Last week, the state House and Senate easily approved bi-partisan legislation designed to address pressing transportation and transit needs in Middle Tennessee and across the state. The plan will gradually increase gasoline and diesel taxes, raise some other fees, reduce by 20 percent the sales tax on food and begin the process of phasing out the Hall Income Tax. The average Tennessean would see a slight decrease in their overall tax bill. The plan also would allow "local option" revenue sources for mass transit funding, something desperately needed in the Nashville region. As most readers know, Nashville's phenomenal growth has also created Nashville's horrendous traffic. Addressing both infrastructure and transit aspects of the problem is the only way to really fix it. So, a rare hat tip to the legislature for their good work.
Sadly, on the local level, our legislators are less forward-thinking. The entire Sumner County House delegation, consisting of William Lamberth, Courtney Rogers, and Terri Lynn Weaver, voted against the proposal, despite the fact it will provide funding for critical needs including widening TN 386, the Portland bypass and further progress on TN 109. (On the Senate side, Ferrell Haile voted to approve the bill.) The Governor's plan addresses critical needs and reduces the most regressive tax we have, yet these three voted no. In my opinion, they just voted against the best interests of their constituents.
Diane Black Recess Watch: No-Show in Public, But Seen in Private
The Easter recess continues for our Members of Congress. Recesses are there by design so our representatives can spend time in their districts, meeting with their constituents, and of course, running for re-election. However, Congressman Diane Black (R-Gallatin) continues to be absent from the public eye. While she has held private events in the district, such as a less-than-full "town hall" at the Electrolux plant in Springfield, she has certainly not been otherwise meeting with her constituents. Last week, members of two different Indivisible groups attempted to ask for a town hall meeting at her offices in Cookeville and Gallatin. Her staff, polite and courteous as always, took down their concerns but didn't see any town halls in her future.
Law enforcement (also polite, courteous and helpful) was present at the Gallatin location. Both a Gallatin Police Department officer and Sumner County Sherriff's deputy were on hand. I suppose I can understand their concern. After all, the Gallatin protesters included a couple of moms with their kids, a woman with a cane (those can be dangerous) and a few middle-aged shy people. A truly scary bunch.
In all honesty, I can't blame Diane Black for hiding from her constituents. Since President Trump has taken office, she has voted consistently with the president's agenda, and in almost all cases against the will of most citizens who registered their opinion with the popular vote-tracking app Countable. For example, she has voted to weaken FEC regulations on venture capital funds, weaken the science advisory board of the EPA, and repeal consumer privacy requirements for Internet service providers. And, of course, she had indicated her strong support for the failed replacement of the Affordable Care Act, a bill that would have kicked up to 24 million Americans off health insurance.
With legislators like this, it is no wonder than many Tennesseans will be breathing a sigh of relief with the state legislative session closes and when Congress goes home.
Leonard Assante is the Democratic Executive Committeeman for the 18th Senate District and a resident of Gallatin.