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Press Releases

Fleischmann, Black, Blackburn Opposed to DHS Funding Bill that Allows Obama Amnesty

Press release from U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn. 03; March 3, 2015:

WASHINGTON− This afternoon, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann voted against H.R. 240, Senate-passed legislation that does not stop President Obama’s executive amnesty. After the vote, Rep. Fleischmann released the following statement.

“As a member of Congress, I swore to support and defend the Constitution, and my vote today did just that. The President’s attempt to bypass the U.S. immigration system through executive action is unconstitutional, and I could not support legislation that did nothing to stop his overreach.”

“In January, the House passed a bill to fund DHS while defunding the President’s illegal executive action. It’s unfortunate Senate Democrats filibustered that bill and refused to go to conference, pushing DHS to the brink of shutdown. I am hopeful that moving forward our chambers will be able to work together and stop governing from conflict to conflict.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn 06: March 3, 2015:

Washington, D.C. – Today Congressman Diane Black (R-TN-06) released the below statement on her vote against the Senate-passed “clean” Department of Homeland Security (DHS) full-year funding bill that failed to address President Obama’s immigration overreach. Earlier today, Rep. Black also voted for a motion by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) to table consideration of the Senate’s version of this legislation. The motion was not adopted.

“I told my constituents that I would stand against any long-term DHS funding measure that allowed President Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty to go unchecked – and I meant it,” said Congressman Diane Black. “We in Congress swore an oath to ‘support and defend the Constitution of the United States’ and the President’s unilateral actions are an affront to this document’s clearly established separation of powers. Tennesseans know that I vote my convictions, even when that means standing opposite party leadership in Washington. This ‘clean’ appropriations bill does nothing to combat the President’s unconstitutional executive amnesty and, as such, it did not earn my support.”

Congressman Black added, “The House voted back in January to fully fund DHS while addressing the President’s immigration overreach. Senate Democrats should be ashamed of themselves for spending a month filibustering our original funding bill and refusing to go to a conference committee to resolve our differences through regular order. It’s time to stop these legislative hijinks that prevent Congress from doing the work of our constituents. A 60-vote threshold for invoking cloture is nowhere to be found in the Constitution. If Senate Democrats won’t allow for an open, honest debate on House-passed legislation, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell should enact a change in the Senate rules to help put an end to this obstructionism and political gamesmanship once and for all.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. 07; March 3, 2015:

Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) today issued the following statement on her vote in opposition to funding President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty.

“A majority of the American public wants the President’s lawless and unconstitutional amnesty program stopped.The House acted appropriately on January 14th when we passed a bill to fund the DHS while also blocking amnesty policies that make our nation less safe.

“It is outrageous that Senate Democrats continue to put partisanship ahead of people by ignoring the law and taking actions to protect the President’s executive amnesty. It is noteworthy that two federal judges, one in Texas and one in Pennsylvania have each found the amnesty to be unconstitutional. Instead of working with House and Senate Republicans to solve this problem, the Senate Democrats have spent the last several weeks preaching to conservatives about the importance of protecting the country while turning a blind eye to the threat visited on this country every day by the President’s open borders policy. The duplicity of their actions is shameful. Any country that cannot protect their borders can not defend against threats, terrorists such as ISIS, and sleeper cells.”

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Press Releases

Roe, Black, Blackburn Release Statements on DHS Funding Votes

Press release from U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn. 01; February 27, 2015:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN) released the following statement after voting in support of a House motion to go to conference with the Senate on the House and Senate passed funding bills for the Department of Homeland Security. Roe voted against a three-week continuing resolution.

“The House acted six weeks ago to continue funding the Department of Homeland Security. Instead of allowing a vote on the House-passed bill or passing a bill of their own in a timely fashion, Senate Democrats blocked the Senate from doing anything – running out the clock and causing more uncertainty for the American people.

“As I’ve said before, my position isn’t changing and I’m not backing down. I’ve heard East Tennesseans loud and clear. President Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty must be stopped, and, because the president refuses to work with Congress to reverse these actions, this could be the only tool we have to make good on our promise to the American people to stop this out-of-control administration. I believe it’s time to for the Senate to come to the table so we can iron out our differences and have this debate.”

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. 06; February 27, 2015:

Washington, D.C. – Today Congressman Diane Black (R-TN-06) released the below statement following the House’s failure to pass H.J. Res. 35, legislation to continue funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through March 19th. Earlier today, Congressman Black also voted for H.R. 240 which would allow the House to enter into a conference committee to reconcile differences between the DHS appropriations bills passed in the two chambers. This legislation passed by a vote of 228 – 191.

“I am sorely disappointed in the 52 Republicans who joined with Nancy Pelosi and Congressional Democrats to defeat H.J. Res. 35,” said Congressman Diane Black. “Their ‘no’ vote was a gift to President Obama that, in turn, paves the way for Speaker Boehner to pass the flawed Senate funding bill with Democrat support. A short-term Continuing Resolution would have allowed us to avoid a Democrat-led DHS shutdown and fight the President’s overreaches on the firmest ground possible while continuing to pursue a favorable resolution through regular order in the form of a conference committee.  The failure of this bill is truly a missed opportunity to combat President Obama’s unconstitutional amnesty. I promised to fight this power grab to the end. I wish my colleagues would have joined me in keeping the fight alive.”

Congressman Black added, “I continue to steadfastly oppose the Senate-passed ‘clean’ appropriations bill that allows President Obama’s executive action to go unchecked for the rest of the fiscal year. I have advised my colleagues that if the House holds a vote on this measure, I will vote no. The President said himself 22 times that he does not have the authority to unilaterally rewrite our immigration laws and now a federal judge agrees. We are a nation of laws and the President’s lawless immigration overreach must not stand.”

Background:

Press release from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; February 27, 2015:

Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) today rejected the Senate Homeland Security Bill that funds President Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty. Blackburn voted against a three week “clean” Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill that may have allowed the President’s amnesty to take effect pending an injunction filed by a federal district court judge in Texas. She agreed to a seven day funding extension and joined her House colleagues in supporting a measure to request a Conference with the Senate to iron out a final solution that funds the DHS while also stopping the President’s lawless executive actions.

“The Senate must be pressured to act and use every tool at their disposal to stop executive amnesty.The American people are sick and tired of Congress kicking the can down the road when it comes to the security of our nation. The people spoke loud and clear last November when they put Republicans in charge of Congress to clean up the mess created by President Obama’s failed policies. The DHS bill approved by the House over a month ago provided the appropriate solution to start cleaning up the mess on our border created by this President’s lawless executive amnesty. However, Democrats continue to hold America and our Constitution hostage by playing procedural games and gimmicks in the Senate.

“Democrat arguments that Republicans are jeopardizing our national security are disingenuous. Democrats were silent while our southern border was being overrun last summer. Their support for the President’s amnesty has made America less secure and turned every state into a border state and every town into a border town. They continue to standby as President Obama unilaterally re-writes immigration law from the Oval Office, thereby nullifying the laws passed by previous Congresses.

“We must be mindful of our responsibility to ensure the Department of Homeland Security has resources necessary to keep our nation safe. The DHS bill passed by the House fulfilled that obligation and took appropriate action to block the illegal amnesty actions taken by this President that put our country’s security further at risk.

“The Senate should have enough respect for the House and the legislative process to take up the House bill, debate it and offer amendments. That’s the way our system of government is supposed to work. It’s time for the Senate to do its job.”

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Press Releases

TNDP: Gotto Supports Funding Corporate Schools, Pushes Public Ed. Cuts

Press release from the Tennessee Democratic Party; September 20, 2012: 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Republican state Rep. Jim Gotto has pushed funding cuts for state colleges, the HOPE Scholarship, and pre-K education, but he has no problem forking out millions of taxpayer dollars to an out-of-state, for-profit corporation that fails do what it promises: educate kids.

“We are not going to improve education in this state as long as politicians like Jim Gotto are diverting millions in taxpayer dollars to an out-of-state corporation co-founded by a convicted felon to stream lessons to children over the internet,” said Chip Forrester, Chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party. “Jim Gotto decided that it is more important to score political points with big money special interests than to take an interest in the needs of Tennessee’s students. Gotto voted for a scheme that lacks accountability, increases costs, and fails our students.”

In 2011 the Tennessee legislature passed HB 1030, a bill allowing virtual schools to set up shop in Tennessee, leading to the creation of the Tennessee Virtual Academy (TNVA). The corporation that operates the Tennessee Virtual Academy is K12 Inc., a Virginia-based company co-founded in 2000 with a multi-million dollar investment from Michael Milken, a disgraced financier who pleaded guilty to securities fraud in 1990 and served two years in prison.

After one year in existence, the Union County School System, the headquarters county for TNVA, required an $8 million increase in funding. After compiling test scores for school systems in Tennessee, the Virtual Academy scored in the bottom 11 percent of school performance in the state. Governor Bill Haslam’s education commissioner called TNVA student test scores “unacceptable,” and state officials have called for an investigation into the Tennessee Virtual Academy and the law that created it.

“It’s time to fix Jim Gotto’s multi-million mistake that has wasted our education dollars on out-of-state, special interest schemes,” Forrester said. “In times like these, Tennesseans can’t afford politicians like Gotto who give our tax money to unaccountable corporations and gamble with the future of our children.”

Background

Andy Berke seeks state review of online education vendor K12 Inc. (A) study noted that only 27.7 percent of K12 schools reported meeting Adequate Yearly Progress in 2010-11. About the same percentage of virtual schools reported making AYP. Nationally, some 52 percent of public schools met the standard [timesfreepress.com, 7/26/12]

HB 1030: Virtual Schools Bill. Removes the present law prohibition on the creation of a cyber-based public charter school and allows for the management or operation of a virtual charter school by a for-profit entity [HB 1030, 5/21/11]

Study raises questions about virtual schools. As an increasing number of cash-strapped states turn to virtual schools — where computers replace classmates and students learn via the Internet — a new study is raising questions about their quality and oversight [Washington Post, 10/24/11]

Report details problems with full-time virtual schools. With millions of public high school students taking at least one course online, a new report says that virtual schools are too often subject to minimal oversight and that there is no-high quality research showing that cyber education is an acceptable full-time replacement for traditional classrooms [Washington Post, 10/25/11]

Online school’s performance ‘unacceptable.’ Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman is calling last year’s student performance at Union County public schools’ new, privately run Tennessee Virtual Academy “unacceptable.” “Its performance is demonstrably poor,” Huffman said in an interview last week about the online academy, which under a 2011 law passed by the GOP-controlled General Assembly began operations in the 2011-2012 school year, enrolling 1,783 students from across the state [timesfreepress.com, 9/4/12]

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Education NewsTracker Tax and Budget

Comptroller Sees Transparency Problems With Schools Funding Formula

A top state finance official calling for a rewrite of the state’s formula for funding schools says he’s unsure whether the current recipe doles out taxpayer dollars fairly.

Comptroller Justin Wilson last week asked for a revision of the state’s Basic Education Program, telling leaders of the state Education Department and legislative education committees there are too many complexities to keep spending accountable.

“I don’t know at this point whether anyone is a winner or a loser, whether the money is right or wrong. I don’t have any idea at this point, but we do want to understand why,” Wilson told TNReport. “When we’re talking about a third of the state’s budget, then we ought to know what’s happening to the money.”

The state spends some $3.8 billion, or 37 percent of its annual budget, issuing dollars to school districts based on the BEP, a school funding system written into state law that Wilson says lacks accountability and uniformity in reporting student attendance – the primary factor in how much money each school gets.

“The way the different (school districts) count the students is different. Not saying one is wrong and one is right, but they ought to be done on a consistent basis across the state.”

Wilson asked officials to consider revising the funding formula in favor of one that is “understandable, transparent and verifiable,” although he said he did not know whether the state would be able to do so in time for the 2012-13 school year.

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Education Featured News Tax and Budget

Education Officials Hope Cuts Won’t Compromise Program Quality

The state Department of Education anticipates spending $5.2 billion next year, representing one of the largest budgets in state government.

The spending plan results in a $365 million or 6.5 percent overall reduction in over the current year’s budget.

Still, the Department of Education is expanding in certain areas, looking for an extra $53.8 million to adjust for mandatory increases in the state’s education funding formula and another $1.2 million to cover growing costs in existing pre-K classrooms.

“We think that we can do some of the reductions without it compromising program quality,” Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman told Gov. Bill Haslam during a budget hearing at the University of Tennessee Knoxville Tuesday.

“I think it’s probably a mix of things that we can absorb and things that give us some heartburn,” he said.

Huffman’s department is on the brink of implementing administrative changes under its Top to Bottom review, a task which became one of Haslam’s signature strategies to approaching state government. If the departmental restructuring can’t absorb those budget cuts, Huffman said he’d let the administration know.

Most of the department’s proposed cuts come as about 352 million federal dollars and $67 million in state funds are set to expire — resulting in the elimination of programs including one to link up student’s health with education programs.

“This is one of the very first things that they ask us about, and we’ve received a lot of letters asking us that we see fit to fund this,” Huffman said at the hearing.

The governor has asked each department to prepare a 5 percent cut from their state-funded portion of the budget. In DOE, that would mean reducing $4.1 billion in state funds by $5.5 million through cuts like reducing travel, eliminating staff at the state’s schools for the blind and deaf and reducing funding for early intervention services for children up to 2 years old with disabilities.

The BEP determines how much money per student schools receive each year. Set in state law, the formula is based on student population growth and cost inflation and is one of the drivers in the state’s increasing costs. State officials say such mandatory increases, when compared to projected revenues, will result in a roughly $400 million budget gap.

The governor is set to pitch his own budget proposal to the Legislature early next year after lawmakers being their spring session in January.

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Press Releases

TN Right to Life Applauds House Action to Restrict Tax-Funding of Abortions

Press Release From Tennessee Right to Life, April 12, 2010:

(Nashville) In a dramatic show of opposition to tax-payer funding of abortion, a strong bi-partisan majority of pro-life House members passed HB 2681 which strictly limits the use of public funds in health exchanges mandated by the new federal health plan.

The language was passed 70-23 and states: “No health care plan required to be established in this state through an exchange pursuant to federal health care reform legislation enacted by the 111th Congress shall offer coverage for abortion services.”

The state’s leading pro-life organization applauded the bill’s lopsided passage.

“Tennessee is a strongly pro-life state,” said Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life. “Following years of a pro-abortion minority squelching the voices of the majority, our legislators have boldly expressed our state’s commitment to life,” Harris said. “We thank each pro-life member for their leadership and their courage.”

Right to Life singled out the bill’s sponsor, pro-life state Representative Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) for praise. “Regardless of the attacks brought by pro-abortion activists, Rep. Hill remained focused on the mission of protecting unborn children and providing real help and alternatives to women and families in need,” Harris said.

The Senate companion, SB 2686, will be heard in the Commerce committee on Wednesday where pro-life advocates hold a strong majority.

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Business and Economy

State Eager for More Federal Transportation Funds

Tennessee transportation officials told lawmakers this week they’re hoping the Volunteer State will get another round of federal stimulus-type money for road and highway construction projects.

“There is talk of a second, what they call a Jobs Bill,” Commissioner Gerald Nicely told a state House committee Tuesday in Nashville. “It passed the (U.S.) House in December and would be about the same size as the stimulus that passed in February of 2009.”

Tennessee’s chunk could be about $27 million for roadway projects and another $9 million for public transit initiatives and efforts, he said.

“I think we’re going to know something in the next three or four weeks whether or not it’s going to fly because the whole idea is to get jobs created just as quickly as possible,” Nicely said.

The state’s unemployment rate, which had seen declines every month from a peak of 10.8 percent in June, jumped back up to 10.9 percent in December, an increase of 0.7 percent from November.

Nicely claimed that the work-making effects of new stimulus funding would be seen almost immediately. Under the draft language of the bill, Nicely said, states would have to obligate the money to construction contracts within 90 days. Governments were given 120 days to obligate the funding after receiving last year’s stimulus money.

“That would be a challenge, but we’re prepared to do it,” Nicely added. “We’re already looking at projects.”

He said 315 projects across the state were paid from the last round of stimulus money.

Nicely added that not all of the money the state received in 2009 has been assigned to projects yet, but assured the House Transportation Committee that plans are in place to spend the remaining funds by the federal government’s March 2 deadline.

A portion of the money went to the 11 Tennessee Metropolitan Planning Organizations in the state, which handle local and regional projects in urban areas of 50,000 or more. The MPO’s have yet to obligate a little over $800,000 in stimulus funds.

If the MPO’s fail to finalize their spending priorities by the federal deadline, TDOT’s state projects will take their place to prevent the state from losing stimulus funds, said Nicely.

The areas in which the stimulus funds were spent were guided by the language in the federal bill, TDOT spokeswoman Julie Oaks said in an email.

“The Recovery Act bill encouraged the use of funds in Economically Distressed areas,” she wrote. “TDOT developed a selection criteria for projects and did look at those in ED areas, however the biggest requirement was that a project be ready to go to contract. We also worked to balance the funds across the state in every way (north/south; east/middle/west; urban/rural).”

Nicely told the committee that 72 percent of funds are going to “economically distressed” areas throughout the state where the unemployment rate is higher than the national average, or average incomes are no more than 80 percent of the national average.

“A lot of states used a great deal of this money for just basic maintenance stuff like paving,” he said. “We had a good variety…road projects, bridge projects, and we distributed it across the state.”

Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development Communications Director Jeff Hentschel said it is impossible to tell exactly how many construction jobs were directly created by the stimulus funding due to the way statistics are gathered by the department.

If Congress passes the latest jobs bill, the spending of the latest round of funding would again be guided by the language in the federal bill, Oaks said.

U.S. Senate leadership announced Thursday that they think they’re close to an agreement on the bill and expect to bring the legislation to the floor next week.

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Press Releases

Gibbons: State Government Neglects Memphis Colleges

Press Release from, Bill Gibbons, Republican candidate for Tennessee governor, Jan. 13, 2010:

Gibbons Speaks Out Against U of M, UT-Memphis Research Funding Snub

Memphis, TN – Shelby County District Attorney General and candidate for governor Bill Gibbons expressed disappointment that the University of Memphis and UT’s Health Science Center are not included in new research opportunities in legislation pending before the General Assembly in its special session on education.

“The University of Memphis is a unique urban research university, and UT-Memphis is positioned to play a vital role in biomedical research. Yet, state government continues to neglect the vital research roles these two institutions can perform,” Gibbons said.

Also, Gibbons renewed his call for a change in state law to create a separate independent governing board for the University of Memphis.

“The Board of Regents oversees 45 institutions of higher learning. That’s too many in my mind, putting the U of M, in particular, in a weakened spot to get additional money. Giving the U of M its own governing board would allow the university greater opportunities to go after private funding it desperately needs, especially funding for research,” Gibbons said.

Bill Gibbons, a Republican, is the Shelby County District Attorney General, serving as the top state law enforcement official in Tennessee’s largest jurisdiction. He entered the governor’s race on January 4, 2009. For more information on Bill Gibbons, visit his campaign website at www.Gibbons2010.com.