Featured NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

Slatery a ‘Wonderful Choice’ to Replace Cooper: Bredesen

Former Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, said he’d have preferred that the five members of Tennessee’s Supreme Court, composed of two Republicans and three Democrats, award Robert E. Cooper with another eight-year term as attorney general.

But Bredesen said the court wasn’t in a position to allow Cooper to continue serving as the state’s most influential government attorney. “I had hoped that he would be able to stay. As a practical matter, that was almost impossible with the changes that have taken place in the governor’s office and so forth,” Bredesen said following an event in Knoxville to promote Amendment 2.

“I am sorry Bob didn’t stay. But if he were not going to stay, this is a wonderful choice to replace him,” Bredesen said of the court’s selection of Herb Slatery, Gov. Bill Haslam’s chief legal advisor since 2011.

Cooper served as the Bredesen administration’s legal counsel from 2003-2006 and was campaign treasurer on Bredesen’s first gubernatorial run in 2002.

Bredesen’s comments indicated he isn’t inclined, at least publicly, to share in criticisms expressed by other prominent Tennessee Democrats, like House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh and state Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron, alleging that the Supreme Court succumbed to partisan political pressure in selecting Slatery.

Fitzhugh issued a statement Monday charging that the court had “capitulated” to Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, and “the very special interest groups” that unsuccessfully campaigned this summer to replace the three Democratic justices initially appointed by Bredesen.

Herron’s statement said, “It appears to many that General Cooper’s party affiliation was used against him.”

Slatery won appointment over a field of seven other applicants, among them Cooper, Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts Director Bill Young, Republican state Sen. Doug Overbey of Maryville, former solicitor general Mark Fulks, Eugene N. Bulso, Jr, a Nashville business lawyer, Andrew Tillman, a former chancery court judge from the Upper Cumberland region, and Nashville attorney William Helou.

Ramsey issued a statement Monday hailing the court’s decision to appoint a Republican attorney general, who he predicted “will be a strong advocate for the people of Tennessee and a vigilant defender of Tennessee’s conservative reforms.”

The lieutenant governor had in fact indicated in comments to the media last week that “Bill Young may be handicapped somewhat because he at least has the impression that he’s Ron Ramsey’s candidate.” On Monday, Ramsey revealed he had met earlier with Chief Justice Sharon Lee and Justice Gary Wade “to bury the hatchet” with respect to the retention campaign fight, and also to lobby for “a more conservative AG.”

Cooper is in the processes of transitioning out of the attorney general’s office, a space he’s occupied since 2006.

Following a swearing-in ceremony for Chief Justice Lee in Knoxville Wednesday, Slatery told TNReport he’s in the process of preparing to move into his new role as attorney general. But he said a date hasn’t yet formally been set for when he will officially take over. “We’re are trying to figure that out right now. There is a transition and we want to be sure we leave my office (as the governor’s lawyer) in real good shape,” he said, adding that Cooper “continues to hold the office until the successor comes on.”

Regarding the allegations by Herron and Fitzhugh that the Supreme Court felt pressured to pick a Republican, Slatery said, “I am not going to be partisan, and they know that,” he said.

With respect to the court’s decision-making, Slatery said, “I don’t think it was a real political process.”

Press Releases

Ball Responds to TNGOP Attack: Alexander Voted with Obama 62 Percent of Time

Press release from the Gordon Ball Campaign for U.S. Senate; September 16, 2014:

“Sen. Lamar Alexander has voted with President Barack Obama 62 percent of the time. I have voted with him 0 percent of the time,” U.S. Senate Candidate Gordon Ball said after learning that the TNGOP had launched a website and video attacking him as ‘another vote for Obama. “I have said consistently that Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell and Lamar Alexander should be replaced. If we want to change Washington, we have to change the people in Washington.”

“The bottom line is that in the primary I was painted as far right and now in the general, the partisan attack is that I’m a liberal,” Ball said. “It’s apparent I fall in the middle in the same mold as Ned Ray McWherter and Phil Bredesen.”

“As the Knoxville News Sentinel’s Tom Humphrey wrote on his website, they are concerned enough about our campaign to take the time, energy and money to come after me,” Ball added. “I find it to be encouraging and energizing as we reach out to Tennesseans who are tired of career politicians like Alexander. We must be doing something right.”

The facts speak for themselves, Ball has sued health insurance companies over their refusal to compete with each other which causes health care costs to be higher. Ball is a gun owner and pro second amendment.

He has said across the state that everyone is pro-life, but that voting no on Amendment 1 allows women to make their health decisions.

“Women’s healthcare should not be dictated by the government and elected officials,” Ball said. Alexander will vote to allow the Tennessee legislature to make those decisions for women.

Ball, who has been campaigning this past week in Memphis and upper east Tennessee will be in Nashville this week for the Tennesseans Against Common Core rally as well as hosting a breakfast for the executive committee that represents the Tennessee Democratic Party across the state.

Press Releases

Upcoming UAW Vote at VW Concerns TN Senate Labor, Commerce Cmte Heads

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

NASHVILLE, Tenn, (February 10, 2014) — The Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Tennessee’s Senate Commerce and Labor Committee today expressed concern regarding the United Auto Workers (UAW) upcoming vote in Chattanooga, saying a vote for organized labor would harm Tennessee’s reputation as a business-friendly state and reverse the state’s recent progress in automobile-related job growth.

Chairman Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) and Vice-Chairman Mark Green (R-Clarksville) said the General Assembly has worked in concert with Governors Phil Bredesen and Bill Haslam for the past several years to move forward policies to support Tennessee’s competitive standing in growing and expanding new and better paying jobs in the state. The lawmakers said that pending decisions of VW employees are of statewide interest at a pivotal time when Tennessee stands currently as a national leader in job creation.

“We greatly value our auto workers, both in Middle Tennessee and in Southeast Tennessee,” said Senator Johnson, a businessman whose legislative district is home to the General Motors Spring Hill plant and Nissan’s North America headquarters.

“Our communities are very similar with great neighborhoods, schools that focus on achievement and a local economy that is envied by many. The automotive industry is a very important part of the quality of life we enjoy.” “As Chattanooga workers vote on the United Auto Workers presence, it is a decision that transcends just one community,” he added. “There is tremendous competition for job growth among states. A vote for organized labor would impede our daily efforts to benefit Tennessee families as we compete nationally in job growth. I ask that Chattanooga lead to honor Tennessee’s competitive spirit so we can continue moving our state’s job growth forward. Chattanooga workers, we don’t need the UAW in our state.”

“In business, reputation means a lot,” added Senator Green, who is a practicing physician and businessman who represents the more rural Clarksville region that competes with industry across the state-line of Kentucky. “Tennessee has developed a reputation of a top location for families and businesses because of the lower cost of living, commitment to an educated workforce and folks keeping more of our wages by holding taxes low.”

“Volkswagen chose our state and your community for important reasons: Chattanooga workers have a great reputation of a great work ethic and make an excellent product. That reputation has been yours without the United Auto Workers,” he continued. “The free market that VW chose in our state produces competition, empowers employees far more than a labor union, and keeps bringing jobs to Tennessee.” The United Auto Workers vote is scheduled for Wednesday, February 12 through Friday, February 14 at the Volkswagen site in Chattanooga.

Press Releases

TN Students Show Fastest Improvement on 2013 NAEP Nationwide

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Education; November 7, 2013:

MOUNT JULIET – Gov. Bill Haslam today announced that Tennessee had the largest academic growth on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) of any state, making Tennessee the fastest improving state in the nation.

The NAEP results also show that Tennessee had the largest growth of any state in a single testing cycle since NAEP started nationwide assessments a decade ago.

“These historic gains are a result of years of hard work by a lot of people across Tennessee: our teachers, students, principals, superintendents, parents, lawmakers, school board members, business leaders, and many others,” Haslam said. “As a state we’ve come together to make education a top priority.”

The governor was joined for the announcement by former Gov. Phil Bredesen, State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, Wilson County Director of Schools Timothy Setterlund, Cicely Woodard, an eighth-grade math teacher at Rose Park Magnet Middle School in Nashville, state legislators, business and community leaders, and students, faculty and staff of West Wilson Middle School in Mt. Juliet where the event was held.

Commonly known as “the nation’s report card,” NAEP assesses students in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math. All 50 states have taken NAEP since 2003, and the results are regarded across the country as the best way to compare educational outcomes across states. Tennessee students’ combined growth on all four tests in 2013 exceeded the growth of all other states. For data on Tennessee’s NAEP results, visit:

The state improved in overall national ranking in each of the four tests. For fourth-grade students, Tennessee went from 46th in the nation in math to 37th and from 41st to 31st in reading. Tennessee also had very strong growth for African-American students, and the state saw gains in overall results while significantly increasing the participation of special education students on the test.

“This administration’s goal has been to be the fastest improving state in the nation by 2015,” Huffman said. “We’ve asked a lot of our teachers and students, and they have delivered; they deserve the thanks for this progress. Dramatically improving results for kids is hard work, but this is what hard work can do.”

Tennessee has also seen three years of continuous growth on its state assessments, also known as the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP). Since 2010, 91,000 more students are on grade level in math, and 52,000 more students are on grade level in science.

Press Releases

Bredesen, Frist Announced as Co-Chairs of USGLC in TN

Press release from the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition; August 8, 2013:

The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC) today announced that Governor Phil Bredesen and Senator Bill Frist will co-chair the USGLC Tennessee State Advisory Committee to raise awareness of the important role U.S. foreign policy plays in Tennessee’s economic growth and security.

“We are pleased to serve as the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s honorary chairs at a time when America’s interests abroad have never been greater,” said Governor Bredesen and Senator Frist. “Investing in smart and effective U.S. development and diplomacy tools is exactly what we need to protect our security, advance our economic interests, and demonstrate our finest values as Americans.”

Bredesen and Frist join a distinguished group of bipartisan national leaders, including former Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton, former Defense Secretary Bob Gates, and former Tennessee Senator Jim Sasser, in an effort to educate Americans about how critical U.S. leadership in the world is to creating jobs here at home and protecting national security.

America’s civilian tools of global development and diplomacy make up just one percent of the federal budget, but provide a powerful return on investment for taxpayers. As 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the U.S., these tools funded through the International Affairs Budget help to open and build markets for American businesses. Tennessee is a national leader in foreign investment, and in 2011 alone the state exported $30 billion in goods and services.

“We live in a global economy, and with one in five Tennessee jobs tied to trade, we have no choice but to be engaged in the world,” said Governor Bredesen. “Countries in the developing world represent the fastest growing markets for U.S. goods and services, and our nation’s investments on the ground pay dividends right here in Tennessee.”

“I have seen how important it is to create opportunities and hope for people around the world,” said Senator Frist. “This is not simply the right thing to do, but it’s the smart thing to do, as our top military leaders tell us time and again how essential our diplomatic and foreign assistance programs are to preventing conflicts and providing stability in a very dangerous world.”

The USGLC will host a luncheon event with Senator Bob Corker, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in Nashville on August 22nd from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Renaissance Hotel. The luncheon is free of charge and open to the public. Click here for additional information and registration.

The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition ( is a broad-based influential network of 400 businesses and NGOs; national security and foreign policy experts; and business, faith-based, academic and community leaders in all 50 states, including 100 on the Tennessee State Advisory Committee, who support a smart power approach of elevating development and diplomacy alongside defense in order to build a better, safer world.

Press Releases

Campaign to Fix the Debt Launches TN Leadership Committee

Press release from the Campaign to Fix the Debt; October 24, 2012: 

NASHVILLE, TN — (October 24, 2012) – The Campaign to Fix the Debt – a national nonpartisan coalition of business leaders, political and community leaders, academics and individual citizens – today officially launched its Tennessee leadership committee and growing efforts to bring concerned individuals together all across the state to encourage federal lawmakers to address the ballooning national debt.

Campaign to Fix the Debt Tennessee co-chairs, including former Governor Winfield Dunn, and Tim Pagliara, CEO of CapWealth Advisors in Franklin and Founder of Enact the Plan, were joined by other leaders from both political parties in the launch, which was held at the Legislative Plaza in Nashville. Former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen was traveling today and was not present, but Bredesen serves as a member of the Campaign to Fix the Debt’s national steering committee.

During the event, Gov. Dunn and Pagliara called on lawmakers in Washington to put aside political differences to find practical solutions to the debt and encouraged Tennesseans to ask their leaders to take swift and sensible action. Former Tennessee Congressman Lincoln Davis, as well as Paula Flowers, former Tennessee Commissioner of Commerce & Insurance, and Matt Kisber, former Tennessee Commissioner of Economic & Community Development, also made remarks in support of the campaign.

“The national debt has grown out of control, and now threatens our economy here at home and our influence around the world,” said Gov. Dunn. “Continued inaction and gridlock is not acceptable. So immediately following the election, we need our leaders in Washington to quickly put partisan differences aside and work together to find some common-sense solutions to get the job done. I have great confidence they can do this, but they must act quickly.”

In addition to the long-term challenges facing the country due to runaway deficits and debt, federal lawmakers must confront the rapidly approaching “fiscal cliff” – of more than $600 billion in automatic spending cuts and tax hikes next year alone that most analysts agree would push the country back into economic recession.

“Private sector businesses, the people we employ and those who are out there looking for work, are already feeling the uncertainty over whether Congress and the White House will be able to strike a budget deal before January. Most businesses are not going to hire new workers or invest in new plants and equipment if they can’t be certain that a couple of months from now the economy won’t be going over a fiscal cliff,” said Pagliara. “The federal debt is massive, and it’s a problem that affects every layer of the economy. So we want to be sure our Tennessee representatives know it’s time to roll up their sleeves and work together on the tough decisions.”

Members of the growing Fix the Debt-Tennessee State Leadership Team announced today include:

Governor Phil Bredesen, Nashville, National Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Governor Winfield Dunn, Nashville, State Co-Chair, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Tim Pagliara, Franklin, Chairman & CEO, CapWealth Advisors; State Co-Chair, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign & Founder, Enact the Plan

Calvin Anderson, Memphis, Senior Vice President & Chief of Staff, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Victor Ashe, Knoxville, Former U.S. Ambassador to Poland; former Mayor of Knoxville; former Chair, U.S. Conference of Mayors; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Joe Bailey, Knoxville, City Councilman & Former Vice Mayor, City of Knoxville; President, Bailey & Associates; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Bayard Boyle, Jr., Memphis, Chairman, Boyle Investment Company; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Forrest Conner, Nashville, CEO, McCarthy, Jones & Woodard; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Judge Lew Conner, Nashville, Senior Counsel, Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, Former Judge, Tennessee Court of Appeals; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Doug Cruickshanks, Nashville, Vice Chairman, FirstBank; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Congressman Lincoln Davis, Pall Mall, Former Member, U.S. House of Representatives; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Dr. Bob Fisher, Nashville, President, Belmont University; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Doug Fisher, Chattanooga, President, DH Fisher & Associates; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Paula Flowers, Oak Ridge, President, Enovation Group, LLC; Former Tennessee Commissioner of Commerce & Insurance; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Jim Frierson, Chattanooga, Founder, Compass Innovation; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Dave Goetz, Nashville, Vice President, Optum; Former Tennessee Commissioner of Finance & Administration; Former President, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry; ; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Cordia Harrington, Nashville, CEO, Tennessee Bun Company; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Dan Hogan, Nashville, Founder & President, Church Street Consulting; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Gordon Inman, Franklin, Chairman, FirstBank Middle Tennessee; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Jon Kinsey, Chattanooga, Partner, KPH Development; Former Mayor of Chattanooga; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Matt Kisber, Nashville, President & CEO, Silicon Ranch Corporation; Former Tennessee Commissioner of Economic & Community Development; Former Chair, House Finance, Ways & Means Committee, Tennessee General Assembly; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Warren Neel, Knoxville, Executive Director, Corporate Governance Center, The University of Tennessee; Former Tennessee Commissioner of Finance & Administration; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Robert Orr, Franklin, Attorney-at-Law; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Johnny Pitts, Memphis, Chief Manager, Lipscomb & Pitts; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Linda Peek Schacht, Nashville, Associate Professor and Executive Director, Andrews Institute for Civic Leadership, Lipscomb University; Former Vice President, Global Communication and Public Affairs, Coca-Cola Company; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Gary Sisco, Nashville, CEO, Sisco Group; Former Secretary of the United States Senate; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Deborah Taylor Tate, Nashville, Former Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission; ITU Special Envoy; Executive Committee, U.S. Minority Media & Telecommunications Council; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Charles Trost, Nashville, Attorney, Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis; Associate Dean, Belmont University College of Law; Former Tennessee Commissioner of Revenue; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Congressman Zach Wamp, Chattanooga, Former Member, U.S. House of Representatives; Founder, Zach Wamp Consulting; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Richard Warren, Nashville, Partner, Bradley Arrant Boult Cummings; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Mayor A.C. Wharton, Jr., Memphis, Mayor of the City of Memphis; Former Mayor of Shelby County; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

Woody Woodruff, Nashville, Partner, Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis; Member, Tennessee Steering Committee, Fix the Debt Campaign

The Campaign to Fix the Debt is committed to advocating for our elected leaders to avert the fiscal cliff while gradually putting our debt on a sustainable course by generating more tax revenues and making smart spending cuts to programs that aren’t working or aren’t necessary.

“We are thrilled that the Campaign to Fix the Debt is involving so many Tennesseans at the grassroots level,” said Maya MacGuineas, President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, who is spearheading the Campaign. “In order to put our debt on a sustainable path, elected officials are going to have to make tough choices. These choices will be made easier if they know that the people they represent do indeed value cooperation and demand a long-term, comprehensive agreement over our debt.”

Through grassroots organizing, earned media activities and high-profile outreach, the national Campaign to Fix the Debt is urging lawmakers to set aside partisan differences to formulate practical solutions to our nation’s debt problems.

For more information, or to sign the campaign’s Citizen’s Petition, please visit

Featured News Transparency and Elections

Haslam Administration Keeps Schedule-Planner Under Wraps

Gov. Bill Haslam isn’t too keen on letting Tennesseans in on who he’s meeting behind closed doors.

“There’s just a lot of discussions that we have, that any governor needs to have, as part of the decision-making process that we go through on so many different issues,” the governor said recently.

The administration rejected a request from TNReport in July to review or obtain copies of the governor’s calendar-scheduling planner dating back to his Jan. 15, 2010, inauguration through June 30, 2012.

Haslam’s office said his schedule falls under the protection of “deliberative process privilege.” The exception under common law allows for government secrecy in instances of communications, opinions and recommendations on policy issues.

However, the state government’s own open-records advocate, Elisha Hodge, says there’s no precedent under this exception in Tennessee to keep the governor’s calendar hidden from public view.

“In Tennessee, the deliberative process privilege has been discussed in a number of public records cases,” but never in the context of public officials’ calendars, said Hodge.

In the cases the judiciary did review, “the courts have never found the privilege to be applicable, based upon specific records that were at issue in the cases.”

Information like what’s on the governor’s schedule should be public, said Kent Flanagan, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government.

“I don’t want to know when he brushes his teeth, and I don’t want to know when he goes to bed,” Flanagan said. “But when he’s acting in the official capacity for the state of Tennessee, the people of Tennessee need to see how he’s performing his duties.”

The only way to challenge the administration’s stance would be to sue the administration and take the governor to court, which is a costly option.

Haslam has something of a mixed history with government transparency since assuming the state’s highest office.

In his second executive order, which set ethics training requirements for his cabinet members, the governor said that “this Administration intends to set a high standard for openness, transparency and accountability.”

“It is the unwavering policy of the Executive Branch to facilitate the right of Tennesseans to know and have access to information with which they may hold state government accountable,” his executive order declared.

But his staff is now looking to standardize how agency officials respond to public requests for information, with an eye toward avoiding requests for public documents that amount to “fishing expeditions” that cost time and money to assemble.

His office also moved to let commissioners keep secret how much they earn from their various sources of income, and he advocated in favor of ensuring that companies winning millions of dollars worth of state economic development awards can keep their lists of business owners out of the public eye.

Past governors assented to varying levels of letting the public review their calendars, said Larry Daughtrey, a retired Capitol Hill reporter for the Tennessean. Daughtrey contrasted the general practice with the relative openness of Gov. Ned McWherter, who led the state from 1987 to 1995.

“With McWherter, you could get his meeting schedule, but you had to go to the press office and ask to see it. You could also walk into any meeting you wanted in the governor’s office,” he said. “I don’t remember any other governor who would let you see the meeting schedule, at least with any regularity.”

Haslam’s administration puts out a weekly public schedule, which includes certain public events reporters are invited to. Gov. Don Sundquist did much the same, said Beth Fortune, who was Sundquist’s press secretary. Sundquist served from 1995 to 2003.

“We issued a weekly calendar of Gov. Sundquist’s public events, not private meetings. Sometimes, we would open private meetings to the press, if requested, and depending upon the topic of the meeting and its participants,” she said via email.

Once their terms are over, governors hand over to the public hundreds of boxes worth of correspondence, records and scheduling information. The latest records in state archives are from the Sundquist administration and reveal flight schedules and appointments with various lawmakers and interest groups.

Records for Gov. Phil Bredesen, who was termed out of office in 2011, are still being processed into microfilm.

Governors in some other states, including the notoriously corrupt Illinois, allow their meeting schedules to be made public, including facts like who they met with, where and when. But officials there redact information on certain meetings.

Gov. Haslam offered that his administration may “re-evaluate” opening up his meeting schedule, but he wouldn’t say when.

“I can’t say it’s not a decision we won’t revisit as we’re here a little longer and get used to the different decisions and impacts that that might make. I think we just felt like coming out of the box, that there was a need just to protect that deliberative process for now,” Haslam told TNReport in an interview last month.

He said closing off his calendar now doesn’t mean the public is getting locked out of answers as to why certain decisions are made.

“(Citizens) really want to know where are you, what did you decide and tell me why you decided that,” said the governor. “And I think we do owe answers like that — whether it be issues we’re facing on health care issues, or whatever it is — to say here’s where we are, and here’s why we think what we do.”

Health Care Liberty and Justice Press Releases Tax and Budget Transparency and Elections

Ramsey: Fight Against ‘Obamacare’ Doesn’t End Here

Statement from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey; June 28, 2012: 

Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey made the following statement after the Supreme Court upheld The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in a 5-4 decision:

“It is intensely disappointing that this court failed to recognize what constitutionalists and conservatives know deep in their hearts: A federal government which can coerce its people to buy a product is a government unrestrained and out of control. Democrat Governor Phil Bredesen called Obamacare the ‘mother of all unfunded mandates’ and stated it will cost Tennesseans 1.1 billion dollars in the next few years. However, the fight does not end here. The court may have made its decision today but the people have yet to speak. When they do, Mitt Romney will be elected president and I will do all I can to aid him as he fulfills his solemn promise to repeal this insidious law.”


Education News NewsTracker

Haslam Expresses Little Interest in Using Veto This Session

In Tennessee the governor’s veto power is so weak there’s usually little point in using it, Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday.

“One of the things you have to consider in my deal is it just takes one vote to override a veto,” Haslam told reporters Monday after an event on combating hunger at a Nashville Wal-Mart. “And so, if something passes overwhelmingly, you do have to take that into consideration in terms of the will of Legislature.

“In the end, if I felt like the bill was bad for Tennessee, then I would veto it. If I felt like maybe it wasn’t bad for Tennessee, but it just added confusion to a situation, maybe I just wouldn’t sign it in that case. But if I felt like a bill was bad for Tennessee, I just wouldn’t sign it, regardless of how it had been supported,” he said.

Asked if his statement was a contradiction, his staff clarified that for legislation he believes is “bad for Tennessee,” his position is to veto it.

The governor has the constitutional authority to veto bills and send them back to the Legislature. However, lawmakers only need to scrounge up a simple majority to override his veto and put the bill into law. It’s the same standard needed to pass a bill.

The governor also has the option to let the bill go into law without his signature, a symbolic gesture that he doesn’t endorse the measure.

Most states require a two-thirds or three-fifths legislative vote to override a veto. Only six states require a simple majority to trump the governor; the others are Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Haslam’s Democratic predecessor, Gov. Phil Bredesen, refused to sign 32 bills during his eight-year tenure. He issued eight vetoes, three of which the Legislature overrode. Most of his vetoes came during his second term.

Haslam is now sitting on a bill, SB893, that would protect teachers from disciplinary action for exploring criticisms of biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning. The measure has earned national attention and about 3,200 signatures on a petition urging him to veto the measure.

The measure passed 72-23 in the House and 25-8 in the Senate. Haslam has said he’ll probably sign it.

“It didn’t just barely pass the House and Senate. It passed three-to-one in the House and the Senate, so you take that into account as well,” Haslam said.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, who began leading the Senate under Gov. Phil Bredesen, said he expects the governor will go along with the Legislature on that bill, and just about all others.

“At a time like now when the governor is of the same party as a majority in both houses, you shouldn’t have to use veto power very often,” said Ramsey. He said the leaders “talk things out” before the bill ever heads to the governor’s desk.

“That bill was so watered down, it didn’t mean anything at the time it passed other than give some instruction to teachers on what to teach and on what not to teach. I don’t see that will be a problem. I think he’ll sign in,” said Ramsey.

Featured News Transparency and Elections

Lawmakers Praise Naifeh Upon Retirement Announcement

As Jimmy Naifeh prepares to hang up his title as one of the longest sitting legislators in the Tennessee General Assembly, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say he leaves behind a legacy of determined leadership.

Naifeh, who presided over the House of Representatives as speaker for 18 years, the longest in the state’s history, announced he would not run for re-election his year.

“Governor McWherter always told me when it was time to go home, I’d know it. After talking with my family and friends, I believe the time has come for me to pass the torch to the next generation of leaders,” he said, admitting he “certainly played hardball, just once or twice,” during his time in office.

“Whatever he told you, you could take it to the bank,” Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey told reporters Thursday, shortly after the 72-year-old Naifeh declared on the House floor it was time for him to pass the torch to fellow Democrats.

“He has really been a fixture that stood for what he believed in, even though lots of times I disagreed with him,” the Blountville Republican continued. “He’ll be missed in this institution. I mean that.”

Naifeh’s announcement drew the attention of not only his House colleagues, but senators, who recessed their chamber to watch his announcement, along with Comptroller Justin Wilson, who watched on bended knee behind Naifeh’s chair in the back of the chamber.

“He was an incredibly strong and powerful speaker, and he knew what he wanted to do and always tried to move very definitively in that way,” Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters Thursday, speaking after a press conference on reducing obesity at the Tennessee Hospital Association headquarters in Nashville. “He was going to do what he said, whether you liked it or not.”

Naifeh’s political biography stretches 38 years to his election in 1974. The Covington Democrat was elected Speaker of the House in 1991. He served uninterrupted under Governors Ned McWherter, Don Sundquist and Phil Bredesen.

“Naifeh used the speakership to say what he thought ought to be done,” said Sen. Doug Henry, D-Nashville, the Legislature’s elder statesman, who began serving in the Senate four years before Naifeh was elected to the House. “He was such a definite individual, that I think that impressed itself on the House primarily, but actually on the entire Legislature.”

In the early 2000s, Naifeh was a vocal advocate for instituting an income tax — a debate that sparked protests on Capitol Hill and what House Speaker Beth Harwell described as “clearly a turning point” leading to the rise of the Republican Party taking over the General Assembly and Naifeh’s loss of the gavel.

“I think yes, it was very helpful to us in obtaining our majority status,” said Harwell, who had allowed Naifeh to preside over the chamber shortly after making his announcement.

“It became a battle cry that helped us ascend,” added Ramsey, who served in the House four years under Naifeh. Ramsey said his appreciation for the hard-nosed Democrat grew considerably once be became Senate Speaker in 2007. “I appreciate leadership styles whether they’re mine or not,” said Ramsey. “His worked well.”

Rep. Debra Maggart said Naifeh’s failed effort to institute an income tax was a clear trigger giving rise to Republican takeover of the Legislature.

“I would say the Republican majority today, that we enjoy, is a direct result of the income tax fight,” said Maggart, the House Republican Caucus chairwoman from Hendersonville. “It took a while to get it here, but it did come, and I do think that certainly had a lot to do with it.”

Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill, also announced his retirement from the General Assembly Thursday. He joins nine Democrats who have declared this year will be their last.

Haslam said he originally found it striking that so many lawmakers were calling it quits this year, but says maybe it isn’t so unusual.

“There’s a lot more turnover here than people think there is, and so it’s maybe not all that extraordinary in the bigger picture,” he told reporters.

Alex Harris and Steven Hale contributed to this report.