On Friday, April 21, 2023, the Tennessee General Assembly adjourned its 2023 session, thus concluding one of the more tumultuous sessions in modern history. Legislative highlights included passage of a $3.3 billion infrastructure package that will include the addition of “choice lanes” on Tennessee interstates, and passage of a $56.2 billion budget that includes a three-month sales tax holiday for groceries, as well significant raises for teachers. History will remember the session as being marred by the tragic shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville, resulting in the deaths of three school children and three adults. The tragedy has gripped Nashville ever since, with ripple effects that placed Tennessee at the front of national headlines and could impact Tennessee politics for years to come.

The session had been relatively workmanlike leading up into the March 27 shooting, as Governor Bill Lee was close to passing his infrastructure package, non-finance committees were winding down in advance of the administration’s budget amendment being released in early April, and leadership was targeting a May 1 adjournment. The Covenant tragedy immediately stoked calls for greater gun control with thousands of protesters descending upon the Capitol on March 30, calling for greater school safety and gun control measures. The Lee administration and legislative leadership immediately swung into action with an enhanced school safety bill, which passed both chambers overwhelmingly. However, for much of the remainder of session, the protestors packed the House galleries and Capitol common areas on a daily basis demanding that more action be taken to address gun violence.  

As emotions intensified, eventually Reps. Justin Jones (D-Nashville), Justin Pearson (D-Memphis), and Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) were initially stripped of their committee assignments and allegedly had their access to the legislative building and parking facility cut off over the weekend after March 30, 2023. On Monday, House Republicans filed articles of expulsion, seeking to remove the three from the General Assembly.

The House held expulsion hearings on Thursday, April 6.  At the conclusion of a House session that lasted roughly 3 hours, they eventually expelled Reps. Jones and Pearson but not Rep. Johnson.  Reps. Jones and Pearson were reinstated by their local government bodies to fill the remainder of their own terms and both will run in special elections in the near future, which they are expected to win handily.

During the last couple of days of the legislature, it was revealed by Channel 5 News that on March 30, 2023, Rep. Scotty Campbell (R-Mountain City) was found guilty by the House Workplace Discrimination and Harassment Subcommittee of violating the House’s workplace discrimination and harassment policy. According to the news reports, it was alleged that Campbell sexually harassed two college students that were serving as legislative interns. Rep.  Campbell initially denied the accounts; however, by the time the House returned for the afternoon floor session on the same day, a report was released on Rep. Campbell had resigned and his desk was cleaned out. Rep. Campbell had been serving as Vice Chair of the House Republican Caucus.

TTA had several significant pieces of legislation that was pursued this legislative session.  Fortunately, we began pushing our legislation very early in the session and did not get caught up in the activity of the last 30 days of the legislative session.  In addition to the Governor’s $3.3 billion infrastructure plan, TTA was also successful in the following:

  1. EV Bill (SB210/HB180).  Passage of the EV Bill allows a 2,000 lb. variance for EV powered tractor-trailers.
  1. Towing Revisions (SB1337/HB87).  This provided another revision of the towing statute which tightened up the notice and lien provisions in Tennessee.  A major part of the legislation was to amend the towing statutes to make sure that the notice provisions regarding the towing of vehicles, as well as the towing and selling of vehicles, are the same for private tows as public tows.  Also, other revisions were made to accommodate faster forms of notification.
  1. HAZMAT-CDL (SB79/HB142).  This bill basically allows for a HAZMAT designation to be included on a CDL license. 
  1. A successful TTA Day on the Hill and legislative reception on April 5, 2023 at the offices of Adams and Reese.

While 2023 is not an election year in Tennessee, the events that occurred the last few weeks could lead to a busy off season for the legislature.  The Governor announced two hours after the legislature adjourned that he will be calling the legislature back in a special session to address gun violence issues in Tennessee.  Of course, the official end of the season also signals a kick off of the legislative fund-raising season.  2023 is the first year of a two-year General Assembly and any bill that remains this year could technically remain for the 2024 legislative session.  Along those lines, you are encouraged to look at the final comprehensive bill tracking report for the year and note the current progress of bills of interest.

On behalf of the Tennessee Government Relations Team at Adams and Reese, it has been a privilege to represent you in Tennessee this legislative session.  We look forward to working with you in the off season to further advance your interests and prepare for the 2024 legislative session.

The Tennessee legislature is entering its final few days of this session and several major committees have either shut down or on their final calendars.  Over the past few days, the following actions have taken place:


1.       $3 Billion Infrastructure Plan. On March 30, 2023 the Senate and House passed the $3 Billion Infrastructure Plan.  Highlights of the plan include fees on electric vehicles to offset the foregone fuel tax revenue, as well as the establishment of public-private partnerships to construct “choice lanes.” Choice lanes allow drivers to proceed in certain lanes on the interstate for a fee, such as is commonly seen in states such as Georgia and Florida. While some critics call the lanes “toll roads,” which is something Tennessee has never pursued, proponents argue that it simply gives motorists a choice of traveling a less congested express lane for a fee, while the remaining lanes remain free as they always have.


2.       Three-Year License Plate.  The House passed HB675 with a unanimous floor vote.  This will allow rental car companies who currently have two-year license plates to obtain three-year license plates.  This has been done as a result of vehicles remaining in fleets for a longer period of time because of the pandemic and supply chain issues. 


3.       Towing Statutes.  On March 30, 2023 the House and Senate passed HB87/SB1337 which is this year’s revisions to the towing statutes in Tennessee.  The towing statutes in Tennessee are antiquated as they were first enacted in 1938.  This legislation was drafted with input from rental car companies, insurance companies and the Towing Association.  Among other things, this legislation will streamline notification by allowing towing companies to send notifications by overnight mail such as UPS and FedEx.  It clarifies that rental companies include motor vehicle rental companies and requires that notifications under public tows are applicable to private tows, which requires use of the TIES system to identify and notify owners of vehicles.  There are other changes that are enacted in an attempt to modernize the statute, as well.


Please remember the TTA Day on the Hill is April 5, 2023 and we hope to see you there.  Also, TTA will host its popular reception with bourbon and cigars at 4:30 pm that same day at Adams and Reese, 1600 West End Avenue, Suite 1400, Nashville Tennessee and we hope you will find time to attend that, as well. 


The legislature is in the middle of its busy 2023 session.  The firm’s weekly general legislative update is included below.  Of specific importance to the industry are updates on the following:

  1. SB210/HB180.  This is legislation sponsored by TTA that will add up to an additional 2,000 lb. variance on tractor trailers that are operated by electric motors and have electric batteries.  This is currently allowed on all federal highways but needs to be extended to state highways.  This is the exact variance allowed for tractor trailers that are being operated by natural gas.
  2. SB1337/HB87.  This is legislation sponsored by TTA working in conjunction with other groups to tighten up additional notice provisions for the towing of vehicles on private property to get in line with the requirements for public property tows.  Revising the state towing statute is an ongoing process.  The statutes were first enacted as far back as 1938 and in the near future, we suspect some type of overall modernization of these towing statutes will be seriously considered. 

Please note that on April 5, 2023, TTA will host its popular annual legislative reception at Adams and Reese LLP, 1600 West End Avenue, Suite 1400, Nashville, Tennessee 37203.  This is always a great event and provides an excellent opportunity to spend time with our state legislators and staff.

Tennessee Government Relations Weekly Report

The legislature has quickly shifted into full gear, with committee hearings consisting of both budget presentations and a healthy number of bills, including the amendments that are typical this time of year. The session will be running at a frantic pace the next several weeks.   

Legislators Set Focus on Revisions to Third-Grade Retention Law

A flurry of bills aimed at modifying Tennessee’s third-grade retention law will soon be the topic of discussion for lawmakers as they decide the law’s future. Lawmakers may consider as many as nine bills targeting the state law, some of which would eliminate it altogether while others would give the main decision-making authority back to the local school system. The law, enacted in 2021 as part of Governor Lee’s comprehensive education reform, seeks to tackle literacy concerns while children are still very young. Provisions in the law grant state-funded summer and after-school programs to students who aren’t deemed proficient readers on state TCAP tests administered each spring. If a child is still not meeting state standards upon completion of the additional literacy programs, it may be decided that the child needs to retake their third-grade year. Right now, 64% of Tennessee third-graders are not reading at grade level. Even with some of the law’s safety nets in place that allow for additional literacy tutoring or retesting, parents and education advocates express a potential for major overcrowding concerns. Sen. Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin), the bill’s original sponsor, maintained his support for the retention law stating that the retention policy is in the best interests of all Tennesseans, but he is open to implementing a universal screener test, which he believes is a better indicator of a child’s reading proficiency than the TCAP.

 Bill to Cut Size of Nashville’s Metro Council Clears Senate Committee

A bill that would cut the size of Nashville’s Metro Council from 40 members to 20 advanced in the Senate this week. The bill would allow a metropolitan government to undergo a redistricting process to expand council districts prior to May 1; if that deadline is not met, then current members’ terms would be extended for one year. Proponents of the legislation have argued that the bill has statewide application, however, Senate sponsor Bo Watson (R-Hixson) told Senate State and Local Government Committee members that the bill only affects Davidson County. There are three metropolitan governments in the state, and Nashville is the only one with a council larger than 20 members. The bill –  largely seen as retaliation against Nashville’s Metro Council for blocking an effort for Nashville to host the 2024 Republican National Convention – passed out of committee on a 6-3 vote. Last week, Nashville Mayor John Cooper submitted letters to both RNC and DNC officials indicating Nashville will submit bids to host a 2028 national political convention. The Metro Council would still have the final say, as the Council would ultimately have to approve the site agreement.

Measure Aimed at Limiting Primary Elections Defeated in House Committee

A bill aimed at closing primary elections in Tennessee failed to make it out of the House Local Government Committee after it was defeated on a voice vote. HB405 sponsored by freshman Rep. Bryan Richey (R-Maryville) sought to limit local primary elections by allowing only those individuals who declare a political party in advance the ability to vote in a primary election, rather than allowing voters to select the party ballot of their choice on election day. Tennessee currently has an open primary system and does not require registration by party.

Cannabis-Related Bills Begin Journey Through Committee Process

The usual batch of cannabis bills is starting to make its way through the legislative process. While one met its demise before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, two more are set to be considered next week. SB1072, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville), sought to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, potentially saving local governments up to $15 million a year on incarceration costs. It failed on a 2-7 vote. Two more bills will be up next week, this time with Republican sponsors. SB1104 would establish the “Tennessee Medical Cannabis Act,” allowing doctors to treat patients that have “qualifying medical conditions” with cannabis products containing a maximum 2,000 mg of THC. Another Republican-sponsored bill, SB378, would regulate the production and sale of hemp-derived cannabinoids – including delta-8 and delta-10 products – and would also make the sale of hemp-derived cannabinoids illegal for anyone under 21.

Looking Ahead

Legislative activity will continue to increase over the next few weeks as budget hearings begin to wrap up and committee calendars grow larger with more bills on notice for consideration. Along those lines, please review your bill tracking report, as bills are starting to move, and we are also adding bills where appropriate. As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to let us know. Have a great weekend!

Tennessee Government Relations Weekly Report – February 17, 2023


Legislative activity continued to increase this week, with longer committee calendars that included decent amounts of legislation sprinkled amongst budget hearings. Look for the overall level of legislative activity to increase even more next week.   

Bills Targeting Nashville Continue to Gain Momentum

A bill aimed at repealing Nashville’s authority to impose extra sales taxes in a designated tourist zone to fund Nashville’s Music City Center is well on its way to a floor vote. Late Thursday, however, Republican legislative leadership signaled the possibility of slow-walking the legislation if Mayor John Cooper were to pursue hosting the 2028 Republican National Convention. Cooper has since indicated his willingness to engage in the dialogue with Republican leaders after weeks of increasing tension between Nashville Metro Council and the General Assembly’s Republican supermajority. The bill, if passed, raises some concerns about a similarly-funded proposal for a new $2.2 billion NFL stadium currently being considered by Metro Council, which will also rely upon state funding, including sales taxes.

Other bills aimed at overhauling Nashville’s governing bodies—the first, HB48, which cuts Metro Council’s 40 members down to 20, and the other two, HB1197 and HB1176, which create new sports and airport authority boards, continue to gain momentum as they make their way through the committee process.

House Subcommittee Advances Bill Providing Exception to Abortion Law

This week lawmakers in the House Population Subcommittee approved a bill that would legalize abortion in the case of a medical emergency. The bill, HB883, clarifies that termination of a pregnancy would not constitute a criminal abortion for the following reasons: medical emergencies, disposal of un-implanted fertilized eggs, removal of ectopic or molar pregnancies, medically futile pregnancies or lethal fetal anomalies. There is no explicit exception to the abortion ban under current law. The bill has broad bipartisan support and will next be heard in the House Health Committee.

Bill to Expand Private School Voucher Program Sails Through Senate

Governor Bill Lee’s Education Savings Account program — a voucher program that allows students to take public education funds and apply it to private school tuition — is on the verge of expanding. On Thursday, the Senate passed legislation, SB12/HB433, that adds Hamilton County to the voucher program.  Currently the program is only available in Davidson and Shelby Counties. The House bill is scheduled for the K-12 Subcommittee next Tuesday, February 21.

Looking Ahead

State offices will be closed next Monday in observance of President’s Day, but the remainder of the week will bring about a full slate of legislative activity. Expect more of your tracked bills to be put on notice as committee calendars continue to increase each week. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions. Enjoy the holiday weekend.

Tennessee Legislative Report: Governor Highlights Roads, Tax Cuts, and Strengthening Families as Major Initiatives in State of the State Address


Governor Lee Delivers Fifth State of the State Address

Before a packed House chamber on Monday evening, Governor Bill Lee delivered his fifth State of the State address to a joint session of the Tennessee General Assembly. In a heartfelt moment of unity, Lee began by honoring First Lady Maria Lee, who is currently undergoing treatment for lymphoma and was unable to attend the evening’s event.

Embarking upon his second term as Tennessee’s 50th governor, Lee sought to highlight the many contrasts between Tennessee’s prosperity and the nation at large. His theme, “Leading the Nation,” was prominent throughout his one-hour speech and elicited a number of standing ovations. Citing the record number of families and companies opting to relocate to the Volunteer State, Lee credited his administration’s ongoing commitment to ensuring a high quality of life through investments in public education, workforce development, and safe schools.

Lee presented a $55.6 billion budget with a central theme of expanding economic prosperity for all Tennesseans. Following his past practice, Lee once again allocated a substantial portion to the state’s Rainy Day Fund – this time $250 million – which takes the fund to a record level and will amount to a new high of 9.1% of the state’s total budget. The remaining bulk of Lee’s proposed budget is directed at transportation, education, strengthening Tennessee’s families, and a robust conservation strategy. A 2023-24 fiscal year budget overview can be found here.

Transportation Takes Top Priority as Lee Advocates for Choice Lanes

As expected, the Governor’s address devoted considerable time to infrastructure, which has been a constant point of emphasis for the Governor in the last several months.  The Governor devoted more than a third of his proposed $9 billion budget in new allocations to what he calls the Transportation Modernization Act. The nearly $3.5 billion investment will aim to alleviate urban congestion through an overhaul of the roadway delivery system, dedicating $3 billion to building roads in all three Grand Divisions and another $300 million to the local highway program so communities can build and maintain the roads they need.

The Governor called for a new way of looking at roads and road funding, noting that outside-the-box solutions would be required if Tennessee is going to put any kind of dent into its considerable backlog of highway projects.  Along those lines, the Governor advocated for “choice lanes,” a public-private partnership that adds additional lanes to existing highways which motorists can use at their discretion, and will be billed for their use.  The Governor was quick to point out what he considers the distinction between choice lanes and toll roads – which have long been taboo in Tennessee – and punctuated the point by saying, “hear me when I say this: toll roads are not on the table.”  While choice lanes would be a drastic change for Tennessee’s self-funded, “pay as you go” system with no debt and no toll roads, Lee noted that choice lanes are used extensively in peer states such as Florida and Texas.

While some legislators will be weary of the plan given the departure from Tennessee’s past resistance to any form of “toll” on highways, the plan seems to have widespread support.  Indeed, the Tennessee Road Builders Association has already expressed support for Lee’s proposal. 

Job Growth and Tax Cuts

Amidst the overall uncertainty of the American economy, Lee’s budget proposal includes greater tax cuts to ease the effects of nationwide inflation, including an expanded three-month reprieve in grocery taxes for Tennessee families. Lee also introduced the “Tennessee Works Act,” a $150 million investment to lower the tax burden on small businesses and transition corporate taxes to a Single Sales Factor.

Reinforcing his commitment to job growth, Lee’s proposal builds upon the 170,000 jobs created throughout the past four years, by prioritizing Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCAT) with a substantial investment for new construction and updates to existing TCAT facilities. The TCAT Master Plan comes with a historical investment of $1 billion, the largest in state history. The TCAT Master Plan will permit skills-training for 10,000 new workers and build six new TCAT facilities in strategic locations across the state. 

Education and Family Highlights Include Teacher Raises, School Security and Enhanced Postpartum Coverage

In the wake of last year’s complete overhaul of Tennessee’s educational funding framework, there was speculation of what the Governor would propose this year in the education space. The Governor’s speech once again drew headlines with his proposal of an additional $350 million in education funding, including $125 million for teacher pay raises. If adopted, the new legislation would raise the base teacher salary from $35,000 to $50,000 by the time Lee leaves office. Lee’s budget also allocates funds toward enhanced literacy programs and expanded summer camp opportunities for children.

Lee also emphasized school safety by proposing the placement of a Homeland Security Agent in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties to allow for thorough reporting measures using the SafeTN App, where any Tennessean can report suspicious activity; an addition, Lee contends, will permit greater oversight and access for parents and students to report concerns or threats.

In keeping with his dedicated efforts toward strengthening Tennessee’s families, Lee shared the successes of the nation’s first-of-its kind TennCare Medicaid waiver program, which has resulted in more than $300 million in shared savings, at no burden to Tennessee taxpayers. These savings will allow for enhanced postpartum coverage and services for an additional 25,000 women, children, and parents. Additionally, with these savings, Lee is proposing covering the cost of diapers for the first two years of a baby’s life for mothers on TennCare.

Lee has proposed more than $190 million in additional resources to strengthen and support the Department of Child Services and a new $10 million grant program to support Tennessee foster and adoption nonprofit efforts. An additional $100 million proposed grant program will partner with nonprofits in supporting mothers, fathers, and families during a crisis pregnancy. Lee reinforced his dedication to strengthening Tennessee families and proposed a “commonsense paid parental-leave program” along with increased base-pay raises for state employees. 

Conservation: Lee Emphasizes Parks, Brownfields, and Nuclear

For his final term, Lee has committed to an agenda that addresses conservation efforts. He proposed $328.7 million in funding to upgrade as well as increase access to existing state parks, and also create new state parks.  The Governor also unveiled plans to implement cleanup and revitalization efforts for all of the state’s 175 brownfields.

Doubling down on previous efforts to emphasize nuclear energy and establish Tennessee as a national leader in that field, the Governor proposed an additional $50 million toward a Nuclear Fast Track fund to attract companies that will establish nuclear development. 

Reminder: Deadline Approaching for Employer Expenditure Report

All employers of lobbyists are required to file a 2022 year-end Employer Expenditure Report with the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance by next Tuesday, February 14, 2023. The report covers the period July 1 through December 31, 2022, and is filed electronically through the Commission’s website. For more information, click here. 

Looking Ahead

With both the State of the State and the bill filing deadline in the rear view mirror, the legislature will quickly move into high gear. Leadership is encouraging members to put bills on notice, and the level of committee activity will increase considerably.

As always, we encourage you to look closely at your weekly bill tracking report, which may have grown since last week as we have reviewed and possibly flagged more legislation. You may also notice the presence of bills that on their face seem to have no relevance.  In many cases these are considered “caption bills,” which have a much broader potential range of subjects than first meets the eye.  We have flagged certain caption bills not because of how they currently read, but instead to keep an eye out on possible amendments. Along those lines, please take a look at the attached report, and do not hesitate to let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

Thanks, and enjoy Super Bowl weekend.

Tennessee Legislative Recap: Lee Highlights Transportation, Energy in Inaugural Address; Senate Gets Underway


Governor Bill Lee Sworn In for Second and Final Term 

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee took the oath of office for his second and final four-year term on January 21, featuring a day that began with a star-studded worship service and ended with a black-tie ball. More than 1,500 people were slated to attend Gov. Lee’s inauguration, held outside at Legislative Plaza under sunny skies, a welcomed departure from his last inauguration which was forced inside due to rain. In his inaugural address, Lee praised Tennessee’s virtues as leading the nation in economic development and fiscal stewardship while touting the need for civility, a gesture likely aimed at encouraging nonpartisan efforts among lawmakers. He laid out his vision for the remainder of his time in office, including developing the transportation and energy strategy his administration first unveiled earlier this month, enhancing conservation efforts, and improving the state’s foster care and adoption system to better protect children. Earlier this month, Governor Lee introduced the Transportation Modernization Act, his administration’s infrastructure plan to address the state’s exponential growth and resulting traffic congestion. Lee emphasized his ongoing commitment to Tennesseans to not take on any debt or raise taxes, but shared his intention to make “strategic transportation investments that prepare rural and urban communities for increased economic advantages and improved mobility in the years ahead.” Through the use of choice lanes, increased private investment in urban roadways, and efforts toward quicker delivery on road projects, Lee’s proposal seeks to solve current and future mobility challenges.

Supreme Court Vacancy 

Governor Lee is tasked with nominating the next Tennessee Supreme Court judge from three finalists to replace Justice Sharon Lee’s vacated seat when she retires August 31. This will be Governor Lee’s second appointment, and makes all five Supreme Court Justices Republican appointments. On the list for the Governor’s consideration:

  • Kristi Davis of Knoxville; Davis currently serves as a judge on the Tennessee Court of Appeals, having previously served as a judge in Knox County Circuit Court, Division 1 and 14 years in private practice.
  • Tom Greenholtz of Ooltewah; Greenholtz is an Eastern Section judge of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.
  • Dwight E. Tarwater of Knoxville; Tarwater has practiced law since 1980 and previously served as a partner at Paine, Tarwater, and Bickers LLP. He also served as general counsel to former Governor Bill Haslam between 2014-2018.

Following the Governor’s nomination, the General Assembly must confirm the appointment. 

Special Election for House District 86 

By a wide margin, Justin J. Pearson (D-Memphis) won the Tennessee House District 86 special election to fill the seat formerly held by late Representative Barbara Cooper (D-Memphis). Pearson easily defeated nine other candidates, including Rep. Cooper’s daughter, Tanya Cooper. Rep. Cooper served in the General Assembly for more than 25 years and was the oldest serving lawmaker in Tennessee recorded history.  There was no Republican candidate for the seat, so Pearson will take office February 1.  Pearson is a community activist in Memphis that is best known for leading efforts against a pipeline that would have run near a water aquifer and through poor, predominantly black neighborhoods in Memphis.  

Looking Ahead 

While the Senate got underway last week, the House remained adjourned, as members continue to get settled into new offices and complete organizational tasks. The Senate largely devoted its week to introductions and presentations. 

Both chambers will be in session this week, signaling the end of the organizational period.  With that, legislative activity will start picking up over the next couple of weeks, marked by a flurry of filing activity early next week in advance of Tuesday’s House bill filing deadline. The Senate deadline is two days later, on Thursday, February 2.  We expect committee calendars to begin filling up two to three weeks from now. 

Governor Lee’s State of the State address is scheduled for February 6, where he will mark the state’s accomplishments and outline his legislative priorities for the year. 

Tennessee General Assembly Kicks Off 2023 Session; Governor’s Inauguration Set for January 21; 2023 Annual PAC Registration Due


The 113th Tennessee General Assembly kicked off the 2023 legislative session this week in Nashville, beginning the first year of a two-year legislative session.

Legislature Elects Leadership and Constitutional Officers               

Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) was elected to his third term as speaker of the Senate, with all 27 Republicans voting unanimously in favor of the current Speaker, while the six Senate Democrats abstained from voting. House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) was elected to his second full term with 76 members voting in favor. The other 22 votes went to Democratic Caucus Chair John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville). The House and Senate unanimously reelected Comptroller Jason Mumpower and Treasurer David Lillard for new two-year terms. Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s four-year term isn’t up until 2024.

Changes to Committee Chairs 

In the House, Speaker Sexton named Bud Hulsey (R-Kingsport) to succeed retired Dickson state Rep. Michael Curcio as chair of the Civil Justice Committee. Rep. David Hawk (R-Greenville) was appointed chair of the Health Subcommittee, taking over the position previously held by former Rep. Bob Ramsey (R-Maryville) who was defeated in last year’s Republican primary. Rep. Chris Todd (R-Jackson) succeeds retired Rep. Curtis Halford (R-Dyer) as chair of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. Sexton decided to do away with the Naming and Designating Committee, created in 2019 by former Representative and House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin). New to the committee structure this year is the Population Health Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Michele Carringer (R-Knoxville).

The Senate saw minimal changes with its committee structure, with the exception of Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) appointed as the new chair of the Judiciary Committee. Sen. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) will continue as chair of the Education Committee. Lundberg was named interim chair last legislative session, following former Sen. Brian Kelsey’s (R-Germantown) decision to step down as chair.

Governor Lee 2023 Inauguration 

Gov. Bill Lee will take the oath of office for his second term next Saturday, January 21. The inauguration ceremony itselfwill take place at 11 a.m. on Legislative Plaza in Nashville, and a full weekend of activities are planned, including a music event on Lower Broadway, a prayer service, and a dinner and ball. The theme for this year’s inaugural celebration is “Tennessee: Leading the Nation.”

Reminder:  Deadline Approaching for PAC Registration Requirements

As we reported last summer, the ethics laws passed during the 2022 legislative session – which took effect July 1, 2022– made a number of changes to the reporting requirements for PACs.  The law requires all PACs to certify the name and address of its treasurer, officers, and responsible individuals (any person who directly controls expenditures) with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance. The new law also requires each PAC to identify at least one officer, not including the treasurer, and identify at least one person who directly controls who expenditures. PACs that existed prior to the July 1, 2022 effective date must submit proper proof of identification for each treasurer, officer, and responsible individual to the Registry no later than January 31, 2023. If a PAC designates a new treasurer, officer, or responsible individual after submitting its annual registration, the PAC must notify the Registry of any new designated individual within 30 days. 

To read more about these changes to the annual PAC registration process, please see slide deck prepared by the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance.

Looking Ahead 

We are expecting the remainder of January to be relatively slow. Both chambers are taking a break for the first half of next week, but will return to Capitol Hill next Friday and Saturday for Gov. Lee’s inauguration events. The first full week of committee meetings in the Senate will begin on Tuesday, January 24. The House will begin committee meetings the following week on Monday, February 6. Bills are beginning to trickle in, and we are beginning to build our bill tracking reports, which should appear as early as next week. As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions.

House and Senate GOP re-elect top leadership team

Tennessee House Republicans unanimously voted current Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) to lead the House of Representatives for a third term. The House GOP Caucus also voted to reelect Rep. William Lamberth (R-Portland) as Majority Leader, Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) as Caucus Chairman, and Rep. Johnny Garrett (R-Goodlettsville) to serve as Majority Whip. Rep. Pat Marsh (R-Shelbyville) was chosen to serve his second term as Speaker Pro Tempore, and Rep. Mark Cochran (R-Englewood) was elected to his first term as Assistant Majority Leader.

The Senate Republican Caucus voted current Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) to a fourth term as Speaker, and to return Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) as Majority Leader and Sen. Ken Yager (R-Kingston) as Caucus Chairman.


The national dynamic of election day drama and razor-thin margins was noticeably absent in Tennessee last night, as the GOP once again dominated elections at all levels and reaffirmed Tennessee’s reputation as one of the most reliably-red states in the country. The night was punctuated by Governor Bill Lee’s resounding 65-33 victory over Democrat Jason Martin, guaranteeing Lee a second term and improving significantly upon his 21-point landslide win in 2018. Lee’s victory means that it has now been eleven years since a Democrat occupied Tennessee’s Governor’s office, when Phil Bredesen served from 2003 until 2011. Indeed, Bredesen’s 2006 victory marks the last time a Democrat won a statewide election in the Volunteer State.


The GOP also grew its Congressional delegation from Tennessee to 8-1 as Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles prevailed decisively in the newly-drawn Fifth Congressional District, defeating State Sen. Heidi Campbell (D-Nashville) by 14 points and ensuring that Nashville would have a Republican in Congress for the first time since Reconstruction. Meanwhile, Republicans maintained their supermajority in the General Assembly, winning most contested races by 2:1 margins or more and actually picking up one House seat along the way, expanding their House tally to 77 of 99 overall seats.  


Understated Campaign Pays Off for Lee


The widely popular Lee ran a low-key campaign, spending relatively little time on the trail, running “soft” commercials that laid out his economic accomplishments and pro-family record, and barely acknowledging his opponent. He touted the fact that he is now two for two in positive campaigns, noting that once again he refused to air any negative ads. Virtually all major media outlets called the race for Lee as soon as the polls closed. 


Perhaps the highlight of Lee’s victory party in Franklin last night was the surprise appearance of First Lady Maria Lee, who has been out of the public eye since being diagnosed with lymphoma in August. The Governor noted that the First Lady couldn’t stay home, adding that the cancer battle has “been tough – but she’s tougher.”


Lee also highlighted infrastructure as a top priority for his second term. He noted that Tennessee is simply not building enough and maintaining enough roads to keep up with the incredible growth, pledging that “you’re going to be hearing a lot more about that, starting tomorrow even.” 


Congressional Recap: TN-5 Pushes Congressional Delegation from 7-2 to 8-1


Ogles’ win culminated a long journey for the Tennessee Republican Party, which sought to use the redistricting process to add one more red seat to Tennessee’s Congressional delegation. Legislative leadership effectively divided Tennessee’s Fifth Congressional seat – Nashville’s seat, and one traditionally classified as “solid Democrat” – into three separate parts, melding each into a strongly Republican district. Democrats loudly protested the move to no avail, and longtime Congressman Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) announced that he would not seek re-election for the newly constituted seat. That set off a feeding frenzy of Republican hopefuls, including more than one that were relative newcomers to Nashville. Ogles emerged from a crowded primary field as the Republican nominee, outperforming other better-funded candidates. Ogles, who promoted himself as “Tennessee’s most conservative mayor,” faced respectable opposition in State Senator Campbell, but in the end prevailed by 14 points. Ogles was featured in the Washington Post last week as one of a new class of “hard line Republicans” that could push for issues such as impeachment and investigations upon arriving in Washington. 


While Tennessee’s Seventh Congressional District also received a large chunk of Nashville/Davidson County, it did nothing to dampen the performance of incumbent Mark Green (R-Clarksville), who won a third term in Washington thanks to a 60-38 victory over Odessa Kelly (D-Nashville). The remaining Nashville portion was combined into the Sixth District, where Republican incumbent John Rose also won in a landslide by a 66-34 margin.    


Republican U.S. Reps. Tim Burchett, Scott DesJarlais, Chuck Fleischmann, Diana Harshbarger and David Kustoff were all successful in their reelection bids.  Democratic U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) also won reelection, keeping him Tennessee’s lone remaining Democratic congressman.


Legislative Update: Few Upsets, But A Number of New Faces


There were few headlines in the legislative races, with numerous uncontested races on the ballot and many of the contested races featuring lopsided outcomes. In perhaps the most notable outcome, longtime incumbent John Mark Windle, a former Democrat that now is classified as an Independent, lost his reelection bid in House District 41 to Republican Ed Butler by a 53-47 margin. Windle’s seat was significant in that it was the lone rural legislative seat not held by the Republicans, who have dramatically reversed Tennessee’s legislative makeup over the last 15 years by eroding the Democrats’ stronghold over Tennessee’s rural districts, turning them exclusively red. 


While Windle was the only incumbent to lose his election bid, there will still be several new faces when the legislature convenes in January. Indeed, there will be 17 new members in the 113th General Assembly, including Senators Brent Taylor (R-Memphis, succeeding Brian Kelsey) and Charlane Oliver (D-Nashville, succeeding Brenda Gilmore), as well as Reps. Caleb Hemmer (D-Nashville; Dist. 59), and Jake McCalmon (R-Franklin, replacing Glen Casada). And in one of the more interesting developments of the offseason, community activist Justin Jones (D-Nashville) – who was once banned from the Capitol for throwing a paper cup at then-Speaker Casada – is now part of the General Assembly, having prevailed in an uncontested election to represent House District 52. 


Looking Ahead: Infrastructure, Education, Criminal Justice Expected to Highlight 2023 Session


In his victory speech last night, Governor Lee expressed his goal to address Tennessee’s infrastructure needs without going into debt or raising taxes, which will be a challenge in itself. Infrastructure will not be the only focus however, as issues such as parental rights and school choice also look to take center stage. Lee argued that “we can fund public schools and provide alternative opportunities for children at the same time if we are committed to funding students and not systems.”  


Also look for considerable attention on criminal justice issues. The “Truth in Sentencing” law that was championed by the legislature late in the 2022 session and passed without Lee’s signature became a wedge issue between Lee and legislative leadership. The issue once again rose to the surface following two high-profile crimes in Memphis in September, where it was revealed that in both cases the assailants had only served partial sentences for previous crimes. That gave rise to a new series of calls for sentencing reform, especially among juveniles, and in response lawmakers created a joint committee to review the sentencing and supervision of criminal defendants, in order to provide additional safeguards to the public. Republican leadership has announced plans to push for even stricter sentencing laws in 2023.


The 113th General Assembly is scheduled to convene at noon on Tuesday, January 10, 2023. 


One of the major challenges that the state of Tennessee will face in the future will be maintaining the state highway fund at a level needed to continue to repair and replace roads and bridges but to also construct new highways.  Anita Wadhwani with the Tennessee Lookout Report recently published an excellent article.  A link to that article is: https://tennesseelookout.com/briefs/advisory-group-projects-looming-deficits-in-tennessee-road-and-highway-project-funding/

As noted in her article, there was a hearing where representatives of the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (“TACIR”) provided an update which should get the attention of not only the legislature but also the trucking industry.  TACIR testimony indicated by 2040 10% of all vehicles on Tennessee’s roadways are projected to be electric. It is also expected that the average national vehicle fuel efficiency will increase from 23-miles-per-gallon to 30-miles-per-gallon during the same timeframe.  As a result, based on loss of fuel tax revenue, fuel efficiency and inflation, it is projected that Tennessee will see a $399 million reduction in its gas tax spending power.

The challenge faced by the State to maintain the highway fund at a level to pay for repairs and construction of new projects will be challenging.  Not only will there be a decrease of revenue but the fact that the state fuel tax is not indexed for inflation will certainly cause issues that the legislature will want to review in the near future.  As noted in the article, Tennessee has 96,000 miles of public roads and 20,000 bridges but federal government funding is designated only for about 1/5 of all of the state’s roads and highways.

We expect this issue to remain on the radar of the legislature in the near future with all options being on the table.  Recent options that were recommended include raising registration fees for electric vehicles, implementing indexing on the state fuel tax, and even the possibility of reviewing some type of fee based on mileage.

We are heading into the final days of the 2022 election season.  Thanks to your support, TruckPAC has been very active in helping legislators who are supportive of the industry.  TTA along with Adams and Reese hosted a dinner in Nashville on October 19, 2022 in support of House Speaker Cameron Sexton and his leadership PAC.  As always, thank you for your support!

Thanks to all those who attended the TTA convention recently held in Sandestin, Florida, September 19-21, 2022. It was good to see everyone engaged on many issues that affect the trucking industry. Also, a major thank you to Senator Paul Bailey and Representative Pat Marsh for attending. The legislative update not only included Senator Bailey and Representative Marsh but also representatives of the Department of Safety which was very enlightening and informative.
It was also very nice to honor one of our own, Pat Marsh, as the 2022 recipient of the Pinnacle Award. Pat’s service in the legislature over the past several years has been so helpful. He is someone we have always leaned on for assistance on issues involving the trucking industry. As I noted in my comments at the convention, we are so fortunate to have individuals like Pat Marsh and Paul Bailey whose involvement in this industry makes all of our jobs a lot easier. 
TTA will be involved with supporting a dinner for House Speaker Cameron Sexton on October 19, 2022. This is the third fundraising dinner of the year that TTA has hosted for a member of the legislature. These dinners prove to be very helpful in that they give representatives of the industry an opportunity to spend quality time with leaders of the legislature to discuss issues affecting the industry. This would not be possible without your support of TruckPAC. Before the year is over, TruckPAC will have contributed more than $100,000 to legislative candidates. This is only made possible by your continued support. Thank you for your support of TruckPAC and our lobbying efforts on behalf of the industry!



In a development that has been brewing for some time, former Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada and his former Chief of Staff, Cade Cothren, were both arrested by FBI agents at their homes at 7 a.m. last Tuesday morning.  The arrests come in the wake of a 20-count federal indictment charging the two with conspiracy to commit the crimes of theft, wire fraud, bribery/kickbacks, and money laundering. If convicted, the charges carry maximum sentences of 20 years in prison.  Both Casada and Cothren appeared in court following their arrests, where they pled “not guilty,” and in a comment to the media Casada’s attorney promised to mount “a vigorous defense” to the charges.  They were released from custody on Tuesday.

The arrests mark the latest development in the FBI’s ongoing investigation of a shadowy political consulting firm, Phoenix Solutions, which is alleged to have been secretly operated by Cothren and Casada. The FBI raided the offices and homes of a handful of Republican lawmakers and staff in January, 2021, as part of an investigation into the laundering of campaign finance money toward Phoenix, which was originally established to offer services to legislators facing primary challenges and was later expanded to act as a mail vendor for the General Assembly.   Then in March of this year, former House Insurance Committee Chair Robin Smith (R-Hixson) resigned from the legislature a day before pleading guilty to a federal wire fraud charge for her role in the scheme.  Federal prosecutors alleged that Smith, Casada and Cothren had schemed to set up and run Phoenix, with Cothren running the firm and operating under a false identity of “Matthew Phoenix.”  Smith admitted her guilt and pledged to cooperate fully as a witness for the federal government.  

Casada decided not to run for reelection this year, instead opting to run for county clerk in his home county, Williamson County. He lost that race by a landslide.

After first being elected to the legislature in 2001, the ambitious Casada quickly rose through the leadership ranks.  He was elected House Republican Caucus Chairman in 2004, and went about aggressively fundraising and recruiting Republican candidates for office.  He is credited for leading the GOP’s strategy that in 2008 helped it gain a majority in the House for the first time since Reconstruction.  He followed that up by leading the efforts in 2010 to help the GOP obtain the supermajority that it still enjoys today.  Casada ascended to the role of House Majority Leader in 2017, and two years later seized the opportunity to run for Speaker when Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) stepped down to run for Governor. 

During the 2019 session, Casada quickly embraced the full power of the Speaker’s role.  Among other things, he kept the vote for the school voucher bill open for 40 minutes as he worked to break a deadlock and ensure the bill’s passage.  He also stripped certain members of leadership positions, and was accused of deploying staff members as “hall monitors,” acting as his eyes and ears in legislative hallways.  By the last week of the 2019 session, Casada looked to be on the path to become one of the most powerful Speakers in Tennessee history, but was blindsided on the final day of session by a news story that alleged he had participated in a text message thread with Cothren that had contained both sexist and racist messaging.  That was followed by a story alleging that Cothren had engaged in the use of illegal drugs.  The onslaught of negative press continued on a frequent basis until July of that year when the House Republican Caucus delivered an overwhelming vote of “no confidence.” Casada resigned the next month, and he was replaced in the role by Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville).   Casada spent the next three sessions relegated to back bencher status, and for the last 19 months has been hounded by allegations of impropriety stemming from the FBI raid in January of 2021.  With Tuesday’s arrest, it effectively punctuates one of the more stunning downfalls in Tennessee political history.

Speaker Sexton released the following statement:

“In Tennessee, we will not tolerate public corruption, defrauding the state, or bribery at any level. I commend the Federal Bureau of Investigation for its hard work, diligence, and dedication that resulted in [Tuesday] morning’s arrests. 

As I have previously stated on several occasions, shortly after becoming Speaker in 2019, I began assisting the federal authorities during and throughout the investigation — including leading up to today’s indictments, and I will continue to do so if a trial is needed.  

Together, our legislative body has stood strong over the past two years to take significant actions during this investigation by passing laws to strengthen campaign finance regulations and new ethics laws for elected officials and staff. 

Today is a good day for Tennesseans because we did not turn a blind eye to these criminal activities.”