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Working for You: November 2021

It was a busy couple of weeks in our State Capitol as far as Octobers go. Hopefully, we are finally done with special sessions for the year. Though, to quote Michael Corleone, “just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” I have been appointed by the Speaker to serve on an ad hoc committee to study data privacy, so I will be back in the Cordell Hull Building this week.

As promised in my last newsletter, here is my wrap-up of the year’s third extraordinary session. Enjoy!

For only the third time in our state’s history, the speakers of both house called an extraordinary session of the state legislature. It was obvious to all that the latest special session was strategically devised and engineered for a singular purpose – to serve as a political catapult for a few ambitious state legislators seeking to boost their statewide name recognition and jockeying for pole position in a future statewide GOP primary. The entire staged affair had little to nothing to do with individual rights and liberty or responding to a pandemic and everything to do with self-promotion and political point scoring with a vocal sect of GOP voters.

Unfortunately for my ambitious colleagues across the aisle, their grand scheme immediately turned into an embarrassing taxpayer-funded sideshow. By the time the legislature adjourned around 1:40 a.m. on Saturday morning, most of my Republican colleagues exited the Capitol red-faced. Over the course of only three days, they managed to anger the voters they were trying to win over by breaking multiple promises, infuriate the entire business community, completely embarrass our state yet again, and officially shift their party even further to the right of the political spectrum. The entire ordeal accomplished little more than creating mass confusion and instability for Tennessee businesses, families and local governments while it jeopardized the health, safety and economic prosperity of our entire state. Tennesseans will be paying for the rushed, short-sighted policies produced by this political blunder for the foreseeable future.

The following legislation passed both houses and awaits Gov. Bill Lee’s signature. With the exception of HB9073, I voted “NO” on all of these bills. My Democratic colleagues and I have formally asked Gov. Lee to veto four of the bills. I provide a brief summary of my practical concerns with each below. (I am sparing you my legal/constitutional concerns and analysis of each.)

District Attorneys – HB9071/SB9008
-Sought to limit prosecutorial discretion by Das. The bill failed to account for District Attorneys’ and Public Defenders’ limited budgets and resources and could ultimately limit a DA’s ability to prioritize public safety and welfare by prosecuting violent crimes and serious offenses. Voted NO.

Partisan School Board Elections – HB9072/SB9009 + Amendment
-This will have a chilling effect on qualified individuals who may want to serve our students. Also, the increased politicization of education will do nothing to improve civic discourse and improve public education for our children. Voted NO.

Cash Collateral as Security for Public Deposits – HB9073/SB9010
-The State Treasurer deemed this bill necessary to address issues concerning banks and local governments’ acceptance and deposit of local ARP funds. Voted YES.

Duration of State of Emergency – HB9075/SB9012
-As we have experienced over the past year, the statutory emergency powers of the executive serve a purpose. While it is certainly fair to question this executive’s use o these powers, there is clearly a necessity. There was little justification and no data provided by anyone in support of this bill to demonstrate how limiting the duration of a state of emergency by a mere fifteen days would address concerns or improve the process. Voted NO.

Health Departments – HB9076/SB9013
-Removing local control and appropriately educated and informed decision-makers from the decision-making process during a pandemic is a bad idea on many levels. Voted NO.

Vaccines and Facial Coverings – HB9077/SB9014
-Pages and pages of bad policy that will have a detrimental impact on public school students, families and businesses. Voted NO.

Nullification – SJR9005
-The floor debate was a surreal experience that began with a member of the military recusing himself from the vote because of the legal conflict inherent in any debate directly pitting our state versus our country. The debate devolved from the get-go with the resolution’s sponsor ultimately attempting to rewrite history by alleging that President Jackson and the federal government backed down from South Carolina in 1833. The theory of nullification has never been upheld by a federal court, and I don’t expect this to change any time soon. Voted NO.

After several of us raised concerns about there being no local representation on the West Tennessee Megasite Authority, Gov. Lee has now appointed Charlie Tuggle of Memphis and Tipton County Mayor Jeff Huffman to the board.  Lee also appointed TDOT Commissioner Clay Bright as the Megasite Authority’s CEO. While Commissioner Bright arguably has the resume to fill the role, the Authority’s board should have been able to elect its own chairman and hire its own CEO.



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