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

After hearing impassioned speeches from Black lawmakers, the Tennessee State Capitol Commission voted for the first time to remove the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

And, in a last-minute vote, the group also voted to take out two other military figures from the capitol’s second floor.

The initial proposal — of removing Forrest— has been championed by Black Sen. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, for years, as well as by activists.

“These monuments represent the values that unite us and the moral principles that guide our society,” Gilmore told the panel. “Nathan Beford Forrest does not represent the values of Tennessee.”

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

For the first time, Tennessee’s State Capitol Commission is likely to vote for the removal of the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest. The monument to the Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan grand wizard has been inside the building since 1978.

Gov. Bill Lee is scheduled to address the panel Thursday. It’s unclear if Lee will openly say whether he supports the removal of the Forrest bust.

Last week, he told reporters he wanted to follow the process laid out in state law when removing a monument.

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

A U.S. Supreme Court decision is being described as a “small victory” for abortion rights supporters in Tennessee, and it’s causing a leading anti-abortion group to call for a reset on opponents’ strategy.

The court ruled Monday that doctors do not have admitting privileges at a local hospital, striking down a Louisiana law. Tennessee has had a similar measure on the books since 2012, but it hasn’t been enforced for the past four years, when the Supreme Court struck down the same law in Texas.

Ashley Coffield, the president of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, told WPLN News the decision shows the highest court won’t support extreme measures to ban abortion.

Creative Commons

A U.S. Supreme Court decision is being described as a “small victory” for abortion rights supporters in Tennessee, and it’s causing a leading anti-abortion group to call for a reset on opponents’ strategy.

The court ruled Monday that doctors do not have admitting privileges at a local hospital, striking down a Louisiana law. Tennessee has had a similar measure on the books since 2012, but it hasn’t been enforced for the past four years, when the Supreme Court struck down the same law in Texas.

Ashley Coffield, the president of Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, told WPLN News the decision shows the highest court won’t support extreme measures to ban abortion.

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

In a late-night, last-minute vote, the Tennessee Senate passed what would become one of the most restrictive anti-abortion bills in the country.

The measure (SB2196/HB2263) had been championed by Gov. Bill Lee, although he said it was not a priority once the coronavirus pandemic struck in the state.

The measure would ban abortions after fetal cardiac activity has been detected — which happens about six weeks in the pregnancy.

The House voted on the measure Thursday morning, even as Republican leaders in the Senate were saying they would not pick it up because it was not related to the budget or the pandemic.

Sergio Martinez-Beltran | WPLN

Tennessee is sending about 1,000 National Guardsmen to Washington, D.C., to assist in the protests.

The nation’s capital has seen rioting as well as peaceful demonstrations against police brutality.

The announcement, made by Tennessee National Guard General Jeff Holmes on Tuesday, comes a day after guardsmen put down their riot shields at a peaceful rally against police brutality in Nashville.

 


WPLN News

The Tennessee Education Savings Account law — Gov. Bill Lee’s school voucher initiative — was declared unconstitutional on Monday evening by a Nashville chancellor.

At the center of the lawsuit, brought by Davidson and Shelby counties against the Tennessee Department of Education, was the interpretation of the state constitution’s Home Rule Amendment. The plaintiffs claimed that the school voucher law was unconstitutional because it singled out two counties without their consent.

Chris Wood, an attorney for the plaintiffs, celebrated the decision.

WPLN News

Liquor stores and breweries have been considered essential business in Tennessee throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

But just because they have remained operational, it doesn’t mean they are doing well. They have had to change how they do business in order to survive.

In late February, Southern Grist Brewing Company celebrated its anniversary of making some of the most experimental beer in the market.

Kevin Antoon, the founder, remembered the magnitude of the event. He said it’s unlikely to be repeated anytime soon.

WPLN News

Non-essential businesses across the state have been ordered to close as part of Gov. Bill Lee’s latest executive order.

Lee says this will strengthen the recommended social distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus. But the governor stopped short of requiring people to stay at home.

“This is not a mandate for people to shelter in place,” Lee told reporters in a videoconference Monday. “This is an urging for citizens to not utilize non-essential businesses.”

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán/WPLN News

The first case of coronavirus has made its way to Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee announced Thursday.

“As of last night we have our first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Tennessee,” Lee said.

Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said the patient is a 44-year-old man who lives in Williamson County. Piercey said he’d traveled out of state recently — but not internationally — and has been back in Tennessee for four to five days.

“We have been anticipating identification of COVID-19 cases in Tennessee,” Piercey said. “We are now working closely with the CDC and local health care partners to identify this patient’s contacts and contain the spread of this disease in our community.”

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.

 


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