I normally try to keep this blog somewhat non-political on the weekends, but events in Nashville have compelled me to congratulate the Republicans on filibustering the Governor's tax proposal. The GOP isn't trying to kill the bill, but instead want an amendment to use lottery funds for school infrastructure added to the bill. The Democratic response is to-filibuster the filibuster!
Way to go! The Democrats make themselves look like jackasses by the hour. The Republicans filibuster a bill in order to have school funding increased within the legislation, and the Democratic response (the education Party, right...) is to counter the move with another filibuster. Brilliant move...
I sincerely hope and pray that the Republicans do not cave in here. Keep this going until the Democrats reinstate the Hawk Amendment. If the GOP stands united, our schoolchildren will be the real beneficiaries when all of this is said and done.
I must admit that I was more than a little surprised yesterday afternoon when I received a note via e-mail from Paul Chapman, the District Director for Congressman David Davis. "Congressman Davis will be in White Pine around 3:30-can you meet with us?" Of course I would be glad to, I replied. I asked what might be the honor of the occasion for an unexpected visit from my Member of Congress. Mr. Chapman said that Congressman Davis just wanted to take the opportunity to meet me since we only had the opportunity to meet briefly before, at the Jefferson County Lincoln Day Dinner. I responded asking if Town Hall would be an appropriate location for a meeting-it was, and a one-on-one between myself and Congressman David Davis was very quickly arranged.
We met outside of Town Hall-Chapman, Davis, and myself, and moved quickly into one of the building's side rooms. It was not a great and eventful meeting, nothing earth-shattering was revealed in it. In a short 20-minute span of time we touched on several issues from terrorism and the government reaction to it, to property rights (about which Congressman Davis admitted that he was particularly passionate personally, and that he had done a great deal of work on in the State House), and who runs the State of Tennessee (we are agreed that Speaker Jimmy Naifeh runs the State).
Congressman Davis said plainly that he is concerned that "some of the things we did" after September 11th may have "consequences" which we didn't really think about at the time but that we could be feeling the after-effects of years to come. Paul Chapman nodded in agreement when I pointed out that a Democratic administration could use the powers of the PATRIOT Act against their political opponents and Davis nodded a firm yes when I said that I did not trust certain Democrats with those kinds of powers. "Absolutely" was the response when I said that I believed Bill Clinton would have used these powers against our kind, and in ill-conceived ways.
Of particular interest was the Census Survey that I received (as did Sharon Cobb) that was overly detailed to say the least and is discussed in a bit more depth in comments on May 21. Congressman Davis found the whole exercise disturbing, and as I explained my experience to him, Mr. Chapman told him to expect more complaints like mine. "The Census Bureau is asking for increasingly more and more personal details, so we will hear a lot more of this." Congressman Davis was apparently unaware that the Census Bureau was conducting "census" activities in a non-census year.
Congressman Davis took a moment to mention Marine Corporal Brad Walker, and had mentioned that he was here to commend Corporal Walker in person. He has actually been to White Pine personally on several occasions now-to address the Lions Club, the Ruritan Club, the Bib Boys, and several other civic organizations. I have to give the man credit-he promised that if he was elected that he was not going to concentrate all of the influence in the District in the Tri-cities anymore. So far he has kept to that pledge in a very real way-his District Director, for example, lives in nearby Morristown. What's more, if you like a conservative voting record, he has already amassed one that would make the American Conservative Union drool. He has proven himself so far to be extremely devoted to this District, a fact which has not gone unnoticed.
The person I am most proud of, through all of the debate over this, is Representative Mike Bell, who through his courageous stand showed that he will side with the cause of freedom when the going gets tough and the pressure is really on. You might say "gosh Oatney, this seems to have been a losing proposition from where Bell sits anyway, so he really had nothing to lose politically by being only one of two no votes on the committee." That may be the case, but the bill that passed the Ag Committee was amended so that tobacco shops, hotels, nursing homes, and a few other places that freedom-lovers like me were most concerned with were exempted. That doesn't make the bill any less restrictive on personal freedom, and Bell did the right thing in upholding his oath of office.
Am I glad that there are appropriate exemptions in this bill for places like the tobacco shops? Yes. Does this make the legislation more palatable? Without question. Should a freedom-loving Representative vote for this legislation even though it is more palatable? Were I serving in the House, I would not have voted for this legislation under any circumstances precisely because of the implications for the limitation of personal freedom.
There are very few people who are not aware of the health effects of smoking in 2007. As supporters of this bill have pointed out, many restaurants and businesses have banned smoking on their premises and this has not significantly impacted their business. That is fine-I think if a business owner wants to ban smoking in their establishment, they have an unquestionable right to do so and consumers can make the decision whether to frequent those establishments that ban smoking. If consumers want smoke-free air, the marketplace will give them smoke-free air. The State does not have the right to mandate to businesses what they should do or not do in this instance. The enforcement of this law could be another matter of unreasonable cost as well. No one has answered the question to my satisfaction as to who shall enforce this ban in my town.
If it was the Governor's goal to use the smoking ban as a means to divide his Republican opponents, he has mightily succeeded in doing so. Some very good people-solid sorts on the conservative right in this State, are supporting this bill (much to my dismay). One of its key Republican backers is former House Republican Leader Bill Dunn, a man whose integrity and commitment to the Cause on so many other matters cannot be questioned in the least. If I could beg anyone to please reconsider their position, it would be Bill Dunn-a man for whom I have a respect so high that it reaches to the outer parts of the known universe. Many others inside the Caucus who know Bill far better than I do feel the same way about him. When Bill takes a public position on something, you know he is serious about it. Even though he is no longer Leader, his influence within the Caucus is mighty indeed-he still has a strong base of support. I am utterly convinced that his support of this bill is what has insured that it will pass because when Bill Dunn speaks, members in both parties listen.
Such is my respect for Representative Dunn that were I in the House, if Bill asked me to vote for legislation to declare that the sky is green, I would probably do it. The reason for this is not because I have a "follower" attitude toward Bill Dunn, but because in an age when integrity in public life is in such short supply, Bill Dunn is the epitome of integrity. When the word is looked up in Webster's, there should simply be a picture of Bill Dunn there. That kind of integrity commands respect on both sides and can win votes, and I believe it has in this case.
How strongly do I feel about the wrong of the smoking ban? I would vote against Bill Dunn on it...you know it must be pretty bad.
It is a long overdue announcement that will deal the death blow to Rudy McRomney. I believe that if Fred Thompson takes his exploratory committee to the next step and formally announces on Independence Day as is being floated around, the Republican nomination is all but his.
The next President of the United States will reportedly be at a big Republican fundraiser in Virginia this weekend. I was rather hoping he would attend the Republican Statesmen's Dinner in Nashville where Romney is scheduled to speak (he has been for some months before Fredmania broke out)-for the sheer comedy of watching the last major address of the Romney campaign while the Republican nominee is present in the room.
As the first session of the 105th General Assembly draws near a close, Governor Phil Bredesen has conveniently decided to reshuffle the budget at the last minute and include-among other things-a tax on propane. I am quite certain the Democratic-controlled House will give the Governor whatever he wants, but I urge those in the Senate who are known from time to time to be wafflers to reject this abhorrent tax.
The so-called party of the common man has presented, through their Governor, a budget to this General Assembly that could give huge corporate tax breaks to large corporations doing business in Tennessee whether they are an in-State company or not. Yet this same budget will not give any relief to middle class and poor Tennesseans through a reduction in the tax on food at the grocery store. The State can spend millions on pork but not give one penny of relief to Tennesseans who need it the most.
Now the Governor wants to tax propane. This is more than just taxing the gas that people may use for their backyard barbecues, though this proposal will certainly do that. The worst part of this tax is that it will hurt the thousands upon thousands of Tennesseans who use propane gas as their winter fuel. It is at these people that the Governor is aiming this tax, and that is a near-certainty. Many of these citizens are lower-middle class or working poor.
This is all leading somewhere, and the somewhere it is taking us is right back to another income tax debate. The Governor knows that Republicans and many right-thinking Democrats will oppose this measure, and I would venture to say that he will attempt to hold up the income tax as the "only viable alternative"-nevermind our massive surplus. It will be even worse if the propane measure should pass and we happen to have a particularly bad winter-who shall bear the brunt of the Governor's needless tax?
They will tax the gas many Tennesseans use to heat their homes. They tax the food we eat. They are not content with their other sales and utility taxes. A $1.3 billion surplus is apparently not enough for these people. Next they shall tax our very living so that when we do begin to do well for ourselves, our living is taxed away. I am certainly not opposed to wealth that is honestly earned, but some folks forget where they came from when they make their millions, and I believe our Governor is one of these people.
If these measures pass as they are being proposed, the Governor might as well just punch the middle class square in the eye, not to mention spit in the face of the working poor. The Tennessee Democratic Party is many things, but a party that represents working people it is not, and it proves this by the hour.
It is a shame we must wait another year for an election, because the people of Tennessee cannot afford another second of a Democratic-controlled General Assembly.
In the midst of all the debate and hoopla over Governor Phil Bredesen's budget proposal, what hasn't gotten much attention is the Republican counter-proposal-a budget that gives real tax relief to Tennesseans with far fewer unnecessary expenditures. Among the features of the Republican plan: No tax increase
And none is needed. With one of the largest surpluses in the nation, Tennessee has proven that we can be fiscally responsible without a State income tax. If anything, our people have been overtaxed-you can discuss sin-taxes as a deterrent all you like, but sin-taxes do not need to be raised as a source of revenue with a total surplus of 1.3 billion dollars. The Governor is willing to give business tax credits, but nothing for ordinary folks.
What is meant here by "pork?" Well, when it is being proposed that every Representative receive $100,000 and every Senator $300,000 to spend on "programs" in their district, it is clearly unnecessary spending and is a blatant ploy for votes. This kind of reckless spending will squander the surplus in a hurry, as the total expenditure (were every member of the General Assembly to accept this money) would be $19.8 million.a big bite out of the surplus-just like that...no wonder the Governor "needs" a tax increase. That, my friends, is whole hog sausage!
3% state employee raise
Without the pork mentioned above, a 3% pay increase for State employees could easily be funded without a tax hike, thus eliminating the ability of certain Democrats to whine about how State employees-who have better benefits in most cases than much of the general population, are treated.
Funds a crime package to increase penalties on sexual predators
We passed Jessica's Law. What a great day it was for Tennessee...yes we can fund Jessica's Law without a tax increase so long as we do not spend the money we do have on unneeded expenditures-oh, like 19.8 million dollars in handouts to legislators.
Includes a $21 million farm grant program
Normally, I simply wouldn't favor this since it, too, can be seen as a pork-laden vote buying scheme. Most of our farmers are quite capable of getting on without over-subsidization from the State. This year may prove to be a bit different, however. I can't really speak for the rest of the State, but East Tennessee is facing a massive drought if we don't get some steady rain in a hurry. My lawn is crisp and my garden is cooking in the ground as I write this. Douglas and Cherokee Dams are both reporting water levels at 12 feet below normal, which is a near-record low. If we don't see substantial rains by July, crops will be lost and entire farming communities could go under. Some modest assistance in the face of a weather disaster does not appear to be unreasonable in these unusual circumstances. Again, this would be feasible without a tax hike were it not for legislators and their pork. Adds 136.6 million to the Rainy Day Fund Allows $100 million for K-12 capital outlay improvements from lottery reserves
Our K-12 schools so often get the shaft. Pre-K gets millions, and higher education supposedly has all this lottery money. It is time for kids who are in the normal K-12 education system to get the funding they need. Where's the beef on the Governor's end? He needs a tax increase to fund his proposals..while legislators hand out more of the hog. He ought to be furious at this, but I hear no cries of foul play coming from his office.
Restores $32.8 million in recurring road funding The Democrats/Governor have taken away road funding and then proceeded to try and tell the legislature that more money is needed for roads. At the rate they are going, removal of money already available followed by demands for tax increases because of lack of funds seems to be the prevalent mentality here. I suppose this is how the Governor intends to pass an income tax.
I'm not saying the Republican plan is perfect-the truth is that no plan is going to be. The thing that makes this plan palatable is that it tends to use money where it is needed without spending the State into the ground or raising taxes. It is the most logical plan if the goal is to be fiscally responsible-a quality seeming to be lacking in the party opposite.
On this Memorial Day, it is critical that in the midst of our cookouts, barbecues, family gatherings, concerts, parties, or other such fun the reason that such a holiday exists is not for those kinds of things. There is nothing inherently wrong with these things, and no reason why we should not do these things on the first summer weekend holiday.
The reason for today, of course, is to commemorate our nation's war dead. In this time when we are rapidly losing members of the Generation that fought and won World War II, this should take on special significance. I have long feared that when we lose this generation that it will become very easy for us to forget the sacrifices that they made that insured victory over totalitarianism.
If, like me, you had people in your family who fought in that great war, this day should have special significance for you. Let us remember the sacrifices of the Greatest Generation from the rising unto the setting of the sun. Let us do this not only today, but every day that we are privileged to breathe free air.
What follows is one of my favorite movie scenes-George C. Scott playing the great George S. Patton.
Today is Pentecost, the day that is commonly known as the Birthday of the Church. It was on this day that the Holy Spirit came among the apostles and gave them the ability to proclaim the Gospel to all sorts of people-people who did not speak the same language as the Apostles.
The structure of the Church as we know it also began that day, for it was on Pentecost that Peter's public leadership became apparent for the wider world. Through the ages, and in good times and bad, the Church has rolled on. Just when the World has declared the Church to be at an end, it comes back ever-stronger, and so it will do so again and again so long as this Earthly sphere shall last.
A conservative journal of social, cultural, and ecclesiatical affairs grounded in a realistic Catholic Christian worldview. It is my hope that this site will be a reflection of Christ,the teachings of His Holy Church, and of the basic vision of a Christian social morality.