Tag Archives: Bill Haslam

Editorial questions Gov. Haslam’s priorities after teacher pay reversal

J.C. Bowman, executive director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, on Tuesday penned a response to Gov. Bill Haslam’s decision to delay a promised increase in teacher salaries. With the disclaimer that matters related to teacher pay have a direct impact on my household, I hereby present Bowman’s piece in its entirety without further comment.

JC Bowman
By now Governor Haslam is aware of the disappointment by educators in his decision to remove increases in teacher salaries. In reneging on this promise, making Tennessee the fastest improving state in the nation when it comes to teacher salaries, it is clear his priorities have shifted. This pay raise was promoted with great fanfare.

In October 2013, Professional Educators of Tennessee applauded Governor Haslam’s decision to make Tennessee the fastest growing state for teacher salaries. We must be equally concerned about the abandonment of this pledge and reneging on this statement within such a short period of time.

Public school teachers do incredible work across the state of Tennessee and the nation. They are often not recognized for their tireless dedication to a very demanding job, in which most educators identify as a calling. It has been fashionable to lay all the ills of society at the feet of teachers, but it is not fair. Every intelligent debate on student achievement would be wise to consider factors beyond the control of most teachers and schools.

No generation of educators in the history of the world has been asked to do what we now demand of our public schools. The challenge and responsibility has grown, yet public schools gladly commit to teach all children who enter their classrooms.

Everyday teachers are challenged by a wide-ranging mixture of social, psychological, and physical problems that impede the improvement of so many students entrusted into their care. You cannot reduce salaries or fail to reward Tennessee Educators and hope to attract and retain the best teachers to prepare students for the jobs of the future. This must be a legislative priority.

We need to take a very close look at teacher attrition. It is difficult to create a stable and world class education with a highly unstable teaching workforce. You cannot continue to make teachers, or state employees for that matter, a non-priority. When legislative priorities are more focused on the results of a test given at the end of a school the year, rather than those educating children then we have lost our focus as a state. We have made textbook companies and test publishers prosperous while we engage in a rigorous debate over a 2% raise for a teacher. People deserve a higher priority.

I understand Governor Haslam’s conundrum; business tax revenues are roughly $200 million less than projections. However, educators cannot understand how the Haslam Administration could have changed course so quickly and made educators bear the brunt of his decision making. In a political environment rampant with ideological conflict and tainted by partisanship, surely no policymaker of either party can be satisfied by the decision to abandon minor raises for teachers and state workers.

Policymakers understand that state policies and budget decisions affect the lives of Tennesseans. Any budget proposed must decisively connect tax dollars to state priorities. When teacher salaries are cut from the state budget you may well be creating another unfunded state mandate on LEA’s due to the state mandated differentiated pay plan. We encourage policymakers to discuss this directly with LEA’s in their community.

Like many policymakers, we feel disconnected when we hear of decisions impacting public education through the media, and not from the governor or his staff directly. Stakeholders should have a chance to weigh in on the cumulative effects of a policy change. This is poor leadership and lacks transparency. We would maintain that when confronting a calamity of this nature, government needs to be transparent about the situation, the people, and the decisions which must be made. Transparency breeds accountability, accountability leads to trust, and trust will allow Tennesseans to know their tax dollars are used wisely.

Research clearly and consistently demonstrates that the quality of the classroom teacher is the number one school based factor in student learning. This is not what is reflected in Governor Haslam’s budget. It is up to policymakers and constituents to ask the Governor why teacher salaries are not a priority.

It’s official; we have a governor’s race

If a tree gets re-elected in a forest with no one running against it, does it make so much as a ripple on the public’s sonar?

Well never fear, dear Tennesseans; now hear this. Gov. Bill Haslam may have dodged an underdog bid by Sara Kyle, but he has a challenger in Mark “Coonrippy” Brown, a Gallatin resident whose pet raccoon has been confiscated by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA); and who, by way of this offense, says he ought to be the next governor of Tennessee.

I couldn’t have summarized a reaction to this story any better than Betsy Phillips did, so here’s a pithy morsel to show you why:

What good is the right to petition your government for the redress of grievances if the government just doesn’t bother to respond? If you want a job where you can just ignore the dude who showers with his raccoon, then don’t get a government job. Otherwise, yeah, if a dude writes to request a permit, he should at least get an answer, even if that answer is “No.” If he can get 60,000 signatures, then it’s not unreasonable for someone in the Governor’s office to open the damn petition.

And here’s the brand-new voter guide page. Updates will be made as additional candidates (if any) become known.

Full disclosure: as a teenager, I and my family had a pet raccoon for a number of months. We eventually gave her to a wildlife rescue agency who could properly care for an adult, wild-born, orphaned raccoon. But she was precious as a baby, and my momma has pictures of her playing with an orange tabby kitten to prove it.

A couple of alleged shams

East Tennessee Republicans Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander each came under fire on Tuesday for a “farce” and “manufactured political theatre,” respectively. Haslam’s attack came from the Democrats, while Alexander’s was from his right-wing primary rival, Rep. Joe Carr of Lascassas. These stories are only connected by way of their juxtaposition in my inbox. Nevertheless, here are the press releases.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Late yesterday, Governor Haslam released a letter to Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius regarding his continued obstruction of Medicaid expansion in Tennessee.

“The Governor’s letter is simply the latest in a series of farces,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “It’s more of the same hand-wringing, ducking and dodging we’ve come to expect from this administration, all in an attempt to absolve themselves of the worst moral and mathematical failure in a generation—denying health care to 330,000 working Tennesseans.”

Governor Haslam’s letter offers no specific proposals, instead laying out a series of complaints and concerns about the overall Affordable Care Act. It offers no details about the so-called “Tennessee Plan,” which the Governor has yet to provide either to the federal government or state legislators.

“Governor Haslam is seeking to offer lower quality care to fewer people and still collect all the money allocated in the Medicaid expansion – that is not something that Secretary Sebelius has the power to authorize, and he knows that,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner. “If Governor Haslam is going to negotiate seriously with CMS on creating a ‘Tennessee Plan,’ it needs to be done in a way that both conforms to federal law and appreciates the economic, fiscal and moral blunder that would result from a decision not to expand Medicaid.”

A hybrid Medicaid expansion plan has already passed the Arkansas legislature and been approved by the federal government. The Arkansas Plan includes cost-sharing components and addresses questions about defining “medically frail” through a questionnaire developed by the state.

“Expanding Medicaid in Tennessee is not an impossible task, but Governor Haslam is doing everything he can to make it one,” said Leader Fitzhugh. “All of the serious questions about creating a hybrid plan have been addressed in the Arkansas Medicaid waiver. Tennesseans don’t have time for the Governor to wait for political cover. The time to act is now.”

The Tennessee General Assembly returns to session on January 14, 2014. Speakers Harwell and Ramsey have pledged to move the session along as quickly as possible, meaning the Governor may only have a few months left before legislators will be gone for the rest of the year. If we do not act by January 1, 2014, Tennessee will begin to lose $2.5 million per day in federal funding.

Nashville, TN — Today, Conservative Republican Senate candidate Joe Carr released the following statement regarding Sen. Alexander’s recent bickering with Sen. Harry Reid on the Senate floor.

“Tennessee voters know manufactured political theatre when they see it, and that’s exactly what Senator Alexander is giving them. This past October, Senator Alexander went behind closed doors and negotiated the deal with Senator Reid that sold-out conservatives by funding Obamacare and re-opening the government. Now he thinks if he bickers with Reid on the Senate floor, Tennessee voters might forget.”

“I’m running because Tennessee voters deserve straight forward and honest conservative leadership that represents their values – not phony showmanship designed to hide a record that is well to the left of the conservative mainstream,” said Joe Carr

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported (12/9/13): Alexander, a Maryville Republican, stopped Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, from calling for a unanimous vote on a group of mostly noncontroversial nominees, including Reeves. The Senate often votes on noncontroversial nominees all at once as a way to move them quickly through the confirmation process. But if one senator objects, the nominees cannot be voted on en bloc.

The Wall Street Journal reported (10/12/13): The Senate’s top Democrat and Republican opened negotiations on Saturday aimed at avoiding a U.S. debt crisis and reopening the government….The two Senate leaders met around 9 a.m. on Saturday for about 45 minutes, along with Sens. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.). Mr. Reid said Mr. Alexander called him on Friday night to initiate the talks at Mr. McConnell’s request.

Keeping the bench warm

Gov. Bill Haslam today issued Executive Order No. 34, which establishes the Governor’s Commission for Judicial Appointments. This is intended to allow the governor to fill vacancies on the state’s high courts while there is no Legislature-defined process in place. The Judicial Nominating Commission expired at the end of June.

How did we get to this point? It goes back to a decades-old question on how the appellate judiciary gets placed into office—a question which Tennessee voters will be allowed to at least partially answer in the 2014 general election.

The Tennessee Constitution states that judges shall be elected by qualified voters. For years, the “Tennessee Plan” maintained that the letter of that law was satisfied by judicial retention elections. To summarize these elections, when there is a vacancy on one of the higher courts, the first action is for the governor to appoint a successor; and then, at the first regular opportunity and every eight years thereafter, the voters get to decide whether to keep that judge in place.

But some feel that because these judges did not run for office in the first place, the process doesn’t quite follow the Constitution. There have also been squabbles over how the nominees for appointment get selected. Ergo, we have a stalled nominating process which Haslam set about to at least temporarily restart, so that vacancies may be filled.

A constitutional amendment has made it through the General Assembly votes it must get in order to be placed on the ballot; and that amendment will be on next year’s November ballot. We the people of Tennessee will decide whether or not to change our Constitution on the matter of high court judicial selection.

What does that amendment say and do? That will have to wait for another post.

In the meantime, here are the announcement and the executive order.

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced he has issued Executive Order No. 34 establishing the Governor’s Commission for Judicial Appointments, a necessary step to sustain the judicial branch of government and its operations.

The new 17-member commission will send a panel of three nominees to the governor to make an appointment when a vacancy occurs or is impending.

The Tennessee Attorney General issued an opinion last week confirming the governor’s authority to continue making judicial appointments after the termination of the Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) on June 30, 2013. The JNC also had 17 members.

“I would like to keep the process virtually the same for selecting judges in Tennessee the same until Tennesseans have the opportunity to vote on the proposed constitutional amendment in 2014. This commission allows us to continue to select the highest quality people and ensure a stable and effective judiciary,” Haslam said.

The 11 members of the JNC whose terms did not expire with the termination of the JNC will continue to serve on the Governor’s Commission for Judicial Appointments.

The executive order establishes that the governor will appoint the remaining six members of the new commission in consultation with the lieutenant governor and speaker of the House.

Executive Order No. 34.signed.10.16.13

Got cases? Objections? Statom.

Governor Bill Haslam has appointed a replacement for former Hamilton County Sessions Court Judge Ron Durby. From the inbox:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed Lila Statom of Chattanooga as General Sessions Court Judge in Hamilton County.

Statom replaces Ronald W. Durby, who stepped down from the bench October 1, 2012 due to a disability. Durby requested a temporary replacement in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann.§ 17-2-116(a)(1).

“I am pleased to name Lila Statom to this position. She brings a wealth of experience to the bench, and Hamilton County will benefit,” Haslam said. “She has served Hamilton County ably since 1998, and we are fortunate to have someone in this role with her qualifications.”

Statom has been Assistant District Attorney General in Hamilton County for 14 years, after serving as Assistant District Attorney General in Davidson County from 1989-1998. Prior to her work in Davidson County, she worked as a law clerk for Rieves & Mayton in West Memphis, Ark.

“I am honored by this appointment, and I am eager to serve the people of Hamilton County in this capacity,” Statom said.

Statom has supervised assistant district attorneys in General Sessions Court in Hamilton County for the last seven years. She has prosecuted a wide spectrum of criminal cases in General Sessions and Criminal Courts and performed numerous other duties in the Hamilton County office.

Statom holds a master of laws degree from Emory University in Atlanta and a juris doctorate from Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis). She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Statom is active in the community in Hamilton County, including membership in the Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute. She is on the Board of Directors of the Mary Ellen Locher Foundation, a national college scholarship program for children who have either lost a parent to breast cancer or have a parent who is a breast cancer survivor.