FA­VORS RE­MAINED A HAPPY WAR­RIOR

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - OPINION -

As the lone Demo­crat in the Hamil­ton County state leg­isla­tive del­e­ga­tion, Rep. JoAnne Fa­vors al­most al­ways was row­ing against a stiff head­wind.

But in do­ing so, she has said, and her Repub­li­can col­leagues have echoed, she re­mained a happy war­rior.

Fa­vors, 75, an­nounced Mon­day she will re­tire at the end of her cur­rent state House term, her sev­enth.

She is one of only 26 Democrats in the 99-mem­ber House and one of only two black mem­bers in East Ten­nessee. How­ever, her lead­er­ship and her longevity have el­e­vated her to the po­si­tions of House Demo­cratic whip and vice chair­woman of the Ten­nessee Black Cau­cus of State Leg­is­la­tors.

Since the end of the 2011-2012 term, when then-state Sen. Andy Berke chose not to run for re-elec­tion and when a re­dis­tricted leg­is­la­ture forced Fa­vors to run against fel­low Demo­crat Rep. Tom­mie Brown, a race she eas­ily won, she has been the county’s lone Demo­cratic state rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

Yet, Repub­li­cans have spo­ken kindly of her will­ing­ness to work with them when they had sim­i­lar in­ter­ests and of her cor­dial­ity when they did not.

Over the past year, Fa­vors spon­sored, and sev­eral of her lo­cal col­leagues worked with her on as-yet un­suc­cess­ful leg­is­la­tion to have three-point safety har­nesses in­stalled on Ten­nessee school buses. Her pas­sion on the is­sue was kin­dled af­ter the deaths of six Wood­more School stu­dents and in­juries to oth­ers in a Nov. 21, 2016, school bus wreck on Tal­ley Road, which is within her 28th leg­isla­tive district.

Her bill is not dead but re­mained over the sum­mer in the Fi­nance Com­mit­tee, where it had ad­vanced and — de­spite her work to ed­u­cate House mem­bers on the ad­van­tages of safety re­straints and pare down the costs — stalled over those costs.

In an­other ef­fort where she worked across po­lit­i­cal lines, Fa­vors — a for­mer nurse, health care clinic ad­min­is­tra­tor and Chat­tanooga State nurs­ing fac­ulty mem­ber — sup­ported Repub­li­can Gov. Bill Haslam’s ul­ti­mately un­suc­cess­ful In­sure Ten­nessee pro­gram, which would have uti­lized fed­eral Med­i­caid money to of­fer health in­sur­ance to per­sons with no ac­cess to cov­er­age or few op­tions.

Over the past sum­mer, the long­time law­maker was ac­tive in ad­vo­cat­ing for an al­ter­na­tive so­lu­tion to the state tak­ing over five low-per­form­ing schools in Hamil­ton County. The state had warned for sev­eral years that if the schools did not make ad­e­quate progress by the end of the 2016-2017 term, a new so­lu­tion would be put in place.

That so­lu­tion, be­ing pre­pared to be put in place dur­ing the 2017-2018 term, is ex­pected to be some type of over­lap­ping hy­brid in­clud­ing the state’s sug­gested Part­ner­ship Zone and the district’s re­cently cre­ated Op­por­tu­nity Zone.

We salute Fa­vors’ ser­vice, wish her well in re­tire­ment (af­ter the 2018 House ses­sion) and will be anx­ious to see what type of leader rises to take her po­si­tion in the Gen­eral As­sem­bly.

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