Lee Harris

Senate Minority Leader

Memphis, TN

Pro-Growth Progressive Idea: Expanding opportunity by giving a preference in city contracts to those that provide workforce training 

Elected at the age of 36, Lee Harris holds the distinction of being the youngest senator, and the first African American leader, in the state of Tennessee.

Senator Harris has championed the causes of Tennesseans. Among his legislative initiatives, he has pushed for treatment coverage for persons with sickle cell, a condition that plagues communities across the state; advocated for new laws to protect children from abuse; and for expansion of recycling and environmentally-friendly practices in state government.

Prior to the 2014 election, Harris served on the Memphis City Council, where he stood as an unwavering voice for neighborhoods, gun safety, environmental protections, broad anti-discrimination laws, respect for reproductive freedom and privacy, and a strong middle class. In addition to serving as Senate Minority Leader, Senator Harris works as a tenured full professor of law at the University of Memphis Law School. He is the only African-American to achieve that rank in the history of the Law School and the inaugural holder of the Federal Express Professorship in Law.

Pro-Growth Progressive Ideas Shared

Problem

Previously, the law stated that an ex-offender could petition for their certificate of employability, which is available to ex-offenders who committed non-violent crimes and can help them land a job, only if they were in the process of restoring their rights of citizenship, which is a lengthy process in its own right. This made it difficult for ex-offenders to get a job and reenter the workforce.

Solution

My bill unlinks the certificate of employability process from the restoration of citizenship to make it easier for ex-offenders to apply for the certificate and reentering the workforce.


Problem

Narcan, or naloxone, is a powerful opioid antagonist used by first responders to treat those experiencing an opioid overdose. Medical professionals tell us that when an individual experiencing a drug overdose wakes up from narcan administration, they think they are okay. However, they are not medically stable. We understand from medical professionals, including Knoxville Tennessee EMS that they have to return to the same person they just treated due to the fact that they have stopped breathing. It is a temporary reversal and further medical intervention is critical.

Solution

This bill represents the new best practice when administering narcan. As the opioid epidemic rages on, narcan will only increase in usage. If someone is treated with narcan, this bill requires that they should be taken to the hospital to ensure they are okay and to prevent yet another opioid overdose fatality. At the end of the day, this bill is about acknowledging what we know about the science around drug overdose treatment.


Problem

Parole hearings are often delayed, which can significantly impact someone's life. My bill was inspired in part by the story of Mr. Robert Polk, who was on parole when a false charge was lodged against him. Despite the DA dismissing the charges quickly, Mr. Polk was immediately arrested and re-incarcerated for parole violation, where he had to wait more than a year for a parole hearing.         

Solution

My bill provides expedited review by the board of parole, when requested by a judge or DA, to address cases when someone has been falsely accused of (and subsequently reincarnated) for a parole violation. Since the bill became law in April, we have become aware of at least one other case that warrants expedited review. Even just one case of an individual languishing in jail or prison when they are innocent necessitates the passage of this new law. We are excited at the prospect of folks being able to get out of jail or prison, allowing them to return to society and allowing our corrections system to become further unburdened. We also believe that this is a policy that could be widely adapted across the country.