Category Archives: women

Casada, Sargent deny Durham kiss and hug claims

Ousted Rep. Jeremy Durham tells WSMV=TV that two prominent Republican legislators have hugged or kissed women at the Legislative Plaza. He also declared that another lawmaker who voted to remove him from office has smoked marijuana at the state Capitol and several others have consumed alcohol at legislative offices.

Durham did not name the individual he alleged smoked marijuana, but he did identify others for different claims.

“Charles Sargent, that’s who I’m talking about,” Durham said. “I’ve watched him kiss women on the mouth in Legislative Plaza. But I can’t even, like, send a remotely flirtatious text message.”

In July, the Attorney General released a report that accuses Durham of sexually harassing 22 women at the Legislature. The investigation also alleged Durham had sex with a college student in his office after providing her alcohol.

Durham denies he had sex or even made sexual contact with the women interviewed in the report.

Instead, he’s raising questions about his former colleagues.
“You know, the Glen Casada, the Charles Sargent, like let’s all hang out and hug on women,” Durham said. “That’s the ones that are in power.”

So is any of this actually true?

On Thursday Rep. Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, denied kissing women on the mouth at the legislature, only acknowledging the occasional hug or peck on the cheek if he knows the person.

“I don’t know where this young man is coming from,” Sargent said in a phone interview. “I feel sorry for him. We have a young man whose life is falling apart.”

Rep. Glen Casada, R-Thompson’s Station, echoed those statements.
“I understand he’s hurting and he’s angry. I wish the best for him,” Casada said in a phone interview.

He added: “I hug women at church. I hug women at the Capitol. I hug men. I think hugging is proper, if done correctly,” Casada said.

But Durham didn’t stop there. He named lawmakers who he said regularly drink in their office.

Those men did not return calls from Channel 4. But even Durham admits, he too drank on state property.

“I have drank in my office before,” Durham said. “I did keep alcohol in my refrigerator, I did.”

When asked if she would look into these claims, Speaker Beth Harwell stated, “Jeremy has again called 22 victims liars, and he has no credibility. Beyond that, I have no additional comment.”

New group to recruit, train Democratic women as candidates

News release from Emerge Tennessee
Nashville — Emerge Tennessee, a statewide organization that will recruit and train Democratic women to run for office at all levels of government in Tennessee, launched last (week) in Nashville with trailblazers from the Volunteer State as well as a newly elected state representative from Kentucky, who in May became the first African American woman to be elected to the state legislature there since 2000.

A collection of quotes from last night’s speakers:

Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan first ran for the Tennessee General Assembly in 1993 and has won all 15 times she has run for elected office since. Mayor McMillan was the first female mayor of a Tennessee city with a population greater than 100,000 and was the first, and only, woman to serve as House Majority Leader.

“What I needed was an organization just like Emerge Tennessee when I first ran for office,” she said. Continue reading

Son of Rep. Harry Burn, women’s suffrage figure, dies

Harry T. Burn Jr., the son of the Tennessee legislator who cast the “aye” vote in 1920 that ratified the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, died of stomach cancer Thursday at his residence in Athens, reports Georgiana Vines.

Burn, 78, was an only child, never married and had no children, Knoxville lawyer Wanda Sobieski said Friday. She knew Burn from working with him on a statue of his father, Harry Burn Sr., and grandmother, Febb Burn, proposed for the grounds of the East Tennessee History Center in Knoxville.

Febb Burn has her own place in history for writing a letter to her son urging him to vote for suffrage. The Republican from Niota originally had voted “nay” but changed his vote after reflecting on her note.

…An obit on Burn said he was a graduate of the McCallie School, Harvard College and the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He served as a page for the state Senate during his father’s tenure in the Legislature. He also was an editorial associate of the Andrew Johnson Papers, published by UT Press, had retired from Oak Ridge Associated Universities and was active on the McMinn County Living Heritage Museum board of directors.

He had a reputation for contacting journalists writing about the suffrage movement to fill in gaps in stories and correct their spellings.

CCA faces lawsuit over menstruation strip searches

By Travis Loller, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Private prison operator Corrections Corporation of America is trying to seal from public view documents in a lawsuit that claim female visitors to a Tennessee prison were forced to undergo strip searches to prove they were menstruating.

Three women have accused the company of violating their rights by forcing them to expose their genitals to guards after they tried to bring sanitary pads or tampons into South Central Correctional Facility, about 85 miles southwest of Nashville. One woman said her three children had to witness the search.

Protective orders in the case allow documents that could pose a security risk to the prison to be filed under seal. Each side is accusing the other of violating those orders. Continue reading

Demise of TN Economic Council on Women lamented

The executive director of the Tennessee Economic Council on Women, which will cease to exist on June 30 because a Senate committee refused to renew it, laments the demise in an interview with The Tennessean.

“Nobody else is doing what we are doing because we are looking at issues that impact women from an economic point of view so they can enact legislation based on this research,” Phyllis Qualls-Brooks… told The Tennessean this week.

“We’re talking about 3.3 million women in the state of Tennessee. Fifty-one percent of the population — we were that voice from a state level just like the Department of Education,” she said. “That voice no longer exists; I think women will be disappointed.”

…”We worked to provide information that would help, from survivors of sexual assault, sex traffic or domestic violence to women who just lost their way to not be wards of the state but be taxpaying citizens,” she said. “That’s our challenge — that they get the right information so that they can do that.”

Note: A post on the Senate Government Operations Committee meeting on this blog back late March seems to have vanished. It’s resurrected below. Continue reading

AP story on Durham exile

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Tennessee lawmaker is effectively being quarantined from lawmakers, lobbyists and interns after the state’s attorney general determined that he could pose a risk to “unsuspecting women” at the state Capitol complex.

House Speaker Beth Harwell announced Thursday that she is moving Rep. Jeremy Durham’s office to the ground floor of a building across the street and that his access to committee rooms and the House chamber will be limited to when meetings are taking place. The move comes amid a state attorney general’s investigation into the Franklin Republican’s “pattern of conduct” toward women.

Interviews with 34 current and former lawmakers, lobbyists, staffers and interns included allegations that Durham made sexual comments and inappropriate physical contact with women working at Legislative Plaza, according to Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s memorandum to Harwell.

Slatery recommended that the House take action to avoid a hostile work environment at the Capitol complex.

“Representative Durham’s alleged behavior may pose a continuing risk to unsuspecting women who are employed by or interact with the Legislature,” Slatery said in the memo.

Durham, who did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Thursday, has denied any wrongdoing and is running for re-election this fall. His attorney, Bill Harbison, said he objected to what he called an “unusual” investigation.
Continue reading

Democratic women challenging GOP legislators in 23 seats

At least 23 women from across the state are running as Democrats to challenge Republican-held state legislative seats in November, reports The Tennessean. That’s a record number and the women are making passage of Insure Tennessee a campaign theme.

It follows a quiet but steady recruitment effort by a network of Tennessee Democrats, party activists and self-described parent-teacher mothers, or “PTO moms,” to find women — on social media, by reading letters to editors or talking to county party chairmen — willing to run for a seat in the male-dominated Tennessee legislature.

Most, but not all, of the women are running for public office for the first time.

Efforts are strategic: Beleaguered Tennessee Democrats, who have suffered massive election losses for two decades in the state legislature, have struggled to field candidates in many rural districts and against longtime Republican incumbents. Republicans outnumber Democrats in the legislature 101 to 31. By fielding women, Democrats hope to capitalize from the perceived unpopularity among women of GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump. Continue reading

AP story on demise of TN ‘fetal assault’ law

By Sheila Burke, Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Brittany Hudson was pregnant, addicted to painkillers and afraid of a Tennessee law that calls for the arrest of mothers of drug-dependent babies. She eventually gave birth without medical help, on the side of a road in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Hudson’s dilemma, doctors say, was one of many unintended consequences of the Tennessee Legislature’s decision in 2014 to become the first and only state with an explicit criminal offense for these addicted mothers.

The law was meant to deter drug abuse by threatening mothers with up to a year behind bars, while allowing them to avoid jail and have their assault convictions removed if they got drug treatment. It was also an experiment with a “sunset” clause, meaning it will expire this July because the law’s supporters lacked the votes to extend it.

The problem of drug use and pregnancy is worsening nationwide, with a drug-dependent baby born every 25 minutes in the U.S. at a cost of $1.5 billion in additional health care, according to a Vanderbilt study. And states can’t just arrest their way out of it, said Dr. Stephen Patrick, a neonatologist who co-authored the study.

Continue reading

Following ‘sexist’ flap, Haslam erases ‘governor’ from agency title

Gov. Bill Haslam has changed the name of the Governor’s Highway Safety Office, which got a fair amount of negative publicity last year, to the Tennessee Highway Safety Office through an executive order. The order also transfers oversight of the agency from the Department of Transportation to the Department of Homeland Security.

Executive Order No. 3, signed March 29 and effective April 1, is HERE.

Further from a Tennessean report on the move that gives some of the recent history of the former Governors Highway Safety Office:

The highway safety office generated controversy last year after launching a campaign that featured what some called a sexist approach to encouraging young men not to drive under the influence. The campaign used coasters and fliers with slogans designed to reach the “young male demographic,” the agency’s director Kendell Poole told The Tennessean at the time.

One version of drink coasters said, “Buy a drink for a marginally good-looking girl, only to find out she’s chatty, clingy and your boss’s daughter.”

A flier read, “After a few drinks the girls look hotter and the music sounds better. Just remember: If your judgement is impaired, so is your driving.”

Another aspect of the campaign mimicked graffiti found on the inside of a bathroom stall using a section of the highway safety office’s website.

The “Legends of the Stall” portion of the website featured behaviors such as binge drinking, promiscuity and cleaning up vomit with a cat. The website became inactive after The Tennessean initially reported about the campaign last July.

‘Fetal assault bill’ dies on tie vote in House sub

A controversial law that criminalizes women who give birth to drug-dependent babies will sunset later this year after a bill in front of a House committee failed Tuesday, reports The Tennessean.

The legislation (HB1660), sponsored by Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, failed to receive the necessary approval from the Criminal Justice subcommittee, as a result of a tie vote on the six-member committee.

Tennessee made national headlines in 2014 after lawmakers passed a law to make it the first state in the nation to penalize women who give birth to babies who test positive for narcotics.

Weaver’s bill specifically sought to extend the law beyond its July 1 sunset date.

Rep. Mike Stewart said he worried the unintended consequences of the law have resulted in people being discouraged from seeking drug treatment. He said the law has even caused some women to seek an abortion.

Reiterating Stewart’s point, Charles Harmuth, a doctor practicing addiction medicine in Coffee County, said, “I do feel that in my practice and also in the meetings that I attend, women do discuss having had abortions and also their fear of being prosecuted.”

Noting that he has seen an increase in the number of therapeutic abortions since 2014, Harmuth said Weaver’s bill would not give women the freedom and trust in the system to come out of the shadows and seek treatment.

“I beg of the committee to look at prevention and treatment as opposed to punitive actions and possible incarceration,” he said.

…Rep. Andrew Farmer, R-Sevierville, sided with the committee’s two Democrats — Reps. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, and Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis — resulting in the bill’s defeat.