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2023 Session Wrap Up

The legislature officially adjourned for the year on Friday, April 21st. I believe I’m speaking for all Tennesseans by saying that this year’s session could’ve and should’ve been handled better. Legislators should have an extremely high bar for their conduct to fulfill our responsibility to our districts and the state. I voted no to adjourn because I thought we weren’t done doing the people’s business.

After the tragic Covenant School shooting, we failed to come together to deliver solutions; for that, I apologize. I was proud to witness how Nashville united in the face of such a horrible situation to demand action. However, sadly, most of my colleagues didn’t answer the call and chose not to step up to the plate to address or even debate common-sense gun safety reforms such as extreme risk protection orders.

On Friday, I met with Governor Bill Lee and asked him not to let us leave without announcing a plan to address our community’s public and gun safety issues. Luckily, he heeded the calls from myself and my Democratic colleagues. Later in the day, he announced the intent to call for a special session to address public safety specifically. Common sense gun policies have broad bi-partisan support, as referenced by the statewide poll released by Voices for a Safer Tennessee last week (see poll here). 

As we prepare for the upcoming special session, I am ready and willing to tackle this complex issue as our community and children demand it. 

Voices for a Safer Tennessee Poll- April 2023

Major Accomplishments From This Session

  • Passage of  HB1232 – this was my signature legislation and expanded the applicability of “Lab Schools,” which are university-sponsored PreK-12 schools. This bill allows private universities across TN (ex. Vanderbilt, Lipscomb, Belmont, Fisk, etc.) to operate lab schools in our state. Previously, only public universities had the legal framework to work with a local school board to create a lab school, some of the best-performing schools in Tennessee, and a leading education model nationwide.
  • Passage of HB1231 – this legislation creates transparency for consumers and forces online ticket companies to show the ticket’s true price (including service and ancillary fees) the first time you view the ticket so there are no surprises in the checkout prices. This has been a big issue for consumers, and we worked with venues, artists, and other stakeholders to pass a national model for fairness. Axios did a great write-up on the bill here
  • Budget Appropriations Secured:
    • $1M for Pilot Doula Services-  I worked with Sen. London Lamar on this legislation and got it funded in the Governor’s Budget. These pilot projects will help gather evidence and test doula services for our Medicaid population. Tennessee has a maternal and infant mortality issue (particularly in communities of color), and this was a recommendation from a Dept. of Health task force. Hence, I am glad we were able to get this funded.
    • $500K for Travelers Rest Historic House Museum-  I was so glad to work with Sen. Heidi Campbell and the Lee administration to secure a $500K grant for Traveler’s Rest Historic House Museum in Crieve Hall. As one of the oldest homes in Nashville and an important landmark, I’m proud we could help fund some much-needed repairs. 

What I didn’t accomplish

 I had a few pieces of legislation that didn’t make it through committees and others I plan to work through over the Summer and Fall. I took my secure gun storage legislation (HB1233) off notice after the Republican Caucus chair asked me to work on it with him bi-partisanly, and I agreed. I plan to bring it back up for a vote in our special session. 

My PACE legislation (HB0416), which provides an excellent option for senior citizens looking for healthcare options that will help them age gracefully at home, will be a major focus of study this year to get it in a better position to get funded next year.

The petty politics of retribution were unfortunately on full display this year. At the start of the session, I was named the Davidson County Legislative Delegation Chair. This role was an honor, but it took a tremendous toll due to the length at which we had to fight for the soul and autonomy of Nashville. I was disappointed to watch as my colleagues from across the state passed legislation to cut the Nashville Council in half (the courts struck it down luckily!), take over control of the Nashville Airport (will see you in court!), remove funding sources for the Music City Center and reshape the Sports Authority Board.  

None of these laws had the intent to help our city, the state’s economic engine. Going forward, I will continue to be a strong advocate for Nashville and a leading voice for the autonomy of our city to operate. An overview of the anti-Nashville bills is in this story here

What I learned

The General Assembly is an easy place to get sidetracked, as we’ve seen these final weeks. The majority party doesn’t campaign on expelling members, banning drag queens, and playing petty games against Nashville.

I’ve been disappointed to see the way issues that Tennesseans care about, like education, healthcare, and gun safety take a back seat. Going forward, I plan to utilize what I learned from my first session to best represent District 59. My personal goal is to improve turnaround time on constituent calls/emails. Some days we got 1k emails due to the high-profile issues we dealt with this session. This isn’t normal, and I hope to get a better handle on this situation and how we can be timely and responsive to constituent concerns.  My goal is to have a response within two business days.

Additionally, I would like to hear directly from constituents on what issues matter to you and what legislation I should focus on next year. I plan on running polls and being in the community a lot more now that session is out. 

As always, please call or write anytime I can be of assistance.

– Rep. Caleb Hemmer

Can you pitch in?

Now that session has ended and I can accept contributions, I would be grateful if you would consider pitching in. We need to do a ton of work this summer to protect my District 59 seat and adequately prepare ourselves to win against any opponent who does not represent the values of our district.

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Paid for by Friends of Caleb Hemmer, Will Howorth, Treasurer