Wednesday, January 31

Haslam Proposes Completion Condition for Tennessee Promise (Memphis Daily News) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s final State of the State address Monday, Jan. 29, included a call to continue education reform with some changes to the administration’s signature higher education reforms. “While more students are entering Tennessee’s postsecondary schools, only one out of every four community college students completes college in six years, and roughly half complete at our four-year institutions during that same time frame,” said Haslam whose second and final term as governor ends at the end of 2018. “The research is clear: taking the credits needed to graduate on time results in better academic performance, higher retention rates, and the increased likelihood of completion.”

Gov. Bill Haslam budgets $38 million for new MTSU classroom building (Daily News Journal) MTSU could receive a $38 million academic classroom building for its College of Behavioral and Health Sciences if Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed state budget is approved. The MTSU building is the top-ranked project on the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s priority list, according to a news release from the university. Haslam recommended $94.8 million in capital projects for the state’s universities and community and technical colleges in his budget released Tuesday. Funding must be approved by the Tennessee General Assembly. The project would provide much-needed classroom space, along with offices and lab space, and would allow the criminal justice, psychology and social work departments to work more closely, the release said.

Tennessee Tech offering new scholarship for women, minorities studying technology (WSMV) A new scholarship at Tennessee Technological University is working to put women and minorities on track for a career right out of college and into fields are in high demand. Without the scholarship, I wouldn’t be able to go to college whatsoever,” said 18-year-old Payten Gibbs, a computer science student at Tennessee Tech. who says she comes from a low-income family and town. “It helps me follow my dreams of wanting to go to college and get a good degree, get a good job,” Gibbs said. “There’s not that many women in this field.”

Does Governor Haslam’s opioid plan go far enough? (WKRN) There are more than Democrats on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill wondering if Governor Bill Haslam’s proposed plan to fight the opioid epidemic goes far enough. There are some Republicans concerned about fewer Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agents to be added than what was recommended by a opioid task force set up by House Speaker Beth Harwell. The governor had just a few lines about his opioid plan at his State of the State speech Monday. A week earlier, he laid out a 30 million dollar plan about prevention, treatment and law enforcement, but the minority Democrats countered before the speech with a 250 million dollar plan funded by the state’s rainy day fund. It won’t go anywhere with the Republican supermajority, but it has generated conversation about potentially more funding than what the governor proposes.

Should Tennessee have a tax-free holiday for guns? (Johnson City Press) Every year, back-to-school shoppers in Tennessee enjoy a sales tax-free weekend for school supplies and clothes. Now, some state legislators are calling for a similar period exempting firearms from taxes to give residents more bang for their bucks. The Tennessee House Finance, Ways and Means Committee will meet Wednesday morning to discuss a measure proposed by Rep. Dennis Powers, R-36th, which aims to officially declare the first weekend of September as the “Second Amendment Sales Tax Holiday.”

Dems propose $250M for opioid crisis (Nashville Post) In a counter to Gov. Bill Haslam’s lauded $30 million plan to fight the opioid crisis in Tennessee, Democratic legislators on Monday announced a plan of their own — one with a $250 million price tag. “This disagreement isn’t politics, its math,” Senate Minority Caucus Chair Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) said during a press conference. “The current plan would provide treatment for a tiny fraction of those people and would do nothing for most of the almost a million people who are suffering from some form of opiate abuse. That isn’t good enough.” Haslam’s plan TN Together, announced last week, would allocate around $15 million in state funds, with another estimated $15 million in federal funds, to address the state’s worsening opioid epidemic, with a three-pronged focus on prevention, treatment and increased law enforcement capabilities.

By the numbers: In first 3 weeks, Tennessee legislature passes 1 bill as leaders urge swifter action (Tennessean) The first three weeks of the Tennessee legislative session have already passed but there’s been little action on legislation. In the Senate, lawmakers have approved of just one bill related to increasing library taxes in Shelby County. The House has yet to vote on a bill this year. At the same time, lawmakers have approved 112 resolutions, which mainly carry symbolic significance, during floor sessions. The sluggish pace of the session has pushed leaders in the House and Senate to encourage members to change their ways.

Tn. Lawmaker Calls For Ban On Sororities, Fraternities (WTVF) Proposal Comes After Reports Of Hazing Around U.S. A Tennessee lawmaker has filed a bill calling for a ban on sororities and fraternities at state colleges and universities. The bill was filed by Rep. John DeBerry (D) Tuesday. HB 2042 would only affect Greek organizations that are social in nature, rather than professional organizations. The proposal comes as Greek life groups across the country have been suspended or placed on probation for instances of excessive drinking and hazing.

Bill would ban fraternities, sororities at Tennessee’s state colleges and universities (Tennessean) Fraternities and sororities would be banned at Tennessee’s state colleges and universities under a newly filed bill. The legislation, HB 2042, would, however, allow professional fraternities that promote “the interests of a particular profession” and honor societies. All other fraternities and sororities “shall not be recognized or otherwise permitted to associate with, or operate on the campus of, any state institution of higher education,” according to the measure. The bill’s sponsor is Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis, a graduate of Freed-Hardeman University and the University of Memphis.

Lawmakers Change Controversial License Bill (WTVF) Lawmakers were forced to change a controversial bill that would mandate state licenses be printed with the words “Alien” or “Non U.S. Citizen” on them. Republican Representative John Ragan realized the bill was going to end up costing the state more than 100 thousand dollars a year. So he was forced to change it. This controversial piece of legislation first came up last year. It would’ve mandated that anyone who is not a U.S. citizen have the words “Alien” or “Non U.S. Citizen” printed on their drivers licenses, but that has changed.

Sen. Lundberg’s alleged political interference, retaliation reviewed after daughter’s traffic stop (WJHL) An outside prosecutor didn’t just review the actions of a fired Bristol, Tennessee, police officer after a controversial traffic stop, he also looked into concerns of retaliation and political interference by Sen. Jon Lundberg (R), TN-District 4, brought forward by the police chief, according to an internal memo. Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus confirmed, that outside prosecutor found no criminal wrongdoing on Sen. Lundberg’s part and today, the senator told us he was surprised it got to that level. The controversy all started with a traffic stop late last year involving Sen. Lundberg’s daughter. As we reported last month, Bristol administrators fired an officer following that stop after he wrote a window tint citation, criticized the police department’s stance on window tint violations and asked the driver to call her dad to try and put a stop to the department’s aggressive enforcement initiative.

Defense lawyers name new executive director (TN Journal/Humphrey) Press release from Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers: The Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is proud to announce Denise Lawrence as Executive Director.  Lawrence brings with her more than two decades of government relations experience having previously served in strategic planning and advocacy roles for the Tennessee Board of Regents, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, and the State Senate Democratic Caucus. “We could not be happier that Denise has decided to join our senior leadership team,” TACDL President Joe Ozment said. “Denise’s keen sense of capitol hill will undoubtedly help in our organization’s efforts to create a more effective and fair justice system in Tennessee.”

Potvin, Democrat, to challenge for 68th District House seat (Leaf-Chronicle) With his petition certified by the Montgomery County Election Commission, Dennis Potvin, a Democrat, has formally announced that he will be on the Aug. 2 primary ballot for state House of Representatives in the county’s 68th District. The seat is currently held by Republican incumbent state Rep. Curtis Johnson. “This seat has been held for the past 14 years by the incumbent representative. I thank him for his service, and, regardless of the outcome of the primaries and general election, I wish only the best for him both politically and personally,” Potvin said in a news release.

Medical marijuana advocate planning run for Tennessee’s 6th House District seat (Johnson City Press) Telford resident David Michel has spent months building support for medical marijuana reform through social media and local gatherings, hoping to ultimately pressure legislators in Nashville into voting for legalization. Now, he’s decided he wants to be that person voting in Nashville. On Tuesday night, at a combined event hosted by Safe Access Tri-Cities and HEMP, or Help Educate More People, Michel confirmed he has picked up a petition and plans to run as an independent for Tennessee’s 6th House District in November’s general election. Despite more than 60 people being in attendance, mostly supporters of medical marijuana, Michel held off on making a public announcement while he works to form a campaign committee.

Republican Mae Beavers drops out of Tennessee gubernatorial race (Times Free Press) Republican Mae Beavers said Tuesday on Facebook she is suspending her campaign for Tennessee governor after reporting earlier in the day she raised just $163,947 during the last six months for her statewide bid and had about the same amount remaining in cash. In her post, Beavers said, “I can’t express enough of the sincere thankfulness that I have for you and the out-pouring of love and support as a volunteer and supporter you had for this campaign.” She said her husband, Jerry Beavers, “and I look forward to my retirement after decades of being an elected official, and we pray that God blesses you and our great state and nation.”

Mae Beavers ends bid for GOP gubernatorial nomination (Tennessean) Former state Sen. Mae Beavers has ended her bid for governor, making her the first top-tier candidate to exit the race. Beavers announced her decision in a Facebook post Tuesday afternoon. “Today after much deliberation, I am suspending my campaign for the office of governor of the great state of Tennessee,” she said.  “After criss-crossing the state and meeting thousands of fellow Tennesseans, it was not a light decision to make because you have embraced our conservative message whole-heartedly.” Beavers thanked her supporters while saying she looked forward to retirement from public office. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Beavers reports $150,000 haul, Fitzhugh nets $304,000 in latest gubernatorial campaign disclosures (Tennessean) With the filing deadline looming, Mae Beavers and Craig Fitzhugh reported raising a total of $150,000 and $304,000, respectively, from donors and political action committees in the last six months in their pursuit to be governor, according to their latest disclosures. The totals from Beavers, who dropped out the race Tuesday afternoon, and Fitzhugh, a Democrat, leave them significantly behind in terms of fundraising among their respective competitors in the race. Further, the filing reveals that Beavers, who last year resigned from the state Senate to concentrate on her run for governor, continued to struggle to bring in money as her competitors out-raise her.

GOP Field Shrinks As Mae Beavers Drops Bid For Governor (WPLN) This year’s race for governor has one less contender. Mt. Juliet Republican Mae Beavers announced on Facebook Tuesday that she’s suspending her campaign. The move follows signs that the former state senator had been lagging far behind the other top Republicans. “After criss-crossing the state and meeting thousands of fellow Tennesseans, it was not a light decision to make because you have embraced our conservative message whole-heartedly; however, it is the right choice to make,” Beavers wrote on her campaign page. “Also, I know entering the race has not been in vain as many of my heart-felt issues are now talking points of other candidates.”

Beavers leaves governor’s race (Nashville Post) ‘I know entering the race has not been in vain.’ Mae Beavers, who resigned her state Senate seat last summer to run for governor, has become the first candidate to drop out of the race. Beavers posted her decision on Facebook Tuesday afternoon: To the volunteers, supporters, and every person who championed my run for Governor, I want to express my deepest gratitude to you. Today, after much deliberation, I am suspending my campaign for the office of Governor of the great state of Tennessee.

Boyd to drop $300,000 on statewide TV buy (TN Journal/Humphrey) Randy Boyd is spending $300,000 on a statewide ad buy in support of his Republican bid for governor, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The campaign confirmed the move to reporter Andy Sher, who spotted the evidence of the buy in Federal Communications Commission filings. The Boyd campaign has reserved ad time on broadcast and cable stations in the Chattanooga, Tri-Cities, Knoxville, Nashville, and Memphis television markets.

Former sheriff Joe Arpaio to hold ‘driving liberals crazy’ event in Nashville (Tennessean) The former Arizona sheriff known for his controversial anti-immigration patrols plans to hold an event in Music City this spring. Joe Arpaio, the longtime sheriff of Maricopa County who lost re-election in 2016, was convicted last year of criminal contempt of court after a U.S. District Court judge ruled he had purposefully violated a federal order to cease his signature immigration round-ups. Less than a month after being convicted, President Donald Trump pardoned Arpaio in August, before he could be sentenced.

Lenoir City father buys Super Bowl ad to catch Trump’s attention (WATE) An East Tennessee father is hoping his heartache catches the attention of President Trump and he’s hoping it happens right before the Super Bowl. For more than a year, we’ve been telling you about the call for change the Eimers family is wanting after their 17-year old daughter, Hannah, was killed in a car crash involving an X-Lite guardrail. Since the crash, Hannah’s father, Steve, has been working with lawmakers to get the guardrail system removed across the country. Eimers recently paid $1,000 for a 30-second commercial that will air around 2 p.m. during the Super Bowl’s pre-game show in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Aquifer Test Results Still Not Available to Public (Memphis Flyer) An environmental group said the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has, again, delayed the release of tests results from its wells drilled into Memphis’ drinking water source but a TVA official said they don’t have the results and are awaiting them to compile into a state report. TVA drilled five wells into the Memphis Sand Aquifer last year. The agency planned to draw 3.5 million gallons of water from the aquifer to cool its new $975 million natural gas plant, which will replace an older coal-burning plant. That plan was halted last year after a local group, Protect Our Aquifer, filed a lawsuit to stop TVA from using the wells. Then, TVA announced its researchers had found high levels of arsenic and lead in groundwater under a coal ash pit close to the wells drilled into the aquifer.

Study: TVA service costs burden residential customers over industry (News Sentinel) As the Tennessee Valley Authority considers raising the grid-maintenance burden on residential customers through fixed rates, the utility has been giving large businesses in the Valley discounts over the past six years, according to a new TVA rate study. The study by Synapse Energy Economics found TVA has been collecting an extra five percent per kilowatt hour from residential customers since 2011, while decreasing direct serve and industrial rates by about 20 percent. The shift amounts to about $1.4 billion over the five-year period, with residential customers each paying an extra $110 on average in 2016.

Report: TVA Raised Costs on Homeowners, Lowered Costs for Industries (Memphis Flyer) An environmental group says TVA has been increasing costs to its smaller customers and lowering costs for its larger, industrial customers. Over the past five years, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has charged its residential and small business customers more while charging its industrial customers less, according to a new report issued Tuesday from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE). The shift has added more than $1.4 billion to TVA’s smaller customers over the last five years, according to the report prepared by Synapse Energy, a Massachusetts energy economics research firm. With this, the average TVA household is paying $110 more now than it did in 2011, according to the report.

New report details toxic release statistics in Knoxville (WBIR) Tennessee ranks sixth highest in the nation for total releases of toxic chemicals per square mile, according to a new report from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA finalized its Toxics Release Inventory Tuesday. The report covers calendar year 2016. “The publicly available database shows that industrial facilities continue to reduce the releases of TRI chemicals through pollution reduction activities,” EPA wrote in a news release. EPA officials touted a 58 percent reduction in air-released chemicals among reporting facilities since 2006.

Judge in Pilot Flying J fraud trial rejects complaints about racist recordings (News Sentinel) The records and the recordings remain sealed, but a federal judge has made public his written opinion on why he allowed jurors in the ongoing Pilot Flying J fraud trial to hear racist commentary by the truck stop giant’s former president. U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier on Monday issued his opinion on the legalities of his decision to allow federal prosecutors to play snippets of secret recordings that captured former Pilot Flying J President Mark Hazelwood and his subordinates using racial epithets, singing along to a racist country song, mocking their boss’ football team and its fans and using profane descriptors of the company’s board members.

Logistics firm laying off almost 500 workers at Memphis facility (Memphis Business Journal) The third-party logistics firm Radial is laying off 486 workers in Memphis. The company operates and manages the largest e-commerce fulfillment center in Target Corp.’s global network — a 900,000-square-foot facility in South Memphis. Target Corp. received a 15-year tax break for its operations at the 5461 Davidson Road facility, which was announced in December 2014. Radial filed a WARN notice on Tuesday, Jan. 30, with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development that said the layoffs will begin April 7 and continue through April 30.

A million more people expected to move to Middle TN by 2040 (WSMV) For the past couple years, the widely shared statistic was that a hundred people move to Music City every day. It’s no secret that Nashville is one of the fast-growing cities in the country, but the population boom in Middle Tenn. experts predict over the next two decades might surprise you. News 4 checked with the Metro Planning Department to see if that number is still accurate. It turns out that the “a hundred people per day” number is accurate if you’re talking about all of Middle Tennessee — and if you include birth rates. More people than ever are moving into Middle Tennessee, a region that includes Metro-Nashville as well as suburbs like Franklin and Murfreesboro.

Counting cranes: Nashville’s skies among the busiest on the continent (Nashville Business Journal) Nashville begins the year with 27 tower cranes swinging construction supplies through the air, making its skies among the most crowded in North America. Consulting company Rider Levett Bucknall has released the latest update to its Crane Index, in which the company counts the cranes in 13 of the cities where it has offices. Nashville is not one of those cities, so I’m adding my own tally into the mix. Music City boasts more cranes than Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Boston, among other markets. There are seven job sites in Davidson County where two cranes are present, and the first of three planned cranes has been erected at the Fifth + Broadway mixed-use development across from Bridgestone Arena. Cranes are one of the first things people notice when approaching downtown — but if they’ve flown here, they’ve already seen the two cranes at Nashville International Airport.

In Cybersecurity Fight, Governments Leave Hospitals Behind (Governing) The Erie County Medical Center serves as the Level 1 trauma center for all of Western New York. The 550-bed hospital hosts the region’s HIV care and burn units, and is the teaching hospital for the University of Buffalo. In the early morning hours of Sunday, April 9, 2017 — a quiet time of day when large hospitals like Erie County’s are nonetheless buzzing with activity — hackers infiltrated the medical center’s computer systems. The screens went blank, replaced by a pop-up message that read, “What happened to your files?” Hospital staffers could get their data back, the message said, but it would cost them: 24 bitcoin, the cybercurrency that, at the time, was equivalent to about $30,000.

Viral Anti-Bullying Video Nets Teen Girl a School Suspension (AP) A Tennessee high school student’s anti-bullying video has drawn nearly 600,000 views on YouTube and netted a two-day suspension for its 16-year-old creator. Emily Gipson tells news outlets school that administrators accused her of “trying to incite violence” and handed her the in-school suspension for the video entitled “Welcome to Lebanon High School.” Her free-verse speech contained no profanity but likened school to an “emotional prison” and complained that bullies there go unpunished. Principal Scott Walters told The Lebanon Democrat he can’t discuss the 16-year-old’s punishment, but said he took issue with the fact that the free-verse speech was recorded in a classroom without a teacher’s permission. Gipson disputed that, saying she had two coaches’ permission.

The Scene Is for Sale (Nashville Scene) Parent company SouthComm puts another alt-weekly on the market. We’re for sale. Confirming what the Scene’s newsroom has assumed to be the case for some time now, The Tennessean quotes Vic Gatto, chairman of the Scene’s parent company SouthComm, saying that the company is looking to sell the alt-weekly, along with Nfocus and the Nashville Post. SouthComm’s chief operating officer Blair Johnson confirmed the news in an email but declined to elaborate on Gatto’s comments to The Tennessean. So here are those: “The choice is hire a new CEO and start building and competing against The Tennessean, and sell it and let the new buyer build their own team and strategy,” Gatto said. “We are looking at both right now.”

Need a tree for your yard? Grab a free one! (WRCB) Tennessee Environmental Council is hosting 250K Tree Day, a statewide event on February 24, 2018, with the goal to plant 250,000 trees with 25,000 Tennessee volunteers.  All Tennessee residents are invited to order trees to plant for 250K Tree Day at The deadline to sign up for a tree is February 1. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA), and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) are collaborating with the Council on this statewide event.

Conservation events coming up at Warriors Path (Times News) Even in the heart of winter, there are still opportunities for outdoor fun at Warriors Path State Park. Two of these opportunities, Adopt-a-Tree and Weed Wrangle, are coming up in the next few weeks, and both events will focus on conservation. “We live on a limited Earth with limited resources,” said park ranger Marty Silver. “Conservation means using these resources with care, so we can insure the health and happiness of future generations.”


Clint Cooper: Building on a successful Gov. Haslam (Times Free Press) Nine years ago this month, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam stood up in Pete’s Cafe in downtown Knoxville and told the assembled “Breakfast With Bill” event he would run to be Tennessee’s governor in 2010. “In these challenging economic times,” he said, “Tennessee needs a leader who has experience managing a budget and prioritizing resources. We need a leader who can restrain spending while creating good jobs, making our schools stronger, and ensuring Tennesseans have access to affordable health care. I believe my executive experience in private business and as mayor has taught me how to be this leader.” On Monday night, now-Gov. Haslam stood before a joint convention of House, Senate and other top state government leaders to give his final State of the State address as governor.

Pam Sohn: The ‘State of our Leadership,’ et al (Times Free Press) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam had his own “State of the State” speech Monday — his last — in which he touted what he sees as his successes. The eight-year Republican governor said Tennesseans “raised our expectations” to increase student test scores, create 400,000 new jobs, cut taxes by $572 million and offer free community college. There’s more coming of that, Haslam indicated, if his current budget proposal is passed and holds true: K-12 and higher education teachers will get raises, and the state will offer more job-growth incentives to companies looking to barter a few jobs for a lot of tax cuts.

Editorial: Don’t mess with the state attorney general (Johnson City Press) Tennessee lawmakers are once again pushing a measure to change the way this state’s attorney general is selected. And once again, supporters have yet to offer any compelling reasons as to why a system that has worked so well for more than 130 years should be changed. Earlier this month, members of the state Senate’s Judiciary Committee passed a resolution to allow the Tennessee General Assembly — rather than the state’s Supreme Court — to select the attorney general. If the measure is passed by a simple majority by the 110th General Assembly and a two-thirds majority in the 111th General Assembly, the resolution would be put before voters in a statewide referendum in 2022.

Rep. David Kustoff: The State of the Union is great again (The Hill) Just one year after taking office, President Trump will deliver his first official State of the Union address to Congress and the American people. He should be proud to report that the State of Our Union is Great Again. As soon as the president was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017, his administration hit the ground running and began tackling his bold campaign promises – tax reform, regulatory reform and bolstering our military, to name a few. Today, one year later, I am pleased that our president has delivered on those promises and then some. I have the great privilege of serving the 8th District of Tennessee, a 15-county region made up of both rural and urban communities in the Mid-South. As I travel throughout my district and talk with West Tennesseans from all walks of life, I hear more and more confidence in our economy.

Frank Cagle: Gubernatorial forum noteworthy for missing candidate (News Sentinel) The consensus is that there were no winners or losers at the forum on education attended by six gubernatorial candidates, but I think one other candidate ought to be singled out. The biggest loser was U.S. Rep. Diane Black, who ducked the forum because of what everyone has been politely saying was a scheduling conflict. The conflict was between attending a fundraiser or attending a forum on the most important issue in the campaign. She picked the fundraiser. There will be other forums, but this one was on education and there are a lot of important issues, from testing to vouchers, coming up on the subject in the next few years. It’s not like she was desperate for the money. Her rich husband can spot her a few bucks.

Guest column: Tennessee should let liquor stores open on Sunday (News Sentinel) I am a small-business owner in Knoxville, and today, Tennessee state law prohibits me from operating my business seven days a week. Being open on Sundays would be convenient for my customers and good for my business, but I’m currently not allowed to be. That means that working parents who spend weekdays at a job, evenings with their family and Saturdays driving their kids around to activities can’t currently come to my business on a Sunday afternoon to buy spirits for the engagement party they’re hosting during the week. They can buy beer from the grocery store on Sunday, and they could go to a distillery and buy up to five gallons of anything that is available there, but I can’t open my doors.

Tuesday, January 30

Gov. Bill Haslam challenges Tennessee to lead nation in jobs, education in final State of the State address (Tennessean) In his eighth and final State of the State address, Gov. Bill Haslam delivered an at-times emotional early farewell by reflecting on his years in office while calling for lawmakers to take further action to help lead the nation on job growth and education gains. “Whether, like me, you have one more year, or you intend to be here for years to come, let’s use this time while we have the privilege of answering the call to lead, to be the force for good for the state of Tennessee,” Haslam said. “Let’s decide now that Tennessee will lead.”

Haslam’s $37.5B Tennessee spending plan at a glance (AP) Republican Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday unveiled his $37.5 billion annual spending plan for Tennessee. The new budget proposal for the year beginning July 1 includes $170.9 million more in overall funding compared with the current year. It also uses $216.6 million less in state money and eliminates 335 state positions, all of them open except for six. The plan includes the following new money: $211.8 million more for K-12 education, including $55.1 million for teacher pay raises. $197.6 million for capital investments, including $109.2 million for improvements and $88.4 million for maintenance, largely focusing on the state’s current real estate.

Gov. Haslam says TN will lead the U.S. in jobs, education, efficiency in final State of the State (WSMV) Gov. Bill Haslam delivered his final State of the State address before the Tennessee General Assembly on Monday evening. In the address, Haslam highlighted projects in his previous seven years in office as well as new projects, such as TN Together, his plan to end the opioid crisis that was unveiled last week. He also challenged Tennesseans to lead the nation in creating high-quality jobs, improving education and providing the most efficient and effective state government services in the country.

Video: 2018 State of the State (Tennessean) Watch as Gov. Bill Haslam delivers his final State of the State, touching upon issues like education and the opioid epidemic.

Gov. Bill Haslam touts education gains, says Drive to 55 two years ahead of pace (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Haslam plans to seal his legacy on education through his final budget, boosting teacher pay and placing more money into higher education. Meanwhile, the governor in his final State of the State address on Monday said that Tennessee’s efforts to get more adults earning college degrees is paying off. “Our goal of 55 percent of Tennesseans having a certificate or degree by 2025 will happen,” Haslam said. “In fact, if we sustain our current momentum, we are on pace to meet the Drive to 55 goal two years early.”

Video: State of State: Governor Bill Haslam discusses education in Tennessee (Tennessean) During his final State of the State address, Governor Haslam discusses the positive growth that Tennessee has seen in education reform.

Video: State of the State: Gov. Bill Haslam says state is closing in on the “Drive to 55” goal (Tennessean) In his final State of the State address, Gov. Bill Haslam says that Tennessee is on pace to meet the goal of 55% of Tennesseans earning college degrees or certificates two years early.

Gov. Haslam Gives State Of The State Address (WTVF) Governor Bill Haslam gave his final state of the state address on Monday night, touting his legacy as a job creator while imploring lawmakers to do more with education and the state’s ongoing Opioid Crisis. This was the 8th time that Haslam, 59, addressed both chambers of the state legislature. His successor will be chosen in November during the state’s general election. The Governor said that over the last eight years his administration has created nearly 500,000 private sector job. The high school graduation rate is currently the highest in state history but critics say there are still major issues that need to be addressed including the highly flawed TN Ready test system.

In Final State Of The State Speech, Haslam Focuses On Accomplishments, Not New Plans (WPLN) Governor Bill Haslam presented a limited agenda Monday night, in an unusually reflective and retrospective State of the State speech. In his final statewide address as governor, Haslam spent most of his time highlighting what he sees as his successes, including low unemployment and an improving education system. But as for new proposals — there weren’t very many. Toward the end of his half-hour address, the governor listed off just four new initiatives. Two dealt with education, a favorite topic over his two terms. The other two stemmed from the state legislature. “While we have accomplished so much, our work is not done,” he said. “We must not let up, we must not slow down.”

Slideshow of Haslam’s final State of the State (TN Journal) A collection of photos from Gov. Bill Haslam’s final State of the State address:

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam gives his final State of the State address (Times Free Press) Gov. Bill Haslam used his last state of the state address Monday to tout Tennessee’s progress under his tenure and then challenge Tennesseans to lead the nation in creating high-paying jobs, boosting student educational achievement and providing the most efficient state services. At the same time, the Republican unveiled a $37.5 billion spending plan aimed at boosting education, teacher pay and job growth while targeting the state’s opioid epidemic.”Seven years ago, we raised our expectations,” Haslam told a joint convention of House, Senate and other top state government leaders as he outlined victories in areas ranging from national recognition for raising student test scores to cutting taxes by $572 million, offering free community college for residents and seeing more than 400,000 new jobs.

Local analysis of Governor Haslam’s budget plan (WJHL) Governor Haslam’s budget plan was unveiled Monday night, a big impact is potential pay increase for some state employees. Haslam’s budget calls for an appropriation of salary increases for K-12 teachers and other positions. According to the state plan – the amount will depend on each school system’s salary structure. The budget also appears to call for a pay increase for higher education employees. The plan calls for a 2.5% salary pool which could include bonuses and performance incentives. We’ve reached out to the governor’s office for some clarification on this and are waiting to hear back. ETSU will get $9.5 million for general maintenance on campus. We’re seeing money for things like heating system upgrades and roof improvements.

Haslam Proposes Credit Hours Minimum on Higher Ed Access (Memphis Daily News) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s final State of the State address Monday, Jan. 29, included a call to continue the state’s reforms in education with some changes to the administration’s signature higher education reforms. “While more students are entering Tennessee’s post secondary schools, only one out of every four community college students completes college in six years, and roughly half complete at our four-year institutions during that same time frame,” said Haslam whose second and final term as governor ends at the end of 2018. “The research is clear: taking the credits needed to graduate on time results in better academic performance, higher retention rates, and the increased likelihood of completion.”

Thumbs up to Haslam by legislators (Cleveland Daily Banner) All four members of Bradley County’s legislative delegation were in attendance Monday night for Gov. Bill Haslam’s final State of the State address, in Nashville. At the request of the Cleveland Daily Banner, they sent their comments on the speech — as well as the funding for Cleveland State’s capital improvements — just moments after the governor completed his remarks. They are reprinted here in their entirety: State Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), 10th Senatorial District: “I was very much impressed with the accomplishments of what Gov. Haslam has done during his terms as governor.  Education is his number one achievement.  The fact that he has put over $200 million towards teacher compensation the last two years and this new budget has another $200 million for K-12 education speaks volumes for the progress our state has made.,73591

Haslam includes CSCC capital outlay (Daily Banner) Cleveland and Bradley County took some prominent roles both on and off the stage as Gov. Bill Haslam delivered his seventh and final State of the State address in Nashville Monday night. The most significant of the roles were words the governor did not use in his speech, but were in the proposed budget he left behind. That budget includes a $25.5 million capital outlay program for Cleveland State Community College. Those funds will be used to build a new $20 million health and sciences building as well as a $5 million renovation of the Mary T. Barker Humanities Building. Cleveland State was the only community college to receive capital outlay funding and this will mark the most significant campus improvement project in its 50-year history. CSCC President Bill Seymour told the Cleveland Daily Banner Monday night, it is a “new day” and a “game changer” for the college.,73592

Haslam gives final State of State address (Nashville Post) 2018 initiatives will focus on opioids, education and juvenile justice. On Monday night, Gov. Bill Haslam gave his final State of the State address, touting his accomplishments so far in office — a speech very much about how he has made Tennessee great again. “At that first state of the state address, I stood before you and said, if we will make the right plans and decisions, then the state of Tennessee can compete with any state in the nation,” Haslam said. “So seven years later, it is time to ask ourselves — how are we doing at competing with and against the very best? The answer: We’re doing really well.” Haslam spent most of the 20-plus minute speech recapping his legislative achievements and urging the General Assembly to not undo any of his prior initiatives, such as teacher assessments.

Haslam proposes teacher pay hike for third straight year (Chalkbeat Tennessee) BUDGET PLAN Gov. Bill Haslam’s final proposed budget includes an increase in teacher pay for the third straight year and funding for RTI, the state’s required academic intervention program.

Gov. Haslam Put “Education” At TOP of “State of the State” (WGNS) On Monday evening (1/29/2018) Gov. Bill Haslam delivered his final state of the state address. Once again, “education” remained a top priority for Tennessee leaders. He announced his proposal to make education the largest area for new investments this year, with more than $210 million in new funding, including additional money for teacher salaries. Following nearly 16 years of having two governors from two different parties maintain a focus on improving education for all students, we are seeing tremendous growth, collaboration, and momentum. We have built a strong foundation for moving forward, and I’m incredibly optimistic about the success we will continue to see.

Haslam’s challenge: Lead the nation (Cannon Courier) In his final State of the State address to the General Assembly, Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday challenged all Tennesseans to lead the nation in creating high-quality jobs, improving the education of our students, and providing the most efficient and effective state government services. “Seven years ago we raised our expectations. We became the kind of leaders who didn’t just talk about cutting taxes and enhancing services, we actually did lower taxes while growing our economy and providing access to high quality education. We cannot lose the momentum we have worked so hard to build,” Haslam said.

Governor Bill Haslam looks to future with final State of State address (UT Daily Beacon) Tennessee governor Bill Haslam addressed the joint session of the 110th General Assembly during his final State of the State Address on Monday night, Jan. 29. In his address, Haslam spoke on the growth the state has had in areas of job and education advancements over the past seven years of his terms as governor. Over these years, compared to other states, Haslam said that Tennessee has performed well. Haslam said the state has a job growth rate greater than 17 percent and has added more than $1.3 billion to K-12 education. At the same time, Tennessee cut taxes by an annual $572 million, with policies to further reduce taxes in the upcoming years and cut year-to-year spending by $578 million.

Tennessee athletics reports $10.8 million surplus in 2016-17 (AP) Tennessee’s athletic department has reported a $10.8 million budget surplus for the 2016-17 fiscal year. Budget information for the fiscal year that ended June 30 was obtained Monday through a public records request. Tennessee reported $134.9 million in expenses and $145.7 million in revenues. Tennessee athletic department spokesman Tom Satkowiak said the school utilized the surplus by contributing $5 million to the Neyland Stadium renovation project and $5.8 million for ongoing facility projects such as the expansion of the Haslam football practice fields, exterior painting for Neyland Stadium and stadium scoreboards for soccer, softball and baseball. The school is planning a two-phase, $340 million renovation of Neyland Stadium. Plans call for the renovation to be funded by donations, the athletic department’s operating revenue, corporate partners and budgeted debt service.

Haslam’s opioid plan includes prevention, treatment, law enforcement (WKRN) Governor Bill Haslam announced a plan to end the opioid epidemic in Tennessee. It focuses on three major components, including prevention, treatment and law enforcement. Mother Lori Bland told News 2 her son is an opioid addict. She said when he was younger, she tried to find him help. “His options were limited. The unfortunate thing was that state funded programs have long lists. As an addict, my son would want help and then the addiction would take over and he would not wait that long. Then he would decide he would want help again, and it just wasn’t there,” said Bland. Bland says the family tried three times to help their son get into a state treatment programs. Now, Bland says her son is serving a prison sentence for trying to rob someone at gunpoint for opioids.

States curb pain pill prescribing to try to prevent opioid addiction (Tennessean) Every morning Berthena Vance kisses the urn. It has been six months since her son, Brandon Greene, died from a suspected overdose. His mother cries frequently. And inconsolably. She thinks that if fewer painkillers are prescribed, countless Americans will be spared the horrors and heartache of opioid addiction that she and her family have endured. Greene, 28, of Covington, Kentucky, had been addicted to heroin, a fact Vance didn’t know until she was called to a hospital June 15 because her son wasn’t breathing. What she did know was that her son had acquired an opioid addiction after being prescribed painkillers for chronic back and leg pain that started about six years before he died.

Luttrell Slower to Move on Opioid Lawsuit (Memphis Daily News) An opioid epidemic lawsuit the county will bring against defendants still needs questions answered and a better focus, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said on the WKNO/Channel 10 program “Behind The Headlines.” County government’s suit against opioid manufacturers and distributors is still tentative, but likely, he said. “The chances are pretty good we will,” Luttrell said. “The litigation has to be approached in a very delicate way to determine what’s the best way to approach it and who is the best group to go after. Do we go after the manufacturers? Do we go after the distributors? … There’s a lot of questions that have to be answered.”

Democrats call Gov. Haslam’s addiction treatment dollars ‘paltry’ (WMOT) Gov. Bill Haslam is out with his state budget proposal, a plan he outlined Monday night during his final State of the State address before the Tennessee General Assembly. Before detailing his budget priorities for the fiscal year that begins in July, Haslam touted his administrations accomplishments. He noted record low unemployment, advances in education, lower taxes and job creation. The governor then challenged lawmakers to maintain that momentum. “I want Tennessee to lead the nation in jobs, education and government efficiency. I don’t just want us to compete. I want us to be the best.” The Tennessean notes that Haslam’s budget proposal calls for new spending on education, workforce development and opioid addiction treatment,. It also calls for some $200 million in cuts to state services, including the elimination of more than 300 state workers.

Report: Tennessee law protecting public’s right to know riddled with exemptions (Times Free Press) Tennessee’s Open Records Act is riddled with statutory exceptions – a total of 538 – according to a new report by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office of Open Records Counsel. Exemptions range from most information about Tennessee handgun licensees to many Tennessee Department of Economic and Development records regarding projects. The report is scheduled to presented later this morning to the Senate State and Local Government Committee. The Office of Open Records Counsel spent several months reviewing the state code as well as gathering information from other government agencies and various organizations. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, the Senate speaker, and House Speaker Beth Harwell asked for the list last year to help evaluate which exceptions may need to be removed or scheduled to be revisited through legislative “sunset” review.

Payments for Tennessee lawmaker expenses in 2017 most in five years, analysis shows (Times Free Press) Tennessee lawmakers raked in more extra pay last year — on top of their legislative salaries, than in the last five years, according to the findings of a USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee analysis. Lawmakers received $2.4 million in taxpayer money for expenses like mileage and office work, state records show. That’s $370,000 more than last year, a 17 percent increase. The money is on top of the roughly $22,000 salary most lawmakers receive for their work.

TN lawmaker proposes bill to keep Daylight Saving Time year-round (WSMV) Tennessee State Rep. Rick Tillis (R-Lewisburg) introduced a bill that would establish Daylight Saving Time as the standard time in Tennessee and end the semi-annual switch between Standard Time and Daylight Saving Time for good. “I believe a switch to year-round Daylight Saving Time will have a remarkable impact on our state,” said Rep. Tillis. “The extra hour of daylight should enhance the health and overall quality of life of our residents by encouraging them to become more active, and also spend extra time supporting our local businesses.” Tillis created the legislation, House Bill 1881, in response to a survey of residents in his district about the need for the time change.

Better education, health care on radar for local Democrats (Johnson City Press) Hours ahead of Gov. Bill Haslam’s State of the State address on Monday, members of the Washington County Democratic Party gathered to discuss what they’d like to see moving forward for the state.  Party leader Sydney Crowder said in her statement that she’d be looking for ways in which the governor will approach improvements to education with funding for public schools and expanding programs for college students. While she called the Tennessee Promise program a success, she said it’s time to go further. “It’s time for Tennessee to pave the way once more,” she said.

Social media turns nasty in Tennessee’s gubernatorial campaign (Times News) Who are you TNPoliticos? And who are you Lance is Frazzled? Those two Twitter accounts with possible connections to Tennessee GOP gubernatorial campaigns were active this past weekend. On Saturday, Lance Is Frazzled tagged me and other journalists, pointing out an “amazingly disrespectful” TNPoliticos posting making fun of Williamson County businessman Bill Lee’s first TV gubernatorial campaign ad where he talks about a defining moment in his life: the death of his wife in a horse riding accident. Lance Frizzell, former chief of staff for retired Blountville Republican Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, has been working with the GOP gubernatorial campaign of U.S. Rep. Diane Black.

Poll: Black Leads Dean by 11 in Gubernatorial General Election Matchup; Harwell, Boyd and Lee Also Lead Dean (Tennessee Star) Tennessee Star Poll results released on Tuesday show that Rep. Diane Black (R-TN-06) leads Democratic front runner Karl Dean by 11 points in a head-to-head matchup in Tennessee’s general election for governor, 46 percent to 35 percent. Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) leads Dean by 10 points, 42 percent to 32 percent, and Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd leads Dean by 9 points, 43 percent to 34 percent. The two other potential Republican gubernatorial challengers fare less well. Williamson County businessman Bill Lee leads Dean by 4 points 38 percent to 34 percent, and former State Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) is essentially tied with Dean, leading by two-tenths of one percent, 35.9 percent to 35.7 percent.

Boyd Hears Concerns About Testing, BEP Funding, Graduation Rates (Memphis Daily News) When Republican contender for Tennessee governor Randy Boyd came to Christian Brothers University last week for a roundtable discussion with several dozen teachers and other educators, he walked into a lively exchange. “I came here to listen, not to talk,” Boyd said at the outset. About halfway into the scheduled hour-long session Thursday, Jan. 25, that went closer to 90 minutes, Hillary Anderson, a kindergarten teacher in inner-city Memphis, read off a list of a dozen tests she gives each year to her students. Some are given one on one with each student at an age when children have no familiarity with taking tests. “It seems like the list gets longer,” Anderson told Boyd as other teachers in the group of 35 nodded and raised their hands to comment on the same point.

Lee, Boyd Pushing For Technical Education (Memphis Daily News) Bill Lee led with his master plumber’s license last week as he toured Moore Tech. “I’m running for governor, too, by the way,” the Republican primary contender from Williamson County said as he talked with those attending classes and their instructors. The return of what is known today as “career technical education” is a prominent part of Lee’s campaign as well as that of former Tennessee economic and community development commissioner Randy Boyd, two of the six Republican primary candidates on the August ballot. Lee, who owns the Lee Company, a mechanical contracting firm, doesn’t like the term CTE. He calls it “vocational, technical and agricultural education.”

Audit finds deficiencies in TVA’s response to employee concerns (Times Free Press) Safety and workplace concerns raised by TVA employees that have forced costly delays and equipment fixes in the past at TVA’s nuclear plants are still not getting proper attention and timely resolution, according to a pair of new audits of TVA’s employee concerns program. In two separate reports released this month, TVA’s Inspector General said the federal utility still isn’t fully complying with regulatory orders to handle and address employee concerns at the Watts Bar and Browns Ferry nuclear power plants.

Jurors in ongoing Pilot Flying J fraud trial hear tales of betrayal, deceit (News Sentinel) A tearful Sherry Blake told jurors Monday she feels like a woman “betrayed” by the former boss who had considered her more like a “work wife” than an executive assistant: former Pilot Flying J President Mark Hazelwood. Blake, who remains employed at the truck stop giant, testified Monday in U.S. District Court that she spent years handling all kinds of professional and personal business for Hazelwood. She booked his trips, made out his daily schedule, filtered his email, handled his personal real estate development and sports team businesses, and even paid his monthly personal bills.

Court Holds Up Sale or Transfer Of Confederate Monuments (Memphis Daily News) A Nashville Chancellor Monday barred the sale or transfer of Confederate monuments removed last month from two city parks sold to a nonprofit. A Nashville chancellor ordered the nonprofit organization that bought two city parks in December and removed Confederate monuments in them to keep and preserve the monuments at least pending a hearing by the Tennessee Historical Commission on their removal from the parks. The ruling by Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle came Monday, Jan. 29, in a legal challenge by the Sons of Confederate Veterans to the Dec. 20 removal of the monuments to Confederacy president Jefferson Davis, Confederate general, slave trader and Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest as well as a bust of Confederate Captain Harvey Mathes by Memphis Greenspace Inc.

Court orders protections for Memphis Confederate statues (Commercial Appeal) Memphis Greenspace Inc., the nonprofit that recently removed Confederate statues from two parks, must keep and preserve the monuments, a court ordered on Monday. Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle barred the nonprofit from selling, gifting or moving the statues of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, President Jefferson Davis, and Capt. J. Harvey Mathes pending a “contested case hearing” before the Tennessee Historical Commission sometime within the next 60 days.


Randy Boyd: Community schools a way to improve education for all (Tennessean) Over the years of being very actively involved in our public education system, it has become clear to me that not all education solutions can be solved solely within the classroom. In 2008, a few of us in Knoxville created a program called knoxAchieves that recruited private donors to pay for community college tuition for students who could not afford to go. We required a day of community service each semester and matched them with a mentor. It led to my work with Gov. Bill Haslam to create the Drive to 55 and the Tennessee Promise scholarship program. However, then as now, even though we had increased college access, too many of our high school graduates were not prepared to be successful in college.

Karl Dean: Tennessee can’t wait for feds to fix healthcare (Tennessean) When Congress passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, we had reason to believe that it would be a game changer for safety net hospitals, which bear the brunt of uncompensated care in our country. Their mostly indigent patients would finally have healthcare coverage and the hospitals would be reimbursed for the vital services they provide. But the reimbursements never came — not for any safety net hospitals in our state. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that states could choose not to expand Medicaid eligibility, and that’s exactly what our Tennessee legislature did. It was a terrible decision that cost the state roughly $3.5 billion in federal funds and left over 300,000 Tennesseans uninsured. And the hospitals serving them were left operating in the red rather than the black.

Victor Ashe: Blackburn to bring U.S. Senate campaign to Knoxville (News Sentinel) Congressman Marsha Blackburnbrings her campaign for U.S. Senate to Knoxville on Saturday, Feb. 3, with an event hosted by state Rep. Jason Zachary. Blackburn faces former Congressman Steve Fincher in the August primary, and then one of them faces former Democratic governor Phil Bredesen in November. Having Zachary helping her campaign will be a plus. Bredesen is considered a very credible Democrat among moderate Republicans who twice voted for him for governor. They do not regret their vote, and Blackburn will have her work cut out for her to bring these Republicans into her camp this November.









Guest column: Could money laundering reforms help end human trafficking? (News Sentinel) As Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker considers how to use his remaining time in office to address human trafficking, there is a simple, bipartisan step he can take. Go after the money. There is a lot of money involved in modern-day slavery. Billions and billions of dollars. So where is all that money? According to the state department, there are as many as 27 million people being trafficked today, and it’s more profitable than any other illegal enterprise except drugs. In one of the deepest stains on the global conscience, millions of the victims are children, trafficked for sex. One of the main issues law enforcement faces with shutting down human trafficking operations is the confusion of victims for criminals. Someone thinks they are being hired for a job, only to find they are to work without pay in another country, while their traffickers hold their passports.















Monday, January 29

Gov. Haslam to deliver final State of the State address Monday night (WKRN) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam will deliver his final State of the State address Monday night. Haslam has less than one year remaining in the Governor’s Mansion, nearing the end of his second term in office. The Governor will likely use his final State of the State speech to tout his successes over the last seven years, including getting the Improve Act passed last year. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally told News 2 he expects Haslam to reflect on Tennessee’s gains in education and job growth. “What he intends to do to continue our improvements in education and recruiting business to Tennessee,” McNally said. Haslam will also focus on the opioid crisis, which kills three Tennesseans a day. The Governor last week unveiled a $30 million plan to combat the epidemic.

Haslam will note progress, set goals in final State of the State address (Daily Herald) When he delivers his final State of the State address Monday, Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to reflect on Tennessee’s strides in areas such as education and job growth during his tenure. The governor also will look ahead to new initiatives like his $30 million plan to combat the state’s opioid epidemic as well as helping more students complete college. This is the term-limited Republican’s eighth and last address, an annual public rite in which governors set forth their priorities before a televised joint convention of the General Assembly.

The State of the State, open records exemptions: 5 things to watch this week in the legislature (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Haslam’s State of the State address Monday evening will likely overshadow the rest of the legislative business on the fourth week of the session. But within the various committee meetings scheduled this week, a few issues stand out, including hearings on open records exemptions and a tax-free holiday for gun sales. Here’s a roundup of five things to watch this week:

Top 20 best states to drive in: Tennessee makes the list (WKRN) Every resident of Nashville knows how bad traffic can be in Davidson County alone. But a study shows that Tennessee is actually one of the best states to drive in. According to a study done by WalletHub, the state of Tennessee ranks in the top 20 of best states to drive in. The ‘Volunteer State’ comes in as the 18th best state to drive in. Texas ranked number one as the best state to drive and Hawaii ranked as the worst. Tennessee also ranked in the top in the ‘cost of ownership & maintenance’ category and again in the top 20 in the ‘access to vehicles & maintenance’ category.

ETSU ‘concerned’ about bill prohibiting medical schools from buying residency, clerkship slots (Johnson City Press) To the surprise of Mountain States Health Alliance, Wellmont Health System and East Tennessee State University officials, a local legislator filed a bill last week that would prohibit medical schools from purchasing, or even providing scholarships, to healthcare systems in exchange for residency or clerkship slots. Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, filed HB1833 on Thursday, saying privately-funded medical schools have an advantage over taxpayer-funded medical schools when it comes to exchanging cash for residency slots. “I am for the free market as long as everybody has a chance at the free market. But the medical (state) schools are taxpayer funded,” Hill said.

Sen. Lamar Alexander Talks Health Care, Immigration and Copyright (WPLN) Congress has been deeply divided along party lines. But Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander believes it can come together — on legislation dealing with health insurance, immigration and music copyright. The Republican lawmaker has been working with Democrats on all three issues. He spoke with Nashville Public Radio’s Chas Sisk about those efforts.

How Trump may end up expanding Medicaid, whether he means to or not (Washington Post) Republican lawmakers in a half-dozen states are launching fresh efforts to expand Medicaid, the nation’s health insurance program for the poor, as party holdouts who had blocked the expansion say they’re now open to it because of Trump administration guidelines allowing states to impose new requirements that program recipients work to get benefits. In Utah, a Republican legislator working with the GOP governor says he hopes to pass a Medicaid expansion plan with work requirements within the year. In Idaho, a conservative lawmaker who steadfastly opposed Medicaid expansion in the past says the new requirements make him more open to the idea. And in Wyoming, a Republican senator who previously opposed expansion — a key part of President Barack Obama’s health-care law — says he’s ready to take another look at fellow Republicans’ expansion efforts in his state.

TVA CEO Talks Water, Economic Development, Solar and Fixed Costs (Memphis Daily News) During his visit to Memphis last week, Tennessee Valley Authority CEO Bill Johnson left the door open to a change in TVA’s plans to use its own water wells when the new TVA natural gas-fired plant in southwest Memphis goes online later this year. The decision to drill wells into the Memphis aquifer became even more controversial after high levels of arsenic were found in the ash ponds of the Allen Fossil Plant, the coal-fired plant just across Plant and Riverport roads from the new plant that will replace it.

West Tennessee is still waiting to reap the benefits of the Memphis Regional Megasite (Memphis Daily News) In physics the larger an atom is, the more polarizing it can become. The same can be said of real estate development. So it’s not surprising that something referred to as a megasite can incite a range of opinions that are as vast as the site itself. And vast it is. Clocking in at 4,100 acres, the Memphis Regional Megasite, which is actually located to the east in Haywood County, has seen its fair share of equally vast ups and downs over the past decade.


Editorial: Tennessee’s next governor must build on education progress (Tennessean) All Tennesseans deserve a quality education. That is key to obtaining a good job, opportunities for advancement, better pay and self-fulfillment. The path is not the same for everyone. Some will choose the traditional college route and perhaps graduate school, while others will seek career technical education for high-paying posts after high school. Tennessee has made great strides under two gubernatorial administrations over nearly two decades — that of Gov. Bill Haslam and former Gov. Phil Bredesen — in terms of improving academics, better compensating educators and investing more in higher education.

Ted Evanoff: Memphis wasn’t ready for 4,000 new jobs, thanks to the state’s slow pace (Commercial Appeal) Toyota-Mazda’s decision to locate in Alabama carries a lesson for Memphis and West Tennessee. It’s time to get ready. And it’s time for state leaders in Nashville to help Memphis get ready. It seemed as if the Memphis Regional Megasite might land the 4,000-employee car plant, and if it didn’t the reason would trace to our skilled-worker shortage. Instead, the car venture this month chose Huntsville, the fastest-growing metropolitan area in Alabama and home to the U.S. Army’s 30,000-employee Redstone Arsenal and Boeing’s 2,800-employee aerospace and weapons complex.

Editorial: Megasite Not Ready for Prime Time After A Decade (Memphis Daily News) The Memphis Regional Megasite in Haywood County has a lot of factors going against it starting with its name. It is not in Memphis – which can be confusing to national site consultants and their clients. But it also plays to a tendency among the many contenders for Tennessee governor in this election year to kill two birds with one stone by invoking its name and calling for its completion and use. They appeal to rural West Tennessee and Memphis in one reference. And they are able to gloss over the considerable differences between the two. The needs and economy of rural West Tennessee are not the same as those of Memphis, although they do have an interdependent relationship.

Column; Should Tennessee legalize oil-based marijuana for medical care? (Johnson City Press) State Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, and state Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, have filed the Medical Cannabis Only Act of 2018, which would legalize oil-based medical marijuana products for Tennesseans who suffer from certain health conditions. As Press staff writer Zach Vance reported earlier this month, Public Chapter 963, which became law in 2014, already allows for the administration of cannabis oil in clinical studies into intractable seizures. The proposed law only permits oil-based products. Use of flower or raw marijuana would still be outlawed in this state.

Guest column: Marsha Blackburn on wrong side of net neutrality debate (Tennessean) Americans have grown all too accustomed to political posturing and outright doublespeak from our current Congress, but the dance being done by Tennessee’s own Representative Marsha Blackburn on the issue of Net Neutrality is truly something to behold. As chair of the House Communication and Technology Subcommittee, Rep. Blackburn applauded the Federal Communication Commission move to throw out its Net Neutrality rules. Established in 2015, these rules basically required Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) to sell the same speed internet access to everyone at the same price. They barred ISP’s from charging different rates based on the user, the content, the website, or other criteria. ISP’s also could not intentionally block or slow down specific content or websites.

Friday, January 26

Haslam to Give Final State of the State Monday (AP) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is scheduled to deliver his final State of the State speech. The Republican will address the state House and Senate Monday at 6 p.m. The event will be streamed online. Haslam will wrap up his second four-year term next January. The race to succeed him has drawn five leading Republicans and two Democrats. Haslam has announced a $30 million plan to address the opioid crisis as one of the top priorities for his final annual legislative session as governor.

Emergency room affected by opioid abuse (Citizen Tribune) One in six visits to Cookeville Regional Medical Center’s emergency room involves opioids. “We see overdoses, abscesses from needle use and an increase in Hepatitis B and C,” Dr. Sullivan Smith, emergency room physician,  said. “It’s bad.” But Gov. Bill Haslam’s TN Together, an aggressive, comprehensive plan to end Tennessee opioid epidemic, gives him hope that maybe something will work. One of Haslam’s proposals is already in effect at CRMC. Smith has been working with the hospital’s pharmacy crew to curb the use of opioids in the hospital setting.,25604

Fighting Opiod Addiction Is Not A One Size Fits All Fight (WATN) The Mid-South has some of the highest rankings in Opioid related deaths nationwide with Tennessee second in the nation. A new public service announcement hitting the airwaves focuses on a new approach to fighting the opioid crisis. The sound of a sizzling egg, the dark music and the voice telling us “this is your brain on drugs” is iconic. The commercial is gripping but with 500 opioid related deaths in the last 4 years health experts  say many didn’t get the picture. A new approach means to change that. Ron Bobal is a parent coach with the partnership for drug free kids helping other families fighting opioid addictions.

Tennessee’s Republican, Democratic legislators split on governor’s opioid plan (Times Free Press/Sher) Republican Lt. Gov. Randy McNally predicted Thursday that Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed “TN Together” plan to address the state’s opioid crisis will have broad backing among state lawmakers, but legislative Democrats continue to charge the proposal falls well short of the mark. “The governor, I think, will receive wide support from the Legislature,” McNally, the Senate speaker, told reporters during top GOP Senate leaders’ weekly news conference. McNally noted the $30 million proposal relies on law enforcement and interdictions, treatment and education, not just for the public but for physicians on prescribing patterns, along with limits on initial prescriptions on painkillers. Earlier, Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Jeff Yarbro, joined by fellow minority Senate and House Democrats, argued the plan falls short of what’s needed to address the epidemic.

Tennessee’s education chief reserved about her future as gubernatorial election looms (Tennessean) Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen is reserved about her future ahead of the November gubernatorial election. The state’s top education chief pointed instead to the time she is guaranteed to have left at the Tennessee Department of Education during a Monday interview with the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee. “This year I am focused on 2018,” McQueen said, who started her post in January 2015. “We have a lot of work to do. We want to set up the next governor, whoever that is, and whoever he or she appoints to be in a strong place.”

TSU Students Left Without Running Water In Dorm (WTVF) Students in a Tennessee State University dorm have gone without running water for nearly two weeks. on top of multiple other problems. The Wilson Residence Hall has made water a hot commodity. “I’m an out of state student so it’s $1 thousand every month to stay in a building with no hot water and no clean utilities to use,” said one student. The students did not want to be on camera for fear of retaliation, but they said no running water was just the final straw.

23 utility districts violated drinking water standard in 2017 (WSMV) Nearly two dozen utility districts across the state violated a drinking water standard in 2017, according to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Those violations stemmed from elevated levels of a contaminant in drinking water known as haloacetic acids. When consumed above the legal limit over many years, haloacetic acids may increase the risk of cancer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Regina Jackson said she received a series of notices from her local utility district that made her think twice about her tap water. “It’s very concerning to me,” said Jackson, who lives in the Frankewing area of Giles County. “I’m just helpless with the whole situation, that’s why I called [the I-Team].”

Nashville, state at forefront of autonomous car development (TN Ledger) Nashville is one of 10 cities worldwide chosen for an autonomous vehicles initiative launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies in New York and the Washington, D.C.-based Aspen Institute. The others are Austin, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Helsinki, London, Los Angeles, Paris, São Paulo, Tel Aviv and Washington D.C. The program, called the Bloomberg Aspen Initiative on Cities and Autonomous Vehicles, gives Nashville an edge in self-driving advances by supplying access to data and coaching from urban planners and other experts in order to help prepare the city for self-driving cars and how to use those cars to address transit issues.

Lawmakers Question TBI Director About Hiring Practices (WTVF) But the TBI director urged lawmakers to be careful about forcing him to give preference to veterans. Tennessee’s top cop faced questions Thursday on Capitol Hill about his hiring practices. It follows questions raised by an exclusive NewsChannel 5 investigation. But the director of the TBI urged lawmakers to be careful about forcing him to give preference to veterans who’ve served their country. “I don’t mind giving them all the preference that you tell me to,” Gwyn said in an appearance before several committees that control his agency’s future. At this side: his deputy director, Jason Locke. Last year, Locke’s son, a recent college graduate with no experience, beat out a thousand other candidates to become a TBI special agent.

Legislation could codify blockchain in Tennessee (Nashville Post) Local experts brief committee on benefits of technology. Tennessee — and Nashville in particular — could reap the economic fruits of a blockchain boom, but only with the help of the Tennessee General Assembly, according to local distributed ledger experts who briefed state legislators Wednesday. “We’re ripe for the development of this technology,” John Wagster, a Frost Brown Todd attorney whose practice includes blockchain and digital currency, said during a hearing of the Tennessee House’s business and utilities committee. “Clients ask, ‘Where should I establish my [blockchain] business?’ I wish I could say, ‘You should establish it in Tennessee.’ But right now, we can’t.”

Van Huss revives anti-abortion ‘heartbeat bill’ (Johnson City Press) A Jonesborough state legislator has revived the “heartbeat bill,” legislation that would ban most abortions from the point a fetal heartbeat is detected. Although the proposal has been criticized by both the pro-life and pro-choice camps, Rep. Micah Van Huss nonetheless reintroduced the bill Thursday after it was deferred last session by a 5-4 House Health Subcommittee vote. Saying it would eliminate about 90 percent of abortions in the state, Van Huss’ bill would make it a criminal offense for someone to abort a fetus after a heartbeat is detected in-utero, except in certain medical emergencies.

Reeves defeats Carr in Senate District 14 Republican primary (TN Journal/Humphrey) Murfreesboro businessman Shane Reeves defeated former state Rep. Joe Carr Thursday to win the Republican nomination in a Senate District 14 special election. Final unofficial results show Reeves with 4,720 votes to 2,556 for Carr (64.87 percent to 35.13 percent). Democrat Gayle Jordan, a Murfreesboro attorney, was unopposed for the Democratic nomination. She got 574 votes and will face Reeves on March 13 in the special general election to fill the seat vacated by former Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), who resigned to become state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Department’s rural development office in Tennessee.

Williamson County Businessman Bill Lee to launch first TV ad of 2018 governor race (Tennessean) Williamson County businessman and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee has announced the first television ad buy of the 2018 governor’s race. Lee’s 60-second ad titled “Why,” will run on cable and broadcast channels statewide from Jan. 27 to Feb. 3, and will be accompanied by a longer ad  on the campaign’s website and social media pages. The ad opens on what appears to be a foggy morning on Lee’s farm, with the candidate narrating a story he’s told repeatedly on the campaign trail of how the death of his first wife, Carol Ann Lee, was a turning point in his life and faith.

Candidate Kay White calls TN Governor forum a “Fake Debate” (WJHL) A Tri-Cities businesswoman who’s running for Governor in Tennessee says Tuesday night’s candidates forum in Nashville was nothing but a “fake debate.” Kay White is among the candidates registered with the state election office as having picked up paperwork to launch a campaign for Governor. But she was not invited to take part in the bipartisan education forum in Nashville which was organized in part by The SCORE Foundation.

Video: Rep. David Kustoff talks tax reform (Jackson Sun) Rep. David Kustoff (TN-08) sat with The Jackson Sun reporter to talk about his first year including the passages of the tax reform bill.

Phil Bredesen names campaign team for U.S. Senate run (Tennessean) Tennessee U.S. Senate candidate Phil Bredesen will lean on some of his closest advisers from his time as governor and a new crop of Democratic aides as he launches his first campaign in more than a decade. He’s also brought on the same political advertising and polling firms that he used during his past gubernatorial runs. Bredesen, who entered the race last month, named his campaign team on Thursday, appointing businesswoman Gina Lodge, former commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Human Services, campaign treasurer.

Reel campaign releases intro video (Politico) Matt Reel, a special forces Green Beret running for Congress in the Tennessee seat being vacated GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn, is releasing a new introduction video today to familiarize voters with Reel while he is on active duty. “We need leaders who put the country’s needs over their own political ambitions. And that’s why I’m running for Congress. The current leadership on both sides of the aisle is failing us,” Reel says in the video.

As Super Bowl looms, Blackburn launching radio ads encouraging standing during National Anthem (Tennessean) In the lead up to the Super Bowl, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn is launching a radio ad calling for all Americans to stand up during the National Anthem. The nearly one-minute and thirty second spot will run on radio stations throughout the state starting Friday, according to her campaign. “Veterans. They fought for our freedom and they deserve our respect every single day,” the ad begins, before cutting to Blackburn who vows support for veterans, Trump and the Star-Spangled Banner.

Crossing Party Lines (Memphis Flyer) The question of partisan fidelity predominates, one way or another, in several pending races this election year. The election lists are still forming, but already the number of unusual developments in the 2018 election season are way beyond the norm. Several of them cast a bit of light on the question of partisan identity. Where to start?  The question of party fidelity is also an issue in the reelection race of Democratic Senator Reginald Tate, who has drawn the ire of his party colleagues over the years for what some of them see as his collaboration with Republicans in the General Assembly.

Vice President Mike Pence coming to Nashville to speak at National Religious Broadcasters convention (Tennessean) Vice President Mike Pence will be coming to Nashville next month to speak on the first day of the National Religious Broadcasters’ annual convention. He will be speaking to the association of Christian communicators at 1 p.m. on Feb. 27, said Jerry A. Johnson, president and CEO of NRB, in a news release. The group’s annual convention is from Feb. 27 to March 2 at Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.

Moving Water (Memphis Flyer) State officials announced last week they’ve found a new spot on the Mississippi River for the “poopline” and that they’ve assembled a new team focused on Tennessee’s water future. A 35-mile pipeline from the Memphis Regional Megasite in Haywood County is still slated to dump 3.5 million gallons of treated wastewater into the river every day. But locals in Randolph, the original site of the pipe’s end, convinced state leaders that the spot on the river gets shallow or dries up completely in summer months. Pumping it there, they said, would leave the wastewater to gather in large, dirty pools instead of mixing with the massive volumes of Mississippi River water.

Are Work Requirements for Medicaid Doomed? (Governing) The first lawsuit fighting the Trump-approved policy was filed this week. If a court sides with opponents, work requirements could be dead before they even begin. It took 18 months — and a change in White House administration — for the federal government to give Kentucky the green light to make work a requirement for some low-income people to get health insurance. Now, the state might have to wait even longer. On Wednesday, The Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Health Law Program and the Kentucky Equal Justice Center filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on behalf of 15 Medicaid recipients in Kentucky who say they would be in danger of losing health coverage once the changes take effect.

Congress pushes broadband access ahead of Trump infrastructure proposal (The Hill) Congress is making a push to get rural internet access projects funded through President Trump’s promised $1.7 trillion infrastructure plan. Lawmakers representing rural areas have argued that many of their constituents are losing out on economic and educational resources due to a lack of broadband access. And as the president teases an infrastructure plan, members are stepping up their calls for increased funding. This week, leaders of the bipartisan House Rural Broadband Caucus raised their concerns about the possibility that the plan might not include any funding for rural internet connectivity.

Kansas website exposed state employees’ personal information: report (The Hill) The Kansas Secretary of State’s office on Thursday posted the personal information of thousands of state employees and officials on its website, including the last four digits of some individuals’ Social Security numbers. The disclosure was first reported by Gizmodo, which found information for employees at the Kansas Departments of State, Transportation, Education, Labor and other agencies posted on the site. The information was taken down about an hour after the media outlet notified the secretary of State’s office, Gizmodo reported. Kris Kobach, an ally of President Trump and a candidate for governor, is currently the Kansas secretary of State.


Editorial: Protecting Tennessee’s precious water supply (Johnson City Press) Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed a steering committee of government officials, business leaders and environmental advocates to formulate a plan to protect Tennessee’s valuable water supply. A draft of this plan, to be designated TN H2O, is expected to be on the governor’s desk by October. Haslam said protecting the availability of a clean and reliable water supply in Tennessee is vital to support this state’s growing population and sustain economic growth. “Abundant, clean water has been a strategic advantage for Tennessee and is critical to our quality of life,” Haslam said in a news release. “We need to ensure this critical natural resource is managed appropriately as our state continues to grow and prosper.”

Greg Johnson: Haslam creates state lab of democracy (News Sentinel) Gov. Bill Haslam has no background as a scientist, yet the businessman-turned-mayor-turned-governor mixes public policies to try to find the right formula for the Volunteer State. Haslam’s blend of pragmatic conservatism was not what U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis had in mind in 1932. Brandeis, citing federalism in his dissent in New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann, held that “a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” Thus the idea of states as “laboratories of democracy.”

Column: We Should Name a Street for MLK — but Not Charlotte Avenue (Nashville Scene) We shouldn’t have to trade in a street honoring a woman for one honoring King. Here are the streets named for prominent historical women in Nashville: Charlotte Pike, Granny White Pike, Rosa L. Parks Blvd., Anne Dallas Dudley Blvd. and possibly Acklen Avenue. Four and a half streets. We have some other streets named for women, like “Barbara Lynn Way,” but most of us aren’t driving down those streets. Now, according to Stephen Elliot’s story in the Nashville Post, Metro Councilmember Sharon Hurt wants to rename part of one of the oldest named streets in the city: The Tennessee State Capitol could soon have a new address, as At-large Metro Councilmember Sharon Hurt has filed an application to rename Charlotte Avenue between its downtown terminus and the Interstate-40 overpass in honor of the late civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. No.

Column: Why punish LG with tariffs as it creates jobs in America? (Leaf-Chronicle) In a triumph for contradictory double talk, the Trump administration this week imposed tariffs on a company that six months ago it praised as a sign of the strength of the U.S. economy. “This is exactly the kind of job creation and investment that the administration is seeking for American workers,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilber Ross said at the groundbreaking for a 600-employee LG Electronics plant in Clarksville, Tenn., on Aug. 24. “And I look forward to having LG’s high-quality home appliances made right here in the United States starting in early 2019.” Six months later, LG Electronics has been re-branded by the Trump administration as engaging in unfair trade practices.

Jack McElroy: Baumgartner embodied opioid crisis in Knoxville; may he now rest in peace (News Sentinel) I know I wasn’t alone in feeling an overwhelming sadness at the death of Richard Baumgartner. We weren’t close, but we’d crossed paths several times through the years. He was part of my 2004 Leadership Knoxville class, and it was a measure of the respect that others had for him that he was selected class representative after graduation.  I was in his courtroom a time or two, as well. In 2009, I faced his intimidating presence on the bench when defense attorneys in the Christian-Newsom murder trials asked him to order to stop posting anonymous comments. Comments were a big deal back then, and that horrendous case drew thousands.

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn: Unborn babies deserve right to life (Tennessean) In the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers very clearly laid out the first inherent right for all people: the right to life. The Creator blesses us with life, and it is up to us, through government and civil society, to protect and defend it. Sadly, the lives of the most vulnerable are often cast aside and denied the same rights as you and me. But here in Washington, we are doing everything we can to be their champions and to fight for the lives and the rights of the unborn.

Guest column: Respect people’s reproductive health, rights and choices (Tennessean) Reproductive health is under attack again in Tennessee: a federal appeals court has upheld the vote on a constitutional amendment paving the way for new restrictions, and a state politician has vowed to strip funding from crucially important health care providers. As some politicians try to make it harder to get care, many of us in the community want to lift barriers and improve access.

Thursday, January 25

Tennessee governor to give final State of the State Monday (AP) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is scheduled to deliver his final State of the State speech. The Republican will address the state House and Senate Monday at 6 p.m. The event will be streamed online. Haslam will wrap up his second four-year term next January. The race to succeed him has drawn five leading Republicans and two Democrats. Haslam has announced a $30 million plan to address the opioid crisis as one of the top priorities for his final annual legislative session as governor.

Gov. Haslam appoints new Commission on Pain and Addiction Medicine Education (WVLT) Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam announced Wednesday the names of members of the new Tennessee Commission on Pain and Addiction Medicine Education. The commission, which was established by executive order as part of the TN Together plan to help end the opioid epidemic, was charged with developing competencies for Tennessee’s medical education institutions that would address proper treatment for pain, safe and effective prescribing practices and proper diagnoses and treatment for people who may be abusing or misusing controlled substances. Haslam said Wednesday that once they were developed, the competencies would be available for adoption by the state’s medical schools for training for Tennessee’s future doctors, nurses, dentists and other prescribers.

Haslam administration begins rollout of $30 million plan to combat opioid epidemic (Tennessean) The Haslam Administration on Wednesday took its first formal steps to roll out a new $30 million effort to combat the state’s opioid epidemic, filing bills to limit prescriptions and to reduce sentences for prisoners who complete treatment programs. Gov. Bill Haslam also appointed 19 experts to a newly created commission that will make recommendations on how the state’s medical schools educate the next generation of nurses, doctors and dentists on how to avoid over-prescribing opioids.

Haslam visits Franklin school for ‘Capitol to Classroom’ program (WKRN) It’s not every day the governor stops by our local schools. But Governor Bill Haslam visited Freedom Intermediate School on Tuesday as part of his “Capitol to Classroom” program. Haslam says it’s a good way to see ways the state can improve when it comes to education. “You know, I think one of the things that we always want to make sure that we always have right is, I think, the evaluation process,” he said. “… And we talk about standards and specific standards and we put a lot of rigor in, and we we get a lot of feedback, if you’re expexting too much or too little.”

Tennessee Panel Developing Statewide Water Plan (EP Magazine) Expected population growth, “along with recent concerns over the utilization of the Memphis Sands Aquifer, droughts that have impacted numerous Tennessee communities, failures of aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, and interstate battles over water rights, all stress the need to develop a statewide plan for addressing water availability,” according to the governor’s office. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced Jan. 18 that he has appointed a steering committee to develop a statewide plan for future water availability in Tennessee. The plan, dubbed TN H2O, will include an assessment of current water resources and recommendations to help ensure the state has an abundance of water resources to support its future population and economic growth.

Haslam’s Opioid Battle Plan Targets The Next Generation Of Doctors (WPLN) Governor Bill Haslam’s 10-point plan to attack the opioid epidemic announced this week puts some new focus on Tennessee’s medical schools. On Wednesday, he named a 19-member commission to develop a list of related skills for the next generation of doctors. Even for those who went through medical school in the last decade, there was very little education about the risk of addiction, says Victor Wu. He’s the chief medical officer at TennCare. “I think about my own medical training, which wasn’t that long ago, and we received very little education about opioids and the dangers and the risk and how to prescribe responsibly,” he said, referencing the potential benefits of Haslam’s commission. “I don’t remember [learning] how to have difficult conversations about individuals coming in to seek pain medications.”

Opioids Cause Problems For Booking, Jails (WTVF) Opioids caused Hill Detention Center in Nashville to quadruple the amount of ambulance calls for bookings where the person arrested had overdosed on drugs. According to Sheriff Daron Hall, law enforcement are encountering more people who try to consume drugs before their arrest to avoid potential charges. However, the act of eating prescription pills or using heroin results in overdoses that have to be treated at booking, or often times, by hospital staff. “It’s not unusual for people who are being arrested to ingest what they’ve been using to avoid the arrest, believe it or not,” said Hall. “And that ingestion, a few hours later, can kill them.”

Blue Book dedicated to Haslam (Times Gazette) Gov. Haslam, a native Knoxvillian, was elected as Tennessee’s 49th governor in 2010 and re-elected in 2014 with the largest victory in modern Tennessee history. Major accomplishments from his two terms include tremendous strides in higher education and economic development as well as a historically low unemployment rate. “Over the course of his tenure as governor, I have come to know Governor Haslam as an inquisitive, authentic and thoughtful leader who has consistently sought to reshape how government functions to best serve the people of Tennessee,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “I have found Governor Haslam to be a man of integrity who is honest and kind to others–a decent man who seeks to do the right thing even at personal political risk.”

American Lung Association: Tennessee needs to do more to stop tobacco use (Johnson City Press) According to the American Lung Association’s 2018 “State of Tobacco Control” report, Tennessee earned mixed grades on its tobacco policies. The association said Gov. Bill Haslam and the state legislature need to enact what they say are proven policies that aim to reduce tobacco use and secondhand smoke in public establishments. Dr. Hadii Mamudu, an East Tennessee State University associate professor of public health who has done extensive research on tobacco policies, said there has not been much legislative progress since former Gov. Phil Bredesen raised taxes on cigarettes.

Domestic violence presents unique challenge for law enforcement, victims seeking justice (Times Free Press) It’s impossible to say exactly how many domestic violence incidents occur every year because of the many factors preventing victims from coming forward, but according to statistics from the federal Bureau of Justice, from 2006-2015, only about 56 percent of the estimated 1.3 million nonfatal domestic violence incidents annually in the U.S. were reported to police. While year-end crime numbers for 2017 carried positive news about decreasing gang shootings, they also showed a persistent portion of Chattanooga’s homicides continue to stem from domestic violence. Police believe that five of the 34 killings seen in the city last year resulted from domestic violence. While that constitutes only 15 percent of the total, such situations come with their own sets of challenges for authorities looking to interrupt violent cycles before they become fatal.

State report: Golf trips by UT athletic department staffers violated policy (Times Free Press) A state office tasked with investigating allegations of fraud, waste and abuse in government and publicly funded entities has released three reports in the past five weeks involving the University of Tennessee athletic department. The latest investigation, released Wednesday by the state comptroller’s office, details how athletic department staff members violated university policy by accepting golf trips from prospective or current business partners.

State investigation finds UT athletics staff accepted trips, entertainment from vendors (WATE) An investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office revealed a number of issues related to the University of Tennessee’s Sports Surface Management. The issues include trips and entertainment that were provided to UT Athletics staff by a department vendor and prospective vendor. The investigation began after the University of Tennessee Department of Audit and Compliance notified the Comptroller’s Office of possible issues. Investigators determined the director of sports surface management violated university policy when he accepted at least two paid trips and related entertainment from a department vendor which had previously been awarded an equipment lease worth $763,898, according to the Comptroller’s Office.

Comptroller: Tennessee officials accepted trips from vendor (AP) Tennessee athletics department officials accepted trips and entertainment from a vendor and prospective vendor, according to the state comptroller’s office. The comptroller’s office said Tuesday that Tennessee’s director of sports surface management accepted two paid golf trips from a vendor who had been awarded an equipment lease worth $763,898. Tennessee athletic department spokesman Tom Satkowiak said the employee received a written warning and letter of admonishment in his personnel file. Although nobody is named in the report, Tennessee’s staff directory lists Darren Seybold as director of sports surface management.

Lawmaker Wants Parents Warned About Lead In School Water (WTVF) Lead is an invisible toxin sometimes found in drinking water that can affect children’s brains, causing learning and behavioral problems. Now, following a NewsChannel 5 investigation, a Nashville lawmaker is pushing legislation to make sure parents are told if there’s a problem. “People need to know if there is lead in the drinking water so they can take action,” said Rep. Jason Powell, D-Nashville. “They can bring bottled water. They can make sure that they voice their concerns to the school to say ‘Are you going to do something to stop us from having lead in our drinking water?'”

New Bill Would Allow Medical Marijuana In Tennessee (WTVF) Two Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill that would legalize a form of medical marijuana in Tennessee. SB1710 or the “Medical Cannabis Act” would allow people with specific medical conditions to have access to cannabis oil.  It would not allow recreational use of marijuana. Sen. Steve Dickerson, a Republican from Nashville, who is also a doctor, is sponsoring the bill for the fourth year. Rep. Jeremy Faison, a Republican from Cosby, is the sponsor in the House.

Changes coming to how AG is appointed? (Nashville Post) In 2017, the state Senate began the lengthy process of getting a constitutional amendment that would allow for the popular election of Tennessee’s attorney general. The measure died in the House later that spring. In 2018, Republican Senators are trying again — except this time, they’d get to appoint the AG, not the voters of Tennessee. On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee took the first step toward a different constitutional amendment that would make the attorney general an officer appointed by a simple majority vote of both chambers every four years, not unlike the state comptroller and treasurer and the secretary of state.

‘Christian conservative’ former judge joins GOP race in 6th Congressional District (TN Journal/Humphrey) Former Rutherford County Chancellor Robert “Bob” Corlew, who retired as a judge in 2014, has become the third Republican to announce as a candidate in for the 6th Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Diane Black, who is running for governor. Corlew describes himself as a Christian conservative who will work for President Donald Trump if elected. He joins former state Agriculture Commissioner John Rose and state Rep. Judd Matheny of Tullahoma in the contest.

Pro-Trump former judge files to run for Black’s seat (Nashville Post) A former judge and president of Lions Club International has filed paperwork to run for the 6th Congressional District seat being vacated by Diane Black. Bob Corlew of Mount Juliet promises on a campaign website to support President Donald Trump, “build the wall” and “restore the rule of law.” Corlew was president last year of Lions Club International, a service organization with members in more than 200 countries. He was also a general sessions and chancery court judge for 30 years until his retirement in 2014, according to a campaign biography.

TBI Raids Home Of TN Representative Candidate (WTVF) Tennessee Bureau of Investigation raided the home of a man running for State Representative. He said it was a horrible situation he will never forget. Jeremy Hayes, who is running for State Representative District 57, said the search warrant, which was issued at the request of the District Attorney General Tommy Thompson, was politically motivated. A spokesperson with the TBI said the warrant was issued to investigate allegations that Hayes resides outside of the district for which he is running for office, and that he cast a ballot in a district in which he does not live.

New Candidate (Politico) Republican Bob Corlew is running for Tennessee’s 6th Congressional District. Per a press release from his campaign: “After graduating from law school, Bob served in the U.S. Army at Fort Knox, ultimately earning the rank of first lieutenant. Bob has also served as captain of the Tennessee National Guard and as a major in the United States Army Reserve.” Corlew, who is a former president of the International Lions Club, plans to put seven figures of his own money in the race.

‘Spoofed’ robocall from Farragut Press slams Congressional candidate Tim Burchett (News Sentinel) Some Knox County residents received a phone call Tuesday night from a number tied to the Farragut Press newspaper that slammed Knox County Mayor and Second District Congressional candidate, Tim Burchett. Farragut Press Publisher Tony Cox posted on the site’s Facebook and Twitter accounts Tuesday night that the number used in the calls was spoofed and the newspaper had nothing to do with it.

Candidate Kay White calls TN Governor forum a “Fake Debate” (WJHL) A Tri-Cities businesswoman who’s running for Governor in Tennessee says last night’s candidates forum in Nashville was nothing but a “fake debate.” Kay White is among the candidates registered with the state election office as having picked up paperwork to launch a campaign for Governor. But she was not invited to take part in the bipartisan education forum in Nashville which was organized in part by The SCORE Foundation. “I was not invited to this event therefore it is a “Fake Debate” and does not represent the views of ALL of the Candidates,” White said in a statement before the debate. Organizers only invited candidates who had been elected to public office and who had raised at least half a million dollars by last June.

Meet the candidate: Karl Dean (Wilson Post) Seven candidates have announced their intentions to be the next governor of Tennessee. Republican candidates in the gubernatorial race, which concludes on Election Day, Nov. 6, 2018, include Bill Lee, Mae Beavers, Diane Black, Randy Boyd and Beth Harwell. Democratic candidates are Karl Dean and Craig Fitzhugh.

Video: Senator Lamar Alexander plays tunes written by Senator Orrin Hatch (Tennessean) Senator Lamar Alexander played a few tunes written by Senator Orrin Hatch while they discuss the Music Modernization Act.

Billionaire Koch brothers target Nashville as lobbying group enters mass-transit debate (Nashville Business Journal) Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group funded by billionaires Charles and David Koch, is entering Nashville’s mass-transit debate. The Tennessee chapter of the national lobbying group has launched a “Stop The Train” campaign and website urging residents to write members of Metro Council to vote against the “reckless spending” plan. Tuesday night, the plan cleared its second Metro Council vote; a third and final vote is slated for Feb. 6. The form letter says: “Boosting our sales-tax rate to the highest in the nation to pay for it is [foolish]. … I implore you to be a responsible steward of my tax dollars, my children’s tax dollars, and the tax dollars of all Nashvillians who stand to lose from Mayor Barry’s transit plan. Please vote against this irresponsible plan.”

LG to Raise Prices on Washers After Trump Imposes Steep Tariffs (Wall Street Journal) LG Electronics Inc. 066570 0.98% has told retailers it plans to raise prices on its laundry appliances following President Donald Trump’s approval this week of steep tariffs on imported washing machines. “As a result of the trade situation, we will be initiating pricing actions, which will be sent under separate cover shortly,” Thomas Yoon, an executive at the South Korean manufacturer, told retailers in a memo dated Wednesday and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Industry experts say they expect LG will raise published retail prices on at least some of its washer and dryer models by approximately $50. Washers and dryers are often sold in pairs.

Kansas Moving Forward With New Prison Built by Private Firm (New York Times) Kansas is moving forward with plans to have the nation’s largest private-prison operator build a new state prison after departing Republican Gov. Sam Brownback cut a political deal to win over wary GOP legislative leaders Wednesday. The Legislature’s eight top leaders approved a plan to have Tennessee-based CoreCivic Inc. build a 2,432-bed prison near Kansas City to replace the state’s oldest and largest correctional facility there. The state would buy the new prison in Lansing over 20 years through a lease with the company, paying a total of $362 million.

Blount County, Townsend say they can’t regulate Little River tubing (WBIR) Neighbors in Townsend have voiced concerns for years about the tubers that flock to a stretch of the Little River in the summertime, but those residents face a setback in the fight after learning the city and county can’t help them regulate river traffic. “The biggest problem we see is the nuisance,” said Pat Jenkins, who has owned property along the river for 25 years. “The river is supposed to be enjoyed by everyone, not just tubers.” Jenkins said trespassing, littering and noise are all problems he deals with every summer. “They come up on our property to change their kids’ diapers, and the diapers we find along the shore,” he said. Jenkins and dozens of neighbors have been asking the Townsend and Blount County governments to step in and regulate commercial tubing on the Little River.

Bi-County needs $2.3 million plan to cap finished sections of landfill (Leaf-Chronicle) Now that Bi-County landfill has the state’s OK to expand, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation wants to know how Bi-County plans to pay for some long overdue issues that could cost $2.3 million. Because Bi-County doesn’t have the money set aside to cap and close some completed parts of the landfill, TDEC is asking for a plan forward by Feb. 15. Board members learned during a Wednesday meeting that about 10 acres filled with garbage should have been closed already, and 19 acres where demolition debris is buried also should have been closed once it reached full capacity.


Editorial: General Assembly should support these bills (Times News) Hundreds of lives could be saved annually if the Tennessee General Assembly follows through on its commitment to make fighting the horrific opioid crisis in the state its top priority. But a variety of other bills also deserve their support, including reinstating a work requirement for able-bodied adults who rely on welfare programs, truth in sentencing, continuing education reform, and support for Aerospace Park at Tri-Cities Airport.

Sam Stockard: State Voters Have More to Fear Than Russian Meddling (Memphis Daily News) About 30 years ago, my wife and I were hanging out with another couple and decided to make a big night of it. We’d go out for Mexican food and then rent a movie. After we had some Mexican grub, we went to Kroger to find a flick. As we perused the selections, my friend said, “What about a Russian spy movie?” To which his girlfriend (future wife, now ex-wife) whined, “John, you know I don’t speak Russian.” (His name is changed to protect the innocent.) Wife Diane and I have gotten a lot of mileage out of that one over the years. We can hardly settle on a movie without considering a Russian spy film, which leads to inevitable punch line. And every time she says, “Quit rushin’ me” when I’m in a hurry to go somewhere, I respond, “You know I don’t speak Russian.”

Frank Daniels: Newspapers make Public Notice work for Tennessee (Jackson Sun) Each year a few elected officials will sponsor a law or an ordinance to change the way the voters who elected them are notified about actions government wishes to take. 2018 will be no exception. Generally, our officials say, the proposed changes are to make government notices, and the legally required notices for property foreclosures, bankruptcies or unclaimed property, less expensive to publish. “Anybody can see them on our government website,” they proclaim, “and we will save taxpayers money.” But that’s not the whole story, is it?

Wednesday, January 24

Gov. Bill Haslam visits Franklin school as part of Capitol to the Classroom tour (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Haslam visited a Franklin school Tuesday as part of his Capitol to the Classroom tour, where he visits teachers who’ve shared their input on education policy. Teachers on Haslam’s Teacher’s Cabinet, including Freedom Intermediate School’s Angie Tisdale, usually travel to Nashville to talk policy and concerns. But during the tour, Haslam gets a glimpse of what’s happening in the classroom. Tisdale’s 6th grade science class was loud with discussion Tuesday morning.

Gov. Haslam introduces five-day limit for initial opioid prescriptions (WCYB-TV) Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam says a new, $30 million dollar plan will be a monumental step forward in the war on drugs. Numbers from Tennessee’s State Health Department show the opioid epidemic kills three Tennesseans a day. Some of the hardest hit areas are right here in northeast Tennessee. In 2016, 36 people died of opioid overdoses in Sullivan County. Washington County saw 30 deaths, while Johnson County had the fewest deaths of our local counties with just one. “When there’s 7.6 million prescriptions written for only 6.6 million Tennesseans, anyone can do the math and see there’s a problem,” Governor Bill Haslam said on Monday while unveiling his opioid attack plan.

Responses to Haslam opioid plan vary (Nashville Post) On Monday afternoon, Gov. Bill Haslam announced TN Together, a plan to address the opioid epidemic that he says is a “an aggressive and comprehensive plan.” Democrats expressed concerns that $25 million for treatment would not be enough, especially with the lack of Medicaid expansion. “This is no time for a standard-issue, incremental plan,” said Sen. Jeff Yarbro. The Tennessee Medical Association — one group that could possibly battle Haslam’s proposed five-day limit on opioid prescriptions, said it is waiting to see more specifics of the plan (presumably coming next week with the release of the budget).

00 days after Trump’s opioid emergency declaration, officials see little impact in Tennessee (WBIR) Back in October, President Donald Trump called the opioid crisis a “national shame,” and promised to renew the fight against addiction in the U.S. The declaration was originally set to expire Tuesday, and in the 90 days since, Tennessee and Knox County officials say they’ve seen little impact. “Our efforts to reduce the impact of the opioid crisis in Tennessee have been underway for some time, and weren’t impacted by the declaration,” said Shelley Walker, director of communications for the Tennessee Department of Health.

Local DA, hospitals react to Gov. Haslam’s plan to fight opioid epidemic (WJHL) Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam unveiled a sweeping, multi-million dollar plan to fight the state’s opioid epidemic. During a news conference in Nashville Monday, the governor unveiled the $30 million plan called TN Together. The plan will focus on three components: prevention, treatment and law enforcement. “I think it’s a good start; I think it’s a good set of ideas,” Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus said. For Staubus, some of those ideas stand out. “Particularly increasing the punishment for fentanyl,” Staubus said. “I’m glad to see that the governor incorporated that in his proposal.”

‘Time is of the essence’ for Hawkins to approve federal opioid lawsuit (Times News) “Time is of the essence” for the Greene County law firm of Jessee and Jessee to get Hawkins County’s final approval to file a federal nuisance lawsuit against opioid distributors. Attorney Crystal Jessee told the County Commission on Monday all firms filing similar lawsuits are participating in a conference on Jan. 31 in Ohio, where the lawsuits are being filed. Public Safety Committee Chairman Bob Palmer scheduled a special called meeting for Monday at 3:30 p.m. and invited all commissioners to attend to ask questions before final permission to file the lawsuit is given.

Tracking FAFSAS (Politico) The National College Access Network is out with a new online tool that tracks and ranks states’ progress toward getting 100 percent of their high school seniors completing the application for federal student aid. The tracker shows week-to-week progress, and allows for comparisons between the 2017-18 and 2018-19 cycles at the national, state and city levels. Tennessee was in the lead, with a 60 percent completion rate, as of Jan. 12, the last time the tracker was updated. Alaska, where fewer than 20 percent of seniors have completed the FAFSA, was in last place.

Dickson Library gets digital grant as rural broadband talks heat up (Tennessean) The Dickson County Library was recently awarded a state grant for instructing citizens on using software and the internet, including the following topics: Internet Searching; Practical Application of Word, Excel; Social Media; and Business Branding. The $600 grant, which is part of the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act, will go toward paying an instructor who cannot be a library employee and must have knowledge to conduct the classes. Library Director Tamara Hammer said instructors are being sought. Instructing pay is $50 per month. The grants are made possible by a partnership between the state Department of Economic and Community Development and the State Library and Archives.

Fundraising effort seeks to finance UT Knoxville LGBT center without state money (TN Journal/Humphrey) An effort called “Vol Means All” is underway to fully fund operations at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s LGBT student center without government support, according to Out and About in Nashville. The first official fundraiser will be Feb. 1 in Nashville with UT-Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport on hand. Chad Goldman, a UT alum who was born and raised in Nashville, is coordinating the effort. The California resident was struck by the Tennessee legislature’s decision to defund the Pride Center at UT-Knoxville for one year.

State Dropping Plans to Dump Megasite Wastewater Near Randolph (Memphis Daily News) After vocal opposition from residents in and around the community of Randolph, Tennessee, state officials have announced they are withdrawing their current plans for the Memphis Regional Megasite’s 35-mile long wastewater pipeline. In its place, the Tennessee Department of General Services, which is handling the application process for the state, will submit an amended application to extend the pipeline an additional four miles to a deeper section of the Mississippi River that also avoids Randolph.

Liquor, grocery stores press lawmakers for Sunday wine, spirits sales options (Tennessean) Tennessee liquor and grocery retailers urged lawmakers on Tuesday to permit Sunday sales of wine and liquor. The legislative effort would allow them to benefit from an additional day of sales and better serve consumers, they said. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, and Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, would align hours of liquor and wine sales with beer sales, removing Sunday and holiday restrictions. “Sunday sales is going to help a lot of stores stay in business,” Chester Crowley, owner of MC’s Wine and Liquor in Knoxville, said at a House committee hearing.

Proposed bill could expand wine, liquor sales to Sundays in Tennessee (WKRN) A new bill being introduced before Tennessee lawmakers could expand the sale of wine to Sunday. Under current law, both grocery stores and liquor stores are not allowed to sell wine and liquor on major holidays and between 11 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Monday. The bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Gerald McCormick and Sen. Bill Ketron, would align hours of liquor and wine sales with beer sales. The proposal comes almost two years after lawmakers voted to allow the sale of wine in grocery stores. Several alcohol retailers will speak at the capitol Monday and the House State Government Committee will hold a hearing on the issue at noon.

Bill Would Allow Sale of Wine, Liquor On Sundays (WTVF) Wine and liquor could soon be sold in stores on Sundays if a bill filed in the state legislature becomes law. Currently, only beer is permitted for sale on Sundays in Tennessee. The new bill calls for wine and liquor to be available any time beer is, that includes Sundays and on certain holidays. “I’ve heard in the check out line, people that have had less than favorable things to say about the law,” said state representative Gerald McCormick. “My thoughts are if you can sell beer on those days, you should be able to sell liquor and wine.” The bill was first filed in 2017, but a subcommittee suggested the bill be amended and returned this year. Supporters include many liquor and wine retail stores as well as some grocery store chains, such as Kroger.

Democrats introduce Tenneseee Net Neutrality bill (TN Journal/Humphrey) Press release from legislative Democrats on HB1755: In the wake of the FCC’s recent vote to repeal net neutrality regulations, State Representative John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) and State Senator Lee Harris (D-Memphis) have introduced the “Tennessee Net Neutrality and Internet Consumer Protection Act” to enact and enforce net neutrality rules at the state level. State legislators in Washington State, New York, California and Massachusetts have introduced similar legislation in recent months.

Tennessee lawmakers seek to re-impose ‘net neutrality’ rules on state broadband providers (Times Free Press) Two Tennessee Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday introduced legislation aimed at forcing major internet providers to maintain “net neutrality” in their operations or face losing state and local government contracts while also leaving the companies open to being sued. “The CEO of AT&T, the CEO of Comcast shouldn’t be able to decide what websites, what services, what piece of information over the internet everyday Tennesseans have access to,” Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris, D-Memphis, told reporters at a news conference announcing the bill. “Only everyday Tennesseans should be able to decide that.”

Some States Want to Save Net Neutrality, But Can They? (Governing) Since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed net neutrality rules last month, some governors and lawmakers have taken steps to restore those regulations in their states. On Monday, Montana became the first to make it official: Gov. Steve Bullock signed an executive order requiring internet service providers (ISPs) with state contracts to abide by the FCC’s old rules requiring providers to treat all internet content equally with regards to access and download speeds. Lawmakers in California, New York, Rhode Island, Nebraska, Washington and Massachusetts have also introduced similar bills to varying degrees of reach.

Net Neutrality Fight Shifts to the States (Stateline) While Congress wrestles with whether to restore net neutrality rules after the Federal Communications Commission scrapped them last month, a growing number of states have decided to take on the issue themselves. Legislators in at least 15 states, from California to Rhode Island, have introduced bills that would create state net neutrality laws or use other approaches to require that internet service providers follow net neutrality requirements in some way to ensure an open and equal internet. Last week, nearly two dozen state attorneys general, all of them Democrats, filed a lawsuit to block the FCC’s rollback of net neutrality. And just this week, Montana Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock was the first governor to mandate that internet service providers that sign state contracts follow net neutrality standards.

TBI Hiring Practices Spark New Veterans Legislation (WTVF) A NewsChannel 5 investigation of the hiring practices inside Tennessee’s top law enforcement agency has prompted two Democratic lawmakers to introduce new legislation. They want to make it clear that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and other state agencies must give Tennessee veterans a fighting chance at landing state jobs. “I don’t think we intended to tell them, give them a name of who to hire,” said Rep. Joe Pitts, a Clarksville Democrat who represents the area near Fort Campbell.

Howell’s TennCare bill attempt to ‘move people off dependency on government’  (Daily Post Athenian) A local legislator is attempting to make it a requirement to work to receive taxpayer funds. State Rep. Dan Howell (R-Georgetown) is working on a bill that would “seek to remove the waiver that doesn’t have work requirements” from TennCare in the state. Howell said the work requirements would apply only to people who are able-bodied without children under the age of six, and they would need to work at least 20 hours per week. Howell said that volunteer work and being involved in a technical program, such as at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) in Athens, would also count toward the work requirement. “The whole goal is to try to move people off dependency on government,” Howell said. “Welfare was never meant to be a lifestyle.”

Tennessee gubernatorial candidates: Student testing, teacher evaluations must improve (Tennessean) Five of Tennessee’s leading gubernatorial candidates on Tuesday evening touted the need for student tests that work and teacher evaluations that are reliable. The cordial hourlong forum at Belmont University’s Curb Event Center featured few disagreements and plenty of promises from the three Republicans and two Democrats on stage. The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), Belmont, the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee and the NewsChannel5 Network hosted the forum.  Each candidate favored strengthening standardized tests and increasing trust in teacher evaluations, offering several solutions. While obvious differences were rare, candidates did offer very different positions on two key issues.

Broad Support For Pre-K, Raising Teacher Pay As Gubernatorial Candidates Talk Education (WPLN) Preschool programs and raising the pay for teachers both got votes of confidence, as five of the major candidates for governor lined up at Belmont University Tuesday night to discuss education. Sharing the stage for one of the first times this election year, the three Republicans and two Democrats who spoke at a forum organized by the Nashville-based education non-profit SCORE each argued that higher salaries are needed to attract and keep good teachers.

Six things we heard during Tennessee’s first gubernatorial forum on education (Chalkbeat Tennessee) Tennessee voters got their first good look at most candidates for governor during an education forum televised statewide Tuesday evening. While few sharp differences emerged during the hour-long discussion, the exception was the issue of offering in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants, which split along party lines. Meanwhile, a question about whether the candidates sent their children to public schools provided a glimpse at their personal family choices.

Tennessee gubernatorial forum takeaways: No winners, no losers (Tennessean) In one of the first big gubernatorial forums of 2018, five leading candidates engaged in a cordial and metered discussion on education.  The forum, hosted by the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee, the NewsChannel5 Network, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) and Belmont University, offered many Tennessee voters a first look at candidates expected to be on primary and general election ballots later this year.

How did Tennessee’s candidates for governor answer 3 key questions? (Tennessean) Five candidates for governor met Tuesday for a gubernatorial forum on education. Here are their answers to three key questions. The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), Belmont University, the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee and the NewsChannel5 Network hosted the forum. It was held at Belmont’s Curb Event Center.

Video: Analysis after tonight’s Tennessee gubernatorial forum on education (Tennessean) The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), Belmont University, the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee and the NewsChannel5 Network are partnering to host the first televised statewide gubernatorial forum of this year’s election. Tennessee’s next governor will face a number of crucial challenges, and many of those will revolve around the way students learn in schools, colleges and technical programs. Join the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee for analysis starting at 6 p.m. and again at 8:15 p.m. after the forum at Belmont’s Curb Event Center.

5 candidates for governor met today to discuss education. Diane Black skipped and went to a fundraiser instead. (Tennessean) Five candidates for Tennessee governor met to discuss education issues on Tuesday in Nashville — the first 2018 gubernatorial forum broadcast on TV. But U.S. Rep. Diane Black, one of the most well-known candidates in the race, decided to go to a fundraiser instead. Black declined to participate in the forum because of a scheduling conflict. According to an invitation obtained by the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee, she was attending a campaign reception at Southeast Venture, a development firm near 100 Oaks, that cost $250 per couple to attend and included hors d’oeuvres.

Video: Gubernatorial candidates speak on education (Tennessean) Gubernatorial candidates Randy Boyd, Craig Fitzhugh, Karl Dean, Beth Harwell, Mae Beavers and Bill Lee speak on education. Michael Schwab.

Immigrant Tuition Splits Tennessee Governor’s Field In Forum (AP) Candidates for governor in Tennessee largely agreed on broad issues facing education during the race’s first televised forum, except for a partisan split on in-state tuition for immigrants whose parents brought or kept them in the country illegally. The Republicans at the State Collaborative on Reforming Education forum Tuesday, House Speaker Beth Harwell and businessmen Randy Boyd and Bill Lee, voiced opposition to offering the tuition break at state colleges and universities. The Democrats, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, said offering the in-state break to those immigrants would be the right thing to do.

Cohen Skeptical End of Shutdown Will Resolve DACA Standoff (Memphis Daily News) A deal in Washington to end a federal government shutdown Monday, Jan. 22, after three days extends federal funding of government operations through Feb. 8. The U.S. Senate and House votes approving the continuing resolution drew responses from state and local representatives in Congress that fell along partisan lines, but in some cases left out any reference to which party is to blame. Democratic U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen voted for the continuing resolution but expressed concern that House Speaker Paul Ryan has not joined Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s pledge to bring the issue of a replacement for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – or DACA – to a vote.

Crowd Protests TVA President, Possible Rate Increases (Memphis Flyer) Protesters gathered outside of City Hall Tuesday ahead of the Tennessee Valley Authority president Bill Johnson’s presentation to a Memphis City Council committee on possible rate increases. Johnson is slated to pitch a 1.5 percent increase for Memphis Light, Gas, and Water customers, as well as additional monthly mandatory fees. The mandatory flat-rate fees would charge all customers the same regardless of how much electricity they use, and some believe this would increase the energy burden for low-income households in the city. Protesters, sporting posters, said TVA’s proposal is needed because of the company’s poor planning and bad investments in “dirty energy.”

Manufacturers Fight Over New Tariffs’ Effect on U.S. Jobs (Wall Street Journal) President Donald Trump’s move to slap tariffs on imported solar panels and washing machines is meant to revive domestic industries struggling to fend off foreign competition. But in the affected sectors, there is little agreement on whether it will actually jump-start U.S. manufacturing and jobs. Whirlpool’s South Korean competitors said workers at their own U.S. factories will be hurt, along with American consumers, who they and others predict will pay higher prices. Samsung Electronics Co. said it has hired more than 600 workers for a washer factory in South Carolina. LG Electronics Inc., meanwhile, is racing to build a factory in Tennessee, which it plans to open by year’s end. David MacGregor, an appliance-industry analyst at Longbow Research, said LG and Samsung, already facing big challenges as they ramp up their U.S. washer factories, now will have to deal with a tariff on imported parts. “The president is playing hardball,” Mr. MacGregor said.

Trump action on tariffs triggers GOP alarm (The Hill) Congressional Republicans and conservative groups are expressing worry that President Trump’s decision to slap hefty tariffs on imports will hurt consumers and the broader economy and lead to retaliation by major trading partners. Trump made his first hard move toward a more protectionist trade strategy Monday when he imposed significant tariffs on solar panels and washing machines.  John Taylor, senior vice president for government relations at LG Electronics USA, said the company has answered Trump’s call to create more U.S. jobs, but the tariffs could stymie their efforts to expand here. LG is building its corporate headquarters in New Jersey, a new electric vehicles components plant in Michigan and a new washing machine plant in Tennessee. “The tariffs aren’t about unfair trade; there is no unfair trade in this case. And it’s not really even about domestic manufacturing,” Taylor said at the Heritage event. “What’s this really about?  It’s a textbook case of how certain companies really can game the process and use the trade laws to try to accomplish what they can’t in the marketplace,” he said.

Walmart says wage bump, bonuses will put $40 million in Tennessee worker’s pockets (Commercial Appeal) Recently announced wage increases and one-time bonuses will put an extra $40 million in pockets of Walmart Inc. workers in Tennessee this year, the retailer estimates. Walmart said bonuses and higher starting wages, effective Feb. 17, will benefit about 25,832 Walmart and Sam’s Club employees in Tennessee. Bonuses to eligible full- and part-time hourly workers will total an estimated $11,254,100 in the state. Higher wages will affect about 18,789 employees and add about $28.7 million to their paychecks.

FedEx VP talks global trade changes (Memphis Business Journal) If a shipment going from one country to another seems simple, think again. Cindy Allen, vice president of regulatory affairs and compliance for FedEx Trade Networks Inc., tackled the topic as the guest speaker of the Memphis World Trade Club’s Jan. 18 luncheon, focusing on three main areas during her talk: U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection (CBP), the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (TFTEA) and e-commerce. For the past several decades, CBP has taken a more informative stance on trade as it pertains to regulations and responsibilities, but those days are over, Allen said.

Working Americans using less health care, but paying more, report says (Times Free Press) Workers in the U.S. used fewer health care services but paid more for health care in 2016 than in previous years, according to a report released Tuesday. Among people with employer-sponsored insurance and their dependents, health care spending increased by 4.6 percent in 2016 compared to 4.1 percent in 2015. The analysis from the independent, nonpartisan Health Care Cost Institute looked at spending, prices and health care utilization trends from commercial claims data. Nearly all of the spending growth can be attributed to price increases, not to increases in utilization, said Niall Brennan, president of Health Care Cost Institute.

Little River tubing a federal issue, Blount County tells Townsend residents (Daily Times) Townsend property owners seeking help from the city or Blount County to address issues with commercial tubing on Little River learned Monday they may need to go to federal court instead. Because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers considers the river “navigable,” that allows it to be used for commercial and recreational purposes. Changing that designation would require a federal decision, Katie Kerr, county director of purchasing, explained to about three dozen people attending Monday’s meeting in Townsend. Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell asked Kerr to review the legal issues because she also is an attorney, and another county employee studying for the bar exam assisted.

Johnson City ranked 56th in ‘Top 100 Best Places to Live’ (Johnson City Press) Johnson City has once again won a spot in a national ranking of small and mid-sized cities across the country. On Tuesday, the city was included in’s annual list of Top 100 Best Places to Live. Coming in at 56 in the data-driven rankings, the city outpaced more than 2,100 cities with populations between 20,000 and 350,000 based on a survey of factors including affordability, education, income, health care, transportation, recreation, walkability and natural beauty.


Judge Seth Norman: Big pharma likes to treat opioid addiction with medication. Is that a problem? (Tennessean) I would like to bring to the public’s attention difficulties I see regarding the future of persons addicted to opioids. For more than 20 years I have operated long-term treatment facilities for nonviolent felony offenders. These facilities have always operated as abstinence-based treatment programs. The theory being that one must stop using drugs of any type to be successful. Now there is a movement about for medication assisted treatment. Recently the media has chastised U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Brentwood Republican, for sponsoring a bill that limited the Drug Enforcement Agency’s ability to control the flow of opioids in this country. They point out that she received $120,000 in campaign contributions from big pharma.

Frank Cagle: Let electric co-ops bring broadband to rural areas (News Sentinel) Will Republican state legislators listen to their president, or are they going to continue to kowtow to the cable companies, preventing broadband internet service in some rural areas? President Donald Trump came to Nashville and pointed out the simple truth. We cannot have economic progress in rural Tennessee in this day and age without decent internet service. It is not unreasonable to compare today to the days when the Tennessee Valley Authority brought electricity to valley farms. The internet is also a utility.

Column: Back room deal brings down historical monuments (Times News) The city of Memphis has spit in the face of the state of Tennessee. In a back room deal carried out in the middle of the night, Memphis sold two city parks that would have a value of millions of dollars for $1,000 each to an alleged nonprofit group. All in an effort to bring down three Confederate statues located in those parks. In the process, the city showed disrespect for the laws of the state, ignorance of both city and state history and, even worse, showed total disregard for the families whose relatives are buried in one of those parks.

David Kustoff: Rural West Tennessee is making a comeback (Jackson Sun) When our rural communities thrive, the whole country thrives. This has been true since the very founding of our nation. Unfortunately, for nearly a decade, rural communities have been left behind, while our cities and urban communities have seen solid recovery from the crippling 2008 recession. It is no secret that Washington has not had rural America’s back. But that is changing under the Trump administration. With tax cuts, regulatory reform, a renewed focus on rebuilding infrastructure and increasing access to broadband, rural America is set to make a historic comeback. Two weeks ago, I had the great privilege of flying on Air Force One with President Trump for his speech to the American Farm Bureau Federation in Nashville.

Sam Stockard: Anti-Abortion ‘Heartbeat Bill’ Revived Despite Like-Minded Opposition (Memphis Daily News) An East Tennessee lawmaker is trying breathe life into his “heartbeat bill” this session of the General Assembly despite an odd mix of opposition from pro-life forces and Democrats. State Rep. Micah Van Huss delayed the measure in a House committee until a Senate sponsor can be placed on it, but he confirmed he will present the bill as soon as the clerk’s office prepares it. New Sen. Mark Pody, a Lebanon Republican, is set to carry the bill in the Senate after he won a recent special election to replace the bill’s previous sponsor, Mae Beavers, a Republican who resigned to run for governor.

Editorial: Mr. Trump’s Tariffs Will Not Bring Back Manufacturing Jobs (New York Times) President Trump’s pledge during the presidential campaign to help manufacturing workers by reducing imports from China and other countries sounded half-baked. His administration’s decision on Monday to impose import tariffs on solar energy cells and panels and on washing machines makes clear just how difficult it will be to deliver on that promise. Whirlpool, which sells more washing machines in the United States than any other company, says that the Trump administration’s decision, which will apply tariffs to imports from most countries, will lead to the creation of 200 jobs at a factory in Ohio, in anticipation of increased sales. But foreign appliance manufacturers like Samsung and LG have already built or are building factories for washing machines in the United States. So any advantage Whirlpool might enjoy could fade away as a new Samsung factory in South Carolina and an LG factory under construction in Tennessee begin churning out machines, creating more competition.



Tuesday, January 23

Gov. Bill Haslam unveils $30 million plan to combat opioid crisis in Tennessee (Tennessean) Educating children, making overdose-reversing drugs available to all state troopers and adding hundreds of prison beds to treat those fighting opioid addiction are part of Gov. Bill Haslam and legislative leaders’ comprehensive $30 million proposal to combat the epidemic.  The proposal comes as Tennessee continues to fight the ongoing crisis, which now claims at least three lives a day in Tennessee. More than 1,600 residents died from drug overdoses in 2016.  “It is no secret our country faces a huge challenge in the opioid epidemic,”  Haslam said at a Monday press conference unveiling the initiative. “Tennessee unfortunately is not an exception to the problem.”

Haslam launching plan to tackle opioid abuse (Nashville Post) TN Together will have three-pronged approach to combatting epidemic. On Monday afternoon, Gov. Bill Haslam will unveil an extensive plan to combat the opioid epidemic in Tennessee. The entire details of the plan and accompanying legislation have not yet been released; however, the Post obtained a confidential overview of the plan, which multiple sources confirmed was legitimate. Haslam’s initiative, TN Together, will likely be his final signature piece of legislation. According to the overview, the plan will take a three-pronged approach to addressing the state’s worsening opioid epidemic, focusing on prevention, treatment and increased law enforcement capabilities.

Gov. Haslam unveils plan to fight opioid crisis (WSMV) Gov. Bill Haslam unveiled a three-part plan Monday detailing how he hopes the state can prevent and treat opioid addiction and enforce the law. The $30 million proposal is a part of the governor’s budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year, and he wants the legislature to weigh in on how taxpayer money should be spent. Haslam said he worked with the state judicial branch, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the state health department and others to come up with the plan called “Tennessee Together.” It details measures in prevention including a five-day limit on opioids initially prescribed, identifying pregnant women who are opioid users and providing treatment, and educating children in kindergarten to high school about the opiates.

Mixed reactions to governor’s plan to tackle opioid epidemic (WBIR) Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Tennessee Together” plan is being praised for its multi-pronged approach to tackling the opioid epidemic, but prevention coalitions are questioning why they weren’t included in the strategy. Haslam announced the state plan Monday, which calls for $30 million to be allocated for three key areas of focus: prevention, treatment and law enforcement. Karen Pershing, executive director of the Metro Drug Coalition, said overall, she is pleased with the three-pronged approach. “This is a very complex problem so, you’ve got to attack it from several different angles if you’re going to have an impact,” Pershing said.

Video: Drug coalition disappointed with opioid plan (WBIR) Despite the push to help the opioid crisis, drug coalition leaders in Knoxville say they’re disappointed with the lack of funding in the governor’s plan.

Haslam outlines opioid legislation with $25M for addict treatment and recovery (TN Journal/Humphrey) Press release from the governor’s office: Joined by leadership from the House and Senate and Chief Justice Jeff Bivins, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday announced an aggressive and comprehensive plan to end the opioid epidemic in Tennessee by focusing on three major components: prevention, treatment and law enforcement. TN Together is a multi-faceted initiative that addresses the issue of opioid addiction through legislation, proposed funding in the governor’s 2018-19 budget and executive actions. TN Together is a collective effort and has been designed in partnership with the General Assembly through the Ad Hoc Opioid Abuse Task Force established by Speaker Beth Harwell and chaired by Speaker Pro Tem Curtis Johnson and a working group established by Haslam that included Harwell and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally’s appointee, Speaker Pro Tem Ferrell Haile.

Gov. Haslam proposes $30 million plan to combat Tennessee’s opioid epidemic (Times Free Press) Gov. Bill Haslam and legislative leaders outlined a $30 million plan Monday to attack Tennessee’s opioid epidemic with calls for new limits on painkiller prescriptions, more educational outreach to students, boosting availability of addiction treatment and the use of 512 prison beds to help hundreds of state prisoners with problems. “This epidemic knows no political boundaries,” Haslam said as he was joined by top Republicans to unveil the three-pronged “TN Together” proposal. “It doesn’t know political parties or race or income distinctions. It affects families all across our state.” Haslam’s proposed approach focuses on prevention, treatment and law enforcement to assist in tackling the longstanding problem that takes the lives of three or more Tennesseans every day from opioid overdoses.

Governor Haslam Unveils Opioid Plan (WTVF) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam unveiled a sweeping plan to combat the state’s opioid epidemic Monday. The $25 million plan is called TN Together. The plan will focus on prevention, treatment, and law enforcement. “I don’t have to tell anyone in this room this epidemic knows no boundaries, it doesn’t know political parties, or race or income,” Haslam said. “It effects families all across our state.” Haslam said the prevention phase will include a statewide awareness campaign, K through 12 drug curriculum in schools, and limit on opioid prescriptions.

As Opioid Deaths Rise, Tennessee Governor Proposes More Money For Treatment, Tighter Prescriptions (WPLN) Creating a 500-bed treatment facility for addicted inmates, limiting the duration of new opioid prescriptions to just a few days, and putting more drug enforcement officers on the streets. Those are some of the ideas Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is pitching to combat the opioid crisis  — which despite past efforts, has continued to worsen. In a brief presentation at the Tennessee State Capitol on Monday, Haslam unveiled a 10-point plan to fight the spread of opioid abuse. Last year, nearly 1,200 Tennesseans died from opioid overdoses, up from about 700 in 2012.

East Tennessee lawmaker fights drug epidemic through gift card sales (WATE) Tennessee State Sen. Richard Briggs filed his “Organized Retail Crime theft” bill on Monday in the hopes of combating the drug epidemic. After talking with law enforcement, he was learning people were selling stolen gift cards and using that money to buy drugs. He said groups of people will steal merchandise from a store and then return the items without a receipt to get a store valued card. Briggs said pawn shops will then buy the cards at a discount. “We had $200 million that were stolen from such large retailers such as Walmart, Lowes, Target,” he said.

Tri-Cities mother who lost son to substance abuse hopeful after Haslam plan (WJHL) Tennessee’s governor unveiled his plan to fight the state’s prescription drug and opioid crisis and a local mother who lost her son to addiction says it gives her more hope. It’s a public health and law enforcement emergency the state says claims at least three lives daily. Governor Bill Haslam calls it “TN Together.” It’s a $30 million legislative initiative he spelled out at a news conference Monday afternoon in Nashville. The plan calls for $25 million to pay for drug treatment for needy Tennesseans. The state acknowledged there’s a desperate need for more treatment options.

TBI weighs in on Gov. Haslam’s statewide opioid plan (WRCB) As the nation tries to tackle the opioid epidemic, Tennessee officials say Governor Haslam’s 10 point plan is a step in the right direction. The governor announced the TN Together plan Monday afternoon. It focuses on prevention, treatment and law enforcement. The law enforcement component includes the TBI’s Dangerous Drug Task Force. Director, Tommy Farmer says this is a decades long problem that will take time and a change in the culture to overcome. “We didn’t get into it overnight and we’re not going to get out of it overnight,” said Farmer.

Haslam unveils ‘aggressive’ statewide plan to halt opioid epidemic (Johnson City Press) Prevention. Treatment. Law enforcement. Those three components constitute the framework of Gov. Bill Haslam’s newly-released plan, with the sole goal of ceasing the cycle of opioid addiction gripping the state and killing thousands of Tennesseans each year. Called TN Together, Haslam unveiled his comprehensive, yet “aggressive” plan, alongside Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins inside the Old Supreme Court Chamber in Nashville on Monday.

Unlike the North, Many in the South See the New Tax Plan as Good News (Wall Street Journal) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has a vastly different message about the new tax law than some of his fellow governors up North, and it can be summarized in three words: Bring it on. The Republican, who is serving his second term as governor, says the old code advantaged residents in high-tax states because it allowed them to deduct an unlimited number of state and local taxes from federal ones. “That’s not going to be true anymore,” Mr. Haslam said in an interview. “We governments have a price just like a business does. And, by the way, customers get to choose where they do business.”

State department adds reps in Spain, France (Nashville Post) ECD now has presence in 11 countries. The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development has added two international representatives to recruit businesses from Spain and France to the state. The department’s announcement Monday that it has named Lorenzo Vignal and Sergio Fribolle as representatives in France and Spain brings to 11 the number of countries in which ECD has an international presence.

Audit: TennCare paid $2.7m over 7 years for dead patients (AP) A federal audit estimates Tennessee’s Medicaid program overpaid managed care organizations by $2.7 million over seven years for patients who were already dead. A December audit by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services inspector general says TennCare should recover the money and return a $1.8 million federal share. TennCare Deputy Commissioner Wendy Long responded that the state has recouped a significant portion of the money through a software change, will recover the rest and will return the federal share. She said TennCare is working to understand why its death list differed from what auditors had.

Williamson officials may back state bill that would raise state funds for schools (Tennessean) Williamson County officials are considering supporting a state bill that would raise state funding for the county’s public schools. The bill, SB 0898, would modify the state’s Basic Education Program, a formula that determines how much state funding school districts receive, to help certain school districts. Under the proposed bill, the BEP would increase funding for school districts that receive less than 80 percent of last year’s statewide average per pupil funds. Last school year, five counties had state funding per pupil below the 80 percent threshold: Davidson County, Hamilton County, Knox County, Sevier County and Williamson County.

Legislation would create legal defense for medical marijuana users possessing limited quantities (Tennessean) A pair of Nashville Democrats are sponsoring a bill that would create a legal defense for people caught with limited amounts of marijuana, provided it is for medical purposes. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Yarbro and Rep. Harold Love, would allow those suffering from a host of medical conditions, including cancer and glaucoma, to possess no more than one ounce of marijuana. Yarbro said the measure is necessary because the legislature has failed to craft rules for medical marijuana on a statewide basis.

Lawmaker proposes strip club tax to fund sex trafficking victims’ fund (Tennessean) A Tennessee lawmaker has proposed a bill that would force strip club customers to pay an additional $2 tax upon entrance that would go toward a sex trafficking victims’ fund. Rep. Darren, Jernigan, D-Old Hickory, said the bill is not an attack on adult establishments, but a small effort to fund beds at rehabilitative centers for girls and women who have been victims of sex trafficking.

State House GOP has a ‘rebranding’ and new logo (TN Journal/Humphrey) Press release from House Republican Caucus: House Republican Caucus Chairman Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville) today announced a statewide rebranding initiative — including a new logo and video — which recaps the successes Tennessee has experienced in recent years, thanks to the efforts of House Republicans. This initiative tells Tennessee’s successful story under Republican leadership. It also creates a new energy for supporters who are looking to spread the party’s message in an effort to grow  support in communities across our state. Additionally, this rebranding epitomizes the conservative roots of House Republicans, as well as our commitment to Tennessee’s values, and our work in order to advance our state.

Reeves raising and spending more than Carr in Senate District 14 special election (TN Journal/Humphrey) The Republican primary in the special election to succeed Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville is on Thursday. Campaign finance reports show Murfreesboro businessman has raised nearly four times as much from outside sources as former state Rep. Joe Carr of Lascassas. Reeves reported $170,413 in contributions, plus $150,000 in loans to his campaign. He spent $268,550 and had $51,863 remaining for the final days of the race. Carr reported raised $43,400 and loaned his campaign $100,000. He spent $107,956 and had $47,124 remaining.

Travis: 2018 session will be GOP success (Rhea Herald News) With the Second Regular Session of the 110th General Assembly now in full swing, lawmakers are busy in Nashville meeting with constituents and colleagues, voting on legislation on the House floor, and working to shepherd their bills through the legislative committee process. State Rep. Ron Travis said that as House business continues at full-speed, Gov. Bill Haslam is also working on his legislative agenda, notifying lawmakers he will soon unveil his agenda for the year. “On Monday, Jan. 29, lawmakers will hear from the Governor as part of his annual State of the State address to a joint session of the legislature,” Travis said in a weekly news release. “During this televised speech, the Governor will unveil his full legislative package for 2018, and legislators and the public will receive details about his proposed state budget.”

Parkinson’s Grade-Changing Bill Faces Opposition From Education Association (Memphis Daily News) With a grade-changing scandal at Trezevant High rocking Shelby County Schools, Rep. Antonio Parkinson is pushing legislation designed to put a harsh “deterrent” on illicit transcript changes: criminal prosecution. Parkinson, a Memphis Democrat, is sponsoring a measure in the General Assembly requiring local education associations to set policies for altering transcripts and making violations of the policy a Class A misdemeanor. Alterations to transcripts would have to be supported by documentation explaining the need for the change, accompanied by evidence the student earned the grade change. He acknowledged grades are changed often for good reasons.

Wary, Weary or Both, Southern Lawmakers Tone Down Culture Wars (New York Times) With elections looming and major corporations watching, the social issues that have provoked bitter fights in recent years across the conservative South — including restroom access for transgender people and so-called religious freedom measures — are gaining little legislative momentum in statehouses this year. In Tennessee, a lawmaker withdrew his proposal to give state backing to school officials who impose restrictive bathroom policies, only eight days after he introduced it. “I think people are tempering, and I think they’re thinking harder about what can be achieved, what needs to be achieved,” said Robin Fretwell Wilson, a law professor at the University of Illinois who has written extensively about the intersection of gay rights and religious freedom.

Tennessee’s Next Governor: Getting To The Root Of The Opioid Epidemic (WPLN) Candidates to be Tennessee’s next governor agree on the seriousness of the opioid epidemic and that the state needs a more aggressive response. But there is some conflict on how to attack a pervasive drug problem. Each candidate has been gathering personal anecdotes showing the reach of the drug problem while traveling the state. But Franklin businessman Bill Lee says he doesn’t have to look any farther than his own family which has mourned the loss of a member to overdose. At a candidate forum on Friday focused on health issues, he said that personal experience and his work in a prison ministry informs his views.

Tennesseans are about to get their first good look at candidates for governor on education (Chalkbeat Tennessee) For almost 16 years, two Tennessee governors from two different political parties have worked off mostly the same playbook when it comes to K-12 education. This year, voters will choose a new governor who will determine if that playbook stays intact — or takes a different direction from the administrations of Bill Haslam, a Republican leaving office next January, and Phil Bredesen, the Democrat who preceded him. Voters will get to hear from all but one of the major candidates Tuesday evening during the first gubernatorial forum televised statewide. Organizers say the spotlight on education is fitting since, based on one poll, it’s considered one of the top three issues facing Tennessee’s next governor. Both K-12 and higher education are on the table.

Money, testing and attracting teachers: 3 big questions for Tennessee’s next governor (Tennessean) Tennessee’s next governor will face a number of crucial challenges, and many of those will revolve around the way students learn in schools, colleges and technical programs. The quality of education in the state is the top issue for voters, according to recent polling by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education. Candidates from both sides of the aisle say nurturing a better-educated workforce should be a key strategy pillar for the state.

Leaked Trump Infrastructure Plan Would Put Onus on States (Governing) The Trump administration has hinted for months that its long-awaited infrastructure plan would lean heavily on new spending by states, local governments and the private sector. On Monday, a leaked outline of that plan seems to confirm that the federal government would take a back seat in funding its own infrastructure initiative. But the outline also proposes a number of controversial changes, such as allowing states to toll existing highways, subsidizing improvements for passenger rail and encouraging states to “commercialize” interstate rest areas. The outline does not indicate how much money the Trump administration will seek toward its infrastructure plan — prior reports suggest Trump wants $200 billion in new federal spending to attract another $800 billion of outside investments — but it does lay out how the administration would like to divide any new money that does materialize.

TN politicians comment on government shutdown (TN Journal/Humphrey) Comments from some members of Tennessee’s congressional delegation on the partial government shutdown. Democratic former Gov. Phil Bredesen, who is running for the U.S. Senate, in an emailed statement: “This shutdown is absurd, and it’s the direct result of the out-of-control partisanship that is killing our country. Congress needs to get back to basics, and there are few things more basic for our well-paid Congress to do than to pass a budget and keep our country’s doors open. You don’t shut down the government of the world’s leading democracy over disagreements about issues.

House Roll Call: Measure to Fund the Government Until Feb. 8 (AP) The 266-150 roll call Monday by which the House agreed to a stopgap spending measure to fund the government until Feb. 8. A “yes” vote is a vote to pass the bill. Voting yes were 45 Democrats and 221 Republicans. Voting no were 144 Democrats and 6 Republicans. TENNESSEE: Democrats — Cohen, Y; Cooper, Y. Republicans — Black, Y; Blackburn, Y; DesJarlais, Y; Duncan, Y; Fleischmann, Y; Kustoff, Y; Roe, Y.

Tourists Frustrated By Closed National Parks (WTVF) Dozens of tourists found a notice on the visitor’s center door at Stones River National Battleground explaining no park rangers or staff would be on site through the remainder of the federal government shutdown. “Because of a lapse in federal appropriations, this national park facility is closed for the safety of visitors and park resources,” the sign read. The closure frustrated some visitors to Tennessee. “I’m a huge Civil War history fan, so anytime I can get near a Civil War site, I go,” said Sheri Marshall, who was visiting Tennessee from California. “I just think the Democrats used this as a political ploy, so it just further cements my disgust at the Democrat party. I blame them for this.”

Nashville company creates political action committee, hires former Lamar Alexander aide (Nashville Business Journal) Nashville-based Cumberland Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Nasdaq: CPIX), a specialty pharmaceutical company, is stepping up its influence in Music City and beyond. The company has created the Cumberland Health & Wellness Political Action Committee and has hired Michael Schulz, who previously worked as a staffer for U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, to head the organization. Cumberland CEO A.J. Kazimi said the company decided to start a political action committee, as opposed to simply hiring a lobbyist, because it allows Cumberland board members to be more involved in the process, including direct communication between elected officials and the company. He said Cumberland is coming off a successful year and the PAC will help continue that momentum.

Boyd Says Reprisals For Removal Of Monuments Possible (Memphis Daily News) The city is bracing for some kind of backlash in the Tennessee Legislature for the December sale of two city parks to a private nonprofit and the removal of Confederate monuments in those parks. Memphis City Council chairman Berlin Boyd says state officials could retaliate by refusing to approve the city’s request for an expansion of the Downtown Tourism Development Zone. “We’re hearing that they may hold state funding,” Boyd said on the WKNO/Channel 10 program “Behind The Headlines.” “They may deny our application as far as expansion of the TDZ. It’s all about who can gain the most media attention as to retributions on Memphis.”

Trump brings down trade hammer before Davos (Politico) President Donald Trump took his first major action as trade enforcer-in-chief, opening the door to a host of other trade restrictions that buck the global order and give him a hammer to push his “America First” vision at the gathering of global elites in Davos, Switzerland. Samsung and LG — the South Korean companies targeted in the washing machine case — have warned that restrictions could hinder their ability to ramp up production and hire U.S. workers at new factories in South Carolina and Tennessee. Samsung cut the ribbon on its new South Carolina plant this month with the first washing machine rolling off a production line that will employ 600 workers. “This tariff is a tax on every consumer who wants to buy a washing machine,” a Samsung spokeswoman said in a statement. “Everyone will pay more, with fewer choices.”

Montana Becomes First State To Set Its Own Net Neutrality Rules (Huffington Post) “We can’t wait for folks in Washington to come to their senses,” says Montana Gov. Steve Bullock. Montana just became the first state to establish its own net neutrality rules since the Federal Communications Commission ended the popular policy in December. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) signed an executive order on Monday that requires all internet service providers (ISPs) seeking to renew or acquire new state contracts to abide by net neutrality. In essence, these companies will be barred from blocking websites or charging more for faster delivery of websites. “If you want to do business with Montana, there are standards on net neutrality you will have to follow,” Bullock said. Bullock signed the order in front of a high school computer class in Helena, reported the Billings Gazette.

Shelby County puts 6-month moratorium on new landfills (Commercial Appeal) The Shelby County Commission voted Monday to block the creation of construction-debris landfills for the next six months. The 10-0 vote extends a construction-debris landfill moratorium — put in place two weeks ago in Memphis — to the unincorporated parts of the county. The moratorium follows a public outcry over a proposed landfill expansion by Memphis Wrecking Co. in Frayser. The expansion was unanimously rejected by the City Council.

Commission Adds County Landfill Moratorium to City Ban (Memphis Daily News) Shelby County commissioners approved a six month moratorium Monday, Jan. 22, on any new construction landfills in unincorporated Shelby County. The resolution is the companion to a Memphis City Council resolution passed earlier this month that imposed a six-month moratorium on such landfills within the city of Memphis. During the moratorium, both bodies will review where the existing landfills for construction debris are and what land is zoned for such landfills “by right” or without any approval by any local body required.

Stormy Daniels Is Coming to Nashville (Nashville Scene) Shelter in place, Nashville. The Washington Post reports that the adult film star known as Stormy Daniels — who says she can perfectly describe President Donald Trump’s “junk” — is coming to town. The president reportedly paid Daniels $130,000 last year to buy her silence about an affair between the two in 2006, shortly after Trump’s marriage to first lady Melania Trump and the birth of their son Barron. The White House has issued vague denials to the story, but it turns out Daniels — whose real name is Stephanie Clifford — had spilled the whole story to In Touch magazine in 2011. The magazine published its 5,000-plus word interview with her last week. There’s the sex stuff, sure, but other highlights included this anecdote about the president’s fear of and disdain for sharks.


Column: Trump policies offer his base short-term gains, long-term pains (The Hill) In 2016, Donald Trump became president by riding a wave of anger and resentment in America’s white, non-college population, especially among men, whose earnings and employment have shrunk dramatically in the past generation.  In the immediate aftermath of the one-year anniversary of his inauguration, it seems natural to ask: Has his presidency served his supporters in that population? The caps on the deduction of state and local taxes in the Republican bill will increase existing pressure on state funding for public community and four-year colleges, including the workforce programs that directly train workers for good jobs. Indeed, initiatives like South Carolina’s tax credit for apprenticeships, or the Drive to 55 to educate and train more workers in Tennessee, could face real financial pressure as a result of the harmful tax bill that the president just signed.

Victor Ashe: UT president moving out; how will successor be chosen? (News Sentinel) UT has not announced, but Joe DiPietro, UT president, is leaving by June 2019 (when his current contract expires) at the latest and probably by fall of 2018. It is a badly kept secret on campus as Deborah DiPietro, his wife, has used Facebook extensively for the past few weeks outlining her packing up their Knoxville home on Old Kent Drive. Recently, a large Northwestern moving van was taking most of their furniture from this house to the one they have brought in Champaign, Ill. DiPietro will soon place the Knoxville house on the market and move into a condo. Ms. DiPietro describes herself on Facebook as both “sad and excited” about the move. She says this next house “will be our last.” The house is virtually empty on the first floor as the Facebook photos show.

Ina Hughes: Evangelicals misguided in support of Trump (News Sentinel) Considering the so-called religious wars going on in this administration, it might help to consider the proper definition of the word Christian: (1) “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ; (2) the hero in John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourner magazine, is worried about the uncritical devotion to President Donald Trump by some conservative Christians. He says it calls to mind the complicit church in 1930s Germany.

Column: Republican Gubernatorial Candidates to Average Tennesseans: Heal Thyself (Nashville Scene) Talk of ‘encouraging’ citizens to be healthier is insulting to those who are struggling. Tennessee’s gubernatorial candidates had a healthcare forum, at which the most popular answer to “What can we do to fix Tennessee’s healthcare crisis?” was “Encourage Tennesseans to be healthier.” We live in a state where the people with the worst health outcomes are poor people and black people. Are we saying the problem is that poor and black people are just too lazy to act healthy? Or what about the fact that we live in a state where the TVA gets to spill millions of tons of coal ash into the environment and where the clean-up workers were denied respiratory masks and other safety equipment and many of them are now sick and dying? Should those workers have chosen the healthier option of leaving toxic waste on their neighbors? You still can’t traverse Dickerson Pike by sidewalk, because there aren’t sidewalks the whole way along one of the major roads in Nashville. And rural areas have lost their hospitals.

Monday, January 22

Five schools receive grant for summer reading program (Murfreesboro Post) Five Rutherford County elementary schools have been awarded grants for a 2018 summer reading program, the Tennessee Department of Education announced. Christiana Elementary School, Rock Springs Elementary School, Rockvale Elementary School, Stewartsboro Elementary School and Thurman Francis Arts Academy have all been named grant recipients for Tennessee’s Read to be Ready program. Amazingly, all Rutherford County schools who applied for the grant were named recipients.

Some Express Interest in Monuments Removed From City Parks (Memphis Daily News) The private nonprofit that had the city’s two most visible Confederate monuments removed from city parks in December says it has fielded numerous offers to take the statues of Nathan Bedford Forrest, Jefferson Davis and a bust of Confederate Capt. Harvey Mathes in Memphis Park where the Davis statue stood. Memphis Greenspace Inc. president Van Turner, in an open letter to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, writes that the great grandson of Mathes is interested in getting the bust and moving it to his home in Atlanta, Georgia.

Opioids, tanning beds and more: 5 things to watch in the Tennessee legislature this week (Tennessean) As Gov. Bill Haslam prepares for his State of the State speech, he’ll kick off the third week of the session by introducing a comprehensive plan to combat the opioid epidemic. The week also will feature another round of questions from lawmakers about a frequently plagued state agency. The week could even feature some movement on bills already filed, although that’s subject to change on a moment’s notice.

Medicaid expansion may be unlikely in Tennessee, even as backers seek compromise (Tennessean) Rep. Steve McDaniel looked out the window of his legislative office Tuesday morning after committee meetings and thought about why he stands as one of the few Republicans who supports Medicaid expansion. The week before, the 110th General Assembly reconvened to vocal cries from advocates demanding health care reform. Democrats have said they are willing to make concessions, including work requirements for coverage and insurance co-pays, to make something happen. But Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and House Speaker Beth Harwell say there is little support in the GOP for a Medicaid expansion measure.

New Tennessee law would aim to break link between gift cards and opioids (Tennessean) Several lawmakers were approached by lobbyists from a block of retail giants during the state legislative session last spring. The group, made up of representatives of Target, Walmart, Lowes and Home Depot, was seeking a law that would enhance penalties for organized crime, which had cost them some $200 million in stolen goods in 2016 in Tennessee alone.

Tennessee, Georgia taking steps to address sexual harassment (Times Free Press) After back-to-back sexual harassment scandals cost two Tennessee state lawmakers their jobs, members of the state House and Senate are taking training to learn how to recognize and avoid offensive behavior. House lawmakers took their training earlier this month, and senators will take theirs online soon, The Tennessean reported on Jan. 10. Legislative administration director Connie Ridley told House members a policy they passed in 2016 covers everything from prohibiting sexual harassment to age, gender and race discrimination. She said anyone who knows about inappropriate conduct is required to report it, and anyone from lawmakers to lobbyists to staff members may file a complaint, according to The Tennessean.

States tackling shortcomings in sexual misconduct policies (AP) After a tumultuous few months that saw numerous lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct, a majority of legislatures across the country are considering strengthening sexual harassment policies that have gone unheeded or unchanged for years. A 50-state review by the Associated Press found that almost all legislative chambers now have at least some type of written sexual harassment policy, though they vary widely, and many are placing a greater emphasis on preventing and punishing sexual misconduct as they convene for their 2018 sessions. Just this month, lawmakers in Arizona, Idaho, Tennessee and Rhode Island underwent detailed training about sexual harassment, some for the first time. And a Florida Senate panel voted to mandate an hour-long course.

Tennessee gubernatorial forum on education: What you need to know (Tennessean) Education is the focus of the first televised statewide gubernatorial forum of this year’s election. The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), Belmont University, the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee and the NewsChannel5 Network are partnering to host Tuesday’s forum. Six of the seven top-tier Republican and Democratic candidates are scheduled to attend. Here’s what to look for Tuesday night.

Boyd: ‘Volume is going to be turned way up’ in GOP gubernatorial race (Times News) Tennessee Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd believes that, in the end, it won’t be about name identification or “name ID.” During a recent stop at the Times News, Boyd was asked about U.S. Rep. Diane Black being the early frontrunner in the polls headed toward an August Republican primary that will include major candidates like House Speaker Beth Harwell, Williamson County businessman Bill Lee and former state Sen. Mae Beavers. “It’s early and in some of the early polls, when they ask about me, it’s about name ID,” Boyd, a Knoxville businessman and former state economic development commissioner, responded. “(Black) usually leads with name ID, but being known and being favored to be the next governor are two different things. Most people really haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about it yet, but over the next six months, the volume is going to be turned way up. People are going to learn more and more about the candidates. I still believe they are going to vote for a nonprofessional politician and business person and outsider over some politician in (Washington) D.C.”

Lawmakers Lamar Alexander and Phil Roe say financial aid needs to be simplified (Johnson City Press) Some lawmakers believe the federal student aid system needs to be simplified. Senate Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., called for the financial aid system to be reformed to increase effectiveness when his committee held its second hearing in Congress on Thursday on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, which consists of two grant programs, five loan programs and nine repayment plans. “The federal financial aid system is so complex that even those in the higher education system can have trouble navigating it,” Alexander said. “At a roundtable at the University of Tennessee-Martin, a Tennessee college president told me it took him months to figure out how to help his daughter pay off her federal student loans in full, even with the money in hand.”

Tennessee and Local Reps. In DC View Shutdown Across Partisan Divide (Memphis Daily News) Among Tennessee’s two U.S. Senators and the two Congressmen who represent Shelby County in Washington, the partisan differences over the federal government shutdown that began Saturday are right at the top of their prepared statements on the shutdown released over the weekend. Republican U.S. Rep. David Kustoff of Germantown terms it the “Schumer Shutdown” – a reference to Democratic U.S. Senate Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. Democratic U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis in a statement Saturday evening defined his efforts as a way to “quickly reopen the federal government after Republicans in control of the House and Senate failed to reach agreement on a range of issues.”

Government shutdown closes facilities in GSMNP (WATE) Visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park tried to open the doors to the Sugarlands Visitors Center Saturday only to find it locked and a note on the door reading “The NPS will not operate parks during the shutdown period and no visitor services will be provided.”  “The park facilities, including the Sugarlands Visitor Center, Oconaluftee Visitors Center and Cades Cove Visitors Centers are closed due to the government shutdown,” said Dana Soehn with GSMNP. The Dillon family drove in from Nashville for the weekend only to find they were going to have to change their plans.

GSMNP entry ‘at the visitor’s sole risk’ (WBIR) Though the federal government shut down at midnight Saturday, much of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park opened up on Saturday afternoon. Laurel Creek Road and Little River Road near the park entrance in Townsend opened around 12:40 p.m. on Saturday. Cades Cove Loop Road opened an hour later. Signs posted at visitor information stands and restrooms stated it is not a feasible attempt to prohibit all access to NPS properties and said, “Any entry onto NPS property during this period of federal government shutdown is at the visitor’s own risk.”


Bill Frist: Tennessee gubernatorial candidates discuss education in forum (Tennessean) On Tuesday night, Tennessee voters will have their first chance to hear from candidates running for governor on one of the most important topics for the future of our great state: Education.  This first statewide forum featuring gubernatorial candidates from both political parties is being hosted by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE), Belmont University, NewsChannel 5, and the USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee, and over 35 education and community organizations from across the educational and political spectrum have joined the effort as partners.

Editorial: Does banning bump stocks tread on the Second Amendment? (Johnson City Press) Two Memphis Democrats have introduced state legislation to ban so-called “bump stocks,” devices that were used by a shooter in Las Vegas to kill 58 and wound 546 others at an outdoor concert in October. As Press staff writer Brandon Paykamian reported last week, state Rep. Dwayne Thompson and state Sen. Lee Harris have filed a bill to make it a Class E felony to use, possess or attempt to use or possess devices that accelerate the rate of fire of semi-automatic firearms. Harris tweeted ”devices like bump stock devices that can lead to mass carnage and mass shootings have no justifiable reason for sale or possession.”

Friday, January 19

TN ends 2017 with thousands of new jobs, drop in unemployment rate (WSMV) According to Gov. Bill Haslam and the Tennessee Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development, the state experienced a huge boost in job growth last year. “Jobs are created when businesses put capital at risk, and we’ve created an environment in Tennessee that encourages job growth and is attracting more companies to expand and locate here,” Haslam said. “But we’ve also invested in our citizens through Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect to prepare our workforce for the job demands of today’s employers.”  The governor said Thursday that more than 28,700 non-farm jobs were created in Tenn. in 2017.

State awards 52 grants to community libraries (WSMV) The state has announced 52 digital literacy grants are set to be distributed across Tennessee. All of them are going to community libraries. They were made possible by Gov. Bill Haslam’s Broadband Accessibility Act. Each grant will be used for one of three things: digital training classes, new technology, or STEM programs.

Grundy Schools Receive $89,000 for Reading (Grundy Co. Herald) Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced today the 203 public school recipients of the 2018 Read to be Ready Summer Grants, which will provide a total of $8,860,000 in funding for tuition-free, month-long literacy-focused summer camps for 7,700 students in need across the state. For summer 2018, the third year of the grant program, the department has increased funding per student to allow more sites the ability to offer transportation for students. This will allow programs to fully fund the key components of successful camps, like providing a variety of high-quality texts and a range of learning experiences, while also meeting a key need for students. Grundy County Schools received $89,000 to host the Read to Be Ready summer camp at three sites to serve up to 75 students.

Ashland City Council backs internet expansion program (Tennessean) The Ashland City Council unanimously approved a resolution to establish a policy with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development as part of a program designed to expand broadband and internet connectivity to lacking communities. “More than 800,000 Tennesseans don’t have access to broadband, and one in three businesses identified it as essential to selecting their location,” Haslam said in the release. “Spurring deployment in our rural, unserved areas will open them up to economic investment and growth.” The Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act, signed by Haslam last year, allocates $45 million over three years via grants and tax credits, as well as allowing private, nonprofit electric cooperatives to offer broadband services and providing educational resources.

Tennessee governor appoints water availability panel (Times Free Press) Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed a committee to develop a statewide plan for future water availability in Tennessee. A news release from Haslam’s office Thursday says the committee will include leaders from federal, state and local governments, industry, academia, environmental advocacy groups and public utilities. A draft of the plan, TN H2O, will be available for public input by October. The governor’s office cited projections that say Tennessee’s population will double in the next 50 years. Additionally, the administration is worried about the Memphis Sands Aquifer, droughts, failures of old drinking water and wastewater infrastructure and interstate battles over water rights. Deputy Gov. Jim Henry will serve as committee chairman.

Statewide Panel Will Focus on Water Availability (Memphis Flyer) A statewide panel appointed recently by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam will develop a new plan for the future of Tennessee’s water supply. Haslam announced the the steering committee Thursday. It includes “leaders from federal, state and local governments, industry, academia, environmental advocacy groups and public utilities.” Locally, the committee includes Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Col. Michael A. Ellicott, Jr., commander, U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers Memphis District. Together, the committee will form “TN H2O,” a plan to include “an assessment of current water resources and recommendations to help ensure Tennessee has an abundance of water resources to support future population and economic growth.”

Haslam appoints steering committee to develop statewide plan for future water availability (Herald Chronicle) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced he has appointed a steering committee of leaders from federal, state and local governments, industry, academia, environmental advocacy groups and public utilities to develop a statewide plan for future water availability in Tennessee. The plan, TN H2O, will include an assessment of current water resources and recommendations to help ensure Tennessee has an abundance of water resources to support future population and economic growth. The steering committee will submit a draft of TN H2O to the governor and will make it available for public input by October 2018. “Abundant, clean water has been a strategic advantage for Tennessee and is critical to our quality of life,” Haslam said. “We need to ensure this critical natural resource is managed appropriately as our state continues to grow and prosper.”

Tennessee governor appoints water availability panel (AP) Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed a committee to develop a statewide plan for future water availability in Tennessee. A news release from Haslam’s office Thursday says the committee will include leaders from federal, state and local governments, industry, academia, environmental advocacy groups and public utilities. A draft of the plan, TN H2O, will be available for public input by October. The governor’s office cited projections that say Tennessee’s population will double in the next 50 years. Additionally, the administration is worried about the Memphis Sands Aquifer, droughts, failures of old drinking water and wastewater infrastructure and interstate battles over water rights.

Haslam appoints water committee (Nashville Post) Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed a new steering committee, “TN H2O,” to develop a statewide plan for future water availability in Tennessee. “Abundant, clean water has been a strategic advantage for Tennessee and is critical to our quality of life,” Haslam said in a press release. “We need to ensure this critical natural resource is managed appropriately as our state continues to grow and prosper.” Haslam’s deputy, Jim Henry, will chair the steering committee.

Eastman exec appointed to TN H20 committee (WCYB) Eastman Chemical Co. VP of Global Health Hanneke Counts is one of 26 individuals picked by Gov. Bill Haslam to study the future of Tennessee water supplies. A Kingsport, Tennessee executive is part of a 26-member panel charged Thursday by Governor Bill Haslam with studying the state’s future water availability. Eastman Chemical Company’s Vice President of Global Health, Safety, Environment and Security Hanneke Counts joins Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, Tourism Director Kevin Triplett and Health Commissioner Dr. John Dreyzehner on the committee that will formulate the TN H20 plan, the report said. Tennessee’s population is estimated to double in the next 50 years and Haslam said in a statement that the strategic plan is crucial “to ensure this critical natural resource in managed appropriately as our state continues to grow and prosper.”

Mayor Moore joins Governor’s committee on water availability (Franklin Home Page) Mayor Moore joins Governor’s committee on water availability. Franklin’s mayor and the mayor of Memphis are the only two city representives on Gov. Bill Haslam’s newly formed committee to develop a statewide plan for future water use and availability. Dr. Ken Moore, mayor of Franklin, joins Mayor Jim Strickland of Memphis on the 26-person committee announced Thurdsay by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s office. “I applaud the governor for looking at this and looking at one of our most valuable resources going forward as the state grows,” Moore said.

Airbnb Reaches Tax Agreement With Tennessee (Memphis Flyer) Airbnb will start automatically collecting taxes on behalf of itsTennessee hosts beginning in March, the company announced Thursday. Entering into a statewide tax agreement with the Tennessee Department of Revenue, with each booking, Airbnb will collect 7 percent in state sales tax and depending on the area, between 1.5 and 2.75 percent in local sales tax. Each year, more than $13 million of local and state tax revenue are due from Airbnb stays, and this new agreement is meant to ensure that the revenue is seamlessly collected in full. With its own assessed room taxes, Memphis is one of the 350 cities nationwide that has partnered with Airbnb in the past. In May, Memphis made an agreement with Airbnb, authorizing the company to collect and remit Memphis’ occupancy and tourist taxes.

Airbnb tax plan good but not great, Chattanooga rental hosts, officials say (Times Free Press) Some Chattanooga rental hosts and local officials say an agreement allowing Airbnb to collect state and local sales taxes on short-term rentals in Tennessee is a good thing, but it doesn’t go far enough. The home-sharing company said Thursday it has reached an agreement with the Tennessee Department of Revenue to collect and remit the 7 percent state sales tax, plus local sales taxes in varying rates, on rentals rather than relying on its 7,700 Tennessee hosts to do so. Airbnb spokesman Benjamin Breit said in a news release taxes generated from Tennessee bookings last year were worth $13 million. The revenue department can’t say how much of that was actually remitted, spokeswoman Kelly Cortesi said, because the state doesn’t break out and track taxes collected on home-sharing.

Airbnb, Tennessee reach agreement on tax payments (Tennessean) Currently, the state’s 7,700 registered Airbnb hosts — around half whom are in Nashville — file both their state and local sales taxes individually. The Tennessee Department of Revenue and Airbnb have reached an agreement that will allow the online-based hospitality company to collect and remit sales taxes on behalf of everyone in the Volunteer State who rents out their properties through Airbnb. Currently, the state’s 7,700 registered Airbnb hosts — around half whom are in Nashville — file both their state and local sales taxes individually. But following the deal with Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration, announced by the company Wednesday, Airbnb will soon automatically deliver the sales tax revenue in bulk to the state when it is due.

Airbnb strikes tax deal with Tennessee (Nashville Business Journal)  A new agreement between San Francisco-based home rental service Airbnb and the Tennessee Department of Revenue aims to ensure the state receives the full revenue it should from the growing short-term rental industry. Through a new tax agreement, Airbnb will “collect and remit state and local taxes on behalf of its 7,700 hosts,” according to a news release. The deal takes a step out of the process for Airbnb hosts, although they’ll still need to collect and pay taxes assessed locally, like hotel/motel room occupancy taxes. The setup has been used by the company in about 350 markets to push back against criticisms that Airbnb does not generate the same tax revenue as its hotel competition.

Greenspace Nonprofit Details Offers For Confederate Monuments (Memphis Daily News) Memphis Greenspace president Van Turner detailed several offers to buy the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest as well as Jefferson Davis in an open letter Thursday to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. The private nonprofit group that had the city’s two most visible Confederate monuments removed from city parks in December says it has had numerous offers to take the statues of Nathan Bedford Forrest and Jefferson Davis as well as a bust of Confederate Captain Harvey Mathes in the same park where the Davis statue stood.

December state revenue $171.6M over budget estimate (TN Journal/Humphrey) Press release from Department of Finance and Administration: Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin announced today that revenues for December posted higher than expected and exceeded the monthly revenues from the previous year.  State revenues for December were $1.4 billion, which is a growth of 11.34 percent and $139.9 million more than December 2016. “Total revenues in December were higher than expected due to revenues in the sales, income and corporate tax categories,” Martin said.

Executions set to resume in Tennessee: Three death row inmates scheduled to die (Tennessean) Three Tennessee death row inmates are set to die in 2018, setting up what would be the first executions in the state since 2009. The Tennessee Supreme Court and Tennessee Department of Correction confirmed the executions, scheduled to start in May. Neysa Taylor, a spokeswoman for the department, said Thursday the state “has the drugs necessary to carry out execution by lethal injection.” Two of the inmates have additional avenues for appeal, while the third — a Knox County man who has spent more than three decades on Death Row — has fewer remaining paths to avert execution this year.

3 Executions Set In Tennessee For 2018 (WTVF) For the first time since 2009, three executions will take place in Tennessee. Officials on Thursday confirmed the following executions for 2018: James Hawkins – May 9; Billy Ray Irick – August 9; Sedrick Clayton – November 28. The last execution in Tennessee was held on December 2, 2009. In that case, 53-year-old Cecil Johnson was executed by lethal injection. He was the sixth person executed in the state since 2000 and had spent 28 years on death row. Officials told NewsChannel 5 that other executions have been planned since 2009, but they were not conducted. These will be the first to be held since that time. Johnson was convicted of a 1980 triple murder at Bob Bell’s Market in Nashville. The murders happened during an apparent robbery, and the victims were the market owner’s 12-year-old son and two men who were sitting in a cab outside.

3 executions set for Tennessee this year; last was in 2009 (AP) A prisons official says three executions are scheduled this year in Tennessee, which would be the first since 2009. Department of Correction spokeswoman Neysa Taylor on Thursday confirmed James Hawkins, Billy Ray Irick and Sedrick Clayton are slated for execution. She says the department has the necessary lethal injection drugs. Hawkins was convicted of murdering the mother of his three children in 2008. He is scheduled to die May 9. Irick’s execution is set for Aug. 9. He was convicted of raping and killing a 7-year-old Knoxville girl in 1985.

Tennessee sets August execution date for Knox County man (WATE) The state of Tennessee appears set to resume executions as the state has scheduled the execution of a Knox County man convicted of a 1985 rape and murder for this August. A ruling from the Tennessee Supreme Court says Billy Ray Irick’s execution has been scheduled for August 9, 2018. Irick had been scheduled for execution in October 2014, but the court vacated its order due to a challenge to the constitutionality of the state’s lethal injection protocol. The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled against the challenge in March 2017 and two petitions seeking review of that decision were denied.

Women wage war to halt human trafficking in Tennessee (WKRN) If you think human trafficking is a problem in other cities and countries, you’d be right. But you’d be wrong to think Middle Tennessee is immune to it. In 2017, 85 counties reported crimes of human trafficking. A group of local women has made it their mission to help thousands of trafficking victims. They are working together to treat the 1,100 children, and more adults, trafficked every year in Tennessee. Their message is that despite the staggering stats, there is help available. “Most of the feeling is just being a woman, and seeing there are so many women trafficked,” says Cara Deese, a volunteer of Junior League Nashville, and You Have the Power.

VU, UT researchers offer hope for Alzheimer’s grip (TN Ledger) Few diseases are feared more than Alzheimer’s, a progressive brain disorder that steals memories, leaves no survivors and has no cure or real treatment. But some of Tennessee’s top minds are working urgently on a way to treat the minds of the 5.2 million Americans who suffer from Alzheimer’s – including 110,000 in this state. As more baby boomers turn 65 and enter the prime years for developing Alzheimer’s, the race for a cure is gaining new urgency among specialists in brain diseases. And through their own original research and clinical trials, scientists at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the University of Tennessee are hoping for a breakthrough in the brain-attacking disease.

Suicide rate spike in Tennessee signals alarms, ETSU professor says (Johnson City Press) More Tennesseans than ever are dying by their own hands, according to a new study by the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, and efforts are underway to address the issue. “While suicide rates in Tennessee went up only slightly in 2016, the new figures are the highest recorded in Tennessee in over 35 years of record-keeping and the suicide rate remains above the national average,” said Scott Ridgway, executive director of the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network. The most recent statistics available are for 2016.

Trump on guardrails: ‘I’d be afraid that it opens and you get speared’ (News Sentinel) President Donald Trump has reportedly expressed concerns about guardrails, saying, “It’s put together with these screws, right? I always think if I ever went into that sucker I’d be afraid that it opens and you get speared.” “I want to hire whoever their salesman is,” Trump continued. “He’s the greatest salesman in the world. That is the worst crap.” Trump’s comments echo safety issues raised by Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer about a controversial model of guardrail end terminal that has now been tied to at least 10 deaths — the Lindsay X-LITE.

Republicans introduce bill to allow medical marijuana in Tennessee (Tennessean) Two Republicans introduced a bill Thursday that would make Tennessee the latest state to allow medical marijuana. The legislation, introduced by Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, and Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, would only allow oil-based manufactured products, such as pills or lotions, and would not permit the sale of raw cannabis, also known as marijuana, as is common in other states. As many as 29 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico, have laws permitting the use of cannabis for medical purposes, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Tennessee Lawmakers Propose Allowing Medical Cannabis — As Long As It’s Not Smoked (WPLN) After years of successive failures, backers of medical cannabis in Tennessee are taking a new tack — keeping the ban on smoking it. Two Republican lawmakers say they’re introducing a measure that would legalize oil-based marijuana products for patients with certain health conditions. But the dried plant, edibles and marijuana cigarettes would remain illegal. Backers call it the Medical Cannabis Only Act. They hope it’ll win over their reluctant colleagues, who haven’t shown any interest in approving medical marijuana despite numerous attempts in recent years.

Tennessee bill seeks to legalize, regulate medical marijuana products (Times Free Press) Tennesseans diagnosed with diseases like cancer, HIV/AIDs, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis could be prescribed medical cannabis oil-based products under legislation introduced by two Republican state lawmakers Thursday. The bill’s sponsors, Nashville physician Sen. Steve Dickerson and Rep. Jeremy Faison, of Cosby, say at least 65,000 Tennesseans could benefit from what they call safe, regulated access to the drugs. If passed, it would allow Tennessee to join 30 other states, including Arkansas and Florida, which have authorized similar laws.

2 Tennessee Republicans introduce medical marijuana bill (AP) Two Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation to make medical marijuana legal in Tennessee, but only in oil-based products. Sen. Steve Dickerson of Nashville and Rep. Jeremy Faison of Cosby announced the bill’s filing Thursday amid wide support for medical marijuana in state polls. The lawmakers believe the change could benefit 65,000 Tennesseans. Patients would have to have certain medical conditions, from cancer to post-traumatic stress disorder. The legislation would not allow use of recreational marijuana.

Tennessee Rep. Gerald McCormick drops controversial school ‘bathroom bill’ (Times Free Press) State Rep. Gerald McCormick said Thursday he is withdrawing his controversial school “bathroom bill” after assurances from Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery that he already can and will step in with legal aid to smaller systems facing lawsuits over LGBT access policies. “I’ve been informed by the Attorney General’s office that they already have the authority to help defend a local school system if they get involved in something they can’t handle with whatever legal assets they have,” the Chattanooga Republican said. He added: “With that in mind, I think the bill is unnecessary as written now and I won’t be carrying it. My part of the concern has pretty much evaporated.” McCormick’s introduction of the bill on the use of school restrooms, locker rooms and similar facilities reignited a furor that began in Tennessee and a number of other states in mid-2016.

Speakers quietly drop hand-held sign ban at Cordell Hull (TN Journal/Humphrey) The Tennessee Legislature has quietly revised its “Facility Use Policies” to remove a ban on all signs within the Cordell Hull building. Moving forward, “small letter sized signs that do not obstruct the view of visitors are acceptable,” according to the policy. Under the previous set of rules, all signs were banned, regardless of whether they were hand-held or mounted to sticks or poles. The fact that this was done in the name of preventing “a serious safety hazard to visors and tenants” was the cause of much mockery because it was imposed alongside a new policy allowing handgun carry permit holders to be armed within the building.

Tennessee lawmakers alter policy, will allow letter-sized signs in new legislative building (Tennessean) Tennessee lawmakers have backtracked on a decision to prohibit hand-held signs in their new legislative office building. Small letter-sized signs will be allowed, director of legislative administration Connie Ridley told the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee on Thursday. The reversal comes after Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, and House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, approved a new policy on Dec. 14 that prohibited “hand-carried signs and signs on hand sticks” because they “represent a serious safety hazard.”

Lawmaker Proposes Bill To Make Daylight Saving Time Year-Round (WTVF) A Tennessee lawmaker has filed a bill to keep Daylight Saving Tim year-round. Representative Rick Tillis filed the bill, HB1518, which would allow Daylight Saving Time to be the standard for the whole year. “…The bill will take away the hassle of changing the clocks twice a year. We will observe the summer hours during the winter which will take the hour we gain of sunlight in the morning and give it to the afternoon,” Tillis said in part. Tillis said the reasons why Daylight Saving Time was first introduced are now outdated.

Dems want election changes (Nashville Post) Proposed bills include automatic registration, social media disclosures. Democrats in the state Legislature are promoting a new set of bills to fix what they say are problems with the state’s voting system. Democrats in the Tennessee General Assembly announced a new package of bills on Thursday that they say would improve voting turnout and make elections more secure. “Tennessee shouldn’t be dead last in democracy, but that’s exactly where we’re heading right now,” said state Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) at a press conference. “We are currently ranked 50th when it comes to voter turnout. … And I don’t think that reflects Tennesseans; That reflects policy choices that have been made in the legislature.”

Legislative roundup: Haile new speaker pro tempore (Nashville Post) State Sen. Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) will be the new speaker pro tempore of the Senate, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally announced today. Haile replaces former Sen. Jim Tracy, who resigned to work for the USDA after being appointed by President Donald Trump. Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) will replace Haile in the position of deputy speaker. “Ferrell Haile is the epitome of a servant leader. An extremely effective legislator, Senator Haile never seeks credit for his accomplishments and is quick to praise others,” stated McNally in a press release. “Janice Bowling is a strong, valuable member of our caucus. She is an excellent legislator who works tirelessly on behalf of her constituents. I am looking forward to her advice and counsel in this new role.”

Bill gives county mayors evacuation powers (WBIR) An East Tennessee lawmaker wants to give county mayors the power to order evacuations in light of the Sevier County wildfires. More than a year has passed since the Sevier County wildfires. Since then, there have been memorials, reports, lawsuits and rebuilding. Now, there’s legislation. State Rep. Dale Carr, R-Sevierville, introduced a bill that would give a county mayor the power to issue an evacuation order to all or parts of the county in an emergency. “This way it just puts it without any confusion that the county mayor, upon his request, may evacuate the whole county or any portion thereof,” Carr said.

Gubernatorial candidate Boyd campaigns in Hamblen County (Citizen Tribune) Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd said this week he likes his chances in the crowded field for governor as the race heads toward its August primary. Boyd has consistently been ranked in polls the last few months as second behind fellow gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Dianne Black, R-Gallatin. “I’d worry if I was No. 1 this early, and everyone would be shooting arrows at me the whole time,” he said, noting some of the polling is based merely on name recognition. “I’d rather be no. 2 and sprint toward the finish line.”

National and state Dems in Illinois, Iowa, Tennessee using Greitens to attack their Republican governors (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) As Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner heads into what could be a tough re-election fight this year, national Democrats are turning a newly acquired weapon on him: his ties to fellow Republican Gov. Eric Greitens of Missouri. Meanwhile, state-level Democratic organizations in Iowa and Tennessee also are using the embattled Missouri governor to go after their own Republican officeholders for their connections to Greitens — who had been positioned as a future national star in the GOP prior to last week’s revelations. In a news release to reporters, the Democratic Governor’s Association on Wednesday highlighted the fact that Greitens had, until recently, been appearing in a television ad in support of Rauner. The ad stopped running last week, on the same day Greitens publicly acknowledged having an extramarital affair in 2015 while denying a related allegation that he threatened his lover with a compromising photo.

Reasons Nashville will land the Amazon HQ (and 2 reasons why it won’t) (Tennessean) As Nashville’s leaders prepare to pursue Seattle-based online retailer Amazon’s planned second headquarters and up to 50,000 jobs, the Music City region clearly has much to offer. The region’s growth and Tennessee’s reputation as a low-tax, business-friendly state all bode well, but the lack of mass transit is among issues that also could hurt its prospects. “I would expect Nashville and Tennessee to be in the hunt,” said Bill Fox, an economist at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. “We have a lot of pluses. We’re growing fast.”


Beth Harwell and Mark Norris: The time has come to reform juvenile justice in Tennessee (Tennessean) Over the past decade, legislators and other officials from a growing number of states have set aside political differences to unite behind a common goal: steering youth away from delinquency toward a productive life path. Their teamwork is paying off. Georgia, Kansas, South Dakota, Utah and Kentucky are among states where juvenile justice reforms are producing better outcomes for youth, while protecting public safety and saving taxpayer dollars. Now, Tennessee is poised to walk down a similar collaborative path.

Otis Sanford: Expect more restrained, less strident legislature this election year (Commercial Appeal) Usually at this time of year, I view the start of the Tennessee legislative session the same way I view incoming Christmas bills — with plenty of angst. This gathering of the General Assembly, however, is shaping up to be refreshingly different. Of course, there will be a smattering of outlandish bills and self-serving resolutions from overzealous lawmakers. But overall, this will likely be a session marked by restraint, with an eye toward the 2018 state and federal elections. Republicans will continue to flex their supermajority muscle.

Column: Zombie Bill Alert: Anti-Trans Bathroom Legislation to be Resurrected (Nashville Scene) The Times Free Press reports that McCormick “is dropping his controversial school “bathroom bill” following assurances from Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery that he already can and will step in with legal aid to smaller systems facing lawsuits over LGBT access policies.” There was rejoicing among LGBT-rights advocates Wednesday morning when Republican state Rep. Gerald McCormick withdrew this year’s iteration of the right-wing effort to mandate which bathroom transgender people use. But it was short-lived. Andy Sher at the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that McCormick is simply retooling the legislation and bringing it right back.

Mark Harmon: Massey’s misunderstanding covers bankrupt policy (News Sentinel) This past weekend the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists hosted a legislative luncheon. It had the usual posturing, including state Rep. Jimmy Matlock blurting Planned Parenthood misrepresentations as he campaigns to become a congressman. One disturbing section, however, may have gone unnoticed. A question I submitted asked state Sen. Becky Duncan Massey for supporting information about an assertion she made a week earlier at a League of Women Voters forum. She claimed, regarding the phasing out of the Hall income tax and the Tennessee estate tax, that the tax loss is offset “because there’s a growth in people living in Tennessee because we don’t have it.”

Thursday, January 18

Haslam welcomes top court’s move to revisit internet sales-tax collection issue (Times Free Press) Gov. Bill Haslam is applauding the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to take up a South Dakota case expected to determine whether Tennessee and other states can begin compelling out-of-state internet vendors to start collecting billions of dollars in sales taxes owed to them. The Republican governor “is encouraged that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear this case and looks forward to the court’s decision,” said Haslam press secretary Jennifer Donnals. “He believes it is unfair to disadvantage brick and mortar retailers in Tennessee against out-of-state, online retailers,” Donnals added in the statement to the Times Free Press.

Legal Groups: Free Tennessee Woman Sentenced to Life at 16 (AP) More than a dozen national advocacy groups want the release of a Tennessee woman imprisoned for life after she shot and killed a man who solicited her as a teenage prostitute. According to The Tennessean , Cyntoia Brown received support in a federal appeals court brief by the Southern Poverty Law Center, The Sentencing Project, the Center for Wrongful Convictions of Youth and others. Brown has been in prison since 2004, when she was convicted of killing the 43-year-old man who solicited her.

Cyntoia Brown: National legal groups join appeal to free woman sentenced to life at 16 (Tennessean) More than a dozen juvenile advocacy groups have filed a legal brief in support of freeing Cyntoia Brown, a woman whose life sentence for murder at the age of 16 has attracted global attention. Brown, now 29, was convicted in the 2004 murder and robbery of Johnny Allen, a 43-year old Nashville real estate agent. Allen was a stranger to Brown when he picked her up at a Nashville fast food restaurant and brought her to his home, where Brown said she shot him as he lay naked beside her because she feared for her life. At the time, Brown claimed she had been forced into prostitution by her then-boyfriend.

ACT do-overs pay off for 40 percent of Tennessee high school seniors who tried (Chalkbeat Tennessee) Tennessee’s $2 million investment in helping high school seniors retake the ACT test appears to be paying off for a second year in a row. Almost three-fourths of the class of 2018 took the national college entrance test last fall for a second time, doubling the participation rate in Tennessee’s ACT Senior Retake Day for public schools. State officials announced Wednesday that 40 percent of the do-overs resulted in a higher overall score. Of the 52,000 students who participated in the initiative’s second year, 2,333 raised their average composite to a 21 or higher, making them eligible for HOPE Scholarship funds of up to $16,000 for tuition. That’s potentially $37 million in state-funded scholarships.

State proposes changes to keep predators out of classrooms (WSMV) David Shepard was arrested in 2008, charged with patronizing prostitution. At the time he was a teacher in Wilson County. Shepard lost his teaching license for six months, then got it back. He went on to teach in Maury County, then in Nashville. In 2016 Shepard was arrested again. This time during a TBI human trafficking sting. Shepard left Metro Schools and began teaching in Cannon County. To this day he still has his teaching license. Shepard is just one example. “When you’ve got someone like that who has clearly crossed the line in terms of safety of students and his action outside of school, they shouldn’t be in front of students,” said Dr. Sara Morrison, the executive director of the state board of education.

‘Poopline’ Moved, Megasite Needs Additional $80M (Memphis Flyer) State officials said they’ve picked a new site to pump wastewater from the Memphis Regional Megasite into the Mississippi River and a lawmaker asked them how long it would take to “scare” property owners along the pipeline into giving them their land. In November, some state lawmakers asked for a delay in the permitting process for a 35-mile wastewater pipeline to carry industrial waste and treated sewer water from the megasite to the river at a site just north of Randolph. The process gave citizens there another 30 days to make their case against the site.

TDEC Encourages Residents to Identify and Address Radon Problems (Buffalo River Review) The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) is encouraging residents to identify and address radon problems in their homes as part of Radon Action Month by offering free radon test kits and hosting educational outreach events. “In winter weather, we are spending more and more time inside our homes, where exposure to radon is most likely,” said TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau. “Roughly three-quarters of Tennessee’s population lives in moderate- to high-risk areas for radon, which can pose a threat to human health in concentrated levels.” Gov. Haslam proclaimed January 2018 as Radon Action Month statewide to emphasize the importance around education, testing and mitigation.

Tennessee Education Lottery celebrates 14th anniversary (Times Free Press) Happy Birthday, Tennessee Education Lottery. Tennessee lottery officials this week are celebrating the games’ 14th anniversary, announcing the program has raised $4.4 billion so far for education programs along with a record-busting second quarter. “We’re proud of the past 14 years,” said Rebecca Hargrove, the lottery’s president and CEO, in a news release. “The results we have achieved have funded more than a million scholarships and grants and now help make possible the Governor’s Drive to 55 initiatives along with so many other education programs.”

Tennessee lawmakers wants daylight saving time year-round (Tennessean) During this winter legislative session, one lawmaker is convinced he has a bright idea. While State Rep. Rick Tillis, R-Lewisburg, might not be alone in that regard, he says it is time for Tennesseans to stop rolling clocks back to standard time in the winter and trade the antiquated practice for an extra hour of sunlight in the evenings. “I’ve done two polls, one on Facebook, one on Twitter, and both of them come in right at 89 percent in favor of staying on daylight saving time year around,” he said. “People [would] rather have an hour of daylight in wintertime.

Group vows ‘massive resistance’ to retooled McCormick transgender bathroom bill (Times Free Press) For just a little while Wednesday, it appeared that Rep. Gerald McCormick was giving up on a controversial bill the Chattanooga Republican introduced that resurrects Tennessee’s transgender school bathroom controversy. McCormick moved on the floor to withdraw the measure, drawing attention from both Democrats and LGBT advocates who had criticized the measure that would have required the state attorney general to defend school policies from legal challenge or have the state pay their legal costs. But no, the issue is not going away, McCormick said in an interview, adding he plans to introduce a re-tooled version.

Natural Marriage Defense Act Rolled In Legislature (WTVF) Same-sex marriage advocates won a small victory when a bill recognizing only marriages between one man and one woman was rolled in legislature. The “Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act” was rolled today Wednesday, but it was first introduced last year. Same-sex marriage advocates have long called it unconstitutional.  “I think there is still a lot of unease among legislators about marriage equality so I think that’s why we’re seeing this,” on activist said. The bill would essentially allow policy of the state to defense marriage between one man and one woman regardless of any court decision to the contrary.

Tori Venable is new TN head of Americans for Prosperity (TN Journal/Humphrey) Press release from Americans for Prosperity: Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee (AFP-TN), the leading grassroots advocacy organization in Tennessee with over 46,000 activists, announced Tori Venable will head the chapter as State Director. “I am picking up the torch to reignite the fight for freedom in Tennessee,” Venable said. “The ‘Movement of Millions’ we are looking to build starts on the ground; we will focus on strengthening our grassroots network across the state while promoting policies that will protect taxpayers from an overzealous government.”

Medicaid fraud is helping drive opioid crisis, new GOP congressional report suggests (Tennessean) A new congressional report suggests that Medicaid is helping drive the nation’s opioid crisis by making it easier for enrollees to abuse and then resell the highly addictive painkillers. At least 1,072 people have been convicted or charged nationwide since 2010 for improperly using Medicaid to obtain prescription opioids, some of which were then resold on the nation’s streets, according to the report by Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The number of criminal defendants increased 18 percent in the four years after Medicaid expanded under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, the report said.

Poll shows Blackburn with big lead over Fincher (Nashville Post) The conservative Club for Growth released polling this week that showed U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) with a commanding lead in her race to succeed retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker. The poll of self-proclaimed likely Republican primary voters favored Blackburn over former U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Frog Jump) by a margin of 66 percent to 13 percent, with 21 percent of likely primary voters undecided.

State parks an issue for Dean in governor’s race (WKRN) Karl Dean is making Tennessee state parks an issue in this year’s governor race. The former Nashville Mayor sees it as something more than just about who runs them. “One of my goals as governor would be to have Tennessee go back to having the best state parks in the country,” Dean recently told news 2. “(I want people) to be aware the beauty of our state is a big part of why our state works so well and why people want to live here and protect it.” It means he would oppose any such efforts to privatize state parks which most recently came up last year in Republican Governor Bill Haslam’s Administration.

South Carolina Spent $9 Billion on Nuclear Reactors That Will Never Run. Now What? (Governing) It has to be one of the greatest wastes of money in any state’s history. Last summer, two utility companies halted construction on nuclear reactors in South Carolina. They had already sunk more than $9 billion into the project, which will never be completed or generate a kilowatt of power. The state is now trying to figure out who’s to blame, and who will pay. The story started a dozen years ago. Back in 2006, South Carolina, along with several other states, passed legislation to try to jumpstart the moribund nuclear construction industry. At the time, energy was more expensive than it is today and there was talk of Congress perhaps imposing a carbon tax. In states with growing populations, encouraging nuclear energy through a new approach seemed like a good idea.


Sam Stockard: Despite Need, Expanding Health Care Not in Cards (Memphis Daily News) Springfield resident Felicity Palma struggled mightily when she moved to Tennessee from Florida two years ago after suffering health problems and losing her job. The 47-year-old former social worker became homeless for a period when she came here, and now she finds herself in a health insurance coverage gap as she tries to get treatment for ulcers, sciatica, fibroids and thyroid disease. Debt is piling up on her, too, for the care she does receive. “I’ve worked in the field for so long, and to find myself in a situation where I needed help myself because of my health was really difficult for me,” Palma says. “It was a very humbling experience, and at the same time, I remember a lot of the struggles that my clients went through and that they would tell me, and I kind of took that to heart.”

Editorial: Aging bridges and power grids can’t wait (Johnson City Press) Aging infrastructure remains a serious problem in this nation. It is a complicated and costly problem that not only impacts this country’s prosperity in the future, but places the health and safety of Americans in jeopardy today. A report by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations released last year found Washington County is in need of public infrastructure improvements totaling more $836.7 million. The county’s top three areas of need are $227.8 million for transportation; $194.2 million for water and wastewater; and $176.3 million for post-secondary education. President Donald Trump has proposed an ambitious $1 trillion funding program to upgrade this country’s infrastructure. The president says his infrastructure package can be financed through both public and private funds. Sadly, with the daily distractions that have plagued the Trump administration, no progress has been made to address the infrastructure crisis.

Editorial: More than lip service for schools (Johnson City Press) There is a line in the Tennessee Constitution requiring the state General Assembly to “adequately” fund public schools. The term adequate on Capitol Hill has often been defined as the bare minimum. It’s often argued that you can’t solve every problem by simply throwing money at it. Even so, when it comes to improving schools in Tennessee, state lawmakers have never bothered to even try. Just ask educators across this state who are struggling to fund the basic essentials in the classroom. If only schools in Tennessee had the money needed to develop innovative programs to improve the educational outcomes in those classrooms.