Thursday, March 19, 2015

Crockett Buzz for 3-19-15: Nonsense in Nashville

Robert Houk:Enough of the nonsense in Nashville

Tenn. GOPer slams Volkswagen: Creating 200,000 jobs is ‘intentionally’ a ‘magnet for unionized labor’

TN House speaker calls for 'pre-meeting' transparency

Republican lawmakers to pitch medical marijuana plan

Naifeh says Democrats were more open than Republicans when they controlled House

Excerpt from a Commercial Appeal report on developments in the flap over House committee “pre-meetings:”
(O)n Wednesday, former House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, a Democrat from Covington, took exception to assertions by House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada on Tuesday that secret meetings were more prevalent when Democrats controlled the House until 2009.
Naifeh, who retired from the legislature four years ago, said Wednesday that the only “secret” meetings he knew of during his tenure were the budget committee and occasionally the industrial impact subcommittee, which no longer exists.
“As usual, Mr. Casada doesn’t understand what he’s talking about. We did have secret budget meetings in my office, but it was always posted on the bulletin board — ‘secret budget meeting in Speaker Naifeh’s office 4 p.m. Tuesday.’ The doors were open. I had it in there because we could all feel like we were closer together than sitting around a conference table.
“Republicans were there. They were not closed.”
Naifeh said that in his last two years in the legislature, the House budget committee had “closed secret meetings and Democratic members weren’t allowed in. LINK

TN House speaker calls for 'pre-meeting' transparency

 Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell today asked committee and subcommittee chairmen to end secret "pre-meetings" in which lawmakers discuss legislation prior to formal public meetings.

In a memo to the chairmen, the Nashville speaker said, "I respectfully request two things: that these meetings be announced, and that you have an open door policy."

The memo, first reported by The Associated Press, notes that "concerns have been raised" about the meetings.

Harwell's memo comes a day after the Chattanooga Times Free Press, The Associated Press, the Commercial Appeal of Memphis, the Knoxville News Sentinel and The Tennesseanreported on the existence of the meetings.

The collaborative reporting effort found that at least 10 of 15 standing House committees held such meetings.  LINK

Tenn. GOPer slams Volkswagen: Creating 200,000 jobs is ‘intentionally’ a ‘magnet for unionized labor’

Tennessee Republican state Sen. Bo Watson warned on Tuesday that a plan to bring 200,000 jobs to his state was a “magnet for unionized labor, intentionally.”

According to Chattanooga Times Free Press, Watson told the state Senate Commerce Committee that approving $165.8 million in tax incentives for Volkswagen was dangerous because unions could change the “culture” of Tennessee.

“I hope the committee will take some time to fully vet this incentive offer,” Watson advised. “At the end of the day, we can have no buyer’s remorse.”

“The incentive, no doubt, will create about 200,000 jobs directly, and countless more indirectly,” he admitted. “It will give southeast Tennessee a big foothold in the automotive industry, particularly in research and development. And it will allow the development of a new line of Volkswagen vehicles, particularly the SUV.”

But Watson asserted that the threat of organized labor unions might not be worth the benefits that Volkswagen would bring to the state.

“VW is a magnet for organized labor, intentionally,” he opined. “I believe this committee should know and understand what Volkswagen’s position is on this issue, both here and in Germany.”

The Chattanooga Republican turned to several Volkswagen officials and demanded that they explain why the vice chairman of VW’s European and Global Group Works Council had pledged to spread the United Auto Workers “far beyond Tennessee.”

David Geanacopoulos, the CEO of Volkswagen Group of America’s Chattanooga operations, explained to Watson that VW Works Council was an elected organization that was mandated by German law and that it was independent from company management. LINK

Republican lawmakers to pitch medical marijuana plan

Democrats flame out annually trying to convince legislators that sick and dying patients should have access to medical marijuana, but a trio of Republicans are giving the idea a try this year.

Sen. Steve Dickerson and Rep. Ryan Williams are still working out details of the legislation but expect to pitch their idea next week.

“It will be a good opportunity for us to have an honest conversation about the topic,” said Williams, of Cookeville, who said specifics of the legislation will come out next week and be heard in the House Health Subcommittee Tuesday.

Sen. Mark Green, a physician and healthcare administrator from Clarksville, said he’s considering signing onto the bill as a co-prime sponsor.

“If they have the good control measures they’re saying they’re going to have, and if this is very disease specific with medical literature to support it, which there’s a ton of medical literature out there now, I’m going to be on the bill,” said Green, a Republican. Examples of applicable diseases could include intractable cancer pain and nausea from chemotherapy, he said.

Other key parts of the bill include control mechanisms for the plant seeds, distribution, and manufacture of medical marijuana, he said. LINK

Superintendents and Haslam to meet Monday

Superintendents from four of the largest districts in the state will meet Monday with Gov. Bill Haslam to discuss the Basic Education Program, a Metro Nashville Public Schools staff member confirmed.

Gov. Bill Haslam said to reporters earlier this week that he expects to meet with superintendents on Monday to discuss education funding in the state. Plans have since been solidified.

Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre will be there along with superintendents from Metro Nashville Schools and Hamilton and Shelby counties.

The group is meeting as part of a resolution by Nashville's Board of Education to give Haslam and Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen 30 days to discuss plans for the program. The board will reassess their position in April.

The other three counties, however, are on the verge of filing lawsuits because of years of inadequate funding levels from the governor's office despite The Basic Education Program showing districts need more. BEP, as it is widely known, is Tennessee's formula for generating and distributing funding to local school districts. The money is what is sufficient to provide a basic level of education.

Attorney Robert Gowan, with the Coalition of Large Area School Systems, said schools statewide are underfunded by more than $500 million. And Tennessee is 46th in the nation, at $8,961, in per-pupil funding, according to Census numbers. LINK

Robert Houk:Enough of the nonsense in Nashville

I noted in a column earlier this year that Tennesseans should prepare themselves for tomfoolery on the part of their representatives in Nashville. Little did I know just how whacky the Republican-led state General Assembly could get.

Last week, a group of Tennessee lawmakers met behind closed doors with officials from what could only be described as a private “Black Helicopter” conspiracy organization calling itself the Tennessee Task Force on National and Homeland Security. (FYI: the General Assembly is the only governing body exempt from the state’s Sunshine Law. That needs to change.)

The Associated Press reported the topics of discussion were likely Islamic terrorism and electromagnetic pulse weapons. Yep, electromagnetic pulse weapons, just like the bad guys use in Bond movies.

Maybe the thought of Islamic fanatics trolling city parks with such weapons is one of the reasons state lawmakers want to strip local governments of the power to ban guns in their parks. State law was changed a few years ago to allow Tennesseans with state carry permits to pack their pistols in state parks.

Legislators exempted city parks from that provision, something the gun lobby has made them regret.

The “guns in parks” bill is yet another example of Big Government in Nashville telling local governments what they can or can’t do. And it’s not just governments that the power-hungry General Assembly want to control. State lawmakers also want to tell state residents what deity they should worship.

That’s exactly what legislators would be doing if a bill to make the Holy Bible (no doubt the Kings James version) the official book of Tennessee is passed. The same is true for a resolution sponsoredl by state Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, to insert a passage in the state Constitution that proclaims: “We recognize that our liberties do not come from governments, but from Almighty God, our Creator and Savior.” LINK

Crockett Policy Institute

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