Category Archives: Tennessee government

Charlie Brown, He’s A Clown

[UPDATE]:

Welcome, Wonketteers!

[UPDATE] 2:

Pith reports that state Dem leaders saw this debacle coming but were powerless to stop it (why I have no clue. How about a campaign that says “DON’T JUST VOTE FOR THE FIRST NAME ON THE LIST THEY’RE PROBABLY DUMBASSES. THINK BEFORE YOU VOTE.” Whatever). Anyway, Mary Mancini’s name is being floated to replace Roy Herron, and I think it’s a damn good idea. She’s probably tuckered out from the state senate race though.

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Unless this is some kind of scam, this is the guy who won the Democratic nomination for the Governor’s race in yesterday’s primary. His “maine intention” is to bring the Bible back to schools, he wants to raise the state speed limit to 80, tells everyone to join the NRA, and wants to “buy hugh deers for our Wild Life areas.”

His was the first name on the ballot; as we’ve seen in the past (*cough*cough*Mark Clayton*cough*cough), the first name on the ballot is usually the craziest mo-fo hoping to scam state Democrats into the nomination. Looks like it’s working. (No, I did not vote for him. I would not be scammed.)

This is a ginormous embarassment for the TNDP. Another illiterate clown running on the TNDP ticket. I don’t understand why we can’t find a decent Democrat for these races. Yes, Bill Haslam will most likely win but for crying out loud, a campaign now lays the groundwork for future races.

I just don’t get it. Why does the TNDP want to be associated with illiterates and buffoons?

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Filed under Tennessee, Tennessee government, TNDP

Most Responsible Gun Owners EVAH-Take Our Word For It!

When I see legislators doing reactionary stuff like this, my first thought is, what are you trying to hide?

The Senate today joined the House in voting to close the state’s handgun carry permit records to the public. Lawmakers say they want to protect the privacy of our nearly 400,000 citizen gunmen. But their real goal is preventing the media from finding out when one of these Barney Fifes shoots his foot or someone else.

The AP recently looked at public records and found that 2,133 people have had their permits revoked or suspended for criminal charges or orders of protection over the last two years in Tennessee. Handgun permit owners have killed or been accused of killing 16 people in the past five years in this state. One of the shootings started as argument over how close together two SUVs were parked.

The NRA would rather the public not learn about all that murder and mayhem because it makes voters wonder what the hell our lawmakers are thinking when they keep expanding gun rights.

Yep, that sounds about right. Now when the loonz say, “CCW holders are the most responsible gun owners ever,” we can no longer respond, “Yeah? Prove it.” We’ll just have to take their word for it. And you know something is wrong when Southern Beale and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey are in agreement. Back in February Ramsey said:

“Having the handgun carry records open actually helps the cause of the Second Amendment,” he said in an interview Thursday. “Because people can go look at those and realize that they truly are law-abiding citizens.”

I guess they’re not law-abiding citizens, or else the legislature wouldn’t be trying to hide this information. So, thanks Tennessee legislators, for proving our point.

The NRA operates under an “ignorance is bliss” policy, forcing groups such as the Violence Policy Center to turn to sketchy news reports:

No comprehensive data exists on non-self defense killings by private citizens legally allowed to carry concealed handguns. Concealed Carry Killers offers examples from May 2007 to the present of such incidents, which are taken from news reports and the limited state data available. These examples are only an unknown fraction of the unreported number of similar incidents that routinely occur across the nation.

Currently, Concealed Carry Killers documents 377 incidents in 32 states resulting in 508 deaths. In nearly 80 percent of the incidents (300) the concealed carry killer has already been convicted (126), committed suicide (167), or was killed in the incident (seven). Of the 67 cases still pending, the vast majority (55) of concealed carry killers have been charged with criminal homicide, four were deemed incompetent to stand trial, and eight incidents are still under investigation. An additional 10 incidents were fatal unintentional shootings involving the gun of the concealed handgun permit holder. At least 14 of the victims were law enforcement officers. Twenty-three of the incidents were mass shootings, resulting in the deaths of 103 victims.

I would remind the loonz and NRA lapdogs that shutting the door on factual debate is a two-sided blade. You can keep telling the world that CCW holders are the safest, bestest, most wonderful gun owners ever, but you can no longer prove it. Those of us on the other side of the issue will keep saying otherwise, and you can’t prove we’re wrong.

By the way, sealing gun records is one of those ALEC-sponsored “model” bills. They’ve been cropping up all over the country lately. Virginia just passed a similar bill, so did Mississippi, and the issue has come up in Maine and elsewhere. I’m sure nobody is shocked to learn our legislature is doing the gun manufacturers’ bidding.

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Filed under gun control, Tennessee, Tennessee government

Curry Todd Just As Sleazy As We Thought

Remember Tennessee’s drunk-driving gun loon state legislator Curry Todd? The guy who gave us guns-in-bars, then was clocked shitfaced drunk going 60 mph in a residential neighborhood with a gun loose in his car? Good times, good times.

Let us dig into the memory hole from that incident, shall we?

Todd refused to comment on his political future or on nagging allegations that he is living with a lobbyist in Green Hills.

Well, it only took over a year but those “nagging allegations” have finally been confirmed:

Rep. Curry Todd lived rent-free in lobbyist’s home

State Rep. Curry Todd lived rent-free for an undisclosed amount of time in the expensive Nashville home of a prominent lobbyist in 2011.

State ethics law forbids lobbyists from providing gifts, including housing, to lawmakers. The lobbyist, Chuck Welch, regularly worked on legislative issues that passed through the House State and Local Government Committee, which Todd, R-Collierville, chaired until he was removed in late 2011.

[…]

Welch, who did not respond to a request for comment, is the managing director for the Nashville office of the influential lobbying firm Farris, Mathews and Bobango. Until his arrest, Todd wielded significant power at the capitol in his role as chairman of the House committee.

Thanks to a generous carve-out in the state ethics law, the free housing may not constitute a violation because Todd and Welch are long-time friends.

Both Welch and the firm regularly lobbied on bills considered by Todd’s committee, including the ongoing issue of how utility poles are regulated across the state. The lobbying firm’s clients include the Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association. Welch’s other lobbying clients include tw telecom, the American Legal Finance Association and the Tennessee Development District Association.

Oh, well, if they’re friends ….! Nothing to see here, move along!

By the way, if you want to get a look at the home Todd lived in rent-free while accepting nearly $30,000 in per diem and mileage reimbursements which are supposed to cover travel and living expenses, here’s a video of the home from YouTube. It sold last August for $460,000:

As if Curry Todd couldn’t get any sleazier, I remind you all that he is the Tennessee state chair of ALEC, as well as an ALEC board member. Last year he killed the Democrats’ Influence Disclosure Act, which would have required legislators to disclose the private groups behind boilerplate legislation of the type ALEC promotes. Why would he be against something so clearly in the public interest? Because, he said,

“I know what it’s getting back at. It’s getting back at ALEC.”

Yes, so when he says his “friendship” with a lobbyist never interfered with his independent judgment? Don’t believe a word of it.

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Filed under ALEC, Tennessee government

Other Worrisome Gateways

Okay, a few folks are demanding I weigh in on our stupid Tennessee state senate, which passed a bill yesterday updating our abstinence-only curriculum to include “hand-holding” as a “gateway sexual activity.” I haven’t written about it because, well, for starters, it’s Tennessee and the collective stupid streaming out of the state capitol these days has been overwhelming. At this point I am throwing in the towel on every single one of our state legislators. They’re all morons who don’t seem to understand why they are in office. Hint: it’s not to try to return us to the mythical Good Ol’ Days Before Baggy Pants and MTV Ruined Everything.

But also, give me a break: “updating” an abstinence-only based sex education curriculum while keeping it abstinence-based is not an update. It’s a stupid exercise and you just know nothing sensible will come out of it.

I’d love to see how this thing works in practice, though. That wasn’t an earthquake you just felt, it was the collective eyeroll of every teenager in Tennessee upon being told hand-holding leads to sex. Considering the graphic sexual behavior kids see every time they turn on the TV, it’s just hard to take this shit seriously.

But also: The law now bans teachers from “demonstrating” gateway activity, to which I respond: teachers were “demonstrating” gateway activity in the classroom? Really? This happens? Boy, sex ed sure has changed from when I was in school. I’m quite sure watching my 8th grade health teacher “demonstrate” fellatio would have been a brain-searing trauma.

Anyway, as long as the Tennessee General Assembly is worried about gateways, I thought I’d mention a few other troubling ones. I’m sure they’ll want to get right on these (if they haven’t done so already):

• Dancing, the gateway to moral turpitude.

• Rock and roll music, the gateway to satanic rituals and human sacrifice.

• Budweiser, the gateway to heroin.

• Owning a cat: the gateway to owning more cats.

• Science, the gateway to thinking.

• Speaking French, the gateway to wearing jaunty hats.

• Having cable, a gateway to re-enacting scenes from Platoon with Charlie Sheen.

Leave your suggestions in comments ….

[UPDATE]:

A commenter has reminded me of this.

31 Comments

Filed under abstinence-only education, Tennessee, Tennessee government, Tennessee politics

So Glad We Voted For The “Reasonable” Republican

Look what happens when you vote Republican, Tennessee:

Statement from Gov. Bill Haslam; April 10, 2012:

Governor: Legislation to Become Law Without My Signature

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today issued the following statement on HB 368/SB 893:

“I have reviewed the final language of HB 368/SB 893 and assessed the legislation’s impact. I have also evaluated the concerns that have been raised by the bill. I do not believe that this legislation changes the scientific standards that are taught in our schools or the curriculum that is used by our teachers. However, I also don’t believe that it accomplishes anything that isn’t already acceptable in our schools.

“The bill received strong bipartisan support, passing the House and Senate by a three-to-one margin, but good legislation should bring clarity and not confusion. My concern is that this bill has not met this objective. For that reason, I will not sign the bill but will allow it to become law without my signature.”

Got that, Tennessee? You didn’t vote for the crazy Ron Ramsey or the crazier, twitchy Zach Wamp. Nope, you voted for the “grown-up.” The non-crazy Republican. The Reasonable One. And guess what you got! You got the same crazy-assed, half-baked crap as if they’d thawed one of those cavemen they’re always finding up in the tundra and stuck him in the governor’s chair. I ask you: what is the difference? Gov. Haslam has a big sad over the crazy stuff the legislature is doing but who cares when it’s still the law!

Way to go! Now we’re going to be churning out a bunch of idiot kids who think Adam and Eve dined on Bronto Burgers and took their pet dinosaur for a stroll through the primordial forest. But what the world needs are not religious nuts, it needs scientists and engineers. Good going, Governor Goofball. So you didn’t sign the bill, what, you lost your veto pen?

I have friends who are leaving this state. Friends with kids. People who do not think this is a good place to raise their children. It’s really hard to argue with them when the governor doesn’t have the balls to tell the extremists in his own party to cut the crap. And if I can’t convince my friends that this is a place you want to live, how are we going to convince major employers to set up shop here?

Nope, Governor Goofball blames the media. How dare they write about the strange things happening in the legislature!

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Filed under Bill Haslam, culture wars, education, evolution, Tennessee, Tennessee government, Tennessee politics

They Forgot Poland

If you thought being represented in the state Senate by the senate majority leader might mean your interests won’t get overlooked, well … heh heh .. suckaz:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Thought Tennessee’s arduous redistricting process was over? Not so fast.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris confirmed to The Associated Press on Tuesday that Tipton County was inadvertently omitted from the upper chamber’s redistricting measure passed last week. The missing county is part of Norris’ redrawn Senate district.

Wooopsies! No offense!

I love Democratic Rep. Jimmy Naifeh, who lives in Tipton County and doesn’t take kindly to being forgotten by Tennessee Republicans:

“This is what getting in such a big hurry for show does,” Naifeh said. “And that’s all that was for, no other reason.”

And now Tennessee Republicans look like the fools they are.

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Filed under Tennessee, Tennessee government, Tennessee politics

Do-Nothing TN Legislature

Well, not exactly do-nothing. They did plenty … of damage. But hey, they cut five weeks off the legislative session, the shortest session in over 10 years! Time to hit the links, fellas!

I guess we’re supposed to be impressed that they tore through their recidivist, anti-woman, anti-gay, and anti-Muslim agenda in record time. They didn’t have time to get to any of that jobs stuff, though, but hey! Maybe they’ll get around to it next session!

You know, I have to apologize to my commenters who wonder why I haven’t blogged about things like Tennessee’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill (which failed this year because the House postponed it until next year). But really, what is there to say about this stuff except to shrug your shoulders and go, “It’s Tennessee! You were expecting progress from the state that brought you the Scopes Monkey Trial and the Klan?”

I mean seriously, we have had every heinous wingnutty culture-war legislation you can imagine: You want to ban Sharia Law, defund Planned Parenthood, “opt-out” of healthcare reform, or show your “long-form birth certificate” to get on the ballot, Tennessee is your state! We’ve moved forward on a bill to ban abortion in case Roe v. Wade gets overturned. We’ve discussed teaching evolution as a questionable theory while mandating Creationism in schools.

We’ve eliminated collective bargaining for teachers’ unions, and we spent a lot of time talking about our version of the Arizona immigration bill only to table it for next year. We still can’t buy wine in grocery stores and we haven’t yet banned mountaintop removal mining. We’ve even had the state legislature step in and overturn Nashville’s non-discrimination ordinance! How’s that for small government for ya?

Not all of this stuff passed, some of it was tabled for next year, some of it passed just one house of the legislature, but we sure spent a lot of time debating this nonsense, and we gave the state a black eye in the process. Who can blame Gail Kerr for observing:

It would have been better for our state, however, if some of these men and women had been whisked from their chairs and tossed into oblivion way before Saturday — before they could do some of the damage we’ve seen.

All of this, of course, masks the true agenda, which is to transfer power from the people to corporations.

Along those lines, this legislative session allowed corporations to donate directly to political campaigns and operate “virtual schools” (whatever the hell that is). We’ve exempted insurance agents and brokers from the TN Consumer Protection Act, and yes we’ve passed “tort reform”:

Awards will be capped at $750,000 in most cases and $1 million when victims suffer spinal-cord injuries that lead to loss of use of two or more limbs.

Seriously! Tennessee government is so small it knows what your appendages are worth to you. Well thank you so much! Because the whole point of punitive damages is to be, ya know, punitive — that’s fancy-pants talk for “punishment.” Because corporate persons can’t be sent to jail, the only way you can punish them for wrongdoing is to hit ‘em in the pocketbook. And now to be more “pro-business” we have to make sure they don’t hurt too much. It kind of misses the point of being “punitive,” doesn’t it, Governor? Wait ’till one of your kids loses her uterus from drinking tainted water, then let’s talk about punitive. This shit never matters until it happens to someone important.

And yes, we even let Amazon.com keep their cushy tax deal, so if anyone wants to know why Nashville, Tennessee has not one bookstore selling new product (except adult bookstores, of course!), look at the behemoth who put three retailers out of business this year. And I’m sure our state legislators will get right on those adult bookstores next session.

Keep in mind, of course, that all of this pro-corporate stuff comes straight from the industry-funded ALEC, which has identical legislation in state legislatures all across the country. But if you want to still believe the fairytale that Tennessee legislators are rugged individualists who don’t take their marching orders from anyone, least of all Washington, D.C., well here’s a glass of Kool-Aid for you.

Look,
Gov. Bill Haslam has been a far worse disaster than even I could have imagined. I really thought, along with a lot of other people, that he’d be the least offensive candidate in a parade of far-right wackos and wingnuts and gold-fringed flag phobes. But not so.

Seeing every far-right, anti-citizen piece of legislation our Governor has rubber-stamped, I have to wonder how different anything would have been if we had twitchy, pro-secession Zach Wamp or boot-stompin’ “meet the Feds at the border” Lt. Gov. Ramsey instead? What exactly would have changed? We got the same crap with Haslam, passed with a goofball, aw-shucks grin, which is all the more insulting, if you ask me. It’s like he thinks we’re too stupid to know what he’s really doing. Tennessee is still a national laughingstock, thanks to our wacko legislators like Stacy (Doth Protest Too Much) Campfield, of the anti-gay jihad, and our Islamophobia and our pro-creationism in schools and all the other stuff that gets mocked on The Daily Show with regularity.

All of this has occupied our state legislature instead of what they campaigned on, which was putting Tennesseans back to work, something they’ve failed to do. Tennessee’s unemployment has actually risen during this legislative session, and while the legislature is patting itself on the back for saving $450,000 by ending the session five weeks early, you have to think the folks currently looking for work are wondering why the legislature never got around to doing anything for them.

Well, that’s unfair. We did finally commit to spending $3 million so we could get $60 million in Federal funds to extend unemployment benefits. That was a hard-fought battle, harder than it needed to be considering some counties in this state have over 20% unemployment. And unemployment benefits are a Band-aid not a solution. We need jobs. Why the hell was this not a priority for our elected representatives? Shame on them all, especially the aw-shucks-goofball-grinner-in-chief, Gov. Haslam. My contempt for you knows no bounds. Wipe that fucking grin off your face, you’ve done nothing for the people of this state. You should be ashamed of yourself. You should have been knocking heads in the legislature and telling people to cut the anti-gay, anti-Muslim crap and focus on what’s important. Instead you showed zero leadership. You’re a fraud.

Gov. Haslam, Tennesseans could use one of your silly red umbrellas right about now because it’s raining on the working people of this state and banning gays and Sharia law and abortion and allowing guns on college campuses haven’t helped. Does anyone really think that some company is looking for the most anti-gay state to locate their business? Just some CEO sitting around thinking, “where can I locate my company so I don’t have to deal with those pesky gay people?” I think not.

For that matter, stripping working people of their rights while allowing corporations to rape, pillage and plunder the state won’t help anyone, either. But see, I’ve already written about all of this.

I’ve pretty much washed my hands of Tennessee and you should, too. If you’re like my friend ChiDyke who wants to boycott the state, well, what can I say except, I understand. I don’t visit wingnutty places like Tennessee on vacation, either! I really don’t! I can’t tell you the last time I was in Florida. Oh wait, yes I can: it was in 2003, not long after the Iraq invasion, and I saw a pickup truck with “Nuke The Ragheads” spray-painted on the side. I just decided there were more progressive places with beaches deserving of my money. If that’s the way you feel, then I totally get it.

When your state legislature devotes so much time to an agenda of hate, you really can’t be surprised if people aren’t going to feel welcome here. I get that.

And I don’t know if anything is going to change. There is a black hole over the state of Tennessee drawing all the dead matter that is the heart of the Republican Party here. We are where conservatism has gone to die. I really find it hard to believe that the voters of this state care about half the shit the Legislature devoted most of its energy to but they voted for these assholes, so what can I do except say, you asked for it.

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Filed under rants, Tennessee, Tennessee government

Nice Little Police State You Have Here, Gov. Haslam

Nobody could have anticipated this!

Gov. Finds Money For Private Prison Amid Cuts

TennCare, Higher Education To See Deep Cuts

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has found about $31 million in recurring money to keep open a privately run prison in West Tennessee while making deep cuts to other areas such as TennCare and higher education.

Former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen had sought to close the Hardeman County Correctional Facility at Whiteville by December, but lawmakers added funding to run the prison through July 31.

Haslam in his budget address last week announced plans to restore permanent funding for the facility operated by the Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America.

The governor last week told reporters that he determined that closing the prison wasn’t “the right thing to do for the corrections system.”

According to the governor’s schedule, Haslam met with CCA officials at the Capitol the week before his budget address.

Isn’t it amazing how we’re able to “find” $31 million for the things we feel are important? Especially after a nice little meeting with the Nashville-based CCA, a big campaign donor? Truly the coincidences are astounding.

And remember this?

Tony Grande, chief development officer of CCA, said the private corrections company supports candidates that are likely to pursue the sort of public-private partnerships that match its philosophy and business interests. He said donations aren’t to assure specific business — CCA argues its value to the state does that — and that the support for Haslam reflected his positions and viability. The institute reports CCA giving Haslam $23,750 and McWherter $5,570.

Yes where is the “public” part of this “public-private partnership,” I’m just curious? Would that be in the form of our tax dollars going straight to CCA’s pockets? Is that what makes this a “partnership”?

A nice little detail is that the Hardeman County prison employs 350 people. Prisons are jobs! As is war. I love Christian America! Government jobs are bad, but privatization of public services paid for by tax dollars is good. Even when you don’t have the money.

When Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen tried to close the prison last year and was overruled by the Republican legislature, he quipped:

Bredesen called the Legislature’s decision to overrule him on closing the two facilities “a case of everybody wants to run government like a business until you actually run government like a business.”

Oh, snap! I seem to recall a foul-mouthed blogger pointing out a few problems with our privatized prison industry last year. Now we have CCA meeting with the governor to make sure it gets a nice return on its nearly $24,000 investment. I mean, check out these programs on the chopping block:

All the commissioners brought their own lists of vanishing programs. Community treatment centers for the mentally ill and alcohol- and drug-addicted would lose funding. The Department of Children’s Services would lose 162 jobs. Six state park swimming pools would close. So would two state golf courses. A prison sex offender treatment program would end, along with convict “community service” work crews. Inspectors who ensure the state’s groundwater is safe would lose their jobs.

If cuts in mental health services go through as scheduled, “We’re off the cliff, sir. We’ve got major problems,” said Mental Health Commissioner Doug Varney, who also likened it to an amputation. “With this safety net, we can’t just keep cutting little pieces of the fingers off,” Varney told the governor. “Pretty soon the hands won’t work. I think we may have to decide to cut a finger off here or there, and that’s what we do. At least the hands will still work.”

No, no, Varney was looking at it all wrong. Look at it from the perspective of CCA’s philosophy and business interests! Not the peoples’! Sillies! We’ll just round up all the addicts and mentally ill and throw them in a private, taxpayer-funded facility (and make sure we don’t have community service programs which might eat into our incarceration rate). Problem solved! Why bother and try to get people off of drugs or clean up the meth labs or have social workers who can make sure people stay on their antipsychotics? Community service is so last century! Who needs social workers watching out for kids, or facilities that keep children occupied in the summer? What happens when we don’t have those things? Thinking … thinking …

Yeah you know, it’s so much more profitable for CCA if we just wait for such people to commit a crime: the mentally ill, the drug addicts, the youth with no place to go and nothing to do in the summertime. Let’s wait for them to get in trouble and then we can throw them in jail. Amiright? It’s not about people it’s about CCA!

If we can miraculously “find” $31 million for CCA but we can never find any money for mental health clinics or drug treatment programs, what else could it be?

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Filed under Bill Haslam, CCA, Tennessee government

>Drowning In The Bathtub

>I’m old enough to remember $700 toilet seats at the Pentagon and Reagan-era calls to “cut government waste.” In fact, “cutting government waste” has become such a part of the American lexicon that no budget conversation, from the county dog catcher’s office to the massive federal budget, can take place without hearing the “government waste” mantra repeated ad nauseum.

That’s all very well and good but after nearly 30 years of hearing that canard, and with an economic downturn cutting revenue at all levels of government, we’re seeing the effects of those shorn-to-the-bone government budgets. It’s pouring out there, a deluge, and no one has a rainy day fund.

I won’t even bring up the sorry State of California, where the budget crisis is its own weird brand of wackadoodle. The people keep voting for all sorts of unfunded programs (like a $3 billion bond for stem cell research) while also voting to restrict taxation. Grow up already, people. Sooner or later you’re going to have to start paying for this stuff.

And that’s my message to people here in Tennessee (and everywhere else). After years of “cutting the fat” we’ve started cutting some pretty alarming stuff. On the local level, my 2009 Davidson County property tax statement came with this aviso:

“Due to budget restraints, we will not be mailing a courtesy reminder as we have in the past in the month of February. This will be the only statement you will receive for the 2009 tax year.”

Really? That’s the “fat” we’re trimming from the budget–sending a second property tax bill? This is on top of Metro Public Works cutting their mowing program this summer. And let me say, trying to cross Granny White Pike at Gale Lane has been a dangerous proposition when the grass is knee-high.

Even more alarmingly, Putnam County, TN, is in such dire straights it has considered doing away with county primary elections:

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. — Putnam County is looking at the prospect of eliminating primary elections in hopes of saving $60,000.

On Monday night, the county commission voted 14 to 9 to ask the county parties to forgo primary elections and select candidates through private caucuses.

Primary elections are historically low-turnout, but nonetheless canceling an election for fiscal reasons sets off alarm bells with me. You tea party folks yammering about your loss of freedoms might want to consider what it means to cancel an election because the county doesn’t have the funds to stage it.

Then again, will our moribund electorate even notice?

It’s only a matter of time before this fiscal starvation starts costing people in other ways. Up in Michigan, the state budget situation is so sorry, they’ve had to stop safety inspections of school buses:

“It’s not a good thing, but it’s a budget reality,” LeBlanc said. “I’m not sure there are viable alternatives.”

I guess the free hand of the market is supposed to protect Michigan kids on their way to school from now on.

Could this happen in Tennessee? We’ve already dumped another 84,000 people from TennCare. Now the state legislature says it will permanently slash $1 billion from Tennessee’s state budget. The reason is lower revenue, but the Republican legislature thinks this is a good way to operate state government:

“I really think you need to expect and can treat these $1 billion to $1.1 billion in base reductions … as permanent,” said Jim White, executive director of the legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee, told House leaders on Thursday. “State government is going to be smaller and different after we complete this budget year.”

Well, that’s a great talking point and it sure looks good in the press release, but how does that look in practice? Not so good, it seems:

After more than two hours of grim assessments Thursday, House Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington, had enough. He predicted the state’s Rainy Day Fund, once at $750 million and projected to fall to $323 million in 2010-11, “is probably going to go down to zero.”

He called the removal of some TennCare recipients “heartbreaking” and said lawmakers are to blame. He also urged colleagues to look at a tax increase.

“No one has got the backbone or the guts to talk about revenue enhancement,” Rep. Naifeh complained. “That’s what we need to at least explore.”

Nope, no one has the guts or backbone, not the Republicans and not the Democrats. But it’s pretty irresponsible to view your “rainy day fund” as budgetary fat.

People are so disconnected from the services that government provides that no one notices the hypocrisy of fiscal conservatives calling for ballot initiatives over stuff like English Only and do we need a new convention center. You know, that’s all very well and good but it costs money to open up the polling places and count all of those votes. Who’s gonna pay for it?

Conventional wisdom holds that tax increases during a recession are a sure way to prolong the misery. Maybe now isn’t the time, but eventually we’re going to have to repeal those Bush tax cuts which helped no one but the super wealthy. Didn’t see any of that trickle down over the past eight years, either.

Yesterday I heard Thom Hartmann advocate a 50% tax on people making $3 million+. Rather than hurt “small businesses,” he said, it would actually grow the middle class because business owners would funnel their profits back into their businesses instead of taking home big salaries to be spent on European vacations and yachts.

Here’s a handy-dandy chart of Top U.S. Federal marginal income tax rate from 1913 to 2009:

Our tax rates are among the lowest they’ve been in the past 100 years. Are people better off? No. Has the “Laffer Curve” fulfilled its promise of increasing revenue? No it has not. Instead we’re cutting safety inspections of school buses, using up our rainy day funds, and talking about cancelling elections because governments can’t afford them.

It’s time for someone to be a grown up and talk about what it means to operate a state budget without a safety net.

Comments Off on >Drowning In The Bathtub

Filed under budget, Nashville, taxes, Tennessee government

>Energy Saved Is Energy Found

>This should be a no-brainer, but since conservation doesn’t fill Big Oil’s bank account, it’s no surprise that the Bush Administration has been dragging its feet. But the states aren’t waiting; look what Maryland did yesterday:

MARYLAND LEGISLATION TAPS ENERGY EFFICIENCY AS THE “FIRST FUEL”

Washington, D.C.—Maryland’s legislators gave final approval this week to two landmark energy bills that together aim to reduce the state’s energy consumption by 15% by 2015.  The legislation, proposed by Governor Martin O’Malley, sets the stage for Maryland to become a leader in capturing the benefits of energy efficiency.

“These two bills provide a foundation for a clean and sustainable energy future for the state of Maryland,” said Steven Nadel, Executive Director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). “Maryland’s policies now recognize energy efficiency as the ‘first fuel’ for meeting its future energy needs.

A study released in February by ACEEE evaluated a suite of energy efficiency policies for Maryland and found that more than enough energy efficiency resources exist in the state to meet Governor O’Malley’s ambitious 15 by ’15 goal, and confirmed that reducing electricity consumption is the quickest, cheapest, and cleanest way for policymakers to bring consumer bills down and keep the lights on in the state.

OK, 15% doesn’t sound like much but it’s a great start.

Tennessee isn’t going to be left behind, either. I read that Tennessee’s House passed an energy conservation bill yesterday (though there’s been precious little information about this bill printed in the media). More to the point, Gov. Bredesen has called for a comprehensive state energy policy. This is something we desperately need, since the government is the largest energy consumer in the state, and apparently it’s an energy hog. State Senator Rosalind Kurita made an interesting revelation:

The Clarksville Democrat said she wants to be able to turn off the lights in her state office when she’s not there.

“It’s ridiculous that you cannot turn a light off in the Legislative Plaza. In our office the lights are on 24 hours a day. That defies logic, and we’re going to fix that.

“That is a wanton waste of energy.”

I did not know that you cannot turn a light off in Legislative Plaza. How absolutely insane! And while we’re doing energy audits, let’s get Metro on board, too.

People, this just makes sense. A kilowatt saved is a kilowatt earned. Energy efficiency is a “first fuel.” It’s time we all got on board this bandwagon.

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Filed under energy conservation, Gov. Bredesen, Tennessee government