Back to Blog: The Governor’s Race

June 7, 2010 - Leave a Response

     Now that the General Assembly is winding dow, I will start turning all of my focus to the upcoming gubernatorial primaries and other big races.  Part of keeping you informed will be updating my blog, since I can’t fit all of the comments from the candidates in the stories you see on air.  Today, I spoke to all of the candidates about 2nd Amendment rights and the controversial “Guns in Bars bill.”

    Here are some of the answers:

Zach Wamp:

Q: If you were governor, would you have signed “Guns in Bars” ?

A: “I believe the Tennessee General Assembly is responding to the will of the people and the Constitution of our state.  So I would have signed the legislation and thanked the General Assembly for making right to carry permits valid across our state because these are law-abiding citizens to go through the training and the schooling to be able to carry a handgun. We have not seen problems with this law. We have had a more secure state with this law.”

Q: 2nd Amendment issues will likely come up if Republicans maintain the majority in the General Assembly, what would be your stance on these issues?

A: “Well I’m a strong 2nd Amendment protector and I have been the 15 years that I’ve been a member of the United States Congress and have basically a 100 percent record on this. Guns are a 2nd Amendment right it’s a constitutional issue and you have to look at the legislation but if the legislation that the General Assembly sends me as governor basically protects people’s right to have and bear arms in this state, then I’m gonna sign the legislation and in this case a right to carry permit statute in Tennessee has been a  good thing, not a bad thing. This is one of those consitutional issues that states need to stand straight and tall on.”

Bill Haslam

Q: If you were governor, would you have signed “Guns in Bars” ?

A: “I would have signed it. Number one, I think permit holders understand they can not consume alcohol and I’m not certain why they can walk into McDonalds but not walk into Chili’s.  Number two, I think it’s important as long as that individual property owner can decide what happens on his or her own property and that restaurant or bar owner can make the determination whether they want people with their carry permits coming inside or not.”

Q: 2nd Amendment issues will likely come up if Republicans maintain the majority in the General Assembly, what would be your stance on these issues?

A: “I think the 2nd Amendment clearly gives the right for individuals to bear arms and the Supreme Court has affirmed that.  As governor, I’ll work to protect that but I think we have some big challenges facing us as a state in terms of the state budget, and continuing some reform in education and primarily focusing on jobs going forward.  As governor you’re going to see me primarily focused on these things, but I will fight to protect people’s 2nd Amendment rights.”

Ron Ramsey:

Q: If you were governor, would you have signed “Guns in Bars” ?

A:  “I’d sign the bill. This is much ado about nothing. We’re the 36th state to adopt a law like this and I’d challenge anyone to find me one documented case where this has been abused. When I carried the gun carry bill in 1997, we saw the same mass hysteria that we’re seeing now, saying that you can’t trust ordinary citizens with a firearm. We have almost 300,000 permit holders now and basically zero problems with them.”

Q: 2nd Amendment issues will likely come up if Republicans maintain the majority in the General Assembly, what would be your stance on these issues?

A: “I may be one of  the biggest proponent of 2nd Amendment rights in the state of Tennessee. I believe in law-abiding citizens having the right to defend themselves, it’s that simple.  When we’re talking about felons having firearms, when we’re talking about crooks with guns I’ll throw the book at them. We need to make sure that law-abiding citizens rights are protected and we do that by making sure that criminals don’t have guns.”

Mike McWherter sent a statement:

Q:If you were governor, would you have signed “Guns in Bars” ?

A: “While I support the rights of gun owners to carry their weapons, there are some situations that are too volatile and unpredictable to allow the introduction of loaded weapons. I would have liked to work with legislators to craft legislation that addressed the difference between taking a gun into an Applebee’s at noon to eat lunch and bringing one into a Honky-tonk at 1 a.m. to start trouble. However, the legislation that Governor Bredesen vetoed did not address common sense safety issues and I am unable to support it.” 

Q: 2nd Amendment issues will likely come up if Republicans maintain the majority in the General Assembly, what would be your stance on these issues?

A: “As a member of the NRA I fully support our 2nd amendment rights and would work to ensure those rights are protected.”


“Race to the Top”…The Real Signing

January 26, 2010 - 2 Responses

   Today, there was pomp and circumstance surrounding the signing of the higher education bill and the “Race to the Top” bill.  However, the governor admitted, because of the “Race to the Top” deadline, he actually signed that bill in a movie theater parking lot. 

Here’s what he said: 

    “The actual signing I have an iPhone picture of somewhere.  It took place in a garage.  Andrea and I were on our way to the movies.  They brought the thing to me and it was signed on the back of a car.  People who were in the parking lot at the time thought it might be a drug deal.” 

I requested the photograph fromLydia Lenker, the governor’s press secretary.  Here it is: 





Special Session Call

January 8, 2010 - Leave a Response

    The governor just sent out his call for a special session.  The worker’s comp issue is in the call, along with all of the education issues we’ve been talking about for a while.  I’ve attached the proclamation.    


John Wilder Passes

January 1, 2010 - Leave a Response

Former Lt. Gov. John Wilder passed away this morning after suffering a stroke earlier in the week.  He was 88.  I am working on a full story for the newscasts, but will post reaction as I get it.

Here is the statement from Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh:

“Governor Wilder was one of the most honest men I have ever known. His integrity and commitment not only to his district, but to the entire state of Tennessee , is a shining example of what it means to be a great leader . When you look up the word statesmen in the dictionary, you’re sure to find John Wilder’s name.  He was a good man.  I’m proud to say he was truly my friend. I had great respect for him and will miss him.”

Here is the full statement:

Naifeh Statement on the Passing of John Wilder

Updates:  I have more quotes from both Senator Joe Haynes and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey:

“I had a long relationship with Governor Wilder. He and I served together in the Senate for 22 years. He was my speaker for 22 years.  I was both for him and against him at that time.  I tried to beat him twice in that time, and couldn’t do it. He and I became friends over the  duration of that and I developed a lot of respect for him. He was well intended.  He thought everything he did, he did for the good of the state of Tennessee.” -Senator Joe Haynes, (D) Goodlettsville.

“The style that he had, trying to bring everyone together and not have partisan politics I think that’s one reason we’re different from what’s going on in Washington right now.  We do all get along in the state Senate and he’ll go down in history, no doubt about that, as someone who made Tennessee a better place to live.” -Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R) Blountville.

Updated with Governor Bredesen, Rep. John Tanner and Sen. Lamar Alexander’s statements.

“Andrea and I were both saddened to hear of John Wilder’s death, and want to express our sympathy and condolences to his family.  I hope they take comfort in reflecting on what a long and productive life he led.

“Gov. Wilder was one of the toughest men I’ve ever known.  A couple of years ago he fell and cut himself at his home and lost a lot of blood before he could get to the hospital.  I visited him in the intensive care unit at the Med, where he couldn’t talk because he still had a ventilator tube in his throat.  That was on Friday; the following Monday he flew his plane back to Nashville.

“While we often agreed on issues, I don’t know that there are two people in Tennessee politics whose political styles are more different than John Wilder’s and mine.  Despite that, or perhaps because of it, we worked together well, we got some things done, and we grew a genuine friendship.  It was a privilege to know this unique Tennessean; I wish it could have been for a longer time.  John always told me that his goal in life was to ‘make a difference’ for his state.  I believe he made it.” –Governor Phil Bredesen

“With Gov. Wilder’s passing, our state and country have lost a most dedicated public servant. I was honored to work alongside John in the Tennessee General Assembly and during my time in Congress. He had a great understanding of the problems facing Tennesseans and a strong willingness to work with others toward bipartisan solutions. Betty Ann and I offer our deepest condolences to the Wilder family and all those who loved and worked with him during his long career.” -Rep. John Tanner, (D) Tennessee.

“John Wilder was a Tennessee institution, the very definition of a gentleman legislator. During the l980s, I saw firsthand how effective he could be when I worked with him on one of his most important contributions, the reorganization of the state board of education.” -Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) Tennessee.

Budget Hearings:Corrections

November 16, 2009 - Leave a Response

The Department of Correction is going to have to cut $52 million.  It said it is now left with only two options to get that savings: Either close a prison or early-release 3,300 convicted felons from local jails.  The state pays for felons that are currently in local jails.  We’re talking about those who have been convicted of class C, D or E felonies.  The example TDOC Commissioner George Little used is a convicted drug dealer.  TDOC would look at early release for these nonviolent offenders who are at the end of their sentences.  In addition, he thinks the recidivism rate for these offenders would be higher, so some of these people would end up back in the system.  He didn’t mince words today, but he says the state is out of options.  Court intervention dating back to the mid-1980s prevents TDOC from crowding the prisons like California has done during these budget times.  Closing a prison, he says, would result in layoffs and possibly destroy a county’s economy.  In addition, most of the prisoners in state custody are usually the more serious offenders.  The governor wasn’t exactly thrilled at the possibility of early release.   He wants to make sure that the state gets the savings it needs to balance the budget if TDOC moves in that direction.

Budget Hearings: Education

November 16, 2009 - Leave a Response

I know I’ve been absent from blogging for awhile, but there’s no better time to start it up again then at the start of budget hearings.  The governor started out saying that there were going to be some very harsh cuts coming up in this budget.  K-12 Education is the first department up.  The governor is always trying to protect the BEP money that goes to fund the basics of education statewide (think teachers, books, classrooms etc.).  Based on the Department of Education’s budget, they are asking for an increase of more than $82 million increase in the BEP inflationary costs.  They are then proposing  cutting personnel in the Department of Education administration, Safe School Grants, K-2 Assessment, 10 percent of the funds to Books from Birth.  That does not include the stimulus money that is going away.  When stimulus money disappears, extended contracts for after-school tutoring will be done, as will school health programs and some professional development.

The governor also asked Commisioner Tim Webb to see if it was possible to ask teachers to step up and help during this budget crisis.  He said he hasn’t cut positions or reduced pay; it may be time to ask teachers to maybe help and continue some of the programs, even if they can’t be paid for them. Gov. Phil Bredesen is also floating the idea, worst-case scenario, that he doesn’t fund the BEP inflationary increase. Webb says that would likely have an impact on personnel in most districts, because the majority of that money goes to fund salaries and benefits.  Finance Commissioner Dave Goetz is also floating the idea of cutting residential services for blind and deaf students.

Stimulus in Tennessee

October 12, 2009 - Leave a Response

   According to a release, the state has created or saved 7,710 jobs through the federal stimulus plan.  Here’s the release:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee has successfully met its first federal reporting requirements for funds that have flowed to or through the state under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The Recovery Act is providing states with more than $246 billion of a total $787 billion made available to create and retain jobs, invest in infrastructure and speed economic recovery.  Tennessee was allocated a total of $5.6 billion; the state reported on $3 billion received and spent by the state through Recovery Act grants. 

 “Our Recovery Act team and state agencies worked literally hundreds of hours toward an unprecedented accomplishment, with no additional staff hired to handle the reporting process,” Deputy Governor John Morgan said. “It’s important to remember the Recovery Act is a two-year program and this is just the first reporting period.  Additional reporting on the use of Recovery Act funds will occur quarterly going forward.”

The state transmitted a total of 310 project reports for the period ending September 30, 2009, via, the central government-wide data collection system. Of those, 258 were for transportation projects alone. The reports represent grants totaling $214.9 million received by 15 state agencies.  The reports reflect 7,710.9 jobs created and retained through September 30 through these funds.

A major component of the Recovery Act is the requirement for an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability so people can see how the funds are being spent.  Specific reporting requirements have been set for government agencies and recipients of Recovery funds to measure progress.  

Federal agencies, prime recipients and sub-recipients are required to submit data within 10 days after the end of each calendar quarter for grants, loans, and federally awarded contracts under the Recovery Act. The first reporting period ended on September 30 and reports were submitted by recipients, including states, between October 1 and October 10, 2009. The next reports will be submitted in January 2010.

 The Section 1512 reporting process includes 99 different data elements. The number of data elements reported per program depends on the fields applicable to the program and varies based on the number of sub-awards and vendors, if any, under that program. The state of Tennessee chose to centralize its reporting to minimize the likelihood of duplications in the data or non-compliance with federal requirements.  The Web site works in conjunction with the Web site. The data submitted to will be reviewed and validated by the funding/awarding agencies from October 11-29 and then those reports and visual representations of the information will be available to the public via  

Recipient contract data will be published on October 15 and recipient grant and loan data will be published on the site on October 30. The data can be viewed online or downloaded in XML format – a standard structure for the transfer of data – for those who want to create their own reports.

The reporting by the State of Tennessee and other states represents only part of the recovery picture. Funds awarded directly to non-state agencies will have been reported by those recipients and their data will also be published on

At one point, the federal government had estimated that about 70,000 jobs would be created in Tennessee through the stimulus plan.  During a Fiscal Review Committee meeting last month, state leaders acknowledged that estimate was “aggressive.”

I’m Back!

September 29, 2009 - Leave a Response

     I know, I’ve been bad.  I have no excuses as to why I stopped blogging for so long.  There has certainly been plenty going on in the wide world of state government.  Several people have approached me over the past few weeks and told me they missed my blogs.   So, I’m back! 

      Today the big news in state government is that Sen. Douglas Henry (D-Nashville) has a primary challenger.  Jeff Yarbro, a local attorney, announced today he is running for the seat.  Here’s the press release:NASHVILLE – Jeff Yarbro, a well-known local attorney and progressive community leader, announced his intention today to run for the 21st district state senate seat. The seat has been held since 1970 by Sen. Douglas Henry.



“Our elected representatives have wasted too much time playing partisan politics in recent years,” said Yarbro. “We won’t end the sideshow politics of recent years without new leaders willing and able to find real solutions to the problems confronting Tennesseans.”


“I believe my background in law and policy, and my extensive volunteer work with people from all walks of life in the Nashville community make me uniquely qualified to serve the people of the 21st district.”


Yarbro is an attorney at Bass, Berry & Sims. He serves on the board of Nashville’s Metropolitan Transit Authority and is an education adviser to Mayor Karl Dean. He has worked with educators in Nashville’s public schools to reform and re-design the district’s high schools, and to involve Nashville-area businesses in public education initiatives.


Previously, he served as a campaign aide for Al Gore’s presidential campaign and for Harold Ford, Jr.’s campaign for U.S. Senate. A native of Dyersburg, Tenn., Yarbro graduated from Harvard University and the University of Virginia Law School.


He and his wife Tyler live in Sylvan Park with their young son and attend Christ Church Cathedral, where they teach Sunday School to high school students. Yarbro has served as a tutor at Antioch Middle School, and has been an active volunteer with St. Luke’s Community House, the Red Cross, and Room In The Inn.


Of course, this has been the talk of the political blogs all day.  Here is how Henry fared in the 2006  elections, courtesy of the Davidson County election commission:


November 2006 General

D. Henry(D)-36,200 votes

B. Krumm (R)-18,521 votes


August 2006 Primary

D. Henry-8568 votes

G. Pennington-2124 votes

Stanley, Morrison and Everything Else I’ve Neglected to Write About for Two Weeks

August 3, 2009 - 2 Responses

Normally, I would have been updating this blog routinely with the news that Sen. Paul Stanley (R-Germantown) had been having an affair with his legislative intern, the ensuing alleged extortion plot, etc. Please know, the reason I haven’t updated the blog is because I have spent every second of my time working to get information and interviews on the air.

I had the opportunity to interview McKensie Morrison, the 22-year-old former intern at the center of this scandal.  You can watch the entire interview at  One of the things that came out during the interview is that she was often asked to pick up Sen. Stanley’s dry cleaning, take his car to get washed or clean his apartment.  Outside of the obvious fact that sleeping with an intern is certainly crossing a boundary of appropriate lawmaker-intern relations, these other tasks didn’t seem to fit into the educational aspects the internship was designed to provide.  So, I went to the Rutherford GOP picnic on Saturday and asked Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey about it.  Here’s what he had to say:

“That is an inappropriate use of interns, and I’ll say that anytime and anywhere.  Obviously, the interns are there to help us through the legislative process, to do research, answer phones.  I’ve been a legislator for 17 years, and I’ve never asked an intern to do that.”

So I asked, does this need to be put in writing what a lawmaker can and can’t ask an intern to do?

“That’s a real possibility.  Those are the kinds of things that do need to be put in writing.  Let me assure you, that you shouldn’t have an affair with your intern shouldn’t be in writing. That should be in your heart. That should be in your gut. You should know better than that.”

Governor Vetoes Menu Labeling Ban

July 1, 2009 - Leave a Response

The governor has vetoed the second bill of the session…it’s the one that would prohibit unelected boards from enacting menu labeling provisions (like the Metro Health Board did earlier this year).  Remember, the administration had wanted to institute statewide menu labeling for restaurants with at least 15 nationwide locations.

Here’s the veto letter to Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey:

SB1092 Veto