Archive for the ‘statewide’ Category

The Battle Over Insure Tennessee

Saturday, May 30th, 2015

The battle over Insure Tennessee wages on and a series of interesting revelations have been uncovered since Governor Haslam unveiled his Insure Tennessee Plan.

In February, records were provided that showed Republicans voting against Haslam’s Insure Tennessee were themselves on the state health plan, which funds 80 percent of employee premiums. These Senators were Health Committee Chairman Rusty, Mike Bell, Sen. Brian Kelsey, Sen. Frank Niceley, and Sen. Kerry Roberts.

In April, the Tennessean continued its investigation of Insure Tennessee and laid out the financial losses to Tennessee because of Republican political games.

If the Tennessee General Assembly had passed the Insure Tennessee plan to extend insurance coverage to the working poor, about $3.1 million would have been spent daily in Tennessee doctor’s offices, pharmacies and hospitals.

Instead, today, thousands of sick Tennesseans do without care or visit emergency rooms at the expense to Tennessee taxpayers. To date, an estimated 800 Tennesseans have died awaiting Health Care Coverage since Tennessee was eligible for ObamaCare coverage.

The Insure Tennessee plan proposed by Haslam, and rejected by a fearful legislature with virtually no debate, would have been one of the best economic stimulus programs for small towns and rural communities in this state.

A University of Tennessee Center for Business and Economic Research study released in January “estimated that the average person who enrolled in Insure Tennessee would “spend” about $5,700 each year on health care and that 200,000 Tennesseans would enroll in the various plans proposed by the governor to help the working poor who make too much for Medicaid insurance and not enough to qualify for the subsidies offered on the federal health insurance exchange”.

The study also projected that expanded insurance coverage would bring about $1.14 billion of spending into the state from the federal funds earmarked for Medicaid expansion when Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.

The spending generated from Insure Tennessee would create an economic boom, creating or maintaining about 15,000 jobs, mostly in our rural counties, where the bulk of those eligible live. The $1.14 billion would mostly flow into the paychecks of Tennesseans, adding over $900 million to their income.

Most of that $900 million would be spent in local businesses. And so on … get the picture. Obviously, Republican hatred of President Obama trumped any chances of economic boom for Tennessee. Their fear of being primaried by fellow wing-nuts also trumped economic benefit to Tennessee.

The opposite of an economic boom is what our legislator’s want, a vicious cycle of delaying health care until it becomes a crisis, or an act of charity, and/or paid for by the rest of us. The decision of our legislature has created a living on the edge mentality where financial disaster and ruin, for many, is a simple accident away from destroying a Tennessee family.

It is hard to recall a time when the General Assembly has so ignored the wishes of a business and Tennesseans. A recent Vanderbilt poll showed two out three Tennesseans want/support Insure Tennessee.

Early this month the Tennessee Legislature got excited when the Tennessean exposed the fact that many of the same folks who voted to deny poor Tennesseans health care coverage, are covered by health care, on the backs of Tennessee taxpayers.

Taxpayers have paid almost 6 million for health care for these hypocrites since 2008. Several lawmakers tried to stop the release of how much money the state spends on their individual health premiums. They argued the release of the information would violate privacy laws.
While Republicans have fought to keep expenditures on their health care private, Democrats have been supportive of the release.

“It is the ultimate in hypocrisy,” said state Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus who is enrolled in the health plan. “To refuse to provide for the working poor of Tennessee, while trying to keep the insurance benefits they receive a secret illustrates their [Republicans] contempt for Tennesseans.”

PREMIUM COSTS

Lawmaker – Years on Plan – Lawmakers Contribution – Taxpayer Contribution
Sen. Rusty Crowe – 1992-2015 – $48,162.32 – $202,730.79
Rep. Beth Harwell – 1992-2015 – $49,242.94 – $198,134.99
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey – 1993-2015 – $44,924.74 – $187,796.77

NOTE: Records only go back to 1992. They may have received coverage for a longer period.

As revelations related to Insure Tennessee have been unveiled, activists across the state have taken action to pressure legislatures to support Insure Tennessee. In NETN, activists have purchased ½ page ads in various area newspapers designed to put pressure on Rusty Crowe and Ron Ramsey. This same group of activists engineered a town hall meeting that focused on Medicaid expansion and Insure Tennessee. Over two hundred folks packed Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City in the Town Hall meeting.

The meeting was filled with questions mostly aimed at Rusty Crowe. Why would the legislature vote against a plan that would not cost Tennessee taxpayers a single penny while providing 300,000 Tennesseans with health care? Why don’t working people in Tennessee have health care? Those in attendance hammered Rusty Crowe with those and other questions. Petitions were being signed after the meeting was over.

Tennesseans would prefer their elected representatives act like leaders and support the will of the majority and the best interest for Tennessee. And maybe stand up for what is right; instead of trying to protect their chances in a primary election challenge by a wing-nut. When it comes to the Tennessean legislature doing their job, they prefer to do nothing and blame it on Obama, unless it is one of the wealthy friends or lobbyists who demands special consideration. They will waste a whole week with legislation designed to pander to folks like the NRA.

WILL DARK MONEY HELP TNGOP TURN THE TN SUPREME COUNT INTO A PARTISAN POLITICAL POSITION?

Friday, May 16th, 2014

150px-Business_moneyNow that Tennessee Republicans have captured the executive and legislative branches of state government, they are going after the top tier of the judicial branch — the state Supreme Court.

Their target is three Democratic state Supreme Court justices that will be on the Aug. 7 ballot to be retained or not by voters. Tennesseans are going to be exposed to an advertising campaign blitz by dark money, this summer, telling them to reject the justices.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, will be playing a key role in the political move, to make the Tennessee Supreme Court a partisan affair, in the retention election.

Business leaders, across the state, are interested in this project, as Tennessee Republicans continue to sell out the welfare of middle class Tennesseans and business leaders will be the beneficiaries of this political sell out. This is an orchestrated plan, by Republicans, not to retain the three Democrat Supreme Court judges.”

The three Democratic justices seeking retention are Cornelia Clark from Middle Tennessee and two East Tennessee justices, Chief Justice Gary Wade of Sevierville and Sharon Lee of Madisonville.

In April, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, told the Kingsport Times-News that he will play an “informative role” in the August retention election for three state Supreme Court judges, all Democrats, who will be seeking new eight-year terms.

There’s been much talk about an anti-Supreme campaign and supporters of the three justices are taking it seriously. Five prominent attorneys — Lew Conner, Frank Drowota, Robert Echols, Hal Hardin and Aubrey Harwell sent a letter to fellow lawyers urging attendance at the May 14 fundraiser, two days ago, for the three Supreme Court justices. In the letter, they pointed to “credible information” indicating more than $1 million in out-of-state “dark money” will be spent attacking the judges.

In 2010, control for the Tennessee Legislation was flipped in a landslide victory by Republicans after 2.5 million dollars of “dark money” flooded the last the last two days, basically allowing the Republicans to buy control of the state government.

In 2010, across the United States, State Legislations were bought and sold to the GOP by a flood of “dark money”. The landmark ruling by the activist conservative Supreme Court of the US opened the door to this wholesale selling of elections across the nation when the ruled in favor of Citizens United against the Federal Election Commission.

Will our democracy drown in a sea of “dark money”?

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?

Bill Haslam’s Crusade Against the Middle Class

Saturday, November 9th, 2013

tndp logoBrandon Puttbrese was the Communications Director for the TNDP. Our families should be working their way into the middle class, not falling out of it. Tennesseans used to know that if they worked hard and played by the rules, they’d be able to care of their families, send their kids to college, and have a secure retirement, but today, the rules have been rewritten by lobbyists for the wealthy and well connected.
We have to reclaim security for working families and we can do it by restoring Tennessee values. To make progress for all Tennesseans, we must: put an end to the extremism and corruption in the government; invest in our future by rewarding hard work, expanding quality health care to all Tennesseans; and make sure everyone, from CEOs to working families, does their fair share and plays by the rules.

We’re not going to cut our way to prosperity or build a stronger middle class by giving more tax breaks to big corporations and millionaires. To expand the middle class, we must encourage and support our innovators, educators and builders. We need an economy that creates jobs of the future and rewards all hard-working Tennesseans — not one built on inside deals for well-connected CEOs and risky handouts for big special interests that threaten our entire economy and shortchange working and middle class families.

We need to restore security for the middle class and create an economy that rewards hard-working families. Instead, Bill Haslam has rubberstamped an extreme agenda that doesn’t create jobs and pushed top-down economic policies that pad his own pockets, reward his wealthy friends and damage the middle class.
Haslam’s tax plan will rack up $1 billion worth of massive tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, while he’s made big cuts to children’s services, higher education, health care, public safety and programs that help Tennesseans find work.

Bill Haslam has doubled-down on extreme policies that hurt working and middle class Tennesseans — denying 400,000 citizens fully funded Medicaid coverage, letting big business and lobbyists write their own rules, cutting programs that invest in workers and their families, and eliminating rules and oversight that hold government officials accountable.

Haslam’s anti-public school policies fail our students and threaten our state economy—cutting teacher salaries, over-relying on expensive standardized testing, and diverting funds away from public schools to an out-of-state, for-profit corporation that streams classes on the internet.

Not only did Haslam pass the biggest budget in Tennessee history, Haslam’s corrupt inside dealing outsourced hundreds of Tennessee jobs and directed hundreds of millions worth of state contracts to business partners and wealthy campaign contributors.

Haslam made his fortune at Pilot Oil, where he and his family have made millions from a scheme that preyed on their own customers. Pilot Oil executives have admitted stealing from truck drivers and even targeting honest, hard-working new Americans.

Haslam has rubberstamped an extreme tea party agenda that doesn’t create jobs and, worse yet, harms security working and middle class families; from Haslam’s discriminatory voter ID law and guns in parking lots (even when business owners don’t want them) to defunding Planned Parenthood and eliminating workplace protections for LGBT Tennesseans.
Bill Haslam’s special interest dealing and constant secrecy proves he can’t be trusted. He won’t come clean about his secret relationships with high-powered lobbyists and he’s still hiding his income tax returns because he pays a lower rate than working Tennesseans. If we can’t trust him to be honest about his dealings, how can he be trusted to build a stronger middle class?

WEAKENING MIDDLE CLASS SECURITYRebuilding a fair economy that strengthens the middle class by attracting good American jobs investing in education, and expanding access to affordable health care should be our top priority. But Bill Haslam has a different view. Haslam slashed security for working families, rigged the rules to favor big special interests, and cut programs that strengthen the middle class. Instead of asking everyone to do their fair share, Haslam gave the wealthy and big corporations massive new tax breaks and hopes that job growth will trickle down from the top.

Hurt Working Families to Pad Profits for Corporate Special InterestsIf we’re going to build a fair economy, big corporations and wealthy CEOs have to play by the same rules as working families and the middle class. Bill Haslam and lobbyists have re-written the rules to put profits for special interests ahead of working families.

• Good-paying jobs are key for middle class security, but Haslam has signed multiple laws that drive down the wages of working men and women.

o Haslam eliminated prevailing wage rules on state contracts, which allows wealthy contractors to pad their profits by slashing the wages of workers.

o Haslam repealed local wage ordinances, boosting profits by cutting worker pay back to $7.25 an hour.

• One of Bill Haslam’s signature laws doesn’t put one more Tennessean back on the job, but it does cut payments to workers who get hurt on the job — by a third.

o It’s already difficult to make ends meet when a family member is out of work. Haslam’s new law not only increases bureaucratic red tape and burdens working families, it gives businesses a new financial incentive to fire injured workers.

• In Bill Haslam’s world, special interests don’t have to play by the same rules as the hard-working middle class. Haslam’s cap on damages law shields irresponsible and reckless businesses that injure and kill Tennesseans from being held fully accountable in court.

o By putting a price tag on Tennesseans, the law protects profits for businesses and corporations that harm our families. Haslam signed the measure into law even while his multi-billion dollar company Pilot Flying J faced lawsuits for negligence.

Eliminated Programs that Put Tennesseans Back to Work
With more than a quarter million Tennesseans looking for jobs, we need to build an economy that rewards responsibility and increases opportunity for our families. Bill Haslam’s top-down agenda has boosted profits for his business friends and out-of-state corporations while cutting programs that help hard-working families find jobs. As a result, there are more Tennesseans looking for good jobs today than there was a year ago.

• To date, Bill Haslam has blocked Medicaid expansion, a move that would create 18,000 good-paying jobs and provide a billion dollar boost to Tennessee’s health care economy.

• Instead of bolstering efforts to get Tennesseans back work, Bill Haslam shut down 34 career centers that helped citizens find and apply for jobs. The change in priorities means residents in 34 counties will have to drive elsewhere to get help with creating and posting resumes, skills training and other job-finding services.

• With unemployment rising in the state, the Haslam administration eliminated a rapid-response team that helped workers caught in mass lay-offs prepare for new jobs.

• Haslam fired 71 Economic and Community Development workers who assisted city and county leaders in planning for new growth. The move passed planning expenses onto local taxpayers.

Destabilizing Public Schools, Shortchanging StudentsThere is nothing more important to our economy than educating our children, and that’s not going to happen if we overcrowd our classrooms and divert money away from public schools. Preparing the next generation of leaders and innovators begins at home, but our public schoolteachers play a vital role in equipping our kids with the skills and knowledge they need to compete for the good-paying jobs of tomorrow. Bill Haslam’s top-down privatization agenda threatens our students’ economic future by driving away high-quality teachers and leaving our public schools less secure.

• Bill Haslam’s first education decision put a commissioner with only three years of classroom experience — Kevin Huffman — in charge of a $6 billion education budget.

o This shortsighted experiment has been a costly and abject failure for students. The top-down management style of Haslam’s education commissioner has drawn the ire of school superintendents, educators and parents, crashed morale, and driven away high-quality teachers.

o In September 2013, nearly half of the superintendents in the state signed a letter to Haslam saying educators did not “feel respected or valued” by his administration and that teachers felt “voiceless and powerless.”

• Our kids need great teachers, and we’re not going to recruit and retain those teachers if Haslam’s administration keeps attacking them. In 2011, Haslam signed a law taking away teachers’ right to negotiate together for decent wages and benefits, small class sizes and the kind of things only teachers know about like what works best in the classroom.

o The next year, Haslam proposed increasing classroom sizes — meaning your kids would get less one-on-one time with their teachers.

o While Haslam gave tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, his administration cut teaching salaries and financial incentives for teachers who earn advanced degrees.

o Haslam instituted a flawed teacher evaluation system that scores more than half of educators on the test scores of kids they don’t even teach; Haslam’s new mandates put less focus on student learning and more focus on bureaucratic paperwork.

o Rather than attracting great educators, Haslam’s top-down orders are costing us great teachers. In 2010, the year preceding Bill Haslam and Commissioner Kevin Huffman taking office, 1,524 teachers retired; by 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, 2,197 teachers retired — a stunning 44 percent increase. In 2012, one in five teachers who were eligible for retirement did so, approximately double the rate in 2010.

• Even though a standardized test never taught a child anything, Haslam’s administration has doubled down on high-stakes testing — at a cost of nearly $200 million year. Haslam’s top-down education policies are robbing students of critical thinking and forcing schools to “teach to the test.” Too many of our tax dollars are going to investors when they should be spent on students.

• Bill Haslam put corporate profits ahead of our children’s education. Instead of investing in small class sizes or expanding pre-K, Haslam diverted millions of tax dollars from public schools to a for-profit corporation that streams lessons to students over the internet.

o Last year students enrolled in Haslam’s for-profit school showed less growth than students in every other public school in the state.

o Haslam’s for-profit school scheme has failed students two years in a row. News reporters even caught the company deleting the bad test grades of students.

o Haslam’s own education commissioner called the for-profit school’s performance “unacceptable.” But instead of holding the for-profit school accountable for failing students, Haslam signed a new law protecting their multi-million dollar contract.
• When we should be strengthening public schools, Bill Haslam has proposed privatization schemes — like private school vouchers — that divert money away from public schools and have failed to deliver on the results that were promised wherever they were tried.

• Bill Haslam punished students by cutting $3.4 million from Nashville schools because the elected school board refused the application of a well-connected charter school. In retaliation, his administration then supported efforts to strip local school boards of the authority to approve charter school applications.

• On top of diverting money from public schools and undermining the educators who are shaping our students, Haslam’s top-down approach ignores the harsh realities facing Tennessee families:

o We will improve education by improving the lives of children. One out of four children in Tennessee live in poverty and Haslam signed a law to cut benefits for the children of Tennesseans who are out of work.

o More than 40 percent of expecting mothers in Tennessee don’t receive adequate pre-natal care. And while healthy mothers raise healthy children, Haslam has blocked funding to expand Medicaid, which could extend quality health coverage to 191,000 women in Tennessee.

• If Tennessee is going to win the good-paying jobs of the future and strengthen our economy, we must increase graduation rates at our colleges and community colleges. Unfortunately, Haslam’s plans are putting a good education out of reach thousands of Tennesseans.
o Under Bill Haslam, tuition rates have increased on working and middle class families in Tennessee every year, saddling students with more debt that hurts our economy.

o While tuition rates in Tennessee are increasing faster than most of the country, Haslam has slashed funding for higher education.

o Instead of investing in Tennessee colleges or in students by lowering tuition costs, Bill Haslam spent $5 million to advertise for an out-of-state, online college.

Blocking Health Care Security
Instead of working to strengthen Medicaid and improve access to affordable health care for all families, Bill Haslam has cut funding for important health care programs. Access to affordable, quality health care is key to building a stronger middle class, but Bill Haslam has made it harder for Tennessee families to get the care they need.

• Haslam opposed the Affordable Care Act and has blocked federal funds to expand Medicaid, an expansion that could extend quality health coverage to more than 330,000 working Tennesseans and invest billions in Tennessee’s economy.
o If Haslam continues blocking Medicaid expansion, more Tennesseans will die because they lack health coverage. Studies show Medicaid expansion would save lives; health coverage especially helps poor women and children in rural counties, the elderly, and black Tennesseans.

o Bill Haslam’s decision to deny working families Medicaid coverage has already caused hospitals to shut down programs and fire thousands of workers, which has costs our economy millions. Haslam’s continued indifference puts more than 50 hospitals at risk of closing, a shameful scenario that threatens to make health care less accessible to the rural families who need it.

o Haslam’s inaction on Medicaid is punishing the poor. 161,000 Tennesseans in working poor families who would qualify for Medicaid coverage will have nowhere to turn but emergency rooms, which hurts our hospitals and our economy.

• After spending $10 million of taxpayer money to study health exchanges, Bill Haslam evaded his responsibility to Tennesseans when he decided against building a locally operated health insurance marketplace that would help our families get insured.

• Instead of working to solve health care problems facing Tennesseans, Haslam opposed the Affordable Care Act and would:
o allow insurance companies to deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition, putting as many as 2.8 million Tennesseans at risk;

o re-institute lifetime caps on coverage, meaning those with long-term and life threatening illnesses may be cut off from their coverage;

o take away free preventive health care screenings like mammograms for women;

o no longer allow young people to stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26;
o charge women up to 50 percent more for their coverage than men.

• As governor, Haslam cut funding for a program to aid Tennesseans with disabilities.

Slashing the Safety Net for Seniors
Tennesseans who’ve worked their whole lives deserve dignity in their golden years — they’ve earned it, and they deserve it. But to pay for his massive tax giveaways for corporations and the wealthy, Haslam slashed vital programs that Tennessee seniors rely on for a secure retirement.

• Bill Haslam cut millions from in-home care for seniors, forcing elderly Tennesseans out of the home they have lived in for years and into nursing homes.

• Haslam supports repealing the health reform law that has strengthened Medicare and saved Tennessee seniors $109 million on life-saving prescription drugs.

TENNESSEE REACTIONARY AND RADICAL REPUBLICAN LEGISLATION

Friday, April 19th, 2013

The following critique of the Tennessee Republican “Radical Agenda” Legislation was written as a response to examples of National Republican wing-nut laws that will be used by Democrats against Republicans. The following is a close critique of the TNGOP wing-nut legislation by TNDP Chair, Roy Herron.

So, what about Tennessee?

If the national media thinks the above controversial bills

could impact races,

what if they look at what has been happening in Tennessee?

And if voters are disturbed over some of these proposals,

what if we communicate clearly

what the Republicans have been doing in Tennessee?

Here is a quick and only very partial list

of some of the Reactionary and Radical Republican legislation

in Tennessee in recent months.

WAR ON WOMEN.

1. FORCING CHILD RAPE VICTIMS TO BEAR RAPISTS’ CHILDREN. SJR 127, which already has been approved by the Republicans and goes before the voters in 2014, would remove any state constitutional protection for any woman, including child rape victims, allowing these Reactionary and Radical Republicans to force all victims to bear the rapists’ children.

2. FORCING WOMEN WHOSE LIVES ARE ENDANGERED TO DIE. SJR 127 also would remove any state constitutional protection for a woman to choose to end a pregnancy. The Republicans voted down an amendment that would have at least let women whose very lives are endangered to save their own lives.

3. FORCING VICTIMS TO WATCH ULTRASOUNDS. The Republicans have legislation, which they say they are going to delay a bit, which would force women to watch ultrasounds and/or to listen to a doctor describe the ultrasound before ending a pregnancy, no matter the circumstances or need.

4. VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. Tennessee’s Republican Congressional Delegation, every Republican, voted “no” on the Violence Against Women Act.

5. WHAT ELSE?

WAR ON WORKERS.

1. HURTING INJURED WORKERS. The Republicans are passing legislation that will drastically slash and in many instances end compensation to injured workers. Another example of their “hurting the hurting.”

2. REFUSING MEDICAID FUNDS AND LEAVING 300,000 TENNESSEANS WITHOUT HEALTH CARE. The Republicans have refused to expand Medicaid, refused to accept billions in federal funds, leaving 300,000 workers and members of working families without health insurance and without health care. Make no mistake: it is the working people who are hurt by this. The politicians and the prisoners, the lawmakers and the law-breakers, have government health care. But the Reactionary and Radical Republicans refuse to let working people have what they have. Eight or so other states with Republican governors have opted to take the federal funds, but our Radical Republicans would rather Tennesseans have to pay for those states and other states to care for their citizens at our expense.

3. DENYING A LIVING WAGE. The Republicans are outlawing and preempting cities like Nashville and Memphis from joining many other cities and states that require a minimum wage above $7.25 an hour.

4. WHAT ELSE?

WAR ON CHILDREN.

1. STARVE THE CHILDREN. Legislation that would slash already minimal support ($185 for a mother with two little ones) for impoverished single parent or no-parent families if children do poorly in school continues to move forward. This “Starve the Children” bill has drawn national attention and would be another instance of Tennessee “leading” the country—in the wrong direction. The legislation is the brain child and the only child of a 44-year-old bachelor.

2. STARVE THE SCHOOLS. Legislation to take funds from public schools and give the tax dollars to private schools, including segregation academies and sectarian schools, this week may have been stopped for this year. Why? Because of strong Democratic opposition and because the out-of-state companies and entities pushing this may have over-played their hand for now by getting even greedier than some Republicans could stomach.

3. STEAL FROM THE SCHOOLS. A company with a major investor who stole millions on Wall Street and went to prison now is stealing millions from Tennessee taxpayers, thanks to a Republican law that gives our tax dollars to K-12, Inc., a “virtual school” company that takes our money but fails to educate our children.

4. ATTACKING OUR CHILDREN’S TEACHERS. The Radical Republicans have attacked our children’s teachers in a host of ways, including taking away their rights to representation in seeking better schools and conditions for the children. When they hurt our children’s teachers, they hurt our children.

5. CHARTERS GONE WILD. The Radical Republicans want to over-ride local school boards and have an ideologically-driven, politically-appointed board or band of Republicans order that local governments turn over tax dollars to out-of-state, for-profit companies who come with their hands out to profit from Tennessee’s taxpayers at the expense of our children.

6. WHAT ELSE?

WAR ON DEMOCRACY.

1-5. MAKING IT HARDER TO VOTE. The Republicans already have made it harder for People to vote by:

1. BIG GOVERNMENT IDENTICATION CARDS. New restrictions requiring big government ID cards.

2. LESS EARLY VOTING. Cutting back days to early vote.

3. FEWER VOTING LOCATIONS. Cutting back voting locations.

4. PURGING VOTERS. Purging law-abiding citizens from voting rolls (e.g., Rep. Lincoln Davis and Rep. Butch Borchert’s wife).

5. YOUR VOTES MAY NOT BE COUNTED. Even doing away with paper verification so you don’t know if your vote is counted.

6. APRIL FOOLISH: REPEALING THE 17TH AMENDMENT AND STEAING THE PEOPLE’S RIGHT TO VOTE. On April 1st, the Senate was about to play an April Fool’s Joke and take away Tennesseans’ right to vote for our nominees to run for the U.S. Senate. This was also the 100th anniversary of Tennessee ratifying the 17th Amendment that gave us the right to elect our U.S. Senators.

Democrats believe that the People should pick the Politicians, instead of the Politicians picking each other. But now the Radical Republicans want to steal the People’s right to vote to nominate our United States Senators.

Senate Bill 471/House Bill 415 came flying out of a Senate Committee on a 7-1 vote and is endorsed and supported by the Republican Speaker of the Senate. It was about to fly through the Senate until we Democrats fought back and demanded to be taken out of the bill. We think we will ultimately prevail, but the bill is not yet dead. In the words of Speaker Lois DeBerry, “You can’t make this stuff up.”

7. WHAT ELSE?

CONCLUSION.

The Reactionary and Radical Republicans

want to take us back a couple of centuries,

to the 1800s when the legislature picked our senators

until corruption and the people finally ended the practice

by Constitutional Amendment in 1913.

This is consistent with the legislation they passed

(with every Republican voting for it)

urging Congress to reject the Constitutional understandings

of the Supreme Court during the middle part of the last century

and to adopt those misunderstandings from the twenties—

citing two cases from the twenties, the eighteen-twenties (1820s).

(And no, I am not making this up.)

These Reactionary Republicans want to go back to a time

when African-Americans were property

and Women could not own property,

when Workers had few rights

and Children had none.

Now we know what Reactionary and Radical Republicans mean

when they claim to be for smaller government:

they want to take power away from the People

and let a small number of Republican politicians grab the power.

They want to make the government smaller

by taking the people’s tax dollars

and giving them away to their friends.

These are some of the worst bills and laws of recent months.

But I bet you also have some favorites.

Please share them.

And then let’s use the worst bills to let Tennesseans know what is happening to them.

And to elect Tennessee Democrats who will do right by the People.

Roy B. Herron, Chair

Tennessee Democratic Party

1900 Church Street, Suite 203

Nashville, TN 37203

roy@tndp.org

O 615.327.9779

F 615.891.7453

www.tndp.org

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.

Voter Suppression in Unicoi County?

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Since the 2010 elections, voting rights have been under attack in this country as Republican state legislatures pass voter suppression laws designed to prevent Democratic leaning voters from voting.

During the 2011 legislative sessions, twenty-one states across the country passed laws to make it harder for Americans – particularly African-Americans, the elderly, students and people with disabilities – to exercise their fundamental right to cast a vote. Studies show that up to 11 percent of American citizens lack such ID.

The measures passed have resulted in voter rosters being purged at alarming rates, dumping large numbers of voters off the rosters and recently purging voting histories as well.

Voter histories are important because the lack of a voting history leads to voter purges. Tennessee law (Tenn. Code Ann. § 2-2-106) grants local county election commissions the legal authority to purge voters from the rolls who have not voted in the past two federal elections. In many incidences, voters are unaware of this although law requires notification.

Many election commissioners have routinely “purged” voters’ names from voter registration rosters after those voters failed to participate in at least two federal elections in a four year period. Such purging, when done without bias and legitimately, usually results in reducing the roster size by 1 percent to 3 percent.

In Tennessee there has been a great deal of attention given to the mysterious disappearance of voting histories for 488 registered voters in Shelby County, but an analysis of two recent statewide voter files provided by state election officials paints an even more troubling picture.

In November 2010, there were 602, 647 registered voters in Shelby. Now there are 431,054 registered voters – a drop of 171, 593 voters or a 28.5 percent decrease in eighteen months.

An internal analysis conducted by the Tennessee Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee’s voter protection team has found that more than 11,000 voters across the state in Tennessee, who are still active on the voter file, have had parts of their voting history disappear. Ninety-two people in Unicoi County have had voting history disappear.

Left unaddressed, these mistakes, whether intentional or not, could endanger the right to vote for thousands of law-abiding Tennesseans. Nationally this problem will endanger registered voters rights to cast a vote.

Free and fair elections are the lifeblood of a democracy. Since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, all courts, regardless of ideological beliefs, have frowned upon states and municipalities that erect barriers to free and transparent voting procedures. Voting is a fundamental right, not a privilege. Across Tennessee and America, the right to cast a ballot is under attack and this is a clear attack on our Constitution. Maybe instead of sending Americans to monitor other countries elections, we need to put them at work at home.

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.

The Road to Re-election of OBAMA

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

In September, President Obama will be in Charlotte, North Carolina accepting the nomination for his second term as President of our United States.

Delegates will be Tennessee’s voice at the convention, stand on the convention floor as national Democratic leaders deliver their vision for our country and vote to nominate President Barack Obama for re-election.

This past Saturday, the first step of delegate selection was completed at the District Democratic Conventions across Tennessee where district delegates were elected. This Saturday on March 14th the trip to Charlotte continues as the TNDP Executive Committee elects delegates at large. On this day the full Tennessee delegation selection will be complete.

The day of celebration will end as Tennessee Democrats celebrates Jackson Day in Nashville, TN. Join the Tennessee celebration as we celebrate our history and our future.

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.