Wednesday, May 31

Video: Inside Politics – Gov. Bill Haslam (WTVF) On a special edition of Inside Politics, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam sits down with NewsChannel 5’s political analyst Pat Nolan to talk about a wide range of topics that are on the minds of many people across our state. We ask him about everything form his recent legislative successes to his effort to “reconnect” busy adults with dreams of attaining a college degree. We also talk about his waning days as Governor as well who he might support for his office in 2018.

Haslam signs bill reducing costs of wiping criminal records (AP) Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a law that will make it easier for people convicted of mostly low-level offenses to get their criminal records wiped clean. The law reduces the costs of expunging criminal record convictions from $350 to $180, making it more affordable. That figure does not include any court costs or clerk fees that may be involved. The bipartisan measure was championed by two Shelby County lawmakers in an effort to help non-violent offenders who have turned their lives around. The measure, which was sponsored by Democratic Rep. Raumesh Akbari of Memphis and Republican Sen. Mark Norris of Collierville, takes effect immediately.

Attorney explains new law making clean record more affordable (WBBJ) Gov. Bill Haslam signs a bill to make it more affordable to have your record expunged. “Tennessee has always allowed people to clean up their record,” Attorney Mark Donahoe said. Donahoe said having your record wiped of what are considered “low-level offenses” after five years isn’t a new law. He said it’s helpful for those looking for a brighter future. “If you apply to restore your rights and get your record expunged at the same time, it’s really helpful to you and a lot of people going forward with a career or with school or something like that, so it’s a very important thing,” Donahoe said. The price to fill out an application is going from $450 to $270 in total fines.

10 local projects on IMPROVE Act list (Tullahoma News) Gov. Bill Haslam’s IMPROVE Act, a piece of legislation that aims to tackle the state’s $10.5 million backlog of road and bridge projects and includes the largest tax cut in state history, was passed last month, and one group estimates that the legislation will bring in over $43 million in revenue for 10 road and bridge improvement projects across Coffee County in the next 15 years. The group, called the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee, made its way around Tennessee’s 95 counties recently, stopping in Manchester May 15 to present information about what local revenue estimates look like for the area. “With Gov.  Haslam’s-sponsored IMPROVE act passing, we’ve created this needed funding for all of us in Tennessee, for our communities, for our local governments, for our business to just have a huge win,” said Bridget Jones with the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee.

Lawmakers push to get State of Emergency declared for Shelby County (WMC) Lawmakers are in the process of declaring a State of Emergency in Memphis. A State of Emergency declaration is a formal request for federal disaster assistance. Governor Bill Haslam must officially make the federal State of Emergency declaration. Mayor Jim Strickland’s Office said two things must happen before the governor can issue the declaration: Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell must file for a State of Emergency, and local government costs related to the storm must exceed $9.07 million. Luttrell has already filed for the State of Emergency, and local governments are currently estimating the repair costs. Once the local estimates are completed, the request for a federal State of Emergency declaration will go to Gov. Haslam’s office.

Vanderbilt poll: Most Tennesseans support in-state tuition for undocumented students (Tennessean) Most Tennesseans support in-state college tuition for undocumented students, a proposal state lawmakers have repeatedly blocked in recent years. The finding, which was included in a poll released Tuesday by Vanderbilt University, suggests the General Assembly is at odds with Tennesseans who are affiliated with both major parties. According to the poll, 66 percent of Tennesseans believe undocumented students who came here with their parents at a young age should be eligible for in-state tuition if they graduate from high school in Tennessee and then enroll at a state college or university. State law currently requires those students to pay out-of-state rates, which can be three to five times higher.

Poll: 2 in 3 Tennessee voters favor immigrant tuition break (AP) A poll by Vanderbilt University says about two of three registered voters in the state think Tennessee students whose parents brought or kept them in the country illegally should be eligible for in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities. The poll released Tuesday says 55 percent of Republicans think those students should qualify for in-state tuition. A bill that would’ve made the change died in the Republican-led legislature this year. The poll also says one in three respondents support fixing the Affordable Care Act versus repealing it, or repealing and replacing it. That’s a 5-percentage point increase since November.

Gardenhire welcomes poll showing most Tennesseans support in-state tuition for undocumented students (Times Free Press) Two-thirds of state voters surveyed in a new poll say they back granting in-state public college and tuition rates to Tennessee high school graduates whose families brought them illegally as children to the U.S. Sixty-six percent of 1,004 voters surveyed in the Vanderbilt University Poll say such students deserve in-state tuition instead of out-of-state rates, which can be three times as much. Fifty-five percent of Republicans in the survey said they supported in-state tuition rates for the undocumented students. Forty-eight percent of self-identified tea party supporters backed it, while 49 percent opposed it. The poll was conducted May 4-14 and has an overall margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.3 percent.

East Tennessee facilities weigh options after passing of metal detectors, guns bill (WATE) Many public facilities and parks will either have to buy metal detectors and hire security guards or allow handgun carry permit holders to bring in their gun after Gov. Bill Haslam signed a new bill into law on Friday. Places like schools and libraries are exempt from the requirements, but places like Knoxville’s Convention Center would have to update their security procedures. “That ought to be a decision of the property and I don’t see any reason why that decision should be preempted by state legislators,” City of Knoxville Law Director Charles Swanson said.

Prescription database helping to stop opioid abuse in Tennessee (WBIR) The nation’s struggle with opioids isn’t a secret. Nearly 2 million Americans are estimated to be addicted to opioids. In 2012 alone more than 259 million opioid prescriptions were written. Prescription medication abuse is a leading cause of heroin abuse: Four out five heroin users started on prescription drugs. That’s why medical professionals in Tennessee are using technology to help law enforcement curtail drug abuse. Professionals say prescription abuse and overuse are telltale signs of a problem, along with doctor shopping. At the University of Tennessee Medical Center’s out-patient pharmacy a digital tool is helping pharmacists identify people looking to abuse drugs.

Rhea Co. man charged 2nd time with TennCare fraud (WDEF) A Rhea County man is charged for the second time in Hamilton County with doctor shopping for prescription drugs, using TennCare as payment. The Office of Inspector General (OIG), with the assistance of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, today announced the arrest of Troy Jones, 37, of Graysville. He is charged in a Hamilton County indictment with three counts of fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance by doctor shopping, which involves going to several providers in a short time period to obtain prescription drugs, using TennCare as payment. Jones is accused of doctor shopping for painkillers Hydrocodone and Oxycodone. He turned himself in at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.

Troy Jones Charged With TennCare Fraud (Chattanoogan) A Rhea County man has been charged for the second time in Hamilton County with doctor shopping for prescription drugs, using TennCare as payment. The Office of Inspector General (OIG), with the assistance of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, today announced the arrest of Troy Jones, 37, of Graysville. He is charged in a Hamilton County indictment with three counts of fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance by doctor shopping, which involves going to several providers in a short time period to obtain prescription drugs, using TennCare as payment.

Sequatchie County Woman Charged With TennCare Fraud (Chattanoogan) A Sequatchie County woman has been charged with doctor shopping for prescription drugs, using TennCare as payment for the pills. Doctor shopping involves going from doctor to doctor in a 30-day period in an effort to obtain multiple drug prescriptions. The Office of Inspector General (OIG), with the assistance of the Sequatchie County Sheriff’s Office, today announced the arrest of Felicia D. Moore, 27, of Dunlap. She is charged with two counts of TennCare fraud by doctor shopping involving the painkillers Percocet and Norco.

City official: Deannexation legislation is likely in 2018 (Times News) City Manager Jeff Fleming believes some sort of deannexation bill will be a reality in Tennessee next year. Earlier this month, the Tennessee Senate voted 29-3 to pass amended legislation that would allow annexed residents the right to petition county election commissions to hold a deannexation referendum. The House version of the bill did not move forward during this year’s legislative session, though the bill’s sponsor plans to push it next year. “I think (deannexation) is probably a reality,” Fleming said last week. “I think the legislature has worked for a very long time to come up with a plan that addresses most of their concerns. The Senate worked very hard to pass one this year, and I think it’ll be taken up next year for sure.”

Green puts off public announcement of gubernatorial plans (AP) Republican state Sen. Mark Green says he has made up his mind about whether to rejoin the governor’s race in Tennessee, but he doesn’t want to make his decision public until later this week. The Ashland City physician suspended his gubernatorial campaign while seeking confirmation as President Donald Trump’s pick for Army secretary. He withdrew from consideration for that position amid bipartisan criticism about his past comments on LGBT issues and Muslims. Green had said he would decide about rejoining the governor’s race by Memorial Day. In a Facebook post late Monday night, Green said he has decided “what’s next,” but wants to spend the week informing friends and supporters.

In The Race For Governor, Most Tennesseans Are Only Starting To Recognize The Candidates (WPLN) Congressman Diane Black. That’s who Tennesseans say they’re most familiar with as the race to succeed Governor Bill Haslam begins. Just under half of all voters say in a new statewide poll they’ve heard of her. Black, a Republican, has represented a portion of Middle Tennessee since 2011. She hasn’t said for sure that she’s running for governor. But she’d be the best-known candidate. Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and House Speaker Beth Harwell are second and third. But Vanderbilt professor John Geer says other candidates could close the gap. “These numbers are very tentative. You can become very well-known, very quickly. So this is again, just kind of a baseline.”

Poll: Diane Black has most recognizable name in race for Tennessee governor (Tennessean) As the field of candidates to be Tennessee’s next governor continues to take shape, U.S. Rep. Diane Black is the most recognizable name among Democrats and Republicans, according to a new poll. The poll, released Tuesday by Vanderbilt University, found that 49 percent of registered voters in Tennessee recognize Black’s name. That’s significantly higher than any others — Democrat or Republican — who are either in or considering entering the race, with former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, a Democrat, being the next most recognizable. Thirty-eight percent of registered voters recognized Dean, while House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, came in third, with 34 percent.

Poll shows more than half of Tennessee voters are less confident in President Donald Trump (Times Free Press) Tennessee voters appear to be “cooling” to Republican President Donald Trump with his overall job approval at 52 percent, according to a new Vanderbilt University poll, which also shows a majority — 54 percent — are less confident he will change things for the better. The poll of 1,005 registered voters also shows support for Trump remains strong among Republicans at 86 percent and self-identified tea party members at 90 percent. But Trump’s positive standing among Democrats is just 10 percent and 49 percent among self-identified independents. Trump handily won the state in the November presidential election with 61.1 percent of the vote over Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 34.9 percent. The Vanderbilt Poll was conducted May 4-14 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percent.

Support for Donald Trump dips in Tennessee, according to new poll (Tennessean) The majority of Tennesseans still support President Donald Trump, but that number has dropped 8 percentage points since he overwhelmingly won the state in the 2016 election, a new poll shows. The Vanderbilt University poll found 52 percent had a favorable view of the president, down from 60 percent in the days after the November election. Meanwhile, the poll found that optimism in Trump’s ability to change Washington for the better dropped 13 points after the election, from 54 percent to 41 percent, while the percentage of Tennesseans who think it will change for the worse rose from 20 percent to 31 percent.

Trump’s approval in Tennessee dropping (Nashville Post) Black, Dean hold name recognition leads ahead of gubernatorial primaries. While most Tennessee voters still support President Donald Trump, his favorability ratings have dropped in the months since his surprise November victory. The latest Vanderbilt Poll, released Tuesday, show Trump’s support among Tennessee voters dropped from 60 percent in the weeks after the November election to 52 percent in the first weeks of May. The poll was conducted between May 4 and 15; Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on May 9, and the two Vanderbilt professors who conducted the survey, John Geer and Josh Clinton, said Trump’s support may have dropped further after the poll concluded.

Vandy Poll: Trump approval at 52 percent in TN (same as Corker; bit ahead of Alexander) (TN Journal/Humphrey) Some findings in a Vanderbilt University poll of 1,005 Tennessee voters, conducted May 4-15: President Donald Trump’s approval rating stands at 52 percent, about 10 points higher than President Obama’s approval rating in a late November 2016 poll. He carried the state with 61 percent of the vote last November. Responding to a separate question on whether they believe Trump will change things for the better, 41 percent said yes and 54 percent said no.

House Speaker Paul Ryan to speak at private fundraiser in Knoxville (WATE) U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan is coming to Knoxville Thursday for a private fundraising event. The event is hosted by East Tennessee Republicans in the Tennessee Congressional Delegation. The location is only being revealed to those who RSVP to the event. Tickets are $2,500 per couple or $10,000 if you want to come early and meet with the speaker himself. A flyer for the event says the fundraiser will benefit “Team Ryan,” which includes Ryan for Congress and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Political roundup: Corker, Ryan and 2018 (Nashville Post) Tennessee House Republicans clearly already have mid-terms in mind. U.S. Sen. Bob Corker was all over the news over the holiday weekend after he issued a statement calling President Donald Trump’s first trip abroad “executed to near perfection” — a sentiment that was seemingly not shared by German Chancellor Angela Merkel or French President Emmanuel Macron. Corker also appeared on Meet the Press on Sunday, defending Jared Kushner over alleged ties to Russia.

Marsha Blackburn: FCC’s rollback of net neutrality rules is ‘a positive step’ (Tennessean) U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn is lauding the Federal Communications Commission for starting to roll back federal rules that govern high-speed internet providers. Appearing on C-SPAN, the Brentwood Republican said she views the FCC’s vote nearly two weeks ago to undo so-called “net neutrality” rules as “a positive step in the right direction.” The FCC’s new chairman, Ajit V. Pai, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in January, “is going to do a wonderful job,” Blackburn said.

Trump Is Hearing Plenty About the Paris Climate Deal. Who Will Have the Last Word? (New York Times) Here are the major players hoping to sway President Trump’s decision on the landmark climate agreement. At least three Republican Senators: Three Republican senators have publicly supported the Paris climate agreement this month. Susan Collins of Maine wrote a letter urging the Trump administration to stay in the accord. Bob Corker of Tennessee noted that the deal imposes few binding obligations on the United States, so there is little upside in leaving. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said withdrawing would send the wrong message to the world.

Nashville General Hospital Leaders Say Cuts May Be Ahead (WTVF) As Metro lawmakers consider what stays and what goes in Nashville’s budget, Nashville General Hospital leaders have asked for a boost in funding, saying cuts may be in store if the hospital doesn’t get the money. Hospital leaders asked for $55 million this year, compared to a $35 million ask last year. But the hospital, which cares for some of Nashville’s most vulnerable residents, including the indigent population, said $55 million is what it actually will take to run the hospital.

Nashville’s General Hospital Considering Cuts While Still Pushing For Millions More In Funding (WPLN) Nashville’s General Hospital — the city-subsidized “safety net” hospital for low-income patients — is considering cuts to services. But its leaders are also appealing to the Metro Council for more funding. Lately, the hospital’s budget hearings have been frank and intense — as the hospital goes through rounds of hardships and pleas for money. This year, the hearing with the council lasted more than two hours — longer than any Metro agency other than the much larger Metro Schools. What’s at play this year departs from the recent rocky cycle for General Hospital. Typically, the hospital has received about $35 million from Metro and then scrambled to request millions more later in the year.

Energy Authority moves ahead with solar farm (Johnson City Press) A public-private partnership on a 40-acre solar farm in Telford could bring the Johnson City Energy Authority $42,000 per year and help stabilize local power bills, officials say. According to a project agreement struck Tuesday by the Authority’s board of directors, the utility will have financial rights to 10 percent of the electricity produced by the 6.3-megawatt-capacity array, set to be built on open land near Aerojet Ordnance Tennessee between Old State Route 34 and Miller Road. Mostly built and operated by Nashville’s Silicon Ranch Corp., operator of large-scale solar plants in Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas and Mississippi, the project is expected to produce $850,000 for the Energy Authority over the 20-year term of the agreement.

Alpha selling coal, natural gas assets in W. Va. (Times News) Alpha Natural Resources (ANR) said on Tuesday it’s letting go of some assets. ANR announced the divestment of a coal mining complex and a natural gas operation located in central West Virginia. The coal producer emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year. The Green Valley mining assets in Nicholas and Greenbrier counties are being sold to Quinwood Coal Co. The divestiture includes the Number 1 preparation plant and related permits, which have been idle since the second quarter of 2014.

ETSU has new museum, research station at Pickett State Park (Johnson City Press) Archaeologists are constantly discovering new things that change our understanding of history and prehistory, and that includes our understanding of where indigenous people lived in Tennessee. Artifacts and other archaeological discoveries by faculty and students from East Tennessee State University are being showcased at the new Archaeological Museum and ETSU Field Research Station at Pickett Memorial State Park in Jamestown. Dr. Jay Franklin, an archaeologist and professor of sociology and anthropology at ETSU, has conducted research near Pickett for the past decade.

Smithsonian ‘Water’ exhibit coming to Warriors Path (Times News) A traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution is coming to Warriors Path State Park this summer. The exhibit is all about water — how we use it, how we conserve it and what we can do to protect the natural resource for future generations. The exhibit is entitled “Water/Ways” and it’s part of the Smithsonian’s “Museum on Main Street” series. It will be on display at the park from June 24 through August 6. “Water/Ways” aims to helps people consider how we use water and what water symbolizes to us, how water unites and divides communities and how people resolve conflicts over this resource. The exhibit will show how water affects the way we live, work, create, play and worship; and how we care for our water and protect it for future generations.

Celebrate National Trails Day with Tennessee State Parks (Times News) Tennessee State Parks will celebrate National Trails Day with free, guided hikes at all 56 parks on Saturday, June 3. Events will include free, ranger-led hikes through areas with waterfalls and scenic vistas as well as hikes focused on local history and trail clean-ups. With more than 1,000 miles of trails ranging from easy, paved paths to rugged backcountry trails, there’s a hike for everyone. Several Tennessee State Natural Areas are hosting free, guided hikes including Short Springs Natural Area, Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area and Big Cypress Tree State Natural Area.


Guest column: The Tennessee Board of Parole needs reform (Tennessean) In 1978, Lawrence McKinney was sentenced to 100 years in prison for crimes he didn’t commit. He could have expected to serve every bit of it, if not for the work of Memphis attorney Lorna McClusky and the Innocence Project, among others. He was released after serving 31 years and given $75. Mr. McKinney didn’t commit the crime and pled not guilty to it. He maintained his innocence and turned down offers for a plea bargain. Yet, after 31 years of wrongful incarceration, the Tennessee Board of Parole has the gall to want us to believe that it was Mr. McKinney’s release that was the mistake.

Frank Cagle: Ryan doesn’t grasp how insurance works (News Sentinel) I call it the vulnerable decade. I lived through it, but it wasn’t easy. A lot of things converge between the ages of 55 and 65. Let’s examine just a couple of them. Employers start to suggest early retirement, and sometimes they do more than suggest. Even if you have a decent pension, the biggest risk for you is loss of health insurance. The risk of breast cancer increases after 40, and the median age for breast cancer in women is 62. One in eight women suffer from the disease. The risk of heart disease increases after 45 for men and 55 for women. The average age for a heart attack for men is 66, which means a boatload of bypass surgeries even before that.

Bob Clement: Trump campaign investigation calls for open mindedness (Tennessean) As a Democrat who supported and voted for Hillary Clinton, I nevertheless want every president to do well for our country, even though I may vigorously disagree with his or her positions on the issues. I have been very disappointed by President Trump’s missteps. Doing things like claiming that President Obama wiretapped his phones without offering proof only divides our country even more. The spinning of the facts and the divisive rhetoric is troubling and creates much anxiety among the American people.

Bill Purcell: How employers can inspire healthy living (Tennessean) Employers are an important lever in the effort to improve overall population health – perhaps one that has been the most undervalued in many conversations about improving the health status of our population. The fact is, most of us spend the largest part of our waking hours at work. If we want to truly move the needle on the overall health of our population, we need to meet people where they are. In many cases, this can happen at and through their workplaces.

Guest column: How a judge would fix Tennessee’s drug crisis (Tennessean) There is a unique facility in Nashville. Referred to as “DC-4,” the Davidson County Drug Court has given me specific insights into both the problems plaguing our state’s justice system and some potential solutions. DC-4 is unique because it is a court-operated, long-term residential treatment facility for nonviolent felony offenders. People who would normally be sent to the Tennessee Department of Corrections to serve out their sentences are instead placed in this facility, where they can access a residential treatment program for drug addiction.

Victor Ashe analysis: Can wrestling star Glenn Jacobs be next Knox mayor? (News Sentinel/Shopper News) In 11 months, on May 1, 2018, the GOP Knox County primary for mayor will be held, and in addition to Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones, 59, and County Commissioners Bob Thomas, 63, and possibly city policeman and County Commissioner Brad Anders, 44. Knoxville businessman Glenn Jacobs, 50, is running. Others might enter, too. Jacobs has lived in Knox County in Halls for four years with his wife, Crystal, and two daughters, Arista and Devan, who are nurses. Arista has two children, so Jacobs is a grandfather. Jacobs was born on a U.S. Air Force base in Spain in 1967, grew up in Missouri and graduated from high school in Bowling Green, Mo., and then Truman University in Kirksville, with a BA in English in 1991.

Tuesday, May 30

Haslam Signs Bill Reducing Costs of Wiping Criminal Records (AP) Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a law that will make it easier for people convicted of mostly low-level offenses to get their criminal records wiped clean. The law reduces the costs of expunging criminal record convictions from $450 to $270, making it more affordable. The bipartisan measure was championed by two Shelby County lawmakers in an effort to help non-violent offenders who have turned their lives around. The measure, which was sponsored by Rep. Raumesh Akbari, a Democrat from Memphis, and Sen. Mark Norris, a Republican from Collierville, takes effect immediately.

New Tennessee Law Aims to Further Enhance State’s Captive Industry (Insurance Journal) Tennessee is praising captive insurance legislation signed by the governor on May 12, saying it is expected to “maintain and further enhance Tennessee’s place amongst the most attractive states to locate a captive insurance company,” according to a statement from the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI). The 2017 legislation, enacted as Public Chapter 354, further modernizes the Revised Tennessee Captive Insurance Act of 2011, which ignited Tennessee’s competitive captive industry.

Why does Memphis still have Confederate monuments? (Commercial Appeal) Nearly two years after the Memphis City Council voted for the statue’s removal, Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest remains defiantly perched in a Downtown park. Why the embattled general, one-time slave trader and first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan still sits astride his charger, King Phillip, in Health Services Park is a baffling question for many citizens in a city that’s more than 60 percent African-American. The questions intensified this month as New Orleans concluded a two-year process to remove four Confederate monuments. Activist Tami Sawyer on Friday began collecting signatures for a petition to the Tennessee Historical Commission (THC), saying she doesn’t “feel welcome” in a city in the shadow of Forrest.

Tennessee veterans boost lobbying efforts and secure property tax relief (Tennessean) For years military veterans have informally, and sometimes unsuccessfully, lobbied their causes with Tennessee lawmakers. That is, until this year, and state officials anticipate more than 12,000 veterans will reap the benefit of that work. The reason? As part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s IMPROVE Act, disabled veterans and military widows, who often live on fixed incomes, will receive major property tax reductions.

At Panel, GOP Candidates Say They’d Require Tennessee Police To Work With Immigration Authorities (WPLN) The Republican candidates for governor are saying they’d compel cities in Tennessee to enforce immigration laws if elected. That comes amid a national debate over whether being picked up for minor offenses should also carry the risk of deportation. No city in Tennessee has declared itself to be a “sanctuary” for immigrants facing deportation. But police also aren’t required to hold people on misdemeanors until Immigration and Customs Enforcement can take them into custody. Franklin businessman Bill Lee said there should be penalties for not cooperating.

State Senator Mae Beavers plans to announce campaign for governor (WKRN) State Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) intends to formally announce a campaign for Governor of Tennessee. The announcement is slated to take place at 1:00 p.m., Charlie Daniels Park in Mt. Juliet on Saturday June 3. Further details for the campaign kickoff will be announced later this week.  “Over the past several weeks, it has become increasingly clear that conservatives in Tennessee are looking for bold leadership that will not shrink from standing up and speaking up on the key issues facing our state. President Donald J. Trump is taking the lead in Washington to ‘drain the swamp’ there; but we have our own swamp in Tennessee and I intend to do the same thing in the Volunteer State.”

Mae Beavers says she’s running for governor of Tennessee (Tennessean/WBIR) State Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, says she plans to announce her candidacy for governor of Tennessee soon, making a sudden entry into the race as a fellow tea party-aligned Republican senator continues to mull a bid. Beavers, in a news statement issued Saturday evening, said over the past several weeks “it has become increasingly clear that conservatives in Tennessee are looking for bold leadership that will not shrink from standing up and speaking up on the key issues facing our state.” “President Donald J. Trump is taking the lead in Washington, D.C., to ‘drain the swamp’ there, but we have our own swamp in Tennessee and I intend to do the same thing in the Volunteer State,” Beavers said.

Bob Corker: Jared Kushner will answer questions ‘when the time is right’ (Tennessean) Sen. Bob Corker on Meet the Press Sunday said presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner was “more than willing to answer any and all questions” following reports of his meetings with Russian officials.  “They reached out to us yesterday to make sure we knew that was the case,” Corker said.  But Corker, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, indicated he felt no urgency in posing those questions. Kushner would speak “when the time is right,” he said.

Paul Ryan schedules Knoxville fundraiser with TN Republican congressmen (TN Journal/Humphrey) U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan is scheduled to visit Knoxville Thursday evening for a private fundraiser hosted by Republican members of the Tennessee congressional delegation, according to a widely-distributed invitation. The invitation says basic cost of admittance is $2,500 per couple — $10,000 to come early and have a photo made with Ryan and/or the congressmen. Checks go to Team Ryan, a political action committee set up by the House speaker that, in turn, is affiliated with the National Congressional Campaign Committee, fundraising arm of the U.S. House Republican Caucus. Presumably, Tennessee congressional delegation members will get a piece of the proceeds.

Tennessee manufacturers ‘anticipate a labor gap’ (Times News) No doubt about it, Tennessee makes stuff. And the Tennesseans who make stuff have one major worry: Developing a next generation workforce. “It’s probably no surprise to anybody that workforce is the No. 1 concern that came out of our survey,” Tennessee Manufacturers Association (TMA) Director Denise Rice recently told a Kingsport Chamber of Commerce roundtable discussion. “We anticipate a labor gap. … every plant tour I go to, this is the No. 1 issue.”  Tennessee’s unemployment rate, said Rice, was 11.2 percent in January 2010, but was at 3.7 percent on April 1 of this year. Rice noted up to 75,000 people will retire in the state’s growing auto manufacturing sector by 2025.


Guest column: Why I wrote ‘Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Redemption’ (Tennessean) Nathan Bedford Forrest made the news again this past legislative session, but it is never for a good reason. Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, introduced House Resolution 97 to honor me, and shortly thereafter Forrest made the news. Some might wonder why I would write a book praising Forrest. My answer is, “I didn’t.” I wrote a book praising Jesus for having the ability to save any sinner, including Nathan Bedford Forrest. I’ve been called a “Forrest apologist” by many. But far from defending his sins, I wrote openly about Forrest as a violent man, a racist, and “the chief of sinners.” In fact, I wrote in my book that the bigger Forrest’s sins were the greater my thesis would be served.

Robert Houk: Running a campaign from Mountain City to Memphis (Johnson City Press) Have you ever noticed that the city of Johnson City’s official logo resembles the title character from the 1980s Pac-Man video arcade game? That’s just one of the observations I offer this week from a political pundit’s notebook. Johnson City leaders are toying with the idea of updating the city’s oval “JC” logo. The current version has been in service since July 4, 1976. It’s time for a change, and I suggest it be done in the form of a contest. Let citizens design the new logo.

Friday, May 26

Gov. Bill Haslam honors 5 vets in annual Memorial Day tribute (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Haslam honored five veterans during his annual Memorial Day tribute, each of whom had unique circumstances related to their deaths. Three of the veterans died decades ago, but were not laid to rest until last year. The other two died more recently, Sgt. Kevin Balduf, who was shot by an Afghan Police Officer in May 2011 and Sgt. Jeremy Tomlin, who died last month in a helicopter crash on a golf course in Maryland during a training exercise. Haslam said many people associate Memorial Day with “picnics, going to the lake and going to the mountains” but the purpose is much more solemn.

5 Fallen Service Members From Tennessee Honored (WTVF) Five service members who gave the ultimate sacrifice were honored at the state’s Memorial Day service. The service was held Thursday morning with Governor Bill Haslam, along with Tennessee Department of Veterans Services Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder and Tennessee Military Department Adjutant General, Major General Terry “Max” Haston. They paid tribute to five service members: U.S. Army Sergeant Bailey Keeton, U.S. Army Private Evans Overbey, U.S. Army Private First Class William Cowan, U.S. Army Specialist Jeremy Tomlin, and U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Kevin Balduf. “As we pause to remember these young men lost during their military service to their country, we are also reminded of the surviving family members they left behind,” Governor Haslam said. “Today is  a chance to remind Tennesseans of these sacrifices and the state of Tennessee is honored to have this part in thanking their loved ones for their service.”

Governor Remembers Fallen Tennessee Soldiers Ahead Of Memorial Day (WKRN) With the Memorial Day weekend just ahead, Governor Bill Haslam reminded people Thursday to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Each year, he leads a service to pay tribute to fallen soldiers from across Tennessee. A magnificent flag highlights the service at War Memorial Plaza on Tennessee’s capitol hill. Remember, reflect and celebrate, even in deep grief were words that quietly resonated Thursday. While citing those left behind, we were reminded to read about the lives and look at the faces of Tennessee soldiers. “We must always remember the sacrifices they have made on behalf of each one of us,” said Sen. Max Haston, with the TN Department Of Military.

Gov. Haslam signs Tennessee Strong Act (WRCB) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed the Tennessee Strong Act on Thursday. The Act is the governor’s legislation that provides tuition free educational opportunities for eligible members of the Tennessee National Guard and supports the Drive to 55 goal to increase the number of Tennesseans with a degree or certificate to 55 percent by 2025. The Senate passed the bill 31-0 on April 3, and the House of Representatives passed the legislation 97-0 on April 10. The Tennessee STRONG Act creates a four-year pilot program for members of the Tennessee National Guard.  The legislation is part of Haslam’s NextTennessee legislative plan aimed at building and sustaining economic growth and the state’s competitiveness for the next generation of Tennesseans.

Officials Hope STRONG Act Will Pull More People Into Tennessee Guard (WPLN) Tennessee officials have been working this week to promote the state’s new free tuition plans. One program is designed not only to boost college enrollment. It might also help get people into the military. Members of the Tennessee National Guard previously received up to two years of free education at a state community college, which is now basically offered to all Tennessee residents. The so-called STRONG Act extends the Guard’s program to four years at any public university. The Tennessee Guard’s leader, Major General Max Haston, says the benefit will help with recruitment and retention.

How Haslam’s budget benefits Williamson (Tennessean) Preservation consultant Rachael Finch can tell visitors where every crack and loose brick sits inside the Hiram Lodge Masonic Hall in downtown Franklin. Next to her metal desk in the front room, special posts help brace the wall as the first three-story building in Tennessee continues to see struggles with its historic infrastructure. The top floor is rarely used, and visitors can feel the fragility with every step they take on the red carpeting. But the Masonic Hall will see a boost in efforts to maintain it, in part thanks to Gov. Bill Haslam’s $37 billion budget. The new budget year will start July 1.

Pellissippi State Community College gets head start on free college for adults (WATE) Going back to college or starting college for the first time as an adult can be daunting and sometimes even scary, but for many, earning a degree can make a significant difference in a career or in achieving a lifelong dream. Wednesday, going to college as an adult became easier. Governor Bill Haslam signed the Tennessee Reconnect bill into law. The law helps offer free community college education to almost every resident without a degree. The bill allows older adults without a college degree attend community college for free. Full-time and part-time students would be eligible to participate in the program starting fall 2018.

State says drivers will pay more at pump, less at grocery store (WBBJ) Drivers across the state of Tennessee will see a lot more road work signs as transportation projects begin. State officials say more than 900 projects will take place. “We have new roads that are being proposed. There’s 962 road projects, and I believe that contributes a lot to economic development,” said Dexter Muller with the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee. Muller visited McNairy County where some of the projects will take place. The coalition said they’re visiting all 95 of Tennessee’s counties to explain the IMPROVE Act. Muller said with the Volunteer State bordering so many other states, it causes interstates and highways to take a hit. That’s why he said the general assembly passed and the governor signed the act, a 6 cent increase in gas taxes over the next three years.

440 fast track (TN Ledger) Work on pothole-plagued stretch to begin in 2018. Now that the ink has dried on the IMPROVE Act, the state law that raises additional funds for transportation projects, the real work begins – building roads, fixing bridges, easing traffic and boosting safety. Which of the 962 projects outlined in the law are ready to go, right now, and where and when can drivers start seeing improvements? The answers are beginning to emerge.

Asphalt or concrete? 440 questions remain (TN Ledger) Patch work is seen along 440 near West End. Repair work in 2009 – grooves cut into the worn concrete surface – has resulted in a badly damaged surface. It’s entirely possible that when Nashville Mayor Megan Barry said this month she was “thrilled” that the state had listed I-440 repairs as a top priority, thousands of Midstate residents fist-bumped in agreement. I-440 is one of four major projects the state Department of Transportation singled out for action in the new fiscal year that begins on July 1, part of the IMPROVE Act.

Midstate road, bridge projects (TN Ledger) Road and bridge projects scheduled for the next 12 to 14 years under the IMPROVE Act, the recently passed state law that raises revenue for infrastructure projects. Some projects that span more than one county might not be shown.

Local road projects could rev up after gas tax increase (Johnson City Press) Washington County drivers could see a bevy of road improvements over the next decade as new revenue from a fuel tax increase enacted this year filters into state and local coffers. Casin Swann, a member of transportation funding advocacy group the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee, stopped in Jonesborough Thursday afternoon to tout the increased local revenue and 18 projects in the county the new law will help fund. According to Swann, Washington County and its three municipalities, Johnson City, Jonesborough and Watauga, will receive more than $22 million over the next 15 years in new local revenue, and the 18 construction projects will bring $72.5 million in total investment.

Transportation Coalition official in area discussing IMPROVE Act impact on Wash. Co. (WJHL) A representative from the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee was in Northeast Tennessee again Thursday, this time addressing the impact of Governor Bill Haslam’s IMPROVE Act on Washington County. Casin Swann is one of many representatives the coalition has sent to all 95 counties in Tennessee to discuss the legislation and make people aware of its details. He spoke to the media about the tax cuts that are a part of the IMPROVE Act and the effects the increased gas tax will have on Washington County roads and bridges. The county is set to receive $94,520,644 in 18 different projects over the next 15 years.

Director of private juvenile facility denies allegations of improper treatment (WSMV) Former workers said teens sent to a Midstate juvenile detention facility should have never endured the treatment that’s alleged in police reports, 911 calls and redacted medical records obtained by the Channel 4 I-Team. But the director of the Middle Tennessee Juvenile Detention Center in Columbia vehemently denies all allegations regarding the children in his care. The private facility holds teens who have been accused of delinquent offenses ranging from theft to rape. The center also contracts with the Department of Children Services. Many, but not all, of the teens at the facility are in state custody.

Gun bill would require metal detectors, guards to ban guns at public facilities (WJHL) The Tennessee Senate has passed a bill with the hope of clarifying gun laws and improving safety. The law says to ban someone from having a gun on government or city owned property, it has to have either a metal detector installed or a security guard posted. Republican Senator Jon Lundberg is one of 26 senators to vote “yes” to passing senate bill 445. Five voted against the legislation. “I think it’s a logical, sound policy for Tennessee,” Lundberg said. The bill says cities and counties will be required to either implement more security measures at public facilities or allow gun permit holders to carry their firearms. Basically saying a “no guns” sign will no longer suffice.

GOP governor contenders appear for Reagan Day dinner (WKRN) More than half of the Republicans who have announced or has thought of running for governor appeared together for the first time Thursday night. At the annual Reagan Day dinner, Rutherford County Republicans heard from Randy Boyd and Bill Lee who announced their candidacy. Congressional member Diane Black spoke – but did not say if she was running. State senator Mark Green did not say if he was going to revive his candidacy after withdrawing his name for Secretary of Army. Congressman Scott DesJarlais, who is not running, assessed the governor’s race for the crowd.

Reagan Day dinner gives glimpse of potential 2018 GOP gubernatorial primary (Tennessean) Mark Green and Diane Black look like they’re all in. Randy Boyd and Bill Lee are continuing to hone their message. And the plans for Mae Beavers, Mark Norris and Beth Harwell remain unclear. Such was evident Thursday at the Rutherford County Republicans’ Reagan Day dinner, which provided both intrigue and clarity in terms of Tennessee’s 2018 governor’s race. Delivering some of his first public remarks since he withdrew his name from consideration for President Donald Trump’s Army secretary, Green, a state senator from Clarksville, said a “few strategic lies in the media” were to blame.

Democratic candidate campaigns in Lakeway Area (Citizen Tribune) Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean stopped off in the Lakeway Area on Tuesday as part of his campaign to seek the Democratic nomination for governor of Tennessee. Dean served two terms as mayor, during the 1980s, and he saw good times and economically challenging times. During stops in Morristown and Newport, the candidate said his executive experience prepares him well for the governorship, with his primary interests being education and economic opportunities. Dean calls himself pragmatic “with an interest in getting things done.” He has a strong disagreement with the Tennessee legislature and its refusal to expand TennCare with additional federal Medicaid funding. Gov. Bill Haslam had pushed for the plan dubbed Insure Tennessee.

Huckabee hearts Broadway: Former Arkansas governor bringing his show to Nashville (Nashville Business Journal) The show, again titled “Huckabee,” will be filmed in front of a live studio audience in a studio that will be built somewhere on Broadway, although its specific location has not been disclosed. Although Huckabee doesn’t fall in the same bucket as the country stars opening honky-tonks on Broadway, he is the latest well-known national name to see opportunity in Nashville.

Mike Huckabee to revive his talk show on TBN (AP) Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee will start a new weekly talk show on the religious Trinity Broadcasting Network this fall. The show will follow a format similar to the weekend show that the former Arkansas governor hosted on Fox News Channel from 2008 to 2015. TBN said on Thursday that the show will be filmed before a live audience in Nashville, Tennessee. TBN chairman Matt Crouch called Huckabee a “welcome voice of wisdom, integrity and faith” that the nation needs.

Bob Corker, other senators back new sanctions on Iran (Tennessean) The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted Thursday to impose new sanctions against Iran but held off on punishing Russia for meddling in last year’s presidential election. Sen. Bob Corker hopes for different foreign policy approach. The panel voted 18-3 to impose sanctions on Iran over its recent flurry of ballistic missile tests and human rights violations, despite warnings from some Democrats and the Obama administration that its actions could jeopardize the landmark nuclear deal struck with Tehran. But the committee’s Republican chairman, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, insisted the new sanctions would have no impact on the nuclear deal, which he opposed.

5 takeaways from U.S. Rep. Phil Roe’s Thursday morning conference call (Johnson City Press) With all the bustling activity in Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. Phil Roe had plenty to talk about in a Thursday morning conference call with local reporters. Roe expounded on his views of President Donald Trump’s latest budget proposal and doubled down on his support for an increase in defense spending. The Republican also weighed in on the Russia investigation and the Congressional Budget Office score on the House’s American Health Care Act. As chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, the first thing Roe noticed in Trump’s proposed budget was a hefty increase, about $4.4 billion, in Veterans Affairs funding.

How Trump’s Health Budget Would Impact States (Governing) Just over one hundred days into Donald Trump’s presidency, he has left health officials with more uncertainty than most have faced in years. A promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, one of the biggest overhauls of modern health care, hangs in the balance. Waivers to transform Medicaid, the health-care program for the poor, are pending. And the release of the president’s budget on Tuesday makes it impossible to know how much federal funding they can count on. Trump’s budget, “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” slashes spending in almost every department except defense. While it has no chance of passing, health experts caution that it shouldn’t be written off because it will still influence Congressional Republicans’ spending bills.

Attorney general talks tough about gang crime in Tennessee (AP) U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has issued a warning to gang members in Tennessee and around the country, saying that their criminal networks will be devastated as law enforcement officials take a stronger stance on fighting violent crime. Sessions’ tough talk came as he spoke before more than 80 local, state and federal prosecutors and law enforcement officers in Memphis on Thursday. He was promoting the Justice Department’s efforts to bring the harshest possible charges against most suspects, including drug traffickers and those who use guns to commit crimes.

Jeff Sessions addresses violent crime, gangs: ‘This is not acceptable in America.’ (Commercial Appeal) Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd of about 100 federal, state and local law enforcement officials at the U.S. district courthouse in Memphis on Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressed appreciation for law enforcement and addressed violent crime. He said that “every lawful tool” will be used to “take the most violent offenders off our streets.” Citing a 43-percent increase in homicides last year in Memphis, he said “these aren’t just numbers. “These are people, our citizens whose safety and lives are at stake everyday,” he said. “They are people like the residents in Sycamore Lake Apartments here in northeast Memphis. Last week, two men were shot there and killed during a drug deal, according to the local detectives who worked the case.”

Attorney general targets gangs, drugs and prosecutorial discretion (Memphis Daily News) Federal prosecutors have the discretion to pass on charging a defendant with every possible criminal charge that can be made. Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings said he agreed with U.S Attorney General Jeff Sessions that groups other than police have to step up with drug and crime prevention programs. Sessions also said there is a link between the drug trade and violent crime that should be met with arrests and prosecutions. But U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a room full of federal prosecutors in Memphis Thursday, May 25, that he will enforce his directive that they pursue “the most serious, readily provable offense … with judgment and with fairness.”

Video: Protesters gather as U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions visits Memphis (Commercial Appeal) Protesters gathered outside Memphis City Hall at the CLifford Davis/Odell Horton Federal Building as U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions meets with federal, state and local law enforcement in Memphis.

VIDEO: Sessions Promises Tough on Crime Approach, Draws Protestors (Memphis Flyer) United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with local leaders in Memphis Thursday, promised a return to a tough-on-crime approach to prosecuting criminals, and drew a protest Downtown. The purpose of Sessions’ visit to Memphis was to “to speak with federal, state, and local law enforcement about efforts to combat violent crime, and restore public safety.”Sessions met with Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, Shelby County Mayor Mark Lutrell, Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich, Memphis Police Department (MPD) Director Michael Rallings, Bill Gibbons, president and CEO of the Memphis and Shelby County Crime Commission, and more in a breakfast meeting Thursday morning.

6 months after wildfire, Gatlinburg area getting back on its feet (News Sentinel) Six months after a horrific wildfire, the “Mountain Tough” people of Sevier County are still fighting to rebuild their way of life. “Mountain Tough” was a slogan Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner proclaimed in the aftermath of a Nov. 28 blaze that destroyed or damaged more than 2,400 structures, caused more than $1 billion in damages and killed 14 people. “This is the most amazing place to live,” said Werner, who lost his own residence in the fire. “This is our home. People need to know everything is going to be OK and we’re going to bounce back.”

Gatlinburg works to rebuild tourism after wildfires (WATE) In the months since the wildfires in the Smokies, homes have been rebuilt, and the city of Gatlinburg has pushed to rebuild tourism. Ads have been running, assuring potential visitors that Gatlinburg is standing strong after the fires. It’s part of a campaign the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau has focused on for the past six months. “We did some research to kind of see what’s that level of perception and then we crafted a message specifically to that,” said Chad Netherland, Director of Marketing and Public Relations. These ads are running in about 15 markets, including around Indianapolis where Tasha and Aaron Baker are from. The newlyweds stopped at an overlook on the Gatlinburg Bypass taking in the views with the signs of fire standing out.

MLGW and UPS Receive Sustainability Award (Memphis Flyer) Memphis Light, Gas, and Water (MLGW) and the United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS) are two of the 11 winners of the 2017 Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Award. The award, given by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the Tennessee Department of Transportation, recognizes initiatives that improve the efficiency, accessibility, affordability, and sustainability of transportation systems in the state. Through a partnership with Clean Energy Renewable Fuels (CERF), which collects, cleans, and compresses biomethane gas produced by the North Shelby landfill, MLGW has been purchasing 100 percent natural gas and reusing it for low-emission fuel in their natural gas distribution system. Since 2013, MLGW has opened two of the areas first compressed natural gas (CNG) refueling stations that are open to the public.


Victor Ashe: Political troubles beset House Speaker Beth Harwell (News Sentinel) Members are already lining up to replace House Speaker Beth Harwell, who says she is running for governor, with Majority Leader Glen Casada being an early contender. Two current Knox House members have announced their retirement from the House and will not be there to help choose a new Speaker. They are Roger Kane, who is running for County Circuit Court Clerk, and Harry Brooks. Casada has not had a strong session, and his path to the speakership hit troubled waters over the gas tax and the state budget. He has a year to recover. However, another who might seek the speakership is Jimmy Matlock from Loudon County.

Column: Mike Huckabee to Bring His Awful Jokes, Politics to Nashville (Nashville Scene) The Tennessean reports today that former Arkansas governor, failed Republican presidential candidate and frequent Fox News talking head Mike Huckabee plans to launch a television show to be filmed on Lower Broad in Nashville. According to the paper, the show is set to air via religious network Trinity Broadcasting Network — which is headquartered in Costa Mesa, Calif., but has an auxiliary studio facility in my native Hendersonville, Tenn. — and will be shot in an as-yet unconstructed studio space. Despite not having held office in about a decade, Huckabee has of course managed to remain in the public eye via his runs for president, not to mention by making various gaffes and generally playing the part of media lapdog and evangelical apologist for Trump.

Thursday, May 25

White House Korean War prisoner to be honored in state Memorial Day service (Tennessean) A 19-year-old White House native will be among five fallen service members honored by Gov. Bill Haslam and other top officials during Tennessee’s annual Memorial Day service, set for 10 a.m. Thursday on War Memorial Plaza in Nashville. United States Army Private First Class William Wayne Cowan disappeared during the Korean War in 1951. He was presumed killed in action, but official confirmation of his death did not occur until last year, according to information provided by the state. “William’s family … waited more than six decades to get this news and we are grateful that they have received closure,” Haslam said in November, shortly after the state received news that Cowan’s remains had been positively identified.

Gov. Haslam signs bill allowing adults to attend two-year college tuition free (WKRN) The governor has been flying around Tennessee celebrating the bill that he hopes will dramatically change the lives of thousands of Tennesseans. Bill Haslam stopped by our region today to sign a bill that will allow adults in Tennessee to attend a two-year college tuition free. Tennesse Reconnect is part of Governor Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative to increase the number of Tennesseans with a college degree. He was at Walters State Community College this morning to sign the Tennesee Reconnect bill into law.

Gov. Haslam signs bill in Memphis that allows eligible students to get free associate degree (WREG) Gov. Bill Haslam stopped in Memphis on Wednesday to sign a bill that allows eligible students to get their associate degree without paying tuition. The program’s called “TN Reconnect” and is an extension of TN Promise. It allows eligible students to receive their associate degrees or certificates for free. “It means any adult in Tennessee, regardless of age, regardless of income, regardless of education background, can go to college for free,” said Haslam. TN Reconnect is the first bill of its kind in the nation, and Southwest Tennessee Community College, University of Memphis and LeMoyne-Owen College will all take part in it. “We support it 100 percent,” said Dr. June Chinn-Jointer with LeMoyne Owen.

Tennessee becomes first state to offer tuition-free community college to adults (WBIR) Tennessee has officially become the first state to offer tuition-free community college to all adults. Governor Bill Haslam signed the Tennessee Reconnect Act Wednesday morning after the General Assembly passed it earlier this month. The plan creates a last-dollar scholarship for adults who don’t already have a college degree. Haslam went on a tour across the state Wednesday to hold three signing ceremonies in East, Central and West Tennessee – the first at Walters State Community College in Morristown at 9 a.m. The governor then headed to Motlow State Community College in Smyrna, followed by Benjamin L. Hooks Central Public Library in Memphis. It’s part of Haslam’s ‘Drive to 55’ initiative to increase the number of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree or certificate to 55 percent by 2025.

Haslam: No matter background, Tennesseans can get free college (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Haslam returned Wednesday to one of the campuses that reaped the greatest benefits of his Tennessee Promise plan, signing into law a new bill that will allow any adult resident to return to college or attend for the first time for free. Since Haslam signed Tennessee Promise into law in 2014, attendance at Motlow State Community College has increased 40 percent per year, making it the fastest-growing college in the state for two years running. Now, Haslam said he expects the Tennessee Reconnect Act to make community college available for thousands of additional Tennessee adults for whom higher education would not previously have been an option.

Haslam signs Tennessee Reconnect into law (Daily Herald) Gov. Bill Haslam signed the $11 million Tennessee Reconnect Grant into law Wednesday, which guarantees free community college for any adult over the age of 25 or who qualifies as “independent.” The last-dollar effort builds on the Tennessee Promise Scholarship, which offers recent high school graduates two years of community or technical college free of tuition and fees. “This is about jobs, it’s about math, and it’s about the Tennessee we can be,” Haslam said in a signing ceremony at the Walter State Community College campus in Morristown, The Lebanon Democrat reported. “We know that by 2025, at least half the jobs in this state will require a college degree or certificate. Mathematically, there’s no way to reach that goal just by equipping high school graduates with degrees. Just as we did with Tennessee Promise, we want Tennessee Reconnect to send a clear message to adults: wherever you fall on life’s path, education beyond high school is critical to the Tennessee we can be.”

Haslam signs Reconnect Act at WSCC (Citizen Tribune) Gov. Bill Haslam, along with other state legislators, met at Walters State Community College in Morristown Wednesday morning for a ceremonial signing of the Tennessee Reconnect Act. Tennessee Reconnect allows adults in the state of Tennessee to obtain an associate degree or certification tuition for free. The act is part of Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative, which aims to have 55 percent of adults in Tennessee have a postsecondary education by the year 2025.

What is the Reconnect ACT? (Citizen Tribune) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam was in Morristown, at Walters State Community College, to sign the Tennessee Reconnect Act Wednesday morning. The act establishes a last-dollar scholarship for adults to attend a community college tuition-free. With this extension of the Drive to 55, which comes at no additional cost to taxpayers, every Tennessean will have the opportunity to enter or reenter public higher education with no tuition expenses.

Despite Opposition From Cities, Haslam Says There’d Be Little Point In Vetoing Gun Bill (WPLN) A measure that would make it easier for gun owners and groups like the National Rifle Association to sue cities over gun bans appears to be on its way to becoming Tennessee law. Governor Bill Haslam says he’s still reviewing the legislation, but his recent comments suggest he has no intention of using a veto on it. The proposal is complicated, but its basic idea is that it gives lawyers the ability to take gun bans to court. And if a judge rules in their favor, they’d get collect from the city three times what they spent on the case.

UT diversity funding comes back, but no plans on how to spend it (News Sentinel) The University of Tennessee Knoxville is deciding how to spend $445,882 representing a sum that in the past was used to fund an Office for Diversity and Inclusion but last year was diverted to minority engineering scholarships at the hand of the Tennessee legislature. It’s been just over one year since the passage of the bill allowing for the one-time move of the $445,882 in annual funding for the office, which supported racial and cultural diversity on campus. The plan expires June 30, which means the university will see the diversity funding come back starting July 1 and officials will have to decide how to spend it.

Free tours of ETSU’s new football stadium to be held Thursday (WJHL) Tomorrow marks 100 days until East Tennessee State University kicks off a new era of Buccaneer football. ETSU is set to host Limestone College Saturday, Sept. 2 for the first game at the new on-campus stadium. University officials are letting fans get an up close look at the progress of the new stadium with free tours tomorrow at noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Participants in the free tours are asked to wear closed-toe shoes, as well as the required hard hats provided by the school.

California Republicans Try to Undo Campus Free Speech Restrictions (Breitbart) California’s increased crackdown on free speech on several of its college campuses has pushed several Republicans, and even some Democrats, to push back. Earlier this month, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed the eight page Campus Free Speech Protection Act into law, making the “Volunteer State” on the first to pass legislation designed to stem the assault on free speech at its public universities. The law mandates that public colleges and universities in Tennessee adopt free speech policies consistent with the University of Chicago’s 2015 Stone Report. Chaired by Chicago Law Professor Geoffrey Stone, the report’s findings were adopted last year to great fanfare.

Tennessee General Fund Revenues Beat Projections by $159M (AP) Tennessee general fund tax collections have exceeded expectations by $159 million in April. The revenues reflecting economic activity in the previous month include corporate franchise and excise tax collections that came in at $141 million higher than projections. Sales taxes beat estimates by another $34 million. Through the first nine months of the budget year, general fund tax collections beat budgeted estimates by $579 million.

The Tennessee tax man is feeling flush (WMOT) The State of Tennessee continues to collect more tax dollars than it spends. The Associated Press reports general fund tax collections exceeded expectations by $159 million in April. Through the first nine months of the budget year, tax collections beat budgeted estimates by $579 million.  The state’s healthy surpluses were a bone of contention between state lawmakers during their just completed legislative session. Some lawmakers cited the surplus as a reason to vote against Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed gas tax increase. Haslam argued the new funding was needed to pay for a $10 billion in backlogged road projects. The legislature’s Republican leadership managed to pass the gas tax increase with the help of Democratic lawmakers.

City receives Governor’s Award (Wilson Post) The City of Lebanon received a prestigious environmental stewardship award from the governor of Tennessee for its efforts in energy and renewable resources last week when Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau announced the 2017 winners of the Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards. “These organizations represent the spirit and drive that make the Volunteer State great,” Haslam said.

Mayor Barry orders ‘action agenda’ for quick transportation fixes (Tennessean) Safer sidewalks and intersections. Protected bike lanes. Faster bus service on major streets. Fresh off announcing major plans for a new light rail system last month, Mayor Megan Barry is now highlighting much quicker fixes for Nashville’s traffic congestion, unveiling an “action agenda” Wednesday for transportation improvements over the next three years. Barry, discussing her vision at a transportation forum hosted by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, said she’s moved forward with the creation of a new Division of Transportation within Metro Public Works to help implement a series of new projects.

State overdose data sheds new light on opioid crisis (Tennessean) A new report from the Tennessee Department of Health on drug overdose deaths sheds new light on the opioid epidemic plaguing the state, darkening the lines of an emerging portrait of the typical abuser killed by the powerful painkillers. The drug overdose fatalities are overwhelmingly white, mostly male and increasingly less likely to have prescriptions for the drugs that kill them. And, across Tennessee, those killed are more likely to overdose on opioids — including heroin and fentanyl — than on any other kind of drug. The report obtained Wednesday details a surge of deaths between 2012 and 2015. In 2015, at least 1,451 Tennesseans died from drug overdoses.

Grand jury indicts Cleveland man for tax evasion (WTVC) The Tennessee Department of Revenue says a Cleveland man faces charges in connection with tax evasion. 41-year-old William Barry White turned himself in a the McMinn County Justice Center on Tuesday. His bond was set at $5,000. That came after a grand jury indicted White on four felony counts of tax evasion. The Tennessee Deaprtment of Revenue says White fraudulently registered two aircraft with the department, and two automobiles with the McMinn County Clerk’s Office.

Cleveland man charged with felony tax evasion (Times Free Press) A 41-year-old Cleveland, Tenn., man has been charged in McMinn County with tax evasion in an investigation by the Tennessee Department of Revenue. William Barry White surrendered to an agent with the Special Investigations Section of the state agency on Tuesday and was charged with four counts of tax evasion and booked at the McMinn County Justice Center, according to a statement from the state Department of Revenue. White’s bond was set at $5,000.

Video: Tennessee House Dist. 95 Early Voting Begins (Commercial Appeal)

Beavers pulls out of GOP dinner featuring likely gubernatorial candidates (Tennessean) Sen. Mae Beavers may not be entering the Republican field of candidates for the 2018 governor’s race after all. The Mt. Juliet lawmaker was set to appear at Thursday’s Rutherford County Republican Party Reagan Day Dinner alongside a slate of potential candidates who have either entered or are thinking about entering the race. But Beavers said she will not be able to attend Thursday’s event due to a “conflict.” Beavers, who has served in the legislature since 1994, said she has been busy attending various events including graduations in her district.

Randy Boyd tallies support from East Tennessee mayors (News Sentinel) The list of Republicans running for governor in 2018 is not set in stone, but East Tennessee’s Randy Boyd is doing his part to scare off any would be challengers, at least in the East side of the state. Boyd’s campaign released a list of 22 East Tennessee county mayors who support his run for office Wednesday. Boyd, the Knoxville businessman and former commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, said he was honored to get the early vote of confidence from the group.

Perdue endorses Boyd for governor (Independent Herald) The Tennessee gubernatorial primary is months away, but the jockeying for position among Republican candidates to succeed Bill Haslam has already begun, with Randy Boyd announcing Wednesday that he has landed an endorsement from Scott County Mayor Dale Perdue. According to Boyd’s campaign, Perdue joined 21 other county mayors across East Tennessee — including Morgan County’s Don Edwards and Anderson County’s Terry Frank — in endorsing the Knoxville businessman, who is considered an early favorite to win the GOP primary next year.

East Tennessee county mayors backing Boyd (Nashville Post) Gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd on Wednesday said he has received the endorsement of 22 county mayors from East Tennessee. In a statement noting that East Tennessee will provide more than 40 percent of 2018 Republican primary voters, Boyd said he is honored to have received “this early vote of confidence.” “I’ve worked with these Mayors on economic development, education, workforce, transportation, broadband, and dozens of other issues, and I am confident that by working together, we truly will make Tennessee THE State of Opportunity – for better education, for better jobs, for everyone,” Boyd said in the statement.

‘Conservative outsider’ Bill Lee campaigns Kingsport (Times News) See if this sounds familiar: a conservative businessman running for the Republican nomination to be Tennessee’s next governor. That worked for Bill Haslam, who was Knoxville’s mayor when he ran for governor in 2010, but he also had spent many years as a private businessman. Bill Lee hopes a similar narrative works for him.  Lee, a Franklin businessman, brought his statewide road show to Kingsport on Tuesday with a message that he’s the “conservative outsider” in the 2018 gubernatorial race to replace the term-limited Haslam.

Bob Corker calls for openness in health reform process (Times Free Press) Sen. Bob Corker’s criticism this week of how the Senate is working on health care reform is making the rounds in liberal media and was referenced in a sharp letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell by a Tennessee Democrat. The Huffington Post on Tuesday quoted Corker about the handpicked group of Republican senators working behind closed doors on their version of the Obamacare repeal bill. The House passed a bill early this month. The Tennessee senator and former Chattanooga mayor told reporters the ordinary process that helps shape legislation, such as public participation and media analysis, is missing here, according to The Huffington Post.

Cooper, Corker call for AHCA transparency (Nashville Post) Lack of hearings on new health care plan raising concerns. The day before the Congressional Budget Office is expected to release its estimate of the cost of the health care plan passed by the U.S. House a few weeks ago, both Republican Sen. Bob Corker and Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper are voicing concerns over the process to vet the plan unfolding in the Senate.

GOP Senator Slams His Party’s Process For Crafting Health Care Bill (Huffington Post) Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on Tuesday unexpectedly torched his party’s process for crafting an Obamacare repeal bill behind closed doors. “It’s a very awkward process, at best,” he told reporters. “There are no experts. There’s no actuarials. … Typically, in a hearing, you’d have people coming in and you’d also have the media opining about if a hearing took place, and X came in and made comments.” Corker’s frustrations come as Republicans continue to struggle with how, exactly, to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The House barely passed its bill, which is going nowhere, earlier this month. Senate leaders delegated the task of drawing up a bill in that chamber to a group of 13 Republicans who have been quietly meeting.

Groups call for boycott of Sessions’ Memphis visit (Commercial Appeal) The Memphis chapters of the NAACP and Black Lives Matter joined other advocacy groups Wednesday in calling for elected officials to boycott the visit of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The groups will rally at 9 a.m. Thursday in front of Memphis City Hall shortly before Sessions privately meets with law enforcement officials and media at 9:30 a.m. in the nearby Clifford Davis/Odell Horton Federal Building. Sessions is also scheduled to meet separately with Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell. Luttrell said that as of Wednesday morning he didn’t know what topics he and Sessions would discuss in their meeting.

As Memphis Prepares For Visit By Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Activists Plan Protest Rally (WATN) There’s a mixture of concern and cautious optimism, some anticipation, and some anger. This as United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions visits Memphis Thursday to talk crime prevention. Sessions recently mentioned Memphis by name when he discussed violent crime in certain cities. Some police leaders believe the AG’s visit will include an unveiling of federal money to help local law enforcement. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam said he’s mixed about the AG’s sentencing order, but anxious to hear what Sessions says while in Memphis.

Bill to name Nashville courthouse after Fred Thompson awaits Trump’s signature (Tennessean) A bill to name the new federal courthouse in Nashville after former Sen. Fred Thompson has cleared its final hurdle in Congress and is awaiting President Donald Trump’s signature. The Senate voted Wednesday to formally name the $194 million structure the Fred D. Thompson Federal Building and United States Courthouse. A companion bill cleared the House in March. After the Senate vote, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., stood in front of Thompson’s former desk on the Senate floor and thanked his colleagues for honoring the former senator.

Fight For The Ocoee (WTVF) A nearly decade long fight to keep the country’s most visited river from going dry may finally be in sight, as the Tennessee Valley Authority and state agencies have reached an agreement that would keep the Ocoee River flowing. Hanging in the balance is Polk County’s economy, rafting and tourism here generates nearly $43 million each year. It’s a place where the average family makes just $38K a year. The Ocoee River provides the vital heartbeat that keeps this county alive, creating about 600 jobs and drawing 200,000 people who come to surf the class IV and V white water rapids in any given year.

TVA: Dam safety reports contain ‘sensitive’ and ‘confidential’ information (WJHL) TVA is in the process of finalizing safety assessments at 49 dam projects, a process that’s supposed to wrap up at the end of the year. That’s according to the agency’s most recent annual report to the federal government. But when News Channel 11 asked to see the findings of TVA’s dam safety inspections, TVA said the official reports contain sensitive and confidential information that’s not a part of the public record, and TVA said sharing the reports could expose the dams to a possible security risk. News Channel 11 also learned the complete details of the official dam safety assessments conducted by TVA aren’t shared with the Federal Emergency Management, the agency in charge of overseeing national dam safety.

Ikea coming to Nashville (Tennessean) After a long odyssey to bring an Ikea to Nashville, the popular Swedish furniture company is set to announce plans for a new retail store off Interstate 24 in Antioch, multiple sources confirmed to The Tennessean. The company is set to announce Thursday morning that it plans to build the store at the mixed-use Century Farms property in southeast Nashville, where offices for Franklin-based Community Health Systems, town homes and other retail are planned. Metro has chipped in millions in infrastructure work at the site.

Feral hogs causing big problems for East Tennessee ecosystem (WATE) In East Tennessee, especially the Smoky Mountains, wildlife is a part of the culture, but there is one animal that is becoming a big problem. Feral hogs are not native to the area and are causing a lot of damage. The hogs are not really uncommon in the area now, but about 100 years ago they were non-existent. “They were brought into this region in 1912 as part of a private hunters preserve in the Hoopers Bald area which is just outside of the park on the North Carolina side,” said Bill Stiver, Supervisory Wildlife Biologist with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


Randy McNally, Becky Duncan Massey and Richard Briggs: Successful legislative session helps Tennessee thrive (News Sentinel) The first year of the 110th General Assembly adjourned successfully earlier this month, continuing an unbroken streak of successes for the people of Tennessee. Over the last six years, the people of Tennessee asked for fiscal responsibility, tax cuts and smaller government. The General Assembly delivered. We ended the gift tax, eliminated the death tax, phased out the Hall tax and chipped away at the tax on food. That’s $270 million worth of tax cuts along with $450 million eliminated from the budget over six years.

Sam Stockard: Unwilling Private Sector Gives Park Workers a Victory (Memphis Daily News) Two state parks are celebrating victories in an atmosphere of uncertainty created by the governor’s penchant for privatizing state functions. Fall Creek Falls drew no bidders for a $20 million plan to hire a vendor who would tear down its inn, construct a new one and take over operations for 10 years. Henry Horton State Park, meanwhile, is set for $10 million in improvements this coming fiscal year, including upgrades to its hospitality facilities, plus a new visitors center, rather than a proposal to raze its inn and not rebuild. “We can only speculate why no vendor bid” on the Fall Creek Falls plan, says Randy Stamps, executive director of the Tennessee State Employees Association. “But I think it had partially to do with the legislative environment and the local environment, which both had serious questions about even going with privatization.”

Wednesday, May 24

Nashville to honor fallen service members with Memorial Day ceremony (WZTV) Nashville leaders plan to hold a ceremony Thursday to honor five firefighters and service members who gave their lives in the line of duty. A Tennessee soldier killed in a Black Hawk helicopter crash last month is among those being honored this weekend. According to a release from the govenor’s office, Gov. Haslam will be joined by Tennessee Department of Veterans Services Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder and Tennessee Military Department Adjutant General, Major General Terry “Max” Haston. The ceremony will start at 10 a.m. on Thursday and be held on War Memorial Plaza. Five firefighters who gave their lives will be honored.

As Free Community College Becomes Tennessee Law, Schools Will Cater More To Adult Students (WPLN) The governor is signing the Tennessee Reconnect Grant into law Wednesday — his signature education bill of the year. It guarantees free community college for any adult over the age of 25 or who qualifies as “independent.” As a result, colleges are trying to figure out how they can accommodate an influx of adult students. Under discussion at community colleges are things like how to schedule classes that are more friendly to people with families, or create a hybrid course that’s half-online, half-in person, or offer a full class that only lasts seven weeks instead of 15.

Governor Haslam to sign Tennessee Reconnect Bill into law in Memphis (WREG) Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam will be in Memphis to sign the Tennessee Reconnect Bill into law. The ceremony will take place at 2:30 p.m. at the Benjamin Hooks Central Library on Poplar Avenue. Tennessee Reconnect provides free community college to adults who qualify. It’s an expansion of the Tennessee Promise program that provides free tuition to high school graduates. “In Tennessee, we’ve determined that the best jobs plan is an education plan. If we want to have jobs ready for Tennesseans, we have to make sure that Tennesseans are ready for jobs, and there is no smarter investment than increasing access to high quality education,” Haslam said in a previous news release.

tnAchieves to tour state for Tennessee Promise (Daily Herald) Community members from across the state are invited to participate in The State of Tennessee Promise community tour. Beginning May 22, and continuing through August 10, tnAchieves, the partnering organization that administers Governor Haslam’s Tennessee Promise Scholarship program, will host community meetings in each of the 84 counties it serves. The purpose of these meetings is to provide stakeholders with county-level student data in an effort to increase student completion and provide an opportunity to have any questions answered about the Tennessee Promise program, which is entering its third year.

High Achievers: Meeting talks tnAchieves successes (Citizen Tribune) Research has proven that education initiatives in the state have already positively impacted a large number of Tennessee residents. Through Tennessee Promise, partnering organization tnAchieves is making sure these positive trends continue to increase each year. tnAchieves leads the mentorship program associated with the Tennessee Promise, a last dollar scholarship that provides high school students the opportunity to attend a community college or college of applied technology free of tuition.

Haslam signs T. Hill’s resolution supporting Israel (Johnson City Press) Long before President Donald Trump touched down in Israel this week, a local legislator lent his support for the long-standing U.S. ally in the form of a joint resolution. Rep. Timothy Hill garnered significant support from both legislative bodies by sponsoring House Joint Resolution 36, which expresses support for the nation of Israel and recognizes the country as the homeland of Jewish people. The latest Tennessee legislation in support of Israel passed the House 94-0 and the Senate 32-0 before Gov. Bill Haslam officially signed the resolution on March 22.

IMPROVE Act includes $62 million; 27 bridge projects for Carter County (Johnson City Press) Gov. Bill Haslam’s IMPROVE program will mean an additional $62 million in revenue to Carter County over the next 15 years, according to the calculations of the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee. That is a considerable sum, but the most important benefit to the county may be the fact the program includes 27 bridge projects. For many years Carter County leaders have known the county’s bridges were one of the toughest infrastructure problems they faced. There were so many bridges crossing so many streams in the county, and each bridge project was so costly.

Gas tax increase to generate more than $500,000 in annual revenue for Unicoi County roads (Johnson City Press) After spending the past two years advocating for new revenues to maintain and improve the state road system, members of the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee have launched a campaign to spell out the dollar value of the recently passed gas tax increase in every county in the state. Gary Drinnen, a coalition advisory council member from Knoxville, came to Erwin Tuesday to share those figures for Unicoi County. According to Drinnen, by the time the new “Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy (IMPROVE) Act” takes full effect in 2019, Unicoi County will receive an estimated $503,805 in additional gas and diesel taxes for local road projects annually.

Controversial gun bill gets calls for veto from Gov. Haslam (WKRN) A controversial gun bill passed by state lawmakers is getting calls for a veto. One of Tennessee’s big city mayors says local governments could be forced to spend millions of dollars to comply with the measure or face lawsuits from gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association. The controversial bill that grew out of the guns and parks measure passed a few years ago by lawmakers left open a lot of costly questions for local governments. “There was an attorney general’s opinion that came out that opened the door to, frankly, handgun permit holders to carry at Bridgestone Arena and Nissan Stadium, which was not our intent,” explained sponsor Sen. John Stevens.

University of Tennessee committee to discuss potential $377M budget gap (News Sentinel) A University of Tennessee Board of Trustees subcommittee will get an update Thursday on efforts to reduce a $377 million budget gap officials have estimated will be in place by 2025. The Subcommittee on Efficiency and Cost Savings will meet with UT President Joe DiPietro’s Budget Advisory Group at 9 a.m. Thursday at Andy Holt Tower.  On the agenda is an update from the group and a discussion of its revised initiatives and goals for 2017 through 2019.  The Budget Advisory Group was formed in 2014 as a way of looking at long-term cost savings as university officials predicted a budget gap that would grow to $377 million by 2025.

State revenue back on surplus track in April (TN Journal/Humphrey) News release from the Department of Finance and Administration: Tennessee tax revenue exceeded budgeted estimates in April. Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin today announced that overall April revenues were $1.9 billion, which is $148.9 million more than the state budgeted. “Total reported revenues in April reflect significant improvement over this time last year and were driven primarily by franchise and excise payments, sales tax receipts and business tax revenues,” Martin said.   “The Hall income tax posted a significant reduction from receipts received in April 2016 and was much less than budgeted expectations. All other tax revenues, taken as a group, were more than the April estimates.

How much bandwidth does the Broadband Accessibility Act provide? (Marshall Co. Tribune) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam held a ceremonial signing of the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act, at the Governor’s Rural Development Task Force at H&R Agri-Power in Brownsville Tuesday in hopes that it will increase broadband internet access to the state’s unserved citizens. The Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act permits Tennessee’s private, nonprofit electric cooperatives to provide retail broadband service, and it provides $45 million over three years in grants and tax credits for service providers to assist in making broadband available to unserved homes and businesses. In addition, the plan makes grant funding available to the state’s local libraries to help residents improve their digital literacy skills and maximize the benefits of broadband.

Haslam appointee starts consulting firm (Nashville Post) The former deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, Bill Giannini, has launched a new consulting firm with a focus on efficient government and performance management. Called Resolve Consulting, the firm of the former Haslam appointee and his team will have a mix of public and private clients, with some political consulting on the side. But one thing Giannini says he isn’t interested in — even after his one-year ban is up — is lobbying. “I don’t really have much interest in lobbying. I do have, on a personal level, an interest in advocating on certain issues. I feel very strongly about regulation and overregulation on business,” Giannini says.

New law prohibits eminent domain for industrial parks (Standard Banner) Governmental entities in Tennessee will no longer have the option of using eminent domain to condemn land for industrial parks. Last week, Governor Bill Haslam signed into law a Senate bill that amends existing law in an effort to protect land owners from “abusive takings.” David Seal, Jefferson County Commissioner in District 9, said he believes the new legislation addresses concerns raised by Commission in a resolution approved last September. The resolution, calling on state lawmakers to protect property rights based on several sources of information and citizen concern, was introduced by Seal and received Commission approval. The new law provides for three points of protection for land owners in Tennessee, Seal said. It deletes the “industrial parks” exception for takings under 29-17-102 (E), eliminating the provision under which cities and counties can condemn private property for the development of industrial parks under the definition of “public use.”

10Listens: ‘In God We Trust’ license plate questions answered (WBIR) A bill that would add the phrase ‘In God We Trust’ to some Tennessee license plates is now law. The original version of the bill would have required all new plates to have the national motto. Lawmakers changed the bill to make it optional. The sample shows the motto in the center of the plate around the small image of the state. The final design is up the Department of Revenue. State Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville, co-sponsored the bill. We asked Zachary, the Knox County Clerk’s Office, and the Department of Revenue to help us answer your questions from Facebook. Many people asked if the motto on the license plate would be optional.

Tennessee bill would allow some granted order of protection to carry handgun without permit (WATE) A bill passed by lawmakers that is on Gov. Haslam’s desk right now would allow some Tennesseans to carry handguns instantly if they have an order of protection signed by a judge. Hundreds of orders of protection are filed each month in Knox County. Last year 2,300 were filed. If the governor signs this bill, those granted orders of protection, who can legally have a gun, will be able to immediately carry a gun for 21 days without going through a class or getting a permit. Knoxville Family Justice Center Executive Director Amy Dilworth is an advocate for victims of abuse. She supports the bill.

5 ways President Trump’s proposed budget could impact Tennessee (Tennessean) The proposed federal budget that President Donald Trump released Tuesday would cut or eliminate dozens of programs that provide funding for services for Tennesseans. But Trump’s budget is just a the starting point: Congress could ditch his proposal and write its own version. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Chattanooga, already is raising questions about the president’s spending plan. “I appreciate the Trump administration’s attempt to cut waste and encourage efficiency, but we will never get our fiscal house in order until we take a holistic look at the federal budget, including Medicare and Social Security,” Corker said. “We can solve our fiscal issues without harming those who depend on these important programs, and I have offered legislative proposals toward that end.”

Trump Budget Would Cut Food Assistance For Vulnerable Tennesseans (Nashville Scene) Man who ate chocolate cake while deploying bombs decides poor people don’t need as much food. The man who described eating the most decadent piece of chocolate cake as he decided to deploy a bunch of bombs plans to cut food assistance benefits by more than one-third. If President Donald Trump’s budget makes it through as is, the 17 percent of Tennesseans utilizing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits would potentially be affected by the cut. That cut would affect more than 300,000 people in the state who rely on that assistance to feed themselves and their families. More than a million Tennesseans are helped by SNAP.

Trump budget proposes higher barge fees to finish Chickamauga lock, other projects (Times Free Press) Three years after the fuel tax on barge operators was raised by 9 cents a gallon to help pay for new locks, dams and other inland waterway improvements, President Trump is proposing that the barge industry pay even higher fees to pay for unfunded improvements, including the building of a new Chickamauga lock in Chattanooga. The White House budget plan unveiled Tuesday recommends a new, 10-year, $1.037 billion user fee to be paid by commercial operators on the inland waterways. The proposal for the higher fees is equal to the current fuel tax, suggesting that the current 29-cents-per-gallon diesel tax may have to double to pay for inland improvements under the Trump spending plan.

President’s proposed budget can impact local nursing homes (WTVC) To keep a family member at the Life Care Center in Red Bank is a pricey option. “If you opted for a private room, that would be $318 a day,” said Executive Director Sherry Broom. She isn’t happy to hear that President Donald Trump is proposing to cut funding to Medicaid programs. The money from those programs helps many of her patients. Tennessee Senator Bob Corker released a statement Tuesday on the presidents budget request. Corker said “I appreciate the Trump administration’s attempt to cut waste and encourage efficiency, but we will never get our fiscal house in order until we take a holistic look at the federal budget, including Medicare and Social Security. We can solve our fiscal issues without harming those who depend on these important programs, and I have offered legislative proposals toward that end.”

Trump’s Cuts To SNAP In Budget Could Affect Thousands Of Mid-South Families (WATN) President Donald Trump’s $4.1 trillion budget for 2018 calls for sharp cuts in several programs, including food stamps, known as SNAP. And that means the nearly two million people who live in the Mid-South states could have a hard time putting food on the table. SNAP would be cut by one-third. It’ll affect thousands of families in the Mid-South. Under the new budget, “able-bodied people who can work” will no longer receive assistance. Lawmakers are speaking out on both sides. More than 16% of households in Tennessee are below the poverty line. 17% of Tennesseans rely on food stamps, or SNAP, to feed their families. Under President Donald Trump’s new budget, people who are able to work will no longer get assistance.

Tennessee Senator could add to President’ Trump’s troubles (WMOT) A Vanderbilt political scientist says Tennessee Senator Bob Corker could further fracture an already deeply divided Republican Party. Corker heads the U.S. Senate’s powerful Foreign Relations Committee. The Senator reacted harshly this past week to the possibility that President Donald Trump revealed classified information to Russian diplomats. Corker was quoted saying the White House seemed to be “in a downward spiral.” Republican led committees in the House and Senate are already looking into possible connections between Trump associates and Russian efforts to influence the 2016 elections. Some Republican legislators have also reacted negatively to the President’s proposals for drastic cuts to the federal budgets.

Tennessee lawmakers cautious about White House spending plan (Times Free Press) Tennessee Republicans on Tuesday welcomed the Trump administration’s attempt to restrain the growth in federal domestic spending, but local lawmakers also took issue with parts of the White House spending plan. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, stressed that the legislative branch, not the executive branch, ultimately controls the purse strings to government. “Congress will write the budget and set the spending priorities,” Alexander said. “Where we find good ideas in the president’s budget, we will use them.” Alexander challenged Trump’s proposals to cut spending for the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. National Parks and the Department of Energy, which operates the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

America’s biggest government utility slims down (Times Free Press) After helping to harness the power of the Tennessee River, Appalachia’s coal fields and the atom first split in Oak Ridge, the Tennessee Valley Authority is preparing to slow down a bit after 84 years. In TVA’s preliminary budget plan for fiscal 2018 unveiled Tuesday by the Trump White House, TVA projects it will trim its capital spending next year by $677 million, cut its operating expenses by $263 million and trim its staff by another 316 employees compared with the current year. “We have committed in our spending plan for next year to hold our operations and maintenance spending flat, meaning that we will offset the rate of inflation with productivity gains and other changes,” TVA Chief Financial Officer John Thomas said Tuesday. “This will mean we continue to make some staff reductions, but we have already achieved most of these targets.”

AutoZone results fall short of expectations (Memphis Business Journal) Memphis-based AutoZone Inc. posted its second consecutive quarter of “challenges.” Analysts projected the auto parts retailer would hit between $11.81 to $12.02 for its earnings per share (EPS) for third quarter 2017, but when the results were released Tuesday, May 23, the EPS was $11.44. While the EPS was a 6.2 percent increase from the $10.77 the company saw in Q3 2016, William “Bill” Rhodes, chairman, president and CEO of AutoZone, said the quarter was “below our expectations” during the earnings call. After 41 quarters of double-digit EPS growth, Q3 2017 marked the second quarter of disappointing results, but Rhodes said the company remained “excited about our growth prospects for the year.”

Impactful’ Domestic Violence PSA To Air During Major State Sporting Events (WTVF) Domestic violence PSAs airing on television stations across Tennessee are being aimed at men and bystanders in an effort to reduce instances of abuse. Four advertisements were released by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security and are hitting the airwaves strategically targeting men, victims and bystanders of domestic violence. The most-watched PSA on YouTube is called “Hard to Watch” and features a man verbally assaulting a woman while a young girl watches. In the video, the volume is turned down and the video blurred to simulate turning a blind eye to the situation.

8 Tennessee sites make National Register of Historic Places (AP) Eight sites in Tennessee have been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Tennessee Historical Commission says three places in Shelby County were recently added to the register. They are the Rock of Ages Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and the Memphis Federation of Musicians Local 71 Building in Memphis, and the Charles Davis House in Collierville. The other sites named to the register are the Cleveland Commercial Historic District in Bradley County; the LaFollette Coke Ovens in Campbell County; Kern’s Bakery in Knoxville; The Science Building in Cookeville, located in Putnam County; and the William A. McMurry House in Springfield, located in Robertson County.


Frank Cagle: Eminent domain reform protects farmers (News Sentinel) Farmers now have one thing less to worry about in Tennessee, besides taxes and bad weather. Too often large tracts of land are seen as ripe targets for eminent domain, stretching the definition of “public use” by taking land and then selling it for economic development. After a failed attempt at a megasite development in Jefferson County and proposals for other speculative industrial parks, the County Commission passed a resolution calling for eminent domain reform. Commissioner David Seal, the sponsor, went to Nashville this last session and found sympathetic ears.

Column: A Road Trip Through Rusting and Rising America (NY Times) In his dystopian Inaugural Address, President Trump painted a picture of America as a nation gripped by vast “carnage” — a landscape of “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones” that cried out for a strongman to put “America first” and stop the world from stealing our jobs. It was a shocking speech in many ways and reportedly prompted former President George W. Bush to say to those around him on the dais, “That was some really weird [stuff].” It was weird, but was it all wrong? I just took a four-day car trip through the heart of that landscape — driving from Austin, Ind., down through Louisville, Ky., winding through Appalachia and ending up at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee to try to answer that question. Trump is half right in his diagnosis, but his prescription is 100 percent wrong. We do have an epidemic of failing communities. But we also have a bounty of thriving ones — not because of a strongman in Washington but because of strong leaders at the local level.

Tuesday, May 23

Trucking Companies Say Additional Fuel Costs Worth It for Improved Infrastructure (Memphis Daily News) Donnie Caldwell figures that the increase in the state gas tax that will begin this summer will cost his company more than $315,000 a year. And he’s OK with that. Caldwell is the chief operating officer for Ozark Motor Lines, one of the largest trucking companies in Memphis with about 740 tractor-trailers. Ozark buys around 245,000 gallons of diesel a week, about 25 percent of that in Memphis. So when that gas tax increases as part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s IMPROVE Act, Caldwell’s company will take a big hit.

IMPROVE Act largest tax cut in TN history (Daily Herald) The Transportation Coalition of Tennessee visited the Maury Chamber & Economic Alliance on Monday to announce the largest tax cut in the state’s history, and how it will affect Maury County. Gov. Bill Haslam’s IMPROVE Act cuts more than $500 million in taxes annually, with almost $10 million funding Maury County bridge projects over the next 15 years. Statewide, the act will cut $125 million in grocery tax savings, averaging a 20 percent reduction on the sales tax and $113 million from business taxes on manufacturers. In Maury County, the total impact will be $19,677,858 for the annual combined revenue, in addition to $31,666,000 for Tennessee Department of Transportation’s road and bridge projects.

IMPROVE Act to fund caution lights at Witt School (Citizen Tribune) A road-safety project that’s been on Hamblen County’s wish list for years will move forward this fall with money from the fuel tax-funded IMPROVE Act, officials say. The Tennessee Department of Transportation has agreed to pay for conspicuous flashing lights – not a three-phase traffic signal – to create a school zone north and south of Witt School on Highway 25-E, according to Hamblen County Mayor Bill Brittain. The nearby Cornerstone Academy, a private school, will also benefit from the state-funded project. The so-called state Spot Safety Project will include signs and flashing lights that will be mounted on mast arms on Highway 25-E, according to Michael Poteet with the Morristown Public Works Department.

5 TDOT projects, nearly $101M investment, announced for Johnson County, TN (WJHL) The northernmost section of northeast Tennessee is slated for several road improvement projects thanks to the IMPROVE Act. The Transportation Coalition of Tennessee revealed five TDOT-funded projects that will impact Johnson County residents. The total investment or impact for Johnson County, including cities and other municipalities is $8.3 million which will be paid through by local revenue over the course of 15 years. The Tennessee Department of Transportation is investing nearly $92.5 million towards the projects. The biggest project costs $90 million and includes improving State Route 91 leading to the Virginia state line towards.

Haslam pushing health care reform (Nashville Post) Governor one of a dozen trying to sell Senate on plan. The U.S. House may have passed one plan to reform parts of the Affordable Care Act, but around a dozen governors, including Gov. Bill Haslam, are trying to sell the Senate on a different idea. As Reuters reports:  Led by Governor John Kasich of Ohio, the governors are using a nine-page proposal they crafted in February as the platform to shape what they think a critical portion of an Obamacare replacement law should look like, according to a half dozen people who helped write the plan.

How Much Do States Rely on Federal Funding? (Governing) As Congress debates the budget, states are eagerly waiting to hear how it will affect them. Updated data from the Census Bureau’s 2015 Annual Survey of State Government Finances published last week indicates that federal aid made up nearly a third of all states’ general fund revenues in fiscal year 2015. The single largest line items in states’ budgets include federal funding for transportation, Medicaid and other social assistance programs. The survey, which provides a detailed portrait of how states generate and spend money, suggests states’ reliance on federal money varies greatly. Even larger discrepancies exist across individual areas of state government.

Hamilton County woman charged with TennCare fraud (WTVC) The Office of Inspector General says a Hamilton County woman is charged with doctor shopping to get Hydrocodone and Tramadol, using TennCare as payment. The OIG and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office say 30-year-old Shana D. Clay is charged with three counts of TennCare fraud. TennCare Fraud is a Class D felony punishable by up to four years in prison. The OIG Cash for Tips Program offers cash rewards for TennCare fraud tips that lead to convictions.

Tennessee bill would allow some granted order of protection to carry handgun without permit (WATE) A bill passed by lawmakers that is on Gov. Haslam’s desk right now would allow some Tennesseans to carry handguns instantly if they have an order of protection signed by a judge. Hundreds of orders of protection are filed each month in Knox County. Last year 2,300 were filed. If the governor signs this bill, those granted orders of protection, who can legally have a gun, will be able to immediately carry a gun for 21 days without going through a class or getting a permit. Knoxville Family Justice Center Executive Director Amy Dilworth is an advocate for victims of abuse. She supports the bill. “This bill is a wonderful step the legislature has taken to give another option,” said Dilworth.

106 TN ‘conservative leaders’ call for Green to resume run for GOP gubernatorial nomination (TN Journal/Humphrey) A group of 106 people, describing themselves as Tennessee conservative leaders and operating under the title “Coalition 2018,” have signed a letter calling for state Sen. Mark Green of Clarksville to resume his campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination after withdrawing from consideration as President Trump’s nominee to become U.S. secretary of the Army. The group includes tea party activists – including, for example, Nashville Tea Party President Ben Cunningham, Chattanooga Tea Party President Mark West and Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation – along with at least three current members of the state Republican Party Executive Committee and Joe Carr, a former state representative who unsuccessfully challenged Lamar Alexander in the 2014 U.S. Senate primary and Diane Black in the 2016 6th Congressional District Republican primary.

Mark Green to decide on entering 2018 race for governor by Memorial Day (Tennessean) Sen. Mark Green will make a decision by Memorial Day as to whether to continue his effort to run for governor, the Clarksville Republican told the USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee on Monday.  The news comes after the release of a letter signed by more than 100 conservatives from across Tennessee who are encouraging Green to continue his bid. Green said via text message that he was encouraged by the show of support from “strong conservative leaders” through the state.

Tea party coalition urges Green to run (Nashville Post) Green says he’ll make decision in the next week. A group of tea party leaders and other Tennessee conservatives have posted an open letter urging state Sen. Mark Green (R-Clarksville) to resume his run for governor. Green hit pause on his campaign after he was nominated as Trump’s Secretary of the Army, but he withdrew his name from consideration after a massive backlash over his comments on everything from LGBT soldiers to Muslims to evolution.

Former economic leader Randy Boyd wants to continue his initiatives as governor (Leaf Chronicle) Randy Boyd says he wants to be Tennessee’s next governor to complete some of the initiatives he began as part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration. “I want to complete some missions I started while special adviser on higher education and while I was commissioner of Economic and Community Development,” Boyd said on a recent campaign swing through Dover. “My goal is to make Tennessee THE State of Opportunity. … When you think of Tennessee, that’s the place you go for a better education, for an opportunity for a better job, an opportunity for everyone. They don’t leave anyone behind in Tennessee.” He wants to achieve the goals of Drive to 55, job development and his Rural Taskforce.

Businessman Bill Lee tours Tennessee for campaign (Johnson City Press) After announcing his entrance to the Republican field in the running for Tennessee governor, Franklin businessman Bill Lee promised to visit all 95 Tennessee counties during the first 95 days of his campaign. During the 25th day of his campaign tour, Lee visited Sullivan and Washington counties. The candidate began the tour to hear concerns and priorities of each of the counties to let voters know that together, they and Lee can make the state a better place to live, work and raise a family. The cattle farmer, businessman and family man leads his campaign by letting people know he isn’t a politician, focusing on the fact that he is a native Tennessean with the people and state in mind.

Fitzhugh close to announcing run? (Nashville Post) A weekend of speeches for likely candidate as he moves closer to challenging Dean. House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) is inching closer to an expected gubernatorial bid, although there’s still no word when a formal announcement is expected. Fitzhugh spent the weekend giving speeches to prominent Democrats, but he emphasized party unity in 2018 over his own qualifications to run. “If you give us 10 more members in the House and the Senate, give us a Democratic governor and we will improve this state like nobody’s business,” Fitzhugh said during the Tennessee Democratic Party’s Jackson Day dinner last Friday.

Senate Republicans consider ‘two-step’ process for Obamacare replacement (Tennessean) Republican senators working to craft their own bill to replace the Affordable Care Act are looking at possibly phasing out the requirement that Americans buy health insurance instead of ending it abruptly. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who chairs the committee that oversees health care issues, said Monday a “two-step” process for ending the insurance mandate and other provisions is something that senators have been discussing. “We may have to do some things in 2018-19 that Republicans wouldn’t normally do and Democrats wouldn’t normally do,” said Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Video: Less than a third of Americans support the GOP’s health care bill (Tennessean) The American Health Care Act may have just passed in the house, but it turns out, most Americans are not a fan of the controversial bill.’s-health-care-bill/101464196/

Video: Rick Perry tours ORNL, tests out 3D-printed vehicles (News Sentinel) Secretary of Energy Rick Perry tours ORNL, tests out 3D-printed vehicles.

Oak Ridge National Lab shows 3D printing tech to Secretary of Energy Rick Perry (WATE) Secretary of Energy Rick Perry visited the Oak Ridge National Lab on Monday with Sen. Lamar Alexander. His last stop on the trip was to the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility. This is where the national lab houses its 3D printers. “You’re surrounded by great patriots in this community,” said Sec. Perry. Perry called his visit to Oak Ridge National Lab extraordinary. He got a taste of the cutting edge work done there. During his time, he got to drive a 3D printed excavator. “Men and women who work here do not have to worry if they are making a difference,” he said.

Tennessee has until Sept. 19 to decide Mountain States-Wellmont merger’s fate (Johnson City Press) If this seems like déjà vu, it is. On Monday, Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner deemed Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System’s certificate of public advantage application complete once again, initiating a 120-day review period that will culminate in a September decision on the two entities’ desire to merge.  If approved, the COPA would allow the Tri-Cities’ two largest health systems to merge into Ballad Health and be protected from federal antirust laws used to prevent and break up health care monopolies.

Mayor Barry asks Gov. Haslam to veto gun bill affecting public buildings (Tennessean) Nashville Mayor Megan Barry has asked Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam to veto legislation that would require local municipalities, including Metro, to either install metal detectors and security officers at many public facilities or allow guns. Barry sent a letter to Haslam on May 11 that said the bill would “negatively impact local governments such as Nashville” by forcing them to “either divert resources away from services or programs to pay for expensive metal detectors and security, or allow the carrying of weapons in public facilities.”

City receives state environment award (Lebanon Democrat) The city of Lebanon recently received a prestigious environmental stewardship award from Gov. Bill Haslam for its efforts in energy and renewable resources. Haslam and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau announced the city last week as a winner of the 2017 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards. “These organizations represent the spirit and drive that make the Volunteer State great,” Haslam said. “I thank all of the winners for their individual contributions to the environment and for keeping Tennessee a beautiful state in which to live and work and to visit.” Winners will be recognized for their achievements and positive impact on the state’s natural resources in an awards ceremony to be held in Nashville on June 16.

Mayor: Memphis Situation Different from New Orleans on Confederate Statues (Memphis Flyer) Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s administration explained on Facebook Monday that while the mayor supports the removal of Confederate statues from Memphis parks, “our situation differs from New Orleans.” Four Confederate statues have come down in New Orleans since April after votes from the New Orleans City Council in 2015, court rulings, and recent pushes to get the statues down by mayor Mitch Landrieu. The Memphis City Council voted in 2015 to remove a statue of Nathan Bedford Forest in Health Sciences Park. That vote was blocked by state lawmakers and the statue remains. However, the mayor’s note on Monday said his team is still working on the issue.

Winged’ Snake Species From 5 Million Years Ago Discovered (AP) A new species of snake that lived roughly 5 million years ago has been discovered at a fossil site in Tennessee. A study published in the Journal of Herpetology says the snake has been named Zilantophis schuberti, which roughly translates to “Schubert’s Winged Snake.” The snake is named in part after Blaine Schubert, the executive direct of the Gray Fossil Site where the discovery was made. Steven Jasinski, lead author of the study, and co-author David Moscato, were students of Schubert’s. Jasinski says the snake didn’t have wings, but what makes it different is that its vertebrae have pronounced projections toward the front of its body.


Guest column: Time for TVA, state regulators to step up (Tennessean) In light of the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent, unfounded decision to put the brakes on requiring coal plants to limit toxic water pollution in our rivers and streams nationwide, Middle Tennesseans should demand that the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority make good on its own promise to protect our clean water. Eight years ago, the TVA Board acknowledged that the catastrophic coal ash spill it had caused at the Kingston coal plant “has eroded public trust in TVA and called into question TVA’s commitment to environmental stewardship.”  In response, the TVA Board promised to switch to dry handling of its coal ash waste at all of its coal plants.

Monday, May 22

Haslam to hold signing ceremonies for Tennessee Reconnect Act (WBIR) Tennessee is one step closer to offering all residents a chance to get post-secondary education for free. The Tennessee Reconnect Act is headed to Governor Bill Haslam after the General Assembly passed it earlier this month. The plan creates a last-dollar scholarship for adults who don’t already have a college degree or certificate.  According to the governor’s office, Haslam will hold three signing ceremonies in East, Central and West Tennessee this coming Wednesday – the first at Walters State Community College in Morristown from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. The governor will then head to Motlow State Community College in Smyrna, followed by Benjamin L. Hooks Central Public Library in Memphis.

Tennessee Gov. Haslam to study mandatory school bus seat belt issue (Times Free Press) Now that he’s signed his own regulatory-based answer to last year’s Hamilton County school bus crash into law, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam says he will explore whether Rep. JoAnne Favors’ approach calling for mandatory seat belts on buses is “the right thing to do.” “We’re going to continue to do work to say, ‘Are they the right answer today?'” the governor said last week to reporters. “And if they are, then we’ll figure out the financial piece. But as you know, there’s quite a bit of disagreement about whether seat belts were the right thing to do just from a safety standpoint.” Haslam said the administration will study what other states have done on the issue.

Haslam signs bill creating ‘In God We Trust’ license plates (AP) The new law requires the Department of Revenue to design plates to include the optional “In God We Trust” language once current stocks are exhausted. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a bill creating a new Tennessee license plate design featuring the phrase “In God We Trust.” The original version of the bill would have required the phrase to be printed on all license plates issued in the state. But after the state attorney general raised constitutional concerns, sponsors agreed to make the make the new design optional. The new law requires the Department of Revenue to design plates to include the optional “In God We Trust” language once current stocks are exhausted.

Ramsey christens new Ag Center with $50k contribution in his wife’s name (Times News) Former Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey grew up working on a Sullivan County farm, and in a way he closed the book on his 24-year political career Saturday in the name of Sullivan County farmers. During a dedication ceremony, Ramsey contributed the final $50,000 left in his campaign fund to pay for the completion of the large commercial kitchen at the newly christened Ron Ramsey Agriculture Center located at 140 Spurgeon Lane near Tri-Cities Airport. Before a crowd of county and state dignitaries, as wells as family and friends, Ramsey dedicated the contribution to wife Sindy, whom he described as his best friend and the “wind beneath my wings.”

Video: Bill Lee talks developing rural industries on his tour bus (Leaf Chronicle)

Trump, Shouting ‘Death Spiral,’ Has Nudged Affordable Care Act Downward (NY Times) When Aetna, the health insurance giant, announced this month that it was pulling out of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchange in Virginia in 2018, President Trump responded on Twitter: “Death spiral!” When Humana announced plans to leave all the health law’s marketplaces next year, the president chimed in, “Obamacare continues to fail.” Left unremarked on was a big reason for the instability: The Trump administration and Congress are rattling the markets. “We have trouble discerning who has decision-making authority,” said Julie Mix McPeak, the Tennessee insurance commissioner and president-elect of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which represents state officials. “We reached out to the Department of Health and Human Services. They referred us to the Office of Management and Budget, which referred us to the Department of Justice. We reached out to the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.”

If Obamacare is repealed, Tennessee faces a big decision (Tennessean) Two weeks ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA). It is now in front of the Senate. If it ultimately becomes law, Tennessee will have a big decision to make as a state. The decision relates to how Tennessee wants to approach two insurance regulations that have garnered a lot of controversy ever since Obamacare was passed. The AHCA would give Tennessee the ability to “opt out” of them. Many predict that this option will be “front and center” in Tennessee and all 49 other states if it becomes a reality.

As White House stumbles, foreign policy power rests with Tennessee’s Bob Corker (Tennessean) Few Americans have the power to shape a presidency the way Bob Corker could in the coming months. Two former ambassadors and foreign policy experts say that as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Chattanooga Republican has the ability to serve as a steady force for U.S. foreign policy while probing issues ranging from the Trump administration’s connections with Russia to how the U.S. collects intelligence. Corker’s recent admonishment of the president and administration — telling reporters the White House was in a “downward spiral” after reports Trump revealed classified information to Russian officials — drew immediate international attention.

CoreCivic sees volatility as ‘Trump trade’ (Tennessean) After mounting a full recovery under the Trump administration, shares of Nashville-based prison operator CoreCivic have declined amid a volatile week for the president. Shares of CoreCivic, formerly called Corrections Corporation of America, fell 8 percent in the past three days, surpassing the declines of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500. The Geo Group, also a corrections company, saw a 6 percent drop in the same time period. Within the first four months of the Trump administration, President Trump issued an executive order calling for expanded immigrant detention centers and Department of Homeland Security said immigrants crossing the border would remain detained until cases are resolved.

How are Tennessee’s retailers faring? (Tennessean) The brick-and-mortar retail industry is floundering. Sales are plummeting for once-beloved and thriving brands such as Sears, as consumer habits shift and online giants, namely Amazon, continue to steal market share from long-standing retailers.  HHGregg, Bebe and The Limited are among the retailers closing up shop in Tennessee and elsewhere across the country. J.C. Penney, Macy’s and MC Sports are contracting and shedding workers. The departures will leave real estate holes — or opportunity — as the very face of malls and shopping centers change.

Sycamore Shoals hosts 23rd annual Siege of Fort Watauga (WJHL) Folks in the Tri-Cities got the chance to go back in time for the 23rd annual Siege of Fort Watauga. Sycamore Shoals state park in Elizabethton hosted this weekend’s events, which included a battle reenactment on Saturday as well as a variety of other exhibits demonstrating 18th century life. Organizers said the event is a great opportunity to see, smell, taste and learn about local history. “We want young people to come here and take away a better knowledge of their history, things that their ancestors did to create this community and the nation as a whole,” said Chad Bogart, museum curatorial assistant. Organizers expect over 1,000 spectators and about 200 re-enactors visited the event this weekend.


Julie Mix McPeak: Uncertainty plagues future of health exchanges, but there is hope (Tennessean) There is good news for thousands of Tennesseans who buy insurance on the Federally Facilitated Marketplace (FFM). Recently, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBST) announced its pledge to return to the 16 counties in the Knoxville area, covering 40,000 citizens, if certain qualifications are met. But that optimism is tempered by knowledge of the long-term reality facing Tennessee consumers and insurers. Tennessee consumers are among the nation’s least healthy and among the largest users of health care services, according the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) risk score metrics.

Editorial: Is Tennessee’s new abortion ban constitutional? (Johnson City Press) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a law that bans abortions after 20 weeks. The anti-abortion law, sponsored by state Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, takes effect on July 1. It has been called constitutionally suspect by the state’s top legal counsel. The Associated Press reports the law requires doctors to determine viability by a series of tests, including measuring the head of a fetus if gestation is 20 weeks or more. Physicians who abort viable fetuses after that point could be charged with a state felony unless the woman is at risk of death or serious injury.

Robert Houk: Gas tax vote left House leaders trying to herd cats (Johnson City Press) How a state lawmaker votes in Nashville has consequences in his or her district. That’s what former Lt. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, told reporters in Blountville last week. That’s not a surprising statement. The fact Ramsey needs to explain that to some of his former colleagues who voted against the 6-cent gas tax hike earlier this month is a bit puzzling. You’d think a 12-year veteran like state Rep Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, would already know that. Unfortunately, his critics say Boss Hill is still learning his craft on Capitol Hill. Count Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge among those who are not impressed with Hill’s legislative skills.

Pam Sohn: Beware of the Church of Government (Times Free Press) Almost all faiths start with God. That God may not be called God, but the faiths that revere Yahweh, Allah and others are largely based on the same belief — there is a creator and a higher being than us, and faith in that comforts us. What seems at odds with the professed tolerant tenets of Christianity is the intolerance — sometimes ignorance — of that fact. All too often, it seems, many self-professed Christians model a false pride that only Christianity is the “right” faith. That is seemingly the rationale behind the Tennessee General Assembly’s passage of a bill to allow Volunteer State drivers to choose license plates with the phrase “In God We Trust” on them. And perhaps this also was the drive in Bradley County to put “In God we Trust” on police cars.

Guest column: Tennessee schools need to prioritize learning foreign languages (Tennessean) Many High School students in Tennessee are able to use a waiver that allows them not to take foreign language classes that are otherwise necessary to graduate. As someone who has benefited from speaking multiple languages and has seen others excel personally and professionally through learning languages, it is very saddening to realize that some young Tennesseans are entering adulthood and professional careers without having acquired at least some foreign language proficiency, or without the experience of learning one.

Keel Hunt: Both sides now: Justice is the first duty (Tennessean) On the south façade of the Justice A.A. Birch Building downtown, where the local courts are, there is a modernist bas-relief of “Lady Justice” holding her scales in perfect balance. Below that image are these words of Alexander Hamilton: “The First Duty of Society is Justice.” It does not say “Justice for Some” or “Justice for the Wealthy.” It does not proclaim “Justice for You If You Can Afford the Best Lawyers.”

Friday, May 19

11 Blount transportation projects to be funded by IMPROVE Act’s gas tax increase (Daily Times) Eleven Blount County transportation projects will be funded by the statewide gas tax increase that goes into effect July 1. The 4-cent increase in 2017, which will be followed by 1-cent increases in 2018 and 2019, are part of the IMPROVE Act signed by Gov. Bill Haslam on April 26. An acronym for Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy, the legislation cuts $270 million annually in taxes — including business taxes on manufacturers, sales tax on groceries and the Hall income tax — while increasing transportation-related costs, including car registration fees, annual fees on electric vehicles and charges on rental cars, according to a fact sheet from the governor’s office.

County to get $7.5 million more for roads (Standard Banner) The increase in the state gas and diesel tax – the first in 28 years – will provide about $7.5 million more for local roads and streets over the next decade. It will also help the state pay for $120 million in projects slated for Jefferson County roadways over the next few years. Governor Bill Haslam signed the legislation this week in Nashville. It raises the gas tax by six cents per gallon and the diesel tax by 10 cents (diesel tax was four cents lower than gas) over the next three years. Former lieutenant governor Ron Ramsey, visiting Jefferson County yesterday to represent the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee, pointed out that reductions to the grocery sales tax and Hall Income Tax in the legislation ensure that most Tennesseans will actually see a slight net decrease.

Tennessee jobless rate falls to 4.7 percent (Times Free Press) Unemployment in Tennessee fell by the biggest monthly amount in more than 33 years during April, cutting the state’s jobless rate to 4.7 percent last month. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said today that employers added 57,000 jobs over the past year, growing employment by 1.9 percent. Although Tennessee’s jobless rate remained 0.3 percentage points above the U.S. average during April, Tennessee’s unemployment rate still fell four times more than the U.S. decline of one tenth of a percentage point during April.

Northeast State to hold TN Reconnect fair (Herald Courier) Northeast State at Elizabethton is holding a Tennessee Reconnect Information Fair on May 25 from 6 to 7 p.m. at the College’s Elizabethton campus, 386 Highway 91. Tennessee Reconnect is Governor Bill Haslam’s initiative to help more adults enter higher education to gain new skills, advance in the workplace by completing a degree or credential. Northeast State representatives from the offices of Admissions and Career Services. will be on hand to answer questions. Fair attendees can meet with staff and learn more about financial aid veterans’ affairs at the College and the new Tennessee Reconnect law.

3 Knoxville entries win state environmental awards (News Sentinel) Three Knoxville entries were among 11 winners honored with the Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards, according to a news release Thursday from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The awards are divided into various categories. Keep Knoxville Beautiful won for Environmental Education and Outreach, Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization won for Pursuit of Excellence and Suttree Landing won for Land Use.

CARTA among winners in state’s annual Environmental Stewardship Awards (Times Free Press) Chattanooga’s CARTA is among this year’s crop of winners in the annual Governor’s  Environmental Stewardship Awards, Gov. Bill Haslam and Commissioner Bob Martineau with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation announced today. The Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) is being recognized for launching through Tennessee Valley Authority funding an integrated public Level 2 charging and electric vehicle car share network along its existing public transit system routes. CARTA now has 56 charging stations across 20 locations, according to the administration’s news release. Energy use is offset by three new solar power generators with a combined capacity of 80 kilowatts. Implementing the program is estimated to have reduced total emissions reduction amounts by 530 tons of CO2.

State parks to host National Trails Day hikes (Wilson Post) Tennessee State Parks, including Cedars of Lebanon and Long Hunter state parks in Wilson County, will celebrate National Trails Day with free, guided hikes on Saturday, June 3. Events will include free, ranger-led hikes through areas with scenic vistas as well as hikes focused on local history and trail clean-ups. Cedars of Lebanon State Park will host the hike in conjunction with Volunteer Day. Attendees should meet at the nature center at 9 a.m. and bring gloves and sturdy shoes. The event will last until noon, and the park will honor TN Promise hours for students. Large groups and TN Promise Scholars should register for the free event at the state parks website.

Dickson woman facing TennCare fraud charges in two counties (WZTV) A Dickson County woman is facing charges for TennCare prescription drug fraud in Davidson and Williamson Counties. According to the Office of Inspector General, 35-year-old Theresa Aldridge use TennCare to obtain hydrocodone through doctor shopping. After Aldridge made her bond in Davidson County, she was transferred to Williamson County on two charges involving doctor shopping for hydrocodone.

Study: Tennessee among worst states to be a police officer (Times Free Press) Being a police officer isn’t the most glamorous job in the world, but a recent study suggests it’s worse to be one in some states than others, and Tennessee is near the bottom of the barrel. The Wallethub study ranked Tennessee as the 46th worst state to be a police officer, thanks to a relatively high crime rate and low pay, among other conditions. Researchers considered metrics in three main categories: opportunity, job hazards and quality of life. Some factors, such as the number of police deaths per 1,000 officers, were weighted more heavily than others, but even small factors such as housing affordability were considered.

Former Democratic Rep. Shepard named UT trustee; one of 186 newly-listed Haslam appointees (TN Journal/Humphrey) Maybe the most notable name on Gov. Bill Haslam’s latest listing of new appointments to state boards and commissions – well, at least from a political junkie perspective – is former Democratic Rep. David Shepard of Dickson. Shepard, who did not seek reelection to the House in 2016 after 16 years in office, was named by Haslam to a seat on the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees. The listing also includes Haslam’s April appointment of Kenton pharmacist Richard Skiles to the Alcoholic Beverage Commission. A previous post on the Skiles appointment at the time (HERE) noted that a then-pending bill in the Legislature would let House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Randy McNally each make an appointment to the ABC board as well.

Tennessee’s film industry gets a lift (TN Ledger) State ranks 7th in US for movie jobs with more expected. Nashville spends plenty of time and money hawking the Music City brand, but it’s also been quietly and successfully building a solid film and television production community for years. Some of the companies that inhabit that space aren’t a surprise; in a town full of record labels and music-oriented television networks like CMT, music video production would be expected to thrive. It does, but non-music related film and television production is in a healthy place here as well, says Bob Raines, director of the Tennessee Entertainment Commission.

How production incentives work (TN Ledger) Most states offering production incentives for film and television work follow either the tax rebate or cash credit model. Georgia, for example, offers a transferable tax credit, for a portion of production expenditures, while Tennessee offers a cash rebate system of 25 percent back on money spent on Tennessee labor and products. According to Bob Raines, Tennessee Entertainment Commissioner, the rebate method provides an advantage for the state because it’s basically a rebate for productions that hit specific benchmarks.

‘WannaCry’ Ransomware Attack Raises Alarm Bells for Cities, States (Stateline) The massive cyberattack that has infected computers in at least 150 countries this past week hasn’t had a major impact on the federal government. But it has struck at least one county and several universities and prompted some state and local agencies to scramble to beef up their protections against the virus. In the Chicago area, the virus showed up on computers in some Cook County government offices. MIT and several other universities reported that some of their computers also had been compromised. In Connecticut, the state court system briefly shut down some of its computers to update anti-virus software. And in Michigan, state officials quickly began installing extra protection on servers, work stations and public kiosks.

Tennessee removes licensing requirements for shampooing, animal massage (WZTV) Lawmakers removed requirements for Tennesseans who shampoo hair or perform animal massage following lawsuits by a Tennessee advocacy group. According to the Beacon Center, Gov. Haslam eliminated the state law requirements with the support of legislators for washing hair. Soon after, legislators also voted to temporarily repeal the state veterinarian board’s rule requiring a veterinarian license to massage animals. This comes after the Beacon Center challenged the rule in court. Laurie Wheeler and Martha Stowe from Williamson County sued the state of Tennessee after being threatened with a fine and possible jail time for massaging horses.

Sanderson announces funding for Port of Cates Landing project (State Gazette) This week, Rep. Bill Sanderson (R-Kenton) announced final approval of a onetime appropriation of $840,000 to the Port of Cates Landing in the 2017-18 state budget. The money will be used for the purchase of right-of-way land for the long-awaited rail spur, and the purchase of a 200-ton crane. Both will help maximize the port’s ability to transport goods entering and leaving the complex. As part of the final amended version of the state budget, which passed during the last week of the session, this nonrecurring budget item was funded with appropriations from the Dept. of Economic and Community Development’s Fast Track Infrastructure and Jobs Training Assistance program.

Nashville’s Bill Hagerty breezes through hearing to be Japanese ambassador (Tennessean) Nashville businessman Bill Hagerty diplomatically deflected a few potentially dangerous questions as he breezed through his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday morning, bringing him one step closer to becoming the U.S. ambassador to Japan. Most of the questions Hagerty, 57, faced were about how to open up Japan for more U.S. exports and how to deal with a nuclear North Korea and a China looking to expand its influence. For Sen. John Barasso, R-Wy., it was how to get more Wyoming beef into Japan while Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., asked about removing barriers to the sale of the state’s chicken in Japan and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, lamented that few American cars are sold in Japan.

Hagerty sails through hearing (Nashville Post) Former ECD head likely soon to say ‘konnichiwa’ to Japan. Unlike another would-be Trump appointee from Tennessee, former commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Bill Hagerty’s ambassadorship to Japan seems set for certain confirmation. The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on Hagerty’s nomination Thursday morning with little drama. According to The Tennessean: Most of the questions Hagerty, 57, faced were about how to open up Japan for more U.S. exports and how to deal with a nuclear North Korea and a China looking to expand its influence.

Both Alexander, Corker recommend Tennessee native as U.S. ambassador to Japan [videos] (Times Free Press) U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., today introduced Tennessee native Bill Hagerty at his confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, saying he “strongly recommends” Hagerty to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to Japan. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is chairman of the committee. “Bill Hagerty, if approved by the committee, would go to Japan not only able to speak the language, but having lived and worked there, and understanding how close ties between Japan and the United States can create bigger paychecks for Americans as well as for the Japanese. My hope is that the committee will promptly approve his nomination and that he will soon be on the job and his children will be in their respective Scout troops in Japan.”

Trump’s Japan envoy pick says he’s optimistic on trade deal (AP) The businessman in line to be American ambassador to Japan said Thursday that he was optimistic about reaching a deal with Japan that could mean equal or better results than the Asia-Pacific agreement that President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of after taking office. William Hagerty told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and members of Trump’s Cabinet are engaged in an “economic dialogue” aimed at a bilateral trade pact with Japan. And making strides on a personal level with Japanese leaders. Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Trump’s Florida resort in February, and Pence communicates regularly with Japan’s vice prime minister, he said.

Alberto Gonzales: Important Congress, Mueller coordinate Trump-Russia investigations (Tennessean) Federal investigators made the right call in appointing ex-FBI chief Robert Mueller to lead an independent probe into allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign, said former U.S. attorney general and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales. But he said it’s important for congressional investigators to coordinate with Muller’s team when it comes to how and when recently ousted FBI Director Jim Comey and others testify. “It is possible the actions of the Congress could in essence hinder,” the independent probe, Gonzales said Tuesday morning in a phone interview.

TN delegation on special counsel news (Nashville Post) Legislators respond to most recent news on Russia, Comey and Trump. Some of Tennessee’s delegation has positively responded to the news of the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to select former FBI director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to investigate any ties between Russia and the Trump campaign as news of possible collusion continues to leak. Sen. Lamar Alexander said he welcomed the appointment. “During his service as FBI Director for both President Bush and President Obama, Robert Mueller earned a reputation for independence and integrity, which are exactly the qualities needed to pursue the Russia investigation to its conclusion.

Sen. Corker: ‘I respect’ decision to appoint Mueller special counsel on Russia probe (Times Free Press) U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said today he respects Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s decision to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead the probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. “I respect Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein’s decision to appoint a special counsel and appreciate the briefing he provided to members of the Senate today,” said Corker, who along with other senators heard from Rosenstein earlier this afternoon. “Robert Mueller is a widely respected law enforcement professional, and I trust that under his leadership the investigation will be conducted in an independent and expeditious manner,” Corker said. “I also expect the Senate Intelligence Committee to continue its investigation.”

Mackler to Corker: ‘We need more than timid, hollow words’ (Tennessean) Democratic challenger James Mackler and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) share one common perspective — the President Donald J. Trump’s White House is in “a downward spiral.”  Mackler stopped for a visit in traditionally Republican Williamson County on Thursday night, where he shared his pitch to run against his entrenched U.S. Senate incumbent. His first stop of the day was in Chattanooga before making his appearance in Franklin, an area where Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton by a 63-29 margin in November.  “I think at this point we heard that we are in a downward spiral, and it’s important to note he said ‘they,'” Mackler said in an interview with the USA TODAY NETWORK – TENNESSEE.

Marsha Blackburn’s advice for Trump team: “Be very judicious” with your words (CBS News) On “The Takeout” podcast this week, Rep. Marsha Blackburn said the president and his team need to change their ways, in order to avoid continuing to create self-inflicted controversies. Blackburn said she’s concerned “that there seems to be a lack of structure and discipline,” regarding the serial controversies currently swirling around the Trump White House. Blackburn, who was a vice chair of the Trump transition team after the election, was responding to Tennessee GOP Sen. Bob Corker’s comment earlier in the week that the White House is “in a downward spiral right now.” Blackburn suggested the president’s political opponents are relentlessly working against him, and the White House isn’t doing itself any favors with its lack of decisive strategy and communication.

Top GOP gubernatorial contenders all speaking at Rutherford Reagan Day dinner (WKRN) If you want to hear more about the Republicans who have either announced or thinking about being Tennessee’s next Governor, the Rutherford County Reagan Day dinner next Thursday evening is the place to be. There’s a glossy flyer being distributed by the county’s GOP chair Donna Rowland Barrett that says three of the announced candidates and four potential ones will speak. “They have all indicated they will be there,” says Barrett who previously spent a decade representing parts of Rutherford County in the Tennessee House. Those attending include State Senator Mark Green who got in the governor’s race then suspended his campaign while being considered for Secretary of Army under President Trump before withdrawing his name during a controversial nomination process.

Photos: Tennessee gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd picks up first VW Atlas sold in America (Times Free Press) Tennessee gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd said Thursday that the first impression of his new Volkswagen Atlas sport utility vehicle was that it exceeded his expectations. Officials at Chattanooga’s Village Volkswagen dealership, where Boyd picked up the first Atlas sold in America, hope that feeling carries over to lots of other customers.

Boyd to takes delivery of first new VW Atlas in Chattanooga (AP) Tennessee Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd took the first delivery of Volkswagen’s new Chattanooga-made Atlas SUV. When Boyd was the state’s economic development commissioner, he put a $5,000 deposit on the SUV in October 2015 when the German automaker was reeling from revelations that its vehicles had been fitted with devices to cheat diesel emissions tests. Volkswagen’s lone U.S. plant opened in Chattanooga in 2011, and made only the midsized Passat sedan until the addition of the new seven-seat SUV. The Atlas is key to Volkswagen’s efforts to emerge from the emissions scandal and meet U.S. demand for new SUVs at a time when consumers are picking them over cars.

DSCC holds 47th annual commencement ceremony (State Gazette) Dyersburg State Community College held its 47th annual commencement exercises on May 6 at the Dyer County High School Gymnasium. The graduating class consisted of 370 candidates for degrees and certificates with 171 of those candidates graduating with honors. Richard Keenan Jr. of Drummonds, president of DSCC’s Student Government Association (SGA), introduced guest speaker Randy Boyd, former commissioner of economic and community development for Tennessee. “Every great success story begins with yes,” stated Boyd. “My challenge to all of you graduating is the next time an opportunity comes along, just say yes. That’s where all successes begin.”

TVA allocates $863K each to Sullivan, Washington counties due to Boone Dam construction (Johnson City Press) The impact of Tennessee Valley Authority’s Boone Dam repairs stretch far past the lake’s shoreline. Beyond the depleted lake directly hampering economic and recreational activity, the Boone Dam repair’s construction indirectly places an additional strain on surrounding infrastructures maintained by local governments. To offset the burden, the state of Tennessee has annually allocated $863,000 in TVA impact payments each to Washington and Sullivan counties solely because of the Boone Dam repairs.

TN County Had No Idea What State Allowed In Its Landfill (WTVF) Officials in a small Tennessee County are in a battle with a private company over their landfill and they blame poor oversight by the state for creating the problem. The nearly 12,000 residents of Decatur County own their landfill, but in 1996 the county turned over operation of the landfill to a private company. Two years later the private company got approval from the state to accept 35,000 tons a year of a so-called “special waste” — aluminum slag — from a smelting plant in Mt. Pleasant. County officials say they had no idea the special waste was coming into their landfill. “I cannot find any documentation what-so-ever that the county was informed,” said County Mayor Mike Creasy.

Grown-Ups Brawl at High School Graduation in Tennessee (AP) Graduation caps weren’t the only things flying at one high school commencement in Tennessee after some adults in the audience started throwing punches. Videos posted to social media show a fight between adults breaking out as Arlington High School graduates marched into a Memphis church to the tune of “Pomp & Circumstance” Tuesday. The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports ( the melee may have been brought on by a dispute over saving seats.Arlington Community Schools superintendent says in a statement “it was unfortunate that a couple of adults in the audience exhibited the behavior they did prior to the ceremony beginning and thus has caused a distraction from the celebration of our students’ accomplishments.”


Editorial: Protect the Mid-South’s Water! (Memphis Flyer) TVA’s shortsighted plans to drill into our aquifer could threaten our future. Really. When I was enrolled in university, my political science courses discussed future conflict and migrations resulting from water scarcity. I did not think that I would see evidence of this so soon after graduation.  A government geological study notes that there is a major cone of depression in the Memphis area as a result of long-term pumping of water at municipal and industrial well fields. This problem is in addition to the $615,000,000 lawsuit from Mississippi against Tennessee challenging the intense pumping of aquifer water in Memphis.

Editorial: Trumpcare Is Already Hurting Trump Country (NY Times) The mere threat that Obamacare will be dismantled or radically changed — either by Congress or by President Trump himself — has persuaded several big insurance companies to stop selling policies or significantly raise premiums. The practical effect is that some lower-income and middle-class families may have no good options for insurance and will have to spend more on health care. There’s no new Affordable Care Act yet; the House passed a very bad bill, but the Senate has yet to act. Still, in places like Iowa, Nebraska and Tennessee, companies such as Aetna and Wellmark are so spooked by the uncertainty that they are considering abandoning the market.

Guest column: Provide Immediate Relief to our Healthcare System (Commercial Appeal) The average delay to get a doctor’s appointment in major metropolitan areas is now 24 days (for places like Dallas and Atlanta). That is a 30-percent increase since 2014, according to a 2017 Merritt Hawkins survey of medical offices in the United States. In mid-sized markets, the delay is 32 days (for places like Fort Smith, Arkansas and Lafayette, Louisiana). Appointment delays are exacerbated due to health care providers being overloaded by regulations, information technology requirements, and mandates from Medicare, TennCare/Medicaid, and insurance companies.

Thursday, May 18

Gov. Haslam makes appointments to state boards and commissions (Herald Chronicle) Appointments ensure Tennesseans have responsive, effective, efficient government. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the appointments of 186 Tennesseans to 68 boards and commissions. “I am grateful to these men and women for their commitment to serving our state,” Haslam said. “They will represent the people of Tennessee well.” The governor continues to evaluate the state’s complete range of boards and commissions to ensure Tennesseans have a government that is responsive, effective and efficient. Appointment terms are varied due to differing statutory requirements or term limits determined by specific qualifications.

Haslam praises FHS (Farragut Press) Spending more than 30 minutes in Wanda Lacy’s advanced placement calculus class at Farragut High School, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam seemed quite engaged. That carried over to the school’s science lab, watching students dissect small animals, before a final stop in the library to congratulate the 2016 Admirals football team for winning a Class 5A state championship. Coming to FHS Monday afternoon, May 15, Haslam’s visit was prompted by Lacy, being one of 17 members statewide on the Governor’s Teachers Cabinet and a former state Teacher of the Year honoree.

Governor Haslam Defends Insurance Commissioner McPeak (WTVF) Governor Haslam came to the defense of his Commerce and Insurance Commissioner, Julie McPeak, after NewsChannel 5 Investigates revealed she has traveled extensively outside of Tennessee on all expense paid trips that critics called a conflict of interest. We talked with the governor about what we uncovered. Governor Haslam said he has no problem with how his insurance commissioner Julie McPeak has been spending her time. “Julie’s worked for me for six years. I am very convinced of her professional approach to this in terms of looking out for what’s the best interests of the state,” Haslam explained.  If I were the governor, I would be asking, ‘where’s my insurance commissioner?'” Andy Spears told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

U.S. Governors Work Senate as New Power Brokers in Obamacare Repeal (Reuters) A group of about a dozen Republican governors is pushing for its own set of national healthcare reforms, flexing its considerable muscle in the national debate over the future of Obamacare as the U.S. Senate begins writing its bill. Led by Governor John Kasich of Ohio, the governors are using a nine-page proposal they crafted in February as the platform to shape what they think a critical portion of an Obamacare replacement law should look like, according to a half dozen people who helped write the plan. Members of the group, which include governors from Utah, Tennessee and Michigan, are also now looking to form a bipartisan coalition of states to propose reforms for the individual insurance market, according to one source, that they hope the Senate will also use.

Sexual misconduct reports increase at UT Knoxville in 2016 (AP) A new report from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville says sexual misconduct reports at the school rose by more than two-thirds last year, from 38 complaints in 2015 to 64 in 2016. UT released the information Wednesday as part of a report prepared each year since 2015. It details reports of sexual misconduct that students report occurring on and off campus. UT Knoxville Title IX coordinator Jenny Richter told the Knoxville News Sentinel ( ) that increased education and training have made people more aware of policies and how to report incidents. UT Center for Health Education and Wellness Director Ashley Blamey says the university’s commitment is reflected in increased reporting.

Report: UT sexual misconduct complaints jump 68 percent in 2016 (News Sentinel) Reports of sexual misconduct at the University of Tennessee Knoxville jumped 68 percent from 2015 to 2016, with 38 complaints reported in 2015 compared to 64 in 2016, according to a newly released report from the university. The 64 reports made by students in 2016 include 50 reports of sexual assault, three reports of sexual harassment, three reports of sexual exploitation and eight reports that were unclassified.

UT Report: Sexual Misconduct, Relationship Violence, Stalking and Retaliation

Report: Sexual misconduct reports on UT campus on the rise (WATE) A report from the University of Tennessee indicates the total number of reports of sexual misconduct on campus grew fivefold from 2011 to 2016. In 2011, there were 13 reports of sexual misconduct on campus, compared to 64 in 2016. The report also found the most reported type of misconduct last year was sexual assault with non-consensual sexual intercourse. The report also details efforts made to prevent, educate and investigate the topic of sexual misconduct, including the appointment of a senior deputy Title IX coordinator and two Title IX investigators.

New report slams Nashville State for ‘climate of fear and oppressiveness’ (Tennessean) Professors at Nashville State Community College work in a “climate of fear and oppressiveness” fostered by top administrators, according to a blistering internal report commissioned by the college’s governing board. Faculty described a senior leadership team at the state’s second-largest community college that relied on “hostility, intimidation, and retaliation” to maintain order, according to the report. Among the evidence, the report’s authors cited multiple attempts by top administrators to tamper with the ongoing assessment.

Nashville State Is Accused of Spying on Investigation of Its Oppressive Climate (Chronicle of Higher Education) Nashville State Community College maintains such an oppressive climate for its faculty members that it sought to monitor and interfere with efforts to ask them about it, according to a report commissioned by the Tennessee Board of Regents. Nashville State’s executives sought to surreptitiously identify which faculty members were being confidentially interviewed by investigators from Middle Tennessee State University. Several administrators, including George H. Van Allen, the college’s president, improperly sought to get access to — and interfere in the distribution of — an online survey intended solely for faculty members, the investigators’ report says.

Sen. Crowe will host town hall to clarify IMPROVE Act’s impact on local road funding (Johnson City Press) A local legislator is hoping to resolve some of the confusion stemming from the IMPROVE Act’s passage and its impact on local roadways and bridges. Johnson City Sen. Rusty Crowe will host a town hall meeting at Erwin’s City Hall, 211 N. Main Ave, on Friday beginning at 10 a.m. Crowe has invited highway superintendents from Washington, Carter and Unicoi counties, the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Region 1 director and a few local mayors to the town hall to answer constituents’ questions on the new legislation. Pushed by Gov. Bill Haslam, the IMPROVE Act raises the state’s fuel tax in order to fund a long backlog of statewide road projects. To offset the tax increase, the bill also includes a variety of tax breaks that some backers have deemed “the largest tax cut” in Tennessee history

Horse Massage Issue Gets a Fix (Memphis Flyer) Remember that story we brought you in March about the Tennessee lawsuit involving horse massage? Well, we can close the loop on that one, at least temporarily. The Tennessee General Assembly passed a bill (and Governor Bill Haslam signed it) removing the licensure mandate for those wishing to practice horse massage in the state. The votes were unanimous in both houses. The issue became an issue after two Middle Tennessee practitioners were told they could no longer massage horses without permission and a license from the state veterinary board. Doing so would come with a fine and jail time. The Beacon Center, a Nashville-based free market think tank, stepped in with a lawsuit.

Sen. Alexander heralds choice of Ex-FBI head Mueller as special counsel in Russia probe (Tennessean) U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander heralded the U.S. Department of Justice decision Wednesday to tap former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel in the ongoing federal probe into any collusion between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign. “During his service as FBI Director for both President Bush and President Obama, Robert Mueller earned a reputation for independence and integrity, which are exactly the qualities needed to pursue the Russia investigation to its conclusion,” said Alexander, R-Tenn., his first call for an independent investigator in the case.

Local Reaction To Mueller Appointment in Trump-Russia Probe (Memphis Daily News) Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has appointed a special prosecutor to investigate ties between President Donald Trump 2016 campaign and Russia. Rosenstein announced Wednesday, May 17, that he has named former FBI director Robert Mueller as the special prosecutor. Here is reaction from the Tennessee delegation to Washington: U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Memphis): “I applaud the appointment of Bob Mueller as a special prosecutor in the Trump-Russia investigation.

TN Lawmakers Respond To Comey Memo (WTVF) Lawmakers in Tennessee have commented on the news of Former FBI Director James Comey’s memo stating President Donald Trump allegedly asked to end to the investigation of national security adviser Michael Flynn. The New York Times first reported news of the memo on Tuesday. “I hope you can let this go,” Comey wrote, quoting the President. The memo is the clearest sign yet of potential interference by President Trump with the investigation into whether members of his campaign team colluded with Russian officials.

Boyd to Take Delivery of First New VW Atlas in Chattanooga (AP) Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd is getting ready to take the first delivery of Volkswagen’s new Chattanooga-made Atlas SUV. When Boyd was the state’s economic development commissioner, he put a $5,000 deposit on the SUV in October 2015 when the German automaker was reeling from revelations that its vehicles had been fitted with devices to cheat diesel emissions tests. Volkswagen’s lone U.S. plant opened in Chattanooga in 2011, and made only the midsized Passat sedan until the addition of the new seven-seat SUV. The Atlas is key to Volkswagen’s efforts to emerge from the emissions scandal and meet U.S. demand for new SUVs at a time when consumers are picking them over cars.

Gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd talks jobs (Jackson Sun) Gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd’s goal is the same as when he was the state’s economic and community development commissioner — for Tennessee to become No. 1 for jobs in the Southeast. Tennessee is currently No. 4, and Boyd said there are two key areas the state must address to become No. 1, including the franchise and excise taxes for businesses being the highest in the region. “It’s hard to be No. 1 in attracting businesses and helping businesses grow when you have the highest taxes amongst your peers — that’s something we have to address,” Boyd said.

THDA can help first time buyers get in to a home (WJHL) First time home buyers in Tennessee have a resource that they may not know about. The Tennessee Housing Development Agency works specifically with first time home buyers to assist them with down payments, closing costs and much more. THDA Executive Director Ralph Perrey is traveling across the state, making stops to let people know that there is help out there. “We want to make sure that first time home buyers, potential first time home buyers, understand that we’re in an excellent position to help them. THDA can offer a competitive rate on on a 30 year, fixed rate, no gimmick mortgage and we have down payment and closing cost assistance.”, Perrey said.

On Rx Drug Monitoring, States Take Doctors’ Recommendations (Governing) Every state but one has a tracking system to combat the opioid epidemic. They have long been criticized as difficult to use, but upgrades are on their way. ‘Clunky.” “Difficult to use.” “Not worth the effort.” These are the common complaints leveled over the years at prescription drug monitoring programs. PDMPs are state-maintained electronic databases that doctors, pharmacists and other health-care professionals use to keep tabs on their patients’ prescription drug habits. They’re considered vital in efforts to curb the opioid epidemic that has ravaged so much of the country. A physician can see, for instance, if a patient has been “doctor shopping” to get unneeded prescriptions.

Tennessee Valley Authority created, May 18, 1933 (Politico) As the Great Depression of the 1930s deepened, Americans increasingly supported the idea of government ownership of utilities, particularly hydroelectric power plants. During the 1932 presidential campaign, New York Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Democratic nominee, asserted that private utilities had “selfish purposes.” “Never shall the federal government part with its sovereignty or with its control of its power resources while I’m president of the United States,” he pledged. In envisioning the Tennessee Valley Authority, Roosevelt called on Congress to create “a corporation clothed with the power of government but possessed of the flexibility and initiative of a private enterprise.”


Sam Stockard: Haslam Credits GOP ‘Experiment’ for Tennessee’s Success (Memphis Daily News) If you ask Gov. Bill Haslam, Republican government is the best thing since sliced bread. Not only is GOP leadership responsible for a myriad of tax cuts leading to record surpluses and a $37 billion budget funding better K-12 and higher education, shoring up the rainy day and TennCare funds, shrinking state debt and building an economic environment for job creation, Haslam says. It’s even bringing us the cleanest air since before the industrial revolution. Pointing out he’s probably the first Republican governor in state history to serve with Republican majorities – supermajorities – in the House and Senate, Haslam says, “So we started this experiment in Republican government six and a half years ago. These are the results.”

Jackson Baker: Closing Out the Session in Nashville (Memphis Flyer) The 2017 session of the Tennessee General Assembly, which came to an end last week, was one of the more momentous in recent years, as measured by the triumph of Governor Bill Haslam’s “IMPROVE Act,” which levies significant gasoline and diesel price increases to begin the long overdue process of rebuilding and renovating the state’s thoroughfares. There were fewer novelty bills and crank measures than usual, particularly in the area of social issues, though, unsurprisingly, a few measures friendly to the gun lobby found their way to passage — notably one entitled the Tennessee Hearing Protection Act, which basically removes restrictions from the sale of silencers for firearms.

Victor Ashe: Government with no heart, or brain (Tennessean) The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) endured a public relations nightmare when it mistakenly sent a bill for over $3,000 to the family of Hannah Eimers in Loudon County, who was killed in a car accident hitting a guardrail. While it may not have achieved the United Airlines record of bad media for removing a passenger from a flight, many saw TDOT as insensitive and slow to react. TDOT Commissioner John Schroer, a former mayor of Franklin, Tenn., failed to call the father to apologize. He disappeared. Ultimately, after intervention from state Reps. Jimmy Matlock and Jason Zachary, Gov. Bill Haslam called Hannah’s father, Steve Eimers, as did U.S. Rep. Jimmy Duncan and U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker.

Frank Cagle: Legislators should stop playing to hateful crowd (News Sentinel) If you aren’t a homophobe and bigot, don’t pretend to be one. The conservative-friendly environs of the Republican-majority legislative plaza and the virulence of callers on talk radio encourage some legislators to indulge in verbal diarrhea. In other words, they sometimes pop off at the mouth when it would be better to be more circumspect. One hopes that the recent experience of state Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, will be an object lesson for them. Green is a West Point graduate, a doctor, a Special Ops veteran, an Iraq War veteran and a successful businessman. No one has better paper qualifications to be Secretary of the Army. But he won’t be. Intemperate and stupid remarks about Muslims and “diseased” gay people doomed his chance for confirmation.

Guest column: Tennessee deserves a ‘blue ribbon’ state fair (Tennessean) Indiana has a good one. Kentucky’s is considered one of the best. And for decades the Texas State Fair has been the one recognized as the crown jewel of them all. With so much discussion about what’s going to happen to the Nashville Fairgrounds, it would seem appropriate to consider what’s going to happen to the Tennessee State Fair, a valued tradition for more than 150 years. Created by an act of the state legislature, the first state fair in Tennessee was held in 1869 at a site that is today Nashville’s Centennial Park. Since 1905 the fair has been produced at the Fairgrounds on Wedgewood.

Wednesday, May 17

Haslam signs rural broadband bill in West Tennessee (AP) Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a bill seeking to make it easier for rural areas to get access to the internet. The Republican governor gave official approval to the Broadband Accessibility Act of 2017 at a ceremony in Brownsville on Tuesday afternoon. The measure clears the way for nonprofit electric co-ops to start providing both internet and video service. It also provides $45 million in grants and tax credits to co-ops and internet service providers, like AT&T and Comcast, to encourage the development of internet in areas that don’t have it.

Haslam signs broadband bill in Brownsville (Jackson Sun) Gov. Bill Haslam signed the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act into law, a bill that will help rural communities in the state get better access to broadband Internet. Haslam signed the bill Tuesday afternoon at H&R Agri-Power in Brownsville. “In Tennessee we’re committed to this idea that growth doesn’t have to happen just in some locations,” Haslam said. “We love the idea there are rural areas that are part of what makes Tennessee the Tennessee we want (it) to be. To do that, we have to have the means to communicate. We have to have people focused on rural economic growth.”

Governor signs broadband bill in West Tennessee (WBBJ) Getting online could soon get a lot quicker for those who live in rural West Tennessee. Gov. Bill Haslam made a special stop Tuesday in Brownsville to sign  a bill aimed at bridging the digital divide. “We love the idea that our rural areas are what makes Tennessee the Tennessee we want to be,” Haslam said. Hardin County resident Marilee Tice said the bill would benefit a lot of people in her area. She knows many people who currently have a poor internet connection. “It hinders your way of life,” she said. “Especially with working, or if people have children that are school-aged that have homework and they can’t access the internet.”

Rural areas may soon see internet relief after Gov. Haslam signs bill (WTVC) Nancy Skinner has lived in a rural area of Marion County for 20 years; everyday, connecting to the internet through a satellite service, frustrates her. Skinner says her job as a traveling healthcare professional makes it even harder to handle. “Often people will ask me to do webinars from home and I have to say oops, can’t do that,” she said. A small bit of relief, however, may be on its way. Governor Bill Haslam signed the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act Tuesday afternoon, allowing electric cooperatives to provide broadband internet service. That’s something Michael Partin, president of the Sequatchie Valley Electric Cooperative, will consider.

VIDEO: Tennessee governor signs Broadband Accessibility Act (Jackson Sun)

PHOTO GALLERY: Gov. Haslam signs Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act (Jackson Sun)

Crissy Haslam speaks at Imagination Library fundraiser (Jackson Sun) Tuesday night, First Lady Crissy Haslam spoke at the second Books at the Barn at Snider Farms fundraiser for the Imagination Library. Every month, more than half of the children in Madison County open their mail every month to find a new book waiting just for them. The Madison County Imagination Library mails hundreds of books a year to kids under 5-years-old throughout the county, helping to improve literacy. But, secretary Elly Riley said part of improving literacy means raising money to help send those books out each month. “They’re doing a terrific job here enrolling young people in the Imagination library here, so I’m looking forward to helping them raise money here for the kids they’ve enrolled,” Haslam said.

VIDEO: First Lady Crissy Haslam speaks about Madison County Imagination Library (Jackson Sun)

First Lady Crissy Haslam highlights annual “Books at the Barn” fundraiser (WBBJ) The Madison County Imagination Library held its second annual “Books at the Barn” event, Tuesday evening with a special guest speaker.  First Lady of Tennessee Crissy Haslam took part in the fundraiser at Snider Farms in West Madison County. This is the 11th year for the Imagination Library. Next month, the Jackson-Madison County Library will give out more than 4,000 books costing just more than $1,100. Mrs. Haslam, who is a big advocate of reading said it is important it continues. “We need more parents reading with their children, we need kids exposed to books, many, many books before they get to kindergarten and it will help them become better readers once they get to school,” said First Lady Crissy Haslam.

Tennessee Officials Say Finalizing Road Projects Meant Separating ‘Wants’ From ‘Needs’ (WPLN) When Tennessee lawmakers passed a gas tax increase this spring, they also approved a to-do list of nearly 1,000 projects spread around the state. Those projects include bridge improvements, road widenings, even a few measures to relieve congestion. Local officials haven’t been shy about telling TDOT their road needs. The challenge was figuring which are most important. The state’s chief engineer, Paul Degges, says the department drew a lesson from parenting.

Group: IMPROVE Act to have $56M impact on Hamblen County (Citizen Tribune) A political advocacy group that’s spent the last several months supporting the IMPROVE Act’s passage through the state legislature took its message across Tennessee’s 95 counties with a series of news conferences Monday. The Transportation Coalition of Tennessee says the total impact for Hamblen County is $13,306,400 for the combined revenue to cities and counties as well as the Tennessee Department of Transportation road and bridge projects, totaling $56,607,000 invested in the county from the IMPROVE Act. The IMPROVE Act creates a long-term, dedicated funding source designed to address outdated transportation infrastructure by making a gas tax increase while providing a tax cut to the grocery, business and Hall income taxes.

Rep. Pody debates IMPROVE pros, cons (Cannon Courier) Members of the 110th Tennessee General Assembly have officially passed House Bill 534, the “Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads, and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy (IMPROVE) Act.” Gov. Bill Haslam introduced the Gas Tax in January in order to help fund the state’s $10 billion backlog of road construction projects. The act raises the gas tax by 6 cents and the diesel tax by 10 cents over the next 3 years. Registration fees for most cars will also increase by $5, commercial automobiles by $10 and other large vehicles will be paying $15 extra. Electric cars will see a new $100 registration fee.

Israeli diplomat touts business relationships with Tennessee (Tennessean) Israeli entrepreneurs are eager to export technological advancements to the U.S., but where their startups land is a matter of which states make the most attractive offers, a top Israeli diplomat said in Nashville on Tuesday. Ambassador Judith Varnai Shorer, the consul general of Israel for the southeastern U.S., told The Tennessean that business relationships between the Volunteer State and Israel are important. She said Israel has a particular interest in bringing Israeli startups to Tennessee. On Saturday, a group of private business leaders from Tennessee will visit Israel to learn about new partnering opportunities. Varnai Shorer said Gov. Bill Haslam won’t be on the current trip, but could schedule a future visit. Haslam visited the country in August 2015 and later called Israel a “startup nation.”

Commissioner Works For Insurance Industry Funded Group; Critics Call It A Conflict of Interest (WTVF) Julie McPeak is Tennessee’s Commerce and Insurance Commissioner, but she has the number two job with an insurance industry funded association, which some are calling a conflict of interest. Some say Tennessee’s Commerce and Insurance Commissioner spends way too much time away from her office, working with other state regulators and insurance industry representatives. Andy Spears, the executive director of the consumer advocacy group Tennessee Citizen Action, said, “I think Tennesseans have a right to be concerned.”

Questions Surround Commissioner’s Travel (WTVF) Tennessee’s Commerce and Insurance Department is one of the largest departments in state government. But if you’re looking for the commissioner, Julie McPeak, you likely won’t find her in her office. NewsChannel 5 Investigates found she doesn’t spend a lot of time there. In fact, she is often out of the country. Our investigation found Julie McPeak travels – a lot. But as we discovered, her trips are not “official state business.”  When Tennessee’s Commerce and Insurance Commissioner is not in her office, chances are she’s not even in Tennessee.

Despite $150M+ savings forecast, more questions re. outsourcing (Nashville Post) Ten-year plan would redirect nearly $4B. The state’s plan to outsource hotel and concession operations at Fall Creeks Falls came to a crashing halt last week, when not a single company responded to a request for proposals to tear down and rebuild the inn. But the state’s other massive outsourcing plan is still being finalized, despite increasing questions and the possibility that nearly $4 billion will be spent on work going to companies based outside of Tennessee. According to information provided by the state Department of General Services, if every state agency and college campus that can sign on to the new contract does so, the estimated cost is $1.9 billion over the five-year run of the contract with Jones Lang LaSalle. JLL plans to subcontract with Birmingham-based Diversified Maintenance for janitorial and housekeeping services, and with Pennsylvania-based BrightView Landscapes for groundskeeping and landscaping.

Top Tennessee Democrat says GOP backs outsourcing despite verbal opposition (Times Free Press) State Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris, D-Memphis, says that although GOP majority lawmakers in the General Assembly spoke against and signed letters opposing Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s outsourcing efforts, they did nothing to actually stop it. “Democrats have put forth bill after bill after bill to slow or stop this plan, but we needed the active support of the Republican majority,” Harris said today in a news release. Harris said GOP members “wouldn’t support sending outsourcing contracts to the legislature for approval,” a bill that he and Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, sponsored last year. “This year,” Harris said, “I had a relatively small bill to simply say that parks should not be held to a profit-making standard under Tennessee law.”

Tennessee domestic violence laws plentiful but advocate says resources lacking (WKRN) Domestic violence prevention advocates said the prior actions of a man who Metro police shot at an Antioch townhome were red flags for the escalation that ultimately occurred Tuesday morning. The Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence is an advocacy organization for victims of domestic and sexual violence. “The best predictor of future violence is past violence,” executive director Kathy England Walsh said. “Whenever she tried to get away his violence escalated.” Walsh said the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence is when they make the decision to leave their abuser. Tennessee has enacted a number of laws to protect victims, including one that requires someone under a protective order to surrender their weapons.

Cash-Strapped Domestic Violence Shelters Need More Space, Looking For Answers (WTVF) Amidst a growing need for safe places for victims of domestic violence, shelters have found it more difficult to place people in need of safety. According to spokespersons for both YWCA and Morningstar Sanctuary, shelter space has always been an issue, but since the implementation of the Lethality Assessment Protocol, or LAP, calls and requests for shelter have increased significantly. LAP is a tool law enforcement uses to determine how much danger a victim is in.

Breaking down some of Tennessee’s legislation passed in the 2017 session (Times Free Press) Gov. Bill Haslam’s gas tax, the state of California and more legislation kept Southeast Tennessee lawmakers jumping during this year’s General Assembly. Here’s a breakdown of some of the legislation passed during the 2017 session: IMPROVE Act: Two major and intertwining issues dominated local lawmakers and their colleagues for most of the session. That was the state budget which had huge surpluses in one-time and recurring revenue and Haslam’s effort to raise gas and dies

More than 2K bills and resolutions considered in Tennessee (AP) While much of the energy and attention of this year’s legislative session was focused on Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s gas tax proposal, there were more than 2,000 other bills and resolutions considered by lawmakers before they concluded their business last week. Some made a big splash before being quietly abandoned. For example, a bill seeking to do away with ending a 40-year-old state law granting legitimacy to children conceived through artificial insemination never came up for a hearing after making international headlines when it was introduced by a Republican lawmaker.

Here’s some of the Tennessee legislation passed this year directly involving Chattanooga (Times Free Press) Tennessee lawmakers wrapped up their General Assembly last week. Here’s a look at some of the year’s legislation that directly involves the Chattanooga area. Whitewater rafting: America’s most popular whitewater rafting river should continue to gain visitors and economic growth under an agreement between TVA, the state of Tennessee, rafters and other federal agencies addressing long-standing issues at the Ocoee River in Polk County. It came with an $11.8 million state grant Haslam included in the 2017-2018 budget that officials hope will resolve for as long as 20 years reimbursements to TVA for power revenues the authority loses by allowing the Ocoee River to run free for rafters during the spring, summer and early fall.

Hill talks taxes, teacher raises, medical marijuana in tele-town hall meeting (Johnson City Press) State Rep. Matthew Hill wanted to make sure his constituents knew he voted against the looming fuel tax increase. So, during a tele-town hall meeting Tuesday night in the wake of the state’s 110th General Assembly, he reminded them. Taking questions from a handful of constituents during the 45-minute tele-town hall meeting, Hill said residents told him they’d been taxed enough, and that’s what formed his vote on Haslam’s gas tax increase. “I listened to you,” he said during the call. “Easily two-thirds, if not more, of my district made it clear to me that they did not want this gas tax. I could not in good conscience ignore what the vast majority of my constituents were telling me. There’s no way I could be a part of it and that’s why I voted no.”

Republicans resign themselves to Trump’s scandals (Politico) Sen. Bob Corker had just enjoyed an 80-minute feast with Donald Trump in late April, the “best” one-on-one time he’d had with the new president. Yet even then, the Republican senator was worried. “Right now, they seem to take one step forward and two steps back,” Corker said in an interview shortly after the dinner, and weeks before Trump sacked FBI Director James Comey and spilled classified information to Russian officials in the Oval Office. “It’s hurting their ability to produce the results they want to produce.” By Monday evening, Corker had deemed the White House to be in a “downward spiral.” The Tennessee Republican added on Tuesday that he was trying to “address the broader issue of having some discipline” and that the “chaos is just not healthy.”

Politico Report: Two local lawmakers among members of Congress with potential conflicts (Times Free Press) U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, both Chattanooga Republicans, engaged in stock trades over the past couple of years in companies that were directly affected by legislation or political activities they were involved in or knew about from their roles in Congress, according to a new report from Politico. The online news site listed Corker and Fleischmann among 38 members in the 535-member Congress who were involved in “reckless stock trading that leaves Congress rife with conflicts.”

Corker, Fleischmann respond to Politico report alleging conflict of interest (WTVC) Tennessee U.S. Senator Bob Corker and Tennessee 3rd District Congressman Chuck Fleischmann are responding to a recent report in the online news outlet Politico that alleges more than two dozen members of Congress bought and sold stocks in advance of upcoming legislation. The report, by Maggie Severns, says “POLITICO found that 28 House members and six senators each traded more than 100 stocks in the past two years, placing them in the potential cross hairs of a conflict of interest on a regular basis. And a handful of lawmakers, some of them frequent traders and some not, disproportionately trade in companies that also have an interest in their work on Capitol Hill.”

Republicans begin backing away from Trump (Boston Globe) First there were the swirling story lines about why President Trump had fired his national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Then, last week, the White House communications team offered one reason (Hillary Clinton’s emails) why the now former FBI director, Jim Comey, was fired — until Trump told NBC something else entirely (Comey was a “showboat” and “this Russia thing”). This week, it was Monday’s statement from his national security advisers that contradicts Trump’s Tuesday rationale for sharing classified intelligence with the Russians. This time, in the wake of Trump’s intelligence slip, it appears Republicans are starting to take baby steps, backing away from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Take, for example, US Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican. In a matter of six months, Corker went from being on the short list for Trump’s secretary of state to almost exasperated when, on Monday night, he said the White House was in “a downward spiral.”

Rep. Marsha Blackburn defends President Trump in wake of Russia report (Tennessean) While Republican and Democratic Congress members have expressed frustration, confusion and anger over a Washington Post report that said President Donald Trump gave classified information to high-ranking Russian officials, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn said it’s important to emphasize the president’s commitment to security. “Classified intelligence is a vital tool in fighting Islamic extremism and it is imperative that we are diligent in protecting our sources and methods,” Blackburn, R-Tenn., said in a statement Tuesday provided by a spokesman.

Dozens protest AHCA at Sen. Lamar Alexander’s Nashville home (Tennessean) Moral Movement Tennessee held a candlelight vigil Tuesday outside the West Nashville home of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. to protest the efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. More than 100 people, many holding signs, gathered for the demonstration at Elmington Park on West End Avenue. The group said the demonstration was organized after they were unable to deliver information about those at risk of losing healthcare access under the AHCA to Sens. Alexander and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., last week.

Sen. Lamar Alexander chides White House, says Trump’s actions can cause ‘earthquakes’ abroad (Tennessean) A leading Republican senator from Tennessee is questioning whether the Trump administration understands the impact of its actions after a report revealed the president provided classified information to high-ranking Russian officials. Another Tennessee lawmaker believes the president’s actions show he may need “professional help.” The Washington Post report Monday detailed Trump’s conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that included classified information about the Islamic State. While some White House officials tried to downplay the story, none refuted the bulk of the content.

Local Democratic Party Organizers Grapple With Activism (Memphis Daily News) Once the new bylaws and a new executive committee is in place for the reconstituted Shelby County Democratic Party this summer, there will still be a fundamental question about the political strength of the new organization. “This group is way too moderate for me,” Pastor Earle J. Fisher of Abyssinian Missionary Baptist Church began his remarks in a public forum at the church in Whitehaven that is part of a reorganization of the Shelby County Democratic Party. The forum featured prominently the difficulty of bringing together political activists who want to win elections under their party’s banner and political activists who are involved in specific issues.

Karl Dean discusses governor run in Jackson (Jackson Sun) Gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean has three areas he is focusing on in his campaign: public education, health care and economic development. Dean said job development is crucial to his campaign, and the Memphis Regional Megasite, which is still looking for its first tenant, would be a top priority if elected governor. “One of the things I’ve heard a lot are there are parts of West Tennessee that would like more attention in terms of economic development,” Dean said. “It would certainly be a major priority of mine to work in the area … I would double-down and work as hard as I could to bring the appropriate business there.

TDEC lifts ‘sewage’ advisory for North Fork of Holston River (Rogersville Review) The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation on Monday, May 15, lifted a water contact advisory for the North Fork of the Holston River in Hawkins and Sullivan counties that went into effect on April 28. A sewer line break in Weber City, VA, was repaired on May 12, and no sewage is entering the river from that location any longer, according to TDEC. A crane fell into the river on April 24 causing damage to a sewer line and resulting in a leak of approximately 30,000 gallons of untreated wastewater per day into the river just a few miles from the Tennessee border, TDEC said.

HRC executive charged with child sex crimes (WSMV) A member of the executive staff with the Tennessee Human Rights Commission is accused of sexual exploiting a minor. Christopher Stephenson, 42, was arrested Tuesday and charged with aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. Investigators, acting on a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, determined that an IP address used to access child pornography on the social media site Tumblr was registered to Stephenson’s Antioch address. A search warrant was executed and Stephenson’s electronic devices were seized. Police said sexual images of minors were found during forensic examinations of the equipment by Metro police.


Editorial: Undisciplined Trump is a danger to America and its allies (Fresno Bee) Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee is a mainstream Republican with a reputation for focusing on policy and not speaking out of school. He is pro-business and pro-border wall and served as a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. On Monday, Corker said something about President Donald Trump and his White House team that the president should take to heart: “They are in a downward spiral right now and have got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that’s happening. You know the shame of it is there’s a really good national security team in place; there’s good productive things that are underway through them, and through others. But the chaos that is being created by the lack of discipline is creating an environment that I think – it creates a worrisome environment.”

Column: The New York Times Misses the Racism Behind the Monuments (Nashville Scene) Y’all, I love the song “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” It’s a great song. The Band is a great band. But I swear to God, when someone brings it up in a discussion of the Civil War, you just know their argument is going to be a parade of ridiculousness. It’s become the “tell” for fools. Such is the case with Gary Shapiro’s column in The New York Times, “The Meaning of Our Confederate ‘Monuments.’” In it, Shapiro does the lazy philosopher’s bit of analysis where it’s asserted that ordinary words have secret, richer meanings that we’re all somehow using and semi-aware of, but neglecting. It’s confusing, but you can see how it works in this paragraph: