Tuesday, February 28

Global appliance maker to bring plant, 500-plus jobs to Clarksville (Tennessean) South Korean multinational electronics company LG Electronics Inc. plans to build a home appliances plant in the Clarksville area, bringing more than 500 jobs to the Middle Tennessee city, according to sources familiar with the deal. Gov. Bill Haslam and other state officials will join LG Electronics executives Tuesday afternoon for a formal announcement at the state capitol. The expansion into Montgomery County comes after LG Electronics recently broke ground on a $300 million new North American headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. The company and fellow Korea-based manufacturer Samsung Electronics have been pursuing U.S. plants or distribution hubs even as the new Trump administration in Washington has threatened to impose an import tax. http://www.tennessean.com/story/money/real-estate/2017/02/27/global-appliance-maker-bring-plant-500-plus-jobs-clarksville/98497270/

New plant for Korean appliance giant bringing hundreds of jobs (Nashville Business Journal) A giant manufacturer headquartered in South Korea plans to build a factory in Middle Tennessee where hundreds of employees will produce washing machines and other appliances. LG Electronics Inc., which scouted sites under the code name Project Baseball, has chosen to open a factory in Clarksville, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the deal. Officials with LG Electronics are set to appear with Gov. Bill Haslam at a Tuesday afternoon press conference in the state Capitol to formally announce the deal, sources said. LG Electronics Inc. plans to build a factory in Middle Tennessee where hundreds of employees will produce washing machines and other appliances. http://www.bizjournals.com/nashville/news/2017/02/27/new-plant-forkorean-appliance-giant-bringing.html

Gov. Bill Haslam among governors meeting with Trump on health care (AP) President Donald Trump warned Monday that the nation’s health care system was in danger of imploding and said Congress must make fundamental changes to the sweeping health law passed by his predecessor. Trump said at a White House meeting with dozens of governors — including Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam — that he hoped to overhaul the American tax system but that was a “tiny little ant” compared to what he would need to do to remake the so-called Obamacare law.  http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/27/gov-bill-haslam-among-governors-meeting-trump-health-care/98488570/

The Rise of the COO in State Government (Governing) In the summer of 2015, Oregon and other Western states suffered from brutal wildfires that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to contain and destroyed thousands of homes. At the worst moments of the crisis, the director of forestry was determined to send warnings out to citizens. The solution? He reached out to the director of transportation, and immediately Oregon’s electronic highway message boards were delivering warnings about wildfire dangers. This kind of interagency cooperation would have been difficult to pull off in the past. But Oregon benefited from the creation of a relatively new position in that state: chief operating officer (COO). It was created by former Gov. John Kitzhaber five years ago and has continued under current Gov. Kate Brown. n Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam in 2013 appointed longtime IBM executive Greg Adams to be the state’s first COO. The position stemmed from a need that Haslam and his staff perceived in his first two years in office. http://www.governing.com/columns/smart-mgmt/gov-state-chief-operating-officers.html

ETSU’s diversity, equity and inclusion task force to help shape university moving forward (Johnson City Press) A task force commissioned by East Tennessee State University President Brian Noland will look at diversity, equity and inclusion, especially as it pertains to Gov. Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative and the changing face of higher education in Tennessee. This task force is not mandated by the state, but was requested by Noland as a tool to shape policy at ETSU. “Our diversity task force was created during the fall 2016 semester and was charged with reviewing institutional efforts that support and promote diversity and inclusion,” the university president said in a statement to the Johnson City Press. “This group, which is comprised of students, staff and faculty, will develop recommendations to further strengthen our work.” http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/Education/2017/02/27/ETSU-diversity-equity-and-inclusion-task-force-to.html?ci=stream&lp=5&p=

University of Memphis begins transition to its own board (Commercial Appeal) Cato Johnson knows one thing’s for sure about the coming months for him and fellow members of the University of Memphis’ first board of trustees: “it’s going to be extremely busy.” With the Tennessee General Assembly’s vote earlier this month implementing Gov. Bill Haslam’s Focus Act and confirming the nominations of 48 board members for six state schools, the transition from a central governing system to independent boards is underway. For Memphis, which has a target date of March 17 for its first meeting, that means logistical decisions about where, when and how often to meet, but also about the kind of role the board will play in the university landscape. http://www.commercialappeal.com/story/news/education/2017/02/27/university-memphis-begins-transition-its-own-board/98353368/

WSCC hosts VIPs to talk legislation (Citizen Tribune) The legislative luncheon held Friday on the Morristown campus of Walters State Community College featured a variety of topics, including across-the-board enthusiasm for Gov. Bill Haslam’s new budget proposal regarding education funding. Host Dr. Tony Miksa, WSCC president, was joined by representatives of the Tennessee Board of Regents and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology. The update from the Tennessee Board of Regents was presented by assistant vice-chancellor Shelley Travis, who traveled from Nashville to attend the meeting held in the college’s Duggins Foundation Room.   “We are excited about the governor’s budget recommendations for TBR institutions this year, including an increase of $49.6 million in operating funds. A portion of this is due to performance going up and the educational outcomes and improvements that our colleges have across the state,” Travis said.   http://www.citizentribune.com/news/wscc-hosts-vips-to-talk-legislation/article_29f59a44-fbe6-11e6-a0be-534716cac5d9.html

Deadline looms for new Tennessee Library and Archives (AP) Secretary of State Tre Hargett says this session is the last chance for Tennessee lawmakers to approve funding for a new building for the State Library and Archives. If the long-planned facility doesn’t get the OK this year, Hargett says he will have to pursue other options, for space and other reasons. Those would include placing historical materials in long-term storage where it wouldn’t be easily accessible to researchers. The $98 million facility would be built across from the new state museum that is under construction near the state Capitol in Nashville. http://fox17.com/news/local/deadline-looms-for-new-tennessee-library-and-archives

Committee chair not giving hints on looming gas tax discussion (Tennessean) The head of the House Transportation Subcommittee is being coy about her plans for the upcoming meeting when the panel is next expected to take up Gov. Bill Haslam’s gas tax proposal, as well as a competing plan. “I can’t lasso what the members want to do. I know what I’m going to do,” Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, said Monday after a legislative pre-meeting. “Stay tuned and you’ll find out.” Although Haslam’s proposal, which calls for a 7-cent-per-gallon increase on gasoline and is accompanied by a series of tax cuts, is listed first on the committee’s agenda, it is unclear whether it will be taken up first. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/27/committee-chair-not-giving-hints-looming-gas-tax-discussion/98499390/

Bills Aimed at Raising Road Project Funding Collide Again This Week (Memphis Daily News) The chairwoman of the House Transportation Subcommittee is defiant in her handling of legislation that could have derailed Gov. Bill Haslam’s fuel-tax plan, a high-profile measure on the panel’s calendar again Wednesday, March 1. The governor’s proposal stalled in the subcommittee last week when Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, an opponent of the fuel-tax increase, moved a bill to raise sales-tax revenue for transportation to the front of the calendar. The measure by Republican Rep. David Hawk is considered the main opposition to Haslam’s IMPROVE Act, which would raise gas and diesel taxes along with several fees to bring in about $400 million annually and start attacking a $10.5 billion backlog of road and bridge projects. https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2017/feb/28/bills-aimed-at-raising-road-project-funding-collide-again-this-week/

Proposed License Change Lists Citizenship Status (WTVF) A proposed bill aiming to change drivers licenses has sparked outrage from immigrant rights advocates. In an attempt to crack down on the number of non U.S. citizens voting in Tennessee, driver licenses would be modified. According to Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office, only one non U.S. citizen voted last year. Still though, State Senator Mae Beavers is moving forward with the controversial bill. The bill would place the words “Non US citizen” or “VISA” across the top of a person’s Tennessee driver’s license. http://www.newschannel5.com/news/proposed-license-change-lists-citizenship-status

Senate committee alters ‘alien’ ID bill (Tennessean) A bill that sought to require the state Department of Safety to put “alien” or “non-U.S. citizen” on various forms of identification in Tennessee was amended Monday to instead feature the word “visa.” The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, was altered after objections from some in the business community as well as the state’s economic development office. Beavers said she was amending the bill due to the objections while also raising questions about the ability for nonpermanent residents to use temporary identification to participate in voting. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/27/senate-committee-alters-alien-id-bill/98497252/

Demonstrators: We’ll keep protesting as long as lawmakers keep pushing the Bathroom Bill (WZTV) LGBT advocates said their rights are under attack by Tennessee lawmakers pushing discriminatory legislation at a rally Monday. Protesters were taking aim again on Monday at the controversial bathroom bill and several others making their way through the legislature. Lawmakers said the state’s “Bathroom Bill” is designed to clearly define safe boundaries for male and females in bathrooms, but opponents said it’s just one bill aimed at their rights of gay and transgender people in the state. “I am a trans person so I know something about the discrimination that goes on,” said Fredrikka Maxwell with Transgender Political coalition. http://fox17.com/news/local/demonstrators-well-keep-protesting-as-long-as-lawmakers-keep-pushing-the-bathroom-bill

Tennessee House passes bill requiring stricter income verification for welfare recipients (Times Free Press) Hundreds of thousands of Tennessee adults who are on TennCare, food stamps and/or welfare would undergo an enhanced income-verification process that regularly checks their incomes against other state and federal databases under a bill that cleared the state House Monday night. The GOP-majority House approved the measure, sponsored by Rep. Dan Howell, R-Georgetown, on a largely partisan 73-21 vote. Howell said the bill is intended to detect fraud and ensure benefits are going to those who truly need it while saving taxpayers money. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/breakingnews/story/2017/feb/27/tennessee-house-passes-bill-requiring-stricter-income-verification-welfare-recipients/415056/

Controversial Tennessee lottery bill clears House easily (Tennessean) The House on Monday passed a bill despite opposition from Democrats that, if it becomes law, would require the names of lottery winners to be cross checked with federal and state government assistance programs. Sponsored by Rep. Dan Howell, R-Georgetown, passed by a 73-21 near party-line vote on Monday night. The bill would make any lottery winner of prizes more than $5,000 ineligible for government assistance. Howell said federal law, which has a lower prize threshold, requires winners to self-report. Howell said state finance officials found more than 2,700 cases of fraud in the 2015-16 fiscal year, and contributed to $186 million in lost state funding. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/27/controversial-tennessee-lottery-bill-clears-house-easily/98502994/

With ‘People’s Bill Of Rights,’ Tennessee Democrats Hope To Seize Initiative From GOP Legislature (WPLN) Democrats in the Tennessee legislature are touting a list of policies that they say will benefit Tennessee’s middle class. Their “People’s Bill of Rights” consists of five core principles that they say justify actions like raising the state’s minimum wage, lessening sentences for marijuana possession and opposing school vouchers. “This is going back to the basics,” says House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley. “There’s not anything that you have not heard, and we have not been speaking about for years.” http://nashvillepublicradio.org/post/peoples-bill-rights-tennessee-democrats-hope-seize-initiative-gop-legislature#stream/0

‘People’s Bill of Rights’ would give 5 rights to all Tennesseans (Tennessean) Tennessee House Democrats are releasing a collection of bills they call the “People’s Bill of Rights” that would give five rights to all Tennesseans. The five rights are supported through multiple pieces of legislation that take aim at issues such as minimum wage, public schools, criminal justice reform and the right to participate. Many of the pieces of legislation have other bills that oppose the current effort. The Democratic caucus released its plan on Monday in the Capitol Rotunda as more than 100 protesters chanted and shouted for an array of causes and pieces of legislation. They challenged any lawmaker to stand against the provisions in the document. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/27/peoples-bill-rights-would-give-5-rights-all-tennesseans/98490496/

Senate approves bill to curb investments in private companies with campaign money (Tennessean) A bill that seeks to limit the ability of state legislators to invest campaign money in companies received overwhelming approval in the Senate on Monday. The legislation, introduced by Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, and Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, would require campaign funds be invested only in traditional banks or credit unions that have federal backing. Investing campaign funds in private companies came to light in recent months after the USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee revealed that former lawmaker Jeremy Durham invested campaign money into the company of Andrew Miller, a well-known Republican donor. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/27/senate-approves-bill-curb-investments-private-companies-campaign-money/98489528/

Tennessee lawmakers announce legislation to combat elderly abuse (Tennessean) Flanked by fellow lawmakers and representatives from the Elder Abuse Task Force, AARP and the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability, Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, announced three bills that would combat what he said was a “growing problem” of elderly abuse in Tennessee. “One of the fastest growing segments of our community in Tennessee is the elderly,” Norris said. “Unfortunately, this mirrors an equally fast growing statistic on crime.” Spurred by recommendations from a two-year study conducted by the Elder Abuse Task Force, the legislation aims to impose stricter penalties on those who prey on the elderly by enacting the Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/27/tennessee-lawmakers-announce-legislation-combat-elderly-abuse/98487402/   

Tenn. lawmakers move to increase elder abuse penalities (WZTV) Tennessee lawmakers are making the biggest change to elder abuse laws in Tennessee history according to advocates. Legislators introduced a bill Monday to increase penalties and fines for every type of elder abuse. “Physical abuse, sexual abuse and financial abuse, we are going after everything,” said Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville). http://fox17.com/news/local/tenn-lawmakers-move-to-increase-elder-abuse-penalities

New Legislation Targets Elder Abuse (WTVF) A group of lawmakers have teamed up to address what they said is a growing issue across the state – elderly abuse. The lawmakers announced legislation they said would address abuse of elderly or vulnerable adults in Tennessee. Senate Bills 1192, 1230 and 1267 would help protect against physical, mental, and financial abuse, and increase penalties for people who commit these crimes. The bills would increase criminal penalties for those found guilty of elderly abuse, increase communication between government agencies to raise awareness of scams, and ease restrictions on financial confidentiality laws so family members can report problems. The bills come from the Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Abuse Task Force. http://www.newschannel5.com/news/new-legislation-targets-elder-abuse

Tennessee lawmakers Norris, Gardenhire push bills to battle elderly abuse (Times Free Press) Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R- Chattanooga, and other lawmakers have unveiled a trio of bills aimed at protecting the elderly and other vulnerable Tennesseans from abuse. The bills are intended to expand “systemic protection” for victims of physical, mental and financial abuse, imposing tougher penalties on perpetrators convicted of the offenses. Among other things, the three bills would add elder abuse as an aggravating factor for juries to consider in death penalty cases. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/breakingnews/story/2017/feb/27/norris-gardenhire-push-legislation-battle-elderly-abuse/414992/

Tennessee lawmakers announce bills to protect elderly, vulnerable adults from abuse (WJHL) A local lawmaker is joining several others in the state by introducing measures to address abuse of the elderly and vulnerable adults in Tennessee. Sen. Rusty Crowe, of Johnson City, and other lawmakers announced the legislation Monday afternoon. The three Senate bills, 1192, 1230 and 1267, “would expand systematic protection for victims of physical, mental, or financial abuse and impose severe penalties on those who commit them.” The bills come from the recommendation of the Elderly and Vulnerable Abuse Task Force. In addition, lawmakers say the proposals build on the new law that was passed last year by the General Assembly. http://wjhl.com/2017/02/27/tennessee-lawmakers-announce-bills-to-protect-elderly-vulnerable-adults-from-abuse/

Anti-voter fraud bill offers $5,000 reward for tips (Tennessean) Lawmakers on Tuesday are set to debate a bill that would give $5,000 incentives for tips about voter fraud. Sponsored by Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough and Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, the bill would impose an additional $5,000 fine on those convicted of voter fraud and offers a $5,000 reward for reports leading to conviction of voter fraud. Van Huss said reports of 42 possible voter fraud cases last year inspired the legislation. He said the bill would not cost the state any money because the incentives would be offset by fines. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/27/anti-voter-fraud-bill-offers-5000-reward-tips/98499170/

Capitol Hill Conversation: Tennessee Lawmakers Confront Storm Of Protest (WPLN) For the past several weeks, Republicans have been dealing with rambunctious crowds in town halls and in legislative corridors. It’s happening across the nation and in Tennessee. They’ve sparked a debate: Are these authentic, grassroots protests of President Donald Trump, the Republicans in Congress and those controlling the Tennessee State Capitol? Or are they “Astro-turf” activists who’ve been paid to turn out? Political reporter Chas Sisk and Jason Moon Wilkins discuss the debate. http://nashvillepublicradio.org/post/capitol-hill-conversation-tennessee-lawmakers-confront-storm-protest#stream/0

Commission pick to replace Lovell could cast key votes (Tennessean) The Shelby County Commission could appoint a temporary successor for embattled former Rep. Mark  Lovell on April 3 — perhaps days before the 2017 legislative session ends, but in time to vote on some of this year’s most controversial legislation. The county Board of Commissioners will accept applications for the interim appointment to the vacant District 95 seat March 21-27 and run background checks on the applicants, according to commission staff. A committee chaired by Commissioner Justin Ford will interview the applicants March 29, and the commission will hear and vote on nominations April 3. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/government/county/2017/02/27/commission-pick-replace-lovell-could-cast-key-votes/98485172/

Craig Fitzhugh leaning toward run for governor; Bill Freeman out (Tennessean) Tennessee Democrats appear poised for a contested primary for governor in 2018 with House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh telling The Tennessean that he is likely jumping in the race. Meanwhile, Nashville businessman and top Democratic donor Bill Freeman says he won’t run for governor and is instead endorsing Fitzhugh. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2017/02/27/fitzhugh-leaning-toward-run-against-dean-governor-freeman-likely-out/98476158/

Local Democratic and Republican Partisans Already Looking To 2018 (Memphis Daily News) U.S. Rep. David Kustoff says former Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey was right in describing his 8th Congressional District as the most Republican of the state’s nine congressional districts. Kustoff told Shelby County Republicans over the weekend that the 2018 race for the Republican nomination for governor should see a lot of the contenders coming through the West Tennessee district that covers 15 counties including parts of Shelby County into East Memphis. “The people rose up and they spoke,” Kustoff said of the 2016 presidential election results at the annual Lincoln Day Gala on Saturday, Feb. 25. “You elected me to vote the right way.” https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2017/feb/28/local-democratic-and-republican-partisans-already-looking-to-2018/

Tennesseans want Obamacare repealed — but not yet, MTSU poll says (Tennessean) Tennessee voters want Obamacare repealed, but only after Congress has rolled out a replacement plan, according to a wide-ranging new poll from Middle Tennessee State University that exposed the state’s deep partisan divides. In addition to the fate of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the poll touched on other controversial topics, including illegal immigration, abortion, President Donald Trump’s allegations of voter fraud and school vouchers. In almost every case, voters’ opinions seemed tightly tied to their political leanings. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/27/tennesseans-want-obamacare-repealed-but-not-yet-mtsu-poll-says/98471516/

Report: Tennessee rising in political stature (News Sentinel) Tennessee has advanced in national political clout this year more than any other state has in the past decade, according an assessment by Roll Call, a Washington newspaper devoted to coverage of the U.S. Congress. The Congressional Quarterly publication does an annual “political clout index,” that it says provides “a quantifiable measurement of every state’s potential for power at the start of each new Congress.” Two years ago, Tennessee was ranked 14th in political clout, “unremarkable because that (ranking) is closely in line with its ranking as the 16th most populous state,” the report says, and six years ago it was No. 27, indicating “the 11-member delegation (two senators and nine representatives) was punching well below its weight.” http://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/local/tennessee/2017/02/27/report-tenn-rising-political-stature/98364932/

Committee deciding where to dump trash once landfill closes (WSMV) Nicknamed Mount Trashmore, the Middle Point Landfill hasn’t always been painted in the best light. “You know what garbage smells like when it’s been sitting in your trash can for weeks on end and how it sours?” Steve Ayers said. Many Murfreesboro residents, including Ayers, are counting down the days until it closes. That is expected to happen within 8-10 years when it can’t fit anymore waste. Then what? The trash has to go somewhere. A committee made up of representatives from Murfreesboro, Smyrna, La Vergne and Eagleville is trying to decide where that will be. “One of the absolute necessities will be whatever has the lowest impact on our residents,” said Murfreesboro Mayor Shane McFarland. GBB Solid Waste Management Consultants presented the committee with some options Monday night. http://www.wsmv.com/story/34619764/committee-deciding-where-to-dump-trash-once-landfill-closes

OPINION

Pam Sohn: State lawmakers must seek tax equity (Times Free Press) It’s time for a bit of tax equity and tax honesty. Tennessee’s Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is finding that as he seeks additional money for roads through proposed increases on fuel taxes, he’s opening a conversation about tax fairness. Haslam is pushing a bill to raise the tax on gas and diesel to help tackle a projected backlog of $10.5 billion in highway and bridge projects. But, with the state holding a $1.1 billion surplus in non-highway tax revenue that pays for general government functions like education and prisons, the governor also has proposed cutting three taxes by $270 million, including reducing the state’s 5 percent sales tax on food by a half percentage point, or $55 million. Herein lies the question of equity. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/opinion/times/story/2017/feb/28/sohn-state-lawmakers-must-seek-tax-equity/415055/

David Plazas: New Tennessee House sexual harassment policy worked (Tennessean) The difference between an agonizing, nine-month distraction and a prompt, one-week resolution of a problem is stark. The Tennessee House of Representatives’ new sexual harassment policy, which Speaker Beth Harwell put into place in the aftermath of the 2016 Jeremy Durham scandal, worked. And for that Harwell and her leadership team deserve full credit. Unfortunately, the first test for the 110th General Assembly came early this session, following a sexual misconduct accusation against former state Rep. Mark Dewayne Lovell. http://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/editorials/2017/02/23/new-house-sexual-harassment-policy-deserves-praise/98211984/

Guest column: Tennessee’s senators hold keys to killing energy regulation (News Sentinel) On their way out the door, bureaucrats with the Obama administration’s Bureau of Land Management slapped a reckless and unreasonable regulation on America’s oil and gas industry. The Methane and Waste Prevention Rule strangles economic development, threatens our nation’s energy independence and may actually do more harm than good for the environment. Fortunately, Congress has a small window of time to overrule harmful and unnecessary regulations after they are issued. The House of Representatives took advantage of this opportunity, voting earlier this month to shoot down these new controls on energy production. http://www.knoxnews.com/story/opinion/columnists/2017/02/27/drew-johnson-tennessees-senators-hold-keys-killing-energy-regulation/98490838/

Guest column: Why does American still need Black History Month? (Jackson Sun) Another Black History Month has come and gone but a few questions remain: Who needs Black History Month? Black history, after all, is American history. What would the country be without the contributions of African-Americans? Everyone knows that a runaway slave Crispus Attucks was the first to die in the American Revolutionary War. Benjamin Banneker, in 1753, is credited with creating the first clock built in America, and it was Banneker who became the chief architect for the layout of Washington, D.C. http://www.jacksonsun.com/story/opinion/columnists/2017/02/28/needs-black-history-month/98476186/

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Monday, February 27

GOP governors have plan for Medicaid (AP) Republican governors from seven states are calling for dramatic changes to Medicaid, which provides insurance to more than 70 million low-income Americans, as they nervously watch President Donald Trump and GOP congressional leaders move to repeal and replace the Obama-era health law. At the same time, they’re telling Washington: Don’t scrap the Affordable Care Act without a viable alternative. Led by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a frequent critic of some Republican proposals on health care, the governors are planning to present their proposal at their annual meeting in Washington on Saturday. In addition to Kasich, the governors are Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. http://www.journalgazette.net/news/us/GOP-governors-have-plan-for-Medicaid-17960311

Haslam’s gas tax plan faces resistance (WMC) Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has encountered some Republican resistance in Nashville to his plan to raise the state’s gas tax for the first time in almost three decades. One Mid-South legislative leader said the transportation issues are crucial. Collierville legislator and state senate GOP leader Mark Norris said he supported many cuts during his time in Nashville and the state has not been repairing roadways like it should. Money from the gas tax increase would be earmarked to clearing a $6 million backlog of state road projects. “I talk about keeping Tennessee safe,” Norris said. “I talk about public safety. We have 20,000 bridges here in Tennessee too, many of which are dangerous. They’re unsafe.” http://www.wmcactionnews5.com/story/34608766/haslams-gas-tax-plan-faces-resistance

Growing Push for More Tax Breaks in Haslam Road Funding Plan (AP) As Republican Gov. Bill Haslam takes his proposal to boost transportation funding on the road, there is a growing call for his plan to include bigger tax breaks for middle-class drivers who would pay more at the pump under Tennessee’s first gas tax hike since 1989. Haslam traveled to the upper Cumberland Plateau to make his case a day after the first major legislative test of his transportation bill resulted in lawmakers deciding to punt for the week instead of taking it up. The governor proposes balancing the $280 million per year he would raise for transportation with a series of cuts to other taxes. https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2017/feb/27/growing-push-for-more-tax-breaks-in-haslam-road-funding-plan/

Fall Creek Falls outsourcing largely bypasses State Building Commission oversight (Times Free Press) Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration is stirring up another political hornet’s nest with its ongoing privatization plans for Fall Creek Falls State Park. Tennessee architects and engineers have jumped into the political battle between the administration on one side and, on the other, state employees and Van Buren County who oppose outsourcing hospitality services at the remote Cumberland Plateau park considered the “jewel” of Tennessee’s park system. The architects and engineers say the administration’s request for proposals (RFP) to privatize hospitality services also has provisions that affect them and would largely bypass the State Building Commission, which oversees state building and renovation projects. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/politics/state/story/2017/feb/26/tennessee-architects-engineers-charge-haslam/414771/

Capitol Hill Conversation: Why Outsourcing Might Be Gov. Bill Haslam’s Biggest Legacy (WPLN) Governor Bill Haslam has been outsourcing some functions of state government almost since he took office. For many Tennesseans who don’t work in state government, it’s been out of sight. But the effects of privatization are becoming more and more apparent. WPLN’s statehouse reporter Chas Sisk has been following what could be a test case for the state. He sat down with Jason Moon Wilkins. http://nashvillepublicradio.org/post/capitol-hill-conversation-why-outsourcing-might-be-gov-bill-haslam-s-biggest-legacy#stream/0

Florida ruling could have implications in Georgia-Tennessee border dispute (Times Free Press) A key judicial recommendation seen as a victory for Georgia in its water war with Florida could have implications for a longstanding border dispute between Tennessee and Georgia — one centered on Georgia’s desire to pump water to Atlanta from Nickajack Lake. Peach State officials are praising the Feb. 14 recommendation by Ralph Lancaster, U.S. Supreme Court-appointed special master, which appears to deny an effort by Florida to limit Georgia’s use of the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers in South Georgia. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2017/feb/26/floridruling-could-have-implications-georgia-/414769/

Gatlinburg reviews alert system (News Sentinel) Officials in the scenic Gatlinburg area are reviewing the upgraded public warning systems after questions arose about residents and visitors receiving no alert of an approaching firestorm. High winds on Nov. 28, 2016, drove a five-day-old wildfire out of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and into Gatlinburg and the surrounding area, but public safety officials made few attempts to warn the 14,000 residents and visitors who fled the flames. http://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/2017/02/27/gatlinburg-reviews-alert-system/98353474/

5 things to watch in the legislature this week (Tennessean) After a shortened week because of Presidents Day, lawmakers will return to Nashville on Monday for four days of legislative action that will be filled with everything from the governor’s gas tax plan and an abortion bill to another effort for establishing a new state symbol. The following are among the things to keep an eye on this week: http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/26/5-things-watch-legislature-week-feb-27/98359212/

Tennessee bill being considered to phase out sales tax on certain products (Times Free Press) Tennessee lawmakers are considering legislation aimed at phasing out the sales tax on certain products, including food, in a move advocacy groups say would remedy a tax policy that hurts the poor. As written, the bill would reduce the state sales tax on diapers, feminine hygiene products, food and some over-the-counter drugs by half a percent annually, fully phasing it out on those items in 2027. Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, one of the bill’s architects, said the legislation could help lift what historically has been an undue burden on the people who make up Tennessee’s lowest income brackets. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2017/feb/26/poorest-stand-gamost-trimming-sales-tax/414770/

Transit Portion of Sara Kyle’s Bill Adopted by Governor (Memphis Daily News) Part of a plan by Sen. Sara Kyle and Rep. John Ray Clemmons to help local governments raise funds for mass transit projects is being adopted by Gov. Bill Haslam for his IMPROVE Act. The Republican governor added a section of the Kyle-Clemmons TNForward plan to his proposal this week, enabling local governments to hold referendums to increase the tax on property, business, motor vehicle, rental cars, tourist accommodations, residential development or tourist development zones to raise revenue for public transit. https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2017/feb/27/transit-portion-of-sara-kyles-bill-adopted-by-governor/

Mark Green defends bill called ‘thin veneer’ for discrimination (Tennessean) Democrats and Republicans in the Tennessee legislature and cities across the state are questioning a controversial bill they say is the first step down a path toward empowering discrimination and could keep cities “constantly” in court. Senate Bill 0127, filed by Clarksville Republican Sen. Mark Green, would prohibit action against a business for its internal personnel and benefits policies so long as those policies are already compliant with state law. “What we’re now saying is all personnel and employee benefit issues, we at the state are going to set what those are, and local communities cannot go beyond state law,” Green said Thursday on the Senate floor, the third time the bill has been discussed there. It was later kicked back to committee. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/26/mark-green-defends-bill-called-thin-veneer-discrimination/98324192/

Not in the Army now: Sam Whitson adjusts to hectic life on the Hill (Tennessean) It is a cloudy Wednesday morning in Franklin just after dawn and freshman House District 65 Rep. Sam Whitson is hurrying through his new routine. A perpetual early riser, Whitson is usually up before dawn, but on several recent mornings, for the first time in years, Whitson is rushing to make it to Legislative Plaza in Nashville, his “SP,” an old military term for “starting point.”  His wife, Pam, straightens his tie, he scrolls quickly through the traffic map on his computer looking for accidents along his route, says goodbye to his golden retriever Rudy and he’s out the door. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/williamson/2017/02/26/not-army-now-sam-whitson-adjusts-hectic-life-hill/98287516/

Rep. Duncan: Trump wrong that media is ‘enemy’ (Tennessean) Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. endorsed Donald Trump back when most other Republicans in Congress weren’t yet on board his presidential campaign. He likes Trump personally and agrees with him on most issues. But there’s one area where the Knoxville Republican thinks the new president is dead wrong. “I disagree with him completely on saying the press is the enemy of the people,” Duncan said. “I think it’s very important to the future of our country to have a free press and freedom of the press and to have a strong, active media. I think just about everybody in the United States – or most people in the United States – believes in freedom of the press.” http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/26/rep-duncan-trump-wrong-media-enemy/98321002/

Randy Boyd says he is ‘heavily leaning’ toward bid for governor (Tennessean) Former Tennessee Economic Development Commissioner Randy Boyd says he’s “heavily leaning” toward announcing his plans to run for governor in 2018 as he believes that no other candidate will top his campaign war chest. In a telephone interview Friday, the wealthy Knoxville native said since exiting his job as commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development last month he’s traveled to slightly more than a dozen counties, including Hamilton, Sullivan, Shelby and Davidson. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/24/randy-boyd-says-he-heavily-leaning-towards-bid-governor/98364942/

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean to run for governor of Tennessee (Tennessean) Karl Dean is running for governor of Tennessee in an uphill bid to become the first Democrat elected statewide in the Volunteer State since 2006. Casting himself as a pro-business moderate focused on education and jobs, the former Nashville mayor said he made the call after consultation with family, deciding he had “a reason and purpose” to run and determining there’s a path for him to win in a state where Republicans have dominated in recent years. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/26/former-nashville-mayor-karl-dean-run-governor-tennessee/98353738/

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean announces run for governor of Tennessee (WKRN) Former Nashville mayor Karl Dean announced he will run for the governor of Tennessee in 2018. The democrat said he will be assembling his campaign team this week. Dean is expected to name a treasurer Monday before building his campaign staff. After conferring with his family, Dean said he would run knowing it could be an uphill battle for a democrat to win in very republican Tennessee. The two-time mayor said he is determined there is a path for him to win. Dean had been traveling the state and taking its measure in recent months. He’s also written a new book touting the booming city’s successes, including many that took place or accelerated while he was mayor between 2007 and 2015. http://wjhl.com/2017/02/27/former-nashville-mayor-karl-dean-announces-run-for-governor-of-tennessee/

Democratic and Republican Partisans Prepare for Next Election (Memphis Daily News) At least five potential Republican candidates for Governor in 2018 were among the crowd of 400 people at the Saturday, Feb. 25, Lincoln Day Gala of the Shelby County Republican Party. Meanwhile, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry told a group of 150 Democrats at an “Obama Day” event Saturday that they and other Democrats across the state can elect one of their own as governor in 2018. The annual Republican party fundraiser at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis drew the presence of likely or prospective contenders Mark Norris, state Senate Republican leader of Collierville, former state Economic and Community Development commissioner Randy Boyd, fellow state Senator Mark Green of Clarksville, U.S. Rep Diane Black of Gallatin and businessman Bill Lee of Franklin. https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2017/feb/27/democratic-and-republican-partisans-prepare-for-next-election/

Save My Care bus to rally Knoxville ACA supporters Tuesday (News Sentinel) The Tennessee Health Care Campaign and the Save My Care organization are bringing the Save My Care bus tour to Market Square on Tuesday to protest repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The Save My Care bus, which plans to be in downtown Knoxville at 3 p.m. Tuesday, is part of the organization’s initiative to gather grassroots support for the ACA, established during the Obama administration. The bus tour has made dozens of stops in cities across the country, encouraging supporters to voice their opposition to the ACA’s repeal. http://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/local/tennessee/2017/02/26/save-my-care-bus-rally-knoxville-aca-supporters-tuesday/98447254/

Nashville City Center owner is suitor for massive airport-area site (Tennessean) The owner of downtown’s Nashville City Center office building is looking to add a nearly 100-acre airport area site to its local portfolio. An affiliate of Bryn Mawr, Penn.-based Alliance Partners HSP wants to redevelop the 97.99-acre former Aerostructures Corp. property at 1431 Vultee Blvd., according to a public notice from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s division of remediation. http://www.tennessean.com/story/money/real-estate/2017/02/26/nashville-city-center-owner-suitor-massive-airport-area-site/98442496/

Two murder-suicides part of spike in deadly domestic violence cases (Commercial Appeal) Two women killed by their husbands in separate murder-suicides several hours apart last Sunday left the community shocked by the back-to-back domestic violence slayings. “We have through the years had episodes where men kill women and then themselves, but two in one day is not typical at all,” said Deborah Clubb, executive director of the Memphis Area Women’s Council. At 3:41 a.m., officers responded to an apparent murder/suicide in the 1200 block of Thrushcross Cove, according to a statement from MPD. Margaret Swearengen, 65, was found inside the residence with multiple gunshot wounds. Thomas Swearengen, her 57-year-old husband, was found with a single gunshot wound. http://www.commercialappeal.com/story/news/crime/2017/02/26/two-murder-suicides-part-spike-deadly-domestic-violence-cases/98301108/

Can Government Employees Criticize the Government? (Governing) They have fewer free-speech rights than private workers, but what counts as a fireable offense is debatable. Can government employees be legally fired for criticizing the government? It’s a question that many federal workers are asking as they look for ways to express opposition to their new boss but keep their jobs. During the presidential campaign last year, one survey found that 95 percent of federal workers’ donations went to Hillary Clinton. Now they find themselves working for President Donald Trump, the candidate they tried to beat. Some are attending workshops. Others are refusing to implement orders they don’t agree with. Many are airing their grievances in public and on social media. http://www.governing.com/columns/smart-mgmt/gov-free-speech-public-employees.html

OPINION

Guest column: Governor’s plan will keep state roads maintained (Johnson City Press) If you use a service you usually pay for that service, such as phone, cable, electricity, sewer and water. Tennessee’s bridges and roads should be no different. Revenue generated by users should pay for maintenance and new projects. That’s how Tennessee has always had total funding for projects before they are built. “Pay as you go” has always been the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s motto. With this motto, TDOT is debt free. Gov. Bill Haslam has proposed the IMPROVE ACT, which will fund 962 projects in all 95 counties at a cost of $9.5 trillion over the next 12 years. This plan is taking many of the funding and tax relief struggles that state legislators have reviewed for the past eight years knowing that funding for long-term transportation improvement projects would one day be needed. http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/Editorial/2017/02/26/Governor-s-plan-will-keep-state-roads-maintained.html?ci=stream&lp=3&p=

Robin Smith: Funding education failure is indefensible (Times Free Press) Last week, Candice McQueen, Tennessee’s education commissioner, spoke to state legislators who serve on two education committees. Her presentation was not only remarkable, it was alarming, but finally, reassuring. While addressing the state’s reform efforts in failing schools, McQueen said the school turnaround effort was “a little embarrassing,” referring to the first list of “priority” schools published in 2012. Only about 20 schools have moved off the list of 83 substandard schools since the original assessment. “We can’t keep throwing $10 million, $11 million, $12 million, $15 million at solutions that are not solutions,” the commissioner told members of both House education committees. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/opinion/columns/story/2017/feb/27/smith-funding-educatifailure-indefensible/414876/

Guest column: Outsourcing state jobs will harm workers (News Sentinel) If we look carefully at Gov. Bill Haslam’s yearlong plot to outsource 10,000 Tennessee workers’ jobs in higher education, state parks, prisons, hospital and armories, it becomes immediately clear that not only will outsourcing hurt working people, but that this process is proceeding with absolutely no transparency. Outsourcing these state jobs will badly hurt Tennessee, already the state with the largest percentage of minimum-wage jobs in the nation. Researchers of privatization consistently find that outsourced jobs have lower pay, benefits and security. The requests for proposals just released for bids on this work make it clear that this is the only way multinational corporations can undercut costs. http://www.knoxnews.com/story/opinion/columnists/2017/02/26/jon-shefner-and-diana-moyer-outsourcing-state-jobs-harm-workers/98250780/

Editorial: Bill would make records access easier (News Sentinel) A legislative effort to make it easier for Tennesseans to file public records requests deserves the full-throated support of all who value open government. A bill that would clarify what constitutes a written public records request recently received the approval of a key House panel and is on track to become law during this session. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Courtney Rogers, R-Goodlettsville, would require records custodians that accept requests for documents in writing “to accept a handwritten request submitted in person or by mail, an email request, or a request on an electronic form submitted online.” http://www.knoxnews.com/story/opinion/editorials/2017/02/27/editorial-bill-would-make-records-access-easier/98443708/

Guest column: Senator Alexander, what is your plan? (Daily Herald) I am a lifelong resident of Maury County, living with my wife in the Mt. Pleasant area. Like many Americans, I work multiple jobs just to make ends meet. I am a part-time pastor, a professional caregiver, and I make some supplemental income from my work as a professional songwriter. My wife works as a merchandiser. Like most people in our age group (we are both 59 years old), we have had various health issues through the years. We both have “pre-existing conditions” which have made health insurance for us a complicated and expensive issue. http://www.columbiadailyherald.com/opinion/20170226/senator-alexander-what-is-your-plan

Analysis: Karl Dean’s bid for Tennessee governor (Tennessean) Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean is announced his bid for Tennessee governor. Dean, a Democrat, will be seeking his party’s gubernatorial nomination in the 2018 election. Reporters Joey Garrison and Nate Rau break down the contest. http://www.tennessean.com/videos/news/politics/2017/02/26/analysis-karl-dean’s-bid-tennessee-governor/98442038/

Guest column: State constitution spells out limits on carrying guns (News Sentinel) On the debate of constitutional carry, maybe we should look at the Tennessee Constitution to determine what the limits on government may be. Constitutional carry is a fully protected right in Tennessee. Article I, Section 26, on weapons and the right to bear arms states: “That the citizens of this State have a right to keep and to bear arms for their common defense; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime.” http://www.knoxnews.com/story/opinion/columnists/2017/02/26/c-richard-archie-state-constitution-spells-out-limits-carrying-guns/98274420/

Friday, February 24

Haslam says he expects Corker to run for third Senate term (Times Free Press) Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday he fully expects U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., to seek a third term in 2018 and that speculation about his own future, including a bid for the seat, has been “way overread.” “They just said what are you going to do next? I said I have no idea,” Haslam told reporters during a “town hall” meeting to promote his proposed IMPROVE Act, which seeks to increase fuel taxes for Tennessee transportation projects while simultaneously cutting non-highway taxes in several areas. Haslam, who is term limited and will leave office in January 2019, was asked at this week’s Tennessee Press Association and The Associated Press meeting about what he intends to do when his term ends. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/politics/state/story/2017/feb/24/haslam-says-he-expects-corker-run-third-senate-term/414497/

Tennessee cycling leader pedals for local transit options (Times Free Press) Leaders of a statewide bicycling and pedestrian advocacy group are breathing easier this legislative session, following a long battle in 2016 over a bill pushed by two area lawmakers that could have impacted state funding for bicycle projects. They are not putting the kickstand down on issues relating to state politics, however. BikeWalk Tennessee president Anthony Siracusa voiced support for Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed gas tax increase while speaking to a group of Chattanooga cyclists on Thursday night, specifically praising a portion of the proposal that would allow municipalities to hold referendums on local tax increases for transit projects in their communities. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2017/feb/24/state-cycling-leader-pedals-local-transit-opt/414502/

Carrie Underwood, Peyton Manning, Sen. Corker, Gov. Haslam call attention to ending slavery, trafficking (Tennessean) Prominent Americans, including many Tennesseans, are calling attention to the continued effort to end slavery and human trafficking by marking their hands with red and sharing pictures on social media. As part of the End It Movement, a coalition working to end various forms of sex trafficking and forced labor, politicians, celebrities and others shared pictures of themselves with red Xs on their hands. Participants include Gov. Bill Haslam, members of the Tennessee General Assembly, the state’s Congressional delegation and country music superstar Carrie Underwood, who is the wife of Nashville Predators captain Mike Fisher. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2017/02/23/carrie-underwood-peyton-manning-sen-corker-gov-haslam-call-attention-ending-slavery-trafficking/98317006/

Bicentennial Mall names new park manager (TN Ledger) Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park recently welcomed new park manager Jerry T. Wooten. Previously, he was park manager at Johnsonville State Historic Park in Humphreys County and a park ranger at the mall. Wooten’s career in the outdoors began in Virginia in 1996 at Pamplin Historical Park. He went on to the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in Kentucky as well as working with two non-profit, private museums. In 2003, Wooten came home to Nashville to work for the state at the Tennessee Historical Commission. http://www.tnledger.com/editorial/Article.aspx?id=95085

Tennessee’s Most Popular State Park Becomes A Test Case For Gov. Haslam’s Privatization Plans (WPLN) Just up the road from the entrance to Fall Creek Falls State Park sits a motel. “You know, this is not a kind of place that you come (to) if you want a spa treatment,” owner Melissa Harmon says deprecatingly. She and her husband have owned the Way Inn for a decade. It’s your 1950s-style motor lodge: A long row of ground-level, drive-up rooms situated behind a diner and convenience store. The perfect place for family reunions or parties of hikers to crash after a day in Tennessee’s most-visited state park. “We obviously are here because of the park. There is no other reason that we would be here because this county only has 5,600 residents and they don’t really have a need for a motel.” http://nashvillepublicradio.org/post/tennessees-most-popular-state-park-becomes-test-case-gov-haslams-privatization-plans#stream/0

Ban on travel to Tennessee affecting U of M events (Commercial Appeal) A ban on California state-sponsored travel to Tennessee is stopping students and professors from the Golden State from attending a national conference held at the University of Memphis in April. The University of California-Davis confirmed six students and two teachers were supposed to come to Memphis for the Council on Undergraduate Research conference, but “they changed their plans and will not be attending,” university spokeswoman Julia Ann Easley said. The L.A. Times reported at least 18 students from three California universities, including UC Davis, lost their funding  for the conference. http://www.commercialappeal.com/story/news/education/2017/02/23/ban-travel-tennessee-affecting-u-m-events/98314266/

Northeast State to implement new measures recommended by board of regents (WJHL) Tennessee Board of Regents officials said in a news release Thursday that Northeast State Community College will implement three new measures in response to recommendations from a TBR team that recently visited the school following a vote of no- confidence in the school’s president. According to the release, President Dr. Janice Gilliam announced that former Walters State Community College Vice President Dr. Rosemary Jackson will serve as Interim Chief Financial Office until the school hires a full-time CFO. Jackson will serve until June 30. Northeast State’s Academic Affairs unit will also undergo a review to ensure it is sufficiently resourced and able to meet the ongoing demands of the college’s accrediting agency. http://wjhl.com/2017/02/23/northeast-state-to-implement-new-measures-recommended-by-tbr-following-visit/

Some in GOP chafe new building named after Cordell Hull (AP) Tennessee lawmakers are nearing a move into freshly overhauled offices at the state Capitol complex, but some Republicans are chafing at the building being named after Democrat Cordell Hull. Hull was the country’s longest-serving secretary of state under President Franklin Roosevelt. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945 for his role in creating the United Nations and for his work toward improving international relations by resolving bitter trade disputes. Republican Sen. Frank Nicely of Strawberry Plains asked during a presentation about the new legislative offices on Thursday what lawmakers could do about changing the building’s name from what he called “that old Democrat socialist.” http://www.tnledger.com/editorial/Article.aspx?id=95148

84 welfare applicants fail drug test under state program (WSMV) Abdullahi has lived in Nashville for 15 years and said he works hard to support his eight children. “They love me and I love them,” Mohammad Abdullahi said. “I will never quit supporting them.” Abdullahi is one of the thousands of Tennesseans who receives welfare benefits. He said he thinks people who apply for government assistance should expect to be drug tested. “They should be drug tested because they’re taking money,” Abdullahi said. “It’s free money. Maybe some people are going to do something in a bad way.” Others agree—so much so that Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill in 2012, allowing the state to drug test applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF. http://www.wsmv.com/story/34589288/84-welfare-applicants-fail-drug-test-under-state-program

Investigations raise questions about misuse of money for poor children (AP) Two investigations released by the state comptroller’s office are raising questions about what happened to hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money that was supposed to be used to feed poor children. One probe questioned large cash withdrawals and spending by All About Giving, a nonprofit with locations in Nashville and Knoxville that helped day care programs feed at-risk kids. http://wkrn.com/2017/02/23/investigations-raise-questions-about-misuse-of-money/

Comptroller: Funds for hungry Tennessee kids spent on hotels, Xbox (Tennessean) A Tennessee Comptroller investigation has detailed hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable payouts by the Department of Human Services on food programs intended to feed low-income kids. In one case, taxpayer dollars were spent on Xboxes, at Shoe Carnival and for hotel stays by All About Giving, a private agency that received funds from DHS to provide food to 23 daycare centers in Nashville and Knoxville. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2017/02/23/comptroller-funds-hungry-kids-spent-hotels-xbox/98301306/

Comptroller report: Money meant for needy kids stolen by nonprofit CEO (WSMV) Thousands of tax dollars meant to feed hungry children may have been mishandled, according to the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury. All About Giving, a former Nashville and Knoxville nonprofit, assisted daycare homes by submitting meal reimbursement requests to the Department of Human Services for meals provided to children. http://www.wsmv.com/story/34587454/comptroller-report-money-meant-for-needy-kids-stolen-by-nonprofit-ceo

State Audit Confirms Food Program Problems, Blames DHS (WTVF) DHS is under fire for failing to do its job. A state audit released Thursday blames the department for allowing a LaVergne woman to pocket hundreds of thousands of dollars that was supposed to feed hungry kids. State auditors believe this could have been avoided.   http://www.newschannel5.com/news/state-audit-confirms-food-program-problems-blames-dhs

Senate Leader: No Need For Tennessee Lawmakers To Wade Back Into Transgender Restroom Debate (WPLN) The leader of the Tennessee Senate says he sees no need for lawmakers to debate regulations on which bathroom transgender students get to use. That’s after President Donald Trump’s administration repealed federal guidance this week that required schools to let them use the bathroom of their choice. Senate Speaker Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, more or less agrees with Trump: Decisions about which bathroom transgender students use should be made by school boards. “They’re responsible to the people in that county or that city,” he says. “And I think that’s handled best at that level.” http://nashvillepublicradio.org/post/senate-leader-no-need-tennessee-lawmakers-wade-back-transgender-restroom-debate#stream/0

McNally says bathroom bill unnecessary after Trump administration change (Tennessean) In light of the White House’s new guidance on transgender students and bathrooms, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally sees no need to advance Tennessee’s so-called bathroom bill. “I think given what the Trump administration has done, my assessment would be it’s not needed,” McNally said Thursday morning. On Wednesday, the Department of Justice and the Department of Education announced that their agencies were withdrawing a guidance advanced last year by the Obama administration that permitted students to use restrooms for their chosen gender. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/23/mcnally-says-bathroom-bill-unnecessary-after-trump-administration-change/98302612/

Tennessee lawmaker says bathroom bills no longer needed (AP) Tennessee’s lieutenant governor says the Trump administration’s decision to lift protections for transgender students negates the need for the state to pass a bathroom bill. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, a Republican from Oak Ridge, said Thursday that pending state legislation is no longer needed because of the Trump administration’s move Wednesday. The Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education lifted guidance from the previous Obama administration that allowed transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identities. http://wkrn.com/2017/02/23/cohousing-communities-gain-popularity-including-here-in-nashville/

McNally says no need for ‘bathroom bill’ (Nashville Post) But Beavers says she will still pursue it. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) said Thursday that legislation requiring students to use the bathroom of their biological sex at birth is not needed in the wake of the Trump administration’s rollback of a federal rule protecting transgender students — which could signal defeat for the bill in that Chamber. “I don’t think it’s needed now,” McNally said of Sen. Mae Beavers’ controversial legislation. ” http://www.nashvillepost.com/politics/legislation/article/20853134/mcnally-says-no-need-for-bathroom-bill

Harwell: Lovell Investigation Handled Correctly (Memphis Daily News) An investigation into now-former Rep. Mark Lovell started a day after he allegedly had inappropriate contact with a woman and lasted two to three days, House Speaker Beth Harwell says. Speaking publicly about the matter for the first time, Harwell told media at a Tennessee Press Association meeting Wednesday, Feb. 22, that a complaint by a member of the Legislature “triggered” the investigation. It was complete by the time Lovell, an Eads Republican from Shelby County, resigned the morning of Feb. 14, according to Harwell. https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2017/feb/24/harwell-lovell-investigation-handled-correctly/

Tennessee Education Leaders Defend Troubled TNReady Testing To Skeptical Lawmakers (WPLN) Tennessee education leaders are trying to convince legislators to stand by the new TNReady standardized test, which went through a disastrous rollout last year. Some lawmakers have proposed giving districts the option go with a national test instead. Education Commissioner Candice McQueen is quick to admit TNReady’s first year was a failure. There were computer glitches that required moving to a paper-based test, and even that didn’t work because of printing problems. But she’s still trying to head off an attempt to abandon TNReady, which is written by Tennessee educators. http://nashvillepublicradio.org/post/tennessee-education-leaders-defend-troubled-tnready-testing-skeptical-lawmakers#stream/0

State looks to combat prescription addiction crisis (WSMV) As the opioid addiction crisis continues throughout Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam and the legislature are appropriating more money for treatment programs. Health experts testified before a legislative opioid abuse task force Thursday, including newly appointed Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Medical Director Dr. Stephen Loyd. “They have to understand the danger that this prescription bottle is really equivalent to a heroin needle,” Loyd told Channel 4. “And folks struggling with addiction need to see folks who’ve gotten better.” http://www.wsmv.com/story/34590330/state-looks-to-combat-prescription-addiction-crisis

Once-addicted doctor appears before Tennessee opioid task force (WKRN) A doctor’s story of spiraling into addiction while teaching at a Tennessee medical school was told to the state task force Thursday looking into opioid abuse. Dr. Stephen Loyd said the moment he knew he was at the lowest of lows with came while teaching future doctors 13 years ago at East Tennessee State University. “We had a lady who came in on an overdose, and I asked that resident how many did she take and he gave me a number, and I was taking more than that number every day,” Dr. Loyd said after his testimony at the House task force. He continued, “I could not get my pencil down to the paper to write my note, so I dismissed my rounds and I went into a bathroom, locked the door and cried.” http://wkrn.com/2017/02/23/once-addicted-doctor-appears-before-tennessee-opioid-task-force/

Nashville Democrat faces House ethics complaint (Tennessean) House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart is accused of violating the legislature’s ethics policy, according to a complaint filed by one of his Republican colleagues on Thursday. The complaint, filed by Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, stems from an exchange between the Nashville Democrat and the director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency regarding the fires that ravaged the Gatlinburg area last year. The statements from Stewart occurred during a House Government Operations Committee meeting on Feb. 16. Before asking TEMA director Patrick Sheehan questions, Stewart said, “Full disclosure, I’m a lawyer and I can’t remember, but it’s always possible that my firm would have some involvement in lawsuits related to those fires. So just be aware of that.” http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/23/nashville-democrat-faces-house-ethics-complaint/98308798/

John Ford, Shep Wilbun discuss blacks in politics (Commercial Appeal) In a panel discussion at LeMoyne-Owen College Thursday afternoon, two longtime local politicians and a current City Council member all condemned the controversial “blacklist” of people who are required to have an escort while in City Hall. Former state Sen. John Ford, former Shelby County Commissioner Shep Wilbun and current council member Martavious Jones all slammed the list, which has incensed many in the community since it was publicly revealed last week. The list has 81 names, some of whom are disgruntled former city employees while numerous others are local activists who have taken part in several protests. http://www.commercialappeal.com/story/news/local/2017/02/23/john-ford-shep-wilbun-discuss-blacks-politics/98299976/

Two New Ads Press Congress on ObamaCare (Politico) The pro-Obamacare group Save My Care is running two new TV ads pressing Congress to preserve the Affordable Care Act. The first ad, airing in Tennessee (the home state of Senate HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander) features a Donald Trump voter who says “the Affordable Care Act saved my life.” The second ad, airing in Ohio, stars a grandmother and cancer survivor. Watch the Tennessee ad herehttp://www.politico.com/tipsheets/politico-influence/2017/02/who-gave-to-the-trump-transition-fwdus-big-donors-lobbyists-and-more-218893

GOP asks governors to help save Obamacare repeal (CNN) Congressional Republicans struggling over how to repeal Obamacare are stuck on a key problem: what to do with the millions of people in 31 states covered under the dramatic expansion of Medicaid the law enabled. So they have privately turned to a handful of governors to help resolve the issue — including Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and Ohio’s John Kasich, according to several sources involved in the talks. At the center of the talks are four governors who have taken different approaches to Medicaid: Walker and Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee, whose states did not expand Medicaid under the law; and two governors from states that did: Kasich and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. http://www.abc15.com/news/national/hill-gop-asks-governors-to-help-save-obamacare-repeal

Rep. Phil Roe: Veterans need choices for medical care (Commercial Appeal) Just a few weeks into his new job as a congressional watchdog over veterans’ issues, Rep. Phil Roe is ready to take on one of his top priorities: Giving veterans more choices for medical care. The Johnson City Republican, who chairs the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday to take a comprehensive look at a program that allows some veterans to seek medical care outside of the VA. The so-called choice program gives veterans who have waited more than 30 days for an appointment — or who live more than 40 miles from a VA medical facility — the option of seeking VA-funded care from other facilities in their community. http://www.commercialappeal.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/23/rep-phil-roe-veterans-need-choices-medical-care/98262766/

Blackburn Draws Criticism For CNN Comments (WTVF) Two days after holding a heated town hall debate in Fairview, Congressman Marsha Blackburn has drawn criticism from some residents over comments she made during a CNN interview. Blackburn told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Wednesday night that, “What we found was so interesting. Less than a third in the room were constituents as mine.” Those who attended the forum had to RSVP for the event but no list exists which shows attendees home address. http://www.newschannel5.com/news/blackburn-draws-criticism-for-cnn-comments

Fairview city official disputes Blackburn’s claims about town hall attendees (Tennessean) Fairview Mayor Patti Carroll tried to size up the crowd before Rep. Marsha Blackburn took constituents’ questions at a town-hall meeting in Fairview on Tuesday afternoon. How many of the people packed inside Fairview City Hall actually live in Blackburn’s congressional district? Carroll asked. Nearly everyone in the room raised their hand. Blackburn told a different story about the sometimes rowdy crowd during a CNN interview Wednesday night. “A little bit less than one-third in the room were actually very (sic) constituents of mine,” the Brentwood Republican told interviewer Anderson Cooper, according to a transcript of the show. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/23/rep-marsha-blackburn-most-town-hall-attendees-were-outsiders/98316950/

Town hall attendees deny Blackburn’s claims (WSMV) Congressman Marsha Blackburn is making claims about her recent town hall meeting, where she was challenged at times by some angry constituents. In interviews with multiple national media outlets, the congressman said less than a third of the people in the room were actually from her district. Franklin resident Kim Henke said that’s simply not true. “This is outrageous, because I was there,” Henke explained. Henke was among the 130 people who had officially RSVP’d to the Tuesday afternoon event in Fairview, taking off work to arrive the required 90 minutes early. http://www.wsmv.com/story/34591147/town-hall-attendees-deny-blackburns-claims

Marsha Blackburn Appears on Television, Makes Apparently Bogus Claim (Nashville Scene) Middle Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn was on the tube again last night, deploying a line that’s getting awfully familiar these days: All these people who are mad at me don’t really count because they live outside my district and appear to be organized! That’d be questionable reasoning even if it were true, but alas, it seems to be false.  Blackburn’s town hall in Fairview earlier this week brought her face-to-face with some unhappy citizens who questioned her about health care, President Donald Trump’s tax returns and more. And reports from the media — a group about which Blackburn won’t quite clarify her feelings — suggest the congresswoman is wrong about the makeup of the crowd. http://www.nashvillescene.com/news/pith-in-the-wind/article/20853085/marsha-blackburn-appears-on-television-makes-apparently-bogus-claim

Protesters demanding town hall with U.S. Rep. Diane Black (WSMV) Members of the liberal protest group Indivisible are making their voices heard in Tennessee. The protesters started at U.S. Congressman Diane Black’s in Cookeville on Thursday, then came to her Gallatin office. They say they will leave “no rock unturned” in their quest for a town hall meeting. They are unhappy about how things are going in Washington with President Donald Trump’s administration, and they want their representatives to know about it. The problem is that Black was not there. Channel 4 contacted her office on Thursday morning. They said she was not scheduled to be at her office but is always happy to meet with her constituents. http://www.wsmv.com/story/34586434/protesters-demanding-town-hall-with-us-rep-diane-black

Health care leaders to Congress: Stabilize insurance market (Tennessean) Don’t expect reform of the Affordable Care Act to be tabled or resolved any time soon. Debate over how to replace or repair the controversial federal health law is projected to run through the end of the year and probably into 2018 — and it certainly won’t be wrapped up in the next six months, according to leaders of two of the county’s weightiest health care organizations who spoke Thursday on a panel hosted by the Nashville Health Care Council in Cool Springs. It’s going to be tough to find consensus on legislation in both the House and Senate, agreed Marilyn Tavenner, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, and Rick Pollack, American Hospital Association’s president and CEO. http://www.tennessean.com/story/money/industries/health-care/2017/02/23/health-care-leaders-project-long-health-reform-debate/98275492/

Health care forum answers questions, raises others (News Sentinel) The crowd that wedged into Whittle Springs Middle School’s auditorium Thursday night for the city-sponsored Affordable Care Act forum voiced their opinion about the healthcare system on two main topics by applause and standing ovation. The first, the lack of representation from Congress was unacceptable. Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, along with Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., were absent even though Congress currently is on recess (Corker’s office previously said the senator was out of the country on official business).  http://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/local/2017/02/23/health-care-forum-answers-questions-raises-others/98304298/

TVA’s Nearly $1B Natural Gas Plant 70 Percent Complete (Memphis Daily News) The view is breathtaking. The Memphis skyline glints and gleams in the midday sun. The Pyramid casts its own unique light across the distance, and the Hernando DeSoto Bridge superstructure is an elegant silver set of curves to the west, filtered through bare trees. It’s a view you need a hard hat to see from the top of the massive heat recovery steam generator at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Allen Steam Plant, under construction in southwest Memphis. The 75-acre site for TVA’s $975 million natural-gas-fired power plant is busy night and day with a crew of 750 union craft employees putting together the replacement for the nearly 60-year-old coal-fired Allen Fossil Plant on the other side of Riverport Road. https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2017/feb/24/tvas-1-billion-natural-gas-plant-70-percent-complete/

OPINION

Editorial: Lawmakers’ attempts to silence the people a mistake (Commercial Appeal) Republican legislators seem taken aback by the public reaction to legislation and executive orders aimed at rolling back many of the gains that have made in areas such as universal health care, environmental protection and economic security. People are up in arms, figuratively speaking, all over the country. They’re worried, passionate and a bit mouthy sometimes. It’s in all the papers. It would be a big mistake to use that as an excuse, however, to turn back the clock on the rights to which everyone is entitled to express their grievances and have access to the people elected to serve the public. http://www.commercialappeal.com/story/opinion/editorials/2017/02/23/lawmakers-attempts-silence-people-mistake/98315214/

Sam Stockard: Lawmakers shrug off real voices (TN Ledger) Legislative Plaza security works to keep a lid on regular people who have shown up on ‘moral Mondays’ to mostly protest bills promoted by the Republican supermajority. Johnny and Julie Erwin don’t look like typical protesters, but the senior couple joined the “moral Mondays” ruckus recently at the State Capitol, Johnny wearing his Air Force cap and Julie holding a list of social legislation they oppose. “I’m just really thrilled to be part of this and see what’s going on, because I believe strongly against these bills that are being brought up,” says Johnny, a Nashville resident retired from the grocery business, as he prepares to step into a throng of people chanting outside the Senate chamber. http://www.tnledger.com/editorial/Article.aspx?id=95079

Pam Sohn: Politics, not students, still at heart of bathroom concerns (Times Free Press) Just when you thought the GOP had gotten its collective mind out of the bathroom, President Donald Trump flushed. On Wednesday, the Trump administration rescinded Obama administration protections for transgender students allowing them to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity. In a joint letter, top officials from the Justice Department and the Education Department rejected the previous administration’s directive, saying it was improperly and arbitrarily devised, “without due regard for the primary role of the states and local school districts in establishing educational policy.” http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/opinion/times/story/2017/feb/24/sohn-politics-not-students-still-heart-bathro/414488/

Column: Busy Beavers (Memphis Flyer) The senator from Mt. Juliet is back with a whole passel o’ new legislation. Well, friends, Tennessee’s 110th General Assembly is in full swing, and one thing has become very clear to me: Beavers must be stopped. All 33 senators and 98 representatives have been busy. They’ve cranked out hundreds of bills. Many are beneficial, like SB 0416, which exempts diapers from taxation. Others seem harmless enough, like SB 0418, which requires big-game hunters to wear 25 more square inches of orange. Some are head-scratchers, like SB 0172, which clarifies the definition of a rickshaw. Maybe that’s the new Nashville bachelorette party transportation? There are a few eye-rollers, like HB 0026, which “requires all license plates to bear the language ‘In God We Trust’.” Talk about tackling the important issues. http://www.memphisflyer.com/memphis/busy-beavers/Content?oid=5365962

Glenn Reynolds: Government can’t get us off sugar (News Sentinel) Should food stamp programs allow people to buy sugary drinks and snacks with taxpayer money? That’s a question that a lot of people are debating, but it raises more questions of its own. There seems to be little remaining doubt that sugar is bad for you. I’ve been reading Gary Taubes’ new book, The Case Against Sugar, and he draws a compelling connection between the spread of sugary foods and drinks and the explosive growth of disease like diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. http://www.knoxnews.com/story/opinion/columnists/glenn-reynolds/2017/02/23/government-cant-get-us-off-sugar-glenn-reynolds/98296678/

Thursday, February 23

Haslam talks road needs, urgency in Sumner Co. (Tennessean) Sumner County residents approached Gov. Bill Haslam and TDOT Commissioner John Schroer Wednesday with questions, concern and support on the proposed IMPROVE Act. The bill, which was pushed back a week Wednesday by a House subcommittee, proposes paying for roads and other transportation-related projects by increasing the gas tax by 7 cents per gallon and the diesel tax by 12 cents per gallon, while raising the vehicle registration fee by $5. “The people who use roads will be the people who pay for roads,” Haslam said during the forum at Station Camp High. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/sumner/gallatin/2017/02/22/haslam-talks-road-needs-urgency-sumner-co/98260102/

Haslam visits Sumner County to discuss IMPROVE Act (WKRN) Governor Bill Haslam is visiting Sumner County Wednesday night to discuss his IMPROVE Act. Gallatin is one of several mid-state communities the governor has visited in recent weeks to tout the plan that impacts everyone that drives in Tennessee. Butch Spyridon, with the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation, is one of many leaders that support the bill. “We have an infrastructure need and there comes a time when you do have to pay for things,” Spyridon told News 2. As Tennessee continues to thrive, he says transportation is key. “Anybody that has gone out on any given day has experienced traffic at an exponential growth,” Spyridon said. http://wkrn.com/2017/02/22/haslam-visits-sumner-county-to-discuss-improve-act/

Haslam expands transit referendum proposal with new tax options (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Haslam has significantly expanded his proposal for local governments to acquire the power to hold referendums on transit funding by opening up a range of additional tax options that cities could bring before voters. As part of his IMPROVE Act, Haslam had originally limited his local option proposal to an increase on local sales tax rates for cities and counties to pay for future transit projects. But in an amendment to his transportation bill filed Tuesday, the governor has quietly proposed allowing local referendums on surcharges to other local taxes to pay for public transit projects and services. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2017/02/22/haslam-expands-local-transit-referendum-proposal-new-tax-options/98247700/

Clarksville mayor supports Haslam’s public transit plan (Leaf-Chronicle) Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan joined several Middle Tennessee mayors on Tuesday to urge state legislators to support Gov. Bill Haslam’s IMPROVE Act and the bill’s local option allowing communities to choose their own public transit investments. Mayors from six counties and cities, representing the Mayors Caucus, called on legislators to show support for the act, which will fund a major backlog of road projects statewide and provide a path for traffic relief in Middle Tennessee. The Mayor’s Caucus represents 13 counties and 52 cities from the Greater Nashville Regional Council’s service area. http://www.theleafchronicle.com/story/news/local/clarksville/2017/02/22/clarksville-mayor-supports-haslams-public-transit-plan/98247954/

Survey says 33 percent of voters undecided on Haslam’s gas tax plan (Times Free Press) More Tennesseans back Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to raise fuel taxes for roads than oppose it but an estimated one third of registered voters say in a new Middle Tennessee State University survey that they remain on the fence. Thirty-eight percent of the 600 voters surveyed said they support the Republican governor’s proposal to raise gas and diesel taxes for transportation. Twenty-eight percent were opposed. Even more – 33 percent – said they were undecided. The MTSU survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/breakingnews/story/2017/feb/22/survey-says-33-percent-voters-undecided-haslams-gas-tax-plan/414211/

MTSU Poll: 38% back Haslam on gas tax, 28% oppose, 33% don’t know (TN Journal/Humphrey) News release from Middle Tennessee State University: About a third of Tennessee voters support Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to fund road projects through a plan that would increase fuel taxes while cutting grocery and other taxes, but fewer oppose it, and many remain undecided, according to the latest MTSU Poll. “Support for the plan is fairly low among voters, but that’s not the whole story,” said Ken Blake, Ph.D., director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University. http://humphreyonthehill.tnjournal.net/mtsu-poll-38-back-haslam-on-gas-tax-28-oppose-33-dont-know/

Poll: 38% of Tennessee voters support Haslam’s gas tax plan (AP) Middle Tennessee State University poll finds that 38 percent of registered voters favor Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to pay for a new road program primarily through a fuel tax hike and 28 percent oppose it. The remaining third of the 600 people surveyed said they weren’t sure about the governor’s plan. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The poll found that support for the plan improved to 51 percent among those who said they had heard some or a lot about the proposal, while 31 percent said they were opposed. http://wjhl.com/2017/02/22/poll-38-of-tennessee-voters-support-haslams-gas-tax-plan/

Haslam’s gas tax creates challenges for city financial staff (Citizen Tribune) The uncertainty surrounding Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed fuel tax increase has created challenges for Morristown financial staff in formulating a 2017-18 budget, which will require two votes before the June 30 deadline, officials say. New numbers on the all-important December sales show a year-to-year increase of 5.2 percent, which means $413,000 more for both city government and Hamblen County schools, Joey Barnard, budget director, told councilmembers Tuesday. Normally, after the Christmas sale-tax figures are published, finance staffs in Morristown and across the state can begin to fashion the budget with a high degree of certainty. http://www.citizentribune.com/haslams-gas-tax-creates-challenges-for-city-financial-staff/

Henry Co. Commission passes resolution in favor of gas tax increase (WBBJ) One local county is officially behind the governor’s plan to raise the gas tax by seven cents, the first increase in nearly three decades. The gas tax hike proposal has sparked heated debate in the state legislature, and for some West Tennesseans, they aren’t sure how the tax increase could help them. “I really don’t like it, but if that’s what they pass, we really don’t have any other choice but to accept it. Maybe it will help someone,” Henry County resident Yvonne Martin said. The Henry County Commission passed a resolution Tuesday night saying they agree with the governor’s gas tax hike, saying it could bring in around three quarters of a million dollars for the county to help with multiple projects. http://www.wbbjtv.com/2017/02/22/henry-co-commission-passes-resolution-favor-gas-tax-increase/

Gov. Bill Haslam doesn’t rule out Senate run in 2018 (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Haslam says he’s not thinking about future political ambitions right now, but didn’t rule out a run for a U.S. Senate seat in 2018 when he leaves the governor’s office either. In a meeting with reporters and editors from across the state attending the annual Tennessee Press Association conference, Haslam said he’s focused on what he’s doing now and is not sure what he will do when he finishes his second term in 2018. “I honestly don’t know,” he said. “Two years feels like a long time.” Haslam is term-limited and can’t seek the governor’s office again. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/22/gov-bill-haslam-doesnt-rule-out-senate-run-2018/98263808/

Tennessee to trim science, social studies testing, boost reading exams (Tennessean) Tennessee third- and fourth-graders will spend less time testing for science and social studies and more time on reading assessments, the state Department of Education announced Wednesday. “There will be an increased focus on literacy in those grades, aligned with the state’s focus on reading, and new components will be included in the English language arts exam,” Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said in a blog post Wednesday announcing the changes. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/education/2017/02/22/tennessee-trim-science-social-studies-testing-and-boost-reading-exams/98249596/

Area school systems frustrated with the Tennessee Department of Education’s data mistakes (Johnson City Press) With privatization in the thoughts of education leaders in Nashville and Washington, D.C., now isn’t the time for public schools to be seen as a failing commodity. But that’s what happened when the Tennessee Department of Education announced last week that one in three high school students graduated without meeting the state’s requirements. According to the Tennessean, the backlash from superintendents, directors of schools, teachers and administrators was swift, so much so that the Department of Education had to clarify its disputed report. In a letter to school districts, co-written with Wayne Miller, executive director of the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents, Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen responded. http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/Education/2017/02/22/Area-school-systems-frustrated-with-state-department-of-education-s-data-mistakes.html?ci=stream&lp=2&p=

TN Dept. of Education corrects data on high school graduation rates (WJHL) There’s confusion over a newly released report from the Tennessee Department of Education about the state’s high school graduates. The report, released last month, originally stated that one-third of Tennessee high school graduates received a diploma without ever completing the state’s minimum course requirements. But now The Department of Education is saying those numbers are incorrect. “A number of superintendents really questioned the data. And come to find out that the data was incorrect,” said Joe Crabtree, President of the Johnson City Education Association. http://wjhl.com/2017/02/22/tn-dept-of-education-corrects-data-on-high-school-graduation-rates/

University of Memphis and EDGE team up for economic data (Commercial Appeal) A new partnership between the EDGE Board and the University of Memphis  intends to improve data-driven economic development in Memphis and Shelby County. The joint venture between the Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis and Shelby County and economists at the university will produce a data warehouse, quarterly reports and articles on an up-and-running website, http://www.commercialappeal.com/story/money/business/2017/02/22/university-memphis-and-edge-team-up-economic-data/98261138/

Tennessee devising plan to bring exercise opportunities to rural residents (Times Free Press) Greenways, trails and playgrounds are known as tools for reducing rates of chronic diseases, but a new Tennessee Department of Health initiative geared around such amenities seeks to boost more than just physical health. State health officials hope an effort to spark development of physical activity infrastructure in rural communities also will improve Tennessee’s economic pulse. “We know, as a state, that our workforce is only as strong as it is healthy,” said Leslie Meehan, director of the Office of Primary Prevention at the department of health. “Companies coming here want a workforce pool that is healthy, and one that is not going to cost them a lot to insure.” http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2017/feb/23/state-devising-plbring-exercise-opportunities/414293/

Nashville judge ruling on hold in trial alleging Cumberland River pollution by TVA (WZTV) A Nashville judge is not expected to rule for at least another month in the state’s first Clean Water Act lawsuit over coal ash storage to reach trial. The suit filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) claims the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Gallatin Fossil Plant’s coal ash pits have leaked 27 billion gallons of coal ash into the the Cumberland River for for the past 60 years, causing pollution and even some drinking water wells to be contaminated. The TVA has contended the leaks were surface maintenance issues which were repaired. Prior to the trial, the TVA agreed to an injunction with the state to develop an Environmental Investigation Plan which would be submitted to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation which would be followed up by an assessment report. http://fox17.com/news/local/nashville-judge-ruling-on-hold-in-trial-alleging-cumberland-river-pollution-by-tva

Why it would cost $100,000 to fly the POW-MIA flag above Tennessee’s Capitol (Tennessean) On the surface, the flag bill is simple enough. A lawmaker intended to honor those lost in combat by legally requiring the Tennessee State Capitol to fly the POW-MIA flag whenever the legislature was in session. What he did not expect was the $100,000 price tag. The reason? The flagpole is full. “We had no idea the cupola was at its max capacity,” said sponsor Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville. “It’s a bummer.” After conferring with the Department of General Services, the legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee attached a six-figure price tag to the proposed legislation because of the extensive construction required to support another flag. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/22/why-would-cost-100000-fly-pow-mia-flag-above-tennessees-capitol/98156302/

Bledsoe County Woman Charged With TennCare Fraud (Chattanoogan) A Bledsoe County woman has been charged in nearby Rhea County with doctor shopping for prescription drugs, using TennCare as payment for the pills. Doctor shopping is the crime of visiting multiple doctors in a short period of time to obtain prescription drugs, using TennCare as payment. The Office of Inspector General (OIG), with the assistance of the Rhea County Sheriff’s Office, today announced the arrest of Gracie Archbell, also known as Gracie Frazier, 35, of Pikeville. She is charged with three counts of doctor shopping for the painkiller Hydrocodone, using TennCare as payment. http://www.chattanoogan.com/2017/2/22/342499/Bledsoe-County-Woman-Charged-With.aspx

Unapologetic lawmaker criticizes Tennessee tax breaks to ‘wealthiest’ and ignoring ‘working people’ (Times Free Press) Opponents’ attempt to race ahead of Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed gas tax increase ran off the road in a House panel on Wednesday when their effort to move a rival road-funding bill first ended in an abrupt adjournment of the panel. It effectively stalls any action for at least a week on either Haslam’s bill or the alternative pushed by House Assistant Majority Leader David Hawk, R-Greeneville. Haslam later told reporters he thinks it shows representatives remain undecided on how to address what he says is a $10.5 billion backlog of nearly 1,000 highway and bridge projects across Tennessee. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2017/feb/23/unapologetic-lawmaker-criticizes-tennessee-ta/414296/

House subcommittee pushes back action on gas tax, transportation bills (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Haslam’s gas tax bill and another competing transportation proposal were quickly shelved for another week in dramatic fashion as a result of a subcommittee quickly adjourning Wednesday afternoon without taking a vote on either plan. After hearing from a panel of trucking experts, the House Transportation Subcommittee began to discuss transportation legislation by first taking up a plan advanced by Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville. The bill was on the committee’s agenda but was scheduled to be taken up after Haslam’s proposal, which calls for a 7 cent per gallon increase on gasoline and is accompanied by a series of tax cuts. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/22/house-subcommittee-pushes-back-action-gas-tax-transportation-bills/98244770/

House subcommittee halts meeting ahead of vote on gas tax bill (WSMV) The House Transportation Subcommittee was expected to discuss and possibly vote on Gov. Bill Haslam’s gas tax bill Wednesday afternoon. Haslam has been pushing for a 7-cent per gallon hike on gasoline to pay for the state’s $6 billion backlog in road projects. To offset paying more at the pump, Haslam has proposed cutting taxes on groceries, manufacturing companies investing in the state and people earning income from stocks and bonds. That meeting came to a halt shortly after a presentation in support of the measure by the Tennessee Trucking Association. Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, was called first to present his own alternative to the governor’s bill. http://www.wsmv.com/story/34575313/house-subcommittee-halts-meeting-ahead-of-vote-on-gas-tax-bill

Gas Tax Proposal Hits Jam In House Committee (AP) A key vote on efforts to boost transportation funding in Tennessee has been put off by at least a week. House Transportation Subcommittee Chairwoman Terri Lynn Weaver on Wednesday decided to first take up a rival proposal to Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan introduced by Republican Rep. David Hawk. “I do not want to portray this as being adversarial to the governor or anyone else. I’m simply being a voice for the legislative branch as well as our constituents across the state who say look within your existing revenue streams first before we talk about a tax increase,” Hawk said.   Weaver then refused Democratic Rep. John Mark Windle’s effort to add a sales tax exemption for baby formula because he hadn’t offered the amendment earlier in the day. http://www.newschannel5.com/news/haslams-transportation-plan-headed-for-key-vote-in-house

Gas tax vote postponed (Nashville Post) Committee shenanigans lead to abrupt adjournment. A highly anticipated discussion of Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed tax hike ended in an abrupt adjournment after about half an hour — and before any discussion of the plan occurred. Haslam’s plan was just filed as an amendment to a caption bill yesterday, but House Majority Leader Glen Casada (R-Thompson’s Station) said on Tuesday he was “confident” either Haslam’s or Rep. David Hawk’s alternative transportation plan (which does not include a tax increase) would pass out of the House Transportation Subcommittee today. http://www.nashvillepost.com/politics/legislation/article/20852970/gas-tax-vote-postponed

Road funding bills left in limbo after subcommittee meeting ends abruptly (Times Free Press) Various proposals to fund Tennessee roads were left in limbo for a week by the House Transportation Subcommittee this afternoon after a majority of the panel abruptly approved a motion to adjourn and left. The move came after Chairman Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, an opponent of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed fuel tax increases, took up an alternative bill that sought to divert a quarter percentage of the existing sales tax into Tennessee’s highway fund. Rep. John Mark Windle, R-Livingston, then offered an amendment to remove the sales tax 7 percent sales tax from purchases of baby formula. Weaver ruled Windle’s amendment out of order, noting the deadline for amendments had been at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Windle responded with a motion to adjourn, a non-debatable motion. After some confusion, the committee then voted 5-3, adjourned and left the room. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/breakingnews/story/2017/feb/22/road-funding-bills-left-limbo-after-abrupt-adjournment-tn-house-panel/414238/

Video: David Hawk talks transportation legislation (Tennessean) http://www.tennessean.com/videos/news/politics/2017/02/22/david-hawk-talks-transportation-legislation/98272150/

Tri-Cities area lawmaker responds to delay in state transportation funding decision (WJHL) A funding decision for Tennessee’s road improvements projects is delayed after a  Transportation Subcommittee meeting suddenly adjourned, moments after a Tri-Cities area lawmaker made a presentation. In January, in Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam introduced a plan to raise the state’s gas tax by 7% to help pay for $6 billion in transportation backlog, that’s nearly 1,000 road projects. State Representative John Mark Windle moved to adjourn after his proposal for a sales tax exemption on baby formula was deemed “not timely filed, “ending all conversation on transportation funding. http://wjhl.com/2017/02/23/tri-cities-area-lawmaker-responds-to-delay-in-state-transportation-funding-decision/

Beavers talks gas tax at town hall meeting (Macon Co. Times) On Thursday, February 16th, State Senator Mae Beavers held a town hall meeting at the Macon County Welcome Center. The purpose of Beavers’ meetings was to discuss Governor Bill Haslam’s proposed seven cent raise in the state gas tax. “There is not enough information out there on the gas tax that is proposed,” said Senator Beavers. She began by mentioning other points of the proposal that would go into effect in addition to the gas tax. “First of all, it would cut business taxes for manufacturers, $113 million. It’ll cut the sales tax on groceries by half a percent, which is $55 million. It cuts the Hall income tax 1.5 percent this year.” http://maconcountytimes.com/news/11282/beavers-talks-gas-tax-at-town-hall-meeting

Harwell: Legislature can only investigate those who have personnel file (Tennessean) House Speaker Beth Harwell lauded the way House leadership handled the investigation into former Rep. Mark Lovell, who abruptly resigned last week amid allegations he recently had inappropriate sexual contact with a woman. “I think our new workplace harassment policy proved that in fact it works. This was handled swiftly,” she said while fielding questions at a Tennessee Press Association event Wednesday morning, adding that the victim’s identity was never publicly known. Lovell resigned Feb. 14, a day after The USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee began asking questions about allegations Lovell had engaged in “inappropriate touching.” http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/22/harwell-legislature-can-only-investigate-those-who-have-personnel-file/98253118/

Bill For Vertical License If Under Age 21 Passes Committee (WTVF) The Senate Transportation and Safety Committee has approved legislation that would require driver’s licenses to be printed vertically for anyone under the age of 21 in Tennessee. The legislation, known as Senate Bill 384, passed the committee on Wednesday, and lawmakers said it would help businesses easily identify those who are not supposed to drink, in an effort to curb underage drinking. Upon turning 21, each person would have the choice of turning the license horizontal for the reduced cost of a duplicate license. At the moment, only a small, red bar along the side of the photo on the license indicates that a person is under 21 years old.  http://www.newschannel5.com/news/local-news/bill-for-vertical-license-if-under-age-21-passes-committee

Tennessee bills could let college students carry guns on campus (Johnson City Press) Since a 2016 state law allowed full-time faculty and staff of Tennessee universities and colleges with handgun carry permits to carry their firearms on campuses, 50 people on East Tennessee State University’s campus have taken advantage of this law. A year later, one goal of gun-friendly legislators in this session of the General Assembly is to extend that right to most valid permit holders, including students. House bills 0363 and 0884 would give most anyone with a permit the ability to go armed at schools, despite mixed feelings from some administrators, students and interested parties. http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/law-enforcement/2017/02/21/3-Tennessee-house-bills-could-let-students-carry-guns-on-campus.html?ci=stream&lp=6&p=

This sweeping proposal would rewrite Tennessee’s charter school law (Chalkbeat Tennessee) A wide-ranging charter school bill written by the State Department of Education seeks to overhaul Tennessee’s 15-year-old charter law and address concerns of both advocates and opponents. Called the “Tennessee High-Quality Charter Schools Act,” the bill attempts to address the often rocky relationships between the state’s 105 charter schools and the districts that oversee them. The legislation clarifies rules on everything from applications to closure, and includes measures that charter and local district leaders have fought for — and against. “This bill develops a stronger partnership between the (districts) and the charter schools,” said Rep. Harry Brooks, the Knoxville Republican sponsor. http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2017/02/22/this-sweeping-proposal-would-rewrite-tennessees-charter-school-law/

Open to (almost) anything (Memphis Flyer) State lawmakers filed a raft of bills for this legislative session aimed at changing public access to public records, everything from the details of economic development projects to footage captured from police-worn body cameras. Officials with the nonpartisan Tennessee Coalition for Open Government (TCOG) listed a couple of dozen bills last week that they will be watching this session. Here’s a selection of those bills from TCOG: Economic development records HB 947/SB 1179 – Rep. Sam Whitson (R-Franklin), Sen. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald). Makes confidential county and municipal records related to economic development. Part of this bill would make confidential any county or city economic development contracts, agreements, and related records until after a contract is entered into. http://www.memphisflyer.com/memphis/open-records-immigrants-and-arts/Content?oid=5367154

Tennessee lawmaker takes issue with Confucius Institute and ties to Chinese government (Tennessean) In a letter Tuesday to the presidents of three Tennessee universities, Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, wrote that the Confucius Institutes’ close ties to the Chinese government warrant “serious evaluation of the Institute’s presence on campus.” “They are controlled by the Chinese government absolutely,” Daniel said. The Confucius Institute program launched in 2004 to promote knowledge of Chinese culture on college campuses across the world, including at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Memphis. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/22/tennessee-lawmaker-takes-issue-confucius-institute-and-ties-chinese-government/98246406/

Nashville beer sellers could get reprieve from state (Nashville Post) A bill before the Tennessee General Assembly could make it easier for Nashville bars and restaurants to start serving beer. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Bill Beck and Sen. Jeff Yarbro, both Democrats of Nashville, would require the Metro Beer Permit Board to issue a permit authorizing consumption of beer if the business has a license from the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission. “We had several constituents and businesses call to complain about the current process. A restaurant can qualify for a liquor license from the [ABC] and be allowed to serve liquor, wine, high-gravity beer, but then have to go through a long, drawn-out process to be able to serve Miller or Bud Lite,” Beck staffer David Bone said. http://www.nashvillepost.com/politics/state-government/article/20852898/nashville-beer-sellers-could-get-reprieve-from-state

Teacher injection bill moves forward after Knoxville family’s testimony (WATE) A Knoxville family is pushing for change and peace of mind when they send their son to school. Landon Adzima, 16, has Addison’s disease, a rare and life-threatening condition that causes his body not to produce enough cortisol, which is critical in keeping his body balanced. The family spoke Wednesday with Tennessee state senators on the Education Administration and Planning Subcommittee about why teachers across the state should be trained in giving emergency injections. “We want our kids to be safe just like any other child,” said Lora Joy Adzima. http://wate.com/2017/02/22/teacher-injection-bill-moves-forward-after-knoxville-familys-testimony/

East Tennessee DA appointed to investigate Jeremy Durham (News Sentinel) Any state criminal charges brought against ousted Franklin lawmaker Jeremy Durham will be handled by a southeast Tennessee prosecutor. Stephen Crump, a district attorney in Cleveland, Tenn., confirmed Tuesday he has been assigned the Durham case. In a phone interview, Crump said any decision is “off in the distance” as to whether he pursues prosecution against the former Franklin representative. “I do have a pretty good idea of the universe we’re talking about, but I’m certainly not at the point of making any prosecutorial decisions,” Crump said. http://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/22/east-tennessee-da-appointed-investigate-jeremy-durham/98208974/

Davidson GOP elects officers (Nashville Post) The Davidson County Republican Party has elected a slate of new officers. Tres Wittum, an analyst in the office of Sen. Bo Watson (R-Hixson) will be the new chair of the party, replacing Bob Ries. Wittum (pictured) served as President of the Tennessee College Republicans from 2009-2011. “I’m honored to have the confidence of my friends and colleagues, and I am absolutely thrilled with the team they have put together. Nashville is a growing and diverse city, and our board reflects that. We are strongly positioned to spread the conservative message of limited government and personal freedom as we grow the party in 2018 and beyond,” Wittum said in a press release announcing the officers. http://www.nashvillepost.com/politics/tennessee-gop/article/20852887/davidson-gop-elects-officers

Rep. Diane Black hosts Medicare roundtable in Knoxville (WATE) U.S. Rep. Diane Black was in Knoxville on Wednesday to hear from seniors in the area about Medicare. Black hosted a roundtable at the Cansler Family YMCA in East Knoxville to talk about the “Silver Sneakers” program, a free fitness program offered through Medicare Advantage. The Y is one of the many gyms in the area offering it and has classes specifically designed to fit people of all ages, abilities and fitness levels. “It gets them into a program that they feel comfortable, an activity level they feel comfortable with, but one that also helps them to stay emotionally and socially involved,” said Black. Black says it’s important to see the program in action so she can defend the benefits of added Medicare programs in Washington. http://wate.com/2017/02/22/rep-diane-black-hosts-medicare-roundtable-in-knoxville/

Sen. Bob Corker joins fight to end sex trafficking (Times Free Press) “Let me breathe for a second,” Shandra Womoruntu said. “I didn’t take my medication yet today and this is stirring up trauma for me.” Womoruntu gulped a shaky breath and then told the story of the day her hands and feet were held down, her body trapped on a bed, men watching and cheering for Womoruntu’s “client” while shouting instructions to the man. At the crowd’s direction, the man used a hunting knife and other props to assault Womoruntu for 45 minutes — the amount of time he had purchased with Womoruntu, the amount of time he thought he owned her body. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2017/feb/23/corker-joins-fight-end-sex-trafficking/414295/

Tennessee, Texas stand out for strengthened Hill sway (Roll Call) No state in this decade has seen a more meaningful boost than Tennessee in institutionalized congressional influence. Only eight states, all with much bigger delegations because they’re much more populous, have more overt sway at the Capitol this year. That is one of several notable findings from the new Roll Call Clout Index, which the newspaper uses to take a quantifiable measurement of every state’s potential for power at the start of each new Congress. Just two years ago, Tennessee’s clout ranked 14th among the states, unremarkable because that is closely in line with its ranking as the 16th most populous state, with 6.6 million residents. And only six years ago, the 11-member delegation was punching well below its weight, coming in at No. 27 in the Clout Index. http://www.columbiadailyherald.com/news/20170222/tennessee-texas-stand-out-for-strengthened-hill-sway

MTSU poll finds slim majority of Tennesseans approve of Donald Trump (Tennessean) President Donald Trump won Tennessee with a commanding 61 percent of the vote in November, but a month into his presidency a smaller majority of Tennesseans approved of him, according to a poll released Wednesday by Middle Tennessee State University. MTSU found that 51 percent of those surveyed said they approved of how Trump “is handling his job,” a drop from his electoral win that Jason Reineke, associate director of the poll, described as a “hangover” for voters. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/22/mtsu-poll-finds-slim-majority-tennesseans-approve-donald-trump/98245292/

Trump approval rating at 51 percent in Tennessee (AP) A new poll shows that President Donald Trump’s approval rating in Tennessee is around 50 percent three months after he won the state by a wide margin in the general election. The Middle Tennessee State University poll of 600 registered voters showed that 51 percent approve of the job Trump is doing. He won the state with 61 percent of the popular vote. http://www.wsmv.com/story/34576698/poll-trump-approval-rating-at-51-percent-in-tennessee

Trump’s Approval Rating In Tennessee On Par With Obama’s (WPLN) Some of the first job approval numbers show President Donald Trump losing support in Tennessee. An MTSU poll released Wednesday suggests he’s no more popular than President Obama was during his first few months in office. Even though Trump won Tennessee with 61 percent of the vote, only a bare majority approve of his handling of the presidency at this point: 51 percent. MTSU poll director Ken Blake says that’s roughly where President Obama sat just a few weeks into the job, at 53 percent. But Obama never came close to winning the state. http://nashvillepublicradio.org/post/trumps-approval-rating-tennessee-par-obamas#stream/0

MTSU Poll: Trump Approval Rating Narrows In Tenn. (WTVF) A new poll finds that President Donald Trump’s approval rating has narrowed in Tennessee, despite him easily carrying the state’s 11 Electoral College votes back in November. Middle Tennessee State University’s newest poll revealed that only 51 percent approve of his performance so far, with 32 percent disapproving and 17 percent undecided.   http://www.newschannel5.com/news/poll-trump-approval-rating-narrows-in-tenn

Trump’s Russia problem dogs Republicans at town halls (Politico) There’s another topic besides Obamacare animating town halls across the country this week: Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia. Constituents and liberal activists are demanding to know what GOP lawmakers are doing to help or hinder investigations into the president’s ties to Moscow and Russian interference in the 2016 election. The scrutiny suggests the firestorm over alleged ties between Russian officials and members of Trump’s campaign and administration has spread well beyond the Beltway. When one woman asked Rep. Marsha Blackburn whether she would support an independent commission to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia, the Tennessee Republican sidestepped the exact question by noting the House and Senate intelligence committees are moving forward. “I support them doing their work and getting to the bottom of what happened,” Blackburn said, generating rare applause from the packed crowd. http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/trump-russia-congress-town-halls-235262

Watch This Woman Tearfully Tell Her Life-Saving Planned Parenthood Story To a Woman Who Wants To Defund It (Cosmopolitan) At a town hall meeting in Fairview, Tennessee Tuesday night, Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn was reportedly met with a crowd of angry, booing community members who wanted their disapproval of her known. Blackburn, an eight-term Republican, was met with tough questions over things ranging from health care to her devoted effort to defund Planned Parenthood. One anonymous young woman stood during the town hall to tell a particularly heartening story about her experience with Planned Parenthood, which she says saved her life years ago when she was a college sophomore. http://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/a8965860/marsha-blackburn-planned-parenthood-testimony/

GOP Town Halls Are Getting Flooded with Angry Constituents (Mother Jones) Republican leaders returned to their home districts this week for the first congressional recess of the year and were faced with a barrage of questions from large crowds of angry constituents packed into school gymnasiums and other public meeting spaces. Many lambasted their elected officials over GOP plans to repeal Obamacare, President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, his cabinet picks, and more. On Tuesday alone, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), in Fairview, Rep. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), in Maquoketa , Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), in Iowa Falls, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in Louisville, were all met by loud jeers and calls to confront Trump over his most controversial policies, including his plan to build a border wall and block refugee resettlement. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/02/republican-town-halls-anger-donald-trump

Blount Memorial to eliminate 100 full-time positions (News Sentinel) Blount Memorial Hospital in Maryville will eliminate 100 full-time positions, according to officials, but fewer than 40 employees will lose their jobs. A news release from the hospital, which employs approximately 2,450 people in full-time and part-time positions, said that over the past few months “hospital officials have worked to transition affected employees into other open positions within the system. As of today, there are less than 40 people being affected.” The cuts are effective April 15. http://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/local/2017/02/22/blount-memorial-hospital-remove-100-full-time-positions/98254230/

Taxpayers could foot bill for private Opryland water park (WSMV) Opryland Hotel’s proposed water park will only be open to guests, but that doesn’t mean taxpayers won’t have to pay for part of it. Complete coverage of the indictment of Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold, former administrative chief deputy Joe Russell and Arnold’s uncle John Vanderveer on corruption charges in relation to JailCigs. “This is one of the most egregious examples of corporate welfare I have ever seen in my life,” said Mark Cunningham with the Beacon Center of Tennessee. Metro Council is one vote away from promising $14 million dollars in taxpayer money to fund Soudwaves, the water attraction at Opryland Hotel. Once it’s completed, anyone is welcome to use it, but they must first book a room at the hotel. http://www.wsmv.com/story/34580165/taxpayers-could-foot-bill-for-private-opryland-water-park

OPINION

Editorial: Tennesseans deserve real and lasting tax relief (Johnson City Press) Tennessee, with a maximum combined local/state sales tax of 9.75 percent, has the highest sales tax rate in the nation. Tennessee also taxes food, something that is exempted in 33 other sales tax states. Gov. Bill Haslam is asking the state General Assembly to cut the state’s 5 percent sales tax on groceries by half a percent as part of his proposal to raise the state’s gasoline tax by 7 cents and to hike the diesel tax by 12 cents to fund transportation infrastructure projects. The governor also wants to accelerate an end to the state’s Hall tax on investment income and lower state excise and business franchise taxes as a sweetener to win votes to hike the gas tax. http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/Editorial/2017/02/23/Tennesseans-deserve-real-and-lasting-tax-relief.html?ci=stream&lp=1&p=

Mark Harmon: Governor’s broadband plan not bold enough (News Sentinel) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has been getting kudos for his plan to promote rural broadband, but a review of the issue and Haslam’s plan suggests the governor has earned barely a kudo. Chattanooga’s Electric Power Board began offering one-gigabit service in 2010. Now more than 9,100 use EPB’s fiberoptic internet service. EPB Fiber Optics serves 82,000 homes and 7,000 businesses with data, voice and/or video. Dozens of nonprofit cooperatives, building on municipal utilities, want to extend fast broadband to rural areas. Telecommunications giants like AT&T and Comcast have responded by exercising their political clout. http://www.knoxnews.com/story/opinion/columnists/mark-harmon/2017/02/23/mark-harmon-governors-broadband-plan-not-bold-enough/98218492/

Sam Stockard: ‘Moral Mondays’ Draw Crowds, But Are Lawmakers Listening? (Memphis Daily News) Johnny and Julie Erwin don’t look like typical protesters, but the senior couple joined the “moral Mondays” ruckus recently at the State Capitol, Johnny wearing his Air Force cap and Julie holding a list of social legislation they oppose. “I’m just really thrilled to be part of this and see what’s going on, because I believe strongly against these bills that are being brought up,” says Johnny, a Nashville resident retired from the grocery business, as he prepares to step into a throng of people chanting outside the Senate chamber. Julie’s list notes “anti-gay” bills brought forward this session, the so-called transgender bathroom bill, an artificial insemination bill, a move to circumvent the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision and a measure reinforcing a law allowing counselors to refer patients to other people if they disagree with their lifestyle. https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2017/feb/23/moral-mondays-draw-crowds-but-are-lawmakers-listening/

Editorial: The Anti-Vaccine Movement Gains a Friend in the White House (NY Times) Vaccine opponents, often the subject of ridicule, have found fresh energy in the election of a president who has repeated discredited claims linking childhood immunizations to autism and who has apparently decided to pursue them. With President Trump’s support, this fringe movement could win official recognition, threatening lives and making it urgent that health officials, educators and others respond with a science-based defense of vaccines. The good news is that members of Congress are pushing back. Six influential lawmakers from both parties, including Senators Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, and Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, sent a letter to their colleagues on Tuesday declaring, “Simply put, vaccines save lives.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/opinion/the-anti-vaccine-movement-gains-a-friend-in-the-white-house.html

Wednesday, February 22

Mayors of Middle Tennessee lobby for IMPROVE Act on Capitol Hill (WKRN) “They know they have to do something” was the consensus from mayors representing some of Middle Tennessee’s largest municipalities who lobbied for Governor Bill Haslam’s IMPROVE Act on Capitol Hill Tuesday. Just exactly what lawmakers will do with various road funding proposals remains perhaps the biggest issue on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill that would affect virtually every family in the state. The group lobbying lawmakers included Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan, Sumner County Mayor Anthony Holt, Robertson County Mayor Howard Bradley and Williamson County Rogers Anderson. http://wkrn.com/2017/02/21/mayors-of-middle-tennessee-lobby-for-improve-act-on-capitol-hill/

Middle Tennessee mayors voice support for local option tax (AP) Five mayors from Middle Tennessee are speaking out in favor of allowing local governments to hold referendums on raising taxes to pay for transit projects. Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson says the issue is of particular importance in counties suffering from heavy traffic congestion. In his words: “Let the people decide.” Joining Anderson at the Statehouse on Tuesday were Kim McMillan of Clarksville, Howard Bradley of Robertson County, Anthony Holt of Sumner County and Charlie Norman of Maury County. The local-option provision is part of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s transportation proposal that would also include the state’s first gas tax hike since 1989. http://www.wsmv.com/story/34558654/middle-tennessee-mayors-voice-support-for-local-option-tax

Mayors back Haslam’s controversial transportation plan during Capitol visit (Nashville Business Journal) Middle Tennessee wants transit funding, and it’s an all-hands-on-deck effort. On Tuesday, regional mayors gathered at the state Capitol to urge lawmakers to back Gov. Bill Haslam’s controversial transportation funding bill, particularly the bill’s enabling legislation component. The enabling legislation portion would allow local governments, through public referendums, to add a sales tax surcharge to pay for mass-transit projects. When Haslam revealed his proposal, local officials called on the governor’s office to expand the enabling legislation component to give cities and counties more tax options to choose from when presenting a plan to the public. http://www.bizjournals.com/nashville/news/2017/02/21/mayors-back-haslams-controversial-transportation.html

Haslam’s gas tax bill set to be taken up Wednesday (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Haslam’s gas tax proposal will have its first real legislative test on Wednesday, when a House subcommittee is expected to take up the measure. Haslam’s gas tax legislation is the second item on the agenda of the House Transportation Subcommittee. Some lawmakers, including House Majority Leader Glen Casada, have expressed skepticism that Haslam’s plan will be able to make it out of the eight-member subcommittee. Athough Haslam’s legislation was introduced as a caption — a type of bill that is written broadly enough to allow for changes — at least two amendments have been filed as of Tuesday afternoon. http://www.wbir.com/news/politics/haslams-gas-tax-bill-set-to-be-taken-up-wednesday/411038018

Casada: Haslam’s gas tax bill could see Wednesday vote (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Haslam’s gas tax proposal will have its first real legislative test on Wednesday when a House subcommittee is not only expected to take up the measure but also vote on it. On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Glen Casada said he thinks the committee will vote on Haslam’s gas tax legislation, which is the second item on the agenda of the House Transportation Subcommittee. “The intent is to do a vote tomorrow,” he said. Some lawmakers, including Casada, have expressed skepticism that Haslam’s plan will be able to make it out of the eight-member subcommittee. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/21/haslams-gas-tax-bill-set-taken-up-wednesday/98192022/

Place your bets: Tennessee House panel takes on Haslam gas tax bill, competing measure today (Times Free Press) Gov. Bill Haslam’s gas tax increase plan to pay for Tennessee’s next generation of road projects comes up today in a House panel. But lawmakers say it’s anybody’s guess whether it will be the governor’s plan or a competing version that races out. “Get your dice ready,” quipped Rep. David Alexander, R-Winchester, a member of the eight-member House Transportation Subcommittee that will consider Haslam’s funding, as well as a measure introduced by House Assistant Majority Leader David Hawk, R-Greeneville, and possibly a third plan. “Roll ’em, man!” The Republican governor is calling for a 7-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase and a 12-cent hike on diesel to help raise $227.8 million to begin tackling a nearly 1,000-project backlog of highway and bridge improvements and new projects. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/politics/state/story/2017/feb/22/place-your-bets-tn-house-panel-takes-haslam-g/414112/

County backs Haslam gas tax proposal (Post-Intelligencer) Henry County government went on the record Tuesday as being in favor of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to raise the gasoline tax in the state. Haslam has been promoting the plan, called the Improve Act, which would increase the tax on gasoline in the state by 7 cents and the tax on diesel fuel by 12 cents, in recent weeks. He says the total package would bring in about $296 million a year to the state’s Department of Transportation and an additional $78 million a year to counties in the state. His argument has been that the state’s transportation system is in dire need of some fix-ups, with a $6 billion backlog of projects staring in the face of highway officials. http://www.parispi.net/news/local_news/article_de3d1518-f8ad-11e6-a008-8fe02eb9bfff.html

Haslam to visit Columbia on March 3 (Daily Herald) Gov. Bill Haslam will be in Columbia on March 3, speaking to the Kiwanis Club in the Tennessee Farm Bureau building on Bear Creek Pike. The governor’s appearance will come less than a month after he filed his NextTennessee legislative agenda, which includes his list of priorities for the 110th General Assembly. “The Kiwanis Club of Columbia is honored to have Gov. Haslam speak to our club and other invited guests about the exciting progress we are making in Tennessee and how it will impact us here in Maury County,” said Trent Ogilvie, Kiwanis Club of Columbia president. “Our focus at Kiwanis is on improving the world one child and one community at a time, and I believe that Gov. Haslam’s visit with us will speak to how we can work diligently to make this happen in a greater way.” http://www.columbiadailyherald.com/news/20170221/haslam-to-visit-columbia-on-march-3

Citizens get update on gas, diesel tax (Cannon Courier) Citizens from Cannon and surrounding counties got a chance to express their opinions on the proposed gas and diesel fuel taxes. The meeting, featuring state Rep. Mark Pody and state Sen. Mae Beavers, was held at the Cannon County Senior Citizens Center. More than 50 taxpayers were on hand for the Friday, February 17 session. A plan proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam would increase the state’s gas tax by 7 cents and the diesel tax by 12 cents while cutting Tennessee’s sales and businesses taxes. The fuel tax plan also includes a $5 increase in car registration fees, a new $100-a-year fee on electric vehicles, in addition to charges on rental cars and natural-gas vehicles. “To help offset that tax increase” Haslam wants to cut sales tax by $55 million, said Pody, adding Haslam has said those taxes would raise an additional $278 million a year that would be split between the state and local governments. http://www.cannoncourier.com/citizens-get-update-on-gas-diesel-tax-cms-16216

Gov. Haslam’s town hall meeting draws big crowd (Herald Chronicle) Gov. Bill Haslam, left, held a town hall meeting last night in the Franklin County Annex’s community room to speak about his “IMPROVE Act,” which would create $278 million in new revenue funds for road and bridge maintenance and repair by raising the gas tax by 7 cents per gallon, bringing the total tax on regular gas in Tennessee to 28.4 cents a gallon. Around 200 citizens attended the event, including Rep. David Alexander, FC Mayor Richard Stewart, county commissioners, city mayors and other local government officials to ask questions and help them decide whether to support or oppose the bill. http://www.heraldchronicle.com/gov-haslams-town-hall-meeting-draws-big-crowd/

Big bounce: State revenue $169M over budget estimates in January (TN Journal/Humphrey) News release from Department of Finance and Administration: Tennessee tax revenues were above budgeted estimates for January. Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin today announced that overall January revenues, driven by a very large one-time franchise and excise tax payment, were $1.4 billion. Total revenues were $169.1 million more than the state budgeted and 10.54% more than revenues received in January of last year. http://humphreyonthehill.tnjournal.net/big-bounce-state-revenue-169m-over-budget-estimates-in-january/

Sedgwick Announces $34M Expansion, Will Create 150 New Jobs (Memphis Daily News) Sedgwick Claims Management has announced plans to expand its corporate headquarters in Memphis, which will result in the creation of 150 local jobs. Dave North, CEO of Sedgwick Claims Management, announces the expansion of the Memphis-based company’s headquarters Monday, Feb. 20. The expansion will consolidate Sedgwick’s headquarters into a single campus in Shelby County and locate research and development functions to that site, according to Ted Townsend, chief operating officer for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. “We always look to partner strategically with companies and focus on their long-term growth,” Townsend said. https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2017/feb/21/sedgwick-announces-34m-expansion-will-create-150-new-jobs/

University of Tennessee president delivers State of the University address (AP) University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro lauded his school system’s commitment to diversity while acknowledging “some tension” as UT tries to be more inclusive. DiPietro said he understood that navigating change can be challenging, but said demographics are changing and students have to be prepared for diverse workplace environments. DiPietro’s remarks were made during the school’s second State of the University address. They come against the backdrop of conservative state lawmakers targeting UT in recent years over diversity initiatives on campus and an annual student-run “Sex Week.” http://wate.com/2017/02/21/university-of-tennessee-president-delivers-state-of-the-university-address/

UT President Reiterates He’s ‘Committed To Diversity And Inclusion’ After Pushback From Lawmakers (WPLN) The president of the University of Tennessee system will highlight its stronger financials and increasing graduation rates at the annual State of UT address today. Joe DiPietro will also reiterate that the school is “committed to diversity and inclusion,” he said last week. That’s a topic that has been a bit of a lightning rod with conservative lawmakers in recent years. They have repeatedly berated the Knoxville campus for funding sexual awareness programming, and they de-funded its diversity office last year after it wrote a blog post advocating for gender-neutral pronouns and religion-neutral holiday terms. http://nashvillepublicradio.org/post/ut-president-reiterates-hes-committed-diversity-and-inclusion-after-pushback-lawmakers

UT president pushes inclusion while acknowledging ‘tension’ (AP) University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro lauded his school system’s commitment to diversity while acknowledging “some tension” as UT tries to be more inclusive. DiPietro said he understood that navigating change can be challenging, but said demographics are changing and students have to be prepared for diverse workplace environments. DiPietro’s remarks were made during the school’s second State of the University address. They come against the backdrop of conservative state lawmakers targeting UT in recent years over diversity initiatives on campus and an annual student-run “Sex Week.” http://www.wsmv.com/story/34562654/ut-president-pushes-inclusion-while-acknowledging-tension

Study: Immigrants vital to Tennessee economy (Tennessean) Tennessee is home to more than 322,000 immigrants with nearly $6 billion in annual spending power. That’s according to the bipartisan New American Economy, which released state-specific data Tuesday that highlights the economic contributions of immigrants in their communities. Nashville business and city leaders held a press conference Tuesday to unveil the data and urge state legislators to make Tennessee a welcoming place for immigrants. “First of all, immigrants fill workforce gaps in the economy that are important to maintaining our ongoing prosperity, said Ralph Schulz, CEO of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. “We have immigrants in small businesses, in large businesses, a wide range of industries.” http://www.tennessean.com/story/money/2017/02/21/study-immigrants-vital-tennessee-economy/98200076/

Influential immigrants talk about impact they have on Tennessee’s economy (WKRN) On Tuesday, representatives with the Department of Homeland Security released two new memos saying they are going to hire 15,000 new employees to help with enforcement. In response, business leaders went to Tennessee’s capitol to talk about the impact immigrants have on the state’s economy. “We are here today for one reason. We are here to provide better information. I think the key part of this debate or the confusion is because we don’t have accurate data,” said Dr. Ming Wang, one of several business leaders who discussed immigration reform at Legislative Plaza. http://wkrn.com/2017/02/21/influential-immigrants-talk-about-impact-they-have-on-tennessees-economy/

Business Leaders To Legislators: Tennessee Can’t Afford To Be Unwelcoming To Immigrants (WPLN) Business leaders swarmed the Tennessee capitol Tuesday to talk about a topic dominating the national news — immigration. Advocates range from the Nashville Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to the Tennessee Farm Bureau. These groups acknowledge that the federal government is in charge, while suggesting there are smaller ways the state could act. “Rather than criticizing each other — the natives and the immigrants — let’s look at what we can do together to help this great country,” said Ming Wang, a Nashville ophthalmologist and entrepreneur who heads the Tennessee Chinese Chamber of Commerce. http://nashvillepublicradio.org/post/business-leaders-legislators-tennessee-cant-afford-be-unwelcoming-immigrants#stream/0

TN business leaders say immigrants important to economy (WSMV) Business leaders from all over Tennessee met Tuesday to speak about the critical role immigrants play in the state’s economy. Those leaders, both native and foreign, highlighted the importance of job creation. Local leaders emphasized that immigrants fill workforce gaps in several crucial fields, including STEM and agriculture. They also argued that the most beneficial factor in economic growth is an influx of workers. “Prosperity grows when the workforce grows. The immigration into Middle Tennessee is part of what’s driving that prosperity that we’re feeling all around us,” said Ralph Schulz, president of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. http://www.wsmv.com/story/34562463/tn-business-leaders-say-immigrants-important-to-economy

A Look At An Immigrant’s Impact On Tennessee (WTVF) In Tennessee, immigrants make up about 5 percent of the population. Numbers released by the New American Economy have shown just how that number impacts others. “Immigrants make up 15 percent of Nashville’s tourism, hospitality and recreation industries. More than 20 percent of the construction industry has jobs that are filled by immigrants and both of those are critical in maintaining our prosperity and momentum as we move into the future,” said Ralph Schulz with the Nashville Chamber of Commerce.  Many of the men who planned to speak to lawmakers Tuesday are immigrants themselves including Councilman Fabian Bedne. “This is what you get with an immigrant, you get somebody who is in love, passionate about what we have here, about our democracy, about our system of rights,” Bedne said. http://www.newschannel5.com/news/a-look-at-an-immigrants-impact-on-tennessee

Tennessee appeals court hears merits of education funding lawsuit (Tennessean) Should a judge be able to demand Tennessee and its legislative body provide the full amount of money for schools detailed in its education funding formula? That’s the central question in a Tennessee Court of Appeals case in which Metro Nashville Public Schools is wanting the state to provide money for English language learners as spelled out under the state’s education funding formula. The arguments on Tuesday were heard by Court of Appeals Judges Frank Clement Jr., Andy Bennett and Richard Dinkins. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/education/2017/02/21/tennessee-appeals-court-hears-merits-education-funding-lawsuit/98189140/

Lawmakers want $25M from surplus for Gatlinburg wildfire relief (Tennessean) A bill to provide property tax relief to victims of the Gatlinburg wildfires easily cleared a House committee Tuesday, but East Tennessee lawmakers are still hoping Gov. Bill Haslam revises his plan for the $1 billion in state surplus money to include at least $25 million in relief funding. The bill was never expected to meet much resistance considering the focus of the legislation — the Senate version cleared that chamber’s finance committee unanimously last week — but the use of state surplus money is still a question. Haslam has said much of it is already targeted for key initiatives like the state’s rainy day fund, raises for teachers and a tax cut he’s including as part of his broad plan to address the state’s backlog of road projects. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/21/lawmakers-want-25-million-surplus-gatlinburg-wildfire-relief/98175938/

Tennessee senator vacates, locks office amid renewed protest (Tennessean) A Tennessee senator has locked up her state Capitol office amid a renewed feud with protesters. About a dozen people were involved in Tuesday’s protest at Republican Sen. Mae Beavers’ office. Some read civil rights writings and knocked on her door inside the office. Last week, Beavers and GOP Rep. Mark Pody abruptly ended their own news conference when protesters interrupted to oppose the lawmakers’ bathroom bill and legislation defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/21/tennessee-senator-vacates-locks-office-amid-renewed-protest/98212744/

Tennessee senator vacates, locks office amid renewed protest (AP) A Tennessee senator has locked up her state Capitol office amid a renewed feud with protesters. About a dozen people were involved in Tuesday’s protest at Republican Sen. Mae Beavers’ office. Some read civil rights writings and knocked on her door inside the office. Last week, Beavers and GOP Rep. Mark Pody abruptly ended their own news conference when protesters interrupted to oppose the lawmakers’ bathroom bill and legislation defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. Afterward, Beavers suggested the protesters should be imprisoned, spurring Tuesday’s sit-in http://www.wsmv.com/story/34558221/tennessee-senator-vacates-locks-office-amid-renewed-protest

Dozens visit Sen. Beavers office to talk about ‘natural marriage’ act (WKRN) Dozens of people who support gay marriage got a chance to talk to state Senator Mae Beavers on Tuesday. A group filed into the Mt. Juliet senator’s state capitol office since she is in support of the Defense of Natural Marriage Act. The bill outlines marriage to “just be” between a man and woman. The U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled marriage is legal between same sex couples. The group there Tuesday was the same that protested a news conference last week that led to Sen. Beavers and Rep. Mark Pody abruptly leaving. “The only reason we are here today is to talk about this idea, that we were agitators, and that we don’t deserve the same rights as other Tennesseans,” said organizer Ryan Jeanes. http://wkrn.com/2017/02/21/dozens-visit-sen-beavers-office-to-talk-about-natural-marriage-act/

Beavers Flees Protesters, Again — But Will Speak at a Pro-Trump Rally (Nashville Scene) State Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) fled Legislative Plaza to escape protesters for the second time in a week after refusing to talk to the small group who had gathered quietly in her office to try to talk to her about legislation she is sponsoring, an anti-transgender “bathroom bill” and the anti-gay marriage “Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act.” However, Beavers apparently only has a problem with protesters who don’t like her — she plans to speak at a March 4 rally created to counter the anti-Trump protests springing up nationally. http://www.nashvillescene.com/news/pith-in-the-wind/article/20852827/beavers-flees-protesters-again-as-she-makes-plans-to-attend-a-protest

Beavers Shuts Down Office As Protesters Gather Outside (Memphis Daily News) The sponsor of two bills aimed at the LGBT community left the Legislative Plaza in a huff Tuesday, Feb. 21, as protesters gathered around her office to object to her “retaliation” in the wake of a short-circuited press conference. With state troopers controlling the scene, Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, shut down her office and went to a secure elevator followed by several other people. She told the Tennessee Highway Patrol officers, “I’m going home until you all can keep them out of my office.” https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2017/feb/22/beavers-shuts-down-office-as-protesters-gather-outside-1/

Parole board deadline bill moves forward, with tweak (Tennessean) Lawmakers advancing a mandate for quicker decisions from the Tennessee Board of Parole on Tuesday tweaked the bill, allowing the board to retain discretion to release prisoners. Supporters and the bill sponsor say the change does not affect the intent of the bill, which would set a 10-day deadline for the board to review cases when a new criminal charge that prompted to a parole violation is dismissed. The change made in a Tennessee House subcommittee meeting killed language that obligated the board to release offenders when the charges were dismissed. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2017/02/21/parole-board-deadline-bill-moves-forward-tweak/98219932/

Controversial “Milo Bill” Gets New Name After Breitbart Editor Resigns (WTVF) A Republican lawmaker has planned to change the name of a controversial bill named after right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, after he seemed to endorse pedophilia in comments made over the weekend. The “Milo Bill” was first introduced by Republican Representative Martin Daniel earlier this month. At a news conference, Rep. Daniel played video of riots at UC Berkley which prompted school officials to cancel a speech by Yiannopolous. At the time, Rep. Daniel told reporters his bill would prevent state run colleges like UT Knoxville from taking similar measures. http://www.newschannel5.com/news/controversial-milo-bill-gets-new-name-after-breitbart-editor-resigns

Bar opposed to judicial election bill (Nashville Post) The Nashville Bar Association has announced its official opposition to a bill that would make judicial elections non-partisan, but only in Davidson County. The legislation would also require that the incumbent be listed first on the ballot. Nashville Republican Sen. Steve Dickerson is sponsoring the bill, along with Rep. William Lamberth (R-Cottontown). It would eliminate partisan races for judges and court positions in the two largest counties in the state, which also happen to be the only two counties that tend to elect Democrats at both the city and county level. Shelby County has non-partisan elections for judges but not for clerks; the county chose to do so several years ago. Metro Nashville has not asked for the change, and critics have called the bill a power grab by Republicans. http://www.nashvillepost.com/politics/state-government/article/20852741/bar-opposed-to-judicial-election-bill

Baker bashes TEA voucher poll (Nashville Post) Ward Baker, the former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and potential campaign manager if U.S. Rep. Diane Black runs for governor, sent an email to state Republican legislators criticizing the results of a poll issued by the Tennessee Education Association earlier this week. That poll, according to a press release from TEA, found that 59.5 percent of Tennesseans are opposed to vouchers. Although on Wednesday state Sen. Brian Kelsey pulled his voucher bill that would only affect Shelby County schools, another broader voucher bill remains in play (and the vote could depend on whomever the Shelby County Commission appoints to replace the pro-voucher Mark Lovell, who just resigned after allegations of impropriety). http://www.nashvillepost.com/politics/state-government/article/20852533/baker-bashes-tea-voucher-poll

Akbari Expungement Bill Passes in Subcommittee With Bipartisan Support (Memphis Daily News) State Rep. Raumesh Akbari’s effort to cut felony conviction expungement fees in half received a strong endorsement today in the form of bipartisan support. The legislation, which would reduce the fee to $180 from $350, advanced from the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee with support from the panel’s chairman, Republican Rep. Tilman Goins of Morristown. Calling it a “very good bill” he intends to co-sponsor, Goins said, “It’s unfortunate that the way our justice system is sometimes, it tends to favor people with money versus those without.” https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2017/feb/22/akbari-expungement-bill-passes-in-subcommittee-with-bipartisan-support/

Hundreds press Marsha Blackburn for answers at town hall (Tennessean) James Burks taught school for 42 years, and lost much of his right arm due to a treatable but incurable form of cancer. He drew perhaps the most rousing applause from about 130 residents on Tuesday inside at a town hall in Fairview hosted by U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn. The applause wasn’t for his question. It came when he gave a piece of advice to the eight-term Republican from Brentwood. “Understand that, please, the things going on in America today are not Democrat or Republican things,” he said. “(What you’re doing,) you’re doing it for the good of the people, not anyone on any side of the aisle.” http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/21/marsha-blackburn-host-town-hall-fairview/98167918/

Congressman Blackburn hosts town hall in City of Fairview (WKRN) Congressman Marsha Blackburn hosted a town hall meeting in Fairview Tuesday afternoon. The event was at maximum capacity and seating was capped at 100, requiring reservations. It began at 3:30 p.m. with around 150 demonstrators outside the Fairview City Hall. “We really want a chance just to sit down and talk with her. We’re not against her. We’re not fighting her. We really just want the opportunity to sit down eye to eye, talk with her, tell her what we’re concerned about, see if there’s any possibility that we can find common ground,” said Rebecca Purington. http://wkrn.com/2017/02/21/congressman-blackburn-hosts-town-hall-in-city-of-fairview/

Hundreds gather for Blackburn town hall meeting in Fairview (WSMV) Congressman Marsha Blackburn, R-TN, hosted a town hall meeting in Fairview on Tuesday afternoon. Fairview City Hall only holds 130 people, but about 150 people from across the state held an alternative town hall outside. Though it wasn’t directly to Blackburn, everyone outside got the opportunity to ask a question. “Will she stand up to the lying president we have now?” one protester asked. “My question to Marsha Blackburn is won’t you continue to support Planned Parenthood?” another asked. Officials say extra police were on hand make sure things stay safe. http://www.wsmv.com/story/34553072/hundreds-gather-for-blackburn-town-hall-meeting-in-fairview

Blackburn Takes Pointed Questions About Obamacare, Trump At Fairview Town Hall (WPLN) Congressman Marsha Blackburn took on pointed questions yesterday about President Donald Trump’s first month in office and plans to replace the Affordable Care Act. The Republican representative was just the latest member of Congress to face hostility as she met with constituents in an hour-long, townhall-style meeting in Fairview. Space at the event was limited. Davidson County resident Betty Harwell and her husband learned on the drive to Fairview that admittance to Blackburn’s town hall would be restricted. http://nashvillepublicradio.org/post/blackburn-takes-pointed-questions-about-obamacare-trump-fairview-town-hall#stream/0

Rally Held Outside Blackburn Town Hall (WTVF) Protesters held what they called an “Alternative Town Hall” meeting outside of the Fairview City Hall where U.S. Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn took questions in a Town Hall meeting. The event started at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday with Rep. Blackburn, Mayor Patti Carroll and the Fairview Board of Commissioners. There was a large response to the meeting and, according to a release, the event was full. City officials were forced to open the meeting to only Fairview residents. While Blackburn took questions inside, people rallied at the “alternative” town hall. The crowd chanted and speakers talked about their frustrations with the current administration. http://www.newschannel5.com/news/protest-planned-outside-blackburn-town-hall

Marsha Blackburn Met With Protests at Town Hall (Nashville Scene) When Fairview, Tenn., an around 8,000 person community 30 minutes south of Nashville, is trending on Twitter, it might make you wonder if Kellyanne Conway made up another rural massacre. But alas it was U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who on Tuesday afternoon attracted a couple hundred protestors to a town hall she held in Fairview’s city center, that caused folks to tune in to the small community. Just like a recent town hall at Middle Tennessee State University where Rep. Diane Black faced protestors, the town hall in Fairview had only brought out around 30 people in its previous iteration. The room at Tuesday’s town hall seated around 100 people, and upward of 20 local and national media members packed in behind the audience. http://www.nashvillescene.com/news/pith-in-the-wind/article/20852872/marsha-blackburn-met-with-protests-at-town-hall

Sen. Alexander: Obamacare fix is on the way (WATE) Senator Lamar Alexander took a moment to address the future of the Affordable Care Act. Posting a video to his Twitter page last week, Senator Alexander said he hopes to calm some fears about what happens next. Knoxville’s last insurer, Humana, announced last week that they were leaving the Affordable Care Act’s public insurance exchange in 2018. “We had an unpleasant reminder this week that there is a real Obamacare emergency in Tennessee,” said Senator Alexander. http://wate.com/2017/02/21/sen-alexander-obamacare-fix-is-on-the-way/

Knoxville preparing for Affordable Care Act town hall meeting (WBIR) As leaders in Washington prepare to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, hundreds right here in Knoxville will meet this week to discuss just what that means for them. Ahead of a forum Thursday night, panelists and organizers explain the meeting isn’t going to be about politics, but a coming together of people seeking understanding. Barbara Nicodeemus has private insurance, but like many Americans she wonders what losing the ACA will mean for her policy. She reached out to the city of Knoxville with help in putting on an event to answer those questions. Together with the League of Women Voters of Knoxville/Knox County a panel of area healthcare and business experts will take questions and help guide a conversation about the future of health care in America. http://www.wbir.com/news/local/knoxville-preparing-for-affordable-car-act-town-hall-meeting/411504624

Council advances $14M in incentives for Opryland water park (Tennessean) Ryman Hospitality’s plans for a new water park complex at its Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center took a significant step forward Tuesday with the Metro Council giving preliminary approval of an incentive package for the company valued at an estimated $13.8 million. The council voted 33-3 on a key second of three votes to approve a plan to keep Opryland’s property tax payments flat through 2025 after this year’s reappraisal. In doing so, Metro would forfeit about $1.63 million in expected annual property taxes the city would typically collect from the water park. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2017/02/21/council-advances-14m-incentives-opryland-water-park/98191506/

Has Expanding Medicaid Made People Healthier? (Governing) For all the debate about whether states should expand eligibility for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, it’s unclear whether doing so actually makes people healthier. Initial research into the impact of expansion is at the same time exhaustive and scarce, as well as seemingly contradictory in some cases. But what we do know for certain is that as a result of the federal law about 16 million Americans have gained health coverage through Medicaid. And for the states that chose to expand their programs, there is ample evidence of increased usage of health services and improved affordability of care. For example, a study last year in The Journal of the American Medical Association looked at outcomes in Arkansas, Kentucky and Texas. http://www.governing.com/topics/health-human-services/gov-medicaid-expansion-research-health-impact.html

OPINION

David Plazas: Hear Haslam out on road funding in Gallatin forum (Tennessean) Legislative leaders in Tennessee say the highest priorities in state government relate to the budget and transportation funding. That is good news as Gov. Bill Haslam travels the state to publicly share his plan to pay for a $10.5 billion backlog of roads and infrastructure projects across the state over the next 13 years. Haslam presented his ambitious IMPROVE Act plan to the Tennessee General Assembly on Jan. 30 at his annual State of the State address. http://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/editorials/2017/02/21/hear-haslam-out-roads-funding-gallatin-forum/98213816/

Guest column: Education in Tennessee can and must keep improving (Tennessean) Tennessee’s students are better prepared today than ever before. They are getting ready for college, getting ready for jobs and getting ready to be active, engaged citizens. Our students’ successes include higher on-time graduation rates, fewer remedial college classes, and Tennessee being named the fastest improving state in the nation in education – again. The success of the last few years was not an accident. It resulted from a dedicated, bipartisan mission to implement student-centered, common-sense reforms so that every Tennessee child has the opportunity to succeed. http://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/2017/02/21/education-tennessee-can-and-must-keep-improving/97698130/

Editorial: Action needed to rescue ACA exchange (News Sentinel) A town hall meeting on the future of the Affordable Care Act scheduled for Thursday took on fresh urgency with last week’s announcement that Humana would no longer participate in the law’s health insurance exchanges. Humana, the sole ACA exchange insurer remaining in the Knoxville area, announced plans to exit the ACA exchange next year, citing an “unbalanced risk pool.” The announcement came about a month after a federal court rejected a proposed merger with Aetna. http://www.knoxnews.com/story/opinion/editorials/2017/02/22/editorial-action-needed-rescue-affordable-care-act-exchange/98191168/

Frank Cagle: State legislators guilty of spreading fake news (News Sentinel) Sometimes state legislators, out on the stump, away from pesky reporters, take the opportunity to dump a wagon load of male bovine manure. They do it to fire up supporters, to make themselves seem like knowledgeable insiders and to give their demented imaginations free rein. They seem to have no problem trying to fool the “rubes” out in the sticks. The products of their fervid imaginations wind up passed along on social media, and because of the source, they are often accepted as fact. Thus “fake news” is born. You would think these people would learn, in this day and age, that smartphones can record their flights of fancy and share them in some place where a reporter, or some other fact checker, hears it. http://www.knoxnews.com/story/opinion/columnists/frank-cagle/2017/02/22/frank-cagle-state-legislators-guilty-spreading-fake-news/98200834/

Tuesday, February 21

States Push to Raise Gasoline Taxes (Wall Street Journal) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is putting his fellow Republican lawmakers to the test, with a plan to raise the state’s gas taxes for the first time in nearly three decades. He joins a string of governors who have pushed through similar increases. “We need to do something,” Mr. Haslam said in a recent interview, asserting that a gas tax is the most equitable revenue stream to use to fix roads. He said his plan would raise about $278 million a year for road and infrastructure improvements. Nearly 20 states, with both Republican and Democratic governors, have raised gas taxes or recalculated gas-tax formulas in recent years to generate funds for upgrades to aging roads and bridges. This legislative season, at least a dozen more are considering such measures, said Kevin Pula, a transportation policy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures. https://www.wsj.com/articles/states-push-to-raise-gasoline-taxes-1487673018

Governor to talk road funding in Algood (Herald-Citizen) Gov. Bill Haslam is taking to the road to improve the state highways. Haslam is coming to Algood to push a proposal he has made to increase transportation funding. The public will get a chance to ask him about it in a town hall meeting the governor is hosting Thursday. The meeting will be at Trinity Assembly from 2:15-3:30 p.m. The proposal — IMPROVE (Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy) Act — would cut some taxes, while the tax on gas and diesel would be increased to allow the state to build up its infrastructure. Tennessee’s gasoline tax is 20-cents per gallon, a rate that was last changed in 1989. The tax on diesel fuel is 17-cents per gallon, which was last set in 1990. http://herald-citizen.com/stories/governor-to-talk-road-funding-in-algood,19855

Gov. Haslam’s effort to index future fuel tax increases to inflation draws opposition (Times Free Press) Tennessee gas station and convenience store operators are fighting a provision in Gov. Bill Haslam’s gas tax increase plan that would index future fuel-price hikes every two years to the rate of inflation. In a letter sent last month to legislators, Emily LeRoy, executive director of the Tennessee Fuel and Convenience Store Association (TFCA), called the indexing provision a “blank check” for state government. “We believe our customers will oppose an automatic tax increase, which is anti-consumer and contrary to Tennessee’s reputation as a fiscally conservative state,” the letter states. “We want to support this legislation, but cannot be supportive” if that’s included. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/politics/state/story/2017/feb/20/haslams-effort-index-future-fuel-tax-increase/413734/

Governor announces plan to expand broadband accessibility (WVLT) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act, which would combat the lack of access to a minimum standard of online connectivity. “From the farmer and the accountant in West Tennessee whose businesses are stifled, to the East Tennessee student who can’t complete her schoolwork at home, a lack of reliable internet access is preventing too many rural Tennesseans, rural communities and our state from reaching its full potential,” Gov. Haslam said. “While there is no one solution that can guarantee broadband accessibility to every single Tennessean, this legislation provides a reasonable, responsible path to improve access in a meaningful way through investment, deregulation and education.” http://www.local8now.com/content/news/Governor-announces-plan-to-expand-broadband-accessibility-414264483.html

Flying Coach: Many Universities Are Using Private Planes (AP) Once seen as a luxury of the corporate world, private planes are becoming increasingly common at U.S. colleges and universities as schools try to attract athletes, raise money and reward coaches with jet-set vacations. Some schools spend millions of dollars a year flying their coaches and executives on scores of trips around the country, and some pass the cost on to students and taxpayers. Officials at the University of Tennessee routinely fly between Knoxville and Nashville, a drive of less than three hours. “With our executive administration, their time is valuable enough that certainly the plane use is warranted,” said Ron Maples, interim treasurer for the University of Tennessee. He added that the school’s yearly spending on flights, about $700,000, is “hardly a blip” in the overall budget. https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2017/02/20/us/ap-us-universities-private-airplanes.html?_r=0

Lawmakers To Begin Discussion Of Broadband Expansion (WTVF) Lawmakers are expected to discuss a key piece of legislation from Governor Haslam that would create incentives for Internet providers who expand to rural areas. Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act would create those incentives as well as deregulate who qualifies as a provider. Leaders in rural communities were excited to see the legislation move forward. “I think we just sort of assume everyone has it,” said Margot Fosnes, president of the Robertson County Chamber of Commerce. “It’s shocking to a lot of people that right here in Middle Tennessee, in areas very, very close to Nashville, that’s just not the case.” http://www.newschannel5.com/news/lawmakers-to-begin-discussion-of-broadband-expansion

Lawmakers, LGBT advocates far apart on marriage, parenting bills (Tennessean) If you’re a man living in Tennessee, state law says you can claim paternity by performing what reads like a line from a famous Disney movie about a lion cub. A man is presumed the father of a child if “while the child is under the age of majority, the man receives the child into the man’s home and openly holds the child out as the man’s natural child,” a state statute reads. Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, cited that statute in defending legislation she introduced that would repeal a law that grants legitimacy to children conceived through artificial insemination in married heterosexual couples. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/20/lawmakers-lgbt-advocates-far-apart-marriage-parenting-bills/98065390/

Voucher bill could divert $18M from Shelby County Schools (Commercial Appeal) A bill that would create vouchers for students to use public money to attend private schools could divert upwards of $18 million from Shelby County Schools, according to a fiscal note filed with the bill. The bill, filed by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, includes language that only students in districts with at least 30 schools in the bottom 5 percent in the state in academic performance would be eligible for a voucher. SCS is the only district in Tennessee with that many low-performing schools. http://www.commercialappeal.com/story/news/education/2017/02/20/voucher-bill-could-divert-18m-shelby-county-schools/98164518/

Tennessee lawmaker changes name of ‘Milo Bill’ after controversy (Tennessean) A Republican lawmaker in Tennessee is distancing himself from Breitbart columnist Milo Yiannopoulos after video surfaced this past week of the controversial commentator condoning sex between grown men and underage boys. After video surfaced of the comments, the provocative columnist has since been disinvited from speaking at Conservative Political Action Conference and had his book cancelled by his publisher. While discussing a bill protecting free speech on college campuses in a news conference in earlier this month, sponsors Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, and Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, referenced the recent protests against Yiannopoulos at the University of California, Berkeley. Violence erupted at a protest, prompting officials there to cancel the speech. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/20/tennessee-lawmaker-changes-name-milo-bill-after-controversy/98175740/

Martin Daniel Won’t Disavow the ‘Milo’ Part of the ‘Milo Bill’ (Nashville Scene) Almost two weeks ago, state Rep. Martin Daniel reintroduced the “Tennessee Student Free Expression Act,” a revamped version of a bill he filed last year — but this time with much new fanfare. During a press conference that featured a number of random speakers, including Fox talking head Scottie Nell Hughes, Daniel proclaimed his legislation is needed in Tennessee after protests over a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California in Berkeley turned partially violent. “This bill, entitled the ‘Tennessee Student Freedom of Expression Act,’ or, informally, the Milo Bill, will, one, create an official university policy that strongly affirms the importance of free expression as a fundamental right,” Daniel said at the press conference, shortly before a statement from Yiannopoulos himself was read by another woman in attendance. http://www.nashvillescene.com/news/pith-in-the-wind/article/20852732/martin-daniel-wont-disavow-the-milo-part-of-the-milo-bill

7 House Democrats have not watched sexual harassment video (Tennessean) Amid criticism of lawmakers who’ve failed to watch a mandatory sexual harassment video, as of Friday afternoon, only seven House Democrats had yet to go through the required training. Records indicate a flurry of lawmakers watched the sexual harassment video between Wednesday and Friday, just days after The USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee and other media outlets reported on the number of lawmakers who had yet to watch the mandatory 22-minute video, despite a deadline. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/19/7-house-democrats-have-not-watched-sexual-harassment-video/98063100/

Tennessee Capitol protests lead to call for more security (AP) Protests around the state Capitol in Nashville have some Republicans calling for a crackdown on demonstrators and for resurrecting more stringent security requirements for entering the legislative office complex.Democrats are pushing back against those calls, arguing that access to legislators shouldn’t be curtailed only because many of the protesters oppose the policies of Republican President Donald Trump on issues including immigration, race, abortion and LGBT rights. The latest clamor for enhanced security follows allegations that protesters disrupted state business and vandalized a legislative aide’s flower vase. http://wkrn.com/2017/02/20/tennessee-capitol-protests-lead-to-call-for-more-security/

Harris: House Leaders Took Right Action With Lovell Probe (Memphis Daily News) A Memphis legislator critical of the initial reaction to former Rep. Mark Lovell’s resignation is “somewhat satisfied” with the conclusion of a House investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct. State Sen. Lee Harris, leader of the Senate Minority Caucus, says the House leadership sent some “mixed messages” on Lovell’s departure, first saying no investigation could be made because he resigned, then saying an investigation found he violated the Legislature’s sexual harassment policy. But ultimately, Harris says, House leadership heeded the public’s wishes and took the right action. https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2017/feb/21/harris-somewhat-satisfied-with-way-house-leaders-handled-lovell-probe/

Joe Carr leaves door open to possible 2018 gubernatorial bid (Tennessean) Joe Carr, one of Tennessee’s perennial Republican candidates of late, said he currently has no plans to run for governor and would resist entering the race unless there’s sufficient grassroots support for his candidacy. In a recent interview, Carr, who calls himself a “constitutional conservative,” said he’s had people reach out to him to gauge his interest in running. “To say I wouldn’t, would not be accurate,” he said. “But to say that I’m planning or currently making arrangements to run a campaign for governor – I’m not.” http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/20/joe-carr-leaves-door-open-possible-2018-gubernatorial-bid/98158104/

Rep. Marsha Blackburn refuses — four times — to say if press is ‘enemy’ (Tennessean) Appearing on CNN, Rep. Marsha Blackburn refused four times Monday to say whether she agreed with President Trump that the press is the enemy of the American people. Blackburn, a Brentwood Republican who was a member of Trump’s transition team, said it’s important “to have a press that is a free and open press.” But asked four times whether she agreed with Trump’s characterization that the press is the “enemy,” Blackburn dodged each time. “It would not be my choice of words,” she conceded. “It would not be how I expressed frustration with the press.” http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/20/rep-marsha-blackburn-refuses—-four-times—-say-if-press-enemy/98161962/

Marsha Blackburn Can’t Bring Herself to Say the Media Isn’t the ‘Enemy’ (Nashville Scene) Wolf Blitzer tried four times Monday afternoon to get U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn to explicitly denounce President Donald Trump’s declaration that major media outlets in the United States are the “enemy of the American people,” but the Middle Tennessee congresswoman refused to do so. Eventually, she tripped over a mild statement about how she would have expressed her frustration with the media differently than the president had. http://www.nashvillescene.com/news/pith-in-the-wind/article/20852720/marsha-blackburn-cant-bring-herself-to-say-the-media-isnt-the-enemy-of-the-american-people

What to Watch: Republicans Return to Town Halls, and Protesters Follow (NY Times) They have faced shouts and jeers, and no shortage of sharp, and at times angry, questions. Protest signs have been hoisted. Cellphones have been held up to record it all. Republicans home for the congressional recess have been greeted with an earful at town hall-style meetings. Many lawmakers have no such meetings scheduled — sparing them the possibility of a “YouTube moment,” but opening them up to criticism that they are ducking their constituents. A number of other Republicans will be hearing from constituents on Tuesday, and New York Times reporters will be there to gauge the sentiment. Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, one of President Trump’s most high-profile supporters in the House during last year’s campaign, will hold a meeting at 3:30 p.m. Central time in her suburban Nashville district. The Times’s Trip Gabriel (@tripgabriel) will be there. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/21/us/politics/town-hall-protests-obamacare.html?_r=0

Protesters plan rally outside Blackburn town hall (WSMV) Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn’s highly anticipated town hall event Tuesday afternoon in Fairview is expected to draw a crowd of 500 to 1,000 people, according to Fairview city manager Scott Collins. With congress in recess all week, Blackburn planned the town hall as a small event to meet with constituents in Williamson County. Collins said there are only about 100 seats available to the public, so everyone else will have to stay outside city hall during the event. Maury County farmer and political activist Bernie Ellis is organizing an alternative town hall for those who won’t be inside. http://www.wsmv.com/story/34550230/protesters-plan-rally-outside-blackburn-town-hall

David Kustoff predicts tax cuts and Obamacare repeal (Commercial Appeal) Recently sworn-in U.S. Rep. David Kustoff told a lawyers’ group in Memphis Monday that he expects Congress to quickly enact tax cuts and replace Obamacare. “We’ve got a chance over the next three to six to nine months, with health care and tax reform, to do it, and frankly to do it in a big way,” said Kustoff, R-Germantown. “There will be a lot of checks and balances. What it comes out looking like, it probably won’t look perfect, but it’s going to give the American people the relief they need. That’s what the 2016 election was all about. They’re tired of the way government operates. They’re tired of paying their money over to the government.” http://www.commercialappeal.com/story/news/2017/02/20/kustoff-predicts-tax-cuts-obamacare-repeal/98151914/

Newtonian politics? Trump’s election gives Tri-Cities liberal new energy (Johnson City Press) There’s graffiti left behind a business on Johnson City’s Walnut Street with a message reading, “Trump Made Me Do It.” This message seems to apply to more than just one man with a rattle can, because local, liberal-leaning political groups have seen attendance skyrocket since the presidential election on Nov. 8 that put President Donald Trump in the White House. Washington County Democratic Party Chair Nancy Fischman, who lost a bid in November for a state House seat, said four times more people are attending the group’s meetings than before the election. http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/Politics/2017/02/20/Since-the-election-of-Donald-Trump-democratic-groups-in-the-Tri-Cities-feel-new-energy.html?ci=stream&lp=2&p=

Group writes guide on how to protest Trump and other lawmakers (WSMV) Over the past few weeks, there have been protests at town hall-style meetings all across the country. Now there’s a guide on “how to get noticed” at these events, but some feel it promotes bullying. The manual is called “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda.” It was written by former congressional staffers who saw success with the Tea Party movement during the Obama Administration. http://www.wsmv.com/story/34550950/group-writes-guide-on-how-to-protest-trump-and-other-lawmakers

Trump election has parallels to Andrew Jackson’s presidency (AP) It was an ugly, highly personal presidential election. An unvarnished celebrity outsider who pledged to represent the forgotten laborer took on an intellectual member of the Washington establishment looking to extend a political dynasty in the White House. Andrew Jackson’s triumph in 1828 over President John Quincy Adams bears striking similarities to Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton last year, and some of those most eager to point that out are in the Trump White House. Trump’s team has seized upon the parallels between the current president and the long-dead Tennessee war hero. Trump has hung a portrait of Jackson in the Oval Office and Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, who has pushed the comparison, told reporters after Trump’s inaugural address that “I don’t think we’ve had a speech like that since Andrew Jackson came to the White House.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/trump-election-has-parallels-to-andrew-jacksons-presidency/2017/02/20/974b70d2-f745-11e6-aa1e-5f735ee31334_story.html?utm_term=.6a9d8e375bfc

Rifts Among Southern Baptists Lead to Churches Withholding Funds (Wall Street Journal) A Texas megachurch is withholding its donations to the Southern Baptist Convention, a tangible sign of the internal struggle over the direction of the country’s largest Protestant denomination as Baptist leaders gathered in Nashville on Monday. Prestonwood Baptist Church, a congregation of more than 40,000 outside Dallas, announced last week that it is placing $1 million in escrow, rather than sending the money to its umbrella organization. A smaller Tennessee church already said it is withholding funding, and others are considering doing the same as the denomination’s leaders assembled Monday for a two-day annual meeting. The denomination has been roiled by tensions since the recent U.S. presidential race, when a split emerged between Southern Baptist leaders who opposed Donald Trump and others who backed him. https://www.wsj.com/articles/rifts-among-southern-baptists-lead-to-churches-withholding-funds-1487539426

Amid health care ‘chaos,’ Tennesseans push lawmakers for assurances (Tennessean) With Tennessee’s healthcare.gov market for 2018 at a breaking point, some are ramping up calls on federal lawmakers to take action to make sure people aren’t without health insurance options next year. Since Humana’s decision last week to leave the federally run exchange, the Tri-Cities area is the only region of the state that will have two insurers from which residents can choose in 2018. The Greater Knoxville area will have none. Yet, without progress on repeal-and-replace or repair of the Affordable Care Act in Washington, D.C., the exchange’s existence in the state beyond 2017 will depend on business decisions by insurers BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and Cigna. http://www.tennessean.com/story/money/industries/health-care/2017/02/20/amid-health-care-chaos-tennesseans-push-lawmakers-assurances/98057116/

Evans Brings Precision, Experience To Chairmanship of TVA Board (Memphis Daily News) Lynn Evans is precise, a trait that comes with being a certified public accountant and the owner of her own accounting and consulting firm. It also works well with her path to becoming the new chairwoman of the Tennessee Valley Authority board. Precision and complexity are not only part of being a CPA. They define Evans’ unplanned and lengthy tenure of 13 years on the TVA board and on the board of Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division before that. “I didn’t expect that I would be doing this at all,” said Evans, who was named to the MLGW board by Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton in 2004. In 2013, she received a voicemail asking her to call the White House, where she learned of her appointment by President Barack Obama to the TVA board. https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2017/feb/18/evans-brings-precision-experience-to-chairmanship-of-tva-board/

New traffic study ranks Nashville’s traffic among worst 25 in country (WKRN) We all know how bad traffic in Middle Tennessee can get, but how does it stack up to the rest of country? A new study done by INRIX shows that Nashville’s growth is obviously challenging the city’s infrastructure when it comes to traffic. The study shows Nashville drivers spend more than 33 hours sitting in traffic. That’s good enough, or bad enough, for the 23rd most in the country. The worst cities for traffic in the U.S. are Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Atlanta and Miami. Drivers in LA spend more than 100 hours a year sitting in traffic. Worldwide, LA holds on to the top spot for most congested cities. Nashville on the other hand falls to 126 when you factor in the rest of the world. http://wkrn.com/2017/02/20/new-traffic-study-ranks-nashvilles-traffic-among-worst-25-in-country/

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library on new license plate (News Sentinel) A new license plate design is now available for Tennessee motorists who want to show their support for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. A portion of the money raised from special license plate sales will go to the Dollywood Foundation, which will donate it directly to county Imagination Library programs to help support the initiative to increase childhood literacy around the world. David Dotson, president of the Dollywood Foundation, said in a news release that community support through initiatives like the new specialty license plates were vital to the success of the Imagination Library. http://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/local/tennessee/2017/02/21/dolly-partons-imagination-library-new-license-plate/98128632/

OPINION

Editorial: State right to battle ‘paper terrorism’ (News Sentinel) The state’s crackdown on the “sovereign citizens” movement is a welcome development. A Davidson County grand jury last week indicted 10 East Tennessee adherents of the bizarre movement. They face charges of forgery and filing bogus liens against public officials, a common tactic of the movement. The indictments came as Lee H. Cromwell, a sovereign citizen adherent, was convicted of vehicular homicide for driving backward into a crowd in Oak Ridge, killing a father of two. Cromwell filed a series of multimillion-dollar liens against the officer who arrested him, the district attorney general prosecuting him and the judge presiding over his case, and other officials. http://www.knoxnews.com/story/opinion/editorials/2017/02/21/editorial-state-right-battle-paper-terrorism/98157816/

David Plazas: Sen. Mae Beavers once embraced dissent; now she rejects it (Tennessean) The reaction has come swiftly since I wrote a column on Tennessean.com on Friday afternoon urging a state senator to stop threatening critics and blocking them from seeing her tweets on Twitter. Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Wilson County, has been on a roll blocking Twitter followers. Some questioned her actions and others took pride in being #BlockedByMae. It’s certainly her prerogative to make her account private and keep perceived undesirables out, but it is odd for an elected official to do so and it plays into the narrative that she is intolerant of dissent. http://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/columnists/david-plazas/2017/02/20/sen-mae-beavers-keeps-blocking-critics-even-reporters/98159334/

Friday, February 17

Haslam sticks with proposed cut on grocery taxes despite ‘steak and caviar’ argument (Times Free Press) A former Reagan administration economic adviser’s “steak and caviar” argument against cutting Tennessee’s sales tax on groceries to offset Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed gas tax hike is proving to be one thing some lawmakers can’t swallow. Economist Arthur Laffer, whose famous “Laffer Curve” inspired Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts aimed at fueling economic growth, described as “silly pandering” Haslam’s proposal to cut the state’s 5 percent sales tax on groceries by a half percentage point. It won’t help the poor, Laffer argued before a House committee this week. Cutting corporate taxes would, he said, because it would serve as a greater spur to Tennessee economic growth and job expansion. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/politics/state/story/2017/feb/17/haslam-sticks-proposed-cut-grocery-taxes-desp/413362/

Economist Makes ‘Caviar’ Argument Against Grocery Tax Cut (AP) Reagan administration economist Arthur Laffer is urging Tennessee lawmakers not to include a cut in the sales tax on groceries as part of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to offset a gas tax hike. Arthur Laffer said in a House meeting on Wednesday that bigger cuts on business taxes would do more to spur the economy. Democratic Rep. John Mark Windle of Livingston challenged Laffer about whether working families wouldn’t benefit from paying less on essential food items like baby formula. Laffer responded that such a move would “cut the tax on my buying a steak or caviar,” and that argued that lawmakers should focus on having the greatest economic impact. https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2017/feb/17/economist-makes-caviar-argument-against-grocery-tax-cut/

East Tennessee bridges on ‘structurally deficient’ list (WATE) Several East Tennessee bridges are said to be structurally deficient in a new report by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. When you’re driving, do you ever worry how safe an underpass is? “That’s not something that crosses your mind a lot whenever you’re driving across or under bridges,” said Jonathan Coppeneger from Kodak. The Tennessee Department of Transportation is responsible for inspecting bridges and crews look closely at every aspect from the deck, to the beams, even the hardware. “If any of those categories are deemed poor, than the entire bridge itself will be deemed structurally deficient,” said TDOT spokesperson Mark Nagi. http://wate.com/2017/02/16/east-tennessee-bridges-on-structurally-deficient-list/

Meet Tennessee’s new economic development czar (Tennessean) A veteran Nashville business executive has been tapped to lead the state’s economic development efforts after recent sale of the Franklin-based medical billing company that he led for the past four years. Bob Rolfe, 56, will become commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development on March 1. He replaces Randy Boyd, who resigned to return to the private sector. Lyle Beasley, Rolfe’s co-managing partner in Nashville-based private equity partnership West End Holdings, called the former CEO of Medical Reimbursements of America one of the most talented executives he’s ever known. “He brings intense focus and positive energy to every business situation he encounters,” Beasley said. “His unique leadership talents will be a tremendous asset to our state.” http://www.tennessean.com/story/money/industries/2017/02/16/meet-tennessees-new-economic-development-czar/98002922/

Rolfe new ECD Commissioner (Nashville Post) Former MRA head to lead agency after Boyd’s departure. On Thursday Gov. Bill Haslam announced Bob Rolfe as the new head of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD). Rolfe is replacing Randy Boyd, who left the office on Feb. 1 to explore a run for governor. “Bob Rolfe has spent his career growing companies and creating jobs, and he will bring incredible experience and energy to our work of making Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs and ensuring that success is felt throughout the state,” Haslam said in a press release announcing the appointment. “Bringing someone of Bob’s caliber to this position says a lot about the momentum we have right now in Tennessee, and I know that will continue to flourish under his leadership.” http://www.nashvillepost.com/politics/people/article/20852472/rolfe-new-ecd-commissioner

Haslam picks Franklin exec as state’s new top jobs recruiter (Nashville Business Journal) Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday named Franklin businessman Bob Rolfe as the new commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Rolfe will take over the role following the departure of former commissioner Randy Boyd, who left the job in January amid speculation of a run for governor. Rolfe will begin his new job on March 1, according to a news release. Rolfe is the outgoing CEO of Franklin-based Medical Reimbursements of America, which uses technology to help hospitals and health systems resolve motor vehicle and workers’ compensation accident claims. Earlier this month, Medical Reimbursements of America was sold to Boston-based private equity firm Riverside Partners. http://www.bizjournals.com/nashville/news/2017/02/16/haslam-picks-franklin-exec-as-states-new-top-jobs.html

Bob Rolfe named as Tennessee economic commissioner (Times Free Press) A Nashville businesman who heads a 250-employee medical payment company has been tapped to head economic recruitment for the state of Tennessee. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced that Bob Rolfe, head of a Nashville equity firm that owns Medical Reimbursements of America, will  join the governor’s cabinet on March 1 as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development . He succeeds Randy Boyd, who stepped down as the state’s top economic recruiter at the end of January and is considering a run for governor. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/breakingnews/story/2017/feb/16/bob-rolfe-named-tennessee-economic-commissioner/413238/

Randy Boyd honored at Knoxville Boy Scout event (WATE) Knoxville’s own Randy Boyd was honored Thursday night at the annual Distinguished Citizen Dinner for his work with East Tennessee Boy Scouts. Boyd until recently served as Tennessee Commissioner of Economic and Community Development and has said he is considering a run for governor. For several years he has served as a den leader in East Tennessee, even serving as the Great Smoky Mountain Council president for two years. http://wate.com/2017/02/16/randy-boyd-honored-at-knoxville-boy-scout-event/

Rudd Praises Board as ‘Historic’ Step for U of M (Memphis Daily News) Calling the appointment of a board of trustees a “historic” and “essential” step for the University of Memphis, president M. David Rudd says the autonomous board will enable the university to control its own destiny. Rudd, who took the helm at the university in May 2014, lauded the Shelby County Legislative Delegation during a lunch gathering on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Feb. 15, for its support of Gov. Haslam’s FOCUS Act, the lynchpin of which called for the creation of independent boards to oversee Tennessee’s six state universities. The General Assembly this week approved Haslam’s board of trustee appointments, setting the stage for the University of Memphis and other schools such as Middle Tennessee State and East Tennessee State to have more local control. https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2017/feb/17/rudd-praises-board-as-historic-step-for-u-of-m/

CSB Water District gets $1.6 million loan (Hartsville Vidette) Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) Commissioner Bob Martineau announced last Friday that the Castalian Springs-Bethpage Water Utility District has been approved to receive more than $1.6 million in low-interest loans for drinking water infrastructure improvements. “These funds will support needed infrastructure improvements and clean drinking water for these communities,” Haslam said in a press statement. “The State Revolving Fund Loan Program helps citizens enjoy a better quality of life.” http://www.hartsvillevidette.com/local-news/csb-water-district-gets-1-6-million-loan/

Equal protection from illness (TN Ledger) If the Affordable Care Act stands, it will be partly due to the efforts of the Tennessee Justice Center. For 21 years, the Tennessee Justice Center has been working to ensure all Tennesseans’ access to health care. Now, with the ACA in peril, that work has become more urgent than ever. The TJC is a non-profit legal organization co-founded by Michele Johnson and Gordon Bonnyman that educates, advocates and occasionally litigates on behalf of Tennesseans across the state, including people who are on or trying to get on TennCare, the state’s Medicaid health insurance program, people with serious health problems who are having issues with their insurance and people who do not qualify for TennCare and can’t afford private insurance. http://www.tnledger.com/editorial/Article.aspx?id=94944

Backlash prompts update to graduation requirements report (Tennessean) The Tennessee Department of Education on Thursday clarified its findings in a recent report that found one in three high school students graduated without meeting the state’s requirements after it received considerable backlash from superintendents across the state. In a memo, the department said it didn’t do enough to provide proper context behind the numbers. The new analysis said the state found no systematic violation of graduation requirements happening in the state. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/education/2017/02/16/tennessee-report-graduates-not-meeting-requirements-inaccurate-superintendents-say/97955134/

Judicial conduct board: Casey Moreland under investigation (Tennessean) The state board that oversees the conduct of judges on Thursday confirmed it was investigating Nashville General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland, a rare public announcement from a board that typically does work confidentially. Moreland has faced allegations of misconduct in recent weeks largely tied to a Nashville police report following the suicide of a woman Moreland knew. The woman told two friends she had a sexual relationship with Moreland while she had a case in his courtroom, the police report says. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2017/02/16/judicial-conduct-board-casey-moreland-under-investigation/98025986/

Tenn. drug recovery court judge: ‘People knocking on the door to get in’ (WKRN) “People are knocking at the door trying to get in,” said a Montgomery County drug recovery court judge in front of the second meeting of Tennessee’s new opioid task force. Judge Ken Goble, who is assigned to what is called veterans and drug/recovery courts in the Clarksville area, was one of three presenters before the task force set up this year by House Speaker Beth Harwell. The judge was asked by former prosecutor Rep. William Lamberth what lawmakers could do to help curb the opiate problem that occupies more than a third of the cases in front of his courts. He cited the need for more case managers who are often considered critical in the recovery of those hooked on “opiates found in your bathroom cabinet.” http://wkrn.com/2017/02/16/opioid-task-force-meets-for-2nd-time-hears-from-local-judges/

After protest, Tennessee lawmakers consider resurrecting legislature access policy (Tennessean) A day after a news conference on controversial legislation was abruptly ended because of shouts from protesters, the top Senate leader says he is considering going back to a policy that would require visitors to scan an ID and wear a badge while at Legislative Plaza. Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, and Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, scheduled a press conference Wednesday to promote controversial legislation they are sponsoring, but walked out after about 90 seconds, during which Pody engaged with some of the protesters. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/16/after-protest-tennessee-lawmakers-consider-resurrecting-legislature-access-policy/97995860/

Capitol might crack down on security (Nashville Post) After protests during a press conference Wednesday caused two legislators to flee the building surrounded by state troopers, Senate leadership said today they are considering a return to stricter security measures at the entrances to the Capitol buildings. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally said he has had discussions with House and Senate leaders about returning to a prior policy in which every visitor’s photo identification is scanned and visitors are then given a name tag. The practice was discontinued last year after causing long lines snaking around the block. “We’re in favor of going back to having a little more security about who comes and goes in the building,” McNally said. http://www.nashvillepost.com/politics/article/20852474/capitol-might-crack-down-on-security

New security at state capitol possible after news conference stopped (WKRN) State lawmakers are considering bringing back some security measures in the wake of a news conference cut short Wednesday by some vocal protesters. The measures might include requiring all those who enter the state capitol or Legislative Plaza to show a photo ID and wear a name badge, according to Lt. Governor Randy McNally. This comes after Rep. Mark Pody and Sen. Mae Beavers stopped their news conference on the so-called bathroom bill and Defense of Natural Marriage Act after protesters filled the room and started shouting “pull the bill.” http://wkrn.com/2017/02/16/new-security-at-state-capitol-possible-after-news-conference-stopped/

Tennessee GOP mulls Capitol complex security clamp-down (AP) Tennessee Republican legislative leaders are suggesting stricter security to enter the Capitol complex after a few dozen protesters interrupted a news conference about transgender bathroom access. On Thursday, Senate Speaker Randy McNally told reporters that the House and Senate are considering requiring people to show ID and get a name tag to enter the facility, similar to a requirement lifted last year. Sen. Mae Beavers and Rep. Mark Pody abruptly ended their own news conference Wednesday when protesters interrupted. The event dealt with the Republican lawmakers’ bathroom bill and legislation declaring marriage only between a man and a woman. Beavers told the AP that the protest was “despicable,” and suggested that the protesters should be imprisoned. http://www.wsmv.com/story/34522915/tennessee-gop-mulls-capitol-complex-security-clamp-down

More than one-third of Tennessee House lawmakers have failed to take mandatory sexual harassment training (Tennessean) More than one-third of House lawmakers have failed to watch a mandatory 22-minute sexual harassment training video, according to records obtained by The Tennessean from state human resources officials. Records indicate as of Tuesday, 12 of 25 Democrats, or less than 50 percent, and 26 of 73 Republicans, or 35 percent, in the House have failed to watch the 22-minute video and submitted a certificate of completion. The deadline for House lawmakers to complete the training was Jan. 31. Eleven lawmakers watched the video after the deadline passed, as of Tuesday. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/16/more-than-one-third-tennessee-house-lawmakers-have-failed-take-mandatory-sexual-harassment-training/97959888/

Democratic lawmaker: Nashville DA should get involved in Lovell probe (Tennessean) The Nashville district attorney should investigate what happened between a woman and West Tennessee Republican Mark Lovell that played a role in Lovell’s abrupt resignation from the legislature this week, a House Democratic lawmaker said Thursday. Lovell, 58, has denied any wrongdoing. Sources say that Lovell allegedly engaged in “inappropriate touching” of a woman last week. After The USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee asked legislative leaders about the allegations on Monday, Lovell resigned on Tuesday morning. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/16/dem-lawmaker-nashville-da-should-get-involved-lovell-probe/97993944/

Bill could help cancer costs (Jackson Sun) Sen. Ed Jackson, R-Jackson, is co-sponsoring a bill that aims align cancer patients’ costs, regardless of whether chemotherapy treatment is administered intravenously or orally. “Cancer patients should be able to get the treatment their doctor believes is best for them without a significant cost difference, regardless of whether it is intravenous or oral chemotherapy,” Jackson said in a press release. “Treatment is treatment, and the right treatment is crucial for patients.”  http://www.jacksonsun.com/story/news/2017/02/16/bill-could-help-cancer-costs/97990532/

Sen. Lamar Alexander: Undocumented housekeeper sank Andrew Puzder’s nomination (Tennessean) Andrew Puzder’s admission he had once employed an undocumented housekeeper and failed to promptly pay taxes on her eroded his support among Senate Republicans to the point that he could not be confirmed as labor secretary, Sen. Lamar Alexander said Thursday. The revelation was so damaging that it became obvious earlier this week that at least six GOP senators – and possibly more – were not going to vote for his confirmation, Alexander said. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/16/sen-lamar-alexander-undocumented-housekeeper-sunk-andrew-puzders-nomination/97993266/

The Anti-Trump ‘Resistance’ in Red States (The Atlantic) In some of the most conservative parts of the country, voters without much experience in political organizing are taking a page out of the Tea Party playbook in hopes of making their voices heard, while existing Democratic organizations are channeling discontent with the administration into protest. Red-state Democrats point to the agitation as evidence that opposition to Trump and his agenda is widespread, and they warn that elected officials of both parties may pay a price if they write off the activism as inconsequential. “This isn’t a fad, it’s not going away, and there’s nothing coastal or elite about it,” said 19-year-old Dalton Slatton, the president of Middle Tennessee State University’s College Democrats, which helped organize a protest outside a recent town hall featuring Republican congresswoman Diane Black. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/02/trump-resistance-liberal-tea-party-protest/517023/

UAW aiming to unionize Tesla, VW, Nissan plants (Tennessean) The United Auto Workers union is escalating its organizing efforts with several automakers, including upstart Tesla. And it’s doing it by using different strategies as it tries to translate ongoing campaigns into tangible wins, UAW leaders and other sources say. While the union’s campaign to organize some automakers has appeared, at times, to stall in recent years, there are signs of renewed UAW activity in Mississippi with Nissan and in California with Tesla. Meanwhile, a fierce legal battle with Volkswagen rages on over the UAW’s right to represent skilled trades workers at the German automaker’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. http://www.tennessean.com/story/money/cars/2017/02/16/uaw-united-auto-workers-tesla-nissan-volkswagen/97985308/

Struggling CHS sells another group of hospitals (Nashville Business Journal) Franklin-based Community Health Systems has inked a deal to sell eight more of its hospitals. The hospital giant had a difficult 2016 ( during which its stock price cratered) as it coped with challenges resulting, in large part, from its 2014 acquisition of Florida-based Health Management Associates. The system has spent the past several months selling hospitals and other assets as it works to raise money to pay down its debt load. This latest deal includes three Florida hospitals, three in Ohio and two in Pennsylvania, according to a news release, and is expected to close next quarter. http://www.bizjournals.com/nashville/news/2017/02/16/struggling-chs-sells-another-group-of-hospitals.html

Roan Mountain State Park named ‘Park of the Year’(Crossville Chronicle) The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) recognized Roan Mountain State Park, located off TN Hwy. 143, as the 2016 Park of the Year for its demonstrated excellence in innovation, sustainability, interpretation, resource management and fiscal responsibility. “All 56 Tennessee State Parks strive and succeed in achieving our mission to preserve and protect unique examples of natural, cultural and scenic areas,” said TDEC Deputy Commissioner of Parks and Conservation Brock Hill. “But Roan Mountain went above and beyond in 2016 thanks to the talent and skills of park staff and creative partnerships with local communities.” http://www.crossville-chronicle.com/news/lifestyles/roan-mountain-state-park-named-park-of-the-year/article_ddc05374-f476-11e6-8a2d-0ffbdd4d8cd0.html

OPINION

William H. Frist, MD: Tackling tobacco use in the Volunteer State (Tennessean) In the last two months, two critical reports have shined a spotlight on Tennessee’s high levels of tobacco use and inadequate prevention efforts. In December, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other public health organizations published a report that compared funding for tobacco cessation and prevention in each state, and Tennessee ranked a dismal 45th nationwide. Tobacco-Free Kids noted that Tennessee provided only 1.5 percent of the CDC recommended $75 million in funding for tobacco cessation, despite receiving over $400 million in revenue from tobacco taxes and a long-standing settlement deal with tobacco companies (known as the Master Settlement Agreement). http://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/2017/02/16/tackling-tobacco-use-volunteer-state/98013050/

Editorial: Gas tax to be topic of townhall meeting (Mountain Press) Likely you’ve heard by now that Governor Haslam is actively seeking to raise the gas tax in Tennessee. While some legislators are opposed to the idea and have introduced alternative bills to fund projects aimed at improving the state’s infrastructure without raising taxes, the Governor is adamant about his tax proposal. He won’t give up unless his proposal is finally defeated by the legislature. Americans For Prosperity (AFP) is one organization that is fighting the hike. We know from experience that AFP knows how to stop liberal spending ideas in Tennessee. It was AFP who led the fight a few years ago that prevented the governor from expanding Obama Care under the guise of Insure Tennessee. But AFP couldn’t have succeeded without help from ordinary citizens. http://www.themountainpress.com/opinion/gas-tax-to-be-topic-of-townhall-meeting/article_bb2d4775-a16e-5424-a9ac-d09ebd77f99f.html

Editorial: If film incentives are good, then more would be better (Memphis Business Journal) This week’s cover story dives into the state’s film/TV industry, the tax incentives it takes to attract productions and the economic benefits that result. Tennessee has failed over the last decade in competing with other states to win projects. The legislature and Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) offer too little in incentives. The fund is recharged with $2 million annually, which has to cover qualifying projects across the whole state. Any incentives beyond the $2 million must be approved by the legislature with a special ask. That recurring amount is a pittance. http://www.bizjournals.com/memphis/news/2017/02/17/editorialif-film-incentives-are-good-then-more.html

Greg Johnson: Davenport should embrace true diversity (News Sentinel) Now is the time for diversity. Chancellor Beverly Davenport has had a couple of days to unpack, get her email account activated and summit The Hill at the University of Tennessee since taking over earlier this week. Her inbox is full. Davenport, in her first media meet, spoke about finding an athletic director, tuition, UT’s Title IX issues and funding for diversity. “There will be funding, and I will only be on a campus where every student is supported and made to feel welcome and important and safe,” Davenport said. http://www.knoxnews.com/story/opinion/columnists/greg-johnson/2017/02/17/greg-johnson-davenport-should-embrace-true-diversity/98002606/

Guest column: TVA needs to clean up its act on Gallatin coal ash (Tennessean) Clean water is essential to life.  And, as a person of faith, I believe it to be a gift from God. In that connection, water is also a powerful religious symbol of purification and new life shared by many traditions. Furthermore, access to unpolluted water is a justice issue as that access has become more and more tenuous for impoverished people throughout the world, including here in the U.S. Witness Flint, Michigan. http://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/2017/02/16/tva-needs-clean-up-its-act-gallatin-coal-ash/97585324/

Pam Sohn: Our lawmakers still have no common sense on guns (Times Free Press) Each time there is a mass shooting involving a mentally or emotionally ill person — which is the case in most mass shootings — Democrats call for tougher gun safety laws while Republicans are quick to say guns aren’t the problem, but mental illness is. So it seemed a bit discordant Wednesday when the majority GOP Senate voted to join the majority GOP House in revoking a common-sense Obama administration rule designed to stop people with severe mental problems from buying guns. President Trump is expected to sign the bill — in keeping with his and the GOP congressional support of the National Rifle Association. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/opinion/times/story/2017/feb/17/sohn-our-lawmakers-still-have-no-commsense-gu/413342/

Thursday, February 16

UT report favors Haslam gas tax plan over alternative (Tennessean) A researcher at the University of Tennessee on Wednesday released a report suggesting Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to fund infrastructure improvements through a gas tax hike would be better for the state than an alternative offered by lawmakers. The report, written by Donald Bruce, a research professor at the UT Boyd Center for Business & Economic Research, analyzed the potential impact of the competing plans which offer different ways to fund road improvements. Bruce writes that Haslam’s plan “represents a more stable and sustainable solution to the longer-term infrastructure problem.” http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/15/ut-report-favors-haslam-gas-tax-plan-over-alternative/97947794/

Report: Evaluating Options for Funding Tennessee’s Infrastructure Needs (UT) http://cber.haslam.utk.edu/pubs/dbruce031.pdf

Haslam: Too early to push hard on gas tax (Nashville Post) Governor calls alternative GOP plan not ‘responsible.’ Gov. Bill Haslam pitched his gas tax and IMPROVE Act to the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce over lunch — although the organization has already stated its support for the plan. Haslam has been giving a version of the same speech to multiple, mostly sympathetic groups over the past two weeks. Afterwards, he was asked if he had plans to start taking a more forceful approach to getting his plan through, as a few members of the House Transportation Subcommittee have already stated their opposition to any tax increase. http://www.nashvillepost.com/politics/state-government/article/20852335/haslam-too-early-to-push-hard-on-gas-tax

McKee Foods executive gets advice from top GOP lawmakers on how to lobby on Haslam road plan (Times Free Press) So just what is the best way to talk to Tennessee legislators you don’t know about an issue you support, like Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed IMPROVE Act? McKee Foods Vice President Eva Lynne Disbro took that question straight to the top Wednesday, seeking advice from House Speaker Beth Harwell, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris and other Republicans. It came during a panel discussion as Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry members held their annual meeting and lobby day at the state Capitol. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/politics/state/story/2017/feb/16/mckee-foods-executive-seeks-and-gets-advi/413126/

Former Reagan official takes aim at Haslam gas tax plan (Tennessean) The same day the University of Tennessee released a report suggesting Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to pay for state transportation projects has more merit than the competing alternatives before lawmakers, a prominent supply-side economist spoke Wednesday to House members about what he sees as the dangers of the governor’s plan. Arthur Laffer, most known for his role in the architecture of President Ronald Reagan’s famed “Reaganomics,” went before the House Transportation Subcommittee and picked apart — but also pointed to some positives — the governor’s plan to raise the gas tax to help pay for a $10 billion backlog in road projects. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/15/former-reagan-official-takes-aim-haslam-gas-tax-plan/97945290/

Group says state should pay for roads, not drivers (WTVC) Is there a better plan to fix Tennessee’s roads than Governor Bill Haslam’s gas tax? One organization thinks so. Many are frustrated with the condition of Tennessee’s roads. Emily Wands says she’s spent a lot of money fixing her car after hitting potholes. “It unaligned my car so I had to get it realigned, that was actually a couple months ago,” Wands said. She says she’s up for shelling out extra money if Governor Haslam’s gas tax proposal passes. “It would suck to have to pay more for gas but it would be good to get the roads fixed,” she said. http://newschannel9.com/news/local/group-says-state-should-pay-for-roads-not-drivers

Tennessee cities look to fill $1M funding gap as hall tax phases out (WJHL) Last year, the Tennessee legislature voted to phase out the state’s hall income tax on earnings from stocks and bonds. It’s a tax that brought in millions of dollars to local governments and now cities are looking to find money to replace that funding. The good news, “We’ll be a clean no income tax state and that’s attractive to people moving from other states that are highly taxed on their income,” Johnson City Mayor David Tomita said. But the bad news for cities, “That represents ultimately about $1 million a year of revenue to the city that we’re going to have to replace somehow,” Tomita said. http://wjhl.com/2017/02/15/cities-looking-to-fill-1-mil-funding-gap-as-hall-tax-is-phased-out/

After Lovell scandal, Haslam says looking at outside probes ‘fair’ (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday it would be fair to look at creating a way to investigate allegations of impropriety involving a lawmaker, regardless of whether that person has resigned his or her office. The questions came in light of Mark Lovell, 58, resigning Tuesday from the Tennessee General Assembly a day after The USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee began asking questions about allegations he recently engaged in “inappropriate touching” of a woman last week. Although Haslam said he had no direct knowledge of the allegations that precipitated Lovell’s resignation, the governor did say it is “a fair question” as to whether an outside entity, like the Tennessee attorney general or someone else, should dig into what happened. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/15/after-lovell-scandal-haslam-says-looking-outside-probes-fair/97954362/

Booze Reform (Memphis Flyer) Nashville is flooded with new booze laws this year as many Tennessee General Assembly members want to change where, when, and what you can drink. It is perfectly legal for passengers to drink alcohol in moving vehicles, according to Tennessee state law, but some state legislators and Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam want to ban road sodas from Beale Street to State Street. A new bill would end the so-called “pass the bottle” rule. However, many open container bills have come but have always gone in the legislature. Why? Well, it’s been long rumored around Legislative Plaza that lawmakers like to have a nip on the way to college football games. http://www.memphisflyer.com/memphis/booze-reform/Content?oid=5246417

Haslam to visit Columbia on March 3 (Daily Herald) Gov. Bill Haslam will be in Columbia on March 3, speaking to the Kiwanis Club at noon in the Memorial Building. The governor’s appearance will come less than a month after he filed his NextTennessee legislative agenda, which includes his list of priorities for the 110th General Assembly. “The Kiwanis Club of Columbia is honored to have Gov. Haslam speak to our club and other invited guests about the exciting progress we are making in Tennessee and how it will impact us here in Maury County,” said Trent Ogilvie, Kiwanis Club of Columbia president. “Our focus at Kiwanis is on improving the world one child and one community at a time, and I believe that Gov. Haslam’s visit with us will speak to how we can work diligently to make this happen in a greater way.” http://www.columbiadailyherald.com/news/20170215/haslam-to-visit-columbia-on-march-3

New University of Tennessee Chancellor shares vision for future (WATE) Wednesday marks the first day in University of Tennessee Chancellor Beverly Davenport’s term. She is the eighth chancellor in the university’s history. Davenport comes to the University of Tennessee from the University of Cincinnati, where she was interim president. Before that, she served as senior vice president for academic affairs and provost for three years at the university. “I have a lot of listening to do. I have a lot of people I want to hear from,” she said during Wednesday’s news conference. She replaced Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, becoming not only the university’s first female chancellor but also the highest-paid chancellor in the University of Tennessee Knoxville’s history. http://wate.com/2017/02/15/new-university-of-tennessee-chancellor-shares-vision-for-future/

UT’s first female chancellor moves on campus (WBIR) The University of Tennessee’s first female chancellor is finally on campus, but while Beverly Davenport is humbled by that, it’s not what drives her. “Am I humbled, am I honored to be the first woman? You bet. Do I wake up thinking about it? No. I’ve been doing my work for a long time. If I inspire a young woman, a student to think well I never thought about that as a career option, well maybe I’ve done some good work in this world,” said Davenport. Davenport walked onto campus knowing she would have a “full plate” of issues to tackle if she were to become chancellor. http://www.wbir.com/news/local/downtown-ut/uts-first-female-chancellor-moves-on-campus/408712120

Why aren’t students finishing degrees? (Daily Times) Although more Tennessee students are continuing their education after high school, too many still don’t earn a certificate or college degree. While this region has a high school graduation rate of 91.5 percent, and 58.6 percent of graduates go to college, less than half finish a certificate or degree program, according to Complete Tennessee, a nonprofit education advocacy organization launched last fall. Statewide, 38.7 percent of adults had earned a certificate or degree by 2015, but the state’s Drive to 55 initiative aims to make that 55 percent by 2025. “We need all hands on deck to get to this Drive to 55 goal,” Kenyatta Lovett, executive director of Complete Tennessee, said Wednesday during a roundtable discussion his organization hosted at Pellissippi State Community College’s Hardin Valley campus. http://www.thedailytimes.com/news/why-aren-t-students-finishing-degrees/article_633d2b93-c331-541c-9c4e-14daa8334e61.html

Longtime Radioman, Former Cellist Sherman Novoson Dies At 70 (AP) Sherman Novoson, a former concert cellist and longtime radio reporter specializing in sports and politics in Tennessee, has died. He was 70. Colleagues remembered Novoson appearing at the Capitol in a tuxedo to cover legislative floor sessions before heading off to play in the Nashville Symphony. Health issues later caused Novoson to give up playing music professionally. The St. Louis native freelanced for several outlets, including CBS Radio. His cubicle at the Legislative Plaza press suite was covered with photos of celebrities he had interviewed over the years, including George Burns, Bob Hope, Danny Thomas and Ernest Borgnine. http://www.newschannel5.com/news/local-news/longtime-radioman-former-cellist-sherman-novoson-dies-at-70

Capitol Press Conference Interrupted By Protesters (WTVF) A press conference was abruptly ended when protesters began shouting and yelling over the Republican lawmakers speaking at the podium.  State Representative Mark Pody (R–Lebanon) and State Senator Mae Beavers (R–Mt. Juliet) held the press conference to discuss the recently proposed “Bathroom Bill” and “Defense of Marriage Act.” The room was full of people who, at first, silently protested by holding up signs, but grew louder once Rep. Pody began speaking about the marriage bill. http://www.newschannel5.com/news/capitol-press-conference-interrupted-by-protesters

Video: Protestors follow lawmakers sponsoring controversial bills (Tennessean) Protestors followed lawmakers who are sponsoring controversial legislation in Tennessee’s legislature.  http://www.tennessean.com/videos/news/politics/2017/02/15/protestors-follow-lawmakers-sponsoring-controversial-bills/97966992/

Protesters Drive Beavers and Pody From Press Conference, Out of Building (Nashville Scene) Two attendees of the press conference, before everything fell apart. Two attendees of the press conference, before everything fell apart. If politics is the new reality show, Wednesday afternoon at Legislative Plaza was some Real Housewives meets Corrine on The Bachelor level of crazy. What happens when protesters stop being polite … and start getting real? Rep. Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) and Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) found out in a hurry. The two Republican legislators were supposed to hold a press conference Wednesday to discuss their patently unconstitutional legislation, a so-called “bathroom bill” and the “Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act,” because they want trans people to not exist and they just will not give up hoping gay marriage can somehow be overturned. http://www.nashvillescene.com/news/pith-in-the-wind/article/20852375/protesters-drive-beavers-and-pody-from-press-conference-out-of-building

Lawmakers walk out of press conference after interruptions by protesters (WKRN) State Rep. Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) and Sen. Mae Beavers (R- Mt. Juliet) were set to discuss details of Tennessee’s proposed bathroom bill and Defense of Marriage Act on Wednesday. The two began to hold their press conference when protesters in the audience began to speak out and voice their discontent with the bills. When interrupted, Rep. Pody asked a protester if he would like to let him speak. The protester said he really didn’t care either way. After others began to speak, Rep. Pody turned to Sen. Beavers and asked if she was done. They both then walked out of the meeting room. http://wkrn.com/2017/02/15/live-330-state-lawmakers-to-discuss-details-of-bathroom-bill-defense-of-marriage-act/

Lawmakers end news conference amid protest (WSMV) Two state lawmakers abruptly ended a news conference on Wednesday after shouting from the crowd. Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, and Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, scheduled a joint press conference to discuss proposed marriage bill and the so-called “bathroom bill.” Several people attending the conference held up signs and chanted. At one point, Pody asked the crowd if he should continue. The crowd responded by chanting “kill the bill.” After Pody abruptly ended the news conference, dozens of protesters followed him to his office, demanding to be heard. http://www.wsmv.com/story/34514676/lawmakers-end-news-conference-amid-protest

‘Bathroom bill’ news conference stopped by protesters (TN Journal/Humphrey) A press conference State Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, and Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mount Juliet, was first disrupted by protesters, then cancelled on Wednesday afternoon. Some of the protesters then followed the legislators into a Legislative Plaza hallway, confronting them with slogans and critical commentary, until Beavers and Pody were escorted from the Plaza by state troopers. The Wilson County lawmakers had announced in an email to media they would “discuss HB888/SB771 (Bathroom Bill) and HB892/SB752 (Defense of Natural Marriage Act)” at the news conference. http://humphreyonthehill.tnjournal.net/bathroom-bill-news-conference-stopped-by-protesters/

Tennessee lawmakers push ‘bathroom bill,’ marriage act (Tennessean) Two Tennessee lawmakers were run out of their own news conference in less than five minutes Wednesday by about 60 protesters who shouted and demanded answers from the Republicans about why they were pushing controversial legislation on bathrooms and marriage. Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, and Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, are continuing a push legislation to require public school students use the bathroom that associates with the gender assigned on their birth certificate, and marriage is strictly between one man and one woman, known as the “Tennessee Natural Defense of Marriage Act.” Similar bathroom legislation passed in North Carolina last year drew global criticism and a measure in Tennessee last year also drew criticism. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/15/tennessee-lawmakers-push-bathroom-bill-marriage-act/97956922/

Senate Democratic leader: Does Mark Lovell resignation amount to conspiracy? (Tennessean) After resigning his seat in the Tennessee General Assembly, West Tennessee Republican Mark Lovell told a Memphis television station Tuesday that someone in House Republican Leadership encouraged him to leave the legislature amid allegations of sexual misconduct. The leading Senate Democrat on Wednesday said the conversation may be a conspiracy aimed at thwarting an investigation into whether Lovell inappropriately touched a woman last week. But the GOP leader who spoke with Lovell before his abrupt exit says that’s not true. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/15/senate-democrat-leader-does-mark-lovell-resignation-amount-conspiracy/97919988/

Democrats Want Investigation of Lovell’s Resignation (Memphis Daily News) A day after former Rep. Mark Lovell resigned abruptly, House Majority Chairman Ryan Williams says he asked Lovell to step down, but only if accusations of sexual misconduct against him were true. Williams made his comments Wednesday after Lovell told Memphis reporters he was asked to resign to keep from embarrassing himself and the Republican Party. “I can unequivocally tell you I didn’t ask him to resign,” Williams says. “I told him what my expectation would be if the accusations that the press had told me about came to fruition, that I would ask him to resign, if they proved true.” https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2017/feb/16/democrats-want-investigation-of-lovells-resignation/

Source: Lovell grabbed breast of female staffer at legislative reception (WREG) Shelby County Commissioners remained unsure about the process to replace Rep. Mark Lovell Wednesday, as WREG learned more details about the sexual harassment allegations against the former freshman lawmaker. Lovell representted district 95, including Eads, Collierville and parts of Germantown, before he resigned Monday. He cited a need to focus on his family in a statement to constituents. He also denied any sexual harassment allegations in that statement. But a source told WREG Lovell grabbed the breast of a female staff member while attending a legislative reception in Nashville last week. The source said the staff member did not work for Lovell. http://wreg.com/2017/02/15/source-lovell-grabbed-breast-of-female-staffer-at-legislative-reception/

Resignation of state representative could have high price tag for taxpayers (WMC) An elected Tennessee state representative resigned his position just a month and a half after starting it. Now, his resignation brings a big price tag for taxpayers. Tennessee State Representative Mark Lovell won District 95’s seat in the November 2016 election, but now he’s stepping down amid allegations that he groped a woman at a legislative reception in Nashville. By stepping down, Lovell made it so the allegations could not be investigated by the state legislature. “We need to know what happened,” Rep. Mike Stewart said. “We need to protect the identity of the victim. But still can have a complete investigation.” http://www.wmcactionnews5.com/story/34500384/resignation-of-state-representative-could-have-high-price-tag-for-taxpayers

Bill easing open records requests passes House committee (Tennessean) A bill making it easier for Tennesseans to make public records requests passed an important hurdle Wednesday on its way to becoming law. The House State Government Subcommittee recommended passage of a bill sponsored by Rep. Courtney Rogers, R-Goodlettsville, that would require records custodians that accept requests “in writing, to accept a handwritten request submitted in person or by mail, an email request, or a request on an electronic form submitted online.” This clarifies the current statute, which says requests must be in writing, but not what constitutes a written request. The interpretation is up to local officials. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/15/bill-easing-open-records-requests-passes-house-committee/97957756/

National Rifle Association calls out several Tennessee bills as “anti-gun” supports others (WZTV) The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) says they will be “working hard to fight” several bills filed in the Tennessee legislature which the organization considers “anti-gun.” The NRA-ILA cites three pieces of legislation in particular as infringing against Second Amendment rights. HB961/SB670 would make it possible for a law enforcement officer to seek an order of protection against a person if they believe that person is a threat to themselves or another. That order would mean the subject could not lawfully possess a firearm. HB962/SB671 would create a voluntary TBI “Do Not Sell” registry “on which a person may place or remove their name.” The bill would also make it a criminal offense to transfer a firearm to anyone listed on the registry. http://fox17.com/news/local/national-rifle-association-calls-out-several-tennessee-bills-as-anti-gun-supports-others

Lawmaker again pushing hands-free cell phone bill (WJHL) An Elizabethton lawmaker is again pushing to make it illegal for Tennessee drivers to use their cell phones unless they have a hands-free device. Rep. John Holsclaw (R), TN-District 4, recently filed the legislation that would make it a misdemeanor for drivers to use hand-held phones. His attempt at a hands-free bill last year failed. “Everyone has a cell phone and if you’re driving down the road, you can see an individual weaving or slowing and you know exactly what they’re doing,” he said. “They’re on their phone and it doesn’t take but a split second and you’ve run off the road and you’ve hit someone, so it’s about saving lives and protecting our drivers and our Tennesseans.” http://wjhl.com/2017/02/15/lawmaker-again-pushing-hands-free-cell-phone-bill/

Rev. Harold Love Jr.: In the House, pulpit and soon classroom (WKRN) Few people in the public world has ever been able to call themselves a preacher, a politician and a professor, but that’s what one North Nashville state lawmaker will soon be able to do when he receives his doctorate. Rev. Harold Love Jr. has been mixing the three worlds since 2012. That’s when he was elected to the Tennessee House of Representative while serving as pastor at Nashville’s Lee Chapel AME Church and starting his Ph.D. program in public administration at Tennessee State University. His voice is being heard on all three fronts as an emerging leader in the African-American community, but the role of lawmaker is one that he learned at an early age from his namesake father. http://wkrn.com/2017/02/16/rev-harold-love-jr-in-the-house-pulpit-and-soon-classroom/

MA adds lobbyist, promotes two others (Nashville Post) Simpson joins agency, Beatty and Chaney move up. The Tennessee Medical Association has hired a new lobbyist and promoted two of its longtime employees. Ben Simpson has joined TMA as its associate director of government affairs and will work on the Hill to promote TMA’s agenda. He previously spent three years as legislative liaison and attorney for the Tennessee Department of Health and also worked as a claims examiner for the Tennessee Department of Treasury. Simpson has a degree in political science from the University of Tennessee and a JD from the Nashville School of Law. http://www.nashvillepost.com/politics/lobbying/article/20852217/tma-adds-lobbyist-promotes-two-others

Former Bowser staffer to lead Emerge Tennessee (Nashville Post) Memphis native leaves D.C. to try to get Tennessee women in office. After years in Washington, D.C., Memphis native Kristal Knight is returning to Tennessee to be the new executive director for Emerge Tennessee, a training program for Democratic women seeking elected office. Knight worked on both Barack Obama’s 2012 and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaigns. She also led D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office of volunteerism and served as a policy analyst under former D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty. http://www.nashvillepost.com/politics/article/20852328/former-bowser-staffer-to-lead-emerge-tennessee

Sen. Alexander: Andrew Puzder would have made ‘excellent’ labor secretary (Tennessean) President Donald Trump’s pick as labor secretary withdrew his nomination Wednesday just hours after top Senate Republicans informed the White House that he did not have the votes to win confirmation. Andrew Puzder, a resident of Franklin, Tenn., and the CEO of a fast-food company, pulled his nomination the day before he was to appear at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/15/sen-alexander-andrew-puzder-would-have-made-excellent-labor-secretary/97969410/

Corker urges Trump to address concerns of Russian influence (Times Free Press) U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., today urged the White House to quickly address questions about any undue Russian influence with President Trump and his supporters following the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn this week for misleading the vice president about his talks with Russia’s ambassador. “We need to get to the bottom of what the Russian interference was and what the relationship was with associates of the Trump effort,” Corker said today in an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “That is the big elephant in the room that has got to be dealt with in the most appropriate way. And it needs to be dealt with quickly and we need to get it behind us.” http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/breakingnews/story/2017/feb/15/corker-says-russia-no-friend-us/412995/

‘Alternative Town Hall’ organized by Blackburn opponents in Fairview (Tennessean) A group of demonstrators are organizing an outdoor “Alternative Town Hall for Marsha Blackburn” next Tuesday, Feb. 21, at the same time the Republican congresswoman is scheduled to speak inside Fairview City Hall. A number of groups are organizing the counter-event, which will be held on the front lawn of City Hall from 3-6 p.m, according to an email to The Fairview Observer and social media posts from a group called Women for Justice Southeast Region. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/williamson/fairview/2017/02/15/alternative-town-hall-organized-blackburn-opponents-fairview/97950470/

Democrat or Republican? Plan Would Strip Parties Off Ballot For Judge’s Races In Nashville (WPLN) Democrat or Republican? Soon voters in Davidson County might not be told when they go to elect judges. Republicans argue that’ll make the judiciary less biased. But Democrats question their motives. Many Tennessee communities identify judges by political party on the ballot. But state Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, says they shouldn’t, for the good of the courts. “I think if you make judicial elections partisan, it tends to make the judges more extreme, whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican,” he says, “and my goal is to make them answerable to the citizens and to the Constitution.” http://nashvillepublicradio.org/post/democrat-or-republican-plan-would-strip-parties-ballot-judges-races-nashville#stream/0

Nashville refugee office closing due to Trump executive order (Tennessean) World Relief, a national refugee resettlement agency, is closing its Nashville office due to President Donald Trump’s executive order that reduced the number of refugees coming to the U.S. The faith-based organization announced Wednesday in a news release that it “has been forced to make the difficult decision” to close five offices across the country and lay off more than 140 staff members due to fewer refugees coming to the country during the 2017 fiscal year. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/religion/2017/02/15/world-relief-nashville-refugee-office-closing-due-trump-executive-order/97972764/

Leaked Trump Order Targets Legal Immigrants Who Use Government Benefits (Governing) After signing several executive orders aimed at deporting undocumented immigrants, President Donald Trump may target legal immigrants next. A leaked executive order would drastically expand the number of public programs that are off-limits to legal immigrants who aren’t citizens, such as green-card holders. If found using them, they could face deportation and their sponsors — usually a family member or employer — would have to reimburse the federal government for unauthorized use of those benefits. http://www.governing.com/topics/health-human-services/gov-trump-order-immigrants-public-benefits.html

Corker Questions Whether White House Can ‘Stabilize Itself’ (Newsmax) President Donald Trump’s White House will need to stabilize itself to deal with the international and domestic issues facing it, and that includes getting to the bottom of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and what the country’s relationship was with associates of the Trump campaign, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker said on Wednesday. “The American people need to understand, we need to understand and it needs to be dealt with quickly and we need to get it behind us,” Corker said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program.”How we go about dealing with that is very important.” http://www.newsmax.com/Politics/bob-corker-questions-white-house-stabilize/2017/02/15/id/773776/

Graham: Any Trump ally working inappropriately with Russia ‘needs to pay a price’ (Politico) Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday morning that Russia and any ally of President Donald Trump working with Russia need “to pay a price” for their involvement in trying to influence the election in Trump’s favor. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker joined Graham in saying that Congress and the American people both need more information on the connection between the Trump administration and Russia. Corker added the White House needs to stabilize itself to deal with more important issues. “That is the elephant in the room that has got to be dealt with in the most appropriate way,” Corker said Wednesday morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “The American people need to understand, we need to understand. And it needs to be dealt with quickly, and we need to get it behind us.” http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/lindsey-graham-trump-allies-working-with-russia-235040

Memphis executives lobby Trump on border tax (Memphis Business Journal) The CEO of Memphis-based AutoZone and the University of Memphis alum who now heads JCPenney were among a group of retail executives who met with President Donald Trump today. William Rhodes, president, chairman and CEO of AutoZone, and Marvin Ellison, a native Memphian who is the CEO of JCPenney, were in Washington Wednesday, Feb. 15, to lobby against a proposed 20 percent tax on imports on behalf of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA). Rhodes serves as chairman of the RILA, an American trade association headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, that promotes consumer choice and economic freedom through public policy and industry operational excellence. http://www.bizjournals.com/memphis/news/2017/02/15/memphis-executives-lobby-trump-on-border-tax.html

Retailers take campaign against import tax to Trump (Politico) Retailers on Wednesday took their campaign to kill a proposed tax on imports to President Donald Trump, who may decide whether the controversial idea lives on in Washington’s tax-reform debate. Executives from The Gap, Best Buy, AutoZone, JCPenney, Tractor Supply, Target, Walgreens and Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores warned Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and economic adviser Gary Cohn about the proposal’s fallout on their finances. The corporate chieftains were also slated to meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady and Sen. Bob Corker, whose state of Tennessee is home to two of the companies. http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/retailers-trump-import-tax-235065

Tennessee Hints at Chaos If Republicans Leave Obamacare in Limbo (Bloomberg) Tennessee is providing an early preview of the disruption that could ensue if lawmakers leave Obamacare in limbo. At least 40,000 people in the Knoxville area may have no health plans to pick from in the Affordable Care Act’s markets after insurer Humana Inc. opted to pull out from all 11 states where it still sell plans in 2018. Another 39,000 in the state would be forced to find a new insurance company. It’s a warning of what may come if lawmakers don’t do more to shore up the markets. Some big insurers have retreated in the face of mounting losses, while those that have stuck around say that they need more certainty about the rules of the road from the Trump administration and Congress to continue to sell ACA health coverage. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-16/tennessee-hints-at-chaos-if-republicans-leave-obamacare-in-limbo

ACA Repeal Could Mean Return to ‘High-Risk Pools’ (Stateline) Before the Affordable Care Act, 35 states plus Washington, D.C., had “high-risk health insurance pools” for people with serious and expensive health conditions. President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans have proposed bringing them back. By the time Lance Rice was 4 years old, in the mid-1990s, treating his hemophilia and hepatitis C had become so costly his parents had exceeded their insurer’s $1 million lifetime cap on payouts. When the Rice family sought coverage from other insurers, they were turned away. http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2017/02/16/aca-repeal-could-mean-return-to-high-risk-pools

As Humana Plans To End Obamacare Coverage, Tennessee Insurance Commissioner Is ‘Very Concerned’ (WPLN) Tennessee’s insurance commissioner says she’s talking to Humana about maintaining coverage in parts of the state next year, despite the company’s announcement Tuesday that it intends to leave the Affordable Care Act insurance exchange nationwide. Humana’s departure would affect three parts of the state: the Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville areas. If nothing else changes, it would leave Knoxville and 16 surrounding counties without any Obamacare offering next year. There are three other options for independent health insurance — Aetna, Freedom and TRH Health — but those plans are off the exchange and are not eligible for federal subsidies. http://nashvillepublicradio.org/post/humana-plans-end-obamacare-coverage-tennessee-insurance-commissioner-very-concerned#stream/0

Humana exit shakes up 2018 ACA exchange, leaves Knoxville coverage gap (Tennessean) Humana’s decision to stop selling insurance on Obamacare exchanges in 2018 will impact Tennesseans who live in the state’s three major metro areas. Humana is currently the only insurer on the exchange in the greater Knoxville area — meaning if another insurance company does not enter the market, there will be no Obamacare exchange in that area. The insurance giant announced the decision on Feb. 14 during an analyst call after its $34 billion deal with Aetna was terminated following a ruling by a federal judge. http://www.tennessean.com/story/money/industries/health-care/2017/02/15/humana-2018-aca-exchanges/97929184/

GOP Senator Preps Resolution To Revoke Broadband Privacy Rules (Media Post) Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who opposes the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband privacy rules, says he’s readying a resolution to rescind them, Politicoreports. Flake’s confirmation to Politico comes days after Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), the head of the House Communications Subcommittee, said she intends to work with the Senate to revoke the privacy regulations. The FCC’s rules, passed 3-2 vote last October, require broadband carriers to obtain consumers’ opt-in consent before drawing on their data for ad targeting. Broadband carriers and the ad industry oppose the requirements and have asked the FCC to reconsider. http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/295270/gop-senator-preps-resolution-to-revoke-broadband-p.html

Meet The First Female House Budget Chairman (Daily Caller) The Republican Steering Committee recommended interim Budget Chairman Diane Black of Tennessee to officially head the panel in the wake of former House Budget Chairman Tom Price being confirmed as the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. The House Republican Conference is slated to confirm the vote Thursday morning, which will officially make Black the first female and fourth Tennessean lawmaker to chair the powerful committee. Black, a registered nurse who also serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means, has been a staunch opponent of Obamacare and in her new position she’ll play a pivotal role in repealing and replacing President Barack Obama’s landmark health care legislation. She has been a member of the committee since 2011. http://dailycaller.com/2017/02/15/meet-the-first-female-house-budget-chairman/#ixzz4YqmPpwnX

10 Things to Know About Diane Black, the New Chairman of the House Budget Committee (House Budget News) https://budget.house.gov/news/email/show.aspx?ID=LHQEXU6LALP3I3EAOWJJ2PVTKM

GOP Rep. Takes Aim at Mandated State Funds for Planned Parenthood (Breitbart) Rep. Diane Black says states should be allowed to divert federal family planning funds away from abortion providers like Planned Parenthood. The Tennessee Republican – a member of the congressional pro-life caucus – testified Tuesday before the House Rules Committee in support of H.J. Res. 43, her resolution to overturn former President Barack Obama’s administrative rule that forces states to provide Title X family planning funding to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/02/15/gop-rep-takes-aim-at-mandated-state-funds-for-planned-parenthood/

Threats found in major dams in Tennessee (Commercial Appeal) Seven years after an historic flood underscored threats to dams across Tennessee, three of the state’s largest water-control structures face millions of dollars in needed repairs and improvements to deal with hazards ranging from earthquakes to sinkholes. Although none is in as dire shape as the flood-damaged Oroville Dam in California, the federally operated Boone, Center Hill and Pickwick dams are being significantly reinforced through long-term projects, with water levels lowered in two of them. The Tennessee Valley Authority, which runs the Boone and Pickwick dams, and the Corps of Engineers, which operates Center Hill, say they have adopted aggressive safety measures to protect downstream residents. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/environment/2017/02/15/threats-found-major-dams-tennessee/97873018/

More clinics file applications for Suboxone license, half are in North East Tennessee (WJHL) A month after a new state law requiring licenses for Suboxone clinics went into effect more than 30 clinics across the state have filed applications. News Channel 11 has uncovered that half of those applications are for Suboxone clinics here in North East Tennessee. “A lot of this stuff we have already complied to,” Dr. Alan Otengco said. Ongtengco or Doctor O works with Morgan Counseling services in Johnson City. It is one of the only places so far in North East Tennessee that has been issued a new state required license. That license allows the state to regulate clinics that prescribe addiction medication like Suboxone. http://wjhl.com/2017/02/15/more-clinics-file-applications-for-suboxone-license-half-are-in-north-east-tennessee/

Tennessee’s film industry experiencing significant growth (Johnson City Press) In a state famous for its banjos and bluegrass, television and movie production certainly isn’t the most acclaimed of the Volunteer State’s entertainment industries. But a report released in January by the Center for Economic Research in Tennessee found video production employment has boomed in Tennessee since 2010, with the state ranking seventh in the country for employment in the illustrious industry. http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/Local/2017/02/15/Tennessee-film-industry-see-significant-growth-according-to-report.html?ci=stream&lp=2&p=

Free trees available at local extension office (Covington Leader) The Tennessee Environmental Council is offering free trees to residents and organizations throughout the state of Tennessee.  The Tipton County Extension Office is one of the distribution sites for the trees. The Extension office is also offering one free tree to the first 100 resident addresses. Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Robert J. Martineau Jr. said, “Just 100 trees can capture nearly 140,000 gallons of rainwater annually, limit storm water runoff and add critical water resources to our reservoirs.” http://www.covingtonleader.com/news/free-trees-available-at-local-extension-office/article_a1e58fca-f3bf-11e6-80dc-9f339e2f15a7.html

OPINION

Column: Help a loved one quit tobacco use (Times Free Press) Tobacco use is a serious problem in Chattanooga and across our state. National statistics show that more than 15 percent of adult Americans smoke or use tobacco products regularly, and in Tennessee, nearly 11,500 adults die each year from smoking. To highlight the seriousness of the issue and to encourage more Tennesseans to quit, Gov. Bill Haslam has identified this week as “It’s Quittin’ Time in Tennessee,” and the Tennessee Department of Health along with partners across the state are encouraging tobacco users to give up the habit. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/opinion/columns/story/2017/feb/16/lusk-valentines-day-gretime-help-loved-one-qu/413100/

David Plazas: Lawmaker’s resignation shouldn’t end probe (News Sentinel) It is a mistake for Tennessee legislative leaders to end the investigation into Mark Lovell. The recently elected Eads lawmaker resigned his state House seat Tuesday after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against him. Sweeping his case under the rug just because he abandoned his seat is unwise and unfair to the public. First, the policy regarding sexual harassment complaints does not dictate that investigations end abruptly just because an accused official leaves his or her post. http://www.knoxnews.com/story/opinion/editorials/2017/02/16/lawmakers-resignation-shouldnt-end-probe/97952820/

Column: Why Can’t We Have an Investigation Into Mark Lovell? (Nashville Scene) Tennessee lawmakers are pushing on the public a standard they won’t live up to themselves. Mark LovellMark LovellPhoto: Mark Lovell for State Representative District 95On Tuesday morning, State Rep Mark Lovell resigned from his seat after news leaked that he was being investigated for “inappropriate sexual contact.” Joel Ebert at The Tennessean is reporting: Noting that she can’t confirm or deny the existence of an investigation into Lovell, which sources said had recently been initiated, Harwell said she thinks every member of the legislature understands how seriously she takes sexual harassment. http://www.nashvillescene.com/news/pith-in-the-wind/article/20852250/why-cant-we-have-an-investigation-into-mark-lovell

Sam Stockard: Outsourcing, Rates Worry Park Fans (Memphis Daily News) Dunlap resident Kathy Gilbert opposes privatization of Fall Creek Falls on a number of fronts. If a vendor comes in to run the state park, as planned by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration, she’s worried about the possible loss of jobs or pay and benefits by state employees, the funneling of revenue to private investors and the raising of rates at the state park’s lodge when it’s rebuilt, potentially making it less affordable for families to visit. Ultimately, she believes the region and state will lose. “I feel like it’s our park, the people’s park, it’s for people to use and it should be affordable and accessible to all of the state’s people and to visitors from all over the world to kind of show off our natural resources, our treasures,” says Gilbert, a business manager who lives in Sequatchie County south of Fall Creek Falls. https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2017/feb/16/outsourcing-rates-worry-park-fans/

Column: How One State Outsourcing Move Benefited A Haslam Donor (Nashville Scene) The owners of One Commerce Square had a problem. The investment group bought the troubled downtown Memphis skyscraper in 2010 for $7.6 million, and they spent another $22 million fixing the place up. The city of Memphis had also spent $3 million on a parking garage next door. All of the effort had been to land prime tenant Pinnacle Airlines, whose offices would take up 12 floors, one-third of the building. But in 2012, less than a year after they moved in, the airline was filing for bankruptcy, and despite the tax incentives that landed them in the building, despite the long-term lease, the company was pulling out and moving to Minnesota. But then, in 2013, salvation appeared in the form of Jones Lang LaSalle — and the state of Tennessee. http://www.nashvillescene.com/news/features/article/20852352/how-one-state-outsourcing-move-benefited-a-haslam-donor

Mark Harmon: ‘Kooks’ describes Duncan’s colleagues, not constituents (News Sentinel) U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. recently sent a letter declaring, “I am not going to hold town hall meetings in this atmosphere, because they would very quickly turn into shouting opportunities for extremists, kooks and radicals.” If our area congressman truly were concerned about shouting kooks and radicals, he should avoid his colleagues, not his constituents. Duncan goes to work alongside Joe Wilson, the South Carolina congressman who shouted “You lie!” when President Barack Obama spoke before a joint session of Congress. http://www.knoxnews.com/story/opinion/columnists/mark-harmon/2017/02/16/mark-harmon-kooks-describes-duncans-colleagues-not-constituents/97955544/

Jackson Baker: Shelby County Democrats to Revive (Memphis Flyer) Mary Mancini of Nashville, who in late January won reelection as Tennessee Democratic Party chair at a meeting of the state party’s executive committee, has, as one of her first priorities, launched an effort to recreate the defunct Shelby County Democratic Party. Mancini has contacted 13 local Democrats and asked them to serve as an ad hoc committee for the purpose of reforming the Shelby County party. Members of this core group will next agree amongst themselves on a date for an organizational meeting, either late this month or sometime in March. A series of subsequent public meetings will then be scheduled to allow input from prospective new Democratic Party members, and out of those subsequent meetings a new party machinery will be formed. http://www.memphisflyer.com/memphis/shelby-county-democrats-to-revive/Content?oid=5246755

Wednesday, February 15

Haslam visits TCAT in Smyrna (Murfreesboro Post) Governor Bill Haslam traveled to Smyrna Thursday to share a meal, tour the brand new Smyrna campus of Tennessee College of Applied Technology at 663 Ken Pilkerton Dr., and praise those involved in TCAT’s creation. The event was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Smyrna during its regular weekly meeting, which coincidentally was sponsoring a Job Shadow Day for students of their adopted school, Smyrna West Alternative School. The students, in addition to hearing and seeing the governor of Tennessee, shadowed rotarians at their jobs, including the Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport, Southern Veterinarian Center and other operations. http://www.murfreesboropost.com/haslam-visits-tcat-in-smyrna-cms-46209

Governor to hold town hall meeting on proposed gas tax increase (Murfreesboro Post) Gov. Bill Haslam will be in Franklin County Monday to discuss his plan for a 7 cent tax increase per gallon on gasoline and 12 cents on diesel to go toward roadway improvements. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the Franklin County Annex Building. The purpose of the event, which is open to the public, is to provide a forum on a plan focusing exclusively on increasing much-needed funding to repair and maintain safe highways and bridges throughout Tennessee. Haslam has also proposed that sales tax be reduced on food products. http://www.heraldchronicle.com/109140-2/

IMPROVE Act would have $709.3 Million Economic Impact (WGNS Radio) A $278 million annual increase in Tennessee’s transportation fund would have a $709.3 million economic impact, according to a study released by the Washington, D.C.-based American Road and Transportation Builders Association. This $278 million is the amount of new revenue that would come to the state should Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed IMPROVE Act pass the state legislature. The annual increase in highway and bridge construction investment in Tennessee would have an immediate impact on all sectors of the state economy, yielding the following annual benefits: http://www.wgnsradio.com/improve-act-would-have-709-3-million-economic-impact-cms-37815

Impact fees, governor’s transportation plan discussed at Franklin BOMA (Tennessean) Impact fees and the governor’s transportation plan took the forefront at Franklin’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meetings Tuesday night. At the work session, the board considered the draft of an ordinance that could increase impact fees for arterial and connector road improvements. Assistant City Administrator Vernon Gerth said he realized going forward more impact fees would be a complicated issue. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/williamson/2017/02/14/impact-fees-governors-transportation-plan-discussed-franklin-boma/97922150/

Rawls urges ‘no’ on gas tax hike (Daily Banner) Other commissioners say action may be premature. Bradley County Commissioner Dan Rawls is proposing a resolution that would express the Commission’s disapproval of Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed gas tax increase. However, some of his colleagues are saying such a move may be premature. The governor’s bill, which is called the “IMPROVE Act,” increases the tax per gallon of gas by 7 cents and diesel by 12 cents. It also increases the cost of car registration fees by $5. Rawls’ resolution says the increases would be “a further tax burden on Bradley County residents that can least afford the additional tax.” http://clevelandbanner.com/stories/rawls-urges-no-on-gas-tax-hike,52389

Tennessee sees ACT gains after becoming first state to fund retakes for all students (Chalkbeat Tennessee) Last fall, Tennessee became the nation’s first state to pay for its students to retake the ACT college entrance exam. On Tuesday, Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said the investment paid off. Nearly 26,000 students in the Class of 2017 opted to participate in the state’s first ACT Senior Retake Day in October. Of those, nearly 40 percent got higher scores. And about 5 percent — 1,331 students in all — raised their composite above the 21 necessary to receive the state’s HOPE Scholarship, which provides up to $16,000 toward in-state tuition. The ACT retake also resulted in more students hitting the ACT college-readiness benchmarks in all four subjects, an area where Tennessee has struggled. http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2017/02/14/tennessee-sees-act-gains-after-becoming-first-state-to-fund-retakes-for-all-students/

Too many good teachers are quitting Tennessee’s Achievement School District, researchers say (Chalkbeat Tennessee) A growing question in Memphis and across Tennessee has been why local school improvement efforts seem to be outperforming the state’s 5-year-old flagship initiative. Now, researchers charged with studying that initiative have a hypothesis: Schools in the Achievement School District have struggled to hold on to their highest-rated teachers. For their latest report, released on Tuesday, researchers at the Tennessee Education Research Alliance at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College partnered with the University of Kentucky to examine the extent to which the ASD and local turnaround initiatives called innovation zones, or “iZones,” have been able to recruit and retain teachers with top ratings. http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2017/02/14/too-many-good-teachers-are-quitting-tennessees-achievement-school-district-researchers-say/

Vote or no vote, ETSU students want a say on newly-confirmed board of trustees (Johnson City Press) On Monday, East Tennessee State University’s Board of Trustees was among six Tennessee university boards confirmed, a measure brought about through the 2016 FOCUS Act. The newly minted boards have more autonomy in the decision-making process than ever before, having been freed from the oversight of the Tennessee Board of Regents. Austin Peay State University, Middle Tennessee State University, Tennessee State University, Tennessee Technological University and the University of Memphis join ETSU as those with local control. http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/Education/2017/02/14/Vote-or-no-vote-ETSU-students-want-a-say-with-newly-confirmed.html?ci=stream&lp=2&p=

Parking deficit hampers U of M campus construction plan (Memphis Business Journal) In addition to a funding shortfall, a lack of parking on the University of Memphis campus also contributed to the decision to delay construction of a new Student Recreation Center. “Since the Governor has recommended funding for our new music center this year, resolving the parking challenges are paramount,” U of M president M. David Rudd said in a letter to the campus community. The Southern Avenue land bridge will connect to a mall area beside the University Center on the main campus. When Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam unveiled his proposed fiscal year 2017-2018 budget in January, it included $29 million in state funding for the U of M’s $44 million music center off of Central Avenue. Last May, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra (MSO) announced it would close its administrative headquarters on Mendenhall Road to take up residence on campus. The MSO is expected to be a significant part of the proposed 40,000-square-foot facility. http://www.bizjournals.com/memphis/news/2017/02/13/parking-deficit-hampers-u-of-m-campus-construction.html

Tennessee lawmaker resigns amid allegations (Tennessean) Hours after freshman state House Rep. Mark Lovell resigned amid allegations he had inappropriate sexual contact with a woman last week, Speaker Beth Harwell said any investigation into the conduct of an outgoing member would end with his departure. But House Democrats say the legislature must continue to delve into what happened because allegations about Lovell’s behavior mark the second time in two years that concerns about inappropriate sexual contact by a lawmaker have rocked the Tennessee state Capitol. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/14/tennessee-lawmaker-resigns-amid-allegations/97890538/

Freshman GOP lawmaker resigns from Tennessee House amid reports of sexual misconduct (Times Free Press) A freshman Republican lawmaker has resigned from the Tennessee General Assembly just weeks into his first session amid what he called false allegations of inappropriate sexual contact with a woman at a legislative event. Rep. Mark Lovell, a fair and carnival operator from suburban Shelby County submitted his resignation letter Tuesday, saying that the elected position ended up being more demanding than he expected and that he needs more time to devote to his business interests and family. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/breakingnews/story/2017/feb/14/gop-lawmaker-resigns-tennessee-house-weeks-job/412800/

Rep. Mark Lovell: 5 things to know about resigned Tennessee lawmaker (Tennessean) Tennessee House Rep. Mark Lovell, R-Eads, confirmed he resigned Tuesday as allegations of inappropriate sexual contact swirl. While Lovell said the accusations are “100 percent false,” sources tell the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee that Lovell engaged inappropriate sexual contact with a woman last week. Lovell is a freshman lawmaker, just elected last year. Here are five things to know about the West Tennessee representative: http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/14/rep-mark-lovell-5-things-know-resigned-tennessee-lawmaker/97893492/

Tennessee lawmaker resigns amid sexual harassment allegations (WKRN) State Rep. Mark Lovell quickly left his office after resigning Tuesday amid sexual harassment allegations from numerous Capitol Hill sources that he denies. Sources told News 2 Reporter Chris Bundgaard the allegations stem from a legislative event held last week, during which the Shelby County representative is accused of inappropriately groping a female. However, the now-former Republican freshman lawmaker cited not being able spend enough time with business interests and family for his resignation. http://wkrn.com/2017/02/14/tennessee-rep-lovell-resigns-amid-allegations-of-sexual-impropriety/

TN Rep. Lovell resigns after allegations of sexual misconduct (WSMV) A state representative has announced he will be stepping down less than three months after he was elected to office. Rep. Mark Lovell, R-Eads, submitted his letter of resignation to the Speaker’s Office on Tuesday, saying he wishes to spend more time with his family. Sources told Channel 4 that Lovell is accused of groping a female staffer in Nashville last week, when multiple legislative receptions were taking place downtown. That staffer reportedly works for another Republican member in the General Assembly. Lovell denied allegations of any sexual misconduct. He also declined Channel 4’s requests for an interview. http://www.wsmv.com/story/34500894/tn-rep-lovell-resigns-after-allegations-of-sexual-misconduct

Lovell Resigns Tennessee House Seat, Democrats Seek Probe (Memphis Daily News) House Democrats are calling for a probe into the sudden resignation of first-term Rep. Mark Lovell, who denies being involved in sexual misconduct as he leaves the state Legislature after just one month. But they are likely to run into a high hurdle because the Legislature’s Workplace Discrimination Policy governs only members and staff, not those who resign. “If a member or staff were no longer an employee, the Tennessee General Assembly would no longer have jurisdiction,” according to House Speaker Beth Harwell’s office. https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2017/feb/14/lovell-resigns-state-house-seat/

Shelby Legislator Lovell Resigns (Memphis Flyer) Allegedly engaged in “inappropriate touching [and] sexual contact with a woman last week….” The latest casualty resulting from newly tightened ethical rules in the Tennessee General Assembly is state Rep. Mark Lovell (R-Eads), who had held his District 95 seat in the state House of Representatives for little more than a month. According to an online article by the Nashville Tennessean on Tuesday, Lovell has submitted a letter of resignation amid allegations that he had what the newspaper, quoting an unidentified Republican legislator as its source, termed “inappropriate touching [and] sexual contact with a woman last week …” http://www.memphisflyer.com/JacksonBaker/archives/2017/02/14/shelby-legislator-lovell-resigns

Lawmakers’ Resignation Restarts Debate Over Sexual Harassment At The Tennessee State (WPLN) A Memphis-area lawmakers’ sudden resignation has reignited a debate over sexual harassment at the Tennessee legislature. First-term Representative Mark Lovell stepped down Tuesday, following an allegation he’d touched a woman inappropriately. Lovell, R-Eads, started work in the state legislature just last month, and in his resignation letter, he cites a need to devote more time to his family and his business as his reason for leaving. Lovell denies any wrongdoing. http://nashvillepublicradio.org/post/lawmakers-resignation-restarts-debate-over-sexual-harassment-tennessee-state-capitol#stream/0

Residents, legislators react to Mark Lovell’s resignation (Tennessean) Residents in his east Shelby County district reacted with a mix of surprise and shock to news that freshman state House Rep. Mark Lovell resigned amid allegations that he had  inappropriate sexual contact with a woman. Lovell, 58, confirmed early Tuesday morning that he resigned, but he called the the accusations against him “100 percent false.” Sources told The USA TODAY NETWORK — Tennessee that Lovell engaged in the inappropriate contact last week. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2017/02/14/district-residents-react-mark-lovells-resignation/97900376/

Democrats want investigation, repeal ‘Jeremy’s Law’ after Durham, Lovell scandals (Tennessean) Tennessee House Democrats on Tuesday immediately called for a special prosecutor to investigate potential sexual impropriety by a Memphis-area lawmaker who resigned Tuesday, while also calling for the repeal of a law they say “deliberately” silences potential victims of sexual harassment at the Capitol. The announcement came after a USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee report Tuesday that former Shelby County Republican Mark Lovell had resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Lovell cited family reasons in a resignation letter sent to House Speaker Beth Harwell and denied any misconduct, saying the allegations “are completely false.” http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/14/democrats-want-repeal-jeremys-law-after-durham-lovell-scandals/97900390/

Democrats Blast Republicans Following Lawmakers Resignation (AP) Democrats at the state Capitol on Tuesday blasted their Republican colleagues for not doing enough to prevent sexual harassment on the hill, after a freshman Republican lawmaker resigned surrounding allegations of sexual misconduct. Rep. Mark Lovell, a fair and carnival operator from suburban Shelby County submitted his resignation letter on Tuesday. Lovell said in the letter that the elected position ended up being more demanding than he expected and that he needed more time to devote to his business interests and family. Democrats though quickly sensed blood in the water and took the opportunity to strike. http://www.newschannel5.com/news/tennessee-rep-mark-lovell-resigns

Video: Rep. Bo Mitchell calls for ‘Jeremy’s Law’ repeal in wake of scandals (Tennessean) http://www.tennessean.com/videos/news/politics/2017/02/14/rep.-bo-mitchell-calls-‘jeremy’s-law’-repeal-wake-scandals/97904338/

Following Lovell resignation, officials call for repeal of Jeremy’s Law (WKRN) Members of the House Democratic Caucus are calling for the repeal of Jeremy’s Law, which states that state employees would be liable for attorneys’ fees in the event of an unsuccessful sexual harassment suit. Representative Bo Mitchell held a press conference at 1 p.m. to demand immediate passage of House Bill 1355, which would repeal Jeremy’s Law. “It was an outrage that Jeremy’s Law passed last year at the very time that the Durham scandal was unfolding. Now we are barely into the Session and we have another problem – we have to accept that one reason may be that we unwisely raised unprecedented barriers to harassment victims seeking justice.” Mitchell stated. http://wkrn.com/2017/02/14/live-1-following-lovell-resignation-officials-call-for-repeal-of-jeremys-law/

Harwell: Legislature cannot investigate Lovell’s behavior further because he resigned (Tennessean) House Speaker Beth Harwell said an investigation into Mark Lovell’s behavior would have been required based upon his comments to the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee and in his resignation letter Tuesday. Lovell resigned Tuesday morning, citing family and business reasons while also denying that he acted inappropriately. Several sources confirmed that he was the subject of an investigation after being accused of inappropriate sexual conduct with at least one woman last week. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/14/harwell-legislature-cannot-investigate-lovells-behavior-further-because-he-resigned/97900782/

Sexual harassment training not enough, experts say (Tennessean) As allegations of “inappropriate touching” by a west Tennessee lawmaker surfaced less than a week after the legislature implemented its first mandatory sexual harassment training for its members, experts stressed that training alone cannot change a workplace culture in which sexual harassment is tolerated — or ignored. Rep. Mark Lovell, R-Eads, resigned Tuesday after the sexual harassment allegations became public. Lovell, serving his first term as a lawmaker, has called those allegations “100 percent false.” http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/14/sexual-harassment-training-not-enough-experts-say/97897882/

Bill would give teens serving life a second chance (Tennessean) Two Tennessee lawmakers have introduced a bill that would give men and women serving lengthy sentences for crimes they committed as teenagers a chance for an early release. The bill, introduced by Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga and Sen.Doug Overby, R-Maryville, would give inmates convicted of non-fatal crimes committed as teenagers a chance at parole after serving 15 years. If the crime resulted in a victim’s death, the bill would allow parole to be granted after 20 years. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2017/02/14/bill-would-give-teens-serving-life-second-chance/97891024/

Lawmakers hear medical marijuana testimony from doctor, Marine (Tennessean) Tennessee lawmakers have been hesitant to take a stand on the issue of medical marijuana in Tennessee saying they needed scientific evidence to back any vote on pending legislation this year, and Tuesday they got their first dose of that evidence from one of the nation’s leading medical marijuana researchers. On Tuesday, the House Health Committee heard from one of the nation’s leading researchers about the benefits, though the House sponsor of the legislation to allow medical marijuana admits he still sees some trepidation with his colleagues. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/14/lawmakers-hear-medical-marijuana-testimony-doctor-marine/97889912/

Here’s what Ford, Google, Uber and others said to TN legislators about self-driving cars (Nashville Business Journal) Ford, Waymo (Google’s self-driving car initiative), Uber, Lyft and Volvo really don’t like Tennessee’s self-driving car initiative, and they’re doing all they can to stop it (at least in its current state) from happening. As currently written, the SAVE Act would allow car manufacturers to run pilot programs for fleets of on-demand, self-driving cars in Tennessee. The bill only allows automakers to apply for these pilot programs, meaning technology companies — such as Uber and Waymo — are ineligible. http://www.bizjournals.com/nashville/news/2017/02/14/heres-what-ford-volvo-google-and-uber-said-to-tn.html

BlueCross BlueShield tells lawmakers of its efforts to tackle Tennessee’s opioid ‘crisis’ (Times Free Press) In a state that ranks No. 2 nationally in terms of prescriptions written for addictive opioid pain medications and where more people died last year from drug overdoses than car crashes, Tennessee’s largest health insurer is working to change a culture. Chattanooga-based BlueCross BlueShield executives on Tuesday described to state Senate Commerce and Insurance Committee members various steps the nonprofit insurer is taking to address problems in areas ranging from educating doctors on best practices for opioid use to influencing prescribing patterns. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2017/feb/15/bluecross-describes-state-lawmakers-efforts-c/412914/

Hill’s protest bill draws own protest (Johnson City Press) A group of protesters rallied in front of radio station WHCB Tuesday afternoon to protest a bill Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, introduced last week that would grant civil immunity to drivers who unintentionally injure protesters while exercising due care. The protesters chose the radio station at 2175 Hwy 75 because Hill hosts his radio show, Bible Buddies, at that station and does not have a local office. If passed, the bill, HB0668, would take effect July 1 and protesters injured by drivers would not be able to sue them. Hill specified that the bill would not protect drivers who intentionally or carelessly injure protesters from criminal charges. http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/Local/2017/02/14/Hill-s-protest-bill-draws-own-protest.html?ci=stream&lp=3&p=

Protesters gather outside Rep. Hill’s office; upset over bill proposal (WJHL) A group of protesters plan to gather outside of the radio station where Rep. Matthew Hill works. They are disappointed with his proposal that says a driver cannot be civilly charged if they were to hit a protestor with their car. Rep. Hill explained the proposal to News Channel 11 last week. “The legislation is, if someone’s in a car and they take due care, that’s the legal term. Meaning not doing it on purpose. No malicious intent, nothing like that and they accidentally hit someone the protestor that they hit can not come back on them and sue them in civil court. Civil court is the key,” Hill explained. http://wjhl.com/2017/02/14/protestors-to-gather-outside-rep-hills-office-upset-over-bill-proposal/

Flurry of Bills Affecting LGBT Community Filed in State Legislature Before Deadline (Memphis Daily News) Tennessee lawmakers met last Thursday’s legislation-filing deadline with a host of social measures one Memphis representative describes as “wedge bills” because they drive people apart. Legislation largely affects the state’s LGBT community and includes counseling guidelines and an attempt to sidestep the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage. “Those bills are not improving the lives of Tennesseans,” says Rep. Joe Towns, who represents District 84. https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2017/feb/15/flurry-of-bills-affecting-lgbt-community-filed-in-state-legislature-before-deadline/

Sara Kyle, Clemmons Push Alternative Fuel-Tax Bill (Memphis Daily News) State Sen. Sara Kyle of Memphis and Nashville Rep. John Ray Clemmons are pushing a plan to raise fuel taxes for transportation funding, similarly to Gov. Bill Haslam’s, but also to give local governments more options for bringing in their own money for mass transit. The TNForward proposal introduced Monday by the two Democrats would increase the gas tax by five cents per gallon to 26.4 cents, add nine cents to the diesel tax pushing it to 27.4 cents per gallon, index them to inflation and population growth, as well as increase vehicle registration fees and pass an open container law. https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2017/feb/15/sara-kyle-clemmons-push-alternative-fuel-tax-bill/

Kelsey, Harris File Legislation to Block TVA Aquifier Drilling (Memphis Flyer) State Senators Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and Lee Harris (D-Memphis) have filed a bill that would establish a Memphis Sand Aquifer Regional Development board with approval powers over the pumping of more than 10,000 gallons of water from the aquifer, source of the Memphis area’s drinking water. The TVA plan, sanctioned by the Shelby County Water Quality Control Board but still opposed by a group of environmentally minded citizens, would draw 3 1/2 million gallons of water daily as coolant for the Authority’s forthcoming natural-gas power plant. http://www.memphisflyer.com/JacksonBaker/archives/2017/02/14/kelsey-harris-file-legislation-to-block-tva-aquifier-drilling

One Billion Rising holds rally to end violence against women (WKRN) The moment is global to raise awareness about domestic violence and sexual assaults. Their voices could be heard Tuesday night in Nashville. A rally was held at Legislative Plaza for One Billion Rising, which says it is “the biggest mass action to end violence against women in human history.” The group says one in three women will be raped or abused at some point in her lifetime. Their Nashville rally included music, dance, and inspirational messages—and they chose the plaza for a reason. http://wkrn.com/2017/02/14/one-billion-rising-holds-rally-to-end-violence-against-women/

Rep. Cooper wants investigation into Flynn’s ties to Russia (WSMV) Rep. Jim Cooper, D-TN, is part of a bipartisan push to investigate former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia. Flynn resigned late Monday night amid reports that he misled Vice President Mike Pence and other administration officials about communications with the Russian ambassador. Cooper told Channel 4 he thinks the White House tried to cover up the controversy so Flynn wouldn’t have to resign. “We’ve got to make sure that Putin is not manipulating our government or our people,” Cooper said. Cooper is calling for an independent investigation into Flynn’s relationship with the Russian ambassador. http://www.wsmv.com/story/34505842/rep-cooper-wants-investigation-into-flynns-ties-to-russia

Cohen Gets New Committee Assignment: Ethics (Memphis Flyer) In a political season in which ethics issues may come to predominate, 9th District Congressman Steve Cohen has been named to the House Committee on Ethics. Here’s the news release from Rep. Cohen’s office: Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today was appointed by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and approved by the House Democratic Caucus to serve on the House Committee on Ethics. In 2008, then-Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi referred to Congressman Cohen as the “conscience of the freshman class.” http://www.memphisflyer.com/JacksonBaker/archives/2017/02/14/cohen-gets-new-committee-assignment-ethics

Puzder Vowed Revenge After She Alleged Abuse, Ex-Wife Tells Oprah (Politico) The ex-wife of President Donald Trump’s labor secretary nominee told “The Oprah Winfrey Show” that he “vowed revenge” when she made public spousal abuse allegations, according to a 1990 tape reviewed by POLITICO on Tuesday night. Andrew Puzder’s hearing for labor secretary is Thursday, but the allegations of domestic abuse, which he’s repeatedly denied, and his admission that he employed an illegal immigrant have put his confirmation in jeopardy. The details of the Oprah tape, which haven’t been made public until now, could further erode his support in the Senate, where four Republicans have expressed reservations about his nomination. No Democrats are expected to support him. http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/puzder-oprah-winfrey-labor-235030

Trump’s military build-up to spark GOP civil war (Politico) President Donald Trump is about to blow up the uneasy détente between GOP defense and fiscal hawks. The Pentagon is set to seek tens of billions of dollars from Congress to implement Trump’s vow to rebuild the military. Republicans are already drawing battle lines over whether the extra defense dollars should be added to the deficit or, as many in the party have long insisted, be matched with equal cuts elsewhere. Fiscal hard-liners like Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, and even some more moderate Republicans like Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, worry the GOP will abandon its mission of reining in red ink now that the Obama administration is in the rearview mirror.  “I think with any new spending, we ought to figure out ways of offsetting it or paying for it,” Corker said. “I hope we’re not going to a place where all of the sudden, because we’re in office, we don’t think the deficit matters anymore, but I’m seeing some early signs there may be some who feel that.” http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/trump-defense-buildup-pentagon-gop-234767

GOP may boost Medicaid spending in order to slash the program (Politico) Republicans determined to cut Medicaid may first have to pour more money into it, to keep the peace between Republican governors who expanded health care for low-income people under Obamacare and those who resisted. States of hold-out governors could wind up the biggest losers if GOP lawmakers make good on their longstanding vow to cap federal spending by giving states lump sums tied to the number of Medicaid enrollees. So congressional Republicans are girding to spend significantly more money — at least in the short term — to effectively reward the non-expansion states for their resistance. The goal, at the very least, is to ensure funding parity between expansion states that would stand to get more money under a capped program and conservative holdouts like Texas, Georgia and Tennessee. http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/gop-medicaid-spending-235018

ORNL to revitalize facilities, reduce mercury contamination with new plan (WATE) The Department of Energy is releasing new information about their plans to clean up the area around ORNL and Y-12 by demolishing old, unused buildings that could pose a threat to the environment. According to the Department of Energy’s website there are hundreds of dilapidated buildings that could pose risks to the environment as they deteriorate. The plans include the construction of a mercury treatment facility, followed by large scale demolition at the Y-12 National Security complex. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, Y-12 used more than 20 million pounds of mercury, and over 700,000 pounds were lost into the building and soil on site. http://wate.com/2017/02/14/ornl-to-revitalize-facilities-reduce-mercury-contamination-with-new-plan/

Shipments to Nation’s Only Nuclear Dump Will Resume in April (NY Times) The U.S. Energy Department said Tuesday that shipments to the nation’s only underground nuclear waste repository are expected to resume in April, more than three years after they were halted in response to a radiation release that contaminated part of the facility. The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant was forced to close in February 2014 after an inappropriately packed drum of waste ruptured. Some operations resumed in December after an expensive recovery effort that has yet to be fully completed. Most of the shipments will be coming from the Idaho National Laboratory. Both Los Alamos National Laboratory and Oak Ridge in Tennessee are expected to send off two dozen shipments each. Several other shipments are expected from Savannah River in South Carolina and the private Waste Control Specialists site in Texas. https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2017/02/14/us/ap-us-nuke-repository-shipments.html?_r=0

Humana will leave state exchange in ’18 (Nashville Post) Execs pull plug after early look at this year’s enrollment. Thousands of Tennesseans will lose their health insurance from Humana at the end of this year following the company’s announcement Tuesday that it is pulling out of government-run exchanges. Citing “further signs of an unbalanced risk pool” based on an early analysis of their 2017 exchange enrollees, Humana executives said — as part of a statement addressing the demise of their planned merger with Aetna — that they cannot continue offering individual commercial plans despite adjusting their product and geographic strategies in recent years. http://www.nashvillepost.com/business/health-care/insurance/article/20852207/humana-will-leave-state-exchange-in-18

Antioch land illegally cleared; Owner says it was ‘mistake’ (WKRN) A large plot of land in Antioch was cleared without permission, and now state and city officials say water quality and wildlife could be impacted. The 12-acre property is located at 5135 Hickory Hollow Parkway sandwiched between several Mill Creek tributaries. Mill Creek is nearly 30 miles long and eventually flows into the Cumberland River. It’s also a popular place to kayak and fish. Since the property is located so close to Mill Creek, the owner needed special permits and needed to do preparation before he cleared the land, but he didn’t do either. http://wkrn.com/2017/02/14/antioch-land-illegally-cleared-owner-says-it-was-mistake/

From $37 to $339,000: Why the Price of Public Records Requests Varies So Much (Governing) In 2015, the editor of a newspaper in Florida filed a public records request with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office asking for the email of every employee during a five-month period to be searched for specific gay slurs. In response, the South Florida Gay News received a $339,000 bill. The office said fulfilling the request would take four years and require hiring a dedicated staffer. The exorbitant charge set off a year-long legal battle that attracted the Associated Press and its lofty resources. To show how arbitrary the number was, the AP and South Florida Gay News filed a similar request to the sheriff’s office in other Florida counties. They were quoted fees ranging from as little as $37 to more than $44,000. http://www.governing.com/topics/mgmt/gov-cost-open-records-requests.html

OPINION

Editorial: Gas tax proposal is fair solution to Tennessee’s road needs (Independent Herald) A December poll conducted by Vanderbilt University found a plurality of Tennesseans in support of Gov. Bill Haslam’s long-anticipated proposal for an increase in the state’s gasoline tax. According to the poll, as many as 65 percent of Tennesseans favor an increase, and 55 percent favor an increase of seven cents per gallon, which is what Haslam has proposed (along with a 12-cent-per-gallon increase on diesel fuel). But Tennessee is still a red state, with a deeply conservative legislature, and tax increases are never popular in red states or in Republican legislatures. So even though a majority of Tennesseans favor the increased gasoline tax, Haslam’s proposal may not even make it out of committee for a vote of the full General Assembly later this spring. http://ihoneida.com/2017/02/14/our-view-gas-tax-proposal-is-fair-solution-to-tennessees-road-needs/

Editorial: Failure to exonerate Lawrence McKinney would be unjust (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Haslam did the right thing by committing to make a decision on whether to exonerate Lawrence McKinney. “Obviously it’s come to us and we can’t just ignore it,” Haslam said after a town hall meeting in Wilson County on Thursday. “We’ll definitely make a decision.” The next step is to make the just decision and that would be to exonerate him. McKinney, a Wilson County man formerly of Memphis, languished in prison for 31 years for rape and burglary. In 2009 a Shelby County court overturned his conviction and freed him after weighing DNA evidence. http://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/editorials/2017/02/14/failure-exonerate-lawrence-mckinney-would-unjust/97870440/

Guest column: Privatizing APSU facilities doesn’t make sense (Leaf-Chronicle) I am a professor of art and chair of the Department of Art & Design at Austin Peay State University, where I have taught for the last 12 years, and also an alumni of APSU, class of 1995. As you might guess, Austin Peay is very important to me, just like it’s important to Clarksville. It’s a fundamental part of our community and local economy. Since returning to APSU as a professor, I have seen a lot of state proposals and initiatives aimed at higher education, some good and some bad. Nothing has worried me as much as Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent proposal to outsource all of the facilities management and maintenance jobs at state colleges and universities, state parks and prisons — every piece of state real estate — to outside private corporations. http://www.theleafchronicle.com/story/opinion/readers/2017/02/14/commentary-privatizing-apsu-facilities-doesnt-make-sense/97860808/

Editorial: Schools need to improve guidance for students (News Sentinel) A recent report from the Tennessee Department of Education contains troubling data about the state’s high school graduates. While graduation rates are up and the need for remedial work in community colleges is down, too many graduates are not ready to pursue post-secondary educations. The trend threatens to undermine Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Drive to 55” initiative, which seeks to ensure 55 percent of Tennessee adults have a post-secondary degree or training certificate by 2025. http://www.knoxnews.com/story/opinion/editorials/2017/02/15/schools-need-improve-guidance-students/97907030/

David Plazas: Don’t end investigation into former Rep. Mark Lovell (Tennessean) It is a mistake for Tennessee legislative leaders to end the investigation into Mark Lovell. The recently elected Eads lawmaker resigned his state House seat Tuesday after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against him. Sweeping his case under the rug just because he abandoned his seat is unwise and unfair to the public. First, the policy regarding sexual harassment complaints does not dictate that investigations end abruptly just because an accused official leaves his or her post. http://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/editorials/2017/02/15/dont-end-investigation-into-former-rep-mark-lovell/97917168/

Guest column: Scott Pruitt would harm Tennessee’s clean air legacy (News Sentinel) The late Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. would empathize with the choice facing U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker as they decide whether to vote to confirm Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Baker was a true statesman. During his 18 years in the Senate and time serving President Ronald Reagan, he valued party loyalty, but he also consistently put the nation’s interest above party — from his clarion question about Richard Nixon, “What did the president know and when did he know it?” to his defense of one-person-one-vote and support for SALT-II and the Panama Canal Treaties. http://www.knoxnews.com/story/opinion/columnists/2017/02/14/collin-omara-pruitt-would-harm-tennessees-clean-air-legacy/97904680/

Frank Cagle: State senator’s gun bill is irresponsible, dangerous (News Sentinel) Special-interest group lobbyists have a hard time if they are successful. You can’t declare victory and go home. You have to come back next year, and you need something to outrage the members and gin up contributions. It helps to have compliant state legislators who are unembarrassed to drop in your bills no matter how outrageous they may be. Since the Republicans took control of the Legislature they have passed 15 or 20 gun bills. The expansion of Second Amendment rights, especially in light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the right to bear arms, is almost absolute. Any reasonable gun rights legislation has long since been passed. So what can the gun lobby do? Why, propose unreasonable gun rights legislation. http://www.knoxnews.com/story/opinion/columnists/frank-cagle/2017/02/15/frank-cagle-state-senators-gun-bill-irresponsible-dangerous/97898128/

Editorial: Don’t be so quick to flush the fluoride (Johnson City Press) While the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted 3 to 1 Monday to remove fluoride from the town’s water supply, don’t expect many other local municipalities to follow suit. Data shows the benefits of fluoridation far outweigh any concerns that have been expressed about the practice. And despite the fact that the Jonesborough vote comes 10 months after the issue was first raised, we believe town leaders should have given more thought to their decision. http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/Editorial/2017/02/15/Don-t-be-too-to-quick-to-flush-the-fluoride.html?ci=stream&lp=1&p=

Bill Frist: Tackling Tobacco Use In The Volunteer State: Let’s Start With Tennessee Quit Week (Forbes) In the last six weeks, two critical reports have shined a spotlight on Tennessee’s high levels of tobacco use and inadequate prevention efforts. In December, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other public health organizations published a report that compared funding for tobacco cessation and prevention in each state, and Tennessee ranked a dismal 45th nationwide.  Tobacco-Free Kids noted that Tennessee provided only 1.5% of the CDC recommended $75 million in funding for tobacco cessation, despite receiving over $400 million in revenue from tobacco taxes and a long-standing settlement deal with tobacco companies (known as the Master Settlement Agreement). http://www.forbes.com/sites/billfrist/2017/02/14/tackling-tobacco-use-in-the-volunteer-state-lets-start-with-tennessee-quit-week/#1b06d6d45e99

Tuesday, February 14

TDOT highlights projects that could be funded by gas tax increase (WBIR) The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) says Governor Haslam’s gas tax proposal could help officials tackle thousands of projects across the state. Haslam has proposed charging an additional 7 cents per gallon on gasoline and 12-cents per gallon on diesel beginning in July. The increased would net the state’s Department of Transportation an additional $227.8 million, with cities receiving about $39 million and counties another $78 million. It would cost the average Tennessean about $4 a month. TDOT has posted an interactive map on their website that highlights what projects could be funded with the additional revenue, including everything from interstate improvements to small rural county bridge projects. http://www.wbir.com/news/politics/tdot-highlights-projects-that-could-be-funded-by-gas-tax-increase/407998316

What a Nashville business crowd wanted to hear from Gov. Haslam in a Q&A session (Nashville Business Journal) t’s not every day the governor of Tennessee joins you for lunch, but that is what happened for those invited to the Omni Nashville Hotel on Monday. Gov. Bill Haslam spoke to a group of clients and employees of Nashville’s Pinnacle Financial Partners to give the audience an update on where he sees the state. In his speech, the governor, whose brother-in-law Rob McCabe helped found the bank, praised Tennessee’s strong manufacturing industry and its dedication to education, in addition to touting his high-profile transportation-funding bill. http://www.bizjournals.com/nashville/news/2017/02/13/what-a-nashville-business-crowd-wanted-to-hear.html

NFIB survey finds slim majority opposed to Haslam’s gas tax (TN Journal/Humphrey) News release from National Federation of Independent Business: Tennessee members of the National Federation of Independent Business, the nation’s leading small-business association, are giving mixed reviews of Governor’s Haslam’s proposed IMPROVE Act, which includes an increase in the state gasoline and diesel taxes. “NFIB’s policy positions are based on the direct input of our members,” said Jim Brown, state director of NFIB. “When we surveyed our members this month about the governor’s Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy Act, there really was no clear consensus, at least on the question of a tax increase.” http://humphreyonthehill.tnjournal.net/nfib-survey-finds-slim-majority-opposed-to-haslams-gas-tax/

Tennessee Independent Business group members give ‘mixed’ reviews on Haslam Improve Act (Times Free Press) Tennessee members of the National Federation of Independent Business are giving “decidedly mixed” reviews regarding Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed IMPROVE Act, which seeks an increase in state gas and diesel taxes coupled with tax cuts in non-highway fund sources of revenue. Jim Brown, NFIB-Tennessee’s state director, said in a news release that when members of the independent business group surveyed members this month, “there really was no clear consensus, at least on the question of a tax increase.” According to Brown, 55 percent of members responding to the survey were opposed to Haslam’s call for boosting gas taxes by 7 cents per gallon and diesel by 12 cents. Forty percent said they supported it while 5 percent were undecided. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/breakingnews/story/2017/feb/13/tennessee-independent-business-group-members-give-mixed-reviews-haslam-improve-act/412627/

Tennessee Gov. Haslam’s IMPROVE Act comes up for hearing today in House panel (Times Free Press) Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed IMPROVE Act, which seeks to boost gas and diesel taxes for Tennessee transportation while cutting taxes in other areas, comes up for its first House Transportation Committee hearing today. But lawmakers won’t be asked to vote just yet on the Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy Act. Instead, the GOP-controlled panel will be hearing presentations from state Comptroller Justin Wilson, Haslam’s senior adviser Stephen Smith, Transportation Commissioner John Schroer and Schroer’s No. 2 assistant, Deputy Commissioner Paul Degges. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2017/feb/14/haslams-improve-act-comes-hearing-today-house/412691/

Williamson commission supports proposed gas tax hike, expanded broadband access (Tennessean) The Williamson County commission approved two resolutions Monday in support of state bills that would help fund transportation projects and expand high speed internet access. The Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy Act proposes a gas tax hike, fees on electric cars and rental cars and an end to open containers of alcohol in moving vehicles to help fund a backlog of transportation projects. The IMPROVE Act proposes a 7-cent gasoline and 12-cent diesel tax hike beginning in July. It also proposes cuts on taxes on food and manufacturing. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/williamson/2017/02/13/williamson-commission-supports-proposed-gas-tax-hike-expanded-broadband-access/97877058/

Carter Highway Committee takes no action to support gas tax increase (Johnson City Press) The Highway Committee of the Carter County Commission took no action Monday on whether or not to lend its support to Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed gas tax increase. The County Commission will be meeting Feb. 21. A proposed resolution was presented to the committee that would have supported Haslam’s 7-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax increase and 12-cents-per-gallon diesel tax increase. Highway Superintendent Roger Colbaugh had placed the resolution on the agenda. The increase would raise fuel taxes to 28.4 cents per gallon for gasoline and 30.4 cents per gallon for diesel. Proceeds from the increase would be earmarked for highway, bridge and other road infrastructure projects in Tennessee’s 95 counties. http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/Government/2017/02/13/Carter-Highway-Department-takes-no-action-to-support-gas-tax-increase.html?ci=stream&lp=3&p=

Orthodontics Company Creating 440 Jobs In Tennessee (Business Facilities) SmileDirectClub is expanding in two Davidson County locations. The company will add office and customer service personnel in its new downtown Nashville headquarters at 414 Union Street. SmileDirectClub will also create jobs at a new manufacturing and distribution center in Antioch. “The surest way for our cities and communities to continue to prosper is by fostering a business climate that encourages our existing businesses to hire and grow,” said Gov. Bill Haslam. https://businessfacilities.com/2017/02/48441/

New boards approved for MTSU, TSU, other universities (Leaf Chronicle) The General Assembly on Monday voted to approve new boards for six universities that had previously been overseen by the Tennessee Board of Regents. New boards for Middle Tennessee State University, Tennessee State University, Austin Peay State University, East Tennessee State University, Tennessee Tech University and the University of Memphis are expected to meet for the first time this spring. Gov. Bill Haslam had appointed eight members to each of the six new boards last year. Lawmakers met with the board members earlier this year after convening for the legislative session. http://www.theleafchronicle.com/story/news/education/2017/02/13/new-boards-approved-mtsu-tsu-other-universities/97876338/

McQueen: Despite report, no sign of disregard for graduation requirements (WBIR) Nearly one-third of Tennessee high school graduates did not complete all of the courses required to graduate in 2015, but still received their diplomas, according to a new report from the Department of Education. But the state education commissioner does not feel there’s widespread error on the part of school districts. The report, Seamless Pathways: Bridging Tennessee’s Gap Between High School and Postsecondary, studies the obstacles keeping students from college. Tennessee is below the national average for higher education attainment, ranking 43rd in adults with a two-year degree or higher. In 2014, Gov. Bill Haslam launched the Drive to 55 initiative to have 55 percent of Tennesseans with a college degree or certificate by the year 2025. http://www.wbir.com/news/local/mcqueen-no-sign-of-disregard-for-graduation-requirements-despite-report/408045799

Businesses selling to out-of-state customers face new sales tax rules (St. Louis Business Journal) Historically, sales tax nexus was determined based on the amount of physical connection an out-of-state seller had with the state. Over time, some states have adopted provisions that have blurred the lines regarding how much physical presence is actually needed to trigger nexus (e.g., Amazon laws). A few states have further expanded their nexus provisions to a standard that requires no physical presence. This type of nexus is often referred to as economic nexus. Under these new provisions, an out-of-state seller is deemed to have substantial nexus as a result of the economic benefits the seller receives in the state (e.g., sales to customers located in the state). The most recent state to enact an economic nexus standard is Tennessee. http://www.bizjournals.com/stlouis/news/2017/02/13/businesses-selling-to-out-of-state-customers-face.html

Springfield woman charged after doctor-shopping with TennCare (WZTV) The Office of Inspector General announced Monday a woman is charged in Davidson County after doctor-shopping and running from authorities for six months. Springfield-resident Stephanie Tull, 38, is charged with fraudulently obtaining controlled substances by doctor shopping, using TennCare to get prescription drugs. Tull, also known as Stephanie Hall, was indicted August 2016 for fraudulently using TennCare to get multiple Oxycodone prescriptions in a short period of time. http://fox17.com/news/local/springfield-woman-charged-after-doctor-shopping-with-tenncare

Texts Show Judge Intervening For Female Friend (WTVF) Thousands of text messages between General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland and a female friend show him willing to use his position when she got into trouble. The text messages, obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates, show he came to the woman’s rescue during a traffic stop with Metro police. The judge has publicly denied an inappropriate relationship, but the texts paint a very different picture. On May 16 of last year, Natalie Amos texted Judge Moreland and asked, “How’s your Monday.” He responded with a picture of a packed courtroom, apparently taken from the bench and stated “plenty of business.” http://www.newschannel5.com/news/newschannel-5-investigates/texts-show-judge-intervening-for-female-friend

Nashville, Memphis Dems unveil counter to Haslam’s gas tax plan (Tennessean) Nashville Democrat Rep. John Ray Clemmons is throwing his own ideas into a crowded field of proposals on how to address the state’s $10.5-billion transportation project backlog, which he argues “won’t raid the general fund” like other proposals on the table. Clemmons and Memphis-area Sen. Sara Kyle, released his plan Monday that he said has been in the works for two years and would raise the state tax on gasoline and diesel less than the plan of Gov. Bill Haslam and offer a different local option for cities and municipalities to address their own transportation projects. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/13/nashville-memphis-dems-unveil-counter-haslams-gas-tax-plan/97847866/

Democrats Unveil Alternative Transportation Plan (WTVF) Democratic lawmakers unveiled their proposal to help fund transportation projects statewide, the plan would raise the state’s gas tax, but the increase would be two cents lower than Governor Haslam’s proposed IMPROVE Act. Democratic legislators announced the plan Monday; it was named TNForward. If passed, it would raise the gas tax by five cents, indexing those taxes to the rate of inflation. Similar to Haslam’s plan, it would also increase motor vehicle registration fees and address Tennessee’s open container law which is currently costing the state $18 million in federal funds. Democrats don’t believe Governor Haslam’s plan does enough to encourage and fund mass transit projects, specifically in Nashville and surrounding middle Tennessee counties. http://www.newschannel5.com/news/democrats-unveil-alternative-transportation-plan

Tennessee Democrats: Take Money From Sales Tax And Put It Into Mass Transit (WPLN) As Governor Bill Haslam traverses the state promoting his transportation plan, Tennessee Democrats have released an alternative proposal to pay for roads. It calls for taking some of the state’s surging sales tax revenue and putting it into mass transit. The Democrats’ plan would create a set of regional transportation districts — Nashville and its suburbs, for instance. Each district would get a lump of money any time Tennessee manages to bring in more sales tax revenue than state budgeters have projected. State Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, says it’s a way to help cities handle the economic activity they create. “The areas that … are experiencing the biggest growth, have the biggest need,” he says. “So it’s essentially creating a cycle.” http://nashvillepublicradio.org/post/tennessee-democrats-take-money-sales-tax-and-put-it-mass-transit#stream/0

Teachers union poll says Tennesseans don’t want school vouchers (Tennessean) A new poll from the Tennessee Education Association says state residents strongly reject private school vouchers. The poll commissioned by the state’s largest teacher’s union comes as school voucher legislation has again been filed in the Tennessee General Assembly and as legislators point toward President Donald Trump as reasons why voucher legislation may succeed this year. The union, which opposes vouchers, surveyed rural, urban and suburban voters in all three of the state’s regions, with an oversample of highly-likely Republican primary voters, according to a news release about the poll. The polls were conducted May through October. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/education/2017/02/13/teachers-union-poll-says-tennesseans-dont-want-school-vouchers/97863122/

Tennessee lawmakers file more than 1,400 bills (News Sentinel) State legislators introduced more than 1,400 proposed new laws by the House deadline for filing bills for consideration in the 110th General Assembly, almost one-fourth of them on the final day for filing. A total of 1,413 bills were filed in the House by the general deadline day, Thursday, according to the Legislature’s website. Any general bill filed later has to be approved by a special “late bills committee” before it can be taken up, though “private acts” – those applying only to one county or city – are not covered by the deadline. http://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/local/tennessee/2017/02/13/tennessee-lawmakers-file-more-than-1400-bills/97758034/

Tennessee lawmakers have filed more than 300 education bills (Chalkbeat Tennessee) From tweaking testing to restricting recess, more than 300 education proposals await state lawmakers as committee work kicks in this week for the 110th Tennessee General Assembly. To help you keep track, Chalkbeat is rolling out our bill tracker for a third straight year. Bookmark this helpful tool. It includes all bills related to K-12 education. You can click on different columns to sort the list by factors such as the bill number and the date of the last action taken. The deadline for lawmakers to file bills was Feb. 9. Since most have counterparts in both the Senate and the House, the 300-plus bills filed represent some 154 separate proposals about governing Tennessee schools. http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2017/02/13/tennessee-lawmakers-have-filed-more-than-300-education-bills-heres-chalkbeats-tool-to-help-you-keep-track/

Tennessee lawmaker fights backlash against artificial insemination bill (Tennessean) A rural Tennessee Republican lawmaker is blaming the media for backlash after filing legislation that opponents say takes aim at same-sex couples who want to have children through a surrogate by declaring those children illegitimate under state law. Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, filed legislation late last week that would repeal a state statute that declares children conceived via artificial insemination as “legitimate,” if they are born to a married woman and her consenting husband. On Monday, she and Senate sponsor, Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, issued a joint statement after what they called “extremely inaccurate interpretations” of the bill portrayed by the media. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/13/tennessee-lawmaker-fights-backlash-against-artificial-insemination-bill/97851010/

Artificial insemination parenting bill draws LGBT criticism (AP) Two Tennessee lawmakers want to do away with a 40-year-old state law granting legitimacy to children conceived through artificial insemination. Critics say the bill is aimed at gay couples and their children. The bill would remove a single sentence applying to child custody when artificial insemination is involved, one that’s been interpreted to make no distinction between same-sex and heterosexual couples. But opponents warn that changing the law could prevent both same-sex parents from appearing on the children’s birth certificates, affecting their ability to make parenting decisions ranging from medical care to education. http://wkrn.com/2017/02/13/artificial-insemination-parenting-bill-draws-lgbt-criticism/

Lawmakers Respond To Criticism Over Artificial Insemination Bill (WTVF) Lawmakers have responded to criticism over a bill some said would make children born through artificial insemination illegitimate. House Bill 1406/Senate Bill 1153 was filed by Republican Representative Terri Lynn Weaver and Senator Joey Hensley on Thursday. The bill summary states: “it repeals a statute that deems a child born to a married woman as a result of artificial insemination, with consent of the married woman’s husband, to be the legitimate child of the husband and wife.” http://www.newschannel5.com/news/lawmakers-respond-to-criticism-over-artificial-insemination-bill

Artificial Insemination Parenting Bill Draws LGBT Criticism (WTVF) Gay rights advocates are raising the alarm about a Tennessee bill they say could make it impossible for same-sex couples to be recognized as the legal parents of children. The bill sponsored by Republican state Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver would repeal a 1977 state law that declared children born as a result of artificial insemination to be the legitimate offspring of the husband and wife. Weaver in a Facebook post denies that her bill is aimed at same-sex marriage, and argues it would not de-legitimize children because another state law addresses parentage without asking about the method of conception. http://www.newschannel5.com/news/artificial-insemination-parenting-bill-draws-lgbt-criticism

Proposed bill would allow stylists, barbers to make house calls (WKRN) Barbers and stylists could be doing business in your home if a law passes in the state legislature. Currently, Tennessee law only allows barbers and stylists to perform services in the homes of people who are ill. However, a bill up for vote in the state senate Monday would broaden that to all homes. That means, your stylists could soon be making house calls. The senate is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. The house would still have to approve the bill if the senate passes it. http://wkrn.com/2017/02/13/proposed-bill-would-allow-stylists-barbers-to-make-house-calls/

Nashville chamber works to stop ‘bathroom bill’ (WSMV) The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce is fighting to stop the controversial “bathroom bill” from passing in Tennessee. Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, and Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, reintroduced the bill last week, which would force public school students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender at birth. LGBT rights groups have said the bill unfairly targets transgender students. Last year, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce polled each of its more than 2,000 members asking if they support any state legislation that has been described as discriminatory, like the bathroom bill. Two-thirds of the responses were against the legislation. http://www.wsmv.com/story/34494665/nashville-chamber-works-to-stop-bathroom-bill

Tennessee Lawmakers Say They’ll ‘Take The High Road’ By Not Barring Travel To California (WPLN) A group of Republican state lawmakers is condemning a decision by their counterparts in California to ban all travel to Tennessee. But they’re stopping short of reciprocating. They say they want to end the bickering over differences in social policy before it gets out of hand. The back-and-forth comes after Tennessee passed a law last year allowing counselors to turn away clients for religious or moral reasons. California lawmakers called the measure dangerous to LGBT people and responded by passing a law barring the state from spending money to send people to Tennessee. State Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, says he was tempted to introduce a measure banning Tennessee officials from going to California. http://nashvillepublicradio.org/post/tennessee-lawmakers-say-theyll-take-high-road-not-barring-travel-california#stream/0

Tennessee Republicans denounce ‘absurdity’ of California travel ban (Times Free Press) Several Tennessee Republican legislators, upset over a California law banning state-funded travel to the Volunteer State after last year’s passage of a controversial counselors’ law affecting the LGBT community, are denouncing Golden State lawmakers. Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said he weighed legislation that would have retaliated with a similar ban on Tennessee government-funded travel to California. But Bell said after consultation with several colleagues, he decided to pursue a resolution and take the “high road.” For now. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/politics/state/story/2017/feb/13/tennessee-republicans-set-retaliate-against-california-after-travel-ban/412639/

Lawmakers push back against California’s Tennessee travel ban (Tennessean) Tennessee lawmakers fired back at California after lawmakers their imposed a travel ban to the Volunteer State, calling the move “misguided and ill-conceived. Last year the California legislature passed a law banning state-sponsored travel to the Volunteer State as of result of the Tennessee legislature passing a law allowing counselors to deny services to gay, lesbian and transgender clients. “I think what California has done is fire the first shot in what could be an economic civil war between the states,” said Sen. Mike Bell in a press conference on Monday. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/13/lawmakers-push-back-against-californias-tennessee-travel-ban/97849646/

Protest Held Over Reintroduced Controversial Bathroom Bill (WTVF) Protesters swamped the state Capitol after lawmakers sparked outrage last week by re-introducing “the bathroom bill.” That bill would make it illegal for a student to use a bathroom other than the one that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificate. Those concerned by the bill the most are in the LGBT community. Their concern is that this would discriminate against transgender students from using the bathroom of the sex they identify with. Lawmakers last year, pushed the bill off after it drew nation-wide criticism. http://www.newschannel5.com/news/protest-held-over-reintroduced-controversial-bathroom-bill

Tennessee bill would nix drug swaps by insurers, benefit drug industry (Tennessean) A coalition of Tennessee patient and health care provider groups backed by major U.S. drug companies is behind a bill that would stop insurance companies from switching the medications they cover to cheaper substitutes midway through a coverage year. The Reliable Coverage Act would require insurance companies to keep providing the same medication coverage they promise when enrollees sign up each year. Currently insurers can change the medications they cover midway through an enrollment year by ending coverage of a particular drug entirely, which increases out-of-pocket costs for a drug or requires additional approval by the insurance company before a drug is covered. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/13/tennessee-bill-would-nix-drug-swaps-insurers-benefit-drug-industry/97744484/

Tennessee lawmaker joins effort to make silencers easier to obtain (Times Free Press) Chris Dempsey makes sure everyone is wearing ear protectors before aiming his Glock 9 mm at the target some 15 feet away at the firing range at Shooter’s Depot off Shallowford Road. The long, flat-black silencer screwed onto the front of the pistol gives it an evil look, bringing back memories of all the times the image of a similar weapon in the movies meant somebody was going to be gunned down with the shooter making a silent escape. He steadies his hands and fires — bang-bang-bang-bang-bang-bang — brass shell casings bouncing off of the gray dividers at the range. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2017/feb/14/gun-advocates-push-make-it-easier-sell-silenc/412672/

Joe Armstrong’s accountant Charles Stivers gets probation (News Sentinel) What was good for the legislator who cheated the IRS is good for the man who helped him, a judge ruled Monday in granting probation to the accountant for former State Rep. Joe Armstrong. U.S. District Judge Pamela Reeves on Monday rejected a prison term for Kentucky accountant Charles Marshal Stivers, 54, and instead ordered a sentence nearly identical to that received by Armstrong – house arrest and probation. “It’s very unusual for a defendant to be granted probation in this court,” Reeves said. “I don’t want to see you back here.” http://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/local/tennessee/2017/02/13/joe-armstrongs-accountant-charles-stivers-gets-probation/97852844/

Poll: Trump’s immigration policies divide Tennesseans (Tennessean) Tennesseans are deeply divided on issues ranging from immigration, refugees and race relations, according to a new poll released on Friday. The poll found 50 percent of Tennesseans support President Donald Trump’s recent executive order banning immigration from seven majority Muslim countries, while 49 percent oppose the order. Respondents were similarly divided over a proposed border wall with Mexico. The poll showed that 55 percent of Tennesseans believe immigrants mainly strengthen the country rather than weaken it. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/13/poll-trumps-immigration-policies-divide-tennesseans/97849922/

Tennesseans More Divided On Immigration, Border Wall And Travel Ban (WPLN) A new poll of Tennesseans finds that they are almost evenly divided on several questions about immigration, refugees, and President Donald Trump’s attempt to create a travel ban from seven majority-Muslim nations. The polarized findings from Nashville-based iCitizen gauge feelings since the election — and show a deeper divide than what other researchers found months ago. For example, there’s practically a 50-50 split on whether to build a wall at the Mexican border (50% in favor, 49% opposed) and on the president’s refugee and seven-nation travel ban (50% support, 49% opposed). On these two subjects, there aren’t many people waffling — it’s either strong support or fierce opposition from 93 percent of respondents. http://nashvillepublicradio.org/post/tennesseans-more-divided-immigration-border-wall-and-travel-ban#stream/0

New law bans ‘bots’ from buying up online tickets (WSMV) A new law has been passed to stop “bots” from buying up concert tickets online. This continues to be a problem in Nashville when concert tickets go on sale and are sold out in just seconds. “You may find yourself paying $200 or $300 for a $100 ticket,” U.S. Congressman Marsha Blackburn, R-TN, told Channel 4 last May. Since then, Blackburn’s bill to stop ticket bots has become a law. “An age-old issue of ticket scalping has been made more prevalent by advances in technology,” said Sen. Jerry Moran, R-KS. “Anyone who says these are victimless abuses is kidding themselves,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT. http://www.wsmv.com/story/34495633/new-law-bans-bots-from-buying-up-online-tickets

Tennessee lawmakers introduce bill to give Knoxville native Congressional Gold Medal (WATE) U.S. Senators Bob Corker, Ben Cardin, Lamar Alexander and Tim Kaine have introduced a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Master Sergeant Rodrick “Roddie” Edmonds. In 1945, Master Sergeant Rodrick Edmonds was the senior officer responsible for 1,275 members of the Armed Forces at a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany. He saved the lives of around 200 Jewish men when he refused to single them out to a Nazi officer. “Even when faced with death himself, Master Sergeant Edmonds and the men under his command stood united to protect their fellow soldiers. His moral fortitude and humility serve as an example for us all, and I am pleased to join my colleagues to honor his life in this way,” said Senator Corker. http://wate.com/2017/02/13/tennessee-lawmakers-introduce-bill-to-give-knoxville-native-congressional-gold-medal/

TVA monitoring dams after California spillway fails (WATE) The country’s tallest dam is threatening to flood communities in Northern California and a major operation to evacuate nearly 200,000 people is underway. Water is gushing from the Oroville Dam, which holds back water from Lake Oroville, now sitting at record levels. Last week, chunks of concrete came off the dam’s emergency spillway, causing millions of gallons of water to pour from the dam each second, creating a massive 300-foot wide hole. Crews are working around the clock to minimize the threat. The Tennessee Valley Authority operates 49 dams in Tennessee. WATE 6 On Your Side wanted to know what the agency is doing to prevent a similar disaster from happening here. http://wate.com/2017/02/13/tva-monitoring-dams-after-california-spillway-fails/

TVA Drilling Controversy May Change Well Actions (Memphis Daily News) The controversy over Tennessee Valley Authority drilling water wells into the Memphis aquifer for the new TVA power plant in southwest Memphis is becoming a push for more public notice of such plans and better mapping of the water supply under the city. The TVA abandoned original plans to use wastewater to cool the engines that are to generate electricity at the $1 billion power plant under construction. Instead, TVA has already drilled several water wells to tap the Memphis aquifer for millions of gallons of water a day. https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2017/feb/14/tva-drilling-controversy-may-change-well-actions/

‘Whistleblower’ claims Pilot Flying J fraud cheated feds (Tennessean) The Pilot Flying J diesel rebate fraud scheme cheated not just trucking companies across the U.S. but the federal government, according to the man who says he helped crack the case. John Verble, a former broker at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney’s Knoxville branch office, says he was fired in 2013 for working with the FBI as an informant in the Pilot case and for alerting authorities to other questionable dealings he says he stumbled upon during his work there. The brokerage denies any wrongdoing. Courts so far have shot down Verble’s quest for federal whistleblower protection. He’s now asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/local/2017/02/13/whistleblower-claims-pilot-flying-j-fraud-cheated-feds/97847462/

Video: Jimmy Haslam speaks with media on state of Pilot Flying J investigation (News Sentinel) JImmy Haslam, CEO of Pilot Flying J, spoke with the media in 2013 on the state of the company’s response to the federal investigation related to manual rebates issued to trucking company customers. http://www.knoxnews.com/videos/news/2017/02/13/jimmy-haslam-speaks-media-state-pilot-flying-j-investigation/97868698/

Pipeline company suing Metro over Joelton compressor (Nashville Post) In an attempt to begin construction as early as March 1, the company behind a planned $124 million gas compressor to be located in rural Davidson County has sued Metro Nashville. The Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. on Friday asked the federal district court in Nashville for an injunction against the city, whose Metro Council has passed two ordinances that could hinder the company in its attempts to begin construction. The company also filed suit Friday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In both filings, the company argues Metro’s regulatory purview is subordinate to that of the federal government, and therefore the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Sept. 6 granting of a certificate for the project should be sufficient to begin construction. http://www.nashvillepost.com/business/development/article/20852050/pipeline-company-suing-metro-over-joelton-compressor

Major investments, funding overhaul highlight new Nashville parks plan (Tennessean) The suggested investments for Nashville’s parks are vast, expensive and potentially transformative — and all needed to keep up with a growing city. And perhaps just as significant, recommendations in a new Metro Parks road map call for the park system to overhaul how operations are funded. A new parks and greenways master plan dubbed Plan to Play released on Monday says the city needs 4,541 new park acres added over the next decade, 130 acres of new greenways, 53 miles of new paved trails, 50 more miles of hiking trails, 50 new basketball courts, five new outdoor swimming pools and eight new dog parks. http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2017/02/13/major-investments-funding-overhaul-highlight-new-nashville-parks-plan/97845650/

Metro’s big parks plan has a big price tag: $1.2B worth of investment (Nashville Business Journal) Metro Nashville has rolled out the latest blueprint for the future of its park system, an initiative that could include about $1.2 billion worth of investments in the next decade. The 206-page “Plan to Play” master plan draft, released Monday, is the latest step in a nearly year-long process. As previewed in October, the plan involves significant additions to the Metro Parks and Recreation’s acreage for parks and greenways, along with new facilities and programming and operational changes within the Metro Parks system. To get there, the master plan draft calls for $667 million in capital investment over the next 10 years, plus the acquisition of $534 million worth of real estate. http://www.bizjournals.com/nashville/news/2017/02/13/metros-big-parks-plan-has-a-big-price-tag-1-2b.html

MSHA: State grants permission to proceed with Unicoi Co. hospital (WJHL) Mountain States Health Alliance officials confirmed Monday that the health system received back in December permission from the Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency to proceed with a replacement facility for Unicoi County Memorial Hospital. “We are pleased to reach this milestone and receive affirmation from the state of Tennessee regarding our plans,” Eric Carroll, administrator of Unicoi County Memorial Hospital, said. According to a MSHA news release, the replacement hospital will have “inpatient acute-care services, as well as resources for increasing access to primary care. It will also include a 24-hour emergency department, standard and advanced diagnostics, a chest pain center, an area for community education and physician office space.” http://wjhl.com/2017/02/13/msha-state-grants-permission-to-proceed-with-unicoi-co-hospital/

Jonesborough BMA votes to remove fluoride from water (Johnson City Press) The Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to removed fluoride from the town’s water supply after a 3-1 vote at its monthly meeting Monday night. The final decision came several months after the issue was first presented to the board and the public rose in defense of both sides of the issue. After a survey, a series of public comments and a lot of consideration, Aldermen Chuck Vest, David Sell and Jerome Fitzgerald voted in favor of removing fluoride from the town’s water supply. The motion, put forth by Vest, called for the removal of fluoride from the supply in 120 days in order to gain approval from the state to have non-fluoridated water and implement alternative plans for fluoridation and for town staff to begin communications to implement alternative fluoridation plans in Jonesborough schools and local charity organizations. http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/Local/2017/02/13/Jonesborough-BMA-votes-to-remove-fluoride-from-water.html?ci=stream&lp=3&p=

Trout Stocking to Resume in Sevier County after Decades-Old Water Contamination Advisory Lifted (Sevier News Messenger) Following the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s lifting of water contact advisories for rivers and streams in Sevier County, the state wildlife agency is resuming its trout stocking program in the Little Pigeon River. TDEC reports that for over two decades, there was a public advisory against water contact due to elevated fecal coliform bacteria in the lower Middle Prong, West Prong, and multiple tributaries of the Little Pigeon River. http://www.seviernewsmessenger.com/2017/02/13/trout-stocking-sevier-county/

OPINION

Editorial: De-annexation bill punitive but doesn’t hold cities accountable (News Sentinel) Tennessee lawmakers once again are considering a bill that would allow portions of cities to secede from their municipalities. Legislation filed by state Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, and Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, would allow voters who have been annexed by cities to decide whether to return to an unincorporated status. Commonly known as de-annexation, the process would deprive cities of tax revenues and reduce services to residents. A similar de-annexation bill passed in the House of Representatives but failed to gain traction in the Senate. http://www.knoxnews.com/story/opinion/editorials/2017/02/14/de-annexation-bill-punitive-but-doesnt-hold-cities-accountable/97855112/

Editorial: Durham audit shows candidate malfeasance is easy to hide (News Sentinel) Disgraced former legislator Jeremy Durham repeatedly flouted campaign finance laws, according to a withering state audit that demonstrates just how easily candidates for public office in Tennessee can avoid detection for misappropriating donated funds. The audit found the former state representative committed at least 500 violations of at least six state campaign finance laws during the past two election cycles. According to the audit, he spent more than $10,000 of campaign money to pay for an airplane ticket for his wife, custom suits, home lawn care and items such as sunglasses and spa products. http://www.knoxnews.com/story/opinion/editorials/2017/02/13/durham-audit-shows-candidate-malfeasance-easy-hide/97747976/

George Korda: Duncan says ‘no’ to a town hall meeting, and politics over principles (News Sentinel) U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. turned down a call for a town meeting by a group called Indivisible East Tennessee, whose founder described the group in a Feb. 6 News Sentinel story as based on the Indivisible Guide, a “practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda.” What Duncan displayed is good judgment. Duncan decided to not irrigate a field seeded for conflict. A discussion in which members of Congress can hear and speak with constituents is one thing; trying to engage in conversation with people whose primary purpose is contention is another matter entirely. http://www.knoxnews.com/story/opinion/columnists/george-korda/2017/02/13/george-korda-duncan-says-no-town-hall-meeting-and-politics-over-principles/97842594/

Editorial: Fetal heartbeat bill goes much too far (Johnson City Press)Regarding the fetal heartbeat bill that state Rep. Micah Van Huss is championing, I believe it is an extreme overreach. Does he realize that many women may not even find out they are pregnant until after this point? What then? What if a woman finds out at five weeks and isn’t able to get an appointment (not to mention the funds) to have an abortion within the next week? This bill is simply an attempt to make it more difficult for women to make the decisions that only they should make regarding what happens to their own bodies. http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/Letter-to-the-Editor/2017/02/14/Fetal-hearbeat-bill-goes-too-far.html?ci=stream&lp=1&p=

Blog: GOP Sen. Bob Corker Wants To Massage Donald Trump’s Nuggets (Wonkette) Oh, southern people with our folksy catchphrases! Sometimes it’s “bless your heart,” or sometimes it is Tennessee GOP Senator Bob Corker (who is, ahem, OUR SENATOR, and therefore also represents the state’s dirty liberals, in theory), describing his current strategy for trying to keep President Donald Trump from destroying the entire world with his undying love for Vladimir Putin, and also with his Twitter account: “What I see happening is an evolution,” Corker tells me, ticking off a list of issues like the embassy move, the U.S. commitment to NATO, and sanctions on Russia where Trump has not yet moved forward despite public vows to proceed in a disruptive fashion. “We should attempt … to take those nuggets that are real and help as a Senate evolve them into a policy that is positive,” Corker says. “It’s taking nuggets, massaging them to a little bit different place.” http://wonkette.com/612681/gop-sen-bob-corker-wants-to-massage-donald-trumps-nuggets-which-sounds-really-gross-senator#PdXBKrwDzS8PYyqb.99