Now, anyone with half a brain in their head should have looked at this promise pretty skeptically. Its just like any other promise a politician makes, subject to change based on future events.
And while the notion of “running government like a business” may seem like a good idea, 2010 was just two years after businesses…really big businesses…essentially tanked the economy by screwing over people who just wanted to own a home.
So, maybe we didn’t ask the right question at the time. Maybe we should have asked, “What kind of business?”
Of course, a fawning media, ready to crown a victor well before the election, didn’t help with the questions. They were falling all over themselves to use every adjective they could to make Haslam seem inevitable.
30 months into this term, the shine is starting to wear off with the media, and problems both inside and out of his administration have more than a few observers wondering about the Governor’s decision-making and the patronage system that has emerged.
Riding a wave of Republican victories across the state, Gov. Haslam was inaugurated with a newly ensconced GOP led House and Senate. While the Governor was just getting settled in, the legislature went to work, removing collective bargaining for teachers, instituted a photo ID bill for voting, and passed a bill allowing corporate contributions to political campaigns, among other things.
By the end of the 2011 session, many on both sides of the aisle rightly asked who was in charge of the state…the Governor or the Legislature? By 2012 the Governor started getting his sea legs, even if the legislature continued dragging him further to the right than most thought possible.
A post-mortem of the Gov.’s second year in office, noted that Haslam had a hard time reigning in the far right elements in the legislature. In the days following the end of the 2012 session, a slew of articles noting both the secrecy of the legislature and the Executive Branch intent on keeping information about the workings of government from the people, under the guise of “privacy”. One such effort sought to shield the owners of companies from public disclosure of their receipt of cash grants from the state.
All of these things led to the state being saddled with the dubious distinction of having the worst State Legislature in the US in 2012, and led to many questions, including those wondering if Gov. Haslam would ever live up to his “moderate” public image?
Apparently, the Gov. had other things in mind…like fulfilling the worst fears of what “running Government like a business” can be.
With the passage of the TEAM Act, a bill that radically changed the way Civil Service jobs are awarded, and which led to the hiring of what one writer called his patronage chief, Larry Martin, the nature of that “business climate in government” began to emerge.
Martin, who retired from First Tennessee Bank in 2006, also served as Chief of Staff for the Haslam Administration in Knoxville. While its not unusual for a political appointee to follow an executive from one place to another, Martin’s connections to the Haslam family are deeply rooted.
Both Jimmy Haslam and R. Brad Martin (U of Memphis interim president and chief Pilot internal investigator) served on the First Tennessee board while Larry Martin was COO of First Tennessee’s Financial Services division.
Another Haslam staffer, Mark Emkes, a Director at First Horizon (Parent Co. of First TN) became Director of Finance and Administration until he retired recently and was replaced by Larry Martin.
While the tangled web of business friends of the Haslam family that litters the upper echelon of the Haslam Administration is interesting, I’ll leave that for a future post to deal directly with the personal interests that have been rearing their ugly head for months now.
In June, a committee tasked with oversight of state contracts deferred the review of a contract for the Dept. of Corrections, that was awarded to a company employing the wife of Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield…and cost the state $15m more.
This same group was also exploring looking into contracts offered to Enterprise Rent-a-car and Bridgestone, the latter formerly headed by recently retired Director of Finance and Administration, Mark Emkes.
But it doesn’t end there.
The Governor recently awarded a $330 million contract to a company he listed on his disclosures as an investment, one of the scant few I might add. He also signed a law that benefitted a business buddy in Gatlinburg and says he’s unconcerned about a coal company that has ties to his family business.
All of this leads us to a report from NC5 yesterday that alleges inside dealings on contracts by Tom Ingram, who, until recently was paid privately by the Governor.
This after several administrative problems involving child deaths at DCS, and the rewards totaling $1m that went to the TN Dept. of Labor after misspending $73m of unemployment money, which ultimately led to the Governor seeking cover behind newly appointed State Chief Operating Officer Greg Adams.
Apparently, “running government like a business” in part, at least, means placing layers of folks between you and government so you don’t really have to take responsibility for governing.
Of course, this is going on while the FBI and IRS are investigating the family business. An investigation that, while not directly connected to the Governor yet, certainly puts a pall on the overall outlook for Tennessee’s first family.
Which brings me back to something I said at the beginning…just what kind of business did candidate Haslam intend to model Tennessee government after?
While the jury may be out on that question as a whole, the evidence is pointing to the same kind of crony capitalism that brought down the banks in 2007-08 and is causing his family business all kinds of trouble right now. The kind that works with its friends at the expense of everyone else.
And while the Governor has enjoyed a certain measure of teflon like “unstainable” status in public opinion, one has to wonder how many scratches that surface can withstand before the public turns their back on the Governor.
What should be even more troubling for the Governor is that while he’s taken some dings to his image, the investigations into poor management and potential misdeeds in his administration are just beginning.
And just like most things, the bandwagoneers in the media will eventually jump on this en masse to do the thing they like doing more than building someone up…taking them down.
Democratic members of the State House and Senate need our help beating back the ridiculous policies of the GOP majority.
If you’re like me, and sick of being the butt of a national joke, give to the House and Senate Democratic Caucuses. They directly support the election of Democrats to the state legislature and are actively working to build a bluer Tennessee.
A special thanks to all the folks who have already donated.
Help us make a difference, reach our fundraising goal, and let our Democrats know you support them in their fight.
Donate today. While you’re at it add these donation buttons to your website. Code can be found here.
If you thought Stacey Campfield and his bevy of bills that would harm regular Tennesseans was dispicable, and don’t want to see his face on The Colbert Report anymore, you’re probably wondering what options you have, especially if you don’t live in Knoxville.
Perhaps you were offended by the blatant mistruths spouted by Rep. Andy Holt (R-Desden) as he pushed through his ALEC sponsored Ag Gag Bill, which not only protects animal abusers, but punishes those who seek to expose them.
To be honest, there are far too many examples of legislative over-reach, and bad policy to put in one place. (Here’s my best effort)
Over the past two cycles the GOP has reached “super-majority” status. Its enough to make you think the leadership of the House and Senate Democratic Caucuses would just fold.
Thankfully they didn’t.
With a renewed energy, and the addition of some voices that had previously been silent, the Caucuses put up a fight, even if they didn’t have the votes to stop some of these bills.
Big ups to Minority Leaders Craig Fitzhugh and Lowe Finney, the ever “vocabulant” Mike Turner, and a newcomer to the House Democratic Caucus, Gloria Johnson, who proved herself to be a force to be reckoned with. In all, considering the circumstances, I feel they did a pretty good job.
If you’re like me and tired of having to deal with a state government that is pushing the state backwards and hurting regular folks while helping out of state special interests, maybe its time to put your money where your mouth is.
Give to the House and Senate Democratic Caucuses. These organizations support Democratic legislative candidates across the state and are working to expand the ranks of Democrats in their respective caucuses.
Give what your can. Even small donations go a long way (I don’t have much to give either). But you can make your voice heard, and make a difference. Contribute to the Tennessee House and Senate Democratic Caucuses securely using the Act Blue links below.
Because being jaded never changed anything.
If you would like to add these to your site, use the embed links below:
TN House – <a href=”https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/vtnhouse?refcode=thermometer”>
<div align=”center”><img src=”http://i.actblue.com/page/vtnhouse/thermometer/dark.png” alt=”Goal Thermometer”/>
TN Senate – <a href=”https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/vtnsenate?refcode=thermometer”>
<div align=”center”><img src=”http://i.actblue.com/page/vtnsenate/thermometer/dark.png” alt=”Goal Thermometer”/>
The one thing Tennesseans can take to the bank is that the GOP led state legislature focused on just about everything except helping them take more to the bank through economic development or reducing healthcare costs.
The one thing the legislature did focus on was legislation intended to further the ideological aims of those who seek to send public money to private companies en masse. The school voucher bill, a top priority for the Haslam Administration, died when a certain Senator from Germantown wouldn’t let go of his designs on upping the ante.
Another school related bill suffering the same fate was House Speaker Beth Harwell’s pet project, an expansion of the state charter authorizer…an outright dig at the Metro Nashville School Board, who thwarted a charter operator over the ruling of the State Dept. of Education in the fall.
One final school related bill that did make it out of the contentious final days was a bill that allows “for-profit” organizations to operate charter schools. This bill happened so late in session, and among so many other things that I had to call the Senate Clerk’s office to confirm that it had been passed as the vote hadn’t been updated on the General Assembly website. As a side note, they were very helpful and tracked down the vote for me in mere minutes. Good job on that.
There were several bills that dealt with different kinds of justice. One such bill, which was actively pursued by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, would have changed the way judicial districts were drawn in the state and reduced them by two. That bill failed Friday in a battle of wills. There’s no word as to whether it will come up again next year, as petitions for judicial elections will be released near the beginning of session.
While people expecting speedy justice from the judicial branch were spared, others were not so lucky.
Abused animals to the brunt of legislative beatings in the passage of a bill that would make it harder to document animal abuse.
Workers seeking justice for their injuries were injured when the legislature approved changes to the workers compensation system that further tilts it against them.
Municipalities seeking to ensure workers employed on government funded jobs likely took a hit to their bank accounts as a bill seeking to overturn local living wage ordinances made its way to the Governor.
People living on fixed incomes, especially those who were likely poor to begin with, may hunger for a change as they see one of the most popular programs anywhere cut. Meals on Wheels, the popular program that helps poor elderly people eat, got cut $2.3m because the state’s “rainy day fund” was more important to the Governor and Legislature than elderly people that can’t get around on their own.
And finally, property owners, seeking to, you know, make the rules regarding what is or isn’t allowed on their property, a foundational concept of common law, will now have to allow the storage of guns in vehicles by permit holders. Its like a liberty vs. liberty deathmatch.
One good thing on the legislative front. The Shelby County Public Defender’s office did receive additional funding from the state to bring them closer to parity with other smaller PD’s. Don’t think this was kindness. Chances are, the state would have been sued by the County if this hadn’t happened.
Taking a cue, perhaps, from his from his brother’s business practices, Gov. Haslam sought to bully the Feds into acquiescing to his less kind, less expansive form of the much touted but barely formed “Arkansas Plan” for Medicaid expansion. While the language may have been the normal flavor of milquetoast we’ve come to expect from the Governor, make no mistake about it, he was pandering to the far right wing of his base.
In an article in Saturday’s paper the Governor give a quick “post-mortem” of the session saying:
“I do think there was a lot accomplished,” said Haslam. “We passed a great budget that cuts taxes, adds to the Rainy Day Fund, gives a raise to employees, has really one of the largest increases for K-12 (school) funding that we’ve had in a long time and gave a significant amount of capital (construction funding) for higher education.
“And some significant legislation passed: one of the key issues I think is increasing access to and controlling the costs of higher education … allowing more families to afford college.”
I both covered and predicted this would be a post-session talking point. For a good explination of just who benefits from the tax cuts, check out paragraphs 6-8 at this article in the CA. Pretty sure you won’t find your income on the list.
Finally, in a dig to professional development in the state, the Governor closed 34 carreer centers statewide despite the unemployment rate increasing to 7.9%. I’m sure this money ultimately goes to business tax cuts somewhere, I just haven’t found it yet.
While the worst may not have happened, this time, there’s still next year, and plenty of GOP majority to push it through. The State House and 17 State Senators, along with the Governor will be in campaign mode as they push to the November election. Expect lots of pet projects to come up again, and less strife between the House and the Senate as they push to get back to their districts as soon as possible so they can amass the cash needed to try and win another trip to Disneyland on the Cumberland.
In the mean time, take a breath and know you’re safe for a few short months…assuming, of course, the Governor’s Administration doesn’t go full on Rick Scott on us.
After this session, I’m not ruling anything out.
Yesterday was a pretty huge day, and I’m not talking about the massive CNN fail regarding an arrest in the Boston bombing case.
Nope, I’m talking about right here in Tennessee.
Here’s what Senator Jim Kyle had to say about the Ram-it-through budget session yesterday.
Gramatical errors in the heat of battle, and on twitter for that matter, be damned…he’s right.
Yesterday the Tennessee House and Senate approved the Governor’s budget, largely sight unseen.
One member of the House GOP caucus even complained that, and I’m paraphrasing – “…his constituents didn’t send him up here to vote on a budget without reading it.”
But that’s what happens when the date session ends is more important than the content of the bills that are passed.
Today, the legislature should adjourn for the year, which is comforting in one way, but also terrifying.
Legislative efficiency shouldn’t be measured in time. But that seems to be the measure the GOP leadership in the House and Senate prefers to measure their success.
When the legislature closes today, it will mark the shortest session in recent memory. But lets not confuse that with a lack of legislative decisions that will negatively impact people in this state for years to come.
Truth be told, there are plenty of ridiculous and unnecessary bills that were rammed through the legislature, and very little dissent on the majority side to stop them in their tracks.
The high point of dissent seems to be focused on just how dumb or widespread the dumb should be, as we saw will the killing of the Voucher bill, though other measures died in recent days as well.
A full accounting of what passed and what didn’t may take weeks to complete, but the budget decisions, and in particular the cuts, will be felt for some time.
One of the most heartless decisions cuts $2.3m from the “Meals on Wheels” program. According to the Tennessean, the cuts would impact over 1000 seniors and deliver 150,000 fewer meals in the state.
What’s most sick about this decision is that the state has a projected $100m surplus in the upcoming budget year. In the past, these budget projections have been conservative. This year alone, we anticipated a $200m+ surplus. We hit that mark last month, with three more months in the fiscal year left.
While the policy implications of the session that’s about to end will leave folks like me with weeks of work, we can’t forget the political implications of ending session early either.
Legislators can’t raise money during session until after May 15th. Ending session early means nearly a whole month of fundraising for folks.
While it may seem that this additional opportunity would be evenly distributed, the truth of the matter is the party in power has a distinct advantage over the minority party. Don’t think for a minute that this reality is lost on the GOP.
While the public face of a early end to session will be focused on the idea of “efficiency” that I mentioned above, behind the scenes there will be a great deal of work done to secure the political future of the majority party with an eye toward expanding their ranks in 2014.
Of course, neither group can start collecting anything until session ends. Once it does I’ll have a list of resources for you so you can not only follow the action, but support Democratic candidates.