Wednesday, February 6

Gov. Bill Lee proposes lottery-funded plan to boost vocational, tech training for Tennessee high school students (Times Free Press) Gov. Bill Lee’s first legislative proposal calls for generating more public-private partnerships for his goal to create more vocational and technical training opportunities for Tennessee high school students. And he’s proposing to use Tennessee Education Lottery revenues to pay for it. The new governor on Tuesday unveiled his proposal, dubbed the “Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education,” or GIVE, program. It seeks to boost access for high school students interested in dual-enrollment technical courses offered by state community colleges and Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology (TCATs). LINK

Lee announces first legislative push (Nashville Post) Gov. Bill Lee announced his first legislative initiative Tuesday, a vocational and technical training program for students that so far lacks many specifics. The program, dubbed the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education, would provide funding for additional dual enrollment courses for high school juniors and seniors and would emphasize regional partnerships that could provide apprenticeship opportunities, according to a release. The governor did not announce how much the program would cost.   “I believe that expanding our vocational and technical offerings will be transformational for Tennesseans and the future of our state,” Lee said in the release. LINK

Gov. Bill Lee unveils his first major legislative initiative aimed at career training (Tennessean) Under his first legislative initiative, Gov. Bill Lee plans to create a statewide vocational and technical training program to increase opportunities for Tennessee students, his administration announced on Tuesday. If approved by lawmakers, the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education initiative would fulfill one of Lee’s top education platforms during his gubernatorial run. His office declined to say how much money the state would invest in the program, but expects it to serve about 11,000 students and 25 communities. LINK

Gov. Lee’s first legislative push is to improve the state’s workforce (Nashville Business Journal) Gov. Bill Lee’s first legislative initiative targets an issue facing several Middle Tennessee employers: finding skilled workers. On Tuesday, Lee revealed the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education, or GIVE, which aims to expand vocational and technical training throughout the state. The program is divided into two parts, according to a news release. First, it will use regional partnerships — paired with community grant dollars — to create work-based learning opportunities for students statewide. Second, it will provide additional funding for high school students taking vocational classes at their community college. LINK

Governor Lee unveils outline of vo-tech proposal before heading to SOTU (WKRN-TV) On the day he’ll be the first Tennessee governor in memory to be at the State of the Union address, Bill Lee unveiled some details about a campaign promise for more K-12 vo-tech training, but he did not want to say much about its cost. “We know the real numbers, but we have to let the legislature see it,” he told reporters before getting on a plane for Washington. “These funds will come from the same funding pool that the other programs funded from the lottery are.” That means likely using surplus lottery money, which already funds programs that include Tennessee Promise, which helps provide free community college to K-12 graduates and returning adults through TNReconnect. LINK

Lee announces effort to expand vocational, technical training access (Johnson City Press) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced his first legislative initiative aimed at expanding vocational and technical training for students on Tuesday. Called the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education, or GIVE, the initiative is a two-pronged approach that utilizes regional partnerships to develop work-based learning and apprenticeship opportunities, according to a press release from Lee’s office. “I believe that expanding our vocational and technical offerings will be transformational for Tennesseans and the future of our state,” Lee said. LINK

After campaigning for more vocational education, Lee unveils his proposal for Tennessee (Daily Memphian) Declaring that high school needs to look different in Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee Tuesday announced his legislative initiative to expand access to vocational and technical training for students who are soon to start college or a career. Called GIVE, the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education would support regional partnerships among schools, industry and technical colleges to develop more work-based learning and apprenticeship opportunities. Lee also wants more funding to double access to dual enrollment programs for high school juniors and seniors who want to earn up to four credits from trade and technical schools. They currently can earn two credits that are paid for by the state. LINK

Lee makes vocational education push his first legislative initiative (TN Journal) Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s first legislative initiative calls for expanding access to vocational and technical training in Tennessee. The Lee administration has dubbed it the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education, or GIVE, program. “We have the opportunity to help students discover quality career paths and gain skills that are needed right now in the workforce by emphasizing career and technical education,” Lee said in a release. LINK

Lee: ‘I want to have a clear understanding of the regulatory environment’ (Kingsport Times-News) One reason new Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said he issued an executive order to halt new regulations for the next 90 days across all state executive branch departments was because he feels we have too many regulations. “We just want to make sure that before we pass any more regulations, we evaluate the current ones and that we make certain we have an environment for business that is friendly and not over-regulated,” Lee, a Republican, said in an interview before Friday’s Kingsport Chamber Dinner. “I want to have a clear understanding of the regulatory environment.” LINK

Gov. Bill Lee issues executive orders (Daily Post Athenian) Governor Bill Lee issued his first executive order Wednesday, Jan. 23, requiring all state executive departments to issue a statement of rural impact and provide recommendations for better serving rural Tennessee. “My administration will place a high emphasis on the development and success of our rural areas,” Gov. Lee said. “Our first executive order sends a clear message that rural areas will be prioritized across all departments as we work to improve coordination in our efforts.” LINK

Governor soft pedals on JLL contract (Daily Memphian) Gov. Bill Lee appears noncommittal on his support for a heavily debated statewide contract that outsources facilities management at colleges and Tennessee agencies with a maximum payout of $1.9 billion. Yet even as the new governor starts taking a look at state operations, the Department of General Services is trying to spread the Jones Lang LaSalle contract to community colleges and technical schools, even though it has had few takers among higher education in the past two years. Asked whether he will push the JLL contract, Lee said following budget hearings on higher education, “I want to look at how it is that we best provide services to the people of Tennessee at the most cost-effective approach. We can’t sacrifice service, and we want to be good stewards of taxpayer money …” LINK

Gov. Bill Lee calls closing of Electrolux in Memphis ‘disappointing,’ points to need for clawbacks (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday called news of the closing of Memphis’ Electrolux plant “disappointing” and pointed to the importance of clawback provisions in future economic incentive deals. Speaking to reporters in Nashville days after a major announcement that the five-year-old appliance factory plans to shutter next year, Lee had no solution on how the state, Memphis or Shelby County could recover any of its losses, as there was no such recourse in the incentive contract. LINK

State: Electrolux not required to repay $100 million in Tennessee (AP) Tennessee officials say Swedish appliance maker Electrolux isn’t legally required to repay $100 million in state incentives for its soon-to-be-shuttered Memphis factory. The state’s 2010 agreement with Electrolux didn’t include clawback provisions to recoup money if job thresholds aren’t met. Economic development department spokesman Scott Harrison says Electrolux committed to create 1,240 jobs in Memphis and last reported 1,100-plus employees in 2017. It currently employs about 530. Electrolux plans to stop Memphis’ production within two years, while investing $250 million to consolidate U.S. cooking manufacturing into its Springfield, Tennessee, facility. LINK

Tennessee Board of Regents begins talks about raising student fees for 2019-2020 (Tennessean) Tennessee community and technical college students could see some of their student fees increase and new fees added for the 2019-2020 academic year, to be voted on by the Tennessee Board of Regents in coming months. The Tennessee Board of Regents began discussion Tuesday morning about student fees at Tennessee community colleges and colleges of applied technology. The Finance and Business Operations Committee talked about increasing mandatory and non-mandatory fees, as well as adding some course fees for specific programs. LINK

University of Memphis won’t drop Confucius Institute despite lawmaker’s concerns (Daily Memphian) The University of Memphis isn’t following UT-Knoxville in shifting away from a Confucius Institute contract, nor will it heed a lawmaker’s request to close the program because of his concerns about communist policy. State Rep. Jim Coley, who has traveled to China several times and supports the University of Memphis Confucius Institute, confirmed the program will remain in place.  Coley also allayed fears raised by Rep. Martin Daniel that the institute is a “front for communist propaganda and intelligence gathering.” LINK

Grand Divisions Episode 38: How lawmakers seek to change the state’s open records law (Tennessean) To coincide with this week’s gathering of the Tennessee Press Association in Nashville, we focus on lawmakers’ work related to public records. The move comes nearly two years after the speakers of the House and Senate vowed to revisit the long list of exemptions to the state’s public records law. Today, there are nearly 600 exemptions, which limit the ability of the public and the press to access information in Tennessee. On this episode, we talk to Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville, and Deb Fisher, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, about the ongoing public records efforts. LINK

Two years after last scandal, legislature’s sexual harassment training video is 5 minutes long (Tennessean) Two years after the Tennessee General Assembly began requiring sexual harassment training amid scandals involving two lawmakers, the mandatory online course now amounts to a five-minute video. This year’s online training, required to be watched by all Senate members and the legislative staff in both chambers, lasts 5 minutes, 27 seconds. “The elapsed time on screen is not nearly as important as the quality of the information, the manner in which it is presented and the thoroughness with which it is absorbed and retained,” said Adam Kleinheider, spokesman for Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, the Senate’s top leader, in a statement.  LINK

Rep. Jeremy Faison goes back to work after crash that could have killed him (WKRN-TV) A bad crash Friday morning left Rep. Jeremy Faison with three broken ribs, a nose broken in two places, a big gash in his head requiring 28 staples.You’d think after all that, he would stay home for a few days. Not Faison. The state representative from East Tennessee was in his Nashville office Tuesday morning. That’s where State Capitol Newsroom reporter Chris Bundgaard caught up with him. Faison said the gash on his head was so deep, doctors could see his skull.  They warned him he could have died.  He thanks God for sparing his life. LINK

‘It’s getting harder to be poor’: Bills take aim at affordable housing crisis (Tennessean) Nashville is expected to have a deficit of 31,000 low-income homes to support its population by 2025. State lawmakers are pitching two bills to help tackle the growing affordable housing crisis in urban areas – particularly Nashville – before this week’s deadlines to introduce 2019 legislation. Sen. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, a former Metro councilwoman, proposed reducing property taxes for owners of low-income rentals in expensive housing markets. LINK

Robinson’s career-technical education bill could align with governor’s vocational plan (Daily Memphian) Robinson, a Memphis Democrat, is sponsoring Senate Bill 63, which would introduce younger students to CTE in middle school. She believes it would give them “real-world exposure” and potentially quicker job placement, as well as a jump on preparation for courses already being offered in high schools. Some high school career and technical programs already train students in areas such as machine technology, coding, welding, food science, business management and health care. “Tennessee’s students are excelling at a rate our state hasn’t seen in years,” Robinson said in a statement. LINK

Tennessee lawmaker proposes bill to legalize recreational marijuana (WKRN-TV) One state lawmaker said it’s time to legalize recreational marijuana in Tennessee. Recreational, let alone medical marijuana, are not yet legal in Tennessee. “I think it’s bad,” said Christine Davis. “I don’t think recreational marijuana is nearly as dangerous as alcohol, which is already legal,” said Kevin Papazian. Sen. Sarah Kyle (D-District 30) of Memphis said now is the time for change. She’s sponsoring a bill to legalize recreational marijuana. “My whole point of bringing a bill to have marijuana available just like any alcohol is available is to have the discussion,” said Kyle. Kyle said the change is necessary for criminal justice reform. LINK

Legal expert weighs in on TN medical marijuana bill (WBIR-TV) It’s a long way from passing, but the sponsors are hopeful. Senator Janice Bowling, a Republican from Middle Tennessee, is one of the sponsors of the bill that would legalize medical marijuana across Tennessee. Brian Krumm is a professor at UT’s law school. He reviewed the bill to answer some of the common questions you’ve sent us. First up: Does this bill allow users to grow their own plants?  “No it does not,” he said. “There will basically be a process where the growth and actual dispensing of marijuana are done by private organizations.” LINK

Hemp Day on the Hill for Tennessee Lawmakers (WKRN-TV) The Tennessee Growers Coalition on Tuesday hosted a learning session about hemp for lawmakers. “The attitude about hemp has changed dramatically in the last 10 to 20 years,” said John Mark Windell, D-District 41. “I think you’re starting to see some movement.” Dubbed Hemp Day on the Hill, farmers, processors, even medical professionals gave an overview of the industry. Topics covered ranged from the basics of hemp and its derivative CBD and ongoing research, to the latest legislation like the 2018 federal Farm Bill and cannabis controversy. “I’m hoping that lawmakers recognize and understand from the science behind this that this is not marijuana,” said hemp farmer William Corbin. LINK

Williamson County legislators tell chamber they want to change school funding and improve infrastructure (Brentwood Home Page) State legislators from Williamson County told a group at a Williamson Inc. event on Tuesday morning they want to change the way Tennessee funds public schools. State Sen. Jack Johnson also said he expects the 2020 census will require the state to redraw Williamson County’s political districts due to rapid growth. Representative Sam Whitson, who serves on a transportation subcommittee, added that he hopes the legislature will find a way to fund more infrastructure projects and reduce traffic issues. Williamson, Inc. organized a visit to the Tennessee state capitol to show how legislators advocate for the county’s business interests and how the business community can be a resource for local legislators. LINK

Top athletic recruits should leave Tennessee if state limits police oversight, advocates say (Tennessean) Following Tennessee House Republican leadership’s introduction of a new bill Monday to limit police oversight, Nashville’s Community Oversight Now wants to hit them where it hurts. And where the advocates say it hurts for Tennessee is money and sports. Community Oversight Now, a local coalition that pushed for Metro’s newly formed oversight board, announced their “Don’t Play Where You’re Not Welcome” campaign ahead of Tuesday’s city council meeting. LINK

Community group asks high school athletes not to play for Tennessee colleges (WKRN-TV) A community activist group is asking high school student-athletes not to play for Tennessee’s colleges and universities. “Community Oversight Now”, which came up with the guidelines for Nashville’s community oversight board, launched the campaign Tuesday called “Don’t Play Where You’re Not Welcome.” The group says the campaign is in response to a proposed state bill that would put parameters on civilian oversight boards across Tennessee. If it passes, the bill would reverse powers of the oversight board that Nashville voters approved in November. LINK

Mayor Briley insists on setting up oversight board: Gov. Lee supports bill limiting board’s power (AP) With Republican-sponsored legislation pending to limit local investigations of police misconduct, Nashville Mayor David Briley said Tuesday it’s his job to ensure the will of the voters is carried out by continuing to implement a community oversight board for police. The mayor’s office released a statement in response to a recent bill from GOP state lawmakers that bars local oversight panels from having subpoena power, requires board members to be registered to vote and prohibits limiting membership based on demographics, economic status or employment history. Additionally, the bill ensures that any “confidential” documents provided to community oversight boards remain hidden from the public. LINK

Community, Democratic leaders rebuke Republican lawmakers plans to restrict oversight board (WSMV-TV) Harsh words against Republican lawmakers Monday evening from the group that pushed and succeeded at getting an oversight board in Nashville. In a speech, Community Oversight Now chastised state lawmakers for trying to put restrictions on the oversight board. “Make no mistake, this bill discriminates, and is designed to discriminate.” Now, they’re calling on athletes to make a difference. The group is encouraging the nation’s top athletes to stay away from Tennessee in retaliation. It’s called the “Don’t Play Where You’re Not Welcomed” campaign. LINK

Gov. Lee Supports GOP Legislation Limiting The Power Of Nashville’s Police Oversight Board (WPLN Radio) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee says he agrees with state lawmakers that police oversight boards should operate without subpoena powers. He said Tuesday that he would sign the legislation, formally introduced this week that would take away the ability of oversight boards to conduct their own investigations.  Several cities in Tennessee, including Knoxville and Memphis, have community oversight boards that have been operating for years. The Knoxville board, which was established in 1998, even has subpoena powers, like many boards around the state. LINK

Community Oversight Now wants athletes to reject Tenn. college offers in response to bill (WZTV-Fox 17) The Community Oversight Now Coalition, the group behind Nashville’s development of an oversight board, wants Nashville’s top athletes to reject offers from Tennessee colleges and go to historically black colleges instead. The “Don’t Play Where You’re Not Welcome” campaign was launched in response to state Republican legislation aiming to restrict oversight boards statewide. The group wants to steer top-ranked athletes away from Tennessee institutions and accept athletic scholarships elsewhere, calling the athletes the “bread and butter of Tennessee’s sports economy.” LINK

Governor backs bill pulling subpoena power from police oversight boards (Daily Memphian) Gov. Bill Lee said Tuesday he supports legislation stripping subpoena power from police oversight boards such as one recently formed in Nashville – and potentially a Memphis panel – even though Knoxville’s Police Advisory & Review Committee has had that authority for 20 years. Lee, a Williamson County Republican who took office two weeks ago, said the state already has a process for investigating cases in which a police shooting results in a death. “And what’s important to me is that due process is carried out,” he told reporters Tuesday. LINK

Otis Sanford On Civilian Oversight Boards In TN (WATN-TV) Local 24 News political analyst and commentator Otis Sanford shares his point of view on proposal to change civilian oversight boards in Tennessee. For years, a citizen’s review board designed to provide oversight on questionable policing in Memphis, has struggled to be effective, mostly because the board does not have any real authority. And now, if Republican leaders in the state House get their way, review boards in three cities, including Memphis, will have even less clout. The proposed legislation would strip the power of civilian oversight boards to subpoena witnesses or obtain documents related citizen complaints of police abuse. LINK

Rep. Charles Sargent’s memory honored at Legacy Fund kick-off breakfast (Williamson Herald) The Sargent Legacy Fund Political Action Committee kick-off breakfast paid tribute to Rep. Charles Sargent’s service to his community in Williamson County and in the Tennessee House of Representatives. Sargent, a 22-year legislator, was known as “a champion for education” because of his dedication to enhancing public education. He passed away in November after a battle with cancer. The SLF inaugural breakfast was aptly held at the Columbia State Community College Williamson campus Saturday. Sargent was instrumental in securing the land and funding for the college while a legislator. Over 100 people attended the event, including locally elected officials and community leaders. LINK

Tennessee U.S. Rep Fleischmann tours US-Mexico border (WATE-TV) U.S. Congressman Chuck Fleischmann (TN-03) continued his tour of the southern border with Mexico on Monday. Monday marked his second day of this border tour. Fleischmann’s office sent pictures of the border crossing near El Paso, Texas. Fleischmann said the tour confirmed his belief that there needs to be a comprehensive solution and showed him evidence that an operationally effective barrier is paramount to proper border security. Congressman Fleischmann serves on the border security panel created by President Trump as part of his temporary end to the government shutdown. LINK

U.S. Rep. Mark Green greets long line of visitors at open house Monday (Williamson Herald) U.S. Rep Mark Green, R-Tennessee, 7th District, greeted a steady stream of visitors Monday during an Open House event held at his Franklin office at the old Williamson County courthouse in Franklin. Green, who was elected in November, has been attending Williamson County events, meeting new people and talking to local leaders since the fall. Green, who owns American Physician Partners in Williamson County, said he has enjoyed traveling throughout Williamson County just as he did on the campaign trail. LINK

Tennessee lawmakers respond to State of the Union (WTVF-TV) Following President Donald Trump’s second State of the Union address, Tennessee lawmakers were quick to react. In a statement, Senator Marsha Blackburn (R) said, “President Trump conveyed an inspiring message and a hopeful vision for our country in tonight’s State of the Union message. He expressed confidence in our nation’s future and extended a hand to Democrats to work together, in unity, to produce results for all Americans.” Sen. Blackburn was in attendance and brought Knoxville Fire Chief D.J. Corcoran as her guest. He and his wife lost their 22-year-old son in a crash in late December. The driver accused in the crash is an illegal immigrant who has since been handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. LINK

Local lawmakers react to State of the Union address (WBIR-TV) State lawmakers representing Tennessee on Capitol Hill weighed in on President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address Tuesday night. East Tennessee’s Republican lawmakers praised President Trump’s State of the Union speech — particularly for making the call toward bipartisanship in D.C. as the government edges closer to potentially shutting down again if a long-term spending agreement isn’t reached by Feb. 15. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) praised the president for focusing on ‘choosing greatness’ and encouraging bipartisanship, saying he agreed with many of the president’s outlooks on immigration and the economy and looks forward to working on ways to lower the costs of healthcare and prescription drugs. LINK

Local Lawmakers on State of the Union (WATN-TV) Our exclusive Nexstar DC Bureau caught up with some of the Mid-South lawmakers before President Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday night. LINK

President Trump: ‘Welcome home’ to Matthew Charles, man released from Nashville prison under First Step Act (Tennessean) President Donald Trump welcomed a Tennessee man home during the State of the Union address on Tuesday evening. Matthew Charles, a Nashville man who was released from prison after more than two decades of incarceration, was invited to the speech as a guest of the president. “Matthew is the very first person to be released from prison under the First Step Act.  Thank you Matthew. Welcome home,” Trump said. LINK

State of the Union guest: How Nashville’s Matthew Charles benefited from First Step Act (Tennessean) Matthew Charles, who was released from prison under a criminal justice reform law signed by President Donald Trump, has been in vited with several others to attend Tuesday’s State of the Union address in Washington D.C. Charles was the first person released under First Step Act. In 1996, Charles was sentenced to 35 years in prison on drug-related offenses. After that, he found God, taught GED classes and became a law clerk in prison. According to the White House, Charles was the first person released from prison under the First Step Act earlier this year. An appeals court reversed the judge’s ruling, and he was ordered to serve a full 35 years behind bars. As he prepared to return to prison in 2018, his case received national attention in part due to coverage from Nashville Public Radio. LINK

Corcoran family attends State of the Union, advocate in D.C. after son’s death (WATE-TV) An East Tennessee family is not losing hope in taking their fight to lawmakers, attending the State of the Union address after experiencing a tragedy. It was just after Christmas when Knoxville Fire Dept. Capt. D.J. Corcoran and his wife Wendy had to bury their 22-year-old son. Pierce Corcoran was killed in a wreck on the Chapman Highway. Prosecutors say the driver accused of negligent homicide from the wreck, Franco Francisco-Eduardo, was in the U.S. illegally and had been for more than 14 years. LINK

Senate panel backs Republican lawyer for TVA board for second time in nine months (Times Free Press) For the second time in nine months, a Senate panel has endorsed Memphis attorney John Ryder to fill one of the vacancies on the Tennessee Valley Authority board of directors. The nomination of Ryder, a former chief counsel to the Republican National Committee from 2013 to 2017, was unanimously approved Tuesday in a voice vote by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works which forwarded Ryder’s name for a full Senate vote on his appointment to the 9-member TVA board. LINK

Analysts: Amazon buying FedEx makes sense if it’s serious about delivery (Tennessean) Amazon buying FedEx makes more sense than growing its own delivery network to FedEx’s level, if the e-commerce powerhouse is serious about the logistics business, analysts at an investment firm argued last week. And FedEx CFO Alan Graf Jr. agrees if Amazon wanted to be in FedEx’s business, it would be cheaper just to buy the Memphis logistics giant outright, according to Anthony Chukumba and Rick Paterson, both Loop Capital Markets analysts. They continued to make their case for why the acquisition could happen in a note last week. LINK

White powdery substances mailed to Riverbend, parole board building (WZTV-Fox 17) A representative with the Tennessee Department of Correction confirms Riverbend Maximum Security Institution received a letter with a white powdery substance Tuesday afternoon. The substance was mailed to the Riverbend facility in the mailroom. According to the Nashville Fire Department, there are no reported injuries at this time and the powder was found to be nonhazardous. The Federal Bureau of Investigation responded to the prison and has taken possession of the substance. Agents plan to send it to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation lab. LINK

Suspicious powder prompts Hazmat response at Tennessee Parole Board (WTVF-TV) The all-clear has been given after a suspicious powder prompted a Hazmat response at the Tennessee Board of Parole. The incident was reported Tuesday afternoon on the 13th floor of Parkway Towers on James Robertson Parkway. The response was prompted after a receptionist opened a letter that contained a suspicious white powder. The 13th floor was evacuated while officials tested the powder. Nashville Fire officials confirmed the substance was not a threat to the public. Employees were eventually allowed back into the building. LINK

KENTUCKY: Tax break for Kentucky private schools is back on agenda in Frankfort (Courier-Journal) A bill that supporters say would give more at-risk kids access to a private education, but opponents warn would drain the state’s revenues and hurt public schools, will soon be back in front of legislators. The bill, expected to be filed Tuesday, would create a statewide scholarship tax credit program. Under such a program, Kentuckians would be encouraged — through tax breaks — to donate money to organizations that provide private school scholarships. In turn, those organizations would have more money to dole out to students.  Rep. John “Bam” Carney, a Campbellsville Republican, will sponsor the bill, according to EdChoice Kentucky, a group that advocates for private school choice. LINK

MASSACHUSETTS: Revenue slide leaves state $400M behind benchmark (Sentinel & Enterprise) Despite continued economic growth, state government fell into an even deeper financial hole in January when tax collections missed their target by $195 million leaving state finance officials staring at a $403 million gap more than half-way through the budget year. Budget monitors had been hoping to see a rebound after a dismal December for state revenues, but income tax collections continued to lag the state’s projections, which were only recently revised upward. Tax collections for the year of $16.1 billion, which covers about 40 percent of state spending for the year, are currently 2.4 percent less than projected, and only 1.3 percent higher that the same seventh-month period last fiscal year. LINK

MISSOURI: Missouri mother fights for special needs son’s education, charter school expansion (MissouriNet) A St. Louis mother disagrees with statements that charter schools do not educate special needs students. Carmen Ward says her 15-year-old son, Paul, who has autism and intellectual disabilities, has grown by leaps and bounds and credits the charter school he attends – KIPP St. Louis. “KIPP advocated for Paul. They pushed Paul. They nurtured all of his gifts,” she says. “They found things in my son that I didn’t know was there – that he didn’t even know was there.” Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, posed the question to Ward about a “misconception” circulating that charter schools refuse to admit kids with special needs and fail to educate them as well as other students. LINK

NEW YORK: Criminal justice reformers hope to see action soon (WBFO) New York lawmakers say it’s likely they will vote soon to end cash bail and make other changes to help defendants who they say are unfairly treated in in the state’s criminal justice system. The Senate sponsor of a measure to end cash bail, Sen. Mike Gianaris, spoke at a rally of criminal justice reform advocates. Gianaris, who is deputy majority leader of the Senate, said the state’s bail system disproportionately affects the poor, and is racially biased. He cites the case of former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of multiple cases of sexual assault. LINK

NORTH DAKOTA: A School Choice Study could be coming to North Dakota (Valley News) “Reading, writing, arithmetic – when you don’t know how to do that and you go every day for twelve, thirteen years – and fail every day,” says Kari Bucholz, the founder of Haley’s Hope. “His personality started to change.” “Reaching out to the community, the education community, for help. And then really, just as a young parent, putting your heart and soul into having them understand what is going on and trying to fix that,” she continues. “The desperation in myself, trying to find someone to help. Find somebody that could not only help me be a better parent, but find that key to why this intelligent young boy couldn’t read or write.” Bucholz says it took years of struggling before her son was diagnosed with dyslexia. Even then, the struggle wasn’t over. LINK

OKLAHOMA: Oklahoma justice reform efforts merit attention (The Oklahoman) Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, a coalition of individuals and groups from across the political spectrum, is rightly concerned that without additional reforms, the state’s prison population – now at roughly 27,000 – will grow by 14 percent (to about 31,000) in the next decade. During the 2018 session, lawmakers approved several reform bills designed to slow the rate of growth. However, Oklahoma’s prisons are at 113 percent of capacity. The state houses more inmates, per capita, than any other, and for many years has led the country in the rate of females incarcerated. On average, 698 people per 100,000 are incarcerated across the country; in Oklahoma, the figure is 1,079 per 100,000. LINK

OPINION

State Sen. Ken Yager: Gearing up for the 111th General Assembly (Oak Ridger) The 111th General Assembly has begun with many changes and new faces among the leadership in Tennessee’s state government. The Senate has completed its organizational session to elect officers and organize the business of the 2019-2020 legislative sessions. The highlight of the organizational session was the inauguration of Gov. Bill Lee, which is a duty prescribed to the General Assembly by the State Constitution. I was honored to play a role in the ceremony as a member of the committee to escort Gov. Lee to the inauguration. I was especially encouraged that on his first day in office, Gov. Lee issued an order to help Tennessee’s most distressed rural counties, three of which are in our senatorial district. LINK

State Rep. Pat Marsh: New legislative session officially underway (Elk Valley Times) Hope your new year is off to a great start. The 2019 Legislative Session is officially underway and many new bills are being filed with the Speaker of the House’s office. We started back in Nashville on Jan. 8 and spent that week and the next getting organized and getting the new governor inaugurated.  I have moved to another office on the 6th floor of the Cordell Hull Building, and Ms. Laura Bond is still with me as my legislative assistant. We have a new Speaker of the House this year, and it is Glen Casada from Williamson County. Speaker Casada is a great choice, and I believe he will do a great job for our state. LINK

David Plazas: Protect new Nashville community oversight board’s authority. It is what the people wanted.(Tennessean) Nashville’s city elected officials have diligently followed the will of the people to create a police oversight board that will be serious and strong. Nearly 60 percent of the electorate last November voted for Charter Amendment No. 1 to create the 11-member board and also earmark at least $1.5 million annually to pay for a staff that can carry out investigations, call witnesses to testify and issue subpoenas. Mayor David Briley and the Metro Council, led by Vice Mayor Jim Shulman, were ahead of their Jan. 31 deadline to form the board. Council members had the tough job of vetting and approving 11 members from an enthusiastic pool of 155 applicants. The final votes came on Jan. 22. LINK

EDITORIAL: State needs historic tax credit program (News Sentinel) In the Jan. 23 article “Opportunity zones could spur development in low-income areas,” the News Sentinel brought into focus the potential for economic development in neighborhoods that desperately need it. However, the article neglected to mention that there is an equally important statewide economic incentive gaining support from Knoxville and Johnson City to Dyersburg and Memphis: a state historic tax credit (HTC) program. Today, all but 15 states offer a state HTC, and Tennessee has the opportunity to become the 36th state with the successful initiative. The program could breathe new life into historic buildings in Knox County threatened by disuse. LINK

Hedy Weinberg: Too many Tennesseans are disenfranchised. They don’t have money, they can’t vote and that’s not right. (Tennessean) “James,” an ACLU-TN client, had been released from prison after serving time for federal wire fraud. He had fully completed his prison term, probation and parole, and regained custody of his daughter. He was getting his life back on track and, just like his neighbors, wanted the opportunity to vote in upcoming elections that affected his community and his family. The problem? Under Tennessee law he was ineligible to vote simply because he didn’t have enough money to pay what he owed in restitution and overdue child support payments, despite the fact that by that time he had regained custody of his daughter. LINK

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