Thursday, November 30

SCORE report recommends greater focus on state teachers, college readiness (Tennessean) Teacher well-being, literacy and college and career readiness. Those are just a few of the five priorities the State Collaborative for Reforming Education, or SCORE, wants Tennessee to focus on in the coming year to improve state education. Executive chairwoman Jamie Woodson said Wednesday the group asked teachers and parents across the state what matter most to them and what would take Tennessee’s education forward. “They all want to know that students ready for the future, ready for college or ready to go into the workforce,” she said. “What we’ve pulled together are the skills we think will take them there.”

Audit finds problems at Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (Tennessean) A state audit of the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities has found several areas where it says the department failed to meet its responsibilities and provide important services. The Tennessee comptroller’s office released the sunset performance audit for the department responsible for administering services for Tennesseans with intellectual and developmental disabilities on Wednesday. The department listed 14 findings and nine observations of potential concerns since the last audit was conducted in 2013.

Department Responsible For Intellectually Disabled Tennesseans Flubbed Background Checks (WPLN) The state’s Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities failed to perform background checks on all of its employees and volunteers, and it didn’t adequately safeguard the money and possessions of people in its care, according to a new audit by the state comptroller’s office. A check of agency records going back to 2013 found several instances of background checks occurring after employees had started work — and in some cases, not at all. Auditors could not identify anyone who slipped through that was unsuitable, they said, but they warned that even one failure could have serious ramifications.

Second fastest-growing crime affects 94 children in Tennessee each month (WKRN) Ninety-four children were brought together Wednesday night in Franklin. They were photographed to bring significance to a tragic and escalating trend. “This is such a dangerous crime that we got to make some giant waves,” says Cara Deese. The children represent the 94 kids trafficked every month in Tennessee. It’s the country’s second fastest growing crime– and it hits all communities, happening more than you might think. “As a mom of three boys, it could be my kids,” Deese told News 2.

40 Under 40: Reen Baskin, Tennessee Governor’s Office (Nashville Business Journal) Reen Baskin was named director of communications for Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam in August. Despite advice to leave well enough alone, Baskin always challenges the status quo. What’s the worst advice you’ve ever received, and what did you learn from it? When I first joined state government, someone advised me, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I have spent my entire career at the state challenging this well-known quote with, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Change is hard — really hard sometimes — but we should always aim to go above and beyond the status quo. What is the greatest potential that comes from Nashville’s growth? With growth comes diversity — diversity of people, thoughts and organizations. I smile when I think how my children will grow up in a city filled with diverse opportunities. As Nashville grows, we can make it a place for everyone.

Cooper, Blackburn file bill to end sexual harassment hush fund (WSMV) Two Tennessee lawmakers from opposite sides of the aisle are working together to dismantle a secret fund, paid for by taxpayers, meant to keep victims of sexual assault quiet. The so-called hush fund has been around since the 1990s. Sponsors say it protects the predators rather than the victims. Some lawmakers behind it say they had not even heard about it until recently. Congressman Jim Cooper, D-TN, and Congressman Marsha Blackburn, R-TN, said the hush fund is used to help members of Congress settle sexual harassment claims. It also reportedly pushes alleged victims to sign an agreement that they won’t go public with the claims.

Manufacturing still covets Corker’s tax reform vote (Times News) U.S. Sen. Bob Corker has voted for tax reform in Senate committees, but the National Association of Manufacturers and Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry tried Wednesday to push him in favor of a finishing Senate floor vote. Leaders of the two groups were sufficiently concerned about Corker’s vote to hold a second conference call with reporters about the issue. Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, called tax reform a “pivotal moment” for America. “Tax reform is the manufacturing issue of our generation. … There is no bigger way to support manufacturing and manufacturing workers in Tennessee and across America,” Timmons told reporters. “

Republicans Grapple Over Trigger Provision: Tax Debate Update (Bloomberg News) The Senate tax bill is headed for a marathon debate this week after Republican leaders brought the measure to the floor Wednesday with the goal of holding a final vote by the end of the week. Here are the latest developments, updated throughout the day: Corker Says Trigger Deal Still Facing ‘Difficulties’: Senate Republicans are looking to approve their tax-overhaul legislation as soon as Thursday night — but wrangling continues over whether to include a trigger for tax increases if economic growth doesn’t meet revenue targets. “They’re having a few difficulties but hopefully in the morning they’ll have something,” Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who’s pushing for the trigger mechanism, said Wednesday evening. “There’s nothing to show right now.”

Beacon Center launches 501(c)(4) (Nashville Post) But think tank promises advocacy arm won’t endorse candidates. The nonprofit libertarian think tank Beacon Center has launched a new 501(c)(4). Named Beacon Impact, the new advocacy arm of the group will also be run by Justin Owen, Beacon’s current CEO. “The Beacon Center has a solid track record of developing policy solutions grounded in the principles of free markets, individual liberty, and limited government. We have also successfully shepherded many of these solutions into law,” Owen said in a press release. “But it’s not enough. We need the ability to advocate for meaningful reform both inside and outside the state Capitol, in the halls of the legislature and local governments, and also on the ground in our communities. Beacon Impact will be our strategic partner to turn our ideas into action at all levels.”

Testimony: Feds targeted Jimmy Haslam in phone call (AP) Federal agents used a Pilot Flying J employee to try to get Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam to make incriminating comments on the telephone, but court testimony suggests Haslam was aware he was making the call at their behest. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports former sales executive Brian Mosher, who has pleaded guilty to participating in a widespread scheme to defraud trucking customers, testified Tuesday that federal agents showed up at his Iowa home in April 2013 and had him call Haslam to say, “Jimmy, we’ve been caught.” Mosher said Haslam replied: “I understand there are some folks at your house,” and then handed the phone to a lawyer in Pilot’s legal department.

The Water City (Memphis Flyer) While Memphis is surrounded by water, much of it is in danger.Without the Mississippi River, the city would not exist at all. Its bones are formed as Nonconnah Creek and the Wolf River shape the I-240 loop. The massive Memphis Sand Aquifer below the city promises a future when so many communities face historic uncertainty. “We are a water city,” said Joe Royer, who owns Outdoors, Inc. and can frequently be seen paddling kayaks up and down the Mississippi River. “When it snows in Yellowstone [National Park], it flows by Tom Lee Park. When you’re watching Monday Night Football and it’s sleeting in Pittsburgh, it’ll come through Memphis.” But much of the city’s waters face threats, old and new. And a cadre of locals is organizing to fight them.

Dead Water (Memphis Flyer) Tennessee contributes to massive toxic plume in Gulf of Mexico. Follow that big, muddy Mississippi River all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, and you’ll find a dead zone the size of New Jersey. Nutrients found in everything humans dump in the river — sewage, agricultural runoff, industrial waste, and more — stimulate the growth of algae, which sucks up much of the oxygen out of the water, killing fish and marine life in “one of the nation’s largest and most productive fisheries,” according to the United State Geological Survey (USGS). That dead zone this year was 8,776 square miles, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The toxic plume stretches from the tip of Louisiana’s boot to the Texas coast, and in it, you can find Tennessee.

Landfill gets long-awaited permit to expand in Montgomery County (Leaf Chronicle) Bi-County’s landfill received a permit on Nov. 22 to open up more space to bury garbage for the next 12 years. It was welcome news for Bi-County board members on Wednesday, and the permitting resolved a space crunch that sparked emergency measures by the board to be able to provide disposal of garbage for Montgomery and Stewart county residents. “I think getting this permit is a huge, huge step,” said Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett. “This board was sitting here a year and a half ago and we were about to run out of air space (for burying garbage). We had absolutely no place to put our trash or Stewart County’s trash.

Nashville sued over Major League Soccer stadium plans for fairgrounds (Tennessean) In an effort to stop Nashville’s Major League Soccer stadium plans and other changes targeted for the city’s fairgrounds, stadium critics sued Metro government Wednesday. Plaintiffs led by the advocacy group Save Our Fairgrounds have asked a judge to intervene to halt the MLS stadium from going forward as well as separate plans for a new 46-acre park and recreational soccer fields at the Fairgrounds Nashville. They’ve argued both interfere with existing uses of the fairgrounds that are protected by either Metro or state law. Petitioners held a news conference outside the Metro courthouse Wednesday to announce the suit’s filing in Davidson County Chancery Court.

Former Nashville TV personalities sue news station for age discrimination (Nashville Business Journal) Three former on-air personalities with Nashville TV station WSMV Ch. 4 have sued the station for age discrimination. The Tennessean reports that reporter Dennis Ferrier, anchor/reporter Jennifer Johnson and meteorologist Nancy Van Camp filed suit this week in a Nashville federal court. According to The Tennessean, the journalists say they were harassed and ridiculed prior to being terminated.

Demetria Kalodimos ridiculed, called ‘old maid’ by bosses, ex-Channel 4 reporters allege in lawsuit (Tennessean) Three popular former Channel 4 news personalities blasted station management in an age-discrimination lawsuit filed this week in federal court in Nashville. Former longtime reporter Dennis Ferrier, veteran anchor/reporter Jennifer Johnson and longtime weekend meteorologist Nancy Van Camp said they were victims of harassment and ridicule shortly before they were terminated from WSMV. Channel 4’s owner, Meredith Corporation, issued a statement denying that any employees were mistreated or that age was a reason for any of the plaintiffs leaving the station.


Editorial: When water regulations serve their purpose (Johnson City Press) It’s common these days to hear people rail against those blasted government regulations. Critics complain they are stifling or nonsensical. Just another layer of needless bureaucracy? Maybe, sometimes, but more often they are essential safeguards of the public’s health and safety. Take the case of a citation issued by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to a Stoney Creek community public water system last month. State officials said two tests of the Dry Hollow Water Association’s gravity-fed, surface water system found E. coli and other contaminants that could be dangerous to the people living in the 39 homes served by the utility. E. coli is caused by exposure to water contaminated by animal or human waste.

Sam Stockard: Is There Room for Common-Sense Gun Legislation? (Memphis Daily News) The Tennessee chapter of Moms Demand Action picks its battles judiciously. Once labeled as a bunch of anti-gun extremists, the group is anything but, spokeswoman Kat McRitchie says. “We seek common ground. We work with legislators on both sides of the aisle. We’re nonpartisan,” McRitchie explains. “We’re simply looking for common-sense gun solutions, which the majority of Americans support.” With the state Legislature passing more pro-gun laws annually, moving ever closer to “constitutional carry” – the right to pack a gun at all times, except maybe for convicted felons and the legally insane – the organization has no choice but to move with caution.

Guest column: Why Austin Peay and other universities should not cut humanities courses (Tennessean) In a strongly-argued letter to the editor in the campus newspaper several weeks ago, Jordy Rocheleau, professor of philosophy at Austin Peay State University, lamented the university administration’s recent decision to cut its philosophy and religion program by one-third, despite the program’s astonishing growth of over 200 percent over the past two years. As Rocheleau pointed out, there appears to be no numerical logic behind the university’s recent decision. This leads us to a larger problem, one that looms even greater than Austin Peay’s unsound policy decision. That is, the general lack of value ascribed to the study of the humanities today.

Column: Why not let Tennessee fans hire the coach? (News Sentinel) This isn’t a coaching search. It’s a parody of a coaching search. “Saturday Night Live” should make it a weekly staple. Bill Hader could play UT athletic director John Currie, and Alec Baldwin could play super-booster Jimmy Haslam. Call it: “The Coaching Search That Got Lost.” UT’s wayward pursuit of a football coach is hilarious if you have no interest in the outcome. It’s not as funny if you’re a Tennessee fan, or even a columnist assigned with the task of providing sensible commentary on a venture that makes less sense by the day. I’m writing this Wednesday night with the hope it won’t be irrelevant by sunrise. I’m not optimistic.

Marsha Blackburn: Congress must stop sex trafficking on the internet (Tennessean) Recently in Brentwood, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) arrested 22 men for soliciting sex with a minor through This was the 11th sting conducted by the TBI since 2015. This activity is beyond reprehensible, and the internet has only made it easier for sex traffickers to operate in the shadows. We must act legislatively to give law enforcement the tools they need to protect children. On Thursday, I will chair a hearing on the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology on H.R. 1865, “Allowing States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017,” which was introduced earlier this year by Rep. Ann Wagner.

Wednesday, November 29

Governor: No imminent change to private prisons expected (AP) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam says he doesn’t anticipate any imminent change in the state’s use of private prisons after an audit found some of those facilities were understaffed and the staffing information they provided was at times incorrect or withheld. Haslam told reporters Monday he’ll meet with Tennessee Department of Correction Commissioner Tony Parker about the state comptroller’s audit of prisons run by CoreCivic, formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America. The audit found Trousdale Turner Correctional Center and Whiteville Correctional Facility were consistently short-staffed, including in correctional officers.

See how Tennessee ranks among Forbes’ best states for business of 2017 (Nashville Business Journal) The Volunteer State has been buoyed by growth in recent years, with record low unemployment and big economic development wins. But despite that success, Tennessee still isn’t one of the best states to do business, according to Forbes’ annual list of the best states for business. Tennessee ranked No. 15 on Forbes’ list, which was released Tuesday. That’s at least an improvement over last year, when Tennessee ranked No. 17. In Forbes’ 12th annual installment, the states were rated on business costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, economic climate, growth prospects, quality of life and population.

Why Are People in Red States Dropping Out of the Labor Force? (Wall Street Journal) For further evidence of a divided nation, look no further than state-level job markets. Though the labor market has grown robustly nationwide this year, progress has been uneven across blue states and red states. An increasing number of people in red states have stopped looking for work, while a larger share of people in blue states are actively in the workforce. Tennessee’s recent record-low unemployment rate illustrates the red-state trend. It declined two full percentage points in just 12 months, hitting a historically low 3%. But the recession pushed many Tennesseans out of the workforce, and the workforce participation rate has trended down since. Almost 65% of the state’s population was in the workforce a decade ago. In 2017, that number was less than 61%.

Knox Co. and state leaders meet with ACT over Bearden testing ‘mis-administration’ (WBIR) Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett was part of the meeting with ACT representatives on Tuesday in Nashville, and said the company is not willing to change their decision not to validate the students’ scores. Knox County and state leaders spoke to ACT representatives in Nashville Tuesday about the testing issue at Bearden High School. The testing company decided not to release scores for 409 Bearden students who took the test in October because of what it calls a “mis-administration.”

Party affiliations split university members’ political donations (UT Daily Beacon) As the campaigns for the 2018 primaries in Tennessee heat up and voters begin to decide whom they will support, many UT officials and employees have already made their decisions. Many UT Board of Trustees members, including John Tickle and Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees Raja Jubran, have collectively contributed more than $90,000 to various political candidates and committees since Jan. 1, according to numbers compiled by the Federal Elections Commission. This year, 10 out of the 25 members of the board have made 38 total contributions. The vast majority of these contributions went toward organizations or candidates affiliated with the Republican Party. Only one contribution of $2,500 went toward a Democratic Party affiliate.

State begins process of filling Roan Mountain Park manager (Johnson City Press) The Tennessee State Parks have begun the process of advertising the vacant position of manager at Roan Mountain State Park. While the process of selecting a new manager is being conducted, Meg Guy, one of the park’s rangers, has been elevated to the position of acting manager. Guy said the state is required to advertise the positions for 30 days before the selection process begins. She said the state will be accepting resumes through Dec. 13. If all goes well, the position could be filled by February. The info on applying can be found on the website of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation at

Muscle car businessman challenges Faison in House District 11 GOP primary (TN Journal/Humphrey) Press release from Greg Fodness campaign: Cosby resident and businessman Greg Fodness, owner of Mountain Muscle Cars, has announced a run for State Representative. Greg is married to his wife Shirley and has been a resident of Cosby since 1989. Fodness seeks to unseat incumbent Jeremy Faison. “I’m running because the 11th District is my home and I know it deserves better. I truly care for the people of this District and want them to have the best representation available to them.” Fodness has had a passion for business since age 20 when he was a Chrysler mechanic. During this time he bought and sold  muscle cars in his spare time to make ends meet.

Businessman Greg Fodness running for state representative (WATE) East Tennessee businessman Greg Fodness announced he is running for state representative. The Cosby resident hopes to represent the 11th District. “I’m running because the 11th District is my home and I know it deserves better. I truly care for the people of this District and want them to have the best representation available to them,” said Fodness. Fodness says he began his career when he was 20-years-old. He started off as a mechanic and then started selling muscle cars.

Corker gets requested revision and votes for Senate GOP tax bill; Alexander involved with Obamacare deal (TN Journal/Humphrey) The Senate Budget Committee voted to advance the GOP tax reform bill on Tuesday on a party-line vote, with both Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) backing the measure a day after threatening to withhold their support, reports Politico.  That critical vote came after President Donald Trump came to Capitol Hill to rally the troops in the tax battle. Johnson voted for the tax bill after a back-and-forth with Trump during the lunch, according to multiple sources, over the Wisconsin Republican’s main concern: that the proposal currently gives more benefits to corporations than to businesses that pay taxes through the individual system. … Corker, one of the fiscal hawks concerned about the deficit impact of tax cuts, said he was satisfied with details for a “trigger” to reverse tax cuts if economic growth fell short of projections in years to come. He expects details to be released Thursday.

Trump After Dark: The Bill Comes Due edition (Politico) Senate Republicans saw a burst of momentum today on their tax plan. The question is whether they can close the deal on President Donald Trump’s top legislative priority. Time is running short on the effort, if Senate Republicans are to pass something this year. Complicating matters is a looming budget fight, which Democrats seemed to heighten by walking out of talks with President Trump. Still, the Republican tax bill emerged from a key committee vote, on a party line. Two potentially adrift senators, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, helped send the bill forward, POLITICO’s Seung Min Kim and Colin Wilhelm report.

`Trigger’ That Advanced GOP Tax Bill Poses Risks for Senate Vote (Bloomberg) A key concession that helped clear Republican tax legislation for a Senate vote as early as Thursday is drawing sharp opposition from conservative groups and some lawmakers, signaling that GOP leaders still face challenges in achieving a major legislative victory before year’s end. The Senate Budget Committee approved the bill on a party-line vote of 12-11 Tuesday, but only after Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said he bargained for adding a controversial provision: a so-called revenue trigger that would impose tax increases if the tax bill’s cuts raise the federal deficit. That victory for Corker — who said he has “an agreement in principle” to add the trigger — sparked condemnation from other Republicans, despite a lack of detail about how the provision would work. It has already been criticized by GOP-friendly interest groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The Senate Tax Bill Might Just Pass Thanks to a Few Harebrained Compromises (Slate) The Senate tax bill seems to be moving apace. The legislation is on schedule for a vote this week after winning approval from a key committee. Meanwhile, some of the critical Republican holdouts who had yet to support the plan are finally warming up to it, after being promised a few concessions. This is a pity, since those policy concessions are pretty terrible on their merits, and in some cases may make a bad bill even worse. With 52 seats in the Senate, Republicans can only afford to lose two votes and still pass their tax bill. One of the question marks is Maine’s Susan Collins, whose no-vote helped kill her party’s attempt at Obamacare repeal.

Oak Ridge National Lab Executive Talks Up Clean Energy At His TVA Nomination Hearing (WPLN) A Senate subcommittee heard from the deputy director of operations at Oak Ridge National Lab on Tuesday, along with President Trump’s three other nominees to the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority. In his opening statement, Jeffrey Smith pointed to his experience having already worked with TVA. Smith told senators that the Oak Ridge lab and the utility have partnered on several projects to recruit new companies to the region, and those conversations share a key factor. “I can tell you that low-cost, clean — and that ‘clean’ comes up more and more often these days — and reliable power is always a consideration in site selection,” he said.

Tax bills raise concerns for older Tennesseans, Medicare funding and all claiming medical deductions (Tennessean) The proposed tax reform bills could negatively impact older Tennesseans in 2018 and in the future when people go to file taxes, try to access physicians under Medicare or buy individual insurance before they reach Medicare eligibility, say senior advocates. Those who buy insurance as they approach Medicare eligibility as well any adult — including those on Medicare — who claim medical expense deductions could feel a greater pinch on their wallet under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, according to the AARP and other organizations.

Gun sales peak during Black Friday shopping (WSMV) Every year, people line up outside of big box retail stores hoping to be the first to buy Black Friday door busters. This year, guns were at the top of many lists. At the Nashville Armory, the store saw its highest number of gun sales to date. “Firearm sales nationwide were as high as they’d ever been for a weekend,” said Jeff Hartline, who works at the Nashville Armory gun store and range. “Our sales were almost triple in this store and our Franklin store combined with anything we’ve ever done.” In our area, Davidson County currently has the most carry permits with more than 33,717 active handgun carry permits. Rutherford has 25,424. Williamson County has 19,105.

‘I said, Jimmy, we’ve been caught,’ former Pilot Flying J sales executive testifies (News Sentinel) Former Pilot Flying J sales executive Brian Mosher told jurors Tuesday federal agents and a prosecutor showed up on his doorstep on Tax Day 2013 and asked him to make a phone call to the chief executive officer of his company. “I was asked to make a phone call and I did — (to) Jimmy Haslam,” Mosher testified. Agents and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Lewen recorded the call, Mosher said. “I said, ‘Jimmy, we’ve been caught,’” Mosher testified. “He said, ‘I understand there are some folks at your house.’”


Mike McWherter: Megasite: Infrastructure vital in attracting business (Jackson Sun) It is a rare moment when I read an editorial opinion that causes me to feel inclined to write a response, but this will be a first in that I am actually choosing to “pen” a response to Justin Owen’s column, Nov. 19 in The Jackson Sun, about the Memphis Regional Megasite. He is spectacularly missing the point. He titled his column as an “Empty Field of Broken Promises.” I think his choice of titles is wrong from the start. A better headline would be an “Empty Field of Unfulfilled Promises.” It is true that the Megasite has yet to draw a major industry to locate on the 4,000-acre site located on Interstate 40 in Haywood County, between Memphis and Jackson. It would also be a true statement that the state has invested approximately $140 million toward developing this site to help bring jobs to a “downtrodden” area of the state which has not experienced the incredible economic growth so apparent in other areas of the state.

Frank Cagle: Alabama probably will elect Roy Moore to Senate (News Sentinel) If you had told me a year ago that it were possible for the Democrats to pick up Senate seats in Alabama and Tennessee, I would have laughed. I still doubt it’s possible, but I’m not laughing. The best thing for the Republican Party at this point is for Alabama to elect a Democrat. Wait two years and crush him with a Republican who isn’t a sexual predator. If Alabama elects Roy Moore it will give the media a narrative to help run Democratic candidate campaigns through the 2020 election.

Diane Black: Conservative tax reform is on the way (Lebanon Democrat) It’s been more than three decades since Congress has worked with the White House to modernize the nation’s outdated tax system. But that is all about to change. Over the last several months, lawmakers in both chambers have laid the groundwork for historic tax reform. And it all started with the budget process, within the Budget Committee that I chair in the House of Representatives. When our committee began writing the budget, we recognized that tax reform should be a priority, so we specifically addressed it in our plan. Through the unique tool known as reconciliation, our budget instructed tax writers in Congress to tackle reform. The Senate also acknowledged the desperate need to overhaul the federal tax code and similarly included text, in its version of the budget, to move the process forward.

Clint Cooper: Corker’s fiscal soundness (Times Free Press) Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., made it clear eight weeks ago he was no fan of a tax cut if it increased the deficit. If “we are adding one penny to the deficit,” he told NBC’s Chuck Todd on Oct. 1, “I’m not going to be for it. Sorry, it’s the greatest threat to our nation.” That was not a sour Corker response due to his late-summer feud with President Donald Trump. That was Corker being Corker in not wanting to increase the deficit. That was Corker being Corker in not wanting to kick the payment can down the road. That was Corker being Corker in being frustrated nothing was being done to cut nondiscretionary spending.

Pam Sohn: Will we be collateral damage for GOP tax plan? (Times Free Press) It was good Tuesday to see grassroots protesters back in the Capitol to speak out about the horrible Republican tax reform bill emerging from Congress. But will it be too little too late? Tuesday’s party-line vote of 12-11 in the Senate Budget Committee moved the bill closer to a floor vote, expected later this week. But make no mistake: This GOP-penned bill remains a bitter pill for all but the richest Americans and corporations. “After agreeing in principle with Senate leadership, members of the finance committee, and the administration on a trigger mechanism to ensure greater fiscal responsibility should economic growth estimates not be realized, I voted today to advance this important piece of legislation. While we are still working to finalize the details, I am encouraged by our discussions.”

Otis Sanford: Democrats need rural Tennesseans to win governor seat (WREG) Earlier this month, Karl Dean was literally beating a path down Interstate 40 from Nashville to Memphis, and for good reason. Dean wants to be the first Democrat to win statewide office in Tennessee since 2006, and he knows it will take every vote he can get in the state`s two largest cities. So just before Thanksgiving, the former mayor of Nashville was back and forth between the state capital and the Bluff City making himself known and launching a campaign headquarters in Memphis. In addition to attending a fundraiser in Midtown, Dean addressed the Frayser Exchange Club and toured Overton High School. He also visited the church once pastored by the late civil rights leader Benjamin Hooks.

Column: Ask regulators to actively protect Roane’s waterways (Roane County News) Just over a year ago, the Tennessee Valley Authority shared the good news that it was prepared to comply with federal rules to protect the Clinch River from toxic pollutants being released from its Kingston coal plant, such as arsenic, mercury and lead. And not only could they comply, but they could do it sooner than the rules required. But things have changed. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has proposed a new permit for the Kingston plant that needlessly delays — for years — the cleanup of Kingston’s toxic discharges. We know well that Kingston is the site of the largest coal ash spill in history. This notorious plant will continue polluting the Clinch River unless TDEC requires TVA to comply with updated permits that do what they’re meant to: protect our water.

Editorial: It’s time to widen I-26 in Johnson City (Johnson City Press) Work is continuing on a key upgrade to Exit 24 of the Interstate 26 interchange at University Parkway. The $2.6 million project will add an auxiliary lane and widen the interstate’s eastbound travel lanes near the on and off ramps. This project will hopefully convince the Tennessee Department of Transportation to take a fresh look at another proposed project that has been at the top of Johnson City’s wish list for many years. Local officials have asked the state to consider adding as many as four new lanes in sections of the interstate through the heart of Johnson City. The state should not only approve this request, but also include a new and less-confusing interchange for downtown and State of Franklin Road as part of the widening project.

Editorial: A Trigger Warning on Taxes (Wall Street Journal) Senate Republicans made considerable tax-reform progress Tuesday by passing a bill through the Budget Committee, though not without another nick. The reform would still help the economy and lift incomes, but the trillion-dollar question is whether Republicans can put the American people and prosperity ahead of this or that pet demand—or if they’ll continue to dent the product. The bill passed 12-11 after drama over whether Senators Ron Johnson (Wisconsin) and Bob Corker (Tennessee) would vote no amid assorted objections. Both voted yes. Mr. Corker is worried about the federal deficit, and we hear he has struck a deal “in principle” with Senate leadership for a “trigger” that snaps back some of the cuts if revenues six years from now are below what the budget gnomes predict today. We’re told this would set off $350 billion in tax increases over the next 10 years, details on which taxes would rise to come later this week.

David Plazas: Politicians who release tax returns deserve praise (Tennessean) Voters generally do not rank what candidates pay in taxes to the federal government as the most important issue to them. In fact, we know from USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee reporting across the state that jobs, education and health care are top of mind for residents. However, when politicians who seek residents’ votes release their tax returns, they are showing voters that they are committed to transparency and accountability.

Tuesday, November 28

Photo Gallery: Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting (Leaf Chronicle)

In final year in office, Gov. Bill Haslam reflects on his successes (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday asked members of the Nashville Rotary Club to think back to 2012. The economy was in a recession, unemployment had reached 9 percent, and Tennessee’s K-12 public education was ranked among the worst in the country, he said. Now, circumstances have changed, but Haslam said that in his last year in office he wants to make sure the state maintains the progress it has made.

Gov. Haslam weighs in on UT coaching search debacle (WSMV) The University of Tennessee is back to the drawing board in the search for its fifth head football coach in the last decade. This comes after the university backed out last minute from hiring current Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano. The firestorm that erupted on social media and spread across the UT campus was enough to torpedo the deal that was reportedly in its final stages. Part of that online outcry included several state lawmakers. Many were imploring Gov. Bill Haslam to get involved in stopping the Schiano hire. Gov. Haslam believes many rushed to judgment when it came to Schiano’s ties to Penn State and convicted serial rapist Jerry Sandusky. “A governor doesn’t need to be picking football coaches,” Haslam said.

Gov. Haslam weighs in on near-hire of Greg Schiano (WATE) Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam weighed in on the near-hire of Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano as the next coach of the Volunteers. By law, the governor of Tennessee is chair of the UT board of trustees, but football coaching issues usually aren’t a question for the governor. However, after the university withdrew an offer that would have brought Schiano to Knoxville, Gov. Haslam weighed in. “Governors don’t need to be involved in picking football coaches,” said Haslam. “That being said, I think we should all be concerned about a rush for judgement.”

Memo of understanding with Schiano could cost UT millions (WSMV) While University of Tennessee officials are not commenting on the existence of a memo of understanding between the university and Greg Schiano, the school used a similar document in 2015 that indicates a massive payout if a coach is fired under certain circumstances. While ESPN is reporting that Schiano signed a memo of understanding with UT, a university spokesman would only say that they will take “the time allotted” to respond to an open records request by the News 4 I-Team to obtain the document if it does indeed exist.

College Football’s Coaching Carousel Gets Crazy—And Ugly (Wall Street Journal) Tennessee’s move to back away from Greg Schiano due to unproven allegations related to his tenure at Penn State was the most dramatic episode in a flurry of decisions at big-name schools.The college football season is gearing up for an utterly unpredictable conference championship weekend with enough potential scenarios to make mathematicians cringe. The only thing crazier during this mayhem has been the fury and hysteria from the programs that weren’t good enough to play for a league title—and are looking for new coaches as a result.

Tusculum to begin transition from college to university (Johnson City Press) At 224 years old, Tusculum College is going through changes. And the first step is a name change. For the 2018-19 academic year, the school will formally change from Tusculum College to Tusculum University. Along with the name change, Tusculum President James Hurley said the institution is evolving to accommodate more programs to appeal to a broader spectrum of prospective students. “This is the next step in the life of the institution,” Hurley said. “It reflects who we are as an academy. This move is all about students, it’s all about the region, it’s about doing what’s best for our current students and what prospective students need and are demanding in a university.”

Tennessee has more chronic disease than the U.S. and it costs $5.3 billion annually (Tennessean) Tennessee’s above average rates of diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease cost $5.3 billion in 2015, according to a new study. The state has among the highest rates of behavior-related disease and associated direct medical care, lower productivity and premature death carry an expensive economic impact, suggests the report from the Sycamore Institute. The excess disease burden  — or the 460,000 of people in Tennessee who have the diseases above the national average — costs the state billions annually.

TennCare Predicts Enrollment To Level Out At 1.4M, Even As Economy Booms (WPLN) Tennessee’s Medicaid program swelled to 1.5 million people after the Affordable Care Act took effect — matching an all-time high set around the year 2000 and meaning nearly a quarter of the state was on TennCare. Numbers have fallen slightly from that peak as the economy has boomed. But TennCare officials say they’re finding a new normal. For many years, the number of people on TennCare hovered around 1.2 million. Roughly 19,000 would qualify for the subsidized health care each month, and the same number would come off the program for whatever reason.

Local woman charged with TennCare fraud (Kentucky New Era) A Hopkinsville woman was accused of TennCare fraud and lying about her residence, according to a Nov. 21 release from the Tennessee Office of Inspector General.Amanda M. Schamp, 36, Hopkinsville, also known as Amanda M. Harrington was charged with TennCare fraud and theft of services over $10,000. The release says she intentionally misrepresented that her family resided in Tennessee when they actually lived in Kentucky.

Candidate tax returns: Diane Black, husband had $78.6M in taxable income from 2013-2016 (Tennessean) U.S. Rep. Diane Black and her husband had $78.6 million in taxable income from 2013 to 2016 while House Speaker Beth Harwell and her spouse had $1.5 million during the same time period, according to financial summaries provided to the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee. The findings come as part of a request by the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee of all seven top-tier 2018 gubernatorial candidates. The request, made in early October, asked the candidates for copies of their federal income tax returns.

4 TN Gov. Candidates Won’t Release Tax Returns (AP) Four of the seven major candidates for Tennessee governor are declining to release details of their federal income tax returns. The five Republicans and two Democrats in the race were asked to release copies of their federal tax filings. U.S. Rep. Diane Black and fellow Republican state House Speaker Beth Harwell provided financial summaries, and Democrat Craig Fitzhugh released his 2016 tax return.

Black, Harwell and Fitzhugh release income tax info; other gubernatorial candidates refuse (TN Journal/Humphrey) Four of the seven major candidates for Tennessee governor have turned down a Tennessean request to make public details of their federal income tax returns. U.S. Rep. Diane Black and fellow Republican state House Speaker Beth Harwell provided financial summaries. Of the other Republican candidates Mae Beavers, Randy Boyd and Bill Lee declined – though Boyd indicated he may reconsider in the future. On the Democrat side, House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh released a copy of his 2016 return and former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean declined the request, though indicating he may reconsider later.

Sen. Bob Corker still on fence about tax reform as Trump signals changes coming to bill (Tennessean) Senate Republicans were working Monday to lock up votes for their tax overhaul plan as President Donald Trump signaled the plan is still being changed and a new report from an official congressional scorekeeper said people with lower incomes fare worse from tax reform than previously estimated. Trump heads to Capitol Hill on Tuesday for lunch with the full Senate Republican Conference and met Monday with GOP members of the Senate Finance Committee. Senators leaving that meeting expressed confidence they would soon get a tax bill to Trump’s desk.

Rep. Jim Cooper: Publicly disclose names of Congress members who settle sexual harassment claims (Tennessean) U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper suggested Monday publicly unmasking members of Congress who use a secret taxpayer-funded account to settle claims of sexual discrimination. In anticipation of a House vote this week requiring mandatory sexual harassment training for all lawmakers and staff, the Nashville Democrat issued a statement saying House leaders should go even further. “Training is not enough,” Cooper said. “Whenever Congress spends taxpayer money, we should disclose it all. Maybe then, our ‘zero tolerance’ policies will actually mean something. No one is above the law.”

Rep. Cooper: Unseal Secret Congressional Settlements (Nashville Scene) ‘Maybe then, our “zero tolerance” policies will actually mean something.’ The Washington Post reported last month that the U.S. Congress Office of Compliance has paid out more than $17 million in settlements to victims of sexual harassment, discrimination or other misconduct on behalf of members of Congress since the office was created in 1995. The identities of the elected officials involved in those settlements have been kept secret for decades now. But Nashville’s U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper says they should be named. In a statement released Monday afternoon ahead of a vote establishing mandatory sexual harassment training in the U.S. House, Cooper says “training is not enough.”

Vanderbilt renovates hospital to accommodate Nashville’s growth (WKRN) If you’ve driven past Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the past few months, you’ve no doubt seen the cranes. There is currently more than 10-million square feet of building space before renovations and additions. With more people moving to the Nashville area, we need more doctors, nurses, and rooms at local hospitals. “The growth of the city and the region has definitely spilled over into the hospitals. We’re not the only hospital to experience growth, annual growth in patient volumes. Here we have a unique set of circumstances that are in part driven by being the region’s level one trauma center,” said John Howser, Chief Communications Officer at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Former Pilot Flying J sales executive: ‘I cheated customers and I did it well’ (News Sentinel) Brian Mosher considered himself a master at the game of defrauding trucking company customers, and he told jurors Monday he presented details of it to his bosses, including former Pilot Flying J President Mark Hazelwood and current Chief Executive Officer Jimmy Haslam. “I was hammering for a promotion with the discount savings my (fraudulent) manual rebates created for Pilot,” Mosher testified in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga. “I used manual rebates to try to position myself for promotions.”

City, Confederate veterans to enter mediation over statue (AP) A city attorney says Memphis, Tennessee, and the Sons of Confederate Veterans will enter mediation over the removal of a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest from a public park. The Commercial Appeal reports that Memphis City Council Attorney Allan Wade announced the mediation Tuesday. Wade also recommended delaying the unveiling of a plan to remove the statue of Forrest, a Confederate general who was a slave trader before the Civil War and an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan after the conflict.

Steve Hayslip leaves NewsChannel 5 morning show after 18 years as anchor (Tennessean) Steve Hayslip — main anchor on Nashville’s longtime No. 1 morning TV news show — is leaving after 18 years at NewsChannel 5. Station officials told staffers last week Hayslip will be joining his wife in a family-run skincare business. Hayslip’s wife, Kathy, posted that news to her Facebook page Sunday (Nov. 26).

Monday, November 27

Tennessee panel gives green light to new Fall Creek Falls State Park inn, center (Times Free Press) The Haslam administration has received approval from the State Building Commission to rebuild the guest lodging at Fall Creek Falls State Park. The plan is to tear down two existing facilities and build a single inn with about 85 rooms along with a new restaurant and conference center at the 26,000-acre park, long considered the “crown jewel” of Tennessee’s state parks system, on the Upper Cumberland Plateau. The work is expected to take 1 1/2 to two years.

Federal order foreshadows possibility Tennessee must treat all inmates infected with hepatitis C (Tennessean) A recent federal court order in Florida may foreshadow a local judicial decision on whether thousands of Tennessee inmates affected by the state’s hepatitis C epidemic will receive medication that could save their lives. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled Nov. 17 that the Florida Department of Corrections failed to meet constitutional requirements of treating inmates suffering from hepatitis C, as reported in the Tampa Bay Times. Hepatitis C is a chronic liver disease also referred to as HCV which can damage the body for decades before possibly causing death.

Tennessee No Longer Pursuing Schiano After Protests (AP) Tennessee is no longer pursuing Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano to be the school’s new head coach, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. The person spoke Sunday on condition of anonymity because none of the negotiations were intended to be made public until a deal was reached. The school and Schiano were close to an agreement earlier Sunday, but the deal fell apart after widespread backlash that included a protest on campus and complaints on social media from fans, state representatives and gubernatorial candidates.

UT Vols: Deal with Ohio State’s Greg Schiano unravels after backlash from fans (Tennessean) A wave of backlash from fans, local and state politicians and local business owners disrupted a deal Sunday that would have made Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano Tennessee’s next coach. The blowback caused the deal to unravel, USA TODAY’s Dan Wolken reported. Tennessee spokespeople did not return messages. Early Sunday afternoon, USA TODAY reported that UT was finalizing a deal with Schiano. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer confirmed during a Big Ten teleconference Sunday afternoon that Schiano had been contacted by UT about the job. “I know he was contacted. That’s all I know at this point,” Meyer said.

Big Orange meltdown: Rumor of deal to hire Greg Schiano as Vols coach sets off internet firestorm (Times Free Press) State legislators and Tennessee gubernatorial candidates joined a wild revolt against a candidate for the University of Tennessee’s head football coaching position Sunday. Tennessee athletic director John Currie and Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano reportedly came close to reaching an agreement to make Schiano the Volunteers’ next football coach. By evening, the deal was off following a wave of criticism led by fans over the potential hire.

UT Vols: Crowd speaks out against Greg Schiano, calls for John Currie’s firing (News Sentinel) More than 100 people gathered outside Neyland Stadium on Sunday afternoon, then marched on Anderson Training Center to voice outrage after reports surfaced that Tennessee was finalizing a deal to hire Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano as football coach. Several media outlets later reported the deal unraveled amid intense fan backlash. Attendees of the gathering complained about Schiano’s track record at previous head coaching jobs, but primarily expressed anger over testimony indicating that Schiano, who worked at Penn State from 1990-95, witnessed former coach Jerry Sandusky sexually abuse a child. Schiano has denied witnessing or knowing about the abuse.

Cutting Nashville General inpatient services could require Tennessee to put more money into TennCare (Tennessean) Closing inpatient services at Nashville General Hospital at Meharry could reduce the amount of federal funds the state receives to administer TennCare, leaving questions about how the state would fill the gap. For the current fiscal year, TennCare has received about $20 million from the federal government for uncompensated care provided by Nashville General, according to the state agency. If the hospital provides less uncompensated care, then that funding decreases. As a result, the governor and legislature might have to decide whether to allocate more taxpayer dollars toward TennCare to fill the hole if less money comes from the federal government.

Special election dates set for state Sen. Jim Tracy’s seat (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a writ of election setting the primary and general special election dates to fill the district 14 state senate seat recently vacated by Jim Tracy. The primary for district 14 will be held Jan. 25 and the general election will be held on March 13, according to the document signed Sunday. Tracy, who was appointed as state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development office by President Donald Trump, resigned on Nov. 6, triggering the special election.

Tennessee governor’s race: A year out, voters say jobs, education, health care among their top concerns (Tennessean) John and Linda Adams keep an American flag hanging in their front yard. But for the retired couple from Stanton, Tenn., the American dream, it seems, keeps dimming for their community. In the tiny hamlet an hour northeast of Memphis, residents say much of the future hinges on the Memphis Regional Megasite next door. The site promises to bring thousands of jobs to the area. But so far, it remains empty, the latest hopes dashed when Toyota-Mazda group decided to look elsewhere for a new auto plant. “That plant would change everything,” said Linda Adams, 69. “But if we don’t see industry come into this town, it’s going to disappear.”

Tax reform hangs in balance in critical week for GOP (Politico) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) doesn’t appear to have locked down 50 votes for his party’s tax overhaul, with at least half a dozen GOP senators showing varying levels of concern about the legislation released earlier this month. Yet the GOP leadership has a narrow window to push through its tax bill in the Senate before lawmakers become consumed with spending fights that could trigger a shutdown, not to mention a special election in Alabama that could flip a reliable Republican vote to a not-so-reliable one — or even a Democrat. An influential and independent-minded bloc of deficit hawks, including Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona, have aired deep concerns about the tax bill’s red ink, even accounting for any economic growth that a tax overhaul might generate.

How a powerful senator schooled Betsy DeVos (Politico) Several months ago, Sen. Lamar Alexander phoned Education Secretary Betsy DeVos with a message: Back off. Alexander, the Republican chairman of the Senate HELP Committee, was furious that a top DeVos aide was circumventing a new law aimed at reducing the federal government’s role in K-12 education. He contended that the agency was out of bounds by challenging state officials, for instance, about whether they were setting sufficiently ambitious goals for their students. DeVos’ agency quickly yielded to his interpretation of the law — and she “thanked me for it,” Alexander told POLITICO.

Ed Cromer retiring as editor of The Tennessee Journal (TN Journal/Humphrey) Ed Cromer is retiring on Dec. 31 after 20 years as editor of The Tennessee Journal, the capstone of a career largely devoted to astute observation and reporting on state government and politics since the 1970s. Ed is 65. His retirement was announced via a brief notice in the current edition of the Journal, which adds that a successor will be named soon. A 1974 graduate of Vanderbilt University (an English major), Cromer worked for the Tullahoma News, The Herald-Chronicle in Winchester and briefly for the Williamson Leader in Franklin before joining The Tennessean in 1977, covering a mixed bag of news topics until being put full-time on the government and politics beat in 1982.

Wednesday, November 22

Haslam appoints Tidwell to serve as Circuit Court judge for Rutherford and Cannon counties (Daily News Journal) General Sessions Court Judge Barry Tidwell will succeed the late Circuit Court Judge Keith Siskin, Gov. Bill Haslam announced Tuesday. “We are pleased to have someone of Barry Tidwell’s experience to take on this important position after the tragic loss of Judge Siskin,” Haslam said in a news release from his office. “This appointment will serve the citizens of the 16th Judicial District well.”The 16th Judicial District Circuit Court position for Rutherford and Cannon counties became open after the death of Siskin this past July after he had long endured Crohn’s disease.

Haslam appoints Tidwell Circuit Court judge in Rutherford County (TN Journal/Humphrey) Press release from the governor’s office: Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed Barry Ross Tidwell of Murfreesboro as Circuit Court Judge in the 16th Judicial District, which includes Rutherford and Cannon counties. Tidwell’s appointment follows the death of Judge M. Keith Siskin in July.  Tidwell, 47, has served as Rutherford County General Sessions Judge since 2014. Previously, he was an attorney in general practice at Bulloch, Fly, Hornsby & Evans from 2013-2014.

Haslam appoints Tidwell Circuit Court Judge in 16th Judicial District (Cannon Courier) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed Barry Ross Tidwell of Murfreesboro as Circuit Court Judge in the 16th Judicial District, which includes Rutherford and Cannon counties. Tidwell’s appointment follows the death of Judge M. Keith Siskin in July. Tidwell, 47, has served as Rutherford County General Sessions Judge since 2014. Previously, he was an attorney in general practice at Bulloch, Fly, Hornsby & Evans from 2013-2014.

Dyersburg City Schools’ Rogers, Johnson selected for Governor’s Academy for School Leadership (State Gazette) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has announced the participants selected for the 2018 Governor’s Academy for School Leadership (GASL), a one-year fellowship program for assistant principals to increase their leadership capacity. Among those selected were Dyersburg Intermediate School’s Josh Rogers as a participant and Cal Johnson of Dyersburg Middle School as a mentor. The third annual academy is a unique partnership between the state of Tennessee, Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College and local school districts to cultivate and develop future school leaders and improve school effectiveness and student performance.

Memphis Regional Megasite needs $72 million in funds (Jackson Sun) When Gov. Bill Haslam’s budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year is finalized early next year, Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe is hopeful the Memphis Regional Megasite will receive more state appropriated funding. The state has appropriated $143.6 million for the 4,100-acre Megasite to date, but Rolfe said there is an estimated $72 million in improvements needed for the Megasite. Rolfe broke down the $72 million needed as $32 million for wastewater improvements, $13.5 million for electrical improvements, $10 million for gas improvements, $8.5 million for water improvements and $8 million for railroad improvements.

Opposition grows for Robertson-Montgomery County industrial megasite (Leaf Chronicle) An online petition against a proposed 1,800-acre industrial megasite in Montgomery and Robertson counties had garnered more than 215 signatures as of Tuesday morning. One of the people behind the petition, Debra Moore, who lives “almost next-door” to the proposed megasite in Montgomery County, said residents have two basic concerns. “The people out there are concerned about the impact on the farmland, which is some of the best farmland in our county, as well as the additional debt that (Montgomery) county would take on,” Moore said. “I guess we were all surprised … at why they had to skip-jump from Montgomery County’s existing industrial park (near exits 4 and 8 of Interstate 24), all the way out here.

Officials Talk Bioscience Research Partnership (Memphis Daily News) Three major Memphis health care institutions including the University of Tennessee Health Science Center have established a formal partnership to help spur the commercialization of bioscience and technology breakthroughs. The partnership includes the Memphis Bioworks Foundation and TriMetis Life Sciences, a preclinical services company that provides specialty laboratory and consultation services to help institutions advance research. Not only will those institutions be working closely with the university, but key figures at both have been given university appointments.

Data on radioactive waste removed from state website (AP)The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has removed data from its website about the amount of low-level radioactive waste going into landfills. The information had been open to the public for years before the department said it is confidential, The Tennessean reported.A 2007 state law cites the Atomic Energy Act and an agreement with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission on what information to keep confidential, department spokesman Eric Ward said. However, commission spokesman David McIntyre said he knows of no law or rule that makes confidential the location and quantity of waste.

TN Supreme Court: You can’t claim self-defense if ‘engaged in unlawful activity’ (TN Journal/Humphrey) Press release from Administrative Office of the Courts: The Supreme Court of Tennessee clarified the law of self-defense when the person making the claim is engaged in unlawful activity at the time the need for self-defense occurred. This clarification is important because some trial courts have not allowed defendants to assert self-defense when it appeared they were engaged in unlawful activity at the time they used force to defend themselves.  In the case before the Court, the defendant alleged that he was acting in self-defense when he fired his handgun, which he possessed illegally, toward a group of men standing in front of a convenience store in Memphis.

State senator requests AG opinion on ‘excessive’ late fees in Hickman Co. (WSMV) An issue over what some consider excessive penalties could make its way to the Tennessee Attorney General. State Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, said he will ask Attorney General Herbert Slatery to weigh in over a matter involving increased late fees. “The only question is, is it excessive and is it constitutional?” Roberts said. The situation stems from Hickman County. Property owner Terri Christie expected to pay a $90 solid waste fee. But she was so angry at what else she saw on her bill, she contacted the News 4 I-Team.

Overbey sworn in as U.S. attorney for Eastern District of Tenn.(WATE) Tennessee State Senator Doug Overbey was sworn is as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee on Thursday. “I am deeply appreciative to Senators Alexander and Corker for recommending me to the President and to President Trump for nominating me to the office. I look forward to continuing to serve the people of Tennessee in this position and working with the dedicated people in the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” said Overbey. Overbey tendered his resignation in the Tennessee senate to Gov. Bill Haslam, effective Tuesday at 1 p.m. “It has been a singular privilege and great honor to serve as a member of the General Assembly for the past 17 years,” wrote Overbey.” I have enjoyed representing and working for the great people of Blount and Sevier Counties.”

Overbey sworn in as U.S. Attorney, resigns state Senate seat (Daily Times) Former state Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, resigned his Senate seat effective 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Tuesday, Nov. 21, and was sworn in as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee at 3:30 p.m. As recently as Monday morning, Overbey told the Alcoa Board of Commissioners that he still was waiting for President Donald Trump to sign his commission, after his unanimous confirmation by the U.S. Senate on Nov. 9. “I intend to get sworn in as soon as I can,” Overbey told Alcoa commissioners at their Monday meeting.

Chattanooga clergy meet with Sen. Corker about gun violence (WTVC) The South is well known for its gun culture, but progressive clergy members want to make sure their congregations are heard, too. Senator Bob Corker met with Chattanooga church leaders to talk about guns, Tuesday. Clergy members from about 20 churches asked the Senator for changes to address gun violence. The group sees gun violence as a public health issue. “Going to funerals and having to see babies and caskets from being shot and just loved ones that will never be able to get over that violence, has been detrimental to a lot of families,” Dr. E Jonathan Thomas said.

Mackler unfazed as Bredesen decision nears on U.S. Senate run (WKRN) James Mackler seems unfazed as parts of the political world focus on Phil Bredesen. Mackler is the only declared Democrat for the U.S. Senate race while the former governor Bredesen ponders a run. “I am not really thinking about Phil Bredesen,” Mackler told News 2 Tuesday. “As you know, I entered the race six months ago. The Democrat’s initial opponent when he entered was incumbent Senator Bob Corker, but his two-term Republican’s announcement that he would not run again set the stage for Congressional member Marsha Blackburn’s entry.

Pence doles out first contributions ahead of 2018 elections (Politico) Vice President Mike Pence is putting his imprint on the 2018 midterm elections, doling out contributions to three dozen Republican candidates — many of whom have been steadfast allies of the White House. Pence is wading into several prospective primaries. Among those getting checks are Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Senate hopeful who is facing a fight for the Republican nomination, and Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso. Several potential Barrasso primary opponents have emerged, including investor Foster Friess and Blackwater founder Erik Prince.

Former Pilot Flying J staffer implicates ex-president Mark Hazelwood in fraud scheme (News Sentinel) After hours of cross-examination in the ongoing Pilot Flying J fraud trial Tuesday, Holly S. Radford refused to budge on two assertions – that what was going on within a sales division of the truck stop giant was wrong, and that former President Mark Hazelwood knew about it. “Everyone knew about it,” Radford, a former regional account representative with Pilot Flying J, testified Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga. “It was known, and it was generally accepted … I always knew it was wrong. If you blatantly put in a different discount to deceive them, I believe that’s wrong.” “Did you think Mark Hazelwood knew what was going on?” asked attorney Rusty Hardin, who represents the ex-president.

$250 million Clarksville LG plant possibly affected by tariffs (Leaf Chronicle) Adhering to domestic manufacturer Whirlpool Corp.’s complaint of an uneven global trade balance, the International Trade Commission is, as of this week, recommending to President Donald Trump a set of tariffs as trade restrictions on imports of appliances. It’s a proposed measure that officials for South Korean LG Electronics say will be damaging to their company. LG is in the process of building a $250 million Clarksville plant that is to employ about 600 people here in the first phase, and there are fears of heightened trade restrictions putting a damper on those plans.

New CEO named for Saint Thomas’ flagship hospital (Nashville Business Journal) Saint Thomas Health’s flagship hospital will have a new president and CEO in 2018. Saint Thomas announced Monday that Fahad Tahir, current president and CEO of Saint Thomas Medical Partners, has been promoted to president and CEO of Saint Thomas Midtown and Saint Thomas West hospitals, effective Jan. 1, 2018, according to a news release. Tahir will replace Don King, who has been promoted to chief operating officer for Ascension’s St. Vincent’s Health System in Birmingham, Ala. Ascension, the largest nonprofit health system in the U.S., is Saint Thomas’ parent company.

St. Jude commits to 1,800 new jobs, $1B investment within 6 years (Memphis Business Journal) ALSAC/St. Jude has committed to the state that it will create 1,800 jobs and make $1 billion in capital investment within six years. The average salary for the new positions will be $33.20. These new details are according to documents included in the Tennessee State Funding Board’s Monday, Nov. 20, meeting packet. The board was scheduled to hear and vote on awarding FastTrack Economic Development Grant funds in the amount of $24 million for St. Jude and $3 million for a new Amazon receive center in Shelby County.

Shelby County leads state in new business filings (Memphis Business Journal) According to a newly released report from the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office, Shelby County leads the state’s four largest counties in new business filings in the most recent quarter. Shelby County experienced the largest year-over-year growth, at 17.2 percent, according to the Tennessee Quarterly Business and Economic Indicators report. Shelby County had 1,868 initial findings during the third quarter of 2017. In comparison, Davidson County had 2,220 initial filings. Knox and Hamilton counties had 791 and 635 filings, respectively.

Memphis to try mediation to move a statue of Confederate Gen. Forrest (Commercial Appeal) Memphis and the Sons of Confederate Veterans will try mediation to resolve their differences on the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, City Council attorney Allan Wade said Tuesday. Following a closed attorney-client meeting with council members earlier in the day, Wade announced the mediation and recommended delaying the unveiling of a plan to remove the statue from Health Sciences Park in Downtown. The plan — a collaboration between Mayor Jim Strickland’s administration and Wade — is “substantially completed,” and should be ready by the Dec. 5 council meeting, Wade said.

The Fight To Take Down Confederate Statues In Memphis Continues (WATN) The fight to take down confederate statues in Memphis is headed to mediation. The Memphis City Council is prepared to declare the monuments a public nuisance next month. Meantime, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam asked Memphis leaders, the Sons of the Confederacy and the descendants of Nathan Bedford Forrest to engage in mediation. The goal is for an agreement to relocate the statues. Mediation is expected to happen around the first of December.

Is Tennessee’s wild turkey population declining? (Leaf Chronicle) David Buehler says for wild turkey and those who hunt them “the good old days are right now.” And, through a joint research project in which he is involved, Buehler would like to help keep it that way. Buehler, a University of Tennessee professor in Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, is involved in one of the largest wildlife research projects ever undertaken in the state to try to determine what is causing a wild turkey population decline in the state’s best wild turkey counties.


Frank Cagle: Why is UT paying Butch Jones so much to leave? (News Sentinel) Who thought it was a good idea to have to pay Butch Jones $8 million to go away? I usually leave sports to the sports guys, but when it comes to college football the subject is too big to ignore and has too many facets. The teams are attached to a tax-payer funded school, after all, and teams have an economic impact in the millions. I hope the University of Tennessee goes out and hires a big-time coach who can create a successful program and be worth the money. The then-outrageous sum Alabama paid Nick Saban has certainly been returned several times over. But about UT’s hiring practices?

Guest column: Phil Bredesen is great, but is he the future for Tennessee Democrats? (Tennessean) In 2006, Tennessee Democrats offered the most dynamic nominee for federal office the Volunteer State has arguably ever seen. A 36-year-old Congressman from Memphis, an African American, a charismatic man with great vision and hope narrowly lost the U.S. Senate race to Bob Corker. It wasn’t without much handwringing, consternation and outright elbow-throwing from the establishment that Harold Ford Jr. was able to mount what was touted as one of the best campaigns in the country. Some well-heeled and well-known Democrats even campaigned for Corker rather than supporting Ford.

Column: CoreCivic Shuffles Wardens, Sends Trousdale Chief Back to Nashville (Nashville Scene) Out of the frying pan and into the fire: The Nashville-based private prison company formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America has moved a warden from one of its detention facilities under state scrutiny to another. In early November, Blair Leibach returned to the CoreCivic-managed Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility to serve as warden, a position he previously held before taking the same position at the new Trousdale Turner Correctional Facility, run by CoreCivic on behalf of the state of Tennessee, in March of 2016. CoreCivic spokesperson Jonathan Burns confirmed the move Friday, but the company had not publicly announced the move.

Sam Stockard: Wiping Slate Clean: Now Less About Who Can Afford It (Memphis Daily News) The scales of justice in Tennessee are slowly tipping back toward the poor – and not so poor – helping them regain traction lost to often-minor transgressions. Change is taking place in court battles and in the Republican-controlled Legislature, believe it or not. On one front, Rutherford County and Providence Community Corrections has settled a class-action lawsuit over private probation practices for $14.3 million this year, a move compensating nearly 30,000 Tennesseans for fees the company allegedly extorted from low-income probationers.

Tuesday, November 21

Tyson Foods: New Facility in Tennessee to Create 1,500 Jobs (AP) Tyson Foods Inc. plans to build a new chicken production complex in Tennessee, a $300 million project that is expected to create more than 1,500 jobs when the facility begins operations in late 2019, the company said Monday. The new plant in Humboldt will produce pre-packaged trays of fresh chicken for retail grocery stores nationwide, the Springdale, Arkansas-based company said in a statement and a news conference. The plant will help it meet strong consumer demand for its chicken, the company said. Construction is expected to begin within three to six months. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker attended the news conference and praised Tyson for choosing Humboldt, a rural city of about 8,200 people located about 85 miles (135 kilometers) northeast of Memphis. Tennessee competed with other states for the project. Doug Ramsey, group president of poultry for Tyson, would not discuss which other states were in the mix.

Tyson Foods to build Humboldt complex, employ 1,500 (Commercial Appeal) Tyson Foods will build a new chicken production complex in Humboldt — 75 miles northeast of Memphis — that will employ 1,500 people, company and government officials announced Monday. The $300 million project is to start operations in late 2019 to meet what Tyson described in a release as “strong consumer demand for its chicken.” Gov. Bill Haslam said in a prepared statement, “The new facility will be Tyson’s fifth location in Tennessee and it means a great deal that a company of this magnitude will continue to grow its footprint in our state. I appreciate Tyson for its continued commitment to Tennessee and for helping us become one step closer to our goal of making Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”

Tyson Foods to invest $300M in Humboldt, create 1,500 jobs (WBBJ) Just days after announcing an $84 million investment and 300-job expansion in Union City, Tyson Foods comes bearing more gifts this holiday season. The food processing company already employs more than 5,000 Tennesseans and are adding even more. There was no “beef” Monday in the Strawberry City — just chicken. “Tyson Foods will locate new operations right here in Humboldt,” Gov. Bill Haslam said. “The company will create 1,500 jobs.”

Tyson picks Tennessee — not Kansas (Garden City Telegram) Tyson Foods announced plans Monday to build a $300 million chicken production and processing complex in western Tennessee after a nearly identical proposal for development of poultry facilities in Tonganoxie was rejected by residents. Gov. Sam Brownback and municipal government officials in Kansas disclosed framework of a poultry partnership with Tyson in early September, but public opposition led the county commission to withdraw financial support and for the company to spike the Tonganoxie plan. The Arkansas-based company gravitated toward investment in Humboldt, Tenn., and moved to a back burner pursuit of a large chicken operation in Kansas.—not-kansas

Tyson Foods announces new facility in Tennessee (WRCB) Governor Haslam and Tyson Foods have announced that the company will be creating 1,500 new jobs and investing $300 million in Tennessee. The food processor will be building its newest facility in Humboldt , TN, which is close to 100 miles outside of Memphis. Several leading government officials from Tennessee made statements about the announcement:

Tyson Foods to create 1,500 jobs in Humboldt (WBBJ) Tyson Foods, one of the world’s largest food processing companies, announced Monday morning that the company will bring new operations to Humboldt, creating more than 1,500 jobs. The company will invest over $300 million in Humboldt, which represents Tyson’s biggest investment in Tennessee and the single largest investment in Gibson County’s history, according to a release from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

New Tyson facility to create 1,500 jobs (Herald-Dispatch) Tyson Foods Inc. plans to build a new chicken production complex in Tennessee, a $300 million project that is expected to create more than 1,500 jobs when the facility begins operations in late 2019, the company said Monday. The new plant in Humboldt will produce pre-packaged trays of fresh chicken for retail grocery stores nationwide, the Springdale, Arkansas-based company said in a statement and a news conference. The plant will help it meet strong consumer demand for its chicken, the company said. Construction is expected to begin within three to six months. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker attended the news conference and praised Tyson for choosing Humboldt.

Governor appoints Dalton as Davidson criminal court judge (WSMV) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed General Sessions Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton to replace the retiring Criminal Court Judge J. Randall Wyatt, according to a news release. Dalton, 46, has served as General Sessions Court Judge for Division III since 2006, presiding over civil and criminal cases. She was chosen by her peers as presiding judge in 2010 and 2017. “Angie Dalton has a distinguished career in the 20th Judicial District, and we are fortunate to have someone with that background to serve as a Criminal Court Judge,” Haslam said in a news release.

Governor Names Dalton As Davidson Criminal Court Judge (WTVF) Governor Bill Haslam appointed Angelita Blackshear Dalton as Criminal Court Judge for the 20th Judicial District, replacing retiring Judge J. Randall Wyatt. Dalton, 46, has served as Davidson County General Sessions Court Judge for Division III since 2006. In that role she has presided over civil and criminal cases. She was chosen by her peers as presiding judge in 2010 and in 2017. She has also served as co-chair of the Court Operations Committee overseeing implementation of recommendations of the Domestic Violence Safety Assessment commissioned by the Nashville mayor’s office.

Tennessee education task force to study testing practices (Times Free Press) The state of Tennessee has reconvened a task force to study and identify best practices in testing at the school, district and state levels. Education Commissioner Candice McQueen first assembled the Tennessee Task Force on Student Testing and Assessment in 2015 to seek feedback from educators, parents and stakeholders during the state’s first year of TNReady. The task force has met annually to continue to work with representatives from across the state to develop strong recommendations based on in-depth discussions and analysis, according to a news release.

McQueen to convene third task force as Tennessee seeks to get testing right (Chalkbeat Tennessee) For a third straight year, Education Commissioner Candice McQueen will convene a task force to examine Tennessee’s testing program in the wake of persistent hiccups with its TNReady assessment and perennial concerns about over-testing. McQueen announced Monday the members of her newest task force, which will assemble on Dec. 11 in Nashville and complete its work next July. The group includes educators, lawmakers, and parents. At the top of the agenda: evaluating the first full year of TNReady testing for grades 3-8 and the second year for high schoolers, the latter of which was marred by scoring problems for a small percentage of students.

TN Promise community service, mentor deadlines near (Elk Valley Times) All current Motlow State Community College students have until Dec. 1 to complete eight hours of community service in order to remain eligible for the Tennessee Promise scholarship. The same deadline applies for anyone interested in volunteering to become a Tennessee Promise mentor. “There are numerous ways that students can complete their community service hours, including job shadowing, cleaning local, state, and recreational parks, or by assisting local non-profit organizations,” said Jonathan Graham, Motlow’s Tennessee Promise coordinator for Rutherford County.

One year later: Have school buses gotten safer since the Woodmore crash? (Times Free Press) A year after the deadly Woodmore Elementary School bus crash, some community members feel the safety changes that were promised haven’t been fulfilled — or at least not as robustly as they had wished. On Nov. 21, 2016, 25-year-old Johnthony Walker crashed a bus carrying 37 children on Talley Road in Brainerd. The bus veered off the road and collided with a utility pole, overturning and crashing into a tree. The roof of the bus collapsed inward, nearly touching its floor. Six children died and dozens were injured. Walker faces six counts of vehicular homicide, reckless driving and reckless endangerment. His trial is set to begin Feb. 27.

The legislation: Advocates hope to pass school bus seat belt bill in 2018 (Times Free Press) Spurred by last November’s deadly Woodmore Elementary School bus crash, local lawmakers this year pushed a bill in the Tennessee General Assembly that would require buses come equipped with lap-shoulder seat belts, only to see the measure stall. But Rep. JoAnne Favors, D- Chattanooga, and Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, said they will renew the effort in 2018 in hopes of getting something through despite opposition from some school districts, bus owners and a number of mostly rural lawmakers. “I think we’re going to have more support than was anticipated,” said Favors, whose House District 28 includes both Woodmore and the bus crash site in Brainerd. “I still feel very good about it.”

Sparta woman accused of lying to receive $24 K in TennCare benefits for family (WZTV) A White County woman faced charges on Monday for falsely reporting her income and concealing other information that would have disqualified her from TennCare benefits. According to the OIG, White County deputies arrested Sarah Reece, 37, charged with TennCare fraud and theft of services over $10,000. Investigators said she lied about her income and did not report her children had access to private insurance. This allowed her to falsely obtain approximately $24,806.21 in TennCare health benefits and prescription benefits.

Council to Take Final Vote on Confederate Monuments Alternatives (Memphis Daily News) Memphis City Council members are scheduled to take a final vote Tuesday, Nov. 21, on an ordinance that sets out options for the removal of Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jefferson Davis statues in city parks, and will discuss amending a city ordinance to allow the consumption of alcoholic beverages on Main Street Downtown. The statue ordinance requires Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland to have a plan to remove the Confederate monuments of Forrest and Davis by Nov. 21. Council members had anticipated the city would have made its case for removal before an administrative law judge by Nov. 21, but the city is still pursuing its claim that it does not need the approval of the Tennessee Historical Commission to remove the monument of Forrest in particular.

Whistleblower questions TBI hiring practices (WTVF) When it comes to the big cases — like the kidnapping and murder of Holly Bobo, shootings involving local police or cases involving public corruption — responsibility often falls to special agents of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. For TBI agents, the badge is a badge of honor. “Nepotism is in the policy, and it’s not allowed,” said former TBI employee Melissa Smith. Smith, who worked in the TBI human resources department for two years,  told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that she watched children of TBI bigwigs get hired as special agents — over military veterans with far greater law enforcement experience.

Tennessee officials keep radioactive waste details from public (Tennessean) Ten years ago, when Murfreesboro residents learned the state had approved the dumping of low-level radioactive waste at a local landfill, a fierce community backlash swiftly put an end to the practice. Today, Tennessee citizens have no way to find out how much low-level radioactive waste is going into other landfills. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, or TDEC, has wiped that data from its website and said it is confidential. Asked why, TDEC spokesman Eric Ward cited a ten-year-old state law the agency has just begun referencing to deny information.

Dozens of Tennessee jails fail inspections in 2017 (WSMV) Out of 129 jails inspected by the Tennessee Corrections Institute this year, 71 required re-inspections.”TCI is not a regulatory agency, it’s a compliance agency,” said Kevin Walters with the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance is the agency that oversees TCI. The News 4 I-Team began investigating how this happened and what’s being done to make sure jails are meeting minimum standards. “Ultimately it’s in the hands of the communities to make a decision about the best direction forward,” Walters said. “Should TCI be able to do more?” asked the I-Team’s Lindsay Bramson. “That’s a decision I can’t speak to. I can only speak to what they do,” Walters said.

UTHSC Researchers Studying Why People Grow Old (Memphis Daily News) A group of researchers led by a University of Tennessee Health Science Center assistant professor is in the midst of a study focused on aging: the science behind it, why it happens, and the scientific framework behind why everyone starts slowing down, going gray and needing more medical care as they get older. Dr. Khyobeni Mozhui, assistant professor in the Departments of Preventive Medicine and Genetics, Genomics and Informatics in the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Medicine.

These are the top online colleges and universities in Tennessee (Times Free Press) ranked 53 accredited colleges and universities in Tennessee for 14 factors, including the availability of online programs, along with affordability and student services. The best online schools are:

Tennessee judge reprimanded for shaving off jail time for inmates who received vasectomies (Tennessean) A Tennessee judge who agreed to shave time off inmate’s sentences if they agreed to receive vasectomies or other forms of birth control was publicly reprimanded by Tennessee judicial regulators. In its Nov. 15 letter of reprimand, the Tennessee Board  of Judicial Conduct suggested White County judge Sam Benningfield acted in a way that threatened public confidence in the judicial system.

TN Supreme Court affirms death sentence in Memphis triple murder (TN Journal/Humphrey) Press release from Administrative Office of the Courts: The Tennessee Supreme Court has affirmed the convictions and sentences of death for Sedrick Clayton for the murders of Arithio, Patricia, and Pashea Fisher and the conviction for attempted murder of A’Reco Fisher in Memphis. During the early morning hours of January 19, 2012, a domestic dispute erupted between the defendant and Pashea Fisher, the defendant’s girlfriend, at the Fishers’ home.  The situation escalated, and the defendant shot and killed all three victims and shot toward the area in which A’Reco Fisher had been sleeping.  The defendant then fled the residence in Pashea Fisher’s vehicle with his and Ms. Fisher’s then four-year-old daughter.  After having several telephone conversations with a law enforcement officer, the defendant eventually turned himself in.  He subsequently confessed to the murders.

Tennessee House speaker orders ‘active shooter,’ harassment training for staff (Times Free Press) Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell has directed House staffers to attend mandatory classes on how to survive an “active shooter” incident and how not to commit sexual harassment. The active-shooter training comes as legislative workers prepare to settle into their new Cordell Hull Building home, where handgun-carry permit holders will be allowed to go armed. Some legislative staffers described to the Times Free Press how they got an email last week ordering them to attend in-person training on active-shooter response.

Sexual harassment troubles mount in statehouses around the country (Tennessean) When Kirsten Anderson submitted a memo detailing her concerns about sexual harassment at the Iowa Capitol, she expected comments about women in the office – their sex lives, breast sizes and the length of skirts worn by teenage pages – to stop. Instead, Anderson was fired seven hours later from her job with the Iowa Republican Senate Caucus. After four years of litigation that ended in September, the state agreed to pay $1.75 million to settle her claim, leaving taxpayers footing the bill. Her case is among the first in a recent wave of high-profile sexual harassment cases that have roiled state legislatures around the nation, highlighting the moral and financial liability states faces as claims pile up.

Tennessee House to hold active shooter training course (AP) House staffers in the new Tennessee legislative office building are being required to take a class on how to survive an active shooter incident. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that the mandatory course follows a decision by the speakers of the House and Senate to allow people with state-issued handgun carry permits to be armed within the Cordell Hull building. House Speaker Beth Harwell’s office says the course isn’t in response to that policy change, but rather to an offer from the Tennessee Highway Patrol to hold what it calls a “sudden violence class.”

Here are the Senate Republicans who will decide the fate of the tax bill (CNN) In the US Senate, the tax bill could fail or succeed based off of the votes of just a handful of members. After recess this week, Senators will return from Thanksgiving and move immediately to vote on a plan that would permanently lower the corporate tax rate, temporarily lower rates across the middle-class and would drastically reshape the country’s tax code. But, the math is tough. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is moving forward with a Senate process that only allows him to lose two members and still pass his bill. Already one member has announced he’s opposed and another is leaning against the bill.

Alexander: New Mercury Treatment Facility In Oak Ridge Will Mean “Safer, Cleaner Water”(Chattanoogan) Senator Lamar Alexander Monday spoke at the groundbreaking of a new water treatment facility at Y-12, “Outfall 200,” which supporters say will help reduce the amount of mercury getting into Tennessee waterways to safe levels and make it possible for cleanup work to begin at Y-12. “In May 2013, I came to Oak Ridge to announce that a new water treatment facility would be built at Y-12 at the head of the East Fork Popular Creek to prevent mercury that was once used to make nuclear weapons from getting into our waterways,” Senator Alexander said.

New mercury treatment facility slated for Y-12 National Security Complex (WBIR) Many of the buildings used for operations at Y-12 have mercury contamination and are in varying states of deterioration. A new mercury treatment facility is set to be constructed at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, and Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette attended the groundbreaking Monday. Many of the buildings used for operations at Y-12 have mercury contamination and are in varying states of deterioration. According to a release from the Department of Energy, the treatment facility will lower existing mercury levels from past releases. The facility is anticipated to reduce mercury concentrations in Y-12’s water by 84 percent.

Forbes ranks Williamson County in top 10 richest counties in U.S. (Tennessean) Williamson County has landed in the top 10 richest counties in the country, as ranked by Forbes magazine. The county ranks seventh on the list with a median household income of $104,367. “Williamson County attracts new business with low costs — it has the lowest county tax in the Nashville area, no state income tax and the Nashville area has a 4% lower cost of living than the national average,” Forbes wrote. The county came in ahead of Arlington County, Va., outside Washington, D.C., and home to many federal workers and contractors. Williamson was behind Los Alamos County, N.M., home to the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

When will Nashville’s boom end? Even this esteemed banker is flummoxed (Nashville Business Journal) The morning of Nov. 9, one of Jim Ayers’ biggest and longest-tenured clients presented plans for a big potential hotel development — yet another that would add to the 5,500 rooms currently under construction around the region. As Ayers put it, “He’s a guy who would rather die before he wouldn’t pay us.” If Ayers decided whether or not to stake the project, he didn’t tip his hand on stage the Nashville Business Journal’s Inside the C-Suite event later that day. But hearing Ayers, a 33-year banking veteran and chairman of FirstBank (NYSE: FBK), discuss the project and the market was a reminder that even the most experienced financiers in the city haven’t seen a boom like this. FirstBank has $4.5 billion in assets and has been publicly traded for about a year.


Guest column: Mentors make the difference for college students (Tennessean) As a second-grader, I never thought about attending college. Neither of my parents attended college. In fact, my mom dropped out of high school to marry my dad. While not a college-going household, my parents encouraged my love of reading, fostered my curiosities and demanded academic excellence. They provided the foundation for me to break our family’s cycle and attend college. I applied to only one college, Sewanee: The University of the South. No one told us that this was risky and I might not be accepted. Thankfully, I got in.

Column: Welcome to Our State Parks, Racists — Please Spend Lots of Money (Nashville Scene) Our state parks should be open to anyone who wants to use them, even people with vile beliefs. Over at The Tennessean, Natalie Allison has a good story about why racists love our state parks. I get why this upsets people, but I’m kind of glad this happens. Not that racists get together to reassure themselves that they really are the best, but that our state parks are open to anyone who wants to use them. I don’t want the state getting into the business of deciding who’s OK to use our state parks, because I want pagans to be able to have their festival out at Montgomery Bell State Park, even if some people believe they’re evil Satanists. I want Muslims to be able to have family reunions at Henry Horton State Park, even if some people believe they’re evil. I think Boy Scouts are ridiculous, but they should still get to learn how to identify animal tracks wherever they want.

Monday, November 20

GOP governors facing 2018 conundrum: Trump (New York Times) For nearly a decade, meetings of the Republican Governors Association were buoyant, even giddy, affairs, as the party — lifted by enormous political donations and a backlash against the Obama administration — achieved overwhelming control of state governments. But a sense of foreboding hung over the group’s gathering in Austin this past week, as President Trump’s unpopularity and Republicans’ unexpectedly drastic losses in elections earlier this month in Virginia, New Jersey, and suburbs from Philadelphia to Seattle raised the specter of a political reckoning in 2018. “I do think Virginia was a wake-up call,” said Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee, who took over here as chairman of the governors association. “There’s a pretty strong message there. When Republicans lose white married women, that’s a strong message.”

How Trump Is Driving Democrats and Republicans Together (Politico) It’s not just Bob Corker feuding with Trump. His Democratic wingman Ben Cardin says the rest of the Foreign Relations panel is on board to take on the president. President Trump has notched at least one big foreign policy success: uniting senators of both parties against him on Capitol Hill. That at least is the argument of Senator Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who is now working in close partnership with the panel’s Republican chairman, Bob Corker, as the retiring Tennessee senator feuds openly with Trump, chides the president’s appointees, and holds hearings to criticize his policies.

State Offers up to $10K for Information on Lorenzen Wright’s 2010 Murder (Memphis Flyer) The state has issued a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for the murder of former Memphis Grizzlies basketball player Lorenzen Wright. After Wright was shot in 2010 and his body later discovered in an abandoned field, Haslam issued the first reward in 2010, but no offender was apprehended within the statutory five-year timeline. Now, Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich has requested that the governor reauthorize the reward.

Are white nationalist groups meeting in state park facilities? Tennessee won’t say (Tennessean) At least two known white nationalist conferences have been held this year at Tennessee state park facilities. Both organizations — American Renaissance and Stormfront — are designated as white nationalist hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and have hosted their annual gatherings for several years now in state-owned facilities. All those years, it was a matter of public record when and at which state park building such conferences took place. But since April, that has no longer been the case in Tennessee, where the General Assembly passed House Bill 312, legislation that now makes confidential “personal identifying and financial information of guests at state parks,” according to the bill’s description.

Forced out of private venues, white nationalists are descending on Tennessee state parks (Tennessean) The pool was drained and the lounge chairs had been put away for the season, but the adjacent meeting lodge at Cumberland Mountain State Park was open for business. On the late-September Saturday morning in Crossville, Stormfront, an online message board site for white nationalists, had returned for the third year to the state park, where it was holding its annual conference. The night before, the group had reserved a room for its meet-and-greet dinner at the Beef & Barrel in Crossville.

Guided post-Thanksgiving hikes offered at state parks (Tullahoma News) Tennessee State Parks are offering free guided hikes at all 56 of its parks on Friday, Nov. 24, the day after Thanksgiving. All visitors are advised to bring water and jackets and to wear sturdy shoes. Area state parks such as Old Stone Fort Archaeological Park, and Tims Ford and South Cumberland state parks are included. Hours for Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park’s hike are from 10 a.m. until noon and will be led on the Enclosure Trail by Ranger Caleb Doster. Registration is encouraged by calling Doster at 931-723-5073 or emailing him at Visitors are asked to meet at the Old Stone Fort Museum for an interpretive hike along the path of the Native Americans who constructed the fort.

State to decide on air quality permits regulating open burning at Holston Army Ammunition (WJHL) A long-standing practice of open-burning explosives waste in Kingsport is under consideration by state and federal officials. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is considering whether to renew Holston Army Ammunition’s Title V permits which regulates the 75 year-old facility’s practice of open burning explosives and explosives contaminated waste.

Should hate speech be allowed on ETSU’s campus? (Johnson City Press) In recent months, the contentious topic of hate speech on campuses has dominated much of the conversation surrounding the First Amendment. The Campus Free Speech Protection Act, which will go into effect in January, prevents universities across the state from charging students and student organizations higher fees for security based on the speaker and disinviting speakers who have been invited by a student, which reinforces First Amendment protections for speakers deemed “offensive, immoral, indecent, disagreeable, conservative, liberal, traditional, radical or wrong-headed.”

Is Tennessee ready to drop private prisons? Despite problems, drastic change unlikely (Tennessean) For the first time in recent legislative history, state Republicans and Democrats joined in a procedural and rhetorical thrashing of private prison operations in Tennessee. Lawmakers refused to immediately reauthorize the Tennessee Department of Correction, instead blasting private prison operator CoreCivic for a litany of issues revealed through a state audit and ongoing media reports. Those elected officials went further, publicly questioning whether the state should contract out the constitutional authority to keep people behind bars.

No top-tier Tennessee gubernatorial candidates support ending private prisons in state (Tennessean) None of Tennessee’s top-tier gubernatorial candidates believe Tennessee should stop using private prisons. The Tennessean surveyed the seven leading GOP and Democratic gubernatorial campaigns after lawmakers blasted public and private prison officials last week following a scathing audit from the Tennessee comptroller. The audit focused on long-standing staffing and gang issues at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, the latest problems for the state’s largest, private prison. “Trousdale Turner Correctional Center management’s continued noncompliance with contract requirements and department policies challenges the department’s ability to effectively monitor the private prison,” the audit states.

Lt. Governor calls for resolution in ACT debacle (WBIR) Lt. Gov. Randy McNally of Tennessee said he plans to meet with ACT officials, and if the organization is uncooperative, he will consider changing state law. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally said he is working to schedule a meeting with ACT officials, the state education department, the comptroller of the treasury and legislators from areas affected by a recent ACT scoring debacle. “The state does require by statute that the ACT is the test that is administered and if they are not cooperative with us in trying to resolve this problem,” McNally said. “I think that’s an area that we’ll certainly look at whether that will continue or not.”

If ACT can’t be fair to students, Tennessee may need to change law, says McNally (News Sentinel) Lt. Governor Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) joined his voice with students and parents of students affected by an ACT decision to cancel test scores. “I am extremely disappointed that ACT denied Bearden High School’s appeal to have their scores certified,” McNally said. “These test results are critical for students making plans to attend college. It is simply unacceptable to have their hard work discarded through no fault of their own.”

Legislators Talk TNReady, Vouchers With County School Board (Greeneville Sun) Tennessee has failed teachers by not providing test data quick enough to help make a difference, State Rep. Jeremy Faison told members of the Greene County Board of Education and area principals during a legislative breakfast held Friday morning. The breakfast — featuring Faison, R-Cosby, State Sen. Steve Southerland, R-1st, and State Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville — was part of a daylong retreat for BOE members that took place in the Greene County Central Office.

Gubernatorial candidate Beth Harwell tours Humboldt clinic (WBBJ) A local clinic gets a visit from gubernatorial candidate Beth Harwell. Harwell toured the A Mother’s Love clinic in Humboldt Friday. A Mother’s Love is an opioid recovery program for addicted pregnant women. She said the model the clinic uses could be an example statewide for babies born addicted to opioids. “We are seeing an increase in the number of the children born addicted to opioids,” Harwell said. “That’s why a facility like A Mother’s Love is just so needed. Really this can be a model for the rest of the state.”

Lee to speak at Hamblen Republican Women event (Citizen Tribune) The Hamblen County Republican Women will be hosting gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee 7 p.m. Monday at Shoney’s restaurant for its regularly scheduled business meeting. Lee is a Williamson County businessman who owns Lee Company a mechanical contracting company that has been in business since 1944. Lee also owns a cattle ranch near Franklin, Tennessee. He has never run for political office before, but since entering the governor’s race has taken a tour of the state on a tractor, and later in an RV.

Get ready to mourn ‘Nashville,’ for real this time (Nashville Business Journal) “Nashville,” the country music drama whose initial run on ABC helped raise Music City’s national profile, will end its secondary run on CMT after its upcoming sixth season. Lionsgate, the show’s production company, announced the news Friday. “Nashville” premiered on ABC in 2012 and ran for four seasons on the network, prior to its 2016 cancellation. The show ranks as CMT’s “highest-rated and most-watched show” ever, according to Variety, but the show’s highest-profile star, Connie Britton, left the series earlier this year.

Questioning Evolution: The Push to Change Science Class (New York Times) “Evolution Mama” is a sassy song dating back many decades, probably best played on a banjo, maybe with a kazoo in the background. “Evolution mama,” it goes, “don’t you make a monkey out of me.” That certainly captures the sentiments of religious groups and like-minded politicians who believe Charles Darwin was talking through his hat and there is no way that humans are descended from lower animals. Darwinism has long been under siege in parts of the United States, even if its critics have practiced their own form of evolution, adapting their arguments to accommodate altered legal circumstances. This installment of Retro Report shows the enduring strength of the forces that embrace the biblical account of Creation or reasonable facsimiles of it. For some of them, the rejection of broad scientific consensus extends to issues like climate change and stem-cell research.


Shannon Hunt: Nashville has a long way to go on child literacy (Tennessean) Metro Nashville’s public schools are educating 86 percent of the city’s elementary school children. So when a child isn’t reading proficiently, it’s easy to assume schools aren’t doing their jobs. But that’s a simplification of a much more complex problem. Solving our literacy challenges does not just start and end in schools. It requires a web of efforts, both inside and beyond a classroom’s four walls. Research shows that two major barriers to literacy success happen outside of school – chronic absenteeism and summer reading loss.

Pam Sohn: TVA needs to keep pledges made after ash spill (Times Free Press) To understand the downside of backing away from the Clean Power Plan and the need for tightening, not loosening, regulations intended to keep coal waste out of streams and rivers, one need look no further than the rivers of Tennessee. The rivers of Tennessee bear the brunt and cost, both environmentally and fiscally, of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s leaking coal ash ponds. Burning coal is not just an air and climate destroyer, it also is a time bomb for our rivers.

Robin Smith: Facts, fiction and failure (Times Free Press) This mess just to Tennessee’s southern border in the Alabama special election between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones to be the state’s next United States senator is truly disgusting. The accusations are awful and would be characteristic of a sexual predator and a vile heart. Whether that information is ever proven or disproven, only time will tell. And, if true, there’s no defense — ever — for these serial behaviors. But, let’s tease out a few facts to shed a small bit of light on a dark situation to see why some justifiably are cynical about this entire situation.

Editorial: The season for domestic violence (Johnson City Press) Thursday marks the beginning of the holiday season, which is supposed to be a time for families to gather in joy and fellowship. Unfortunately, the holidays will also bring violence to some American homes. Law enforcement agencies will see a dramatic increase in the number of domestic assault cases between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, which means victims will be seeking the help of local domestic violence shelters. About 95 percent of victims of domestic violence are women with young children, and for 30 percent of those women, the physical abuse comes on a daily basis.The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says a crime of battering occurs every 15 seconds in the United States.

Friday, November 17

Tennessee’s unemployment rate is lowest in the South (Times Free Press) State’s jobless numbers remain at historic lows in October. The unemployment rate in Tennessee remained a historically low 3 percent in October after employers across the state added 34,800 jobs over the past 12 months to keep the jobless rate in Tennessee the lowest in the South. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said Thursday the state’s jobless rate last month held steady at 3 percent — the lowest seasonally adjusted monthly rate since comparable figures have been kept over the past three decades.

For second time, Gov. Bill Haslam elected to serve as RGA chief (Tennessean) For the second time in three years, Gov. Bill Haslam has been elected to serve as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. The vote came Thursday afternoon as part of the RGA’s latest annual conference, which is being held in Austin, Texas. RGA communications director Jon Thompson confirmed Haslam’s election on social media. In a statement, Gov. Scott Walker, who is this year’s RGA chairman, praised Haslam. “The achievements Governor Haslam has made in Tennessee are enormously impressive, and his experience providing common sense, pro-growth policies will be vital to ensuring our governors have the resources they need to compete and win in 36 gubernatorial elections scheduled to occur over the next year.”

Haslam to serve as RGA chair (Nashville Post) Tennessee governor will lead national organization in run-up to 2018 elections. Republican governors on Thursday chose Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam to lead the Republican Governors Association in the year leading up to 2018 elections. Haslam previously served in the role in 2015, when there were three gubernatorial elections nationwide. In 2018, there will be 36, including for Haslam’s own seat, though he is term-limited and cannot run for reelection. He also declined to run for an open Tennessee U.S. Senate seat in 2018. “All across America, Republican chief executives are proving that they are America’s doers, getting real results for everyday Americans through pro-growth, pro-jobs policies that expand opportunity, and I am proud to serve in this role to help the RGA elect more outstanding leaders,” Haslam said in a release.

Haslam again named chairman of Republican Governors Association (Times Free Press) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam was elected Thursday to serve as chairman of the Republican Governors Association in 2018. Again. This is the second time in three years for Haslam after he served as RGA chairman in 2018. The first time was in 2015, an off-election year in which there were just three governors’ races on the ballot.

Tennessee’s health issues hurt its economy, report says (Times Free Press) Tennessee’s poor health status costs the state billions of dollars, and policy makers are taking notice. At a media event at the state Capitol on Wednesday morning, Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, told fellow legislators, government officials and community leaders that it’s time to “look in the mirror” and face Tennessee’s health problems. “I don’t think members of the General Assembly fully understand nor do they fully appreciate the economic implications of poor health,” said Watson, co-chairman of the newly formed bipartisan Tennessee Legislative Wellness Caucus, a coalition of 37 state House and Senate members focused on studying and developing solutions for the health and wellness issues of Tennesseans.

Former Senator Tracy reflects on past, present, future (WKRN) Former Tennessee State Senator Jim Tracy says “never say never” when it comes to if he would ever seek elected office again. After being appointed to a position in the Trump administration, it’s was one of the questions he was asked as the most recent member of the Tennessee Senate to resign or announce that they would run for another office. Tracy spent 13 years in the Senate before accepting the appointment as head of rural economic development in Tennessee for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Corker-Tillerson alliance frays (Politico) Sen. Bob Corker, having already turned on the president, has a new target for his frustration: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The Tennessee Republican and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman has voiced concerns about Tillerson’s management of the State Department and his still-fuzzy plans to restructure it. At a Senate hearing earlier this week, Corker agreed with several criticisms of Tillerson and his team expressed by Democrats, adding that lawmakers need to be “much more focused on holding them accountable.”

Tennessee representatives react to passage of tax plan (WSMV) What Tennessee representatives are saying after the U.S. House of Representatives passed President Trump’s tax plan on Thursday.

TVA plans coal ash safety upgrades at Cumberland Fossil Plant (Leaf Chronicle) TVA has come up with new ways to safely manage the way coal ash is stored at the Cumberland Fossil Plant. And not only will the project improve safety, TVA says it will also inject millions of dollars into local economies. TVA is drafting an Environmental Impact Statement on its handling of coal combustion residuals, or CCRs, at the plant. In the wake of a massive 2008 spill of coal ash sludge at TVA’s coal-fired plant in Kingston that flooded more than 300 acres and released coal ash into nearby rivers, the Environmental Protection Agency passed regulations in 2015 for coal ash disposal.

It will cost $900 million to move power plant ash to landfill, TVA CEO says (AP) A federal utility’s top executive estimated Thursday that it would cost $900 million and take 24 years to comply with a court order to move coal ash from unlined and leaking pits and ponds to a lined landfill on the site of a Tennessee power plant. Tennessee Valley Authority CEO Bill Johnson said in an interview Thursday that a less-preferred option, moving the ash offsite from the Gallatin Fossil Plant, would cost $2 billion. TVA had mentioned the $2 billion figure during a federal trial in February over pollution claims at the plant about 40 miles from Nashville.

State gives OS thumbs up on sewer rehabs (Roane Co. News) Oliver Springs wastewater plant operators have addressed some of the changes recommended when the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation visited the facility in August. “I told them I’m glad they came down because they showed us deficiencies,” Town Administrator Chris Mason said. “We changed the way we are doing business up there.” Mason said the $4.5 million upgrade to the plant should be completed by December. “Pretty much it is a brand new sewer plant,” Mason said.

Downtown Dickson corner cleared of environmental issues, purchased OK’d (Tennessean) The City of Dickson recently received word from state officials that the Downtown Dickson corner lot at the intersection of College and Church streets is clear of environmental problems. And with that state-signed document in hand, the Dickson Council gave final approval to purchasing the land to be used in the near future for a parking lot. “We have received a signed Brownfields agreement,” said City Administrator Rydell Wesson at the Nov. 6 council meeting. “That’s what we have been working on to make sure have no environmental issues. We have been working a long time on this project.”


Clint Cooper: Keep private prisons in order (Times Free Press) If a vendor doesn’t provide good service when it supplies your business, you naturally will look elsewhere. The state of Tennessee is not there yet, but it is evident from a recently released state audit that prison operator CoreCivic is not even providing adequate service at the troubled Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Hartsville. The problems in the audit were so scathing that state lawmakers delayed until December reauthorizing the Tennessee Department of Correction. Following the release of the audit, fingers were quickly pointed.

Editorial: On the road to a healthier, fitter Tennessee (Johnson City Press) A new legislative task force has begun work on a problem that not only threatens the quality of life of many Tennesseans, but has become a drain on the state’s economy. The Tennessee Legislative Wellness Caucus has been charged with finding solutions to the health and fitness challenges that cost this state $5.3 billion annually in direct medical care, lost productivity and premature deaths.

Thursday, November 16

Tenn. Ranks 1st In Fighting Human Trafficking (WTVF) Tennessee has been named the number one state in the nation for laws that fight human sex trafficking. Shared Hope International announced the rankings Wednesday morning in Washington D.C. Tennessee scored the highest in the nation with 96.5 points. West Virginia and California were named as the Most Improved for 2017.

Report names TN top state in fighting human trafficking (WSMV) A report released Tuesday by the nonprofit organization Shared Hope International ranked Tennessee as the top state in fighting human trafficking. The report says Tennessee imposes substantial penalties for sex trafficking and provides tools for law enforcement to investigate effectively. “The progress we’ve made in Tennessee over the past five or so years is significant and proves the value of partnership,” said TBI Director Mark Gwyn. “Let me promise you one thing, we may celebrate today, but we won’t rest.”

Work begins on Amazon Memphis center; Toyota opts out of Megasite (WREG) Toyota is no longer planning to bring 4,000 jobs to the Memphis Regional Megasite in Stanton, Tennessee but that doesn’t mean we won’t have the opportunity for new jobs soon. Movement’s taking place on the plot of land Amazon is expected to build a fulfillment center on along East Holmes Road in Memphis. If all goes according to plan, the facility would be built by the end of next year and create 600 jobs. “We’re excited about Memphis; we’re excited to be here,” Amazon’s economic development manager Ryan Wilson told WREG last month.

Tennessee State Parks host free hikes on Black Friday (WTVC) State Parks across Tennessee are offering free guided hikes on the Friday after Thanksgiving. “There’s a national sentiment that getting outdoors to spend time with loved ones around the holidays is a wonderful way to reconnect and recharge,” said Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill. “Tennessee State Parks aims to offer all Tennesseans the opportunity to get outdoors to engage in healthy, fun activities.” Rangers at Booker T. Washington State Park, Harrison Bay State Park and Cumberland Trail State Park will lead hikers through local after-Thanksgiving hikes.

Tennessee college tuition hikes should be low this year, and officials want to keep that trend going (Tennessean) Tennessee higher education officials on Wednesday laid the groundwork for another year of low tuition increases and discussed a long-term plan to prevent severe tuition hikes in the future. The higher education commission, which can limit tuition hikes at public colleges, plans to keep increases between zero and 3 percent for the next academic year. That would set the stage for the fourth straight year of unusually low increases. That trend represents something of a reversal.

Tennessee’s black colleges see uptick in enrollment as part of national enrollment surge (Tennessean) Tennessee is seeing increased freshman enrollment and interest in some of its historically black colleges and universities — a spike that follows national trends. In Nashville, Meharry Medical College saw “explosive growth” in its number of applications this fall. Tennessee State University’s freshman class is one of the largest ever. Lane College in Jackson is seeing boosts in freshman populations. Others, like Fisk University in Nashville and LeMoyne Owen College in Memphis, haven’t seen the boom but aren’t losing ground, either, with stable enrollment numbers.

Tennessee’s two big school turnaround experiments are yielding big lessons, researchers say (Chalkbeat Tennessee) A national pioneer in school turnaround work, Tennessee this month received a report card of sorts from researchers who have closely followed its two primary initiatives for five years. The assessment was both grim and promising — and punctuated with lessons that already are informing the state’s efforts to improve struggling schools. The grim: The state-run Achievement School District fell woefully short of its initial goal of vaulting the state’s 5 percent of lowest-achieving schools to the top 25 percent within five years.

TN Dept. of Education hit with lawsuit from test maker (WSMV) The Tennessee Department of Education has until Nov. 30 to respond to a lawsuit filed by education company Measurement Inc. The company, which manufactured the controversial TN Ready exams, claims the department owes them more than $25 million for the work and products it provided for the exams. After several failed roll-out attempts and confusion in school districts across the state, TDOE Commissioner Candice McQueen terminated all contracts with the company.

Attorney Fletcher Long disbarred by state Supreme Court (Tennessean) The Tennessee Supreme Court has formally disbarred Clarksville attorney Fletcher Long, effective Wednesday, according to a news release from the court. He was also ordered to pay restitution to four former clients “for engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation,” according to the release. Long was previously disbarred by a court order in September 2015.

Tennessee Supreme Court Disbars Loniel Greene, Jr. (WTVF) Davidson County lawyer Loniel Greene, Jr. has been disbarred from the practice of law by order of the Tennessee Supreme Court. The order came down Wednesday and cited alleged ethical misconduct on Greene’s part. Tennessee Supreme Court officials said Greene’s cousin was in jail for domestic assault, and recorded phone conversations revealed Greene agreed to falsely testify at his cousin’s bond source hearing. The false testimony included Greene saying the source of money used for his cousin’s bond was from Greene when it was actually from his cousin.

Tennessee Lawmakers Say They Want Better Answers To Scathing Prison Audit (WPLN) Tennessee lawmakers blasted the state Department of Correction at a meeting on Wednesday, the day after an audit found numerous violations in the state’s prisons. An oversight panel took the rare move of delaying the department’s request for reauthorization — a procedural rebuke they hope will force state officials to improve the situation. Many of their questions center on one facility in particular, the privately run Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Hartsville. CoreCivic, the Nashville-based company formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America, runs the facility but cannot find enough people to handle the nearly 2,500 inmates housed there.

Lawmakers Question TDOC Over Private Prison Gaff (WTVF) Tennessee lawmakers have criticized state corrections officials after an audit found some private prisons were understaffed and their staffing information at times was incorrect or withheld. After a round of questioning Wednesday, a state legislative panel voted to temporarily delay reauthorizing the Department of Correction, calling for officials first to testify again next month about CoreCivic’s prison contracts.

GOP and Democratic lawmakers grill Tennessee officials, blast private prisons over scathing audit (Tennessean) In a rare procedural rebuke, state lawmakers delayed reauthorizing the Tennessee Department of Correction amid concerns highlighted in a recently released audit of the state’s largest, privately run prison. Wednesday’s move shows the frustration and concern of both Republican and Democratic lawmakers about the issues raised in the scathing audit concerning Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, operated by CoreCivic, previously known as Corrections Corporation of America.

TDOC commissioner answers questions after audit (WSMV) A scathing audit released Tuesday pointed out severe staff shortages and incomplete record keeping at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center. Wednesday, Tennessee Department of Correction Commissioner Tony Parker was grilled about that and more by some state lawmakers. The auditors went line by line, explaining every black mark given to Core Civic. To determine staffing at the Trousdale prison, they needed to see daily shift rosters. “We made it specifically clear we wanted the actual rosters of the day,” said Vincent Finamore with the comptroller’s office.

State announces new wellness caucus (WSMV) Tennessee officials are trying to move the needle on getting people healthy. A new wellness caucus was announced Wednesday to study and propose new solutions to important health and wellness issues across the state. Tennessee is considered one of the least healthy states in the country. Thirty-three percent of the state’s population is considered obese. One in four adults, and one in five high school students, use tobacco.

Sen. Lamar Alexander backs GOP plan to repeal Obamacare mandate as part of tax reform (Tennessean) Sen. Lamar Alexander said Wednesday he supports the Senate GOP’s tax-reform bill and has no problem with it including a provision to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that everyone buy health insurance. Tying repeal of the so-called individual mandate to the tax-reform measure could cost Alexander Democratic support for a separate bipartisan bill that he negotiated with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray to stabilize Obamacare’s individual health insurance markets in the short term.

Tennessee GOP Senate candidates Blackburn, Fincher on Roy Moore: It’s up to Alabama voters (Tennessean) As top Republicans nationally call for Roy Moore to end his Alabama Senate run amid allegations of sexual misconduct, Tennessee’s two GOP U.S. Senate candidates both say Alabama voters should have the final say on the embattled candidate’s future. U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, and former U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Frog Jump, each issued their first statements to the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee on the controversy surrounding Moore. Five women have stepped forward accusing Moore of past sexual misconduct, including when the women were in their teens.

Rep. Steve Cohen, other Democrats file articles of impeachment against President Trump (Tennessean) Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis and five other House Democrats filed articles of impeachment Wednesday against President Donald Trump, warning that his actions have become “a danger to democracy.” “The time has come to make clear to the American people and to this president that his train of injuries to our Constitution must be brought to an end through impeachment,” said Cohen, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice.

Bob Corker says Senate is “taking up some of the vacuum” left by White House (WDEF) Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker, who has become a vocal critic of President Trump in recent months, said Wednesday night that the Senate is “rising to the occasion” and “taking up some of the vacuum” that is left by the White House. Corker, appearing in a speaking engagement on bipartisanship at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., with Democratic Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said he didn’t want to speak in a “pejorative” manner about the administration. Corker, who is retiring next year, has gained attention for calling the White House an “adult day care center” on Twitter, and questioning the president’s “stability” and “competence.”

All of the GOP lawmakers who won’t seek re-election in 2018 (PBS NewsHour) Republicans are dealing with a threat from within their own party led by Steve Bannon, who has vowed to challenge every establishment Republican incumbent running for re-election with candidates of his own. The Republican “Civil War,” as Bannon calls it, poses a challenge to current GOP members in office — and a growing number have announced their retirement in 2018. GOP Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona are the only members of the Senate who have announced that they won’t seek re-election in 2018. On the House side, 24 Republicans so far have announced they won’t seek re-election. Of those, 12 are retiring from elected office altogether. Another 10 are hoping to win a different job (either governor or senator).

Republican Andy Ogles drops out of US Senate race in Tennessee (Tennessean) Conservative activist Andy Ogles has dropped out of the 2018 Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Tennessee, citing the altered political landscape after Sen. Bob Corker decided not to run and the deep pockets of other GOP candidates. Ogles, former head of the Tennessee branch of Americans for Prosperity, a right-wing advocacy group funded by the conservative Koch brothers, announced his departure in a statement Wednesday, ending a run that lasted less than two months.

Ogles drops out (Nashville Post) Former AFP head cites financial reasons for leaving Senate race. Andy Ogles, the former head of the Tennessee chapter of Americans for Prosperity, has ended his bid for U.S. Sen. Bob Corker’s seat. Ogles had announced a primary challenge to Corker in September when it was thought the junior senator would be running for a third term in 2018. Republican mega-donor and auto dealer Lee Beaman said at the time he’d raise at least $4 million for Ogles’ run. However, once Corker announced his retirement and U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and former Rep. Stephen Fincher announced their entrance into the GOP primary, Ogles has been mostly quiet.

Filling in the Blanks (Memphis Flyer) Gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee’s platform for Memphis remains somewhat inspecific, but he’s got a start on it. Meanwhile, he’s wasting no time putting his local network together. GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee laid out his “Commitment to Memphis and Shelby County ” at the opening of his local headquarters on Poplar Avenue. on Wednesday. Some weeks ago, the gubernatorial campaign of Nashville businessman/farmer Bill Lee sent out to local media — and presumably to some households and relevant institutions — a list detailing his plans for this area under the heading “Commitment to Memphis and Shelby County.”

TVA considers big changes for an energy-efficient future (Memphis Flyer) Use more energy, and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) will charge you less; use less, and you’ll be charged more. That’s the core of a newly announced pricing structure for electricity, one that TVA officials say is necessary in a more energy-efficient future. If you can afford to generate your own power with solar panels, for instance, or can afford energy-efficient appliances and devices, you should pay more for the power you get from TVA. If you can’t afford those things or choose not to have them, your rate for power would go down. TVA leaders simply liken the proposal to “buying bulk at the grocery store.” But opponents call it “heavy handed” and “unfair” and argue it would restrict the solar power market.

TVA employees get average $10,970 year-end bonus (Times Free Press) Employees of the Tennessee Valley Authority will have extra reason to be thankful during Thanksgiving next week when TVA distributes year-end performance bonuses averaging $10,970 for each of more than 10,000 workers. But TVA President Bill Johnson says electricity users in the Tennessee Valley should also be thankful for the utility’s success in cutting power rates, pollution and expenses at TVA and helping attract more than $40 billion of new investment in the region over the past five years. “We are getting really good results for the people we serve, and this performance pay is in recognition of that effort by our employees,” TVA President Bill Johnson said Wednesday.

OR seeks postponment of Y-12 project’s start date (Oak Ridger) City Council unanimously approved a letter Monday to send to various officials requesting that the Tennessee Valley Authority postpone logging for the creation of an electric line across the top of the ridge between the Y-12 National Security Complex and two Oak Ridge neighborhoods. Council member Hans Vogel made the motion to approve sending the letter, and Council member Chuck Hope seconded. During Monday night’s meeting at the Municipal Building courtroom, Vogel criticized the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) for not notifying the city government about the project sooner.

New construction outpacing wildfire debris at Sevier Co. landfill (WBIR) At the Sevier County landfill, trash tells the ongoing story of the wildfires. “Eventually, we will take all 2,400 [burned] structures,” Sevier Solid Waste manager Tom Leonard said. “We know how much we’re going to get, but we don’t know when it will be finished.” Leonard said in the months immediately following the November 2016 firestorm, the landfills were flooded with debris from burnt homes – sometimes 3,000-4,000 tons per day. His facility usually took in about 150-200 tons a day before the fires.

Centerstone to merge with Louisville company (Nashville Post) Deal with Uspiritus expected to be finalized in spring 2018. Nashville-based behavioral health company Centerstone and Uspiritus of Louisville have signed a letter of intent to merge. Terms of the potential deal involving Centerstone Kentucky and Uspiritus, a residential services provider for youth, were not disclosed in a release. The process, pending standard legal and regulatory reviews, is expected to conclude in spring 2018.

Former Pilot exec: Jimmy Haslam ‘loved’ trucking rip-off scheme (AP) A former truck stop company executive boasted in a secretly recorded conversation that Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam “loved it” when the sales team ripped off customers. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports the jury in the federal fraud trial of former Pilot Flying J executives and sales representatives heard a recording of former vice president John “Stick” Freeman saying Haslam was aware of the scheme to deprive trucking customers of the diesel discounts they had negotiated. “He knew — absolutely,” Freeman said in the recording. Pilot, which is controlled by the Haslam family, issued a statement reiterating that “Jimmy Haslam was not aware of any wrongdoing.”

Amazon sellers brood as states come calling for taxes (Nashville Business Journal) Amazon and the tax man are back at it again. For years, the company and state governments scuffled over Amazon’s resistance to charging state sales tax, which helped keep prices low on its e-commerce site and angered politicians and other retailers. Eventually, Amazon began adding the tax in states across the country. But there was a loophole. Amazon added the tax only when the item came from its own inventory, not from the millions of independent merchants who sell products through Amazon’s website. Amazon left it up to those sellers — who account for half of all items sold on the site — to collect sales tax on their own. But, according to sellers, tax lawyers and accountants who work with them, most do not.

Spring Hill City Hall Recovering After $250k Cyberattack (WTVF) The city of Spring Hill is still reeling from a week-long cyberattack, with some of the city departments still using pen and paper to get by. More than a week ago, a ransomware cyberattack at the Spring Hill city hall locked up hundreds of documents the city uses to conduct business every day.  Online criminals asked for $250,000 to unlock the data.


Sam Stockard: Despite Massive Turnover, GOP Owns Legislature (Memphis Daily News) 2018 will be a year of change for the Tennessee General Assembly, and 2019 will bring even more, especially in leadership – much depending on the popularity of President Donald Trump. Not only is the Legislature moving to the Cordell Hull Building, vacating the Legislative Plaza after 45 years or so, a number of legislative faces are changing, too, even before next year’s election. In other words, visitors will need a map, a scorecard and maybe a gun, considering people with carry permits will be allowed to go armed in Cordell Hull.

Jackson Baker: The Bredesen Bubble; County Government Showdown (Memphis Flyer) Since Phil Bredesen’s name was first dropped as a possible Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Bob Corker, the former governor has done a neat back-and-forth on the prospect, first expressing no interest, next rising to the bait, and then leaving the idea open as both fellow Democrats and Republicans have engaged in a running guessing game as to his intentions. That quandary persists right up to the minute, with a decision by Bredesen likely to come between the composition of these lines and their appearance in print. Or not.

Otis Sanford: Corker hearing shows ‘dangerously high stakes’ of nukes (WREG) U.S. Senator Bob Corker is resembling anything but a lame duck U.S Senator. He has about 14 months remaining in his second term, having already announced that he will not seek reelection. But that is not stopping Tennessee’s junior senator from continuing to be a major annoyance for President Donald Trump. Corker has been one of the President’s harshest critic, but on Tuesday, he went beyond the rhetoric and convened a Senate hearing to address possible Congressional action to prevent Mr. Trump from launching a nuclear strike against another country on his own. Corker serves as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – the panel that held the hearing.

Editorial: The Senate Questions the President’s Power to Launch Nukes (New York Times) President Trump and North Korea have prompted Congress to do something it hasn’t done in more than four decades: formally consider changes to the law that gives American presidents the sole authority to launch nuclear weapons. In a governing system that relies on checks and balances, that may strike some people as odd. But the uncomfortable truth is that Mr. Trump, like all his post-World War II predecessors, is uniquely empowered to order a pre-emptive strike, on North Korea or anywhere else. We’re talking about the authority to unleash thousands of nuclear weapons within minutes. And with scant time to consult with experienced advisers.

Wednesday, November 15

Haslam appoints Townsend as Special Judge in Polk County (Times Free Press) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam appointed Brooklynn M. Townsend on Tuesday as special judge for the General Sessions Court of Polk County. Townsend’s appointment fills a temporary vacancy left by Judge Billy D. Baliles. “I appreciate Brooklynn Townsend’s willingness to serve in this capacity,” Haslam said. “This will help serve the citizens in Polk County, and we wish Judge Baliles the very best in his recovery.”

Haslam appoints Townsend as Special Judge in Polk County (WDEF) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed Brooklynn M. Townsend as special judge for the General Sessions Court of Polk County. Townsend’s appointment fills a temporary vacancy due to the disability of Judge Billy D. Baliles. “I appreciate Brooklynn Townsend’s willingness to serve in this capacity,” Haslam said. “This will help serve the citizens in Polk County, and we wish Judge Baliles the very best in his recovery.” Since 2007, Townsend, 37, has been an assistant district attorney general for the 10th Judicial District and since May 2015, she has been the Polk County team leader. In that role she has provided administrative leadership and managed day-to-day functions of the district attorney’s office in Polk County, including appearances in Criminal Court, General Sessions Court and Juvenile Court.

Lakeshore Park unveils new improvements, honors Haslam family (WATE) New facilities and upgrades were unveiled at Lakeshore Park, enhancing the features and scenic view of the most utilized public green space in Knoxville. “You can see the water and that’s my greatest attraction. It’s just beautiful the landscaping is really nice, and I can’t say enough about it,” Sue Reagan said. “It’s going to be a beautiful place when it’s finished.” The improvements include an additional mile of walking trail, new pavilions, and a brand new overlook, in honor of Jimmy and Dee Haslam and the Haslam family.

Wilson mentors needed for TN Promise (Lebanon Democrat) With a record number of Tennessee students applying for Tennessee Promise, tnAchieves, the partnering organization that administers Gov. Bill Haslam’s Tennessee Promise, needs 2,500 volunteer mentors statewide and about 50 in Wilson County to ensure each student has a local support system. This year, more than 62,000 students applied for Tennessee Promise. Each applicant is paired with a volunteer mentor that spends one hour per month to help ease the transition from high school to college. Mentors remind students of important deadlines, serve as a trusted college resource and encourage students to reach their potential.

20 mentors still needed in Cumberland (Crossville Chronicle) With a record number of Tennessee students applying for TN Promise, tnAchieves, the partnering organization that administers Governor Haslam’s TN Promise locally, needs 2,500 volunteer mentors to ensure each student has a local support system. This year more than 62,000 students applied for TN Promise! Each applicant is paired with a volunteer mentor that spends one hour per month helping ease the transition from high school to college.  Mentors remind students of important deadlines, serve as a trusted college resource and encourage students to reach their potential.  Statewide the program has recruited 72 percent of the volunteers needed to meet student demand.  Locally, Cumberland County has recruited well, finding 72 percent of mentors needed. Twenty mentors are still needed to meet student demand.

Tennessee offers guarantee for tech, community college programs (WZTV) Diana MacDonald and Christy Dunn have a big chapter test coming up for their prerequisite nursing class at Tennessee College of Applied Technology Murfreesboro. The two women are Certified Nursing Assistants who hope to become Licensed Practical Nurses to better serve their patients. “I love the work I do,” MacDonald said. “I love the people I work with. I want to move up and expand on that.”

State partners with recovery congregations to tackle addiction (WBIR) The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) is encouraging faith-based groups to tackle the addiction crisis.The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is encouraging faith-based groups to tackle the addiction crisis. Monty Burks, director of faith based initiatives with TDMHSAS, has been traveling the state to speak to congregations about their role in fighting the opioid epidemic.

Testing Vendor Claims Tennessee Still Owes $25M For Work On TNReady, Despite Failure To Launch (WPLN) The Tennessee Department of Education has been ordered to respond soon to a lawsuit filed by Measurement Incorporated that seeks $25.7 million in payment from the state. Measurement Inc. was the company in charge of rolling out an online standardized testing platform for Tennessee students in February 2016 that failed in the first morning of exams. It was an education department’s nightmare: As more and more students tried to log on to take the new TNReady test, the platform started stalling. Eventually, the department called it off and instead ordered paper tests from Measurement Inc. to be administered in April. Some of those didn’t arrive on time, so state officials finally fired the company.

Fired Testing Company Seeks $25.3M for Work on TNReady’s Bumpy Rollout (Memphis Daily News) Tennessee officials won’t talk about the state’s ongoing dispute with the testing company it fired last year, but the company’s president is. Henry Scherich says Tennessee owes Measurement Inc. $25.3 million for services associated with TNReady, the state’s new standardized test for its public schools. That’s nearly a quarter of the company’s five-year, $108 million contract with the state, which Tennessee officials canceled after technical problems roiled the test’s 2016 rollout.

East Tennessee man challenges counseling law in federal suit against Gov. Bill Haslam (Tennessean) A gay man from East Tennessee is suing to overturn a controversial state law that allows counselors to refuse clients based on personal beliefs. In the lawsuit, filed against Gov. Bill Haslam this week in federal court, plaintiff Bleu Copas says the law would allow counselors to discriminate against him because he is gay. Haslam signed the law in 2016. Under the law, counselors can turn clients away if their “goals, outcomes or behaviors” conflict with the counselor’s “sincerely held principles.” The American Counseling Association and LGBT advocacy groups have denounced the law as an attack on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Legislators upset with Department of Correction audit, won’t recommend reauthorizing agency (WSMV) Two Democratic lawmakers are going to recommend not to re-authorize the Tennessee Department of Correction after a scathing audit released on Tuesday by the Tennessee Comptroller’s office. Reps. Bo Mitchell and Mike Stewart, both Nashville Democrats, said in a press conference on Tuesday that they will recommend at a Joint Government Operations committee meeting on Wednesday to recommend not to reauthorize the Department of Correction. They are also going to recommend strongly the state should no longer use Core Civic to operate facilities used by the state. Three of the findings in the audit dealt with facilities operated by Core Civic.

Gangs, insufficient staffing plague troubled Tennessee private prison, state audit finds (Tennessean) Staffing and vacancy data at the largest private prison in Tennessee cannot be trusted, according to a scathing state audit that raises new questions about oversight of a quarter-billion dollar contract. The audit, released Tuesday, blasted prison operator CoreCivic, previously known as Corrections Corporation of America, for ongoing problems at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, the newest and largest prison in the state. “Trousdale Turner Correctional Center management’s continued noncompliance with contract requirements and department policies challenges the department’s ability to effectively monitor the private prison,” the audit states.

Audit: Staff Shortage, Report Errors At Some Private Prisons (AP) Auditors say the nation’s largest private prison provider has been operating some prisons in Tennessee short-staffed, hasn’t send the state some reports and provided others with errors. The Tennessee comptroller audit Tuesday addressed CoreCivic’s lockups. In a three-day-a-month sample between October 2016 and June 2017, auditors found Trousdale Turner Correctional Center and Whiteville Correctional Facility were consistently short-staffed, including fewer than the state-approved number of correctional officers.

State Audit Reveals Serious Staffing Concerns In Tennessee’s Largest Private Prison (WPLN) A state audit of the Department of Correction released on Tuesday highlights a number of issues plaguing prisons in Tennessee. The biggest issue is a shortage of correctional officers, which could put inmates and other prison staff at risk. The CoreCivic-managed Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, northeast of Nashville, and Whiteville Correctional Facility, near Memphis, operated with fewer than approved correctional officers and did not follow staffing guidelines required by the state. At Trousdale, which is the state’s largest prison, the audit found critical posts were even left unstaffed on multiple occasions.

State Audit Highlights Staffing Shortages and Other Failures at CoreCivic Prisons (Nashville Scene) A new state audit confirms what inmates, their families, activists and news reports have been saying for years: Prison facilities run by CoreCivic — formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America — are short-staffed and poorly run. The Comptroller of the Treasury’s Division of State Audit released the report this morning, highlighting issues at three CoreCivic facilities in particular: Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, Whiteville Correctional Facility and Hardeman County Correctional Center.

State audit criticizes CoreCivic facilities (Nashville Post) Two state prisons run by Nashville-based CoreCivic were mismanaged and understaffed, according to a performance audit released Tuesday by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury’s office. The two facilities — Trousdale Turner Correctional Center (pictured) and Hardeman County-based Whiteville Correctional Facility — did not follow state-approved staffing plans. Additionally, the audit found that Trousdale Turner’s management was in “continued noncompliance with contract requirements and department policies.” The Trousdale prison, which opened in January 2016, has been plagued with problems from the start. It stopped taking new prisoners in May because of “growing pains,” the Associated Press reported, including trouble staffing the facility.

Comptroller claims domestic violence organization falsified time cards for grant money (WSMV) The Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence has been around for 30 years as a resource for women, men and families who’ve been victims of violence and abuse. Tuesday, executive director Kathy Walsh was under the microscope after an audit released by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office reported that employees falsified time cards and were instructed to say they worked on grants for longer period of time than they actually did. According to the Comptroller’s office report, “The Coalition’s method of allocating time to grants increases the risk that grants may be charged for time that was not actually spent working on the grant.”

Senator calls for statewide investigation into Northeast State, TBR (WJHL) Sen. Jon Lundberg (R), TN-District 4, said he wants the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury to investigate Northeast State Community College and the Tennessee Board of Regents. “I believe a review is in order,” Sen. Lundberg said. Sen. Lundberg said he’s in the process of writing a formal letter, specifically requesting auditors investigate what oversight processes were in place before 2015 and specifically what checks and balances are there now to make sure another financial crisis never occurs at any Tennessee community college. “This can’t happen. This shouldn’t happen,” he said. “Somebody made bad decisions and frankly, it wasn’t just one bad decision. It was a pattern of bad decision-making.”

Doss gets a challenger in House District 70 GOP primary (TN Journal/Humphrey) Clay Doggett, a Pulaski businessman, has announced he will seek the Republican nomination in House District 70, now held by incumbent Republican Rep. Barry Doss of Leoma, the House Transportation Committee chairman who gained some statewide attention last session as House sponsor of Gov. Bill Haslam’s IMPROVE Act, including an increase in fuel taxes. Here’s Doggett’s press release: On November 13, 2017, Giles County native, Clay Doggett, announced his intention to run for State Representative for District 70. “I am fully invested in this community and through my experiences, I have identified many issues that threaten the stability and success of the future of our community.

Former attorney general Gonzales endorses Vallejos for House seat (Leaf Chronicle) Tommy Vallejos, who is running for the state House of Representatives, has picked up an endorsement from former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Gonzales, who now serves as dean of Belmont University College of Law, will be in Clarksville on Friday for a fundraiser to support the candidate, according to a news release. “Tommy’s story is a powerful reminder that redemption and reconciliation are entirely possible in America. How else do you explain a rough street kid growing up to become a county commissioner, now serving his community with selflessness and passion?” said Gonzales in the release.

Mark Green silent on Roy Moore support (Nashville Post) As allegations against Alabama judge mount, prominent Tennessee supporter deletes posts. State Sen. Mark Green, running to succeed U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn in Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District, has deleted several signs of his support for U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore but hasn’t said if he still supports the Alabama judge accused by multiple women of initiating sexual contact when they were in their teens and Moore was in his 30s. Green, a onetime gubernatorial candidate and President Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of the Army, attended a rally for Moore in September and tweeted “Proud to call him a friend!” after Moore’s primary victory over incumbent Luther Strange. Both the tweet and a Facebook post showing the two meeting in Alabama have been deleted. In another deleted tweet, Green said, “Fantastic event in Mobile, AL with Judge soon to be US Senator Roy Moore!”

Songwriter joins GOP race to succeed Blackburn in Congress (AP) Songwriter Lee Thomas Miller is joining the race for the Republican nomination to succeed Rep. Marsha Blackburn in Congress. Blackburn is giving up her House seat representing suburban Nashville to run for the U.S. Senate. Miller has written songs for Trace Adkins, Brad Paisley, George Strait, Jamey Johnson and Chris Stapleton. The three-time Grammy nominee is the son of a Kentucky tobacco farmer and a small town librarian who lives in Brentwood with his wife Jana and four children.

TN Bankers Association names Heaslet as new counsel/lobbyist (TN Journal/Humphrey) News release from Tennessee Bankers Association: Amy Smith Heaslet has been named general counsel and senior vice president of the Tennessee Bankers Association and elected secretary of its board of directors, TBA President Colin Barrett has announced. In her new role, Heaslet will lead advocacy initiatives on legislative and regulatory issues and policies that affect the banking industry and will serve as an adviser to the TBA board of directors, officers and member banks. She was previously the TBA’s deputy counsel.

Trigger Warning (Slate) Tuesday morning, Congress held its first hearing in four decades on the president’s authority to launch nuclear weapons, and the results were fascinating, frightening, and ultimately maddening. Fascinating because not since the Cold War has any public figure wrestled with the strategic and moral issues of a nuclear first strike or the legal question of resisting a presidential order. Frightening because the presence of an unstable, insecure, brimstone-fueled president is what’s reviving this discussion. Maddening because it was clear, by the end of the two-hour hearing, that Congress isn’t going to do a damn thing about the dangers.

Retired general, others urge caution in limiting president’s power to order nuclear strike (Tennessean) A retired Air Force general urged the Senate on Tuesday to proceed with caution when looking for ways to limit the president’s authority to launch a nuclear attack. “Conflicting signals can result in loss of confidence, confusion or paralysis in the operating forces at a critical moment,” said Robert Kehler, former commander of the United States Strategic Command.

Senators Warner and Corker to Speak With The Times on Withering Bipartisanship (New York Times) Senators Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, and Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, will participate on Wednesday in a TimesTalks conversation with The New York Times, moderated by Jennifer Steinhauer, the Times’s editor of live journalism. When and where: 6:30 p.m. Eastern at the Newseum in Washington. How to watch: The conversation will be streamed live to The Times’s YouTube page and Facebook page.

New sonar system making TVA dam inspections better, cheaper (News Sentinel) A cutting-edge Side Scan Sonar system is making Tennessee Valley Authority dam inspection cheaper and more efficient. The device, descended on a cord from a small boat, can take 2D and 3D images of the dams to find any problems that need fixing. “It’s definitely a lot more efficient and a lot safer, too,” said Scott Kramer, manager of TVA’s dam inspections. “We can do everything today here; for divers it would take a week, maybe two weeks. Sometimes it takes longer to set up and take down the sonar than it does to do the inspection.”

New sonar rig helping TVA inspect dams faster, more thoroughly (WBIR) TVA says a better view below the water line means a safer dam. The Tennessee Valley Authority says new technology is helping engineers inspect dams more thoroughly and efficiently. Using side-scan sonar mounted on a boat, civil engineers like Benjamin Phillips can get a real-time view of the dam beneath the water line. “So the bright line here is the concrete face of the dam,” he said, pointing at a laptop screen. TVA has been using the new rig for about a year. Phillips said previously, the dam safety inspection team used a combination of divers and robotic submarines to inspect the hundreds of feet of submerged concrete on the up stream side.

Tape of subordinate accusing Haslam, Hazelwood played in Pilot Flying J trial (News Sentinel) Pilot Flying J Chief Executive Officer Jimmy Haslam not only knew one of his vice presidents was ripping off truckers but “loved it,” jurors heard a subordinate claim Tuesday in a secret recording. “He knew — absolutely,” former Pilot Flying J vice president of sales John “Stick” Freeman said of Haslam in a recording played for jurors in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga on Tuesday.

Video: Memphis convention center update (Commercial Appeal) Organizers of Memphis Cook Convention Center modernization and expansion are looking for strong participation in $100 million-plus project by minority-owned, women-owned and small businesses.


Pam Sohn: Corker’s nuclear war hearing is ‘sobering’ stuff (Times Free Press) The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led by frequent Trump critic Sen. Bob Corker, held a hearing Tuesday on the president’s unchecked authority to use nuclear weapons. Corker, a Tennessee Republican who is not seeking re-election next year, has pointedly criticized President Donald Trump’s stability and competence — in short, his fitness for office — and warned that the president seems to be leading the U.S. on “the path to World War III.”

Clint Cooper: Favors remained a happy warrior (Times Free Press) As the lone Democrat in the Hamilton County state legislative delegation, Rep. JoAnne Favors almost always was rowing against a stiff headwind. But in doing so, she has said, and her Republican colleagues have echoed, she remained a happy warrior. Favors, 75, announced Monday she will retire at the end of her current state House term, her seventh. She is one of only 26 Democrats in the 99-member House and one of only two black members in East Tennessee. However, her leadership and her longevity have elevated her to the positions of House Democratic whip and vice chairwoman of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators.

Guest column: Press should stop identifying brands of guns used in mass killings (News Sentinel) Mass shootings always are sure to garner extraordinary media attention — as they should — given the enormous tragedies that they generate, along with real public safety concerns. But how best to cover these events with a sense of journalistic integrity and ethical responsibility while not rewarding those who have been complicit in the act? While it appears some major media outlets have adopted some policies regarding whether or not to report the suspect’s name (either before or after law enforcement apprehension), what appears to have received no consideration is the reporting of the gun’s brand name.This is important since virtually all reporting about these shootings not only describes the type of gun involved, but invariably also mentions its brand name.

Frank Cagle: Americans’ use of different set of facts worrisome (News Sentinel) Do you ever get the feeling that you are living in a parallel universe? The stock market sets record highs, unemployment is low, and consumer income is up. Meanwhile, the national news media keep telling us about Russians and meetings and special prosecutors. A confusing jumble of theories, semi-stories and allegations aplenty. It’s as if two different administrations are being reported on. President Donald Trump took one of the longest presidential trips to the Far East and made it clear that trade deals would no longer penalize the United States. Comparing alleged Russian collusion to the condition of our economy and our improved status around the world likely depends entirely on your opinion of Trump. There are those who refuse to believe that Trump would do anything wrong, and there are those who believe that he will never do anything right.