Election Day 2012 was further proof that Tennessee is one of the reddest of all Red States.
In addition to Mitt Romney's drubbing of President Obama here, Republicans took supermajority control of both houses of the Tennessee General Assembly for the first time in state history and Sen. Bob Corker and all seven GOP U.S. House members were returned to Washington.
Even local races and ballot initiatives demonstrate Tennessee's tilt towards conservative principles and free market, limited government policy solutions.
DesJarlais wins despite controversy
While Sen. Bob Corker and Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District were expected to be re-elected handily, few could predict how embattled 4th District Congressman Scott DesJarlais would fare.
It turns out that, despite his embarrassing mistress-having, abortion-forcing, drug-using, patient-cavorting scandal, the doctor-turned-Congressman defeated his Democratic challenger with relative ease.
The good news for Republicans is that DesJarlais' conservatives voting habits should continue for two more years. The even better news is that, unless too many challengers enter the race and split the vote, DesJarlais should be handily defeated in the Republican primary if he decides to run in 2014. The number of good Republican state lawmakers and county mayors residing in the 4th District likely means that DesJarlais will soon be just an embarrassing memory for his constituents.
A supermajority in Nashville
For the first time in Tennessee's history, Republicans have a "supermajority" in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Tuesday's election gave the GOP the additional two seats it needed in each house to achieve a two-thirds majority in both parts of the legislative branch -- allowing Republicans to pass pretty much anything they want despite Democratic opposition.
Now that Republicans have swept the board, the question is: What to do?
This is not a time for the GOP to flex its newly-grown muscles by throwing around divisive social issues. This is a rare chance to pass legislation that reduces government spending, eliminates superfluous taxes, trims red tape that hinders business, and empowers parents, teachers and students, such as:
• Grocery Tax -- Tennesseans pay the third highest tax on grocery purchases in the country. It disproportionately impacts the poor and should be eliminated.
• The Hall Income Tax -- The tax collects on the raw gains of bond and stock dividends. While the money taken only accounts for 2 percent of total Tennessee revenue, it discourages investors, most significantly the wealthy and elderly, from residing in the state.
• Fight to advance school choice --Traditional government schools fail many Tennessee students. State lawmakers should provide options that allow the parent to decide the best learning environment for their child.
• Economic barriers -- These regulations make business conception and growth nearly impossible. License restrictions and regulatory legislation are often implemented to appease special interest groups. To minimize this effect, oversight committees should be appointed to ensure that the Tennessee worker is given the highest priority.
Politics is a process of compromising interests. Less opposition means less compromise. The GOP supermajority provides an opportunity to enact strong free market, limited government policies. Tennessee Republicans have a history of harping on social issues when they have the spotlight. They should, instead, focus on fiscal responsibility and long-term development.
A new day in East Ridge
The City of East Ridge -- or more, accurately, the People's Republic of East Ridge, given its recent tyrannical decisions to harass entrepreneurs, smokers and pet goats -- is in bad need of a new direction. Plagued by boarded up storefronts, high unemployment and, seemingly, more payday lenders than paycheck providers, Tuesday's election gave residents hope for a better future.
Voters elected Marc Gravitt, a pro-business, fiscal conservative who understands the need to keep the city's spending in check, to the East Ridge City Council. They also re-elected Denny Manning, East Ridge's most consistent voice for low taxes and reducing regulatory burdens.
When combined with Jim Bethune, a council member not up for election on Tuesday, the three men will create a limited government, pro-growth majority on the East Ridge City Council. This new majority should be able to put an end to the city's habit of wasting tax dollars and putting up with bad behavior from its top bureaucrats.
Specifically, Gravitt, Manning and Bethune can end East Ridge's ludicrous practice of having a part-time contract attorney, who has billed East Ridge taxpayers an average of more than $160,000 over the past five years, rather than a cheaper full-time city attorney.
They can also take a serious look at whether East Ridge City Manager Tim Gobble fits in the city's plans going forward. Gobble allegedly interfered with a court case involving his daughter and, despite his $125,000 salary, seemingly spends the better part of his days goofing off on Facebook.
In the past, East Ridge city leaders didn't question the city's wasteful spending on its attorney and looked the other way when it came to the blundering city manager. They wouldn't have considered ways to reduce taxes, cut spending, expand the tax base and encourage new businesses.
But this is a new East Ridge, and residents, business owners and taxpayers (and maybe even pet goats) will be better off as a result.
Sequatchie tax hike halted
For the second time in nine months, the Sequatchie County Commission snuck a half-cent sales tax increase proposal on the ballot. For the second time in nine months, the commissioners sounded like Chicken Little, saying the county's fiscal sky is falling and a tax hike was necessary. In reality, the budget problems were caused by a hefty increase in spending, rather than the lack of revenue. And for the second time in nine months, Sequatchie County voters rejected the commissioners' bogus claim that a tax increase was necessary, defeating the tax hike referendum.
Sequatchie County residents are wise enough to know that, in this economy, if they have to live on less, county leaders shouldn't be allowed to spend more and more -- especially without a compelling reason.
Defeating the sales tax increase will prove one of the wisest things Sequatchie County voters ever did. Not having access to even more tax dollars to spend will force county leaders to do what they should have done months ago: look for ways to trim wasteful spending, find opportunities to outsource government services that private service providers can perform more efficiently and consider how best to spend county residents' hard-earned money.
Most importantly, Sequatchie County Commissioners will be forced to look at the steep increase in the Sequatchie County School System budget and ask tough questions about how those tax dollars are spent.
By acting like responsible leaders rather than teenagers on vacation with daddy's credit card, Sequatchie's public officials can use this defeat of the sales tax hike to get the county's budget under control. By doing so, they can finally put a stop to their bad habit of trying to push unnecessary tax hikes on county residents.