Tennessee Senate Passes Bill to Arm Teachers After Gallery Cleared Due to Outbursts

TN Capitol Protest

The Tennessee State Senate on Tuesday passed legislation to allow some teachers to be armed on public school property, but the Senate gallery needed to be cleared prior to the vote following a series of outbursts from activists opposed to the bill.

Lawmakers voted to pass SB 1325, which would allow school faculty and staff to carry concealed handguns if they obtain an enhanced handgun carry permit, complete 40 hours of school safety training annually, obtain approval of relevant school and law enforcement authorities and are not restricted from owning firearms.

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Tennessee Secretary of State Says State Democrat Lawmakers are Trying to ‘Weaponize’ DOJ


Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett stated that state Democrat lawmakers are trying to “weaponize” the United States Department of Justice against the state.

“Tennesseans should not be surprised that some want to weaponize the Department of Justice against the state ranked number one in election integrity,” Hargett said in the statement obtained by The Tennessee Star on Friday.

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Tennessee Bill to Ban Sale of Cold Beer Lands Flat

Ron Gant

A bill seeking to ban retail sales of cold beer in Tennessee has reportedly received a lukewarm reception by lawmakers, with even Republicans unsure about the legislation.

State Representative Ron Gant (R-Piperton) filed HB 2845 late last month which would prohibit retail companies who are currently permitted to sell beer under Tennessee law from selling “refrigerated or cold beer to consumers.”
Representative Ron Gant (R-Piperton) filed HB 2845 late last month which would prohibit retail companies who are currently permitted to sell beer under Tennessee law from selling “refrigerated or cold beer to consumers.”

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Gov. Bill Lee Unveils ‘Education Freedom Scholarship’ Bill for Universal School Choice in Tennessee at Event with Gov. Sarah Sanders

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (R) unveiled the Education Freedom Scholarship Act, which will offer education savings accounts (ESAs) for students in all 95 counties in the state, in a Tuesday event that featured Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) and included state lawmakers and school choice advocates.

Lee said the legislative proposal will establish statewide universal school choice, stressing at his Tuesday press conference that “a high quality education has the power to change a trajectory of a child’s life forever.”

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Bill to Cut Nashville City Center Funding Calls into Question Tax Plan for New $2.2B Titans Stadium

A new proposed bill in the Tennessee not only proposes cutting some of the state tax funding to pay debt on the Music City Center, but it also calls into question plans to build a new $2.2 billion Tennessee Titans stadium.

Senate Bill 648, filed Thursday by Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, on behalf of Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, would change the way taxes flow to Metro Nashville to pay debt from the Music City Center, which opened in 2013. The bill does not yet have a House sponsor.

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Tennessee Right to Life Announces 2022 Endorsees

The Tennessee Right to Life announced this week its list of endorsees for this year’s statewide elections. 

“Tennessee Right to Life exists to promote public respect for the dignity of every human life especially those threatened by abortion, infanticide, partial-birth abortion, assisted suicide, or euthanasia,” according to the organization’s website. “TRL advocates the protection of human life without regard to age, handicap, condition or social position.”

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Lt. Governor Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton Formally Call for Special Session to Address COVID Mandates

Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) on Tuesday formally issued a call for a third session of the 112th General Assembly.

According to the two state lawmakers, the additional session “will cover a number of issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including overreaching health care mandates.”

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Lawmakers to Discuss Tennessee $741 Million Welfare Windfall

When state lawmakers return to Nashville next January, one topic for consideration will be what to do with Tennessee’s $741 million surplus funds from a welfare program for the working poor – a larger surplus than any other state in the nation.

The surplus of funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) welfare program, also known as Families First, was first reported by the Beacon Center of Tennessee and the Tennessean last year. The program is administered by the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS).

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Tennessee Senate Republicans Return McNally as Lieutenant Governor, Johnson as Majority Leader

The Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus on Thursday voted unanimously to renominate Lt. Governor Randy McNally to a third term, among other leadership votes.

The caucus also announced that Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) and Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston) will return to their top leadership roles as Majority Leader and Republican Caucus Chairman, respectively. Others elected to caucus leadership positions include Senator Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) as Treasurer, Senator Dawn White (R-Murfreesboro) as Secretary and Senator Shane Reeves (R-Murfreesboro) as Chaplain.

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Right-to-Work Constitutional Amendment Filed in Tennessee for Required Second Passage

Legislation that would add Tennessee’s right-to-work law to the state constitution was filed Thursday by Sen. Brian Kelsey, preparing the proposed constitutional amendment to advance through the Tennessee Legislature for the required second time.

“This amendment will guarantee future generations of Tennessee workers their right to work regardless of whether they choose to join a union,” Kelsey (R-Germantown) said of SJR 2.

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State Sen. Kerry Roberts Recovering from Aneurysm

State Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield) is reportedly recovering from an aneurysm.

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally on Friday night tweeted, “My thoughts and prayers are with Senator @kerryeroberts tonight. Senator Roberts was taken to the hospital this afternoon after suffering an aneurysm. He is currently stable and alert.  He will be kept at the hospital for observation as he recovers.”

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COVID-19 Liability Reform Measure Flounders in Tennessee

Just a few weeks ago, Tennessee looked like a sure bet to become the latest state to protect businesses and other organizations from lawsuits by people impacted by the coronavirus in the push to reopen the economy. Republican Gov. Bill Lee had talked up the change and touted his advocacy on tort reform as a businessman, and he had GOP lawmakers in supermajorities lined up to seal the deal.

That was before negotiations among lawmakers broke down so badly in the hectic waning hours of legislative work that the generally mild-mannered Senate Speaker Randy McNally accused two House leaders of working with “a cabal of Democrats and attorneys to defeat the legislation and place our entire economy in danger.”

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Senior Staff for Lt. Governor Randy McNally Paid More Than House Speaker Glen Casada Paid Top Staffers

  Although there has been an abundance of media attention to the annual salary of House Speaker Glen Casada’s now-former Chief of Staff Cade Cothren, there has been little focus on the salaries paid to Lt. Governor Randy McNally’s top staffers.  Scott Gilmer, who was serving as Casada’s Director of Operations and who was promoted to Chief of Staff when Cothren resigned, sent an email to House Members earlier this week detailing the comparative salaries of top staff in each body of the Legislature. Gilmer, who was receiving a $195,000 annual salary as Director of Operations prior to succeeding Cothren, previously served as Chief of Staff for House Speaker Beth Harwell before she chose to seek the Governor’s Office and left the Speakership. He advised the House Members: Members, As part of the efforts of the Speaker’s office to be transparent in our hiring and operational efforts, it is important for you to see the salaries paid to the General Assembly’s executive team, and specifically to that of the former Chief of Staff, in relation to their counterparts in the Senate. For your information, here are the salaries paid to the highest ranking staff in each chamber: Senate Clerk–$204,240 Senate…

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Tennessee House Speaker Casada Pledges Cooperation with District Attorney General’s Conference Investigation

  Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada is moving to handle the continued fallout over revelations that include allegedly inappropriate text messages involving him and former chief of staff Cade Cothren. Casada said he directed the Speaker’s office to cooperate with a District Attorney General’s Conference investigation of an email from activist Justin Jones. Even as the pressure is ramping up for his resignation, Rep. Casada (R-TN-63) issued an action plan on Friday: As we move into the weekend, I wanted to share a quick update on the immediate steps we are taking to follow up on the Action Plan released earlier this week to address recent issues and concerns. Today I submitted a letter to the Chairman of the House Ethics Committee requesting that they issue an advisory opinion concerning my actions taken relative to the resignation of my former Chief of Staff. I welcome feedback from this bipartisan committee. I have learned that a special prosecutor has been appointed by the District Attorney Generals’ Conference to begin investigating the email from Mr. Justin Jones that was forwarded by my former Chief of Staff to the local District Attorney. My desire is for this independent review to be completed as…

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Gov. Lee Plans to Allow Online Sports Gambling Bill to Become Law Without Signing It

  Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee plans to let an online sports gambling bill become law without signing it, multiple news outlets are reporting. The Tennessee Journal: On the Hill reported: “The governor has said he does not believe that the expansion is best, but he recognizes that many in the legislature found this to be an issue they want to explore further,” Lee spokeswoman Laine Arnold said in a statement. “He plans to let this become law without his signature.” The Tennessee Education Lottery will be responsible for carrying out the online sports betting program, the Chattanooga Times Free Press said. There will be a 20 percent tax, which is expected to generate $41 million for the lottery, $7.6 million for local government revenue and $2.5 million to provide anti-gambling addiction programs through the Tennessee Department of Mental Health. The original version of the bill would have permitted gambling shops in physical locations but that provision was dropped after the governor opposed it, the Times Free Press said. The bills are HB0001 in the House and SB0016 in the Senate, according to the tracking information, which is available here. The Senate on Tuesday passed the bill, with three amendments, by…

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Ohio’s Right To Life Organization Supported a ‘Heartbeat Bill,’ While Tennessee’s Opposed It

Ohio’s Right to Life organization supported and celebrated the state becoming the seventh to pass a “Heartbeat Bill” banning abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. In contrast, Tennessee’s Right to Life organization opposed the “Heartbeat Bill” introduced in this session’s Tennessee General Assembly, and cheered when a State Senate Committee last week sent it off to “summer study” instead of passing it. In fact, Ohio’s Right to Life issued a press release the day the Human Rights and Heartbeat Protection Act (SB23) was signed into law by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine that featured a picture of the organization’s team standing beside the Governor during the signing ceremony. Ohio’s law bans an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually after about six weeks from conception. According to a January 2019 report of The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio’s Right to Life support of the legislation is relatively new, but it went all-in by putting the bill at the top of their legislative agenda. “It spent years opposing or remaining neutral on the measure,” reported The Dispatch. “But more recently, with President Donald Trump naming two justices to the U.S. Supreme Court and Gov. Mike DeWine indicating he will sign the bill,…

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Lt. Gov. McNally Discusses New North American Trade Agreement With His Peers at White House Meeting

Lt. Gov. and Sen. Randy McNally (R-TN-05) on Wednesday participated in a panel discussion at the White House with lieutenant governors from across the country. The discussion featured National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and centered on the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), according to a statement from McNally’s office. McNally tweeted, “President @realDonaldTrump has committed to putting America first in all things, especially trade. I was grateful for the opportunity to learn about the new agreement and how it will affect our economy.” President @realDonaldTrump has committed to putting America first in all things, especially trade. I was grateful for the opportunity to learn about the new agreement and how it will affect our economy. pic.twitter.com/zUlHnCqhlc — Randy McNally (@ltgovmcnally) March 27, 2019 He also tweeted, “I was honored to join my fellow lieutenant governors from across the nation at the @WhiteHouse to discuss the state of our economy and how #USMCA will impact our states. Free trade is beneficial for our economy, but only if it is fair trade.” McNally said in his statement, “I was honored to join my fellow lieutenant governors from across the nation to discuss the…

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Governor Bill Lee’s Education Savings Account Plan Will Offer School Choice to Less Than One Percent of Tennessee Students in 2020

Gov. Bill Lee is moving forward on his campaign pledge of school choice in the form of Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) available in 2020, although only about one-half of one percent of the state’s students would qualify to participate in the program’s first year. The governor delivered his first State of the State address Monday, as reported by The Tennessee Star. Lee said: I know there’s concern that programs like this will take money away from public schools, but my ESA plan will invest at least $25 million new dollars in public schools in the first year to fill the gap when a student transfers to another school. The Tennessee Department of Education referred a request for more information to the governor’s office. Lee spokesperson Laine Arnold did not reply to requests for comment. The proposal would only be provided to five county school districts: Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Shelby and Madison (including the city of Jackson). Also included would be the state’s Achievement School District of failing schools, the Chattanooga Times Free Press said. Only 5,000 students in fall 2020 would be eligible, or only about one-half of one percent of the state’s 975,000 students. Qualifying students would be eligible for…

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Republican Senate Leaders Praise Gov. Lee’s ‘Conservative’ Budget in State of the State Address

Reactions poured in from Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s first State of the State and budget address, which was delivered Monday night. The responses included statements by three Republican Senate leaders. Lt. Gov. and Sen. Randy McNally (R-TN-05) said: “In his first State of the State address, Bill Lee rightly pointed out the successes of the past while charting a new course for the future. His words tonight lived up to the promise of his campaign. Governor Lee laid out a clear, coherent and conservative message which will resonate across all three grand divisions. I appreciated his emphasis on fiscal responsibility noting the importance of keeping debt low, our savings account balance high and our budget balanced. He is committed not just to growing our prosperity but sharing it with those portions of our state most in need. I am committed to working with him to expand educational opportunity, redouble our efforts on mental health and reform our approach to criminal justice. Together with Speaker Casada and the State House, we will help Tennessee lead the nation.” Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jack Johnson (R-TN-23) said: “I am glad to see Governor Lee’s budget reflects conservative budgeting and adds a record deposit to the rainy day…

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Gov. Lee Says He Would Support Efforts to Ban Abortions Following Detection of Fetal Heartbeat

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee says he will support efforts to ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat has been detected, which is about six weeks into a pregnancy. Lee’s comments join those of senior lawmakers in the Legislature, NewsChannel 9 said. Generally speaking, the new governor told reporters Wednesday he will look at individual bills and decide if he favors them, and “the courts will have to decide for themselves whether it’s constitutional or not.” “I would support any bill that reduces the number of abortions in the state,” said Lee, who campaigned heavily on his Christian faith. NewsChannel 9 said House Speaker Glen Casada and Senate Speaker Randy McNally had voiced support Tuesday for banning abortions following detection of a heartbeat. A fetal heartbeat bill was introduced this term in the Tennessee General Assembly by Rep. James (Micah) Van Huss (R-TN-06). The bill prohibits abortions from the point a fetal heartbeat is detected and requires fetal heartbeat testing prior to an abortion. Lee’s “Ten for Tenn” campaign platform last summer said he was pro-lift and would sign legislation to reduce abortions,such as the heartbeat bill, and enforce the law to ensure Planned Parenthood doesn’t get state money. Bans on abortions…

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Lt. Gov. McNally Announces Committee Appointments for the 111th General Assembly

Lt. Gov. and Speaker of the Senate Randy McNally (R-TN-05) on Thursday announced state Senate committee assignments for the 111th General Assembly. McNally praised his fellow members in announcing the assignments in a press release. “This Senate is made up of some of the smartest and strongest leaders with whom I have had the privilege to serve,” he said. “Each of our Senators could serve on any number of our committees and do well. I am grateful to have such a strong membership. I am confident we have assembled the best team to do the people’s business.” McNally was re-elected to his second term as Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the Senate on Tuesday. Former Commerce and Labor Chairman Sen. Jack Johnson (R-TN-23) and former State and Local Chairman Sen. Ken Yager (R-TN-12) were elected Senate Majority Leader and Senate Republican Caucus Chairman respectively, leaving two committee chair vacancies. The resulting changes will elevate two Senators to chairman and give five committees new chairmen. McNally also re-appointed Sen. Ferrell Haile (R-TN-18) as the Speaker Pro Tempore and Sen. Janice Bowling (R-TN-16) as Deputy Speaker. The committee chairs are listed below, along with statements by McNally on each. A PDF in…

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Lt. Gov. McNally Congratulates Comptroller Wilson, Treasurer Lillard on Re-elections to Their Constitutional Offices

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-TN-0-5) said he was pleased to see Comptroller of the Treasury Justin Wilson and Treasurer David Lillard re-elected to their offices. McNally, who also serves as Speaker of the State Senate and was re-elected to those positions Tuesday, said Wednesday in a statement: I was pleased to see Comptroller Wilson and Treasurer Lillard win re-election overwhelmingly. As Comptroller of the Treasury, Justin Wilson keeps his eagle eye out for waste, fraud and abuse of public money wherever it occurs. Tennessee taxpayers are well-served with “The Wonderful One” as our money cop. As State Treasurer David Lillard manages the state’s money with great skill and expertise. Due to his hard work, Tennessee’s pension system is fully-funded and recognized as one of the best run in the nation. This state could not ask for a better individual to oversee the treasury. Our constitutional officers are the unsung heroes of our Tennessee success story. I continue to be grateful for their willingness to serve.” Gov.-elect Bill Lee tweeted, “Congratulations to Comptroller Justin Wilson and Treasurer David Lilliard on your re-elections today! These two men have been exceptional public servants for our state, and I look forward to working alongside…

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McNally Re-elected Tennessee Lt. Governor and Speaker of the State Senate

State Sen. Randy McNally (R-TN-05) was re-elected to a second term as Speaker of the Senate, and thus Lieutenant Governor, Tuesday. State senators met at noon Tuesday, the first organizational day of the 111th General Assembly to elect their speaker, according to a press release from McNally’s office. By state statute, the Speaker of the Senate holds the title of Lieutenant Governor. McNally has served in the positions since January 2017. Mark Norris, a federal judge in Memphis, swore in McNally as speaker and the members who were elected, WBIR reported. Norris was formerly the Senate Majority Leader until the U.S. Senate voted 51-44 in October to appoint him as a judge. Gov.-elect Bill Lee tweeted, “Congratulations to @ltgovmcnally and @GlenCasada.  I am honored to have the opportunity to work with both of you this session, and I look forward to what we can accomplish together to make this state an even better place for all Tennesseans.” Congratulations to @ltgovmcnally and @GlenCasada. I am honored to have the opportunity to work with both of you this session, and I look forward to what we can accomplish together to make this state an even better place for all Tennesseans. — Bill…

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Blackburn Handily Defeats Bredesen to Become Tennessee’s First Woman Senator

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-07) took a commanding lead of 54.73 percent to Democrat Phil Bredesen’s 43.89 percent to win the U.S. Senate race Tuesday. Blackburn received over 1.22 million votes, to Bredesen’s slightly more than 980,000 votes. The results are from unofficial tallies posted late Tuesday by the Tennessee Coordinator of Elections and the Secretary of State. The results, which could change slightly as districts trickle in, are here. Blackburn said, “You have sent a message that it is time to take Tennessee conservative values to Washington and keep our state and our country moving forward. I am so incredibly grateful to each of you for doing your part, standing with me, staying strong and turning out the vote. It is such an honor to be the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Tennessee. I am going to work as hard for you as you have worked for me.” “Just as we said on day one, I will take our shared Tennessee values to work on issues of importance to you in Washington: more constitutional federal judges and Supreme Court Justices, lower taxes, less regulation, protecting the right to life, defending the Second Amendment, providing for our…

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State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris Confirmed As Federal Judge in West Tennessee

Tennessee Star

State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-TN-32) has been named as a new federal judge in the Western District of Tennessee, leaving his position open in the state senate, The Tennessean said. The U.S. Senate voted Thursday evening to confirm Norris in a close vote. The tally was 51-44. “I recommended Senator Norris to the president, and I strongly supported Mark’s nomination,” U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said. “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.” Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-TN-05) made a statement following the confirmation of Norris. McNally said, “Congratulations to my friend Mark Norris on his confirmation as U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Tennessee. Mark has been a smart and thoughtful legislator. He will be a smart and thoughtful judge. I have proudly served with Mark for many years. I have always admired the care and thoroughness he brings to public service. 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…

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Lawmakers Call For Acting TBI Director to Resign Over Alleged Affair With High-Ranking State Employee at Taxpayer Expense

TBI Chief

The acting director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is on paid leave and under investigation for an alleged affair at taxpayer expense, and some legislative leaders have called for his resignation, various media outlets reported. Acting Director Jason Locke will be off the job starting Wednesday, June 20, WKRN reported. Senior staff will oversee operations of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation until next Monday, June 25, when Knoxville Police Department Chief David Rausch takes over the agency. Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday named Rausch as the new director of the TBI, WKRN reported. Rausch visited the bureau Tuesday. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and House Speaker Beth Harwell called for Locke to resign, The Tennessean reported. “The allegations against Jason are extremely troubling,” McNally said in a statement, according to The Tennessean. “If I were advising him, I would counsel him to resign for the good of his family and the bureau.” Harwell commended Gov. Bill Haslam for “immediately launching an investigation,” The Tennessean said. There appears to be slight confusion on how the affair came to light. Most reports say Locke’s wife Kim emailed Haslam last week to report the affair. NewsChannel 5 reported that information, but in the same story,…

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Protesters Storm State Senator’s Office, Intimidate Staff, State Troopers Ordered to Stand Down

State Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) knew Tuesday morning could turn out to be an unpredictable one. She was told to expect an “in-office protest” this morning. Then she was told it was cancelled. Sen. Beavers and her staff – that day, a single young woman – arrived in her offices at the regular time to conduct the people’s business: meeting with constituents and fellow elected officials, answering questions about her pending legislation, and returning calls and letters from the people she represents in and around Mt. Juliet. “It was shortly after 11 a.m. when about a half-dozen people filed into my office and started demanding to see me,” Beavers said. According to Sen. Beavers, she was in a meeting with an Administration official, when the protesters’ incessant knocking on her inner office door and loud speechifying became a distraction. “When I opened my door a couple of times to ask them to quiet down, they tried to force their way into my office,”  she said. They were unsuccessful. Meanwhile, out in the reception room, Beavers’ young staffer was surrounded by the protesters. One protester, a woman, stood behind her and took several photos of the receptionist’s computer screen and work. The Administrator departed, and for the…

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