"This is not a dead issue at all," Campfield said.
“I got lots of good feedback, actually,” he told incredulous reporters outside the Senate chamber. “I like to think there’s enough to hopefully move us forward in a good direction over the summer. You know, I was surprised. Even afterward, everybody came up and said, ‘You know, as you described it, it is completely different than how it’s been portrayed. What you’re trying to do is a goal that I think everybody here has, and I think we need to get together and try to pound something out.’”
He added: “We all have the same goal. You heard it from Democrats and Republicans. We have to do something to get parents involved. Is this the perfect vehicle? Maybe not. But hopefully, we at least have some buy-in from people to at least start doing something.”
The senator also addressed his bizarre interaction with the little girl and today’s protesters, and how it feels to become a regular punch line on TV comedy shows.
"How are you? Thanks for coming. I love it when people use children as props." So said Sen. Stacey Campfield this morning as an 8-year-old girl tried to hand him a petition against his "Starve Our Children" bill. How long will it take this video to go viral?
"You are so weak to not listen to a child! She's not a prop! Shame on you!" one protester yelled at Campfield.
Watch until the end to see the senator go off. "Dude, you're a union thug," he said.
Stacey Campfield, the Tennessee “law” maker who has thus far blown away the competition in our search for Legislative Shitmuffin of 2013, continues to leave all other comers eating his dust. And how has he been a Being A Total Dick MACHINE today? Oh, just telling an eight-year-old girl handing him a petition (asking him not to starve the dumb kids) that she is “a prop” is all.
After a parade of Republicans complimented him for his "intent" and "effort" before announcing their opposition to the legislation that resulted from them, state Sen. Stacey Campfield asked that his bill tying parents' welfare benefits to their children's grades be sent to a summer study committee Thursday morning.
In the end, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey granted the request, gaveling the bill off to a study committee that has not yet been formed. That's progress of a kind, we suppose. (For his part, Gov. Bill Haslam stopped short of promising a veto, but said he had "major problems" with the bill. Again, it's something.)
The bill would have cut welfare benefits by 30 percent for parents whose child received a failing grade in school. Campfield defended the bill against the "Starve Our Children" nickname by pointing out that it would not touch any federal food programs, and that it would only reduce the parents' benefits. How does reducing benefits for a child's parents not affect the child? How does reducing the money a family has to live on not end up affecting their ability to feed themselves? Good question, says Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, who said he had told Campfield that the bill made him "queasy."
"You can say that withholding money from the parent doesn't harm the child," Norris told members, before announcing his opposition to the bill (couched in the same sort of friendly terms used by all of Campfield's Republican colleagues), "but you're fooling yourself."
"I'm feeling a little like Don Quixote," said Nashville Rep. Mike Turner as the yawning Republicans voted down his party's attempts to derail the bill.
Haslam’s bill, which already has passed the Senate, takes claim disputes out of the court system and establishes a state agency to handle them, and the new system is fixed against workers who are injured on the job. The governor appoints the agency’s director, and the director selects the administrative judges to hear cases.
Haslam claims he’s trying to create “a fair playing field.” But as the pro-union Tennessee Citizen Action points out, his workers’ comp czar will become the ultimate decider of disputes.
“We know that children are dying because of the mismanagement of cases at DCS,” Nashville Rep. Sherry Jones said. “You can’t put a price on those lives, and restoring this funding will prevent needless deaths."
Some of the funding cuts are from technology, a key failure in the department blamed for many of its problems. The agency has been under fire for years—even more so since Haslam took office—because of the number of children who have died while in state custody. Officials have admitted they mishandled some investigations into these deaths, and a computer system failed to track children in the department's care. In February, Children's Services Commissioner Kate O'Day quit.
At a press conference, Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney said:
Because of these problems, we believe that now is not the time to make these budget cuts. Restoring some of these funds is in my opinion the first step toward curing some of the ailment in the Department of Children’s Services. People all around this state know that DCS is short-staffed. Yet they know that they are charged with one of the most, if not the most, important areas of state government in taking care of the vulnerable children of this state. Let’s start this next budget year giving DCS the tools they need to address so many of the problems that they see in the field day in and day out.
The vote came even after an aide to the governor told the committee Haslam opposes the bill and might veto it. The bill, which targets mostly single mothers, cuts welfare benefits by 30 percent to the families of kids who fail a grade in school.
Thank the gods Stacey Campfield has never been a very effective legislator to begin with. But he seems hell-bent on making sure no one wants to work with him in the future, judging by his deposition in a $750,000 libel lawsuit brought by Roger Byrge.
State Sen. Stacey Campfield has given a deposition in which he is unapologetic for posting false information about a Democratic candidate on his blog, dismissive of the possibility of paying damages for that and belittling of the technological skills of fellow lawmakers.
Campfield, a Knoxville Republican, is the defendant in a $750,000 libel lawsuit brought by Roger Byrge for falsely stating on his blog in the weeks before the 2008 general election that the Democrat had a criminal record. Byrge lost the state House race to Republican Chad Faulkner by fewer than 400 votes, 8,321 to 7,930.
Campfield, in a deposition attached to a court filing last week, said he would be unlikely to pay any damages, noting that he earns about $30,000 a year.
As the AP's Erik Schelzig reports, Campfield "is unapologetic for posting false information about a Democratic candidate on his blog, dismissive of the possibility of paying damages for that and belittling of the technological skills of fellow lawmakers."
"Like I've got any money to give it even if you win," Campfield told lawyers, saying he makes only $30,000 a year. "Go right ahead. I mean, I can show you my tax returns. If you think you're going to get money out of me, it's laughable."
Does his blog, where he posted the false information, affect fellow lawmakers?
"I doubt that," he said. "Most of them don't even know how to turn on a computer."
Tennessee. What's up, friend? Quick question: How can the state that houses the happiest place on earth, aka Dollywood, be so fucking daft?
This bill—which Campfield claims will teach responsibility to welfare deadbeats—is one of the most irresponsible ever dreamed up. It jeopardizes the health and safety of poor kids all over the state.
Campfield said he was postponing the vote for a week to answer questions about the bill from another senator. But he loves to annoy liberals, and he pulled the same stunt with his “Don’t Say Gay” bill in previous sessions, delaying votes week after week and milking the publicity for all it was worth. It's impossible to shame or embarrass Campfield out of pressing for cold-hearted laws to hurt poor people.
As usual, their arguments were so incoherent it was hard to tell who was on which side of this important issue.
We did manage to ascertain that Sen. Douglas Henry, D-Nashville, an octogenarian who sometimes seems to think he’s still living in the Reconstruction Era, is adamantly against flag bearers dipping the Tennessee flag in the presence of the U.S. flag. It was Henry, a states’ rights champion, who insisted that senators begin this year to recite a “Salute to the Tennessee flag” before each session after they pledge allegiance to the United States.
Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, seized the opportunity of this debate to teach his colleagues a little more about history. Yesterday, he told us all about how Abe Lincoln loved cockfighting—a tale that amused senators to no end but turned out to be fictional, unfortunately. Today, the topic was Robert E. Lee, and we have no idea whether it’s true.
“What did Abraham Lincoln think about this?” Senate speaker Ron Ramsey asked Niceley.
“Well it’s Robert E. Lee,” Niceley said. “Robert E. Lee was a Virginian first and an American second. And that’s why they couldn’t try him for treason. They couldn’t try Robert E. Lee for treason because he was loyal to his home state. … If Robert E. Lee was a Virginian first and an American second, I’m a Tennessean first and an American second.”
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