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TN House Dems: GOP Policies Causing TN Workers to be ‘Left Behind’ in Economic Recovery

Press release from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; November 22, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (11/22/13) – Figures released from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that Tennessee has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. At 8.4%, Tennessee is tied for 42nd in unemployment.

“Unfortunately for Tennesseans, the Republicans are winning their war on working people,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner (D-Nashville). “The GOP promised that if we gutted worker and consumer protections that we would become an oasis of job creation. Instead, our workers are being left behind in an economic recovery that has led to lower unemployment numbers in most other states.”

Tennessee’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained stagnant at 8.4% in October while 28 other states saw decreases in their unemployment. Earlier this month, Tennessee’s Comptroller released a scathing report indicating that the Haslam administration failed to adequately account for billions of dollars in tax dollars that were supposed to go towards job creation.

“In spite of billions of dollars in giveaways to large corporations, too many Tennesseans are struggling to find a good job,” said Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville). “In a little over a month it will get even worse when Governor Haslam’s refusal to accept the Medicaid expansion will result in thousands of jobs and billions of dollars lost in Tennessee.”

According to a University of Memphis study, If Governor Haslam does not expand Medicaid, Tennessee’s economy will lose out on $10.5 billion in federal funds and 18,000 jobs over the next five years.

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TNHDC Opposes Huffman’s Proposed Salary Changes for Teachers

Press release from the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus; June 20, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – House Democrats joined together to speak out against a proposal by the Haslam administration to cut teacher pay in Tennessee.

“If we are ever going to raise Tennessee’s educational standards, we must make our state more attractive to highly qualified, professional teachers,” said Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville). “Instead, Commissioner Huffman and the corporate special interests bankrolling the so-called ‘education reform’ movement have set their sights once again on attacking our public school teachers.”

Commissioner Huffman will present his proposed changes to the minimum teacher salary schedule to the State Board of Education on Friday, June 21. The new proposal will reduce steps in salary increases from 21 to four and eliminate incentives for doctorate degrees and post-masters training.

“Our teachers are this state’s greatest resource,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “Something this administration and self-proclaimed education reformers still fail to grasp is that putting teachers last will not put students first.”

“If this proposal goes forward, Governor Haslam will be breaking the state’s promise to thousands of teachers across the state,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner. “Teachers have invested their precious time and money into obtaining further education with the promise that they would be adequately compensated. Now, teachers are going to be left with thousands in debt and a broken promise from the state.”

View the proposed schedule for teachers HERE.

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TNGOP Targets Gloria Johnson

Press release from the Tennessee Republican Party; April 25, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—As lawmakers return home following the conclusion of the legislative session, Tennesseans are reviewing the public record of their lawmakers and some of what they are finding is embarrassing.

Take, for instance, the record of Representative Gloria Johnson (D—Knoxville).

In a short four-month period as a legislator, Rep. Johnson:

  • Spent the last four months harassing and opposing Governor Bill Haslam’s common sense reform agenda for education and spending.
  • Voted against a bill that protects doctors who provide free medical care to low-income patients who need urgent attention.
  • Filed a self-serving bill she would personally benefit from.
  • Supported the implementation of ObamaCare in Tennessee.
  • Voted to strip worker’s rights protections from Tennessee law.
  • Stood against Knox County teachers having the ability to protect students.
  • Chose to not record a vote on a ban of the state income tax that would protect Tennessee families from having more of their hard-earned money taken by government.
  • Voted against a balanced state budget that meets the needs of our state and cuts taxes for all Tennesseans.
  • Voted against cutting the sales tax on groceries for all Tennesseans.
  • Voted against phasing out the death tax to save Tennessee families and farms from being double-taxed on their assets.
  • Voted against an initiative to find and remove examples of government waste.  

Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney made the following statement about Rep. Johnson’s legislative performance.

“Representative Johnson was sent to Nashville to represent her constituents and this dismal performance was anything but that. It is troubling to see that her priorities were not carrying and passing good legislation, but rather being focused on updating her social media accounts with personal attacks on our leaders. Tennesseans hold their elected officials to a higher standard and expect them to work tirelessly on their behalf. Instead, she put petty personal politics above what’s best for Tennessee.”

He concluded, “I look forward to talking about Gloria Johnson’s embarrassing track record with her constituents over the next year and a half.”

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Featured Liberty and Justice NewsTracker

Critics Call on Guv to Veto ‘Ag-Gag’ Bill

Opponents of so-called “ag-gag” legislation held a media event Monday at the Tennessee State Capitol, calling for a veto from Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

The bill, sponsored in the state House by Andy Holt, R-Dresden, and in the Senate by Somerville Republican Dolores Gresham, requires anyone who films or photographs animal abuse to hand the material over to law enforcement within 48 hours. The Legislation passed both chambers last week.

Supporters contend that the measure is meant to encourage whistleblowers to come forward and stop illegal treatment of animals as quickly as possible. Critics, however, argue that it is actually an industry protection law, created to stop journalists and animal rights groups from gathering enough evidence to prove cases of continuing abuse.

The event Monday included Knoxville Democratic state Rep. Gloria Johnson who characterized the bills as a “special-interest power grab” that “gives industry the power to avoid transparency.” She said it “undercuts America’s First Amendment right to gather and share information.”

Wayne Pacelle, the president of the Humane Society of the United States, also spoke to reporters and screened a campaign-style ad the group is running in Nashville and Knoxville TV markets urging viewers to contact the governor and push for a veto.

Bill sponsor Andy Holt told TNReport on the legislative session’s final day last week that after discussing the measure with Haslam, he’s confident that it would become law. He also defended the intentions behind the legislation, charging that the Humane Society of the U.S. was demonizing it to raise money.

“The truest intent of this bill is to protect animals — especially from ongoing investigations like we’ve seen many times in the past from HSUS,” Holt said. “This is a radical animal activist group that raises literally hundreds of millions of dollars.”

“HSUS uses instances of animal abuse as a basic mode of revenue-generation. They don’t want to end animal abuse,” Holt continued. “It seems to me that they want to discover and investigate animal abuse but they want to do that for a profit to themselves”

Unlike many other contentious issues that made it through the General Assembly during the recent session, debate on the animal abuse bill didn’t follow partisan lines. A handful of Democrats in the House voted “aye,” allowing it to eek by with a razor-thin margin of 50-43; One vote less and it would have failed for lack of majority.

Meanwhile, some Senate Republicans were amongst those strongly decrying the law before it passed 22-9. Majority Leader Mark Norris was one such detractor who voted no, describing the proposal as “just a sham bill.”

“It’s not designed to prevent animal abuse,” the Collierville senator told TNReport. “It’s designed to prevent the filming of animal abuse and that doesn’t do anything to combat animal abuse at all.”

Publically, at least, Gov. Haslam has said he hasn’t made up his mind about the legislation yet.

“It’s not one that, quite frankly, was really high on my radar screen so I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to it until this week,” Haslam told reporters April 18. “I’ve had proponents and opponents tell us their reasoning and we’re going to do some homework.”

Once the bill is delivered to the governor, he has 10 days to sign the bill into law or veto it. He can also choose to do nothing in which case the bill will become law following that 10-day period.

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Press Releases

TN GOP: Democrats Hit ‘New Low’ With Recent Losses

Press release from the Tennessee Republican Party; April 1, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — For 150 years, the Tennessee Democratic Party controlled every level of political office in Tennessee. Over the last few years, though, Tennesseans have continually rejected their liberal views driving the Democrats into superminority status across the state.

Last week, a new low was hit by the Democrats as the Party suffered setbacks on key policy and political fronts.

  • Representative Gloria Johnson’s (D—Knoxville) personal privilege bill, House Bill 1301, failed for lack of a second. Johnson, an educator by trade, had been pushing a mandate on local governments to grant leaves of absence—a change to the law that she would personally benefit from.
  • House Bill 898, once amended, would remake the Democratic Party and remove accountability from voters. It was forced to be taken off notice by Republicans who would have no part in such a move.
  • Perhaps most galling to the Democrats’ big government agenda, Governor Bill Haslam said “no to Tennessee Medicaid Expansion”. The move spurned the wishes of Tennessee Democrats who were hoping to see the Governor take part in a broken system.

Democrats were particularly pointed in their comments following the Governor’s announcement. For example:

  • “This is a time when the people of Tennessee need clear, precise and bold leadership, and Governor Haslam offered none of that today.”—Rep. Mike Turner (D—Old Hickory)
  • “Instead we’ve seen more of the hand-wringing and delayed action that we’ve become accustomed to. Lives will be lost while we wait for a real decision.”—House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D—Ripley)
  • “Tennessee should choose science instead of selfishness, people instead of politics, life instead of death.”—TNDP Chairman, Roy Herron

Democratic carping surprised many observers, particularly from the three individuals above, who all played important roles in the 2005 TennCare cuts that booted 170,000 Tennesseans from the health care rolls. Apparently, the arguments used now for political purposes to slam the Governor did not carry much weight then.

Fitzhugh championed the cuts in the Legislature: He was the first cosponsor of the 2005 appropriations bill that removed the funding for TennCare and provided an important vote as a top-ranking Democrat. Herron followed suit in the Senate, unmoved by his own “pro-life” beliefs. Turner was so moved by his belief in leadership, in 2005, he voted present.

Presented with all this information, Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party Chris Devaney, stated, “Democrats have sunk to new lows in their attempts to maintain some form of relevancy. Just when you think they’ve hit rock bottom, a new depth of despair is achieved.”

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Scenic Vistas Protection Act Dies in Senate Committee

Press release from the Tennessee Democratic Party; March 20, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) pledged to carry on her fight to protect Tennessee’s mountaintops and the state’s multi-billion dollar tourism industry despite this year’s special interest setback in the state legislature.

Rep. Johnson’s companion bill — the Scenic Vistas Act, a measure that would prohibit mountain top removal above 2,000 feet in Tennessee — died Wednesday in the Senate Energy, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee.

“It’s clear that big special interests control too many politicians in legislature,” Johnson said. “If we do nothing to protect our mountaintops, we will be left with nothing. Our irreplaceable mountains will be destroyed, the economic benefits will be shipped to China, and our multi-billion dollar tourism industry will be left in shambles.”

According to MarketWatch, Guizhou Guochuang Energy Holding Company, based in Guiyang, Guizhou China, is the “first Chinese company to invest in coal in America,” The Chinese corporation now owns 30,000 acres of East Tennessee ridgelines.

The Scenic Vistas Act would protect East Tennessee mountain ranges from the destructive practice of mountaintop removal employed by coal companies, including Guizhou Guochauang Energy Holding’s Tennessee-based operations.

Mountaintop removal not only kills tourism jobs, but it eliminates coal-mining jobs, too, because it requires fewer employees to blow up a mountain, Johnson said.

“It’s past time the politicians who run the legislature put the interests of everyday Tennesseans above the concerns of corporate special interests,” Rep. Johnson said. “Regardless of today’s outcome, we will carry on this fight. As long as there are mountains in Tennessee, I will be standing beside the business owners and families who are working to protect our mountains for the future.”

BACKGROUND:

“We are what you might say a Chinese company.” “Triple H’s operations manager, Alex Housley, said in a telephone interview that the family owned company is being sold (to Guizhou Guochuang Energy Holding Company, based in Guiyang, Guizhou China). [Timesfreepress.com, 3/20/13]

Guizhou Guochuang Energy Holding raised $616 million to acquire and develop Triple H Coal, which operates in Jacksboro, Tenn. According to MarketWatch, “This is the first Chinese company to invest in coal in America.”

Chinese Company Owns 30,000 Acres of Tennessee Mountaintops. With this corporate acquisition, Guizhou Guochuang Energy Holding Company now owns 30,000 acres of mineral rights. [triplehcoal.com, accessed 3/20/13]

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Johnson Denounces ‘Apparent Grade Fixing’ at TN Virtual Academy

Press release from the Tennessee Democratic Party; February 12, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) denounced the K12, Inc. education corporation for apparent grade fixing at their in-state subsidiary, Tennessee Virtual Academy, a for-profit online school.

More than $15 million in public funding is flowing to the for-profit Tennessee Virtual Academy this year thanks to a law passed by Republicans. Despite the hefty price tag, the poorly performing virtual academy has recently come under fire after scores placed the corporate school among the state’s worst performing schools.

This week WTVF News Channel 5 uncovered a Virtual Academy internal memo directing teachers to delete student’s bad grades.

Rep. Johnson, a career schoolteacher, said deleting bad grades would never be acceptable at the Knox County public school where she teaches.

“Public school teachers are accountable for every student test score every time, and we have multiple layers of accountability to honestly measure student success,” Johnson said. “This internal grade-fixing memo clearly shows that the Tennessee Virtual Academy’s bottom line is protecting corporate profits instead of improving student learning.

“They lied to parents, they cheated kids and they stole from taxpayers,” Johnson said. “Tennesseans deserve better than a big, out-of-state corporation cheating our children and taxpayers to line its own pockets, and it’s time to fix this multi-million dollar mistake.”

Proposals that would alter the laws governing the Tennessee Virtual Academy are scheduled for discussion in the State House Subcommittee on Education at 3 p.m. today.

BACKGROUND

  • The Tennessee Virtual Academy, a subsidiary of the K12 corporation, now enrolls about 3,200 students across Tennessee. — WPLN.org
  • Only 16 percent of K12’s Tennessee students were proficient in math. — WPLN.org
  • Gov. Haslam’s own education chief has called K12’s performance “unacceptable” — The Tennessean
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TNGOP Statement on Massey Election to State Senate

Press Release from the Tennessee Republican Party, Nov 8, 2011:

TNGOP Chairman’s Statement on the Election of Becky Duncan Massey as State Senator, District 6

NASHVILLE, TN – Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney released the following statement on the election of Republican Becky Duncan Massey as State Senator for District 6.

“Tennesseans have repeatedly voiced their desire for elected officials who understand what it takes to create an environment for job creation and economic growth. Voters in Knox County once again voiced that desire by electing Becky Duncan Massey to the State Senate in the 6th District special election. Her commitment to smaller government, low taxes, and less regulations is exactly what voters in Knox County want. I congratulate Becky on this convincing victory, said Devaney.

“I also want to thank Jamie Woodson for her years of representation in this seat and interim State Senator Sue Atchley for her willingness to serve the voters of District 6 during this transition period,” concluded Devaney.

With most precincts reporting, Massey received 65% of the vote, compared to 35% for Democrat Gloria Johnson. District 6 includes a portion of Knox County.