Tag Archives: Beth Harwell

Does UT get bang for lobbyist buck?

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

The University of Tennessee spends over a half-million dollars a year running its Nashville lobbying office to influence the legislature and state government. The top dog there is Anthony Haynes, who makes $201,088 a year with a pay raise due in July. But he has four others who help him – Carey Whitworth at $80,000; Lou Hanemann at $93,000; Valerie Yancey at $98,500. Connie Cantrell comes in 2 days a week at $31.29 an hour when the other four are overwhelmed with work.

Office space is $40,107 a year at $23.32 per square foot. These figures do not include retirement benefits, and the legislature is in session only four months of the year. So there is interest in what these folks do the other eight months of the year. It is hard to believe there is much heavy lifting when the legislature is away.

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Four new state senators? Possibly

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

When state Sen. Mark Green is confirmed as the new Secretary of the Army (probably this summer) he must resign his state Senate seat, which triggers a special election to fill it until his term ends in 2020. Montgomery County Commission will appoint an interim senator for four months.

State Sen. Mark Norris, current majority leader, is widely mentioned as a new federal judge in Memphis, which would remove him from the governor’s race. He is 62 – older than what the Trump administration is looking for in new federal judges – but he has influential backers and could be tapped.

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Ex-GOP chair joins private sector

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

Former GOP state chair Ryan Haynes will become head of the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers and will not be a candidate for local office in Knox County anytime soon or ever if this becomes his career path. As such he will replace the fabled Col. Tom Hensley of Jackson, known for years among legislators as “the Golden Goose.” Hensley also worked closely with the Miss Tennessee pageant in Jackson.

Hensley had been a fixture in the Legislature for over 50 years. Whether this turns out to be a 30-year job for Haynes or not remains to be seen, but compensation (while not public) is very comfortable and is in the six-digit range. Haynes served as state representative from Farragut for five years and will maintain a residence in both Knoxville and Nashville. He has a law degree.

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Is Tennessee ready for a woman governor?

Betty Bean
Government/Politics columnist

For anybody who didn’t get enough politics this fall, here’s an interesting scenario developing on the state scene. Three of the folks who’d like for Bill Haslam to hand them the keys to the governor’s residence when he leaves office in January 2018 are all Republicans, all from Middle Tennessee, all women.

House Speaker Beth Harwell and two members of the state’s congressional delegation – Marsha Blackburn and Diane Black – are prime contenders to succeed Haslam. Despite similarities of party, locality, age, race, marital status and gender, the three couldn’t be more different, say those who know them.

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Harwell idea delays vote on gas tax

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

House Speaker Beth Harwell has urged that part or all of the $400 million in additional state tax collections should go for new roads and existing road repairs. This is new money coming into the state treasury that was not anticipated when the state budget was enacted a few months ago.

What is significant here is that Harwell is voicing a game plan for the Legislature to tackle the road issue in a way that would enable it to avoid a gas tax increase vote in the 2016 session starting in five months. This would be new money one time for roads and would allow the lawmakers to skip a gas tax vote in an election year.

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Eric Satz has modest record for TVA board

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

Mayor Rogero appropriately issued a statement of condolence and concern for the tragic stabbing that occurred May 3 on the Third Creek Greenway and pledged to increase police presence on greenways.

The questions that need to be asked are how many additional officers will be deployed and what is their schedule in general terms? Secondly, how long will this increase in police activity on the greenways last? No one asked that of our mayor’s communications office.

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Allen sets low bar for ‘tough on crime’

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

Lots of folks are wondering how former Knox County Trustee Mike Lowe got such a light sentence after pleading guilty to theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars from county taxpayers.

While he got 10 years, he serves only one year, which will be reduced to seven months assuming good behavior. He was assessed a $200,000 fine, but no schedule was announced for paying it over the next 10 years. What happens if he fails to pay in a timely manner or at all?

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