Press Releases

Carr Campaign Touts Five More Endorsements from State Legislators

Press release from the campaign for Joe Carr for U.S. Senate; July 2, 2014:

NASHVILLE, TN – The Joe Carr for Senate campaign today announced the endorsements of Tennessee State Senators Jim Summerville (R-Dickson) and Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) and State Representatives Richard Floyd (R-Chattanooga), David Alexander (R-Winchester), and Kelly Keisling (R-Byrdstown).

“Lamar Alexander has chosen to support an amnesty agenda driven by Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and LaRaza at the expense of Tennessee’s working families,” stated Rep. David Alexander on behalf of the group of Legislators. “Look at the growing crisis on our southern border today, and we know exactly where that agenda has gotten us. We need a strong conservative like Joe Carr to go to Washington to do what he has done in the Tennessee State House – fight to enforce the rule of law.”

“I have always believed that this is a campaign that will be won or lost at the grassroots level and to have this kind of support from so many of my colleagues in the State Legislature tells me that something special is happening on the ground here in Tennessee,” said Carr. “Lamar Alexander thinks he can hide from his record, refuse to debate, and that somehow the people here in Tennessee won’t hold him accountable for choosing 11 million illegal immigrants over them – he’s setting himself up for a Dave Brat-like surprise.”

  • Senator Summerville represents the 25th Senatorial District covering Cheatham, Dickson, Hickman, Humphreys and Robertson Counties.
  • Senator Campfield represents the 7th Senatorial District covering part of Knox County.
  • Representative Floyd represents the 27th House District covering part of Hamilton County.
  • Representative Alexander represents the 39th House District covering Franklin, Moore and Marion Counties.
  • Representative Keisling represents the 38th House District covering Clay County and part of Fentress, Macon, Pickett and Scott Counties.

They join a growing list of TN state legislators who are backing Carr’s bid for Senate. In recent weeks, the campaign has announced the endorsement of:

  1. Senator Hensley (R-Hohenwald)
  2. Senator Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains)
  3. Rep. Hill (R-Jonesborough)
  4. Rep. Holt (R-Dresden)
  5. Rep. Sanderson (R-Kenton)
  6. Rep. Shipley (R-Kingsport)
  7. Rep. Van Huss (R- Jonesborough)
  8. Rep. Wirgau (R-Buchanan), Butt (R-Columbia)
  9. Rep. Matheny (R-Tullahoma)
  10. Rep. Pody (R-Lebanon)
  11. Rep. Rogers (R-Goodlettsville)
  12. Rep. Sparks (R-Smyrna)
  13. Rep. Spivey (R-Lewisburg)
  14. Rep. Womick (R-Rockvale)
Education Featured

Summerville Pushing Tuition Freeze, Claims “Total Authority” Over Public Colleges

State Sen. Jim Summerville is still fuzzy on the details but he says he is concerned about the precipitous rate of tuition increases at Tennessee’s public colleges and universities and thinks some sort of tuition freeze is likely in order.

The Dickson Republican broached the idea in a press release earlier this week, calling recent yearly increases in tuition prices “an outrage.” Speaking to TNReport Tuesday, Summerville expressed concern that “Parents and young folks are being priced out of the [higher education] market.”

“Over the last 10 years, it’s been a 60 percent increase in student tuition,” Summerville continued. “No state agency gets that kind of an increase over a decade. So we need to get control over their spending and find out why this tuition is getting out of hand.”

But beyond the basic idea of freezing prices, Summerville was short on details, including how long such a freeze would last. He told TNReport he was seeking input from other lawmakers and experts before settling on a final proposal.

One group he said he hadn’t reached out to was state higher education officials, but acknowledging the likelihood of pushback from administrators, Summerville smiled, saying “I expect to hear from them.”

Regardless of any such pushback, Summerville maintained that financial restraint at state schools was in order and that the General Assembly should be the one to hold institutions responsible.

“We have total authority over higher education, we can tell them—we can bring them before the Government Operations Committees or the Education Committees and say ‘voters are not happy with this skyrocketing of costs for the universities,’” Summerville told TNReport. “Do you really need all those vice presidents? Do you need those high-paid sports coaches? Show us a plan for reducing expenses,” he said.

Press Releases

Summerville to File Bill to Freeze College Tuition at Current Rates

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; July 22, 2013:

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.), July 22, 2013 — State Senator Jim Summerville (R-Dickson) has announced plans to file legislation in the Tennessee General Assembly to freeze tuition at the current rates at state colleges and universities. The announcement comes after the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) and the University of Tennessee (UT) system recently adopted hikes in tuition ranging between 3 to 6 percent.

“The current increases are an outrage, especially in light of this year’s increase in appropriations to these higher education systems,” said Senator Summerville. “No other governmental department consistently raises their costs to the taxpayers at such a high rate on an annual basis.”

The General Assembly approved a budget providing a $108.6 million increase for higher education, including $65.7 million in additional funds for the Tennessee Board of Regents, $37.6 million for the University of Tennessee system and $5.2 million for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. A 2010-2011 study by the Bloomberg News College Board found that 56 percent of public four-year college students average $23,800 in student loans upon graduation.

“Over the past decade, tuition at public colleges and universities has increased by an astounding 62 percent,” added Summerville. “These ever-increasing costs lead students to take out more loans, thus saddling themselves with debt that can take almost a lifetime to pay back.”

Summerville said his legislation, the “Tennessee College Students’ Tuition Relief Act,” is currently in the drafting stage but will freeze tuition for several years. He said bill will include cost reduction recommendations to help the state’s higher education system realize efficiencies. This could include top-heavy administrative office expenses and excessive salary packages for college coaches.

“Non-instructional cost is a good place to start in looking for savings,” added Summerville. “If we are going to meet our goals of raising our college graduation rates, we must get a handle on the rising costs. This legislation is a big step in the right direction to accomplish this.”

Press Releases

Summerville Pushes Initiative to End ‘Preferential Treatment Based on Race, Gender’

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; January 10, 2013:

(NASHVILLE), January 10, 2013 – State Senator Jim Summerville (R-Dickson) said today he plans to move forward with legislation filed in the State Senate to ban preferential treatment based on race, gender or ethnicity. Summerville has filed several bills which he said makes up the “Civil Rights Initiative of 2013” for consideration in the Tennessee General Assembly.

“Certainly we all need to strive towards the goal of protecting citizens from discrimination,” said Senator Summerville. “But, at the same time that goal is hard to achieve if preferential treatment is part of our state’s public policy. If we hire, promote or give preferential treatment by race, gender or ethnicity, we will continue to divide by race, gender or ethnicity. In the coming months, I will ask my good colleagues of both houses and both parties to fight and win the last battle of the civil rights movement.”

The bills filed would:

  • provide that state government will not give preferential treatment based on gender, race, or ethnicity, except where required by federal law;
  • abolish such group preferences from Tennessee’s public colleges and universities; abolish the job categories of “diversity officers;”
  • eliminate race, gender, or ethnicity as considerations for hiring K-12 teachers;
  • prohibit any and all entities of State government from compiling and keeping statistics, or other data by race, gender, and ethnicity.

“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. hoped to live to see an America where his children would be judged “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” Summerville added. “I think he’d be sad if he were among us today to see that this generation has failed in that hope. We can honor his memory by taking steps like California and Michigan have done. Tennessee, where Dr. King died, can become the first state in the South to realize his vision into law.”

“Although it took longer than it should have, our nation has opened the door of opportunity for all. Only character, intelligence, and hard work matter now,” he concluded.

Education NewsTracker

Summerville Loses Chairmanship After Insulting Black Caucus (Updated)

Updated Aug. 24, 2012 with comments and committee resignation letter from Sen. Jim Summerville.

State Sen. Jim Summerville doesn’t “give a rat’s ass what the black caucus thinks.”

At least that’s what he told Memphis state Rep. Barbara Cooper via email Wednesday in response to her report from the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators criticising the probe of a state university for changing students’ grades.

Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Dolores Gresham stripped Summerville of his chairmanship on the Higher Education Subcommittee Thursday, saying she is “very disappointed in the unfortunate choice of words and tone” of Summerville, R-Dickson.

“There is a standard of courtesy that must be observed by members of the General Assembly, and this went beyond what is acceptable,” she said in a statement.

Summerville is standing by his remark, although he announced his resignation from the Senate Education Committee via a handwritten letter to Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey Friday.

“Which part wasn’t clear? The matter speaks for itself,” he told reporters in his office Friday morning.

“Maybe I could have used a more artful term, like a rodent’s posterior.”

Early this month, the Senate Higher Education Sub-Committee investigated allegations that Tennessee State University school officials changed “incomplete” grades to letter grades for 270 introductory math students without instructors’ permission.

The committee met Aug. 13, and the Tennessee Board of Regents told lawmakers the historically black university did nothing wrong other than poorly communicate with faculty members.

Cooper’s report, on behalf of the 18-member Black Caucus, questioned why the hearing was called in the first place, calling it “much to do about nothing.”

“It seems that the complainants, very competent, high-level experts in their field of educational attainment should honor the greatness of TSU and think about harm to the students first, respect leadership and follow the rules, regulations and guidelines,” reads the report.

“When ‘I Gotcha’ tactics are used, the administration, instructors, staff, students and alumni are affected, greatly diminishing the reputation of TSU,” the report concluded.

Summerville, who is white, responded with one line from his personal email account, “I don’t give a rat’s ass what the black caucus thinks.”

Leading House Democrats are demanding Summerville apologize to Cooper and the Black Caucus, saying they are “deeply concerned by the rhetoric.”

“His words show a complete lack of respect and decorum for not only Representative Barbara Cooper, but the entire Tennessee Legislative Black Caucus. There is no place in the General Assembly and the public discourse for this kind of foul and offensive remark,” read the joint statement from House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, and Democratic Caucus Leader Mike Turner, D-Old Hickory.

The first-term Republican attracted media attention this summer when he was served with a criminal summons and cited with a misdemeanor for letting his dogs run loose in his Dickson neighborhood. At some point in the dispute Summerville reportedly put up a sign – “You’ve been warned,” it read in part – which his neighbors viewed as threatening. Summerville was found not guilty for violating the state’s dogs-at-large law Thursday, according to the Tennessean.

Press Releases

House Dems Disappointed in Summerville’s ‘Antiquated Views,’ Demand Apology

Statement from House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, D-Old Hickory, and Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley; Aug. 23, 2012: 

”We are deeply concerned by the rhetoric coming from former Chairman Jim Summerville. His words show a complete lack of respect and decorum for not only Representative Barbara Cooper, but the entire Tennessee Legislative Black Caucus. There is no place in the General Assembly and the public discourse for this kind of foul and offensive remark.

It is disappointing to know that someone with such antiquated views holds any position of leadership in the General Assembly. Given these highly offensive remarks, we are calling on Senator Summerville to issue a full written apology to Representative Cooper and the Tennessee Legislative Black Caucus. Anything short of that is beneath the dignity of this body.”

Press Releases

Summerville: TSU Report ‘Illustrates Areas of Great Concern’

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; August 22, 2012: 

(NASHVILLE, TN), August 22, 2012 — “While the Committee’s report clears officials at TSU of academic fraud, it points out many areas of great concern regarding administrative oversight, poor decisions and unclear promises made to our students,” said Senator Jim Summerville (R-Dickson), Chairman of the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee. “Those responsibilities rise to the top ranks of TSU.”

“We endorse the internal audit recommendations and believe that they should be incorporated to ensure the highest of standards which the students, faculty and alumni at this distinguished and valued university deserve.”

Press Releases

Gresham Authorizes Special Hearings for TSU Grade-Change Allegations

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; July 12, 2012: 

(NASHVILLE), July 12, 2012 — Senate Education Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) released a response today giving Senate Higher Education Subcommittee Chairman Jim Summerville (R-Dickson) authorization to probe allegations at TSU regarding grade alterations. Summerville sent Gresham a formal letter of request yesterday asking for permission to hold hearings after it was reported that the TSU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors claimed that “someone in the administration” changed many student grades from Incompletes to Cs.

“This is to acknowledge and approve your request to conduct hearings on the allegations of grade tampering at Tennessee State University,” Gresham said in responding to Summerville’s request. “I am confident that you and your subcommittee will determine the facts and scope of the situation and subsequently offer a report with recommendations for corrective action. As you know, compliance with the Complete College Tennessee Act with fidelity and integrity is our highest priority.”

“You are authorized direct liaison with other agencies as appropriate,” she continued.

Other members of the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee are Senator Reginald Tate (D-Memphis) and Senator Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville).

Gresham said the date for the hearings will be set by Senator Summerville.

Press Releases

Summerville Requests Senate Hearing on Grading at TSU

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; July 11, 2012:

(NASHVILLE), July 11, 2012 — Senate Higher Education Subcommittee Chairman Jim Summerville (R-Dickson) said today he has sent a letter of request to Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) asking for permission to hold hearings regarding the controversy over allegations of grade alterations at Tennessee State University (TSU).

The request comes after it was reported that the TSU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors claimed that “someone in the administration” initiated hundreds of grade changes in math courses, changing them from Incompletes to Cs. Incompletes are only allowed in extenuating circumstances.

“As we work to raise standards for our colleges and universities in Tennessee, these are serious allegations,” said Senator Summerville, who is a college instructor. “If the allegations are true, they threaten to rattle the structure and integrity of the University and have the potential to cheapen the degrees that so many students work very hard to achieve. It is especially alarming that the allegations are pointed at those in the top tier of the University.”

Other members of the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee are Senator Reginald Tate (D-Memphis) and Senator Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville).

Liberty and Justice News NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

AG Selection Measure Falls Short

A handful of state Senate Republicans jumped ship and joined ranks with Democrats this week to narrowly defeated a GOP-driven measure to change how the state picks its top lawyer.

The proposed constitutional amendment would have stripped away the Supreme Court’s power to appoint the attorney general and given it to the governor and the Legislature. The measure fell short by one vote Monday after three Republicans voted against the bill and another two refused to weigh in.

“This system, whether you agree with it or don’t, has functioned well, and it’s not time to amend it,” said Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, who voted against the measure. “As others have said, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and I respectfully submit that’s the best response to proposals that would change our Constitution.”

The attorney general is too far removed from the people — as is the Supreme Court, which handpicks the AG, said Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, the measure’s sponsor. The arrangement makes for a conflict of interest any time the attorney general argues before the state’s highest court, she said.

“I doubt that anyone can say with a straight face that it is fair to have the state’s chief lawyers arguing the most important cases in front of the very members of the court who appointed him,” said Beavers, who chairs the Judiciary Committee.

Republicans in the Senate first turned their attention to the attorney general last year in their frustration over current Attorney General Bob Cooper’s refusal to join a national legal battle against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Cooper contends that hopping on the bandwagon to fight the so-called “individual-mandate” portion of the health system overhaul would have been a waste of time and money because the issue was already headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court is expected to announce in June a decision in the suit brought by 26 states, the National Federation of Independent Business and two individual plaintiffs.

Attempts last year to require the attorney general to be elected never advanced out of legislative committees. This year’s measure, SJR693, called for the attorney general to be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature to serve six-year terms. The attorney general currently serves eight-year terms.

The measure failed on a 16-15 vote. It needed 17 votes to stay alive, although it would have needed majority approval in the House and a supermajority, or two-thirds support, vote again before the 2014 election when voters would decide the issue.

Republicans voting against the change were Sens. Becky Duncan Massey of Knoxville; Doug Overbey of Maryville; Jim Summerville of Dickson. GOP senators who were present but opted against weighing in were retiring Sen. Mike Faulk of Church Hill and Rusty Crowe of Johnson City.