Erik Schelzig

Editor, The Tennessee Journal

Lee to introduce sweeping bill to restrict abortions in Tennessee

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference about his plan to introduce sweeping legislation to restrict access to abortions in Tennessee. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee is proposing a sweeping bill aimed at restricting access to abortions in Tennessee. The bill would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected and would require women to undergo an ultrasound before seeking to terminate a pregnancy.

The bill includes a “ladder” approach of severerability clauses to that would keep provisions of the law in place if certain components are thrown out in court. For example, if the heartbeat provision doesn’t pass muster, the state could enact a ban at eight weeks, ten weeks or 12 weeks, depending what stands up in court.

Here’s the release from the governor’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Gov. Bill Lee announced that he will submit comprehensive pro-life legislation to the Tennessee General Assembly this year, including the prohibition of an abortion where a fetal heartbeat exists. This legislation would make Tennessee one of the most pro-life states in the country.

“I believe that every human life is precious, and we have a responsibility to protect it,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “Today, Tennessee is taking a monumental step in celebrating, cherishing, and defending life at every stage. I’m grateful to be joined by so many leaders in our state who are boldly standing up for our most vulnerable.”

This legislation would build upon successes in other states while incorporating innovative approaches to enhance existing law, including provisions such as:

  • Prohibiting an abortion where a fetal heartbeat exists;
  • Requiring a mother to undergo an ultrasound prior to an abortion;
  • Prohibiting an abortion where the physician is aware that the decision to seek an abortion is motivated by the race, sex, or health or disability diagnosis of the unborn child. 

To protect against legal challenges, the new law would also include a creative “ladder” provision, modeled after Missouri law, of sequential abortion prohibitions at two-week gestational age intervals, along with severability clauses for each step of the ladder.

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Hagerty announces $1.5M haul in fourth quarter

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bill Hagerty speaks at Nashville event on Dec. 3, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bill Hagerty raised more than $1.5 million in the fourth quarter, his campaign announced Thursday. That brings his total haul to $3.4 million since joining the race. He has spent about $400,000 on his effort so far.

Here’s the release from the Hagerty camp:

Nashville, TN — Team Hagerty today announced Bill Hagerty raised more than $1.5 million in his second quarter as a candidate for U.S. Senate. This builds on the success from his first quarter as a candidate, in which he raised $1.9 million in just 22 days. In just four months, Hagerty raised a total of $3.4 million. Team Hagerty has over $3 million cash on hand. 

“Team Hagerty is building momentum every single day, and we are so grateful for this outpouring of support,” said Bill Hagerty. “These resources are critical as we work to share my conservative message with Tennesseans across the state. Together, we will bring Tennessee’s Christian, conservative values to the Senate and defeat Chuck Schumer’s hand-picked liberal candidate.”

Speaking about the fourth quarter, Team Hagerty Finance Chair Steve Smith added, “Bill Hagerty is running a strong grassroots campaign that is quickly garnering support all across the state. Bill is the only candidate ready to work with President Trump on day one, and Tennesseans are excited that their Senator will be able to work so closely with the President on their behalf. Team Hagerty is strongly positioned to defeat Chuck Schumer’s radically liberal candidate in November, and we are not going to let our foot off the gas.”

Hagerty earned President Trump’s “complete and total” endorsement while serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan. Donald Trump Jr. is coming to Tennessee on January 28th in support of Hagerty’s campaign.

Capitol Commission won’t vote on Forrest bust at next meeting

Finance Commissioner Stuart McWhorter, left, participates in a meeting of the State Funding Board in Nashville on Jan. 21, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A long-awaited meeting of the State Capitol Commission next month won’t decide the fate of the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust located outside the House and Senate chambers.

Finance Commissioner Stuart McWhorter told reporters on Tuesday that he envisions a series of at least two meetings to sound out supporters and opponents of moving the bust of the former slave trader, Confederate general, and early leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

Even if the Capitol Commission were to seek a waiver under the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act to remove the bust, a lengthy process would ensue. The State Historical Commision must wait at least 60 days to hold an initial hearing once a petition is filed. A final hearing can’t take place until at least 180 days after that. And any determination made by the panel (it would take two-thirds of the members to remove the monument) would have to wait 120 days from the final notice being posted on its website from going into effect.

And of course not of that takes into account any likely court challenges.

In other words, it’s going to be a while. Unless lawmakers decide to jump start the process by filing legislation to bypass the hurdles put in place by the Heritage Protection Act.

7 Tennessee companies get top rating from Human Rights Campaign

Seven Tennessee-based companies received the highest rating for their policies toward LGBTQ employees in the latest Corporate Equality Index by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. They are AllianceBernstein, Asurion, Bass Berry & Sims, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Genesco, Haven Behavioral Healthcare, and Unum Group.

Seven other companies rated at below 40 on the group’s 100-point scale: Autozone, International Paper, Community Health Systems, Delek Holdings, Envision Healthcare, Lifepoint Health, and Tractor Supply Company. The last two received zero out of 100.

Here’s the full release from the Human Rights Campaign:

WASHINGTON – America’s leading companies and law firms are stepping up in record numbers to adopt increasingly forward-looking policies and practices to meet the needs of their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) workers in the U.S. and abroad, according to the 2020 Corporate Equality Index (CEI) released today by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization.

In the most rigorous assessment of LGBTQ-inclusive workplace policies and practices to date, a record of more than 680 companies have been designated a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality by the HRC Foundation for their efforts in satisfying all of the CEI’s criteria results, earning them a 100 percent rating. Top-scoring companies include seven in Tennessee.

In total, 1059 companies and law firms were officially rated in the new CEI, up from 1028 in last year’s survey. The report also unofficially rated 122 Fortune 500 companies, which have yet to respond to an invitation to participate in the CEI survey assessing their LGBTQ policies and practices. The average score for companies and law firms based in Tennessee is 70 percent. Of the 25 companies ranked, seven earned 100 points, 13 earned 90 points and above, and 15 earned 80 points and above.

For the first time, HRC this year is giving special recognition to the 11 companies that earned top marks on all three of HRC’s workplace equality assessments: the CEI, as well as Equidad MX and Equidad CL. HRC’s groundbreaking Equidad program recognizes Latin American companies and U.S. multinational companies for their work in Mexico and Chile.

“These companies know that protecting their LGBTQ employees and customers from discrimination is not just the right thing to do — it is also the best business decision. In addition, many of these leaders are also advocating for the LGBTQ community and equality under the law in the public square,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “From supporting LGBTQ civil rights protections in the U.S. through HRC’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act, to featuring transgender and non-binary people in an ad in Argentina, to advocating for marriage equality in Taiwan — businesses understand their LGBTQ employees and customers deserve to be seen, valued and respected not only at work, but in every aspect of daily life.”

Employer Headquarters Location State 2020 CEI Rating
AllianceBernstein LP Nashville TN 100
Asurion LLC Nashville TN 100
Bass, Berry & Sims PLC Nashville TN 100
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Chattanooga TN 100
Genesco Inc. Nashville TN 100
Haven Behavioral Healthcare Nashville TN 100
Unum Group Chattanooga TN 100
Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC Memphis TN 90
Bridgestone Americas Holding Inc. Nashville TN 90
Change Healthcare Nashville TN 90
Dollar General Corp. Goodlettsville TN 90
Eastman Chemical Co. Kingsport TN 90
Nissan North America Inc. Franklin TN 90
FedEx Corp. Memphis TN 85
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. Lebanon TN 80
First Horizon National Corp. Memphis TN 75
HCA – Hospital Corporation of America Nashville TN 70
Regal Entertainment Group Knoxville TN 60
AutoZone Inc. Memphis TN 40
International Paper Co. Memphis TN 30
Community Health Systems, Inc. Franklin TN 20
Delek US Holdings Brentwood TN 20
Envision Healthcare Holdings Inc. Nashville TN 20
LifePoint Health Brentwood TN 0
Tractor Supply Company Brentwood TN 0

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New Manny Sethi ad focuses on faith

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi has released a new ad titled “Faith.”

“I gave my life to Christ after my dad died when I was 22 and realized my greatest calling is to serve others. So I went to medical school and became a trauma surgeon,” Sethi says in the spot. “I’ve tried to honor my dad’s memory, serving the Lord with medicine, trying to make a difference, working with the least of these. Now, there’s another place where I think I can make a difference: the United States Senate. ”

Here’s the ad:

Alexander open to witnesses in Trump impeachment trial

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) attends an event at the state Capitol in Nashville on Dec. 17, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) is open to hearing from additional witnesses during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. He also says he would vote against any motion to dismiss the charges against the president.

“I’m going to listen to the arguments, listen to the questions and then I’m going to decide whether I believe we need additional documents from additional witnesses,” Alexander said in response to a reporter in Washington. “That’s precisely what they did in the Clinton impeachment that was a hundred to zero vote for that procedure and I think that’s good precedent.”

Alexander added in a statement:

I think we should hear the case. We have a constitutional duty to do that. That means to me, number one, hear the arguments. Number two, to ask our questions. Number three, to be guaranteed the right to vote on whether we need additional evidence following hearing the case. Evidence could be witnesses, it could be documents.

 

An Easter adjournment? McNally hopes to make it so

Legislative leaders kick off the joint convention to inaugurate Gov. Bill Lee in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. From left at podium are House Majority Leader William Lamberth, Senate Speaker Randy McNally, Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, and then-House Speaker Glen Casada. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Senate Speaker Randy McNally tells colleagues he wants to get the legislative session wrapped up by the week of Easter, which falls on April 12 this year.

The Oak Ridge Republican acknowledged that sessions tend to last at least a week longer than targeted adjournment dates, but committees will be shutting down with an eye toward getting incumbents out on the campaign trail — and raising money (which is banned while the General Assembly is in session).

Last year’s adjournment fell on May 2, while lawmakers in 2018 got out of town on April 25.

“We set these dates and usually we get pretty close, but usually it runs over a week,” he said. “We’ll try to get all the bills on notice, the governor presents his budget on Feb. 1, and we should be ready to rock ‘n’ roll.”

Byrd confirms he won’t run for another term in House

Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) attends a House Republican Caucus meeting in Nashville on Jan. 14, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Embattled state Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) has confirmed to The Tennessean he won’t seek re-election this fall.

“At this point I’m still not running,” said Byrd, who pledged in a closed door caucus meeting in August he won’t run again.

Byrd has been under fire since former high school basketball players made sexual misconduct allegations against Byrd dating back to when he was their coach in the 1980s.

Byrd was overwhelmingly re-elected in 2018 despite the allegations. He has been the subject of regular protests. The lawmaker suggested that the demonstrators might get him to change his mind.

“If I get harassed and bullied, then I’ll definitely rethink my position about running.

Former Savannah City Manager Garry Welch announced earlier this month  he will seek the GOP nomination for the House District 71 seat currently held by Byrd. The district covers all of Hardin, Lewis, and Wayne counties and part of Lawrence.

Casada considering bid for vacant whip position

Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) greets colleagues during a House Republican Caucus meeting in Nashville on Jan. 14, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A proposal to allow the House majority whip position to remain vacant for the rest of the year has been abandoned and the caucus now plans to hold a vote on Jan. 27. Speculation immediately turned to whether Rep. Glen Casada, who was driven from the House speakership last year, might jump in the race.

Casada (R-Franklin) tells The Tennessee Journal he hasn’t yet made up his mind. But it wouldn’t be the first time he’s made a leadership rebound. Casada was widely seen as the Republican favorite to be nominated speaker in 2010, not least because of the fierce opposition by then-ascendant tea party forces to Beth Harwell’s bid. But Casada ended up losing to Harwell (R-Nashville).

Instead of sending him into internal exile, Harwell decided to keep Casada in the fold by naming him chairman of the Health Committee. He received high marks in that role but was soon back to focusing on politics over policy after winning back his former post as House Republican Caucus chairman two years later. But Casada increasingly became a thorn in Harwell’s side in that role (and later as majority leader) by encouraging GOP colleagues to pursue hot-button bills as he began preparing for his own speaker’s bid.

The House majority whip’s main responsibility in election years is to oversee incumbents’ reelection efforts. The position is open because of the resignation of Rep. Rick Tillis (R-Lewisburg) amid a caucus fight over anonymous Twitter posts. The post has previously been held by the likes of Rep. Timothy Hill (R-Blountville) and former Rep. Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin).

The latest edition of the Blue Book is yellow

This year’s version of the Tennessee Blue Book honors the 100th anniversary of the state’s ratification of 19th Amendment granting women  the right to vote. The book’s cover is yellow — the color of the women’s suffrage movement. It’s the first time the bianniel volume has appeared in a non-blue cover since the 2013-2014 edition, which was orange to honor Lady Vols basketball coach Pat Summit. About half of that year’s edition appeared with the orange cover, while almost all of the newest version will appear in yellow.

Blue Books had white covers for much of the 1960s and early 1970s. They changed over to the familiar blue covers for in 1975.

Here’s the release from the Secretary of State’s office.

Nashville, Tenn. – The 2019-2020 edition of the Tennessee Blue Book, released this week, honors the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote.
 
Initially introduced to Congress in 1878, the 19th Amendment was not submitted to the states for ratification for 41 years. On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th (and final) state needed to ratify the 19th Amendment, thereby making women’s suffrage legal in the United States.
 
“This commemorative edition honors the steadfast efforts of Tennessee suffragists and the pivotal role Tennessee played in ratifying the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “It is fitting to dedicate our state’s official historical reference, the Tennessee Blue Book, to this significant milestone.”
 
The cover of the 2019-2020 Tennessee Blue Book is yellow, honoring the symbolic color of the national women’s suffrage movement.
 
Published every two years, the Tennessee Blue Book is the definitive manual on Tennessee state government. It features detailed information about all three branches of government, Tennessee state history, biographies of elected and appointed state officials, census data, election statistics, and more.
 
The 2019-2020 Blue Book, published by the Secretary of State’s office, is available free of charge to any Tennessee resident through members of the General Assembly or the Division of Publications at (615) 741-2650 or publications.information@tn.gov.
 
Previous editions of the Tennessee Blue Book can be viewed at sos.tn.gov.