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Ramsey Denounces Obama Administration’s Decision to Sue Arizona Immigration Law

Press Release from Ron Ramsey for Governor; July 7, 2010:

NASHVILLE, TN – Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey released the following statement in response to the news that the Department of Justice, under the Obama Administration, will sue the state of Arizona over their illegal immigration law:

“Just when you think it unfathomable that Washington can get any crazier, they announce news highlighting just how out of touch they are with mainstream Americans.

“I’ve said before that I fully back Arizona’s efforts to enforce immigration law and secure their borders from the scourge of violence and crime that illegal immigration is causing in their state. In fact, when I am elected the next conservative Governor of Tennessee, I will enact a similar measure.

“The primary function of the federal government is to protect its citizens from foreign threats and if President Obama won’t act, then Governors across this nation will act to protect our citizens.

“We are a nation originally comprised of immigrants and while I support legal immigration, we must never forget that we are a nation of laws and they must be upheld. Those seeking to come to our country through legal avenues are always welcome in America and the state of Tennessee,” stated Ramsey.

According to a recent public poll issued by Rasmussen, sixty percent (60%) of Tennessee voters favor an immigration law in their state similar to the one recently passed in Arizona.

Stable for Now, TennCare Demands Future Attention

Gov. Phil Bredesen has no illusions about the longterm manageability of TennCare, saying this week, “I think the stuff we did with TennCare bought the state a decade but not more than that.”

The governor’s take on the state’s version of the Medicaid program may come as a surprise to those who assumed TennCare’s major problems were over as a result of major reductions Bredesen made in the program that slowed what had become a runaway train.

But Bredesen, now nearing the end of his term, said the fundamental issues involving health coverage remain.

Apart from the cost pressures already involved in health care, another enormous storm is headed the state’s way with the expansion of Medicaid in the new federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the law that has become known, for better or worse, as ObamaCare.

Bredesen famously referred to the expansion of Medicaid as “the mother of all unfunded mandates” on states when the bill was being debated in Congress. Now that the bill has become law, Bredesen has taken a different tack, basically saying it’s the law and must be followed, somehow.

Yet through all the concern about what the future holds on the state health care program, for the moment a consensus appears to have formed that the current leadership at TennCare has adroitly managed the operation. Bredesen says so, and so do some people currently running for Bredesen’s job.

“I think one of the issues the new governor is going to have to deal with is basically how do you deal with Medicaid,” Bredesen said. “You know my feelings about using Medicaid as part of President Obama’s expansion. I don’t think it’s the right thing to do. I think it will put a huge amount of pressure on states in the future.

“But that’s something the governor’s got to do. It’s done. It’s the law. It’s over. It’s something the future governor is going to have to deal with.”

The new law calls for establishing health insurance “exchanges,” which will serve as a government-regulated marketplace for buying health insurance. While some aspects of the law have a more immediate impact — such as helping fill the “doughnut hole” in coverage of the Medicare prescription drug plan or extending coverage of children under their parents’ plans until age 26 (due to go into effect in September) — the bulk of the law is scheduled to kick in in 2014.

The time delay has given some who dislike the law an expectation that the law can be changed, so its full impact won’t be known for awhile. But as it stands, the burden will be falling on states to figure out how to follow through on the new law.

“This is not something the federal government can execute. They’re going to need the states to set up the exchanges,” Bredesen said. “Obviously a lot of new people will be coming into Medicaid, and that produces a whole bunch of issues, from rates we’re paying to physicians to other things. So I think there is a whole set of things to be dealt with in terms of implementing the act.”

Bredesen feels good about TennCare’s current leadership, which includes director Darin Gordon.

“We have some good expertise in the state right now, particularly in the form of Darin and his staff over there,” Bredesen said. “I think we’ll get through it but that’s going to take a lot of work.”

One of the candidates for governor, U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, a Republican from Chattanooga, said this week he, too, is impressed with TennCare’s current leadership, and Wamp gives Bredesen credit for managing the state budget in broad terms, as well as specifically on TennCare.

“Darin Gordon has done an excellent job,” Wamp said. “In fact, the last 24 months at TennCare the program is trending better than it has at any time in its existence. When I had my full briefing with him and asked a slew of questions, I was highly impressed. I think they’re focusing now on more preventive care and wellness, which is something I’m really strong on.

“Frankly, short of the Obama mandate kicking in, I believe TennCare is going in a good direction, but if the Obama mandate kicks in without some relief, if we can’t change that, TennCare is going to get buried with federal mandates. We don’t have the money to pay for those mandates.”

The days of total upheaval at TennCare seem to have subsided, for now.

“We’ve got a good team at TennCare now. It’s been stable,” Bredesen said. “They know what they’re doing. They’re doing a good job. They’re making their budgets. In fact they’re helping us solve some of our other budgets. But that’s going to be a real issue.”

Bredesen was elected in 2002 in great part on his perceived management skills, just as TennCare was spiraling out of control. A key report by consultant McKinsey & Company showed TennCare putting the state on a path to financial ruin. Bredesen responded by cutting more than 170,000 people from the TennCare rolls in 2005. He also put limits on the amount of prescription medications that would be covered, a politically controversial move.

Now, the concern has become that with strides made over a number of years, Medicaid expansion in the new federal law threatens to wipe out previous gains.

Bredesen’s point, as he moves through his final year in office, is that while the state bought time with its changes, the problem of health care costs has not been solved. The new governor will find that waiting for him.

President Authorizes Disaster Declarations for 4 More Counties

State of Tennessee Press Release; May 6, 2010:

NASHVILLE – The federal government this evening authorized a major disaster declaration for four additional Tennessee counties. On Monday, Governor Phil Bredesen asked President Obama to declare 52 counties federal disaster areas following the severe storms, tornadoes and flooding that struck the state beginning Friday, April 30.

This evening’s action makes federal funding available to individuals in McNairy, Perry, Shelby and Tipton Counties. Federal officials earlier today authorized declarations for Montgomery and Dyer Counties. Four counties – Cheatham, Davidson, Hickman and Williamson – were authorized yesterday. Declarations for additional counties requested by the Governor are expected in coming days.

“I appreciate the speedy approvals of these counties for assistance by President Obama and the federal government,” said Bredesen. “Making these resources available in these additional counties will help those who have suffered losses begin to rebuild their homes and their lives.”

Tennessee suffered 20 confirmed fatalities as a result of the extreme weather and flooding that struck the state April 30-May 2. Numerous nursing homes, apartment complexes and residences were evacuated due to rapidly rising waters and flash flooding. Water rescues and helicopter extractions were performed as flood waters rushed over hundreds of roads through cities, towns and neighborhoods. Many residents lost all of their possessions as homes were destroyed or sustained major damages.

Governor Bredesen and state and local officials toured northern Middle Tennessee counties today, including Montgomery and Sumner Counties. Similar tours were conducted of impacted areas of West and Middle Tennessee on Monday. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate was in Tennessee and Bredesen also spoke by phone with President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Monday, May 3.

The President’s action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in the 10 counties authorized to date, including both individual and public assistance.

Individual assistance can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses. Public assistance is also available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for debris removal and emergency protective measures only at this time. In addition, federal funding is available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

Residents and business owners who sustained losses in the four designated counties can begin applying for assistance immediately by registering online at www.fema.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).

Obama Extends Major Disasters Area By 2 Counties

State of Tennessee Press Release; May 5, 2010:

Authorization Made Today for Montgomery, Dyer Counties

NASHVILLE – The federal government today authorized a major disaster declaration for two additional Tennessee counties. On Monday, Governor Phil Bredesen asked President Obama to declare 52 counties federal disaster areas following the severe storms, tornadoes and flooding that struck the state beginning Friday, April 30.

Today’s action makes federal funding available to individuals in Montgomery and Dyer Counties. Four counties – Cheatham, Davidson, Hickman and Williamson – were authorized yesterday. Declarations for additional counties requested by the Governor are expected in coming days.

“President Obama and the federal government continue to move quickly in their response,” said Bredesen. “As people begin to rebuild their homes and their lives, this assistance will be an important resource for Tennesseans.”

Tennessee suffered 20 confirmed fatalities as a result of the extreme weather and flooding that struck the state April 30-May 2. Numerous nursing homes, apartment complexes and residences were evacuated due to rapidly rising waters and flash flooding. Water rescues and helicopter extractions were performed as flood waters rushed over hundreds of roads through cities, towns and neighborhoods. Many residents lost all of their possessions as homes were destroyed or sustained major damages.

Bredesen today toured northern Middle Tennessee, including Montgomery and Sumner Counties, and toured impacted areas of West and Middle Tennessee on Monday. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate was in Tennessee and Bredesen also spoke by phone with President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Monday, May 3.

The President’s action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in the six counties authorized to date, including both individual and public assistance.

Individual assistance can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses. Public assistance is also available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for debris removal and emergency protective measures only at this time. In addition, federal funding is available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

Residents and business owners who sustained losses in the four designated counties can begin applying for assistance immediately by registering online at www.fema.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).

Obama Declares 4 Counties Disaster Areas

State of Tennessee Press Release; May 4, 2020:

Initial Authorization Made for Cheatham, Davidson, Hickman, Williamson Counties; Additional Counties Expected to be Added in Coming Days

NASHVILLE – The federal government today authorized a major disaster declaration for four Tennessee counties. Governor Phil Bredesen asked President Obama Monday to declare 52 counties federal disaster areas following the severe storms, tornadoes and flooding that struck the state beginning Friday, April 30.

Today’s action makes federal funding available to individuals in Cheatham, Davidson, Hickman and Williamson Counties while declarations for additional Tennessee counties are expected in coming days.

As a result of the extreme weather conditions, Tennessee suffered 19 confirmed fatalities. Numerous nursing homes, apartment complexes and residences were evacuated due to rapidly rising waters and flash flooding. Water rescues and helicopter extractions were performed as flood waters continue to rush over hundreds of roads through cities, towns and neighborhoods. Many residents lost all of their possessions as homes were destroyed or sustained major damages.

“The federal government has moved quickly to assist Tennessee and I appreciate the quick action by President Obama to declare the first of what I expect will be many counties authorized for federal assistance,” said Bredesen. “In addition to the state and local resources utilized in the initial response, I know all counties impacted by these devastating storms are anxious for assistance and access to the resources of the federal government.”

Bredesen toured impacted areas of West and Middle Tennessee on Monday, May 3. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate was in Tennessee and Bredesen also spoke by phone with President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Monday.

The President’s action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in the four counties, including both individual and public assistance.

Individual assistance can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses. Public assistance is also available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for debris removal and emergency protective measures only at this time. In addition, federal funding is available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

Residents and business owners who sustained losses in the four designated counties can begin applying for assistance immediately by registering online at www.fema.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).

Most TNGOP Tenth Amendment Advocates Wary of Constitutional Convention

A national constitutional convention to fight back against federal power is being discussed in the General Assembly, but contrary to what Tennesseans might assume, legislators looking at that possibility don’t want such a convention to happen.

At the same time, if one were to happen, those same legislators want to be prepared and make sure the convention is narrowly focused, which is why they are devoting time and effort to protect the process.

Enough backlash against Washington has surfaced across the nation that states find themselves looking for options, and the notion of a national constitutional convention to rein in federal power has grown.

The negative reaction to the recent health care legislation in Washington might have been the last straw in the debate. The constitutional convention issue is distinctly separate from the efforts in some states calling for a lawsuit against the federal government on grounds that the health care bill is unconstitutional.

The Tennessee General Assembly has a group of legislators addressing state sovereignty issues, and they have been involved in serious discussions about actions to take. The idea of a constitutional convention, however, scares many of those same lawmakers, because they fear a runaway convention, where things could get out of control and the country could find itself with provisions it never wanted.

One of the most immediate issues in Tennessee is the fact that this state apparently would not even have to call for a constitutional convention, because it already has a call on the books. It dates to 1977, when Tennessee sought a convention over issues involving the federal judiciary, revenues and the power of the president to veto items in an appropriations budget. There is some disagreement, however, as to whether a call issued by a past General Assembly is binding to the current General Assembly.

Some legislators want Tennessee’s call rescinded.

The General Assembly has a resolution scheduled on the House calendar for Thursday, sponsored by Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, the Republican caucus chair, to rescind three specific resolutions from 1977 and any other resolutions passed “at any time” calling for a federal constitutional convention.

Such a convention is made possible by Article V of the U.S. Constitution. Two-thirds of the states — 34 of 50 — are required to create a constitutional convention. Amendments to the Constitution from such a convention would have to be ratified by both houses of the legislatures of three-fourths of the states (38 of the 50).

State Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, has been at the forefront of these issues and last year guided HJR108, which urged Congress to recognize Tennessee’s sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. A committee was formed to communicate with the other 49 states. Lynn has been in a working group under the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Lynn also hints she might support a constitutional convention under the right circumstances — namely, that she and her philosophical allies could control its outcome.

“What we’re trying to do is create firewalls against a runaway convention, so we could do something like legally bind delegates to a convention, so they would be bound to vote the way the legislature that sent them there instructed them to vote,” Lynn said. “We’re doing a lot of research to see if there’s any precedent for this.

“What we’re trying to do is be prepared.”

The irony, she says, is Congress could handle all of this if it wanted to do so.

“I think everything that has been done so far could be corrected in a weekend,” she said. “They could vote to change everything in a weekend. All it takes is the political will.”

Lynn said if a convention did become a reality, she would like to see a change to make it easier for states, not the federal government, to amend the Constitution.

The efforts related to a constitutional convention have gone largely under the radar. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, who led the Senate to urge Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper to join lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the health care reform act, was asked last weekend if he had heard discussion of a constitutional convention, and he said he had not. U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, in Nashville last Friday, was asked if he had heard about the issue.

“When you say heard, yes, I’ve read about people discussing it. But there has been no discussion of it in the halls of Congress, or at least not in the halls I’ve been around,” Corker said.

U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, pointing to the unfunded mandate in the health care legislation, said he could see that people are worked up about the federal government.

“All I would say is the federal government has thrown such bombs into the states you could see all across the country states taking action to try to stand against this mandate,” Wamp said. “I would ask anyone who says we might not have a constitutional convention how we are going to pay for this mandate.

“I’m open to whatever the possibilities are.”

But Wamp said there is reason for caution.

“Constitutional conventions are messy and dangerous, and you have to be very sure what we’re trying to accomplish as a state to open that up. I think, frankly, the way the federal government is wreaking havoc on states there may be talk like this in other states coming up over the next three to four years.”

State Rep. Debra Young Maggart, R-Hendersonville, another active figure in the Legislature on Tenth Amendment issues, said she, too, is concerned about the pitfalls of a convention.

“My concern about a national constitutional convention is that my understanding is everything gets opened up, and I’m not comfortable with us opening up everything in the U.S. Constitution. I don’t think that’s wise,” she said.

“People are very concerned about this health care reform act being just shoved down our throats, when we had the Republicans in Congress trying desperately to get the Democrats to at least acknowledge some of the ideas and programs they wanted to do.”

Maggart said she, too, doesn’t see the need to go so far as a constitutional convention.

“I think the Tenth Amendment is enough to do it,” she said. “Why people are not paying attention to that in Congress I don’t know. I can tell you that the people here in Tennessee are paying attention to the Tenth Amendment. They know. They can read. They know what it means.”

The Tenth Amendment states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

Rep. Swafford Wants Turner To Apologize For Racial Comments

Press Release from Rep. Eric Swafford, R-Pikeville, March 24, 2010:

(March 24, 2010, NASHVILLE) – Representative Eric Swafford (R-Pikeville) stood up for millions of Tennesseans Monday evening on the floor of the State House of Representatives, asking Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner to apologize for racial comments made to the media earlier that day. A newspaper quoted Turner as saying, “I think some of the people who are against Obama are just against Obama because he’s African-American.”

Representative Swafford took issue with the comments Monday night, saying the millions of Tennesseans who oppose the government takeover of healthcare are genuinely concerned about the issue. He stated, “This is an issue people are truly passionate about. They are taking time out of their day to call their Congressman, their United States Senator—some of them took time off from work to go to Washington, D.C.—because they are genuinely passionate about this,” he continued. “It is unfair and offensive for them to be called racists simply because they disagree with an out-of-control, out-of-touch policy crafted by the tone-deaf Democrats in Congress.”

A transcript of Representative Swafford’s remarks on the House floor is below.

“Ladies and gentleman, I think it’s a shame that when conservative Tennesseans on principle disagree with the federal government takeover of their healthcare, and our citizens take their time, energy and effort to contact their elected representatives, and all that one member of the Democrat leadership in this House can do is call those individuals racists. I am referring to some statements made by a gentleman that is my friend who I have asked to apologize for those comments. Ladies and gentlemen, calling one and a half million [… interrupted …] to imply that one and a half million Tennesseans who voted for someone other than our President are racists or to imply that individuals that disagree with a federal government takeover of our healthcare system, to imply that they disagree with that because they’re racist is simply preposterous. And again I would ask my dear friend to apologize for those comments.”

Please click here to view the video of the remarks.

Health Care War in TN Going Nuclear

Tennessee Republicans demanded Tuesday that House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner apologize for implying that opposition to federal health care legislation may be driven by racist disdain for President Obama.

They could be waiting a while, however, because later in the afternoon Turner said he has “nothing to apologize for.” And House Democratic Leader Gary Odom issued a press release afterward accusing Republicans of “hypocrisy” and “intentionally (taking Turner’s comments)…out of context for the purpose of political grandstanding.”

The spat arose from Turner’s comments during a press conference at the state Capitol Monday, when, standing with Odom, Turner rebuked Republicans for pushing bills advocating “state sovereignty and all that.”

“They’ve done that on a lot of issues,” Turner told reporters. “All of the sudden, we have a black man elected president, and everybody wants to start acting like something’s wrong with our country. I think we need to go back and take a good, hard look at this. I didn’t agree with a lot of the things George Bush did, but I didn’t want to secede from the Union.”

Republicans took umbrage with Turner’s assessments of opposition to Obama and his health care agenda. Three House Republicans — Reps. Jason Mumpower, Glen Casada and Mike Bell — declared to reporters during a press conference they called at noon Tuesday that the Old Hickory Democrat’s comments were inaccurate and inappropriate, and called on other Democrats to denounce him.

“When someone disagrees with the president, all that Chairman Turner and Tennessee Democrats know to do is name-call — in this case, to call people racist,” said Mumpower, R-Bristol. “Democrats don’t have any substance to their discussions or their arguments, all they like to do is name-call and point fingers.”

Bell, R-Riceville, is the chief House sponsor of the “Tennessee Health Freedom Act,” which passed last month in the Senate 26-1. Bell said state residents “from Mountain City to Memphis” have contacted his office to tell him they oppose the federal health care legislation.

“They oppose (it) not because our president is an African American,” said Bell. They oppose it “because they are angry at an oppressive federal government that is overreaching its bounds.”

“We’re a free a country — at least I hope we still are a free country,” Bell added. “And people want to be free to choose to participate in a federal program, or to keep their private insurance. That is what the anger is about.”

Casada found Turner’s implication “offensive,” too, and said he’s getting calls and emails from Tennesseans angry that an elected public servant “would raise and wag his finger and call you racist and call me racist just because you don’t agree with his big government policies.”

“Chairman Turner needs to apologize,” said Casada. “This type of demeaning people to try to put them down has got to stop.”

TNGOP Chairman Chris Devaney on Tuesday also joined the chorus, sending a letter to state Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester to “immediately ask Rep. Turner to apologize for his personal attacks on the vast number of Tennesseans who do not agree with his Democratic Party’s agenda for our country.”

Responding to Republican calls for him to express remorse, Turner told TNReport he has no plans to retract his comments. Regarding those angered by his sentiments, Turner said “maybe they got a guilty conscience.”

“Anybody who would honestly say that some people are not against (Obama) because he is an African American, I think they’re living on a different planet,” said Turner.

In a press release that outlined a six-point list of what he called “examples of Republican political activities in our state (that) should never be forgotten,” Odom declared, “I find it remarkable that House Republicans would condemn the use of racial overtones in political debate, when you consider recent Republican activities in our state and our country.”

The list went on to point out instances of alleged racism within Tennessee’s Republican party, including a former GOP Party Chairman “sending out Christmas music entitled “Barack the Magic Negro'” and a Republican Senate staffer sending out a “photo composite that pictured all of the U.S. presidents but depicted President Obama in a black background with only two white eyes.”

Andrea Zelinski contributed to this report. She can be reached at andreazelinski@tnreport.com. Mark Todd Engler can be reached at markengler@tnreport.com.

Bredesen Congratulates President on Health Care Vote

Statement from Gov. Phil Bredesen, March 22, 2010:

“I congratulate the President on the passage of his health care legislation. This is a significant accomplishment for his Administration that will allow more than 30 million additional Americans full access to our health care system. I have long been a believer in the need for universal health coverage, and believe that this advances that goal.

“The expansion of Medicaid which is incorporated in this legislation presents some challenges to Tennessee, as it does to other states as well. We are starting the process of determining just what changes we’ll need to make to implement and pay for this Medicaid expansion, although most of the work in this regard will of course fall to the next Governor. I will work hard for the remainder of my term to prepare to implement this reform and transition to a much broader system of health coverage here in Tennessee.”

TNGOP Chair: Rep. Gordon Puts Pelosi & Obama Before Tennesseans on Health Reform

Press Release From the Tennessee Republican Party, March 19, 2010:

NASHVILLE, TN – Tennessee Republican Party Chris Devaney issued the following statement after retiring Tennessee Democrat Congressman Bart Gordon announced he is going to support the Obama/Pelosi/Reid government takeover of health care:

“Retiring from Congress doesn’t give Rep. Gordon an excuse to abandon his constituents,” said Devaney. “Recent polling here in our state suggests that the majority of Tennesseans want Congress to start over on health care. Tennessee voters don’t want a government takeover of health care that is going to raise premiums, slash Medicare benefits, and provide for taxpayer-funded abortions. I believe that Rep. Gordon’s decision to retire was the right one, but I hope he is aware his support of health care is going to be harmful to any Democrat who might be thinking of running in the Sixth Congressional District.”

A Spring 2010 poll released by Middle Tennessee State University reported the following findings:

Health reform: Most Tennesseans want a do-over

When asked what Congress should do next on health reform, a majority of Tennesseans, 53 percent, say Congress should start on a new bill. Twenty-two percent say Congress should pass a bill similar those the House and Senate have passed. Only sixteen percent say Congress should stop working on health reform altogether…

Most of Tennessee’s independents, 63 percent, say Congress should start work on a new health reform bill, followed by 19 percent who say something like the current bills should be passed, and 18 percent who say Congress should just stop working on health reform.