Featured NewsTracker

State NAACP Prez: Butt’s Comments Out of Line With TN’s Improving Image

A top leader in the Tennessee NAACP believes the recent controversy over Rep. Sheila Butt’s “NAAWP” comment reflects poorly on the whole state — and that’s a shame because much progress has been made over time to rehabilitate the Volunteer State’s hillbilly image.

During the NAACP’s 14th Annual Legislative “Day on the Hill” this week, state conference president Gloria J. Sweet-Love told TNReport that encouraging strides have been made to overcome national perceptions of Tennessee as a “backwards state” liberally populated by “hick folks that run moonshine.”

Tennessee has also progressed toward better understanding between white and black communities to the point that the state currently enjoys “very good race relations,” she said.

And that’s one of the reasons Sweet-Love said she was “discouraged” that a prominent political leader like Butt would be appear oblivious to how her comments on Facebook, and explanations for her behavior afterward, might be perceived by a wider audience.

“In 2015, it really bothers me that we have a Tennessee elected person that would make that comment,” Sweet-Love said of Butt’s posting back in January of a comment to a Facebook thread suggesting a need for a “Council on Christian Relations” and a “NAAWP.”

Butt, a Republican from Columbia and the House majority party’s floor leader, made her remarks as an apparent expression of solidarity with criticism of a national Islamic group’s call for Republican presidential contenders to “Engage Muslim Voters.”

Butt said later that she was unaware the NAAWP was once a white supremacist group. She said she instead meant for the “WP” in the acronym she “made up” to denote “Western Principles” or “Western Peoples,” but not “White People.”

Butt told members of the General Assembly on Feb. 26 that her Facebook comment was “meant to be inclusive of every gender, culture and religion.”

Sweet-Love said she’s hopeful Butt will ultimately sit down with some of the people who took offense to what she said and “have some conversations” about “what is appropriate.”

Sweet-Love explained that the “colored people” in National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is in fact meant to include people of all colors — including white. The NAACP, founded in 1909, included “more white folks than black folks,” and the organization’s governing boards at the local, state and national levels have “a diverse number of people.”

“I don’t think she knows that in our organization, colored people come in all colors — from the beginning, and now,” Sweet-Love said.

She said her organization had received many requests for comment, but has declined to make an official statement because they feel like “those kinds of things don’t really rise to the occasion where we need to spend our time.”

However, the whole episode has been evidence of the communication problem in the information age, Sweet-Love said. “The internet has allowed us to say a lot of things that we wouldn’t normally say to people face-to-face.”

Sweet-Love pointed to comments like Butt’s — “from people in leadership” — as one reason for why they still see comments such as those made in a recently surfaced video of a University of Oklahoma fraternity singing a racist song.

“We’re about racial reconciliation, we’ve always been that way,” Sweet-Love said, adding the NAACP “will continue to keep the high road.”

Featured NewsTracker

False Claims About Military Service Criminalized Under Bill

A guy could soon face steep penalties for attempting to impress women in bars with bogus claims of combat heroism following the Senate’s passage Monday of a bill that criminalizes impersonating military personnel.

The measure, HB2491/SB2287, makes it a Class B misdemeanor to falsely represent yourself as a military service-member with the intent to deceive — whether or not any benefit is received. The offense would carry a fine of up to $500, as well as the possibility of six months in jail.

The bill passed the Senate easily, 33-0, and the House almost as easily on Feb. 16, 93-2, with Knoxville Republicans Rep. Bill Dunn and Sen. Becky Massey, neither of whom are veterans, sponsoring the measure.

“You know, there are people going into bars, and trying to get free drinks by passing themselves off as military people,” Dunn said. “And once again, they’re stealing something that others rightfully earned by putting their lives on the line.”

Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, one of only two that opposed the measure in the House, said that it can go both ways, and she was concerned that it might unintentionally make things more difficult for veterans.

“As a matter of fact, I had a vet come up to me right after that vote and say, ‘Thank you so much for voting no for that, because I’d hate to have to prove to everybody in the world that I was a member of the armed forces,’” Butt said. “So you can look at that both ways, and I thought that was just a slippery vote right there.”

However, individuals won’t to come to the attention of law enforcement unless they are turned in, and the burden of proof would rest on the accusers, according to Dunn.

Rep. Mike Kernell, D-Memphis, the other opposing vote, said that he thought the bill went further than necessary.

“If you lie to commit fraud and harm someone, that’s one thing,” Kernell said. “What if we had a bill that simply said it’s a misdemeanor to lie? I don’t think the courts would uphold that, so I think the bill needs to be written differently.”

Next, the bill heads to the governor’s desk for his approval.

Press Releases

House Passes Resolution Encouraging TN-Style Fiscal Restraint in DC

Press Release from the GOP Caucus of the Tennessee House of Representatives, May 2, 2011:

Conservative Legislator Guides Resolution Urging Washington to Follow Tennessee’s Model, Cut Profligate Spending

(May 2, 2011, NASHVILLE) – As the free-spending ways of Washington sink our nation further into debt, Representative Sheila Butt (R—Columbia) today guided a resolution to passage that calls on Congress to follow Tennessee’s fiscally-sound model.

The resolution passed the House of Representatives by a large, bipartisan 96-1 vote. The measure simply encourages the U.S. Congress to return to the founding principles of limited government and fiscal responsibility to rein in spending. Additionally, the resolution advises Congress to follow the example set by Tennessee of balanced budgets and responsible spending cuts to provide a stable environment for the nation.

“This legislation is a direct reflection of the will of Tennesseans. Our citizens are tired of seeing their hard-earned tax dollars being wasted in Washington on bailouts, giveaways, and out-of-control entitlement programs,” said Rep. Sheila Butt. “We are simply sending a message to Washington to get its fiscal house in order. If they need a model of how to do that, all they need to do is look to Tennessee. We have navigated these rough economic times by maintaining a balanced budget, keep taxes low, and reining in burdensome government regulations.”

She concluded, “Certainly, I am proud of the efforts of the Republican leadership in Congress that have enacted spending reductions. We support them and want them to continue fighting for more so our country can flourish.”

The Chairwoman of the House Republican Caucus, Representative Debra Young Maggart (R—Hendersonville), congratulated Rep. Butt and remarked, “This is a thoughtful resolution that asks Washington to clean up the mess it created. Tennesseans are encouraged by the Republican efforts to fight the out-of-control spending in Congress and we want to show Tennessee is behind them 100 percent. We believe our State provides a great model of how to manage government and let the private sector lead the way in job creation. Simply put, we are saying voters deserve more of Tennessee, not DC.”

The text of HJR 199 can be accessed here. The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration.

NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

GOP Advance in State House Races

As results from across the state come in, the GOP appears to be poised for a 63-35-1 majority in the state House, Post Politics says.

One of those GOP seats will be held by Metro Councilman Jim Gotto, of Hermitage, who defeated fellow Councilman Sam Coleman, of Antioch. Gotto won in the 60th District, which opened up after Ben West announced his retirement.

Another goes to Republican Linda Elam, who won the 57th District seat vacated by Rep. Susan Lynn. GOP candidate Sheila Butt will serve in the lower house as well, after ousting incumbent Democratic Rep. Ty Cobb in the 64th District.

See Post Politics’ look at the state Senate makeup here. More race tallies here.

Press Releases

TNGOP: Cobb ‘a Student of the Obama/Pelosi School of Political Correctness’

Press Release from the Tennessee Republican Party, Sept. 28, 2010:

Ty Cobb Toes Obama Line on Illegal Immigration; Gives Citizenship Status to Undocumented Workers

NASHVILLE, TN – During a debate last night, Democrat State Rep. Ty Cobb made it clear that he doesn’t believe those residing in the United States unlawfully should be referred to as “illegal immigrants,” but instead should be called “undocumented citizens.” Rep. Cobb’s comments were published in the Columbia Daily Herald:

The topic of immigration drew a strong reaction from the crowd, which appeared to be evenly divided between supporters of the two candidates.

Cobb said he prefers to refer to people in the United States illegally as “undocumented citizens.”

“I would say I don’t really like the [word] illegal, because we are all God’s children,” Cobb said, drawing shouts and groans from supporters of his opponent.

“Apparently Ty Cobb is a student of the Obama/Pelosi school of political correctness and believes illegal immigrants have earned the right to be called ‘citizens’,” said Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney. “Plain and simple, those residing in this country unlawfully are illegal immigrants and are such unless they obtain U.S. citizenship through the proper channels. It is troubling Rep. Cobb would refer to illegal immigrants who are knowingly breaking the law as ‘citizens.’”

“The people of District 64 aren’t looking for a representative whose focus on illegal immigration remains on the most politically correct way to talk about the issue,” continued Devaney. “They want a representative who will enforce illegal immigration laws and protect jobs in Maury County – a county plagued by an unemployment rate of nearly 15 percent. The candidate who will work toward those goals is Republican Sheila Butt who believes we have to fight back against illegal immigration in Tennessee.”