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Turner Plots Political Future — Mulling Nashville Mayoral Bid

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner said Saturday he plans to run for re-election twice more then look at running for mayor of Nashville.

Turner, born and raised in Nashville, said he’s been hearing rumors that he’s not going to run again for his seat in the Legislature, so he decided to tell everyone his plans, including the potential mayoral run in 2015.

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean was recently sworn in for his second four-year term and could not run again. Turner told the Democratic state executive meeting of his plans Saturday. He talked about his plans at a reception at the Maxwell House Hotel prior to Saturday night’s Jackson Day Dinner for the Tennessee Democratic Party at the Bicentennial Capitol Mall.

“I’m running for the House two more times, and if the opportunity is there to run for mayor I’m thinking about running for mayor. And if I’m not successful there, I’ll just run for the House for the third time. I’m not going anywhere,” Turner told TNReport.

“Of course that’s almost three-and-a-half years away, but I am interested in it. I’ve had some people approach me about it. It made me start thinking about it. I’ve had some people in the business community and some other interested citizens — and I won’t say who — who have said something to me about it. I was flattered, and I thought about it and told them I’d look into it.”

Turner, who lives in the Old Hickory community in Nashville, is currently in his sixth term in the House.

He noted that former Nashville mayor Bill Purcell was also a member of the Tennessee General Assembly before seeking the mayor’s office. Purcell was mayor for two terms, from 1999-2007.

“I love the city. I plan on living here. I think I’d like to look into it. I probably need to talk to my family more about it, things like that. They might know I’ve had it on my mind,” Turner said.

Turner said his most immediate plan is to gain more Democratic seats in the Legislature. He said if the Democrats do not pick up seats next year, he probably would not remain leader of the caucus. He said in that situation he would give somebody else a shot at the leadership position but would run again for his seat.

The Democrats lost their majority in the House in 2008 and saw further losses in the Republican tidal wave of 2010. The GOP currently has a 64-34-1 majority.

Turner was among the Democratic survivors of the GOP stampede, but barely. The Old Hickory firefighter just did dodge a surprisingly competitive charge by District 51 Republican buffalo rancher Charles Williamson, 7,990 votes to 7,268.

Turner said he didn’t know the origin of talk that he might not run again next year.

“I don’t know what got that going. I just wanted to squash all the rumors, so I told everybody my political aspirations,” he said.

Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester said he was “elated” to know Turner planned to run for his seat again, because Forrester also received calls about Turner not running.

“He is an important asset to us, an amazing soldier in our fight to take back Tennessee,” Forrester said. “Anything beyond that is all up to him, but I totally am thrilled he is going to run for re-election this time and however many times, and I hope he continues as caucus chair.”

Forrester said a “Republican overreach” in the last legislative session provides Democrats a “game-changer” for the next election.

“We have seen that Democrats are galvanized unlike they ever have been before. Those important swing voters are appalled and aghast at what the Republicans have done,” Forrester said in an interview Saturday night with TNReport. “That affords us a chance with a good message to bring those swing voters to our column and win elections.”

Forrester said the Republicans went too far for voters’ taste when they stripped teachers of collective bargaining privileges and by passing the new photo ID law for voting.

“I’ve been all over this state, and I’m finding lots of voters, particularly those over 65 who don’t have a photo on their driver’s license, and they’re furious about this new law,” Forrester said. “We’re going to educate voters about how to ensure they have a photo ID, but I think the fact the Republicans have done this creates a real game-changer for us.”

Reagan Administration Economist Arthur Laffer Speaks at GOP Retreat

Economist Arthur Laffer, widely known as the “father of supply-side economics,” spoke to House Republicans during their retreat this week at Tims Ford State Park.

Laffer, a member of President Ronald Reagan’s economic policy team, talked to the group about Tennessee’s economic assets, said Rep. Debra Maggart of Hendersonville, the House Republican Caucus chair.

“Dr. Laffer has a wealth of data, research, knowledge and experience about how the different states compare with one another,” she said.

“One of the focuses he worked on with us was how Tennessee ranks with other states and what makes Tennessee so attractive to people to live here. We’re in a central location, we don’t have a state income tax, we are a right-to-work state, and states like that tend to have favorable economic outcomes.”

In addition to listening to Laffer and other guests, Republicans discussed ways to improve communications with their constituents and various items constituents are concerned about, including reaction from teachers about the state’s new teacher evaluation process, Maggart said.

The retreat, which is held every two years, was paid for with caucus funds, Maggart said.

Maggart didn’t have an exact number of lawmakers who attended the retreat Monday and Tuesday, but she said she had 55 RSVPs committed to attend at least part of the event and that it looked like most of those showed up, including Speaker of the House Beth Harwell and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga.

The Republicans have a 64-34-1 majority in the House.

Maggart, who was guarded about sharing what legislators discussed, said the lawmakers did not formally talk about redistricting, a subject of much political speculation. The discussions did include attempts to dramatically reduce the number of bills filed in the Legislature, she said.

“We talked about next year (an election year). I’m not going to unveil what we’re doing,” Maggart said.

Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney has said the state GOP’s goal is to produce a “walkout-proof” majority in the Legislature, meaning enough of a majority that Republicans would have a quorum even without the presence of Democrats in meetings. Republicans have a Senate majority of 20-13. Two more Republican seats in each chamber would be needed to meet Devaney’s goal.

Maggart said the Republicans have been working on their legislative package for next year, although she said she was not ready to unveil that now.

“We’ll be giving that information out when we get it ready,” she said.

Republicans have already been public about at least visiting issues such as changing workers’ compensation laws, oversight of the Court of the Judiciary, halting the extension of unemployment benefits, further monitoring regulations that may hamper business and enacting more tort reform measures next year. But Maggart made clear the party still believes jobs cannot be legislated, a position that puts Republicans at odds with Democrats, who presented a list of jobs bills this year with complaints that they were not seriously considered. Unemployment in the state is 9.8 percent.

Democrats have also scheduled a Jobs Tour for Sept. 19-24, and the state Democratic Party took exception Wednesday to the rosy picture painted by Gov. Bill Haslam and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey about their presentation to the major bond rating agencies in New York.

A release from the Tennessee Democratic Party quoted Chairman Chip Forrester as saying, “This bond rating dog and pony show for Wall Street executives looks obnoxious to the 300,000 Tennesseans who are struggling to find work and provide for their families.”

Maggart maintains that jobs cannot be legislated.

“We’re going to continue to concentrate on paving the way for job creation. The Legislature does not create a single job,” she said. “We want to do what we can to make Tennessee the most attractive state for small businesses to thrive. We want to decrease regulation on small business people.”

Maggart gave the handling of the new photo ID law, requiring photographic identification in order to vote, as an example of how the number of bills filed in the Legislature can be decreased.

“Freshmen didn’t know I was working on it for five or six years, so we can cut down on the number of people filing the same bill,” she said.

Republicans have drawn up a process, spearheaded by Harwell, where lawmakers can consult freely about their bills in a process that normally holds even the filing of legislation as a matter of attorney/client privilege. McCormick has also spoken publicly about reducing the number of bills.

On the teacher evaluations issue, Maggart said members are hearing about it from their districts.

“Teachers are concerned about it. They have questions,” Maggart said. “That was pretty much across the board. I shouldn’t say everyone, but a lot of people had heard from teachers concerned about the process.

“You know it’s going to be a concern because it’s new. It has never been done before. Certainly you’re going to have people who have questions.”

The state adopted a system where teachers will be evaluated based on a formula that relies heavily on classroom observation and student growth under the state’s value-added assessment scores.

Laffer is one of the authors of Rich States, Poor States, released by the American Legislative Exchange Council and issued in its fourth edition this June. Other authors of the book are Stephen Moore, senior economics writer for the Wall Street Journal, and Jonathan Williams, director of the Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force for ALEC.

“He (Laffer) uses IRS data. That’s such a great data resource, because the IRS knows so much about you. They’ve got your address, know how much you make, how much your deductions are. He has been analyzing people who move, like him, and what the state’s economic status is. Ours is good. People move here from other states,” Maggart said.

“He contrasted all the good things about Tennessee and how we keep moving forward on those things.”

Laffer Associates, an economic research and consulting firm, is in Nashville. An effort Wednesday seeking comment by Laffer on the Republican retreat was unsuccessful.

Other speakers at the retreat included Clint Brewer, assistant commissioner for communications for the Department of Economic and Community Development; a presentation on communications for lawmakers by a consulting firm; and a presentation by Public Opinion Strategies, which handles polling.

TNDP Criticizes Economic Priorities of Haslam, Ramsey in Wake of NYC Bond-Rating Trip

Press Release from the Democratic Party of Tennessee, Sept. 14, 2011: 

Tennessee’s unemployed not impressed by the Haslam-Ramsey ‘bond rating dog-and-pony show’

NASHVILLE — State Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester urged Tennessee’s top Republicans to consider a jobs plan to keep the state’s fiscal house in order.

“The surest way to strengthen our state’s fiscal house is to put 300,000 Tennesseans back to work. If Ron Ramsey and Governor Bill Haslam put half the effort they expend wooing corporate campaign donations into a common sense jobs plan, Tennessee would get there a lot faster.”

Forrester pressed Gov. Bill Haslam and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey for action on the state’s job crisis in statement Wednesday following the Republicans’ meeting with Wall Street bond rating agencies. At 9.8 percent, Tennessee’s unemployment rate remains well beyond the national average.

“This bond rating dog and pony show for Wall Street executives looks obnoxious to the 300,000 Tennesseans who are struggling to find work and provide for their families,” Forrester said. “They’d like to see a day when the numbers we brag about are Tennessee’s low unemployment rate and high economic output.

“There’s no doubt Wall Street was impressed with Governor Haslam’s contingency plan to fire 5,000 workers and eliminate crucial services that keep families healthy, children educated and the disabled properly cared for. However, Tennesseans who’ve seen this extreme plan are not so enthusiastic,” Chip Forrester said. “Haslam’s slash-and-burn budget would send our state into an even more severe economic tailspin and prompt a societal crisis that would diminish the quality of life for every Tennessean.”

This summer Gov. Haslam instructed state department heads to plan for 30 percent budget cuts to be enacted if Tennessee receives less federal funding.

Dems’ Jackson Day Dinner to Commemorate Gov. McWherter

Maybe they will begin calling them “McWherter Day” dinners.

The Tennessee Democratic Party has announced that its state Jackson Day dinner in Nashville will be Oct. 1 and will celebrate the life of Gov. Ned Ray McWherter, who died this year on April 4.

Respect for McWherter and his place in the state party’s history since his death seem only to have grown among the Democrats, who are beginning to portray him as one of their most revered historical figures.

In a message to Democrats on the party’s official website, state party chairman Chip Forrester says, “As we work together to rebuild Tennessee and restore the American Dream for our children, our families and communities, we would do well by the next generation in fighting for the same values Gov. McWherter fought for: fairness, dignity and responsibility — for all.”

McWherter’s memorial service in Nashville drew former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, as well as prominent Republicans, including three former Republican governors of the state and GOP icon former Sen. Howard Baker.

The Democratic Party’s website home page, in addition to a prominent announcement of the tribute, features photos of McWherter with figures as varied as Clinton, Gore, former Gov. Phil Bredesen and University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who defeated McWherter’s son, Mike, in the gubernatorial race in 2010, took the highly unusual step in a campaign ad of referring to Ned McWherter and Bredesen, both Democrats, as among the state’s outstanding leaders.

Ned McWherter, from Dresden in Weakley County, was governor from 1987-95 after serving 14 years as speaker of the House. He was noted for his efforts at education reform, including a revamped funding mechanism for schools and annual school report cards in the state. McWherter also ushered in TennCare, a new system for Medicaid, which has since become a troubled, controversial experiment.

McWherter was honored with the unveiling of a statue on the town square in Dresden in October 2010.

The Democrats’ annual Jackson Day dinner is named for former President Andrew Jackson, considered one of the founders of the Democratic Party.

TNDP: Mitch Daniels-Backed Policies ‘a Blueprint for Destruction’

Press Release from the Tennessee Democratic Party, July 13, 2011:

TNDP Chair: Daniels’ record an ‘excellent blueprint’ for harming schools, working class

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester issued the following statement criticizing Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels’ visit to Tennessee to participate in a state GOP fundraiser to be held later this week:

Tennessee Republicans have a surplus of bad ideas that make it harder for working people to get by or for their kids to get a decent education — there’s no need to steal inspiration from Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, the man who wrote the failed economic policies that led us into Bush’s recession.

There’s no doubt tea party Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Gov. Bill Haslam will be gleefully taking notes and fawning over Daniels’ anti-middle class record.

Daniels is really the perfect dinner guest for the Tennessee G.O.P., after all Indiana’s Republican governor has been slashing funding for public schools, attacking the rights of teachers and workers, and advocating for unfair economic policies his entire political career. In Nashville, he’ll fit right in.

If Tennessee Republicans aspire to do more damage to public schools and further setback working-class Tennesseans, Daniels’ record is an excellent blueprint for destruction.

BACKGROUND:

Engineered the Current National Fiscal Crisis As President Bush’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Daniels presided over a historic turnaround in the nation’s fiscal fortunes, in which the $5.6 trillion surplus that emerged from the Clinton administration morphed into a 10-year forecast for a $2.1 trillion deficit by early 2003.” [Guardian, 5/17/11]

Mitch Daniels fought to take away rights from Indiana educators and forced $1.4B in cuts to public education. Since 2008, Daniels’ disastrous local revenue cap has forced $1.4 billion worth of cuts to public education that has closed schools, increased class sizes, prompted mass layoffs and frozen teacher salaries. In April he signed into law a bill similar to Tennessee’s law stripping teachers of their collective bargaining powers that was vehemently opposed by Indiana educators. [Courier Press, 5/20/11]

Indiana’s families have suffered under Mitch Daniel’s economic leadership. For the second year in a row, Indiana ranked fifth nationally in personal bankruptcies, at 7.1 people per 1,000 residents. Indiana’s median family income is just 86 percent of that of the rest of the country. Median income is falling — by 15 percent in the last decade. The real unemployment rate, which includes those too discouraged to look for work, stood at 17.4 percent last year. [New York Times, 6/23/11]

MORE BACKGROUND:

Daniels’ believes in Paul Ryan-style cuts to Medicare and endorsed President Bush’s push to privatize Social Security: “[We] have to fundamentally change all the welfare and entitlement programs. What Bush tried to do [in proposing private accounts for Social Security] was mild compared to what needs to be done. You have to have a completely new compact for people under a certain age, for Medicare and Social Security.” [Weekly Standard, 6/14/11]

Refused to Accept $4 Billion in Federal Funding for Women’s Health Care: Signed into law a ban on state funding for Planned Parenthood, even after Family and Social Services Administration Secretary Michael Gargano and the Indiana Legislative Services Agency issued opinions saying it was most likely illegal and the courts would strike it down. The fact is that Indiana stands to lose $4 billion in funding while at the same time ending the ability of at risk women to receive preventive care for cancer screenings, family planning services, and sexually transmitted disease screenings. [Slate, 6/3/11]

Enacted Radical Immigration That Have Cost Hoosiers Expensive Legal Fees: Enacted radical, draconian immigration laws that have been enjoined by U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker. Barker concluded the state overstepped its boundaries in the statue. [Indy Star, 6/24/11]

Democratic Party Chairman to Haslam: ‘Act Responsibly’ on Unemployment Extension Plan

Press Release from the Democratic Party of Tennessee, May 17, 2011:

$60M in Federal Jobless Benefits for 28,000 Tennesseans Lost if Republicans Fail to Act

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester issued the following statement urging Gov. Bill Haslam and Republican legislators to pass law to reinstate jobless benefits for 28,000 Tennesseans:

Partisan politics shouldn’t threaten the economic future of 28,000 Tennesseans who can’t find work due to a recession that was no fault of their own.

Gov. Bill Haslam and Republican legislators haven’t lived up to their promise to create jobs, and now their negligence is jeopardizing critical financial support that is keeping children fed, bills paid and families out of foreclosure.

We’ve seen harmful bills that rob citizens and teachers of their rights get all the attention this session. Now Republicans have a chance to make an actual difference by fixing their screw up.

Mr. Haslam needs to prove he’s serious about governing – not scoring political points. The livelihood of nearly 30,000 citizens is on the line. Republicans owe it to these hurting families to act responsibly.

FACTS:

US Department of Labor estimates unemployment benefits give taxpayers a 2-to-1 return on investment. For the modest expenditure of less than $2 million, Tennessee would receive $60 million, which translates to $120 million of economic activity, according to a study commissioned by the labor department. The study suggests these dollars are injected quickly into the local economy and could potentially add more than $5 million directly to state sales tax collections. [US Department of Labor, 11/10]

Democrats scramble on to revive jobless benefits that Republicans failed to prioritize. Republicans, who control the General Assembly and set the legislative schedule, failed to pass a law to extend unemployment benefits for 28,000 jobless Tennesseans. Now legislative Democrats are pushing to reinstate the benefits, with House and Senate committees scheduled to meet Monday to consider last-minute bills to resurrect the program. Success would bring nearly $60 million in federal funds to pay up to 20 more weeks of benefits for Tennesseans unable to find jobs in a still-fragile economy. But it’s unclear whether Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and the Republican-controlled General Assembly will go along. [Chattanooga Times Free Press, 5/15/11]

GOP Sen. Mark Norris says Haslam administration signaled they wouldn’t pursue bill to extend jobless benefits. Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris said today that state Employment Security Administrator Don Ingram last week “made it very clear that the administration’s position at least had been that they didn’t intend to pursue it.” [Chattanooga Times Free Press, 5/16/11]

McWherter Outlived By Influence on Tennessee Politics

Ned Ray McWherter, whose work decades ago as Tennessee’s 46th governor reverberates in the halls of the State Capitol even today, died Monday at age 80.

McWherter served as governor from 1987-95 after serving 14 years as Tennessee Speaker of the House. He served two House terms representing Weakley County prior to his time as speaker. He died in a Nashville hospital where he was battling cancer.

McWherter’s work on education reform and his reshaping the state’s Medicaid system into TennCare have left more than lasting memories on the state. They are the basis of many of the issues the Tennessee General Assembly is working on now, 16 years after McWherter left office.

Both efforts were seen as innovative when they began. McWherter is still hailed as a champion of education reform with his foresight, a contrast to the more problematic revamp of the Medicaid system.

A statue of McWherter was unveiled at the courthouse in his hometown of Dresden in Weakley County last October to commemorate his 80th birthday. The day came at a time McWherter’s son, Michael Ray McWherter, was running for governor, attempting to follow in his father’s footsteps as the Democratic nominee.

Mike McWherter, a Jackson businessman, lost the election to Republican Bill Haslam, but Haslam, in one of the most unorthodox moves in state political history, used the image of Ned McWherter in his television advertising as an example of one of Tennessee’s great leaders, even as Haslam campaigned against the son.

Ned McWherter also leaves a daughter, Linda Ramsey. His wife, Bette Jean Beck McWherter, died in 1973.

Haslam issued a statement Monday expressing his gratitude to McWherter for his service.

“This is a sad day for Tennessee,” Haslam said. “Governor McWherter was a true statesman who cared about this state and its citizens. He had a long and distinguished career in the legislative and executive branches as well as in business.

“I will always be grateful for his personal kindness to me and the wise advice he gave me during my first months in office. Crissy’s and my thoughts and prayers go out to Mike and the entire McWherter family during this difficult time.”

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who preceded McWherter as governor, affectionately referred to McWherter on the Senate floor Monday as “a big, burly, Hoss Cartwright sort of fellow” and praised McWherter for acting in a bipartisan way when Alexander was governor and McWherter was speaker.

McWherter served as an adviser to President Bill Clinton. The two had a long friendship, and Clinton made a stop in Nashville last year to campaign for Mike McWherter for governor.

As governor, McWherter ushered in the Education Improvement Act in 1992, which simultaneously provided a big boost in funding for education and a demand for accountability in schools. Its echoes can be heard in Legislative Plaza now as the state weighs even more reforms in education.

The accountability under McWherter came in the form of the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (pdf), drawn from a model by William Sanders at the University of Tennessee. The data measured student and school performance and was seen as a major advantage in 2010 when Tennessee fashioned its successful application for federal Race to the Top funds for education.

McWherter was driven to create fairness in funding for education in the state’s 95 counties. The impetus began when McWherter and aide Billy Stair attended an education summit in 1989 in Virginia for governors held by President George H.W. Bush, who urged raising standards.

McWherter and his lieutenants conducted meetings across the state. The result was a plan that offered more funding and flexibility in exchange for accountability. A bipartisan effort produced the funding. At first McWherter took a stab at implementing an income tax. It didn’t get far. The Legislature implemented a one-half-cent increase on the sales tax instead.

TennCare has been a different story, but at its inception it was viewed as a new way of dealing with the increasingly difficult issue of health-care costs. The state’s (then) $2.8 billion Medicaid program was seriously jeopardizing the state’s financial stability. McWherter proposed a system where 12 managed-care organizations took on the task of health coverage.

It was a monumental change, but McWherter had bipartisan support and managed to implement the plan by executive order. But it required a waiver from the federal government, and there was considerable resistance in Washington. McWherter’s finance director, David Manning, spent a great deal of time in Washington on the move, and McWherter met with Clinton at least once in the Oval Office to get it through. The federal government approved the plan Dec. 23, 1993.

Doctors didn’t like it. The plan reduced their rates, and they were made to take TennCare patients if they wanted to care for state employees in the Tennessee Provider Network. But TennCare was a new reality. The costs of care plagued McWherter’s successors, Republican Gov. Don Sundquist, and Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, with Bredesen substantially cutting the TennCare rolls. The program continues to be a source of controversy, as in every state dealing with Medicaid cost issues.

McWherter responded to federal court demands and revamped the state’s prison system beginning in the 1980s. In seven years, the state built more than 8,000 new beds. It was also a time when the “three strikes and you’re out” approach to sentencing took hold, when three or more felonies put convicts in prison without parole. McWherter called it “three strikes and you’re in.”

McWherter had said one of his most difficult times as governor came in 1989 when a bridge over the Hatchie River in West Tennessee collapsed, where eight people died.

Despite his folksy charm, McWherter was a wealthy man. He grew up the son of sharecroppers in Palmersville, Tenn. He worked in a shoe factory but went on to head various businesses including a beer distributorship and nursing homes. He was first elected to the Tennessee General Assembly in 1968.

McWherter defeated a former governor, Republican Winfield Dunn, in the gubernatorial race in 1986. In the campaign, McWherter enjoyed unusual popularity in normally Republican strongholds in East Tennessee, most notably in Upper East Tennessee, where Republican U.S. Rep. Jimmy Quillen had clashed with Dunn over building a medical school at East Tennessee State University. McWherter won a second term in 1990 by handily defeating Republican Dwight Henry.

With his first campaign for governor, McWherter famously said, “Just give me a cup of coffee and four vanilla wafers and I’ll be ready to go to work.” The line caught on, and vanilla wafers became a staple of his years as governor. When Mike McWherter was formally endorsed for governor by Bredesen at Swett’s restaurant in Nashville, with father Ned looking on, there was a box of vanilla wafers on hand to remind the faithful.

News of McWherter’s death drew reactions of sadness Monday.

The Tennessee Democratic Party issued a statement from Chairman Chip Forrester, himself grieving the sudden death of his 19-year-old son over the weekend: “I had the high honor of serving in his first campaign for governor and count him as one of my true political mentors.”

Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney said, “I believe all Tennesseans, regardless of political affiliation, appreciate his years of service to our state even after he served as speaker of the House and governor.”

The House Democratic Caucus issued a release from House Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh of Covington and former Speaker Pro Tem Lois DeBerry of Memphis, saying “Ned McWherter was our House speaker. He was our governor. And, he was our friend. He taught us how to bring new business, better education and prosperity to our state while taking care of those Tennesseans who many times went without. Most of all, he taught us what it was about to be a Democrat while working with our friends on the other side of the aisle.”

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said, “Few men have meant as much to as many Tennesseans as Gov. Ned Ray McWherter. This state has lost a true statesman and a true original. My heart and the hearts of all Tennesseans go out to the McWherter family today.”

Sen. Roy Herron, a Democrat from McWherter’s hometown of Dresden, said in a formal statement, “Governor McWherter was our greatest governor during my lifetime, and I believe he was our greatest governor during Tennessee’s lifetime.”

TNDP Chair Slams ‘Shakedown Bill’ Haslam on GOP Fundraiser

Press Release from the Democratic Party of Tennessee, March 31, 2011:

Big Money Bash During Legislative Session Likely Breaks Election Finance Laws

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Chip Forrester issued the following statement today condemning the state G.O.P.’s high-dollar fundraiser being hosted by Gov. Bill Haslam at the Governor’s mansion tonight:

We’re now 77 days into Gov. Bill Haslam’s first term. In that time, we have not seen any inkling whatsoever that Republicans have a jobs plan — or even any ideas to put struggling Tennesseans back to work.

On the other hand, we have seen plenty of proposals that: grow the size of government, attack teachers, attack science, restrict religion, blow the tops off our Smoky Mountains, build a state mint, turn away affordable health care, disenfranchise voters, micromanage local school districts from Nashville, make government less transparent, waste millions of tax dollars, stifle economic growth BUT most of all — protect the financial interests of their big dollar campaign donors.

Tonight, those titans of industry are coming to the governor’s mansion to pay the piper.

“Shakedown” Bill Haslam is hosting a fundraiser for the Tennessee Republican Party at $3,000 to $25,000 a ticket — all this smack dab in the middle of legislative session.

What kind of message does this send to the everyday man who can’t afford to spend a year’s salary on Shakedown Bill’s one night soiree?

This event likely shatters the ethics laws designed to keep special interest money out of government, and it surely doesn’t pass muster in the eyes of working Tennesseans.

This governor and the Republican Party are running a pay-to-play scheme on Capitol Hill. Government for sale! All expenses paid for by taxpaying Tennesseans.

In his eight years in office, Gov. Phil Bredesen never held a fundraiser during session. He also mandated that he and his cabinet members would fully disclose their incomes and income sources.

That’s the way it should be.

In contrast, Bill Haslam’s first directive as governor was to repeal Bredesen’s executive order that made financial disclosure for the governor and his cabinet the law of the land.

Hard-working Tennesseans don’t want government business done behind locked doors anymore than they want big money, special interest groups influencing the legislative process.

But that doesn’t seem to bother “Shakedown” Bill and other Republicans, who are standing at the door of their fundraiser with hat in hand

—30—

FACTS:

1. Tennessee law puts major restrictions on fundraising during the legislative session for the governor, state senators, state representatives and state parties.

2010 Tennessee Code?Title 2 – Elections

Chapter 10 – Campaign Finances

Part 3 – Campaign Contributions Limits

2-10-310 – Fund raising during general assembly session.

(a) (1) Except as provided in subdivisions (a)(2) and (a)(3), from the convening of the general assembly in organizational session through the earlier of the last day of regular session or June 1 in odd years, and from the convening of the general assembly in regular session to the earlier of May 15 or the conclusion of the annual session in even years, and from the convening of the general assembly in any extraordinary session through the conclusion of such extraordinary session, no member of the general assembly or a member’s campaign committee or the governor or the governor’s campaign committee shall conduct a fundraiser or solicit or accept contributions for the benefit of the caucus, any caucus member or member or candidate of the general assembly or governor.

(2) During such period, a member of the general assembly who is a candidate for a local public office shall be permitted to conduct fundraising events and solicit or accept contributions for such campaign for local public office only under the following conditions:

(A) Such fundraising events may be held only in the county in which such member is a candidate for local public office;

(B) Solicitations and acceptance of contributions for such purposes may only be made from individuals residing in such county;

(C) Such fundraising events shall not be held, nor contributions be solicited nor accepted, on state property;

(D) The member shall not be permitted to solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any actual or in-kind contribution during such period from a lobbyist or employer of a lobbyist; and

(E) No other member of the general assembly or the campaign committee of such other member shall be permitted to solicit or accept contributions during such period for the member campaigning for local public office. It shall be unlawful for any lobbyist or employer of a lobbyist to make any contribution to such member’s campaign committee during such period for any purpose.

(3) All contributions raised as a result of fundraising or a fundraising event authorized and held in accordance with subdivision (a)(2) shall be reported on a form prescribed and provided by the registry of election finance for such purposes. Such form shall be filed with and attached to the applicable campaign finance disclosure report. The following disclosures shall be made on such form:

(A) The amount of contributions collected as a result of such fundraising event;

(B) The date and place such fundraising event was held;

(C) The dates on which such contributions were accepted; and

(D) All other information required by law to be reported on a campaign financial disclosure report.

(b) From the convening of the general assembly in organizational session through the earlier of the last day of regular session or June 1 in odd years, and from the convening of the general assembly in regular session to the earlier of May 15 or the conclusion of the annual session in even years, and from the convening of the general assembly in any extraordinary session through the conclusion of such extraordinary session, a political campaign committee controlled by a political party on the national, state, or local level, or by a caucus of such political party established by members of either house of the general assembly, that makes contributions to a candidate for the general assembly or governor for election or to defray the expenses of such person’s office shall not conduct a fundraiser, solicit or accept contributions for the benefit of the caucus, any caucus member or candidate for the general assembly or governor.

(c) Excess funds for election to a local public office are not eligible for transfer under § 2-10-114 to a campaign account for election to the general assembly or governor.

[Acts 1995, ch. 531, § 1; 1998, ch. 1062, § 7; 2002, ch. 470, § 1; 2006 (1st Ex. Sess.), ch. 1, §§ 17, 18.]

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TNDP Calls House GOP Collective Bargaining Bill ‘Blatant Power Play’

Statement from Tennessee Democratic Party, March 24, 2011:

Bill strips Tennessee teachers’ ability to negotiate contracts

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Democratic Party chair denounced Thursday the anti-teacher bill approved by House Republicans on the Education Committee this week.

The “so-called compromise” bill continues a misguided effort to strip teachers of their current right to negotiate classroom improvements for students, better working conditions and fair wages.

“To call this a compromise is nothing short of ridiculous,” said Chip Forrester, chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party. “You don’t make compromises with yourself. This was a back room deal cut in secret between Republicans, Republicans and presumably their public relations people.”

The anti-teacher bill makes it illegal for teachers to effectively negotiate a contract covering their salary, benefits, working conditions, school safety, class size, planning time, time to teach, length of the school day, scheduling and other priorities. The measure passed the House Education Committee Tuesday on a 12-6 party-line vote.

“This is nothing more than a Republican PR stunt,” Forrester said. “It is not a compromise — it is a blatant power play to strip teachers of their right to effectively negotiate with their employer.”

“With state unemployment rising and Tennesseans clamoring for work, the majority party and the administration should be pursuing an aggressive jobs package, but once again, all we are seeing is a concerted effort to shred the rights of working people,” Forrester said. “Meanwhile Democrats are standing by their pledge to get people working again and will introduce proposals in the coming weeks that would bring more jobs to Tennessee and preserve quality jobs and rights for our teachers and all working families across the state.”