Merry Christmas, Tennessee!

Jordan Ashburn, 24, and Seth Ketner, 27, both of Cookeville, get into the Yuletide spirit by crashing through the river flow on the day of the Night Before Christmas.

House Republican Leader Sponsoring Bill to Stop Tobacco Sellers from Profiting Off Tax Hikes

Press release from Tennessee House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, Dec. 17, 2015:

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick Files Legislation To Curb Tobacco Tax Fraud

(NASHVILLE)- House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) today announced that he has filed legislation to strengthen current tobacco tax laws. House Bill 1440 is aimed at deterring individuals from profiting from future increases in the rate of a per unit tax. The legislation calls for a one-time levy on inventory whereby interested parties would be required to account for all relevant property in inventory on the date of the rate increase and submit it to the Department of Revenue within thirty (30) days of the increase.

“We need to reassess the tobacco tax rate process in the state, and I believe this legislation will restrict future attempts by individuals to game the system and make profits off rate increases,” said House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick.

Additional information regarding this legislation can be found on the General Assembly website at: http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=HB1440.

Gerald McCormick lives in Chattanooga and represents District 26, which is part of Hamilton County.

Haslam, McQueen Laud TN Students’ NAEP Math Progress, Promise Efforts to Improve Reading Scores

Press Release from Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Oct. 28, 2015:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Tennessee students are still the fastest improving in the nation since 2011 according to the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), commonly known as the Nation’s Report Card.

Tennessee also rose to the top half of states in fourth grade math, ranking 25th – the first time Tennessee has ever ranked in the top half of states in any subject or grade.

“Tennessee is distinguishing itself as the state to watch in education, and today’s announcement is a testament to all of the hard work put in day to day by our educators and students,” Haslam said. “There is no doubt that we’re asking more of teachers and students than ever before, and they are delivering. Four years ago we committed to becoming the fastest improving state in the nation in academic growth. Students showed incredible progress in 2013, and this year a new set of fourth and eighth graders proved the gains our students have made are real.”

The NAEP tests assess students in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math. All 50 states have taken NAEP since 2003, and the results are regarded across the country as the best way to compare educational outcomes across states. Tennessee improved in overall national ranking in three of the four tests. In a year where there were national declines in math, Tennessee students held steady. In eighth grade math, the state ranked 37th, up from 43rd in 2013, and the state jumped four spots from 2013 to 30th in eighth grade reading. The results noted key areas for improvement: lower literacy scores for fourth grade reading and persistent achievement gaps.

“Our students are on track to meet our ambitious new goal: for Tennessee to be in the top half of all states in all subjects on NAEP by 2019,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said. “These results show we have already cleared that bar in fourth grade math, and we’re on track in other grades and subjects. These results also underscore the importance of focusing on literacy, so our students can compete with their peers across the country.”

Later today, Haslam will celebrate Tennessee’s progress at Riverwood Elementary in Memphis, along with McQueen, Shelby County Superintendent Dorsey Hopson, parents, teachers, and students. For additional details about Tennessee’s education goals for the future, visit http://www.tn.gov/education/topic/strategic-plan.

For data on Tennessee’s NAEP results and more information about the national data, visit: http://nationsreportcard.gov/.

Haslam and McQueen congratulated Tennessee teachers and thanked them for their hard work. Click here to see their video message.

NAEP 2015 – On the Path

2015 NAEP Growth

– See more at: https://www.tn.gov/governor/news/18951#sthash.kMN7RFSf.dpuf

DCS Commissioner Henry Taking Over as Haslam Administration Chief of Staff

Press Release from the Office of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, June 30, 2015:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Jim Henry as his new chief of staff. Henry currently serves as commissioner of the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) and replaces Mark Cate who announced his departure last month.

“Over the past four years, Jim has led two departments in state government that handle some of our most difficult work concerning our most vulnerable citizens,” Haslam said. “Along with his experience in DIDD and DCS, he has been a mayor, a legislator and businessman. I appreciate his willingness to serve in this capacity and bring his knowledge and expertise to our office.”

Henry, 70, first served in the Haslam administration as the first commissioner of the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD), which was formerly a division of the Department of Finance and Administration before becoming a state department on January 15, 2011. He became commissioner of DCS in 2013.

“I am honored to serve the administration in this new capacity and look forward to working in the governor’s office,” Henry said. “I’ll miss working every day with the dedicated and hardworking employees at DCS but know that they will continue to do great work for the state.”

Before joining the Haslam administration, Henry served as president and chief executive officer of Omni Visions, Inc., a company serving adults with developmental disabilities and children and families in crisis. A Vietnam veteran and former mayor of Kingston, Henry spent 12 years as a state representative and six of those years as minority leader.

Haslam also announced that Leslie Hafner, 45, who currently serves as director for legislation, will be promoted to senior advisor to the governor. Hafner is a 20-year veteran of legislative plaza and Tennessee politics. Before joining the Haslam administration, she was a principal at Hafner/Alexander Government Relations. She has also been director of government relations for Bass, Berry & Sims and served seven years in the administration of Gov. Don Sundquist.

In addition, the governor announced that Will Cromer, 30, who currently serves as policy director will be promoted. Cromer will become special assistant to the governor for strategy and will also continue to serve as director of policy. Prior to joining the Haslam administration, Cromer served as policy director for the 2010 Bill Haslam for Governor campaign and as a member of the governor-elect’s transition team. Cromer previously worked for the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) and before that worked in the Washington, D.C. nonprofit sector promoting free market policies.

The governor also announced that Deputy Director for Legislation Warren Wells, 31, will become the new director for legislation. Before joining the administration as a legislative liaison to the Department of Finance and Administration, Wells served as a research analyst for the Senate Transportation Committee and worked in the office of Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville). Before that he spent nine years in the Army National Guard. He served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and was stationed at Al Taqaddum, Iraq, where he earned a Combat Action Badge and Army Commendation Medal.

The appointments are effective August 1.

Holt, Terry Plan to File ‘Pastor Protection Act’ in Wake of SCOTUS Marriage Ruling

Press Release from Tennessee State Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden:

NASHVILLE, Tenn., June 26, 2015— On Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of gay marriage. In reaction to that decision, Tennessee State Representative Bryan Terry (R-Murfreesboro) announced that he is working to draft the “Tennessee Pastor Protection Act” along with State Representative Andy Holt (R-Dresden) as the primary co-sponsor.

“It comes as no surprise that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same sex marriage. I have had multiple constituents concerned with how the ruling may impact their church and their religious beliefs. If the issue is truly about equality of civil liberties and benefits, then this ruling should have minimal legal impact on churches,” said Terry. “However, if the issue and the cause is about redefining marriage to require others to change their deeply held religious beliefs, then the concerns of many will be valid.”

The bill will be designed to protect all religious clergy from performing same sex marriages, as well as, providing legal protection from being forced to perform same sex marriages on church property.

“To my friends of faith, to those who endear the principles of social conservatism, and to those who ascribe to the original intent of the ‪Tenth Amendment, we must never give up,” declared Holt. “The Court has made it clear that they have no intention to uphold the principles of separation of power. It’s more important now than ever that we stand and resist the abuse of our own government and that is exactly what I plan to do by lobbying for the Pastor Protection Act with Rep. Terry.”

Holt says he has no plans to recognize the Court’s ruling as being valid. “God is the ultimate Supreme Court and he has spoken. Marriage is between one man, and one woman,” said Holt.

Terry worries that the ruling will set off a chain reaction in judicial activism.

“The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Article 1 Section 3 of the Tennessee Constitution states that personal freedom of religion is protected and that no human authority can interfere in the rights of conscience,” noted Terry. “Under normal circumstances, I would expect the Court to honor the Constitution of the United States and Tennessee, but, as recently confirmed by activist judges, we no longer are under normal circumstances.”

McCormick Letter to TN Capitol Commission: Remove Nathan Bedford Forrest Bust

From the Office of Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, Majority Leader of the Tennessee House of Representatives, June 23, 2015:

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Antagonism Toward Hillary Clinton Voiced by Leading TNGOP Women and Chairman

Compiled from Press Release Statements Issued June 13 by the Tennessee Republican Party:

House Speaker Beth Harwell Statement on Hillary Clinton’s Latest Campaign Reset

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The Tennessee Republican Party released the following statements from Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell and TNGOP Chairman Ryan Haynes about Hillary Clinton’s latest campaign reset:

“Hillary Clinton’s latest campaign reset isn’t going to change the fact Americans are skeptical of her and the liberal policies she pushes,” stated Speaker Harwell. “In Tennessee, we know what real leadership is. Clinton is just re-branding the stale policies DC insiders have always pushed for in an attempt to make them more palatable. It won’t work—especially here. Hillary Clinton is wrong for Tennessee.”

Chairman Haynes added, “Americans want a champion who will lay out new policies for achievement and prosperity for our nation. Hillary Clinton promises a continuation of the same failed ones from the current Administration. That’s unacceptable in Tennessee and around the country.”

TFRW and TNGOP Statements on Hillary Clinton’s Latest Campaign Reset

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The Tennessee Republican Party released the following statements from Tennessee Federation of Republican Women President Linda D. Buckles and TNGOP Chairman Ryan Haynes about Hillary Clinton’s latest campaign reset:

Buckles noted, “As a grassroots leader for Tennessee women, I assure you we stand ready to tell the truth about Hillary Clinton’s failed leadership. Once Democrats conclude their Clinton coronation, Hillary would be wise not to step in Tennessee. The TFRW and Tennessee Republican women have a long history of turning out voters. With Clinton’s dishonesty, ethical issues, and wrong policies, we’ll do so again. She’s wrong for women, wrong for Tennessee, and wrong for America.”

Chairman Haynes stated, “While Democrats are crowning their leader, Republicans are going to have a dynamic conversation about the direction of our country with the most diverse primary in our history. Once we’ve selected our next Republican nominee, all of us are ready to stop Hillary, especially in Tennessee.”

Congressman Diane Black Statement on Hillary Clinton’s Latest Campaign Reset

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The Tennessee Republican Party released the following statements from Congressman Diane Black and TNGOP Chairman Ryan Haynes about Hillary Clinton’s latest campaign reset:

Cong. Black remarked, “We all know that Hillary Clinton loves a good ‘reset’ button and today’s speech in New York is just the latest example. The American people have dealt with the Clinton political machine’s schemes for more than twenty years and they won’t be fooled by another attempt to repackage her candidacy. As her rapidly sinking poll numbers show, voters simply don’t trust Hillary– and with good reason. Another carefully staged speech doesn’t change the fact that she is wrong for America.”

Chairman Haynes added, “For an individual who has been running for President as long as anyone can remember, I’m betting a campaign reboot was not in the plan. But pushing the reset button can’t mask the fact she’s faltering and failing to connect with everyday Americans.”

State Senator Becky Duncan Massey Statement on Hillary Clinton’s Latest Campaign Reset

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The Tennessee Republican Party released the following statements from State Senator Becky Duncan Massey and TNGOP Chairman Ryan Haynes about Hillary Clinton’s latest campaign reset taking place later this morning in New York:

State Senator Becky Duncan Massey said, “It will be a tough sell for someone as synonymous with countless ethical issues and secretive dealings as Hillary Clinton to be successful anywhere, let alone Tennessee. In 2016, Americans are looking for a champion they can trust to fix our nation’s problems. Clinton’s secret server and pay-to-play antics don’t square with that. She’s been wrong in the past and she’s wrong for our future.”

Chairman Haynes added, “Hillary can delete her emails, but she’s never going to be able to delete her disastrous record. ‘Trust’ is going to be a key theme in 2016 and polls show even Democrats question her ability to be honest.”

Congressman Marsha Blackburn Statement on Hillary Clinton’s Latest Campaign Reset

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The Tennessee Republican Party released the following statements from Congressman Marsha Blackburn and TNGOP Chairman Ryan Haynes about Hillary Clinton’s latest campaign reset taking place later today in New York:

“Hillary Clinton wants us to believe she’s a ‘champion’ of everyday Americans. Unfortunately for Clinton, her comments about being ‘dead broke’, even though her family owned multiple homes at the time, and her complaints about successful Americans, even though she and her husband banked $30 million in just 18 months from speeches, reek of hypocrisy. Her words are a slap in the face to Americans still struggling to find a path forward in the Obama economy. And they’re more evidence Hillary is wrong for working Americans. Another reset won’t change that,” stated Cong. Blackburn.

Chairman Haynes said, “The more Hillary Clinton campaigns, the more she is exposed as out-of-touch with everyday Americans. She’s not a champion; she’s a perpetual candidate who will say whatever is necessary to get elected.”

Background

When Hillary Clinton originally launched her campaign, the TNGOP released this statement.

The RNC has placed the ad “Wrong for America” on television and the web across the country.

The Republican National Committee recently conducted a poll of independent voters in battleground states that had some key findings applicable across state lines including:

  • Hillary Clinton is clearly vulnerable and already has a net unfavorable rating with independents.
  • Hillary Clinton’s supposed strength with women is a myth.

The most significant driving factor to Hillary Clinton’s perceptual issues is a question of trust.
The TNGOP Facebook page will feature multiple posts throughout the day on Clinton’s problems nationally—and in Tennessee.

Enactment of Education Savings Account Legislation in TN Praised by National School Choice Group

Press Release from the American Federation for Children, June 10, 2015:

CEREMONIAL BILL SIGNING MARKS MILESTONE FOR WHEN TENNESSEE BECAME THE 23RD SCHOOL CHOICE STATE

NASHVILLE, TENN. (June 10, 2015) – In a ceremonial event at The War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville, Gov. Bill Haslam (R-TN) marked a milestone for Tennessee by publicly signing the Individualized Education Act into law. Last month, Haslam privately signed the bill into law making Tennessee the 23rd school choice state and the fourth state to have an education savings account (ESA) program.

“Tennessee has taken a positive step forward in offering parents and students access to quality educational options,” said Tommy Schultz, communications director for the Tennessee Federation for Children. “This law will offer families whose children have special needs the access to needed options, and ensure special needs students receive a quality education.”

ESAs are an emerging form of educational choice sweeping the country. The programs empower parents to have the flexibility to customize their child’s learning experience. The American Federation for Children has worked nationwide to enact new ESA programs including passing the nation’s first program in Arizona and most recently helping pass the nation’s most expansive ESA program in Nevada.

“There is an education revolution sweeping the country and it has touched Tennessee – parents are hungry and anxious to take more control over their child’s education, especially parents’ whose children are trapped in schools that fail to meet their needs,” added Schultz. “We are grateful for Gov. Haslam’s leadership on this issue and we look forward to continuing to create new ways to empower more parents and help more students reach their full potential.”

Tennessee’s Individualized Education Act Facts:

-This year, lawmakers passed the Individualized Education Program, providing education savings accounts for special education.

-The education savings accounts in Tennessee allow parents with qualified students to use more than $6,000 per year to pay for tutoring, therapy, or alternative education – these options are critically important to parents with children who have unique learning challenges.

States with Education Savings Accounts:

  • Tennessee
  • Nevada
  • Florida
  • Arizona
  • Mississippi

ESA Special Needs Impact:

In Arizona, ESAs are already being used to help change lives: watch Salima’s Success Story to learn more about how an ESA opened up new opportunities for one girl.

Corker, Alexander Disappointed with Demise of PATRIOT Act Provisions

Statement from U.S. Sen Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, May 31, 2015:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) today made the following statement regarding expiring counterterrorism provisions of the Patriot Act.

“Not only am I deeply concerned about the way the administration has limited the effectiveness of this critical national security program, but I am also extremely disappointed lawmakers allowed a lapse in our ability to hunt down terrorists plotting against Americans,” said Senator Corker. “Congress should restore these intelligence capabilities in a manner that can still be effective and robust to keep Americans safe while continuing to respect our cherished civil liberties.”

Statement from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, May 31, 2015:

Alexander: “Seriously Flawed” USA Freedom Act the “Only Realistic Option to Continue” PATRIOT Act

WASHINGTON, May 31 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement on his vote to begin debate in the Senate on the House-passed USA Freedom Act:

“I voted tonight to consider the seriously flawed House bill because this is now the only realistic option to continue the PATRIOT Act. Hopefully, during this time of heightened threats from terrorists, the Senate will strengthen the legislation and provide greater protection to the American people.”