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GOV. LEE SIGNS FIRST KKK GRAND WIZARD DAY PROCLAMATION

From the Tennessean today:

Gov. Bill Lee has proclaimed Saturday as Nathan Bedford Forrest Day in Tennessee, a day of observation to honor the former Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader whose bust is on display in the state Capitol.

Per state law, the Tennessee governor is tasked with issuing proclamations for six separate days of special observation, three of which, including the July 13 Forrest Day, pertain to the Confederacy.

There have been repeated protests of the bust of Forrest, the KKK’s first Grand Wizard, which is still featured prominently in the Tennessee state legislature to this day.

The Tennessean reports that Lee said “I signed the bill because the law requires that I do that and I haven’t looked at changing that law.”

They also remind us that Lee was found to have worn confederate uniforms in college, which he now says he regrets:

Lee earlier this year said he regretted participating in “Old South” parties at Auburn University nearly four decades ago as part of Kappa Alpha Order, a fraternity that lists Robert E. Lee as its “spiritual founder.”

The governor, a college student at the time, was also pictured in an Auburn yearbook dressed in a Confederate Army uniform, a common practice for members of the fraternity at the time.

“I never intentionally acted in an insensitive way, but with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that participating in that was insensitive and I’ve come to regret it,” Lee said in February.

Lee has said he may be open to “adding context” to the statue rather than removing it, but has done nothing to pursue that.

Rep. Bob Freeman has proposed replacing it with a women’s suffrage statue, and has vowed to introduce that legislation in the next session.

Holler at your reps to support Freeman’s legislation, and holler at Governor Bill Lee if you think he should not be reaffirming Nathan Bedford Forrest Day.

CHAINING PREGNANT WOMEN TO CHAIRS

Below is Channel 5’s new report on Clay County jail shackling pregnant women to chairs for days at a time.
Not mentioned in the report: State Senator Raumesh Akbari and Rep. Karen Camper had a bill to rein in this heinous practice, but it was VOTED DOWN by Republicans Rep. Andrew Farmer, Justin Lafferty for State Representative 89th District, and Rep Chris Todd
 
While Gov. Bill Lee & the GOP supermajority tell us how great things are in Tennessee, Clay County just lost their hospital and their jail is so poor they’re shackling pregnant women for extending periods. #RealStateOfTheState
 
Holler at Farmer, Todd, and Lafferty if you disagree with what they did.

MORALLY INEPT: Byrd Lies to A Reporter, Lee Avoids Doing the Right Thing (again)

There was a sequence of events yesterday that was so ridiculous we just wanted to make sure to connect the dots for everyone.

As you all know by now, here in Tennessee we have a state representative named David Byrd who apologized on tape to one of 3 women who say he sexually abused them when he was their basketball coach in high school.
Despite hearing the tape, and hearing Byrd apologize for what he had done, Speaker Glen Casada helped Byrd get re-elected by attacking the victims as “fake news”, and then promptly made Byrd chair of an education subcommittee after he won.
Casada would later remove him, only after a group of brave women relentlessly pointed out that it was a disgusting thing to do (and only after Byrd went against Casada on a key vote to help Governor Lee privatize public schools dollars through his school voucher program).
During the ordeal, Speaker Casada lied to The Holler about meeting with the victims. Governor Lee actually did meet with one of them, and then finally, 70 days later – only after Speaker Casada went up in flames and agreed to stop being speaker – Governor Lee said he believed the victims… but stopped short of asking Byrd to resign.
That brings us to just this week, when brave Tennessean Anna Grabowski confronted Lee, asking him to get Byrd out of the legislature. Lee told her it would happen “soon”, seeming to imply Byrd would be expelled at the upcoming special session to remove speaker Casada in August.
WATCH:

Wonderful! Better late than never, right? Finally it seemed Governor Lee was going to do the right thing and get the Tennessee Republican supermajority to expel David Byrd (aka Tennessee’s Jeffrey Epstein) during the special session in August.
Not so fast.
The same day we posted that video (yesterday), Governor Lee then spoke to the Tennessean and told them he wasn’t asking Byrd to resign, and Byrd wouldn’t be expelled at the special session. Instead, Lee told them he had called David Byrd and asked him not to run again… in 18 months.
In other words, Governor Lee believes the victims, and believes David Byrd did sexually abuse those children, but he’s willing to let him stay in office for nearly TWO MORE YEARS. 
Not only that, but Lee also told channel 5 news that when Anna Grabowski asked him to get the “child molester” out of office, Lee thought she was asking him about Speaker Casada, and he says he was talking about removing him as speaker, not expelling Byrd.

This is literally impossible to believe. Anna was 1 foot from him. The exchange is clear.
On top of that, when AP reporter Kim Kruesi reached out to Rep. Byrd to ask him if Lee had in fact asked him not to run again, Byrd told her that wasn’t true.

Byrd then immediately tried to backtrack and say it was a “private conversation” he had had with Lee. But it was too late. He had already outed himself on the record to a reporter as a liar, while also essentially calling Governor Lee a liar.
So, TO RECAP: Governor Lee almost did the right thing, only to find a way to do the wrong thing, then lied about why he seemed to almost do the right thing… while Byrd lied about Governor Lee doing the wrong thing and essentially called the Governor a liar.
Got all that?
Bottom Line: The truth does not matter to these people.
Meanwhile, Byrd is still in office, as is Speaker Casada, and Governor Lee manages to show us his true colors daily, putting his moral incompetence and inability to actually do the right thing on full display.
This one should’ve been easy all along. Child sex abuse should not be a partisan issue.
Byrd must go. And he should take speaker Casada with him. Holler at Governor Lee if you agree.

VIDEO: Lee Says Byrd Will Be Gone “Soon” (But Didn’t Actually Mean It)

Here’s Governor Lee yesterday telling Anna Grabowski Rep. David Byrd will be gone “soon”.

He has since said he didn’t mean soon, he meant he asked him not to run again – meaning he believes Byrd to be guilty of the child sex abuse he’s accused of, yet is willing to let him serve out his term anyway. Wonderful!

Meanwhile Byrd told a reporter Lee did NOT ask him not to run again… before then trying to walk that back.

So. Much. Moonwalking.

So. Little. Leadership.

INTERVIEW: Andy Spears of the TN Ed Report on Voucher Vultures

Here’s a new Facebook Live interview from this morning with Andy Spears of the TN Education report.

Andy talks about the #VoucherVultures descending on Nashville thanks to Governor Bill Lee’s new legislation, and what we can do to push back against Lee’s all-out assault on public schools.

Voucher Vultures Swoop Down On Nashville

This post was first seen on the Tennessee Education Report. Follow @TNEdReport for more information on Education.

Roughly one month after Governor Bill Lee signed his Education Savings Account voucher scheme into law, a North Carolina-based private school announced it is expanding operations to Nashville.

Perhaps not surprisingly, tuition at the school is similar to the amount available to families in Nashville and Memphis under the ESA program.

The school, Thales Academy, is operated by the CEO of a commercial kitchen ventilation company. Bob Luddy is also a top GOP donor in North Carolina.

Here’s Luddy on how great his schools are:

“We get results. If you look consistently over a period of time, kindergarten students come in, they can barely walk in the door, they can barely sit down, and then you see them progress as they learn sounds, and they learn to decode. By the time they progress into the 3rd or 4th grade they’re doing very sophisticated work, which is going to prepare them to be excellent students in the long term,” Luddy says in a video on the Thales Academy website.

And here’s more on accreditation straight from the school’s website:

The accreditation process does not align with Thales Academy’s mission and would prevent Thales from maintaining our standard of the highest quality education.

Thales and Luddy are not new to Tennessee. In fact, in 2015, voucher advocate Lee Barfield paid for a private plane to take former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and then-House Speaker Beth Harwell to North Carolina to visit the Thales schools.

Like Bill Lee, Barfield is a long-time supporter of Betsy DeVos’s American Federation for Children and even served on the group’s Board of Directors.

Those in the GOP cozying up to Luddy should beware, though, he’s known for expressing his disappointment where it hurts politicians the most: Campaign contributions.

Here’s how he treated the House GOP in North Carolina:

A major conservative donor’s decision this week to divert a planned $25,000 contribution away from state House Republicans highlights an increasingly bitter divide within the party over tax policy and government spending.

Raleigh businessman Bob Luddy, who chairs the board of the conservative Civitas Institute think tank and is an influential financial supporter of conservative candidates, emailed a sharp critique of the House budget to House Republicans, who are in the majority.

Luddy complained that the budget advancing to a major vote on Thursday does not include new tax cuts and extends tax breaks for specific industries. He called the spending plan too “liberal” and said he’s decided to withold his planned, annual donation to the House Republicans’ campaign committee.

Luddy instead directed his money to Americans for Prosperity and then issued this sharp rebuke to those who had taken his money in the past but were not doing his bidding:

But Luddy says the state shouldn’t prop up the solar industry. “These guys couldn’t exist without government subsidies, and those subsidies have to come from every working taxpayer who are capable of creating way more jobs than the solar industry could ever create,” he said.

Here’s a guy who plans on using public money to fund his private school scheme and he’s decrying the use of public funds to support an industry he simply doesn’t like. Perhaps if public money shouldn’t be used to “prop up the solar industry” it also shouldn’t be used to prop up Luddy’s Thales Academy.

Those who warned that passage of vouchers would lead to “pop-up” private schools have already been proven right. Thales Academy and Bob Luddy were invited into Tennessee by Bill Lee and friends and are now perched like hungry vultures ready to suck funds from Nashville’s public schools.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

Former Rep. Barry Doss Defends Byrd, Says “A Lot” of People Molest People

Yesterday the Tennessean ran a jaw-dropping article in which former Rep. Barry Doss (R-Lawrenceburg) was quoted as saying Rep. David Byrd – who has apologized on tape to 1 of 3 women who say he sexually abused them when he was their high school basketball coach – has admitted he’s “ashamed of his past” but that “God has forgiven him”.

Doss also recently approached Kristina Richardson of Enough Is Enough – Tennessee and defended Byrd by saying that “There’s a lot more people that have molested people than you’re letting on.”

The “everyone does” it defense is an interesting one to use when it comes to child sex abuse.

He even seemed to implicate Governor Lee as someone with skeletons in his closet. The whole thing has to be seen to be believed. WATCH THE VIDEO:

The other man in the video is Kevin Baigert, who runs the Roving Patriots PAC with his wife Laura, and who was involved with helping to launch the Tennessee Star, a right-wing propaganda outlet (whose CEO owes his ex-wife hundreds of thousands in child support).

In the video Baigert tells Kristina that if she wants to go after Byrd she needs to go after Rep. Rick Staples also, as well as Martin Luther King Jr., even though neither have admitted on tape to child sex abuse with teenage girls.

Richardson also makes the astute point that as a Hardin County resident David Byrd is her representative, and Martin Luther King Jr. is not. She then tells the two men she is not being paid, and says she is one of 6 women of Enough Is Enough who are speaking up about the Byrd issue on behalf of the survivors.

Kristina handled herself well. Truly fascinating to watch Doss and Baigert essentially mount the “Everyone does it” defense on behalf of Byrd, whose behavior Doss repeatedly insists he is not “condoning”.

It’s important to note that what Doss does NOT say is “Byrd didn’t do it.”

At the same event we saw Senator Joey Hensley call Byrd a “good person” and a changed man, which tells us that Republicans have abandoned the “Byrd didn’t do it” defense – clearly realizing nobody was buying that – and have now moved on to saying he did it but he’s a new man, a good Christian and that since God has forgiven him we all should too.

Ironically, Governor Lee JUST THIS WEEK signed a bill that removed statute of limitations for child sex abuse that passed the house and senate easily.

So to sum up the Republican position: Child sex abusers should be punished regardless of how much time has passed… unless you’re David Byrd.

The hypocrisy runs deep.

We should note that Governor Lee has left the door open to expelling Byrd in the upcoming August 23rd special session to replace Glen Casada as speaker. Between now and then, everyone in Tennessee should be showing up at town halls and hollering at every elected official to ask ON TAPE if they agree Byrd Must Go.

Salute to Kristina for this video. Please send all other videos of reps being asked our way: TheTNHoller@gmail.com

Bill Lee’s Medical Poverty Tour

This post was first seen on the TN Citizen Action Blog. Follow @TNCitizenAction for more.

On Friday, Governor Bill Lee toured rural counties in southern middle Tennessee touting what he called his legislative accomplishments.

It’s worth noting that the counties he toured are home to residents with crushing medical debt. Additionally, many citizens in these counties face a lack of access to health insurance. While Lee failed to apologize for his health policy failures, the citizens of this area and all of Tennessee should be holding Lee accountable.

His steadfast refusal to expand Medicaid — at no cost to Tennessee taxpayers — is creating a crisis in a state that already leads the nation in both rural hospital closures and medical debt.

Here’s more (data from The Sycamore Institute) on the state of healthcare in each of the counties Lee visited:

Giles County

28% of residents have medical debt in collections on their credit report

Between 11% and 14% of Giles County residents do not have health insurance

Lawrence County

30% of residents have medical debt in collections on their credit report

14-17% of Lawrence County residents do not have health insurance

Lincoln County

26% of residents have medical debt in collections on their credit report

8-11% of Lincoln County residents do not have health insurance

Bedford County

33% of residents have medical debt in collections on their credit report

14-17% of Bedford County residents do not have health insurance

Percent-of-Tennesseans-without-Health-Insurance-2012-2016-1

According to Andy Spears, executive director of Tennessee Citizen Action:

“Bill Lee’s stubborn refusal to expand Medicaid is an absolute policy failure. The current state of healthcare in these counties and all across our state is unacceptable. We lead the nation in rural hospital closures. We lead the nation in medical debt. Instead of announcing a plan to move forward and improve the lives of the residents of these counties, Lee is busy selling the snake oil of his Administration’s ‘success’. It’s disappointing and shameful. Tennesseans in Giles, Lawrence, Lincoln, and Bedford counties and all over our state deserve straight talk and real solutions.”

Bill Lee Fail

For more on our work fighting for healthcare, follow @TNCitizenAction

Vouchers Just the Beginning: Gov. Lee Open to “Alternative” Ways to Dismantle Public Schools

This week Governor Lee visited Lawrenceburg alongside Rep. Clay Doggett and Rep. Joey Hensley as part of a mini-tour through Lawrence and a few other rural counties, and the subject of his Education Savings Accounts aka School Vouchers plan was brought up, and Lee again made it plain as day he is no friend to public schools, and that ESA’s are not a way to fix public schools, they’re a way to dismantle them.

WATCH:

As a reminder, ESA’s are vouchers that will allow kids to take public money to private schools, draining public schools of resources while steering money to what are in many cases religious for-profit Christian schools not subject to the same levels of accountability as Tennessee’s public schools.

The ESA program has been a priority of Governor Lee, but also of Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, who has said on tape that her main agenda is to “Advance God’s Kingdom” through initiatives like vouchers.

ESA’s passed the house 50-48 after some serious arm-twisting by Glen Casada. Jason Zachary was the rep who flipped at the last minute, while insisting he was not promised anything for his vote. The FBI is allegedly now looking into what happened.

At this town hall, a woman stood up and asked Governor Lee about tax credits for those who don’t want their kids going to public schools. She expressed skepticism about the curriculum, saying that’s why she chose to remove her kids from public schools and now wants to not have to pay for them:

“Because some of us are paying taxes for services we’re not even using.”

Instead of expressing his support for public schools and pointing out how devastating it would be to our society if public schools were suddenly gutted by laws that required only those who use them to pay for them – meaning single people, people with grown kids, etc. could opt out (imagine the same if people decided they didn’t need police, or roads – an a la carte pay-for-what-you-use tax system is simply not what we have here in America).

No, Governor Lee went a different route. He expressed sympathy for the woman’s perspective, implied that he shares her vision for the future and believes ESA’s are the best way of getting there:

“If the people of Tennessee see good outcomes and results from that, then what we’ll start seeing is a greater desire and request for school choice, and we’ll look to alternative ways to do it.”

Lee tells her that because there’s no income tax in Tennessee, Education Savings Accounts are the best way to get where she’s trying to go – and that once people see that steering public money to private schools is a good thing, soon it won’t just be happening in Nashville and Memphis – the only two places  currently targeted with the ESA’s (which is why Shelby and Davidson are taking legal action) – over the cries of the reps from those districts.

Lee wants vouchers to eventually be everywhere. And then he’s open to other “alternative” ways to dismantle public schools and get their hands on those public dollars.

Lee very clearly did not dismiss the woman’s vision for a future in which nobody who doesn’t want to support public schools has to, where people can instead take all those public tax dollars and steer them to private schools under the guise of “school choice” – “Advancing God’s Kingdom” as Betsy Devos puts it.

This is only the beginning.

In the same meeting, Clay Doggett also reminded us again that the only reason he and 49 other reps voted for the vouchers was because they were promised vouchers wouldn’t come anywhere near their districts.

Senator Jack Johnson told Williamson County the same, and Rep. Crawford told The Holler that no he wouldn’t like it if vouchers were imposed on his district against his will, as is being done to Shelby and Davidson.

For more on vouchers, read The TN Ed Report’s recent piece on it.

Thank you Kristina for going there and showing up. We’d like to encourage everyone to show up at all town halls across the state and ask tough questions, and Holler at us with your videos.

 

Message of Support From Germany To Chattanooga VW Workers

Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga will soon be deciding whether or not to unionize. Governor Lee recently made a trip over there to encourage them not to, and was loudly booed for his efforts.

Here’s a good article about the situation and the tactics employed by management by Chris Brooks, who covers union issues:

Managers have handed out flyers tying the UAW to plant closures. In a captive-audience meeting, CEO Frank Fischer implied that the UAW was to blame for the 1988 closure of a Volkswagen plant in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania.

This week Jorg Hoffman, chair of IG Metall and Deputy chair of the Volkswagen Supervisory Board, sent a message of support to the Volkswagen workers encouraging them to unionize and reprimanding VW Chattanooga’s management for allowing anti-union lawyers to continue to try to influence the process.

“Chattanooga’s management has the clear directive from headquarters in Germany to stay neutral in the election,” Hoffman says. “I am really disappointed management has not been neutral. They have been neutral verbally, but their actions have been the opposite.”

Hoffman goes on to say that anti-union lawyers were ordered away from the plant, but that they continue to advise management off-site.

“We denounce the use of fear in this campaign by Chattanooga management,” he says, adding that “voting yes will not endanger your plant or your jobs” and that all over the world unions and management are working trustfully together.”

Hoffman makes a good point. Here in America, unions have been under attack for decades by management and the politicians they control. But in other countries, like Germany, for instance,  workers have seats on the boards of companies, and therefore have a say in the direction of the company’s.

The relationship is therefore far less adversarial, as workers feel ownership, participate in the good times as well, and make concessions during the bad.

Many Germans attribute this arrangement to Germany’s economic success. Imagine that – unions being empowered and appreciated rather than attacked and dismantled.

The numbers don’t lie – unions and the middle class go hand in hand. The union authorization election runs Wednesday through Friday this week; 1,700 workers are eligible to vote.

From Labor Notes:

“I’m only 33 and I can’t see myself working here for another 10 years,” said Ashley Murray. “I would be disabled by then. We need a union because they are a multibillion-dollar company and they treat us like shit.”

Murray is a production employee at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, one of 18 hourly employees there I interviewed for this story. Comments like hers were almost universal.

Volkswagen was wooed to Chattanooga in 2008 with a $554 million subsidy package from the state and local governments… It was the largest taxpayer handout ever given to a foreign-owned automaker up to that moment, and remains the largest subsidy deal in Tennessee history. The deal came free of any job or investment requirements.

More from Labor Notes on the conditions at VW:

The current starting wage for a production worker at the factory is $15.50 an hour and pay tops out at $23 an hour, or around $48,000 per year without overtime.

Volkswagen provides the lowest pay and benefits of any automaker in the U.S., according to a 2015 report by the Center for Automotive Research.

If you agree Governor Lee and Chattanooga management should keep their hands off the election – and others in the future – Holler at him HERE.