Newsletter #105 -Rep. Bill Sanderson Chooses 60 MInutes over Tennesseans With Disabilities

It’s no news to anyone listening in Tennessee, that Governor Haslam is warning that projected revenue shortfalls will mean budget cuts.

Speaker Harwell acknowledged that with “revenues down a little this year, [balancing the state’s budget] will be tough.  But we will stick to the principles of fiscal responsibility and balance it responsibly.”

On January 2, 2014, The Tennessean reported: “The governor has argued that the annual growth in Medicaid spending has put the squeeze on other programs the state would like to spend money on. ‘Medicaid takes up all of our new dollars, and that’s just the hard fact,’ the governor told reporters after a Rotary Club speech last month.”

The week of January 20, 2014, the newspaper ran a series titled “Broken Trust” about the 7,100 most vulnerable Tennesseans with developmental disabilities who are forced to go without needed services because of the state’s failure to allocate the funds.

The funds needed to provide these services are Medicaid funds.  These are dollars that the State spends and the federal government matches.

Rep. Bill Sanderson believes that these state Medicaid dollars should NOT go to Tennesseans with developmental disabilities, but instead, to refugees who don’t even live in Tennessee yet.  He’s referring to the refugees that are eventually brought to Tennessee by Catholic Charities, a federal contractor that gets paid a lot of taxpayer money to bring refugees to Tennessee.

When refugees are brought to Tennessee by the federal contractors, they are immediately enrolled into any and all public assistance programs, including, state-funded TennCare, SSI, and cash welfare. The federal government used to reimburse the state for 3 years worth of what it cost the state to provide these benefits.  But typical of the federal government, they broke their promise to the states and stopped reimbursing the states for what the federal program cost.

A recent op-ed in The Tennessean notes: “The federal government assumed there would be a cost to states when it established the resettlement program in 1980. That’s why it promised three years of support for refugees, reimbursing states for their social-service costs. That period quickly shrank from three years to eight months, and there is no longer any reimbursement for state costs. The federal government has repeatedly documented the fact that refugee program costs are being shifted to states.”

In fact, the federal government acknowledged  in multiple reports, that they were simply “passing these costs onto the state.” During an August 2013 legislative hearing it was disclosed that when Catholic Charities took over the program, the number of refugees being brought to Tennessee increased pretty dramatically and that in 2011, for example, 58% of over 2000 people they brought to Tennessee, were enrolled into TennCare (that’s a little more than 1,000 people).

Last year, a bill was brought to Rep. Sanderson’s committee that was designed to help Tennessee figure out how much it was costing the state to pay for the federal program, a program that the state withdrew from in 2008 and is now run by a federal contractor.

But Rep. Sanderson who scathingly accused the bill sponsors and advocates of going on a “witch hunt against Catholic Charities,” related how he had watched a “60 Minutes” segment about refugees and it convinced him that they needed our help. He enthusiastically joined up with the federal contractors and led the effort to not pass the bill out of the committee.

The lobbyist for Catholic Charities was also the lobbyist for the TN Disability Coalition supported Sanderson’s position.  Isn’t this Disability Coalition supposed to advocate for the needs of the 7,100 people with disabilities waiting for services?  Did this lobbyist have a conflict of interest? The lobbyist may have had a conflict of interest since she is no longer the Disability Coalition lobbyist.

But how does the Governor propose a budget and how does the legislature pass a budget if they don’t know what everything costs?  What if they knew how much money the federal contractors were racking up for the state and then decided not to spend that money on that program?  Could they use that state money instead for some of the 7,100 Tennesseans with disabilities?

Maybe Speaker Harwell needs have a heart to heart with her House colleague.

Maybe Sanderson hadn’t read about or met one of the 7,100 Tennesseans with disabilities.  Maybe they need “60 Minutes” to help them get his attention.

Better yet, let him and Speaker Harwell know what Tennesseans think:

rep.bill.sanderson@capitol.tn.gov;  615-741-0718

speaker.beth.harwell@capitol.tn.gov; 615-741-0709

 

 

 


Newsletter #73 – Public enemy #1,2,3 – TN legislators and lobbyists

The Tennessee legislative session has a unique way of showing the citizens and taxpayers of Tennessee who isn’t protecting their rights.  It makes that old saying – “with friends like these, who needs enemies”, particularly meaningful.  Some of these individuals are elected officials and some are those hired to influence the elected:

I. Sen. Brian Kelsey– newly appointed Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Kelsey worked tirelessly as committee chair to defeat 2nd amendment rights bill SB250.   The 10th Amendment Center’s response to Sen. Kelsey’s first efforts is worth reading. 

Sen. Kelsey saved the real show for his follow-up 22 minute monologue during the next hearing on this bill.  His efforts generated a number of newspaper ads in the Germantown News, Bartlett Express and Shelby Sun Times:

kelsey ad

Earlier in the year he lent his support to the Muslim Brotherhood organizations in Memphis as a speaker at the “Advocating for TN Muslims – Memphis fundraiser”.

kelsey

He is up for re-election in 2014 – or not.

II. The next biggest showman at the Tennessee legislature this session was Rep. Bill Sanderson’s performance in the House State Government Committee as he passionately spoke against a bill that would have helped the state of Tennessee figure out how much the federal government’s refugee resettlement program costs the state.  Guess he missed the lesson about the 10th amendment and the federal government not being allowed to raid state budgets.

He is up for re-election in 2014 – or not.

III. But the award for one of the most offensive remarks made this year goes to liberal Democrat Rep. Johnny Shaw who said that only “bona fide citizens” (aka non-conservatives) have the right to bring their concerns to state representatives.

No one shouldn even consider him for re-election.

Here come the lobbyists…. 

It’s pretty amazing how a red state’s legislature is flooded with lobbyists representing every known liberal/socialist/progressive agenda.

I.  ACLU-TN (reported revenue for most recent publicly available 990 from 2010, was $501,868 with total gifts, grants and contributions from 2006 – 2010 totaling $1,211,336), director Hedy Weinberg[1] has been a fixture at the Tennessee legislature for a long time.  She is now joined by her daughter Hannah Cornfield, a “Civic Engagement Fellow” with the Muslim American Center for Outreach (ACO), Remziya Suleyman’s organization.

II. Staying true to the roots of political shariah, Ms. Suleyman recently spoke at the birthplace of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood.  On Saturday, April 6, 2013, Suleyman was part of the Muslim Brotherhood Student Association, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign campus, Spring Camp 2013.  This MSA was the very first U.S. Muslim Brotherhood established organization.  MSAs across the country have become the training ground for Suleyman’s jihad generation.

III. Nathan Ridley, lobbyist for the TN Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) just happens to be married to the legislature’s Director of Legislative Administration, Connie Ridley, who is  probably a great source of insider information and an asset to Mr. Ridley’s activities as a lobbyist.  Not surprising though that TIRRC can afford a highbrow firm lobbyist given that in 2011 (last 990 available), they reported $1,169,811 in total revenue.  Lobbying expenditures since 2008 total $556,506 with $160,881 spent in 2011.  Total gifts, grants and contributions since 2007 reported total $3,901,899.

Ridley also represents Conexion Americas, an organization with reported revenue of $1,013,483 for 2010-2011.  This organization advocates for and represents Latino families in Middle Tennessee.

IV. Who even knew that Jennifer Murphy was Catholic Charities Tennessee lobbyist?  Some may be surprised to see that the lobbyist positions don’t follow the Catholic doctrine.  In fact, a recent disclosure was made that the University of TN educated Florida Planned Parenthood lobbyist who testified in support of infanticide, was on the board of Florida Catholic Charities!

Seems like liberal/socialist/progressive causes are well-funded and well represented in the Tennessee state house.


[1] TCPJ is planning to publish an extensive background piece on Ms. Weinberg.