Tag Archives: Andy Berke

Back In Session

Lawmakers go back in session today when the gavel hits at high noon. Tom Humphrey and Chas Sisk have extensive and comprehensive stories on what will be on this year’s agenda. Drug-testing Tennesseans who receive welfare and are receiving unemployment, the reduction of lottery scholarships and amending the anti-bullying bill that has gotten national attention are just a few controversial issues that are on the GOP agenda this session.

We will be blogging breaking political stories in Tennessee throughout the days to come while session is convened at our website, Out of the Blue in addition to the morning eblast of The Daily Buzz. 

Tell your friends about The Blue.

Erik Schelzig writes that not only will this be a test for democrats, but a newly assertive governor. LINK

The second session of the 107th General Assembly starting Tuesday will test Gov. Bill Haslam’s increased assertiveness with fellow Republicans accustomed to getting their way in the legislature.

Haslam is set to begin his second year inoffice by taking a more active role in legislative matters, while the House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey are still jockeying for position with each other and with the governor. The speakers are also out to prove that last year’s early conclusion of the session was no fluke.

First on the agenda is redistricting, which could come up for a vote as early as Thursday, despite Democrats’ complaints that the proposal would likely reduce the number of African-Americans serving in the legislature.


The realities for rural communities are addressed by a new blogger who is focusing on DeKalb County.LINK

Like many other rural communities, it was hit hard in the economic downturn. Businesses closed up shop, people’s livelihoods were destroyed, and the Wal-Mart invasion only accelerated that process. It’s a classic story which we hear all too often from rural counties across Tennessee and across the South as a whole.

DeKalb County is hurting. And it’s not helped by the fact that for three years they’ve had acompletely absent State Representative in Terri Lynn Weaver.

But what’s worse is how their lines have been drawn. Terri Lynn almost lost her reelection bid in 2010 because of DeKalb County. So, she and other House Republicans decided to be politically punitive. Despite the fact that DeKalb County has only 18,000 people, they split it between two House districts. District 40, which now covers essentially the upper 2/3rds of the county, is lumped in with Smith, Trousdale, and Sumner Counties, stretching all the way to Hendersonville. Now you tell me, how in the world are Smithville, Alexandria, Liberty, and other economically troubled communities supposed to be represented effectively when their representative is also dealing with the needs of places like Hendersonville?

Two GOP house reps are off the hook, but the Davidson County attorney general said that although they won’t be prosecuted, their actions were “questionable but not criminal.” LINK

Charges will not be filed against two state lawmakers who used heavy-handed tactics to help three nurse practitioners get their licenses back, Davidson County District Attorney General Torry Johnson said Monday.

Bobby Reynolds II, David Stout Jr. and Tina Killebrew were accused of over-prescribing at the now-defunct Appalachian Medical Clinic in Johnson City, where the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation was probing patient deaths. The nurses agreed to the suspensions, but Reps. Dale Ford and Tony Shipley later pressured the Tennessee Board of Nursing to take a second look.

Will Sen. Andy Berke run for mayor of Chattanooga? He hasn’t ruled it out according to a story by Andy Sher. LINK

“My decision on the future is going to be based on where I think I can have the most impact,” Berke said in an interview Friday. “I have been working on jobs and education for years now, and I think that’s what people want from both parties. So I feel comfortable with the politics of where I am in any [Senate] district.”

At the same time, Berke said, he finds the idea of serving as Chattanooga’s mayor, a nonpartisan position, attractive.

“As mayor you get to exercise executive leadership and hold people together in a unified way,” Berke said. “We have important issues related to crime and economic development. And bringing our citizens together to combat these important problems is something that attracts [me],” he said.

But he insists he could win the redrawn 10th Senate District he now represents.


Quick Hits

  • Capitol Hill reporter Joe White discusses this year’s legislative session. He says many legislators are going to play it safe this session because it’s an election year. (audio from WPLN.) LINK
  • Tennessee Citizens Action has a comprehensive list of bills to watch, their sponsors and links to them online. Happy Back to Session DayLINK
  • A new blog (to me) out of East Tennessee.Cathie Bird has the links to the “Right to Bully Bill” at her website, Raising CainLINK
  • A prayer vigil is scheduled for this evening as clergy from different faiths spotlight mountain top removal. LINK
  • Will Sen. Bill Ketron run against Rep. Scott DesJarlais in the Fourth District primary. Jeff Woods says the Republican senator is praying about it and he hasn’t ruled it out. LINK 
  • The Koch Brothers have donated to DesJarlais according to a story by Andy Sher. LINK
  • Rep. Steve Cohen has expressed some concerns about his new district lines. LINK


Trace Sharp

Redistricting Maps Released


The House and Senate have released the new maps and it’s pretty much what everyone expected with a few new curves. Tom Humphrey has a round-up of the physical maps here for you to see for wherever you may live in Tennessee with stories about what has happened to the House and to the Senate.

For political internet junkies, social media was buzzing about which democrats were safe, and which were not in the next election cycle

Here are some of the reactions from around the state. Because the district lines have changed drastically in some areas across the state, we will look today at those elected officials most effected by yesterday’s news. As for congressional districts, according to WPLN, House speaker Beth Harwell is quoted as saying those will be released sometime this week. 


Two of the more progressive house representatives have been put in the same district in Nashville. Jeff Woods talks to both of them. The House Speaker defended that she was trying to create a fight for two well-liked democrats. LINK


House Speaker Beth Harwell denies trying to gerrymander liberal Nashville Democrats Sherry Jones and Mike Stewart out of public office. Meeting with reporters after the unveiling of the GOP House redistricting plan this morning, Harwell said Republicans had no choice but to throw Stewart and Jones into the same district


In Memphis, Sen. Jim Kyle has been moved into incumbent GOP Sen. Brian Kelsey’s district which means the two will have to run against each other this year. Meanwhile, Rep. Jeanne Richardson will face Rep. Antonio Parkinson while veteran legislators Rep. GA Hardaway has been put in the same district as Rep. Barbara Cooper. LINK


Republicans and Democrats in the House expected the Shelby County delegation would lose two Democratic seats.

Collierville Republican Curry Todd was the coordinator for the Shelby County part of the proposal.


 Sen. Andy Berke’s seat in Chattanooga was highly redrawn and he is looking at all options. Andy Sher with the story. LINK


The plan is expected to be acted on in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday and could become law by the end of next week.

It reflects the first GOP-crafted redistricting plan in Tennessee history. State Senate, state House and congressional districts are redrawn every 10 years to reflect shifting population according to the latest U.S. census.

Berke is already said to be exploring running for Chattanooga mayor and Republicans believe the plan will give him a firm nudge, although Berke has said he thinks he can win the redrawn district.

Betsy Phillips puts things in perspective at Tiny Cat Pants. (Saucy Language Alert)LINK


So, do the new districts suck for Democrats? Yes. But what is the solution that respects our form of government? The voters put Republicans in charge. If you’re not seeing proof they’re splitting up voting communities-like splitting black neighborhoods to keep them from having black representatives-then it’s just our tough luck that they’re changing districts.


 In other news around the state:


The Jackson Sun’s editorial board says to beware of a new bill coming up when session reconvenes next week.LINK


With the second session of Tennessee’s 107th General Assembly set to convene Jan. 10, people already are beginning to consider legislation. A likely proposal we would urge caution on would require drug testing of people who get government assistance or workers’ compensation benefits.

Don’t interpret our reluctance to be acceptance of illegal drug use by people who receive government benefits, or anyone else. Illegal drug use is against the law, and it should be dealt with accordingly by law enforcement.

Rather, our concerns center around the unintended consequences of such a proposal. A similar bill was introduced last year and failed to pass, in part, because it carried a $12 million fiscal review price tag. But cost is only one of the potential pitfalls such a measure could encounter.



The Tennessee Anti-Bullying Law changes have made the national media, this one from the Huffington Post.LINK


Less than one month after a local gay teen took his own life after allegedly being tormented at his high school, a proposed change in a Tennessee lawcould protect students who engage in anti-gay bullying if they do so for religious reasons.

As local news channel WSMV is reporting, the proposed law change by state lawmakers would allow students to speak out against homosexuality without punishment if that’s what their religious beliefs call for. The bill is reportedly a top priority for the conservative Family Action Council of Tennessee – as the Chattanooga Times Free Press notes, the group’s December newsletter says it hopes “to make sure [the law] protects the religious liberty and free speech rights of students who want to express their views on homosexuality.”


Quick Hits


  • Sen. Lowe Finney’s statement on redistricting released yesterday. Sen. Finney’s district changed significantly in west Tennessee. LINK
  • Sen. Bob Corker has a website targeting him over some of his recent votes called OperationCorkscrew. LINK
  • Tennessee Talking Points asks why the TNDP is looking to extend the Chair’s position to four years instead of two.LINK
  • Sean Braisted, who serves on the Executive Committee responds to TTP about the discussion that will take place this weekend about the proposed extenstion. (Both blogs make lively and intelligent observations on the issue.) LINK

Lincoln Davis Encourages Democrats To Change Messaging

Lincoln Davis spoke this weekend and reminded a message that a lot of Tennessee bloggers have been preaching for years. Democrats need to act like democrats. LINK

Lincoln Davis, former Democratic congressman from Pall Mall, said in Knoxville on Saturday that Democrats are right on issues but wrong on messages in the minds of voters.

The issues have been education, Medicare and “reaching out in a fair tax structure” since 1932, with the American public not agreeing in recent elections, he said.

“Democrats need to change the way we message and present ourselves as Democrats,” he told some 30 people at the Boyd Cloud Saturday Morning Democratic Club meeting at Shoney’s on Western Avenue.


Sen. Andy Berke discusses K12 Inc. in a editorial by Gail Collins in the New York Times. To explain what K12 Inc. is, the company owned by conservative talk show pundit and secretary of education under Pres. Ronald Reagen, William Bennett.   LINK

But, lately, the target seems to be low-income families. Andy Berke, a state senator in Chattanooga, Tenn., says that when an educational company named K12 Inc. held a meeting topublicize its online

taxpayer-funded academy, it chose “one of the poorest neighborhoods” in his district. In Pennsylvania, where K12 runs a statewide online charter school called Agora, you can go to the Web site and watch Head of School Sharon Williams explain about “online learning as an alternative to a violent in-school experience.”

O.K., here is my first question: Does full-time online learning really work for disadvantaged kids who may be alone at home all day?


The Jackson Sun is reporting that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting the Fightin’ 8th and that freshman representative Stephen Fincher has changed his interests since being elected. Adam Hodge told the newspaper that Fincher has turned his back on rural farmers. The question is who will against him.  LINK

Hodge listed Democratic state senators Lowe Finney and Roy Herron, who lost against Fincher in the 2010 congressional election, as potential candidates for the 8th District seat next year.

Corn field in Obion CountyHerron, of Dresden, confirmed in a phone interview that he plans to run against Fincher again in 2012 but did not release a statement. Finney, of Jackson, did not return calls seeking comment.

Democrats are pushing Fincher’s decision to switch from the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture to the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services to the forefront of speculation that he has prioritized re-election and not Tennesseans.

The Nooga’s James Harrison has the rundown on both of the senators from Tennessee rejecting the proposal to extend the payroll tax cuts. LINK

The first proposal, favored by Democrats, was rejected in a 51-49 vote, short of the 60 needed to pass. To pay for the cut in payroll taxes, the measure would have placed a tax increase on American singles and couples earning more than $1 million a year, an element that prevented nearly every Senate Republican from supporting the measure. 

The second proposal, favored by Republicans, came nowhere close to passing and was defeated in a 20-78 vote. The bill would have compensated for the continuation of the cuts by freezing federal salaries and seeking additional reductions in federal spending. 

Sen. Lamar Alexander, who voted against both bills, called the proposals a “long term raid on Social Security.”


Nashville activist Chris Sanders writes at his website that Tennesseans need to fight back. He’s right. It’s up to local governments across the state to take a more aggressive stance toward legislation that guts their right to make decisions about their community. LINK

Local governments ought to pass resolutions against all these bills and let their delegations to the General Assembly know that they oppose them.  Republicans and Democrats who respect local control ought to mount primary challenges to members of the General Assembly who support these bills.  And citizens who care about their communities across Tennessee need to start giving state lawmakers a piece of their minds about taking away their rights.  And just to underline the point, the Tennessee Municipal League and the Tennessee County Commissioners Association ought to work against these bills, even though, as Rep. Casada points out, they are mainly targeting Memphis and Nashville.  The reason is simple.  If you allow them to pass these bills, they will keep going.  They didn’t stop with discrimination in HB600.  Sticking together is the only approach that makes sense.

Quick Hits

  • Another journalist has been arrested at Occupy Nashville. LINK
  • R. Neal has the numbers of how Tennessee is being run as a state. The answer is not very well. LINK
  • Steve at Roane’s Views gives some common sense advice on bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States. He makes a good point. LINK
Trace Sharp


Pairing The Actions And Words of Rep. Curry Todd

To link all the reports about the arrest of Rep. Curry Todd on DUI and gun possession charges Tuesday evening would take forever. Hundreds of national/local news reports and blog posts from around the nation have chronicled his arrest by the Metro Nashville Police Department. At last count, more than 400 news stories, which doesn’t even include blog posts, have been placed around the Internet. If you are interested in seeing what has been written, we suggest you search Google. To let you know how rapidly this story spread, a post written by Jeff Woods at Pith in the Wind was shared more than 800 times yesterday on Facebook alone.

There have been numerous posts that have expressed anger and others have focused on the House member’s history in the legislature.

From Sean Braisted, an exchange between Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh with Todd during the Guns in Bars debate in which Todd sponsored. Braisted has the video. LINK

Oh, yeah, who was the House sponsor of that Guns in Bars bill?  Why, thank you for asking, it was in fact Rep. Curry Todd.
Now, we don’t know yet where Todd was drinking, and whether or not he was packing heat whilst drinking or if it was just in his car, but, regardless, I think its worth pointing out the connection.

The Huffington Post spotlighted a story where Todd made disparaging comments about undocumented mothers in November 2010 while writing of his arrest this week LINK.

“They can go out there like rats and multiply, then,” he responded. He later said that he was “wrong” to use that language and said he should have used the term “anchor babies” instead.

From a presser that Tom Humphrey has at the Knoxville News Sentinel that the TNDP sent out. LINK

Curry Todd said any gun permit violators should have permits revoked for life. From the March 10, 2010 Judiciary Committee meeting:

Rep. Barrett Rich: “OK, that’s just a pressing question I had and just wanted to make sure that is clear. If you get caught doing something with a handgun permit that you shouldn’t be doing, it’s my personal feeling you shouldn’t have a permit anymore.

Rep. Todd: “It’s my personal feeling that you shouldn’t have it forever, you should just be disbanded from carrying forever if your doing it.”

Rep. Rich: “Yes, sir, I agree.”

Rep. Todd: “I have always said that.”

Video here at 29 minutes in.

Todd apologized for his actions late yesterday but it remains to be seen what will happen. There are all always consequences to behavior especially when it comes to aligning actions and words, especially from those elected officials who create laws we must abide by.

Quick Hits:


  • The battle over Title X funds in Memphis continues. LINK
  • Being that yesterday was dominated by Todd headlines, we would like to remind you that Sen. Andy Berke reported to constituents this week 304,000 Tennesseans are currently unemployed. LINK
  • Pres. Bill Clinton thinks that the Occupy Movement can create a strong positive debate. “The Occupy Wall Street crowd basically is saying, ‘I’m unemployed and the people that caused this have their jobs again and their bonuses again and their incomes are high again. There’s something wrong with this country. This is not working for me,’” Clinton said, the Chicago Tribune reports. “So I think it can be a good positive debate.” LINK
  • Darrell Bouldin writes a letter to the editor about attending the “Take Back The American Dream” conference in DC. LINK
  • Topeka, Kansas has repealed domestic violence laws which is unacceptable. Joe Powell has the story. LINK
  • Nashville writer Mike Byrd is following a non-profit that Tweeted about the Occupy Movement and then took their tweets down. Interesting on a lot of levels. LINK 
  • Tennessee Citizens Action has information on forums designed to answer questions about Photo IDs. LINK