About Me

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Business, Free Enterprise and Constitutional Issues; Pro-Life and Pro Second Amendment. Susan Lynn is a member of the Tennessee General Assembly. She serves as Chairman of the Consumer and Human Resources subcommittee and on the Finance Ways and Means Committee. She holds a BS in economics and a minor in history.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Tennessee Receives a C on Campaign Finance

The California Voter Foundation has just completed a nationwide study to grade and rank the states' campaign finance disclosure laws.

Tennessee received a C and ranked 28th out of 50 states.

The California Voter Foundation produces very good data on voting and campaign finance laws. I have depended on them for years to learn what other states are doing.

The report makes some suggestions for Tennessee including:

Add additional search fields to the contributions database, such as donor employer and zip code, and contribution amount.

Summaries of candidates’ campaign financing are available from 1996 through 2006 and include totals raised and spent by each candidate, including totals from each reporting period.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Big CON

Stacey Campfield writes about the Tennessean's article on certificates of need.

I filed a bill this year to do away with the CON process in Tennessee. The history of CON is very interesting. The process was never meant to prevent private investment dollars from investing in health care facilities but that is exactly what the CON process does.

A Brief History of CON

CON evolved out of the Depression and WWII; at a time when private dollars to build healthcare facilities were more than scarce. In order to expand the local hospital or to buy a much needed piece of equipment, communities formed committees that worked to raise charitable dollars, and to decide how to spend those dollars.

After the war, the federal government began to aid the local groups by offering grants as assistance. By the 1960's, the American Hospital Association successfully convinced the New York State legislature to pass a state law making the process a state function. Only their process not only "planned" how to spend charitable dollars, and government grant dollars, but it additionally had the insidious ability to restrict private investment dollars. This meant that in order to build a new facility private investors now had to seek permission from the state in the form of a certificate of need, a.k.a. CON.

Ten years later, AHA successfully passed CON legislation at the federal level. However, the federal law was repealed in only three years as analysts quickly realized the negative effects on competition, innovation and price.

Unfortunately, the AHA and other lobbyists were able to convince most states to keep their CON laws. Today, 32 states require certificates of need for varying items.

CON is protectionism at its worst. A CON costs an incredible amount of money, time and hassle to get.

Read More About CON

A great little book by the John Locke Foundation, Certificate-of-Need, It's Time For Repeal, explains the process quite well. Here is a review.

Energy Bill Guest Column

Please see my Sunday guest column in the Tennessean on the federal energy bill below.

Other recent blog posts concerning issues related to the energy bill include.

Who owns big oil anyway?

Is the cure worse than the disease?



Congress must reconsider energy bills to get it right
By State Representative Susan Lynn

What amounts to a lackluster performance by both chambers of Congress has left the United States with pieces of energy legislation that would jeopardize America’s long-term energy security rather than advance it. Our country needs all forms of energy. Yet, the current legislative juncture has been driven by partisanship and short-sighted thinking and the result does nothing to boost access to domestic resources or strengthen America’s ability to secure energy from the global market.

Facilitating access to the vast domestic energy resources housed within our borders is one of the smartest things that lawmakers could consider as the Senate and House bills go to a conference committee for negotiations. But as they stand, the current bills would hinder the ability of domestic energy companies to reliably meet our nation’s increasing demand – translating into job losses, rising energy costs and financial hardship for the millions of Americans whose pensions are invested in U.S. oil companies.

Regrettably, this faulty legislation is rife with counterintuitive measures that will increase U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Higher taxes on the oil industry are sure to impede the technological advances that have led to recent energy finds. For instance, a record-setting find 175 miles off Louisiana’s coast in late 2006 was possible only by drilling more than 28,000 feet below the water’s surface. With no spills and no work incidents at this site – as well as a promising new source of domestic oil – the billions of dollars in reinvestments from oil companies are obviously paying off to enhance U.S. energy security.

Hampering the progress of our domestic energy producers only concedes further competitive advantages to foreign energy firms by restricting the assets that American oil companies have available to fund the financially risky exploration and development projects common to the energy industry. Energy development is investment-intensive and long-term in scope, so Congress should do all it can to see that domestic energy companies can remain competitive with the nationalized foreign firms that aggressively pursue resource-rich lands without the burden of undue taxes.

Lawmakers need to refocus their attention on the vital role reliable energy supply plays in the United States’ ability to continue any future economic growth. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 made progress toward long-term energy security, passing with bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate. Today, however, Congress seems determined to rebuke traditional energy sources in hopes that federally-mandated investments in new sources will somehow make up the difference.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that fossil fuels will continue to meet approximately 85 percent of U.S. energy demand over the next two decades. So clearly, environmentally sound development of the petroleum resources within our borders should be a logical component of any legislation intended for the President’s signature. In their present form, the short-sighted House and Senate bills would undermine our long-term energy security and national economic outlook. If lawmakers in Washington want to show real leadership, they should kill this legislation before it sees the light of day.

Susan Lynn
State Representative
57th District Tennessee

Susan Lynn is the Public Sector Chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force.

ALEC issues PR on Law of the Sea Treaty

For Immediate Release:
Contact: Michael Hough
(202) 557-8490
October 10, 2007



Sea Treaty Threatens States’ and Nation’s Sovereignty

WASHINGTON, D.C.—On Thursday October 4, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the Law of the Sea Treaty (L.O.S.T). The treaty, which was originally rejected by President Ronald Reagan in 1982, has been revived with the support of the Bush Administration. The treaty threatens our nation's sovereignty by allowing the United Nations (UN) to regulate sea and land pollution and enact global taxes.

Environmental protection provisions in L.O.S.T will impact all states. Unbelievably, the treaty allows the UN to regulate pollution from "land-based sources." This will have a direct impact on all states. According to Tennessee Representative Susan Lynn, Chair of ALEC's Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force, "The people of my state expect lawmakers, not unelected bureaucrats at the UN to make environmental and tax policy."

Aside from regulating our environmental polices, L.O.S.T empowers the International Seabed Authority (ISA) to impose taxes on American companies. Natural gas and oil companies, which export minerals more than 200 miles off shore, will be forced to pay seven percent of their profits to the I.S.A. Lynn added that "This treaty a terrible idea that would give the United Nations control over 7/10ths of the earth's surface. We must cautious about giving away such sovereignty because he who rules the sea will one day rule the land."

Furthermore, the UN body that will administer L.O.S.T only gives the U.S. one vote and no veto authority. This will, in effect, allow an international body to impose environmental regulations and tax policy on our citizens without even the support of our representative at the UN-let alone voters.

###

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is dedicated to developing model policies based on the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty. ALEC is the nation's largest nonpartisan, individual membership organization of state legislators, with more than 2,400 legislator members from all 50 states, and 86 former members serving in the U.S. Congress. www.alec.org


Jorge E. Amselle
Director, Public Affairs
American Legislative Exchange Council
1129 20th Street, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20036
JAmselle@ALEC.org
(202) 742-8536
FAX (202) 466-3801

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Community Enhancement Grants

The State of Tennessee had a large budget surplus this year. So did several other states. I joined many Tennessee legislators in a call to resist spending every last penny, and do like other states have recently done, and institute a fair way to refund the budget surplus to the taxpayers.

In the end, the eventual compromise brought some satisfaction to the refunders as a combination of two sales tax holidays, a 1/2 cent reduction in the sales tax on food, and the more controversial Community Enhancement Grant Program were included in the final budget.

Initially, the plan for Community Enhancement Grants raised eyebrows because of the highly prejudicial process which gave individual legislators sole discretion to decide whom to give $100,000 and $300,000 to in their district.

Citizens criticized this process and rightly so. Ordinarily, government grants give fair notice of opportunity to all, have an application process, employ objective determination and a list of goals. And, of course, all government grants contain an assurance of nondiscrimination and post-grant auditing to ensure accountability.

Some may recall how strongly I objected to the proposal because it allowed for too many conflicts of interest. Nothing was to prevent a politician from “buying” political endearment and payback, or seeking kickbacks on grant funds. It was certainly possible that an elected official may direct money to a board on which he or she serves and thereby have a direct hand in spending the taxpayer’s funds. Therefore, I rejected this idea, and I did not create my own list of favored organizations in my district to whom I would grant money.

However, the final proposal voted on by the legislature in the appropriations bill created a much fairer process. This version formed a $20 million dollar grant fund administered by the secretary of state’s office. It also outlined who is eligible, gave a stated purpose, fair notice, created an application process, made applications easily available to all, and mandated an audit provision making organizations accountable for the taxpayer’s money.

Now the question remaining is, how will the secretary of state fairly distribute $20 million in available grant funds to over $185 million in grant requests? Secretary Darnell has asked for input from the legislators to figure this out. Will legislators suggest sticking to their original grant lists to the exclusion of many worthy organizations that qualified for the money? Will he evenly distribute the funds, giving each organization the same amount? Surely, even this process is still very complicated.

I must state that from the beginning I believed the best way to refund your money to you is through a sales tax holiday – perhaps at Christmas. That way you can use your money for any purpose, including gifts to non-profit organizations if you choose.

It is difficult to determine if we will have another massive tax surplus but the successive years of sales tax holidays and now enhancement grants seem to indicate that our tax rate is simply set too high. Certainly lowering the sales tax would be the best way to ensure your money is well spent, and that tax rates don’t raise more money than our budget requires.

The return of the Cable Choice Bill

Debate is expected to resume in January on the Competitive Cable and Video Services Act better known as The Cable Choice Bill.

So just what is all the controversy about?

Consumers clearly want more choice of providers when it comes to television services, and quite naturally, cable companies don’t. However, unknown to most consumers is that cities use their tax dollars to pay a powerful lobbying organization to help conduct the bitter fight against the bill.

The debate is over whether cable companies should continue to obtain local franchise agreements in order to operate or if the legislature should allow the creation of a single statewide franchise agreement which would permit operators to serve the entire state.

Currently, cable companies must obtain the right to provide service by going city to city to negotiate a franchise agreement with local government officials. We looked at dozens of such agreements last year – each is essentially similar except some do insist on certain perks such as that service is provided free to city hall and the mayor’s office, etc.

Simple math reveals that with hundreds and hundreds of cities in our state such redundancy of legal work is very costly to consumers. The current process also leaves huge gaps in service for those outside of the “franchised” area. In fact, last year the FCC found that the local franchise agreement is the very cause of the vast lack of access to cable services, and that the process discourages competition among providers because it is too time consuming and costly. Providers just tend to concede certain territories to each other.

Last year the legislature heard the many concerns of our local governments and worked hard to address each one by rewriting the bill to state that local governments retain audit, build out, customer service, local franchises, PEG channels, police powers, total control of public right of way and local tax provisions. Franchise fees are paid directly to local governments. All federal laws still apply, and there is non-discrimination based on race or income.

Plus, this new process has the added benefit, and potential, to provide real competition and service to all.

We do not require telephone companies or internet service providers to operate using the same local franchise agreement process; rather, they operate statewide, taking advantage of economies of scale. In fact, the local franchise process is what has allowed companies to cherry pick the most lucrative towns and cities for years leaving many areas without competition and service.

Statewide franchising is a way to streamline the work required to obtain a contract to operate, stimulate the capital investment necessary to expand service, and encourage a competitive atmosphere among providers, thereby creating real choice and competition for every consumer in our state.

By State Representative Susan Lynn
Word count: 454

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Liberals Will Never Give Up

Illegal immigrants are issued ID cards in some places...

For some reason the Progressive States Network has been sending TN representatives their e-mail newsletter. I always read it because it is very important to watch what the other side is up to.

Their latest news letter has a story about states issueing illegal aliens state ID cards. Something we fought very hard to eliminate in Tennessee.

They add

ACTION PENDING ELSEWHERE ...Lawmakers are considering municipal ID cards (for illegal aliens):

• San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano introduced legislation last month to create a city ID card. "We can't say, 'You can come to my house and clean my toilet, but then you have no right to civic participation,'" he says.

• New York City Councilman Hiram Monserrate introduced a measure in July to create city ID cards, aide Wayne Mahlke says.

• Bruno Barreiro, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners, says he is drafting and ordinance for county IDs.

• Ashok Kumar, a supervisor in Dane County, Wis., plans to introduce a measure this month.

The Lesson - Liberals will never, ever give up!

Having your cake and eating it too

Did SR Illegally Vote?

Harold Ford Sr has filed for a Homestead Tax exemption in Florida. In order to file for such an exemption one must swear the home in question is one's permanent primary residence.

However, Tennessee law requires that in order to vote in Tennessee one's pernaent residence must be in Tennessee.

Ford asks advice on eligibility (Commercial Appeal/Aaronson)

"(Ford) May rescind Florida tax exemption to ensure vote is legal following a report in The Commercial Appeal Wednesday that questioned his eligibility to vote in Memphis, former congressman Harold Ford Sr. said he has hired lawyers to advise him whether he was entitled to cast an early ballot Sept. 27. As the newspaper reported, Ford filed for a Florida homestead tax exemption on his $2.5 million home on Miami Beach's Fisher Island, telling Miami-Dade County officials the home was his primary and permanent residence. Tennessee law requires voters to keep their permanent residence in the Volunteer State, and voters may only have one permanent residence. After making a homestead declaration in Florida, Ford was potentially ineligible when he participated in early voting at the Pyramid Recovery Center. "We're looking at it from a legal standpoint," Ford said, adding: "If Tennessee doesn't allow us to do this, then we'll be happy to rescind (the Florida tax exemption)."

Is the Cure Worse than the Disease?

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) met for it's 20th Round Table on Sustainable Development in September. They have produced a report on Biofuels called Biofuels : Is the Cure Worse Than the Disease ?

The report is a must read for policy makers, taxpayers and anyone concerned about the environment.

Among some of the findings:

The rush to energy crops threatens to cause food shortages and damage to biodiversity with limited benefits.

Second-generation technologies hold promise but depend on technological breakthroughs.

The economic outlook for biofuels seems fragile.

Government policies supporting and protecting domestic production of biofuels are inefficient…

...are not cost-effective….

More from the report:

Overall environmental impacts

105. Most biofuels have an overall environmental performance that is worse then gasoline, though their relative performance differs considerably (Fig. 8). EMPA gave maize-based ethanol in the USA a poor environmental score, whereas it determined that ethanol from sugar beets and sugarcane are only moderately better than gasoline in terms of their overall environmental impacts. Biodiesel scores negatively as well, in general. Only when waste products such as recycled cooking oils are used do their overall environmental performances fare better than that of gasoline. Biofuels made from woody biomass rated better than gasoline in all cases.


6.4 Cost-effectiveness of government support policies


114. The overall cost-effectiveness of biofuels seems to be low in almost all cases. Costs are relatively high per unit of fossil energy displaced or per unit of CO2 emissions reduced. To displace one litre equivalent of fossil fuel, for example, would cost between $0.66 and $1.40 in the United States. In the European Union these costs are even higher. And that is in addition to what customers pay for the fuel at the pump. In several cases the use of biofuels is roughly doubling the cost of transportation energy for consumers and taxpayers together. Such high rates of subsidisation might perhaps be considered reasonable if the industry was new, and ethanol and biodiesel were being made on a small-scale, experimental basis using advanced technologies, but most of the support is directed at production from mature, first-generation manufacturing plants.


115. In a similar vein, the cost of obtaining a unit of CO2-equivalent reduction through subsidies to biofuels is well over $500 per tonne of CO2-equivalent avoided for corn-based ethanol in the United States, for example, even when assuming an efficient plant uses low-carbon fuels for processing. In Switzerland and Australia the results are hardly any better, although the ranges are large depending on the feedstock. The implication of these calculations is that one could have achieved far more reductions for the same amount of money by simply purchasing CO2-equivalent offsets at the market price
.

Tax & Spin

This could be written about any state...

It's a time-tested script. Liberals enact mandated spending increases and create a structural deficit, while claiming to be fiscally responsible. The structural deficit becomes a real deficit, and we have a budget crisis. The governor makes minor budget reductions. The drumbeat for higher taxes begins. The governor calls a special session.
...it happens to be about Maryland.

Voter ID

Press accounts state that the Supreme Court may not rule on a case challenging an Indiana Voter ID law until June 2008. The law has already been upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. Opponents to the new law appealed on the basis that the new law causes mass disenfranchisement of certain voters. The law requires registered voters to show a government-issued photo identification card before they can cast a vote.

Reasonable Voter ID Laws printed this week in the Washington Times makes great points about some of the opponents' illogical objections.

Critics of such voter ID laws say they have a depressing effect on voter turnout. This despite the fact that voter turnout is on the rise (with experts predicting still higher turnout in 2008). One would think that the 10 percent or so of the population that does not have a government ID would use the law as further motivation to obtain one. Such IDs are vital to obtain employment, open a bank account, qualify for government entitlement programs and even purchase certain goods and services. There is little excuse for any American or legal citizen not to obtain either a driver's license or non-driving ID.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Kentucky ACLU Lawsuit Dismissed in Federal Court

ACLU's Lawsuit Against The Ten Commandments In Public Schools Is Dismissed

A federal court has dismissed a lawsuit that was filed by the ACLU against a school board in Harlan County in Kentucky over a display that includes the Ten Commandments.

Since 2005, the ACLU has lost serveral Ten Commandments cases.

The display hangs in several schools and in the district office. To see a picture of one of the displays that hangs above the cafeteria doors, go to www.LC.org/images/10comm_harlan_cafeteria.jpg.
News Release