Millennial Perspective: Tennessee Politics in Focus

By: Whitney Smith 


Last week, the federal government came much closer than usual to Tennessee's conservative politics when President Trump was in town. Whether you were left out cold with the rest of the President's supporters who couldn't make it into the auditorium or headed downtown for a good old-fashioned protest, chances are a little extra government changed your routine. Luckily, we all got to catch the highlights on twitter.


This week, you can be prepared for business as usual when the 110th Tennessee General Assembly meets for another week of budget hearings, committee meetings, and floor sessions. Although most of the legislators are at least 40 (and then some), they still have plenty on the docket this week affecting millennials.


So take a break from grieving the loss of your busted bracket and get ready to focus on what’s ahead. Here are a few areas to keep your young eyes open for in Tennessee politics this week:


Innovation and Technology:

In very innovative news, this week both chambers' transportation committees will hear testimony on two bills dealing with the legalization of autonomous vehicles on public roads and allowing vehicles to operate without a driver present. These bills comes only months after Nashville was among the five cities worldwide added to the Bloomberg Aspen Initiative on Cities and Autonomous Vehicles. These bills passing through committees is not just a game changer for the disabled and elderly, but also a step towards innovation for autonomous vehicles and a milestone for the state's tech industry.


Human Rights:

Senator Mark Green's (read: Secretary Green read: Governor Green) bill codifying punishment for sanctuary cities by withholding state funding will begin to make its way through state and local government committee this week. This political move was introduced the day after President Trump signed an executive order with a similar message from a federal level. Despite the polarizing rhetoric playing out through the media in recent months regarding refugees, a Brookings Institution poll found that 59% of Americans support admitting refugees from the Middle East. Comparatively, 68% of millennials support the idea.


One of the five Democratic senators — and one of the six female senators — is sponsoring "Tennessee Pay Equality Act" set to be heard in committees in both chambers. The bill updates the current law that allows for wage differences between employees of different genders "based on a seniority system, a merit system, a system that measures earnings by quality or quantity of production, or any other reasonable differential that is based on a factor other than sex." While there are several facets of this legislation, the focus of this bill would restrict the "other reasonable differentials" to concrete factors such as training, experience and education. Nielsen's polling explored how millennial women are more optimistic about closing the wage gap in their lifetime than previous generations of women. This move in Tennessee brings millennial women one step closer to achieving equality by putting stricter regulations on workplace discrimination.


Unlike the "Natural Marriage Defense Act," Tennessee has some legislation in judiciary committee this week with the intent of making it easier to get married. The bill would allow a member of the armed forces deployed to another country to apply for a marriage license in Tennessee. As the bill was originally introduced, the serviceperson would have a stunt double stand in for them during the marriage ceremony. The bill has now been amended to allow marriage ceremonies over video chat, no stand in's necessary. Although the bill's sponsor assumed the military members seeking marriage would be a "he" each time he referenced the member in previous committees, that wasn't the issue at hand... Tune into committee this week to see if the sexist language makes a reappearance.