Monthly Archives: April 2022

How soon we forget? Senate numbering was part of 1981 challenge

Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) attends a floor session on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican senators have argued it’s OK for them to have ignored constitutional provisions requiring consecutively-numbered districts in counties with more than one seat. Similar arrangements have occurred in the past, they said, and nobody challenged them. Not so, according to the historical record.

Following the passage of legislative redistricing plans in 1981, independent state Sen. Bill Jim Davis, an independent from Covington, sued to block the new maps. Among his allegations was that the plan had failed to consecutively number districts in counties with with more than one senator. The plan was thrown out in chancery court, but the judge reserved a ruling on the numbering issue because he had already determined the maps to be unconstitutional for other reasons.

The state Supreme Court took up an appeal, and ultimately lifted an injunction against holding elections using the new maps. But the court ordered legislature to come up with new maps that met constitutional muster — including over district numbers.

According to the opinion written by the late Justice Frank Drowota:

In addition to equal protection, preserving minority voting strength, and not crossing county lines, constitutional standards which must be dealt with in any plan include contiguity of territory and consecutive numbering of districts.

The state is appealing a ruling by a three-judge panel throwing out the new Senate maps approved in January. The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to skip the intermediate Court of Appeals in taking up the case.

New TNJ alert: Back to the drawing board, hanging around after the budget, and ivermectin for all

The Tennessee Senate meets on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The new print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here is what’s in it:

— Back to the drawing board? Republicans scramble to draw new Senate maps in case their appeal of redistricting order falls short.

— Not so super? New law establishing three-judge panels to evaluate redistricting challenges didn’t prevent embarrassing ruling against GOP.

— Long goodbye or veto override opportunity: House plans to hang around for two weeks after passing budget.

— Legislative roundup: Smoking ban, ivermectin for anyone asking, school board hubbubs, public records.

Also: Ford gets “spun up” about takeover of West Tennessee town’s finances, Slatery names a new chief deputy, Windle goes independent, and lawmakers want guidance for motorists about how to behave during traffic stops.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

State files appeal of order halting new Tennessee Senate maps

Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) presides over the chamber on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Attorney General’s Office has filed a challenge to a three-judge panel’s order halting Tenenssee Senate redistricting maps with the state Court of Appeals. The state is also asking the court to lift an injunction on the current districts and reverse the decision to move the candidate filing deadline from today until May 5.

“The trial court’s injunction requires Defendants to immediately and drastically modify the already-ongoing procedures for elections,” the state said in its appeal. A motion for the Supreme Court to reach down and bypass the intermediate Court of Appeals is expected on Friday.

The state requests an expedited review of its appeal (though the plaintiffs will no doubt be sure to point out that the state successfully opposed efforts to expedite their case on the trial court level to go to summary judgement by March 9).

According the state:

The trial court’s decision to extend the qualifying deadline to May 5, 2022 throws this process into disarray. Now the withdrawal and disqualification deadlines are May 12, 2022, and the appeal deadline and state executive committee review deadline are May 19, 2022. The injunction leaves only 21 business days for the county election administrators to do everything that is necessary to have ballots ready to mail to military and overseas voters by the federal deadline.

The appeal plows similar ground as the state’s original response to the lawsuit, which includes arguments that the plaintiffs don’t have standing, won’t be harmed by the new maps, and waited too long to file their lawsuit.

Lee’s out-of-state recruiting campaign lands 11 troopers

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference in Nashville on March 22, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee’s push to recruit new Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers from other states has resulted in 11 people joining the ranks.

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

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced efforts to recruit out of state law enforcement to the Tennessee Highway Patrol have netted early results as the administration focuses on proven crime prevention methods and addressing law enforcement staff shortages

“Just last week, we welcomed five new troopers to our ranks from across the country to strengthen public safety,” said Gov. Lee. “I challenge these new Tennesseans to recruit their former colleagues to the best agency in the country as we continue to welcome troopers nationwide to join us in Tennessee.”

Last fall, Gov. Lee’s nationwide pitch offered out of state troopers incentives to move to Tennessee and join the Tennessee Highway Patrol. So far, early recruiting efforts have brought 11 new troopers who bring new skills and diverse experience to the ranks.

Out of state law enforcement officials interested in joining the Tennessee Highway Patrol can learn more at

In addition to recruitment efforts, Gov. Lee has focused on proven crime prevention and key public safety investments to directly support law enforcement across Tennessee:

— Creation of a $150 million Violent Crime Intervention Fund for law enforcement agencies across the state to invest in evidence-based programming and resources

— $30 million to support relocation bonuses for out-of-state police officers seeking to move to Tennessee

— Expansion of state funding for law enforcement basic training and increasing the frequency of training for new recruits

— Access to a statewide hiring portal that includes qualified law enforcement recruits from outside of Tennessee who are looking to relocate

Read more about Gov. Lee’s statewide public safety agenda here.

Judges block state Senate redistricting plan, let House maps stand

Rep. John Mark Windle (D-Livingston), left, walks to look at a proposed House redistricting map on Dec. 17, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A three-judge panel has issued an injunction against Tennessee’s new state Senate maps, but allowed the House plan to stand.

The panel in a 2-1 decision enjoined Senate elections from moving forward under the original timetable, ordering lawmakers to come up with new maps to fix defects within 15 days. If they can’t meet the deadline, the court will come up with its own interim plan. The order moves the candidate filing deadline for Senate candidates from Thursday to May 5.

The lawsuit backed by the state Democratic Party argued Senate Republicans failed to meet a requirement in the state constitution that multiple districts within single counties must be consecutively numbered.

The ruling came from Nashville Chancellor Russell Perkins and Bradley County Circuit Judge J. Michael Sharp. Jackson Chancellor Steven W. Maroney dissented.

As The Tennessee Journal has previously reported:

Under the new state Senate maps, Republican Sen. Ferrell Haile’s District 18 no longer extends from its Sumner County base into the eastern sliver of Nashville. GOP mapmakers instead added about 68,000 people from the city’s diverse Antioch area to neighboring Republican Sen. Mark Pody’s District 17 in Wilson County. The changes, Democrats note, mean the four Senate districts meeting in Metro Nashville are no longer sequentially numbered (the Democratic seats are the 19th, 20th, and 21st).

The Tennessee Constitution’s language is unambiguous when it comes to the topic: “In a county having more than one senatorial district, the districts shall be numbered consecutively.” The idea behind the requirement is that since odd and even numbered districts’ four-year terms are staggered, counties shouldn’t have a disproportionate number turn over at the same time.

Republicans followed the numbering requirement in neighboring Williamson County, which became too large to accommodate Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson’s old District 23. After handing off a 32,000-person area to Sen. Joey Hensley’s District 28, Johnson’s seat was renumbered as the 27th. Similarly, Sen. Bill Powers’ District 22 in Montgomery County had 3,977 too many residents, so fellow Republican Sen. Kerry Roberts picked them up and had his district renumbered from 25 to 23.

When challenged about the disparity in the floor debate [in January], Johnson said there were previous examples of nonsequential districts when Democrats controlled the redistricting process. The Franklin Republican also warned that renumbering senators’ current districts could unconstitutionally shorten or extend their four-year terms. While other solutions are “not impossible, it’s quite impractical to meet that requirement,” Johnson said.

Harwell raises $350K for 5th District bid

House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) awaits Gov. Bill Haslam’s final State of the State address in Nashville on Jan. 29, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Associated Press)

Former state House Speaker Beth Harwell’s campaign announced she has raised $350,000 since joining the Republican primary for the open 5th Congressional District seat in February.

Here’s the release from the Harwell campaign:

NASHVILLE, TN – Today Republican Candidate for Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District, Beth Harwell, announced her campaign has raised nearly $350,000 since jumping into the race on February 24.

The campaign reported that 98% of contributions came from within the state of Tennessee.

“I am proud to have the support of so many Tennesseans as we campaign to bring some common sense to Washington,” said Beth Harwell. “We need someone in Congress who knows the needs of Tennessee and will fight to bring back American greatness. I intend to do just that.”

Beth is a teacher who made history in the state of Tennessee by becoming the first woman to serve as the Speaker of the House. Since then, she has fought to cut a record-breaking number of taxes, build up the charter school system for our children, and stand up against far-left policies that would destroy our state.

Beth is the conservative leader that will take our Tennessee values to Washington. It is clear from the support Beth has seen across the district that she is the best choice to represent Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District in Washington.

Rep. Eddie Mannis is latest to retire from House

The House meets at the state Capitol in Nashville on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Freshman Rep. Eddie Mannis is the latest Tennessee lawmaker to announce he won’t run again. The Knoxville businessman is the 10th Republican to decide against seeking re-election to the House this fall (see the full list here.)

Here’s the full announcement from Mannis:

“Yesterday, I informed my fellow Representatives of my intention to not seek reelection as Representative of District 18 in the State of Tennessee General Assembly.

As my guiding principle has always, and will always be, people before politics and partisanship, I wanted to publicly share the reasons behind my decision.

The recent passing of my dad has truly forced me to do a lot of soul searching. I have heard his final words, “Follow your heart,” over and over in my head. After weeks and weeks of prayer and conversations with my family and friends, I decided not to seek reelection when the 112th adjourns. It has been a very difficult decision, but I must truly follow my heart.

Serving in the Tennessee General Assembly has been one of the most challenging, yet fulfilling things I’ve ever done. Making decisions that impact people’s lives and livelihoods is a huge responsibility. I will always be grateful to the people of the State of Tennessee, Knox County, and District 18 for allowing me this opportunity.

It has also been an indescribable honor and privilege to serve with my fellow Representatives. While we haven’t always agreed on issues and I will no longer be serving alongside them, I will continue to support them in their efforts of working towards what is right and just, and what hopefully will make us all better Tennesseans.

I look forward to returning to my business ventures, working alongside my team who have made many sacrifices over the past several years. They have afforded me the opportunity to take on two very

hard-fought campaigns and serve the people of Tennessee for the past two years. I am also excited to restart HonorAir-Knoxville and get back to serving East Tennessee Veterans after a two-and-a-half-year break during the pandemic. Continuing to serve my community will remain one of the most important aspects of my life.

Although this is a bittersweet time for me, I leave hoping that it’s obvious that I’ve tried to make the best decisions possible based on my conscience and my desire to try and do what’s right. I am grateful. Thank you

Casada campaign literature hits mailboxes in Williamson County

Early voting for primaries in local races is nine days away, so voters’ mailboxes are getting inundated with campaign literature. In Williamson County, that includes a glossy item from state Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin), who is running for clerk.

Needless to say, the mailer makes no mention of Casada’s spectacular fall from the House speakership in 2019, or the ongoing federal probe into a shadowy mail vendor. Former Rep. Robin Smith (R-Hixson) in her recent guilty plea said she, Casada, and his onetime chief of staff Cade Cothren were secretly involved in establishing and promoting a company called Phoenix Solutions that landed business from the General Assembly and lawmakers.

Casada’s mailer features photos of his children and grandchildren. He touts his membership in the Brentwood Baptist Church and says he “started two successful small businesses.”

We assume the latter isn’t referring to Phoenix Solutions.

New TNJ alert: Awaiting more Phoenix fallout after grand jury testimony, lawmakers at odds over Ford labor disclosure rules, Lee declines to sign

Reps. Robin Smith (R-Hixson) and Mark Cochran (R-Englewood) are sworn into the 112th General Assembly on Jan. 12, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The new print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here is what’s in it:

— Waiting for the other shoe to drop after lawmakers’ grand jury testimony.

— Domed of Doomed? Lee’s $500 million bond proposal for new NFL stadium gets mixed reviews among lawmakers.

— Legislative roundup: Fracas over union labor building Ford plant, Lee doesn’t sign new sterilizer rules, and Jerry Sexton’s latest official Bible resolution appears headed for failure (again).

— From the campaign trail: 5th District race cast into uncertainty over residency requirement bill, lawsuit.

Also: Hagerty’s kids get stake in MLS team, Bell’s statue of limitations on smoking something in high school, and Weaver claims to title of “conscience of the House.”

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

Read the lawsuit filed against congressional residency requirements in Tennessee

The House meets at the state Capitol in Nashville on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A lawsuit has been filed in federal court in Nashville seeking to prevent a state law from going into effect that would impose a three-year residency requirement for congressional candidates in Tennessee. The challenge was filed on behalf of three residents who say they want to vote for Republican Morgan Ortagus in the the open 5th District race. Ortagus has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, but state lawmakers have chafed at her candidacy because she only moved to the state a year ago.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Eli Richardson, who was appointed to the bench by Trump. The lawsuit was filed by the Washington, D.C., law firm Dickinson Wright PLLC.

As frequent offenders when it comes to typos, we wouldn’t ordinarily make a point of highlighting the mistakes of others, but misspelled words in the lawsuit are particularly jarring given their central nature to the arguments presented. They include “Tennesse,” “Represenatives,” “unconstitional” “Repulican,” “impermissably,” “Consitution,” “Congressionl,” and “critreria.” They are replicated within the full text of the complaint below:

BARBRA COLLINS, AMY C. DUDLEY and DONALD J. SOBERY, PLAINTIFFS v. STATE OF TENNESSEE, and TRE HARGETT in his official capacity as Tennessee Secretary of State, DEFENDANTS.)


Plaintiffs Barbra Collins (“Collins”), Amy C. Dudley (“Dudley”), and Donald J. Sobery (“Sobery”) (collectively, “Plaintiffs”), file this Complaint against Defendants State of Tennessee (the “State”) and Tre Hargett (“Hargett”), in his official capacity as Tennessee Secretary of State, (collectively “Defendants”), and allege as follows:


1. This is a civil action seeking damages and declaratory relief arising under the Qualification Clause of the United States Constitution. U.S. Const. Art. 1 § 2; U.S. Const. Art. 1 § 5. This action challenges the constitutionality of Tennessee Senate Bill 2616/House Bill 2764 (the “Provision”) that imposes an impermissible residency requirement on candidates running for United States Congress Specifically, the Provision requires that a candidate running for United States Congress reside in Tennessee, as well as within the congressional district they seek to represent, for at least three years in order to appear on the primary ballot as a candidate.

2. This Provision will become law unless Governor Bill Lee vetoes the legislation.

3. Under the challenged Provision, an otherwise constitutionally qualified candidate for whom Plaintiffs intend to vote in the Republican primary for the Fifth Congressional District, will be prohibited from running because she has not lived in Tennessee for at least three years. The Provision blatantly violates Article I of the United States Constitution (the “Constitution”) because the Constitution delineates the only qualifications necessary to serve as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and vests with the House of Representatives the exclusive authority to judge the qualifications of its own members.

4. Plaintiffs seek damages and a declaration that the Provision is unconstitutional so that all qualified candidates who wish to run for Congress in the August 4, 2022 primary election may do so.

Continue reading


Posts and Opinions about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.