Tennessee House Speaker Celebrates Court Ruling Blocking Vaccine Mandates

Tennessee’s Republican House Speaker is celebrating after a federal judge Tuesday struck down President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. 

“Speaker Sexton has always maintained that federal mandates imposed on Americans by the Biden administration were unconstitutional,” Doug Kufner, Communications Director for Tennessee’s House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) told The Tennessee Star Wednesday. “These injunctions are the first step in preserving the constitutional rights of Tennesseans and all Americans.”

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Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Requests $59M Increase in Next Year’s Budget

Gov. Bill Lee

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation requested a $59 million budget increase in its budget hearing this week with Gov. Bill Lee and advisers.

The request includes $24.9 million for a career path initiative that will assist with recruitment and retention of staff, an issue many government agencies cited in hearings this week.

TBI’s proposal also included requests for $11.7 million for one-time training and equipment and $10.2 million to hire forensic services positions, including $5.65 million in recurring expenses and $4.5 million in one-time expenses.

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Biden Administration Has ‘Politicized’ Coronavirus Vaccine, Governor Bill Lee Argues

Governor Bill Lee on Wednesday spoke out against President Joe Biden’s federal coronavirus vaccine mandate, arguing the president has “politicized” the issue.

Detailing the mandate has caused division throughout the country, Lee explained that state lawmakers are working to limit the federal government’s “overreach.”

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Tennessee Approves $884M in Funding, Creates Board for $6B Ford Project

The Tennessee Legislature finished its special session on Ford’s $5.6 billion electric truck project Wednesday by approving $884 million in spending and creating a Megasite Authority of West Tennessee board to oversee operations.

“This is the largest single economic investment in rural Tennessee’s history,” Gov. Bill Lee said. “… It is, most importantly, a win for western Tennessee’s workforce.”

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Teacher Pay Will Be Issue in Tennessee Public School Funding Review

As Tennessee begins looking at revamping its Basic Education Program (BEP) to fund public schools, one factor looming in the discussion of a new funding formula is teacher pay.

Legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle recognize teacher pay and how the BEP funds teacher pay are an issue.

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Ford Picks Tennessee for New Electric Vehicle and Battery Plant, Will Invest $5.6 Billion

Ford Motor Company announced on Monday that the Memphis Regional Megasite will be the location of a new electric vehicle and battery manufacturing facility.

The decision by the automobile manufacturer will invest a total of $5.6 billion in the area, as the group builds a 3,600-acre campus called Blue Oval City.

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Tennessee AG to Appeal Federal Rulings in Two Mask Mandate Lawsuits

Tennessee’s attorney general is appealing the recent decisions of two federal judges related to Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order allowing parents to opt out of school mask mandates.

Judges in Shelby, Knox and Williamson counties recently granted injunctions in lawsuits filed by parents of students with disabilities in each county. Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s appeals will be in the Shelby County and Knox County cases.

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Rally Held in Nashville for Nearly 300 Afghan Refugees Resettling in Middle Tennessee

A rally was held in Nashville Sunday as the state prepares to resettle at least 300 refugees from Afghanistan in Middle Tennessee. 

According to WKRN, dozens of people attended the rally, some of whom are Afghan refugees who previously fled the country due to Taliban violence

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Federal Judge Blocks Gov Lee’s Knox County Mask Opt-Out

Federal judge J. Ronnie Greer on Friday blocked the implementation of an executive order from Governor Bill Lee that allowed parents to opt out of mask mandates.

The ruling, which forces Knox County to implement a system-wide mandate, is the second blow to Lee’s executive order and is a temporary injunction until the lawsuit continues through the legal system.

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Gov. Lee Announces ‘Promising Results’ from K-8 Summer School Because of Law Passed in January 2021 Education Special Session

Students in class, listening to the teacher at the front of the room

Governor Bill Lee announced on Wednesday that results from policies passed during the January 2021 special legislative session have provided “encouraging data.”

According to Lee and Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn, the Tennessee Learning Loss Remediation and Student Acceleration Act allowed students across the state to attend summer programs with the goal of mitigating the setbacks produced during remote learning.

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Preliminary Injunction Will Keep Lee’s Mask Order Unenforceable in Shelby County

A federal judge granted a preliminary injunction Friday that will allow Shelby County Schools to continue to mandate all students wear masks as a way to mitigate COVID-19.

The order blocks Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order that allowed parents to opt children out of school mask mandates. U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee Judge Sheryl Lipman previously issued a temporary restraining order in the case, which prevented the enforcement of Lee’s executive order through Friday.

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President Biden Approves Tennessee Emergency Declaration

Joe Biden

President Joe Biden (D) on Tuesday declared that a major disaster exists in the State of Tennessee, a move requested by Governor Bill Lee (R-TN).

Due to the declaration, Biden now controls the ability to order federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by a severe storm and flooding.

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Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton Names Sammie Arnold New Chief of Staff

Sammie Arnold and Cameron Sexton

Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) announced on Monday that he will name Sammie Arnold his new chief of staff.

Most recently, Arnold served as Assistant Commissioner of Community & Rural Development for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD). In his position, he was appointed by Governor Bill Lee to serve on an economic recovery group aimed at getting Tennessee’s economy going after the coronavirus pandemic.

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Five Counties in Tennessee End Vehicle Emissions Testing

Five counties in Tennessee are ending vehicle emissions testing. The counties are five out of six total Tennessee counties that require emissions testing on vehicles. According to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) Commissioner David Salyers, “It’s a recognition of the improvement of our state’s air quality and demonstrates the diligence Tennesseans have shown toward achieving and maintaining this goal.”

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Tennessee Special Sessions Cost More Than $30K Per Day

If Gov. Bill Lee calls for a special session of the Tennessee Legislature, it will cost state taxpayers more than $30,000 per day.

Each day the House and Senate meet costs $30,750 in per diem for lawmakers, while each round trip for all lawmakers costs taxpayers $15,474 in mileage, according to Connie Ridley, the director of Tennessee’s Office of Legislative Administration.

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Former President Trump Endorses Governor Bill Lee in Reelection Campaign

Former President Donald Trump in a statement on Friday endorsed Governor Bill Lee (R-TN) in his campaign to seek a second term as Tennessee’s governor.

In the brief statement, Trump pointed out Lee’s record on a host of key issues, including support for law enforcement and border security.

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The Star News Network Senior Reporter Laura Baigert Details Mike Pompeo Interview

Laura Baigert

Monday morning on the Tennessee Star Report, host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed The Star News Network’s Senior Reporter, Laura Baigert to the newsmakers line to detail her exclusive interview with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Saturday.

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New Unemployment Claims Jump 42 Percent in Tennessee

Nearly 9,400 new unemployment claims were filed in Tennessee last week; the highest weekly total since mid-April.

Only nine states had more new unemployment claims than Tennessee last week. The 9,376 new claims last week represented a 42% increase from the previous week’s 6,596 new claims.

The jump in new claims came after the state stopped its participation in the federal supplemental pandemic relief unemployment program, which gives those on unemployment an additional $300 weekly through the first week of September. The final two weeks of June were the lowest claims totals since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

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Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles Weighs in on Trump’s Big Reception at Last Weeks CPAC

Tuesday morning on the Tennessee Star Report, host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles in studio to weigh in on Governor Bill Lee’s appearance and Donald Trump’s welcome at CPAC last weekend.

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Democrat State Rep Baselessly Accuses Republicans of Denying ‘Data’ After Top COVID Vaccine Official Fired

One Democrat in the Tennessee Legislature is accusing the state of firing its top COVID-19 vaccine expert for partisan political reasons, despite the fact that no official reason has been given for her termination. 

“Science denying TNGOP legislators demanded a sacrifice to their anti-mask, anti-vax, anti-fact ideology & a great woman, Dr. Michelle Fiscus, who worked tirelessly for Tennesseans every day during the pandemic was fired by [Gov. Bill Lee] to appease those who deny data & research,” state Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-TN-13) said on Twitter. 

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Twenty-One Tennessee Teachers Vow to Defy State Law and Teach Critical Race Theory

Teacher reading to student.

A petition circulated by the Zinn Education Project has collected more than 5,000 signatures from teachers who claim they will teach Critical Race Theory in their classrooms, regardless of whether it is outlawed in their respective states. 

Twenty-one of those teachers are from Tennessee. 

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No Questions for Gov. Bill Lee at CPAC about His ‘Woke’ Cabinet Members Penny Schwinn and Juan Williams

Screencap from C-SPAN video with Bill Lee and Matt Schlapp

CPAC chairman Matt Schlapp failed to ask Gov. Bill Lee (R-TN) a single question on Saturday about the “woke” policies of his administration as implemented by two cabinet members appointed by the governor: Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn, and Commissioner of Human Resources Juan Williams.

Schlapp moderated a panel at Saturday’s CPAC in Dallas on ‘A Conversation on Leadership, Justice, and Jobs in the Age of Wokeism’ with a two-member panel of Republican governors, Gov. Stitt of Oklahoma and Gov. Lee of Tennessee.

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Governor Bill Lee to Visit Tennessee National Guard at Southern Border

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced on Thursday that he will travel to the southern border to visit the members of the state’s National Guard that have been deployed there since October.

The members of the National Guard are assisting in attempts to reduce the large surge of illegal immigration and drug trafficking, which has increased in recent months.

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All Star Panelist Roger Simon Talks Tennessee’s New Idea of Paying Out-of-State Tourists $250 to Visit the Volunteer State

Thursday morning on the Tennessee Star Report, host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed all-star panelist Roger Simon in studio to discuss the new Tennessee On Me initiative promoted by Governor Lee and country artist Brad Paisley.

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Tennessee to Use Taxpayer Funds to Pay Out-of-State Tourists to Visit

In an attempt to continue the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, the state of Tennessee will utilize an unprecedented marketing effort — paying out-of-state tourists to travel to the state.

The program, initiated by Governor Bill Lee and dubbed “Tennessee on Me,” will grant $250 airline vouchers to any individual who travels to Tennessee’s largest cities and stays at least two nights.

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300 Tennessee National Guard Troops Remain at Southern Border

A Friday report revealed that 300 Tennessee National Guard troops are deployed to the U.S. southern border with Mexico, and that they’ll likely remain there until October. 

“We’ve had National Guard on the border on and off for many months, if not years,” Gov. Bill Lee (R) told The Tennesseean. “There’s a break in service between them, but right now we have 300.”

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Hagerty Raises Red Flags over Migrant Children Relocated to Tennessee

Nearly a month after news broke that the Biden administration is quietly resettling migrant children in Tennessee, more questions than answers remain.

“I’m pushing hard for transparency on this and the Biden administration is blocking us,” Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) said in an interview with Fox News. “You notice they move these planes in the dead of night. They’re coming in both by commercial airlines as well as private air, and the planes that we’ve found out about at least, are landing after midnight. They’re dispersing the people coming in. We’re hearing they’re unaccompanied minors. They could be adults.

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ACLU Sues Tennessee over Transgender Bathroom Law

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee filed a lawsuit to prevent the enactment of a new transgender bathroom sign law from taking effect on July 1.

The enacted law would require organizations to post a sign outside their bathrooms, if they allow individuals to use any bathroom — not one based on their biological sex.

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To-Go Alcohol in Tennessee Remains, But with Added Tax

Jack Daniels Honey

Of the many alcohol-related bills that passed the Tennessee Legislature this year and were signed by Gov. Bill Lee, one maintains a popular pandemic rule but taxes consumers for it.

Lee signed an executive order last year while COVID-19 restrictions were in place that allowed restaurants to sell to-go alcohol with restrictions.

The enacted House Bill 241 allows those sales to continue until July 1, 2023, but it also adds a 15% tax on those alcohol purchases.

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Gov. Lee’s Signature Makes Tennessee a Second Amendment Sanctuary

Guy shooting hand gun at gun range

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill Wednesday that makes the state a Second Amendment sanctuary.

Senate Bill 1335 prevents any “law, treaty, executive order, rule, or regulation of the United States government” that violates the Tennessee Constitution or the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution from being enforced in the state.

That violation would have to be determined by either the Tennessee or U.S. Supreme Court. The stipulation was added during debate of the bill in the Tennessee House, and the Senate concurred.

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Tennessee Becomes Second State to Ban Trans Hormone Treatments Before Puberty

child running with trans flag

Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed legislation Tuesday that bans hormone treatment for prepubescent minors.

SB0126 goes into effect immediately, making Tennessee the second state to ban trans procedures for minors, NBC reported. The Arkansas state legislature overrode Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto of a bill banning transgender surgeries and procedures for minors in April.

Arkansas’ “Save Adolescents From Experimentation Act,” otherwise known as the SAFE Act, prohibits physicians from performing gender transition procedures, such as puberty blockers or “top” and “bottom” surgeries, on minors before puberty. Transgender surgeries include vaginoplasty, phalloplasty, breast implants, and facial surgeries.

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COVID Vaccine Available for All Tennessee Adults on April 5

According to Gov. Bill Lee (R), all people over age 16 will be eligible to receive the coveted COVID-19 vaccine no later than April 5.

“The federal government has asked us to make sure every adult can receive access by May 1, and Tennessee will beat that deadline,” Lee said in a Monday press conference. 

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Poll: Gov. Lee Popular Among GOP Primary Voters, But Several Decisions Very Unpopular

Bill Lee on the State House floor

According to a Tennessee Star poll of 1001 likely Republican primary voters in Tennessee conducted by Triton Research from March 5 to March 10, Gov. Bill Lee (R) is fairly popular, but many of his policies are not. 

Lee has a 69.9 percent favorability rate among those likely voters. That number is 20 points shy of former president Donald J. Trump’s 89.7 percent favorability – the highest ever for the forty fifth president in a Star poll – but still relatively high. 

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Trump Hits All Time High in GOP Favorability in Tennessee

According to a Tennessee Star poll of 1001 likely Tennessee Republican primary voters, former President Donald J. Trump has all-time high approval rating among the GOP in the state, more than two months after leaving office.

The poll found that 89.7 percent of those voters have a favorable impression of the 45th president, compared to 7.4 percent who view him unfavorably.

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Tennessee National Guard Troops Deployed to Middle East

After an airstrike in Syria at the end of February, the Biden administration is mobilizing the National Guard – including one unit from Tennessee – for deployment to the Middle East. 

“Soldiers from the Tennessee National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 181st Field Artillery Regiment, deployed on Sunday for a 10-month tour of the Middle East,” Associated Press reported. 

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Bill Lee Among the 17 Republican Governors Calling on President Biden to Rescind Executive Order Halting New Oil and Gas Leases on Federal Land

A group of Republican governors sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Monday asking him to rescind an executive order that halts new leases for oil and gas development on federal land, arguing that it will have a negative impact on their economies and will cost consumers. 

Biden signed the lease moratorium Jan. 27 as part of a broader series of executive actions seeking to curb climate change. The executive order, which applies to offshore leases, does not apply to existing leases for development on federal lands or leases on tribal land.

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Lee Denounces Biden Executive Order, Says Transgender Athletes ‘Will Destroy Women’s Sports’

Responding to a bill in the Tennessee Legislature that would ban transgender individuals from participating in girls’ middle school and high school athletics, Gov. Bill Lee said Wednesday that trans participation would “destroy women’s sports.”

Speaking to reporters at the state Capitol on Wednesday, Lee stopped short of voicing support for a Tennessee bill that would prohibit trans students from participating in middle and high school girls’ athletics, but he spoke to the issue.

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Tennessee Democrats Call for $1B Investment in a ‘Path to Recovery’

Tennessee Senate Democrats are calling for a $1 billion investment in public health clinics, school renovation, clean energy jobs and broadband internet expansion ahead of Gov. Bill Lee’s State of the State address Monday.

In a statewide address Friday aired virtually from her home in Memphis, Senate Democratic Caucus Chairwoman Raumesh Akbari proposed a plan dubbed the “Tennessee Path to Recovery” and called on Republican colleagues to work together to address issues facing Tennessee’s working-class families.

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Tennessee Ranks 33rd Among States in Percentage of COVID-19 Vaccine Doses Administered

Tennessee ranks 33rd of the 50 states for the percentage of COVID-19 vaccines it has distributed versus the number of doses it received, data show.

The ranking was revealed by Becker’s Hospital Review, and is available here. Becker’s updated the data on Tuesday.

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Gov. Lee ‘Very Disappointed’ over Treatment of Tennessee National Guard Troops in D.C.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) said he was “very disappointed” with the way the state’s National Guardsmen were treated when they were deployed to Washington, D.C. for President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

“It’s time to welcome our TN National Guard soldiers & airmen home today after their mission in DC. Very disappointed in the way this mission came to a close & the overall treatment of the National Guard in DC. Tennesseans are proud of our men and women in uniform,” he said Friday on Twitter.

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Gov Bill Lee Proposes Education Bill Package to Address Learning Loss, Literacy Proficiency

Gov. Bill Lee has unveiled legislation to address learning loss among Tennessee students caused by pandemic-related school closures and extended time away from the classroom.

A series of Lee-backed bills include proposals to provide summer school and after school tutoring, require school districts to use phonics-based literacy curriculum and suspend test-related accountability measures for teachers and schools this year. Lee said he’ll also propose pay raises for teachers, but those details have not been released.

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Tennessee Legislature Convenes Tuesday with Education Issues at Forefront

Tennessee lawmakers will return to Nashville to begin the 2021 legislative session this week and soon will take up legislation on key education issues.

House and Senate speakers will gavel in the new session of the Tennessee General Assembly at noon Tuesday. The first week of session largely will be organizational, with House and Senate speakers swearing in newly elected legislators and announcing committee chair and committee assignments.

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

One Democratic leader in the Tennessee House is questioning the need for a special session to address education topics.

State Representative Vincent Dixie (D-Nashville), chairman of the Democratic House Caucus, is skeptical, Fox 17 News reported.

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Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles Forms ‘Andy’s Army TN’ Facebook Group to Promote Liberty

Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles formed a Facebook group called “Andy’s Army TN” for “patriots and Fans of Andy Ogles who believe in taking a stand for our Constitution and Liberties.”

The private group’s page is here. Since it is a private group, people have to request to join. Facebook showed the membership to be approximately 1,800 as of Monday.

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Commentary: The Political Ambush of State Rep. John DeBerry

The year 2020 will go down as being known for COVID-19, social-distancing and the political ambush of State Rep. John DeBerry by the Tennessee Democratic Party.  DeBerry, a Memphis Democrat and respected statesman in the House of Representatives, was ousted by his own party back in May by a 41-18 vote by members of the Tennessee Democrat Executive Committee.

Rather than letting voters take him off the ballot, a committee of Democrats who probably never visited his district cast him out for being conservative on social issues.

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