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

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