Tuesday, February 26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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