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Bill Lee (Tennessee politician)

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Bill Lee
Bill Lee 2020.jpg
50th Governor of Tennessee
Assumed office
January 19, 2019
LieutenantRandy McNally
Preceded byBill Haslam
Personal details
Born (1959-10-09) October 9, 1959 (age 61)
Franklin, Tennessee, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Carol Ann Lee
(m. 1984; died Template:Str ≠ len)

Maria Lee
Template:Str ≥ len
(m. 2008)
ResidenceGovernor's Mansion
EducationAuburn University (BS)

William Byron Lee (born October 9, 1959)[1] is an American businessman and politician serving as the 50th and current governor of Tennessee.[2] Elected in 2018, Lee campaigned as a business-oriented member of the Republican Party.[3] Before entering politics he held various positions at the Lee Company, an inherited family business; he was the company's president and CEO from 1992 to 2016.[4]

Early life and career[edit source | edit]

Lee was raised on his family's 1,000-acre (400 ha) cattle farm started by his grandparents in Franklin, Tennessee, the Triple L Ranch; the family raises Hereford cattle.[5][6]

After graduating from Franklin High School in his hometown,[7] Lee entered Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama in 1977 and graduated in 1981[8] with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering.[5] In college, Lee was a member of the Kappa Alpha Order.

Lee was named president and CEO of his family's home-services and construction company, Lee Company, holding the position from 1992 until 2016.[5][9] He briefly served as chairman.[9]

Governor of Tennessee[edit source | edit]

2018 election[edit source | edit]

In April 2017 Lee announced his candidacy the 2018 election for governor of Tennessee.[9] A self-described social conservative, Lee also targeted pro-business Republicans.[9] In the Republican primary election, he ran against Congresswoman Diane Black, Knoxville businessman and former Tennessee Economic and Development Commissioner Randy Boyd, and state House speaker Beth Harwell.[9][10] Originally considered a longshot, Lee rose in the polls as Boyd and Black launched negative advertising against each other.[2][11] He won the August 2 primary with 291,414 votes (36.8%) to Boyd's 193,054 (24.3%), Black's 182,457 (23.0%), and Harwell's 121,484 (15.3%).[12]

Lee defeated the Democratic nominee, former Nashville mayor Karl Dean, in the November 6 general election,[13] receiving 1,336,106 votes (59.5%) to Dean's 864,863 (38.5%).[14]

Lee previously chaired and served on the committee of the Tennessee Prayer Breakfast.[15]

Tenure[edit source | edit]

2019[edit source | edit]

Governor Bill Lee taking the oath of office.

Lee was sworn in on January 19, 2019.[2] He issued five executive orders in his first two months in office; one addressed economically distressed rural counties in Tennessee, another addressed nondiscrimination in employment, and a third imposed a 90-day "freeze" on the issuance of new regulations by executive departments.[16] Lee announced that the governor's website would include a new feature to allow citizens to give feedback on bills that had passed through the General Assembly and were awaiting his signature or veto.[17]

As governor, Lee has rejected proposals to expand TennCare, the state's Medicaid program.[18] He supports legislation introduced in the Tennessee General Assembly to ban abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy, in potential conflict with the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.[19] In February 2019 Lee announced that his budget proposal for the 2020 fiscal year would include a repeal of the 10% amusement tax Tennessee levies on gyms, fitness centers, and health clubs. Lee argued that the tax discourages Tennesseans from being physically active. If enacted, the repeal would reduce state revenues by around $10 million.[20]

On March 4, Lee delivered his first State of the State address to the Tennessee General Assembly, talking about his plans for the future and how he believed that "Tennessee can and should lead the nation."[21] On March 7, Lee delivered a "state of West Tennessee" address at the University of Memphis. He is the first governor make a speech directed toward only West Tennessee; in the speech, he proposed creating more charter schools and that the state use $25 million to help traditional public schools when they lose students.[22] On April 4, Lee announced that the state would temporarily reinstate paper-based assessments for students taking the TNReady test, an annual statewide assessment, during the 2019–20 school year.[23]

On May 24, 2019, Lee signed into law a school voucher program that provides public funds to families so they can send their kids to private schools, effective at the beginning of the 2020–21 fiscal year,[24] but this program was later ruled unconstitutional.[25] On July 2, Lee signed into law House Bill 1158, a school safety bill that calls for school districts across the state to establish a threat assessment team.[26] On July 17 he visited Lauderdale County in West Tennessee to see how recent flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Barry had affected the community.[27]

On July 7, 2019, Lee signed an order proclaiming Nathan Bedford Forrest Day, as required by Tennessee law, celebrating an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan.[28]

On November 26, 2019, Lee, along with Comcast, announced a $2.4 million fiber network expansion that will bring high-speed broadband internet connection to Tipton County in West Tennessee.[29] On December 1, Lee proclaimed the first of December as Rosa Parks Day, which was the day that Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955.[30] In early December 2019, Lee visited several high schools and colleges in East Tennessee to promote the GIVE program, which prioritizes learning opportunities in rural counties and enhances career and technical education statewide.[31]

On December 10, Lee appointed Kyle Hixson to serve as a criminal court judge for the 6th judicial district, filling the spot of Bob McGee.[32] On December 13, Lee announced that the global industrial company Hyosung Heavy Industries would invest $86.9 million and develop 410 jobs over the next seven years in Memphis.[33] On December 18, Lee announced that Tennessee would continue to accept refugees, and in a letter to Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally and Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives Cameron Sexton wrote, "it is important to note that each and every refugee that might potentially be resettled in Tennessee under the President’s Executive Order will have been individually approved by the Trump Administration for legal immigrant status."[34]

On December 19, Vanderbilt University released a poll of Tennesseans over the fall of 2019 that showed Lee's approval rating at 62%, the highest of any statewide politician.[35] On December 26, Lee appointed former state senator Mae Beavers to serve a six-year term on the state Board of Parole.[36]

2020[edit source | edit]

On January 3, 2020, Lee visited Elizabethton to announce a $1 million grant to the Elizabethton TCAT. During his trip, he was met with protests from people who disagreed with Lee's decision to continue resettling refugees in the state. One protester, Elizabeth Cox, said, "We have homeless and veterans that are sleeping under boxcars and under bridges and freezing to death. We don’t need to look out for foreigners first."[37] On January 7 Lee signed an executive order that offered state employees three months' paid leave for new parents and caregivers of sick relatives. He described it as "one of the most cost-effective investments in the families of our state employees in recent history". The order is to go into effect on March 1.[38]

On January 14, Lee announced that he would sign a measure into law that assures continued taxpayer funding of faith-based foster care and adoption agencies even if they exclude LGBT families and others based on religious beliefs. Supporters of the measure argued that such measures are needed to protect against potential lawsuits hostile to the group's religious beliefs.[39] In response to this legislation, Amazon, which announced in July 2019 that it would bring 5,000 jobs to Nashville, stated, "Amazon does not support this legislation. We have a long history of supporting equality and we’re opposed to laws that discriminate or encourage discrimination.”[40] To explain why he signed the bill, Lee said, "I think equality is important and protection of rights is important and the rights of religious liberty are important. And that bill was centered around protection of religious liberty and that’s why I signed it."[41] Lee signed the measure on January 24.[42]

On January 23, Lee proposed a "heartbeat bill", which would ban abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected, similar to legislation that has been blocked in other states. Lee said the bill was "a monumental step forward in celebrating, cherishing and defending life." Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini responded, "No politician should be in the middle of the decision to end a pregnancy, choose adoption, or raise a child."[43][44]

On February 3, Lee delivered his second annual State of the State address. In the address, he outlined his vision for the state, which included creating a $250 million endowment to address mental health in K-12 education and extending TennCare to pregnant women who need dental care. Lee also proposed a $117 million investment to increase teacher salaries.[45][46] On February 13, Lee delivered his second annual "state of West Tennessee" address at Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee. In the address, he proposed investing $70 million to equip teachers with professional development, materials and other tools to help increase the state's literacy rate.[47]

On February 19, Lee denied clemency for death row inmate Nicholas Sutton.[48] Sutton had saved three corrections officers' lives.[49] Lee's statement read: “After careful consideration of Nicholas Sutton’s request for clemency and a thorough review of the case, I am upholding the sentence of the State of Tennessee and will not be intervening.”[50] Sutton was the third person to be put to death under Lee's tenure as governor. On February 22, Lee signed a bill making Tennessee's official nickname the "Volunteer State." The name originated during the War of 1812, when Tennessee sent 1,500 volunteer soldiers.[51]

On February 27, Lee announced his support for permitless carry legislation, which would allow lawful gun owners 21 and older to carry a firearm without a permit. Lee said, "This legislation is about increasing freedom for law-abiding citizens and implementing harsher penalties for criminals. With the freedom and liberties granted to us in the Second Amendment also comes a great responsibility to steward them wisely and protect our citizens." Many people opposed this legislation, including some Second Amendment supporters.[52]

On the night of March 2 and the morning of March 3, a series of tornadoes touched down across Tennessee, killing 25 people and injuring 150. On March 3, Lee said, "It’s heartbreaking. We’ve had loss of life across the state." Of the recovery effort, he said, "We’re doing everything that we can to respond to this. With that being said, this is a very difficult situation." Later that day, Lee surveyed the damage in Nashville, visiting Germantown and Tennessee State University.[53]

Personal life[edit source | edit]

Lee lives in Fernvale with his second wife, Maria, whom he married in 2008.[54] His first wife, Carol Ann, died in 2000 in a horseback riding accident.[55] After her death, Lee took extended time off from his construction company to raise his four children.[5]

Lee attends Grace Chapel Church in Leiper's Fork.[9]

Lee previously served as a member of the board of trustees of Belmont University, chairman of the YMCA of Middle Tennessee, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors, and a board member of the Hope Clinic for Women and the Men of Valor Prison Ministry.[5]

References[edit source | edit]

  1. Gov. Bill Lee: Tennessee, National Governors Association.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Joel Ebert & Natalie Allison, Bill Lee sworn in as Tennessee's 50th governor, nearly 2 years after long-shot bid, Tennessean (January 19, 2019).
  3. "Bill Lee has potential to be an inspiring Tennessee governor | Opinion". Knoxville News Sentinel. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  4. "Bill Lee stepping down as CEO of Lee Co". Nashville Post. February 5, 2016.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Tyler Jett, Who is Bill Lee? Bill Lee says he was called to run for governor, Chattanooga Times Free Press (July 6, 2018).
  6. http://www.lllranch.com/about.html About LLL Ranch (Retrieved September 16, 2019).
  7. "Franklin businessman Bill Lee raises $1.3 million for governors race". Williamson Home Page.
  8. Nathan Allison, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee says he regrets participating in 'Old South' parties at Auburn University, Tennessee (January 21, 2019).
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 Ebert, Joel; Garrison, Joey (April 23, 2017). "Republican Bill Lee announces run for governor of Tennessee". The Tennessean. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
  10. Ebert, Joel (August 2, 2018). "Bill Lee wins Republican nomination for governor of Tennessee". Tennessean.
  11. Ebert, Joel. "How Diane Black and Randy Boyd lost Tennessee's Republican primary for governor". Tennessean. Archived from the original on September 18, 2018. Retrieved August 7, 2018.
  12. August 2018 Primary Election Results, Secretary of State of Tennessee.
  13. Natalie Allison, Republican Bill Lee wins race for Tennessee governor, defeating Democrat Karl Dean, Tennessean (November 7, 2018).
  14. November 2018 General Election Results, Secretary of State of Tennessee.
  15. "Gov.-elect Bill Lee asks lawmakers for prayer, stresses his views on separation of church and state". The Tennessean. Retrieved 21 January 2019.
  16. Kathy Carlson, "Lee's executive orders fit trend for new administrations," Tennessee Ledger (February 22, 2019).
  17. "Tennessee gov site to take input on bills awaiting signature". WREG. February 19, 2019.
  18. Chris Bundgaard, TN Governor Bill Lee on Democrats' Calls to Expand TennCare (February 19, 2019).
  19. Jonathan Mattise, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, top GOP lawmakers back heartbeat abortion ban, Associated Press (January 30, 2019).
  20. "Tenn. Gov. Bill Lee to propose repealing 'gym tax' in 2019 budget". WATE. February 19, 2019.
  21. "Full speech: Read Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee's first State of the State address". Tennessean. March 4, 2019. Retrieved December 18, 2019.
  22. "Governor Lee delivers first-ever State of West Tennessee address in Memphis". WREG-TV. March 7, 2019. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  23. "Gov. Bill Lee: Tennessee to return to paper-based testing in 2019-20 school year". WBIR-TV. April 4, 2019. Retrieved December 16, 2019.
  24. "Gov. Bill Lee signs his controversial school voucher bill into law". Tennessean. May 24, 2019. Retrieved December 16, 2019.
  25. Gang, Duane W.; Testino, Laura. "Judge blocks state from continuing school voucher work as Tennessee seeks appeals court decision". The Commercial Appeal. Retrieved 2020-05-09.
  26. "Gov. Bill Lee signs school safety bill into law to mitigate school threats". The Tennessean. July 3, 2019. Retrieved December 16, 2019.
  27. "Gov. Bill Lee tours flood-affected areas in west Tennessee". WMC-TV. July 17, 2019. Retrieved December 16, 2019.
  28. Allison, Natalie. "Gov. Bill Lee signs Nathan Bedford Forrest Day proclamation, is not considering law change". The Tennessean. Retrieved 2020-05-09.
  29. "Gov. Bill Lee announces rural broadband expansion in West Tennessee". Chattanooga Times Free Press. November 26, 2019. Retrieved December 16, 2019.
  30. "Governor Bill Lee declares Dec. 1 as 'Rosa Parks Day'". WMC-TV. December 1, 2019. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
  31. "Gov. Bill Lee visiting East Tennessee high schools, colleges to promote GIVE program". WBIR-TV. December 6, 2019. Retrieved December 18, 2019.
  32. "Gov. Bill Lee appoints Kyle Hixson 6th Judicial District Criminal Court Judge". WBIR-TV. December 10, 2019. Retrieved December 16, 2019.
  33. "Gov. Lee announces global industrial company to create 400 jobs in Memphis". WMC-TV. December 13, 2019. Retrieved December 16, 2019.
  34. "Tennessee will continue accepting refugees, Gov. Bill Lee says, as legislative leaders signal disapproval". Tennessean. December 18, 2019. Retrieved December 19, 2019.
  35. "Vandy Poll: Trump, Lee, Congress, and Other Issues". MemphisFlyer.com. Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  36. "Mae Beavers named to Tenn. Board of Parole by Gov. Bill Lee". Tennessean. 2019-12-26. Retrieved 2020-01-01.
  37. "Gov. Bill Lee met by protesters on Tri-Cities visit". WJHL-TV. January 3, 2020. Retrieved January 6, 2020.
  38. "Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee calls for 12 weeks paid leave for state employees who are new parents, caregivers". January 7, 2020. Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  39. "Tennessee governor says he will sign anti-gay adoption bill". NBC News. January 15, 2020. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  40. "Tennessee Gov. Lee to sign anti-LGBTQ adoption bill despite Amazon, Nike opposition". CNBC. January 17, 2020. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  41. "Gov. Lee says he signed LGBT adoption refusal bill to protect religious liberty". WTVF-TV. January 20, 2020. Retrieved January 23, 2020.
  42. "Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signs bill allowing adoption agencies to deny gay couples". USA Today. January 24, 2020. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  43. "Gov. Bill Lee announces new fetal heartbeat bill, comprehensive abortion reform". WTVF. January 23, 2020. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  44. "Tennessee governor announces 'heartbeat' bill to restrict abortions". Fox News. January 23, 2020. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  45. "Gov. Lee and dentists push for more dental coverage for pregnant women". WBIR-TV. February 11, 2020. Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  46. "In second State of the State address, Gov. Bill Lee pushes major investments in education, raises for teachers and state workers". Tennessean. February 3, 2020. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  47. "Gov. Bill Lee delivers State of West Tennessee address". WMC-TV. February 13, 2020. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  48. https://www.nashvillescene.com/news/pith-in-the-wind/article/21117091/governor-denies-clemency-for-nick-sutton
  49. https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/20/us/nick-sutton-execution/index.html
  50. https://www.tn.gov/governor/news/2020/2/19/statement-from-gov--bill-lee-on-nicholas-sutton.html
  51. "Gov. Lee signs bill making Tennessee the 'Volunteer State'". WVLT-TV. February 22, 2020. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  52. "Gov. Bill Lee announces support for permitless carry legislation". WMC-TV. February 27, 2020. Retrieved March 2, 2020.
  53. "Gov. Bill Lee says search for survivors continues as individuals remain unaccounted for following overnight tornadoes". WMC-TV. March 3, 2020. Retrieved March 4, 2020.
  54. Grigsby, Karen; Ebert, Joel. "Midterm elections: Bill Lee wife next Tennessee first lady Maria Lee". Tennessean.com. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  55. "Campaigning for Tennessee governor: What life is like on the road with Republican Bill Lee". Tennessean.com. August 4, 2017. Retrieved November 8, 2018.

External links[edit source | edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Bill Haslam
Republican nominee for Governor of Tennessee
Most recent
Political offices
Preceded by
Bill Haslam
Governor of Tennessee
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Mike Pence
as Vice President
Order of Precedence of the United States
Within Tennessee
Succeeded by
Mayor of city
in which event is held
Succeeded by
Otherwise Template:Incumbent U.S. House Speaker
as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Andy Beshear
as Governor of Kentucky
Order of Precedence of the United States
Outside Tennessee
Succeeded by
Mike DeWine
as Governor of Ohio

Template:Governors of Tennessee Template:U.S. Governors Template:Tennessee statewide political officials

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