Randy McNally

Pody wants to recall ‘Heartbeat Bill’ to Senate floor

State Sen. Mark Pody wants the Senate to overrule a decision by its Judiciary Committee to send an anti-abortion bill to be studied after the session has adjourned for the year. The Lebanon Republican wants the full chamber to vote on the measure seeking to ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Pody has filed paperwork with the Senate clerk to hold a recall vote as soon as the next floor session on Wednesday. It would take 17 votes for the measure to get a floor vote as early as next week.

UPDATE: Pody didn’t make the motion during Wednesday’s floor session, but could do so at any time.

The House passed the so-called “Heartbeat Bill” earlier this session. But the Senate agreed with Tennessee Right to Life’s assessment that the measure was likely to lose in a court challenge and that a better approach would be to set a ban of most abortions in Tennessee that would “trigger” in the event the U.S. Supreme Court overturns all or part of Roe v. Wade.

A House subcommittee killed the trigger bill, while the heartbeat bill languished in the Senate. The impasse created the very real possibility that both bills might be defeated for the year. But the House reconsidered when Rep. Ron Gant (R-Rossville) last week made the motion to revive the trigger measure by pulling it directly to the full Health Committee. That recall required a majority of all eligible voting members in the committee (including the House speaker). In the case of the Health Health panel, the minimum threshold was 11 votes. The recall received 12, so it will be on this week’s calendar.

Pody’s version of the heartbeat bill was sent to summer study on a 5-3 vote, with Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) voicing strong support for the move.

‘Heartbeat bill’ sent to summer study

Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), center, attends an economic development announcement in Nashville. At left is Gov. Bill Lee and on the right is House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin). (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal).

The Senate Judiciary Committee has decided to punt on a bill seeking to ban abortions in Tennessee once a fetal heartbeat is detected. The House passed the measure in a floor vote, but the Senate decided not to proceed over concerns about a successful legal challenge.

Here’s what Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) had to say after the committee action on Wednesday:

I fully support the deliberative approach the Judiciary Committee is taking on the Heartbeat Bill. As someone who believes life begins at conception, I support the bill philosophically. But constitutionally, as Tennessee Right to Life points out, the bill is flawed in its current form. Amendment One put the abortion industry on the ropes in Tennessee. We have done all we can to defund Planned Parenthood. We have put in place reasonable restrictions to help prevent abortion. Passing a constitutionally suspect bill now would give the courts an opportunity to erase the progress we have made. And a losing court fight would likely result in awarding taxpayer money to Planned Parenthood. Protection of the unborn is too important to risk taking a step backward. I appreciate the sponsor bringing this legislation. It deserves the best possible chance for success. But that chance can only be achieved by careful study.

Here’s your Bill Lee inauguration gallery

Bill Lee delivers his inaugural address in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Bill Lee delivers his inaugural address in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee, bottom left, looks on as his Cabinet takes the oath of office in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig Tennessee Journal)

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Johnson elected Senate majority leader, Yager wins caucus chairmanship

Senate Republicans have elected Jack Johnson of Franklin as majority leader and Ken Yager of Kingston as Republican caucus chairman. Sen. Randy McNally was unopposed for another term as speaker.

Johnson defeated Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville, while Yager won on the first ballot against Sens. Becky Duncan Massey of Knoxville and Brian Kelsey of Germantown.

The majority leader position was vacated by former Sen. Mark Norris of Collierville, who has become a federal judge in Memphis. The caucus chairmanship was open because former Sen. Bill Ketron was elected Rutherford County mayor.

The next scramble will be over who replaces Johnson as chairman of the Commerce Committee and Yager as chairman of the State and Local Government Committee.

Here’s a statement from Speaker McNally:

Jack Johnson will be an outstanding Senate Majority Leader. He has the experience, temperament and policy expertise to lead our caucus and the Senate to new heights. Jack has been intimately involved in the progress we have made as a state. Beginning with his transformation of the Government Operations Committee to his strong leadership on the Commerce Committee, Jack has put conservative ideas into action on behalf of the people of Tennessee. As we embark on a new era in Tennessee state government, Jack’s leadership will be critical. Congratulations, Leader Johnson.

Ken Yager has the depth of skill and breadth of experience to excel as chairman of our Senate Republican Caucus. As a county executive and chairman of the Senate State and Local Committee, he has demonstrated an ability to lead under pressure. Our caucus has achieved much success both in policy and in politics. I expect that success to continue under Ken Yager’s leadership. Congratulations, Chairman Yager.

The Senate is fortunate to have a membership full of capable and talented leaders. I am confident the team we have elected today will work together with Governor Lee and the state House to keep Tennessee the best state in the nation in which to live, work and raise a family.

 

Former state Senate GOP leader Ben Atchley dies

Former state Senate Republican leader Ben Atchley of Knoxville has died, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. He was 88.

A statement from Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge):

Ben Atchley was the very definition of a statesman. He always did what was right and never sought credit for his accomplishments — which were many. He never shied away from hard decisions and his integrity was unquestioned. As Senate Republican Leader for 16 years, his work ensured Republicans had a seat at the table in the minority and laid the groundwork for our eventual majority. Both he and Sue provided the Senate and the Republican Party with so much and yet asked little in return. You can trace the lineage of all our success as a party and as a state back to the leadership he provided. He was a great man and a great senator. My heart goes out to Sue and the entire Atchley family in this time of mourning. Tennessee’s gentle giant has passed. I will miss him.

Late-night calls deemed ‘outrageous’ by legislator, a timing error by sponsor

State Sen. Kerry Roberts and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) are calling for multiple investigations after robocalls from the Tennessee Justice Center criticizing Roberts’ TennCare work requirements legislation went out in the middle of the night Thursday, reports the Nashville Post.

“These robocalls are outrageous and the information disseminated is false and misleading,” said Roberts (R-Springfield). “They were conducted in the middle of night with the call back number, for those who thought that it might be a dire emergency due to the late hour, going to my legislative office which is completely deceptive.”

However, the TJC — a nonprofit that assists state families with TennCare, Medicaid and Medicare eligibility and appeals — insists the error was not malicious.

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McNally blocks Senate vote on Harwell’s work-for-Medicaid bill

House Speaker Beth Harwell was caught “completely off guard” Thursday when Senate Speaker Randy McNally stopped a scheduled floor vote on her House-approved bill that imposes work requirements on some able-bodied adult Medicaid enrollees, reports the Times Free Press.

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Speakers retaliate against California: No state-paid travel to NCSL convention

From an AP report, as appearing in a California newspaper:

Tennessee’s Republican House and Senate leaders say the state isn’t paying lawmakers or staffers to attend a California legislative summit.

In a letter Thursday, Senate Speaker Randy McNally and House Speaker Beth Harwell said the state won’t cover the National Conference of State Legislatures conference trip in Los Angeles because of California’s ban on state-paid trips to Tennessee.

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McNally joins 18 other GOP state senators in blessing Blackburn campaign

Press release from Marsha Blackburn campaign

Brentwood, TN –  Today, Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally announced his endorsement of Marsha Blackburn for U.S. Senate. His endorsement follows a majority of Republican state Senators announcing their support, and it is another clear sign that Tennesseans are rallying behind Blackburn for Senate.

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Speakers quietly drop hand-held sign ban at Cordell Hull

The Tennessee Legislature has quietly revised its “Facility Use Policies” to remove a ban on all signs within the Cordell Hull building. Moving forward, “small letter sized signs that do not obstruct the view of visitors are acceptable,” according to the policy.

Under the previous set of rules, all signs were banned, regardless of whether they were hand-held or mounted to sticks or poles. The fact that this was done in the name of preventing “a serious safety hazard to visors and tenants” was the cause of much mockery because it was imposed alongside a new policy allowing handgun carry permit holders to be armed within the building.

House Democrats announced Wednesday that Rep. Sherry Jones (D-Nashville) had requested a legal opinion from state Attorney General Herbert Slatery about whether ban on “hand-carried signs and signs on hand sticks” violates the First Amendment. Jones’ letter is dated Jan. 11.

House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) and Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) signed the revised policy on Jan. 3.

Note: This post comes via Erik Schelzig, editor of the Tennessee Journal. Previous post on the policy, HERE.