News NewsTracker

Haslam Dismisses Tea Party Dispatch; Ramsey ‘Disappointed’ With ‘Name-Calling’ But Agrees on Issues

Leading GOP state lawmakers are recent comments from the Tennessee Tea Party that the Republican governor is now or in the past has been driven by “socialistic” principles.

Gov. Bill Haslam himself shrugged off the remark and said he wouldn’t engage in name calling.

“I don’t know how to be more clear that we’re trying to focus really hard on things that really matter, and I’ll leave all that stuff to somebody else,” he told reporters after a luncheon with the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, generally a fan and a favorite of the tea party, called the comment “absolutely ridiculous.” The Blountville Republican said he’s previously discouraged the group from making what he regards as overheated comments.

The essay, first published on the Tennessee Tea Party website, slammed Haslam and other Republicans for not standing stronger along side efforts to eliminate mandatory collective bargaining among teachers, an issue the conservative activist group is attempting to influence by targeting a handful of House GOP members who are reportedly leaning away from an all-out ban.

“By all accounts he is a progressive who was able to leverage family fortunes towards a victory in gaining the Governor’s seat,” read the Tea Party statement. “One only needs to look at his track record as mayor of Knoxville and his embrace of the socialistic principals such as sustainability and his Agenda 21 initiatives. His two-faced approach towards 2ndamendment freedoms should have been telling.”

The Tennessee Tea Party president said she’s not put off that top Republicans like Ramsey are shunning her group’s comments. “Sometimes he takes to eye-rolling with me,” said Tami Kilmarx.

Press Releases

TN Tea Party Slams Haslam, GOP Leadership

Statement from the Tennessee Tea Party; March 23, 2011:

Tennessee politics has undergone a transformation and yet our representatives in office and the media at large have failed to recognize this new paradigm. The grassroots movement dubbed the tea party has inexorably changed the political landscape and the way politics are done in this state and across the country.

We write this out of a sense of concern for this lack of understanding for how the political landscape that has dominated Tennessee politics for over a century has changed. In 2009 through 2010 the populace awoke and began to engage themselves in the body politic and the political system. We at first did this through protest rallies, fax and letter campaigns, and speaking out at town halls. We coalesced into loose confederations of likeminded individuals, and for the first time found a kinship in the knowing that there are others who feel as we do. We felt that our country had left us and our representatives no longer represent the interests of the electorate. We began to educate ourselves and immerse ourselves in study of the constitutional principles of our founders and our Republic. We began learning the basic civic lessons that our education system has abandoned. In 2010 we embraced the electoral process and worked to identify and elect people who represented our core values of a constitutionally limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free market principles. Despite our naivety and lack of cohesive organizational structure we were successful in electing many new conservatives into office. This fledgling freshman class is now struggling with the inside party power plays from the establishment old guard politicians and they are being coerced to go along with the game plan in order to protect their seats come next election. We see it quite differently. These representatives need to understand how they got elected. If they think they are strengthening their future electability by dodging controversial votes and not taking a stand on the relevant issues they will soon learn the error of their ways. This sounds very confrontational but it is the grim reality that we have struggled so hard for and achieved the gains that we have made thus far and we will not, and cannot letup or stand down now.

Tennessee is a conservative state, however the democratic machine has dominated the political landscape for as far back as we can remember. For years the GOP has played the game of underdog and has settled on the scraps of compromise handed out by Jimmy Naifeh and other influence peddlers of his ilk. We are now positioned with so called Republican majorities in the House, Senate, and Governor’s office and yet these legislators are still operating as if they are stuck in this old modality of operating as a minority party and always looking for the path to compromise. It’s as if they are bereft on how to lead and how to understand the mandate of 2010. We say Carpe Diem, use your newfound power and stick to the conservative core principles that got you elected and lead as if you actually understand who you are representing. We demand principled representation, and if granted we have an opportunity to effect sweeping reform and the restoration of constitutional balance and fiscal solvency. If our representatives stand for us we will stand with them. We will be there with you in the fight win, loose, or draw. We will stand by you if you are standing on principle.

The tea party is now maturing into a true political power player and we are honing our skills within the political landscape and are gearing up to be a dominating factor and game changer come the 2012 election cycle. We are actively engaged and working within the halls of government and we are keeping score on our representatives and how they are voting and what they are saying publically. We have become tech savvy and are documenting all of this and we will use this information in the next election to weed out the remaining old guard. We have become practiced in the old fashioned campaign arts of door knocking and phone banking. We are using social media and new media outlets to spread our message and grow our movement. We are getting involved in our local precincts and are getting people who share our values into the party leadership positions. The old school ways are over. Many within the Grand Old Party are embracing this new found blood. Yet many are erroneously dismissing it as a passing fancy and of little lasting effect.

Some see the tea party as evolving into a third party. That is neither our intent or desire. Yet this will happen by natural progression if our party fails to embrace our core conservative principles. The tea party is the essence of a true grassroots people’s party. Although largely republican in nature our ranks are growing as we attract independents and disenfranchised democrats into the fold with our poignant messaging. One of the key failures of the GOP is to not recognize this big picture and to reach out to and embrace those who have not been party affiliated or have been abandoned by an uber-progressive big government left.

Post 2010 election we witnessed the GOP boasting and back slapping themselves for their perceived victories. In many regards these victories were hollow and did not go to extend or represent the conservative wildfire that is sweeping the nation. Look at our new Governor. By all accounts he is a progressive who was able to leverage family fortunes towards a victory in gaining the Governor’s seat. One only needs to look at his track record as mayor of Knoxville and his embrace of the socialistic principals such as sustainability and his Agenda 21 initiatives. His two-faced approach towards 2ndamendment freedoms should have been telling.

Nowhere is this new dynamic more evident than in the collective bargaining issue that is playing itself out in capitals across this nation. Here in Tennessee this battle is portrayed as an assault against teachers. Nothing can be farther from the truth. We stand firm in support of and in our resolve for good quality teachers in every classroom who will be rewarded for teaching excellence. Organized labor has had a stranglehold on this country’s economic potential for many years. Although it once had purpose during the industrial revolution it is now a bloated albatross and nothing more than a political machine geared to fund the progressive agenda and the one world government mentality. Just look to SEIU head Andy Stern’s public statements on their plans of organizing the workers of the world. Look at what happened in Egypt with the unions ginning up the discent. This is a cancer that drains corporate resources and stifles investment and growth. It puts municipalities at risk and endangers the American way of life. It has become too entrenched in our governmental system and wields influence that far exceeds its minority representations. Look at AFL/CIO Chief Rich Trumka who visits the White House every week and advises our President on a daily basis. Obama has not even met with a large number of his cabinet level staff officers in months yet he always finds time between vacationing to lend an ear to the big labor unions.

In our education system, organized labor protects teachers that would otherwise be deemed unfit to teach our children. It does nothing to advance quality in the classroom and thus our children suffer in mediocre or failing school systems. And we just keep throwing good money after bad with every tax increase that is dubbed “for the children”! Getting organized labor out is step one in reforming our education system. We have a long hard road ahead and we need to be able to enlist all players who have a vested interest and a part in this to come to the table and work on reforms that work. We need reform that enriches the classroom experience for our children, rewards good teachers, provides parental choices, and does not unduly burden the taxpayer.

We are now just witnessing the true metal of our legislators as collective bargaining moves through our House. We have seen our House leadership cave to the power and influence of the TEA/NEA and the alphabet soup of big union organizations. We are told that HB-130 as amended is a good thing and is in line with our Governors education reform agenda. Frankly we don’t care much about our governors agenda. He is the executive of the State and the representative of such and not of the people. Our House and Senate are the people’s representatives and thus should serve our interests through thoughtful legislation. Many are doing just that and we stand in full support of their efforts, however there is an unholy power base hell bent on maintaining the status quo in Tennessee governance. The time is now to cut the head off the snake and settle for nothing short of a total end to collective bargaining in our states education system. We must continue our pressure on the House members and urge them to recede their position on HB130 and support the pure SBO113 Senate version when this comes up. We must and will remain ever vigilant and watchful of our General Assembly and be prepared to do the hard work to replace those who fail us.

In Liberty,

The Tennessee Tea Party Team

Education Featured News

GOP Moderates Mull Collective Bargaining Compromise, Tea Party Pressure

About 20 “waffling” House Republicans are on a Tennessee Tea Party do-email list for refusing to take a strong public stand on one of this session’s dominating issues: teachers’ union collective bargaining.

The loose network of conservative activists sent out an “action alert” Monday morning encouraging Tennesseans sympathetic to their cause to pressure middle-of-the-road Republicans to get on board with conservative efforts to ban collective bargaining for public school teachers.

“We are instructed that we have 47 confirmed House members who want to see collective bargaining ended and will support the original version. We need 50 (+ 2-3) for a majority,” according to the Tennessee Tea Party email blast. “We also need to be aware that Senator Ron Ramsey will appoint the more conservative of the Senators to the conference and Representative Beth Harwell will likely appoint the weaker of their members. Rep Harwell is in lockstep with Governor Haslam, who has proved himself weak on a variety of issues confronting our state.”

The email encouraged recipients “to apply heavy pressure” to GOP lawmakers deemed soft on the collective bargaining ban, or who “have varying degrees of allegiance to the unions” and may be “tied to and closely related to the (Tennessee Education Association).”

Teacher collective bargaining has been a focal point of controversy this legislative session since Republicans introduced bills to revoke unions’ leverage to negotiate on behalf of their school district’s educators.

Despite the attention, several of the lawmakers on the Tea Party’s list say they’re still in no hurry to stake out a position. Another who spoke to TNReport Monday indicated that while he favors limiting the reach and scope of collective bargaining, he’s not supportive of prohibiting it.

“I generally don’t take a firm stand on a bill until it’s completed, especially if there’s a great chance it’s going to be amended,” said Rep. Vince Dean, an East Ridge Republican, who added that the legislation still has a long way to go before becoming law.

Mountain City Republican Rep. Scotty Campbell said he’s avoided taking a position on the issue up to now because that’s what Gov. Bill Haslam has done.

“I was trying to follow his lead, and I think that was the commendable thing to do on this issue in particular,” said Campbell. “I didn’t campaign on it, it wasn’t part of my agenda and I think there are bigger matters facing us, like the economy, jobs, and the need to pass a balanced budget, which we of course have to do.”

Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, said he’s in the process of informally polling teachers in his district to see whether or not they favor union collective bargaining. So far, Pody said he’s found that about about 60 percent of teachers in his district favor collective bargaining and 40 percent don’t care.

Asked whether he thinks unions are a positive influence in education, Pody said, “That’s exactly why I am going to the schools — to see what is best for the students.”

Currently, teachers in 91 of the state’s 136 school districts are unionized. Under the Education Professional Negotiations Act of 1978, local school boards are required to engage in collective bargaining with a teachers’ union if a simple majority of educators employed by the district demand it.

Senators are waiting to vote on a bill to eliminate mandatory collective bargaining, SB113, which would repeal the 1978 law that gave teachers the negotiation leverage.

Advocates of collective bargaining repeal, mostly Republicans, say the system has been used over time to block education reform and protect bad or mediocre teachers. Democrats and teachers’ union leaders say the GOP’s effort to do away with collective bargaining is “political payback” against unions refusing to financially support Republican candidates.

However, House Republican leaders last week introduced a modest “compromise” amendment that, instead of doing away entirely with collective bargaining, would block unions from negotiating a handful of issues — in particular, merit pay for teachers who teach in particularly challenging subjects or classroom environments. The House GOP plan would also make it easier for teachers to dissolve their local union.

The House GOP’s more modest proposal isn’t supported by TEA or the tea parties — or for that matter Senate Republicans.

Democrats and union lobbyists are complaining they they were closed out of the behind-the-scenes talks that produced the amended bill. Conservative activists “are popping vessels over the idea of a compromise amendment,” said Tami Kilmarx, president of the Tennessee Tea Party.

The new version could make it easier for lawmakers like Rep. Richard Floyd to vote for limiting union power without having to be seen voting against the ability of teachers to unionize.

“Do I support the right of union people to bargain? I certainly do, that is their right,” said the Chattanooga Republican. However, he added, taxpayers have rights, too — as do some teachers who don’t want to be involved in unions and “have been intimidated by the TEA.”

The House GOP’s amended bill addresses both the potential for union and collective bargaining abuses, but “is not anti-teacher legislation,” said Floyd.

“Do I support the bill that is out there now? I sure do,” he said.

A hearing is scheduled on the House’s new version in the education committee today. Here’s a rundown of the bill’s current elements:

  • Teachers unions can no longer negotiate on behalf of members on the district’s management team, which is defined as employees who devote a majority of their time to the system-wide management of personnel matters, fiscal affairs or general management. That group also includes principals, assistant principals, supervisors and others primarily charged with administrative duties.
  • The union could not negotiate merit pay and other incentive programs like stipends or extra benefits in exchange for employee performance or to attract teachers to hard to staff schools and subject areas.
  • Neither could they officially weigh in on how grants or awards from the state, local or federal government, foundations or private organizations be spent.
  • Educator evaluations would not be subject to negotiation.
  • Salaries, benefits, staffing and policies relating to virtual and innovative education programs such as partnerships with local colleges or technology centers allowed under state law would not be negotiable.
  • Also off the table are personnel decisions such as filling vacancies, assigning educators to specifics schools, positions, professional duties, transfers within the school system, layoffs and reductions in force and recalls.
  • The union would no longer be able to negotiate payroll deductions.
  • Personnel decisions could no longer be based on seniority.
  • Agreements between the school district’s board of education would have to be given to all educators — regardless of their membership with the union — and require a ratification or rejection to be agreed to.
  • A majority vote of eligible teachers would be needed to install a union in a school district. Previously, only a majority of voting educators was required.
  • Thirty percent of educators instead of 50 percent are needed to call for a vote in order to dissolve the union. However, a majority vote of educators is still needed to actually remove the union.
  • New teachers unions must prove after about a year that a majority of educators are full dues-paying members.
  • Makes it illegal for the union to coerce or try to intimidate educators who do not join the union.
Press Releases

Naifeh: What Happened to the Jobs Package?

Press Release from Rep. Jimmy Naifeh; March 21, 2011:

Of all weeks to work behind closed doors–last week was “Sunshine Week”–open government, transparency, etc…

This amendment was a compromise between the House Republicans–moderates and Tea Party members. We (House Democrats on Education General Sub Committee) were never invited for input.

This was merely an attempt to satisfy the moderates and Tea Party Republicans.

When you have a true compromise, you have all parties involved; Republicans, Democrats, teachers, TEA, school boards and school directors. You work until you come with a true compromise.

We, the Democrats on the sub-committee, did not receive the amendment until noon for the afternoon meeting. We requested a one week delay because we had not seen this amendment. It was worked out the day before by the Republicans. Our request was not granted by the Republican-controlled committee.

All of the studies show that professional negotiations do not have a negative impact on student achievement.

While unemployment is up in Tennessee, the Republicans are attacking our teachers on all fronts. Professional negotiations, retirement, dues deductions, discussions on the “Monkey Bill”, special school districts, guns, creating currency, immigration and other non-related jobs bills.

What happened to the jobs package??????

Education News

Both Sides in Clash Over Union Power Look to Haslam for Support

On a day when 3,000 or more unionized Tennessee teachers and their supporters marched on Legislative Plaza in the rain, Gov. Bill Haslam refused Saturday night to get into the fray over a bill to end collective bargaining between teachers’ unions and local school districts.

Haslam is for now sticking strictly to his own education agenda, which includes changing the state’s tenure system for teachers.

“We, from the very beginning, put the things forward that we thought could make the most difference in the classroom, and I’ve said that repeatedly, and I’ll continue to say that,” Haslam said at a Republican Party Reagan Day dinner in Rutherford County.

Haslam referred to “name-calling” on both sides of the collective bargaining issue, the most contentious of several GOP-sponsored legislative efforts in the General Assembly right now that have drawn union ire.

“Obviously, there is a lot of disagreement about the collective bargaining issues and name-calling on both sides, and we want to be on the side of the people who are solving problems. And we’re going to continue to do that — the things that we think will impact the classroom the most.”

It wasn’t clear, however, if the governor knew he’d himself been nicknamed “Mister Rogers” by one speaker at a much smaller tea party rally at the Capitol earlier in the day.

Raymond Baker, a former Republican political consultant, was critical of Haslam, whom he views as too soft to be counted on in a bare-knuckle political brawl with the powerful teachers’ union.

“Bill Haslam, where are you? Where are you?” Baker asked.

“Speaker (Beth) Harwell, where are you?” he added.

Baker then reeled off the names of other states’ GOP governors battling public employee unions or actively leading on issues important to conservative Republicans.

“Here’s the deal. Wisconsin got Scott Walker. Florida got Rick Scott. South Carolina got Nikki Haley. Arizona got Jan Brewer. We got Mister Rogers,” Baker said. “You cannot govern Tennessee like it’s Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

After his remarks to the tea party crowd, Baker said Haslam is prone to give in on the issue.

“He is completely non-confrontational. He is a compromiser,” Baker said. “He has met with the TEA and cut a compromise deal with them that will still allow for collective bargaining while claiming that it doesn’t. He simply doesn’t have the backbone to represent the taxpayers of Tennessee.”

Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, who sponsors SB113, the collective bargaining bill in the Senate, attended the tea party event and said Haslam has done nothing to force any sort of compromise on the issue.

“I think Gov. Haslam has a broad agenda, and reforming education is one of the biggest parts of his agenda as a new governor,” Johnson said. “I think he is going to work with us in the General Assembly.

“There has been no discussion whatsoever of any type of compromise. That discussion may happen at some point. We are talking frequently about his agenda and our agenda and how we can help each other. There have been no discussions about compromise or what the bill will ultimately end up looking like. I just know he is very supportive, and we’re very supportive of him.”

Tennessee’s issues, for the moment at least, are limited mostly to teachers, but Rep. Mike Turner, the House Democratic Caucus chairman, said the GOP will likely target other quarry if they’re successful now.

“If they get the teachers, they’re coming after the firefighters. If they get the firefighters, they’re coming after the police officers. If they get the police officers, they’re coming after the construction workers, service workers and everybody,” said Turner, a board officer for the Tennessee Fire Fighters Emergency Relief Fund

“I’ve been preaching for years that if you let the Republicans get in charge this is what you’re going to get, and this is what we’ve got.”

Turner publicly urged Haslam to “please stop this terrorism against our teachers.”

Haslam has steadfastly refused to pick sides over collective bargaining. He has said there will be “twists and turns” as the legislative process continues, but he has refused to voice his opinion on the legislation, hewing instead to his priorities of extending the probationary period on tenure and opening up the education system to more charter schools.

Increasingly, whether lawmakers institute a ban on collective bargaining appears to be coming down to the degree of Republican support in the House.

“I know we’ve got a number of Republican House members who support our position,” said Jerry Winters, chief lobbyist for the TEA.

“A lot of people are asking, ‘Who are they?’ Obviously they don’t particularly want to say on the front end. But it’s a moving target, and we’re waiting to see what it’s going to look like. This is not just going to go down Democrat and Republican lines.”

Winters said he thinks it’s a good sign for the union that Haslam is avoiding taking a public position on the bills they oppose.

“I certainly don’t consider the governor a foe. I think the fact that he is not taking a position in support of these really divisive bills is very much to his credit,” Winters said. “He wants to get off to a good start. We want him to get off to a good start. And I think it’s very much to his credit that’s he’s staying out of this right now.

“I think it’s just unbelievable that this many teachers turned out on a stormy rainy day to show their concerns about what’s happening in this Capitol. I’m just ecstatic we had this kind of turnout.”

Turner told the crowd of teachers he had heard what was going on at the tea party event Saturday.

“They were bashing the man who could stop this tomorrow. They were talking about Gov. Bill Haslam like he was a Democrat. If he wants to join us, we’ll welcome him. We’ve got room for him,” Turner said.

“I hope he’s listening today. I hope he’s watching this. He’s from a position of wealth and privilege. I don’t know if he understands what it’s like to go through things we go through to raise our children and earn a living. But I do know this. He’s a good man. He’s reached out to us in the Legislature. He’s trying to do the right thing. But he has the power to stop this madness now.”

Several Democratic legislators took part in the teachers rally, which cast Republican efforts on education as nothing more than political payback after the GOP made historic gains in the last election.

Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Belvidere, addressed the crowd and claimed Republicans are attempting to get revenge over issues surrounding union campaign contributions. The TEA typically gives much more money to Democrats than Republicans.

“I’ve only been here two years, but I can promise you it’s a much more partisan, much more toxic situation than it has been since I’ve been here,” Stewart said.

“This legislation that’s been brought up, in my honest opinion, is much more about revenge than it is about reform. It’s much more about payback than it is about progress. Unfortunately, folks, I have to tell you, I honestly believe it’s much more about the cash than it is about the kids.”

The Tea Party event speakers included longtime activist Ben Cunningham, former Republican state representative Susan Lynn and former congressional Republican candidate Lou Ann Zelenik. Johnson also addressed the crowd.

Tammy Kilmarx, president of Tennessee Tea Party, said before the event that her group is the one trying to protect teachers.

“We are trying to show support to our legislators that are trying to stand for what the taxpayers elected them for,” she said. “We’re here to represent the taxpayers of Tennessee, because they are the ones that are having to pay for the unions to do what they do.

“The big union bosses make a ton of cash. I think most of the teachers don’t even understand where their dues are going.”

News NewsTracker

Harwell Balks at Backing Elect-the-AG Bill Without Further Study

The newly elected speaker of the state House of Representatives says she hasn’t decided yet whether she thinks it’s a good idea to let Tennessee voters elect the state’s attorney general.

Senate GOP lawmakers are promising to pass a constitutional-amendment bill this year that attempts to do that, like they did last session.

“I haven’t taken a position yet,” said House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville. “That’s one of those issues I’d like to see the Legislature address and vet, and get information from a number of parties, and hopefully we’ll come up with a decision for the state.”

Attorney General Bob Cooper exasperated Republicans last session after repeatedly refusing to join other state attorneys general in lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care reform package’s mandate that individuals obtain medical insurance.

In response, Sen. Mae Beavers, a Mt. Juliet Republican, sponsored a bill that would have put the wheels in motion to require that the AG post become an elected position.

Her bill cruised in the Senate but languished in a House committee. Beavers, assigned once again to head the Senate Judiciary Committee, is restarting the years-long constitutional amendment process to elect an AG anew this year — not to mention refiling last year’s failed Health Freedom Act, which seeks to defend individuals against the insurance mandate.

But Harwell wants to look long and hard at issues surrounding a rewrite of AG-related provisions in the state constitution before endorsing the amendment effort.

She also told TNReport she’s willing to give a listen to an alternative suggestion offered by Tennessee tea party members to recast the solicitor general as the state’s chief litigator, rather than the AG. The solicitor general — who, under tea party leaders’ plan, would also be elected — would then be the one to determine when the state should or should not take legal action in a particular situation.

“That’s actually a very interesting idea and something that I would be open to and looking in to. Again, I have to look into all the technicalities of it, the constitutionality of it, but it’s certainly an interesting concept I’d be interested in looking at,” said Harwell, who was among the lawmakers tea party members met with on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

Press Releases

20 Tea Parties Endorse Ramsey For Governor

Press Release from Ron Ramsey for Governor; July 6, 2010:

TENNESSEE (July 5, 2010) – An association of twenty Tea Party organizations representing every corner of the state announced today that they are endorsing Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey for the next Governor of Tennessee.

These groups arrived at their decisions following a thorough, three-month vetting process, which included research into the candidates’ backgrounds and voting records, completion of vetting questionnaires, and culminated in a vetting forum near Nashville on June 27th. Republican, Democratic, and Independent candidates were considered for their knowledge, commitment, and record on the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, fiscal responsibility, the role of the State and Federal Governments, and protection of the rights of individuals.

Eric Stamper of Sumner United for Responsible Government coordinated the vetting and endorsement process and said, “We believe the comprehensive and cautious nature of our vetting combined with the endorsement of almost every Tea Party group capable of endorsing will give voters the security to know that Ron Ramsey is the candidate who is most committed to limited and responsible government and has the best record to prove it. Despite what other candidates may claim, this endorsement of Ron Ramsey by twenty of Tennessee’s Tea Party groups and the previous endorsement of approximately fifty individual founders and leaders of liberty groups should confirm once and for all that Ron Ramsey is the ‘tea party candidate’ and enjoys nearly unanimous support among the tea parties.”

Lt. Governor Ramsey said, “I am thrilled to be endorsed by the Tea Party movement in Tennessee. This movement represents the values of Tennesseans who share my love for the state and my desire to focus on controlling our budget, limiting the scope of government and encouraging new business through free markets. My commitment to these principles as Lt. Governor has been clear and when I am elected Governor, I will ensure our state sovereignty and the liberty of the people of Tennessee.”

The groups joining in the endorsement represent approximately 25 counties and more than 20,000 Tea Party participants and include:

Bedford County Tea Party

Big South Fork Tea Party

Cumberland County Tea Party

Fayette County Tea Party

Franklin County Tea Party

Gibson County Patriots

Humphreys County Tea Party

Knoxville Tea Party

Lincoln County Tea Party

The Members of Cross County Patriots

The Memphis TEA Party

Monteagle Tea Party

Moore County Tea Party

Roane County Tea Party

Robertson County Tea Party

Sumner United for Responsible Government

Tea Party Cooperative

Tennessee Tea Party

Tipton County Tea Party

Upper Cumberland Freedom Rally

Teresa Stang, a member of the leadership team for Cross County Patriots, said, “When the Tea Party Movement started in 2009, the emphasis was on an out of control Federal Government, but State Governments do not have to cave in to the Federal Government, courtesy of the 10th Amendment. We view the role of Governor as being highly critical and I personally was excited at the unbiased vetting process that took place among liberty-minded groups statewide. We need a principled governor who is willing to take a stand. Ron Ramsey is the overwhelming choice of the members of Cross County Patriots in Loudon and West Knox Counties because we believe he is such a man.”

Mark A. Skoda, founder of The Memphis TEA Party, stated, “We appreciate that all of the candidates are now paying verbal respect to the Constitution and individual liberty, but the other candidates’ records and responses cause us concern. Bill Haslam has been a member of Mayor Bloomberg’s anti-gun coalition, opposes using the same anti-immigration policies as Arizona, has proposed several areas of government growth, and is difficult to nail down on any particular issue. Zach Wamp voted for TARP, Cash For Clunkers, No Child Left Behind, Real ID national identification system, and is now in his eighth term in Congress after pledging no more than six terms.”

Skoda further commented, “Ron Ramsey, by contrast, tells you exactly where he stands on every issue. He has vastly expanded the ability of Tennesseans to get gun carry permits, stands ready to implement the Arizona illegal immigration law, has sponsored legislation to reduce estate taxes and the Hall tax, and co-sponsored legislation to repeal the constitutionally-questionable Federal healthcare bill. He has received numerous awards for his pro-business and pro-life legislation.“

About the association of Tea Party groups:

The tea party movement is a grassroots phenomenon made up of everyday citizens with little or no previous political experience. These citizens have been moved to action by a sudden acceleration in government spending, government intrusion, and disregard for the Constitution and rule of law. Tennessee has an active Tea Party movement, with more than forty known entities identifying as Tea Parties, promoting adherence to the principles of liberty and limited government embodied by the American Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Each tea party group involved in this endorsement is completely autonomous and decided to endorse according to its own rules and procedures.

Press Releases

Haslam Announces Tea Party Backing

Press Release from Bill Haslam for Governor;  June 29, 2010:

Tea Party Leaders and Limited Government Advocates Across State Support the Mayor

KNOXVILLE –Republican gubernatorial candidate and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam today announced a series of endorsements from Tea Party leaders who said his proven record of conservative fiscal leadership made Haslam the candidate they were looking for as the next Governor of Tennessee.

Grassroots activists across the state have been drawn to Mayor Haslam because of his conservative record, real-world business experience and belief that government should be limited and accountable to the people.

“Bill Haslam has shown the residents of Knoxville that he’s committed to the same principles I am as a Tea Party member: limited government and reduced spending,” said Cathy Farmer, a Madison County Tea Party member. “I want leaders who can grasp the basic principle of responsible, limited government, something our leaders in Washington can’t seem to understand.”

“I’m supporting Bill Haslam because he’s a man of integrity with a proven record of making the tough calls, such as reducing spending, saving money and downsizing government, that Washington can’t seem to make,” said Mike Smiley, a Williamson County Tea Party activist.

“As a resident of Grainger County, I’ve been able to watch Bill Haslam’s leadership from a close distance, and I was extremely proud to represent him at the Tea Party Convention in Gatlinburg,” said Bob Fearnside, a Tea Party activist. “His career achievements – reducing the city’s debt by 25 percent, the lowest property tax rates in more than 50 years, spending less and reducing the number of city employees to the lowest total in 15 years – are exactly in line with the Tea Party movement.”

“Bill Haslam is the best candidate for Tennessee’s next governor because he understands that any tax money isn’t his; it’s ours,” said Debbie Moody, Tipton County Tea Party activist. “We need leaders that have a track record of backing up their statements with good, solid conservative actions. Bill Haslam is that kind of leader.”

“Any time citizens organize to keep government accountable, I think that’s a good thing,” Haslam said. “I’m grateful for the endorsements of these community leaders because I’m committed to conservative governing principles, and this group of individuals brings great energy to the campaign.”

Tea Party for Haslam Coalition and their Grand Division location:

Jim Weresuk (Middle)

Bob Fearnside (East)

Suzanne Fearnside (East)

Dr. James Fjerstad (East)

Sandra Fjerstad (East)

Pat Patton (East)

Mary Ellen Patton (East)

Mike Smiley (Middle)

Cathy Farmer (West)

Debbie Moody (West)

Roger Staton (West)

Doug Northam (Middle)

Carol Sletto (Middle)

Michelle McDaniel (West)

Catherine Ross (Middle)

Cecil van Winkle (Middle)

Brandon Cherry (Middle)

Steve Hawlik (Middle)

Sarah Caporale (Middle)

James McCalister (Middle)

Mayor Haslam is the two-term Republican Mayor of Knoxville, reelected in 2007 with 87 percent of the vote. A hardworking, conservative public servant, Haslam led Knoxville to become one of the top ten metropolitan areas for business and expansion, while reducing the city’s debt, tripling the rainy day fund, reducing the number of city employees to the lowest amount in 15 years and bringing property taxes to the lowest rate in 50 years. An executive leader with a proven record of success, he helped grow his family’s small business from 800 employees into one of Tennessee’s largest companies with 14,000 employees.

For more information on Bill Haslam, please visit

Press Releases

Ramsey Backed By Tea Party Leaders

Press Release from Ron Ramsey for Governor; June 23, 2010:

NASHVILLE, TN – Today, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey is pleased to announce the overwhelming support of Tea Party activists and leaders from across Tennessee. Movement leaders throughout the state banded together to throw their support behind Ramsey, who is the conservative running to be the next Governor of Tennessee.

The swath of endorsements doesn’t come as a big surprise, given Ramsey is a strict constitutionalist and has a strong conservative record on 2nd Amendment rights, pro-life issues and fiscal conservatism. Lt. Governor Ramsey embodies the values of the Tea Partiers and is the best candidate for the Tea Party movement.

Lt. Governor Ramsey issued the following statement in response:

“I am thrilled to be dubbed the best candidate to represent the values of the Tea Party movement for the state of Tennessee. While the federal government continues to spin out of control with its reckless spending and encroachment on our state with unconstitutional and unfunded mandates such as Obamacare, I will continue to stand tall for the rights of Tennesseans. I will continue this fight all the way to the Governor’s office and when I’m your next Governor, you can rest assured that I will act in strength to push back on an increasingly out of control Washington.”

Team Ramsey is pleased to announce these welcome endorsements today. Below is the list of Tea Party leaders who have signed on in support of Ron Ramsey for Governor:

Jerry Anderson, Tea Party Activist–Tea Party Coalition

Gary Armstrong, Executive Committee Member–Roane County Tea Party, and East TN Director–Minutemen of TN

Jonathon C. Baloga, Chairman–Knoxville Tea Party

Kert Blackwood, President–Volunteers for Freedom Tea Party

Britt Buehrig, Organizing Founder–Freedom for All Kingsport Tea Party

Pat Bugg, Secretary–Cumberland County Tea Party

Stacie Burke, Tea Party Coalition–Tennessee Tea Party

Tom Cole, Active Member–Smokey Mountain Tea Party Patriots

Becky Cole, Active Member–Smokey Mountain Tea Party Patriots

John Cook, Founding Member–Smokey Mountain Tea Party Patriots

Mary Cook, Founding Member–Smokey Mountain Tea Party Patriots

Jim Curran, Organizer–Fayette County Tea

Kevin Desmond, Organizing Committee Member–Patriots of East TN

Rodger Eyman, Bedford County Delegate–Tea Party Coalition

Donna Eyman, Bedford County Delegate–Tea Party Coalition

Paula Gunter, Organizer–Fayette County Tea Party

Richard Gunter, Organizer–Fayette County Tea Party

Donny Harwood, Founder and President–Tea Party of Bradley County

Carmon Heilmann, Steering Committee Member–Mid-South Tea Party

Mark Herr, Steering Committee Member–Mid-South Tea Party and Tennessee Tea Party Coalition

Antonio Hinton, Steering Committee Member–Knoxville Tea Party

Katherine Hudgins, Constitutional Political Activist

Gregg Juster, Member–Chattanooga Tea Party and Tennessee Tea Party Coalition

Tami Kilmarx, Secretary of the Tennessee Tea Party Board and Member of the Tea Party Cooperative–Tennessee Tea Party

Robert Kilmarx, Co-Founder–Tea Party Cooperative

Leon Lunsford, Founder–Lincoln County Tea Party

Darla Mann, Organizer–Fayette County Tea Party

David Mann, Organizer–Fayette County Tea Party

Val McNabb, Executive Committee Member–Roane County Tea Party

Deborah McNabb, Executive Committee Member–Roane County Tea Party

Dan Mercier, Organizer–Fayette County Tea Party

Lynn Moss, Steering Committee Member–MId-South Tea Party

Linda Napier, Descendants of Liberty

Sherrie Orange, Chairman–Wilson County Tea Party

Jerry L. Pangle, Chairman–Humphreys County Tea Party

Mishelle Perkins, Constitutional Political Activist

Rachael Proctor, Steering Committee Member–Mid-South Tea Party

James Queen, Founder and Organizer–Northeast Tennessee Tea Party

Hal Rounds, Education Committee Chairman–Tennessee Tea Party Coalition, Fayette County Tea Party

Tony Shreeve, Co-Founder–American Patriot Taxpayers of East Tennessee, and Steering Committee Senior Member–Tennessee Tea Party Coalition

Diana Siviter, Steering Committee Member–American Patriot Taxpayers

Mark A. Skoda, Chairman–Memphis Tea Party, and Co-Founder–National Tea Party Federation

John Smaldone, Advisor and Member–Tea Party Patriots

Doug White, Organizing Founder–Tri-Cities Tea Party – 9/12 Project Group

Kay White, Organizing Founder–Tri-Cities Tea Party – 9/12 Project Group

Jerry Williams, Steering Committee Member–Tea Party Coalition

Walter Willis, Active Member–Greene County Tea Party

Business and Economy News Tax and Budget Transparency and Elections

Republicans Rally at Capitol Tax Day Protest

Tennessee GOP lawmakers leapt at the opportunity provided by Thursday’s Legislative Plaza tea party rally to cast themselves as champions of discontented taxpayers and defenders against fiscal irresponsibility and other abuses of government power.

Prominent Republican state representatives and senators mustered around a podium before 300 or so tax-day demonstrators and lashed out in general at government-expanding policies they claim are predominately favored by their political opponents at both the state and federal level.

Gov. Phil Bredesen’s recent proposal to lift the state’s sales tax cap on big-ticket items came in for particular condemnation.

“Just yesterday, Governor Bredesen proposed an $85 million tax increase here in the state of Tennessee on you all, on small businesses,” Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, told the tea party ralliers. “Let me assure you the state Senate under my leadership is going to push back on this tax increase.”

Bredesen this week floated the idea of lifting the sales tax cap as a way to avoid a 5-percent salary cut for all state workers. Currently, the state limits sales taxes to the first $3,200 on purchases. His idea would reportedly raise that limit, although the limit would still apply to purchases of vehicles, boats and manufactured homes.

Republican legislators quickly denounced Bredesen’s suggestion.

“We’ve got a fight ahead of us,” declared state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet.

Other state legislators on hand for the rally included Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville; Sen. Diane Black, R-Gallatin; Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin; Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet; Rep. Debra Young Maggart, R-Hendersonville; and Terry Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster.

Lynn got people’s attention when she suggested a constitutional convention might be an answer to some of the federal authority being used in Washington.

“I don’t want to scare anybody, but another thing we’re working on, if it gets worse and we have to, we’re working out how we would have a constitutional convention,” Lynn told the crowd. “We’re working on the details.”

Lynn said after her remarks that the hope is not to have to turn to a constitutional convention, but that even if it were to happen it would need to be crafted carefully to make sure delegates remained responsible to the legislature that sent them there, by putting “firewalls” in place. But she emphasized that at this time there is no intention of calling for a constitutional convention.

Tea party protest events are becoming something of the norm on April 15, the last day to file federal tax returns. Nashville had other downtown gatherings at both the Municipal Auditorium and Legislative Plaza.

The life of the tea party is always, of course, the citizens who gather to protest the government.

Kelly Campbell of Mt. Juliet, whose son is in the military, originally planned to be in Washington with her family on Thursday, but when her father was unable to attend she joined a friend at Municipal Auditorium. She criticized the actions of the federal government.

“I don’t believe any of the things they are doing are constitutional,” Campbell said. “My son is serving his country, and I feel like this is one of the greatest betrayals of former, present and future service people there could ever be, and I’m not willing to hand over my freedoms to somebody without a really good reason.

“They don’t need to know if I have insurance or not. They don’t need to know how I teach my children. They don’t need to know if I go to church. Those are mine. It’s not theirs.”

Dick Geyer, from Old Hickory, said his congressman, Rep. Jim Cooper, a Democrat, is an “absolute disgrace. He is not a Blue Dog. He’s a Yellow Dog. He follows blindly whatever Nancy Pelosi does.”

Geyer said he is also going to contribute to candidates elsewhere.

“The current administration and Congress are trampling on all our rights and freedoms,” Geyer said. “They’re turning over what this country has been about for over 200 years, and we’ve got to put a stop to it. We’ve got to get them out in November and we’ve got to get them out in 2012.”

When asked what the response to government should be, Geyer said, “We band together as individuals. We reach out and start calling friends and neighbors that we have probably passively talked to in the past. We get them actively involved and make sure they show up and vote in November.”

Melissa Vaughn, from Nashville, believes people aren’t being held responsible for their actions.

“It feels like we’ve lost our way, that our society no longer holds anybody accountable for anything — government, personal, private,” she said. “It just feels like we’ve lost our way, and we’re trying to get back on track.”

One of the speakers at the Legislative Plaza event was Lonnie Spivak, who is running as a Republican against Cooper, but Spivak’s role at the rally was to announce that a group, Citizens of Faith, will file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new federal health care law.

Spivak said the Constitution prevents the federal government from enacting laws that give religious preference to one group over another. And since the health care law allows bureaucrats to decide certain religious groups can opt out, that violates religious freedom, he said.

Ben Cunningham of Tennessee Tax Revolt handled MC duties for both the event at Municipal Auditorium and Legislative Plaza.

“This is just a continuation of the tea party momentum. It started very spontaneously and organically last year with Rick Santelli’s rant,” Cunningham said. “People just want to get involved.

“People try to define the tea party movement. It’s just motivated people who are concerned about trillion-dollar deficits, about Social Security being broke, Medicare being broke and all these other government institutions that we put our trust in. And Congress has financially run them in the ground. Now, they want to take over health care and make those very personal, intimate decisions to a great extent in Washington. And people are saying stop.”

The event at the Municipal Auditorium included speakers that included Cunningham, radio talk show hosts Phil Valentine, Steve Gill and Mike Slater as well as Vanderbilt professor Carol Swain.

The Tennessee Tea Party had been planning the event for months.

Stacie Burke of Franklin, president and co-founder of the Tennessee Tea Party, said the event involved a lot of work but was a team effort.

“We’re just hoping to get people more involved,” Burke said. “I think people are pretty awake, but we need people to stay involved all year long.”

When asked what she would like to see government do, Burke replied. “Get smaller. Leave us alone. Let us live our lives and stop interfering.”