2022

Year in review: The most viewed TNJ posts of 2022

Here are the 10 most-viewed TNJ: On the Hill blog posts of 2022, counting up to the

10. Whoever signed this Phoenix Solutions document has some explaining to do.

March 8: An IRS W-9 form submitted to the General Assembly in January 2020 carries the signature of Matthew Phoenix, right under a section outlining the certification is made “under penalties of perjury” that the person signing the document is a “U.S. person.”

9. Trump endorses Ortagus in GOP primary for 5th District.

Jan. 25: Former President Donald Trump is endorsing Morgan Ortagus, a former spokeswoman to then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, for the Republican nomination in the new-look 5th Congressional District being vacated by U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville).

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)

8. Casada, Cothren indicted on federal bribery, kickback charges.

Aug. 23: Former Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada and his onetime chief of staff, Cade Cothren, have been indicted on federal bribery and kickback charges. The FBI arrested both at their homes. Casada is retiring from the House this year after stepping down from the speakership amid scandal in 2019. He was overwhelmingly defeated in his bid for Williamson County Clerk earlier this year.

7. TNJ exclusive: Lee chooses Campbell for Tenn. Supreme Court.

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his State of the State address on Jan. 31, 2022. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Jan. 12: Republican Gov. Bill Lee is naming associate state solicitor general Sarah Campbell to the bench of the Tennessee Supreme Court, The Tennessee Journal has learned. Campbell, 39, is an associate solicitor general and special assistant to state Attorney General Herbert Slatery. 

6. Read Vanderbilt hospital’s letter to lawmakers on transgender clinic.

Oct. 7: Vanderbilt University Medical Center says no minors have received genital procedures at its transgender clinic and that all patients were at least 16 years old and had parental consent. The hospital told Rep. Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville) it will pause gender affirmation surgery on patients under age 18 while it seeks advice from local and national experts, a process that could take several months.

5 Here’s the backstory on the Andy Ogles attack ad.

July 18: We found Ogles appeared as a co-owner of a Franklin home between 2005 and 2015, though for reasons unknown he was not listed on the rolls in the 2013 tax year. While it’s true that property tax payments were late on nine occasions, that includes years where the Ogles family was as little as one or two days behind the deadline. But in other years it took as many as 194 and 322 days to pay the tax bill.

4 Former Tennessee first lady Honey Alexander dies at 77.

Oct. 30: Honey Alexander, who was married to former governor and U.S. senator Lamar Alexander for 53 years, died Saturday at her home outside Maryville. She was 77.

3. Rep. Ron Gant survives head-on crash.

Oct. 25: State Rep. Ron Gant was flown by helicopter for treatment at a Memphis hospital after the vehicle he was driving was struck in a head-on collision in rural West Tennessee. The other driver died in the crash.

2. Lee declines signature on ‘truth in sentencing’ bill.

May 5: Gov. Bill Lee has declined to sign a “truth in sentencing” bill championed by legislative Republicans to require people convicted of violent crimes to serve all of their sentences behind bars, The Tennessee Journal learned.

1. Hargett charged with DUI after Bonnaroo visit.

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)

June 18: Secretary of State Tre Hargett has been charged with drunken driving after attending the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Coffee County. Hargett was at the event from Friday afternoon through around 11:30 p.m. when he was stopped by Tullahoma police. He was given a blood test and charged with DUI.

Bell won’t seek re-election to Tenn. Senate

Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) attends a redistricting hearing on Oct. 18, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Senate Judiciary Chair Mike Bell (R-Riceville) isn’t seeking re-election next year.

Here’s the release:

NASHVILLE – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Mike Bell (R-Riceville) announced today that he will not be a candidate for re-election in 2022. Bell was first elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 2006 before moving to the State Senate in 2010 where he represents Bradley, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe and Polk Counties in Senate District 9.

“It has been the highest honor of my life to serve in the Tennessee General Assembly,” said Sen. Bell. “I am incredibly thankful for the continued support, friendship and kindness of my constituents who have entrusted me to represent them for the past 15 years. Just as I knew it was time for me to run for office in 2006, I feel it is now time to move to the next chapter of my life and pass the leadership mantle for this district to a new state senator.”

Bell said he is making the announcement early enough to provide prospective candidates plenty of time to come forward and meet with the people of the district.

“I love representing the people of this district,” added Bell who regularly attends community and school functions in the district. “It has truly been a joy to get to know members of our civic, business, school, volunteer firefighters, sportsmen, veteran groups, and other community organizations. Their input has been a tremendous asset to me while serving in the General Assembly and I will miss that constant contact very much. I also couldn’t have done this job without the encouragement of my wife and children and am very appreciative of their support.”

“This is a tremendous loss for the Senate and the State,” said Lt. Governor Randy McNally. “Mike has brought a true working-class perspective to the Senate that has been simply invaluable. An authentic citizen legislator, Mike has served with distinction as chairman of both the Judiciary and Government Operations committees while at the same time owning and operating his own small business. A consistent conservative and a true friend, Mike Bell has championed the cause of Life and the Second Amendment with impassioned advocacy. His commitment to those two issues, in particular, has resulted in successful legislative victories on multiple occasions. I have always considered him a very close friend and hope to continue to call on him for advice and counsel. I congratulate him on a well-deserved retirement from the legislature and wish him the best of luck on what comes next.”

Bell has served in several leadership positions during his legislative tenure. In addition to chairing the Senate Judiciary Committee, he led the Senate Government Operations Committee from 2012 to 2018 where he pushed for greater accountability of Tennessee’s boards and commissions to make them more effective and customer-friendly. In the House of Representatives, he chaired the Children and Family Subcommittee and was Freshman Leader in the Republican Caucus. 

In addition, he currently serves as Chairman of the General Assembly’s Sportmen’s Caucus and is a member of the Executive Council for the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC), receiving several awards on behalf of his efforts to preserve hunting and fishing. He serves as Chairman of Tennessee’s Asian Carp Advisory Commission to study and provide advice regarding the best methods for mitigating the invasion of Asian carp into the state’s lakes and river systems.

During his legislative tenure, Bell has been a strong advocate of Second Amendment rights, including sponsoring the law establishing the right to carry a firearm without a permit. Other key laws sponsored by Bell include:

  • Legislation revamping the state’s Textbook Commission to provide for greater transparency and more public input in the textbook selection process;
  • Several bills removing unfair restrictions concerning the eligibility of home school students for Tennessee’s lottery scholarships;
  • Legislation to protect Tennesseans’ access to healthcare through telehealth services;
  • The Broadband Accessibility Act to improve access to broadband through investment, deregulation and education, spurring development in rural areas to open them up to job growth;
  • Legislation creating volunteer firefighter grants for equipment and the new law to provide them with an annual $600 payment upon completion of training;
  • Numerous laws strengthening penalties for human trafficking and providing support for victims;
  • Legislation to make the Board of Judicial Conduct more responsive to the public; and
  • Several laws protecting unborn children, including legislation excluding facilities in Tennessee that perform abortion from receiving Tennessee taxpayer money.

He was also was a strong legislative supporter for the Bradley County Tennessee Veterans Home. 

Bell will continue to serve until a new state senator is elected in the regular general election on November 8, 2022.

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