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Ready, Set, Redraw!

House Speaker Beth Harwell indicates she wants the GOP-dominated General Assembly to avoid “political gerrymandering” in the redrawing of the Tennessee’s legislative and congressional districts.

However, the final shape the lines take will ultimately have to suit her party’s preferences, says the Nashville Republican.

A Republican-led House ad hoc committee met briefly on Thursday to lay out the ground rules on the redistricting process. Lawmakers have until April 5, 2012 to approve new district lines, however they expect to work through the summer and fall to come to a consensus by the January kick off of the 2012 legislative session.

“I want to avoid any type of political gerrymandering, although I will say that the state has clearly spoken last election cycle and the Republican Party is the majority party in this state,” Harwell told TNReport this week.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Tennessee has a population 6,346,105 people. Lawmakers will be charged with evenly breaking up the state into nine Congressional districts, 33 state Senate districts and 99 districts in the state House of Representatives.

That boils down to an ideal population of 705,123 people in each Congressional district, 192,306 in each Senate district and 64,102 in each House district, although the Legislature will have a 10 percent leeway.

House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh and Caucus Chairman Mike Turner say they are, so far, optimistic the process will be fair to their minority party.

TNReport.com is an independent nonprofit news organization supported by donors like you.

Electrolux Wins Backing For Tax Breaks, Honored By Industry Mag

It was a good day for Electrolux, winning approval in the Senate Finance Committee of the $90 million state package for its planned Memphis factory and landing on a real estate insiders’ magazine’s list of notable deals.

The kitchen appliance maker’s manufacturing plant was named one of the top economic-development deals in the country in 2010 by Site Selection magazine, several outlets reported today. Internet retailer Amazon’s planned distribution centers in East Tennessee garnered an honorable mention.

The $190 million Electrolux plant will reportedly create 1,200 jobs.

TCPR Releases Updated Legislators’ Guide

Press Release from the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, Jan. 12, 2011:

Think Tank Releases Second Edition of its Legislators’ Guide to the Issues; Policy guide offers free market recommendations on dozens of topics

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Center for Policy Research today released the second edition of its Legislators’ Guide to the Issues (pdf). The guide is a 90-page resource for state lawmakers as they confront various policy issues during the 107th General Assembly. A complimentary copy of the guide was provided to every state legislator.

“We are proud to provide a comprehensive policy guide to lawmakers for the second straight General Assembly,” said Justin Owen, president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. “No other publication offers a better roadmap to a freer, more prosperous Tennessee than our Legislators’ Guide to the Issues.”

The guide also contains citations to additional resources that lawmakers, the media, and citizens alike can use to educate themselves on a range of policy issues.

The first edition of the Legislators’ Guide was essential at promoting common sense policy solutions in the state. The General Assembly advanced legislation related to nearly one-quarter of the 43 proposals in the first guide.

“Our first Legislators’ Guide served as an invaluable tool for state legislators, and we are confident that the new-and-improved guide will serve members of the 107th General Assembly well as they conduct the people’s business,” said Owen.

An electronic copy of the Legislators’ Guide to the Issues can be found online at: www.tennesseepolicy.org or downloaded here. Those wishing to purchase a hardcopy can do so by emailing info@tennesseepolicy.org or calling (615) 383-6431.

Wine in Grocery Stores – Another Round

Beer, wine and liquor interests gave more than $576,000 to state-level candidates this year, making the industry one of the top 10 contributors and, of course, one of the most influential on Capitol Hill. By comparison, the top industry, of health professionals, gave $1.8 million.

The numbers are a sure sign that a proposal to allow wine sales in grocery stores could go nowhere when the Legislature convenes in January. The sacred cow is the state’s three-tiered system of distributing wine, which ensures that wholesalers get a cut of every sale. If Kroger and Publix were allowed to buy and sell direct, the thinking goes, the wholesalers would be that much poorer.

The Commercial Appeal explains the economic argument and also hints at a potential compromise:

The state’s liquor retailers and wholesalers have opposed the bill, on the grounds that it would increase access to alcohol by minors and hurt liquor retailers’ business, forcing stores to close and costing many employees their jobs.

Liquor stores in Tennessee are prohibited by law from selling other products and they argue that passage of the bill would put them at a competitive disadvantage with grocery stores. A potential point of compromise would allow liquor retailers to sell other products, including non-alcoholic mixers, snack foods and devices like corkscrews.

Don’t uncork that bottle in celebration just yet, though. The Commercial Appeal reminds us that if the Legislature fails to pass the bill, it would be for the fifth straight year in a row.

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.