NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Senate has approved legislation that would protect student counselors at public higher education institutions who withhold their services because of religious beliefs.
The measure passed Thursday 22-4. Republican Sen. Joey Hensley of Hohenwald sponsored the bill.
The legislation targets students in counseling, social work or psychology programs.
Hensley says he proposed the measure after a student at a Tennessee college was required to counsel someone who didn’t agree with the counselor’s “moral belief.”
The proposal protects a counselor from disenrollment, and it allows the client to be referred to another counselor.
Hedy Weinberg is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee. She says the legislation is discriminatory and undermines the ability of universities to train counselors in line with the mandates of their future profession.
Unemployment exceeds 10 percent in all six of the rural Middle Tennessee counties that now make up the 28th state Senate District, observes the Tennessean. So it comes as no surprise that in the race to occupy the newly drawn state Senate seat, state Rep. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, and former state Rep. Ty Cobb, D-Columbia, are squabbling over their job records as they traverse the rural district south of Nashville.
Cobb took partial credit for creating the Northfield Workforce, Development and Conference Center, a job re-training facility that was funded when he served Maury County for two years in the state Capitol.
Hensley, a 57-year-old Lewis County doctor, disputed Cobb’s role and said he’d done more to bring jobs to his three-county district, including 100 jobs in Lawrence County in the past year.
And despite calls by Cobb and Hensley for a clean campaign, both sides were willing to question how effectively their opponent could bring work to the region, which acquired the 28th after Republicans moved it east from Memphis earlier this year.
The Jackson Sun has some details on arguments presented by Shirley Curry to a subcommittee of the state Republican Executive Committee in challenging her four-vote primary loss to state Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah. One involves supposedly false campaign advertising. A decision on the challenge is still pending. Curry, who is a member of the committee, says a number of factors, including Dennis allegedly misleading voters and voter confusion over redistricting, contributed to her loss in the primary.
Dennis disputes Curry’s claims, though he does not want to address Curry’s specific arguments while the issue is pending before the committee.
“It is unfortunate that the loser in this race is asking a group, of which she is a part, to overturn the will of the voters,” said Dennis, of Savannah. “But I am confident the board will see this election contest was hard fought but fair in every way.”
In Curry’s written arguments, she said Dennis sent a piece of mail to voters in Wayne, Lewis and Lawrence counties that said he was “your representative,” even though Dennis did not represent those counties when the legislature was in session.
The counties have been added to the district through redistricting and will be represented by the winner of the election when the legislature reconvenes. Curry, of Waynesboro, also said Dennis illegally franked the campaign mailing with the state seal.
Another piece of mail displayed photos of Dennis, state Rep. Joey Hensley and Gov. Bill Haslam, calling them the “Lewis and Lawrence Counties’ Team!”
According to Curry, Hensley did not know his name was used until he received the mailing.
Hensley’s cousin put up Dennis signs until Hensley talked to him, Curry said.
Two people told Hensley that they voted for Dennis because they thought Dennis was Hensley’s choice, she said.
Hensley confirmed the accounts. He said he did not want to speak on the race publicly, but when asked privately, he told people he was voting for Curry.
“When Vance sent this mail piece out, it really was disconcerting to me that he would do that when I had told him that I did not want to publicly endorse either one of them,” Hensley said. “… It made it appear I was endorsing Vance when that really wasn’t the truth.”
Two of the three candidates opposing state Rep. David Hawk in this summer’s Republican primary acknowledge they had no plans to enter the contest until the incumbent was charged with domestic assault on his wife.
But now that the race for House District 5 is underway, all the candidates say that’s not really an appropriate topic for campaign discourse. Hawk says his attorney has advised him not to talk about the pending case. His challengers say, more or less, that they don’t need to bring it up.
Greeneville businessman Hawk, 44, has spent 10 years as a lawmaker and says the experience and relationship gained over that period warrant reelection to another term. In a speech to announce his candidacy, he declared “I’m the same person now that I was when you re-elected me four times.”
Hawk was charged in March with assaulting his wife, Crystal Goan Hawk, an attorney who is also president of Greene County Republican Women. According to the Greeneville Sun, Crystal Hawk has declared the organization will fully support the Aug. 2 GOP primary winner in the general election.
Hawk’s primary opponents are:
-Duncan Cave, 34, an attorney who works in a law firm with his father and two brothers. “My basic policy stand is deregulation for the government,” he said, adding this could include easing or eliminating state licensing for some professions and turning more decision-making over to city and county governments, perhaps even on matters such as gun control.
-Ted Hensley, 59, a county commissioner and real estate broker who characterizes himself as a “constitutional conservative” who feels political parties “are keeping us divided, stoking the fire to keep us divided” in situations where “working together” would better serve the public interest. Hensley also said he felt “compelled” to run, believing the nation is “under attack, not just from outside but from within.”
-Bradley Mercer, 30, an attorney who served as a legislative intern and worked two years with a Nashville lobbying firm before going to law school. That background gives him the needed experience for legislating, he said, and he entered the race because of a concern that Hawk, if the Republican nominee, could lose in the general election.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says he will be campaigning for Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, who he believes is the only incumbent Republican senator facing a serious primary challenge this summer.
“Doug’s a good friend,” Ramsey told reporters Thursday. “He supported me … I’ll be returning the favor.”
He acknowledged that the backing of Overbey over challenger Scott Hughes contrasts with his stance four years ago when Ramsey remained officially neutral in the race for a Senate seat in Blount and Sevier counties. In the 2008 race, Overbey was the challenger and former Sen. Raymond Finney, R-Maryville, was the incumbent.
“I stayed out of that one,” he acknowledged. “I’m not sure what the distinction would be except that I’m for Doug Overbey.”
Ramsey also said he will support re-election of House Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart of Hendersonville over her primary challenger, Courtney Rogers.
But he indicated no preference in two races where Republican representatives are running in primaries for open state Senate seats. State Rep. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, is seeking the newly created 20th Senate District seat in southern Middle Tennessee and Rep. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, is running for the East Tennessee seat vacated by retiring Sen. Mike Faulk, R-Church Hill.
Back in April, as the qualifying deadline for legislative races passed, Ramsey made a quip to state Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, who posted it on his blog:
“You ever hear the song, ‘All The Girls Get Prettier at Closing Time’? Well, after hearing about the competition to replace Mike Faulk, Frank Niceley looks gorgeous.”
Asked about this a day after Ramsey’s news conference, Ramsey spokesman Adam Kleinheider replied by email: “While the quotation on Sen. Campfield’s blog from April is authentic, no endorsement has been made in Senate District 8,”
Campfield says the comment came in response to him questioning Ramsey about former Sen. Mike Williams filing papers to qualify as a Republican for the 8th Senate District race. Williams, who had declared himself an Independent before running for re-election in 2008, was later deemed ineligible to run as a Republican by state party officials.
Three other Republicans — Cynthia Bundren Jackson of Rogersville, Jeff Brantley of Sharps Chapel and Hobart Rice of Dandridge — qualified along with Niceley to run for the seat.
The so-called “Don’t Say Gay bill,” which perhaps brought more national attention for the Tennessee Legislature than any other piece of legislation, will not be put to a final vote needed for passage, the measure’s House sponsor said Sunday.
The decision by Rep. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, means that SB49 will die with the adjournment of the 107th General Assembly. Legislative leaders hope that will be today.
Hensley said the officials of the Department of Education and the state Board of Education have pledged to send a letter to all Tennessee schools “telling them they cannot teach this subject in grades kindergarten through eight.”
“With that assurance and the opposition of some people who didn’t want to vote on it, I’ve decided simply not to bring it up,” said Hensley.
The bill passed the Senate last year and recently won approval in modified form from the House Education Committee on an 8-7 vote. It needed only the approval of the Calendar Committee, usually a routine matter, to be set for a floor vote.
Hensley said nickname the bill received “really wasn’t what the bill was all about” and contributed to unease of some legislators in voting on the measure. He said the bill could be re-filed next year if there is any indication of “alternate lifestyles” being prompted in Tennessee schools despite the pending letter.
The operative language of the amended version says that in grades K-8 any such classroom instruction, course materials or other informational resources that are inconsistent with natural human reproduction shall be classified as inappropriate for the intended student audience and, therefore, shall be prohibited.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal that would ban the teaching of gay issues to elementary and middle school students is once again advancing in the House.
The measure, known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, passed the House Education Committee 8-7 on Tuesday. The proposal failed on a voice vote but passed on a roll call vote.
The legislation limits sexually related instruction to “natural human reproduction science” in kindergarten through eighth grade. The proposal had been put aside for a measure that would require “family life education” curricula taught in schools to be abstinence-centered.
But Hohenwald Republican Rep. Joey Hensley said he decided to move his bill again after he said a survey of his district showed “well over 95 percent … don’t want homosexuality discussed in those grade levels.”
The companion bill passed the Senate last year.
The General Assembly’s only physician member, an anti-abortion Republican, says he expects a controversial abortion bill scheduled today for a House committee vote will undergo major changes or he won’t support the measure, according to Andy Sher. Rep. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, said he understands the bill, sponsored by Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, will change substantially.
That includes eliminating a bill provision requiring the state Department of Health to list online the names of doctors who perform abortions in Tennessee.
“We’re going to change that and take it out because we don’t want to target doctors,” Hensley said Tuesday. “We don’t want to … have any kind of violence against them. I don’t agree with doctors doing abortions, but certainly we don’t need to make that public so that they’re in danger.”
He noted that many physicians, including obstetricians, could wind up on the list because of procedures used to treat women who have had a miscarriage.
The Tennessee Medical Association, which represents doctors, also opposes the naming of providers of abortion services.
As currently drafted, the “Life Defense Act of 2012” also requires state health officials to release detailed information by county about the age, race and marital status of women who receive abortions. Information about the “gestational” age of the fetus would be disclosed as would information about a woman’s past pregnancies, abortions and educational attainment.
The names of women would not be made public under Hill’s bill, which came from Tennessee Right to Life.
But Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee officials and other critics say the release of localized demographic information could unintentionally lead to the identification of women in smaller, rural counties.
Gov. Bill Haslam says he’s been talking to Republican Rep. Joey Hensley of Hohenwald about the so-called “Don’t Say Gay’ bill that Hensley is sponsoring, according to WPLN. Apparently he reiterated his past comments that the bill is a distraction and that lawmakers have more important things to do “He knows and understands that, as I’ve said before, is not something I think is particularly helpful or needed right now. Again, I think the state already has rules in place about what can be taught.”
Despite Haslam’s concerns, Hensley says he’ll continue to push the measure. He notes the proposal now up for discussion has been substantially amended from the version that drew protests at the state capitol a year ago. (After repeated delays, the bill (SB49) is up again in a House committee today…. But could be delayed once again.
Lifted from a Chas Sisk political notebook: State lawmakers took time at the start of a House Education Committee meeting Tuesday to read to a group of kindergarten and second grade students from Nashville’s Shayne Elementary School, demonstrating that it’s not just politics that can leave them tongue-tied.
Wearing oversized red-and-white hats, lawmakers took turns reading Dr. Seuss’ Fox in Socks. They quickly learned that, to the unpracticed, seemingly simple rhymes can be a nightmare to read aloud.
Rep. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, was the first to stumble. He butchered, “Clocks on fox tick/Clocks on Knox tock/Six sick bricks tick/Six sick clocks tock.”
“I got the hardest page here,” he complained.
Lawmakers eventually got smart and started passing the book to their reading companions. Taking it one word at a time, the kids from Shayne Elementary adroitly handled rhymes such as, “Ben bends Bim’s broom/Bim bends Ben’s broom/Bim’s bends/Ben’s bends/Ben’s bent broom breaks/Bim’s bent broom breaks.”
“Easy for you to say, isn’t it?” quipped Rep. Dennis Powers, R-Jacksboro.