Stop Byrd Protestors Stage 24-hour Sit-In At Governor Lee’s Office | TN Holler

Rep. David Byrd has apologized on tape to 1 of 3 women who say he molested them as children.

Even after meeting with one of Byrd’s victims, Governor Lee has been silent about Byrd’s presence in the legislature- so Enough Is Enough-TN staged a sit-in at Lee’s office, and ended up spending the night, as state trooper’s threatened the press with arrests.

Watch the VIDEO:

And holler at Governor Lee HERE if you think #ByrdMustGo.

Hargett’s Voter Registration Criminalization Bill Passes TN House Despite Protests | TN Holler

Despite protests, yesterday Tennessee House Republicans passed HB 1079 – which would make it the first state to criminalize voter registration efforts… just 6 months after the Tennessee Black Voter Project registered 90,000.

The vote was 71-26, with Republicans voting for and Democrats voting against.

Watch the VIDEO:

Here’s our previous article about the topic.

SB 971 now awaits a vote in the senate. Holler at your state senators, Governor Lee, or Secretary of State Tre Hargett.

VIDEO: BLOCK GRANTS VS. MEDICAID EXPANSION (Floor Debate Highlights)

Tennessee has lost $3.1 Million every single day since refusing to expand medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which amounts to over $7 Billion and counting. 300,000 Tennesseans remain without coverage as a result, including 25,000 veterans.

The state leads the country in rural hospital closures, which even some Republicans say would be helped by expanding Medicaid.

Governor Haslam wanted to expand Medicaid. 37 other states have expanded Medicaid, including in “Red” states like Louisiana, to very positive results.

Instead, Tennessee’s Republicans are trying to have the Federal Government send the funding to the state in the form of a block grant, despite the warnings of many experts, who point out that block grants would cover fewer people, not more, and would do nothing to address the health care inequities in our state or to help with rural hospital closures.

Watch the FLOOR DEBATE HIGHLIGHTS:

The refrain from Republicans like Rep. Andy Holt is that we shouldn’t get “tangled up” with the federal government – which seems to ignore the fact that Tennessee is already tangled up with it plenty – between, the TVA, the V.A., Fort Campbell, Medicare, Social Security, SNAP, Oak Ridge National Lab, K-12 Federal funding, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the list goes on.

In fact, for every $1 Tennessee sends to the Federal Government it receives $1.46 in Federal spending.

This isn’t fiscal responsibility, it’s putting politics ahead of people.

VIDEO: State Senate Candidate Powers Plays Dumb About Vouchers

State Senate Candidate Vote Bill Powers – running in Houston, Stewart, and Montgomery counties in a special election to replace Mark Green – gave a vague, wandering, uninformed, non-answer answer when asked about school vouchers this week:

“I haven’t seen a copy of the bill, so I can’t speak to it.”

The bill has been available for 2 months.

He went on:

“Glen Casada… I know Jack Johnson the majority leader has come out in favor of it – this is the governor’s proposal. Is it a voucher program? It’s a hybrid as far as I can tell. But having not seen it, all I can say as it relates to education, is every child deserves an education.”

He’s either ignorant, uncurious, or deceptive. None of the 3 are good qualities to have in a state senator.

Powers then went on to talk about rural broadband as a dodge, then again said he hasn’t seen the bill before dropping that he’s a 2-term city councilman, and eventually coming back to this:

“All I can say is education is important to me, and I’ll be there for the people of Houston, Stewart, and Montgomery.”

This is the kind of answer you give when you know your constituents don’t want it, but the people who are funding your campaign do.

Watch the VIDEO:


Powers was last seen agreeing the LGBT movement is “Demonic” and the “Muslim Agenda” must be pushed back against on his Facebook page, then claiming not to have said it while also not expressing support for those Tennesseans.

Will Houston, Stewart, and Montgomery counties send another anti-LGBT pro-vouchers senator to Nashville?

He faces Democrat Juanita Charles April 23rd, as well as Doyle Clark and David Cutting.

TN GOP Nixes Voting by Mail for Newly Registered Disabled, Elderly, Military

Conservatives on the House Local Committee killed a measure that would allow Tennesseans who qualify to vote by mail to do so immediately after receiving a voter registration card.

There are 14 qualifications in Tennessee for a voter to be eligible for absentee voting by mail, such as: voter is over 60 years old; voter is physically disabled or ill; or voter is a member of the military.

Under current law, those who qualify to vote absentee by mail must first vote in person. That rule could create issues for many new Tennesseans or newly eligible voters.

Hypothetically, if an 19-year-old Tennessean, who registered to vote, joined the military and was placed out of state before participating in an election, the 19-year-old would not be allowed to vote by mail. Or if a home-ridden person moved to Tennessee, the same result would apply.

Backstory

Interestingly, this bill passed the very same committee in March and was moved to the House Calendar and Rules Committee, which schedules the floor votes for the House of Representatives.

When Rep. Love presented the legislation to the Calendar and Rules Committee, the committee chairman Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville, District 14, opened the discussion by addressing House Speaker Glen Casada, R-Franklin. Casada quickly re-directed to Rep. Love and inferred that they had spoken about an amendment.

Watch the video

So rather than getting scheduled for a floor vote, Rep. Love offered, seemingly at the behest of Speaker Casada, to move the bill back to House Local Committee to attach an amendment prohibiting college IDs as a valid voter ID — which is already state law.

On April 10 in the Local Committee, Rep. Love thanked committee members and Speaker Casada for allowing him to get the legislation in “proper form.”

While there is no smoking gun where Speaker Casada says he opposed the bill, the parliamentary procedure he appears to have orchestrated killed the bill.

How they voted: House Local Committee, April 10
Representatives voting against the bill (voice vote):
Rep. Dave Wright, R-Corryton, District 19
Rep. Dale Carr, R-Sevierville, District 12
Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, District 29
Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, District 11
Rep. Esther Helton, R-East Ridge, District 30
Rep. Jerome Moon, R-Maryville, District 8
Rep. Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville, District 20
Rep. Rick Tillis, R-Lewisberg, District 92
Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton, District 31
Rep. Kent Calfee, R-Kingston, District 32
Rep. John Crawford, R-Kingsport, District 1
Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, District 34

Democratic members of the committee signaled support for the bill.

Any member may ask the clerk to record their opposition vote when voice votes prevail.

VIDEO: Sec. Hargett’s Voter Registration Criminalization Extravanganza (HIGHLIGHTS)

In 2018, the Tennessee Black Voter Project set out to register 55,000 voters – and ended up registering close to 90,000.

Now Secretary of State Tre Hargett has a bill – HB 1079/SB 971 – which would criminalize voter registration efforts, with fines and penalties for mistakes on forms, and potential criminal punishment for turning forms in with deficiencies, or not getting the “proper” training.

It would be the first of its kind in the country.

The bill passed a senate committee this week, despite opposition from Senators Jeff Yarbro and Steve Dickerson.

Watch the HIGHLIGHTS:

Dickerson was concerned that the bill sought to punish people for mistakes, pointing out that it’s already illegal to submit fraudulent forms.

Yarbro made the point that most registration groups feel they’re required to turn in even incomplete forms, so to punish them for doing what they’re compelled to do by law would be unfair.

Yarbro was by far the most vocal in opposition.

He also pointed out that there’s a standard amount of deficiencies according to federal statistics, and this bill would end up punishing pretty much any large-scale voter registration drives as a result. He also reminded the committee that the proposed penalties are harsher than some violent crimes.

The Holler spoke with Tequila Johnson, one of the driving forces behind the Tennessee Black Voter project, who confirmed the group was in fact under the impression that they were required to turn in any forms voters had touched, and had been advised to do just that. She also said they took careful measures for quality control purposes, and adamantly insisted they did not pay per form, which is what Election Coordinator Mark Goins said the bill intended to put a stop to.

Johnson says the Black Voter Project attempted to reach out to Hargett’s office even before the project for guidance, but were turned down. Instead they met with local election commissions who told them to turn in any forms that voters even partially filled out.

Johnson:

“We were careful. We didn’t want anything to jeopardize the integrity of the project… mistakes happened, but not at the scale they’re talking about. They’re taking a few times it happened and highlighting it to mischaracterize the whole project.”

Johnson says she tried to go and testify, but nobody would return her calls.

“I reached out several times. Nobody would return my calls. People don’t respect black organizers… I’m from Tennessee, bred and buttered. I’m used to their attempts to limit access. It’s just another hoop to have to jump through. Bring it on. I’m sure this bill will discourage some people, but it won’t be me.”

Johnson insists nobody was paid per form but by the hour. This was a major sticking point for Goins, who was there on behalf of Secretary of State Tre Hargett. Goins offered no proof to the contrary, but instead used a statement from a worker who said they were told to “register everyone and not take no for an answer”, as well as another from a man whose wife had been deceased when she was registered.

As for the 55% deficiency number cited by Goins at the hearing, we have reached out to ask where that comes from. It appears to come from this article about Shelby county registrations, but the number in that article does not apply to all 30,000 new forms, and does not get specific about how many new registrations were seemingly fraudulent vs. just deficient.

Secretary Tre Hargett told us this week that it is “not true” the bill is retaliatory against black voters in nature, but Tequila Johnson remains unconvinced and says they knew this was coming:

“We knew there would be backlash even when we named it the Black Voter Project. But we have to not be afraid to stand in our truth. Our ancestors survived a lot worse. I’d be a damn coward to back out now.”

She also says this shouldn’t be a partisan issue:

“I have Republican Friends. I registered Republicans personally. People with confederate flags, Trump stickers… this isn’t just about black or brown, or Republican or Democrat – it’s about access. It’s about power and money. But I do feel like people don’t respect black organizations in this city. ‘Equity’ is just a buzz word to them.”

And went on to stress that The Tennessee Black Voter Project is not some behemoth organization:

“We’re 100% volunteer-led. We don’t have a full-time staff. Hargett’s yearly salary is more than we’ve ever raised. We figured out how to do what he should be doing.”

Tennessee regularly ranks near the bottom in voter turnout.

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) says this about Hargett’s bill:

“This bill would have a chilling effect on voter registration in Tennessee. It punishes Good Samaritans… The idea of punishing this virtuous behavior is absurd.”

If you think Tennessee should be making it easier to register to vote, not harder, Holler at Secretary of State Tre Hargett HERE.

EMAIL: tre.hargett@tn.gov

VIDEO: ARMING TEACHERS BILL HIGHLIGHTS (Heads to House & Senate Committees Wednesday)

Last week HB 1380 – a bill from Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville) to allow teachers to arm themselves in Tennessee’s schools – passed out of the K-12 subcommittee, despite every single witness who testified making a case in opposition, including a teacher, a student, a former teacher, and 3 representatives from law enforcement.

Watch the Highlights:

The Senate version is SB1399 by Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville).

The two measures are scheduled to be heard on the same day this week: Wednesday, April 10th.

The bill, as amended, allows the carrying of loaded, concealed weapons by school employees with permits. The names of the employees would be kept confidential, though it appears neither the school nor the state would be held liable for any of the employee’s actions in relation to a shooting incident.

Law enforcement witnesses included Brink Fidler, a former Metro Nashville plainclothes officer, Sheriff John Fuson of Montgomery County, representing the Tennessee Sheriffs Association, and Colonel Dereck Stewart of the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

They all were concerned about training and allowing teachers to teach and law enforcement to handle those duties.Sheriff Fuson also pointed out the issue of responding officers differentiating between well-intentioned  school employees and an active shooter.

House Education Committee chair Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis) said he talked to authorities at a Kentucky school in the aftermath of a shooting there, who said arming teachers “would’ve been the worst thing they could to.”

Rep. Williams responded that Parkland’s authorities thought differently.

Rep. Iris Rudder (R-Winchester) felt it was a “discussion worth having” and helped it pass to full committee, while Rep. John Mark Windle (D-Livingston) asked why Tennessee wouldn’t pay for School Resource Officers everywhere with the $1 Billion surplus.

The bill is before the house and senate committees Wednesday. Holler at your reps.

Reps Weaver & Love Face-Off Over Child Suspensions & Expulsions And Science

With black kids being expelled & suspended at alarming rates, Rep. Harold Love’s bill for teachers to at least consider a child’s home environment before expelling/suspending them meets resistance from Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, who skeptically asks why anyone would use science when it comes to bad behavior and thinks the problem may be that teachers aren’t allowed to discipline:

“Some of these kids need a spanking.”

The bill moved on to full committee. Watch the HIGHLIGHTS:

TN Teachers Against Vouchers Calling In Sick To Flood The Capitol Tuesday 4/9

(FIRST SEEN ON THE TN ED REPORT… Follow @TNEdReport for more updates)

A Tennessee teacher writes about the education policies that make her sick.

I’m sick.

Sick of my students being over-tested and our schools being underfunded.

Sick of teachers leaving the profession because they are underpaid and undervalued.

Sick of Tennessee being 45th in the nation in per pupil funding.

Sick of being disrespected by a Governor who has proposed increasing state funding for unaccountable charter schools by 100% while only increasing funding for teachers by 2%.

And how I feel is only going to get worse if the state government passes voucher legislation, which will further drain the resources our students need from public schools and hand them over to unaccountable private companies.

That’s why there’s a movement of teachers planning on calling in sick on Tuesday, April 9th to travel to Nashville and flood the capitol.

We plan on letting our state’s politicians know just how sick we are. And we plan on making it clear to them: the war on public education in Tennessee ends now.

I’m a member of the Tennessee Education Association, but I know that there are many in the state leadership who think that collective action is too aggressive and premature. They still believe that we can work amicably with state politicians. I disagree.

Anyone still entertaining that idea should have had a rude awakening last week when Betsy DeVos visited our state and held closed door meetings with privatizers and politicians.

Several months back, when Governor Lee announced his unfortunate choice for the TN Commissioner of Education, I publicly stated that he had declared war on public education. Some may have thought that was a bit dramatic. However, the Governor wouldn’t have invited the most vilified Secretary of Education in history to the state if he didn’t plan on dropping an atomic bomb on public education. His voucher and charter bills are just that.

With the backing of ALEC and Betsy DeVos those devastating bills will pass unless teachers wake up and do something drastic. Millions upon millions of dollars will be drained from public education and siphoned away from our students.

How do I know this? Because it was perfectly ok to have an admitted child predator be the chair of the House Education Committee until he voted against the voucher bill. Only then was he no longer fit to be the chair.

Strong arm tactics are running rampant and the writing is on the wall.

The go-along to get-along approach of the state teachers association, which means working with the enemies of public education, has been a pipe dream for almost a decade, and it’s time for teachers to wake up. All the emailing and phone calls in the world won’t stop politicians bankrolled by billionaires like the Koch brothers and DeVos family from pursuing devastating legislation that hurts our schools, students, and communities.

Over the last year, I have watched educators in one state after another rise up, take their power back, and force legislators to actually represent THEM and not privatizers. It didn’t matter that the strikes were illegal or sick-outs were risky. When educators stick together and have the backing of the community, they can make real change possible. Teachers can take on billionaires and win. They already have in other states.

In my opinion, the only thing that will stop this insanity is for teachers to walk out. Shut it down. Take back our schools. Take back our profession. Do our job……. and fight for our kids.

I hope to see you in the capitol on Tuesday, April 9.

Lauren Sorensen is a second grade teacher at Halls Elementary School in Knox County and a former president of the Knox County Education Association.

CASADA’S NEXT POWER GRAB

Speaker Glen Casada wants control of the staff responsible for providing an “independent” fiscal analysis of legislation and state finances.

The Fiscal Review Committee, created in 1967 to oversee the fiscal operations of the state, was established to provide “independent information concerning the fiscal affairs of the State.”

Under House Bill 1233, the Speakers of the House and Senate take responsibility for hiring the fiscal review executive director and any other position the speakers deem as “necessary” and determining their salaries.

Additionally, the director “serves at the pleasure of the speakers” — meaning the chief can be fired at any time.

The bill would give the speakers unprecedented authority over the agency responsible for determining the price tag for proposed legislation—a factor that can quickly sway the opinions of lawmakers. 

With motivation to keep the boss happy, the director and staff might assign larger price tags to legislation carried by the speakers’ political opponents.

Rep. Rick Tillis (R-Lewisberg) made this point during discussion, clearly pointing out that “control” was the key word in the explanation of the bill.

Control of fiscal notes is power. Power is what Casada seeks.  The last thing we need is to politicize another independent process.

House Bill 1233 is scheduled for a vote in the full House of Representatives on April 10. The senate version of the bill is scheduled to be heard by the Senate State and Local Government Committee on April 9.

Side note: In 2015, Casada sponsored legislation that would allow members to review the documentation that showed the fiscal analysts arrived at their conclusions. It was never voted on. 

How they voted: House Bill 1233, House State Committee on April 2:
Representatives voting for the speakers’ power grab:
Rep. Rush Bricken, R-Tullahoma, District 47
Rep. Rick Eldridge, R-Morristown, District 10
Rep. Andrew Farmer, R-Sevierville, District 17
Rep. Curtis Halford, R-Dyer, District 79
Rep. Bud Hulsey, R-Kingsport, District 2
Rep. Kelly Keisling, R-Byrdstown, District 38
Rep. Justin Lafferty, R-Knoxville, District 89
Rep. Mary Littleton, R-Dickson, District 78
Rep. Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville, District 20
Rep. Bill Sanderson, R-Kenton, District 77 (bill co-sponsor)
Rep. Chris Todd, R-Jackson, District 73

Rep. Bill Beck, D-Nashville, District 51
Rep. Harold Love, Jr., D-Nashville, District 58
Rep. Rick Staples, D-Knoxville, District 15

Representatives voting no were:
Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, District 5
Rep. Jason Powell, D-Nashville, District 53
Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Bolivar, District 80
Rep. Rick Tillis, R-Lewisberg, District 92