Wednesday, March 6

State of East Tennessee: Gov. Bill Lee promises funding for UT, mourns flood victims (News Sentinel) Gov. Bill Lee promised big bucks for higher education and the region’s technology corridor Tuesday night during his first State of East Tennessee address in Knoxville. “Technical skills and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education are particularly important here in East Tennessee,” Lee told his audience at the University of Tennessee’s Clarence Brown Theatre. “We can do more, and we plan to do more.” The speech came a day after Lee’s first State of the State address, which focused on education, criminal justice reform and health care, and the same day UT officials hailed his proposed budget for its recommended boost in funding – more than $643 million for the university. LINK

Video: Gov. Bill Lee speaks opioid epidemic, public education (News Sentinel) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee speaks about how his administration will battle the opioid epidemic and improve public education in Knoxville on March 5. LINK

Photo Gallery: Governor Bill Lee gives State of East Tennessee address (News Sentinel) LINK

Video: Gov. Lee holds State of East TN address (WBIR-TV) LINK

Gov. Lee asks for most money ever for UT (News Sentinel) Gov. Bill Lee is recommending more than $643 million for the University of Tennessee in his 2019-2020 budget. If approved, it will be the largest state appropriation ever made to UT, according to a university news release. “We appreciate Gov. Lee’s commitment to the University of Tennessee,” UT Interim President Randy Boyd said in the release. “His proposed budget allows us to make much needed security upgrades, provide raises for our faculty and staff and increases our medical outreach to rural parts of Tennessee.” LINK

Governor’s budget proposes $643.8 million for University of Tennessee (WBIR-TV) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee presented his 2019-20 budget recommendations to the General Assembly in his first State of the State address on Monday, according to a press release. If approved by the General Assembly, this will be the largest appropriation made to the University of Tennessee. “His proposed budget allows us to make much-needed security upgrades, provide raises for our faculty and staff and increase our medical outreach to rural parts of Tennessee,” said UT Interim President Randy Boyd. LINK

Lee reveals details on education plan and teacher pay raises (WKRN-TV) Tennesseans will soon be hearing a lot in the coming months about “education savings accounts” or ESAs. A proposed $25.5 million dollar education voucher program is one of the controversial signature proposals that Republican Governor Bill Lee addressed Monday night during his first State of the State address. “We want to target this program at those districts that have the most number of failing schools,” said Lee this morning before a group of applauding county public officials. The area targeted for now says the governor would be in the state’s urban areas. LINK

WGU survey: Tennesseans support Lee increasing student college readiness, technical training (Tennessean) A new survey shows Tennesseans want to see a similar, if not increased, investment in college education under Republican Gov. Bill Lee. The first-time poll commissioned by WGU Tennessee, the online, nonprofit university, explored a wide range of education topics, including the feelings of Tennesseans on the success of higher education statewide. The results show positive feelings toward Tennessee’s colleges, especially the investments and goals set under former Gov. Bill Haslam. There is also a consensus that Lee should focus on increasing college readiness and technical opportunities. LINK

Poll Shows Overwhelming Support for Criminal Justice Reform in Tennessee (Nashville Scene) New polling results announced by a coalition of advocacy organizations backs up what action at the state legislature increasingly seems to suggest: Criminal justice reform is on a short list of political topics where one can find bipartisan consensus. Coinciding with Gov. Bill Lee’s first State of the State address — which included reform initiatives such as eliminating the expungement fee and expanding rehabilitation and re-entry programs in the state’s prisons — the poll results were released Monday by the Justice Action Network, ACLU-TN and advocacy group Right on Crime. LINK

State Sen. John Stevens and State Rep. Michael Curcio: With Bill Lee backing, Tennessee lawmakers should move on criminal justice reform. (Tennessean) While recent headlines showed President Trump successfully calling on Congress to pass meaningful criminal justice reform, the momentum for such reform was born in the states. Red states to be exact. In 2004, Texas had the second highest incarceration rate in the United States, such that by 2007, the state was staring down a $2 billion demand to build new prisons to accommodate its growing prison population. Under then-Gov. Rick Perry’s leadership, Texas chose instead to reinvest $241 million into diversion and probation programs rather than burn $2 billion building new prisons. LINK

Community supervision could keep people out of jail, save tax payers money, Gov. Bill Lee says (WJHL-TV) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said investing in programs that allow non-violent criminals to get help in a community setting could prevent future crimes and save taxpayers money. The governor is pushing for millions more in funding for criminal justice reforms that he detailed in his first “State of the State” Monday. “It costs about 20 times more to incarcerate someone than to put them under community supervision, and the latter leads to better outcomes,” he said. Tri-Cities leaders in community diversion agree and said they could benefit from additional funding. LINK

TN Governor announces plans for criminal justice reform (WHBQ-TV) Almost 77,000 criminal offenders are under community supervision across Tennessee– that is something a Shelby County man knows all too well. He did not want to share his name or show his face because his case is still ongoing.  He told FOX13 he was charged with simple assault last December and he would have been in jail waiting for his next court date if his bail condition did not include GPS monitoring. LINK

Gov. Lee plans criminal justice improvements (Overton County News) Governor Bill Lee announced Thursday, Feb. 28 comprehensive plans to address criminal justice and public safety ahead of his State of the State address on Monday. “We must significantly improve public safety in our state and I believe that starts with our criminal justice system,” Gov. Lee said. “We will focus on helping individuals to ensure there is a pathway to a productive life beyond crime and ultimately make our state a safer place.” Gov. Lee is proposing initiatives including the following: Supplementing mental health efforts by expanding the recovery court system and recovery court programming. Eliminating the $180 state expungement fee. Expanding higher education programming for incarcerated individuals. LINK

TN Gov. issues executive order on criminal justice reform (WMC-TV) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee issued an executive order to push crime out of Tennessee and reduce the number of people who return to a life of crime after prison. The executive order issued from Governor Lee outlines a plan to address public safety in Tennessee amid higher rates of violent crime and recidivism. During his state of the state address Monday, the governor announced the task force would crack down on drug traffickers pushing out dangerous drugs like Fentanyl. He plans to increase pay for corrections officers and law enforcement while pushing for more educational opportunities for prisoners. LINK

Education, justice reform and healthcare dominate State of the State speech (WMOT Radio) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is offering some hard numbers to go along with his policy proposals for the year. During his first State of the State speech to lawmakers Monday night, Lee proposed an 11 percent increase in spending for the budget year that begins in July. Education dominated Lee’s presentation. The governor prop  osed $25 million new dollars for vocational education, $35 million for higher education, $12 million for student financial aid, $30 million for school safety and $71 million to fund a 2.5 percent pay raise for teachers. LINK

Here are Gov. Lee’s proposed raises for state employees (TN Journal) Here’s a look at the $157 million in state employee raises Republican Gov. Bill Lee is proposing for the upcoming budget year: 1. State Employees Salary Pool: a. 2% Salary Pool – Pay for performance – TEAM Act agencies: $28.8 million (effective 1/1/2020). b. 2% Salary Pool – Across the board – Non-TEAM Act agencies: $6.7 million (effective 7/1/2019). c. Market rate adjustment: $18.5 million. LINK

Did Lee’s State of the State speech set a modern record at 57 minutes? (TN Journal) Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s first State of the State address clocked in at 57 minutes last night, leading to speculation about whether it set a record for length. Our deep-dive into the newspaper archives doesn’t provide a conclusive answer, but most examples we found have been much shorter. Frank Clement, who was governor for 10 years in the 1950s and 1960s, is best-known for an evangelical oratorical style that culminated in his keynote address to Democratic presidential convention in 1956, which he punctuated with the phrase “How long, America, O how long?” The audience loved it, but the speech was panned by pundits. And the 43-minute speech came to be seen as ending Clement’s national political aspirations. LINK

Grand Divisions Episode 42: Gov. Bill Lee puts support behind education savings account program in first State of the State address (Tennessean) In his first State of the State address, Gov. Bill Lee outlined his vision for the state, which he said includes bolstering the state’s Rainy Day Fund, creating a pilot school vouchers program and funding pay raises. As has become the norm, the governor’s prime time speech was met with praise by Republicans and others, while Democrats zeroed in on the what wasn’t mentioned, namely Medicaid expansion. On this episode, Tennessean justice reporter Adam Tamburin helps us break down the governor’s education and criminal justice initiatives. LINK

Photo Gallery: Here is your State of the State gallery (TN Journal) Here is a gallery of photos from Gov. Bill Lee’s first State of the State address on Monday evening. LINK

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee Proposes Educational Savings Accounts For Qualified Students (WATN-TV) During the State of the State address Monday night, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee introduced a new proposal called Education Savings Accounts or ESA. Educational Savings Accounts would be similar to vouchers. They would allow parents the right to use the money where they think their children would get the best education. The idea of school voucher surfaces frequently, and this year it comes in the form of educational saving accounts. “Low income students deserve the same opportunity as every other kid in this state and we will need a bold plan that will help level the playing field,” said Gov. Lee. LINK

Governor’s charter school priorities concerns Knox County school board member (WATE-TV) The ability to attend a charter or private school could become easier for Tennesseans under Governor Bill Lee. Lee said in his first State of the State address Monday night that school choice is a key theme for his first year in office. “I believe highly, accountable public charter schools are a great model for expanding choice without sacrificing quality. And I have seen first hand how they can dramatically impact the life and trajectory of a student,” Lee said. LINK

Education savings account plan sparks concerns in Tennessee (AP) Democratic lawmakers are criticizing Gov. Bill Lee’s proposal to devote $25 million toward allowing parents to create savings accounts to pay for their children’s education. Lee announced the plan Monday during his first State of the State address. Legislation that would shine more light on the details of the proposal isn’t expected to be released until later this week, but the plan would allow parents of students in certain low-income districts to receive $7,300 to pay for approved expenses. LINK

Students protest at Vols game over UT’s response to blackface controversy (WATE-TV) While many cheered on the Vols Tuesday night against Mississippi State, on senior night, dozens of students at the University of Tennessee protested the administration’s response to the Snapchat photo of what appears to be a couple of UT students in blackface. Their rally to Thompson-Boling Arena included chants like “Blackface has no place,” “no justice, no peace,” and “this is what unity looks like.” LINK

TNReady testing: Hoping to avoid another failure, Tennessee opens bidding to new vendors (Tennessean) Tennessee’s next administrator of the TNReady test will have to improve its online capacity, customer service and results reporting times, according to the state’s request for proposals released Tuesday. The state is estimating a $20 million per year contract for the next TNReady vendor, a steep decline from the current contract, which costs $30 million a year. The vendor will also have less than a year to get up and running by the fall. The RFP details ways the Tennessee Department of Education hopes to avoid another colossal online testing failure. LINK

City, Elvis Presley Enterprises Announce Agreement on Graceland Expansion (Memphis Flyer) An agreement between the city of Memphis and Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE) to move forward with a Graceland expansion plan was announced Tuesday during the Memphis City Council executive session. The agreement would allow EPE to move forward with the Graceland Tourism Development Zone Master Plan, with the exclusion of a controversial 6,200-seat arena. The arena has been a point of tension between Graceland and both the city and the Memphis Grizziles. LINK

Graceland plans hotel, soundstage expansion with 1,000 new jobs (Memphis Business Journal) Members of the Memphis City Council revealed details of the City of Memphis’ agreement with Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE) Tuesday afternoon, saying EPE will seek additional incentives for $100 million worth of expansion at Graceland. EPE will seek amendments to the existing TIF (Tax Increment Financing) district and TDZ (Tourism Development Zone) to incentivize an expansion of the Guest House at Graceland with 150 new rooms and additional meeting space, 30 new cabins, airplane hangars and 80,000 square feet of sound stages, Councilwoman Patrice Robinson said during Tuesday’s meeting. LINK

Memphis City Council Announces Agreement With Elvis Presley Enterprises About Graceland (WATN-TV) Memphis City Council reaches an agreement with Elvis Presley Enterprises to move forward with development on Graceland’s campus. The agreement announced Tuesday includes the possible creation of 1,000 jobs, more sound-stages, a larger RV park, and the expansion of Graceland hotel. Vice chairwoman Patrice Robinson told Local 24 News there is a plan to pay certain EPE workers $15 to $50 per hour. “When the project is finished there, will be about 1000 new jobs of which, most of those jobs will go to people who live in the Whitehaven area. We have identified that in the agreement,” says Robinson. LINK

Tennessee to spend $400K on vaccine promotion ads (AP) The Tennessee Department of Health is hoping to boost the state’s immunization rates by spending $400,000 on advertisements promoting the value of vaccines. The health agency sent out a request last month looking for an advertisement firm to “purchase and manage media time” promoting vaccines. The state is looking to spend $400,000 on vaccine promotions and $500,000 on tobacco prevention advertisements starting this May and continuing through October 2020. LINK

3.4 earthquake reported near Maynardville, felt through Knoxville (WATE-TV) A 3.4 earthquake hit just north of Maynardville, Tennessee, on Tuesday afternoon, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Many WATE 6 On Your Side viewers near Knoxville have reported feeling the quake. Employees at WATE 6 On Your Side felt the quake as well. Earthquakes between 3.0 and 4.0 are often felt but rarely cause damage. You may also notice indoor items shaking. LINK

Flood waters contaminate drinking water for some Claiborne Co. residents (WBIR-TV) Floodwaters still haven’t drained in Claiborne County. The historic flooding is contaminating the drinking water for neighbors off of Loy Road near Highway 63. 15 people there get their water from a spring. TEMA and the county’s emergency management agency stepped in to help. LINK

Dept. of Agriculture assessing flood damage, coordinating assistance to farmers (Rogersville Review) Following the rains and flooding that led to a State of Emergency in the state, the Tennessee Dept. of Agriculture is coordinating with partners to assess damage, monitor food and fuel supplies, and assist farmers as floodwaters recede.“Under Governor Bill Lee’s direction, we have been coordinating responses with TEMA and other agencies to address the needs of Tennesseans ranging from ensuring food safety to assisting with livestock needs,” Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M., said. LINK

Tennessee tops new list for cellphone distracted driving deaths (WSMV-TV) Tennessee tops the list for cellphone distracted driving deaths nationwide. You see distracted drivers almost every time you’re on the road. “Texting a lot of times,” Ashland City resident Susan Farmer said. “It’s awful, it’s scary.” Many times these distractions can be extremely dangerous. “I actually saw an accident on the way here,” Nashville resident Anthony Chhann said. “Any type of distraction is just dangerous for any type of driver.” LINK

Casada Seeks Calm Amid Concentric Controversies (Nashville Scene) Protesters have lobbed a wrench into the business of the state House as they seek the removal of two men — one quick, one dead. “Can we talk about legislation?” asked House Republican staffer Doug Kufner as GOP leadership answered questions from the media last week. “Let’s talk about legislation.” The reporters did not heed his call. Instead, they pressed House Speaker Glen Casada and his deputies about their heated exchange just moments before with Nashville Democratic Reps. Bo Mitchell and Mike Stewart. Both had sought to recognize from the House floor protesters evicted earlier in the week from an education subcommittee hearing helmed by Rep. David Byrd, the Waynesboro Republican accused of having illicit sexual contact with his underage students decades ago. LINK

AllianceBernstein warns legislature against anti-LGBT bills (Nashville Post) AllianceBernstein, the Wall Street asset management firm that last year decided to move its headquarters to Nashville, is warning the Tennessee General Assembly against passing some proposed anti-LGBT laws. From a company statement: AB chose to move to Tennessee because we believe it is a welcoming state that is focused on growing jobs, incomes and the tax base, which will improve lives for all Tennesseans. LINK

AllianceBernstein to state lawmakers: These bills are bad for business (Nashville Business Journal) AllianceBernstein might be one of Nashville’s newest corporate citizens, but that’s not stopping the Wall Street giant from coming out swinging. On Tuesday, the company — which announced its relocation to Nashville last year — joined advocates in pushing back against a series of bills that they say would pose a threat to members of the state’s LGBT community. LINK

AllianceBernstein joins with LGBTQ advocates to fight Tennessee legislation (Tennessean) AllianceBernstein, a global money management firm moving its headquarters to Nashville, joined with several LGBTQ advocacy groups Tuesday in opposition to proposed legislation they say discriminates against LGBTQ individuals. The legislation they oppose includes a bill that  allows private adoption agencies to turn away prospective parents based on the agency’s religious views; a bill that would prevent local and state governments from considering a business’s anti-discrimination policies when granting contracts; and a third bill that adds language referring to transgender individuals in laws regarding indecent exposure. LINK

Tennessee immigrants speak out on bills to deny welfare benefits, birth certificates (Tennessean) Some 200 immigrants filled the office hallways of the Tennessee legislature on Tuesday, this time focused on legislation targeting the youngest among them: Babies whose parents have no lawful status. Organized by the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, the group’s annual day on the hill largely centered on legislation sponsored by the freshman lawmaker who says he wants to help President Donald Trump pay for a southern border wall. LINK

Immigrant group blasts Tennessee bill to limit prenatal care (AP) An immigrant rights group is opposing a bill in Tennessee that aims to require mothers to prove U.S. citizenship to receive government prenatal care and women, infants and children food benefits. At a news conference Tuesday, Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition Co-Executive Director Stephanie Teatro said Republican Rep. Bruce Griffey’s bill goes after U.S. citizen babies born to parents in the country illegally. Another Griffey bill is expected to limit birth certificates to only children of parents in the country legally, which the immigrant group also opposes. LINK

Lawmakers question disability denials by high-paid doctors speeding through cases (Tennessean) A legislative committee is scrutinizing whether the agency responsible for deciding which Tennesseans qualify for disability benefits is wrongly denying claims. In January, the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee investigation found that doctors hired by the state to handle disability claims were reviewing as many as 12 cases per hour — a pace experts deemed impossible. Paid a flat fee for every case, some doctors earned high rates of compensation by claiming they read hundreds of application files per month. LINK

Senate Republicans approve amendment to allow limited subpoena power on oversight boards (Tennessean) A bill placing restrictions on civilian-led police oversight boards in Tennessee has advanced in a Senate committee, though with an amendment allowing a process for obtaining subpoenas. The legislation, which representatives from the cities of Nashville and Knoxville have opposed, initially removed all subpoena power from community oversight boards, such as the newly-created Nashville board approved by 59 percent of voters in November. LINK

Tennessee bill would limit police oversight board subpoenas (WKRN-TV) A Tennessee legislative panel has changed a bill to maintain, but limit, subpoena power for local community boards that investigate police misconduct. The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the amended community oversight board bill Tuesday. It would require a board-hired special investigator, the police chief or head of police internal affairs to request subpoenas from a judge. LINK

Tennessee police oversight board subpoenas limited in bill (AP) A Tennessee legislative panel has changed a bill to maintain, but limit, subpoena power for local community boards that investigate police misconduct. The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the amended community oversight board bill Tuesday. It would require a board-hired special investigator, the police chief or head of police internal affairs to request subpoenas from a judge. LINK

City council throws support behind marijuana legislation (WMC-TV) Memphis city council leaders are supporting a variety of marijuana-related legislation under consideration in Nashville. The council passed a resolution voicing support for bills that include decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of the drug and recognizing medical marijuana cards from other states. One councilman said the bills work well with Governor Bill Lee’s emphasis on criminal justice reform, since many people are jailed on marijuana charges. Earlier this year, two Republican lawmakers in Tennessee said they plan to propose a medical marijuana bill. LINK

Women urge embattled House member to resign (Daily Memphian) A group of women avoided being escorted out of a House meeting Tuesday as they held signs asking Chairman David Byrd to resign amid allegations of sexual misconduct with his high school girls basketball players 30 years ago. But a few of them got in some parting words for the embattled representative, shouting, “Molesting kids is not OK!” and “Dirty Byrd!” Last week, the women with Enough is Enough were removed by troopers from the House Education Administration Subcommittee meeting where they held signs saying, “RESIGN BYRD” and “TAKE A STAND.” LINK

Group protesting Rep. Byrd returns to subcommittee after being thrown out (WTVF-TV) Women protesting state Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) — a lawmaker accused of sexual assault — once again made an appearance at a state house subcommittee that Byrd leads. Some of those same women were at his subcommittee last week as well, holding signs protesting the pick of Byrd to chair the education administration subcommittee. Those protesters, part of a group called Enough is Enough, were escorted out last week by state troopers during a recess , having been told they were making some uncomfortable. LINK

TennCare block grant bill clears another House committee, despite failed amendment efforts (Tennessean) For the second time in as many weeks, a GOP-led bill to change how the state could use federal money for health-care coverage received approval in a key House committee. Despite repeated attempts by Democrats to amend the proposal, the House Insurance Committee approved a bill that would require Gov. Bill Lee’s administration to meet with federal officials to formally request a block grant for TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program. LINK

Medicaid block grant bill passes another committee (Nashville Post) Democrats unsuccessfully seek to attach requirements to Republican proposal. Rep. Timothy Hill (R-Blountville) was successful Tuesday in pushing his bill that would have Tennessee ask the federal government for a block grant of its Medicaid funding through the House Insurance Committee. After the Republican priority passed in a subcommittee last week, it now heads to the Finance, Ways and Means Committee. In the Senate, the bill has been referred to the Commerce and Labor Committee, but it has not been scheduled for a hearing. LINK

Sgt. Baker Act: ‘Justice delayed is justice denied,’ says House leader as bill advances (Tennessean) A bill named after Sgt. Daniel Baker that removes a step in the death penalty appeal process, was discussed by several lawmakers — including three from Dickson County and a fourth who represents Dickson — before being approved. The “Sgt. Daniel Baker Act” bill now moves on in both the state House and Senate. Baker was shot and killed in May 30 last year. Steven Wiggins and Erika Castro-Miles have been charged with first-degree murder and the district attorney’s office is seeking the death penalty for both. The trial is set for August. LINK

Tennessee might change the look of disabled parking signs (WTVF-TV) The handicapped sign on state property in Tennessee could have a new look thanks to a bill in the state legislature. The “Dynamic Accessibility Act” changes the standard image for handicapped accessible parking spots and entrances to a more active symbol, showing a person in a wheelchair who seems to be moving forward. LINK

Anti-vaxxers are ‘charlatans and fraudsters’ Sen. Lamar Alexander says before Senate hearing (Tennessean) People who claim vaccines aren’t safe are “charlatans and internet fraudsters,” Sen. Lamar Alexander tweeted shortly before opening a Senate hearing Tuesday on vaccines. Alexander, R-Tennessee, chairs the Senate Health Committee which on Tuesday was scheduled to hear testimony on the ongoing outbreaks of preventable diseases and the importance of immunizations, he said. Ethan Lindenberger, who was vaccinated as a teenager against his parents wishes, was scheduled to testify. But before the hearing began, Alexander shared his thoughts about vaccinations, including that parents need to talk to “reputable health care providers” on the topic. LINK

TN senator, doctors push for more vaccinations (WBIR-TV) Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander put the pressure on parents to do what he calls the right kind of research when making decisions about vaccinating their kids. He did so at a senate hearing in response to the measles outbreak in the U.S. “As with many topics, just because you found it on the internet doesn’t mean that it’s true,” said Alexander. The CDC reports measles cases are confirmed in 11 states so far this year. Doctors said vaccines are the answer to this problem. Immunization records in Tennessee are high. LINK

U.S. Senators question Brentwood-based prison transportation company (WTVF-TV) Top Congressional lawmakers are asking a local company some tough questions. United States Senators Cory Booker (D) New Jersey and Elizabeth Warren (D) Massachusetts sent a scathing letter to the head of Prisoner Transportation Services of America which is located in Brentwood. The letter requested specific information from the company and raised questions about the company’s safety record. Congressman Ted Deutch (D) Florida joined the Senators in signing the letter which was sent last week. LINK

President Trump nominates former Chattanooga chamber CEO to TVA board (WRCB-TV) President Donald Trump has nominated former Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce president, William “Bill” Kilbride to serve on the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Board of Directors. Kilbride retired from his position with the chamber in December of 2017. According to his LinkedIn page, Kilbride was the president of Mohawk Industries in Calhoun, Georgia from 1993-2014. LINK

CVS to close Nashville call center, lay off 250 workers in Davidson County (Tennessean) CVS Health, a retail pharmacy company, plans to lay off 250 workers in Davidson County, according to state records. CVS Health said it is closing its Nashville call center on May 3, where 250 people work. Those who are not eligible or unable to work from home will be eligible for severance benefits and can apply to other CVS openings in the area, according to the company. “The company is making this difficult but necessary decision in order to better integrate and manage CVS Caremark’s call center operations, which will include some expansion of ongoing call center work from home employment in the Nashville area,” CVS Health in a statement. LINK

Health care giant to close Nashville facility, impacting 250 workers (Nashville Business Journal) CVS Caremark, the pharmacy benefits subsidiary of CVS Health Corp., is shutting down a MetroCenter facility it has operated for more than a decade. The company will close its Nashville call center effective May 3, according to a filing with the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development. The closure will impact 250 workers, according to the filing. LINK

Corporate Tax Deals May Be Public, But What Happens Next Is Often Secret (Governing) Three weeks after Amazon announced it would back out of plans to build a second headquarters in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are still lobbying to woo the company back in hopes of getting the 25,000 jobs and billions in community investment that it promised. But there’s no guarantee a company will deliver on its job promise in the first place. In fact, new research shows that it’s not rare for companies to end up lowering their job targets after inking a tax incentives deal with the state. Most recently, global electronics maker Foxconn announced that it likely won’t meet the job target for a manufacturing plant in Racine County, Wis. LINK

Why Eating Roadkill Makes Roads Safer for People and Animals (Stateline) It’s taco night at the Lindskoog household in this suburban community 20 miles west of Boise. Nate Lindskoog has seasoned the red meat sizzling in his cast-iron skillet with a mixture of chili powder and Himalayan pink salt. In a few minutes, he will wrap it in corn tortillas and top it off with lime-soaked avocados. The 36-year-old father of six isn’t making carne asada with meat he bought from a butcher or at the grocery store. Instead, he’s searing venison from a deer killed by a car on Lake Avenue. “That is just fine,” he said, taking a bite of the cilantro- and onion-garnished taco. “I’ve had worse tacos in restaurants that were $10. This was free, laying on the side of the road.” LINK


Clint Cooper: Voucher program offers promise (Times Free Press) We don’t believe it would matter if a wealthy foundation stepped forward to put $25 million into an “educational savings account” for students in low-performing public schools to attend “an independent school of their choice at no cost to their family.” The Tennessee Education Association (TEA) still would not support it. So expecting the TEA to support a voucher program that does not take $1 from public education funding but is nevertheless paid through state funds is a pipe dream. But the organization ought to support the program. It ought to be in lockstep with the governor in trying to be innovative in trying to give every student “access to a great education,” as Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said in his first State of the State address on Monday. LINK

Opinion: Otis Sanford On Gov. Lee’s State Of The State (WATN-TV) Local 24 News political analyst and commentator Otis Sanford shares his point of view on Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s State of the State address. Governor Bill Lee’s first state of the state address was well received by the predominantly Republican general assembly. Even the handful of Democratic lawmakers were cordial to the Governor and mostly receptive to some of his initiatives. Undoubtedly, the area where Lee will receive the most bipartisan support will be his efforts at criminal justice reform. The Governor wants to greatly reduce recidivism by making it easier for prison inmates to earn degrees while behind bars. He also is proposing to eliminate the high cost of having criminal records expunged. LINK

Guest column: A child in foster care changed my stereotypical ideas, and I carried it forward (Commercial Appeal) Before I started teaching more than 20 years ago, I thought that a child who was in a foster home was broken by his or her situation, the foster care system or both. After teaching a few years, I came across a student who asked, “Will you make an exception in my case, because you assigned us to write a research paper on a Supreme Court case and then make a group presentation.” She then told me her story. LINK

Column: Spelling out the mysteries of TDZs, TIFs and PILOTs (Daily Memphian) Our world at Memphis City Hall consists of plenty of strange acronyms and complex items distilled into short headlines. It’s no surprise, then, that some of the most creative ways we fund game-changing projects — methods that preserve and actually grow funds for city services and neighborhoods — are widely misunderstood. Just last week in The Daily Memphian, columnist Dan Conaway was the latest to head down that road. Mr. Conaway is hardly alone, though. After all, who among us hasn’t heard some variation of “Well, those geniuses at City Hall can put a Bass Pro Shops inside the Pyramid, but can’t [insert core service here]!”? LINK

Column: Remembering Former Reporter, Blogger and GOP Spokesman Bill Hobbs (Nashville Scene) Life is too short — and Nashville is too small — for online enemies. Bill Hobbs and I go way back. It was 2000, and The Tennessean reported on a student rally for education funding where I, then a high school senior, said something about the need to fund our schools. It was, no doubt, profound. Hobbs didn’t think so. A former Nashville Business Journal and Tennessean reporter and an early adopter of blogging (who would go on to write several thousand blog posts over the years on topics ranging from conservative politics to photography to cancer), Hobbs laid into me on his blog. “Umm…John, we ARE funding the school system to the tune of $400 million a year—about 40 PERCENT of the city’s entire budget,” he wrote. “I thought Hume Fogg was for smart kids.” LINK


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