School vouchers, juvenile justice, and maternal health, among the issues that the Black Caucus and the Cookeville Putnam NAACP focused on the legislature begins its second month of work.
NAACP Branch President Tom Savage said keeping the public informed about state legislation is key to helping the Congressional Black Caucus. He said the Cookeville NAACP organized a legislative “Day on the Hill.” He said they will travel to the capital to lobby for both positive legislation and bills that could potentially be harmful.
“To help the Black Caucus, you’ve got to talk to the majority white caucus too,” Savage said. “So, we know that we will be talking to people that may not share our values or stand for things that we’re talking about, but we try to find some way to find common ground.”
Cokeville-Putnam County NAACP Branch Secretary Geeta McMillan said the Upper Cumberland has exceptional schools and the voucher program will take money directly from those school’s budgets and the pockets of citizens. McMillan spearheaded the Capital visit. She said there are a handful of bills that have the NAACP’s close attention.
“Tennessee has some of the highest rates of maternal and infant deaths,” McMillan said. “It’s inexcusable for our state to have that kind of a health care system where it is dangerous to be a mama.”
She said the NAACP is devoted to walking alongside the black caucus to fight for these issues.
Savage said the NAACP shares many of the concerns that the Black Caucus discussed during a recent meeting with the local chapter. He said of the thousands of bills presented each legislative session, they try to prioritize a few that they find to be most important.
“We want to understand the process so that we can pass that information on to the people who are concerned in the Upper Cumberland,” Savage said. “That is what the process is when we want to know about legislation that is being created almost immediately when it comes off of their mental.”
McMillan said the role of the NAACP is not just to talk with legislators, but also make sure the public knows what is happening.
“To me, voting and paying attention are two of the most important things you can do,” McMillan said.