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.”
The area designated by state law as House District 89, today geographically covering a part of urban Memphis and represented by one of the few acknowledged liberal Democrats remaining in Tennessee, will be transformed on Nov. 6.
On that date, House District 89 will certainly become, geographically, a rural-suburban enclave within Knox County 300 miles away, thanks to the new state legislative redistricting plan enacted to change state law earlier this year by the General Assembly.
And, almost certainly, House District 89 will be politically represented by one of four Republican men who — based on recent interviews — have few philosophical differences in adhering to basic conservative Republican principles and equal ambivalence on issues that have split sitting Republican legislators. The race to represent the relocated District 89, then, would seem to be largely a personality contest.
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.
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.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Republican sponsor of a proposal to ban the teaching of gay issues to elementary and middle school students said Tuesday that he’s not backing off the legislation despite concerns from GOP leaders.
The proposal was scheduled to be heard in the House Education Committee. But Rep. Joey Hensley of Hohenwald told The Associated Press he plans to delay the measure for up to three weeks to work out its language.
The legislation, known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, would limit all sexually related instruction to “natural human reproduction science” in kindergarten through eighth grade.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican state Rep. Joey Hensley says he plans to run for a new state Senate district in southern Middle Tennessee.
Hensley, a 56-year-old Hohenwald physician, noted Wednesday that the Senate seat created through the state’s redistricting plans includes Lewis, Lawrence and Wayne counties, which he has represented in the House for nearly 10 years.
Hensley’s decision to run for the Senate comes after the Legislature last week approved plans to draw Hensley’s House seat together with fellow Republican Rep. Vance Dennis of Savannah.
Hensley has been a strong tobacco opponent in his time in office. He supported various unsuccessful efforts to ban smoking in public places before the Legislature finally passed an indoor ban in 2007.