Posts

Alexander, Roe Join Effort to Halt NLRB ‘Ambush Election’ Rule

Press release from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; February 9, 2015:

Senate, House Leaders Introduce Resolution to Stop NLRB Ambush Election Rule; Author joint resolution of Congress to halt rule through the Congressional Review Act

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 –  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) and Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) today took the first step in stopping the National Labor Relations Board from implementing its “ambush election” rule, which was finalized in December to shorten the length of time in which a labor union certification election is held—currently a median 38 days—to as little as 11 days.

The Republican members authored a joint resolution of Congress that would halt implementation of the rule through the Congressional Review Act.

“This Administration’s appointees on the National Labor Relations Board released their so-called ‘ambush’ rule back in December,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “It’s designed with one purpose in mind — to fatten the wallets of powerful political bosses by threatening the rights of middle-class workers to make informed decisions of their own. Republicans think an employee’s personal information is none of the business of powerful political bosses. But the Administration’s ‘ambush’ rule would allow these bosses to access things like personal email addresses and cell numbers — without permission from the employee.”

“The National Labor Relations Board is supposed to be a neutral arbiter of federal labor law,” said Speaker of the House John Boehner. “Yet under the president’s watch, it has pursued a culture of union favoritism that is detrimental to America’s workers and job creators. The recent ambush election rule will deny workers their right to make fully informed decisions in union elections. Congress will not stand idly by and let that happen.”

“This rule allows a union to force an election before an employee has a chance to figure out what is going on,” said Alexander, chairman of the Senate labor committee. “It also jeopardizes employees’ privacy by requiring employees to turn over personal information including email addresses, phone numbers, shift hours and locations to union organizers.”

“The National Labor Relations Board has lost its way. Instead of fairly enforcing the National Labor Relations Act, the board has made up a new rule out of thin air that only helps political organizations and special interests,” said Enzi, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. “This ‘ambush election’ rule is an example. I’m pleased to join with my colleagues in this effort to make sure employees can have the information and time they need to make informed decisions.”

“The Obama labor board is moving forward with a radical plan that will stifle employer free speech, cripple worker free choice, and jeopardize the privacy of workers and their families,” said Kline, chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. “Congress must use every available tool to stop this flawed regulatory scheme. I am pleased to join my House and Senate colleagues in authoring this resolution, and hope Congress will send it to the president as soon as possible.”

“It is prudent that Congress protect employees from this activist NLRB,” said Roe, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions. “For far too long, we’ve seen this out-of-control board violate the rights of American workers and employers by regulatory overreach, and I am proud to introduce this resolution with my colleagues.”

Under the Congressional Review Act, the House and Senate vote on a joint resolution of disapproval to stop, with the full force of law, a federal agency from implementing a rule or regulation or issuing a substantially similar regulation without congressional authorization. A resolution of disapproval only needs a simple majority to pass and cannot be filibustered or amended.

In December, the NLRB released its final rule to authorize “ambush elections,” in an attempt to speed up union elections, which could take place in as few as 11 days. The rule gives employers no time to communicate with their employees before a union election and undermines the ability of workers to make an informed decision. In addition, it will compromise worker privacy by forcing employers to provide employees’ personal email addresses, work schedules, personal cell phone numbers, and other personal information to union organizers without employees’ consent. The rule only gives employers seven days to find legal counsel and prepare for a pre-election hearing before an NLRB regional officer. During those seven days, employers will have to identify every legal concern or forfeit the ability to raise the concern at all.  The ambush election rule will go into effect April 14, 2015.

TNDP: In ‘Overt Snub’ to Haslam, Ramsey Rigged Health Committee to Kill ‘Insure TN’

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

Ongoing Power Struggle Between Ramsey and Gov. Haslam Threatens Tennesseans’ Lives

Nashville, Tenn. (February 9, 2015) – In an overt snub to Governor Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey stacked the State Senate’s Health and Welfare Committee with “no” votes to kill Insure Tennessee, the Governor’s proposed health care plan.

Rather than working with his own party’s Governor on his top legislative priority and providing hardworking Tennesseans with access to quality, affordable health care, Ramsey rigged the Senate Health and Welfare Committee by removing three health care professionals and the bill’s sponsor and replacing them with hand-picking vocal opponents of Insure Tennessee [see attached graphic]. If he had allowed the duly appointed standing Health and Welfare Committee to remain intact and rule on the proposal, Insure Tennessee would have likely passed by at least a 6-3 vote. Ramsey’s crass power play ensured the death of Insure Tennessee.

The result of Ramsey’s rigged committee:

  • The lives of approximately 280,000 working Tennesseans are now in danger as they will continue to go without health care.
  • Billions of dollars of taxpayer money will be lost – money that hardworking Tennesseans have already paid in taxes will now flow to other states to pay for their health care.
  • As many as one-third of the state’s hospitals remain in danger of closing, resulting in thousands of lost jobs and endangering rural Tennesseans, who will have to drive several counties away in order to receive emergency care.
  • Businesses will avoid those regions of our state where there is no hospital.

Also to be noted is that six of the seven Republican senators who voted to kill Insure Tennessee accept and benefit from health care coverage provided to them by their employer – the state of Tennessee.

It is the height of hypocrisy to not only accept taxpayer-funded health coverage while denying it to others, but also to pretend that the legislative process was fair when it was rigged from the beginning.

***
Senate Health & Welfare Comparison

Ramsey: Senate Couldn’t Approve ‘Mere Verbal Agreement’ with Obama Administraion

Statement from Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville; February 4, 2015:

Lt. Governor Ramsey made the statement below following the defeat of SJR0001 in the Senate Select Health Committee:

“Governor Haslam’s hard work and passion on Insure Tennessee has been made clear this week. While many questions have been answered during this special session, several questions remain unanswered. Ultimately, the absence of a clear, written agreement between the federal government and the State of Tennessee made passage impossible. Tennessee has always been a well-run, fiscally-responsible state. We could not in good conscience put our stamp of approval on a mere verbal agreement with the Obama administration.”

Cohen, Cooper Critical of General Assembly’s Rejection of Insure TN

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; February 4, 2015:

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today issued the following statement regarding the Tennessee State Senate Health & Welfare Committee, by a vote of 4 to 7, effectively killing Governor Haslam’s “Insure Tennessee” plan to expand Medicaid in Tennessee:

“Foolish, foolish, foolish. Sad, sad, sad. Sick, sick, sick.”

“This vote is foolish because it leaves $1 billion in federal funds each year on the table that could have helped keep hospitals open, boosted our economy, and improved our citizens’ health.”

“This vote is sad because it shows inhumanity and disdain for Tennessee’s sick and our poorest citizens in need of health care.”

“And it is sick because some of those Tennesseans will die as a result of this decision. Those who voted ‘no’ today made a foolish, sad, sick and outright wrong decision.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. 05; February 4, 2015:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-5) today issued the following statement:

“Tennesseans will die and hospitals will close as a result of our cruel state legislature. Rarely in state history have we seen such a devastating lack of leadership.”

AFP-TN Praises State Senators For Killing Medicaid Expansion Bill

Press release from Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee; February 4, 2015:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After numerous hearings over the past couple of weeks the Senate Health Committee voted against the plan to expand Medicaid under Obamacare 7:4. A sea of red shirts in committees and the halls of legislative plaza turned the tide against the Insure Tennessee Medicaid expansion proposal.

Over 200 activists with Americans for Prosperity converged on the Capitol for the committee hearings yesterday. They came from all areas of the state: Knoxville, Memphis, Chattanooga, and Tri-Cities; many volunteers took off work and drove four or more hours to attend.

After the vote AFP-TN state director Andrew Ogles stated:  “We couldn’t have done this without our grassroots activists showing up to hold their legislators accountable. This is truly a victory for the Tennessee taxpayers.”

“We commend the Senators voting to defeat this measure and other legislators who led the fight. Thank you for listening to your constituents and voting to stop Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in Tennessee.”

The special session Senate Health Committee members casting the votes were as follows:

Senators voting against the measure – Mike Bell (R), Janice Bowling (R), Todd Gardenhire (R), Frank Nicely (R), Brian Kelsey (R), Kerry Roberts (R), and Rusty Crowe (R)

Voting for Medicaid expansion under Obamacare: Dr. Richard Briggs (R), Becky Massey (R), Ed Jackson (R), and Jeff Yarbro (D).

Ramsey Announces Extraordinary Session Committee Memberships

Press release from Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville; February 2, 2015:

Download (PDF, 34KB)

Overbey Sponsoring Insure TN, Looking Forward to Discussion

Statement from Tennessee Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville; January 30, 2015:

“I accepted the opportunity to sponsor Insure Tennessee in the Senate after meeting with Governor Haslam this week and thoroughly discussing the program with him.  During our conversation, I became convinced that Insure Tennessee is uniquely crafted to meet our specific needs while utilizing conservative principles.  Insure Tennessee brings market principles and individual responsibility to the program.  The program is designed to control health care costs and improve access to many working poor Tennesseans who would otherwise have no access to affordable health insurance.”

“This program is especially important to struggling rural hospitals that lost funding under the Affordable Care Act for treating poor patients who cannot pay.  Unless it is approved, the loss of this funding could lead to the closure of some of our rural hospitals, meaning life and death for citizens in these areas to get to the nearest hospitals in a time of medical crisis.  Those closures would also put more stress on hospitals statewide, placing our healthcare system in jeopardy.”

“I look forward to talking with my colleagues as we begin the special session on Monday about this legislation and how Governor Haslam’s proposal will benefit the citizens of our state.”

Norris: Juvenile Justice Reforms Working Better than Incarceration, More Can Be Done

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; January 29, 2015:

Study Shows Community-Based Supervision, Not State-Run Incarceration, Leads to More Success

AUSTIN, TX—Jan. 29, 2014—A first-of-its-kind study comparing Texas youth with nearly identical characteristics shows that juveniles under community-based supervision are far less likely to reoffend than those incarcerated in state correctional facilities, the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, in partnership with Texas A&M University, announced today.

CLOSER TO HOME: An Analysis of the State and Local Impact of the Texas Juvenile Justice Reforms, which draws on an unprecedented dataset of 1.3 million individual case records spanning eight years, shows youth incarcerated in state-run facilities are 21 percent more likely to be rearrested than those that remain under supervision closer to home. When they do reoffend, youth released from state-secure facilities are three times more likely to commit a felony than youth under community supervision.

“The extraordinary data compiled for this study demonstrates convincingly how much better youth, who prior to the reforms would have been incarcerated, fare instead under community supervision,” said Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris,  Immediate Past Chair of the  Council of State Governments. “It also finds that, for those youth placed under community supervision, there is still considerable room for improvement.”

The study is expected to have significant implications on the operations of state juvenile justice systems across the country, including Tennessee, which experienced the fourth-largest decrease (more than 70 percent) in its incarcerated youth population in its state correctional facilities between 1997 and 2011. Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services Juvenile Justice Division is already working with the CSG Justice Center to pilot recommendations to improve its data collection.

“We’ve seen remarkable reductions in the number of youth confined to state-secure facilities,” Norris said,” but, as Texas has shown, it’s important for us to understand why the decrease occurred and what is happening to those kids who have gone into community-based supervision.”

Since 2000, when the number of juveniles incarcerated was at a record high, the number of detained or incarcerated youth has decreased by more than 40 percent nationwide, according to 2013 figures, with some state populations declining by as much as 80 percent. Texas has helped contribute to that national drop.

After a number of abuses involving youth incarcerated in state facilities were uncovered, Texas state leaders enacted a series of reforms between 2007 and 2013. Texas leaders argued that many youth were incarcerated unnecessarily, and that supervising and providing treatment to kids close to home, instead of shipping them to far-off correctional facilities, would produce better individual outcomes and save taxpayer money without compromising public safety.

The result has been a dramatic decrease in the state-secure population, with a 65-percent reduction between 2007 and 2012, according to the study, cutting hundreds of millions in state spending and reinvesting a large portion of those savings into county-administered juvenile probation departments. During the same time period, juvenile arrests also declined by 33 percent, a significant drop compared to the 2-percent decline over the four years prior to 2007 reforms.

“Texas has demonstrated it is possible to achieve reductions in crime while reducing the number of youth incarcerated,” said Texas Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston). “Prior to the reforms, youth were placed in facilities and essentially put on a path to the adult prison system.  They were exposed to violence, disconnected from their families, and offered few rehabilitation options. Now, we need to take additional steps to make sure we are doing everything we can to support youth under community supervision to help them become successful adults. This report points to a number of areas in which the state can better partner with local governments to achieve that goal.”

The combination of additional funding from the state and fewer youth under community supervision means counties are spending more than ever on each youth under community supervision. Nevertheless, recidivism rates for youth under community supervision have not improved measurably over the past several years, according to the study, which reviewed not only statewide data, but also analyzed outcomes among youth under community supervision in 30 individual Texas counties.

The report found substantial evidence that all counties could lower recidivism rates further by doing a better job applying the latest research, such as assigning youth to the right programs and appropriate levels of supervision.

“Neither poor matching of high risk youth with inappropriate programs, nor over-programming youth with minimal needs does much to reduce the likelihood of a young person reoffending, and could actually have the unintended consequence of increasing the likelihood of rearrest,” said Dr. Mark Lipsey, a national expert who directs the Peabody Research Institute at Vanderbilt University and advised the team on the study’s methodology, along with Dr. Edward P. Mulvey, professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

In a closer examination of eight large Texas counties, the report found 298 of the 300 programs mix youth of different risk levels. Between 34 percent and 90 percent of youth considered to have a low risk of reoffending were placed in one or more programs, despite only a small fraction of these youth having a high need for such programs.

“The findings in this study and the extensive dialogue we’ve had with the CSG Justice Center will provide support and guidance as we look to further improve operations and outcomes for juvenile justice youth served in the community,” said Randy Turner, Director of Juvenile Services in Tarrant County.

David Reilly, executive director of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, said this report sets the stage for the state and Texas’s juvenile probation departments to partner together to continue make progress in juvenile justice.

“We’ve come a long way already,” he said. “Now, we need to continue to reduce the number of youth in state facilities and further refine our partnerships with local probation departments to achieve better outcomes for youth while continuing to maintain public safety.”

CLOSER TO HOME: An Analysis of the State and Local Impact of the Texas Juvenile Justice Reforms was developed in partnership with Texas A&M University and funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Adam Gelb, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Public Safety Performance Project, added: “States across the nation are adopting better public policy by looking at the data, Texas is making communities safer and also saving money by keeping more youth under supervision closer to their local communities. Housing juveniles in a state facility is often the most expensive correctional option and generally fails to produce better outcomes.”

###

ABOUT THE CSG JUSTICE CENTER
The Council of State Governments Justice Center is a national nonprofit organization that serves policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels from all branches of government. It provides practical, nonpartisan advice and evidence-based, consensus-driven strategies to increase public safety and strengthen communities. For more information about the Justice Center, visit www.csgjusticecenter.org.

Harris: Out of State Special Interests Pressing Legislators to Choose Politics Over People

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus; January 27, 2015:

Leader: “It’s easy to be a critic, but we were elected to govern.”

NASHVILLE – Political mailers and radio ads funded by out-of-state interests are putting undue pressure on legislators to consider politics first, people second, Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris said.

“Instead of listening to out-of-state special interests, we should be hearing from people who are working but still can’t afford quality health care,” state Sen. Lee Harris said. “It’s easy to be a critic, but we were elected to govern.”

Mailers and radio spots funded by the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity have blanketed the state at a time when legislators are considering whether to expand Medicaid for 200,000 Tennesseans, half of whom work but can’t afford health insurance.

“Unfortunately, the Tennesseans whose lives would change with access to health care can’t afford to influence legislators in the same way,” Sen. Harris said.

A copy of an Americans for Prosperity funded mailing sent to Chattanooga-area constituents is attached below.

Kelsey Seeks to Limit TN Cops from Using Surplus Military Equipment

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee wants to stop and reverse a trend in Tennessee toward what critics characterize as police “militarization.”

Brian Kelsey, a Republican attorney from Germantown, has filed legislation for the General Assembly to take up this year that would prohibit “state and local law enforcement agencies from owning or using certain military vehicles, aircraft, and weaponry.” The bill — SB0039 — would also require “the divestiture or destruction of such vehicles, aircraft, or weaponry” by January 1, 2016.

“I think we can support both our police officers and our citizens by ensuring that our police officers are not viewed as the enemy. This bill is an important step in that direction,” Kelsey recently told the Johnson City Press. He said while he hasn’t spoken with Tennessee law enforcement officials yet, the bill would start that conversation.

Military weapons are defined in the bill as “machine guns, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, flamethrowers, grenade launchers, anti-tank weapons, recoilless rifles, and crew-served weapons.” Magazine-fed, gas-operated, air-cooled rifles and carbines designed for automatic or semi-auto fire — such as M16s — as well as grenade launchers adapted for non-lethal rounds, have been exempted.

Google ChromeScreenSnapz010Since at least 1997, law enforcement agencies nationwide have received surplus military equipment to aid counter-drug and terror operations under the 1033 program, established under that year’s National Defense Authorization Act. About 8,000 local law enforcement agencies have participated in the program, and have received more than $5.1 billion in military equipment — including sand bags, medical supplies, cold weather gear and maintenance equipment, but also vehicles and weapons.

Earlier this year News Channel 5 reported 30 Tennessee agencies — including departments in Lebanon, Hendersonville and La Vergne — were the recent recipients of mine-resistant vehicles. Additionally, an order error caused the McMinn County Sheriff’s Department — which employs 31 officers and investigators — to receive an order of more than 150 firearms, including 71 M16 rifles and 71 .45-caliber pistols.

Police officials have long held they need the equipment in case of emergency situations, such as natural disasters or stand-offs with armed suspects

However, accountability of issued equipment has been a nationwide problem, with many departments misplacing military equipment. For example, it took a small-town police department in Arkansas a week to even notice someone had stolen their Humvee from the station’s parking lot.

The Pentagon suspended the national program in June as a result of the myriad of accountability problems. They announced the program would remain suspended until participating law enforcement agencies complied with a request for a comprehensive audit of all equipment acquired under the program.

And earlier this month President Barack Obama announced he was creating a working group of cabinet officials to review the program and recommend reforms as to what equipment is proper for use by civilian law enforcement departments, as well as to ensure agencies receive proper training.

Several Tennessee agencies have been guilty of misplacing acquired military gear.

A Tennessee comptroller report from 2008 found that between January 1, 2006, and June 30, 2007 the town of Surgoinsville received $872,580 in surplus military equipment, but couldn’t locate $137,104 of the equipment — including a sandblaster, a plasma cutter and nine central processing units.

Last September, the Tennessean reported that four of the state’s 232 participating departments had been suspended as a result of missing equipment: the Tennessee Highway Patrol for two missing M-14 rifles; the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency for a stolen M-16 that was later recovered; and the Columbia and Claiborne Police Departments for one missing M-14 each.

Additionally, this July, the state put its LESO coordinator on administrative leave after it was discovered he hadn’t notified the Department of General Services Tennessee had been suspended from the program for two months the previous year.  The state announced at the time they planned to conduct a full review of the program.

A proposal introduced in the California State Legislature this month would require law enforcement agencies get permission from the legislative body governing their jurisdiction prior to receiving military equipment from the federal government.

A complete list of all military equipment issued under the program from 2006 through April 23, 2014, compiled and organized by NPR, can be viewed here.