Legislature

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.

Veteran Rep. Steve McDaniel won’t seek reelection

New release from Rep. Steve McDaniel

PARKER’S CROSSROADS, Tenn. – House Deputy Speaker Steve McDaniel (R-Parker’s Crossroads) announced today that he will not be a candidate for reelection in 2018. McDaniel made the announcement during his annual community meetings tour in Henderson, Chester and Perry Counties.

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Fitzhugh calls for special session on Medicaid expansion

News release from House Democratic Caucus

Nashville—House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh is calling for Gov. Bill Haslam to convene a special session of the legislature in the wake of the Graham-Cassidy bill failing to garner enough votes in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

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Anthem protests inspire TN legislation; Titans boycott by one senator

Citing cases of “overt disrespect to our national anthem and flag,” State Rep. Judd Matheny has filed legislation that would block state government from providing funding or economic incentives to professional sport teams and privately-owned amateur teams. Matheny, R-Tullahoma, is currently a candidate for the 6th Congressional District seat.

State Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, meanwhile, says he’s boycotting Tennessee Titans games and will donate funds equal to the cost of five tickets to charities.

News releases from both legislators are below.

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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.

UT says only private donations will fund LGBT pride center

The University of Tennessee Knoxville is using private funds to operate its LGBT pride center following last year’s decision by state lawmakers to strip state dollars from the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, reports the News Sentinel.

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TNGOP legislators headed to constitutional convention planning session

News release from Senate Republican Caucus

NASHVILLE – The seven Tennessee lawmakers representing the state at a Balanced Budget Amendment Planning Convention in Phoenix, Arizona next Tuesday have filed a resolution to begin the process of preparing for an Article V convention.

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Fitzhugh floats Lady Vols as issue for legislature, guber campaign

State House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh will bring his campaign for governor to the University of Tennessee Knoxville campus Friday and announce that he’s filing a legislative resolution urging the school to reinstate the Lady Vols name, reports the News Sentinel.

Fitzhugh.. said he plans to introduce the nonbinding resolution during the 2018 session and, if elected governor and de facto chair of the UT Board of Trustees, he will put the resolution before the university’s governing board.

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Online voter registration comes to Tennessee

The Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office has initiated what WPLN calls a “soft launch”of a system that allows Tennesseans to register as voters online, as authorized under a law enacted by the Legislature in 2016 that took effect July 1 of this year.

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Conflict seen in TN laws to prevent child sexual abuse and to restrict sex education

Organizations pushing Tennessee schools to expand their child sexual abuse prevention efforts say they face resistance from educators worried about violating a state law putting restrictions on sex education classes, reports The Tennessean.

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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