Archive for the ‘state house’ Category

The Most Important Legislation in Tennessee?

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

1353206437-lgNashville – Guns! Guns! Guns! — Guns continue to dominate the agenda of the Tennessee Legislation. 27 gun bills top of the legislation agenda. How can so many gun bills be warranted? The TNGOP continues to pander to the NRA lobby who owns them! So many important issues remain unanswered in regards to guns – permit fees, where you can carry them, what kinds you can own, etc. — will dominate discussion at the General Assembly this week. There does not seem to be much room for other real issues that affect hard working Tennesseans. But there are few measures that could get some attention if they come up in committee.

Once again, it’s gun week at the General Assembly. The Senate Judiciary Committee is slated to take up 27 bills related to handgun permits, exploding ammunition and a vast array of Tennessee gun laws. The House Civil Justice Subcommittee is set to debate 22 gun bills. Most of the bills ease restrictions on where and when people can have guns.

Several proposals, most related dismantling the Affordable Care Act “Obamacare” are set for discussion this week. One bill calls on the attorney general to sue the federal government on behalf of those people who face possible fines through the Affordable Care Act for not having insurance. The same committee will hear the bill that would prevent the state from setting up a health exchange under the law.

One bill, from Sen. Sara Kyle, D-Memphis, calls for cameras to be worn by police. The bill could face some hurdles — there are no GOP sponsors.

Someone texting while driving faces a maximum fine of $50. Someone caught driving without a seat belt faces a $10 ticket for the first offense and a $20 ticket for each additional offense. The fines for both offenses will jump to $250 if a new bill becomes law.

One bill will ban the use of such cameras used to give traffic tickets.

There are no bills scheduled to discuss job creation, improve education, increase the minimum wage or address the important issues facing hard working Tennessee families. But who needs a job when you can have a gun?

Content in Tennessee

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

In 2010, the political landscape in Tennessee changed. A large stash of “dark money” sweeps the Tennessee Democratic Party from power, for the first time since Reconstruction. Candidates of the Republican Party were elected in mass, based on empty promises of job creation and a focus on education. It did not seem to matter that many of these candidates were not vetted; more less qualified to hold political office or even hold a regular job in the common job market. The voters did not seem to care they were electing unqualified people to office.

Unfortunately, the lack of qualification of candidates was not the only thing wrong with the “political winds of change” that affected Tennessee and many other southern states that created the perfect political storm. This political change was driven by much darker forces and was not based on the normal issues that affect most elections or spark most political up evil. This change was fueled by racism and hatred of President Obama. And it occurred at a time when control of political power was up for grabs for ten years, not just for an election cycle.

It occurred at a time when the political party who won the state, would control the state for ten years, and be allowed to redistrict the political landscape and reallocate the political power of a state. The masterminds of this political up evil had more important goals in mind than just political victory and they were more than happy to use hatred to achieve their vile agenda. Nor, did it matter that mindless teabaggers would serve as minions to assist the rich in reaching their goal.

We have since seen the devastation of this political change and the damaging impact it has had on the poor and middle class in our state and nation. It did not take long to realize the promises of job creation and focus on education were empty words “lies” by the GOP to simply gain power and control.

And since the election, the GOP has taken undemocratic steps to entrench their political power. Adopting measures to ensure voter suppression on the vary people their vile agenda has harmed the most: the old, young, poor, women, sick and minorities. They have attacked women healthcare, workers’ rights, gay rights, minority rights, civil rights, and dismantled the safety net that has successfully protected the poor, old, sick and middle class since the Great Depression, while continuing to give large tax breaks to the rich and corporations.

It does not seem to matter that they have lost national power as a party, they seem happy with the short term state power and/or regional power they have achieved and they have used this power to undermine national laws and political legislation.

Four years later, the attacks on women’s rights, voter’s rights, workers’ rights immigration, and civil rights has escalated by the GOP. Attacks on the poor and middle class have also escalated as the GOP attempts to dismantle and gut public education and social programs like Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) and unemployment compensation.

Not since the Great Depression, has the GOP agenda been so void of a moral compass.Republicans are attempting to dismantle the vary programs designed to help those in need, during tough economic times, like now, when 40 million Americans need government subsidized food assistance to simply live and 1.3 million Americans lost their unemployment compensation, yesterday, because of GOP cuts. In months, another 1.9 million will lose their unemployment compensation. The GOP don’t even seem concerned about the additional loss of 240,000 jobs that will occur from this loss of this money from the economy. Nothing, not even the welfare of the nation, is more important than their vile agenda.

In Tennessee, more than 20% of Tennesseans receive government assistance for food and experienced cuts in SNAP assistance. More than 18,000 Tennesseans lost their unemployment yesterday.

The GOP faithful calls these expenditures on humanity – waste and too expensive to afford, yet, they don’t hesitate giving large tax breaks to the rich and corporations. They spoke not one objection when it came to the costs of twelve years of two “unfunded” wars and giving corporate “welfare” to the greed driven military contractors. They never seem to have a problem with waste when it comes to giving large tax breaks to their rich friends but God forbid – we help the poor or middle class during tough economic times.

Four years later, unemployment in Tennessee is 8.1% while it is 7% nationally. The Tennessee legislature has not passed nor discussed one act of legislation related to job creation. Nothing has been done to strengthen public education, in fact the GOP works feverishly to dismantle it. The Republican “super majority” legislation has been more concerned with catering to their gun lobbyists’ friends and other special interest groups. Our governor is too busy handling his messy shady dealings to something that would actually help middle class folks like extending Medicaid for 170,000 Tennesseans.

Did Tennesseans get what they bargained for when the voted red in 2010? Is there any buyer’s remorse or are folks in Tennessee simply content with the sad state of affairs of our state as a result of that vote?

Wing Nut Legislation from Nashville

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

One can only be amazed at the break neck speed with which the wing nut legislation is moving through Nashville. There is no longer need for debate or logic, ignorance based bills are passed in record time, most recently, one bill passed in six minutes, there is no longer need for intelligent discussion.

After two years of working hard for lobbyists, the Tennessee legislator has moved Tennessee into the national lime light of ignorance. The race to the bottom by the backwoods boys of the Tennessee legislator has paid off; Tennessee has become the blunt of jokes on a weekly basis on late night sitcoms. The wealth of ignorance by the legislation has produced a wind fall of material for late night comedians and national news networks.

Legislators like Marsh Blackburn have become regulars on news stations, as she insists the good people of Tennessee love the Sequester, the Sequester what will eventually give Tennesseans 40,000 lay off slips.

After four years of struggle, while unemployment moves upward across the state, the Tennessee House of Representatives capped off four years of foolishness with their signature bill that would let handgun owners with permits carry their weapons in their cars anywhere they go, putting an apparent end to a four-year fight between business owners and gun rights advocates.

Other bills like “don’t say gay” have gained even more national recognition and laughter. The more Tennessee is associated with bigotry, intolerance and ignorance, the more we are dragged down, economically and socially. What employer wants to relocate to a state that guts education and condemns science and technology?

Sadly, the current work of the legislature is focused on gutting workers compensation. Basis protection to workers who become injured at work will likely be dismantled when this legislation is rushed through without discussion or regret.

Other legislation moves toward gutting public education in the state. TNGOP touted K12 “virtual schools”, the savior of education, even as administrators of these schools were instructing teachers to delete and hide the falling grades of the students involved in this “voodoo” education option.

If you don’t like the K12 option, you can always go with the school voucher scam. Lobbyists are lining up to get their hands on tax payer education dollars in Tennessee. They want to pilfer, plunder, and profit from the privatization of public schools and the pickpocketing of public funds.

On another note, in the coming weeks, Gov. Bill Haslam and the state legislature will be making a decision on whether to fully implement the Affordable Care Act by expanding TennCare, our Medicaid program. It’s a decision that will have long-term effects on health care for working families and a huge impact on our state economy.

The legislation from Nashville affects every aspect of your life, from your education to your job, from your standard of living to your wellbeing as a senior citizen. If you don’t pay attention to laws that affect you, you will find yourselves with no “safety net” protection.

Tennessee Legislation Passed in 2012: No Jobs!

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

Here is a list of some of the legislation that has been approved by the Tennessee Legislature in 2012. The wing-nuts continue to embarrass Tennesseans and have failed to pass one act of legislation producing one job or job bill. Take a look at what backwoods mentality brings in the form of legislation.

WAR AGAINST WOMEN – RESTRICTIONS FOR ABORTION DOCTORS: Requires physicians to have hospital privileges in the home or adjacent county of woman seeking abortion. HB3808.

AMAZON SALES TAX INCREASE: Requires Amazon.com to begin collecting Tennessee sales taxes in 2014. HB2370.

BATH SALTS FELONY: Makes it a felony to sell synthetic drugs known as bath salts. HB2286.

POLITICAL BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS APPOINTMENTS: Allows governor to appoint heads of boards, including Tennessee Higher Education Commission. HB2387.

CORPORATE WELFARE CASH GRANT GIVEAWAY: Creates more ways for state to give cash grants to companies investing in Tennessee. HB2344.

CHARTER SCHOOLS ANTI-FOREIGNERS: Limits number of foreign workers allowed to be employed at charter schools. SB3345.

STRIP CIVIL SERVICE PROTECTION: Revises state civil service laws to make it easier to hire and fire state employees. SB2246.

DOMESTIC ABUSE: Requires mandatory jail time for repeat domestic abuse convictions. SB2251.

DUI BLOOD TESTS: Allows judges to compel blood tests from people arrested on drunken driving charges. HB2752.

DUI MINORS: Increases penalties for drunken driving when child under 18 is in car. HB2751.

EMBRYO ASSAULT PROTECTION: Includes embryo as victim protection in assaults on pregnant women. SB3412.

FOOD TAX: Reduces the state sales tax on groceries from 5.5 percent to 5.25 percent. HB3761.

GANG BANGER BILL: Increases penalties for violent crimes committed by three or more people. SB2252.

GATEWAY TO SEXUAL ACTIVITY PROHIBITION: Prohibits teachers from promoting or condoning “gateway sexual activity.” Includes kissing? HB3621.

HASLAM BUDGET: Enacts Tennessee’s more than $31 billion annual spending plan. HB3835.

IMMIGRATION DISCRIMINATION CHECK: Requires state agencies to verify immigration status before approving public benefits. SB1325.

BAN STATE INCOME TAX: Proposed constitutional amendment to ban a state income tax in Tennessee. SJR0221.

INHERITANCE TAX BREAK FOR THE RICH: Begins phase-out of Tennessee’s inheritance tax. HB3760.

FACISM LAW FOR OCCUPY NASHVILLE: Bans unauthorized camping on Legislative Plaza. HB2638.

CENSORSHIP OF SAGGY PANTS: Prohibits students from wearing saggy pants or other indecent clothing on school grounds. HB3679.

ANTI-INTELLIGENCE SCHOOL ACTIVITIES: Allows parents to keep their children from joining extracurricular groups at school. HB2548.

DESTRUCTION OF SEPERATION OF CHURCH AND STATE: Allows school personnel to participate in student-initiated religious activities. HB3266.

SCHOOL SAFETY: Gives teachers more authority to act against students who pose a safety risk. SB3116.

POLITICAL SELECTING OF JUDGES-CONFIRMATION: Proposed constitutional amendment to allow Legislature to reject gubernatorial appointments to Supreme Court. SJR0710.

STUDENT LOANS-DEFAULT: Penalizes teachers and lobbyists for defaulting on student loans. HB0740.

MONKEY LAW: Grants legal protections for teachers who allow students to question theory of evolution. SB0893.

DESTRUCTION OF SEPERATION OF CHURCH AND STATE: Allows public buildings to display “historically significant documents,” such as Ten Commandments. HB2658.

ANTI-UNITED NATIONS-GOP IGNORANCE BILL: Recognizes the “insidious nature” of the United Nations ‘ Agenda 21 on sustainable development. HJR0587.

WELFARE DISCRIMINATION DRUG TESTING: Creates discrimination of the poor by allowing suspicion-based drug testing for welfare recipients. SB2580.

HOG WILD BILL: Makes it a crime to release wild-appearing swine without proper documentation. SB2879.

Yeah it true. Two years of legislation and not one job bill passed by the Tennessee legislation. In 2010, Tennessee Republicans promised to focus on job creation and education. Since, their capturing of the Tennessee Legislation, not one job creation bill has passed.

Ron Ramsey, Bill Haslam & Beth Harwell have lead Tennessee to the bottom with job loses as reported by Out of the Blue. Only Wisconsin has more job losses last month. More republican lies… in the 2010 election they promised jobs & all we have received is radical extremist legislation and GOP failure! The GOP can’t govern but they can sure lie!

Blow up Rocky Top? Special Topic at UCDP Meeting

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

Blow up Rocky Top? This will be a special topic at the July 21st Unicoi County Democratic Party Meeting at 11 am at Erwin Town Hall on Main Street in Erwin, TN. Jennie Young, mountain activists, will be addressing this very important subject.

In March of this year, a state House subcommittee failed to pass legislation to stop coal companies from blowing the tops off Tennessee’s mountains.

The political hacks on the misnamed Conservation and Environment Subcommittee could not say no to the rich coal companies and bring themselves to actually vote down the bill itself.

Instead, lawmakers voted 6-4 to send the bill to summer study where Ron Ramsey plans to bury it for good. He knows that this is the same as voting to kill this bill, but Republican lawmakers insisted they want to study this issue. They claim they have not had had the time to think about it during any of the five sessions it’s been debated so far in the legislature.

Sadly, the coal companies are stuffing money in the pockets of these same legislators. Needless to say Ron Ramsey is a few hundred thousand dollars richer from his coal buddies filling his political coffers.

“What would Tennessee be without our mountains?” asked Rep. Mike McDonald, D-Portland, the bill’s sponsor.

He said coal companies have started mountaintop removal mining at eight locations in Tennessee since this bill first was proposed.

“We have delayed and delayed action on this and we’ve lost eight mountains since 2008 by delaying. If we don’t pass this bill this year, we’ll lose more mountains. … Just like it was historic when the Great Smoky Mountains were protected and preserved for future generations, this committee has a historic opportunity today to protect Tennesseans and Tennessee’s mountains. Without our mountains, Tennessee is not Tennessee.”

But Republican Legislators say they need more time to think about whether it’s “OK” to blow up our Tennessee Mountains. Once again, Tennessee Republicans show us that anything is possible and “everything is for sale” when you have no moral compass.

Sexual Congress

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Wade Munday is a writer in Nashville – Borrowing the popular refrain from Tom Jones, “it’s not unusual to be loved by anyone,” amorousness seems extraordinary to some Tennessee Republicans who are scurrying in the next few weeks to pass legislation dealing with S-E-X.

As Chas Sisk writes in the Tennessean:
Bills dealing with sex, religion and guns may spark controversy. But they also give Republican lawmakers a chance to show where they stand and could help them head off the biggest challenge they face to re-election this year — a primary opponent who accuses them of having done too little to advance conservative causes.

What Trace Sharp called the 107th Sex Assembly and Democratic lawmaker Mike Turner inferred is the Tennessee Taliban has turned out to be one of the grossest public displays of affection for extremely conservative causes by Republicans in Tennessee. And Representative Turner is correct in saying that this isn’t just conservatism, this is religious extremism and Taliban totalitarianism.

The lawmakers who are elected in Tennessee to constitutionally pass a budget each year and with relatively little time for debate on that topic, have managed to discuss sex education, abortion (again), the Ten Commandments (again), and creationism (again). Being a lawmaker is a part time job, and while those lawmakers have time to argue bills regarding abortion and expanding gun rights they lack the power or ability to spur economic growth in the state? They’re capable of defending “Life” but they can’t create a single job?

Their strategy for governing runs parallel to the politics of running for office. Ignite controversy, inflame passions, and yell like Rick Santorum when the cameras are rolling.

I think what bothers most people about American politicians on either side of the aisle are their disingenuous displays of courage, the bravado of championing a pet project or issue. The results of being led by these phony convictions are bad laws that restrict our freedoms and limit our ability to move beyond our present reality. Sadly in Tennessee, we’ve seen a lot of our freedoms eroded because of our Republican-controlled Legislature. And that’s not so unusual.

This story was carried by the Daily Buzz.

FASCISM: TNGOP STYLE

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Tennesseans have reason to be concerned by recent statements by state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey about open government, loss of freedoms and the state’s open meetings law.

Ramsey said in an interview with The Associated Press in December that he thinks elected officials should have more freedom to have some discussions “in secret” outside of official public meetings.

Ramsey said he is in favor of open government and added, “But there’s got to be some kind of little something to allow people to talk without the fear that they’re going to be prosecuted.”

This last statement is void of logic and is a backwoods scare tactic to generate excuses to weaken Tennessee’s Sunshine law. Ramsey and his cronies want secret meetings void of any ethical oversight. One must ask why Tennessee Republicans want secret meetings. What is it they have to hide?

Ramsey’s comments come in the shadows of recent discussion by the Tennessee County Commissioners Association that would allow elected officials to meet privately and hold secret meetings void of any disclosure to the public about the public’s business.

It is expected that Republicans will submit a proposal in the form of a bill for consideration by the state legislature this year. Ramsey plans promise 2012 will get even darker for Tennesseans.

It is obvious that Ramsey’s comments, and the proposal itself, represent a danger to open government, ethics, accountability and the public trust.

The fear of prosecution that Ramsey brings up is not based in fact. It is simply based on lies.

Tennessee’s open meetings law applies specifically to meetings during which public officials deliberate about the people’s business. The Sunshine law was created in 1974, by the Democratic Legislature, to insure officials are, conducting the people’s business, making decisions on how to spend our taxpayer money and directing policy that will govern publicly funding employees and agencies in an open ethical manner.

Governor Bill Haslam said that he opposes the proposed change to the Sunshine law. Without this law, small groups of elected officials can meet privately “in secret” to debate an issue(s), with no regard to public interest and open honest government.

Commissioners in several counties have approved resolutions backing the changes. Similar resolutions have failed in other counties including Unicoi County.

On two recent occasions, Tennessee has been in the national spotlight on MSNBC. Sadly, under the actions of Ron Ramsey, Bill Haslam and the Republican Legislature, Tennessee is now the number 1 state in loss of freedoms in the United States.

The Tennessee GOP has attacked Teachers right to collective bargaining; enacted voter suppression laws that discriminate against senior citizens, college students, minorities and the handicapped, cut out early voting; restricted legal remedy for injury in the work place or because of unsafe products; capped damages for injury or death because of unsafe products, and they are currently gerrymandering voting districts by redistricting that will discriminate against minorities.

The Tennessee Republicans overreach and attack on Tennesseans brings a whole new meaning to living in a “red” state.

Tennessee Legislator and sponsor of Tennessee’s “Guns in Bars” Law is Busted Drinking While Driving and Carrying a Gun

Friday, October 14th, 2011

Having a gun makes you feel safe, doesn’t it? At least, provided that you practice gun safety, know how to shoot, and are responsible. It also makes many in “red” states feel really big.

In spaghetti western cowboy movies the cowboy in the white hat was always the good guy. The cowboy in the black hat was always the bad guy. The good guy always won. Today, it is hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys and the good guys rarely win.

This would be the best case “worst case scenario” that exists in the hearts and minds of those who supported the “guns in bars” bill.

There is a stark difference between Hollywood movies and real life. Now back to reality.

The factors that have been left out are the presence of alcohol, nerves, a tense situation, a shaky hand, a bad aim, a crowded restaurant, more “cowboys in white hats” seeing other “cowboys in white hats” mistaking them for the “cowboy in the black hat”, and finally confusion resulting in more people shot than if the cowboy in the black hat were the lone gunman.

Tennessee Republicans passed the controversial “guns in bars” bill. Sponsor of the bill, Collierville Republican Rep. Curry Todd, was arrested Tuesday night for driving drunk while carrying a loaded gun. This event would be laughable if it not so disgusting.

Bar owners, law enforcement and others opposed the guns-bars legislation, which allows permit holders to take a handgun into businesses that sell alcohol providing they don’t drink. In 2009, Todd assured other legislators that permit holders were responsible and would obey the restriction on drinking while carrying a gun.

Police, prosecutors, bar owners and others opposed the guns-in-bars legislation, which allows permit holders to take their handguns into businesses that sell alcohol as long as they don’t drink. During debate in 2009, Todd assured his fellow legislators that permit holders were responsible and would obey the restriction on drinking with their guns.

So, what can we do as citizens? We aren’t State Senators or Representatives. What power do we have? WE are the people who will either vote FOR them or AGAINST them to be re-elected should they so choose to run again. Unfortunately, people in the state of Tennessee decided to vote for folks like Curry Todd.

The Tennessee Legislature remains an embarrassment to Tennesseans and a nation joke!

An Overview of the 2011 General Assembly

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

After just five months of Republican control in the General Assembly and the Governor’s mansion, things in Tennessee are getting worse.

“How bad is it?” Wendi Thomas of The Memphis Commercial Appeal wrote. “It’s so bad I may have to say I’m from Mississippi.”

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In short, this year Republicans junked their promise to strengthen the state economy and help people find work in favor of ideological pet projects and radical social engineering that takes the wheels off the notion of responsible governance.

Democratic State Sen. Andy Berke summed it up this way:

“There are many things that we’ve done this year that are going to hurt Tennessee, and ultimately, the people who passed them will pay a cost for that… [Tennesseans] don’t want to see the radical agenda that is being pushed through.”

The Jobs Con

In 2010, Republicans campaigned on a platform of jobs, jobs, jobs. Less than one year later, the majority party buried its head in the sand and ignored the crisis facing 300,000 Tennesseans looking for work.

Since Republicans took charge, Tennessee’s unemployment rate has climbed to nearly 10 percent — even while across the nation, the jobs picture in 47 states has stabilized or improved. [Bloomberg, 5/20/11]

The response? Republicans systematically killed a dozen Democrat-sponsored jobs bills aimed at boosting the economy, including a popular sales tax holiday for small business purchases.

Then Governor Bill Haslam and Republicans slashed funding and fired 60 business recruiters at the Department of Economic & Community Development — the organization that lured international corporations like Volkswagen, Nissan, Amazon.com, and Hemlock to Tennessee, securing more than 200,000 jobs and $34 billion in economic investment.

And even further, Republicans endangered 3,900 new jobs and potentially two more Amazon.com distribution centers by threatening to renege on agreements made between the state and Amazon.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press:

“Legislators passed not a single bill that would improve job creation or put people back to work… The notion that lawmakers could leave Nashville celebrating such reversals and derogation of the needs of ordinary working people across the state is stunning. The only reason we can be glad that lawmakers finished the session is that it prevents them from wreaking more damage.”

Damage, indeed. Here is what happened:

ATTACKS ON TEACHERS & PUBLIC EDUCATION: The attacks on teachers and public education defined the Republicans first legislative session in power of both state houses.

“Last year we had Race to the Top. This year we have dive to the bottom.” – Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga

The session’s most contentious legislation was the Republican-led effort to repeal the collective bargaining rights of public school teachers. Teachers rallied by the thousands against measures that unfairly targeted them and the millions worth of spending cuts to public schools.

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh said the changes would be damaging for Tennessee students:

“Republicans have taken away the job security of our veteran teachers, stripped their ability to negotiate for things like text books, janitorial services & basic school supplies, opened the door to for-profit charter schools and nearly ripped millions from the public school system with a voucher proposal.

“Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey & his counterparts call this reform, but our teachers & the people of Tennessee know better. This is not reform; it’s regression.”

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING BAN: Republicans repealed the Education Professional Negotiations Act ending an era of teacher solidarity, one in which the TEA had bargained with school boards across a wide range of matters in most of the state’s school districts. As a result, our teachers are angry, demoralized and tire of being blamed for the problems facing our education system.

CHARTER SCHOOLS EXPANSION: Gov. Haslam and Republicans expanded charter schools, potentially hurting our neediest children and families by draining traditional public schools of top performers and resources.

VIRTUAL SCHOOLS: Virtual schools, online education run by for profit corporations that  poach millions of tax dollars from public schools. Online schools could be gateway to school vouchers.  Rep. Mike Stewart said it sets “a dangerous precedent” and  will lead to public school money being siphoned off by private for-profit corporations.

CAPS ON HOPE SCHOLARSHIP HOURS: With the cost of tuition increasing at Tennessee colleges and universities, the legislature decided to cut funding for student scholarships. The cap on the 120 hours paid for by the lottery scholarship has students and parents worried about how to pay for degrees that go over the limit.

LAVISH RAISES. Gov. Bill Haslam made cuts to important health programs while handing out more than $250,000 worth of raises to his top cronies, all of whom already made six-figure salaries. One commissioner even got a 32% raise — in his first week on the job!

LT. GOV. RAMSEY GAVE SECRET PAY RAISES TO STAFFERS, TOO: Not to be outdone by Gov. Haslam, Channel 4 News discovered that Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey approved pay increases for 18 senate staffers at the same time salaries were frozen for the other 42,825 state employees.

Channel 4 News: They just got it because Ramsey felt they deserved it. “There’s nothing wrong with that — nothing,” said Ramsey. [Channel 4 News,5/23/11]

WINED & DINED BY LOBBYISTS AT $500,000 WORTH OF PARTIES: Special interest groups spent at least $519,000 this year wining and dining state lawmakers. Last year, even though the legislative session was longer, only $390,000 was spent.

The view of Sen. Andy Berke:

“Special interests play an outsized role in our government and especially in our legislature… It’s difficult not to look at what goes on in the legislature and worry about the individual citizen having his proper say, also.”

TRIED TO CUT TAXES FOR WEALTHY FRIENDS: Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey filed a bill that would have gave his millionaire friend and campaign donor a $270,000 property tax break on high-end real estate in Rutherford County. [The Daily News Journal, 4/10/2011]

USED TAX DOLLARS TO BUILD ROADS FOR SPECIAL FRIENDS: Days into office, Gov. Haslam brokered a backroom deal to have the Tennessee Department of Transportation build a private road to a well-heeled Republican business owner. Seeing it as a waste of taxpayer money to build a road for the benefit of a single business, Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen refused to pay for the road for six years. [KnoxNews.com, 4/3/11]

PROTECTED PREJUDICE: The GOP gave into the radical right-wing of its party, bowing to demands to overturn Metro-Nashville Council’s CANDO ordinance that required businesses with city contracts to employ non-discrimination hiring policies. Major businesses, such as Nissan and FedEx, criticized Republicans for their overreach, stating that their companies are committed to equal rights and protections for all Tennesseans. Furthermore, the Senate passed Stacey Campfield’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill which, as originally introduced, would make it illegal for teachers to even mention homosexuality before the 9th grade, even if to address bullying at the school. [WPLN, 5/24/11]

ATTACKS ON VICTIMS: By setting an arbitrary cap on the damages a citizen jury can award, Republicans put a price of $29 a day on the lives of victims who suffer horrific injuries at the hands of reckless corporations or medical malpractice.

Tennesseans are not interested in protecting reckless corporations from the damage they do, they want to protect the rights of victims and hold corporations responsible for their actions.

Caps on jury awards was Haslam’s pet project — perhaps because his multi-million dollar business is tied up in a lawsuit stemming from a citizen being killed at a Pilot gas station owned by the governor. [WSMV.com, 3/2/11]

ATTACKS ON WOMEN’S PRIVACY: If the constitutional amendment Senate Joint Resolution 127 is approved by voter referendum in 2014, Tennessee’s constitution would no longer protect a woman’s right to an abortion — even in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother.

ATTACKS ON WOMEN’S HEALTH: In a partisan witch hunt Republicans defunded Planned Parenthood in Tennessee. The callous decision will cut more than $1 million worth of funding that provides medical exams, cancer screenings, tests and treatment for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, family planning, counseling and birth-control services for more than 5,000 residents every year.

ATTACKS ON THE OUTDOORS: Republicans killed common-sense legislation that would outlaw the destructive practice of mountaintop removal in Tennessee and preserve our scenic vistas, the water we drink, and the air we breath for generations to come.

ATTACKS ON RELIGION: In an affront to the American principal of religious tolerance, Sen. Bill Ketron’s “anti-terrorism bill,” originally outlawed some practices of Islam and sparked demonstrations by Tennessee Muslims. The bill was amended twice — once to delete any references to religion and then again to merely restate what’s already in federal law.

ATTACKS ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT: In a move that would seem to contradict their constant calls for limited government, Republicans expanded government control over cities by blocking the Memphis City Schools-Shelby County Schools merger that was passed overwhelmingly by a voter referendum and overturned Metro-Nashville Council’s CANDO ordinance that required businesses with city contracts to employ non-discrimination hiring policies.

ATTACKS ON ACCOUNTABLE ELECTIONS: House Bill 386 gutted the Voter Confidence Act, a law that was passed with broad bipartisan support to protect the integrity of our electoral process. The Voter Confidence Act made it mandatory for county election commissions to use voting machines that produce a verifiable paper trail in case of a recount.

ATTACKS ON FREE ELECTIONS: Republicans reduced the number of days in early voting and passed a photo ID requirement that has been called an unconstitutional “poll tax.” The photo ID requirement will make it harder for seniors, students and those who don’t drive to exercise their voting right.

ATTACKS ON FAIR ELECTIONS: On the same day the Senate passed a bill to allow corporations to donate to individual candidates, it banned the Tennessee Education Association from collecting political dues. Corporations were given more of a voice while teachers were silenced. Loud and clear, Republicans said: “Corporations deserve a bigger say in Tennessee elections than people.” Tennessee will now have contribution limits among the highest of any state.

NEXT YEAR

Haslam and Republican leaders have nearly eight months until the 107th General Assembly reconvenes in January to conspire new ways to put special interests before the interest of Tennesseans.

Rep. Mike Stewart on the upcoming legislative session in 2012:

“A lot of this stuff was just pushed off to next year. There’s no chance that we won’t be back arguing about guns on college campuses, anti-union measures again next year.”

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey confirmed our worst fears:

“Tennessee Republicans have talked a lot about what we would do when we took power. Now we are showing what we can do. This year was just an appetizer. Next year, and in the years to come, you will see the main course.”

RADICAL LEGISLATION YOU CAN EXPECT TO SEE IN 2012

CLASS SIZE INCREASES: Governor Haslam is already on the record of saying he is in favor of lifting the cap on class sizes. To handle more students, all you need is a “great teacher,” Haslam says. As if Tennessee didn’t already have great teachers.

PRIVATE SCHOOL VOUCHERS: Sen. Brian Kelsey sponsored a bill that failed this year to allow taxpayer money to be spent on private schools (including parochial schools), poaching money away from students in public schools.

GUNS ON CAMPUSES: A bill uniformly opposed by ALL Tennessee universities and university police departments would allow guns to be carried on campuses, potentially putting students at risk.

ARIZONA STYLE IMMIGRATION LAWS: We will likely see a new version of House Bill 1380, which was inspired by the controversial Arizona law. The law would give state and local law enforcement officers unprecedented authority over our civil rights by allowing an officer to make a determination if you look like an American. The Arizona law has brought on expensive legal battles and cost the state millions of dollars worth of lost tourism.

A TAKE OVER OF MEDICARE: The state Senate voted recently to take the first step toward ending Medicare as we know it in Tennessee by calling for a radical plan called a “health-care compact.” Such a plan would handover Medicare to the state, potentially leading to thousands of seniors losing benefits, being denied coverage, or simply falling through the cracks.