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TN Senate Dems Criticize Deferment of Medical Marijuana Bill to Summer Study

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus; March 24, 2015:

Any progress is welcome, but very sick Tennesseans will be denied relief

NASHVILLE – Medical marijuana has been proven to be an effective treatment, and Republican efforts to restrict it to only a few patients are cruel and out of step with the majority of Tennesseans, Democrats said.

“There is a mountain of scientific evidence demonstrating that medical marijuana is an effective treatment for a variety of debilitating ailments,” state Rep. Sherry Jones said. “To block treatment for everyone is an insult to the sick and undermines the decisions doctors are qualified to make.”

Legislation sponsored by Rep. Jones, The Medical Cannabis Access Act (HB 561), was sent to summer study. Following polls of Republican primary voters showing majority support, Republicans have filed their own restrictive version.

“Democrats have led the way on this issue,” said state Sen. Sara Kyle, Senate sponsor of the Medical Cannabis Act. “Any progress is welcome, but there are very sick Tennesseans who aren’t getting relief from available medicines. They won’t get help with half measures.”

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Press Releases

Sens. Kyle, Harris to Take Part in Memphis Insure TN Roundtable

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus; January 20, 2015:

NASHVILLE – Senate Democratic leaders said they hope to learn some of the details of a plan to expand Medicaid in Tennessee at a legislative roundtable on the issue Wednesday in Memphis.

“We know that co-pays and premiums can serve as a barrier to receiving care for the poorest among us,” state Sen. Sara Kyle said. “In many cases, we are talking about families who work but still can’t afford basic necessities. Will they be able to afford the governor’s plan?”

“Under the plan, the state would make direct payments to employers to cover the employee’s share,” Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris said. “How much the state will contribute to these private insurance plans is still unknown, as far as I can tell. Look, we’re going to have to know real soon how much the state will contribute to private insurance plans.

“The incentive effects on this score could be alarming. Employers will have some incentives to reduce their employer coverage to whatever’s not paid for by public resources. I believe the governor’s got a cap on the private insurance subsidy, but I want these issues to be front and center. I’m glad he’s coming to Memphis to answer some of these questions. It’s absolutely the right thing to do. If we’re going to do this – and I hope we do – we have to do it right.”

Sens. Kyle and Harris are set to take part in a roundtable discussion on the Medicaid expansion plan at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Christ Community Health Services Frayser Health Center at 969 Frayser Blvd. in Memphis.

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Kyle to Address Women’s Issues at Women’s March on Capitol

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Democratic Caucus; January 12, 2015:

Kyle: Democrats may be in minority, but women are a strong voice

NASHVILLE – State Sen. Sara Kyle will address women’s issues, including equal pay and abortion rights, at the Women’s March on the Capitol in Nashville Tuesday.

“Democrats may be in the minority, but women are a strong voice,” state Sen. Sara Kyle said. “We’re expecting an unprecedented attack on women this year, with Republican legislation aimed at the private medical decisions women have to make, while ignoring the economic health of their families.”

The Women’s March on the Capitol is set for 10 a.m. Jan. 13, the day the 109th General Assembly begins its 2015 session.

For more information, click here.

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NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

AG Issues Opinion on Kyle Senate Seat Vacancy

Tennessee’s top lawyer has waded into the issue of how to pick nominees for November’s general election to fill the seat of retiring Sen. Jim Kyle.

Unless the executive committee members are selected at large, the candidates for Senate are to be “nominated by the members of the party’s county executive committee who represent the precincts composing Senate District 30,” according to Attorney General Bob Cooper’s opinion. The Shelby County Democratic Party’s website says that county executive committee members are “elected from each state House District in Shelby County.”

The executive committee for the county’s Republican Party has members elected both at-large and by district, according to the Shelby County GOP.

The AG released the opinion Thursday morning in response to a request from Kyle, who won a Shelby County Chancery Court judgeship on August 7, and is leaving the General Assembly after 31 years in the Senate. Kyle has said he’ll resign by the end of August.

Kyle was joined in making the inquiry to Cooper’s office by Memphis Democratic Reps. Antonio Parkinson and G.A. Hardaway, who, along with Kyle’s wife, Sara, and former state Sen. Beverly Marrero, have shown interest in filling Kyle’s chair.

On the Republican side, former U.S. Senate candidate and Memphis millionaire radio station owner Dr. George Flinn has indicated he’s considering a run. Barring a significant upset, though, the seat is expected to stay in Democratic hands.

According to the attorney general’s opinion, any House member currently running for reelection who has won their primary, but also wishes to run for the Senate vacancy, must withdraw from the House race before the party’s executive committee meets to make their selection. However, Cooper also wrote that if the candidate withdraws from that race, the party won’t be allowed to nominate another candidate.

The opinion was sought amidst some confusion about whether or not the caucus process the county party officials wanted to use would meet statutory requirements.

While he had not yet read the opinion Thursday afternoon, the spokesman for the Tennessee Department of State, Blake Fontenay, said the Division of Elections would “defer” to the the decision of the state’s attorney, and “would act consistently with their ruling.”

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NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

Kyle Seeks AG Opinion on Filling His Senate Vacancy

The Shelby County Democratic Party is preparing to select a nominee to fill the vacancy Memphis Sen. Jim Kyle’s departure from the state Legislature will create. But the outgoing upper-chamber minority leader has concerns about how that process will unfold.

On Friday, Kyle, who is retiring after 31 years in the Senate, requested that the state attorney general issue an opinion that sorts out the legal issues surrounding how to select a nominee to run as his replacement to the General Assembly.

Kyle’s request comes on the heels of Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron, a former state senator, telling local party officials that there was confusion about the local caucus process they’ve indicated they will employ to select the nominee. Herron has concerns about the timing of the caucus, who can vote at the caucus, whether the decision would be made by a majority or plurality of votes and whether it would be a public roll-call vote or by secret ballot, according to the Commercial Appeal.

Kyle won a Shelby County judgeship on Aug. 7. and will resign from the Legislature after he’s sworn-in on Aug. 29. However, state law doesn’t provide for a government-run open primary when the timing of a vacancy in the Senate occurs so close to voters going to the polls in November. Instead, officials from the county parties are authorized to choose nominees for the general election ballot.

Democrats such as Sara Kyle, Sen. Kyle’s wife, and former state Sen. Beverly Marrero, who Kyle defeated in the 2012 primary, have expressed interest in the seat. Additionally, current Shelby County Tennessee House members Antonio “2-Shay” Parkinson and G.A. Hardaway, may also be looking to move to the General Assembly’s upper chamber.

Following the GOP-led redistricting in 2011, Marrero and Kyle found themselves opponents in the 2012 Democratic primary. After her primary loss, Marrero told TNReport that she felt “betrayed” by Kyle’s request to Republicans that he be drawn into a race against her instead of State Sen. Brian Kelsey, a Germantown Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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Press Releases

Sara Kyle Continues Testing Political Waters of a 2014 Gubernatorial Bid

Press release from the Run, Sara, Run PAC; September 12, 2013:

MEMPHIS, TN — Following an electrifying appearance at the Tennessee Democratic Party’s Jackson Day celebration, where thousands of supporters urged her to “Run, Sara, Run,” former Tennessee Regulatory Authority Director Sara Kyle continues to test the viability of a run for Governor in 2014.

“She is doing at this point what Governor Haslam has failed to do for his entire first term — taking time to sit and listen to real Tennesseans,” said Chattanooga City Councilman Chris Anderson. “What she’s hearing is that people are worried about the future. Families across the state are telling her that this Governor has no clue what kind of challenges they’re facing.”

Last week, an inquiry from the Tennessean newspaper revealed that the Governor owned shares in “K12 Inc.,” a for-profit virtual school company that Haslam authorized to operate in the state in 2011. The company was heavily criticized for its poor academic offerings and, according to the Tennessean, “has ranked among the worst in the state in each of its two years of existence.”

This follows similar allegations that Haslam held personal investments in Jones Lang Lasalle, a real estate consultancy that secured a $330 million contract with the State of Tennessee’s Department of General Services.

Tennessee’s unemployment rate is still higher than the national average,” says former Shelby County Commission Chair Deidre Malone. “Under this Governor, our families are missing out on the national economic recovery. He is failing in his promise that we would become the number one location for high-quality jobs, because he has a major disconnect with what middle class families need to succeed in this economy. His politically-motivated rejection of Medicaid funds leaves thousands of Tennesseans more vulnerable than ever.”

“We’re rapidly becoming not just three Grand Divisions, but truly two totally different states — one for the wealthy and well-connected, and another one for the rest of us. It doesn’t have to be this way, but Tennessee is going to need a much stronger leader if we’re going to change course.”

“I’ve known Sara for a long time,” says Tennessee Democratic Party Vice-Chair Elisa Parker. “She was raised to believe that all people have worth, regardless of their wealth. She would bring a set of values and understanding about the challenges middle class families face that we desperately need right now. We need a Governor who will work to invest in Tennessee’s people — not his mutual funds. We need Sara to run because we know she can win.”

Run Sara Run PAC officials have also confirmed that Sara will attend the Hamilton County Democratic Party’s annual Estes Kefauver Dinner. Details are available at http://hcdp.us.