Posts

TNDP Announces New Director of Finance

Press release from the Tennessee Democratic Party; March 9, 2015:

The Tennessee Democratic Party is pleased to announce the hiring of Lindsay Coleman as Director of Finance. Coleman will lead the Party’s fundraising efforts and coordinate fundraising events across the state.

Coleman has 5 years of experience in campaign and political fundraising and most recently worked on Major General (Ret) Irv Halter’s congressional campaign, where she led a finance team that raised nearly $1,000,000 to out-raise the Republican incumbent by a 3:1 margin.

“We are excited to have Lindsay join the team,” said Mary Mancini, chair of the TNDP, “it’s clear that she will be a valuable addition as we work to rebuild the party, re-energize the base and focus on winning elections across the state.”

“I’m ready to get to work.” said Coleman, “I know that Democrats in Tennessee aren’t where we need to be but I’m going to do everything I can to ensure that our Democratic Party and our Democratic candidates have the resources they need to let Tennesseans know that we are the party fighting for equal opportunity for all of us.”

Mancini Praises State Democratic Legislators’ Renewal of Push for Medicaid Expansion

Press release from Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini; February 12, 2015:

After Republicans such as Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga-has his choice of two health care plans) and Sen. Kerry Roberts (R- Springfield-defended his vote based on false information) tried to kill Insure Tennessee last week in a special legislative session and thereby deny 300,000 hardworking Tennesseans access to affordable health care, Democrats introduced two bills and two resolutions today that will keep Insure Tennessee alive:

“State Senator Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville)…has introduced two senate joint resolutions and one bill…The first resolution would allow Republican Gov. Bill Haslam to pursue his Insure Tennessee proposal in the regular General Assembly session. The second aims to authorize full expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, according to a news release….Yarbro’s bill (SB 885) would repeal legislation passed last year that would require the governor to get the General Assembly’s approval before expanding the state’s Medicaid population under the Affordable Care Act….”Democratic lawmakers agree this issue is too important to let drop just because the governor’s own party let him down,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart (D-Nashvillle) said…”We are committed to finding a way to bring affordable health care to Tennesseans.” State Sen. Lee Harris (D-Memphis) also filed a bill Thursday to make part-time state employees eligible for the same health insurance plans available to state lawmakers.” (Read more...)

Please share this story far and wide (here’s the link: http://goo.gl/rQfSM8) and let folks know that:

CORRECTION: Mancini: Death of Haslam’s Medicaid Expansion ‘Low Point’ in TN History

E-mail from Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini; February 6, 2015:

Yesterday we made a mistake and named Senator Dr. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald) as one of the votes against Insure Tennessee. We’ve heard from many of you to say that Senator Hensley was not on the Health Committee this week and, in fact, supports Insure Tennessee. Our sincere apologies to Senator Hensley.

The seventh Republican Senator who voted against Insure Tennessee was Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma).

But our mistake was not the only one made this week. Senator Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga stated this whopper during the committee hearing:

“Sen. Yarbro, I’ve heard you twice kind of take a slap at some of us, and I’m getting a little resentful of it. I have a very nice health care [plan] provided to me through my private employer.”

Not so. 6 of the 7 Senators who voted to kill Insure Tennessee have healthcare provided for them by the state. Sen. Gardenhire is one of them, but insisted he doesn’t use it. So, not only does Sen. Gardenhire have insurance, but while he is denying even one healthcare option for hardworking Tenneseans, he has his choice of two! Shameful.

While Tennessee’s Republican legislators have shown that they are unwilling to help hardworking Tennesseans but make sure that they get theirs, Democratic legislators across the state have their priorities straight:

None of us wants to have it on our conscience that we denied our fellow Tennesseans affordable healthcare because of some philosophical difference.” — Rep. Johnnie Turner (D-Memphis) (WREG)

I think we need to remove the partisanship issues from this. This is about people’s lives. At the end of the day, if we don’t have access to health care, some family members may die.” — Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) (WREG)

The Republicans in the legislature spit in the eye of their own governor. This is the worst public policy disaster that I can remember in a decade.” — said Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville) (WSMV)

I’m burdened by the thought of over 300,000 people who will continue to lack access to health insurance. It hurts my soul to think of the many Tennesseans who had such hope, who work as hard as they can everyday and still can’t afford healthcare, and who will continue to lack access to preventive care and management of chronic disease. Healthcare is not a privilege; access to it should not be determined by the size of your bank account or quality of job. However, I still remain hopeful that we will reevaluate this decision to ignore the least among us. As a Christian, as an elected official, and as a dweller of this Earth, I can do no less.” — Rep. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis)

It’s a sad day in Tennessee that we have a party that has majority rule, but can’t pass legislation for the hard-working people of Tennessee that need it.” — Rep. Johnny Shaw, (D-Bolivar) (Jackson Sun)

And Democrats were joined by many allies who agreed:

It offered a practical, commonsense solution that worked for our state. Hospitals, along with community and business partners, have fought tirelessly in recent months to urge support for Insure Tennessee by state lawmakers and I am proud of our efforts.“–Craig Becker, president of the Tennessee Hospital Association (Chattanooga Times Free Press)

Governor Haslam presented us with a unique opportunity to take care of our own. We regret that some members of his own party were not willing to put politics aside and do what was fair and just for the people of Tennessee.” –Tara Shaver, interim communications director, AARP (Chattanooga Times Free Press)

An “extremely disappointed” Bobby Arnold, president of West Tennessee Healthcare, said, “We appreciate the efforts of everyone who supported Insure Tennessee and believe it would have been good for West Tennessee Healthcare and the state. West Tennessee Healthcare will continue to serve the people of rural West Tennessee.” (Jackson Sun)

It’s been quite a week. Enjoy your weekend…and let’s keep fighting for all Tennesseans!

Mary Mancini
Chair, Tennessee Democratic Party

E-mail from Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini; February 5, 2015:

Yesterday was a truly a low point in our state’s history.

With one vote in a senate committee, seven Republican senators made a decision to shut the door to critical healthcare for over a quarter of a million hard working Tennesseans.

The seven Republicans are: Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga, Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains, Mike Bell of Riceville, Dr. Joey Hensley of Hohenwald, Brian Kelsey of Germantown, Rusty Crowe of Johnson City and Kerry Roberts of Springfield.

But those seven Republican senators didn’t act in a vacuum. The end of Insure Tennessee is a direct result in the failure of leadership by Republican leaders Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Speaker Beth Harwell. It was their failure to lead, their failure to have the courage to stand up to right wing extremists, and their failure to serve 6.5 million Tennesseans that lead to 7 Republican senators making the terrible decision that will devastate the lives of 250,000 Tennesseans for years to come.

Those seven Republican senators showed that they have absolutely no compassion for the 800 Tennesseans who have already died waiting for healthcare expansion.

Those seven Republican senators showed that they have absolutely no fiscal sense by rejecting the one billion dollars in federal funds that Tennessee would have already received with healthcare expansion.

Those seven Republican senator showed that Governor Haslam was wrong when he told our President that Republicans could be trusted to care for “the least of these”.

Tennessee’s Republican legislators have shown they are unwilling to put people first and that they are incapable of running our state.

Democratic Senator Jeff Yarbro, who stood up for Tennesseans by voting for Insure Tennessee in the committee, pointed out the simple fact that Republicans who deny hardworking Tennesseans the healthcare they need are themselves on government funded healthcare for themselves. House Leader Craig Fitzhugh said, “It does matter who governs.” Congressman Steve Cohen said the vote was “Foolish, foolish, foolish. Sad, sad, sad. Sick, sick, sick,” and Congressman Jim Cooper said, “Tennesseans will die and hospitals will close as a result of a cruel state legislature. Rarely in state history have we seen such a devastating lack of leadership.”

As Democrats, we will keep fighting for all Tennesseans, even when tea party extremists celebrate Insure Tennessee’s defeat.

Thank you,

Mary Mancini
Chair, Tennessee Democratic Party

Mancini: TN Democrats Keeping Busy With Launch of 109th General Assembly

Press release from Tennessee Democratic Party Chairwoman Mary Mancini; January 22, 2015:

Last week Tennessee Democrats helped to gavel in the 109th Tennessee General Assembly and they’ve been busy:

  • Senator Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville), wrote an op-ed for the Tennessean (which you can read here) in which he puts Governor Haslam’s election to a second term in perspective:

    “Despite cruising to re-election with 70 percent of the vote, Gov. Haslam received… 300,000 fewer votes than Gov. Bredesen did in his…landslide re-election in 2006. In fact, fewer Tennesseans voted to re-elect Gov. Haslam than the number who voted for President Barack Obama in 2012 or 2008…

    …when you do the math, Gov. Haslam’s 70 percent victory represented just over 20 percent of eligible voters…

    By virtue of the election outcomes, Gov. Haslam and the Republican supermajority have the right to govern. But when the votes that elected them come from only 29.1 percent of the eligible voters — and even less for those legislators essentially elected in partisan primaries — it is clear that most Tennesseans have not given them a mandate to lead.”

  • Tennessee State Representatives Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) & Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville) were sworn in as 2015 State Directors with Women In Government. They were elected by their peers. (Read more from Nashville Pride by clicking here.)
  • The Tennessee House Caucus celebrated MLK, Jr. day with this truth: “49 years after Dr. King uttered these words, we’re still fighting for a living wage for regular people. This ‪MLK day tell legislators it’s time for a state minimum wage.
  • ​And finally, members of the Tennessee Senate Caucus (Yarbro, Kyle & Harris) abstained from voting for the reelection of Ron Ramsey as Senate Speaker and Lieutenant Governor. (Read more from Humphrey on the Hill by clicking here.)
  • I’m hitting the road! ​Look for our “Listening Tour” announcement next week.

Critics of Huffman Want Decision from Haslam

Despite a recent opinion by Tennessee’s attorney general offering legal cover to the state Department of Education for its decision to delay release of student test scores, critics of the agency’s embattled commissioner aren’t letting up on their demand that he be cut loose.

And they want Gov. Bill Haslam to make a decision sooner this summer rather than later in the fall after the general election, as he’s indicated he intends to do.

“I haven’t sat down and had that conversation with [any of the commissioners] about the next four years, because it’s not appropriate,” Haslam said on July 8. “I’m in the middle of a campaign right now, and we will — this fall, if I’m re-elected, we’ll sit down with all 23, and see if they want to continue, and if that works for us.”

Kevin Huffman has been a lightning rod for criticism from both the left and the right. But by the same token he’s got staunch defenders among both Republicans and Democrats as well. Two of his biggest fans have been Tennessee’s GOP governor and the Obama administration’s education chief, Arne Duncan.

Haslam has been emphasizing improvements in test scores that have come about under Huffman, including Tennessee’s status as the fastest improving education system in the nation. The fundamental test of his administration’s education efforts ought to be student performance, the governor said, and in his estimation kids in Tennessee’s publicly funded classrooms are “learning more than they ever have before.”

However, opposition to Haslam on education — in particular, his embrace of both Common Core and student-testing as a means of evaluating the job teachers are doing — runs deep both among educators and conservative politicians who fear the state is giving up control of its education system to outside forces.

Citing a “complete lack of trust” in the commissioner, as well as alleging the manipulation of test scores, a letter sent to Haslam on June 19 demanded Huffman be replaced. Fifteen Republican members of the Tennessee General Assembly — 13 lawmakers in the House and two senators, endorsed the letter, which declared that mistrust of Huffman stems from his “actions and general attitude,” and that he’s demonstrated a “failure to uphold and follow the laws of the state of Tennessee in this latest TCAP debacle we are currently witnessing.”

The letter also questioned whether or not Huffman had the authority to waive the inclusion of TCAP scores, considering that a bill passed by the General Assembly in the 2014 session granted Huffman waiver abilities, but specifically excluded waiving requirements related to “assessments and accountability.”

But state Attorney General Bob Cooper recently released an opinion, requested by state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, that found Huffman in fact didn’t abuse his authority by waiving those requirements, that no state or federal law “would be violated by a delay in releasing TCAP test scores,” as long as the results were provided by June 30, which they were.

The attorney general’s opinion did little, though, to change the minds of Huffman’s detractors.

Sen. Joey Hensley, a Republican from Hohenwald, said he “wasn’t surprised” by the attorney general’s office opinion, and said it didn’t really carry any legal weight. And anyway, “there are a lot of different issues” on which Hensley said he’s had problems with Commissioner Huffman.

Hensley, a member of the Senate Education Committee, indicated he stands by the letter’s main thrust. Huffman should “go somewhere else,” he said. “I just feel like the commissioner doesn’t listen to the superintendents and the teachers and the principles, and he doesn’t listen too much to the Legislature, either.”

Julie West, the president of Parents for Truth in Education, said that she thinks that Cooper’s opinion is just splitting hairs.

“The irony is Commissioner Huffman pushed for this, because he’s all about the testing, and when he doesn’t get the results he wants all of a sudden he wants to do away with that being factored in,” West said. “And let me say, if the Governor and the Commissioner were really as proud of TCAP scores as they want us to believe, it certainly would not have been announced during the Fourth of July.”

West said that she was not just in favor of Huffman’s resignation, but that he should be fired. West also said that part of the problem, and what was “more disturbing,” was that Cooper “seems to have forgotten that he is supposed to be the attorney for the people of Tennessee, rather than a servant of the Governor.”

“I think that part of the issue is the people of Tennessee don’t have a voice in who the Commissioner of Education is, and don’t have a voice in who the Attorney General is,” West said. “And for that reason they don’t feel, or they seem to act in ways that don’t show a lot of concern for what we believe, and truthfully for what the law seems to be.”

West described her group as not of any particular political perspective, but just people who are not “tolerating” what’s happening to their kids under Common Core or Huffman’s education department.

And regardless of the attorney general’s view on the controversy over the TCAP scores, those on the left wing of Tennessee’s political spectrum still think Huffman needs to go, too. The Tennessee Democratic Party has regularly called for Huffman’s ouster, on the grounds that he is aloof and unresponsive to local teachers and education officials.

The governor owes it to the people of Tennessee to declare whether or not he plans to keep Huffman around, said Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron. That decision, Herron told TNReport, “is overdue, and should be both made and announced as soon as possible.”

“The commissioner has refused to listen to the teachers in public schools, and to the superintendents and schools boards who run those schools,” Herron said in a phone interview. “But the commissioner has united Tennesseans, from Tea Party Republicans to Tennessee Democrats, from 60 superintendents to thousands of teachers, who all agree it is past time for this commissioner to go back to Washington.”

Mary Mancini, a Democratic candidate for the Tennessee State Senate district being vacated by longtime state legislator, Sen. Douglas Henry, said that Haslam needs to either make his decision about Huffman, or “explain in non-political terms” why he has not made that decision yet, because she finds the education commissioner’s performance to be lacking.

“When looking at this job performance, it’s clear that [Huffman]’s just not working the way he should be; doing his job basically,” said Mancini. “He’s been difficult and unresponsive to legislators on both sides of the aisle. Somebody needs to hold him accountable, and both Republicans and Democrats have been trying to do that, and he’s been completely ignoring them, and unresponsive, and that’s not acceptable.”

And the Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, believes that the TCAP delay is another in a line of issues with the state’s top education executive, said Jim Wrye, government relations manager for the TEA.

“The policies were placed in that it would be anywhere between 15 and 25 percent of a student’s grade, and that it wasn’t ready at the end of school just threw a huge wrench into what is one of the most important things — which are final grades — for students, and especially for teachers,” Wrye said.

Wrye, though admitting he’s not a lawyer, said that he found the AG’s opinion interesting  because “the idea that you could be exempted from student assessments was something that was prohibited in that flexibility bill. It was something we had discussed at length during the legislative session.”

In September 2013, 63 school superintendents from around the state signed a letter criticizing the education reform policies being implemented by the state’s top education office. And later in 2013, teachers’ unions across the Volunteer State cast votes of “no confidence” in Huffman.

However, Huffman has enjoyed some recent support, with a petition of support recently announced that, as of press time, features over 400 signatures from Tennesseans, including Kate Ezell, a consultant associated with the Tennessee Charter School Incubator as a funds-raiser from September 2011 to January 2013.

Mancini Calls on Haslam to Support Minimum Wage Legislation

Press release from the Mary Mancini Campaign for State Senate District 21; June 4, 2014:

Nashville, Tenn. (June 4, 2014) – Mary Mancini, Democratic candidate for state senate, has called on Governor Bill Haslam to support legislation to address rising income inequality by raising the minimum wage.

“Raising the minimum wage will help over 100,000 hard working Tennesseans,” says Mancini, “and no one who works full time should have to live in poverty.” In recent remarks Governor Haslam said that rising income inequality was a problem for both political parties. “If the Governor is serious about addressing the income gap, supporting the creation of a state minimum wage is a great place to start.”

Tennesse is one of only five states without a minimum wage law. Approximately 117,000 Tennesseans, or 7.4% of the workforce, earn just $7.25 an hour, the federal minimum. A study from the National Women’s Law Center shows women make up about two-thirds of those earning minimum wage or less and that raising the minimum wage would also help close the wage gap between men and women.

Mancini calls for setting Tennessee’s minimum wage at $10.10 an hour noting, “An increase of over 30% in the minimum wage would make a real difference in the lives of Tennesseans across our state. I look forward to working with other state senators to pass this important legislation which will help so many, while also addressing the issue of pay equity.”

For more information, contact Kris Murphy at 615.290.0370 or visit www.maryforsenate. Mary Mancini is a candidate for senate in district 21, former small business owner and is endorsed by SEIU Local 205. United Campus Workers, Democracy for America, Women’s Campaign Fund, Progressive Majority and Women for Tennessee’s Future.

Legislature Approves TN Workers’ Comp Overhaul

Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s workers’ compensation reform legislation passed the state House of Representatives Thursday, 68-24. The bill now heads to his desk to be signed into law.

The House moved to concur with Senate Bill 200, where the bill passed by a vote of 28-2, with little discussion earlier this month. Only one Democrat – Rep. Charles Curtiss of Sparta – broke rank with the House minority party in voting against the legislation that expands the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development to oversee a process formerly handled by the courts.

“This bill is truly an overhaul of the system designed to make fundamental changes to avoid having to do it again in a few years,” said Rep. Kevin Brooks, who presented House Bill 194 to the body. House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, is the bill’s prime sponsor. In the Senate it was Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville.

Brooks predicts that the primary gains for employees will be fewer delays, better medical treatment, claim processes that are easier to follow and support from the workers’ comp division when problems arise. Gains for employers include cost reductions, predictability and more efficient claim-handling, said the Bradley County Republican.

Currently, the Volunteer State is one of only three states that adjudicate workers’ comp claims in courts. The legislation does away with the court system — but without any reduction of employees in the state’s 95 Chancery Courts located in each county, Democratic Leader Rep. Craig Fitzhugh noted.

Democrats complained that the legislation does not address the medical costs associated with workers’ comp. Opponents have claimed throughout the bill’s largely party-line trek to passage that the high cost of health care is the reason Tennessee’s costs continue to rise, while those in the surrounding eight states continue to fall.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Mike Turner wondered from where the cost-savings in the new system will come. Brooks said “streamlining the process” will result in lower employer insurance premiums.

Turner said he suspects any real savings will come from lower payments to disabled-on-the-job employees. “We’re taking money out of the workers’ pocket. That’s not right. It’s not fair,” said the Old Hickory lawmakers, a firefighter who has served 13 years in the House. “We’re going to pass the savings onto business people. I’ve never seen a bill that tears at my heart like this one does.”

“I hope you understand what you know what you’re doing if you vote for this bill. We’ll be back in three or four years doing this again,” said Turner, urging members to send the legislation to summer study and to “do it right.”

Fitzhugh offered six of the eight amendments from Democrats. However, each one failed, just as they did when he presented them in the Finance, Ways & Means Committee, due to tabling motions to kill each without discussion. In both situations, the tabling motions overwhelming passed along party lines.

Following the House session, Fitzhugh told TNReport.com that he tried to “have amendments that would just put a little more common sense in there.

“The problems I have with it are that people thinks it’s going to be reform, but it’s really not,” said the nine-term representative from Ripley. “I’m afraid we’ll see it in a year or two and have to do something else with it. I don’t think this is going to turn out to be something very positive.”

Following the vote, Mary Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action, a union-backed organization that has fought against the legislation, said in a statement that “the House of Representatives has clearly shown that instead of being on the side of protecting the hardworking Tennesseans who elected them, they are on the side of special interests like big insurance companies and large corporations who already benefit from so many tax loopholes and giveaways.”

Amelia Morrison Hipps may be reached at amhipps@downhomepolitics.com, on Twitter @DwnHomePolitics or at 615-442-8667.

TCA: Haslam Gives Another ‘Non-Answer’ on Dept. of Labor ‘Mismanagement’

Press release from Tennessee Citizen Action; April 3, 2013:

GOVERNOR’S ANSWER ON MISMANAGEMENT WITHIN DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT IS YET ANOTHER NON-ANSWER

Nashville, Tenn. (April 3, 2013) – Yesterday, in response to the call from Tennessee Citizen Action, the AFL-CIO of Tennessee, and several legislators to put the brakes on his proposed changes to workers’ comp law that will create a new division under the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Governor said that he thought “the comptroller’s audit had no bearing on workers’ comp.” His full statement given during a press availability: “I think it’s a whole separate deal. One of those is about processing claims, and one of them is about adjudicating workers’ comp issues, so those are two very, very different issues. They’re in the same department, I admit, but they’re two very different issues.”

“We’ve heard this sort of non-answer answer before from Governor Haslam,” said Mary Mancini, executive director, Tennessee Citizen Action, “Instead of thoughtfully reconsidering his decision to add yet another division to the troubled Department of Labor, the Governor’s non-answer indicates his choice to trivialize and isolate the findings of the report and detach his public policy decisions from the mismanagement identified within the report.”

Governor Haslam is pushing to create a new multimillion-dollar workers’ comp division housed within the troubled Department of Labor and Workforce Development that has also in recent weeks seen it’s top management resign for “family reasons” and about which the Comptroller’s Single Audit Report said the “management has threatened the integrity of the Unemployment Insurance Program by failing to provide sufficient controls and oversight.”

The report found problems within 11 different state agencies and universities, and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development was the subject of 25% of the problems.

“If he wants to be honest, it’s not just the Department of Labor that has issues, it’s also 10 other agencies within his government,” said Wil Hammond, Communications Director, AFL-CIO of TN, “If anything, the mismanagement is worse than he is willing to admit to. This is clearly not the right time to add more responsibilities to an agency that can’t handle the load they have now.”

Tennessee Citizen and the AFL-CIO of Tennessee once again call on Governor Haslam to delay the creation of a new workers’ comp authority under the Department of Labor until he has had a chance to clean up department and the Comptroller has a chance to issue the 2013 Single Audit Report in 2014.

Source: TNReport.com

TCA: Haslam Workers Comp Proposal Creates ‘Disposable Workforce’

Press release from Tennessee Citizen Action; March 26, 2013:

Nashville, Tenn. (March 26, 2013) – Today at a rally in front of the state capitol, Tennessee Citizen Action, the AFL-CIO of Tennessee, the Jackson Central Labor Council, the Memphis AFL-CIO Labor Council, the Central Labor Council of Nashville and Middle-Tennessee, along with various other local unions, community organizations, and workers who have been injured on the job called on Governor Bill Haslam to stop his proposed changes that will gut workers’ compensation. The bill, which is part of the Governor’s legislative package, will leave hardworking men and women with less to take care of their families when they are injured on the job and remove incentives for employers to keep injured workers healthy and on the job.

The proposed changes to workers’ comp will not only cut insurance payouts to workers when they are injured on the job, but also will create a new bureaucracy completely controlled by the Governor and remove workers’ comp cases from impartial court system. Worst of all, it will allow employers to “throwaway” Injured employees.

“This legislative majority is no friend to working people,” said Jerry Winters of the AFL-CIO of Tennessee, “The blatant attacks on worker’s compensation, living wages, unemployment insurance, and retirement benefits are aimed right at the very people who keep Tennessee’s economy moving. It is time for workers to stand up and say enough is enough!”

As they consider Governor Haslam’s changes to workers’ compensation, the legislative majority have a choice to make: they can either do the bidding of the Governor and side with special interests like big insurance companies or they can fight to protect the hardworking Tennesseans who elected them.

“So far we have packed several legislative hearing rooms on Capitol Hill to make sure lawmakers know Governor Haslam’s proposed changes to workers’ comp will hurt hardworking Tennesseans and their families,” said Mary Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action, “Since they are not paying attention, now it’s time to deliver the message directly to Governor Haslam.”

Tennessee Citizen Action works in the public interest as Tennessee’s premier consumer rights organization.

State: New Voter ID Law Proving a Success

Tennessee’s 2011 law requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot had little apparent statistical effect on citizen access to the polls in the general election, records from the Secretary of State’s Office show.

Of the 2.45 million votes cast during the election, 674 provisional ballots related to the new photo ID law were filled out. Of that total, 178 voters returned with proper photo identification and had their ballots counted, according to records.

The new law states that voters who come to the polls without a photo ID may still vote using a provisional ballot. Voters can then return to the polls within two days with a valid ID, such as a driver’s license, and their vote will be counted.

“It’s not even 1 percent of the vote,” Secretary of State spokesman Blake Fontenay said.

The share of voters who did not have their provisional ballot counted because they lacked photo ID comes to roughly .02 percent of all votes cast.

The Nov. 6 election was the broadest test to date of the voter ID law, and lawmakers who supported it say it is proving a success.

“From the moment this law was introduced opponents have been screaming that the sky was falling in ways that would shame Chicken Little,” Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said in a statement. “The numbers have shown otherwise. Photo ID provides voter protection, and now we have proof.”

Shelby County had the most voters casting provisional ballots due to the voter ID law, with 134 cast. Records show 15 of those voters returned with the required identification. Davidson County came in second with 41 voters casting provisional ballots.

“When I see these numbers and then open the paper and see obvious examples of voter fraud in Philadelphia and Cleveland, I rest comfortably knowing that Tennessee has done the right thing in protecting the franchise,” Ramsey said. “What these numbers reveal is that the only thing Tennessee’s voter ID law suppresses is voter fraud.”

When the Republican-controlled Tennessee Legislature passed the photo ID bill, opponents argued the measure was not designed to protect voter integrity, but rather was a deliberate move to discourage groups that tend to vote Democratic, such as the elderly and minority voters.

They say the real takeaway from the recent election is not that the vast majority appear unaffected by the voter ID law, but that potentially hundreds of otherwise eligible voters may have been turned away.

“Those numbers, they may seem low to you, but they’re not,” said Mary Mancini, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action, a voter advocacy group.“That’s a good chunk of people who don’t have a voter ID.”

Mancini has opposed Tennessee’s voter ID laws. This week, for example, she said that the Davidson County Election Commission “utterly failed,” citing hundreds of voters experiencing problems at the polls on Election Day, including not being able to access provisional ballots.

“If one voter is kept from casting their vote because of this law then it’s one vote too many,” she said. “The other thing is that we’ll never really know many people showed up at their polling place, saw the sign about having a photo ID and just left.”

The Secretary of State’s Office maintains there were few problems at the polls, and that there’s another side to those arguments.

According to Fontenay, “Even one person impersonating a voter is one too many in our eyes. Their argument is that they have no way of knowing how many people might not have had an ID and might have stayed home. Our argument is that we have no way of knowing how many people might have, in the past, cast fraudulent ballots.”

While those are open questions, what seems clear is that public opinion is on the side of photo ID.

A poll conducted before Election Day by the Middle Tennessee State University Survey Group showed that 81 percent of Tennesseans approve of the law requiring people to show a photo ID before voting.

Tennessee is not alone in the debate over requiring an ID to vote.

Ten states in addition to Tennessee require a photo ID to vote. Twenty states, such as Massachusetts, California, Nevada and West Virginia, do not require some kind of identification to vote.

In all, 30 states have laws requiring voters to show ID at the polls, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

And that number could rise, according to the NCSL, because a total of 33 states have passed voter ID laws.

Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are among them, but those measures are tied up in court battles or, in the case of Mississippi, require both legislative approval and federal sign-off via the Voting Rights Act.

Trent Seibert can be reached at trent@tnreport.com, on Twitter at @trentseibert or at 615-669-9501.