RTP broke the story on Chuck “Conflict” Cagle’s embarrassing firing by the Bradley County School Board after 14 years as their legal counsel. We reported some of the concerns of the board at the time, but we didn’t realize just how brutal the firing was for Cagle until an alert RTP tipster sent this article from the Cleveland Daily Banner a couple of weeks ago.
The board really went to town on the conflicts of interest and the lobbying aspects of Cagle’s operations.
In today’s Banner article was a report on the board’s search for a new lawyer:
“The request for qualifications … said “may not be registered as lobbyist with the state of Tennessee.”
In less than nine months of operation, the gang at Rocky Top Politics has reached another milestone:
That’s nearly 20,000 per month — 1,000 readers per business day.
For our loyal followers, we say “Thank You.”
For those who do not appreciate our fascinating political analysis and brilliant riposte, we ask: “then why are you reading this?”
But even bigger days are ahead. Let the Session begin!
In an article in today’s Tennessean, Speaker Beth Harwell has apparently discovered that her caucus is and has been generally pissed off about the abuse of the placing of fiscal notes on legislation that can effectively kill those bills.
Harwell says she is working with the National Conference of State Legislatures to review Tennessee’s fiscal note process. Well, good for her. But one doesn’t need an out-of-state group to tell Harwell what she already knows: that GOP leadership has repeatedly violated their own rules and purposely and has maliciously gamed the fiscal note process to kill legislation and/or punish those who disagree with the leadership or the governor.
Fiddling with the size or the rationale of a fiscal note is only one part of the complaint. Unmentioned in the article is the abuse of the fiscal note process that allows leadership to anonymously place a fiscal note on a bill in the middle of the night or after the fact, derailing the bill in the process. RTP reported extensively on this phenomenon last session:
Why even the late malcontent senator, Stacy Campfield, had leadership’s number when it came to fiscal notes:
It’s interesting that while these complaints have been bouncing off of every wall in the legislature, Harwell has only now begun to address the problem. In doing so, she is adopting one of the main planks in the platform of her recent opponent for Speaker. Despite his quixotic attempt to topple Harwell, Rick Womick can and should be credited with raising the question to the level where Harwell feels she must act.
So excuse us if we have our doubts about the sincerity of the motives behind Harwell’s “discovery” of a problem that has been right under her nose (and under her thumb) for four years. Hope springs eternal she will do the right thing.
But don’t hold your breath.
Says Haslam is “Touching the hot stove again”
Growing nervousness in GOP ranks.
In a scathing article, Forbes business magazine has systematically taken apart the governor’s plan to expand Obamacare/Medicaid. Even though he has only a “verbal commitment” and has yet to reveal the details of his plan, the governor has nonetheless called a special session of the legislature for early February to try and ram home the Obamacare expansion that promises to raise taxes (federal and/or state) on Tennesseans.
Forbes pulled no punches: What follows are just some of the most pointed excerpts, but the article should be required reading for every legislator.
Start with the headline: “Insure TN Will Assure More Obamacare In Tennessee.”
It goes downhill from there:
“The truth is, [Haslam’s] new ‘Insure TN’ plan is heavy on buzzwords and light on substance.”
“One thing is clear: like all Obamacare expansions, Haslam’s would be a disaster for Tennessee taxpayers and most vulnerable patients.”
Noting that the governor called a special session with little more than a verbal agreement from the Obama administration, Forbes correctly reported “[Haslam] hasn’t released an actual ‘plan’ at all.”
“Insure Tennessee is Just Re-Branded Obamacare Expansion”
“Marketing gimmicks, no matter how slick they appear on a Power Point slide, cannot change facts. Despite the buzzwords, the plan is, to its core, an Obamacare expansion. It covers the exact same able-bodied, working-age adults Obamacare prioritizes. It is subject to the same cost-sharing limits as traditional Medicaid and utilizes the same existing Medicaid system to deliver the same Medicaid benefits for most enrollees. The plan would operate under a Medicaid waiver, require an amended Medicaid state plan to implement and would be funded through the Medicaid program. Everything Obamacare always wanted.”
Hot stuff. But the Forbes columnists were just getting warmed up:
“Touching The Hot Stove Again”
“A previous Medicaid expansion nearly bankrupted the state after the disastrous TennCare expansion of the 1990s.
Tennessee expanded Medicaid eligibility to a new class of able-bodied childless adults in 1994, just like Haslam wants to do today under Obamacare. In the decade following, the state’s Medicaid costs more than tripled, growing faster than any other state in the region and much faster than revenue. Enrollment soared and expansion costs were well over projections.
By the mid-2000s, Medicaid was devouring nearly 36 percent of the entire state budget. Facing continual budget shortfalls, one governor even proposed creating a state income tax to cover the skyrocketing costs of the program. (The legislature wisely rejected his proposal.)
It took Democrat Governor Phil Bredesen, in 2005, to roll back TennCare expansion and eliminate eligibility for childless adults—which turned into a boon for the state’s economy.
Then Forbes zeros in on the main feature of Haslam’s proposal:
“Gov. Haslam promises that things will be different with his expansion, because federal taxpayers and hospitals are paying for it (more on that in future posts). Empty promises indeed. Tennessee voters know federal money isn’t “free,” and neither is the hospital funding gimmick he’s proposing.”
Forbes went on to reveal that Haslam’s plan would create a “perverse incentive” to place able-bodied recipients on Medicaid which studies have shown encourage them to stay out of the labor force, while “moving children and adults with developmental disabilities … to the back of the line.”
Why GOP legislators are so nervous:
“Medicaid expansion nearly bankrupted Tennessee once before. State lawmakers should make sure Haslam isn’t allowed to do it again.”
More on this in RTP updates later today and this week.
Or so we would like to think.
Just two days after RTP commented on an earlier Tennessee News Leader story about the Jackson Sun’s pissy little “expose” asserting the lack of economic development money from the state, the Governator himself called up the Sun to bitch:
The governor seemed a mite touchy to us, but then he’s not used to dissent.
Still though, it’s nice to know we are appreciated in the governor’s office. Remind us to send Mark Cate a fruit basket for Christmas.
Sure looks that way. Let’s go to the Merriam-Webster definition just to be certain:
Pity poor Candice McQueen. No sooner had she been sworn in as Haslam’s new commissioner of education then WPLN reveals her rather contorted positions on Common Core.
Operating under the elitist theory of “good for thee, but not for me,” McQueen was revealed to be conflicted (and that’s being charitable) about her new position as head cheerleader for Common Core as opposed to what she did as head of Lipscomb’s private K-12 school when she didn’t think anyone was looking.
McQueen barely had a chance to walk into her first legislative hearing before she demonstrated that Common Core is just fine for the great, unwashed masses in public schools, but God forbid our privileged private schools should be required to be held to the same standards.
All those legislators who came out against Common Core (and RTP has your websites and your mailings on file) will be holding Dr. McQueen accountable for her hypocrisy, because any good politician knows the voters will hold them to the same standard in the next election. Perhaps we would be more sympathetic if Bill Frist’s or Bill Haslam’s kids ever darkened the door of a public school.
Want to kill Common Core? Just require McCallie, Baylor, Webb, MBA, Ensworth or MUS to adopt Common Core before they receive a Tennessee diploma. It will be dead before nightfall.
The New Commish: Is it Candice McQueen?
Rampant rumors passed along to RTP say the governor’s new cabinet announcement this afternoon will be Dr. Candice McQueen as the new Education Commissioner.
If true, McQueen would be seen favorably among those who wanted someone from Tennessee and someone who also had actual public education classroom experience.
On the downside, some in the education have uncharitably called McQueen “Huffman Lite” — meaning she will continue Huffman’s policies of pro-Common Core, pro-testing that got Huffman in so much trouble.
Those we have talked to all agree her appointment would be primarily the result of her close relationship with Tom Ingram — the governor’s paid-under-the-table lobbyist.
In a hilarious post on the Tennessee News Leader website, the Jackson Sun gets exposed by their own “expose.”
While trying to bitch & moan about how Jackson lost out on a company’s deciding to locate in (gasp!) Mississippi instead of Jackson, the Sun whined that the decision was due to “clawback” demands from the state. (“Clawback” means you do what you say you will do, or you don’t get taxpayer money as incentives for locating in a state).
Problem is, legislation authorizing those clawback provisions was sponsored by a Jackson “favorite son” — Sen. Lowe Finney. Finney is now running for mayor of Jackson and is proudly bragging about having created the clawback provisions the Jackson Sun is now complaining about.
RTP can’t wait until the Sun’s endorsement in the mayor’s race.
Good Lord, here we go again.
This from one of Gov. Bill Haslam’s first post-election policy statements:
Wow, really? Just as hard-pressed Tennessee taxpayers and consumers finally get a modicum of relief from the high Obama gas prices, the first thing that pops into our billionaire governor’s mind is to steal some of those savings back for the state bureaucracy.
Intermission for a Little History Lesson
In 1998, Don Sundquist was re-elected with approx. 70% of the vote. After promising not to support a state income tax during his re-election, Sundquist reversed himself and became the leading advocate of the tax, infuriating not only fellow Republicans, but the general public as well.
A front group called Citizens for Fair Taxation was formed to “educate” the public on the virtues of an income tax. It didn’t work, and the result was a horn-honking taxpayer rebellion that left Sundquist as one of the most reviled governors in history (yes, including Ray Blanton). It seems the citizenry were a mite peeved that the first action of a governor who won re-election as a fiscal conservative was to raise taxes. The fact it was a Republican governor merely rubbed salt in the wound.
Back To Our Story….
So now we have a governor, whose supporters bandy about a “70% approval rating” (compliments of those renowned fiscal and political conservatives at Vanderbilt), like it was some sort of magic elixir that would cause the legislature to tremble and acquiesce. Why, the Vandy poll even suggested that such ratings made Haslam “presidential material” (we are not kidding.)
And so Bill’s first act in his second term is to raise taxes on consumers and small businesses (who will pass along the costs to the consumer as well). Looks like the governor is going to need another front group like the old Citizens for Fair Taxation.
Oh, and who was the founder, major funder and co-chairman of the original Citizens for Fair Taxation? Why, none other than Jim Haslam II – father of the current governor. Big Jim and his fellow board members raised $1.8 million to jam through a state income tax, and failed. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
And don’t even get us started on the obvious conflict between raising the gas tax and the Haslam family business — which happens to be the largest independent retailer of gasoline in the country.even
We here at RTP should have seen this coming. After all, Jimmy Haslam, the governor’s brother, was the college roommate of Sen. Bob Corker. Corker – who was rumored to be interested in running for president — torpedoed his already minimal shot at the White House when earlier this year he publicly advocated raising gas taxes at the federal level.
“Bill and Bob for President – They raised your taxes.” Yeah, that’s the ticket. Worked wonders for President Mondale.
With all this recent history and his familial knowledge of the income tax debacle, one would think that Bill Haslam would know better. One would be wrong.
The governor, and his Greek Chorus at the Knoxville News-Sentinel, say that because gas prices are falling, NOW is a perfect time to raise taxes. That’s like saying when mortgage interest rates fall, it’s the perfect time to raise property taxes. This perverted logic is disgusting, but it is also dangerous to any politician who buys into it (Ron Ramsey, are you listening?).
Bring it on, Bill. Radio talk shows are rooting for you. The Obama Administration is rooting for you. Don Sundquist is rooting for you. You may be able to make Don the second most disliked governor in Tennessee history.
Looks like coal in the stocking of quadruple-dipping lobbyist, Chuck Cagle. Loyal readers of RTP will remember the special reports from last spring that blew the cover off Chuckles’ little scam of lobbying for school superintendents as well as Pearson (while his wife was working for Pearson and trying to sell their books to the same school districts in Tennessee). But perhaps the most lucrative cash flow cow was “Conflict-of-interest-Chuck’s” legal work on behalf of the county school districts themselves.
Word out of the Bradley County school board this afternoon is that Chuck Cagle and his law firm have been fired. Let go. Kicked to the curb. Eighty-sixed. Given the boot. The old heave-ho. RTP sources tell us the entire thing took about three minutes. Someone tried to get a one-month reprieve for Chuck, but that was quickly brushed aside. The termination was immediate.
Our sources also tell us much of the board’s displeasure came from Cagles’s multiple conflicts. Allegedly, they were upset with Cagle’s position on the board of S.C.O.R.E. – the folks who are trying to shove Common Core down the throats of Tennessee teachers, taxpayers and students. Cagle was seen by some as a key ally for the late, hated state education commissioner Kevin “I voted for Obama” Huffman. Now Huffman is gone, and in Bradley County, so is Cagle.
“But it’s just one county” some will say. Yeah, but these things often have a domino effect. There were many school districts who were afraid to challenge Cagle’s near monopoly on education law. Now that Bradley County fired the first shot, look for Cagle to start ducking and weaving like a deer that wandered onto a firing range.
Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. People say Cagle has strutted around the LP for years, glorying in his domain, sneering at his opponents and generally acting like a pretentious prick.
And to all this we just say: