Friday, June 30

Fitzgerald Collision & Repair $9M expansion to create 220 jobs (WBIR) WHITE & OVERTON COUNTIES – An expansion at Fitzgerald Collision & Repair is expected to create 220 new jobs in the Upper Cumberland region. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and Fitzgerald Collision & Repair officials made the announcement Thursday. Fitzgerald Collision & Repair said that they will invest $9 million to expand its existing facility in Rickman and establish new operations in Sparta.

TDOT chief: Investments funded by gas tax increase must not become obsolete in 10 years (Tennessean) Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer’s seventh floor office in the Tennessee Performing Arts Center at 6th and Deadrick offers a panorama of Nashville’s north side. Below the high vista, cars on Interstates 40 and 24 appear like miniatures moving across a diorama. It’s an instructive perspective for the head of the department tasked with maintaining the state’s transportation system and now putting more money to work as Tennessee’s gas tax is set to increase on Saturday.

Tennessee’s Roads Will Be Busy This Weekend — And Not Even A Higher Gas Tax Is Going To Help (WPLN) Nearly 800,000 Tennessee drivers are expected to hit the road this weekend — one of the busiest driving times of the year. And not even an extra four cents in state taxes added to the price of a gallon of gasoline is going to stop them. The IMPROVE Act, which increased Tennessee’s gas tax for the first time in a quarter-century, kicks in at gas stations July 1. That’s the traditional date new state laws go into effect. This year, it’ll also be the start of a holiday weekend for many drivers in Tennessee.

Tennessee gas tax will go into effect before busiest Fourth of July travel weekend ever (Times Free Press) A new, 4-cent increase in Tennessee’s gasoline tax goes into effect Saturday — just in time for what promises to be the busiest Fourth of July travel weekend ever. Gov. Bill Haslam’s new Improve Act gas tax aims to address a $10.5 billion backlog in road repairs and updates by prioritizing 962 projects across all of Tennessee’s 95 counties. While some may see fireworks over the first hike in the state’s gas tax in nearly 30 years, there’s still good news at the pump: Gas prices for the Fourth of July weekend are the cheapest since 2005, according to website GasBuddy, which says the average U.S. price is $2.21 per gallon, well under the 10-year average of $3.14.

10 new laws that take effect Saturday and why you should care (News Sentinel) From traffic safety to firearm use, abortion restrictions to enhanced sentencing for those in the country illegally who have been convicted of crimes, a host of new laws take effect on Saturday. Here are 10 that you should know about: The IMPROVE Act that includes a gas tax increase. Gov. Bill Haslam’s signature legislative initiative includes a gas tax increase to address the $10 billion backlog in road projects. The measure will add roughly $248 million to the state’s transportation budget by increasing the tax on gasoline and diesel fuel over the next three years by 6 cents and 10 cents per gallon, respectively. But with a variety of tax cuts, including slashes in the state’s sales tax on groceries, the law has been called tax neutral.

State capitol scaffolding in place for year-long cupola facelift (WKRN) Instead of debate, there’s a very different kind of drama playing out these days at the Tennessee State Capitol, and it’s all about a face. It’s literally a high wire act 150-feet above the capitol grounds to restore the 160-year-old cupola and decorative cast iron at very top of the historic structure. “The last time the cupola was restored was in the 1956 to 1958 period,” says Tennessee General Services spokesperson Dave Roberson, who has compiled pictures from the last time the capitol got such a high-profile face lift.

St. Jude demos buildings for new patient family housing (Memphis Business Journal) St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has demolished two Pinch District buildings it purchased last year, but it may take up to three years before construction can begin. This week, St. Jude tore down the former Downtown Animal Hospital at 347 N. Third St. and the adjoining site of the former Promedica Clinic at 361 N. Third St. ALSAC, the fundraising arm of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, bought the properties for more than $1.7 million last April. When Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced last December the state would commit $12 million in FastTrack funding to improve the public infrastructure surrounding St. Jude, ALSAC CEO Rick Shadyac said, “There’s a very good chance our next patient housing facility could go in the Pinch.”

University of Tennessee looks at revising alcohol, smoking policies on campus (News Sentinel) The University of Tennessee Knoxville is looking at revising its alcohol and smoking policies on campus after a push from the Student Government Association and new legislation surrounding smoking on public college campuses. In an announcement posted on the UT chancellor’s website Thursday, Chancellor Beverly Davenport said she will be appointing two task forces to provide an independent review and analysis of each policy. The move comes after the Tennessee Legislature this spring authorized the leaders of all state colleges and universities to adopt policies that prohibit smoking on campus property except for certain designated areas.

State investigating Southwest college’s student activities department (Commercial Appeal) A blistering audit released Thursday revealed several areas of concern for Southwest Tennessee Community College, including an ongoing investigation into its student activities department.  The routine audit, covering two years from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2015 and performed by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury, contained no additional details about the investigation. But one of the nine findings in the audit report includes three purchases of gift cards for the activities department that were made in violation of Tennessee Board of Regents guidelines.

With clock ticking on federal pre-K grant, districts in Shelby County and Nashville explore next steps (Chalkbeat Tennessee) Tennessee’s elation at winning a $70 million federal grant to expand pre-K offerings in Memphis and Nashville is now being tempered by the realization that the four-year grant will run out all too soon. The funds used to pay for dozens of new pre-K classrooms began flowing into five school districts last year and will end in May of 2019. How to sustain the expansion in Greater Memphis was on the minds of school leaders and pre-K advocates who gathered Wednesday for the second annual Shelby County Pre-K Summit. Calling pre-K “one of the biggest economic investment opportunities we have,” Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson said early childhood programs must be a priority.

New state grant to bring training, doses of life-saving overdose drug to region (WJHL) A local organization is taking steps to reduce opioid drug overdoses in our area. The Sullivan County Anti-Drug Coalition received a new state grant to bring training and the distribution of the opioid overdose drug Naloxone to our region. The grant is called the State Targeted Response Grant, with nearly $133,000 coming from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Because of the grant, officials with the Sullivan County Anti-Drug Coalition say this is the first time Naloxone will be widely available for the entire community.

New state law loosens regulations on buying gun silencers (WVLT) In two days, a new Tennessee law regarding silencers, also known as suppressors goes into effect. It’s the second time this bill has been lobbied for, but this time on the state level. Tennessee will no longer require its residents to have proof of a silencer permit. “A lot of people are calling, believing that since this has passed you can go and purchase a silencer like you can with a regular gun,” Tennessee Silencer gun shop owner Robert Wear said. The process of buying the silencer will be made a little easier, but Robert Wears says gun owners should still have permits according to the National Firearm Act.–431627663.html

Republican Attorneys General Target Obama ‘Dreamer’ Program (Reuters) Ten Republican state attorneys general on Thursday urged federal authorities to rescind a policy set by former U.S. President Barack Obama that protects from deportation nearly 600,000 immigrants brought into the country illegally by their parents, known as “Dreamers.” Obama, a Democrat, had hoped that overhauling the U.S. immigration system and resolving the fate of the estimated 11 million people in the country illegally would be part of his presidential legacy. But Republican President Donald Trump has vowed to crack down on illegal immigration. The 10 Republican attorneys general who signed the letter represent the states of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Nebraska, Arkansas, South Carolina, Idaho, Tennessee, West Virginia and Kansas.

States Threaten to Sue Trump Administration Over ‘Dreamers’ Policy (Wall Street Journal) Eleven states led by Texas are threatening to sue the Trump administration if it doesn’t follow through on President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to end a program that protects young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children. The threat, conveyed in a letter sent to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, shows how the president is under pressure from conservatives who say he hasn’t done enough to crack down on illegal immigration, even as he endures a steady stream of criticism from those on the left who think he is far too harsh.

Legislature to enforce sanctuary ban in TN (Daily Banner) State Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) told members of the Bradley County Republican Party the state General Assembly is prepared to take action in January, should Nashville declare itself a sanctuary city. Shortly before Bell took to the podium to address the local party faithful, it was reported Nashville Mayor Megan Berry said the Nashville Metro Council should rethink the proposal which would limit the city’s participation in carrying out federal immigration law. Jon Cooper, Nashville Metro director of law, said under state statutes, the council could not prohibit the sheriff from cooperating with federal immigration authorities.,61490

Harwell announcing gubernatorial run soon (Nashville Post) Speaker confirms at fundraiser that a July announcement is coming. A sign announcing a fundraiser for Beth Harwell at the Hermitage Hotel on Wednesday. State House Speaker Beth Harwell has plans to launch her gubernatorial campaign in July, but on what day, exactly, of the month she’ll kick things off, she wouldn’t say. When stopped during a small fundraiser at the Hermitage Hotel on Wednesday and asked if she was officially running for governor, Harwell said,”Well, we’ll know in July.”

Inside Jared Kushner’s circle of trust (Politico) Trump’s son-in-law and aide has acquired a circle of political advisers, but he still talks daily to his closest New York confidants. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.): Corker and Kushner first connected during the 2016 campaign when the Tennessee Republican was briefly considered as Trump’s running mate. Before meeting one-on-one with Trump, Corker spent 30 minutes with Kushner, 30 minutes with Ivanka Trump and 30 minutes with Eric Trump, according to a person familiar with the process. Corker then spent an entire day with Kushner and Trump on the campaign plane, where he almost immediately took himself out of the running. But he found himself talking extensively to Kushner again when his name surfaced as a potential candidate for secretary of state, and then consulted the son-in-law regularly on personnel choices and foreign policy.

Corker says tax cuts in BCRA won’t fly (Nashville Post) ‘It’s not an acceptable proposition’ senator says of massive cuts for wealthy. U.S. Sen. Bob Corker said Thursday that he thinks the massive tax cuts for the wealthy in the Senate’s version of a health care plan, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, are unlikely to stay in the bill. “We are going to figure out a way, I believe, before Friday comes to greatly enhance the ability of lower-income citizens to buy insurance on the exchange and at the same time my sense is that the 3.8 percent [repeal] is going to go away,” Corker told Bloomberg. “It’s not an acceptable proposition to have a bill that increases the burden on lower-income citizens and lessens the burden on wealthy citizens.”

Corker questions Senate GOP health bill’s $172 billion tax cut for the rich (Times Free Press) U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said Thursday he believes Senate Republican leaders are agreeable to his call to remove a $172 billion investment tax break for the richest Americans from the GOP health care overhaul. Corker wants to remove the tax cut, worth tens of billions of dollars over the next decade, from the bill to provide adequate subsidies for low-income families purchasing health plans on the insurance changes established under the Affordable Care Act to which Republicans hope to make major changes.

The Senate GOP Health-Care Bill Inches Closer to Obamacare (The Atlantic) Republicans scrambling for votes are now considering keeping a key tax on the wealthy to pay for expanded insurance coverage, as the legislation moves further away from repeal. Republicans are considering keeping a key Obamacare tax increase on investment income so they can use the money to soften cuts to Medicaid and increase subsidies for low-income people in their bill. The shift is an attempt to woo more moderate holdouts who have balked at projections that the Senate bill would make health insurance prohibitively expensive for millions of people. “It’s not an acceptable proposition to have a bill that increases the burden on lower-income citizens and lessons the burden on wealthy citizens,” Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee told reporters on Thursday, according to Bloomberg.

Some Senators in health talks would keep tax on investment income (Fox Business) Republican senators negotiating the health-care overhaul legislation are considering keeping the Affordable Care Act’s tax on investment income, a move that would go against the party’s long-stated goal of doing away with such taxes. The 3.8% tax could be kept to ensure there is more funding for subsidies to health-care consumers who acquire insurance. Several GOP Senators said Thursday that retaining the tax was under discussion, but that no decision had been reached. Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Marco Rubio of Florida, among other GOP senators, said they were open to keeping the tax.

Roe: House health bill is better (Times News) The “big knock” on the U.S. Senate proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is that it doesn’t do enough to lower insurance premiums, U.S. Rep. Phil Roe said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday. Roe, R-Tenn., said he wasn’t surprised with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to postpone a vote on the measure until after July 4. “We took a whiff back in March and had to have some more work,” Roe said of the House version of the healthcare bill that finally passed in late May. “They’re going to have to do the same thing. I think the House bill is a better bill. They have a little less leeway on the Senate side. They can only lose two votes. They have to get 50 people to agree. We had to get 217 to agree. Both are a hard lift, but I think they will get it done. Then I hope we will go to (a) conference (committee) and have a better bill.

Roe: CBO numbers don’t reflect reality of Senate healthcare bill (Johnson City Press) Millions more uninsured and millions fewer people on Medicaid. That’s the Congressional Budget Office’s forecast of the impact of the U.S. Senate’s version of the GOP health care bill designed to replace Obamacare. But U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said in a conference call with local media on Thursday these estimates probably wouldn’t reflect how the bill would play out in real life.

Centrist Republicans mobilize against draft GOP budget (Politico) Centrist House Republicans are lining up to oppose a draft GOP budget aimed at curbing entitlement spending — and threatening to vote against the plan if they don’t get a bipartisan deal to increase spending caps. Tuesday Group co-chairman Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) is gathering signatures on a letter asking Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to intervene in House Budget Chairwoman Diane Black’s plan to cut $200 billion in mandatory spending in the GOP budget.

Vice President Mike Pence expected to headline Tennessee Republican fundraiser (Tennessean) Vice President Mike Pence is expected to headline the Tennessee Republican Party’s largest annual fundraiser in August, according to multiple sources familiar with the plans. Although the state GOP has yet to announce the keynote speaker for its upcoming Statesmen’s Dinner, two sources confirmed the vice president is set to attend. A spokeswoman for the state party declined to confirm Pence as the headliner. “We’re going to make an announcement on our speaker in the next couple of weeks,” said Candice Dawkins, communications director for the state GOP.

President Trump nominates Belmont professor as next U.S. attorney for Middle Tennessee (Tennessean) Belmont law professor and key player in a landmark civil rights prosecution is slated to become the next U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee. President Donald Trump has nominated Donald Cochran to serve in the post, the White House announced Thursday. The appointment requires confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Before joining the faculty at Belmont University, Cochran worked as a federal prosecutor in the Northern District of Alabama.

Trump’s 2018 budget request good for Y-12 environmental cleanup (News Sentinel) President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget request could mean progress for Oak Ridge Environmental Management (EM), if approved. The proposal allocates $390 million to Oak Ridge EM activities, plus an extra $225 million bolster to dispose of costly excess facilities at Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. How that $225 million would be split up between the two facilities has yet to be seen, but even if Y-12 gets only half of it, it would still be an increase of more than $50 million from this year’s excess facilities bolster.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory could face massive layoffs under Trump budget request (News Sentinel) Oak Ridge National Laboratory could face a workforce reduction of up to 33 percent should the president’s budget request be approved as is, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a subcommittee hearing Wednesday. ORNL employs about 4,800 people through its contractor, UT-Batelle. As many as 1,600 of those could lose their jobs if the Office of Science bore the president’s proposed 17 percent cut, according to Feinstein’s office. Several subcontractors also work at the lab and may be affected by a large cut. “ORNL has enjoyed strong public support for many years,” ORNL spokesman David Keim said. “That ebbs and flows and changes based on the priorities and the economic situation of the country.

Sen. Alexander on Trump’s DOE cuts: National labs are country’s ‘secret weapon‘ (News Sentinel) Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, called the Department of Energy’s 17 national laboratories the “nation’s secret weapon,” at a hearing Wednesday on proposed cuts to the Energy Department’s budget. President Donald Trump requested a $1.6 billion cut to the department in his proposed 2018 budget. The proposed cut would take about $900 million from the Office of Science, which stewards 10 national laboratories, including the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Cohen squeezes shrinking airline seat into proposed FAA bill (Memphis Business Journal) After lawmakers killed an effort to regulate shrinking airplane seats last year, the legislation made a major comeback this week. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee gave a resounding yes to Congressman Steve Cohen’s (TN-09) effort to establish a minimum seat size on commercial airlines as well as a minimum distance between rows. “Oftentimes in Congress, like in life, things don’t always happen the first time,” Congressman Cohen said.

Potential candidates jockey for seats on TVA board of directors (News Sentinel) The five open seats on the Tennessee Valley Authority’s board of directors aren’t the most high-profile jobs awaiting the attention of President Donald Trump, who has yet to fill hundreds of top-tier positions across his administration. But in Tennessee, where interest in the TVA jobs is high, prospective candidates already have been working quietly behind the scenes to get their names on the list of potential nominees for the public utility’s board.

Shumaker brings ‘freaky’ energy to TMA post (TN Ledger) Second-ever female president of state doctors’ group. After checking on the progess of Emma Leigh Snyder’s recovery from a soccer injury, Dr. Nita Shumaker takes time to catch up with the Soddy Daisy Middle School student. Since becoming president of the Tennessee Medical Association in April, Dr. Nita Shumaker has shrugged off most of the comments about her unique role. “Everybody thinks it’s so astounding that there’s a second female president in 163 years, but I never felt like any man was holding me back from that position,” says the forthright physician and partner at Galen North Pediatrics.

Chattanooga physician has big plans for her TMA term (TN Ledger) Dr. Nita Shumaker is quick to point out that she is by no means a negative person. Her goals – and there are many – as the new president of the Tennessee Medical Association simply stem from an overwhelming desire to improve the health care system for her colleagues and, ultimately, her patients. She’s got strong opinions on the insurance industry, the opioid epidemic and clean eating. “It’s hard to be a doctor, and not just [because of] the intensity of being available all the time,” Shumaker says. “Your brain has to always be working in the background. Your bell has to be ready to ring.

Tennessee State Fair: Panel votes to explore outside Nashville for new site (Tennessean) A state panel took action Thursday to begin looking outside Nashville for a new site to hold the annual Tennessee State Fair as officials consider leaving the Metro-owned Fairgrounds Nashville, where the event has taken place for the past 111 years. The Tennessee State Fair and Exposition Commission voted 9-0 Thursday to communicate to all 95 Tennessee counties to gauge their interest in hosting the two-week event beginning in 2019. Proposals could be either a site for stand-alone state fair or a year-round agriculture expo center where a state fair would take place in addition to other activities. The commission will consider suggestions from both the public and private sectors.

Jonesborough dentist starts petition to keep fluoride in water supply (WJHL) In February, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in Jonesborough, Tennessee voted to stop water fluoridation at the end of June 2017. Dr. Allen Burleson said he believes the decision was not based on proven science and is a bad move. The board sent out a survey to all Jonesborough Water customers in 2016 contained and Burleson believes the facts of the survey inaccurate. Burleson believes that optimal fluoridation of the water is necessary for those in our rural communities who don’t have access to health care. “I think it’s a terrible move. I’m concerned about our children, my grandchildren, and great-grandchildren that come along. There’s not any reasoning in my opinion that they should’ve done this,” Burleson said.


David Roberson: Defending JLL Deal (Memphis Flyer) State official makes the case for outsourcing of public building maintenance jobs. I was dismayed by the story “Outsourcing Tennessee” in the Flyer’s June 1st issue, for two reasons. The first reason was the number of incorrect statements in the article, which I detailed in an email to the author and to the editor, and which I summarize here: 1) “… [T]he state quietly sent out feelers …” This Request for Information (RFI) was posted on the state website, exactly the same way we put out hundreds of RFIs, Requests for Qualifications, and Requests for Proposals each year, and in the same place that our vendors know to look for them. We want maximum response to these requests, so there is no reason we would issue them quietly. We didn’t.

Column: Paying Fulmer $100K will pay dividends for UT athletics (TN Ledger) What does Phillip Fulmer’s hiring as special advisor to University of Tennessee president Joe DiPietro have to do with Vols football coach Butch Jones? Not much. If Jones continues to win enough games while avoiding issues that reflect poorly on the school, he’ll continue to be UT’s coach. If not, he’ll be jettisoned. Either way, there’s nothing Fulmer can do about it.

Column: Nobody Wants to Leave It to Beavers (Nashville Scene) A dead-on parody is making the legislative rounds, and it’s seemingly coming from the GOP. Most anonymous emails that get passed around political circles are circulated because they’re so dumb, you can’t help but laugh at them. However, the newest one making the rounds at Legislative Plaza is both hilarious and very, very clever. The entire essay is, basically, a subtweet of state Sen. Mae Beavers, who is now running for governor. The more you know about Beavers (and the more you know about legislative gossip), the funnier it is. There are digs at her legislation, at her private security force — even at her new white Lexus.

Thursday, June 29

Automotive supplier’s expansion project to create 80 new jobs in Smyrna (WKRN) An automotive supplier announced Wednesday it is expanding its operations and creating 80 new jobs in Smyrna. Valeo North America, Inc. said it will invest $25 million in Rutherford County through the expansion. “It is always great news when a company chooses to expand in Tennessee, and I want to thank Valeo for its continued investment in Rutherford County,” Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe said. He continued, “Tennessee is home to more than 900 automotive suppliers and we are grateful that Valeo will grow this sector by creating 80 jobs in Smyrna. I look forward to seeing the company’s growth in our state.”

More than 300 new jobs announced for Rutherford County (Nashville Business Journal) State economic development officials announced two deals Wednesday that represent more than 300 new jobs for Rutherford County. In the first, Texas-based HYLA Inc. is injecting 225 jobs into a 100,000-square-foot facility in La Vergne, according to a news release from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Those workers will wipe data from used mobile devices, do repairs as needed and resell them into secondary markets in the U.S. and worldwide.

Ailshie new deputy education commissioner (Nashville Post) Kingsport City Schools Superintendent Lyle Ailshie has been named a deputy commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Education. Ailshie will oversee the department’s College, Career and Technical Education (CCTE) division, as well as the Teachers and Leaders division. Similarly, Casey Haugner Wrenn, currently the executive director of the Office of Student Readiness and Early Postsecondary for the department, will be the new assistant commissioner for CCTE.

Tennessee taps high-profile school superintendent as deputy ed commissioner (Chalkbeat Tennessee) Preparing students for college and the workforce is core to Gov. Bill Haslam’s education agenda, and Tennessee is now turning to one of its go-to district leaders to oversee part of that work. Kingsport City Schools Superintendent Lyle Ailshie will be the state’s new deputy education commissioner over college, career and technical education, Commissioner Candice McQueen announced Wednesday. He’ll also oversee the State Department of Education’s work over teacher preparation, licensure and effectiveness at a time when Tennessee is stepping up efforts to improve and align teacher training programs with the state’s needs.

MTSU Economic Impact Estimate Tops $1B (WPLN) A new report by Middle Tennessee State University highlights the impact that the school’s presence has on skilled workforce and economic growth across the state. MTSU, which has one of the largest undergraduate population in the state, generated more than $1 billion for businesses across the state last year. Half of that came from student spending. The 22,000 students spent almost $500 million on things like housing, food and entertainment, raking in profits not just for Murfreesboro but businesses across the state. Part of the school’s economic impact is also from its role as a job creator: MTSU is still the third largest employer in the county and the second largest in Murfreesboro, with more than 2,000 people on its payroll.

ETSU to hold tours of football stadium on Thursday (Johnson City Press) After holding stadium tours at last month’s “100 Days to Kickoff” celebration, the East Tennessee State University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics that it will hold tours of the Football Stadium on Thursday, June 29. The tours, which are free and open to the general public, will be held at noon and 5 p.m. People are required to wear hard hats and closed-toed shoes. Hard hats will be provided on site. Despite battling inclement weather back on May 25, a strong contingent of Buccaneer supporters attended the three tours held in conjunction with the “100 Days to Kickoff” promotion. Fans are encouraged to park on South Dossett Drive and enter by the arch near the east roundabout of the stadium.

40 Under 40: Jaclyn Mothupi, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (Nashville Business Journal) Jaclyn Mothupi is regional director of external affairs for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, acting as the primary point of contact for the agency and serving as the public outreach arm of the commissioner’s office. Mothupi believes in having a vision for the future, but prefers to be present in the moment. What is your favorite social media platform, and why? Instagram; a picture is worth a thousand words.

Kids, crime are focus of Tennessee juvenile justice task force (WKRN) Kids involved in crime are getting attention that goes right to the top of the Tennessee state government. It comes in the form of what is called a “blue ribbon task force” on the state’s juvenile justice system. The group will be made up not only lawmakers, but prosecutors, child advocates and law enforcement officers who deal with juveniles. “I hope from this we are going to come up with ways to insure public safety and help the families of juveniles as well as juveniles themselves,” said Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, who co-chairs the task force along with Senate Republican Majority Leader Mark Norris.

Education, health, elderly, more to benefit (Claiborne Progress) The state’s 110th General Assembly just wrapped up a session, and Rep. Jerry Sexton says several things were accomplished, while he will continue to work on items to benefit his constituents during the break. “I want to be a good steward of taxpayers’ money,” he said. “The $37 billion budget cuts taxes, puts $132 million in the state’s Rainy Day Fund, fully funds Tennessee’s educational system, and focuses in on job recruitment and infrastructure investments.”

New TN laws go into effect on July 1 (WSMV) More than 130 new laws in Tennessee will go into effect on July 1. The biggest is Gov. Bill Haslam’s IMPROVE Act, which will cut taxes on food and raises the gas tax. After July 1, abortion after 20 weeks will now be a felony. Firearm silencers will be legal in an effort to protect sportsmen’s ears. Blocking a public street will be a crime, which could come into play if protesters take to the streets and block the path of emergency vehicles. Harsher penalties will also be implemented for those who target police or military.

Changes to Tennessee’s Move Over law go into effect July 1 (WKRN) A change to an important Tennessee law is going into effect this weekend before the busy travel holiday. According to AAA, 37.5 million people will hit the roads for the Fourth of July. Laurence Cameron puts in more than 500 miles on American interstates and occasionally, he has to stop and check to make sure his rig is running the right way. “I had to stop and fix the air hose on my truck and cars were just zipping by,” said Cameron. He travels throughout many different states and is grateful for those making drivers look out for any stopped on the side.

State Rep. Harry Brooks won’t seek reelection; donating excess funds to Knox County schools (WATE) State Rep. Harry Brooks announced Wednesday he will not seek reelection next year to serve the 19th district in Knox County. Brooks said the extra campaign funds he had raised will go back to the district he serves. He is splitting thousands of dollars among four schools: Gibbs, Carter, Halls and South-Doyle. The funds have been divided up based on how many students attend each school.

Durrett endorses Boyd for governor (Leaf-Chronicle) Tennessee Republican candidate Randy Boyd announced that Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett has endorsed, and is working in support of his campaign for governor. Durrett is the first county mayor from Middle Tennessee to endorse Boyd, said a news release from the Boyd campaign. He joins nearly two dozen East Tennessee county mayors who endorsed Boyd last month.

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett sets sights on Washington, DC for next political move (WATE) Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett says he is taking a gubernatorial run off the table when his term expires, but is now setting his sights on Washington, D.C. Burchett’s name had been mentioned with other campaigns for Tennessee governor ramping up for 2018. Burchett says he lacks the financial means to run for governor, describing the race as an auction rather than an election. He says even if he did win, he doesn’t have the desire to move his family to Nashville. However, he’s now focusing on a possible run for the U.S. House or Senate.

Russia-Iran sanctions talks hit new hiccup (Politico) An overwhelmingly bipartisan Senate sanctions bill targeting Russia and Iran hit a new snag Wednesday, as Democrats sought assurances that House Republicans will not water it down after what the GOP has billed as a simple fix. Senior senators have negotiated with their counterparts across the Capitol since the sanctions bill, passed by the Senate on a 98-2 vote, ran into a constitutional objection in the House last week. But when Democrats — aware that the White House is urging House Republicans to make the sanctions bill more friendly to President Donald Trump — asked the GOP to commit to no new, significant changes in the House, that commitment didn’t arrive, according to a senior Senate Democratic aide.

Divided GOP undermines Black’s grand budget plans (Politico) House Republican budget-writers were psyched. After weeks of delays and bickering with defense hawks, House Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black was set to stick it to her reluctant colleagues and forge ahead with her conservative fiscal blueprint — even without House GOP leadership’s blessing. But that decision, made in a closed-door Republican budget panel huddle on June 22, fell through after Black delivered that message to GOP leaders, who wanted more time to strike a deal with the broader and deeply divided Republican Conference.

Study: Number of uninsured Tennesseans could skyrocket under Senate GOP health bill (Times Free Press) The number of uninsured Tennesseans could soar nearly 49 percent in the next five years under the now-stalled U.S. Senate Republican health plan, according to a new analysis by a Washington- based research institution. The liberal-leaning Urban Institute projected the number of uninsured non-elderly residents would rise by some 353,000 people, going from the current 726,000 persons, or 12.9 percent of the population, to 1.079 million people, or 19 percent. Analysts performed the state-by-state look at the impact of the GOP proposal, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.

Rural Hospitals In Jeopardy If Senate Healthcare Bill Passes (WTVF) Tennessee doctors and hospitals have strongly come out against a Senate proposal to overhaul the country’s healthcare system. The proposal included deep cuts to Medicaid that could force 15 million people out of the system by 2025. “When you have patients who are uninsured, it increased the uncompensated care for the hospitals and the provider,” said Maury Regional Hospitals CEO Alan Watson. “At some point we’re going to have to take a hard look at the services we provide and the facilities we have across the region.” Maury Regional serves about 21,000 patients who rely solely on TennCare and Medicaid to pay for care, many of them live in rural areas, where healthcare options are scarce.

Poll: Few Tennessee voters like Senate health bill (Nashville Post) Most polled by AMA oppose Medicaid reductions. Tennessee voters view both the 2010 Affordable Care Act and the recently passed U.S. House health care legislation negatively, according to polling conducted by the American Medical Association. Among the 500 registered Tennessee voters polled between June 15 and 19, 47 percent believe Obamacare is a bad idea while 35 percent believe it is a good idea. Even fewer — 22 percent — believe the new House legislation is a good idea, while 42 percent believe it is a bad idea. The polling was conducted prior to the release of the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act last week, which the AMA opposes.

Saint Thomas CEO pens op-ed against Senate health care bill (Nashville Business Journal) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday delayed a vote on Republicans’ health care bill until after July 4, and that’s probably just fine with Karen Springer, CEO of Nashville’s Saint Thomas Health. Prior to McConell’s decision to delay the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, Springer wrote in an op-ed that the bill falls short in a variety of measures: Unfortunately, BCRA fails to meet our reform goals for legislation because it would result in even deeper cuts to Medicaid than the House version and put the care for millions of poor and vulnerable children, parents, adults, Americans with disabilities and the elderly at risk. The bill would cap and cut Medicaid at a rate far below the actual cost growth, especially in the years after 2026.

Judge to decide terms of injunction for TVA tree-cutting (News Sentinel) U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan is expected to rule soon on the terms of an injunction that regulates how the Tennessee Valley Authority chops down trees along right of ways while TVA works on an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). At a hearing Monday, Varlan gave both sides in the years-long dispute 10 days to submit proposed injunction terms before he will set those terms. A group of concerned citizens has been battling with TVA since 2012 when 14 residents of Westminster Place subdivision in West Knox County filed a lawsuit.

After more than a century, Tennessee State Fair might leave Nashville’s fairgrounds (Tennessean) A state commission is set to consider relocating the Tennessee State Fair from The Fairgrounds Nashville, the event’s home for the past century. The panel that oversees the state fair — which has seen years of struggling attendance that has lagged behind the fairs in Wilson and Williamson counties — will vote on a proposal Thursday to begin searching for a new home away from Nashville’s Metro-owned fairgrounds.  Beginning in 2019, the goal would be to move the state fair from Nashville’s fairgrounds near Nolensville Pike and Wedgewood Avenue, which has hosted the state fair since 1906.

White Supremacist Conference Returns to State Park (Nashville Scene) The hate group is set to bring three days of good old fashioned academic racism to Montgomery Bell State Park. Alt-righters assemble! The white supremacist American Renaissance Conference is set to return to Montgomery Bell State Park for the sixth year in a row. In 2012, the Scene attended the first AmRen conference held in the park for a weekend of pseudo-intellectualism and rationalization for a belief system that is overtly racist. Now, with a fresh roster of guest speakers and a “sold-out” reservation list, AmRen is ready for its July 28 descent on the park. If you manage to register for the conference, you’ll be required to wear a suit jacket and tie, because leaving the bedsheets at home somehow makes you less horrible than the KKK.


Guest column: 4 reasons Tennessee students struggle to finish college (Tennessean) Tennessee’s higher education system is failing too many students. The average graduation rate for our colleges and universities is below 50 percent, and some institutions graduate fewer than 15 percent of their students. Despite our state’s reputation as a leader in education reform, our postsecondary performance is falling short. To better understand the diverse challenges facing current and prospective students, the nonprofit education advocacy organization Complete Tennessee launched a statewide listening tour at the start of 2017. We spent the first half of the year traveling to all nine economic development regions, meeting with and listening to hundreds of stakeholders and community leaders.

Mark Harmon: The Senate health care bill is a disaster (News Sentinel) Tennessee’s U. S. senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, aren’t moderates – though they play them on TV.  The Senate version of the GOP/Trump health care bill is so radical that Corker and Alexander with their votes for it lose forever any claim to moderation. The bill repeals most funding mechanisms for the Affordable Care Act; it is a reverse Robin Hood bill. CNBC tallies the bill as edging toward a trillion dollars in tax cuts, 40 percent going to the top 1 percent of incomes. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calculates the “400 highest-income taxpayers alone would receive tax cuts worth about $33 billion from 2019 through 2028.” These households have annual incomes averaging more than $300 million apiece.

Editorial: Potential loss of health-care safety net is disgraceful (Commercial Appeal) Today the Republicans rolled out their secret healthcare bill with little or no time to have committee hearings, discussion or input from Democrats. It avoids the time to make changes. Essentially, it offers little or no real help for low to middle income people to afford the private insurance premiums. The Senate has also attached to it a $836 billion cut to Medicaid which will reduce needy children’s insurance coverage and give huge cuts in Medicaid funding for nursing home and home health coverage. When the nursing home patients have spent all their savings and the equity in their property, there will be not be enough Medicaid funds to continue their care.

Guest column: How Trump’s Cuba reversals could hurt Tennessee, nation (Tennessean) Donald Trump reversed some of the Obama-era initiatives easing Cuban travel and business restrictions that thawed United States-Cuba relations. This is a bad move by anyone’s politics. It impedes recent American progress and Tennessee’s long-term gain. Obama’s 2014 policy changes benefited American businesses. Agriculture, manufacturing, shipping, and tourism jobs and opportunities have been created because of Cuban trade. Cuba received delegations from Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Virginia, Florida, and Louisiana, often led by the governors themselves.

Sam Stockard: Tennessee, Left Coast a World Apart on Immigration (Memphis Daily News) San Francisco resident Terry Karlsson relishes her hometown’s reputation for embracing “multi-cultural diversity.” The wife of a Swedish immigrant, Karlsson says she believes San Francisco’s status as a sanctuary city, one in which it refuses to participate in the enforcement of federal immigration law, reflects a nation born of people who moved here, a land of immigrants from many countries. “We’re all foreigners to this planet Earth,” she continues while enjoying a beverage with her two sisters at a table outside the Magnolia Pub & Brewery on Haight and Masonic streets in the city’s Haight-Ashbury District. The area famous for beatniks and hippies has evolved into more of a cool tourist area highlighting its psychedelic and “Summer of Love” era, though free spirits still abound.

David Waters: The gospel according to the House and Senate health care bills (Commercial Appeal) Now we are engaged in another great civil war. That’s what a Republican leader is calling the congressional and national battle over health care. “We have a health care civil war going on,” Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Tuesday. “It’s all about recrimination.” It’s also about religion. Our internecine struggles over health care aren’t just about partisan politics and public policy. They are about competing faiths and values largely rooted in different understandings of the gospel. The personal salvation gospel as exemplified in the life and work of Baptist Billy Graham.

Column: Into the Forrest (Memphis Flyer) On June 20th, a few hundred people gathered at Bruce Elementary School to discuss strategies for taking down Memphis’ monuments to Confederate war heroes — specifically, the Jefferson Davis statue downtown and the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue near the University of Tennessee Memphis. The Memphis City Council has voted to remove the statues, but they have been stymied by a quickly enacted Tennessee law that forbids the removal of “war memorials” without state permission. Forrest — the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan — and his wife were disinterred from Elmwood Cemetery and re-buried under an equestrian statue in center-city Memphis in the early 20th century. The Jefferson Davis statue was put up by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1964, after an eight-year fund drive which netted $17,483 — the cost of erecting the statue.

Wednesday, June 28

Like those before him, Haslam takes European trip looking for Tennessee jobs (WKRN) Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is in Europe this week, but it’s hardly a vacation. Instead, it’s all about jobs. For decades, Tennessee governors, whether they be Democrat or Republican, have made overseas economic trips with the idea of bringing jobs to the Volunteer State. Governor Haslam’s European business trip takes him to the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Germany, but it’s practically a state secret about what companies the governor might be courting. “I can’t divulge who we are pursuing right now,” said Tennessee Deputy Economic and Community Development (TNECD) Commissioner Ted Townsend. “I am sure other states we are competing against would love to know.”

Tennessee’s plan for new federal education law receives strong grades (Tennessean) An independent, national review of Tennessee’s plans to comply with a new federal education law drew positive marks in all but one category. For the last year, Tennessee has been working on a plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, enacted in 2015. “Tennessee has submitted a very solid plan for which they should be proud,” said Jim Cowen, executive director of the Collaborative for Student Success, which partnered with Bellwether Education Partners on the 17 state review, in a statement.

Protomet to put 200 jobs, $30M into former Maremont plant in Loudon County (News Sentinel) Protomet Corp. will remain in East Tennessee, but a $30 million expansion won’t take place at its longtime home in Bethel Valley Industrial Park. Instead, the Oak Ridge-based company will bring 200 jobs back to the Maremont muffler plant in Loudon County, which closed in 2013, Protomet founder and CEO Jeff Bohanan announced Tuesday morning. The state Department of Economic and Community Development, the Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board and the Loudon County Economic Development Agency worked with Protomet for more than a year to keep the expansion local. Bohanan had looked at sites farther afield, including outside Tennessee.

Oak Ridge firm expands in Loudon County, adds 200 jobs (Times Free Press) An Oak Ridge-based engineering and manufacturing supplier for the automotive, marine and energy industries will spend nearly $30 million to renovate an abandoned factory in Loudon County and add 200 jobs over the next five years. Protomet Corp, announced plans for the expansion today to meet the company’s growing sales. Founded in 1997, Protomet is growing its business by more than 20 percent a year and doubled its Oak Ridge operations four years ago when the company opened a $10 million plant expansion that included 22,000 square-feet of new space and high-tech automated manufacturing equipment.

William Rogers appointed as new Circuit Court judge for Second Judicial District (WJHL) A new Circuit Court judge has been named for the Second Judicial District that serves Sullivan County. On Tuesday, Gov. Bill Haslam appointed William K. Rogers of Kingsport as the new Circuit Court judge. Rogers will be replacing Judge R. Jerry Beck, who is set to retire on Friday. “Bill Rogers has had a distinguished career in Sullivan County and will serve the citizens of the Second Judicial District well on the circuit court bench,” Haslam said. “We are fortunate to have someone with his background and experience to serve in this capacity.”

Shadow’s Law’ receives governor’s signature; memorial sign placed (Independent Herald) “Shadow’s Law” became official last week, with the signature of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. The law changes Tennessee’s policy on roadside memorial signs. Inspired by Shadow “Shada” Lowe, the 18-year-old Roane State student who was killed in an accident on U.S. Hwy. 27 in 2011, the law authorizes the Tennessee Department of Transportation to provide permanent memorials of fatal accidents involving impaired drivers. On Monday, the first such sign was placed near U.S. Hwy. 27’s intersection with Galloway Drive just south of Oneida, where Lowe was one of two drivers killed in an Oct. 9, 2011, head-on collision.

Gov. Bill Haslam signs Ocoee River recreation bill (Daily Banner) An event marking Gov. Bill Haslam’s signing of major legislation promoting the continued recreational use of Tennessee’s world famous Ocoee River was recently held in Nashville. State Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) and state Rep. Dan Howell (R-Georgetown), who sponsored the new law, said it ensures that recreational use of the river continues for many more years to come. The bill creates the Ocoee River Recreation and Economic Development Fund Act, to support recreational water releases on the Ocoee River, management by the Tennessee State Parks, and encouragement of economic growth around the river.,61319?

Consumer confidence wanes in Tennessee as summer begins (Memphis Business Journal) After growing steadily since last fall, consumer confidence in Tennessee has dropped since March, according to a statewide survey conducted by Middle Tennessee State University’s Office of Consumer Research in early June. The overall drop in confidence was mostly fueled by a decreased optimism toward the future of the national economy, stock market and local labor market. Confidence in current business conditions actually grew, especially in West Tennessee, where only 16 percent of people called statewide business conditions “bad,” down from 27 percent in March.

Report: Tennessee Consumer Outlook Index (Middle Tennessee State University)

‘Scene’ and ‘Post’ win public records suit in Fall Creek Falls case (Nashville Post) Chancellor rules state can’t shield records in failed privatization effort at state park. The state must release records related to the failed privatization effort at Fall Creek Falls State Park, Chancellor Bill Young ruled this morning. The Nashville Scene and the Post filed suit earlier this month under the Open Records Act after it was denied access to the files by the Tennessee Department of General Services. The case was unique because the state received no bids on a proposal to demolish and rebuild the Inn at Fall Creek Falls, despite amending the original request for proposals several times. A May 1 final deadline passed with no bids. The Scene and Post asked for the records that would normally be available for public inspection at the end of any bid evaluation process.

Commission recommends Northeast State think about prayer (Times News) The Sullivan County Commission agreed Monday to donate an old police cruiser to Northeast State Community College. It’ll come with a title and a recommendation: consider prayer. The commission voted (19 “yes,” one “pass,” and four absent) to donate a 2009 Ford Crown Victoria, with nearly 213,000 miles on it, to the college’s public safety office. The car has been used by the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office. The college’s public safety office is “in dire need of a used patrol vehicle to increase the safety and security and law enforcement support for the students, staff and faculty on all of their local campuses,” according to the resolution approved by the commission. At a commission work session last week, some commissioners balked at giving the car to Northeast State due to the lack of a prayer at the school’s recent commencement.

Shelby County Schools board approves pursuit of legal action against state-run school district (Commercial Appeal) Shelby County Schools is considering legal action against the school district run by the Tennessee Department of Education for adding grade levels to schools. The school board voted 7-0, with Billy Orgel and Scott McCormick abstaining, on a resolution from general counsel Rodney Moore to “research and pursue any and all appropriate legal and judicial remedies including but not limited to legal action” to stop the Achievement School District  from operating grades it wasn’t authorized to operate.

SCS Board Explores Legal Options in Grades Added to ASD Schools (Memphis Daily News) The Shelby County Schools system is exploring possible legal action against the state-run Achievement School District, the state Department of Education, Memphis Scholars charter schools and Aspire Public Schools over the two charter organizations adding grades to Memphis schools they took over. SCS board members approved the resolution Tuesday, June 27, authorizing school system general counsel Rodney Moore to “research and pursue any and all appropriate legal and judicial remedies including but not limited to legal action in order to halt the operation of unauthorized grades, eliminate unauthorized grade expansion of schools assigned to the ASD and to act to protect SCS funding, facilities and assets from unauthorized use by the ASD, any SCS authorized charter school and any ASD authorized school.”

Tennessee Promise student now working in chosen field (Johnson City Press) Dylan Anderson has been busy working in the heat of the day keeping others cool in the Tri-Cities region. Dylan, who recently graduated from the Tennessee College of Applied Technology Elizabethton, received a diploma as a commercial refrigeration/air conditioning technician after completing the program. Shortly thereafter, Dylan landed a job with an air conditioning company in the region. Dylan enrolled at TCAT Elizabethton in the spring of 2015. He was among the first high school graduates in Northeast Tennessee to receive a Tennessee Promise scholarship to attend TCAT Elizabethton.

Monroe County named Healthier Tennessee Community (Advocate and Democrat) Over the last six months, members of the Executive Committee for the Healthier Tennessee Community Initiative through Gov. Bill Haslam’s office have worked together to attain the goal and status of making Monroe County a Healthier Tennessee Community. The Monroe County Health Council Prevention & Wellness Coalition recently partnered with the Monroe County Health Council, the Monroe County Health Department, Sweetwater Hospital Association, the Monroe County Chamber of Commerce, the University of Tennessee Extension Office, Monroe County’s Coordinated School Health, Sweetwater City’s Coordinated School Health, and Walgreens, along with the local businesses and churches who signed up, to work towards the status of a Healthier Tennessee Community.

Lawmakers criticize University of Tennessee chancellor’s decision to fund pride center (News Sentinel) State lawmakers involved in a decision to strip funding from the University of Tennessee’s diversity office last year, including a Republican gubernatorial candidate, are criticizing new Chancellor Beverly Davenport for her decision to once again fund the school’s LGBT pride center. “It is disappointing that the new Chancellor has decided to ignore the clear intent and legitimate concerns of the Tennessee Legislature which defunded the (Office for Diversity and Inclusion) after it became clear that taxpayer funds were being used to promote a radical agenda that did not reflect the values of the State and our citizens,” gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, said in a recent news release.

Sexton: Vouchers a ‘false hope’ (Crossville Chronicle) State Rep. Cameron Sexton expressed his opposition to school voucher bills as he briefed the Cumberland County Board of Education on actions during the 110th Tennessee General Assembly. “When I look at vouchers, it’s a false hope in the end,” Sexton said. A voucher bill specifically for Shelby County schools remains active in the Tennessee General Assembly, advancing from the House Government Operations Committee to the House Finance Committee. The bill would create a pilot school voucher program solely in Memphis. The pilot program would last five years and would provide publicly funded scholarships for students to attend private schools.

Where Tennessee’s Senators Are On The Health Care Bill (WPLN) As they do most Tuesdays, Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker met at the U.S. Capitol with Tennesseans in Washington. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker says delaying a vote on the health care bill should show that the senate wants “to get it right.” He says in a statement that he will work over the next few days to “resolve a number of legitimate issues.” Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander says the Congressional Budget Office report, which finds 22 million  Americans will lose insurance under the Senate’s health care plan, is “helpful information.”

Saint Thomas CEO: Senate bill is ‘wrong medicine’ for insurance market (Nashville Post) Saint Thomas Health President and CEO Karen Springer on Tuesday said the Better Care Reconciliation Act backed by a number of U.S. senators will not properly address a number of the key problems facing the health insurance and provider financing markets. In an op-ed piece, Springer commended senators on their plans to protect patient with pre-existing conditions and provide more access for those seeking treatment for addiction. But more broadly, she wrote, the BRCA’s proposed cuts to Medicaid funding will “put the care for millions of poor and vulnerable children, parents, adults, Americans with disabilities and the elderly at risk” and won’t make needed changes to the insurance market.

Mountain States’ Levine: Let states decide on health care (Johnson City Press) If Alan Levine were in Sen. Mitch McConnell’s shoes, aside from likely being a little sweatier after Tuesday’s delay of progress on the senator’s legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, he would give sweeping control over health care to the states. Minutes after the delay was announced, the Mountain States Health Alliance CEO told the Johnson City Press his ideal health care scenario would be to give a pool of unrestricted federal dollars to state governments and let them work out the details.

Video: AHCA could affect rural hospitals (News Sentinel)

What insurance shoppers can expect under Senate health care bill (Tennessean) Many Tennesseans shopping for insurance could pay more money under the Senate’s health care reform bill, although the underlying factors driving the costs change over the next decade. The Senate bill, aimed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, in some ways gives states time to implement the changes and delays until after the next two federal elections when some of the changes that are projected by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and health care policy experts are expected to hit people’s wallets. But the impact of the bill changes over the years as components come into place that alter the types of insurance people can buy.

A Republican and a Democrat team up to split Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (CNBC) In the Senate, a Republican and a Democrat are working on a bipartisan deal to change the housing finance industry. Tennessee Republican Bob Corker and Virginia Democrat Mark Warner are considering a plan that would split up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, according to Bloomberg. The government took control of the two companies in 2008 when the housing market collapsed and has since pumped $187.5 billion into them. The lawmakers are debating splitting Fannie and Freddie’s single-family businesses and multi-family businesses, which finances apartment rentals, sources told Bloomberg. From there, they could continue to divide the single-family business into smaller companies.

Black Amendment Would Keep Funding From Nashville (WTVF) Congressman Diane Black submitted an amendment to a house bill that would keep certain types of funding from cities labeled as sanctuary cities. The current bill, the “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act,” blocks funding through Department of Justice grant programs. Black made the submission Tuesday in response to a “sanctuary city-like” ordinance, which was passed by Metro Council last week in its second reading. The ordinance states that Metro Government cannot use funding, resources, or facilities to assist in immigration enforcement.

Barry asks Council to reconsider ordinance (Nashville Post) Statement comes after law director’s review as Republican legislators pile on. Mayor Megan Barry is asking Metro Council to “reconsider” support of an ordinance that would limit police cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Her new stance comes in the wake of Law Director Jon Cooper’s opinion that the ordinance would not be binding upon Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall. “It is clear from this legal opinion that [the ordinance] does not apply to Sheriff Daron Hall, who has said he will continue to honor detainer requests from the federal government.

RNC summer meeting hits Nashville (Nashville Post) Annual Republican gathering will take over Opryland Hotel in August. The Republican National Committee’s annual summer meeting will be held in Nashville this year. So far, the organization is saying quiet about who will keynote the event, although there are likely to be several prominent Republicans speaking. This past weekend U.S. Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the smaller RNC summer retreat in Chicago. Tennessee Republican Party chair Scott Golden said the organization is thrilled to host the event, despite last year’s intra-party squabbling over support (or the lack thereof, depending on whom you ask) for then-candidate Donald Trump.

Burchett: I’m running for U.S. House or Senate (WBIR) Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett plans next year to seek either Sen. Bob Corker’s statewide seat or Congressman Jimmy Duncan’s East Tennessee seat. Burchett, 52, long rumored as a likely U.S. House candidate, outlined Tuesday where his election ambitions stand. It’s certain that voters will see Burchett’s name on a ballot next year, the former state lawmaker said. “I think that I need to run for one of those seats (Senate or House),” he said Tuesday. “We’ll be making a decision shortly.”

Beavers: ‘The people of Tennessee are not for sale’ (Times News) Tennessee state Sen. Mae Beavers thinks she’s the real conservative in the 2018 governor’s race. The Mount Juliet Republican stumped in Sullivan County on Monday at the Bass Pro Shops in Bristol during a meet-and-greet event hosted by the Northeast Chapter of the Tennessee Firearms Association and Kingsport Tea Party. She’s up against two potential big self-funders, former state Economic Development Commissioner Randy Boyd and Franklin businessman Bill Lee, to replace term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam in the 2018 election cycle. House Speaker Beth Harwell, a Nashville Republican, is considering a gubernatorial bid. The only announced Democrat to run is former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean.


Mike Krause: Tennessee leads in higher education access (Tennessean) I had the chance a few weeks ago to hear from Kendall, a student from Middle Tennessee who was among the first to use Tennessee Promise to attend college. While no one in his family had graduated from college, he recognized his aspirations could only be fulfilled by earning a college degree. So, like tens of thousands of other high school students in our state, Tennessee Promise became his passport into higher education, and most likely, a completely different  economic future. “Tennessee Promise opened everything up for me,” he said.

Guest column: Senate health care bill puts Tennessee’s patients at risk (Tennessean) Dear Sen. Corker and Sen. Alexander: We are speaking out now personally — as doctors, as Tennesseans, as citizens — to warn about a threat to the health and safety of millions of Americans. The Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) will be the most radical change in federal health law in 50 years.  According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the BCRA will leave 22 million more Americans uninsured.  It will cut over $800 billion from Medicaid, the nation’s health care safety net. It could also cost Americans over 1 million jobs and lead to the closure of critical access, rural hospitals.

Guest column:The Affordable Care Act changed our lives; repeal could ruin it (Tennessean) When my wife of 40 years, Linda, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, it felt like our world stopped. But now that she’s in remission, we’re afraid our world may come to a screeching halt once again — if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. The House passed the American Health Care Act, which is projected to strip away affordable insurance coverage from 23 million people, including nearly 650,000 Tennesseans. The bill could take away protections for people with pre-existing conditions and increases costs for older Americans like us. And President Trump seems intent on taking health insurance away from Americans despite many promises to the contrary on the campaign trail.

David Plazas: Senate should kill health care bill and start over (Tennessean) Weeks before President Donald Trump took office, Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander said he wanted the repeal of Obamacare to result in an “orderly transition,” which would create a new system giving states and consumers more choices. “We need to make sure during that time that people aren’t hurt,” Alexander, R-Maryville, told me in a telephone conversation Dec. 7. Nearly seven months later, it is apparent that Alexander cannot make that guarantee. The Congressional Budget Office on Monday estimated that 22 million people who presently have health insurance will lose it by 2026 with the U.S. Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act.

George Korda: Single-payer healthcare: if you think the pitch makes it too good to be true, you’re right (News Sentinel) If only America had system like (fill in the country name) it would be healthcare morning in America, a shining medical care city on a hill. There’s no lack of health care advocates – and those styling themselves as such – praising the advantages of a single-payer healthcare system. The Vanderbilt Poll released May 30, though statistically weak politically, showed health care subjects, among them single-payer, to be inching their way up the ladder of importance for some Tennesseans.

Frank Cagle: Gubernatorial candidates show cards at Lincoln Day dinner (News Sentinel) It’s early yet, but you can get a sense of the campaign narratives in the upcoming race for governor. I got a chance to hear three Republican candidates at the Grainger County Lincoln Day dinner last weekend. You could get a sense of what each of the candidates will be stressing going forward. Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd talked about education and jobs, recalling his efforts for Tennessee Promise and serving as economic development commissioner for Gov. Bill Haslam. House Speaker Beth Harwell talked about her leadership in eliminating the inheritance tax, enabling families to retain small businesses and farms into the next generation, eliminating the gift tax, phasing out the Hall Income Tax, cutting the sales tax and expanding gun rights.

Editorial: A Way Out of the Qatar Mess (New York Times) The dangerous dispute between Qatar and other Arab gulf states, chiefly Saudi Arabia, has gone on for three weeks, diverting attention from fighting the Islamic State and other serious challenges. It shows little sign of resolution. The Saudis and the United Arab Emirates provoked the row by breaking diplomatic relations with Qatar and imposing an effective embargo, ostensibly because of Qatar’s coddling of terrorists and other issues. Senator Bob Corker now suggests a way to end the impasse and force some sort of reconciliation: halt arms sales throughout the region. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Corker, a Tennessee Republican, must give preliminary approval to major arms sales, along with the panel’s senior Democrat, Senator Ben Cardin, and the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Editorial: Don’t trample on this state’s scenic beauty (Johnson City Press) Now that summer is here, we encourage Tennesseans to take time to enjoy the wildflowers. In fact, we urge everyone to sample the abundance of natural beauty this state has to offer. We also caution nature lovers to take care not to spoil these scenic views with thoughtless behavior. That means properly disposing of all water bottles, food containers and other trash that you might have in hand. And mind your cigarette butts. They are not biodegradable, and no one wants to see them littering the grass or pavement.

Tuesday, June 27

Haslam signs bill to expand HOPE scholarship (WVLT) Gov. Bill Haslam signed off on a new bill to expand eligibility for the Tennessee HOPE scholarship on Monday. House Bill 980 — cosponsored by Rep. Kent Calfee, R-Kingston, and Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton — created the Tennessee Middle College Scholarship. The program allows high school students admitted to eligible public 2-year community colleges to begin their college education early. “The Tennessee Middle College Scholarship program supports the academic ambitions of enthusiastic students in communities across our great state,” Rep. Travis said. “I am pleased it will help alleviate fears of financial burden so that they can focus on their work in the classroom and obtain their degree.”

Haslam, McQueen talk leadership with aspiring principals (Vanderbilt University News) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam says he can tell within 20 minutes of visiting a school whether it has good leadership. “I passionately believe getting the right leader in the building is the most important thing we can do,” he said in a recent address to the 2017 cohort of the Governor’s Academy for School Leadership at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development. The gathering was part of an intensive summer session that is part of a yearlong curriculum that prepares Tennessee assistant principals to advance to principal positions within their districts. GASL is a cooperative effort—now in its second year—of the Governor’s Office, Tennessee Department of Education and Peabody. The cohort is composed of 24 fellows representing 21 districts across the state.

Common Core is out. Tennessee Academic Standards are in. Here’s how teachers are prepping. (Chalkbeat Tennessee) TEACHER TRAINING   With Common Core out and the Tennessee Academic Standards in, about 6,000 teachers take a two-day crash course on what students are expected to learn in each grade beginning this fall. Here’s what they learned. TITLE I  Five Shelby County suburban school districts will split an extra $7 million in Title I funding meant for poor students next year — even as Shelby County Schools faces a $5 million loss in those federal funds for an unrelated reason.

Tennessee’s ESSA plan gets solid marks in independent review (Chalkbeat Tennessee) Tennessee’s proposed plan for school accountability rates strong on measuring academic progress, but weak on counting all kids, according to an independent review released Tuesday by two education groups. For the most part, the state landed in the upper middle of an analysis spearheaded by Bellwether Education Partners and the Collaborative for Student Success. Their panel of reviewers looked into components of state plans  ranging from academic standards to supporting schools under the new federal education law.

TennCare’s Big Cuts In 2005 May Have Delayed Breast Cancer Diagnoses, Study Suggests (WPLN) A major cut in TennCare enrollment more than a decade ago has been linked to delays in diagnosing breast cancer, according to findings published this week in the journal Cancer.  In the study, researchers compared breast cancer data in Tennessee before and after 2005 — the year when the state’s government-subsidized health care program, TennCare, decided to address serious financial problems by dropping 170,000 people. They found that for women across Tennessee, the percentage of breast cancer cases diagnosed at a late stage, rather than early, went up after 2005. But it increased even more for women who lived in low-income zip codes, where people were more likely to have lost health insurance.

Seniors facing loss of Medicare assistance (Crossville Chronicle) Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee provides legal advice and representation on civil legal issues for seniors in 48 Middle Tennessee counties. Recently, many seniors have contacted our offices because they have received notices from TennCare or Social Security stating they will stop getting help paying for Medicare. Many seniors do not understand what has happened because there has been no change in their circumstances. TennCare, Tennessee’s Medicaid agency, administers the Medicare Savings Programs (MSP), which help eligible seniors, and adults with disabilities, pay their Medicare Part B premiums and sometimes their Medicare copay and deductible expenses as well. For the first time in several years, TennCare has begun to review whether a senior is still eligible for these programs. TennCare sends seniors a renewal packet, which has 17 pages of instructions and questions.

TBR appoints new senior leadership (Nashville Post) Deaton to leave THEC, Leming and Goodman get promotions. The Tennessee Board of Regents made three new executive appointments last week during its second meeting under new Chancellor Flora Tydings. Russ Deaton will leave the Tennessee Higher Education Commission to become the new executive vice chancellor for policy and strategy. Deaton currently works in a dual role as deputy executive director and associate executive director for policy, planning and research at THEC. He previously served as the agency’s interim director from 2014 to 2016. He also served served nine years as the director of fiscal policy analysis prior, and teaches part-time at Vanderbilt University.

UTK reinstates funding for LGBT center (Nashville Post) Beavers calls move ‘complete disrespect for our legislative oversight.’ A year after the General Assembly defunded the University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, new Chancellor Beverly Davenport is reinstating funding for its LGBT Pride Center, including plans to hire a new director. The legislature diverted more than $400,000 from UTK’s diversity efforts in 2016 after uproar over the office suggesting the use of gender-neutral pronouns such as “ze,” advising against specifically Christian-themed holiday parties, and ongoing drama over the school’s annual Sex Week. The funds went to minority scholarships instead, and Rickey Hall, the head of UTK’s Office of Diversity, left for the University of Washington.

UTHSC Hosting Pharmaceutical Safety Conference (Memphis Daily News) The University of Tennessee Health Science Center is working toward playing a major role in the safety and quality of medical products and the global pharmaceutical supply chain. Its latest step in that direction is the university’s designation as a Center of Excellence in global medical product quality and pharmaceutical supply chain security. That comes from the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, an international forum supporting economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region.

$37 Million UTHSC Medical Simulation Facility Changing How Students Learn (Memphis Daily News) While learning on the job is pretty common in most professions, when it comes to health care the stakes are much higher, which is why the University of Tennessee Health Science Center decided to invest in new a $37 million medical simulation facility that will offer students unprecedented access to hands-on training. Scheduled for completion this fall, the three-story, 45,000-square-foot state-of-the-art building will house a quilt-like amalgamation of exam rooms, hospital beds, operating tables, residential settings and even a pharmacy, which will be used by a multidisciplinary group of medial students working together to garner invaluable team-building and hands-on experience.

Tennessee State Capitol evacuated due to fire in underground tunnel (WKRN) The Tennessee State Capitol was evacuated for about an hour late Monday afternoon when a fire broke out as constructions crews worked in an underground tunnel. Fire officials said some insulation caught fire as they were working on an elevator shaft, but it was extinguished by the crews by 4:40 p.m. The building was evacuated due to concerns over the smoke, but everyone was let back inside about 5:20 p.m. No injuries were reported.

TN State Capitol evacuated due to small fire (WSMV) The Tennessee State Capitol was evacuated after a small fire was reported Monday afternoon. The fire was reported in the Cordell Hull tunnel to the Capitol. The fire was contained and no injuries were reported. The Tennessee Highway Patrol evacuated employees at the Capitol, though many had already left for the day. The fire department is now working to ventilate the building.

Tunnel Fire Prompts Capitol Building Evacuation (WTVF) The Tennessee State Capitol was evacuated due to a small fire in one of the building’s new access tunnels. Tennessee Department of Safety officials said the fire broke out Monday evening in the new Cordell Hull tunnel. The fire was contained, and no injuries were reported. First responders evacuated the building out of precaution, but since it was late in the work day, many of the employees had already left or were leaving at the time.

After 2016 drought, Tennessee’s flush with water (News Sentinel) Last year was, well, last year. And “weather is weather,” said Derek Eisentrout, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Morristown. “There are El Ninos and La Ninas and all of these weather patterns, but it just amounts to weather does what it wants to do.” It was Eisentrout’s way of explaining how East Tennessee is 3.65 inches of rain above normal year-to-date after being an inch below normal and well on its way to a historic drought at this time last year.

Plastic Bottle Reduction Program in State Parks (Mother Earth News) Tennessee State Parks understands the importance of reducing the number of plastic bottles that go into the waste stream. One of the highest waste streams captured in state parks is plastic bottles from guests. While it’s important to stay hydrated during outdoor activities, especially in the summer time, it is equally important to do so sustainably. That is why several parks are taking steps to reduce plastic cup and bottle waste within the park.

Gas tax, vehicle registration fees go up July 1 (News Sentinel) Tennessee fuel taxes are generating more revenue than expected, with a rate increase scheduled to take effect Saturday, according to tax collection figures for May released by Finance Commissioner Larry Martin last week. Overall, the state’s revenue collections for May were $53.1 million above estimates used when the state budget was adopted. Gas and diesel fuel tax collections accounted for $8.9 million of the over-collection, while most of the surplus, about $44 million, came from the state sales tax.

15 new Tennessee laws you should know (WATE) There is a total of 133 new laws or amendments to laws that will take effect in Tennessee on July 1. Gas prices are going up. The “Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy (IMPROVE) Act” cuts taxes on food, but raises prices on gas and registration in order to pay for road and bridge funding. The state’s tax on gasoline will increase by six cents over the next three years. It will go from 20 cents to 24 cents on July 1, 2017, 24 cents to 25 cents on July 1, 2018 and 25 cents to 26 cents in July 1, 2019. The state’s diesel tax will increase by 10 cents and compressed natural gas and liquefied gas will increase by eight cents over the next three years. Also, starting on July 1, 2017 sales tax on food will be cut from five percent to four percent.

State joint resolution passed that recognizes pornography as public health hazard (WVLT) The Tennessee General Assembly approved a joint resolution that “recognizes pornography as a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and society harms.” SJR 0035 was filed for introduction on January 24, 2017, and adopted by the state Senate on March 6. The motion was passed unanimously through the Senate, 32-0, and through the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, 9-0. The House concurred with the motion on April 17. The vote through the House was nearly unanimous, 89-0, with one representative present and not voting. The legislation then passed on a majority vote through the Calendar & Rules Committee, the Health Committee and the Health Subcommittee.

Bessie Smith Center getting $40,000 state grant (Times Free Press) Chattanooga’s Bessie Smith Cultural Center will get a one-time $40,000 grant in the new Tennessee government budget that begins July 1, the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators announced Monday. The money is among some $400,000 in grants for African- American museums and sites across Tennessee. State Rep. Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, chairwoman of the Black Caucus, thanked Gov. Bill Haslam for helping procure the funding.

Tennessee passes new law to regulate amusement parks (WKRN) There are still a lot of questions after a girl fell from an amusement park ride in New York. In a terrifying video, you see the teenage girl dangling from the ride 25 feet in the air. A crowd gathered below, and the girl eventually dropped. Luckily, a man caught her. Both she and the man were taken to a nearby hospital with minor injuries. After the incident, News 2 checked to see who is responsible for regulating amusement parks. It turns out, it’s up to individual states, and Tennessee just passed tougher regulations this year.

Former Senate Speaker Ramsey to lobby former colleagues (AP) Former Tennessee Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey is plotting a return to the hallways of the state Capitol complex. The Kingsport Times-News reports that the Blountville Republican has been hired by the firm Farrar and Bates, which lobbies for the Tennessee Association of Realtors among others. Ramsey’s son-in-law also lobbies for the firm. Ramsey became the first Republican speaker of the Senate since Reconstruction when he was elected in 2007. He retired last year, and is barred from lobbying until his one-year anniversary from when he left office in November.

Davis, Pastorek running for House (Nashville Post) District 5 Metro Councilmember Scott Davis plans to run for the state House in District 54 — the seat Rep. Brenda Gilmore is vacating — in the hopes of landing Sen. Thelma Harper’s seat. But he will be challenged by Davidson County Democratic Party social media strategist Whitney Pastorek for the seat. Other challengers are likely to follow. Davis announced his candidacy Monday morning. Pastorek, who has long promised to friends (including this reporter) that she would challenge Davis if he ran, tweeted a few hours later, “I am officially running against Scott Davis, effective immediately. In lieu of donating to my campaign pls send money to @PPact & @ACLU.” But Pastorek says that despite the flippant tweet, she plans a serious campaign.

Nashville Councilman Scott Davis to run for state House seat (Tennessean) Metro Councilman Scott Davis announced plans Monday to run as a Democrat for state House District 54 in 2018, becoming the first to declare his candidacy for the open Nashville seat. Davis, a second-term councilman representing East Nashville’s District 5, said he’s helped his neighborhood make progress in housing and jobs, declaring, “I’m running to represent my community in the legislature.” Davis is seeking the seat currently held by Rep. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, who announced in April she will run for Senate District 19, held by longtime state Sen. Thelma Harper, who is weighing retirement.

Republican Lawmakers Ask Council To Oppose “Sanctuary” Ordinance (WTVF) Republican lawmakers have urged Metro Nashville council members to not pass a “sanctuary city-like” ordinance on its third reading. According to a press release from the office of Representative Judd Matheny and the Tennessee House of Representatives, a total of 63 House Republican Caucus members oppose the bill. The “sanctuary city-like” ordinance was passed on its second reading last week. It would not allow Nashville to funding, resources, or facilities to assist in immigration enforcement.

Knox County Mayor Burchett rules out run for governor (News Sentinel) In the slow trickle of politics Tim Burchett has been able to keep people guessing about his next move for months. The Knox County Republican mayor and former state legislator is term-limited next year and has made it no secret that he will be on a ballot again in 2018, but he has yet to say what he will run for. On Saturday, Burchett told the crowd at the Grainger County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner that he wasn’t going to run for governor, leaving a couple of feasible options for him going forward.

Senator Puts Hold on Arms Sales to Persian Gulf Nations Over Qatar Feud (New York Times) The Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said on Monday that he was putting a hold on any future American arms sales to a group of Persian Gulf nations in an apparent move to help resolve a bitter dispute between one of those countries, Qatar, and several of its Arab neighbors. In an unusual letter to Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican who heads the committee, said he would refuse to consent to weapons sales to the gulf nations until the feuding countries worked to end one of the worst political crises among Arab gulf states in years.

GOP Senator to Block Arms Sales Over Crisis With Qatar (AP) An influential Republican senator said Monday that he’ll withhold approval of U.S. weapons sales to several Middle Eastern allies until there is a clear path for settling a diplomatic crisis with Qatar. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that “recent disputes” among members of the Gulf Cooperation Council undermine efforts to combat the Islamic State and counter Iran. The council is an alliance of six Middle Eastern countries, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain.

Corker to block future arms sales to Gulf nations (Politico) Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker on Monday said he would block future U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and four other Gulf nations until a regional conflict is resolved. The Tennessee Republican announced his plans in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Monday as the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council remains wracked by internal disputes over anti-terrorism efforts and a Saudi-led blockade of Qatar.

Freedom Fund Luncheon Speakers: Democratic Party Must Change (Memphis Daily News) Former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. says if voters can make the big change they made last November in the White House they can do it again. As one of two keynote speakers at the NAACP Freedom Fund luncheon Saturday, June 24, marking the centennial of the Memphis Branch NAACP, the former Memphis congressman said he is optimistic, even though he disagrees with much of what President Donald Trump has done since taking office six months ago. “I’m not as down on him as some people are. Hear me out,” Ford said prompting murmurs in a ballroom of 800 people at the Hilton in East Memphis.

Tennessee insurance shoppers could find lower premiums coupled with disappearing protections (Tennessean) Many Tennesseans shopping for insurance could pay more money under the Senate’s health care reform bill, although the underlying factors driving the costs change over the next decade. The Senate bill, aimed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, in some ways gives states time to implement the changes and delays until after the next two federal elections when some of the changes that are projected by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and health care policy experts to hit people’s wallets. But the impact of the bill changes over the years as components come into place that alter the types of insurance people can buy.

Governors ask GOP for time to determine impact of health care plan on states (Times Free Press) Two top members of the National Governors Association today issued a bipartisan plea to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., asking states be given enough time to review the GOP health plan and ensure it “does not adversely harm the people we were elected to serve.” In their letter to McConnell, both Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, current NGA chairman and a Democrat, and Massachusetts Gov. Charle Baker, a Republican, said that while the nation’s governors “are ready to work with leaders in Washington to make health care more accessible and affordable to the people we serve,” governors “must be given adequate time to determine the impact any health care bill will have on their states and residents.”

Advocates: Child abuse victims will suffer under Senate health bill (Tennessean) Abused and neglected children in Tennessee will suffer from Medicaid cuts proposed under the Senate health care bill, warned state child welfare advocates on Monday, painting a potentially dire picture of victims without access to treatment and a deepening of an opioid crisis that has pushed more kids into foster care because they lack a functioning parent. TennCare, the state’s version of Medicaid, is the principal provider of medical, mental health and special-needs services for about 8,000 kids in foster care, most as a result of abuse or neglect.

Tennessee lawmakers still reviewing CBO report on Senate health care bill (Times Free Press) While Democrats and other critics used the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of U.S. Senate Republicans’ health care bill to assail the legislation and exert pressure on GOP lawmakers, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., late Monday afternoon called the report “helpful information for every senator to consider.” CBO said some 15 million people could lose health insurance coverage nationally in 2018 alone. But Alexander said in a statement he is “encouraged that CBO says premiums would begin to fall under this bill starting in 2020, especially in states that take advantage of the new flexibility available under the bill.”

Rep. Jim Cooper: Tennesseans must urge Senators to vote no on health care bill (Tennessean) U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper on Monday called on residents to petition Republican Senators and urge them to vote against their version of the health care bill. Cooper called the bill “tragic” and “cruel,” predicting it has a “slightly-less than 50 percent” chance of passing. Cooper, D-Nashville, said Democrats are standing in solidarity in their opposition. Republicans can lose no more than two of their own members if they hope to pass the legislation.

Public Hearing Discusses AHCA (WTVF) Tennesseans got the chance to ask experts questions about the American Health Care Act in a public hearing. The Tennessee Justice Center hosted the event for the public since there hasn’t been a public hearing on the bill. Panelists offered a range of perspectives. Professors, an insurance agent and a physician fielded questions. The statements and questions asked Monday night will be compiled and hand-delivered tomorrow to Senator Alexander and Senator Corker who are casting an important vote on the bill.

East Tennessee cancer survivor to discuss health care bill with senators in DC (WATE) An East Tennessee man will meet his senators in Washington D.C. on Tuesday to explain why they should vote no on the health care bill. Michael Holtz is a cancer survivor and plans to meet Senators Corker and Alexander. This comes after the Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, revealed the Senate’s proposed bill would leave an additional 22 million people uninsured by 2026. “My immediate reaction to that is it’s very scary,” said Holtz.

Vanderbilt anti-fake news project claims $50K award (AP) A Vanderbilt University project to combat fake news has clinched an award worth $50,000 in funding. The university says the project was one of 20 selected from more than 800 submissions for a share of a $1 million prize through the Knight Prototype Fund, which focuses on instilling trust in journalism. Vanderbilt assistant psychology professor Lisa Fazio will partner with CrossCheck, a project that developed by First Draft and Google News Lab to combat misinformation during the recent French election. Fazio will help test and improve CrossCheck and develop guidelines for fact checkers.

Erlanger to sell its retail pharmacies (Times Free Press) CVS to pay $10 million for hospital drug stores. Erlanger Health System, which entered the retail pharmacy business more than two decades ago by acquiring the former Moore & King Pharmacy, plans to sell its four retail pharmacy locations to CVS on Saturday, if hospital trustees approve the sale. CVS will pay Erlanger and its for-profit subsidiary ContinuCare HealthServices Inc. a total of $10 million to take over Erlanger Pharmacies Inc. under a sales agreement endorsed Monday night by Erlanger’s budget and finance committee.

Mayor Barry looks at privatizing Nashville airport to generate transit funds (Tennessean) Mayor Megan Barry’s administration is exploring privatizing the operations of the city-owned Nashville International Airport to an outside management company to generate funding for mass transit in Middle Tennessee. The mayor’s office confirmed hearing a presentation in May from representatives of Oaktree Capital Management, a California-based investment firm that has also made bids to run government-owned airports in other cities. Barry’s Chief Operating Officer Riebeling downplayed the meeting as “preliminary,” but he did say the privatization of the Nashville International Airport is something the city is looking at to help fund a $6 billion proposed transit system in the region.

White Extremist Conference Coming To Middle Tennessee (WTVF) The white extremist group American Renaissance is set to hold a conference at Montgomery Bell State Park in Dickson County. The inn there was quiet on Monday but in four weeks the area will be packed with folks for the American Renaissance Conference. The American Renaissance magazine was founded in 1990 by Jared Taylor, an American white nationalist and white supremacist who told us  the conference has occurred at the state park every year since 2012, mainly because a government owned building and property cannot succumb to protest intimidation like private hotels in the past. On it’s website attendees are invited to “discuss the way forward for White America and the Western World.”

Why States Are Struggling to Tax Services (Stateline) As states struggle to align their tax codes with the modern service economy, expanding sales taxes to include activities like personal care, home repair, funeral services, computer maintenance and similar enterprises would seem to be a logical move. But states are finding it’s not so easy. Twenty-three state legislatures considered proposals this year to impose taxes on at least some services. But so far, none has made it into law intact — and most died outright. And in several states, new taxes on services that took effect this year are so complicated that tax offices are writing clarifying memos, like the one in North Carolina to distinguish between roof repair (taxable) and roof replacement (not taxable).


Editorial: A Senator Takes Charge in the Qatar Mess (Bloomberg) Some three weeks after Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states cut off trade and diplomatic ties with Qatar, an American official finally seems to have a plan to resolve the standoff. Unsurprisingly, it is not someone from the Trump administration. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee intends to block all U.S. arms sales to Gulf Cooperation Council nations until they end the dispute (and as chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he has the authority). This includes the $110 billion in sales agreements announced during President Donald Trump’s visit to Riyadh last month.

Guest column: Senate health care bill would place Tennessee hospitals at greater risk (Tennessean) U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to seek a vote this week on the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA), which is a revised version of the House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA). Identifying improvements to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a goal on which we can all agree. The task of reforming and improving the nation’s health care system is anything but simple, so it is especially important to guard against changes that ultimately are more costly and do not work as well for patients and the providers who care for them.

Guest column: Stop cascade of rural hospital closures in Tennessee (Tennessean) Consider the state of Tennessee as a canary in the coal mine — and the canary is critically ill. Tennessee leads the country in the rate of closures of rural hospitals and could be a harbinger for other states. The danger to rural hospitals and the communities is tied to radical changes in how Medicaid would be financed under the American Health Care Act, declines in federal funding for Medicaid, and elimination of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Medicaid expansion. The current situation in Tennessee, precipitated in part by not expanding Medicaid, will be exacerbated if the ACHA replaces the ACA. The AHCA changes Medicaid from an entitlement program to a block grant program. This change will be devastating to Tennessee. Benefits in entitlement programs are guaranteed to eligible individuals.

Victor Ashe: House race may include Knoxville’s first black mayor; 3 women up for governor (Shopper News) City Councilman and former Mayor Daniel Brown leaves office in six months. There is speculation that he may run for state representative in the August 2018 Democratic primary against state Rep. Rick Staples. Brown will have finished eight years on City Council and has always wanted to serve in the state House. When former state Rep. Joe Armstrong was forced by his conviction to vacate the Democratic nomination, Staples was chosen by 16 people without a primary to be the new nominee. Rank and file Democratic voters as a group were locked out of the process.

Editorial: UT must find funding for Title IX reforms (News Sentinel) The University of Tennessee has received a long-awaited critique of its sexual assault policies, and now it must figure out a way to fund the independent  panel’s recommendations. The four outside experts, tasked to review Title IX compliance and sexual assault prevention and response across the UT system, made five major recommendations:

Column: How dare Tennessee hire Phillip Fulmer for only $100,000 a year (News Sentinel) I returned from vacation to disturbing news last week. University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro had hired former football coach Phillip Fulmer as a special adviser for $100,000 a year. My first reaction: “Are you kidding me?” My second reaction: “Are you kidding me?” UT paid Fulmer millions of dollars a year not to do anything after he was fired in 2008. Now it puts him back to work for a mere $100,000 a year. It should be embarrassed. “But it’s only a part-time job,” you say. Please. Current UT football coach Butch Jones makes $4 million a year. Given those late-season losses to South Carolina and Vanderbilt, you could argue that he wasn’t working fulltime, either.

Monday, June 26

12 Tennessee counties declared disasters after Memorial Day weekend storms (WATE) Twelve Tennessee counties will receive federal aid through a Presidential Disaster Declaration after storms that rolled through on Memorial Day weekend. Counties included in the presidential declaration are Blount, Cumberland, Fayette, Knox, Loudon, Morgan, Putnam, Rhea, Roane, Sevier, Shelby and Smith. “Local, state, and federal partners came together in a collaborative effort to assess impacts rapidly so we could have accurate storm damage data and illustrate our need for a disaster declaration to President Trump,” Haslam said. “I am grateful to all the first responders, emergency managers, and community members who have united to help others recover from the impact of these storms.”

Tennessee receives federal disaster assistance for Memorial Day weekend storms (WKRN) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced Friday evening 12 counties will receive federal aid assistance through a Presidential Disaster Declaration as the recovery process continues in several areas from the severe storms and straight-line winds of May 27, and May 28, 2017. “Local, state, and federal partners came together in a collaborative effort to assess impacts rapidly so we could have accurate storm damage data and illustrate our need for a disaster declaration to President Trump,” Haslam said. “I am grateful to all the first responders, emergency managers, and community members who have united to help others recover from the impact of these storms.”

State parks host TN Promise volunteer day (WBIR) Students tallied up their service hours for the Tennessee Promise scholarship Saturday by volunteering at Tennessee State Parks. All 56 state parks offered volunteer opportunities like litter cleanup, trail maintenance and event assistance as part of TN Promise Saturday. Organizers said a goal of the event was to connect students to outdoor opportunities while also supporting their academic goals. As part of the Tennessee Promise scholarship, students must complete eight hours of community service by July 1. The volunteer hours must be logged with a nonprofit or public service organization.

Tennessee license plates to increase between $5 and $100 on July 1 (Times News) Wanna save at least $5 and maybe up to $100 or more? If your Tennessee license plates expire between now and the end of August, and you live in Sullivan County, renew them before end of business on June 30 and avoid a state-mandated price increase that takes effect July 1.The increase is mandated by Gov. Bill Haslam’s IMPROVE Act, and it ranges from $5 per year for most state-issued vehicle tags to a $100 per year fee on electric vehicles. In between the two ends of the spectrum: plates for commercial buses will increase by $10 on July 1, and other commercial-use vehicles will increase by $20.

Dozens of new public safety laws affect Tennesseans (Johnson City Press) If you see a purple tree, don’t hear your neighbor shooting a gun or come upon a disabled car along the roadside, you’ll be glad you reviewed this partial list of Tennessee public safety-related laws going into effect Saturday. These measures were passed during the 2017 Tennessee legislative session: Move over for everyone. You already know about the “Move Over” law and how it applies to emergency vehicles and tow truck vehicles, but as of July 1, the law is extended to any vehicle parked alongside the road. Specifically, the law requires “a motor vehicle to yield the right-of-way by making a lane change, if possible, or reduce speed and proceed with due caution when approaching a stationary motor vehicle that is giving signal by use of flashing lights and located on the shoulder, emergency lane, or median.”

New Tennessee laws taking effect July 1 (Johnson City Press) A multitude of new laws enacted by the 110th General Assembly are set to take effect July 1, from the highly publicized IMROVE Act to an obscure law requiring that steps leading into a public building have detectable “nosings.” Another prominent taking law set to be enforced is Jonesborough Rep. Matthew Hill’s 20-week abortion ban, which Gov. Bill Haslam signed on May 3. This means an abortion cannot be performed 20 weeks from the beginning of a woman’s last menstrual period.

Family Justice Center, Mountain States to expand accessibility of sexual assault forensic exams (Johnson City Press) Sexual assault can be one of the most adverse experiences a person has in their life, causing both immediate and long-term effects. Walking into a busy emergency room and getting a forensic exam completed could add more stress to an already appalling situation.  In an attempt to mitigate that stress, the Johnson City/Washington County Family Justice Center and Mountain States Health Alliance have formed a partnership to provide those vital forensic exams at a more private and intimate setting.

Curry Todd theft case dismissed; Mark Lovell a no-show (Commercial Appeal) With campaign sign theft victim Mark Lovell a no-show in court, the misdemeanor theft case against suspect Curry Todd was dismissed on Friday, although the case can be presented to a grand jury before the statute of limitations runs out. Todd faced charges of misdemeanor theft of property under $500 for allegedly stealing Lovell’s campaign signs during last summer’s Republican primary for the District 95 state house seat, an act that was caught on video. Lovell  won the primary and ran unopposed in the general election. He, however, resigned from the legislature early in the session after being accused of sexual harassment, charges he has denied.

Tennessee’s scathing response to California travel ban: Keep your ‘unfounded moral judgment’ to yourself ( Tennessee lawmakers have something to say to their counterparts in California. In January, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the state would no longer fund employee travel to four states – Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee. Now, with Alabama, Kentucky, South Dakota and Texas added to the list after each passed laws California officials described as discriminatory towards the LGBT community, a measure passed by Nashville lawmakers in May is making the rounds again. The resolution – introduced in February and signed by Gov. Bill Haslam on May 4- calls California to task for what Tennessee lawmakers described as “blackmail.”

Roe’s marriage, Nannie’s birthday, Fish Fry Princess Court & more of the Tennessee (Johnson City Press) Each year, state legislatures convene to discuss and argue important matters such as enacting and repealing laws, creating bills and balancing state budgets. But in the midst of completing that pivotal and important work, lawmakers also discuss resolutions that can vary from topics of celebrating mental health efforts to recognizing a 95-year-old’s birthday. Here are just a few of the unique resolutions the Tennessee General Assembly members gave their time and attention to:

TN gubernatorial candidate attends Washington County, TN Republican Party picnic (WJHL) A candidate hoping to become Tennessee’s next governor made a stop in the Tri-Cities Sunday afternoon. Senator Mae Beavers attended a GOP picnic at Maple Lane Farm in Johnson City hosted by the Washington County, Tennessee Republican Party. Beavers is the most recent republican candidate to throw her name in the race. At Sunday’s picnic, Beavers told us one of her top priorities is to make sure our money is spent efficiently, and she said here in the Tri-Cities, she plans to concentrate on rural economic development. “I think that too many times our rural areas are overlooked. We look at Nashville and Knoxville and Memphis, and we fail to give consideration to our rural communities. I’ve represented a lot of those areas in my district and so we will pay special attention to those,” Beavers said.

State politicians attend Reagan Day picnic (WCYB) There’s already plenty of interest for Tennessee Governor, Bill Haslam’s position, as his term comes to an end in 2018. A couple of those interested visited our area today, joining republicans at the Reagan Day Picnic at Maple Lane Farm in Johnson City. Among Attendees were State Senator Mae Beavers, and State House Speaker Beth Harwell, who has not yet officially announced her candidacy. Both Beavers and Harwell spoke on topics of concern to the Tri-Cities. “We want to concentrate on some rural economic development, I’ve been made aware of some things that are going on here, some possibilities, and I think too many times our rural areas are overlooked. We look at Nashville, and Knoxville, and Memphis, and we fail to give consideration to our rural communities,” Beavers says.

Trump’s budget proposal takes chop at teacher training, could cost Hamilton County Schools $1.8 million (Times Free Press) Schools across the country are bracing for the impact of the Trump administration’s proposed education budget, and Tennessee’s top education officials worry its elimination of funding for teacher training threatens to slow student success. The proposed budget cuts all Title II funding — $2.4 billion — designated for teacher support and training across the states. If Congress approves the budget, Tennessee stands to lose about $35 million in Title II funds. “These are the only federal funds focused on teacher improvement and growth, and it is absolutely critical these are protected,” Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said Thursday.

Tennessee Hospital Association opposes Senate, House GOP health care bills (Times Free Press) In a state where nine rural hospitals have closed or dramatically curtailed services over the past four years, the head of the Tennessee Hospital Association fears more trouble lies ahead under proposed federal Medicaid cuts contained in plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act. THA President Craig Becker said hospitals in the state, especially rural facilities, were already hit by Tennessee officials’ refusal to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. And now proposed spending cuts in both U.S. Senate and House GOP proposals threaten to hit basic Medicaid heavily in efforts to largely repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s signature 2010 health care law.

How fair were the 2016 elections in Tennessee? By one account, very. (Tennessean) It may seem counter-intuitive considering Tennessee’s Republican dominance, but by one measure the 2016 election here could be considered exceptionally balanced. A new voting data analysis by the Associated Press shows the state’s political representation essentially reflects the number of votes cast for each party. While that sounds like it should be the norm nationwide, some states have lopsided representation because lawmakers crafted district boundaries that gave one party advantage over another.

Book details Baker’s ‘strategic civility’ (Times News) William H. “Bill” Haltom Jr. thinks he’s got an answer for the volatile political discourse going on in America. His answer is the late U.S. Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr. Haltom, a Memphis lawyer, has written a book examining the qualities that made Baker successful and beloved during his long career in a second edition published by the Tennessee Bar Association. The book, titled “The Other Fellow May Be Right: The Civility of Howard Baker,” not only looks at details of the statesman’s life and career but also examines Tennessee’s changing political climate.

Environmental groups challenge TVA plans for small nuclear reactors in Oak Ridge (Times Free Press) The Tennessee Valley Authority wants to use the site of a nuclear reactor design abandoned in the 1970s to develop a new technology of small modular reactors. But environmental critics of the Oak Ridge project say the new small modular reactors are still untested, unsafe and unneeded. Sara Barczak, the high risk energy choices program director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, likened TVA’s proposal to locate the new small reactor designs in Oak Ridge to the Clinch River Breeder Reactor that was planned for the same site in the 1970s. Ultimately, then President Jimmy Carter killed the project because he feared the liquid metal fast breeder reactor might lead to more nuclear proliferation around the globe, and he complained about the escalating price for the innovative technology.

Proposed timber project near Copperhill draws opponents (Times Free Press) A proposed logging project in the Cherokee National Forest in Polk County, Tenn., has conservationists worried for the upper waters of a sparkling trout stream that winds through hemlocks and beech trees. The project includes “a mixture of clearcuts, seedtree cuts [clearing most growth to leave just five to six trees per acre], shelterwood cuts [leaves a bit more], and thinning. These are some steep slopes on sensitive soils,” according to a statement from Tennessee Heartwood, a nonprofit group that addresses issues in the Cherokee National Forest and other public lands across Tennessee. Officials said the Forest Service’s timbering work combines efforts to remove species not characteristic to the area — such as stands of white pine — and replace them with characteristic species.

States get ready for the self-driving car revolution (Tennessean) Self-driving vehicles are synonymous with sophisticated sensors producing terabytes of data being analyzed by powerful computers. But it seems the success of this transportation revolution hinges on a decidedly low-tech material: Paint. That’s because when it comes to getting the nation’s infrastructure ready for autonomous traffic, the most critical upgrade amounts to making sure the lines on our 4 million miles of roads are solid, bright and preferably white so they can be picked up by computer vision gear. “The (self-driving car companies) actually said make sure you have really good paint lines,” says Kirk Steudle, director of Michigan’s Department of Transportation. “So, where there are lines, we have to make sure they’re really good.”

Magnitude 2.6 earthquake confirmed in Lenoir City (WATE) A Magnitude 2.6 earthquake was confirmed in Lenoir City, Sunday morning. The United States Geological Survey reports it happened around 6:00 a.m. and spanned a radius of 9.8 kilometers or about 6 miles. No damage or injuries were reported because of the earthquake. Earthquakes of this magnitude are usually felt, but are not frequently associated with any serious damage. The USGS wants to hear from anyone in the affected area.

Weak Earthquake Hits Eastern Tennessee; No Damage Reported (AP) Officials have confirmed a weak earthquake has hit eastern Tennessee. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that there was no damage associated with the magnitude 2.6 earthquake on Sunday morning about 3 miles south of Lenoir City. The U.S. Geological Survey says the seismic zone extending across Tennessee and parts of Georgia and Alabama is one of the most active for earthquakes in the southeast. The zone is not known to have had a large earthquake, though some have caused minor damage.


Guest column: Nashville teacher: Tennessee, put yourself to the test (Tennessean) I have been teaching high school for almost eleven years, and it’s true: change is the only constant in education, especially when it comes to educational policies. It seems that practically every year, Tennessee students have had to adjust to a new statewide annual assessment. Unfortunately, this is often done more to satisfy political whims than to serve the best interests of Tennessee’s students. While assessments often receive a bad rap, testing is an important part of learning. As an Advanced Placement English teacher, I have found deep value in the Advanced Placement test because of the meaningful information it provides to me, my students, and their families, as well as the utility of preparing students for college-level coursework.

Trump and the GOP say the darndest things on health care (Johnson City Press) Many years ago, “Art Linkletter’s House Party” TV show featured a very popular segment called “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” The host, Art Linkletter, would simply interview children on various topics and hope their innocence would result in a hilarious response. He usually got one. It worked so well that the not-so-innocent Bill Cosby brought “Kids Say the Darndest Things” back to network television for a brief run in the 1990s. I’d like to see a reboot of this concept, but instead of featuring children, the new version would focus on the gibberish that often comes from the mouths of our elected officials. I think “Politicians Say the Darndest Things” would be a ratings winner.

Friday, June 23

Haslam heads to Europe on trade mission next week (Times Free Press) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and the state’s chief economic recruiter, Bob Rolfe, will head to Europe next week for an economic development trip designed to strengthen Tennessee’s ties with European businesses, which have already opened more than 500 facilities in the Volunteer State. During the week-long trip that starts Monday, Haslam and Rolfe will pitch Tennessee’s advantages to a number of European businesses interested in establishing operations in the Southeast U.S. The trip will include stops in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Germany.

Governor Taking Business Recruiting Trip To Europe (AP) Governor Bill Haslam has planned to head to Europe next week to try to recruit more foreign investment in Tennessee. Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe have planned to visit the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, and Germany. They’re scheduled to leave on Monday and return June 30. More than 500 European businesses have been operating in Tennessee, employing about 62,000 people. More than $3.8 billion has been invested in the state by European companies since 2011.

The secret heroes behind ServiceMaster’s decision to stay (Memphis Business Journal) After Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam initially met with representatives from ServiceMaster Global Holdings Inc. last year, he wasn’t confident that the company would stay in Memphis. “I can actually remember leaving being a little discouraged, thinking, ‘This is going to be difficult,’” Haslam said. In early 2016, Haslam and members of his economic development team made a trip to the Bluff City after a consultant from ServiceMaster contacted the governor’s office to say the company was looking for a new headquarters — and that the search could take them out of the state. With the company looking hard at locations in Dallas and Atlanta, the argument to stay in Memphis was far from an easy sell.

Uncertain of the Future, States Save and Save Some More (Governing) Governors and legislatures are keeping spending growth at its lowest level since the recession to make sure they’re prepared for the next one. In the face of a politically and financially uncertain fiscal 2018, states are hunkering down, pulling back on spending increases and beefing up rainy day funds. General fund revenues for fiscal 2017 are coming in below forecasts in 33 states, according to a new survey by the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO). That’s the highest number since the recession, and it also marks the second straight year that more states have failed to meet projected revenues than exceeded them. As a result, it’s increasingly likely that more states will be forced to make spending cuts (23 have already reported doing so).

Marion County Woman Charged With TennCare Fraud (Chattanoogan) A Marion County woman is charged with TennCare fraud involving doctor shopping, which involves going from doctor to doctor in a short period of time to obtain prescription drugs, using TennCare as payment. The Office of Inspector General (OIG), with the assistance of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, today announced the arrest of Melysa McDaniel, 40, of Whitwell. She is charged with four counts of doctor shopping for the painkiller Hydrocodone, and using TennCare health care insurance benefits as payment.

Lowest UT tuition hike in 30 years, $26K increase for DiPietro OK’d by trustees (News Sentinel) Tuition at the University of Tennessee will increase by 1.8 percent for in-state undergraduate students next year, the lowest tuition increase the university has seen in more than 30 years. The board of trustees approved the increase, the lowest since 1984, along with a $2.3 billion 2017-2018 budget and a $25,667 raise for UT President Joe DiPietro on Thursday. “This is the lowest (tuition) recommendation we’ve made in more than three decades,” DiPietro said during Thursday’s annual board meeting at the UT Institute of Agriculture. “We’re working hard to keep other fee increases low. I’m proud to be a national leader in efforts to hold down tuition increases in a time when stories of high student debt are making headlines.”

Tennessee Tech’s Debate Over Professor Pay Reveals Potential Pitfalls Of Self-Governance (WPLN) Professors at Tennessee Tech University say they’re seeing some downsides in their freedom from the Board of Regents. Six universities broke away from the state system in the last year. Now, they’re finalizing their first budgets. This is uncharted territory for these schools — setting their own tuition increases, deciding on pay raises. The state gave campuses enough for a 3 percent raise, but schools can use it how they want. At MTSU this month, the trustees unanimously approved a cost-of-living raise to everyone. But Tennessee Tech decided to give faculty and staff 1 percent, then distribute the rest based on merit.

UT President hopes to hire Title IX coordinator by year’s end (News Sentinel) There’s no firm timeline for when the University of Tennessee will have in place some of the recommendations of a new report critiquing its Title IX policies, President Joe DiPietro said Thursday. But he hopes to hire a systemwide coordinator by the end of the year. “Some of them are easier and others are more long-term,” DiPietro said following a UT board of trustees meeting in Knoxville five days after the report was released. “We’ve been training, but everybody needs to have training programs that are uniform and effective. That will take some time.”

University of Tennessee leadership unveils plans on Title IX (WATE) University of Tennessee leadership talked Thursday about the university’s response to concerns over Title IX, the law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity, including education. UT was sued last year by several women claiming Title IX violations in how the university handled sexual assault claims involving athletes. It’s been just shy of a year since UT settled that lawsuit, which included a payout of nearly $2.5 million. UT also offered up changes coming to campus.

UT Knoxville will have a pride center director, chancellor says (News Sentinel) The University of Tennessee Knoxville is making plans to bring back a director for its LGBT pride center, Chancellor Beverly Davenport said on Thursday. For the last year, the job has been unfilled after the Tennessee legislature decided to redirect funds from the school’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion and the part-time position was eliminated, forcing students to run the center on their own with some administrative oversight from the dean of students. Student and faculty groups such as the Pride Center Working Group have for the last several months called for UT and Davenport to hire a pride center director and put in place other initiatives aimed at promoting and preserving diversity on campus.

UT facilities employees hold silent protest during trustees meeting (WATE) Outsourcing has been a discussion point for the past few years at the University of Tennessee as a way to save money. The change could take away jobs from UT employees who have depended on them for years. It’s a complicated issue and UT says when it comes to outsourcing, the university can either accept part of it, all of it, or none of it. A small group of employees stood in silent protest as two from their group spoke in front of the Board of Trustees on Thursday.

ETSU’s Pack part of team briefing lawmakers on opioid crisis (Johnson City Press) An East Tennessee State University faculty member was one of a handful of Appalachian public health experts who addressed lawmakers on the growing opioid crisis at a briefing session earlier this week. Dr. Robert Pack, associate dean for academic affairs in ETSU’s College of Public Health, leads ETSU’s efforts in treating opioid addiction as the executive director of the university’s Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment. He and four of his colleagues from four schools in the Appalachian region shared their unique research on managing the crisis.

Tennessee’s ‘Smokey Grey’ 2014 alternate uniforms found in Israel (Washington Post) Once lost, now found. The University of Tennessee’s Smokey Grey Adidas football uniforms from 2014 resurfaced by means of the New England Patriots Twitter account Friday afternoon. The team’s official account tweeted out a photo of Pro Football Hall of Famers Aeneas Williams, Joe Montana and Andre Reed posing for selfies among youth and high school football teams in Israel. The former players are there with Patriots owner Robert Kraft as part of a week-long ambassador trip to Israel. But looking closely at the photo of Williams and Reed, Twitter users saw the familiar second version of Tennessee’s alternate Smokey Grey Adidas uniforms.

CoreCivic agrees to pay Metro employee scabies out-of-pocket costs, with caveats (Tennessean) Nashville jail operator CoreCivic is not admitting wrongdoing or that the scabies infestation afflicting some Metro employees is connected to an outbreak of the skin-burrowing parasite at the Metro Davidson County Detention Facility. But the company, previously known as Corrections Corporation of America or CCA, has agreed to pay legitimate out-of-pocket medical expenses for affected Metro employees one day after Nashville Mayor Megan Barry requested they cover such costs as an “act of good will.”

Inmates at CoreCivic prisons say they sometimes go months without medical care (WSMV) Octavious Taylor has a painful and incurable disease. It’s a bad combination when you’re locked up in prison. Taylor’s fiancee, Larita Dowlen, said when he was transferred from a state-run facility to the privately run Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, he stopped getting his medicine for sickle cell anemia. “He catches infections really easily. It gets to the point sometimes where he can’t even get out of bed. Excruciating pain,” Dowlen said. Taylor documented a recent health crisis minute-by-minute in a grievance report. Over a 24-hour period, Taylor claims he repeatedly asked to see a medical professional for pain. The report says he was refused more than once, told the staff was too busy, and told “unless he was bleeding or dying, it was not a medical emergency.”

Sheriff’s Office Will Try To Take Over CoreCivic Contract In 2020 (WTVF) Following a special Metro City Council meeting, Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall said there will be a “serious effort” to take over CoreCivic contract in 2020. In response to a perceived lack of accountability by CoreCivic in regards to a possible scabies outbreak at one of its detention facilities, Metro Council members questioned the sheriff on how the city might go about ending CoreCivic’s contract. Council member Kathleen Murphy presided over the meeting, called for CoreCivic leadership to answer questions about the outbreak, in which the Health Department and human resources attended, but CoreCivic did not.

Officials address 55-gallon drums in Bristol area (WCYB) News 5 has learned that the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation has been investigating complaints regarding 55-gallon drums at various properties in the Bristol area. According to Kim Schofinski with TDEC, all of the drums originated from the The Robinette Company, which has been cooperating with TDEC to manage the situation appropriately. Most of the drums were empty but complete results of the contents of others are not yet finalized. The drums removed from the property at 5th Street and Columbia Road were not removed by TDEC employees. Instead, they were handled by a consultant hired through Robinette. All properties are owned by Arthur F. Brewster. Screenings will be performed at each site to see if any contamination is present.

Dragonfly Day returns to Warriors’ Path this Saturday (Times News) For the eighth consecutive year, nature lovers can dive into the world of dragonflies during Dragonfly Day, held this Saturday at Warriors’ Path State Park. “Dragonflies are a group of fascinating but little-known creatures,” said Park Ranger Marty Silver. “At Dragonfly Day, we’ll learn to observe, photograph and identify these amazing insects. We’ll also learn more about their life histories and what they can teach us about the health of our nearby natural places.” Don Holt and Larry Everett will serve as guest speakers at this year’s event. Holt, a naturalist at Steele Creek Park, has held a special interest in dragonflies since the 1970s. For the past several years, he has photographed and identified dragonflies and damselflies as a hobby, eventually writing two articles for the Tennessee Conservationist magazine.

How the Senate health care bill impacts Tennessee and other states (Tennessean) The Senate’s health care proposal repeals taxes, restructures and caps Medicaid funding, while immediately giving state insurance commissioners leeway to change plan benefits. At its core, the proposal works to reduce the federal government’s health care expenditures by giving states more autonomy — and thus financial exposure — to craft insurance regulations and how Medicaid works in their states, experts said. Changes to subsidies that help people buy insurance and how states receive Medicaid funding will put Tennessee lawmakers as well as its hospitals and clinics on guard in the coming years about who is covered and whether they can afford the out-of-pocket expenses under insurance plans.

Veterans speak out on health care bill, say it could hurt 2 million on Medicaid (Tennessean) On the day Senate Republicans unveiled their health care bill, some military veterans say what the GOP rolled out is “un-American.” Veterans from across Tennessee said they’re speaking out on behalf of 2 million veterans nationwide who they think will lose or see reduced health care coverage because of the move by Congress to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. Led by 36-year retired Marine Corps veteran Lt. Gen. John Castellaw, who lives in rural Crockett County in West Tennessee, he and others said the proposed health care bill would potentially boot millions of veterans off health care that many depend on to supplement coverage or just give them access to doctors.

Alexander, Corker reviewing health care bill, do not say how they will vote on measure (Tennessean) Both of Tennessee’s U.S. senators did not signal whether they would vote to support the newly released Senate health care bill moments after the legislation, a GOP-driven attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, was publicly released. “I don’t think any of us can walk out and really speak clearly” about the bill’s content, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said Thursday morning. “It’s a significant piece of legislation and people have a lot of questions.” Later Thursday the Chattanooga Republican walked through the process he’ll take before making a decision on whether to support the bill.

Senate health care bill contains $2 billion to address opioid crisis, a fraction of what some had hoped (Tennessean) The U.S. Senate’s health care bill contains $2 billion to help fight the opioid crisis gripping the nation, far less than some Republican senators had initially hoped. The bill includes $2 billion for fiscal year 2018 to provide grants to states for treatment and recovery services for people with mental or substance abuse disorders. This amount would fall short of the $45 billion some Republicans senators had hoped.

Health Bill Includes Opioid Funding, but May Not Satisfy Some GOP Senators (Wall Street Journal) The Senate GOP’s health-care bill would offer $2 billion for opioid addiction treatment for one year, falling short of the $45 billion over 10 years some Republican senators wanted. The funding’s inclusion in the Senate version of the health-care overhaul comes after weeks of protest from House and Senate Republicans who feared steep cuts to Medicaid would worsen an already growing opioid crisis, with Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia leading the push. The GOP reaction to the $2 billion in opioid funding was mixed, with Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee applauding the funding.

Senate Health Care Bill Would Cut Medicaid, Alexander Says It Wouldn’t (Updated) (Nashville Scene) Analysis of the Senate health care bill that was revealed this morning shows that it would make huge cuts to Medicaid by taking away incentives to states that expand the program, but U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander insists in a statement that there are no cuts to the program. Much like the House version of the legislation, the bill also looks to put the Medicare program on a budget. “To begin with, the draft Senate health care bill makes no change in the law protecting people with pre-existing conditions, no change in Medicare benefits, and increases Medicaid funding — that’s TennCare — at the rate of inflation,” Alexander’s statement reads.

Alexander, Corker hold off on full-throated endorsement of Senate GOP health care plan (Times Free Press) U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander today praised much of Senate Republican leaders’ newly released “discussion draft” health care bill to repeal and replace Obamacare but joined with fellow Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker in withholding full support for now pending more review. “To begin with, the draft … makes no change in the law protecting people with pre-existing conditions, no change in Medicare benefits, and increases Medicaid funding— that’s TennCare—at the rate of inflation,” Alexander said in a video-taped statement.

GOP Unveils Healthcare Bill; Tennesseans React (WTVF) Some Tennessee veterans called a Senate GOP healthcare bill a slap in the face to those who have served their country and now rely on Medicaid for care. Some Tennessee veterans called a Senate GOP healthcare bill a slap in the face to those who have served their country and now rely on Medicaid for care. “I looked at the bill that was released this morning by the Senate,” said Air Force veteran and Hendersonville resident Kelly Gregory. “It would end Medicaid as we know it in this country and it would cut me out of Medicaid.” Gregory suffered five heart attacks in five years before being diagnosed with a genetic blood clotting disease. Shortly after, she was diagnosed with stage four, terminal breast cancer.

As Senate considers health care, East Tennesseans hope for more options (WBIR) With all eyes set on Congress after Senate leaders released their health care proposal Thursday, many East Tennesseans are hoping federal changes will help attract more companies to Tennessee’s individual marketplace. So far BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is the only insurer to officially line up to sell individual insurance in the Knoxville region for 2018. “Under the current health care system, families in Tennessee and across our country face rising costs and have limited choices,” said U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) in a statement Thursday. “Over the next several days, I will take time to fully review the legislative text and seek input from a wide range of stakeholders across our state.”

What the Senate health care bill means for Nashville’s hospital giants (Nashville Business Journal) The U.S. Senate has unveiled its version of a bill to replace President Barack Obama’s health care law, providing new insight into what providers could be facing in the coming years. The bill is similar to the House-backed plan that passed in May. The Senate bill proposes a number of changes to the current system, including caps for Medicaid spending and a gradual roll back of Medicaid expansions in some states. The Washington Post has a full breakdown of the changes here. Stock prices for hospital operators jumped after the Senate proposal was announced, likely in response to the proposed $50 billion that would go toward stabilizing insurance exchanges over the next four years.

Huckabee on health care: ‘I’m not sure the Republicans are doing a much better job’ (Leaf Chronicle) As details of the Senate’s proposed replacement of the Affordable Care Act were revealed Thursday morning, TV personality and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee weighed in on his own vision for a preventative health care system during remarks in Nashville. “It is not a health care problem we face, it is an overwhelming health issue,” Huckabee said during a keynote address to the National Health Investors, Inc. He did not discuss the specifics of the new proposal, but said that the ACA and the proposed ACHA did too much intervention care as opposed to preventative care.

Eyes turn to D.C., as tenuous health insurance landscape emerges in Tennessee (Tennessean) No part of Tennessee will be left bare next year by exiting individual health insurers — at least for the moment — but the 2018 insurance landscape is shaping up to be far from crowded, a flurry of new filings with the state reveals. Tennessee’s insurance market resembled more of a pop-up insurance shop in past years than a stable marketplace. While not as dire as it appeared in recent months, a precarious patchwork of coverage is emerging for 2018.

Cooper Asks Iraq To Intervene To Protect Nashville Kurds Facing Deportation (WPLN) Congressman Jim Cooper says he’s worried about the safety of immigrants deported back to Iraq and wants officials from that country to intervene to ensure they won’t be harmed by extremists. The Nashville Democrat is asking Iraq’s government to slow down the issuance of travel documents so potential deportees’ immigration cases can be heard. He says they aren’t being given due process or access to lawyer, and they’re being told falsely that appealing their detention would speed up their deportation.

Sen. Corker could face potential Republican primary challengers if he runs (WKRN) While there has been a lot of attention on the Tennessee governor’s race next year, there will also be a closely watched U.S. Senate race that could have several challengers for incumbent Bob Corker’s seat. The senator has recently said he’s “leaning toward” another run, but will he face Republican challengers in the August 2018? Mr. Corker appears to be in no hurry to announce his plans. “If he is going to run for re-election, its in his best interests to keep things calm, keep things coy,” says longtime Tennessee conservative political analyst Steve Gill. “That’s because he has plenty of money, for to six million in his account and two or three more million in a PAC account.”

U.S. Nitrogen facing $19,000 in penalties, Greene County commissioner calling for plant to be shut down (WJHL) This month U.S. Nitrogen, a plant in Greene County that manufactures industrial explosives was hit with penalties requiring the company to pay $19,000 in fines. State documents detail several violations for failure to comply with state issued permits. More specifically the state says U.S. Nitrogen did not submit emissions test reports by an April 29th 2017 deadline and failing to submit an annual compliance status report and annual accidental release plan certification by the due dates. I reached out to U.S. Nitrogen and they gave us this statement saying quote the TDEC fines are a matter of public record and are related to administrative matters rather than plant emission performance.

Nashville attorneys honored by TBA (TN Ledger) Nashville attorneys Steve Cobb and Larry Bridgesmith were both presented President’s Awards at the Tennessee Bar Association annual convention. Bridgesmith was honored for his work on the TBA’s Special Committee on the Evolving Legal Market, a group which is investigating the ways technology is changing the legal profession. Cobb was honored for his work as the TBA’s legislative counsel. Cobb is former member of the Tennessee House of Representatives and has been involved with the Legislature for 45 years. His legal practice focuses on family law and immigration.

How Tropical Storm Cindy is expected to impact the Nashville area (Tennessean) Rain from Tropical Storm Cindy arrived in the Nashville area Thursday morning for a wet end to the week, and was expected to bring its worst on Friday. “It made landfall in western Louisiana this morning, and it will track north before moving northeast,” said Matt Reagan, a Nashville-based meteorologist for the National Weather Service. “We’ll have rain today, and it looks like tonight we could see some breaks.”


Editorial: Will killing Obamacare be Lamar Alexander’s last hoorah? (News Sentinel) Will replacing Obamacare be the capstone to Lamar Alexander’s political career? The Maryville Republican chairs the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions – HELP – Committee. Normally, a bill like the American Health Care Act would go through that committee. But Republican leaders plan to take the hot potato straight to the Senate floor rather than hold any hearings on it. Alexander approved of that approach when the House first passed its version last month. “There’s nothing new in the bill, really,” he said. “We’ve debated it and heard it for six years. … We’ve been actively involved in consulting on the bill. I’m satisfied with it so far.”

Greg Johnson: Expose rural students to value of education (News Sentinel) Culture counts. Values matter. The “sudden” ascendancy of rural Americans in November’s presidential election has led to seemingly unending surveys, studies and commentary on the rural/urban divide. A Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation Poll released this week found rural and urban Americans face similar economic challenges but diverge on cultural issues. Urbanites are more likely to have friends, neighbors and colleagues of different races or religions or sexual predilections. Rural Americans are more likely to have friends, neighbors and colleagues they’ve known since kindergarten.














Thursday, June 22

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, Commissioner Bob Rolfe announce Mohawk Industries to Expand Operations in Dickson (Clarksville Online) After attaining a significant production milestone and opening a new customer experience center within its state-of-the-art ceramic tile manufacturing plant in Dickson earlier in 2017, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and Mohawk Industries have announced that the world’s leading flooring manufacturer will expand manufacturing operations in Tennessee. Mohawk will add a second plant near its recently built Dickson tile factory.

Mohawk Industries Plans Second Factory In Dickson, Tennessee (Area Development Online) Mohawk Industries, a leading flooring manufacturer, will expand its manufacturing operations with the addition of a second plant in Dickson, Tennessee. The plant will be operated by Mohawk’s Dal-Tile division, the largest manufacturer of ceramic tile in North America. Dal-Tile offers products under the best-known brand names in the industry: Daltile, Marazzi, American Olean, Ragno and Mohawk Ceramic Tile. The second plant in Dickson will add 245 jobs at full capacity and is scheduled to begin operations in late 2018. Construction on the new facility will start in summer 2017.

Governor Bill Haslam signs bills to protect elderly citizens (WJHL) Gov. Bill Haslam signed two bills into law on Wednesday, both meant to better protect the elderly in Tennessee. One of the laws aims to do more to stop people from financially exploiting senior citizens. Co-sponsor Sen. Rusty Crowe said banks were previously afraid to report the crime due to liability concerns, so lawmakers made a change to give those banks better protection and direction. In addition to financial exploitation, the law also increase penalties for people who abuse or exploit the elderly or vulnerable adults. State senators credit our 2013 Community Watchdog investigation as the reason for their continued focus on elder abuse.

Bill Helping Black Colleges Signed Into Law (WTVF) Tennessee took a big step forward regarding historically black colleges and universities with its new law that will assign personnel from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission to assist HBCU’s with several issues many have faced over the years. “It’s the first in the state and I believe fist in the nation,” bill sponsor, Rep Harold Love Jr. said. On Wednesday, Governor Bill Haslam signed a bill into law that will assign personnel from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission to assist HBCU’s with several issues many have faced over the years. The bill aims to help student retention, graduation rates and increase enrollment among other things. “We can use the funding for more research opportunities,” said Richard Donnell with Lane College in Jackson, TN.

Tennessee Right to Life commends Governor Haslam for support and signing of post-viability abortion ban (Herald Chronicle) The state’s leading pro-life organization celebrated passage of its priority legislation during a ceremonial bill signing by Governor Bill Haslam today at Legislative Plaza. The Tennessee Infants Protection Act (SB 1180 / HB 1189) establishes a presumption of fetal viability beginning at 24 weeks gestation and prohibits abortion except in medical emergencies once viability has been confirmed. The new legislation also requires a medical assessment for fetal viability before an abortion may be performed on unborn children at least 20 weeks old.

Haslam says he won’t get rid of pre-existing condition coverage (Nashville Post) But governor says he has as little idea what’s in the AHCA as anyone else. Gov. Bill Haslam laughs after the end of a long hour of ceremonial bill signings. Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday he remains in the dark as to the details of the Senate version of the American Health Care Act, which several lawmakers have said will be released to the public Thursday. “I’ve had some conversations, mainly with Senator Alexander,” Haslam said after a marathon ceremonial bill signing. “But I don’t really know what is going to be in there.”

Vehicle Registration Fee Hike Starts July 1 (Greeneville Sun) When Gov. Bill Haslam’s Improve Act passed in April, the talking points afocused on its impact on fuel prices (an increase at the pump) and food prices (reduced sales tax at the register). Less talked about was another aspect of the act, which Haslam and supporters of the bill promoted as “giving the largest tax cut in Tennessee history.” That was higher costs for motorists when they obtain or renew tags and registration at the county clerk’s office. For standard passenger vehicles such as cars, pickup trucks and SUVs, a new state fee of $5 will be charged at the time of the tag update. For Greene County motorists, that new fee will be charged alongside the county’s $55 wheel tax.

Tri-County, TCEA partnership paved way to broadband (Hartsville Vidette) In Tri-County Electric’s May 26 broadband announcement, District H Director Tommy Thompson stated, “fiber access is vital to students, businesses and for overall economic growth; not having broadband in today’s world is similar to not having electricity in the 1930s and we have searched for ways to bring this needed service to Trousdale County.” With Gov. Bill Haslam’s broadband legislation having become state law, Tri-County Electric is in the engineering and design phase of its 240-mile fiber build to serve the residents of Trousdale County.

State sells two properties near Channel 5 for $8.9M (Nashville Post) Winning bidder to be announced Aug. 7. The state of Tennessee announced today a high bid of $8.9 million for two properties it owns in downtown Nashville. The auction, held at downtown’s Hermitage Hotel, was for the properties located at 450 and 460 James Robertson Parkway. The sale is expected to close Aug. 7, at which time the identity of the winning bidder will be disclosed. One parcel is home the 45,000-square-foot Tennessee Regulatory Authority Building, with the other a surface parking lot.

Tennessee Tax Free Weekend 2017: What is included (WATE) The state of Tennessee’s annual sales tax holiday begins at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 28 and ends Sunday, July 30 at 11:59 p.m. All merchants who sell items in Tennessee must participate in the sales tax holiday. Clothing $100 or less, school supplies $100 or less and computers $1,500 or less will all be tax-free. Does online shopping qualify? Any items that qualify for a tax exemption is sales tax-free if the customer’s orders and pays for the item and the retailer accepts the order during the holiday period for immediate shipment, even if delivery is made after the exemption period. However, if the order and payment were made before the holiday, even if the item was delivered during the holiday, it would not qualify for the exemption.

New University of Tennessee athletics committee will oversee intercollegiate sports (News Sentinel) Members of a new University of Tennessee board of trustees committee are working to figure out what their role will be as they strive to provide oversight and accountability of the university’s intercollegiate sports programs. The new athletics committee, along with a university life committee, was created by the Tennessee Legislature last year via changes to the law that outlines the structure of the board of trustees. The changes also created five new subcommittees.

University of Memphis to enroll 20 students with immigration problems (Commercial Appeal) Twenty students with immigration problems are expected to enroll at the University of Memphis this fall, with assistance from a new private scholarship program. The students were brought to the country illegally as children or on visas that later expired. The scholarships are backed by Equal Chance for Education, a Nashville-based nonprofit. The 20 students at the University of Memphis, recruited from Kingsbury High and other Memphis high schools, will be among 152 scholarship students the organization is sponsoring statewide, said Molly Haynes, executive director for the scholarship program.

MTSU, Meharry Medical College alliance will pump primary care doctors into rural Tennessee (Tennessean) Middle Tennessee State University and Meharry Medical College are joining forces to tackle the state’s doctor shortage by creating a pioneering, state-subsidized fast track from undergraduate to medical school. Students accepted into the special program would attend three years at MTSU, earn a bachelor’s degree and then go straight into three years of medical school at Meharry, according to an early outline of the plan. A $750,000 pot of state funding would offset their tuition.

MTSU adjunct/state archaeologist will reveal historic tattoo practices in June 24 public talk (WGNS) MTSU adjunct professor and state prehistoric archaeologist Aaron Deter-Wolf will discuss his research on ancient tattoo practices Saturday, June 24, as the special guest of the Rutherford County Archaeological Society. The free public discussion of “Tattooing in Antiquity” will begin at noon June 24 at the Heritage Center of Murfreesboro, located just off the Public Square at 225 W. College St. An internationally recognized authority on ancient tattoos, Deter-Wolf works for the Tennessee Division of Archaeology in the state Department of Environment and Conservation and has taught courses since 2009 in MTSU’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts. His June 24 presentation will cover recent discoveries in tattoo archaeology, including his research into ancient Native American tools.

Gang activity, security a concern at Trousdale Turner facility (WSMV) The Trousdale Turner Correctional Center was supposed to provide quality jobs to residents of Trousdale County. But according to the mayor and several other people the Channel 4 I-Team talked to, not many locals work there. Until recently, before a contract expired, guards from another security company were recruited, put up at hotels and bused in to work. They told the I-Team they earned higher wages than those employed by CoreCivic. But some say the people expected to keep the peace at Trousdale Turner are known gang members chosen by administrators and transferred there.

Organizers Mobilize Against Confederate Monuments (Memphis Daily News) More than 300 people gathered Tuesday, June 20, for a “TakeEmDown901” rally advocating the removal of Memphis’ statues and monuments honoring Confederate leaders. If there was any doubt about the precise target of the still-forming movement to remove the city’s statues and monuments honoring Confederate leaders, that was dispelled Tuesday, June 20, as more than 300 people gathered at Bruce Elementary School. The gathering organized by activist Tami Sawyer under the banner of “TakeEmDown901” was part rally, part organizing effort for future action. And the long list of speakers focused much of their attention on removing the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest – a Confederate general, slave trader and first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan – from Health Science Park, the park once named for Forrest.

Calling Plan ‘Disastrous,’ Middle Tennessee Republicans Aim To Neuter Nashville Immigration Measure (WPLN) A Nashville proposal to limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities is drawing strong condemnation from some top Middle Tennessee Republicans. The sponsor of a 2009 state law banning so-called “sanctuary cities” says he’s prepared to have the Metro Council proposal struck down if it wins final approval at a meeting next month. The measure before the Metro Council would bar police and the county sheriff’s office from doing more than is absolutely required under federal and state law to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Civil Rights-era cold cases to be looked at by Tennessee lawmakers (WKRN) Shedding more light on a difficult chapter in Tennessee history will soon be a reality, but Wednesday afternoon Governor Bill Haslam signed a bill setting up a special committee to look at cold cases from the Civil Rights era. Several Tennessee African-American lawmakers from the Memphis area spent the last 15 years working to get the bill passed, but it may have been a 96-year-old man’s dramatic Capitol Hill testimony more than two months ago that set the stage the bill to come law. Charlie F. Morris Sr. made the trek from West Tennessee to a state senate committee room to tell the story of his brother.

New law allows investigators to dig into Civil Rights era crimes (WMC) A new Tennessee law allows experts to dig deeper into some of the darkest chapters of American history. Investigators will now dig into crimes from the Civil Rights era that have gone unsolved for decades. “I think it’s a great thing. It’s probably well overdue,” said Sylvester Lewis. Lewis is a family member of a man murdered in 1939 during a racially motivated beating says this has been a long time coming. They stood side by side with Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam during the ceremonial signing of a bill to investigate unsolved murders from the Civil Rights era.  Lewis’ cousin was killed and no one was ever charged in the death. “I was a little boy at the time and I never did know the details,” Lewis said.

McNally named to Republican Lieutenant Governors Association board (TN Journal/Humphrey) News release from Republican Lieutenant Governors Association: The Republican Lieutenant Governors Association (RLGA), part of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), today announced the full 2017 Executive Committee. The committee is made up of lieutenant governors from across the U.S. and they will work closely with the previously announced RLGA leadership team of Nevada Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, Chairman; North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, Vice-Chairman; Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Co-Chair for Policy; and Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, Co-Chair for Finance.

40 Under 40: Jason Powell, Tennessee General Assembly (Nashville Business Journal) Jason Powell serves on the business and utilities committees and the state government committee for the Tennessee House of Representatives. In his five years of service, Powell has passed 20 new laws. When he’s not busy with the Tennessee General Assembly, Powell is also director of business development at Freeman Webb Cos.

New federal complaints: State Sen. Brian Kelsey, other lawmakers broke straw donor laws (Tennessean) Federal authorities are poised to probe a series of potentially illegal donations and contributions involving state Sen. Brian Kelsey, five other state lawmakers — including House Majority Leader Glen Casada — and four political action committees. The flow of money into and out of Kelsey’s failed 2016 congressional bid is the subject of a complaint filed Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission and a letter sent to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Sen. Alexander demands answers about delay in Smokies wildfire report (WATE) The review of the damage from the Chimney Tops wildfires in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park still has not been released. During a Senate hearing Wednesday, Sen. Lamar Alexander demanded answers about what’s taking so long. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke admitted the report is overdue, but Sen. Alexander stressed how much it means to the community. “In your confirmation hearing, you said that you would pay close attention to the individual fire review for the 2016 Chimney Tops fire in the Smokies – in an area you know well. What’s the status of the review of the park’s response to the wildfires?” said Alexander.

Nashville business heavyweights step up for Karl Dean’s biggest fundraiser to date (Tennessean) Some of Karl Dean’s top allies during his time as Nashville mayor, including some big names in Nashville’s business and development community, are among a large group hosting a major fundraiser next week for his Democratic bid for Tennessee governor. According to an invitation obtained by USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee, some of hosts for the event, which is set for Tuesday.

Insurer start-up Oscar Health preps to sell 2018 Obamacare plans in Nashville (Tennessean) Health insurance start-up Oscar Health is gearing up to sell individual plans in the greater Nashville area in 2018, an expansion into the Southeast that will give area residents a second option on the Obamacare exchange. The company applied Wednesday with the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance for approval to be an insurer in nine counties. Oscar, if its application is successful, will ensure that Tennesseans around Nashville have a second insurance choice in 2018 even with Humana’s planned departure. Cigna is expected to remain on the federally-run marketplace.

Most of Tennessee will have only one insurer under Obamacare in 2018 (Times Free Press) Chattanooga, Knoxville and two-thirds of Tennessee’s 95 counties will have only one insurance provider offering individual health insurance plans under the health exchange markets next year, according to filings with the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance released Wednesday. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, which withdrew from the state’s three biggest markets this year to limit its losses from Obamacare, has agreed to resume service to Knoxville to ensure that all counties have at least one carrier. Cigna Health Insurance plans to continue offering plans in Memphis and Nashville, but other major insurance companies, including Humana, Aetna and United Healthcare, have pulled out of Tennessee’s individual market over the past several years. But Tennessee has attracted a new insurance provider that was founded by the brother of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Can Metro End Its Contract with CoreCivic? (Nashville Scene) After a scabies outbreak and lawsuits, the private prison company is under the microscope. What if you woke up one day with a mysterious rash, one that eventually spread over your entire body? What if the itching was so intense you couldn’t sleep for days? What if hot showers were the only thing that helped ease the itch, but you weren’t allowed to take them? What if, when you finally saw a doctor for treatment, the pharmacy refused to fill your prescription? What if this rash was the result of parasites burrowing under your skin, an infestation so violent it ultimately covers your body in permanent scars? And what if this went on for months — more than six months — infecting your neighbors one by one, and nothing happened?

TVA lowering lake levels ahead of Tropical Storm Cindy (WBIR) With Tropical Storm Cindy expected to drop heavy rain across East Tennessee, the Tennessee Valley Authority is preparing for the storm by lowering water levels at nine lakes. Chickamauga is one place lake levels could rise quickly from rain. “Across the cove you can see where the water line is right up to the trees,” explained Fox Road Marina Harbor Master Chris King. King helps boaters care for the boats and maneuver waterways. That includes gearing up for the weekend’s anticipated storms. Fort Loudoun Lake is one of the lakes being lowered, but King isn’t expecting a big impact. “Because we’re the headwaters of the Tennessee River we’re not as affected as some places,” said King.

TVA prepares for 5-6 inches of rain in Tennessee Valley in the days ahead (Times Free Press) The Tennessee Valley Authority is drawing down its Chickamauga, Nickajack, Watts Bar and other reservoirs to prepare for heavy rains forecast for much of the Tennessee Valley from tropical storm Cindy, which is expected to come into TVA’s 7-state region beginning Thursday.  TVA is spilling water and drawing down its lakes to create additional water storage capacity in anticipation of 5 to 6 inches of rain moving into the Tennessee Valley region late Thursday through Saturday. Normal rainfall for the entire month of June is usually about 4 inches. “We are taking proactive steps to prepare for this coming rain event by lowering lake levels where we have the ability to create additional storage for the rain we expect to receive,” said James Everett, manager of River Forecasting Center Operations Support.

Sumner Co. residents share flooding concerns as Tropical Storm Cindy approaches (WSMV) As the rain from Tropical Storm Cindy approaches Middle Tennessee, some are sharing concerns of potential flooding over the next few days. Neighbors of one Middle Tennessee area say they have a lot of reason to be worried. “Hey Gracie,” said Rebecca Brown, opening a gate and walking past two anxious dogs. There is a lot to love about having a farm on Sumner County’s Buck Perry Road for Brown. The porch view is beautiful, she loves her neighbors, and there is land for her to farm and for her dogs to run. It’s only recently that a problem has emerged. “The creek came up and took our entire field, turned it into literally a river,” said Brown, referring to a day last month. “It was rushing, and we couldn’t get out. When it rains continuously, the creek rises, and we’re stuck. It turns Rock Bridge Road into a river and nobody can get through.”

New Group Focuses on Clean Drinking Water in Memphis (Memphis Flyer) For the past five months, a group has gathered at Laurel Cannito’s East Memphis home on Friday evenings. Not for a movie night or board games, but for a dialogue on clean drinking water in Memphis. Cannito is a member of Clean Water Memphis, a new group that hosts the meetings, which are created for collaboration and education on issues that threaten the city’s drinking water. Though many stand by the idea that Memphis has great drinking water, says Cannito, there are factors that most people are unaware of that could compromise the integrity of the water. Many of these factors occur before the water even leaves the aquifer.

Cotton makes a comeback as prices, acreage rise (Commercial Appeal) Cotton may no longer be king, but Bill Walker, for one, is glad to see it recoup some status among Mid-South farmers. Walker, who has farmed in Fayette County for 25 years, is among the local growers who have planted much more cotton this year in response to stronger prices. His cotton acreage is up almost sevenfold, replacing the grain crops that had dominated his fields. Walker said the Memphis area should welcome the resurgence of the crop for which it has long been famed. “I think there’s more of a turnover (of money) in the local economy with cotton,” he said.


Guest column: Tennessee legislature creates healthy business environment (Tennessean) Tennessee has a hard-earned reputation as a business-friendly state. Among the thousands of bills filed in each Tennessee General Assembly, there are some that would enhance that reputation and a few that would make our state a less attractive place to do business. Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, House Speaker Beth Harwell and many others, the 2017 legislative session brought good news for businesses that were ready to create jobs, hire skilled workers and invest in Tennessee.

David Waters: Removing Confederate statues right and righteous (Commercial Appeal) William Webb grew up in white Memphis. He lived in an all-white neighborhood in East Memphis. He went to an all-white Christian school. He attended an all-white Christian church. It never occurred to him that his segregated all-white world was not all right with God. “It’s just how I grew up,” Webb said Tuesday after he spoke at a rally calling for the removal of Confederate statues in Memphis. “I bought into the whole glorified history of the Confederacy.” The glorified heroes of the Confederacy were Webb’s heroes. Robert E. Lee. Jefferson Davis. Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Kathy Wood-Dobbins: Funding cuts will devastate community health centers (Tennessean) Tennesseans have a long tradition of neighbors helping neighbors, including community members taking the initiative to increase access to health care in their communities. This proud tradition is exemplified by Tennessee’s 187 community health center clinic sites — locally governed, nonprofit organizations that provide primary health care services. Located in economically distressed rural and urban communities, health centers also are economic anchors that create jobs and improve neighborhoods.

Guest column: A partnership with CoreCivic gave a prisoner a new life (Tennessean) Thirty-four years ago, 17-year-old Gracie Parker, a freshman at Belmont University, was involved in a horrific car crash. For the next several decades, Gracie would undergo 78 different operations, treatment by more than 80 doctors across 12 hospitals, and eventually have both legs amputated. Marrying Gracie 30 years ago, I made a commitment not only to be her husband, but to be her primary caregiver. Throughout these three decades, I’ve held her hand as she struggled to forge a new path in life – one much different than she had envisioned for herself before that fateful day.

Jackson Baker: Echoes of Discord (Memphis Flyer) Local disagreements on key issues reflect the national partisan divide. As partisan disagreements on pending legislative measures continued to dominate the Washington political scene, there were distinct local echoes. Even as Democrats in Congress were trying to force open discussion of the Senate’s pending version of an Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill, now being prepared in private by an ad hoc group of Republican Senators, the party faithful across the state held press conferences last Friday protesting the GOP’s close-to-the-vest strategy.

Wednesday, June 21

Haslam appoints Knoxville lawyer to TN Claims Commission (TN Journal/Humphrey) News release from the governor’s office: Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has named William A. Young of Knoxville to the Tennessee Claims Commission, replacing William O. Shults of Newport whose terms expires June 30. The appointment is for the Eastern Division and is subject to confirmation by resolution of both houses of the Tennessee General Assembly.  The three commissioners hold eight-year terms. (Note: Shults was the last appointee of former Gov. Phil Bredesen on the commission and had served since 2006, first filling a vacancy and then to a full term in 2009. The salary is about $160,000 annually.)

UT trustees to vote on $25K raise for president, plus decide on employee increases (News Sentinel) A $25,000 raise for University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro and other salary increases and bonuses across the UT system will be decided Thursday when the UT Board of Trustees meets in Knoxville.  More than $300,000 in incentive payments for top administrators, excluding DiPietro, are being proposed as part of an incentive compensation plan for the university’s five chancellors, executive vice president, chief financial officer, general counsel and the president’s secretary. A three percent increase in the university’s payroll, worth about $29 million, also will be considered to cover salary increases across the UT system.

White, Wealthy Communities Want Their Own Schools (US News) In recent years, Tennessee has been the pace setter when it comes to adopting new education policies, including things like tougher standards and corresponding tests, and new ways to evaluate and pay teachers. It has even been at the forefront of the free college movement. Such moves, driven in large part by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, have helped make the state one of the most respected in the country when it comes to trying to find ways to help close achievement gaps and better serve historically disadvantaged students – namely, poor students of color. But unbeknownst to many, the state has also embraced a much less publicized education policy – one that makes it easy for communities to create their own school districts, and one that wealthy white communities have taken advantage of in order to splinter off from larger, more diverse and poorer school districts, taking with them millions of dollars in property taxes.

Memphis-Shelby County spotlighted in national report on school district secession (Chalkbeat Tennessee) The 2014 exodus of six suburban towns from the newly consolidated Memphis school system is one of the nation’s most egregious examples of public education splintering into a system of haves and have-nots over race and class, says a new report. The Shelby County towns are among 47 that have seceded from large school districts nationally since 2000. Another nine, including the town of Signal Mountain near Chattanooga, are actively pursuing separation, according to the report released Wednesday by EdBuild, a nonprofit research group focusing on education funding and inequality.

Tennessee Tax Free Weekend Announced (WTVF) Many states offer a Tax Free Weekend each summer to provide some spending relief for people buying items for students headed back to school. Tennessee’s Tax Free Weekend was set for Friday, July 28 – Sunday, July 30. Other states have also set their tax free weekend for late July, including Alabama and Mississippi. Items covered on Tax Free Weekend vary per state, but most include school supplies, backpacks, clothes under a specific value, computers and more.

May state revenue $53M above exepections (TN Journal/Humphrey) News release from Department of Finance and Administration:   Tennessee tax revenues exceeded budgeted estimates in May. Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin today announced that overall May revenues were $1.1 billion, which is $53.1 million more than the state budgeted. “Total reported revenues in May reflect significant improvement compared to this time last year and were driven primarily by sales tax receipts,” Martin said. “Franchise and Excise taxes fell short of last year’s revenues and were below the monthly budgeted estimate.  All other tax revenues, taken as a group, were more than the May estimates.

Tennessee tax revenues exceeded budgeted estimates in May (Herald Chronicle) Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin today announced that overall May revenues were $1.1 billion, which is $53.1 million more than the state budgeted. “Total reported revenues in May reflect significant improvement compared to this time last year and were driven primarily by sales tax receipts,” Martin said. “Franchise and Excise taxes fell short of last year’s revenues and were below the monthly budgeted estimate.  All other tax revenues, taken as a group, were more than the May estimates. “While year-to-date revenues look promising, we must continue to monitor our receipts and closely manage our expenditure patterns for the remainder of the fiscal year.”

Trump budget cuts threaten programs that help Tennessee’s neediest children, officials say (Tennessean) Tennessee officials say heavy cuts to children’s programs in President Donald Trump’s budget proposal could hinder the long-term progress the state has made helping poor and disadvantaged kids. The $4.1 trillion White House budget proposal calls for cuts to school and health care funding that helps the state’s neediest children. The cuts could mean larger class sizes, slashes to grant funding for pre-kindergarten and teacher training and, eventually, the elimination of athletics and band programs. Concern is so great that Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen sent a letter urging U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to reconsider the cuts, especially to those that provide for training and recruiting teachers.

Sex offenders likely enrolled in Tennessee colleges (WSMV) There’s no way to really know how many sex offenders attend colleges and universities in the state of Tennessee. Laws prohibit them from living in dormitories on campus, but that’s it. Sex offenders aren’t required to notify a school about their crime when they enroll, as long as they update their profile on the statewide sex offender database. When Oregon State University baseball pitcher Luke Heimlich was exposed as a convicted child molester earlier this month, it prompted a national discussion over how closely colleges and universities should be monitoring students convicted of sex crimes.

Phillip Fulmer named special advisor to University of Tennessee president (WATE) The University of Tennessee announced Tuesday the hiring of Phillip Fulmer as a special advisor. The former head football coach will be a special advisor to President Joe DiPietro for community, athletics and university relations. Dipietro says Fulmer will be an ambassador for the University system, support athletic programs at each campus and work with UT government relations and alumni affairs. That seems to be what Fulmer has already been doing for years. Now he has a title and paycheck to go with it.

Attorney will challenge state law in ETSU gorilla mask case (Johnson City Press) The attorney for a former East Tennessee State University student charged with civil rights intimidation says the First Amendment protects his client’s actions and he will challenge the constitutionality of the state law under which he was charged. Patrick Denton, attorney for 19-year-old Tristan Rettke, has been adamant that prosecutors erred in bringing the civil rights intimidation charge. In addition to that charge, Rettke was also indicted on charges of disorderly conduct and disruption of a meeting or procession.

Families question handling of medical emergencies inside TN prison (WSMV) Since last summer, the Channel 4 I-Team has been looking closely at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, the state’s newest and biggest prison. It is run by CoreCivic, the Nashville-based company formerly known as CCA. The state is paying CoreCivic more than $275 million over the next four years to run the prison, but there have been problems from the start. More people live on the prison’s 50 acres than the entire town of Hartsville, TN. Some 2,500 men are locked up together in the shadow of an abandoned nuclear tower in the privately run state prison. One look at the sheriff’s call log shows 140 Macon Way is a busy address for ambulances. Just a month after being moved into the brand new minimum security Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, an inmate named Joe Bennett would speak his last words.

Tennessee Prisons Will Serve As A Guinea Pig For On-Site Cell Phone Forensics (WPLN) Tennessee prisons will lead the way an effort to clamp down on one of the most common contraband items nationwide. The state will soon begin on-site forensic analysis of smuggled cell phones. That requires specialized computers, which can extract a range of cell phone data, including call logs, contacts and messages. They’re already used in law enforcement offices, but now Tennessee will introduce them in all of the state’s prison facilities. The devices are another step in the fight against contraband, says Lee Dotson of the Tennessee Department of Correction. He also says there’s a misconception surrounding cell phones.

Commissioner concerned about lack of progress for Bradley County veterans home (WDEF) A Bradley County Veterans home has been in the works for 14 years. Some community leaders say they are upset with the lack of progress. Driving along Westland Drive in Bradley County, you’ll see a plot of land that’s the future home of the Bradley County Tennessee State Veterans Home. “We are at a stalemate now. We have 28 acres that has been donated. Bradley County and the City of Cleveland has each contributed two million dollars and we have a donor who has contributed three million dollars, and requests to remain anonymous,” Said Thomas Crye, County Commissioner for District 2 in Bradley County. Thomas Crye says It was approved at the state and local level, but not federally.

Tom Crye: ‘It is evident they are asleep at the wheel and need to be awakened’ (Daily Banner) Bradley County Commissioner Thomas Crye continued his efforts to jump-start the long-awaited and long-delayed veterans home during Monday’s session of the local governing body. Crye, who brought up the matter last week as well, went into more detail concerning communications with Washington, D.C., and with lawmakers on whom he places some blame. “Thanks to the ability of social media to expedite communications, contact was made with state Rep. Dan Howell Tuesday with a link to the Cleveland Daily Banner article along with other information,” Crye said in a prepared statement. “Rep. Howell had previously been in contact with U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais in reference to our situation and forwarded the link to him requesting his continued assistance in contacting U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Veterans Affairs Committee and a fellow Tennessee representative from Johnson City,” Crye said. “At the same time of receiving the message, Mr. DesJarlais was speaking with Mr. Roe and forwarded the link along with other information on our dilemma.”,60826?

Tennessee Weighs Whether To Form A Commission — Or Not — To Examine Brutality of Jim Crow (WPLN) Charlie Morris vividly recalls his brother’s murder. Jesse Lee Bond was a sharecropper in Shelby County. Suspicious because his harvests never seemed to cover his debts, in the spring of 1939, Bond asked the local general store for a receipt of his seed purchases. For his diligence, he was shot, castrated, dragged and left for dead in the Hatchie River. “The medical examiner at that time, as well as the sheriff, when they took him out of the river, they told the Commercial Appeal there was no signs of anything but drowning,” Morris says. Now 97, Morris described the killing and cover-up at a legislative hearing earlier this year.

Harris: Norris Law On Immigration Status Sends Negative Signal (Memphis Daily News) State Sen. Lee Harris is criticizing a new law sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris enabling state judges to consider a convict’s immigration status during sentencing. Harris, a Memphis Democrat, expressed disappointment in Gov. Bill Haslam’s decision to sign Senate Bill 1260 into law, saying it would give judges authority to enhance prison sentences based on a defendant’s national origin. The measure would “encourage” judges to consider where a person was born when meting out prison time, Harris said, thus treating a defendant born in Mexico “more harshly” than a person in Tennessee, even if they commit identical crimes. Harris also questions whether similar laws have been struck down in other states.

Cooper Joins Lawsuit Against Trump Over Foreign Business Ties (Nashville Scene) Since before President Donald Trump took the oath of office, legal commentators and political pundits have discussed the possibility that, upon becoming president, he would be immediately in violation of the Constitution. At issue is what’s known as the Emoluments Clause, which states that “no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.” Trump, of course, has never released his tax returns, but has business operations in numerous countries and, now that he is president, is arguably able to profit off of his office. (See the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.)

Sen. Bob Corker: U.S. looking at North Korea travel ban after Ohio college student’s death (Tennessean) The United States could ban Americans from traveling to North Korea in light of the death of Ohio college student Otto Warmbier, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Tuesday. Appearing on MSNBC, Corker, R-Tenn., said the U.S. needs to re-examine its policies toward North Korea given the death of Warmbier, who had been held captive for 17 months by the Kim Jong Un regime. The policy review includes U.S. travel to North Korea and the fact that Americans who go there sometimes get caught in a situation similar to that of Warmbier, Corker said. “Should there be a travel ban for U.S. citizens going there relative to this?” Corker said. “That’s something we’re looking at.”

Corker open to North Korea travel ban (Politico) Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker says Congress should consider legislation making it illegal for Americans to travel to North Korea, a day after the death of a U.S. college student who had been imprisoned there. “It’s something we should seriously look at, because it affects our national security,” the Tennessee Republican said in an interview Tuesday. “It puts us in a very precarious situation. We have three Americans there now. We’re constantly having to get people out of the country.” Corker’s Foreign Relations gavel gives him major sway over legislation dealing with U.S. travel abroad, and his remarks mean Congress is likely to at least explore the issue. The State Department is also looking at imposing new restrictions on U.S. travel to North Korea, which does not have diplomatic relations with the United States.

Jim Fyke, longtime Tennessee parks and conservation advocate, dies at 78 (Tennessean) James H. “Jim” Fyke, who pushed parks expansion and protection for a half-century in Nashville and Tennessee, earning legendary status in Metro government as the parks director for multiple mayors, died Tuesday following a long battle with cancer. He was 78. Fyke, who also served as state commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation under former Gov. Phil Bredesen, was known as a lover of sports, the outdoors and as a staunch advocate to provide both to the residents he served.

Will Tennessee Companies Vie For Trump’s New Apprenticeship Grants? (WPLN) Tennessee companies have been increasingly intrigued by a throwback to apprenticeships. And President Trump is hoping to spark a revival. He has announced a loosening of Labor Department regulations and a boost to government grants, which could entice some who’ve been on the fence. When Volkswagen built its plant in Chattanooga, it also imported its German workforce training philosophy. After a highly-selective process, apprentices spend three years splitting their time between working the production line and learning in robotics labs. “Now, the equipment we have, the technology we have on the shop floors are so difficult to handle, so you need to train people,” says Christian Koch, the outgoing head of VW’s Tennessee plant.

BCBST, Cigna on tap to sell Obamacare plans in 2018 (News Sentinel) BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and Cigna have officially lined up to sell individual insurance in Tennessee for 2018. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee submitted preliminary filings to sell plans next year to the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance on June 20. BCBST plans to sell individual insurance in most parts of the state. The insurer is preparing to re-enter the greater Knoxville market, which was temporarily without an insurer for 2018 after Humana announced plans to exit. It will not be in the greater Memphis or Nashville areas. Cigna plans to sell in its existing footprint in the state: Memphis, Nashville and the Tri-Cities area. It filed its plans about a month ago.

Oscar Health Files to Expand Insurance Coverage in Several States (Reuters) Despite uncertainly over the future of U.S. healthcare that has prompted major health insurers to pull out of several markets, upstart provider Oscar Health on Wednesday said it has filed to sell health insurance to individuals through Obamacare exchanges in a total of six states in 2018. In a blog post on its website, Oscar Health said it was looking to expand or begin coverage in parts of Ohio, Texas, New Jersey, Tennessee and California and had also filed to continue selling health insurance to businesses, individuals and families in New York in 2018.

Insurance Startup Oscar Raises Its Bet on Affordable Care Act (Wall Street Journal) Insurance startup Oscar Insurance Corp. said it plans to expand its offerings in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, as insurers face a federal deadline Wednesday for initial filings to participate in the health law’s exchanges next year. Oscar, which has been under a spotlight partly because of its tie to the Trump administration, said it aims to begin selling ACA plans in Tennessee for the first time in 2018, and re-enter the exchange in New Jersey, where it sat out this year. The insurer also will expand the regions where it sells ACA plans in California and Texas, and will continue selling plans in its home market of New York. Last week, Oscar announced that it will begin selling marketplace plans in Ohio next year, working with the Cleveland Clinic.

Pilot Flying J trial tentatively set for Oct. 31 in Chattanooga (WATE) An agreement was made on the tentative trial date concerning a federal case against former executives of Pilot Flying J. The statement says both parties would like to begin the trial in Chattanooga on October 31, 2017. This will make the trial be in a location outside of the company’s headquarters. The company has already paid a $92 million federal penalty and spent $85 million on a class-action settlement.

Officials laud clean energy produced at new Phipps Bend solar farm (Times News) Solar energy provider Birdseye Renewable Energy welcomed local dignitaries to the Phipps Bend Industrial Park on Tuesday to celebrate the completion of its new solar energy farm, located adjacent to the ruins of a canceled TVA nuclear power reactor. Birdseye, which is based in Charlotte, N.C., already has a substantial presence in Hawkins County with 20 solar panel installations on county school property that were installed five years ago and generate $43,750 annually for the county school system. The new $1.8 million installation located on approximately six acres at Phipps Bend will generate $4,200 annually in rent for the Phipps Bend Joint Venture — which is the board of directors comprised of Hawkins County and Kingsport representatives that oversees administration of the park.

Baby-saving firefighters honored by state, mayor (News Sentinel) It’s been almost two months since Knoxville Senior Firefighter Eric “Bo” Merritt saved the life of a one-month-old boy from a burning building in East Knoxville and made the catch of a lifetime. Tuesday night Merritt, KFD Fire Capt. David Frazier and KFD fire fighter Kevin Tippens were honored by Rep. Rick Staples, D-Knoxville, at the Knoxville City Council meeting with a joint resolution signed by Staples, Sen. Becky Duncan Massey, R-Knoxville, and Gov. Bill Haslam. The resolution honored the fire fighters for their heroic acts.

Summer months bring more reports of domestic violence (WSMV) Tuesday is the first day of summer, and statistics show the warmer months see an uptick in crime across Nashville – including domestic violence cases. Metro Nashville police don’t want to speculate as to why they see more domestic violence cases during the summer, but they do recognize an increase in calls during the warmer months. Sgt. Chris Bryant works in the domestic violence division of the Metro Nashville Police Department. “I’ve been a police officer for 19 years, I can tell you summer times are busy,” he said. “(Domestic violence cases) do tend to go up.”

Memphis police: Untested rape kits down to 506 (Commercial Appeal) The Memphis Police Department has cut its untested and unprocessed rape kits down to 506 in the past month, according to an update presented to City Council on Tuesday. In the summer of 2013, Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong reported that more than 12,000 rape kits went untested dating back to the 1980s. This information led to a concerted effort to decrease the number of untested kits over the past few years. However, members of some victim advocacy groups take issue with the transparency of MPD’s investigations into these rape cases. “The public should be skeptical of any claims of progress from the MPD,” said Meaghan Ybos, executive director of People for the Enforcement of Rape Laws.

Memphis to Receive Support for Fighting Violent Crime (Memphis Flyer) Memphis is one of 12 cities in the country that will receive federal help with fighting violent crime. The U.S. Department of Justice announced today that Memphis, along with 11 other cities will join the newly-formed National Public Safety Partnership (PSP). Formed by the Department of Justice in response to President Donald Trump’s Executive Order challenging the agency to reduce violent crimes nationwide, the PSP will provide the means for increasing federal support for state, local, and tribal law enforcement officials and prosecutors.


Column: Corker Shrugs at GOP’s Health Care Secrecy (Nashville Scene) Senate Republicans won’t tell us anything about the health care bill they’ve been working on in secret. My colleague Amanda Haggard has contacted U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s office twice in the past week with questions — first general, then more specific — and gotten the same prepared statement each time, a list of vague “goals” with no details about how they might be achieved. Alexander, chairman of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has even told other senators directly that he has no plans to hold and public hearings on the legislation.

Marsha Blackburn: Partisan rhetoric harms ‘commonsense bill‘ (Tennessean) I am the original co-sponsor of a bill in the House of Representatives called the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act. In short, for those suffering from minor hearing loss, the bill would make hearing aids more affordable and easier to get. For some, this bill may seem irrelevant. But for the roughly 48 million Americans suffering from hearing loss, this bill could change lives. Because hearing aids cost around $5,000 per pair and are not covered by Medicare or most private insurance plans, nearly 80 percent of Americans with hearing loss choose to decline hearing aids.

Frank Cagle: Charges inevitable, but they won’t be about Russians (News Sentinel) Ever since President Ulysses S. Grant appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the Whiskey Ring, there have been a lot of special counsels over the years. Not one of them ever announced that the investigation was a waste of time. In many cases, the special prosecutor did not prove the underlying “crime” but instead investigated until someone could be charged with something. Supporters of President Donald Trump need to look at history and realize that the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel has complicated his presidency in ways hard to imagine. Remember that Ken Starr was appointed to investigate the Whitewater land deal down in Arkansas and he never tied any wrongdoing to Bill and Hillary Clinton. But he spent four years and millions of dollars to finally charge Bill Clinton with lying about having sex with Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office, and Clinton was impeached. What did it have to do with Whitewater? Nothing. 












Tuesday, June 20

Gubernatorial hopefuls of both parties reach out to Governor Haslam (WKRN) Governor Bill Haslam says just about all of those thinking of running for his office have reached out to him for some advice, and he gave them some. “I am an interested observer like everyone else,” the governor said this past week. “I do not have a favorite. I won’t be endorsing anyone in the primary,” but the governor did stop there. During follow up questions while meeting with reporters, Gov. Haslam offered his unique perspective on what it takes to run for governor and be successful. “I have talked to everyone, or I should say almost every potential candidate, including some of the Democrats,” added the governor. “More from a personal standpoint, going through an almost two-year campaign, it’s laborious. It’s a difficult personally emotional process.”

Free tuition isn’t enough to get many Tennessee students to go to college, report finds (Tennessean) Free tuition isn’t enough to get many Tennessee students to enroll in college, according to a new report. Transportation, “inflexible” class schedules and lost work time are among the barriers cited in the report on struggles students face in different regions of the state. The report, “Room to Grow,” was released Monday by advocacy group Complete Tennessee.  The roll-out of Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect — programs that eliminate community college tuition for high school students and adults, respectively — led many to believe the ”problem was solved,” said Kenyatta Lovett, executive director of Complete Tennessee.

Now That Community And Technical Colleges Are Free, What’s Stopping Tennesseans From Enrolling? (WPLN) Helping Tennesseans go to college takes more than giving them free tuition: That’s one of the takeaways from a report released Monday by Complete Tennessee, a nonprofit that tracks higher education in the state. The organization traveled to nine different regions to talk to groups involved with higher education. Its final report dissects barriers around Tennessee that seem to be stopping people from enrolling in higher education, even after the state has started waiving tuition for most students at community and technical colleges. “One would think [that] with tuition barriers being significantly reduced at least for our community colleges and technical colleges, access would not be an issue,” says Kenyatta Lovett, executive director of Complete Tennessee.

Complete Tennessee highlights needs for postsecondary pathways, student support (Maryville Daily Times) For more adults to complete education beyond high school, East Tennessee needs to raise awareness of opportunities and help adult students balance school and life, a nonprofit advocacy group says. In a report issued Monday, Complete Tennessee says the region including Blount and 15 other counties has ample education opportunities but faces challenges such as a lack of a college-going culture in rural areas and students not understanding the career options available. Statewide, the report cites four main obstacles to reaching Gov. Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55, the goal for 55 percent of adults to have a college degree or postsecondary credential by 2025:

Veterans, commissioners waiting on federal funding to build Bradley County Veterans Home (WTVC) A project that could potentially help hundreds of veterans in Bradley County is at a standstill. Commissioners say they’ve been working on the plan for a new Veterans Home since 2003. Thomas Crye joined the army when he was 17-years-old. Now, he’s a Bradley County commissioner, fighting for federal dollars to complete a plan that’s been in the works for 15 years. “The veterans around here many are homeless or economically deprived. They need the system. They need the veterans home,” Crye said. Crye says private donations and county funds have been set aside for the 108 bed home for years.

Tennessee Gas Prices Could Hit A New Low This Week With Tax Increase Looming ( The price of gas in Tennessee fell for the 20th straight day Sunday and it’s a trend likely to continue this week, according to AAA, which may mean per-gallon prices hit an annual low a little more than a week before a fuel tax increase goes into effect. The auto club said the average price for a gallon of regular in Tennessee is $2.05, the fifth lowest per-gallon average in the country, and barring unforeseen circumstances, AAA predicts it will keep creeping down this week to hit a 2017 low, just before the state adds 4 cents back to the total July 1. (For more updates on this story and free news alerts for your neighborhood, sign up for your local Middle Tennessee Patch morning newsletter.)

‘This could kill someone,’ Tennessee families’ message to TDOT, Governor Haslam (WATE) Two parents who lost their children in two separate deadly car crashes involving guardrails are hoping their heartache catches the attention of Governor Bill Haslam and the Tennessee Department of Transportation. For months, Stephen Eimers and Ladeana Gambill have been working to get the X-Lite guard rail system, which killed their young daughters in two separate accidents, removed from Tennessee roadways. Both families spoke in front of the Tennessee Transportation Committee in Nashville and in Washington D.C., where they asked the federal highway administration to remove the system nationwide. Eimers lost his daughter, Hannah, in a crash in McMinn County and Gambill lost her daughter, Lauren Beuttel, in a crash in Cumberland County.

Former chaplain describes conditions inside TN prison (WSMV) By design, prisons are places shut off from the rest of society. But the state’s newest and largest prison is unlike any other. It’s run by a private company with public money. Lawmakers say they’ve been kept out. Volunteers say they’ve been turned away. The Channel 4 I-Team was told months ago we would not be visiting the facility or interviewing anyone connected to the company, CoreCivic. But some former employees and inmates’ families are calling the new Trousdale Turner Correctional Facility the worst prison they have ever seen. It’s a challenge to tell the story of the Trousdale Turner Correctional Facility, when no one from the state or the prison will grant an interview or a tour of the facility.

CoreCivic hit with 2 lawsuits from former inmates over scabies outbreak (WKRN) Two former inmates of a Davidson County jail are suing CoreCivic in the wake of a scabies outbreak that affected both the male and female facilities. Both lawsuits claim CoreCivic, the private company that runs the jail, failed to provide basic healthcare to those incarcerated. One was filed by former female inmate Wendy Snead and the other a former male inmate, known only as John Doe. They accuse CoreCivic of violating the Eighth and Fourteenth amendments and the inmates’ prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

Lawsuit: Inmates Threatened If Scabies Outbreak Discussed (AP) A federal lawsuit has alleged inmates at a Nashville jail were threatened with solitary confinement if they discussed a scabies outbreak. According to reports, the lawsuit was filed Friday against CoreCivic, a private prison company that operates the Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility. The lawsuit has sought class action status for female inmates. Scabies is caused by a skin infestation of parasites. Hundreds of inmates at the prison have been treated. The lawsuit said after inmates tried to tell relatives about the scabies outbreak over the phone, their phone privileges were revoked. CoreCivic spokesman Jonathan Burns said in a statement that the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Suit: Scabies Outbreak Started Last Fall (Nashville Scene) Lawsuit details lack of treatment, poor sanitation that allowed infestation to spread at county detention facility. In the past few days, lawyer Gary Blackburn has filed two federal class action lawsuits against CoreCivic, the private prison operator formerly known as CCA, over a massive scabies outbreak in the Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility. One of the lawsuits, filed last Friday, is on behalf of female inmates affected by the outbreak. The other, filed Monday afternoon, is on behalf of the male inmates as a class. Both suits are filled with deeply disturbing details — and may cause you to spend the afternoon scratching psychosomatically induced itches — but the latest suit provides even more details of how long CoreCivic allegedly ignored the outbreak and allowed it to spread.

University of Tennessee lecturer fired after student alleges racism, retaliation (News Sentinel) A University of Tennessee Knoxville lecturer has been fired after a student challenged her teachings on slave history then  complained the debate led to retaliation and inappropriate conduct by the teacher on social media. “I’ve never seen this before,” said Kayla Parker, a senior at UT who recently wrote about the exchange with her teacher on the online forum Medium. “I was shocked. I knew it was something out of the ordinary when I saw her posting on my Facebook, because I’ve never seen a professor do that.” The university said Judy Morelock, a lecturer in the department of sociology who had a contract through July, was terminated in April when the university bought out her contract.

New funds for roads coming (Claiborne Progress) The 110th General Assembly is on break and State Representative Jerry Sexton recently talked with the Claiborne Progress about several accomplishments that were made during the session. Sexton’s district includes Claiborne, Grainger and part of Union counties. “I am proud to have represented your voice during the 110th General Assembly as we worked toward making laws that will improve the quality of life for our families here in our communities and for those all across Tennessee,” he said. “Thank you for your trust and faith in me. I look forward to speaking with you and getting your input about upcoming issues that I will be addressing very soon.” Sexton says he wants to be a “good steward of taxpayer money.” To that end, he and other state legislators passed a $37 billion budget that cuts taxes, puts $132 million in the state’s Rainy Day Fund, fully funds Tennessee’s educational system and focuses in on job recruitment and infrastructure investments.

New Tennessee legislation could cost phone scammers $10,000 in fines (WATE) Scammers who use fake caller ID now face harsher punishment thanks to a new Tennessee law. The new legislation hopes to crack down on a practice known as “caller ID spoofing” which is now classified as a class a misdemeanor. It involves to sending inaccurate or misleading caller ID information with the intent to defraud, harm or steal. That could mean up to a $10,000 penalty per violation. “As scammers become more sophisticated and sharpen their deceitful tactics, we must adapt in order to continue to protect consumers, especially the vulnerable and elderly,” said The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance.

Lawmakers: Talk, Action On Crime Don’t Match (Memphis Daily News) State Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris of Memphis says some of the rhetoric about criminal justice reform – not locking up as many nonviolent offenders for longer sentences – doesn’t match the push for legislation in Nashville.“There is a gap there that the advocacy on Capitol Hill still from a lot of quarters tends to be around how to put people in prison for longer – even nonviolent offenders – while there is a wider discussion in the community that that hasn’t worked,” Harris said on the WKNO/Channel 10 program “Behind The Headlines.” “That wider discussion in the community seems not to have seeped into some of our work.”

Six Tennessee congressmen support effort to secure ‘long term solution’ for federal highway funding (Times Free Press) Six of Tennessee’s nine congressmen have signed on to a letter in which a majority of U.S. House members are urging the chamber’s top tax writers to provide a long-term “fix” for keeping the federal Highway Trust Fund solvent instead of last-minute “stopgap measures.” U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, a Chattanooga Republican, was among the 253 representatives signing the letter, initiated by Reps. Sam Graves, R-Mo., and Eleanor Norton, D-D.C., the chairman and ranking minority member, respectively, of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. The letter does not mention a gas tax increase or specify other potential revenue sources to shore up the fund.

Diane Black To Hold Major Campaign Fundraiser in Washington, D.C. for Re-Election to Congress, Not Gubernatorial Run (Tennessee Star) Rep. Diane Black is holding a major campaign fundraiser at a high end restaurant in Washington, D.C. on Thursday night. But the event is to raise money for her re-election campaign to Congress, not her long rumored but yet-to-be announced gubernatorial campaign. Thursday night’s fundraiser will be held at Ocean Prime, one of the premiere eating establishments on Capitol Hill. The menu, which features a Ribeye Steak for $52 and Dutch Harbor King Crab Legs for $65, is well suited to Washington lobbyists, but a far cry from the Cracker Barrels that dot the I-40 corridor of the Sixth Congressional District Black represents in Tennessee.

Staffing Woes at the Education Department (Inside Higher Ed) The Trump administration’s pick to oversee higher ed policy at the Department of Education is out of the running. In an email last week, Claude Pressnell, president of the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association, said he was withdrawing his name from consideration for the job of assistant secretary for postsecondary education. It’s the second time in recent weeks that a candidate for a high-profile role at the department has said “no thanks” to the department deep in the vetting process. And it underscores the slow progress since January in making key political hires to round out Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s team. Pressnell said in the email to presidents of TICUA member institutions that he and DeVos had discussed since April the possibility of his being appointed to the assistant secretary position by President Trump.

Tennessee Democrats slam Alexander, Corker over GOP secrecy on Obamacare repeal bill (Times Free Press) Tennessee Democrats are turning up the heat on the state’s two Republican U.S. senators — Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker — for participating in secretive GOP efforts to develop an Obamacare repeal bill that could be on the Senate floor as early as next week. “This is inexcusable,” state Democratic Party Chairwoman Mary Mancini said Monday. “This is not the way government is supposed to work.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., hopes to put the measure up for a vote next week before Congress departs for its July 4 recess, according to multiple news accounts.

Boyd Talks Gaps In Higher Ed During Whitehaven Stop (Memphis Daily News) Randy Boyd, Republican contender for governor, says there is a gap in higher education efforts that should be filled by more satellite campuses for community colleges, including Shelby State Community College, as well as better marketing to compete with for-profit trade schools. Republican contender for governor Randy Boyd says there is a gap in the state’s Tennessee Promise plan and its reality. “You can tell the kid, ‘Good news, you can go for free,’” Boyd said last week in Whitehaven of the program that offers two years of free state community college for all Tennessee high school graduates. “But the bad news is there is no school to go to.” Boyd said there should be more satellite campuses like the Shelby State Community College location in Whitehaven that he stopped at Thursday, June 15, as he was in town for a later fundraiser in his campaign for governor.

Maker Of Opioid Treatment Under Scrutiny Has Ramped Up Political Activity In Tennessee (WPLN) The maker of an opioid treatment that’s come under scrutiny recently contributed more than $20,000 to candidates in Tennessee last year. The donations appear to be part of an aggressive nationwide campaign aimed at influencing state legislatures. The company is called Alkermes, and it makes a medication known as Vivitrol. The drug has lots of fans because it blocks the brain’s receptors to opioids. Alkermes says the once-a-month injection can keep people who are battling addiction to pain pills or heroin from getting high.

Coal’s Decline Spreads Far Beyond Appalachia (Wall Street Journal) Far from the mines of Appalachia, the decline of coal is hitting communities that relied on coal-fired power plants for jobs and income. During the past five years, roughly 350 coal-fired generating units shut down across the U.S., ranging from small units at factories to huge power plants, according to data from the Energy Information Administration. A single power plant could have one or several units. It is a scenario being played out elsewhere as more coal-fired power plants retire, squeezed out in part by new, cheaper-to-run natural gas-fired plants. Two entire plants in New Jersey also closed in June, and more coal units are scheduled to close in places like Tennessee and Michigan. Carbon County, Utah, is still smarting from the loss of a small coal-fired plant two years ago, said Seth Oveson, the county clerk and auditor.

Commercial Appeal to Sell Union Ave. Location, Search for New Office (Memphis Daily News) The Commercial Appeal, announced Monday, June 19, that it will be putting its iconic 495 Union Ave. property on the market and will begin the search for a new location. Mike Jung, president of the newspaper, told employees Monday morning hat the property will go on the market in two to three weeks. “We are a Memphis-based organization, and we will remain in Memphis,” Jung told The Daily News later that afternoon. “We look forward to moving into a new, modern building that reflects our digital-forward environment and organization.”


Column: Diane Black for Governor? (Nashville Scene) Over at the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Frank Cagle is writing about what may be weighing on Diane Black’s mind as she contemplates whether to run for governor: Black’s strategy seemed clear about the time of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. With the GOP in control of the White House, the House and the Senate, the first 100 days, or at least the first six months, seemed clear. Black could preside over the repeal of Obamacare and shepherd through a tax reform/tax cut bill and maybe a couple of other goodies on the Republican agenda. For the most part I agree with Cagle’s analysis, but they did pass the repeal in the House. They drank beers with Trump, and now he thinks the bill is too mean. You might say this puts Black in a no-win situation, because Trump supporters might hold it against her for passing a bill Trump doesn’t like, but they also might hold it against her for not passing the bill into law, if they don’t understand that it has to pass in the House and Senate.

Monday, June 19

US soldiers killed in Afghanistan to be laid to rest this week (WTVQ) Funeral services have been set for three US soldiers from Fort Campbell who were recently killed in Afghanistan. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam says the first funeral will take place Tuesday at the Fort Campbell Community Chapel. Another will also happen on the base on Friday. The third soldier’s funeral will be in north Carolina. According to the defense department Sergeants Eric Houck and William Bays and Corporel Dillon Baldridge all died of gunshot wounds  in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan on June 10th. They were part of the 101-st Airborne Division  at Fort Campbell, located on the Kentucky-Tennessee line.

Funerals set for airborne soldiers killed in Afghanistan (AP) Funeral services have been set for three U.S. soldiers from Fort Campbell who were killed in Afghanistan. The Defense Department says Sgt. Eric M. Houck, Sgt. William M. Bays and Cpl. Dillon C. Baldridge died of gunshot wounds on June 10 in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. They were part of the 101st Airborne Division based at Fort Campbell, located on the Kentucky-Tennessee line. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam‘s office says funeral services for Houck are scheduled Tuesday at the Community Chapel on Fort Campbell, followed by graveside service at Kentucky Veterans Cemetery West in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

No More Tennessee Bills Pending on Haslam’s Desk (AP) Close the book on this year’s legislative session in Tennessee: Gov. Bill Haslam has no more bills or resolutions awaiting his consideration. The Republican governor signed all the 524 measures sent his way this session, declining all calls for vetoing bills like a new law requiring the use of the “natural and ordinary meaning” of words in state law that gay rights groups have contended is a sneaky way to deny same-sex couples the legal rights and protections granted to a “husband,” a “wife,” a “father” or “mother.” Others had unsuccessfully lobbied Haslam to veto a bill that allows people with handgun carry permits to be armed on all local government properties unless city and counties use metal detectors, hire security guards and check people’s bags.

Vo-tech project to be christened on Tuesday (Herald-Chronicle) A much-awaited groundbreaking has been scheduled for the Tennessee College of Applied Technology’s soon to be campus in Franklin County on Tuesday. The event is slated for 10 a.m. at the site on a vacant lot next to the Franklin County Annex Building at 855 Dinah Shore Boulevard. Gov. Bill Haslam included $20 million in the state’s budget to go toward vo-tech projects. The Senate has added another $4.5 million to set the state total at $24.5 million. In addition, Franklin County government has pledged $1 million while the Board of Education offered the land adjacent to the former High School.

Federal Pullback, Climate Change Could Boost State Spending on Disasters (Stateline) The tornado hit the suburbs of east New Orleans at lunchtime on a mild Tuesday in February. The twister spun across mid-century ranch houses still etched with the spray-painted symbols that search and rescue squads left after Hurricane Katrina. At its calmest, the tornado tugged at asphalt shingles. At its most vicious, it flipped parked cars and snatched entire roofs and walls from their frames. By the time the tornado fizzled out over Lake Borgne, it had caused millions of dollars of damage. Together with a cluster of other windstorms, it yielded the seventh presidentially declared major disaster of 2017. States have come to rely on these declarations, a practice that helps individuals and communities recover from disasters. And since the 1980s, the federal government has been on the hook for the majority of recovery costs when a disaster is declared.

Tennessee improves in child well-being (Johnson City Press) With last week’s with release of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2017 Kids Count report, Tennessee hit a new high in the foundation’s annual rankings of the overall well-being of the state’s children, moving up three spots to 35th in the nation. In an initial review of the report, officials with the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth were encouraged and commended state programs contributing to the progress but also emphasized the need for further improvement. An annual measurement of child well-being in four key categories, this year’s Kids Count data showed Tennessee’s children rising seven spots over last year to 35thin economic well-being, up three spots to 33rd in education, up two positions to 26th in health, and down one position to 40th in family and community.

State law aims to broaden free speech protections for college students (Johnson City Press) The state of free speech at East Tennessee State University and college campuses across Tennessee will be in for some changes when a new state law goes into effect on Jan. 1. ETSU will redraft some of its university policies after the passage of the Campus Free Speech Protection Act, which reinforces First Amendment protections for students, student organizations and faculty members while also potentially increasing access to campus by third-party speakers — people who are not affiliated with the university — who are invited to campus by students or student organizations.

University of Tennessee releases Title IX report (AP) An independent commission appointed after the settlement of a Title IX lawsuit last year issued recommendations on Saturday for how the University of Tennessee’s campuses can improve Title IX compliance. Its suggestions include selecting a Title IX coordinator for the entire University of Tennessee system, and enhancing campus staffing and resources to address Title IX issues, including case management, care and support, education and training. Another recommendation involved updating and modifying policy, grievance procedures and student codes of conduct.

UT releases long-awaited commission report on sexual assault policies (WBIR) An independent Title IX Commission tasked with examining and critiquing the University of Tennessee’s policies on dealing with sexual assaults on campus has submitted its report and recommendations for change. UT appointed commission in July 2016 as part of lawsuit settlement in the case of six women who accused five UT athletes of sexual assault, claiming the university created a student culture that enabled sexual assault by student athletes. In the settlement, UT admitted no wrongdoing and said it would seek create an independent commission to review the university’s Title IX policies, as well as restructure two key offices that oversee sexual assault investigations and provide support for victims.

2017 marks 80 years for Tennessee State Parks ( A yearlong celebration is currently underway to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Tennessee State Park system. The Tennessee Department of Conservation was created in 1937 and charged with managing state parks, monuments and recreation areas. In 1991, it was renamed the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

Faison asks senators to reject House bill, rewrite AHCA (Citizen Tribune) If it becomes law, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), as passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, could cost an estimated 28,000 jobs in Tennessee alone by 2026 and trigger an economic downturn in nearly every state, according to a report published this week by researchers at George Washington University and The Commonwealth Fund. Tennessee has not expanded its TennCare coverage and as a result is losing millions annually in federal funds. Eleventh District State Rep. Jeremy Faison, Republican of Cosby, who represents residents of Cocke, Jefferson and Greene counties, is asking Republican U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, of Tennessee,  to reject the House bill and instead rewrite the American Health Care Act.

Task force to examine medical marijuana in Tennessee (WBIR) A task force consisting of state senators and representatives will soon take a harder look at issues around medical marijuana in Tennessee. Lt. Governor Randy McNally and speaker Beth Harwell are responsible for appointing lawmakers to the task force. McNally expects those appointments to be made in July. Rep. Jeremy Faison introduced a bill for medical marijuana in February. He’s optimistic that this joint task force will help both educate the general public on the science of medical marijuana as well as educate lawmakers on the extent of the support to medical marijuana in Tennessee.

Do congressmen need more security? Roe: ‘That would cramp my style.’ (Times News) Based on the shootings of U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and others on Wednesday, should all members of Congress have a security detail? U.S. Rep Phil Roe doesn’t think so. “That would cramp my style,” Roe, R-Tenn., said in a Thursday conference call with reporters. Roe pointed out, for instance, that he appears in a number of Fourth of July parades across the First Congressional District.  “I walk them, shake some hands and wave at people,” he said of his parade appearances. “I don’t think you can quit doing that because of one deranged person. I think the thing you probably will see is more security presence.

World Leaders Wary of Trump May Have an Ally: Congress (NY Times) President Trump threatens to upend the post-World War II foreign policy order, but Congress is working to ensure that American foreign policy remains rooted in the trans-Atlantic alliance against traditional rivals like Russia. Republicans have been careful not to frame their foreign policy moves as a counterweight to the president, who has doled out insults to foreign leaders on Twitter, bailed out of international trade and climate accords and turned on Qatar, an important American ally, as a sponsor of terrorism. “One of my goals as the leading Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is to recapture much of the Senate prerogatives on foreign policy,” said Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the committee chairman. He added that the panel had “dissipated for a long time into a debating society.”

Drug manufacturers listed in lawsuit only distributed 18 percent of total painkillers in Tri-Cities (Johnson City Press) Three drug manufacturers named in a lawsuit filed last week by three Northeast Tennessee district attorneys general distributed millions of painkillers in the region in recent years, according to data compiled by QuintilesIMS. But it appears Endo International Pharmaceuticals, Purdue Pharma LLC and Mallinckrodt PLC were responsible for a drop in the bucket compared to the total number of painkillers shipped into the region between 2012 and 2016. Roughly 426 million opioid tablets, capsules, oral solutions and injectable vials distributed by more than a hundred different companies, according to the data, helped solidify Northeast Tennessee as a hotbed for addiction the past four years.

Wirgau hopes decision on Highway 641 three-lane can still be reversed (Post-Intelligencer) Tim Wirgau admits he was caught off-guard by the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s decision to make a rather major change in plans for the upcoming Highway 641 widening project north of Paris. Wirgau, who represents Henry County in the state House of Representatives, says he “was very disappointed and angry” when he learned that a stretch of the project from the Paris city limits north to Smith Road will only be three lanes — one lane of traffic each way with a turn lane in between. “They (TDOT) never reached out to my office,” Wirgau said. “We had never been promoting anything but a five-lane (two lanes in each direction with a turn lane in between) for that entire project. It’s important that we have that.”


State Rep. Mark White: Outsourcing of university non-core services not risky (News Sentinel) A significant challenge the state has faced is steering the state’s financial ship through an ever-tightening fiscal channel. Gov. Bill Haslam provided a vivid illustration a few years ago while speaking with a business group in East Tennessee, stating: “We’re shaving the sides of the boat off to get it through the canal.” Total state funding costs are increasing at about 6-8 percent each year while state revenues have increased at less than 3 percent over the last couple of budget cycles. Along with my Republican peers, I have followed through on a pledge to reduce the tax burden on our citizens, backing proposals to phase out the Hall Income Tax, and twice voting to reduce the sales tax on grocery food. These are good policies for our state that have also demanded new management practices that will reduce the costs of government.

David Plazas: Mean federal budget proposal hurts children (Tennessean) The progress made in improving Tennessee children’s well-being is encouraging. The state now ranks 35th in the 2017 KIDS COUNT report — up three spots from last year. This is the highest ranking Tennessee has earned in how states are measured upon the economic, educational, health and family state of children. However, those gains are threatened by proposed draconian cuts in federal funding that could set back the Volunteer State’s kids. A ranking of 35th still places Tennessee in the bottom 30 percent of all states and the goal must be to continue improving, not regressing.

Robert Houk: What you don’t know could get you fired (Johnson City Press) Recently, a column on quirky Tennessee laws (some dealing with employment practices) that often go under the radar caught my attention. Written by an attorney specializing in labor and workplace law, the piece outlined things that could possibly cost you your job in Tennessee. “You might be surprised by what’s legal in Tennessee — and what’s not,” wrote Phillis Rambsy, a partner in the Spiggle Law Firm, who has offices in Nashville and Washington, D.C.