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Most read TNJ blog posts of 2021

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters after a bill signing ceremony in Nashville on May 24, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The TNJ: On the Hill blog has published 326 posts in 2021. Here are the 10 that garnered the most attention from readers:

10. Speaker Sexton strips Griffey of committee assignments. March 25, 2021.

House Speaker Cameron Sexton stripped Rep. Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) of his committee assignments. The move comes after Griffey’s unsuccessful attempt earlier this week to pull an e-verify bill that had earlier been defeated in a subcommittee straight to floor. Griffey was later restored to his committees.

9. GOP lawmaker levels impeachment threat over bust removal. March 15, 2021.

Rep. John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge) introduced legislation declaring that statues on the second level of the state Capitol — including a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest —shall never be altered. And it would be an impeachable offense for any governor to do so. The bill the didn’t pass and the bust was later moved to the Tennessee State Museum.

8. Ford picks Memphis Regional Megasite for $5.6B electric vehicle and battery plant. Sept. 27, 2021.

Ford announced plans to build a $5.6 billion electric vehicle and battery manufacturing facility on the sprawling Memphis Regional Megasite. The Dearborn, Mich-based automaker said the project dubbed Blue Oval City will create nearly 6,000 jobs.

7. Sexton threatens abstentions on Ford deal if there is no second session on COVID-19 mandates. Oct. 1, 2021.

House Speaker Cameron Sexton threatened that Republicans could sit on their hands rather than vote for the incentive package to secure Ford’s massive investment in West Tennessee if there wasn’t going to be another special session on COVID-19 mandates. While Gov. Bill Lee ultimately declined to call another session, Senate Speaker Randy McNally dropped his opposition lawmakers calling themselves back to Nashville. The Ford incentives passed overwhelmingly.

6. How they voted: House COVID bill limps across finish line. Oct. 30, 2021.

After much chest-beating and saber-rattling, the House backed off on several provisions of its special session bill aimed at blocking COVID-19 vaccine and mask requirements. When the final vote was taken at 1:15 a.m. on a Saturday, the measure received the support of just 57 Republicans — a significant drop from the unanimous 73 who signed on to the petition to hold the the special session.

5. 79 special session bills have been filed in the House, but here are the 8 that matter most. Oct. 27, 2021.

House members submitted dozens of bills in advance of a special session aimed at dialing back COVID-19 mandates (among other things). But the last eight dropped in the hopper before the filing deadline are the ones most worth paying attention to. They all had one key thing in common: their sponsors were House Speaker Cameron Sexton and his Senate counterpart, Randy McNally.

4. Fired chief vaccine officer’s husband ran against erstwhile Lee ally Casada. July 13, 2021.

The state’s firing of its top vaccination officer, Michelle Fiscus, sparked national outrage. Fiscus grabbed the media spotlight by claiming she had become a scapegoat for conservative lawmakers’ anger over the department’s efforts to vaccinate teeenagers against COVID-19. There was a political subcurrent to the firing. Fiscus’ husband, Brad, ran as an independent candidate against state Rep. Glen Casada in last year’s election, finishing third.

3. Tennessee congressional delegation recoils at Capitol incursion. Jan. 6, 2021.

U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty, who called for active duty troops to be activated to quell social unrest during last year’s campaign, denounced the breach of the U.S. Capitol by demonstrators supporting President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his electoral loss. “What is happening at the U.S. Capitol right now is not peaceful, this is violence,” Hagerty said in a tweet. “I condemn it in the strongest terms. We are a nation of laws and this must stop.”

2. Former commissioner reports Rep. Weaver to DC police. Jan. 14, 2021. 

A former commissioner in then-Gov. Ned McWherter’s administration reported state Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) to law enforcement for taking part in Washington protest that turned into a riot. “I respectfully inform you that Terri Lynn Weaver… was a participant,” Dudley Taylor wrote to D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee. “She posted photos and informed The Tennessean, the daily newspaper in Nashville, that she was ‘in the thick of it.’ She claimed to be a ‘patriot,’ of course.”

1. Last place you’ll ever visit? Tennessee’s vaccine policy becomes late-night TV fodder. July 15, 2021.

Late-night TV comedian Stephen Colbert is taking aim at Tennessee’s decision to fire its vaccine chief and stop marketing any immunizations to children. “Tennessee, the Volunteer State, has one of the worst vaccination rates in the country,” Colbert said in his monologue Wednesday. “And they aim to keep it that way.”

Colbert suggested the state is proud of it’s anti-vax ways, and his program created a new tourism ad to suit: “Discover Tennessee: Scenic lakes, beautiful state parks, and soon: polio!” the ad’s narrators says. “There are just so many things to do — and catch — in Tennessee.”

Top TNJ: On the Hill posts of 2020 so far

A man scrubs graffiti off of a building following protests in downtown Nashville on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

As we hit the halfway mark of a tumultuous year, here is a look at the the most popular posts on the TNJ: On the Hill blog so far (again with a hat tip to our friends at the Nashville Post, from whom we have stolen the idea on more than one occasion).

1. Sethi on the air with new ad hitting ‘Leftwing Lockdown.

June 11: Republican U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi has a new TV ad out in which he goes after what his campaign is calling liberals’ double standard on the coronavirus lockdown.

2.  So what’s essential? A look at Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order.

March 30: Here are details about which businesses are exempted by Gov. Bill Lee’s order for non-essential operations to shut down to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. It’s a long list, ranging from marinas to dry cleaners. It also includes “any other business or organization that operates at all times with ten or fewer persons accessing the premises.”

3. Give me refills or give me death? Protest organizer laments need to pay for extra iced tea.

April 20: According to The Tennessean’s Natalie Allison, a top lament of an anti-lockdown protest organizer at the state Capitol is that he can’t get free refills for his iced tea under social distancing rules.

A sign outside the Pink Cadillac drive-in movie theater in Centerville advertises church services on May 3, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

4. Lee announces end of stay-at-home order for 89 of 95 counties.

April 20: Gov. Bill Lee has announced stay-at-home orders will expire next week in all but six of Tennessee’s 95 counties. The counties that will continue to be covered by local bans on nonessential business are Shelby, Davidson, Knox, Hamilton, Madison, and Sullivan.

5. Candidate blasting China for COVID-19 married to man convicted of mislabeling drugs from … China.

May 11: Kingsport pharmacist Diana Harshbarger has been making a splash in Tennessee’s open 1st Congress District race by self-funding a series of television commercials. One of her latest spots attacks China for the coronavirus pandemic. Left unsaid is that Harshbarger’s husband pleaded guilty to federal charges of distributing misbranded drugs from China in 2013.

6. From urging to requiring: Lee makes stay-at-home mandatory.

April 2: Gov. Bill Lee is ramping up his stay-at-home directive, moving from urging people to avoid all non essential activities to requiring it. The move follows an uptick in traffic and movement around the state.

7. Lee orders statewide ban on gatherings of more than 10 and on dine-in restaurants, bars.

March 22. Gov. Bill Lee has issued a statewide ban on gatherings of more than 10 people and  ordered all restaurants be limited only to drive-thru or takeout service.

The doors of the state Capitol were closed to the public on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

8. Lee extends state of emergency until Aug. 29.

June 29: Gov. Bill Lee is extending Tennessee’s state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic until Aug. 29.

9. Election officials instructed not to immediately comply with judge’s order on absentee ballots.

June 5: A Nashville judge has ordered the state to start issuing absentee ballots to any registered voter who requests one, but State Election Coordinator Mark Goins is telling local officials not to immediately comply.

10. Should toppled Carmack statue be repaired at Tennessee Capitol?

June 1: Protesters over the weekend tore down the statue of Edward Ward Carmack, a newspaper editor and U.S. Senator who was gunned down in the streets of Nashville in 1908. Carmack was a notorious segregationist, though it’s unclear whether the demonstrators specifically targeted the monument (a historical marker commemorating Nashville’s lunch counter sit-ins in 1960 was also destroyed).

State troopers guard the toppled statue of Edward Ward Carmack outside the state Capitol on May 31, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

10 most read TNJ posts of the year (so far)

A breakdown of the attendees at a closed-door meeting with U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos was the most read post on the TNJ: On the Hill blog in the first half of 2019.

Inspired — as always — by our friends at the Nashville Post, here are the 10 most read posts on the the TNJ: On the Hill blog through the first half of the year: