Beth Harwell

Speakers ban protest signs, animals from legislative quarters — guns permitted

Senate Speaker Randy McNally and House Speaker Beth Harwell have approved a new policy that prohibits “hand-carried signs and signs on hand sticks” at the Legislature because they “represent a serious safety hazard,” reports The Tennessean. The speakers had earlier approved a policy change to allow handgun permit holders to bring their weapons to legislative hearings and offices.

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Black, Harwell and Fitzhugh release income tax info; other gubernatorial candidates refuse

Four of the seven major candidates for Tennessee governor have turned down a Tennessean request to make public details of their federal income tax returns.

U.S. Rep. Diane Black and fellow Republican state House Speaker Beth Harwell provided financial summaries. Of the other Republican candidates Mae Beavers, Randy Boyd and Bill Lee declined – though Boyd indicated he may reconsider in the future.

On the Democrat side, House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh released a copy of his 2016 return and former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean declined the request, though indicating he may reconsider later.

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Harwell orders ‘active shooter’ training for House staff

House Speaker Beth Harwell has directed House staffers to attend mandatory classes on how to survive an “active shooter” incident and how not to commit sexual harassment, reports the Times Free Press.

The active-shooter training comes as legislative workers prepare to settle into their new Cordell Hull Building home, where handgun-carry permit holders will be allowed to go armed.

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Harwell: Serving as House speaker while running for governor ‘will work out well’

Citing a comment by Gov. Bill Haslam that he found serving as mayor of Knoxville a distraction when he ran for governor in 2010, the Kingsport Times News asked House Speaker Beth Harwell whether her legislative leadership role would be a distraction while she runs for governor.

“I don’t think so. We’re not in session right now. Actually this would be a good opportunity to talk about the state’s issues. I think the difference was the governor was a local official trying to get about the state. I’m a state official involved in state politics.”

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Democrat joins two Republicans in campaigning to succeed House Speaker Beth Harwell in House District 56

Bob Freeman, a Nashville real estate professional and son of prominent Tennessee Democratic donor Bill Freeman, announced his candidacy for the House District 56 seat now held by House Speaker Beth Harwell at a rally and fundraiser hosted by the Davidson County Democratic Party on Saturday night, reports The Tennessean.

Two Republicans are already running. He’s the first Democrat.

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Speakers OK guns at the legislature — after move to Cordell Hull quarters

Handgun permit holders were prohibited from bringing their weapons into the Legislative Plaza, but when the General Assembly relocates to the remodeled Cordell Hull building, permit holders will be able to keep their guns when visiting lawmakers or attending committee meetings.

House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Randy McNally announced the new policy in a joint statement to media:

“Carry permit holders will be allowed to carry their firearms into the Cordell Hull Building, the new home of the Tennessee General Assembly. Tennessee carry permit holders are among the most law-abiding demographics in our state. To receive a permit, a citizen must be fingerprinted, submit to a background check and receive firearm training. Permit holders wishing to carry their firearms into Cordell Hull will be required to present their permit at security. A thorough screening process will determine the validity of the permit. Once that validity is established, a permit holder will be allowed exercise their Second Amendment while visiting their state government.”

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Lawyer joins doctor in seeking GOP nomination in House District 30

Joseph Williams, a 31-year-old attorney, has announced a run for the House District 30 seat to be vacated by House Speaker Beth Harwell next year, reports the Nashville Post.

Williams becomes the second announced Republican to run in the district. The first to announce was physician Dr. Brent Moody.

 According to his campaign website, Williams is the founding partner of The Peacefield Group, a legal and policy consulting firm in Nashville. Prior to that, he practiced law for the rightwing American Center for Law & Justice, run by part-time Franklin resident Jay Sekulow, who’s also currently serving as a personal lawyer for President Donald Trump.

Harwell, Casada reject Democrats’ call for special session

In a perhaps unusual move, House Republican leaders have responded to Thursday’s House Democrats holding a news conference and issuing a press release urging a special legislative session on Medicaid expansion.  (Usually such Democrat doings are ignored.) They spurned the idea.

House Speaker Beth Harwell: “As Speaker of the House, I believe that instead of calling for a wasteful special session to expand a program that is failing, we as State Representatives and Senators should instead call on Congress to return healthcare back to the states without strings attached so we can begin to develop a better, more affordable program for Tennesseans.”

House Majority Leader Glen Casada“As Republican leaders of our state, we want to get rid of the disaster of Obamacare, not support a broken healthcare system that has become a drain on Tennessee families and backed insurance providers into a corner. 

Republicans want real solutions, not political promises that would result in more bureaucracy, higher costs, and drive a bigger wedge between patients and doctors. Obamacare has caused insurance rates to skyrocket to a point where the middle class can no longer afford coverage. 

Medicaid expansion has been an abysmal failure for those states that have participated. Here in Tennessee, we are committed to improving the health and quality of life for all Tennesseans through free market principles that demonstrate real results.

Note: The House Democratic Caucus press release is posted HERE.

Harwell on ‘elections not auctions’ & being a cemetery groundskeeper

Campaigning for Republican gubernatorial nomination on Friday, Beth Harwell was quoting state Sen. Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains) when asked about facing multi-millionaire opponent  and a Virginia politician on what it’s like to be speaker of a state House of Representatives.

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Medical marijuana task force hears cannabis critics

The first meeting of the legislature’s Joint Ad Hoc Committee on Medical Cannabis ran about five hours with much of the lawmakers’ time spent listening to concerns that legalizing use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is a slippery slope, reports WPLN.

At the meeting, lawmakers were repeatedly told medicinal use of marijuana would lead to abuse. Experts spoke of supplies contaminated with other drugs, the difficulty of keeping legally purchased marijuana from being resold and stories of underage children dying after ingesting marijuana.

The testimony drew pushback from one of medical cannabis’s big supporters.

“You need to be fair,” said state Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby (the committee co-chair). “If we’re going to hold marijuana use for medical purpose to a standard, then compare it to what’s going on right now that’s legal and that’s encouraged by a lot of doctors.”

Faison argued that marijuana is less dangerous than many opioids and psychotropic drugs.

An excerpt from WTVF TV’s report:

The state Department of Health’s Chief Medical Officer, David Reagan, said he believes medical marijuana hasn’t been studied enough to legalize in Tennessee.

“We support doing additional research. The FDA, more the DEA from our perspective, has traditionally been, for 100 years, has been an organization that exemplifies getting us safe and effective medicines,” said Reagan. Until marijuana’s schedule one designation changes, Reagan said he doesn’t think it will be studied to the level it needs.

And House Speaker Beth Harwell, who appointed House members of the panel, continues to be asked about the subject as she campaigns for governor. From WJHL TV, reporting on her campaigning in the Tri-Cities last week:

“We’re not talking about recreational at all, I’m not for that. I’m not even for smoking marijuana, that causes cancer,” Harwell said. “I’m for oils and edibles and something that can help a lot of people who are suffering from chronic pain.”

The panel plans future meetings in the Knoxville and Memphis areas.