Sunday, June 4, 2023
    HomePoliticsTennessee politics: Voucher bill for Hamilton County signed by Gov. Bill Lee

    Tennessee politics: Voucher bill for Hamilton County signed by Gov. Bill Lee

    NASHVILLE — Gov. Bill Lee on Friday signed into law legislation sponsored by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, to extend the state’s school voucher law into Hamilton County. It will allow some low-income students to use public tax dollars valued at about $8,100 annually per student to attend private schools that are willing to accept them.

    “Proud to sign legislation to expand TN’s Education Savings Account program to Hamilton County,” the pro-voucher governor said on social media. “Now, families across Memphis, Nashville & Chattanooga have the opportunity to pick the best school for their child.”

    Lee’s original proposal covered all 95 counties. But a revolt by Lee’s fellow Republicans as well as Democrats resulted in the 2019 measure applying only to Metro Nashville and Shelby County schools. The law was tied up in court battles until this year. Gardenhire, Rep. Patsy Hazlewood, R-Signal Mountain, and other delegation members took Hamilton County out for several reasons back in 2019.

    Among them was the hope that a new county schools’ plan to get low-performing schools up to par with their peers by infusing an additional $20 million in state cash and creating a community board would work. It didn’t, the lawmakers said.

    Job approval

    Vanderbilt University’s latest poll of Tennesseans, released this past week, shows declines in voters’ views of top state and federal officials’ job performance. Among the findings:

    — Fifty-three percent of voters in the 1,004-person survey said they approved of Lee’s performance, while 43% disapproved. The 4-point dip from the last survey represents the lowest positive marks the Republican governor has received since taking office in 2017.

    This comes with both Lee and state lawmakers in the national spotlight over gun laws after the March 27 killings of six people, three of them children, at a private Christian elementary school in Nashville by a 28-year-old former student armed with semi-automatic weapons. Lee is now advocating for new order-of-protection language in state law that would provide a court-overseen process to remove firearms from someone deemed dangerous. The person in question would be allowed to present a defense before a judge in an effort to keep the firearm.

    Lee wanted to call a special session for May. It’s been postponed until August at the earliest. The Chattanooga Times Free Press this past week reported on prior poll questions, among them one showing widespread support for so-called “red flag” laws that would allow a judge to issue a temporary order to keep firearms out of the hands of mentally ill people.

    Vanderbilt’s poll findings come with some caveats. Lee continues to enjoy high approval from 85% of self-described, hard-right “Make America Great Again” or MAGA Republicans as well as 80% support from “non-MAGA” Republicans. Collectively, the term-limited governor still had support of 83% of GOP respondents.

    Sixteen percent of Democrats surveyed approved of Lee’s job performance, and 44% of independents said they approved.

    — Faring worse was the Republican-dominated General Assembly. Thousands have protested the legislature’s approach to gun laws, in response to the elementary school shooting. The General Assembly also sought to oust three members who allied themselves with gun protesters and staged a demonstration on the House floor. The ouster of two Black representatives while retaining one white representative brought national criticism. The two lawmakers have been returned to office by local authorities. There have also been personal scandals involving both the Senate and House speakers.

    Amid these issues, the legislature collectively fell to its lowest job approval rating since Vanderbilt began its semiannual polling in 2012.

    Forty-three percent of voters surveyed gave state legislators a thumbs up. Forty-eight percent turned their thumbs down.

    Again, partisan breakdowns came into play: Seventy-two percent of MAGA Republicans approved of the job lawmakers are doing, while 66% of other Republicans did. Thirteen percent of Democrats approved of what Republicans are doing, while 37% of independents said they approved of lawmakers’ performance.

    But across all categories of voters, job approval fell from Vanderbilt’s poll last fall.

    — But things can always get worse. It did just that for Congress. Twenty percent of those surveyed said they approved of federal lawmakers’ performance. Another 71% disapproved. It’s the highest disapproval rating for congressional members in Tennessee since 2018.

    — Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, saw her approval rating drop 2 points to 46% compared with Vanderbilt’s November survey. Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Nashville, saw his favorability fall by 2 points as well, bringing it down to 42%. Once again, both senators fared better among Republican respondents, with 76% approving of Blackburn and 69% holding a favorable view of Hagerty.

    Vanderbilt’s poll had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.6 percentage points.

    Twitter poll

    Following the shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School, Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville, a staunch Second Amendment advocate, invited people to participate last month and early May in his own poll posted to Twitter in which he asked what they thought was the main culprit behind mass shootings.

    “What do you feel is the core issue driving the evil acts of violence we are seeing in our country?” social conservative Zachary posted on Twitter. He offered four choices ranked in this order: Sin, mental health, breakdown of the family and guns.

    As the survey ended May 3, 112,939 votes had been cast.

    Guns ranked No. 1 with 88.7% of Twitter participants picking that as the core issue.

    Mental health came in at No. 2, with 7%.

    Breakdown of the family was No. 3 with 2.7% choosing that as the root problem.

    Sin? It accounted for 1.5%.

    Undeterred by firearms’ No. 1 ranking as the “core” issue, Zachary weighed in with some redefining: “Mental health, breakdown of the family and man’s sinful heart are the core issues that lead to these acts of violence. Knife, gun, car (parade in Wisconsin) are the instruments people use,” he concluded.

    Contact Andy Sher at or 615-285-9480.



    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here

    - Advertisment -
    Google search engine

    Most Popular

    Recent Comments