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, a member of the Finance Ways and Means Committee and the Ethics Committee. She holds a BS in economics and a minor in history.

Monday, November 05, 2007

White Ribbon Week

Its WRAP week – will you wear a white ribbon?

WRAP stands for white ribbons against pornography. Its founders are fighting the objectification of women and the dehumanization of both female and male participants in pornography.

Sound familiar? The mainstream women’s movement gave up on this idea long ago. Instead, now sending the message it’s not exploitation if a woman exploits herself – It is power.

Many of the founders of WRAP are thirty something’s that have fled the porn industry to turn their lives around. Their heartbreaking testimonies tell of their own exposure as children to pornographic materials their parents had hidden in the house. This led to desensitization, early experimentation, abuse and, for them, careers in the porn industry. Their mission now is to spread the message of how the secret of pornography often leads both children and adults into destructive sexual addictions that tear families apart and destroy careers.

WRAP’s fight is not only against the formal porn industry but the many ways it spills over into the mainstream media today. In fact, the porn industry makes more revenue than all major television and cable news networks combined. No wonder these mainstream TV channels air some of the questionable programming that they do – the numbers tell them that this is what people want to see.

Often promoting rape and other anti-social behaviors, WRAP points to the increasing sexual violence and molestation of children by adults and authority figures as behaviors extending from the porn industry.

The statistics are staggering. Law enforcement tells us that they are able to track the Internet viewing of child pornography. It is a problem that not only endangers children worldwide but right here in our city. They also know that so-called “adult” pornography is commonly used by pedophiles to desensitize their child victim and break down their resistance to sexual acts.

The Supreme Court has ruled that obscenity is not protected speech so we do have laws to protect people that don’t want themselves or their children to be exposed. What WRAP is trying to wake us up to is the addiction, the objectification, the desensitizing effects, and the crimes that extend from the industry. Recognizing the harm to children, women and men worldwide, they’re asking for you and me to think about it and make a commitment not to support this industry.

When we pay to go see or rent many R rated movies, subscribe to cable movie channels such as Showtime, even watching some evening network TV programming we're supporing an extention of this industry.

If I had one wish, I’d wish that I could tell each young woman today, your femininity is a lovely gift that is part of what makes you the special young lady that you are but please know you don’t ever need to exploit your sexuality to prove your worth to anyone.

To mothers, I’d urge them, protect your children from graphic images on the Internet and in the media like a mama bear protecting her cubs. “Not my child!” should be your cry if anyone exposes your children to graphic images.

And to Fathers, guarding your family from every harm is your first priority. It’s important.

Indeed WRAP wants all of us to know that guarding society starts first with guarding ourselves.

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
(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

Friday, September 28, 2007

Presidential Quiz

Someone sent me this Presidential candidate selection tool. Answer a few questions and it gives you your candidate. It looks like they might be collecting data too but it is anonymous.

The test claims that "The scores at the end are pretty black & white--either you agree with the candidate's positions or don't. Personalities and party affiliations don't come into it."

I most agreed with Fred Thompson - the only area where we differed was energy.

The candidate I least agreed with was Hillary Clinton - scoring a 5 - we only agreed on the death penalty. We differed on Iraq, Immigration, Taxes, Stem-Cell Research, Health Care, Abortion, Social Security, Line-Item Veto, Energy and Marriage.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Who Owns Big Oil Anyway?

In response to liberal politicians' plan to heavily tax Big Oil profits, API, a national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry conducted a study to find out just who is profiting from the oil and gas industry corporate profits.

In other words; who owns big oil?

API hired Robert Shapiro, noted economist and former Undersecretary of Commerce under President Clinton to find out who owns the stock in America's oil and natural gas industry and just who is profiting from high profits.

The study revealed that:

Almost 43 percent of oil and natural gas company shares are owned by mutual funds and asset management companies that have mutual funds. Mutual funds manage accounts for 55 million U.S. households with a median income of $68,700.

Twenty seven percent of shares are owned by other institutional investors like pension funds. In 2004, more than 2,600 pension funds run by federal, state and local governments held almost $64 billion in shares of U.S. oil and natural gas companies. These funds represent the major retirement security for the nation’s current and retired soldiers, teachers, and police and fire personnel at every level of government.

Fourteen percent of shares are held in IRA and other personal retirement accounts. Forty five million U.S. households have IRA and other personal retirement accounts, with an average account value of just over $22,000.

Fourteen percent of shares are owned by individual investors who purchase stocks on the open market.

1.5% of shares are owned by corporate insiders – company executives and CEO’s.

As you can see, taxing profits will only take money from your pension, retirement account, mutual fund or stock earnings; a plan which simply takes your wealth away from you and transfers it to government bureaucrats with no promise of lower prices at the pump.

So instead of taxing profits just what can we do to make the prices come down to reasonable levels that we all can afford? Increase supply. Increasing the supply of energy sources is the only way to make the price go down in any meaningful and real way.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Cigarette Police

I just received this press release from the Department of Revenue.

I guess we've finally succeeded in making ordinary criminals out of ordinary smokers.

State of Tennessee

Department of Revenue

September 21, 2007 (615) 741-2461 (office)
(615) 545-1734 (cell)

REVENUE plans for cigarette surveillance at state line

Transporting more than two cartons across state line is illegal

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ¾ The Tennessee Department of Revenue’s Special Investigations Section will be conducting surveillance of out-of-state tobacco retailers located near the state line for Tennessee residents purchasing cigarettes. On July 1, 2007, Tennessee’s cigarette tax increased from 20 cents per pack to 62 cents per pack.

“As a result of this legislation, Tennesseans may travel to neighboring states to purchase cigarettes in order to avoid paying Tennessee cigarette tax,” said Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr. “Tennesseans should know that the law requires cigarettes purchased outside of the state to bear a Tennessee tobacco stamp, otherwise the cigarettes may be considered contraband.”

Possessing more than 20 packs (or two cartons) of cigarettes not bearing Tennessee revenue stamps is a misdemeanor. Such products and any vehicle(s) used to transport them are subject to seizure. Possession of more than 25 cartons of untaxed cigarettes is a Class E felony.

“If Revenue agents believe that an individual is transporting more than two cartons of cigarettes into Tennessee, the vehicle carrying the cigarettes will be stopped and searched,” Commissioner Farr said. “If more than two cartons are found, the cigarettes will be seized and agents have the discretion to make arrests and seize the vehicle.”

Public Chapter 368 increased the tax on cigarettes from $0.20 to $0.62 per pack. Additional revenue from the increase is earmarked for education (approximately $195 million annually), agricultural enhancements ($21 million annually) and trauma centers statewide ($12 million annually). The Department of Revenue administers the collection and enforcement of Tennessee tobacco taxes.

The Department of Revenue is responsible for the administration of state tax laws and motor vehicle title and registration laws established by the legislature and the collection of taxes and fees associated with those laws. The Department of Revenue collects approximately 92 percent of total state tax revenue. During the 2006-2007 fiscal year, the department collected $11.0 billion in state taxes and fees. In addition to collecting state taxes, $1.9 billion of local sales tax was collected by the department for local governments during the 2006-2007 fiscal year. Besides collecting taxes, the department enforces the revenue laws fairly and impartially in an effort to encourage voluntary taxpayer compliance. The department also apportions revenue collections for distribution to the various state funds and local units of government. To learn more about the department, log on to www.Tennessee.gov/revenue.

This press release can be accessed online at http://state.tn.us/revenue/newsreleases/2007/cigenforce.htm.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Ethics Code

I first submitted this ethics code as part of an article in the Lebanon Democrat in 2006. I posted it on my blog soon after the blog was created. I developed the code during the Special Session on Ethics based on our oath of office and by studing ethics codes for other professions.

It is surprising that the General Assembly does not agree on a general code of ethics from year to year. Perhaps, it is about time that we do.

Ethics Code

A legislator is a public servant working to protect the rights of the citizens and to clarify rights and laws for the common good.

We hold that there is certain behavior that the legislative branch should not engage in.

It is clear and uncontroversial that legislators should;

Uphold the Constitutions of the state of Tennessee and the United States of America and make no law to the contrary to either.

Abide by all laws of the state of Tennessee and the United States of America.

Vote without affection, favor, partiality, or prejudice.

Vote for no law injurious to the people.

Not lessen or abridge the rights and privileges of the people.

Not seek to profit from their position.

Not employ intimidation, threat or coercion for personal, financial or political gain.

Report illegal behavior of other legislators or others.

Not use the resources of the state for personal use.

Not accept gifts given due to their position or for the performance of their duties.

Contributions to campaigns should be accepted with the understanding between both parties that they procure no influence, nor promise of any vote, service or favor.

When involved in the important act of forging consensus, policy makers should commit to screen all information through their own values, convictions, and principles; employing the virtues of honesty and integrity, and should reject the influence of all conflicts of interest by using their core values as a template to place over the decisions that they face.

Legislators should not therefore perform any task or deed in direct conflict with conscience or contrary to the best interest of their constituency or the state.

This code is a proposed list of general expectations for those in a positioin of public trust but it is by no means all encompassing. Laws may certainly be derived from this list for legislators to abide by.

Let us all remember, it is always good to have a healthy skepticism of our government and public officials.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

ADHD & Food Additives

Some Food Additives Raise Hyperactivity, Study Finds

This morning’s New York Times reports on a study of food additives and hyperactivity confirming that food additives can cause some children to become hyperactive. The study was financed by Britain’s Foods Standards Agency and printed in the very reputable British medical journal The Lancet. Reuters also printed an article.

This is not the first study to confirm such results (and click here). But it has extremely important implications for children and our education system.

In fact, Appleton Central High School, an alternative school in Appleton, WI, has displayed a commitment to good nutrition by providing an additive free diet in conjunction with Natural Ovens Bakery for their students for years. They have reported much improved behavior and learning; click here, here, here, and here.

Eventually, the improved dietary standards proved so successful that the entire school system now uses such an approach.

Our Story

For me, this study further confirms my own experiences. At three years of age my son was diagnosed with ADHD. At that time pediatricians did not put such a young child on medication. It was a good thing too; otherwise I might never have sought out a book by Dr. Benjamin Feingold, called Why Your Child is Hyperactive (also available here).

Dr. Feingold, an allergist and pediatrician, explained that some children are generally predisposed to be sensitive to certain chemicals which are used as additives in the foods we regularly consume in our modern diet. In susceptible children, such additives can cause behavior, learning, health and motor skills problems.

In addition to his hyperactivity, my son’s problems were numerous; he had trouble staying on the paper when he colored as well as difficulty with drawing shapes. He suffered frequent rashes, headaches and tummy aches. He had persistent bad dreams, mild speech difficulties, and acute sensitivity to low base noises. We had also observed that he couldn’t run but the doctor told us this was actually caused by a problem with his gait when he walked – all of these symptoms were classic signs of the behavior, learning, health and motor skills problems that Feingold had described in his book.

Although the symptoms of the children in the book mirrored my young son’s, it was difficult to accept that these chemicals could possibly be affecting him. Still, I had three years before they’d try him on any medication so I put up everything in our home that Dr. Feingold had identified as a possible culprit and I kept a diary of the experience.

To my astonishment, in three days I had a normal little boy! At first I was very timid to believe that his new diet could have produced such a dramatic change in his behavior. I kept journaling in the diet diary. Soon it became quite obvious that when an infraction occurred his behavior deteriorated and then improved after three days of careful adherence to his new diet.

Our friends and family could see the change in him and were happy for us. Our pediatrician, he never conceded that the diet was of any help – we just agreed to disagree. His new diet was much healthier anyway. Nothing artificially flavored, colored, or preserved. If one reads an MSDS sheet on food additives it is very obvious that we could all benefit from such a diet.

Our son actually wanted to stay on the diet. He didn’t like the way he felt when he ate the chemical additives. He never needed medications. His teachers never complained that he was a discipline problem or nor did he have any scholastic problems. And the little boy who couldn’t run actually received four different college scholarships to run cross-country when he graduated from high school.

I have volunteered for the Feingold Association of the United States for over twenty years now; at times being much more active than in the last few years. Yet, I continue to speak on the subject whenever asked.

The Feingold Association is a tremendous help to families. They publish a grocery shopping list full of foods without chemical additives that the child can eat. It makes finding a cereal, or bread or anything else much easier on trips to the supermarket.

I am speaking about our experiences at the Incredible Families Parenting Conference this Saturday, September 8, at 9:45 am at The Grace Place, located at The Hermitage Church of God, 4316 Central Pike, Hermitage TN.

I hope this new study makes a difference for families. I think such information is one reason why I never cease to believe in the victory of the human spirit.

Friday, August 17, 2007

New Blog

State Representative Matthew Hill has a new job and a new blog.

He has returned to radio as the host of Good Morning Tri-Cities.

A blog comes with the job. The blog accepts posts from listeners. He's also invited established bloggers to participate.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Too good not to share

I just started reading Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom. It’s already too good not to share.

In the introduction Friedman comments on that very famous line by John Kennedy

"Ask not what your country can do for you but ask what you can do for your country."

Friedman notes the paternalistic view of asking what your country can do for you. It implies that government is a “patron,” and the “citizen the ward,” or that government is a servant to the citizen, a caretaker, a provider, and “a grantor of favors and gifts.” This view is very much at odds with a free mans view of his own individual responsibility and control over his own destiny.

Conversely, asking what you can do for your country implies that government is an organism or a “master;” a powerful deity over man to be “blindly worshiped or served.”

Friedman goes on to state that “a free man will neither ask what his country can do for him nor what he can do for his country” because to a free man our country is merely a collection of individuals, not some thing over or above him, and not some thing to care for and provide for him. Government is a collection of citizens with a "common heritage and loyal to common traditions."

He notes that a free man will ask “what can I and my compatriots do through government to help us discharge our individual responsibilities, to achieve our several goals and purposes and, above all, to protect our freedom?” "And how can we keep the government we create from becoming a Frankenstein that will destroy the very freedom we establish it to protect?"

He goes on to state that concentration of power is a great threat to freedom.

“Let us provide us a road to get here and there. Enabling each to greet all we see, merchandizing to earn a fee, and bringing our families closer to we” Unknown.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Irritating Liberals with Healthy Wisconsin

My friends in the Wisconsin state legislature and I have apparently hit a nerve today due to our fight against Healthy Wisconsin, here too.

A post on The Huffington Post.com by David Sorota blasts us for our efforts to fight the legislation. David is a board member of the Progressive States Network, the body that is working for universal healthcare at the state level.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Ridiculous Textbooks used in Tennessee

Ben Cunningham recently embedded a YouTube video on his blog by a Seattle Fox News 13 meteorologist and weather newscaster, M.J. McDermott.

(I have not mastered the magic of embedding yet so I have a link below to YouTube).

The video highlights the ridiculous techniques taught by two particular math textbooks that are in use today; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tr1qee-bTZI.

As a student, I enjoyed math very much but I feel these procedures would have caused me great frustration in 5th grade. I showed the video to my daughter, a good English / history type student, and she said she would have been in tears…literally.

It is certainly NOT the optimal way to learn multiplication and division.

I checked the list of selected books for use in Tennessee classrooms; these two books are on the list.

The list is compiled by the State Textbook Commission according to T.C.A. 49-6-2201---2209 and 49-3-310.

I cannot tell you if YOUR child's school is using these books because the list contains an assortment of textbooks from which to choose. Each school district selects their choice of curriculum from the list established by the Commission. If you are concerned, call and ask your child’s school.

Work done by committee is never perfect, and the textbook business is a huge, high pressure, competitive industry containing some wild and often ridiculous ideas about learning.

This illustrates very well why parents need to be vigilant and involved in their child’s education. It goes without saying, but when your child is issued his or her textbooks – review them. If one just doesn’t make sense, bring it to the attention of your child’s teacher, the principal and the school board.

Better yet, get a group of concerned parents together and ask to review the choices before they are actually purchased.

If you live in a school district that is performing well the chances are they are not using these books – but it is your right as a parent and a taxpayer to ask.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Dr. Milton Friedman

The great Nobel Prize winning economist, Dr. Milton Friedman's birthday was last week.

I was quite fortunate to meet him, just for a moment, last summer. He died a few short months later in November. It is funny how meeting someone so great, even for a brief moment, can have an impact on one.

He was so frail that he gave his speech sitting down in a handsome wingback chair. His lovely wife, Rose, by his side.

He spoke that day about the importance of choice in education.

A commentary on him contains one of his classic quotes on government spending.

What a master of human nature he was...

"There are four ways in which you can spend money.

You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money.

Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost.

I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch!

Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get.

And that’s government. And that’s close to 40% of our national income."

Friday, August 03, 2007

State Comptroller's New Immigration Report

The State of Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury's office has completed a new report called Immigration Issues in Tennessee.

The report is a must read for anyone interested in illegal immigration in Tennessee and how our dollars are spent.

The report was complied by the Offices of Research and Education Accountibility .

To see all of the available reports click here.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Michael DelGiorno / 99.7 FM

Thank you host Michael DelGiorno and Super Talk 99.7 for inviting me to be on your show this morning to talk about the Nashville City Paper's article on invalid voters.

This is a very important issue and I appreciate your interest.

Spending Priorities

Researching government regulation theory brings to mind an important question regarding the Minnesota bridge tragedy;

How many tax dollars are wasted on do-gooder ideas while responsibilities that have immediate health, safety or supply concerns are put off or neglected?

TDOT reports that Tennessee has 346 structurally deficient on-system bridges (those owned and maintained by the state). There are 660 structurally deficient off-system bridges (those on roads owned and maintained by local governments).

A colleague of mine in the House is angered today because a state contracted service provider near his own business that recently lost their state contract closed their doors yesterday as a “housing agency” and opened their doors today with a new sign that reads “Walk-in Clinic and Haircuts.”

Yes, they will be giving state paid for haircuts. He’s unsure as of yet what the walk-in clinic is all about – the facility is certainly not equipped to be a clinic nor do the operators seem to him to be qualified.

He states the neighboring businesses are often upset because this “service provider” often has the police at their door and a disorderly clientele.

In the meantime, how many tax dollars are we wasting on things like hair cuts?

We must prioritize government spending and provide only for those things that one is unable to do for ones self because it is an impossibility; because there are immediate health, safety or supply concerns. Not because someone feels some might not have “access” as is so often the cry in committee.

How many of the people who died in the Mississippi river last night would be capable of determining if a bridge is safe for travel, or would be able to make the repairs? That IS the government’s job.

How many were even informed that the bridge was considered structurally deficient and had the opportunity to make the choice as to whether to travel that route or not?

People will find housing or get a hair cut on their own.

We’ve got to develop principles and priorities for government spending so that we can stop liberal do-gooder ideas that waste millions upon billions of dollars and take care of things like structurally deficient bridges which jeopardize lives everyday.

Healthy Wisconsin...Coming to Tennessee?

Yesterday I participated in a conference call about Healthy Wisconsin; the healthcare legislation recently passed by the Democrat controlled Wisconsin State Senate.

Why? Not because I support government controlled single payer healthcare but because this conference call, intended to push the same reforms to legislators in other states, was a chance to learn what the other side is up to.

The Wall Street Journal states, unless the Republican controlled House can defeat the plan, Wisconsin may well become “Michael Moore’s Medical Dream State.”

This disturbing view inside this amazingly organized liberal think tank revealed the long-term planning and strategy of this organization that has been able to gather support from an 85,000 member coalition made up of Wisconsin’s unions and progressive activists.

It is clear that unions are excited because they see great savings ahead as they are able to unload their healthcare liabilities on the taxpayers of the state of Wisconsin.

The plan includes every bad incentive possible. Among them; consumer driven ideas are out, high taxes and price controls in, more required mandates, rationing, forced participation by employees and employers; but don’t worry - one doesn’t even need to have a job to obtain the insurance.

One of the more impossible claims is that the plan will pay for expensive and controversial experimental treatments. Examining state run healthcare in other countries, not only are experimental treatments not paid for but, one waits for months and months for even conventional treatments.

The Senate sponsor, State Senator Erpenbach, used twisted class warfare techniques as he compared the Healthy Wisconsin plan to the generous benefits and low premiums the Wisconsin state legislature affords itself (he pays just over $60 per month for his entire family). In stead of saying “I’m part of the cost shifting problem,” the senator falsely promises that everyone will have the same unlimited benefits and low rates that he has. Perhaps hoping the listening simpletons would not note that the miracle of his privileged policy and impossibly low rate, never before available to the masses, is heavily subsidized by the masses – as too would be Healthy Wisconsin.

Besides using self generated polling, petitions, pod casts, press releases, election propaganda, and faith based claims – they admittedly solicited “independent reports” from like-minded progressive groups to back up their claims of rich savings for businesses and grand estimates of the positive economic impact for the state.

The creator of one report expressed her great pleasure for having been "asked" to "help" with this immense effort to bring government controlled healthcare to Wisconsin. She noted that she didn’t mind that she was given less than one week to produce her "in-depth" independent report. She made it clear that her data was rehashed from one other liberal report without which she never could have produced her information so quickly. She ended with an attempt to solicit business by stating her group is capable of producing other such reports with the same short notice and, I presume, the same 'careful' research.

Their claims cannot possibly add up in Wisconsin or anywhere else. Let's hope Republicans in Wisconsin's state house will realize that all these wolves in do-gooder clothing really want is to legislatively gain control of the healthcare industry and then they can wield their power and make their fortunes.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

WSJ Tax Hike Scorecard

This morning's Wall Street Journal has a disturbing tax hike scorecard on the opinion page.

The Journal notes;

"It's all the more remarkable given that federal tax revenues as a share of GDP are currently above their modern historical level. The latest budget estimate is that fiscal 2007 revenues will reach 18.8% of GDP, compared to the 40-year historical average of 18.3%. Tax revenues this year are rising by nearly 8%, following increases of 11.8% in 2006 and 14.6% in 2005. The budget deficit is down to 1.5% of GDP, and falling. But apparently Democrats still think Americans are undertaxed."

Some of the proposed hikes noted;

• A Senate Finance Committee plan to raise the federal tobacco tax by 61 cents to a total of $1 a pack to finance the Schip health-care expansion. The Senate figures this will raise $35 billion in revenue over five years, if you choose to believe this tax increase won't produce even more tax-free cigarette sales from Indian reservations.

• The so-called "Blackstone tax" on private equity partnerships that go public, raising their 15% rate to the regular corporate tax rate of 35%. This bipartisan Senate proposal hasn't been scored yet for revenues but may well pass Congress.

• A tax increase on the "carried interest" of hedge funds and private equity to 35% from 15%. This has been introduced in the House and endorsed by Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel and the major Democratic Presidential candidates.

• New York Senator Chuck Schumer tells the New York Times that he'll oppose this unless the tax increase also applies to real estate and other partnerships that also now pay the 15% carried interest tax rate. To put it another way, Mr. Schumer is saying he'll only support the higher tax rate if it applies to more people. Meanwhile, by playing this "good cop" role, Mr. Schumer is raising millions of dollars in campaign contributions from hedge funds and private equity for Democratic Senate candidates running in 2008. Brilliant.

• Higher withholding taxes on the U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies -- in essence a tax increase on foreign investment in America. This $7.5 billion tax proposal from Texas Democrat Lloyd Doggett came out of nowhere last week to appear in the House farm bill to pay for more agriculture subsidies. It passed.

• Raise the capital gains rate to 28% from the current 15%. This would repeal not only the capital gains tax cut of 2003 but also the tax cut (to 20% from 28%) that Bill Clinton signed into law in 1997. Presidential candidate John Edwards proposed this 86% increase in the capital gains tax last week, and he's been echoed in recent days by such Democratic tax sachems as Alan Blinder and Leonard Burman. Mr. Blinder thinks capital gains should be taxed no differently than regular income, which means the tax rate would rise to 39.6% if the 2003 tax cuts expire in 2010. The last time the U.S. had a capital gains rate that high was 1978 -- the Jimmy Carter era.

• Deny the domestic manufacturing deduction to oil producers. This is part of the Senate Finance Committee's energy bill and is estimated to raise $11.4 billion over 10 years. How this will increase domestic oil production amid $77 a barrel oil and widespread clamor for "energy independence" is one of those mysteries that Congress prefers not to explain.

• A levy on oil and gas produced from deep-water leases in the Gulf of Mexico. This tax on domestic energy production is also part of the subsidy-fest known as the House farm bill and would allegedly raise $6.1 billion.

• A tax surcharge of 4.3 percentage points on income of more than $500,000, which would take the top marginal rate to 39.3%. A leading tax writer on Ways and Means, Massachusetts Democrat Richard Neal, promoted this idea in June as a way to prevent this year's increase in the Alternative Minimum Tax. Mr. Neal told the Washington Post that his plan had broad support from Democratic leaders and that "Everybody's on board." Other Democrats balked after that story appeared and Mr. Rangel told us not to believe it, but something's clearly in the air because Democratic tax guru Mr. Burman is also pushing a four-percentage-point income tax surcharge to pay for AMT relief.

Unfortunately, these ideas are not all they have.

New Political Blog

I recently spoke to a group of young people with sight, hearing and mobility limitations at the capitol. They seek to become involved and educated about the political process because of their disabilities, but also because of their incredable love for, and pride in, our country.

One of the young people informs me he has a blog; Confessions of a Conservative (with security protections). He writes very well about politics on his blog. He hopes to be a lawyer someday and work for "our great nation." It is very interesting to learn the opinions of our future leaders.
Alex reminds us that not only are gender and race no encumbrance for achievement but he reminds us that such physical limitations too are merely physical, and do not limit our thoughts, opinions or drive for a better future.
Best of luck to you Alex! You're an inspiration. Here is your letter.

Mrs. Lynn,

My name is Alex (withheld). I was part of the Tennessee Youth Leadership Forum you met with on Wednesday, July 11.

I apologize for the delay in writing you, but I have been busy. I wanted to take an opportunity to thank you for speaking to us, because I did not get a chance to do so properly. I had the chance to ask you a question, and I felt you did so quite adequately.

I am totally blind and have been for nearly my entire life. Despite my blindness, I refuse to call it a disability. Instead it is a limitation. A disability is something that I feel renders someone incapable of changing their circumstances. A limitation is something that can be adapted and overcome with hard work, ingenuity, and a desire to succeed.

This leads to my point. I hope to one day enter the law profession and eventually politics. I am already writing a political blog to help me become more familiar with the political atmosphere. I have a strong desire to serve this great nation and the people in it. I found your speech to be very encouraging to both myself and anyone else who desired the same as I.

Many people are shocked when they hear of my goals, but you spoke as if you would expect nothing less of someone with the limitations such as those displayed by the students in the forum. Every word you spoke seemed to be sincere and honest. You handled every question with the utmost care. Your attitude undoubtedly restores confidence in government for more than just a few people. Thank you for your service to your district and Tennessee, and for upholding the values you obviously feel to be true.


Monday, July 30, 2007


The American Legislative Exchange Council's annual conference met last week. Over 2000 members of ALEC came together to promote economic and political freedom in our state legislatures.

My Commerce task force learned a lot, and had very lively discussions and voting on several issues.

The working groups, sub-committees and task forces brought to us some of the brightest conservative thinkers in the country.

I was thrilled to meet and have a conversation with President Bush. He was very friendly and down to earth.

Former Congressman Billy Tauzin gave an inspiring speech about medical research and the need to keep the free market.

Mr. Bernard Poussot, Vice Chairman of Wyeth updated us on advances in research.

Former Congressman Dick Armey gave an incredible speech on economics that geeks like me could listen to all day long.

Neal Cavuto, Your World, FOX News, gave us food for thought when he spoke about the good things capitalism has accomplished in the world.

John Fund, OpinionJournal.com, The Wall Street Journal, spoke intelligently about a vast array of things as only Fund can.

Presidential candidate and former Governor, Mike Huckabee was truly inspiring as his speech unfolded in waves about issues with vision.

And former Senator Fred Thompson uplifted and reinforced the legislators by speaking about federalism and states rights.

All in all, the conference was very educational.

An aside; on Saturday afternoon my brother drove in from Maryland and we ventured out to visit our parent's first home. It is a very pretty row house on Waverly Street where we were each born quite a few years ago.

Invalid Voters

The Nashville City Paper reports that the State Election Commissioner has finally responded their questions as to how many voters may have registered to vote using an invalid Social Security Number...Answer 62.

Might I suppose the reply to my three letters is in the mail?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Regulation and Our Liberty

Since session ended, I have been busily studying government regulation, and observing media accounts of the effect of such regulation on our lives.

Accounts have been amazing, from the conversation over reintroducing the fairness doctrine to the licensure of occupations which pose no threat to the public. We need government to consider certain principles before imposing such regulations on us; regulations that often result in law and policies that restrict competition, may have unreasonable compliance costs, and often promote the interests, or beliefs and views, of firms or pressure-groups over consumers.

As chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Commerce Task Force I actually find myself in a position to do something about it; not just in Tennessee, but in the entire nation.

This week ALEC will meet in Philadelphia for our annual conference. I am going to give an impassioned call to my fellow legislators to help roll back the tide of government invading our lives and from hurting consumers. We’ll attempt to provide tools for legislators to judge regulatory ideas. The goal is to identify the difference between patronage and when unregulated practice can clearly harm or endanger the health, safety, or supply of goods or services to the public, and if the potential for the harm is easily recognizable and not remote or dependent upon tenuous argument.

We’ll hear from the Department of Justice, the Institute for Justice and others. We’ll also work to develop model legislation to bring home to all 50 states.

One of our attorneys at the legislature encouraged me by giving me a little history lesson. He stated that with President Carter and prior, the build up of regulation got pretty intense; hurting competition, choice and opportunity. Then with Ronald Reagan there was a huge roll back in the states and federal government. Since that time regulation has been building again. No one really remembers the roll back times in the 80’s.

I am excited about this opportunity. I hope we will serve you well.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Shared Parenting

Rep. Stacey Campfield discusses shared parenting on his blog today.

I'd really like to know your thoughts about this. So far, the bill has never made it out of committee and I am not on the committee that hears the bill...but just the same, I'd like to know your thoughts.

Let's Talk Frank

I'll be on blogger Terry Frank's radio show this afternoon in the 3 o'clock hour discussing the Copeland Cap and other matters.

Let's Talk Frank airs on 850 WKVL Knoxville, 1290 WATO Oak Ridge, 1140 WLOD Loudon and 1400 WGAP Maryville.

Thanks Terry.

President Visits Nashville

A good friend got me in to see the President in Nashville yesterday. I feel like I got to see the President that the major TV media doesn’t allow us to see. It seems the only thing we ever get to see is a deer in the headlights.

Yesterday the President was bold, brave, commanding, out spoken, confident, charming, quick witted, thoughtful, decisive and compassionate.

I want to assure you, he’s our President, and he was awesome!

Thank goodness we have studies to tell us what is "fair"

None of us resent anyone receiving a good salary; especially if they do a good job. That’s what we all hope for.

I think what bothers us about the Governor’s recent raises for his commissioners is this; he’s violated a tenet of capitalism, and in doing so, he's offended us, the taxpayers.

Labor is a commodity just like any other input of production. Every business manager wants to please the stockholders by keeping expenses as low as possible and profits high.

As such, buyers (employers) negotiate to pay as little as they can while still getting the quality they want, and sellers (employees) negotiate to get as high a salary as they can by promoting their skills.

One thing that is really funny to me is that not only would most employers not pay for a study like this, but if they did and the results came back like this one, they’d probably lock it in a file cabinet for the next ten years and feel very satisfied that they’d done a very good job of hiring talent.

So when the governor raises the salaries of current employees by such an extraordinary amount due to a study of what’s “fair” we realize he isn’t looking out for us, the stockholders.

We think "fair" is what they agreed to work for.

If someone is threatening to leave and the Governor wants to keep him or her, sure, offer more money to stay. But why just raise their salary when we the taxpayers apparently had a bargain?

He’s basically violated a tenet of capitalism for a tenet of socialism.

In socialism, all workers are equal drones. Never mind performance, experience, skills of persuasion, talent, initiative, instinct and enthusiasm – all should make the government study regulated rate.

I have a wage study of my own, wages for commissioners in Tennessee are - exactly what we've been paying. Apparently, despite valuable skills and abilities, the prestige, honor and future resume benefit of being a commissioner in a governor’s administration has in the past made up for any wage disadvantage when compared to the private sector.

Studies are just that…a study. They are not instructions on how much we should pay but an indicator of what the free market is bearing at the time. It doesn't mean we need to conform. We should continue to negotiate as we always have to get the best qualified person for the job. A study can indicate if we are paying too much and can also indicate that we’re getting a really good deal.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Investigating the Copeland Cap

Today I am requesting that the state Attorney General clarify if the administration must use appropriations to determine the extent of state budget growth as per the Constitution (Article 2, Section 24), and state law, (TCA 9-4-5203).

I'd like to thank Ben Cunningham and Bill Hobbs for reporting on this previously and today. Their posts explain the measure very well.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Rex and the City

In today’s Nashville City Paper, Rex Noseworthy, of “Rex and the City,” makes some humorous and true comments about the Tennessean’s recent correction of an article regarding the excessive number of bills and congratulatory resolutions the state legislature filed during session.

I didn't think the stats on the chart looked quite right myself and still don't.

After reading the Tennessean's article, one of my colleagues commented to me "You know, during the income tax battle they wouldn't let me pass a single bill; not even to name a bridge. So was I an effective legislator? We don't have an income tax do we?"

Maybe the newspapers should report what happens and the public and the editorial pages should decide who is effective and ineffective from now on. :-)

From Rex in the City…

“Recently, The Tennessean calculated its most successful/least successful state legislators by determining the number of bills they passed and the percentage of the bills they sponsored that were actually approved.

The newspaper picked what it called the three most successful and least successful legislators from the mid-state, and ran a chart on its Web site showing the stats on all 132 state lawmakers.

The, ahem, science behind this method is certainly up to debate. Some might argue the most effective legislators are the one who pass the fewest laws, period. Another argument might be the most successful legislators are the ones who can get through a legislative session without getting indicted. But, we digress.

The real problem was, according to sources on the Hill, the Tennessean got 100 percent of the lawmakers’ stats wrong. Sources have said House Republican Leader Jason Mumpower had a lengthy meeting at 1100 Broadway last week to explain how to use the proper methodology in figuring out how many bills a lawmaker passed.

The Gannett daily followed with a correction last week and after formulating new stats, proclaimed a new list of most/least successful lawmakers. Overall, it was a big screw up, and a fairly presumptuous story given the fact that The Tennessean rarely covers the Legislature anymore, typically running Associated Press stories instead.

For instance, House Majority Leader Gary Odom of Nashville was proclaimed one of the most successful lawmakers. While Odom is adept, his role as Democratic leader makes him the primary House sponsor on the majority of Gov. Phil Bredesen’s legislation. Bredesen’s legislation usually passes the Democratic-controlled House.

It also didn’t appear that the story gave the lawmakers deemed least successful a chance to defend themselves. Rex hears some lawmakers were irate and have heard about it from constituents upset that they’re represented by what The Tennessean determines as the least successful legislator. CP”

Monday, July 09, 2007

Excessive Number of Bills

Today Rep. Stacey Campfield and Tennessee Politics Blog each write about the Tennessean's article regarding the excessive number of bills and congratulatory resolutions the state legislature filed during session.

The Tennessean's article states that they reviewed over 6000 documents. While the number of filings is probably far too large (depending on what you might personally think is important), the total number of bills, House Joint Resolutions, Senate Joint Resolutions, House Resolutions and Senate Resolutions amounted to 4114.

The total number of House bills filed was 2416, or an average of 24.4 per House member. HJR’s 702 or 7.1 per member. HR’s 215 or 2.1 per member.

The total number of Senate bills filed was 2395, or an average of 72.6 per Senate member. SJR’s 589 or 17.8 per member. SR’s 193 or 5.8 per member.

This means that 21 House bills had no Senate companion bill. However, the member can have a Senator file a companion when the Session resumes in January, 08. If none is filed, the bill dies.

I think the stats in the article might be off. My stats said I filed 40 bills - I filed 34 (extremely important) bills. The number of resolutions I filed was correct at 13. Eleven of my bill ideas were enacted in the following manner; I passed seven bills, three ideas were amended in to other bills opening the same section of law, and one idea received funding in the Governor's budget although no legislation passed.

To rate a legislator effective or ineffective is not entirely fair. Gary Odum passes a far greater number of bills than most because, as Majority Leader, he is asked to file all of the administration's bills. The Majority Leader's job is to represent an administration of the same party. The same goes for committee chairmen. They carry the work of the committee for the administration or for "housekeeping" purposes.

There are so many types of bills that it is very hard to rate these things. There are general bills, local bills, simple amending bills that change happy to glad, technical bills, bills that create a whole new way of doing things or a whole new idea. The latter type of bill may take years to pass because people have to get used to the idea, or it may cost money and the legislator has to find a way to do it cheaply.

Stacey is correct; they are supposed to charge our mail accounts for the Resolutions.

No doubt that some over do it on the Resolutions. But you'd be surprised, some people actually break down and cry when they've been recognized by the state for a long and supportive marriage, a job well done or a life well lived.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Recommit Ourselves to Freedom

Two hundred and thirty one years ago our founding fathers dissolved their political bands with the British Crown and gave us the gift of self-government. A government governed of the people, for the people and by the people. They declared it “self-evident” that all men are created equal and bestowed by our creator with inalienable rights; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness among them.

A land of limited government where laws would govern all and afford no one special rights or treatment. Yet, everyday government does create special laws due to pressure-group action seeking to make the government impose regulations, restrictions, and expenses on citizens that the group has been unable to persuade an individual to do on their own. Just as often, industries demand to be regulated because it will create scarcity and raise prices.

Numerous examples of attempts to direct the will of others abound. The question is, how jealous are we of our rights and of the rights of our brothers? How much are we willing to allow government, our self-government, to take from us and impose on us?

Regulation theory states a need for the government to regulate industries that have immediate health, safety or supply concerns for the public or market. However, legislatures often go much further than this. It seems that public action upon commerce has been replaced by public action at the legislature to promote or ban anything an interest group decides it does or does not like. The danger is, regardless of liberty and freedom, once legislators fear the constituency in favor of action has grown too large the legislature will take action.

The “Fairness Doctrine,” or forcing radio to grant equal time to both sides of a political point of view, has been resurrected. Sure radio with its limited bandwidth rightly receives some government regulation. Without it competing stations might be chaotically broadcasting over each other.

Apart from its supply concerns, regulators discovered that radio also has an ability to aid the public interest by immediately broadcasting important information such as news, weather or emergency notices. Radio also cannot incite riot or panic, express gross indecency, or perpetuate fraud because these things can affect immediate health, safety or supply concerns too. Other than such general concerns, the business of radio should be left free to creatively produce programming that will sell and generate the highest rates determined by listenership.

I personally think its going to be great to go into restaurants in Tennessee and not have to smell smoke. I don’t like smoke. Although I didn’t vote to ban smoking in restaurants because restaurant owners have always been free to ban smoking any time they wanted; it’s their restaurant. Further, studies state that second hand smoke concerns are overblown, and the body recovers completely from such casual exposure.

But just as important, why haven’t patrons simply refused to patronize restaurants if they don’t like the environment and force owners to change instead of legislatively forcing their will upon their brother at his establishment?

Commerce does work. When a local newspaper recently posted a list of handgun carry permit holders on their Web site readers immediately responded with their intense disapproval. The link was removed within hours. No legislative action was required to make this happen, and the public can still make legitimate requests for information should they need it.

What about minimum wage? We know several things; we know most minimum wage earners are students, retired or part-time and supported by other income sources; these workers actually have the ability to earn more if they choose. We know the majority of the ‘poor’ already make more than minimum wage. We know that the young and unskilled lose out on on-the-job training opportunities due to the artificial wage. We know that in a free market economy prices must be subjective - related to employers' needs. So wages must be allowed to rise and fall as supply and demand dictates – that includes the price of labor. So why do we legislate a minimum wage? Plainly, pressure groups make us feel guilty for our own wage. However, shouldn’t we just let willing buyers and willing sellers deal with each other?

Our own legislature has an endless list of pressure group regulation. This year the legislature and the Governor ignored a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice on a piece of legislation stating that it would cause “significant harm to consumers” by disallowing certain discounts because the industry doesn’t want them: this bill became law.

One tender idea mandated title lenders give discounts to military veterans and their families. It is true that veterans have sacrificed for all of us, and title lenders don’t win many popularity contests. But the fact is, these are legal private businesses. If any business owner wants to give discounts to veterans on their own that is noble. For a legislator to force such discounts is just plain voter patronage. At least the federal government allows a tax break for charitable contributions. With my cherished son in the military, I didn’t have to worry about being accused of being against our veterans – but other legislators certainly did worry.

And then some legislation is designed to feed business to other industries. One new law change mandates that certain would-be licensees serve three years in apprenticeship instead of one, and that they pay for a designated number of post high school class hours instead of home study before taking the licensing exam. Sure more experience and formal education is always good but there was no proof of any harm that’s been done without it. By the way, there is only one school in the state that licensees can attend, no curriculum for this idea, the board couldn’t state what licensees need to learn, nor could the school tell us how much the course will cost – the bill passed.

This year interior designers desired to be licensed. Designers wrote tons of emails to legislators attempting to convince us of the necessity to license their occupation. It is difficult to detect any immediate health, safety or supply concerns...the bill was taken off notice.

When a group of geologists came to us this year wanting increased regulation of their licensure they accidentally revealed their real compliant when they stated that geologists from other states were doing business in Tennessee. Still, they got what they were hoping for.

Government shouldn’t be attempting to aid businesses by boosting their sales, prices or wages – this hurts you, the consumer. Government shouldn't create unnecessary entry barriers to occupations; hindering opportunity and competition. Government should allow you unfettered participation in business and activities that don't have immediate health, safety or supply concerns. And each of us should exercise our economic power and freedom upon commerce instead of running to government.

This July 4th as we celebrate freedom, let us recommit ourselves to freedom and be ever vigilant to demand that government allow us to live freely.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Choosing Performance

Tennessee lost a great opportunity for education this Session. While school choice is producing results in other areas, Tennessee’s plan is to pour $500 million more dollars into the BEP; the same’ol bureaucratic system of government monopoly of education believing it does things more fairly and produces a better outcome than anything else.

If that were true, we should have HUD build all the houses, the FDA produce all the food, and the department of health provide all of the medical care.

The BEP is a funding formula not an education plan. It funds the expenses of the classroom; it doesn’t dictate what occurs in the classroom. It can’t change the operations of the school, the teacher in front of our students; nor can it improve classroom expectations or discipline.

Under the new plan the cost of educating at-risk children receives full funding by the state.

However, “at-risk” is determined by income not by achievement. In years past, the definition of an “at-risk student” was actually performance based; defined by whether a student was two or more years behind in his or her reading grade level.

Because of the income based definition, the number of at-risk students in Tennessee is very large; Over half of our students or 493,921 children.

However, just because one is economically disadvantaged does not necessarily mean one is a poor student. Doesn’t it seem right that what we should really measure is achievement, and target new dollars to those students, at any income level, that need extra help?

Just how will we measure whether this money is producing results? If the measure is parental income, more money to the school can not change that. We may as well give the money to the parents, raise their income and totally eliminate the number of at-risk children.

The ELL plan funds children who can’t speak English at a greater teacher/student ratio than the teacher/student ratio for English speaking children. But shouldn’t every classroom have a reasonable teacher/student ratio?

Inside legislative plaza, it’s pretty well understood that the plan to increase the state share of paying teacher's salaries covers-up the fact that due to the new distribution formula many districts (over 70 counties) are actually losing money on the new plan.

How will this new money translate into the classroom? Not as you might think, the new law “eliminates (the) current requirement that BEP funds earned in the instructional positions component be spent for instructional positions.”

Is the new $500 million dollar plan the best path? More likely it seems contrived to win legislative support by playing to various demographic and geographic areas.

The truth is, the administration could have made schools accountable for years with our current laws but willingness to take tough action has been painfully lacking.

Sadly, questions in committee were too many; answers from the administration too few; and the process for spending one half billion dollars too rushed.

Opportunity was lost for the citizens of Tennessee. The legislature should have insisted on school choice for students.

Right now New Orleans is doing exciting things with charter schools. Philadelphia schools, taken over by the state five years ago, have seen vast improvements under a system where competition between schools has produced student achievement and innovative new ideas.

In many places in Europe, the idea of being locked into a local school just because you live in the area is unheard of. Schools work hard to produce results because parents are empowered to act as consumers. A school that doesn’t educate well will face competition from other schools that do. A poor school won’t have any students and will either improve to gain more students or will close.

Maybe some families don't have the means to live in the wealthiest town in the state but what does that have to do with their child’s education? Why shouldn’t every child attend a school his or her parents approve of and one that caters to the interests of the child.

Yes, opportunity was lost, and the real tragedy is that for years children have been getting another year older in a system that never really changes.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Time to Review Republican Ideals

My great hope is that when the last opinion article is written on this half of the legislative session, Republican ideals will shine through, or at least that there will be great evidence that they were fought for.

Ideals such as:

  • No new taxes
  • Protect the unborn
  • No wasteful spending
  • Return surplus money
  • Encourage self-reliance
  • Create choice in education
  • Fight for open government
  • Lower the sales tax on food
  • Consumer driven healthcare
  • Promote commerce and competition
  • Fight illegal immigration on the state level

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Pork and Beans

"I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents...." James Madison, father of the United States Constitution, made this statement with the firm belief that our republic needed checks and balances to limit the influence of special interests, even the special interests of benevolence.

Was he speaking of government grants to life saving fire halls? Probably not. It was about tax funds expended for the designs of special interests.

The problem is that guilt is often associated with "benevolence" and who wants to criticize and risk being called cold hearted or stingy? However, taxes are not collected for discretionary purposes. Most still believe that the agreement between the citizens and the government is to provide protection, promote commerce, educate the population, and to provide important protection from sanitary and public health threats.

Largely, we do have checks and balances. However, when it comes to subjective appropriations like many the Governor is proposing in his supplemental budget, gifts the Tennessee Center for Policy Research's report calls “goodies and giveaways,” we all realize that few checks and balances are employed. We may rationalize such gifts but reports reveal that they are often to organizations directed by political campaign contributors.

If one disregards guilt and asks the tough questions that are asked for any other expenditure of public funds, one should ask where is the objective design, list of goals, application and determination process, assurance of nondiscrimination, and fair notice of opportunity for all who may wish to benefit from such expenditures of public funds? In addition, how will accountability and efficiency be determined for the fruits of the taxpayer’s labor?

What about purpose? Do the grants strictly meet the purpose for which government is intended or are they just something nice to do? Most could be content to do nice things with other people’s money all day long; especially if it created endearment.

It is sad that such expenditures are exactly enough so that the taxpayers cannot enjoy a decrease in their own taxes to spend their own funds as they see fit.

Certainly the children of a single mother making $27,000 per year might enjoy a publicly supported history project, if, and to whatever extent, they actually spend time reviewing it. But does she really have the latitude in her budget for us to spend money on such items? Does not the “family unit,” and ensuring its strength, aid society in far greater ways and much more permanently? Shouldn't other people, private people with ability, be supporting such projects?

In truth, the government’s contribution to non-profit organizations is their tax exempt status. Because their mission is to perform a ‘public good’ non-profits are granted the privilege and benefit of not having to pay taxes on purchases, property and income. However, in return, they must prove their utility through reporting.

The fact is too many conflicts abound to spend public funds in such a manner. A politician could buy political endearment and payback for past and future support. Or an elected official may serve on the board of a recipient organization and thereby have a direct hand in spending the taxpayer’s funds. The ability to make such appropriations is not simply a right, or entitlement, of being elected.

James Madison was incredibly intelligent; enough to realize that there are no limits to the provision of benevolence when a huge treasury, guilt and political gain tango with each other.