NASHVILLE — Rushing a major ​overhauling of TennCare, Tennessee’s healthcare coverage program for low-income residents, could have painful consequences, according to Senate Democratic leaders who spoke out against measure on Wednesday.

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“I believe TennCare has good intentions with this waiver, but unanswered questions and unforeseen consequences far outweigh theoretical benefits,” Sen. Raumesh Akbari said. “There are no guaranteed savings. There is no guarantee of new health coverage for families in need. There’s no proof this financing scheme is even legal.”

Breaking from typical first week of session norms, the supermajority suspended the rules Wednesday to immediately consider a Medicaid waiver approved by the Trump administration just days before he will leave office. …

NASHVILLE — Democratic leadership in the General Assembly will cast a vote of no confidence on Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s nomination for a new four-year term citing his office’s record of pushing anti-democratic legislation and repeated court losses.

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Left to right: Sen. Jeff Yarbro, Sen. Raumesh Akbari, Rep. Karen Camper and Rep. Vincent Dixie

Members of the Tennessee General Assembly will appoint a secretary of state during a joint meeting of the Senate and House of Representatives today.

Democratic leaders from both chambers say they expect the secretary of state to a be figure who unites lawmakers around proposals that make it safer and easier for people to vote, regardless of party or zip code.

“In the middle of a pandemic, the secretary of state used the power of his office to undermine voter safety and kill bipartisan election reforms that would have made voting easier and more accessible to all Tennesseans,” Sen. Jeff Yarbro, the Senate minority leader, said. …

MEMPHIS — Sen. Raumesh Akbari, the Senate Democratic Caucus chairwoman, is calling on the legislature to reject an untested TennCare proposal approved in the waning days of the Trump administration.

The proposal, called a block grant, would radically change the way TennCare is financed without guaranteeing better coverage for current enrollees nor extending coverage to new enrollees.

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Sen. Akbari says the Trump administration’s 11th hour approval is a last ditch effort to sabotage health coverage for more than a million Tennesseans.

Her statement is below:

Tennessee is in the worst health crisis of a century. No matter where you live in Tennessee, all our families need affordable and accessible healthcare.

Deadly, pro-Trump mob ‘emboldened’ by Tennessee Republicans who refused to acknowledge election results

NASHVILLE — Senate minority leader Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) believes there must be a change of behavior from local Republican politicians who refused to publicly accept the outcome of the presidential election and sometimes repeated lies and misinformation offered by President Donald Trump.

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“Tennessee’s GOP elected leaders nearly uniform refusal to acknowledge Biden’s election was leadership of a type. It was leadership that fostered misinformation, delusion, and anger — leadership that emboldened the President to invite and incite a mob that assaulted democracy,” Sen. Yarbro said.

The country and our democracy will remain in danger, Sen. Yarbro says, if Republicans only condemn the attack on the nation’s capitol building but stop short of changing their current behavior. …

MEMPHIS — The legislature should use the special session on education to address systemic funding issues in public schools that pre-date the pandemic, according to Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), the Senate Democratic Caucus chairwoman.

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Sen. Raumesh Akbari, Senate Democratic Caucus chairwoman

On Tuesday, Gov. Bill Lee announced that he would be calling the legislature together for a special session on Jan. 19 to address pandemic-related issues in education.

But Sen. Akbari believes the legislature should think bigger and tackle education issues that predate the pandemic.

“I hope the legislature takes this opportunity to unite around a bold agenda that invests in public schools,” Sen. Akbari said. “We have to give our educators the resources they need to support students and reverse learning loss, but we can’t stop there. …

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Senate Democratic Caucus Leadership for the 112th General Assembly: (Left to right) Senate Floor Leader Sen. Brenda Gilmore; Democratic Caucus Chairwoman Sen. Raumesh Akbari; and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Jeff Yarbro

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus formally elected its leaders Thursday to serve through the 112th General Assembly, which convenes Jan. 12 at noon.

By acclimation, the caucus re-elected Sen. Jeff Yarbro as senate minority leader, Sen. Raumesh Akbari as caucus chairwoman and Sen. Brenda Gilmore to serve as the senate floor leader.

Caucus members also nominated its newest member, Sen. Heidi Campbell, to serve on the Fiscal Review Committee.

Sen. Campbell’s first resolution will encourage President-elect Joe Biden to honor Parton’s service and cultural contributions

NASHVILLE — Sen. Heidi Campbell is in agreement with former President Barack Obama: Dolly Parton deserves a medal.

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Sen. Heidi Campbell (left) and Dolly Parton (right)

In a recent interview, Obama said it was a “screw up” that his administration had overlooked Parton — Tennessee’s world renowned writer, performer and philanthropist — for the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, this prestigious award is the Nation’s highest civilian honor. …

Democratic caucus members petition Gov. Bill Lee for a ‘real plan’ to fight the deadly coronavirus

NASHVILLE — Tennessee leads the Southeast in COVID-19 cases per capita. More than Florida, Texas and Louisiana—all states hit early and hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Graph: @spleck

The increased case load, which has hit new records again this week, has resulted in more hospitalizations and death as well. In Tennessee, COVID-19 deaths have spiked 118 percent week over week while hospitalizations have pushed into record territory almost daily.

The pandemic’s winter surge is stressing already overwhelmed hospitals and healthcare workers across the state. There’s hardly any room for new patients and few nurses available to ensure continued bedside care.

For months, Democratic members of the Tennessee Senate have called on Gov. Bill Lee to implement new measures, such as statewide masking rules, to fight the virus. On Tuesday, amid a worsening coronavirus death toll, the caucus sent a new letter to the governor pleading for action. …

NASHVILLE — Sen. Brenda Gilmore applauded the appointment of Metro Nashville police veteran John Drake to chief of police in a statement issued Tuesday.

“Getting community police work right is more important and challenging than ever before. John Drake has demonstrated clearly his professionalism and ability to lead, but it is his deep, personal connection to our city that tells me he also has the heart to steer the department in the direction we must go to build trust and improve collaboration.”

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Left to right: Sen. Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville) and Metro Nashville police chief John Drake

According to the Tennessee Lookout, Drake is a Nashville native, whose career in the Metro Nashville Police Department began 32 years ago as a patrol officer. The Lookout reported that Drake committed to immediate reforms including launching a new community outreach division, improving how his department responds to mental health-related calls and hiring more women and minorities. Drake also said a new memorandum of understanding would be finalized soon between the police department and the Community Oversight Board. …

Public transportation systems in Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, Clarksville and Knoxville will reserve a seat in honor of Parks

MEMPHIS — Several cities will mark Tennessee’s 2nd annual Rosa Parks Day on Dec. 1 with memorials commemorating the anniversary of Parks’ refusal to comply with a segregated seating on city buses.

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The Memphis Area Transit Authority will place a placard reserving a seat in honor of Rosa Parks inside their buses on Dec. 1 to mark Rosa Parks Day in Tennessee.

On Dec. 1, 1955, Parks sat in a bus seat reserved for white people and refused to move. She was arrested for this act of civil disobedience, but the moment helped fuel growing calls for racial equality and the Civil Rights Movement.

On Tuesday, city buses operated by the Memphis Area Transit Authority, WeGo Public Transit in Nashville, Knoxville Area Transit, Clarksville Transit System and Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority will carry placards in a seat reserved to recognize Parks’ protest, an anniversary that is now recognized under state law. …

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Tennessee Senate Democrats

Fighting for everyday people in the Tennessee General Assembly

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