HERE WE GO AGAIN: TN Republicans Unleash Slew of Anti-LGBT Discrimination Bills

This week Tennessee Republicans have introduced a handful of bills that seek to legalize discrimination against Tennessee’s marginalized communities, targeting LGBT people specifically.

Up first, “The Business License to Discriminate Bill” is back. It passed the Tennessee Senate in 2017, but didn’t move in the House last year.

The bill – SB364/HB563 – put forth by Senator Todd Gardenhire and Rep. Jason Zachary, would:

“prohibit state and local governmental entities from taking discriminatory action against a business based on that business’s internal policies.”

By defending businesses from “discrimination” rather than people, what the bill really seeks to do is allow businesses to do the discriminating against marginalized communities without worrying about losing government contracts – which would essentially amount to taxpayer-funded discrimination against marginalized groups such as LGBT people, Muslims, etc.

As Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project puts it:

“If, for example, a business has a policy of not treating married same-gender couples the same as different-gender couples, government could not refuse to contract with them solely on that basis.”

Meanwhile, on the adoption front, multiple bills filed this week would allow adoption agencies to deny services to same-sex couples based on religious objections.

According to The Tennessean:

One bill, SB 0848/HB 1152, filed by Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, and Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, specifies that an adoption agency would not be required to provide services to a couple if it would conflict with the agency’s “sincerely held religious beliefs,” and prevents the state or a local government from taking adverse action against the group.

Legislation filed by Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, puts in place similar protections for discrimination based on religious beliefs and would prevent a couple from suing the adoption agency for refusing to provide services.”

Got that? One says the couple can’t sue, the other says the government can’t sue. Taken together, these two bills would allow adoption agencies to discriminate with impunity.

As Senator Joey Hensley openly admits:

“We were concerned that adoption agencies, such as religious adoption agencies, would be required to allow adoption when they had religious beliefs that contradicted certain lifestyles. That they would be forced to allow adoptions to people they felt were not appropriate parents, so we didn’t want those agencies to not be able to provide adoptions.”

Not “appropriate” parents. Meanwhile studies show children have just as much chance to thrive with “certain” parents as with straight parents, and the number of children being raised by “certain” parents is in the hundreds of thousands.

More good information can be found here.

The Human Rights Campaign and other organizations will join the Tennessee Equality Project in opposing this discriminatory legislation that Sanders says “does not put the interests of children first”.

It should be about the kids who need loving homes, not the bigotry of a few GOP legislators. If you agree, holler at GardenhireZachary Hensley, Ragan, Rudd and let them know what you think.

 

CLAY COUNTY TO GOV. LEE: “HELP US!” – Hospital Closure Day of Action Planned for Monday

Last week yet another of Tennessee’s rural hospitals announced it would be closing its doors, bringing the total up to a dozen – the most per capita of any state in the country.

This time it’s Clay County’s Cumberland River Hospital falling on hard times.

Read more

STATE OF THE STATE: Unhealthy, Impoverished, Underfunded Ed, Low Pay… But Cheap!

Our friends at Think Tennessee have just put out their yearly breakdown of where Tennessee stacks up with the other states on important things like opioid prescriptions (49th), poverty (41st), education funding (45th), Adult diabetes (45th), infant mortality (47th), mental health providers (45th) life expectancy (44th), and much more.

Some people are doing very well in our state, but on the whole the news is really not very good. We’re unhealthy, there’s a lot of poverty, our education is underfunded, and the jobs – although we have them – don’t pay well.

We deeply appreciate that Think Tennessee does this, and have made a video out of what they’ve found. If you enjoy it, feel free to share on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, or anywhere else you spend your time.

SOTU REACTIONS: TN Republicans Big Fans, TN Dems Not So Much

Last night President Trump delivered the 2019 State of the Union address to rousing applause and enthusiasm from the much whiter, male-er Republican side of the room, while the response from the Democrats was a bit on the tamer side.

No surprises there.

As for the Tennessee delegation, the split was about as one would expect. Republicans were effusive with their praise…

Rep. John Rose touted Trump’s leadership:

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann talked about Trump’s “bold agenda”:

Rep. Mark Green meanwhile made a point to rip the “shocking childishness” of the response of Democrats, (apparently forgetting how the previous president was treated – do the words “You LIE!” ring a bell?)

Meanwhile on the other side of the aisle, Rep. Steve Cohen was less impressed, not even bothering to show up for the address in person and calling the president a “disgrace”.

Only Democrat Rep. Jim Cooper offered a reaction with any kind of balance, crediting the president with an “effective” speech while also making sure to point out that it was a departure for him.

Bottom Line: No real surprises from any of Tennessee’s elected officials, but Rep. Mark Green appears to be suffering from memory loss.

Republicans Introduce Bill to Undercut Nashville’s Community Oversight Board

In November, Davidson County residents overwhelmingly voted to create a community oversight board to look at alleged police misconduct. Speaker of the TN House Glen Casada immediately threatened to render the board virtually powerless, and now Chairman of the House Judiciary committee Rep. Michael Curcio and the Republicans have introduced a bill to do just that.

The Bill – HB 658 – would not allow the community oversight board to issue subpoenas for documents or compel witness testimonies. Without that power, the board will have little authority to “oversee” much of anything.

Michael Curcio and the Republicans are claiming these are “balanced guidelines” for the board, but Community Oversight Now, the group who successfully pushed for the board, disagrees – and is now reaching out to athletes and encouraging them not to come to Tennessee, launching a new campaign called “Don’t Play Where You’re Not Welcome.”

Community Oversight Now’s statement:

“We are calling on Tennessee lawmakers to vote NO on HB 658. We are calling on the Governor, Lt. Governor, Senator leadership, and people of good will to reject this discriminatory legislation. Additionally, we are exploring all legal options to prevent state preemption.”

Mayoral candidate John Ray Clemmons, currently a state rep, also spoke out unequivocally on twitter about the move, saying:

Clemmons also added:

Funny how the “small government” guys always seem to want government to step in and get a lot bigger when something happens they don’t like. Casada, Curcio, and the Republicans claim they want to protect both police and citizens with this bill, but what they should really be concerned about protecting is the truth and justice. If you take care of those, the rest will take care of itself.

This bill is not a step in that direction. If anything, it’s an impediment.

Holler at Speaker Casada and Rep. Curcio and let them know if you agree with Community Oversight Now that the people of Nashville have spoken, and these non-Nashville representatives need to stay out of the way.

Meet Rep. Hodges: “TN Needs Medicaid Expansion, Medical Marijuana, Decent Pay“

This week The Holler had a chance to catch up with Jason Hodges, the Freshman TN State Representative out of Clarksville. Hodges is a veteran, a young husband and a dad who just recently beat out Tommy Vallejos for the seat Joe Pitts left behind to go run the city as mayor.

We asked Jason what he’s focused on as the legislative session gets going, and he rattled off some priorities:

“First of all, I think we really need to get some big ticket items like Medicaid Expansion and Medical Marijuana done. They’d lower the cost of health care, which is something both parties agree needs to happen.”

With yet another rural hospital announcing they’ll be closing their doors in Clay County this month, Medicaid expansion is at the top of the list for Democrats, and Hodges really hopes their Republican counterparts will finally see how much damage is being done.

“We’ve lost $6 Billion and counting because they don’t like Obama. I promise you, if Trump wanted to give us $6 Billion to take care of our people, or fix up our roads, we’d take it. People should come before politics. If you want to bring costs down, start there. We can do that tomorrow. “

With regard to Medical Marijuana, Hodges says it comes up in Clarksville often, where constituents would prefer to be treating their various ailments and mental health issues with MM rather than opioids and other more addictive medications.

“In many circumstances Medical Marijuana would further reduce cost when it comes to prescriptions. It can be a substitute for high-priced opiates and help reduce addiction. It’s just a cheaper, safer alternative, and we need to get it done. Every year that goes by where we don’t decriminalize it and make it available, more  Tennesseans suffer needlessly.”

Although Democrats are a super-minority in the legislature, as a group they support Medical Marijuana, and it seems more and more Republicans are starting to come their way. Hodges also points out the economic impact it would have, especially in rural Tennessee:

“I’d like to see us tie it to Tennessee farms. Let’s make it so that any marijuana sold in Tennessee has to be produced in Tennessee. It’ll help our rural economies, and give those communities and our farmers an alternative product to produce – while helping with the opioid crisis and the cost of medicine. It’s a win all around. We trust our doctors to prescribe opiates, which is what heroin comes from, but we don’t trust them to prescribe marijuana? Makes no sense.”

Hodges was also eager to talk about the voting rights bill he’s carrying, which would make it so that any state application you fill out would mean you’re automatically registered to vote.

“SNAP, the DMV… any state application you fill out you need the exact same paperwork as you do to get registered to vote. We should be making it easier on folks, not harder. Anyone who disagrees with that would appear not to be a huge fan of democracy.”

The subject then turned to economic incentives for companies coming to Tennessee, in light of Electrolux announcing they’d be closing their plant in Memphis and moving those jobs to Springfield. Hodges had this to say:

“Look, If we’re gonna subsidize a company to come to Tennessee we should make sure they’re paying a living wage. If they don’t, they should be fined, and the subsidy should be paid back. We can’t subsidize companies who don’t pay people enough to live just so those people then have to be subsidized by the government. That’s corporate welfare. If you want to come to Tennessee, great- you need to treat our people right.”

Seems pretty reasonable. Is he against incentives in general? A passionate Hodges insisted he wasn’t.

“No, I’m not against incentives as a concept. But if the taxpayers are on the hook let’s make sure what we’re getting is worthwhile. There are situations from a competitive standpoint where we have to subsidize to get a company to come here, but at the same time how are we going to pay a company who won’t pay a living wage – then turn around and blame people for mooching off the government? It kills me.”

Pretty sensible ideas. As Hodges gets more and more comfortable in his new role, we look forward to seeing what he can get done up there. Holler at him HERE.

Channel 5 Puts A Face On TN’s Coverage Gap

Yesterday’s News Channel 5 broadcast contained a powerful segment about the hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans stuck in the “coverage gap” thanks to the TN GOP’s refusal to expand medicaid, which has cost our state $6 Billion and counting and helped us lead the country in rural hospital closures per capita. Read more

Even Radical Pro-Life Group Doesn’t Support “Unconstitutional” Heartbeat Bill

Rep. Micah Van Huss (R-Jonesborough) has introduced a bill that would make it a crime to perform or obtain an abortion in Tennessee after a fetal heartbeat is detected, with the only exception being a medical emergency – a bill that was already struck down as unconstitutional by a federal judge in Iowa.

The Bill has the support of both Governor Lee and Glen Casada, who told the Associated Press that he thinks it’s “a fight worth having in front of the Supreme Court.”

Even Tennessee Right to Life, a group that advocates against abortions, opposes the measure because they believe it would not survive legal challenges. It’s similar to one that was introduced in 2017 that the then Tennessee Attorney General also called “constitutionally suspect” which failed in large part due to lack of support from Tennessee Right to Life.

This bill – HB 0077 – would essentially make it a crime to provide OR receive an abortion after 8 weeks (when a fetal heartbeat is detectable), with the only exception exception being a medical emergency.

There’s no mention of rape, incest or mental health exceptions.

Many women do not even know they’re pregnant before 8 weeks, and abortion restrictions disproportionately affect low income women.

Close to 70,000 women a year die from unsafe abortion and numerous others suffer grave injuries, including infection, hemorrhaging, and infertility. Half of all pregnancies in this country are unintended, and, of those, half end in abortion.

This bill would do nothing to reduce unintended pregnancies, which is what abortion reduction laws should focus on. According to the CDC:

  • In 2006, 49% of pregnancies were unintended—a slight increase from 48% in 2001.

  • Among women aged 19 years and younger, more than 4 out of 5 pregnancies were unintended.

  • The proportion of pregnancies that were unintended was highest among teens younger than age 15 years, at 98%.

  • Large increases in unintended pregnancy rates were found among women with lower education, low income, and cohabiting women.

The National Institutes of Health tells us there are several approaches that have been shown to be effective in reducing unintended pregnancies:

  • Ensure birth control and family planning is freely available to adolescents and adults

  • Sex education programs, which provide information on abstinence and contraceptive use and do NOT encourage the onset of sexual intercourse nor increase the frequency of intercourse among adolescents. (In fact, quite the opposite)

  • Expand Medicaid (as most other states have) so low-income mothers can have access to family planning  and prenatal care that helps prevent birth defects.

Medicaid is pro-life. Rejecting $6 billion of our own federal dollars isn’t making mothers or children any safer. We should join the majority of the country and expand medicaid now.

Rep. Jim cooper has a bill that would give us even less excuse for not doing it.

Representative Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) responded to the Heartbeat bill by telling The Holler: “We need to trust women. It’s a rights issue. If you don’t allow a woman to make decisions about her own body, you don’t believe in equal rights.” Johnson continued, “We do not need the government in our doctors’ offices. It’s always one of those ‘small government’ guys who comes in with a bill to regulate women’s health care.” 

 

6 in 10 women say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Holler at Governor Lee or Van Huss or Casada to let them know what you think.

 

Admitted Sex Offender Rep. Byrd In Settlement Talks

(Note: Not About His Sex Crimes, Unfortunately)

In case you haven’t heard yet, Republican State Representative David Byrd – who covers Hardin, Lewis, Wayne, and some of Lawrence counties – has admitted on tape to sexual misconduct with high school girls he coached. Read more

TN Republicans Introduce ALEC Bill To Hijack Senate Process

The latest proof Republicans don’t actually like democracy much comes to us in the form of a bill sponsored by Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains) in the Senate and Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville) in the House, SB 0027 and HB 0021 respectively, which would change the Senate nomination process, doing away with primaries and letting state legislatures appoint candidates instead.

Nicely has tried this before.

It’s a bill we’ve been warned about, brought to us by ALEC and the Koch Brothers, neither of which are big fans of letting the people have our say. Like voter suppression and gerrymandering, it’s yet another effort to minimize the influence of actual voters and concentrate power at the top.

As the infamously corrupt NYC politician Boss Tweed once said, “I don’t care who does the electing as long as I get to do the nominating.” 

This is nothing short of a repeal of the 17th amendment, which was enacted to “reduce corruption at the state level”.

The bill still lets the people vote in a general election (how nice of them!), but would have candidates for Senate nominated by the members of their respective Republican or Democrat party of the Tennessee House of Representatives and Tennessee Senate.

No independent or write-in candidates.

No other state has done this yet, but ALEC is trying. As Nicely dramatically told The Tennessee Star: “This bill could change everything. It could save the world.”

Why? Maybe because, as the Star also tells us:

In 2018 the National Constitution Center posed the question, “What would the Senate look like today without the 17th Amendment?

The simple answer, “It would probably be much more controlled by the Republicans.”

They’d clearly prefer to just repeal the 17th Amendment, but according to Mark Levin and the NCC that would be harder “Because of the idea that direct election gives the power to the people.” (yes what would give us that idea!)

The Niceley/Williams bill would go into effect November 30, 2019, impacting the 2020 U.S. Senate nomination process.

Holler at NICELY and WILLIAMS and let them know we prefer what’s left of our democracy to remain in our hands.