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TNDP on Rep. Durham Issues: ‘Republicans Putting Politics Before People’

Press release from the Democratic Party of Tennessee, Dec. 17, 2015:

Nashville, Tenn. (December 11, 2015) – Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini released the following statement addressing Republican Leadership and their unwillingness to hold Rep. Jeremy Durham accountable.

“The Jeremy Durham situation is just another example of Tennessee Republicans putting politics before the people of Tennessee. How long has it been since Speaker Beth Harwell had the General Assembly’s human resources chief talk to Durham about ‘appropriate behavior’ at the Legislature? How long has it been and yet he remained in the number three leadership position for House Republicans for all that time? How long have been hiding his bad behavior from his constituents?

“People in Tennessee are hurting and they need elected representatives who are serious and are focused on the real issues that affect their everyday lives. But Republicans and their leaders, Harwell and Glenn Casada, would rather sweep Durham’s bad behavior under the rug. Until now, that is, when the stories about Durham’s bad behavior have started to leak out and they have begun to worry about the affect it is having on their donors. Politics and money over hardworking Tennesseans – this is no way to run a state. The people of Tennessee deserve better.”

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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.

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Press Releases

Jeff Aiken of Washington Co. Elected TN Farm Bureau President

Press release from the Farm Bureau Federation of Tennessee, Dec. 17, 2015:

During their 94th annual convention held in Franklin, the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation’s delegates, representing agriculture and farmers across the state, not only debated policy proposals and passed resolutions to work on passage of legislation in 2016 at the state and federal levels, they also elected their 8th president of the nation’s largest state Farm Bureau organization.

Washington county farmer Jeff Aiken, 52, was elected today by the voting delegate body to serve as the organization’s president, representing more than 644,000 family members in Tennessee. Aiken has served as vice-president since 2012, and a director-at-large on the state board of directors since 1998 when he was elected to that office by the Farm Bureau’s county leadership statewide. He has headed up numerous committees at the state level, as well as being his county’s president for many years. He has held the office of state YF&R chairman and was the 1992 Tennessee Young Farmer of the Year.

Aiken and his wife Carol farm 900 acres near Telford in upper East Tennessee where he produces corn, hay, straw, 100 acres of tobacco and more than 600 head of beef cattle.

Elected as the new vice president was Humphreys County farmer Eric Mayberry. Mayberry, 50, and his wife Lynn farm 1000 acres of row crops and a nearly 300 head commercial cow/calf operation near Hurricane Mills. Mayberry was first elected to the state board of directors representing District II in 2005. He has also served on his county’s board of directors since 1988, including five years as president.

Also newly elected to the state board were Lincoln County’s Josh Ogle, representing District II; Smith County’s Mike Scudder, representing District IV; and Robert Elliott of Robertson County was selected as the new state Young Farmer and Rancher chairman.

Others re-elected to the board of directors by the voting delegates were: Charles Hancock from Bumpus Mills, Mrs. Catherine Via from Alamo, David Richesin from Lenoir City, Malcolm Burchfiel from Newbern, James Haskew from South Pittsburg, David Mitchell from Blaine and Mrs. Jane May, State Women’s chairman from Newbern.

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House GOP Caucus Meeting Planned to Discuss ‘Leadership Position of Majority Whip’

Republicans in the Tennessee House of Representatives appear to be formally preparing for possible disciplinary action against a ranking member of their caucus.

In a statement released to the media Thursday morning, GOP Caucus Chairman Glen Casada of Thompson Station announced that he is requesting a special meeting of the 73-member strong House supermajority when the Legislature convenes next month.

On the agenda would be a discussion about recently reported controversies surrounding Casada’s fellow Williamson County lawmaker, Jeremy Durham, who currently serves as the House majority whip.

“As Chairman of the Republican Caucus, I am calling a meeting to be held on January 12th to discuss upcoming legislative issues and the leadership position of Majority Whip,” Casada said in an emailed statement through the GOP Caucus communications office.

Durham has been drawing scrutiny for a couple of unrelated incidents that occurred in 2013 and 2014.

In one case, Durham was accused by state drug-enforcement police of illegally altering a prescription to obtain medication from a Kroger pharmacy.

A grand jury in Williamson County subsequently refused to indict him when the case was brought before them.

“This situation is from two and a half years ago and was fully vetted by 12 Williamson County citizens who quickly agreed that nothing illegal occurred,” Durham said in response to publicity the case has garnered. “I possessed two additional valid and current prescriptions for the same medication and dosage in question and never attempted to obtain anything I had not been prescribed by a doctor.”

With respect to the other matter, Rep. Durham wrote a letter in March of 2014 urging a judge to consider granting leniency to a local youth pastor who’d pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography.

Following press accounts of the case last week on the heels of stories about the grand jury’s consideration of the prescription forgery accusation, Durham said, “It’s pretty clear that the liberal media is just on another witch hunt.”

In a statement issued early Thursday afternoon, House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said:

“I have received a number of requests from members of our Caucus for a full Caucus meeting to discuss Rep. Durham’s status as a member of Leadership. Certainly we will honor those requests and have a meeting to discuss this issue. I’m looking forward to putting this distraction behind us and moving on with the business of the state.”

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Press Releases

Voting Now Open in Beacon Center’s Annual ‘Lump of Coal’ Contest

Press release from the Beacon Center of Tennessee, December 14, 2015:

Beacon Announces 2015 Lump of Coal Nominees

Today, the Beacon Center announced the four finalists for the 2015 Lump of Coal award. The Lump of Coal is an annual “award” given by the Beacon Center for the government or private entity that has most abused taxpayer money. After the Beacon Center picks the four finalists, we leave it up to Tennesseans to decide who is most deserving of this infamous award. Tennesseans can vote at beacontn.org/lumpofcoal. The “winner” of the award will be announced on Monday, December 21st.

“There have been so many instances of government abuse at the expense of the taxpayer this year that it was hard to narrow it down to just four, but after much deliberation the Beacon Center staff has picked the finalists. Now we leave the final vote in the hands of Tennesseans,” said Beacon CEO Justin Owen.

Beacon Communications Director Mark Cunningham noted, “With nominees from Memphis to Knoxville, it is pretty apparent that wasting and abusing taxpayer money is not a regional problem. While only one of these nominees will be selected as the Lump of Coal recipient, each of them should be absolutely ashamed to be included on this list.”

The finalists are:

Memphis Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE)

The mission of Memphis EDGE is essentially to redistribute money from the hardworking taxpayers of Memphis to big corporations. With disturbing levels of poverty and roads filled with potholes, it seems that the local government could be spending taxpayer money much more efficiently by improving the city rather than padding the pockets of Fat Cats at the expense of those taxpayers. To read more, click here.

The Hospital Lobby

In cartel-like fashion, some of the largest hospitals across the state teamed up to lobby for Insure TN- Gov. Haslam’s version of Medicaid expansion. Yet, despite claiming they were operating on “razor thin” margins and looking to use expansion as a bailout, several of these same hospitals were found to be overcharging the uninsured by as much as 10 times the actual cost of care. To read more, click here.

The University of Tennessee’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion

The Office first made national news in August when it “encouraged” other students to use “gender neutral” pronouns like “ze” or” xe” lest one commit the grave offense of using “he” to refer to a man. Now the Office is “encouraging” students to take a few simple steps when celebrating the holidays so as to, “[e]nsure your holiday party is not a Christmas party in disguise.” When UT uses your money for something that manifestly does not further higher learning, it lacks a legitimate basis for taking it in the first place. To read more, click here.

Rutherford County School Board Chair Wayne Blair

The incoming chairman of the Tennessee School Boards Association sure cut his political teeth early. Before the gavel even passed, Wayne Blair, who also serves as chairman of the Rutherford County School Board, got himself in hot water. Blair was recently chastised for possibly violating the law when he convened a meeting of local teachers to rail against what he refers to as “anti-public school legislation” such as opportunity scholarships and charter schools. One statewide watchdog has questioned whether Blair’s actions are illegal. Even if they aren’t, it’s in poor taste to make teachers think they must align with your political agenda as the school district’s highest ranking elected official. To read more, click here.

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The Beacon Center of Tennessee empowers Tennesseans to reclaim control of their lives, so that they can freely pursue their version of the American Dream. The Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, and independent organization dedicated to providing concerned citizens and public leaders with expert empirical research and timely free market solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee.

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Press Releases

TFA Hails Kelsey’s Push for AG Opinion on Nashville Gun-Show Issue

Press Release from the Tennessee Firearms Association, Dec. 10, 2015:

Senator Brian Kelsey asks Tennessee Attorney General for Ruling on local regulation of Gun Shows

NASHVILLE, TN: The Tennessee Firearms Association’s Executive Director, John Harris, today expressed support for the move by Senator Brian Kelsey, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary, to obtain an official opinion from the Tennessee Attorney General on several specific questions regarding whether local governments, specifically Nashville, have the legal authority to regulate gun shows that have historically taken place on public fairgrounds and similar publicly owned properties.

“Nashville, under its liberal Mayor, has tried to stop the long-standing tradition of allowing gun shows at the centrally-located and publicly-owned Nashville Fairgrounds.” Harris continued, “because, apparently, the liberal Mayor and 3 members of the Fair Board thought that they could do it and get away with it. It is now clear that this move by Nashville, under Mayor Megan Barry’s leadership, has caused a significant objection from citizens and elected officials all over the state of Tennessee. Their actions are clearly an attack on the 2nd Amendment and also an attack on legal commerce that these small handful of public officials appear to personally prefer to stop.”

The Tennessee Legislature previously enacted legislation that prohibits local authorities from regulating any aspect of “the whole field” of firearms and ammunition in Tennessee and reserving that power solely to the legislature. But, local governments, such as Nashville, apparently feel that the beliefs of a handful of local government officials can be implemented even if prohibited by state law.

Harris says that even in Davidson county the citizens have been so fed up with local government officials trying to close the entire fairgrounds that they enacted a charter amendment severely restricting that type of action and protecting the continued use of the fairgrounds for any type of event that had occurred there on or before December 31, 2010. Nashville’s progressive leaders who are actually responsible for orchestrating this ban are clearly in violation of that local ordinance.”

Harris concluded, “TFA will be interested in seeing the Attorney General’s opinion and continuing to work with legislators as necessary to curtail the opportunities of local government officials from intentionally or otherwise violating state laws. We will stand up for the 2nd Amendment and gun owners in Tennessee against this intentional usurpation of our rights as citizens to engage in lawful conduct on public property.”

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Press Releases

Judiciary Chairman Requests Attorney General Opinion on Metro Banning Fairground Gun Shows

Press release from Senate Judiciary Chairman Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, Dec. 10, 2015:

(NASHVILLE) — Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) requested an opinion today from Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery regarding the legality of banning gun shows from publicly owned fairgrounds. The Nashville Metropolitan Fair Commissioners Board recently voted to ban gun shows at the city’s publicly owned fairgrounds. Kelsey said the action potentially runs afoul of local, state, and federal laws.

“Tennessee law is clear that local governments cannot regulate the sale of arms,” said Senator Kelsey. “The Metro Fair Board action is a thinly disguised effort to impose a liberal gun control agenda and deny citizens their Second Amendment rights.”

The Tennessee preemption statute prevents localities from enacting any new laws regulating the use, purchase, transfer, taxation, manufacture, ownership, possession, carrying, sale, acquisition, gift, devise, licensing, registration, storage, and transportation of firearms and ammunition. The statute also preempts any existing local law, ordinance, or regulation concerning firearms, ammunition or their components.

Kelsey said the action to prohibit gun shows at the fairgrounds also raises constitutional questions. Generally, if a local government opens a venue for rent by private parties, it cannot pick and choose which parties it allows to rent the space simply because it disagrees with the viewpoint of those parties.

“The decision by the board tramples on the free speech of those who want to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” added Kelsey.

Reports seem to indicate that the Fair Board’s members overwhelmingly made their decision based on their desire to implement gun control measures.

Finally, the board action also appears to violate Metro’s own charter. The 2011 amendment to the charter for Metro Nashville provides that existing fairgrounds activities, “including, but not limited to, the Tennessee State Fair, expo center events, flea markets, and auto racing, shall be continued on the same site.” Gun shows have been operating at the fairgrounds since the 1970s.

Metro Councilman Steve Glover, who filed a resolution last week asking the fairgrounds board to overturn their decision banning gun shows, reacted positively to Sen. Kelsey’s request: “I’m pleased that the state as well as Metro is looking at this. I look forward to receiving the legal opinions. I feel certain that what’s been done will be overturned.”

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Press Releases

Nashville Republican Tapped to Chair Senate Finance Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee

Press release from the Republican Caucus of the Tennessee Senate, Dec. 7, 2015:

(NASHVILLE, TN), December 7, 2015 — State Senator Steven Dickerson (R-Nashville) has been appointed Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee’s Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee. The appointment of the powerful subcommittee was made by Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) as the General Assembly prepares to convene the 2016 legislative session on January 12.

“This subcommittee was created to ensure that agencies of state government are accountable in reporting the appropriate financial information to our Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee,” said Chairman McNally. “This oversight is of tremendous importance in ensuring that we have all the information that we need in order to make the most effective budget decisions with the hard-earned dollars provided by taxpayers.”

The Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee has the responsibility of considering all measures dealing with the appropriation of state funds and has oversight regarding legislation pertaining to bonds, pensions, investments or indebtedness. Other members of the committee’s Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee include Senator John Stevens (R-Huntingdon), Senator Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin), Senator Thelma Harper (D-Nashville) and Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson (R-Hixson).

“Senator Dickerson has a tremendous financial acumen that will help this subcommittee weed through the large amount of reports that we receive each year,” added Speaker Watson. “This will help ensure that state spending is both transparent and done in the most resourceful and highly effective manner.”

“All of the members of this committee bring much experience to the table,” added McNally. “We are looking forward to receiving the information they will provide to help us do the most critically important job that our Legislature is charged with – construction of a state budget that best serves the people of Tennessee.”

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Press Releases

TNDP Calls on Republicans to ‘Reject Donald Trump’

Press release from the Tennessee Democratic Party, Dec. 8, 2015:

Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mancini calls on Tennessee Republicans to Reject Trump’s Dangerous Rhetoric and Plan

Trump Delegates and Republican Leadership Silent on Call to Ban Muslims

Nashville, Tenn. (December 8, 2015) – Republican Presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s pledged Tennessee delegates, including elected officials State Senators Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) have remained silent in light of Republican Presidential front runner Donald Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the United States. These delegates have pledged to support Trump’s campaign for the presidency but have yet to comment on Trump’s latest statements.

“These Tennessee Republicans have pledged to support Donald Trump and they must be held accountable for that support,” said Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini, “Their silence on Trump’s disgraceful, inhuman and unconstitutional policies speaks volumes about just how out of touch they are with hardworking Tennesseans. Where is their concern for our Muslim brothers and sisters who work hard everyday and live peacefully in Tennessee?”

In several statements Trump repeated his call to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. Many of his opponents in the Republican Presidential primary as well as the Republican Party Chairs in several early primary states have expressed their opposition to his plan.

Mancini concluded, “It is beyond time for Trump’s Republican delegates in this state as well as Republican Party leaders like Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, and Speaker Harwell to publicly reject Donald Trump and his and dangerous plan.”

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Ramsey: Moratorium Needed on Immigration from ‘Countries with Ties to Terrorism’

Statement from Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, Dec. 8, 2015:

If the last few months have taught us anything, it is that America needs to get serious about border security — and quickly. While I would not favor an explicitly religious test, I do think it is time to place a moratorium on immigration from a long list of countries with ties to terrorism.

The United States has been the most welcoming nation in history by a large margin. But a nation without secure borders is no nation at all. We are at war with radical Islam and everyone outside of the Obama administration knows it.

It is time to seriously rethink our visa, refugee resettlement and immigration policies. It is time to press the pause button.