Tuesday, February 5

New expectations for state government’s approach (PRIDE Publishing Group) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has issued three executive orders to underscore and improve state government’s approach to ethics, transparency and non-discrimination practices. “Earlier this week, I signed my first executive order to address issues facing our rural communities, and the three orders I signed today reflect firm expectations for how state government conducts business,” said Lee. “I believe in limited and accountable government, which is why I have emphasized my administration’s approach to ethics, transparency and non-discrimination in hiring.” LINK

Lee administration to do away with ‘flag letters’ (TN Journal) Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s administration is doing away with “flag letters” traditionally issued by executive branch agencies over concerns about pending legislation. Here’s a letter Legislative Director Brent Easley sent to all the members of the General Assembly on Friday: Members, I am alerting you to a change in policy that will take place over the next week regarding legislative priorities. In the past, you have received “flag letters” from the Governor’s Office or departments when they have noted an issue, concern or opposition to legislation that has been filed. This transparency is critical, but we believe there is a more effective way to communicate these positions. LINK

Lee raises pay for 15 members of Cabinet (TN Journal) Republican Gov. Bill Lee is largely paying the members of his Cabinet similarly to predecessor Bill Haslam, but 15 department heads will receive a salary bump compared with the last administration. The AP’s Kimberlee Kruesi reports that TennCare Commissioner Gabe Roberts is the highest-paid of Lee’s top advisers at $300,000 per year. He and the next seven highest paid commissioners will make the same amount their counterparts did under Haslam. LINK

Lee gives some pay raises to cabinet members (AP) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s top paid Cabinet members won’t be getting a pay bump under the Republican’s administration, but a majority of the new agency heads will see slight salary increases. According to a list of Lee’s Cabinet and senior adviser salaries, TennCare Commissioner Gabe Roberts will be paid $300,000 a year. This makes him Lee’s highest paid Cabinet member. It’s also the same amount paid to former GOP Gov. Bill Haslam’s TennCare commissioner, a position that oversees Tennessee’s Medicaid program. LINK

Penny Schwinn’s first day: Tennessee education commissioner visits rural, urban and suburban schools (Tennessean) Penny Schwinn’s first day as Tennessee’s education chief Monday took her to rural, suburban and urban schools — each with its own unique relationship with the state. The recently appointed Tennessee education commissioner said the tour was to hear from teachers and get to know the state. She plans to visit lawmakers, superintendents and other parts of the state in the coming days and weeks. “I want to get to get a better understanding of how the Tennessee story has shaped in all the different districts,” Schwinn said to reporters at Nashville’s Harris Hillman School, which serves students with disabilities who are 3- to 21-years-old. LINK

Tennessee’s new education chief looks to build trust as she tours schools (Chalkbeat Tennessee) Penny Schwinn visited Tennessee classrooms on her first day on the job Monday and pledged to make school visits a habit throughout her tenure as the state’s education commissioner. After touring Delk-Henson Intermediate School in rural Marshall County, she watched first-graders play word games in the Franklin classroom of Tennessee Teacher of the Year Melissa Miller. Then she hit the road for Harris-Hillman, a Nashville school for students with disabilities. All are in Middle Tennessee. LINK

Nashville school board member and political operative apologizes for his part in Tennessee’s Race to the Top (Chalkbeat Tennessee) As a key adviser to former Gov. Phil Bredesen, Will Pinkston was an insider in Tennessee’s aggressive campaign to overhaul public education policies and win a $500 million award under the federal Race to the Top competition in 2010. Later as a school board member in Nashville, he had a front-row seat to how those changes played out and the money was used. Now approaching the 10th anniversary of the signing of a federal stimulus package that funded Race to the Top grants, Pinkston is apologizing to students, parents, and teachers for his role in spawning what he calls “some of the most damaging education policies in modern American history.” LINK

Flu becomes widespread in Tennessee (WKRN-TV) According to the CDC, flu activity in Tennessee has elevated from regional to widespread. “We see the peak around this time of year usually,” said Dr. Gill Wright III of the Metro Public Health Dept. According to the CDC’s numbers, 43 out of the state’s 95 counties have reported at least one confirmed case of the flu. “Last year, we had a higher severity than so far this year,” said Dr. Wright. “Probably going to be that way for the rest of the season.”  LINK

Flu now widespread in Tennessee (WTVF-TV) The flu has hit Tennessee in a major way, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The organization reported that it’s now widespread throughout the state. A total of 43 counties have had at least one confirmed case of the flu in recent weeks. LINK

Small number of measles cases stand to cost the state millions (WTVF-TV) Despite a growing number of skepticism and people against vaccines, Tennessee leads the country as one of the states with the highest immunization rate. According to the annual kindergarten survey, 95.3 percent (71,949) of children in the state were fully vaccinated. In Davidson County, the rate was the same with 6,548 children vaccinated. Currently in Williamson County, 2,504 of 2,649 students are fully immunized. Tennessee Immunization Program Medical Director Dr. Michelle Fiscus credits strict school policies, children programs and health coverage. LINK

Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission taps Russell Thomas as new executive director (Times Free Press) Tennessee’s main agency in charge of alcoholic beverage licensure, regulation and enforcement has a new chief, a former Davidson County assistant prosecutor. Attorney Russell Thomas was sworn in Monday as the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s new executive director in a ceremony at the agency’s headquarters. He was appointed last week by TABC’s three commissioners. Thomas said in a news release that he was “excited to continue the good work of the Commission by operating in a business-friendly, technology savvy and accessible manner, while ensuring that the laws are fully enforced to keep Tennesseans safe.” LINK

Mayor Briley alerts state comptroller of ‘potential illegal conduct’ by Collier Engineering (Tennessean) Nashville Mayor David Briley on Friday notified the Tennessee state comptroller of “potential illegal conduct” from one of the city’s top engineering contractors following a Tennessean report on questionable billings from the company. He also said the city is “prepared to fully cooperate” if the comptroller’s office decides to pursue an investigation. In a Friday letter, Briley alerted Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson to evidence that Collier Engineering, a Metro street-paving contractor, billed the city for work while the billing employees attended an NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament game on March 16, 2018, in the company’s suite in Bridgestone Arena. LINK

Republican introduces comprehensive medical marijuana proposal in Tennessee (Tennessean) A Republican lawmaker introduced a comprehensive bill Monday that would allow Tennesseans suffering from a variety of maladies to use medical marijuana. The legislation, introduced by Sen. Janice Bowling, is dubbed the “Tennessee Medical Cannabis Act.” The 29-page measure includes provisions that would allow those suffering from more than a dozen conditions the ability to consume marijuana. Although lawmakers introduced a bill in 2018 that would have only allowed oil-based manufactured products to be consumed, Bowling’s measure appears to permit any form of marijuana for medical purposes. LINK

New Medical Marijuana bill introduced in TN Senate (WKRN-TV) The medical marijuana bill is back in Tennessee. Republican Senator Janice Bowling of Tullahoma, filed the first legislation of the year Monday. It’s considered the most comprehensive form of medical marijuana legislation the state has seen. And every form of pot is on the table, from the seeds to what you smoke. If a doctor diagnoses a patient with one of several conditions, the patient would be allowed to use the drug. The bill lists around 20 ailments which would qualify. It also states individual city governments would have the right to outlaw the sale, or cultivation of cannabis by a two-thirds vote. LINK

Republican lawmakers introduce medical marijuana bill (WBIR-TV) A bill filed Monday in the Tennessee state legislature seeks to legalize all forms of medical marijuana across the state by July 31, 2020. Sen. Janice Bowling from Tullahoma and Rep. Ron Travis from Dayton – both Republicans – introduced the comprehensive, 29-page plan. The bill covers everything from the conditions required to access the drug, how patients would apply for a medical marijuana card, how companies would apply to legally grow cannabis and how the drug would be taxed. LINK

Bill aims to strengthen Tennessee’s “Stand Your Ground” law (WTVF-TV) A home invasion is one of the scariest situations a homeowner can face. Tennessee’s “Stand Your Ground” law keeps homeowners from most criminal prosecution, but a bill proposed by state Rep. Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) would close what he says is a loophole that still allows people whom homeowners shoot to sue homeowners, as they go after insurance money. Griffey says the temptation to sue homeowners is often made stronger with large homeowners insurance policies that cover injuries that occur on their property. LINK

Law would penalize gun owners who leave guns out, kids hurt themselves or others (WTVF-TV) A law to penalize gun owners who leave their guns out where kids can grab them and injure themselves and others was submitted to the state legislature. Makayla’s law was named after Makayla Dyer, an 8-year-old girl who was shot and killed by an 11-year-old in 2015. The 11-year-old had access to his father’s gun and shot Makayla after she wouldn’t let him play with her new puppy. According to the bill’s sponsor, state senator Sara Kyle, that death was preventable if gun owners were penalized for not locking up their guns. LINK

Tennessee Republicans file bill stripping Nashville police oversight board’s subpoena powers (Tennessean) A newly created civilian board tasked with overseeing the Metro Nashville Police Department could soon face a revocation of its subpoena powers, a measure that would significantly hinder the panel’s ability to investigate alleged officer misconduct. House Republican leadership announced Monday that they have filed legislation to limit citizen boards’ authority to compel witness testimony or issue subpoenas for documents, among other restrictions that would apply to any similar board around the state. Metro Council last month elected its 11-member community oversight board, which voters approved by referendum in November through an amendment to the city charter. LINK

TN House bill requires guidelines for civilian oversight board for police (WKRN-TV) A Republican state lawmaker is filing legislation that would provide “guidelines” and “parameters” for Tennessee cities with civilian oversight boards of police. It comes in the wake of Nashville voters last fall approving the setup of what they call a Community Oversight Board (COB) for the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD). “I think protecting police officers while at the same time making sure citizens get a fair shake is something we can all agree on,” said House sponsor Michael Curcio who also chairs the chamber’s newly formed judiciary committee. LINK

Tennessee Republicans file bill that would restrict community oversight board power (WZTV-Fox 17) Tennessee Republicans are pushing to restrict the power of community oversight boards. Nashville voters approved a board to investigate allegations of police wrong-doing back in November. HB 658 would define a community oversight board and set guidelines for how they investigate. “Its goal is to protect the fundamental rights of our police officers and our citizens,” bill sponsor Michael Curcio (R- Dickson) said. LINK

Bill would keep COB from issuing subpoenas (WTVF-TV) A new bill aims to changes the powers of the Community Oversight Board. Members would not be able to issue subpoenas for documents or compel witness testimonies according to a new House bill. The bill would also require every board member to be a registered voter. Nashvillians voted last November to create the board, which will look at alleged police misconduct. We’re told the goal of the bill is to preserve the fundamental rights of police officers and citizens. LINK

GOP Aims To Curb Nashville Police Oversight Board’s Powers — And Its Diversity Rules (WPLN Radio) State lawmakers took the first step Monday toward eliminating the subpoena powers of police oversight boards like the one recently formed in Nashville. The proposal also restricts another key aspect of the group: its diversity requirement. In Nashville, four out of 11 people must live in economically distressed areas. The proposed measure would prohibit membership requirements based on demographics, economic status or employment history. LINK

Republican House leaders plan police oversight board restrictions (Daily Memphian) Tennessee’s House Republican leaders are proposing legislation to strip key investigative authority from police oversight boards in the state’s three largest cities, including Memphis. Most pointedly, the legislation sponsored by state Rep. Michael Curcio, a Dickson Republican, would remove the ability of law enforcement oversight committees in Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville to hold subpoena power for witnesses or documents. In addition, the legislation, which was filed Monday, would not allow these types of committees to restrict membership based on demographics, economic status or job history. And, all members would have to be registered voters. LINK

State lawmakers outline top issues for 2019 (News-Herald) Education and criminal justice reform are expected to be among the top issues the Tennessee General Assembly addresses this year. Local state lawmakers gave an update on anticipated legislative activity during the kickoff of the 2019 season of Good Morning Gallatin on Friday, Jan. 25. State Rep. and House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Cottontown) told those in attendance that the state’s criminal justice system “doesn’t work as well as it should” and that changes could be coming. “We’ve got to spend the funds necessary to ensure that (those in jail) are better off when they leave than when they went in,” Lamberth sadi. “Right now, all they’re doing is coming out worse. All they did is lose time and all we did was spend money feeding and housing them. LINK

Bill would allow firefighters, EMTs to carry guns on the job (WSMV-TV) A state lawmaker says safety is on the line for firefighters and EMTs who help people every day. State Rep. Clay Doggett (R-Pulaski) wants them to carry guns to protect themselves. Firefighters risk their lives every day. It comes with the job. In some cases, they’re also protecting themselves from the people they help. “There’s definitely times when you have a patient that could be a serious threat,” Mark Young, President of the Nashville Fire Union said. Young is also a Nashville firefighter. Concerns about firefighters and EMTs being threatened and even attacked are why changes could be on the way. LINK

Tennessee Considers Mandating Locking Caps On Powerful Prescription Drugs (WPLN Radio) Some prescription drugs in Tennessee may soon have to be dispensed in a lockable bottle. Backers of the proposal, including parents of people killed due to opioid overdoses, said it would prevent teens of getting hooked on opioids … Legislation by Sen. Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville) … would require powerful painkillers such as opioids, stimulants like Adderall and anxiety drugs like Xanax to be dispensed in a lockable bottle. Pharmacies would set a four-digit combination code in the locking cap when they dispense those drugs. LINK

Tenn. bill wants ‘dangerous’ prescription drugs in lockable containers (WVLT-TV)  Senator Richard Briggs is a Knoxville lawmaker who, along with a coalition of others, is pushing for drug reform in a unique way with a new bill.The coalition, called Secure Tennessee’s Opioid Prescriptions (STOP), joined Senator Briggs and Representative Matthew Hill, of Jonesborough, in a press conference on Feb. 4 to introduce SB 475/ HB 364, known as the “Pilfering Prevention Act.” According to a release from Sen. Briggs’ office, the bill would require “certain dangerous prescription drugs–such as opioids, stimulants and benzodiazepines–be dispensed in lockable containers.” LINK

Lawmakers propose changes for judges (Nashville Post) On the table: Another run at nonpartisan elections in Nashville, addition of new judicial district. Republican members of the state Senate are proposing a number of changes to the judicial branch, including another run at removing party labels from judicial elections in Davidson and Shelby counties. That effort, sponsored by Sen. John Stevens of Huntingdon, echoes an earlier attempt at similar legislation in 2017 that was seen as a way to protect a Republican appointee in mostly Democratic Nashville. LINK

TN representative introduces bill to put ‘Stop Bleed’ kits in schools (WKRN-TV) From school shootings to other tragedies, Representative John Ray Clemmons wants schools across the state to be ready for anything. “We need to be properly equipped and trained to respond to those types of emergencies,” said Clemmons, who represents District 55. For Clemmons, that preparation would come in bags known as “Stop the Bleed” kits. “The training only takes 10 to 15 minutes,” he said. Clemmons filed House Bill 215, which would require each school to have at least one kit and require training on how to use to it.  LINK

State dems press on for Medicaid expansion (Nashville Post) Despite Gov. Bill Lee’s uncompromising position against Medicaid expansion and a Republican-dominated General Assembly, state Democrats have reintroduced legislation to expand the public insurance program. Tennessee is one of 14 states left in the United States to expand its Medicaid program, dubbed TennCare here, under the auspices of the Affordable Care Act. Former Gov. Bill Haslam tried to do so in 2015 but was unable to accumulate enough Republican support and his push ended with the proposal being shot down in Senate committee. LINK

Tenth annual Legislative Breakfast set for March 1 (Morristown Citizen Tribune) The tenth annual Legislative Breakfast, hosted by the Cocke County Partnership, will be held Friday, March 1, 2019, at Carson Springs Baptist Conference Center at 8:00 a.m. Representatives of Rep. Phil Roe and Sen. Lamar Alexander have confirmed they will be in attendance and report on issues facing the federal government. State Sen. Steve Southerland and State Rep. Jeremy Faison will update the audience on state-related issues and the Tennessee State Legislature. They will also bring to the discussion information about legislation currently pending in the General Assembly. LINK

Two Tennessee Congressmen offer ideas for avoiding future government shutdowns (WZTV-Fox 17) Two Tennessee Congressmen are proposing legislation to keep the federal government from enduring another painful government shutdown. Democrat Jim Cooper and freshman Republican Mark Green have proposed separate measures that they believe would keep the government open and remove the worry from federal workers that their paychecks will again become a bartering chip. “It’s called no budget, no pay. It’s easy to shutdown someone else’s part of the government, but if your own paycheck is affected, you’re going to go slow about that,” said Nashville representative Jim Cooper. LINK

Trying Anew to Jump-Start Overhaul of Higher Ed Law (Inside Higher Ed) Senator Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Senate education committee, chose one of the most prominent conservative think tanks in the nation’s capital to lay out his vision for overhauling the Higher Education Act. But much of the Tennessee Republican’s speech appeared designed to win over Democrats skeptical that they could work with the GOP on a comprehensive higher ed bill. Alexander said his top priorities for a bill to renew the massive higher education law are streamlining the application for federal student aid, simplifying student loan repayment and holding colleges accountable for student loan repayment rates — each one reflecting established principles for the senator. LINK

A Mission to Overhaul Higher Education (US News & World Report) Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is on a mission to overhaul the federal Higher Education Act by the end of the year – and with his recent track record, he just might do it. Alexander has already met with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the ranking member of the committee, he says, along with nine other committee members, to talk about compiling nearly a dozen bipartisan proposals into a single piece of legislation. LINK

Fleischmann tours southern US border, says wall is ‘paramount’ for security (Times Free Press) U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann toured the border wall under construction in El Paso, Texas over the weekend and said today that such barriers are “paramount to proper border security.” Fleischmann, the ranking Republican member of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security and one of 17 Congressional conferees trying to work out a budget plan to avoid another government shutdown, has called for a comprehensive immigration solution to help resolve the budget impasse. Congress approved a temporary spending measure last month to reopen those government agencies shut down in December by the impasse over funding for a wall President Trump is pushing along the southern border of the United States. LINK

What Rep. Fleischmann learned on the border (WDEF-TV) Rep. Chuck Fleischmann spent Super Bowl weekend on a fact-finding tour of the Mexican border. The Chattanooga Republican is on the House Conference committee debating funding for the border wall. Here is what he learned from his briefing in El Paso, Texas. “I believe there are many elements to the border security solution, and my visit today confirmed that conversations regarding border security should be comprehensive,” said Congressman Fleischmann. “My tour of the El Paso del Norte Border Crossing highlighted the immense volume of traffic this location experiences, and the vital role that proper drug detection technology plays in the security of our nation.” LINK

Congressman Mark Green calls for Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to resign amidst yearbook photo controversy (Brentwood Home Page) During a visit to Franklin on Monday, Congressman Mark Green said he believes that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam should resign following the wave of controversy that has erupted over a 1984 medical school yearbook photo. The photo in question shows two Eastern Virginia Medical School students dressed in racially offensive outfits; one wearing a Klu Klux Klan robe and hood, and the other in blackface. Northam initially admitted to being one of the two students, though he would not name which. He then later recanted his admission, claiming he was not either of the two students in the photo. LINK

Trump’s Options for Wall Shrink as Republicans Balk at National Emergency Declaration (NY Times) President Trump’s legislative path to a border wall has narrowed significantly on the eve of Tuesday’s State of the Union speech, and his fallback plan to circumvent Congress by declaring a state of emergency could create a major division in his own party. “It would be a bad precedent, I think, for the president to decide to invoke national security as a way to bypass a congressional logjam,” said Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania … That sentiment has been expressed by about a dozen Republican senators, publicly and privately, including Roy Blunt of Missouri, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Marco Rubio of Florida, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and John Cornyn of Texas, who is considered to be among the most influential members of his party on immigration. LINK

Blackburn to make immigration statement with State of the Union guest (Lebanon Democrat) U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn will bring a Knoxville fire captain whose son was killed in a car wreck that involved an illegal immigrant as a guest Tuesday to the State of the Union address. The State of the Union address will feature President Donald Trump standing before the nation’s leaders as he defends his embattled administration and policies on everything from the proposed border wall to the U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty to the growing investigation into Russian-linked interference in the 2016 presidential election. One of Trump’s most vocal supporters is Tennessee’s first female U.S. senator, Blackburn, who will push the immigration issue to front and center with her guest, D.J. Corcoran. LINK

State of the Union: Two former Tennessee prisoners among those invited as President Trump’s guests (Tennessean) President Donald Trump has invited two Tennesseans granted clemency and released from prison under his administration to Tuesday’s State of the Union address. Matthew Charles in an undated photo provided by the White House. Matthew Charles, of Nashville, and Alice Johnson, of Memphis, have both been invited to the event. Charles was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 1996 on drug-related offenses. He was released on Jan. 3 as the first person granted clemency under the First Step Act. LINK

Matthew Charles named as guest for State of the Union (WTVF-TV) Matthew Charles, the man who was released from a 35-year prison sentence, will be a guest at the State of the Union. Charles received national attention in 2018 after being re-sentenced and ordered back to prison two years after a judge ruled his sentence was unfair. The White House described his story as the following: Matthew Charles’s life is a story of redemption. In 1996, he was sentenced to 35 years in prison for selling crack cocaine and other related offenses. While in prison, Matthew found God, completed more than 30 bible studies, became a law clerk, taught GED classes, and mentored fellow inmates. On January 3, 2019, Matthew was the first prisoner released as a result of the First Step Act. LINK

Matthew Charles listed as special guest for President Trump’s State of the Union address (WZTV-Fox 17) As Matthew Charles feels his freedom again, the White House has him listed as a special guest for President Trump’s State of the Union address. In 1996, Charles was sentenced to 35 years behind bars for selling crack cocaine. He spent 21 years in prison before being released in 2016 due to the Fair Sentencing Act. But two years later, the Department of Justice said Charles was released in error and ordered him to go back. So, he turned himself as celebrities like Kim Kardashian-West tweeted in support of his freedom. LINK

Doug Overbey selected as vice chair for anti-drug coalition (Maryville Daily Times) Doug Overbey, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, has been elected vice chair on the executive board of a regional anti-drug coalition. The Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (AHIDTA) provides leadership and direction on drug law enforcement throughout 90 counties in Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee and Virginia, a press release states. The program is a component of the Office of National Drug Policy, which advises the U.S. president on drug-control issues. LINK

Trump Inaugural Committee Is Subpoenaed for Documents (Wall Street Journal) President Trump’s inaugural committee on Monday received a subpoena for documents from the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, which last year opened a criminal investigation into how the fund raised and spent more than $100 million on 2017 inauguration festivities, according to people familiar with the matter … Manhattan federal prosecutors in recent months have also asked Tennessee developer Franklin L. Haney for documents related to a $1 million donation he made to Mr. Trump’s inaugural committee in December 2016, according to a person familiar with the matter. LINK

Burchett introduces bill to require open meetings of TVA board (Lebanon Democrat) Congressman Tim Burchett, R- Knoxville, introduced legislation that would require Tennessee Valley Authority’s board meetings, and meetings of board subcommittees, be open to the public. The current law that governs the TVA board, which was created by Congress in 1933, requires it to have four meetings a year. But there is no provision that requires meetings be open to the public or minutes of meetings be publicly available. Burchett’s legislation would require the board and subcommittees of the board to hold their meetings in public, provide public notice of its meetings no fewer than six days before the meeting and make publicly available the minutes and summaries of its meetings. LINK

TVA admits potential liability in case of sickened coal ash workers, may hit ratepayers (News Sentinel) The Tennessee Valley Authority is admitting publicly for the first time that it made a deal that could put ratepayers on the financial hook for the misdeeds of a contractor accused of poisoning an entire workforce. TVA is publicly acknowledging — via a small section in a 2019 quarterly earnings report — ratepayers may have to foot the bill for Jacobs Engineering’s treatment of disaster cleanup workers at the nation’s largest coal ash spill at the public utility’s Kingston plant a decade ago. LINK

FLORIDA: Florida’s largest school voucher program boosts college attendance, graduation, study finds (Orlando Sentinel) Florida students who took part in the state’s largest school voucher program were more likely to enroll in college, and graduate with bachelor’s degrees, than similar youngsters who remained in public schools, according to a new study released Monday. The study looked at students who took part in the state’s Tax-Credit Scholarship Program, which helps pay private-school tuition for children from low-income families. The program is serving nearly 100,000 students this year, making it the largest school-choice program in the nation. LINK

OKLAHOMA: Stitt Proposes Budget In First State Of The State (KGOU Radio) Gov. Kevin Stitt stood before the Oklahoma legislature to deliver his first State of the State address Monday. He outlined key pieces of his executive budget for fiscal year 2020. The legislature will craft its own budget during the 2019 legislative session … Criminal Justice: One place where Democrats and Republicans seem to have common ground is criminal justice. “We were pleased that the governor talked about criminal justice reform,” said Floyd. “We do believe, however, that no discussion regarding criminal justice reform can be complete if you’re not discussing how the courts are funded.” LINK

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