July 9, 2020: Issues Importance Survey

We recently fielded a survey to better understand what issues among the 13 that make up the BCDP platform are most important to you.  With 78 of you responding, here’s what you told us:

Looking at the top two most important issues and grouping those that scored tightly the first segment were 1. Affordable Healthcare, 2. Voting and 3. Equality/Discrimination (tied for second) and 4. Environment. The next grouping a few points down were 5. Support for Benefits and Coverages: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, 6. Employee Rights and Benefits, 7. Education and 8. Criminal Justice Reform. Next grouping was 9. Improving Local Government Operations, 10. Infrastructure, 11. Economy and 12. Immigration.  Final segment was 13. Access to Firearms and Gun Safety. It should be noted that the last one had the most spread across importance measures and may have been interpreted differently by different people.

Looking at top responses only Voting, Equality/Discrimination and Affordable Healthcare were the top contenders.

You can read the Blount County Democratic Party Platform above on this site.

June 28 -Oppose Pendley for BLM Director

Opportunity for success. The Trump Administration’s hand has been forced by a lawsuit regarding an “acting director” be made official so it needs to go before Congress.

The individual is the uber-fox-in-the-henhouse Willian Pendley, currently acting director of the Bureau of Land Management. He is known to be he “…a public lands extremist, dedicated to selling off public lands or handing over public resources to mineral and livestock industries throughout his career” said Erik Molvar, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project as quoted on Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility’s website.

Please write your representatives to oppose this nomination and if you’d like to go further, contact the members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee who will take up this nomination. Note that Senator Lamar Alexander serves on this committee. Others: Chairwoman Lisa Murkowsi, Ranking Member Joe Manchin, John Barrasso, James Risch, Mike Lee, Steve Daines, Bill Cassidy, Cory Gardner, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Martha McSally, and John Hoeven.

Just last Thursday he provided evidence for his removal as the Trump Administration would put most of Alaska’s 23 million acre National Petroleum Reserve open for oil and gas leasing under a new plan. Note that the November draft plan only offered up 18 million acres so they are trying to add 5 million more. Let them know we are paying attention.

June 25 -EPA barrier to reducing Greenhouse Gases in biofuels

Biofuels=tricky subject. Acknowledging that upfront and without going into the relative merits/demerits of different products used in the process, it IS a worthy pursuit.

Bi-partisan legislation, the Growing Climate Solutions Act, aims to help farmers, through carbon credits, increase their involvement in renewable fuels. It seems the EPA is being responsive to oil refiners asking for retroactive exemptions to requirements that they blend biofuels into their products.  Senate hearings were held yesterday, so this could turn into good news. So-called “carbon farming” in its embryonic state should be encouraged and the EPA should do more to get behind it.

Jun 24 -Appearance of good news: not since 1990 the EPA added something new to Hazardous Air Pollutants list

The EPA granted petitions from Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance (HSIA) and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to add n-propyl bromide, commonly known as 1-bromopropane (1-BP), to the Clean Air Act’s (CAA) list of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). 1-BP is found in degreasers, cleaners, spray adhesives, automotive refrigerant flushes and lubricants. Nothing has been added to HAPs list since 1990.

Sound like good news, right? Well…under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA noted last year that the chemical could pose “an unreasonable risk of injury to health” under certain conditions of use but did not find any unreasonable risk of injury to the environment. The risk evaluation is ongoing and is expected to be finalized this year.

One just has to wonder what exceptional circumstance will be required before any true regulatory activity would occur. Trump’s EPA gets to claim doing a good thing in both health and clearing up backlog but what comes next is what really matters.

Today’s environmental gasp: perchlorate de-regulation in drinking water

Recently the Trump Administration’s EPA decided to stop regulating perchlorate, a toxic chemical compound found in rocket fuel (and other places) that contaminates water and has been linked to fetal and infant brain damage. They stated that it does not show up in drinking water and is no longer a threat. We want to know who they know that because national testing ceased in 2005. According to the Environmental Working Group’s tap water database (through 2017) perchlorate was detected in 375 water utilities serving an estimated 12.1 million people. But those records do not include smaller water systems, so the number of Americans drinking water contaminated with perchlorate is likely much higher. And, this is so like other Trump administration decisions not to impose recommended limits on toxic chemicals, such as its decision not to ban child-harming pesticide chlorpyrifos or known-carcinogen asbestos. Watch this space for more environmental gasps!

To read more:

May 25 – Being Present with Absentee Voting

Roll calls. Stating “Present” or “Here”. It is the way to count you showed up and it is also your way to make your presence known on the line, in the drill, through the crowd.

Voting absentee is kind of like that. It is your way to have your vote be counted even if you are not physically present. It should be as simple and as powerful as saying “I’m here. Count my vote.”

Voting absentee is not that simple in Tennessee, which is one of only 16 states that require voters to list a qualifying excuse to get an absentee ballot. Contrast that with 29 states and Washington, D.C., which allow every voter to vote absentee without the need to provide a reason or “excuse”. Plus, there are the five states — Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington — who vote exclusively by mail.

Because of the Covid-19 virus some states are easing voting limitations. Whether just for the upcoming primary for now or permanent, some states removed the need for an excuse for voting absentee. Nearly half of the states, including our neighbor Kentucky, have made voting easier by either through removing or reducing restrictions or by mailing out ballots.

Governor Lee has said fear of Covid-19 should not be a reason to vote absentee. We say one should not have to choose between voting and risking one’s health. However, we shouldn’t need a pandemic to change things. We should move forward on no-excuse absentee voting because voting should simply be easier to do.

According to a Pew Research poll, 3 out of 4 Americans (Republicans and Democrats) favor greater access to absentee voting.

What about potential voter fraud? Voter Fraud is rare. For example, the conservative Heritage Foundation in their database found only 1,277 cases going back decades to 1979. Furthermore, the cases of absentee fraud were found in stricter states, not in the “no-excuse states”.

States have a long history of assuring absentee votes by checking to see that the voter is properly registered and the signature on the ballot matches the one on file. Counties and states may need support in equipment and staff hours, but we think this would be worth it to assure all registered voters would have the option to vote-by-mail.

So, before we succeed in getting excuse-free absentee voting, check out this list and see if you qualify to vote Absentee in Tennessee. You can apply now to get a ballot.
1) Individuals who will be out of the county during early voting & election day
2) Full-time students and spouses of students enrolled in accredited college, university or similarly accredited institution of learning outside of home county
3) Permanent Absentee voter (Requires a written statement from the person’s physician that the voter is medically unable to appear at his/her polling pace to vote early.)
4) Full-time resident of licensed nursing home, home for the aged, or similar licensed institution providing relatively permanent domiciliary care outside of home county
5) Serving on a jury
6) 60 years of age or older
7) Candidates for office
8) Election Officials
9) Individuals observing a religious holiday
10) Sickness, physical disability, or hospitalization
11) Voter with a disability and the polling place is inaccessible
12) Caretaker of a person who is hospitalized, ill or physically disabled
13) Credentialed commercial driver or transportation worker who will be out of the county during early voting and on Election Day

Some additional instruction from Blount Count Election Commission:
“A request to vote absentee by-mail must be initiated by the voter.  The voter must return it to the Election Commission via fax, email, mail, or in person.  The request to vote absentee by-mail cannot be solicited for another voter.  Requests can be accepted up to 7 days prior to the election. Upon receipt and review of your signed request, the Election Commission will mail a set of absentee voting supplies to you. Please follow the instructions carefully, and be sure to contact the Election Commission at 865-273-5920 if you have any questions about your ballot. After completing the ballot and signing the accompanying affidavit, mail the ballot to the Election Commission. No hand-carried absentee ballots will be accepted at the Election Commission or the precinct.  They must be received in the mail or courier service.”