Archive for the ‘News Round Up’ Category

John Seigenthaler to Speak at TNDP Jackson Day Dinner

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

 

John SeigenthalerIt is my privilege to tell you that the legendary John Seigenthaler will be joining us Oct. 1 at our Jackson Day Dinner in Nashville at the Bicentennial Mall.

Click here to get your tickets today to our Jackson Day Dinner on October 1st.

As you may have heard, the Tennessee Democratic Party is paying tribute to Governor Ned Ray McWherter at this year’s Jackson Day Dinner. Gov. McWherter was a determined and dedicated Democratic leader who went to work for Tennesseans, expanding opportunity through investments in schools, health care and jobs.

Seigenthaler was a personal friend of the governor and we are thrilled to have him speak during our Jackson Day tribute to Ned McWherter.

Will you join us at Jackson Day? Click here to get your tickets! The deadline to reserve table seating is NOON, Friday, September 23.

In his lifetime of progressive work, Seigenthaler has served as an assistant to Robert F. Kennedy, aided the Freedom Riders in Montgomery, Ala. and was the longtime editor of The Tennessean until his retirement in 1991. That same year, he founded the First Amendment Center with the mission of creating national discussion, dialogue and debate about First Amendment rights and values.

Like McWherter, John Seigenthaler is a true Tennessee treasure.

Our Jackson Day Dinner is a celebration of who we are as Democrats—especially this year as we salute one of our state’s greatest home-grown Democrats, Ned McWherter. As a valuable part of the Tennessee Democratic Party, we hope you can attend.

Please join us October 1st at Bicentennial Mall for Jackson Day 2011.

Sincerely,

Chip Forrester

Chairman, Tennessee Democratic Party

House, Senate Dems announce statewide jobs tour Sept. 19-24

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Tennessee’s House and Senate Democratic Caucuses announced Wednesday that their members will embark on a six-day tour across the state Sept. 19-24 to talk to business owners, local officials and the public about how to best grow jobs in Tennessee. 

“Across the country and here in Tennessee, we are stuck in a jobs crisis, and it’s going to take everyone working together to get us out of it,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “Jobs are the number one priority for Tennesseans, and they also must be the top priority for their elected officials.”

Members will begin the tour Monday, Sept. 19, in Memphis, with stops throughout rural and urban areas across the state (see schedule below). The tour will end Saturday, Sept. 24, in Putnam and Smith Counties.

The unemployment rate in Tennessee currently sits at 9.8 percent, meaning more than 306,000 Tennesseans are looking for jobs and can’t find one. County unemployment rates are as high as 19.8 percent.

“People want their lawmakers to do something to combat the unemployment crisis, especially in rural areas that have been hit the hardest,” said State Senator Eric Stewart. “There’s a lot we can learn from going out there and listening to the people who are creating jobs, as well as the people who are looking for jobs.”

The tour will include several discussions and events open to the public, as well as daily press briefings and updates through traditional and social media. Members participating on the tour have pledged to use the feedback they receive on the tour to draft legislation directly addressing job growth throughout the state.

“The tour is our opportunity to listen, gather ideas and make decisions on what we can do as a state legislature to promote jobs in Tennessee,” Fitzhugh said. “We hope it will mark the beginning of a sustained focus on jobs and economic growth from all of our elected officials as we enter the next legislative session.”

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Day 1 (Monday, Sept. 19): Corporate Partnerships Day (Shelby & Haywood) 

  • 8 a.m. Kickoff at the University of Memphis with Corporate Jobs Roundtable
  • 1 p.m. Tour of West Tennessee Megasite with Mayor Franklin Smith
  • 2 p.m. Tour of West Tennessee Solar Farm with Mayor Franklin Smith

Day 2 (Tuesday, Sept. 20): Small Business Day (Madison & Weakley)

  • 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. Drop-ins at small businesses in Madison County
  • Noon – 2 p.m. Drop-ins at small businesses in Weakley County

Day 3 (Wednesday, Sept. 21): Technical Jobs Day (Rutherford & Maury)

  • Morning: Tour of Nissan LEAF Plant in Rutherford County
  • Noon – 2 p.m. Technical Jobs Roundtable at Columbia State Community College
  • 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. Drop-ins at Maury County small businesses

Day 4 (Thursday, Sept. 22): Green Jobs Day (Warren & Hamilton)

  • 7 a.m. Breakfast at Tennessee State University Nursery Research Center in McMinnville
  • 8 a.m. Meet with nurserymen and tour Otis Floyd Research Center
  • Noon: Tour of Chattanooga State Community College
  • 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. Tour new energy businesses in Chattanooga

Day 5 (Friday, Sept. 23): Research/Education Jobs Day (Knox)

  • 8 a.m. Breakfast with Councilmember Brenda Palmer and small business owners
  • 10 a.m. Business Round Table at the Chamber of Commerce
  • Noon – 2 p.m. Drop-ins at small businesses in Knox County
  • 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. Meet w/Piper Communications to discuss growing the clean energy sector

Day 6 (Saturday, Sept. 24): Ecotourism Jobs Day (Putnam & Smith)

  • 8 a.m. Breakfast at Dipsy Doodle in Putnam County
  • 10 a.m. – Noon: Drop-ins at small businesses in Cookeville
  • 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. Tour of Catesa Farms in Smith County

 

Tennessee Democratic Caucus: House, Senate Dems announce statewide jobs tour.

Are Republicans Trying to Sabotage the Economy?

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Bob Corker, Lamar Alexander, Phil Roe, Jimmy Duncan, Chuck Fleischmann, Scott DesJarlais, Diane Black, Marsha Blackburn, and Stephen Fincher need to stop playing politics with our nation’s economy.

From the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee:

It sure looks like Republicans are trying to sabotage the economy for political gain. You might think that sounds like a tin foil hat conspiracy theory until you consider this: Republicans are now opposing measures to boost the economy that they previously have supported. Even TAX CUTS.

Here’s what Sen. Chuck Schumer said Wednesday about Republican opposition to a payroll tax cut to boost hiring:

“It’s pro-business, it’s a tax cut, and many Republicans have been for it in the past. But now all of a sudden they’re coming out against it. … Would Republicans really oppose a tax cut for business that created jobs? This is sort of beyond the pale. So if they’d oppose even something so suited to their tastes ideologically, it shows that they’re just opposing anything that would help create jobs. It almost makes you wonder if they aren’t trying to slow down the economic recovery for political gain.”

Why would Republicans do such a thing? Because they’re more interested in getting re-elected – and getting President Obama out of the White House – than they are in helping the economy get moving again. They’re more interested in their jobs than your jobs. It’s that simple. And we’re calling them out.

With unemployment rising in Tennessee, now is not the time to put party before country. Our lawmakers should stand up for working people and our state’s middle class by supporting common sense tax relief to grow our economy.

Money Buys Access, Access is Power

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

The Branches of Government

Political reporters this weekend reported on the overwhelming influence of money in state politics.

Long story short: with Republicans in charge, there’s more money — from rich and powerful interests — in state politics than ever before.

And with the new GOP rules that raise contribution limits and allow direct donations from businesses, the influence of special interest groups — not hard-working citizens who can’t afford lobbyists — is only going to increase.

“Lobbyists had busy year in Nashville,” Times Free Press:

Special interests this year spent millions of dollars seeking to influence the Tennessee General Assembly on issues ranging from a proposed cap on personal injury lawsuit awards to letting grocery stores sell wine, records show.

Fights in these and other areas, including education policy and telecommunications competition, often played out not only in committee rooms and on the House and Senate floor but behind the scenes in lawmakers’ offices, legislative corridors and sometimes lavish receptions for lawmakers.

Groups also spent money in more public ways with studies, telemarketing campaigns and advertising aimed at encouraging the public to pressure legislators.

In the view of Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga: “Special interests play an outsized role in our government and especially in our legislature.”

Obviously, what we do affects wholesale industries, but it’s difficult not to look at what goes on in the legislature and worry about the individual citizen having his proper say, also,” Berke said.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, countered that lobbyists represent Tennesseans who don’t have time to come to the legislature every day.

It’s good for anyone to get their story in front of the legislators, especially the legislators that aren’t necessarily familiar with the issue. In that way, I think just anyone coming to see you would be helpful to their cause,” McCormick said.

Moreover, he said, “We can’t stop people from lobbying. I think the First Amendment makes it clear that people can come lobby, so we have set up a system where they have to at least report who’s paying them.

Nearly $520,000 was spent in total. That’s according to filings on the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance website. But it was only a fraction of lobbying costs. The reporting period came seven weeks before the May 21 end of the legislative session, so many totals will be higher.

Other lobby disclosures reveal scrambling by Amazon.com to fend off lawmakers and retailers who hoped to force it to collect state sales taxes at distribution centers it is building in Chattanooga and Bradley County.

Amazon increased its lobbying staff from one to 10, records show.

AT AN ADVANTAGE

Dick Williams with the watchdog group Tennessee Common Cause, said that when combined with campaign contributions, groups that lobby at the Capitol have an advantage.

Businesses, in particular, benefit, he said.

It just flies in the face that lobbying and contributions don’t influence legislation,” Williams said. Companies “want to get results that directly affect their bottom line.”

“$519,000 Used To Entertain State Lawmakers,” WSMV:

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.

You’ve got a lot of new legislators that special interests or lobbying groups want to ‘educate’ to their issues,” said Dick Williams of Common Cause of Tennessee, a voter watchdog group.

The five of the most expensive events were:

  • The Farm Bureau spent more than $23,000 on a luncheon
  • AT&T shelled out $22,000 for a reception
  • The Hospital Association spent $18,000
  • The School Board Association
  • The Chamber of Commerce reported events costing $17,000.

AT&T had a bill opposed by small phone companies up in the Legislature. The hospital association was a big backer of capping lawsuit damages. The School Board Association was the force behind this year’s most controversial issue: ending collective bargaining for teachers.

“Corporations and for-profit companies don’t spend that kind of money on something they don’t feel is going to bring them some return either financial or otherwise,” said Williams.

“Interest groups wined, dined TN lawmakers,” The Tennessean:

Special interest groups and lobbyists, ranging from the Tennessee Concrete Association to the Tennessee Bar Association, hosted 75 events, according to reports filed with the Tennessee Ethics Commission.

“We’re always dealing with concentrated benefits and distributed costs,” said community activist and tea party leader Ben Cunningham. “That’s the reality of government. Everybody pays for it, and in many cases the recipients of government largess are small groups, small corporations … who can justify spending huge amounts of money on attaining special favors. That’s the nature of the beast.”

Money buys access

Cunningham said the average citizen has a difficult time getting the attention of his state senator or representative the way special interest groups can with expensive events.

“Money means access, and access means power,” Cunningham said. “That is very much true in politics today. It’s probably going to continue to be true, unfortunately.”

Other expensive events were held by corporations including AT&T, which hosted a reception with an open bar and hors d’oeuvres, at a cost of $22,406.39.

RELATED ARTICLES

Chattanooga Times Free Press Rails Against Bank Influence. “It’s pretty obvious that the Republican-dominated Tennessee General Assembly puts the interests of banks ahead of those of the average Tennessean. Why else would legislators be in such a rush to approve a law that would significantly reduce the advance warning home-owners receive before their property is foreclosed? The only plausible explanation is that legislators are far more willing to do the bidding of the well-heeled bankers and their lobbyists than to properly serve and protect those who elected them to office. [“Foreclosure bill is bad law,” Chattanooga Times Free Press Editorial Board, 5/13/11]

Gov. Bill Haslam Hosts GOP Fundraiser During Legislative Session. The lavish soirée was held March 31 at the governor’s mansion in the “the party room.” Tickets ranged from $3,000 to $25,000. [Humphrey on the Hill, May 23, 2011]

Haslam Flaunts Fundraising Ethics Rules. State law bans fundraising by legislators while the General Assembly is in session. It was passed years ago to address public perceptions that lawmakers were “shaking down” special interests with business being considered by the legislature. [Chattanooga Times Free Press, 3/22/11]

Haslam’s move on economic development abandons past success

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

By State Sen. Lowe Finney

State Sen. Finney

State Sen. Lowe Finney

Gov. Bill Haslam’s announcement concerning the restructuring of the Department of Economic and Community Development came as a surprise to both of us, as well as to our constituents. The department is generally recognized as one of the best in the country, and Tennessee has repeatedly been named one of the top places in the nation for businesses, entrepreneurs and relocations. Now, Gov. Haslam indicates that his changes will make Tennessee the best place in the Southeast for jobs. We fear he is lowering the bar to claim success.

When Governor Phil Bredesen took office in 2003, one of the biggest criticisms of the previous administration was its inability to attract jobs from outside the state. So Gov. Bredesen focused on leveling the playing field for businesses to invest in Tennessee, no matter where they were from. As a result, the department brought in 200,000 jobs and more than $34 billion in economic investment. It is directly responsible for luring Volkswagen, Hemlock, Nissan, Wacker Chemie, Electrolux, Bridgestone and numerous other businesses to Tennessee. In a recession, Tennessee was creating jobs and attracting companies. As the national economy recovers, one would expect such efforts to reap even greater rewards.

But Gov. Haslam says that he can do better at growing jobs by cutting positions and focusing on in-state businesses, rather than attracting businesses from across the country to Tennessee. He has every right to do so, and we are cautiously optimistic that his plan will create jobs across the state. To be fair, however, we must note that Gov. Haslam is talking about focusing on the very companies that Gov. Bredesen attracted. Now, the governor is saying that if such opportunities present themselves in the future, he will not make it a priority to attract them to Tennessee. It’s the wrong message to send.

Our unemployment rate remains stagnant while the national rate declines. The administration just celebrated its first 100 days in office — yet if you lost your job on the day Gov. Haslam won his election, your unemployment benefits expired this week. There is no time for celebration. We should be doing everything we can to grow jobs in Tennessee, through a combination of working with established companies while continuing to convince new businesses to relocate here. Instead, the governor is cutting 71 positions, more than half of whom are community planners who typically assist communities in developing long-term economic plans. These services are invaluable in rural areas we serve, many of which have double-digit unemployment rates.

Gov. Haslam has not indicated how he will administer these services under his plan, and there has been no mention of whether cutting staff equates to cutting expenses. The governor has already given huge pay raises to many of his cabinet members, and he insists that it is the right thing to give these increases to them instead of veteran jobs-growth officials. We hope that he will at least save Tennessee taxpayers some money in the process.

When it comes down to it, the governor’s announcement is not a jobs plan. Instead, it amounts to chair shuffling in an attempt to refocus the state on job creation, while drawing attention away from bills that propose a state currency for Tennessee, attack teachers and disenfranchise voters. There is no doubt that such a move is needed during a legislative session that has been about anything but jobs. But never forget that when watching a magician perform, it’s not the hand he is waving so dramatically that is performing the trick. It is his other hand that is creating the illusion. In the case of the governor’s proposals, the hand he is not waving is in your pocket.

Tenn. Republicans Resisting Third Party Access

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Some Tennessee Republicans are showing that the only ideas they want to hear are their own.

Take for instance, the legislative proposal — ordered by a federal court — to give third parties easier access to Tennessee ballots.

In every sense, a third party adds to the free marketplace of ideas in an open society. But Republican House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga is not interested in shopping around for the best ideas.

From The AP:

House Majority Leader Rep. McCormick of Chattanooga

“I don’t want to see us become like Italy and have a dozen different parties and all these splinter groups, and have to make coalitions with them,” said McCormick.

Heavens to Betsy! Working with “different parties?” Having to “make coalitions with them?!” That would just be awful.

The Knoxville News Sentinel says it more eloquently:

A vast majority of American voters cast their ballots for one of two parties, not only recently but going all the way back to the Federalists and the Jeffersonian Republicans in the early days of presidential politics.

But third parties – the generic name given to political parties opposing Democrats and Republicans – deserve to have their names on the ballot and try to win public approval.

The state Legislature has an opportunity to make that happen this term, and that should be one of its accomplishments when the session ends.

Third parties have provided a colorful and thoughtful element to American politics, although none in modern times has been able to displace either of the top two. Nevertheless, there is always that possibility in an open and free society.

Sen. Kyle: "Democracy works better when the rules are fair."

Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis has also spoken in favor of third party access to Tennessee ballots. He suggests 10,000 signatures from eligible voters should be enough to get your preferred party on the ticket.

“My goal is to allow people who believe they’re in the Tea Party or the Green Party or the Libertarian Party to get on the ballot,” Kyle said. “Any organization that can get 10,000 signatures is as legitimate a political entity as any other. People should be able to stand up there and say I believe in these principles. I just think democracy works better when the rules are fair.”

Well said, Sen. Kyle. Well said.