FIRST Legislative Update, January 16, 2021


Tennessee General Assembly information, click HERE. For information on State Senators, including phone numbers and email addresses, click HERE; for House members, click HERE. For information on legislation, click HERE.
Don't forget that you can now watch the Senate committee meetings and floor sessions online by going HERE; House committee meetings and floor sessions online HERE.
Phone calls can go to the legislative Switchboard at 615-741-3011 or to the Toll Free number 1-800-449-8366+1 last four digits of office phone number (available online).


The Bible is the only supreme source of revelation of the meaning of life, the nature of God, and spiritual nature and needs of men.  It is the only guide of life which really leads the spirit in the way of peace and salvation.  America was born a Christian nation, America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness, which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture.  Woodrow Wilson--28th President

There are SO MANY things to put on your prayer list.  Rep. Mike Carter, after recovering from Covid, was found to have pancreatic cancer and is being treated for that. Bless his heart, he was at the Capitol this week. I got to meet his sweet wife.  Since about the first week of December, Rep. David Byrd has had Covid, and he has been having a really hard time. Please pray for healing.  Rep. Kevin Vaughan was out as he is recovering from Covid. The brother of Freshman legislator Rep.Michele Carringer had a heart attack New Year's Eve and died. You will want to remember that family.
PLEASE pray for the Legislative Leadership and members as they negotiate carrying out the business of the state under the demanding provisions of the ongoing pandemic.  All the lawmakers need great wisdom, clarity, understanding, discernment and remember their families as the lawmakers are away from home, and for traveling mercies as the go back and forth.

Well, the short answer to that question is that I don't have a clue. This is my 34th year at the Capitol and, thankfully, we have never had a session like this one portends to be.  The 112th Tennessee General Assembly convened for the Constitutionally required ORGANIZATIONAL session at high noon on January 12, 2021. The Organizational Session was completed on Wednesday and adjourned Sine die.  Immediately the 112th General Assembly was called into regular session.  When they convene on January 19th, they will be in the SPECIAL SESSION on education that the Governor has called.

Senate to block public access to committee floor .
I cannot begin to tell you how troubling I think this is. It isn't just the committee floor: On the 7th Floor of the Cordell Hull Building only Senate Members, Senate Staff, and appointments pre-scheduled by the pubic are authorized on the floor.  Please notify Ms. Connie Ridley of Senators appointments with members of the public the afternoon in advance.  Once appointments are concluded, guest must leave the floor.

However, not only the Senate is doing this, contrary to what I was told a couple of weeks ago, the House is doing the exact same thing except I think the Committee Rooms may be open.  We will see if that happens. This makes for a really difficult working situation.

January 12:

Tennessee Legislature Re-Elects Randy McNally, Cameron Sexton as Speakers of Senate, House .
All the lawmakers were sworn in as was the staff for each chamber. 

January 13:

Sec of State Hargett, Comptroller Mumpower, Treasurer Lillard

Lawmakers reelect Tennessee secretary of state despite objection from some Democrats .

Lt. Governor McNally announces committee appointments for the 112th General Assembly .

Here are Sexton’s House committee assignments .

January 14-15

Wednesday afternoon, Thursday and Friday were focused on the Medicaid Proposal.   Even though HJR18 passed, the battle for the Block Grants is not over.  Cong. Jim Cooper is already trying to stop it.

Federal Government Approves Tennessee’s Medicaid Proposal, Swapping a Block Grant for an Aggregate Cap .

Tennessee OKs Medicaid block grant; fate unclear under Biden

NASHVILLE — Tennessee’s GOP-dominant Legislature on Friday approved a contentious decision that would drastically overhaul the state’s Medicaid program, casting quick votes this week in hopes of making it difficult for incoming President-elect Joe Biden’s administration from overturning the deal.

The House vote Friday sets in motion a plan that proponents argue will produce flexibility and savings that can fuel additional health coverage offerings, with a promise that there won’t be eligibility or benefit cuts. Opponents, including many Democrats, are wary of that promise since the plan banks on big savings. They also point out that there’s no guarantee more patients will be eligible under the block grant, unlike their preferred action of expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

It’s still not a given that Tennessee will actually become the first state to receive funding in a lump sum for its Medicaid program through a block grant. While Tennessee received approval under President Donald Trump’s administration just last week, Biden has opposed block-grant efforts and can rescind the change.

That tension fueled Republican lawmakers’ determination to prioritize their approval in the first week of the legislative session. The votes are required under the state law the General Assembly initially passed in 2019. Senators approved the plan Thursday.

Cooper urges Biden to reverse TennCare block grant

Sam Stockard, January 11, 2021

Three days after Tennessee officials announced approval of a Medicaid block grant to fund TennCare, the state’s program for sick and needy residents, Congressman Jim Cooper sent President-elect Joe Biden a letter asking him to rescind the plan.

Tennessee’s Republican leaders say a block grant will enable the state to run the healthcare program more efficiently and possibly even serve more people, using projections from years of savings to bolster the program. But Cooper, a Nashville Democrat, contends it could lead to diversion of the money and reduction of people from the TennCare rolls

2021 First Extraordinary Session to convene January 19, 2021

Lee calls special session for Jan. 19 .

Tennessee to receive $1.1 billion in federal COVID-19 relief aimed at K-12 education .

Tennessee Nonprofit Warns Gov. Bill Lee to Focus on Best Interests of Students, Not Budgets, During Special Session .


Tennessee Democratic House Caucus Chairman Questions Need for Legislature to Hold Special Session on Education Challenges .


Accountability to Inform – SB 7001

  • Extends hold harmless provisions from the 2019-20 school year to the 2020-21 school year so that students, teachers, schools and districts do not face any negative consequences associated with student assessments
  • Provides parents and educators with assessment data including TCAP testing to provide an accurate picture of where Tennessee students are and what supports are needed to offset any learning losses

Intervening to Stop Learning Loss – SB 7002

  • Requires interventions for struggling students including after-school learning mini-camps, learning loss bridge camps and summer learning camps, beginning summer 2021
  • Program prioritizes students who score below proficient in both reading (ELA) and math subjects
  • Creates the Tennessee Accelerated Literacy and Learning Corps to provide ongoing tutoring for students throughout the entire school year
  • Strengthens laws around a third grade reading gate so we no longer advance students who are not prepared

Building Better Readers with Phonics – SB 7003

  • Ensures local education agencies (LEAs) use a phonics-based approach for kindergarten through third grade reading instruction
  • Establishes a reading screener for parents and teachers to identify when students need help, well before third grade
  • Provides training and support for educators to teach phonics-based reading instruction

You can view all the Special Session legislation that has been filed HERE.


Targets of FBI raid lawyer up

A new Marshall County Republican legislator targeted by the FBI in a Friday morning raid has hired a prominent Nashville criminal defense attorney to represent him.

Todd Warner, a Chapel Hill farmer and businessman, retained Peter Strianse after federal agents swooped down on his home and business early Jan. 8.

Warner also could face renewed discussion about his campaign finances to determine whether he illegally coordinated with a dark money group in his primary race in 2020 against incumbent Republican Rick Tillis, according to officials with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance.

Tom Lawless, chairman of the registry board, said it would be proper under the board’s rules to rehear the matter if a new complaint is filed.



Sen. Kerry Roberts – getting back to life after a brain hemorrhage


On Friday Oct. 9, Sen. Kerry Roberts was on a Zoom call. While on the Zoom call, when he was overcome with a severe headache and pressure in his head. It was so severe that Roberts put the Zoom call on hold, and went to find his wife to get some medicine.

“I don’t ever get headaches. When I get a headache, I always have to ask my wife, ‘now what is it I’m supposed to take, is it Tylenol or is it Advil? Which one works for headaches?’ So for me to have a situation where I’m like, ‘hey hold on a minute I need to go get something,’ that’s pretty unusual for me,” said Roberts.

Roberts found his wife and told her about the headache and pressure. They began ruling out the fact that it wasn't a heart attack, it wasn't a stroke. Roberts is 59 years old, and he’s in excellent health. He doesn’t have any health problems, and he's not on any medication. As they continued running through the possibilities, Roberts said he needed to go to the hospital. Something was terribly wrong.

Abortion pill
SCOTUS Rules in Favor of Health & Safety of Women .

This week, eyes and ears are on the House of Representatives and the lower Chamber’s latest stunt to impeach President Trump in his last week of office. But, in the midst of this, a big win out of the Supreme Court has received very little press.

You may recall that in May 2020, a group of doctors sued the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in an attempt to remove a rule preventing abortion doctors from prescribing the abortion pill via mail without seeing patients in person. According to NBC News, the group did so because of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to this article, “Medical offices and clinics have either closed or restricted appointments… and requiring pregnant women to make in-person visits exposes them to a heightened risk of infection



Rep. London Lamar Files Bill To Investigate Tennesseans Participating in January 6 Events in DC and Remove Elected Officials from Office . [This didn't last long - she withdrew the bill Tuesday on the House floor.]

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