Regulatory Boards Stuck In Political Debate

State boards regulating everything from auctioneers to K-12 educators are caught in a debate over how people are chosen to serve on those bodies.

Nineteen governing bodies, including the state Board of Education, are now set to “wind down” beginning next month, and could dissolve by July 1, 2011 if the Legislature fails to reach an agreement.

They run the gamut from the state Election Commission and Department of Education to the Air Pollution Control Board and Alcohol Beverage Commission.

All state boards, departments and commissions have a sunset date. As that day approaches, legislators review the governmental bodies and decide whether to extend their existence, or let them fade away.

The issue holding up this year’s batch boils down to whether the governor — or other leaders choosing board members — should be required to pull a candidate from a recommended list of applicants, or be able to pick appointees freely. If the issues aren’t resolved, said Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Sen. Bo Watson, “these boards will go away.”

Some say top officials should maintain the current practice of appointing some members to boards and commissions from a recommended list of candidates suggested by professional associations such as the Chamber of Commerce, Tennessee Association of Nurses or other organizations relevant to the subject of the committee.

Supporters of the system say it ensures candidates have a genuine expertise in the field and are respected among their peers — instead of letting the governor decide by himself who is the best for the job, said Rep. Susan Lynn, who chairs the House Government Operations Committee.

“This is their government. It’s not the governor’s government. It’s the people’s government,” she said, adding that that the practice deters “strictly political appointments.”

A nominee who has the blessing of a professional association would generally have more experience than someone appointed to the board because they contributed to a politician’s campaign, Lynn said.

Anyone appointed to a committee must be committed, she added, saying they take up complex issues, work long hours and make decisions that can often mean the end of someones career.

“The government literally owns the title to what you do and you cannot work unless you take the test and pay the fee and get licensed by them,” said Lynn, often a vocal opponent to many occupational license requirements. “And then the government, say a board or commission, made up of political appointees can apply laws and rules to you that these political appointees make up. And then they also judge you and then enforce discipline on you and they can even take away your ability to work by taking away your license.”

But other lawmakers — mainly Senate Republicans — say a professional association doesn’t represent all experts in a given field. Individuals who chose not to associate or pay dues for a certain group have no chance of earning an appointment to a state board or commission, said Watson.

Professional associations “should not control the process. They should have no greater standing than any citizen does,” he said. “We believe government should be open for all Tennesseans.”

To guard against political appointments, all selected board members should be held to a specific set of standards, Watson added.

“If you define the qualifications, then a governor, a lieutenant governor or a speaker of the House cannot pick their friends,” he said. “Furthermore, it’s patronage either way. (If) the Chamber of Commerce picks the person they like, who’s to say they’re not practicing patronage,” said Watson.

Legislators in both chambers had the option to renew the sunset dates for various control boards, but the measures were usually held up by the Senate. Those government bodies include: the Air pollution Control Board, Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Board of Dietitian/Nutritionist Examiners, Board of Examiners for Architects and Engineers, Board of Examiners for Nursing Home Administrators, Board of Nursing, Board of Pharmacy, Committee for Clinical Perfusionists, Council for Hearing Instrument Specialists, Council on Children’s Mental Health Care, Department of Education, Emergency Medical Services Board, Real Estate Appraiser Commission, Real Estate Commission, State Board of Education, State Election Commission, Tennessee Auctioneer Commission, Tennessee Medical Examiner Advisory Council and Tennessee Medical Laboratory Board.

Press Releases

Bredesen Names Appointments To Boards, Commissions

Press Release from Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration, March 12, 2010:

NASHVILLE – Governor Phil Bredesen has appointed 43 men and women to serve on 17 state boards and commissions.

“I commend all those appointed for their readiness to serve the state through its boards and commissions,” Bredesen said. “Tennesseans have always been known to give of their time and talents to serve their fellow citizens, and I thank these men and women for sharing in this tradition. They will be valuable additions to the respective boards they have been appointed to represent.”

Appointment terms vary based on statutory recommendations or term limits specified by geographic or other qualifications. The appointments are as follows:

Advisory Council for Alternative Education

Marvene Fultz, White Bluff

Advisory Council for the Education of Students with Disabilities

Kathleen M. Airhart, Cookeville

Board of Examiners in Psychology

Patti Van Eys, Nashville

Board of Probation and Parole

Patsy Bruce, Nashville

Ronnie M. Cole, Dyersburg

Charles C. “Chuck” Taylor, Jr., Madison

Commission on Aging and Disability

Evelyn Jane Johnson, Clarksville

Conservation Commission

Winfred E. “Wimp” Shoopman, Clinton

Emergency Communications Board

Robert Hal Buttram, Athens

Star Quality Advisory Council

Tammy D. Hardison, Columbia

Cassandra Renee Hauge, Knoxville

Merlean J. Hill, Memphis

Patricia A. “Patty” Kelly, Clarksville

Forestene L. London, Memphis

Tina Marie Nicely, Selmer

Donald R. Parham, Nashville

Bobbie Jo Ruiz, Tazewell

Karen Stump, Greenbrier

Krista D. Turner, Bristol

Maggie Ruth Vann, Memphis

Harriet Lovely Wilson, Knoxville

Statewide Independent Living Council

Deana Claiborne, Nashville

Richard Gerald Davis, Jr., Hixson

Marianne Leonard, McKenzie

Michelle Priddy, Hendersonville

Dorothea Thompson, Murfreesboro

State Rehabilitation Council

Starr Ellen Cruise, Columbia

State Textbook Commission

Curtis L. Dillihunt, Bartlett

State Workforce Development Board

Zachariah N. Stansell, Knoxville

Raymond S. Marston, Lawrenceburg

Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission

Michael Bradley, Tullahoma

Lisa N. Oakley, Sevierville

Tennessee Community Services Agency Board of Directors

Helen M. Lane, Watauga

Vickie J. Moore, Parrottsville

Kenneth L. Rogers, Rock Island

Tracey Wilkes, Only

Tennessee Historical Commission

Clarence Edward Elkins, Smyrna

Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame Board of Directors

Joan Cronan, Knoxville

Don MacLachlan, Brentwood

Wayne McCreight, Dresden

Mindy Odom, Cookeville

Trey Teague, Jackson

Traumatic Brain Injury Advisory Council

Frank R. Meeuwis, Madison

Press Releases

‘Love Don’t Let Me Down’ Stars Paltrow, McGraw; Begins Production in Nashville

State of Tennessee Press Release, Jan. 11, 2010:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Film, Entertainment and Music Commission Executive Director Perry Gibson announced that production begins this week in Nashville on the Screen Gems feature film Love Don’t Let Me Down. The $15 million project stars Oscar-winner Gwyneth Paltrow, country music superstar Tim McGraw, Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl) and Garrett Hedlund (Friday Night Lights).

The production company is aiming to hire local residents for almost 75 percent of the film’s crew and 90 percent of the film’s cast. More than 50 Tennessee crew members have already been put to work in a variety of jobs such as camera operators, assistant directors, grips, electricians, sound mixers, casting directors, location managers, stuntmen, set decorators, prop masters, hair and make-up artists, costumers and transportation coordinators.

“I am thrilled the director and producers of Love Don’t Let Me Down have chosen Nashville and its residents to help bring their story to life,” said Gibson. “Having a production of this magnitude in our state will provide a significant number of jobs for our production community and the project’s spending will provide a real boost to the local economy.”

Pre-production began in November of 2009 and principal photography is expected to last through the first week of March. Post-production will continue through April 1.

A significant number of Tennessee companies stand to benefit during Love Don’t Let Me Down’s five month stay in Middle Tennessee. Office space has been rented since November, along with rehearsal and recording studio space. Other businesses to be utilized include office supply companies, rental car agencies, grocery stores, caterers, dry cleaners, florists, printers, security firms, waste management and more.

The project is expected to qualify for a 32 percent refund of qualified expenses incurred in the state through a combination of incentives offered by the Film Commission and the Tennessee Department of Revenue. To qualify, at least $1 million must be spent by the production on Tennessee residents and Tennessee vendors. The production company hopes to spend $7-8 million during its stay and budgets must be audited before incentive payments can be released.

Writer and director Shana Feste describes the film’s story as one revolving around “a rising young singer-songwriter (Hedlund) who becomes involved with a fallen country singer (Paltrow). As they embark on a career resurrection tour with her husband and manager (McGraw) and a beauty queen-turned-singer (Meester), romantic entanglements and old demons threaten to derail them all.”

The movie’s producers include actor Tobey McGuire of the Spiderman movie series and Jenno Topping, whose producing credits include Charlie’s Angels, 28 Days and I-Spy. A release date has not yet been announced.

Love Don’t Let Me Down joins a long list of recent movie and television projects filmed in the Volunteer State including Bailey, Tough Trade, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, The Grace Card, Can You Duet, Savage County, Billy: The Early Years and Hannah Montana: The Movie.

About the Tennessee Film, Entertainment & Music Commission

The Tennessee Film, Entertainment & Music Commission supports the economic development of the film and music community through the recruitment of business by promoting Tennessee as a location in feature films, television productions, commercials and other works. The commission encourages the interactive growth of the film and music communities through a wide range of marketing, networking and advertising efforts.