Sunday, February 26, 2006

More on Newton

When I talk with other legislators about the Newton sentencing, I hear many
different points of view.

Some felt sorry for him and wished him well. Chris was one person who could
easily be described as defined by his office. He thought of it as his
identity as many legislators do. His fall was great--not just politically
but personally.

Some were more harsh saying how "He just went from being Naifeh's #!%? To
being a prison #!%?."

Some thought he might come back. You heard me right. He might come back. The
thought is that in time he could get his record expunged and run again.
Chris has a gift of gab and spin. Some believed his sorrow and angst laden
spiel; others thought of it as more spin. Who knows?

I think his act as one of treason that should be dealt with as such. One
year (more like ten months after time off for good behavior) seems light.
The only thing Chris has going for him is that he confessed, showed
"remorse" and cooperated fully (I hope he did any way, rumor is Chris had
several meetings with legislative higher ups after his arrest).

I suspect future sentences to be harsher. Usually when a case goes through
trial and gets a conviction, the sentencing is not as light as for similar
criminals who confess and cooperate.

I wonder what the spin will be when those sentences come down.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Flash!!!!

I just heard they are going to stop issuance of the driving certificates. This may slow the rush of illegal immigrants into our state.

Listening tour

This weeks stop is at Norwood Library 1110 Merchants Dr. Friday 4-5 PM Feel free to stop with any questions, comments or concerns.

If I get out in time I have also been invited to be on the call in radio show Tennessee Confidential 4-6 PM so if you cant make it to Norwood feel free to listen or call in. If I make it I will be on in the second hour.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Newton sentenced

Chris Newton was sentenced today. Long and short, One year in prison and $10,000.00 fine.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Sat. Listening tour

I was finally able to meet Dave Oatney at one of my listening tour stops. He seems to be a good well grounded guy with a lot on the ball. His knowledge is quite solid on a number of issues and we had a good time "talking shop" as well as life in general.

I can see him doing great things as he has a lot of get up and go (I was honored that he came to my listening tour at all, most people saw the snow coming down hard and sticking and expected a cancellation) I hope if he gets the chance he will stop in again when he has more time .If not I hope to see him at the Knox co. Lincoln day dinner when ever they reschedule it. I am sure it will be on Brian Hornback's blog shortly.

Now a new radio show host.

As some people local to Knoxville may have realized, I have become a
semi-regular guest on a local call in radio show called Tennessee Confidential.
After stints as a guest and later co-hosting, the sponsor of the show has
invited me to become a regular host once a month. I did one show a few weeks
ago and had a lot of fun with it. My next chance to do it was Friday
afternoon during the regular time slot of 4-6pm.

As the host, I get to pick my guests and co-hosts. I called Greg "Lumpy"
Lambert, one of the organizers of the wheel tax petition drive and county
commission candidate; Deosie Dingus, local politico and former Knox Co
Republican Outreach Chairman; and Mark Saroff, local developer whose
property is under threat of confiscation by eminent domain abuse in
Knoxville.

The show started off slow and easy with Deosie and I talking Republican
philosophy. Later Greg and Mark showed up and the conversation shifted to
eminent domain. We also had a few special guest callers call in as well.
First was former Knox Co. GOP chairman Chad Tindell who is running for
judge. He is a hard working person with a sharp legal mind and he chimed in
well on the conversation (but was limited in what he could say) as well as about his race.

Next to call was US senate candidate Van Hilleary. Van hammered
away and remarked that the Supreme Court decision was horrible .

The show started to pick up some real steam. Calls were flowing and the
conversation was getting hot. About this time I was alerted that Mayor Bill
Haslam's right hand man, Bill Lyons, had come in the station doors and
wanted to be put on the air immediately.

The small studio was already full
of guests and I did not want Mark to think I had invited him to set him up
for a surprise debate, so I told Bill Lyons at a commercial break that
unless Mark said it was OK, he had to call in like every one else. This did
not sit well with him but the commercial break was ending so I had to go
back into the studio. I left him in the lobby with the promise that I would
ask Mark if he would mind if Bill came in and defended the City of
Knoxville's position. Mark agreed and even relinquished his seat and
microphone so Lyons could come in. Mark said he would sit quietly in the
corner and let him speak.

I give Bill a lot of credit for coming into what had to appear to be the
"lion's den" (no pun intended).As soon as Bill sat down he started firing away. The conversation went back and forth several times with Bill talking about the benefit package offer called Tax increment financing (TIF) and how it worked.

My fellow hosts and I shot back how
we thought that this was a positive idea, but that we thought that the
taking of the property by eminent domain in order to transfer it to another
private person was the wrong way to reach what the city felt would be a good
result. Mark, I feel, has a very justified fear that all the money he may put in to fix his buildings could be wasted if the city does take his property. Lyons made clear that this option was very much still on the table.

Lyons also went into more detail on how some of the benefit packages given out in the last administration are not being given out in this administration.

The show was fast and furious! We were all jumping in with questions and shooting our points
of view back and forth. The phone lines were jammed with calls (most of
which we never got to. Sorry callers!) The producer even allowed us run
into the next show 15 minutes because it was going so well. But all good
things come to an end and the show had to as well (BY FCC law).

The show ended, but the conversation did not. We all stayed and talked for 2
more hours!!

Two big points jumped out to me in the conversation on the show:

First: Part of the definition of blight was that the building was not fully
occupied.

Deosie dingus jumped all over this first saying to the effect "Fully
occupied!?!? Fully occupied!?!? By that definition the sun sphere is
blighted! The Convention center is blighted! Worlds Fair Park is blighted!
Half of down town Knoxville is blighted! Should we take and sell all that as
well???.

The second big point was that to get the TIF package, Mark had to come up
with complete funding to do the entire project (Less the TIF) This was
beyond removing the "blight" that everyone sees (the brick work and glass
work etc.), but also included the entire renovation into whatever (condos etc.)

In Kelo terms, it would be like saying to the people of New London "It's OK
to fix your houses so they are not a blight, and we won't take them.
However, you have to fix them to the point that they will be worth as much
as the Pfizer factory will generate in tax revenues."

A tall and expensive order, just to keep his own property .

The show was fun for all. I plan to have Mark, Bill and maybe the Mayor on
the show if they all want to come on next time I host the show. It did
clear the air and allow all points to come out--good and bad on both sides.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Listening tour

This weeks stop is at Norwood library at 1110 Merchants Dr. in Knoxville 10:00 am Saturday Feb.18.This is in north east Knoxville.

Feel free to stop in with questions, comments,concerns or things you would like to see done this session .

Ramsey not running

I spoke with Sen. Ron Ramsey last night and he said he has no intention of running for the open congressional seat I spoke of in my last post.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Open congressional seat

The US Congressional seat occupied by Congressman Jenkins (upper east Tennessee)will open up at the end of this term. Shifting and positioning is in process but the front runner so far is the proven conservative Rep. David Davis Of Johnson City. I can speak from experience David is solid on the issues and will be an asset to the state at the US house level. Even though I hate to lose him in the state house I know he will do good things in DC and wish him well.

Lighten up

I did a post two days ago about something that was said on the house floor by Democrat Jere Hargrove it was a harmless "Shot across the bow" at republicans and VP Dick Cheney's hunting accident as well as at himself.

I did not think he meant any real harm, I don't think he wanted or expected himself or any Democrats to go hunting so they could be shot by the VP .I don't think he meant any harm or ill will to the man shot or people in his profession (Jere is also a lawyer). It was a joke. A poke in fun directed at himself. The comments made about Ted Kennedy were mine directed at myself. I have seen or read several articles and cartoons on this subject. I don't think the reporters or artists meant any ill will to the man shot or wish him dead. I have spoken with Jere and he assures me this was the case with the comments he made as was the case with the comments I made.

It was all good natured ribbing out of context with no ill will intended from any one to any one. I hope in the future we continue to get as much feedback on the issues facing the many people of our state as we did about this story.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Tennessee Justice

This has got to show how a "fair and balanced" review is done in the state house. No need to check if any thing illegal was done.

Just because she said "taking cash would send up a red flag every one knows better then to do that" before she admitted she took cash (Not her campaign ,her), from a lobbyist, who was pushing legislation Shows that even she knew it was wrong. Yet to some, it still doesn't mean it was illegal, unethical or even warranting of further review?.

How do these people define a bribe? Where is John ford ? If this is not illegal or at least warranting of an investigation I don't see why he left the senate because nothing seems to be bad enough .I guess to democrats (or at least the silent ones and the ones on that committee) think that this is acceptable behavior.

Where is the lowest level? When will they say "Alright you have gone too far, you have disgraced our party and our state ,it is time for you to go".Accepting a direct cash in pocket bribe (and that is what it was) to influence legislation to me is just a different type of treason .Closing your eyes to it and sweeping it under the rug because they are in your party or a friend, makes you culpable.

When the president said after 9/11 that those who harbor and support terrorists are themselves terrorists and enemies of our country .He was correct. I say now that those who support and harbor corrupt people are themselves corrupt and an enemy of the state. There is no right way or time to do a obviously wrong thing.

I shake my head in disgust. This is why politicians have a bad name . Actions like this just feed the perception of the crooked politician, Many people think that this place is a den of thieves where dirty deals are the norm. When I see actions like this I find it hard to disagree with them.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Dead eye Dick Cheney

Our VP is now clearly pro gun and anti lawyer .I say not a bad start.

I am taking up a collection to send a few democrats off on a hunting trip...

I hear some of them are saving up to give me a personal driving lesson.... from Ted Kennedy.

UPDATE: You can stop the hate spam to me I was quoting Democrat Jere Hargrove from the house floor yesterday. If you want you can send him an E mail. Any one? Any one at all????

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Listening tour

I am starting up my listening tour again (I stopped it when session ended last year). My goal is to do it every Saturday again while in session. If anyone wants to talk in depth about any topic of concern please feel free to stop in to one of these events. I hope to post them in the Saturday political happenings section of the Knoxville News Sentinel. Time and locations will change for easy access for all.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Newsies

I went to a reception for the Tennessee Press Association tonight. It was interesting, many news reporters and editors from across the state were there to push for a more open government bill they want passed that will effect mostly local government.

The line of the night came from one anonymous legislator who said jokingly "I was against your bill, but now that you have given me a free chicken dinner and some free alcohol ...You have bought me! .My vote is with you!"

I met two blogers at the reception one was Jack McElroy the editor of the Knox News Sentinel his site is here

The other was Tracy Sharp the editor of the Weakley County Press she can be found here.

The MSM is reaching out more and more to the blog world. These two blog for different reasons .Jack seems to blog mostly about his industry. How a story gets picked ,some news of the day but mostly the other side of the press stuff.I think his goal is to show more of the how and why the press does what it does. Tracy blogs more to report news and editorialize ( with a more liberal bent then my own).Jack is new to this so feedback is welcome. Tracy has been doing this a little while but You may still want to stop by their sights and make them both feel welcome.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Oatney hits it.

This comment on my post about the state of the state hit the nail on the head.

"I talked about the speech on my blog this evening, and after watching it, I couldn't help but ask: Was it me, or was Bredesen publicly launching his re-election campaign by sounding like a Republican?

(Run like Reagan, govern like Clinton...?)
David Oatney "

Other reps said similar things "He SPOKE like a republican" or "He gave a republican speech without the facts to back it up".

I hate to say I told you so....But

As I predicted last year, funding for the pre-k plan did not stay as funded last year, from the lottery scholarship fund. In the budget it is now called Pre k-12 spending. No longer is it talked about as a separate program and Yep ,20 million will come this year from the general fund.The door is now open and the horse is running.

As I have mentioned in the past Pre-K is not a factor in increasing the overall graduation rate. History shows it usually actually ends up hurting 8-12 funding and this is where testing shows we need the most help.

Yes, this year overall spending on education is up.When times are good this will not be as much an issue, but when they slow or go south (as they do) what gets cut, gets to be a big problem.8-12 gets cut a lot quicker then pre-k .There is nothing as permanent as a government program. A government pre-k education plan ? Forget about it, The results won't matter. The little kids are just too cute. Just be ready for the next tax push.

State of the (yawn) state

I Went to the state of the state speech tonight .A lot of fluff but not much was said. I guess we will wait and see but a lot of the big issues were glossed over or not mentioned at all.

Illegal immigration....Who knows?

Eminent domain abuse....Your guess is as good as mine.

The promised Tenn care reform plan....I guess he meant the next state of the state address.

Fat kids a problem....Yes, He said it was a problem but what does he want to do about it? He did say he wanted to insure all children but that is not a solution to a problem.

Personal responsibility.....I heard a lot about it but what is the plan to implement or promote it?

Ethics, Tennessee waltz, The super trooper promotion plan....Don't ask, don't tell.

The big "man on the moon in ten years" subject (as one reporter put it) was a 90% high school graduation rate .

The plan on how to do this???

I suspect it will follow the tried and true system to increase graduation.

Vouchers?, more teacher accountability?, better school discipline?,Merit pay for teachers? More teachers in the classroom?

No, just lower the grade requirements to graduate. By the way math is hard. How about a course in Hip hop history .Good for an A and you can get the kids to stick around.

I ask for wine and I get water and food coloring.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Senate grand standing?

We passed the ethics bill today. Some members in the senate tried to bring back up amendments that had passed when on the full floor but were later taken off in the conference committee. Some people think it was just grand standing for the press others do not.

I supported some of the ideas ,some were passed in both houses so they had good reason to be brought back up. Others failed in one house or the other when on the full floor so had no real hope no matter what. None of the amendments brought back up had house sponsors .

I think some of these were done to politicize or attack other members (Some of the facts they stated to support the amendments they wanted passed were not correct and were clearly pointed at other members on the other side of the isle).

In the end it was all for not and the bill passed as it was .

I hope these same members get sponsors in the house and push these bills when session starts. We will see how strong the conviction is at that time.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The good.

This is the good that came from the ethics committee.

Listed below are initiatives included in the conference committee report that were either sponsored by House Republicans in 2005, proposed by House Republican Leadership, endorsed by the Caucus, or endorsed by the Caucus Task Force on Ethics:

Limit cash contributions. (to $50)
Add governor to fundraising ban during session.

Lobbyists

Lobbyists will have to disclose if they have an immediate family member serving in the Tennessee General Assembly.
Lobbyists will be prohibited from being appointed to state boards and commissions.
Contingency fees will not be permitted in lobbyist contracts.
Legislators will not be allowed to serve as lobbyists for one year after departing service in the General Assembly.
Employer of Lobbyist and Lobbyist full disclosure / must report aggregate money spent to influence legislation.
Ethics training expanded to lobbyists.
No lobbyist can contribute to campaigns.

Disclosure

Open meetings of the General Assembly.
Caucuses will be required to provide disclosures of contributions and expenditures.
Require all candidates that receive $1,000 or more to file online.
Disclosure of credit card expenditures.
More frequent campaign finance disclosures.
Post legislative votes and committee and subcommittee votes in a timely manner.
Take audio recordings of subcommittee meetings.
Legislators, Constitutional officers and Executive Office officials’ statements of interest and expense reports available online.
Candidates should, with a best effort, disclose employer and occupation of itemized contributors.
Adds constitutional officers to those who must file statement of interest disclosures.
Member reimbursements by the state for travel and per diem will be posted online.

Elected/Appointed Officials

Ethics training for members of the Tennessee General Assembly.
Expand one-year revolving door to executive branch officials.
An official of the legislative branch should not place a relative in a position where he or she is the direct supervisor.
Require Ethics Commission to publish manuals and post them online.
Clarifies that a candidate must pay all outstanding fines by qualifying deadline to run for office.
Campaign money could be used for scholarship fund if it is an existing fund or trust.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Word on the hill is....

The word on the hill is that the deal is all but cut .The open government stuff stays, the limits on PAC's ,political party's and caucus funding of candidates goes. The ability for legislators who are lawyers and real estate people to "lobby" is also left open. The ability of legislators to vote on legislation that will directly financial and personals benefit themselves will also continue to be allowed.

More or less, We can see what you are doing, we can punish you for doing something wrong,but nothing is wrong. Continue on. When I first heard the news it was like I was punched in the stomach .I knew in my heart it was too good to last ,but I had hope. Oh well at least the open government stuff will remain.

Jimmy Neifeh actually had a good quote today it more or less was "With video streaming you can watch the proceedings from home on the internet. That makes it easy , you don't have to go far to the bathroom when you fell like throwing up."

The reasons we feel sick may be different but for once I think he has a good point.

So far.....

The joint committee on ethics has so far separated the ethics committee from the election commission. This had been combined in the bill for saving of time , money and a clear one stop shopping location for ethics complaints. The good news is the committee's will be set up in a bipartisan way.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Conference committee

The conference committee met half day and got little accomplished .Expect the rest of the week and weekend, maybe longer.

The conference committee is huge .This adds to the time a committee takes because of the many more opinions. The committee was going to be 10 members from the senate and 10 members from the house (Big already)but Thelma Harper wanted to be on it so she complained, Wilder caved and added her to the committee .That made it 11 from the senate, an odd and not party balanced committee. Wilder asked for that to be the number but the house was not going to have that so the committee went to 12 and 12 . Over a third of the senate is now on the committee.