Press Releases

Senate Dems Weekly Update, Week of April 24-29

Press Release from the Senate Democratic Caucus, April 29

Storm Damage Relief

This week’s storms and tornadoes have left 34 people dead in Tennessee, over 100 homes damaged or destroyed, and thousands more without power, according to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA). Reports of injuries and damages are still coming in, and residents who need assistance are encouraged to contact TEMA by dialing 2-1-1. This line is also available for those would like to volunteer goods, service, or money to aid the relief effort. TEMA strongly suggests that everyone use extreme caution in flooded areas, especially when driving.

Regressive Education Measures

Senate Bill 113, the bill that would abolish the ability of teachers to bargain collectively with school boards, was once again delayed on the Senate floor because of a new amendment that makes significant changes to the bill. As amended, SB113 would require all local school boards to create a personnel policy manual in which teachers, community members and others can submit input for changes. However, it does not guarantee changes will be included. As amended, the bill still repeals the Education Professional Negotiations Act that guarantees teachers collective bargaining rights.

Preserving Military Medals

Senate Bill 572, a bill sponsored by Senator Andy Berke that would preserve unclaimed military medals, passed 7-0 through a Senate committee Tuesday. This bill would require the state treasurer to hold any abandoned military medal until the owner or the proper beneficiaries could be identified for the return of the medal.

“Veterans’ medals are timeless treasures that should never be sold or auctioned,” Berke said. “This bill would ensure that they are given the respect they deserve and are returned to their rightful owners.”

The Senate State and Local Government Committee passed the bill, which will now go to the Senate floor. The House version of the bill awaits a hearing in the Calendar and Rules Committee.

Democratic Response to ECD Shakeup

On Thursday, Chairman Lowe Finney and Democratic House Leader Craig Fitzhugh responded to Governor Bill Haslam’s announcement concerning the restructuring of the Department of Economic and Community Development that will shift focus away from attracting jobs from outside of Tennessee in favor of growing jobs with in-state companies. They highlighted the fact that Governor Phil Bredesen’s efforts brought over 200,000 jobs and $34 billion in economic development to Tennessee, and that to shift the focus of the department now sends the wrong message. The full Commercial Appeal op-ed can be found online here.

Press Releases

Haslam Announces Veteran Support

Press Release from Bill Haslam for Governor; July 2, 2010:

Veterans From Across State Back Mayor Haslam in Bid for Governor

KNOXVILLE – Military service veterans from across Tennessee announced their support for Knoxville Mayor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Haslam before the July 4th weekend and two weeks from the start of early voting on July 16.

The Veterans Coalition represents a group of individuals who served their country and recognize in Mayor Haslam the good heart, commitment and passion for public service that they believe is needed of Tennessee’s next governor.

Accompanied with recent high profile endorsements, record-breaking fundraising, campaign organization in all 95 counties and two polls indicating Haslam is the strongest Republican in the GOP field, the announcement is another indication Haslam has the momentum with early voting beginning soon, and the coalition is yet another group to show support for Haslam, joining business leaders, young professionals, Tea Party activists and students.

“Bill Haslam is a man who comes from a family who served our great country; in fact his grandfather was a member of the Greatest Generation. Bill’s dad also faithfully served in our army,” said retired Col. Bill Felton of Knoxville. “Bill grew up with it being a part of his everyday life, and he knows what integrity and honest dealing is all about. He’s the man for the moment.”

“Mayor Haslam shares my values and my love of country, Tennessee and service, and he has the right experience, knowledge and temperament to lead this state as it faces enormous challenges,” said retired Gen. Hugh Smith of Clarksville. “I know he’ll make a great governor because his record shows he knows how to manage budgets and make a community strong.”

“As a West Tennessean, I know we need a man as governor who understands that each region has different challenges and opportunities, and Bill Haslam is that man,” said retired Lt. Col. Ray Tanner of Madison. “He has the sense of duty and heart for service that every public official should have.”

“I truly appreciate the support of this group for my campaign,” Haslam said. “These individuals know service and sacrifice, and to have their support in my bid to be governor and make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for jobs is a tremendous honor.”

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, 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

Veterans for Haslam Coalition and Home Counties:

Howard Cotter (Marion)

Jim Woods (Hamilton)

Tom Munson (Sevier)

Tom Adair (Bradley)

Donna Lee Ingram (Bradley)

Bill Stokes (Knox)

Bill Felton (Knox)

Michael Lewis (Montgomery)

Tommy Wilson (Hawkins)

Randy Reid (Williamson)

Bill Harris (Hamilton)

David Purkey (Hamblen)

Jeff Lawrence (Williamson)

Ralph Lawrence (Shelby)

Thurman Mullins (Wilson)

Nick Steward (Montgomery)

Hubert Smith (Montgomery)

Ted Crozier (Montgomery)

Jerry Knickenbacker (Montgomery)

Bill Johnson (Williamson)

Michael Stafford (McMinn)

Bill Shamblin (Bradley)

Michael Aucoin (Davidson)

Jody Duncan (Davidson)

John Weathers (Hamilton)

Carlock Myers (Campbell)

Jack McGill (Hamilton)

Buddy Liner (McMinn)

John Waters (Sevier)

Noble Cody (Putnam)

Frank Schnabel

Jim Elmer (Davidson)

James Rone (Tipton)

Raymond Via (Madison)

Harold Kay (Shelby)

Ray Tanner (Madison)

Payson Matthews (Fayette)

Jarred Conway (Dyer)

Bill Stout (Carroll)

Press Releases

Senate Unanimously Passes Veterans Honor Medal

Press Release from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville; April 16, 2010:

Medal to Honor Veterans To Be Heard Next Week In House Of Representatives

(Nashville) – Legislation sponsored by Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) to create a Veterans’ Honor Medal program has cleared the state Senate with a unanimous vote. The medal would be awarded to honorably discharged active duty, National Guard and reserve component veterans based on criteria established by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“The Volunteer State has a proud tradition of extremely high rates of military service,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “When our nation calls, Tennesseans respond. I look forward to working with the Department of Veterans Affairs to honor those who have sacrificed for our state and nation.”

Lt. Governor Ramsey’s bill, Senate Bill 2488, directs the commissioner of veterans’ affairs to establish a veterans’ honor medal program. Veterans’ Affairs will commission the design of a medal for the program which will be unveiled next year. The legislation passed the House State and Local Government Committee on Wednesday and will be heard by the House Budget Subcommittee on April 21.

Veterans as well as the Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House will serve in an advisory role to the Commissioner of Veterans’ Affairs in the implementation of the medal program.

On the web:

Press Releases

Legislature OKs Finney, Barnes’ Veterans Job Assistance Bill

Press Release from Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson, and Sen. Tim Barnes, D-Adams, March 26, 2010:

Legislation would expand hiring benefit to all Tennessee veterans

NASHVILLE – This week the General Assembly passed a bill by Sen. Lowe Finney (D-Jackson) and Sen. Tim Barnes (D-Adams) to help Tennessee veterans obtain jobs by expanding preference-points eligibility to all veterans.

“I have watched many great men and women depart for service in some of the most dangerous places in the world,” Finney said. “When our veterans come home after serving our country, they deserve the opportunity to support their families.”

Under the bill (SB3857/HB3819), preference points for civil service position applicants would be expanded to all honorably discharged Tennessee veterans. Preference points are used in civil service hiring to give a leg up to veterans looking for jobs after leaving the armed forces.

Under current law, veterans from only certain conflicts are awarded preference points.

All honorably discharged Tennessee veterans would receive two preference points under the bill, with increased points given to veterans of wars and those with service-connected disabilities. The preference points will be awarded to veterans who are registered Tennessee voters or have been Tennessee residents for at least two years.

Spouses of veterans disabled or killed in the line of duty would also receive preference points under the bill.

The bill would cover veterans of the current Iraq and Afghanistan wars, including members of the 101st Airborne in Clarksville and the 1/230th Air Cavalry Squadron of the Tennessee Army National Guard in Jackson.

“Our veterans have sacrificed everything to serve our country and keep us safe. We must support them in the same way they have supported us,” Barnes said.

The House passed the bill Monday and the Senate followed suit on Wednesday. The bill will go to Gov. Phil Bredesen for his signature next week.

Press Releases

Lt. Gov. Ramsey Moves Veterans Medal of Honor Through Senate Committee

Press Release from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, March 17, 2010:

(Nashville) – Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) today passed legislation through the Senate Government Operation Committee which would create the Veterans’ Honor Medal program to recognize and honor Tennessee veterans. The bill would honor both active duty, National Guard and reserve component veterans based on criteria established by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Tennesseans have a long volunteer tradition of service in time of war,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “We should recognize their sacrifice and celebrate military men and women of every branch.”

Lt. Governor Ramsey’s bill, Senate Bill 2488, directs the commissioner of veterans’ affairs to establish a veterans’ honor medal program. Veterans’ Affairs will commission the design of a medal for the program, to which gold or silver stars will be added to indicate that an armed forces member was killed or wounded in action.

Veterans as well as the Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House will serve in an advisory role to the Commissioner of Veterans’ Affairs in the implementation of the medal program.

On the web:


State Budget Shortfalls Could Close Three Vet Centers

Veterans Affairs offices in Memphis, Dickson and Cookeville could close if the state opts to cut the department’s budget by 9 percent next year, say VA officials.

Eliminating three field offices, eight staff positions and slashing travel and supply costs would save the department $407,300, according to John Keys, commissioner for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The department’s current budget is $5.6 million.

Veterans now using those facilities would be absorbed by other branches, Keys said.

The Memphis office would relocate to the local VA Medical Center, though visitors of the Dickson and Cookeville offices would likely travel to Nashville or Chattanooga for assistance.

“We’re confident we’ll be able to meet that need,” Keys told Gov. Phil Bredesen at a budget hearing last month.

Bredesen requested that state agencies prepare scenarios that reflect 9 percent and 6 percent cuts to trim the overall state budget.

At field offices, veterans can file paperwork for benefits ranging from G.I. Bill tuition applications to health services for medical conditions and disabilities. Veterans also use those offices to check in on the status of their claims, or to inquire about other programs.

With 532,000 living Tennessee veterans, and more serving in ongoing U.S. wars, department budget officer Norman Nash says now isn’t the time to reduce staff.

“If we had no cuts at all, we would still need additional people,” he said.