Momma Bears are gonna tell you about that awful day when Bull-Lee took away your public schools. The morning started off with an article from the Tennessean detailing how lawmakers' funding requests would be decided based on their votes on the ESA voucher bill.
A USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee review of Lee’s latest budget proposal shows several lawmakers who were once against or on the fence about the governor’s controversial education savings account legislation received funding for their requests.
The vast majority of House members who have voted against the voucher-style program did not have their appropriations requests fulfilled by the governor.
Abney blew the whistle on what she called Gov. Lee's "extortion" plan to secure votes for the ESA voucher bill. According to her, Rep. Bob Ramsey (R-Maryville) notified the three School Superintendents in his district: Maryville City Schools, Alcoa Schools, and Blount County Schools and told them that if he voted for ESA Vouchers then Blount County would receive "a windfall" of money for road construction. But if he voted against vouchers then that money would be withheld from Blount County.
He went to say in the telephone interview, “There were some suggestions there might be benefits to our district if we supported the bill. I was repeatedly contacted to join the effort on the side of supporters ... and told it might enhance allocations of funds in the future.”
Meanwhile on the other side of the state, Rep. Tom Leatherwood (R-Arlington), who now occupies public education stalwart, the late Ron Lollar's seat, was identified in The Tennessean article as being one of several freshman representatives who received their funding requests from the Governor after pledging to support the voucher bill. Wanna see what he got? Look at item J in the first picture. $110K for sidewalks. And item 22 in the second picture: $30K for creating a cybersecurity classroom at Arlington High School.
How it Went Down
We can't…. Really…. We just can't bring ourselves to re-live Penny Schwinn's frothing at the mouth over how much she loves vouchers when she testified at the Senate Finance Committee. And all the unanswered questions on fraud, accountability, and transparency for ESA vouchers that went unanswered. According to Schwinn, these things will be dealt with later when the TDOE promulgates their rules.
And we simply can not do justice to the debacle in the House which Rep. Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville) described in a tweet as "…some of the most unethical actions that you would only expect to see in a banana republic."
So you will have to look for yourself. We have included links to video below.
Senate Finance Ways & Means Committee Hearing
House Debate Video
BUT and this is a BIG BUT, the official video of the House in session does not show the full picture of what happened. So, here's what went on…
After the House debate ended, a vote was held. But instead of the usual, "Mr. Clerk, take the vote," our audio went dead then the video froze on a blank screen. At that point, Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) began FaceBook live video coverage of what was happening in the House Chambers. While, the official video just showed a blank screen and no vote totals were posted, Johnson's video and several tweeted pictures of the tally board showed the votes were tied at 49-49.
The Farragut Flipper—Jason Zachary
And just like that… the ESA voucher bill passed.
So, children, now you know how it happened.
But we already knew that Knox County had been removed from the Senate version that had passed the Finance Committee just prior to the House vote. And Zachary knew it too because Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) announced it to House members shortly before the House vote was called.
And we also know that the House did not adopt the Senate version meaning Zachary voted yes to a bill that still includes Knox County.