New TNJ edition alert: McNally succession moves, abortion exceptions, and the Slashville challenge

Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) presides on the Senate floor on March 13, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

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

— Calling all pretenders: Succession talk fueled by McNally scandal.

— Legislative roundup: Abortion, campaign finance, and the light at the end of the (session) tunnel.

— Slashville: Nashville sues to halt legislature’s move to cut Metro Council in half.

Also: Flipping the order of Brian Kelsey’s sentencing hearing, Andy Ogles’ ongoing résumé problems, Tim Rudd’s parking garage dreams, and a flooded Capitol complex.

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

Or subscribe here.

Right to Life announces support for rival update to abortion law

Sen. Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville) attends a floor session on March 6, 2023. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The state chapter of Right to Life is speaking out in support of an amended version of a bill by Sen. Ken Yager (R-Kingston) and Rep. Esther Helton-Haynes (R-East Ridge) stating that treatments of ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages don’t violate the Tennessee’s sweeping abortion ban. Yager’s bill is different than the measure advanced by House Republican leaders and Sen. Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville) that has been vocally opposed by the anti-abortion group.

Here’s the release from Tennessee Right to Life:

NASHVILLE — Tennessee Right to Life is in support of Senate Bill 983 sponsored by Senator Yager as amended by Amendment #005051. We have maintained throughout this session that we would work with legislators to clarify the Human Life Protection Act without weakening it, and that is what this amendment does. It would explicitly clarify that treatments of ectopic pregnancy and miscarriages are in no way considered criminal abortions under the Human Life Protection Act, and it would change the affirmative defense to an exception for those times when the mother’s life is in danger.

Furthermore, by using an objective standard, it assuages EMTALA concerns by the Attorney General while also ensuring proper care is given to both the mother and the baby.

As opposed to other bills that have been filed and/or presented this year, the clear and succinct language in this amended legislation helps doctors and patients without creating unnecessary exceptions or deleting large sections of pro-life laws in the Tennessee Code. Pro-life legislators and pro-life Tennesseans can be confident that these changes will not weaken the intent of the legislation that was passed in 2019 to protect the right to life of all unborn children in our state.

Tennessee Right to Life would like thank Governor Lee, Lieutenant Governor McNally, and Senator Yager for working with us and pro-life legislators to ensure the best possible clarifying language for the amendment to this bill. We thank them for standing with us in defense of the Human Life Protection Act and for believing, as we do, that clarification is possible without weakening the law. We are hopeful that House members will join in support of the amended version of SB983.

This amended language will protect the integrity of the Human Life Protection Act and allow Tennessee law to continue to protect our most vulnerable citizens. We encourage members of the General Assembly to support this legislation.

Lee to talk economic development, abortion, roads, and conservation in State of the State address

Gov. Bill Lee’s office is releasing excerpts from his State of the State address on Monday evening. Here is the preview to what the Republican has to say on issues including infrastructure, abortion, economic development, and conservation:

“Tennesseans have accomplished remarkable things in our 226-year history. Once again, we are called to be a guiding light and carry the spirit that took our state from frontier to frontrunner. So, as I look ahead to the next four years, with four challenging, yet fruitful years in the rearview, I can see that we’ve arrived at a pivotal moment.”

Expanding Opportunities for all Tennesseans

“Our investments in public education, workforce development and safe schools – and our commitment to freedom and families – have all earned national recognition. Our commitment to a high quality of life does not stop at the borders of big cities – in fact, it begins in the most rural areas of our state. Thanks to that commitment, the number of distressed counties in Tennessee has dropped from 15 to 10…and we are not done.”

Modernizing Rural and Urban Transportation

“It’s time to invest in a transportation strategy for one of the fastest growing states in the country. We cannot solve this problem with debt or higher taxes, but we have to do something. Right now, there’s a $26 billion dollar backlog of projects across the state. Simply put, we are way behind, and we have to change the way we fund and build our roads and bridges.”

Supporting Strong Families

“Pro-life is much more than defending the lives of the unborn. This is not a matter of politics – this is about human dignity. We can have a healthy debate about the policy specifics, but we can also agree that America is rooted in a commitment to human dignity.”

Creating a Brighter Future

“From Mountain City to Memphis, our state is blessed with natural beauty and rich resources…Through the years, Tennessee has maintained responsible stewardship of our natural resources, but it’s time to develop a conservation strategy that balances our state’s economic growth with a plan to protect our environment.”

New TNJ edition alert: New battle brewing over abortion law, new faces in the legislature

New Faces 23

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

— Exceptions to abortion ban back on table when lawmakers return, Sexton could ap-point special committee to evaluate proposals.

— New faces: Photos and bios of all 23 new additions to the General Assembly.

Also: Andy Ogles threatens Mitch McConnell, Vincent Dixie blames Cameron Sexton for his defeat his caucus leadership election, Chattanooga’s conflict of interest loses Olympic trials bid, and Justin Jones has a leg up on his new colleagues in the House.

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

Or subscribe here.

Tennessee Medical Association reiterates support for Sen. Briggs following Right to Life’s disavowal

Sens. Ken Yager (R-Kingston), left, and Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville), attend a hearing in Nashville on Jan. 30, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Tennessee Medical Association is doubling down on its support of state Sen. Richard Briggs after the state chapter of Right to Life announced it was revoking its endorsement of the Knoxville Republican over his concerns about a new sweeping abortion ban.

Briggs, a physician, in a recent interview with ProPublica took issue with a provision of the law requiring a doctor to mount an “affirmative defense” about why the termination of a pregnancy was necessary to save the life of the mother.

“The defendant is guilty until he can prove that he’s not guilty,” Briggs told the publication. “In my opinion, that is a very bad position to put the doctors in — why should this doctor have to pay his own legal bills for saving a woman’s life?”

TMA Chair Lee Berkenstock of Memphis and the group’s president, Edward Capparelli of Oneida, issued a statement saying Briggs’s position reflects a recognition of the ”unintended consequences” of the law.

“The affirmative defense in place for physicians caring for affected patients is merely a legal maneuver that undermines the legislative intent of the law. It places doctors in the unconscionable position of having to choose between saving a patient’s life or committing a felony,” according to the TMA statement. ”Regrettably, this stance has subjected Sen. Briggs to political retribution and attempts to disparage his character.

Here’s the full release from the TMA:

“The Tennessee Medical Association (TMA) reiterates its support for Tennessee state Sen. Richard Briggs, MD, a longstanding leader and member within our organization, for his recent comments on behalf of physicians, women, and families in the state.

Like many elected officials, Sen. Briggs has aligned his position with that of his constituents, Tennesseans who recognize the unintended consequences of the state’s recently enacted abortion ‘trigger’ law and want it amended.

As written, the law contains no legal exceptions—not even for the life and health of the mother. Sen. Briggs has reasonably indicated he would like to see the law offer clear exceptions when the mother’s life or health are at risk, for non-survivable fetal anomalies, and rape and incest.

The affirmative defense in place for physicians caring for affected patients is merely a legal maneuver that undermines the legislative intent of the law. It places doctors in the unconscionable position of having to choose between saving a patient’s life or committing a felony.

Regrettably, this stance has subjected Sen. Briggs to political retribution and attempts to disparage his character.

Sen. Briggs’ background is one of service. Previously a Knox County commissioner, he has represented Tennesseans in the legislature since 2014 and the Knoxville community as a respected heart and lung surgeon for over 40 years.

He has also heroically served our country. A retired Army colonel with a more than 30-year military career, he served the United States as a combat trauma surgeon during Operation Desert Storm and was awarded the Bronze Star. In recent years, he completed combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq as a senior war trauma surgeon caring for wounded American troops.

Given Sen. Briggs’ experiences, his real-world perspective and leadership role in this conversation is unique. His counsel around this complex issue should be valued and sought after rather than dismissed. TMA invites other members of the Tennessee General Assembly to disregard similar efforts from outside groups and protect families by joining Sen. Briggs and a majority of Tennesseans in making needed changes to this law.”

Lee Berkenstock, MD, Memphis

Chair, Board of Trustees, Tennessee Medical Association

Edward Capparelli, MD, Oneida

President, Tennessee Medical Association

Right to Life revokes endorsement of recently re-elected Sen. Briggs

Senators reach to their voting buttons during a floor session on March 16, 2020. Seated from left are Republican Sens. Mark Pody of Lebanon, Paul Rose of Covington, Richard Briggs of Knoxville, Janice Bowling of Tullahoma, and Paul Bailey of Sparta. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Tennessee Right to Life’s PAC says it is revoking its endorsement of state Sen. Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville) over his recent comments questioning a sweeping abortion ban enacted in the state. Briggs was elected to a third four-year term last month.

The anti-abortion group’s move came as a poll by Vanderbilt University showed broad support for including exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother.

Briggs, a physician, in a recent interview with ProPublica took issue with a provision of the state law requiring a doctor to mount an “affirmative” defense about why the termination of a pregnancy was necessary to save the life of the mother.

“Here, the defendant is guilty until he can prove that he’s not guilty,” Briggs told the publication. “In my opinion, that is a very bad position to put the doctors in — why should this doctor have to pay his own legal bills for saving a woman’s life?”

Here’s the release from Tennessee Right to Life.

Knoxville, TN – Yesterday, the Tennessee Right to Life Political Action Committee (PAC) notified State Senator Richard Briggs, of Knox County, that it was revoking his endorsement due to his public reversal of political stances which he pledged earlier this year during his respective contested primary and general election campaigns. The organization made the rare move because of public comments the Senator has made about the Human Life Protection Act, which was passed in 2019 and went into effect after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.   

“Senator Briggs pledged to us in writing that he would protect unborn children by protecting the Human Life Protection Act from hostile amendments. Despite making similar pledges to our legislative liaison after the Dobbs decision was issued, Senator Briggs now claims that he does not support the HLPA because he never believed it would be enacted because he never believed Roe v. Wade would be overturned,” said former State Representative and Tennessee Right to Life PAC President Roger Kane.

The voters of the 7th Senate District deserve to know the truth. Senator Briggs ensured support of the law on June 14, which was a time when the Dobbs decision had been leaked and, therefore, the overturning of Roe seemed like a probability rather than a distant dream.

The Tennessee Right to Life PAC endorses candidates who pledge to support legislation that will protect our most vulnerable citizens and to defend existing protections from future legislative attacks.  The PAC did its due diligence in the endorsement process and received assurance from Senator Briggs of his continued support of the HLPA, which he voted for and even co-sponsored in 2019. 

“The candidate endorsement process only works if those answering the questions are honest and forthright. Obviously, Senator Briggs was not honest in his answers and can no longer be trusted by the voters,” said Kane.   

“I applaud the PAC’s decision to revoke Senator Briggs’ endorsement,” said Will Brewer, Director of Government Relations for Tennessee Right to Life. “While I respect disagreements from trusted colleagues, Senator Briggs’ mass publicity tour is more than a mere disagreement. Once his election was over and he had secured the political benefit of the PAC’s endorsement, he reversed course on his views. He has engaged in a media tour to justify his actions and has even posed for photo shoots to make himself the headline for hostile articles set out to tear down the Human Life Protection Act. His constituents deserve better than a legislator who only votes for legislation because he never believes it will come to fruition and then reverses his philosophy only when it is least consequential,” said Brewer.

“The Human Life Protection Act is doing exactly what members of the General Assembly intended – saving an estimated 900 lives every month in our state. We are grateful to all the members who voted for the legislation and now stand behind that vote. That is what integrity looks like. We hope Senator Briggs will work to regain our trust and use his medical expertise to recognize the unborn child as a patient deserving of care,” said Kane. 

Campbell hits Ogles for ‘red herring’ remark on abortion exceptions

Democratic congressional candidate Heidi Campbell is out with another ad criticizing Republican opponent Andy Ogles position on banning most abortions in Tennessee.

Here’s what she says in the ad:

This summer, Andy Ogles cheered for Tennessee’s statewide ban on abortions. He called victims of rape and incest “a red herring used by the left and radicals.” This November, moms and daughters, fathers and brothers are coming together to protect our freedom to make health care decisions without interference from politicians like Andy Ogles. I’m Heidi Campbell and I’m running for Congress because in America our daughters deserve the same rights and freedoms as our sons. I’m Heidi Campbell, I approve this message.

Campbell and Ogles are vying for the 5th Congressional District seat, which is being vacated by longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) after the legislature redrew its boundaries to make it more friendly to Republican candidates.

Feds charge 11 in abortion clinic blockade

Federal prosecutors are charging 11 people with blocking access to a Mt. Juliet abortion clinic in March.

Here’s the release from the U.S. attorney’s office:

NASHVILLE – A federal indictment unsealed today charges eleven individuals with violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, announced U.S. Attorney Mark H. Wildasin, for the Middle District of Tennessee and Kristen M. Clarke, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. 

The indictment, returned on Monday by a federal grand jury sitting in Nashville, charges the following seven individuals with conspiracy against rights secured by the FACE Act, and committing FACE Act violations:

Chester Gallagher, 73, of Lebanon, Tennessee;  Heather Idoni, 58; Calvin Zastrow, 57; and Caroline Davis, 24; all of Michigan; Coleman Boyd, 51, of Bolton, Mississippi; Dennis Green, 56, of Cumberland, Virginia; and Paul Vaughn, 55, of Centerville, Tennessee. 

The indictment also charges the following individuals with committing FACE Act violations:  Eva Edl, 87, of Aiken, South Carolina; Eva Zastro, 24, of Dover, Arkansas; James Zastro, 25, of Eldon, Missouri; and Paul Place, 24, of Centerville, Tennessee.  All defendants will have appearances scheduled in U.S. District Court in Nashville at a later date. 

The indictment alleges that, beginning in February 2021, Chester Gallagher utilized social media to promote a series of anti-abortion events scheduled for March 4-7, 2021, in the Nashville area.  Other co-conspirators then utilized Facebook to coordinate travel and logistics and to identify other participants for the blockade.  On March 4, 2021, Coleman Boyd and Chester Gallager advertised the blockade of the Carafem Health Center Clinic, in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, which was planned for the following day.  In his social media post, Gallagher referred to the blockade as a “rescue.” Boyd also began a Facebook livestream broadcast of the clinic blockade at 7:45 a.m. on March 5, 2021.  This livestream broadcast was titled, in part, “Mt. Juliet, TN Rescue March 5, 2021,” and livestreamed the blockade event as his coconspirators and others blocked the clinic’s entry doors and prevented a patient and an employee from entering.  The livestream also broadcast members of the group attempting to engage a patient and her companion as Boyd told his livestream audience that the patient was a “mom coming to kill her baby.”

The indictment further alleges that on March 5, 2021, the 11 individuals, aided and abetted by one another, used force and physical obstruction to injure, intimidate, and interfere with employees of the clinic and a patient who was seeking reproductive health services. 

If convicted, those charged with conspiracy face up to 11 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.  Others face up to one year in prison for the misdemeanor offense and fines of up to $10,000. 

This case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by the Civil Rights Coordinator of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and trial Attorneys of the Department’s Civil Rights Division. 

An indictment is merely an accusation.  All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. 

New TNJ edition alert: It’s primary time in Tennessee

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

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

— Democratic gubernatorial candidates fight it out for the privilege of taking on Bill Lee in November.

— 5th District Congressional race gets nastier as it comes down to the wire.

— A deep dive into the competitive races for the state House and Senate.

Also: The countdown for Tennessee’s near total abortion ban is underway, Lee scrambles to sign up families for school vouchers before the academic year start and supporters of bringing the Republican presidential nomination convention to Nashville consider the carrot and the stick.

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

Or subscribe here.

New TNJ alert: Abortion ruling opens floodgates, Warner appears at event for GOP leader’s rival

Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) and Rep. Sheila Butt (R-Columbia) attend a committee meeting in Nashville on March 28, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

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

— Anything goes? Abortion ruling could revive long-thwarted bills.

— Warner’s appearance at Jack Johnson challenger’s event riles colleagues.

— House GOP leaders split over open Nashville race, Cepicky turns to seasoned operative to right campaign ship.

— Could Republicans have won on abortion only to lose the convention in Nashville?

Also: Hickman county doesn’t want other counties’ feces, U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer slaps political interference in mask case, Sheila Butt gets sued for defamation, and Funk gets railroaded.

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

Or subscribe here.


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