Casada: Activate Guard to 'gather up' Syrian immigrants

State House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada says Tennessee should "activate the National Guard and stop [Syrian refugees] from coming in."

He goes on with another solution for the refugees already in place:

"I’m not worried about what a bureaucrat in D.C. or an unelected judge thinks. ... We need to gather (Syrian refugees) up and politely take them back to the ICE center and say, 'They’re not coming to Tennessee, they’re yours.' "

Thirty Syrian refugees have settled in Tennessee.

None of the identified Paris attackers were Syrian nationals.

Nov 18, 2015 8:50 AM

Insure Tennessee backers release report on insurance gap

Pro-Insure Tennessee group the Tennessee Justice Center says that "every community" in the state feels the effects of the health-insurance gap — that is, people who can't afford private insurance but who don't qualify for TennCare. 

Nov 17, 2015 1:21 PM

Barry announces new sidewalk-funding project

Mayor Barry has announced a plan to use half of $30 million in leftover and unused bond money to fund a citywide sidewalk and street paving project:

The majority of the available $30 million in authorized bond accounts come from two projects pushed by former Mayor Karl Dean that never got approved: $18 million from a planned police headquarters on Jefferson Street that the Metro Council voted down in the spring and $4.5 million in dollars devoted to The Amp, a bus rapid transit project Dean eventually abandoned.

Other dollars come from around 100 bond accounts for various city projects that were never fully spent. They range from large to very small. Among the leftover funds: just $6 that was left in the account used for the construction of a new Goodlettsville public library.

Barry said the other half of the $30 million in unspent bond money won't be used, saving Metro at least $1 million a year in debt service.

Nov 17, 2015 7:17 AM

Haslam asks for refugee halt, but does it matter?

Gov. Haslam asked the federal government to stop the placement of Syrian refugees in Tennessee "until states can become more of a partner in the vetting process." Of course, that doesn't mean the feds won't resettle Syrians here anyway:

"There have been a variety of challenges by states to federal immigration policy, and the United State Supreme Court has uniformly upheld the power of the federal government to control both naturalization and immigration," said Wuerth.

Haslam nodded to those rulings in his statement. But he also pointed out that federal resettlement authorities have typically considered the wishes of local communities before placing refugees.

Resettlement authorities do consider how welcoming a community will be before placing refugees there.

Meanwhile, the state senate's minority leader, Lee Harris, issued a statement:

“We should offer safe sanctuary because we can, and taking several dozen displaced families is the least we can do,” Sen. Harris said “We should step up when called, because that’s what the good guys do during these days of crises, and we should not turn a cold shoulder, because we understand that the refugees will head into the arms whoever offers help first, including the bad guys and those who might seek to exploit these families.”

Nov 17, 2015 7:11 AM

Barry talks Insure Tennessee, Nashville General at VU panel

Mayor pushes for Medicaid expansion, also calls for creative approaches to health care
Nov 17, 2015 7:09 AM

Harwell and Ramsey back refugee-halting efforts

The Speaker and the Lt. Gov. in a joint statement:

“Recent events have made it clear that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is ramping up its operations of terror against the United States and Europe. Tennessee itself experienced an act of terrorism just a few months ago in Chattanooga. Our thoughts and prayers are with the citizens of France.

The mass movement of legitimate refugees seeking asylum is heartbreaking, and our heart goes out to each and every man, woman and child who is fleeing legitimate political persecution. But the opportunity that radical Islamists could embed themselves in the movement of refugees is large and growing. These refugees are impossible to thoroughly investigate and properly vet.

Out of an abundance of caution, we must use any and all legal means at our disposal to stop the flow of refugees to Tennessee. We are calling for our federal representatives to place an immediate moratorium on refugees entering the United States, specifically Tennessee.”

Nov 16, 2015 1:41 PM

Sheila Butt urges Haslam to limit refugees

Rep. Sheila Butt is asking the governor to limit the number of Syrian refugees in Tennessee to those who have gone through extensive background checks, which, apparently, refugees already do.

“We respectfully and urgently request that you suspend all efforts to settle any Syrian refugees in Tennessee, through any agency, until the U.S. Department of Homeland Security completes a full review of security clearances and procedures.”

In her letter, Butt argues that "proper security vetting is an extensive process and can take up to a year or more." But every refugee that comes to Tennessee now is already going through a federal security screening process that takes anywhere from 18 months to 2 years, said Holly Johnson, state refugee coordinator at the Tennessee Office for Refugees. That includes screenings from Homeland Security, FBI, health officials and many other agencies.

"Everyone's taking it very seriously, despite what some might say. It's not a willy-nilly, let's invite everyone into the country," Johnson said. "These are refugees who are fleeing terrorists as well. We're on the same side."

Nov 16, 2015 12:45 PM

Legislators proposing a tweak to Hall tax

Because of backlash from local governments, the Hall tax is never likely to disappear, but legislators are always looking for ways to tweak it. The latest idea is to remove Social Security benefits from the income calculation that determines who has to pay the tax. Currently, the threshold is annual income of $37,000 or $68,000 for joint filers.

Nov 16, 2015 11:30 AM

Iroquois partners with legendary English race to offer big bonus

In the 1970s and 80s there was a big trans-Atlantic rivalry in steeplechasing: the best horses in the British Isles would try their hand in America and vice-versa. The Iroquois Steeplechase and the Cheltenham Racecourse in England are teaming up to offer a bonus to any horse than can win the Nashville meeting's premier race (officially, "The Calvin Houghland Iroquois Hurdle Stakes") and Cheltenham's World Hurdle in the space of 12 months:

Both races are contested at 3 miles, with the World Hurdle slated for March 17 and the Iroquois set for May 14.

The Brown Advisory Iroquois Cheltenham Challenge is seen as a great way of reigniting the cross-Atlantic rivalry that was so exciting for jump racing in the 1970s and 1980s. 

To facilitate this new concept, investment manager Brown Advisory, based in U.S. and the U.K., has agreed to sponsor the bonus which would reward the winner a total of more than $850,000 in prize money (the winner’s shares of the race purses and the bonus). The World Hurdle carries a £300,000 total purse while the Iroquois is worth $150,000.


Robert Waley Cohen, chairman of Cheltenham Racecourse, commented: “I am hugely excited that Cheltenham Racecourse, along with our friends at Brown Advisory, is to partner with the Iroquois Steeplechase to offer this valuable bonus for long distance hurdlers.

“I remember well the heydays of America owners and racehorses in the U.K. 25 years ago and hopefully this tremendous initiative will provide some new and interesting stories as the links between British and America Jump racing are reignited.”

Iroquois Steeplechase Chairman Dwight Hall, a former jockey and board member of the National Steeplechase Association, said: “Throughout modern history, a number of great horses have crossed the Atlantic to race and we want to promote that international competition.” 

Nov 16, 2015 9:15 AM

Harwell says higher gas tax has a tough row to hoe in '16

The Speaker says the governor is going to have a hard time convincing legislators to put in a gas-tax increase in the next session, what with it being an election year and the state having more than $200 million more than it planned for. 

Nov 16, 2015 7:06 AM