Wednesday, October 3

After talking with Trump, Haslam ‘thinks’ new trade deal will ‘actually be beneficial’ (WKRN-TV) After speaking in person to President Donald Trump last night, Governor Bill Haslam thinks the proposed new trade deal to replace NAFTA will be good Tennessee. Their conversation came after the governor greeted the president after he stepped off Air Force One last night for a fundraiser and rally in Johnson City, Tennessee. They talked about the trade deal to replace NAFTA and the threatened tariffs from the president that recently raised a critical eye from the governor. “We actually talked about it,” Haslam told News 2 Tuesday morning after getting back from Johnson City. “As you know, I have been concerned about it with the impact I thought it would have on manufacturing. I think the deal they have come up with will actually be beneficial. There will be a couple of big changes.”

Gov. Bill Haslam pardons 5 for decades-old crimes, including former Knoxville councilman (Tennessean) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam issued his second round of pardons Tuesday as he prepares to leave the governor’s mansion in January. Haslam granted executive clemency to five people who were convicted of crimes in Tennessee decades ago. The pardons do not wipe convictions from criminal records, but they can enable expungement or the restoration of rights in the future. “These five individuals have made exceptional positive contributions to their communities and will be able to contribute even further by these grants of executive clemency,” Haslam said in a news release. “After thoughtfully considering their cases, I believe their individuals are deserving of pardons.”

Haslam Pardons Five for Decades-Old Crimes (Nashville Scene) As the end of his time in office approaches, Gov. Bill Haslam is finally starting to use his authority to grant executive clemency. The governor announced today that he has granted pardons to five individuals for crimes they were convicted of in the 1970s and 1980s, adding to the three pardons and one commutation he announced in July. It had been seven years since a Tennessee governor (in that case, Phil Bredesen) had commuted a prison sentence. “These five individuals have made exceptional positive contributions to their communities and will be able to contribute even further by these grants of executive clemency,” Haslam said in a release. “After thoughtfully considering their cases, I believe these individuals are deserving of pardons.”

Gov. Haslam grants clemency to 2 Knox County residents (WATE-TV) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam granted clemency Tuesday to five people, including two Knox County residents. Joseph Hultquist received a pardon for his 1972 and 1973 convictions of unlawful sale of controlled substances, both in Knox County, when he was 18 years old. “For over 45 years, Hultquist has been a positive contributor to the Knoxville community,” said the governor’s office in a statement. “In addition to being self-employed in the construction industry, he was elected to and served on the Knoxville City Council for several years and has been a strong supporter of economic development initiatives in the Knoxville area.”

Governor Haslam pardons three from Shelby County cases (WREG-TV) Gov. Bill Haslam announced Tuesday he is granting executive clemency to five Tennesseans convicted of felonies, including pardons for three people from Memphis and Shelby County. “These five individuals have made exceptional positive contributions to their communities and will be able to contribute even further by these grants of executive clemency,” Haslam said in a statement. “After thoughtfully considering their cases, I believe these individuals are deserving of pardons.”

Report outlines feedback, recommendations for TNReady testing (WATE-TV) The state of Tennessee released Tuesday the results of Gov. Bill Haslam’s statewide TNReady listening tour. The tour was designed to give educators a chance to give feedback on the state’s elementary and secondary assessments. The report was generated from six roundtable discussions, as well as comments submitted online. It lays out immediate steps to improve the testing process this year and the state says it will help procure a testing partner for the 2019-20 school year and beyond. The governor says he will review the recommendations and present a response to the report in the coming weeks.

Tennesseans’ health is below average and it’s costing billions, nonprofit says (Tennessean) In the five years since the Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness was created to help encourage Tennesseans to lead healthier lives, not much has changed. As Tennessee enjoys historically low unemployment rates, the nonprofit has focused on how poor health and preventable disease among the state’s workforce is affecting its economy. While Williamson County, where a Tuesday roundtable discussion headed by Healthier Tennessee was held, ranks first in overall health, the rest of the Volunteer State tells a different story.

Rural Hospitals Owned By Investors More Likely To Close Amid Financial Hardship, Report Finds (WPLN Radio) A disproportionate share of the rural hospitals that have closed in the last five years were owned by for-profit companies, including some based in Nashville, according to a new Government Accountability Office report. James Cosgrove, the lead researcher, says 64 rural hospitals closed in the last five years, twice as many compared to the five years prior. “They were disproportionately occuring in the South, and also, the type of hospital mattered,” Cosgove said on a GAO podcast. “We found, for example, that for-profit rural hospitals were more likely to close, relative to government-owned or not-for-profit rural hospitals.”

CHS spinoff sells Tennessee hospital (Nashville Business Journal) Quorum Health Corp. — a Community Health Systems Inc. spinoff — has sold a hospital in Tennessee. The 45-bed McKenzie Regional Hospital in McKenzie has been sold to Baptist Memorial Health Care, according to a news release. The sale closed on Sept. 30; terms were not disclosed. Prior to the completion of the transaction, Quorum (NYSE: QHC) had ceased all operations at the facility, according to the release. Quorum, which Franklin-based CHS (NYSE: CYH) launched in 2015 after spinning out 38 hospitals and its hospital management and consulting business into its own company, is Nashville’s seventh-largest publicly traded health care company, according to Nashville Business Journal research, with more than $2 billion of revenue in 2017.

MTSU wants a bigger freshman class. Here’s how they might attain it. (Tennessean) Middle Tennessee State University officials stopped in Franklin to reveal the school would give more scholarship dollars to top graduating students in the state. President Sidney McPhee announced the scholarship enhancement during the university’s True Blue Tour, its annual admissions road trip to 14 cities in four states. MTSU recently added the Williamson County stop as part of a partnership with the Williamson County Schools system to step up recruitment of its university-bound students. MTSU currently has 21,762 students enrolled this fall, according to the school’s enrollment data.  “For Tennessee residents — when combined with the Hope Lottery Scholarship provided by the state —  it will substantially reduce the cost of tuition for these high-ability students to attend MTSU,” McPhee said.

Video: Meth and cocaine deaths are climbing as cartel drugs flood Tennessee (Tennessean) Throughout Tennessee, meth and cocaine deaths are rising steadily, fueled by potent drugs smuggled by Mexican cartels.

Tenn. Supreme Court to hear lethal injection arguments (AP) With an inmate set to be executed next week, Tennessee’s Supreme Court is hearing arguments Wednesday about the constitutionality of its lethal injection method. The lawsuit by more than two dozen inmates claims the state’s three-drug method of execution causes severe pain and suffering. Attorneys for the inmates want the court to consider the affidavit of an expert witness who claims the August execution of Billy Ray Irick was “torturous.” Attorneys for the state oppose the introduction of the new evidence. They’re asking the high court to uphold a lower court’s July finding that its method of execution is legal. Edmund Zagorski is scheduled to be executed on Oct. 11. He was sentenced in 1984 in the slayings of two men during a drug deal.

Video: TN governor debate 2018: Full event with Karl Dean and Bill Lee in Memphis (Tennessean)

3 debate takeaways: What we learned from Karl Dean and Bill Lee as they faced off in Memphis (Tennessean) Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and Williamson County businessman Bill Lee stuck to the issues and avoided any mudslinging Tuesday, when the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial nominees squared off in the first of three debates. As the two candidates fielded roughly 20 questions at the University of Memphis, clear distinctions began to emerge over Medicaid expansion, universal pre-K and regional transit. The hourlong televised debate was sponsored by The Commercial Appeal and the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee, WMC Action News 5, the University of Memphis, the League of Women Voters and the Economic Club of Memphis.

Dean, Lee address gun access, police shootings during debate for governor in Memphis (Tennessean) Tennessee’s gubernatorial contenders differed Tuesday on when the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation should be drawn into officer-involved shootings after a high-profile police shooting in South Memphis last month. Democrat Karl Dean said having a third party investigate police-involved shootings, so law enforcement agencies aren’t investigating their own members, could bolster public confidence in the process. “If there is a police shooting and there is some sense there’s discomfort about the shooting or public concern, that having a third party come in and do the investigation seems to me to be an appropriate thing to do,” Dean said after the debate with Republican Bill Lee on Tuesday.

Dean, Lee cordial in first debate as they showcase policy differences in Tennessee governor’s race (Tennessean) Democrat Karl Dean and Republican Bill Lee faced off Tuesday night in the first of three debates as they compete to become Tennessee’s next governor, staying largely cordial as they took on a host of state and local issues. But the candidates displayed clear differences on everything from Medicaid expansion to education — including how best to support access to pre-K.Tuesday’s debate was the first opportunity for Lee, a Williamson County businessman, and Dean, the former Nashville mayor, to share the stage in a one-on-one format since they became the nominees of their parties. The hourlong televised debate was sponsored by The Commercial Appeal and the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee, WMC Action News 5, the University of Memphis, the League of Women Voters and the Economic Club of Memphis.

Lee, Dean sound off on TBI investigations, guns in Memphis during first debate (Daily Memphian) Democratic gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean and Republican Bill Lee drew distinctions on the question of automatic TBI investigations into police-involved shootings in their first debate Tuesday at the University of Memphis. Dean, a former two-term Nashville mayor, called the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation a “neutral source” for investigating shootings such as one that critically injured 25-year-old Martavious Banks after a Sept. 17 traffic stop in South Memphis. “What’s important to do is take this very seriously and strive for transparency,” Dean said, noting TBI should play a role. Following the first gubernatorial debate of the campaign, Dean clarified his stance of the question, saying those are usually decisions worked out between local law enforcement and the TBI but then added, “In general, that’s a good idea.

Lee, Dean Spar In First Debate (WTVF-TV) The race to become the next Governor of Tennessee came to Memphis on Tuesday night as Democrat Karl Dean and Republican Bill Lee squared off in the first televised debate of the hotly contest race. Dean, the former Mayor of Nashville, and Lee, the owner of Lee Company sparred frequently on issues ranging from of education to guns but their differences appeared no more apparent than on healthcare. “We have a fundamentally flawed healthcare system in this state and in this country,” Bill Lee said. Lee though did not push back against the Republican controlled legislature which has voted multiple times not to expand Medicaid. Something some experts say has lead to nearly 300,000 Tennesseans being left without health insurance.

Dean, Lee disagree over Medicaid expansion, Pre-K in first Tennessee governor’s debate (Times Free Press) Democrat Karl Dean and Republican Bill Lee squared off here Tuesday night in their first gubernatorial debate, disagreeing in areas ranging from Medicaid expansion and investigating police shootings to private school vouchers. At the same time, Dean, a former two-term Nashville mayor, and Lee, a successful Franklin businessman, sometimes found themselves on common ground. That included their concerns over the state’s problem-plagued student testing system and its impact on both children and teachers, as well as a controversial state law that suspends driver’s licenses for persons who don’t pay off court fines.

NC5 Political Analyst Reacts To 1st Gubernatorial Debate (WTVF-TV) Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and Tennessee businessman Bill Lee faced off in their first gubernatorial debate in Memphis. The pair answered questions on issues ranging from of education to guns but their differences appeared no more apparent than on healthcare. After watching, NewsChannel 5 political analyst Pat Nolan says it was far more tame compared to the Senate showdown in Nashville between Phil Bredesen and Marsha Blackburn. “This, I felt, was more like a discussion about policy issues and therefore was perhaps more informative to people so they could learn about the candidates,” said Nolan. “That, I thought, to some degree, was missing in the rhetoric that came out of the debate when the Senate candidates did it a couple days ago.”

Tennessee’s Dean strongly supports universal pre-K in debate (AP) Tennessee gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean said he supports making pre-kindergarten education universally available in the state as he took part in the first debate of the governor’s race. Dean, a Democrat, faced Republican businessman Bill Lee in the debate held at the University of Memphis in Shelby County, the state’s largest by population. It was the first of three gubernatorial debates scheduled before the Nov. 6 election. Dean has said he would like to see state-funded pre-K expanded. He mentioned his support of universal pre-K during the debate and said afterward that he would make it a priority if elected because “pre-K plays an enormous role in kids’ success in schools.” Lee said after the debate that pre-K must be “quality and effective” before it is expanded and funded.

Healthcare, education dominate TN gubernatorial debate (WMC-TV) The candidates vying to be the next Governor of Tennessee held a debate live on WMC Action News 5. This was the only gubernatorial debate in Memphis and was held at the Rose Theatre on the University of Memphis campus. School, healthcare, and jobs are the topics most important to the two men who want to be Tennessee’s next governor. Republican Bill Lee made it clear from the start of the debate with Democrat Karl Dean that he has an important endorsement in Memphis. “I’ve met many times with the head of the school system here,” Lee said. “Dorsey Hopson, who in fact is supporting my campaign.” Lee and Dean both agreed that funding schools and creating programs to educate Tennessee’s workforce is critical to the state’s success.

Bredesen supports FBI investigation of Kavanaugh allegations (Daily Memphian)  U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Phil Bredesen is backing an FBI investigation of the sexual assault accusations against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh but still not saying how he would vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee sent Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the floor Friday, Sept. 28, in an 11-10 vote. Afterward, though, Republican Sen. Jeff Flake called for an FBI probe into allegations by Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh tried to rape her 30 years ago when he was drunk. Kavanaugh denied the accusations before the Judiciary Committee this week when Ford testified about the alleged high school incident. Flake, an Arizona Republican who isn’t seeking re-election and voted in favor of a Kavanaugh decision by the full Senate, requested a delay on the Senate floor and the FBI investigation after a woman confronted him in an elevator at the Senate building Friday.

While campaigning on tax cuts, opioids, Blackburn misses key votes (Tennessean) As U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn continues to campaign for the U.S. Senate against former Gov. Phil Bredesen, taxes and the opioid crisis are among the plethora of issues she says are important to address. While campaigning, Blackburn has frequently praised last year’s passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. At the same time, she’s also called for what has been dubbed “Tax Cuts 2.0.” Blackburn said the second round of tax cuts would ensure President Donald Trump’s initial legislation remained permanently.  “People want to keep those Trump tax cuts,” Blackburn said at an event in Adams, Tennessee in August. “We are working. We’ve got businesses that are growing and that are hiring people that really want to keep those tax cuts in place and they’re looking forward to those being made permanent. That’s all in the tax cuts 2.0.”

Outside groups debut new ads over Blackburn and health care, Bredesen’s handling of sexual harassment (Tennessean) Three separate outside interest groups launched new negative ads this week related to the U.S. Senate race, attacking U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and former Gov. Phil Bredesen. One ad, paid for by the Democratic-aligned Majority Forward, criticizes Blackburn for opposing the Affordable Care Act while she receives taxpayer funded health care benefits. Another — paid for by the National Republican Senate Committee — seizes on Bredesen’s handling of sexual harassment issues while he was governor. And a third, funded by the Republican-aligned Senate Leadership Fund, scrutinizes Bredesen’s work related to fighting the opioid epidemic.

Majority Forward ad targets Blackburn over health care (TN Journal) The Majority Forward PAC is running a new ad attacking Republican Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn. The ad features a Williamson County woman who says she met with Blackburn to discuss maternity coverage for women, but that Blackburn “basically said that there was nothing she could do.” Majority Forward has spent $1.6 million on ad buys since Sept. 19, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

Committee to Defend the President running ad against Bredesen (TN Journal) The Committee to Defend the President is running a new ad targeting Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen.“Don’t let liberal Phil Bredesen rewind all of Trump’s accomplishments,” the narrator says. “Stop him before it’s too late.” The PAC has spent more than $943,810 in Tennessee so far, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

What’s on the line in the November General Election? (Kingsport Times-News) Control of Congress. President Donald Trump’s possible impeachment. The next occupant of the governor’s office in Nashville. That’s what is on the line during the November general election, Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Scott Golden and Chris Devaney, campaign manager for Tennessee Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Lee, told a Greater Kingsport Republican Women’s luncheon on Monday. Golden was in the area for Trump’s Johnson City rally and to rally Republicans amid the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Man hours, costs not yet calculated for Trump visit (Johnson City Press) Due to concerns about officer safety and the integrity of the operation, there may be no way to tell the public just how many police officers were involved and how much it cost to protect President Donald Trump as he traveled from Tri-Cities Airport to Freedom Hall in Johnson City, but the number likely exceeded 200. In five days, local law enforcement worked with the Secret Service to plan and execute a presidential visit to Johnson City on Monday. Trump visited Johnson City for a campaign rally and as a fundraiser for GOP Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn. Getting everything in order was no easy task, Johnson City Police Maj. Steve Smith said, but the hard work paid off because of the end result.

September sales fall for VW, most other automakers (Times Free Press) Sales of Volkswagen’s Atlas SUV climbed 4.8 percent in September over a year ago, though VW’s total vehicles sold in the U.S. fell last month along with most other car companies. Sales of the Chattanooga-made Atlas, which hit 4,291 vehicles in the month, coupled with the all-new Tiguan SUV accounted for 37 percent of the German brand’s sales last month, according to Volkswagen of America. “SUV sales continue to expand VW’s reach with consumers,” said Derrick Hatami, executive vice president of sales, marketing and after sales for Volkswagen of America. But VW’s overall sales of 30,555 units dropped 4.8 percent versus September 2017, the company reported on Tuesday.

Obed Wild and Scenic River Park celebrates 50 years of federal protection (WBIR-TV) he National Park Service is celebrating 50 years of federal protection for the Obed Wild & Scenic River in Morgan County. On Oct. 2, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act of 1968. It aims to limit human interaction with certain rivers across the country, including the Obed. You can get a good look at the Obed River and all the views it has to offer at the Lilly Bluff Overlook.It’s a whole world, nearly untouched by humans. “Look over, out to the horizon there, and (you) see almost nothing,” park visitor Chuck Nicholson said. “No human presence. No buildings, no highways, no things like that there. Just nature at its finest.” Nicholson is pretty familiar with the Obed Wild and Scenic River.

Nashville places moratorium on new tax-increment financing incentives (Tennessean) Metro Nashville leaders have agreed to place a moratorium on issuing new development incentives known as tax-increment financing over the next year as part of a compromise with the Metro Council, where the development tool is under scrutiny.  At-large Councilman Bob Mendes, who has led a legislative attempt to overhaul Nashville’s TIF system, announced the moratorium during the council’s Budget and Finance Committee meeting Monday night. Under the compromise, Mendes said he’s agreed to defer an ordinance — one strongly opposed by developers — that would dramatically overhaul how the city issues TIF loans by setting aside a large portion of redevelopment tax dollars to be used exclusively by Metro Nashville Public Schools.

Is the President messaging you? Emergency presidential alert test is Wednesday (News Sentinel) Expect a notification to pop up on your phone at 2:18 p.m. EST on Wednesday. It’ll be from the President. It’s just a test. The notification will be part of a national test the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are conducting. The IPAWS Modernization Act of 2015 requires FEMA test its public warning systems every three years. In previous years, the agency has just tested its Emergency Alert System. The EAS requires television and radio broadcasters be able to provide the capability for the President to address civilians during emergency situations.


Sam Stockard: Boyd’s gubernatorial campaign haunts UT presidency vote (Daily Memphian) Randy Boyd probably knows the age-old sermon about reaping what you sow by heart. But after a highly successful business career in which he made millions selling electric fences – enough money to throw away millions in a failed gubernatorial bid – he must have forgotten that timeless teaching from the Bible.  Otherwise, the vote to elect him as interim president of the University of Tennessee system would have gone a lot smoother. No teachers opposing, no students disrupting the selection, no police dragging them out of the room, and certainly no dropping F-bombs. In other words, it would have been boring. But thanks to Boyd’s campaign in the Republican primary when he positioned himself with President Donald Trump and tried to move to the right of Congresswoman Diane Black, who had the worst negative polling numbers in the race, not only did he lose a shot at the governor’s office, he set himself up for an interesting personal pounding on before the UT Board of Trustees.

Guest column: Preventing, treating opioid addiction requires everyone’s help (News Sentinel) Although the number of opioid prescriptions in Tennessee has decreased, the number of drug overdose deaths involving opioids has increased to more than 19 deaths per 100,000. Consistently, Knox County overdose deaths are significantly rising, as a 2017 report reveals drug overdose deaths of 51 per 100,000, with 42 per 100,000 involving opioids. To reduce drug overdose deaths in Tennessee, not only is the number of opioid prescriptions written a concern, but so are other factors, as 35 percent of all individuals dying from opioid overdose were also taking benzodiazepines (drugs known to produce central nervous system depression and sedation and commonly used to treat conditions such as anxiety and insomnia).

Commissioner Marie Williams: Recovery Month a time to better understand mental health and substance addictions (Commercial Appeal) What does recovery mean to you? Does it mean sore muscles after an intense workout? Does it mean a moment’s peace after you put the kids to bed? Does it mean finding something of value that you lost long ago?  For Tennesseans living with mental health and substance abuse issues, recovery means that and so much more: it is the process through which people are able to live, learn, work, and fully participate in their communities. As we look back on Recovery Month (September) in Tennessee and across the country, it’s a special time to celebrate the achievements of people who are in recovery living with mental illness and addiction, to encourage those in treatment that there is hope, and to remove the stigma for those living with untreated issues and encourage them to reach out for the help that they need.

Guest column: Amazon invests in Tennessee, contrary to criticism (Tennessean) Re: “Amazon’s business model is built upon government handouts,” by Robert Engel of the Free & Fair Markets Initiative, Sept. 4. Amazon has proven to be an engine for economic growth and opportunity in Tennessee despite the efforts of national lobbying groups to distract from the facts in a September 4 op-ed. Amazon has invested more than $5 billion in Tennessee since 2011, including the development of five fulfillment and sortation centers throughout the state and a Prime Now Hub in Nashville. Today, 6,500 Tennesseans have full-time jobs at Amazon and the company is still hiring in the state.

Deborah Fisher: The Tennessee Supreme Court has the power to freeze freedom of the press (Tennessean)  The Tennessee Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on Thursday in an important case involving state libel laws and a free press. The appeal before the state’s highest court is a test of the state’s fair report privilege. On a practical level, this privilege, which is recognized in every state’s laws, protects journalists from libel claims when they are reporting on official proceedings — such as court cases and city council meetings —  as long as the reporting is a fair, accurate and balanced account of what happened. If someone sues for libel, a court can dismiss the case at an early stage under the fair report privilege applying those standards.


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