Axios Nashville

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Today's newsletter is 816 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Behn vows to keep pushing grocery tax cut

State Rep. Aftyn Behn wants to start an organizing campaign over cutting the grocery tax. Photo: Courtesy of House Democrats

A proposal to permanently cut Tennessee's grocery tax was put on the back burner last week by a state House committee, but freshman state Rep. Aftyn Behn hopes to turn the issue into a statewide organizing effort.

Why it matters: Eliminating the 4% grocery tax would save the average Tennessee family about $400 annually, WKRN reports.

  • To offset the lost tax revenue, the proposal sought to close corporate tax loopholes for companies generating at least $250,000.

Zoom in: Tennessee remains one of 13 states with a grocery tax.

  • The state has implemented grocery tax holidays in the past, but Democrats argue the tax cut should be permanent since it would benefit working-class people the most.

State of play: Behn correctly predicted in an interview last week with Axios that her bill would be "placed behind the budget," which means it's likely going nowhere this session.

  • Behn says Democrats' pitch to eliminate the $700+ million annual grocery tax offers voters a point of comparison to Republicans' proposed $1.9 billion in franchise tax cuts and rebates.
  • Republicans began pursuing the franchise tax cut after a law firm representing businesses across Tennessee questioned state leaders about the legality of the tax, the Associated Press reports.

The other side: A competing proposal sponsored by state Rep. William Lamberth would allow city governments to reduce their taxes on grocery sales, putting the financial burden on local budgets instead of the state.

The big picture: The push to eliminate the grocery tax illustrates how Behn is approaching policy with a focus on pocketbook issues. The progressive Behn won her House seat last year in a special election to replace state Rep. Bill Beck, who died unexpectedly.

  • She's referred to herself as "political Barbie," underscoring her happy warrior approach this session.

Between the lines: Behn also collaborated with Republican state Rep. Todd Warner on a proposal to change how sexual harassment allegations in the legislature are investigated. That measure was rejected in the House.

  • "I think being the newest representative and the youngest woman in the House gives me a lot of space to be the dynamic organizer that I am in my career. The inherent structure of the Republican supermajority is innately aggressive against bipartisanship," she told Axios.

What we're watching: The grocery tax proposal speaks conservatives' language since Tennessee Republicans have been on a tax-cutting spree.

  • "Sen. Charlane Oliver [the Senate sponsor of the bill] and I are not going to back down pending its success or its loss. In the next few months we'll be organizing — this is an election year. We hope in the next three to five years we can eliminate it," Behn said.

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2. Vanderbilt picks new men's hoops coach

Mark Byington will reportedly be hired as the new Vanderbilt men's basketball coach. Photo: Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The Vanderbilt men's basketball team didn't get to experience the thrill of March Madness, but they are bringing in a new coach whose previous team did.

Driving the news: The Commodores are hiring Mark Byington as the new basketball coach.

  • Byington arrives in Nashville from James Madison, which scored a first-round upset of Wisconsin in the NCAA tournament last week.
  • He replaces Jerry Stackhouse, who mutually parted ways with Vanderbilt after winning just nine games this season.

By the numbers: Byington worked his way up the coaching ladder with stops at Virginia Tech and College of Charleston as an assistant. His first head coaching gig was with Georgia Southern, where he went 131-97 in seven seasons.

  • Under Byington, James Madison went 82-36 and won its first tournament game since 1983.

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3. The Setlist: Rep. Burchett sued

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett was sued in federal court for a false tweet about the Kansas City Chiefs victory parade shooting. (Knoxville News Sentinel)

Bristol, a city on the Tennessee-Virginia border, is at the center of the country's abortion debate. The procedure is banned on one side of town and allowed on the other. (USA Today)

🍺 TailGate Brewery's expansion is continuing, with an eighth location coming to Murfreesboro. (Nashville Post, subscription)

4. 🌡️ Spring is getting warmer

Data: Climate Central; Chart: Axios Visuals

The average spring temperature in Nashville has increased 2.2 degrees since 1970, per a recent Climate Central analysis.

Why it matters: Warmer springtime temperatures can lead to longer allergy seasons and changes in agricultural growing times.

Between the lines: Seasonal climate change discussions often focus on summer and winter, when temperatures are typically at their annual high and low extremes.

Zoom in: In Nashville, the average springtime temperature was about 59 degrees in 1970. It was 61 degrees last year.

Zoom out: Average springtime temperatures warmed by the same amount across nearly 230 U.S. cities analyzed by Climate Central, a nonprofit science and communications organization.

  • The group's analysis is based on NOAA data and looks at meteorological spring, which begins March 1 and ends May 31.

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5. 🏀 An unfortunate ending

Rickea Jackson #2 and Jasmine Powell #15 walk off the court following the Lady Vols loss. Photo: Lance King/Getty Images

The Lady Vols fell in the second round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament yesterday.

  • The team lost 79-72 to North Carolina State.

Our picks:

Nate's song of the day is "All in Good Time" by Iron & Wine and Fiona Apple.

⏰ Adam is really looking forward to April 7.

This newsletter was edited by Jen Ashley and copy edited by Katie Lewis.