Thursday, June 30, 2005

Eminent Domain Resurrection

The legal department in Tennessee writes the bills for legislators. For instance, if I have an idea for an issue such as eminent domain, I provide my idea and/or supporting documents and the legal department drafts it into proper form.

During the legislative session this year I provided the legal department copies of research of various bills as well as amendments that have been used in other states with regard to eminent domain. I provided this information as a blueprint in drawing up my own bills.

It now seems that on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court's Kelo decision that other legislators now want to present similar bills. Apparently the legal department did not keep my information and is now requesting second copies.

I am glad there is more interest , I guess better late than never.

One legislator called to inform me that a constituent called and asked him to sign on to my bill dealing with eminent domain in an effort to stop this problem. Support is growing---thanks, and keep it up!

With increased interest, we can hopefully push harder to pass legislation preventing this kind of abuse. I'm still working hard on this issue, and won't quit!

Monday, June 27, 2005

crack tax

Tennessee Center for Policy Research has a new study out today which claims that the "Drug Tax" is fiscally wasteful and legally flawed.

From the report:

"A report released today by the Tennessee Center for Policy Research (TCPR) finds that from January 1-June 21, 2005, Tennessee’s Unauthorized Substances Tax (UST) cost taxpayers nearly $1.5 million more than it generated in revenue.

The UST also has troubling Constitutional implications for Tennesseans, infringing upon two separate Fifth Amendment protections.

The tax, which was created to generate revenue for the state general fund and state and local law enforcement agencies, requires that individuals in possession of illegal drugs or alcohol pay a tax by purchasing a drug stamp or face severe fines if arrested. Purchasing a drug stamp does not provide immunity from criminal drug possession or trafficking charges."

You can read the rest of the study by logging onto www.tennesseepolicy.org
It is a good read.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Boards,commissions and lobbyists

It seems the heat is getting hotter on Governor Bredesen and he is not sure what to do. The people are screaming for reform, but the reform needed will directly hurt the Governor and his party. What am I talking about?

Well, lobbyists for starters. Many are good, low paid or voluteer lobbyists who work for a cause. But some receive 6 to 7 figures to influence laws and they do it well. The closer or tighter they are to the legislators or power the more they influence and the more money they can make.

Let's examine the Governor's cabinet-his “bastion of power and influence.” Governor Bredesen's head honcho in charge of handing out taxpayer funds and perks to companies is Matt Kisber, top brass over Economic Development. Mr. Kisber's wife is a well-paid lobbyist.

Dave Goetz, a former well-paid and very connected lobbyist, is now Finance Commissioner.

Jenna Lodge heads up General Services for the Governor. Her husband is lobbyist Dick Lodge.

Anna Windrow stepped down from serving on the Governor's staff for years and in just a few weeks managed to land some of the most plum lobbying contracts in the state.

Ford acted foolishly-and he was lazy. He took the money himself. If he had only told the E-Cycle people “I can only accept $1,000 from you or $5,000 from your PAC, but you can hire my son/spouse/daughter and pay them $100,000 to lobby me,” the FBI would still be empty handed.

Speaker Jimmy Naifeh and his lobbyist wife Betty Anderson seem to do quite well with their arrangement. We will never know how many figures they earn because they don't have to report it.(most suspect mid to high 6 figures)

Representative Joe Armstrong runs the committee that works on health care and TennCare. Think anyone might like to hire his wife? Yes, she too is a lobbyist and one of the best paid as well.

What if you are not related to a legislator but still want big influence? Well, for those folks they can serve on a state board or commission that determines and reports what is best for the state. Yes, lobbyists all across the state serve on many boards that effect what they lobby . Common sense would tell you there is no way for a lobbyist to serve on a board in an unbiased way, but yet it's done all the time.

The Governor and the Speaker-who have their own political agendas-appoint these lobbyists. John Wilder just tried (unsuccessfully) to change the law so he could keep a “good friend” on a board. This is the third time the law would have been changed to allow for his “friend” (and big donor/lobbyist Tom Hensley) to be able stay on a TWRA board.

What about political races? What if you are running a race against an entrenched legislator well connected with lobbyists? Would your worst nightmare be the same lobbyists in charge of the vote-counting? Well, it happens. Many lobbyists serve on state or local election commissions .Good luck!

I have tried to obtain a list of all the lobbyists and the boards and commissions they serve on, but I was told the list would be over 5 pages long and a lot of work. If anyone would like to help with this project, please contact me.

If these types of conflicts existed in the legal profession, these folks would be disbarred for conflict of interest.

Unless something big happens, it is doubtful that things will change in the legislature. As long as the money flows, the people in power will turn a blind eye and even continue to appoint lobbyists to powerful boards and commissions. I have been told, the Governor was told up front and early by the lobbyists what they will and won't accept in the way of ethics reform.

I hate to repeat myself, but the Republicans had a bill that would stop this (one sponsored by me, another by Beth Harwell) but guess what? Yes, it was killed in State and Local subcommittee. Surprise, surprise, surprise.

Friday, June 24, 2005

land grab 2

Unfortunately the Supreme Court made their decision to allow government to continue taking private land in order to resell it to private business. I had known of the court case and was hoping it would have had a different outcome. I was also hoping that the case would not be finalized until I passed my bill, but it did not.

This case was one of the reasons why some legislators wanted to wait and not vote on my bill when it came up in regular session. It seems most would rather let the courts decide. Although the Supreme made their decision, I am pretty sure we can still pass a state law making it difficult for localities to take property, but this road will be much harder now.

Many legislators will probably say something along the lines that the Supreme Court has dealt with this issue and now there is no need or reason to pass a law that they might be against.

But who knows---there may be enough of a public outcry over this decision to cause some legislators to listen to the people, step up to the plate, and try and help pass this bill. Frank Nicely and I have spoken and we plan to push full speed ahead on this bill again next year.

The feedback I have received has been for the most part STRONGLY against the court's decision. Some went so far as to call it a slow slip into socialism, and later communism. I will continue to listen to your input, and will continue working hard to try and stop this slipping.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Question

Did anyone get a copy or recording of the prayer given before the meal at the statesman's dinner? That guy was great, I would love to post what he said. The party should send him on tour of churches around the state! The guy was laying it down on the dems in a prayer for food!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Land Grab

I presented a bill in summer study committee on a problem I see growing more and more. (And no, I didn't take per diem.) Government is taking land by use of eminent domain laws (the words "public good" are too vague and allow for misuse,my bill would change the wording to be more specific.) and reselling it to other private individuals and businesses.

I feel this is government interfering with the free market economy and getting involved in who succeeds and who fails in the free market. If a developer wants a piece of property, he should have to work out a deal with the owner of the land. If the owner does not want to sell the property, the developer should look somewhere else or raise the asking price, etc.

I understand this law is needed for schools, roads, and power lines etc. However I know many examples here in Knoxville where this is happening-but not for reasons involving public use. One local car dealer had his lot taken from him and then it was sold to Food City supermarkets. He was told he was given fair market value for his property and sent on his way. There are other considerations however involved in taking property on which a business is located such as future loss of income, future value of the business, or future value of the property.

In our and other states the key word is "blight". If property is deemed "blight", the property is taken and resold to high dollar developers. This term can be applied loosely-for instance homes not meeting the criteria of an attached 2 car garage, 2 bathrooms and central heat and air have been deemed blighted . Blight can also be as simple as grass being 6in. tall.

The Tennessee Municipal League stood against this bill and said it would hurt their ability to recruit major industrial developments (football stadiums were brought up) and develop undeveloped property.

I said that is not the job of government but instead should be left to the market economy. Government's job should be to ensure fairness and let the market decide. A farmer and legislator, Frank Nicely, who was in the audience jumped into the discussion to report how many farmers and people who buy land, purchase it in the hopes of it appreciating in value and being able to sell it or hand it down to future generations. He said this is just a way of big business trying to get sweetheart deals and that this was not an issue a few decades ago.

Another legislator raised the issue of TVA taking a bunch of land for lakes and dams years ago, and now they are selling the same land they took for pennies on the dollar to big developers for big money. These developers are making millions developing beautiful lakefront communities.

In instances such as this, I think the original property owners should have the first rights to purchase their property back for the same price it was taken for. That is only fair and just.

As I have said , not much happens in summer study committees except feedback. I would like to get your feedback on this issue if you are so inclined.

Brush with greatness

Former Senator Bob Dole came to town and although I love to attend big functions like his, the price tag is often too big for my checkbook. Some kind soul however made it possible for me to be in attendance, and whoever you are: thank you!

I showed up early to hear Bob Dole talk about the greatest generation. I wanted to soak in every minute as I was going to have to leave early to host the Steve Hall show and interview Drew Johnson of Tennessee Center for Policy Research.

When I arrived, the crowd was about 50 or so people in a small reception area. I was talking with a friend of mine when out of nowhere Bob Dole walks up and starts talking with us, after a few while he had to go but said how nice it is to talk to good Republicans.

I was shocked! I figured at best I would see him from across the room, but it was far better. Bob left to deliver a mini speech for the reception that had grown to about 125-150 people and then to the main reception hall to deliver his main speech. In the main room in front were about 4 rows of tables of 8. There were several chairs in the back. The tables were assigned seating and I was seated right in the front row in the middle. Right near the stage when I walked up to my table, who was sitting there but Bob Dole!

"Hey Camp" he said ,I was impressed with all the people he must meet that he remembered my name. We were able to talk some more and I had him sign a book on tape that he did of his acceptance speech as our party's presidential nominee. He was impressed that I had one.

I told him how I had stolen some of his lines from him-he made a joke about how it didn't quite work out for him in the race but maybe they would work better for me! He said that he actually has only one copy left of the book that went with the tape. If I had one, I would have given it to him.

He seemed in good spirits but he didn't look so well. I think he has been having some health problems and just got out of the hospital. Unfortunately I had to leave a few minutes into his speech to do the TV show. Bob Dole has a great sense of humor about himself and one of his one-liners was to the effect of “I am not sure if you heard I have done a few TV commercials lately (the crowd chuckles) but people keep asking me for free samples. I tell them carrying around free Pepsi is awfully difficult.” The crowd erupted in laughter.

He has a great way with a room and is a true American hero.

Next I went on to do the Steve Hall show. After an initial glitch, the show went well. Drew Johnson is a very sharp person with great political sense. We discussed Pre-K, ethics, state spending, education, healthcare, and the illegal drug tax. This tax is for illegal drug dealers (crack, meth, etc.) to get a license and to pay taxes on their ill-gotten gain and therefore not “get in trouble” if they get busted. We laughed about the stupidity of this tax. It actually costs the state about 25 times what it brings in. Sounds like what a lot of the government does is backward from the start and getting worse.

I almost hazard to complain because the Governor will probably set up a committee or give it more money to improve the system! I can hear the call now “we need to recruit more crack dealers to make this tax work!”

Drew also talked about how he is trying to set up a computer system that will track voting history and bills. I brought this up in an earlier post about how the computer system we have was designed on purpose NOT to allow people to check out information on their state representative or senator. (They don't want an informed public who might not like what they see.)

If you would like to learn more about this idea, log onto to www.tennesseeepolicy.org. This is a very worthy project and if you are able to donate any amount, please do so.

On a last note,as I was walking into the Bob Dole event, a reporter from the Tennessean called me to ask about what I thought of lobbyists and the legislature and what should change. A good story may emerge. We will wait and see.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Host a Show?

Had a great time on Teddy Bart's round table and they asked me to be on again later possibly as a recurring guest.I added them to my blog roll (actually I had a friend do it ,I am still learning about computers). You can hear the interview at his site .

I will be the guest host of Steve Halls politics Knoxville on Friday night at 8:30pm on comcast channel 12 in Knoxville. I am not sure if they have a simulcast or not. My guest will be Drew Johnson of the Tennessee policy Institute .You may remember them from the pre k wars, they did some good research on the subject and are starting some other good Studies.

I have been fighting some brutal poison ivy lately .The doctor put me on some strong drugs to help kill it, it may make me loopy so if I can not make it Terry Frank of Oak Ridge may sit in (she may be there either way) feel free to call in at (865)215-2288 .

Got a Beth Harwell Governor bumper sticker from a unnamed friend in the mail yesterday (cool!)

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Teddy Bart's round table

I will be a guest on Teddy Bart's Round table tomorrow (Monday) from @8 till 9 you can listen on 1160 am around Nashville or go to the web site at www.thepublicforum.org for a simulcast or T.V. times around the state.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Bredesen campaign manager busted!

Another democrat leader goes down , Carl R."Bubba" Scarbrough of Anderson county is free on $10,000 bond following his arrest on a charge of statutory rape of a 13 year old boy. My sources tell me this is not his first act of perversion but in the past he was let go by the police and the words "when finding out of the suspects political status he was released" were actually used on the police report as the reason to let him go . Maybe they can replace him with democrat leader Marty Taylor of Roane county who was quoted as saying "we are for pornography, marijuana and gambling" on a recent T.V. show.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Blogs push policy change

It's amazing what people can accomplish when they have access to information. About two weeks ago (May 28) I wrote a post about how much legislators really get paid for the work they do. I still haven't touched on some of the other perks-but I'll get there sometime.

I mentioned in the 5/28 post how some legislators abuse the per diem allowance by coming into the office for only short periods of time or making a few phone calls (many times personal) and then picking up a full day allowance of $141.00.

I'm not taking any credit for the big news I have for you. I just wanted you to know that many of you who picked up the information and ran with it, scored a touchdown so to speak.

Although there are many, two examples of the information flow: Mark Rose at the site Right Minded wrote a column on 6/6 for the Lebanon Democrat newspaper in which he discussed my post and per diem expenses for legislators. He posted the column on his site. Here locally, I heard a caller mention the per diem expenses on a Sunday radio show in Knoxville.

Are you wondering what the news is which just arrived from high places in Nashville? Legislators are now required to give a clear explanation of the work performed and/or the meetings attended that reflect clear legislative purpose that would allow them to collect the per diem money.

This is a great start. I would have hoped for a limit to the number of days money can be collected and I fear someone could just say “I'm working for my constituents” to cover the reason, but I hope this is just a start.



Good job everyone.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

loose talk

I've been working a lot lately-mainly catching up with some of the things I
skiped while in Nashville. I've also attended a lot of functions, meetings,
and receptions. Probably the biggest event was the opening of the new Knoxville
Republican Headquarters.

All the politicos were there working the room and meeting the people. Three of
the four Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate seat were in attendance. Van
Hilleary, Ed Bryant and Bob Corker were there, each with his own style and
strengths.

I got into a few good discussions as to what may happen in the Governor's race.
We talked about who might run, who may have the best shot, who might make it a
great race. Names that popped up: Beth Harwell, who is building her name
recognition in the U.S. Senate race but then could shift over to the Governor's
race; Senator Ron Ramsey who speaks and relates well and is very knowledgeable
of state government; US Senator Bill Frist who will be stepping down from the
U.S. Senate and will have some free time (yes, I know he is running for the
Presidency, but most candidates become President after serving as Governor.)

I asked Senator Frist about the possibility of him running for Governor when I
saw him at the Presidential inauguration. He said that he was not planning to
run for that seat. You never know though, things change.

The crowd favorite of course is none other than Fred Thompson. If we could pry
him away from the glitz of Hollywood and get him motivated to run, he would
probably beat Phil like a dirty rug.

Who knows, there may be another sleeper out there or maybe one of the other
Senate candidates will drop out and run for Governor. I think Corker might have
some crossover appeal I guess only time will tell.

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.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The dirty trick

Ohh...This is LOW .Tennessee's most liberal paper ,Knoxville's own Metro Pulse has several good articles in the June 2 issue. This blog site even got some good pub. I had all but given up on this paper.I had even gone so far as to tell them that no matter what do NOT indorse me in my political race. They assured me the thought never crossed their mind. Now they do this, this,this......Good , fair, balanced reporting my world is upside down , black is white ,white is black .I am lost, I have no compass to guide me . The only thing I can figure is Frank Cagle must be using the "republican jedi mind trick" on them .Logic .It works every time.