Legislature

How nigh is the end? House leadership plots course

House Speaker Glen Casada speaks to fellow Republicans in a caucus meeting on Jan. 10, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

For the Tennessee General Assembly to get around to completing its business for the year, committees need to start closing. And for that to happen, the subcommittees need to wrap up. Here’s a schedule for when House leadership expects those panels to call it quits this year:

March 25: Agriculture, Transportation, Consumer & Human Resources.

April 1: Commerce, Insurance, Local.

April 8: Education, State, Health.

April 15: Judiciary. Also the full committees of Government Operations and Naming & Designating.

If all that happens to plan, the chamber will be on course for adjourning the first week of May. Or so we hope.

Lee makes vocational education push his first legislative initiative

Bill Lee is inaugurated as Tennessee’s 50th governor on Jan. 19, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s first legislative initiative calls for expanding access to vocational and technical training in Tennessee.

The Lee administration has dubbed it the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education, or GIVE, program.

“We have the opportunity to help students discover quality career paths and gain skills that are needed right now in the workforce by emphasizing career and technical education,” Lee said in a release.

Here’s the full release:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced his first legislative initiative, the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) to expand access to vocational and technical training for Tennessee students. 

“I believe that expanding our vocational and technical offerings will be transformational for Tennesseans and the future of our state,” said Lee. “We have the opportunity to help students discover quality career paths and gain skills that are needed right now in the workforce by emphasizing career and technical education.”

The GIVE initiative is a two-pronged approach that utilizes regional partnerships to develop work-based learning and apprenticeship opportunities. Communities will now have the funding and flexibility to build programs that best reflect local needs and work directly with private industry to structure programming. 

Continue reading

Lee administration to do away with ‘flag letters’

Bill Lee takes the oath of office as Tennessee’s 50th governor in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s administration is doing away with “flag letters” traditionally issued by executive branch agencies over concerns about pending legislation.

Here’s a letter Legislative Director Brent Easley sent to all the members of the General Assembly on Friday.

Members,

I am alerting you to a change in policy that will take place over the next week regarding legislative priorities.

In the past, you have received “flag letters” from the Governor’s Office or departments when they have noted an issue, concern or opposition to legislation that has been filed. This transparency is critical, but we believe there is a more effective way to communicate these positions.

Moving forward, we will begin implementing the following system for positioning around legislative proposals.

  • When the Governor’s Office, or a state department/agency, notes opposition or concern about a legislative proposal, someone from that team will see you personally.
  • If a member of the liaison corps is not able to reach you in person, you will receive a phone call from them, followed by an email letting you know they are reaching out about a legislative item.
  • We will also share a weekly list of bills that have been “flagged” for various reasons with legislative leadership to provide an additional layer of transparency about our positioning. This document will be available in their respective offices for your review.

Continue reading

Legislation seeks to move General Assembly flag to Cordell Hull

The flag of the Tennessee General Assembly is a bit of a curiosity. It flies above the Capitol when the legislature is in session. And, as it turns out, outside the Legislative Plaza office complex, according to the state law books. The only problem is that General Assembly no longer operates out of the old subterranean office space, having decamped to the Cordell Hull building last year.

Sen. Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) now wants to do something about that. He has introduced SB94, which would move the flag from the Legislative Plaza to the Cordell Hull.

The flag of the General Assembly was adopted in 1987 after being designed by Sheila Adkins, a high school student at Knoxville’s Fulton High School. According to the Blue Book, she “chose white for purity, blue to denote respect for Tennessee, red as the traditional color for America; stars to symbolize the state’s three Grand Divisions; wheat for agricultural heritage; and the gavel for the power of the people vested in the state’s legislative body.”

House Speaker Casada names senior staff

Newly-elected House Speaker Glen Casada gestures toward his predecessor, Beth Harwell, in the House chamber on Jan. 8, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

New House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) has named the top staffers for his office.

Here’s the full release:

(NASHVILLE) — Today, Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) announced the addition of his new senior staff to assist in the operations of the Tennessee House of Representatives and to help serve the citizens of the state.

Cade Cothren has been named Chief of Staff in Speaker Casada’s office. Cothren will oversee day-to-day operations in the General Assembly for the Speaker and serve as his top advisor and strategist. Under his leadership, Cothren will select and supervise House staff, manage communications and information flow, and negotiate with key stakeholders and groups to implement the Speaker’s agenda. The University of Tennessee graduate previously served as Political Director, Press Secretary, and Director of Communications. At age 31, Cothren is the youngest person to serve in this role in modern history.

Continue reading

Richardson named partner at McMahan Winstead lobbying firm

Anna Richardson will become a parter in the lobbying firm founded by David McMahan and Beth Winstead. Richardson joined the prominent contract lobbying outfit in 2011 after serving as a legislative staffer, including for newly-elected Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin). The firm will be renamed McMahan Winstead & Richardson on Jan. 1.

Here’s the full release:

NASHVILLE – McMahan Winstead today announced Anna M. Richardson will join David McMahan and Beth Winstead as a partner with the firm effective January 1. The firm will officially change its name to McMahan Winstead & Richardson on that date.

“Eight years ago, Anna brought her extensive legislative experience and legal expertise to our firm giving our clients unmatched representation in the Tennessee General Assembly. Her contributions have brought our firm to new heights,” said David McMahan. “Joining Beth and me as a partner is the next logical step for Anna and well-deserved. Our firm is built on honesty, loyalty and hard work. Anna displays all three on a daily basis. We could not be more excited about this new partnership.

Continue reading

Casada wants to restore 3 oversight committees

Rep. Glen Casada, the Republican nominee for House speaker, wants to restore oversight committees for prisons, children and families, and TennCare, The Tennessean’s Joel Ebert reports. Those oversight committees — and eight others — were eliminated through an initiative of former Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) and outgoing House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) in 2011.

Camper elected minority leader in Tennessee House

Rep. Karen Camper (D-Memphis) speaks tp reporters on Nov. 25, 2018, after her elected as House minority leader. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Fellow Democrats have elected state Rep. Karen Camper of Memphis to be the House minority leader for the 111th General Assembly. Camper is the first African-American to be elected the chamber’s Democratic leader.

Camper will also be the Democrats’ nominee for speaker. The Army veteran has served in the House since 2008.

Camper defeated Reps. Bo Mitchell of Nashville and Johnnie Shaw of Bolivar for the position.

“I am honored by the faith the caucus has shown in me and I pledge to bring the type of aggressive leadership needed to advance legislation that promotes the Democratic agenda, such as quality health care and economic opportunities for all Tennesseans,” she said in a statement.

Rep. Mike Stewart of Nashville was unopposed in his re-election as Democratic caucus chair. Democrats hold 26 of the 99 seats in the House.

Continue reading

Lee uncertain about Casada’s call for more House control on budget

Gov.-elect Bill Lee speaks at a press conference at the state Capitol in Nashville on Nov. 7, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Gov.-elect Bill Lee says he’s not certain how the House will become more assertive in the state budgeting process. Glen Casada, who won the GOP nomination for House speaker, announced earlier this week that he will seek to give the chamber a bigger role in developing the state’s annual spending plan.

“I have no idea that that is going to happen,” Lee told reporters at a Nashville food bank on Wednesday. “What I do know is we’re going to be working together and we’ve already started that process. I believe we can work together as the executive branch and legislative branch to advance the common good for Tennesseans.”

The Tennessean reports Lee and Casada played phone tag after Casada won the speaker nomination on Tuesday, but finally connected on Wednesday.

“My hope and my belief is that we have an opportunity to actually not work in separate veins, but on the same page,” Lee said.

Meanwhile, Lee said he’s working on assembling his staff and Cabinet. The first announcements are expected next week.

Casada’s PAC running ad defending Rep. Byrd as victim of ‘fake news’

State Rep. Glen Casada is running digital ads in support of Rep. David Byrd’s re-election campaign, likening him to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and President Donald Trump and saying the lawmaker is the victim of “lies & fake news” spread by liberals.

Stand with Coach DAVID BYRD for State House!

What does Representative DAVID BYRD have in common with President Trump & Judge Brett Kavanaugh? They’re all being attacked by unhinged liberals & FAKE NEWS with false accusations because they’re fighting for our conservative agenda! Don't buy their desperate lies…

Posted by Keep Tennessee Republican on Thursday, September 27, 2018

Three women alleged in March report by WSMV-TV that Byrd (R-Waynesboro) had inappropriately touched and kissed them as teenagers while he was their 28-year-old high school basketball coach. One of the women secretly recorded a telephone call to Byrd in which he apologized and told her how “hard it has been for me” to live with his actions with the woman who was a 15-year-old student at the time.

House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) promptly called for Byrd’s resignation. Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) soon followed suit. Byrd issued a statement after the story broke, stating that he has done nothing wrong over his two terms as a state representative and expressing disappointment that Harwell “so quickly turned her back on me.”

Byrd’s image wasn’t helped by revelations that he served as a character witness in 2013 for a family friend who as a 23-year-old teacher pleaded guilty to statutory rape of a 16-year-old student. WSMV reported that Byrd, then the principal of Wayne County High School, told the court that he believed the defendant had learned his lesson and that he would “hire him in a minute” if he were able to teach again.

The AP reports that a national political action committee aimed at preventing politicians accused of sexual misconduct from being re-elected is now targeting Byrd.