Thursday, February 28

Gov. Lee to talk agriculture, education in upcoming State of the State (WKRN-TV) The eyes of Tennessee will be on Governor Bill Lee Monday as he delivers his first State of the State address. “We are going to talk about specifics and initiatives that are going to part of our budget proposal, “said the governor before he headed into a luncheon Wednesday hosted by the Tennessee Farm Bureau. The politically-powerful group broke into applause when it heard the governor talk about increased funding for “4-H, FFA, and youth development programs” and “ag enhancement as well.”  LINK

TN Gov. Bill Lee to deliver State of the State on Monday (WMC-TV) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee will deliver his first State of the State address next week and will unveil his first budget proposal. Tennessee’s budget last year totaled $37.5 billion. Officials say the state has more money this year, but Gov. Lee said that doesn’t necessarily mean more money for every state agency. He said we can expect both increases and cuts. One of his first acts as governor was preparing a state budget. Gov. Lee said he wants to focus on five areas: Education, Criminal Justice Reform, Mental Health, Health Care and Rural Economic Development. LINK

Lee plans to pull ‘gym’ tax (Wilson Post) Gov. Bill Lee recently announced plans to repeal the state’s amusement tax on gym memberships in his upcoming budget. “I’m pleased to be able to include a tax cut in my first budget,” said Lee. “Repealing the gym tax is an important step in reducing the burdens on small businesses in our state.” Lee said the nearly 10 percent amusement tax is placed on memberships to gyms, fitness centers and health clubs and disproportionately impacts small business owners. In order to quality for an exemption to the tax, a gym must be open daily for at least 70 hours weekly, have at least 15,000 square feet of space dedicated to physical fitness and offer three of the following activities: racquetball, track or swimming, exercise equipment, aerobics or blood chemistry and urinalysis health assessments. LINK

ICEE to move headquarters to La Vergne (AP) A national frozen beverage company is moving its corporate office from California to Tennessee. Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe announced Wednesday that ICEE Company will establish its headquarters in La Vergne, Tennessee. The project is estimated to bring 200 jobs to the region over the next five years. Lee says every kid and parent in America has craved an ICEE at one point, adding he’s excited the “iconic” company will call Tennessee home. ICEE, which was found in 1967, has been headquartered in Ontario, California for nearly 30 years. The company is known for selling frozen drinks with spoon straws and dome lids. LINK

ICEE Company moving headquarters to Rutherford County (WSMV-TV) The ICEE Company will be moving its headquarters to Rutherford County, which is expected to create 200 jobs over the next five years. The facility will be located in the 200 block of Mason Road in La Vergne. “Every kid and every parent in America has craved an ICEE at one point or another, and now we’re so excited that this iconic company has chosen to call Tennessee home,” said Gov. Bill Lee in a news release. “Tennessee is home to many major internationally recognized brand names, and we’re so proud to add ICEE to our list. This is great news for La Vergne and our entire state.” LINK

Icee leaves California, brings HQ to Middle Tennessee (Nashville Business Journal) The Icee Co., which makes a range of frozen beverages and slushies, is relocating its corporate headquarters from California to La Vergne, about 20 miles southeast of Nashville. On Wednesday, the company revealed that it would invest $10.3 million to make the move, creating more than 200 jobs in Rutherford County over the next five years. The full scope of incentives the 52-year-old business will receive for its trek from just east of Los Angeles was not immediately clear. “Every kid and every parent in America has craved an Icee at one point or another, and now we’re so excited that this iconic company has chosen to call Tennessee home,” Gov. Bill Lee said in a news release. LINK

ICEE to move headquarters from California to Tennessee (Times Free Press) Tennessee economic recruiters are continuing to reverse the mantra of heading west for success by luring another California-based corporate headquarters to the Volunteer State. Want more local and breaking news coverage? Get daily news updates delivered to your inbox. One of the nation’s biggest frozen beverage companies announced Wednesday it is moving its headquarters from southern California to Middle Tennessee by the end of the year. ICEE, the national frozen beverage company started in 1967, will move its corporate offices from Ontario, California just west of Los Angeles to La Vergne, Tennessee, just south of Nashville by December. LINK

Icee to bring 200-plus jobs, headquarters to La Vergne (Daily News Journal) Icee, the national frozen beverage company, will move its corporate office from California to La Vergne, officials announced Wednesday. “It’s such a business-friendly spot,” Icee President Dan Fachner told several dozen people gathered at the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce office in Murfreesboro. The company will add 200-plus jobs locally over the next five years as part of its $10.3 million investment at 265 Mason Road in La Vergne, said Fachner, who’s also the chief executive officer for Icee. LINK

JNJ Express Relocates to Expanded Operations Campus in Memphis, Tennessee (Area Development Online) JNJ Express, the transportation company, will invest $83.6 million to expand its operations in Memphis, Tennessee. JNJ plans to create 610 new jobs over the next five years. The company, planning to redevelop and occupy a former retail site at 5000 American Way, will establish a new corporate headquarters and operations campus in Southeast Memphis. “JNJ’s announcement today once again shows that Memphis has momentum,” Governor Bill Lee said. “This investment will revitalize a retail site that has been vacant for a long time, and it will jumpstart the surrounding area, leading to what we hope will be even more investments in the months ahead.” LINK

Logistics makes a comeback in economic development boom (Daily Memphian) Logistics has been making a comeback recently after some have questioned whether the mainstay of the Memphis economy needs incentives or extra attention in the city’s ongoing bid to create good-paying jobs. The announcement Tuesday that JNJ Logistics will expand its operations and move its headquarters from Old Getwell Road to the vacant Delta Square shopping center in Parkway Village is the latest evidence. The announcement that drew elected dignitaries and executives of the city’s trucking and logistics industry to a tent on the overgrown parking lot of Delta Square was bigger than the jobs and investment outlined in July when EDGE – Memphis and Shelby County Economic Development Growth Engine – granted a 15-year tax incentive for a $20.5 million investment to retain 290 jobs and create 222 new ones. LINK

TN Governor proposes investment to help with suicide prevention efforts (WDEF-TV) You can see how much of a problem suicide is in Tennessee just by looking at the numbers. There has been a climb in recent years, not just statewide, but also in Hamilton County. “We have seen an increase. The last numbers that we have are from 2017. We lost 1,163 people to suicide. Out of that, 68 were in Hamilton County,” Tricia Henderson said. Henderson is the Southeast Regional Chair for the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee is proposing a $1.1 million investment to expand the state’s partnership with the organization. LINK

TN Governor Aims to Lessen the number of Suicides (WGNS Radio) The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network (TSPN) applauds Gov. Bill Lee’s leadership and immediate attention to funding urgent initiatives for mental health and suicide prevention efforts upon taking Office. The Suicide Prevention Network has announced that its strategic plan to refine and deepen outreach of its national model of prevention-intervention-postvention to reduce stigma and save lives has received the endorsement of the Governor. The Governor’s comprehensive and inclusive multi-prong approach assures sustainability of various programs and services proposed for citizens in dire need of assistance to live out their lives. LINK

Mayor, director of schools to meet with governor about bringing TCAT to Washington County (WCYB-TV) The Washington County, Tenn. Board of Education has given the director of schools authority to discuss with state leaders the possibility of using the existing Boones Creek Elementary School for a technical school, after the new school opens this fall. Director Bill Flanary announced at a called school board meeting Wednesday that he, along with Mayor Joe Grandy, will make the trip to Nashville next week to meet with Gov. Bill Lee about bringing at Tennessee College of Applied Technology satellite campus to Washington County. The meeting between the governor and Washington County officials was arranged by Sen. Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City). LINK

Governor won’t budge on Forrest bust despite Cohen request (Daily Memphian) Gov. Bill Lee isn’t changing his stance on keeping the bust of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest in the State Capitol in spite of a letter from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen urging him to seek its removal. Cohen, a Memphis Democrat, followed up on a January letter to the first-year governor – after receiving no response – with a Feb. 22 letter in which he pointed toward Lee’s “stated regret” in participating in “Old South” activities and wearing Confederate uniforms while in the Kappa Alpha Fraternity at Auburn University. LINK

‘We need victims’ voices to be heard,’ Gov. Bill Lee says after demonstrators removed from meeting (Tennessean) A day after House Speaker Glen Casada’s office ordered a group of demonstrators to be removed from a committee meeting, Gov. Bill Lee said he believes government should ensure “the opportunity for voices to be heard.” The group of eight demonstrators, including six women who said they were standing up for alleged sexual assault victims of Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, were removed Tuesday from the education administration subcommittee Byrd chairs. Byrd, a former teacher, coach and principal at Wayne County High School, has been accused by three women of sexually assaulting them when they were 15 and 16 while playing on his basketball team in the 1980s. LINK

Tennessee among 8 states in broadband mapping project (AP) Tennessee will be among eight states in a new project to expand and update a national broadband map. A news release from U.S. Sen Marsha Blackburn’s office says the project by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration will help Tennessee get a clear and complete picture of broadband availability. The other states involved include California, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Utah and West Virginia. Recent federal budget legislation includes $7.5 million for the project. LINK

Memphis Regional Megasite at least 3 years away from completion, officials say (Jackson Sun) Ten years after its inception, officials say the Memphis Regional Megasite remains at least three years away from completion. “The attorney general’s office thinks it’ll take until at least the fall of 2019 to get through the eminent domain process, then from there we think the process to build the wastewater pipeline will take 18-24 months,” Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe said during the Memphis Regional Megasite Authority Quarterly Board meeting. LINK

Tennessee State Parks leader accused of ‘unwelcome advances’ over years before firing, records show (Tennessean) Four employees accused the former head of Tennessee State Parks of “unwelcome advances” and “sexually-charged comments” over the course of years, until he was fired in early February. Newly-released public records also indicate the accusers feared retaliation and did not complain until Feb. 6 — less than a month after Gov. Bill Lee appointed a new commissioner to lead the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, which oversees state parks. Help power more journalism like this.Become a digital subscriber. The sexual nature and long duration of the allegations against Brock Hill have not previously been reported publicly. LINK

Records show numerous warning signs about UT academic adviser (WBIR-TV) Numerous warning signs existed about Dr. Lee Waldrep’s background as the University of Tennessee College of Architecture and Design considered whether to hire him as an academic adviser, newly released records show. But it appears a college hiring committee either never saw them or disregarded them. Waldrep was fired in December 2018 after the college learned in news reports that he’d resigned abruptly in August 2017 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He’d been at Illinois eight years and was administrator there for undergraduate student services in the School of Architecture. LINK

DCS calls employees in child death case ‘incompetent’ (WTVF-TV) The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services says two employees were “negligent and incompetent” following the death of a two-year-old boy. Zephaniah Green died in May after a DCS caseworker and her supervisor placed him a Warren County home despite a warning from a fellow DCS investigator that the home was “unsafe.” After placing him in the “unsafe” home, the DCS caseworker never checked on Green again, which is a violation of departmental policy. Four months later he was dead. LINK

Knox judge refuses to dismiss lawsuit against Purdue Pharma over opioid epidemic (News Sentinel) A Knox County judge is refusing to dismiss a lawsuit filed on behalf of Tennessee taxpayers against the makers of the most widely abused form of opioid on the market. Knox County Circuit Judge Kristi Davis has rejected a bid by Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin, to dismiss a lawsuit filed last year by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III on behalf of taxpayers that lays blame for the state’s opioid epidemic at the drugmaker’s doorstep. LINK

State law prevents ABC from running background checks on bar and nightclub owners (WTVF-TV) Metro Police officers raided and padlocked the Ultra Lounge in Midtown on Church Street after a judge declared it a public nuisance, citing a laundry list of incidents over the last two years. Several hours later, the club’s owner, Anthony Powell, surrendered to police. Powell, we’ve found, has a long criminal history, but that didn’t stop him from getting a liquor license. The state’s Alcoholic Beverage Commission wants a judge to take away his club’s liquor license, but because of a state law, they can’t. LINK

TennCare block grant bill sails through first key committee — with little debate (Tennessean) A Republican-led bill that would drastically change how the state could use $7.5 billion in federal money for its Medicaid program sailed through a legislative committee Wednesday.  The measure, sponsored by Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville, seeks to have Gov. Bill Lee’s administration meet with federal officials to formally request a block grant for TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program. Of TennCare’s $12.1 billion budget, more than $7.5 billion comes from the federal government, with the remainder coming from the state and other sources. In terms of state dollars, more than 21 percent of Tennessee’s $37 billion budget is for TennCare. LINK

Healthcare block grant bill passes through its first barrier (WTVF-TV) A bill meant to ask the federal government to help fund Tennessee’s healthcare system passed through its first milestone Wednesday. HB 1280 would direct Governor Bill Lee to request a block grant from the federal government to supplement Tenncare. The bill’s sponsor, state representative Timothy Hill said this is not an expansion of medicaid, but instead a way for Tennessee to take control of its healthcare system. LINK

Block grants bill on TennCare advances (Nashville Post) Like it or not, and there is no indication that Gov. Bill Lee is opposed to the concept, HB1280, which requires that the governor request the state’s Medicaid funding via block grants, advanced a step closer to him on Wednesday in newly strengthened form. HB 1280 was amended in the TennCare Subcommittee on Wednesday by voice vote and is on its way to the full House Insurance Committee with an amendment from the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Timothy Hill ( R-Blountville), requiring legislative approval of any block-grant arrangement reached with the federal government. Meanwhile, SB1428, the Senate version sponsored by Senator Paul Bailey (R-Sparta), is pending before the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. LINK

Tennessee Republican lawmakers seeks to overhaul Medicaid with block grants (AP) Tennessee Republican lawmakers who have long balked at taking millions in federal dollars to expand Medicaid advanced a plan Wednesday that would overhaul how the state provides health care to its lower-income and disabled residents. GOP state lawmakers are moving forward on a proposal calling on the federal government to send Tennessee a fixed amount of money each year in the form of block grants. The bill still faces several key hurdles, but early GOP endorsements from top legislative leaders have signaled the legislation could reach the governor’s desk. LINK

Bill mandating lockable vials stalls in Tennessee (AP) A proposal to require opioids and other addictive medications to be dispensed in lockable vials has been spiked in the Tennessee Legislature. During a Wednesday hearing, Republican Rep. Matthew Hill conceded his bill did not have enough support to advance and asked to pull it back rather than having lawmakers vote it down. Supporters had argued the goal was to target teenagers – who most commonly abuse opioids through “pilfering,” or sneaking pills from a friend or relative’s bottle – by locking certain drugs in a vial secured by key or code. LINK

Proposed bills would require firearms to be locked in cars (Univ. of Memphis Daily Helmsman) A couple of new bills, proposed by Shelby County Democrats and one House Republican, will require gun owners to keep their weapons and ammunition in locked containers in their vehicle’s interior if passed. One of the bills goes further, requiring guns to be kept in a gun-specific safe or vault. A law enacted in 2014 permits Tennessee citizens to store guns and ammunition in their vehicle without a permit. Since then, gun thefts from vehicles have increased by 256 percent in Memphis, causing Police Director Mike Rallings and Memphis lawmakers to seek action. LINK

Bill limiting oversight panels heads to Tennessee House (AP) A bill limiting the powers of community oversight boards to investigate police misconduct claims is headed to the Tennessee House floor. House Republicans advanced the bill on Wednesday with just Democratic lawmakers voting in opposition. No public testimony was given. The proposed bill prevents oversight boards from having subpoena power, requires board members to be registered to vote and prohibits limiting membership based on demographics, economic status or employment history. LINK

Bill Limiting Nashville’s Community Oversight Board Likely Headed to House Floor (Nashville Scene) The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would limit the authority of Nashville’s new police oversight board. The vote sends the proposal to the House Calendar and Rules Committee, meaning it is expected to be heard on the House floor. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Michael Curcio (R-Dickson), described the measure as a standards bill, but other Republicans, including Majority Leader William Lamberth of Cottontown, have said the legislation was necessitated by Nashville voters’ approval in November of the Community Oversight Board. LINK

Tennessee House panel passes controversial bill that would limit cities’ police oversight boards (Times Free Press) A controversial Tennessee bill that would halt cities’ independent police oversight boards from exercising subpoena powers to investigate complaints against officers passed a key House panel Wednesday. The Republican-led Judiciary Committee approved the measure on a 13-6, party-line vote over the objections of Democrats, several of them from Nashville. It’s been referred to the Calendar and Rules Committee for final House floor action. LINK

GOP bill to strip Nashville’s police oversight board’s subpoena powers clears key House committee (Tennessean) A contentious Republican bill that would block Nashville’s police oversight board from having subpoena power cleared a big hurdle Wednesday. HB 658, sponsored by Rep. Michael Curcio, R-Dickson, to limit how community police oversight boards can operate across Tennessee made it through the House Judiciary Committee in a 13-6 vote. “We’re saying that if we’re going to have these bills in Tennessee, we want them to be best practices,” Curcio said, characterizing the legislation as simply “safeguards.” LINK

Natchez Trace Bridge: Resolution recognizing suicides moves to full committee (Tennessean) A resolution that would recognize death by suicide at the Natchez Trace Bridge as a problem will continue to move through the Tennessee legislature. Rep. Sam Whitson, R-Franklin, filed a resolution in early February that recognizes death by suicide on the Natchez Trace Bridge, which sits in his district. The resolution comes after the Tennessean reported that as of 2018, 32 people have died by suicide at the bridge. LINK

Bill to require voter registration by party in Tennessee fails in committee (Tennessean) A bill requiring Tennessee voters to declare their party affiliation in order to vote in a primary election hit a major hurdle Wednesday after a House committee rejected it. Democrats and Republicans on the House Local Committee joined forces to overwhelmingly reject the bill from Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden. The legislation, HB 1273 and SB 1500, would have forced voters to choose between being registered as a Democrat, Republican, unaffiliated with a statewide party or other in order to cast a primary ballot. LINK

Leatherwood’s nonpartisan election bill fails (Daily Memphian) A House subcommittee Wednesday killed a voice vote in state Rep. Tom Leatherwood’s legislation, making local elections nonpartisan in Shelby and Davidson counties. No head count was taken as the House Elections & Campaign Finance Subcommittee killed the measure. Leatherwood, an Arlington Republican, explained judicial positions in Shelby are nonpartisan but are partisan in Davidson. The bill would give those “uniformity” and make constitutional and charter positions, such as the Register of Deeds post he formerly held, nonpartisan as well, along with city council, county commission and mayoral posts, Leatherwood said. LINK

Tennessee GOP effort to require party registration fails in state House panel amid Republican opposition (Times Free Press) A Tennessee Republican Party effort to require voter registration by political party failed overwhelmingly in the committee Wednesday afternoon with a GOP majority of members joining minority Democrats in voting no. The vote was 2-14 with ten Republicans, including Reps. Esther Helton of East Ridge, Ron Travis of Dayton and Rick Tillis of Lewisburg all voting no. Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, was one of just two Republicans to vote in favor of the measure, sponsored by Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden. Rep. Yusuf Hakeem, one of only four committee Democrats, voted against it. LINK

Nonpartisan elections proposal for Davidson, Shelby fails (Nashville Post) A bill that would have established nonpartisan elections for certain positions in Davidson and Shelby counties failed in a House subcommittee Wednesday morning. Its Republican sponsor, Rep. Tom Leatherwood of Shelby County, called it a “good government” measure, but fellow Republicans on the House Elections and Campaign Finance Subcommittee asked why he had not secured support from local governments in Shelby and Davidson counties. In Nashville, the bill would have made judicial elections and those for constitutional officers like court clerk nonpartisan. LINK

Lawmakers Reject Proposal To Close Tennessee Primaries (WPLN Radio) Lawmakers in the Tennessee House rejected a proposal Wednesday that would’ve required political affiliation to participate in statewide primaries. The legislation is the brainchild of the executive committee of the Tennessee Republican Party. The group passed a resolution last year asking the legislature to close state primaries. But that didn’t stop GOP lawmakers from opposing it. The bill failed in a House committee after 14 members, including most Republican lawmakers, voted against it. Only two lawmakers supported the proposal. LINK

Sports betting bill passes through subcommittee (WKRN-TV) The first bill filed in the State House will likely be one of the more debated. HB0001, which legalizes sports gambling in Tennessee, went before the Departments and Agencies Subcommittee on Wednesday. “I think we have to ask the tough questions,” noted Rep. Bill Sanderson during the session. “We have to dig into these bills.”  If passed, the bill would place a 10% tax on sports gambling, which some estimate could be around $30 million a year. Of that money, 30% would go toward K-12 education and local infrastructure. LINK

Bill would make sports gambling legal in Tennessee (WTVF-TV) You could soon be betting legally on your favorite sports teams here in Tennessee. A bill passed one hurdle Wednesday. “We’re talking about Fantasy sports, we’re talking about drag racing to auto racing; we’re talking about football to basketball.” Representative Rick Staples wants to legalize sports betting in Tennessee. Right now, most gambling in the state is against the law. That mean no casinos, no sports books, not even bingo. LINK

Bill would make it easier to obtain conceal carry permit (WTVF-TV) A bill that reduces the cost and potentially the amount of training for a conceal carry permit passed through committee, Wednesday. The bill’s sponsor, state representative Andy Holt, said he believes Tennesseans should have more options towards obtaining their constitutional rights. Currently, a permit costs about $100 and requires eight hours of training. However, this would reduce the price as well as allow for a two hour training option. Opponents said the reduced class time and cheaper price are going to lead to more gun deaths in Tennessee. LINK

Confederate Statue Issue, Millington Fireworks Go Forward (Memphis Flyer) Shelby Countians interested in a pair of issues got no final answers to their concerns on Tuesday, as both the still simmering issue of Confederate statuaries and the prospect of legal fireworks sales in Millington advanced another notch toward resolution. The saga of the deposed Memphis monuments that once honored Confederate heroes Nathan Bedford Forrest, Jefferson Davis, and one Captain Harvey Mathes proceeded through one more skirmish on Tuesday as a three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeals heard arguments for and against a continued injunction against further action by Greenspace, Inc. to relocate the statues it uprooted last December 20. LINK

Murfreesboro man uses personal tragedy to change law for child abuse victims (WZTV-TV) A Murfreesboro man is charged with aggravated rape for incidents that dates back to the 80s. Police arrested Robert Tarkington earlier this month, nearly three years after a Murfreesboro man came forward accusing Tarkington of abuse. Scott Walker says Tarkington abused him when Walker was between 10 and 12 years old. “The DA said, ‘you know the statute of limitations has been reached.’ We can’t do anything with it,” Walker said. Walker then set out to work with the state legislature to remove statutes of limitations from child sex abuse cases. There is now a bill up for passage with both state house and senate sponsors. LINK

Crowe aiding efforts to teach students about U.S. Constitution (Johnson City Press) State Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, has been named a founding member of the 917 Society, a nonprofit educational organization that provides free constitutions and programs to students in celebration of Constitution Day each year. The 917 Society’s mission is to give Tennessee students a better understanding of the freedoms provided to them by the U.S. Constitution. LINK

Bill to expand Shiloh National Military Park passes Congress, heads to president (Jackson Sun) On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives followed the Senate and passed the Natural Resources Management Act, which included a provision to expand Shiloh National Military Park. “Expanding Shiloh National Military Park and giving these sites the resources needed for their upkeep is a crucial part of maintaining Tennessee’s military history,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn said in a news release. Sen. Lamar Alexander and Blackburn have been working for years to pass the Shiloh National Military Park Boundary Adjustment and Parker’s Crossroads Battlefield Designation Act. LINK

Interview: Congressman Chuck Fleischmann on Cohen testimony, border threat (WTVC-TV) Tennessee 3rd District Congressman Chuck Fleischmann says he questions the credibility of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen. Cohen testified Wednesday before Congress, saying the president directed him to pay hush money to two women who had affairs with Trump in exchange for their silence. Rep. Fleischmann says he was disappointed by Cohen’s previous lying to Congress, and urged the focus to remain on President Trump’s job as president. LINK

Electrolux tax bill would soar under corrected assessment (Commercial Appeal) When appliance maker Electrolux opened a Memphis factory in 2013, the Swedish firm’s PILOT tax cut sharply lowered its city and county property tax bill. But an error in the property assessment by public officials led to lower property tax bills than Electrolux was obligated to pay, even with the tax breaks in place. Now a recalculation by Melvin Burgess, the new Shelby County assessor, has more than doubled the company’s property value to $82.4 million from the original assessment of $38.7 million. LINK

Kellogg’s plans huge distribution center in Marshall County (Memphis Business Journal) Kellogg Co. has leased a huge Mid-South distribution center. The global food brand will be renting space in Marshall County’s Gateway Global Logistics Center, the company confirmed Wednesday afternoon. “Kellogg is leasing a warehouse space at the Gateway Global Logistics Center, which we expect to be operational this summer. The warehouse will be staffed by a third party,” a Kellogg’s spokesperson wrote in a Feb. 27 email. The global food brand is targeting a 775,000-square-foot building — being developed by Panattoni Development Co. — in the Marshall County logistics park, according to multiple sources close to the deal. LINK

Lincoln didn’t free the slaves in Tennessee — an East Tennessean did (Kingsport Times-News) Did you know that Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation didn’t apply to Tennessee? Lincoln had to be careful with the wording of his proclamation because there were four pro-slave states that remained loyal to the Union in addition to the newly formed West Virginia, which was also proslavery. Early in the proclamation, he wrote “all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free … ” LINK

ALABAMA: Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey proposing 10 cent gas tax hike in Alabama (AP) Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday proposed a 10-cent-a-gallon gas tax increase to fund road and bridge construction in a state where she says the infrastructure is crumbling. The proposed 10-cent increase would be phased in over three years and then the state fuel tax would be indexed to keep up with construction costs. The Republican governor said the state’s current 18-cent gas tax, which was last increased 27 years ago, has not adequately kept up with the state’s construction and maintenance needs. As a result, she said the state has dangerous and bumpy roadways, obsolete bridges and clogged traffic arteries that hinder the flow of motorists and commerce. LINK

ARKANSAS: Bid to strip Confederate link from Arkansas flag rejected (AP) Arkansas legislators on Wednesday rejected a proposal to change the meaning of one of the stars on the state flag from honoring the Confederacy to honoring the contributions Native Americans have made to the state. The majority-Republican House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee defeated the measure, which wouldn’t have changed the flag’s design but would have changed the legal meaning of the blue star above Arkansas’ name on the flag. Instead of commemorating the Confederate States of America, it would have honored the Native American tribes that inhabited the state, including the Quapaw, Osage and Caddo. LINK

ILLINOIS: Illinois budget debate raises key questions on taxing retirement income (Reuters) Greetings from Illinois, a state that never tops the rankings of places to retire. We have one of the great American cities, but also polar vortexes and an enormous state budget deficit – and now there is renewed talk about taxing retirement income to help close the gap. Illinois is one of the few states that have an income tax but do not tax any retirement income. Two leading business groups recently renewed their calls to change that as part of broader, desperately needed fiscal reforms. The ensuing debate casts a spotlight on an important national conversation about how states should tax retirement income, if at all. LINK

KENTUCKY: Teachers group calling for statewide ‘sickout’ to protest pension board proposal (Courier-Journal) Kentucky’s largest school system will be forced to shut down Thursday after thousands of teachers called in sick as part of a statewide “sickout.” Jefferson County Public Schools said late Wednesday night that it does not have enough substitutes to cover the number of absences reported. Fayette County Public Schools, the state’s second largest district, also announced it would close due to teacher absences. The closures come just hours after a grassroots group urged teachers to call out sick so that they could travel to Frankfort, the state capital, to protest of a bill that would restructure the board that oversees the state’s teacher pension system. LINK

OKLAHOMA: Permitless gun carry bill heads to Oklahoma’s new governor (AP) Oklahoma residents will be able to openly carry firearms without a background check or training under a bill given final legislative approval Wednesday that will be the first signed into law by the new Republican governor. Dubbed “constitutional carry” by its supporters, the bill passed the Senate on a 40-6 vote with every Republican and one Democrat voting in favor. It already sailed through the GOP-controlled House. The bill, which becomes effective Nov. 1, would allow most residents 21 and older to carry concealed or unconcealed firearms without a license. LINK

WISCONSIN: Evers’ Budget Plan To Boost Care For Children With Disabilities (Wisconsin Public Radio) Gov. Tony Evers will use his state budget to call for eliminating a waiting list for a program that serves children with disabilities — one of several decisions the governor wants to pay for by accepting federal money to expand Medicaid. Evers will also propose a new office in state government that would contract with foreign drug manufacturers to import generic prescription drugs to Wisconsin. The ideas are among several the governor will announce Thursday that are linked to health care, an issue he and other Democrats campaigned on extensively in the run-up to the 2018 election. LINK


Commentary: Old South does not (and should not) define us anymore (Columbia Daily Herald) Gov. Bill Lee expressed regret last week for having worn a Confederate uniform to fraternity parties while he was at Auburn University in 1980. The Republican from Williamson County’s words were enough for me to move forward. In retrospect, Lee realized the hurt he caused — then and now. Kappa Alpha’s “Old South” parties were a tradition for decades until Confederate flags were banned by the fraternity in 2001. Parades and uniforms have been prohibited since 2010. The photo of Lee in the uniform was from nearly 40 years ago. LINK

Column: My Afterlife on the Body Farm (NY Times) Most of us hope to be remembered after death for the ways we contributed to society during our lives. I want to keep contributing even after I’m gone. So today, tucked behind the organ donor card in my wallet, I carry another card that indicates I’ve been accepted to a world-renowned criminal justice program — although by the time I’m ready to attend, I won’t need student orientation. Once I breathe my last, I’ll be shipped to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville to spend my afterlife at the school’s Forensic Anthropology Center, better known as “the Body Farm.” There, students and researchers will study my decomposing body to learn how to recover human remains, estimate time since death and piece together who I might have been. LINK

Robert J. Booker: Integration was a long time coming at UT (News Sentinel) Blount College was founded in 1794 and became a land-grant college in 1806 when Congress appropriated money to help form state institutions. At the time the school was at Popular Springs near Knoxville, and its name was changed to East Tennessee College. In 1826 the college was moved to its present site, then called “Barbara Hill,” a piece of land named in honor of Miss Barbara Blount, daughter of Gov. William Blount. In 1840 the name of the school was again changed, to East Tennessee University. LINK

Otis Sanford: On A Bust Of Nathan Bedford Forrest (WATN-TV) Local 24 News Anchor Richard Ransom and political analyst and commentator Otis Sanford go one on one regarding the bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest at the Tennessee state capitol. They also go one on one regarding the Memphis mayor race as well as discussions about significant upgrades to Tom Lee Park. LINK

Guest column: Home-visiting programs can prevent child abuse, improve lives (Tennessean) Do you know what is one of the most effective ways to prevent child abuse and neglect? Evidence-based, voluntary home visiting programs. Home visiting has been proven to have a long-lasting, positive impact on the lives of kids and to help them have the best start in life. And according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it helps keep kids safe. We have an opportunity to strengthen voluntary home visiting programs in Tennessee right now, but we need the legislature to approve it. LINK

Jackson Baker: Nashville and Memphis: Looking Ahead — and to the Past (Memphis Flyer)     James Mackler, the once and future Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, was on hand for the beginning of Monday’s meeting of the Shelby County Commission and, having been asked to open the session, presided over the pledge of allegiance to the flag with the same clarion command voice he must have been accustomed to as a member of American military effort in Afghanistan, where he was a helicopter pilot. Mackler, a Nashville attorney, was making his second appearance in Memphis within a month, having assured the members of the Germantown Democratic Club in late January that he intended to run in earnest in 2020 for the seat being vacated by the quasi-moderate Republican Senator Lamar Alexander — and that he would not spare the person of President Donald Trump in the process. LINK

Wednesday, February 27

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee proposes $15M more for mental health (AP) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is proposing an additional $15 million-plus for three initiatives that focus on mental health treatment and suicide prevention. A news release Tuesday from the Republican governor says $11.2 million in new funding would help cover mental health services for an additional 7,000 uninsured adults in Tennessee through the state’s Behavioral Health Safety Net program. That money also would cover increased costs at the state’s four regional mental health institutes. Gov. Bill Lee is proposing an additional $15 million-plus for three initiatives that focus on mental health treatment and suicide prevention. LINK

Gov. Lee proposing $15 million to address mental health, substance abuse, suicide prevent efforts (Times Free Press) Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday announced a $15 million plan to boost Tennesseans’ access to mental health treatment as well as expand suicide prevention efforts in a state he says has a “shockingly high” suicide rate. “The mental health of our citizens is foundational to all other goals we seek to accomplish in education, job growth and public safety,” Lee said in a news release. “By prioritizing our mental health safety net and suicide prevention, we are caring for more Tennesseans and building healthier communities.”  LINK

Gov. Lee announces $15M mental health initiative (TN Journal) Republican Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday announced a $15 million initiative to address mental illness in Tennessee. Here’s the full release: Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced three priorities to increase access to mental health treatment and expand suicide prevention efforts across the state. “The mental health of our citizens is foundational to all other goals we seek to accomplish in education, job growth and public safety,” said Lee. LINK

Gov. Lee announces initiatives for mental health and suicide prevention (WSMV-TV) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced three priorities Tuesday to increase access to mental health treatment and expand suicide prevention efforts in the state. Lee is proposing $11.2 million in new funding to expand access to services for those living with serious mental illness. It would also cover an additional 7,000 uninsured Tennessee adults through the state’s Behavioral Health Safety Net program, which provides several essential mental health services. The investment would also address increasing costs at the state’s regional mental health institutes. LINK

JNJ Express Expansion To Bring 600+ New Jobs To Southeast Memphis (WATN-TV) More than 600 new jobs are being created in southeast Memphis. Tuesday, JNJ Express, a transportation company, broke ground on a new headquarters at the site of an old abandoned strip mall. It’s the site of the old Delta Square Shopping Center, which has been overgrown and abandoned for more than a decade … The state tax incentive plan is still being finalized. “We will be certain that whatever incentives we provide, they will be tied to accountability around job creation,” said Tennessee Governor Bill Lee. LINK

Memphis trucking company announces Memphis expansion, 600 new jobs (WHBQ-TV) More than 600 new jobs are coming to the Bluff City, according to an announcement made Tuesday. JNJ Express, a locally owned trucking company announced a nearly $84 million investment in the area. “We call it the zombie apocalypse. You could shoot a zombie movie in there,” John Ennis Jr, JNJ Express’ CEO told FOX13. JNJ is redeveloping the area, located just off Mount Moriah to expand their current operations—adding 610 jobs over five years. LINK

JNJ Logistics moving headquarters to Memphis, creating 610 jobs in 5 years (WMC-TV) A trucking company is set to break ground in Memphis. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee was on hand for the announcement. According to the Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE), JNJ was approved for a 15-year PILOT to invest in a new headquarters on American Way. EDGE said the company will invest $20 million in the old Delta Square Shopping Center after outgrowing its current facility. The announcement also said JNJ will keep its existing 290 employees. The company will create 610 new jobs over the next five years as it invests $83 million into the expansion. LINK

Governor Lee Appoints Chief Deborah Faulkner to Tennessee POST Commission (Williamson Source) The Franklin Police Department is proud of the fact that Governor Bill Lee has appointed our Chief of Police, Deborah Faulkner, to the Tennessee POST Commission. The Tennessee Peace Officers Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.) Commission is responsible for developing and enforcing standards and training for all Tennessee Police Officers. The Commission also promotes continuing law enforcement training. The Commission is comprised of 18 members and includes local law enforcement personnel, legislators, and Tennessee citizens who are not connected with law enforcement. LINK

Legislative proposal prioritizes SROs (Overton County News) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced Thursday, Feb. 21 a new investment in school safety to better protect teachers and students and prepare against the threat of violence. “The safety of our children and teachers is a top priority for my administration, and this investment ensures that school districts will have the resources they need to better protect our schools,” Gov. Lee said. Gov. Lee is proposing a $40 million investment for the school safety grant fund. Legislation filed will provide additional changes to existing law to prioritize the distribution of these grants to school resource officers. LINK

Higher education report shows serious gaps in Tennessee education (WTVF-TV) The 2018-2019 State of Higher education in Tennessee report shows significant equity and attainment gaps continue to exist. It was released by Complete Tennessee Tuesday. Some of the findings show that only a third of black students graduate from college within six years of enrollment. And Complete Tennessee says faculty of color are under-represented at Tennessee’s post-secondary institutions.”We as a state rightly focus on enrollment, and we’ve seen positive trends tied to the opportunities made possible by programs including TN Promise and TN Reconnect. But completion is the name of the game,” said Kyle Southern. LINK

Report: State of Higher Education (Complete Tennessee) LINK

UTHSC program incentivizes destruction of ‘research silos’ (Memphis Business Journal) Scientific research often struggles to break through compartmentalization among individual labs and departments. A seed funding program focused on collaboration at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) aims to change the limiting nature of “research silos.” UTHSC’s Collaborative Research Network (CORNET) awards were launched in 2016 by Steven Goodman, the university’s vice chancellor for research. The funding awards are directly focused on creating new research programs and partnerships. LINK

Online trial run of TNReady test dampened by flooding and illness across Tennessee (Daily Memphian/Chalkbeat Tennessee) First, an overloaded computer platform derailed Tennessee’s online testing program. Then students struggled to complete their year-end exams because of software bugs and even a fiber optic cable that was severed by a dump truck. Now as the state tries to get testing right in the fourth year of the TNReady assessment era, it faces several new challenges: flooding and the flu. About 80,000 students in 83 districts had been scheduled to participate in a statewide online testing simulation on Feb. 21 after months of coordination with the state education department and its testing company, Questar. LINK

The Federal Government Is Overhauling Foster Care. States Aren’t Ready.(Governing) Tucked inside the $1.3 trillion spending bill passed by Congress in February 2018 was a piece of legislation called the Family First Prevention Services Act. The measure was little noticed outside human services circles. But once it’s implemented, the new law will completely upend the way child welfare operates at the state level. At its core, Family First redirects the way states will get reimbursed for their services. For the first time, the federal government will pay states for evidence-based programs aimed at keeping kids in their homes rather than placing them in foster care. Mental health care, in-home parenting programs and substance abuse treatment will now all be covered. LINK

Sons of Confederate Veterans, Memphis argue over Confederate statues in court of appeals (Commercial Appeal) The Sons of Confederate Veterans and City of Memphis argued before the Tennessee Court of Appeals on Tuesday about what should come next in determining the legality of the city’s process of removing Confederate statues. The Memphis City Council in December 2017 approved for $1,000 each the sale of Health Sciences Park and Fourth Bluff Park to Memphis Greenspace, a nonprofit that had been formed by Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner. The decision, the city has argued, allowed them to have have the statues legally removed. LINK

Tennessee Court of Appeals hears Memphis monuments case (Daily Memphian) The city of Memphis and Memphis Greenspace Inc. locked horns again Tuesday with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, this time before the Tennessee Court of Appeals in their dispute over the removal of Confederate statues from former city parks. The three-judge panel will likely issue a ruling in two to three months to decide whether the city acted legally by selling parks to the nonprofit entity, which removed monuments to Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, President Jefferson Davis and Capt. J. Harvey Mathes on Dec. 20, 2017.  LINK

​​​​​​​Arguments Made To Tennessee Court Of Appeals Over Memphis’ Removal Of Confederate Statues (WATN-TV) Tuesday, the hotly contested issue of removed Confederate statues more than a year ago in Memphis played out in Nashville. A three-judge panel on the Tennessee Court of Appeals will eventually decide whether to agree with a lower court judge last year, who ruled the city of Memphis acted legally when it had the statues removed. Tuesday’s hearing played out in a classroom turned courtroom at Belmont University, in front of law students. Both sides had 40 minutes total to lay out their cases on whether the Confederate statues should be gone for good at Memphis parks, or possibly return. LINK

Grand Divisions Episode 41: A tumultuous week for House Speaker Glen Casada and a push for disabled Tennesseans (Tennessean) A secretly recorded video, an unusual opinion column, a confrontation with a protester and a no show at a town hall. This week was arguably House Speaker Glen Casada’s most difficult since becoming the chamber’s leader last month. The Franklin Republican is facing mounting pressure for his continued support of Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, who last year face allegations from three women who said he sexually assaulted them in the 1980s. Earlier this year, Casada appointed Byrd to serve as the head of an education subcommittee. LINK

Senate lawmakers weigh increasing campaign contribution limits for upper chamber (Tennessean) State senators are once again trying to increase the amount of campaign contributions they can receive. On Tuesday, the Senate State and Local Government Committee took up what appeared, on the surface, to be an innocuous bill. The legislation initially appeared to clarify a portion of the state code related to their salary. But when the bill was taken up in the Senate committee, the full intention of the measure was clear. LINK

Bill that bans abortions in Tennessee after fetal heart beat sails through House committee (Tennessean) A House committee voted 15-4 in favor of a bill that would ban most abortions in Tennessee, getting one step closer to a vote by the legislature on one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the nation. The so-called “fetal heartbeat” bill is making its way through Senate committees, but easily passed early hurdles. Tuesday’s vote in the health committee means the bill moves on to a vote by the House of Representatives. LINK

‘Fetal heartbeat bill’ advances at Tennessee legislature as questions raised (WKRN-TV) The measure called the “Fetal Heartbeat Bill” easily passed a house committee today paving the way for a full vote on the floor of the chamber. The 15-Republicans of the House Health Committee voted to advance the bill while the four Democrats on the committee voted against it. House Republican sponsor Rep. Micah Van Huss introduced the measure by saying “House Bill 77 will ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat has been detected.” LINK

As Tennessee’s ‘Heartbeat Bill’ Advances, Sides Anticipate A Court Fight (WPLN Radio) Supporters of the so-called “heartbeat bill” broke out in applause after a state House committee approved the measure, but already both sides are anticipating the court fight ahead if the measure succeeds in passing the Tennessee General Assembly. The 15-4 vote by the House Health Committee clears the measure, House Bill 77/Senate Bill 1236, for a vote by the full House of Representatives. The measure seeks to ban all abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected, typically about six weeks into pregnancy. Opponents note that’s often before many women know they’re pregnant. LINK

Fetal heartbeat abortion bill advances in Tennessee House amid emotional debate (Times Free Press) A House panel on Tuesday approved legislation banning most abortions in Tennessee once a fetal heartbeat is detected after an often-emotional debate and amid warnings by critics the bill is unconstitutional. Republicans on the GOP-controlled House Health Committee approved the bill, sponsored by Rep. Micah Van Huss, on a 15-4 vote with all four Democrats voting no. The measure now goes to the Calendar and Rules Committee to be scheduled for final action on the House floor, where it is expected to win approval. LINK

Shelby lawmakers take opposite sides on fetal heartbeat bill (Daily Memphian) Legislation prohibiting abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected passed a key committee Tuesday, but Shelby County lawmakers on the panel are split on the bill. And the American Civil Liberties Union-Tennessee is set to sue the state of Tennessee if the restriction becomes law. In a packed House hearing room with people on both sides of the issue cheering every statement, the Health Committee voted 15-4, split along party lines, to send House Bill 77 to the Calendar and Rules Committee to be scheduled for a House floor vote. LINK

Heartbeat abortion ban clears Health Committee, en route to House floor (Johnson City Press) A bill seeking to ban abortions from the point a fetal heartbeat is detected gained the House Health Committee’s approval Tuesday, and it now appears destined to pass the Tennessee House of Representatives in the coming weeks. After intense debate, the House Health Committee voted 15-4 to approve House Bill 0077, sponsored by state Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough. All four Democrats on the committee cast the votes in opposition. LINK

Tennessee lawmakers propose raising age for tobacco purchases, Van Huss calls it ‘government intrusion’ (Johnson City Press) Lawmakers in Tennessee are considering whether to follow their neighbor’s example after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill last week to raise the age for tobacco purchases to 21. Senate Bill 1200 and House Bill 1454, recently proposed by Sen. Shane Reeves and Rep. Bob Ramsey, aim to prohibit the sale of tobacco products and e-cigarettes to those under 21. The legislation has drawn the support of the American Cancer Society, whose members described the legislation as “potentially lifesaving public health measures.” LINK

Troopers escort women protesting Rep. David Byrd out of education committee meeting (Tennessean) House Speaker Glen Casada’s office on Tuesday ordered the removal of a group of women who had shown up to protest a meeting chaired by Rep. David Byrd, a lawmaker accused of sexual assault. Byrd, R-Waynesboro, who was appointed by Casada chairman of the education administration subcommittee, is a former teacher, coach and principal accused by three women of sexually assaulting them in the 1980s. The women, who each played on his basketball team at Wayne County High School, were 15 and 16 at the time they said the sexual assault took place. LINK Photo Gallery: LINK

Byrd Protesters Ejected From Subcommittee Meeting (Nashville Scene) On Tuesday afternoon, demonstrators — at least some of whom are from state Rep. David Byrd’s home grounds of Waynesboro — interrupted were present at a hearing of the House Education Administration Subcommittee, which Byrd chairs. State troopers shortly materialized in the hearing room and evicted the demonstrators after warning them to cease and desist. The protesters were holding signs with messages including “Resign Byrd” and “Protect our Kids.” Among the demonstrators was former 7th District Congressional candidate Justin Kanew. LINK

Rep. Byrd protesters removed from legislative hearing (WTVF-TV) A top Tennessee Republican has asked troopers to escort a handful of protesters out of a legislative hearing after the group held signs and asked committee members if they approved of a lawmaker who’s accused of sexual misconduct chairing the panel. House Speaker Glen Casada made the decision during a Tuesday hearing. The six women were sitting in the front row and only started asking questions while the education subcommittee was in recess. LINK

Tri-Cities tobacco stores react to bill that would increase minimum age to 21 (WJHL-TV) Two Tennessee lawmakers are working to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco and vapor products from 18 to 21. Tennessee could become the eighth state to raise that age for Tobacco, just behind Virginia. Republican Senator Shane Reeves presented his Senate Bill 1200 to the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee Tuesday afternoon. “I’m not tellling people they can’t smoke. I’m saying you need to be 21,” Senator Reeves said. He eventually asked for the bill to be rolled to a later date to work on it further. LINK

New bill adds ‘drug driving’ to DUI laws (WTVF-TV) A bill introduced in state legislature would reform DUI laws, calling them drug driving laws. About 30 people die in the U.S. from drunk-driving crashes every day, but Tennessee lawmakers say it’s time the Volunteer State stops adding to those statistics. They announced new legislation Tuesday that would include illegal drugs. People who drive under the influence of substances such as meth or opioids without a prescription could be charged with a DUI. Penalties would also be doubled in a school zone. LINK

State legislature shoots down Sunday voting measure (Cookeville Herald-Citizen) On the same day the Putnam County Election Commission discussed the effects of a bill that would have required early voting hours on Sundays, the bill was voted down in a state House subcommittee. “I brought this bill to encourage more voters to vote,” said House sponsor Barbara Cooper of Memphis in a meeting of the Elections and Campaign Finance subcommittee. “There are quite a few states that are using Sundays to allow accessibility for their voters.” But committee members said they were concerned about the cost of the proposal and the effect it would have on election workers. LINK

Police oversight board members push back on GOP bill, ‘vendetta’ comment (Tennessean)  Metro’s police oversight board members and advocates are hitting back on comments this week by Republican lawmakers that Nashville’s residents are “living in a fairy-tale land” and have a “vendetta purpose” to prosecute police and not support them. State lawmakers voted to advance House Bill 658 — legislation filed by Republicans that would limit how police oversight boards can operate — to the judiciary committee last week. In the hearing, House GOP leader and former prosecutor William Lamberth, R-Portland, said that Nashville residents were “living in a fairy-tale land” and are spending too much effort against police. LINK

Tennessee Republican says he wants to ‘honor the African-American slave experience’ (Tennessean) A freshman Republican state lawmaker said Tuesday he is seeking to “honor the African-American slave experience” with a resolution he introduced related to the 14th Amendment. During an informal gathering of the House Public Service and Employees Subcommittee, Rep. Bruce Griffey, R-Paris, explained that his resolution was aimed at having the country address birthright citizenship. Birthright citizenship is the aspect of federal law under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that grants citizenship to anybody born on U.S. soil. LINK

‘I was wrong to participate’: 1982 yearbook shows Nashville DA Glenn Funk with Confederate flag (Tennessean) Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk has confirmed he was pictured in a 1982 Wake Forest University yearbook photo posing in front of a Confederate battle flag. A picture in the 1982 edition of The Howler, Wake Forest University’s yearbook shows Funk standing on a staircase next to an oversized Confederate flag with Kappa Alpha fraternity members. His name, misspelled as “Glen Funk,” is included in the list of names below the photo. The photo was first reported on by The Nashville Scene. Reached Tuesday night, Funk said he went to the Nashville Scene offices hours beforehand to share a copy of the picture and a statement of apology. LINK

Glenn Funk Apologizes for College Frat Photo With Confederate Flag (Nashville Scene) District Attorney Glenn Funk came to the Scene offices Tuesday afternoon with a handwritten statement and a copy of a photo.The photo, from a 1982 Wake Forest University yearbook, shows dozens of Kappa Alpha fraternity brothers, including Funk, standing around a large Confederate flag. In his statement, Funk acknowledges the photo as well as his participation in “divisive and hurtful behavior” while he was a member of the fraternity. LINK

Sweeping federal conservation act provides protection for Tennessee land, water (Times Free Press) What’s being billed as the most sweeping piece of conservation legislation in more than a decade will provide Tennessee millions of dollars for land and aquatic conservation after overwhelmingly passing the House Tuesday evening. The Natural Resources Management Act bundles more than 100 individual land bills and re-authorizes the lapsed Land and Water Conservation Fund. That fund is the highlight of the act, according to lawmakers, and has provided more than $200 million in conservation to Tennessee since it went into effect in the 1960s. LINK

Eastman named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies (Kingsport Times-News) Eastman has been recognized by the Ethisphere Institute, a global leader in defining and advancing the standards of ethical business practices, as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies® for the sixth consecutive year. The honor underscores Eastman’s commitment to leading with the highest ethical business standards and focusing its efforts to foster a zero-incident mind-set, including zero incidents of unethical behavior. LINK

How a Tennessee liquor battle could uncork a wave of wine sales (Nashville Business Journal) If you enjoy exploring the many vintages and nuances of wine, pay attention: A forthcoming U.S. Supreme Court ruling could bring the multibillion-dollar wine industry closer to your doorstep. Last month, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association v. Blair, a dispute over wine sales across state borders that delves into the labyrinth of post-Prohibition laws limiting how alcohol-based beverages can be sold to consumers. The nation’s highest court is now considering whether a common state regulation — one requiring retailers to prove in-state residency to obtain a liquor license — violates the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause. LINK

Earthquake hits near Rutledge (WVLT-TV) Did you feel a small tremor near Rutledge on Monday night? You may have felt East Tennessee’s most recent earthquake. According to the USGS, a 2.0 magnitude quake hit in the area, near Woodstock Drive, at around 9:20 p.m. last night. This just one of many that have hit the East Tennessee area recently. One hit near Harriman on Feb. 22, and several others hit the area at the start of 2019.  LINK

ARIZONA: Lawmakers are pushing vaccine exemption bills (CNN)  Arizona lawmakers voted last week to advance three bills that would make it easier to get exemptions from the state’s vaccine requirements, and which would require doctors to provide much more information to patients and families about potential harms that vaccines pose. The bills cleared the House’s Health and Human Services Committee on a 5-4 GOP-led, party-line vote, and head to the Rules Committee on their way to the floor. LINK

FLORIDA: Legislature Seeks Answers to Blockchain’s Potential (Government Technology) Florida may soon join the growing ranks of state governments that are assessing the potential benefits of blockchain technologies. A newly introduced Senate bill would create a working group to study the technology, with an eye toward understanding how it might “improve processes, increase efficiency, and promote transparency in government” and businesses, according to the text. The group, which would be established in the state’s Department of Management Services, would ultimately compile a report and share their findings with the Governor’s office and the state Legislature. LINK

KENTUCKY: Farmers Hope for Hemp Riches Despite Risks (Stateline) Michael Calebs of London, KY begins feeling nostalgic standing in the airy barn on his rolling, 400-acre farm. He recalls the hard labor of his youth: climbing up to horizontal beams to hang floppy tobacco leaves to air cure so the leaves could develop a sweet taste. Calebs places a small amount of Kodiak snuff between his cheek and gum on a recent afternoon while walking about the barn in dirty work boots over blue dress pants and an argyle sweater, having just come from his day job as an engineer with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. Bucking tradition, Calebs, 56, is transitioning the land from generations of tobacco farming toward a new crop: industrial hemp. He used to grow about 30 acres of tobacco, but cut back to 22 acres in 2017 when he started growing hemp. LINK

NEW JERSEY: N.J. could be in trouble as tax revenues are coming in slower than Murphy anticipated ( With New Jersey tax collections growing at less than half the rate forecasted by Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration, a Wall Street ratings analyst says there’s reason to be worried the state budget may not take in enough cash for the rest of the fiscal year. The $37.4 billion state budget, signed into law in July, assumes revenues will grow 7.5 percent over the previous fiscal year, a figure that takes into account new personal and corporate income tax rate hikes. But the state Treasury Department reported earlier this month that growth has slowed to 3 percent. LINK


Editorial: Hospital extensions still need government oversight (Johnson City Press) Legislators should not pull the plug on the Certificate of Need process for expanding health care facilities, at least not entirely. State Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, and Rep. Mark Hall, R-Cleveland, have filed legislation that would remove the requirement that hospitals obtain a certificate of need to build satellite emergency departments or offer cardiac catheterization services. The bill — one of a number filed this session regarding certificates of need — was prompted by the state’s denials last year of applications from Chattanooga-based Erlanger Health System and Tennova Healthcare in Cleveland to build freestanding emergency departments in Bradley County. LINK

Victor Ashe: TVA’s new CEO would do well to visit Roane County (News Sentinel) TVA has announced the appointment of Jeffrey Lyash as the new CEO to replace Bill Johnson. The actual transition is a few weeks away, but it is not a day too soon for those who want a reformed TVA. Lyash comes to TVA at a time of trouble and controversy. Johnson departs to sighs of relief from victims of the Roane County ash spill as well as those wishing better days for TVA in community relations. Some of the issues are easily fixed and others are more long term. LINK

Guest column: Cyntoia Brown’s case exposed systemic problems we need to fix (Tennessean) By now, the entire country is aware that when Cyntoia Brown was 16 years old, she was tried and convicted as an adult for killing Johnny Michael Allen, a 43-year-old man who solicited her for sex. Ms. Brown was forced into a life of sex work by a violent pimp. Fearing for her own life, she shot him and took what he owed her for her services. Ms. Brown has served nearly 15 years of a life sentence and as of Aug. 7, 2019, will be released from prison and given 10 years of probation. LINK










Tuesday, February 26

Trucking company to locate new HQ in Memphis (WMC-TV) A trucking company is set to break ground in Memphis. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee will be on hand for the announcement. While Lee’s office did not say what he will be in town for, he will be at the groundbreaking for JNJ Express. According to the Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE), JNJ was approved for a 15-year PILOT to invest in a new headquarters on American Way. EDGE said the company will invest $20 million in the old Delta Square Shopping Center after outgrowing its current facility. The groundbreaking will take place at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. LINK

TEMA, TDOT supplying help, Governor assessing flood situation (WKRN-TV) From road repair to supplying water and cots, a lot of people look to the Tennessee state government for answers when Mother Nature comes calling with things like floods and landslides. Instead of a wide swath of flooding across Tennessee, it’s been pockets of problems where state government is called to help. While the I-24 slide in northern Davidson County meant finding companies and crews to do emergency work to open lanes, TDOT says there are around two dozen other slides to tend to statewide–and several other problems. LINK

Ten-day rain onslaught leaves Tennessee River raging but drier weather ahead for Chattanooga area (Times Free Press) After 10 straight days of precipitation that left the Tennessee River in a raging fury and the Chattanooga region soggy from more than 10 inches of rain, most residents likely are ready for a break … Meanwhile, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee won’t be visiting the damage caused throughout the state by recent storm activity over the weekend, but he plans on remaining in close communication with emergency officials to monitor the situation, according to The Associated Press. LINK

Gov. Lee appoints Franklin police chief to standards commission (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Lee has appointed Franklin police Chief Deborah Faulkner to the Tennessee Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission. The commission, known as POST, is responsible for developing and enforcing standards and training for all Tennessee police officers, the release said. The commission also promotes continuing law enforcement training. Faulkner is one of the 18 members on the commission.  LINK

Lawmakers get hints of Lee’s legislative agenda (AP) Tennessee lawmakers got a brief look at Gov. Bill Lee’s legislative agenda, which proposes to reform criminal justice and to loosen some licensure regulations. House Majority Leader William Lamberth told House Republicans on Monday the governor’s agenda has 32 bills for this year’s legislative agenda. Lamberth disclosed only brief details about the bills, explaining Lee will offer more insight during his State of the State address next week. LINK

Foreign companies again invest more than $1.5B in Tennessee (AP) Middle Tennessee State University’s Business and Economic Research Center says foreign companies have again invested more than $1.5 billion in Tennessee. A report from the center says the 2018 figure is the fourth time in five years foreign investment has reached that mark or better. The report also says the companies created more than 3,000 new jobs. Volkswagen’s new SUV line at its plant in Chattanooga accounted for the largest single investment. And five Japanese companies invested more than $600 million in Tennessee last year. LINK

TDOT knew of I-24 landslide threat years before weekend storm. Hundreds more sites are at risk. (Tennessean) Four years before heavy rains triggered a landslide that closed a key portion of Interstate 24, a state-commissioned report identified that very stretch of the highway increasingly vulnerable to rain-induced landslides. The 2015 report by Vanderbilt University researchers warned that heavy downpours and other extreme weather events were on the rise, and critical roadways in some areas of the state were more susceptible to damage than others. LINK

Army Corps: Tennessee Waterways Will Take Weeks To Return To Normal (WPLN Radio) After record-setting rainfall, authorities say it will take several weeks to return Tennessee’s lakes and rivers to their normal levels.The Cumberland River, for example, has dipped about 1 foot after cresting on Saturday. And that’s where it will likely remain, in what’s known as an “elevated” — but not “flood” — stage. The Army Corps of Engineers waited until after local runoff could flow into the river before beginning to steadily release pent-up water from its reservoirs, said Anthony Rodino, chief of the Nashville District’s water management section. LINK

Brimming TVA reservoirs will keep rivers high for days as agency manages dam water release (News Sentinel) River and lake levels in the Tennessee Valley are at or near their crest after days of downpour, and water will stay high as Tennessee Valley Authority manages water release from its system of 49 dams, according to James Everett, manager of TVA’s River Forecast Center. Over the last couple of weeks, 4 or 5 inches of rain fell on East Tennessee, but even harder hit was north Alabama – Wilson Dam near Town Creek saw 13.5 inches of rain, Everett said Monday. LINK

Aerials: See the rockslide that’s shut down I-40 for a week near the TN/NC state line (WBIR-TV) I-40 near the Tennessee/North Carolina state line will be closed for at least a week after a rockslide Friday evening. A rockslide closed traffic on Interstate 40 in both directions between the Tennessee/North Carolina state line and Asheville, at the 7 and a half milemarker just beyond the Harmon Den exit. LINK

Massive sinkhole swallows car on Tennessee road (WHBQ-TV) A massive sinkhole swallowed a vehicle on a West Tennessee roadway this weekend. Video – which was captured by Steve Short of the Milan Mirror Exchange newspaper – shows the car being pulled out of the hole. The incident happened on Otha Holt Road between the cities Milan and Medina. Short said the driver did not try to go through high water. She stopped on the road before she reached the water, but the pavement underneath her vehicle began to collapse. LINK

How big is UT’s economic impact? (Kingsport Times-News) Nine billion dollars. That’s the economic impact of the University of Tennessee (UT). UT’s economic impact study included its campuses located in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Martin, as well as the Health Science Center in Memphis, the Space Institute in Tullahoma and the statewide Institute of Agriculture and Institute for Public Service. The economic impact was calculated in part through research by UT’s Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research, and used payroll spending and fringe benefits, non-payroll spending, jobs created through system-related spending and tax revenues. LINK

Maury schools oppose vouchers and support move to ACT assessments (Columbia Daily Herald) The Maury County Board of Education took a stand Monday night against administering the TNReady assessment test and offering school vouchers. The board unanimously passed a resolution to implement the Maury County Board of Education Assessment Act of 2019. The act sets a precedent that the school district will be adopting the ACT Aspire and ACT suite of assessments as its sole test used to assess student’s progress. It also unanimously voted to oppose voucher legislation in the Tennessee General Assembly. Those bills would create a voucher program, allowing students to use public education funds to pay for private school tuition. LINK

WATCH: Body camera videos show Alcoa Police officers reviving people with Narcan after overdoses (WBIR-TV) New videos released to 10News by the Alcoa Police Department show first responders working to save lives after overdoses. The videos are the first opportunity we have seen to watch police officers and paramedics in East Tennessee using the overdose reversing drug Narcan to bring people back to life after taking drugs. They show a first-person perspective of life on the front lines of the overdose epidemic. With Narcan in hand, officers race to the scene after an overdose call. Before they are even out of the car, officers already have the overdose reversing drug in hand. LINK

House Speaker Glen Casada said he met Rep. David Byrd’s accusers. Three women dispute that. (Tennessean) Three women who say they were victims of sexual abuse by Rep. David Byrd when he was their high school basketball coach are challenging remarks by House Speaker Glen Casada. In a video made public last week, Casada said he met with Byrd’s accusers. “They came into my office and spoke,” Casada said in response to a question by former Democratic congressional candidate Justin Kanew about whether Casada had “listened to the victims.” LINK

Sexual assault survivors protest at capitol (WTVF-TV) Sexual assault survivors rallied at the state-house steps. The rally was to give survivors a platform to tell their stories and show lawmakers they will not tolerate sexual violence. Representative David Byrd has been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women. They say it happened when he was their high school basketball coach – nearly three decades ago. LINK

Speaker’s office ‘not aware’ he met with lawmaker’s accusers (AP) The chief of staff of a top Tennessee Republican says he is “not aware” of the elected official meeting with three women who have accused a separate lawmaker of sexual misconduct. A video recording released last week showed House Speaker Glen Casada saying the women “came into my office and spoke” when asked if he had listened to the accusers. LINK

Civil asset forfeiture in Tennessee criticized, some warn of policing for profit (WZTV-TV) When police in Tennessee make a traffic stop, they have the right to seize your property. The most commonly seized items: a car and cash. And when they take those, whether the owner is arrested or convicted of anything, the department now owns the property, and it is very hard to get it back. Mount Juliet police showed up at a Nashville home in 2017 to arrest a man named Lance Cain. While his father Lewis Cain slept, police drove off in Lewis’ BWM because they suspected his son of dealing drugs. LINK

‘Natural marriage’ bill could put state in jeopardy of losing $9.4 billion in federal funds (Tennessean) A controversial bill aimed at ignoring the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage could once again place Tennessee in jeopardy of losing $9.4 billion in federal funds, according to a financial analysis of the legislation. The bill, dubbed the “Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act,” would prohibit government officials from recognizing any court ruling, including the landmark Supreme Court decision, that affirms same-sex unions. LINK

Tennessee bill would limit tobacco, vape sales to 21 and up (AP) Several Tennessee lawmakers are pushing to increase the minimum age to buy tobacco or vaping products from 18 to 21. During a news conference Monday, Republicans Sen. Shane Reeves and Rep. Bob Ramsey said the bill would help address Tennessee’s poor health rankings. More than a dozen health-related groups have backed it. A legislative fiscal note estimates the bill would annually cost the state about $7 million and local governments $1 million through lost sales tax revenues. Reeves said it will save the state on health care costs for tobacco users in the long term. LINK

Bill would raise age to buy tobacco to 21 (WTVF-TV) The age limit to buy tobacco and vaping products could be raised from 18 to 21. Republican lawmakers Senator Shane Reeves and Representative Bob Ramsey introduced the bill in legislature. Nationally, 95 percent of adults who smoke start before they turn 21. Smoking-related health care costs in the state were two point six billion dollars with about $160 million from TennCare. Supporters say raising the age could reduce early deaths by ten percent. LINK

Abortion Rights Advocates Say Tennessee’s ‘Heartbeat Bill’ Appears To Have Momentum (WPLN Radio) A Tennessee House committee is expected to consider a bill Tuesday that would ban abortions once a heartbeat has been detected. Abortion rights advocates fear the measure has more momentum than similar legislation introduced two years ago. That bill didn’t move forward after it was deemed “constitutionally suspect” by the state’s attorney general. The current bill by Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, has 60 co-sponsors so far between the Tennessee House and Senate. The high number of supporters is an indicator that the measure has a chance of moving through in the General Assembly. LINK

Democratic critics claim Tennessee fetal heartbeat abortion bill would ’empower’ rapists (Times Free Press) A Republican bill that seeks to bar abortions in Tennessee when a fetal heartbeat is detected would “empower” the “fantasies” of rapists, two female Democratic state lawmakers charged Monday. Rep. London Lamar, D-Memphis, also called the measure “unconstitutional and fiscally irresponsible,” saying at a news conference the bill would effectively bar abortions when a fetus is at six weeks, which she noted is a point at which many women aren’t even sure they’re pregnant. LINK

Lamar leading the fight against passage of fetal heartbeat bill (Daily Memphian) Calling it “unconstitutional and fiscally irresponsible,” state Rep. London Lamar of Memphis is vocally opposing legislation prohibiting abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, even accusing lawmakers of letting rapists dictate women’s lives. “First and foremost, we need to affirm a woman’s right to make her own decisions about abortion,” Lamar said at a Monday, Feb. 25, press conference. “Abortion restrictions seek to control a woman’s reproductive freedom and oppress women in their communities. Access to abortion cannot be separate from human rights.” LINK

Kyle, Hardaway want schools to provide feminine hygiene products to girls (Daily Memphian) Two Memphis lawmakers are sponsoring legislation requiring schools to make feminine hygiene products available to girls for free. State Sen. Sara Kyle and Rep. G.A. Hardaway, both Memphis Democrats, are carrying SB1046 and HB1483 in an effort to meet the needs of students and ensure they have hygiene products at school, especially for emergency situations. “Let me tell you what happens to girls who need these products and can’t afford them. They’re not coming to school. It hurts their education,” Kyle said. LINK

Memphis lawmakers want to charge officers with felony for turning off body cameras (WREG-TV) Memphis Police are required to turn their body cameras on during encounters with the public. But that doesn’t always happen. Now, lawmakers are trying to hold officers accountable by turning the tables and charging them with a felony. Officers have been caught hiding things recently. Most notably, in the Martavious Banks case where the department says three officers turned off their body cameras before shooting a man. WREG is now learning the full story of what Memphis Police say happened on the night of September 17, 2018 when officers shot Banks, leaving him in critical condition. LINK

Blackburn donor among those caught in Fla. prostitution sting (TN Journal) John Childs, an equity firm owner and prominent Republican donor who has given to U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) and the National Republican Senate Committee, was among those charged with soliciting prostitution at a Florida spa tied to an international human trafficking ring, TCPalm reports. Law enforcement issued warrants for 173 people on charges ranging from human trafficking to racketeering to soliciting prostitution. (Police have also charged Robert K. Kraft, the owner of the NFL’s New England Patriots in the investigation.) LINK

Congressman Cohen says he wants hearings on study of reparations for slavery (Commercial Appeal) U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen said he’d soon like to have Congressional hearings on the possibility of reparations for slavery. The Memphis Democrat said he’s working on the issue with U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas. He said her bill calls for a study of reparations, not the actual reparations themselves, and that he’d like to invite writers such as Ta-Nahesi Coates, Jelani Cobb, and Michelle Alexander to give testimony. LINK

Military moves: Defense Department offers solution, says it’s not privatization (Leaf-Chronicle) Thousands of dollars in damage. Stolen personal belongings. Monthslong delays. Stories like this put the military moving system under the microscope in 2018, as accounts poured in of negligence on the part of private companies contracted to move military families. A petition on the topic went viral, garnering around 105,000 signatures and making its author, Megan Harless, something of a de facto military family advocate on Permanent Change of Station (PCS) reform. LINK

New report highlights Volkswagen’s economic weight in Tennessee, U.S. (Times Free Press) Volkswagen’s Tennessee footprint supports about 16,400 jobs in the state through the automaker’s Chattanooga assembly plant, supplier network and other impacts, a new study says.Also, about $73.8 million in state and local taxes stemmed from the German automaker’s presence in Tennessee in 2017, according to the Ernst & Young report commissioned by VW.  LINK

Tennessee gas prices set new 2019 high (Kingsport Times-News) Tennessee gas prices have risen 15 cents over the last 13 days, setting a new high for the year. Drivers are now paying an average of $2.19 per gallon for regular unleaded, AAA reported. Sunday’s state average is 10 cents more than a week ago and 13 cents more than this time last month. Regardless of the recent increase, Tennessee drivers are still paying 12 cents per gallon less than this time last year. It now costs an average of nearly $33 to fill a 15-gallon tank with gasoline, a discount of nearly $8 compared to last May, when prices were at their highest. LINK

The Jail Health-Care Crisis (New Yorker) The opioid epidemic and other public-health emergencies are being aggravated by failings in the criminal-justice system. There are more than three thousand jails in the United States, usually run by sheriffs and county offices, which house some seven hundred thousand people … We focussed on two of the largest nationwide providers, Corizon Health, which is based in Brentwood, Tennessee, and Wellpath, which is headquartered in Nashville. The two companies have been sued about fifteen hundred times during the past five years—according to the federal and state court records that we collected—over matters including alleged neglect, malpractice, and, in dozens of cases, wrongful injury or death. (Corizon was the defendant in more than a thousand of the cases.) LINK

Survey: Half of business economists see recession by 2020 (Times Free Press) Roughly half the nation’s business economists say they think the U.S. economy will slip into recession by the end of next year, and three-fourths envision such a downturn beginning by the end of 2021. The finding comes from the latest survey by the National Association for Business Economics of its member economists. Just 10 percent of them say they foresee a recession beginning this year. At the other extreme, only 11 percent expect the economy to avoid a recession through 2021. LINK


State Sen. Dolores Gresham: Education savings accounts would let Tennessee parents customize a child’s academic life (Daily Memphian) We have choice in almost every aspect of our lives. We choose our home, our church, our doctor, what to have for dinner. But many families don’t get to choose the quality of education their child receives. Instead, we allow a ZIP code to determine whether a child gets to attend a good school or a bad school, or a safe school or a dangerous school. Fortunately, there are opportunities to empower families to control their child’s education, more wisely spend our education tax dollars, and get better education results. LINK

Marsha Blackburn Report: This Week From Washington (Clarksville Online) I am thrilled to announce we will open our new Nashville office on March 1st.  The address will be 3322 West End Avenue, Suite 610, Nashville TN 37203.  It will be the sixth and final office we open in Tennessee. The opening of the Nashville office will complete our in-state set-up. We are the first of the freshmen U.S. Senate offices to have all of our state offices up and running.  Since being sworn in on January 3rd, we have been working each and every day to serve Tennesseans across the state. LINK

State Rep. John Holsclaw: House Republicans unveil the CARE plan (Elizabethton Star) This week in Nashville, House Republican leaders unveiled a patient-centered, free market approach to transform healthcare in Tennessee by unveiling the CARE Plan. This legislative package includes 11 different initiatives that will all reshape healthcare in Tennessee through Consumerism, increasing Access, improving Rural health systems, and Empowering patients to ensure individuals and families to make all medical decisions, instead of insurance companies or the government. LINK

Column: Effectively preparing teachers to educate the next generation (Lebanon Democrat) Are new teachers ready for their first day in the classroom? That question is critical to the Tennessee Board of Education. The state legislature gave the state board the responsibility to approve the educator preparation providers that prepare teachers, principals and other educators in our state. Those programs might be at traditional colleges and universities or at alternative providers that provide pathways for non-education majors become teachers. LINK

David Plazas: ‘Old South’ symbols like the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust belong in a museum (Tennessean) After being sworn in as Tennessee’s 50th governor on Jan. 19, Bill Lee delivered remarks weaving a thread that united the state’s past and its present. Lee is a seventh-generation Tennessean and his ancestor lived in the Nashville area when Tennessee became the 16th state to enter the union, on June 1, 1796. That time would be considered the “Old South” – the pre-Civil War era when the region was an agricultural powerhouse fueled by the labor of black slaves. The Civil War was fought, it is often said by defenders of the Confederacy, to preserve and protect states’ rights and their way of life. That meant preserving the institution of slavery. LINK

Guest column: What a road trip taught me about reviving Tennessee Democrats (Tennessean) On Dec. 14, I got in my vehicle, pulled on Interstate 24 off Old Fort Parkway in Murfreesboro and began a journey crisscrossing this state several times over from Mountain City to Memphis in an attempt to become the 20th chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party. I came up short on my ultimate goal, but after hundreds of meetings with Democratic Party State Executive Committee members, county party chairs, elected officials, and — most importantly — everyday Democrats, I learned four key lessons about how our party can create a new and better way after three decades of hemorrhaging at every electoral level across this state. LINK

Guest column: Here’s why Marsha Blackburn should embrace Green New Deal for Tennessee (Tennessean) Re: “Green New Deal is a raw deal for Tennessee,” by Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Feb. 20. I am disappointed and slightly terrified by Marsha Blackburn’s attempt to avoid addressing climate change by reducing policy debate to a referendum on hamburgers. The policy introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey is not a raw deal for Tennessee. It’s not even a deal. LINK

Clint Cooper: Keep school settlements public (Times Free Press) A letter sent to Hamilton County Board of Education Chairman Joe Wingate says the board “may have violated” the Tennessee Open Meeting Act when it decided during a private meeting to refer lawsuits against the district to the district’s insurance trust. Hamilton County Schools “most likely” violated state law by not making public the out-of-court monetary settlements surrounding the 2015 rape and assault of Ooltewah High School basketball players, a state lawyer says. LINK

Monday, February 25

Sun, then more rain in forecast in Nashville this week; additional flooding not expected (Tennessean) After days of heavy rainfall, Middle Tennessee will catch a brief break before the precipitation returns later this week. Sunday brought sunny skies to the region following nearly 3 inches of rain Friday and Saturday that caused flooding in Middle and East Tennessee and broke a rainfall record in Nashville for the month of February. The area has received 13.5 inches this month, breaking a previous record set in 1880 … Gov. Bill Lee declared a state of emergency in Tennessee on Saturday, which remains in effect. Across the state, 13 counties have declared local states of emergency. Lee will survey damage on Monday with the Department of Military, according to his office. LINK

Storms, flooding wreak havoc on the Mid-South (WMC-TV) Storms swept across the Mid-South this weekend, leaving behind a trail of destruction … In Chattanooga, Tennessee, heavy rain caused a mudslide that crushed a Subway restaurant. No one was hurt, but the chaotic scene scared everyone around …The torrential rain caused flooding across the state, forcing Tennessee Governor Bill Lee to declare a state of emergency. Fourteen Tennessee counties remain in a state of emergency Monday morning including McNairy, Hardin and Decatur in West Tennessee. LINK

State of Emergency remains as flooding continues impact on Middle Tennessee counties (WKRN-TV) The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency remains in a State of Emergency Sunday as widespread flooding in some counties in Middle Tennessee canceled schools and disrupted residents. TEMA officials say they are continuing to monitor river level forecasts while 14 counties in Tennessee have declared local States of Emergency. Eight of those 14 counties are in Middle Tennessee; VanBuren, Maury. Marshall, Cheatham, Lincoln, Overton, and Warren. LINK

Photos: Tennessee hit hard across the state by flooding, wind (Tennessean) LINK

Sky5 footage reveals scope of Tennessee flooding (WTVF-TV) It was the sun that we so longed to see but a break in the rain shed light on what Mother Nature has left behind. This is what the wettest February on record looked like from Sky5. Swollen, muddy, murky bodies of water invading fields, roads, and businesses. There simply was no place else for it all to go. LINK

Portion of I-24 Eastbound closed for at least a week after landslide (WTVF-TV) Crews with the Tennessee Department of Transportation responded to a landslide on I-24 Eastbound Saturday evening. The slide was reported between Old Hickory Blvd. and Briley Pkwy which caused a traffic backup on Sunday afternoon. The road will be closed for at least a week for cleanup. TDOT crews on scene tell NewsChannel 5 part of a cliff face fell onto the interstate, causing mud and rocks to slide. You can watch their entire press conference from Sunday morning below: LINK

West Knoxville neighborhood surrounded by floodwater (WATE-TV) The rain has stopped, but the impact it’s made certainly hasn’t. Water filled up the basement of Jeff Macklin’s home off Ebenezer Road in West Knoxville. “There’s feet of water, so it’s absololutely destroyed,” Macklin said. It’s now soaking in nearly seven feet of water that came rushing in Saturday. “By the time I got home, the water was coming in the basement, like a waterfall,” he said. LINK

Disaster assessment teams survey Sevier county for damage, Knox County on Monday (WATE-TV) Disaster Assesment teams were in Sevier County Sunday afternoon surveying flood damage for possible FEMA assistance in the area, according to Seymour Volunteer Fire Department. SVFD says they respond to 3 major counties, including some areas of Knox County. They say Disaster Teams will be assessing damage in Knox County on Monday. There are two links that will be helpful to alert the disaster teams of possible flooding damage. Just fill out these forms for Sevier County or Knox County. LINK

Tennessee Severe Weather Awareness Week begins (WMC-TV) After a weekend of severe weather, The National Weather Service wants to make sure the state is prepared for all weather situations. February 24 through March 2 is Tennessee Severe Weather Awareness Week. Several emergency agencies are asking Tennesseans to make severe weather planning and preparedness a priority. Officials are spreading this message on platforms such as YouTube. LINK

Faced with deadly juvenile crime, Tennessee leaders seek answers to ‘failure’ in system (Tennessean) Nearly everyone involved in juvenile justice agrees changes must be made to improve the system, and they are looking to a newly formed task force and the new governor to deliver better policies and funding in 2019. If they don’t act, advocates, law enforcement and court officials say, the consequences could be deadly. In a statement, Gov. Bill Lee’s spokeswoman Laine Arnold said his priorities in 2019, which will be announced next month during his State of the State address, will feature a “significant focus on rethinking how we engage the reform process at the community level.” “Gov. Lee has seen firsthand the redemptive power of criminal justice reform and its impact on bettering public safety,” Arnold said. LINK

Are children services in Tennessee overburdened? Local behavioral specialist and former educator weigh in (Johnson City Press) In 2018, 780 children in Tennessee were placed in state custody by the Department of Children Services, bringing the current number to around 8,600. Last year, there were nearly 135,000 calls to the 24-hour Child Abuse Hotline and 24,303 child protective investigations. In 2019, the painstaking work of the department continues in the state and region. “As of Feb. 19, there were 722 children in foster care in the Northeast Tennessee region. This number includes children and youth who come into custody because of abuse or neglect, and also for being adjudicated delinquent and unruly,” DCS spokeswoman Carrie Weir said. LINK

Is Tennessee moving its weakest teachers to early, non-tested grades? New research says yes. (Daily Memphian/Chalkbeat Tennessee) Tennessee’s education insiders have whispered for years that some elementary school principals were moving their least effective teachers to critical early grades, which are free of high-stakes tests. That’s despite clear evidence that those years are the most important for preparing students for a lifetime of learning. Now a new study has confirmed that the shift is real. Researchers examining 10 years’ worth of state data through 2016 found that low-performing teachers in grades 3 through 5 were more likely to be reassigned to non-tested early grades than their more effective peers. LINK

Despite Economic Growth, Governors Worry About Skills Gap and Unemployment (Governing) At the winter meeting of the National Governors Association in Washington this weekend, the lack of proper workforce training was an overarching concern.Ten years since the end of the last recession, state leaders are generally feeling good about the economy. As the nation’s governors gathered in Washington this weekend for the National Governors Association’s winter meeting, they expressed confidence in America’s fiscal climate — at least as it stands right now. Job creation is strong, the stock market has recovered some of its losses from the end of last year and business confidence is high, though consumer confidence has softened. LINK

Pew Initiative to Study Broadband Access Hurdles (Government Technology) The Pew Charitable Trusts has launched its new Broadband Research Initiative to understand why some 24 million Americans still lack broadband access. Researchers are stepping up efforts to learn more about why so many communities across the country still lack access to broadband Internet service. The Pew Charitable Trusts has launched its new Broadband Research Initiative to understand why some 24 million Americans — most of those living in rural communities — still lack what is largely now considered a basic utility. “About 30 percent of rural Americans do not have access to broadband, compared to about 2 percent of urban Americans,” said Kathryn de Wit, manager of Pew’s Broadband Research Initiative. LINK

The Tri-Star State: Why Is House Speaker Glen Casada Standing By David Byrd? (WPLN Radio) CNN isn’t usually interested in the minutiae of state politics. But comments from Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada about Rep. David Byrd have brought the network and other national outlets to the state Capitol. That’s after Casada was caught on video defending his choice of Byrd as an education subcommittee chair despite multiple accusations of sexual misconduct with girls he coached in the 1980s. So, will this new pressure push Byrd out of office? LINK

Vaughan working on funding for more medical residencies in rural areas (Daily Memphian) With an eye toward offering quality health care in Tennessee’s poorest areas, state Rep. Kevin Vaughan is negotiating with Gov. Bill Lee’s office for state money to fund more medical residency slots. Vaughan, a Republican in his first full House term, represents the affluent Collierville area. But he grew up outside Bolivar in Hardeman County, one of the state’s 15 economically distressed counties, and said he wants to “keep an eye on rural issues,” an outlook that meshes with Lee’s policy early in his first term. “We’re working in concert with the governor’s office to figure out a way how to get more players on the field, healthcare players,” Vaughan said. LINK

Not Satire: Van Huss hosting ‘Nacho Libre’ watch party for Capitol Hill colleagues, staff (Johnson City Press) It might read like satire, but it’s not. The Northeast Tennessee lawmaker has formed a parody caucus named after his favorite movie, “Nacho Libre,” and all 132 members of the Tennessee General Assembly, whether Democrat or Republican, are invited. Last Monday, state Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, announced on the House floor that he and state Rep. Debra Moody, R-Covington, would host a “Nacho Libre” watch party with pizza to boot on Feb. 25 beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Cordell Hull building. LINK

How a new bill could transform how Tennessee grants handgun permits (Tennessean) A bill that would create a cheaper, alternative gun permitting system advanced in a House subcommittee, but it could reach an impasse in the Senate. On Wednesday, the House Constitutional Protections and Sentencing Subcommittee approved HB 1264, despite criticism that it would weaken the state’s current gun permitting system. But the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, disagrees, saying it merely creates a cheaper alternative. Under the current system, to obtain a permit to carry a weapon in the open or concealed, a person must pay $100, cover the cost for an eight-hour training course, which can range from $75 to $100, and undergo a background check. LINK

From Knox County to Congress, Tim Burchett uses Twitter to communicate about Washington’s ways (News Sentinel) Freshman U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett has long been a Twitter darling, giving his nearly 30,000 followers a steady stream of snarky comments mixed with dad-joke humor. But since taking office in the nation’s capital, he’s turned his account into a mirror of D.C. life and a source of information on what’s being done, or not done, in Congress. In his most popular video to date, soon after the House approved the spending deal to avert a shutdown on Valentine’s Day, Burchett walked out of the House chambers and took to Twitter, “I voted no. #disgusted.” LINK

Billionaire equity firm owner John Childs wanted on prostitution charge in Vero Beach (Politico) Billionaire equity firm owner John Childs is one of several men accused of soliciting prostitution in connection with a Florida spa tied to an international human trafficking ring, police said Thursday … “His largest donation, $250,000, went to America First Action, a pro-Donald Trump super PAC. Senate Conservative Action, Freedom Partners Action Fund and the [NRSC] all received large contributions over the past two years. Other large contributions have gone to Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana, Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Rep. Mimi Walters of California. LINK

George W. Bush to participate at Vanderbilt University’s Chancellor Lecture Series (Tennessean) Former President George W. Bush will participate in the Vanderbilt University Chancellor’s Lecture Series at Langford Auditorium on campus March 11, according to the school’s communication department. The 43rd U.S. president will be joined on stage by Vanderbilt Chancellor Nick Zeppos and presidential historian Jon Meacham, an online announcement states. Meacham also wrote the biography of George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States and the father of George W. Bush. The lecture is scheduled at 6:30-7:30 p.m. LINK

TVA Calls For Pivoting To Solar, But Some Environmentalists Say Effort Lacks Urgency (WPLN Radio) The Tennessee Valley Authority says in a new review of its facilities that it needs to invest in renewables, including solar energy, to stay competitive. But some environmentalists are questioning the utility’s commitment to the idea. TVA concludes in the latest draft of its Integrated Resource Plan — released this month, just days after announcing it would shut down two of its coal-fired plants — that it needs to switch up its energy mix to give itself more flexibility. The plan is meant to outline the utility’s future plans over the next 20 years. LINK

Pharmaceutical Companies Push Back On ‘Bad Drug’ TV Ads In Tennessee (WPLN Radio) Pharmaceutical companies are trying to police so-called “bad drug” ads, starting in Tennessee. The state legislature is advancing a bill that would restrict advertising meant to recruit people harmed by medication or medical devices. The legislation (HB0352/SB0352), which was approved by the Senate Health Committee last week, targets dramatic ads like this one about blood thinner Xarelto or another about diabetes drug Avandia. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, who is a surgeon. LINK

CONNECTICUT: Can tax break promises be kept? (CT Mirror) Gov. Ned Lamont’s new state budget is less than a week old, but the pressure already is shifting to the General Assembly to protect the tax cuts it passed last year. Seniors, teachers, hospitals, corporations and other groups are pressing lawmakers to deliver the tax relief they pledged in 2017 — and campaigned on last fall — even though Lamont says Connecticut no longer can afford it. “What we are concerned about is how things pile up,” said Nora Duncan, state director of AARP Connecticut. LINK

ILLINOIS: S&P to Pritzker: Pension reform only way to avoid ‘junk’ credit rating (IL Policy) A report from one of the largest credit rating agencies criticized Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s “dubious” budget proposal for avoiding necessary fiscal reforms. Gov. J.B. Pritzker released his first proposed budget Feb. 20. And while the governor presented his plan for fiscal year 2020 as balanced, he failed to convince Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings, one of the largest credit rating agencies. One fundamental problem with the governor’s proposal? The lack of meaningful pension reform, according to S&P. “If the state fails to redeem its longer pension amortization schedule through a practical reduction in liabilities,” the report says, “its credit trajectory could slip.” LINK

MISSISSIPPI: Education is the top priority, state leaders say as funding falls further behind rest of budget (Sun Herald) Since 2008, funding for public education has not kept pace with funding for other state agencies. Mississippi’s political leaders often cite education as the state’s top priority. They point to funding for new programs, such as reading mentors and an investment in early childhood education in addition to a teacher pay raise as examples to boost their claim that education is their top priority. But in 2008, viewed as a high water mark for better or worse in terms of the level of state spending, $2.565 billion was spent on K-12 education, compared to $2.614 billion for fiscal year 2018. LINK

NEW YORK: State Budget Director Says Lawmakers Who Opposed Amazon Were of ‘Fundamental Ignorance‘ (Newsweek) New York State Budget Director Robert Mujica penned an open letter Friday to blast state and federal lawmakers and some unions that openly opposed Amazon building its second headquarters (HQ2) in New York City. Mujica called the Amazon deal the “single greatest economic development opportunity” in New York for the last quarter of a century, and said those who opposed it because of “Twitter” pressure don’t understand economics, as it leaves a stain for future companies that could potentially want to do business in the state. LINK

OKLAHOMA: Finally! Real budget growth at the state Capitol (Tulsa World) The Oklahoma Legislature will have nearly $575 million more to spend in the next fiscal year than it had for this year. After years of budget holes and failures, there’s no way that is not excellent news. Let’s not forget what we should have learned from the bad times. An economic contraction aggravated by a series of unwise tax policy moves resulted in years of budget cuts to core state services. The lesson: Oklahoma can’t manufacture prosperity with fractional tax cuts. The result will be a disastrous impact on critical state services. LINK


Guest column: Tennessee embraces a cruel hoax on poor and urban children (Kingsport Times-News) Teach for America recruits college graduates in non-education majors from prestigious universities (one-fifth of them from Harvard), trains them for five weeks, and then places them in teaching positions in low income schools … Penny Schwinn, Gov. Bill Lee’s recent appointee as commissioner of education, is a 2004 California-Berkeley graduate and TFA participant. To her credit, she attained a master’s in teaching degree after entering the classroom and later a Ph.D. in educational policy. However, her administrative behavior over the years, especially regarding strategies for improving struggling schools, has adhered far more closely to the TFA philosophy than to established research. LINK

Pam Sohn: So many outrages, so little time (Times Free Press) The old was made new again with the 1980 yearbook photograph of Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee wearing a Confederate uniform for an Auburn, Ala., annual fraternity celebration of Robert E. Lee’s birthday. Lee says he now regrets participating in “Old South” parties. “I never intentionally acted in an insensitive way, but with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that participating in that was insensitive and I’ve come to regret it,” the governor said. The fraternity in 2001 prohibited displays of the Confederate battle flags at fraternity functions and banned members from wearing Confederate uniforms at events. Lee has moved on to 21st century clothing. LINK

Friday, February 22

Tennessee school safety: Gov. Bill Lee proposes $30 million to increase school safety officers (Tennessean) In a bid to increase funding put in place last year for school safety, Gov. Bill Lee announced Thursday he is prioritizing money to add resource officers to schools. Lee is asking for another $30 million to be placed into the school safety grant fund, created last year, to address the about 500 schools statewide that do not have a campus resource officer, according to a news release about the announcement. His proposal would increase the fund to $40 million in its second year, with Lee proposing another $10 million in recurring money and adding $20 million in one-time dollars for schools. LINK

Tennessee governor proposes $40M to improve school safety (AP) Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee says his upcoming budget proposal will include $40 million to improve school safety. Lee’s team announced on Thursday that $10 million was already budgeted for school safety from former Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan for the upcoming fiscal year. Lee will add $30 million to that amount, with $20 million slotted for one-time funding and $10 million in recurring funds. The funding will be used as a safety grant fund. Lee’s team says the administration will sponsor additional legislation that will prioritize the distribution of those grants to pay for school resource officers. LINK

Lee proposes $40M for school safety officers (TN Journal) Republican Gov. Bill Lee is proposing a $40 million grant fund to pay for more school resource officers around the state. Here’s the full release from Lee’s office: Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced a new investment in school safety to better protect teachers and students and prepare against the threat of violence. “The safety of our children and teachers is a top priority for my administration, and this investment ensures that school districts will have the resources they need to better protect our schools,” said Lee. LINK

Lee proposes $40 million school safety plan (Daily Memphian) Gov. Bill Lee is proposing a $40 million investment in school safety to protect teachers and students and avert violence, mainly through funding for school resource officers. Lee, a Williamson County Republican, announced his plans for a grant fund Thursday to provide money to school districts to pay officers. “The safety of our children and teachers is a top priority for my administration, and this investment ensures that school districts will have the resources they need to better protect our schools,” Lee said. About 500 Tennessee schools don’t have SROs, and changes to the law will enable them to fill these positions, according to a release from the governor’s office. LINK

Gov. Bill Lee announces increase in funding for Tennessee school safety, school resource officers (Times Free Press) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is calling for an increase in funding for school safety and prioritizing the presence of school resource officers. Lee proposed an additional $30 million investment for the school safety grant fund established by former Gov. Bill Haslam last year, bringing the total available funds to $40 million. Legislation also has been filed that will provide additional changes to existing law to prioritize the distribution of the grants to pay for school resource officers. “The safety of our children and teachers is a top priority for my administration, and this investment ensures that school districts will have the resources they need to better protect our schools,” Lee said in a news release. LINK

Togo North America to invest $11.4 million, create 58 new jobs in Portland, Tenn. (Tennessean) Auto supplier Togo North America Inc. is coming to Portland and plans to create 58 jobs over the next five years. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe announced Thursday that the company will invest $11.4 million to establish a production facility in Portland. Togo North America, a subsidiary of Japan-based Togo Seisakusyo Corporation, produces automotive parts, including hose clamps, return springs and flat springs.“Tennessee is an ideal place for international manufacturers and offers them a wide range of advantages,” Lee said in a news release. LINK

Sticking to the script (TN Ledger) Early actions reflect campaign emphasis on vocational education, lifting rural economies. Bill Lee the governor sounds a lot like Bill Lee the candidate as he works to implement the policies he brought to Tennessee voters since the Republican businessman announced that he would seek the state’s top job. During 18 months of campaigning, the political newcomer spoke broadly about good jobs for Tennesseans, good schools for their children and safe neighborhoods. He has followed through on those themes in the agenda for his administration’s first year, adding a push to strengthen the economies of rural counties, 15 of which are economically distressed. LINK

Lee’s executive orders fit trend for new administrations (TN Ledger) In his first week as Tennessee’s 50th governor, Bill Lee issued four executive orders, the first cementing his commitment to the 15 rural Tennessee counties that are economically distressed. Others addressed ethics, transparency and nondiscrimination in employment. He was following a tradition among the state’s recent governors who have started their terms with executive orders. The tradition also extends to governors across the country. Lee’s fifth executive order, issued Feb. 1, places a 90-day freeze on new regulations by executive branch departments, in the interest of promoting job growth in Tennessee. LINK

AutoZone and First Horizon execs join Gov. Lee council (Memphis Business Journal) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has added representatives from two Memphis-based public companies to his Council for Judicial Appointments. The Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments — which is comprised of three members from each of the Tennessee grand divisions and two at-large members — is charged with recommending candidates to the governor when vacancies need to be filled for Tennessee’s appellate courts. David McKinney, vice president of government relations for AutoZone Inc., and Charles Tuggle, general counsel for First Horizon National Corp., were two of the recent appointments. LINK

Gov. Bill Lee pictured in Auburn yearbook wearing Confederate army uniform (Tennessean) Days after Gov. Bill Lee’s staff members said they were unaware of any photos of the Tennessee governor wearing a Confederate uniform, his office confirmed he is pictured doing so in a 1980 Auburn University yearbook. The photo, included on a page in the Kappa Alpha section of the yearbook, shows Lee and another man smiling while wearing a Confederate army style uniform and posing with two women in period costumes. LINK

Video: Photo shows Gov. Bill Lee in Confederate uniform (Tennessean) A photo from an Auburn yearbook shows Gov. Bill Lee in a Confederate uniform at a fraternity party. LINK

Tennessee gov. says he regrets wearing Confederate uniform (AP) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee was 17 when he joined the Kappa Alpha fraternity at Auburn University, which every spring held an “Old South” party where he and other members dressed in Confederate uniforms. The fraternity has since ended the tradition, and Lee, four decades removed from his undergraduate days at the Alabama university, says he regrets attending and wearing the uniform, and has come to see his participation in the event differently. LINK

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee responds to Confederate uniform photo, regrets participation in hindsight (WTVF-TV) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has responded to the release of a photo showing him in a Confederate uniform in a 1980 yearbook at his alma mater, Auburn University, saying, in hindsight, “participating was insensitive and I’ve come to regret it.” The photo of Governor Lee surfaced on Thursday. LINK

TN Gov. Bill Lee On “Old South” Pictures: “Never Intentionally Acted In An Insensitive Way” (WATN-TV) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee says he regrets participating in “Old South” parties at Auburn while he was a student there, as pictures of him dressed in a Confederate uniform surface. The Local I-Team found the photo is from Lee’s college days at Auburn University where he was a member of Kappa Alpha Order. It was taken during one of the fraternity’s “Old South” parties. LINK

Photo surfaces of Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee in college yearbook wearing Confederate uniform (WHBQ-TV) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has issued an apology after a photo of him wearing a Confederate army uniform surfaced from his time in college. The picture shows him on the far right wearing the uniform at a Kappa Alpha Order fraternity party while attending Auburn University in 1980. Lee issued a statement Thursday saying he didn’t mean to intentionally hurt anyone and regrets wearing the Confederate uniform in 1980. The photo was taken at what the fraternity referred to as an “Old South” party. LINK

Report: Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee wore Confederate uniform in 1980 yearbook photo (Washington Post) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee wore a Confederate uniform in a photo published in his 1980 college yearbook, the Tennessean newspaper reported Thursday, in the latest instance of a state leader coming under scrutiny for past actions that critics have decried as racially insensitive. Lee, R, who won election in November, confirmed to the newspaper through his office that he wore the uniform at an “Old South” party as a student at Auburn University in Alabama. LINK

Video: Tenn. Gov. Lee says he regrets wearing Confederate uniform (Yahoo News) LINK

Tennessee governor says he regrets wearing Confederate uniform at college frat party (The Hill) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) on Thursday said he regrets wearing a Confederate uniform to a college party nearly 40 years ago. The Associated Press reported that Lee joined the Kappa Alpha fraternity at Auburn University when he was 17. The fraternity hosted an annual “Old South” party where members dressed in Confederate uniforms. A spokeswoman for the governor confirmed that Lee appears in a photo in the university’s 1980 yearbook wearing a the uniform. LINK

Tennessee governor says he regrets wearing Confederate uniform in Auburn yearbook photo (Auburn Plainsman) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said he has regrets after a photo surfaced of him wearing a Confederate uniform in Auburn’s 1980 Glomerata yearbook. Lee confirmed Thursday that he is pictured in the uniform during Kappa Alpha Order’s Old South event at Auburn, the Tennessean first reported. The photo surfaced during a review of yearbooks by the USA Today Network. It comes just days after his staff said they were unaware of any racially offensive photos of the governor. LINK

New education commissioner plans to fix long-standing problems with standardized testing (WJHL-TV) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s new Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn says she’s committed to learning from past mistakes to fix long-standing problems with the state’s standardized testing. Educators have expressed frustration with “TNReady” for years, many blaming the state’s current vendor Questar Assessments for online failures, delayed results, incorrect grading and poor communication. These problems prompted Former Gov. Bill Haslam to embark on a statewide listening tour focused on improving the future ofTNReady. Haslam’s administration left behind a comprehensive report outlining their findings. LINK

TDEC deputy commissioner fired after ‘disgusting’ texts (WSMV-TV) A deputy commissioner with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation was terminated after a woman who works for the state claimed he sent her texts that she described as “disgusting.” A TDEC spokesman refused to release any details about the findings of their investigation into former deputy commissioner Brock Hill but stated that the woman’s claims led them to find additional concerns about workplace misconduct. Hill, who was terminated on Feb 9, did not return the I-Team’s message for comment and the other public phone numbers associated with his name were disconnected. LINK

UT Sex Week co-chairs: Programs ‘widely mischaracterized’; 2019 event will go on (News Sentinel) Following Wednesday’s report from the Tennessee comptroller’s office, the University of Tennessee’s Sex Week’s co-chairs have released a statement expressing disappointment in how the event was portrayed, but said Sex Week 2019 will still take place. This year, UT’s Sex Week will run from March 31 to April 5. Several Sex Week 2019 events have been promoted on Twitter from the Sex Week account, including a drag show and an art show. LINK

A closer look at transparency problem identified at UT by comptroller (WATE-TV) The transparency issues presented by the State of Tennessee Comptroller and to the Senate Education Committee Wednesday surrounding Sex Week at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, are also shared among some students and staff. We wanted to look a little closer at the transparency issues and what organizations are being given/denied funds. More than 80 percent of students at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville opt-in to pay the Student Program and Services Fee, which is $15.46 per semester for full-time students. LINK

Tennessee awards $1.9M in landfill reduction grants (AP) Tennessee environmental officials have awarded $1.9 million waste reduction grants for community projects across the state. The state Department of Environment and Conservation announced Thursday that the grants will go to 14 different recipients to help pay for trucks, chippers, recycling carts and containers. The goal is to support local efforts toward reducing landfill waste. Commissioner David Salyers says the grants can make a real difference in waste reduction in Tennessee. LINK

Local organization works to find safe places for domestic violence victims (WREG-TV) As domestic violence plagues Shelby County, the Family Safety Center is working on more safe places for victims to go. Stephanie Anderson was abused for years. All at the hands of her boyfriend. “We were together six years. He went to jail and was in jail for like, a year-and-a-half. I waited thinking he was going to change,” Anderson said. But he didn’t. And the bruises kept forming until her birthday, June 4. She was going out to celebrate with her son and two daughters. Her boyfriend was yelling at her in front of them before they left. LINK

Fallout from House Speaker Glen Casada’s remarks on rape continues (Tennessean) Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada continued to face criticism days after his remarks about rape victims surfaced on an Internet video. A Democratic lawmaker said she believed women in the House of Representatives no longer feel confident in bringing forward accusations of sexual misconduct. A spokeswoman for a national domestic violence and sexual assault prevention organization said that such remarks, in the era of the #MeToo movement, “erode public trust.” LINK

Facing scrutiny, House Speaker Glen Casada says remarks about rape victims taken out of context (Tennessean) On a day that featured heightened attention from national and local media for his remarks about rape victims, House Speaker Glen Casada’s spokesman on Wednesday clarified the Franklin Republican’s comments. On Tuesday, Casada drew scrutiny after a video recorded by former Democratic congressional candidate Justin Kanew showed the speaker explaining what he would do if he were a rape victim. “If I was raped, I would move and hell would have no fury,” Casada said in the video. LINK

Tennessee Republican defends accused lawmaker appointment (AP) A top Tennessee Republican has gone on the defensive after detailing what he would do if he were sexually assaulted as he fielded questions on appointing a lawmaker accused of sexual misconduct to oversee an education committee. A video recording released this week showed House Speaker Glen Casada saying that if he were raped, he “would move and hell would have no fury.” The Republican was being filmed surreptitiously at a town hall by former Democratic congressional candidate Justin Kanew, who later posted the video to social media. LINK

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally says he’d likely handle sexual misconduct allegations differently than Glen Casada (Tennessean) If sexual assault allegations were brought against a member of his chamber, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally says he would likely be taking somewhat of a different approach than House Speaker Glen Casada. McNally, R-Oak Ridge, who also serves as speaker of the Senate, last spring called for the resignation of Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, amid decades-old sexual assault allegations brought by three women. The women said Byrd, their Wayne County High School girls basketball coach at the time, sexually assaulted them when they were teenagers in the mid-1980s. LINK

House Speaker Glen Casada, protester clash during brief confrontation (Tennessean) House Speaker Glen Casada on Thursday had a brief confrontation inside the Capitol with a protester seeking a meeting related to the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest. The confrontation, which happened minutes after the morning floor session ended, occurred as Casada descended down the steps of the Capitol building while heading to a news conference. A small group of protesters, who recently held a sit-in inside the speaker’s office, said they had been trying to meet with Casada to no avail while calling for the removal of the Forrest bust, a Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader. LINK

Video: House Speaker Glen Casada and a protester have confrontation in the Capitol (Tennessean) There was a brief confrontation between Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada and a protester Thursday at the Capitol. LINK

Forrest bust protesters clash with House speaker (Daily Memphian) More than 140 years after his death, Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest continues causing a stir. This time, it’s a confrontation between House Speaker Glen Casada and a group of African-American students who want the Rebel icon’s bust removed from the State Capitol. The incident took place Thursday morning as Casada, a Franklin Republican, walked down the steps from the Senate and House chambers to the Capitol’s first floor for a press conference in the Old Supreme Court Chambers. Vanderbilt student Justin Jones, a frequent protester at the Capitol, quickly approached Casada, demanding that he meet with the group of students who want the Forrest bust to be taken from its Capitol perch. LINK

David Byrd asks court to dismiss free speech lawsuit (Nashville Post) State rep accused of sexual abuse sued over students’ field trip shirts. State Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) has asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit in which an anonymous Wayne County High School student alleged that the lawmaker and school officials violated free speech rights by telling students to wear shirts advertising Byrd’s campaign. The defendants alleged in a Thursday court filing that the anonymous student was not on the field trip last year. LINK

As Tennessee House GOP pushes new health plan, Democrats denounce as ‘remarkable for its dishonesty’ (Tennessean) State House Republican leaders on Thursday unveiled a multi-pronged plan they say will transform Tennessee health care through a “patient-centered,” free market approach that includes price transparency for consumers to help lower costs. Know your community. But legislative Democrats quickly pounced on Republicans’ “CARE” proposal, calling it an effort to camouflage the GOP’s refusal to expand Medicaid coverage for hundreds of thousands of low-income adult Tennesseans with the federal government picking up 90 percent of the tab. LINK

TN House Republicans outline new health ‘CARE’ plan (WKRN-TV) Tennessee House Republicans focused Thursday on what they call the “CARE Plan,” which the lawmakers say is a “first step” to offer solutions to a wide variety of healthcare issues. “These issues have been in the making for decades so it’s unrealistic to say we can fix this overnight,” explained House Republican Caucus Chair Cameron Sexton during a Capitol Hill news conference. “It will take time.” CARE is an acronym for “Consumerism, Access, Rural, Empowering.” LINK

House Republicans tout health care package (Nashville Post) Democrats call group of bills insufficient, again demand Medicaid expansion. House Republicans rolled out a suite of health care proposals Thursday that they say would increase access and reduce costs, but Democrats were quick to call their effort hollow. The group of lawmakers listed 11 policy ideas — some of which have already been introduced as bills, others that will be crafted within existing placeholder bills — that they say “will increase access and the quality of care … while driving down overall costs and ensuring all Tennesseans — with or without preexisting conditions — have insurance.” LINK

Tenn. House Republicans announce plan to address state’s healthcare needs (WTVF-TV) Tennessee House Republicans have announced a proposal to address healthcare needs in the state. Republicans announced their CARE plan on Thursday – an acronym that stands for Consumerism, increasing access, improving rural health systems and empowering patients. LINK

Tennessee Republicans Unveil Health Care Plan Focusing On ‘Free-Market Concepts’ (WPLN Radio) Republicans in the General Assembly say they want to increase competition between hospitals and make prices more transparent. As part of a new health care plan outlined Thursday, they’re also proposing restrictions on pharmacy middlemen. GOP lawmakers characterize these as “free-market concepts” intended to reshape health care. “This is a Republican plan that goes to the philosophy of what Republicans are, which is less government, more empowerment to the people, to the patients. And a way to try to lower prices,” Rep. Cameron Sexton of Crossville said. LINK

Lawmaker wants better coverage for mental health, drug addiction treatments (WTVF-TV) A state lawmaker proposed a resolution urging insurance companies to provide better coverage for people looking to treat their mental health issues or substance abuse disorders. Senator Richard Briggs(R-Knoxville), said in the resolution that despite the rampant opioid crisis, there is an “undeniable difference in coverage for mental health and substance abuse services for Tennesseans suffering from substance use disorder or opioid use disorder versus the way all other traditional diseases are covered and insured.” LINK

House panel approves police oversight bill despite Memphis lawmakers’ opposition (Daily Memphian) The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee passed legislation this week stripping the subpoena power of police oversight committees in an emotional affair that saw Republican leaders criticize a new Nashville panel and sidestep the opposition of Memphis legislators. House Minority Leader Karen Camper and state Rep. Antonio Parkinson, who serve on the subcommittee, both voted against the bill, calling it another example of the Legislature stepping on local government. It moved on to the House Judiciary Committee on a voice vote. LINK

Here is what lawmakers are saying about Gov. Bill Lee in Auburn yearbook wearing Confederate uniform (Tennessean) A previous version of this story listed the incorrect area Rep. G.A. Hardaway represents. The information has been updated. On Thursday, Gov. Bill Lee’s office confirmed the Tennessee governor is pictured wearing a Confederate army uniform in a 1980 Auburn University yearbook. Lee attended the public university in Alabama from 1977 to 1981 and was a member of the Kappa Alpha Order, a fraternity that held annual “Old South” parties in which members dressed up in Confederate uniforms. In a statement previously given to USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee, Lee said he regretted his participation in the parties nearly four decades ago. LINK

Tennessee bill in honor of Dustin Ledford targets repeat DUI offenders (WDEF-TV) A bill recently introduced would have stricter penalties for repeat DUI offenders in Tennessee. On the side of APD 40, there is a memorial for Dustin Ledford. “It is very hard every day. We have just learned how to survive without him,” said Kim Ledford, Dustin’s mother. Ledford was 24 years old when he was killed in July of 2010 by a wrong way driver. Investigators found that the driver was under the influence of alcohol and meth at the time of the crash. She was sentenced to ten years behind bars. Kim Ledford spoke out on her behalf at a parole hearing and she was released early. This past fall she was arrest for another DUI. LINK

Not Just Yet for Cyntoia Brown-Inspired Reform Measure (Nashville Scene) Memphis Rep. London Lamar’s bill is off to ‘the abyss of summer study.’ Was a piece of maiden legislation by freshman state Rep. London Lamar (D-Memphis) just damned with faint praise? Or praised with faint damns? Either definition might describe the first bill of Lamar’s to be introduced and heard in committee in her home chamber. HB17, which is inspired by the Cyntoia Brown case, would, in the language of its caption, establish “a presumption that a minor who is the victim of a sexual offense or engaged in prostitution using force intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury is presumed to have held a reasonable belief that the use of force is immediately necessary to avoid imminent death or serious bodily injury.” LINK

Legislators to gather next Friday for annual community breakfast (Elizabethton Star) Legislators and other public officials from all levels of government will gather at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology next Friday, March 1, at 7:30 a.m. to meet with members of the Carter County community, all while enjoying a locally-made breakfast. Tonya Stevens, Executive Director of the Elizabethton Chamber of Commerce, said they host the event once a year for citizens to meet with their government representatives. LINK

Blackburn’s Nashville office will open Mar. 1 on West End Avenue (Brentwood Home Page) Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) announced on Tuesday that her Nashville office will open at 3322 West End Avenue, Suite 610 on March 1. It will be the sixth and final office the Senator will open in Tennessee. “We are thrilled to be opening our Nashville office next month,” Blackburn said in a press release. “The opening of our last state office in Nashville will complete our in-state set-up. Since being sworn in on January 3, we have been working each and every day to serve Tennesseans across the state.” LINK

Bean Station ICE raid: Workers sue agents, Trump administration in immigration roundup (News Sentinel) Seven former slaughterhouse workers have sued the Trump administration, claiming violation of their civil rights in last year’s immigration raid on an East Tennessee meat-packing plant. The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, names nine agents of the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement as defendants, saying they cursed, shoved and punched unarmed workers during one of the largest workplace raids in recent history. LINK

Shelby County Health Department Limits TVA’s Use of Aquifer Wells (Memphis Flyer) The Shelby County Health Department placed rules on how the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) uses five wells at its Allen natural gas plant this week. The health department prohibited TVA from using the wells, which the utility previously committed to not using, except in three circumstances: Sampling for contaminants or studying the connection of the shallow and deep aquifers. Approval for the studies must be granted by the Tennessee Department of Conservation. LINK

Report: 6 rural hospitals at ‘high financial risk’ in Tennessee (WVLT-TV) Across the United States, rural hospitals are at risk. According to a new report from Navigant, 95 rural hospitals across 26 states have closed since 2010. Talk of hospital closures hits home for those in East Tennessee. Tennova closed the old St. Mary’s Hospital and Lakeway Regional Hospital last year. The hospital in Scott County only recently reopened in 2017, making it the third reopening in five years. According to the report, 34 states, Tennessee included, have five or more rural hospitals at high financial risk. The Volunteer State has six. Those six, per the report, are considered “essential” to the communities they serve. LINK

Federal judge assigns special master to help Lauderdale Community Hospital (WMC-TV) Lauderdale Community Hospital is under new management after a federal court hearing Thursday. The federal court judge says she was flabergasted by the accounting records of the Lauderdale Community Hospital. About two weeks ago, she appointed a special master to collect financial records and she was not pleased by what she saw. She appointed a receiver to get this hospital back on track. Stone Bank Attorney Jerry Spore is the plaintiff in this case. He says Lauderdale Community Hospital is a financial mess. LINK

NBC to shoot ‘Bluff City Law’ pilot in Memphis (Commercial Appeal) Shooting begins here March 11 on NBC’s “Bluff City Law,” a pilot for a Memphis-based legal drama that could lead to months of television production in the city over the next year — and beyond — if it becomes a weekly series. Caitlin McGee will play a “brilliant” Memphis lawyer in “Bluff City Law,” a pilot for a possible NBC drama series that begins shooting here in March. Production should last through March 27, according to Sharon Pannozzo, vice president of East Coast publicity for NBC Entertainment. If the pilot is picked up to become a series, the first season likely will shoot here from September to early 2020. LINK

Great Smoky Mountains National Park sees record visitation (AP) The Great Smoky Mountains National Park saw a record number of visitors in 2018. According to the park, more than 11.4 million people visited last year, an increase of a little less than 1 percent from the previous year. Park officials attribute the increase to the completion of a new section of the Foothills Parkway in November that opened new vistas to park visitors. The Smokies saw record visitation in the last two months of the year. LINK

Hate Groups on the Rise Nationally, But Not in Tennessee (Memphis Flyer) The number of hate groups in the United States rose by 7 percent in 2018, according to a recently released report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). In its yearly report titled “The Year in Hate: Rage Against Change,” the group said there are now 1,020 active hate groups in the country, up from 954 in 2017. The SPLC defines a hate group as one having “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically their immutable characteristics.” Tennessee is home to 36 of those groups, including neo-Confederate, neo-Nazi, White Nationalist, and Black Nationalist groups, according to the report. LINK

Study ranks Tennessee as angriest, most hateful on list of ‘most sinful’ states (News Sentinel) Is the Volunteer State really the most angry and hateful state in the country? According a recent study ranking 2019’s Most Sinful States in America, that could be the case.   The study, conducted by WalletHub, ranked Tennessee as the angriest and most hateful state and fifth most sinful state overall. It compared all 50 states through their proclivity to commit what are traditionally known as the “seven deadly sins”: Anger and hatred, jealousy, excesses and vices, greed, lust, vanity and laziness. LINK

FLORIDA: Senate leaders align with DeSantis, seek more school vouchers (Orlando Sentinel) Top Senate Republicans on Thursday unveiled details of a plan that would bring significant changes to the education system, most notably through an expansion of school choice. The package would expand private school options for students, bolster security measures in schools, overhaul a program for teacher bonuses and expand community schools. Next week, the package, a priority of Senate leaders, will be filed for consideration during this year’s legislative session, which starts March 5. LINK

KENTUCKY: Lawmakers advance ‘abortion reversal’ proposal (AP) A Kentucky legislative panel has advanced a proposal that would require abortion providers to tell women undergoing drug-induced abortions that the procedure can be reversed. The proposal was added to a bill dealing with requirements for doctors or clinics to report abortions induced by medication. A House committee approved the expanded bill on Thursday. The bill now heads to the House. LINK

KENTUCKY: More state lawmakers place their bets on sports gambling (WREG-TV) Kentucky’s public employee pension system, $39 billion in the red, is among the worst-funded retirement plans in the country and has vexed lawmakers for years as they sought a solution. Now some lawmakers think they’ve found at least a partial fix: sports gambling. Several bills introduced this year would legalize it in the state, a step made possible by a U.S. Supreme Court decision last May that ended Nevada’s monopoly. A portion of the money the state would take in would go toward plugging the gap in the underfunded pension system. LINK

MINNESOTA: Gov. Walz presents state budget proposal (Minnesota Public Radio) After talking about it on the campaign trail last year, DFL Gov. Tim Walz this week pitched a way for Minnesotans to buy into a public health insurance plan.The idea is that farmers and others who buy health insurance on the individual market would get a public option that competes with the coverage available through traditional health plans. Walz calls it the ONECare Minnesota plan — playing off the governor’s “One Minnesota” maxim — and it’s designed to bring certainty to people who faced skyrocketing premiums or insurers unwilling to compete in the individual market. LINK

MISSOURI: Bill on minimum prison sentences heads to Senate (AP) Judges could ignore mandatory minimum sentencing laws for some nonviolent offenders under a bill passed Thursday by Missouri’s Republican-led House, a move that’s part of a broader push to revamp the state’s criminal justice system. The bill, which passed the House 140-17, wouldn’t allow for reduced sentences in cases of violent crimes, sexual crimes against minors or crimes involving guns. But the sponsor, Republican Rep. Cody Smith, told colleagues on the House floor that it could reduce the state’s prison population and would give judges the flexibility to differentiate between “the folks we’re scared of and the folks we’re mad at.” LINK


State Rep. Glen Casada: Integrity and consistency matter with sexual misconduct allegations (Tennessean) America’s justice system has a responsibility to enforce the sacred principle of being innocent until proven guilty. Our justice system also has a duty to carry out due process for those accused of crimes. Unfortunately, the media has irresponsibly taken it upon itself to reinforce the self-inflicted designation of “fake news” while displaying a complete lack of journalistic integrity when needed most. When allegations of sexual misconduct hit the news, a clear difference in tone is struck depending on which political party the accused belongs to. LINK

Guest column: Tennessee Speaker Glen Casada needs to stop defending David Byrd and show him the door (Tennessean) “I can promise you one thing — I am so sorry for that. I’ve lived with that, and you don’t know how hard it has been for me.” Christi Rice recorded state Rep. David Byrd, her high school basketball coach, as he apologized in a phone discussion in 2018. Rice is one of three women who have come forward to say he touched them inappropriately when they played for him at Wayne County High School. Their stories are detailed and disturbing. His apology was unclear only to those who refused to hear it. Former House Speaker Beth Harwell, a member of Byrd’s own Republican Party, heard it loud and clear. Speaker Harwell did the right thing, asking for Byrd’s resignation.  LINK

State Sen. Steve Dickerson: How we can end frivolous lawsuits against Tennesseans’ First Amendment rights (Commercial Appeal) Sometimes, free speech comes at a cost. A significant number of lawsuits are filed in Tennessee every year that are intended to intimidate and silence persons from expressing their views and participating in important matters of the day.  These lawsuits can be very expensive to defend, inhibit free speech and suppress the right to petition government. That is why Rep. Bob Ramsey and I have introduced the Tennessee Public Participation Act (Senate Bill 1097/House Bill 777). LINK

Joe Rogers: State’s Official Waste of Time? Naming official favorites (TN Ledger) The issue before the House subcommittee was whether the annual Robert Spicer Memorial Buck Dance Championship in Dickson County should become the official buck dancing competition of the State of Tennessee. Discussion was brief. “Is buck dancing and clogging the same thing?” Rep. Mark White asked. “I think so,” said the sponsor of the resolution, Rep. Mary Littleton. There being no further questions, a unanimous voice vote then sent the measure one step closer to joining Tennessee’s ever-growing list of official state this, that and the others. If other legislators have their way, the list will also expand to include the bluetick coonhound as the official state dog. LINK

Guest column: Mental Health Court helps defendants, community (Tennessean) Over the past few years, a deeper evaluation and reconsideration of the intersection between mental health challenges and criminal justice has brought about a sea of change in our societal approach to treatment versus incarceration. Too often in the past, society took a “lock them up” approach to those facing severe and persistent mental illness, leaving these extremely vulnerable Tennesseans with no hope for recovery and a future buried in the criminal justice system. LINK

Guest column: Why a balanced approach is needed for all community oversight board (Tennessean) Members of Tennessee’s law enforcement communities are our modern day heroes. They play a critical role in building safe cities and towns, and they are our first line of defense against evil in all forms. While I back our police officers and their families, I also believe we must protect the rights of our citizens to voice their opinions. I strongly support their desire for transparency during all investigations of alleged misconduct involving members of our law enforcement communities. LINK

Clint Cooper: Court, state eye civil forfeiture (Times Free Press) We’d like to believe the Tennessee legislature was a little bit ahead of the United States Supreme Court on the subject of civil forfeiture. Specifically, two Chattanooga area legislators were ahead of the high court. On Wednesday, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution’s ban on excessive fines applies to the states. The ruling was interpreted by many as a chink in the armor of the nationwide abuse often seen in civil forfeiture. LINK

Thursday, February 21

Governor Lee Announces New Members Of Governor’s Council For Judicial Appointments (Chattanoogan) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee on Wednesday announced four new members to the Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments which is responsible for recommending candidates to the governor to fill vacancies for Tennessee’s appellate courts. “The Council for Judicial Appointments reflects some of the brightest legal minds in our state,” said Governor Lee. “The work they do to ensure we have the most qualified candidates is vital to the health of our justice system.” LINK

Gov. Bill Lee raised $2.5M, spent $1.8M for inauguration (AP) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee raised almost $2.5 million and spent nearly $1.8 million for his inauguration. The list of hundreds of donors from the Republican’s inaugural disclosures includes prominent politicians, Lee administration figures, top companies and political action committees. Almost 110 of them gave the top amount allowed, $7,500. Lee finished with more than $441,000 left in his inaugural fund. Lee’s inaugural fundraising haul narrowly topped the $2.4 million raised for former Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s 2011 inauguration, when Haslam spent almost $1.1 million. LINK

 Photo Gallery: Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (Tennessean) LINK

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee says he regrets participating in ‘Old South’ parties at Auburn University (Tennessean) Four decades removed from his time as a student at Auburn University, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee says he now regrets participating in “Old South” parties with his fraternity. Lee, who attended the public university in Alabama from 1977 until his graduation in 1981, was a member of the Kappa Alpha Order, a fraternity that lists Confederate army commander Robert E. Lee as its “spiritual founder.” LINK

‘Gym Tax’ to be repealed in TN (WBBJ-TV) A longstanding tax will be repealed in the upcoming state budget. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s office announced that he plans to repeal the “Gym Tax,” which has been in place since the 1980s. The tax is placed on memberships to gyms, fitness centers, and health clubs. Gold’s Gym owner and manager Steve Roten says that the tax was a burden for Tennesseans. “For the industry as a whole, it’s an elimination of a barrier to entry for people that might otherwise not be able to afford a gym membership,” Roten said. The tax had certain exemptions that allowed many businesses to avoid it. LINK

Burr partner named TDEC deputy (Nashville Post) Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner David Salyers has announced the appointment of Gregory Young as deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Environment. Young was most recently a partner in the Nashville office of Burr & Forman, where he practiced in the real estate and environmental groups. He succeeds Tisha Calabrese Benton, who left to become vice chancellor for communications for the University of Tennessee. LINK

Comcast sues state of Tennessee, claims $17M tax overcharge (AP) Comcast is suing the state of Tennessee to recoup $17.1 million paid in taxes, claiming the state miscalculated what the company owed for its video and internet services. Comcast and its affiliates sued state Revenue Commissioner David Gerregano last week in Davidson County Chancery Court. The lawsuit claims Comcast paid $17.1 million extra in franchise and excise taxes, plus interest, for 2012 through 2015 due to a state audit. Comcast says the state wrongly counted its tax bill because the company performed more earnings-producing activities for internet and video services outside of Tennessee than inside, which would change the tax formula. LINK

Supreme Court strikes blow against states that raise revenue by hefty fines, forfeitures (Tennessean) The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that states cannot impose excessive fees, fines and forfeitures as criminal penalties. The decision, which united the court’s conservatives and liberals, makes clear that the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against “excessive fines” applies to states and localities as well as the federal government.  Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, just back in court this week after lung cancer surgery, wrote the majority opinion and announced it from the bench. LINK

Pain clinic doctor, accused of drug dealing, prescribed addictive pills over internet (Tennessean) A Tennessee doctor and pastor who federal prosecutors say is a prolific drug trafficker once wrote suspicious prescriptions for an addictive muscle relaxer to patients on the other side of the country who he appears to have never examined, according to health officials. Dr. Samson Orusa, who owns and operates a pain clinic in Clarksville, was indicted on charges of drug trafficking and health care fraud last year. Court records state that an undercover federal investigation found Orusa rarely examined patients and prescribed opioids to large groups through what authorities referred to as “cattle calls.” LINK

Babies born drug dependent: Opioid crisis threatens Tennessee’s tiniest (WMC-TV)  It’s part of an epidemic sweeping across the country — pregnant women putting their babies at risk through drug use, both illicit and prescribed. Joelle, like thousands of Tennessee moms, has a secret. At age 25, she says she began experimenting with drugs as a teenager. “Whenever I was in high school I used like normal high school kids do, just for fun basically,” said Joelle. The fun turned into a full-blown opioid addition to a stronger painkiller called Opana. Then in 2015, her addiction came face to face with motherhood. She says she stopped using drugs during her pregnancy and gave birth to a healthy, drug-free baby girl. LINK

Randy Boyd: UT does not support Sex Week (WVLT-TV) A report from the State Comptroller said that Sexual Empowerment and Awareness at Tennessee, the group that organizes UT Sex Week, receives more funding from the Student Programming Allocation Committee than any other campus organization. Interim University President Randy Boyd spoke on behalf of the University regarding the event. “The University of Tennesse does not support or condone Sex Week,” said Boyd. “We believe it has hurt the reputation of the University of Tennessee and distracted from our students and their accomplishments… We expressly do not condone salacious or inappropriate programming,” said Boyd. LINK

Funding changes likely ahead for University of Tennessee Sex Week (WATE-TV) Changes could be coming to how Sex Week at the University of Tennessee is funded after the Tennessee State Comptroller’s Office released a new report on Wednesday during the Senate Education Committee meeting in Nashville. The weeklong educational event has caused controversy statewide since it first started in 2013. The state legislature officially condemned the event in 2014 and made an effort to pull funding. UT responded by moving to an opt-in system for fees that support campus programs. LINK

UT’s Sex Week may go on, but not without serious funding changes in the future (WBIR-TV) UT’s controversial Sex Week will likely continue this year, but the university has committed to making some changes after an in-depth report by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office found officials hadn’t done enough to address serious concerns by lawmakers and others about the event. In April 2018, legislative leadership asked the comptroller to look into the controversial event and determine whether state resources, either directly or indirectly, were used in the production of the event. LINK

Efforts to rein in UT’s Sex Week met by resistance, legal concerns, new report finds (Tennessean) The University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s actions to curb controversy surrounding Sex Week was met at times by reluctance, resistance and concerns of possible legal consequences, a lengthy new report details. Those findings, along with many others, are detailed in a 269-page comptroller report released Wednesday during a state Senate Education Committee hearing. Legislative leaders requested the report in April to determine whether state funds were being used for Sex Week. LINK

No plans in place for ETSU’s sex week events (WJHL-TV) While government leaders weighed in on the University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s controversial sex week, the students at ETSU voiced different opinions about a week devoted to sex education. “I’m paying for that I guess, so I don’t really mind because we are the next generation,” said Max Bennett, an ETSU student. Others were concerned the motives stay focused. LINK

Study ranks Tennessee 5th most sinful state (WVLT-TV) WalletHub released a new report, “2019’s Most Sinful States in America,” and Tennessee is high on the list. The Volunteer State ranks fifth, to be exact. Nevada takes the top spot, while Florida, California, and Texas help round out the top five. The study claims that Vermont, Maine, North Dakota, Nebraska and Idaho are the least sinful states in the U.S. To get the rankings, WalletHub compared the states across seven areas: anger and hatred, jealousy, excesses and vices, greed, lust, vanity and laziness. LINK

State troopers called in to escort I-Team out of lawmaker’s office (WSMV-TV) Seeking to clarify a statement made by state Rep. David Byrd, the News4 I-Team was escorted out of his office by state troopers at his direction and by Speaker of the House Glenn Casada. Three women are accusing Rep. David Byrd of sexual misconduct while they were teenagers on the high school basketball team he coached more than 30 years ago. A state trooper told the I-Team that we were disrupting business in the office as we waited to speak with Byrd, R-Waynesboro, and that both Byrd and Casada, R-Franklin, directed we be moved out of the office but allowed stay in the building. The News4 I-Team came to Byrd’s office after a secretly-recorded video of Casada once again ignited questions about an apology made by Byrd to one of three women who accuse him of sexual misconduct. LINK

What to know about embattled Tennessee lawmaker David Byrd and the allegations against him (Tennessean) For nearly a year a Tennessee state representative has faced pressure to resign over sexual assault allegations against him. Here’s what’s happened so far: Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, is a Tennessee state representative for the 71st District. He is the chair of the House Education Administration Subcommittee, assigned by House Speaker Glen Casada, R-Franklin, in January despite calls for his resignation from Republican leadership last session. LINK

Bill threatening Nashville’s Police Oversight Board passes first hurdle in subcommittee (WKRN-TV) The battle of Democrat-led Nashville vs. Republican state lawmakers is not new. But what started as an ordinary discussion about a bill turned into an argument. Nashville’s Mayor David Briley headed to a House subcommittee to fight the bill that would, among other things, strip subpoena power from oversight boards across the state. “The people of my county have spoken,” said Briley. “The objective of having a statewide standard might well be good, but in the instance of this county a statewide standard is going to undermine the ability to protect the people who live in this city.” LINK

House GOP leader on community oversight board: Nashvillians are ‘living in a fairy-tale land’ (Tennessean) In a heated discussion with Nashville Mayor David Briley during a legislative hearing Wednesday, Tennessee’s House majority leader criticized the people of Davidson County for their decision to support a community oversight board with subpoena power. The 11-member civilian-led police review board, approved by 59 percent of the vote in November, would be disarmed of its authority to subpoena people and evidence under a bill Republicans have filed this session to govern how police oversight boards can operate. House GOP leader and former prosecutor William Lamberth, R-Portland, admitted he had become “emotional” as he told Briley the people of Nashville were “living in a fairy-tale land” and are spending too much effort trying to prosecute police and not supporting them. LINK

Proposal Limiting Police Oversight Clears First House Hurdle (Nashville Scene) Nashville Mayor David Briley made the three-block trek from his office to the state legislature’s offices Wednesday afternoon to plead with a House subcommittee considering a Republican proposal that would limit the authority of Nashville’s new police oversight board. Despite Briley’s testimony, the Criminal Justice Subcommittee voted — with two Democrats opposed — to advance the measure, sponsored in the House by Republican Rep. Michael Curcio of Dickson. LINK

Subcommittee passes bill that would limit authority of police oversight boards (WTVF-TV) A bill that strips Metro Nashville’s community oversight board of the power to subpoena for both police testimony and information from the investigation made it past its first hurdle in the state legislature. HB 0658 passed through the house criminal justice subcommittee, but not without push back from Mayor David Briley. The bill would remove the subpoena power for Nashville’s police oversight board. Also, it removes a provision for several of the board’s members to come from economically distressed areas. LINK

Nashville And Knoxville Leaders Resist Legislature’s Ideas On Police Oversight (WPLN Radio) State lawmakers took an early step Wednesday toward reducing the strength of local police oversight boards. The proposal would strip the subpoena power from the new Community Oversight Board in Nashville, as well as the longstanding board in Knoxville. But leaders from both of those cities spoke forcefully against what the state is considering. Nashville Mayor David Briley told lawmakers that his residents clearly voted last year for a powerful board with diverse members — and that they don’t deserve meddling from distant lawmakers. LINK

As Chattanooga City Council members consider police oversight board, House GOP bill to impose state restrictions clears first hurdle (Times Free Press) While Chattanooga City Council members weigh creating the city’s first independent police oversight board, a bill in the Tennessee Legislature that would place new restrictions on such panels cleared its first House hurdle on Wednesday. The Republican-run Criminal Justice Subcommittee approved by voice vote the measure brought after Metro Nashville voters passed in November a charter amendment that created a police oversight board with subpoena powers and included specific diversity requirements for its members. LINK

‘Cyntoia Brown Bill’ headed for more study by Tennessee lawmakers (WKRN-TV) Some Tennessee lawmakers feel they have a bill to protect young girls like the one Cyntoia Brown once was, but any movement through the legislature will have to wait until at least next year.  Late Wednesday afternoon, the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee voted to move the “Cyntoia Brown Bill” to what’s called “summer study” where more stakeholders, such as district attorneys, would have a chance for additional input and be able to work on the language of the bill. LINK

‘Cyntoia Brown bill’ seeks to protect child sex trafficking victims (WMC-TV) Tennessee state law makers held a press conference Wednesday to propose a new bill in Cyntoia Brown’s honor. Brown will be 31 years old once she is released from prison in August, after serving 16 years behind bars for killing a man. She said she was forced into prostitution and scared for her life when she murdered 43-year-old Johnny Allen while in bed together. Brown was 16 at the time. House Bill 17 provides a defense for children who are victims of sexual assault, sex trafficking, prostitution, or sex-exploitation. LINK

Tennessee lawmakers to hear bill aimed at keeping Daylight Saving Time year-round (WZTV-TV) A Tennessee bill aimed at keeping Daylight Saving Time year-round will be heard by lawmakers on Wednesday. The bill is spearheaded again by Rep. Rick Tillis (R-Lewisburg) and joined by and Rep. Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville). Both lawmakers proposed a similar bill last year that was deferred to a summer study. If passed, it would have the Volunteer State keep Daylight Saving Time year-round. It’s going before the House Departments & Agencies subcommittee at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. Tillis did a Facebook poll for the bill last year and the idea had an 82 percent approval rating from 10,000 voters. LINK

Rep. Van Huss’ Addition of God to the State Constitution Progresses (Nashville Scene) God willing, as the saying goes, HJR 17 — the resolution proposed by Rep. James “Micah” Van Huss (R, Jonesborough) that would designate the Almighty as the source of all edicts (as well as all blessings) — is on a course that could lay it before the people of Tennessee as a fully fledged constitutional amendment. One week after its approval by the House Civil Justice subcommittee, the bill on Wednesday received the imprimatur of the full Judiciary Committee as well, and is now on its way to the House Finance, Ways and Means committee. Should it pass all the gauntlets in the House, including floor passage, the resolution would go next to the Senate, where it would be considered in the next legislative session. LINK

Sell Montana to Canada? State lawmakers aren’t opposed to it. Formally, at least. (Tennessean) Montana lawmakers on Wednesday shot down a resolution formally opposing the sale of the state to Canada, an intended tongue-in-cheek pushback to a now-viral petition. The petition, launched one week ago on, calls for sale of the Treasure State to our neighbors up north for a cool $1 trillion, which would then supposedly help eliminate the national debt. “We have too much debt and Montana is useless,” the petition’s founder, identified as Ian Hammond, wrote. “Just tell them it has beavers or something.”  LINK

Heartbeat abortion ban passes subcommittee, won’t exempt rape victims (Johnson City Press) Responding to a question posed by a Democratic state lawmaker, state Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, told the House Public Health Subcommittee Wednesday that he believes “killing a baby, no matter its age, is evil.” Even if that baby was conceived during a rape, Van Huss later told the subcommittee. “I do not believe that the justice for the sins of the father or mother should be carried out on an innocent child,” Van Huss said. Van Huss’ signature bill to ban all abortions from the point a fetal heartbeat is detected advanced through the subcommittee by a voice vote. Rep. Vincent Dixie, D-Nashville, recorded the only “No” vote of the subcommittee’s seven members. Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, requested to be recorded as “present, not voting.” LINK

‘Heartbeat’ abortion ban advances in Tennessee legislature (Tennessean) A new bill proposed in Tennessee would mean anyone performing an abortion after a heartbeat is detected could be charged with a Class C felony. The measure, proposed by state Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, and state Sen. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, would make it a crime to perform an abortion in Tennessee once a fetal heartbeat can be detected — which typically occurs in the early weeks of a woman’s pregnancy. LINK

Tennessee bill to ban abortions after fetal heartbeat moves forward (WTVF-TV) A bill that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected is being discussed in committee. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Van Huss, says he knows that a heartbeat is typically detectable at about six weeks into the pregnancy. He says any abortion he considers murder. Tennessee law currently prohibits abortion past “viability” unless to “prevent the death of the pregnant woman.” A medical assessment is required at 20th week of pregnancy to determine if an unborn child is viable. LINK

‘Heartbeat bill’ advances in Tenn. House (WJHL-TV) A bill that would prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected is moving forward in the Tennessee House.  House Bill 77, often referred to as the “heartbeat bill”, cleared the Public Health Subcommittee on Wednesday and has been referred to the Health Committee. The Senate version of the bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. LINK

Bill requiring Tennessee voters to register by political party causes division among Republicans (Times Free Press) Legislation requiring Tennessee voters to register by political party moved through a House panel today by voice vote with debate showing divisions among Republican members. Introduced at the request of the Tennessee Republican Party’s State Executive Committee, the legislation would end a long state tradition of having “partially open” Democratic and Republican party primaries. For decades, that has allowed voters, including independents, to cast their ballots in either party primary although legally they’re supposed to “affiliate” with that party and if they haven’t can be challenged and even prosecuted. LINK

Bill to close primaries, require voter registration by party in Tennessee advances (Tennessean) A bill requiring Tennessee voters to declare their party affiliation in order to vote in a primary election made its way through its first committee on Wednesday. The legislation, HB 1273 and SB 1500, would force voters to choose between being registered as a Democrat, Republican, unaffiliated with a statewide party or other in order to cast a primary ballot. If a voter chooses unaffiliated, they would not be able to vote in any primary elections. Although Gov. Bill Lee and former Gov. Bill Haslam, both Republicans, have expressed opposition to the idea, the House Elections and Campaign Finance Subcommittee approved the measure. LINK

Tenn. bill would ban unaffiliated voters from primaries (WVLT-TV) A new bill proposed in Tennessee wants people to declare their party affiliation in order to be able to vote in primary elections. According to HB 1273, “a person who selects ‘unaffiliated’ is not eligible to vote in a primary.” Voters who are unaffiliated would be able to vote in primary elections unless they changed their party affiliation before the end of the registration period. Under the new bill, a political affiliation question would be added to the statewide voter registration form, allowing voters to declare. LINK

Medical marijuana, school vouchers are just some the topics business leaders brought up with state reps (Jackson Sun) Last November all three seats representing the Madison County area were up for election and on Friday all three winners, Sen. Ed Jackson, R-Jackson, Rep. Chris Todd, R-Humboldt, and Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Bolivar, returned to Jackson to address business leaders for the first time since the election. The Jackson Chamber of Commerce hosted the event and allowed the over 80 chamber members in attendance to ask whatever questions they wanted. LINK

Economy to slow this year but rates should remain low, forecaster tells group of Chattanooga business leaders (Times Free Press) In the past couple of decades, the growth rate of the United States has slowed to only about two thirds of its previous long-term growth trend and will likely continue to be curbed by the high levels of government debt and slower population and productivity growth, the chief economist for one of the South’s biggest banks said Wednesday. Gary E. Fullam, chief investment officer for GLOBALT Investments —a subsidiary of Synovus Corp — told a gathering of Chattanooga business leaders he is cautious about the growth of the economy and the stock market this year. LINK

Murder-suicide leaves two dead after domestic situation (WVLT-TV) The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said two people are dead after a possible domestic situation. The sheriff’s office have identified the deceased as a 46-year-old man, Juan Lopez Pineda, and his wife, 39-year-old Lenor Vazquez Silva. According to JCSO, 911 received a call at about 1:30 p.m. about a potential domestic situation at 1893 Oak Grove Road. A deputy arrived on scene about four minutes later. As the deputy approached the home, investigators said a child ran from the house. The sheriff’s office said a male subject, later identified as Pineda, inside the home came to the door and said he had “shot his wife.” LINK

Domestic shooting in Germantown lands one person behind bars (WREG-TV) One person was rushed to the hospital following a domestic disturbance that turned violent in Germantown. According to Captain R. M. Fisher with the Germantown Police Department, the shooting happened outside of 1255 Germantown Road around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. The suspect rushed the victim to St. Francis Hospital in Bartlett and then the victim was transferred to the Regional Medical Center for treatment. The victim was listed as being in critical condition. LINK

Hawkins septic truck owner accused of dumping sewage on former in-laws’ property (Kingsport Times-News) A Hawkins County septic service company owner reportedly signed a statement Monday admitting to dumping raw sewage at the end of a driveway on property belonging to his former in-laws. Around 5:30 p.m. Monday, Jeff Jentes was contacted by a neighbor that someone was dumping raw sewage at the end of his driveway on W.E. Price Lane off Route 66-N north of Rogersville. LINK

CONNECTICUTT: Lamont’s budget; $1 billion in new taxes, $1 billion in tolls (WTNH) Governor Ned Lamont is proposing a $43 billion state budget plan for the next two years to address a projected $3.7 billion in red ink. It’s $1 billion in new taxes and $1 billion in highway tolls. Governor Lamont notes that he wants no increase in the Income Tax rate, and no increase in the Sales Tax but if he gets his way, it will cost you a lot more to live and work here. In his speech to the General Assembly he said, “Our current Sales Tax is designed for a ‘Sears and Roebuck’ economy, driven by over the counter sales. Today, we live in an ‘Amazon’ economy.” LINK

ILLINOIS: Pritzker offers $38.7 billion ‘balanced’ budget in first address; plan includes legalizing marijuana, raising tobacco taxes, more borrowing (The Southern) Gov. J.B. Pritzker made clear Wednesday that he believes solving the state’s long-term financial problems will require a new, graduated income tax structure that imposes higher taxes on upper-income Illinoisans. But that would require a constitutional amendment, a lengthy process which, even if approved, would not make any new money available to the state until the 2021-22 budget year. So for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1, Pritzker outlined a proposed $38.7 billion state budget that would increase spending on education, human services and public safety. But it also relies heavily on new revenues to pay for new expenses, and increased borrowing to pay down a backlog of past-due bills and future pension liabilities. LINK

KENTUCKY: A surprise state budget bill borrows $75M and spends $25M. Here’s who would get it. (Lexington Herald-Leader) The House budget committee approved a surprise request Tuesday by Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration to borrow about $75 million and spend another $25 million in the current two-year state budget to pay for improvements to parks, university projects and economic development programs. The committee also approved a bill to address “unintended consequences” from a tax overhaul lawmakers approved last year. The measure, House Bill 354, would cost the state $7.75 million in its first year, according to budget chairman Steven Rudy, R-Paducah. LINK

MINNESOTA: Walz offers an overly ambitious first try on budget (Star Tribune) But Republicans must negotiate in good faith, offer real alternatives. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, laying out his two-year state budget proposal on Tuesday in St. Paul. The plan would cover the fiscal period running from July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2021. Gov. Tim Walz’s first budget is a document of vision and breadth. It aims high and many of its goals will resonate with Minnesotans who want a state with quality education for all; health care that is high-quality, available and affordable; smooth roads, sturdy bridges and urban transit vital to moving goods and people efficiently; targeted tax relief and innovations such as statewide broadband that will help rural Minnesota prosper. LINK

MISSISSIPPI: No guarantee of state employees’ raises in Mississippi (AP) Mississippi lawmakers are agreeing to an early set of recommendations for a $6.1 billion state budget. More work is coming in the next few weeks. The state House passed bills Tuesday to fund dozens of state programs for the year that begins July 1. The Senate did the same on Wednesday. The two chambers will exchange bills for more work. And, a final round of budget negotiations will happen in late March or early April. During a House debate, Democratic Rep. John Hines of Greenville pushed for pay raises for state employees, but his effort fell flat. LINK


Column: How to Liberate Amazon Workers (Wall Street Journal) A $150,000 salary goes a lot further in Virginia or Tennessee than it would in high-tax New York City. Progressives are touting Amazon’s decision to cancel its plan to build a headquarters in New York as a great victory over “corporate greed,” “worker exploitation” and “the richest man in the world.” This may well turn out to be a victory for workers, exploited or otherwise, but perhaps not in the way progressives intend. As Amazon disburses its 25,000 employees earning an average of $150,000 annually to other locations, let’s take a look at what it could mean for those employees who end up living in regions more capitalist than socialist. Amazon is proceeding with its previously announced expansion plans for a 25,000-employee headquarters in Arlington, Va., and a 5,000-employee operations center in Nashville, Tenn. LINK

Editorial: Stricter standards, less authority for constables (Johnson City Press) Constables in Tennessee must provide their own uniforms, vehicles and fuel and don’t have to undergo the same level of training required of other law enforcement officers. Nor do they earn much of a living. They receive no salary and are compensated only for delivering legal documents and similar endeavors. So why would someone want to be a constable? Perhaps because they covet the power it gives them. Constables are handed the authority of a professional law enforcement officer, a position for which they otherwise might not be qualified. They answer to no one but the voters at the next election. They are not supervised. LINK

Wednesday, February 20

Gov. Bill Lee vows to include repeal of gym tax in budget (Tennessean) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said Tuesday he will propose the repeal of an amusement tax on gym memberships in his upcoming budget. Lee said the move, which he called a tax cut, is an important step at reducing burdens on small businesses and improving the health of Tennesseans. The nearly 10 percent tax has been targeted by owners of gyms, fitness centers and health clubs, who launched the website to tout their efforts. Lee’s announcement was quickly met with praise from small-business owners, whom he addressed in the afternoon. An attendee of a gathering of the National Federation of Independent Business in Nashville told Lee the repeal of the gym tax would lead to more expansion. LINK

Governor Lee to push for gym tax repeal (AP) Gov. Bill Lee says his upcoming budget proposal will include repealing the $10 million amusement tax on gym memberships. Lee announced Tuesday repealing the tax is important to reduce burdens on small businesses throughout Tennessee. Advocates of repealing the tax – which include owners of gyms, fitness centers and health clubs – argue the 10-percent tax places a burden on small business because larger facilities run by national chains are excluded from the amusement tax. Lee says the repeal would encourage healthy habits, but it’s unknown if the repeal will lead to lower gym costs. LINK

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announces plan to repeal amusement tax on gym memberships (Times Free Press) Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday announced his legislative package of bills will include legislation repealing an amusement tax on many gym memberships. “I’m pleased to be able to include a tax cut in my first budget,” said Lee in a statement. “Repealing the gym tax is an important step in reducing the burdens on small businesses in our state.” Lee, who assumed office last month, made the announcement in advance of a speech to the National Federation of Independent Business-Tennessee. For several years, NFIB-Tennessee has advocated for elimination of the tax for several years. LINK

Lee to include repeal of ‘gym tax’ in budget proposal (TN Journal) Republican Gov. Bill Lee says he will repeal the ‘gym tax’ as part of his first annual spending plan. The tax 10% tax on gyms, fitness centers, and health clubs brings in about $10 million in state revenues per year. It remains to be seen how much of that savings will be reflected in the cost of individual gym memberships. But gym owners are bound to be pleased. LINK

Governor proposing repeal of ‘gym tax’ (Daily Memphian) Gov. Bill Lee said Tuesday he wants to eliminate Tennessee’s amusement tax, or “gym tax,” a 10 percent hit on fitness businesses across the state. Lee, who made the announcement during a speech to the Urban League of Middle Tennessee in Nashville, said he will  issue a statement later Tuesday on repealing the tax in his fiscal 2019-20 budget. “It’s a tax cut. I am fundamentally a believer that if we provide tax cuts to business, we actually will stimulate those businesses’ opportunities to create jobs,” Lee said. LINK

Gov. Lee plans to end the gym tax in Tennessee (WDEF-TV) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee wants to repeal the amusement tax on gym memberships. It will be part of his first budget for the state. “I’m pleased to be able to include a tax cut in my first budget,” said Lee. “Repealing the gym tax is an important step in reducing the burdens on small businesses in our state.” The tax dates back to the mid-1980s. It is almost a 10% tax on memberships to gyms, fitness centers and health clubs. The governor is targeting the tax because it picks on small business owners and Tennessee’s overall health. LINK

Gov. Lee not changing mind about TennCare expansion as he meets African-American leaders (WKRN-TV)  Governor Bill Lee has reached out to several African-American leaders both on and off Capitol Hill in the last week, but he’s not budging on one of the key things they support–expansion of Tennessee’s Medicaid program TennCare. During the past week, Lee has met with the Legislative Black Caucus, NAACP members, and Tuesday, the Urban League of Middle Tennessee. After meeting and greeting leaders and guests at the Urban League luncheon, Lee was introduced as the first governor to attend such an event for the group that focuses on social and economic development. LINK

Penny Schwinn: State will ensure process to find a new TNReady vendor is not rushed (Tennessean) Tennessee is behind schedule in issuing its bid to find a new company to run the state’s troubled TNReady test next school year. But the state’s new education chief said she is not trying to rush the process and wants to take the time needed to find the right company. In a USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee interview, Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn answered questions on a range of issues, including TNReady and recent data that shows public schools in some communities are sending students to college more unprepared than others. Schwinn, who came to Tennessee from Texas, said the state ideally would have had a new TNReady vendor several months ago. LINK

Another $80M needed for Memphis Regional Megasite, bringing total to more than $250M (Commercial Appeal) After earmarking more than $174 million for the Memphis Regional Megasite, Tennessee lawmakers will need to set aside an additional $80 million before it’s complete.After earmarking more than $174 million for the Memphis Regional Megasite, Tennessee lawmakers will need to set aside an additional $80 million before it’s complete. And that doesn’t include any money for incentives to the first tenant. On Tuesday, Allen Borden, deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, told members of the Senate Commerce Committee about the future request during a presentation about the status of the 4,100-acre site. LINK

Commish questions state’s lack of strategy for Memphis (Memphis Business Journal) Last week, Tennessee Economic and Community Development (TNECD) commissioner Bob Rolfe looked around a room of Memphis-area businesspeople and told them, “You guys have it tough here.” Rolfe was referring to Memphis’ geography, to the fact that the metropolitan area sits at the nexus of three states — Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi — and the economic development challenges that come with that. He noted the state’s lack of a retention strategy for businesses already in the area and how companies are lured across the border to Mississippi and Arkansas with incentives but still rely on Memphis infrastructure. LINK

‘Results take time’: UTC ranking remains steady among lower half of state educator preparation programs (Times Free Press) Training programs across the state are steadily improving how they prepare would-be teachers for the classroom, despite a decline in overall enrollment, according to a new report card. They’re also doing a better job of placing teachers in high-demand, hard-to-staff areas such as secondary math and science, special education and English as a second language classes. LINK

State grants $24 million in loans for clean-water projects in Chattanooga (Times Free Press) TDEC announces $66.8 million in drinking water and wastewater loans for 5 Tennessee communities. Chattanooga has been granted two loans from the state totaling $24 million for clean-water projects under the city’s consent decree. Some of that money will go toward improvements in the Dobbs Branch Basin, which runs roughly west from the foot of Missionary Ridge. It passes near Oak Grove, East Lake and Park City before joining Chattanooga Creek on the south side of Interstate 24. LINK

Chattanooga, Cleveland to get millions in clean water, wastewater loans from TDEC (WTVC-TV) Chattanooga and Cleveland are among five cities in Tennessee that will receive money from the Tennessee Department and Environment and Conservation (TDEC) for low-interest loans to promote clean water and drinking water infrastructure improvements. Tennessee’s Revolving Fund Loan Program maintains priority ranking lists for both the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. LINK

What you need to know to get the state to pay for damage to your car caused by a pothole (WSMV-TV) Potholes on local routes need to be reported to your local public works department. News4 also found most of the time drivers are stuck paying it, even when it’s not their fault. What do drivers have to do to get the state to pay damage done to your car after hitting a pothole? “Potholes are everywhere,” said Victor Kinley. Kinley paid around $1,300 for damages to his wife’s car after she hit three of them on her way to work. When he filed a claim with the state, he was denied. “It’s been over a year now and we still haven’t received anything,” said Kinley. LINK

How nigh is the end? House leadership plots course (TN Journal) For the Tennessee General Assembly to get around to completing its business for the year, committees need to start closing. And for that to happen, the subcommittees need to wrap up. Here’s a schedule for when House leadership expects those panels to call it quits this year: March 25: Agriculture, Transportation, Consumer & Human Resources. April 1: Commerce, Insurance, Local. April 8: Education, State, Health. April 15: Judiciary. Also the full committees of Government Operations and Naming & Designating. If all that happens to plan, the chamber will be on course for adjourning the first week of May. Or so we hope. LINK

Speaker Casada stands by Rep. Byrd in secret video: ‘If I was raped I would move’ (WTVF-TV) A video of Speaker Glen Casada talking about allegations surrounding Rep. David Byrd has gained attention online. In the video, Casada says in part “…If I was raped, I would move” out of town. Justin Kanew, who ran to fill Marsha Blackburn’s seat as Representative, secretly recorded the heated conversation between him and Casada. The video was posted by to a Youtube account called “The Tennessee Holler,” which publishes content on progressive issues. LINK

‘If I was raped, I would move’: Speaker Glen Casada doubles down on support of Rep. David Byrd (Tennessean) House Speaker Glen Casada says he will continue to defend a Republican lawmaker accused of sexual assault against multiple former students, recently questioning the credibility of the women who came forward and implying that victims of rape should move. In a video published by The Tennessee Holler, a newly created liberal media website, former Democratic candidate for Congress Justin Kanew questioned Casada about his support of Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro. LINK

Grand Divisions Episode 40: Republicans, Democrats joining forces to restore voting rights (Tennessean) Restoring the voting rights of Tennesseans who have successfully completed their sentence after being convicted of a felony could take center stage at the legislature this year. New bills from Republicans and Democrats seek to make it easier for those convicted of a felony to register to vote. Last week, Matthew Charles, who drew national attention for being forced to return to prison after a court reversed a previous unfair sentence ruling, was among those stumping for the proposal. LINK

Matthew Charles, Republicans and Others Team up on Justice Reform (Nashville Scene) They’re often at each other’s throats — but not on this. Representatives from the ACLU as well as the libertarian advocacy group Americans for Prosperity shared a stage Feb. 13 as they discussed new legislation that would make it easier for freed felons to register to vote in Tennessee. Even the two sponsors of the bill — state Rep. Michael Curcio of Dickson and Sen. Steven Dickerson of Nashville, both Republicans — don’t always see eye to eye: Curcio is the sponsor of a bill that would restrict Nashville’s new community oversight board (created to monitor policing), a push Dickerson has promised to fight. LINK

Bill introduced in TN Senate targets repeat DUI offenders (WATE-TV) Dineen Cottrell remembers the day that changed her life and her body forever. “He killed my husband,” Cottrell said. “He almost killed me. He hit us and threw us both like 64 feet.” On October 15, 2016, a driver high on drugs hit her and her husband, Bobby Pyles, while they were walking down the street. The crash killed her husband and put her in a coma for six weeks. Cottrell still has trouble walking and has a traumatic brain injury. LINK

Democrats, immigrant rights group push bills to protect Tennessee cities against sanctuary city ban (Tennessean) Democrats and an immigrant and refugee rights organization are pushing new proposals that they say will protect local governments over a state law that prohibits sanctuary cities in Tennessee. The political arm of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition recently announced its support for two bills aimed at the law enacted last year. That measure, which prohibits sanctuary cities and requires local law enforcement officials to comply with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to hold immigrants for deportation, became law last year without former Gov. Bill Haslam’s signature. LINK

Could lockable pill vials help curb opioid epidemic? Sen. Richard Briggs said he’s sold on possibility (News Sentinel) On Feb. 4, Sen. Richard Briggs filed a bill that could change the way you pick up a prescription in Tennessee — if that prescription is for a controlled substance. Senate Bill 475 offers the chance — but doesn’t mandate — that Schedule II opioids, Schedule II stimulants and Schedule IV benzodiazepines be dispensed in a prescription bottle outfitted with a combination lock. Theoretically, one would need the combination to access the pills. LINK

New Tennessee bill would penalize gun owners for leaving unlocked weapons inside vehicles, boats (WHBQ-TV) Memphis lawmakers and police are pushing for legislation that aims to cut down on the number of guns stolen out of cars. Four Memphis-area lawmakers introduced a bill that would charge gun owners with a misdemeanor if they are caught leaving the weapon or ammunition unlocked in their car or boat. Police Director Mike Rallings said action is needed because guns stolen out of vehicles are helping to fuel crime in Memphis. LINK

Tennessee bill would prosecute women who use drugs while pregnant (WJHL-TV) A bill that would prosecute mothers of babies dependent on drugs is making its way through the Tennessee Senate.  According to SB0659, women who use narcotics while pregnant could face prosecution if the baby is born addicted. For mothers like Angie Odom, she said this bill would give her daughter a voice. Her adoptive daughter, Bella, was born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) in 2012. LINK

Democrats back bill banning shackling pregnant inmates (AP) Democratic lawmakers in Tennessee say the General Assembly should ban shackling pregnant women in detention, particularly during childbirth. Sen. Raumesh Akbari, a Democrat from Memphis, said Tuesday she has a bill that would not only prohibit the state’s inconsistent use of shackling, but also provide prenatal and postpartum medical care. The bill would also ban solitary confinement for pregnant women before and after giving birth. LINK

Memphis lawmakers demand end to shackling pregnant women (Daily Memphian) Calling the shackling of pregnant women “inhumane,” Memphis legislators are urging passage of a bill prohibiting pregnant inmates from being chained while held in prison or jail. “We as Tennesseans cannot say that we care about others if we’re not willing to grant the most basic human right, which is to give birth and not be in shackles and chained to a bed while doing it,” said Senate Minority Chairman Raumesh Akbari during a Tuesday press conference. Akbari, a Memphis Democrat sponsoring Senate Bill 1150, contended authorities should be trying to ensure the safety of the woman and the child during the “beautiful yet complicated” process of childbirth. LINK

Gardenhire bill to end ‘brownfield’ tax incentive program for redevelopment projects in Chattanooga, other Tennessee cities (Times Free Press) A bill introduced by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, that would end a “brownfield” tax incentive program for new economic development projects in Hamilton County and Tennessee’s three other largest counties is triggering alarms among local officials. Gardenhire said Tuesday he brought the bill because Chattanooga has yet to take advantage of the 2011 law that is aimed at spurring development at previously developed sites that may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of hazardous substances or contaminants. LINK

Parkinson code of conduct bill ekes through House subcommittee (Daily Memphian) State Rep. Antonio Parkinson narrowly escaped defeat Tuesday in a House subcommittee, earning a 4-3 vote in favor of legislation requiring school systems to create visitor codes of conduct. The bill, which will make school boards set campus rules governing the way parents and visitors dress and act, will move to the full House Education Committee for consideration before it goes to the House floor. LINK

Tennessee General Assembly asked to support Israel in State Sen. Mark Pody’s resolution (Tennessean) A Wilson County lawmaker has sponsored a resolution that affirms Tennessee is a state that supports Israel. State Senator Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, wants the Tennessee General Assembly to show “that standing with Israel is very important to us,” he said. Pody cited biblical, economic and political reasons for wanting to move forward with the resolution that has passed the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee and will next go to the Senate floor. LINK

Lawmakers look to curtail, ditch CON system (Nashville Post) East Tennessee Republicans have filed two pieces of legislation taking aim at certificate-of-need requirements for health care facilities — one limiting their requirements, the other eliminating them altogether. On Feb. 11, Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville and freshman state Rep. Mark Hall of Cleveland introduced a bill that would change the requirements for hospital CON requests. Their measure, SB1390, removes the requirement to file a CON in order to build a satellite emergency department facility or offer cardiac catheterization services. The bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. LINK

Drone bill advances in Tennessee legislature (Kingsport Times-News) Legislation that would increase the penalty for flying a drone over a “critical infrastructure facility” without the business operator’s consent from a misdemeanor to a felony advanced in the Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. The bill appears to have been written for Kingsport-based Eastman and other Tennessee companies concerned about unmanned aircraft hovering over their facilities. The bill is sponsored in the Senate by Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, and in the House by Bud Hulsey, R-Kingsport. LINK

Tennessee lawmaker proposes change to state constitution to allow casinos (WCYB-TV) A Memphis lawmaker is proposing an amendment to the Tennessee constitution to allow casinos in the state. This comes as the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians confirms they are interested in buying a large parcel of land in Sevier County for “future economic development.” The land is located off I-40 next to Smokies Stadium. Sevierville officials say the Cherokee aren’t banking on a casino, but believe its a sound economic opportunity for the tribe, according to a report from NBC affiliate WBIR. LINK

Sgt. Daniel Baker Act: Plan to fast track death penalty cases up for review (WTVF-TV) The Senate Judiciary Committee will review a plan that would fast track death penalty cases. Legislation named for fallen Dickson County Sheriff’s Sgt. Daniel Baker would provide automatic state Supreme Court death penalty reviews, skipping Tennessee’s Court of Criminal Appeals. Baker was a Dickson County Sheriff’s Deputy when he was killed in the line of duty in 2018. LINK

Hamilton County Black caucus meeting Thursday seeking signatures to form new political party (Times Free Press) The Hamilton County Black Caucus is organizing to seek enough signatures to form a third political party here, a news release states. “We’re going to create a force in this city that is going to represent those who are voiceless,” said local Nation of Islam leader Kevin Muhammad, who co-founded the caucus with Westside Baptist Church Pastor Timothy Careathers. The group, which will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday at Eastdale Village Community Church, needs 3,363 signatures to form a minor political party that would be recognized only in Hamilton County. The Black Caucus calls it the Justice Party. LINK

Sen. Marsha Blackburn reacts to President Trump’s national emergency declaration (WKRN-TV) While one Tennessee Senator has come out against President Donald Trump’s National Emergency declaration, a second gave us a less-than-certain answer Tuesday. The President is using the declaration to get money for his border wall because Congress would not approve it. Senator Lamar Alexander called the decision “unnecessary” and “unwise.” Meanwhile, Senator Marsha Blackburn did not say “yes” or “no” when News 2 asked Tuesday whether she fully supports it. LINK

Burchett: Just study salmon at Red Lobster (WVLT-TV) In a viral video Tweeted by Congressman Tim Burchett after he voted “no” on the government spending bill on Feb. 14, he mentioned his disdain for the approval of $65 million for “studying salmon.” “Man, you can go to the Red Lobster and study it for $12.95,” said Burchett. His statement inspired a flurry of jokes and memes but left some people wondering exactly what he meant. It seems Burchett may be referring to the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery project. The portion of the spending bill allocates a $65 million grant for “projects necessary for the conservation of salmon and steelhead populations that are listed as endangered.” LINK

Local tradesmen feel left behind by new tax law, push Congress to restore travel deduction (WCYB-TV) A 2017 Republican tax law is now in affect, changing many of the deductions we’ve come to expect in previous years. Employees who travel for work can no longer deduct miles and expenses, impacting many of the tradesmen in our region who have to travel long distances to get to work. “If I had been able to claim all of my deductions this year, I would have probably got back around $2,000,” said Danny Woodby, a pipefitter from Jonesborough. “Instead I’m having to pay in about $1300.” LINK

GEORGIA: GA Legislator proposes bill that forces insurers to lower costs of pain management alternatives (WDEF-TV) Thousands died after overdosing on opioids this last year, bringing health officials to call it the leading cause of death in Tennessee for 20-18. If it costs $10 to go see your primary care doctor, the specialists costs would be lowered as well. They hope that before being prescribed opioids, which can lead to dependence and addiction, you can afford alternative pain management methods. The difference would be that now specialists like chiropractors, physical therapist or occupational therapists would cost the same as a primary care physician essentially removing a financial barrier to chiropractic care. LINK

OKLAHOMA: Senate Committee Approves Several Criminal Justice Reform Bills, But Changes Likely (Public Radio Tulsa) While several criminal justice reform bills passed their first votes in the legislature on Tuesday, lawmakers are still quick to pump the brakes. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved measures to restructure bail, allow resentencing in past felony drug possession cases, and overhaul practices around fines and court fees, but each one had its title stricken. Bills with that status can’t become laws. “There’s a lot of substance in these bills, maybe moving at a very accelerated pace, and I think we all need to get our brains around them to make sure that we do the very best in terms of public policy,” said Sen. Julie Daniels, chair of the judiciary committee. LINK


Column: Why Service Is Lousy in High-Tax States (Wall Street Journal) … In most polls, infrastructure—roads, bridges and airports—ranks high among the basics that citizens and businesses expect government to provide. This should be an area in which rich, high-tax states vastly outperform their peers, but the opposite is true. In CNBC’s annual ranking of the best and worst states for business, seven high-tax states were among those ranked lowest in infrastructure quality—Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. Even more startling, Texas ranked as having the best infrastructure. Also scoring high were Tennessee, which has the third-lowest tax burden as a share of state personal income, and Florida, ranked fourth-lowest in taxes. There seems an almost inverse relationship between the resources that state governments take in and quality of infrastructure. LINK

Guest column: University of Tennessee’s research efforts advance science, improve Tennesseans’ lives (Tennessean) At the UT Space Institute in Tullahoma, aerospace engineer John Schmisseur is developing materials that may one day help the Air Force travel at speeds five times faster than sound. In Antarctica, microbiologist Jill Mikucki is studying microorganisms to help NASA better understand the potential for life on Mars. And in East Tennessee, math education professor Lynn Hodge is advancing STEM education in Appalachia to nurture curiosity and help teachers shape our next generation of leaders. LINK

Margaret Dolan: Launch Tennessee committed to empower entrepreneurs (Commercial Appeal) A new micro-loan program funding emerging businesses in Chattanooga. Large companies collaborating with startups in Knoxville. And a third new innovation bus in Jackson serving rural and urban counties across the state. These are just some of the exciting ways Launch Tennessee and our partners are empowering entrepreneurs to build companies and create jobs. As a statewide organization, Launch Tennessee is committed to ensuring the resources we provide and the partnerships we amplify drive success for entrepreneurs everywhere, from Memphis to the Tri-Cities and all points in between. LINK

State Rep. Bob Freeman: Tennessee lawmakers should keep hands off Nashville Community Oversight Board (Tennessean) On Nov. 6, Davidson County voters cast their ballots in overwhelming support for the creation of a Community Oversight Board. Those same voters elected me, and members of the local delegation, to represent their will in the 111th General Assembly. Our community had a very robust debate, and there are still scars that need healing on both sides. Ultimately, our neighbors were comfortable with the local authority granted by the amendment, and that is the will of the people. LINK

Guest column: Incarcerated pregnant women are shackled in Tennessee. That needs to stop. (Commercial Appeal) All pregnant people deserve the freedom to make their own health care decisions, regardless of age, race, income, and immigration or incarcerated status. At Healthy and Free Tennessee, we know that supporting “family values” means supporting policies that ensure all people have access to the full range of reproductive care – including abortion, birth control, and prenatal and postpartum care – with the dignity and respect we all deserve. When it comes to reproductive care for incarcerated people, Tennessee is behind the curve. LINK

U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn: Green New Deal is a raw deal for Tennessee (Tennessean) To hear politicians like New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey tell it, the “Green New Deal” recently introduced in Congress will create jobs, raise wages and improve the standard of living for all Americans. In the immortal words of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, that’s just a bunch of “bovine scatology.” In truth, the Green New Deal is a raw deal for Tennessee: It will decimate our state’s most productive industries and destroy the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Tennesseans who work in those industries. LINK

Tuesday, February 19

Longtime MIA to be Laid to Rest in West Tennessee (Weakley County Press) Governor Bill Lee has declared March 2 a day of mourning for Lieutenant Richard C. “Tito” Lannom, Missing in Action since March 1, 1968. As state flags fly at half-staff across Tennessee, family and friends who waited 51 years and a day will finally lay to rest the hometown high school athlete, University of Tennessee at Martin graduate, Naval commander, friend, uncle, cousin and husband who they now know was Killed in Action in Vietnam when he was only 27-years-old. LINK

As Amazon backs away from NY, Tennessee leaders signal appetite for bigger Nashville hub (Tennessean) Amazon officials were unequivocal: Amazon is not seeking to go beyond its initial commitment to Nashville of 5,000 high-paying jobs after pulling out of headquarter plans in New York. State and city officials backed up the company’s statement, saying those conversations had not happened — at least, not yet. But, if the company were to broach the topic, Tennessee and Nashville business leaders said they would be receptive. “We would be very interested in that opportunity, should it present itself,” Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe said Thursday. LINK

Video: TN Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn talks about her goals (Tennessean) LINK

Workload immense in public defender system (Cleveland Daily Banner) Bradley County Public Defender Richard Hughes told members of the Bradley Sunrise Rotary club he had many advantages when he was growing up. “I represent people who didn’t have what I have,” Hughes said … Hughes said the state public defender system was created 30 years ago when state officials realized Tennessee needed a comprehensive defense system for the indigent … Tennessee new governor, Bill Lee, may help change how the state deals with noncriminal offenders. During his inaugural address, Lee said efforts must be made to help nonviolent offender reenter society after leaving prison. “Half of them commit crimes again and return to prison within the first three years,” Lee said. “We need to help nonviolent criminals re-enter society, and not re-enter prison.” LINK

Georgia lawmakers want Tennessee to give up a portion of border, Tennessee River (WZTV Fox 17) Georgia lawmakers are again seeking to claim land in Tennessee they believe belongs to their state. House Resolution 51 was passed in the Georgia Legislature last Thursday by a vote of 163-4. The resolution cites a flawed survey of Georgia’s northern border with Tennessee and North Carolina in it’s call to reclaim land which includes the Tennessee River’s southern-most bank and a portion of Chattanooga. At its core, the resolution states a survey performed in 1818 was a bit over a mile south of where it should have been and the state line really includes a portion of the Tennessee River. LINK

UT surgeon wants doctors to prescribe fewer opioids after procedures (WBIR-TV) For many it’s the first stop on the road to addiction: an opioid prescription after surgery. The pills may work, but they bring with them a long list of complications and the risk of addiction. In fact, University of Tennessee Medical Center surgeon Dr. Gregory J. Mancini says patients who take a 30-day opioid prescription have a 20 percent chance of continuing to use the drug after the month is over. That’s why Mancini says he’s trying to cut down on the amount of opioids he prescribes to the 600 or so patients he performs surgeries on each year. LINK

Electric cars could change everything for drivers, UT experts say (News Sentinel) You may never own an electric car, but in a few years you may ride in one every day. Many drivers are still dubious about today’s electric cars’ range and performance, while up-front prices remain higher than the average gas-powered vehicle. But those things are changing. In fact, Bill Fox, director of the Boyd Center for Economic Research at the University of Tennessee, believes that not only improvements in electric car technology but related development of autonomous vehicles and connectivity will change almost everything about transportation. LINK

Domestic violence leaves Tennessee mom, others, in financial ruin (WZTV-TV) When someone is a victim of domestic violence, they are often isolated by their abuser. The total-control-seeking abuser can extirpate their victim from financial and social resources that they would need if they ever tried to leave. The financial losses from domestic violence total nearly $6 billion each year in the United States, according to the Office for Victims of Crime. Brittany Carver married her husband, Sheldon Carver, in August 2018. By February, Sheldon had been arrested for aggravated assault, and Brittany says she is now facing imminent financial pain because she had quit her job at her husband’s urging. LINK

Study suggests most Tennesseans and Americans couldn’t pass a U.S. citizenship test (WBIR-TV) Ever feel like you’ve taken American history for granted? Chances are you might be right. A study by the non-profit educational leadership organization known as The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation celebrated President’s Day the best way it knew how: by presenting a study that suggests our understanding of basic American history and government is generally spotty, particularly with younger generations. The results were pretty grim. Every state except for Vermont saw a majority of people fail the test, and only 27 percent of those under age 45 were able to pass. LINK

Tennessee AG: Transgender people covered by hate crime law (Johnson City Press) Based on an opinion issued by Attorney General Herbert Slatery earlier this month, Tennessee became the only state in the South with a hate crime law protecting transgender people. Released Feb. 8, the opinion clarified a state statute that gives courts the ability to enhance a punishment, or sentence, against someone who was motivated to commit a crime against someone else because of gender bias. “For purposes of the hate-crime enhancement, a crime committed against a person because that person manifests a gender that is different than his or her biological gender at birth — i.e. a crime committed against a person because he or she is transgender — is thus necessarily committed because of, at least in part, the person’s gender,” Slatery’s opinion stated. LINK

Tennessee bill would require school districts to provide free feminine hygiene items (Tennessean) Some Tennessee school districts would be required to provide free feminine hygiene products for students under a new bill filed in the state legislature. Sen. Sara Kyle, D-Memphis, said she drafted the bill, SB 1046, after learning girls in her district were missing school during their periods because they didn’t have access to feminine care items. Rep. G. A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, has sponsored the House version of the legislation. “There are so many that have a family budget that cannot afford these products,” Kyle said. LINK

TN schools could supply free feminine hygiene products to students under new bill (WMC-TV) A new bill could require some school districts to provide free feminine hygiene products for students.The bill is sponsored by state Senator Sara Kyle (D) from Memphis. Sen. Kyle introduced the bill after learning girls in Memphis missed school because they didn’t have access to feminine care items. Many districts across the state, including SCS, provide feminine care products to students, but the products are often donated. It is unclear how the products will be funded. LINK

Free feminine products in schools? Tenn. lawmaker says yes (WVLT-TV) A new Tennessee bill could required some schools to provide free feminine hygiene products to students. Bill SB1046 was first introduced by Memphis Senator Sara Kyle on Feb. 7 and passed for consideration on Feb. 11. Kyle first introduced the bill after learning that Memphis girls were missing schools because they didn’t have access to feminine care products. It is unclear how the products will be funded at this time. LINK

NTC prepares for day on the Hill (Nashville Post) Group tracking bills focused on computer science, learning program grants. The Greater Nashville Technology Council will head to Capitol Hill Tuesday to speak with lawmakers on pending legislation and providing insight from the Nashville tech community. The NTC team tracks legislation that could potentially affect the tech community and is especially focused on legislation that involves workforce development and education, intertwined factors identified as crucial to helping sustain the region’s growing IT community. LINK

Bills aim to split Williamson’s judiciary from three rural counties (Nashville Post) The last time that a serious shake-up in the organization of Tennessee judicial districts was considered was 2013 via a proposal by Ron Ramsey, then the state Senate speaker and Lieutenant Governor and incontestably the most powerful politician on Capitol Hill. Ramsey’s attempt then came to naught. But two state legislators, state Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield) and state Representative Michael Curcio (R-Dickson) are taking up the cause again, with Williamson County standing to benefit from their efforts by becoming a single-county judicial district. LINK

Bill introduced in TN Senate targets repeat DUI offenders (WKRN-TV) Dineen Cottrell remembers the day that changed her life and her body forever. “He killed my husband,” Cottrell said. “He almost killed me. He hit us and threw us both like 64 feet.” On October 15, 2016, a driver high on drugs hit her and her husband, Bobby Pyles, while they were walking down the street. The crash killed her husband and put her in a coma for six weeks. Cottrell still has trouble walking and has a traumatic brain injury. “I had a lot, a lot of bruising all over,” she said. The driver, Christopher Solomon, had several DUI charges before the crash. It’s a dangerous pattern Senator Todd Gardenhire is trying to stop with his new bill, SB 683. LINK

The Tri-Star State: Tennessee Democrats Hopeful Gov. Lee Will Support Some Medicaid Expansion (WPLN Radio) Contrary to Democrats, Republicans in the Tennessee General Assembly have resisted for years the idea of expanding the state’s Medicaid program, also known as TennCare. They repeatedly blocked Gov. Bill Haslam’s efforts to expand coverage. But Democrats in the state legislature say one of their main aims this year is to move forward with expansion of the program. And they say there’s a chance Gov. Bill Lee could be convinced.  The following are excerpts from recent interviews: LINK

Tennessee Joins The Ranks Of States Considering Post-Roe Abortion Ban (WPLN Radio) A new bill filed in the Tennessee General Assembly would trigger a ban on abortions — but only if the country’s highest court overturns Roe v. Wade. The proposal by Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, and Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, is one of many such measures making their way through state legislatures. The measure, Senate Bill 1257/House Bill 1029, is at least the sixth bill nationwide that would ban abortion contingent on a change in constitutional law. It also comes as some other states, including New York, Vermont and Virginia have debated rolling back restrictions on abortions that are currently on the books. LINK

Lawmakers aware of fraud in states with vouchers, education savings accounts (Daily Memphian) Tennessee lawmakers say that if broader school choice options are offered, the Legislature would need to enact restrictions to avoid the kind of education savings account fraud seen in states where public-dollar vouchers are given to parents for homeschooling and private school enrollment. Reports from across the nation show situations in which private-school officials and parents spent voucher money for items unrelated to education. Cards were used at beauty supply stores, sporting good shops and for computer tech support, in addition to trying to withdraw cash, which was not allowed. LINK

Some Tennessee legislators attempting to make even more official records off limits to the public (Times Free Press) As Tennessee lawmakers, news organizations and open government advocates try to reduce the types of government records exempted from Tennessee’s public disclosure laws, some legislators hope to make even more official records off limits to the public. Proponents argue their legislation is intended to protect personal privacy, but open government advocates warn limiting the public’s right to know impacts their ability to understand what is happening in their communities and hold government accountable. LINK

Public records harassment bill likely to be amended to back online transparency (Daily Memphian) Legislation allowing public records custodians to take court action against abusive requesters is likely to be amended to encourage state and local governments to put more records online. House Majority Leader William Lamberth said Monday he will change his bill over the next few weeks to address what he considers an “archaic” public records system and use technology to make information readily available. LINK

Will Tennessee take that bet? (Kingsport Times-News) Is Tennessee ready to wager on sports betting? We’re about to find out. Legislation has been filed to authorize sports betting only in jurisdictions that approve it by a local option election. The bill has a lot of moving parts. It imposes a 10 percent tax on gaming revenue; distributes 40 percent of that revenue to the state’s general fund; gives money to community colleges for capital projects and local government for education projects; and establishes a Tennessee Gaming Commission to regulate sports betting. LINK

Suspended license payments bill spurs Miller’s legislation (Daily Memphian) Legislation enabling people to schedule payments for fines and fees on suspended licenses pushed Rep. Larry Miller of Memphis to move forward with a bill of his own. Miller, a Democrat, recently explained to a House subcommittee his reasoning for pursuing the legislation in the wake of a federal court decision ordering the state to halt all suspensions of driver’s license for nonpayment of traffic debt. Miller’s legislation is on hold because of a potential $600,000 impact on the state budget. LINK

New bill would put cameras outside TN school buses to catch stop sign violators (WKRN-TV) A Tennessee lawmaker is hoping a new law will catch school bus violators in action. State representative Jason Hodges, of Clarksville, has sponsored a bill that would put cameras on the outside of buses to record drivers who pass buses when stop signs are deployed. That video would go to law enforcement. Each school district would determine the number of cameras for each bus. The bill has been assigned to the Safety & Funding Subcommittee.  LINK

Tennessee lawmakers eye their own certificate-of-need changes (Times Free Press) Search the term “certificate of need” on the Tennessee General Assembly website, and 15 various House and Senate bills pop up. Although still in their infancy, these bills are a clue that legislators will try to alter health care regulation in the state, whether its minor tweaks or sweeping changes similar to Georgia’s House Bill 198. State Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said the average person has “no clue” about the certificate of need process. LINK

Bill would protect hemp farmers from law enforcement seizure (WTVF-TV) To protect Tennessee hemp farmers from seizure of their crop, a state legislature has introduced a bill that would make law enforcement test cannabis on the spot. Industrial hemp and cannabis with high levels of THC often times look and smell similar. Because of this, state representative Jay Reedy worries that hemp farmers could have their crop confiscated by law enforcement across the state. “With the smell of this plant, you don’t know if it’s cannabis or it’s hemp,” said Reedy. “How do we test, how do we make a paper trail to educate ourselves about that.” LINK

Casino in Sevierville? Not without a change to Tennessee law (WBIR-TV) The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians (EBCI) is in talks to buy a parcel of land in Sevier County for “future economic development.” Officials with the City of Sevierville say the property is just off I-40 at exit 407. The Cherokee could use the land to build a casino, if Tennessee law were changed to allow that, but for now city officials say Cherokee leaders told them they believe it is a good spot for future commerce and are not banking on being able to build a casino, according to a report from NBC affiliate WBIR. LINK

Elder financial abuse leads recent legislation (Cleveland Daily Banner) Diverse legislation running the gamut from healthcare to elder financial abuse to a future workforce initiative by Gov. Bill Lee highlighted the weekly “Wrap” report filed by state Reps. Dan Howell and Mark Hall. Originated through the House Republican Caucus, the legislative report is distributed locally by Howell (R-Georgetown) who represents the 22nd Legislative District, and Hall (R-Cleveland), representing the 24th Legislative District. LINK

Pody discusses legislative priorities (Lebanon Democrat) State Sen. Mark Pody recently discussed several bills introduced in the legislature and covered everything from marriage rights, abortion, education and women’s health. Pody, R-Lebanon, is currently in his first full term as District 17 state senator after he defeated Democrat Mary Alice Carfi in the November election. He previously defeated Carfi in a special election in December 2017 after former Sen. Mae Beavers resigned to run for governor and eventually Wilson County mayor. Pody said he hasn’t seen specific legislation on school vouchers filed during the current session, but he said he supported voucher legislation in the past. LINK

Tennessee gov site to take input on bills awaiting signature (AP) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has set up a website that will accept public comments on bills that have passed and are awaiting his decision. Lee says the feature is part of a push for transparency and open government. He said it will bring more Tennesseans into the process more directly. The website will be updated regularly with bills that have been passed by the Legislature. The GOP-led Legislature is beginning to consider bills during a legislative session that is expected to last for several months. LINK

Family working with TN lawmakers to make changes to allow review on death certificates (WJHL-TV) A Tri-Cities family hopes the death of their daughter will lead to a change in state law. “It’s her legacy,” said Dawn Stallsmith. “It’s how she lived her life and I want the truth told.” In the summer of 2018, Stallsmith said her daughter, 21-year-old Caylyn Hall, was home alone while her parents were on vacation. Hall was in the hiring process with the Johnson City Police Department, but also worked at Pal’s Restaurant. LINK

Hamilton County legislators still struggling with details on septic tank bill (Times Free Press) Hamilton County legislators are trying to figure out how to plug problems with their bill to let Ooltewah area property owners and home builders install septic tanks for new homes and residential projects in light of the county’s current ban on new sewer hookups there. “I don’t know where it stands,” Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, told the Times Free Press last week about the bill’s status. “There’s a concern that people will have to pay twice for a service,” meaning once for a septic tank when buying the home and later to hook up to the sewer system whenever service is actually available. LINK

Mae Beavers’ next political move? Leading the Wilson County Republican Party (Tennessean) Longtime Tennessee politician Mae Beavers is the new chair of the Wilson County Republican Party, which she hopes to grow and mobilize. Beavers was elected Saturday after she became vice chair of the Wilson County GOP in late 2018 because of movement within the party’s executive committee. Her political background in public office as an up front conservative includes eight years in the House of Representatives and 15 years in the State Senate. LINK

Rep. Burchett speaks about budget vote (WATE-TV) Rep. Tim Burchett explained today his vote against a compromise on border security. The congressman called the $330 billion deal – “mostly pork.” The House and Senate passed that measure on Thursday to avoid another federal government shutdown. On Friday, we showed you Burchett’s video he posted to Twitter as he walked out of the House chamber following the vote, calling it a “disgrace.” The measure offers far less than the $5-billion-plus President Donald Trump had wanted for border security. LINK

Knox Co. Mayor Glenn Jacobs pitches East Tennessee to Amazon (WATE-TV) Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs explained Monday his fun online pitch to retail giant Amazon that he tweeted at them on Saturday. The online marketplace announced last week it would pull out of a deal to build a headquarters location in New York City, citing local opposition. Mayor Jacobs tweeting at CEO Jeff Bezos some of the benefits of moving to this area, like interstates, work force and sports and included a GIF of country-turned-pop superstar Taylor Swift, who’s also called Tennessee home. LINK

‘You belong with me’: Amid Amazon-NYC breakup, Mayor Jacobs proposes Knox Co. via Taylor Swift (News Sentinel) After Amazon dumped New York on Valentine’s Day, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs had a swift response. Jacobs tweeted at Amazon early Saturday morning and suggested the tech company bring business to Knox County, referencing the area’s capable workforce and infrastructure. He also asked Jeff Bezos to call him using a Taylor Swift GIF. Jacobs listed major interstates, world-class education, entertainment, outdoor recreation and research facilities as some of the reasons Knox County should be considered a candidate for an Amazon facility. LINK

Study: Switch From TVA Power Could Save Up To $333M (Memphis Flyer) Memphis Light, Gas & Water could save $240 million to $333 million each year by switching away from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) for electricity, according to a new report issued Monday. Friends of the Earth, an environmental advocacy group, ordered a study of the switch from the Brattle Group, an “energy, economic, and financial research group that advises major energy providers, utilities, and governments around the country and across the globe.” The study is called “Power to Memphis – Options for a Reliable, Affordable, and Greener Future.” It contends that if MLGW and the city of Memphis terminated its contract with TVA and develop an alternative energy supply, the savings each year could reach to $333 million per year. LINK

States Consider ‘Surge Pricing’ for Power (Stateline) Just as more people fly during the holidays and drive during rush hour, the demand for electricity peaks at predictable times. Flights and some toll roads cost the most when demand is highest. Now California wants residents to get used to the same dynamic when it comes to purchasing electricity. Starting in March, the state’s utility regulator will require major utilities to increase prices during the hours when electricity is in high demand and lower prices the rest of the time — a change that’s expected to affect some 6 million households. LINK

Greenhouse gas emissions: How do Nashville, Knoxville stack up to peers around the world? (Tennessean) A new report by international scientists allows people to compare carbon emissions from a broad swath of cities around the world, including in Tennessee. As the Trump administration adopts policies that encourage fossil fuel usage, cities across the U.S. have made their own efforts to slow the release of greenhouse gas emissions and to temper the pace of climate change. Not every city measures its emissions, but some — including Knoxville and Nashville — participate in self-reporting programs, and the new study gathers some of their data in one place. LINK

5 Tennessee takeaways from new global study on city greenhouse gas emissions (Tennessean) A new study by international scientists allows people to compare greenhouse gas emissions from cities around the world. We looked at the data and have some key takeaways for Tennesseans. Nashville and Knoxville have higher emissions per capita than some peer cities in the U.S. On a per-capita basis, Nashville and Knoxville have more carbon dioxide emissions compared to a sample of peer U.S. cities, except for Cleveland. Their emissions were greater than Austin, Atlanta, Denver, Seattle and others. LINK

Gun thefts from cars up 85 percent in two years in Tennessee, some police blame laws (Tennessean) By the time the 500th report of a car break-in hit the desk of east Nashville police commander David Imhof in the first few months of 2018, he’d had enough. Among hundreds of other valuables taken, more than 40 firearms were reported stolen from cars parked in the Shelby Hills, Five Points and Historic Edgehill neighborhoods in his precinct. It was the weapon thefts that concerned Imhof the most. The vast majority were handguns, he said. Some were lying in plain sight. Many were taken by juveniles from unlocked cars. Imhof knew he would see some of them again in crimes committed against the city’s residents. LINK

Bigfoot conference coming to Gatlinburg (WVLT-TV) Are you looking for Bigfoot? You may just find him in the Smokies this summer! The Smoky Mountain Bigfoot Conference is being hosted for the first time ever at the Gatlinburg Convention Center on July 27. It is an all day event and features speakers from all over, including Cliff Barackman, co-host of Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot.” The event planners say they have invited Congressman Tim Burchett, a known fan of the cryptid. Admission costs $25 and vip tickets cost $35 to $50. Find out how to get yours here. LINK

ARKANSAS: Governor signs bill raising minimum teacher pay (AP) Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed into a law a measure that will raise the minimum for teacher salaries in the state by $4,000 over the next four years. Hutchinson on Monday signed the bill to raise the minimum starting salary in 168 of the state’s 235 school districts beginning in the 2019-2020 school year. The remaining districts are already paying the minimum salary requirements laid out in the legislation. The new law will raise the minimum teacher salary districts must pay to $36,000 by the 2022-2023 school year. LINK

GEORGIA: Controversial legislation could dramatically transform health care in Georgia (Times Free Press) Some Georgia lawmakers have reignited a heated debate over health care regulations with an 83-page bill that could dramatically reshape the state’s health care system. If passed, House Bill 198 would replace the controversial certificate of need — commonly called CON — program with a more relaxed licensure program, allowing any health care provider with the exception of certain long-term care facilities to duplicate services that already exist in an area without proving there’s a “need.” LINK

INDIANA: House GOP budget big on education (Journal Gazette) House Republicans today will present a $34.6 billion biennial state budget that focuses heavily on education. “Our conservative plan is responsibly balanced while funding key priorities and maintaining healthy reserves,” said Ways and Means Co-chairman Rep. Todd Huston, R-Fishers. “We continue to strengthen our commitment to Hoosier students and educators and to those in the state’s child welfare system.” The proposed budget amendment increases K-12 spending 2.1 percent the first year and 2.2 percent the second year – about $461 million in new dollars over the two-year period. That is up slightly from the version introduced by Gov. Eric Holcomb. LINK

TEXAS: Mediation Program In Texas Helps Patients Fight Surprise Medical Bills (CBS News) Here’s a startling fact: In the U.S., nearly 60 percent of bankruptcies are caused, in part, by medical bills. So, finding ways to lower those bills has never been more important. A new program in Texas may be the solution. When Stacey Shapiro, a first grade teacher, woke up last March, she was dizzy and out of breath. She knew something was wrong. “I got real hot, sweating profusely,” Shapiro told CBS News. “I got very nauseous, so then I got up and then I passed out.” The nearest hospital was out of her insurance network, but she knew the fine print in her policy. “I remember reading, ‘in case of emergency … you go to the nearest hospital,'” she said. The diagnosis was low blood sugar. The real shock: the $6,720 bill for the medications and tests in a three-hour emergency room visit. LINK

WISCONSIN: GOP legislators encourage criminal justice reform (Daily Cardinal) A group of Republican lawmakers released a list of criminal justice reform initiatives Monday they want Gov. Tony Evers to include in his upcoming budget address. While the list attempts to create bipartisan work with Gov. Evers, there are still disagreements in terms of the extent to which the criminal justice system will change. “Cutting our state’s prison population in half — a goal of Gov. Evers — would mean putting violent criminals back into our community,” said Rep. John Macco, R-Ledgeview. “Our criminal justice initiatives address the same concerns, while still keeping our Wisconsin families safe.” LINK


State Rep. John Hoslclaw: Legislation would create balance within community oversight boards (Elizabethton Star) House Republicans in Nashville have introduced legislation aimed at creating balance within community oversight boards across Tennessee. Backed by Republican leadership, this legislation balances both the interests of our citizens to voice their opinion while also protecting the fundamental rights of officers and their families from malicious or politically focused persecution. Community oversight boards have existed since the 1950s, and there are presently no guidelines outlined in Tennessee state law that defines how they are created, who can serve on them, and what their specific function is. This measure provides much-needed structure to all current and future community oversight boards in Tennessee, which is critical to their overall success, as well as overall safety. LINK

Victor Ashe: City police review panel should be left alone by legislators (Shopper News) Legislation that would cripple the work of the Police Advisory Review Commission by removing its subpoena power could move soon in the state House. City Council adopted a resolution Feb. 12 by Marshall Stair urging the legislature to drop it. Stair’s two major mayoral opponents, Eddie Mannis and Indya Kincannon, also oppose removing the commission’s subpoena authority. While the review board is new for Nashville, it has been around in Knoxville for 20 years. Originally created by me by executive order, it was made permanent two years later by a unanimous City Council. LINK

Editorial: Public records are truly for the people (Johnson City Press) It’s important to remember “public” is the key word in public records. These records belong to the people, not to politicians or bureaucrats. Every Tennessee citizen has a right to obtain certain information under the state’s Public Records Act. The law directs the courts to construe the act broadly “so as to give the fullest possible access to public records.” Even so, enforcement of Tennessee’s public records law often ranks among the lowest in the nation because aggrieved citizens are forced to engage in costly litigation to inspect public records and documents. The Tennessee Office of Open Records Counsel was created to assist Tennesseans who encounter problems in accessing open records. LINK

Beverly C. Robertson: Workforce development and economic development go hand in hand (Daily Memphian) In the next few months, Memphis will be viewed as ‘ground zero’ when it comes to transforming our workforce. Giving our citizens the tools that they need to be successful has been a passion of mine since I was a child, from literally first becoming a teacher to my current position today with the Greater Memphis Chamber. I want to help people get jobs. Good, high-paying jobs. To do that, we must have a robust economy that supports the growth of local businesses and attracts new businesses. LINK

Guest column: Tennessee has a problem with private probation companies. It hurts poor people (Tennessean) Private probation companies in Tennessee may be putting people’s safety and rights at risk, said a state government audit released late last year. It concludes that the Private Probation Services Council, the state body that oversees private probation, is not protecting people from abuses as it is supposed to do. “Without effective oversight,” the audit said, “probationers are left vulnerable to unscrupulous practices.” In an investigation released last year, Human Rights Watch also concluded that lack of regulation and oversight of Tennessee’s private probation companies led to human rights abuses, with a disproportionate impact on people living in poverty. LINK

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe: ‘New Green Deal’ is a Green Nightmare (Elizabethton Star) Elections have consequences. Under the House Republican majority in the previous Congress, we focused on creating jobs, growing the economy, improving our security, taking care of our veterans, and making America energy independent. Now that House Democrats have the majority, they have replaced our agenda with an agenda much more closely aligned with socialist principles and government control over all aspects of life. As President Trump pointed out in his State of the Union speech, history is littered with examples of the destruction caused by socialism, with Venezuela being the most recent. No document better lays out Democrats’ embrace of socialism than their recently-introduced “Green New Deal.” LINK

Friday, February 15

Gov. Bill Lee visiting South-Doyle High School on Friday (WATE-TV) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee will be in Knoxville Friday visiting a local high school. Gov. Lee is expected to be at South-Doyle High School Friday afternoon at 1:45 along with Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, KCS superintendent Bob Thomas and other local leaders and business partners. They plan to discuss vocational, education and workforce development. Lee took office as our state’s 50th governor on Jan. 19. LINK

Gov. Bill Lee announces Future Workforce Initiative, local educators weigh in (Johnson City Press) Gov. Bill Lee announced Wednesday a new initiative meant to increase science, technology, engineering and math training in K-12 schools. The Future Workforce Initiative “aims to put Tennessee in the top 25 states for job creating in the technology sector by 2020” by launching a new career and technical programs focused on STEM fields with 100 new middle school programs and tripling the number of STEM-designated public schools. The initiative also aims to increase the number of teachers qualified to teach work-based learning and computer science through teacher training and implementation of K-8 computer standards. In addition, the initiative plans to expand post-secondary STEM opportunities in high schools through increased access to dual enrollment credit and AP courses. LINK

Report: Tennessee’s teacher prep programs are doing a better job, but graduating fewer educators (Chalkbeat Tennessee) Tennessee’s teacher training programs improved or maintained their scores on a report card released Friday, even as the number of would-be educators they graduated dipped for a third straight year. Eight of the state’s 40 programs received the top overall score in 2018, while seven others moved up one notch to earn the second-highest scores. None of the programs saw their overall ratings decrease on the four-point scale, with 4 being the best. LINK

Tennessee pain clinic handed out opioids at ‘cattle calls’, says undercover federal agent (Tennessean) Federal records reveal new details in the case against Dr. Samson Orusa, a Clarksville pain doctor. An undercover agent says Orusa’s clinic gave out opioids en mass while rarely examining patients. Orusa allegedly collected more than $1 million in cash in only six months in 2017. It was October 2017 when the undercover federal agent slipped into the Clarksville pain clinic for the third time, hiding in plain sight among dozens of patients crowded into a small waiting room. A receptionist called out 20 names, then the agent lined up with other patients. LINK

State: Only 1% of pothole damage claims approved (WVLT-TV) Rain fell in East Tennessee on Monday and Tuesday, leaving roads in rough condition in Knoxville. The Tennessee Department of Transportation reported that they got around 20 calls about potholes around Knoxville and about half were on I-640 West near the Western Avenue exit. WVLT News counted 11 cars on the side of the road there Tuesday night, all with tire-related issues. Some of those drivers made their way to the repair shop Wednesday. Potholes could mean more than a flat tire. Depending on the car, Fisher Tire Co. in Knoxville, said it could cost hundreds or even more than $1000. LINK

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation ousts deputy commissioner after probe into complaints of ‘workplace misconduct’ (Times Free Press) The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Parks and Conservation, Brock Hill, is out of a job after being dismissed following an investigation into complaints of “workplace misconduct.” TDEC confirmed the dismissal after a report by WSMV-TV in Nashville, which posted the letter sent by the agency’s new commissioner, David W. Salyers, to staffers last week. In it, Salyers, recently appointed to the post by Gov. Bill Lee, said he “separated former Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill from state service after the investigation. Salyers said Anne Marshall has agreed to serve as interim deputy commissioner of Parks and Conservation. LINK

Tennessee becomes first state in the South with hate crime law protecting transgender people (Tennessean) Tennessee has become the first state in the South with a hate crime statute protecting transgender individuals. State Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued an opinion Feb. 8 in response to a question posed by Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville. “A defendant who targets a person for a crime because that person is transgender has targeted the person because of his or her gender within the meaning” of the current state law that outlines sentence enhancements for hate crimes, Slatery wrote. The transgender flag hangs out of a coat pocket during the candlelight vigil for Transgender Day of Remembrance on Haynie’s Corner in Evansville, Indiana, on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018. LINK

AG: Sentencing law applies to transgender hate crimes (AP) A new Tennessee attorney general opinion says judges can apply hate crime enhancements when sentencing cases that target transgender individuals. State Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued the opinion on Feb. 8 after receiving a request from Democratic Rep. Mike Stewart seeking clarity on the issue. LINK

Camper delivers Medicaid expansion message to governor (Daily Memphian) House Minority Leader Karen Camper sent a message to Gov. Bill Lee this week, urging him to widen Medicaid coverage and take back the authority to negotiate a federal plan without the Legislature’s approval. Camper, a Memphis Democrat, said during a Thursday press conference the governor was “open to ideas” when House Democrats met with him Wednesday at his Capitol office. Asked by reporters, she said they didn’t discuss Amazon’s plans for expansion after it announced it is backing out of a New York location. “We were talking about Medicaid expansion and how he needs to expand Medicaid in the state and how we can get a block of Democrats to get to 50 (votes) in the House,” Camper said. LINK

Lawmakers push to get health coverage for more Tennesseans (WTVF-TV) It’s an issue that affects everyone — and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle want to fix holes in health care. Right now there is a desperate need for coverage for tens of thousands Tennesseans. The Governor is also looking for solutions. Recently, Democratic lawmakers met with Bill Lee to discuss the issue. There are many in Tennessee without health insurance and republican lawmakers are looking for federal assistance. Republicans are focused on Tennessee’s working poor. They say block grants could help meet some of those needs. LINK

GOP continues Medicaid block grant push (Nashville Post) Republicans continued this week to push an idea that would have the federal government block grant the state’s Medicaid funding — a plan for which they offer few specifics and which Democrats predict could actually reduce the number of people covered in Tennessee. Republican Gov. Bill Lee seems poised to offer a piecemeal approach on health care and Medicaid — an opioid treatment program here, a veterans health care program there — rather than a systemwide overhaul, at least in his first year in office. Cameron Sexton, the chair of the House Republican Caucus, even allowed that he thought Lee was “more on the education side than health care” right now. LINK

If approved by Assembly, voters, Niceley’s bill would again allow bingo (Rogersville Review) When it comes to governing with common sense and politicians doing the right thing for the people, State Senator Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains) didn’t mince words on Feb. 9 during the Rogersville/Hawkins Co. Chamber of Commerce’s annual Legislative Breakfast. “There just isn’t enough of that in Nashville or in Washington, DC these days,” the District 8 legislator told the Review afterward. A farmer by trade, Niceley said that throughout his tenure in both chambers, he has tried to always vote his conscience and to look at bills from the perspective, “does this make sense and is it good for the people.” LINK

Tennessee Senate considers closing raw milk loophole; sponsor cites outbreaks (Food Safety News) Raw milk distributed from French Broad Farm in East Knox County, TN, through a cow share program sickened a dozen children this past summer. After the E. coli outbreak, the farm shut down the cow-share program. State Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, thinks the time has come to end the cow-share loophole statewide. His Senate Bill 15, now pending before the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, is seen as a serious push-back against the sale of raw milk in Tennessee. The “sole owner” of a “hoofed mammal” could continue to use the animal’s milk for “personal consumption,” but it would be illegal for someone who is only a partial owner to do so. LINK

A year after Parkland, Nashville students ask legislature for action (WKRN-TV) One year ago today, questions about gun violence were being asked across the country in the aftermath of a deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Fourteen students and three teachers died in the Valentine’s Day massacre. School administrators, parents and students from all over the country looked to leaders at every level for answers — and that included the highest levels of Tennessee government. Two of those students urged state lawmakers to take more action on Thursday. It came as lawmakers themselves were asked about what’s been done — and left undone — in the year since the Parkland shooting. LINK

Campaign-related bills could change future Tennessee elections (Tennessean) For elected officials, the next election is seemingly always around the corner. Although voters may feel a sense of election fatigue, a glance at a calendar is an easy  reminder that the time to cast the next ballot is steadily approaching. With that in mind, legislators are hoping to make several changes to Tennessee’s laws that could play a role on future elections. LINK

Top Tennessee House Republicans open to easing voting rights barriers for many ex-convicts (Times Free Press) A legislative push to make it easier for many of Tennessee’s former felony offenders to restore their voting rights once their sentences are complete picked up key support Thursday from the two top Republicans in the GOP-run House. House Majority Leader William Lamberth, a Portland Republican and former assistant prosecutor, told reporters he has worked on the issue with the House bill’s sponsor, Rep. Michael Curcio, R-Dickson. “We want to streamline the system and make sure that there’s not a fine or a fee or simply an obstacle like paperwork or bureaucracy that would stop somebody from regaining their voting rights,” Lamberth told reporters. “And that’s something that all of us support.” LINK

Tennessee Republicans, ACLU join forces to help more felons regain right to vote (Tennessean) Two Republican lawmakers, with the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union, are setting out to make it simpler for people with felony convictions to regain their right to vote, a process more arduous in Tennessee than in most states. Tennessee’s rights restoration laws are among the strictest in the country. It is one of 12 states that requires individuals with felony convictions to complete multiple steps beyond serving their sentence in order to have their voting rights restored, and is the only state requiring the payment of outstanding child support obligations in order to do so. LINK

String of anti-abortion bills proposed in Tennessee (AP) Republican lawmakers in Tennessee have introduced a wide range of anti-abortion legislation following newly elected Gov. Bill Lee’s promise to support any bill reducing the number of abortions throughout the state. The falls in line with a nationwide momentum from anti-abortion legislators and activists who believe President Donald Trump has strengthened their cause with the appointments of conservative Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Abortion opponents foresee the possibility that the high court might either reverse Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling establishing a nationwide right to abortion, or uphold specific state laws that would undermine Roe. LINK

Democratic state lawmakers respond to Republican abortion bill announcement (Tennessean) (WTVF-TV) Constitutionally questionable. That’s what democratic lawmakers are calling a series of abortion bills that have been filed in the legislature. One of these bills would make abortion illegal and the other has to do with the heartbeat of the unborn. Yesterday, Republicans announced a bill that would make abortion illegal in the state of Tennessee if the supreme court overturns the Roe V. Wade ruling. If this bill passes it would put Tennessee in a position to ban abortions as soon as a decision might be made. LINK

Proposed law could hinder Knoxville’s PARC from police oversight (WATE-TV) A proposed law in Nashville would limit the ability of a Knoxville group, the Police Advisory and Review Committee (PARC), to compel documents or witnesses to get to the bottom of complaints between civilians and the Knoxville Police Department. PARC Executive Director Clarence Vaughn says the group works to improve engagement between the community and police, promote transparency and accountability and foster policy change where needed. Vaughn says the idea of civilian oversight really took its name after Rodney King incident, followed by riots, in Los Angeles in 1992. LINK

Subpoena power at heart of community oversight board fight (TN Ledger) As Nashville gets its newly formed community oversight board up and running, some are accusing Republican state lawmakers of trying to gut the powers these police monitors need to be effective. The mayors of both Nashville and Knoxville have expressed opposition to what state legislators are doing, and Republicans in the General Assembly and activists in Nashville appear to have dug in for a fight. A bill moving through the state Legislature that would cut the powers of civilian oversight boards in Tennessee has the backing of Gov. Bill Lee and has attracted even more Republican sponsors. LINK

State Representative meets with Lookout Mountain Suites residents (WDEF-TV) A letter recently went out to guests at Lookout Mountain Suites. It’s to give people a month’s notice that the extended motel would be closing for renovations. “I’m a little worried,” Pamela Riley said. Riley has lived at the motel with her husband for around 3 months. She is one of less than 200 people that live there. And, For Riley, this isn’t the first time she’s had to deal with something like this. “Moving from place to another because they decided to shut down or change management. So, here we are again,” Riley said. With the extra costs surrounding an apartment, like a deposit, she’s concerned about finding an affordable place to stay. LINK

State, city leaders reach out to residents of Lookout Mountain Suites (WRCB-TV) Nearly 200 people are searching for new homes after the owner of Lookout Mountain Suites on South Broad Street told residents they are closing for renovations. Thursday, state representative Yusef Hakeem told residents that city organizations will do everything they can to help them find housing. Pamela Riley told Channel 3, she moved to Lookout Mountain Suites a few months ago when a different extended stay hotel closed suddenly. Now, she said she’s reliving that experience all over again. LINK

Early voting starts Friday for special state Senate primary to fill Mark Green’s seat (Leaf-Chronicle) Early voting starts Friday in Montgomery, Houston and Stewart counties for the special-called primary to fill the 22nd District state Senate seat vacated by now-7th District U.S. Rep. Mark Green. Green vacated the seat on Jan. 3 upon being elected to Congress. In the interim, former state Sen. Rosalind Kurita was returned to the Senate seat on an interim basis by the Montgomery County Commission until the special election this spring determines who will fill out the remainder of Green’s unexpired Senate term that ends next year. Four Republicans, one Democrat, and two independent candidates are on the ballot in this state Senate race, setting up a GOP primary showdown on March 7. LINK

Bill Frist to give every US senator copies of Nashvillian’s book on bipartisan cooperation (Tennessean) Former U.S. House Majority Leader Bill Frist is hoping a book on bipartisanship from his home state of Tennessee can help break a political logjam in Washington. Frist and his D.C.-based Bipartisan Policy Center plan to give each U.S. senator a copy of “Crossing the Aisle: How Bipartisanship Brought Tennessee To the 21st Century and Could Save America.” The book was written by Nashville author/journalist Keel Hunt and released in October. It details how state leaders of different parties worked together in Tennessee in the 1980s and ‘90s to help bring the auto industry, professional sports and more to the state. LINK

All tri-state area U.S. senators vote in favor of border security funding (Times Free Press) All six U.S. senators from Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama voted in favor of the bipartisan border bill passed overwhelmingly Thursday by the Senate to avert a second partial federal government shutdown. Senators approved the legislation in an 83-16 vote. It was next headed for the House. President Donald Trump was expected to sign the bill, which passed moments after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, announced he anticipated Trump would also sign an emergency declaration to secure more funding for the southern border to secure more funding. LINK

Rep. Green undecided on border security bill, but doesn’t think it’s political suicide for Trump (Leaf-Chronicle) As Congress debates the compromise bill meant to avert another government shutdown and the clock ticks closer to the midnight Friday deadline, U.S. Rep. Mark Green of Clarksville says he’s still deciding how he’ll vote. “Right now I’m leaning towards being a no, but honestly, I’ve still got to read the bill,” Green told The Leaf-Chronicle in a phone interview Thursday morning. The Senate is expected to vote Thursday to approve the measure, which offers $1.375 billion for a 55-mile border barrier, much less than the $5.7 billion that President Donald Trump had demanded for a wall. LINK

TN Congressmen react to border spending deal’s passage (WBIR-TV) Tennessee’s lawmakers on Capitol Hill are sharing their thoughts after Congress approved a border security compromise Thursday that would avert a second shutdown. The bill heads now to President Donald Trump’s desk to be signed, and includes roughly $1.4 billion for border barriers. Rep. Tim Burchett (R- Tenn.) voted against the bill, saying he felt the ‘1,200 pages of legalese’ was rushed through and failed to properly address border security. “This is not how we ran things in Knox County, it’s not how they operate in the state legislature, and there’s no excuse for Congress to do business this way, either. LINK

Congressman Green leans toward not supporting Democrats’ offer on border security (Brentwood Home Page) With the threat of another government shutdown looming, Democrats submitted a bill late Wednesday night that would see the federal government avoid another shutdown. Funding approximately a quarter of the federal government, the bill provides $1.375 billion for a barrier wall at the southern border, which would equate to 55 new miles of security – significantly less than the $5.7 billion requested by President Donald Trump. Congressman Mark Green had mixed reactions to the proposal, saying there were both positive and negative aspects to it. LINK

TVA Rebuffs Trump, Votes To Retire More Coal Plants (WPLN Radio) The Tennessee Valley Authority has voted to shut down two aging coal plants — the Bull Run Fossil Plant in East Tennessee and Paradise Unit No. 3 in western Kentucky — after determining they are outdated and unable to operate as efficiently as other plants. The TVA board of directors rebuffed pressure from President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to keep the plants open, saying that shutting them down is in the best economic interests of the entire service area. Both plants were designed and built nearly half a century ago. LINK

TVA rebuffs Trump, votes to close coal plants (Politico) A federally owned utility dealt another blow to President Donald Trump’s effort to revive the coal industry, voting on Thursday to close two coal-fired power plants despite the president’s urging to keep one of them running. The vote by the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority to close the Paradise #3 plant in Kentucky and Bull Run plant in Tennessee makes them the latest casualties to the coal industry that has seen hundreds of power generators retires in recent years because of competition from cheaper power sources, including natural gas and renewable energy. LINK

TVA vote to close Bull Run Fossil Plant by 2023 (WBIR-TV) Thursday the TVA Board voted unanimously to retire the Bull Run Fossil Plant in Anderson County by December 2023, despite political pressure from President Trump to continue the operation of coal-power plants. TVA’s board also voted to close the Paradise Fossil Plant Unit #3 in Drakesboro, Kentucky, by the end of 2020. Bull Run is the only single-generator coal-fired power plant in the TVA system. When the generator went into operation in 1967, it was the largest in the world in the volume of steam produced. TVA has been working to draw back on its existing coal plants and move ahead with other sources of energy production. In recent years, TVA has shut down more than 30 of its 59 coal-fired units, including two Paradise units in recent years. LINK

Tennessee Valley Authority Approves Closure of Two Coal-Fired Plants (Wall Street Journal) The Tennessee Valley Authority—a federally owned utility that oversees power generation for a large part of the mid-South—will move ahead with closing two older coal plants despite opposition from local groups and several elected officials, including President Trump. The utility’s board voted Thursday to close its Paradise 3 coal plant in western Kentucky by the end of 2020 and to close its Bull Run plant in eastern Tennessee by 2023. The two plants combined employ about 270 people, according to the TVA. LINK

TVA to close coal-fired power plants in Kentucky, Tennessee (News Sentinel) The Paradise and Bull Run coal-fired power plants will close, Tennessee Valley Authority board members decided Thursday, despite some public protest and political opposition over the Paradise plant. The intent is to close the final Paradise unit by the end of 2020, and the Bull Run plant by the end of 2023, agency CFO John Thomas said. “Analysis over the past several months shows that closing two additional fossil plants is the right action to take at this time, financially and operationally,” outgoing TVA President and CEO Bill Johnson told board members. “It is not about coal. This decision is about economics.” LINK

TVA to close plants in East Tennessee and Kentucky (WVLT-TV) The Tennessee Valley Authority voted 6-1 Thursday to close down two of its plants, including Bull Run in Anderson County and Paradise in Kentucky. According to the AP, The decision could put 131 people out of work. Also, the coal the TVA buys from nearby mines supports 135 jobs. “Making decisions that impact employees and communities is difficult as we fulfill our commitment to keep power rates as low as possible,’” said TVA President and CEO Bill Johnson. “We value the contributions of the employees of Paradise and Bull Run, and we will be working directly with them and local communities to ease the transition as much as possible.” LINK

TVA votes to retire Bull Run, Paradise Unit 3 power plants (WATE-TV) The Tennessee Valley Authority voted Thursday to retire both the Paradise Unit 3 and Bull Run power plants within the next few years. TVA says the decision was made after extensive reviews and public comments. They say they will work with affected employees and communities. “We value the contributions of the employees of Paradise and Bull Run, and we will be working directly with them and local communities to ease the transition as much as possible,” said TVA President and CEO Bill Johnson. LINK

TVA closes two coal plants, names Lyash as new CEO (WDEF-TV) National eyes rested on Chattanooga this morning as the Tennessee Valley Authority’s board voted on the closure of two coal plants — one in Western Kentucky and the other near Oak Ridge, Tennessee. TVA’s board has voted nearly unanimously to close both the Bull Run and Paradise #3 coal plants, despite hearing passionate pleas from community residents not to close the plants. LINK

TVA names president of Canadian utility as new CEO to replace outgoing Bill Johnson (News Sentinel) Jeffrey Lyash will become the new president and CEO of Tennessee Valley Authority, probably in April. His hiring was announced Thursday at TVA’s board meeting in Chattanooga. Lyash is currently president and CEO of government-owned Ontario Power Generation Inc. and chairman of the international nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute. “I am excited about the opportunity to lead TVA, an organization with a great sense of purpose not only to provide reliable, low-cost energy, which is a critical underpinning for how we live, but to improve the lives of people of the Tennessee Valley and the United States through economic development and environmental stewardship,” he said in a TVA news release. LINK

Roane County tells TVA: Let us test our kids’ sports fields for coal ash contamination (News Sentinel) Roane County leaders are pressing the Tennessee Valley Authority for permission to test for coal ash contamination in the air and ground at a youth sports complex and public park that border the site of the nation’s largest spill of the toxic substance. The question now is whether the TVA, which owns the land and caused a spill of 7.3 million tons of coal ash that smothered 300 acres in Roane County a decade ago, will allow it. LINK

FedEx Logistics incentives approved for Downtown move, more state incentives likely (Commercial Appeal) The New York investment firm that owns the Gibson Guitar Factory building where FedEx Logistics will bring its headquarters was approved Thursday for a 22-year extension of a property tax break. The payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) incentive will save Somera Road about 75 percent of its property tax obligation, helping to make the FedEx move more affordable. The PILOT was approved unanimously by the Center City Revenue Finance Corp. board, an affiliate of the Downtown Memphis Commission. LINK

FedEx Logistics secures local incentives for downtown headquarters move (WMC-TV) Two days after its announcement, FedEx Logistics has already secured a number of local incentives to relocate its headquarters to the old Gibson guitar factory in downtown Memphis. Now the company said the next step is examining the incentive package from the state of Tennessee. This is going to be transformational for this area of downtown,” said Jennifer Oswalt, President of the Downtown Memphis Commission. LINK

BlueCare TN hires former TennCare CFO (Nashville Post) Former TennCare CFO Casey Dungan has been named vice president and chief financial officer for BlueCare Tennessee, the Medicaid subsidiary of BlueCross BlueShield. In his new position, Dungan will work with his former employer to oversee the administration of medicaid contracts and supervise BlueCare’s financial planning. According to a release, Dungan has extensive experience in the public health care sector. LINK

Amazon cancels plans for New York City hub, says Nashville plans unchanged (Nashville Business Journal) Inc. will no longer build a hub in New York City, the company announced Thursday.The statement continued: “We do not intend to re-open the HQ2 search at this time. We will proceed as planned in Northern Virginia and Nashville, and we will continue to hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada.” According to Amazon spokesman Adam Sedo, the jobs that had been earmarked for the New York hub will instead be dispersed across those other 17 offices — a list that does not currently include Nashville. LINK

With Amazon Out of New York, Some Lawmakers Seek Multistate Ban on Corporate Tax Breaks (Governing) Amazon’s yearlong, nationwide contest for its second corporate headquarters netted the internet retail giant more than $2 billion in promised tax breaks from New York state and Virginia. But after mounting public resistance to such “corporate welfare,” Amazon announced Thursday that it will abandon its plans for New York City. This, as the End Corporate Welfare Act is circulating in several states, including New York. The bill would essentially call a cease-fire on awarding tax incentives to certain companies by creating an interstate compact of states that agree to end the practice. LINK

Nashville leaders react to Amazon scrapping New York City headquarters (WTVF-TV) On Thursday, people across the mid-state wondered what Amazon’s decision to scrap plans for a New York City headquarters would mean for the companies plans to expand into Nashville. In November 2018, Amazon announced it would split its East Coast HQ between New York and Northern Virginia, while also creating an Operations Center of Excellence in Downtown Nashville. The plans would bring 5,000 jobs to the Nashville area. But on Thursday, Amazon said it was no longer expanding into New York, citing opposition from local and state leaders there. LINK

The hospital is dead. Welcome to Ducktown (Tennessean) The halls of Copper Basin Medical Center are as cold and still as a corpse. Hospital supplies that may never be used — scrubs, gloves, catheters and oxygen masks — sit half-packed in cardboard boxes along walls of a darkened central hallway. Decades of medical records, color-coded in manila folders, wait to be transferred to somewhere else. In a reception room, where patients once gathered to see the few doctors in the region, an artificial Christmas tree has stood for more than a year because there is no one to take it down. Doug Collins, a small-town mayor, fumbles with the keys to the operating room, eager to show off where the hospital’s most important work was done. Inside, daylight bleeds through a clouded window, illuminating a surgical chair covered in a faint layer of dust. LINK

Video: Rural hospitals – Tennessee’s small towns struggle after hospitals close (Tennessean) For 62 years, Copper Basin Medical Center, served Ducktown, Copperhill and the other old mining communities of Polk County. It closed in 2017. LINK

Photo Gallery: A town’s shuttered hospital (Tennessean) LINK

WCS board member speaks out against school vouchers at Wednesday work session (Brentwood Home Page) The way Brad Fiscus looks at it, school vouchers are to public education as greasy fries are to a healthy diet — there’s just too much of a disconnect. “I chose to run for school board because I have been a public school person my entire life,” said Fiscus, who was elected last August to serve as the 4th District representative on the Williamson County Schools Board of Education. “I’m concerned about the tenet going on in the current General Assembly that they believe [vouchers] are an answer to help underperforming schools. The research just doesn’t show that.” LINK

HUD wants Memphis to return $17 million in affordable-housing funds (Daily Memphian) In his State of the City address last month in Whitehaven, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland touted his administration’s role in the creation and renovation of 5,000 units of affordable housing during his three years as mayor. “Developments like the massive South City project at the old Foote Homes (public housing development) may make headlines, but our programs are also impacting apartment complexes in every corner of our city,” Strickland said in the clubhouse of the Links of Whitehaven city golf course. “And as our city grows, this will continue to be more and more important.” LINK

GEORGIA: Georgia lawmakers debate bills aimed at Confederate monuments (Times Free Press) A committee did not take action on Georgia state Sen. Jeff Mullis’ monuments-protection bill Thursday after a debate about a provision that prevents moving the symbols out of public view. Mullis’ bill says government officials should have the ability to move a monument. However, the bill reads, the monument must go to “a site of similar prominence, honor, visibility, and access within the same county or municipality.” The legislation bans the government from moving the structures into museums unless they are already in a similar location. LINK

GEORGIA: K-12 “scholarship” legislation would pay Ga. parents for private school (Journal-Constitution) A floor leader for Gov. Brian Kemp has signed onto legislation that would create a direct state payment for a limited number of Georgia students to attend private school and cover schooling expenses. House Bill 301, introduced this week, would establish so-called “education scholarship accounts” giving parents state money, not unlike school “vouchers” in other states. Eligible students include anyone enrolled in a Georgia public school the prior year, a requirement that wouldn’t apply to certain groups, such as low-income families, the learning disabled or victims of bullying. Recipients would be entitled to the state portion of the funding their local school district gets per student, which on average is 54 percent of the total when counting local and federal dollars. LINK


Column: Sports gambling not a good bet for Tennessee (Columbia Daily Herald) There’s a push in the General Assembly by some legislators and lobbyists to legalize sports betting in Tennessee. Let’s hope the effort fades on the front stretch and never makes it to the finish line. Sports betting is not good for anyone except for casino owners and loan sharks. It’s not worth changing the state constitution to allow it. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year opened the door for sports gambling and online betting if states like Tennessee want to take the plunge. It took a referendum and legislative action in 2002 and 2003 to start a lottery, which funds educational programs such as the Tennessee Promise. There’s no legalized casino gambling, horse racing or sports betting. LINK

Ralph Schulz: Amazon will be a good corporate citizen and neighbor (Tennessean) “Only in Nashville. No one else has this,” a friend mused as we watched from the balcony of the historic Ryman Auditorium, experiencing the vibe, energy, music and talent rock the place like we had rarely seen — and I have been to a ton of concerts at the Mother Church. The crowd — around 1,500 college students, business and community leaders, and members of the public — were learning about Amazon’s plans to create a new Operations Center of Excellence at their “Live at the Ryman” event earlier this month. The night was a kick-off for an expected series of hiring events, and the electricity inside the Ryman rivaled the lightning storm outside. LINK

Jackson Baker: Prospects Exist for Modest Legislative Cooperation between the Parties (Memphis Flyer) Huge partisan differences remain between Republicans and Democrats on key issues before the Tennessee General Assembly — in particular, Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, which Governor Bill Lee and legislative Republicans continue to oppose — but there are glimmers here and there of possible bipartisan cooperation. As she indicated in two press conferences this week, House Democratic Leader Karen Camper of Memphis is convinced that there are areas of potential joint action with Lee and Assembly Republicans on medical issues. One of them, which other members of the Democratic legislative leadership concurred with in general at a post-session media availability on Thursday, was the concept of the state’s availing itself of closed hospital facilities as centers to cope with the opioid-addiction crisis in Tennessee. LINK

Pam Sohn: TVA defies Trump and closes two coal plants (Times Free Press) It’s not often that the Tennessee Valley Authority gets a mention in The Washington Post, Bloomberg news, The New York Times, Politico, Reuters, NPR, Forbes and the Rachel Maddow show all in one week. But then it’s not often that TVA gets bullied by the president of the United States and the Senate majority leader to keep open a coal-fired plant that TVA’s internal assessments show is outdated, inefficient and unneeded. By the way, did we mention that the plant — the Paradise Fossil Plant — is in Paradise, Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home state? And did we mention that federal data shows that as recently as 2017, Paradise received much of its coal from a mine owned by a subsidiary of Murray Energy Corporation, whose CEO Robert E. Murray reportedly donated $1 million to Donald Trump’s super PAC, and an additional $300,000 donation to Trump’s inaugural fund? LINK

Thursday, February 14

Gov. Bill Lee proposes $4M for STEM education, creation of K-8 computer science standards (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Lee is prioritizing STEM education in his legislative agenda, which proposes to boost opportunities for students statewide, including the creation of statewide K-8 computer science standards. The Wednesday announcement is Lee’s second education initiative tied to his legislative priorities and would create the Future Workforce Initiative focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Lee is proposing $4 million to create the initiative. The proposal must be approved by the Tennessee General Assembly. LINK

Lee unveils ‘Future Workforce Initiative’ (TN Journal) Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s office unveiled a Future Workforce Initiative to promote science, technology, engineering, and math (or STEM) education training in K-12 schools. Here’s the full release from Lee’s office: Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced the Future Workforce Initiative to increase science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) training in K-12 schools as part of his first-year legislative agenda for education. “Our agenda advocates for increased access to career and technical education for K-12 students and a key part of this includes prioritizing STEM training,” said Lee. “The Future Workforce Initiative is a direct response to the emerging technology industry and making sure our students are first in line to be qualified for technology jobs.” LINK

Gov. Lee announces initiative that focuses on increasing STEM training in schools (WRCB-TV) Governor Bill Lee has announced an initiative that focuses on increasing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) training in schools. The Future Workforce Initiative is part of the governor’s first-year legislative agenda for education. “Our agenda advocates for increased access to career and technical education for K-12 students and a key part of this includes prioritizing STEM training,” said Lee. “The Future Workforce Initiative is a direct response to the emerging technology industry and making sure our students are first in line to be qualified for technology jobs.” LINK

Lee announces plan to beef up STEM offerings in Tennessee schools (Daily Memphian) Gov. Bill Lee said Wednesday that he wants to expand science, technology, engineering, and mathematics offerings in Tennessee’s K-12 schools – and he’ll set aside $4 million in his proposed budget to pay for his so-called Future Workforce Initiative. His proposal would launch new STEM-focused career and technical education programs at 100 middle schools and would triple the state’s number of STEM-designated public schools by 2022. “The Future Workforce Initiative is a direct response to the emerging technology industry and making sure our students are first in line to be qualified for technology jobs,” the Republican governor said in a statement. LINK

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee wants to expand vocational education (WCYB-TV) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced his first legislative initiative to expand access to vocational and technical training for students. The initiative is a two-pronged approach that utilizes regional partnerships to develop work-based learning and apprenticeship opportunities. Communities will now have the funding and flexibility to build programs that best reflect local needs and work directly with private industry to structure programming. The plan also provides funding for high school juniors and seniors to utilize four, fully-funded dual enrollment credits for trade and technical programs. Previously, high school students only had access to two fully-funded dual enrollment credits. With access to four credits, students will now be better prepared for entry into the workforce within two years of graduation. LINK

Local education leaders discuss regional and state push for vocational education (Johnson City Press) As demand for workers in technical fields increases and higher education costs for prospective students continue to rise, many Tennesseans are beginning to think that the university path simply isn’t for everyone. Last week, Johnson City commissioners backed a resolution urging the Tennessee General Assembly to allow students to use the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate Examination instead of using their retake option for the ACT or SAT. This comes after the Tennessee General Assembly filed Tennessee House Bill 294 and two days before Senate Bill 917 was filed for introduction, each of which aims to allow students to do so. LINK

‘We will be back:’ TNECD commissioner says more jobs in pipeline for Memphis (Memphis Business Journal) For a few minutes on Wednesday, Tennessee’s chief economic development official teased hundreds of Memphis businesspeople with the suggestion that the FedEx Logistics headquarters move is a harbinger of things to come. “The narrative has changed. … There are a couple of really cool things going on. … We will be back and we look forward to making additional announcements,” Tennessee Economic and Community Development (TNECD) commissioner Bob Rolfe said of Memphis’ potential project pipeline during the Greater Memphis Chamber’s State of the Economy breakfast. LINK

Otis Sanford On FedEx Logistics Move To Downtown (WATN-TV) Local 24 News political analyst and commentator Otis Sanford shares his point of view on FedEx Logistics moving to downtown Memphis. Another major economic win for downtown Memphis is coming next year courtesy of the city’s largest private employer, FedEx. With every top local and state elected official on hand, the company announced Tuesday that FedEx Logistics will move its headquarters from East Memphis into the Gibson Guitar Factory next to FedEx Forum. The FedEx Logistics move will bring some 680 new well-paid employees downtown, including the transfer of 350 workers from out of state. LINK

Watchdog group critical of public incentives offered for FedEx Logistics downtown move (WMC-TV) The WMC Action News 5 Investigators are taking a closer look at the millions of dollars worth of incentives on the table as part of the FedEx Logistics deal. Tuesday the company announced it planned to relocate to the soon-to-be vacant Gibson guitar factory in downtown Memphis. Wednesday, at least one state watchdog group is wondering if the incentives are too much. “As a business owner, if we’re thinking through their lens, of course you’re going to get as much from the government as you can, that’s part of running a business is creating as much of a profit as possible,” said Mark Cunningham with The Beacon Center of Tennessee. LINK

New law could limit police when detaining juveniles (Tennessean) New legislation set to take effect in July would limit what crimes police departments in the state could detain juveniles for. Now the Hendersonville Police Department is asking city officials to reach out to Sumner County representatives and Gov. Bill Lee to ask for changes. Former Gov. Bill Haslam created an 18-member panel to advocate for continued justice reform at the end of his term. The new Juvenile Justice Reform Implementation Council will oversee reforms he signed into law in the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018. LINK

TN Education Commissioner visits West Carroll schools (WBBJ-TV) The new State Education Commissioner paid a visit to a West Tennessee school system. The purpose of Commissioner Penny Schwinn’s visit on Wednesday was to see teachers and students in action. One of her stops was in the West Carroll School District. Schwinn explained why it is important for teachers and students to have a connection. “You need leaders who know where they are going. You need teachers and teacher leaders who care deeply about the content and the child, and you need students who are excited about learning,” Schwinn said. The commissioner also made a stop in the Humboldt City School System. LINK

Large numbers of Tennessee students not ready for college, new state data show (Tennessean) Newly released data detailing how ready Tennessee students are for college paint a grim picture of the state’s continued challenges in improving K-12 education. The data, released to the state Senate Education Committee at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday and obtained by the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee, tally college readiness across the state in math and reading down to the high school level. “Connecting it with local high schools clearly makes it more tangible,” said Mike Krause, Tennessee Higher Education Commission executive director. It shows that while some public high schools prepare their students extraordinarily well for college, others have profound challenges and send many of their students on needing remedial education. LINK

More Students Unprepared For College Post-Tennessee Promise (WPLN Radio) The rate of Tennessee’s college freshman taking remedial courses in math and reading at public colleges is back on the rise. And the reason appears to be the state’s free community college program — Tennessee Promise. Over the past decade, the state’s past two former governors Phil Bredesen and Bill Haslam made college readiness a priority. Under Democrat Phil Bredesen, Tennessee secured $500 million of federal funding through the U.S. Education Department’s Race to the Top intiative. LINK

Teacher action across the country, but what about Tennessee? (Nashville Post) West Virginia, Oklahoma, Los Angeles and now Denver: Teachers across the country, in communities rural and urban, have taken to collective action to demand higher pay or other concessions from lawmakers. Though Tennessee falls toward the bottom of national teacher pay rankings, educator advocates point out investments made under former Gov. Bill Haslam as an indication that similar walkouts or work stoppages probably will not bleed into Tennessee. “I don’t think it’s going to be a funding issue that would cause any sort of boil over and public action in our state,” Tennessee Education Association President Beth Brown said. LINK

Study: UT System’s economic impact tops $9 billion in fiscal year 2017 (Tennessean) The University of Tennessee System’s economic impact passed an estimated $9 billion across Tennessee in the fiscal year 2017, according to a study from the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research. The fiscal year is July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017. The study looked at UT’s campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Martin, as well as the Health Science Center, the Space Institute and the Institute of Agriculture and Institute for Public Service. The total economic impact was estimated at $9.094 billion, according to a news release from UT. LINK

Tennessee’s Largest Prison Still Appears as Troubled as Ever (Nashville Scene) Since it opened in early 2016, Tennessee’s largest prison — CoreCivic’s Trousdale Turner Correctional Center — has also been one of its most deeply troubled. A state audit in 2017 highlighted staffing shortages and mismanagement at the facility, and family members with loved ones on the inside have consistently raised concerns about the conditions there. Reports of rampant gang activity at the prison, which is located about 50 miles northeast of Nashville, have been nearly constant. For years, CoreCivic, the Nashville-based private prison corporation that manages several Tennessee prisons, has faced similar claims of poor management at facilities around the country. LINK

TDEC deputy commissioner removed from office following complaints of misconduct (WSMV-TV) The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) confirmed Wednesday that Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill was removed from office following an investigation into complaints of workplace misconduct. TDEC Commissioner David Salyers announced Hill’s dismissal in an email to his staff: LINK

Bipartisan Effort Would Keep Tennesseans From Losing Their Licenses Over Court Fines (WPLN Radio) A federal appeals court is considering whether Tennessee should have the ability to take away the driver’s licenses of individuals who can’t pay fines. But, state lawmakers are not waiting for that ruling. Instead, Republicans and Democrats have filed measures in the General Assembly that would put an end to the practice. Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, is one of the lawmakers pushing to stop the state from suspending the licenses of people who can’t pay their tickets. He said revoking licenses for non-payment of fines, will not solve anything. LINK

Bill would allow schools to add cameras to the outside of school buses (WTVF-TV) A new bill would allow Tennessee schools to add cameras to the outside of school buses in an effort to catch drivers who speed through stop signs. According to the law, drivers are not allowed to pass school buses at a bus stop. That includes, in some cases, cars going in the other direction. The school bus has a retractable arm with a stop sign on it, but drivers say not everybody heeds the stop sign. “We’ve all seen that car that ignores that stop sign,” Rep. Jason Hodges (D-Clarksville) said. Hodges is co-sponsoring a bill that would allow schools to put cameras to the outside of the bus. Those cameras could catch drivers who speed through the stops. LINK

Senator: Bills to eliminate state massage board address finances, don’t remove licensing requirement (News Sentinel) Adam Brown remembers how hard it was, 15 years ago, to get the public to understand that licensed massage therapy is a legitimate career field. More than 20 years ago, Brown — owner of Tennessee School of Beauty, founded by his great-grandmother — opened its companion school, Tennessee School of Therapeutic Massage. This was around the time spa services were beginning to go mainstream. Brown would have simply offered massage as part of the beauty school curriculum, he said, except that it had to be overseen by a health-related state board. LINK

Groups, Republican lawmakers seek to restore voting rights for Tennesseans with felony convictions (Times Free Press) In a state where an estimated 323,354 felons have completed their criminal sentences, two Republican lawmakers and a coalition of groups are pressing a bill to streamline what they describe as Tennessee’s “onerous” current process for restoring felons’ voting rights. “We’re not creating a new eligibility class at all,” Rep. Michael Curcio, R-Dickson, said Wednesday at a news conference. “These are folks we’ve already said, with sort of one hand behind our back with our fingers crossed, ‘You’re eligible.’ We’ve just put a lot of paper burdens here and there so most folks don’t ever actually get to achieve that.” LINK

Tennessee lawmakers consider restoring voting rights to some felons (AP) Tennessee lawmakers are considering a move to make it easier for some felons to get their voting rights restored. The legislation would lift Tennessee’s unique requirement for formerly incarcerated individuals to be up-to-date on child support before restoration of voting rights, in addition to other court fines and restitution. It also aims to simplify the process. The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and Americans for Prosperity headlined an event Wednesday touting the bill. So did Tennessee’s Matthew Charles, one of the first prisoners released under criminal justice legislation President Donald Trump recently signed. LINK

Republicans try to get ahead of Roe v. Wade reversal (Daily Memphian) Saying they’re “ever hopeful” Roe v. Wade will be reversed, legislative Republicans said Wednesday they want to return state law to the days when abortion was prohibited, except in emergency cases. State Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, and Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, announced legislation that would ban abortions in Tennessee if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court or the U.S. Constitution is amended to make the procedure illegal. The measure would create exceptions only when the life of the mother is in danger or to prevent the risk of a serious impairment. Women could not be prosecuted, though, for having an abortion. LINK

‘Fetal heartbeat’ legislation proposed in TN (WMC-TV) Tennessee legislators are proposing a bill which bans all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. The only exception would be a medical emergency for the mother. Planned Parenthood CEO Ashley Coffield says if this legislation is passed, it’s likely heading to the courts. “The fetal heartbeat bill is unconstitutional and it’s been struck down as unconstitutional in every state that has passed that law,” Coffield said. She says the bill is an all-out abortion ban. “The fetal heartbeat bill, also known as the 6 week ban, is really a total abortion ban because 6 weeks is about the time people start to figure out that they’re pregnant. So you’ve taken away a woman’s choice before she even knew she had a decision to make,” Coffield said. LINK

Tenneesse State Representative introduces abortion ban bill (UTM Daily Helmsman) Republicans in the Tennessee House of Representatives proposed a bill Jan. 23 that, if passed, would ban abortions at any point after a heartbeat is detected within a fetus, except for medical emergencies. Tennessee House Bill 77, sponsored by Representative Micah Van Huss, will effectively deny women a choice of having a safe abortion in Tennessee because a fetus can have a heartbeat as early as six weeks into a woman’s pregnancy. It has been discussed and shut down once before in the previous legislative cycle. LINK

State Representative Hill proposed funding bill for Isaiah 117 House (Elizabethton Star) A prominent nonprofit in Carter County is starting to attract attention in state legislatures, as representatives from Carter County discuss ways of providing state funds towards certain efforts. Tennessee Representative Timothy Hill is in the process of proposing a bill that would provide a “funding mechanism” for Carter County’s Isaiah 117 House. The proposal, House Bill 516, discusses an alternative use for the funds received from fines the state collects. “I was approached about increasing the fines for violating orders of protection (restraining orders),” Hill said. “The second half of the bill is to decide where the money goes, and I could think of no better place for it to go.” LINK

Bill named for slain Tennessee cop would speed-up death sentence reviews (AP) As Tennessee ramps up executions, the Republican-led Legislature is considering eliminating one state court’s death sentence reviews. Legislation named for fallen Dickson County Sheriff’s Sgt. Daniel Baker would provide automatic state Supreme Court death penalty reviews, skipping Tennessee’s Court of Criminal Appeals. Prosecutors have said they’re seeking death sentences for two people awaiting trial in Baker’s May fatal shooting. His cruiser was set on fire with his body inside. LINK

Tennessee man makes push for state Alzheimer’s advisory council (WTVF-TV) About 120,000 Tennesseans live with Alzheimer’s and thousands more care for a loved afflicted with the disease. No one knows that fact more than Tom Piech from Livingston. Cheri, his wife of 45 years, died from Alzheimer’s two months ago. In her final months, it had progressed so much, Cheri didn’t even recognize her own grandchildren or husband. With the Alzheimer’s Association, he’s pushing for a state advisory council that could develop, in part, suggestions to help the thousands of Tennesseans who pay for Alzheimer’s care for a loved one out of pocket. “The transition from spouse to caregiver to caretaker is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done — it’s just brutal,” Piech said. LINK

Financial pressure keeps families with disabled kids from having jobs in Tennessee (WTVF-TV) Families with disabled kids in Tennessee are supporting a bill that would change some TennCare income requirements that keep some living in poverty. Under the burden of crippling medical bills, families with children who need frequent and complicated medical care are opting to quit their jobs to qualify for the minimum income for their children. In Tennessee, families have to meet certain income requirements to qualify for TennCare insurance. If families make more than that amount and have disabled kids, they could have to pay tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousand dollars a year. For a family of two, that income level is 34,731. LINK

Families of kids with disabilities implore lawmakers to help (Tennessean) Jennifer Schultz is four months behind on her car payment. In January, she and her 10-year-old son were evicted from their Williamson County apartment. Now, she’s not sure if she will make rent on their new basement space. “I owe money to everyone I know,” Schultz said, “because that’s what it’s taken to survive.” Schultz is a single mother of three. Her twin girls are grown — one attending boot camp for the U.S. Navy, the other about to leave for the Air Force. And then there’s her red-haired boy, Hatcher Ryan, a fourth-grader who was born, his mom said, “with a little something extra.” LINK

Registry of Election Finance wants explanation from Towns, Hardaway (Daily Memphian) Tennessee’s Registry of Election Finance wants explanations from Memphis Reps. G.A. Hardaway and Joe Towns for shortcomings in their campaign finance reporting. The Registry issued show-cause notices during a Wednesday, Feb. 13, meeting to Towns for failing to file a third-quarter report in 2018 and Hardaway for late filing of a pre-general report last year. Hardaway, a Memphis Democrat, had been given until Jan. 18 to turn in his report or be required to come back before the board after giving an explanation in January, when the Registry also told him he needed to balance his reports to show $7,000 in political action committee contributions during 2017. LINK

Standing-room-only crowd turns out for Legislative Breakfast (Rogersville Review) The annual Legislative Breakfast hosted by the Rogersville/Hawkins Co. Chamber of Commerce drew a standing-room-only crowd Saturday morning, Feb. 9, 2019, as local residents and a number of elected officials representing local city and county offices turned out to hear reports from a trio of state and federal lawmakers. Speaking during the breakfast were State Rep. Gary Hicks, Jr. (R, House Dist. 9), State Sen. Frank Niceley (R, Senate Dist. 8), and U.S. Congressman Phil Roe (R, 1st District of Tennessee). LINK

Nashville public schools board passes anti-voucher legislation (Tennessean) The Nashville public schools board reaffirmed its opposition to school vouchers Tuesday night, which could be a topic of discussion this legislative session. Along with the resolution, the board passed a measure that moves East Magnet Middle School into its former building at East Magnet High School. It also approved giving a portion of the recently purchased Hillwood High School property to Metro Parks. The school voucher resolution opposes any voucher-type legislation, including education savings accounts, which allow public dollars to be used by parents that unenroll their children from public schools for a variety of educational uses. That includes private school costs and supplies. LINK

Beavers challenges Stillwell for Wilson GOP chair (Lebanon Democrat) Former state Sen. Mae Beavers challenged Wilson County Republican Party chair Alex Stillwell for the local GOP leadership position Saturday at the Wilson County Republican Party Delegate Convention. Stillwell announced recently his intent to remain chair. “It is with a great amount of excitement that I announce my candidacy for the 2019 office of chairman of the Wilson County Republican Party,” Stillwell said. “I have for the last four months actively filled the position of chairman following the resignation of Terri Nicholson, who was elected to the state [Republican Party] Executive Committee.” LINK

White House Names Top Executives to Workforce Advisory Board (Wall Street Journal) The Trump administration named prominent business executives to its newly formed workforce-policy advisory board Wednesday, including the leaders of Apple Inc., Home Depot Inc., International Business Machines Corp. and Visa Inc., as well as education and labor officials. According to a list provided by the Commerce Department, the members of the board include: Marianne Wanamaker, professor, University of Tennessee. LINK

XPO closes Memphis Verizon facility, workers criticize decision (Commercial Appeal) XPO Logistics, Inc. told its employees Wednesday it will be closing its local Memphis Verizon facility in June, according to a statement from the company. The company says they will be opening a new facility in Memphis later on this year which is expected to create 80 new jobs. “Our customer has made a business decision and as a result this facility will close in June. Our presence in the Memphis community remains strong, and we have new jobs available for the majority of these employees in our 11 other local facilities,” read the company statement. LINK

Workers Call XPO’s Closing of Memphis Warehouse Retaliation (Memphis Flyer) XPO Logistics is closing its Verizon warehouse here and some employees are calling it retaliation. The employees were informed Wednesday via letters that they would be terminated as a result of the facility closing in June. This is the same warehouse that’s recently gained national attention after allegations of pregnancy discrimination, sexual abuse, and poor working conditions were brought forth by employees. About 400 employees currently work at the facility XPO plans to close. In a letter to the warehouse’s employees, XPO said that it will be permanently closing the facility here because of “an overall business model change initiated and completed by our customer.” LINK

XPO Logistics to close Verizon facility after sexual harassment claims (WREG-TV) Another Memphis business is set to shut down. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters says XPO Logistics will close its Verizon facility on April 15, 2019. The company has been in turmoil before, with employees protesting working conditions in 2018. The closure will leave 400 people with a job. LINK

Trump’s coal pledge could be tested by TVA vote this week (AP) President Donald Trump’s vow to save the coal industry will be tested this week — and so will the impact of his recent comments favoring a particular power plant — when a utility board he appoints weighs whether to close the coal-fired Kentucky plant whose suppliers include a mine owned by one of his campaign donors. An environmental assessment by the Tennessee Valley Authority recommends shuttering the remaining coal-fired unit at the Paradise Fossil Plant along the Green River in Muhlenberg County, an area that was once the country’s top coal producer and was immortalized in a song by singer John Prine in 1971. LINK

TVA Board of Directors deciding fate of Bull Run plant at Thursday board meeting (WATE-TV) The Tennessee Valley Authority Board of Directors will consider the fate of two coal plants, one of them being the Bull Run Fossil Plant in Anderson County. TVA spokesperson Scott Brooks says there are more than 100 employees at the facility. While he says they’ll work to help find employment for those impacted, he says 40 percent of those at the Bull Run site are eligible for retirement. Regardless of the board’s decision Thursday, Brooks says reports show Bull Run hasn’t been running as often as it used to or as often as it could. LINK

Residents voice concerns at a listening session hosted by TVA (WRCB-TV) Hundreds of people turned out Wednesday to voice concerns about various Tennessee Valley Authority projects. The listening session was held a day before the board of directors holds its quarterly business meeting, which is something TVA hasn’t done before. Residents from all over the Tennessee Valley expressed their concerns, saying TVA needs to be more transparent and communicate with the people they serve. Lindsey Arnold is from Birchwood and she claims TVA has high tension power lines running through her property. Arnold wants TVA to start giving notice of when crews are on her land. LINK

Hospitals scrambling to meet ER demand after Tennova closure (WBIR-TV) The December closure of Tennova’s Physicians Regional Medical Center has resulted in a sharp increase in patient traffic–especially to emergency rooms–for at least two Knoxville area hospitals, hospital administrators tell 10News. Fort Sanders said it has seen more ambulance traffic and longer patient wait times since the North Knoxville hospital closed, forcing the medical center to treat some patients in hallways. “It can be scary for all of us,” said Dr. Peter Kah, an emergency physician at Fort Sanders. “We just want to make sure everyone gets seen and taken care of.” At University of Tennessee Medical Center, emergency room leaders are changing staffing in anticipation of an estimated 10 thousand more patients this year. LINK

Baptist Memorial Hospital telemedicine program connects doctors to rural patients (Jackson Sun) The telemedicine machines at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Carroll County have the ability bring doctors and specialist from around the world into rural West Tennessee. The doctors aren’t physically there but the new telestroke, telecardiology and telepsychiatry machines allow doctors located anywhere with an internet connection to call in and make a diagnosis. “The goal is to bring those specialist here because the hardest thing to do is bring these types of doctors because of the cost associated with them,” Baptist Memorial Hospital Clinical Application Analyst Michael Cupples said. LINK

TDEC: ‘Small number’ of barrels at Rocky Top site (WVLT-TV) The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation reported that only a small amount of barrels remain at a dump site in Rocky Top. Last year in October, WVLT News reported that neighbors were concerned because of a large dump site with thousands of barrels leaking unknown fluids into a Coal Creek Tributary. On Feb. 11 of 2019, TDEC reported that they investigated the site again to inspect the cleanup progress. “A small number of barrels remain, nearly all liquid stored in totes has been removed, and adequate measures are in place to prevent erosion. No impacts to nearby surface waters were observed.” LINK

Climate change study finds big changes for Tennessee cities in 2080 (WTVC-TV) A new study examining climate change and potential future impacts found depending on where you live in Tennessee, the climate could see some big changes. Published in Nature Communications on Tuesday, the study examined 540 urban areas in America and the impacts climate change could have in the 2080s. Researchers used climate-analog mapping to match the future climates of the areas in 2080 to what it would most-resemble in today’s climate. Factors used in the mapping include temperature change, precipitation change, emissions models, and 27 different earth system models. LINK

Domestic violence victims work in fear, local shelter director says (WJHL-TV) A woman died Wednesday when her husband came to the office where she worked and shot her. Officials said the unnamed woman worked at David Guy Dentistry in Colonial Heights. She was transported to the hospital Wednesday where she died from her injuries. Her husband and alleged shooter, Sullivan County Sheriff Jeff Cassidy said, is being treated for gunshot wounds after a bystander intervened using a gun. Tina Johnson, the director for the Safe House Shelter in Johnson City, said 40 percent of victims of workplace homicides are related to domestic violence. LINK

ARIZONA: Senate Finance Committee approves two school voucher bills (KNXV-TV) After nearly four hours of debate, the Senate Finance Committee voted 6-4 in favor of a bill supporters claim will fix problems in Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account, also known as the state voucher program. Opponents say the bill is an expansion of charter school funding and flies in the face of what voters want. This past November, voters overwhelmingly rejected Prop 305. The measure would have expanded the scholarships, which help students pay for tuition at private schools. Sixty-five percent of Arizona voters said no. LINK

NEW YORK: Jones, NYUJ Push For Criminal Justice Reform In NY (WAMC) Activist and CNN commentator Van Jones met with New York state lawmakers in Albany Tuesday to push for changes to state criminal law. Jones was influential in promoting last year’s bipartisan First Step Act in Congress, which provided for the reduction of some federal prison sentences. Standing outside the state Senate lobby with leaders of New Yorkers United for Justice, Jones lamented the state’s lack of action compared to states like Texas. “There is no reason in the world that New York state can’t be leading the country in a better direction. Washington D.C. came together last year, you had Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi supporting the same bill,” Jones said. “How can Washington D.C. outperform New York?” LINK

VIRGINIA: State Leaders Weigh Equity Policies Amid Political Scandals (WVTF Radio) Is this moment — when the eyes of the world are focused on Virginia — the ideal time to address inequality? Governor Ralph Northam wants to transform chaos into opportunity – taking advantage of racially charged scandal to address inequality. Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran says now is the time for criminal justice reform. “I welcome the renewed focus on this. There are a number of initiatives we’d like to pursue, and with this determination and hopefully resources, I think we can do great things.” LINK


Jackson Baker: Republican Legislators Turn Up in Support of ‘Human Life Protection Act’ (Nashville Scene) Call it premature, call it academic — call it presumptuous, even. Or call it “proactive,” as state Sen. Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) did at a Wednesday morning press conference on behalf of what is being called the “Human Life Protection Act” (HB1029, SB1257). In any case, the bill is wholly conditional, aspiring, in the language of its caption, to “ban … abortion in this state effective upon the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade … or amending the U.S. Constitution to allow states to prohibit abortion.” In effect, the bill would return the state of legal affairs in Tennessee to the status quo before Roe v. Wade, allowing only an exception in the case medically certified threat to the life of the mother or potential bodily harm. LINK

Wayne Risher: Memphis economy gaining traction, but buy-in isn’t universal (Daily Memphian) Tennessee economic development chief Bob Rolfe sees Memphis headed in the right direction, though the state could be doing more to help in key areas of job retention and small business growth. A day after announcements that could bring more than 2,200 office jobs to Downtown Memphis, Rolfe promised a Greater Memphis Chamber audience that more developments are on the horizon. “The short, short, short answer is, your city and your county (are) in a great place, and we will be back with additional announcements,” Rolfe said. LINK

Editorial: Small Steps Toward Progress in Nashville (Memphis Flyer) … This is the matter of private school vouchers — or, as newly configured, “education savings accounts.” State Senator Brian Kelsey introduced voucher legislation for something like 16 straight years before opting not to do so last year, perhaps because of feedback from his East Shelby County constituents, many of whom now see vouchers as a threat to the municipal school districts they are paying tax money to maintain. But new Governor Bill Lee likes the idea of what he calls school “choice,” and so does Speaker of the House Glen Casada, who, like Lee, hails from Williamson County, a posh Nashville suburb where the idea of privatizing things traditionally part of the governmental sphere is regarded with equanimity. LINK

Guest column: Is career and technical education more than another fad? (The Hill) Over the past couple years, career and technical education (CTE) has garnered a lot of attention. Is the boom in career and technical education one more fad, or does it reflect something more substantial? … career and technical education has become a prominent part of the national conversation. While No Child Left Behind and Common Core were much more prominent for a brief time, that was largely due to their polarizing nature — which ultimately helped fuel their rapid retreat from public consciousness. By contrast, career and technical education has seen well over a decade of steady growth in public interest. LINK

Letter to the Editor: Praise From Across the Aisle For the Late John Dingell (Wall Street Journal) One of the glories of our legislative system is the mutual respect between members, which has characterized much of its history. John Dingell and I followed very different political paths, but never did I doubt his word, his integrity, his honor. Today, we need the example of men and women like John Dingell more than ever. – William Brock, Annapolis, Md. Mr. Brock served as a Republican U.S. representative 1963-71 and as a senator from Tennessee 1971-77. LINK