Tag Archives: Tennessee

Memphis Lawmakers Propose Seceding from Tennessee Over Civil War Statue Dispute

After the Tennessee General Assembly voted last Tuesday to strip Memphis of $250,000 worth of funding for an upcoming bicentennial celebration over its decision to remove Confederate Civil War monuments located in the city, state Representative Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) called for the city to secede from the State of Tennessee.

“We are in what I consider an abusive relationship with the State of Tennessee. Maybe it’s time for a conversation about secession. Create a new state, maybe West Tennessee,” Rep. Parkinson told WREG-TV.

He added, “Maybe if the conversation [about secession] is being had, maybe it’ll wake those individuals up who have been taking Davidson and Shelby County for granted.”

“It’s very interesting but yes, it can be done,” said Memphis City Council Chairman Berlin Boyd according to WBIR-TV. “If we became our own state we could control our overall destiny, we could create a state income tax… You have to think about, would we want to be the size of Rhode Island? Or would it be more impactful of a larger portion of West Tennessee?”

While critics have said that separating from the state would completely disconnect the city from funds it receives from state tax coffers, such as the $517 million in funding it received this year for Shelby County schools, Chairman Boyd suggested that a newly-created state could raise its own revenues by legalizing marijuana or allowing casinos.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said that he opposes secession from the state but called the General Assembly’s effort to punish Memphis for removing the Civil War monuments “a little bit of a stick in the eye.”

“We are different in many ways from the rest of the state, and I say that in a very positive way, and I think that we’ve just got to resolve to continue going forward and push the message that we are a very progressive, very growing, very vibrant community that needs the state’s help,” Mayor Luttrell added.

City Council Member Worth Morgan said he opposes the measure and told WMC Action News 5, “I think seceding from the State of Tennessee is an impossible and stupid idea and any time spent researching it is probably a waste.”

While it is legally possible that Memphis could secede from Tennessee, to do so would first require that a majority of Memphis voters approve the concept in a referendum, then the Tennessee General Assembly and U.S. Congress would have to pass legislation allowing it.

Rhodes College Political Science professor Stephen Wirls said that it is unlikely that the state would approve secession. “If they allowed Memphis to go they’re basically inviting every other part of Tennessee that has beef with the state,” he said.

Tenn. Medical Pot Decriminalization Bill Passes Criminal Justice Committee

A significantly-amended reworking of the Medical Cannabis Only bill HB 1749 passed the Tennessee House Criminal Justice Committee on Wednesday by a vote of 9-2. The bill decriminalizes the possession of medical marijuana by individuals with qualified medical conditions and a doctor’s prescription, but falls short of providing access to the medication in-state.

Truth in Media reported last month that the more robust original version of the bill had passed the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee with Republican Speaker Beth Harwell’s tying vote.

The qualifying medical conditions under the bill include cancer, HIV and AIDS, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, Alzheimer’s disease, severe arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, or chronic or debilitating diseases.

While the original version of the bill would have provided a legal marketplace for medical pot, bill sponsor Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) stripped the bill of language related to marijuana access and focused on decriminalization due to fears that he would not get the votes needed to pass the Criminal Justice Committee. “You’re always working to meet the needs of the individual committee that you’re in,” he told The Tennessean. Faison also complained that medical pot opponents in the state are “stuck in Reefer Madness.”

While speaking on behalf of the decriminalization bill at Wednesday’s committee meeting, Rep. Faison argued, “We have Tennesseans who are illegally alive today, and they’re doing well, but they’re breaking the law. My question is why would we want to have the law be able to arrest these type of individuals or put them in jail or give them a criminal record when they’re fighting to stay alive?”

Reps. Sherry Jones (D-Nashville), Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis), Andrew Farmer (R-Sevierville), Jim Coley (R-Bartlett), Mary Littleton (R-Dickson), Michael Curcio (R-Dickson), Micah Van Huss (R-Jonesborough), and Tilman Goins (R-Morristown) voted in favor of the bill.

Reps. William Lamberth (R-Cottontown) and Paul Sherrell (R-Sparta) voted against the measure.

Lawrenceburg mother Andrea Houser testified at the committee that she needs THC-activated cannabis oil to deal with epilepsy and that alternative pharmaceutical drugs used to treat it had given her 19 kidney stones. “Because of cannabis, I felt normal again. I stopped because I didn’t want to break the law – but my seizures came back… It’s not fun when you’re having a seizure, biting your tongue and choking on blood in front of your kids,” she said according to Fox 13.

“I would rather be illegally alive than legally dead,” she added.

Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Tracy Trott testified against the bill and said that it would lead to an increase in impaired drivers. “Once you start down this slope, it is very difficult to stop the ball from rolling,” he said according to The Tennessean.

The Knox County Democratic Party issued a tweet criticizing the bill for not going far enough. “By removing all language that referred to the creation of a safe, transparent and accountable business and regulatory model for medical cannabis from his own bill, GOP Rep Jeremy Faison gives TN a choice: Leave to get a prescription or break the law by buying on the black market,” it read.

According to Fox 17, the bill now moves on to the House Health Committee.

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) said that the Tennessee Senate will delay considering the bill until it passes through committees in the House.

Stores Reopened, Charges Dropped After TN Raid on Legal CBD Gummies

Rutherford County, Tenn. District Attorney Jennings Jones announced Wednesday that his office is dropping all charges, ranging from public nuisance violations to felony drug charges, against the 23 stores and shopkeepers that had been targeted in “Operation: Candy Crush.”

Truth in Media reported last month that Rutherford County Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh had launched the county-wide raid, shuttering stores and issuing indictments to those selling non-THC hemp cannabidiol (CBD) gummies, despite the fact that such products had been legalized in Tennessee in 2014.

The Tennessean notes that Judge Royce Taylor had ordered that the stores be reopened just days after the raid.

According to NewsChannel5, District Attorney Jones’ statement read, “[Two assistants from the District Attorney’s office] made TBI officials aware of our concerns that several lab reports they had issued declared that edible products that had been purchased by police officers contained a substance called cannabidiol and listed that substance as a Schedule VI controlled substance.”

The statement continued, “It now appears that the TBI lab reports, if they had been accurately written, should have stated that their findings were ‘inconclusive’ as to whether cannabidiol is a controlled substance. The cannabidiol substance detected by the TBI lab in the edible candies is identical in composition to the same extract from hemp products, which are distinct under the law from marijuana products.”

Jones said that the TBI would be returning the stores’ property to them.

The products seized by police were commercially-available CBD gummies with packaging indicating that they were derived from hemp.

Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Lisa Marchesoni shifted blame for the raid in an email to The Tennessean, saying, “The Sheriff’s Office was acting on orders of the court. When an indictment or court order comes to the Sheriff’s Office, we are required to serve the documents.”

Local store owner Stacey Hamilton said, “From the moment I found out what they were doing, I knew I had committed no crime… This has caused an enormous cost to all the store owners. I don’t think they’ll apologize in nearly as public a way as they condemned us as drug dealers.”

The store owners targeted in the county-wide raid now plan to file civil suits.

In the initial press conference announcing the raid last month, detectives seemed unaware of the nature of the products that they had seized. When a reporter asked Smyrna Police Chief Kevin Arnold what the products are used for, he said, “It’s used to get high.”

“No, it’s not. It doesn’t have THC in it,” a reporter said.

“Then why are they buying it?” Chief Arnold replied.

When the reporter explained that it is used as a medicinal product and that it is legal, Chief Arnold said, “We’ll check on that.”

Characterizing Tennessee laws on hemp-derived CBD products, Tennessee Hemp Industries Assocation president Joe Kirkpatrick said in a post on Facebook, “All Industrial Hemp products, including cannabidiol (CBD) are fully legal in Tennessee without a prescription.”

Medical Pot Bill Clears TN House Subcommittee with GOP Speaker’s Support

Tennessee’s proposed Medical Cannabis Only bill, House Bill 1749, cleared the state’s House Criminal Justice Subcommittee with a vote of 4-3 on Tuesday after Republican House Speaker and gubernatorial candidate Beth Harwell cast a tie-breaking vote in favor of the bill.

The bill would legalize the use of non-smokable, marijuana-derived medical cannabis products containing THC for individuals with qualified medical conditions ranging from schizophrenia, chronic pain, and PTSD to cancer and HIV. The bill would not legalize the sale and possession of marijuana flower for smoking purposes.

According to The Tennessean, Reps. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), Sherry Jones (D-Nashville), and Tilman Goins (R-Morristown) joined Harwell in supporting the measure, and Reps. Micah Van Huss (R-Jonesborough), William Lamberth (R-Cottontown), and Michael Curcio (R-Dickson) cast no vote.

Speaker Harwell told WGNS, “I believe it is time for us to take action on the state level with regards to medical marijuana. I am in favor of this legislation, which does not allow for the smoking of medical marijuana— I am not in favor of that approach. However, the federal government continues to be a roadblock for legitimate research or medical uses of medical cannabis, but other states have enacted laws to help patients, and Tennessee should do the same.”

She added, “States that have enacted a medical cannabis program have seen a decrease in opioid use. While I don’t see this as a cure-all for the opioid epidemic, I do see a true medical cannabis program, such as is being proposed, as another tool for the medical community in this fight.”

[RELATED: In CBD-Legal Tennessee, Cops Raid Shops Selling Non-THC CBD Gummies]

Though Harwell had opposed medical marijuana in the past, she announced in 2017 according to The Associated Press that she had changed her position on the issue after her sister who lives in Colorado claimed to have been able to discontinue opiate medications for back pain after switching to medical marijuana.

The Medical Cannabis Only bill was originally introduced by Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) in the House and Sen. Dr. Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville) in the Senate. The bill also boasts Chairman of the House Health Subcommittee Dr. Bryan Terry (R-Murfreesboro) as a co-sponsor.

“Adding a non-opioid modality, such as cannabis extracts, to the arsenal of treatment options for pain can certainly be beneficial in the war on opioid abuse, but there are other conditions that the bill addresses like Crohn’s Disease and seizure disorders which can help Tennesseans. Cannabis oils are not a panacea, but for some patients it can make all the difference in their quality of life. As opposed to the unknown of recreational or pseudo-medical cannabis, this bill is structured with the patient and true medical therapies in mind,” Dr. Terry told WGNS.

Tennessee Department of Health’s chief medical officer David Reagan claimed that marijuana is addictive and leads to impaired judgment. “We do not support the passage of House bill 1749,” he told The Tennessean.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation official Tommy Farmer claimed that passing the bill could cause the state to lose federal funding for law enforcement, though this has not happened to other states that have legalized medical marijuana.

The bill now moves on to face a vote before the full House Criminal Justice Committee at an as-yet unscheduled date in the future. The bill has not yet been scheduled for a subcomittee vote in the Senate.

Tenn. Bill Would Nullify Some Supreme Court Rulings, Federal Executive Orders

Republican lawmakers in Tennessee introduced a bill last month, called the State Sovereignty Reclamation Act of 2016, that would block state and local officials from enforcing federal executive orders and Supreme Court decisions that represent policies that have not been passed into law by the state’s legislature.

HB 1828, which was introduced by Rep. Mark Pody (R-Lebanon), would prohibit “state and local governments from enforcing, administering, or cooperating with the implementation, regulation, or enforcement of any federal executive order or U.S. supreme court opinion unless the general assembly first expressly implements it as the public policy of the state.” The prohibition would apply to the actions of state and local officials and the use of state funds and resources. The Senate version of the bill, SB 1790, was introduced by Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet).

[RELATED: Tenn. GOP State Sen.’s Bill Would Let Women Buy Birth Control Without Doctor Visit]

While the bill would not authorize state and local officials to stop federal officials from enforcing executive orders or Supreme Court decisions, it would prevent state and local officials from participating in their enforcement under the anti-commandeering doctrine.

Tenth Amendment Center communications director Mike Maharrey, who suggested that some of the policies that would be effectively nullified by the bill “could include federal gun control, environmental regulations and OSHA mandates,” said, “SB1790 rests on a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine. Simply put, the federal government cannot force states to help implement or enforce any federal act or program. The anti-commandeering doctrine rests primarily on four Supreme Court cases dating back to 1842. Printz v. US serves as the cornerstone.

[RELATED: Bill to Block Implementation of Federal Gun Control Measures Passes Tennessee Legislature]

The New American’s Joe Wolverton, II, J.D. wrote, “[The] Anti-commandeering [doctrine] prohibits the federal government from forcing states to participate in any federal program that does not concern ‘international and interstate matters.’

The bill must clear the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House State Government Subcommittee before being voted on by the full Tennessee General Assembly.

Tenn. GOP State Sen.’s Bill Would Let Women Buy Birth Control Without Doctor Visit

Last week, Tenn. Republican State Senator Dr. Steven Dickerson of District 20 in Nashville introduced Senate Bill 1677, a proposal aimed at allowing women to purchase birth control directly from pharmacists without first obtaining a doctor’s prescription.

Dr. Dickerson, an anesthesiologist, wrote in an op-ed in The Tennessean, “By some accounts, almost half of pregnancies are either unintentional or ‘mistimed.’ We need to do better. One logical solution is to make contraception easier to obtain. Easier access to contraception will lead to higher use, and higher use will lead to fewer unintended pregnancies.

Dickerson’s bill would stop just short of making birth control over-the-counter, but instead would allow pharmacists to provide the medication directly to women without a doctor’s prescription after “reviewing a list of possible risks and risk factors” with them. He characterized this type of process where a pharmacist prescribes birth control as “behind-the-counter.”

[RELATED: Lawsuit Alleges Jail Guards Allowed To Rape Women In NYC Prison]

Under the current system, birth control pills require a physician’s prescription. While this might not seem like a significant impediment to some, even the simple act of going to a doctor’s appointment can be so expensive or time-consuming that it acts as a barrier to many, and can even impose an impossible burden to meet for women without health insurance,” said Sen. Dickerson.

A 2012 opinion by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists stated, “A potential way to improve contraceptive access and use, and possibly decrease unintended pregnancy rates, is to allow over-the-counter access to oral contraceptives (OCs)… Weighing the risks versus the benefits based on currently available data, OCs should be available over-the-counter. Women should self-screen for most contraindications to OCs using checklists.

Sen. Dickerson added, “While all medications have side effects and risks, by some measures, oral contraceptives’ risks remain lower than the risks of pregnancy. At the very least, the risk is low enough that adults, in proper consultation with a pharmacist, can make an informed decision about the appropriateness of utilizing these medications.

[RELATED: Indigenous Activists Rally Across Canada for Missing Women]

He also pointed out that even when not required to visit the doctor to obtain birth control, “data show women continue to seek routine gynecologic screening.

According to Slate, Oregon and California recently enacted similar bills.

In addition to the primary goal of decreasing unintended pregnancies, SB 1677 has the added benefit of decreasing health care costs and increasing individual freedom, both of which I believe to be worthwhile goals,” argued Sen. Dickerson.

FBI Confirms Terrorism Inspired Chattanooga Military Attack

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., – For the first time since the attack, the FBI has linked a July shooting at a Chattanooga, Tennessee Navy Reserve facility to terrorism.

Speaking to reporters last week in New York, FBI Director James Comey said the attack at the facility was “inspired by terrorist organization propaganda.”

Gunman Mohammad Abdulazeez had initially targeted a military recruiting center on July 16 prior to driving to the U.S. Naval and Marine Reserve Center seven miles away. Abdulazeez killed four U.S. Marines and injured a sailor at that facility.

The individuals killed were Gunnery Sgt. Thomas J. Sullivan of Hampden, Massachusetts; Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt of Burke, North Carolina; Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist of Polk, Wisconsin; and Lance Cpl. Squire K. Wells of Cobb County, Georgia.

Abdulazeez was ultimately shot and killed by five police officers after leaving the building and attempting to re-enter.

On Monday, Chattanooga police identified the five officers who fired at Abdulazeez: Sean O’Brien, Grover Wilson, Jeff Lancaster, Keven Flanagan and Lucas Timmons.

CBS news reported Abdulazeez was born in Kuwait and had traveled to both Kuwait and Jordan before the attacks.

Abdulazeez earned an engineering degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2012 and worked as an intern for the Tennessee Valley Authority, a government owned utility provider which operated throughout the region. Abdulazeez also worked for Superior Essex Inc., a company that designs and creates wire and cable products.

“This really comes as no surprise, and that’s unfortunate,” said Tennessee State Representative Andy Holt (R-Dresden). “The Tennessee General Assembly will be working to strengthen our refugee immigration policies. In addition, every single gun-owner should be ready and prepared to take a stand for their life should the need to do so arise.”

Tennessee lawmakers are currently pushing for the state attorney general to sue the Obama administration over the placement of Syrian refugees by joining a lawsuit spearheaded by the Thomas More Law Center.

Tennessee State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) has circulated a letter to the Tennessee legislature asking them to sign on to show their support for the lawsuit.

“We currently have the opportunity to sue the federal government in order to take a stand for our sovereignty,” said Tennessee State Representative Sheila Butt (R-Columbia). “Only when our leaders are united can we take bold stand for our state.”

The Governor and State Attorney General have yet to indicate whether or not they will move forward with the lawsuit.

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High School Students Arrested, Jailed For Sagging Pants

BOLIVAR, Tenn. — Four high school students at Bolivar Central were charged with indecent exposure and two ended up sitting in a jail cell for 48 hours for having sagging pants this week. However, the students reportedly did not break a law.

“I think jail time might be a little too much, but at the same time there has been a lot of sagging pants,” parent Crystal Wing told WMC Action 5 News.

Student Antonio Ammons and one other student spent 48 hours in the Hardeman County Criminal Justice Complex following the charges levied by School Resource Officer Charles Woods for indecent exposure.

While Woods, Hardeman County School Director Warner Ross II and Bolivar Central High School principal Jeff Barnes did not return calls for comment, Woods stated in the incident report that the pant sagging occurred on more than one occasion.

While it is unclear why only two of the four individuals charged for indecent exposure were jailed, Action News 5 contacted attorney Leslie Ballin who stated saggy pants do not constitute indecent exposure under Tennessee Law.

Ammon, who lives with his great-grandmother, says he “really didn’t like it” regarding his time in jail, and now must find the means to pay the $250 in court costs and fines associated with the charges.

When asked for an opinion on the matter, student Jordan Perry stated “I don’t think it’s necessary to go to jail for saggy pants, but I think the school should have some kind of punishment though.”

Another student, Cheyenne Lindsey said, “I think it’s just a little harsh. They didn’t need to go to that extreme.”

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TN AG: Airbnb Homeowners Must Pay Taxes

NASHVILLE, December 3, 2015– Property owners who rent their homes to weekend guests through apps such as Airbnb should expect to be forced to pay taxes in Tennessee after the Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association (TnHTA), the statewide lobbying group that represents the hospitality and tourism industry in Tennessee, sought legal recourse by seeking a State Attorney General’s opinion against homeowners making extra money off of their homes.

The lobbying group says they are very pleased with the Attorney General’s opinion because it helps to “level the playing field,” and that it was a win for not only their stakeholders but local governments as well that are missing out on tax dollars.

“We are excited that the AG has opined that short-term rentals are legally subject to both sales and lodging taxes. In some counties, the amount of tax lost is significant- since Davidson County began to enforce the collection of the tax it is estimated that over $1.2 million in just lodging taxes will be collected in 2016 on short-term rentals,” said Greg Adkins, TnHTA President & CEO.

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery opined that those renting out their private homes to weekend guests were not simply private homeowners but actually hotel owners and are therefore responsible for collecting and paying sales taxes.

As technology continues to develop, long standing government protected industries are losing profits to apps like Uber, Lyft, AirBnB, and so on. This isn’t the first blow AirBnB has been dealt in Tennessee. In Nashville, the Tennessee Beacon Center, a free-market think tank, has recently filed a lawsuit against the city for attempting to ban homeowners from using the service.

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LOTFI: Regarding Racism, Media Bias Against GOP is Glaring

NASHVILLE, November 7, 2015– Earlier this summer, the nation was saturated with narratives against anyone that identified with southern heritage after 21-year-old Dylann Roof entered a South Carolina African-American church and ruthlessly murdered 9 souls. Afterwards, hundreds of thousands demanded Confederate flags and all other Confederacy associated iconography be removed from public view across the country. The fight took center stage here in Nashville when thousands demanded the removal of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s bust from the capitol. At least two Tennessee legislators, Rep. Bryan Terry (R-Murfreesboro), the only Native American in the legislature, and Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) called for an end to the divisiveness. In return, ridicule ensued from media across the nation. Meanwhile, Democratic Party Chairwoman Mary Mancini recently published an op-ed that praised a man responsible for the death countless Native Americans, and the media was all but silent.

At the peak of the Forrest controversy, Holt ran an op-ed that called for unity. While Holt acknowledged Forrest’s checkered past and involvement in the Confederacy and KKK, he also re-told a story of Forrest that the media all but refused to report. Forrest was a man redeemed. Holt wrote that Forrest ended up being one of the South’s first civil rights activists who called for the KKK to disband. In addition, it’s widely known fact that Forrest’s funeral was attended more than 3,000 African-Americans in Memphis who wanted to pay their respects for all that Forrest had fought for on their behalf late in his life. Of course, Forrest had committed atrocities. However, Holt wrote Forrest’s heart had changed and we should recognize, celebrate and model such change, not seek to erase it from history.It wasn’t as if Holt had made this narrative up. Historian Gregory Tucker validated Holt’s narrative in his own column published by the Daily News Journal. Regardless, Tennessee and national media lined up in a hurry to ruthlessly attack Holt. Headlines asked “What next, Andy? Ted Bundy was a women’s rights activist?” The Tennessee Democratic Party, which is led by Mancini, even went on to attack Holt on their Facebook page.

A different story:

In preparation for their annual Jackson Dinner, Mancini wrote in an op-ed recently published by the Tennessean that she and the Democratic Party will be forever grateful to party founder, Tennessean, and former President Andrew Jackson for infusing the Democratic Party with the spirit of equality and an understanding that the White House was the people’s house.

“We will be forever grateful to General Jackson for infusing the Democratic Party with that spirit — we were the “party of the people” then and we are the “party of the people” now — and we will continue to honor that legacy,” wrote Mancini.We’re talking about the same Jackson that ruthlessly murdered tens of thousands of Native American Indians. The same Jackson responsible for the Trail of Tears.

According to Mancini, Jackson “captured the imagination of the American people.”

One forgets that Jackson didn’t think Native Americans were people, so he committed genocide against them and made them his slaves.

National media was silent. Not a word. Not a single Tennessee journalist, pundit, professor or talking head questioned Mancini’s praise of a man referred to as “America’s Hitler” by Native Americans. Not one.

The Tennessean did, however, publish an op-ed from a Native American historian that called for an end to the celebration of Andrew Jackson while damning Jackson as a monster, but not before praising Mancini as a “voice of liberalism and reason in the community” which leads the reader to believe that this Historian is a liberal himself. That’s all the scrutiny the chairwoman received for praising and celebrating a man that murdered tens of thousands, enslaved thousands more and quite literally attempted to commit genocide. Seriously?

So, media infers that Republican Holt is a dumb racist who would support abusing women because he called for unity and understanding, and sought to clarify some historical points. Meanwhile, Democrat Mancini is a voice of reason.

A message for media:

If you want to understand why America has lost trust in the media, then look in the mirror. America deserves better. To those editors willing to recognize the state of media and reflect, I applaud you. Hope may yet remain for the Press’ freedom and integrity.

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Judge Voids 182 City Annexation Requests

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee, October 28, 2015– The subject of annexation has been hotly debated throughout the country over the past few legislative cycles. In Tennessee, property owners just delivered a major blow to municipal government that sought to assume domain over their property.

The practice, which allows city governments to arbitrarily expand its boundaries to usurp domain over unincorporated communities and towns outside of city limits without so much as a single town hall to inform citizens of what is going to happen to their property, has forced many home and business owners to pay new taxes to a city they never wanted to live in. What’s worse, these property owners often receive no new services that their tax dollars are now being used to pay for even though they are now forced to live ‘within’ city limits. In North Carolina, state law doesn’t even allow for property owners to challenge the annexation of their property in any way.

Tennessee was one of four states- which also include Idaho, Indiana, and North Carolina- that allowed “involuntary annexation,” according to the Foundation for Economic Education.

However, a fight took center stage in Tennessee where state legislators successfully fought off city officials that wanted to reserve the power to annex private property for the purposes of increasing local tax revenue without consent of the property owners. State law now prohibits involuntary annexation.

However, cities tried to ignore the new law. In Knoxville, Tennessee, the city tried to subvert the law and continue annexing property without consent. Citizens for Home Rule, Inc. (CHR) was ecstatic to announce that all 182 annexation lawsuits filed on behalf of its members against the City of Knoxville were resolved in favor of the property owners.

“It is a great day for private property owners’ rights and a great day for liberty in Tennessee,” said John Avery Emison, president of CHR. “We’ve worked against forced annexation for many years and winning all 182 cases in one fell swoop says a lot about the value of persistence.”

The Courts have ruled that all those ordinances are “invalid and void as a matter of law.”

Emison said the court orders were signed over a period of a month or more by the three Knox County Chancellors because all three had a large number of forced annexation cases on the docket including Chancellor John F. Weaver, Chancellor Mike Moyers, Chancellor Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

Some of the cases are 15 years old, according to Emison. “Most go back to the abusive annexation policies of Mayor Victor Ashe.” A few of the cases originated during Mayor Bill Haslam’s term of office. “It feels really great for the courts to agree that we were right all along and mayors Ashe and Haslam were wrong all along,” Emison said. The City has agreed to pay the court costs and CHR will get all its filing fees back.

CHR expects to make other announcements in coming weeks about annexation litigation in other cities.

CHR’s next battle will be in support of State Rep. Mike Carter’s “De-Annexation” bill before the Tennessee General Assembly in January, which will allow property owners recourse to take their property back out of city-limits. Emison said he hopes de-annexation will be enacted and it could potentially roll back some of the most abusive and irrational annexations of the past.

“We owe a lot to some very good people in the Legislature”, Emison said. “Without the likes of Rep. Mike Carter and Rep. Andy Holt in the state House, and without Sen. Bo Watson and Sen. Frank Niceley in the state Senate, the law ending Forced Annexation would have never passed.”

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Muslim Group Clashes With TN Rep Over Proposed Education Bill

NASHVILLE, October 14, 2015– On Tuesday, Tennessee State Representative Sheila Butt (R-Columbia) issued a response after being labeled an Islamophobe by the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). The group attacked Butt after she introduced a bill that sought to re-write the state’s social studies religion standards.

“Quite frankly, name calling adds no intelligence and has no relevance to this discussion,” said Butt. “Furthermore, it does nothing to ‘improve relations’.”

Last month, many Tennessee parents were upset to learn that their children were reportedly ordered to recite “Allah is the only God” over and over again in their 7th grade social studies classes during a study of Islam aligned with state standards.

Last week, Butt introduced HB1418, which would move the teaching of religious studies to 10th, 11th or 12th grades and would ensure that only a comparative teaching of religion with regards to historical events and geography was taught. The bill also specifically bans any curriculum that could be interpreted as indoctrination in favor of any specific religion, requiring that all religions are taught on equal grounds.

CAIR issued a critical statement against Butt and the legislation.

In the prepared statement, CAIR Government Affairs Manager Robert McCaw called Butt an Islamophobe and said the legislation was bigoted and hate filled.

However, the bill targets no specific religion. In fact, it applies to all religions equally, which left Butt questioning why CAIR was targeting the bill.

“Tennessee HB1418 is neutral on its face as to the specific subject matter it addresses,” said Butt. “The bill is intended to prompt an open and rational discussion about the appropriate timing and weight of teaching religion in a student’s education. No one specific religion is mentioned in the bill.”

Regardless, CAIR called on its members to state legislators and the Governor to oppose the bill.

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Tennessee Lawmakers Introduce Bill Nullifying Gay Marriage Decision

Sept. 17, 2015-- Nearly 1,000 Tennessee Christians rally for traditional marriage at the state capitol where legislators introduce bill to nullify Supreme Court's gay marriage decision.
Sept. 17, 2015– Nearly 1,000 Tennessee Christians rally for traditional marriage at the state capitol where legislators introduce a bill to nullify the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision.

NASHVILLE, September 17, 2015– On Thursday, almost a thousand conservative Christians gathered at the Tennessee state capitol for a rally today that featured many Republican legislators prepared to fight the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage.

At the rally, State Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) and State Representative Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) announced legislation calling for Tennessee to defend current state law and the constitutional amendment adopted by voters in 2006 specifying that only a marriage between a man and a woman can be legally recognized in the state. The “Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act” rejects the Obergefell v. Hodges decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in June giving same sex couples the fundamental right to marry and calls on the attorney general and reporter to defend any state or local government official from any lawsuit to the contrary.

House Bill 1412 / Senate Bill 1437 also aims to protect court clerks and ministers who have religious objections to marrying same sex couples from prosecution or civil action.

“This decision defies constitutional authority and is one of the most glaring examples of judicial activism in U.S. Supreme Court history,” said Representative Pody. “It not only tramples on state’s rights, but has paved the way for an all-out assault on the religious freedoms of Christians who disagree with it. This bill calls for Tennessee to stand against such unconstitutional action in hopes that other states will stand with us against an out-of-control court legislating from the bench.”

“Natural marriage between one man and one woman as recognized by the people of this state remains the law, regardless of any court decision to the contrary,” said Senator Beavers. “The Obergefell case is clearly and blatantly an overstep of the Supreme Court’s Authority and it is time that states, like Tennessee, stand up against the judicial tyranny of which Thomas Jefferson so eloquently warned. This legislation deems that any court decision purporting to strike down the state’s definitions of natural marriage, including Obergefell v. Hodges, is void in Tennessee.”

“Thomas Jefferson was quoted as saying, ‘Whenever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force,'” said Beavers.

Beavers’ and Pody’s legislation says, “No state or local agency or official shall give force or effect to any court order that has the effect of violating Tennessee’s laws protecting natural marriage.”

It also says, “No state or local agency or official shall levy upon the property or arrest the person of any government official or individual who does not comply with any unlawful court order regarding natural marriage within Tennessee.”

“Our clerks and Tennessee’s clergy need protection to exercise their religious beliefs,” added Beavers. “This law would help protect them from prosecution or civil actions.”

Tennessee’s marriage protection amendment specifying that only a marriage between a man and woman can be legally recognized in the state was approved by 81 percent of voters.

The General Assembly will take up the bill upon convening the 2016 legislative session in January.

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TN Officer Charged With Theft After Taking $6,000 Using Civil Asset Forfeiture

According to a state Comptroller’s report in Tennessee, a former police officer failed to deposit cash he collected for the return of seized vehicles totaling $6,000.

“During 2014 and 2015, former police Sgt. Michael Hurt failed to turn over cash totaling at least $6,000 for deposit. Sgt. Hurt was responsible for returning to owners or lienholders vehicles seized by the police department,” read the report. “In at least one instance, Sgt. Hurt acknowledged that he ‘renegotiated’ and reduced the cash settlement ordered by the Department of Safety from $5,000 down to $1,500. Mr. Hurt altered records, failed to record or receipt the majority of the cash, and made a false entry in police department records in an apparent attempt to conceal his activities.”

Hurt was ordered by the Tennessee Department of Safety to hand the vehicles over back to their original owners.

“We have this system going on around the country where people are having their property taken and it’s going into the bank accounts of police departments. It’s not that great a logical leap to hear of something like this,” Bates said of the Morristown audit.

Hurt was later indicted on two counts of theft over $1,000, one count of theft under $500, and one count of official misconduct.

As reported previously by Truth In Media, some states are making reforms to protect citizens and curtail corrupt police departments. But stories like the one in Tennessee are becoming all too common.

Truth In Media’s Barry Donegan reported that the city of Richland, Mississippi “currently features a $4.1 million police station, a fleet of new Dodge Chargers, and a top-of-the-line law enforcement training complex paid for through civil asset forfeiture, a legal process through which police seize property from individuals suspected, but not convicted, of a crime.”

Donegan noted that the Cato Institute has referred to mechanisms that fund police agencies through civil asset forfeiture as “policing for profit.”

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam Signs Cannabis Oil Legalization Bill into Law

On Monday, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed a bill into law legalizing the use of low-THC cannabis oil to treat specific medical conditions including severe seizure disorders and epilepsy. The bill, SB 0280, unanimously passed through the Tennessee legislature last month. The new law requires patients to seek a doctor’s approval and obtain the medication from out of state, as it does not create a legal cannabis oil production marketplace in Tennessee.

Public outcry led to the bill’s passage, as Tennessee families with children suffering from seizure disorders recently began to move out of state in an effort to seek treatment in states where cannabis oil is legal. A three-year-old Memphis girl named Chloe Grauer passed away last year during a severe seizure while waiting for a cannabis oil legalization bill to pass, further intensifying the sense of urgency behind the health initiative.

The Tennessean spoke to the Mathes family who obtained a doctor’s permission and cannabis oil medication as soon as the bill became law in an effort to treat their one-year-old daughter Josie’s severe seizures. Said Josie’s mother Stacie Mathes, “We’re very, very happy that we can get started and see some improvements and get the nasty medicines behind us… As parents, you want some miracles. And you know in some cases it will stop seizures pretty quick. We’re hopeful that we can get them under control… We’re happy with that.”

WSMV-TV notes that Governor Haslam originally opposed the law, but changed his position after a discussion with the state attorney.

Tennessee lawmakers are set to discuss a broader medical marijuana bill this summer, after a Republican medical marijuana legalization proposal introduced by State Senator Dr. Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville) and State Representative Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville) gained unexpected traction earlier this year. Paul Kuhn, chairman of Tennesseans United, a nonprofit promoting medical marijuana legalization, told The Tennessean, “The cannabis oil bill the governor signed into law is a step in the right direction and an acknowledgment by our state leaders that marijuana has therapeutic properties. We hope this momentum carries over into the summer when lawmakers will work on proposed legislation to benefit Tennesseans suffering from a wider range of conditions.”

In September of last year, Ben Swann released a Truth in Media episode exposing the federal government’s mixed messages on medical cannabis and cannabis oil. Watch it in the embedded player, found below.


BREAKING: Tennessee Outlaws Speed Cameras

NASHVILLE, April 22, 2015– On Wednesday, the Tennessee General Assembly voted to outlaw unmanned speed cameras used to issue traffic tickets. Followed by a 29:1 Senate vote in favor of the ban, the House voted 74:16:1. 

“My office has received thousands of phone calls and emails in support of this legislation from across the state. The outcry from the public is palpable. I was really honored to have more than thirty co-sponsors on this legislation. Especially Senate sponsor Todd Gardenhire,” said HB1372 chief sponsor Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden).

Multiple judges from across the country have thrown out traffic camera tickets due to their unconstitutional nature. 

“Tennesseans are tired of having their constitutional right to face their accuser sold to private out-of-state companies.” 

The original intent of the bill was to outlaw red light cameras and speed cameras. However, the bill was stripped of some of its elements through the committee process. Currently, the ban only outlaws speed cameras. However, school zones and a s-curve roads will still be able to utilize the cameras.

Holt says he will continue to work towards outlawing red light cameras next year. 

“It’s very rare that you get everything you want. However, I am really happy that we were able to take a step in the right direction. We’re not going to quit fighting for our constituents’ rights.”

Proponents of the cameras argue that they are a safety measure. However, Holt says the evidence proves otherwise.

“The truth is, almost all studies showing that cameras improve safety are sponsored by the very companies and municipalities that make millions of dollars off of them. Virtually every non-biased, peer reviewed study shows that the cameras actually have either a negative effect, or no change at all regarding safety. At best, the evidence is inconclusive. Regardless, we have to realize that we cannot sell our rights for the guise of safety.”

HB1372 awaits Governor Bill Haslam’s signature. 


BREAKING: Tennessee Legislature Repeals Common Core

NASHVILLE, April 21, 2015– Yesterday, in a bipartisan vote, the Tennessee House of Representatives voted unanimously (97:0) to repeal Common Core. Today, the Tennessee State Senate followed with a (27:1) vote in favor of repeal.

“This legislation is a template for all states to begin a much needed journey of separation from federally generated standards and an invitation to embrace each states’ own constitutionally delegated authority to serve its citizens at its own will,” said HB1035 chief sponsor Rep. Billy Spivey (R-Lewisburg). “As our founders and God surely intended.”

HB1035 reads, in part, “WHEREAS, these new Tennessee academic standards shall be adopted and fully implemented in Tennessee public schools in the 2017–2018 school year, at which time the previously adopted set of standards shall be rescinded.”

“I set out on a mission to do everything in my power to repeal Common Core in State of Tennessee this year,” said HB1035 chief co-sponsor Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden). “In addition to repealing Common Core, this bill puts even more control back in the hands of families, local schools and the State of Tennessee, which is exactly where it belongs.”

HB1035 also increases accountability by mandating that all standards committee appointees be confirmed by the House of Representatives and Senate.

“Both Democrats and Republicans in my district are strongly against Common Core,” said co-sponsor Rep. Bryan Terry (R-Murfreesboro).” I am proud to have had the opportunity to amend this legislation in order to ensure that the intent was indeed to completely rescind Common Core from the State of Tennessee. Tennessee families, teachers and legislators will now be able to create their own standards, and for that I am thankful.”

The bill now awaits Republican governor Bill Haslam’s signature.

Bill to Block Implementation of Federal Gun Control Measures Passes Tennessee Legislature

On Monday, both chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly voted to pass a bill that would block the state from participating in the implementation and enforcement of federal gun control measures that violate Tennessee’s Constitution. The Tennessee Tenth Amendment Center notes that the proposal, SB 1110, was sponsored by State Senator Richard Briggs, and its House companion bill, HB 1341, was introduced by State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver. Now that SB 1110 has passed through the Tennessee legislature, it is headed to Governor Haslam’s desk for consideration. Haslam has 10 days to consider the bill, after which time it automatically becomes law unless he chooses to veto it.

The bill’s summary states, “No public funds, personnel, or property may be used to enforce any federal law or regulation that regulates the ownership, use, or possession of firearms, ammunition, or firearms accessories, if the expenditure or use of the personnel or property would result in the violation of another Tennessee statute, Tennessee common law, or the Constitution of Tennessee.”

The Tennessee Firearms Association pointed out the fact that the Tennessee Constitution “does not mention the ‘militia’ when it speaks of the right to keep, bear, and wear arms. It speaks of the individual rights of the citizens of this state to keep, bear and wear arms.”

Bill sponsor and State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver said, “I’m from the cut that there is no need for Washington DC to be the end all and be all with regards to the regulatory world… We should respect our 10th Amendment and shift the power back to the states and that’s what House Bill 1341 does.”

Michael Boldin at the Tennessee Tenth Amendment Center wrote, “In practice, this would have a significant impact on any proposals to implement an ammunition or other ban with or without the consent of Congress. The way this could play out, said [constitutional scholar Dave Kopel] in a recent report, is that if the federal government were to ban or further restrict any firearms, and then a local cop pulled someone over for a traffic violation and saw that firearm in the car, the cop could simply give the guy a ticket for the traffic violation and send him on his way.”

The proposal to block federal gun control measures prevailed unanimously in the Tennessee Senate and by a vote of 74 to 20 in the state’s House of Representatives.

Tennessee Legislature Unanimously Passes Cannabis Oil Legalization Bill

On Monday, a bill that would legalize the use of low-THC cannabis oil in the treatment of severe seizure disorders and epilepsy passed unanimously through both chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly. The bill’s Senate sponsor, State Senator Becky Massey (R-Knoxville) said, according to The Tennessean, “Today we have the power to make a real change. These people are suffering, this medication works and is safe.” The proposal is headed to Governor Haslam’s desk, where, if he chooses to sign it, it would become law.

A significant number of Tennessee families with children suffering from seizure disorders had begun to leave the state for Colorado over the past few years in an effort to obtain treatment with cannabis oil. One-year-old Josie Mathes’ mother Stacie fought tirelessly for her daughter’s right to seek treatment and said, “It was our hope and dream that it would [be approved], and then for it to actually happen, it’s life changing. It’s lifesaving. I think that’s the most important part of all of this. I’m speechless.”

Knoxville resident Sandy Bush, who hopes to treat her two-year-old son Cameron with cannabis oil, said of the bill’s passage, “You’re already dealing with taking care of a child that requires a lot more effort, and then to have to work so hard to get something that you really feel like could help them, it’s just a big relief…” Tragically, a three-year-old Memphis girl named Chloe Grauer passed away from a severe seizure last year while waiting for a cannabis oil legalization bill to pass.

State Representative Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby), who sponsored the bill in the House, told WATE-TV, “Tonight we proved that you can appeal to your legislator and move heaven and earth and we did that tonight, it gives me hope in the legislative process.”

Though it is not yet known whether Governor Haslam intends to sign the bill, he supported last year’s proposal for a study on the use of cannabis oil for seizure disorders, and a spokesman from his administration said that he would defer to the will of the legislature on the issue.

The bill would require those seeking treatment to obtain a legal order of recommendation in order to use cannabis oil and falls short of creating a legal marketplace in Tennessee. Tennesseans would consequently be required to obtain cannabis oil from states that do have a legal marketplace such as Colorado.

In September of last year, Ben Swann released a Truth in Media episode dealing with the government’s mixed messages on medical cannabis. Watch it in the below-embedded video player.

Cannabis Oil Legalization Bill Advances Through TN House Committee

Tennessee, a hard red and deeply conservative state, is currently taking a long look at marijuana prohibition, as the state’s legislature is considering an array of bills that could weaken bans on marijuana. According to The Tennessean, one such bill just advanced past its first legislative obstacle. HB 0197, a bill introduced by Republican House Rep. Jeremy Faison, would legalize the medical use of cannabis oil in the treatment of patients suffering from serious seizure disorders. The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee approved the bill last Tuesday, meaning it now moves on to the House Criminal Committee. The above-embedded footage by WSMV, published approximately two weeks before the committee would ultimately approve the bill, shows some of the individuals who testified at the hearings leading up to the bill’s advancement.

The committee tweaked the proposal’s language, adding a requirement that cannabis oil patients obtain a doctor’s note. Medical cannabis oil extracts lack the THC content that provides the euphoric feeling associated with marijuana.

Committee Chairman William Lamberth (R-Cottontown) offered his support for the bill during the hearing. Tennessee Republicans, who are promoting the legislation, control the legislature, giving it a fair chance of passing in a state that legalized hemp last year.

Cannabis oil legalization became a political issue in the state after Tennessee families with children suffering from seizure disorders, some of which resulting in thousands of seizures per day, began to plan moves out of state in an effort to seek treatment for their children. FOX-13 notes that Memphis three-year-old Chloe Grauer tragically passed away from a severe seizure late last year while waiting for a cannabis oil legalization bill to pass in Tennessee. According to The Leaf Chronice, Chloe Grauer’s grandmother Gail Grauer was present at the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee hearing in honor of her granddaughter.

In addition to the cannabis oil bill, the Tennessee House Criminal Justice Subcommittee will consider a bill, sponsored by Rep. Harold Love (D-Nashville), that would decriminalize the possession and casual exchange of less than a half ounce of marijuana and adjust penalties for possession and casual exchange of up to one ounce to a $100 fine without jail time. Another bill sponsored by Rep. Sherry Jones (D-Nashville) would redefine the state’s definition of drug paraphernalia to exclude products used to consume marijuana.

The Leaf Chronicle notes that recent Vanderbilt University and Middle Tennessee State University polls demonstrated that 3 in 4 Tennesseans support some degree of marijuana legalization.

Tennessee NORML president Doak Patton said, “I was there yesterday when the [cannabis oil] bill passed the subcommittee… The whole room was filled with mothers, fathers, grandparents and sick kids. It was fairly amazing to see… Last year, I knew almost all of these people by name. Now there are so many, I can’t keep count.”

In September of last year, Ben Swann released an expose, seen below, on the federal government’s mixed messages on cannabis oil.