Turner officially backs Freeman

Mike Turner makes his Bill Freeman endorsement official, after the jump:

Former State Representative Mike Turner today officially announced his endorsement for Nashville mayoral candidate Bill Freeman. Turner, a career firefighter, has served as the Chairman of the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus and has been a vocal advocate on issues affecting working families.

“Our next mayor must be someone who understands what the working men and women of this city are facing,” Turner said. “I’ve known Bill for over 20 years. Bill cares deeply about working families receiving an honest day’s wages for an honest day of work. That’s why I’m supporting him for mayor.  If you look at the company Bill Freeman founded, you can see a leader who cares about people and cares about this city,” Turner said.

“As Nashville continues to grow, we need a leader who understands that all communities in Nashville should benefit from the city’s growth, not just downtown,” Turner said.

“Bill has committed his life to helping the citizens of Nashville, but has always done so behind the scenes.  Now it is time for him to lead from the front, take his place in the Mayor’s Office, and keep Nashville a growing and vibrant place to live and work,”  Turner said.

“I am delighted to have Mike Turner’s support and endorsement,” Freeman said. “Mike has worked hard over the last 15 years representing the people of House District 51, and as a firefighter he’s one of the many men and women in our city who daily put their own lives at risk to keep our city safe,” Freeman added.

“I am thankful for all the support my campaign is receiving," Freeman said. “Nashville’s growth has meant that downtown has thrived, but many of our neighborhoods are getting left behind. I want all communities to benefit from growth and I will be committed to not only attracting new businesses to our city, but also helping the businesses that today call Nashville home be able to expand and grow in a way that gives the people of Nashville the opportunity to work at quality high-paying jobs and send their children to great public schools in safe neighborhoods," Freeman said. "I am ready to get to work as Nashville's next mayor."

May 14, 2015 2:18 PM

Pro-voucher groups dropped $260K on lawmakers in ed committee

The committee of House lawmakers poised to vote on a school voucher program today saw more than $260,000 from school voucher advocates flow into their election races last year.

Five lawmakers sitting on a newly formed education committee collectively received more than $52,000 in direct contributions and independent expenditures from two pro-voucher groups, according to a Post Politics review of state records.

But the bulk of the money, $152,000, went to keeping two people out of the legislature who would cause trouble for a voucher program. An additional $58,000 went to a favored candidate who lost by just more than 50 votes.

StudentsFirst and the Tennessee Federation for Children collectively spent approximately $894,000 in last year’s election, spreading money to lawmakers in both chambers but focusing largely in the House of Representatives where voucher proposals have tripped up in recent years.

Together, the groups spent $136,000 against incumbent Gloria Johnson, a Knoxville Democrat and teacher who pushed strongly against school vouchers during her first and only term. The two groups spent just shy of $39,000 in favor of her opponent, Eddie Smith, a Republican who went on to win the election by less than 200 votes.

Smith, an event and production manager, now sits on the Education Administration and Planning Committee that is scheduled to vote on a school voucher program today. He sits on the committee with fellow freshman Rep. Kevin Dunlap, a Rock Island Democrat and teacher who outran Republican Robert Dunham by 54 votes.

That race was for an open seat vacated by Rep. Charles Curtiss, a Democrat. StudentsFirst and the federation together spent $15,745 in opposition to Dunlap in last year’s election and spent more than $58,000 in favor of Dunham.

Other contributions included $2,000 to Chairman Harry Brooks, R-Knoxville; $2,000 to Rep. Debra Moody, D-Covington; $1,000 to Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis; and $8,243 in contributions and independent expenditures to benefit Rep. Dawn White, R-Murfreesboro.

Which committee the voucher bill would end up in was not predetermined, according to the House clerk's office, which spent weeks deciding which of two new education committees the voucher legislation would be assigned to.

The spending is part of an escalating investment by pro-voucher groups in Tennessee who favor school choice by way of allowing parents to send their children to private schools using taxpayer dollars allocated to public schools. The idea is controversial in Tennessee, able to gain favor in the Senate but consistently falling short in the House. Last year, the American Federation for Children spent $800,000 on television ads urging voters to sway their Republican lawmakers who are on the fence about vouchers. 

This year, lawmakers in leadership say the believe there are the votes to pass HB1049, the governor’s preferred version of a voucher bill, would allow children from low-income families that qualify for free or reduced lunch to attend participating private schools by using the state-funded scholarship. Students in the state’s bottom 5 percent of schools would give first dibs, followed by low income students elsewhere in those counties. The bill is up for debate in the House Administration and Planning Committee at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Mar 24, 2015 7:00 AM

Sheila Butt wants to be floor leader

Republican Sheila Butt, one of 15 Republican legislators who broke ranks to call for the immediate resignation of then-Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, is running for a seat in House leadership.

Butt, of Columbia, sent an email to the House Republican lawmakers Wednesday, saying she will “stand up for each of you and your legislation on the House Floor.” Letters of intent to run for caucus elections are due Monday, Nov. 24, according to caucus staff.

Butt is running to replace Rep. Vance Dennis, who was beaten in the August primary election by “Coach” David Byrd, a high school principal and coach.

The letter Butt and other tea party-minded members sent to Gov. Bill Haslam in June asking for Huffman’s resignation was crafted by Rep. Rick Womick. He had rallied members sharing his viewpoint to push back against controversial Common Core standards last legislative session and announced this month he would run for Speaker against sitting Speaker Beth Harwell, who is considered a key Haslam ally.

Recent emails cast Harwell as moderate and weak on Common Core, a touchy topic among Republicans. Womick has distanced himself from the emails but did not disagree in questioning Harwell’s leadership. Asked what she specifically thought about the criticism, Butt would only say the caucus needs to work together.

“I just think we don’t need to dwell on what we think happened in the past. There’s too much to be done in the next legislative session and we need to make sure that as a caucus, we’re working together for the people of the state of Tennessee,” she said.


(Editor's note: This story has been updated to show the correct due date of Nov. 24 for letters of intent to run for caucus elections.)

Nov 21, 2014 6:53 AM

Bone adds Democratic consultants Little-Smith


Charles Robert Bone today announced a significant addition to his campaign team in his bid for mayor of Nashville. Little-Smith Strategies will play a key role in advising the campaign on general strategy, outreach, and targeting.

Little-Smith Strategies is a Nashville-based democratic consulting firm. The firm is well known for its recent successes in local politics with clients such as; Judge Rachel Bell, District Attorney Glen Funk, Judge Sheila Calloway, and Judge Lynda Jones. The partners are veterans of the campaigns to elect former U.S. Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr. and Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen. They’ve also compiled a national resume including work on campaigns for U.S. Senators Al Franken, Kay Hagan, and Harry Reid.

“We’re very excited to have Little-Smith Strategies on board. They’ve proven themselves as some of the most successful operatives in the city over recent election cycles and we’re looking forward to working with them on our effort to elect Charles Robert Bone the next mayor of Nashville,” campaign manager Kim Sasser Hayden said about the announcement.

The Bone for Mayor team includes longtime campaign and government veterans with a wide range of complementary experiences. Earlier in the fall, the campaign formally announced that Kim Sasser Hayden would serve as manager, The Ingram Group would continue to advise the campaign as general consultants, April Orange would lead the fundraising effort, and DVL would advise on marketing.

Nov 12, 2014 12:49 PM

Hargett, Goins unsure of vote totals in Amendment 1 suit

State elections officials say they do not know how people who voted on the governor’s race voted on Amendment 1 in light of a lawsuit arguing that the constitution requires a vote on both to change Tennessee’s guiding document.

Elections Coordinator Mark Goins said compiling those numbers would require a “very tedious” manual recount, but said his office is researching what would be needed should the courts demand it of the state.

“I don’t think we ever get to that point,” said Goins, who said the state has interpreted the constitution the same way since it was rewritten in 1953. “The only difference here is you've got someone who's trying to get a federal judge to come in and overthrow what the people really want.”

Opponents of Amendment 1 — which gives abortion protections previously found in the constitution to the legislature — filed a federal lawsuit over the weekend charging the constitution requires voters to cast a ballot for both the governor’s race and an amendment in order for their vote to edit the constitution to count.

Secretary of State Tre Hargett, who oversees the elections agency, argues several amendments have been adopted in Tennessee since the constitution was rewritten in 1953 with little problem under the interpretation that skipping a vote for governor would not disqualify the amendment’s chances. No court case has opined on the issue.

“I can’t believe that we would tell Tennesseans that you can’t amend your constitution if you don’t vote in the governor’s race,” said Hargett, who is pictured here.

Nov 10, 2014 2:18 PM

GAO says Tennessee voter turnout dropped after passage of ID requirements

Particularly affected: African-American voters and young voters.

As you might expect, the states have pushed back against the report. The Post reports that "Tennessee's secretary of state noted that other states may have had more compelling issues on the ballot and that the GAO used data from Catalist, which it labeled a progressive firm."

Oct 10, 2014 12:49 PM

Bone mayoral campaign staffs up

Kim Sasser Hayden, who directed statewide field operations for Gov. Phil Bredesen's elections, has been named manager of Charles Robert Bone's mayoral campaign. Also coming on board are election veterans from The Ingram Group and DVL. Steven Hale has the rundown at Pith.

Sep 19, 2014 7:30 AM

Mancini returns to Tennessee Citizen Action

Mary Mancini is back with Tennessee Citizen Action after making a run at the state Senate. The advocacy group said this week that Mancini will team up with Kris Murphy to run a statewide get-out-the-vote campaign funded by a grant from the New Venture Fund and the Women’s Equality Center.

Sep 17, 2014 8:08 AM

LHC in DC: On the numbers, expansion and politics of health insurance

Editor's note: This is the first post from the Nashville Health Care Council's 2014 Leadership Health Care Delegation to Washington. Look for more content in the coming days and click here for other entries from past years' visits.

As the 2014 election season begins to heat up, nearly 100 of Nashville’s emerging health care leaders have gathered in our nation’s capital to get an inside look at the health policy discussions that will shape the mid-term elections and affect the industry throughout 2014 and beyond. During the first day of sessions at the 12th Annual Leadership Health Care Delegation to Washington, D.C., delegates heard from a slate of speakers about topics ranging from health insurance exchange enrollment to new payment and delivery models to patient engagement.

Michael Ramlet, founder and editor of digital media company “The Morning Consult,” kicked off the delegation by discussing what he predicts will be a key factor for the industry and politicians in the coming months — whether insurance exchange enrollment will reach the Obama administration’s projected goal of 7 million. With enrollment estimates now above 4 million and a new set of data expected in the weeks ahead, these figures will help determine whether the ACA can be considered effective.

However, Ramlet (pictured at right) noted that one of the biggest, yet under-reported stories of 2014 has been the number of health insurance exchange enrollees — one in five — who have failed to pay their premiums, meaning they don’t actually have coverage. And keynote speaker Dora Hughes, senior policy advisor in the government strategies group of law firm Sidley Austin (pictured), noted that there will be an estimated 5 million individuals who will not be able to get coverage because their states are not expanding Medicaid or they do not qualify for premium subsidies but still cannot afford premium costs. 

The expansion of coverage under the ACA was cited as the best part of the law by a panel of policy experts, although they argued that issues such as timing of the individual mandate and the Supreme Court ruling that made state Medicaid expansion optional have created challenges across the industry.

“What keeps me up at night is coverage expansion, and that it hasn’t happened as quickly as we would have hoped,” said Mary Ella Payne, senior vice president of policy and system legislative leadership for Ascension Health. “We don’t have coverage in Tennessee with the expansion of Medicaid and…many states have not expanded coverage. Related to that are delays that we have been seeing in moving to ACA-compliant plans and delays in the marketplace for small companies.”

Tom Nickels, senior VP of federal relations for the American Hospital Association, said although insurance coverage levels are “nowhere near what we had hoped,” he expects it will take a three-year timeframe for coverage to reach desired levels through Medicaid and the exchanges.

“So I think judgment ought to be suspended at least until we get to the end of 2016,” he said.

In the meantime, Hughes noted that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Innovation Center is working on more than 40 models for improving care delivery in terms of cost and quality, such as accountable care organizations and bundled payments. And although there are more than 260 active ACOs around the country, reports on their effectiveness so far have been mixed.

But one thing is certain. Health care will have a leading role in the 2014 elections.

Ramlet pointed to a poll that shows independent voters evenly spit on which of the major parties they trust more on health care issues. Because of that split, what happens in the months ahead — with exchange enrollment and the perceived value of the health plans, provider experiences, and whether employers drop coverage in favor of pushing employees to exchanges — will be critical.

“There will probably be three big issues,” Ramlet said. “The economy, health care, and the third is open to debate… but health care, you can be sure, will be a major election issue.”


Photos by Keith Mellnick

Mar 11, 2014 6:55 AM

Is Bob Corker going to be your governor?

Roll Call suggests the junior senator may be looking at the statehouse:

“Sen. Corker is sometimes very frustrated with the process in the Senate, he is someone whose mindset is executive oriented,” one Tennessee GOP operative said. “He’s got an impressive private sector background and he’s used to getting things done, and that is the antithesis of the Senate.”

Mar 6, 2014 8:32 AM