Friday, August 10

Tennessee executes Billy Ray Irick, first lethal injection in state since 2009 (Tennessean) Death row inmate Billy Ray Irick died at 7:48 p.m. CDT Thursday after Tennessee prison officials administered a lethal dose of toxic chemicals. He was 59. His execution, the first in Tennessee since 2009, comes after his 1986 conviction in Knox County for the rape and murder of 7-year-old Paula Dyer. Witnesses to the execution included members of Paula’s family, Knox County Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones, Tennessee Deputy Attorney General Scott Sutherland, Irick’s attorney Gene Shiles and seven members of the media.

Billy Ray Irick execution: Anti-death penalty vigils held across Tennessee (Tennessean) Anti-death penalty advocates gathered across the state in churches and outside a Nashville prison for vigils ahead of Tennessee’s first planned execution in nearly a decade. Billy Ray Irick was executed Thursday by lethal injection for the 1985 rape and murder of 7-year-old Paula Dyer. He was pronounced dead at 7:48 p.m. In the moments leading up to the execution, the mood was somber among a subdued crowd of about 50 anti-death penalty protesters gathered on a grassy area outside Riverbend Maximum Security Institution under gray skies.

These were Billy Ray Irick’s last words before being put to death (Tennessean) Nearly a decade after Tennessee’s last lethal injection took place, Billy Ray Irick was put to death Thursday night. Moments before officials administered the fatal doses, Irick first said “no” when warden Tony Mays asked if had any final words. Then, as the warden motioned for the execution to begin, Irick said: “I just want to say I’m really sorry. And that … that’s it.”

Tennessee execution: Which inmate is the next to die? (Tennessean) If Tennessee prison officials are allowed to execute Billy Ray Irick Thursday, there is a good chance he will not be the last offender put to death this year. In January, the Tennessee Supreme Court scheduled an Oct. 11 execution for Edmond Zagorski and a Dec. 11 death date for David Earl Miller. Both men have exhausted their formal appeals, but both will very likely pursue additional legal attempts to delay or vacate their executions.

Tennessee Performs First Execution In 9 Years After U.S. Supreme Court Declines To Intervene (WPLN Radio) Tennessee has executed its first death row inmate in nearly a decade, the state Department of Correction announced this evening, after the U.S. Supreme Court decided Thursday not to intervene in the case of 59-year-old Billy Ray Irick. Irick was pronounced dead at 7:48 p.m. after his sentence was carried out at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville “in accordance with the laws of the state of Tennessee.”  Correction officials gave no further details. Earlier this week, Irick’s attorneys had asked the nation’s highest court to delay his execution pending a challenge to the constitutionality of the state’s lethal injection protocol. The Supreme Court denied the motion in a brief statement.

Jeremy Durham takes fight for benefits to federal appeals court (Tennessean) A federal judge said Friday he was “puzzled” about claims made by an attorney for expelled former lawmaker Jeremy Durham in his appeals case. Three federal judges for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments from Bill Harbison, Durham’s attorney, and Janet Kleinfelter, who was representing the defendants, related to the Williamson County Republican’s lawsuit. Filed in August 2017, Durham sued the state in federal court, alleging his expulsion from the House of Representatives was unconstitutional and therefore he should still receive his pension and health insurance funded by taxpayers.

Dean campaign announces ‘Educators for Dean’ (TN Journal) Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean is announcing the formation of a “Educators for Dean” group as the Democrat moves in to the general election phase of the governor’s race. Dean as mayor and in his time since leaving office has been a supporter of expanding charter schools in the city, a key factor in his failure to land the endorsement of the Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, during the primary (the group’s nod went instead to House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh). Dean is now trying to shore up support among public education advocates as he faces off against Republican businessman Bill Lee.

Tennessee’s Next Governor: The Extended Interview With Republican Bill Lee (WPLN Radio) Williamson County businessman Bill Lee has never held political office. But he says running the home services company that bears his name is preparation enough to lead Tennessee’s executive branch. And after winning the Republican nomination for governor, Lee is just one step away from putting that theory to the test. So when WPLN’s Chas Sisk interviewed Lee shortly before the primary election, he asked him about which lessons from business really translate to government — and how he plans to get up to speed to take the reins from Governor Bill Haslam if he’s elected. Listen to an extended interview with Lee on this special episode of The Tri-Star State:

TN Farm Bureau President’s Conference Kicks Off In Nashville (WTVF-TV) The Annual Tennessee Farm Bureau Presidents Conference kicked off in Nashville with several politicians laying out their plans if elected. Marsha Blackburn and Phil Bredesen, who are running for the senate seat being vacated by Senator Bob Corker, talked about their plans if elected. “I’m going to go up there and do what I think is best in my judgemental, after talking with a lot of people, for the people of Tennessee not for the Democratic party, not for the Republican party certainly, not for any president, for the people of Tennessee,” said Bredesen.

Candidates for governor, U.S. Senate talk tariffs, health care and rural life at Farm Bureau (Williamson Herald) Four Republican and Democratic candidates in the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate race had the ears of the state’s most influential farmers Thursday at the 78th Annual Farm Bureau Presidents Conference in Franklin. Bill Lee, Republican gubernatorial candidate and fourth generation farmer himself, cited that the attendees he relates to – a crowd of almost 500 – represented a portion of the 67,000-plus farmers in Tennessee, which produce 13 percent of the state’s economy in agriculture. The crowd represented a significant voting pool within each candidate’s reach in rural Tennessee. Candidates shared their views on issues such as tariffs, the Farm Bill, health care immigration and bolstering the rural economy in Tennessee.

With two new ads, outside groups begin spending in Tennessee’s US Senate race (Tennessean) Signifying the national interest in Tennessee’s U.S. Senate race, two competing political action committees launched statewide TV ad buys Friday in support of their respective candidates. The Democrat-aligned Majority Forward and the Republican-aligned Senate Leadership Fund have begun airing new TV ads in favor of former Gov. Phil Bredesen and U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, respectively. Both national PACs told the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee they spent $1.3 million to air their 30-second ads on Tennessee TV stations in August. Both ads are positive profiles of each candidate.

What Marsha Blackburn and Phil Bredesen told Tennessee farmers as they campaign for the US Senate (Tennessean) U.S. Senate candidates Marsha Blackburn and Phil Bredesen made their cases Thursday to Tennessee farmers, touting their support for rural issues — from expanding access to broadband to tariffs. The two candidates, in addition to Republican and Democratic gubernatorial nominees Bill Lee and Karl Dean, respectively, made separate appearances at a gathering of the Tennessee Farm Bureau in Franklin. The event was the first time all four candidates have appeared in the same place since last week’s primary. During his remarks, Bredesen made overt attempts to appeal to supporters of President Donald Trump, vowed not to be a “company man” for his party and briefly noted his opponent’s previous votes on the all-important farm bill.

Jason Isbell, Ben Folds to headline Phil Bredesen fundraiser (Tennessean) Singer-songwriters Jason Isbell and Ben Folds are set to headline a special event in support of former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s bid for the U.S. Senate. The event, scheduled for Aug. 20, will take place at Marathon Music Works in Nashville.Isbell and Folds will also be joined by Delta Rae. Bredesen’s campaign said the evening event, dubbed “Our Country, Our Future,” will bring together Tennesseans of “all political stripes” who are supported by the former governor’s bid for the Senate. Bredesen, a Democrat, is squaring off against Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn in the general election.

Rep. Steve Cohen under fire for saying he wished Marsha Blackburn would jump off a bridge (Tennessean) U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen is coming under fire for remarks he made last month in which he wished President Donald Trump would encourage U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn to jump off a bridge. Cohen’s remarks, which were first reported by Huffington Post on Thursday night, came at a community prayer breakfast on July 28 hosted by former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s U.S. Senate campaign at the Broadway Baptist Church in Memphis. “The big orange president, that’s not somebody from Knoxville,” Cohen said, talking about how the race is expected to be tight. “He’s going to come down here and endorse Marsha Blackburn. ‘Cause Marsha Blackburn, if he says, ‘jump off the Harahan Bridge,’ she’ll jump off the Harahan Bridge.”

Democratic Congressman In Tennessee Wants GOP Senate Candidate To Jump Off A Bridge (Huffington Post) Rep. Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat, told a group of pastors last month he hoped President Donald Trump would tell Rep. Marsha Blackburn, the GOP’s Senate candidate in the Volunteer State, to jump off a local bridge. Cohen was appearing at a community prayer breakfast at the Broadway Baptist Church in Memphis hosted by former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s campaign for Senate. “The big orange president …. He’s going to come down here and he is going to endorse Marsha Blackburn, because Marsha Blackburn, if he says, ‘Jump off the Harahan Bridge,’ she’ll jump off the Harahan Bridge,” he said in the audio obtained by HuffPost, referring to a bridge over the Mississippi River connecting Arkansas and Tennessee. “I wish he’d say that.”

Duncan on Irick execution: ‘Real shame’ it’s taken so long (WATE-TV) The man convicted in the rape and murder of a 7-year-old Knox County girl in 1985 was put to death by lethal injection Thursday evening. The judge in his initial trial, outgoing U.S. Congressman Jimmy Duncan, says it’s a “real shame” that it’s taken this long and calls it “ridiculous.”  Duncan says he accepted the jury’s verdict, agreed with it, and sentenced Irick to death in 1986. He says something, legally, needs to be done to limit the amount of time appeals can go on. He says it’s past time for justice. “Billy Ray Irick has been given 32 extra years, and he’s been given 59 years. And this little girl was given only seven,” Duncan said.

Video: Chattanooga protests against lowering fuel efficiency standards (WDEF-TV) The Trump administration wants to get rid of an Obama era rule that requires improved fuel efficiency on new cars. Today several members of the community spoke out against the plan.

BlueCross At A Stalemate With Nashville Anesthesiologists (WPLN Radio) A contract stalemate between Tennessee’s largest health insurer and anesthesiologists in Nashville could start causing headaches for patients at the end of the month. The standoff reveals the local effects of physician consolidation. BlueCross BlueShield is a behemoth in Tennessee with 3.5 million patients. And Steve Santi, CEO of Anesthesia Medical Group, says his company is getting big-footed. “You hate to use the word ‘bully,’ but it almost feels that way,” Santi says. But AMG has become a giant itself. It’s quietly grown into one of the largest groups of anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists in the country, with more than 500 staffers in Nashville. It’s the core of an umbrella company, Nashville-based PhyMed, which is owned by a Canadian pension fund.

Rents rising for working class families, falling for wealthy in Nashville (WSMV-TV) Rent is falling for the wealthy and rising for working-class families according to data, and Nashville is included in the list of most expensive cities where this trend is occurring. It’s not only a lot of new construction coming in, but also stagnant paychecks that aren’t helping the working class in Nashville. Rising rents are impacting local families. “When we had to move, that was the situation where you couldn’t find anything that would accommodate a family of seven that was affordable,” said Kennetha Patterson, who was priced out of Nashville.  “When I finally found something, I landed in Cheatham County.”

The Tennessean announces new location in Nashville (Tennessean) The Tennessean’s first move in 81 years is slated to be to Midtown offices more suited to the company’s growing digital operations. The multimedia news organization is poised to lease two and a half floors at 1801 West End Avenue, formerly called Palmer Plaza. The move from 1100 Broadway is set for next spring. The announcement comes nearly two years after USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee executives said they were selling the 1930s-era building.


David Waters: All of us should witness Irick’s execution (Commercial Appeal) The state of Tennessee is preparing to execute Billy Ray Irick on Thursday. Actually, you and I are planning to execute Irick on Thursday. Why are we not all there to witness it? Whatever your views on capital punishment, however just or unjust you find Irick’s fate, you and I are legally and morally responsible for Irick’s execution. Not the long-suffering family of 7-year-old Paula Dyer, the child Irick — who was a trusted family friend — raped and murdered 33 years ago in her home in Knox County.

Editorial: State should suspend TNReady, let educators reassess it (Commercial Appeal) The superintendents of Tennessee’s two largest public school systems are asking the state to “hit the pause button” on TNReady, the state’s buggy, beleaguered standardized testing system. That, they suggested, would give the next governor and education commissioner time to “convene a statewide working group of educators to sort out the myriad challenges” and rebuild confidence in the state’s K-12 assessment system. “We are writing to join a growing number of districts, legislators, teachers, parents and students in expressing concerns about the lack of reliability of the TNReady assessment system,” wrote Shelby County Schools Director Dorsey Hopson and Metro Nashville Public Schools Director Shawn Joseph, whose districts represent 20 percent of all public school students in the state.

Sam Stockard: State Sen. Tate goes a step too far in dance with GOP (TN Ledger) Sen. Reginald Tate ran a campaign ad in the waning days of the Democratic primary race bragging about his service to the city of Memphis. But voters, apparently tired of Tate’s shenanigans, finally decided he was more concerned about serving himself and opted for political newcomer Katrina Robinson instead. Not even the hokiest rap video in the history of political rap could save his seat. He put it out just a couple of days before the vote, an apparent last gasp for a desperate campaign. Robinson, who owns The Healthcare Institute in Memphis, stomped the 12-year senator by more than 2-to-1, picking up 14,162 votes, 68.6 percent, to Tate’s 6,465, 32.3 percent in the 33rd Senate District. Without Republican opposition in November, Robinson is in.

Kurt Merkelz: Senate must approve critical legislation for aging America (News Sentinel) Our aging U.S. population will benefit from important legislation that passed out of the U.S. House of Representatives on July 23 and now heads to the U.S. Senate, where it has strong bipartisan support. The Palliative Care and Hospice Training Act will improve care for patients and families facing serious illness by strengthening and expanding the end-of-life care workforce. This is much more than an abstract policy achievement; at some point it may be personally important for you, your family and your community.

Vesna Plekanis: Thanks to Sen. Lamar Alexander for fighting for Smokies funding (News Sentinel) Tennessee’s 12 national park sites highlight the state’s natural and historic significance. For those of us in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, the parks are also our economic lifeblood. But the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, like all of our national parks, suffers from a backlog of needed repairs – from trails and bridges to restrooms and picnic sites. Funding issues in Congress are responsible. Thankfully, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander has worked along bipartisan lines to fight for Tennesseans and our economy by advancing a bill that would stabilize funding for all of our national parks. We owe him our heartfelt gratitude.



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