would have extended the Tennessee Economic Council on Women failed to pass out of a Senate committee today, with much of the discussion centered around whether we should have an economic council on men.
“Domestic violence, human sex trafficking and sexual assault rob our state’s economy of $1 billion each year,” said Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris, who voted yes to extend the council. “We know this because of the peerless research this council provides. It is heartbreaking that this important work could fall victim to the Republican war on women.”
Sponsored by state Sen. Mike Bell, SB 256 would have extended the council through 2019. The legislation remains in the Senate Government Operations committee after receiving three yes votes, four no votes and one present. If it doesn’t pass, the council will terminate June 30, 2015.
“These aren’t just women’s issues; they affect entire families,” Sen. Harris said. “Men have to recognize the advantages we have and be willing to zero in on issues that uniquely affect women. Finding solutions to these problems benefits us all.”
The council was established in 1998 to address the economic needs of women, studying employment practices, educational opportunities, child care, property rights, health care and domestic relations. LINK
Haslam talk about 'step two' for Insure TennesseeGov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that “the fear of being associated with ‘Obamacare’ and the lack of trust in the federal government meant” that his Insure Tennessee health insurance plan “was a hard sell to the legislature,” which killed the program last month.
Speaking to about 1,000 Nashville business executives during a breakfast at Lipscomb University, the governor said even though many thought his Medicaid expansion plan (that would have made 280,000 uninsured Tennesseans eligible for health insurance) was a good idea, “the program was a result of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it is known” and thus “came with a lot of political baggage.”
But he said he hasn’t given up. “We still feel like it’s the right idea but we have to get over some political hurdles to make it happen. We’re still trying to figure out what step two looks like.”
The governor also told the execs his administration is trying “to be a little smarter, more thoughtful and more strategic” in offering economic development incentives to businesses to move to or expand in Tennessee — and targeting efforts toward rural areas where the economy is struggling — but that big-ticket, taxpayer-funding incentives like the $165 million he’s proposing to expand Volkswagen aren’t going away.
“The reality is, none of us like doing incentives when we encourage business to come here but it’s the price of playing in the game. When other states are out there doing very lucrative deals, we can’t just unilaterally disarm. …
“I think what we’ve tried to do is be a lot more precise about the benefit that would come from that business moving and to look at it like you do in your business as a return on the investment — what the state has to do and what would the return be.
“We’re going to put a renewed emphasis on Tennessee business and particularly businesses in the rural parts of the state. Jobs are a lot harder to come by in the rural areas and so one of the things (new Economic Development Commissioner Randy Boyd) is going to focus on a lot on is a more strategic approach to rural economic development.
Although the governor has opposed a similar bill in previous years, he said he hasn’t taken a position yet on a bill to remove the authority of cities, towns and counties to ban guns from local parks. LINK
TN attorney general: No decision yet on FCC municipal broadband voteTennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery has not yet decided whether he will challenge a recent decision by the Federal Communications Commission preempting a 1999 state law.
"We have not made a decision about the state’s next step," Slatery said in an emailed statement. "We are disappointed the FCC would assert authority over a local governmental body, which is an area of responsibility resting exclusively with the state in which the local governmental body exists."
Last week, the FCC sided with municipal broadband providers in Tennesseeafter EPB petitioned the federal agency to help overcome a state law restricting a potential Internet expansion to southwest Bradley County and other neighboring rural communities.
Slatery, Gov. Bill Haslam and House Speaker Beth Harwell previously lobbied the FCC and asked it not to side with EPB's request.
Three Republican state representatives called on the attorney general Tuesday morning to take legal action against the FCC.
State Reps. Jeremy Durham, Andy Holt and Glen Casada wrote in a letter to Slatery, "While the public policy merits of such an idea can be debated another day, the ability of Tennessee to make its own laws is not a concept that can be taken lightly, and we respectfully urge your office to defend our state sovereignty and seek legal relief to the fullest extent necessary." LINK
Crockett Policy Institute