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Working For You: Fall 2021

September 20, 2021

Fall finally arrives this week, and I could not be more excited. From kickoffs, playoffs and puck drops to bright orange leaves, cool weather and carved pumpkins, fall is the absolute best. There is nothing better than autumn in Tennessee.


Hopefully, the fall weather will cool off the heated political rhetoric surrounding the ongoing pandemic. From the fierce opposition to facial covering requirements in our schools to an unexpected state legislative push for Ivermectin, as a suggested alternative to an FDA-approved vaccination, our state has managed to consistently and embarrassingly remain a focus of the national COVID-19 conversation. Worse, Tennessee has recently managed to remain atop the national rankings for COVID-19 infections per capita and over 14,000 Tennesseans have died. Because masking and vaccinations are as much about protecting others as protecting ourselves, it is disheartening to witness such disregard for others’ health and well-being. Coming off the heels of the 20th anniversary of September 11th, during which we not only memorialized a national tragedy but also celebrated the national unity that resulted therefrom, I choose to maintain hope that our state and country can and will unite again.


Councilman Thom Druffel and I are co-hosting a virtual public meeting this Thursday, Sept. 23rd at 6:00pm to continue the years long discussion about the Highway 100 and Highway 70 intersection, as well as the surrounding commercial district. Residents and small business owners have long communicated a desire for this area to be safer for motorists and pedestrians. Because TDOT has jurisdiction over the roadways, this will be joint state and local effort. To this end, my  colleagues Sen. Heidi Campbell and Rep. Bob Freeman, as well as local officials, are helping lead this ongoing effort. Click here to join us and participate in the meeting online. Meeting ID: 851 3438 7227; Passcode: 326919


With the 2020 U.S. Census data officially in hand, both houses of the state legislature have formed their respective select committees on redistricting. The House committee held its initial meeting on September 8, 2021. I was joined at the meeting by U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper and representatives from various organizations, including The Equity AllianceCommon Cause TennesseeLeague of Women Voters and the Davidson County Republican Party, all of whom testified for an allotted three minutes. Committee counsel Doug Himes gave an informative presentation that included a general summary of the redistricting laws and process.
Because of our state’s population growth, the new “ideal population” for state House districts is 69,806. As currently configured, District 55 is amazingly only 119 people over that exact target. This, of course, does not mean that it will remain intact or be remotely recognizable in 2022. I fear the same can be said of our 5th congressional district. I hope I am wrong on both counts, but under the current system, redistricting is generally done to voters not for them. 

Important Redistricting Contacts and Deadlines:
House Committee Chair: Deputy Speaker Curtis Johnson
Middle Tennessee Redistricting Coordinator: Rep. Kevin Vaughan
Committee Counsel: Doug Himes  615-741-1195
Redistricting plans proposed by third-party organizations or non-legislators must be submitted to the Select Committee on Redistricting by 12:00pm CST on Friday, November 12, 2021.  Outside plans must be submitted via sitting members of the House of Representatives and must comply with these rules. For more information, please click on the “Documents” tab at this site. Please contact Doug Himes with any detailed questions.


In the face of the serious, ongoing threats posed by SARS-CoV-2 variants, Gov. Bill Lee issued Executive Order 84. The order states that any parent or guardian has the right to opt their child out of any facial covering requirement for any reason at school, on a school bus, or school functions. Most counties with a facial covering requirement of some type have opted to comply with the order. MNPS opted not to comply, and Shelby County parents have successfully enjoined Gov. Lee’s enforcement of his order in that county. The Shelby County case raised several strong legal arguments under Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, as they pertain to the protection of disabled students. It also gives rise to a fair question as to whether the substance of the order exceeded Lee’s statutory emergency powers. Other cases have been filed, and more will surely follow.  Executive Order 84 expires on October 5th, so we will see if the governor renews it or not. I have formally requested Gov. Lee to retract or terminate the order prior to that date.


TWRA’s proposal to clearcut over 2,000 acres of hardwood forest in the Bridgestone-Firestone Centennial Wilderness Wildlife Management Area has been met with strong opposition by huntersoutdoor enthusiasts and environmentalists alike, as well as several of us elected officials on both sides of the aisle. This matter was brought to my attention several weeks ago by concerned District 55 residents. I am currently working with Sen. Heidi Campbell and a few other local and state officials in Sparta to continue gathering information, and I plan to tour the subject area in the next week or so.


Davidson County Democratic Women is cohosting a nonpartisan event to register Tennesseans to vote on September 28th from noon to 5:00pm at the Event Shelter at Nashville’s Centennial Park. If you are new to Tennessee or have yet to register, please stop by and take advantage of this opportunity to register to vote. Make your voice heard in upcoming elections.


The Nashville Department of Transportation wants to your input on sidewalks and bikeways. Please share your feedback on the Nashville Walk n Bike Plan update survey. It takes about 5 minutes to complete.


I was honored to attend the unveiling of the Metro Historical Commission’s marker that is located in front of the former home of trailblazing leader Hon. Betty Chiles Nixon. The event featured moving remarks by Hon. Stewart Clifton, Hon. Tom Cash and several other local leaders. Congratulations to Belmont University on the grand opening of The Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. This new, state-of-the-art facility is an architectural and acoustic masterpiece and is named in honor of longtime Belmont-Hillsboro Neighborhood residents, Judy and Dr. Bob Fisher.


Days after the devastating flooding in Waverly, Tennessee, a few of my House colleagues and I got together to purchase and deliver some supplies that had been requested by local relief organizers. The Home Depot in Bellevue was generous enough to donate an extra $2,000 worth of supplies to our efforts. If you get an opportunity while shopping there, please be sure to thank them for their generous donation to our fellow Tennesseans in need. 


If I can be of assistance in any way, please call me at (615) 741-4410 or email me.
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