Sunday, May 1, 2016

What's on the Council agenda for May 3rd: Savng Tennessee State Prison, banning smoking at Ascend,

The Metro Council meets Tuesday night May 3rd  at 6:30PM.  Council meetings are televised live on Comcast Channel 3 or the next day one can catch it on the Metro YouTube channel and I report the meetings here. I will summarize the meetings and give a time stamp notation pointing out the good parts, if there are any good parts. Usually there is no good debate or grandstanding or tension or clever parliamentary maneuvering. Most Council meeting are real boring but I watch then so you don't have to. If you want to know more about the operation of city government, most of the important decision are made at the Budget and Finance Committee meetings and you learn more from watching a meeting of B&F than you do the Council meeting itself.

It you want to know what will be before the Council, you need a copy of the agenda and the agenda analysis.  If you are going to watch the council meeting without a copy of the agenda, you won't know what the Council is voting on and you will be wasting your time.  Here is a link to the agenda and unfortunately the staff analysis is not yet posted. I am providing my analysis without benefit of the staff analysis so I very well may miss something important. Check back for an update.

I am only listing those items that I think are significant or are important to me.  I may miss something, so if you really care, you may want to read the agenda for yourself.  There are 16 bills on public hearing, most of them zoning bills and, for the most part, those bore me and I don't even attempt to gain an understanding of the pros and cons of every zoning bill.  I do not generally watch meetings of the Planning Commission either, so I am not the most informed person in Metro regarding zoning issues. Most zoning bills impact only nearby residence, so while a particular zoning issue may be very important to a few people, I am only going to point out those that I know to have created a lot of controversy or have an impact beyond one small neighborhood.

Bills on Public Hearing

BILL NO. BL2016-199   in council member Sharon Hurt's district  applies a Contextual Overlay District to 232 acres. The provision for a  Contextual Overlay was established in August 2014 as a zoning tool that can be applied to residential neighborhoods. The Contextual Overlay applies design standards necessary to maintain and reinforce established form or character of residential development in a particular area. A Contextual Overlay must apply throughout the residential portion of a complete block face. A Contextual Overlay does not affect the base zoning of a property. In essence this mean you cannot build something too far outside of the norm of what is already there. The specifics are not attached and I am not sure how the public would know the specifics of what they were getting with the Contextual Overlay.
The Castle, Tennessee State Prison
BILL NO. BL2016-201   would apply a Neighborhood Landmark Overlay District to property located at 6404 and 6410 Centennial Boulevard.  This is the old State prison.  This legislative act is one step in a process to try and find a way to save the old building.   

None of the resolutions appear controversial. 

There are 13 bills on First Reading, but I don't read them until they get to second reading. First Reading is a formality to get them on the agenda.

Bill on Second reading:
BILL NO. BL2016-205 would prohibit smoking at the outdoor Ascent amphitheater.
BILL NO. BL2016-206  would authorize by permits private snow plow services. This applies to public property. Those providing this service on private drives or parking lots would not have to have a permit.  An example of where this might apply is if an Homeowners Association wanted to contract with some one for snow removal. 


None of the bills on Third reading appear controversial.


I will update once I have seen the staff analysis.

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The MTA bus terminal is a gun-free zone.

Following the tragic shooting recently at the downtown MTA bus terminal, I wondered if the facility

was a gun-free zone, so I asked. It is.

TO customercomments@nashville.gov
Could you please tell me the MTA policy on guns. Do you have a policy? If a person has a carry permit, may they carry their firearm on an MTA bus. Is the MTA terminal a gun-free zone. Are "no guns" signs posted?
Thank you.
 Rod Williams
A Disgruntled Republican

To Rod Williams
 Apr 29 at 2:45 PM
Thank you for contacting Nashville MTA/RTA. Mr. Williams, it is. MTA Code of Conduct states, “Individuals may not possess a weapon…..This policy applies to all MTA buses, bus stops and headquarters…”
Bryan A. Williams
Lead Customer Care Rep 

I still don't know if they have the policy stated and posted and if they have the little "no guns" sticker on the door or not, but it doesn't matter. Criminals do not follow the law. A gun-free zone simply means that people who follow the rules will be unarmed and only criminals will be armed.

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109th General Assembly adjourns with tax reduction and public safety highlighting final week of legislative action

 Several members of the State legislature produce an email newsletter with almost the same verbiage word for word. This is from Senator Jim Tracy.

The 109th General Assembly adjourned on April 22, 2016 to become a part of Tennessee history with the last week of legislative action seeing passage of some of the most important bills of the 2016 session.  This includes legislation to phase out the Hall Income Tax, a bill to aid 100 percent service-related disabled veterans and the elderly disabled with property tax relief, the Public Safety Act to reduce crime and improve public safety, and the Rural Economic Opportunity Act to spur economic development in some of Tennessee’s most economically distressed counties.  The Senate also approved major legislation cracking down on drunk drivers and a key bill to address opioid abuse in Tennessee.
On the final legislative day, the General Assembly approved historic legislation reducing the Hall tax rate from 6 percent to 5 percent, a seventeen percent cut from the total dollars collected by the state for fiscal year 2016.   Senate Bill 47 calls for an annual reduction of at least one percent until the tax is eliminated.  Furthermore, the bill provides that by January 1, 2022, the Hall Income Tax will no longer be collected and eliminated as a legal means of taxation in Tennessee.
The General Assembly also approved Senate Bill 1796 before adjourning, which increases property tax relief for 100 percent service-related disabled veterans, and/ or their widows or widowers, by repealing the income cap that was put in place last year.  The legislation also raises the property value limit for the elderly disabled from $23,000 to $23,500.
2016 legislative session see passage of major legislation strengthening Tennessee’s DUI laws
The State Senate passed legislation in the closing week of the 2016 legislative session creating stricter penalties for DUI offenders in a year that has seen major legislation strengthening Tennessee’s drunk driving laws.   Senate Bill 2065 requires a judge to order an ignition interlock device for all convicted DUI offenders unless the judge provides a finding of fact for not ordering the device.  
Although Tennessee currently mandates the use of ignition interlock devices, there is only about 15 to 20 percent compliance rate with the law because judges must provide a reason why the device should be placed on a DUI offender’s vehicle.  This legislation flips that requirement by providing that a judge must state findings of fact on why an interlock device should not be installed on the offender’s vehicle.  
Under the bill, offenders must have the ignition interlock devices in their car and operating for 365 consecutive days or for the entire time their license is revoked, whichever is longer.  To ensure compliance, the legislation establishes penalties for the unauthorized tampering or removal of the interlock device.  If the device is removed during the 365-day period, the offender must start over until it is served consecutively.
Similarly, if there has been any tampering with the device in the last 120 days of the sentence, the legislation provides that the period for which the interlock system is required will be extended by another 120 days.   
The bill prescribes an additional $12.50 fee to the offender for administrative costs.
The Tennessee Senate also passed Senate Bill 35 this week prohibiting those convicted of vehicular homicide by intoxication from being eligible for probation. 
Other key bills addressing drunk driving offenses approved by the legislature this year include:
  • ·      Senate Bill 1572 which elevates a DUI offense for those convicted six or more times from a class E felony to a class C felony and requires prior convictions for alcohol-related vehicle offenses, including those committed out-of-state, to be counted as prior convictions;
  • ·      Senate Bill 2576which requires immediate sharing of an impaired driver’s DUI arrest and conviction history with law enforcement, the courts and the National Crime Information Centers, making the information accessible by law enforcement officers in their squad cars to check the criminal background of arrestees;
  • ·      Senate Bill 2577 which calls for timely transmission of fingerprints taken for vehicular impairment offenses;
  • ·      Senate Bill 1582 which allows judges to order any device necessary to ensure that the offender complies with probation conditions and a clinical assessment to better cover driving under the influence of drugs;
  • ·      Senate Bill 2399 which authorizes the use of the state’s Interlock Assistance Fund for transdermal monitoring devices or other alternative alcohol or drug monitoring devices when a court determines that an offender is unable to pay for it; and,
  • ·      Senate Bill 1730 which creates a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) memorial signing program to erect and maintain memorial signs on the non-interstate highways commemorating residents who died as a result of DUI related incident.
In 2015, 267 people died on Tennessee roadways from alcohol related deaths, accumulating 27.8 percent of all traffic fatalities that year. 
Major legislation to reduce crime passes legislature
The Tennessee Senate approved major legislation this week which aims to reduce crime and improve public safety.  The Public Safety Act of 2016 addresses the most serious offenses driving Tennessee’s violent crime rate by establishing mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of three or more charges of aggravated burglary, especially aggravated burglary, or drug trafficking.  A burglary is considered especially aggravated if the victim suffers serious bodily injury during the offense.
Under current law, those convicted three times or more of aggravated burglary and especially aggravated burglary must serve only 30 percent of their sentence before being considered for release or parole.  The act sets the mandatory minimum period of incarceration to 85 percent for third and subsequent convictions for aggravated burglary, especially aggravated burglary and Class A, B, and C felonies for the sale, manufacture, and distribution of controlled substances. 
To update the law and help control costs, the legislation also changes the felony thresholds for property theft for a Class A misdemeanor from $500 to $1,000, Class E felony from $500 to $1,000 to a range of $1,000 to $2,500 and a Class D felony from $1,000 to 10,000 to a range of $2,500-$10,000.
On domestic violence, the legislation will allow a law enforcement officer to seek an order of protection on behalf of a domestic abuse victim. Additionally, if a law enforcement officer makes an arrest for a crime involving domestic abuse, then an automatic order of protection will be issued when there is probable cause to believe that the alleged assailant used or attempted to use deadly force against a domestic violence victim. A hearing should be held within 15 days of the automatic order of protection being issued.
A third and subsequent domestic violence conviction would change from a misdemeanor to a Class E felony under the legislation. This change maintains the current minimum 90-day sentence for a domestic violence conviction.
In addition, the measure retools community supervision to reduce the number of people returning to prison for probation and parole violations when their noncompliance does not rise to the level of a new criminal offense.  The move is expected to save the state $80 million. 
Of the 12,588 people entering state prison last year, 40 percent were probationers or parolees sent to prison because they violated supervision conditions.  This legislation authorizes the department to utilize a robust, structured matrix of both sanctions and incentives to facilitate compliance with the conditions of supervision by the more than 71,000 state probationers and parolees.
The bill is funded by an $18 million appropriation in the state budget which passed the General Assembly last week. 
In Brief…
Pharmacies / Robberies -- The State Senate passed legislation this week to help tackle the issue of drug abuse and pharmaceutical robberies across the state.  Between 2006 and 2010, pharmaceutical robberies rose 81 percent nationally and Tennessee is ranked 5th in most cases.  Senate Bill 593 will enhance the sentencing of robbery, aggravated robbery or especially aggravated robbery on the premises of a licensed pharmacy with the intent to obtain controlled substances unlawfully.  The bill comes after a series of robberies, including one in Bean Station in 2013 that resulted in the deaths of a pharmacist and patient and left two clerks severely injured.  States with similar laws indicate a massive reduction in these types of robberies.  The bill is now awaiting the signature of the governor before becoming law. 
Rural Economic Opportunity Act -- The General Assembly passed significant job creation bill in the last week of legislative action to spur economic development in some of the state’s most economically distressed counties.   Twenty-one of Tennessee’s 95 counties are considered economically distressed, meaning that they are in the bottom 10 percent nationally in terms of unemployment, per capita income, and poverty. 
The “Rural Economic Opportunity Act of 2016” has two components that aim to alleviate unemployment in these areas by supporting jobs and economic development.  This includes implementation of the “Propelling Rural Economic Progress” (PREP) program that would create a grant fund to aid rural counties in building sites and infrastructure to incentivize businesses to develop in their region.
The second component of Senate Bill 2538 restructures the county tier system used for determining whether a company looking to locate or expand operations is eligible for job tax credits.  This legislation would lower the job creation threshold to 20 in tier three counties and 10 in the additional fourth tier, used for the economically distressed countiesTax credits help fuel company expansion by rewarding job creation based on the number of positions created, amount invested, type of business and location.
Small Business / SBIR / STTR Grants -- The Senate passed legislation this week to aid small technology businesses across the state.  Senate Bill 2606 seeks to take advantage of small business innovations and federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants.  It would allow the Tennessee Technology Development Corporation, now known as LaunchTN, to have the authority to establish an applied research and developmental finance program to provide matching grants to small technology businesses.  Fifteen other states, including Virginia and Kentucky, have taken advantage of the US Small Business Administration match-granting program and this legislation will make Tennessee more competitive with the neighboring states. 
STEM Schools – The last week of legislative action saw passage of Senate Bill 1598 which simplifies the transfer of students, and the BEP funding that follows them, to regional Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) Schools.  Strong student performances in STEM education are vital to Tennessee’s future well-being. STEM knowledge is a core requirement for careers in some of the fastest-growing industries across the Volunteer State and is closely linked with our economic strength and competitiveness.
Federal Refugee Program – The Senate adopted a House amendment and sent to the governor legislation which urges Tennessee’s Attorney General to commence legal action in response to the federal government forcing Tennessee to spend state dollars for the Refugee Resettlement Program.  If the Attorney General does not commence civil action, Senate Joint Resolution 467 gives the General Assembly the authority to retain outside counsel for this purpose.  Recently, high ranking officials in Washington have cast doubt on the screening process.  Instead of the vetting process taking 18 to 24 months which the Obama administration said was proof of how through the process was, it has now been announced that Syrian refugees will be on American soil within 90 days
Lifetime Handgun Permits -- Legislation passed the General Assembly this week that reduces the lifetime handgun permit fee.  Senate Bill 1477 reduces the fee from $500 to $200 for current permit holders.  First-time applicants would pay the $115 fee currently in effect, plus $200 for a lifetime handgun permit.  The legislation takes effect January 1, 2017 in order to make the changes necessary to the computer systems in order to properly process the permits. 
Retail Accountability Act – Legislation passed the State Senate this week making changes to the state’s Retail Accountability Program (RAP).   The law was first passed in 2012 to ensure that the taxes paid by consumers for beer and tobacco products are properly submitted to the state by requiring wholesalers to report to the Department of Revenue what is sold to retailers.  In the first two and a half years of the program, the state has collected an additional $60 million in previously unreported sales tax revenue, which prompted an expansion of the program last year.  However, the Department of Revenue’s implementation of the expanded program was more far-reaching than legislators intended. Senate Bill 2570 more clearly defines the scope of the program, including exempting perishable groceries and frozen foods from the reporting process and creating a sunset deadline for the legislature to evaluate the program’s effectiveness at a later date.  It also calls for a change from monthly to quarterly reporting. 
Marijuana Oils and Concentrates -- Legislation passed the State Senate this week clarifying that marijuana concentrates and oils are defined as marijuana and are under the state’s Tennessee Drug Control Act.   The existing statute is not current with the recent increase in different and dangerous forms of the drug.  Senate Bill 1189, which works to correct that, now goes to the governor for his signature.
UTK Office of Diversity / Minority Scholarships -- This week, the Senate Education Committee passed legislation taking $436,000 from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville (UTK) and using it for scholarships in a minority engineering scholarship program.  Senate Bill 1912 reallocates the salaries of the four employees in UTK’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion for the fiscal year of 2016-2017 for the purpose of awarding scholarships to minority engineering students.  The money may help up to 100 minority students in the engineering program receive a scholarship. 
The bill also provides that state funds shall not be expended by the University of Tennessee to promote the use of gender neutral pronouns, to promote or inhibit the celebration of religious holidays or fund or support “Sex Week.” 
In August, UTK came under fire by lawmakers, alumni and the general public for an Office of Diversity and Inclusion post on the university’s website asking students and faculty to toss out “he” and “she” when addressing students for gender-neutral pronouns like “ze” and “zir.”  In December, the office posted guidance to students and faculty to ensure holiday parties at the campus are not a Christmas party in disguise.  These actions follow several years of widespread disapproval over the university’s “Sex Week” which included such events as drag shows, lectures given by a porn actress, and condom scavenger hunts.  Sex week has continued despite objections with an acceleration of objectionable content in this year’s list of courses. 
Worker’s Compensation -- This week the Senate passed a measure improving the worker’s compensation reforms adopted in 2013.  The legislation was brought by the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and approved by the Worker’s Compensation Council.  Senate Bill 2582 changes the injury notification requirement for workplace injuries from 30 days to 15 days to encourage workers to more timely notify their employer if they have been injured on the job.  It also provides additional protections for workers by authorizing a worker’s compensation judge to award medical and/or disability benefits that have been wrongly denied during an expedited compensation hearing.  The legislation encourages more employers to participate in the Tennessee Drug Free Workplace Act by authorizing employers to offer annual acknowledgment or notification to all employees of the provisions in that program rather than require the one hour annual training. Approximately 4,000 employers use the drug free workplace act out of 120,000 estimated employers and this law aims to create more participation.  In addition, the legislation allows the Division of Worker’s Compensation to hire attorneys as ombudsman to help navigate the system.
Native Species Lumber Act -- The Senate passed Senate Bill 822 this week allowing Tennessee lumber mills the ability to sell native timber for agricultural buildings, including barns and sheds.  The Tennessee Native Species Lumber Act will create a certification program offered by the agricultural extension of the University of Tennessee for owners or representatives of sawmills.  The mill is then certified to grade lumber and to certify in writing to the purchaser that the quality and safe working stresses of the lumber are equal to or better than No. 2 grade.  The program will be offered biannually and in each of Tennessee’s three grand divisions at a nominal cost. 
Gang Violence -- The General Assembly approved legislation this week providing clarity to a 2012 law calling for enhanced penalties for crimes committed in association with gang activity.   Senate Bill 1558 requires an offense be punished one classification higher than the classification established by the offense if the defendant was a criminal gang member at the time of the offense and the criminal gang offense was committed at the direction of, in association with, or for the benefit of the defendant's criminal gang or a member of the criminal gang.  If the defendant was a leader or organizer of the criminal gang, then the offense shall be punished two classifications higher.  The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals recently ruled the 2012 law was too broad and that in order to meet constitutional standards that the offense committed needed to be related to gang membership in order to eligible for an increased charge. 
Aeronautics -- State Senators has approved legislation to create the Aeronautic Economic Development Fund.  Under Senate Bill 750, grants may be made in all counties to the local government or their economic development organizations, after approval by the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Transportation.  The fund is not appropriated in this year’s budget, but will instead be funded at a later date.  Once funded, grants will be made to benefit aeronautical programs and infrastructure across the state, principally at airports. 
County Commissions -- Legislation designed to protect the integrity of county commissions and the confidence county citizens have in their commission has passed the General Assembly.  Senate Bill 466 prohibits any county employee that is simultaneously serving as a county commissioner of the county by which they are employed from voting on any matter that would increase the pay or benefits of that member or that member’s spouse.  The legislation also applies to members of the legislative body of the county who are also employed by that same county or whose spouse is employed by that county.  The employed commissioner would be able to vote on the budget, appropriations or tax rate resolution unless the vote is on a specific amendment, appropriation, or resolution
which the member has a conflict of interest.

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Not a single Cruz delegate elected to a leadershp position among TN delegation to GOP Convention.


The Tennessee GOP delegation to the Republican National Convention held their election of
Former Gov. Don Sundquist campaigns
for former foe, a Trump delegate, to beat
a Cruz delegate.
delegates to the standing Convention committees and the election of the delegation chair, on Thursday at 3:30 pm via a conference call. Only delegates were allowed to vote, to select from among their own, those who would represent Tennessee at the convention on the standing committees. Of the 58 Tennessee delegates, 57 were on the phone for this election, the governor being the only absent delegate.

Each state gets to elect two delegates, one male and one female, to serve on each of the four standing Convention committees. Below is the list of who was elected to those committees and who was elected chair of the delegation.

Rules Committee: John Ryder and Betty Cannon. John Ryder is the legal counsel to the Republican National Committee and a sitting RNC committee man. Betty Cannon is Vice Chair of the Tennessee Republican Party. Both Ryder and Cannon are Trump delegates.

Credentials Committee: Chris Hughes and Linda Buckles. Chis Hughes is the husband of Scottie Nell Hughes who is a nationally known political commentator and who is a  national spokesman for the Trump campaign. Linda Buckles is a sitting SEC member and President of the Tennessee Federation of Republican Women. They are both Trump delegates.

Now, this is where it gets interesting. Charlie Cato and Laura Beigert are both Cruz delegates and were also running for seats on the Credentials Committee. Enter former Governor Don Sundquist. Remember Sundquist who is known and dishonored as the Republican governor who almost gave Tennessee a State Income tax? Although not loved by the rank and file Republicans he still has friends and influence in east Tennessee. He made calls and lobbied delegates to support Chris Hughes.

Remember, the State income tax fight? Scottie Nell Hughes, wife of Chris Hughes, at that time worked for radio talk show host Steve Gill.  Steve Gill was a leader in the anti-income tax battle and unmercifully denounced and attacked Gov Sundquist on his radio talk show.  Now the former governor resurfaces to help defeat a Cruz delegate and campaign for Scottie Hughes husband. Politics makes strange bedfellows !! Who would have ever put Steve Gill, Don Sundquist, and Chris and Scottie Hughes in the same bed?

Permanent Organization: Beth Campbell and Chad Blackburn. Chad Blackburn is Marsha Blackburn’s son. Beth Campbell is a sitting SEC member. Beth Campbell is a Rubio delegate and Chad Blackburn is a Trump delegate.

Platform: Victor Ashe and Connie Hunter. Victor Ashe is the former mayor of Knoxville and the former United States Ambassador to Poland. Ashe is a Rubio delegate and Hunter is a Trump delegate.

Delegation Chair: Senator Mae Beavers. Senator Mae Beavers and Senator Bill Ketron were both nominated for this position and as I understand it the Trump leadership did not really want Mae Beavers but she pulled it off. Both Beavers and Ketron are Trump delegates.

Of the delegates elected to leadership positions by the delegation, all were elected delegates except for John Ryder, Better Cannon, and Linda Buckles. They were delegates appointed by the Party to be Trump delegates.  Also, while the term is hard to define, one might say all of the delegates elected to these positions were “establishment” except for Chris Hughes.

The big take away from this election of delegates to the committees, other than the roll of Don Sundquist, is the slight of Cruz delegates. Not a single Cruz delegate was elected to any of these positions. Of the eight committee positions and Chair, all but two were Trump delegates and those two were Rubio delegates.

This was a great opportunity for the Trump campaign to start building bridges but missed the opportunity by not having a single Cruz delegate on any of these committees. Remember, Trump won 33 delegates, Cruz 16 and Rubio 9 in our primary on March 1. Cruz delegates should have been given a seat at the table.

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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Tennessee Delegation Elects Convention Chair & Committee Members

TNGOP Press Release, NASHVILLE, Tenn.-April 28, 2016— The Republican delegation from Tennessee met today to elect the Convention Chairman for the delegation as well as elect committee members for the four standing committees of the Republican National Convention.

The results are as follows:
  • Chairman - State Senator Mae Beavers
  • Credential Committee - Linda Buckles and Chris Hughes
  • Permanent Organization Committee - Beth Campbell and Chad Blackburn
  • Platform Committee - Connie Hunter and Ambassador Victor Ashe
  • Rules Committee - Betty Cannon and John Ryder
Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Ryan Haynes remarked, "I am so pleased to serve alongside all of our delegates at the 2016 Republican National Convention. I'd like to personally congratulate Senator Beavers and the rest of our newly-elected committee members."
The responsibilities of the committees are:
Committee on Credentials
The Credentials Committee will receive the credentials of each delegate filed in accordance with the Rules and submit the temporary roll of the convention, which will have been previously reviewed by the RNC.  The Credentials Committee may hear and resolve appeals to the ruling of any contest adjudicated by the RNC Committee on Contests as to the seating of delegates to the convention.

Committee on Permanent Organization
The RNC Chairman recommends a number of convention officers, including the Permanent and Temporary Chairmen, the Secretary and the Sergeant-at-Arms.  The Permanent Organization Committee will meet at the beginning of the convention to review the slate and make its recommendation to the convention.
Committee on the Platform
The Committee on the Platform submits resolutions to the full convention body to be voted on as the official platform.  The Republican Platform is a formal declaration of the principles of the Republican Party.
Committee on Rules and Order of Business
The Convention Rules Committee will draft the rules for the 2016 Republican National Convention, which must be adopted by a majority vote of the full convention body.

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Mayor Barry Promotes “Growth with Intention” Budget

Mayor Barry’s first State of Metro focuses on key priorities of education, transportation, and affordable housing to promote equitable growth and development
 
Press Release, 4/29/2016, NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Mayor Megan Barry delivered her first State of Metro Address today at Ascend Amphitheater before a crowd of more than 1,500 people, pledging to use $121 million in new revenue to make key investments in education, transportation, affordable housing and Metro employees.

Citing Nashville’s record-breaking economic growth as the reason she could introduce a budget that includes no new taxes and grows our fund balance, Mayor Barry said the city needs to strive for “growth with intention, growth with purpose, growth with design and direction.”

“I believe that growth can be equitable, that it can be sustainable, that it can be about people as much as buildings, that it can truly touch the entire community – but only if we guide it and manage it,” Mayor Barry said. “And that’s what we are doing here, with this budget. We are investing new revenues into our people. We are addressing those areas that success has often left behind.
“This budget is about growing the city we want Nashville to be.”

Topping $2 billion for the first time and representing a 6.1 percent increase over the current fiscal year, the budget Mayor Barry is recommending to the Metro Council calls for:
  • $33 million in new revenues for Metro Nashville Public Schools, including funding for teacher pay increases to make the school district more competitive with peer cities; additional investments in literacy programs, and resources for English Language Learners.
  • $2.6 million to fund youth employment opportunities, additional after-school programs, and juvenile justice initiatives.
  • A $10 million increase in the Barnes Fund for Affordable Housing, which is by far the largest investment in the fund since its creation in 2013 and will increase its balance to $16 million.
  • A 3.1 percent across-the-board salary increase for Metro employees, combined with adjustments to the city’s pay plan to bring pay grades to market rate.
  • Opening more Nashville Public Library branches on Fridays.
Mayor Barry also highlighted the need to move toward a bold, comprehensive transit plan that will help people move around the growing Nashville region efficiently and build on the city’s recent economic gains.

“The good news is we’re a vibrant, growing community,” she said. “But people need to be able to move about our region, and laying down more asphalt is not a viable option in most places. Cars aren’t going away, but we need to provide better alternatives to cars, so that more people will choose to move about Middle Tennessee without one.”

The Mayor’s capital spending plan, which will be released in May, will include investments to:
  • Spend $40 million to start work on a new Hillsboro High School.
  • Spend $60 million on sidewalks and road paving.
  • Expand our network of greenways.
  • Construct a new library in Donelson.
  • Build the Smith Springs Community Center in Southeast Nashville.
Metro Finance Director Talia Lomax-O’dneal will deliver a more in-depth presentation of the budget proposal to the Metro Council at 1:30PM today in the David Scobey Council Chamber in the Historic Metro Courthouse. Following delivery of the Mayor’s budget proposal, the Council and the Budget & Finance Committee will conduct public hearings as well as hearings with each individual department. The Council is required to pass a balanced budget by June 30, or the Mayor’s recommended budget proposal goes into effect by default. 

The State of Metro ceremony featured Grammy-winning guitarist Peter Frampton, a Nashville resident who remains one of the most celebrated artists and guitarists in rock history. At 16, he was lead singer and guitarist for British band the Herd. His session work includes collaborations with such legendary artists as George Harrison, Harry Nilsson, David Bowie, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ringo Starr, John Entwistle and many others. His fifth solo album, the electrifying “Frampton Comes Alive!” is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and remains one of the top-selling live records of all time. Frampton’s latest release, “Acoustic Classics,” features stripped-down versions of his classic hits such as “Baby, I Love Your Way,” “Lines On My Face,” “Do You Feel Like I Do,” “Show Me The Way” and many more.

Nashville’s 2016 Youth Poet Laureate, Cassidy Martin, read her poem “Nashvillian,” which details her route through Nashville, pointing out the beauty and security she finds within the city’s hidden treasures. Cassidy has been writing since early middle school. She is a graduate of Jere Baxter Middle School and a sophomore at Nashville Big Picture High School. 

The marching bands from Antioch, Hunters Lane and McGavock high schools also performed, and four faith leaders read blessings for the city in English, Hebrew, Arabic and Spanish.

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Not “Red” but “ROTTEN to the Roots” says Rocky Top Politics. Beth Campbell called out for her support of Walter Ferrell.

Rocky Top Politics is continuing to milk the TNGOP Ferrell scandal for all it is worth but they really haven't turned up anything new. They have called out SEC member Beth Campbell for her defense of Walter Ferrell. To summarize what the scandal is all about, Walter Ferrell is the Political Director of the TNGOP and he is married to Taylor Ferrell.  Taylor Ferrell has a contract with the Party to provide logistics support for the Party, having to do with the upcoming convention, things like arranging travel and such.  Taylor Ferrell also has a political consulting business called Southland Advantage that raises money for candidates seeking office.  Some of her clients are running in the primary against incumbent Republican office holders. A bunch of Republican office holders signed a letter calling for Walter Ferrell's resignation. To see who signed the letter and for more on this follow this link.


Beth Campbell is a member of the SEC and she has pointing out that Taylor Ferrell is not a Party employee but a contract employee and that she can have what ever clients she wants.  RTP has taken her to task for that position (link).  I consider Beth Campbell my friend but I think she is wrong on this count. I agree with RTP.   The difference between being a contract service provider and an employee is a distinction without a difference. In my view even if Taylor Ferrell did not have a contract with the Party, I still think what she is doing is wrong.  When a couple are married they share information and income. If  Walter Ferrell's wife is earning money representing clients seeking to defeat incumbent Republican office holders, that is a conflict.  It may not technically violate a rule, but it ought to.  I am not buying the argument that who Taylor Ferrell has as her clients is her business.

As distasteful as this situation is, I am equally concerned about a current member of the Executive Committee who has actually been a paid campaigner working to elect a Democrat to office while serving as a member of the Party and who had access to Party strategy and had a vote in determining how much money to appropriate to fund the Republican he was working to defeat. I am speaking of Mark Winslow.

To me, it does not matter which faction of the party one identifies with or who you are trying to oust.  It does not matter if you are part of the "establishment"  or the insurgent conservative faction, the principle should be the same.  If you are a County Chairman, or a member of the Executive Committee or an employee of the Party you should not engage in primary campaigns and you should certainly not be working to elect Democrats and defeat Republicans.  And your spouse should not be doing so either. I know people have to earn a living, but if you earn your living helping people get elected to office and that conflicts with your position with the Party, you should resign your position with the Party.  One cannot serve two masters. That is the same principle whether you are Mark Winslow or Walter Ferrell.

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Governor Haslam's wrap-up of this legislative session. Main accomplishments are education and fiscal strength.

From Governor Bill Haslam:
The General Assembly adjourned this month, and for Tennesseans who don’t follow news out of the State Capitol every day, I think you can take away two main things from this session: education and fiscal strength.

First, we’re making the largest investment in K-12 without a tax increase in Tennessee’s history and reorganizing our higher ed structure in Tennessee in the best way to increase student success and the number of Tennesseans with a degree or certificate.

Second, as I spend time with other governors I’m reminded how fortunate we are as a state to be passing a balanced budget this early in the year, to be taking on no new debt, to have no transportation debt, to be in a position to fund priorities and add to our savings account to prepare for uncertain times down the road. We can’t take any of that for granted. 

Click here to see our end of session press conference and here to read about our legislative agenda and budget highlights.

***

Our jobs momentum continued in a strong way this month. You’ve probably heard me say that today more Tennesseans have a job than at any point in state history. We’re no. 1 in the Southeast and no. 2 in the United States for job growth over the last year. We also learned this month that our March unemployment rate of 4.5 percent is below the national average (5 percent) and the lowest it’s been in Tennessee since June 2007.  We had several significant economic announcements and events in April, including:


April 13: Hankook Tire America Corp announced it will locate its North American headquarters in Nashville, investing $5 million and creating up to 200 jobs in Davidson County.

April 15: We celebrated the opening of Beretta’s state-of-the-art facility in Gallatin.

April 18: Wacker Chemie AG officially opened its new polysilicon production site in Charleston, Tenn.

April 26: Academy Sports + Outdoors opened its 1.6 million square foot facility in Cookeville.

April 27: General Motors announced it will invest $788 million and create 780 new jobs at its Spring Hill manufacturing plant.
These companies could go anywhere, and were incredibly grateful they have chosen to invest and create jobs in Tennessee. The reason? We’re a low-tax, low-debt, strategically located state that is the first in the nation to offer high school graduates last dollar scholarships to attend community or technical college free of tuition and fees.

And along those lines, we got very encouraging news this month as it relates to our Drive to 55 to equip 55 percent of Tennesseans with a degree or certificate:

Eighty-one percent of the 2015-16 class of Tennessee Promise students returned for the spring semester after beginning classes last fall. (Read more: http://www.tn.gov/governor/news/39429)

And, Tennessee is again no. 1 in the nation for FAFSA filings – a great indication that we are expanding college access in Tennessee.   (Read more: http://aheadoftheheard.org/2016-fafsa-completion-rates-by-state/)

***
A few other highlights from the month:
April 4: We welcomed the Tennessee Federation of Republican Women to the State Capitol
April 6: We broke ground on the new Tennessee State Museum on the Bicentennial Mall in Nashville (Click here for video highlights from the ceremony featuring Pulitzer-prize winning author and historian Jon Meacham)
April 25: We announced Decatur County, Dyer County, Jackson-Madison County and Germantown as “Healthier Tennessee Communities,” and I administered Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Roger Page’s oath of office at a packed ceremony in Mifflin
Crissy has continued to work hard promoting our statewide Read to be Ready literacy campaign. This month she visited schools and read to students in Chester, Henderson, Decatur, McNairy, DeKalb, White, Clay and Overton counties with a goal of promoting literacy in all 95 counties by the end of the year.
Thanks for your interest and feel free to let me know any feedback at bill.haslam@tn.gov
Bill

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

About the shooting at the MTA downtown bus terminal

Gun control advocates such as Mayor Barry have not let the opportunity to blame the downtown shooting at the MTA bus terminal on guns, saying the incident is a"tragic reminder of the plague of gun violence in our society." The gun did not fire itself'; someone had to pick it up and pull the trigger.

I think the shooting at the MTA bus terminal is a reminder of the consequences of the welfare state which produced a generation of alienated kids born to unwed mothers.  This is what happens when we promote policies that destroy the family. We can each draw our own "reminder" but in any case we can agree that what happened is a tragedy.

If one thinks the problem is unwed mothers and the welfare stare or it one thinks it is guns, there is no short-term solution to either problem. Even if we agreed on the problem, the solution would be long-term. We cannot however wait long-term and we cannot pretend the problem is not real.  A report on the problem of youth violence in Nashville states that over the past five years, 16,955 violent incidents in Nashville involved youth. Last year, among the country's 50 largest cities, Nashville ranked second in the highest percentage increase in homicides — from 41 in 2014 to 78 in 2015. Of those, 55 percent of the perpetrators were 25 years old or younger, and half those killed were younger than 25. African-American males are disproportionately involved in the crimes,  both in terms of victims and those arrested.

The report refers to youth violence as an “epidemic” with a range of root causes: joblessness and poverty; poor educational opportunities; a lack of adult role models; barriers to re-entry for those who have been incarcerated; and a cycle of trauma and violence. (link)

Barry has proposed a series of steps to address the issue of youth violence.  "By 2017, I want 10,000 of our youth to have an engaged opportunity that includes a paid internship," Barry has said (link). I don't know that this or any other part of her plan will make a difference, but it might and I hope it does.  Maybe if a kid born in poverty to a single mother has a job they will, if only for that crucial period of their teen years, have hope and maybe they will have influences other than their peers who are urging them to deal dope and commit robberies.

I don't think government can replace the function of that most basic building block of society, the family. I don't think government can build character and instill values that the family should be doing,  but in looking for short-term solutions maybe providing internship to youth will help. I think we could get more impact by rapidly expanding charter schools.  Charter schools have had remarkable success in producing successful college-bound graduates where that demographic would predict school drop outs and criminals.

Maybe, also increasing policing would help and paying for youth informants would help. I don't know the solution but think a multi-prong approach which includes charter schools is what is needed. I agree we should be doing something. 

One thing the mayor is doing that I think is actually counter productive is hosting a "Stand Against Racism" rally. She should not be fanning the flames of racial animosity and telling Black young people that they are victims. The mayor should cancel the "Stand Against Racism" rally and host a "Stand Against Violence" rally.


 Below is more on the recent shooting at the MTA bus terminal.

It could have been my kids. 

 Press Release Jackson Miller- There was a shooting this afternoon at the downtown bus station. It happened at a time when many Nashville students transfer from the MTA bus that picked them up from school... onto the MTA bus that will take them home. I know, because 3 of my sons were there.

They're there everyday, at that time... Many kids are. Thankfully, my sons are ok. Public school students ride MTA for free each day thanks to a program called STRIDE. I advocated hard for this program as a member of the Education Report Card Committee. It is an important program that gives Nashville's kids an opportunity to attend the school they choose. It is critical to participation in after-school programs -- especially for kids with working parents. I am still a strong believer in the STRIDE program, and will continue to advocate for it.

I also recognize why riding MTA is a tough option for many families. Several parents have told me that they are uncomfortable with their kids riding MTA busses, and today we see why that is a valid concern.


As I hug my family a little tighter tonight, I can't help but think of two takeaways from today's events: Parents weigh many costs when choosing where to send their child to school. We need great schools in every neighborhood.

Rod, even if you did not have a child at the bus station today... if you're getting this email -- I know this story will impact you. This story is why I am running for school board. I know we can make a difference and I know that together we can give EVERY neighborhood a great school to be proud of. For students,

Barry Statement on Shooting at Music City Central

Metro Press Release, NASHVILLE, Tenn. (April 25, 2016) – Mayor Megan Barry has released the following statement regarding the shooting at MTA’s Music City Central station that has resulted in four shooting victims, one with critical injuries:
The shooting today at Music City Central is a tragic reminder of the plague of gun violence in our society, where one person with a gun can devastate lives and bring a city to a halt in a moment’s notice. My heart sank when I heard that youth were the victims in this shooting, and my hope and prayer for those victims and their families is that they have a full and speedy recovery.
Metro Police will be assigning additional officers to the terminal in the coming days, and as a clearer picture of the shooting today comes into view, I will be meeting with Police and MTA officials to see what we can do better to improve security at Music City Central and prevent incidents like this in the future.
As Mayor, as a Nashvillian, and as a mother, I will never accept a status quo where our children fear being victims of violence when getting on a bus, going to school, or walking in their neighborhoods. I remain committed to working with our entire community to implement recommendations from the Youth Violence Summit Report and create better outcomes for all of our children.
Metro Police will continue to update the public and media with details related to the shooting as they are made available.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

FY17 Council Budget Hearing

The mayor has had her hearings conversations with each department of Metro Government and after the mayor prepares her budget she will present it to the Council and then the Council will have their hearings.

In May of each year, the Metro Council Budget & Finance Committee holds a series of afternoon and evening sessions at which Metro department heads present their department’s proposed budget. This is an opportunity for Council Members to ask questions of department heads regarding budgetary matters. These hearings are open to the public, but are not “public hearings” where members of the public can speak. The public will have the opportunity to address the Council regarding the proposed Fiscal Year 2016-2017 budget at the June 7, 2016 Council Meeting.

The mayor has already stated that she will not request a tax increase this year, nevertheless, the budget hearings and process are important. Department heads never say they have all the funding they need. They always want more.  If one is going to be well grounded in opposing the next tax increase, they should have a good understanding of the funding level of current departments and know what they do and know where cuts could be made.  Watching the budget hearings also gives you a good idea which Council member are working hard and which are just filling a seat.

I have highlighted those session that I think should be of most interest and provide the most insight of how Metro spends your money. I really do not expect the Council to ask hard questions of these departments, but they should.

Here is the FY2017 Metro Council Budget hearings schedule:

Day 1, May 9, 2016, 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM

  • 4:00 p.m. Trustee
  • 4:15 p.m. Assessor of Property
  • 4:30 p.m. Register of Deeds
  • 4:45 p.m. County Clerk
  • 5:00 p.m. Metro Water Services (Since metro water operates off their own funds, they get very little oversight and scrutiny.)
  • 5:15 p.m. Human Resources and Benefit Board
  • 5:30 p.m. ITS & Metro 3
  • 5:45 p.m. Election Commission
Day 2, May 10, 2016, 4:00 PM - 6:15 PM
  • 4:00 p.m. Mayor's Office
  • 4:15 p.m. Finance
  • 4:30 p.m. Internal Audit
  • 4:45 p.m. Metro Legal
  • 5:00 p.m. Health
  • 5:15 p.m. Social Services
  • 5:30 p.m. Metro Action Commission
  • 5:45 p.m. Human Relations Commission (This department serves no purpose except to enforce political correctness, normalize homosexuality among youth, and advance a liberal agenda.)
  • 6:00 p.m. Hospital Authority (There is no need or requirement that Metro have charity hospital. We should get out of the hospital business.)

Day 3  May ll, 2016. 4:00 PM - 6:15 PM
  • 4:00 p.m. Municipal Auditorium (If Municipal Auditorium cannot break even, we need to sell this valuable piece of downtown property.)
  • 4:15 p.m. Sports Authority
  • 4:30 p.m. Chamber of Commerce
  • 4:45 p.m. Convention Center
  • 5:00 p.m. Planning Commission
  • 5:15 p.m. Historical Commission
  • 5:30 p.m. Codes Administration
  • 5:45 p.m. Fairgrounds (It will be interesting to see if Mayor Barry continues the effort of Mayor Dean to abolish the Fair Grounds and dispose of the property. There is also the issue of gun shows at the Fair Grounds.)
  • 6:00 p.m. Farmers Market (Farmers Market continues to be money pit and cannot cover their operating cost. Unless they can do so soon, I think it is time for major changes at the Farmers Market, including perhaps moving it to the Fair Grounds and making it a real farmers market. )
You can watch this event live on Comcast Channel 3, Uverse 99, or streaming on nashville.gov
or you can attend the hearings in person at  Metropolitan Courthouse, 1 Public Square, Council Chambers, Nashville, TN. 

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Haslam signs therapist protection bill.

Today Governor Haslam signed the bill that says no therapist or counselor must provide services to a client who has a lifestyle or engages in practices that conflict with the counselor's sincerely held principles. So, I guess this means that if you are a counselor who believes murder is wrong and a mafia hit man comes to you who is having guilt feeling about all the people he has killed and wants to be cured of his guilt so he can sleep well at night, that you can refuse him service and not be sued. Or, if you are not comfortable counseling a pedophile, or providing marriage counseling to a polygamist man and his three wives, or a mother and son in a incestuous relationship, or a women having her third abortion, or a gay couple, you can refuse to counsel them and not be in jeopardy of being sued.

I support the basic premise of this law.  I think counselors should be able to refuse service to those who have a lifestyle that the counselor finds abhorrent.  I do question however how often this law is really necessary. Assume a gay couple goes to a counselor and the counselor says, "I appreciate you seeking me out and I wish I could serve you, but I am a Christian and believe homosexuality is a sin and I don't think we would really be a good match; I really don't know that I could be objective enough to provide you with the service you seek, however if you absolutely insist I will serve you anyway, knowing I probably can't help you."  How many gay couples are going to demand this person be their counselor and take their money?  Probably none.

I don't fault Governor Haslam for signing the bill. He needs to use the veto sparingly.  However, I wonder if this bill is really necessary. Sort of like the bathroom bill, some things could  be worked out without passing a state law. Of course, I did not sit thorough the legislative hearings and hear the arguments, but this bill looks like a solution in search of a problem simply in order to make a point.

For more on this see Haslam signs bill giving therapists protections.

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