Happy Pride Month! I hope everyone is enjoying the beginning of summer break with your kiddos. Special thanks to our teachers and administrators for another successful year of educating Tennessee’s future leaders.
The second session of the 112th General Assembly was a tough one, and the weeks since have only been more challenging for all of us. The recent tragedies in Buffalo and Uvalde, as well as the continued gun violence across our state, make the daily legislative battles we fight almost seem trivial. However, it is bad policy and failed leadership that make these tragedies possible. Enough is enough. Following Uvalde, I called on Gov. Lee and my colleagues to hold a special session to immediately, finally address the root causes of gun violence, but all we got was this lousy Executive Order and more inaction from Gov. Lee.
CAMPAIGN TIME AGAINThis is yet another election year, and approximately 98% of District 55 is new. I am working hard to introduce myself to new voters, and your continued support is what will make our reelection efforts possible. While having a completely redrawn district is admittedly a challenge, I view it as an opportunity to provide the fastest growing communities in Davidson County a strong voice and responsive representation. Representing the most diverse House district in the state will be a true honor. If you have friends of family residing in the new District 55, please be sure and share my contact info with them and encourage them to sign up for this e-newsletter.
If you would like to volunteer or invite me to an event in the district, please call or email me. THANK YOU, FRIENDSI extend my sincere thanks to Sen. Brenda Gilmore, Rep. Mike Stewart, Rep. Jason Hodges and Rep. Jason Potts for their service to our city and state. All three are voluntarily departing the state legislature this year, and their strong voices and straightforward, thoughtful approach to the issues facing Tennessee families will be missed.
SESSION WRAP-UPThe 112th Session of the Tennessee General Assembly adjourned sine die on April 28th. This was not a moment too soon for most Tennesseans.
In the House, session kicked off with the decennial debacle, otherwise known as redistricting, and immediately transitioned to anti-abortion laws, book bans, gun bills, Ivermectin prescriptions, a “warm body standard” for classroom instructors, the criminalization of homelessness, a “truth in sentencing” bill, and a whole host of other bizarre bills, none of which were intended to address the real issues facing working families on a daily basis. There were a few FBI raids, criminal investigations and a resignation scattered in there too. After passing the state budget, we wrapped up session by passing Gov. Lee’s new education funding forumla. If all of that raises your blood pressure, I would advise against taking a gander at the bills that never made it into print.
A LITTLE PROGRESSIn what can fairly be described as a polarized environment, we managed to pass a few good bills this year. Senator Jeff Yarbro and I passed a bill amending the Community Gardening Act to ensure that the Nashville Food Project and other non-profit organizations have access to public parks in furtherance of their missions. Rep. Bo Mitchell and I called on Gov. Lee to freeze the gas tax for the summer travel season, and this resulted in Lee deciding to temporarily freeze the grocery tax. Also, I was proud to cosponsor the CROWN Act that seeks to prevent workplace discrimination and prohibits employers from adopting a policy that does not permit an employee to wear the employee’s hair in braids, locs, twists, or another manner that is part of the cultural identification of the employee’s ethnic group or that is a physical characteristic of the employee’s ethnic group. This bill narrowly passed the House with 50 votes. We also managed to pass a bill that will allow individuals who are authorized to work in this country, as verified by the SAVE program, to apply for a professional or commercial license. This bill passed with 56 votes thanks to the hard work and leadership of our friends at TIRRC.
HEALTH CARE RIGHTSWomen’s health care rights have been under attack for decades in Tennessee, and I have battled multiple bills in the legislature every single year of my tenure. Sen. Marsha Blackburn’s recent video attacking Griswold v. Connecticut and questioning access to contraception free of state interference was alarming, but it is a telltale sign of the battle to come. If the leaked draft of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is a reliable indicator of what the majority of the Supreme Court is thinking with regards to abortion rights, our state’s trigger law will go into effect, and women’s vital health care rights will be limited even more than they already are in this state. The Court’s ultimate take on one’s constitutional right to privacy could have ripple effects well beyond the health care debate.
EDUCATIONGov. Bill Lee has signed a handful of bills that undercut our public schools one piece at a time, but this year he rammed through the largest piece of the special interest scheme to date: TISA. Of course, his heavily litigated and investigated voucher bill is a close second. TISA is based on a national organization’s model that was delivered and gift-wrapped by another national organization‘s local affiliate for a governor and leaders in state government who are far less interested in fundamentally reshaping education funding in a thoughtful, equitable manner and much more focused on passing something on which to campaign for reelection, kowtowing to special interest organizations with significant financial resources, and attempting to sidestep yet another court loss.