Tennessee Women, Mountaintop Removal And Science In The Classroom


Tennessee Listed As One Of The Worst For Women

A study released by iVillage.com listed Tennessee as one of the worst states for women based on reproductive rights, health care, economic success, access to affordable childcare, femalerepresentation in government and educational attainment.

iVillage.com is a Web site geared toward women. The site spent four months studying each of the 50 states to determine which states were the best for women.

Connecticut ranked number one in the country, while Mississippi ranked the worst at 50 out of 50 states.

The study found Tennessee women lag behind the national average in pay and the number of women who complete a bachelor’s degree.

According to the study, Tennessee women have median yearly earnings of $31,854. That amount is 13% lower than the national average of $36,551.

When it comes to college graduation the study found that 23% of women in Tennessee earn a bachelor’s degree. The national average is 28%.

“We have got to increase the number of our young people who are going to school graduating and receiving college degrees,” District 54 State Representative Brenda Gilmore said. “Sixty-nine percent of all households are run by women and we need to make sure women have all the tools and resources they need to take care of their families.”


Read the rest at WKRN.


Tennessee Gets A C+ In Integrity Survey

And there’s campaign finance. The integrity review puts Tennessee down on that front, noting the 2011 law that opens the door to

 direct corporate financing of campaigns for state office and thus enhancing theimportance of money in state politics.

One suspects that, if the review were conducted later this year, Tennessee would be headed downward in the ratings.

 Tom Humphrey focuses on what the state is doing right, and where it is doing poorly 

New Names In The Running In the 8th District

In the 8th Congressional District, incumbent Stephen Fincher, R-Frog Jump, has qualified to run. Annette Justice is another Republican candidate who has qualified for the August primary. Christa Stoscheck has qualified as a Democratic challenger for the seat, while two independents – James L. Hart and Mark Rawles – also have qualified, according to state records.
Read the Complete List At The Jackson Sun

Why Didn’t An Important Healthcare Story Not Make The News In Tennessee?

It’s the blatant cowardice of both the Tennessee press and the Tennessee political leadership that astounds me. Any discussion of this study will inevitably lead to talk of healthcare costs, poverty, and race — issues that Democrats, including President Obama, are (or should be) dedicated to addressing. But rather than risk the appearance of supporting President Obama or his healthcare bill, Tennessee leaders are willing to ignore the plight of sick, black women in Memphis. On the second anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act, Conservatives are still trying to equate affordable care with socialism, anti-Americanism, and all sorts of bad -isms. Apparently, the few liberals left in Tennessee are simply too scared to set the record straight.

Tennessee Scientists Speak Out Against Anti-Science Legislation


What high-tech employer will want to open up shop in a state that allows ideology and prejudice to trump science education? Reacting to such bills in 2006, the president of the Biotechnology Institute warned, “we are greatly diminishing our chances for future scientific breakthroughs and technological innovations, and are endangering our health, safety and economic well-being as individuals and as a nation.”

Unfortunately, both houses of the legislature have approved HBl 368/SB 893. Although there are minor differences between the bills, it seems that the only barrier now to their passage and enactment is the veto of Gov. Bill Haslam.



The Tennessean Editorial On the Scenic Vistas Protection Act

Lawmakers could say they voted against the act because they dislike environmentalists – but what about the members of Protestant and Catholic churches who have come together to oppose mountaintop mining? What about the people whose livelihoods depend on tourism

Zeb Mountain, Tennessee

in the areas where mining companies plan to scar the landscape?

Being against the Scenic Vistas Protection Act is to be on Tennessee’s bad side. If you doubt this, ask the average resident of West Virginia how they like their ridgelines and mountaintops now that more than 500 of them have been blasted, and how they like their waters to be contaminated with the arsenic, mercury and other toxic substances that run off from the mining sites.


Click Here For More

Lawsuits, Scenic Vistas Bill And Speeding Up Session

A lawsuit has been filed against Senate and House redistricting. Erik Schelzig with the story from Friday
 Bob Tuke, attorney for the opponents and a former state Democratic Party chairman, told The Associated Press

the lawsuit to halt the plan was filed in chancery court in Nashville.

The lawsuit names Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and state elections officials as defendants. Among the eight Shelby County plaintiffs is Rep. G.A. Hardaway, who was drawn together with another Memphis Democrat in the GOP plan, and who is considering challenging Democratic colleagues in both the House and Senate.

Click Here To Read More

 Is the TNGOP speeding things up to end session early?
 I have heard that Republican leaders in the General Assembly are trying to speed up their work and get out of town as early as April 15. That would be

about two weeks ahead of their original planned date for final adjournment which is the end of next month.

If that’s true, you’ll start seeing the budget bills moving soon in committee. You are already seeing committees starting to clean out their nest of bills that have been festering on their agendas, some for the past two years. One bill that seems finally to be more or less dead is the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” proposal.

For the past two years, this measure has been an attempt to restrict discussions about homosexuality and gays in grammar schools across Tennessee. But now sponsors admit: “we found out there is really not a sex education curriculum in K-8 right now.” Duh, it took them two years to figure that out? OK, so now what? Teach more abstinence in the schools regarding sex they say. But as for “Don’t Say Gay,” Governor Bill Haslam got it right. He’s told lawmakers repeatedly this session they have better things to focus on, which is correct.

Click Here for More from Pat Nolan

The TNDP reports that Gov. Bill Haslam says he won’t go look at the “widespread” tornado damage around the state. 

While Gov. Haslam was busy failing to secure Tennessee for Mitt Romney’s floundering Presidential campaign, people hit hard by the tornado damage that devastated Tennessee, along with much of the Midwest and Southeast, are wondering what they have to do to get the Governor’s attention.

According to CBS affiliate Volunteer TV in Knoxville , the Governor said that “the damage is too widespread” for him to take the time to tour the affected areas in order to get a clearer understanding of how the State of Tennessee can help its residents rebuild from this devastating storm.


Click her to read more 

You may know his father Roy, but Rick Herron is writing on how to discuss the realities of climate change

This was the climax and conclusion of a weekend of training in 2007 with The Climate Reality Project, a worldwide, grassroots organization of volunteers who present in their communities on the science of climate change and on climate solutions. When I returned home from Nashville, Mr. Gore’s call to action still ringing in my ears, I was on fire, alive with a passion and purpose that I had never felt before in my life. But as I thought about how I would begin giving presentations in my rural hometown of Dresden, Tennessee, I came up short, stymied. The small-town community that raised me is filled with people who are incredibly hard-working, deeply faithful, and who possess uncommon kindness and compassion. And lots of us in Dresden are blessed with strong connections to the land. But many are nevertheless skeptical of anything that smacks of “environmentalism”, which America’s punditry has conventionally cast as the sole province of rich, white, coastal liberals who care more about polar bears than people in places in “flyover country” like Dresden.


Sen. Eric Stewart’s Floor Speech on the Tennessee Vistas Bill

The Appalachian Mountains are the oldest mountains in America. We are not considering the shape of Tennessee this year or the next 10 years. What we are deciding is what Tennessee is going to look like now, and for thegenerations to come.

When this bill was originally introduced, there were five mountains permitted for surface coal mining above two thousand feet in Tennessee. Today, there are 13. Those mountaintops were lost as a direct result of our unwillingness to act. We cannot delay any longer. Y’all when I was my daughters age there were 500 mountaintops across this country that aren’t there today. I just wonder how many we’re going to have when my grandchildren are the age of my daughter. Tonight we can help decide what that will look like in Tennessee.


Click Here To Read Stewart’s Speech In It’s Entirety

Voters Rights, Agenda 21 And The Fight To Save Tennessee Mountains

House Speaker Beth Harwell say a repeal on Photo ID bill won’t become law despite passing a hurdle earlier this week. LINK

The Democratic bill to repeal the law requiring Tennessee voters to produce a government-issued photo identification prior to voting won a surprising approval vote Wednesday in a House subcommittee when one Republican and one independent member joined Democrats in voting to advance the measure to the full committee.

“We still have a full committee to go through and I suspect that ill not come out of that committee,” Harwell said in her weekly press conference. Asked to elaborate, she said, “I always let the committees function…but I feel strongly that bill will not come out.”

Insidious? Republicans went as far as calling Agenda 21 a communist plot yesterday. LINK

Tennessee lawmakers passed a resolution Thursday condemning a United Nations environmental plan as a “destructive and insidious” effort to advance a communist agenda through the guise of community planning.

The state House of Representatives voted 72-23 in favor of House Joint Resolution 587, which denounces the nonbinding Agenda 21plan adopted by a United Nations environmental conference two decades ago.


Activists fighting against mountaintop removal have kept the issue in the news recently. Apparently the governor’s administration is neutral on the topic. LINK

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration won’t weigh in on mountaintop mining legislation that has put state GOP lawmakers and a pro-environment group at odds.

“We’re sort of neutral on that. … We defer to the legislature on the (mountaintop mining) original bill or amendment,” Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) Commissioner Robert Martineau Jr. said of the situation at the Tennessee Environmental Conference on Wednesday.


Here is something you might not have heard about. LINK
Senate Bill 893 - nicknamed, along with its counterpart House Bill 368, “the monkey bill” – is back. In April 2011, its sponsor Bo Watson (R-District 11), assigned the bill to the general subcommittee of the Senate Education Committee, in effect shelving it for the remainder of the year. But on March 7, 2012, it was revived and placed on the committee’s calendar; on March 14, 2012, the committee voted 7-1 (with one member abstaining) to pass an amended version of the bill, although the exact wording of the amended version is not yet listed on the legislature’s website. The bill now proceeds to the Senate Select Committee on Calendar for scheduling for a floor vote.
Chip Forrester wants an investigation into what happened at the polls Super Tuesday. LINK
Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester wants the state elections chief held accountable for the high-profile mistakes seen in the Presidential Primary. Forrester is calling for top-to-bottom review of the Primary Election and the state election office to address a pattern of serious errors that denied voters access to the polls and even disenfranchised a former U.S. Congressman and his wife.


Quick Hits

  • Joe Powell on VW coming to Roane County with emphasis on the word “catchet.” LINK  
  • Rachel Walden is not happy with The Tennessean over the Doonesbury cartoon ban.LINK
  • The Democrat Resource Center in Johnson Cityhas their latest newsletter out. LINK
  • The TNDP responds to Agenda 21 with video of Rep. Jeanne Richardson and Rep. Mike Turner putting the non-binding resolution into perspective. LINK 
  • Rep. Jim Cooper’s no budget no pay bill has gained some steam and some popularity. LINK

Repeal On Photo ID Passes Hurdle


House panel approves repeal of photo ID law. Tom Humphrey has the story. LINK

Legislation repealing the requirement of a photo ID for voting was approved Wednesday by a House panel had killed other Democrat-sponsored bill to make smaller changes in the current law.

State Rep. Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville, and Rep. Kent Williams of Elizabethton, the Legislature’s only independent, joined three Democrats on the House State and Local Government Subcommittee to make passage possible.


Mary Mancini at Tennessee Citizens Action writes in an eblast about what happened and where the bill is heading next. LINK

HB2176, the bill to repeal photo ID to vote, was moved out of House State and Local Subcommittee today, 5 to 3.


Rep. Bob Ramsey (R-Maryville) and Speaker Kent Williams (I-Elizabethton) voted with Rep. Mike Turner (D-Nashville), Rep. Tommie Brown (D-Chattanooga), and Rep. Larry Miller (D-Memphis) to move the repeal bill out of committee and one step forward. Please send them your thanks! You can find their contact info here.


There is still a long road head for the repeal bill to become law. Next stop, the House State and Local Government Full Committee and theSenate State and Local Government committee.
Rep. Jim Cooper is getting some attention for his no budget, no play bill. LINK


A long-shot proposal by Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper to cut off lawmakers’ pay when they miss budget deadlines is gaining traction in Congress.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing Wednesday on the measure, which would cut off lawmakers’ pay if they fail to pass an overall budget and all 12 spending bills financing government agencies before the Oct. 1 beginning of each fiscal year. Lawmakers couldn’t be paid retroactively, either.


TBI records not likely to be open any time soon. Did I mention it is Sunshine Week? LINK


State legislators have expressed support for open Tennessee Bureau of Investigation files in theory, but seem less inclined to drum up an effort toward that end in the near future.

While investigative agencies in some other states allow such files to be opened, TBI case files are exempt from Tennessee’s Public Records Act. TNReport interviewed several lawmakers on the matter Tuesday as part of our effort to raise awareness for Sunshine Week.


At Newscoma, I pontificate about the 1% and how we have to engage our elected officials on what is important in our own backyards. LINK

Listen, we can see press releases all over the state about how legislators, not just Holt, but others meeting with local chambers and large business which in a rural community is like meeting with the 1% and not just average folks. It costs to be in a chamber and I’m not knocking that, but I also know that there are other conversations that might give a more complete overview on what is happening in the day-to-day lives of Tennesseans.

A legislator is not going to come to you and ask you your opinion willy nilly unless it’s an election year. So I would think that it is up to us to go to them.



Quick Hits


  • Bills signed by the governor into law this week. Humphrey has the list. LINK
  • Southern Beale gets her First Draft on. A good autobiographical look at a fantastic democratic blogger. LINK
  •  Are voters restless? Jackson Baker says maybe.LINK 
  • Steve Ross on HB600 and how Senate leadership is fighting back. LINK
  • Bruce Barry takes on the Tennessean over Doonesbury. LINK
  • Gov. Bill Haslam has been texting Peyton Manning.LINK 


Trace Sharp


Subcommittee Time And Sunshine Week


National political scrutiny and huge activism crowds may have hurt a controversial bill. Lawmakers are backing up and it’s moved back to the end of the calendar. LINK


Tennessee lawmakers backed away from controversial legislation that would have further restricted discussions about homosexuality before high school, presumably ending the two-year battle over how much schoolchildren should be told.

The sponsors of the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill agreed Tuesday to put off debating the measure until the end of the legislative session – a procedural move that usually signals they do not intend to pursue it. Backers said they would instead shift their focus to an abstinence education measure that is favored by social conservatives.



The coal fight in Tennessee with a bit of history from Rikki Hall. LINK


To understand the coal industry, you must understand a bit of history. Part of that history goes back millions of years to the time when the Mississippi River Basin was an inland sea bordered by vast swamps. Those swamp beds compacted and petrified into layers of coal, some thick, some thin. As the North American plate lifted above sea level, much of this coal eroded away.
In Tennessee, coal seams tend to be thin, often too thin to be practically nor economically worth extracting. Only 22 of Tennessee’s 95 counties have coal deposits, and only six counties have active mines. Most coal production in the state happens in Claiborne and Campbell counties. Coal played an important role in the history of Chattanooga and Sequatchie Valley, fueling iron production, but no active mines remain in that region. Seams were just a couple feet thick, so miners had to dig in a prone position. Work was slow and dangerous, and mines were abandoned as soon as it was feasible to bring in coal by rail. 
Presently, Tennessee accounts for just 
, and virtually all Tennessee coal is consumed out of state.
Let the sunshine in, as it is Sunshine Week about keeping government in the daylight. LINK


Do you want to know what kind of deal your state is making to attract new businesses? Proposed legislation in Tennessee would keep the identity of the business owners secret until after the state commits to tax breaks and incentives.

Want to know how courts are handling lawsuits? Judges too often seal all records and make the outcomes secret, according to the Judicial

Would you like to know how responsive 911 operators are in dealing with emergencies? There have been efforts nationwide to make 911recordings secret, including a California bill inspired by a call for aid for actress Demi Moore. An LA Times columnist pointed out that the recording showed jurisdictional confusion, a delayed response and a “churlish” response by a 911 operator.



Horse Sausage bill? No, it’s out there. (Tom Humphrey’s headline, not mine.) Only Rep. Johnny Shaw said no in subcommittee.  LINK


Legislation to encourage horse slaughterhouses in Tennessee won approval of a House committee Tuesday, five months after Congress lifted what amounted to a national ban on processing the animals for food.

As introduced by Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden,HB3619 simply called on the state commissioner of agriculture to keep statistics on horses on a website.

As amended before approval by the House Agricuture Committee, it instead erects a legal hurdle for lawsuits against horse slaughterhouses and inserts into law a declaration that “the General Assembly intends to encourage the location of equine slaughter and processing facilities in Tennessee that meet all sanitary, safety and humane slaughter requirements.”

Under the proposed new law, anyone filing a lawsuit to challenge issuance of a permit for horse slaughter would have to post a surety bond equal to 20 percent of the estimated cost of building the facility or, if it is already open, to its operational costs.  

Quick Hits

  • A good road map on a mission statement for democrats and progressives everywhere. LINK
  • I am assuming this is in tongue-in-cheek from Gov. Bill Haslam. Or maybe not as it is Peyton Manning fever in the United States right now. LINK
  • Steve Ross talks about how democratic leadership fought recently about local control of government vs. legislation that wants state control. He has the video. LINK
  • Rep. Scott DesJarlais spent nearly a quarter of a million dollars in mailings. LINK
  • Ten years of a 100 percent tax break for Volkswagon. Roane Views has the story and the link. LINK

Lawsuits, Jobs And Questionable Bills

Former congressman Lincoln Davis has filed a class action lawsuit after being purged from the voter rolls. LINK


On Monday, Davis announced he has filed a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee to challenge the actions taken by Tennessee state government officials to unlawfully purge voters

from the state’s voting rolls.


Congressman Davis is seeking a federal court order requiring the State of Tennessee to restore the names of all Tennesseans who were improperly purged from the State’s voting rolls.

“This lawsuit is not about me,” Congressman Davis said, “Rather, I’m taking this action to ensure that the State of Tennessee is required to restore all Tennesseans to the voting rolls whose names were improperly removed.”


In a press release, Tennessee Citizen Action explains in details some of the worst bills currently sitting on the Hill. This post outlines each bill and why they are suspect. LINK


Patterns. They’re everywhere. But in a political climate such as ours where money equals speech and large corporations and their CEOs can literally buy all the access to our elected officials that they want, the most troubling pattern is the one we’re noticing at our state legislature in Nashville.

While we maintain that our state legislators should be accountable first to the 99%, they believe that their sole purpose is to cater to CEO campaign contributors and their corporate interests.


The Tennessee Scenic Vistas Bill won’t be heard again for the next three weeks despite Sen. Eric Stewart’s efforts. LINK


The Senate has voted to delay for three weeks a vote on a proposal to halt mountaintop removal coal mining in Tennessee.

The decision came despite the objections of the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Sen. Eric Stewart of Winchester, who called for a vote Monday evening.


Ag Week asks a question on weather or not a farm bill will pass this year?LINK


For farmers, this year’s $64,000 question is, “Will members of Congress be able to overcome their partisan division to pass a farm bill this year or will they leave the task to the next Congress?”

In a previous discussion of the failure of the supercommittee to come up with a deficitCorn field in Obion County reduction package that would have included a new farm bill, we repeated the suggestion that Congress might give the current bill a one-year extension under the theory that each party is hoping to win control of Congress in this fall’s elections.

All agree that approving an extension would be preferable to allowing the 2008 farm bill expire, allowing the farm bill to revert to the 1949 farm bill which serves as permanent legislation.

But, is it as simple as that?


House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh writes that his 2012 Jobs Package has gotten off to a difficult start. LINK


As I begin trying to pass these bills, I am hopeful that each will each have bipartisan support. I’ve said many times, party affiliation doesn’t matter to people standing in the unemployment line. Unfortunately, we’ve gotten off to a rough start. This week I attempted to pass my “Tennessee Contractors First” bill, which would have given preference to Tennessee companies on state-funded projects. I believe state government has a responsibility to give Tennessee businesses the first crack at state contracts, so our tax dollars create jobs here, not China or Mexico. Apparently, the majority party disagrees. They voted to kill the bill in our State and Local Government Subcommittee this week. 


Quick Hits

  • State troopers have confiscated the last of the Occupy Nashville tents but didn’t make any arrests early yesterday morning. LINK
  • Shelby County redistricting will head to court after five months of squabbling and lack of the number of votes required to pass it.LINK
  • Sean Braisted focuses on what is real, what is punditry and what is not true regarding the spin on the democratic voter. LINK
  • Speaking of Sen. Eric Stewart, he is calling his opponent, Rep Scott DesJarlais in the third district, out saying his statements at the OMB were “disingenious.” LINK
  • More GOP lawmakers have made national news. I’ll let you read it. LINK
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Spread Out of the Blue!

Democrats Across Tennessee Meet Over The Weekend


Rep. Jim Cooper has a column in The Atlantic on outdated laws and subsidies, and how bureaucracy grows due to a bit of lazy ambivalence. LINK


It happens so slowly and naturally that no one notices. Legislators want to prove that they care about children, seniors, veterans, etc. by creating programs to benefit them. Elected officials are so busy campaigning that they (and their staffs) don’t review the statute books to see which programs already exist. They certainly don’t check to see which ones are working, and which are not. As a result, each new generation of politicians simply adds another layer of spending and bureaucracy.


The Influence Disclosure Bill which would mandate identifying where model legislation come from has died on the vine. (Rep. Curry Todd serves on the ALEC board.)  LINK


ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council, a national group of businesses and conservative legislators from across the U.S. Critics say the group is really a front that gives large corporations a big hand in writing bills introduced in dozens of states in areas ranging from anti-teacher union measures to voting.

Todd is a board member.

The disclosure bill’s sponsor, Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, said it “does not particularly talk about ALEC” and noted it also would affect groups like the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. “It’s just good disclosure to know where these bills come from.”

Rep. Tommie Brown, D-Chattanooga, also defended the bill, saying, “All it does is tell us the source.”

The bill died on a voice vote.

Tom Humphrey looks at the current political climate in the state in his Sunday column. LINK


After GOP-dictated redistricting this year, the party’s legislative majority is likely to grow stronger. But it’s almost inevitable that, as there more Republicans, there will be more division within the Republican ranks. And if the apparent trend continues, social conservatives may grow in power as the moderates weaken within our state. Perhaps to the point that someday remnant minority Democrats may be able to decide political matters statewide by deciding which faction of Republicans they will align with. 


A letter to the editor from Jim Cards in the Tennessean expresses frustration with a front page story filled with a bit of GOP word soup. LINK


The term “values voters” was invented by those same people in an effort to make bigotry, misogyny and anti-science ignorance sound “respectable.” It is a term that is as arrogant as it is empty, for its implication that those who do not support their agenda have no values. For the past 2,000 years, freedom, justice and equality have advanced through the values of progressive-minded people who have fought the misguided “traditions” of the conservatives of their time, often winding up in prison or the grave for their troubles. 


Rutherford County Democrats packed the courthouse on Saturday preparing for the 2012 election. LINK

Hoping to stop the Republican Party’s local momentum, the Rutherford County Democratic Party packed the County Courthouse Saturday with 88 delegates committed to holding and winning seats in 2012.

“I’m encouraged to see so many people here,” said party Chairwoman Judy Whitehill, noting that they could have been somewhere else on this sunny day instead of attending the Rutherford County Democratic Party Convention. “This shows their commitment to the Democratic Party and to our philosophy.”

Heather at Blue-Viewed Girl, who lives in Carroll County, discusses the democratic climate in Northwest Tennessee and gives an appreciative shout-out to former Rep. Mark Maddox. LINK
If you or someone you know are considering running for office I encourage you to send me a message or comment with an email to contact you at so that we can get you in touch with the right people.  So Northwest Tennesseeans, let’s bring our region and the entire state back to the great state it once used to be.  Let’s take hatred, bigotry, and every other scare tactic the extremists throw at us out of play.  Smile. shrug it off, and know that what they do and say doesn’t matter.  We are the party for the people of this state.  We are the party that doers, not talkers.  So let’s do it!!One last note, Thank you Mark Maddox!!!!



  •  The Memphis Flyer commends Rep. Steve Cohen for pulling his advertising from Clear Channel in the wake of the Rush Limbaugh scandal citing he is willing to put himself on the line during an election year. LINK
  • We all know that a former congressman was purged from voting records. What you may not know is there was a huge foul up when voters were given the wrong phone number to attain their photo ID. It went to a bank. LINK
  • The Knoxville News Sentinel notices inconsistencies in notices for public panels.LINK
  • Rich Hailey has a very detailed story on the history of blogging. If you blog, no matter if it is about politics or knitting, this is a must read. LINK


‘The Time Has Come For Me To Pass The Torch’

Gov. Ned McWherter, left, Mayor Victor Ashe and Speaker of the House Jimmy Naifeh during a Tennessee General Assembly meeting in 1991.


The legacy of Jimmy Naifeh was noted all across the state yesterday as he stood on the House floor and announced that he was retiring after session. Tennessee writers and politicians acknowledged the distinct mark he has created serving in the House for nearly 40 years. “After talking with my family and friends, I believe the time has come for me to pass the torch to the next generation of leaders,” Naifeh said in prepared remarks in front of members of both the House and Senate, which recessed to witness the iconic Speaker Emeritus’ retirement speech.


“I certainly played hardball – just once or twice – but I always maintained relationships on both sides of the aisle,” he said. “This is a very unique fraternity. … We celebrate together, and we mourn together, and we work together for the people of Tennessee.”

The Tennessean

While controversial at times, Naifeh never feared speaking his mind and doing what he felt was right, despite an increasingly conservative and Republican leaning district.  That meant sometimes using the power of the committee to ensure the legislature focused on issues that were actually important in the lives of Tennesseans, rather than the social conservative distractions the Republicans have pushed in recent years. –Sean Braisted, Nashville for the 21st Century


The longtime Speaker – feared by his enemies, revered by his allies, respected by all – won applause from members of both parties …

Jackson Baker-Memphis Flyer


 He talked about the advice former Governor Ned McWherter gave him: Never take a bill to the floor unless you know you have the votes.  He recounted how he thought he had 52 votes for the income tax, but that people froze when they went to push the button.  He talked about orchestrating Kent William’s election as speaker.  He told us that Williams was unsure that Naifeh could get 49 of the Democrats to vote for Williams.  Naifeh recalls telling him that would ask the Democrats to vote first.  Turns out, he did have the votes that time.

Cara Kumari, View From Capitol Hill 


Speaker Nafieh has honorably served longer than anyone in our state’s history, a true testament to his character and commitment to the citizens of Tennessee. The son of an immigrant, the Speaker embodies all that is possible in America when someone dedicates his or herself to a cause greater than their own. While he will be missed in the legislature, it is nearly impossible to miss the indelible mark he has left on our great state.

–Mike McWherter

Members of the House and Senate Democratic Caucus released the following statements on the retirement of Speaker Emeritus Naifeh:

“Speaker Naifeh is now and always has been a smart, pragmatic, pro-business legislator who put people first. He rose quickly through the ranks to Speaker of the House, where he served with distinction for 18 years. His accomplishments are too numerous to list, but there is no doubt that his impact is felt by average Tennesseans each and everyday. On a personal level, Speaker Naifeh is my friend. When I have needed him, he has been there every time. While I will miss his leadership and knowledge on every issue, I will miss seeing him everyday during session most of all. I know I speak for our entire caucus when I wish him luck in wherever life takes him next. I doubt we’ve heard the last of Speaker Naifeh!”

–Rep. Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley), House Democratic Leader

“For me, Jimmy Naifeh has always been the Lebanese Lion. He has done more for the people of Tennessee than most of us will ever know. He’s a hard worker, he’s well-informed and he’s not afraid to stand-up for the issues and the people he cares about. When he goes home this fall, our caucus and this House will be a much emptier place. I will miss him, but I wish him the best in everything he does in the future.”

–Rep. Mike Turner (D-Old Hickory), House Democratic Caucus Chairman

“Jimmy Naifeh was my Speaker, a mentor and most of all my close friend. Over the years, we’ve become like brother and sister. I tell him exactly what I think and he tells me exactly what he thinks, that’s just how we work. I will miss his honesty, his integrity and the passion he brings to every issue. But most of all, I will miss him personally. Although, I bet it’s a lot quieter when he leaves!”   

–Rep. Lois DeBerry (D-Memphis), Speaker Pro-Temp Emeritus


“Speaker Naifeh has served all Tennesseans for nearly 40 years with a fair hand, a strong will and an eye toward justice. An unparalleled advocate for children’s rights, education and safety, Speaker Naifeh took to heart our charge to care for the most vulnerable among us.
“His presence and authority in the legislature will be missed, but we have no doubt that he will continue to embody these values as he sets an example for a new generation of Tennessee leaders.”

–Sen. Lowe Finney (D-Jackson), Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman

Naifeh To Retire

Richard Locker writes today in the Commercial Appeal that a legend in Tennessee politics will be making an announcement today. LINK

State Rep. Jimmy Naifeh of Covington, who served as House speaker for 18 years and longer than anyone in Tennessee history, is expected to announce today he won’t run for re-election this year after 38 years in the General Assembly.


A bill to cut lottery-financed scholarships took an unusual turn yesterday before it advanced. LINK

The state legislature is moving ahead to make it harder to qualify for a lottery-financed scholarship. But the proposal got a rare self-destruct mechanism written into it today.

Under a bill from Senator Dolores Gresham, students must score both a 21 on the ACT and have a 3.0 grade point average to earn the full $4,000 a year HOPE scholarship.

Hit only one of those benchmarks, and the scholarship would drop by half.

Those against the change argue lottery income is up, ten million dollars for this year alone. So Gresham added an amendment that says if the lottery income stays high, her new law would automatically go away, in legislative language, “sunset,” prior to ever even taking effect in 2015.


The New Yorker covers Mitt Romney’s campaign and the mood on Super Tuesday from the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville. LINK
The air of inevitability that hangs around Mitt Romney’s Nashville campaign can only be compared to the Yankees clubhouse in October. It is calm, professional, well-funded, and the players are very clean-shaven. Last night, Romney lost Tennessee to Santorum, as well as Oklahoma; more damning, he barely eked out a victory in Ohio. But, at a results-watching party for Romney volunteers at the Renaissance Hotel, the mood was casual, if not jovial: a man with a “Romney for President” sticker played a guitar and sang mellow country songs; the televisions were muted, even as Romney delivered his remarks; and sun-kissed guests, sporting well-pressed suits, tortoise-shell glasses, and silk ties, gushed about the spring-like weather. The results in Tennessee weren’t particularly devastating-or even surprising-to the Romney camp, but his performance didn’t do anything to help the candidate, either, especially with more Southern primaries (Kansas, Alabama, and Mississippi) less than a week away. The Romney volunteers I spoke with were undeterred, dismissing any notion that Romney’s performance was worrisome. “I’m very optimistic,” John Shorter, a volunteer coördinator, said. “I’m disappointed in the state of Tennessee, but I believe overall that Governor Romney will be the nominee.”
A bill to block the Living Wage was protested yesterday in Nashville. LINK

Workers from across the state are speaking out against legislation that would prevent Tennessee cities and counties from establishing a living wage.

About 100 workers gathered on the steps of the state Capitol to protest the measure that would ban higher wage requirements set by local governments and repeal any standard that has already been set, which in this case would be in Memphis.

An effort to inform voters is coming from the faith based community in Chattanooga where clergy members are working together fighting for Voters’ Rights. LINK
The reforms, which went into effect in January, require voters possess a valid government-issued photo ID, and in some cases, proof of citizenship. The early voting period was also reduced in length. “The ministers are leading this fight, because there’s been a lack of information,” says the Rev. Kenneth Love. “And many times the only way that we can get this information to the people is through the clergy.” The voting law changes are an effort to disenfranchise the poor, elderly, students and minority groups, according to the faith community. 

Quick Hits

  • Tim Thompson, the East Nashville Marine who protested photo voter IDs is on video discussing why he did it. The video was highlighted on the Rachel Maddow show’s website in a post called ‘Trying to Vote.’ LINK
  • Jackson Baker takes a critical look at the GOP presidential candidates prior to Super Tuesday and how they handled the primary in Tennessee. LINK
  • Political advisor Paul Begala appeared in Jackson last night at Union University. LINK
  • A letter to the editor at the Tennessean says that lobbying and special interest groups don’t always do what is best for the people when it comes to politics. LINK 


Trace Sharp


On the web at  http://www.bluetn.com/

Lincoln Davis Denied Right To Vote

Super Tuesday held a huge surprise for a former congressman. LINK

Former U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis said he and his wife Lynda were denied the right to vote Tuesday in his Fentress County hometown.

“We walked in and they told me I was not a registered voter. I had been taken off the list,” said Davis, who served two terms representing the fourth congressional district of Tennessee, leaving office in 2011.

“These are people who I grew up with. I told them I live here. I went to school about 20 yards away.”

Davis has been voting in Pall Mall, Tenn., since 1995, he said.

We have a winner on Super Tuesday in the presidential primary in Tennessee. LINK

Rick Santorum rode a wave of social conservative support to victory in Tennessee’s Super Tuesday Republican presidential primary, overcoming the solid support for Mitt Romney from many state GOP leaders.

The Tennessee results were a disappointment for Newt Gingrich, the former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich, who finished third in a state he had hoped would help his campaign rebound.

The results were also marked a rare win for a candidate who was hugely outspent in Tennessee campaigning. Pro-Romney forces, including a “Super PAC,” spent about $1.6 million advertising in the state – much of the money going to TV ads that attacked Santorum – while Gingrich’s forces spent about $470,000, according the most recently-reported figures.


Did the primary show a divide in the Tennessee GOP? Gail Kerr explains in her latest column in the Tennessean.LINK

It wasn’t just that Romney was a weak candidate. Despite Welch’s defense of his party, the primary underlined the deep divide in the state GOP. From the outside looking in, Tennessee Republicans look good. They took control of the statehouse and the governor’s office for the first time since Reconstruction. They control every legislative committee, both U.S. Senate seats, and hold a majority in Tennessee’s congressional delegation.

But they cannot agree on the time of day.


The battle has begun in the Senate regarding keeping company names secret when they receive tax dollars.LINK

In its original form, the administration’s bill authorized the state to require businesses applying for tax breaks or outright grants to surrender financial statements, cash-flow reports, corporate structure and ownership. But all the information is sealed from public view. Proponents say the companies won’t surrender the information unless it will be kept confidential.

The bill’s critics don’t oppose letting companies keep proprietary information secret, but object to handing out tax money to companies whose owners aren’t known.



Rep. Steve Cohen fights back about proposed changes to the HOPE scholarship in this video from Channel 5 in Memphis.

Congressman Steve Cohen Talks About the Proposed Changes to the Tennessee Education Lottery
Congressman Steve Cohen Talks About the Proposed Changes to the Tennessee Education Lottery
Quick Hits
  • Lincoln Davis wasn’t the only person upset at the polls. A former marine became very angry about photo IDs yesterday in East Nashville and took his complaint to the legislature. LINK
  • A very neat map at the Huffington Post shows how each county voted in the state with to the minute election results. Click on your county.LINK
  • Has the Haslam machine run out of fuel when it comes to political clout? LINK 
  • The battle between guns in parking lots and Tennessee businesses has republicans stuck in the middle trying to please both sides. LINK
  • A history of Super Tuesday and a trip in a time machine that focuses on Al Gore, Ned McWherter and the presidential primary of 1988. LINK
  • A Hall Tax probably isn’t in the cards this session. LINK