Cooper: Rep. JoAnne Favors remained a happy warrior

Cooper: Rep. JoAnne Favors remained a happy warrior

November 15th, 2017 by Clint Cooper in Opinion Free Press

State Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, has said she will retire at the end of her seventh term.

Photo by Erin O. Smith

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.

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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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