Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Andy Holt Never Got That Permit For His Hog Farm

Posted By on Tue, Feb 17, 2015 at 2:53 PM

The state has spent years documenting Rep. Andy Holt’s 1,400-hog farm as operating without a valid permit but has yet to come down on him, according to NewsChannel5.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the Department of Agriculture had been chasing down Holt since 2009 for repeatedly finding his farm out of compliance both for operating without a valid permit and for failing to submit tests on manure quality, we first reported in 2013.

Last we left Holt, he had yet to complete an application for a proper permit after asked again in 2013. According to NewsChannel5's story aired Monday, he filed the same information that the state found lacking in 2012.

In 2012, after nearly three years without a permit, the state ordered him to turn in the required paperwork so he could get a permit.

"This isn't something where I just said nope. I don't want a permit," Holt said. "I don't want to have to apply for that. That's not the case. There were several attempts made to apply for the permit."

State records show Holt submitted the exact same incomplete paperwork in 2012 and 2013, but the state let him keep on operating.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "Were you really trying to get this permit?"

"Yes absolutely," the lawmaker insisted. "I was trying to make a good faith effort."

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked [TDEC] Commissioner Martineau, "This has gone on for years. When do you go to the Attorney General and say let's shut this place down?"

"I can't guess in hypotheticals," Martineau responded.

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Cause of Death: Senate Committee Members Explain Their Votes On Insure Tennessee

Posted By on Thu, Feb 5, 2015 at 8:51 AM

We hardly knew Gov. Bill Haslam's Medicaid expansion plan, Insure Tennessee, before it was put down unceremoniously by a Senate committee Wednesday afternoon.

Over at the Nashville Post, Andrea Zelinski and Emily Kubis tracked down leadership from both parties and members of the committee that rejected the plan to ask them about what they did and why. Here are a few:

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville:

"Obviously we're not used to voting on something we haven’t seen in writing. I discussed that with the governor. He has every right — there’s nothing to keep him from, to continue negotiating to bring it back to us if that’s his prerogative, if he wants to.... I just don't think it was quite ready, and I told the governor that, but he wanted us to vote, so we did.... You have more mistrust [with the federal government] when you have a verbal agreement. I'm in business, I deal with this every day. As a matter of fact, it is illegal to do a real estate contract under verbal contract. So, now we're dealing with [President Obama] who has not exactly kept his word especially on health care—if you like your doctor you can keep him, you're premiums won't go up and they have and on and on and on. So, at least to be considered, this needs to be in writing. I think that's reasonable."

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Senate Committee Digests Baldfaced Lies on Medicaid Expansion

Posted By on Wed, Feb 4, 2015 at 11:14 AM

I realize I'm becoming a bit of a broken record documenting the shameless lies and propaganda that dominate the Beacon Center of Tennessee's messaging on Insure Tennessee. But since our state lawmakers insist on giving Beacon a platform to spread their nonsense, someone has to call bullshit.

Consider it called.

At this morning's Senate Health and Welfare Committee hearing on Insure Tennessee, committee members were shown this slide by the Beacon Center's Justin Owen, who was appearing before the committee to describe the various forms of apocalypse that will ensue if the legislature approves Medicaid expansion:


Owen wants to argue that Medicaid expansion puts stresses on the system that end up harming the most vulnerable individuals already covered. The slide was an attempt to suggest there there is evidence for this alarming prediction in the experiences of other states that have expanded Medicaid. There's just one problem with the slide: Every claim it makes is factually incorrect.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

What You Missed at Tennessee Right To Life's Press Conference

Posted By on Fri, Jan 23, 2015 at 6:00 AM

Yesterday marked the 42nd Anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Thousands of activists flooded our nation's capitol, some marching in protest of abortion, others marching in order to preserve the right to it. It's difficult for anyone who is part of a generation born after this landmark decision — myself included —  to imagine not having access to safe abortion. Knowing that it was a legally guaranteed option gave me peace of mind, should I ever be faced with that difficult decision.

Imagination aside, over the past few years, we have seen the reality of what happens to women when their elected officials pass legislature that restricts their ability to access an abortion procedure. We've seen what happens when four states — Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming — only have one abortion-providing facility within their borders, or when another state enacts a 72-hour waiting period that adds additional expense, stress and time to an already stressful circumstance. Regardless of which state you live in, we're in a state of crisis.

The abortion argument continues to intensify on a national level. On Wednesday, House Republicans saw their Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act — a bill sponsored by our very own Rep. Marsha Blackburn that would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy — faceplant due to protest from female GOP lawmakers, highlighting a growing rift in the party. Amid the many concerns with this bill is the mandate that a rape victim could only receive an abortion after this time period if she reports the rape to police, a terrifying idea in the rape-shaming society we unfortunately still exist in. (Instead, on Thursday the House voted on a bill that would forbid federal funding for abortions. It passed.)

Locally, tensions are also rising accordingly. On January 13, the Women's March on Nashville politely stomped over the first day of the 109th General Assembly. At 10 a.m., hundreds of people gathered for a rally at the foot of the Tennessee Tower, where speakers opined on topics ranging from fair wages to abortion.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Jim Summerville Continues to Give Zero Rats Asses

Posted By on Wed, Sep 24, 2014 at 7:00 AM

You know Jim Summerville.

The outgoing state Senator who was cited with a misdemeanor for "dogs at large" after ongoing tension with a neighbor that culminated in the elected official posting a sign on his neighbor's fence that read “Just keep it up. You’ve been warned."; the man who famously told the state's Black Caucus that he didn't "give a rat's ass" what they thought; the Republican who lost his primary last month and promptly decided to quit the Republican party and spend his lame duck days as an independent; the state Senator who intimidated his neighbors — dogs were involved again — and was arrested for public intoxication last month; Jim Summerville who is also, by the way, the author of five books.

You know, that guy. Well he sent this email — in full, after the jump — to the entire Senate Tuesday. You will see the subject reads "Dear Loot Governor" which we can only assume is Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Dr. Richard Briggs Was Twice a Hero on Election Night

Posted By on Mon, Aug 11, 2014 at 11:44 AM

Why do we celebrate Dr. Richard Briggs? Let us count the ways.

First, he defeated state Sen. Stacey Campfield in last week's Republican primary. Campfield, as Pith readers know well, is one of the worst politicians in the country and the primary source of one of Tennessee's greatest exports — late night comedy bits. Campfield is so embarrassing that Gov. Bill Haslam half-endorsed Briggs' challenge of him.

But secondly, the doctor — who is also a veteran and a Knox County Commissioner — jumped into action Thursday night, ready to save a man's life as he waited for a concession call from Campfield.

Check this out from the Knoxville News Sentinel:

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Monday, May 5, 2014

Campfield: Obamacare Is Like the Holocaust (Updated)

Posted By on Mon, May 5, 2014 at 9:16 AM

This, from state Sen. Stacey Campfield's blog, presented without comment:


Update (10:22 a.m.): A statement from Tennessee Republican Party chairman Chris Devaney:

"While Stacey Campfield routinely makes remarks that are over the top, today's comments are ignorant and repugnant. No political or policy disagreement should ever be compared to the suffering endured by an entire generation of people. Those comments have no place in our public discourse. He should offer an apology to members of the Jewish faith immediately."

Update (1:10 p.m.): The Knoxville News Sentinel's Tom Humphrey talked to Campfield:

Campfield, contacted by phone, said “it was never my intent to insult anyone,” but he is not making an apology and believes the analogy is appropriate.

“I think Jewish people should be the first to stand up against Obamacare,” Campfield said. “If government is controlling people's health insurance, they are potentially controlling people's lives....letting the government choose who lives and who dies.”

Update (3:30 p.m.):

The Tennessean reports that Campfield now regrets his comment:

"It was not meant to offend, but rather to warn. My intention was to draw attention to Obamacare and the slippery slope that I see occurring in the lives of myself, my constituents and the rest of the country with the continued taking of freedom by the federal government. In no way was my post meant to diminish or detract from the pain, suffering and loss of life that occurred during this dark time in human history."

Update (4:00 p.m.): From the Associated Press...wow:

Campfield said Monday he was unmoved by the criticism from the chairman of his own party.

"He never called me," he said. "If he wants to apologize to Obama, he can."

Update (4:10 p.m.): A statement from House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick:

“I was shocked by Senator Campfield’s disgraceful blog post that compared a policy dispute with the suffering of an entire race of people. The far-reaching effects of the Holocaust are still felt today, and any effort to cheapen that suffering is distasteful and classless. I call on Senator Campfield to apologize immediately.”

Update (4:13 p.m.): Campfield's Democratic opponent Cheri Siler chimes in:

"With so much at stake in the state of Tennessee, we cannot afford to have our elected officials making inflammatory statements of this magnitude. It is deplorable that Campfield is trivializing the loss of millions of Jews. He is clearly politicizing this sensitive subject to get free earned media. By his own words, he proves that he is as cheap as he is classless."

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Friday, April 18, 2014

About That Closed-Door Amp Conference Committee

Posted By on Fri, Apr 18, 2014 at 9:28 AM

If you're unfamiliar with the way the end of a state legislative session plays out, here's how it goes.

Once the deadline the legislature has set for no particular reason is in sight, they throw out most of the rules that keep the legislative process moving slow. Under normal rules, it moves slowly enough for it to seem like something you could call a process at all. But when the deadline approaches, they suspend rules requiring a certain amount of time between votes, and capping the number of bills allowed on an agenda, and basically anything that would impede their now-urgent progress. Rules that were so important to ensuring that state government is an open process that citizens can observe and even participate in are discarded because they have to get out of here. For some reason.

As this chaos plays out, there will inevitably be some matters on which the House and Senate come to a different conclusion. When one chamber passes a version of a bill with different language than the version passed by the other chamber, the legislation is often sent to a conference committee made up of three members from each body who are charged with hashing out a compromise.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Amp Deal Gives Legislature More Authority Over Project

Posted By on Thu, Apr 17, 2014 at 2:06 PM

Legislation approved Thursday by the state House and Senate doesn't kill The Amp — but it does give the General Assembly the power to do so in the future.

The deal emerged as a compromise between Senate legislation that would have banned the project's center-lane design, and a House version that effectively maintained the status quo. The resulting bill requires the state legislature's approval for any project using dedicated lanes, as Mayor Karl Dean's bus rapid transit project does. If the project is to receive state funding, then the legislature would sign off on it by approving the state budget. If not state funds will be used for the project, it still must get the legislature's approval through passage of a joint resolution.

The bill also requires that the project be put in the state Department of Transportation's three-year plan, or that both speakers, as well as the chairmen of both transportation and finance committees be given notice of the project.

"You have to get permission to cut the grass on a state right-of-way," House sponsor Rep. Jeremy Durham told Pith, "and we feel like there should be a process that someone should have to go through if they want to put a mass transit on a state highway and take away that lane for taxpayers."

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

House Passes Bill Allowing Electrocution If Lethal Injection Is Unavailable (UPDATED)

Posted By on Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 2:18 PM

The state House voted 68 to 13 Wednesday afternoon to approve a bill allowing electrocution to be used to carry out executions if drugs needed for lethal injection are unavailable.

Having passed the Senate last week by a vote of 23 to 3, the bill now heads to Gov. Bill Haslam who can sign, veto, or allow the bill to pass without his signature. The bill passed the Senate last week by a vote of 23 to 3, but must now go back there to resolve a difference between the chambers related to when the bill would go into effect.* State Attorney General Robert Cooper issued an opinion in March that deemed the bill constitutionally defensible.

Tennessee, like many states, has struggled at times to keep a supply of lethal injection drugs on hand, particularly because some drug suppliers have refused to allow their drugs to be used for executions. States like Tennessee have attempted to give them cover by passing laws to keep the source of lethal injection drugs secret, but recent court rulings have suggested such laws might be on shaky legal ground.

In the House Wednesday, the proposal to allow the electric chair to serve as plan B provoked only a brief discussion. Rep. Johnny Shaw told the bill's sponsor, Rep. Dennis Powers, that he couldn't support capital punishment because, citing the Bible, Shaw wasn't entitled to "throw a rock." Powers said he agreed with Shaw that only God could ultimately judge but that "it's our job to arrange the meeting."

Tennessee is currently seeking to execute at least 10 death row inmates over the next two years, although two executions have been delayed since December.

Note: This post has been corrected to reflect that, in fact, the bill must first go back to the Senate before it goes to the governor.

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