It’s ‘Nacho Libre’ time in the Tennessee House

Republican Reps. Micah Van Huss and Debra Moody are hosting a viewing party for the movie “Nacho Libre” at the legislative office complex on Monday night. The event first reported by The Tennessean’s Natalie Allison is getting the full treatment by Van Huss’ hometown newspaper, The Johnson City Press.

“It might read like satire, but it’s not,” writes the paper’s Zach Vance. Here’s more:

“We’re going to get together, have some pizza and watch ‘Nacho Libre,’ one of my favorite movies,” Van Huss said.

“I just like ‘Nacho Libre.’ I just like that (type) of comedy, it’s like ‘Napoleon Dynamite.’ It’s just some off-the-wall humor, and I like it.”

Van Huss also said no taxpayer dollars would be involved in hosting the event, and unfortunately, the public is not invited to the exclusive assembly.

“All 99 (House) members and 33 senators have received an invitation and their staff members. So everybody is invited that is members and staff. I can’t invite the public because then I’d have to hire security,” Van Huss said.

Lawmakers spend campaign funds on travel, cigar bars

State lawmakers spent campaign cash on items ranging from cigar bars to hotels in France, according to an analysis by The Tennessean’s Joel Ebert.

Ebert reports Sen. Paul Bailey (R-Sparta) spent more than $1,000 to stay at hotels in Paris and Verdun during a a visit to France for the 100th anniversary of Sgt. Alvin York’s heroic deeds during World War I. Campaign funds also paid for Bailey’s $900 flight.

Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) and Rep. Rick Staples (D-Knoxville) used campaign funds to cover expenses at cigar bars. A Hill spokesman said the $110 he expensed at a cigar lounge in Johnson City was a “reporting error,” and that he planned to reimburse his account. A Staples spokesman said the lawmaker spent the money during “constituent appreciation” events at the cigar bar in Nashville.

Sen. Steve Southerland (R-Morristown) dropped about $28,300 to buy a car from Lee Beaman’s dealership. He also used campaign finds to cover the cost of car washes and license plate fees.

“He utilizes the automobile to travel to the Capitol on official state business, which is allowable under state law,” a spokeswoman for Southerland told The Tennessean.

Read more of Ebert’s reports about lawmaker spending habits and problems with disclosures.


Photo gallery of House action as Casada elected speaker

Here’s a look at some of the action surrounding the election of Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) as House speaker on Tuesday.

Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) gestures toward former Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) after his election as speaker in Nashville on Jan. 8, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Cottontown) attends a Republican caucus meeting on the first day of the 111th General Assembly on Jan. 8, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Republican Caucus Chairman Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) attends a caucus meeting on the first day of the 111th General Assembly on Jan. 8, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

New House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) takes over the gavel from former Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) on Jan. 8, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) attends a rules meeting in Nashville on Jan. 8, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

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UPDATE: Casada wins GOP nomination for House speaker

Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) speaks to fellow Republicans about his bid for House speaker on Nov. 20, 2018.. He was later nominated for the position by 47 of 73 members. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

UPDATE: Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) has won the nomination for House speaker. He received 47 votes from the 73-member caucus.

Rep. William Lambert’s (R-Cottontown) was elected majority leader, Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) was won the caucus speakership, and Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) was nominated speaker pro tem.

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Former state Senate GOP leader Ben Atchley dies

Former state Senate Republican leader Ben Atchley of Knoxville has died, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. He was 88.

A statement from Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge):

Ben Atchley was the very definition of a statesman. He always did what was right and never sought credit for his accomplishments — which were many. He never shied away from hard decisions and his integrity was unquestioned. As Senate Republican Leader for 16 years, his work ensured Republicans had a seat at the table in the minority and laid the groundwork for our eventual majority. Both he and Sue provided the Senate and the Republican Party with so much and yet asked little in return. You can trace the lineage of all our success as a party and as a state back to the leadership he provided. He was a great man and a great senator. My heart goes out to Sue and the entire Atchley family in this time of mourning. Tennessee’s gentle giant has passed. I will miss him.

Former House Finance Chairman Charles Sargent dies

Rep. Charles Sargent (R-Franklin), left, confers with Rep. Bob Ramsey (R-Maryville) on the House floor in Nashville on April 23, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Charles Sargent, the former chairman of the House Finance Committee has died, The Tennessean reports. He was 73.

Sargent was first elected to the General Assembly in 1996. He decided not to run again this year.

The New York native moved to Nashville in 1970 and later settled in Williamson County. He was named finance chairman by then-Speaker Kent Williams (I-Elizabethton) in 2009 and was retained in that role by House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) when she took over two years later.

At the time of his retirement, Sargent was one of the few remaining House members who had voted against the state income tax championed by then-Gov. Don Sundquist, a fellow Republican. The others were Harwell, Glen Casada (R-Franklin), Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville), and John Mark Windle (D-Livingston).

Sargent, an insurance agent, was a strong advocate for the business community during his time in office, incurring the wrath of the the likes of the Tennessee Firearms Association in the process (but retaining strong ratings from the National Rifle Association).

Sargent narrowly turned back a strong challenge from Sonic drive-in franchisee Steve Gawrys in 2014, winning the Republican primary by just 255 votes. But Sargent came back strong  in a 2016 rematch, trouncing Gawrys by a 2-to-1 margin.

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Trump cites House Majority Leader Casada in Facebook post

President Donald Trump has cited House Majority Leader Glen Casada (R-Franklin) in a Facebook post.

Casada is running to succeed Beth Harwell as speaker of the Tennessee House. Rivals for the chamber’s top job include Reps. Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville) and David Hawk (R-Greeneville).


Former Rep. Gerald McCormick joins Ingram Group

Former House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick has joined the Ingram Group lobbying firm in Nashville, which also recently hired Alexia Poe, the former communications director for Gov. Bill Haslam.

Here’s a release from the Ingram Group:

KNOXVILLE, TN – Retiring Tennessee State Representative and former Majority Leader Gerald McCormick has joined The Ingram Group, founder Tom Ingram announced today.McCormick will provide general consulting services with an emphasis on expanding state government relations practices for the Nashville and Washington based boutique strategic consulting firm which was founded over 35 years ago.

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Norris confirmed for federal judgeship in Memphis

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R- Collierville) and Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) attend a hearing on open records exemptions in Nashville on Jan. 30, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Senate on Thursday voted to confirm the long-delayed judicial nomination of state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris. The Collierville Republican now heads to the federal court bench in Memphis. The confirmation vote was 51-44. The chamber also confirmed former federal prosecutor and FBI agent Eli Richardson to a federal judgeship in Nashville.

Here is some reaction to Norris’ confirmation:

I recommended Senator Norris to the president, and I strongly supported Mark’s nomination. He is respected by his peers around the country, having been elected chairman of the Council of State Governments, and has been an advocate and a champion for federalism and for the separation of powers. He is a citizen, a lawyer and a legislator. I have known him for many years — since I was the governor of Tennessee — and I am glad the Senate voted to confirm him today. — U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville).


“Mark Norris has long been a devoted public servant in Tennessee, and I am pleased he will continue to serve our state as a federal district court judge,” said Corker. “I am confident Mark will faithfully uphold the Constitution and serve West Tennesseans with integrity as he has throughout his terms in the state legislature. — U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Chattanooga).


As our Senate Majority Leader, Mark has been an indispensable asset not just to the Senate but to state government as a whole. While we will all miss his keen mind, sound judgment and strong leadership in state government, we can take comfort in the fact our federal courts have gained an outstanding judge. — State Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge).


Congratulations to Mark Norris for being confirmed as a West Tennessee federal judge.  Mark’s many years of service have made him highly respected throughout the entire state of Tennessee, and I believe he will make an excellent addition to this court. — U.S. Rep. David Kustoff (R-Memphis).

Ketron resigns from Senate ahead of becoming mayor

State Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) speaks on the Senate floor on Feb. 26, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

From a release:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – State Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) today resigned as senator for the 13th District in Tennessee effective August 31, two months before his term of office is set to expire.  Ketron will take office as Rutherford County Mayor on September 1 and state law prohibits holding certain public offices at the same time.  

Ketron, who was elected to the Senate in 2002, currently serves as Senate Republican Caucus Chairman, a position he has held since 2010.  He also served in several other key leadership roles during his legislative tenure including Joint Fiscal Review Committee Chairman from 2010-2016 and Senate State and Local Government Committee Chairman from 2007-2010. 

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