Wednesday, July 11

‘A massive undertaking’: Tennessee to finish replacing controversial X-LITE guardrails (News Sentinel) Tennessee has spent millions of dollars to replace nearly 2,000 guardrails that the state’s top transportation official said were not safe enough. Now, only about three dozen of the controversial guardrails remain in the state, and they are expected to be replaced by Sunday, according to Tennessee Department of Transportation spokesman Mark Nagi. At issue is the Lindsay X-LITE, a model of guardrail end that has been tied to at least 11 deaths across the country, with four of those in Tennessee. The product — and whether or not its alleged defect causes it to spear vehicles — is the subject of a handful of wrongful death lawsuits.

Tennessee leaders developing plan to address future water needs (Times Free Press) The Haslam administration’s swan song will aim to address Tennessee’s water needs for generations, as global leaders fear water scarcity will impact much of the world’s population. Scientists and other environmentalists warn water scarcity is the largest global risk in terms of potential impact. Representatives from city, Hamilton County and state agencies met with private groups Tuesday morning at Chattanooga’s Eastside Utility District to discuss a new potential water plan — TN H2O — that could ensure Tennesseans have an adequate water supply for decades.

Read20 free books program kicks off in Clarksville (Leaf Chronicle) Crissy Haslam, First Lady of Tennessee, alongside Mayor Kim McMillan, Chief of Police Al Ansley, and members of the City of Clarksville Police Department, partnered Monday to kick off a reading initiative program at the Kleeman Community Center and the Burt-Cobb Community Center. “I am so excited to help launch this program in our City and to watch it grow,” Mayor Kim McMillan said. “Reading is such a crucial skill in all aspects of life. I think it’s very important to foster a love of reading in our youth.”

CNBC: Tennessee no longer a top 10 state for business (Nashville Business Journal) Tennessee is no longer among the top 10 states for business, according to the latest analysis by CNBC.The Volunteer State ranked No. 13 on CNBC’s 2018 list of “America’s Top States for Business,” down from No. 9 in 2017. Texas ranked No. 1 on this year’s list and Alaska came in last. Health could have been the pitfall for Tennessee this year. Among the categories, Tennessee performed the worst in quality of life, where the state ranked No. 47, down from last year’s ranking at No. 42. CNBC judges quality of life based largely on overall health of the state’s population. Tennessee ranks dead last in the nation for childhood obesity, No. 45 in adult obesity and No. 46 in adults with heart disease, according to think tank Think Tennessee.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation breaks ground for facility (AP) The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has broken ground on a new laboratory and regional headquarters. The agency says an event Tuesday marked the start of construction in Jackson on the Special Agent De’Greaun ReShun Frazier TBI Crime Laboratory and Regional Headquarters. The 50,000-square-foot (4,645-square-meter) facility will open in 2020 and will replace the Memphis Crime Lab. It aims to provide more efficient services to agencies across 21 counties in western Tennessee. The facility will honor TBI Agent De’Greaun Frazier, who died during an undercover drug operation in Jackson in August 2016.

New TBI facility to be named in honor of Shelby County native (WREG-TV) The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has broken ground on a new laboratory and regional headquarters. The agency says an event Tuesday marked the start of construction in Jackson on the Special Agent De’Greaun ReShun Frazier TBI Crime Laboratory and Regional Headquarters. The 50,000-square-foot (4,645-square-meter) facility will open in 2020 and will replace the Memphis Crime Lab. It aims to provide more efficient services to agencies across 21 counties in western Tennessee. Officials have been planning the building for more than five years and will honor Agent Frazier, who died during an undercover drug operation in Jackson in August 2016.

Some doctors, nurses named in Tennessee suit against Purdue Pharma still practicing (News Sentinel) In its lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, unsealed last week, the state of Tennessee names a slew of Knoxville-area health care professionals who were part of what officials say was a drug marketing push that helped create the addiction crisis that plagues the state today. Some voluntarily surrendered their licenses or had them revoked by the state — in some cases, not until after they faced criminal charges. Others were put on probation with terms that included education about addiction and narcotics, or simply barred from pain management practices or prescribing controlled substances.

Tennessee Tech Board of Trustees raise fees (Overton County News) Fees were raised in the recent Tennessee Tech Board of Trustees meeting. In a full agenda, Tennessee Tech Board of Trustees approved a 2.66% tuition and fees increase, the addition of a new engineering building to the university’s master plan, and a proposed budget for 2018-2019. For 2018-2019, an undergraduate student taking 12 credit hours will see an increase in maintenance fees of $102 per semester. The university’s maintenance fee, also known as tuition, covers up to 12 credit hours per semester for a student. For 2018-2019, it will be $3,930 per semester, an increase of $102 over 2017-2018. This is a 2.66% increase. Out-of-state students pay this maintenance fee, plus a per semester out-of-state tuition rate, which remained at $7,932; however, out-of-state students within 250 miles of Tech qualify for the Eagle’s Reach program, which offers a significant reduction to the out-of-state tuition rate.

Tennessee gets $4.3M federal grant for student health (AP) Tennessee is receiving a federal grant of more than $4.3 million to help prevent student obesity, manage childhood chronic disease and prevent those sicknesses in adulthood. According to the state Department of Education, the grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will focus on awareness and policies for school-based health education, physical education and physical activity, healthy eating, and management of chronic health conditions.

Montgomery County given Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award (Leaf Chronicle) On Monday, July 9, Montgomery County was presented with the Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award (GESA) for their excellence in energy and renewable resources. Award winners were recognized at the awards ceremony for their achievements and positive impact on the state’s natural resources. Montgomery County was recognized for their energy upgrades throughout County facilities. In October 2016, Montgomery County Government partnered with Siemens Industry, Inc. to complete a year-long, large-scale lighting retrofit and HVAC upgrade in the Historic Courthouse, Courts Center, Jail, Health Department and the Veterans Plaza property.

TDOT: Unintentional littering costs taxpayers millions to pick up each year (WSMV-TV) Unsafe, unsightly and unsanitary garbage is piling up along Tennessee’s interstates, and the problem is costing taxpayers millions of dollars. TDOT reportedly spends $15 million each year on litter prevention and pickup. Now, TDOT and THP are looking to crack-down on these incidental litterbugs. According to TDOT, most of the littering is not done on purpose but blows out the back of pickup trucks or trailers hauling loads of garbage to the dump. “Cover your loads, it’s a law in Tennessee,” said Shawn Bible, manager of TDOT’s beautification office. “If you’re hauling something that could come out of your truck or vehicle, it must be covered.” According to Bible, research shows about 70-percent of roadside litter problems stem from uncovered loads and unintentional littering.

Campfield opponents resurrect ‘Defeat Stacey Campfield’ Facebook page for House 89 race (News Sentinel) When former Republican state Sen. Stacey Campfield filed paperwork to run for Tennessee House Seat 89 this fall he, like any candidate, already had a group of supporters willing to do the door knocking and ground work needed to mount a successful campaign. However, unlike some candidates, Campfield had built-in opposition ready to go. The Defeat Stacey Campfield in 2018 Facebook page, formerly the Defeat Stacey Campfield in 2014 page, has 1,926 ‘likes’ and markets itself as a place for people to come and make sure Campfield doesn’t get elected. The page marks other social media groupings formed against a candidate who has a history of making a name for himself in controversial ways.

Cohen endorses Dean for governor (Nashville Post) U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, on Tuesday announced his endorsement of Karl Dean in the Democratic primary for governor. Dean faces House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, who like Cohen hails from West Tennessee. Early voting in the Aug. 2 primary begins Friday. In a release, the Dean campaign said it would soon launch a radio ad featuring Cohen. “Karl has a proven track record of putting all the pieces together to attract companies big and small,” Cohen says in the radio ad, as quoted in the release. “He knows our challenges are connected. That’s what we need in our next governor.”

Rep. Black Introduces Bill That Would Make First-Time Illegal Border Crossing A Felony (WTVF-TV) U.S. Rep. Diane Black has introduced a bill that would make first-time illegal border crossing a felony.  On Tuesday, Black introduced the “Zero Tolerance for Illegal Entry Act.”     “The United States government should never prioritize illegal immigrants over American citizens. We must have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to illegal border crossings and sanctuary cities, and we must give ICE the resources they need to do their job as they protect our nation. By no longer creating incentives to come to our country unlawfully, we also discourage families from sending their children on an often dangerous journey to reach our southern border.

Black lands endorsement from candidate who ‘won by losing’ (TN Journal/On the Hill) Republican gubernatorial candidate Diane Black is touting the endorsement of former Vanderbilt professor Carol Swain, who famously declared she “won by losing” her bid for Nashville mayor this year after she won 23% of the vote. “I will be voting for Representative Diane Black for the GOP gubernatorial nomination,” Swain writes in her endorsement. “I believe Diane can defeat Karl Dean and become the next governor of Tennessee.” After her loss to David Briley in the Nashville mayor’s race in May, Swain said: “We won by losing. Our short campaign ignited a conversation about the real challenges facing Nashville.”

Bill Lee on Black attack ads: ‘It’s not what leaders do’ (TN Journal/On the Hill) Franklin businessman Bill Lee says he will take the high road in response to rival Republican gubernatorial candidate Diane Black’s attack ads. “I think negative, deceitful attack ads, it’s everything wrong with politics,” Lee told WKRN-TV’s Chris Bundgaard. “I’m not going down that road because it’s not what leaders do.” Lee was asked about the ads when he was campaigning in Marshall County on Monday. “People that are wiling to say anything or do anything to be elected I don’t believe that that’s the kind of person that Tennesseans want as governor,” Lee said.

Lee: GOP governor race attack ads ‘not what a leader does’ (AP) Bill Lee has released an ad criticizing what he calls dishonest attack ads in the GOP gubernatorial primary, saying he’s “not going down that road.” With early voting approaching Friday, Lee’s ad argues the attacks aren’t what a leader does and show some candidates will say and do anything to get elected. Congresswoman Diane Black’s ads highlight Lee’s donations to former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry and Democratic ex-Gov. Phil Bredesen. Lee also donated to Bredesen’s Republican opponent that election. Lee’s campaign deemed the donations “business decisions” for his company. The ads include vague claims about Barry, sanctuary cities and gun control. Barry helped defeat Nashville’s 2017 sanctuary city-like push.

Beth Harwell Thinks Her Experience As House Speaker Makes Her The Better Candidate For TN Governor (WKRN-TV) Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell hopes experience will make her Governor next year. State capitol newsroom reporter Chris Bundgaard says the speaker thinks it’s a major difference with the other Republican candidates. Harwell maintains she’s ready for the job of Governor on day one. After a public radio interview at Nashville’s WPLN Tuesday, Harwell stressed what she feels is a major difference between her and the other three major Republican candidates for Governor. “I think it’s all great on what you want to do and your political promises, but I have political results,” said Harwell. “I have actually led our state. We have had eight balanced budgets.”

Randy Boyd, a former economic development chief, hopes to ‘come back and finish the job’ as governor (News Sentinel) Randy Boyd’s political career can be most easily traced to an early morning breakfast in 2008 with then-Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale on his own back porch. The two dreamed about plans over bagels. Boyd wanted help in his quest to make Knoxville a premier pet-friendly city, and Ragsdale was willing to help. Ragsdale and his advisers had dreamed up a plan that would give Knox County high school graduates the opportunity to go to community college for free.

Governor hopefuls visit city (Times-Gazette) Two gubernatorial candidates — one from each major party — brought their campaigns to Shelbyville on Saturday, talking about education, health care and other issues. State Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, a Democrat who serves as House Minority Leader, appeared Saturday morning at Bedford County Democratic Party campaign headquarters on Spring Street, while businessman Bill Lee, a Republican running for his first political office, held a town hall midday Saturday at The Coffee Break on the square, answering questions submitted in advance, in writing, by participants. Fitzhugh admitted that Tennessee is currently considered a red state, but said the 25 Democrats in the 99-seat House of Representatives “punch well above our weight” and played a key role in stopping school vouchers, which Fitzhugh said would have taken money away from already-struggling school systems.

Grand Divisions Episode 6: Which GOP gubernatorial candidate do Democrats want in the fall? (Tennessean) Is the Democratic gubernatorial race already over in Tennessee? Which Republican candidate would either candidate — House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh or former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean — prefer to face in the General Election. Democratic campaign and public policy strategist Tom Lee joins Grand Divisions this week to analyze the Democratic side of the race to become the state’s next governor. Plus, a deep dive into the future of education policy in Tennessee and one GOP candidate’s use of an Irish tax loophole.

Early voting gets underway across Tennessee this week (WBBJ-TV) Early voting across Tennessee will begin this Friday, July 13. For early voting in Madison County, you can vote from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturdays at the Madison County Agricultural Complex Auditorium, located at 311 North Parkway in Jackson. As a reminder, you must present a photo ID issued by the State of Tennessee or the U.S. government in order to vote. Early voting ends Saturday July 28.

Vanderbilt law professor believes Roe v. Wade won’t be overturned (WSMV-TV) Not long after President Donald Trump nominated Federal Appeals Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, protesters, along with a handful of Democratic senators, gathered in front of the Supreme Court vowing to block the nomination. If confirmed, Kavanaugh would make the high court solidly conservative. It would give the court a potential five-vote conservative majority, enough to overturn Roe v. Wade, giving women the right to an abortion. Vanderbilt Law professor Brian Fitzpatrick doesn’t adhere to that thinking. He is as sure as any lawyer can be that a woman’s right to an abortion will not be overturned. “Roe v. Wade will be here forever,” said Fitzpatrick.

As some Democrats call for abolishing ICE, Bredesen says no (Times Free Press) U.S. Senate Democratic hopeful Phil Bredesen says he wants no part of efforts by some national progressives to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency that’s become a flash point for liberals as they rally against President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. “No,” the former Tennessee governor said in a one-word statement to the Times Free Press on the question of whether he favored abolishing the agency. Some U.S. Senate Democrats, including potential 2020 presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand, want Congress to to abolish ICE. Warren said it should be replaced “with something that reflects our morality.”

Analysis: Tennessee’s US Senate race proving competitive, will have national implications (Tennessean) For the first time in more than a decade, Tennessee will have a competitive race for an open U.S. Senate seat. The seat is currently held by retiring Sen. Bob Corker, and the outcome of the race may tilt the balance of power in the upper chamber of Congress.  When Corker announced his decision to not seek re-election last year, it thrust the state into the national spotlight, given Republicans’ slim majority in the U.S. Senate.   The two-term senator from Chattanooga has been in an at-times ugly public feud with President Donald Trump. In June, Corker even suggested that some in the Republican Party are becoming cult-like in their support for the president.

Blackburn Backs Supreme Court Pick; Bredesen Awaits Hearings (AP) – In Tennessee’s U.S. Senate race, Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn is backing President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee and Democratic ex-Gov. Phil Bredesen is holding judgment until after confirmation hearings. Blackburn said Monday that Brett Kavanaugh will make a fine Supreme Court justice, calling him a strong constitutionalist with a record of upholding the rule of law. Before Kavanaugh’s nomination announcement, Bredesen said he’d vote for or against a nominee based on high qualifications and ethics, not partisan politics. Bredesen said the nominee deserves a fair and timely confirmation hearing and he’ll hold judgment until after hearings.

TN Congressmen Weigh in on Trump Court Pick (Memphis Flyer) Politicians had plenty to say late Monday after President Donald Trump revealed Judge Brett Kavanaugh as his pick for the U.S. Supreme Court. Kavanaugh, 53, has sat on the bench of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for more than 12 years. He served as aide to former president George W. Bush and was on the legal team that investigated former president Bill Clinton. His selection came after two weeks of speculation and culminated in a prime-time news conference with Trump on Monday. Tennessee legislators issued statements right after the event.

Video: Matt Reel is 7th Congressional candidate (Leaf Chronicle) Matt Reel is seeking the Democratic nomination for the 7th Congressional District seat.

In Tennessee, Soybean Farmers Bear The Brunt Of U.S.-China Trade War (WPLN Radio) The U.S.-China trade is going to have a drastic impact on Tennessee’s agricultural exports, worth $1.4 billion as of 2016. Specifically, soybean farmers will face the harshest penalties. Tennessee’s farms exported nearly half a billion dollars worth of soybeans, mostly to China. Even the threat of a trade war was enough to send national soybean prices to a nine-year-low in May. While prices have slightly recovered, farmers are preparing for worse. “We’re not making a lot of money, even at the margins that we have,” West Tennessee farmer Ben Moore said. “So whenever you take another dollar or so off the price of soybeans, it makes it pretty tough.”

Tennessee health insurance rates could soar after Trump freezes Obamacare payments (Tennessean) Millions of Americans who buy their health insurance under the Affordable Care Act could have fewer options and face skyrocketing rates this fall because of the federal government’s decision to freeze billions of payments to insurers that cover a higher number of sicker patients, analysts are warning. The Trump administration announced Saturday that it is putting on hold the “risk adjustment” program in which money is collected from insurers with fewer high-cost plan members and then transferred to insurers with more high-need patients who require more expensive care.


Ken Yager: New laws passed by legislature aid crime victims (News Sentinel) I hear from a lot of people in my role as state senator for the 12th District of Tennessee, but nothing tugs at my heartstrings more than the heartbreaking stories of victims of crime. Our General Assembly has worked very hard to seek justice and help support crime victims over the past several years. This includes passage of a new law I sponsored this year to help our most vulnerable victims: children. Every eight minutes in America, child protective services substantiates, or finds evidence for, a claim of child sexual abuse. This cannot be tolerated. Sexual offenders must be prosecuted for these horrific crimes against children.

Glen Casada: Democrats want back in power in Tennessee with a whitewashed history (Tennessean) Tennessee voters are being presented with a very nostalgic storyline that needs to be retold with truth and reality. The first truth: Tennesseans should be on the lookout this election season for campaign tricks and sleights of hand that attempt to reframe the picture and divert attention away from the absolute failures of when Democrats were in control of state government. “In Tennessee, Phil Bredesen — the former governor whose tenure was marked with the loss of the Democrat’s Senate majority in 2008 — is portrayed to have coattails that will carry a string of other Democrats running in legislative seats across the state to some imagined victory in November.


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