Press Releases

Campaign to Fix the Debt Launches TN Leadership Committee

Press release from the Campaign to Fix the Debt; October 24, 2012: 

NASHVILLE, TN — (October 24, 2012) – The Campaign to Fix the Debt – a national nonpartisan coalition of business leaders, political and community leaders, academics and individual citizens – today officially launched its Tennessee leadership committee and growing efforts to bring concerned individuals together all across the state to encourage federal lawmakers to address the ballooning national debt.

Campaign to Fix the Debt Tennessee co-chairs, including former Governor Winfield Dunn, and Tim Pagliara, CEO of CapWealth Advisors in Franklin and Founder of Enact the Plan, were joined by other leaders from both political parties in the launch, which was held at the Legislative Plaza in Nashville. Former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen was traveling today and was not present, but Bredesen serves as a member of the Campaign to Fix the Debt’s national steering committee.

During the event, Gov. Dunn and Pagliara called on lawmakers in Washington to put aside political differences to find practical solutions to the debt and encouraged Tennesseans to ask their leaders to take swift and sensible action. Former Tennessee Congressman Lincoln Davis, as well as Paula Flowers, former Tennessee Commissioner of Commerce & Insurance, and Matt Kisber, former Tennessee Commissioner of Economic & Community Development, also made remarks in support of the campaign.

“The national debt has grown out of control, and now threatens our economy here at home and our influence around the world,” said Gov. Dunn. “Continued inaction and gridlock is not acceptable. So immediately following the election, we need our leaders in Washington to quickly put partisan differences aside and work together to find some common-sense solutions to get the job done. I have great confidence they can do this, but they must act quickly.”

In addition to the long-term challenges facing the country due to runaway deficits and debt, federal lawmakers must confront the rapidly approaching “fiscal cliff” – of more than $600 billion in automatic spending cuts and tax hikes next year alone that most analysts agree would push the country back into economic recession.

“Private sector businesses, the people we employ and those who are out there looking for work, are already feeling the uncertainty over whether Congress and the White House will be able to strike a budget deal before January. Most businesses are not going to hire new workers or invest in new plants and equipment if they can’t be certain that a couple of months from now the economy won’t be going over a fiscal cliff,” said Pagliara. “The federal debt is massive, and it’s a problem that affects every layer of the economy. So we want to be sure our Tennessee representatives know it’s time to roll up their sleeves and work together on the tough decisions.”

Members of the growing Fix the Debt-Tennessee State Leadership Team announced today include:

Governor Phil Bredesen, Nashville, National Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Governor Winfield Dunn, Nashville, State Co-Chair, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Tim Pagliara, Franklin, Chairman & CEO, CapWealth Advisors; State Co-Chair, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign & Founder, Enact the Plan

Calvin Anderson, Memphis, Senior Vice President & Chief of Staff, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Victor Ashe, Knoxville, Former U.S. Ambassador to Poland; former Mayor of Knoxville; former Chair, U.S. Conference of Mayors; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Joe Bailey, Knoxville, City Councilman & Former Vice Mayor, City of Knoxville; President, Bailey & Associates; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Bayard Boyle, Jr., Memphis, Chairman, Boyle Investment Company; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Forrest Conner, Nashville, CEO, McCarthy, Jones & Woodard; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Judge Lew Conner, Nashville, Senior Counsel, Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, Former Judge, Tennessee Court of Appeals; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Doug Cruickshanks, Nashville, Vice Chairman, FirstBank; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Congressman Lincoln Davis, Pall Mall, Former Member, U.S. House of Representatives; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Dr. Bob Fisher, Nashville, President, Belmont University; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Doug Fisher, Chattanooga, President, DH Fisher & Associates; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Paula Flowers, Oak Ridge, President, Enovation Group, LLC; Former Tennessee Commissioner of Commerce & Insurance; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Jim Frierson, Chattanooga, Founder, Compass Innovation; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Dave Goetz, Nashville, Vice President, Optum; Former Tennessee Commissioner of Finance & Administration; Former President, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry; ; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Cordia Harrington, Nashville, CEO, Tennessee Bun Company; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Dan Hogan, Nashville, Founder & President, Church Street Consulting; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Gordon Inman, Franklin, Chairman, FirstBank Middle Tennessee; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Jon Kinsey, Chattanooga, Partner, KPH Development; Former Mayor of Chattanooga; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Matt Kisber, Nashville, President & CEO, Silicon Ranch Corporation; Former Tennessee Commissioner of Economic & Community Development; Former Chair, House Finance, Ways & Means Committee, Tennessee General Assembly; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Warren Neel, Knoxville, Executive Director, Corporate Governance Center, The University of Tennessee; Former Tennessee Commissioner of Finance & Administration; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Robert Orr, Franklin, Attorney-at-Law; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Johnny Pitts, Memphis, Chief Manager, Lipscomb & Pitts; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Linda Peek Schacht, Nashville, Associate Professor and Executive Director, Andrews Institute for Civic Leadership, Lipscomb University; Former Vice President, Global Communication and Public Affairs, Coca-Cola Company; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Gary Sisco, Nashville, CEO, Sisco Group; Former Secretary of the United States Senate; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Deborah Taylor Tate, Nashville, Former Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission; ITU Special Envoy; Executive Committee, U.S. Minority Media & Telecommunications Council; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Charles Trost, Nashville, Attorney, Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis; Associate Dean, Belmont University College of Law; Former Tennessee Commissioner of Revenue; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Congressman Zach Wamp, Chattanooga, Former Member, U.S. House of Representatives; Founder, Zach Wamp Consulting; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Richard Warren, Nashville, Partner, Bradley Arrant Boult Cummings; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Mayor A.C. Wharton, Jr., Memphis, Mayor of the City of Memphis; Former Mayor of Shelby County; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Woody Woodruff, Nashville, Partner, Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

The Campaign to Fix the Debt is committed to advocating for our elected leaders to avert the fiscal cliff while gradually putting our debt on a sustainable course by generating more tax revenues and making smart spending cuts to programs that aren’t working or aren’t necessary.

“We are thrilled that the Campaign to Fix the Debt is involving so many Tennesseans at the grassroots level,” said Maya MacGuineas, President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, who is spearheading the Campaign. “In order to put our debt on a sustainable path, elected officials are going to have to make tough choices. These choices will be made easier if they know that the people they represent do indeed value cooperation and demand a long-term, comprehensive agreement over our debt.”

Through grassroots organizing, earned media activities and high-profile outreach, the national Campaign to Fix the Debt is urging lawmakers to set aside partisan differences to formulate practical solutions to our nation’s debt problems.

For more information, or to sign the campaign’s Citizen’s Petition, please visit

Liberty and Justice NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

More than 20K Voter IDs Issued in Primary Election Run-Up

State officials say some 21,000 voters have picked up new photo IDs from the state’s DMV centers in the last year, leading up to elections that begin as early as this month.

Next month’s primary election is one of the first major tests of a law legislators crafted last year to require anyone casting a ballot to show state or federal government-issued photo identification to vote. Early voting began last week.

The voter ID requirements are popular among four out of five Tennesseans surveyed earlier this year. But the law has stirred accusations by Democratic that the new ID requirements are a way to block the poor or minorities from voting. The state began issuing the IDs specifically for voting purposes on July 1, 2011, according to the Department of Safety.

Officials in Memphis said earlier this month they’re willing to go to court over the voter ID law after arguing that city-issued library cards should also be accepted at the polls.

“Some judge somewhere will have to decide who’s right on the voter ID,” said Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton.

Under the new law, usable IDs include any state-issued driver’s license or identification card, even if expired; a U.S. passport, a military ID, a state-issued handgun carry permit and any other state or federally issued ID. Not accepted for voting purposes are college IDs.

The primary will narrow the field for 99 seats in the state House of Representatives and 16 state Senate posts.

In 23 of those races, the winner of next month’s primary election will likely determine who will serve the district next year because the winner is running unopposed in the Nov. 6 general election.

Voters can cast their ballots early through Saturday, July 28. Aug. 2 is election day. County government races are also up for election.

Press Releases

Kyle Touts Wharton Proposal to Use Library Cards for Voter ID

Press release from Sen. Jim Kyle, D-Memphis; July 6, 2012: 

MEMPHIS – State Senator Jim Kyle echoed the sentiments of Mayor AC Wharton, who spoke yesterday on the city attorney’s opinion that new photo Memphis Public Library cards meet the legal criteria for acceptable photo identification for the purposes of voting.

“We need to do everything in our power to guarantee that all citizens that wants to vote, get to vote,” said Kyle. “I believe that this will help us assure that we don’t lose some folks who may not have a photo driver’s license, but still have the right to participate .”

In last year’s legislative session, the General Assembly passed a controversial measure requiring all voters to present a photo ID at their polling place. The new law sparked a wave of confusion about which forms of identification were acceptable; this ultimately compelled the legislature to provide free IDs at all driver’s services locations, and remove the decades-old exemption for seniors from having a photo on their driver’s license.

However, the Memphis City Attorney issued an opinion that, because the libraries are an entity of the state, photo IDs issued by the libraries would fall under the law’s definition of state-issued identification.

“I’m afraid that this law does more to prevent legitimate voters from exercising their rights than it will ever do to prevent fraud;” continued Kyle, who was a leading opponent of the bill, “the Mayor has done a great job of providing a Memphis-based solution to a state-created problem.”

NewsTracker Tax and Budget

Memphis Officials Dislike Proposed Tax Increase, Cuts to Services

Memphis city officials are debating how to close a $60 million deficit in the next fiscal year, with the two options of service cuts and a tax increase on the table. But as the Commercial Appeal reports, politicians interested in self-preservation in an election year are loathe to do either.

A 58-cent property tax hike today would raise $63 million.

The 12-member council appears divided over Wharton’s proposed $676 million budget. Several council members have opposed workforce and holiday reductions but also oppose a tax increase.

Mayor A C Wharton’s administration has also said the city should go after property owners who owe the city back taxes.

Education News

UPDATED: Guv Signs Memphis Merger Bill

UPDATE: On Friday afternoon Gov. Haslam signed the legislation addressing the potential merger, saying “The bill addresses two of my biggest concerns. It allows an orderly planning process for transition, while leaving the local vote in place for March 8.”

Gov. Bill Haslam has yet to say publicly whether he plans to sign a bill which aims to slow the process of consolidating the two school districts in Shelby County, though legislative leaders expressed confidence the measure would become law.

The bill, SB25, sets down rules and a planning process for merging Memphis City Schools, the state’s largest school district, with Shelby County Schools. It also postpones consolidation until the 2013-14 school year if Memphis voters approve the merger next month. The bill passed the House Thursday and the Senate earlier this week, with both votes along party lines.

Late Thursday afternoon the Memphis City Council voted to allow the Memphis City Schools Board of Education to surrender its charter. The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported that city council members indicated they still want the March 8 referendum to go ahead as scheduled and could rescind Thursday’s decision if the referendum asking voters whether to transfer administrative control of city schools to Shelby County fails.

Speaking before the Tennessee Press Association immediately following the House vote — and prior to the Memphis City Council vote — Gov. Bill Haslam said it was “premature” for him to say whether he planned to sign it.

“We’ll go back and talk about it like we will everything else,” he told reporters from around the state gathered at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Nashville.

The Republican-sponsored measure zipped through the bulk of the legislative process in eight days.

Memphis Democrats in the Senate tried to convince Republicans to slow down passage of the bill, saying an issue of such magnitude should take more than a week to consider. Democrats pulled out all the stops in the House Thursday in a last-ditch attempt to derail the bill, filing 14 amendments to the legislation, all rejected by the House GOP majority.

Democrats charged Republicans with hypocrisy, saying GOP lawmakers were already guilty of betraying the limited-government rhetoric that’d helped them win so convincingly across the state in November.

“My friends across the aisle who are supposed to be the champions of smaller government, who are the champions of not having Big Brother interfere on smaller governments, stood up in lockstep and voted to act like Washington,” Rep. Mike Turner, the House Democratic Caucus chairman from Old Hickory, said in a press conference immediately following the vote.

Haslam could veto the bill or, if he takes no action by Feb. 21, it would become law without his signature.

Both Republican and Democratic leaders say they have not talked with the governor about his views on the bill, but both expect he’ll OK it, if tacitly.

“We’re not sure exactly if he’s going to sign the legislation or if he’s just going to sit on it and then it automatically becomes the law,” Rep. Larry Miller, the ranking House Democrat of the Shelby County delegation, told reporters in a press conference shortly after the House vote.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, said he’s hopeful the governor will sign the legislation quickly so the state has time to prepare for the March 8 referendum.

Last week, Haslam and the state’s acting education commissioner asked Memphis and Shelby County school districts to submit a transition plan by Feb. 15. Having a plan was imperative to the success of any merger, Haslam said at the time, but he stopped short of weighing in on whether the school systems should merge or comment on the merits of Norris’ bill.

Miller said he hopes Haslam will find a way to keep Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton more involved in the process. The City of Memphis does not have a seat on the 21-person transition board outlined in the bill.

Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, and House Speaker Beth Harwell would each appoint a member. Seats would go to the county mayor and the chairmen of the county and city school boards, and those three officials would each pick five other members.

Haslam, who has said he’s been in constant contact with Wharton throughout the past few weeks, said he wants to see “a little bit more city representation” on the committee.

Haslam added, though, that discussions about schools in Memphis and Shelby County need to evolve beyond partisan rancor and regional political feuding in order to address the city’s bleak public educational picture.

“I think we’re having the wrong conversation,” Haslam said. “At the end of the day, the conversation’s all about the legal issues around it instead of how are we going to help educate all 150,000 of those children, and I mean all 150,000.”

The Memphis City Schools board voted 5-4 in December to dissolve the district and hand over authority for educating its 103,000 students to the smaller Shelby County Schools. The board’s decision heightened longstanding area racial tensions and sparked heated political debate over school finances, quality of education and the proper role of state government in the affairs of counties and local communities.

A slim majority of voters favor merging the systems, a recent poll conducted for the Memphis Commercial Appeal showed.