Saturday, November 23, 2013


TN Charter School Center: Creating and improving access to high-quality seats must drive district policy on charter schools

Nashville, TN – The Tennessee Charter School Center (the Center) today announced the release of a research paper entitled Locating Quality: a Seat Analysis of Metro Nashville Public Schools. This analysis, which uses data from the Academic Performance Framework (APF) published in March 2013 by Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) and updated this fall, takes an in-depth look at the distribution of quality throughout the district, as measured by the district’s own data.

“With the release of Nashville’s Academic Performance Framework, we decided to follow in the footsteps of many major urban centers such as Denver, Indianapolis, Washington, D.C., and others to produce a neighborhood-specific seat analysis,” said Greg Thompson, CEO of the Center. “This report clearly illustrates where and to what extent the city and public school system needs to prioritize resources to ensure it is driving student achievement throughout the city.”

Using data from the APF, the report finds that while there are more than 12,500 high quality seats in Nashville, they are largely concentrated in a few areas and neighborhoods. Unfortunately, our analysis of the MNPS data revealed that in the majority of district clusters, less than 15 percent of all students attend a high quality school. In order to ensure that every student in MNPS is able to benefit from a high quality seat, an additional 67,000 seats would need to be created or improved to high quality status.

“We believe that together with other strategic initiatives, charter schools can play a crucial role in solving the crisis of quality and growth within Nashville’s public schools. The fact that MNPS has already recommended charter schools as a vehicle for school turnaround and growth management is a testament to the return on investment charter schools have already delivered to the district,” said Thompson.

In Nashville, charter schools represent only five percent of the district’s public schools students, but account for 33 percent of Nashville schools designated Reward Schools by the state. The
report asserts that, given their track record for producing rapid and dramatic student growth at a fraction of the cost of a traditional school, charter schools should be used more broadly to ensure that every student can access and attend a high quality school in his or her neighborhood.

The ability to access and attend a high-quality school should be the District’s priority for all students, every year. To this end, Locating Quality recommends that charters be allowed to grow in regions where families have little to no access to high-quality schools based on MNPS measures- which includes most areas of the city.

This is a recommendation shared by the public. In a recent Tennessean poll, 72 percent of respondents said that Metro’s new charter schools should not be limited to areas where public schools are overcrowded.

In addition to the recommendation that charters open in communities that lack access to high-quality schools, the Center recommends that MNPS:
  • Tap charters to turnaround persistently underperforming schools: Charter schools can serve as a solution in turning around chronically low-performing schools through a charter conversion process. MNPS has already taken steps to facilitate this in their latest resolution.
  • Close underperforming charter schools: Low-performing and chronically failing charter schools must make academic gains or face closure.
  • Manage Nashville’s growing student population in a cost efficient manner by expanding charter school capacity: The number of students within the district is expected to grow – creating more demand for high-quality seats. Already, one third of MNPS schools are oversubscribed. Charter schools can help absorb growth and meet demand with greater cost efficiency while providing better student outcomes. This is partially addressed in the MNPS resolution but in a manner that is far too limiting, using an arbitrary definition of growth.Increase transparency: MNPS, Metro Government and the Nashville Chamber of Commerce should publicly track the availability of high-quality seats on an annual basis.
To learn more, the Center’s findings and recommendations can be read here.

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Is there enough incentive to get off welfare in Tennessee?

by KRISTIN FARLEY, KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Should welfare benefits equal more than a minimum wage job? A recent study shows benefits outpay most entry level jobs.

Minimum wage jobs pay about $15,000 a year, so at face value, this study by the Cato Institute is disheartening to many. The cash value of potential benefits in Hawaii equals more than $49,000.

Second highest is Washington, D.C. where the benefit equals around $43,000. The lowest state, Mississippi, is at just under $17,000 and Tennessee falls right behind with the second lowest potential package at around $17,400. (link)

Comment: Having worked with poor people almost all of my life, this is not news to me. Public housing, AFDC (now TANF), food stamps, medicaid, free phones and various other forms of assistance makes welfare pay better than working.

Once one is on welfare assistance, it is hard to get off.  Working people sometimes must make tough choices and manage their money. On welfare, most of the choices are made for you and there is much less to manage. People on welfare do not develop the skills to be self sufficient. Their normal development into adulthood is stunted. Also, getting off welfare  is risky. If you lose your public housing because you earned too much money, and then you lose your job, you may not be able to get back into public housing. There is a waiting list. It is the same with other services. Welfare pays just enough so that working is too expensive. And, to avoid the risk of failure, it is better to take no risk.

Also, many on Welfare do have a little income on the side so they are not as bad off as they may appear. Often the badydaddy still comes around sometimes and "helps out." Food stamps are quit generous and often food stamps are sold at the going rate of 50 cents on the dollar so the family can have money for  cigarettes, lottery tickets, booze or other luxuries of life. And some people on welfare may work a little from time to time either on a cash basis or just enough not to endanger benefits. And, there is the drug dealing and petty crime to supplement the public assistance.

A  popular way to game the system is the "Earned Income Tax Credit." People claim to have had a job as a self employed person. The most popular phantom jobs are child care provider, caterer, house cleaning and lawn care. They learn the sweet spot were they show they earned just enough to get the tax "return" of money they never paid in, in the first place, yet avoid losing benefits. People on welfare develop that welfare mentality, learning how to game the system, not get caught, and get more and better benefits. They know where to get help with utility bills and they know how to register their kids for a nice Christmas and where to get free coats come winter.

Welfare does not get people out of poverty but subsidizes a persons poverty so there is no incentive to stop being poor and it destroys a person's character. A minimum wage job of $7.50 an hour may not be much, but it is the first step on a latter out of poverty. That $7.50 starting job teaches one values and skills such as punctuality and responsibility and being willing to take some crap and it teaches one the pride of having earned what they have. A job builds one's self esteem and sense of worth and ones value to an employer. Welfare turns people into people with no ambition who are comfortable in their poverty.

Some liberals would argue that the solution to this problem, is to make working pay more- raise the minimum wage. That is not a solution. Raising the minimum wage simply leads to fewer minimum wage jobs- fewer entry level jobs, fewer chances to clime out of poverty. It is cutting off the bottom rung on the latter. Also, unfortunately, some people are not worth $15 an hour.  They are not worth $7.50 an hour. There are people who have become socialized into the welfare culture and developed the welfare mentality who are essentially "worthless."  Many of them, I would not let them work for me, even if they would work for free.

In my view we need to reinstate the strict standards of the initial welfare reform and over time ratchet up the pressure. One of the problems with welfare reform is that it is expensive to get people off welfare. I don't think we can pull the plug on welfare all at once and let people sink or swim. We need to be willing to invest in the short-term in order to make long-term gains. People on welfare need to have help getting a GED and taught how to get a job. Welfare is a disability. Maybe we need to provide a tax incentive to employers who will hire a person who is on welfare.

Paying a mother of an infant a welfare check is cheaper in the short run than paying her child care for her so she can work at a minimum wage job. Paying the welfare however, does not teach the skills and values necessary to end welfare. Paying her child care for a time so she can work, and then phasing it out gradually over time will transition her out of welfare. People on Welfare need a lot of help to make the transition to normal society. To end welfare we need to cut benefits but also give people a hand up. We need to not expect to change the welfare mentality overnight. There are generations of people on welfare who have never known a working person. Welfare is a sub culture. We need a long-term commitment to ending poverty that forces people to change their behavior and values. Too much of the War on Poverty has been a program to make poverty comfortable. We need a real war on poverty that makes welfare uncomfortable and helps people escape.

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Lamar Alexander blast delay of 2014 healthcare enrollment period as political act

 Says he’ll offer a legislative solution to reverse decision

MARYVILLE, Nov. 22 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the senior Republican on the Senate health committee, released the following statement on a U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services announcement that it will delay the beginning of the next Obamacare enrollment season by one month, till Nov. 15, 2014, after the midterm elections, instead of beginning open enrollment season on the department’s previously announced date of Oct. 15:
The only American consumers this change will help are Democratic politicians who voted for Obamacare, because it delays disclosure of some of the law's most insidious effects until after the election.
Alexander will offer a legislative solution to provide Americans with proper notice of any premium increases before open enrollment on the exchanges begins, irrespective of political considerations, so that Americans will know what premiums they will have to pay in the exchanges before they open.

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Enough already with the Kennedy assassination memorials

I know it was a big deal and this is the fiftieth anniversary.  I expected some coverage, but every news channel and History Channel and CSPAN and all the networks, day after day, for days now? And, page after page in the Tennessean? Enough already. Is nothing else happening in the world? Time to move on.

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Ketron Plans to Simplify Wine-in-Grocery-Stores Debate

Reposted from TNReport, 21 Nov 201, by Mark Todd Engler

The Tennessee Senate’s foremost advocate of loosening state restrictions on where wine can and cannot be sold wants to restart the discussion in a straightforward manner when the Legislature convenes in January.

Bill Ketron, a Republican from Murfreesboro, says the issue is no more complicated than this: Should local citizens decide?

He said it’s the same as letting local voters choose whether to permit liquor stores or allow liquor-by-the-drink.

To that end, Ketron said he’ll likely move to set aside any extraneous amendments now attached to a bill he’s sponsoring that grants locals the power through referendums to decide if grocery stores can sell wine. Senate Bill 837 has since last spring been aging in the chamber’s Calendar Committee where it awaits scheduling for a full-body vote when the Tennessee General Assembly reconvenes in January. As of mid-April, when the bill was last discussed before being shelved for the year, it’d picked up eight amendments through the Senate’s committee system.
Among the add-ons were stipulations on how the state will handle new tax revenues it collects through wine sales, descriptions of stores besides liquor retailers potentially eligible to sell wine, a loosening of regulations governing liquor-store ownership and an item-by-item listing of products in addition to booze that retail liquor outlets could in the future sell.

Ketron, the Senate’s Republican caucus chairman, told TNReport that stripping SB837 of amendment pulp will “get down to the nuts-and-bolts basics of that bill, which is to vote yes or no to allow people to have a referendum,” he said.

The “whole issue,” said Ketron, is the question of who decides. “It’s not about wine in grocery stores, but allowing the people to say they want to be able to vote.”
“If they want it, then they should be allowed to say that — for the same reason that retail stores are in place, through referendum in every community,” Ketron said. “And also, liquor-by-the-drink was by referendum. So that is how we got there on those two and this will be the third, wine in grocery stores.”

As to the extra items, some of which are conceived as trade-offs to help ease the transition for liquor stores, Ketron said he’ll advocate that lawmakers “decorate the Christmas tree on a second bill.”
Ketron said he’s pretty confident the “yes” votes are in place to pass a wine-in-groceries measure in both chambers of the Legislature, but the Senate is going to take the lead.

House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, have both indicated they support allowing wine in grocery stores. Last week Lt. Gov. Ramsey tweeted that he’s “looking forward to expanding consumer choice and spurring economic growth with the passage of wine-in-grocery stores.”

“This is the year,” predicted Ketron. “There seems to be a lot of excitement and demand is going up.”
Dan Haskell, a lobbyist for the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association, said he, too, is optimistic that political circumstances “bode well” for reform in 2014.

Advocates of loosening wine-sales restrictions have year after year seen their hopes drowned in sorrow. But Haskell said public opinion for wine in grocery stores is without a doubt surging, and politicians tend to know when to go with the flow.

“People often say that, historically in Tennessee, you don’t pass bills of this type during an election year,” said Haskell. “But for the first time, I think legislators are recognizing how popular this is with voters, and that an election year may be a better time to pass it.”

Haskell said numerous polls over the years have shown majority support for the wine-in-groceries cause. “Everybody pretty well understands that the populace is in favor of the idea,” he said.
If anything, voters “don’t understand why it isn’t already that way,” said Haskell, who used to be a lawyer for the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Nevertheless, liquor store owners, who oppose sharing any of the market they’ve been granted exclusive authority to serve, aren’t ready just yet to throw in the towel and start tossing back jiggers of hemlock.

Chip Christianson, a legislative affairs coordinator for the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association, suggested “the Senate is probably not the critical call on that legislation.” Indeed, the House was where the measure got buried in 2013, and where committee votes will likely be tight again in 2014.

“Our feeling on the referendum issue remains the same and it is very, very simple,” Christianson said. “The Legislature is in a better position to make a decision than the general public. It is a complicated issue with a lot of ramifications and a lot of unintended consequences. The Legislature was elected to make decisions like this for the public — and obviously we have a strong position on what we think that decision should be.”

Last year Vanderbilt University pollster John Greer suggested that opinion surveys tend to show “the public wants wine in grocery stores no matter how you frame the question.”

But Christianson doesn’t put much stock in polls. He asserts there’s in fact very little in the way of a passionate grassroots groundswell of demand for changing the status quo. There aren’t people camped out at the Capitol demonstrating in favor of wine in grocery stores, he observed.

And when the argument is offered that “independent Tennessee retailers” will suffer or may even have to shutter their storefronts “for the benefit of Kroger and Publix and WalMart,” some of that public support unquestionably falls away, he maintains.

“When you walk up and just ask somebody ‘Would you like to have wine in grocery stores?’ almost anybody would probably say yes,” Christianson said. “But if you sit down and explain the consequences and the ramifications of that occurring, then you still might have some people feeling that way, but it changes a lot of attitudes. And that is one of the reasons why it’s been so difficult for (supporters of wine in grocery stores). If it was so simple and so clear cut, the grocers should have gotten this passed years ago. But it is not simple and not clear cut. And the Legislature, in its wisdom, has not allowed it.”

As chance would have it, Kroger, Inc., which is headquartered in Cincinnati, was recently named “Retailer of the Year” by Wine Enthusiast magazine. A press release subsequently issued by Kroger led off with the words “Where’s the wine? You won’t find it in Tennessee.” That was followed by a call to legislative action from Rick Going, Kroger’s Nashville Division president.

“We are honored to receive recognition from the experts at Wine Enthusiast; we also can’t help but see the irony in the No. 1 retailer’s not being able to sell wine in our Tennessee stores,” Going’s statement read. “More than 70 percent of Tennesseans want to buy wine where they shop for food, and we couldn’t agree more. We hope the Tennessee General Assembly will pass legislation to give Tennessee consumers the right to vote on wine sales for their communities.”
Alex Harris contributed to this story.

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Sulphur Dell Informational Meeting

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Blackburn Fights to Protect Tennesseans from Government Intimidation

Congressman Marsha Blackburn speaks out against government abuse and the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS during remarks delivered on the House floor. (November 18, 2013)

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Update: Metro Council meeting 11/19/2013 with commentary and time stamp notation

This meeting is 1 hour and 16 minutes long, which is longer than I thought it would be. I was anticipating a short meeting. To access the agenda and the staff analysis follow this link. Council meeting are really, really boring if you don't know what the council is voting on.  With an agenda and analysis they are just boring.

All appointees to boards and commissions were approved unanimously as is the practice of the Council. I don't even know why the council bothers confirming appointments; they could just give the Mayor a rubber stamp.

Included in the confirmation of appointments were  five appointments by the mayor to a committee that will study the establishment of domestic benefits for same-sex partners of city employees. A majority of the council asked Dean to form the committee last month to study the issue. Included among the 26 Council members who signed the letter asking for the study was Councilman Tim Garrett, a Democrat but a person assumed to be a conservative Democrat, and Davette Blalock who is a Republican. I like both of these people and think that generally they are among the better councilmen, but I am disappointed in them for signing that letter.

The appointees to the study panel are Glen Farner, Lucia Folk, Debra Grimes, Ivanetta Davis Samuels and Michael Shmerling. These are some public minded citizens and talented people who are appointed to this committee. However, I would have vote "no" on all of them or at least asked to be recorded as abstaining. I know that I oppose giving benefits to same-sex couples. I would have not signed the letter asking the Mayor to study the issue and I would not vote to confirm appointments to a committee to study the issue. I am going to go out on a limb and predict the committee will come back with a recommendation to provide benefits to same-sex partners and I would not be surprised if it does not pass the Council unanimously.  If the Metro Council is going to extend benefits to gay domestic partners, why not to any two people who are in a relationship that involves living together and mingling of expenses. Why must they be assumed to be having same-sex, sex in order to qualify? It is the politically correct times in which we live where the highest value is not to be judgmental.

Resolution no RS2013-904 which authorize the payment of compensation to a special judge of General Sessions Court is deferred two meetings.(see 0:17:28) To see the discussion that took place at the Budget and Finance Committee meeting, follow this link and go to time stamp 0:03:40. It was discussed at length.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2013-918  which would appropriate $10 million dollars from the unappropriated fund balance to the Pension fund fails. Read more about it here and see time stamp 0:24:04 and follow this link and go to time stamp 0:48:17 to see the Budget and Finance Committee meeting discussion. This is a good bill and should have passed. Tygerd got the support of 15 of his colleagues. To see how they voted go to time stamp 0:31:09.

It is highly unusual that a bill is opposed on first reading. It is almost considered bad manners. The three bills concerning the Sulfur Dell Ball Park pass but are discussed. Councilman  Charlie Tygerd attempts to get the bills deferred for two meetings. Councilman Tennpenny and Councilman Manard have a heated exchange of comments. See time stamp 0:33:50.

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Metro Council Budget and Finance Committee meeting of Nov. 18, 2013

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Brentwood Woman's Club to host Speaker of the House Harwell

She will address the Brentwood Woman’s Club during the club’s holiday luncheon Tuesday, Dec. 3, at the Brentwood Country Club. (link)

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Liberty on the Rocks, Thursday, November 21, 2013, 5:30 PM

 Mafiaoza's 2400 12th Ave S.  Nashville, TN 37204

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Update: Effort to reduce Metro's unfunded pension liability fails

Last night  RESOLUTION NO. RS2013-918, sponsored by Charlie Tygerd, which would have appropriated ten million dollars from the undesignated fund balance of the General Fund to the Pension Fund for the purpose of reducing the Metropolitan Government’s $396 million unfunded pension liability, failed.

Finance Director Rich Riebeling said the resolution was "arbitrary and poorly timed."

According to the Metro Council Staff analysis:

Metro's pension fund covers approximately 13,000 current employees and 9,900 retired and deferred vested employees.  The Metro Charter requires that the annual contribution made to the pension plan at least be equal to the normal pension payment cost for that year plus 5% of the unfunded liability. Metro has consistently funded the government's pension liabilities in excess of the minimum required by the Charter, by funding the normal costs plus 7.5% of the amortization of the unfunded liability as determined by Metro's actuary. As of June 30, 2012, Metro's unfunded pension liability was $395,638,160. 
The analysis goes on to say the GSD fund balance would still be 5.6% of the operating budget and that Metro policy only requires a 5% balance.

The city had already met its Charter mandated annual contribution to the pension fund. This resolution would have appropriated an additional $10,000,0000. To me, it seemed like a wise thing to do. You may recall that last month the administration proposed borrowing $200 million to partially fund the unfunded pension liability and investing the money and hoping we would earn a profit on the borrowed money. While I thought that was a risky move, it was a recognition that we have a pension liability problem that must be addressed. That proposal got a cool reception from the Council and the mayor quickly withdrew it. We must do something however. If we don't start reducing the pension liability now, then when that pension plan payments become due, it seems to me, we will have to slash other spending to the bone or massively raise taxes to pay the obligation.

In my view, while we figure out how to address the unfunded liability, we should stop digging a deeper hole. I think we should transition from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan. A defined contribution plan is much like a 401K. The city makes a contribution to a retirement plan and the employee can match it or not and within limits the employee determines his investment risk. Once the employee is vested, if he leaves Metro he can take his investment with him. At anytime, he can take his own contribution to the plan with him. With a defined benefit plan, the retirement fund belongs to the employee and if he fails to save enough or does not choose his investment wisely, it is his fault. The city provides a vehicle for the employee to have a comfortable retirement but does not guarantee a certain return on investment. The city makes the contribution as it goes along and has no liability. Most of the private sector has ended defined benefit plans or pensions and have gone to defined contribution plans, if they offer any retirement plan at all.

To read the Tennessean's report follow this link: Nashville council rejects scaled-back pension proposal.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Taxis raising money nationally to fight UberX, Lyft and SideCar

Taxi cab companies from around the nation are working to collectively raise a significant amount of money to fight startups such as UberX, Lyft and SideCar, all venture backed San Francisco services that use mobile technology to match riders with people driving for hire in private vehicles without commercial licenses.

The decision to collect a national war chest was made at the Taxi, Limousine & Paratransit Association’s annual convention, which was held late last month in Boston. (link)
A fight is in the making and I expect it to take place in Nashville also. Nashville has already had a long drawn out fight to protect luxury limo companies from competition from black sedans. The fight involved legislation, the Transportation Licensing Commission imitating police officers to harass and threaten the competition, and an extended legal battle. The politically connected limo companies won. Nashville also made it extremely difficult for new taxi cab companies to enter the market. Finally new cabs were able to enter the market but only after a lengthy battle.

Now, Lyft has come to town and is recruiting drivers and Uber is exploring entering the market. Things might be different this time. Some business leaders and apparently the Mayor's office realize we need more public transportation options. This is a fight worth watching.

Unfortunately, the Metro Council has never taken a stand for free enterprise in this battle. Anyone in the Metro Council, who was in the Council in the previous term voted for the original limo prize fixing bill that required black sedans to operate as if they were luxury limos and established a host of ridiculous rules. That bill imposed a minimum fare of $45 for a limo, classified the black sedan services as limos and limited them to only one fare an hour. Nashville became one of only seven cities in the nation to have a minimum fare. That bill passed the Council unanimously, so think of your favorite metro "conservative" councilman who is serving his second term; he voted for it.

In this term of the Council an effort led by Council member Davette Blalock attempting to repeal the price-fixing bill but it failed. One of the leading opponents who kept it from passing is someone who is often considered a Republican. Shameful!

Anyone who thinks Nashville should not be embracing policies that protect existing companies from competition, anyone who believes in market capitalism, should be watching this issue. I will not contribute, endorse, or work for anyone who accepts money from this national organization formed to fight transportation competition. Unless some people with conservative values and guts run for office, I am ready to sit out the Council elections. On issues that matter, the most "conservative" council member often vote exactly like the most progressive council members. Why elect people who call themselves "Republicans" or "conservative" when they vote like socialist?

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Report from Caffeinated Conservatives: Rep. Courtney brought along John Jay Hooker!

Hi everybody,
A big thanks to all of you who filled up Jacob's Well Coffee House on Saturday, and especially to the new faces who joined us! I hope you all had as good a time as I did, and maybe got to know your fellow politicos a bit better.

For those who couldn't make it, what I thought was going to be an excellent meeting with Rep. Courtney Rogers (who was lively, funny, and very informative) got kicked up to an awesome meeting when she brought along charmer and legendary ne'er-do-well John Jay Hooker, two time Democrat nominee for TN governor. Both Courtney and John were emphatic in explaining their opposition to the unconstitutional way in which we the people of TN have been denied our right to elect our judges for the past 40 years by every governor and legislature to come along, and it felt like John was leading a revival! All it would take to restore our right to elect judges is a simple law done in one legislative session, not the constitutional amendment coming next November that would forever take away our right to elect our judges.

I hope in you getting involved, we help you to get informed, because then you can be effective in making the change you want to see happen. Courtney said to tell the "caffeinators" that she had a great time. Talk to you all soon!

Stephen Clements
Caffeinated Conservatives

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Senators Lamar Alexander, John Thune, & Orin Hatch aim to block union exemption from Obamacare tax

The President is trying to exempt his union buddies from a key tax provision of Obamacare and Senator Alexander and a couple other Senators are trying to stop him. Obamacare would not have passed without deceit and bribery and the massive lying that, "if you like your plan, you can keep it." Would it have passed if people would have know that unions would be except from a tax that would apply to other self-insured entities?

When a President can decide who a law applies to and to whom it does not apply, our democracy is in trouble. Democrats need to realize that next time it may be a Republican President deciding to whom a law applies. Regardless of party, rule of  law and basic fairness should be something we agree on.

The White House is considering exempting certain self-insured, self-administered insurance plans from the reinsurance fee, an exemption that would include the plans commonly held by union members, known as Taft Hartley plans. Unions have asked to be exempted from the tax.

Alexander, in a statement, described the reinsurance tax as another “job-killing” tax, blasting the White House.

“The administration should be embarrassed that it would consider exempting their union cronies without providing similar relief to our nation’s employers and faith-based and charitable organizations,” he said.(link)

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What is Obamacare doing to the rule of law?

As much as I dislike Obamacare and as disastrous as I think it will be for the Nation, I am almost as concerned with what it is doing to the rule of law in this nation. After finally recognizing that the roll-out was a failure and admitting that the millions of health insurance cancellations was a real problem, President Obama offered a "fix." He would allow insurance companies to keep in place for one more year those policies they had cancelled because the policies did not conform to the dictates of the new law. 

By what authority could the President do that? If the law says that starting January 1, all policies must provide certain coverage and must conform to one of the four approved Obamacare insurance models, how can the President say, "Oh wait, you can ignore that for another year."  The mandate that insurance polices offer certain coverage and have certain features was not an administrative rule, but a law.

When the President, said businesses, would have another year to meet the business mandate portion of the plan, where did that authority come from? Can the President arbitrarily say, he will delay enforcing a law for a year and allow people to ignore the law? Sometimes Congress or other legislative bodies pass policies with "goals" or "targets" or a program that grandfathers-in all non-complying entities and says that going forward such will be the law. That was not the case with the Obamacare act. It was a firm law.

President Obama is acting more like an absolute monarch or third world dictator than the President of a nation of laws. If President Obama can choose to ignore a law passed by Congress, what law may a future President choose to ignore? Could a future Republican President say the provisions of Obamacare are suspended indefinitely without seeking Congressional repeal? He would have as much authority to do so as President Obama had in authorizing insurance companies or businesses to ignore the law.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Technology may break the anti-free market, crony capitalism Nashville model of transportation

If you watched John Stossell last night, you again saw the embarrassing story of how Nashville outlawed affordable Black Sedan transportation services by making them charge the same fees and operate like the luxury limousine companies. The Nashville story was part of a program showcasing how government regulations stifle innovation and protect existing companies from competition. (To learn more about Nashville's limo price-fixing follow this link)

Another segments showcased how in Kentucky, new moving companies are prohibited from entering the market unless they can get a certificate of necessity. This  allows existing movers to block new competition. To illustrate the absurdity of this, Stossell compared it to what would have happened if Starbucks would had had to obtain a certificate of necessity before opening new coffee shops. There were plenty of places to buy coffee before Starbucks. If we would have had the same environment in coffee shops as in transportation or moving companies, there would be no Starbucks.

Lyft is looking for drivers in Nashville! Join the community
and make up to $20/hr and over $500 per weekend while
meeting great people around the city. Choose when you drive!
Another segment featured the innovative ride sharing program called Lyft. People who want to give rides are matched up with people who need rides by way of an app and on-line application. The ride provider and the person needing a ride, check each other out on-line. Lyft makes sure the providers meet liability insurance requirements and have safe driving records and beyond that, there is not a lot of bureaucracy. No one has to accept a particular fare and no one has to take a particular service provider. No money directly changes hands and Lyft handles the receipts and payments. As is to be expected, cab companies are fighting and trying to ban Lyft. (To see a video learn and more about Lyft, follow this link,)

There has long been other models for putting people who need a ride in touch with people wanting to offer a ride. There has long been para transit in third world countries. When I was a young man living in Thailand, there were buses and taxies, but there were  also pedicabs and other forms of transportation. There was a  hybrid between a taxi and a bus.  It was priced between bus fare and taxi fare and traveled a relatively fixed route but would deviate off of the regular route to take people to their door. That was legal in Thailand but was illegal and is still illegal in America.

While vacationing in Turkey some years ago, Louella and I stayed at a beautiful seaside fishing village-resort called Assos. We arrived at night by taxi. When we got ready to leave we wanted a cheaper means of transportation and were told where to catch a minibus. We got on the bus and waited and waited. Finally I inquired when we would be leaving and with the language barrier  I finally learned that their were options. We could leave now for one fare, or wait until more people arrived and pay a cheaper fare. If it was full, it was a really cheap fare. I don't know what would have happened if some  had wanted to wait until it was full and some wanted to go immediately, but their system somehow seemed to work.

America prides itself on being a free market capitalistic country, but in many ways we are a lot less free than the rest of the world. When it comes to transportation, we want everything to fit in a neat box. Transportation providers must be buses, taxis, or limousines. Innovation and competition is not permitted. This is more so in Nashville than other cities.  Nashville is one of only seven cities in America with a minimum fare for limousines, which in Nashville, includes Black Sedans.

Finally, technology may break the anti-free market, crony capitalism Nashville model of transportation. We have enough cars on the road. Not everyone has to have their own vehicle. We already have bike share programs and zipcars. With people becoming aware of services like Lyft and Uber and Sidecar, people may demand  that government get out of the way and let the market work. I hope so. One thing that would help would be if we elected people to the Metro Council who believe in capitalism.

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Carl Boyd Jr off the air

From Carl Boyd Jr on Facebook: I just found out after my show today, this is my last day on SuperTalk 99.7FM WTN. The Program Director said the new sales team wanted to go in a different direction. I want to thank everyone for all of your support. We will end up somewhere. Keep me in your prayers. God Bless.

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Update: Metro Council Nov. 19th Agenda analysis

This should be a short and boring meeting.

Council meetings are really boring if you don't know what the Council is voting on. With an agenda, they are still boring but not quite as boring. To follow along, you can get your own copy of the Metro council meeting agenda at this link: Metro Council Agenda.

The Council Staff Analysis is now available and can be downloaded at this link: Staff Analysis.

Confirmation of Appointment: There are ten appointments to boards and commission on the agenda. The council does not take its responsibility of confirming appointments seriously and always approves unanimously all of the mayor's appointments.

 Bill on public hearing: There is one bill on public hearing and it is for the Frothy Monkey located on 12th Avenue, which already has liquor license, to be allowed to have a beer license. I think the law should be changed, so that any place that has a liquor license can also qualify for a beer license without a public hearing.

Consent Agenda: There are thirteen resolutions, all of which are on the consent agenda at this time. A resolution is put on the consent agenda if it is likely to be non-controversial and it stays on the consent agenda if it passes the committees to which it was assigned unanimously. Resolutions on the consent agenda are passed by a single vote of the Council rather than being considered individually. However, any member of the body may have a bill pulled off of the consent agenda but it doesn't happen often. At this time, I see no resolutions that raise a red flag. This two resolution are of interest:
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2013-915 is A resolution setting a public hearing for a proposed amendment to the Phillips Jackson Street Redevelopment Plan. This is a part of the Sulfur Dell Ball Park deal. This has to pass in order to have tax increment financing available for the project.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2013-918 appropriates Ten Million Dollars from the undesignated fund balance of the General Fund to the Pension Fund for the purpose of reducing the Metropolitan Government’s unfunded pension liability. This is routine and appropriate.
Bills on First reading almost always pass. They are considered as a group and are seldom discussed. First reading is a formality that allows the bill to be considered. Unless a bill is ridiculously atrocious it should be passed on first reading. Bills are not assigned to committee or analyzed by council staff until after they have passed first reading. I have not carefully reviewed the bills on first reading, but will before second reading.There are two bills on first reading concerning the Sulfur Dell ball park. There are twelve bills on first reading.

Bills on Second Reading: It is on Second reading, after bills have been to committee, that discussion usually takes place. There are ten bills on second reading. I do not see any controversial bills.

Bills on Third Reading: Third Reading is the final reading. If a bill passes third reading it becomes law unless it is vetoed by the Mayor, which has only rarely happened. There are fifteen bills on third reading. None of them appear controversial.

Memorializing Resolutions: There are two harmless memorizing resolutions on this agenda. Unless someone objects they will be added to the consent agenda and passed as group with other resolutions. One of the memorializing resolutions honors BURNT on its 25th Anniversary. Headed by Bruce Woods, BURNT should get much of the credit for closing down the old downtown garbage-burning transfer plant. That was a battle that raged for years.

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Green Hills Community Meeting on Area Transportation Plan tonight

Green Hills Community Meeting
Discussion of Proposed Green Hills Area Transportation Plan
Monday, November 18, 2013
6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Calvary United Methodist Church
(in the Gymnasium behind the main Sanctuary)
3701 Hillsboro Pike

You are invited to attend a Community Meeting with representatives from the Metro Nashville Planning Department and your Metro Councilmen. Discussion will focus on proposed modifications to the recommendations in the Green Hills Area Transportation Plan based upon feedback received from the community and stakeholders.

This meeting is designed to give you a chance to have input prior to the public hearing scheduled for December 12, 2013 at the Planning Commission. Following the presentation, the Councilmen will open the floor for questions, comments and suggestions. This meeting will allow an opportunity for you to receive information and provide input regarding any issues you may have with the proposed Plan.

A copy of the Proposed Transportation Plan can be accessed online at:

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