Wednesday, April 30, 2008
While we can't be sure the bill is dead until the session ends next month, the state's GLBT community can rest a little easier this week.
A combination of intense contact with legislators and a hefty fiscal note attached to the bill gave it an uphill climb.
The ACLU wants a reply to the complaint by Friday, May 9th. See links to story for more info and video.
Update: The Commercial Appeal also has a story in this morning's paper.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Monday, April 28, 2008
The worst are House Majority Leader Gary Odom, Sen. Michael Williams, Sen. Ray Finney, Rep. Mike Turner, and Sen. Ophelia Ford. Rep. Henry Fincher gets "dishonorable mention."
Explaining their criteria, they write: "As litmus for determining the selections, BusinessTN sticks to legislative stances clearly identified as good or bad for business...Lastly, BusinessTN heavily weights a lawmaker's actual ability to have a positive or negative effect on the state's business climate."
But when you read the individual entries you realize that things are a bit slippery. When discussing Lt. Governor Ramsey, the piece says, "Ramsey and his Senate Republican majority has hiccuped on a pro-business agenda from time to time stemming mainly from their conservative stances on social issues." They cite his opposition to pre-K expansion, which enhances "workforce development." Um, what about his strong support for the marriage discrimination amendment, which makes the state less welcoming to GLBT people? Think that's not an issue? Talk to someone in Nissan H.R. about the kind of questions they got about Tennessee from management employees when it was announced that the corporate headquarters was moving here.
On the other side of the aisle and in the other chamber, Speaker Naifeh is praised for helping get the tobacco tax hike passed even though it's (a) a tax, which is generally a bad word at BusinessTN and (b) a tax targeting a business with important ties to the state. But since it was done in the interest of "the state's workforce development needs," it's all right. Huh? Maybe he did it purely for the health interests of people.
Even more confusing than the descriptions of the "best" are the droppings the piece leaves on the "worst." The only real anti-business tag they can stick to Gary Odom is his interest in regulating for-profit colleges, which the magazine describe as "important to Tennessee's workforce." In fact, they go on to describe him as "previously viewed as unfriendly to business, Odom has repaired that reputation..." The rest of the section on the House Majority Leader is a series of petty attacks on political issues that have nothing to do with the criteria the magazine set out for its picks. It's just character assassination.
Furthermore, this idea of workforce development is used to justify policies that are directly anti-business in the near-term. It's curious how some investments in workers are seen as visionary, whereas raising the minimum wage (their swipe at Mike Turner) and improving the workers compensation process for...yes, workers (those people BusinessTN seems so interested in "developing")...are perceived as anti-business. Besides, there is a legimitate debate as to whether a rising mimimum wage hurts economic growth, as this Wall Street Journal piece points out. Those who directly benefit from it are the ones most likely to spend the money locally.
I think where this piece stumbles in the end is that it starts with criteria based on the common perception of what is and is not pro-business and then loosely applies these criteria while taking detours into issues that are not business related. It would have been more helpful if they had given us their understanding of what is good for the business climate in Tennessee in an introductory essay and then looked at the voting records and power of those legislators they wished to feature.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
"I know the people of Obion, Lake and Dyer counties are why this place is the greatest place in the greatest state in the greatest nation on earth."
He sounds like a politician to me.
Friday, April 25, 2008
...citizens recently have expressed their desire to see the branch once again active and engaged in local affairs as an advocate and watchdog for their civil rights.
The event was sponsored by the Tennessee Equality Project Foundation.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
You can read the entire report here at their site. TCPR is providing a valuable service in keeping a close watch on government spending. At a time when there is inadequate funding for social services, we have to subject the budget to this level of scrutiny. But that doesn't mean the report is without some troubling quirks.
Interestingly, the report attacks funding of the arts, in particular plays and films that deal with sexual themes. This sex-baiting is unfortunate. Even if a few productions or films lacked merit, the report focuses on the ones with sexual themes. They don't mention the ones that apparently (if they liked any of them) possessed artistic merit. The effect is to cast doubt on all state funding on the arts, which is counterproductive to our state's economic development. The North Carolina Arts Council notes that in "2006 arts industry wages alone infused more than $3.9 billion into North Carolina’s economy, according to research by Regional Technology Strategies (RTS)."
It might be helpful if TCPR suggested a review of arts funding criteria rather simply use sex to whip taxpayers into a frenzy about government spending.
"I was struck by an interesting story that came out of Memphis, Tennessee," the president said in his speech. "Ten years ago private donors gave approximately $15 million to the church in Memphis to help revive Catholic schools in the city's poorest neighborhoods. Assets exist; they're worried about them going away. So rather than just watch schools close, somebody -- individuals -- did something about it by putting up $15 million.
"With the seed money, the diocese launched the Jubilee Schools initiative, and reopened Catholic schools that had been shuttered, actually in some cases, for decades. Today, 10 Jubilee schools serve more than 1,400 students. Eighty-one percent of these children are not Catholic; nearly 96 percent live at or below poverty level….
A frustrating situation. They probably did violate the law, but in this case it seems to be hampering their ability to provide an effective check on other branches of government. A thousand instances of history provide justification for the sunshine law, but is there a price that we're paying in weakening representative bodies? Then again, there are probably perfectly easy means for dealing with such issues without violating the spirit or letter of the law.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Most of the time, this injustice never directly touched me, and it was easier for me to be fair and emotionally detached from both sides of the story.
But now the Executive Committee for the Faculty Senate - with advice from lawyers in high places - has once again mangled the will of students, and the sexual orientation amendment isn't on the agenda for Tuesday's meeting.
One member of the committee said religious students may be offended by codifying the university's position against discrimination. A lofty and powerful visitor to their meeting said UTM is opening itself up to lawsuits. Others said discrimination against gays is simply not a problem on this campus.
Does this rhetoric sound like a progressive college campus, or is this - despite what I was told as a prospective high school senior - yet another example of the intolerance the South is so noted for?
Campuses should be open and accepting to all viewpoints and walks of life; even if my path of gay vegetarianism offends your frail moral sensibilities, I should still be given human respect.
Fairness also includes keeping your word.
To that end, administrators should not mislead - intentionally or accidentally - students into making decisions with their money, or anything else.
I hope the SGA will continue to effectively challenge administrators to maintain fairness, and I hope SGA will be accountable to itself to be effective.
Here's the mention of Tennessee:
Proposed legislation in Tennessee would prohibit non-married couples from adopting children. The Senate committee working on that chamber’s version of the bill has been deferring action on the legislation since it was introduced to the committee. No action has been taken on the House version of the bill since it was introduced to a subcommittee.
At the request of the Tennessee Equality Project, a state gay rights group, HRC has paid for lobbyists to help defeat the bills.
The last sentence is inaccurate. TEP made a funding proposal to HRC to fund our existing activities, which include lobbying. We have one and only one lobbyist.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
In 2008, the average Tennessee family will spend close to $5,000 on gas.
“A fellow told me last night he spent more than $90 to fill up his pickup,” Padgett said. “Remember when gas was $1.24 a gallon? That was the average cost before took office.
“Americans expect their leaders to try to fix the problems that make life tough. But when an energy bill came up in the Senate last December to enforce better mileage and develop other energy sources, , and other Republicans threatened to scuttle it.
“Why? Because it would have ended some of the huge tax breaks going to the oil industry. Only when that part of the bill – along with some of theHis opponent Bob Tuke doesn't say a great deal about energy policy on his site, so I've signed up for his email updates. Tuke does mention the rising gas prices but mainly with respect to its impact upon family budgets. funding – was taken out did they agree to let it go through."
Senator Alexander recently wrote about energy policy from the point of view of TVA's efforts to find clean energy source to reduce our dependence on coal. Yesterday he spoke about the importance of setting aside more land for parks as a viable form of conservation. In particular, he addresses the Gulf of Mexico Security Act of 2006, which takes oil and natural gas production royalties and devotes them to the Land and Water Conservation Fund. I'm not sure how that addresses the price of gas, but I'd be happy for someone to post and make the connection.
So basically, all three candidates have noticed the price of gas is going up. Padgett, so far, has the clearest message on why that should be a liability for one of his opponents. Whether any of the three candidates can match some concrete policy to the "Gee, gas prices are too high" rhetoric remains to be seen.
“This is business,” said Ed Hearn, owner of the downtown Tallan Cellar, the restaurant where the Democratic JFK Club meets each month. “I’ll take anybody who wants to come in.”
Mr. Snodgrass's death has contributed to the postponing of legislative committee meetings this week. Senate Judiciary, which was to have taken up the adoption measure today, is going to meet next week. In theory, the upcoming meeting is the last one and will be a decisive moment in the adoption battle.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Most commentators seem to be focusing on the testiness of the exchange and Briley's comment that the bill is one of the most "anti-child" bills he's ever seen.
What I think will be of interest to the GLBT community and what may be of interest to conservatives is the pass that premarital (straight) sex gets while some legislators on the Right continue to look for ways to draw bills limiting GLBT rights. Consider Rep. Campfield's HB2997 which would prohibit instruction in human sexuality other than heterosexuality in grades K-8.
How does this pass for premarital sex fit with the cluster of family values and abstinence only education?
Sen. Paul Stanley's bill banning adoption by unmarried cohabiting couples in a sexual relationship is at least more consistent with family values discourse, though no more palatable.
“Why do liberals have all the good movies?” he asked.
Called the Conservative Media Project, the effort could have its epicenter in Chattanooga.
And it all can be done in Chattanooga, Mr. Owens said.
“We have the resources right here,” he said.
Hat tip to H.G. for this one.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Interestingly enough, neither side is talking about the adoption bill--perhaps because the main movement has been in the Senate Judiciary committee over the last few weeks. The Republicans lead with discussions of the death penalty ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, while the Democrats are focused on economic issues. Both updates address the issue of long-term care legislation.
Objectively, it looks pretty bad for the park. But why does something tell me the developers have a miracle in their pocket and will end up getting the deal? Stay tuned.
Alexander said Ingram is a good manager who hires talented people, assigns them to jobs that fit and then creates an environment in which they like to work. "That leaves me free to focus on being a good governor or senator," he said.
Ingram has never tried to act like he's the one who was elected, Alexander said, but "we work side by side. I don't consider him in a subordinate role. And I think people who work with us understand that, and it makes us much more effective in what we do."
"In states that permit partisan elections, like Texas, Wisconsin and Mississippi, the process can be appalling. It is so bad that John Grisham has written a novel about it.
Special interests line up on each side, usually with doctors, big business and insurance companies on one, and plaintiff lawyers and unions on the other. It becomes a spending donnybrook full of misleading and negative advertising. It forces judges into the uncomfortable position — for some — of raising money from those who appear in their courts.
If ordinary citizens think justice goes to the highest bidder, they may be dead right."
Friday, April 18, 2008
Then she addresses the Scene's blog readers with this nugget: "Just because Jeff Woods looks like a mean Asian trannie and doesn't listen like ACK and look deeply into your wordpress or whatever doesn't mean we can't have a meaningful relationship."
We'll be the first to admit that a sense of humor helps us all navigate the waters of Tennessee politics, but "a mean Asian trannie?" With comments like that coming from progressives, it's no wonder we can't get the birth certificate change bill passed in Tennessee. That bill has otherwise been admirably covered by P.J. Tobia in the pages of the Scene and in its blog.
It's not political correctness; it's called not piling on a group that gets kicked all the time as it is.
Briley says if Bredesen wants the Judicial Selection Commission to have open meetings, then the governor should allow his personal deliberations and interviews when picking a judge to be open as well.
“My point was — the governor can’t have his cake and eat it too,” Briley said. “If it’s open, it’s open.”
The piece also covers the role of the Lt. Governor and the Speaker of the House in developing judicial nominees.
Finally, there is a summary of the Legislature's move to change civil service rules to protect DCS caseworker jobs in light of federal funding changes. The Governor thinks some layoffs may be needed, but primarily in the administrative ranks.
"What makes Herron's bill appealing is that he already has answered the constitutionality question. He has gotten an opinion from the state attorney general confirming the bill's constitutionality. That means school systems should be able to offer the course, using the guidelines to be developed, without fear of being sued.
Another good thing about Herron's bill is that it provides clarity to an often murky and emotional issue. It would create a workable framework for talking about the Bible in school, something people in Tennessee want to do and have been trying to do with mixed results for years.
There's no doubt the Bible is a valuable education tool, even outside of church. Herron is right in his assertion that it is one of the most important books in history. It has influenced countless people for two millennia in areas as diverse as art, music and philosophy. Students deserve to learn about that influence."
Despite opposition from the Governor and the State Treasurer, the NAACP is backing Sen. Tim Burchett's (R-Knoxville) bill that require the state pension plan to divest in companies that have business ties to Sudan.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Here's what Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mike Padgett had to say about Sen. Lamar Alexander's advocacy of the flat tax in a press release today:
“Take the few folks who make more than $350,000 a year. A flat rate would cut their tax bill in half,” Padgett said. “What do the folks in the middle get? A slight change in their taxes and an easier form to fill out.”
said earlier this week that he liked the idea of an optional 17 percent flat tax on individuals and businesses, and he touted the simplicity of having only a one-page form to fill out.
“Ifwere serious about lifting some of the load off of the working class, he would not have voted at least a dozen times to block tax cuts that were targeted for middle- and lower-income taxpayers,” Padgett said.
“What about tax cuts that would really make a difference in the working family’s budget – a tuition tax credit equal to 50 percent of college costs, for example, or a first-time homeowner tax credit? How about doubling the tax credit for child-care expenses?
“How do you pay for them? You REDUCE the tax breaks we are giving the biggest earners instead of EXPANDING them, asPadgett doesn't mention his Democratic primary opponent Bob Tuke in his release. He's clearly running against Alexander already. This allows him to show contrast without increasing Tuke's name recognition. ’s flat tax would do."
On his website, Tuke, says, "I will vote to repeal parts of the Bush tax cuts that favor wealthy Americans, and sponsor legislation that will give tax relief to middle-class Americans. I will remove existing tax incentives that make it too easy for American businesses to ship American jobs overseas." Additionally, Tuke has this piece on Alexander's flat tax proposal at Huffington Post. He pulls no punches with this section:
"Senator Alexander this is your chance to put me in my place. Prove to me this isn't an election year gimmick.
Better yet, let's schedule a public meeting to discuss it. Bring your plan. We will invite the media and have a calm chat about your plan.
I'm calling your bluff. I want to see your hole card."
I didn't find much about the flat tax on Alexander's candidate site. That doesn't mean it's not there. It's just not one of the obvious features of how he's identifying himself on the site. But his press release about the proposal is easily found at his official Senate site.
Tuke's strategy is interesting. Having a piece at Huffington Post will help his name recognition nationally and perhaps in Tennessee's urban areas and may even help national fundraising. But the race is in Tennessee, after all. Padgett's focus on Tennessee media and plain spokenness should be an asset with voters. I have to give Tuke credit, too, for the forcefulness with which he raised questions in his piece. If Padgett's release and Tuke's piece are a preview to what might happen in debates with Alexander, then I think either Democratic candidate will score some points.
Still, either will have to be careful because Alexander is well loved in Tennessee and his pleasant, calm demeanor can be disarming and make an opponent look angry. We've seen the dangers of the word "bitter" in the presidential debate. While it's hazardous to classify voters as bitter, it's a good word to tag your opponent with if it sticks.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
I suppose that they can't remember this hate incident last year on campus in which anti-gay threats were written on the West Tennessee campus sidewalks during the Day of Silence.
The policy change could still come up at the faculty senate meeting on April 22.
Here is a list of colleges and universities that have inclusive nondiscrimination policies.
Interesting story out of Oklahoma about how Rep. Sally Kern's anti-gay comments are giving a company second thoughts about relocating to the state. This is the kind of argument we've got to make clearer to Tennessee's Legislature. It provides an additional compelling reason to kill negative bills and set a more inclusive climate.
The District 7 Republican Primary for this seat will be interesting to watch this election year. Blackburn faces a serious challenger - Tom Leatherwood, Shelby County Register of deeds. Bad news like this will put Blackburn on the defence.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
The Post reports that incumbents were easily reelected to the Murfreesboro City Council with some new members of the city's school board. Earlier reports in the Daily News Journal indicated a low voter turnout.
Term limits for school board members failed 21 to 14. The discussion about the connection of terms limits to the will of the people of Davidson County, campaign spending, and different aspects of democracy actually wasn't too bad.
Overall, the tone of the meeting was jovial. Vice Mayor Neighbors only once had to remind a member not to make things "personal," which the member assured everyone he wasn't doing.
The proposal will still go before the Rutherford County Commission in one month. I've heard a rumor that the City of Murfreesboro may try to annex more land if the County doesn't approve the move.
No word yet on the Attorney General's opinion that Rep. Donna Rowland (R-Murfreesboro) has requested.
UT isn't saying much at this point.
Yesterday, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean signed into law the non-discrimination bill for minority contracts. The bill's goal is to give women and racial and ethnic minorities more access to Metro contacts. There will possibly be a follow-up story as soon as tomorrow in the City Paper on the omission of GLBT businesses from the law.
The privilege tax would only affect those who work inside but live outside Shelby County. To sweeten the deal, Shelby County residents would see a decrease in county property taxes. The privilege tax would have to be approved by the General Assembly.
These new taxes are sure signs that citizens and governments are feeling the pain of economic downturn.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Inside you'll find some interesting items such as an extended discussion of the Sommet Center/Predators deal. There's also a resolution on the date of the Mayor's State of Metro address and several resolutions on Metro's acceptance of a variety of grants. Two of the more curious entries are resolutions allowing the "Trial Lawyers Institute, Inc., doing business as Riverfront Tavern" (huh?) to put in a neon sign and a resolution letting the police department accept a Tennessee Walking Horse named "Superior Candidate." Will the "neighs" have it on that last item? You'll have to tune in to find out.
Padget may have found the one place where it's almost universally accectable to talk about class--the needs of our troops and veterans. Evoking Jim Webb is a smart move, too, given that unconventional Democrat's ability to win in the conservative Commonwealth of Virginia. I wonder whether such connections will have resonance in upper East Tennessee along the Virginia border where Webb commercials no doubt flooded the airwaves during the last senatorial election.
I am a little surprised that Bob Tuke, the other Democrat in the race, hasn't made more of the issue. As a veteran, he'd surely agree with Padgett, but it appears Padgett got to it first (as far as I can tell) and staked out the ground.
“What I would really hope is that several years down the road, we wouldn’t need to have a PFLAG Tri-Cities,” she said. “I don’t think that’s particularly realistic, given the time in which we live in. But I really would like to see a larger, vibrant organization that would be able to advocate in the community for all people; that perhaps we would not just be focusing on creating a supportive community, but we might be able to advocate for change in how things are done in the community and perhaps some legalized discrimination could be made illegal.”
I think that's exactly right. Creating a supportive community lays a good foundation for legislative change. They're on the right track.
John Rodgers tracks Bill Frist's travels around the state to community events like Columbia's Mule Days (we don't know whether he was at Rep. Tom Dubois's notorious party) and Republican fundraising events. Yes, he's acting like he's running for governor in 2010.
The state's GLBT community will remember Frist as a strong proponent of the Federal Marriage (Discrimination) Amendment. He also declared marriage a "sacrament" even though he's Presbyterian and that Church teaches that only Baptism and the Eucharist are sacraments.
The Commercial Appeal provides a good overview of the major legislation pending in the Legislature and discusses the chances for some legislation in light of lower March revenue. There is no mention of the adoption bill with its $4.5 Million fiscal note. It's a shame, too, considering that the two sponsors are from the Memphis area.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
That's what the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal says. They include a little advice for the Legislature: "At this point, they'd better think about dramatic cuts or tapping into the rainy day fund that Bredesen forced them to build up last year."
A Jackson Sun profile of the candidates running to replace John Wilder in the Senate (D-Mason). Whoever wins may tip the balance between Democrats and Republicans in the closely divided Senate. A big turnout by Democrats in the presidential election may help Democrat Randy Camp, who was Wilder's chief of staff.
So far the rhetoric is about who is more conservative...or at least conservative enough for the district. Camp and a possible Republican opponent Rep. Delores Gresham (R-Somerville) have weighed in so far.
Here are the relevant quotations:
"I'm a conservative Democrat," Camp said. "I don't think being a Republican or a Democrat makes that much difference to people if they've got good conservative representation."
Gresham, a former Marine, said her experience will show she is capable of bringing strong representation to the district. She promised to work to improve education and battle against legalized abortion.
"Conservative principles and voting record will resonate with those who look into it," Gresham said. "I look forward to the campaign, I look forward to building a relationship with the people of the 26th district, and I look forward to a great summer."
Floyd's nod to Vincent puts him at odds with the House Republican leadership who are backing Rep. Jim Cobb (R-Spring City) in the race. Rep. Jason Mumpower (R-Bristol) and Rep. Glen Casada (R-College Grove) are among those who wrote to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in support of Cobb.
With all the members of the General Assembly retiring and with contested primaries, we should look for huge changes in the 106th session.
The AP has picked up a story that originally ran as a WSMV I-Team report. I had the misfortune of seeing the original on the news. Basically, we're being whipped into a frenzy because a few state workers are spending a lot of time editing Wikipedia entries.
In a year with budget shortfalls, there certainly is at least an appearance issue here. And it also looks as if some of the employees did violate state internet use policies. However, I think it's important to ask in specific cases whether the violators were getting their work done well and on time. The other question is whether the work of state employees is being adequately managed. Are there departments that don't have enough work to do? And aren't there probably departments that are overworked?
All this is troubling in a year in which we face the spectre of no raise or almost no raise for state employees. But I think the issues would be present even if no state employees ever visited Wikipedia.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
"We track the deals, people and innovations that are making the green industry the phenomenon of our age. We aim to help entrepreneurs, growth-company executives and the business community in general understand green trends, identify up-and-coming companies and, ultimately, be more successful."
Additionally, one of their bullet points will appeal to political watchers. They tell us we can "count on" this section to: "Keep an eye on government debates, legislation, regulation, court decisions — anything green-related that affects business."
It should prove to be a good resource and it shows that at least talking about the greening of industry is unavoidable even if the practices can be circumvented.
Friday, April 11, 2008
The Atlanta Dream women's basketball team were doing some face-to-face marketing among Lady Vols fans covered in orange at a midtown Atlanta lesbian hangout. It's refreshing to see in the South. Can you imagine the Titans or the Predators showing up at Tribe or Play? Hey, maybe it's already happened. It's great to see the recognition of a GLBT fan base in sports. With former pros like John Amaechi coming out, maybe we're getting closer to bridging the gap between men's sports and gay male fans.
The GLBT community has to keep a large part of our focus on the political process so long as we experience legal discrimination. But we'd be foolish to deny that the cultural arena shapes our political possibilities. Until it's no longer an issue to be out in sports, ministry, country music, the military, or whatever area of life, we will be playing catch up politically.
Opinion piece in today's Tennessean from the Homeless Power Project on the connection between a living wage and the ability to afford basic shelter. A day's pay should be able to pay for three days of shelter if a person is going to be able to get by, argues Patricia Bryant.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force released a study in late 2006 on GLBT homeless youth and found that of "the estimated 1.6 million homeless youth, between 20 and 40 percent identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender..." http://www.thetaskforce.org/reports_and_research/homeless_youth . The realities of coming out and discrimination coupled with substandard wages creates a deep pit for GLBT youth from which few emerge with the start they need as they begin their adult lives.
Tri-Cities news site asks readers what their plans are to observe the anniversary of the murders at Virginia Tech.
School safety is becoming such a broad, multi-faceted issue across the country. At times, it seems to unite conservatives and liberals. Consider the anti-bullying bill that was debated in the Georgia Legislature this year that was introduced by a conservative but backed by Georgia Equality. At other times, it brings out widely different perspectives. A prime example is the bill that was debated this year in the Tennessee Legislature that would have allowed some to carry weapons on college campuses. The Virginia Tech murders were explicitly cited. And while these acts of brutality touch all Americans in some way, it seems that the impact was particularly felt in East Tennessee.
We should welcome the growing focus on the safety of students, whether in our elementary or secondary schools or in higher education institutions. It is the kind of substantive issue that is worth the debate, the time, and whatever funds we can allocate.
Rep. Joe Towns (D-Memphis is running for the 9th congressional seat. But why? His petition had some discrepancies, but they've been cleared up. Apparently he didn't campaign too hard for the seat last time he ran, and he is unopposed for his state House seat.
The GLBT community around the state mostly knows Rep. Towns as the chair of House K-12 that has handed two defeats to Rep. Stacey Campfield's bill banning any instruction in sexuality other than heterosexuality in grades K-8 in our state's public schools.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
There's a whole month of activities surrounding minority health, but the state doesn't seem to recognize that the GLBT community has specific health issues.
Granted, there are events and activities focused on the HIV/AIDS crisis which has profoundly affected our community. But that is not the only health disparity we face and it is not one that only affects our community.
I think we pretty much got erased again.
I think there are two issues. He wants his picks actually picked, rather just part of pool from which others make their selections. And, of course, he'd like to see more conservatives on the bench. Not surprisingly, Democrats largely think the process is just fine.
What great representatives of Tennessee!
Developers argue rather strangely that the park is not religious in the sense that anyone--religious or not--can visit the park. Um, the last time I checked, almost anyone can visit a worship service about anywhere in the state. I've certainly attended worship services in cases in which I was not an adherent of that tradition. Does that mean they're not religious?
The park will feature scenes of the Crucifixion, the "Rapture," etc.
Former Metro Council member and former Nashville Scene publisher Chris Ferrell is buying the City Paper. His company also owns Nashville Post. The plan is to beef up the web presence of the City Paper and publish a print edition on Mondays and Fridays. The obvious questions about whether the new model can make money have been raised. The Scene's piece in Pith in the Wind also raises important political coverage questions. The City Paper and Nashville Post provide some of the best political coverage in the state (along with the Chattanooga Times Free Press). There are no plans to axe the editors of either who are highly focused on state and local political news.
The City Paper has been a reliable source for coverage of publicly relevant GLBT stories over the last few years. Their editorials have also been generally supportive of our community seeing negative legislation for what it is--a diversion and divisiveness.
Nashville's GLBT community will remember Ferrell as one of the champions of the failed non-discrimination ordinance that would have protected Metro employees on the basis of sexual orientation, though not gender identity. Chris has been a reliable friend to the community and his support goes back at least to the early nineties during his days at Vanderbilt Divinity School where he and I were both students at the same time.
I admit that I will miss picking up my copy of the City Paper every week day, but a heftier version on Mondays and Fridays will certainly be welcome. Best of luck, Chris!
A hat tip to Jerry Jones for making me aware of the story.
Here's hoping that the LIA "ministry" struggles to survive without Smid.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
The other piece is Liz Garrigan's column in this week's Nashville Scene titled "Phil, We Need to Talk: A public breakup with Tennessee's governor." http://www.nashvillescene.com/Stories/Columns/Garrigan/2008/04/10/Phil_We_Need_to_Talk/
She specifically mentions his silence on the adoption bill in the Legislature. She has called him out on this issue before.
It's one thing for a journalist to call out an official, of course. It's another thing for a minority community trying to win friends or at least not make new enemies. That still doesn't absolve us from being confrontational sometimes.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Regardless, support TEC if you can. They're doing great work. Their annual Green Tie Affair is coming up and you find out more here: http://www.tectn.org/greentie_home.htm
The bill attempting to ban those notorious commercials seems to have died again. No one ever mentions the Guys Gone Wild Commercials on Logo. Oh, well.
It advanced in the House today. We're not promised lower rates, as the AT&T commercials have been advertising would come with competition. But we may get a slower growth in rates. I guess that's right up there with those rare days when gas goes down a penny a gallon.
Here's what the Governor had to say: "Gov. Phil Bredesen called the bill 'equally distasteful to all parties, which is always a good sign.'" Equally distasteful to all...I suppose that's the new standard for legislation. It's not exactly the compliment that Speaker Naifeh was probably looking for.
Tennessee experienced a major shortfall in revenues in March. This is terrible news. It will affect thousands of families across Tennessee who desperately need state programs to get by in our steadily worsening economy. It means that state employees probably won't even get the less than cost-of-living adjustments to their wages.
In light of the deepening budget crisis, it is baffling that some in the Legislature continue to push an adoption ban with a $4.5+ Million fiscal note. Here it is. Read it and hope it sinks into the minds of the members of the Senate Judiciary committee: http://www.legislature.state.tn.us/bills/currentga/Fiscal/HB3713.pdf
Bruce Barry blogs about the bill here: http://blogs.nashvillescene.com/pitw/2008/04/regression_to_the_mean.php
And here's a link to the WSMV story on the bill in which our own Marisa Richmond is interviewed:
Monday, April 7, 2008
Read it here: http://blogs.nashvillescene.com/pitw/2008/04/bob_is_a_nice_guy_but.php
It looks as if we might see an end to those awful and constant commercials about the cable bill. Lawmakers announced a compromise today that includes stiff penalties for violations. The bill should be heard tomorrow. Stay tuned.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Since the Senate sponsor, Sen. Paul Stanley (R-Germantown), sits on the Judiciary Committee, there is a good chance the bill will pass in that committee. But the Tennessee Equality Project is still urging our members to contact the members of the committee and urge them to oppose the bill. With a high fiscal note, the bill will probably stall in the Senate Finance, Ways & Means Committee. And there remain opportunities to stop it in the House, but let's stop it sooner than later.
The bill doesn't just affect the GLBT community. It affects any unmarried, cohabiting couple.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
The Georgia anti-bullying bill didn't make it to the floor of the House for a vote on the final day of the session.
"What we're hearing is they are definitely playing politics with each other and not getting much done," Georgia Equality Political Director Kyle Bailey said. "They’re just not going to let it go the floor, and it's not because of an association with Georgia Equality. It is just because it’s not a priority for them. They're working on tax cuts, education, and other issues, and our issue just isn't a priority for them."
Whatever it takes to walk down the road to hatred, Cleveland came face to face with the outcome recently, and it's left the community sick at their collective stomach. The spray paint on the side of those homes is a disgusting sight that could be a sign that we've shot backwards a good 100 years or so. Or it could be a sign that ignorance has hit a select few right between the eyes. Is there any other way such an act could have come to fruition?
The worst part is what an incident like this could do to a weak community. One group of people suddenly becomes afraid of the other, and both begin to look over their shoulders a bit more. Whereas trust in one's neighbors used to exist in full bloom, it has now been replaced with fear and skepticism. No one can trust anyone else, because that someone else could be out to get you.http://www.bradleyweekly.com/news.cfm?id=6228&issue=333 for the rest.
It's an important reminder that hate crimes are not merely acts of vandalism committed by individuals against individuals. Hate crimes target minorities and affect an entire community. They sew distrust and fear. And they can happen anywhere, from charming small towns to cosmopolitan, "progressive" cities. They provide opportunities for communities to come together across differences and say, "This is not who we are or want to be."
The Murfressboro Daily News Journal reports that a local bodybuilder has been arrested and more than 300,000 doses of steroids have been confiscated in a scandal that is connected to Middle Tennessee police departments.
I'm amazed that police officers can afford it given how little they are typically paid. But then again the stress of their jobs and the pressure to stay fit is intense, too.
The obvious problem, of course, is that police are charged with enforcing the laws on illegal substances. This sort of scandal can only raise questions about integrity, but it should also raise questions about the drug war and a culture that drives mainly men to seek these enhancements.
Piece includes a full list of candidates a thorough profile of Ms. Mosely.
A piece discusses their annual Lincoln event. Health care, energy, and immigration are mentioned. Where's the discussion of the wedge issues? Where's the emphasis on "family values?" To read the article, you might think the GOP has moved past all that. Of course, the topic could have come up and the article failed to mention it.
Perhaps it didn't come up. Maybe someone who was there will post and answer the question. One hopes that Knox County Republicans are realizing that the strategy of using the GLBT community to divide the state is running out of steam. Then again, it may be that they are continuing to refine the rhetoric in a way that makes it publicly tamer.
Also absent in the article is all the controversy over open meetings and secrecy that is raging in Knox County now. Just yesterday, the Knox County law director issued a new report on whether commissioners violated a judge's ruling on the matter: http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2008/apr/05/report-addresses-sunshine-law-issues/
Friday, April 4, 2008
Interesting. Rep. Campfield has two opponents in his primary. Sen. Woodson does not, but has an opponent in the general election. "Rachel Ray" is running against Rep. Joe Armstrong. Wouldn't it be great if the food diva Rachael (notice the different spelling) Ray moved to Tennessee and ran for the House?
Rep. Harry Tindell and Rep. Harry Brooks have no opposition.
GOP presidential hopeful John McCain has been in Memphis today and actually admitted that he was wrong in opposing the King holiday. http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2008/apr/04/march-begins-festive-mood-under-rainy-skies/
His words are both encouraging and frustrating. He's largely gotten a pass in mainstream media for his opposition to the holiday. And yet his remarks (if more people made them whose past actions were discriminatory) would help move the conversation and hopefully policy forward.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Take this zinger: "Rep. Frank Buck introduces 'Casual Friday/leather Speedo day' in his office..............Legislature is evacuated."
Go to http://lastcar.blogspot.com for the rest. You never know, the Colbert Report might need writers. We'd consider giving a letter of recommendation.
He also mentions the video of Rep. West questioning what an Hispanic Republican is. Sean Braisted, who shot the video, apparently didn't give anyone permission to use it. The video is currently posted at Borges's site. Hmmm.
Maybe Borges will make a lot of the comment, but as Tobia points out, Borges didn't exactly endear himself to the Hispanic community with some of his policy positions the last go-round. Furthermore, even if Rep. West's words were not as aptly chosen as they should have been, isn't it legitimate to ask which party does a better job of representing a minority's interests? Similar questions certainly get raised about gay Republicans. To raise the question, even dismissively, should not preclude someone stepping up and saying, "Well, I'm a Republican for tax issues or national defense issues" or whatever. But I don't think it's wrong per se to raise the question.
Politics is a contact sport and the tough questions are going to come. Why is it that when a question of rhetoric is raised, we lose the policy question that it touches on? If the GLBT community slapped every supportive legislator who called homosexuality a "lifestyle," then we wouldn't have many allies. What I care about is how they vote in committee meetings. We can work on the correct but ever changing terms later.
Looks like a couple of interesting years ahead in the Senate.
Rep. Karen Camper (D-Memphis) is the newest member of the Tennessee House, replacing the late Rep. Gary Rowe. Not long after being sworn in, she was appointed to the House Judiciary committee and the Criminal Practice subcommittee which heard a bill closing the records of those with gun permit. The Speaker and Rep. Camper gave the subcommittee enough votes to kill the bill.
The Jackson Sun's editorial page has the Speaker's back on this one: http://www.jacksonsun.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080403/OPINION/804030301/1014
Jeff Woods has the GOP response: http://blogs.nashvillescene.com/pitw/2008/04/gop_fires_at_naifeh_over_guns.php
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
A piece in Knoxville's Metro Pulse on the effort to find someone Republican or Democrat to run against Sen. Jamie Woodson (R-Knoxville).
Here's the full story: http://www.nashvillecitypaper.com/news.php?viewStory=59359
This bill would allow a person to change the sex designation on his or her birth certificate upon receiving a sworn statement from a medical professional indicating that a person's gender has changed.
We'd like to send a big congratulations to our ally, the Transgender Political Coalition, for all their hard work on lobbying for the bill. We would also like to thank TEP members for generating almost 1000 emails to members of the House and Senate committees charged with deliberating on these bills. The teamwork has been outstanding.
As if there weren't enough drama in Knox County government, a citizen has filed a complaint against Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale for a reimbursement from his campaign funds. Charles Bowers filed the complaint with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance, but the Registry says it hasn't received the complaint yet.
Stuart James, the former chair of the Hamilton County Democratic party will challenge Rep. Joanne Favors (D-Chattanooga) in the Democratic primary. James had previously run against former Rep. Chris Clem in another district. But he just moved from his Signal Mountain home into a new district.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
The City Paper takes a look at the Purcell years. Unfortunately much of the piece focuses on Internal Service Fees (yes, the phrase is capitalized in the story) in Metro government and how tough that made it for Council members to follow spending. Yawn. Do the presence or absence of Internal Service Fees make or break the greatness of a city?
If one were to talk about Purcell's legacy, why not talk about the growth of the neighborhood focus that he either tapped into or unleashed? The number of neighborhood forums that the mayoral candidates had to endure alone should be evidence that something is different and ought to be analyzed.
What about diversity issues? During Purcell's two terms, Nashville saw an amazing increase in our immigrant population--Latino, Kurdish, North African, etc. Did the city put in place structures to make that transition easier or more difficult?
Why not mention a couple of courageous stands he took in his last years like vetoing the English only ordinance or blocking the law that would have restricted the display of niche newspapers in the name of some vague notion of cleaning up clutter? Purcell ended up being something of a First Amendment Mayor. But to talk about that would mean we would have to focus on the substance of policy instead of the Byzantine world of procedures and processes. Ugh.
Of course, in the GLBT community, the debate continues about his legacy on equality issues. On the one hand he appointed staff and members of commissions (including Human Relations) who were out. To his credit, he also didn't try to hinder then Law Director Karl Dean from issuing the opinion that the Human Relations Commission could investigate charges of discrimination based on sexual orientation (the issue of gender identity was not addressed) without the need for a non-discrimination ordinance. But there are also many in our community who maintain that he offered no leadership when the ordinance was being debated in Council, even though he campaigned and raised money vigorously in our community. And I suspect that we will continue to debate that legacy whether the media decides to mention it or not.
That's what Amy Griffin reports in The City Paper. It's already a heavily contested seat. Will Eric Crafton go for it now? If so, he can't simultaneously serve on Metro Council. Interesting days ahead.