'There's an absence of leadership.' Tennessee Dems discuss end of legislative session

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Posted at 11:16 AM, May 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-07 13:16:07-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF/AP) — Top Tennessee Democrats voiced their concerns and some frustrations Friday after the Tennessee General Assembly wrapped up earlier this week.

Tennessee lawmakers adjourned for the year Wednesday after spending their final moments slashing how long the unemployed can receive benefits, and banning certain concepts on race and racism from being taught in schools.

In an end-of-session news conference, Republican lawmakers touted their work on rural community investments, criminal justice reform, education expansion.

However, more contentious issues dominated this legislative session, including bills concerning transgender students, abortion and guns. Click here to read more about the legislation that was passed this year.

“There’s an absence of leadership in Tennessee state government right now, and we’re seeing the results,” Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro (D – Nashville) said on Friday.

"There may be some sensible Republicans left, but you would never know it from what we’re doing as a legislature. Because this year, we coddled the conspiracy theorists, the racists and the crazies and leadership sometimes means standing up and saying ‘enough’ and neither the governor nor anyone in the majority party was willing to do that when we needed them to this year," Yarbo added.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Vincent Dixie (D - Nashville) also said lawmakers “missed the mark” on health care, education and on “helping people.”

“We had a golden opportunity to show people how much we wanted to help them, and we did nothing to put more money in their pockets, nothing to put more food on their table and we did nothing [if] they were sick and could go see a doctor,” he said.

Dixie also said that while criminal justice reform measures were passed, they don’t go far enough.

Watch the full discussion below: