Sen. London Lamar prioritizes policy for working families in ‘prebuttal’ to Gov. Bill Lee’s State of the State

‘Democrats envision a way forward where hard work, opportunity and justice are a reality for every family — not just the wealthy few’

Tennessee Senate Democrats
7 min readFeb 2, 2024


NASHVILLE — Sen. London Lamar used a speech Friday ahead of Gov. Bill Lee’s State of the State address to draw a clear contrast between her party’s focus on strengthening working families versus Gov. Bill Lee’s goal to subsidize private school costs for wealthy families and offer more tax breaks to big corporations.

“Tennessee Democrats envision a way forward where hard work, opportunity and justice are a reality for every family — not just the wealthy few,” the Senate Democratic Caucus chairwoman said. “We want a state where working families, small business owners and family farmers have a level playing field with giant corporations and every family gets the tools and freedom they need to build a good life.”

Full remarks, as prepared, by Caucus Chairwoman Sen. London Lamar

Hello, Tennessee!

It’s me — Senator London Lamar, chairwoman of the Senate Democrats.

On Monday, Gov. Bill Lee is giving his sixth State of the State address.

Of course, we can expect him to paint a rosy picture of where things stand in Tennessee while looking past all the challenges facing working families.

Once again, Tennesseans are going to be told they should support a scam that defunds our neighborhood schools to subsidize private school tuition for wealthy families.

And finally, he’s going to tell us that giant corporations deserve another huge tax break while, we, everyday Tennesseans are paying a higher tax rate than their CEOs.

So, before you hear the governor’s pitch, I want you to hear some real talk from me.

But before I dive into our Democratic priorities for 2024, I want you to know a little bit more about me and where I come from.

I was raised in Memphis, Tennessee by a family with hard work in our DNA. Everything we have ever achieved has been through grinding, sweat and perseverance.

I know the challenges that Tennessee families are up against because that was my life growing up. And that’s still my life today.

All across this state, from Bristol to Big Shelby, from Reelfoot Lake to the Ocoee, Tennessee is filled with families just like mine: People who work hard and play by the rules, people who want to build a decent life and retire with some peace of mind.

To me, if regular folks are doing well, that’s a sign the whole state is moving in the right direction.

So ever since I first won public office, it’s been my goal to stand up for the little guy, the kids who need a hand up, the people who punch a clock, the small business owners and parents who are doing the best they can.

Six years later, I’m still working on better outcomes for families.

And last year, this mission got even more personal to me when I gave birth to my son Nylinn. Y’all, my child was instantly my everything.

Just like I know you want the best for your babies, grand babies, nieces and nephews, I want all our kids to grow up in a state that’s better off, safer and healthier than the communities we grew up in.

But unfortunately, after 13 years of total Republican control in our state, the exact opposite is happening.

Now, I’m going to bring some receipts and tell you what’s really happened on their watch:

People’s lives are literally shorter and their work commutes are longer than ever.

Working families have less financial security and more problems affording healthcare and child care.

Affordable homes are hard to find while opioid abuse is still everywhere you turn.

Our kids are growing up in communities with too much gun violence and they’re learning in schools with too little funding.

Gov. Lee will tell you, “Tennessee is leading the nation.”

Well, I’m here to tell you Republicans are leading Tennessee to the top in violent crime, personal bankruptcies and maternal deaths.

Folks, we ain’t leading nothing when they’re leaving so many families behind.

Every single challenge facing our families can be linked to decisions made by Gov. Lee and the Republican Party.

Instead of working on the issues holding us back, Republicans have used their power to seize wealth for their campaign contributors and made cuts that hurt working people.

They’ve wasted years of our time and tax dollars in pursuit of a trickle-down agenda that serves billionaires and big corporations while literally undermining our personal prosperity, our safety and our freedom.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

It’s time to end this race to the bottom and start focusing on an agenda that actually prioritizes freedom for working families.

Here’s the alternative we’re offering: Tennessee Democrats envision a way forward where hard work, opportunity and justice are a reality for every family — not just the wealthy few.

We want a state where working families, small business owners and family farmers have a level playing field with giant corporations and every family gets the tools and freedom they need to build a good life.

That’s how we grow the economy from the middle out and the bottom up, not the top down.

We’re fighting to raise incomes and lower costs for everyday Tennesseans so families don’t have to choose between paying for rent, groceries or child care.

We understand that the biggest threat to our state’s success is struggling families. People can’t get back to work if they can’t find child care and affordable housing or if they don’t have reliable transportation.

Basic needs!

So we’re bringing solutions to increase housing affordability, expand paid family leave, shrink child care deserts and invest in train lines.

And we want working families to get a tax cut they can actually feel by ending Tennessee’s grocery tax forever.

If Tennessee can afford huge tax cuts, let’s give it to people who punch a clock for a change — instead of billion dollar corporations.

Democrats believe in your freedom to take yourself and your family to a doctor without going broke.

Too many families find themselves in bankruptcy or debt collections because a loved one got sick or hurt in an accident or were forced to have a child.

But your health should never lead to your financial funeral.

That’s why we’re pushing to reduce the cost of prescription drugs and expand health coverage to every Tennessean.

We believe in freedom for Tennesseans to make private decisions about their reproductive health — without the governor or the legislature.

It isn’t “pro-life” for Republicans to force a mother to give birth to a dead fetus and it isn’t “conservative” for politicians to force a 12-year-old girl to have her uncle’s baby.

We believe in strong hospitals that keep communities healthy and thriving while Republican politicians have chased away doctors, destroyed healthcare options, and forced hospitals to close.

Democrats believe every child deserves the freedom to get a free, high-quality education in a well-funded neighborhood public school.

We believe their teachers should be well paid and treated with respect.

We believe every family should have the option to send their 4-year-old to pre-Kindergarten so they’re ready for elementary school and on track to succeed beyond graduation.

And our kids deserve the freedom to read books and learn honest history — without political censorship or whitewashing over the hard parts.

Democrats value your freedom to shop, work and worship in safe neighborhoods free from violent crime and gun violence.

Unlike Tennessee Republicans who have made it too easy for criminals to get guns, we know that it takes common sense, accountability and crime prevention to make our communities safer.

That means we need to get dangerous people and illegal guns off the streets, but we also need to invest in evidence-based solutions that address the root causes of crime.

Let’s promote care and conflict resolution. Let’s hire more school counselors and social workers and expand access to healthcare and mental healthcare, drug addiction treatment and housing.

And let’s stop locking people up for marijuana and start harnessing the power of this plant to grow jobs, relieve pain and invest in our future.

From the Mississippi River to the Appalachian Mountains, Democrats cherish our natural resources and recognize we must protect our freedom to drink clean water, breathe clean air and farm clean soil.

Right now, too many communities in Tennessee are seeing the consequences of neglecting our drinking water. It’s time every leader in this state acknowledges the threat that dirty water and dirty air poses to our health and our economy.

We also must do more to fix the problems in state government. It’s time politicians stopped running for — or against — the government and started running it well.

Understaffing and neglect in corrections is a danger to our prisons and public safety. Thousands of families waiting months on food assistance is unacceptable. Vulnerable kids being neglected in state custody is a moral failure.

Democrats value a state government that works for working families.

As I’ve said, Tennessee Democrats value our freedom.

It’s the freedom to retire in dignity, to have a say so in our elections, to decide whether and when we grow our families, and know our kids will make it home safe.

While Tennessee Republicans take away our freedoms — by defunding public schools, rigging election maps, criminalizing abortion and blocking gun safety — we are working to protect your right to build a good life.

We can’t afford to let special interests and the politicians they pay for continue to block progress for our families.

We will not be divided. Tennessee’s strength has always come from our ability to work together, no matter where we came from or what we look like.

We know how to improve the quality of life for every working and middle class family in the state and Tennessee has the resources to meet every challenge we face.

We can do it, y’all! And it’s time to get to work.

Not just for us, but also for the next generation of Tennesseans.

Just like we won better wages and civil rights in the past, now is the time to hold your elected leaders accountable for delivering results and more freedom to working and middle class families.