Monthly Archives: May 2023

5 Tennessee Republicans vote against debt ceiling deal in U.S. House

Five of eight Republican members of Tennessee’s delegation to the U.S. House voted against a last-minute debt ceiling deal to avert the first federal default in that nation’s history.

Voting no were Reps. Tim Burchett of Knoxville, Scott DesJarlais of Sherwood, Diana Harshbarger of Kingsport, Andy Ogles of Columbia, and John Rose of Cookeville.

Voting in favor were GOP Reps. Chuck Fleischmann of Chattanooga, Mark Green of Ashland City, and David Kustoff of Memphis.

“This bill is not ideal,” Green said in a statement. “But considering the make-up of our government, the Republicans punched above their weight class and passed a debt ceiling increase that contained key conservative victories.”

Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis also supported the bill.

The measure cleared the House 314 to 117 , with 149 Republicans voting for it and 71 against. Meanwhile, 165 Democrats approved the bill, while 46 opposed.

The bill now heads to the Senate.

Two events to celebrate Tennessee Statehood Day

(Image credit: State Library and Archives)

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is hosting two events to celebrate statehood day. Here is the release from the Secretary of State’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – To celebrate Tennessee’s Statehood, the Tennessee State Library & Archives is hosting free events on Thursday, June 1, and a family-friendly celebration event on Saturday, June 3.

“The mission of the Library & Archives is to preserve Tennessee’s history and make it accessible to our fellow Tennesseans,” said Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett. “It’s a rare opportunity to see our state’s original founding documents. I encourage my fellow Tennesseans not to miss this chance to have history come alive by viewing these irreplaceable documents up close during our Statehood Day Celebration.”

On Statehood Day, June 1, at 8 a.m. Debbie Mathis Watts will perform her song, “The Tennessee in Me,” an official state song of Tennessee. Tennessee’s three priceless original constitutions, first written in 1796 and revised in 1843 and 1870, will be on display in the Library & Archives lobby, guarded by the Tennessee Highway Patrol Honor Guard from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Library & Archives will also feature rarely seen historical documents, including the Cumberland Compact, Governor John Sevier’s Address to the first Tennessee General Assembly, the Cherokee Nation 1827 Constitution and the founding documents of the State of Franklin.

“Our staff has spent months planning for our Statehood Day Celebrations,” said State Librarian and Archivist Jamie Ritter. “Our family-friendly Statehood Day celebration on June 3 will have so much to offer families that are both fun and educational.”

The Library & Archives will host a family-friendly Statehood Day Celebration on Saturday, June 3, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Statehood Day Celebration will have a children’s scavenger hunt, games, crafts and living history interpreters. Guests can also see Tennessee’s three original constitutions and the new exhibit showcasing rarely seen historical documents in the Library & Archives lobby from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The Library & Archives is joining Bicentennial Mall State Park and the Tennessee State Museum for a variety of events to celebrate Statehood Day. Park Rangers will offer a free guided tour of Bicentennial Mall State Park starting outside the Tennessee State Library & Archives at 9 a.m. on June 1. For more information, visit

The State Museum is celebrating Statehood Day with a children’s story time, statehood artifacts on display, family crafts and a Statehood Anniversary Commemoration at noon on June 1. For the Tennessee State Museum’s full schedule of Statehood Day activities visit
The Statehood Day events at the Library & Archives, Bicentennial Mall State Park and Tennessee State Museum are free to the public.

The Library & Archives’ Statehood Day Celebration events will take place at their new building, 1001 Rep. John Lewis Way N., on the northeast corner of the Bicentennial Mall State Park.
For more information about the Library & Archives Statehood Day events, visit

Cothren says records would show he consulted for Sexton on speaker’s bid in 2019

Former House Speaker Glen Casada. (Erik Schelzig/Tennessee Journal)

Cade Cothren, a former top aide to then-House Speaker Glen Casada, claims in a motion filed in federal court Thursday evening that he was a close confidant to current Speaker Cameron Sexton when the chamber’s top leadership position opened up. Cothren also says Sexton was actively trying to help Cothren get a job as a lobbyist. The motion says Sexton’s behavior contrasts with is statements to federal prosecutors that he didn’t want anything to do with Cothren after the latter was forced out of his House job following a text messaging scandal and revelations he took drugs in his legislative office.

Cothren and Casada are facing federal public corruption charges related to the operation of a mysterious political called Phoenix Solutions. The trial is scheduled for Oct. 3.

Here’s an excerpt from the filing seeking an order for Verizon to turn over Sexton’s phone records:

After his resignation, Mr. Cothren remained heavily engaged with Speaker Sexton, who relied on Mr. Cothren’s expertise, especially during the 2019 special session race for the next Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives after former Speaker Glen Casada’s resignation.

Mr. Cothren was one of then-Representative Sexton’s most consistent confidants during his race for Speaker. The requested telephone and messaging records should show hundreds of telephone calls and corresponding messages between Mr. Cothren and Speaker Sexton during that critical time period and beyond.

The records from [encrypted messaging service] Confide, specifically, will show that Speaker Sexton was also regularly communicating with Mr. Cothren and other state employees on the encrypted messaging application during the relevant time period in the Indictment.

Additionally, the requested records will show that Speaker Sexton was actively reaching out to state officials, state employees, as well as third-parties in an attempt to secure Mr. Cothren a job as a lobbyist as well as other opportunities. These communications are integral to Mr. Cothren’s defense in this matter because the government’s case appears to rely—heavily—on its theory that Mr. Cothren’s reputation was so tarnished after his resignation that Speaker Sexton was adamantly opposed to associating or working with him at all, even on administrative matters.

New TNJ edition alert: Intimidation allegations in public corruption case, parents fret about retention law

Cade Cothren, speaking on phone, attends a meeting with lawmakers and fellow staffers on the balcony outside the House chamber on April 29, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is here (a day early because of the approaching holiday weekend). Here is what’s in it:

— Prosecutors allege threats, intimidation in public corruption case.

— Parents fret about kids being held back due to third-grade test results.

—If drag show law is found unconstitutional, AG wants ruling to apply only to Shelby County.

Also: Freddie O’Connell wants “More Ville and less Vegas,” a rival gun rights group wants to “beat political asses” at the Tennessee Capitol, and Cameron Sexton says he’d do it all over again.

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

Or subscribe here.

Lee sending 100 Tennessee National Guard members to border with Mexico

Gov. Bill Lee is authorizing the deployment of 100 Tennessee National Guard members to Texas to help patrol the border with Mexico.

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

Gov. Lee Authorizes Tennessee National Guard Deployment to Secure Southern Border
100 Tennessee troops to curb ongoing border crisis, support Operation Lone Star

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee authorized the deployment of 100 Tennessee National Guard troops to secure the U.S. Southern border amid an ongoing national security crisis and surging drug crisis being fueled by an open border.

The announcement follows a joint statement from Gov. Lee and fellow Republican governors last week and a border security briefing in Austin on Monday, where Texas Governor Greg Abbott invited states to support ‘Operation Lone Star’ to secure the U.S. Southern border following the end of Title 42.

“America continues to face an unprecedented border crisis that threatens our nation’s security and the safety of Tennesseans,” said Gov. Lee. “The federal government owes Americans a plan to secure our country, and in the meantime, states continue to answer this important call to service. I am again authorizing the Tennessee National Guard to help secure the Southern border, and I commend these troops for providing critical support.”

The Tennessee National Guard members will deploy at the end of May to provide critical support along the U.S. Southern border, including:

• Patrolling and providing additional security presence along the border

• Assisting road and route clearance, barrier placement and debris removal

• Staffing outpost operations

The Tennessee National Guard has supported border security efforts in the past. In December 2021, Gov. Lee authorized 50 additional troops to respond to the surge in illegal crossings and drug-related activity along the U.S. Southern border. Lee also visited more than 300 Tennesseans stationed at the border in July 2021.

“The men and women of the Tennessee National Guard are always ready to serve their country anywhere, anytime,” said Brigadier General Warner Ross, Tennessee’s Adjutant General. “These troops are a capable contingent that will continue our long-standing tradition of responding to the call to aid our fellow Americans. The Tennessee National Guard is proud to serve and support our state partners in safeguarding the United States along the U.S. Southern border.”

3rd grade retention: Find your school district scores here

Under a new law, students who don’t meet expectations for reading proficiency face the prospect of being held back for another try at third grade. Children in the “approaching” category can take summer school or tutoring to try to make up lost ground and advance to fourth grade.

See how your school district did in data released by the state Department of Education:

DistrictPct. BelowApproa-
Pct. MeetsPct. ExceedsPct. Proficient
Achievement Schools64269110
Alamo City916373875
Alcoa City1941281240
Anderson County1343311444
Arlington Community221423678
Athens City243334943
Bartlett City1339321749
Bedford County3133261036
Bells City1538371046
Benton County2636251338
Bledsoe County2932271138
Blount County2241271037
Bradford Special 3026331244
Bradley County1537331548
Bristol City1237371451
Campbell County  284024731
Cannon County333926228
Carter County  204826632
Cheatham Countv2038311141
Chester County935362157
Claiborne County294026531
Clarksville Montgomery County2137291342
Clay County1142371148
Cleveland City323623933
Clinton City1134381755
Cocke County284422628
Coffee County2437281139
Crockett County2334301342
Cumberland County2936231134
Dayton City2724321749
Decatur County174034943
DeKalb County2533291442
Dickson County2038281442
Dyer County1738311445
Dyersburg City303922931
Elizabethton City1634321750
Etowah City164040544
Fayette County444013417
Fayetteville City2036331144
Fentress County294026531
Franklin County293626935
Franklin Special1119363369
Germantown Municipal416404080
Gibson County Special1134352056
Giles County1642321042
Grainger County1440351246
Greene County204528735
Greeneville City1341311546
Grundy County293232739
Hamblen County2534281341
Hamilton County2931271340
Hancock County224624932
Hardeman County354122324
Hardin County294322728
Hawkins County264226632
Haywood County443915318
Henderson County1541321344
Henry County2532301243
Hickman County1641311344
Hollow Rock – Bruceton Special 1157221132
Houston County433716419
Humboldt City503415116
Humphreys County244030636
Huntingdon Special1738281745
Jackson County254325732
Jackson-Madison County414016420
Jefferson County2933261239
Johnson City1422333164
Johnson County433519322
Kingsport City1936271945
Knox County2433281543
Lake County333525631
Lauderdale County333325833
Lawrence County1340311546
Lebanon Special2233311446
Lenoir City323628432
Lewis County842351550
Lexington City1143341246
Lincoln County1838311344
Loudon County1637331447
Macon County2139301040
Manchester City2041281139
Marion County234328734
Marshall County204627634
Marvville City421353975
Maury County263827937
McKenzie Special273928534
McMinn County303828533
McNairy County224029838
Meigs County1741311141
Memphis-Shelby County423418624
Milan Special184627936
Millington Municipal323426935
Monroe County304323327
Moore County1832351550
Morgan County1742301141
Murfreesboro City2532291444
Newport City133347855
Oak Ridge1427391959
Obion County164432840
Oneida Special184928533
Overton County204133639
Paris Special2136281442
Perry County255814417
Pickett County3033281038
Polk County2340241337
Putnam County2137281542
Rhea County2040281240
Richard City Special206713013
Roane County2237311041
Robertson County313922830
Rogersville City2935231335
Rutherford County2234291544
Scott County1941271341
Sequatchie County263234842
Sevier County244027935
Smith County154135944
South Carroll Special1515304070
Stewart County224726531
Sullivan County1943281038
Sumner County1833311849
Sweetwater City2433281442
Tennessee Public Charter3439189.728
Tipton County2139301040
Trenton Special224328735
Trousdale County2328301949
Tullahoma City213733942
Unicoi County185221930
Union City234823729
Union County423619322
Van Buren County254029635
Warren County323526834
Washington County1337361450
Wayne County195124730
Weakley County1632331952
West Carroll Special1350221537
White County1443301343
Williamson County622383472
Wilson County1535341650

Tenn. sets new record for business registrations, renewals

Secretary of State Tre Hargett speaks with Rep. Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville) before Gov. Bill Haslam’s final State of the State address on Jan. 29, 2018 in Nashville. (Photo credit: Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Tennessee has sent another record for business registrations and renewals. Here is the release from the Secretary of State’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee set new records in the first quarter of 2023 for business formations and renewals in the state, according to the recent Quarterly Business and Economic Indicators report issued by the Secretary of State’s Office.

In the first quarter of 2023, 21,516 new entities filed, and 199,309 firms renewed their active status by filing annual reports, representing the highest totals for any quarter in the 25-year history of the data.

“Our state leaders are committed to serving Tennesseans by preserving an environment where businesses launch, locate and thrive,” said Secretary Hargett. “The record number of new business formations and renewals is a testament to smart fiscal management and a commitment to a skilled workforce.”

Typically, a high level of business filings leads to growth in jobs, personal income and state revenue. Over the last twelve months, 76,767 entities filed and 337,760 filed annual reports.

The largest number of filings in the first quarter of 2023 were in Davidson County, followed by Shelby, Knox, and Hamilton counties. Knox County saw the highest percentage increase in filings year-over-year, growing by 18.4%. Filings in these four most-populous counties together increased by 0.8% compared to Q1 2022.

Tennessee’s unemployment in March dropped to 3.4%, just below the national rate of 3.5%. Tennessee jobs grew by 1,700 in March and by 96,900 over the last twelve months.

“Tennessee’s economy continues to outpace the nation’s and shows no signs of slowing down,” said Don Bruce, director of the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research. “These record-high new business filings in the state, along with strong personal income and stable unemployment rates, are yet another sign of continued economic growth in the coming months.”

The Quarterly Business and Economic Indicators report provides a snapshot of the state’s economy based on key indicators, including new business data from the Secretary of State’s Division of Business and Charitable Organizations. It is published through a partnership with the University of Tennessee Knoxville’s Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research and the Secretary of State.

To review the complete Q1 2023 Tennessee Quarterly Business and Economic Indicators report and past reports, visit

New TNJ edition alert: Kelsey’s ‘big mistake,’ lawmakers demand shooter’s writings

Then-Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), right, confers with then-Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) on the House floor in Nashville on April 30, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

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

— Federal judge rejects Kelsey’s claim guilty plea was ‘big mistake’

— Statehouse update: Why ask when you can demand? Lawmakers seek shooter’s writings.

— From the campaign trail: Memphis residency ruling, Ogles gets another big endorsement, GOP race for vacated state House seat down to two candidates.

Also: Dolly Parton takes aim at politicians, Beth Harwell on “lazy” supermajorities, save the date for the Statesmen’s Dinner, and $700,000 for Cordell Hull repairs.

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

Or subscribe here.

White House makes disaster declaration for 45 Tennessee counties

President Joe Biden has declared a major disaster in 45 Tennessee counties related to severe storms in March.

Here’s the release from the White House:

WASHINGTON — FEMA announced that federal disaster assistance has been made available to the state of Tennessee to supplement recovery efforts in the areas affected by severe storms, straight-line winds and a tornado from March 1-3, 2023.

Public Assistance federal funding is available to the state, eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities in Benton, Bledsoe, Campbell, Carroll, Cheatham, Clay, Crockett, Davidson, Decatur, Dickson, Fentress, Gibson, Giles, Grundy, Hamilton, Hardin, Haywood, Henderson, Henry, Hickman, Houston, Humphreys, Jackson, Lake, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Lewis, Macon, Madison, Marion, Meigs, Monroe, Montgomery, Moore, Obion, Perry, Pickett, Polk, Rhea, Robertson, Stewart, Sumner, Tipton, Wayne and White counties.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

Andrew D. Friend has been named as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area. Additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further assessments.

Group calling for gun reform following school shooting gains nonprofit status

Protesters hold a rally outside the state Capitol on April 3, 2023, marking one week since a fatal school shooting in Nashville. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Voices for a Safer Tennessee, a group formed to advocate to gun reform following the mass shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School, has registered as a nonprofit organization and named the founding members of its board.

Here’s the full release from the group, which is also known as Safer TN:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Voices for a Safer Tennessee (Safer TN), a nonpartisan organization dedicated to prioritizing firearm safety and promoting responsible firearm ownership through bipartisan legislation, today announced that it has formally registered as a nonprofit organization under the 501(c)(4) designation of the Internal Revenue Service. Safer TN also has announced its founding board of directors and board officers, who represent a broad range of professional and political backgrounds in reflection of the organization’s objectives:

— Todd Cruse, chairman and treasurer;
— Nicole Smith, president;
— Whitney Kimerling, secretary;
— Clay Richards; and
— Jill Talbert.

“It is an honor to serve as chairman of the board for Voices for a Safer Tennessee and to have an opportunity to meaningfully contribute to the organization’s efforts to advance common-sense firearm safety legislation,” said Todd Cruse. “As a parent, gun-owner and Tennessee voter, I firmly believe that the concepts of firearm ownership and firearm safety are not mutually exclusive, and that there is a clear, bipartisan path forward to protecting our children and communities more effectively than we are doing today.”

Today’s announcement comes approximately six weeks after the volunteer-run group of parents, neighbors, friends and community members came together, and one month after Safer TN’s “Linking Arms for Change” event that garnered national and statewide media attention by bringing nearly 10,000 Tennesseans in Nashville and Knoxville together, ultimately forming a three-mile human chain in support of common-sense firearm safety legislation. Since then, Safer TN has built unprecedented momentum and support by bridging people of diverse interests, religions, political perspectives and geographies to engage in advocacy including:

● Publishing Letters of Support, championed by key Tennessee leaders, including education leaders, healthcare executives and faith leaders respectively;

● Releasing statewide, bipartisan poll results showing strong support for common-sense firearm policies from Tennessee voters with key demographics, including Republicans and households with guns;

● Meeting with United States Senators and other leaders in Washington D.C., to ask for support and have productive conversations about firearm safety;

● Coordinating nearly 100 meetings with state legislators and elected officials in less than six weeks;

● Sustaining a daily visible contingency of supporters on site at the Tennessee State Capitol and Cordell Hull buildings during the regularly scheduled state legislative session;

● Organizing a group of notable artists, including Amy Grant, Sheryl Crow, Ruby Amanfu, Will Hoge, Allison Russell and Margo Price to meet with state lawmakers about addressing firearm safety measures;

● Bringing together more than 65 notable musicians and artists, including Sheryl Crow, Kacey Musgraves, Amy Grant, Emmylou Harris, Martina McBride, Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini, Jason Isbell and more, to support a letter addressed to Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and members of the Tennessee General Assembly, asking them to put politics aside and the safety of our children above all else;

● Collecting more than 3,000 petition signatures in support of stronger firearm safety and ownership laws;

● Inspiring news coverage in more than 500 media stories across the state and the world – from local community newspapers to international television broadcasts reflecting a nonpartisan, common-ground approach to firearm safety solutions;

● Sharing timely and actionable information with supporters following Governor Bill Lee’s introduction of an order of protection bill and subsequent call for a special session of the legislature to address public safety.

“It is extraordinary what our group of volunteers has been able to accomplish in a short amount of time, and how many like-minded Tennesseans have willingly mobilized to support this cause,” Cruse continued. “By formalizing as a 501(c)(4) and creating the mechanism to raise funds, we are now in a stronger position to continue advancing the short- and long-term goals of Safer TN, including our efforts ahead of the special session that begins August 21.”

Leading up to the special session, Safer TN is continuing to advocate for:

● extreme risk laws with proven language that would allow authorities to temporarily restrict access to firearms from people who pose a risk to themselves or others,

● stronger firearm storage laws that would require firearm owners to provide safe storage and report lost or stolen firearms, and

● closing background check loopholes to keep firearms away from dangerous people.

Safer TN encourages all Tennesseans who believe that we can find common ground to achieve these policies and protect our communities to get involved by donating, signing the petition, and following Safer TN on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for regular updates and calls to action.

About Voices for a Safer Tennessee

Voices for a Safer Tennessee (Safer TN) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition dedicated to prioritizing common-sense firearm safety laws and promoting responsible firearm ownership to make communities across our state safer. Safer TN was founded by neighbors, friends, colleagues and community members who came together with a shared desire for change following the tragic events of March 27, 2023, at The Covenant School in Nashville, Tenn. The organization brings voters and lawmakers together by leading conversations, sharing diverse perspectives and finding commonality to champion the bipartisan change that the majority of Tennessee voters support. Learn more at


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