Thursday, April 11, 2013

Senate Blocks Campfield’s “Starve-the-Children” Bill, Shunts It Off to “Summer Study”

Majority Leader Norris takes lead in retarding measure that would reduce state aid to families with failing school children.

Posted By on Thu, Apr 11, 2013 at 1:10 PM

Campfield getting the bad news
  • Campfield getting the bad news
Faced with a barrage of skeptical questions from his Republican colleagues, State Senator Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) took the hint on Thursday and agreed to refer his SB 0132 (referred to by opponents as “Starve-the-Children”) to a "summer study" committee.

The first hint of serious trouble for Campfield camp during floor debate when GOP majority leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) pronounced himself “queasy” about the bill, which would reduce state aid to dependent families whose children were experiencing grade trouble. The bill had already engendered a mid-week statement of opposition from Governor Bill Haslam and had been actively opposed by any number of agencies and institutions concerned with student welfare.

Norris told Campfield, “You’re fooling yourself” regarding the Knoxville senator’s claim that only parents and not children would be penalized by the withholding from the affected familyof failing children an average of $20 a month in state support payments . The majority leader also referred to the bill as “the sort of legislation that gets challenged in a court of law as vague and ambiguous, arbitrary and capricious.”

Consequently, said Norris, “It’s a very troublesome piece of legislation, and I regret I can’t support it.”
After Norris came the deluge.

Senator Lowe Finney (D-Jackson) pointed out that the bill’s penalties had the effect of “making the child responsible for the parent’s actions.”

Norris queasy about bill
  • Norris 'queasy' about bill
Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) concurred, somewhat earthily. “I agree with Senator Finney . You can’t legislate parent responsibility. I don’t care what you do.” He foresaw “unintended consequences” for the student. “The parent will beat the dog doo out of him for taking that $20 away from them, that’s what’s going to happen.”

Other senators offered objections to various contentions Campbell had made in summarizing his bill. He had said that no food allotments would be affected (an apparent response to the ‘starve-the-children’ phrase), but more than one colleague noted that manyof the affected families were already subsisting on an average of $166 a month.. He had said at one point the the state Department of Human Services had “signed off” on the bill but later acknowledged, when pressed, that DHS was at best “neutral,” while Governor Haslam had opposed it.

Campfield had contended that his bill was meant to encourage “discipline” rather than punishment and that parents could avail themselves of any number of remedies to the bill’s penalties, including participation in parent-teacher conferences, involvement with tutoring programs, or merely reading to their children. But several senators criticized what they saw as vagueness in the bill’s description of such activities or in the means of validating them.

In the end, with Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville), the Senate Speaker, explicitly encouraging him to do so, Campfield offered to have the bill referred again to the Senate Health committee, chaired by Senator Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City), and to have it relegated to “summer study,' which would be coordinated with K-12 education sub-committees of the Senate and House.

Often, though not always, referral to summer-study status amounts to a death knell for a bill in the General Assembly.

The state House was also scheduled to consider the Campfield bill on Thursday, but the Senate’s action would appear to have made that process moot.

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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Carson Elected New Local Party Chairman by Democrats

Two opponents withdraw before voting begins; winner hails chance for unity and gains in 2014.

Posted By on Sat, Apr 6, 2013 at 10:52 PM

New Democratic chairman Bryan Carson with state Representative G.A. Hardaway and asst. city attorney Regina Morrison Newman at post-convention reception.
  • JB
  • New Democratic chairman Bryan Carson with state Representative G.A. Hardaway and asst. city attorney Regina Morrison Newman at post-convention reception.

The Shelby County Democrati9c Party, fully mindful of the weakness of their party statewide but determinedly optimistic about local election prospects in 2014, held their biennial party convention Saturday at Airways Middle School and emerged with a new executive committee and a new chairman, Bryan Carson.

Two other candidates, Terry Spicer and Jennings Bernard, did some head-counting during the course of the morning and, realizing they couldn’t win, deferred to Carson when it came time for nominations.

Carson, the son of longtime party eminence Gale Jones Carson and lead supervisor of an epidemiology work section at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, was then elected by acclamation. He would hail his rivals’ actions as presenting an opportunity for unity.

Before caucusing and voting by state House district got under way, the crowd was warmed up by 9th District congressman Steve Cohen, who emphasized what he said were the opportunities for Democrats in next year’s elections and advised the delegates to stand by the party’s principles.

Scorning the idea of “reaching out” too much in efforts to compromise with Republicans, Cohen got off a zinger: “Neville Chamberlain reached out to Hitler. It doesn’t work!”

Outgoing chairman Van Turner received a plaque of appreciation for his efforts during four years at the party helm.

Slideshow
Shelby County Democratic Convention
Shelby County Democratic Convention Shelby County Democratic Convention Shelby County Democratic Convention Shelby County Democratic Convention Shelby County Democratic Convention Shelby County Democratic Convention

Shelby County Democratic Convention

Click to View 7 slides

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Friday, April 5, 2013

Nicely Doubts Alexander, Corker Could be Nominated by GOP Legislative Caucus

Legislative opponent of 17th Amendment thinks state's Senators too moderate to pass muster.

Posted By on Fri, Apr 5, 2013 at 9:23 AM

Senators Alexander (l), Corker
  • Senators Alexander (l), Corker
NASHVILLE -- Though he disclaims that his now dormant proposal for the state legislature to nominate U.S. Senate candidates is aimed at Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, state Senator Frank Nicely (R-Strawberry Plains) is doubtful that either incumbent, both of whom he considers moderates, would pass muster with Republicans in the state legislature if they had to seek renomination from the GOP caucus.

“They both have 62 percent records voting with Obama, they voted for bail-outs, they voted for tax increases. I’m not sure they would, “ he said.

Joking about the non-existence of a book with the title “Great Moderates in American History, “ Nicely said, “If there was such a book, Lamar and Corker would be in it.”

(Asked about Nicely’s proposal during a visit to Memphis on Wednesday, Corker said he thought he knew the people of Tennessee as well as anybody, and, noting that, by his reckoning, some 650,000 people had voted in the state’s last U.S. Senate primary, said, “I don’t think Tennesseans would take very well to their right to vote being taken away.” And, Corker said, there would at present be all of 29 Democrats in the legislature to make their party’s nomination for U.S. Senate. “Just think about it.”)

In protesting that his aim was to restore power to the state and not to take the vote away from its people, Nicely contrasted the import of his proposal with the actions of three recent Tennessee governors, whom he took issue with: “We’re not doing like McWherter, who took away electing directors of schools, Sundquist took away our right to elect public service commissioners, Haslam appears to be taking away our right to elect Supreme Court judges and appellate judges. They’re actually taking away your right to vote.”

Nicely has been widely quoted as decrying a number of wicked things that he thinks happened in 1913 — the 17th Amendment, subjecting U.S. Senates to direct popular vote, of course. "Then we got the central bank that Jefferson had warned against [the Fed], more dangerous to liberty than a standing army, and Jakcson actually abolished the second U.S. bank in 1830….The bankers tried to kill him. But, anyway,we got the central bank back in 1913 and the dollar’s lost 90 percent of its purchasing power. A case of the bankers debasing our currency."

He qualifies his Constitutional quibbles somewhat, though. "A lot of amendments I agree with -- women’s suffreage, for example. The one I really agree with is the repeal of prohibition." He laughs. "That’s one of my favorites."

Besides the controversy over his proposal to tweak the 17th Amendment, Nicely generated some recent controversy in claiming that Abraham Lincoln was a defender of cockfighting. And he took part in a bizarre debate in the Senate Thursday over the issue of which pledge of allegiance should come first.

State Senator Stacey Canpfield (R-Knoxville) challenged the current order has the federal pledge first and the state pledge after, contending that “the American flag takes precedence over all other flags” and that the Senate should “highlight:” the pledge to the American flag by saving it for last.

Senator Doug Henry (D-Nashville) considered Campfield “technically” right but objected that it “pained” him to see the Tennessee flag “dipped” to the American flag, something Henry thought should never be.

Speaker Ramsey asked Nicely his opinion, and Nicely cited Robert E. Lee as having considered himself a Virginian first and an American second., concluding, “If Robert E. Lee was a Virginian first and an American second, I’m a Tennessean first and an American second.”

###

Frank Nicely in Nashville
  • JB
  • Frank Nicely in Nashville

A NOTE ON FRANK NICELY, who has figured more than once this week by more than one observer and for more than one reason as emblematic of the Looney Tunes aspect of the current Tennessee legislature.

Frank Nicely is one of those people who is seen one way by the outside world and another way by the people who know him up close. Yes, he’s got some outré opinions and some of them are close to the stuff that comes out of the ALEC handbook. But he is not reciting anything by rote. He’s a genuine populist, though of the right-wing —variety.

But he is personally a very tolerant man. I first encountered him back in 2002 when he was going around as the everyday helper of gubernatorial candidate Jim Henry, a bona fide moderate Republican. Henry (now serving as Bill Haslam’s new-broom director of Children’s Services, charged with redeeming that scandal-plagued agency) was urged into the Republican primary race that year as an antidote to hard-right candidate Van Hilleary by Don Sundquist, the outgoing Republican governor.

Sundquist had virtually been excommunicated by his party for the dual sins of upholding TennCare and vigorously pushing for some sort of progressive tax reform, up to and including a state income tax. Henry had similar views. Beyond much doubt, Frank Nicely didn’t, and he let Henry know it. “I’d work on him all day long, and I’d think I had him going right, and he’d waffle on me every time,” Nicely told me in a post-adjournment conversation this week, chuckling and shaking his head. It seemed clear that what he had been trying so hard to get into the governor’s office was Henry’s character, not his platform.

Hilleary won the primary, of course, to be shaded out in the general election by Nashville Mayor Phil Bredesen, a Democrat who turned out to be more conservative in some ways than Jim Henry might have been. (Bredesen wasted no time cutting TennCare down to size, for one thing, and, having spent most of the previous couple of years second-guessing Sundquist on taxes, promptly took the income tax off the table and imposed Draconian across-the-board cuts in every state agency.)

Two years later, Nicely, who had served In the state House of Representatives from 1988 to 1992, ran again for the House and served there from 2005 to January of this year, when, having won a state Senate race last year, he took the oath and tripped over to the other chamber.

In 2006, Nicely went to work for Bob Corker, a U.S. Senate candidate seen by the GOP’s right wing as another moderate [see main story, above]. Hilleary and Ed Bryant, both of whom pitched to the Right, were the Republican alternatives that year. Nicely told me this week he had a certain affinity for Corker’s Democratic opponent, Harold Ford Jr., whom he regarded as being more or less acceptable had Ford been elected.

In the legislature, meanwhile, Nicely has followed his natural bent and materialized as a state’s right Constitutionalist. That’s how he would put it, anyhow. In practice, he votes a lot with the arch-conservatives. Returning to the House the same year that Brian Kelsey began to serve there, he and the Germantown legislator generally saw eye to eye on issues, but It is no secret that Nicely disapproved of what he saw as Kelsey’s showboating.

I don’t know a single Capitol Hill reporter or legislator, of whatever stripe, who doesn’t like Nicely or respect him for his sincerity. He’s not afraid to buck the tide. Back last year, during the first run-through of guns-in-parking-lots legislation favored by the N RA, Nicely was an opponent, contending, ““If a property owner tells someone you can’t bring a yo-yo on his property, much less a gun, you can’t bring it on that property.”

All that said, he is good fodder for the wags and fair game. After Newtown, he was one of those proposing armed guards in classrooms. He was apparently a birther in good standing. There is this 17th Amendment thing, and the cockfighting, and….Well, there’s a bunch of stuff. Again, he’s fair game. But he’s also fair-minded, and he won’t take it personally.

I think.

-- JB

>

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Snapshots from the KKK's Day in Memphis:

Posted By on Tue, Apr 2, 2013 at 4:03 AM

Slideshow
Snapshots from the Klan Rally
Snapshots from the Klan Rally Snapshots from the Klan Rally Snapshots from the Klan Rally Snapshots from the Klan Rally Snapshots from the Klan Rally Snapshots from the Klan Rally

Snapshots from the Klan Rally

Click to View 7 slides

They came, they saw (each other), and they sure as hell didn’t conquer. Flaunting both hoods and swastikas, the Klan members who paid a visit to Memphis on a cold, rainy Saturday ended up being as unintelligible (literally) as they were philosophically.

With no crowd to work on (they were pretty effectively cordoned off from a group of protesters two blocks away by police, Sheriff’s deputies, and barricades), they came with a defective P.A. system, squawking ineffectually on a bullhorn and periodically shouting “White Power!” — a slogan accompanied by Nazi-style left-arm salutes.

As for the rest of what they said, very little of it could be distinguished by the press pack huddled across the street from the Courthouse lawn, where the Klan group was gathered behind a temporary Cyclone fence. (See also “Kl Klux Klan Rally is a Non-event in Memphis” by my colleague John Branston.)

A few of the phrases that could be discerned: “…corrupt mayor….” “…corrupt City Council….”…not gonna take it anymore….” “…last man standing….” And one serio-comic dire warning (not making this up): “Once you go black, you never go back.”

One news crew from Brooklyn was interviewing other reporters on the theme of whether the effectively cloistered Klan group really had a chance to exercise their First Amendment rights. The root fact is that, except for the aforesaid media and protesters downtown, nobody seemed much interested in what these interlopers had to say. And maybe that’s the real message of the day.

You had to wonder what kind of jobs these people had, what kind of society they fit into. They sure didn’t measure up as specimens of humanity to the community-minded folks who gathered miles away at Tiger Lane to make various kinds of positive statements (see Chris Shaw’s photo-essay, “Scenes from the Anti-KKK Rallies”).

Anyhow, they’re gone, and it’ll be hard to find anybody around here who regrets that fact.

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Monday, April 1, 2013

Jerry "the King" Lawler Has a New Wrestling Museum

Posted By on Mon, Apr 1, 2013 at 8:13 AM

Slideshow
The Jerry Lawler Museum
The Jerry Lawler Museum The Jerry Lawler Museum The Jerry Lawler Museum The Jerry Lawler Museum

The Jerry Lawler Museum

Click to View 5 slides

The exploits and artifacts of Jerry "the King" Lawler—- wrestler, announcer, artist, well-known personality in Memphis and the world, and, let us not forget, once (two races for mayor) and possibly future political candidate —- are now accounted for and housed in a free museum.

On Saturday, the museum had a grand opening at Wynn Automobile, 1831 Getwell, Memphis, where the proprietors have afforded it a generous and well-appointed space of several rooms.

Lawler, host of Monday Night Raw, one of the most watched cable shows in the world, has a widespread fandom — a fact indicated by the signatures on a wall-sized Get Well card signed by admirers after the King had a heart attack last year (on air, while doing a show!)

He was at the museum on Saturday, signing autographs. His lifetime mementoes as well as exhibits chronicling the larger story of wrestling itself will be on display at the museum from 1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. daily.

Check out the slideshow above for a teaser featuring some of the exhibits at the museum — and some shots of Jerry the King as well. (Note Lawler's signed poster-sized sketch of the late comedian Andy Kaufman, a famous Lawler wrestling foil.)

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