News release from TN Black Caucus of State Legislators
NASHVILLE- The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators (TBCSL) is announcing its support for efforts in the state’s two largest cities to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The Metro Council in Nashville has passed on first reading a new ordinance that would lessen the penalty for possession of a half-ounce of marijuana to a $50 civil penalty or 10 hours of community service. Last week, the Memphis City Council passed a similar ordinance out of its Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee and it is scheduled to be considered by the full Council in September.
TBCSL Chair Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville) said the efforts of these cities go hand-in-hand with Caucus efforts to target criminal justice reform across the state. Continue reading
News release from Black Caucus of State Legislators
The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators (TBCSL) is not endorsing a movement to return lawmakers to Nashville for a special session to vote on possible removal of embattled Rep. Jeremy Durham.
An Attorney General report into the activities of Rep. Durham found that Durham sexually harassed at least 22 women during his time in office. The report was presented to a special House of Representatives committee. The committee determined that while Rep. Durham’s activities were worthy of expulsion, since this is an election year, the voters should be the ones to decide if he should return to the State House.
After calls to oust Durham before November—at which point he would be eligible for a state pension–Republican lawmakers began circulating a petition to members to call for the special session.
TBCSL Chair Brenda Gilmore said the Black Caucus position is that a special session is not needed to “fix an issue that Republican leadership has known about for years and refused to do anything about. They stayed silent and took no action for months and months and now they want to try to turn it into a political issue.”
The voters in Rep. Durham’s district have spoken, and he will not return for the 110th General Assembly. Continue reading
News release from Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators
NASHVILLE—At a press conference today The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators called for a state and federal investigation into the handcuffing and arrest of several African-American children, aged 5-to-11, for watching a fight and not breaking it up. Lawmakers are also calling the complete expungement of the children’s arrest records.
Standing side by side with a group of clergy from Murfreesboro, as well as other concerned lawmakers, Caucus Chair Rep. Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville) said the Black Caucus has been conducting a year-long examination of the justice system in Tennessee and said this is another example of the unfairness that poor people and people of color face.
Excerpt from a Nashville Ledger profile of state Rep. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, chair of the Legislature’s Black Caucus:
Gilmore, 63, recalls the decision she and another classmate made to transfer to all-white Gallatin High School in the late 1960s rather than attend Union, the city’s high school for black students in that period.
“We knew integration was going to hit when schools came together and segregation ended,” Gilmore says.
The Legislature’s Black Caucus is pushing for a moratorium on expansion of the Tennessee’s Achievement School District with Chairwoman Brenda Gilmore citing a lack of progress in the schools it now oversees, reports The Tennessean.
“The Tennessee Black Caucus stands in unity today, with the Democratic Caucus, asking that the ASD delay any further expansions until better results can be shown and substantiated,” Gilmore said. “The ASD should go back to its original goal and refocus on intense intervention at a small number of schools.”
Democratic Caucus leaders Monday also expressed support for a moratorium, although the caucus hasn’t taken a formal stance.
The ASD is the state district authorized to take over the bottom 5 percent of low-performing schools and has recently seen backlash in Memphis after it announced a takeover Dec. 11 of four more schools in the area. The ASD oversees 29 schools, with 27 in Memphis and two in Nashville — Neelys Bend and Brick Church middle schools.
The community backlash caused Shelby County Schools to pass a resolution that includes a moratorium on the ASD’s takeover of any more schools “until they show consistent progress in improving student academic achievement,” according to The Commercial Appeal.
Also fueling the controversy is a recent Vanderbilt University report saying district-run turnaround efforts of low-performing schools have yielded better results than that of Tennessee’s Achievement School District. The report also highlighted that reform efforts such as the ASD take time.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Members of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators said Thursday they’re considering legislative proposals that would revive a sentencing commission, as well as loosen sentencing guidelines for drug offenders in certain cases.
The group sponsored a town hall meeting to discuss mass incarceration and its impact on the community.
The caucus heard from a number of speakers, including Nashville criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor David Raybin, who was a member of the sentencing commission that was dissolved in 1995.
Raybin has been a vocal advocate of the commission, a panel he says is needed because “you constantly need to tweak and respond to criminal justice issues.”
“There are sentencing commissions all over the United States,” Raybin told reporters outside the meeting. “And essentially what a commission does is look at the sentencing issues, the problems, and make recommendations to the Legislature with specific legislation.”
Besides reviving the commission, Black Caucus Chairwoman Brenda Gilmore said the caucus is also considering proposals that would provide alternative sentencing for individuals with drug or mental health problems.