Monday, February 4

Governor looking to RCAM programs as model for Tennessee (Kingsport Times-News) New Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee plans to make middle school students more aware of career technical education careers and to potentially model across the state the apprenticeship programs at the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing in downtown Kingsport. Lee toured the RCAM Friday afternoon and then participated in a roundtable discussion with representatives of local industries, Northeast State Community College, Kingsport City Schools and Sullivan County Schools. He attended a similar event in Chattanooga earlier in the day and went to the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner that night. On either side of Lee at the head table were Jeff McCord, the “Dr. Commissioner” of the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development and NSCC President Bethany Flora. LINK

Bill Lee makes first stop in Chattanooga as governor of Tennessee (Times Free Press) Workforce development was the theme of the afternoon as Gov. Bill Lee made his first official trip to Chattanooga on Friday. He and a gauntlet of local public officials toured automotive supplier Gestamp, met with high school students who are part of its work-based learning program and attended a roundtable on vocational education hosted by the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce. Lee, a businessman from Williamson County, believes there needs to be a greater emphasis on technical and vocational education, and spoke of it often on the campaign trail. He said Friday’s visit to Gestamp was an important one. LINK

Governor Bill Lee visits teen job training program at Gestamp (WDEF-TV) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee thinks a local program could be a key to training the future work force, while giving students jobs right out of high school. The Governor visited Gestamp in Chattanooga today to check out a program that could be used all over the state. Gestamp, the Volkswagen supplier, and 12 Hamilton County high schools have entered into a partnership to train juniors and seniors to become qualified machinists. When they walk across the stage with their high school diploma, they can walk right in the door to a good paying job at Gestamp. LINK

Newly inaugurated Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee reflects on time at Auburn (Auburn Plainsman) Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey isn’t the only Auburn graduate occupying a governor’s mansion in the United States. Recently inaugurated Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has an Auburn degree, too. A 1981 graduate, Lee was sworn into office earlier this month for his first four-year term. The Republican businessman was elected in November. Lee told The Plainsman that his time at Auburn was formative for him. “My years at Auburn absolutely shaped my future,” Lee said. “Many of my friends today are from my time at Auburn, and it was a remarkable education that’s opened so many doors for me. As they say, ‘There’s just something about it.’” At Auburn, Lee lived in a house behind the then-Auburn theater on Burton Street along with seven other guys. Lee said they’re still friends to this day. LINK

Gov. Bill Lee issues executive order to temporarily halt new regulations (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Lee’s fifth executive order puts a temporary freeze on new regulations by Tennessee’s state departments. The executive order, issued Friday, halts the creation of new rules by executive branch departments for the next 90 days while Lee’s administration develops a system for how to consider new regulations. During that time, no new regulations can be filed with the Secretary of State’s office. LINK

Governor temporarily halts new regulations (Nashville Post) Also: Lee to attend State of the Union as Fleischmann guest. Gov. Bill Lee issued another executive order Friday as he continues to settle into his new office. This, his fifth such order, prevents executive branch departments from filing new rules and regulations with the Secretary of State for the next 90 days. From a release: “As part of our efforts to limit the size of state government, we are taking a close look at the regulations we are imposing on citizens and businesses in Tennessee,” said Lee. LINK

Now with twice the freeze: Lee issues 90-day moratorium on new regulations (Nashville Post) Republican Gov. Bill Lee in his fifth executive order issued Friday declared a 90-day halt on new regulations. That’s double the length of a freeze imposed by his predecessor, Bill Haslam, when he took office in 2011. Here’s the release from Lee administration: NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee issued an executive order to halt new regulations for the next 90 days across all state executive branch departments. LINK

Gov. Bill Lee to attend Trump’s State of the Union with U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Lee will attend President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address next week as the guest of U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann. Lee’s office confirmed Thursday that Fleischmann, a Republican congressman from Ooltewah representing Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District, had extended the invitation to Lee for the Tuesday speech. “I’m looking forward to coming to Washington and hearing the President’s State of the Union in person,” Lee said in a statement. “I’d like to thank Congressman Fleischmann for his kind invitation and look forward to spending some time with the Tennessee Congressional Delegation as well.” LINK

TDOT Sees Funding Complications After Government Shutdown (WPLN Radio) Tennessee’s Department of Transportation is dealing with funding complications as a result of the month-long shutdown. TDOT gets part of its funding and permits from agencies like the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency, which were partially closed during the shutdown. Because the funding for several construction projects wasn’t secured, TDOT postponed the approval process for $106.7 million worth of contracts. TDOT spokeswoman BJ Doughty says this means the department is pushing back approval for projects from February to March, but they will still likely stay on track — unless there’s another delay in funding with another shutdown, for example. LINK

UT Study: Opioids adversely affecting labor markets (Johnson City Press) A first-of-its-kind study written by four University of Tennessee economists has effectively validated what many Tri-Cities business leaders have long suspected: Opioid addiction is negatively influencing the labor market. In “Prescription Opioids and Labor Market Pains,” authors Matt Harris, Larry Kessler, Matt Murray and Beth Glenn analyzed county-level data from across the United States and found a 10-percent increase in opioid prescriptions per capita led to a 0.6-percentage-point drop in labor force participation rates and a 0.1-percentage-point increase in county unemployment rates.“We found that opioids have this strong adverse effect on labor force participation but only a marginally significant effect on the unemployment rate, which leads us to believe that opioids are leading individuals to exit the labor force entirely,” Kessler said. LINK

Report: Prescription Opioids and Labor Market Pains (UT Boyd Center) LINK

Tennessee, Chattanooga working to narrow the digital divide among early childhood educators (Times Free Press) When Patricia Gadson learned she would need to get additional credentialing for her job as an early childhood worker at the Chambliss Center for Children, she said her initial reaction was one of frustration that quickly turned into worry. Her concern was not because she didn’t want to continue her education in her mid-60s or that she wasn’t interested in learning more to help the children in her class. She became distressed when the center told her the credentials would be completed mostly online. Gadson was being presented with an opportunity to further herself and her career but her computer skills were limited. “When I found out I had to take an online class, I was scared to death and administrators saw the fear on my face,” she explained. LINK

East Tenn. domestic violence services maintain during shutdown, but concerns grow (WATE-TV) It’s been up and down for non-profits, specifically domestic violence shelters and services, during the shutdown. While the government is temporarily open, the threat of another closure is lingering causing concerns to grow. This month is much better for CEASE Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Inc., compared to last month. “I was really afraid,” said Nancy Seal, the court supervisor for CEASE. CEASE did not have to layoff 17 staffers, who make up their outreach team, and services didn’t have to be cut during the shutdown. LINK

TN Rep. Faison: ‘God spared my life’ after major wreck with semi on I-40 (News Sentinel) Tennessee Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, was injured in a serious wreck on Interstate 40 in Smith County on Friday, according to the Tennessee Highway Patrol. The wreck occurred shortly before 11 a.m. near mile marker 255 where Faison, 42, of Cosby, was driving a 2018 Ford F-150 in the left lane when the truck crossed the center line and struck a tractor-trailer, according to THP. Faison’s truck then continued off the road, stuck the guard rail and rolled over multiple times before coming to a stop upside down. Faison, who was not wearing his seatbelt, according to an incident report from THP, was injured in the wreck and taken to a nearby hospital, and then on to Vanderbilt Medical Center for treatment. Charges are pending against Faison, according to THP. LINK

Tennessee lawmaker injured in rollover crash (AP) A Tennessee lawmaker is in stable condition after being injured in a rollover crash. According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Republican Rep. Jeremy Faison was driving a Ford F-150 eastbound on I-40 in the left lane on Friday when he went to cross into the right lane. Faison’s truck crossed into the path of a tractor trailer, where that driver attempted to brake but was unable to avoid colliding with Faison’s truck. Faison’s vehicle went off the road, hit a guardrail and then rolled several times. LINK

“I should have had it on. No excuses.” Rep. Jeremy Faison on not wearing seatbelt when he crashed (WKRN-TV) Tennessee State Rep. Jeremy Faison is in stable condition after a car crash late Friday morning. According to a crash report from THP, Faison was driving a Ford F-150 on I-40 East in Smith County when he crossed the center line into the right lane where he made contact with a tractor-trailer. The report says the tractor-trailer braked hard and attempted to avoid Faison’s car but was unable to. Faison’s car went off the road, hit a guardrail, and rolled over multiple times. Faison went to Tenova Hospital and then was checked into Vanderbilt University Medical Center. LINK

Tennessee’s legislative leaders talk top issues for 2019 (AP) Tennessee lawmakers are set to tussle for months over how to change the state’s criminal justice and education systems, whether they should legalize sports betting or medical marijuana, and how much they’re willing to wade into hot-button topics like guns, abortion, and immigration. The Republican-supermajority General Assembly is finally digging into its workload after new Republican Gov. Bill Lee has taken the oath of office and begun getting acclimated. Lee will work alongside a new House speaker, Glen Casada, while Senate Speaker Randy McNally is keeping his post. They’ll lead a Legislature with 28 new House members and five — but soon to be six — freshman senators. LINK

Education savings accounts or vouchers: No matter the verbiage, lawmakers set for fight (Daily Memphian) Battle lines are being drawn for debate over education savings accounts – a method for using state dollars to send students to private schools – and Shelby County lawmakers will be in the thick of the fray. Much of the debate will depend on what type of initiative new Gov. Bill Lee takes. He has repeatedly said he supports “school choice” but is giving few details on looming legislation, which could be unveiled this week. It’s no secret key people in Lee’s administration come from the camp of voucher support. One of the questions for the governor is whether he wants to risk his political capital on the first year with legislation likely to face a high hurdle. LINK

Legislation in works to protect state after Electrolux blindsiding (Daily Memphian) With Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe saying he was caught off guard by the Electrolux decision to shut its Memphis plant, state Rep. G.A. Hardaway is planning legislation to hold companies accountable when they receive public incentives. Hardaway, a Memphis Democrat, said Friday he will sponsor a bill this year requiring the state to abide by an economic recruiting formula for state incentives, company investments and job return as well as a regular reporting process for companies to prove they are meeting commitments if they receive state funds. Otherwise, they would be penalized if they fall short. LINK

Grand Divisions: No livestreaming from Tennessee committee hearings? (Tennessean) Some Republican lawmakers in the Tennessee General Assembly are trying to keep fellow members — and the public in some cases — from pulling out their phones and livestreaming House committee meetings and floor sessions. So what’s behind the move? Statehouse reporters Joel Ebert and Natalie Allison report that it’s part of an effort by new GOP leadership to keep meetings on track and avoid disruptions. But the move isn’t going over so well with some. Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, has been known to livestream committee meetings he has taken part in on his Facebook page. LINK

Grand Divisions: New legislation to watch out for this year (Tennessean) Speaking of the legislature, hundreds of bills get filed each year. But here’s one area to keep an eye on in the weeks ahead. There’s a growing movement underway to eliminate the statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases. It’s a big deal, as religion reporter Holly Meyer has been reporting, since so many child sex abuse victims never come forward or don’t until years later.  Bills are starting to land from both Republicans and Democrats, and victims and advocates are ramping up their efforts to push the issue. LINK

Senate Speaker Randy McNally Weighs In On Abortion, Nashville COB (WPLN Radio) Randy McNally is starting his third year as speaker of the Tennessee Senate. He’s already weighed in on issues such as abortion, Nashville’s Community Oversight Board and closing primaries in Tennessee. He says he wants to make sure that the bills that are passed are constitutional and good for the state. The following are excerpts from that interview: On the Nashville Community Oversight Board: “I don’t think subpoena powers should be given to a non-elected person. Especially a non-elected board. And that’s just my feelings on it. I think police do a marvelous job in the state … LINK

Rep. David Byrd, accused of sexual misconduct, in settlement talks over T-shirts lawsuit (AP) A lawmaker accused of sexual misconduct is in settlement talks with a student whose lawsuit calls it unconstitutional that school officials distributed T-shirts promoting the Republican for a state Capitol field trip. In a Columbia federal court filing Thursday, Attorney General Herbert Slatery requested more time to respond while lawyers explore a potential resolution in the case against Rep. David Byrd and Wayne County’s school district. Slatery’s office is representing Byrd. Byrd hosted an October “Senior Day on the Hill” for high school seniors. A voice message was sent to families telling students to get shirts promoting Byrd and change before boarding school buses. LINK

Proposed bill would require vision tests for drivers 75 and older (WBIR-TV) State Rep. Barbara Cooper, D-Memphis, has introduced a bill that would require any person age 75 years or older to pass a vision test when they apply to renew their driver’s license. At age 89, Cooper herself would have to pass the test if she tries to renew her license. House Bill 360 includes an exemption for anyone who submits a certified statement reporting the results of an examination by an ophthalmologist or optometrist and the need for any corrective lenses or diagnosed impaired night vision, according to the Tennessee General Assembly’s website. LINK

Republican lawmaker seeks to strengthen Tennessee’s ‘stand your ground’ law (Tennessean) A freshman Republican lawmaker is hoping to bolster Tennessee’s so-called “stand your ground” law, which provides protections to residents who use deadly force in cases of self-defense.  Rep. Bruce Griffey, R-Paris, introduced a measure Thursday that would give criminal and civil immunity to people who justifiably use or threaten to use force. The legislation, HB 409, would bring Tennessee, which already has a “stand your ground” law, more in line with other states, such as Florida. More than two dozen states have some form of the law, according to 2018 data maintained by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Griffey’s legislation would not apply to anyone who would use or threaten to use force against law enforcement officials. LINK

Tri-Cities lawmakers’ bill would increase penalty for passing school buses, permit cameras (Johnson City Press) Two Washington County lawmakers want to raise the fine and add jail time to penalties for driving unsafely around school buses. State Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, and state Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, introduced the “STOP Act” Friday; it would increase penalties for drivers who fail to stop when a school bus has its “stop” sign extended while picking up or dropping off students. The bill also would help pay for installation of video cameras on buses to facilitate enforcement of the school bus laws. LINK

Fleischmann says he’s ready to compromise, but calls US border crossings ‘crisis’ that requires wall and more (Times Free Press) U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann will travel Sunday to a number of southern border towns along with his colleagues on a Congressional conference committee he hopes can soon resolve a budget impasse over border security. The Tennessee Republican, the ranking member of the Appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security, said Friday he is willing to compromise with Democrats and thinks Congressional appropriators “could resolve our differences in an hour” if both sides are willing to cooperate to improve border security and fund other major government operations. LINK

‘Closing the digital divide’: Sen. Marsha Blackburn on the importance of broadband and more (Jackson Sun) Marsha Blackburn has represented the state of Tennessee in Congress for 16 years, but she returned as U.S. Senator for the first time this week. “It’s interesting because the transition into the Senate is much slower than in House,” Blackburn said in a sit-down interview with the Jackson Sun. “We were moved out of the House in November but we don’t get our permanent office in the Senate until next week.” For this Congressional session Blackburn was put on the Armed Services Committee; Veteran Affairs Committee; Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee; and the Judiciary Committee. LINK

Electrolux voluntarily releasing its PILOT (Memphis Business Journal) After an hour-long meeting among Electrolux officials, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris and the Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) for Memphis and Shelby County, Strickland said the Electrolux property would soon return to the tax rolls. “Shortly after the meeting, Electrolux informed us that it is voluntarily releasing its PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes), meaning it will begin to pay the full taxable amount on the property,” Strickland said in a statement. The mayors and economic development officials asked Electrolux to return the land and building for the plant at Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park to the public. Strickland added: “We made our expectation clear that our number-one priority was taking care of the employees who will lose their livelihoods.” LINK

Electrolux says it will voluntarily release tax abatement as assessor pushes clawback (Daily Memphian) Electrolux could wind up paying full taxes its last two years in Memphis and not owe a penalty for shuttering the plant midway through a 15-year commitment. But the extent of the community’s loss was still an open question Friday as officials sought a path toward repurposing the six-year-old factory and surrounding land. Electrolux dropped a bombshell Thursday with news that it would close the heavily subsidized Memphis factory in two years, idling 530 people, and beef up a Springfield, Tennessee plant to take the work. LINK

Hawkins judge voids quitclaim deed giving President Trump an acre near Rogersville (Kingsport Times-News) President Donald Trump made it official last month. He’s not moving to Hawkins County. On Jan. 17, Third Judicial District Chancellor Doug Jenkins signed an order voiding a 2017 quitclaim deed which Rogersville businessman Philip Henard had filed for an acre of land on behalf of the Trump Organization. At the time, Henard told the Times News that the Trump Organization was a willing participant in the deal and would accept the property located in a rural undeveloped subdivision near Cherokee Raceway Park west of Rogersville. Shortly after the deed’s existence became public knowledge, however, the Trump Organization issued the following statement: “Neither The Trump Organization nor any individual Trump family member has anything to do with this.” LINK

NEVADA: What to watch in the 2019 legislative session: A guide to the biggest policy debates (Nevada Independent) Democrats might control both houses of the Legislature and the governorship, but party unity doesn’t mean the upcoming legislative session will be easy. Lawmakers will face tough decisions about how to fund a range of educational programs with scarce dollars. They’ll have to balance demands from different ends of the political spectrum on how much — or whether — to raise the minimum wage. And they’ll have to decide how far they’re willing to go on a slate of recommended criminal justice reforms, some of which have law enforcement officials up in arms. LINK

NEW YORK: Coalition wants Cuomo to extend efforts to end cash bail (NY Daily News) A coalition of nearly 130 groups and individuals pushing for criminal justice reform says plans put forward by Gov. Cuomo last month to change the pretrial system don’t go far enough. The #FREEnewyork coalition praised the governor’s state budget plan for including proposals to end cash bail, expand use of mandatory desk appearance tickets, and ensure defendants are not forced to bear the cost of provisions for release, such as pretrial services and electronic monitoring. LINK

WEST VIRGINIA: Education bill heads for final Senate vote (Williamson Daily News) West Virginia Senate Republicans shot down all Senate Democrats’ proposed amendments to the broad education overhaul bill Friday, and a final Senate vote is set for Monday, Feb. 4. Democrats’ failed proposals included one to remove the legalization of charter schools, one to nix providing public money for private-, online- and home-schooling, and one to remove a nonseverability clause that could rescind the bill’s 5 percent pay raises for school workers and everything else in it if any of the many other provisions are later overturned in court. LINK


Editorial: Demand better access to public records (Johnson City Press) Tennessee residents should be glad to hear that new Gov. Bill Lee has pledged to overhaul the state’s open records act to ensure better access. For decades, the Tennessee legislature, state agencies and local governments have been undermining your right to know in a number of ways — legislative exemptions, access fees, unreasonable delays, red tape and technology that bury records. Last year, a Tennessee Comptroller’s Office study found 538 exemptions to Tennessee’s public records law, about six times as many as there were three decades ago. When the law was enacted in 1957, it had just two. Even more exemptions were introduced last year, including two from the Northeast Tennessee legislative delegation. LINK

Jackson Baker: The Trump Tariffs and the Memphis Electrolux Disaster (Memphis Flyer) A Wednesday announcement by U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander of his co-sponsorship of a bill to return control of American tariff policy from the president to Congress ironically highlights the news, a day later, of the Electrolux Corporation’s decision to abandon its Memphis plant.One section of Alexander’s press release analyzes the probable deleterious effects of President Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs on manufacturing plants in Tennessee. On Thursday, the day following the press release containing this analysis, residents and officials of Memphis were shocked by the news of a pending shutdown by Electrolux of its plant in Memphis, constructed under a 2010 contract calling for nearly $190 million in state and local government incentives without the protection to taxpayers of a “clawback” agreement. LINK

Editorial: Who’s torpedoing whom? (Johnson City Press) Without a paper trail, it may be impossible to definitively know whether anyone in Tennessee government has been actively inflating cost estimates on pending legislation. State Rep. Micah Van Huss recently penned a letter to his fellow members of the Tennessee House of Representatives accusing an unnamed state judicial branch employee of offering to help kill “bad” bills by inflating the cost estimates for implementation sent to the Fiscal Review Committee. A fiscal note is a committee statement that determines the financial effect of a bill, resolution or amendment. LINK

Saritha Prabhu: Journalism that supports or resists Trump hurts democracy in America (Tennessean) I used to be able to watch “Morning Joe” on MSNBC until a couple years back. The show’s anchors and guests had interesting, sometimes unpredictable points of view. No longer, however. Now it is a one-track, one-note news-and-opinion show — not just anti-Trump all the time but invective at that. This is just one example of our national media these days. In the Trump era, American national media (CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, Fox News, The Washington Post, The New York Times) have self-divided into openly pro- or anti-Trump factions. LINK

Alex Hubbard: Republicans can oppose Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez without underestimating her  (Tennessean) The Williamson County Republican Party thought it would have some fun in a recent newsletter when the party chair included a meme poking fun at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic wunderkind who burst on the national scene by defeating veteran U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley in a New York City congressional district, was depicted in the meme as saying that the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade was “the only two ways Mexicans can cross the river.” The head of the Williamson County Republicans, Debbie Deaver, passed it off as political satire, while opponents called it racist. LINK

Karen D. Camper: Tennessee Democratic leader: We have big problems that require bold solutions (Tennessean) The 111th General Assembly has gotten down to business and we face challenges that require bold solutions.The working families of this state are living with out-of-control health care costs, crumbling infrastructure, a criminal justice system that focuses more on retribution than rehabilitation, and public schools in desperate need of resources. Tennessee ranks in the bottom 20 percent of the nation in healthcare. Costs continue to skyrocket, and hospitals close in one community after another, while our friends and neighbors are confronted with tough choices because politicians are consumed with rhetoric that fails to deliver solutions. LINK


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