Tennessee politics

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marriage game overDOMA was doomed from the start, as many (including the Red Hat) pointed out when it was passed back in the 1990s, and signed into law by President Clinton. He probably knew at the time that it was doomed as well, and cynically signed it anyway.

A federal judge in Ohio today ordered state officials to recognize the marriage of two men that was performed in Maryland. This, in spite of the fact that the constitution of the state of Ohio forbids the recognition of any marriage other than that between “one man and one woman.” Such a ruling was inevitable. And, though it may be appealed, it is inevitable that it will be upheld by the federal courts.

In these matters, it helps to have some acquaintance with the text of the Constitution. In this case, specifically, the “full faith and credit clause,” found in Article IV, Section 1. Recall that Articles 1, 2, &3 outline the functions and powers of the 3 branches (Legislative, Executive, Judicial). Article 4 defines relations between the states.

The “full faith and credit” clause is a fundamental principle of US law. It explains why, when certain states adopted no-fault, no-waiting, divorce statutes in the 1960s, it spelled the end of any legal discouragement of divorce. A divorce granted in Reno must be accepted as a binding official act by the state of California (or any other state), because of the “full faith and credit” clause.

In the same way, once any one of the 50 states began to recognize homosexual marriages, it became inevitable that they would have to be recognized in the other 49 states as well.

The state of Ohio adopted an amendment to the state constitution in 2004 defining marriage as “one man and one woman.” It was ratified by a vote of 61.7% to 38.3%. That will not matter.

Tennessee adopted a state constitutional amendment in 2006 defining marriage as “one man and one woman.” The amendment was approved by 81.25% of the voters. That will not matter.

Both states will be forced by the federal judiciary to recognize homosexual marriages.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to imagine how states with such diametrically opposed views on key matters of public policy will remain peacefully in union with each other.

God help us.

Hat Tip: Stand Firm | Gay Marriage Goes National, Act 1.

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um, yeah.

What could go wrong? Its a good idea for the government to intervene in financial affairs. The government should encourage REQUIRE banks to extend credit and services to people who have, in the past, skipped out on their financial obligations.

The banks should be able to absorb fraud & default, right? right?

Mayor Dean, others make ‘unbanked’ push – Nashville Business Journal.

Kudos to the Lt. Gov.
The situation in Legislative Plaza has gotten out of control.
Freedom of Assembly, and the right to Petition the Government does not extend to the creation of anarchy.




Dear Friend,

As you may be aware, a group known as Occupy Nashville has essentially taken up residence on War Memorial Plaza across the street from the Capitol. While describing themselves as protesters, they are actually something quite different.

Average protesters, usually on some defined day centered around a specific issue, march or congregate en mass to demand redress of a specific grievance. Normal protests can get loud and they can get rowdy. Frequently, they can last long into the night. On rare occasions, they can last a few days.

Occupy Nashville is quite a different animal. This protest is not really a protest at all. It is, as the name implies, an occupation. I value our constitutional rights — the freedom of speech most of all. Without the freedom to directly confront our leaders, our constitution isn’t worth the parchment on which it’s printed.

Whether from the left or the right, I appreciate people engaging their government.

However, to continue to ignore the reality of Occupy Nashville would be to shirk my duties as a public servant. I have to tell the truth and the truth is this: your War Memorial Plaza – a place dedicated to Tennesseans who paid the ultimate price in service to their nation and fellow citizens – is no longer a place for visitors. It is unsightly, it is unclean and, depending on the time of day, it is downright dangerous.

While the initial “Occupiers” may have started out with good intentions, their movement has been infiltrated and co-opted by the homeless in Nashville. Unsurprisingly, amongst the homeless population there is a distinct criminal element. In Occupy Nashville, this criminal element has found safe haven and justification for their lifestyle.

While the crimes committed in and around the Plaza run the gamut, several of the incident reports I have reviewed have alarmed me. From public sexual behavior to narcotics trafficking to assault, the criminal element surrounding Occupy Nashville has made a visit to our State Capitol more than unpleasant.

For example, a legislative employee standing in a bottom floor courtyard was recently urinated on by someone connected to the occupation.

This is disgraceful.

The Occupiers are not merely a nuisance with a blatant disregard for societal norms — they have become dangerous. I have reviewed paperwork from both Metro Police and the Tennessee Highway Patrol and seen reports that include threats of bodily harm by people with knives and other  weapons.

One report I read particularly disturbed me because it affected young students here to learn about their Capitol: a homeless member of Occupy Nashville exposed himself in full view of students on a field trip.

A cursory glance at media coverage paints a very unsavory picture: a public brawloccurred on the Plaza on Christmas Day followed by a brazen act of arson in time for the New Year.

In essence, open acts of sex, drug use and violence you wouldn’t expect in an “R” rated movie are at times on full display on your War Memorial Plaza.

It saddens me because every year students from Tennessee schools visit our state capitol to learn about their government and see a very moving War Memorial dedicated to Tennesseans who died for their countrymen over the last 100 years.  This year my advice to teachers looking to bring students here would be simple: stay home. I cannot in good conscience recommend the Capitol as a class trip destination at this time. I’m embarrassed to say it but it is the truth.

I hope and pray this situation will be resolved sooner rather then later and I can once again wholeheartedly recommend that visitors and students come to Nashville to learn how our government works.

Again, I support our constitution and embrace with open arms our rights of free speech and assembly. Liberal judges here in Nashville and on the federal bench can try and twist the law however they want but the reality is clear: this occupation has gone beyond speech and assembly and become an embarrassment — both to causes Occupy purports to support and the state of Tennessee at large.


Ronald L. Ramsey
Lieutenant Governor
Speaker of the Senate

Yesterday I wrote a post that reported and commented on the 1st quarter fund-raising in Tennessee congressional races, specifically TN-06 and TN-08. TN-01, TN-02, TN-03 and TN-07 are currently held by Republicans and there is effectively zero chance of a Democrat winning any of them. I predict TN-06 and TN-08 will be won by Republicans. TN-09 will stay safely Democrat. Just as an aside, incumbent Democrat Steve Cohen has raised $429,885 in individual contributions in 1Q-2010. Democrat challenger Willie Herenton raised $3,400. Cohen has outraised Herenton 100 to 1. Oh, and Cohen has over $1 million on hand. Herenton reported $5,400 in the bank.

Which leaves TN-04 and TN-05. TN-04 has been a Democrat seat for the overwhelming majority of the last 100 years. Van Hilleary won the seat in the 1994 Gingrich revolution. Lincoln Davis won it back for the Democrats in 2002 when Van ran for Governor (and lost to Phil Bredesen). Although the district previously elected Al Gore and Jim Cooper (before he left to run for Senate against Fred Thompson), it has trended more conservative and Republican and has been a competitive seat. In 2010, it’s going to be hard to defend. The first fund-raising reports certainly seem to indicate that this will be a horse-race. Here are the totals for individual contributions (not including PAC money or loans from candidates to their own campaigns):

R Scott Desjarlais $235,778
D Lincoln Davis $221,005
R Jack Bailey $143,575
R Kent Greenough $14,713
R Donald Strong $0

Either Desjarlais or Bailey looks poised to provide a strong challenge to Davis. If 2010 is like 1994, then Davis is in trouble.

TN-05 has been, after TN-09, the safest Democrat seat in the state. In 2008, Cooper raised $338k in individual contributions. His Republican challenger, Gerard Donovan, raised $8,610. In 2006, Cooper raised $471k – the records for his Republican challenger, Kovach aren’t available online. In 2004, Cooper raised $459k. Back in 2002, Republican Bob Duvall raised barely $10k to Cooper’s $864k. Of course 2002 was the first year Cooper was elected and he had first had to win a contested Democratic primary. None of Cooper’s Republican opponents have presented much of a challenge to him.  But the financial records show that the amount he has raised in individual contributions has trended down since 2002. Things look a bit different in 2010. For one thing, there are 11 candidates (8 Republicans, 2 Independents, and 1 Libertarian) who have filed to run against Cooper. The large number of candidates filing is a strong indication that something is up. And one of the Republicans (Jeff Hartline) has already raised more money for the race than all four of Cooper’s previous opponents combined (admittedly not that high a hurdle, but still significant). Here are the numbers:

D Jim Cooper $240,970
R Jeff Hartline $45,155
R Patrick Miranda $5,405
I Jacquie Miller $2,187
R Jarod Scott $1,105
L Stephen Collings $30
R Brendan Finucane $0
R David Hall $0
R Cecilia Noland-Heil $0
R Bob Ries $0
R Lonnie Spivak $0
I John Miglietta $0

Could Hartline beat Cooper? In a normal election year, the answer would be no. But 2010 is shaping up to be anything but a normal election year. Hartline looks to be the favorite to win the Republican nomination. If he is able to continue to raise money and can get his message out, Cooper could be vulnerable. Hartline appears to be a more effective speaker and campaigner than any of Cooper’s previous challengers.

If the 2010 tsunami is as big as some think it might be, then there is the distinct possibility that Tennessee might end up with eight Republicans and one Democrat in its congressional delegation. That result would have been unthinkable two years ago. It remains a long shot. But it has already gone from an impossibility to a possibility.

For those who have no idea who Jeff Hartline is, take about 4 minutes and watch this video:

and imagine going from this map:

to this map:

to this map:

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Tennessee has nine Congressional seats. For most of this the past century, seven of those seats were routinely occupied by Democrats, and two by Republicans. But the two east Tennessee Republicans have been joined by two others over the past few decades as TN-03 (Chattanooga) and TN-07 (Memphis suburbs to Nashville suburbs) switched to the R column.

Now it looks fairly certain that two more seats are about to be converted from Democrat to Republican. The demographics seem to indicate that the changes may well be semi-permanent. Bart Gordon is retiring from TN-06, and John Tanner is retiring from TN-08. Both incumbent Democrats were going to have a hard time getting re-elected had they stayed in the race.

Two other seats, currently held by Democrats Jim Cooper (TN-05) and Lincoln Davis (TN-04) are attracting a surprising amount of attention and activity. They could also be in play (more on them in a later post). Only TN-09 seems safely Democrat at this point, and it seems fairly certain that Steve Cohen will retain the seat – more on that later, as well.

Of all the races, TN-06 has attracted the most attention. There are six Republicans, three Democrats, and one independent who have filed for the race. First quarter financial reports have been filed with the FEC. Raising the most money doesn’t guarantee that a candidate will win, but it’s pretty strongly correlated. Here’s what the money looks like in TN-06. The dollar amount is the total raised from individual contributions (not counting PAC money, or loans from the candidates to their own campaigns), 1/1/2010 thru 3/31/2010:

R Jim Tracy $533,647
R Diane Black $271,591
R Lou Ann Zelenik $129,767
R Dale Evans $34,970
R Kerry Roberts $33,944
R Gary Mann $3,200
D George Erdel $375
D Brett Carter $0
I Tommy Hay $0
D Benjamin Leming $0

I’d say this one is definitely an “R” pickup.

TN-08 will be more of a horse race. There are ten candidates here as well, eight Republicans and two Democrats. One of the Democrats, Roy Herron seems poised to make this a contest. Here are the fund-raising numbers (Individual contributions – not counting PAC money, or loans from the candidates to their own campaigns):

R Steve Fincher $970,095
D Roy Herron $822,866
R Ron Kirkland $607,357
R George Flinn $156,355
R Donn Janes $10,937
R Randy Smith $300
R James Hart $142
D Luther Mercer $0
R David Rice $0
R Craig Steinfels $0

I’d give the edge to Fincher in this one right now, but there is still a long time till November.

IF the Republicans manage to win both these seats, then the 112th Congressional map for Tennessee will look like this:

Stay tuned – in part two, I’ll report and comment on the numbers from TN-04 and TN-05.

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Ms. Spears and I exchanged several email messages this morning (in my capacity as Vice President of the Tennessee Association of Church-Related Schools). I am happy to report that she has issued the following letter of clarification:

Dear Home School Parent:

It was brought to my attention that the letter sent out prior was misleading so I decided to send you the section of the law that pertains to the annual requirements of the home school parent so there would be no misunderstanding of what is expected.

In reference to section (2) (A) church related home school parents can disregard the notice mailed regarding the annual filing.

Parents who choose to independently home school are not required to personally report to the school board in person however I do like to meet my home school parents and provide them assistance as needed.  If you would like to personally bring your notice of intent to my office, I will gladly sit down with you.

If the student plans to re-enroll in the public school, the parent should provide at the time of the re-enrollment a copy of the transcript of subjects the student covered while being home schooled.


Sharon Spears


Original Post follows:

There are some bureaucrats (aka educrats) who just can’t seem to grasp the idea that they are not in charge of ALL the children. Doesn’t matter what the law says, parents cannot be allowed to teach their own children un-supervised. They’re not professionals! How will we know if the children are being properly socialized?

Sharon Spears is the Attendance Supervisor for the Coffee County School System. The Coffee County seat is Manchester, 60 miles southeast of Nashville, halfway to Chattanooga, down I-24. Sharon Spears has been listed as the Attendance Supervisor since at least 2001. She’s also listed as the GED co-ordinator, she is in charge of Dropout Information, she is the Liason for Homeless Children. She is the contact person at the school system for issues relating to Juvenile Court and the Truancy Board. Perhaps she’s been too busy to ever learn what Tennessee law is concerning homeschooling. That would be kind of ironic, since her page on the Coffee County School System website has a link to the Tennessee Department of Education’s page on homeschooling where the law is clearly explained.

How do I know that she hasn’t learned the Tennessee law on homeschooling?

Here’s the text of a letter she sent to homeschooling families in Coffee County a few days ago:

(dated) July 15, 2009

To All Home School Parents:

The state requires all parents who plan to home school their children to register annually with their local school system. You will need to stop by the Coffee County Board of Education in the Administrative Plaza to complete the necessary paperwork.

If you were conducting an Independent Home School during the 2008-2009 school year, please, bring your attendance record and your child’s transcript/grades with you. The deadline for notification without penalty is September 1st.

If you have additional needs or questions, you can contact me at 931-723-5150. Thank you so much for your prompt attention to this matter.


Sharon Spears
Attendance Supervisor

This letter misrepresents the law in at least three very significant ways.

ONE: The State does NOT require ALL parents who wish to homeschool to register with their local school system. Parents have the CHOICE of signing up with their local school system OR with an umbrella school. If they sign up with an umbrella school, they are NOT required to sign up with the local school system.

TWO: Even Parents who have decided to homeschool AND register with the local school system do NOT have to “stop by the Coffee County Board of Education. . . to complete the necessary paperwork.” You may, and probably should file your notification by mail, with proof of delivery requested.

THREE: Parents signed up with the local school system do NOT have to supply their child’s transcript or grades to the school system. The only thing required to be reported to the local school system is attendance. And you don’t have to do it in person. Send in a calendar noting which days you conducted school with your children. Verify that the days total 180. Send it in.

Coffee County homeschoolers can safely ignore the arbitrary requirements of Ms. Spears’ letter. If you decide to homeschool and sign up with an umbrella school, you can ignore the Coffee County School System completely. If you choose to homeschool and sign up with the public school system, you can send your “notice of intent to homeschool” form in by mail. And you have no obligation to report to them anything other than your attendance records.

Ms. Spears should know better. She is attempting to require more than the law requires. She is attempting to force parents to submit records and information they are not required to submit.

She should know better. She’s been there for over eight years.

She should be ashamed of herself. However, when the misleading sections of her letter were pointed out to her, she promptly issued a “clarification document” which addressed each of these three issues and revised her requests to just those items required by state law.

And the director of schools for Coffee County, Kenny Casteel, should also be ashamed chagrined. You see, that same homeschooling law referred to on the Department of Education’s webpage contains this sentence:

“The director of schools or the director of schools’ designee shall ensure that attendance teachers are informed of parents’ rights to conduct a home school pursuant to § 49-6-3001(c)(4), subsection (a) of this section, and § 49-50-801 upon employment of such persons and at the beginning of each school year;”

They have no right to claim they didn’t know what the law said. The Director of Schools and the Attendance Supervisor have a legal obligation to make sure they understand the law and know what parents’ rights are.

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. . . is good for the gander?

BlueCollarMuse is reporting that a DEMOCRATIC staffer at the Tennessee State Legislature sent out an email with the subject line: Smiles for Monday that is, if anything, much more offensive than the email forwarded by the administrative assistant to Diane Black.

Head on over to his web site for the full details. He’s waiting to see if there will be the same firestorm of media coverage, calls for termination, denunciations, & disciplinary action against this DEMOCRATIC staffer as there was for Ms. Goforth.

This will be interesting to watch.

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The State of Tennessee’s jihad against homeschoolers continues.

It began in late 2007 and continued into 2008. An employee of the Department of Education, nominally in charge of the office of non-public schooling was criss-crossing the state making a presentation in which she declared that the diplomas issued by Tennessee’s church-related, category IV schools “were not worth the paper they were printed on.

As a result of her presentations, other agencies and departments of the state began to reject diplomas issued to homeschoolers when a high school diploma was required by law for certain regulated categories of employment. At first it was the Tennessee Police Officer’s Standards and Training Board (POST) which refused to allow a homeschooled high school graduate to continue serving as a sheriff’s deputy, even though he had completed the police academy taught by Walter State Community College and already been hired by the sheriff’s department.

Then the Department of Children’s Services refused to allow a homeschooled high school graduate to continue to work in a daycare as a caregiver, because the law stipulated that a caregiver must hold a high school diploma recognized by the state of Tennessee.

Now comes word that just this past week the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology has refused to permit the licensing of a young women because her high school diploma is from a church-related category IV school.

Once again, it bears repeating: The State of Tennessee recognizes these diplomas for the awarding of HOPE lottery scholarships. The University of Tennessee and all of its campuses recognize these diplomas for purposes of admission to college. The state community college system recognizes these diplomas for the purpose of admission to a community college. Vanderbilt, Sewanee, Rhodes, King, Belmont, David Lipscomb, & Lee University all recognize these diplomas for admission to their college degree programs.

It is only the few state boards where the Department of Education has some influence that have rejected them. Homeschooled kids are smart enough to enlist in any branch of the armed services, attend any public or private university – but according to the state of Tennessee they are not qualified to work in a daycare, serve as a police officer, or dye someone’s hair.

Folks, this is outrageous. This is the petty tyranny of a unionized bureaucracy. The educrats cannot stand the fact that a few courageous families have said “no thank you” to the government-monopoly factory-model one-size-fits-all public school system. Perhaps they have been emboldened by the Obama administrations shut-down of the Washington DC voucher system. Who knows?

The Tennessee Legislature has the opportunity to correct this bureacratic jihad against homeschoolers. They can over-rule the Department of Education and restore some sanity to the state’s policy on education.

The Tennessee State Senate is scheduled to hear SB0433 this coming Monday, May 4th. Here’s the official summary of what that bill does:

“Schools, Home – As introduced, requires that diplomas issued by home schools be recognized by all state and local governmental entities as having the same rights and privileges of diplomas issued by public school systems. – Amends TCA Title 1, Chapter 3.”

Tennesseans, call your senators and urge them to vote for SB0433.


The Germans are scrapping their voting machines because of concerns about the vulnerability to manipulation – and the inability of voters to verify that their vote was properly recorded. Story from the German Foreign Ministry in the US.

Ballot security is the cornerstone of free elections.

So why are State Sen. Ketron and State Rep. Todd sponsoring a bill to scrap the recently mandated return to paper ballots? See HB 0614 & SB 0872.

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Honk if you're paying my mortgage

bumper sticker from the Tennessee Republican Party

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