Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam says Republican losses at the polls last fall were mostly due to poor messaging and problems with mobilization on the ground. He also believes comprehensive immigration reform would be a big boost to the nation's economy.
Speaking at the winter meeting of the Republican Governor's Association in Washington, D.C., Haslam told Politico Republicans lost the argument with President Obama over whether wealthier Americans should pay more in taxes, and the impact that would have on the overall U.S. economy.
The Tennessee Republican says his party needs to do a better job of convincing the American public of the problems created by the country's debt.
“The one message we haven’t gotten by is, we’re not doing any favors by continuing to pass the debt on down, and we have not done a good job for whatever reason of explaining it,” Haslam told Politico.
The interim commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services says the agency remains unable to give an accounting of how many children died while under its care. The DCS has been the focus of scrutiny for months over how it kept records in the cases of children who later died.
More than 200 Tennessee children lost their lives or nearly died since 2009 after having some contact with the agency. The DCS has refused to release records related to the cases of the children who died, which led to a lawsuit by several media organizations.
In an interview with The Tennessean, Department of Children’s Services interim commissioner Jim Henry said the $27 million computer system the DCS has used to track children under its care appears to be improving. Henry has said he has full confidence that agency staff will make fixes.
Former DCS commissioner Kate O’Day stepped down earlier this month after the agency came under intense criticism from lawmakers and Governor Bill Haslam.
Lawmakers in Tennessee are watching Florida closely after the state’s conservative Republican governor went along with a major piece of the Affordable Care Act. Governor Bill Haslam is still on the fence about expanding the state’s Medicaid program – known as TennCare.
For the first three years, the federal government would pay the entire cost of insuring thousands of new TennCare recipients.
In Florida, Governor Rick Scott said he could not “in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care.” Tennessee Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey says having such a conservative leading the way could provide “cover” to lawmakers. But Governor Haslam would still have to sell an expansion, Ramsey says.
WKU Public Radio listeners certainly have heard of Tennesee Gov. Bill Haslam. The 54-year-old Republican from Knoxville has signed into law numerous conservative measures, including tort reform, charter school expansion, and an overhaul of the state's civil service.
But in an online profile, Politico describes Haslam as someone who has largely flown under the national radar, despite putting together "one of the most extensive conservative governing records in the country."
The article says other GOP governors could learn a lot from Haslam this week as the National Governors Association meets in Washington.
A bill to create an authorizing body for charter schools in Tennessee has been delayed. The sponsor now says he’s listening to critics, who say the legislation unfairly singles out Nashville and Memphis.
As written, the bill would give charter schools a way to open in Tennessee’s two largest urban areas without asking the school board – officially known as the local education authority or LEA.
Rep. Mark White is the sponsor and says he could be on-board with a true statewide charter authorizer if local school boards do the initial vetting.
“If we go back to the LEAs – letting them have first input on this – this will be a statewide application,” said Rep. White.
There is confusion among the sponsors of so-called ‘Guns-in-Trunks’ legislation in Tennessee. They disagree on whether employers could fire a worker for keeping a gun in their car at the company parking lot, even though it could soon be legal.
During a hearing in the House, Rep. Jeremy Faison said he believed a business owner could still terminate someone storing a weapon in a vehicle.
The legislation doesn’t specifically address the issue, but Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey says he believes gun-carrying employees will be safe from their bosses.
“I feel confident that if they fired someone and they said that was the reason, that employer would be in for a lawsuit and he would lose," says Ramsey.
A few Tennessee lawmakers are voicing concerns with a bill that aims to end any preference shown to minority groups on public college campuses. The legislation was delayed after a long committee hearing at the state capitol.
The proposal comes from out of state. A former university Regent in California who is an African American has helped pass similarly worded constitutional amendments in a few western states.
Ward Connerly says he’s attempting to re-level the playing field after years of informal affirmative action.
“We have evolved this theory that as long as we’re discriminating for good things, that that’s alright," said Connerly.
The original Emancipation Proclamation, a document that changed the lives of countless African-Americans during the Civil War, is on display in Nashville as the fragile historical document makes its only stop in the Southeast on a 150th anniversary tour.
The exhibit opened Tuesday — fittingly on President Abraham Lincoln's birthday — at the Tennessee State Museum and runs through Monday. It's a rare visit outside the nation's capital for the original document Lincoln signed in 1863 declaring "forever free" all slaves held in Confederate states rebelling against the Union.
Because lights are harmful to the papers, the document can only be viewed for 72 hours over the course of the six days. After Feb. 18, a replica of the Emancipation Proclamation will be on display until the exhibit ends Sept. 1.
Someone at the Department of Children's Services redacted numerous pages of information about child fatalities in meeting minutes that were provided to the media.
DCS spokeswoman Molly Sudderth told The Tennessean the department is still investigating who redacted the information and why.
Because the documents were redacted on a computer, it was impossible to tell that many sentences and paragraphs had been completely removed. These included potentially damaging information about caseworker actions.
The meeting minutes of the department's internal Child Fatality Review Team were requested by The Tennessean and The Associated Press.
The Tennessee Senate on Monday passed a bill to give people with handgun carry permits the right to store their loaded firearms in their vehicles wherever they are parked, brushing aside concerns raised by businesses and higher education administrators in Tennessee.
The chamber voted 28-5 to approve the bill sponsored by Republican Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville after rejecting Democratic efforts to add potential exclusions for businesses if they were approved by the state Department of Safety.
"If you allow people to come onto your parking lot then they have the right to have that firearm in the car," Ramsey told reporters before the vote.
Ramsey has been pushing for the quick adoption of the bill to avoid a repeat of a drawn out fight last year between gun advocates and the business lobby.