Press Releases

TRA, TN Conservatives Call on Lawmakers to Oppose ‘Commie’ Core

Press release from the Tennessee Republican Assembly; October 29, 2013:

(Nashville, TN October 31, 2013) — The Tennessee Republican Assembly (TRA), along with other conservative leaders across the State of Tennessee, has called for Tennessee legislators to oppose the continued implementation of the Common Core Federal Mandates in Tennessee due to concerns about these Federal standards and specific concerns about $700,000 recently spent to send Tennessee school principals to China to learn teaching methods that will be applied in our local Tennessee schools.

“We are already seeing the negative effects of Common Core Federal Mandates in our schools, and now we will have thinly veiled socialist and communist agendas promoted with Tennessee tax dollars,” noted Sharon Ford, President of the Tennessee Republican Assembly.

Ford cited the recent expenditure of $700,000 in “Race to the Top” money spent through Vanderbilt University to send 18 elementary, junior high and high school principals to China as an example of wasteful spending that is fueling a destructive agenda for Tennessee schools.

“The Chinese Communist system does not value personal freedom and liberty, nor does it promote the free market system that is the backbone of American prosperity,” Ford pointed out. “China is neither as diverse nor as open to creativity and free speech as the U.S. It is not a political or cultural system we should replicate in Tennessee schools. When we see spending like this it underlines how Common Core can be called “Commie Core”.

“We will see more examples of the liberal, anti-American agenda that is at the heart of Common Core Federal Mandates as more classroom assignments and testing materials are examined,” Ford noted. “Tennessee legislators need to follow the money and demand accountability in how our education dollars are spent, particularly when we see our money being used to instill anti-American campaigns in our classrooms.”

Letter to Tennessee General Assembly

Re: Opposition to Common Core Federal Mandates in Tennessee

Dear Members of the Tennessee General Assembly:

The Tennessee Republican Assembly, along with other individuals and groups listed below, are joining with other concerned Tennesseans and national leaders and groups like the Heritage Foundation, CATO Institute, the California Republican Party, Americans for Prosperity, American Family Institute, the Campaign for Liberty, Concerned Women for America, Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Ted Cruz, Governor Rick Perry, Glenn Beck, Michelle Malkin, and others. Notably Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and Indiana Governor Mike Pence, both Republicans, have already paused implementation of Common Core Federal Mandates in their states and Florida Governor Rick Scott and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal seem prepared to follow their lead.

There are numerous problems with the Common Core Federal Mandates, particularly here in Tennessee. Recently, $700,000 in Tennessee taxes funded through Race to the Top, was spent through Vanderbilt University to send eighteen Tennessee elementary, junior high and high school principals to China to learn how to teach the “Chinese way”. The Chinese Communist system is not one that values personal freedom and liberty, nor does it promote the free market system that is the backbone of American prosperity. China is neither as diverse nor as open to creativity and free speech as the U.S. It is not a system we should replicate in Tennessee. And some people wonder why Common Core is sometimes called Commie Core?

Support for this kind of wasteful spending and potentially harmful education “reform” scheme is simply not acceptable to most Tennesseans and we call on you our Tennessee Legislators to immediately express your opposition to Common Core Federal Mandates in clear and direct terms. This topic will be a top political issue in the next election cycle and we believe that the waste of taxpayer money on promoting the Communist Chinese education system in Tennessee will be something voters will strongly oppose.

Thank you for your service in the Legislature and we hope you will more fully investigate the truth about Common Core Federal Mandates as soon as possible.

Sharon Ford
President, Tennessee Republican Assembly

Ben Cunningham
Nashville Tea Party

Laurie Day
Education Matters

Julie West
President, Parents for Truth in Education

J. Lee Douglas
Founder, 9-12 Project

Brenda Causey
Concerned Women of America

Rachel Welch
Putnam County GOP Chair

Sherrie Orange
Secretary, Freedom PAC

Featured Liberty and Justice

Matheny to Chair New Subcommittee on Federal Powers, State Sovereignty

State Rep. Judd Matheny has plans for a small group of fellow House legislators to start dissecting federal laws that affect Tennessee and analyzing them to determine whether they adhere to a strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

Speaking to members of the strongly conservative Tennessee Republican Assembly last month, Matheny, who chairs the state House Government Operations Committee, said that even with a GOP supermajority in both chambers of the General Assembly, more work remains to be done to ensure that the Volunteer state “protects the rights and privileges of citizens,” from what he sees as federal overreaching.

The seven-term lawmaker and former speaker pro tem told the TRA that he is in the beginning stages of setting up a new House subcommittee to vet federal laws and policies that affect Tennessee and opine on their constitutionality.

The so-called Balance of Powers Subcommittee, Matheny said, came out of a failed bill with the same name from the 2013 session that he carried with state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet. The legislation would have given the assembly the statutory responsibility of similarly vetting federal rules.

Matheny explained that if lawmakers approached the committee with a specific state/federal issue, the committee would “rip it apart, tear it apart; we’re going to decide is it constitutional, does it violate our state’s rights.”

“And if we believe that it does,” Matheny continued, “we’re going to issue a report to both speakers, we’re going to issue a report to every member of the General Assembly.”

The Tullahoma Republican spoke candidly about how he sees the ideological breakdown amongst his Republican House colleagues, including those he thinks would be sympathetic to his ideas and those who aren’t conservative enough for his tastes.

Last year Matheny publicly mulled over the idea of challenging Nashville Republican Beth Harwell for the House speakership, but later backed off the bid. Matheny himself then lost the pro tem post in a challenge from Curtis Johnson, a Republican from Clarksville.

“Some of our most conservative people are in the dark and we are trying to emerge from that,” Matheny told the TRA crowd on April 20. “We have probably 25 to 28 of our 70 members who are like us, they being in this room. We have another 20 or so — 25 — that can go either way based on the merits of the arguments or how convincing we can be. And then we have another 20 or 22 that need to go.”

But beyond obliquely calling for primary challenges to more moderate members of his own caucus, Matheny hopes to further his conservative agenda by setting his sights on policies from Washington.

The Balance of Powers Subcommittee has only had one organizational meeting so far and hasn’t looked at any specific issues, but Matheny told TNReport last week, “We’re going to look at executive orders, we’re going to look at mandates, we’re going to look at legislation.”

Pressed for specifics, Matheny said “I’m not sure if these are going to be on the calendar or not, but an example would be the Common Core standards, educational standards that the state is adopting…those are a potential. Executive orders on gun control have been another example that have been brought forward.”

Yet even while Matheny described his new committee to TRA members as “revolutionary” and the first of its kind in the country, it remains unclear how effective it will be.

“We’re not going to do actions that are binding, we’re not going to amend bills,” Matheny told TNReport.

With only enough power to offer recommendations, any substantive actions to address federal policies still rests with General Assembly leadership and the body as a whole, including a Democratic superminority and more liberal Republican legislators.

Press Releases

First New TRA Members Appointed Since Reconfiguration

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; July 31, 2012: 

NASHVILLE – The newly reconfigured Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA) has its first full-time executive director and two new part-time directors after Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s reforms were passed during this year’s legislative session.

Haslam worked with Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) and House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) on the joint appointments of business executive Earl Taylor as executive director and utility industry veteran James Allison as a director.

The governor also appointed Herbert Hilliard, executive vice president and chief government relations officer of First Horizon National Corporation, as a TRA director.

“It is our job to make state government as accountable and responsive as possible to Tennesseans,” Haslam said. “These appointees bring years of experience and expertise to the TRA. I am grateful for their willingness to serve our citizens and appreciate the lieutenant governor and house speaker for their efforts in this selection process.”

Passed during this year’s legislative session and signed into law by Haslam, HB 2385/SB 2247 changed the membership of the TRA from four full-time members to five part-time members and established the executive director position, the first of which was to be jointly appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and house speaker.

The TRA sets utility rates and service standards of privately-owned telephone, natural gas, electric and water utilities.

Taylor practiced law in Johnson City for ten years and has an executive background as part owner of the CBS affiliate in Knoxville and as a business developer in Knoxville, the Tri-Cities area, Florida and Texas. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and a J.D. from the University of Memphis. Taylor serves as a Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority commissioner, Knoxville Fellows Program mentor and as a Young Life of Knoxville committee member.

Allison has utilities experience in Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia, and is also regarded as one of the top instant replay officials in college football after having been an on-field official in the Southeastern Conference for more than 12 years.

Hilliard has spent 42 years at First Horizon and is currently the board chair for the National Civil Rights Museum, a board member of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Tennessee and a commissioner for the Memphis/Shelby County Airport Authority.

Press Releases

Haslam Signs Bills Changing Structure of TRA, Boards, Commissions

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; May 23, 2012:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced he has sign two bills from his 2012 legislative agenda that make structural changes to the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA) and 21 boards, commissions and licensing programs.

More than 200 of these organizations exist within state government, and many have independent hiring and spending authority with limited oversight. Haslam announced a review of state boards and commissions during his 2011 State of the State address, and after a comprehensive evaluation, he proposed reforms to improve performance, accountability and efficiency.

“It is our job to make state government as accountable and responsive as possible to Tennessee taxpayers,” Haslam said. “These changes are a first step toward increasing the performance, accountability and effectiveness of state government to Tennesseans.”

House Bill 2385/SB 2247 changes the membership of the TRA from four full-time members to five part-time members, allowing the authority to attract well-qualified directors with applicable experience who may not have been able to serve full time. Also, the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House now jointly appoint a full-time executive director. The TRA bill was sponsored by state Reps. Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) and Pat Marsh (R-Shelbyville) in the House and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) and Sen. Mike Faulk (R-Kingsport) in the Senate.

Among other changes, HB 2387/SB 2249:

  • Eliminates 138 board appointments by combining boards and reducing and reforming the membership of
    • the Duck River Development Agency,
    • the Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission,
    • Community Services Agency board, and
    • the Commission on Aging and Disability;
  • Combines seven boards into three –
    • the Conservation Trust Fund Board absorbs the Conservation Commission,
    • the Oil and Gas Board and Water Quality Control Board are combined to form the Board of Water Quality, Oil and Gas, and
    • the Petroleum Underground Storage Tank Board, Solid Waste Advisory Committee, and Solid Waste Board are combined to form the Underground Storage Tanks and Solid Waste Disposal Control Board;
  • Gives the governor hiring authority for the executive directors of the following five agencies
    • the Commission on Aging and Disability;
    • the Commission on Children and Youth;
    • the Tennessee Higher Education Commission;
    • the Tennessee Arts Commission; and
    • the Council on Career and Technical Education.

The boards and commission bill was sponsored by state Rep. Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) in the House and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) and Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) in the Senate.

On April 11, the governor signed HB 2386/SB 2248, which transfers oversight of parolees from the Board of Probation and Parole to the Department of Correction. That proposal was also part of the governor’s public safety action plan.