The political situation, locally as well as statewide, might appear to be in something of a lull, but the apparent calm could well presage something of a storm.
That would certainly seem to be the case at this week's committee meetings on Wednesday of the Shelby County Commission, where at least two of the agenda items are sure to generate sparks.
One is a referred-back-to-committee item on funding the Shelby County District attorney general's office to deal with car and body cameras employed by law enforcement; the other is a Shelby County Schools audit report and a discussion of SCS' capital improvement needs.
The request by D.A. Amy Weirich's office for $143,378 to pay for "additional personnel and equipment to process in-car and body-worn cameras" got a turndown two weeks ago by what amounted to a skeleton crew of commission members meeting under the rubric of the commission's law enforcement committee.
It fared little better when presented to the full commission at last Monday's regular public meeting. Though there were advocates to go ahead with the funding matter, there was significant opposition as well, particularly relating to the body-cam issue, which turned out to have enough jurisdictional, philosophical, and fiscal overtones to justify a 10-1 vote for another committee go-over — this one sure to be more fully attended.
The SCS matters are sure also to generate some close attention as the commission swings into the initial stages of its budget season. This is especially so, given the school district's emergency request for an additional $40 million to stave off Draconian cuts, accompanied by some heated exchanges back and forth between the commission and the SCS administration and board.
• The 2016 legislative session of the Tennessee General Assembly is formally over, but questions regarding what it did and didn't do are still provoking serious — and, in some cases, heated — reactions.
Mary Mancini, the chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party, scheduled a press conference for Tuesday of this week "to discuss the recently ended legislative session and the upcoming elections."
According to Spencer Bowers, the TNDP communications director, actions to be discussed (which is to say, deplored) at the event, scheduled for the steps of the War Memorial Building, include the passage of a bill allowing professional counselors to reject gay and transgendered clients on the basis of "sincerely held principles" and another allowing college and university employees to carry weapons on campus, along with Governor Bill Haslam's refusal to veto the bills. The agenda for the Democrats' press conference also included mention of an expanded list of Democratic candidates running in congressional races and in legislative races across the state, to challenge the Republicans' current super-majority status in the General Assembly.
On Wednesday, three prominent Shelby County Republican members of that selfsame General Assembly will present their own takes on the legislature's deeds, misdeeds, actions, and omissions at a noon luncheon of the National Federation of Independent Business at Regents Bank on Poplar Avenue.
The legislators are state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Brian Kelsey of Germantown, and House Education Committee chair Mark White of Memphis. The trio will surely have both satisfactions and disappointments in the wake of the late session. Their complaints are likely to be in an opposite direction from those of Mancini and the Democrats.
• There is, however, one lament in which the official statements of the two parties are close to being on the same page. This is in regards to the matter of Measurement, Inc., the North Carolina company entrusted with preparing and grading testing materials for the state's new TNReady program of student/teacher evaluations.
Days after public statements by Haslam disparaging the performance of Measurement, Inc., the Tennessee Department of Education revoked its contract with the company, which failed to generate workable materials for online testing and then failed to deliver printed testing materials as well, for any but grades 9 through 12.
In a press conference at the Raleigh legislative office, state Representative Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis), state Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris (D-Memphis), and SCS School Board member Stephanie Love slammed the unreadiness of the TNReady program. Parkinson called for a three-year extension of the current moratorium on expansion of the state's Achievement School District and for scrapping of any official testing procedure until a satisfactory one might be developed.