Interim successor to Pody picked for House District 46: Clark Boyd, former county GOP chair

Clark Boyd, the owner of a Lebanon insurance agency who ran unsuccessfully against Mae Beavers in the 2014 Republican primary for the state Senate District 17 seat, was chosen by the Wilson County Commission Wednesday evening to serve as a state representative on an interim basis. He is also a former Wilson County GOP chairman.

Boyd replaces former Rep. Mark Pody,  who resigned the House District 46 seat after winning a special election to succeed Beavers in the Senate. With his appointment, the House is back to a full 99 members.

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Knox County school board renews lobbying contract, criticizes legislators

The Knox County Schools Board of Education voted to continue paying for lobbying at the Legislature Wednesday after a discussion that included criticism of legislators, reports the News Sentinel.

“It’s been our local lawmakers pushing forward on harmful legislation that has impacted our schools and all schools in Tennessee,” said board member Jennifer Owen. “They accuse board members of only being interested in what teachers want and refuse to acknowledge the decades of experience many of us have in education.”

The board voted 7-2 to approve the funding for the lobbying group, Millsaps Gowan Government Relations. Knox County Schools will pay the group $37,500 to renew the contract it shares with the three other largest school districts across the state.  (Note: That’s known as the Coalition of Large School Systems.)

…”Our legislators refuse to listen to us in meetings and have gone so far as to insult board members in person and deny us access to meetings they have with teachers,” Owen went on. “It’s sad we need a lobbying group to let our legislators hear our concerns rather than have them shared by our own representatives.”

…’Myself personally and other members of the board have reached out numerous times to this delegation and tried to grow our relationship with them,” said board member Amber Rountree.

She said the board “does not have a relationship with the delegation where we’re on the same page.”

“I would be open to suggestions on how we can foster a positive relationship because I know I’m not the only one who has tried to work with our representatives and have a conversation that involves empirical data showing that things like Pre-K are absolutely essential,” Rountree said.

“We have experienced some adverse legislation from our delegation, but I think that speaks to our responsibility to get the types of things into legislation that we want,” Norman said. “To go ahead and spend this kind of money on a lobbyist when it’s our responsibility, I just don’t agree with it, so I’ll be voting against it.”

‘Myself personally and other members of the board have reached out numerous times to this delegation and tried to grow our relationship with them,” said board member Amber Rountree. She said the board “does not have a relationship with the delegation where we’re on the same page.”

Medicaid expansion: Still pushed by Democrats, panned by Republicans

On the opening day of the 2018 legislative session Tuesday, about 100 protesters were on hand urging Medicaid expansion in Tennessee and House Democrats made a round of speeches supporting the idea. But Republican supermajority members remained hostile to the proposal, as they have since Gov. Bill Haslam tried and failed to win approval three years ago.

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McNally realigns Senate committees

Press release from Lt. Gov. Randy McNally

NASHVILLE — Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) today announced state Senate committee assignment changes for the second annual session of the 110th General Assembly. The changes come as a result of the resignation of three Senate members since the legislature adjourned in May. Two of the resigning senators, Doug Overbey and Jim Tracy, accepted presidential appointments.

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At least 18 events held in legislators’ last-minute fundraising rush

At least 18 state legislators, leadership PACs or party caucuses held fundraising events just ahead of today’s 2018 opening session of the General Assembly, reports the Times Free Press, basing the estimate on lobbyists keeping count of invitations received.

When the session begins at noon today, a blackout on fundraising begins that will continue until the end of the session or May 15, whichever comes first (and most think the session will end in April this year).

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ACU legislator ratings: TN Senate more conservative than House

The American Conservative Union Foundation has produced its rating of Tennessee legislators for 2017, giving the state Senate an overall average score of 86 and the House an average of 70 percent in voting the way the group wanted on selected issues.

The average for Republicans in the Senate was 91 percent; for Democrats 57 percent. In the House, Republicans averaged 82 percent; Democrats 34 percent. One could thus draw the not-too-surprising inference that the Senate is notably more divided on a partisan basis than the House — and overall more conservative.

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Rep. John Forgety, R-Athens, won’t seek reelection in House District 23

Republican state Rep. John Forgety of Athens, chairman of the House Education Instructions and Program Committee, has announced he will retire from the legislature after completing his fourth term in 2018.

Forgety, 71, a former teacher and military veteran, announced his decision in this letter, published by the Daily Post Athenian, and addressed to “the citizens of the 23rd District of the Tennessee House of Representatives of McMinn and Monroe counties”:

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Sixteen of 493 TN laws approved in 2017 take effect on New Year’s Day

Sixteen of the 493 general laws approved by the Tennessee General Assembly in 2017 take effect on Jan. 1, 2018. Most took effect either on the day signed by the governor or on July 1, 2017.

Some of those effective with the new year:

-Tennessee’s version of a “Campus Free Speech Act,” which says public institutions of higher learning cannot deny student activity fees to student organizations based on their viewpoints and cannot bar guest speakers invited to campus by students or faculty because the speaker’s speech might be considered offensive or otherwise disagreeable.

-The state Alcoholic Beverage Commission loses its authority to enforce state laws prohibiting the sale and use of marijuana. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation will have primary authority for enforcing such laws at the state level.

-There will a $50 fine for driving while using a cell phone within a school zone.

-New school bus drivers will be required to go through a training program and a new system for overseeing the bus drivers is established.

The Legislature’s website summarizes each of the 16 laws effective with the new year HERE. The full list of all 493 laws enacted during the 2017 legislative session —  officially known as public chapters until duly “codified” as part of state statutes as one of the first acts of the following year’s legislature — is HERE.

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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AG finds fault with bill on in-state tuition for illegal immigrant children

Attorney General Herbert Slatery says state lawmakers, not officials at Tennessee’s public colleges and universities, must decide whether to offer in-state tuition breaks for students whose parents brought or kept them in the country illegally.

The opinion was requested by Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, and deals with HB660, a bill that would give schools the authority to make decisions.

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