Friday, April 22, 2016

The Sausage Factory in Nashville

The life, death,and limbo-hood of a bill to benefit veterans, the elderly, and the disalbled. Or: How Politics and Policy Get Ground Together in the General Assembly

Posted By on Fri, Apr 22, 2016 at 1:28 PM

NASHVILLE — One of the last points of contention between factions of the Tennessee legislature concerned HB 2156/SB 1796, a bill to amend the state’s property tax relief program for the elderly and disabled veterans.

News got around about an amendment to the House version of the bill filed by the minority House leader, Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley), that would restore cuts made in the previous year to the relief amounts available. In effect, the beneficiaries would enjoy the state's sanction for avoiding a considerable amount of the property taxes they might otherwise be liable for.

This was a policy issue, and a volatile one, inasmuch as — with the interests of veterans and, ipso facto, the issue of patriotism, involved — the pros and cons did not divide along specific party lines. Both parties held caucuses Thursday morning, and the Republicans were focused explicitly on what to do about the Fitzhugh amendment, which, if made subject to a roll call vote, would create potential embarrassments at election time.

Which is to say, it was a politics issue, as well. Not for the first time, two chief ingredients —politics and policy — would be ground together in a legislative sausage.

GOP caucus chair Glen Casada (R-Franklin) moderated his party’s discussion and, after about an hour of it, summed up what he saw as four alternatives, involving such possibilities as moving to defer the issue for a year and substituting their own version of the Fitzhugh amendment. In the end, there was no agreement on a particular strategy, just a determination to neutralize, one way or another, what Fitzhugh had in mind.

Say what you will about the frankly self-serving aspect of the GOP caucus session, it was held in broad daylight, with media admitted. When the Democrats got ready to do theirs, caucus chair Mike Stewart (D-Nashville) announced that it 
Casada in the GOP causus - JB
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  • Casada in the GOP causus
would be held “in private,” though he later acknowledged that the Democratic discussion was a mirror image of the Republican one, devoted almost entirely to the matter of how to keep the Fitzhugh amendment alive and a matter of well-noted public record.

When the House convened to hear the issue, neither set of partisan motivations got much mention, of course.

Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville), chairman of the House Calendar and Rules committee and a budget hawk, invoked both parliamentary and parimonious motives in maintaining that the Fitzhugh amendment would set a wrong precedent, in being submitted directly from the floor rather than in committee and that it might risk disrupting budget allocations already approved. Other Republicans had similar sentiments.

Fitzhugh and other Democrats objected on the basis of a higher obligation to the interests of the veterans and the elderly. Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis), an ex-Marine, took this position to its rhetorical apex. “I’m trying to control myself…That we are even having this discussion! Why are we talking about it?” He contrasted the sacrifices of life and limb on the part of the state’s veterans with the evident determination of “the elite of our state…to eat and eat and eat” from the trough of special privilege.

There was more from both sides of the issue, most of its repetitious , and several attempts to end discussion failed of approval. House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) wandered over to the press cubiicle at one point, wearing a wicked grin. "How's the Godless atheist caucus?" he jested, then opined wearily, in the manner of a co-conspirator,. "This stuff could go on all night! "

At a given point, it became obvious that enough Republicans — Rep. John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge), Rep. John Forgety (R-Athens), and assorted others, veterans themselves in the main — were prepared to support Fitzhugh.

There ensued a quick sleight of hand, whereby a quick vote of approval for the Fitzhugh amendment by voice vote came and went — so quickly that Democratic caucus chair Stewart missed it, and, once he became aware of it, denounced it as “trickery.” The issue here was clear: he had been cheated of his desire to see as many cost-cutting Republicans as possible go on the record as opposing veterans’ benefits.

Fitzhugh, in the true sense of the phrase, became the Man of the Hour. During the next 60 minutes or so, the bill, with his amendment attached, was shunted through the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee and the House 
Fitzhugh bringing his amendment - JB
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  • Fitzhugh bringing his amendment
Calendar and Rules Committee, where Rep. Ragan, official sponsor of the amended bill, professed himself satisfied with the House having come by “some pretty good sausage.”

“Yeah, but it’s sausage on a credit card,” groused Chairman Dunn.

In any case, it seemed to be a rare victory, both on political and on policy grounds, for Fitzhugh and the Democrats.

And predictably, late in the day came a press release from the indefatigable Ken Jobe, press secretary for the House Democratic Caucus. It was (talk about wearing your message on your sleeve!) entitled “Fitzhugh Restores Tax Relief for Disabled Veterans, Elderly from Republican Cuts.”

Fairly enough, it stated, “Previously, the state would pay tax on the first $175,000 of a veteran’s home and on the first $25,000 for elderly homeowners.  But the new law lowered the limits to $100,000 for veterans.  Elderly or disabled homeowners would be capped at $23,000. The [Fitzhugh} amendment restores the tax refunds to previous levels.”

And, by way of summing up, it attributed to Fitzhugh (a man of courtly eloquence in his own real-speak) the following boilerplate: “What Republicans did to our elderly and our disabled veterans last year was the absolute wrong move.  Our disabled veterans and senior citizens have paid a great physical, mental and emotional price to ensure our liberties. Although we can never fully pay them back for what they have done for our communities, our state and our nation, we can make sure that we uphold our promise to assist with their property taxes.” 

So forth and so on, and so far, so good. Yet, as the release acknowledged in its very last line, “The bill now needs to be reconciled with the Senate version.”

And, in fact, as the House would be informed late in the day, the
Stewart (right) claiming "trickery" - JB
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  • Stewart (right) claiming "trickery"
 Senate, arguably an even more rigidly GOP-dominated body, had declined to accede to three of the House amendments, including the one by Fitzhugh.

The House-Senate conference report, which was approved Friday morning, recommended, in no uncertain terms, “that all amendments be deleted.” And so they were.

Essentially, the report hewed to the Senate version of the bill, which kept most of the provisions found odious and austere in the unamended 2015 version, though it raised last year’s caps on untaxable property from $23,000 to $25,000 and suspended any reference to periods of service or income limits the for veterans newly admitted to the program.

This outcome kept spending levels constant with the amount, involving a modest increase in funding of just under a million dollars, appropriated in this year’s budget, and, though there was a good deal of back and forth, particularly from two dissenters — Rep. Ragan, a retired Air Force colonel, who votes with GOP conservatives on most issues but on this one sided with the Democratic position, and Rep. Karen Camper (D-Memphis).

In the end, Ragan abstained from approving the committee report, and Camper, a veteran herself, voted No. But it was a done deal. The only concession to the idea of upwardly revising the financial benefits for vets and the elderly was a consensus that the issue should be, and would be, revisited next year — though an amendment to that effect was rejected for lack of a motion in its favor from the Senate side.

That was not the finale, however. When the House got its chance to approve the conference report, Rep. Camper produced a minority report, with the Fitzhugh amendment restored. Miraculously, given the obvious desire of most members to get done with official business and get home, a motion to table her report failed.

There followed a recess, where the two caucuses quickly reconsidered things and evidently Camper’s balloon floated back to earth. Back in session, in any case, her report did get tabled, and, presumably because everyone realized it was awfully late in the game, the majority conference report — sans the Fitzhugh amendment — was readied once more for approval.

Camper, Ragan, Forgety and Rep. Eddie Smith (R-Knoxville) all expressed regrets, along with a compensatory claim that that, as Ragan said, they could take “half a loaf” (presumably the abolition of income and term-of-service limits) back home, and, as Forgety said, next year would bring another opportunity “to make our disabled veterans and disabled elderly whole.”

Before the vote was taken, Ragan advised members to vote their conscience and said, “I hope your conscience tells you that the sausage-making process we’ve been involved in is better than nothing.”

The vote came: 58 to 18 in favor. But there was, as all agreed, always next year.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

War and Peace on the Legislative Floor

Some contests were won, some were lost, and some snarled the process of adjournment, forcing an extra day for this session of the Tennessee General Assembly.

Posted By on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 at 8:34 AM

Left hanging Wednesday night in the Tennessee House of Representatives was a measure to phase out the state's Hall Income Tax on inrerest and dividends. The Senate version of the bill would cut the tax from 6 percent to 5 percent in the coming year and continue reductions at 1 percent a year until the tax's elimination in 2021. - Conservative militants in the House like Rep. Billy  Spivey (R-Lewisburg) demanded a quicker trigger, however, one tied to increases in state revenue growth. Here Spivey (center) is being reamed out  for the obstruction by a furious Rep. Charles Sargent (right), the Franklin Republican who chairs  the House Finance, Ways and Means committee, while Rep. Ron Lollar (R-Bartlett), another foe of the proposed change, observes. - At stake, for Lollar and others, was the pending loss of shared revenues for cities and counties provided by Hall Tax revenue. - The imbroglio was left  to be resolved, along with other pending matters, in a meeting of the Finance Committee Thursday morning. - JB
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  • Left hanging Wednesday night in the Tennessee House of Representatives was a measure to phase out the state's Hall Income Tax on inrerest and dividends. The Senate version of the bill would cut the tax from 6 percent to 5 percent in the coming year and continue reductions at 1 percent a year until the tax's elimination in 2021.Conservative militants in the House like Rep. Billy Spivey (R-Lewisburg) demanded a quicker trigger, however, one tied to increases in state revenue growth. Here Spivey (center) is being reamed out for the obstruction by a furious Rep. Charles Sargent (right), the Franklin Republican who chairs the House Finance, Ways and Means committee, while Rep. Ron Lollar (R-Bartlett), another foe of the proposed change, observes.At stake, for Lollar and others, was the pending loss of shared revenues for cities and counties provided by Hall Tax revenue.The imbroglio was left to be resolved, along with other pending matters, in a meeting of the Finance Committee Thursday morning.

Sweet reason prevailed in at least one other matter, however, as is indicated by this handshake of reconciliation  between Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin), the GOP caucus chair, left, and Rep. Karen Camper (D-Memphis), after Casada decided to withdraw a crippling amendment, one with a stout fiscal note , from a bill by Camper. Her bill  would  create a task force to study the creation of a department of juvenile justice. - Casada's change of mind , which allowed easy passage of the final measure, occurred some two hours after he had added the amendment in a debate that had obvious partisan overtones. - JB
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  • Sweet reason prevailed in at least one other matter, however, as is indicated by this handshake of reconciliation between Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin), the GOP caucus chair, left, and Rep. Karen Camper (D-Memphis), after Casada decided to withdraw a crippling amendment, one with a stout fiscal note , from a bill by Camper. Her bill would create a task force to study the creation of a department of juvenile justice. Casada's change of mind , which allowed easy passage of the final measure, occurred some two hours after he had added the amendment in a debate that had obvious partisan overtones.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

State House Declines to Override Haslam Veto of "Bible Bill"

Vote is 40 aye, 50 nay, and 4 abstaining, as numerous members shift sides.

Posted By on Wed, Apr 20, 2016 at 4:04 AM

Foes of the override discuss strategy before the vote. L to r : Reps. Antonio Parkinson and Raumesh Akbari, Democrats from Memphis, and Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville). - JB
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  • Foes of the override discuss strategy before the vote. L to r : Reps. Antonio Parkinson and Raumesh Akbari, Democrats from Memphis, and Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville).

NASHVILLE — At times it seemed like the legislative debate it was. At other times it seemed like a contest on which side could quote the most scripture — and to what purpose. And, at still other times, (for most of the time, in fact) it played like the pure politics that it also was.

This was the long-awaited vote in the state House of Representatives on Wednesday, April 20, the final day of the Tennesssee General Assembly’s 2016 session, testing the veto power of Governor Bill Haslam on a bill which, in the waning days of session, declared the Holy Bible the official state book of Tennessee.

The bill had passed the House week before last by a margin of 55 to 38. It subsequently passed the state Senate 19-8. But Haslam had exercised one of his rare vetoes — on the dual grounds that the bill manifestly transgressed against the no-establishment-of-religion clause of the federal Constitution and, by making the case for the Bible’s proposed status as a mere historical document, “trivializing” a sacred document.

Variations on that argument were heard fairly consistently during Wednesday morning’s session from opponents of the override — who included several members who had originally voted for the measure.

Just as predictably, proponents for the override repeated arguments frequently made during the original debate on passage — either that the measure contained no religious significance whatsoever or that it did in spades. And sometimes both arguments at once.

In the event, after almost two hours of debate, there were enough crossovers of erstwhile bill supporters to the side of the Governor to defeat the override by a vote of 40 for, 50 against, and 4 abstaining.

Bill sponsor Jerry Sexton (R-Benn Station) had begun his presentation of the override by declaring, "I speak 
Rep. DeBerry waxing eloquent - JB
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  • Rep. DeBerry waxing eloquent
for the people. They don't have a voice in this chamber except for the voice that I have." In fact, though, there were other voices in support of the override, whether or not "for the people." One such was Rep. Tilman Goins (R-Morristown), who said, "We cannot diminish the Word of God.:

Arguments of that sort were dealt with by Rep. Johnny Shaw (D-Bolivar), who had originally voted in favor of the Bible-as-state-book bill, but now thanked the Govenor "for reminding us we're trivializing the Word of God, and went on to add, "You cannot hide behind the cross as a sinner" and "If we really want to be honoring the Bible, we ought to make sure that everybody in this state is covered health-wise."

Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) was on similar ground with an observation from the gospel of Matthew: "When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites...who "love to be seen by others."

Rep. Steve McManus (R-Cordova) argued in a more secular manner, citing the "establishment" clause of the Constitutiion and saying, simply, "We do not have authority as legislators to pass this bill."

One of several objectors to that notion was Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster), who sang a hymnal line or two and enthused: "What if we pass this, and Tennessee becomes 'the state on the hill," showing the world."that Tennessee reverences God's Word." Enshrining the Bible as the official state book would "fan the flame," she said.

Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis), who, like Shaw, had originally voted for the bill, urged caution that members not "pass a law" without attendint to the more important duty of "changing hearts." He said, ""Let's make sure we are comfortable in passing laws...: Jesus Christ didn't come into world to make laws."

Back and forth it went, and several legislators, notably Rep. John D
Bill sponsor Jerry Sexton (R-Benn Station) meets with reporters after defeat of override. - JB
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  • Bill sponsor Jerry Sexton (R-Benn Station) meets with reporters after defeat of override.
eBaerry (D-Memphis), a minister, made the point that neither Aye voters nor Nay voters were either more or less godly  than those members on the other side. "This vote does not define me," said DeBerry. "Start living faith."

(DeBerry would get the most tumultuous response from the membership when he declared, about those  — presumably business interests — who threatened to leave Tennessee if the legislature should take this or that position, ""If folks tell us 'we're going to leave Tennessee,' tell them to go!")

At length, after several motions to end the debate and "call the question" had failed, the memberrship seemed to talk itself out and finally took time out and voted. The defeat of the override was surely a relief both to the Governor and to the members of the state Senate, who had girded for their own lengthy debate on the issue if the House had acted otherwise.


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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Haslam Vetoes 'Bible-as-State-Book' Bill

Says bill both trivializes Bible and violates church-state provisions.

Posted By on Thu, Apr 14, 2016 at 11:42 PM


Gov. Bill Haslam has vetoed SB1108/HB615, the bill, passed by both chambers of the General Assembly, that would make the Bible the official state book of Tennessee.
In a letter to House Speaker Beth Harwell announcing the veto, Haslam said, inter alia:

"In addition to the constitutional issues with the bill, my personal feeling is that this bill trivializes the Bible, which I believe is a sacred text," Haslam wrote in a letter to House Speaker Beth Harwell.

"If we believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, then we shouldn't be recognizing it only as a book of historical and economic significance. If we are recognizing the Bible as a sacred text, then we are violating the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Tennessee by designating it as the official state book."

It remains to be seen if attempts will be made by the legislaturre to override the veto, with the General Assembly scheduled to adjourn next week.

The Governor's letter can be accessed  below:


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Friday, April 8, 2016

One More Time: Cohen vs. a Ford

County Commissioner Justin Ford files late in the 9th; it’s Kyle vs. Marrero again in House District 30; PLUS more races.

Posted By on Fri, Apr 8, 2016 at 8:51 AM

Cohen (l), Ford - JB
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  • Cohen (l), Ford

Right up to Thursday’s filing date, it looked as though 9th District congressman Steve Cohen might get a pass in this election cycle, either unopposed or with insubstantial opposition. The actual threat content of a Justin Ford candidacy can be debated, but the second-term Shelby County Commissioner is a member of the once powerful and still extant Memphis political clan, and Ford’s eleventh-hour filing on Thursday has to be taken seriously.

An interesting anecdote from the 2006 general election campaign, when Cohen, then the Democratic nominee for an open congressional seat, was faced by an “independent” candidacy from Jake Ford, brother of outgoing Congressman Harold Ford Jr. (whom Cohen had faced in the 1996 congressional race) and son of former Congressman Harold Ford Sr. : Late in the campaign, Cohen was on track to win easily, and he got what he regarded as a feeler from a Ford supporter: Would he participate in a unity meeting with his independent opponent if Ford chose to formally withdraw from campaigning? “No,” said Cohen, a partisan of Tennessee athletic teams. “I want to beat Alabama. This [Jake Ford’s campaign] is a weak team, but it’s still Alabama!”

(It should be said that Cohen, once ensconced in Washington, has had an off-and-on sympatico relationship with Harold Ford Sr., the family patriarch and a legendary lobbyist and political broker.)

Beyond Justin Ford’s challenge, there are two other Democratic filees, both perennials: M. LaTroy Williams of Memphis and Larry Crim of Antioch., and assorted unknowns or small fry on the Republican and independent side.

Some key races:

STATE SENATE, DISTRICT 30: Former Senator Beverly Marrero has filed to run against incumbent Democrat Sara Kyle, re-igniting both the grudge match she lost in 2012 to former Senator (now Chancellor) Jim Kyle, Sara Kyle’s husband, in a battle of redistricted incumbents and her loss to Sara Kyle in a vote by the Shelby County Democratic Committee to select a successor to the Judge-elect Jim Kyle. Vernon Johnson Sr., a perennial, is also running in the Democratic primary. A sole Republican is Luis Rodriguez, an unknown.

STATE HOUSE, DISTRICT 95: Incumbent Controversial Republican incumbent Curry Todd has three Republican opponents — Diane George, Mark Lovell, and Dana Matheny.

STATE HOUSE, DISTRICT 96: Incumbent Republican Steve McManus *has a primary opponent in Price Harris. Two Democrats —Earl LeFlore and Dwayne Thompson — are running.

STATE HOUSE, DISTRICT 85: Democratic incumbent Johnnie Turner is opposed in the primary by former Memphis Education Association head Keith Williams and London Lamar.

STATE HOUSE, DISTRICT 97: Republican incumbent Jim Coley is unopposed in his primary; a Democrat, Charley Burch, is also running.

STATE HOUSE, DISTRICT 90: Democratic incumbent John DeBerry has a primary opponent in Tami Sawyer.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

At Last, Does Cohen Get an Election-Year Pass?

It looked that way last week, as a candid and expansive congressman boasted to the Economics Club of a "YUGE' year of successes.

Posted By on Wed, Apr 6, 2016 at 12:26 AM

Cohen at the Economics Club - JB
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  • Cohen at the Economics Club

“[FedEx Founder] Fred Smith treats packages better than Delta Airlines treats their passengers”: 9th District congressman Steve Cohen last Wednesday in a luncheon address to the Memphis Economics Club, thereby launching a duel complaint (1) at the failure of Congress to establish comfortable seating standards for air travel, and (2) at Delta, for closing down its Memphis hub and drastically cutting flights from Memphis International Airport.

The congressman was none too charitable, either, with President Obama, handing the President the following grades on an alliterative trio of issues Cohen has considered urgent: A on Cuba, but C-minus on Commutations, and D-minus on Cannabis. Overall, however, Cohen felt that Obama should be credited with a positive agenda and a successful Presidency.

Cohen weighed in on behalf of greater expenditures for the National Institutes of Health as against spending taxpayer money of weapons systems that benefit influential political donors but have no practical purpose in national defense.

The Democratic congressman was unexpectedly kind to his Republican colleague from the adjoining 8th District, Stgephen Fincher, whom he praised for helping to facilitate a positive congressional vote for the Import-Export Bank. And he had praise also for Tennessee’s two GOP Senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, whom he credited with “not being part of the logjam” in Congress.

And Cohen was not above a bit of perhaps justified self-congratulation, ticking off a list of things he’s accomplished, then mimicking Donald Trump’s voice to boast “lots of wins this year, and some of them were YUGE!”

It is beginning to seem clear that, for the very first time since his first successful congressional race in 2006, Cohen is actually going to get a pass this year. No serious challenger in sight after the drop-out, several weeks ago, of state Senator Lee Harris; M. LaTroy Williams, a perennial, has filed, as has Cohen. Justin Ford, a member of the well-known political clan and a Shelby County Commissioner, picked up a petition in January, but there has been no obvious follow-through since. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

UPDATE: De-annexation Bill Killed for Session

Senate State and Local Committee votes 5-3-1 to send bill to summer study -- in other words, has put off action on measure until next year.

Posted By on Wed, Mar 30, 2016 at 4:00 PM

NASHVILLE — In a surprise action, the state Senate’s State and Local Committee has voted 5-3-1 (with chairman Ken Yager voting aye) to approve a motion by Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) sending the controversial de-annexation bill (HB 779/SB 749) to summer study.

Voting in the minority on the motion were the bill’s Senate sponsor, Bo Watson (R-Hixson) and Senator Mark Green (R-Clarksville), a key co-sponsor. It was Green's absence on Tuesday that had postponed a vote until Wednesday's reconvening of the committee.

The action means that all possible action on the bill is over with until, at earliest, the legislative session that begins in January 2017.

"We really had no idea this was going to happen. But it was the best possible result, obviously. This is really a victory for the entire state," said Phil Trenary, the Greater Memphis Area Chamber of Commerce head who had been in Nashville last week and this week opposing the bill.

Though the suddenness of the committee's action took Trenary and other onlookers by surprise, it had become obvious that the bill was in for rough sledding once it hit the Senate committee, where chairman Yager (R-Kingston) supervised a systematic vetting of its contents and numerous witnesses had criticized it in detail.

Some indication of what was to come was the fact that numerous amendments weakening the bill's force were passed in committee on Tuesday by lopsided votes.

Though six witnesses on Tuesday testified to the commmittee in favor of the bill, it had become obvious from previous testimony of bill opponents last week that resistance to it was serious, influential, and in depth.

Not only Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland but the mayors of two other affected cities, Chattanooga and Knoxville, had warned of the bill's potentially ruinous effects, fiscal and otherwise, on targeted cities. Representatives of the state's business community, including Pitt Hyde of AutoZone, and two ranking officers of First Tennessee Bank, seconded that point of view.

Even senators considered friendly to the idea of allowing urban de-annexation procedures had visibly cooled to the provisions of the de-annexation measure sent over from the House after swift ands lopsided passage there.

Those provisions had limited the bill's effects to only five urban areas which had pursued state law in annexations that the bill, in a provision whose constitutionality was in doubt, considered "egregious."

Other objectionable provisions included the bill's allowance of a low ceiling -- 10 percent of an annexed area's population on a petition -- to call a de-annexation referendum.

PREVIOUSLY (3-29-16): The ongoing debate in the General Assembly on a bill to allow de-annexation by areas of Memphis and other Tennessee cities that were annexed since the passage of Public Law 1101 in 1998, was renewed Tuesday in the state Senate’s State and Local Committee.

Two amendments to the House bill were approved last week by the Senate committee — one clarifying certain issues of debt obllgations remaining for any de-annexed residents and another expanding the reach of the bill to all municipalities statewide, not just Memphis and the four other urban areas alleged to have pursued “egregious” annexations since the 1998 date.

Both those amendments were regarded as concessions to the delegation that testified in the committee against the bill last week — which included Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, as well as AutoZone founder Pitt Hyde and two officials of First Tennessee Bank.

Phil Trenary - JACKSON BAKER
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  • Phil Trenary

Last week’s testifiers made the point that the de-annexation bill received by the House was overly punitive and potentially financially ruinous to the cities affected. (Strickland testified that de-annexation by all the areas annexed by Memphis since 1998 could cost the already cash-strapped city the loss of property tax revenues ranging from $27 at minimum to a maximum of $78 million.)

Chairman Yager began the renewed hearing on Tuesday before a standing-room-only audience, noting that the witnesses against the bill last Wednesday had been opposed to it and professing a desire “to be fair-minded on an issue this polarizing,” then announcing that six new witnesses favoring the bill would be heard.

The first was Patricia Possel of South Cordova, who said, “The city of Memphis tried to silence us,” and went on to note that her area had been annexed July 1, 2012, more than four years before the next scheduled election in South Cordova.

She called the situation “taxation without representation,” and spoke, in a trembling voice, of the murder of a neighbor, Susan McDonald, in 2015 — clearly, an indication to her that crime had followed upon her neighborhood’s annexation by the city as something of a direct consequence.

Finally, she said, there had been “no disclosure” of any kind to her or other homeowners, at the time of their purchasing property, that they were located within one of Memphis’ annexation preserves, about to lose its independence.

Next up was Terry Roland, the chairman of the Shelby County Commission, who announced that he had heard “bad numbers” being testified to by representatives of the city last week and wanted to present “the straight skinny.” According to his own figures, the de-annexation from Memphis of South Cordova and Windyke-Southwind, the last two areas annexed, would result in a financial gain to Memphis of $3 million — not, as had been claimed, a deficit of $13 million.

Roland also spoke, as he has for years, of the constant departure of citizens from Memphis because of high and unreasonable property taxes. He said that 68,000 people had left Shelby county for DeSoto County, Mississippi in the years 2001-2010.

Roland did concede that if all 10 areas annexed by Memphis since 1998 were able to de-annex themselves (as the original House bill provided), the city would end up the loser, financially, but he made it clear he considered that prospect far-fetched.

The two Shelby County witnesses were followed by John Emerson of Alamo (who had been introduced by Yager earlier as “the father of de-annexation” and who pronounced it absurd that representatives of cities habitually spoke as if there a law of nature that urban municipalities could only expand and never contract.

Three residents of Chattanooga suburbs that had been annexed followed, with variations on some of the themes already addressed. (One of them announced that he did not turn on TV to watch “baseball, football, or Dancing With the Stars,” but was a regular watcher of congressional hearings and stayed up late to watch them. He had determined from that practice that public political debates and processes were essentially shams.)

From that point, the stream of amendments that was interrupted by the close of last Wednesday’s hearing ensued again — the first of them authorized by chairman Yager himself and directly addressing the complaint that Strickland had made of the original House bill — that, while it did require newly de-annexed citizens to continue paying their share of the city’s general obligation debt on a pro rata basis, it did not stipulate anything regarding residual pension and OPEB obligation on the part of those residents.

The Yager amendment would include pensions and OPEB obligations on a pro-rated basis.

Senator Bo Watson of Hixson, a suburb of Chattanooga, and a sponsor of the de-annexation bill, challenged the logic of including those debts, which Watson suggested were “pay-as-you-go” by their nature and that ex post facto assessments would be improperly doubling up on charges to the residents.

He was backed up on those allegations by Senator Todd Gardenhire, another Chattanoogan, who testified from his point of view as a former member of a U.S. Department of Labor committee on pension obligations. In the course of seconding Watson’s assertions that including the new assessments would be double-billing de-annexed residents, Gardenhire got off a series of negative observations regarding the past fiscal performance of the city of Memphis.

Most of those observatios recapitulated criticisms made by state comptroller Justin Wilson about city bookkeeping practices during the administration of former Mayor A C Wharton. “The city of Memphis was not run like a business,” Gardenhire said. Even so, the amendment was passed by the committee 6-1. It began to seem possible that the optimism for a favorable resolution expressed last week by Strickland and Chamber of Commerce president Phil Trenary might be justified.

That sense was furthered somewhat by discussion later of other new amendments, notably including one by chairman Yager that would raise from 10 to 20 percent the percentage of residents necessary to validate a petition for a de-annexation referendum. This one ultimately passed 7-0, and among those committee members agreeing with Yager that “the bar should be raised” on requirements for a de-annexation petition was state Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville), a nominal supporter of the bill’s intent.

Not everything was roses. An amendment from state Senator Reginald Tate (D-Memphis) limited the Memphis areas eligible for de-annexation to South Cordova and Southwind-Windyke failed for lack of a second. And another, contemplated by Yager, requiring 66 percent, rather than a simple majority, for passage of a de-annexation referendum, was withdrawn by the chairman.

Asked afterward to assess Tuesday’s actions on the bill, the Trenary said the amendments made the bill “more realistic” but said he still continued to oppose it and was hopeful that the legislature as a whole ultimately would.

Roland’s reaction was one of satisfaction also, and he expressed the hope that the effect of the bill might still be limited to the two recently annexed areas of South Cordova and Southwind-Windyke. “They’re the only ones that are organized,” he pointed out.

An ultimate vote by the committee on the amended bill was delayed out of courtesy to the bill’s main sponsor, state Senator Mark Green of Clarksville, who was absent. (It was Green who last week compared the alleged “egregious” annexations by Memphis and other cities to a Russian occupation of Poland, and Norris wondered somewhat archly on Tuesday how the residents who moved to “Poland” in recent years should be counted in determining the right ceiling for a referendum petition.)

It is hard to imagine Green being altogether favorable to the amendments accepted Tuesday, but, in any case, whatever his opinion or the committee’s vote on the bill, the bill is not likely to be headed to the floor of either House or Senate anytime soon.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Memphians Upbeat on Thwarting or Changing De-Annexation Bill After Hearing

Senate State and Local Committee vets measure, will continue next week.

Posted By on Wed, Mar 23, 2016 at 3:48 PM

Mayors Berke and Strickland after testifying in Nashville, Wednesday. - JACKSON BAKER
  • Jackson Baker
  • Mayors Berke and Strickland after testifying in Nashville, Wednesday.

NASHVILLE -- After a two-hour hearing on the now-famous de-annexation bill by the state Senate's State and Local committee, both Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Chamber of Commerce president Phil Trenary professed themselves satisfied that progress had been made toward either de-toxifying the bill or defeating it outright.

Two amendments were discussed and voted on, the first returning the House version of the bill to the status of a previous Senate version that applies the provisions of the bill statewide, thus eliminating the controversial winnowing down of target cities to five "egregious" offenders in the House bill that passed overwhelmingly last week.

That amendment passed 8-1. A second amendment  that clarified aspects of debt repayment required of de-annexed areas and left the way open for widening the scope of those debts passed 7-1. Ready in the hopper, when the committee reconvenes on Tuesday is an amendment that would include pension and OPEB obligations among those debts remaining on the tax bills of de-annexed citizens.

Both amendments were regarded as congenial by members of the large delegation in attendance from Memphis. Trenary said, "I think everybody's eyes have been opened up here." He and Strickland both indicated they thought the House bill was destined to be a thing of the past.

The very fact that the State and Local Committee only scratched the surface of a flock of amendments and will need to reconvene on Tuesday is an indication that things are moving in the direction of the Memphians in attendance. Chairman Yager did say, however, that the clock would not run out on the bill, that a version readymade for voting would be ready next week for House-Senate conferencing and a final vote.

Testifying before the committee on aspects of the bill were Strickland and fellow mayors Andy Berke of Chattanooga and Madeline Rogero of Knoxville, as well as Pitt Hyde of Auto-Zone, and David Popwell and Jim Vogel of First Tennessee Bank.

Strickland repeated reservations about the bill he had previously stated — including the fact that the city stood to lose 110,000 residents under the provisions of the House bill and financials losses amounting to 12 percent of its annual budget. Further, he said, the city would fall from 23rd largest in the nation to 33rd and be faced with a profile of instability that would adversely influence potential business/industrial clients looking to relocate.

Although Berke and Rogero did not envision results for their cities that drastic, they each testified that urban and state affairs would be put in a state of uncertainty and confusion if the House version became law. Hyde and the First Tennessee officials underscored the negative effects the bill would have on economic prospects for Memphis.

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Monday, March 21, 2016

State Senate Puts Off Action on De-Annexation Bill, Sends It Back to Committee

Pause is temporary, as bill will be reconsidered in State and Local Committee at noon on Wednesday; stout lobbying effort from city assisted in result.

Posted By on Mon, Mar 21, 2016 at 5:14 PM

State Senator Lee Harris arguing for bill's referral
  • State Senator Lee Harris arguing for bill's referral

Nobody’s going anywhere just yet. The bill (HB0779/SB074) pending in the General Assembly that would allow de-annexation by any area annexed by Memphis since 1998 has been referred back to committee.

Several factors combined to produce that result on Monday — including reservations about the bill expressed by Lt. Governor Bill Haslam and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey) and phone calls to legislators by Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, abetted by on-site lobbying in Nashville on Monday by Memphis Chamber officials and City Council members.

But the actual mechanism that took the bill off the Senate floor and staved off a floor vote came on a motion by Senator Ken Yager of Kingston, chairman of the body’s State and Local Committee, who found the version that passed the House last week to be “totally unacceptable…bad law and bad policy.”

Yager based his objections mainly on the bill’s singling out a five cities (including Memphis) out of the 350 or so muinicipalities in Tennessee and its use of the hazy term “egregious” to describe annexations by those cities.

After the Senate sponsor, Bo Watson of Hixson, quarreled with that judgment and after a good deal of ensuing to and fro in debate, the Senate agreed to suspend the rules and refer the bill for reconsideration to Yager’s committee, which will hear it during a specially called session on Wednesday at noon.

Mayor Strickland and the Council and legislators representing Memphis itself have opposed the bill for numerous reasons, including the fact that, they say, it could cost the city $28 million annually in revenue and the loss of some 110,000 inhabitants, wreaking unintended consequences and havoc overall.

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Behind the Bill

Not all the ramifications of the de-annexation measure now pending in the General Assembly are well enough known, even by some of the sponsors.

Posted By on Thu, Mar 17, 2016 at 10:29 AM

NASHVILLE — Maybe it’s because Ron Ramsey, the powerful state Senate Speaker, Lt. Governor, and presumed political careerist, chose Wednesday as his time to announce his decision to exit politics, or maybe it’s just another indication of how Memphis and its perils rate low on the Richter scale of Legislative Plaza these days. Or maybe it’s just a matter of the calendar.
Strickland at Shelby delegation lunch - JB
  • JB
  • Strickland at Shelby delegation lunch

In any case, outside of those folks who, in one sense or another, represent the sphere of Memphis and Shelby County in Nashville, the Great De-Annexation Crisis has generated very little fuss and bother at the General Assembly in Nashville.

This is despite the fact that Memphis is one of only six municipalities in Tennessee that stand to lose from the de-annexation bill that swept through the House of Representatives on Monday night and has convulsed local government — the Memphis part of it anyhow — with its implications.

It was only on behalf of Memphis that several of the Representatives elected by the city — Joe Towns, G.A. Hardaway, Raumesh Akbari and Larry Miller — and two friendly helpers — House Democratic leaders Mike Stewart of Nashville and Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley — rose on Monday night to protest HB0779/SB0749, the bill brought by two Chattanooga-area Republicans that would allow residents of areas annexed by their municipalities since 1998 to de-annex.

Other cities charged by the bill’s sponsors with “egregious” and arbitrary annexations are Chattanooga, Knoxville, Kingsport and Cornersville. Cornersille? Yes, the tiny Marshall County municipality of 1100 souls was faulted on Monday night by bill sponsor Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) for grabbing up nine local farms in an arbitrary annexation.

The only one of 16 or so amendments introduced by opponents of the bill that was accepted by Carter was one to delete Johnson City as an offender. What that east Tennessee city had done was to voluntarily consent to the de-annexation of a community called Suncrest and thereby earn a pardon.

It would seem that Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, for whom this is about the fourth or fifth crisis to hit him unawares during his short term, is agreeable to ceding two of the most recently annexed Memphis neighborhoods — South Cordova and Southwind. He said so to the press after a Wednesday lunch meeting of the Shelby County legislative delegation at Tennessee Tower that he and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell had signed on to long before the current matter broke.

Those two de-annexations would only cost the city $5 million, Strickland said, as against the $27 million or so he estimates that de-annexations of every community absorbed by Memphis since 1998 would cost.
...and wth the press afterward - JB
  • JB
  • ...and wth the press afterward

The year 1998 is apparently being used as a demarcation point in the de-annexation bill because that is the year of what was supposed to be a settlement of the crisis caused by the fateful Toy Town bill of 1997. That measure, smoothed through the legislature by the late Senate Speaker John Wilder on behalf of a Fayette County client community, would have allowed communities of the most modest size to incorporate and, before it was finally declared unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court (on a caption irregularity, actually), it had already spurred dozens of would-be incorporation efforts on the borders of Memphis.

The resultant 1998 compromise bill assigned municipalities limited areas as expansion reserves and made the process of urban expansion more difficult. But that has clearly failed to appease the adversaries of urbanism, and one wonders if Strickland’s proffered sacrifice will be honored as a stopping point in a revised Senate version or serve merely to whet the appetite of the de-annexationists.

A dialogue Monday between Strickland and Rep. Curry Todd (R-Collierville), one of the more vocal advocates of de-annexation, was not promising in that regard. Todd insisted that the city, in a conference call held at some unidentified earlier point, had agreed to larger concessions, and Strickland (who would later say he had participated in no such conference call) would respond that it wasn’t so.

Beyond the offer to sign off on Southwind and South Cordova, Strickland also floated the idea of somehow  offsetting fire and police expenses and of adding utility and OPEB costs to the general obligation bonds that the bill would obligate the residents of any de-annexing area to pay out on a pro-rata basis.
Germantown Mayor Palazzolo - JB
  • JB
  • Germantown Mayor Palazzolo

Granted, the current situation is to the Toy Towns matter as apples are to oranges, but then Mayor Willie Herenton, for better or for worse, was less flexible on concessions by Memphis, and make of that what you will. (One historical analogy that definitely does hold is that County Mayor Luttrell, much in the manner of County Mayor Jim Rout in the Toy Towns era, professes not to be terribly troubled by developments.)

In any case, there may be beaucoup bargaining yet to come before the other legislative foot drops in a Senate vote, probably next week. For what it’s worth, Memphis Democratic Senator Reginald Tate is already showing signs of weakening in his sponsorship of the de-annexation bill under pressure from the media in exposing his legislative history.

Tate, who lost out on a vote to be Senate Democratic leader before the current session by a single vote, has in fact voted so often with Republicans, even on matters arguably counter to Memphis’ interests, that wags in  Legislative Plaza refer to his District 33 as “the Ramsey-Tate district.”
Curry Todd on the attack - JB
  • JB
  • Curry Todd on the attack

For what it’s worth, spectators for the Monday night vote on de-annexation included a generous supply of mayors of suburban municipalities. Asked about that on Monday, Germantown Mayor Mike Palazzolo said his primary interest in being in town was to resist ongoing efforts to repeal the Hall Income Tax, the proceeds of which are significant add-ons to to the coffers of every municipality in Shelby County, including Memphis.

But Palazzolo acknowledged that his landlocked city would be an interested party if adjacent areas like Windyke became de-annexed in the wake of the current bill.

The question of whether and when such areas, if detached from Memphis, would be eligible for absorption by another municipality, is an intriguing one — and, oddly, several leading proponents of the bill, including Todd and Representative Mark White (R-Germantown) professed not to know what the bill provided in that regard, though House sponsor Carter dismissed the prospect of such re-annexations Monday night on the ground that the bill made them prohibitively difficult.

To say the least, there would seem to be much in the measure requiring a re-examination by all sides.

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Monday, March 14, 2016

Cohen to Head Back to Cuba With Obama

It will the congressman's second official trip to the long-estranged island nation within the past year.

Posted By on Mon, Mar 14, 2016 at 9:55 PM

Cohen (l) in Havana last August  with Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson and Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
  • Cohen (l) in Havana last August with Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson and Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
For the second time within a year, 9th District Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) will be visiting Cuba. He's going next week, as an official representative of the United States. Cohen, a longtime advocate of normalizing relations with Cuba, was a member of a bipartisan delegation to the island nation last August that, along with Secretary of State John Kerry, formally reopened the American embassy in Havana.

This time Cohen will accompany President Obama and a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators and Representatives.

A press release from the congressman's office spells it out:

Congressmen Cohen to Join President Obama for Historic Cuba Visit Next Week

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) will be among a group of U.S. Representatives and Senators slated to join President Barack Obama on his historic trip to Cuba on March 20-22. President Obama will be the first president to visit Cuba in 88 years after announcing in 2014 that he intended to re-establish diplomatic relations with the country. In August 2015, Congressman Cohen joined U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and a bipartisan delegation of U.S. Senators and Representatives at the official re-opening of the United States Embassy in Havana, Cuba.

“I am proud to be joining President Obama on this historic and important trip,” said Congressman Cohen. “I have been a long-time supporter of re-opening diplomatic relations with Cuba and have cosponsored numerous bills in Congress to advance U.S.-Cuba relations. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it will also open new trade avenues for Memphis entrepreneurs, businesses, medical device companies and health-industry professionals, as well as improve Americans’ freedom to travel. I would like to thank President Obama for inviting me to join him.

I developed a love for Cuba when I was a 5-year-old with polio and had the privilege of meeting the late, great Cuban baseball legend Minnie Miñoso during an exhibition game in Memphis. Minnie spotted me at the game standing with crutches and sent me a baseball via one of his Caucasian teammates. At the time, the South was racially segregated, so he did not feel comfortable approaching a white child. This was an early lesson for me about civil rights and started my fondness for Cuba. I will be taking my Minnie Miñoso hat to wear at a baseball game while in Cuba to honor Minnie. I will also be taking additional hats Minnie’s son, Charlie, is sending to share with President Obama and Cuban officials.

Memphis’ ties to Cuba were strengthened last month when a 3-year-old Cuban child, Manolito Alejandro, received life-saving heart surgery at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital. I was pleased to help facilitate the surgery and delighted to meet young Manolito. In this instance, a young Cuban child benefitted from medical care in the U.S., but it is important to note that Cuba has some of the world’s best medical minds and practices and has made significant advancements in diabetes, cancer, and HIV research. Cooperation on medical procedures such as Manolito’s surgery will help advance medical diplomacy between Memphis and Cuba.” 

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Friday, March 11, 2016

Poll shows large Luttrell lead over other Shelby Countians in 8th District race.

County mayor pegged at 26 percent, with Flinn second, in survey conducted by Kansas City polling group.

Posted By on Fri, Mar 11, 2016 at 11:24 AM

A po
  • Luttrell
ll completed by the Remington Research Group of Kansas City shows Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell to have a commanding lead over other Shelby County candidates in the 8th Congressional District Republican primary.

The poll, conducted on February 29 and March 1 involved “686 likely Republican primary voters,” with a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent, according to Remington director Titus Bond.

Below is the tabulated response to the question, “ If the candidates in the Republican primary election for United States Congress were Brian Kelsey, David Kustoff, Mark Luttrell, George Flinn, Tom Leatherwood and Steve Basar, for whom would you vote?.”

Mark Luttrell: 26%
George Flinn: 11%
Brian Kelsey: 9%
David Kustoff: 8%
Tom Leatherwood: 7%
Steve Basar: 1%
Undecided: 38%

The press release announcing these results said further:

“In addition to his ballot strength, Luttrell possesses the strongest image rating of all the potential Republican candidates. 43% of likely Republican primary voters view him favorably with only 5% viewing him unfavorably. This is by far the strongest image rating of the field by more than double his nearest competitor.
“Luttrell enjoys massive support in the Memphis media market where he receives 33% support. The Memphis media marketanchors the district, comprising more than 71% of Republican primary voters.

“’Mark Luttrell holds a strong advantage in the early stages of this race. In a winner take all primary, other candidates will have to spend significant sums just to match Luttrell’s current ballot position and favorability,’ said Titus Bond, Director of Remington Research Group. ‘Mark Luttrell is the heavy early favorite in this Republican primary.’”

Asked the obvious question about the poll — whether he or his campaign had commissioned it — Luttrell said no.

There was no explanation as to why several declared candidates from outside the Shelby County area were not included in the questionnaire.


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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Corker Slams Stop-Trump Effort With Blistering Rebuke

Senator hits GOP leaders' attempt to "stifle" the voice of "the American people [who] should be angrier than they are" at "the fecklessness and ineptness of the Washington establishment."

Posted By on Thu, Mar 3, 2016 at 3:36 PM

Even as prominent Republicans are rushing to enlist in a collective effort to derail Donald Trump’s presidential nomination after Super Tuesday, one party eminence has
Senator Corker - JB
  • JB
  • Senator Corker
 harshly rebuked the perpetrators of that accelerating effort.

This is Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who is thereby breaking ranks with other statewide GOP luminaries, like his Senate colleague Lamar Alexander and Governor Bill Haslam, both of whom have endorsed Marco Rubio, the consensus choice so far of Republicans in the Stop-Trump movement.

And it probably no accident that the Senator took a public stand in the immediate wake of a severely critical and well-publicized critique of Trump’s candidacy earlier Thursday by 2012 Republican president nominee Mitt Romney.

Here, in its entirety, is the text of the terse statement released Thursday afternoon by Tara DiJulio, a spokesperson for Corker;

Corker Statement on the 2016 Presidential Election

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) issued the following statement today regarding the 2016 presidential election:

“Here’s my message to the Republican Party leaders: Focus more on listening to the American people and less on trying to stifle their voice.

“What’s happening in the Republican primary is the result of two things: the fecklessness and ineptness of the Washington establishment in failing to address the big issues facing our country and years of anger with the overreach of the Obama administration. And to be candid, I think the American people should be angrier than they are.”

Senator Corker has not endorsed a candidate in this election.

In case that last statement in the release might be overlooked, spokesperson DiJulio had preceded the release with this admonition: “NOTE: This is not an endorsement of any candidate. Senator Corker does not intend to endorse in this election.”

What makes the Corker statement even more noteworthy is the fact that, while in Memphis two weekends ago as the keynote speaker of the Shelby County Republican Lincoln Day dinner, Corker had hinted he might take a position on who the nominee might be.

From the Flyer’s coverage of Corker’s remarks at the time:

Corker said the ideal candidate would have to demonstrate prowess in three specific ways: a determination to deal with fiscal issues, a plan for dealing with “a growing wealth gap” between rich and poor, and an ability “to lead the world.”

Currently, Corker, who has a well-deserved reputation for speaking his mind independently, is chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and an influential member of the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

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Easy Win for Stanton in Democratic Primary for General Sessions Clerk

Will oppose GOP's Morton in August General Election

Posted By on Thu, Mar 3, 2016 at 9:58 AM

Though, clearly, most attention locally was trained on the presidential primary results in Tuesday’s voting, there was one more matter to be decided, the De
Ed Stanton Jr.
  • Ed Stanton Jr.
mocratic primary for General Sessions Court Clerk.

That contest went fairly easily to the incumbent, Ed Stanton Jr., with 53,797 votes to 18,896 for William Stovall.

The Republican primary winner, who was uncontested, was Richard Morton, with 36,756 votes.

Stanton and Morton will vie for the position in the August 4 Shelby County general election.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Super Tuesday Results: (Almost) All Have Won, But Nobody Yet Has the Prize (UPDATED)

The rivals of Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton would certainly be willing to trade places with those two, however.

Posted By on Wed, Mar 2, 2016 at 12:05 AM

Hillary Clinton's local supporters certainly had reason to go thumbs-up about her Super Tuesday wins in seven states (including Tennessee). Celebrating at the Rec Room on Broad Tuesday night were (l to r) County Commissioner Van Turner, local Democratic chair Randa Spears, Terri Rice, and West Tennessee lead Clinton coordinator Dave Cambron. - JB
  • JB
  • Hillary Clinton's local supporters certainly had reason to go thumbs-up about her Super Tuesday wins in seven states (including Tennessee). Celebrating at the Rec Room on Broad Tuesday night were (l to r) County Commissioner Van Turner, local Democratic chair Randa Spears, Terri Rice, and West Tennessee lead Clinton coordinator Dave Cambron.

We have to remember that it was the Dodo bird in Alice in Wonderland who proclaimed that “all have won, and all must have prizes.” But that adverse pedigree notwithstanding, the phrase holds as a description of what happened in the 13-state collection of presidential caucuses and primaries known as “Super Tuesday.”

It is easy enough to say, and several TV and online pundits did say, mostly early on, that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were the big winners on the Republican and Democratic sides, respectively. To be sure, they won the most states, and they amassed the most delegates to add on to what were already healthy leads on the competition.

But six of Clinton’s wins were in Southern states (including Tennessee) where she owned a long-standing firewall of African-American support accumulated in almost two generations of cultivation of and familiarity with that base Democratic constituency on the part of herself and her husband, former Arkansas Governor and U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Her wins in those states were almost a given (though it is also meaningful that rival Democrat, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, failed to dent the black vote, essential to any Democratic national candidate, to any appreciable degree).

Clinton’s other victory was in Massachusetts, and it was by a hair, as in Iowa — an outcome that could, a la Iowa, ultimately be considered something of a draw.

As for Sanders, his wins in home state Vermont, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Minnesota showed enough diversity to go with the $43 million he raised in February to justify a long campaign forward — most of it on terrain where Clinton’s built-in demographic edge won’t be so disproportionate.

The Republican results were also somewhat misleadingly one-sided.

Trump had a good night, winning in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Virginia,  Tennessee, and (by a hair) Vermont, but his conqueror in Iowa, Senator Ted Cruz, captured  home-state Texas and neighboring Oklahoma and even Alaska, getting something of a second wind as a result, and even Florida Senator Marco Rubio booby-prize win in Minnesota (his first) kept his would-be metamorphosis as the GOP establishment’s consensus candidate breathing in the cocoon, if but barely.

Even Ohio Governor John Kasich went virtually neck-and-neck with Trump in Vermont, yet another indication that things are fluid and a race is still on.

So in that sense none have really won yet, and none have the ultimate prize firmly in hand. The rivals of Trump and Clinton would certainly be willing to trade places with those two, however.

State-by-State, GOP                                                              State-by-State, Democratic

GOP Delegates Won to Date, Nationally (1237 needed for nomination; 1777 remaining to be voted on)


Democratic Delegates Won to Date, Natiionally (2383 delegates needed; 3286 left to be voted on;; Total includes super-delegates committed but not won in primaries or caucuses)



Donald Trump 20,715 29.93%
Ted Cruz 19,727 28.51%
Marco Rubio 18,248 26.37%
John Kasich 5,187 7.5%
Ben Carson 4,092 5.91%
Others 1,231 1.78%


Hillary Clinton 66,465 80.15%
Bernie Sanders 15,985 19.28%
Others 477 0.58%



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