‘Copeland Cap’ Hits Decade-Long High in Fiscal Year 2019-2020

A bill passed by the Tennessee General Assembly last week reveals that in fiscal year 2019-2020 the Copeland Cap, at $629 million or 3.6 percent, hit its highest level in more than a decade.

The legislation, which passed as HB2819 in both chambers on March 19 with only one “no” vote by Democrat Representative G. A. Hardaway (D-Memphis), was one of the four bills addressed in an expedited fashion to enact a bare bones budget before lawmakers recessed until June 1 amid the COVID-19 health crisis, The Tennessee Star reported.

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Tennessee General Assembly Continues Push to Wrap-Up Bills and Bare Bones Budget by Week’s End

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tennessee General Assembly continued its push Wednesday to wrap-up bills deemed necessary and a bare-bones budget by the end of the week, and possibly as early as end of day Thursday.

In keeping with that, a total of 20 subcommittee and committee meetings were scheduled for Wednesday, 15 for the House and five for the Senate, in addition to a floor session for each chamber.

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Tennessee General Assembly Addresses Procedures and Bills Deemed Necessary to Pass a Budget for Fiscal Year 2021, Including Two That Raise Taxes

The Tennessee General Assembly adjusted schedules at the start of the week for Tuesday to address only those procedures and bills deemed necessary to fulfill the constitutional requirement of passing a balanced budget for fiscal year 2021, which runs July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021.

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An Unprecedented Day at the Tennessee General Assembly

In the wake of the developing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent declarations of emergencies by President Trump and Governor Bill Lee, the Tennessee General Assembly experienced its most unprecedented day in its history.

Monday started with access to the Cordell Hull Building limited to elected members, staff and members of the media. Anyone arriving at the home of the legislature would have been greeted to taped signs on the locked doors reading, “This Property is closed to the Public. If you need Assistance Call 741-7860.”

Not surprisingly under the conditions, the hallways, lobby areas, and cafeteria were all but deserted.

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Leahy and Roberts Discuss Governor Bill Lee’s Pattern of Non-Consultation with Legislative Branch

  On Tuesday’s Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Tennessee State Senator Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield) in the studio to discuss this week’s Tennessee General Assembly agenda. Towards the end of the…

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Tennessee State Senator Brian Kelsey Talks About His Constitutional ‘Right to Work’ Amendment

In an exclusive interview Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Michael Patrick Leahy spoke with Tennessee State Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) about his proposed constitutional amendment regarding “right to work.”

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State Rep. Gant Introduces Bill to Address Refugee Resettlement Issue

The Tennessee House of Representatives is considering a new bill aimed at stopping Gov. Bill Lee from allowing an influx of refugees without legislative approval.

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Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton Joins Leahy to Describe General Assembly Sentiments and Future Communications With Governor

On Thursday’s Tennessee Star Report, Leahy and all-star panelist Carol Swain were joined on the newsmakers line by Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton.

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State Senator Kerry Roberts Explains the Tennessee General Assembly’s Protocol and Personality

Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – Leahy was joined in the studio during the program’s second hour by Tennessee state Senator Kerry Roberts.

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Possible Push Back from Tennessee General Assembly Against Gov. Lee’s Refugee Decision

During a specific discussion, Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.– host Leahy welcomed all-star panelists Crom Carmichael and Carol Swain to the show.

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TDOT Reports Timing for Completion of 962 Road Projects Included in the Fuel-Tax-Increasing IMPROVE Act Going from 10 to 20-Plus Years

Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) officials reported last week that the timing for the completion of the 962 projects totaling $10.5 billion included in the fuel tax increasing IMPROVE Act will now take 20 plus years instead of the 10 years originally estimated.

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Gov. Lee Has Not Made Decision on Whether to Refuse Refugees

Gov. Bill Lee said Thursday he hasn’t decided if he’ll accept President Donald Trump’s offer to let states refuse to accept refugees, U.S. News reported. The governor added he has not spoken to his team about how he will respond to this executive order.

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Tennessee General Assembly Resolution Supporting Article 5 Convention to Consider Balanced Budget Amendment Finally Delivered to U.S. Senate

Although adopted by Tennessee state lawmakers on April 9, 2014, it was not until September 10, 2019 — just this past week — that House Joint Resolution No. 548 by State Representative Dennis Powers (R-Jacksboro) was formally received by the United States Senate in Washington, D.C.

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Briley’s Sanctuary City Policy May Cost City $300K Federal Anti-Crime Grant

State officials are challenging Metro Nashville Mayor David Briley’s sanctuary city policy, saying the decision could cause the city to lose a $300,000 federal grant to process ballistic evidence, NewsChannel 5 said.

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Tennessee’s Legal Counsel Asks Entire Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to Reconsider Dismissal of Challenge to Refugee Resettlement Program

The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) and Bursch Law PLLC filed a petition for rehearing by the entire Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals bench of a two-judge panel opinion dismissing Tennessee’s challenge to the constitutionality of the federal refugee resettlement program for lack of standing.

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Tennessee Railroad Crossings Pose Greater Danger to Drivers, Audit Critical of TDOT Says

Tennessee Department of Transportation officials did not properly handle complaints about faulty railroad crossings, and that could pose a threat to drivers’ lives, according to an audit Tennessee Comptrollers released this week.

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Tennessee General Assembly’s Legal Counsel Considers Next Step Now that Judge Dismisses Appeal to End Refugee Resettlement Program

  The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday rejected the State of Tennessee’s appeal in which the General Assembly sought to ban the federal government from forcing Tennessee to accept and fund a refugee resettlement program. A copy of the court’s ruling is available here. A federal judge…

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‘Hands-Free’ Driving, Gas Tax Increase and Other Tennessee Laws That Go Into Effect Today

  The state legislature passed 513 Public Acts in the first half of the 111th General Assembly, many of which go into effect on July 1, 2019, and impact the general public like the “hands-free” driving law. The new “hands-free” law, as previously reported by The Tennessee Star, defines what…

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State Reps. Ryan Williams, Cameron Sexton Join Race to Succeed Glen Casada as House Speaker

  The pieces are falling into place for the Tennessee GOP House Caucus to select the new speaker, with a couple of new faces entering the race this week. The caucus will meet July 24 to pick a nominee to replace disgraced outgoing Speaker and Rep. Glen Casada (R-TN-63) of…

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Tennessee General Assembly Approves Legislation Eliminating Professional Privilege Tax

The Tennessee General Assembly this week passed major tax cut legislation, eliminating the $400 professional privilege tax levied on licensed individuals annually in 15 professions in Tennessee. This, according to a press release legislators sent out this week. Senate Bill 398, sponsored by Senator Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, repeals the tax…

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New Law Will Make Tennessee Completely ‘Hands-Free’ While Driving Effective July 1

  Both houses of the General Assembly have passed a bill that will allow only hands-free usage of a mobile telephone or personal digital assistant on any road or highway in the state of Tennessee. HB 0165 sponsored by Representative John Holsclaw (R-Elizabethton) and SB 0173 sponsored by Senator Swann…

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Tennessee Bill to Regulate 911 Calls Reportedly Held Up for Summer Study

The sponsor of legislation that would make 911 calls and transmissions confidential reportedly wants more time to work on the bill, specifically this summer. This, according to the Tennessee General Assembly’s website and the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. That bill is HB 335. According to the Tennessee Coalition for…

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Tennessee House Says No to Holding Phone While Driving But Says Yes to Voice Use

The Tennessee House on Wednesday passed bill HB0164 banning drivers from using handheld phones. The bill tracking information is available here. The Senate companion bill, SB0173, was deferred on Tuesday in the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee and now has a scheduled hearing date of April 23. The House…

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Public School Principal May Have Violated Tennessee Law By Pressuring Teachers to Lobby Against School Vouchers

A Tennessee public school principal recently sent an email to teachers and staff at their school and urged them to lobby against the school vouchers’ bill currently up for consideration in the Tennessee General Assembly. According to the language of the Tennessee Hatch Act, such activity violates state law. The…

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Democratic State Rep. Staples Resigns As Assistant House Minority Leader Following Sexual Harassment Claim

State Rep. Rick Staples (D-TN-15) resigned from a leadership position in the House following allegations of sexual harassment, multiple media outlets have reported. Staples, of Knox County, on Thursday resigned as assistant House minority leader but will continue to represent Knoxville, WATE said. “I have already publicly apologized for any…

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Bill to Rein in Tennessee School Boards Association May Get New Life

Wednesday afternoon, members of a Tennessee House Education Committee may revive a bill designed to rein in the Tennessee School Boards Association and its alleged financial abuses, according to a source. More than 90 percent of the TSBA’s $2.2 million revenue in 2016 came from Tennessee taxpayers through dues and…

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Tennessee Legislators Scared to Fight Civil Asset Forfeiture Abuse, Says State Rep. Martin Daniel

Members of the Tennessee General Assembly won’t tackle civil asset forfeiture abuse because they fear a backlash from law enforcement, said State Rep. Martin Daniel  (R-Knoxville). Daniel serves on the legislature’s Civil Justice Subcommittee. Daniel told The Tennessee Star Monday that for the past three years he’s filed bills “that…

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Licensing Online Auctioneers Could Hurt Tennessee Economy, Expert Warns

Online auctioneers will suffer, as will Tennessee’s economy, if state officials require them to get a license, which certain members of the Tennessee General Assembly hope will happen this legislative session. This, according to an official with the Beacon Center of Tennessee, a Nashville-based free market think tank. As The…

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Law Enforcement Officers Tell Senate Committee That Medical Marijuana Supporters Are Blowing Smoke, While Co-Sponsor Bowling Says Her Plan Provides Alternative to Opioids

State Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) on Thursday shared her continued support for allowing medical marijuana after a vote was postponed. The vote was delayed after Wednesday’s hearing in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, WJHL said. Bowling, of Tullahoma, is a co-sponsor of SB0486, the Tennessee Medical Cannabis Act. The…

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Tennessee General Assembly Bill Would Require Licensing for Online Auctions

A bill going through the Tennessee General Assembly would, for the first time, require a license for certain types of online auctions, according to a legal expert with the Nashville-based Beacon Center of Tennessee. Beacon’s Vice President of Legal Affairs told The Tennessee Star Thursday that people who do these…

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Speaker Glen Casada Helps Get Governor’s Charter School Commission Initiative Out of House Committee

NASHVILLE, Tennessee – While the Education Committees of both the House and Senate heard Governor Lee’s bill on a new charter school commission initiative on the same day just hours apart, the process and outcomes were very different between the two bodies. In the House, in front of a standing…

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Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Continues to Receive Resistance in Tennessee

Despite actions at the federal level and dozens of states, legislation to reform civil asset forfeiture in Tennessee is continually received with resistance. Civil asset forfeiture is a tool whereby law enforcement seizes assets such as money and property that was obtained illegally by criminals. The goal of law enforcement…

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Final Details of Gov. Bill Lee’s Education Savings Account Plan Released

Tennessee students in urban cities could start escaping failing schools in fall 2021 as Gov. Bill Lee has pulled the curtain back on his education savings account (ESA) plan, with legislative action planned for Tuesday. Some say the math does not add up. Lee would spend up to $75 million…

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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…

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Tennessee Catholic Bishops Oppose Fetal Heartbeat Bill, Saying It Can Be Overturned in Court and Strengthen Abortion Providers

Three Tennessee Catholic bishops have come out together in opposition to the fetal heartbeat bill pending in the Tennessee General Assembly, saying that its failure would strengthen the pro-abortion industry. Bishop Richard F. Stika of the Diocese of Knoxville, Bishop J. Mark Spalding of the Diocese of Nashville and Archbishop…

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New Bill in Tennessee General Assembly Could Raise Age Needed to Buy Tobacco Products

NASHVILLE, Tennessee — No one in Tennessee between the ages of 18 to 20 could buy tobacco or vaping products if a bill currently in the Tennessee General Assembly is enacted into law. Members of the state Senate Commerce Committee are scheduled to hear the bill Tuesday at 1 p.m.…

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Tennessee Star Report EXCLUSIVE: Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada Says Fetal Heartbeat Bill ‘Will Progress Quickly Through the House’

In an an exclusive interview on The Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast Friday on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada made news on several fronts. Casada said that the…

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Comptroller Pulls Back Curtain Behind UT Knoxville’s Sex Week Programs

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville is facing the music over the controversial event known as Sex Week, with the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office sending a report to legislators pointing out that very few students attend the university-supported program. A copy of the report by the Comptroller’s Office of Research and…

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State Rep. William Lamberth Seeks to Limit Public Records Access to as Little as Three Requests a Year

If government officials accuse you of filing one too many public records requests, then they could use the courts to penalize you under a proposed bill at this year’s Tennessee General Assembly. State Rep. William Lamberth (R-Cottontown) introduced the bill this session. As written, a government official could seek an…

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Deadline Passes for Filing of Bills to Be Considered This Year in the Tennessee General Assembly

Thursday marked the end of a hectic week for Tennessee lawmakers as the deadline for filing bills to be heard in the first session of the 111th General Assembly approached. The two houses of the General Assembly had their own respective deadline, with the House being on Wednesday and the…

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Community Oversight Now Tries to Frighten Athletes Away from Tennessee

Members of the group Community Oversight Now say they have an unorthodox way to keep state legislators from tinkering with Tennessee’s community oversight boards. Those boards, of course, exist, to monitor police. Members of the Tennessee General Assembly want to place guardrails on those boards, which some people say have…

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Judson Phillips Commentary: Conservatives Need to Unite and Promote Our Agenda at the Tennessee General Assembly

by Judson Phillips   Conservatives love to rail against the Republicans who control the Tennessee General Assembly. And why not? These Republicans go out every two years (or four if they are in the Senate) and tell the voters how conservative they are. Then, once they have been given their…

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Tennessee State Comptroller and Treasurer Re-Elected To Their Posts

NASHVILLE, Tennessee – On the second day of the 111th Tennessee General Assembly in a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives, the state’s Comptroller and Treasurer were re-elected to additional two-year terms. Justin P. Wilson, Comptroller of the Treasury, and David H. Lillard, Jr., Treasurer, were both…

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