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Thursday, June 02, 2005

study time

Relax. You can take your hands off your wallets and checkbooks. The state legislature is out of session. There will not be any more tax grabs this year. Some people wonder what legislators do when they are out of session. Most work and spend time with their families and constituents. But for those too “Nash-sick” for the halls of the legislative plaza, there are plenty of opportunities to return.

One example of summer business is the new influx of surplus tax revenues. It could be placed in the rainey day fund for next year or better yet, returned to the people who worked for it in the first place in the form of a tax cut (see Taxpayer Bill of Rights).
But instead, the Governor will meet with a select few individuals and they will decide who “gets” the surplus.

In addition to the “special sessions” are summer study committees, but both of course include per diem expenses. Some studies are in fact legitimate and needed. But many studies could actually be accomplished during the next session or skiped all together.

I don't know how many summer study sessions there are and what they are all about. On the last day of session, the two that were authorized dealt with minority issues. One committee is studying why there are a disproportionate number of minorities in jail. Another is to study how to award more state contracts to minorities. There is talk of a study committee for ethics reform.

Again, some of these committees are valuable. But from what I can see most committees are set up by the Speaker like paycheck systems. Many report show limited results or findings of little or no use. Again, while there is potential for good, there is also abuse.

It is very possible that an ethics study committee may have actually received a boost because of the Tennessee Waltz sting. It's too bad that it has taken the FBI, TBI, and U.S. Attorney's office to actually force change. Perhaps such stings could be bi-annual events until we get some reform with enforcement and punitive capabilities. I'm sure all will be on their best behavior next year. But most will slip back to their old ways after re-election.

Following the arrests, many legislators were walking around like long-tailed cats in a room full of rocking chairs. I bet there hasn't been such a quick session in a long while. Usually sessions are broadcast, but I was told on that day, the cameras were shut off. Speaker Naifeh rolled all the bills possible as fast as possible. I am sure he was fearful the FBI might enter the chambers and grab someone and it might be seen on tape.

I for one don't think the cameras should have been shut off. We work for the people and this is their government, whether something goes right or wrong.

I was shocked to see that one of the Senators who walked into the house chambers after making bail, was given a round of applause! Now, I clearly understand that the accused is innocent unless proven guilty, but applause????

After hearing Lt. Governor Wilder's “prayer” on how bad it was that they were caught and how the state “needs” these people, I could only shake my head in disgust. Their first allegiance should be to the people of Tennessee, not to each other. I am so disappointed in my fellow Republican legislators who supported Wilder's re-election campaign as well as his leadership position.

Someone raised the idea of an ethics committee comprised of the FBI and TBI agents who set up the sting. It would be interesting to hear what ideas they could or would come up with for the legislature.

Some have argued that legislators should be the last to be trusted with ethics reform-kind of the fox guarding the henhouse perception. I'm holding out hope though, that we can make some good changes.

Bill Hobbs raised a good point about Ford resigning the Senate to be a lobbyist and to keep his retirement. Incidentally, a good bill that required a “cooling off” period of one year before a legislator could begin acting as a lobbyist was killed.

The bill would prevent legislators from "feathering their beds" (and if convicted, perhaps even feathering their cells) before steping down, we need reform. I think good things are possible and I'm open to ideas.

Matthew White over at South End Grounds is embarking upon an “ethics” project as well, so stop by his site and type up some your ideas for good government. He will be presenting them to legislators in both parties. I look forward to receiving a copy.


  1. "Their first allegiance should be to the people of Tennessee, not to each other."

    When I first read that statement, I was shocked. Very few politicians understand and uphold that, and to see you do so is refreshing. But then I realized that it is sad that your statement shocked me. It should be the norm on Capitol Hill, not the exception.

  2. Add to the list Sen. Bryson will be chairing a study committee on extra-curricular activities and homeschooler participation (SB1356/HB1297). No word yet when.

    I was also disappointed in Sen. Wilder's prayer. It wasn't very humble or penitent--things I think would be important when praying to Almighty God. He needs to retire and pass the baton on to others who have the strength to remind the Senate that it may be the Senate, but it's not above the law or the people.

    Thanks again for communicating. I really have appreciated it, even if it wasn't all spelled, punctuated or timed correctly. ;-)

  3. "There will not be any more tax grabs this year."

    Not true for Nashville residents. We're about to be doubly hosed.

  4. Wilder's prayer was indeed a sad day for the "constituents" who seemed to be the last the legislature is concerned about. And as a resident of Nashville, and about to have taxes raised in possibly 3 ways, I can't help but wonder why several streets in my subdivision are being totally repaved, that were not in need of repaving (retorhical question)?

  5. Here in Memphis we are about to be raked over the coals with property tax increases on the county (shelby) and city level. Not to mention with the property reappraisals bumping the value of my house 20%... it seems the government always needs more more more.

  6. How often do you plan on posting while in down time. Session doesn't begin again until next january...how do you plan to spend your time?

  7. 66:I am not sure how often I will post .I will probably be working on local and state races for fun so I may post about that as well as things I see, read and hear.(I love this stuff.) I fix up historic and or run down houses for a real job .I do volunteer work ,teach judo and ju jitsu for fun.

  8. Am I the only one that believes the Legislator's sole purpose is to pass laws that the lobbyists want passed?

  9. No, some laws are passed upon constituents requests. It's amazing the things that come up from your constituents that you or lobbyists may have never even thought of that would benefit ALL tennesseans.

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  12. Here's a suggestion.

    Have a committee study why the state is hoarding over $4 billion in cash yet every year threatens to raise taxes, increase fees or cut benefits?

    Why does UT increase tuition when it's sitting on $1 billion cash/investmnents.

    Why does the board of regents need so much cash on hand?

    Go here to find out more.

  13. frog gigger, i was thinking the same thing about the UT tuition increases every year, which are much higher than the inflation rate. And all that money they have from alumni.

  14. Sean,
    U.T. is sitting on a gold mine but they aren't alone.

    Several state fund accounts have millions of $ with no activity in years.

    So the question is, why are these funds allowed to continue while benefitting no one?

    Tennessee needs a zero sum budget amendment. Without it the state will continue to accumulate huge cash funds on the back end while wailing about budget shortfalls to the citizens.

    Nashville played the income tax against a sales tax hike perfectly. The budget has increased almost 2 times the rate of inflation and growth since. Yet there have been surpluses every year and Bredesen feels like Santa Claus every July because the legislature gives him an extra $300-400 million dollars to waste.

    Herard anyone propose rolling back the sales tax hike? Not likely...

  15. The agrument I have heard about university's alumni fund is that they only spend a certain small portion of it because future funding isn't guarenteed. As an MTSU student, I am subject to a minimum 12% hike each year.

  16. 66 rustang,

    Restricted assets for UT are $500M and of that $135M is expendable endowment and the remaining is nonexpendable.

    Howver unrestricted cash is $275M.
    Remember this is cash left over from the previous year. UT received $416M from the gov't.

    In addition there is another $219M restricted for which there is no explanation.

    And then there is the Board of Regents sitting on $700M cash and liquid assets at the end of 2004.

    And today, surprise, surprise! Tuition is going up all across the state. UT average is $300/student (10%)for $9M. Now look at the gold mine the Big Orange Nation is sitting on.

  17. Oh, yeah. UT's recent tuition increase of $9M represents 77 years of reserves based on its current assets.

    But parents and students are going to be expected to dig into this year's reservers.

  18. Hey Govenor try this on for size: If the lottery is producing a surplus try increasing the payout to all the dopes that play it instead of handing it to a bunch a sorry ass public school "teachers" (and I use that term very loosely). What's next a prenatal education program? We can pay teachers to sit around and talk to pregnant women's bellies. If we are losing so many great teachers to Georgia, the educational land of rape and honey, then perhaps we could lure these geniuses back with the promise of high return scratch-offs.

  19. Malcolm, lol, your point of pre-natal education seems to be the wave of the future lol. Please though don't bring it up to Bredesen, he will steal the idea lmao..................


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