April 2011 Archives

Barbour is going to New Hampshire


Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour will visit a gun shop and hold meet-and-greets on a two-day visit to New Hampshire Wednesday and Thursday, his Haley's PAC press operation said this afternoon. New Hampshire holds the nation's first presidential primary, and Barbour has said that he will decide by the end of this month whether to seek the Republican nomination

The visit includes a reception at a private residence in Bow; a breakfast at a French restaurant in Manchester; a meet-and-greet at Riley's Gun Shop in Hooksett; and a reception with the Greater Manchester Federation of Republican Women.

A planned visit in March had to be postponed.

Hearing aids for children. Oh my!


NASHVILLE - The National Federation of Independent Business, which mostly represents smaller businesses, is one of the more conservative business groups and although officially non-partisan, provides key support for Republicans. But it may have overreached today with an email to lawmakers opposing a bipartisan bill requiring health insurance policies to cover hearing aids for children who need them.

The bill (HB761) ended up passing 82-12 after its supporters used words like  "threatening" and "offensive" to describe the email they received from NFIB-Tennessee. Members said it urged a "no" vote because NFIB sees it as a health-care mandate on business. "NFIB members strongly oppose all healthcare mandates because their collective impact has forced thousands of Tennessee small businesses, their employees and families to drop comprehensive coverage that protects them while facing catastrophic illnesses," according to the group's website.

But what really "disturbed" members - as Rep. Kent Williams, I-Elizabethton, put it -- was the email's warning that NFIB might include their votes on the bill among a list of "key votes" of the 2011-12 legislative term to be distributed to the group's members at election time next year.

Sponsors of the bill said the new coverage is limited, paying for an initial hearing aid and then new ones once every three years up to age 18 but only if an audiologist or doctor certifies a child's hearing has significantly worsened. They said the benefit will add, at most, 2 cents to health insurance premiums. It goes into affect with policies issue or renewed after next Jan. 1.

The 26-minute floor debate opened a rare fissure among the newly dominant Republicans, with some of the House's most conservative members ending up voting against the bill -- while all Democrats and most of the other moderate and conservative Republicans voting in favor. Five of the 12 "no" votes are freshmen Republicans swept into office in last year's tea party-backed GOP tidal wave.

Three West Tennessee members voted against the bill: Reps. Mark White, R-Memphis, Vance Dennis, R-Savannah, and freshman Andy Holt, R-Dresden.  Itl now goes to the Senate, where Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said he expects passage.

House Republican Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga (and a Shelby County native), told reporters after the floor session that the unrest revolves around the legislature's traditional opposition to "mandates." "There are dozens of bills each year where different groups want to come in and mandate things to go on to the insurance policies and we generally vote those mandates down because they are mandates that make additional costs for individuals and businesses. But about once every year or two we pick one out that we think is especially deserving, and all the business people I know feel like we ought to help little children be able to hear and have hearing aids. I think it's a very stringent process before we let a mandate come through like that but I think in this case we overwhelmingly  wanted that one to come through and that was reflected today. Certainly the NFIB has their opinion, as does dozens and hundreds of other special interest groups around here. Sometimes we go along with them and sometimes we don't. I think we're responding to our constituents instead of the special interests," McCormick said.

On the House floor, Rep. Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, the bill sponsor, said "I don't consider this a mandate. I consider this a humane right-thing-to-do piece of legislation for children. They said they're going to grade me on this legislation. I've got 62,000 people back home who grade me - mommas and daddies and children. I guarantee you that if I went to every one of my  businesses back in Sevier County and said here's what we're doing and the impact it will have on children, they would all sign off on this piece of legislation. I guarantee you they would."

Rep. Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, a State Farm insurance agent who backed the bill, said, "We put caps on this so it wouldn't become an outrageous benefit. This small amount of money will be able to be consumed in the premiums."

Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, said he received a letter from the parents of a six-year-old boy in his district who said that all he wanted for Christmas was a new pair of hearing aids. Despite that, Lundberg said, it's a mandate and he's opposed to it. "Where is the line that we draw on what's a good mandate and what's not?"

One of the House's most conservative members, Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, said he's "profoundly anti-mandate...but occasionally something comes along that's the right thing to do." He said the cost savings from children being able to hear and learn would greatly exceed the costs of hearing aids. "Considering the email I that got which was offensive to me as well - as I'm sure it was offensive to my colleagues on the other side _ I think the most fitting thing we could do here today is vote this out of here 99 to zero," Shipley said.

Williams said the NFIB's message that it may use the vote as a "score" on on lawmakers disturbed him. "I really don't care what kind of score that any of these special interest groups give me.... I'm appalled that any special interest or lobbyist will try to tell us how to vote on any issue. I'm more interest in the grade I get from my constituents and the people of Tennessee and the families that have these children that can't hear."

Freshman Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, voted for the bill and called on his colleagues to have courage to do so as well. "To my colleagues in this august body, I want to draw a parallel for you. A number of you are fellow veterans. You know what it's like to be shot at. And as one of the poets of our time said, without fear, courage would be meaningless. I'm calling on you to have courage and vote for this bill. What it boils down to is, we are here to benefit the taxpayers of the state of Tennessee that sent us here. It costs less in the long run to give a child hearing aids so that they can learn how to be a productive citizen than it does to pay for the results of not allowing that to happen. Let me close again with a call for courage, in this case not the courage to stand in front of somebody shooting at you or land a burning airplane or any of those things we think of as demonstrating courage - but moral courage. I think this is the morally right thing to do and I support the bill fully."

Democratic Rep. Eddie Bass of Pulaski said lawmakers shouldn't fear special interest. groups. He thanked Montgomery for the legislation "as a small business owner" himself. "But I am going to say to the new people in here: I got this same threatening email from NFIB, and for anybody who's concerned about that, I got the same threatening letter last year -- both in a letter and verbally. I still voted my conscience and did what was right. I ran without their support because of it and I'm living proof that if you vote what's right, you don't need them."

See the news story here.

NASHVILLE - Tributes and accolades flowed in in honor of the late Tennessee governor Ned McWherter, who died Monday afternoon at age 80 following a months-long battle with cancer.

Choking back tears, two of the former governor's closest lieutenants remaining in the state legislature, House Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington, and Rep. Lois DeBerry, D-Memphis, the former House speaker pro tem, recalled McWherter in a press conference and moments later in short tributes on the House floor.

Both said they spoke with McWherter almost every Sunday afternoon since his cancer was diagnosed late last fall. They recalled two of his most frequent homespun utterances as the longtime powerful speaker of the House from 1973 to 1986 and then as governor from 1987 to 1995.

McWherter borrowed the first from the late Northwest Tennessee congressman Robert "Fats" Everett, whom a young McWherter served as a driver during Everett's campaigns. It's inscribed on Everett's memorial on the Obion County Courthouse lawn in Union City:

"If a man didn't want to work, he oughtn't to have hired out."

I may be off a word or two on that but that's the gist of the words McWherter would deliver as House Speaker to restless members when floor sessions ran late into the evenings and the wee hours of the mornings.

Naifeh repeated the other story on the House floor Monday night:

"When he (McWherter) was campaigning for governor his first time, he went back to his hometown of Palmersville in Weakley County and he went into a little store, campaigning. He spoke to the two gentlemen on the front porch as he went in. When he came out, one of them said, 'Ned Ray, I've been seeing you on TV a whole lot lately.' He said 'Yes sir, I've spent a whole lot of money on it' - which he hated spending money on anything. But the man said, 'You know Ned Ray, you can go all across this state and see all these people and a whole lot of folks are going to think a lot of you -- but the crowd at your funeral's going to depend on the weather that day'."

Other tributes poured in from both sides of the political spectrum:

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who preceded McWherter as governor while McWherter was the powerful House speaker, paid tribute to McWherter on the Senate floor:

"When I became governor, Ned McWherter said, 'I'm going to help him, because if he succeeds, our state succeeds.' He was true to his word. That bipartisan spirit symbolized Ned's entire career. He was one of our state's finest public servants and a close friend. I will greatly miss him."

Former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, whom McWherter helped persuade to run for governor the first time in 1994 - an unsuccessful run that Bredesen lost to Republican Don Sundquist:

"Ned McWherter was my mentor and my friend. I'd never met him, but after I'd run for mayor and lost, he called me up to the (Governor's) Residence. We sat in the office there, talked a little while, and then told me he was going to help me. I'm not sure I had a choice. What a life-changing experience for me! Over the years, we got to know each other better and better, and a genuine friendship grew. There were a number of years when we went hunting together with other friends in Texas, and I remember how much he enjoyed it; not hunting itself so much as sitting around the camp with friends and trading stories. Ned's life was a genuine American story, from shoe salesman to Governor, never losing his bearings on the journey. He was grounded in Tennessee; he loved the people of his state and they loved him back. I can't think of a finer epitaph."

Gov. Bill Haslam:

"This is a sad day for Tennessee. Governor McWherter was a true statesman who cared about this state and its citizens. He had a long and distinguished career in the legislative and executive branches as well as in business. I will always be grateful for his personal kindness to me and the wise advice he gave me during my first months in office. Crissy's and my thoughts and prayers go out to Mike and the entire McWherter family during this difficult time."

Former President Jimmy Carter:

"Ned McWherter was one of the most effective and finest public servants I have known. He was very helpful to me with his wise counsel while I was President and in the years after.Rosalynn and I are saddened to hear of his passing. We extend our sympathies to his family and many friends and to the people of Tennessee. Our nation has lost a great leader, and I a trusted friend."

Former President Bill Clinton:

"Hillary and I join his family and friends in grief over the passing of Governor Ned Ray McWherter, and in gratitude for his wonderful life. Ned was a great friend and a strong supporter to both of us. Just being around him always made me feel better. He calmed me when I was excited and lifted me up when I was down. His legendary ability to cut to the heart of a problem in a few blunt words was invaluable to me in the White House. Those of us who served as Governors with Ned knew that under his leadership, there was no state better run than Tennessee, because of his commitment to both continuous change and sensible management, and his uncanny blend of old-fashioned common sense and progressive values. He loved people, politics, and policy. He took his obligations seriously but always found something to laugh about. He was a bear of a man with a huge heart. I love him very much and I will miss him. I hope his memory will inspire young Tennesseans to follow in his footsteps. My thoughts are with his children, Michael and Linda, his grandchildren, and the people of Tennessee."

House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville:

"It was an honor to have known him. He was truly a statesman. He cared deeply about this state and cared deeply about being speaker of the House. He gave a lot of credibility to the legislative branch and he was a man I truly admired."

Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester, who served on Gov. McWherter's first campaign gubernatorial campaign, and who is also mourning the death of his son this weekend at the University of Arizona where he attended:

"I'm saddened by the loss of one of Tennessee's great Democratic leaders. I had the high honor of serving in his first campaign for governor and count him as one of my true political mentors. His gift of understanding what working people cared about and his vision for what Tennessee could become has inspired me my entire political career. Gov. McWherter was every man and he was bigger than life. We have a lost a great one."

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.:

"I join my fellow Tennesseans in mourning the loss of one of our state's finest and most beloved public servants," said Corker. "Ned was always upbeat, looking for the best in people and situations. He was incredibly kind to me when I came in as commissioner of finance. I never forgot that and continued to seek his counsel throughout my career, as recently as the past few weeks. He was a great friend to me, and I will miss him."

Lt. Gov. and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville:

"Few men have meant as much to as many Tennesseans as Gov. Ned Ray McWherter. This state has lost a true statesman and a true original. My heart and the hearts of all Tennesseans go out to the McWherter family today."

State Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney of Jackson:

"Tennessee lost a true legend today in Governor Ned Ray McWherter. Governor McWherter left his legacy across our great state, and there is no doubt that we are better for his leadership, his vision and his compassion. Governor McWherter never hesitated to do what he believed was best for all Tennesseans, whether that was raising up our children through education reform, or creating jobs in rural areas through infrastructure improvements. Under his direction, Tennessee set a national standard for fiscal responsibility that endures today."

U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn.:

"Today is a sad day for all of Tennessee as we mourn the loss of Ned McWherter. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. Tennessee was blessed to have a true leader like Ned. I am grateful for his many contributions to this state and his legacy will forever be remembered."

Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney:

"I am saddened by the news of Governor McWherter's passing. I believe all Tennesseans, regardless of political affiliation, appreciate his years of service to our state even after he served as Speaker of the House and Governor. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time."

State House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley:

"I was saddened to hear of the loss of my friend, former Speaker and Governor, Ned McWherter. My thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time. Governor McWherter was a statesman of the first degree. He will be missed, but his legacy will live on for generations."

University of Memphis President Shirley Raines:

"Everyone associated with the University of Memphis is saddened by the death of Gov. Ned McWherter. His reputation as "The Education Governor" is nowhere more evident than the magnificent library on the U of M campus, which bears his name and honors his commitment to education in general and to the University of Memphis in particular. On behalf of all of us in the University of Memphis community, for whom his friendship has meant so much, I offer his family our sincerest condolences." /blockquote>
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