We are officially living in a different world than the one in which we awoke on January 20, 2017. Hourly, progress is being unraveled and civil rights are being rolled back. The collective conscience of our country has been shaken to its core. Thankfully, as has repeatedly occurred over the course of our young country’s history, the people have awoken to the importance of civic engagement and taken an active role in standing up for their rights, their neighbors, and those most vulnerable. My family and many others across the United States and the entire planet donned their pink hats, marched and made their voices heard and their presence felt on January 21st. My wife and many others followed up this unified demonstration of strength in Nashville and elsewhere by organizing postcard-writing gatherings to make sure that our elected officials in Washington know where we stand on issues of importance. As I type this newsletter on a plane returning from New York City where thousands protested at JFK Airport last evening, my friends and family are gathering for another rally at the offices of our U.S. Senators in Nashville to remind our state’s leaders that we are a country of immigrants. Tomorrow, thousands will crowd our Tennessee State Capitol to remind us in state government that you are watching.
These are troubling times in need of inspiring action, and I commend you for doing your part. As has been said many times before, democracy is not a spectator sport. Every moment we take our democracy for granted and stop paying attention is an opportunity for those set on unraveling the very inalienable rights and liberties on which our republic is founded. We must continue rising up. We must continue speaking up. We must continue to make our presence felt.
Ready, set, …
Begin your week of civic engagement and political activity with my family at Elliston Place Soda Shop at 7:00am tomorrow morning for the latest serving of Coffee with Clemmons.
Afterwards, my colleagues in the state legislature return to town for the Governor’s State of the State address tomorrow night at 5:00p.m. This annual address serves as the starting line for our legislative session. As you know, our sessions are a sprint rather than a marathon so stay tuned and be ready to act. I will again be live tweeting from the floor of the House throughout the State of the State, so be sure and follow me on Twitter at @JRClemmons. We will also have updates from outside and inside the State Capitol on Facebook at /johnrayfortn.
If you would like to share your opinions about an issue or express your concerns about any proposals put forth by the Governor or any of my fellow legislators, I recommend that you consider joining me and others at the State Capitol at 3:00pm tomorrow afternoon.
Since Summer 2015, I have been leading opposition to Governor Haslam’s outsourcing plans for our state parks, colleges and universities, armories, and other state facilities with Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris. Following up on our visits to UT Knoxville and UT Chattanooga in the Fall of 2015, Sen. Harris and I held a public meeting for employees and their families at Fall Creek Falls on January 20th. Over 120 people attended our meeting, all of whom are concerned about their local economy and their jobs and outraged by the idea of outsourcing this treasured park. This beloved state park is currently the target of the governor’s outsourcing plans. An RFP has already been issued for Fall Creek Falls and other state parks will inevitably follow. The essence of the governor’s plan at Fall Creek Falls is to invest millions of taxpayer dollars into razing the inn and other facilities and rebuilding them and then hand over the keys to a private company to profit from our state’s investment. All of this is being promoted under the guise of cost savings to the state and higher quality services. However, the governor has still yet to show how his scheme will result in either of those objectives. The cost of rooms at the inn, campsite fees and permits, and others will double overnight.
If this concerns you, Sen. Harris and I will be hosting another public meeting at Montgomery Bell State Park on February 16, 2017 at 2:00pm, and all are invited to attend. Please RSVP HERE.
In the past two weeks, I have had the opportunity to speak to several groups around Nashville about the upcoming legislative session. I would like to thank: Avi Poster and Irwin Kuhn and the Nashville Jewish Social Justice Roundtable; Joe Woolley and Alfred Degrafinreid and the Kitchen Cabinet; and Lisa Howe, the LGBT Chamber, Jim Schmidt, Sam Felker and the Tennessee Stonewall Bar Association; Chris Sander and the Tennessee Equality Project. Thanks to everyone for their hard work and the opportunity to share information and ideas with your respective members.
2017 Legislative package
I continue to research and draft my legislation for this legislative session. Currently, I am considering introducing legislation focused on the following issues: transportation funding, mental health care and substance abuse services, outsourcing, higher education, professional privilege taxes, voting, and other areas of importance to District 55. I am also assisting some of my colleagues with their legislation on issues such as criminal justice reform, sentencing reform, campaign finance reform, and medical marijuana. I will provide more detailed summaries of my legislation in our next newsletter in two weeks.