Archive for October, 2011

Haslam’s Policy Suppresses the Rights of All Tennesseans to Peacefully Assemble

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

by Rep. Mike Stewart

There is no more fundamental American freedom than the freedom of speech.   The right of the people to exchange ideas and to protest government actions they find unwise is enshrined in the both the United States and Tennessee Constitutions.  Defending such essential American rights should be the very first job of [...]

Haslam’s Policy Suppresses the Rights of All Tennesseans to Peacefully Assemble

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

by Rep. Mike Stewart

Rep. Mike Stewart

There is no more fundamental American freedom than the freedom of speech.   The right of the people to exchange ideas and to protest government actions they find unwise is enshrined in the both the United States and Tennessee Constitutions.  Defending such essential American rights should be the very first job of our State Government.

The Haslam Administration’s recent efforts to shut down protests on Legislative Plaza goes in the other direction and should be condemned by all Tennesseans, regardless of political persuasion.  Legislative Plaza is a public place, owned by the people, paid for by the people, and used by the people for years as a place to exercise their First Amendment rights.  Now, all of a sudden, the Haslam Administration is charging citizens for the right to use their own Plaza, limiting citizens’ access to that public space to hours when most citizens with day jobs cannot exercise their free speech rights, and imposing a million dollar insurance requirement that many citizens doubtless cannot satisfy.  The intended effect is to close the Legislative Plaza to the very citizens who are supposed to be in command of our democratic state and federal governments.

Administration officials’ suggestion that the new policies are needed to prevent “deteriorating sanitary conditions” and “maintain security and safety” do not hold water.  Tennessee has long had laws in place to deal with such issues; if individuals are acting in ways that endanger others, then state and local officials have the power to stop those particular people without at the same time infringing on the rights of other citizens.

At a time when young men and women are putting themselves in harm’s way in war zones halfway around the world to defend our rights, we should be particularly vigilant to preserve those rights at home.  The world has always looked to our country to set the example for all peoples desirous of freedom; we should be careful every day to maintain that moral high ground.

It was not long ago that a group of college students led a protest march past what is now Legislative Plaza to the Davidson County Courthouse and successfully persuaded then Mayor Ben West to be the first leader in the South to de-segregate downtown businesses.  In that same spirit, we should welcome peaceful protesters to our public spaces whether or not those protesters happen to be promoting ideas that we agree with.

Our Tennessee Constitution reminds us that “all power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority.”  I call on Governor Haslam to immediately rescind all new policies designed to make peaceful demonstrations more difficult and to thereby return Legislative Plaza to the control of the people of Tennessee.

New voter law will suppress legitimate voting | timesfreepress.com

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

The following column appeared in the Sunday, October 23, 2011 edition of The Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Posted in bill haslam, chip forrester, Latest News, Sidebar, statewide, voter id | Comments Off on New voter law will suppress legitimate voting | timesfreepress.com

Sen. Ketron, meet Virginia

Friday, October 21st, 2011

Add Mrs. Virginia Lasater, a 91-year-old woman in Rutherford County, to the list of known Tennessee seniors who are struggling to comply with state Sen. Bill Ketron’s new Republican voter ID law.

Mrs. Lasater went to a driver testing center in Mufreesboro to get a state-issued photo ID so she could vote, but ran into a problem. From The Daily News Journal1:

Aided by a walking cane to get around, she quickly decided she couldn’t stand up long enough to wait and her son could find no chairs available for her to sit. (Her son) Richard estimated at least 100 people were in the building, and workers were “way overworked and way understaffed.” He was told at the help desk there was nothing they could do but wait.

They left, upset about the law and the long lines.

“I’m just afraid people will say it’s too much trouble,” said Mrs. Lasater.

With Republican plans on the table to gut Medicare and privatize Social Security, it’s not a wonder why Republicans are making it harder for senior citizens to be voters.

This past legislative session, Tennessee Republicans passed a voter ID law—written by big, corporate specials interests—that requires all voters to have a government-issued photo ID at the polls.

The law sounds reasonable on its face. But there’s a huge problem: 675,000 Tennesseans, who, like Mrs. Lasater, are law-abiding citizens and eligible to vote—have no state-issued photo ID.

This law was passed in a hasty manner with insufficient funding and absolutely no mechanism in place to efficiently educate voters and distribute hundreds of thousands of state-issued photo IDs.

With only 19 weeks until the Primary Election, we’re running out of time. Since July, according to the article, the state has only issued 561 new voter IDs.

It’s almost guaranteed that some citizens who have voted for years without a problem will be turned away in next year’s elections when the discriminatory law goes into effect.

Would it bother Sen. Ketron if the votes of law-abiding citizens like 91-year-old Mrs. Virginia Lasater were not counted because they couldn’t wait in an hours-long line for a state-issued picture ID?

Ketron said, “NO… I’m not that concerned about it.”2

This is the difference.

The Tennessee Democratic Party won’t stop fighting until every law-abiding Tennessean can be a voter and participate in this democracy. Republicans like Bill Ketron, well, they just aren’t that concerned about it.

If you have a problem getting a state-issued photo ID, we want to help. Click here to share your Voter ID Story.

Your fellow Democrat,

Chip Forrester
Chairman
on behalf of YOUR Tennessee Democratic Party

1. “After long wait, no seat , voter, 91, quits on ID,” The Daily News Journal.

2. Ketron says he’s not concerned about uncounted votes. The Daily News Journal.

 

Democrats Announce First Phase of Job Creation Legislation

Thursday, October 6th, 2011


jobs tour

Democrats announce first phase of jobs package to put Tennesseans back to work.

 

Plan includes $15 million investment in state technology centers

NASHVILLE – Tennessee House and Senate Democrats announced the first phase of their job creation plan Thursday, which includes calling for $15 million for new equipment and program expansion at the state’s 27 technology centers.

“We heard about the success of our skills training across the state during our jobs tour, but the one thing we heard again and again was the need for more skilled workers,” said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh. “This investment would enable our technology centers to train more workers faster and get them a good education with an even better job.”

The state’s technology centers’ average completion rate is 75 percent, and the job placement rate is 85 percent. They have been recognized as a national model, but currently only 4 percent of all higher education students in Tennessee attend a technology center.

“The thousands of manufacturing jobs that have come back to Tennessee need a highly skilled workforce. We have the structure to provide that workforce, but we must provide the resources to meet the capacity needs,” said House Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh. Now is the time to make this investment, because it will pay dividends for our workers and our state for a generation.”

Other legislation discussed by Democrats Thursday included:

  • The creation of a commercial properties database for prospective employers to quickly identify potential areas for relocation and expansion;
  • Doubling the capacity of the West Tennessee solar farm by 2013 to keep up with national competition;
  • Providing small businesses a sales tax holiday of up to $5,000 for equipment purchases and upgrades;
  • Fully funding the West Tennessee megasite, in order to give the Grand Division the same opportunities afforded Chattanooga with Volkswagen and Clarksville with Hemlock;
  • Providing a New Entrepreneur Tax Credit for new business owners to recover startup and expansion costs; and
  • A program modeled after the Georgia Works initiative that allows employers to train Tennesseans receiving unemployment benefits, with the goal of providing trainees expanded job opportunities and the potential for a full-time job.

Democrats noted that the initiatives discussed Thursday were only the first phase of an ongoing, bipartisan process to identify ways state government can play a role in job creation.

“We are in a jobs crisis right now, and we need all hands on deck to help sail the ship through these choppy waters,” said Senate Democratic Chairman Lowe Finney. “It’s going to take all of us working together to put Tennesseans back to work.”