Friday, June 24, 2016

Supreme Court Affirms Rule of Law; Separation of Powers in DAPA Ruling

Press release, Nashville, Tennessee - The Supreme Court of the United States handed down President Barack Obama a major defeat by deadlocking on the United States v Texas, No. 15-674, a case concerning the legality of an executive action allowing more than 5 million undocumented immigrants to remain in this country without living in the fear of deportation.

Raul Lopez, Executive Director of Latinos for Tennessee, a non-partisan organization committed to defending faith, family, liberty and fiscal responsibility issued the following statement after the Supreme Court ruling.

"Immigrant families in Tennessee need to know that had President Barack Obama worked with Congress, millions of families and young adults would not be concerned about their future. But because the president chose to act unilaterally ignoring the constitutional prerogative that law making rests with Congress, and not the executive branch, immigrant families are searching for answers and looking for hope," said Lopez.

Lopez went on to add:

"Today's ruling was an important victory for the rule of law and the separation of powers. We are committed to supporting immigration and our state's immigrant community, but not at the expense of our U.S. Constitution."

For more information on Latinos for Tennessee, please visit:

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Rep. Curry Todd Taking Per Diem Money While Living Free From Lobbyist

Press release, COLLIERVILLE, TN Having recently been voted overall worst Legislator in Tennessee for 2016, Curry Todd has been exposed for an incredible double-dealing in regard to his reimbursed expenses from taxpayers.  Each lawmaker who lives more than 50 miles from the Capitol is allowed to collect a per diem for reimbursement of lodging and meals. 

For Shelby County lawmakers, these reimbursements are totally legitimate due to the distance involved.  However, State Representative Curry Todd has been collecting these reimbursements and, at the same time, being given a free room thanks to Lobbyist Chuck Welch.  During this same time, Todd was working the bills Welch was paid by his clients to get passed.

“I’m pleased to see that I am not the only person in Tennessee troubled by this kind of behavior,” said Mark Lovell, Todd’s August 4 conservative Republican challenger.  “Not only should lawmakers be vigilant in keeping their distance from financial involvement with Lobbyists, but they should be making sure there is not even the appearance of this kind of double-dipping.”

TN Forum, the watchdog group that awarded Todd their “2016 Worst Legislator of the Year” went on to expose Todd’s lack of aggressive sponsorship of legislation directly affecting his district.

Lovell continued, “My opponent has been up there too long.  He has forgotten whom he represents.  I can understand that since he actually lives in Nashville and only comes home to campaign for re-election.  Shelby County voters are smarter than that.  I am a private businessman who gets things done.  I don’t need a job, but I want to go serve my neighbors in a way that is sorely needed.”

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Reactions to Supreme Court deadlocks, shooting down Obama's executive grant of amnesty.

Today the Supreme Court deadlocked on President Barack Obama's program that by executive order granted amnesty to as many as  5 million illegal aliens. The State of Texas joined by 25 other states, had brought suit challenging the legality of the Presidents executive order and  prevailed in district court. The Obama administration had appealed the lower federal courts ruling to the Supreme Court. The 4 to 4 tie in the Supreme Court means the lower court ruling stands.

Here is how the Tennessee reports the story: Deadlocked Supreme Court blocks Obama on immigration

For more reactions:  
Hillary Clinton slams 'heartbreaking' immigration ruling

Corker Statement on Supreme Court Blocking Obama Immigration Executive Actions  
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement after a 4-4 decision by the United States Supreme Court affirmed an appeals court ruling that blocks President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

“I strongly oppose President Obama’s unilateral actions, which effectively changed immigration laws without going through Congress, and I am pleased that the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court ruling blocking these actions from moving forward,” said Corker. “Today’s result is a victory for separation of powers and the democratic process.”

The Supreme Court took up the case (United States of America v. State of Texas) after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in November of 2015 affirmed a preliminary injunction by a federal district court in Brownsville, Texas, blocking the Obama administration from moving forward with its executive actions on immigration.

In April 2016, Corker joined U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and 41 other Senate Republicans in filing an amicus brief in the Supreme Court in support of a challenge by a majority of the nation’s governors and attorneys general of the states, including Tennessee, to the Obama administration’s November 2014 executive actions on immigration.

Blackburn Applauds United States v. Texas Decision  

Press Release - Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) issued the following statement in response to the Supreme Court’s 4-4 decision in United States v. Texas, which upholds the lower court’s decision that the president’s use of executive action to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants is unlawful:

“Today’s Supreme Court decision proves that Congress should pass and the President should sign H.R. 5272, the Blackburn-Cruz DACA language.

“For years I have fought to pass legislation to end the DACA program. This is a win for the Constitution and for the American people. President Obama’s use of a pen and phone to rewrite immigration laws from the oval office to implement executive amnesty was lawless from day one. SCOTUS has sent King Obama a powerful message,” Blackburn said.


As part of the Department of Homeland Security Funding bill last year, the House approved, by a vote of 218-209, Congressman Blackburn’s proposal to freeze the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The House first approved her legislation, H.R. 5272, which would also prevent President Obama from taking future executive actions to expand amnesty for illegal aliens, on August 1, 2014 by a vote of 216-192.

On January 19, the Supreme Court agrees to hear United States v. Texas, but adds its own question for the parties to consider: Did the president’s actions violate his constitutional duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed”?

On March 1, Speaker Ryan announces that he will ask the House, as an institution uniquely qualified to answer the Court’s question, to vote on a resolution authorizing him to file a brief defending Article I: “The president is not permitted to write law—only Congress is.”

On March 17, the House adopts H. Res. 639, authorizing Speaker Ryan to file a brief. Speaking on the floor shortly before the vote, Ryan says, “Members who are making immigration policy arguments are missing the entire point here. This comes down to a much more fundamental question. It is about the integrity of our Constitution.”

On April 4, the House files its brief, setting forth why Congress—and only Congress—is empowered to write the laws.

On April 8, the Supreme Court grants the House’s request for 15 minutes of time during oral arguments. Erin Murphy, partner at Bancroft, PLLC will argue on behalf of the House, which is being represented pro bono in this matter.

On April 18, the House of Representatives presented its oral argument to the Supreme Court.

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(update) What happened at Council meeting of 6/21/16? Budget passes, no surprises.

The Council voted to approve the $2.08 billion Council substitute operating budget 36-0.  The budget, which did not require a tax rate increase, increased spending  $121 million, or 6.1 percent over the current budget.  The capital spending plan, tax levy, and other bills related to the budget were also approved. To watch the presentation of the substitute budget go to timestamp 39:07 in the video.

To access the Council agenda, the council staff analysis and my commentary on the agenda, follow this link.

In other council business:
 BILL NO. BL2016-257  on Second Reading, which  would allow Codes to issue stop-work orders against illegal, non-permitted short-term rentals and increase the ban on an STR permit at such a property to three years, was deferred. 
BILL NO. BL2016-258  on Second Reading passed unanimously without any discussion. This bill sells the old Ben West library to the state teachers union and looks suspicious to me.
BILL NO. BL2016-259   on Second Reading, which requires that the Metropolitan Transit Authority  provide to the Metropolitan Council a comprehensive plan for a system of mass transit no later than December 31, 2016, was approved. There is some discussion but it is not very interesting but if you want to watch it, it starts at time stamp 26:59.
BILL NO. BL2016-238   on Third Reading, which permits some establishments to have unisex bathrooms, is amended and passes.  This is a reasonable bill. Read more about it here
BILL NO. BL2016-240 on Third Reading would establish new rules and fees for developers who close streets or sidewalks during construction.. This sounds reasonable but is more complex than it first sounds. It is deferred one meeting. 

For those who want to understand the details of what changes were made to the budget and understand the fees charged to waste haulers and other fee changes, you may want to watch the Budget and Finance. You learn more watching B&F than you do the Council meeting.

Here is The Tennessean's report: Megan Barry’s first budget — including more for arts, schools — OK'd

This is still a work in progress. I have not yet watched all of the B&F meeting. Look for another update.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Corker warns Trump to stop 'slurs and innuendo,' deflects VP speculation

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker sees ;tremendous potential in Donald Trump, but remains concerned about some of his remarks. Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Tuesday he sees "tremendous potential" in Donald Trump to change the way Washington works.

But the Tennessee Republican added he can't support some of the controversial things Trump has said.

"Obviously, I haven't condoned some of the slurs and innuendo that have been laid out by the [Trump] campaign," Corker told CNBC's "Squawk Box,"... (link)

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NRA endorses Diane Black

NRA endorses Diane Black,  The Tennessean-  "As I shared recently, I obtained my handgun carry permit after becoming the victim of physical assault nearly 20 years ago. I know that the Second Amendment safeguards an individual's right to defend themselves and the people they love  and that is a right we can't afford to lose," Black said in a statement announcing the endorsement.


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School Board Candidate Forum on June 23

Join Nashville Rise at the School Board Candidate Forum on Thursday, June 23rd. Doors open at 5:30pm on TSU's Avon Williams Campus.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

All four gun control measures fail in the Senate. See how Alexander and Corker voted.

Following the terrorist attack in Orlando, Democrats and liberal media attempted to use the tragedy to advance gun control. Senate Democrats held a 15-hour filibuster to bring gun control bills to a vote.  Republicans allowed the bills to come to the floor but the outcome was pretty much known in advance.   There were four bills addressing the topic of access to guns and all of them failed. Nothing was accomplished. Below is a summary of what was voted on:

  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) sponsored a bill to add funding to the FBI’s existing National Criminal Instant Background Check System (NICS). It failed by a vote of 53 to 47, needing 60 votes to pass.
  • Sen. Chris Murphy (D) sponsored a bill to close the so-called "gun show loophole."  It would expanded the requirement to do a background check to individuals who sell guns to each others. That failed by 44 to 56.
  •  Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) sponsored a bill that would  block gun purchases for buyers who show up on some government  no-fly list or other watchlist. It failed by a voter 47 to 53.  In my view this was the most dangerous of the bills.  With no accountability, the government could put your name on a list and take away your 2nd amendment rights.  Names are put on list in secret and you are not even notified your name is on a list.  This bill essentially denied due process and would be a great tool to abuse. The American Civil Liberties Union has long complained about the credibility of the FBI database and argued that individuals such as former Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, were at one time on the watch list. The ACLU also said the database is “unconstitutionally vague, and innocent people are blacklisted without a fair process to correct government error.” Some people end up on the watchlist simply because they make an error and attempt to use and expired credit card to buy an airline ticket. It is a total mystery why some people end up on the watchlist.  In December 2014, there were 80,0000 people on the consolidated watchlist.
  • Sen. John Cornyn (R) had a bill that would delay a gun purchase when a buyer's name showed up on a watchlist.  There would be a three day waiting period during which time  prosecutors could make a case to a judge that the person is an actual threat and the purchase should be delayed until the government conducts an investigation. Should a judge find probable cause to detain the person, the person could be detained.  This seems like a reasonable bill.  It preserves due process and actually requires that the  person attempting to purchase the gun be investigated and calls his attempted purchase to the attention of the government, while all the Feinstein bill would do is simply stop the purchase. The Fenstein bill would not trigger an investigation. Unfortunately this bill also failed by a vote of 53 to 47. It needed 60 votes to pass.  Several noted conservatives such as Ted Cruz voted for this measure
Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker vote for bills one and four above and against bills two and three. Most votes were along party lines with Republicans voting for one and four above and Democrats voting against them, and Democrats voting for bills two and three above and
Republicans voting in opposition. For more on this issue see this linkthis link, this link,  and this link.

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What's on the Council agenda for June 21, 2016: The $2.087 billion budget, suspicious deal with a union, uni-sex bathrooms, and new rules for short-term rentals.

The Metro Council will meet Tuesday, June 21st at 6:30 PM. This is the meeting at which the Council will pass the annual operating budget and the capital improvements budget. There is no suspense or drama involved.  The budget does not include a tax increase and while this would have been a perfect year to cut taxes, no one proposed it.  No citizens asked for a tax cut.

A couple years ago member of the public lead by  Nashville Tea Party packed the court house wearing bright light green tee shirts with the message "no tax."  This year they were not to be seen. As is the norm, opponents of bigger government and more taxes only get engaged in years in which there is a proposed increase in taxes; proponents of more government spending are engaged everyday. By their absence of engagement, I can only conclude that opponents of increased government do not really care that much. I am disappointing that none of the half dozen or so council member who may be thought of as conservative did not offer an alternative budget, but I can't blame them since there was no one urging them to do so.

The Council has an alternative to the Mayor's budget which will pass.  It makes minor tweaks to the mayor's budget, the major change is that it includes more funding for the arts.  For more on the budget, follow this link.

To watch the Council meeting, you can go to the courthouse and watch the meeting in person, if you are so inclined, but unless you are trying to influence a Council member and think your presence in the audience will exert an influence, I don't know why you would want to.  Meetings are broadcast live at Metro Nashville Network's Government TV on Nashville's Comcast Channel 3 and AT&T's U-verse 99 and are streamed live at the Metro Nashville Network's livestream site. You can catch them the next day on the Metro YouTube channel. If you will wait, I will watch it for you and post the video and point out the good parts so you can go to that point in the video and watch just that segment. Also, I will tell you what I think about what happened.  Council meetings are really boring and I watch them so you don't have to.  If you are going to watch a council meeting, you really need the agenda and  the Council staff analysis or you won't know what is going on. 

Here is my commentary and analysis of the agenda. I am only listing what I think is interesting or important items so if you are really interested in actions of the Council you may want to  read the agenda for yourself.  Also, be advised that I don't even try to understand all zoning issues, so if zoning issue interest you then don't trust my commentary.  

Confirmation of appointments to Boards and Commissions: There are six positions on the agenda and I expect the Council to rubber stamp them all. One is an appointment to the Human Relations Commission the agency responsible for enforcing  and promoting political correctness in Nashville. I wish we had the type of conservative on the council who would vote against all appointments to this agency until the agency stops sponsoring the youth pavilion at the gay pride festival. I do not think it should be a function of metro government to normalize homosexual activity among young people.

Resolutions: There are 13 resolutions on the agenda, all on the Consent Agenda at this time. If a resolution has any negative votes in committee it is taken off of consent.  Also any council member may ask to have an item taken off of consent or to have his abstention or dissenting vote recorded. All items on consent are passed by a single vote instead of being voted on individually.

Several items are on the agenda that are related to the budget including three resolutions adopting new pay plans for different departments, essentially giving pay raises to employees in those departments. There is a also a resolution establishing new a permit fee schedule for private waste haulers and a resolution adopting a new fee structure for the Planning Commission reviewing plans.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-245  issues $475 million in GSD general service obligation bonds to fund  Mayor’s 2016-2017 Capital Spending Plan. This funds projects which are in the Capital Improvements Budget. The city sells bonds and a certain amount of the property tax rate is dedicated to debt service to pay off the bonds.  While we have a consolidated government, Metro still has what would essentially be considered a  "city" and "county."  The USD is the urban services district and includes most of the county but excludes the mostly rural or suburban parts of the county. GSD is the General Services District which is the whole of Davidson County. This bond issue is backed by the tax base of the general services district.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2016-277  request that the Tennessee General Assembly and Gov. Bill Haslam communicate with Nashville’s business groups and community before passing legislation that could be detrimental to Nashville & Davidson County commerce. This is meaningless and if I were in the Council I would not bother voting against it.  Since it is on consent, the sponsor will not be able to explain his bill and blast the Governor or State legislature for bills such as that that addressed freedom of conscience for metal health counselors or the bill that prohibited rental price fixing or the bill prohibited Metro from requiring contractors to discriminate against out of county residents in hiring on Metro projects.  It is better to let this meaningless bill slide through rather than give the sponsor a platform.
Bills on First Reading: There are six bills on First Reading but I usually don't review bills on First Reading. First reading is a formality that gets bills on the agenda. They are not evaluated by committee until they are on Second Reading. All bills on First Reading are lumped together and pass by a single vote.

Three are 11 bills on Second Reading and these are the ones of interest:
BILL NO. BL2016-257 would allow Codes to issue stop-work orders against illegal, non-permitted short-term rentals and increase the ban on an STR permit at such a property to three years. Now, if one is caught operating a short-term rental without a permit, the ban on getting a permit is one year. The Tennessean explains this at this link: Nashville may ramp up penalty for Airbnb permit violators.

BILL NO. BL2016-258  is what appears to be a sweetheart deal that would put Metro in bed with the    
state teachers union. It would sell the old Ben West library to the TEA and they would allow Metro to use the property rent-free for up to 12 days a year.  The city put out a Request for Proposals which included a requirement that the building be preserved. I do not know the nature of the other proposals. I hope someone at budget and finance ask a lot of questions and actually looks at the other proposals, if there were any.  I think it would be more appropriate for TEA to pay more for the property and not give Metro 12 free days.  Metro has lots of other locations to have meetings. We should not be so entangled with an organizations that is often opposed to education reform and whose main goal is the financial interest of teachers. Their interest is often not the same as that of Metro government.

BILL NO. BL2016-259   would require that the Metropolitan Transit Authority, in conjunction with any other related entities, provide to the Metropolitan Council, no later than December 31, 2016, a comprehensive mass transit plan for Nashville and Davidson County.  It is to include funding sources and a timeline.
Bills on Third Reading:
BILL NO. BL2016-232   is the 2016-2017 operating budget. It is a budget of $2.087 billion, which is a 6% increase or $119 million increase over the current budget. It does not require a tax increase. This bill will be substituted for a Council version which makes minor insignificant shift in the funding.

BILL NO. BL2016-233  established the tax levy for the coming year which is the same as the current tax levy. The rate for the GSD is $3.924. The rate for the USD is $0.592. This gives a combined rate of $4. 516 for those in the USD.

BILL NO. BL2016-235  increases the fees Public Works charges for various services.

BILL NO. BL2016-238   would permit some establishments to have unisex bathrooms. These seem reasonable to me. Read more about it here.

BILL NO. BL2016-240 establishes new rules and fees for developers who close streets or sidewalks during construction.. This sounds reasonable but is more complex than it first sounds.

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Jackson Miller's School Board candidate interview with The Tennessean

For access to other candidate interviews, follow this link.

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