Sergio Martínez-Beltrán

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is Nashville Public Radio’s political reporter. Prior to moving to Nashville, Sergio covered education for the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden, Utah. He is a Puerto Rico native and his work has also appeared on NPR station WKAR, San Antonio Express-News, Inter News Service, GFR Media and WMIZ 1270 AM.   

In his free time (once in a blue moon), Sergio can be found playing volleyball or in Flamenco Beach in Culebra, Puerto Rico. He is a graduate of Michigan State University and the coolest uncle (feel free to fact-check) to Olivia and Jimena. 

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

A Republican lawmaker wants a monument representative of the civil rights movement to be erected in the state Capitol.

Rep. Sabi Kumar, R-Springfield, told the State Capitol Commission Thursday that this is meant to unite Tennesseans who are divided over the Capitol bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

“Let us tell the full story so people coming to the Capitol will have an experience that is really a museum experience that tells the full story from Civil War to civil rights and the heroes on both side that we have,” Kumar said.

Chas Sisk | WPLN

Early voting for the presidential primary starts Wednesday in Tennessee.

Republican and Democratic voters will see multiple options on their ballots, but not all of them are still in the race.

GOP voters will have the opportunity to choose from President Donald Trump, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld and former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh. That last candidate dropped out of the race recently.

Republicans will also have the opportunity to vote for delegates for the national convention.

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

Democrats in the Tennessee General Assembly are calling on Gov. Bill Lee to increase the state’s spending on public schools.

They claim an increase in the school funding formula is the first step to improving literacy rates.

For years, public school advocates have pursued legal challenges to Tennessee’s school funding formula, called the Basic Education Program. They claim it’s outdated.

 


Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

More details are coming out as Tennessee prepares to launch the Education Savings Account program in Shelby and Davidson counties.

In a legislative hearing Monday, the state’s Department of Education said it’s using money from a dormant career initiative to be able to start school vouchers this year.

According to education officials, the money will pay for an outside vendor to be in charge of processing school voucher payments.

The amount charged by Florida-based ClassWallet is $1.2 million — twice as much as what was initially appropriated for the first year of implementation.

 


Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

The Tennessee Senate reconvened Tuesday and jumped into one of the most controversial issues left over from last year. 

Lawmakers approved a measure that would allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse child placements based on moral beliefs.  

Some lawmakers worry about the economic implications. Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, says he fears Tennessee will experience a corporate backlash over the adoption legislation, which he says discriminates against LGBT couples.

 


Stephen Jerkins/WPLN

 Two Republican lawmakers want to give the legislature the power to decide whether refugees should be allowed to resettle in Tennessee.

The bill, filed by Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, and Rep. Bruce Griffey, R-Paris, is the latest in a contentious debate between the legislature and Gov. Bill Lee.

The new proposal would create a two-step process. First, local governments would have to weigh in.

 


Flickr/Creative Commons/James Case

A new gun law that will take effect January 1, 2020 in Tennessee has raised some concerns — even among gun-rights advocates.

Many are calling the measure unsafe because it drastically cuts the training required to get a handgun permit.

Jim Mauth, a firearm instructor in Franklin, is one of them.

 


Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

There’s going to be a new debate next year about the future of the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest in the Tennessee Capitol.

The announcement came on Wednesday afternoon after pleas from activists — and some Republican lawmakers.

Tennessee Finance Commissioner Stuart McWhorter, the chairman of the State Capitol Commission, committed to having a meeting before the end of February.

“There are varying and diverse and passionate opinions about this,” McWhorter said during a commission meeting to discuss unrelated matters. “So, for that reason it requires serious time and effort.”

Flickr Creative Commons

Tennessee is not going to reach an ambitious educational goal set by the state in 2015, data released Wednesday shows. 

The state had hoped to outperform the national average by the end of the decade. But Nation's Report Card shows that student growth in the state has remained stagnant.

In 2015, the Tennessee Department of Education set a 5-year goal to move the state academically from the bottom half to the top half of all states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the largest standardized test administered nationally by the federal government.

 


Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

Members of the United Auto Workers union in Spring Hill cited the future of temporary workers at General Motors as a main reason why many of them voted against a deal meant to end the weeks-long strike with the automaker.

The Spring Hill local has rejected the proposal 51% to 49%, in one of the first votes on the contract nationwide.

Beth Bigley, 44, has been in the picket line for the last six weeks. She voted against the tentative agreement presented on Monday, mostly because she feels temporary workers are still not getting what they deserve.

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

Gov. Bill Lee is defending his decision to declare Oct. 10 a "day of prayer, humility and fasting."

The announcement of the declaration has been received with mixed emotions, and some groups are pushing back on it.

Lee says the idea of a day of prayer is to create unity across the state. 

 


Screenshot from teamhagerty.com

Former U.S. Ambassador Bill Hagerty officially launched his bid for U.S. Senate Monday, confirming a campaign that he'd been keeping quiet about despite President Donald Trump's announcing it for him in a tweet in July.

Hagerty, a longtime ally of Utah Sen. Mitt Romney and Tennessee's economic and community development commissioner under Gov. Bill Haslam, immediately moved to nationalize the race.

In an official launch video posted online, he said he felt called to act against what he describes as a "threat to Tennessee and to our country by the Democrats' socialist agenda."

Stephen Jerkins WPLN

Tennessee lawmakers will come back to Nashville later this week to pick a new House speaker.

The election will take place during Friday’s special session, which was called with specific guidelines on what can and cannot take place.

Gov. Bill Lee announced the special session in June, and according to the Tennessee Constitution, he has established what can be discussed during the meeting. The main purpose is for the House to elect its new speaker.  


Shatlina Chatlani/ WPLN

Following the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, Gov. Bill Lee said his administration will weigh legislation that would address the issue of gun violence.

But he's not ready to offer specific solutions without first taking a "deeper look" at the issue.

 

“I am a person who looks at options and considers the landscape that we are living in, and what it is that I believe would be the most effective way to protect citizens’ rights but protect our citizens at the same time," Lee told reporters Monday.

When Andrea and Leslie Isham got married in December of last year, they had a pretty unique wedding.

"We literally went into the bar, we paid the cover charge," Leslie Isham says. "We walked through the doors and sat down and just waited for the show."

The "show" was a drag show, the backdrop to the couple's wedding at a gay nightclub in Clarksville, Tenn., alongside friends, drag queens, bartenders — and like-minded strangers.

"We didn't have to worry about protesters showing up, or people being like, 'We don't want that here,' " Andrea Isham says.

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