Last week, Gov. Haslam announced the elimination of 1% raises for state employees and 2% raises for teachers. After meeting for months, the legislature has done nothing to expand Medicaid to hundreds of thousands. And again, Tennessee made the Colbert Report last week because of our legislature.
Our legislature isn't working for people because it's not really designed to represent the people. We have to begin reforming our political system, and that's one thing I want to do in the state senate.
End Political Gerrymandering
Because districts are drawn to be safe for either Democrats or Republicans, fewer than a dozen of the 132 legislative races in Tennessee are competitive. That makes the primaries the most important election. Only around 15% percent cast votes in these primaries, which gave us the current, extreme Republican super-majority. It's no surprise then, that our lawmakers respond more to special interests than people, and it's also no surprise that Tennessee received the lowest possible ranking for redistricting transparency in the most recent Corruption Risk Report Card. In the State Senate, I'll propose creating an independent commission that would take the politics out of redistricting and ensure greater openness. States that lean both red and blue have adopted these reforms, and Tennessee should do the same.
End Legislators' Dependence on PACs
70% of contributions made to state legislators in 2013 came from PACs and businesses. Actual, real-life people gave less than $1 of every $3 contributed. There's simply no argument that it's a good thing for our lawmakers be utterly dependent on PAC money. For the same time period, our campaign received less than 6% of its contributions from PACs. If elected, I will propose limiting any political candidate in Tennessee from receiving more than a third of their contributions from PACs. And even if it doesn't pass, I'll pledge right now that I will abide by that rule and urge others to do the same.
Ensure Greater Transparency
Tennessee received a D- in the 2012 Following the Money report for its poor job of providing online access to government spending data. Current rules even allow lawmakers to vote on measures where they have a personal, financial interest without even disclosing the interest to the public. We should require that legislators provide access to such disclosures and that their votes be tracked on their legislative websites. Again, even if these measures don't get enacted, I pledge to abide by these more stringent standards because that's what voters deserve.
There's a lot of work for the state government to do, but the first thing we should do is make it more responsive to the citizens.