- 1 Ways to Resist
- 2 Updates
- 3 Actions Taken by the State Government
- 4 Key Upcoming Elections
- 5 Healthcare
- 6 Policing
- 7 Immigration
- 8 Voting Rights
- 9 Mass Incarceration
- 10 Benefits / Tax Cuts
- 11 Housing/Infrastructure
- 12 Women's Rights/Reproductive Justice
- 13 LGBTQ+ Issues
- 14 Educational Justice
- 15 Consumer Protections / Workers' Rights
- 16 Climate / Environment
- 17 Disability Rights
- 18 Organizations and Events
- 19 Local News Sources
- 20 Relevant City and County Information
Ways to Resist
- Contact your elected officials:
- Get involved with local organizations.
- Find organizations with state and local presences working in your area.
- Check out our Tools of Resistance.
- Look for upcoming events and opportunities and state and local events.
There are no recent updates.
To see past updates for Tennessee, click here.
Actions Taken by the State Government
Actions underway by Governor Bill Haslam that should be opposed:
Governor Bill Haslam's plan to outsource facilities management at all public properties in the state would jeopardize benefits and jobs for thousands of Tennesseans.
Nashville Scene, "Why Is Haslam Outsourcing in the Shadows?"
Legislation that Supports Equity and Justice
Important bills proposed by Tennessee lawmakers this legislative session that should be supported:
- HB 1127 would require candidates to release their tax returns from the past five years to appear on the state's ballot.
Harmful bills proposed by Tennessee lawmakers this legislative session that should be opposed:
- SB 8 would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman and deny any validity in Tennessee to the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage .
- SB 771/HB 888 would force transgender students to use the bathroom matching their gender assigned at birth, not their gender identity.
- HB 668 would protect drivers from liability if they inadvertently strike a protester who is blocking a roadway.
See also the main policy pages for federal legislative tracking.
Key Upcoming Elections
Click here to find out if you're registered to vote. Register to vote here. The deadline is 30 days before Election Day. Bring proof of identification the first time you vote. A photo ID is required every time you vote.
2018 Senate Elections
- In 2018, Senator Bob Corker (R) will be up for re-election.
2020 Senate Elections
- In 2020, Senator Lamar Alexander (R) will be up for re-election. Unofficially, Alexander plans to retire and not run for office again.
2018 Governor Election
- Since Governor Bill Haslam (R) is at the end of his second term in office, he is ineligible to run for re-election. Representative Diane Black (R) is rumored to be considering a run. Democrats are placing their hopes in former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean. However, it is unclear whether he will run in the Senate race or the governor race.
- If there is a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, 198,261 people in Tennessee (or 3.0% of the population) are estimated to lose coverage, whereas 526,000 people (or 7.9% of the population) will lose coverage with a partial repeal. (Retrieved 1/26/2017 from ACA Repeal Impact, state-by-state.) This is because with a full repeal, premiums will not increase the way they would under a partial repeal, since insurance companies will be able to discriminate on the basis of preexisting conditions and won't be required to provide essential health benefits. Not covering preexisting conditions will disproportionately affect people with disabilities.
- The number of uninsured people in Tennessee is predicted to be 686,000 by 2021 under the ACA. Without the ACA, that number is expected to rise to 1,057,000, a 54.2% increase.
- Tennessee is among the states that lost the ability to place lifetime limits on coverage, because that practice is banned by the ACA; those limits are likely to be reinstated under a full repeal.
- Prior to the ACA's ban on gender-rating, women in Tennessee could pay up to 47% more for the same coverage, compared to men; an ACA repeal could bring back that coverage gap.
- Given that a repeal of the ACA would also change payment structures and subsidies, 57,000 jobs could be lost in Tennessee. When federal funding is cut, it creates a ripple effect that affects local and state revenue, thus creating losses in economic activity and employment.
- Under the ACA Repeal-and-Delay strategy, young adults in Tennessee could pay $924 more in 2018.
45 people were killed by the police in Tennessee from 2013 to 2016, which is the 28th most per capita in the country. Black people were killed at a rate 1.3 times higher than the rate for all people in Tennessee. The Memphis Police Department kills people at a rate nearly double that of the rest of the state.
- In 2013, Tennessee had 304,801 immigrants, making up 4.7% of the population.
- There are estimated to be 120,000 undocumented immigrants in Tennessee, making up 1.9% of the population.
Rights of Non-Citizens
- Tennessee does not allow undocumented immigrants to get drivers’ licenses.
- Tennessee does not allow undocumented immigrants to attend public college at the same in-state tuition rate as legal residents and citizens.
- In 2012, President Barack Obama signed an executive order (DACA) that defers deportation for children who were brought to the country as children. The action allows them to work lawfully but does not create a pathway to citizenship or give them legal status in the United States. In Tennessee, 13,204 people have benefited from this executive action.
- 3.9% of K-12 students in Tennessee had undocumented parents in 2014.
- Undocumented immigrants in Tennessee made up 2.8% of the labor workforce in 2014.
- If all undocumented workers were removed from Tennessee, the state would lose $3.8 billion in economic activity.
- Undocumented immigrants paid $109 million in state and local taxes in Tennessee in 2012.
- Tennessee has laws requiring employers to check employees’ immigration status and maintain participation in E-Verify.
- Tennessee does not have any cities or counties with sanctuary policies.
- Tennessee resettled 1,467 refugees in 2014.
- Voters face the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). VRA was designed to prevent discrimination in voting. Overall, states are passing fewer laws to restrict voting rights. However, voter ID bills are the most common type of restriction.
- Tennessee is one of 14 states with new voting restrictions in place for the first time in a presidential election.
- In 2014, 55,399 people were incarcerated in Tennessee, plus a probation population of 65,751 and parole population of 13,732.
- Of the prison population, 2,225 people were serving life sentences, and 317 were serving life sentences without parole.
- 666 juveniles were in custody in Tennessee in 2013.
- In Tennessee, a black person was 3.7 times more likely to be incarcerated than a white person in 2014.
- 5,116 people were incarcerated in private prisons.
- Corrections expenditures in 2014 were $939 million.
Benefits / Tax Cuts
- Tennessee residents who face a tax increase under Trump’s plan:
- Households: 154,000
- Adults and children: 495,000
- Children: 294,000
- In 2015, an average of 611,805 households and 1,229,391 people received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP, formerly called Food Stamps) in a given month in Tennessee. In 2011, approximately 20% of the population of Tennessee was receiving SNAP benefits. The average monthly benefit per Tennessee household was $250 per household and $123 per person in 2016.
- In 2016, an average of 68,975 households, including 30,769 families and 53,057 children, received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which is direct financial assistance, in a given month. The average monthly benefit for a single parent with three children residing in Tennessee was $185 in 2014. Average benefits in Tennessee have fallen in value by 34.4% since 1996.
- In 2016, an average of 38,189 women received funds from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in a given month.
- In December 2015, there were 11,465 Social Security recipients in the "aged" category who received $285.12 per person on average, for a total of $3,269,000.
- 181,900 low-income families spent more than half of their income on housing.
- In 2014, Tennessee had 37 units of affordable and available housing for every 100 households categorized as “extremely low income” (at or below 30% of area median income).
- In Tennessee, there were 8,779 homeless people in 2016.
- Of the homeless population, there were 710 families, 831 veterans, 390 unaccompanied young adults (18-24), and 1,782 people experiencing chronic homelessness.
- Tennessee received $604 million in federal rental assistance funding in 2014.
- In Tennessee, more than 112,000 families relied on federal rental assistance in 2014.
- Nearly all Tennessee households using federal rental assistance included children, elderly people or disabled people.
- Tennessee infrastructure received a score of C from the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2015.
- This study gave the state “good” scores for aviation and bridges, and identified wastewater, dams, and transit as being in “poor” condition.
- In 2013, the Department of Transportation found that 19% of Tennessee's bridges were structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and 38% of Tennessee's roads were in poor or mediocre condition.
- Driving on these roads leads to an additional $182 per motorist per year in increased vehicle repairs and operating costs.
- According to Governor Bill Haslam (R), repaying state infrastructure debts is a major infrastructure goal for Tennessee.
Women's Rights/Reproductive Justice
- Tennessee has three Planned Parenthood centers.
- In 2015, all three centers were in rural, medically underserved, or health provider shortage areas.
- On average, there is one Planned Parenthood for 434,334 women of reproductive age.
Policy Solutions / Issues
- There were 11 abortion providers in Tennessee in 2015.
- In 2014, 3.5 out of every 1,000 women of reproductive age in Tennessee had an abortion. The national abortion rate is 14.6.
Policy Solutions / Issues
- There is a 48-hour waiting period required after mandatory counseling.
- Parental consent and notice is required for minors.
- Medical abortion is limited.
- Private insurance coverage is limited.
- State Medicaid does not fund most abortions.
- TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws exist.
Women and Wages
- In Tennessee, 16.3% of women live in poverty. 42.7% of single mothers live in poverty, as do 11.6% of women age 65 and older.
- For every dollar made by men, women are paid $0.81, which is one cent above the national average of $0.80.
- African American women are paid $0.69 for every dollar paid to white men, while Latina women make $0.51 for every dollar made by white men.
- In 2014, there were 74,023 reports of domestic violence. Many other incidents went unreported.
- In 2014, 43 Tennesseans were killed by intimate partners.
- Approximately half of all forcible rapes reported to Tennessee law enforcement in 2014 were perpetrated by intimate partners.
Religious freedom law
Religious freedom laws protect people's right to practice their religion and limit laws imposing on that right, and were intended to protect religious minorities. A State Preservation of Religious Freedom Act was enacted in Tennessee in 2009 for that purpose, but it has been recently used to claim that the rights of people or business owners are violated if they are not allowed to deny service to LGBTQ+ people. A bill to increase its reach was introduced in 2016 but failed to be enacted.
Tennessee lacks nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, adoption, foster care, credit, education, insurance and jury selection.
Tennessee also lacks laws protecting LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in certain parenting issues, including second-parent adoption, surrogacy, foster care, parental presumption for same-sex couples, and consent to inseminate. In March 2017 Tennessee passed a law requiring that "undefined words be given their natural and ordinary meaning", which could be interpreted as narrowing the scope of some marriage and parenting laws and restricting the rights of LGBTQ+ people. A lawsuit against this law was dismissed, but in her decision the County Chancellor stated that same-sex couples have the same rights as heterosexual couples when it comes to artificial insemination.
Hate crime laws
Tennessee includes sexual orientation, but not gender identity, in its protected group laws. It doesn't have required reporting of hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people.
Tennessee does not have certain laws protecting LGBTQ+ youth, such as transgender inclusion in sports, protection from conversion therapy, laws to address LGBTQ+ youth homelessness, LGBTQ+ inclusive sex education laws, and LGBTQ+ inclusive juvenile justice policies.
Health and safety laws
- Tennessee does not have certain laws protecting the health and safety of its LGBTQ+ citizens, including nondiscrimination protections in the ACA exchanges, a ban on insurance exclusions for trans health care, trans-inclusive health benefits for state employees, gender marker changes on identification documents, health data collection, and gender-neutral single-occupancy restrooms.
- Tennessee does have laws that discriminate against LGBTQ+ people in ensuring their health and safety, such as a law that criminalizes HIV/AIDS and another that prohibits transgender people from receiving appropriate ID.
- HIV criminalization laws are those that make it illegal for an HIV-positive person to “knowingly expose” another person to HIV—in some states, this means that it is illegal not to disclose HIV-positive status to a sex partner, but many laws criminalize behaviors that are unlikely to lead to transmission. Because the laws focus on disclosure, not actual transmission, they serve no real purpose. All states have other, non-HIV-specific laws that can be used to prosecute transmission of HIV, so these laws just needlessly single out and stigmatize HIV-positive people and reinforce the image of them as “dangerous.” It also allows the saliva or blood of an HIV-positive person to be classified in court as a “deadly weapon.” HIV criminalization laws also disproportionately target people of color, mainly Black people, and gay men.
- Tennessee is ranked 46th in per-pupil spending as of 2013, with an average expenditure of $8,208 per student.
- As of 2013, Tennessee ranked 35th in teacher pay, with teachers earning an average of $48,289 per year.
- 87% of students in Tennessee attend public schools. As is the case in other states, students who attend private schools come from wealthier families, with private school families earning an average 91% higher income.
- As of 2014, public charter school enrollment accounted for 1.6% of total public school enrollment.
- 91% of White students, 81% of Hispanic students, 79% of Black students, and 93% of Asian/Pacific Islander students graduate from high school in four years. The graduation rates across these subgroups are slightly higher than the national averages.
Consumer Protections / Workers' Rights
- Tennessee has no state minimum wage, so the minimum wage in the state is the same as the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
- Tennessee has no state law for paid sick leave.
- Tennessee has no state law for paid family leave.
- Tennessee has Right-to-Work laws, which means that the state can prohibit unions that collectively bargain on behalf of both members and nonmembers from requiring union fees for the services they provide to all workers they represent. Such laws are designed to reduce unions' income and power.
- Tennessee is a state with an at-will exemption. "At-will" means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time for any reason, except an illegal one, or for no reason, without breaking the law. Likewise, an employee is free to leave a job at any time for any or no reason with no adverse legal consequences.
- Tennessee also has a public policy exemption, meaning that an employer may not fire an employee if it would violate the state's public policy doctrine or a state or federal statute, including refusing to perform an act that state law prohibits (e.g., refusing an employer's request to commit perjury at a trial), reporting a violation of the law (e.g., reporting an employer's fraudulent accounting practices or use of child labor), engaging in acts that are in the public interest (e.g., joining the National Guard or performing jury duty) and exercising a statutory right (e.g., filing a claim under the state workers' compensation law).
- Tennessee does not allow for implied contract exemptions.. An implied contract can be created in several different ways: oral assurances by a supervisor; or handbooks, policies or practices as written assurances by the employer. This means that if there is no written contract between the employer and employee, that employee may have an exception of fixed term or even indefinite employment based on an employer's statements. As a general rule, courts disregard language promising long-term, lifetime or permanent employment as aspirational and consider the relationship to be at-will.
- Tennessee does not support the Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing. Courts have interpreted the covenant in different ways, from requiring just cause for termination to prohibiting terminations made in bad faith or motivated by malice.
Climate / Environment
- Almost 50% of Tennessee’s electricity generation is nuclear, about 40% is from fossil fuels and the rest is from renewable sources.
- Tennessee has 17 sites on the National Priorities List.
- Approximately 3.2% of Tennessee’s land is federally owned.
- In 2014, the Black population had the highest air pollution exposure indices—of 69—compared to an overall index of 52 and a White index of 47.
- In 2012, Native American adults in Tennessee were most likely to have asthma—12.3%, compared to 7.6% overall.
- The environmental agency in Tennessee is the Department of Environment and Conservation, which has delegated responsibility from the US EPA to regulate sources of air pollution, solid and hazardous waste, radiological health issues, underground storage tanks, water pollution, water supply and groundwater.
- Tennessee does not have a climate action plan.
- Tennessee does not have renewable or alternative energy portfolio standards.
- Tennessee has the eighth-highest rate of disability in the US: 15.5% of Tennessee's residents are disabled, compared with the national average of 12.6%. [2015 US Census American Community Survey, Table R1810]
- The employment rate among disabled adults in Tennessee is 30.4%, compared to the national average of 34.9%. People without disabilities in Tennessee have a 76.0% employment rate. [2015 US Census American Community Survey, Tables R1811 & B18120]
- Approximately 19.4% of eligible voters in Tennessee have one or more disabilities, compared to a national average of 15.7%.
- Of adults with disabilities in Tennessee, 30.6% live in poverty, as opposed to 13.4% of non-disabled adults. [2015 US Census American Community Survey, Table B23024] The poverty rate for disabled children under 5 is 34.1%, as opposed to 28.0% for non-disabled children. [2015 US Census American Community Survey, Table B18130]
- In Tennessee, 5.8% of adults between 18 and 64 receive SSI (Supplemental Security Income), compared to the national average of 5.4%. [2015 US Census American Community Survey, Table B19056]
Organizations and Events
Find state/local chapters of national organizations here.
Resistance, Social Justice, Civil Rights
- ACLU of Tennessee
- Black Lives Matter Knoxville
- Black Lives Matter Memphis
- Black Lives Matter Nashville
- Gideon's Army
- Highlander Research and Education Center, grassroots organizing and movement building in Appalachia and the South
- Just City
- Liberal Tennessee
- Midsouth Peace & Justice Center
- No Exceptions Prison Collective
- Progressive Tennessee
- Progressive Women of Tennessee
- Nashville Feminist Collective
- SURJ Nashville
- TN Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition
- Tennessee is NOT for Sale
- Tennessee Progressive League
- United Campus Workers
- Workers Dignity/Dignidad Obrera
Environmental Justice Groups
Disability Rights Organizations
- Disability Rights Tennessee—offices in Nashville, Knoxville and Memphis. tel:800-342-1660.
- East Tennessee Technology Access Center 116 Childress Street, Knoxville, TN 37920. tel:865-219-0130.
- Nashville IDD Housing Group
- Tennessee Disability Coalition—955 Woodland Street, Nashville, TN 37206. tel:888-643-7811.