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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Stacey Campfield Says He Has a Girlfriend

Posted By on Wed, Apr 10, 2013 at 2:43 PM

Anthony Michael Hall’s girlfriend in The Breakfast Club lived in Canada.
  • Anthony Michael Hall’s girlfriend in The Breakfast Club lived in Canada.
Leave it to Pith’s I-Team to uncover the real news in the deposition that Stacey Campfield gave to lawyers suing him for libel. Deep inside that document — which was obtained by the I-Team from a trashcan in an unnamed cubicle in the Legislative Plaza pressroom — Campfield says he has a girlfriend.

Campfield made this revelation as the plaintiffs quizzed him about his “Don’t Say Gay” bill (a line of questioning that seemed intended merely to mess with the senator, since that legislation is unrelated to this lawsuit’s cause of action — a false statement about a Democrat that Campfield posted on his blog). Pith is not sure why the plaintiffs were so interested in verifying Campfield's heterosexuality, but the transcript speaks for itself. From the deposition:

Q: And why did you want to ban the mention of homosexuality in schools?

Campfield: Previous to the eighth grade I think it’s a topic best left to families to decide, what is age appropriate and when it’s age appropriate.

Q: Do you have a family of your own?

Campfield: I have a mother and father, brother and sister.

Q: Have you ever sired a family?

Campfield: Not that I know of.

Q: Do you have a girlfriend?

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Nashville Symphony Orchestra May Go Into Bankruptcy

Posted By on Mon, Apr 8, 2013 at 3:37 PM

Over at The City Paper, a bombshell:

The $82.3 million in bonds owed by the symphony have already been called in, but The City Paper has learned that the financial institutions involved have given the symphony a deadline of this week for payment on outstanding debts or foreclosure proceedings could begin. The foreclosure process would take about three weeks.

What would be expected to occur in short order is that the Nashville Symphony could declare bankruptcy in an attempt to avoid losing the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. In a letter to patrons last month, Ed Goodrich, chairman of the symphony board, and Alan Valentine, president and CEO, said the board’s goal was to “achieve a comprehensive financial restructuring that significantly reduces or even eliminates the Symphony’s long-term debt.” The letter went on to say that the board would “consider all available alternatives.”

Read the full story here. Developing.

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Unable to Control Republican Education Radicals, Haslam Yanks Voucher Bill

Posted By on Wed, Apr 3, 2013 at 4:55 PM

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Gov. Bill Haslam withdrew his school voucher bill today rather than watch helplessly as Senate Republicans expanded it to cover many more children. The governor made the decision after conferring with Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, who acknowledged his inability to control Republicans on the Senate Education Committee. Norris told reporters:

We will not proceed to present the governor's bill on Opportunity Scholarships, a.k.a. vouchers, this year, not the first half of this session. There were members of the Education Committee who sought to transform the bill to a vehicle of their making, which was not in keeping with what the governor thinks is appropriate for a program of this importance just getting under way at this time. He wants a more measured approach to introducing vouchers to the state of Tennessee and did not want it to become a political football at the expense of the children who his initiative is designed to serve.

Haslam wanted to give vouchers only to low-income children in failing schools. All this session, he delayed votes on his bill in the Senate while he tried to persuade some Republicans—led by Sens. Brian Kelsey and Dolores Gresham, the Education Committee chair—not to expand his program. But Gresham and Kelsey wanted the program to apply to the children of families earning as much as $75,000 a year. As many as 10,000 vouchers could have gone out next fall under that plan, dwarfing Haslam's bill.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey was among the Republicans who backed expanding Haslam's bill. Conceivably, they still could resurrect vouchers through another bill. But the Education Committee closed for business a few minutes ago for the year, and the session is supposed to end in two weeks.

Rich Republicans from outside Tennessee dropped a ton of money into this state this session to promote vouchers. The American Federation for Children funded an $800,000 TV and radio ad campaign to pressure the legislature to expand Haslam's bill.

More from Norris:

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Governor Says No to ObamaCare—At Least for Now

Posted By on Wed, Mar 27, 2013 at 9:53 AM

Gov. Bill Haslam announced this morning he's decided against expanding Tennessee’s Medicaid program under the federal health care overhaul—at least for this year—avoiding a big fight with many members of his own party over the last weeks of this legislative session.

In a speech to a joint session of the legislature, the governor said he was negotiating with the Obama administration for a better deal, seeking permission to enroll new Medicaid beneficiaries in private insurance plans. He said he wanted assurances that the state won't wind up saddled with increasing costs in the later years of expansion.

“Until we get those assurances, I cannot recommend that we move forward on this plan,” he said, as Republicans burst into applause.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Decision Day: Governor Speaking to Legislature Tomorrow on ObamaCare

Posted By on Tue, Mar 26, 2013 at 6:05 PM

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Gov. Bill Haslam will speak to a joint session of the legislature tomorrow morning to announce whether the state should expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, according to reports. If he's making a big deal about it, his answer probably is yes, and he will use his speech as the first step in selling it to lawmakers. If his answer is no, why would he bother to make a speech at all? A simple statement to the media would do the job.

If Haslam is recommending expanding Medicaid, he's betting that he can use his personal popularity to overcome the Republican supermajority's visceral opposition to ObamaCare. It would be the first real test of Haslam's political skills as governor. To reporters, he talked about this a little bit yesterday.

“The politics of it are difficult,” he said. “We’ve recognized that from the very beginning. But again, I think you’re elected to try to make the hard decisions on the big issues, and there’s no question that health care is as big an issue facing Tennessee and the country as there is, and so that’s why we’ve worked so hard to get to the right answer.”

Update: Possibly foretelling Haslam's decision, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry has come out in favor of Medicaid expansion. The Chamber's statement:

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Senators Refuse to Consider Ban on Mountaintop Removal Mining; Democrats Let It Happen

Posted By on Wed, Mar 20, 2013 at 10:58 AM

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Who needs Rocky Top? The Scenic Vistas Act just went down for yet another year in the state Senate. It was an ignominious end, with the knuckle draggers on the Energy, Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee refusing to even give the bill a motion for approval.

"Do we have a motion on the bill?" asked the chairman, Sen. Steve Southerland, R-Morristown. "Do we have a motion on the bill? Do we have a motion on the bill? The bill dies for lack of a motion."

One Democrat on the committee, Sen. Charlotte Burks, fled the room before the bill came up. Another one, Sen. Ophelia Ford, was missing in action, too. That left the sponsor, Democratic Sen. Lowe Finney, to twist in the wind. He knew what was coming and pleaded with the committee to listen to testimony against blowing the tops off our mountains. But the committee refused as coal miners in attendance burst into cheers.

"I hope the committee will be open to what we’re bringing before you today," Finney said. "And if there’s a way to make it better, I’m all for it. I hope we can start with the basic approach that we have a real treasure in East Tennessee, and this is one way we can work to protect what we have."

With some conservatives hopping aboard the bill this year, environmentalists hoped for a different result. But this idea is going no where as long as King Coal is playing Senate speaker Ron Ramsey like a Grand Ole Opry fiddle.

Update: In a press release, Appalachian Voices singled out the committee's missing Democrats for criticism, suggesting they sold out to the coal industry despite their past support for the bill.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Wine-in-Supermarkets Bill Dies in House Committee; Chairman Apologizes to Angry Shoppers

Posted By on Tue, Mar 12, 2013 at 2:18 PM

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One minute we thought we were about to start guzzling wine conveniently purchased in our neighborhood supermarket, and the next minute our happiness is smashed again. The House Local Government Committee has just voted 8-7 to kill the wine-in-supermarkets bill. This legislature is a wild roller-coaster ride!

The committee chairman, Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, was the crucial no vote. Supporters expected him to vote yes but he flipped because he said he was upset that they moved to cut off debate quickly and force the committee to decide. That motion was made by Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, who mistakenly thought Hill would vote yes and the bill would pass.

House Speaker Beth Harwell—one of the bill's supporters—attended the meeting and would have kept the bill alive by breaking a tie vote. She didn't get the chance.

Hill said he reversed his position and betrayed Harwell because he wanted to debate and vote on 10 amendments that never were brought up. Can you imagine a committee chairman pulling such a stunt when Jimmy Naifeh was House speaker? Hill stabbed Harwell in the back with her sitting right there in the room with him.

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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wine-in-Supermarkets Lives to Fight Another Day

Posted By on Wed, Mar 6, 2013 at 12:30 PM

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House Speaker Beth Harwell popped the cork on legalizing the sale of wine in supermarkets, casting the deciding vote to spring the long-suffering bill out of a subcommittee today. The vote was 5-4 to send the bill to the full committee. Before anyone gets too excited, Harwell is making no predictions about its future in the House.

"I think we’ll continue to garner support for this piece of legislation as lawmakers listen to their folks back home," she said afterward. "I’ll take one day at a time. No predictions."

By House rule, Harwell can vote on any committee, and she exercised that right for the first time this session to save the wine bill. It narrowly escaped the Senate State and Local Government Committee a couple of weeks ago. That was the first time wine-in-supermarkets had ever cleared any committee in umpteen years in the legislature. That took backroom arm-twisting by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey.

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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Despite Newtown, Tennessee Legislature Expands Gun Rights Again

Posted By on Thu, Feb 28, 2013 at 11:10 AM

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The Republican supermajority in the state House swatted down a slew of Democratic amendments this morning—rejecting attempts to exempt parking lots at elementary schools, day-care centers and colleges—then passed the guns-in-cars bill by a vote of 72-22 and sent it to the governor for his signature.

Only a couple of months after the Newtown, Conn., shootings as the rest of America debates restrictions on firearms and ammunition, the legislature now has adopted a major new expansion of gun rights in Tennessee.

“Today we’re telling businesses they must allow guns on their property, and the question is, what will we do next?” House Democratic leader Craig Fitzhugh asked. Rep. Johnnie Turner, D-Memphis, wondered if "God forbid, guns in churches" is on the NRA's to-do list.

It’s a big victory for the NRA, which has demanded this so-called safe commute law for years. It lets the state’s nearly 400,000 handgun carry permit owners keep weapons in their vehicles in parking lots at work or school or anywhere else they please.

The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry and big employers—such as Volkswagen, FedEx and the University of Tennessee—always have managed to beat it back in the past, citing security issues and claiming the right to control their own properties.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Wine-in-Supermarkets Bill Narrowly Survives Committee Vote

Posted By on Tue, Feb 26, 2013 at 11:51 AM

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For the first time, the wine-in-supermarkets bill has escaped a legislative committee. A few minutes ago, the Senate State and Local Government Committee voted 5-4 for the bill, which despite its broad popular appeal always has died ignominiously in past years.

We can thank Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey for today’s vote. He twisted arms in the backroom to ensure the bill made it out of committee. On the Senate floor, Ramsey says the bill’s on its own. But with upwards of 70 percent of Tennesseans demanding wine on their supermarket shelves, he insisted that it deserved a full Senate vote, at the least. Viva la RonRam!

In the umpteen years this bill has been introduced in the legislature, it always has fallen victim to a seemingly unbeatable lobbying combination: the liquor industry and Christian crazies.

This year, the bill’s sponsors are taking a different tack and they think it’s a game-changer. They’ve altered the bill to allow referendums on the issue in cities that already permit liquor by the drink or retail package stores. This way, weak-kneed lawmakers can claim they’re not really voting for wine in stores but only to let the people decide.

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