Sunday, March 09, 2014

False Equivalencies

Michael Cass has an opinion piece titled “Lawmakers' belief in 'local control' goes only so far,” in which he compares Rep. Vince Dean’s bill to require legislative approval for the Amp with Rep. Mike Turner’s legislation to give the Metro Council the authority to allow bars in the Downtown area to give their customers to-go cups for alcoholic beverages.

The “Stop Amp” legislation was brought by a Chattanooga Representative with the express purposes of blocking the city of Nashville from going forward with a local transportation project. It would require Metro to gain the legislature’s approval before moving ahead with the Amp. That is very much a violation of the principles of local control.

The to-go cups legislation was brought by the Representative of the downtown area at the request of his constituents in the Convention and Visitors Corporation and other area businesses. As introduced it gives the Metro Council the authority to allow to-go containers in the Central Business Improvement District. If the Council chose to implement this law, it would then be up to the bar owners as to whether they wanted to participate.

Both bills impact Metro – and that is where the comparison ends.

Rep. Turner’s to-go cups legislation was already in the process of being amended to cover a smaller area when Councilwoman Evans introduced her emergency resolution. But even if that wasn’t the case, as Councilman Ronnie Steine rightfully pointed out, the bill simply gave the council the authority to do something they previously couldn’t do. To say that violates local control is a violation of reason.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Moment the Charter Authorizer Died

Republicans thought they were just sticking it to the Senate. Luckily for Nashville, the Senate stuck back and killed the state charter authorizer because Speaker Ramsey didn't get his judicial redistricting plan...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

TN House Week in Review

This week in the Tennessee State House the topic of education was at the forefront of the debate. Legislation that would limit local control of charter schools in Memphis and Nashville was moved out of subcommittee, and legislators were informed of the poor progress and questionable practices of the for-profit virtual school company K12, Inc. In addition, legislation that would allow for handgun permit holders to carry their firearms virtually everywhere moved forward, as well as a bill to end Medicare in Tennessee and move senior citizens onto TennCare.

State Charter Authorizer goes forward

State Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis) has introduced legislation (HB702) on behalf of Speaker of the House Beth Harwell that would take control of charter schools away from locally elected school boards and give it to a state board of education that is appointed by the Governor.

During the hearing, Rep. Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville) questioned why the legislation would only apply to the Nashville and Memphis school boards, asking “why public policy should just apply to those two communities. If it is good enough for those two, why would you just make it statewide?” Watch the video.

Also testifying on the proposed legislation was Metro Nashville School Board Member Amy Frogge. Frogge, who won her seat last year by a 2-1 margin despite being outspent 5 to 1 by a charter school proponent, stood up to represent a “strong, silent majority here in Nashville who are vehemently opposed to bills like this.” Frogge implored the committee to “hear from parents and those who will be directly impacted by this bill.” Watch video here.

Despite pleas from local parents and school board members, the House Education Subcommittee passed the legislation on to the full committee by a 6 to 3 vote. It is scheduled to be heard again on Tuesday, February 19th in the House Education Committee.

Democrats move to close poor performing for-profit virtual school

The day after a news story by News Channel 5’s Phil Williams broke alleging a potential grade-fixing scheme by the K12, Inc. operated Tennessee Virtual Academy, the House Education Subcommittee heard legislation that would limit or abolish this underperforming and highly controversial experiment.

Passed in 2011 despite overwhelming evidence of poor performance nationwide, the Tennessee Virtual Schools Act allowed the for-profit Virginia based firm K12, Inc. to begin operating in our state. Since then, the Tennessee Virtual Academy has achieved the lowest scores possible (1 out of a potential 5) in all categories of the state’s TVAAS grading system.

Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville) introduced HB728, a bill to repeal the portion of the 2011 that allowed for K12, Inc. to set up shop in Tennessee. During the hearing, Rep. Stewart laid out overwhelming evidence that K12, Inc. has failed taxpayers and students, questioning the millions in compensation their CEO has received, and asking them to produce a detailed explanation of costs associated with the program. Watch the video.

Despite serious concerns, the Education Subcommittee voted not to move the legislation forward to full committee. The administration has introduced a bill that would give the Commissioner of Education authority to close or cap enrollment for a virtual school if it continues to underperform, but it was weakened in committee to remove the 5,000 total cap that was in the original legislation.

In other news…

“Guns Everywhere” moving quickly through the legislature

HB118 by Rep. Jeremy Faison, a bill to allow handgun permit holders to bring their weapons onto private property regardless of the wishes of the property owner, has moved on to the Civil Justice full committee. Despite drawing the ire of some of the biggest employers in the state such as Volkswagen, the House Civil Justice Subcommittee moved the bill on a voice vote. Speaking out against the legislation was Rep. Sherry Jones (D-Nashville) who sought clarification that this bill would limit the property rights of business owners. Watch the video.

Bill to force seniors off of Medicare and into TennCare passes subcommittee

House Republicans have reintroduced legislation that failed last year which would authorize the state to enter into a compact with other states for the purposes of eliminating federal health care programs in those states. The bill, HB536 by Rep. Mark Pody, would eliminate federal control of Medicare and put it under the control of the state TennCare program. During the committee hearing, Reps. David Shepard and Joanne Favors objected to the placement of this legislation – which would dramatically alters the state budget and the health care system in Tennessee – in the Insurance and Banking Committee instead of the Health Committee where it was heard in the previous session. Watch the video.

The Week Ahead

The Legislature will be out of session on Monday in recognition of President’s Day. Starting on Tuesday we can expect to have some of the legislation mentioned above move into their full committee hearings where more legislators will be allowed to weigh in on these laws being proposed. Wednesday, the House will continue to hold hearings on the $32.6 billion budget proposed by the Governor. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Chris Christie Channels Ron Swanson

As crews continue the recovery effort in the aftermath of Sandy, Governor Chris Christie has postponed Halloween in New Jersey. Christie signed an executive order which postponed Halloween celebrations across New Jersey until Monday, November 5. (Via NBC)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

On the Tennessean's endorsement of Mitt Romney

The Tennesseaneditorial board has produced an incoherent argument for why voters should choose Mitt Romney in November.

The editors rightfully point out that Romney’s foreign policy views would take us closer to another ill-fated foreign excursion, this time into Iran.

They rightfully point out that Mitt Romney’s social views are murky, incoherent and inconsistent at best.

They rightfully point out that Romney’s economic plans are dangerously opaque and the math simply does not add up.

And then, inexplicably, they end their review of the choices in this election by saying voters should choose Mitt Romney.

The Tennessean’s editors seem to think that we should reward the Republican Party’s well documented and patterned efforts of obstructionism by handing them the White House for the next four years. This is the political equivalent of giving an unruly child a treat for misbehaving. They absolve the GOP of any wrong-doing in the health care debate, despite the President supporting centrist reforms largely modeled on the plan passed by his Republican challenger in Massachusetts.

The Tennessean’s editors also wonder aloud if the President should have pursued policies that would grow jobs and cut the deficit. Only a small fringe of Ayn Randian acolytes view these two options as compatible. Nearly a century of economic theory backs up the Keynesian economic model of using the borrowing power of the government to replace lost GDP. Additionally, there is no path to budget solvency that does not include an increase in revenues – something the Republican Party and Mitt Romney have pledged they will never – ever – entertain the possibility of.

The Tennessean also neglects to point out that the Republicans have blocked the President’s American Jobs Act of 2011, which the Washington Post reported is “still the best — and most detailed — plan on the table to create jobs.”

The truth that the Tennessean's editors fail to see, is that the President has shown extraordinary leadership in extraordinary times, and Tennessee is better off for it.

Because of the President’s leadership, Tennessee received $500 million for the Race to the Top program that is improving Tennessee’s public education system.

Because of the President’s leadership, the American Auto Industry is alive, and at least 1,000 Tennesseans have good paying jobs in Maury County because the President didn’t think that “letting Detroit go bankrupt” – as Mitt Romney hoped for – was a viable option.

Because of the President’s leadership, hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans will have access to health care coverage, and will no longer be discriminated against because of pre-existing conditions or gender.

For these reasons and countless others, President Obama clearly has earned another four years, whether the Tennessean’s editors see it or not.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tutorials in Biased Polling from Beacon

The Beacon Center, the folks who brought us their Screw the Poor alternative budget to Mayor Dean's proposal for an increase in the property tax, have commissioned and released a poll which, shockingly, affirms their belief that Nashvillians oppose the Mayor's budget.

Beacon released preliminary results yesterday and released the full poll earlier today which they say proves that, even when presented with the Mayor's talking points, voters oppose the plan.  Just a few thoughts on the findings.

  • "Likely voters" - The polling firm excluded anyone who said they will "probably" or "definitely" won't vote in the next countwide election.  If by the next "countywide" election, people thought you to mean the school board and primary races, that excludes quite a lot of people who aren't habitual voters. 
  • "13% tax increase" - This, in and of itself, is a biased description in that its a 53 cent property tax increase. The first question uses this designation, and its reiterated again in the poll.  Perhaps the results would've been the same, but we'll never know, and I'd imagine that people are more willing to pay an extra "53 cents" as opposed to a 13% tax hike. 
  • "The Mayor's Talking Points..."
Beacon had been hyping their super special release of the full poll that tested "the Mayor's talking points" to see if voters support it.  And while the first part of question 5 does give the Mayor's budget highlights, the second part of the question implies the first part wasn't true:

So, in other words, either you can raise taxes to avoid cuts in education and police OR hey, all you have to do is maintain current spending and "cut unnecessary waste".

Hell, if that were an option, I'd take it too.  But what TCPR/Beacon fails to mention in the poll, is that their version of "cutting unecessary waste" involves eliminating all funding for public transportation, shuttering Metro General, and ignoring needed improvements in schools and other parts of the city.

If they were truly trying to find out which idea was more popular, they'd have asked the question that way...but that wasn't their goal, they wanted numbers that scared councilmembers and reaffirmed their own worldview, and hey, you pay any polling firm enough, they'll get you these numbers.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

On taxes and spending...

Earlier this morning, Mayor Karl Dean spoke to the Kitchen Cabinet (a group of progressive and moderate young professionals) and plugged his push to increase revenues (AKA increase property tax rates) in order to expand and fully fund public safety and education.

His pitch is fairly simple, maintain and increase funding on public safety, education and 'other'.  He wants to increase the starting salary for teachers, fund a DNA crime lab, and invest in capital improvements for schools and other parts of the city.

In total, its a fairly good plan that will (as supporters like to say) Move Nashville Forward.

Of course, the tried and true refrain against the increase in revenues is just as obvious as the emphasis on education and public safety spending.

Some basic iteration of "government should live within its means," "why are we raising taxes on citizens when we are giving tax breaks to corporations" and "its all because of the convention center".  The logical answers (a. this is a silly statement, because government sets its means; b. tax increment financing is a necessary evil in the marketplace of municipal competition; c. its got nothing whatsoever to do with the convention center) are going to be largely irrelevant to the opponents of this measure.

The Beacon Solution, ignore 'em, and the poor will go away.
One of the leaders in the charge to oppose this revenue/tax increase is the Tennessee Center for Policy Research turned Beacon Center of Tennessee.  In a policy paper (loosely defined), TCPRBCT presented an alternative budget which finds the cuts necessary to avoid any increases in revenue.

Gut/eliminate public funding of public transportation, write-off Metro General Hospital, eliminate additional education funding, and about $10 million or so in "other".  In other words, if it even remotely benefits poor people, its 'waste' and should be cut.

Now, maybe you could "trim some fat" here and there...and certainly there are probably some department managers who make more than they might deserve.  But, really, even if you remove a little more gristle here and there, it still doesn't take away from our need to increase revenues and grow the budget of Nashville.

We are a growing city. We've come a long way in the decade I've been here, and I think there is a lot more room for growth and improvement.  While I'm no more enamored with the idea of a tax increase than the next person, I'm happy to stand with the Mayor and many councilmen and women in moving Nashville forward toward being the city we know it can be.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Where You At?

Apologies for the lack of posts in the past few weeks, I should've updated sooner, but I recently started working with the Tennessee Democratic Party doing New Media.  While it doesn't preclude me from blogging here, chances are most of my attention will be on the TNDP blog I'll now be operating. 

So if you want to see my flackery in full effect, redirect your bookmarks and feed readers to

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Democrats "unenthusiastic" just like in 1996

The Tennessee Republican party is trying to spin away the great dissatisfaction with their nominee to be, Mitt Romney, by projecting some feelings on the Democratic base in Tennessee that just do not exist.  In a press release, the Republicans are claiming that “The only enthusiasm gap that exists in this Presidential election is with Democrat voters. The fact that more than 1 out of 10 Democrats took the time to go to the polls to reject having President Obama as their nominee, should be very troubling to the Obama campaign."

Right, just like in 1996, when Bill Clinton pulled 88.93% of the vote to 10.99% for "uncommitted". How did this "lack of enthusiasm" for Bill Clinton play out in the general election? Oh, yeah, he carried Tennessee with 48% of the vote to Dole's 45.6%. And, unlike Mittens, Dole actually won Tennessee with 51% of the vote.

Now, I'm not predicting an Obama victory in Tennessee, but based on the GOP's faulty logic, Tennessee should be ripe for the picking for President Obama given the historical comparisons.

The End of an Era

The son of a Lebanese immigrant, Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, the "Lebanese Lion" as Mike Turner calls him, was perhaps the most influential and important political figure in modern Tennessee history who was not the governor.

While controversial at times, Naifeh never feared speaking his mind and doing what he felt was right, despite an increasingly conservative and Republican leaning district.  That meant sometimes using the power of the committee to ensure the legislature focused on issues that were actually important in the lives of Tennesseans, rather than the social conservative distractions the Republicans have pushed in recent years.  As Mike Turner said in a press release:
He has done more for the people of Tennessee than most of us will ever know. He’s a hard worker, he’s well-informed and he’s not afraid to stand-up for the issues and the people he cares about. When he goes home this fall, our caucus and this House will be a much emptier place. I will miss him, but I wish him the best in everything he does in the future.”
In remarks on the House Floor, Speaker Naifeh said "Governor McWherter, my mentor, always told me I would know when it was time to go home and I know that time has come for me to step aside for the next generation of leaders." Indeed, with this end of an era brings the possibility of a rebirth of both the Democratic party and the House Caucus. While his district will likely fall to the Republicans this year, there are many other opportunities to infuse new life and blood into the legislature, hopefully within the new crop of Democrats there lies the potential for the next "Lebanese Lion".

Update: Video from Naifeh's farewell address to the House, with words of support from his fellow members, and a brief turn back at the gavel.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Jason Powell Announces in District 53

Civic leader Jason Powell has announced he will be running to replace Rep. Janis Sontany at the State House in District 53. Powell, 34, had previously run for State House in 2006 against Rep. Mary Pruitt and is starting off the race with some major endorsements from Councilman Jerry Maynard, Sheriff Daron Hall, and former US Senate candidate Bob Tuke.

In his release, Powell stated that he has "always been looking for opportunities to give back" and this was another way for him to do so, along with his charitable work with Big Brothers Big Sisters and role as Hope Gardens Association President.

The election is August 2nd and the filing deadline is April 5th. Read the full release after the jump:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mayor Berke?

You won't have Chattanooga's Sen. Andy Berke to kick around at the legislature for much longer:

State Senator Andy Berke announced Tuesday that he will not seek re-election to the State Senate District 10 seat he has held since 2007...

...“Although I am not running for re-election, I am dedicated to growing jobs in our area and working on issues that affect my neighbors,” Berke said. “I am excited to continue to serve Southeast Tennessee, and I look forward to new challenges and opportunities.”
So, in other words, he's giving up his chance to be one of a handful of Democrats in a Republican dominated Senate in order to serve *cough*Mayor*cough* in new *cough*Mayor*cough* ways.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Don't Say Stacey

Gender neutrality in the allocation of names is a crime against God.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Richard Exton on being in the loyal opposition

It looks like Richard Exton has moved beyond simply collecting signatures for a possible Senate District 20 race, and began making his pitch for his candidacy at a Bellevue Democrats (there are some...really) breakfast. (h/t Dru Fuller).

Friday, February 17, 2012

Jameson Wins Bar Poll

Judge Jameson has once again curried favor with his fellow Nashville Bar members who have overwhelmingly chosen him to be their candidate for the Democratic nomination in the March 6th election:

In results released by the Nashville Bar Association today, Judge Mike Jameson dominated the field in recommendations by his peers to remain on the bench. Judge Jameson, who currently presides over the General Sessions Division VIII court, was "highly recommended" five times as often as any other candidate and received the recommendation or high recommendation of almost 700 of the 1,062 attorneys contributing to the poll. 
"My service to Nashville has always been an honor, but no more so than today," Judge Jameson said. Judge Jameson's success in the NBA survey comes on the heels of a recent stream of endorsements from the Nashville Firefighters, the Neighborhood Defense Fund, the SEIU and the Central Labor Council. "Our local courts should be places within which the expertise of the law is matched with service to the the individual. On the bench, I've tried to balance the rights of individuals with the mandates of the law. Earning the support of so many attorneys, civil rights, labor and neighborhood groups confirms that aim."