The Flip 26 Studio Conversations

Dr. Marcus Mauldin / TN Gun Laws: How We Became the Wild West

When Tennessee passed permitless gun carry last year, most Tennesseans didn’t like the law and our law enforcement organizations loudly opposed it. In fact, nobody was asking for this law but the gun lobby. So why do our state lawmakers refuse to protect us from gun violence? Dr. Marcus Mauldin, associate professor of political science at UTC, explains the past and present of Tennessee’s gun laws, the embrace of gun culture by evangelical Christians, and whether we’ll get sensible gun laws in Tennessee (spoiler alert: not with this legislature).

Taylor Lyons / TN's Trigger Laws

When Taylor Lyons joined me in the studio, we knew it was just a matter of time before SCOTUS would overturn Roe, directly affecting women in Tennessee and other “trigger law” states. While pro-choice arguments usually focus on bodily autonomy, a critical issue our state lawmakers don’t seem to understand–or care about–is the physical danger and emotional trauma this law will cause for pregnant women who need an abortion for medical reasons. Taylor has been there, and she was kind enough to share her story.

Betty West / Homelessness

Our state lawmakers in Nashville outdid themselves in the cruelty department this year by making it a felony to sleep in a public place. Yes, they criminalized homelessness.

Betty West has been on the front lines helping Chattanooga’s homeless. She’s heard how one piece of bad luck can land someone on the street, and how a tent or even a new pair of shoes can make that person’s life a little less awful. She also knows what doesn’t work to fix homelessness. (Criminalization isn’t it.)

It’s a tough issue–and one we have a moral obligation to address humanely.

Kendra Young / The TN Teacher Crisis

Tennesseans just watched Gov. Bill Lee—whose wife and sister are teachers, and who leads a state that employs some 80,000 K–12 teachers—sit quietly by while his “education advisor,” Larry Arnn, insulted the entire profession.

Just one more reason our public-school teachers are leaving in droves.

Tennessee’s K–12 schools have been underfunded for years. Our school buildings are crumbling. Thousands of teaching positions are unfunded and unfilled, and the teachers we do have lack the resources they need to do their jobs.

Now the Lee administration is hyping its massive new public education funding package, passed in a hurry at the end of this year’s legislative session. On tonight’s podcast, Hamilton County teacher Kendra Young, who has her finger on the pulse of Tennessee’s education policy, talks to us about the politics of chronic disinvestment in our schools, and what’s really in that new legislation. We recorded this before the Arnn bombshell, but Kendra still has plenty to say.

Caroline Mickey / School Book Bans

Caroline Mickey, a school librarian in Hamilton County, has seen how books on tough topics can give struggling kids solace, and how books on unfamiliar topics can expand a kid’s world. So she understands all that’s at stake when books—and students’ access to them—become collateral damage in a political war. Caroline joined me in the Flip 26 Studio to talk about what school librarians do and how they’re trained, the transformative power of literature, and what it’s really like to do what she does in this weird new landscape.

 

Required watching for book lovers.

Judy Walton / TN's 'Right to Work'

People-powered change is happening in Tennessee. My next guest on Flip 26, Judy Walton, is paying attention. A former Chattanooga TFP reporter who covered state and local politics, Judy has been digging into the data on Right to Work states like TN, where we are paid less, have less access to health insurance and paid family leave, and have fewer opportunities for training and advancement. She’s also watching the modern unionization movement, fueled by a new generation of Tennesseans who know their worth and won’t be intimidated by state-sanctioned union busting.

 

Let’s be ready to stand with them.