Categories
Press Releases

Cohen Introduces Legislation to Require States Provide 15 Days of Early Voting, Wait Times of Less Than an Hour

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; January 22, 2015:

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) has introduced H.R.411, the Streamlining and Improving Methods at Polling Locations and Early (SIMPLE) Voting Act, which would ensure that every state allows citizens to vote for at least 15 days prior to federal elections and require that states provide adequate poll workers and other resources to prevent wait times of longer than one hour. Congressman Cohen also joined Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., and U.S. Representatives Mark Pocan (WI-02) and Keith Ellison (MN-05) on Capitol Hill today to introduce H.J.Res.25, which would explicitly guarantee the right to vote to in the Constitution, an implied right which is currently not enshrined in the document’s text and that has been eroded in recent years.

“With more than 300 successful voting rights lawsuits over the last 2 decades, the Supreme Court striking down critical Voting Rights Act protections, and states across the South making it harder for citizens to vote, it is clear that more must be done to protect this cornerstone of our democracy,” said Congressman Steve Cohen. “Our constitutional amendment would clearly and unequivocally guarantee the right to vote for each and every American, and my SIMPLE Voting Act would ensure they can do it conveniently and without burdensome, unfair wait times. Both would be important steps forward in the march for civil rights.”

In addition to guaranteeing early voting opportunities and adequate resources, Congressman Cohen’s SIMPLE Voting Act would strengthen enforcement of these rights to ensure states comply with the legislation’s provisions. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 83 restrictive bills were introduced in at least 29 states, including efforts to require a photo ID, make voter registration more difficult, reduce early voting opportunities, and make it harder for students to vote.

While most Americans believe an explicit right to vote is enshrined in our Constitution, the Constitution in fact contains no expressed guarantee of an individual’s right to vote, a point that was confirmed by the Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore. Only a constitutional amendment can ensure this right will be guaranteed in the future.

The text of H.J.Res.25, the Right to Vote Amendment, follows:

  • SECTION 1: Every citizen of the United States, who is of legal voting age, shall have the fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.
  • SECTION 2: Congress shall have the power to enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation.

 

Categories
Press Releases

Cohen Joins Call for Constitutional Amendment to End Influence of Money in Politics

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; January 21, 2015:

Democracy for All Amendment Would Overturn Citizens United and Related Decisions

[WASHINGTON, DC] – On the five-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling inCitizens United v. FEC, Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) joined U.S. Representatives Ted Deutch (FL-21), Donna F. Edwards (MD-04), and Jim McGovern (MA-02) to introduce theDemocracy for All Amendment. This proposed amendment to the United States Constitution would reverse highly controversial Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United v. FEC andMcCutcheon v. FEC, which have given corporations and America’s wealthiest donors a right to buy unlimited influence in our elections.

“With decisions like Citizens United and McCutcheon over the last five years, the Supreme Court has opened the floodgates and made it easier for billionaires and corporations to completely drown middle-class Americans out of the political process,” said Congressman Cohen. “The far-reaching, democracy-damaging consequences of these misguided decisions have made it clear that something needs to change. I am proud to help introduce the Democracy for All Amendment to ensure that every citizen’s right to equally participate in our democracy.”

Sponsored by Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the U.S. Senate and Reps. Deutch, McGovern, and Edwards in the House of Representatives, the Democracy for All Amendment would reverse Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United by enshrining in the Constitution the right of the American people to enact state and federal laws that regulate spending in public elections.

The Democracy for All Amendment is the end result of extensive collaboration between the House and Senate sponsors of previously proposed constitutional amendments and several grassroots advocacy organizations committed to getting big money out of politics, including Public Citizen, People for the American Way, Free Speech for People, and Common Cause. In addition to overturning recent rulings like Citizens United and McCutcheon, the Democracy for All Amendment also reverses the Supreme Court’s controversial holding in Buckley v. Valeo that money spent in elections is a form of speech protected by the First Amendment.

Background

In 2010, the Supreme Court’s highly controversial, 5-4 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC held that corporations and other private entities – including 501(C) organizations that do not have to disclose their donors – have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited sums of money influencing the outcome of public elections.  In his far-reaching opinion for the 5-4 majority, Justice Kennedy held that any election law that goes beyond preventing quid pro quo, bribery-style corruption between candidates and donors risks violating the First Amendment.

The result of the Citizens United decision has been elections dominated by record-breaking spending by Super PACs and unaccountable outside groups funded by corporations and a tiny, extraordinarily wealthy sliver of the American population. In 2012, the first presidential election cycle following the Citizens United decision, 93 percent of Super PAC funding came from 3,318 donors, amounting to less than .01 percent of the U.S. population. Likewise, the 2014 midterm election cycle was the most expensive in history, with record-shattering spending by outside groups emboldened by Citizens United.

In 2014, the Supreme Court awarded America’s wealthiest donors even more influence in our elections with its 5-4 ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC, which struck down caps limiting how much money a single donor can contribute in federal elections, allowing one individual to give up to $3.6 million to candidates and various fundraising committees per federal election cycle. In addition, Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion for the majority in McCutcheon went as far as to argue that the influence awarded to donors is not a corrupting quid pro quo transaction, but a First Amendment right.

With elected officials spending more and more of their time raising millions dollars to defend themselves from multimillion smear campaigns from outside groups, it has become harder for everyday Americans living on a budget to be heard in the post-Citizens United era. In addition to concluding that donors receive greater access to legislators than non-donors, several academic studies have now confirmed that elected officials’ growing reliance on large dollar donations have skewed the agenda in Washington towards special interests and away from the priorities of ordinary voters.

Text of the Democracy for All Amendment (H. J. Res. 22)

Section I.  To advance democratic self-government and political equality, and to protect the integrity of government and the electoral process, Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.

Section II.  Congress and the States shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation, and may distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.

Section III.  Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press.

Categories
Press Releases

Cohen Named Ranking Member of House Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Justice

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; January 21, 2015:

Congressman hopes to use senior post to vigorously protect civil liberties, prevent police overreach, and fight for voting rights; Congressman also retains seat on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet Subcommittee

[WASHINGTON, DC] – After serving on the House Judiciary Committee since joining Congress in 2007, Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) was selected today to serve as Ranking Member of the Constitution and Civil Justice Subcommittee for the 114th Congress. The significant post, which Congressman Cohen also held for much of the 113th Congress, gives the Congressman broad jurisdiction over constitutional amendments, constitutional rights, Federal civil rights, ethics in government, medical malpractice and product liability, legal reform generally, and relevant oversight over those issues.

“Throughout both my legal and political careers, my central focus has been the fight to protect our civil rights,” said Congressman Cohen. “It is a compliment to be selected by my colleagues as the lead Democrat on the committee charged with safeguarding the Constitution and protecting our civil liberties. Whether fighting to secure the voting rights that we hold sacred, prevent police overreach and abuse, safeguarding a woman’s right to choose, or bringing justice to those impacted by racially-biased policies like mandatory minimum sentences, I remain committed to doing everything in my power to protect the Constitution and the civil rights of all Americans. I look forward to using this appointment, which I accept with deep humility and great responsibility, to continue the fight for the issues the people of Memphis sent me here for.”

Congressman Cohen, who was recently awarded with a perfect score for his votes on civil rights issues during the 113th Congress, was also selected to serve on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet. That subcommittee has jurisdiction over patent and trademark laws, as well as regulation of information technology, Administration of U.S. Courts, Federal Rules of Evidence, Civil and Appellate Procedure, and judicial ethics.

Categories
Press Releases

Cohen Joins Opposition to GOP Proposal to Ban Abortions After 20 Weeks

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; January 21, 2015:

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today joined U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Representative Alma Adams (D-NC) at a rally this afternoon opposing yet another Republican attempt to subvert the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision and undermine a woman’s constitutional right to make her own health care choices. NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue and Karen Finney also expressed their opposition to H.R. 36, which would ban abortions before the fetus is legally considered “viable” as determined by the Supreme Court, at today’s rally. Photos of the Congressman at today’s rally are availablehere, and video of the Congressman speaking out against this legislation on the House Floor earlier today is available here.

“Republicans know they can’t get past the Supreme Court’s ruling protecting a woman’s right to choose, so they are trying to go around it by creating an entirely new justification for banning abortion that has never been recognized before,” said Congressman Cohen. “This so-called ‘fetal pain ban’ proposal isn’t about fetal pain; it’s about outlawing abortions and repealing Roe v. Wade. Republicans have rushed this bill through the process without any opportunity to amend it, the legislation doesn’t have a meaningful exception even if the health of the mother is at risk and it would put victims of rape and incest in an impossible position. In timing this bill to coincide with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Republicans are transparently using drama messaging to appeal to their base at the expense women’s health and constitutional rights. Women’s rights shouldn’t be theater, they shouldn’t be taken lightly; we have to vote this bill down.”

President Barack Obama has stated that he will veto H.R. 36, which Republican leaders have rushed through the legislative process without an opportunity for amendments, if Congress sends it to his desk. Congressman Cohen decried the Republican effort to bypass regular order and rush the bill through the House at a hearing of the Rules Committee yesterday, video of which is available here. The bill bans abortions after 20 weeks with no meaningful exception to protect a woman’s health. It would would deny care to women in the most desperate of circumstances, force victims of rape and incest to file a police report in order to obtain care, and is a blatant attempt to chip away at a woman’s right to choose.

The bill runs flagrantly afoul of the clear constitutional rule on viability.  While many factors go into determining viability, and it can vary from case to case, it is generally acknowledged as not occurring until around 24 weeks.  The Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, struck down pre-viability abortion prohibitions. The Supreme Court has continued to uphold this holding in subsequent cases, but H.R. 36 would prohibit the procedure in many pre-viability situations.

Categories
Press Releases

Cohen Signs on to Bill to Lift Cuban Embargo

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; January 15, 2015:

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) joined Congressman Charles B. Rangel (NY-13) and several other House Democrats today in introducing legislation aimed at allowing free trade between the two countries. The Free Trade with Cuba Act reflects President Barack Obama’s announcement in December of normalized relations with Cuba and the subsequent rules easing travel and trade restrictions. Joining Congressman Cohen as original co-sponsors of Congressman Rangel’s legislation are Reps. Karen Bass, William Lacy Clay, John Conyers, Keith Ellison, Chaka Fattah, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Henry C. Johnson Jr., Sheila Jackson Lee, Barbara Lee, Gregory Meeks, Rick Nolan, Collin Peterson, Jared Polis, Bennie G. Thompson, Jose E. Serrano, and Jan Schakowsky.

“I support the President’s efforts to improve our relationship with Cuba and am pleased to join Congressman Rangel in introducing the Free Trade with Cuba Act to lift the embargo. Our outdated policies toward Cuba have failed to help the Cuban people, and the Castros still rule the nation. The reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba and lifting our trade embargo are humane and logical steps forward that will enable the United States to more effectively promote change in the country, support the Cuban people while expanding economic opportunities for Memphis and the Mid-South, and end anti-American restrictions on our citizens’ rights to freely travel to Cuba,” said Congressman Steve Cohen.

“President Barack Obama has indicated to the world that now is the time to change the course of our outdated foreign policy towards Cuba,” Rangel said. “Allowing trade with Cuba will not only generate revenue for our economy, but will also enable us to exchange American culture and ideals that can help foster democratic principles in Cuba. Polls repeatedly indicate strong support among Americans–both Republicans and Democrats, nationally and among Cuban-Americans–for closer diplomatic and economic ties with Cuba. I am very pleased to work with my colleagues in the House to fix a policy that has been broken for years. Given President Obama’s momentous and historic announcement, now is the time for Congress to catch up with the rest of America on this issue,” said Congressman Charles B. Rangel.

The Free Trade with Cuba Act would lift the long-standing embargo on trade with Cuba to give American companies their fair share. Cuba sits 90 miles off the U.S. coast and has a GDP of $60 billion.  The longer American businesses are locked out of Cuba, the longer they will lose a foothold for trade and investment in this expanding market. U.S. businesses are falling behind foreign competitors who are increasing their participation in the Cuban market.

Polls indicate bipartisan and multigenerational support for reestablishing trade with Cuba. In an annual survey released this June, 68 percent of Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County favor diplomatic relations with Cuba and 69 percent favor lifting travel restrictions to Cuba for all Americans. A separate poll shows that this support crosses party lines–52 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of Democrats favor more engagement with Cuba. Finally, support for a new policy is especially strong among young adults, with only 8 percent of Cuban-Americans ages 18 to 29 supporting the embargo.

“I am proud to join Congressman Rangel as an original co-sponsor of the Free Trade with Cuba Act. Cuba represents a growing market for U.S. products and services, especially agricultural and technology products, that has been closed off for far too long. Current U.S. policy towards Cuba has failed. It is time to normalize relations, open Cuba’s markets to U.S. goods and create good-paying jobs, right here in America,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA).

“We are about to see better days when it comes to global diplomacy with the most significant changes in our Cuban policy in more than fifty years.  For nearly a half-century we have squabbled, leered at, and marginalized our Cuban neighbor with the overlay of Cuba’s ties to the old Soviet regime and Communism.  The Soviet Union is a relic of the past and capitalism and freedom have washed over the majority of the world.  The time has come to resume normal ties and allow the Cuban people to benefit from what American ingenuity offers, and hopefully we can learn from each other.  This action by Congressman Rangel once again demonstrates his leadership and his ability to change the political landscape in the best interest of the American people,” said Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX).

“I’m very pleased to cosponsor the Free Trade With Cuba Act because ending the embargo is the best way to advance human rights and political freedom. The failed embargo has done nothing to advance freedom or strengthen our national security, but it has caused innocent people to suffer for generations. Lifting it would be in the best interests of the American and Cuban people,” said Congressman William Lacy Clay (D-MO).

“President Obama’s plan to establish and facilitate trade and commerce with Cuba is a major market opportunity for American business.  Support for this bill will promote investment and trade opportunities for U.S. businessmen and farmers and demonstrate our commitment to building new partnerships with Cuba,” said Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-NY).

“It is long past time for our nation to change course on our antiquated and failed policy of isolation toward Cuba,” said Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO). “President Obama’s announcement last month was a historic first step, but fully normalizing relations between our two nations will require action from Congress. I hope the House will act quickly to pass this important bill and resume the flow of commerce and the free exchange of ideas between the United States and Cuba that has been stymied for more than half a century.”

“I have traveled to Cuba on multiple occasions with constituents from my District. Upon each visit, I recognized the real potential for economic gain through trade with Cuba. The Free Trade with Cuba Act helps to not only boost our economy, but helps to normalize relations with Cuba and demonstrates America’s commitment to diplomacy. I applaud these efforts and am pleased to be an original co-sponsor,” said Congressman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS).

“Promoting peace, democracy, and human rights requires engagement—not isolation. The United States isolated Cuba for 53 years in a failed attempt to promote democracy and freedom. Restarting diplomatic relations and establishing a new embassy was a great first step. Now Congress needs to follow the President’s lead and pass legislation that opens the pathway to economic engagement,” said Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN).

“We have a ready-made market in Cuba, just 90 miles off our coast, yet the current embargo gives this market away to other countries, putting American producers at a disadvantage. This legislation will significantly open the Cuban market for our nation’s farmers and ranchers, who have struggled to get their products to Cuba due to the cash in advance requirement and prohibition of direct transactions. I have long advocated for legislation to expand U.S. trade with Cuba and the Free Trade with Cuba Act does just that,” said Congressman Collin C. Peterson (D-MN).

“I commend Congressman Rangel for again introducing the Free Trade with Cuba Act. I recently traveled to Cuba where I saw firsthand the success of a therapeutic drug that they are using to prevent foot amputations in patients with diabetes. This is just one example of how lifting the embargo against Cuba will provide a direct benefit to Americans,” said Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA)

“For more than half a century, our policy of isolation toward Cuba failed to promote democracy or prosperity for the Cuban people. While President Obama’s announcement last month was a historic step in the right direction, Congress should pass the Free Trade with Cuba Act to fully remove the counterproductive embargo against Cuba. Increasing trade with Cuba will both improve quality of life for Cubans and provide a boost for American agriculture and manufacturing, creating jobs here at home. I commend Congressman Rangel for his steady leadership on this critical issue,” said Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13).

“These bills to promote long overdue travel and trade between the United States and Cuba will help create good jobs here at home, improve the quality of life for the people of both nations and  demonstrate the success and prosperity that democracy brings to all people. This is good foreign policy, sound economic policy and old-fashioned common sense rolled into one,” said Congressman Rick Nolan (D-MN)

“The Free Trade with Cuba Act is a critically important effort to end the failed half-century embargo on Cuba. It is time for the United States to reshape our relations with Cuba to reflect current realities. Opening trade of goods and information will be a galvanizing force that will ultimately help bring democracy to the Cuban people,” said Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).

Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA): “After more than 50 years of failed policy, I support President Obama’s initiative to engage our neighbor – Cuba. Trade between the U.S. and Cuba will create economic opportunity for both countries and through the free exchange of goods we will also promote openness that will help further our relationship. I’m proud to be an original co-sponsor of Rep. Rangel’s Free Trade with Cuba Act, and I look forward to the development and blossoming of this new relationship.”

“As a longtime supporter of lifting the failed Cuban embargo, I am proud to co-sponsor once again the Free Trade with Cuba Act. President Obama’s announcement last month took important steps in the right direction, towards greater engagement between the two nations. This legislation will help lift once and for the restrictions that prevent American companies from doing business with Cuba, which will generate economic opportunity for both Americans and Cubans,” said Congressman José E. Serrano (D-NY).

Categories
Press Releases

Cohen Renews Push for Federal Effort to Reduce Veteran Unemployment

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; January 14, 2015:

[MEMPHIS, TN] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today introduced the Putting Our Veterans Back to Work Act to help reduce veteran unemployment and train our nation’s heroes for the good-paying, high-demand jobs being created by innovative American small businesses. Congressman Cohen’s legislation would reauthorize the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP), which helps train unemployed veterans for careers in high-demand occupations, through 2018.

“Our nation’s veterans put their lives on the line to secure our freedom and our safety,” said Congressman Cohen. “We must do all that we can to repay their sacrifices and help them get back on their feet when they return home. I am proud to introduce the Putting Our Veterans Back to Work Act to make sure that unemployed veterans have access to the support they need to find good-paying jobs in our 21st century economy.”

VRAP was created by the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011to help unemployed veterans access educational training programs that could lead to high-demand occupations including management, business and financial operations, protective service, healthcare, transportation, and many others. While the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) approved more than 126,000 applications from veterans seeking to enter the program, only 76,000 were enrolled before the program’s authorization expired last year. VRAP offered up to 12 months of training assistance to unemployed Veterans who:

  • Were at least 35 but no more than 60 years old
  • Were unemployed on the date of application
  • Received an other than dishonorable discharge
  • Were not eligible for any other VA education benefit program (e.g.: the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Montgomery GI Bill, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Assistance)
  • Were not in receipt of VA compensation due to unemployability
  • Were not enrolled in a federal or state job training program

Congressman Cohen’s Putting Our Veterans Back to Work Act is cosponsored by U.S. Representatives Karen Bass (CA-37), Madeleine Bordallo (Guam-AL), David Cicilline (RI-01), Hank Johnson (GA-04), Robin Kelly (IL-02), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Gregory Meeks (NY-05), George McGovern (MA-02), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL), Charles Rangel (NY-13), Bobby Rush (IL-01), Jose Serrano (NY-15), Niki Tsongas (MA-03), and Peter Welch (VT-AL).

Categories
Press Releases

Cohen Reintroduces Legislation to Collect Data on Police Shootings

Press release from the Office of U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; January 13, 2015:

Congressman will also introduce legislation requiring police shootings to be prosecuted by independent agency

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today reintroduced his National Statistics on Deadly Force Transparency Act, which would close a loophole in federal law that prevents adequate collection of comprehensive national data regarding justified and unjustified fatal interactions with police. Without accurate and comprehensive data, racial disparities, abuses, and instances of excessive use of force are difficult to identify and unlikely to be fixed.

“Before we can truly address the problem of excessive force used by law enforcement we have to understand the nature of the problem and that begins with accurate data,”said Congressman Cohen. “I am introducing this bill so that our country can do a better job of honestly assessing racial disparities and other problems in our justice system and begin to fix them. It is a step in the right direction and a critical component of the healing process.”

The 1994 Crime Bill requires the Attorney General to collect statistics on the use of excessive force, but the law does not provide any enforcement mechanism nor does it adequately define what “excessive force” is. As a result, the federal government has been unable to gather data from many local police departments and there are no reliable statistics on how often law enforcement uses deadly force. Congressman Cohen’s legislation would incentivize states to require local law enforcement agencies to provide data to the Attorney General on:

  • The date of each instance when deadly force was used;
  • The identifying characteristics of the victim and officer involved, including the race, gender, ethnicity, religion and approximate age of the victim;
  • Any alleged criminal behavior by the victim;
  • An explanation, if any, by the relevant law enforcement agency of why deadly force was used;
  • A copy of any use of deadly force guidelines in effect at the time at the law enforcement agency;
  • The nature of the deadly force used, including whether it involved a firearm; and
  • A description of any non-lethal efforts that were taken before deadly force was used.

This data would be made publicly available, but would not disclose any personally identifying information. Congressman Cohen also plans to introduce legislation this year that would require incidents of deadly force used by police to be investigated and, if need be, prosecuted, by an independent actor. Currently, these cases are rarely prosecuted effectively due to an obvious conflict of interest between local police and the prosecuting District Attorney, who relies on a close working relationship with those same police officers to carry out other prosecutorial duties.

Categories
Press Releases

TTPC: ‘Shenanigans’ Ongoing in the General Assembly

Newsletter from the Tennessee Transgender Politcal Coalition; April 6, 2012:

We may have said goodbye to March Madness, but the shenanigans in the Tennessee General Assembly have not yet ended.

Family Life Curriculum and Ban on Teaching Diversity

This Tuesday, April 10, the House Education will hold its final meeting. They are expected to vote on HB 3621 by *Gotto, which would place numerous, ridiculous, restrictions on the family life curriculum. Unfortunately, the Senate version, SB3310 by Johnson, passed yesterday. The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition commends Beverly Marrero (D-Memphis) for being the only Senator willing to vote No.

The House bill will be heard this week in both the Education Committees. It is intended as a substitute for the equally odious Ban on Teaching Sexual Diversity (a.k.a., Don’t Say Trans/Don’t Say Gay), HB0229 by *Hensley, Dunn, which is also on the agenda.

We urge you to contact members of the House Education Committee and express your opposition to both HB3621 and HB0229, and then join us in Legislative Plaza, Room 16 on Tuesday, April 10, at 10:30 am, CDT:

Richard Montgomery (R-Sevierville), Chair

Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald), Vice Chair & Bill Co-Sponsor

Joe Carr (R-Lascassas), Secretary & Bill Co-Sponsor

Harry Brooks (R-Knoxville)

Kevin Brooks (R-Cleveland)

John DeBerry (D-Memphis)

Lois DeBerry (D-Memphis)

Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville), Bill Co-Sponsor

Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley)

John Forgety (R-Athens)

Ron Lollar (R-Bartlett)

Debra Maggart (R-Hendersonville)

Jimmy Naifeh (D-Covington)

Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville)

Dennis Powers (R-Jacksboro)

John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge), Bill Co-Sponsor

Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville)

John Mark Windle (D-Livingston)

Anti-GSA Bills in Senate Education Committee

On Wednesday, April 11, at 1:00 pm, CDT, the Senate Education Committee will also take up two anti-GSA bill, long fought by TTPC. The first is SB 2488 by Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), which requires schools to notify parents, by way of student handbooks or policy guidebooks, of school-associated extracurricular activities. TTPC is joined by school administrators in opposing this bill who recognize that this is an unnecessary and bad bill. The House of Representatives passed the companion bill, HB2548 by 74 to 14, but it is not too late to stop this legislation in the Senate.

The second is HB0432 by Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville). This bill, already passed in the House, will require parents to send permission notes to schools before any student can join any club. This is intended to intimidate and harass anyone wishing to join a Gay-Straight Alliance.

The members of the Senate Education Committee are:

Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), Chair

Reginald Tate (D-Memphis), Vice-Chair

Brian Kelsey (R-Collierville), Secretary

Andy Berke (D-Chattanooga)

Charlotte Burks (D-Monterey)

Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville)

Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City)

Jim Summerville (R-Dickson)

Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville)

If you do not know the name of your State Representative, you can Find Your Legislator by clicking here. Feel free to tell your story and educate them about the reality of the lives of their transgender constituents.

State Senate Supports Workplace Discrimination

On Tuesday, the Senate State and Local Government Committee voted down SB2762 by *Kyle, which repeals the “Equal Access to Intrastate Commerce Act” (a.k.a., No CANDO). TTPC fought against that original bill which bans local governments from adopting their own non discrimination ordinances as Metro Nashville has done. The vote on Tuesday was 2 to 6.

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition thanks Jim Kyle (D-Memphis) for bringing the bill, and Thelma Harper (D-Nashville) and Joe Haynes, (D-Goodlettsville) for their support as well.

Tennessee Congressman Supports Non-Discrimination Executive Order

With the current leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives also opposed to ending discrimination in the workplace, an online campaign has begun to urge President Obama to sign an Executive Order ending discrimination in federal contracts.

At the beginning of this week, 72 Members of Congress joined the campaign by sending a letter to President Obama asking him to issue an executive order requiring companies doing business with the U.S. government to have non-discrimination policies inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity.

One of those signatories is Steve Cohen of Memphis.

U.S. Representative Stephen Cohen

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition thanks Congressman Cohen for his continuing support of fairness in the workplace, and we urge the remaining members of the Tennessee Congressional delegation to join him in this effort.

2012 Candidates for Federal and State Offices

Yesterday was the filing deadline for candidates to qualify for the August 2 primaries and November 6 General Elections for Federal and State offices, and various local offices. We urge everyone to review the lists of candidates for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, Tennessee State Senate, and State House, and actively support those who will stand for equal rights for all.

One race of interest is in Hamilton County for House District 27. There, Representative Richard Floyd , who introduced the Bathroom Harassment Act (SB 2282/HB 2279) earlier this year, and said that he wants to to stomp transgender women, is being challenged in the Republican primary by perennial candidate Basil Marceaux. In 2010, Marceaux received national attention, and an endorsement from Stephen Colbert, because of his unorthodox videos.

We will be watching this race closely.

Happy Passover and Easter

We also wish to say to those of you who will be celebrating Passover or Easter that we hope you have a very good weekend.