Is TN’s civil seizure process state sanctioned thievery?
The impact of the NRA on Tennessee politics
TN 2014 lobbying report: 557 lobbyists, 1,880 clients, up to $69.4M spent
Gov. Bill Haslam signs cannabis oil bill
Wait times are particularly high at the satellite clinic in Hopkinsville, Ky., where two out of the four physicians left at almost the same time last year, says Tennessee Valley outpatient clinic chief Robert Lim. Now they're back at full staff, but they've taken on overflow patients from the nearby Clarksville clinic, Lim says.
Meanwhile, the clinic in Maury County also lost two providers recently — leaving just one clinician.
At a small clinic in Tullahoma, one provider left on short notice this year, and the average wait time tripled the next month. A replacement was hired recently, Lim says, but that didn't work out.
“All of a sudden, we get a note from him yesterday saying he has decided not to come, so we’re back to square one," he says.
The system is trying to make the physician position more attractive by offering competitive salaries and hiring more support staff, says assistant director Ronnie Smith.
It’s also adding space to several clinics, as well as the main campuses in Nashville and Murfreesboro, which Smith says should create a better work environment for doctors. LINK
TN 2014 lobbying report: 557 lobbyists, 1,880 clients, up to $69.4M spentLast year, 557 lobbyists were registered to represent 1,880 clients who collectively spent somewhere between $27.6 million and $69.4 million in trying to influence state legislators and other state officials, according to the 2014 Tennessee Ethics Commission annual report.
The report, posted on the commission website last week, says “the number of lobbyists and total number of lobbyists registrations has continued a slow growth rate over the last five years.” Some lobbyists represent multiple clients and some clients hire multiple lobbyists.
Overall spending on lobbying pay and related lobbying expenses, on the other hand, has remained relatively stable over the past five years, the report says, while spending on “in-state events” – the term used to describe receptions, meals and other hospitality provided to legislators by the employers of lobbyists continued an upswing, reaching a record of $720,039.
State law requires lobbyist employers to report separately total compensation paid to lobbyists as well of lobbying-related expenditures within a “range,” but not specific figures unless the amount is more than $400,000. Those reports are filed twice a year, one covering the first six months and the other the second six months.They also must report – giving a specific figure – how much is spent on the “in-state events.”
Combining the two six-month periods for both compensation and related expenditures — and adding the “in-state events” specific figure — the result shows overall reported lobbying costs in 2014 at between $27,630,039 and $69,385,039. LINK
Americans for Prosperity spend big trying to sway Tennessee lawmakers
Brooks said all he was doing was asking fellow Republicans to keep their powder dry and let Haslam make his case. AFP, meanwhile, used direct mail to attack Rep. Jimmy Eldridge, R-Jackson, and Rep. John Holsclaw, R-Elizabethton, because of the lawmakers' perceived support of Insure Tennessee. The group launched more generalized statewide ad blitzes in both January and March.
In the end, Haslam's proposal failed twice in this year's General Assembly. Once was in a Senate committee during a special session Haslam had called to consider his plan to use federal dollars and extend Medicaid health coverage to 280,000 low-income Tennesseans. It failed again when a bipartisan coalition sought to resurrect the plan during the regular session.
Insure Tennessee failed for a number of reasons, including late approval from the federal government and a lack of key information for lawmakers. In addition, the Medicaid expansion was part of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, which made it radioactive for many Republican lawmakers.
Still, long-time political consultant Tom Ingram, Haslam's top political adviser, said what happened also is Exhibit A for outside groups' growing influence on state politics and state government.
"To some degree the same thing is going on nationwide," said Ingram, who blames the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision that removed restrictions on independent political campaign spending by nonprofit organizations and corporations.
Groups like AFP are working both political campaigns and lobbying in a hand-in-glove approach, according to Ingram. The source of their money is often secret. They spend huge sums. And that's legal.
"They [AFP] have a full-time staff, they've poured in a lot of money indirectly and directly," said Ingram, who was registered to lobby last session for a pro-Insure Tennessee business group. "It's largely to push whatever agenda they have and influence, frankly, our elected officials, our issues, disproportionately more than any of us as individual voters can.
"I find something out of whack about that," Ingram added.
AFP's Tennessee Director Andrew Ogles doesn't. The group, he said, is often focused on pushing back against the federal government's intrusion into state affairs in areas ranging from health care to education. AFP presses what it considers to be free-market issues as well, he said.
"Our founding fathers wanted the states to be laboratories of solution and, again, that's why we've kind of pushed back on the federal overreach," Ogles said.
Comparing the political arena to a marketplace, Ogles said, "our job is to ... increase public discussion and debate."
Without groups like AFP, he said, "we just trust that what's going on at the state Capitol is in our best interest. And sometimes it's not."
The group, Ogles said, has some 40,000 Tennessee members. That's based on people who receive AFP's regular newsletter, he said.
In a show of force during the special session on Insure Tennessee, Ogles and his staff brought some 200 red-shirted AFP members to Legislative Plaza, and about half packed the Senate Health Committee where the bill died on its first vote.
And Ogles claims other victories, sometimes shared with other groups, during the past two legislative sessions. Besides Insure Tennessee, he says, AFP and other groups forced Haslam to re-evaluate Common Core education standards in K-12 education through a bill and won approval for another measure creating a mini-education voucher program that passed this year.
The latter allows parents with special-needs children to use taxpayer dollars to send the students outside their local public schools. Meanwhile, a general school voucher bill, which AFP-Tennessee backed, failed yet again. Ogles said AFP's hands were full on Insure Tennessee.
But some officials, including Haslam, maintain the influence of AFP and other groups is exaggerated when it comes to Insure Tennessee and other legislation. LINK
A Heartfelt Breakup Letter to Tennessee: This Is Why I'm LeavingDear Tennessee,
I'm sorry; I'm leaving you.
It's not a decision I make lightly -- My great-great-great-grandfather Neergaard immigrated from Germany more than a decade before the Civil War and settled twenty-five miles from my current home. My brother, five aunts and uncles and more extended family than I can count live in Tennessee, and I have resided here for ten splendid years. Nonetheless, it's over. I considered moving out with no explanation. But I still love you, and I think you need to know why I am leaving.
It's not because I lost my job last year. It's true, I searched everywhere for a job, and I knew I would have to relocate, but I could have tried harder to stay. Yes, I know terrible things will happen wherever I live, but my decision to move away is about you.
I admit, we've had great times together. I am nurtured by memories of riding with my grandfather on his tractor and cooling off in the river, building my dream house and performing some of the best math of my career at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Sadly, trips to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, warm people and beautiful fall colors are not enough to conceal the fact that we are growing apart, and we have been for some time.
I thought I was brave enough to stick it out. Someone, I reasoned, must fight at the front lines of the cultural wars against intolerance and bigotry. I'm honored to serve, and along with others in our community, our family has made a difference. We have educated educators, helped found our local PFLAG chapter, helped local Gay Straight Transgender Alliances (GSTAs) put on the East Tennessee Youth Pride Fest and housed homeless LGBT teens. By his very existence, my gay son shows that homosexuality is not a sexual perversion, but rather a sexual orientation. I'm stung by the shame of giving up and of deserting my comrades.
I wanted to accomplish more. LINK
The impact of the NRA on Tennessee politics
The number of homes with a gun might be declining, but the power of the National Rifle Association across the country and in Tennessee certainly is not.
The gun-rights advocacy organization boasts roughly 5 million members nationwide, including an estimated 100,000 in Tennessee, said NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker. They have influential lobbyists at the state Capitol, and a track record of picking off at least one influential member of the Republican party who stepped out of line.
Here's a quick look at the impact of the NRA on Tennessee politics.
Why the NRA matters
At 5 million members, the organization is one of the largest advocacy groups in the country. That power equates to money. The NRA's national political action committee spent more than $31 million during the 2014 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
That doesn't mean they spend a great deal locally in Tennessee. State campaign finance records show the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund PAC spent only a combined $3,950 over the course of 2013 and 2014.
But former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, recently said that "obviously, the NRA has always been the poster child" when it comes to questions about political spending by outside interest groups. LINK
Is TN’s civil seizure process state sanctioned thievery?Seizures of cash from motorists by police under the guise of “suspected drug money” are all the rage in the media – from an award-winning series by a Nashville television station to the Washington Post. But the use and abuse of civil asset forfeiture laws are nothing new. The Institute for Justice sounded the alarm in 2010. Heck, that Nashville TV station even stole the report’s title for its 2014 series.
Not surprisingly to those in the legal community, Tennessee rated a D in the report. Here’s why: Our civil asset forfeiture laws presume you guilty, not innocent. That’s right. Cops take your cash or property because they think, sans any actual proof, you acquired it via crime, and the Tennessee Department of Safety then grabs hold of it. It doesn’t matter if you are actually charged with a crime, much less convicted.
And not only are you presumed guilty but the burden now is on you to prove you are not. Civil asset forfeiture laws in Tennessee take all those guarantees under the state and U.S. Constitutions – presumed innocence, a trial by a jury of your peers at which the state, not you, has the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt – and shred them. LINK
Gov. Bill Haslam signs cannabis oil billIt's now legal to use cannabis oil for limited medical purposes in Tennessee.
And the Mathes family is ready. The East Tennessee family already had the oil and a recommendation from a doctor before Monday. Their 1-year-old daughter, Josie, still has the seizures that have plagued her short life.
They just needed Gov. Bill Haslam to give final approval to arguably Tennessee's first broader step toward legalizing a marijuana product for medicinal use.
That moment came Monday, when, as expected, Haslam signed a law that legalized the controversial medical measure.
"We're very, very happy that we can get started and see some improvements and get the nasty medicines behind us," Josie's mother, Stacie Mathes, said Monday afternoon.
The Matheses started giving Josie the cannabis oil as soon as they got the word the bill was signed. There's no guarantee it works, and even if it does it will take time. But the new law provides hope.
"As parents, you want some miracles. And you know in some cases it will stop seizures pretty quick," Stacie Mathes said.
"We're hopeful that we can get them under control. ... We're happy with that."
The new law allows patients who suffer from seizures or epilepsy and received a recommendation from a doctor to use cannabis oil. The law takes effect immediately. LINK
Crockett Policy Institute