general assembly

Special session in the headlines

The Senate Democratic Caucus has compiled 10 headlines as the General Assembly heads into the second week of a special session called in response to the mass shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School. Just for good measure we’ll add our own from the print edition of The Tennessee Journal: “Lawmakers shield themselves from advocates in special session.”

Here’s the other fine reporting highlighted by the Senate Dems:

ChalkbeatTennessee legislature will avoid gun control in special session prompted by mass school shooting.

FOX 17No mental health issues poised to become law in Tenn. session reacting to school shooting.

Tennessee Lookout: TN House passes rules to restrict speech, limit disruptions and public during special session.

PBS NewsHourGOP-led Tennessee legislature orders removal of public from gun control hearing.

Action News 5Judge blocks rule banning signs after lawsuit over group removed from Tenn. special session.

Williamson Herald: State Legislature’s special session brings controversy.

Phil WilliamsHave you seen this man? Lawmakers say Tennessee governor missing from special session talks.

The Washington PostDespite shooting, hope fades for gun laws in Tennessee special session.

APGun control already ruled out, Tennessee GOP lawmakers hit impasse in session after school shooting.

Times Free PressTennessee House, Senate Republicans return amid bitter stalemate.

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.

Majority of Tenn. lawmakers know their fate before polls even close

Lawmakers await Gov. Bill Lee’s arrival for his second State of the State address in Nashville on Feb. 3, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Even before the polls close on Tuesday evening, more than half of state’s 99 House seats are already decided. That’s because the nominees in 54 House races don’t face any opposition, including 37 Republicans and 17 Democrats.

In the Senate, 17 of 33 seats are up for four-year terms. Of those, seven face no opposition.

Here’s the list of who will be elected as soon as the polls close (asterisks indicate non-incumbents):


  • District 5: Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge)
  • District 11: Bo Watson (R-Hixson)
  • District 15: Paul Bailey (R-Sparta)
  • District 17: Mark Pody (R-Lebanon)
  • District 23: Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield)
  • District 27: Jack Johnson (R-Franklin)
  • District 29: Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis)


  • District 1: John Crawford (R-Kingsport)
  • District 2: Bud Hulsey (R-Kingsport)
  • District 3: Scotty Campbell (R-Mountain City)
  • District 4: John Holsclaw (R-Johnson City)
  • District 5: David Hawk (R-Greeneville)
  • District 7: Rebecca Alexander (R-Jonesborough)
  • District 9: Gary Hicks (R-Rogersville)
  • District 10: Rick Eldridge (R-Morristown)
  • District 11: Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby)
  • District 16: Michele Carringer (R-Knoxville)
  • District 17: Andrew Farmer (R-Sevierville)
  • District 20: Bryan Richey (R-Maryville)*
  • District 21: Lowell Russell (R-Vonore)
  • District 22: Dan Howell (R-Cleveland)
  • District 23: Mark Cochran (R-Englewood)
  • District 24: Kevin Raper (R-Cleveland)*
  • District 28: Yusuf Hakeem (D-Chattanooga)
  • District 29: Greg Vital (R-Harrison)
  • District 30: Esther Helton (R-East Ridge)
  • District 35: William Slater (R-Gallatin)*
  • District 36: Dennis Powers (R-Jacksboro)
  • District 38: Kelly Keisling (R-Byrdstown)
  • District 42: Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville)
  • District 45: Johnny Garrett (R-Goodlettsville)
  • District 46: Clark Boyd (R-Lebanon)
  • District 50: Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville)
  • District 51: Bill Beck (D-Nashville)
  • District 52: Justin Jones (D-Nashville)*
  • District 54: Vincent Dixie (D-Nashville)
  • District 55: John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville)
  • District 56: Bob Freeman (D-Nashville)
  • District 57: Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet)
  • District 58: Harold Love Jr. (D-Nashville)
  • District 62: Pat Marsh (R-Shelbyville)
  • District 65: Sam Whitson (R-Franklin)
  • District 66: Sabi Kumar (R-Springfield)
  • District 70: Clay Doggett (R-Pulaski)
  • District 72: Kirk Haston (R-Lobelville)
  • District 74: Jay D Reedy (R-Erin)
  • District 75: Jeff Burkhart (R-Clarksville)*
  • District 77: Rusty Grills (R-Newbern)
  • District 80: Johnny Shaw (D-Bolivar)
  • District 82: Chris Hurt (R-Halls)
  • District 83: Mark White (R-Memphis)
  • District 84: Joe Towns (D-Memphis)
  • District 85: Jesse Chism (D-Memphis)
  • District 87: Karen D. Camper (D-Memphis)
  • District 88: Larry Miller (D-Memphis)
  • District 91: Torrey Harris (D-Memphis)
  • District 93: G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis)
  • District 94: Ron Gant (R-Piperton)
  • District 96: Dwayne Thompson (D-Memphis)
  • District 98: Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis)
  • District 99: Tom Leatherwood (R-Arlington)

Early voting gets underway Wednesday

Early voting gets underway today.

Here’s a release from the Secretary of State’s Office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Starting today, Tennessee voters can cast their ballot early for the Nov. 8 State and Federal General Election.

Early voting runs Monday to Saturday until Thursday, Nov. 3. and offers the convenience and flexibility of evening hours and multiple polling locations in some counties. Tennessee voters can find their polling hours, locations and more with the GoVoteTN app or online at The GoVoteTN app is free in the App Store or Google Play.

“Every year, more Tennesseans are taking advantage of the convenience and flexibility of our generous early voting period,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett. “I encourage you to make your voice heard.”

Tennessee voters need to bring valid photo identification to the polls. A driver’s license or photo ID issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Tennessee state government or the federal government is acceptable even if expired. A student ID or out-of-state driver’s license is not acceptable. For more information about what types of IDs are permitted, visit

“With early voting, many Tennesseans can choose the time and location to cast their ballot,” said Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins. “And by casting your ballot early, you can avoid election day crowds and help reduce wait times for yourself and other voters.”

The Secretary of State’s office is Tennessee’s trusted source for accurate election information. For the latest information about the Nov. 8 election, follow the Secretary of State’s social media channels Twitter: @SecTreHargett, Facebook: Tennessee Secretary of State and Instagram: @tnsecofstate.
For more information about early voting, visit or call the Division of Elections toll-free at 1-877-850-4959.

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.

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Lawmakers scramble to raise money before high-noon deadline

Lawmakers are scrambling to collect last-minute campaign donations as a fundraising ban looms. The blackout begins once the gavel falls on the start of the regular session at noon on Tuesday. It will last until the General Assembly adjourns for the year — or May 15 if they can’t complete their business before then.

As Andy Sher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports, House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) had an event to raise money for his PAC on Monday at the Nashville City Club, while his Senate counterpart, Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), held an event at Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse .

Sexton spokesman Doug Kufner told the paper “the practice of hosting fundraisers on the day before the start of a legislative session is not uncommon and has occurred regularly among members of both parties in recent years.

Raising money will be all the more crucial for lawmakers facing potential primary challenges under this year’s newly drawn political maps.

American Conservative Union releases ratings of Tenn. lawmakers, makes no mention of legal issues

Sen. Brian Kelsey walks in the state Capitol on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The American Conservative Union, which is mentioned in several not-so-subtle ways in the federal campaign finance fraud indictment against state Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), has released its latest ratings of Tennessee lawmakers — including of the aforementioned Kelsey, who gets an 85.

“From protecting the Second Amendment to banning Critical Race Theory in schools, it is no surprise that Tennessee, led by a great governor in Bill Lee, once again scores among the most conservative state’s in the country,” Matt Schlapp, the group’s chairman, said in a release.

Kelsey is accused of funneling money from his state account through two other PACs to the American Conservative Union, which then spent money on ads supporting his ill-fated congressional bid in 2016. Kelsey has denied any wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

The ACU scored 84 roll call votes as part of its ratings, including bills banning government vaccine passports, changing certificate of need rules, making Tennessee a gun rights “sanctuary state,” banning students from participating in sports not corresponding to the gender listed at birth, opting out of federal unemployment benefit enhancements, and banning “critical race theory” in schools.

Here are the ratings:

Akbari, RaumeshD2923%38%29%
Bailey, PaulR1587%79%87%
Bell, MikeR980%75%85%
Bowling, JaniceR1683%75%85%
Briggs, RichardR778%71%80%
Campbell, HeidiD2026%n/a26%
Crowe, RustyR381%75%82%
Gardenhire, ToddR1073%75%82%
Gilmore, BrendaD1928%29%25%
Haile, FerrellR1883%71%86%
Hensley, JoeyR2882%62%85%
Jackson, EdR2783%76%85%
Johnson, JackR2384%75%88%
Kelsey, BrianR3185%77%87%
Kyle, SaraD3027%28%31%
Lundberg, JonR485%77%85%
Massey, BeckyR679%76%79%
Mcnally, RandyR578%72%85%
Niceley, FrankR881%79%81%
Pody, MarkR1782%n/a85%
Powers, BillR2283%76%79%
Reeves, ShaneR1485%76%84%
Roberts, KerryR2587%79%89%
Robinson, KatrinaD33n/a†n/a38%
Rose, PaulR3283%79%83%
Southerland, SteveR181%71%83%
Stevens, JohnR2483%75%89%
Swann, ArtR283%n/a81%
Walley, PageR2678%n/a78%
Watson, BoR1185%76%87%
White, DawnR1385%76%90%
Yager, KenR1279%74%82%
Yarbro, JeffD2128%38%36%
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Missed legislative votes tracked by Club for Growth

The state Capitol on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Club for Growth has tracked how many floor votes were missed by members of the state House and Senate. The average representative missed 8% of the vote, while the average in the upper chamber was 6%.

Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) missed 100% of the 2,244 House votes as he was hospitalized following a COVID-19 infection. Rep. Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah) missed most of the session before passing away from cancer, meaning he missed 99% of votes. Rep. Jason Potts (D-Nashville) was away for 60% of votes, while Rep. Brandon Ogles (R-Franklin) missed 50%.

Out of the 2,105 Senate votes tracked by the group this year, Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis) missed more than any of her colleagues with 40%. She was followed by Sens. Sara Kyle (D-Memphis) with 22%, Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) with 20%, and Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) with 19%.

Lundberg and Ogles said their absences were due to COVID-19 infections.

“I appreciate you reaching out regarding the scorecard, I think it’s great that you put that together to keep us accountable,” Ogles said in a statement to the group. “Unfortunately, I was out with COVID-19 starting 3/15/21 and was not healthy enough to return until 4/26/21.”

See the ratings below

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AP: Tennessee leads nation in laws targeting transgender people

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters following his address to a joint convention of the General Assembly on Jan. 19, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A flurry of anti-LGBTQ bills have been filed around the country this year, but Tennessee has gone further than any other in targeting transgender people, according to AP reporters Jonathan Mattise, Kimberlee Kruesi, and Lindsay Whitehurst.

From the story:

Lawmakers passed and Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed five new bills into law, consistently dismissing concerns that they discriminate against an already vulnerable population, that some of the laws are unworkable and that they could damage the state’s reputation.

Supporters defend the laws policy by policy, arguing that one protects parental rights, others protect girls and women and one even improves equality. Opponents reject those claims.

[…] Tennessee’s emergence as an anti-LGBTQ leader grows out of a rightward political shift in a state Republicans already firmly controlled. Lee’s Republican predecessor tapped the brakes on some socially conservative legislation, but emphatic GOP election wins fueled by strong support for former President Donald Trump have emboldened lawmakers since then. That’s the political landscape in which Lee is launching his 2022 reelection bid.

Read the whole report here.

Alexander to be honored in joint convention

News coverage of Lamar Alexander’s first joint address to state lawmakers in 1979. The retired U.S. Senator is scheduled to speak to lawmakers on April 12, 2021.

Lamar Alexander, who served three terms in the U.S. Senate and two as governor, is scheduled to be honored in a joint convention of the General Assembly on Monday afternoon.

Alexander, a Maryville Republican who didn’t seek re-election last fall, will also be in Nashville to tour the new Tennessee State Library and Archives facility north of the state Capitol.

Alexander’s first speech to a joint convention of the House and Senate occurred more than 42 years ago when he delivered his first budget address in February 1979.


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