We just received this bulk mail pre-sort Christmas card (or as they say at UTK – “Happy Holidays secular greetings card”) from Californian Grant Starrett. Maybe they do things differently in Pacific Palisades (where Grant is from) than they do here in Tennessee, but seriously? Take a look:
From this card you would think that Christmas is all about Grant, who until recently was from Southern California (but is now running for Congress in Tennessee – go figure). No mention of the wife (he’s never been married) or the kids (he has none). “Grant” appears seven times on the card, but nary a mention of the Baby Jesus.
We were hoping for maybe a manger scene, but instead got a toothy photo of Grant. The crew here at RTP knows that when we look for spiritual inspiration at Christmas time, we always check to see if the sender is a “Consistent Conservative.” Nothing like using Faith as a self-promoting device to further one’s political ambitions.
We can’t wait to see what he sends us for Easter.
At this time of the year most media outlets fill their airtime/blogs/pages with a look back at the year that is ending. As usual, RTP takes a contrarian approach. We look AHEAD at the issues, personalities and politics that will shape the next year! Like Babe Ruth calling his shot to the upper deck, we tell you what is going to happen…then happily gloat when it does (we’ve been right on this stuff so many times we have lost count. But we’re sure the administration and leadership doesn’t appreciate our track record for prognostication.)
So we will once again rely on our crystal ball which presents itself in the form of a trusty half empty bottle of Jack and deliver our two part series previewing the five issues most likely to shape and disrupt the upcoming legislative session; and the political players likely to have the biggest impact or suffer the greatest stumbles in the coming year. First up, the issues.
- Insure Tennessee 3.0
Surely Governor Haslam won’t embarrass himself with a third pass at the effort to expand Obamacare, will he? But the folks with the deep pockets in the healthcare industry who want to fill those pockets with more of our tax dollars are whispering sweet “nothing-that-makes-sense” into the Governor’s ear and that kind of nonsense is the stuff he usually listens to. Look for him to try to sneak in something and look for him to be embarrassed. Again.
- Raising the Gas Tax.
Despite key leadership in the legislature making it clear that raising taxes in an election year is a non-starter for those who actually have to face voters, unlike the Governor, the Haslam team continues to do more road shows than the Stones, trying to drum up support for their “Increase The Gas Tax Tour.” Like one of those wind up monkeys, the Governor seems to be the only one clapping along with the “drumbeat” for raising taxes. A good question might be to ask just how much taxpayer money has his administration spent on his promotional efforts so far, hm-m-m? (Reminds one of all the lobbyist and taxpayer money spent promoting the failed efforts to pass Insure Tennessee.)
- School Vouchers.
This issue is looking like the new Wine in Groceries campaign: an annual full employment for the lobbyists that makes incremental progress, only to come up ju-u-st a little bit short. Will it be another close but no cigar year for the voucher push or is this the year when it actually happens? A plan has already made it through the Senate, but the House has been where the challenge remains. As the TEA continues to decline in power and influence, despite trying to buy some new friends on the Republican side of the aisle, this may be another nail in their coffin if the Republican leadership seizes the opportunity to pound it home. Exposing the Republicans in the pockets of the TEA in the process will be just an added bonus for those of us wanting to make sure the legislature is actually as conservative as their candidates claim to be during election years.
- Hall Income Tax.
Like school vouchers will this finally be the year that the Hall Tax is actually eliminated? The Governor has said he doesn’t like it, and if we were starting from scratch he would not have included it in the Tennessee tax structure. (But keep in mind that the Haslam family liked and supported the ill-fated push for a state income tax under Governor Sundquist, too. And the Governor clearly likes higher taxes, as indicated by his support for the increase in the gas tax. So take his verbal opinions with a grain of salt the size of a cow lick). Like most other issues, the legislature will have to do the heavy lifting on this one, with the Governor’s team channeling their inner Bill by vacillating hour by hour.
- Education reforms.
Common Core was repealed, or was it? The battle over Tennessee standards, including promoting Islam in Tennessee textbooks and classrooms will be on the table. Dues checkoff for the TEA. Test scores that seem to be flat yet somehow generate glowing press releases from the Governor’s Education team continue to confound those looking for actual improvement. Have you seen the latest comparisons for black students’ high school graduation rate (up to 72%) and their “college ready” rate (an unbelievably low 4%)? Yeah, explain to us again how that works.
- Rural internet service
In what could be a blow for either side, the Governor’s office has decided to stick its nose in the controversy and has commissioned a quarter-million dollars in taxpayer money to do a “study.” Word is both sides are fearful that the governor will screw up this issue, just like he has done on InsureTN, Common Core, the gas tax, vouchers, etc., etc., etc.
Since the drive behind this study is likely guber candidate, Randy Boyd, we assume it will require him to do yet more road tours and “interfacing” with officials and business people who can contribute and/or endorse his coming campaign. Some things never change with this administration.
So many issues, so many landmines. And look for Haslam to step on every single one.
Before coming to UT as the Vice Chancellor of the Office of Diversity & Inclusion (now known as the Office of Perversity and Exclusion) Rickey Hall was a senior diversity official at the Univ. Of Minnesota. His “diversity” efforts were so successful there that he left Minnesota with a whopping 3.7% black student population out of a total of 68,047 students. On the main campus, it was 0.3%! All three of the African-American enrollees at Golden Gopher U. were undoubtedly appreciative or Mr. Rickey’s heroic efforts at diversity.
Wow, with that kind of success, along with Hall’s neuter pronouns edict and his department’s attack on Christmas, why the Knoxville campus should be just one big ol’ Klan rally by the time he leaves and/or is fired.
At post time, UTK spokesperson Karen Ann Simsen was unavailable for comment. Thank God.
After causing an international embarrassment for UT (check out this headline from the London Telegraph), the person in charge of the “Diversity and Inclusion” dictate on how to celebrate Christmas was not disciplined by school officials.
Chancellor Jimmy “Butt” Cheek did not cut the budget, salary or expense account of Diversity Moron Rickey Hall.
[Editor’s note: Hall came to UT after working for the Univ. of Minnesota. Cheek named him Vice Chancellor for Diversity and offered him a $200,000+ salary nearly a year before Hall had even completed his PhD. Makes us wonder what was his thesis: “The Wit and Wisdom of Louis Farrakhan?”
[But despite taking nearly 20 years to complete his PhD, Hall was “obviously” qualified.]
Instead, Cheek said he “counseled” Hall and had assigned press flack Margie Nichols to review the website for any future stupid politically correct pronouncements. “Counseled” is just a euphemism for “let’s invent a punishment that has absolutely no practical effect and pretend we did something and hope everyone forgets about this over the Christmas holidays.”
What a pathetic excuse for leadership at the state’s flagship university.
Cheek apparently was concerned that any real discipline directed at Hall would result in a #BlackLivesMatter protest from their #BlackBureaucratsJobsMatter division. For his part, Hall referred to Cong. Jimmy Duncan’s concerns as “absolutely ridiculous” and recommended students who support Hall contact their state legislators to explain their concerns about not being coddled enough to suit their contrived grievances and imagined personal slights.
Yeah, that’ll work. I hear Speaker Ramsey and Senators Gresham and Bell are sitting in their offices, just waiting for the phone to ring.
Cheek may have “counseled” Rickey Hall, but it is Cheek who is about to get “schooled.”
UPDATE: Left out of the Cheek pronouncements was any mention of the communications idiot, Karen Ann Simsen, who personally accused Cong. Jimmy Duncan of “blowing the post out of proportion.” Denigrating the dean of the Tennessee Congressional delegation, who is a distinguished alumnus of UTK and whose sister is a state senator who is also a UTK grad, is hardly a good career move there, Simsen.
Ms. Simsen is also a former employee of Tom Ingram.
And that, of course, would explain everything.
Wrye feels “the agony of da feet” as teachers tell T.E.A. to take a hike.
Nothing like losing nearly 1/5 of your union’s membership in one day to brighten up the Holidays, eh?
In a stunning and crippling defeat last week, the Memphis-Shelby Education Association, with over 4,500 members one of the two largest teacher’s union locals in the state, voted a stunning 81% to 19% to withdraw from the TEA and go their own way.
Their reasons for doing so ranged from accusations of mismanagement by the TEA and misappropriation of dues all the way to the TEA’s dissing of the state legislature’s Black Caucus by taking away contributions from their best legislative allies and giving more money to the Republicans.
Whatever the reasons, the guy who got left holding the bag of flaming poop was TEA’s government relations operative, Jim Wrye. Jim Bob, who left the notorious Alabama Education Association just ahead of that union’s near total collapse, is left explaining why anyone in the LP should pay attention to the TEA now since their membership has likely now dropped below 30,000 (after a high water mark of nearly 60,000 back when their buddies in the Democratic party were in charge in Nashville). Wrye will try to prop up the unions’ influence by trying to buy off avaricious Republican leaders with an increase in campaign contributions (minus, of course the$1.4 million in annual des pad to TEA by its Memphis local). That in turn will lead many armchair politicos to turn their attention to the likely targets of this Hail Mary largesse, such as GOP caucus chair Glen Casada – a pol who has never met a campaign contribution he didn’t like, regardless of its source.
The forecast for the next session: Look for increasing desperation with a 60% chance of increased chaos as the two unions each hire their own lobbyists, with a near 90% decrease in influence in the legislature.
It’s a cold wind blowing from the west, so bundle up Jim (or perhaps bend over). But no worries – things are about to get much hotter for you next month.
Just before Thanksgiving, our own Bill Haslam performed his swan song as the head of the Republican Governors Association (RGA).
But as you can see by the photo below, even billionaire governors need a little R&R. This photo was taken by an RTP tipster while Bill relaxed poolside in Vegas, where the RGA meeting was held. Bill doesn’t seem to have the “relaxing” part down too well. For most of us, poolside means sun tan lotion and a pina colada at our side. For Bill Haslam, it means trying to deflect the glare of the sun from his polished wing-tips. Ah, but as F. Scott Fitzgerald said: “The rich. They are very different from you and me.”
But awkward sunbathing fully dressed to the nines in a business suit wasn’t the most revealing aspect of Gov. Haslam’s appearance. No, as RTP tipsters revealed (and, yes, RTP IS everywhere), Haslam let his liberal slip show when he thought the yahoos back home in Tennessee wouldn’t read about it.
He was wrong. You are reading about it right now.
Here are some verbatim statements made by our less-than-conservative governor as he moderated a panel on the next to last day of the meeting:
“Politicians get in trouble when they don’t wear their own clothes — that is, when they try to be something they are not”.
Yeah, sort of how you ran as a conservative, then governed as something else entirely.
“My experience in business taught me that people understand the word ‘free’ really well.”
— Haslam referring to the Tennessee Promise program.
When a politician says something is “free,” that’s a guarantee that it is not actually, you know — free. Condolences to all those poor lottery players who last money so that other people’s kids could go to community college.
“Our role is to provide those services that people can’t buy for themselves”.
Really? And here we thought the Republican philosophy of government was to provide and help create opportunity for people to help themselves – not hand them free stuff from the rubes who pay the taxes.
Is it any wonder he favors the takeover of the schools by the government through Common Core? Or that he favors the now twice-defeated expansion of Obamacare through InsureTN? Or that he wimped out on standing up to the feds over Syrian “refugees?” Or that he wants to raise gas taxes just as hard working Tennesseans are finally getting a well-deserved break from high fuel prices?
Sadly, no. It is no surprise.
Do us a favor, Governor. Next time you go to Vegas, please STAY in Vegas.
Recognize this guy? Didn’t he leave the state’s payroll back in the summer? What was he doing in Vegas with the governor, hobnobbing with the political and business glitterati?
Oh, wait — that’$ a $illy que$tion.
“Rep. Anonymous” warns the GOP establishment that change is coming.
[Editor’s Note: One of the RTP crew was contacted recently by a member of the General Assembly, asking if RTP would publish the following article. As our readers will see, it is a scathing indictment of the establishment wing of the Republican Party — one that should serve as a warning to those who run for office talking like a conservative, but govern as something else.
[RTP agrees with Rep. Anonymous’ assessment. And as for the whole “incognito” thing, just take a look at RTP. We learned a long time ago the ability to tell it like it is requires a certain degree of anonymity. Let the speculation begin!]
Beth, Boehner and an Angry Republican Base
by Rep. Anonymous (R-TN)
During the House Republican caucus meeting a few weeks ago, the political gossip among my colleagues centered on the emergence of Donald Trump and other “outsider” presidential candidates. The consensus was that Trump would eventually fade (which has yet to happen). But what would become of his angry “anti-establishment” Republican voters who, along with supporters of candidates like Ben Carson and Sen. Ted Cruz, totaled well over half of the vote in most polls? The anger felt by the Republican base was quite the topic when it came to the presidential race, but it was all just speculation.
Then something happened. The political earthquake that hit Washington, DC this fall continues to reverberate around the country and all the way to Tennessee. First was a FOX News poll that asked Republican voters a question I had never seen asked before: “Do you feel betrayed by your party’s political leaders?” An astonishing 62% of Republicans said “Yes.”
That is worth repeating: nearly 2 out of every 3 Republican voters said they did not trust their Republican elected officials to do the job the voters entrusted them to do. These results should send shivers down the spine of every Republican office holder at every level.
Many pundits and analysts scoffed at the poll. Then just two days later, John Boehner resigned. Then a few days after that, the establishment’s heir-apparent Rep. Kevin McCarthy withdrew from the Speaker’s race. The shocking primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor last year now appears to have been the “canary in the coal mine.”
The revolt that led to the Boehner Blow-up was engineered by a group of conservative congressmen who were getting an earful from their constituents who had had enough of the constant compromise, surrender and ineffectiveness of leadership’s dealings with the Obama administration.
There are significant parallels to be found between the events in Washington and the political situation here in Tennessee, particularly in the General Assembly and specifically in the body in which I serve, the House of Representatives. Could it happen here? Absolutely. In fact, in the last session we were already seeing the canaries start to warm up: Insure Tennessee was defeated not once but twice, despite the strong backing of Gov. Haslam. Pretty much every major initiative of the Republican administration was soundly rejected – by Republicans. In the early days of the Haslam administration, House leadership constantly browbeat Republican legislators to “not embarrass the governor.” How times have changed.
But there is one major difference between Congress and the General Assembly that should strike even greater fear in the establishment wing of the party here in Tennessee. Strong conservatives in the state legislature comprise a much larger percentage of the Republican caucus than they do in the U.S. Congress. In fact, strong conservatives are likely a majority of the caucus in the state House. It is now dawning on my fellow conservatives that the strength of their numbers, combined with the strong backing of their constituents, means the power structure that has long dominated Tennessee politics and frustrated the will of the people is about to be shaken to its core.
For what seemed like an eternity, Republicans were a minority. Then they secured a majority, and then a super-majority in both houses of the General Assembly. Many of us conservative legislators thought we would finally be able to provide Tennessee a constitutional, free market, smaller government in the spirit of Ronald Reagan. Boy, were we wrong.
Instead, we watched in frustration as our own GOP leaders delayed, subverted and stymied scores of sound, conservative initiatives, while siding with bigger government, corporate cronyism and leftwing policies such as Common Core, the expansion of Obamacare through Insure Tennessee and pushing for an increase in the state’s gas tax while we sit on a $600 million revenue surplus. Instead of allowing up or down votes, they killed conservative legislation by employing dishonest and deceitful maneuvers like bogus fiscal notes, creative calendaring, conservative bills being “flagged” by the governor’s office and the Black Hole of conservative legislation they call the House Budget Subcommittee.
If you ask my fellow Republican legislators today if they feel betrayed by their party’s leaders, you might get an even higher percentage than the 62% in the FOX poll.
So what happens now? Will our state’s Speaker, Beth Harwell, be forced to resign? Probably not. But will she face a challenge when the next vote for Speaker comes up a year from now? That’s a distinct possibility. Other leaders will almost certainly come under the gun. It’s highly likely Majority Leader Gerald McCormick will be aggressively challenged should he decide to run for re-election. Caucus Chair Glen Casada is also unlikely to get a pass on his current or future ambitions. Retention of anyone in current leadership may prove to be problematic in this new environment.
By now you may be asking, why write all this under a nom de plume? Why not take credit for your observations? The need for anonymity is obvious to the many colleagues who have experienced firsthand the exclusions and retributions by leadership against those who stray from the accepted line. Being heard is difficult enough without be punished for speaking up.
Instead, I encourage my conservative colleagues to recognize and embrace the power of committed individuals who can come together for positive reform. That we are a much larger group than the leadership, the media and, yes, the governor are willing to admit only serves to underscore our potential.
Real, conservative change is coming and Tennessee will play its part. Somewhere down in Legislative Plaza, the canaries are singing. And somewhere above, Ronald Reagan is smiling.