Tuesday, December 4

Governor Haslam to attend Bush funeral (AP) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam will attend the funeral service for former President George H.W. Bush in Washington D.C. Haslam’s office announced Monday the Republican will attend the invitation-only funeral service on Wednesday at Washington National Cathedral. Bush, who was president from 1989 to 1993, died Friday in Houston at age 94. Haslam had previously ordered all flags over state buildings and the Tennessee Statehouse be lowered to half-staff until sunset on Dec. 30 to honor Bush’s life. After Wednesday, Bush will then be returned to Houston for burial Thursday at his presidential library at Texas A&M University. He will be laid to rest alongside Barbara Bush, his wife of 73 years who died in April, and Robin Bush, the daughter who died of leukemia at age 3. LINK

Gov. Bill Haslam remembers Georg H. W. Bush’s leadership (WTVF-TV) Governor Bill Haslam remembered former U.S. President George H. W. Bush for his great leadership and humility. Gov. Haslam said he will be among those attending the funeral service for President Bush on Wednesday. On Monday, he looked back on President Bush, saying he will be remembered for his humility and service to our country. “Obviously, he has an incredible foreign policy legacy that people will always remember him by; but at the end of the day, also somebody who is a man of great decency – humility, who understood what serving was about for the way he led. I think it made us a better country. LINK

Portobello America Chooses Tennessee For First U.S. Production Facility (Business Facilities Magazine) The Brazil-based ceramic tile manufacturer will invest about $150 million and create 220 jobs in Baxter, TN.  Portobello, headquartered in Brazil, is the largest tile manufacturer in Brazil. The company serves countries on five continents and internal markets through multi-brand retailers, the Portobello Shop franchise and sales channel for engineering. Portobello has more than 2,600 employees, responsible for the design and innovation of items that launch trends in architecture and interior design in Brazil. “Portobello’s decision to locate its new production facility and U.S. headquarters and create more than 200 jobs in Baxter will be transformational for the community,” said Haslam. LINK

Brazilian ceramics company coming (Cookeville Herald-Citizen) A Brazilian ceramics company is expected to bring 220 jobs to Baxter. Portobello SA’s plans to build its U.S. headquarters as well as its first U.S. production facility were announced Monday morning at DelMonaco Winery with public officials including Tennessee Department of Economic Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and Cesar Gomes, chair of the board of directors for Portobello America. Portobello is expected to build its first U.S. operation on the Tennessee Motor Speedway site in Putnam County by 2021. “Portobello’s decision to locate its new production facility and U.S. headquarters and create more than 200 jobs in Baxter will be transformational for the community,” Gov. Bill Haslam said. LINK

Dr. Charlie Hatcher named Dept. of Agriculture Commissioner (WTVF-TV) Governor Elect Bill Lee announced Dr. Charlie Hatcher as the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. He has served as the state veterinarian for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture since 2009. In that role, he protected the health and welfare of animals within the state, as well as promoting the marketability of animals and animal products. Doctor Hatcher is also a general managing partner of Hatcher Family Dairy established in 1831. “I am honored that Governor-elect Lee has charged me with serving our state as the head of the Department of Agriculture,” said Dr. Hatcher. “Being a 10th generation farmer, I know that agriculture impacts all Tennesseans, and I will ensure that we have the best ag community in any state in the country.” LINK

Big States Missing Out on Online Sales Taxes for the Holidays (Stateline) Big states such as California, New York and Texas likely will miss out on millions in sales tax revenue this holiday shopping season because they have failed to implement laws and regulations for collecting state sales tax from online purchases. While the U.S. Supreme Court gave states the go-ahead in June to begin collecting sales taxes from all online purchases, it was up to the states to write and put into effect the statutes and rules to make that happen. A host of states have done so, but disputes about how to carry out the court ruling, including a clash over how much business an online seller has to do in a state to get tagged with collecting and remitting taxes, has stalled implementation in some big states. LINK

Tennessee Health Department warns parents of rising popularity of vaping among students (Brentwood Home Page) Michelle Fiscus with the Tennessee Department of Health stopped by Summit High School in Spring Hill Monday night to educate parents on the dangers of vaping, and its ever growing popularity among young teens. Vaping refers to the use of electronic cigarettes, whose use has skyrocketed in recent years among middle and high school students across the state and country. According to the Tennessee Department of Health, Tennessee ranks seventh for the highest tobacco use among teens, and that trend has certainly extended to vaping. Fiscus said that while many consumers and teens believe vaping to be a healthier alternative to cigarette smoking, the high nicotine content, as well as the litany of chemicals, make this a false perception. LINK

Report finds 13,000 more Tennessee children are uninsured (Jackson Sun) A report by Georgetown University found 71,000 Tennessee kids didn’t have insurance last year — an increase of nearly 13,000 from 2016. The reports estimates that 3.9 million children nationwide are uninsured, an increase by 276,000 from 2016 to 2017.  “Tennessee’s choice not to expand Medicaid leaves our children and families behind,” said Kinika Young, director of Children’s Health at the Tennessee Justice Center. “Medicaid expansion helps to get health insurance to more parents who had no coverage options before — and we know when parents have health coverage kids are more likely to as well.” Tennessee is one of 14 states not to expand Medicaid. Last month, on election night, voters in Utah, Idaho and Nebraska voted to expand Medicaid. The Medicaid expansion is part of the Affordable Care Act. The law allows states to opt-in to a program that would provide insurance to all adults who make below 138 percent of the federal poverty line, which is about $34,000 for a family of four. LINK

Longtime TennCare Leader To Take Over As Nashville’s Public Health Chief (WPLN Radio) A longtime leader in Tennessee’s Medicaid program is taking a new job with the city of Nashville. Wendy Long has been hired to head Nashville’s public health department, according to a joint announcement Monday afternoon. Before directing the TennCare Bureau under Governor Bill Haslam, Long was the agency’s top doctor. Prior to that she served in Tennessee’s health department, coordinating with local health officials. In total, she’s served in state government for 30 years. Long will replace Bill Paul, who was appointed by former Mayor Karl Dean in 2007. He announced he would retire in 2019, but the Metro Board of Health also indicated it wanted new leadership. LINK

Metro plans to hire TennCare director (Nashville Post) Another senior aide to outgoing Gov. Bill Haslam announced her departure Monday, as TennCare Director Wendy Long said she would be the new director of health for the Metro Government of Nashville and Davidson County, pending Metro Council approval. Long has led the state’s Medicaid program since Haslam appointed her to the role in 2016. She previously served as deputy director and chief medical officer of TennCare. “Wendy has a passion for the work she does and that is evident in her dedication to improving the health care system in our state,” Haslam said. “In a time when health care is constantly changing and health care costs are on the rise, Dr. Long and her team have maintained one of the lowest Medicaid cost trends in the nation. I am grateful for Wendy’s many years of service and know she will continue to do great things for the citizens of our state in her service to Metro Government.” LINK

TennCare chief selected as new Nashville health director (Tennessean) Nashville is planning to hire the current head of TennCare as the city’s top health official. The Nashville Metro Public Health Department announced Monday that it has chosen Dr. Wendy Long, the director of the state’s TennCare program, to serve as the city’s new director of health. Long’s hiring is conditional on a vote by the city’s Board of Health on Dec. 13, but board leadership is already foreshadowing approval. “It is a very real pleasure to welcome Dr. Long to the Metro Health Department,” said board chairwoman Carol Etherington in a news release. “The Board and Metro HR have been diligent with the national search process these past months and we are extremely pleased and excited that Dr. Long will take the helm of MPHD. ” LINK

Dr. Wendy Long selected as next Director of Health of Nashville (WTVF-TV) After a national search, the Metropolitan Board of Health of Nashville and Davidson County has announced Dr. Wendy Long as their selection as the new Director of Health of Nashville. Wendy Long, M.D., M.P.H. is currently serving as the TennCare director, a position to which she was appointed in 2016 by Governor Bill Haslam. She will now be leaving this position in January to begin her new role as the Director of Health, pending contract approval. “Wendy has a passion for the work she does and that is evident in her dedication to improving the health care system in our state,” Haslam said. Dr. Long also has more than 30 years experience working in the Tennessee State Government. LINK

Fifteen people killed in two months in domestic situations (WTVF-TV) Several recent deadly domestic situations in Middle Tennessee have left families heartbroken and others struggling to understand. Over the last two months, 15 people have died as a result of domestic violence. There have been six cases of violence involving families, including four murder suicides. Diane Lance, the Department Head of Metro’s Office of Family Safety, said domestic violence can include intimate partners or family members, and every case is different. “We always hope when we get to this point in the year, our domestic violence homicide numbers will be less than the year before,” said Lance.  “We do not seem to be on course for that.” LINK

Tennessee inmate asks US Supreme Court to halt execution (AP) A condemned Tennessee inmate is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to halt his Thursday execution and consider his claims that the electric chair is unconstitutional but the state’s lethal injection method is worse. Attorneys for David Earl Miller filed a petition with the high court Monday after a panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the inmate. Miller has chosen to die by electrocution, the second Tennessee inmate in just more than a month to make that choice. His attorneys have argued that Tennessee’s preferred execution method of midazolam-based lethal injection cause a prolonged and torturous death. LINK

Lawmakers may address TennCare disability support for ‘most vulnerable citizens in the state’ (Tennessean) When state lawmakers return to Nashville in January to convene the 111th General Assembly, one issue they may focus on is a program that could address the financial burden faced by families caring for children with severe developmental disabilities. State Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, said last week he is looking at a potential legislative fix after reading a story published by the Tennessean about 1-year-old Adelaide Kauffmann, who was born with debilitating muscular atrophy. “I was very touched by the article and made a commitment at that point to investigate this issue and to see if we can put forth some legislation that makes sense for Tennessee,” Roberts said Thursday. LINK

Grand Divisions Episode 30: Another major boost for Williamson County as Johnson elected to Senate leadership (Tennessean) Senate Republicans brushed aside any concerns about giving too much power to the state’s most affluent county this week while electing Franklin lawmaker Jack Johnson to be the chamber’s majority leader. Johnson defeated Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, giving Williamson County a near perfect trifecta of leadership in state government. Last month, House Republicans elected longtime Franklin Rep. Glen Casada to be their next speaker. Casada and Johnson’s elections were preceded by fellow Williamson County Republicans Bill Lee and Marsha Blackburn, who in November elected to be Tennessee’s next governor and U.S. Senator, respectively. LINK

Senate Republicans Elect Yet Another Williamson County Lawmaker To Leadership Post (WPLN Radio) Tennessee Senate Republicans have elected Jack Johnson to be their next majority leader, a role that will catapult the Williamson County lawmaker to the top ranks in the state legislature and make him a key policy ally of Gov.-elect Bill Lee. At a meeting of GOP senators held Monday, Johnson beat out Riceville Sen. Mike Bell for the No. 2 position in the state Senate. Johnson succeeds Memphis Sen. Mark Norris, who stepped down to become a federal judge. The position will give Johnson broad say in what legislation passes the state Senate. It also includes the duty of carrying the governor’s legislative package. Lee has said, in broad terms, that he wants to focus on vocational education and sentencing reform. Johnson says he is ready to sit down with Lee to discuss the details of those priorities and to turn them into legislation. LINK

Tenn. Senate Republicans elect new leaders (WKRN-TV) The Republican-dominated Tennessee Senate selected its new top leaders Monday afternoon, including majority leader and caucus chair, but they had an unannounced visit beforehand from Governor-elect Bill Lee. Jack Johnson of Williamson County won the majority leader position voted on by the 28-Republicans in the 33-member Senate. “It’s not a time to rest on our laurels,” he told the meeting of the Republican caucus members.  “I am confident that the future holds many challenges – some seen, some unforeseen, but we are prepared to meet those challenges head on as long as we stand firm on conservative principles.” Longtime Kingston Senator Ken Yager was elected Republican Caucus Chair. Both positions play key roles in how legislation moves through the legislature. LINK

Johnson elected Senate majority leader, Yager wins caucus chairmanship (TN Journal) Senate Republicans have elected Jack Johnson of Franklin as majority leader and Ken Yager of Kingston as Republican caucus chairman. Sen. Randy McNally was unopposed for another term as speaker. Johnson defeated Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville, while Yager won on the first ballot against Sens. Becky Duncan Massey of Knoxville and Brian Kelsey of Germantown. The majority leader position was vacated by former Sen. Mark Norris of Collierville, who has become a federal judge in Memphis. The caucus chairmanship was open because former Sen. Bill Ketron was elected Rutherford County mayor. The next scramble will be over who replaces Johnson as chairman of the Commerce Committee and Yager as chairman of the State and Local Government Committee. LINK

Tennessee Senate GOP renominates speaker, picks new leader (AP) Tennessee Senate Republicans have renominated Randy McNally as speaker and have chosen Jack Johnson as the new majority leader. McNally won unopposed for another two-year speaker term during Senate caucus elections Monday. The Oak Ridge lawmaker first became speaker in 2017. He released the following statement after his nomination:  “I am truly humbled to be nominated by my caucus for re-election as Speaker of the Senate. It has been the honor of my life to serve my Senate colleagues as speaker and the people of Tennessee as lieutenant governor. We have accomplished many things together but there is still much left to do. I am looking forward to getting to work as we usher in the 111th General Assembly.” Johnson defeated Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville for majority leader. Former Majority Leader Mark Norris left to become a federal judge. LINK

Republicans elect Jack Johnson to be next Tennessee Senate majority leader (Tennessean) Just as state House Republican lawmakers did last month, their counterparts in the Senate on Monday picked a longtime Williamson County lawmaker to serve in a key leadership role. Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, was elected to serve as the upper chamber’s next majority leader.  Johnson, who was first elected to the Senate in 2006, beat Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, to earn title as the upper chamber’s No. 2 role. “I am deeply honored and humbled,” said Johnson after the results were announced. His election by Senate Republicans — who also voted to keep Lt. Gov. Randy McNally in his leadership role — bolsters the influence that Williamson County will have when the 111th General Assembly convenes next month. LINK

Kelsey loses Senate Republican Caucus chairman race (Daily Memphian) State Sen. Brian Kelsey lost his bid for Senate Republican Caucus chairman despite promising to raise $100,000 for the group’s campaign account by the start of the 2019 legislative session. After narrowly defeating Democratic candidate Gabby Salinas in the Nov. 6 election, Kelsey made a last-minute entry into the chairman’s race but failed to top Sen. Ken Yager of Kingston during Monday’s vote. Sen. Becky Duncan Massey also ran for the post, which is largely responsible for raising money for re-election campaigns. “I think Sen. Yager’s going to do an outstanding job for the caucus, and I really appreciate all of the help that he and Sen. Massey and others gave me in the election,” Kelsey said afterward. He didn’t think his decision to run caught anyone by surprise, though he entered the race less than a month ago. LINK

Former state Rep. Steve McManus to run for state Senate seat (Commercial Appeal) Republican Steve McManus will run for the open state Senate District 32 seat, his campaign announced on Monday. The special primary election for the open seat, vacated by former state Sen. Mark Norris, is slated for Jan. 24. McManus, of Collierville, in a statement called Norris a “dedicated, effective public servant for Bartlett, Collierville, Lakeland, Arlington, and Tipton County,” and said he wants to “serve these citizens as he did.” Norris was recently confirmed as a federal judge in West Tennessee. LINK

Congressman Duncan remembers the late George H.W. Bush (WATE-TV) People across the nation are paying their respects to the late former President George H.W. Bush.  Our 41st president died late Friday night. He was 94 years old. Some right here in Knoxville knew Bush and have personal memories with him. One of those people was Congressman Jimmy Duncan. He sat down with WATE 6 On Your Side reporter Elizabeth Kuebel. “I’m sorry we were a little late getting in here, but you know how it is on this campus, even I couldn’t find a parking place,” Bush said in a 1990 speech at UTK. That is a moment on UT’s campus Congressman Jimmy Duncan remembers well. In fact, he has many memories of the late George H.W. Bush. “He was elected as president the first year that I was elected to Congress. It was 1988 and so I’ve been with the late president George Bush on many occasions,” Duncan said. LINK

Local Republicans remember what was different about George H.W. Bush (WDEF-TV) The nation is beginning a week-long observance of the life and legacy of the 41st president of the United States George H.W. Bush. As you may know his body has been taken to Washington today to lie in state at the capital rotunda. Back in Chattanooga, we get a local perspective, with News 12’s Ashley Henderson. “I don’t think, in our lifetime, a greater American public servant will be buried. There have been greater presidents. I think Regan’s going to go down as a two term president, as a greater president, not a better public servant, in the truest sense of public service, than George Herbert Walker Bush.” LINK

George H.W. Bush Day of Mourning: What it means in Tennessee (Tennessean) Federal offices will close across the state and nation on Wednesday in honor of the late former President George Herbert Walker Bush. Bush, the president who managed the end of the Cold War and forged a global coalition to oust Iraqi forces from Kuwait, died at age 94. His death was announced in a statement released late Friday. President Donald Trump on Saturday announced the day of mourning for the forty-first President of the United States, who will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda through Wednesday. LINK

Proposed TV deal could spell changes for Memphis stations (Daily Memphian) The television station landscape in Memphis could be changing with Nexstar Media Group’s bid to acquire Tribune Media Co. and create the nation’s largest TV conglomerate. The $6.4 billion deal would theoretically move Tribune property and CBS affiliate WREG-TV Channel 3 into the Nexstar stable with WATN-TV Channel 24 (ABC) and WLMT-TV Channel 30 (CW). However, Nexstar said it probably would divest or swap stations in 13 markets where holdings overlap with Tribune, and it wasn’t clear Monday what that means for Memphis. “Memphis is one of the 15 markets where both Nexstar and Tribune have stations though Nexstar did not yet identify the markets where divestitures will take place or any specific stations,” Nexstar spokesman Joe Jaffoni said by email. “They plan to divest those stations necessary to secure regulatory approval.” LINK

The Little Town That Pot Built (Stateline) This Saturday, tiny Garden City will throw a party to celebrate improvements to its main street. Officials will close a block to traffic and install an ice-skating rink in the middle of the road. There will be horse-drawn carriage rides. There will be hot toddies. And there’ll be three blocks of new sidewalks, crosswalks, benches and trees to show off to the public. Garden City isn’t much of a city; it’s smaller than a square mile and has fewer than 300 residents. But it could afford to spend $3 million on downtown infrastructure upgrades thanks to its four bustling marijuana retailers. Before the first medical marijuana dispensary in town opened in 2009, Garden City collected about $360,000 in revenue each year, said longtime Town Administrator Cheryl Campbell. Now pot is legal for recreational use, too, and last year, the town raked in over $2 million from sales taxes alone — mostly from the sale of bud, pre-rolled joints, edibles and other pot products. LINK


Candice McQueen: Commissioner’s reflections, thank you to educators (Elk Valley Times) Serving as an education commissioner is an honor of a lifetime. But, serving for the state of Tennessee under Governor Bill Haslam has been remarkable. Simply put, this is because Tennessee is the best state in the country and Bill Haslam has been the best governor in the country – and he’s been so in many areas, but especially in education. Here’s why: Everyone can get behind preparing more students for college and the workforce. Everyone can agree more students need to be successful. But, not everyone makes good and often hard decisions about how to do this – and then works tirelessly to align resources, policy, and practices to make it happen. All of these key decisions start at the top. I am thankful every day that we have had a governor that made decisions that were always about people and outcomes, not about politics. LINK

Victor Ashe: President George H. W. Bush an ‘incredibly decent person’ (News Sentinel) President Bush in one term accomplished what some presidents could not do in two. He was an incredibly decent person. He was a patriot. He fought in World War II and evaded capture after his plane was shot down in the Pacific. My parents had known his parents, Prescott and Dottie Bush, from living part of the year on Jupiter Island in Florida. My father golfed with Sen. Bush and my mother attended the same Bible study group in Hobe Sound, Fla., as his mother did. President Bush was a son who called his mother every day. He was one of the best prepared people to lead our nation because of his extensive service as a congressman, ambassador to the UN, ambassador to China, Republican National Committee chair, CIA director and eight years as vice president under Ronald Reagan. LINK

Victor Ashe: Tim Burchett to visit Israel with bipartisan delegation (News Sentinel) Congressman-elect Tim Burchett will be traveling to Israel this month as part of a small bipartisan delegation of six new House members from the 85 freshman members of both parties. Burchett, a strong supporter of Israel, will be making his first visit there. He will meet with government leaders as well as opposition members of the Israeli Parliament (Knesset). Burchett will visit Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as well as other cities to be determined. Israel receives substantial foreign aid each year from the U.S. Congress. Burchett’s trip is privately funded. Last week, Burchett was in Washington for orientation and choosing his office space.  He drew the 15th-best office out of 85, in the Longworth House Office Building. Several staff members have been hired so operations will be able to start promptly when he is sworn in Jan. 3. LINK

Guest column: Disabled also face poverty, service cuts (Commercial Appeal) Today around the world the empowerment of people with disabilities is being celebrated in recognition of the 2018 United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities. In this 26th year of the observance much has changed yet more remains to be done to further advance inclusiveness and equality for people with disabilities. There are approximately 117,000 Shelby County residents with disabilities. They are among the 61 million Americans with disability status who are part of the one billion people worldwide with a disability. The highest percentages of people with disabilities in the U.S. live in the South. LINK

Georgiana Vines: Ex-Gov. Don Sundquist sells Townsend mountaintop home, plans move to Memphis (News Sentinel) Former Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist and wife Martha have sold their mountaintop home in the Laurel Valley community of Townsend, although they plan to continue living there until they move to a retirement community in the Memphis area, where the Republican started his political career as a congressman. The home was bought by Thomas H.R. Boyd and wife Lindsey for $1.3 million, the Blount County Register of Deeds office shows. Thomas Boyd is the son of interim University of Tennessee President Randy Boyd and wife Jenny. Thomas Boyd said he didn’t have anything to say about the transaction, which was done in August, and his arrangement with the Sundquists is private. Thomas Boyd’s parents have a home in the area, as does his paternal grandmother. LINK

Linda O’Neal: David Miller should not be executed because of his childhood adversity (News Sentinel) Children are our future; what happens while they are young has life-long consequences. I recently retired after 45 years advocating in Tennessee for improving outcomes for children and families. The last several years focused on preventing adverse childhood experiences – ACEs – and mitigating their impact on children, families and society. Research on ACEs demonstrates childhood adversity leads to trauma and toxic stress that damage the developing brain. This can cause developmental damage, violence, substance abuse, and physical and mental health challenges. Gov. Bill Haslam and other state leaders launched Building Strong Brains Tennessee, an effort to establish Tennessee as a national model promoting culture change to  prevent and mitigate ACEs and their impact, and to enhance long-term prosperity by improving outcomes for children. LINK


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