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VIDEO: Rep. Gloria Johnson Says Extend Paid Leave to ALL Working Tennesseans

Democratic legislators Rep. Gloria Johnson & State Senator Sara Kyle had a bill last session to bring paid family leave to all Tennesseans, but were LAUGHED OUT OF COMMITTEE by Republican reps Rep. John Holsclaw Jr. & Rep. Clark Boyd.

Now Governor Lee has announced he’ll be extending it to all state employees, although he did NOT have paid leave for employees at his own company.

WATCH Gloria Johnson say all employees should enjoy paid leave, which is required by almost every other country in the world.

VIDEO: Tequila Johnson On Sec. Hargett’s Voter Reg Criminalization Bill

Federal court just BLOCKED Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s “SCHEME” to criminalize voter registration after the Tennessee Black Voter Project registered 90,000. Tequila Johnson of The Equity Alliance tells us they were told to turn in every form, and she wasn’t allowed to testify.

“This was about holding onto power.”

Check out the full PODCAST INTERVIEW on ITUNES.

Dems to Casada: Where Did All The Money Go?

From the Democratic Caucus:

Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Stewart today asked “where did all the money go?”  Stewart demanded a full accounting into the financial dealings of outgoing Speaker Glen Casada’s Republican leadership team.

Chairman Stewart:

“All of these reports of no-show jobs, five figure raises for former interns and multi-million dollar expenditure increases need to be fully examined before we go into special session and vote on a new Speaker.  The Republicans cannot be permitted to use the Special Session to sweep these issues under the rug and hide the truth from the citizens who were forced to foot the bill for all this nonsense.”

Representative Gloria Johnson added:

“The reports we have read about misspent money are deeply offensive to the citizens of my district; these taxpayers are entitled to know what happened to every cent of their hard-earned tax dollars.”

Stewart called on a three-pronged approach to determine how funds were misspent, misallocated and/or misused during the Speaker’s administration:

  • A full financial audit by the comptroller’s office into spending on purchases, salaries and allocations made by the Speaker’s office since Casada’s election.
  • The appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the no-show jobs held by employees of the Speaker’s office.
  • An open records release of all financial records, receipts, timesheets and other documents for full public review.

Chairman Stewart urged that all requests need to be completed before the called special session August 23rd, saying:

“Otherwise, we risk the possibility that the Republicans will just put one of Casada’s cronies in as Speaker in an effort to sweep evidence of financial malfeasance under the rug.  If that happens, the taxpayers will never really know the full cost of the Casada Gravy Train and those that got the money will never be held accountable.”

Speaking of no-show jobs, the Holler has been told Michael Lotfi, who was on the receiving end of one of Casada’s no-show jobs and was attacked child sex abuse survivors while on the payroll, is still handling social media for Tennessee House Republicans.

Ogles & Casada Skip Williamson County “Legislative Update”

This morning in Franklin was the monthly Williamson County “Legislative Update”, hosted by Williamson Inc.

The event was called a “Town Hall” until recently, but the name was apparently changed after former State House candidate Rebecca Purington called them out for calling it a “Town Hall” without actually taking questions.

Fair point, Rebecca.

They stopped taking questions after Ashley Massey stood up and pinned Williamson legislators to the wall about their silence about Rep. David Byrd, who has apologized on tape to 1 of 3 women who say he molested them in high school.

Byrd remains in office to this day, but how long he lasts remains to be seen since his chief protector Glen Casada will be resigning his speakership in shame in the coming days.

Casada was not at the “Legislative Update”, apparently getting some sun in Greece.

Casada’s pal Brandon Ogles also skipped the meeting, letting the organizers know at 530AM this morning that he had a sudden “rotator cuff ” injury. (mm hmmmm)

 

The only Williamson legislators to show up were Sam Whitson and Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson. Below are some clips of a few of the subjects they covered.

Whitson talked about the passage of the Katie Beckett Waiver, which keeps parents of disabled children from having to make impossible decision to keep their kids on insurance.

No word on why that logic shouldn’t apply to the 300,000 other Tennesseans faced with the very same decisions, who don’t have insurance because of the Republican refusal to expand Medicaid, which costs Tennessee billions of dollars each year.

After the meeting Senator Johnson answered our question about the “Heartbeat Bill”, which seeks to ban abortions once a heartbeat is detected, and makes no exceptions for rape or incest – which means a raped teenage girl would have to carry her rapist’s child to term.

The film industry has recently said they w0n’t do business in Georgia if their similar bill becomes law. When asked what Johnson would say to industries that may have the same issue with Tennessee  were Tennessee’s bill to pass, his answer:

“Go back to California.”

THE 9 REPUBLICANS WHO MAY REPLACE CASADA

With Speaker Glen Casada finally agreeing to exit the speakership stage left (do us all a favor and keep going off the stage entirely, Glen!)…

…House Republicans are starting to jockey for position to be his replacement.

Rep. Hawk, who is not running, says it has already gotten ugly.


The Tennessean has a list of 9 people who may throw their hats in the ring, so we figured we’d give  our own Holler-iffic take on who these people are and why you should or should not be rooting for them to become the 3rd most powerful person in Tennessee.

“BORING” BILL DUNN

Speaker Pro Tem Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) will preside over the House until a new speaker is chosen, and would like to fill the position permanently.

“I think I can bring a level of boredom to the position,” Dunn told the Tennessean.

He also said he’s “far right but fair” in a TV interview this week.

Dunn played a key part in passing Governor Lee’s public school-harming vouchers bill, but while some seem to be swayed by political favors – which the FBI may be looking into – even Dunn’s opponents seem to agree he’s a true believer on that front.

Of the 9 speaker candidates, Dunn was the only one who didn’t vote in favor of the “Heartbeat Bill”, which would outlaw abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected and force a woman/girl to carry her rapist’s child to term.

Dunn also switched and became a supporter of London Lamar’s bill to give pregnant Hope Scholarship recipients longer leave before going back to school after giving birth.

Also – very importantly – Dunn has already said he believes the women who have been fighting to get Rep. Byrd – who has apologized on tape to 1 of 3 women who say he molested them in high school – removed from office, and says there should be an investigation into the matter.

It’s a shame that it took Casada’s downfall for Dunn to step up and say that, but better late than never. All candidates for speaker should be willing to say and do at least that much.

WILLIAM “COMPUTER GLITCH” LAMBERTH

Casada’s Right Hand Man, Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) has been a Casada loyalist throughout the Casada saga, even jumping into the middle of the situation surrounding the date discrepancy and possible framing of civil rights activist Justin Jones.

Lamberth was quick to adopt Casada’s “computer glitch” excuse, and had no hesitation about defending the now-shamed speaker.


Lamberth has been a defender of private prisons (without ever acknowledging that they donate to his campaigns), opposes de-criminalizing medical marijuana, and has been a loyal vote for all of Casada’s priorities throughout the session, including the “Heartbeat Bill”, Lee’s vouchers, the anti-LGBT slate of hate, the voter registration criminalization bill and more.

ROBIN “THE VIDEOTAPER” SMITH

Often found videotaping those who videotape her, the freshman Smith (R-Hixson) is well connected, having previously been chair of the Tennessee Republican Party.

Smith is a staunch Casada loyalist through and through. When the House Caucus voted overwhelmingly that it had “no confidence” in Speaker Casada after his complicity with racism, sexism, drug use at the office, lying, possible fraud, misuse of taxpayer funds, etc… there were still 25 votes in favor of Casada.

1 was Casada himself. We currently know who 4 of the others are, and that group includes Smith.

Smith has been a Casada apologist right up until the end, even trying to lay down a smoke screen to help him blame it on the a-a-a-alcohol. It takes some nerve to offer up ethics bills when you won’t even vote against a guy who has no ethics whatsoever.

She even tried to steer the conversation to Democrats, telling a Chattanooga paper “My hope was we would have censured him and that we would have challenged our other partisans in the [Democratic] caucus to censure members that also engage in unbecoming behavior.”

Smith has been loyal on all the key votes, engaged in anti-Muslim saber-rattling, and Obama-bashing.

A warning about Smith From Vanity Fair, back when Smith ran for Congress (and lost):

Smith was the head of the Tennessee Republican Party during the ’08 presidential campaign and approved the distribution of some of the most underhanded and insidious anti-Obama propaganda to appear during the election. You may recall, for example, the video that the Tennessee G.O.P. released hammering Michelle Obama for her comment about being “proud of her country for the “first time” in “her adult lifetime.” (The ad prompted Barack to tell critics to “lay off” his wife.) You may also remember the Tennessee G.O.P. press release titled “Anti-Semites for Obama” that pointedly referred to the candidate as “Barack Hussein Obama.” Both smears drew national condemnation, even from Republican Party leaders. But one gets the feeling that if the Party gave into its true impulses and elected Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh its leader tomorrow, there’s a good chance Robin Smith would be at the top of their list for chief strategist… How did Smith respond when, following her announcement, a reporter brought up the heat she took for the smear tactics? She called the question “unprofessional” and railed against the “liberal media.” Were she to be elected, Smith would likely be among the most conservative members in Congress. Her Facebook and Twitter pages overflow with right-wing rhetoric. In one Facebook status update, for instance, she tells “Judeo-Christians” to “wake up” and oppose President Obama’s attempts to reach out to the Muslim world.

MATTHEW “ETHICS COMMITTEE” HILL

Speaking of Ethics, Matthew Hill is the chair of the ethics committee, which means he played a big part in trying to orchestrate the rigging of an *advisory opinion* that would have attempted to help clear Speaker Casada.

That effort was stopped in its tracks, and prompted Rep. Mike Carter, a judge, to call it the “most egregious act I have been made aware of” and call for Casada’s resignation from the House entirely.

Needless to say, it takes a special kind of person to help rig an ethics committee opinion from the chair position.

Hill is another House Republican who has defended Casada up until the end. Hill claims he voted against Casada when it came time for the “no-confidence” vote, but since the vote was silent and we’ll never know, color us skeptical.

Rep. Jeremy Faison put it best when he said there were 45 votes against Casada, but suddenly after the fact there were 68.


While we’re on the subject of ethics, Hill was also recently seen on the House floor claiming the Tennessee State Employees Association supported Lee’s school vouchers, when they did not.

He has yet to apologize for offering that false information.

If that’s not enough, Hill has the support of Rep. Micah “Heartbeat Bill” Van Huss, which should send a chill down everyone’s spine and be enough to make you very afraid of Hill all by itself.


Funny how moral these reps who defended Casada to the end all suddenly became once they realized they were on the wrong side of history.

“JUDGE” MIKE CARTER

Rep. Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) is a judge who held off on speaking out against Casada until he had all the facts…


…then pulled no punches once he realized Casada was trying to rig the ethics committee to try to get away with everything. Carter then went hard at Casada, saying his concern was “it shows a heart for misrepresentation” and calling it the “most egregious act” yet.

Once Carter turned, he opened the door for others to speak out and likely played a big part in why the “no-confidence” vote went the way it did.

Carter was a loyal vote on vouchers, the heartbeat bill, the slate of hate, gun permit-weakening, the voter registration criminalization bill, etc.

From the Tennessean, regarding his bid for Speaker:

Carter vowed to keep all committee chairs in their position, form a political action committee, review all policies, procedures and rules and never intimidate members.

JERRY “WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES” SEXTON

Pretty much all you need to know about Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station) – a former Baptist preacher – is summed up in this clip right here, where he defends Rep. David Byrd’s presence as chair of an education subcommittee by saying “we all make mistakes”:

It’s worth noting though that Sexton didn’t extend such leeway to Casada, leading the effort to call on the GOP caucus to meet and vote on their support of him, and introducing the resolution stating the caucus no longer had confidence in him.

Erik Schelzig reported that Sexton argued for the state muzzleloader to be the Knight Muzzleloader because:

“I’m from Bean Station, and Bean Station was settled by the first white settlers in Tennessee, and had the first white baby born in the state of Tennessee. They were also makers of firearms and muzzleloaders. And this company is owned by descendants of the Bean family.”

SCHELZIG: First of all, having the first white baby born in the state, unless we’re a pile of open racists, isn’t an accomplishment. Second, unless we’re kicking French people out of whiteness, it’s not true. Martin Chartier lived here in Nashville up on the burial mound that used to exist just south of Jefferson Street in what would later be called “the old Shawnee trading post” in 1690. His son, Peter, was born here that year.”

Nothing good going on there. Sexton also made a stand against the 2017 Improve Act which provided funds for road improvements – obviously a socialist plot!

Sexton has been a loyal vote on vouchers, the heartbeat bill, the slate of hate, gun permit-weakening, the voter registration criminalization bill, etc.

RYAN “LET’S ARM TEACHERS” WILLIAMS

 Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville) carried the bill that would’ve armed Tennessee’s teachers, before eventually withdrawing it.

You can watch some of the discussion here:

From the Tennessean:

The former House Republican Caucus chairman said Wednesday he and his wife were praying about his options and a potential bid for speaker.

“Now more than ever we as a caucus need to unify around someone,” said Williams, R-Cookeville.

Williams has been a loyal vote on vouchers, the heartbeat bill, the slate of hate, gun permit-weakening, the voter registration criminalization bill, etc.

CAMERON “EVERYTHING IS SOCIALISM” SEXTON

In fairness that nickname above could apply to pretty much every TN GOP house member. We gave it to Sexton because of this diatribe about medicaid expansion being socialism posted on the TN GOP twitter account recently.

Sexton once unbelievably said “no one has died because they didn’t have access to health care” on the house floor — a claim disputed by medical experts.

Sexton doesn’t seem to realize Ronald Reagan expanded Medicaid 4 times, and like the rest of his caucus refuses to acknowledge that accepting the billions we’re rejecting each year would obviously help health care access and struggling rural hospitals in Tennessee.

That’s not socialism, it’s math.

From the Tennessean:

As the House Republican Caucus chairman, Sexton, R-Crossville, has avoided wading too deep into the Casada controversy, instead seeing his role as a referee for the GOP lawmakers to discuss the matter… Sexton confirmed Tuesday that several members of the caucus have encouraged him to considering running for speaker… “I’m mulling it,” he said. “But out of respect for the office, there’s been no (resignation) date given, it’s a little early to start trying to run for office or leadership position that’s no available yet.”

While Sexton has been a loyal vote on most things, it’s worth noting that he’s the only one in this group to vote against Bill Lee’s public school-harming vouchers.

CURTIS “NOT GLORIA” JOHNSON

We gave Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville) that nickname because we don’t know much about him, and haven’t really heard from him this session. But maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe what this legislature needs right now is someone who is low profile and stays out of the limelight.

WORTH NOTING: Curtis Johnson was the FIRST of this group to call for Speaker Casada’s resignation.

Johnson was up against Casada in the caucus speaker’s race this past fall.

From the Tennessean:

At the November caucus vote where Casada was nominated, Johnson told his colleagues he would not be a speaker who would bring division and scandal.

“If you’re looking for a speaker who’s going to use this position as a stepping stone to the next position, I’m not the one,” Johnson said at the time.

Maybe they should’ve listened to him.

VIDEO: Standing Up Against School Vouchers

With Governor Bill Lee’s public school-harming vouchers on the verge of passing, teachers, moms and business leaders from across the state headed to the hill to plead with legislators to see the light and vote against them.

Why did State Rep. Jason Zachary flip? Why did Rep. Jerome Moon say one thing and do another? Same for Brandon Ogles & Clay Doggett & Bill Powers? Why does John Crawford say he didn’t vote FOR vouchers, when he did?
 
Why do all these “small government conservatives” think it’s ok to impose this on two counties that clearly don’t want it, when they themselves don’t want it either?

The conference committee is TOMORROW at 8AM. Holler at your reps… and show up if you can!

“OPTICS” UPDATE: School Board Senator Johnson “Voucher-Shamed” Is 50% African American

Yesterday we posted a video from a Williamson County legislative update Friday in which Senator Jack Johnson aggressively defended Governor Bill Lee’s school vouchers plan which would allow public school money to be used to partially fund private school educations.

Supporters of the vouchers say they will help some kids in failing schools escape to a better education.

Opponents say we shouldn’t be steering public money away from already struggling public schools to do that, that it amounts to the privatization of education, and that the private schools in receipt of the money wouldn’t be subject to the same kind of accountability and would be able to discriminate against certain kids using public funds.

(Watch our highlights of the Education Committee debate HERE. The TEA says Vouchers have been a “disaster” where implemented and remains against them, as are a number of other organizations.)

Senator Johnson seemed particularly upset by a resolution passed by a the Franklin Special School District school board here in Williamson County, which he called the “wealthiest and whitest county” in Tennessee:

“So when I hear a school board in Williamson County passes a resolution opposing this initiative… do you understand the optics of that? We’re the wealthiest, whitest county in the state. And we’re saying we don’t want to do something to help inner-city kids who are poor and predominantly minority. Shame on you. SHAME ON YOU.”

It’s worth pointing out that many school boards across the state have passed resolutions against it, including ShelbyWilson County and Montgomery County – home of Clarksville, which has a significant minority population relative to other areas of Tennessee.

Shelby is majority African-American.

And while Johnson is right that Williamson County is the wealthiest, it is by no means the whitest – but more importantly, the Franklin Special School District board represents schools where 50% of the students are on reduced lunches, and where the school board itself is half African-American:

This begs the question: Senator Johnson mentioned the “optics” of a Williamson County school board standing against the concept of steering public money to private Schools, but what about the “optics” of the Senate Majority leader in an all-white Republican legislature yelling “SHAME ON YOU” at a half-black school board looking out for a district where 50% of the kids are on reduced lunches?

Seems like looking out for all kids, not just a few, is the job of a school board, so it should come as no surprise that these resolutions are being passed throughout the state.

As for the FSSD Board, it’s highly decorated. From their website:

The Franklin Special School District Board of Education is a six-time Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA) Board of Distinction and was 2015 Tennessee School Board of the Year. The Board was recognized by TSBA for its development, application and monitoring of policy; involvement in long-range planning; promotion of quality education through involvement with the legislature, city/county commission, State Board of Education, community and staff; participation in board development activities, including boardmanship award levels for each member; and exhibition of a positive relationship with the media.

As a Board of Distinction, a two-year designation, FSSD was honored by TSBA as a Board of Distinction for its work as a whole, meeting specified requirements in four key areas: planning, policy, promotion and board development. The FSSD Board of Education was previously awarded TSBA School Board of the Yearin 1998, and accomplished the requirements necessary to become a Board of Distinction in 1999-2001, 2001-2003, 2007-2009, 2009-2011, 2014-2016, 2016-2018.

If you agree that Senator Jack Johnson was “inappropriate” with his comments, holler at him HERE.

Sen. Jack Johnson To Anti-Vouchers School Boards: “SHAME ON YOU!”

At a Williamson County “Legislative Update” Friday, Senator Jack Johnson took the microphone to offer a full-throated defense of Governor Bill Lee’s school vouchers program (aka “Education Savings Accounts”).

Supporters of the vouchers say they will help some kids in failing schools escape to a better education.

Opponents say we shouldn’t be steering public money away from already struggling public schools to do that, that it amounts to the privatization of education, and that the private schools in receipt of the money wouldn’t be subject to the same kind of accountability and would be able to discriminate against certain kids using public funds.

(Watch our highlights of the Education Committee debate HERE. The TEA says Vouchers have been a “disaster” where implemented and remains against them, as are a number of other organizations.)

Senator Johnson Brought up both pillars of Governor Lee’s education privatization platform – the statewide charter authorization board (which would be able to overrule local boards who decline to approve a charter), and vouchers.

Johnson accused school boards and other organizations of disseminating misinformation about the vouchers, and said while they care about public schools, he cares about the kid, offering harsh words for recent school boards (like his own in Williamson County) who have passed resolutions against charters:

“Do you understand the optics of that? We’re the wealthiest, whitest county in the state, and we’re saying we don’t want to do something to help inner-city kids who are poor and predominantly minorities. Shame on you. SHAME ON YOU.”

Watch the VIDEO:

Johnson, the Senate Majority Leader, also brought up the Governor’s friendship with Jeb Bush and used Florida as evidence of the success of vouchers and charter schools:

“Jeb Bush was elected in 1998 and he ran on a platform of education reform, including education choice (vouchers) and expansion of charter schools. The state of Florida went from 40th in the nation for 4th grade reading among poor and minority students to 1st. 40th to 1st. You cannot argue with the results, they work.”
Johnson says nothing about a time frame, and offers no clues about how the success is attributed to charters and vouchers, so it has been difficult to verify this claim. Florida does not appear to be “#1” in anything, according to state rankings on the National Assessment of Education Progress, aka the nation’s report card.
The top performer on the NAEP every year for decades has been Massachusetts which has a cap on the number of charters allowed in the state and does not have a voucher program. The bottom performer is Louisiana which has had charter schools and extensive voucher programs for many years.
Extensive research on the education impact of vouchers has consistently found negative results.
Research on the impact of charters is mixed at best, with overall results usually comparable to public schools, and this op-ed from the Sun-Sentinal editorial board in March called “CHARTER SCHOOL COMPANIES FEAST AT THE PUBLIC TROUGH” makes it clear that in Florida the main beneficiaries of charters schools have been private companies raking in public dough:
“Florida has become Exhibit A of both counts: profiteering and interest group politics. Under the uncritical eyes of an indulgent Legislature, for-profit education companies now manage nearly half of the state’s 650 publicly financed charter schools and enroll more than 130,000 students, but with woefully insufficient controls on what they spend and to whom they pay it. Like the private prison industry and other banqueters at the public trough, they’re investing heavily in lobbying — $5.3 million in just over 10 years — and in political expenditures.”
They go on:
“During a charter school visit last month, Gov. DeSantis said he wanted to do something about “bad actors” in the industry, but he has yet to say what that would be. However “bad actors” might be defined, the root of the problem is larger. It’s the very existence of the for-profit sector. Charter schools should be non-profit in all respects, not just on paper.”
Some say Florida vouchers are helping certain kids get into college, but a recent Orlando Sun-Sentinel report exposed a windfall going to private schools through public vouchers with little oversight.
As education expert Jeff Bryant of Education Opportunity Network puts it:
“What the charter/voucher proponents (in Tennessee) may be referring to with their claim of Florida being #1 in reading is the most recent round of NAEP scores that found the state was one of few to make significant gains in reading scores. But that can in no way be attributed to vouchers and charters. The jump likely has multiple causes. Florida 4th graders out-perform the national average on the NAEP reading exam but 8th graders are about average. The boost on the NAEP for 4th graders could be attributed to the state law that requires retaining 3rd graders who flunk state reading tests, which could artificially inflate the 4th grade NAEP reading scores.”
Johnson also implies that Governor Lee will be reimbursing the money lost by schools when kids go elsewhere, but is also careful to say “for 3 years”. No word on what happens after that.
The idea that public schools won’t be losing money on account of vouchers is contradicted by all evidence. If you agree public money belongs in public schools, holler at Senator Jack Johnson HERE.

(another) BAD WEEK FOR WORKING WOMEN

Republican lawmakers on the House Employee Affairs Subcommittee rejected four bills that would improve working conditions for women and families in Tennessee—all in less than an hour.

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