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Ethics Complaint Filed Against DesJarlais, GOP Weighs Call For Resignation

Embattled U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais is facing a possible state inquiry into whether he violated medical ethics based on revelations that DesJarlais, a doctor, may have had a sexual relationship with a patient.

The left-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint with the Tennessee Department of Health Monday.

Read the complaint here.

On the heels of that complaint, the Tennessee Conservative Union said it was in talks with GOP groups to decide whether to call on DesJarlais to resign from Congress.

From the Chattanooga Times Free Press:

The chairman of the Tennessee Conservative Union said Monday he’s talking with other Republican-leaning groups and exploring whether to demand U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., resign from Congress.

The move comes as the 4th Congressional District lawmaker and candidate finds himself under growing fire following revelations that as a physician 12 years ago he pressed a former patient with whom he had been involved sexually to get an abortion. 

Tennessee Conservative Union Chairman Lloyd Daugherty in an interview declined to identify the other organizations with which he has been speaking. He said his goal is building a “coalition” in support of the congressman’s ouster.

On Friday DesJarlais’ opponent in the race to capture Tennessee’s 4th District Congressional seat, Democrat Eric Stewart, held a press conference at Legislative Plaza saying that both Republicans and Democrats should condemn DesJarlais’ actions.

TNGOP: Stewart’s Opposition to State’s ‘Health Freedom Act’ Shows He Supports Obamacare

Press release from the Tennessee Republican Party; June 26, 2012:

NASHVILLE, TN – On Thursday, the United States Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of President Obama’s signature piece of legislation, commonly referred to as ‘ObamaCare.’

Just last year, Democrat Senator Eric Stewart voted against the “Tennessee Health Freedom Act” which gives Tennesseans the freedom to choose or to decline to choose health insurance without penalty or threat of penalty (SB 0079 by Beavers 2/23/11). Stewart’s vote against this bill was a vote in favor of ObamaCare and its mandate to require all Tennesseans to buy health insurance.

“Since announcing his bid for Congress, Eric Stewart has been suspiciously silent on his support for ObamaCare in the legislature, and Tennessee voters are asking, ‘Where does Eric stand?’” said Tennessee Republican Party Executive Director Adam Nickas.

“Will Eric Stewart continue to be in lockstep with Barack Obama and continue to support federal mandates on Americans this week, or will he backtrack and try to change his position, knowing voters in the 4th District will be watching? Either way, Stewart can no longer cower in a corner and hide from this important issue.

“As a candidate for Congress, Eric Stewart needs to answer some very simple questions before Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling- Does he think ObamaCare and federal mandates are unconstitutional? Will he continue to support ObamaCare and its mandate no matter what the Supreme Court rules? Tennessee voters deserve to have these questions answered,” concluded Nickas.

Stewart Wants to Tweak Congressional District Map

Press Release from state Sen. Eric Stewart, D- Belvidere; Jan. 12, 2012:

Plan Would Make More Counties Whole

NASHVILLE – State Senator Eric Stewart sponsored an amendment Thursday to restore counties within a Congressional redistricting proposal that will go before the Senate on Friday.

“We can make this plan both legal and fair to counties so that they might stay whole and within their current districts,” Stewart said. “I would hope such a plan would receive a fair look in what has been an otherwise hurried process.”

Under Stewart’s amendment to Senate Bill 1515, Coffee County would be included once again in the Fourth Congressional District, where it is currently. Under the proposal before the Senate, Coffee County would be in the Sixth District with counties like Sumner and Wilson.

The amendment would also make Maury County wholly within the Fourth District. The county is split between the Fourth and Seventh Districts under the majority party’s proposal.

Van Buren County, which has a small portion in the proposed Sixth District, would also be wholly in the Fourth District under Stewart’s amendment.

Finally, the amendment would make Bradley County wholly within the Third Congressional District, where it currently is included. In all, the Fourth District would move from having three split counties in the current proposal to only one under Stewart’s plan.

“This map is constitutional, keeps counties together, and preserves the rural nature of the Fourth Congressional District,” Stewart said. “If we really want what’s best for Tennessee voters, this amendment gives us the opportunity to provide it.”

 

Sen. Stewart Says He’ll Run For Congress

News Release from Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Belvidere; Nov. 17, 2011:

Eric Stewart Announces Run for Congress in Tennessee’s 4th District

Winchester, TN – State Senator Eric Stewart announced today that he will run to represent Tennessee’s 4th district in the U.S. House of Representatives, pledging to put partisanship aside so we can protect our nation’s commitment to seniors, create jobs to revive our economy and reduce our massive deficit.

“Congress is broken and all we see is fighting, political posturing and gridlock from the folks we sent there to work on our behalf and solve the serious problems we face,” said Eric Stewart. “People are struggling. Unemployment remains too high, and our economy is sluggish at best. Illegal drug problems continue to increase and many small businesses are hanging on by a thread, if at all. All the while, Congress is only focused on slinging mud and pointing fingers instead of taking action to create jobs and reduce our debt. I’m running for Congress to bring common sense back to Washington and put the needs of the people ahead of special interests, rigid ideology and petty partisanship.”

Born and raised in Franklin County, Stewart has owned a small business, ran his family’s business and served as s county commissioner and state Senator. In 2002 Stewart defeated a 12-year incumbent to win a seat on the Franklin County Commission and won a hotly contested seat for the State Senate in 2008. That year, Stewart defeated a well-financed Republican in the General Election despite large Democratic losses in the district.

As a county commissioner, Eric Stewart pushed for budget cuts within county departments, pay cuts for county commissioners, and he supported tax relief for senior citizens. In the State Senate, Stewart championed tax relief for small businesses that put Tennesseans back to work as well as breaks for military families. He has supported measures to reduce and eventually eliminate the sales taxes on food. Focused on cutting government waste, Stewart has only voted for balanced budgets. Stewart is also a staunch supporter of public education in Tennessee. He has worked diligently to improve the public education system in Tennessee and fought for the rights of teachers, students and parents.

“I come from a family of small business owners, educators and people who give back,” Stewart said. “We need representatives in Washington who understand that the people of this district are struggling, and are willing to roll up their sleeves and find common ground to solve the problems our families, children and small businesses face. My focus has always been on helping people, creating jobs and improving public education in a common sense, fiscally responsible way. You can’t reach these goals when folks in Washington care more about toeing the party line and keeping their job than they do about helping folks back home. I look forward to listening to the hopes and dreams of the voters in Tennessee’s 4th Congressional district, and taking their voice to Washington.”

For more information on the campaign or to sign up for the newsletter to receive regular updates, please visit the campaign website, www.votestewart.com.

Eric Stewart, Biography (TN-CD4)

Eric Stewart comes from a family full of educators, small business owners and community leaders dedicated to public service and giving back.

Stewart, 39, was born, raised, and still lives in Franklin County, in the heart of the 4th Congressional District. His father, Richard, is a former teacher and football coach, and currently serves as the mayor of Franklin County. His mother, Sandra Stewart, is a teacher and middle school principal. The Stewart’s have personal experience with small business as well.

As a young boy, Stewart worked in the family’s small home improvement business, rising early to join his father as they installed heating and air conditioning units. Stewart went on to run his father’s small business, followed by ten years of running his own insurance agency. He recently sold his insurance agency to focus on getting the family home improvement business through a down economy.

In 2002, Stewart unseated a 12-year incumbent on the Franklin County Commission. Always looking for ways to make government run efficiently, Commissioner Stewart asked all county departments to cut ten percent from their proposed budgets. Stewart also pushed for the county commission to cut its own pay by one-third. Stewart fought to lower property taxes for seniors on a fixed income and also fought hard for improvements to the rural roads in Franklin County. When Eric’s father was elected county mayor, Stewart stepped down as commissioner to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Being conservative with tax dollars, Stewart ha opposed tax increases and a state income tax while voting to balance Tennessee’s budget. In the State Senate, Stewart has fought for a variety of tax incentives for small businesses that create new jobs. He has supported measures to require state contractors hire American workers. He has supported tax relief for military families and measures to hold corporations accountable when they hire illegal immigrants. Stewart recently conducted a “Jobs Summit” in his Senate district.

Stewart is a former Rotary officer in the Fayetteville/Lincoln County Rotary Club. Stewart and his family attend Winchester First United Methodist Church. He is a Mason, a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, a former board member of Winchester Little League, a Babe Ruth baseball umpire and team manager.

Stewart attended Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. He then returned home to Franklin County and began managing his father’s home improvement business.

Stewart is married to the former Judy Holt, a public school teacher in Franklin County. Their two children, Ashley and Holt, attend public schools in Franklin County. The Stewarts are regularly shuttling between baseball, basketball and soccer practices.

On the Job Hunt

Tennessee Democrats say they’ll soon embark on a statewide policy-seeking tour to get to the bottom of how best to create jobs. Republicans say they’ve already figured out that the real problem with the economy is at the very top — and not of Tennessee, but the nation.

Calling it a “tough job to create jobs,” House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh said he and fellow statehouse Democrats want to “look under every stone” in search of places where new jobs could be sprouting up — and find out what’s giving the businesses cultivating them the confidence to grow in these times of doubt.

“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 Fitzhugh.

High-ranking Republican lawmakers said Wednesday they agree that few are immune to the country’s economic pain. But they place blame for the prolonged suffering at the feet of one man in particular.

The Democrats’ planned six-day job search ought to be called the “Obama Apology Tour,” quipped Mark Norris, the Republican majority leader in the state Senate.

“They are going to find what we, who talk with our constituents every day, already know — that the failed policies from Washington are destroying our U.S. economy and killing jobs,” Norris said in a press release. “In order to get our economy back on track and grow jobs, we must have new leadership in the White House.”

Hendersonville’s Debra Maggart, the Republican caucus chair in the House, agreed.

“They’re probably going to hear things from citizens about what’s going on that they’re not going to like, that doesn’t go along with what Democrats have traditionally had on their party platform. They like red tape, they like layers of regulation, they like all this stuff. They’re going to have to own the president,” she said.

Both President Obama and Gov. Bill Haslam were elected on promises to create jobs and turn the economy around. But Democratic leaders at a press conference Wednesday resisted the urge to point a finger of blame at the governor for the state’s persistent unemployment problems.

They said they’re instead willing to go along with some traditional Republican desires like stripping away some business regulations, albeit cautiously.

“I think we’ve got to be very careful when we start just wholesale slashing out regulations left and right,” said Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Belvidere. “Those regulations were put there for a purpose, and they’re usually put there to protect the consumer from bad actors a lot of times.”

Heading into the jobs tour, Democrats contend they’ll seriously weigh the GOP’s ideas for improving the economy. But they’d also like majority Republicans to pay them the same courtesy by giving a dozen or so pieces of legislation that died in the 2011 legislative session an honest second look in 2012 — including plans for trying to entice hiring in the private sector with tax incentives.

“It’s a buyer’s market out there, and we’re one of 50 states, and they’re all different, and they’re all competing,” Fitzhugh said. “Especially in the Southeast the competition is fierce.  We have to do what we can to get jobs, just like the Amazon deal, just like the Electrolux deal, just like deals that are made in rural areas and city areas. We have to be flexible.”

How to lower the state’s unemployment of just under 10 percent is a primary issue on Tennessee politicians’ minds as the 2012 legislative session starts coming into focus. Haslam has hopscotched around the state meeting with small business owners in roundtable discussions to hear about what they want to see out of state government. Meanwhile, House Republicans and Democrats have launched competing task forces charged with coming up with ideas to solve the state’s unemployment problem.

Democrats say they’ll begin their jobs tour on Monday, Sept. 19, in Memphis and work their way east to Knox County by the weekend.

Democrats Launch Jobs Tour

Press Release from the Tennessee State House and Senate Democratic Caucuses; Sept. 7, 2011:

NASHVILLE – 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. 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.”

Tennessee Senate Dems Legislative Update: May 13

Press Release from the Senate Democratic Caucus, May 13, 2011: 

Tort Reform Passes

Senate Democrats fought Republican efforts on Thursday to cap noneconomic damages for civil lawsuits. House Bill 2008, as approved by the Senate, limits those damages designed to compensate an injured person for pain, suffering, and the decreased quality of life that accompanies severe injuries.

Senator Eric Stewart described the action by saying, “Today state lawmakers put a price on the life of our children. They put a price on the life of our parents and grandparents. They put a price on the life of the weak, the paralyzed, the neglected — all under the guise of economic development.”

The measure, which removes authority from juries to award damages as they see fit, would also cap punitive damages at twice the total of economic and noneconomic damages, therefore creating an effectively lower cap for people with lower incomes.

Given that last year only 14 trials resulted in verdicts that would have exceeded these caps, Chairman Lowe Finney argued, “This legislation doesn’t create jobs. Instead, it hurts those who need help the most.”

Voter Confidence Act Damaged

On Thursday the Senate also passed House Bill 386, a bill that removes the requirements for counties to use more secure voting machines with a verifiable paper trail. Senator Roy Herron, who has been vocal in his opposition to this measure, said that “the state should invest in the integrity of our ballot box and making sure our votes count through a verifiable paper trail.”

This move comes despite numerous incidents of voting machines getting hacked and malfunctioning in the last election and many of Tennessee’s voting machines being called “the least secure in the country” by experts.

Anti-discrimination ordinance overturned

The Senate also approved Senate Bill 632, a bill that repeals a recent Nashville ordinance that protects homosexuals and transgendered people from discrimination by city contractors. The bill, which requires all local anti-discrimination policies to match state policies, was strongly opposed by Davidson County representatives who accused state lawmakers of supporting government interference in what should be a local matter.

Collective bargaining restrictions back in House

For the second time, House Bill 130, the bill that would limit teachers’ ability to collectively bargain, has moved out of the House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee. The House bill differs from the Senate version in that it still allows teachers to negotiate on some issues, but if the measure passes on the House floor next week, it is expected to be altered to match the Senate’s more restrictive language. After the 13-12 vote in committee, the bill moves to the House floor this Monday.

Democrats: Haslam’s Tort Reform Substitutes Will of Politicians for Wisdom of Juries

Press Release from the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus, May 12, 2011:

NASHVILLE – Senate Democrats fought Thursday against efforts by Senate Republicans to arbitrarily cap damages awarded to victims of horrific accidents, medical malpractice and other life-changing injuries.

“Today state lawmakers put a price on the life of our children. They put a price on the life of our parents and grandchildren. They put a price on the life of the weak, the paralyzed, the neglected — all under the guise of economic development,” Senator Eric Stewart of Belvidere said.

House Bill 2008, as passed by the Senate 21-12, would cap damages for pain and suffering awarded by a court to $750,000, and $1 million for severe injuries. Currently Tennessee does not have a cap on such damages.

“By passing this law, lawmakers are taking the decision-making process away from a jury of citizens and telling them that the government doesn’t trust them to make the right decision,” Senator Andy Berke of Chattanooga said.

Punitive damages would be capped at the greater of either $500,000 or twice the amount of the combined economic and non-economic damages. Because economic damages include lost wages, the total payouts will be lower for those who make less.

Sen. Roy Herron noted during floor debate that a young quadriplegic woman receiving the maximum amount possible under the caps would receive an estimated $29 per day over the remainder of her life.

An Associated Press story noted that last year in Tennessee, only 14 trials exceeded the proposed caps, meaning there would be no radical change to the state’s job creation climate, as supporters claim.

“We should be up here talking about measures to create jobs and put people back to work,” said Chairman Lowe Finney of Jackson. “This legislation doesn’t create jobs. Instead, it hurts those who need help the most.”

The bill will now go to Governor Bill Haslam, who is expected to sign the legislation.

Senate Dems Weekly Legislative Overview, April 8

Press Release from Senate Democrat Caucus; April 8, 2011:

Protecting domestic violence victims

On Thursday, the Senate passed Senator Andy Berke’s bill to authorize the use of global positioning monitoring systems as a condition of bail in domestic violence cases.

Under Senate Bill 567, the victim would receive information on the location of the accused offender and would have an electronic monitor to notify when the defendant was in an area covered by an order of protection. The House version of this bill is in the Judiciary Subcommittee.

Securing voting rights

A bill sponsored by Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney to provide free photo identification cards to Tennesseans of voting age passed unanimously in the Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 1384 would require that, should photo identification be needed to vote in Tennessee, such ID cards would be provided free of charge to those who do not otherwise have an ID or photo drivers license.

The bill is largely a response to Senate Bill 16, a bill passed earlier this year by Senate Republicans that would require photo identification for voting. Senate Democrats have voiced their concern that such legislation would disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Tennessee seniors, disabled voters and those that could not afford such identification cards, and could potentially open Tennessee up to a federal lawsuit. The bill will now go to the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee.

Living up to our “Volunteer State” name

Senator Eric Stewart passed a bill Monday to allow Volunteer Tennessee to raise funds through a partner nonprofit organization. Senate Bill 2009 would allow Volunteer Tennessee, a 25-member bipartisan citizen board appointed by the governor, to more effectively link private and public funds in order to solve community problems in the state.

Among other things, Volunteer Tennessee oversees federal grants and training services to support AmeriCorps, Learn and Serve America, the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards and volunteer centers throughout the state. The House version of the bill is scheduled to be heard in the Finance, Ways and Means Committee.

Update on Senator Herron

Over the weekend, Senator Roy Herron was in a bicycle accident that hospitalized him until Monday afternoon. Herron was training for an Ironman triathlon when he was unable to complete a turn, resulting in a wreck that left him with a broken collarbone and several broken ribs. He was treated at Union City Hospital and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

In a statement, Herron said he is grateful for the excellent treatment he received, and for his bicycle helmet. Herron attended session on the Senate floor Monday and Thursday.

Tennessee Senate Dems’ Update: March 31

Press Release from the Senate Democratic Caucus, March 31:

Mountaintop Removal

Senate Bill 578, the bill that would effectively ban mountaintop removal coal mining, failed in the Environment Committee this week along party lines. The bill, sponsored by State Senator Eric Stewart, would have banned ridgetop mining above 2,000 feet. Mountaintop removal mining employs less than 400 people in Tennessee and has been shown to pollute rivers and streams with toxic selenium that makes its way into our drinking water and food. A companion bill, Senate Bill 577, has been placed in the General Subcommittee indefinitely, meaning the effort is likely dead for the year.

Education

Senate Bill 1523, a bill that would remove the cap on the number of charter schools in the state passed the Education Committee 7-2. The bill would also remove certain restrictions on who is eligible to attend charter schools to include all students in the school’s jurisdiction. It has been referred to the Finance, Ways, and Means Committee.

During session on Thursday, the Senate voted largely along party lines to approve Senate Bill 1528 and pass it off the message calendar. The bill would increase the requirements for a teacher to achieve tenure and would require teachers to consistently exceed standards that have not yet been defined. Thursday’s vote reconciled the House and Senate versions of the bill by adding the House amendments to the Senate bill. The bill will go to Governor Bill Haslam’s desk for his signature.

Abortion

The Judiciary Committee passed Senate Joint Resolution 127 this week on a party-line vote. The resolution would remove the state constitutional protections to an abortion in Tennessee, even though the federal protections would still be in place. If approved this session by a two-thirds majority in each chamber, the resolution would be placed on the ballot in 2014. It would then require a simple majority of those casting a gubernatorial ballot.