Saturday, February 07, 2015

How the TN GOP SEC voted on open or closed primaries.

State Executive Committee Vote on Party Registration

Those voting to support a change in state law limiting participation in Republican primaries to those registered as Republicans:

Frances Arthur – District 16
Emily Beaty – District 10
Cindy Beckwith – District 15
Tina Benkiser – District 11
Karen Bennett – District 19
Oscar Brock – District 10
Kathryn Bryson – District 26
Rebecca Burke – District 23
Jim Cobb – District 12
Sam Cooper – District 30
Lynne Davis – District 14
Robert Duvall – District 21
Betty Fain – District 8
Lance Frizzell – District 14
Jonathan Garner – District 25
Kent Harris – District 3
Chris Hughes – District 18
Gary Kee – District 24
Kelsey Ketron – District 13
Beverly Knight-Hurley – District 21
Jim Looney – District 28
A.J. McCall – District 17
Angie McClanahan – District 28
Ron McDow – District 20
Susan Mills – District 2
Mary Ann Parks – District 25
Tim Rudd – District 13
Scott Smith – District 5
Mark Winslow – District 19

Those voting to support the current system of allowing crossover voting between Republican and Democrat primaries:
Gary Addington – District 4
Rob Ailey – District 2
Pat Allen – District 22
Karen Brown – District 7
Linda Buckles – District 4
Nathan Buttrey – District 23
Mike Callahan – District 15
Beth Campbell – District 20
Paul Chapman - District 1
Jane Chedester – District 6
Frank Colvett – District 31
Chris Connolly – District 32
Christi Cross – District 24
Drew Daniel – District 33
Melissa Gay – District 18
Scott Golden – District 27
Bill Green – District 16
Ken Gross – District 7
Kelley Hankins – District 29
Ted Hatfield – District 6
Shannon Haynes – District 27
Kurt Holbert – District 26
Liz Holiway – District 12
Julia Hurley – District 5
Lora Jobe – District 30
Bill Landrum – District 9
June Landrum – District 9
Wayne Oldham – District 22
Hobart Rice – District 8
Terry Roland – District 29
Paula Sedgwick – District 32
Sara Sellers – District 3
Mary Wagner – District 33
Nancy Wilson – District 1
Jennifer Winfree – District 17
Bobby Wood – District 11
Annabel Woodall – District 31

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TN GOP votes against closed primary elections.

The Tennessee Republican Party won’t advocate changing election laws in the state after party officials voted down a resolution Saturday that called for closed primary elections.

The Tennessee Republican Party won’t advocate changing election laws in the state after party officials voted down a resolution Saturday that called for closed primary elections.
After two hours of debate the Tennessee Republican State Executive Committee killed the resolution 37-29. That’s a sign the current system works well for Republicans, said state party chairman Chris Devaney.

“I don’t think that we would be here today with the supermajorities in the legislature, with all of our statewide officials Republican if we did not have open primaries,” said Devaney, who supports open primaries. (read more including comments by Alexander, Cooker, Ramsey, Harwell and others)

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Wright has been on death row since 1985

"Wright has been on death row since 1985," was the last sentence in a news story in The Tennessean today. The story was that the Tennessee Supreme Court decided this week that they could hear a challenge to the constitutionality of electric chair executions. The State Attorney General had argued that the Court could not hear an inmates challenge to the electric chair given that none of the inmates were immediately facing execution. The challenge to the electric chair was added to a case challenging the constitutionality of lethal injection.  In addition to this challenge to the constitutionality of the means of execution, there is also pending a case about whether the names of people in an execution team should be released to the condemned inmates attorneys.

What struck me in this case is that Wright has been on death row since 1985: That is 30 years. That is not swift justice. In 1984, Charles Wright shot and killed two people during a drug deal.

The death penalty is costly. In Tennessee, death penalty trials cost an average of 48% more than the average cost of trials in which prosecutors seek life imprisonment, according to a 2004 Report from Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Office of Research. Also 29% of the cases in which a person is given the death penalty the conviction is reversed due to trial errors. The cost of carrying out an execution in 2004 was about $12,000.  Still, the report found that the execution of an inmate saves the state approximately $773,736 for the future imprisonment of the inmate when compared to an inmate sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

Charles wright is 60 years old now and has already spent 30 years on death row and still does not have a date of execution. I do not know what the life expectancy of Charles Wright would be if he lived out the rest of his life in prison without parole but I do not see how executing him is saving the state much money.  In 2004 the average time spend on death row was 13 years.  I do not know what is it is now.  Maybe it is time for Tennessee to do another study and see it executing someone does actually save money.  Studies from other states show it does not.

One thing that concerns me about the death penalty is that there is the possibility of executing an innocent person. According to The Innocence Project, there have been 325 post-convictions exonerations due to DNA evidence alone since 1989. Twenty of the 325 people exonerated through DNA served time on death row.  Mistakes happen, but when a man is put to death it cannot be undone and executions carried out by the state are done in the name of we the people. Is the risk of killing an innocent person worth the satisfaction or benefit of seeing the guilty executed?

One of the arguments in favor of the death penalty is that it is a deterrent to crime. I doubt it. The 2004 Comptroller report said, "Previous research provides no clear indication whether the death penalty acts as a method of crime prevention. Some research supports the death penalty as a deterrent, other studies support the notion that it is not a deterrent, and still others indicate that the death penalty stimulates acts of first-degree murder." 

Evidence shows that states with the death penalty actually have higher murder rates than states without the death penalty. That may not be conclusive, there may be other factors, but the evidence does not prove the death penalty is a deterrent. If someone is on drugs, or alcohol or burning with the passion of hatred or revenge or greed or is just a totally evil person who can kill without guilt, does he stops to consider: "I live in a state with a death penalty. I better not commit this crime?" Or, do you think he my reasons: "I live in a state without the death penalty. What the heck? The worst I can get is life without the possibility of payroll. I will do it"?  I don't think they reason like that. Also, if Charles Wright is put to death 31years after he committed the crime, do you think that prevents some other person from committing a crime?

I have concluded I no longer support the death penalty.  I have no moral objection to putting to death someone who committed murder. I am not passionate in my opposition. For some especially horrendous murders I could pull the switch myself. Some people are so evil they do not deserve to live. I won't be attending any candlelight vigils for Charles Wright outside the gates of the Riverbend Maximum Security prison. I doubt I will be joining in protest to mourn the life of any specific individual sentenced to death.

As a practical matter however, it seems the death penalty is not worth the trouble or the risk of putting an innocent person to death. Also, while we should not be overly concerned with world opinion, two-thirds of the nations of the world do not carry out executions either because it is legally banned or they do not carry out execution in practice although they may still be legally permitted to carry out the death penalty.  Canada, Mexico, and almost all of Europe have banned the death penalty.  As a nation with a high number of executions we are in the company of North Korea, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia. I don't like the company we keep.

I do not think the death penalty is "cruel and unusual."  I don't want the Supreme Court to rule it as such. I don't think we need to amend the constitution to ban the death penalty. I support states rights and believe each state should make that decision. I think, however, Tennessee should join the states that have banned the death penalty, or we should establish new guidelines so it is extremely rare that anyone gets the death penalty and it is reserved for only the most horrific cases, such as cases involving serial murders or murder where the victim is tortured, or an evil person kills a helpless child; not for drug deals gone bad.

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Friday, February 06, 2015

The Christ Church Cathedral Mayoral Forum, Sunday, February 8th at 3PM.

The Christ Church Cathedral Mayoral Forum will be Sunday, February 8th at 3PM. All but one of the mayoral candidates have confirmed they will attend. The forum is expected to end at 4:30. The Cathedral leadership has asked candidates to include remarks in their presentation that would address these topics:

  • poverty and affordable housing in a growing Nashville
  • the relation of church and city during the next mayor's administration
  • the commitment to civility in political dialogue and discourse in the next election cycle
This is a great opportunity to become better informed and judge the candidates. An added bonus is that this forum takes place in a awe inspiring sitting. If you have never attended an event at Christ Church Cathedral, this is worth attending just to sit in the pews for a while.

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2015 Pro-Life High School Oratory Contest

Sponsored by Tennessee Right to life. For contest rules and application, follow this link.

Local winners advance to the state competition to be held on May 2 at Aquinas College in Nashville. Registration begins at 12:00 noon CDT and the competition begins at 1:00 p.m.

The state winner advances to the national competition to be held on Saturday, July 11 at the Marriott Hotel in New Orleans in conjunction with the 2015 National Right to Life Convention.

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Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods to host Neighborhood Leadership Training, Saturday Feb. 7th

This sounds like good training for leaders of neighborhood organizations, candidates for the Metro Council or anyone who would like to get more involved in local civic affairs.

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Local Campaign Financial Reports to be online!

I just got off the phone with Councilman Tim Garrett who told me that he had just spoken to Davidson County Election Administrator Ken Wall who told him that starting Monday, "barring unforeseen cliches," the election commission would begin scanning and uploading local campaign finance reports and posting them on the election commission's website.

Councilman Garrett called the Commission with my concern after getting my letter to the Council in which I asked the Council to take action to get local campaign financial reports posted online.  Federal campaign finance reports and State campaign finance reports are easily available online and I think local campaign finance reports should be also. I want to know who is funding which candidates for major and council and who is winning the fund raising wars and who has the money to be considered a serious candidate.

I want to thank Councilman Tim Garrett for promptly responding to my letter and taking action to address my concern.  I commend Ken Wall and the election commission for taking action that will lend greater transparency to the local democratic process.

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Is the Capital of Tennessee About to Decriminalize Marijuana?

By: Barry Donegan - A tipping point may have just been reached on the issue of marijuana decriminalization in Nashville, Tennessee. At a Tuesday candidate forum for Nashville’s 2015 mayoral race, five out of seven candidates for mayor signaled their support of or openness to the idea of decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, a fact which Tennessean writer Joey Garrison called “a sign of changing attitudes toward the drug that could boost ongoing efforts to change the law in Davidson County.” The ongoing efforts he mentioned include the pro-pot group TN-NORML‘s drive to collect signatures for a petition to place a referendum on August’s city-wide general election ballot that would allow voters to choose whether to de facto decriminalize the possession of under two ounces of marijuana by defunding prosecutions at the city level. (read more)

Barry Donegan served as Director-at-Large of the Davidson County Republican Party from 2009-2011 and was the Middle Tennessee Regional Coordinator for Ron Paul's 2012 Presidential Campaign.

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Thursday, February 05, 2015

Edu $pending productivity: a novel concept.

From TN Education Independent -We often talk about money in the public education conversation. Rarely does anyone say we have too much. The conversation is often focused on we never have enough. There was some good discussion at the MNPS board meeting on ensuring that we're seeing the outcomes we want to see for students for the dollars we spend.

In the future, I see two larger things that will restrict the growth in education spending like we've seen in past years.

1. The demographic picture is changing in America. The population has a growing share of older people that may have no connection to schools systems or the desire to fund them. They'll want different services to be funded instead of public education. These are the individuals who tend to consistently vote, and I don't see them being for the taxes to pay for more education spending.
1a. In Tennessee we get a lot of our school funding from sales tax revenue. Older people don't spend as much on consumption (fixed income living and all).
2. City debt loads are already moderate to high in many municipalities. Paying back debt from a limited pot of money generated through local taxes makes it hard to free up money for more education spending in the present.
Little attention is paid to the question: Are we spending our edu-dollars as effectively as possible?

That's a general question, and the answer will be somewhat subjective based on who you are. The "return" part is likely to differ based on what you primarily value as the goal of a public education system.

If you care most about kids being nice and law abiding citizens, a high youth crime rate might tell you you're edu-money isn't being spent well. If you care about students demonstrating academic ability in core subjects, and your district's achievement scores are low, then you're edu-money could arguably be spent a lot better. There are many other primary values that differ among people.

There is common ground out there as well, but people have conflicting views on what public education should do for students, for the adults employed by that system, and for a city.

For whatever it is that school systems should be doing, the conversation largely centers on "we just need more."

Well...maybe...but more for what? If a district spends money ineffectively for whatever it is you believe that a school district exists to do for students - produce good citizens or graduate kids that know stuff - why give it more?

Why doesn't the conversation largely center on "how do we spend every dollar as best we can?"

Well, there's some data out there to look at to have more of this conversation. I wish we had a more formalized data set in Tennessee, and started looking at this data every year. Given all the challenges mentioned above with the future looking like it'll be constrained for more public education funding, we may be compelled to spend scarce education dollars in a more effective way.

The Center for American Progress has a report, found here: Return on Educational Investment: 2014.

And a corresponding interactive data set and map here: CAP interactive tool.

The report is from 2014 but the data on the interactive tool is a bit old (from 2011). Still, the analysis is worth considering, and it'd be even better to look at updated data on this. I wouldn't imagine some of the trends have changed that much.

Here's how they color code performance:

Some things stick out in using the tool:
  • The highest cost and lowest achieving districts are different by urbanicity (mix of urban, rural remote, rural fringe geographies.
  • You can be a low income district and still achieve green (Cocke County - 78% low income). Davidson Co fared most poorly among other large urban districts in Tennessee. Davidson Co was bright red (highest cost, lowest achievement), while Memphis was orange (medium cost, lowest achievement).
  • Poorer districts appear to score lower on ROI measures.
  • Size may be correlated with higher ROI (Memphis and Davidson Co are exceptions to this).

Bottom line: Across Tennessee, and in our two largest districts especially (now SCS and MNPS), we need to have a serious ongoing conversation about ensuring a high educational return for the money spent.

While many would like to jump to simply advocating for more money for public education, especially in these large districts, I'd prefer to spend our time and political conversations on how to get better educational returns. We spend a large amount of money already, and before asking for more, we ought to be confident that how we are allocating edu-dollars is actually working well for students.

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What happened at the Council Meeting on Feb.2: The regulations-of-vacation-rentals, the kill-the-AMP, and the Give-up-on-funding-the-NRC meeting.

Below is the video of last nights meeting. The big news of the meeting is that the proposed $100,000 grant to the liberal political organization Nashville Resource Center is withdraw and the bill to restrict the hours of operation of payday lenders fails.

To see the staff analysis, agenda and my commentary on the agenda, follow this link.

This meeting is conducted by president pro tempore Lonnell Matthews, Jr. who conducts the meetings in the absence of the Vice Mayor.

The first order of business is a couple ceremonial things. A retiring metro employee, Lawrence Jackson is honored and Councilman Karen Bennett does a recognition of World Spay Day, which urges spaying and neutering of cats and dogs.

Three appointments or reappointments to boards and commissions are approved.

 BILL NO. BL2015-1009 is taken out of order and is the first piece of legislation discussed. This is the bill that would prohibit payday lenders from staying open all night. It failed in committee and fails on the floor. Councilman Claiborne takes to the floor and argues against the bill saying, "It reaches too far, telling a business when and when they cannot be open." He says some people need the extended hours of this business. "It targets one business," he says. "To try to tell one business, 'You can't do this because nobody else is doing it' doesn't make sense to me. It's a reach too far for us as council to tell a business, 'We're going to legislate you in terms of the hours you can operate.' "

Councilman Holleman, the sponsor, does not argue in favor of the bill. There is a machine vote and only Holleman and Councilman Fabian Bedne vote for the bill.  Council members Jerry Maynard and Brady Banks abstained from voting. The vote is 32 to 2 with two abstentions. To see the floor actions see time stamp 15:42 - 25:10.

Bills on Public Hearing:

  • BILL NO. BL2015-1002  in Councilman Potts' district rezones 361 acres from R10 zoning which allows duplexes to RS10 which is single family. This can be controversial due to it being a "taking" to down zone someone's property if they do not want their property down-zoned. Also, as Nashville grows, as we make more property single-family only instead of allowing duplexes we contribute to urban sprawl. Also, successful mass transit needs greater population density not less. No one appears in opposition and it passes second reading.
  • BILL NO. BL2015-1004  in Councilman Bedne's district is the same as above for 155 acres and it is deferred two meetings.
  • BILL NO. BL2015-1006  is a long public hearing and has a lot of people speaking in favor and in opposition. It is a rezoning on of 17 acres on the northwest corner of the Church Street East and Cloverland Drive intersection. It passes on a voice vote. I don't even attempt to understand all of the issues involved in a particular rezoning and rezoning usually concern only people in the neighborhood. It is unusual that Council members speak on a rezoning bill other than the district councilmen, but a couple councilmen do speak against this bill. If you are interested in this bill and want to see the deliberation, see time stamp 42:42 -1:26:23.

Resolutions still on the Consent Agenda pass.

Resolutions not on Consent:
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1316 which would approve $100,000 to the Neighborhood Resource Center is withdrawn. The NRC is essentially a political organization teaching political activism with leaders of the organization trained in the Saul Alinsky tradition. From time to time the NRC promotes a leftist agenda such as they did in 2011 when they hosted a  Contract for the American Dream workshop. You can learn more about this leftist project here. I am pleased to see this resolution withdrawn.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1371 which de-authorizing the previous funding authorized for planning for the AMP passes. This finally kills the AMP. To see Councilman Tygard's explanation and to understand where this money is reallocated, see the discussion at time stamp 1:35:36- 1:39:13.
One bill is pulled off of First Reading by the sponsor and all other pass without discussion as is the norm.

Bills on Second Reading:
  • SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2014-909 and BILL NO. BL2014-951 which regulate peer-to-peer vacation rentals such as AIRBnB pass on a voice vote. There are over a thousand of these vacation rentals operating in Nashville with little problem. Since they do not fit the definition of what is prohibited in a residential area (they are not a bed and breakfast, they are not a boarding house, they are not a hotel) they have been allowed to operate unregulated. This defines what they are, says what they can do, regulates parking and advertising, establishes some fire safety requirements and makes them collect taxes and establishes insurance requirements. These regulations are not onerous and I am pleased Nashville is accommodating this new type service rather than trying to ban it. There is some concern about the bill in that the state fire marshal may come back with a sprinkler requirement for the larger facilities of this type and some council members feel that should be resolved before the bills is passed. To see the discussion of the bills see time stamp 1:45:18 -1:57:56.
  • BILL NO. BL2015-1008 which would regulate how one could keep a dog chained in their yard passes on a voice vote with no discussion.
On Third Reading:
  • BILL NO. BL2014-896   which rezones 238 acres in east Nashville to allow accessory dwelling units on properties in the rezoned area passes on a machine vote of 29 for and 6 opposed. I think rezoning like this is a positive development. Accessory dwelling units on a lot can provide more affordable units of housing and increase density which is necessary to have successful mass transit and greater density combats urban sprawl.

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Dear Councilman, Local campaign finance reports should be online.

Dear Council Member,

If I want to know how much money a national PAC raised and who contributed and how the PAC spend their money, I can go to online to the Federal Election Commission and see the full financial reports. The same is true for a candidate seeking federal office or someone seeking a party's nomination for federal office.

If I want to see the financial report of a candidate for Governor, State Senate, House or other office, I can go to The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance and find the financial report on line.

If I want to see the financial report of a candidate for Mayor, Vice Mayor and member of the Metro Council, I must go in person to the Davidson County Election Commission at 1417 Murfreesboro Pk, request it and pay 15 cents per page. There is no excuse for that.

The Tennessean did a report on the campaign reports of the candidates for Mayor, but it was a summary.  I would like to examine the financial report of every candidate running for Mayor and Metro Council. I want to see how much they raised and who is contributing to their campaign.  I am an amateur blogger who makes no money off of what I do. To go to the office of the Election Commission and wait while they make copies of all of the reports would be time consuming and expensive.

There is no excuse for local campaign reports not being online. Transparency makes for better government. It is as about as time consuming to make a copy as it is to scan something for uploading. I am sure the Election Commission will say it would be costly to put campaign reports on line. Don't buy that. Actually, having campaign reports on line would probably save money.  The reports would only have to be scanned once and the Election Commission would not have to deal with members of the public wanting copies.

I ask you to sponsor a memorializing resolution asking the Election Commission to put all local campaign financial reports online and when the Election Commission appears before the Council for budget consideration, I encourage you to get a commitment from officials of the Election Commission that they will put financial reports online.  If this still does not accomplish getting local campaign financial reports available online, then I urge you to mandate it. 

Rod Williams

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Insure TN fails.

If you pay attention to news at all, by now you probably know that Haslam's proposed Insure TN plan of medicaid expansion has failed. Below are a few articles that explain who did what and how it failed and where we go from here and who were the winners and loosers. - The Senate Health Committee voted against Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee resolution Wednesday afternoon with seven senators voting no and four yes.

No votes: Republican Sens. Mike Bell of Riceville, Janice Bowling of Tullahoma, Rusty Crowe of Johnson City, Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga, Brian Kelsey of Germantown, Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains and Kerry Roberts of Springfield.

Yes votes: Republican Sens. Richard Briggs of Knoxville, Ed Jackson of Jackson and Becky Massey of Knoxville along with Democratic Sen. Jeff Yarbro of Nashville.

Lawmakers kill Haslam health plan; he says its "pointless" to try same plan again

 The Commercial Appeal - ....Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said “the absence of a clear, written agreement between the federal government and the State of Tennessee made passage impossible. ... We could not in good conscience put our stamp of approval on a mere verbal agreement with the Obama administration.”

.....U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville: “Tennesseans will die and hospitals will close as a result of our cruel state legislature. Rarely in state history have we seen such a devastating lack of leadership.”

Few lawmakers supported Haslam's Insure Tennessee

The Tennessean - House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, said she was "torn" on whether to support the plan, pointing to possible problems with kicking people off the program if the state needed to end it. Although Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, originally hinted he would support the plan, he also pointed to a mistrust with the federal government as to why passage of Insure Tennessee was "impossible."

.....Haslam said it was hard to judge what impact right-wing special interest groups like Americans for Prosperity or the Beacon Center of Tennessee played on the final outcome. But at least some Republicans acknowledged these or other groups could — and likely would — use their comments during this session to fuel the candidacy of a primary challenger.

Haslam Unsure Of Next Steps After Defeat Of Insure Tennessee

Insure Tennessee to cost $15 million a year to manage, report says

by Dave Boucher, The Tennessean, - ..."The estimated fiscal impact to commerce in the state as a result of the proposed legislation cannot be reasonably determined due to a number of unknown factors," wrote Jeff Spalding, new executive director of the Tennessee Fiscal Review Committee.

Haslam has repeatedly said the plan won't cost Tennessee any extra money: the administration says the federal government covers 100 percent of costs in the first two years, then state hospitals cover a growing share that tops out at 90 percent in 2020.
But the fiscal note — a report attached to any legislative proposal that could have a financial impact if it becomes law — estimates more than $15 million in administrative costs annually.

Recriminations begin immediately following death of Insure Tennessee


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Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Beacon Center's statement on the Success in the Fight Against Medicaid Expansion

 Offers Real Healthcare Solutions for Low-Income Tenneseans

Press Release, The Beacon Center - The Beacon Center applauds legislators for rejecting a Medicaid expansion in Tennessee. Instead of supporting this extension of Obamacare in our state, lawmakers stood with the Beacon Center and fought for what was right, choosing taxpayers over special interest groups.

While the Beacon Center disagreed with Governor Haslam's plan, we do want to thank him for bringing an important issue to light and trying to come up with a unique Tennessee solution to this issue. We also believe those who supported "Insure Tennessee" had the best of intentions, and we look forward to working with them in the coming months to find a responsible, cost-effective, free market solution that will truly benefit low-income Tennesseans.

"While stopping the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare was a necessary first step, it is still our responsibility as Tennesseans to find affordable healthcare solutions for our most vulnerable neighbors," said Beacon CEO Justin Owen.

To that end, Beacon is calling for passage of right-to-try legislation that would allow terminally ill patients to access potentially life-saving medicine. Beacon will also work with state leaders to expand access to charity care, reduce the costs imposed by health insurance mandates, and allow Tennesseans to purchase health insurance across state lines.

"There are many things we can do to make healthcare and health insurance more affordable and accessible for all Tennesseans," said Lindsay Boyd, Beacon Director of Policy. "We look forward to rolling up our sleeves and getting to work helping those most in need."

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Josh Stites will not seek reelection

Josh Stites
Yesterday, Josh Stites announced he would not be seeking reelection to the Metro Council. In my view, Josh Stites is one of the best councilmen to ever have served our city. He is solidly and consistently conservative and thoughtful and well-informed.

I knew there was a strong likelihood he would not seek reelection. He told me several weeks ago that he may not run, but I was hoping he would reconsider and decide to run. We need people like Josh in the Council. While I wish he was seeking reelection, I fully understand his reasoning for not doing so. Serving in the Council, if one works hard at the job and studies the issues and is faithful in serving one's constituents, is almost a full-time job and it can take a toll on family and career. 

I appreciate his service and wish him well. Below is the email where he announced his decision not to seek reelection.

Each of you played a part in helping me get elected to the Metro Council in 2011. Either through your time, talent or treasure you believed in what I set out to do. Sometimes I was successful and sometimes I was not. But I learned a lot along the way and I hope the people of Nashville are better off because of my efforts. Thank you for your help. Below is an email I will be sending out to the voters of District 13 later. I wanted you to know and thank you for helping me have this extraordinary opportunity. I will forever be grateful.


District 13 Neighbors and Friends,

Being elected to serve as your representative on the Metro Council has been one of the high honors of my life. However much has changed in the past four years, I have changed careers and Jenny and I had our first son in April. While being involved in our form of government is important, there is nothing more important to me than being a husband and dad. So, in order to make time for the things I value most, I have decided not to seek reelection this August. This isn’t a decision I make lightly. The campaigning and serving in this capacity has been a great experience, one I will cherish for a lifetime. Thank you for this opportunity!

Finally, after having a front row seat to self-governance the past four years, I want to encourage you to consider the words of Thomas Jefferson.

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

If we are to remain free and prosperous it will require unyielding effort to be informed, involved and active in shaping our government. But it’s a fight worth having.

Thanks again,

Josh Stites

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Harwell offers chairmen to prepare alternate Medicaid plan. Says Insure TN headed to defeat.

Albany Times Union, NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — House Speaker Beth Harwell says she has offered to have her committee chairmen draw up an alternate proposal for Gov......Harwell said her colleagues are not yet convinced that the governor's proposal included enough cost-saving measures to make fiscal sense to the state. (link)

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House Speaker Says Tennessee Gas Tax Increase Unlikely This Year

House Speaker Beth Harwell said that Tennessee lawmakers are unlikely to take up a gas tax increase during this year's legislative session.

Speaking to a joint conference by the National Federation of Independent Business and the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association on Tuesday, Harwell said lawmakers are interested in discussing ways to "broaden the base" of transportation funding to make up for losses from vehicles with better fuel mileage and electric cars.

But the Nashville Republican said she doesn't expect an increase to be enacted this year. (link)

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Payday loan restrictions fail

The council voted 35-2 on Tuesday to defeat legislation proposed by Metro Councilman Jason Holleman that sought to prevent cash-advance, check-cashing and title loan stores from operating between midnight and 6 a.m.(link)

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Tuesday, February 03, 2015

If we are going to build a new courthouse, I hope we build an impressive stately building.

The Federal Court House
Union Station
The Customs House
Christ Church Cathedral 
President Obama's budget proposal includes $181.5 million for a new federal courthouse in Nashville. I would prefer us keep the current courthouse rather than add $181.5 million to the $18 trillion debt of the United States. However, if we are going to build a new courthouse, I hope we build an attractive building. The Federal Courthouse at 8th and Broad is an ugly, ugly building sitting between the beautiful Customs House and the stately old post office which is now the Frist Museum, which is next to the grand Union Station. Across the street from the court house is the serious Hume-Fogg school and the beautiful Christ Church Cathedral. The federal court house sticks out like a sore thumb due to its ugliness. It may be the ugliest building in Nashville.  If not for the ground floor shinny marble veneer, it would look like a prison or classic soviet architecture. If we build a new courthouse I hope the current building is torn down and something worthy of the building's surroundings it is build on that spot.

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In the Race for the Money, David Fox leads the pack.

Charles Robert Bone has raised the most money from individual supporters in Nashville's race for mayor, but David Fox has taken the lead in campaign cash thanks to a large personal loan. Fox ....reported giving himself a $1,050,000 personal loan....Combined with $253,030 in contributions, he reported a total campaign haul of $1.3 million, with $1,046,363 still on hand to spend — the most of any of the seven candidates vying to be mayor.

... Jeremy Kane raised $310,000 and has $271,000 left. Linda Rebrovick raised $658,000 and has $486,000 left. Bill Freeman got in late and showed only $31,500, but we expect he'll have lots more money on the next report. ( link).

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Request for Funding of Neighborhood Resource Center withdrawn!

RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1316 which is on tonight's Council meeting agenda and would appropriate $100,000 to the Neighborhood Resource Center is to be withdrawn at the request of the sponsor, Scott Davis.  At last night's Budget and Finance Committee meetings this was announced.  It is the first item of business in the below video. 

NRC is an organization that engages in community organizing and while much of their work is non-ideological and non-partisan, what they do is still political and not charitable. Occasionally they engage in left wing activism as they did in 2011 when they joined Code Pink and to sponsor a workshop that advocated an agenda of various liberal objectives. 

The organization had recently lost their United Way funding and ran into other difficulty and had laid off staff. Long time staff member Mike Hodge who was the person most identified with NRC left the agency in July and now is chief organizer for a group called Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH).

The resolution requesting funding for NRC had been pending for several months and deferred several times.

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Metro Council: Please do not fund the Neighborhood Resource Center.

The Neighborhood Resource Center Promotes's leftist agenda

Tonight, Feb.3, the Metro Council will be considering a resolution to provide $100,000 to the the Neighborhood Resource Center.  I oppose that effort for several reasons. One of those reasons is that NRC promotes a leftist agenda. Below is an article I first posted in August 2011.  You can ignore the criticism of United Way since they are no longer funding NRC.

NRC's participation in promotion of the leftist Contract for the American Dream is reason enough that they should not receive public funding.

The United Way Funded Neighborhood Resource Center Promotes’s Leftist Agenda.

The United Way of Metropolitan Nashville does a lot of good things. They support many fine programs that help thousands of people in our community. They help those in crisis with food and shelter and health care and counseling, they have helped hundreds of Nashville families affected by the May 2009 flood, and United Way supports programs to help lift people out of poverty. I have personally contributed to United Way. I admire the work of the organization and hesitate to criticize them. I am disappointed, however, that United Way is supporting an agency that is a engaging in blatant liberal political activism. That organization is the Neighborhood Resource Center.

NRC is an organization devoted to community organizing. They do some good things that almost all would agree are worthy endeavors, but they definitely have a liberal agenda. According to the United Way 2009 Income Tax return, the Neighborhood Resource Center received three grants that year, one for $231,958 and two smaller grants, one for $3500 and one for $1,698. United Way has funded the Neighborhood Resource Center since 1997. I have emailed United Way asking what the current level of funding is for NRC and have asked what programs that funding supports. When I get an answer, I will update this report. If I do not get the courtesy of a reply, I will also update and let readers of this blog know.  I have also offered United Way a chance to respond to this post.

I am sure that if United Way is asked about the funding for the Neighborhood Resource Center they will say that the grant is awarded for a specific program and funds received from United Way are not used for political activism. We all know that, that is not the way things really work. If NRC is receiving $237,000 from United Way, that funding is paying for overhead, salaries, and utilities and is also freeing up other NRC funds to be used for political activities.

On August 20, 2011 the Neighborhood Resource Center hosted a meeting at their Third Avenue headquarters for participants to discuss how to implement the Contract for the American Dream. The announcement for the meeting said, “We will be gathering to discuss how we can bring back our country and our state to one that values people over corporations and believes that we all do better when we all do better. Your ideas and networks are vital to the success of this Progressive movement.” Other organizations participating in the event included Progressive Democrats of America and Tennessee Citizens Action.

The Contract for the American Dream is a project of the far left MoveOn.Org. A whole host of other liberal and leftist organization are also partnering in the Contract for the American Dream campaign including Planned Parenthood, Progressive, Progressive Democrats of America, Daily Kos, People for the American Way, and Code Pink.

The Contract for the American Dream is a major effort to energize the left. It calls for new massive government spending and wealth redistribution. The Contract calls for the following: “investment” in infrastructure, massive government “investment" in green jobs, a mandatory living wage, universal access to early childhood education and affordable higher education for all, universal single-payer health care, no changes to social security, higher taxes on the wealthy, an end to the wars and to bring home the troops now, a tax on “wall street speculator”, and to “ban anonymous political influence, slam shut the lobbyists' revolving door in D.C., and publicly finance elections.”  Would not everyone agree that that is a liberal partisan agenda?

If you work at a company that encourages participation in a United Way workplace campaign, you may want to ask the United Way spokesman who comes to urge your participation, why you should contribute to an organization that is political in nature and who works to achieve political objectives with which you disagree. You may want to consider withholding your funding of United Way and contribute directly to an organization you trust. If you work for one of those companies that “strongly encourages” participation and you feel failure to participate could endanger your continued employment, you may want to look into designating your gift to a particular United Way agency rather than the United Way general fund.

In addition to United Way of Metropolitan Nashville, other funding sources for the Neighborhood Resource Center include the following: The HCA Foundation, The Frist Foundation, Regional Transportation Authority, The Memorial Foundation, The Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, James Stephen Charitable Foundation, The Temple (Congregation Ohabai Sholom), Hermitage Environmental Leadership Project, 61st Avenue United Methodist Church, and Organized Neighbors of Edgehill.

If you have any influence with any of the above organizations you may wish to raise a question as to why they are funding a liberal activist organization.The Frist family are conservatives, are they not? Why are they funding this left-wing agenda? The Regional Transportation Authority operates on tax dollars. What are they doing supporting a partisan liberal political organization? Next time the local government is asked to fund RTA, someone should ask.

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Monday, February 02, 2015

What is on the Council Agenda for Feb. 3rd, 2015? Funding the leftist Neighborhood Resource Center, killing the AMP. (update)

Council meeting can be really, really boring, if you don't know what is going on.  With an agenda and council staff analysis you will have a better understanding of what is happening. The meeting will still be boring, but not really, really boring.  To make the meetings less boring follow the above highlighted links for you own copy of the agenda and the staff analysis. If you are  only interested in some mundane rezoning happening down the street from you, you are on your on.  I only report on the stuff I find interesting. 

There are three appointments to boards and commission on the agenda for Council confirmation. One is a reappointment to the Arts Commission and one is a reappointment to the Metro Action Commission and one is a first time appointment to the Nashville Education, Community & Arts Television Corporation (NECAT). I don't expect any controversy about any of these. I do not like the tax payer money that is being paid for "Sticks." If I were on the Rules Committee, I think I would ask the appointees if she voted for this. I don't know that I would vote against her reappointment if she did, but I would at least question this decision to use public money for this work of art. I am not opposed to all public works of art but think the process by which it is funded and selected should be reexamined. The only time the Council has any influence on which art is chosen as publicly funded is when they confirm appointee to the Arts Commission. I also would like to let everyone have a lower cable bill and stop funding NECAT but I probably would let it slide and not put the appointee on the spot with that concern. 
There are ten bills on public hearing. Here are the ones that may be of interest:
  • BILL NO. BL2014-948 amends the Five Points redevelopment area, changing some permitted uses on some parcels and approving an additional $670K in Tax Increment Financing. TIF allows taxes from new development in an area to pay for the infrastructure in that area rather than flow into the general fund. At some point TIC makes sense, in that without it development would probably not occur, but past a certain point it is an unnecessary give-away. I hope Budget and Finance looks carefully at this when it comes before them.
  • BILL NO. BL2015-1002 in Councilman Potts' district rezones 361 acres from R10 zoning which allows duplexes to RS10 which is single family. This can be controversial due to it being a "taking" to down zone someone's property if they do not want their property down-zoned. Also, as Nashville grows, as we make more property single-family only instead of allowing duplexes we contribute to urban sprawl. Also, successful mass transit needs greater population density not less.
  • BILL NO. BL2015-1004 in Councilman Bedne's district is the same as above for 155 acres.
 There are 14 resolution, all on the consent agenda at this time. The resolutions to fund the Neighborhood Resource Center is back on the agenda this time.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1316 approves $100,000 to the Neighborhood Resource Center.  This was on the Council agenda several times and was deferred. I was hoping this was resolution was dead. This non-profit has fallen on hard times recently having lost their United Way funding and some other things. Some of the things the NRC does I do not disagree with but I think the city should not bail them out.  There are many worthwhile non-profits that need funding. The NRC is essentially a political organization teaching political activism with leaders of the organization trained in the Saul Alinsky tradition. From time to time the NRC promotes a leftist agenda such as they did in 2011 when they hosted a  Contract for the American Dream workshop. You can learn more about this leftist project here. If I were in the Council, I would vote against this resolution.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2015-1371 will really kill the AMP by de-authorizing the previous funding authorized for planning for the AMP.  
There are only twenty-two bills on First Reading but I have not read them. First Reading is a formality that allows a bill to be considered and normally all bills on First reading pass unless something is really atrocious.
There are only eleven bills on Second Reading. 
  • SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2014-909 and BILL NO. BL2014-951 regulate peer-to-peer vacation rentals such as AIRBnB. There are over a thousand of these operating in Nashville with little problem. Since they do not fit the definition of what is prohibited in a residential area (they are not a bed and breakfast, they are not a boarding house, they are not a hotel) they have been allowed to operate. This defines what they are, says what they can do, regulates parking and advertising and makes them collect taxes and establishes insurance requirements. I would probably prefer to let them remain unregulated and let "the buyer beware," but these regulation are not onerous. Much of what this bill regulates such as noise and parking and signage is unnecessary since we already have general regulations regarding these things. Other cities have tried to ban them. I am pleased we are not trying to prohibit them. I am please we are not imposing a minimum rental fee.  I do think the city should collect the tax revenue on these that we would collect if someone was renting a motel room at the same rate. If we are going to regulate them, then these proposed regulations seem reasonable to me. One provision I do not like is that these regulations establish that no more than 3% of the homes in a census track can be non-owner occupied vacation rentals. I understand the desire to make sure there is not an over concentration of these in one area but by restricting it to 3% that creates value for those who already have them or get them first. However, I do not know how to address what this provision attempts to address in any other way. I would prefer that that restriction simply not be in the bill, however, I would not let that keep me from voting for this. 
  • BILL NO. BL2015-1009  would prohibit cash advance places from being open between the hours of midnight and 6AM. I understand why people do not like cash advance places. The
    interest rate on a cash advance loan can be over 600%.  However, if one needs cash to keep the electricity from being cut off, a pay day loan is cheaper than an electric reconnection fee and in the depth of a cold winter keeping the electricity on may be "priceless." Also, if one overdraws a checking account by one penny and must pay a penalty and that is calculated as interest, that is an interest rate in the thousands and thousands of percent.  If used correctly, pay day loans or no worst than many other financial transactions. They are often misused however. How far should we go in protecting stupid people?  In any event, these are legal businesses and the Council should not be trying to drive them out of business. Recently the Council imposed restrictions on proximity of one of these business to others of the same type. It appears the Council is trying to do all they can do make it difficult for people to do business with these companies and trying to inconvenience the customers. I would vote against this. The Council staff analysis says this may be unconstitutional. 
  • BILL NO. BL2015-1008 would regulate how one could keep a dog chained in their yard. I hate to see a dog mistreated and would probably vote for this. However, saying a dog cannot be tethered when the heat index is above 95 degrees seems a little extreme if the dog has shade. I would hope this would be deferred and a little more study went into it.
Bills on Third reading:
  • BILL NO. BL2014-896   rezones 238 acres in east Nashville to allow accessory dwelling units on properties in the rezoned area. It has been deferred several times. This needs to pass. I think rezoning like this is a positive development as opposed to the bills on Second reading above which prohibits duplexes. We need to promote affordable housing but not use the heavy hand of government to mandate it. Accessory dwelling units on a lot can provide more affordable units of housing and increase density which is necessary to have successful mass transit and greater density combats urban sprawl.

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1st Tuesday: Jim Woods explains Google Fiber and David Fox campaigns for mayor.

From Tim Skow:
1ST TUESDAY Members and friends
Its been a week as wild as yesterday's SUPER BOWL  !!!!
FORTUNATELY for us at 1ST TUESDAY.... we have a couple of outstanding men pinch-hitting as SPEAKERS !!
No doubt, by now you have heard that GOOGLE FIBER is coming to Nashville and some select areas close to town.
This represents HUGE investment in Nashville and the ramifications will be enormous for years to come ! 
Mr. JIM WOODS,  Director of Deployment [and some of his team] will join us to give you a 1st-hand look at what this means for us....and a look behind the curtain as to WHY GOOGLE FIBER chose Nashville !! 
The race for the next Mayor of Nashville is about to explode into action !  The field is now set with 6 top tier candidates vying for your vote and attention. No doubt, the future course of Nashville will be dramatically affected by who wins.
Mr. DAVID FOX is will join us to share his Vision for Nashville.... 
With the respect of many civic leaders, a significant war chest and the backing of one of the most successful campaign consulting groups in the country, David has made everyone realize he will be a force to reckon with !
No doubt, you will find David to be impressive. I encourage you to come meet him, hear him and see for yourself  why David is one of the strongest contenders to win a spot in the run-off my experts are predicting 

While this is a rare combination event... it will be certainly be one of the most intriguing event !!

As usual, we will meet at WALLER Law.  Doors will open at 11AM and expect David and other special guests to be there for you to get to spend time with before lunch begins at 11:30.  Lunch is still $20 for Members and $25 for Guests. Let me encourage you to invites some friends to get to know our specials guests. Seating can be secured via our website at 1st Tuesday and click on "Join us"
Program will start and NOON sharp with the Q&A to follow lasting until 1:00PM

remember.... parking under the building is just $5 if you let them know you were at 1ST TUESDAY !!

Let us know your coming ... and pass this on to those you know !
See you tomorrow 
Tim Skow

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Critical vote at the Metro Council to pull funding from the AMP


Tuesday, February 3, 2015; 6:00 p.m.

Metropolitan Nashville Council Meeting

Court House

One Public Square, Suite 204
Nashville, TN

Good Evening To All Supporter:
I am writing to you one last time to inform you about a critical vote at the Metropolitan Nashville Council to pull funding from the AMP Bus Rapid Transit project this Tuesday evening, February 3rd at 6:00 p.m.  Councilman Charlie Tygard has introduced Resolution No. RS 2015-1371 to pull back all the unspent funding for the AMP from the $7.5 million appropriated by Council last summer.

VERY IMPORTANT!  We need your help in calling or emailing your council person and ask them to VOTE FOR RS 2015-1371.  Below is a link to our website for emails and a link to email all council members.  If you would like to attend Metro Council meeting, please wear your RED BUTTONS and\or RED STOPAMP T-shirts and try to arrive by 5:30 p.m.  We want to sit on the front rows of the Council chamber.

Thank you for your support and helping us with the fight! Board of Director  
P.S. Be sure to visit the web site to request a 
sign the petition and request a yard sign.

Please donate to help us to keep up the fight. CLICK HERE

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