NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — As we move deeper into our state session this year, News 2 is beginning a weekly wrap-up of all the things that happened at the State Capitol in the previous five days while looking at the next five.
This past week was full of controversial legislation, bizarre committee moments and Governor Bill Lee‘s annual address.
Not accepting federal dollars?
Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) said he introduced a bill to pull federal education funding from Tennessee and instead replace it with state money (it has yet to be officially filed, so we don’t know the exact parameters).
“It will allow us to create an education system that fits the Tennessee model and allow teachers to teach without the federal government telling us what to do,” Sexton said to reporters.
It left Democrats wondering if that money couldn’t be used better elsewhere.
“You just have to step back and say, ‘What are we really doing here? What is the ultimate aim?’” Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) said. “Is it to kill people? Is it to have the least educated population in the country?”
Several bills that affect the LGBTQ+ community made steps toward becoming law.
First, the Tennessee Senate passed a bill that would potentially outlaw certain drag shows. The Senate sponsor of the bill, Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin), argued the scope goes beyond just drag shows while Democrats disagree.
“The other bill that’s been dubbed a drag-show bill, and I’m guilty of that as well, it’s not a drag-show bill,” Johnson said in January. “It’s a bill about saying we’re not going to have sexually explicit, adult-themed entertainment in front of kids, whether it’s someone who’s dressed in drag or not.”
Democrats pushed back during Thursday’s Senate session, arguing that the bill will allow local law enforcement to have too much autonomy over an unclear law.
“This law applies everywhere in our state and puts citizens in a place of calling police, calling prosecutors anytime they think someone isn’t raising their kids right,” Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) said.
The bill now rests on the House side. Its next stage is in the House Criminal Justice Committee Tuesday afternoon.
Speaking of LGBTQ+ legislation, a strange scene broke out in a House Health Committee Wednesday afternoon. The committee met to discuss a bill to ban children’s transgender therapy. Regularly in these committees, outside forces are brought in to testify their experiences.
One such person this week? The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh, an uber-conservative right-wing commentator and blogger. It prompted several Democrats to ask about his qualifications for doing medical research, of which he said he has none other than, “The background that qualifies me to speak to this is I’m a human being with a brain and common sense and I have a soul.”
Walsh’s appearance aside, the bill moved on after a party-line vote – it’s slated to be discussed in a House Civil Justice Committee next Wednesday.
Metro-Nashville v. State Government
The battle rages on. Republicans filed a bill in January to slice the Metro-Nashville council from 40 to 20 members.
In a House Local Government Committee this week, House Majority Leader William Lamberth insisted the bill doesn’t solely target Nashville. “It’s extremely limited to say that this bill only affects one city,” he said. “It just simply doesn’t, that’s the words on the page.”
Of course, as is the theme here, Democrats disagree.
“Members of this legislative body who do not represent Nashville want to take control of our city,” Sen. Charlane Oliver (D-Nashville) said.
For context, the bill would limit any metropolitan government in the state to 20 members. There are currently three metropolitan governments in the state, and only one has more than 20 members – Metro-Nashville at 40.
The bill to halve it now heads to the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee.
State of the State
Plenty of things to look at, but the two headlines from Gov. Bill Lee’s annual ‘State of the State’ address are DCS and ‘crisis pregnancy centers.’
He pledged to push for additional funding for DCS to the tune of over $190 million. He also pledged to push for $100 million for ‘crisis pregnancy centers,’ which Democrats say offer no medical assistance.
Hundreds of bills will be up for debate during the 113th General Assembly. Tennessee lawmakers shared their thoughts on some of the major issues up for discussion at this year’s legislative session.
What lawmakers had to say about: Abortion Ban Clarification | Marijuana Reform | Transgender Therapy and LGBTQ+ Rights | Dept. of Children’s Services | Education | Crime/Public Safety | More
You can also find daily coverage from the session here.