Saturday, March 02, 2024

Tennessee General Assembly Week 7 Recap

From Rep. Susan Lynn, March 2, 2024-

Rep. Susan Lynn
House Advances School Choice, Bolsters Public Education


Plan gives families the power to use their tax dollars to choose the best school that meets the needs of their child

House Republicans this week unveiled a sweeping proposal to improve education in Tennessee by expanding school choice opportunities for families and strengthening existing public schools statewide.

House Bill 1183, as amended, represents the culmination of months of diligent work by the chairs of the House education committees to ensure the needs of every student are met. The legislation advanced out of the K-12 Subcommittee on Tuesday after more than two hours of discussion.

“We have been listening to our teachers, our superintendents and our students all across the state,” said State Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, who is guiding passage of the bill. “This legislation before us is an opportunity to rethink education in our state.”

The proposal would establish the Education Freedom Scholarships Act (EFSA), giving parents the power to use their tax dollars to choose the best school that meets the needs of their child. 

A total of 20,000 scholarships would be available to families for the 2024-25 school year. Priority would be given to students who are currently eligible for an Education Savings Account followed by those from households at or below 400 percent and 500 percent of the federal poverty level respectively. Recipients must be U.S. citizens and not enrolled in a homeschool program.

Growth of the EFSA program would be limited to 20 percent of the number of scholarships awarded during the previous year. The Department of Education would also be required to submit an annual report on the utilization of the scholarships.

“We’ve put caps on the growth of this to make sure that if it grows, it grows sensibly (and) it grows in a way that the General Assembly can afford as it moves forward,” said State Rep. Scott Cepicky, R-Culleoka. “It is driven by usage.”

Additional funding, more flexibility for public schools

Tennessee public schools will also benefit from House Bill 1183 through additional funding, reductions in testing and evaluations along with increased flexibility in various other areas.

“The bulk of this bill is what we’re trying to do for our public schools, because 90 percent of our children go to public schools,” White said. “We are trying to build up what our public schools are doing.”

The General Assembly in 2022 approved the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) Act, which overhauled the way the state funds education to prioritize the individual needs of students. The proposed base funding for each public school student in Tennessee for the 2024-25 school year is $7,075.

With House Bill 1183, the weighted allocation per student in small districts would increase by 3 percent while the amount for each student in sparse districts would increase by 1 percent. There would also be $75 in additional funding per student to address local school infrastructure needs. 

Additionally, the state would increase its health care plan contribution for districts from 45 percent to 60 percent. This would amount to an estimated $160 million in additional funding during the first year for districts to use at their discretion. The legislation would also reduce the number of K-12 standardized tests annually and align them more to federal requirements, adding approximately 300 hours of instructional time back into the classroom.

“Time is the most valuable asset for our teachers,” Cepicky said. “If we can put more time into the classroom and still be able to gather the data we need to make sure our students are progressing, we all win.”

Higher-performing teachers would be evaluated less frequently and license recertifications would occur every eight years instead of every five years under the proposal. Districts would also have increased flexibility regarding promoting students in grades 4 through 8. 

Other highlights of the legislation include:

  • Protecting public school scores from being affected by late-transferring students
  • Flexibility for districts to choose either a traditional 180-day school year or equivalent hours-based schedule
  • Increasing district improvement plan submissions to every three years
  • Preventing athletic recruiting by aligning with current TSSAA policies regarding transfer eligibility
  • Dissolving the Achievement School District in 2026

House Bill 1183 is scheduled to be heard in the Education Administration Committee on March 6.

House Approves Bill to Increase Private School Safety

The House of Representatives on Monday passed legislation aimed at increasing safety at more private schools in Tennessee.

House Bill 1631, sponsored by State Rep. Gino Bulso, R-Brentwood, allows a private school with students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade to adopt a handgun carry policy for its campus. 

“All of our children in public school or private school deserve to be protected,” Bulso said Monday. “The most dangerous place to be in Tennessee, or any other state in this country, is in a gun free zone, and… if private schools want to have an armed response at the school to protect children, they should have that ability.”

Existing state law only allows K-12 private schools to establish a handgun carry policy. The companion version of House Bill 1631 is still advancing through the Senate.

Tennessee Businesses Against Trafficking Program Launches

Members of the Tennessee General Assembly this week joined Secretary of State Tre Hargett and community advocates for the launch of a new initiative to combat human trafficking statewide. 

Created through the passage of legislation in 2023, Tennessee Businesses Against Trafficking engages corporations and private entities in voluntary efforts to identify, prevent and combat human trafficking in communities across the state. Participants will be able to identify the warning signs of trafficking and assist in the reporting of suspected criminal activity to the authorities.

“Through Tennessee Businesses Against Trafficking, businesses will be effective partners in the ongoing fight against trafficking crimes,” said State Rep. Debra Moody, R-Covington. “While we have made considerable progress in Tennessee, we must all continue to do our part and stand with victims, survivors and their families.”

Participating businesses will adopt a zero-tolerance policy and participate in training, public awareness and education campaigns. They will also encourage employees to participate and share best practices that effectively combat human trafficking with the Secretary of State’s office.

Human trafficking is the second-fastest growing criminal industry in the United States, only behind drug trafficking, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. There have been cases of human trafficking crimes reported in all 95 Tennessee counties. Additional information about Tennessee Businesses Against Trafficking, including how to join the program, can be found online at

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Mark Green nixes retirement plan after Trump pleas for him to vie for another term

 House Homeland Security Chair Mark Green nixes retirement plan after Trump pleas for him to vie for another term

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Friday, March 01, 2024

Meeting Tomorrow re the New Zoning Bills (NEST)



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“The Soviets had a term for people like Tucker: useful idiots.”

by Rod Williams, March 1, 2024- I watched about half of the Tucker Carlson interview with Vladimer Putin shortly after it aired and then got distracted and didn't get around to watching the other half until watched last night. I am flabbergasted and disgusted. Tucker showed himself to be Putin's lapdog. Tucker asked nothing but softball questions and allowed Putin to filibuster. This was propaganda. If you have not watched it, here it is: 

Republican Senator Thom Tillis nailed it by saying, "The Soviets had a term for people like Tucker: useful idiots."

It was not just that Tucker Carlson gave Putin a platform to justify his invasion of Ukraine that makes him a useful idiot but Tucker's gushing praise for life in Russia. A trip to a grocery store radicalized Tucker he says when he realizes that Russians have decent grocery stores and food cost so much less.

 What? He didn't think they had packaged bread in Russia?  Anyone who has traveled to less wealthy countries has probably enjoyed the lower prices of the host country.  Most of us, however, probably understand how exchange rates work.  Yes, a cart full of groceries may cost less, but to the local person of that country, they take a much greater share of that person's income. The average wage in Russia is 73,383 RUB per month which is $791 with today's exchange rate (1). Over 60% of Russians spend half of their salary on food, according to Russia's state-owned news agency TASS. Over 60% of Russians spend half of their salary on food, according to Russia's state-owned news agency TASS.

Carlson really embarrassed himself by marveling over grocery cart technology. If you have ever shopped at Audi's here in Nashville, you know what I am talking about. One must put in a quarter to get a shopping cart and when you return it, you get the quarter returned. Apparently, this is common throughout the world. Maybe Carlson doesn't get out much and never visits a grocery store.

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Thursday, February 29, 2024

About Biden's War on Energy

by Rod Williams, Feb. 29, 2024- The Republican talking point is that there is a Biden war on energy. The Democrat talking point is that under President Biden the United States is producing more power from renewables than ever before.

The Democrat talking point is true, but it is also true that under Biden the US is producing more oil and natural gas than ever before.  Neither Republicans nor Democrats want to advertise the fact that under President Biden there is an increased production of oil and natural gas.  Wind and solar and oil and gas have boomed under President Biden. The data shows energy independence has strengthened under Biden.

Under President Trump, the US set a record for oil and natural gas production. Fracking was responsible for much of that increased natural gas production. Well, guess what? Biden has broken the Trump record. Under Biden the country has set records for natural gas output. In the first half of 2023, the United States was the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas.

If one reads the news for facts rather than just listening to pundits, the facts are there. 
Read this article from The New York Times, A Muffled Boom.
See this from CNN Business: US becomes world’s top exporter of liquefied natural gas.

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What is NEST? Nashville's Essential Structures for Togetherness. What does it do?

by Rod Williams, Feb. 29, 2024- Change is difficult and I understand the desire of people to preserve the character of their community. However, our zoning codes have contributed to urban sprawl, crowded highways, limited housing choice, and a shortage of work force housing.  Many of our health care providers, teachers, policemen, firemen, musicians, and service industry workers have to live in places like Bethpage or Watertown because they cannot afford to live in Nashville. Young people find it difficult to buy that first "starter" home in Nashville and the elderly who may want to downsize can hardly find a smaller, more affordable home. We need to make changes to our zoning codes that will make it feasible to develop a broader range of housing types.  

To learn more about the proposed zoning changes before the Council, follow this link

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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Things are still, still a mess at the Metro Arts Commission. Mismanagement could Imperil Metro Arts Budget. Race-based funding could be Unconstitutional.

by Rod Williams, Feb. 28, 2024- Will things ever settle down at the Metro Arts Commission? It is embarrassing that such dysfunction can exist in an agency of Metro Government. If the agency does not get its act together what meager funding they do get is in jeopardy. 

The mess at the Arts Commission has been going on since at least 2016. Back in 2016 the agency underwent a change to promote equity and to engage in more "micro-funding opportunities, education programs and neighborhood-specific initiatives." Prior the agency had focused on funding a handful of high profile established organization such as Children's Theater, Frist, the symphony, ballet and a few others. These were too white for modern liberal sensibilities. Turmoil followed the change in focus.  Conflicts between funding large organizations versus small independent artists continues at the commission. 

There have been scandals, lawsuits, charges of racism and sexism, resignations, oustings, and changes in leadership at the Commission. Commission employees have described the agency’s leadership style as “rely[ing] heavily on intimidation, fear and punishment” and fostering a “culture of individualism, competition and secrecy." Outside organizations have been hired to help the Commission "overcome their racist past and transition to an anti-racist future." Still yet, things do not seem to improve.

This brings us up to now and things are not getting better and the funding for Metro Arts is now in jeopardy. Metro does not spend a lot on the arts. At last year's budget hearings, Metro Arts Commission Chair Matia Powell said peer cities like Austin, Dallas and San Francisco fund their arts communities at around 1% of their overall budget, while Nashville devotes about 0.017% of its budget to Metro Arts (2). 

I am not sure that Metro should spend more on arts. I think arts funding should primarily rely on art patrons. Of course, I feel the same about sports and think sports stadiums should be funded by sports fans. I also am not a big fan of public golf courses. However, we do not spend a lot of public money on arts. If the Arts Commission does not get their act together, they cannot expect more money; they may get less. Here is the latest. 

New Mismanagement Claims Imperil Metro Arts Budget

By Connor Daryani, Nashville Banner, February 27, 2024 - As artists and art organizations continue to plead for an increase to funding for the arts in Nashville, alleged overspending and financial malpractice at Metro Arts could put the meager financial support the arts do get at risk. 

Metro Finance Director Kevin Crumbo revealed on Monday that $2 million earmarked for Nashville arts organizations are in jeopardy due to the mismanagement of the department budget.

“The simple truth is the commission will not be in a position to make additional grant awards if its financial position is already headed to a deficit,” Crumbo at a meeting of the newly formed Arts Commission Oversight Committee said. “Surplus monies may be needed as part of a corrective action plan to avoid a deficit, and if so, less money will be available for grants.”

... “One of the root causes of the Internal Audit review, the Law Department investigation and the additional oversight of our Finance Department are the reports of multiple [Metro Arts] employees who have alleged excess spending over budget, possible violations of procurement and other established financial processes and behaviors at the highest level of management that may violate Metro’s policies governing workplace conduct,” said Crumbo. ... unclear if consultants and contractors were paid in a way that adheres to Metro’s rules ... Not only is the second half of operational grant funding at risk, Crumbo also indicated that the future of Metro Arts funding could be in trouble should the issues not get resolved. 

.... “My understanding of what happened is that at the July meeting, there were some decisions made where race was taken as an express factor, which we believed is unconstitutional,” Metro Legal Director Wally Dietz said at the Monday night Metro Council arts committee meeting. (read much more about this here)

Also see: Things are still a mess at the Metro Arts Commission. Metro Arts launches initiative to 'return land, money, and resources' to 'Indigenous, African, and Asian peoples'

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Monday, February 26, 2024

Tennessee General Assembly Week 5 Recap

Rep. Susan Lynn
From Rep. Susan Lynn, Jan. 23,2023-

House Approves "Duty to Warn Act" to enhance Public Safety

The Tennessee House of Representatives this week approved Republican legislation to increase protections for those targeted by threats of violence. House Bill 1625, also known as the Duty to Warn Act, requires mental health professionals and behavior analysts in Tennessee to inform local law enforcement if a patient makes an imminent threat to harm a specific individual or clearly identified group. Threats that are more general in nature must be reported to either the 988 Lifeline or a local crisis response service.

“This will strengthen duty to warn, provide some clarity and ensure that mental health practitioners do not have to call law enforcement when a patient makes a threat to them,” said bill sponsor State Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville.

The legislation includes protections from civil, criminal and disciplinary penalties for mental health professionals and behavior analysts who make reasonable attempts to comply with the law. The companion version of House Bill 1625 is still advancing through the Senate.

Legislation would Expand Newborn Safe Haven Program

A proposal to expand the availability of Safe Haven Baby Boxes for newborns in Tennessee advanced this week in the House. House Bill 2067, introduced by State Rep. Ed Butler, R-Rickman, would require the Department of Children’s Services to issue grants to counties for the installation of newborn safety devices while House Bill 1922 would add assisted living facilities, nursing homes and emergency communications centers to the list of approved locations for the devices.

The legislation will expand “the opportunity for a woman to safely give up her baby, whether it’s at a Safe Haven Baby Box or whether it’s at a safe haven location,” Butler said, adding the intent is to “save babies’ lives.”

Since 2001, Tennessee’s Safe Haven law has allowed mothers in certain cases to surrender their newborn without fear of being prosecuted. The child must be no more than 14 days old, unharmed and left voluntarily.

The General Assembly previously approved legislation in 2022 that expands the state’s safe haven law by allowing for the installation of Safe Haven Baby Boxes at police and fire stations in Tennessee.

House Bill 2067 is scheduled to be heard in the Civil Justice Committee on Feb. 28 while House Bill 1922 is scheduled to be heard in the Health Committee on the same day.

Bill Increasing Support for Victims of Child Sex Trafficking Advances

Legislation that would significantly increase the time victims of child commercial sex trafficking could file a civil lawsuit against their attacker advanced this week in the House.

House Bill 1906, introduced by State Rep. Jake McCalmon, R-Franklin, would allow victims to sue up to 30 years after they turned 18 for any injuries or illnesses that occurred as a result of the sexual abuse. The law currently allows victims to pursue civil action against an alleged perpetrator up to 15 years after they turn 18.

"These horrific events often traumatize victims for the rest of their lives," McCalmon said. "Victims deserve accountability and the opportunity for justice. Tennessee Republicans are committed to ensuring those who viciously prey on the most vulnerable members of society are held responsible for their actions and severely punished."

House Bill 1906 is scheduled to be heard in the House Civil Justice Committee on Feb. 28.

Wilson Helps: A

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First Tuesday Welcomes BRANDON OGLES

Brandon Ogles

 Tue, Mar 05 Brentwood

The Race Is ON !! Join us in welcoming Brandon Ogles as he kicks off his Congressional Campaign!

This is a MUST ATTEND event!

RSVP and get your place TODAY!

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He said he would retire. Eight days later, Rep. Mark Green may change his mind

 He said he would retire. Eight days later, Rep. Mark Green may change his mind

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Sunday, February 25, 2024

There’s a Tucker Born Every Minute

By Rachael Larimore, The Dispatch, Feb. 18, 2024 - As if Tucker Carlson hadn’t debased himself enough during his two-hour interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during which he let his subject spread propaganda and revisionist history, the former Fox News host continued his tour of Russia by marveling at how affordable a trip to the grocery store was (never mind that $104 for groceries is a lot in a country where the average salary is below $800 a month) and geeking out over some decades-old grocery cart technology. 

“Tucker’s Slavic version of Supermarket Sweep is not good propaganda,” Nick wrote in Boiling Frogs. “And the news on Friday morning made it look worse.” Nick was referring to the death of dissident Alexei Navalny in a Siberian prison. Navalny was heroic in his opposition to the Putin regime, returning to Russia and certain imprisonment after surviving being poisoned in 2020 with a powerful nerve agent. Carlson did tell the Daily Mail after the Russian opposition leader’s death that “It’s horrifying what happened to Navalny.” But only days before, at an appearance in Dubai, he was asked why he didn’t press Putin on assassinations in general and Navalny specifically—and said that “leadership requires killing people.” 

As Nick wrote, “Navalny’s death is the exclamation point on a week in which Carlson established himself as a chump for the ages, a man practicing propaganda at a T-ball level and somehow still whiffing on swing after swing.” Speaking of Tucker, Kevin also had some thoughts: “What Carlson was up to in Moscow wasn’t journalism—journalism is what Evan Gershkovich did, and what Tucker did was, at best, tourism. It is tempting to call him a useful idiot, but he isn’t an idiot. He knows what he is doing.” 

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Last days of Early Voting are Monday and Tuesday


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