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House Dems Accuse GOP of Pushing ‘Anti-Local, Anti-Worker’ Legislation

Press release from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; March 14, 2013:

Republicans ram through anti-local, anti-worker legislation in race to the bottom for working families

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – House Republicans rammed through legislation this morning that is designed to help wealthy special interests by taking money out of the pockets of working families and eliminating the ability of local elected officials to negotiate local contracts.

“It is absolutely shameful the way Republicans are shutting down debate and shutting out the voice of working men and women in this state,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “These are important issues that will have a dramatic impact on local governments for years to come, and we shouldn’t rush it through just because the majority doesn’t like criticism.”

During the debate, Chairman Casada repeatedly complained about not wanting to debate the merits of setting a local prevailing wage, instead wanting to talk solely about how limiting local control of wage and benefit standards will promote his vision of ‘economic freedom’, and his contention that local government is the problem that Republicans are trying to address. Despite numerous representatives having requested the ability to speak on the bill, House Republicans called the question, cut off all debate, and took a vote early.

“Chairman Casada is acting like nothing more than a thief in the night, trying to steal food from the mouths of working people in order to give it back to wealthy special interests,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner. “The level of contempt that this Republican majority has for local governments and working people is simply disgusting.”

HB501 by Chairman Casada strips the authority of local governments to protect against wage theft, and ensure construction workers and contract employees have livable wages and benefits. This legislation is a prelude to HB850 by Rep. Marsh which will weaken state prevailing wage rates and lower standards in government contracts.

Shelby County is currently the only local government that sets a prevailing wage and benefits standard. Rep. Larry Miller sought to exempt Shelby County from this legislation in order to maintain the current standards, however Republicans tabled that amendment.

“We have a situation in Memphis where out-of-state businesses often bid on contracts worth millions of dollars in local taxpayer dollars. Taxpayers in our city have chosen to use that opportunity to ensure that local residents earn a decent living before these out-of-state contractors take profits out of the state,” said Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis). “How can we say that it is a good thing for residents of Memphis and Shelby County to have a lower standard of living so that big contractors can take more of their tax dollars out of state?”

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Senate Dems Want Inquiry Into Statewide Voting Problems

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus; August 28, 2012: 

NASHVILLE – ­Senate Democrats are calling on Secretary of State Tre Hargett to launch a full inquiry into voting irregularities across the state.

“There are a lot of questions about the integrity of the August primaries, and voters deserve answers,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle. “We didn’t have these problems four years ago.”

In Shelby and now Davidson County, there have been reports of voters getting the wrong primary ballot and voting in the wrong district. State election officials have admitted that poll worker training was inadequate. Davidson County officials were advised against using electronic poll books, but used them anyway.

“We need to know why the machines defaulted to a particular party’s ballot,” said Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney. “We need to know who made that decision, and we need to know whether these machines will be used again.”

Democratic leaders called on lawmakers to reconsider the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act, which requires that precincts use optical scanners that produce a paper ballot. The bipartisan law passed unanimously in 2008 but implementation has been delayed.

“People invest considerable time in deciding how to cast their vote, and when they leave the voting booth, they should be confident their vote counted the way they intended,” Sen. Finney said. “I hope state election officials will take these irregularities seriously and conduct a thorough review.”

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Press Releases

TFA Still Itching for House GOP to Call ‘Guns-in-Parking-Lots’ Bill to Floor

Press Release from the Tennessee Firearms Association; April 24, 2012: 

House Calendar Improperly Sends Safe Commute to Summer Study

On a vote of 15 to 8, the House Calendar Committee has sent the Safe Commute bill (HB3560) to “summer study” which kills it unless the House Floor votes with a 2/3 margin to recall the bill. Once again, House Leadership trying to kill the bill with minimal recorded votes.

This is an outrage because this committee has no, none, jurisdiction over the merits of the bill. It has one job, to move a bill in an orderly fashion to the floor.

It is important to understand that the defeat of this important legislation is at the hands of the House Republican leadership and, from news reports, working with the cooperation of Senate Republican leadership and at the insistence of Gov. Haslam.

However, it is equally important to understand that the House Republican leadership serves at all times at the pleasure of the House Republican caucus. The caucus, as a whole, therefore holds the blame for failing to adequately demand that House Republican leadership bring this bill to the floor for a vote on the merits.

The House Republican caucus can still address this failure on its part by making a recall motion (Rule 53) on the floor of the House this week. It will be interesting to see if they have the will to do so.