Tuesday, January 8

Haslam honors Alexander with name change for Rocky Fork (Johnson City Press) Tennessee’s newest state park has a new name. In a visit to Flag Pond early Monday, Gov. Bill Haslam announced the state park in Unicoi County “will hereto after be known as Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park.” On hand for the unveiling of the new sign on Old Asheville Highway directing visitors to the park entrance, Alexander described Rocky Fork as “a national treasure.” And he said its renaming was a “completely unexpected honor.” “This is Upper East Tennessee’s gateway to the Appalachian Trail and that will be a signature for this area,” Alexander said. LINK

Rocky Fork State Park renamed to honor Sen. Lamar Alexander (News Sentinel) Outgoing Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has issued an executive order renaming Rocky Fork State Park in Unicoi County as Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park, as the senator completes his last term in office. “Sen. Alexander has spent a lifetime serving Tennesseans and promoting Tennessee to the world,” Haslam said. “He loves the state from Memphis to Mountain City. His roots are in East Tennessee, and it is fitting that this special place in this special state bears his name. “Tennessee’s state parks are indebted to him and his service both as governor and as senator, and visitors to this state park will be reminded of his work every time they visit.” LINK

Tennessee governor renames state park after senator (AP) Gov. Bill Haslam has renamed a state park to honor Tennessee’s senior U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander. Haslam announced Monday he had signed an executive order renaming Rocky Fork State Park in Unicoi County as Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park. The outgoing governor says the Republican senator’s commitment to preservation and record of service prompted him to make the change. Alexander helped secure more than $30 million to purchase the Rocky Fork tract in 2006 and add it to the Cherokee National Forest. In 2012, Haslam announced he would convert more 2,000 acres (809 hectare) of the Rocky Fork tract into Tennessee’s 55th state park where Alexander was in attendance. LINK

Haslam renames Rocky Fork State Park after Lamar Alexander (WBIR-TV) Gov. Bill Haslam has renamed Rocky Fork State Park as Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park. This executive order honors Tennessee’s senior senator for his record of service and commitment to preservation. “Senator Alexander has spent a lifetime serving Tennesseans and promoting Tennessee to the world,” Haslam said. “He loves the state from Memphis to Mountain City. His roots are in East Tennessee, and it is fitting that this special place in this special state bears his name. Tennessee’s state parks are indebted to him and his service both as governor and as senator, and visitors to this state park will be reminded of his work every time they visit.” Rocky Fork is a 10,000-acre tract of mountainous land with elevations as high as 4,800 feet in Unicoi County. LINK

Rocky Fork State Park in Unicoi named in honor of Sen. Lamar Alexander (WCYB-TV) The senator who helped secure initial funding for a Unicoi County recreation area will now share in its name following a declaration Monday by Governor Bill Haslam. The executive order will establish the new name of the location as the Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park- the 2,000-acre tract within the Cherokee National Forest that was first established when the senator was able to obtain $30 million for the park land purchase in 2006. Rocky Fork officially opened in Sept. 2015 and is Tennessee 55th state park. LINK

Haslam names Jones as public defender in 22nd Judicial District (Columbia Daily Herald) Travis Jones of Columbia has been appointed as public defender for the 22nd Judicial District, which serves Maury, Giles, Lawrence and Wayne counties. The appointment Monday by Gov. Bill Haslam comes after the death of longtime public defender Claudia Jack. “I am both humbled and excited by this wonderful opportunity to follow Claudia Jack, who was my friend and mentor,” Jones said. “She served this judicial district and state so well for many years.” Jones, 44, has worked in the public defender’s since May 2013, when he started a part-time role. After working in private practice and as president of his family’s home furnishings business, Jones joined Jack’s office full time in August 2014 and rose to the position of assistant public defender. LINK

Gov. Bill Haslam grants full clemency to Cyntoia Brown, sets Aug. 7 release from prison (Tennessean) Cyntoia Brown was sitting in the visiting room at the Tennessee Prison for Women on Monday morning when her lawyers walked in with the life-changing news. “You’re getting out in August,” Charles Bone said as soon as he saw her. Her reaction was immediate. “She just lit up with a joy I’ve never seen before,” said Kathy Sinback, the administrator for Nashville’s juvenile court who acted as Brown’s first public defender. Sinback said a member of the legal team asked Brown if she was disappointed it would take another seven months before she was free.”She said, ‘Are you crazy? I was supposed to get out when I was 67 years old,'” Sinback said. LINK

TNJ interview: Haslam discusses Cyntoia Brown decision (TN Journal) Republican Gov. Bill Haslam in an interview with The Tennessee Journal on Monday discussed how he came to the decision to grant clemency to Cyntoia Brown, who will be released from prison after serving 15 years in August. Brown was sentenced to life in prison for a murder committed as a 16-year-old in 2004, after she had run away from home. She has said she acted in self-defense in shooting the man after she was forced into prostitution. Haslam said celebrity attention to the case led to his office receiving 100,000 calls from Brown’s supporters. LINK

Gov. Bill Haslam: See all of his commutations, pardons and exonerations he has granted while in office (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Haslam announced Monday he was granting a full commutation to Cyntoia Brown, a 30-year-old who was imprisoned since being convicted of first degree murder in 2006. Since he’s been in office, Haslam has granted six commutations, 15 pardons and one exoneration. Haslam’s office says the governor is actively considering additional clemency requests before he exits office on Jan. 19.  The following is a summary of the case with each executive action. Commutation: A move to reduce the length or type of prison sentence or penalty imposed on someone convicted of a crime. LINK

Gov. Haslam grants clemency to Cyntoia Brown (Daily Memphian) Gov. Bill Haslam granted clemency on Monday to Cyntoia Brown, commuting her sentence of life imprisonment and enabling her to be released for parole supervision in mid-August after serving 15 years. “This decision comes after careful consideration of what is a tragic and complex case,” said Haslam, who leaves office Jan. 19. “Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16. Yet, imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 years before even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life. Transformation should be accompanied by hope. So, I am commuting Ms. Brown’s sentence, subject to certain conditions.” LINK

Gov. Haslam grants clemency to Cyntoia Brown (WKRN-TV) Days before leaving office, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has granted clemency to Cyntoia Brown. Brown will be released to parole supervision on Aug. 7, exactly 15 years to the day when she was arrested in 2004. Before her release, Brown will meet with counselors on designing a reentry plan and her parole conditions will require that she not violate any state or federal laws. She will also be subject to a release plan approved by the Tennessee Department of Correction and special supervision conditions, including employment, education, counseling, and community engagement requirements. Her parole supervision will continue until August 7, 2029. LINK

Gov. Haslam grants clemency to Cyntoia Brown, to be released Aug. 7 (WATE-TV) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced Monday he is commuting Cyntoia Brown’s sentence of life in prison to supervised parole. Brown was convicted in 2006 in Davidson County of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery in the 2004 murder of Nashville real estate agent Johnny Allen after then-16-year-old Brown was picked up by Allen and taken to his home. Her original sentence was life in prison with the possibility of parole after serving a minimum of 51 years in prison, which means she would not have been eligible for parole until 2055 at the earliest. LINK

Cyntoia Brown, Nashville Woman Convicted Of Murder As A Teen, Will Be Released (WPLN Radio) After months of consideration, Gov. Bill Haslam has granted full clemency to Cyntoia Brown, saying the Nashville woman convicted of murder while still a teenager has taken “extraordinary steps” to transform her life. The decision means that Brown, who has served 15 years in prison, will be released in August after completing a re-entry program. She’ll remain on parole until 2029. Haslam’s decision to commute Brown’s sentence comes after mounting local and national pressure. A federal appeals court has been considering whether Tennessee’s requirement that Brown serve at least 51 years of a life sentence is too harsh. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that most life-without-parole sentences for juveniles are cruel and unusual. LINK

Haslam Grants Cyntoia Brown Clemency, Will Allow Her Release From Prison (Nashville Scene) Gov. Bill Haslam granted Brown clemency on Monday. The news comes after a remarkable wave of advocacy and activism that led to celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Rihanna sharing her story. The governor, who has just weeks left in office, is commuting Brown’s sentence of life imprisonment. She will be released to parole supervision on Aug. 7, 2019, after serving 15 years in prison, according to the announcement from Haslam’s office. “This decision comes after careful consideration of what is a tragic and complex case,” says Haslam. “Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16. LINK

Read Cyntoia Brown’s full statement on her clemency (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Haslam ordered an early release for Cyntoia Brown, a Tennessee woman and alleged sex trafficking victim serving a life sentence in prison for killing a man when she was 16. Haslam granted Brown a full commutation to parole on Monday. Brown will be eligible for release Aug. 7 on time served and will stay on parole for 10 years. Here’s her full statement, as released by her attorneys. LINK

Cyntoia Brown was just granted clemency. Here’s what that means.(Tennessean) Cyntoia Brown, 30, who was convicted of first-degree murder when she was 16 and sentenced to life in prison, has been granted clemency by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. The case garnered national attention, and drew in high-profile celebrities among those advocating for her release. Haslam granted Brown a full commutation to parole on Monday. Now that a decision has been made, here’s what it means: LINK

Why is Cyntoia Brown not getting out of jail until August? (WTVF-TV)  It was a decision welcomed by many: Cyntoia Brown, convicted in 2006 of murder, had her sentence commuted by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. Brown was 16 years old when the crime was committed, and advocates say she was a victim of sex trafficking and shot the 43-year-old in self-defense. But one question many are asking today is: if her sentence was commuted, why does she have to remain in jail until August? The short answer: as part of commutation, Gov. Haslam can choose the specific date the person is released. And that date is 15 years to the day she was first arrested. According to Charles Bone, Cyntoia’s lawyer, Gov. Haslam wanted Brown to fulfill a full 15 years of her sentence. LINK

‘Tennessee can show love, compassion and mercy:’ Leaders react to Cyntoia Brown clemency news (Tennessean) Leaders around the state reacted Monday to news that Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam granted clemency to Cyntoia Brown, the woman whose case has drawn national attention and advocacy from celebrities. Brown was a victim of sex trafficking when, at 16, she killed 43-year-old Johnny Allen while they were in bed, according to prosuectors and her supporters. She said she believed he was reaching for a gun and she was afraid for her life during the fatal 2004 shooting. Haslam ordered full commutation for Brown, now 30, meaning she will be eligible to be released from prison later this year. His decision comes during his final days of office. LINK

Cyntoia Brown prepares for life after prison, former Nashville inmate offers advice (WSMV-TV) Cyntoia Brown was granted clemency by Governor Haslam on Monday and will be a free woman in seven months. You may be thinking all Cyntoia Brown has to do is walk out and she’s free, but it’s not as simple as that. She’ll be on supervised parole for 10 years and have to follow several conditions like having a job and going to counseling sessions. That’s on top of adjusting to life outside of prison. Cyntoia Brown has spent every year of her adult life in the Tennessee prison system. That will all change when she’s let out at 31 years old in August. “There’s going to be a lot of challenges, obviously. She matured into adulthood in prison,” Ali Winters, a social worker said. LINK

Pastor who talked to governor about clemency for Cyntoia Brown will walk her out of prison (CNN) They met for the first time a few weeks before Christmas — the woman serving a life sentence for killing a man who bought her for sex as a teenager, and a pastor who believed in her. At the time of their meeting, high-profile advocates had been calling for clemency for Cyntoia Denise Brown, including a US Congressman and A-list celebrities like Ashley Judd.  Gov. Bill Haslam had heard from both sides on whether to grant her clemency. Members of Bishop Joseph W. Walker III’s congregation were working with Brown through a Tennessee Department of Corrections faith-based mentoring program. Days after meeting her, Walker joined the chorus of people lobbying the Republican governor. He spoke to Haslam about forgiveness and second chances, Walker said. LINK

Cyntoia Brown’s legal team on what’s next after clemency granted by Gov. Haslam (WZTV-TV) The emotion appeared to be too much to contain as Cyntoia Brown’s legal team erupted in raw jubilation after Tennessee’s governor decided to set Cyntoia Brown free. Many are calling Governor Bill Haslam “courageous” after he announced his decision to grant Brown clemency Monday. FOX 17 News exclusive coverage of Cyntoia Brown’s case brought international attention to her plight in 2017. Her story resonated with people all over the world, placing international pressure on Haslam, ultimately culminating Monday with her early release. LINK

Cyntoia Brown Sees Clemency As Opportunity To Be An Example (WPLN Radio) “You are getting out in August.” Those were the first words Cyntoia Brown heard from her lawyers Monday, when Gov. Bill Haslam granted her clemency. “I’ve known Cyntoia since the day after she was arrested, and I’ve never seen the peace and joy on her face that I saw today,” Kathryn Sinback, Brown’s attorney in juvenile court, told reporters. Brown has already served 15 years of a life sentence for the murder of Johnny Allen, who she claims paid her for sex. Brown was 16 at the time and she contends she killed him in self-defense. LINK

What people are saying about Cyntoia Brown getting clemency (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday ordered an early release for Cyntoia Brown, a Tennessee woman and alleged sex trafficking victim serving a life sentence in prison for killing a man when she was 16. Here’s what people are saying: “Justice has finally been served: #CyntoiaBrown has been granted clemency.” tweeted Democratic politician and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. “This victory belongs to Cyntoia Brown & to the Tennessee human trafficking activists, especially Black women, who refused to concede injustice & instead organized to create change.” LINK

Cyntoia Brown clemency brings reaction from across the country (WKRN-TV) Cyntoia Brown, the name that has made Nashville headlines over the past 15 years, took over social media feeds on Monday after Governor Bill Haslam granted full clemency to Brown. The decision comes after Brown, an alleged victim of child sex trafficking, spent nearly 15 years in prison for murdering a Nashville man in 2004. Reality TV star Kim Kardashian tweeted “Thank you Governor Haslam” shortly after the decision was announced. Kardashian, even Tennessee’s own Ashley Judd, were among the celebrities who urged Haslam last month to make that very consideration. Actress and activist Alyssa Milano tweeted, “Yes!!! Cyntoia Brown is granted full clemency!! Thank you, Governor Haslam! Thank you!” LINK

Who was Cyntoia Brown convicted of killing? A look at Johnny Allen (Tennessean) Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam granted full clemency to Cyntoia Brown on Monday. Convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, she will be released on Aug. 7 after 14 years. In 2004, Brown — who was 16 at the time — shot and killed 43-year-old real estate agent Johnny Allen. Allen had picked her up at an East Nashville Sonic restaurant and drove her to his home. Allen and Brown were strangers when they met, and Brown said she shot him in the back of the head as he lay naked beside her because she feared for her life. At the time, Brown had run away from home and claimed she had been forced into prostitution by her then-boyfriend, whom she was living with in a hotel. LINK

Gov.-elect Bill Lee hosted Democrats for dinner at his farm. Is it a sign of bipartisanship? (Tennessean) It remains to be seen whether Gov.-elect Bill Lee will attempt to reach across the aisle to work on policy issues, but the Republican who will soon be leading the state has already shown a gesture of relational good will toward Democratic lawmakers. Lee opened up his family home to Democrats last Sunday night, inviting leaders of the legislature’s minority party to eat dinner and socialize ahead of the upcoming General Assembly session. While on the preceding nights the governor-elect and next first lady Maria Lee had hosted House and Senate Republicans, the Dec. 30 gathering was reserved for the Democrats. LINK

Governor-Elect Bill Lee chooses Tri-Cities man to oversee future of workforce development (WJHL-TV) Governor-Elect Bill Lee will entrust a Tri-Cities man with the future of workforce development in Tennessee. Dr. Jeff McCord of Sullivan County will lead the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The newly-appointed commissioner is currently the vice president of economic and workforce development at Northeast State Community College, where he also leads the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing. Lee came to politics from the private sector. He served as president of Lee Company, a mechanical contracting, facilities and home services company that employs over one thousand skilled-tradesmen, according to their website. LINK

Human Trafficking 101: Learn how human trafficking affects East Tennessee (Johnson City Press) Human trafficking is something that may be unfamiliar to many East Tennesseans, but that doesn’t mean there’s any shortage of the crime that trap victims for years. The Johnson City/Washington County Family Justice Center has partnered with the Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking for an educational event called “Human Trafficking 101 and Community Night” on Tuesday, Jan. 8 from 5-7 p.m. Natalie Ivey of CCAHT will present “Human Trafficking 101” — an in-depth look into human trafficking in the Northeast Tennessee area. The presentation covers the prevalence of human trafficking across the region, as well as how to identify and report suspected cases. LINK

UTC’s new advisory board meets for the first time, thanks to UT Focus Act (Times Free Press) The new advisory board for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, spearheaded by Gov. Bill Haslam, met for the first time Monday and elected its chairman. Haslam appointed advisory board members for four University of Tennessee system schools in December. His plan to reduce the size of the UT system’s Board of Trustees, the UT Focus Act, was narrowly passed into law last year. The seven-member board, includes five members appointed by the governor from a range of professions and industries, university alumni, Chancellor Steve Angle and faculty and student representatives. LINK

UTHSC to hold inaugural advisory board meeting in Nashville (Daily Memphian) The newly created advisory board that will solely focus on the University of Tennessee Health Science Center will hold its first meeting this week.The board is the result of the University of Tennessee Focusing on Campus and University Success (FOCUS) Act passed by the state Legislature in 2018, which reduced and restructured the University of Tennessee board of trustees and created advisory boards for each main UT campus. The UT FOCUS Act was sponsored by Rep. David Hawk and then Sen. Mark Norris of Shelby County, who is now a U.S. District Court Judge and member of the new advisory board. LINK

Take a look inside phase two of the UT Student Union (WBIR-TV) The 395,088 square-foot-building is intended to be the community center of campus, providing a central gathering space as well as a home to many administrative offices. The Student Union will also serve as a space for additional student development and learning, according to the university. Ian Crone, director of the Student Union, said he wants the space to be inviting and welcoming to all. “The Student Union is not just a building. We want this to be a place for people to come and hang out with friends. I see this space as a home away from home for students,” Crone said. “This space really serves as a crossroad between their classes and heading back to their residence hall or off-campus housing.” LINK

Motlow, TCAT leaders tell legislators of schools’ successes (Shelbyville Times-Gazette) Four Tennessee Board of Regents schools, including Motlow State Community College and Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Shelbyville, discussed their plans and achievements during the annual legislative breakfast held Friday morning on Motlow’s Moore County campus. The gathering is a chance for the schools and their parent agency to report to state legislators and community leaders, and also gives the legislators an opportunity to speak. Dr. Kimberly McCormick, TBR vice chancellor for external affairs, thanked legislators for their support of the TBR system, which includes 40 different institutions with more than 120 teaching sites across the state, working with more than 118,000 students a year. LINK

New law waives state licensing fee for new massage therapists, hair stylists, others (WTVF-TV) They are professions thousands of Tennesseans choose to start a career in, hoping to make more money, but new massage therapists and hair stylists say they’re getting stuck with hundreds of dollars in state fees that they must pay to get their license and do their job. But a new law seeks to save low income students some of that money, waiving their initial fee to get a state license, which for Massage therapists is $280. “The struggle to change their lives is hard enough, they finally get through it all, take a deep breath and – smack – here’s $550 worth of fees to get into the field, said Maj-Lis Nash with the Mind Body Institute. LINK

Bill provides waiver for health care licensure fees (Nashville Post) Low-income individuals will be exempt from initial occupational charges. With 2019 came a new state law aimed at making Tennessee’s health care workforce more inclusive. House Bill 1805, sponsored by Republican Rep. Dan Howell, exempts low-income individuals from the initial licensure fees imposed by health and regulatory boards when beginning a career in the heath care industry.  The bill also directs licensing authorities to create a system for applicants to apply for a fee waiver, and sets a deadline for the approval process to 30 days. “This bill is another effort of trying to put more people in the workforce in Tennessee,” Howell (pictured) said while presenting his bill to the Tennessee House of Representatives Health Subcommittee. LINK

2019 Tennessee General Assembly opens session today (Maryville Daily Times) The Tennessee General Assembly will open its 2019 legislative session at noon CST today, ushering in significant leadership changes. With 27 new members of the Tennessee House of Representatives, the 111th congress of the state of Tennessee has its greatest turnover in more than 30 years. Among the greatest changes will be the election of a new speaker of the House. Glen Casada, a Republican from Franklin, has been nominated by state Republicans, who hold a 73-26 majority in the House, which will vote on the position today. LINK

The Tennessee General Assembly will be back in session. Here’s what lawmakers likely will do this year (Tennessean) With the start of the year comes the return of state lawmakers to Nashville, where they’ll spend the next few months debating — and ultimately deciding on — what new laws are coming to Tennessee. There will be a new governor in the executive branch, a new speaker of the House and a record-high number of freshman lawmakers, bringing some degree of unpredictability about what will take place. Though its only real requirement is to pass a budget, the 111th General Assembly will introduce legislation on a host of issues. Here’s what to look for this session. LINK

Tennesseans gather outside state capitol to address health care concerns (WBBJ-TV) In front of the state capitol, concerned Tennesseans gathered to tell their stories about the negative impacts of the health care system. Many of them say they are demanding action on several health care issues such as pre-existing conditions, lack of treatment for drug addictions, and lack of financial security. An overall theme throughout the forum was concern for the rural health care system. Tennessee leads the nation in the amount of rural hospital closings. Back in September, McKenzie Regional Hospital shut down. McKenzie Mayor Jill Holland say impacts of losing a hospital can include longer waits for medical help, as well as lack of industries wanting to come to the area. LINK

Trekking and talking; Blount man walks to Nashville to be heard as legislators begin session (Maryville Daily Times) Nathan Higdon left the steps of the Blount County Courthouse at 10 a.m. Friday with the goal of walking his way to Nashville — carrying a message he said is so important he wanted to deliver it in person. Higdon, who turns 40 today, walked 70 of the 181 miles to the state Capitol along U.S. Highway 70 West. He knew he had to get there in four days, so the Blount County native accepted rides at times. He arrived Monday, a day before the Tennessee General Assembly opens today at noon. The sign on his back told passing motorists what he stands for: the expansion of Medicaid and the rejection of a voucher system for public schools. LINK

Activist makes trek through Wilson County on way to state capitol (Lebanon Democrat) Nathan Higdon, a 40-year-old activist and businessman from Maryville, made his way from the steps of the Blount County Courthouse to Legislative Plaza, walking about 80 of the 180 miles, to bring awareness to what he sees is a need for Medicaid expansion and in opposition to voucher and charter school legislation in Tennessee. Higdon, who also qualified to be a write-in candidate for state Senate District 2 in the 2018 election and is a leader of Indivisible East Tennessee, a progressive grassroots activist group, said his interest in health care specifically has personal beginnings. LINK

As legislature convenes, Electric Coop Association offers General Assembly app (Brentwood Home Page) Tennessee lawmakers will return to Nashville on Jan. 8 for the 111th Tennessee General Assembly. During the four to five-month session, they will consider legislation that can have an impact on Tennessee families and businesses. Tennesseans interested in government and politics now have a powerful tool for connecting with lawmakers. The 111th Tennessee General Assembly app features a continually updated, searchable database of contact, staff and committee information as well as district maps, photos, leadership roles and social media profiles for members of the Tennessee House and Senate. The app also contains information on the governor and his cabinet and the Tennessee congressional delegation. LINK

Republican lawmaker calls schools funding lawsuit ‘waste’ of money (Daily Memphian) A key House leader contends the lawsuit initiated by the Shelby County Schools Board for more state funding is a “waste” of funds, especially considering the Legislature’s increased spending on K-12 education in recent years. “It’s been my experience, at least, that no matter how well we fund the schools there are going to be some school systems that choose to waste the funds they could be using to educate children and provide for good teachers and good classrooms,” new House Majority Leader William Lamberth said during an interview about the 111th General Assembly session set to start Tuesday. “And they’ll waste them on lawyers and lawsuits.” LINK

Video: Memphis lawmaker worked to secure clemency, national attention in Cyntoia Brown case (WMC-TV) LINK

Rep. Lamar Plans Introduction of Juvenile Sex Trafficking Bill In Wake Of Brown Clemency (WATN-TV) Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s decision to grant clemency for a former prostitute and convicted killer is getting national attention. Cyntoia Brown’s story now has at least one state lawmaker saying it’s time to help more young people who commit violent acts while involved in prostitution. Representative London Lamar says state law doesn’t allow children charged with sex trafficking to be tried as an adult, but she says the fact they are involved in prostitution is not taken into consideration when they commit violence and she’s hoping Cyntoia Brown’s case will change that. LINK

What’s Going on with Van Hilleary (Politico) PI reported on Friday that former Rep. Van Hilleary (R-Tenn.) had deregistered as a lobbyist. Turns out that’s because he has returned to the Hill as chief of staff to newly elected Rep. John Rose, another Tennessee Republican. It’s unusual for former members of Congress to come back as staffers, but as Roll Call noted last month, it’s not unprecedented. Former Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.), who was district director to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords before he won election to her seat after an assassination attempt, is now district director to Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.). LINK

Sen. Lamar Alexander, Congressman Phil Roe discuss partial government shutdown (WJHL-TV) A partial federal government shutdown now enters its third week. Millions of federal workers are wondering when they will see their next paycheck. President Trump remains firm on his demand for millions of dollars to fund a southern border wall. President Trump indicated he may use his executive power to side-step Congress and build the wall with money from the military. “I may declare a national emergency, dependent on what’s gonna happen over the next few days,” Trump said. On Monday, President Trump said he will deliver a prime-time address Tuesday night on border security amid the ongoing shutdown fight. On Monday, both U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander and U.S. Congressman Phil Roe were in Unicoi County for the renaming of Rocky Fork State Park by Gov. Bill Haslam. LINK

Roe hopes for quick end to the shut down (Citizen Tribune) Republican U.S. Rep. Phil Roe on Friday went on record regarding the partial shutdown of the federal government because of a lack of federal funding. The argument over funding for a southern border wall means most of the employees of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, along with other federal workers, are off the job. They are not receiving a paycheck because there is no money. Currently 800,000 federal government workers, about 25 percent of all federal workers, are not getting paid. LINK

Memphis families of federal employees brace for no pay during government shutdown (WREG-TV) When the partial federal government shutdown began in December, Jennifer Hoffman, the wife of a Coast Guard senior official stationed in Memphis, knew her family would get one paycheck, but that was it, as Coast Guard employees work without pay for the foreseeable future. Due to the government shutdown, about 800,000 people who work for affected agencies are being made to work without pay or are being furloughed without pay. Some of them work in the Memphis area. LINK

Battle of Stones River remembered despite government shutdown (Lebanon Democrat) With the federal government shutdown in full swing, residents and visitors in Murfreesboro were left with no official memorial service last weekend to mark the 156th anniversary of the Battle of Stones River. Each year, the National Parks Service, which manages the Stones River battlefield and surrounding monuments, holds a memorial service to pay respects to the fallen soldiers and educate the public about the history and significance of the battle. The service was cancelled due to the government shutdown, but the park remained open to those who wished to walk the trails. Despite the shutdown, several people and groups held their own remembrances in to remember the past and honor those who died in America’s most destructive war. LINK

Williamson County arguably least affected county in state from government shutdown (Brentwood Home Page) Tennessee has been found to be only moderately affected by the continued government shutdown, placing 23rd on a list of most affected states by a study from Wallethub, with Williamson County being one of the least-affected areas in the state due to its relative wealth, lack of major federal parks, and comparatively low number of food stamp recipients. The shutdown, which began on December 22, is entering its 17th day as of Monday, and is currently the third longest of its kind in United States history. Approximately one million Tennessee residents, or roughly one in six, were enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 2017. LINK

Business as usual at BNA despite government shutdown (WSMV-TV) For 17 days, the Federal Government remains partially shut down, with no real end in sight just yet. Employees deemed “essential” must work, but won’t get paid until after the shutdown ends. At Nashville International Airport, hundreds of TSA officers and air-traffic controllers are impacted by the shutdown. However, travelers are noticing how things are running fairly smooth. Yvonne Lantz has flown out of Nashville twice since the government shut down. She’s seen the same number of TSA officers reporting for duty, with each trip out of Nashville International Airport. “Not an issue,” Lantz said. “The only line was just printing tickets and checking luggage. No TSA backup.”  LINK

Memphis homicides up 5 percent in 2018 (Daily Memphian) Mark Small was shot during a robbery in South Memphis on Dec. 15. The 53-year-old was shot multiple times. Small was taken to Regional One Health, where he died from his injuries 13 days later. He was the last homicide in 2018. Memphis recorded 184 homicides last year, a 5 percent increase over the 176 slayings in 2017, but still lower than 228 homicides in 2016, the deadliest year recorded in the city in the last two decades. “We know we have a long way to go,” said Memphis Police Department Director Michael Rallings. “We would love to have no violent crime, but we know that is not realistic.” LINK

Drag queen storytime draws protests (Cookeville Herald-Citizen) A drag queen story hour drew over 100 protesters Saturday. This was the second time Drag Queen Story Hour was held at the Putnam County Library, where they have reserved a meeting room for the event following library policies. After learning of the first event, protesters voiced their displeasure with the library, although the library is not sponsoring the event. The reading was performed by Kitty Lovelle, who read the book, ‘All Are Welcome,’ about the inclusion of all cultures. The reading was followed by a craft session and a dance. Lovelle, who is a woman that performs in drag, was chosen by the UC Pride to try and dispel some of the myths about drag that some might not understand. LINK


Editorial: Governor Bill Haslam shows mercy and does justice by granting Cyntoia Brown clemency (Tennessean) Cyntoia Brown was granted clemency Monday because Gov. Bill Haslam used his power and showed her mercy. He also meted out justice and a second chance to a young woman who has worked hard to rehabilitate her life in the 12 years since her sentencing for murder. Brown killed local real estate agent Johnny Mitchell Allen in his bed in 2004. She said he paid her for sex. She was 16. He was 43. She was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility for release after 51 years. Brown said she had been trafficked as a sex slave and her past, filled with trauma and abuse, colored her view of her world. LINK

Clint Cooper: Lee’s no-win bust dilemma (Times Free Press) Intended or not, the question couldn’t help but pigeonhole Tennessee Gov.-elect Bill Lee. What would he like to see done, he was asked in an interview on Grand Divisions, the USA Today Network-Tennessee politics podcast, with the state capitol bust of Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest. Whatever Lee’s answer, given still a couple of weeks before his inauguration, was likely to rile one group or another. If he opined to leave the bust in place, he risked being thought of by many of the state’s black residents as cut in the image of just another white Republican politician who cared nothing for the symbolism of slavery and the horrors the Klan later brought. LINK

Column: A people, a vision and a lady named Many-Bears (Cleveland Daily Banner) Learning of the retirement of Tennessee Commissioner of Veterans Services Many-Bears Grinder saddened many, especially those who appreciated her untiring advocacy for a new veterans home in Cleveland. For eight years, the impassioned leader stood for all things veteran during her time in Nashville as part of the Gov. Bill Haslam administration. For eight years, the bold visionary worked with local partisans to bring such a facility to Bradley County soil, encouraging us when we got down, reassuring us when all seemed lost and calming us when unsettling news tested our resolve. LINK

David Plazas: Tennessee citizens can and should engage and influence their lawmakers (Tennessean) The ongoing partial federal government shutdown has consumed so much time and attention, but Tennessee residents can rest assured that their state is open for business. This week, the annual Tennessee General Assembly session begins. Citizens need to know that there is a lot at stake, but they can effect the outcome of events. They have far more influence on their state lawmakers than those in Washington, D.C. At noon Tuesday, both the state Senate and the House of Representatives convene in public on Capitol Hill in downtown Nashville to start the work — the most important of which is ensuring the state’s budget gets passed. LINK

Guest column: What kind of society do we want to be? Why the death penalty is unjust. (Tennessean) It happened again. The third time since August. In the 42 years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled capital punishment was constitutional in 1976, Tennessee only executed six men. But now, in a matter of four months, three people have been executed, two by electrocution. Three more executions are scheduled in 2019, and another three in 2020. Six in 42 years; nine in less than three years. I have written editorials against the death penalty. I have spoken out against the death penalty in sermons and conversations. I have talked to legislators about my desire to see our state stop capital punishment. I have visited inmates on death row. LINK

Guest column: I wanted to vote for my first time in 2018, but Tennessee failed me (Tennessean) I tried everything, but my voice was not heard in the 2018 midterm elections. I am appalled at the difficulty of casting an absentee vote in Williamson County. I am a Williamson County native who attends college in Washington, DC. As a full-time student at a university outside my home county, I was eligible to vote in this year’s election as an absentee voter. Knowing the importance of the midterms, especially for Tennessee, I was careful to follow the instructions on the absentee ballot to ensure that my vote would be counted. A Davidson County friend of mine also attends college in D.C., and we simultaneously requested absentee ballots in early October. LINK

Guest column: Congress could make navigating the job market easier with this bill (Tennessean) Middle Tennessee’s unemployment rate is at the lowest level it’s been in decades. Companies in the Nashville region and across the country are offering well-paid jobs with opportunities to move up a career ladder – in fact, in many locales, there are more jobs than qualified people to fill them. This is particularly true for middle-skill jobs that require some education and training beyond high school, but not a college degree. Recruiting and retaining the talent to fill these middle-skill jobs is critical to Tennessee’s continued success in economic development. LINK

Guest column: BBQ not the only ‘pork’ benefiting Memphis (Commercial Appeal) Right about now Santa is probably recovering with a well deserved vacation. He and the elves worked all year long building toys for girls and boys in the run-up for Christmas, embodying the feelings of generosity and giving of the Christmas season. For most us, while we loved seeing presents under the tree with our name on them, nothing beat the joy of seeing a loved one’s face light up as they open up the perfect gift you got for them. But not even Santa matched the generosity of politicians, who doled out special gifts all last year to a select few lucky recipients. LINK


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