Press Releases

Lt. Gov. Names Attorney to Post-Conviction Defender Oversight Commission

Press Release from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey; Nov. 30, 2011:

Lt. Gov. Ramsey appoints experienced attorney to Post-Conviction Defender Oversight Commision

(NASHVILLE, TN), November 30, 2011 — Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey today announced the appointment of attorney John D. Stevens to the Post-Conviction Defender Oversight Commission. The commission is an independent agency created to oversee the operating budget of the post-conviction defender. Stevens joins previous Ramsey appointees Paul Ney and Forrest Shoaf on the commission.

“I’m proud that such a highly respected attorney has agreed to serve his state,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “Mr. Stevens will be a great asset to this commission in ensuring that justice is carried out for both criminal perpetrators and victims.”

A graduate of the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, Stevens served as a legislative liaison for the Department of Human Services and the Bureau of TennCare before attending law school.

Since graduating from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, Stevens has been in private practice focusing primarily on Medicaid planning, estate planning and workers compensation.

Stevens has been admitted to practice by both the Supreme Court of Tennessee and the United States District Court of Tennessee (Western District). Stevens is also a member of the Carroll County Bar Association and the Tennessee Bar Association.

Stevens lives in Huntingdon, Tennessee, with his wife and two daughters.

NewsTracker Tax and Budget Transparency and Elections

In Wake of Comptroller’s Report on Farr, Haslam says Consistency Needed in Tax-Variance Decisions

Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday the best reaction to a comptroller’s report widely seen as critical of former Department of Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr is to establish clearly defined procedures for tax variances granted by the commissioner.

“I just got a copy and read it over the weekend,” Haslam said of the report (pdf).

“For us, I think the important thing is to say: What are we going to do going forward? I think the clear message to us was: We want to have well-documented, clearly organized procedures for how you handle any variances.”

Haslam said he and current Revenue Commissioner Richard Roberts have talked about the issue and that Roberts agrees with him on the proper approach.

Haslam said he does not know if he will advocate any legislation to address procedures for tax variances, however. He said all of his department chiefs are reporting to him with any proposals for legislation they may have for next year and that he will address the Department of Revenue later this week.

A key element of the issue, however, has been the private nature of Revenue decisions, which affect individual taxpayers.

Comptroller Justin Wilson’s report, dated Oct. 17, is accompanied by a letter to Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, Sen. Randy McNally of Oak Ridge and Rep. Charles Sargent of Franklin, saying the report is in response to their request. All four of the legislators are Republicans. McNally and Sargent are chairmen of their chambers’ respective finance committees.

Wilson is a Republican. Farr served in the administration of former Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat.

The comptroller’s report looked at tax variances from 2000-2011 and involved a review of 59 variances — 40 requested by the taxpayer, 19 by the commissioner. The report said approvals of taxpayer-requested variances increased during the tenure of Loren Chumley, who served in 2002-2007, and Farr, who served in 2007-2010. It noted a frequency in recent years where variance award letters involved references to economic development.

“Specifically, taxpayers would use job creation and economic impact as part of their argument for why they should be awarded a variance,” the report said, adding that requests used tax treatment as a “negotiation tool.”

The report said key department employees were sometimes excluded from the decision-making process. The report recommends that the Legislature consider legislation requiring additional approvals to variances, that the department should proceed with a new tracking system for variances and that the department develop a process for reviewing awarded variances.

Haslam acknowledged Monday the difficulty of dealing with privacy issues of agreements with taxpayers balanced with transparency in government.

“That is one of the difficulties, because obviously it deals with private taxpayers’ information,” Haslam said. “But I think the important thing for us to do is make certain, again, that there is a process that is clear and predictable and we’re letting people know everything we can — absent private taxpayers’ information.

“We really are trying to do that.”

Press Releases

Shoaf Named to Post-Conviction Defender Oversight Commission

Press release from the State of Tennessee, Sept. 6, 2011:

Accomplished attorney and executive named to Post-Conviction Defender Oversight Commission

(September 6, 2011, NASHVILLE) – Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey today announced the appointment of attorney Forrest Shoaf to the Post-Conviction Defender Oversight Commission.

“Forrest Shoaf is an attorney, an executive and a military veteran,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “I’m confident the breadth and depth of his experience and insight will immediately enrich this commission and ensure that justice is being served by the office of the Post-Conviction Defender.”

A graduate of West Point, Shoaf served 12 years of active duty in the United States Army retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before beginning his career in law and business.

Shoaf currently serves as Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. and was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the National Restaurant Association (NRA).

Prior to joining Cracker Barrel, Shoaf served as Managing Director of Investment Banking for Avondale Partners, LLC. Shoaf has also been an investment banker with J.C. Bradford and was a law partner at the firm Bass, Berry & Sims.

The Post-Conviction Defender Commission is an independent agency that was created to oversee the operating budget of the post-conviction defender. The oversight commission’s duties are administrative in nature and do not include assisting the post-conviction defender in providing legal representation.

Press Releases

Ramsey Names Workplace Litigation Lawyer to Judicial Nominating Commission

Press Release from the Office of Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, Aug. 28, 2011:

(August 29, 2011, NASHVILLE) – Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey today announced the appointment of J. Barlett Quinn of Chattanooga to the Judicial Nominating Commission. Quinn will fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Commissioner Bill Young, who will step down on Sept. 1 to become Tennessee Solicitor General.

“The health of the judicial branch of state government is crucial to the long term health of Tennessee,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “Bart Quinn is an outstanding lawyer committed to an exemplary judiciary. I’m proud to appoint him and have every expectation that he will strengthen Tennessee’s judiciary.”

“Tennessee is an outstanding state which deserves outstanding judges,” said Quinn. “I’m honored that Lieutenant Governor Ramsey has allowed me to contribute to the improvement of our judiciary.”

A graduate of the University of Tennessee’s Law School, Quinn is currently with the firm of Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel. He practices primarily in the areas of employment law and workers’ compensation representing several large corporations in the defense of various employment discrimination lawsuits and other related litigation.

The Judicial Nominating Commission was created in 2009 when Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey reformed the process for selecting Tennessee’s appellate judges to provide more transparency and accountability in the judiciary. The new commission has 17 members and is responsible for making judicial nominations to state appellate courts and the state Supreme Court when vacancies arise.

Eight of the seventeen members of the commission are appointed by the Speaker of the Senate. Eight of the members are appointed by the Speaker of the House. One member is jointly appointed by the Speakers of the Senate and House. As provided by statute, each of the states’ three grand divisions must be equally represented on the commission.

The commission nominates three candidates for judicial vacancies as they occur. The governor can then appoint one of the nominees as a judge or ask for a slate of three more nominees.


Press Releases

Sen. Bell on Committee ‘Taking a Hard Look’ at TN Court of the Judiciary

Press Release from the Office of Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, Aug. 16, 2011:

(NASHVILLE, TN) – Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) today announced the appointment of Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville) to the Ad-Hoc Joint Committee on the Court of the Judiciary.

The committee is tasked with taking a hard look at the Court of Judiciary with an eye to reforming the body to increase transparency and accountability. Senator Mae Beavers, in her role as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman will be calling the first meeting to order.

“Sen. Bell has shown time and time again that his outsider perspective on judicial issues is exactly the kind of outlook we need in the legislature,” said Lt. Gov. Ramsey. “The Court of the Judiciary is clearly in need of serious and comprehensive reform. Sen. Bell is a tireless reformer. I look forward to his contributions on how to bring this rogue court in line.”

“The Court of the Judiciary as it currently functions is clearly broken,” said Sen. Bell. “I’m looking forward to working towards improving the manner in which we keep judges accountable in this state.”

A special legislative committee held hearings last year into the Court of the Judiciary found that of the hundreds of annual complaints lodged against judges around 90% are dismissed. Proceedings are not open to the public and reprimands are rarely disclosed publically. There have also been reports of shredding documents regarding dismissed cases.

Sen. Beavers brought a bill during the last session of the legislative session which would have reconstituted the Court and required increased transparency. That bill, Senate Bill 1088, is set to be on the 1st calendar when the legislature returns in January.

Press Releases

Ramsey Joins NCSL Executive Committee

Press Release from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, Aug. 12, 2011:

(Nashville) – Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) has been elected to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Executive Committee. Lawmakers from around the nation chose Lt. Governor Ramsey during NCSL’s 2011 Legislative Summit in San Antonio, Texas this week.

“With many of the greatest issues of our time being debated in state legislatures, the work of the NCSL is more important than ever,” said Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. “I believe that state legislatures are our nation’s laboratories of democracy. It is of paramount importance that states not only share and collaborate with each other but also have our voice heard and respected in Washington. I am honored and excited for this opportunity to share Tennessee’s recent policy successes with state legislators across the country.”

The Executive Committee is the governing body of the NCSL and is comprised of 61 members. The committee drives the organization by supervising and controlling NCSL affairs, its committees, and publications, as well as deciding the organization’s ultimate positions on matters of public policy. The Executive Committee meets four times a year to oversee the development and implementation of NCSL policies.

NCSL was founded in 1975 to advance the effectiveness, independence, and integrity of the 50 state legislatures as equal coordinate branches of government. It provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues and is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of the states in the American federal system.