‘Serious Problems’ in DHS Need Correcting: Tracy

Press release from Senator Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, Jan. 5, 2016:

Tracy Files Legislation to Control Fraud and Mismanagement within the Department of Human Services

NASHVILLE — State Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) has filed legislation aimed at correcting serious problems within the Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS). The legislation will make substantial changes to the way this vital state agency performs its duties in serving Tennesseans.

“The Department of Human Services provides services to some of the most vulnerable citizens of our state,” said Senator Tracy. “I am very disappointed by the facts uncovered in Comptroller audits and investigations which have identified pervasive and recurring issues within this agency. It’s time for a new approach.”

Comptroller audits and investigations have identified financial mismanagement and fraud within some of the federal food programs managed by DHS. Many of the problems are the result of DHS’ ineffective monitoring of third-party agencies that receive taxpayer money to feed children and adults.

Senate Bill 1472 will require DHS to file monthly reports to certain Legislative Committees, the Comptroller’s Office and the Speakers of both chambers on a variety of issues, including its monitoring activities and internal audit functions.

An independent hotline will also be set up within DHS to allow employees to report internal misconduct. DHS will be prohibited from terminating any employee without providing a written explanation to the Tennessee General Assembly.

Additionally, the bill will transfer all DHS accounting operations to the Department and Finance and Administration, and place DHS in the sunset cycle to terminate on July 1, 2017.

“These measures are being undertaken to both protect the taxpayer and ensure that money designated for those in need is spent for those purposes,” added Tracy. “The Tennessee General Assembly takes this responsibility seriously, and it’s time for DHS to do the same.”

TNGOP Circulating Online Petition Opposing Obama’s New Gun Order

Press release from the Republican Party of Tennessee, January 5, 2016:

TNGOP: Dems Should Campaign on the Gun Ban They Want to Impose on Us

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – January 5, 2015 – From the East Room of the White House, President Barack Obama announced a sweeping set of executive orders meant to restrict Americans’ access to firearms.

Following the President’s speech, Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Ryan Haynes remarked, “Today’s announcement by the President once again lectured responsible, law-abiding Americans. It echoed his snide comments from 2008 where he talked down to concerned citizens who ‘cling to guns or religion’ as if that’s a moral wrong.”

“Ultimately, these actions are a political play by the President that could undermine our constitutional rights. Governing solely by executive order ignores the fact the Executive Branch is supposed to enforce the law, not create it. Furthermore, it subverts the authority of Congress—the law-making branch of our federal government. These actions, supported by Democrats, show a disdain for the framework set up by our Founders. That’s inexcusable.

“Instead of hiding behind the President’s pen, Democrats should just campaign on the gun ban policy they want to impose on Americans. I would welcome the opportunity to debate the Democratic Party’s gun restrictions. Let’s have an honest conversation and see if Tennesseans really want their 2nd Amendment rights gutted by Democrats.”

The TNGOP is circulating an online petition at www.GunsAreNext.com for Tennesseans to sign who believe the President is overreaching with today’s executive orders.

Andy Holt’s ‘Open Letter’ to Obama: ‘Take Your Gun Control And Shove It’

Press Release from Tennessee State Rep. Andy Holt, Dresden, Jan. 5, 2016:

Take Your Gun Control And Shove It

President Barack Obama,

This week you have announced your plan to enforce unilateral, unconstitutional executive orders on gun control. Well, here in Tennessee, we aren’t buying it. You should note that when Congress refuses to act, it’s because the will of the people compel them to do so. That does not then give you the green light to usurp the legislative jurisdiction of Congress. Regardless, our Founding Fathers foresaw such an instance where the federal government may try to enforce laws that were unpopular with the people, whether those laws be constitutional or not, and they provided a blueprint of how to deal with such an issue.

In Federalist Paper #46, Father of the United States Constitution James Madison provided this blueprint for such a situation should it arise.

“Should an unwarrantable measure of the federal government be unpopular in particular States, which would seldom fail to be the case, or even a warrantable measure be so, which may sometimes be the case, the means of opposition to it are powerful and at hand. The disquietude of the people; their repugnance and, perhaps refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union, the frowns of the executive magistracy of the State; the embarrassment created by legislative devices, which would often be added on such occasions, would oppose, in any State, very serious impediments; and were the sentiments of several adjoining States happen to be in Union, would present obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter.”

Allow me to translate: Regardless of the federal government’s supremacy over the issue, and whether the actions taken be constitutional or not is irrelevant. The states have powerful means to oppose such actions at hand through legislative devices. In Tennessee, we put this blueprint into law just last Session by passing HB1341, which bars the State from providing material support to enforce federal gun control measures that contradict our state Constitution.

Your recently proposed executive orders rely heavily on the states to enforce. However, the states do not have to enforce them. In fact, even the Supreme Court has agreed with this position for more than 180 years. In Prigg v. Pennsylvania (1842), New York v. United States (1992), Printz v. United States (1997), and most recently NFIB v. Sibelius -Obamacare (2012), the Court held that the federal government cannot compel the state to enforce federal rules or laws regardless of whether or not the rule or law is constitutional.

Essentially, if the feds want to enforce the law, then they can come here and do it themselves. You and your friends on the Left often yell and scream while calling those who support this type of resistance to federal power “neo-confederates” and so on. However, your friends seem more than willing to practice resistance to federal power when it comes to Colorado’s marijuana operation, or California’s sanctuary cities, and you are more than willing to look the other way while it happens. Therefore, the State of Tennessee is more than willing to tell you Mr. President, if you want to enforce your unconstitutional executive orders… come on down to Rocky Top and do it yourself.

#MolonLabe

Rep. Andy Holt, District 76

TNDP Chairwoman Questions Speaker Harwell’s Priorities on Rep. Durham Matter

Press release from the Democratic Party of Tennessee, January 5, 2016:

Nashville, Tenn. (January 5, 2016) — On Tuesday, Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini questioned Speaker Harwell’s priorities and asked once again that Republican leadership hold Rep. Jeremy Durham accountable for his behavior.

“Yesterday, Speaker Harwell (R-Nashville) backtracked on her statement that the Republican Caucus would vote on whether Rep. Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin) would keep his leadership position with the Republican House caucus. This disappointing development is not surprising given that Tennessee Republicans continuously elevate fundraising and party politics over what’s best for the people of Tennessee.

It’s been weeks and Rep. Durham’s constituents still don’t know for what inappropriate behavior he received a reprimand from the human resources department at the legislature. Whatever it is that he has done, the people of his district deserve to know and those who work at the state legislature must know. Why are they still hiding information from the public that can possibly jeopardize the safety of the legislature as a workplace?”

Record Level of Gov’t Waste, Fraud, Abuse Identified Through Hotline Tips: Comptroller

Press release from the Office of the Tennessee Comptroller, Dec. 29, 2015:

Comptroller’s Hotline Helps Protect Taxpayers

The Tennessee Comptroller’s Fraud, Waste and Abuse Hotline is marking a record achievement in its effort to help uncover the misuse of government funds and property.

Confidential tips to the hotline helped to identify a record $1,112,500 in confirmed thefts, shortages and questioned costs for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015. These tips were reported through telephone calls and online submissions to the hotline.

This year’s notifications concerned a wide range of entities including municipalities, counties, state agencies, federal agencies, and non-profit recipients of government funds. Substantive notifications are reviewed and investigated by Comptroller staff or referred to the appropriate agency or program for further action.

Since October 1983, the Comptroller of the Treasury has provided a toll-free hotline for any citizen to report government fraud, waste and abuse. Additionally, all state agencies, as well as agencies receiving community grant funds, are required to call attention to the hotline by posting a sign in a prominent place.

“The hotline plays an important role in holding government accountable to its citizens,” said Comptroller Justin P. Wilson. “While I’m pleased to see the hotline is serving its purpose, the ultimate goal is to eliminate fraud, waste and abuse in government.”

If you suspect fraud, waste or abuse of public money in Tennessee, call the Comptroller’s toll-free hotline at (800) 232-5454, or file a report online at: www.comptroller.tn.gov/hotline. Follow us on twitter @TNCOT

Black Lawmakers Vow to Fight UT Diversity Program Cuts

Press Release from the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators, December 23, 2015:

NASHVILLE- The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators is condemning an “attack” on diversity programs in higher education by Republican lawmakers. Some conservative lawmakers have vowed to review funding for college diversity programming across the state after two recent controversies at the University of Tennessee. The Knoxville University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion recently posted on the campus website suggestions about gender-neutral pronouns and inclusive holiday celebrations that have been criticized by conservatives. In the wake of those posts, later removed, some Republican lawmakers have called for the General Assembly to de-fund the office and to review other diversity programs across the state. Chairwoman Brenda Gilmore of Nashville says the Black Caucus “strongly opposes these actions and any actions to reduce diversity efforts in Tennessee”. Gilmore says the offices are needed to combat decades of discrimination in the state’s colleges and universities and said the caucus is concerned about the “hidden messages that Republican lawmakers are trying to send. The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators is going on to the record as standing against these actions and will fight any efforts to reduce state funding to these programs.”

Voters in Beacon Center Survey Leave ‘Lump of Coal’ for UT Diversity Office

Press release from the Beacon Center of Tennessee, Dec. 21, 2015:

UT’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion “Wins” 2015 Lump of Coal in a Landslide

Today, the Beacon Center awarded the 2015 Lump of Coal to The University of Tennessee’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion for wasting taxpayer money on a program that emphasizes political correctness run amok. With an astounding 52.1% of the vote, The Office of Diversity and Inclusion ran away with the Lump of Coal award. Rutherford County School Board Chair Wayne Blair was the runner up with 19.2%, while the Hospital Lobby and Memphis EDGE came in 3rd and 4th with 18% and 11.7% respectively.

The Lump of Coal is an annual “award” given by the Beacon Center to the government or private entity that has most abused taxpayer money. Hundreds of votes were cast by Tennesseans all across the state.

Beacon CEO Justin Owen stated, “While there were many deserving candidates for this year’s Lump of Coal, I think the voters got it right in choosing the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The office encourages a level of political correctness that goes way too far for everyday Tennesseans, while being funded at the expense of the taxpayers. When encouraging students not to celebrate the holidays by throwing a ‘Christmas party in disguise,’ Tennesseans of all political stripes see how out of touch this department really is.”

The full post is below.

The University of Tennessee’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion

The Office first made national news in August when it “encouraged” (get used to this word) other students to use “gender neutral” pronouns like “ze” or” xe” lest one commit the grave offense of using “he” to refer to a man. Now the Office is “encouraging” (there’s the word again) students to take a few simple steps when celebrating the holidays so as to, and this is an exact quote, “[e]nsure your holiday party is not a Christmas party in disguise.” When UT uses your money for something that manifestly does not further higher learning, it lacks a legitimate basis for taking it in the first place. That makes it theft. It is unconstitutional and immoral.
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The Beacon Center of Tennessee empowers Tennesseans to reclaim control of their lives, so that they can freely pursue their version of the American Dream. The Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, and independent organization dedicated to providing concerned citizens and public leaders with expert empirical research and timely free market solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee.

TNDP on Rep. Durham Issues: ‘Republicans Putting Politics Before People’

Press release from the Democratic Party of Tennessee, Dec. 17, 2015:

Nashville, Tenn. (December 11, 2015) – Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini released the following statement addressing Republican Leadership and their unwillingness to hold Rep. Jeremy Durham accountable.

“The Jeremy Durham situation is just another example of Tennessee Republicans putting politics before the people of Tennessee. How long has it been since Speaker Beth Harwell had the General Assembly’s human resources chief talk to Durham about ‘appropriate behavior’ at the Legislature? How long has it been and yet he remained in the number three leadership position for House Republicans for all that time? How long have been hiding his bad behavior from his constituents?

“People in Tennessee are hurting and they need elected representatives who are serious and are focused on the real issues that affect their everyday lives. But Republicans and their leaders, Harwell and Glenn Casada, would rather sweep Durham’s bad behavior under the rug. Until now, that is, when the stories about Durham’s bad behavior have started to leak out and they have begun to worry about the affect it is having on their donors. Politics and money over hardworking Tennesseans – this is no way to run a state. The people of Tennessee deserve better.”

House Republican Leader Sponsoring Bill to Stop Tobacco Sellers from Profiting Off Tax Hikes

Press release from Tennessee House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, Dec. 17, 2015:

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick Files Legislation To Curb Tobacco Tax Fraud

(NASHVILLE)- House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) today announced that he has filed legislation to strengthen current tobacco tax laws. House Bill 1440 is aimed at deterring individuals from profiting from future increases in the rate of a per unit tax. The legislation calls for a one-time levy on inventory whereby interested parties would be required to account for all relevant property in inventory on the date of the rate increase and submit it to the Department of Revenue within thirty (30) days of the increase.

“We need to reassess the tobacco tax rate process in the state, and I believe this legislation will restrict future attempts by individuals to game the system and make profits off rate increases,” said House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick.

Additional information regarding this legislation can be found on the General Assembly website at: http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=HB1440.

Gerald McCormick lives in Chattanooga and represents District 26, which is part of Hamilton County.

Jeff Aiken of Washington Co. Elected TN Farm Bureau President

Press release from the Farm Bureau Federation of Tennessee, Dec. 17, 2015:

During their 94th annual convention held in Franklin, the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation’s delegates, representing agriculture and farmers across the state, not only debated policy proposals and passed resolutions to work on passage of legislation in 2016 at the state and federal levels, they also elected their 8th president of the nation’s largest state Farm Bureau organization.

Washington county farmer Jeff Aiken, 52, was elected today by the voting delegate body to serve as the organization’s president, representing more than 644,000 family members in Tennessee. Aiken has served as vice-president since 2012, and a director-at-large on the state board of directors since 1998 when he was elected to that office by the Farm Bureau’s county leadership statewide. He has headed up numerous committees at the state level, as well as being his county’s president for many years. He has held the office of state YF&R chairman and was the 1992 Tennessee Young Farmer of the Year.

Aiken and his wife Carol farm 900 acres near Telford in upper East Tennessee where he produces corn, hay, straw, 100 acres of tobacco and more than 600 head of beef cattle.

Elected as the new vice president was Humphreys County farmer Eric Mayberry. Mayberry, 50, and his wife Lynn farm 1000 acres of row crops and a nearly 300 head commercial cow/calf operation near Hurricane Mills. Mayberry was first elected to the state board of directors representing District II in 2005. He has also served on his county’s board of directors since 1988, including five years as president.

Also newly elected to the state board were Lincoln County’s Josh Ogle, representing District II; Smith County’s Mike Scudder, representing District IV; and Robert Elliott of Robertson County was selected as the new state Young Farmer and Rancher chairman.

Others re-elected to the board of directors by the voting delegates were: Charles Hancock from Bumpus Mills, Mrs. Catherine Via from Alamo, David Richesin from Lenoir City, Malcolm Burchfiel from Newbern, James Haskew from South Pittsburg, David Mitchell from Blaine and Mrs. Jane May, State Women’s chairman from Newbern.