Ken Jobe weekly report

Mar 21, 2022 at 01:00 pm by Voice Wire

Ken Jobe

Last week, the Senate tried to block Governor Bill Lee’s nomination of Jordan Mollenhour to the State Board of Education.  After passing the Senate, the House took up the nomination on Thursday.  Mollenhour’s online ammunition company, Lucky Gunner, sold 400 rounds of ammunition to the Aurora shooter who used the ammunition to kill 12 people and injure 58 more inside a movie theatre in 2014.  In 2018 Lucky Gunner also sold ammunition to the underage teenager who used it to kill ten people—8 students and 2 teachers—inside a Santa Fe high school.  Mollenhour has no experience in education his children are homeschooled and, addition to all of that, also donated more than $15-thousand dollars to Governor Lee in 2018.  Despite Democrats pointing all of these reasons for concern…and there were actually even more reasons mentioned…this person’s nomination was overwhelmingly supported by the Republican Super-Majority and will now go on to the State Board of Education.

Meanwhile, the Governor’s big education reform plan, TISA, was reworked this week and wasn’t put up for a vote in either the House or the Senate.  As Committees begin to close and the session winds down, the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement plan has still only been debated in two committees, neither of which has voted on it yet and there are still many holes left to fill in on the Governor’s proposal.  There are still major concerns about implementation, the legislature’s willingness to continue funding the plan and how much local taxes will have to be raised in the future for localities’ share of the plan.  All still unanswered questions. 

A local version of the newly-passed Texas abortion law continued to advance this week passing the House Health Subcommittee.  HB2779 would ban most abortions except to prevent the death or substantial impairment of the pregnant woman.  In addition, the new law would allow a private citizen to sue anyone who aids in the performing of an abortion.  That could possibly include, as pointed out in committee by Representative Bob Freeman, a rapist’s family suing an underage rape victim for having an abortion. Still, the bill passed on to the full House Health Committee who will hear it next week.  

Again, this week, a number of Democratic bills advanced by several Representatives—

  • Representative Antonio Parkinson of Memphis proposed a bill that would make it mandatory for fathers out of wedlock to take a DNA test before a they can voluntarily sign a certified birth certificate. Currently, a prospective father has a 5-year window to go back and challenge a child’s paternity.  After 5 years, even if a subsequent DNA test proves otherwise, the father can still be held responsible for child support payments. Rep. Parkinson sited a case that resulted in a person being held in arrears, lost his driver’s license, lost his job and was eventually jailed for delinquent child support payments for a child that was not biologically his. Parkinson said,All of this can be remedied, by simply requiring a DNA test on the front end to alleviate any challenges and potential emotional scarring for the child, the wrongfully accused father, the mother and the rightful biological father.” The bill, HB2698, passed out of the House Children and Family Affairs Subcommittee on Wednesday and will now move on to the House Civil Justice Committee next week. 
  • A crime that is much more widespread than people realize is the subject of a bill sponsored by Representative G.A. Hardaway. HB2810 would create a statewide property fraud alert program to aid Tennessee property owners at no cost.  The bill, which passed the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee on Wednesday, would allow property owners to register their name and the address of their property.  The owners will then be notified when a document is recorded that contains the owner’s name or the address of their property. This will help combat property and mortgage fraud.  The legislation is based on a Memphis program and is now headed to the full Criminal Justice Committee.
  • Leader Karen Camper passed a meaningful bill out of the House Naming and Designating Committee on Tuesday. The legislation designates July 16th as “Ida B. Wells Day.”  Of course, Wells was the prominent African-American journalist and activist who led an anti-lynching crusade and fought for women’s suffrage in the 1890’s.  Wells lived in Memphis where she owned the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight newspaper until threats ran her out of the state. The companion bill has already passed the Senate and HB2847 is now headed for the House Floor. 
  • Finally, one of the most memorable moments of the week occurred in the K-12 Subcommittee when Rep. Sam McKenzie’s HB2604 came up. He introduced Nia Vaughn, a 6th grader at Karns Middle School, who brought the bill to him after a visit to the Capitol last year. The bill provides an additional 100 dollars to each K-12 teacher for instructional supplies for the 2022-23 school year and Ms. Vaughn told the subcommittee how much her teacher said it would help.  The bill quickly passed out the subcommittee and is now on its way to the Education Administration Committee.

Ken Jobe is the press secretary for the State Democratic Caucus. He gives a weekly summation of bills being presented from the Democratic viewpoint.

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