Apr 18 2013

cRAAM Session

Posted by Steve Ross in State Politics

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.

Sen. Jim Kyle with some serious truth about governing

Sen. Jim Kyle with some serious truth about governing

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.

Terror in the Error

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.

Meals for Wheeler Dealers…Seniors, not so much

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.

Mar 13 2012

Sen. Kyle Defends The “UnDo Can’t Do” Bill – #SB2762

Posted by Steve Ross in Shelby County, State Politics

One of the more onerous bills that passed out of last year’s session was HB0600 dubbed the “Equal Access to Intrastate Commerce Act”.

Sponsored by Glen Casada (R) of Franklin, the bill sought to remove the ability of a local government to set certain ground rules in contracts.

That’s shorthand for enacting non-discrimination ordinances.

Here’s Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D) Ripley from last year laying out one of the critical flaws of HB600.

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You can watch other video from the debate here and the whole video here.

Almost a year since the passage and nullification of Nashville’s CANDO ordinance, Sen. Jim Kyle (D) Memphis is leading a push, sponsored by Metro Nashville and Shelby County government to repeal the repeal.

Here’s his opening statement:

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A member of the Nashville Metro Council also spoke in favor of the bill, but what is more interesting to me are some of the questions for the sponsor. Here’s an exchange from Sen. Mike Faulk – (R) Church Hill:

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You’ll notice that at the end of the clip, Sen. Faulk seems to get it. I don’t know if he agrees or disagrees, but he gets it.

Even Sen. Majority Leader Mark Norris (R) Collierville seems to be somewhat swayed, despite past efforts to overrule local control of government.

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Of course, some were just trying to get a few specific words. In this case Sen. Stacey “Don’t Say Gay” Campfield – (R) Knoxville tries and fails to extract the words “discriminating against religion” out of the sponsor and supporters. Watch if you dare:

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You can see video of the whole discussion here.

At the end of the day, we have to decide if we’re going to let local government…you know…govern. In the wake of the passage of HB 600, that’s a lot harder.

I’m not sure if the bill has a chance in hell, but I’m glad Sen. Kyle is pursuing it and I hope his colleagues on both sides of the aisle will too.

Sep 20 2011

Jobs Tour Kicks Off – #TNJobsTour

Posted by Steve Ross in State Politics

Elected officials meet with business owners, innovative leaders

MEMPHIS – House and Senate Democrats kicked off their statewide jobs tour Monday with events in Memphis and Brownsville addressing education, infrastructure and job training.

“We heard about how Tennessee is a great environment for business, but we also discussed the economic and educational hurdles to job growth that exist throughout the state,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis.

Members of the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce joined representatives from Autozone, ServiceMaster, Belz, Medtronic, Monogram Foods, Fogelman Management, Smith & Nephew, the Memphis Bioworks Foundation and the Memphis Workforce Investment Network for a breakfast roundtable with House and Senate members.

The discussion centered on the need for clearer career paths in the state’s education system in order to streamline transfers and increase the number of college graduates. Several employers noted there is a growing gap between jobs coming to the state and the workforce’s current skill set.

“We are hearing from employers that job creation and education go hand-in-hand,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley. “As state lawmakers, we can play a role in creating educational opportunities that increase job opportunities.”

Monday afternoon, jobs tour officials toured the West Tennessee Megasite as well as the University of Tennessee Solar Farm, two of the largest economic development sites for West Tennessee. Elected officials spoke with supervisors to find out the next steps in putting Tennesseans to work at both sites.

“The West Tennessee Megasite is our region’s greatest chance to attract the same kind of major investment we have seen with Volkswagen and Hemlock,” said Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney of Jackson. “West Tennessee deserves the same kind of opportunity that other areas of the state have enjoyed.”

On Tuesday, the jobs tour continues in West Tennessee with stops in Jackson, Martin and Dresden. Media availability Tuesday will be held at noon at the Tour Residue Regency Pad Corporation, 480 Public Wells Road in Martin.

Jun 13 2011

Is HB0600 The Worst Bill of 2011 Session?

Posted by Steve Ross in State Politics

Taken at the Justice for All rally yesterday


For those of you who weren’t following along HB0600 was drafted just days after the introduction of Nashville’s CAN DO ordinance, an ordinance that requires vendors who contract into business with the city to follow rules against GLBT workplace discrimination.

The point of HB0600 is to roll back any such local ordinances and make it impossible for any local government to provide any more protection for any class of citizen beyond the protections the state allows.

This was billed as a “pro-business” bill, which is why its strange that David Fowler of the Family Action Council of Tennessee helped on the legislation, until you remember the whole anti-gay part, then it makes perfect sense.

As with so many of these hastily written, discriminatory bills, HB0600 not only stops cities and counties from enacting non-discrimination ordinances that are in line with their community standard, it also effectively hurts people from all walks of life.

Yesterday at the Justice for All Rally those in attendance heard about one group of people who were never mentioned but who could be targeted as a result of this bill.

Today, I stand here at First Congregational Church as we unite with various non-profit organizations, work groups and interested citizens in our community to voice our concerns at the “Justice for All Rally”.

The SAD (Special Access to Discriminate Act) HB600/SB632 Act, which will affect many individuals in our community with disabiliteis or without a disability. The SAD Act will affect individuals, who use Section 8 vouchers or SSI (Supplemental Security Income) as a means to obtain housing in the community. The SAD Act will allow landlords to refuse housing to individuals, who are disabled (like me) or depend on Section 8 or SSI as their only source of income.

How will the SAD Act affect me and especially my brothers and sisters with disabilities? It will affect me because if my physical conditions get worse and I am needing to quit my full-time job then most likely will lose my apartment. If I lose my apartment and major source of income then will become homeless on the streets of Memphis once again for the fourth time. If for some reason I lose both job and incoem then will need to find another place to live because of not being able to afford apartment.

The SAD Act will cause me to become homeless again especially since I have no family, who will take me into their home so I wouldn’t become homeless again. I would need to depend on SSI so the SAD Act will cause another traumatic experience in my already complicated life.

In my heart it makes me very sad and upset at times the SAD Act was passed in the first place. How can our political leaders create such a monster in the first place? Were the citizens made aware of the SAD Act being considered to pass before they voted on the bill? I never heard anything about it and this makes me very sad to know our political system is failing those individuals (like myself) with disabilities, who at times have no choice but to depend on our government for respect but at the same time protection from danger or discrimination. Is it too late to change the SAD Act like it use to be so our citizens with disabilities and other groups can get the respect and diginity they deserve as citizens?

I stand here today representing individuals with disablities along with my brothers and sisters represented by other groups in the community. We need to make our voice heard loud and clear this afternoon the SAD Act is wrong and needs to changed to its original act.

Thanks for your time in listening this afternoon.

Marian Bacon
Memphis Tennessee

This morning Nashville Metro Councilman Mike Jameson as well as several other citizens and TEP filed a lawsuit in state court.

Councilman Jameson asked a pretty pertinent question in the In Session post, one that I asked myself during the debate over the issue:

“The state legislation was disguised as an effort to ensure consistent business regulations across Tennessee counties. But that was a Trojan horse pretext for getting this passed. Every county has unique zoning regulations, unique employment regulations and so forth. Why is it only now, and only on the issue of discrimination, that we suddenly need uniformity? If every county now needs to be identical, should we abolish city councils across the state?”

So yeah, this may be the worst bill the legislature passed this year.

Soon after session ended Sen. Jim Kyle filed a bill to repeal HB0600. Head over to his new snazzy website to thank and encourage him.

Of the 132 legislators in the State House and Senate, only 7 Democrats voted for the bill. Their names and links to their legislative offices follow. Maybe you should ring them up and ask them what they have against city governments, home rule charters, the disabled and God only knows what else. Ask them why they would vote for a bill they

HouseEddie Bass, Charles Curtiss, John DeBerry, Michael McDonald, Joe Pitts, and John Mark Windle.

SenateCharlotte Burks.

As for the Rebulblicans? Call any of them. Not a single Republican voted against the bill. House | Senate

There’s still a lot of legislation to pile through from this session, but as it stands HB0600 may be the most widely destructive bill that was supposed to be “targeted” at a specific constituency.

Lets hear it for unintended consequences.

Aug 27 2009

Jim Kyle at Drinking Liberally

Posted by Steve Ross in 2010 TN Gov

Over the past 8 months, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and talk to nearly every Democratic candidate for Governor. This weekend, I hope that I will be able to complete that list.

So far, I like all of them, though some more than others. Each brings something different to the table. Kim McMillan’s experience and can do attitude is a huge asset to her campaign. Ward Cammack’s out of the box thinking is refreshing and something that all the candidates should look at. With Roy Herron’s charisma he could probably be successful selling ice cubes to Eskimos.

But what about Jim Kyle?

Last night he dropped in on the Memphis Drinking Liberally crowd to talk about his campaign and his plans for the state as Governor. Without getting into specifics, the thing that struck me more than anything else was not any particular strategy or tactic that he hopes to employ as Governor, but a “whole patient” philosophy in approaching the challenges facing Tennessee.

Education, Jobs, Taxes/Government Reform, and Crime are common, if not cliché themes for campaigns. Most candidates for any office focus on addressing the symptoms of an issue. They do this for several reasons, but mostly because the root of the problem is either too big for them to wrap their heads around, or too hard to distill into a simple sound byte for the media. Kyle has managed to both make the message simple by focusing on a familiar theme, but also take it to a level that is more comprehensive than most candidates can muster.

Because he’s the most recent candidate to enter the fray, his site is a little thin on details, but he promises to announce an education plan in the coming weeks. I’m sure more initiatives will follow over time, but my first impression is really positive.

I’m not making any endorsements until I get the chance to meet everyone and more of their positions are fleshed out, but I’m feeling really good about the field, and Jim Kyle made a big impression on me.