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Herron Looks Back to 1964 Civil Rights Act, Chides GOP Over Voter ID

Column from Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron; July 2, 2014:

 This column originally appeared in The Commercial Appeal.

Fifty years ago, when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, I was in elementary school and had no clue about the law that would drastically change daily life for African-Americans. I surely had no idea how it would improve life for white Americans like me.

This historic legislation outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin at “places of public accommodation.” The movie theater I frequented had to discard its “coloreds only” entrance and the segregated balcony. Restaurants where we ate had to let African-Americans out of the kitchens and into the dining areas. My future friends, like state Sen. Reggie Tate of Memphis, were no longer excluded from admission to the Mid-South Fair six days a week.

The new law gave the U.S. attorney general authority to seek redress when school boards deprived students “of the equal protection of the laws.” Two years later, my school in Weakley County, Tennessee, was desegregated. And for the first time, I began to spend time daily with African-American children. I had new friends in the classrooms, and the lessons went beyond reading and writing.

After signing the Civil Rights Act, President Johnson said to an aide, “We (Democrats) have lost the South for a generation.” The president underestimated the political impact, which continues now two generations later.

In 1966, just two years later, the people of Tennessee for the first time popularly elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate.

In 1968, in Memphis, the sanitation workers went on strike and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was struck down. In Nashville the Republicans took control of the state House of Representatives for the first time since Reconstruction. Then in 1970, Tennessee elected a second Republican to the U.S. Senate, throwing out Democratic Sen. Albert Gore Sr.

Despite the backlash, the Civil Rights Act changed customs and changed society. With those changes, what could not have been imagined in 1964 became reality in 2008: An African-American was elected president.

Yet some Republicans responded to this historic progress with crude jokes and racist appeals to fellow bigots. In just one of many examples, a Tennessee Republican state legislative aide sent e-mails caricaturing President Barack Obama’s official portrait as two cartoon eyes peering from a black background.

When in 2010 I ran for Congress, racism was too easy to find. I can still see the angry face of the man at the duck supper who responded to my handshake with “Lemme talk with you about your (N-word) president.” And the scowling man at the rodeo who snarled, “I don’t shake hands with darkies or Democrats — and they’re often the same.”

Thankfully, most Republicans are not racists. But while most Republicans would never discriminate, degrade or demean, their leaders’ legislative actions still repress voters and reverse progress.

All over the country, Republicans are pushing new impediments to discourage and decrease voting by minorities and low-income citizens. While Republicans say they oppose big and oppressive government, they rammed through Tennessee’s government ID law, now notorious as one of the nation’s most burdensome. Only certain government cards now are acceptable at the polls, after Republicans outlawed using a Social Security card or even photo ID cards from the Memphis public library or the University of Memphis. Those without a driver’s license – nationally, 25% of African-Americans – now must go to a driver’s license station, but fewer than half of our counties even have such a station.

Republicans claim these laws fight voter fraud, but instances of persons trying to vote while using someone else’s identity are almost nonexistent. And researchers at the University of Southern California showed strong evidence that “discriminatory intent underlies legislative support for (these new) voter identification laws.”

The first book of the Bible teaches, “So God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them.” God’s image does not have a color, but it does have a creed. The Apostle Paul put it this way in Galatians 3: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Our American ideals long have taught that we are one. The Great Seal of the United States proclaims “E pluribus unum” — from many, one.

But it was just 50 years ago today that statesmen and idealists and people of a deep faith in Almighty God and in America together created the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Let us celebrate their good work for justice and freedom. And let us carry on their good work, so all God’s children can live in peace and love in truth.

Stewart Criticizes House GOP for Opposition to Federal Expansion of Pre-K in TN

Press release from the Office of Tennessee State Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville; December 19, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – State Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville) released the following statement following news that the Republican leadership in the House was going to oppose a federally funded expansion of Pre-K in Tennessee:

“Even in these hyper-political times, yesterday’s announcement by House Republican Leaders that they planned to give up $64.3 million in federal tax dollars freely available to expand Pre-K came as a shock and a disappointment.

“Sadly, Tennessee Republicans appear to be taking the lead from their national leaders, like Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who have made a profession of putting their narrow political needs before the good of the nation as a whole. Here we have a program – Pre-K – that has bi-partisan support and that has proven to be highly effective. Here in Nashville, Vanderbilt’s Peabody Research Institute, working with the Tennessee Department of Education’s Division of Curriculum, recently conducted a “rigorous, independent evaluation” of Pre-K in Tennessee. The key finding? “[T[he Tennessee Voluntary Prekindergarten program produces significant improvements in the academic skills generally regarded as important for school readiness compared to the gains made by comparable children who did not participate in the program.”

“At one time, Tennessee leaders, whether Republicans under Governors Lamar Alexander and Don Sundquist or Democrats under Democratic Governors Ned Ray McWherter and Phil Bredesen, would not have thought twice about putting good policy before politics and bringing these millions of dollars in to help our neediest school children. What a disappointment that the same radical spirit that has so undermined our government in Washington is now seeping into Tennessee politics.

“Those of us elected by Tennesseans should remember that these federal funds are our citizens’ tax dollars at work. The money that we send to Washington can either be put to work in Tennessee or put to work in other states. Already this year we’ve seen the Republicans refuse billions of dollars in healthcare funding by refusing to expand Medicaid – a program that is already helping thousands of working families and seniors just over the border in Kentucky. Now they give up millions that would allow over seven thousand Tennessee kids a better start in life. Apparently, handing out our citizens’ money to other states is the New Math among Tennessee Republicans. It doesn’t add up – unless you care more about your radical base than about doing what’s right for Tennessee school children and working families.”

TN AFL-CIO: Refusal to Raise Debt Ceiling Makes ‘Bad Situation Worse’

Statement from TN AFL-CIO President Gary Moore; October 15, 2013:

NASHVILLE, TN – If you’ve lost track of time, the ongoing (and unnecessary) government shutdown is now entering its third week. To add to the problem, the United States is also dangerously close to its October 17th default date. Unsurprisingly, some Republicans continue loudly voicing their opposition to raising the debt ceiling, even if that means the richest country in the world isn’t able to pay its bills for the first time.

Let’s have a quick history lesson, or at least a look back at the last 70 years.

According to information obtained from The Guardian, Democrats have raised the debt ceiling 40 times since 1944. During that same time frame, Republicans have raised it 54 times.

That same data also points out another interesting fact. The president who’s raised the debt ceiling the most in the last 70 years happens to be a Republican himself…Ronald Reagan. Lawmakers who are currently condemning any increase in the debt ceiling are essentially going against the actions of one of the most revered members of their political party.

The consequences that could potentially come along with not raising the debt ceiling would be unprecedented. It’s even difficult to say exactly what some of those might be. After all, this would be unfamiliar territory for our current leaders.

As I’ve said before, it’s time for Republicans to stop focusing solely on their own selfish interests. These men and women were elected to represent people, just like you and me.

Not raising the debt ceiling would just be making a bad situation worse. It’s time to STOP the shutdown. It’s time for Republicans to STOP making extreme demands.

For the sake of the many employees who’ve been told to sit at home for the past several weeks, it’s time to START putting them back to work.

TNDP Responds to TN Senate GOP Criticism of Obama Over Shutdown

Press release from the Tennessee Democratic Party; October 8, 2013:

There is no defense for the small group of politicians in one party in one branch who forced the government to shut down — a despicable decision that’s hurting Tennessee’s economy and our working families. But these Republican politicians have proven time and again they are more interested in winning political arguments than solving our nation’s problems.

SHOT:

TN GOP state senators denounce Obama in shutdown letter
Associated Press // October 8, 2013
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam and fellow Republicans in the Tennessee General Assembly appear to be at odds about who will be blamed for the shutdown of the federal government.

CHASER:

19 Times Democrats Tried to Negotiate With Republicans
National Journal // October 7, 2013

To hear almost any Republican lawmaker speak in post-shutdown Washington is to hear that Democrats are refusing to negotiate to reopen the government and avert a debt default. It’s a talking point that may be selling well, but it’s only true if you ignore anything that happened before last Monday at about 11 p.m.

Republicans think they’ve hit talking-point gold with the message, as we learned from a candid “hot mic” moment last week when Sen. Rand Paul privately told fellow Kentuckian Mitch McConnell that he didn’t think Democrats had “poll-tested” the “awful” message. ” ‘It’s my way or the highway.’ That’s what he’s saying. Complete surrender, and then we’ll talk to you,” House Speaker John Boehner told ABC News on Sunday.

In a sense, Republicans are right. Democrats view keeping the government open and out of default as Congress’s most basic job, and the characterize anything that threatens that as “ransom,” so they say they’re not willing to come to the table until the government reopens. But, in context, the GOP’s biggest talking point of the shutdown falls apart when you consider that Democrats only started refusing to negotiate after Republicans stopped, the hour before the government shut down a week ago.

For instance, through a Senate Democratic aide, here are all the times since this spring Senate Democrats tried to negotiate with Republicans by sending their budget to a bicameral conference committee. Every time, Republicans blocked the move:

1. 4/23 Senator Reid requested unanimous consent to go to conference, Senator Toomey blocked.

2. 5/6 Senator Reid requested unanimous consent to go to conference, Senator Cruz blocked.

3. 5/7 Senator Murray requested unanimous consent to go to conference, Senator McConnell blocked.

4. 5/8 Senator Warner asked unanimous consent to go to conference, Senator McConnell blocked.

5. 5/9 Senator Murray asked unanimous consent to go to conference, Senator McConnell blocked.

6. 5/14 Senator Warner asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator McConnell blocked.

7. 5/15 Senator Wyden asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator McConnell blocked.

8. 5/16 Senator Murray asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator Lee blocked.

9. 5/21 Senator Murray asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator Paul blocked.

10. 5/22 Senator Kaine asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator Rubio blocked.

11. 5/23 Senator McCaskill asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator Lee blocked.

12. 6/4 Senator Murray asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator Rubio blocked.

13. 6/12 Senator Kaine asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator Lee blocked.

14. 6/19 Senator Murray asked unanimous consent to go to conference, and Senator Toomey blocked.

15. 6/26 Senator Murray requested unanimous consent to go to conference, Senator Cruz blocked.

16. 7/11 Senator Murray requested unanimous consent to go to conference, Senator Marco Rubio blocked.

17. 7/17 Senator Murray requested unanimous consent to go to conference, Senator Mike Lee blocked.

18. 8/1 Senator Durbin requested unanimous consent to go to conference, Senator Marco Rubio blocked.

19. 10/2 Senator Murray requested unanimous consent to go to conference, Senator Toomey blocked.

“For six months I’ve tried to enter into formal budget negotiations with Paul Ryan, only to be repeatedly denied permission to negotiate by Ted Cruz and the tea party,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash. “Now, a week into a government shutdown that he could end at a moment’s notice, Speaker Boehner is simply trying to distract from his constantly changing list of demands.”

The parties flipped positions Monday, the first day of the new fiscal year, when Republicans tried to finally start conference-committee negotiations just minutes before midnight. Democrats balked—”We will not go to conference with a gun to our head,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the floor—considering that they had been rebuffed almost 20 times beforer and that Republicans had shown no interest until it was already clear the government was closing. Last week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor tweeted a picture of a faux conference committee, which included zero Democrats, saying, “We sit ready to negotiate with the Senate.”

Perhaps we could have avoided a shutdown if they had been ready to negotiate before the government ran out of money.

Herron Calls on GOP Lawmakers to Stop Their Own Pay During Shutdown

Press release from the Tennessee Democratic Party; October 1, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn — Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron today called on Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, Congressmen Stephen Fincher and Scott DesJarlais and other Republicans who shut down government to stop paying themselves.

“Congressional Republicans are cutting off the pay of almost a million U.S. workers, but continue to pay the least productive, most wasteful, least efficient and highly paid federal employees — themselves,” Herron said. “Because Congressional Republicans refuse to do their work, federal workers cannot do our work.”

On Monday, CNN host Ashleigh Banfield confronted U.S. Rep. Blackburn and another Republican Congressman, asking if they would forgo their $174,000 salary while other federal employees are being denied pay because of the government shutdown. Blackburn refused to answer and still has not answered.

Blackburn’s comment comes on the heels of her Tennessee Republican colleague U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher’s controversial quoting of the Bible when arguing against food stamps.

Herron said, “Why should the politicians pay themselves for refusing to take care of business while denying others’ paychecks for taking care of the people’s business? Congresswoman Blackburn has so far refused to say whether she will stop her pay, but Congressman Fincher has quoted 2 Thessalonians 3:10 and told her what she and he should do: ‘Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.'”

BACKGROUND:

CNN Host Asks GOP Representatives Whether They’d Give Up Their Salary During A Shutdown, Hilarity Ensues

ThinkProgress // Annie-Rose Strasser and Adam Peck // September 30, 2013 at 11:48 am

On Monday, CNN host Ashleigh Banfield confronted two Republican representatives – Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) – to see whether they themselves would be willing to forgo a paycheck in the event of a government shutdown, something nearly every other federal employee would be forced to do.

“So you are both paid $174,000 a year, and that is the salary,” she said, “Would you be prepared to add some rider or amendment on to a continuing resolution that would take you out of the essential services category and stop payment on your paychecks in order to get a continuing resolution through, and yes or no?”

There was a long pause before the two tried to pivot to a different topic. Eventually, Rohrabacher stepped in to say that members of Congress were treated the same as other federal employees:

BLACKBURN: We are waiting to see what they send back, and I hope that as you were running the countdown clock that you are I have two grandsons, and their share of the national debt is now over $53,000 each.

BANFIELD: No no no. I’m sorry. I asked a specific question, and there are a lot of the government workers going to stop receiving their paychecks, and a there are a lot of the military service members who are serving overseas who might be stopped being paid and veterans whose benefits will be affected. Would you –

ROHRABACHER: Let me answer that. Members of Congress should not be treated any differently than any other federal employee.

BANFIELD: Is that a yes?

ROHRABACHER: Whatever happens to us when it comes to what we get in benefits and whether it is retirement or health care and whatever happens to the average federal employee should happen to us, and that rule should not be changed.
If the government shuts down on Tuesday, all government employees who are considered “non-essential personnel” will be told to stop coming to work and, for the period they’re not working, they won’t be getting paid. Those federal employees also wouldn’t get back payment when the government resumed its work, unless Congress explicitly approved a bill saying they would. Members of Congress are considered “essential.”

Speaking for U.S. Senate GOP, Alexander Rejects ‘National School Board’

Press release from the Tennessee Republican Party; June 15, 2013:

‘Between now and the end of the month, Senate Republicans will work hard with the President and with the House to produce an agreement that ensures all student borrowers benefit from today’s low interest rates. That would mean that 100 percent of all new student loans made this year would have a rate below five percent.’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the Weekly Republican Address, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) calls on Senate Democrats to put politics aside and support a long-term fix to prevent an increase in student loan interest rates. A former U.S. Secretary of Education and the ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee, Senator Alexander also highlights a Republican proposal that emphasizes state and local decision-making in K-12 education while a Democratic alternative, in essence, creates a national school board to oversee the 100,000 public schools that educate 50 million American children. A full transcript of the address follows:

“I’m United States Senator Lamar Alexander.

“This is the season for high school graduations. And more than two million of those graduating are going to college.

“Both Republicans and Democrats agree that college is the surest ticket to the middle class and we want to help by making it simpler and smarter to get a student loan.

“That’s why the Republican House of Representatives has passed, and President Obama and Senate Republicans agree, on the same idea: A permanent solution to all student loan interest rates before some automatically rise on July first. The idea is to allow the market to set interest rates.

“It’s fairer to students and fairer to taxpayers.

“Now some Senate Democrats want a short-term political fix that will only benefit forty percent of new student loans, but they stand alone.

“Between now and the end of the month, Senate Republicans will work hard with the President and with the House to produce an agreement that ensures all student borrowers benefit from today’s low interest rates. That would mean that 100 percent of all new student loans made this year would have a rate below five percent.

“We may be in agreement on student loans, but we have a major disagreement about who should be in charge of our 100,000 public schools that educate 50 million American children.

“To put it simply, Democrats want a national school board; Republicans favor local control.

“Over the last decade, the United States Department of Education has become so congested with federal mandates that it has actually become, in effect, a national school board.

“If you remember the childhood game, ‘Mother, May I?’ then you have a pretty good sense of how the process works—states must come to Washington for approval of their plans to educate their students.

“This congestion of mandates is caused by three things: No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and the administration’s use of waivers. Together, they’ve imposed federal standards for what children must know in reading and math, they’ve coerced some states into adopting Common Core standards, and they’ve imposed federal definitions of how a state should measure school, teacher, and principal performance.

“This week, Senate Democrats reported to the full Senate an eleven-hundred-and-fifty-page plan that would not only freeze these mandates into place, but double down, creating more than twenty-five new programs as well as more than 150 new reporting requirements.

“Republicans voted to move in a different direction. We offered a two-hundred-and-twenty-page plan to help children in public schools learn what they need to know and be able to do by restoring responsibility to states and communities, and giving teachers and parents freedom, flexibility, and choice.

“We call it, ‘Every Child Ready for College or Career.’

“Our plan emphasizes state and local decision-making. It puts Washington out of the business of deciding whether local schools are succeeding or failing. It rejects federal mandates that create a national school board, and prohibits the Education Secretary from prescribing standards or accountability systems for states. It continues the requirement that states have high standards and quality tests, but doesn’t prescribe those standards.

“Our proposal makes it easier for states to offer low-income parents more choice in finding the right public school for their child. And it gives teachers and principals more freedom by encouraging the expansion and replication of successful charter schools. It encourages states to create teacher and principal evaluation programs, free of federal mandates, and offers states flexibility in spending federal education dollars, while cutting waste.

“This is not a proposal just for Republicans. We believe this proposal represents the views and will attract the support of governors leading the charge for education reform, teachers who value the freedom to teach, parents who want more choices for their children, and state legislators who are working for better schools.

“The Democratic proposal establishes a national school board. What such a proposal really says is they don’t trust parents and they don’t trust classroom teachers and they don’t trust states to care about and help educate their children, and they want someone in Washington do it for them.

“We completely reject that. Our proposal places responsibility for helping our children learn squarely where it ought to be —on states and communities, and it does that by giving teachers and parents more freedom, more flexibility and more choice.”

Audio of Weekly Address.

Video of Weekly Address.

Download Weekly Address.

Turner: In 2013 ‘One Major Victory After Another’ in GOP’s ‘War’ on Workers

Press release from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; April 12, 2013:

Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee State House on Thursday passed a series of bills that will weaken rights and lower wages for Tennessee’s workforce. During the nearly four hour session, House Republicans voted to radically change the state workers’ compensation system and do away with the prevailing wage for construction workers.

“This year has been one major victory after another in the Republican Party’s war on working people in the state of Tennessee,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner. “The wealthy special interests have certainly gotten their money’s worth this year and it will be working families that have to pay the price for their indifference and greed.”

The Governor’s workers’ compensation changes will reduce payouts to injured workers by 1/3, make it easier to fire injured workers, and make it harder for workers to collect legitimate claims. In addition, the new law puts the appeals process out of the hands of local courts and into a new state-appointed bureaucracy underneath the beleaguered Department of Labor. Democrats had requested the Governor delay this legislation in response to the Comptroller audit which showed “internal controls…were ineffective or non-existent” with regard to the state’s unemployment insurance system.

“These are short-sighted changes that will result in more workplace injuries and higher rates of bankruptcy for injured workers,” said Chairman Turner. “All the while, these new changes do nothing to address the higher medical costs in Tennessee which are the reason our workers’ comp rates were higher in the first place.”

Also passing on Thursday was HB850 by Rep. Marsh (R-Shelbyville) which will eliminate prevailing wage protections for construction workers on state contracts. The prevailing wage law was designed to prevent contractors from undercutting competition by driving down wages on workers. If the Governor signs this legislation into law; lower paid and lower skilled workers will be used to complete projects, causing delays and infrastructure problems down the road.

“Working people in this state are being driven down further and further as Republicans try to win a race to the bottom in wages, benefits, and job protections for Tennesseans,” said Chairman Turner. “Unfortunately, many working families in this state won’t realize the damage that has been done until it’s too late.”

TNDP: State Charter Authorizer Bill ‘Rushed Through Committee’ by GOP

Press release from the Tennessee Democratic Party; April 3, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Republicans who control Nashville rushed through committee a measure to create a state charter school authorizer — a centralized government body that strips school decisions away from local boards.

Charter schools approved by the state charger authorizer would have to be funded by local taxpayers whether there was money available or not. To address the issue of the unfunded mandate, House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) introduced a measure that would have set in place financial guardrails to protect local taxpayers from a tax increase.

“This bill, without guardrails, is the mother of all unfunded mandates. It will give a state bureaucracy the power to create an unlimited number of charter schools, which will result in massive tax increases or local governments,” said House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “I offered a common-sense amendment to help protect taxpayers, but the special interests behind this bill override common-sense.”

HB 702, the state charter authorizer sponsored by Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis) will create a new state bureaucracy to oversee appeals of charter schools administrators denied by local school boards. In the third substantive change to the bill since it was introduced, the new language limits the panel’s authority to school districts which are designated “priority” districts.

During the committee hearing, Leader Fitzhugh noted this would be duplicative and a waste of taxpayer funds. The Achievement School District already has the authority to authorize charters in districts who perform in the bottom 5 percent of the state.

“This is a bad bill that keeps getting worse as the sponsors wheel and deal behind the scenes to pass something — anything — regardless of whether it will improve the performance of students in our district,” said Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville). “I am deeply disappointed that Commissioner Kevin Huffman worked behind the scenes to kill the amendment that would have protected taxpayers in Davidson County and across Tennessee.

“The fact that he refused to even meet with local school board members in Nashville shows his level of contempt for Davidson County taxpayers and elected officials,” Stewart said.

The charter authorizer bill passed out of the House Finance Ways & Means subcommittee on a voice vote and will move on to the full committee next week.

Senate GOP, Lt. Gov. Approve of Haslam Medicaid Decision

Statement from Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey; March 27, 2013:

Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) said the following upon the conclusion of Governor Haslam’s address to a joint session of the 108th General Assembly:

“I applaud Governor Haslam’s decision to reject Obama’s medicaid expansion. Without bold reform of the Medicaid program tailored to Tennessee’s unique situation, there can be no compromise on this issue.”

“Four out of every ten dollars the federal government spends comes out of the back pockets of future generations. Tennessee must receive assurances that have not been forthcoming. Governor Haslam has laid out a plan for what true health care reform looks like. I commend him for his continued thoughtful and measured approach to this complex issue.”

Statement from State Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro; March 27, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — “Governor Haslam offered a good solution, rather than expanding an unsustainable and broken program. Unlike Washington, Tennessee has been working hard to control health care costs. Hopefully, Washington will see our 20-year record of working through the problems we face with our healthcare system and agree to work with us on a plan that will truly be both beneficial to improving healthcare outcomes in our state and sustainable over the long run.”

Statement from State Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown; March 27, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – “I applaud Governor Haslam’s decision today to reject Medicaid expansion as envisioned by ObamaCare in this year’s budget,” stated Senator Brian Kelsey (R – Germantown) following the governor’s announcement
this morning. “I am happy to receive the governor’s commitment not to expand Medicaid in future years without legislative approval.”

Sen. Kelsey is the sponsor of Senate Bill 804, filed to block Medicaid expansion in Tennessee. Sen. Kelsey originally filed Senate Bill 1 on Nov. 7, 2012 to block expansion. He redrafted the bill and filed SB 804 on January 31, 2013 with 15 of the 33 state Senators as co-sponsors. The bill is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday afternoon, March 27. Sen. Kelsey serves as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman.

TFA Accuses ‘Establishment’ GOP of Dismantling TN Constitution

Press release from the Tennessee Firearms Association; March 19, 2013:

Tennessee Constitution under full attack by Establishment Republicans…

Increasingly, the evidence is coming into the “sunshine” that Establishment Republicans, like Haslam, Ramsey and Harwell, are working hard to impair, infringe or destroy our rights as citizens under the Tennessee and united states Constitutions. This attack is not limited to their assault on the 2nd Amendment or the 10th Amendment.

We have seen laws passed with the fanfare of these Establishment Republicans that reduce your ability to get reasonably compensated if you are injured or die in a job related accident – and more are pending. We have seen laws passed that impose serious limits on what a jury or a judge can award as factual damages if you are injured – thereby violating the constitutional separation of powers. We have seen laws passed that provide special protections to the Establishment Republican’s “masters” in insurance and medical fields but which do not apply equally to all citizens (i.e., due process violations). We have seen laws passed merely because of political correctness which violate the fundamental right of freewill.

We have seen issues arise such as Sen. Beavers’ and Rep. Butt’s bill under the 10th and 2nd Amendments to push back on the federal government but those bills were resisted at the apparent mandate of leadership through the “mouth” of leadership loyalists like Sen. Brian Kelsey and Sen. John Stevens or Rep. Vance Dennis. We can not let it be forgotten that legislators like Kelsey, Stevens, Overbey, Dennis and others would rather surrender all rights under the constitutions than to draw a line in the sand as a matter of state sovereignty and tell the federal government – which is our servant – NO MORE.

Last week, we have seen yet another Establishment Republican / RINO leadership attack on our rights. The attack comes in the form of SJR2. SJR2 is a move by Establishment Republicans to deny us as citizens our rights to elect – truly elect – our appellate and Supreme Court judges in Tennessee pursuant to the plain language of the Constitution. This is CRITICAL because if the legislature and the governor have in fact turned against us and our rights under the Bill of Rights then it may be that the courts – as the checks and balances against the other two branches of government – will become the battleground for protecting our rights under the Constitution. For that option to be effective, courts, as the Founders intended, should be accountable to the people through the election process. Establishment Republicans seek to destroy the separation of powers and change the constitution so that the courts – the third co-equal branch – are selected and appointed by the governor and the legislature rather than the people. If so, then to whom do YOU think the courts will be accountable when there are constitutional challenges to the acts of the governor or the legislature?

When SJR2 was on the House floor last Thursday, several Republicans (not in leadership) wanted to speak against the evil plan to destroy yet more rights of the citizens. Here is the report of Rep. Courtney Rogers who was prepared to speak against destroying the rights of the people to select the third branch of government:

On the House Floor:

Last update I wrote about SJR2, the resolution that proposes to make a new method of judicial selection constitutional that still deprives you of your right to vote for your supreme and inferior court justices. I concede that it is better than what is in place now — because it does transfer the power of selection from a committee that is entirely unaccountable to you, directly to both the Governor (power of appointment) and the legislature (power of confirmation). My objection is that it consolidates more power in the hands of government rather than restoring that power to yours. Why do I write about this again? I am doing so because of what transpired on the house floor when SJR2 was introduced for its third and final reading. The significance of the third reading is that this is when a proposed constitutional amendment is discussed and then voted on. It must pass by a two-thirds vote — to be placed on the ballot to be voted on by the people to accept or reject. We spent nearly 30 minutes on the floor debating whether a license plate should be illuminated or not when your headlights are on. When SJR2 was brought up, there were literally two seconds from introduction to the slam of the gavel. There was absolutely no discussion on an issue of this level of importance. I was going to speak from a different view — not the view of the legal community, which is very much heard in the halls downtown, but from the view of an average citizen — which is heard not so much. Rep. Rick Womick had also planned to speak. We both had our hands up — I stood up — even shouted, but the gavel beat me. It was like the Geico commercial where Mutombo (from the Congo that last played for the Houston Rockets), slams a box of cereal out of the hands of the kid trying to throw it in the shopping cart and then waves his finger at him. Whether the house majority agrees or disagrees — whether you agree or disagree with the amendment is not the issue at present. You should insist that thoughtful deliberation on issues such as this be permitted — regardless as to whether or not the ‘votes are there’ or regardless as to how much time could be saved. Intent can neither be confirmed nor denied (i.e. did they not want discussion for fear it wouldn’t pass?) — so I must stick with fact. The fact is, no discussion was permitted. I find it entirely unacceptable — as should you.

Each legislator has an equal vote, an equal right to be heard, to oppose, to support, to amend and to debate on any legislation on the floor. However, with Republican Super Majorities, those who would stand to support and defend the rights of the citizens against the nefarious desires of Establishment Republican leadership are discouraged or disallowed from speaking. They are intimidated by their party leadership. They are taken to the “woodshed.” They are called “fringe.” The interests of their constituents are ignored, suppressed and marginalized. Those citizens and districts which have elected constitutional conservatives are essentially disenfranchised as citizens by leadership.

To preserve and protect the Constitution —

Haslam must be reformed or he must go.

Ramsey must be reformed or he must go.

Harwell must be reformed or she must go.

Finally, we must “de-select” many incumbents who gladly drink the Kool-Aid of the Establishment Republicans and replace those who put “party first” with constitutional stewards who will put the constitutions and the people ahead of the “cocaine” offered to them in the context of partisan position and perceived power by the existing leadership of the Establishment Republican party.