Monday, June 30, 2014

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

CPI Buzz 6-25-14

Students Feel Squeeze As College Tuition Increases

Families will have to dig deeper in their pockets as tuition and fees at public universities increase next year.
“I have a Pell Grant. I have a scholarship and my mom pays most of it out of pocket,” Tennessee State University Sophomore Jaminka Marsh said. “So the rest that's left over from that my mom pays for.”
The Board of Regents approved a 3.5 to 8.5 percent hike in tuition and maintenance fees next school year.
“It's hard because my mom she's a single parent,” Marsh said. “I have siblings as well so she's scraping up money for me to come to school.”
At Tennessee State University, the increase amounts to $450. A fee school officials said will go towards various building costs and initiatives to help more students graduate.
“Unfortunately the cost of doing business, fuel costs has increased,” Assistant Vice President Kelli Sharp explained. “Getting top personnel to come to your University, that takes top dollars.”
Last September, hundreds of students at TSU were in jeopardy of being dropped from classes, all because they couldn't afford it. Last minute donations helped keep them in school.
“I work summer jobs so I can pay for school in the fall,” graduate student Lamont Bell said. “You know you hear they're going up on prices. I feel like I'm going to have to work a little harder and save a little more money.” Click Here For More

Tennessee Schools Lose Best Teachers Early In Their Careers, Report Says

For the first time, Tennessee education officials are sifting through data to get better ideas for how to keep teachers who score highest on a five-point evaluation scale. What they’ve found is that the youngest are more likely to leave.
First, second and third year teachers have lower retention rates anyway, but the same holds true in Tennessee for those getting high marks. Research director Nate Schwartz says 500 high-performing newcomers didn’t return last year.
“One of the things that you’d want to look at first is are we making sure that we’re taking those early career teachers, that we know are very effective, and finding ways to keep them in the school,” Schwartz says.
Retention has been a focus of study nationwide, including a widely-cited report called the Irreplaceables put out by The New Teacher Project. It found that urban schools have particular trouble holding onto the best and brightest. Click Here For More

Sharp Exchanges Mark Senate Hearing About Chief Justice

There were sharp exchanges Tuesday as senators heard allegations of misconduct against Tennessee top judge.
Those accusations come from Republicans who want to see Chief Justice Gary Wade and two other Supreme Court justices voted out in August.
Republicans insisted the four hour hearing was not about politics.
But, with control of the state's high court up for grabs, politics were never far away. Click Here For More

Haslam Favors Cooling Off Period in Domestic Cases

A high-profile domestic violence case in Nashville has led to talk of more restrictions for defendants in such cases.
The Tennessean reports Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said on Monday that he would support making a 12-hour "cooling off" period mandatory after someone has been arrested on a domestic violence charge.
"I think that makes sense," Haslam said. "I'm far from an expert on that, but from what I understand, it just feels like that is a common sense law."
The statement comes in the midst of a controversy over a Nashville case involving a prominent contractor who was released from jail a few hours after his arrest on a domestic violence charge. Police say he assaulted his girlfriend a second time shortly after being released.
Lawmakers in Middle Tennessee have said they plan to introduce a bill next year that would require people arrested on domestic violence charges to remain incarcerated for at least 12 hours. The General Assembly is scheduled to reconvene in January. Click Here For More

Haslam unmoved on same-sex benefits

Haslam sidestepped when asked in a follow-up question what he would do if the legislature passed a bill that required local governments to roll back same-sex benefits. The General Assembly has debated such legislation several times in recent years, and in 2011 Haslam signed a bill that overrode a Metro ordinance that said contractors with Metro could not discriminate against gays and lesbians.
Despite professing to have forgotten many of the details of that debate, Haslam did his best to state both sides of the argument without committing to either side.
"As a whole, I think the state should be very cautious about telling local government what they should do unless there's some statewide implication from that." Click Here For More

Hold your nose, the ‘retention’ election is getting smelly

In a telling exchange between Bell and Bill Young, Executive Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, who, for some reason, was designated to be the representative of the JPEC, the two agreed that Tennessee’s judicial selection, evaluation, and election process was political.
“This has been a political process for a long time,” Young stated to no one’s objection.
It is a political process. And the odor that emanates comes from a select group of people want to keep the political power to themselves, to benefit the folks like them, and exclude the people of Tennessee from their right to hold judges accountable for their decisions and their behavior – a right clearly articulated in our constitution.
The speakers don’t appoint according to law, they are not held accountable. Instead, appointed surrogates attack the BJC, and worry about irrelevant “leaks” of information that may or may not be confidential.
It is a political process, and all Tennesseans should be free to participate. Click Here For More

Victor Ashe: All Politics are Local

Lots of talk about Eric Cantor being ousted by voters in the Richmond area as a member of Congress and whether it may impact other races. It is hard for this writer to see how it applies in East Tennessee where U.S. Rep. Jimmy Duncan spends almost every day in our district when Congress is not in session.
Cantor had lost contact with his district and failed to remember all politics is local. Duncan is just the opposite. It would be hard to find another member of Congress who helps out every constituent and attends every meeting he is invited to. His sister, Becky Duncan Massey, has continued that level of service in her state senate district.
Generally if a member of Congress loses in his own party primary, it is unique to him and issues circulating in that state or district. Dan Davis, in the 1st Congressional District, is the last incumbent Tennessean to lose renomination (to Rep. Phil Roe in 2008). Before that, one has to go back to Sen. Ross Bass losing in 1966 in the Democratic primary to Gov. Frank Clement, who then lost to Howard Baker Jr. Other Tennesseans who lost their seats lost in the November election to a member of the opposing party such as Bill Brock, Jim Sasser, Lamar Baker and Lincoln Davis.
National trends generally kick in for the general-election runoff. Click Here For More

Could Recent U.S. Supreme Court "Right to Lie" Decision Affect Campfield Libel Case?

Detractors say SBA List is pursuing a "Right to Lie" case. 
The high court agreed with SBA List, and in a rare unanimous decision (authored by Clarence Thomas), ruled that it had raised a "justiciable issue" that needs to be fully litigated. 
"You're not asking us to resolve the constitutional question, just the question of whether you can raise the constitutional question," said Justice Antonin Scalia. 
So what's this got to do with Tennessee, which has not criminalized lying in political campaigns? (Cue an avalanche of bad jokes about who wouldn't be in the hoosegow if this were the case.)
Questions of civil liability remain. Defamation cases are rare in this state, and the standard plaintiffs must meet is high, since political candidates are by definition public figures who must prove not only that the offensive statement is false, but also that the perpetrator uttered it with "actual malice" (knowingly lying), or with willful disregard for the truth. 
It is not clear that the court will decide that the Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus case applies in Tennessee, or how they will decide Byrge v. Campfield. But what is clear is that Stacey Campfield is still paying a price for shooting his mouth off in 2008, and his falsehoods continue to haunt him in a year when he is facing his toughest re-election fight ever. Click Here For More

New Bill Aims To End Bias Against Women In Clinical Trials

In an effort to reduce a gender bias that is leaving women exposed to critical health risks, new legislation would require federally funded research to perform trials on both male and female animals, cells and tissue.
Studies backed by the National Institutes of Health have been required to test both males and females in studies involving human subjects for the last two decades, but studies that involve non-human animals, cells and tissue are not required to do so, as Reuters has reported. This oversight has produced a male bias in research, meaning that scientists may overlook critical differences in the way that drugs affect men and women differently.
"I was shocked that something as basic as treating men and women the same had often been overlooked in clinical trials," said Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) in an interview with The Huffington Post. "It seems a question of basic fairness." Click Here For More

Crockett Policy Institute

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Crockett Institute Buzz for 6-24-14

Haslam: Lack of details of Asia trip not a big deal

Gov. Bill Haslam said he’s unsure what the big deal was last week when his office declined to give details of his trip to Asia.
Haslam spent two days last week in Tokyo, Japan and two days in Seoul, Korea meeting with company leaders in face-to-face meetings with CEOs about bringing their businesses to Tennessee.
“I’m not sure, quite frankly, how it turned into such a big secret. Like I said, in terms of sharing who we were meeting with, I don’t think we were ever going to do that because we don’t for obvious reasons. But I don’t know that the rest of it was a big secret,” he said. Click Here For More

Kingsport businessman Michael K. Locke killed in hit-and-run incident
Former TN State Representative and Kingsport businessman Michael K. Locke, 61, was killed about 8 p.m. Monday when he was struck by a vehicle while standing on the shoulder of the Fort Henry Drive bridge in Colonial Heights. The driver of the vehicle, James
D. Hamm Jr., of Kingsport, then fled the scene and was arrested a short time later.
Locke, chairman of the Bud Hulsey campaign for the Second U.S. House seat that he formerly held, was in process of placing a campaign sign when he was struck by a northbound 2003 GMC Yukon XL driven by Hamm, which veered from the traffic lane. The impact knocked Locke off of the bridge and into a ravine approximately 20 feet below, according to investigating Kingsport police. Click Here For More

Haslam Would Support Mandatory 12-Hour 'Cooling Off' Period for DV Suspects

It's not often you get a direct answer from Gov. Bill Haslam on...anything. Deciding where to go to dinner with the guy must be something: "Well, some people in the car are saying we should get Italian, but at the same time you have others saying, hey, why not Mexican? Both are valid arguments."
But we digress. When it comes to a proposal from House Speaker Beth Harwell and Rep. William Lamberth that would make the now-much-discussed 12-hour "cooling off period" mandatory for domestic violence suspects, Haslam says he "would definitely sign" such a bill.
Currently, the requirement for such suspects to be held in jail for 12 hours can be waived by a judge, as it was in the case of David Chase, who allegedly assaulted a woman for the second time in 24 hours following his early release. Our own Andrea Zelinski was there for an press avail today with Haslam where the topic came up.
"I think that makes sense," he said. "Again, I'm far from an expert on that, but from what I understand, it just feels like that's a common sense law." Click Here For More

2 emerge as leaders for Democratic Senate primary

For a political party that's sometimes struggled to field just one credible candidate for statewide election, Tennessee Democrats may have an embarrassment of riches in the 2014 U.S. Senate race.
Not just one but two candidates viewed as major players -- Terry Adams and Gordon Ball -- are running for the Democratic nomination in the Aug. 7 primary.
There are similarities: Adams, 43, and Ball, 65, are both attorneys, call Knoxville home and tout their respective hardscrabble starts in life, with Adams noting his father worked at a gas station.
Ball says his father once was a "guest" of the federal government as a convicted moonshiner.
And both claim to be best-suited to tackle incumbent U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander or another Republican, should state Rep. Joe Carr, of Lascassas, or Memphis physician and businessman George Flinn unseat Alexander in the GOP primary.
Both Democrats charge that Alexander has turned sharply right to placate conservative critics. They say he's not done enough for the middle class or veterans, favors abolishing the minimum wage, doesn't support equal pay for women. Click Here For More

Supreme Court Opponents Refuse To Identify Source Of Funds

A new group that's trying to help Republicans take control of Tennessee's Supreme Court says it's none of your business where they're getting their money.
That group may be the first hint of so-called "dark money" in the battle for the state's high court.
The group, Tennesseans for Judicial Accountability, professes to be a non-partisan, non-profit organization, but NewsChannel 5 Investigatesdiscovered serious questions about some of their claims.
"Right now, Phil, the Tennessee judiciary is not a democracy -- it's a hypocrisy," said TNJA President Grant Everett Starrett.
Starrett and J. Ammon Smart are two Republican lawyers who make up Tennesseans for Judicial Accountability. They are part of the organized opposition to three Democratic appointees to the Tennessee Supreme Court who face a vote in August over whether they should be retained.
Retired investment banker Mark Gill also helped form the group, and Gill has been working with Republicans on plans for a Senate hearing this week that, lawmakers say, will also focus on the same issue of  "judicial accountability." Click Here For More

The case for crossover voting

Knox County Democrats have a history of voting in Republican primaries. Many times (e.g. last month’s county primary races) Democrats field very few candidates, leaving races to be decided in the GOP primary, so it’s not particularly surprising that conscientious Democrats who want a say in who governs them sometimes check the box marked R.
Two years ago, in his first term as 7th District state senator, Stacey Campfield, who has a history of narrow primary victories over multiple opponents followed by smashing general-election wins, filed a bill to “close” primary elections by requiring voters to swear a loyalty oath before being allowed to pull the lever.
Meanwhile, Richard Briggs, with his solid-gold physician/military hero/ county commissioner/happily married guy resume, was already talking about running against him in 2014. It’s not hard to connect the dots.
Although Campfield told the Chattanooga Times-Free Press that he wanted to keep those bent on causing “havoc” out of GOP primaries, it’s a pretty safe bet the havoc he feared was going to be wreaked by Democrats voting in the Republican primary for the purpose of sending Stacey Campfield home.
That was before Cheri Siler, who also has her own solid-gold resume – mathematics teacher with two legit college degrees, happily married mother of six accomplished children who is not only “from here” but grew up helping her parents in their family-owned chain of family restaurants – announced as a candidate and gave Democrats a reason to hope.
But not a reason to stay home in the primary.
They shouldn’t give up the notion of crossing over and voting in the GOP primary since Siler is unopposed and will do just fine. What they need to do is get over there and vote for Campfield.
The district strongly favors Republicans, and Siler will have a tough battle in the November election. But her path will be easier against Campfield than against Dr. Col. Commissioner Briggs. Really, this should be a no-brainer. Meanwhile, Briggs must walk a careful line, attracting as many Republicans as possible while taking care not to offend others who may want to visit, just for Election Day. Click Here For More

The Cantor Effect: If the House Majority Leader Can Lose, it Gives Hope to Other Challengers

State Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, made the rounds in Washington last week and was a guest on Laura Ingraham’s radio show. He had interviews with Sean Hannity, Politico, and The Hill.
Washington is a place where Carr would like to raise some money in his primary race against U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander. Ingraham’s radio show is where a guy named Dave Brat raised his profile by being a frequent guest these past several months. Brat’s upset victory over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has given hope to challengers across the country and sent shivers down the spine of incumbents.
If it can happen to the House Majority Leader it can happen to anybody.
Some potential donors may be waiting for Tuesday’s runoff election where U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Mississippi, who trailed in the primary, is widely believed to be in serious trouble. Click Here For More

Don’t Expect Same-Sex Benefits For Tennessee Workers Anytime Soon

In the last week, President Obama extended marriage benefits to federal employees in same-sex relationships. The Metro Council decided city employees can cover a domestic partner. But what about state workers in Tennessee?
Governor Bill Haslam says don’t expect action any time soon.

“To me that doesn’t feel like something that’s imminent. I just don’t think the legislature is there at all, and it’s not something we as an administration will be pushing either.”
Asked whether he personally supports extending benefits to same-sex couples, Haslam avoided saying “no.” He said, “that’s not something as an administration we’ve said we’re going to push.” Click Here For More

Crockett Policy Institute

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. 
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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

Friday, June 13, 2014

Crockett News Buzz 6-13-14

From: Crockett Policy Institute Crockett Policy Institute · 

Police say 2 boys planned mass shooting at Tennessee school

Two boys have been arrested for allegedly plotting t0 carry out a mass shooting at a high school in Tennessee, authorities said Thursday.
The youths allegedly were planning an attack at Volunteer High School in Rogersville in Hawkins County, CBS affiliate WJHL reported.
The boys, whose names and ages were not released, face conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and other charges, the station said.
Assistant District Attorney Ryan Blackwell said a detention hearing was held for both boys and it's possible the case could be transferred to adult court. Click Here For More

In wake of Cantor defeat, Tea Party sets sights on Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander

Thursday, June 12, 2014

CPI Buzz for 6-12-14

Crockett Policy Institute

Corker votes for student loan bill; Alexander votes no, calls it ‘a political stunt’

Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked legislation aimed at letting people refinance their student loans at lower rates, a pre-ordained outcome that gave Democrats a fresh election-year talking point against the GOP.
The 56-38 vote fell short of the 60 that would have been needed to advance to debate on the measure by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Her bill would have let millions of borrowers, some with years-old debt and interest rates topping 7 percent or more, refinance at today’s lower rates.
The bill would have been paid for with the so-called Buffett Rule, which sets minimum tax rates for people making over $1 million.
“With this vote we show the American people who we work for in the United States Senate: billionaires or students,” said Warren. “A vote on this legislation is a vote to give millions of young people a fair shot at building their future.”
Republicans said the bill wouldn’t have done anything to lower education costs or reduce borrowing, and they accused Democrats of playing politics by highlighting an issue that was bound to fail. Click Here For More

State revenues down again in May

Still struggling to recover from months of lower-than-expected state tax collections, the state fell $40 million short in revenues last month.
Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin blamed May’s drop on a legal change in the timing of business tax payments and on the payment of a large sales tax settlement.
“Tennessee’s sales tax collections continue to reflect a slow recovery from the recession, and require us to closely monitor collections and expenditures for the remainder of this year to end with a balanced budget,” Martin said in a department press release.
With two months left in the state’s budget year, Tennessee is $222 million in the hole this fiscal year, the department reported Wednesday. The projected drop led Gov. Bill Haslam and lawmakers to cut more than $300 million from this and next year’s state spending plans this spring to fill the gap, causing him to eliminate plans to offer teachers raises and give new money to higher education, among other cuts.
Officials had blamed much of the year-long problem on an unexpected drop in business tax collections, of which the department is expected to study. Haslam has also pointed to a weak holiday shopping season, a cold winter weather and the prevalence of online shopping for the slow tax growth. Click Here For More

Subjugated Court: State Supreme Court Surrendered Its Co-Equal Status and Is Now Seeing the Results

But the argument that resonates down through the decades is that the judicial branch of government surrendered its co-equal status, ensured by being selected by the voters, and has instead subordinated itself to the Legislature. We have seen the Legislature take over appointing the Judicial Evaluation Committee, which decides if judges are qualified to serve. We are seeing Senate hearings called to examine the way judges are disciplined. There is a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November which enshrines in the constitution that the judges will be appointed. And they will be vetted and must be approved by the Legislature.
How do you like your mess of pottage now, gentlemen and ladies?
The retention election in August is likely to get ugly, with war chests on both sides. It should be clear to the state bar and the judicial officers that the days of quietly being retained and ignored by the voters are over. I don’t think the coming retention election battle is an exception. From now on it will be the rule.
If the amendment passes in November, the Supreme Court will have further surrendered its co-equal status. When the court ruled that the Legislature could monkey with their selection and term of office, it was a just a matter of time before its complete subjugation. Click Here For More

TVA to Study Value of Small Providers Like Solar

The Tennessee Valley Authority is studying the value of electricity produced from small, dispersed sites, such as solar, wind or small gas turbine installations.
According to a news release from the utility, the initiative will develop methods to set the value of distributed generation to the electric grid and the value of the grid to the small energy producer. TVA will undertake the study with the help of local power companies and other stakeholders.
Solar energy will be the first resource investigated. Click Here For More

Party Judicial Endorsements Are a Bad Idea

Corporations are one kind of special interest. Labor unions are another. Faith-based organizations are special interests. So are abortion-rights support groups. And so on. Nothing wrong with this. Our political system thrives on the play of special interests vis-a-vis each other — sometimes at odds, sometimes in common cause — through the structured processes of elections and government.
But judges are different. They have the same function regarding the civil and criminal aspects of society as referees do in sports. It is axiomatic that our founding fathers intended to create a political system with "checks and balances." The ultimate check-and-balance is the independent judiciary. Judges don't make the rules, but once the rules are made, judges enforce them. Without bias. That, in any case, is how it is supposed to be.
It is often said, apropos arguments against electing other local officials, that there is no Democratic way to issue deeds, no Republican way to organize court dockets, and so forth.
That goes double for members of the judiciary. Click Here For More

Corker one of three votes against VA bill

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee was one of only three votes Wednesday against a bill to bolster veterans' medical treatment by allowing them to seek care from private doctors and enable the Department of Veterans Affairs to move quickly to fire employees for poor performance.
The bill passed 93-3. Also voting against were fellow Republican Sens. Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Tim Johnson of Wisconsin.
"I value too much the sacrifice and service our veterans have given to our country to vote for a bill that was thrown together without any discussion by this body and increases the deficit by at least $35 billion," Corker said in a statement.
"This bill is moving back to the House where I hope they will more thoughtfully address the serious issues that have been uncovered in the VA and ensure the bill is paid for in a way that does not burden future generations with crushing debt so I can support it when it comes back to the Senate."
For the next two years, the bill would let veterans go to civilian doctors if they reside more than 40 miles from a VA hospital or clinic or have been waiting more than 30 days for an appointment. It also provides funding for more VA health providers.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said he strongly backed the bill. Click Here For More

Battle heating up over definition of Tennessee whiskey

To many, Tennessee means whiskey. But inside the state, the question is: What does Tennessee whiskey mean?
A battle between two worldwide liquor companies - owners of rival brands Jack Daniel's and smaller rival George Dickel - is being waged over who has the right to label their drink as following authentic Tennessee style. It's among the epicurean battles being waged around the world over what food and drink should carry special status as local and unique.
British-based liquor conglomerate Diageo PLC opened a heated legislative fight earlier this year seeking to overturn the state's newly established legal definition for Tennessee whiskey that has been championed by Jack Daniel's, which is owned by Louisville, Kentucky-based Brown-Forman Corp. Among the new rules are requirements that whiskey must be aged in new, charred oak barrels in Tennessee and filtered through maple charcoal prior to aging.
Jack Daniel's whiskey is made and aged in Tennessee. Diageo's George Dickel whiskey is also made in Tennessee but stored in neighboring Kentucky.
On Tuesday in a separate but related case, the Diageo subsidiary George Dickel came out on top when state attorneys in Nashville abruptly dropped a complaint that Dickel had violated a state statute prohibiting the aging of Tennessee-made whiskey outside its borders. Dickel had challenged the statute in federal court, claiming it violated laws on free interstate commerce. Click Here For More

Crockett Policy Institute

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

CPI Buzz 6-11-14

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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor loses to Tea Party challenger

U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia lost to a Tea Party challenger on Tuesday in a stunning Republican primary upset that sent shockwaves through Congress and gave the conservative movement a landmark victory.
Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House of Representatives, was easily beaten by college economics professor David Brat, who accused Cantor of betraying conservative principles on spending, debt and immigration.
The result could halt efforts to craft a House immigration reform bill, as nervous Republicans hustle to protect themselves against future challenges from the right ahead of the Nov. 4 midterm elections.
It could also make Republicans even more hesitant to cooperate with President Barack Obama and Democrats for fear of being labeled a compromiser.
Cantor had been seen by many as an eventual successor to House Speaker John Boehner, and his defeat will mean a shake-up in the Republican leadership at the end of the year among House members nervous about the depth of public anger toward Congress. Click Here For More

Map: There have been at least 74 shootings at schools since Newtown

There have been at least 37 shootings on school grounds this year, which is just barely half over. All told, there has been nearly one shooting per week in the year and a half since Newtown. Everytown identifies a school shooting as any instance in which a firearm was discharged within a school building or on school grounds, sourced to multiple news reports per incident. Therefore, the data isn’t limited to mass shootings like Newtown—it includes assaults, homicides, suicides and even accidental shootings.
Georgia, which passed an expansive pro-gun law this year, has been site of the most incidents on Everytown’s list, with 10  shootings reported. Florida was next, with seven. Tennessee claimed five, and North Carolina and California was home to four each. Atlanta was the only city that had three such shootings. Six other cities had two shootings. All told, 31 states are represented on the list of shootings in schools or on school campuses or grounds. Of the shootings, 35 took place at a college or university, while 39 took place in K-12 schools.
February analysis by the group of a list of school shootings since Newtown (which was later expanded) found that nearly half resulted in at least one death. Three in four shooters obtained guns at home, at least in instances in which the firearm’s source could be determined. Click Here For More

Cohen Challenges Haslam on Medicaid Expansion

U.S. Rep.
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Steve Cohen says the city’s fair share of federal funding for rape kit backlogs is $1 million.  But Cohen told the Frayser Exchange Club last week that he wants more than that once Congress approves the legislation.
“If we get our fair share, we’ll get over a million dollars of that federal money,” Cohen told the luncheon group of 40 Thursday, June 5, at Sarah Lee’s Kitchen. “We don’t want our fair share. We want more than our fair share.”
The Frayser group was one of the latest in a series of stops in this election year before Cohen’s return to Washington this week.
Cohen continued to fault Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam for refusing to take an expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act while his administration pushes Cohen to support additional federal gas tax revenue for Tennessee road projects.
Cohen said he favors federal funding for both. Click Here For More

Men in Tennessee die differently

uns are more deadly for white men in their own hands and for black men when held by someone else.
That's just one of the disparities in the Tennessee Men's Health Report, which reveals men in this state die differently depending upon the color of their skin and where they live. The biannual report by Meharry Medical College, the Tennessee Department of Health and Vanderbilt University looks at several aspects to determine how well men are taking care of themselves and uses a simple A-to-F scoring system.
"The biggest thing to me that came out in the 2014 Tennessee Men's Health Report Card was the need to think about the disparities among men within this state," said Vanderbilt Professor Derek Griffith, who chaired the report committee. "Black, white and Hispanic men tended to have different health profiles and I don't think we appreciated that to the degree that this document has illustrated."
This year's report also exposed mysteries. Its authors are at a loss to explain why cancer death rates are higher in Northwest Tennessee than other regions. The report also showed that men who live in the Mid-Cumberland region, which includes Nashville, were much less likely to die of heart disease than men who live in the Upper Cumberland or western areas of the state. Click Here For More

Nashville theater group to satirize state senator with ‘Casey Stampfield: The Musical’

A Nashville theater group, Music City Theatre Company, is planning an “original political satirical show” centered on state Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, reports The Tennessean.
“Casey Stampfield: The Musical” debuts June 27 at Vibe Entertainment Complex on Church Street and runs through July 12, with a special performance on primary day, Aug. 7. Tickets are $9.99.
The show is a 45-minute, five-player revue, said co-writer and co-director Michael McFadden. Promotion materials depict the lawmaker dancing in a tuxedo and American flag top hat, though we wouldn’t be shocked if at least one luchador mask comes out.
…The show will touch on many of the episodes that have earned Campfield national fame and notoriety, including his “Don’t Say Gay” bill and his proposal to tie welfare payments to grades. Click Here For More

Why re-electing Lamar Alexander may well lead to GOVERNOR Ron Ramsey

You may say it's crazy (and of course, the GOP will deny this so fast it will make your head spin), but hear me out.  LAMAR! will turn 74 years old on July 3, which means that if he were to be A) re-elected and B) serve out a full term, he would be 80 years old at the end of that term.  Sure, he looks to be in good shape, but does anything he's done in the last few years make you think that he is ENJOYING what he's doing?

He left GOP Senate leadership because he was tired of dealing with the Tea Party wing of the GOP, watching them cost the GOP Senate seats around the country.  That's one reason he is running this year, to crush Joe Carr, who has gotten NO traction whatsoever.  Maybe if the Club For Growth thought Carr had a chance to knock off Alexander, they would have gotten behind Carr.  They haven't, and Alexander will cruise to victory in the GOP Primary on August 7.

Especially if the GOP can't capture the Senate in November, it's really hard to see why LAMAR! would want to stay in Washington if he can't get anything done.  So, why did he run?  To have a say in who replaces him, that's why.

Enter Bill Haslam. Click Here For More

Crockett Policy Institute

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

CPI BUZZ 6-10-2014

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New Knox charter school's connections run deep

Gov. Bill Haslam sits on the board of the local youth foundation that successfully applied to create Knox County’s first charter school.
But Haslam, who supports the idea of more charter schools in Tennessee, had no direct input on Emerald Academy, those close to the school proposal said. Nor did Haslam or those connected to him reach out to Knox County Schools officials during the vetting process for Emerald Academy, according to interviews by the News Sentinel.
Haslam is an honorary member of the board of trustees for the Emerald Youth Foundation, and so is Larry Martin, his longtime aide and current special adviser for state human resources. Click Here For More

States spending the Most and Least on education
9. Tennessee
> Spending per pupil: $8,294
> Total education spending: $9.0 billion (21st highest)
> Pct. with high school diploma: 85.1% (13th lowest)
> Median household income: $42,764 (7th lowest)
Tennessee allocated just $2,697 per pupil to to administrative, technical and logistical support, less than all but three other states. Low tax collections may limit how much Tennessee can spend on education. The state collected just $1,864 in taxes per resident in fiscal year 2012, among the lowest nationwide. One reason for this may be the state’s tax structure — Tennessee does not collect income taxes on earnings. Lower incomes in the state may also partly explain the low taxes. A typical household earned $42,764 in 2012, lower than all but a handful of states. Click Here For More

4 Tennessee VA Facilities Flagged For Further Review

Veterans Affairs facilities in Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga and McMinnville have been flagged for further review following a nationwide audit of the agency's troubled appointment process.
The audit of 731 VA hospitals and large outpatient clinics around the country found that a 14-day goal for seeing first-time patients was unattainable given the growing demand among veterans for health care and poor planning. The VA has since abandoned that goal.
Tennessee facilities in Memphis, Johnson City and Nashville were unable to schedule appointments within 30 days for about 7,000 veterans, or 3 percent of the total. Click Here For More

The middle class gets creamed again: Why CEO performance pay is awful for everyone but CEOs

Americans hate the fact that CEOs of big corporations keep raking in millions while the incomes of most American households are sinking. Now a new Roosevelt Institute white paper by University of Massachusetts economist William Lazonick adds to the growing case that soaring CEO pay is not just unfair, but harmful. It’s bad for businesses, workers, and taxpayers, and it’s one of the reasons that the economy remains sluggish.
Lazonick details the myriad ways that CEOs pump up their wages, painting a picture of crony capitalism in the board room and at the SEC. CEOs pad their boards of directors with other CEOs, who are all eager to hike each other’s pay. They hire from the same pool of compensation consultants, who then recommend to all of their boards why each of them deserves to be paid more.
Almost all executive pay, which was back to its pre-recession average high of $30 million a year by 2012, is delivered in the form of stock. This exploits a policy loophole that taxes compensation of more than $1 million unless it falls into the category known as “performance pay.” Meanwhile, the CEOs and their teams of lobbyists and lawyers have gotten a compliant SEC to issue a host of rulings that invite stock price manipulation. The resulting higher prices are considered proof of better performance, and also instantly deliver millions to the CEOs through their stock options. Very neat.
Lazonick explains that corporations’ favorite method of boosting stock prices is buying back their own stock. While a firm is required to notify the public of its intention to buy back its stock, it doesn’t have to say when it will do so, which fuels price-boosting speculation and allows the firm to time its repurchases to maximize the CEO’s gains. Click Here For More

Tennessee Board Of Regents Chief Takes National Role Backing Common Core

The chancellor of Tennessee’s Board of Regents is becoming more vocal about supporting Common Core – the K-12 education standards with a growing number of critics on both ends of the political spectrum.
John Morgan co-authored an editorial in theHuffington Post and is helping lead a national group of higher education chiefs.
He’s said it before, but primarily just to state lawmakers and education officials. Chancellor Morgan backs Common Core as a way to cut down on how many remedial courses state schools have to offer when students get to college unprepared.
Morgan says Common Core could “reduce the alarming trend” of rising college dropout rates.
He co-authored the editorial with the head of New York’s state universities. The two are leading a coalition of 200 university officials from around the country. The group called the Collaborative for Student Success is intended to shore up support for Common Core, which has come under attack from the left and the right. Click Here For More

More Tennessee women getting handgun permits

The number of gun permits issued in Tennessee has nearly doubled between 2012 and 2013.
According to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, the state issued 192,613 handgun carry permits in 2013. Of that 58,833 were given to women and 133,780 were given to men. Compare that to 2012. That year the state issued a total of 114,031 permits. 32,354 were given to women and 81,677 were given to men. Click Here For More

Tipped Into Poverty

When Senate Republicans recently blocked a vote to raise the federal minimum wage, they snubbed the estimated 27.8 million people who would earn more if the measure became law. The hardest hit are the roughly 3.3 million Americans who work for tips, nearly three out of four of whom are women. Workers in predominantly tipped jobs — including restaurant servers, bartenders, hairstylists — are twice as likely as other workers to live below the poverty line. They need a raise, and Congress should give it to them.
The current minimum wage for such workers, $2.13 an hour, has not been raised since 1991 — testament to the power of the restaurant industry. For nearly 30 years after the minimum wage was first instituted, in 1938, restaurant owners were exempt, and waiters and waitresses had to live on tips alone. Now, an employer of tipped workers is in compliance with the law as long as $2.13 plus tips equals at least $7.25 an hour, the minimum wage for other workers. The Democratic proposal rejected by Republicans called for the tipped wage to rise gradually so that by 2020 it would equal 70 percent of the proposed new minimum of $10.10 an hour, adjusted annually for inflation.
The puniness of the tipped wage is not the only problem. One of the most prevalent wage violations found by the Department of Labor is the failure by employers to adequately “top up” wages when tips do not work out to at least $7.25 an hour. Violations also include failing to pay the full minimum wage when tipped workers spend considerable time on cleaning, cooking or other nontipped work, as well as requiring servers to share their tips with other employees who do not typically receive tips. Click Here For More

Crockett Policy Institute

Monday, June 9, 2014

Crockett Buzz 6-09-14

From: Crockett Policy Institute



Pat Nolan:Capitol View Commentary

It looks like those predicting (and lamenting) the advent of high dollars judicial election campaigns are fulfilling their own prophecy.
The Keep Tennessee Courts Fair organization, a bi-partisan group backing the retention (vote yes) of three State Supreme Court justices on the August ballot, says it has already collected $600,000 and has done so in just a few weeks’ time.
Now it’s up to Republican Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey and the business groups he’s reportedly organized (to build a no vote to oust the Democratically-appointed Justices) to show the color of their money in a contest that appears the most hotly contested matter on this summer’s ballot.
Hold on to your wallet on both sides!
And then comes the state constitutional questions up for a vote in November. They include another hot judicial matter (the appointment and retention of state appellate judges) as well as another amendment that strips the constitution of any right to an abortion and gives the state legislature more powers to regulate those procedures. Both issues could attract and pump hundreds of thousands if not millions of additional dollars into Tennessee’s political economy (and likely generate still more controversy).
In the meantime, there’s another sign of how contentious and potentially partisan this ouster effort is becoming. It occurred this past week when Republican State Senator Mike Bell (Lt. Governor Ramsey’s roommate during session) announced his Senate State Government Operations Committee will be holding hearings soon about why an ethics complaint he filed against Chief Justice Gary Wade (one of the justices targeted for ouster), was dismissed by the state’s Judicial Performance Commission.
Senator Bell claims says positive comments made by the Chief Justice to a Knoxville newspaper about the other two Supreme Court judges up for the August retention vote (Connie Clark and Sharon Lee) amounted to a candidate endorsement and therefore violated judicial ethics standards. Justice Wade denies that and says he commented only on the overall work product of the judges and was not telling voters how to cast their ballots.
Members of the Judicial Performance Commission sided with Wade and dismissed the complaint 9-0 meaning charges by Lt. Governor Ramsey that the body reprimanded the Chief Justice over the issue are apparently not true. Click Here For More

TN Republicans want to block Obama carbon rules

President Obama’s ambitious plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by power plants faces a lot of hurdles, reports Michael Collins, and Tennesseans are among those trying to erect some of those hurdles.
States will be required to submit their own plans showing how they will meet emission targets set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But lawmakers in several states, including Tennessee, are resisting and threatening legal action. The coal industry and other businesses have indicated they also may sue.
Republicans in Congress and some Democrats from coal-producing states also are promising a fight. A bill introduced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. — and co-sponsored by Tennessee’s two U.S. senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker — would bar the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide emissions on new and existing power plants unless multiple agencies certify such regulations won’t hurt jobs, the economy and electricity reliability.
…Under the 645-page proposal, which will be finalized next year, Tennessee will have to cut its power plant carbon emissions by 39 percent from 2005 levels. The Tennessee Valley Authority, which provides electricity to most of the state, has said it already meets and is on track to exceed the targets. Click Here For More

It's Easy to be For Coal Power and Against the EPA When You Live in Williamson County

There's a certain kind of argument that gets made pretty frequently by politicians in this state — we saw it with Amazon, it's here in this discussion, and you even see it when people criticize all the social bills we try to pass instead of focusing on jobs — that somehow all jobs, any jobs, are worth protecting, even if the work doesn't pay that well, is back-breaking, and dangerous. So, we end up in this bizarre situation where we rely heavily on a form of power that costs people's lives — both in terrible accidents and health issues — and, instead of being relieved that there's pressure to find new, less dangerous ways of bringing us power, men like Glen Casada are angry.
This is dystopian — like something right out of The Hunger Games. How many asthmatic kids is your cheap electricity worth? How many dead or injured miners? If I can pay a little more and rest assured that another community isn't going to lose 29 people in one swoop, I will. If I can pay a little more and know that people will literally breathe easier, I'm happy to do so.
Why would you fight against this? I genuinely don't understand what moral or political philosophy a man like Casada has that would drive him to demand our state have the right to continue to poison our children and put the people who dig the coal out of the ground in danger. It's especially galling from a man living in one of the richest counties in the country — far away from the plants he's so concerned with protecting. Of course it serves him to try to thwart the EPA. If he loses, all that happens is his power bill goes up a little. If the EPA loses, there's a real human cost. Click Here For More

Gov. Bill Haslam looks over horizon as he runs again

Two months before the Aug. 7 primary and five months before the November general election, Gov. Bill Haslam doesn't sound like his sole focus is on winning a second term.
He sounds like a candidate looking farther out than that.
In his first speeches since officially hitting the campaign trail, Haslam has leaped over small matters — such as what he'd do if re-elected — to big themes such as the direction of the Republican Party and the nation at large.
Haslam seems to want to get in on the conversation being led by major Republican figures such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who barnstormed the state a few days ago; Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentuckian known to drop into Nashville on occasion; and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
While those people court the presidency, Haslam says he's not interested in running for anything beyond governor. But don't believe it. His most recent speeches indicate a politician who wants to keep his options open — if not for 2016, then for 2018 and beyond.
Haslam can help his re-election bid by looking past the immediate horizon. With no major challengers from Republicans or Democrats, Haslam faces little pressure to defend his record in his first term. Click Here For More

Role reversal campaign for Fincher, attacked as Washington insider by challengers

For his part, Fincher says the past four years in the House have been frustrating at times, yet nonetheless productive. Asked to list his accomplishments, he cites the passage of a bipartisan bill that makes it easier for small businesses and startups to raise capital and approval earlier this year of a five-year, $956 billion farm bill.
Still, “We’ve got much, much more to do,” Fincher said. “Our constituents still are hurting.”
On paper, the primary for the 8th Congressional District seat doesn’t look like much of a race at all.
Neither Mills nor Matheny has ever run for public office. Not only do they lack the name recognition that can sometimes give a political newcomer a fighting chance against an incumbent, they don’t have the money that it usually takes to get out a campaign message.
Neither had reported raising any campaign money through the end of March, the most recent period for which reports are on file with the Federal Election Commission. Fincher, by contrast, had more than $2.3 million in the bank during the same reporting period. Click Here For More

How the NSA can ‘turn on’ your phone remotely

Even if you power off your cell phone, the U.S. government can turn it back on.
That’s what ex-spy Edward Snowden revealed in last week’s interview with NBC’s Brian Williams. It sounds like sorcery. Can someone truly bring your phone back to life without touching it?
No. But government spies can get your phone to play dead.
It’s a crafty hack. You press the button. The device buzzes. You see the usual power-off animation. The screen goes black. But it’ll secretly stay on — microphone listening and camera recording.
How did they get into your phone in the first place? Here’s an explanation by former members of the CIA, Navy SEALs and consultants to the U.S. military’s cyber warfare team. They’ve seen it firsthand.
Government spies can set up their own miniature cell network tower. Your phone automatically connects to it. Now, that tower’s radio waves send a command to your phone’s antennae: the baseband chip. That tells your phone to fake any shutdown and stay on.
A smart hack won’t keep your phone running at 100%, though. Spies could keep your phone on standby and just use the microphone — or send pings announcing your location. Click Here For More

Colleges are full of it: Behind the three-decade scheme to raise tuition, bankrupt generations, and hypnotize the media

The price of a year at college has increased by more than 1,200 percent over the last 30 years, far outpacing any other price the government tracks: food, housing, cars, gasoline, TVs, you name it. Tuition has increased at a rate double that of medical care, usually considered the most expensive of human necessities. It has outstripped any reasonable expectation people might have had for investments over the period. And, as we all know, it has crushed a generation of college grads with debt. Today, thanks to those enormous tuition prices, young Americans routinely start adult life with a burden unknown to any previous cohort and whose ruinous effects we can only guess at.
On the assumption that anyone in that generation still has a taste for irony, I offer the following quotation on the subject, drawn from one of the earliest news stories about the problem of soaring tuition. The newspaper was the Washington Post; the speaker was an assistant dean at a college that had just announced a tuition hike of 19 percent; and the question before him was how much farther tuition increases could go. “Maybe all of a sudden this bubble is going to burst,” he was quoted as saying. “How much will the public take?”
Oh, we would take quite a lot, as it happened. It was 1981 when the assistant dean worried in that manner—the very first year of what was once called the “tuition spiral,” when higher ed prices got the attention of the media by outpacing inflation by a factor of two or three. There was something shocking about this development; tuition hadn’t gone up like that during the 1970s, even though that was the heyday of ascending consumer prices. Click Here For More

Thanks to loophole, Whole Foods already selling wine in Tennessee

By the time Gov. Bill Haslam had signed the wine-in-grocery-stores bill, Whole Foods had been selling wine in Memphis for a little more than two months and in Nashville for even longer.
The grocery chain found a loophole in the controversial Tennessee law prohibiting the sale of wine in grocery stores: In Memphis, they opened The BBQ Shack, an i n-house restaurant at the city's new whole foods.
The loophole is known as "cork and carry." A restaurant – including ones in grocery stores – can sell wine bottles that have been uncorked and tasted to customers with a grocery or restaurant food item on their ticket. Click Here For More

Crockett Policy Institute

Friday, June 6, 2014

Crockett Buzz 6-6-14

FEC questions Carr contribution from company tied to mega-donor Miller

The Federal Election Commission is raising questions about Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Joe Carr’s latest campaign finance disclosure, according to the Times Free Press.
In a letter to Carr’s campaign treasurer dated Monday, FEC officials are seeking, among other things, to determine whether a $9,564.54 contribution made March 31 by Nashville-based Life Watch Pharmacy LLC is an illegal corporate contribution.
The letter from senior campaign finance analyst Carolina Mongeon notes that limited liability corporations may make campaign contributions “providing the LLC is treated as a partnership for tax purposes, and has not elected to be treated as a corporation by the Internal Revenue Service.”
…According to filings on, a website offering Medicaid verification for medical providers, Lifewatch Pharmacy is associated with M2G Med-Management Group. The lone “member” or principal listed is Nashville health care investor Andrew Miller, a sometimes controversial figure. Click Here For More

TN House creates task force to cut VA wait times

Tennessee is taking a crack at cutting down on the time it takes for veterans to get the care they need.
Thursday, State Speaker of the House Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) announced the appointment of State Speaker Pro Tempore Curtis (R-Clarksville) to chair a newly created legislative task force on veterans' affairs.
The task force comes in the wake of an investigation from WBIR partners at USA today. New data released from the Department of Veterans Affairs found two of the top 25 worst offenders in the country for wait times are in Tennessee. Click Here For More

TN House Democrats: Obamacare Addresses Income Inequality

 On Tuesday, Governor Bill Haslam addressed a group of Republican activists and told them that the GOP needs to take the issue of income inequality seriously. Democrats are asking Governor Haslam to do more than pay lip service to working families by expanding Medicaid in Tennessee.
“While we certainly applaud Governor Haslam’s recent realization that income inequality exists, people need more than just words” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “A good first step in addressing this issue would be to stop stalling and accept federal funds for the expansion of our state’s Medicaid program. This will save hospitals like the one in Brownsville and keep rural areas from falling further into the income inequality gap.”
A study earlier this year by the Brookings Institution found that the Affordable Care Act, if fully implemented, will improve the well-being of those at the bottom rung of the economic ladder by making health coverage more affordable. Unfortunately, the positive impact is greatly decreased in states that refuse to use federal funds to expand Medicaid to those working families at 138% of poverty level or below. Click Here For More

Sen. Bob Corker dinged for “midget” comment

The U.S. Capitol was abuzz with talk of Sen. Bob Corker, but not for the senator’s recent remarks on Syria or Ukraine.
Before a vote Tuesday, Corker said his colleagues on the Senate Banking Committee were too reliant on numbers from the Congressional Budget Office in policy debates.
"I’m sorry, it just feels like a bunch of midgets up here worrying about some CBO issue," he said.
Corker’s remark occurs at the 1:10:50 mark in this video.
Little People of America said Thursday that Corker’s use of the word "midget" was "embarrassing and insulting," according to Politico:
The nonprofit group, which supports the dwarfism community, sees the word as a "slur."
"Today, no matter in what context it is used, the word dehumanizes and objectifies people of short stature," Little People of America President Gary Arnold said. Click Here For More

Bell Plans Hearing Over Chief Justice Complaint

Two state senators say they plan an inquiry over the handling of a complaint against the chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court.
The Tennessean reports Sens.
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Mike Bell and Learn more about Randy McNally
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Randy McNally said on Tuesday that the Senate Government Operations Committee will hold a formal hearing this month into the dismissal of Bell's ethics complaint against Chief Justice Learn more about Gary Wade
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Gary Wade. The Riceville Republican wanted Wade disciplined for allegedly violating rules about judges lobbying and endorsing candidates. Wade has denied wrongdoing, and the Board of Judicial Conduct declined to take up Bell's complaint.
The planned hearings would come in the midst of a campaign to unseat Wade and two other justices who are up for election in August.
Bell denied any connection between the hearing and the campaign to defeat the justices.
"This is not part of the retention election campaign," he said. "Whether it reflects negatively on the sitting Supreme Court justice or not, that will be up to the people to decide." Click Here For More

Haslam on Education — The Rhetoric Doesn’t Match the Reality

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has been getting some positive attention lately for remarks he’s been making on the issue of income inequality.  Rather than ignore it, Haslam suggests, Republicans ought to address with proposals around improving public education, for example. ChalkbeatTN has this story on Haslam’s remarks:
“It’s hard to argue with the fact of growing income inequality. The question is, what do we do about it. The Republican answer, and I think the smart answer, is to say we need to do everything we can to give everybody the opportunity they deserve. It’s one of the reasons I focus so much on education. It’s the critical issue facing us as a state,” Haslam said.
It’s interesting that Haslam makes these remarks at the same time the BEP Task Force he appointed is reportedly pushing for a return to the TACIR model of BEP funding and away from BEP 2.0. This is noteworthy because BEP 2.0 was designed to direct more funds to districts based on the number of “at-risk” students they served  – that is, districts that face the challenge of educating more students at the lower end of the economic spectrum would get more financial help.  Fully funding BEP 2.0 would cost some $150 million — money not yet found in the state budget. It seems, though, that if you wanted to address income inequality with education as your key weapon, you’d use the tools available to make that weapon as precise and effective as possible. That’s what BEP 2.0 aimed to do. But Haslam is practically running away from that prescription.
Of course, earlier this year, Haslam backed off his commitment to make Tennessee the fastest-improving state in the nation in teacher pay by balancing the state budget on the backs of teachers and school systems. Again, that’s an odd way to make education the number one tool for fighting income inequality. Click Here For More

Senators Reach Accord Easing Worries Over Veterans’ Health Measure

WASHINGTON — In the wake of a revelations that officials at veterans hospitals across the country have been manipulating patients’ appointment times by creating secret waiting lists, two senators reached a bipartisan accord on Thursday to give authority to the acting Veterans Affairs secretary to fire senior officials and to expand access for veterans who do not live near medical facilities or have experienced long waits.
Senator Bernard Sanders, independent of Vermont and the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, bypassed the normal committee process and worked around Republican leaders in both chambers who were seeking a more narrowly focused bill. The resulting agreement addresses crucial concerns of both parties.
The measure — which could come to the Senate floor as early as next week — is likely to be the main legislative response to the scandal, which led to the resignation last week of Eric Shinseki as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The agreement could defuse partisan tensions that have arisen since the first reports of long waiting lists and the news that some veterans had died awaiting care. Mr. McCain’s seal of approval — he is a former prisoner of war — and his willingness to take on members of his own party, will make it difficult for Republicans to oppose a solution to a problem that they elevated into a national scandal. Click Here For More

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