VIDEO: Tequila Johnson of The Equity Alliance Testifies Before Congress About TN Voter Suppression

Yesterday Tequila Johnson, co-founder of the Equity Alliance and statewide director of the Tennessee Black Voter Project, testified before the House Judiciary committee about voter suppression, calling Tennessee “Ground Zero” for it.

Tequila has been on the front lines battling voter suppression in Tennessee. The Black Voter Project registered over 90,000 voters in 2018, leading to a backlash from the GOP supermajority and Tennessee Secretary of State, who passed an unprecedented law criminalizing voter registration in Tennessee, which has already had a chilling effect on voter registration efforts, which was likely the intent.

Watch a piece of Tequila’s testimony below, and go HERE to watch it in its entirety. And read more about the voter registration criminalization law HERE.

Lawsuits are underway to stop Hargett’s law.

New TN GOP Caucus Chair Faison Downplays Gun Deaths, Misstates *Fact* About Guns (Again)

In a week in which America was yet again rocked by gun violence, newly minted Tennessee House Republican Party caucus chair Rep. Jeremy Faison has taken to Twitter to minimize the problem of gun deaths in America, using misstated facts to do it.

“Gun-related deaths are no where even close to the problem that liberals make them out to be,” Faison told a commenter:

Faison’s tweet came as a reply to a response to an earlier tweet where he had posted “pesky facts” above a post from @RealSaavedra, who listed other causes of death in America on a per day basis, including abortion, heart disease, cancer and more.

It’s a familiar talking point in anti-gun safety law conservative circles:

Faison keyed in on the “All Rifles” item at the bottom, which makes the point that only 1 American dies each day by rifle on average.

What this widely circulated statistic obviously and intentionally leaves out is all the deaths and shootings caused by non-rifles. In actuality, Every day, 100 Americans are killed with guns and hundreds more are shot and injured. Over 100,000 Americans are shot on average each year, far more than other countries – which means Faison turning the stat for “rifle deaths” into “gun-related deaths” in his follow-up tweet was either intentionally misleading, or yet another big mistake on Faison’s part.

It wouldn’t be the first flub from Faison in which he made up his own gun-related *fact* to help prove his ultimate point, which is apparently that that guns in America are really no big deal.

This past session Faison was on a committee that passed a gun permit-weakening bill which made it possible for Tennesseans to get a permit to carry a gun nearly everywhere in the state simply by taking a quick course online, without ever even having to fire one  on a range.

After fact-filled, emotional testimony from witnesses including Beth Joslin Roth of the Safe Tennessee Project, who demonstrated clearly that stronger gun laws do in fact save lives, Faison confidently informed Beth that despite all the numbers she presented to the contrary tighter gun laws don’t lead to fewer gun deaths – because if they did, the Bahamas wouldn’t have so many homicides, since according to Faison you can get the death penalty for illegally carrying a gun there.

As it turned out, we looked into it, and that *fact* was not true. Nobody has been put to death in the Bahamas in many years, and certainly not for having a gun.

Where had Jeremy heard this, you might ask? According to him, he heard it from a “Bohemian” he knew in college. (He meant Bahamian. Sigh.)

To his minimal credit, he apologized and retracted his made up *fact*. But for a man who sits on a committee that makes laws in Tennessee to be presenting false information that was so loosely sourced is a pretty devastating indictment not only of Faison, but of the level of accountability GOP Supermajority lawmakers are currently facing in Tennessee.

Inevitably, that permit-weakening law passed, and Faison has since been elected chair of the TN GOP caucus. But one thing hasn’t changed: Faison is still making up *facts* about guns to minimize a very real, very tragic problem, which makes all of us, and our children, much less safe.

Again, studies of the issue in general have shown repeatedly there is a relationship between stricter gun laws and a lower amount of guns, and gun deaths. Even Justice Scalia said you can support the 2nd Amendment while still supporting some common sense gun safety laws.

If you have a problem with state legislators putting out false information about serious issues like gun safety, holler at Faison HERE.

VIDEO: REP. CEPICKY & SEN. HENSLEY SCHOOLED ON MEDICAID EXPANSION

At a town hall in Maury County yesterday a local man named Greg Heller, who asked Rep. Scott Cepicky and Senator Joey Hensley why the TN GOP continues to block medicaid expansion and let Tennesseans die unnecessarily when expanding medicaid would cost the state nothing, and we lose $1.4 Billion every single year we don’t do it.

Tennessee is at the bottom in health care access, opioid deaths, infant mortality rates, the list goes on… we’re #1 in rural hospital closures per capita and medical bankruptcies. Medicaid Expansion would help all of it, and cost us nothing.

Also, important to remember – Cepicky says they want to “proceed with caution” when it comes to federal dollars, but TENNESSEE IS ALREADY ONE OF THE MOST FEDERALLY DEPENDENT STATES at 36% of the state budget. Do he and the TN GOP want to give that money back?

HOLLER AT YOUR REPS and tell them Greg’s right – there’s no excuse. Expand Medicaid.

The Beacon Center Tried to “Fact-Check” The Holler. It Did Not end Well For Them.

Something happened on Twitter today, and we felt the need to share it with the rest of Tennessee, in case anyone missed it.

The Beacon Center, a think tank/state policy group with ties to ALEC, which imposes union-busting, environment hurting, middle class-killing model legislation on the entire country on a regular basis, and the Koch brothers, who have done more damage to this planet and played an enormous role in our skyrocketing wealth inequality  –  appears to be quite infatuated with us here at the Holler.

First there was their podcast episode a few months back, in which they spent a good amount of time talking about us, seeming to concede that it was good to have a voice in Tennessee to present the other side of the narrative they’ve been pushing for years – a narrative in support of our current GOP supermajority, which touts our “fiscal conservatism” and “fiscal stability” while gleefully ignoring the fact that we’re #1 in rural hospital closures per capita, #1 in medical bankruptcies, at the bottom in infant mortality, opioid deaths, health care access, per pupil spending, the list goes on.

Recently we pointed out that while the Beacon Center and the politicians they control regularly vilify the “federal government” and paint it as a boogie monster, Tennessee is actually very dependent on that boogie monster. In fact, according to Governor Lee’s own budget, Tennessee gets nearly 40% of its budget from federal funding (39.9% in 2014, 37% in 2018, 36% in 2020).

Yes, “fiscally stable” Tennessee is one of the most dependent states in the union, which means we are VERY good at managing other people’s money.

Don’t take it from us, take it from the Nashville Business journal, or Knoxville News.

A simple Google search should’ve turned those up, but the Beacon Center appears to have a hard time believing this reality, and seized upon that tweet of ours last week which included a study that said exactly what those others have said.

Stephanie Whitt, whose Twitter bio calls her an “EVP” at the Beacon Center (right next to the extremely overused words “individual freedom and liberty”, which never seem to apply to the freedom to marry whoever you choose, or control your own reproductive fate, or use medical marijuana to ease your pain… it’s only “freedom” when it’s stuff they like… but we digress…)

Stephanie took it upon herself to sit down and “fact check” the study we posted, a study that lined up with all other available information, and attempt to “debunk” the notion that Tennessee is one of the most dependent states.

Stephanie declared:

“This study is not only misleading in the way it calculates federal dependency. It’s just plain wrong. Here are the reasons why.”

Her argument included 3 bullet points, leading off with the notion that for some reason we shouldn’t use percentages when calculating dependency, we should use total budget:

“The study calculates dependency based on a percentage of a state’s budget. Basically, this means that because Tennessee has less revenue (see lower taxes), it will appear to take more federal dollars if the study is just based on a percentage of that state’s budget. This means a state taking more federal money (California cough cough), but taxing their residents at a much higher rate would score “better” than a low tax state taking the same amount or less federal money.”

Um, yes, Stephanie. This is how percentages work. The more federal funds we take in relative to our own dollars, the higher the dependency. How this can be presented as a “reason” the study is wrong does not become clear until point 2, which is really one for the ages:

“Dollar for dollar, Tennessee is nowhere near the top of the list taking federal tax dollars. California for example receives $436 billion in total revenue from the federal government vs. Tennessee’s $76 billion.”

Stephanie is already way off the rails here. She ignores 2 very important points: That California PUTS IN much more than we do, and that California has MILLIONS MORE PEOPLE than we do.

The idea that “total revenue” is a better measure of dependency than looking at the amount we put in vs. the amount we take out defies logic: If the federal government were to stop sending money to Tennessee, Tennessee would have a 36%-sized hole blown in its budget. That’s what dependency looks like.

The same is not true for California, which puts in more than it takes out.

This is not going well for Stephanie.

She goes on to point 3, her final point, the big finish:

“The Rockefeller Institute of Government published a report in January 2019 titled “Giving or Getting? New York’s Balance of Payments with the Federal Government,” which shows what states give to the federal government versus what they receive. If you remove grants, contracts, and federal employee wages (like TVA employees) from the equation to get a true calculation of what Tennessee gives vs. what it receives, it shows we give virtually the same amount in tax dollars per capita as we receive back ($7,764 paid per capita and receives $7,807). We definitely pay our fair share and receive a fair share of our tax dollars back from the federal government for Tennessee residents.”

Wait – what? If you REMOVE grants, contracts, TVA employees… you get a “TRUE CALCULATION”?

So we should ignore all the ways Tennessee benefits from the federal government, the impact of the TVA and other federal government programs on our state, and that will paint a “TRUER” picture of how Tennessee does or doesn’t depend on the federal government?

This appears to be what the Beacon Center spends all day doing – finding ways to spin actual numbers and facts to fit a perverted view of how the world works so they can feel better about doing everything they can to keep government from helping the people who actually need it.

Their argument about dependency is so deeply flawed one can only imagine they actually believe it.

It would be almost funny if it wasn’t so damn sad. Tennessee is in bad shape. We have a rural health care crisis raging on, but instead of expanding medicaid and covering 300,000 Tennesseans while helping to fight the opioid crisis that’s ravaging our state, and keeping the lights on in some of these rural hospitals that are closing unnecessarily – mostly in non-expansion states – the Beacon center is lying to themselves about the uselessness of percentages and pretending we don’t rely far more on the federal government to survive than we do.

Their superpower appears to be creating an alternate universe for themselves in which Tennessee is thriving, and every county is Williamson County. We’d humbly suggest that they should take a drive into the rural parts of the state once in a while – and they will see that is very much not the case.

We need to expand Medicaid. We’ve lost $7 billion and counting.

But more importantly, people like Stephanie and her pals at the Beacon center need to take a long look in the mirror, realize that this isn’t a damn game and that people are actually being harmed by their policies… and go back and take a few math classes while they’re at it.

Also, keep following us. Maybe you’ll learn something.

ROWE: Rep. Roe Can’t Pretend to Care About Veterans And Stay Silent On Military Children Citizenship Issue

“You can be anything you want when you grow up! You might even be the President one day!”

These are words military parents whose children are born abroad will no longer be able to say. You see, one of the requirements to run for President is to be a natural-born US citizen, and that’s a requirement military children born overseas will no longer meet.

Rather than being granted “birthright” citizenship, as every child born to US servicemen and government employees serving abroad has been granted for as long as we’ve had families doing so, they’ll now have to be naturalized after the fact. This change will make them explicitly different from being American citizens by birth.

Obviously not every military child is going to grow up and run for President, but that’s just one of many ways this one decision will be a detriment to every future child born to our brave men and women overseas.

When our members are serving abroad, they face unique challenges – interacting with different cultures, integrating their families with their small piece of America that is the base, and a multitude of other factors that aren’t part of a normal citizen’s life. These are all hurdles people expect when they volunteer to serve our nation.

What they don’t expect, however, is to have those challenges compounded by our own country’s insistence on xenophobic and otherwise cruel policies. But that’s exactly what’s happening. In addition to all the other problems being overseas presents, this reversal on birthright citizenship will force them to either go through the hassle of petitioning for naturalization of their children while overseas, or be required to get a travel visa – no small task, especially on short notice in the event an emergency arises – to bring their own biological children to their rightful homes.

The most important factor in all this, however, is who specifically this targets.

The current laws allow children born to two native US citizens (or long-established naturalized ones) birthright citizenship, regardless of their actual birthplace. In other words, this is another overt attempt to discriminate against immigrants. It places an undue burden on people who’ve pledged their loyalty to our country, and makes their lives that much harder if they want to have a family while they’re serving their new country.

This decision is blatantly anti-immigrant, by design. Any person who considers themselves a patriotic American should be appalled by such a decision. It spits in the face of all America claims to represent as a nation, and is just another way of discouraging legal immigrants from coming to our country.

The silence on this from Tennessee’s federal representatives is deafening. Even Phil Roe, the House Veterans’ Affairs chairman, has been completely mum on the subject. For all his standard crowing about all the “great things” he fights for on behalf of veterans, he seems to be prepared to let this decision go completely unchallenged.

This is unacceptable. Phil, on behalf of every single active duty member and veteran in Tennessee, of which I am proud to count myself as one: step up to the plate on this. You can’t pretend to care about veterans or their families ever again if you do nothing to push for a reversal on this policy. You’re an embarrassment to your seat, your post on the VA committee, and our state.

Chris Rowe is an Air Force veteran challenging congressman Phil Roe as a Democratic candidate in TN-1 in 2020. Learn more about Chris and his campaign for congress HERE.

Why Won’t Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland & Former Mayor Willie Herenton Debate?

No matter how you vote, we should all be able to agree debates are an essential part of democracy. Every candidate for every office should stand before the people and make their case for why they deserve your vote.

In 2018 we saw a number of Republican candidates across Tennessee refuse to debate their Democrat counterparts – Mark Green, Brandon Ogles, Scott Desjarlais, to name a few.

As it turns out, Republicans aren’t the only ones who play this game.

Nashville has just seen two its mayoral candidates – Mayor David Bailey, and John Cooper – debate each other. But a debate in the Memphis was just canceled, apparently because former mayor Willie Herenton declined to participate, which gave current mayor Jim Strickland all the excuse he needed to pull out.

Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer and Lemichael Wilson were ready to go, but the mayors, it seems, were not. From WMC Action News 5:

Herenton would only say he “respectfully” declined to partipicate. In response, Strickland’s campaign opted out.

“without the top challenger in the race participating, in informed and balanced debate could not happen,” said a spokesperson for Strickland’s campaign.

News 5 goes on to relay Sawyer and Wilson’s comments.

Sawyer:

“By refusing debate — no matter the circumstances — Mayor Strickland and Herenton are denying taxpayers the right to hear where we all stand on the issues and make an informed choice on who will lead our city over the next (four) years.”

Wilson:

“It’s unfortunate that the citizens won’t have an opportunity to engage with mayoral candidates in order to share their concerns or to hear the candidates’ visions to address their concerns.”

Columnist Tonyaa Weathersbee of the Memphis Commercial Appeal agrees, saying:

“The two top contenders for city’s top job are choosing convenience over courage… If Strickland and Herenton can’t handle a debate, can they handle Memphis’ real issues?”

Sawyer has been running an inspired campaign with a lot of grassroots momentum, just recently drawing a mention in a tweet from Hillary Clinton. Could her footsteps be what is causing the mayors not to want to stand on a stage next to one another?

There’s no excuse for this type of behavior. These men are robbing the people of Memphis of the opportunity to hear from those who seek to govern them. It’s cowardice, and Strickland and Herenton both need to feel the pressure.

ACTION STEPS:

Email Willie Herenton HERE, Reach out on Facebook or Twitter, and call Dorchelle Spence for him: 901.628.7760

Email Strickland HERE Reach out on Facebook or Twitter, and call him: 901.636.6000

Post and tag them on social media asking them “WHY WON’T YOU DEBATE?” with the hashtag #MemphisMayorDebates and #DebateMeMane.

Let’s fix this together.

Founder of Tennessee Star Steve Gill charged with domestic abuse by wife

Steve Gill, founder of the far-right wing publication, The Tennessee Star, is an abusive husband who carries weapons at all times, his wife alleged in a request for a temporary restraining order in Williamson County.

Dana Hunsinger Gill, who has been married to  Gill since 2014, filed for the restraining order Aug. 22, the same day she filed for an annulment of the marriage.

In her request, Dana Gill states “the respondent is abusive, he threatens me, chases me, has a weapon always on him, long history of these issues, he is currently in jail.” A handwritten document attached details the abuse and begs the court for relief: “Please protect me from him returning home to attack me. I need protection, I am terrified . . . Steve at all times carries a gun (He owns many) he makes it known and says as long as he declares ‘I am in imminent danger’ he can use his gun.”

A page from Dana Gill’s application for a temporary restraining order lists the weapons Steve Gill owns.

Both legal documents were filed the day after Dana Gill testified on behalf of  Gill’s former wife, in a contempt of court case stemming from his failure to pay $170,000 in child support to Kathryn Gill.

As a result of the court’s finding Gill guilty of 27 counts, he has been incarcerated in Williamson County Jail since August 21 and will be back in court for another hearing Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

Gill, whose Twitter biography describes himself as, among other titles, a Christian conservative author, co-founded The Tennessee Star with two other Tea Party activists in 2017. In March, Snopes.com exposed the Star as a “little Breitbart” and says the publication disguises conservative activism as journalism. Dana Gill is listed as the Faith Editor of the Star.

The story was first reported by the Tennessean.

Senator Reeves, The #1 TN Opioid Pills Distributor, Admitted He Makes Laws to Benefit His Business (And Opposes Medical Marijuana)

With Senator Marsha Blackburn helping to keep the money-spigot turned on for Big Pharma by making it harder for the DEA to fight the opioid crisis, a federal database recently found a pharmacy in Murfreesboro owned by state Sen. Shane Reeves sold 46 million pills over six years, distributing the most opioid pills in Tennessee BY FAR, with no close second.

Reeves initially said he wasn’t surprised, but now his company TwelveStone is demanding a recount, so it’s worth remembering that during his campaign Reeves came out durinn a Pharmacy Podcast Network interview and openly said he told his company partners that he’s running for office because being a state senator would be good for his company in two areas: “Public Policy and Networking”

Yes, Reeves comes right out and says the quiet part out loud – that from his position at state senator he’ll be able to help his own company, Twelvestone. Here’s the quote, and you can hear it for yourself in the video below:

“One [way TwelveStone will benefit is] obviously public policy, trying to drive and make a difference in the issues that are impacting pharmacy and healthcare so much in business. The second thing is business development growth and networking. Clearly as a state senator I’m going to meet a lot of people which can help for the company — anytime someone looks up Shane Reeves, they’re going to see TwelveStone.” 

Again- Reeves is literally reassuring his own partners that by running for state senate he can influence the regulations that govern his industry and promote the company through his position.

And he has been doing it.

The list of bills Reeves has sponsored includes a number of bills related to the pharmacy industry in which he works.

As TwelveStone shovels pills out by the millions, Tennessee is one of the few states in which opioid death tolls are still going up even as states around us see theirs going down. We’re also far behind the overall trend of dropping opioid addiction numbers, which studies show is very clearly tied to our unwillingness to expand Medicaid – which Reeves does not support.

Importantly, he is also one of the voices against Tennessee passing a law legalizing medical marijuana, which would allow Tennesseans to deal with their pain in a manner other than with the pills his company makes a killing off of.

During his run for the senate against Gayle Jordan, who did support Medical Marijuana, Reeves had this to say on the topic:

“There absolutely are benefits to cannabis, medical marijuana, for people who’ve got cancer, glaucoma, nerve pain and headaches. There are also other ways you can take it other than smoking it. There’s oils, capsules, and I think over the next years we should look at some other options… But right now my answer to medical marijuana is not now.

Sorry Tennesseans suffering from cancer, glaucoma, nerve pain headaches – many of which are veterans, who overwhelmingly support medical marijuana – your pain relief will have to wait, because TwelveStone has money to make.

As the Tennessee Democratic Party said during Reeves’ campaign:

“Shane Reeves loaned his campaign more than $255,000 and raised at least half a million dollars for a job that pays $22,000. Now we know why: In his own words, getting elected would help boost his name recognition and help his pharmaceutical company TwelveStone succeed.”

If you agree Reeves running for state senator to help his own company while helping to block things like Medicaid expansion and Medical Marijuana, which would actually help people, is not a good thing, holler at Senator Reeves HERE.

VIDEO: Johnson’s Resolution To Expel Rep. David Byrd Voted Down By TN GOP

The TN GOP just voted to send Gloria Johnson’s resolution to Judiciary Committee, keeping an admitted child sex abuser in the legislature longer, electing to send the matter to the judiciary committee where they say an investigation will take place.

This should’ve been done a long time ago. It’s time for Byrd to go. Tell Rep. Michael Curcio, Rep. William Lamberth, Speaker Sexton, and TN Attorney General Herb Slatery to START THE INVESTIGATION NOW and remove Byrd now.

Justin Jones FIERY NAACP Award Speech

“We need to get that monument to the KKK out of our state Capitol… I encourage you to challenge not only Trump, but his enablers in Congress… they’re bringing us back to a time we don’t want to go to.”

Watch Justin Jones receive an award at an NAACP dinner, and bring the thunder as he often does.