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TN State ‘Constitutional Officers’ Re-elected by General Assembly

Press release from the Tennessee General Assembly; January 9, 2013:

(NASHVILLE) – In a joint session of the Tennessee Senate and the Tennessee House of Representatives today members unanimously re-elected Secretary of State Tre Hargett, Treasurer David H. Lillard, Jr. and Comptroller Justin P. Wilson. Secretary Hargett will serve his second four-year term, while Treasurer Lillard and Comptroller Wilson will each serve two-year terms. All three were originally elected to their posts by the General Assembly in January, 2009. Treasurer Lillard and Comptroller Wilson were re-elected to their second two-year terms in January, 2011.

Senate and House leaders congratulated the Constitutional Officers today, and released the following statements:

“While many Tennesseans don’t know what they do, the constitutional officers are really the unsung heroes of state government. They work – often behind the scenes but sometimes in the harsh glare of the media spotlight – to make sure that our state’s investments are managed properly, that public employees have a financially sound retirement system, that taxpayer money isn’t wasted, stolen or misused at the local or state levels of government, that local governments get the assistance they need to be successful in various levels of their operations, that our elections run smoothly, that our public libraries have the support they need to provide excellent service to Tennesseans. Tennesseans are lucky to have leaders like Comptroller Wilson, Treasurer Lillard and Secretary of State Hargett overseeing these essential services of state government.” –Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey

“Tennessee is in excellent financial condition – and the work of our three constitutional officers has played no small part in that. As members of the State Funding Board, they set revenue estimates that are used by the governor, his staff and members of the General Assembly for budget planning purposes. They also appear regularly before the major rating agencies that determine how strong Tennessee’s credit ratings will be. They also provide helpful advice and information to help members of the General Assembly do their jobs better.” –House Speaker Beth Harwell

“I am very proud of the work Treasurer Lillard, Comptroller Wilson and Secretary of State Hargett have done over the last four years. They have made many major improvements to make Tennessee state government work more efficiently and effectively which benefits all Tennesseans. All three of these public servants are well deserving of another term in office.” –Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris

“Reforming government is something that’s easy to talk about, but difficult to do. These three constitutional officers have spent the last four years challenging traditional thinking about the way their offices should operate and, as a result, their offices are operating more efficiently and effectively than ever before. They have made the offices more accessible by making more services available over the Internet and have found ways to maximize the productivity of their employees.” –House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick

@SecTreHargett Beefs Up Elections Site, Twitter Presence

Call him the Secretary of Tweet.

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett is hitting the ‘go’ button on a revamped website where voters can see live, up-to-the-minute election results from across the state.

The site, which can be found at elections.tn.gov, will show election results not only by each political contest but by county and precinct, too. Featured races will include the presidential and Congressional elections as well as state Senate and state House.

“One of the things you’ll see this evening for the first time … is the percentages of votes instead of just raw vote numbers,” Hargett told TNReport.

The site comes with some eye candy for political watchers — a map of Tennessee that will show each county flipping red or blue, depending on how the race for President goes.

In addition, Hargett’s team is using the social media site Twitter to tweet out results from races from across the Volunteer State.

“We have several different Twitter handles that people will be able to follow all night long,” Hargett said.

Tonight voters can follow @tnpotus for Tennessee presidential results, @tnsenategen for state Senate results, @tnhousegen for state House results and @tnussenate and @tnushouse for Tennessee’s Congressional races. And you can follow — and tweet at — Hargett at @SecTreHargett.

“It’s a lot of data that comes at people very quickly, but if you’re a political junkie in Tennessee it’s a dream come true to be able to get those kinds of results that quickly,” Hargett said.

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

New TN Vet Appreciation Effort Allows Voting ‘in Honor’ of Military Service

In time for Election Day, the Tennessee Secretary of State has unveiled a program that allows voters to honor current and former members of the military as they cast their ballot.

It’s called the Tennessee Honor Vote program. Those who pledge to vote in the upcoming election can name a member of the military on the Secretary of State’s website alongside their own name and declare that they will be voting in honor of that service member.

“We developed it, set up a website where people can go and log and name the soldier,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “They can put their years of service, what branch they served in, even put a message in, in honor or in memory of that soldier.”

Many have left messages. These can be viewed on the site, allowing Tennesseans to get a glimpse of the sacrifices that veterans have made — and see the pain and patience of those left at home.

For example, the website shows that Pamela Ann Bently, a voter from Greeneville, is honoring Capt. Jackson Dale Blankenship.

She writes:

Jackson was deployed to Afghanistan during the deadliest year of the war 2010,where he was a combat platoon leader. He received an impact Army Achievement medal for his efforts during Operation Hell’s needle in the Surkagen Valley in September 2010. Jackson has received 2 Commendation medals for service, one for Afghanistan and one for Germany. He is currently training, preparing to take Company command. He has also held rank as a battalion staff primary. Jackson risked his life to save 3 wounded soldiers. He dragged them from a tank after an IED bomb went off under them.

Army serviceman Ryan Christopher Smith is being honored by Angela Beverly, of Pleasant View. She tells how difficult being deployed can be on a family.

Has served three tours in the Middle East. Sacrificed family time. 1st tour occurred two weeks after the birth of his 1st child, Emma. He moved to Tennessee from Ohio. His second tour occurred when his daughter had just turned three. His wife, a doctor doing her residency at Vanderbilt, cared for Emma on her own. The closest family was 7 hours away. He was able to return right before Christmas. The last tour is scheduled within the next three weeks. He now has a 7 month old son as well.

And it’s not just veterans from the conflicts in the Middle East. The site shows many honoring veterans from every branch of the service and many who served in peacetime, the Cold War, as well as World War II and the wars in Korea and Vietnam.

Barbara Johnston Skelton, of Church Hill, wrote that she was casting her ballot in honor of Navy Captain Charles E. Johnston, M.D.:

Served 3 tours in Vietnam as medical officer for a marine unit. He told us that everyone in the unit had 2 Purple Heart citations. They all refused the third because they would be sent home if they took a third. He said they went over as a unit and they were coming home as a unit.

Hargett said he was surprised that the site has become so popular so quickly.

As of Wednesday morning, 2,400 Tennesseans had pledged to cast a vote in honor of a veteran or current member of the armed forces, according to the Tennessee Honor Vote website.

TCA Calls on Hargett, Goins to Look Into Election Commission Problems

Newsletter from Tennessee Citizen Action; August 30, 2012: 

Last week it came to our attention that the electronic poll books used in the August 2 primary election in Davidson County, TN, defaulted to the Republican ballot, possibly affecting thousands of voters. Read the whole story here.

Since then, Tennessee Citizen Action has called upon the Davidson County Election Commission to explain what happened and who was responsible. What we hear from them, however, is that they were ” pleased with the results” and ” stand behind their new technology.”

Today, we asked Secretary of State Tre Hargett and State Election Coordinator Mark Goins to intervene and refuse to certify the August 2 primary election. Their answer is that they have no control over the certification process:

Mr. Hargett and Mr. Goins have described a process in which they are trying to get answers from Albert Tieche, the Davidson County Election Administrator and another process in which they will notify the 19,714 voters who may have been affected. So where are their answers? And have they contacted voters yet? And why are they going to certify the election today without receiving those answers or hearing from voters? Where are the intervening checks and balances at the state level?

We once again urge Secretary of State Hargett and the State Election Coordinator Goins to look at the County Election Commission problems with a sense of urgency and seriousness the voters deserve, instead of abdicating their control and authority.

We ask you to do the same.

COUNCILMAN-AT-LARGE MEGAN BARRY AND METRO COUNCIL SEEK TO REMOVE FUNDING, CALL FOR COMPLETE AUDIT

Also today, Councilmember-at-Large Megan Barry, along with Councilman-at-large Ronnie Steine, Councilman-at-large Jerry Maynard, and Councilman and Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee Lonnell Matthews moved to remove funding for the purpose of purchasing additional electronic poll books and called for a complete performance audit of the Davidson County Election Commission.

We stand with the Metro Council and their request.

You can read about all about how the electronic poll books work and who was affected here.

Dems Wants Election Problems Addressed

Letter from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; August 14, 2012: 

RE: August 2012 Elections

Dear Secretary Hargett:

It is with great concern I write you today. As you are no doubt aware, the elections held on Thursday, August 2nd of this year were plagued with problems ranging from voters not receiving ballots for the correct contests to persons with proper identification not being allowed to vote. These problems were reported across the state and have led many members of the General Assembly to submit the following questions for your review and response:

  1. How many persons were not given a correct ballot and therefore not allowed to vote in their preferred primary or rightful district?
  2. Is their a uniform procedure used at voting locations to insure that voters are aware of and obtain the correct ballot for their primary?
  3. How many persons were denied their right to vote due to issues with identification?

It is essential to the future of our state, and our ability to govern in an honest manner, that the recent problems be identified and addressed in a thorough manner. To deny duly registered voters the right to fully participate in our elections, is unacceptable. We firmly believe that every effort must be made to reveal the cause of the problems with our recent election and hope that your office will lead the way in restoring the integrity of our electoral process.

Best Regards,

Craig Fitzhugh                                  Mike Turner
House Democratic Leader              House Democratic Caucus Chairman

Joe Pitts, State Representative

Barbara Cooper, State Representative

Gary W. Moore, State Representative

Jimmy Naifeh, Speaker Emeritus

Joe Towns, Jr., State Representative

Lois DeBerry, State Representative

Sherry Jones, State Representative

Antonio Parkinson, State Representative

John J. DeBerry, Jr., State Representative

Tommie F. Brown, State Representative

John C. Tidwell, State Representative

Johnnie Turner, State Representative

JoAnne H. Favors, State Representative

Mike Stewart, State Representative

Joe Armstrong, State Representative

Janis Sontany, State Representative

Gary Odom, State Representative

Larry J. Miller, State Representative

Karen Camper, State Representative

Michael R. McDonald, State Representative

G.A. Hardaway, State Representative

Johnny Shaw, State Representative

David Shephard, State Representative

Kyle Requests Investigation of Wrongful Purge Claims

Press release from Tennessee Sen. Jim Kyle, D-Memphis; June 15, 2012: 

NASHVILLE – Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle has requested that the State Election Commission look into allegations that more than 11,000 Tennessee voter history files have been inadvertently purged without cause.

“Everyone should be able to have confidence in the election process and know that their right to vote has been upheld,” Kyle said. “These allegations put the integrity of the ballot box at risk in Tennessee.”

Kyle called for the investigation on the eve of the State Election Commission’s meeting Monday at noon to discuss the alleged disappearance of the voting history files, which are integral to determining active voter statuses and keeping registered voters on the rolls.

The discussion of purged voters arose initially in Shelby County, where it was alleged that 488 voters found their voting histories had been purged. In a subsequent analysis by the Tennessee Democratic Party, the TNDP stated that voter history files have gone missing in 69 Tennessee counties, including 3,000 voter files in Davidson County alone.

State law allows local county election commissions to purge voters who have not voted in the last two federal elections and haven’t responded to an address confirmation notice. The allegation that voter histories have been changed undermines the confidence citizens have that the outcome of their elections is true and accurate.

Kyle met with Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Elections Coordinator Mark Goins last week regarding the voter history files, and Kyle will attend Monday’s State Election Commission meeting.

“My impression is that the Secretary of State’s office is taking this issue very seriously, and that seriousness has been reflected in their actions,” Kyle said. “I will recommend that the commission create a process through which this entire issue can be reviewed.”

New Billboards Promote Tennessee Electronic Library

Press Release from the Tennessee Secretary of State’s Office, Nov. 8, 2011:

The Tennessee Electronic Library (TEL) has launched a statewide billboard campaign to raise awareness about the services it offers to Tennesseans. The campaign includes a total of 20 billboards stretching from Memphis to the Tri-Cities.

TEL is an online resource with more than 400,000 reference materials, journals, essays, podcasts, videos and e-books. It provides free test preparation, family history materials and access to Tennessee’s metropolitan newspapers and the World Book Encyclopedia. Access to TEL is provided at no cost to Tennessee residents and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week from any computer or mobile device in the state.

The main goal of the campaign is to spread the word about TEL to the general public and make people aware of the web site address, which is www.tntel.info.

“We’ve done a great job so far letting librarians know about TEL, but it’s time to tell the rest of the state,” TEL Coordinator Wendy Cornelisen said.

The Outdoor Advertising Association of Tennessee donated the space for the billboards as part of its public service program. TEL paid for the materials and production of the billboards with funds provided by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.

“We are excited about this opportunity to promote an important part of the Tennessee State Library and Archives,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “The Tennessee Electronic Library and the Outdoor Advertising Association of Tennessee have partnered to produce a visible communications tool that will help inform Tennesseans about a valuable online resource they can use to improve their knowledge and skills.”

The campaign includes four billboards each in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga, two in the Tri-Cities and one each in Jackson and Clarksville.

 

 

Funding Board: State Revenue Should Exceed Last Year’s By At Least 3.9%

Press Release from State of Tennessee; April 15, 2011:

Based on some encouraging economic signs, the Tennessee State Funding Board is projecting modest growth in state revenues for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

On Friday, the board estimated that overall state revenues will grow between 3.10 and 3.35 percent for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The board projected that the growth rate for the general fund balance will be from 3.40 to 3.70 percent above the current fiscal year’s estimated general fund balance, which funds the largest portion of state government expenses.

For the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, the board projected that overall state revenues will be between 3.90 and 4.15 percent higher than the prior year’s revenues.

The board’s projections represent its consensus on the revenue forecast.

Earlier this week, board members heard presentations from economists, all of whom forecast some improvement in the economy in the months ahead.

Board members cited recent increases in sales tax collections as one clear sign the state’s revenue picture is improving.

The board’s revenue estimates are used by the governor, members of the General Assembly and their staffs for budget planning purposes.

Members of the board are Governor Bill Haslam, Comptroller Justin P. Wilson, Treasurer David H. Lillard Jr., Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Finance and Administration Commissioner Mark Emkes.

School Bond Authority OKs $212m in Construction Loans

State of Tennessee Press Release; Aug. 2, 2010:

The Tennessee State School Bond Authority (TSSBA) gave its approval Friday to approximately $212 million worth of school construction loans for 15 school districts. The loan funds, which are being made available through the state’s Qualified School Construction Bond program, will be used to build, renovate and repair schools in those districts.

Money from the program can only be used for new construction, rehabilitation or repair of public school facilities; land acquisition for qualified school construction projects or purchase of equipment used in connection with qualified projects.

The school systems and loan amounts approved Friday were:

Blount County – $15,016,740

Cocke County – $5,634,997

Coffee County – $3,060,000

Dyer County – $5,734,134

Hawkins County – $2,357,669

Jefferson County – $10,710,000

Knox County – $29,584,000

Lauderdale County – $2,550,000

Maury County – $4,959,240

Metro Nashville – $31,156,000

Sevier County – $14,661,423

Shelby County – $67,611,000

Sullivan County – $5,243,055

Trousdale County – $2,550,000

Warren County – $10,710,000

Some of the individual projects within those school districts are still under review to ensure they comply with the program’s guidelines. A final list of projects is expected to be available after the TSSBA approves the loan agreements with the county governments in August.

Of the $212 million, the federal government made a direct allocation of approximately  $85.7 million for various projects in the Knox County School System, Memphis City Schools and Metro Nashville Public Schools.

The bond sale to finance the construction and renovation projects is tentatively scheduled for the week of Sept. 13.

The TSSBA will invest the proceeds from the bond sale in the State Pooled Investment Fund and distribute them to the school districts to cover expenses related to their construction projects. The loans will be repaid at a very low interest rate.

Last year, the TSSBA provided $177 million in Qualified School Construction Bond loans to 13 local governments. Those loans are being repaid over 17 years at an interest rate of 1.515 percent.

The TSSBA members are: Comptroller Justin P. Wilson, Treasurer David H. Lillard Jr., Secretary of State Tre Hargett, Governor Phil Bredesen, Finance and Administration Commissioner David Goetz, Board of Regents Chancellor Charles Manning and acting University of Tennessee President Jan Simek.

“I am very pleased that we are once again able to provide funding for these school districts through the Qualified School Construction Bond program,” Comptroller Wilson said. “In difficult economic times, this is an important source of financing for our state’s schools.”

“The low interest rates available through this program are as good as school districts are likely to find anywhere,” Treasurer Lillard said. “The needs of some of our school districts are substantial. I am glad that this type of financing is available to meet those needs.”

“I commend the General Assembly for creating this program,” Secretary of State Hargett said. “Our legislators recognized the importance of creating a valuable new funding source for our schools.”