• Politics

    Tennessee special session possibly patrolled by 500 state troopers

    Roughly 500 state troopers provided heightened security during the August special session on public safety, costing an estimated $750,000, according to a state senator.

    Sen. Heidi Campbell, a Nashville Democrat, says a Department of Safety and Homeland Security representative confirmed the figure, and then she projected the expense based on the average daily pay for troopers. It didn’t include overtime or the cost for housing state patrol officers in Nashville, since many had to come from across Tennessee to work at the Capitol and Cordell Hull Building for six days in late summer.

    The department has refused to provide trooper numbers and expenses in the aftermath of the special session despite public records requests. Campbell, who provided a text message containing the confirmation, points out the department’s been evasive, claiming the increased security didn’t cost extra because troopers are on salary.

    Yet they had to come to Nashville because of the fear that women and children would be stalking our beloved lawmakers, making it difficult to enforce traffic laws and do other important work from Memphis to Mountain City (sorry, gag, I had to get that one in, simply because I haven’t heard anyone say it since – the not-so-special session).

    Campbell, who also sought the information on the Senate floor, looked at the salaries for troopers, $60,000 to $120,000 a year, and took the average, $250 per day, then multiplied it by 500.

    “This is kind of consistent with what goes in with the controlling party in this state,” Campbell says. “They just don’t feel they need to be accountable to anybody when they’re spending our tax dollars. … I find that alarming.”

    Tennessee special session
    Sen. Heidi Campbell. (Photo: John Partipilo)

    Campbell and journalists have been searching for figures since the session took place more than a month ago, questioning whether that type of force was needed.

    Besides the major boost in security, public access was limited in Cordell Hull and the Capitol. And I’m just going to be honest, some of the newby troopers creeped me out, staring at me like I was a Cordell terrorist and blocking me from moving around the Capitol, when all I do is foment discord occasionally, or at least stand accused.

    House Speaker Cameron Sexton defended the security measures recently, saying Democrats and Republicans told him they didn’t feel safe at the tail end of the regular session when hundreds of parents and children went to the Capitol to raise hell about the Covenant School mass shooting and lack of coherent gun laws in Tennessee. During the course of the shouting, some of the protesters might have spewed a little spittle on a couple of lawmakers, which leads to the question: Who spat on Chairman Faison? (Yes, “spat” is the correct verb tense.)

    Sexton also says the trooper presence could be similar during the regular session, too, if the Legislature continues down the path of protestation. I guess Gov. Bill Lee better triple down on trooper recruiting and put a big addition in the supplemental budget. Those guys ain’t cheap.

    Complaints continue

    The state Attorney General’s Office filed another lawsuit against the federal government, this time raising claims the feds failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request by failing to show documents about the alleged release of immigrant detainees into Tennessee.

    AG Jonathan Skrmetti claims the state found out in late 2022 that ICE planned to bring thousands of single adult non-citizen detainees from ICE detention facilities in Louisiana to Tennessee. After the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement refused to produce any documents dealing with its questions, the state says, it had “no choice” but to sue “so that the people of Tennessee can learn the scope of detainee releases and evaluate the resources necessary to respond.”

    In its complaint, the state says it found out ICE had been cooperating with Tennessee-based immigration rights group and the Metro Nashville government about the release of detainees.

    (Of course, the state isn’t exactly being transparent, either, about the security force used for the August special session. But the AG’s Office doesn’t have time for nitpicky stuff like that. It’s also working to stop the feds from requiring new types of water heaters in six years. Those are supposed to save people $198 billion and cut 501 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over 30 years. It appears people are worried the feds will sneak into their homes at night to see if they’re using an old water heater. Better save the women and children first.)

    But back to this immigrant detainee question. One point of contention is the status of the people being released. Skrmetti claims the people being released are often criminals.

    Yet a mass release never took place because of the reinstatement of Title 42, which allows for emergency measures, for instance, a measure to limit immigration by the Trump Administration during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to immigration advocates. Yet asylum seekers are being allowed to reunite with family and friends nationwide.

    The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition says in a statement efforts to run a coordinated response to immigration by governments and local groups were welcome. It notes a model is the federal refugee resettlement program, which isn’t too popular with most Republicans.

    “Unfortunately, our governor and attorney general are attempting to politicize what should be a natural extension of our value as a beacon of hope. We are deeply disappointed that taxpayer resources are being used in a fishing expedition by an activist attorney general, who could instead focus on enforcing laws to protect Tennesseans’ access to health care, education, and good jobs with living wages,” says Lisa Sherman Nikolaus, executive director of TIRRC.

    Meanwhile, the Biden Administration is reversing course and building the border wall former President Trump always wanted. I don’t hear anyone complaining about that call.

    And how are you going to prove Biden is catering to immigrants when he’s stacking blocks to keep people out.

    Tennessee special session
    Rep. Yusef Hakeem, D-Chattanooga (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)

    Hakeem gets nod

    State Rep. Yusuf Hakeem will serve on the Intergovernmental Policy Advisory Committee, which gives advice to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in handling general trade, investment and development matters.

    Hakeem, a Chattanooga Democrat, says in a release he wants to see a “marked increase” in small and medium-sized companies getting help and development strategies for international trade.

    Congratulations Rep. Hakeem, and thanks for making my head hurt.

    Democratic candidate to run

    Clarksville resident Allie Phillips announced this week she will run for the District 75 House seat held by Republican Rep. Jeff Burkhart.

    Phillips says the decision was spurred by her experience with a failed pregnancy in which she was unable to receive an abortion here and had to fly to New York City for an emergency procedure.

    Phillips was among 12 plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights against Tennessee, Idaho and Oklahoma over their restrictive abortion bans.

    After enacting a “trigger ban” that outlawed all abortions in case of the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the Legislature changed the law this year to allow for abortions in limited cases when the mother’s life is in danger.

    Tennessee is facing yet another lawsuit related to its abortion policies.

    Briggs backs term limits

    U.S. Term Limits, the nation’s largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating only on term limits, announced this week Sen. Richard Briggs is sponsoring a resolution to enact congressional term limits.

    The resolution, which passed the House with Rep. Chris Todd as sponsor, calls for Tennessee to join other states in seeking a constitutional convention to amend the U.S. Constitution.

    Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, state chairman of U.S. Term Limits and likely gubernatorial candidate, says “continued dysfunction” in Congress is proof it needs term limits.

    According to the release, 34 state legislatures will have to pass such a resolution to hold the convention, and then 38 states would have to ratify a new amendment for it to become part of the Constitution.

    Tennessee special session
    Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, a cardiac physician, sponsored recent changes to Tennessee’s abortion law. (Photo: John Partipilo)

    It must be noted that much of the dysfunction the nation is seeing now in Congress can be laid at the feet of Jacobs’ own Republican Party. 

    Republicans manufactured the dismissal of Rep. Kevin McCarthy as House Speaker, and it was easy for Democrats to jump in and get rid of someone who made a Faustian bargain to win power. (It appears they could be stuck with Rep. Jim Jordan now, which should make folks a little more leery about what they ask for, because everyone knows you can’t always get what you want.)

    Of course, Briggs, a Knoxville Republican, is working on his fifth four-year term in the Senate, which means he will have been there 20 years once the 113th General Assembly is complete. 

    Not to point at Briggs, who is one of the few independent-minded lawmakers in the Legislature, but shouldn’t the state worry first about term limits in Tennessee? We have a handful who might have worn out their welcome.

    What the halo?

    And speaking of the McCarthy ouster, U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett was the only Tennessee Republican who voted to get rid of the Californian.

    The move to vacate the speaker’s office was McCarthy’s just reward for working with Democrats to pass a short-term resolution keeping the government working. The vacuum immediately took on national tones when the stock market plummeted.

    Burchett, a former state senator, claims McCarthy mocked him for saying he had to pray about the decision but that he was frustrated by the House’s failure to pass a permanent budget. 

    Burchett tends to be high-strung while portending Crockett humor.

    While serving in the Tennessee Senate, Burchett sponsored the momentous bill enabling people to consume “roadkill,” a common-sense measure that’s keeping countless people out of soup lines.

    Tennessee special session
    U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles. (Photo: John Partipilo)

    Oddly enough, U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles, whose resume has more holes than the Denver Broncos’ 70-point defense, voted against the move to vacate McCarthy despite constant criticism.

    Ogles, who represents the oddly-drawn (code word for gerrymandered) 5th Congressional District, including part of Nashville, says he’s frustrated with passage of the 45-day continuing resolution, as well as McCarthy’s leadership, but that he didn’t want to act “rashly” and fire the coach in the middle of the game.

    As Jules said in “Pulp Fiction,” he must have had “what alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity.” 

    One wonders if it’s the same clarity he had when he claimed to have graduated from Vanderbilt’s Owen School of Management, when all he really did was get a certificate for attending a seminar, hardly a master’s degree.

    “Now go in the bag and find my wallet. … It’s the one that says bad MF.”

    This article in this post was originally published on Tennessee Lookout and parts of it are included here under a Creative Commons license CC BY-ND 4.0

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