Wednesday, March 13

Video: Gov. Bill Lee saws a log on Ag Day on the Hill (Tennessean) The two-man team of Gov. Bill Lee and Tennessee Farm Bureau President Jeff Aiken beat out teams from the state House and Senate in a crosscut saw competition during Ag Day on the Hill on March 12, 2019. LINK

Farm animals join legislators for Ag Day on the Hill (WTVF-TV) It wasn’t just your average day of bills and debate at the Capitol. Goats, saws and the Governor all made an appearance for Ag Day on the Hill. This year’s event focused on forestry in Tennessee. Governor Bill Lee rolled up his sleeves and competed in the log sawing competition – and won. Organizers say the annual event is all about celebrating Agriculture and its impact on our state’s economy. LINK

Capitol Ag Day Has Tennessee Lawmakers Passing Saws Rather Than Laws (WPLN Radio) It’s not unusual for lobbyists and advocates to work the premises of the Tennessee state legislature, trying to win lawmakers over to their side. But when the General Assembly holds its annual Ag Day on the Hill, it’s the politicians who roll up their sleeves. What for? This year, it was a crosscut saw contest between Gov. Bill Lee and the two chambers. That’s the sort of thing that happens when 4-Hers, future farmers and agriculture advocates converge on the capitol. LINK

State celebrates ‘Ag Day on the Hill’ (WSMV-TV) State leaders and citizens are celebrating agriculture day in Tennessee with Ag Day on the Hill. This year’s competition spotlights the role of forestry in the Volunteer State. Gov. Bill Lee and his partner Jeff Aiken, the president of the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, won the crosscut competition with a time of 34.3 seconds. He spoke briefly about the importance of Tennessee being a leader in agriculture. “We have to remind youth of today that agriculture tech and the future of agriculture is something they can be engaged in and there’s a real future there,” Lee said. LINK

Governor’s Executive Order begins flood recovery effort (Lenoir City News-Herald) Governor Bill Lee signed an executive order Thursday, March 7 enabling further recovery efforts and beginning the process for declaring a federal disaster after record rains in February caused statewide damage. “As waters recede and we are now able to fully review the extent of flooding damage across our state, I signed an executive order as a key step in working with the federal government for further recovery efforts,” Gov. Lee said. “We thank the first responders who are working diligently to keep citizens safe and deliver services.”  LINK

Gov. Lee announces mental health initiatives (Overton County News) Governor Bill Lee on Tuesday, Feb. 26 announced three priorities to increase access to mental health treatment and expand suicide prevention efforts across the state. “The mental health of our citizens is foundational to all other goals we seek to accomplish in education, job growth and public safety,” Gov. Lee. “By prioritizing our mental health safety net and suicide prevention, we are caring for more Tennesseans and building healthier communities.” LINK

Gov. Lee delivers State of the State (Overton Co. News) Governor Bill Lee delivered his first State of the State address Monday, March 4 and presented budget priorities to a joint session of the General Assembly in the House Chamber. Gov. Lee proposed a strong, conservative budget with a record-breaking deposit to the Rainy Day Fund that will lift the state savings account to a historic high $1.1 billion. The proposed budget does not take on any long-term debt and manages to cut more than $40 million in costs without compromising services. The proposed budget is available on the Department of Finance & Administration website. LINK

Governor Lee Delivered First ‘State of State” address on March 4 (Buffalo River Review) On Monday evening, March 4, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee delivered his first State of the State address and presented budget priorities to a joint session of the General Assembly in the House Chamber. Gov. Lee proposed a strong, conservative budget with a record-breaking deposit to the Rainy Day Fund that will lift the state savings account to a historic high $1.1 billion. The proposed budget does not take on any long-term debt and manages to cut more than $40 million in costs without compromising services. LINK

Tennessee Builds on Its Business Retention and Attraction Efforts (Area Development) A commitment to manufacturing, its logistical advantages, and a workforce development push are at the core of Tennessee’s economic strength. When economic development experts in Tennessee discuss their state, they tout its strength in manufacturing and its status as a logistics hub. The state has become a particularly crucial home for the automobile manufacturing industry, but it’s not solely a manufacturing-heavy region. Tennessee also increasingly is attracting innovative, technology-oriented businesses, especially to Nashville, which has gathered press plaudits as a burgeoning Silicon Valley. LINK

Smyrna receives $3M loan to get cleaner water (Murfreesboro Post) The Town of Smyrna has received a $3 million loan from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for water infrastructure improvements, Gov. Bill Lee and TDEC Commissioner David Salyers announced on Tuesday. Smyrna will receive a low-interest loan for green infrastructure and waste water treatment plant expansion from 5.85 million gallons per day to 9 million gallons per day. The loan is for $3 million with federal funding in the amount of $2.7 million and an additional $300,000 in principal forgiveness. The loan has a 20-year repayment period at an interest rate of 1.71 percent. LINK

SCS looking into education savings account proposed by TN Gov. Bill Lee (WMC-TV) Questions remain about how much an Education Savings Account system proposed by Governor Bill Lee would actually cost taxpayers. The governor laid out his plan for increased school choice last week. Shelby County Schools said it’s still looking into the proposed program and its potential impact as new figures about Gov. Lee’s proposal surface. “I just read a high-level balcony response,” said SCS Chief Academic Officer Antonio Burt. “I haven’t had a chance to dissect it.” Burt said Tuesday he hasn’t delved into the details of Gov. Lee’s education savings account proposal that the governor first rolled out last Monday at the State of the State address in Nashville. “My ESA plan will actually strengthen public schools and provide choices for parents at the same time,” Gov. Lee said. LINK

TN Dept. of Revenue starts new tax prep program for business owners (WBBJ-TV) The Tennessee Department of Revenue held its first tax preparation workshop for business owners Tuesday at the Dyer County Clerk’s Office. “Gov. Lee wishes to go out and have various departments and state government interact with our rural communities to provide them with any assistance they may need,” said Billy Trout, manager of tax education for the Tennessee Department of Revenue. The goal of the new initiative is to increase outreach in rural Tennessee. “We’re assisting our TN business taxpayers with various taxes like sales tax, business tax, and any other taxes that they have to file with our department,” Trout said. LINK

ETSU College of Public Health ranked among top third in nation (Johnson City Press) The 2020 U.S. News and World Report Best Graduate Schools Rankings named the East Tennessee State University College of Public Health in the top third of schools and programs of public health accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health, according to a Tuesday news release. “Going from being unranked as recently as 2011 to being just outside the top quarter of all public health schools and programs in the nation reflects the impressive teaching and research efforts of our faculty and students, as well as the college’s contributions to important public health issues,” Dr. Randy Wykoff, dean of the College of Public Health, said of the recent ranking. LINK

U.S. News ranks ETSU College of Public Health among top third in nation (WJHL-TV) U.S. News has ranked ETSU’s College of Public Health in the top third of accredited schools and programs of public health. The ranking is part of the 2020 U.S. News Best Graduate Schools Rankings, which is based on academic experts’ ratings of programs in their field. Deans, programs directors, and senior faculty are asked to judge the quality of programs on a scale of one (marginal) to five (outstanding). The college was ranked 46th out of 177, making it one of the top 10 public health graduate schools in the Southeast. LINK

Two Northeast Tennessee robotics teams qualify for World Championships (WCYB-TV) Two high school robotics teams in Northeast Tennesse have qualified for a world championship tournament in Houston, and are looking for the community’s help to get there. Teams from David Crockett and Dobyns-Bennett High Schools qualified for the tournament after teaming up to win a regional tournament in South Carolina. Now, the two teams must raise thousands of dollars over the next few weeks to pay for travel expenses. LINK

Teachers are ‘ready to fight,’ says new Tennessee coalition inspired by strikes in other states (Chalkbeat Tennessee) Weary of standardized testing and underfunded schools, and alarmed by the prospect of education vouchers and charter expansion in Tennessee, a group of teacher leaders have organized a new statewide coalition and say they are “ready to fight for the schools our students deserve.” The coalition, called TN Teachers United, launched last week after meeting with two teachers who helped organize statewide walkouts last year in Arizona and West Virginia. LINK

Piney Falls State Natural Area almost doubles in size after addition of nearly 400 acres (Times Free Press) The size of the state’s Piney Falls State Natural Area in Rhea County has almost doubled through the addition of nearly 400 acres, courtesy of several nonprofit groups, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) officials announced Tuesday. “This significant acquisition, which contains stunning views of the ridge and valley of the Cumberland Plateau, provides additional protection for Upper Piney Falls,” said Roger McCoy, TDEC’s director over the Division of Natural Areas in a news release. “We are grateful to our nonprofit partners for their support in making even more of Tennessee’s incredible views accessible to visitors and rural residents alike,” he added. LINK

Could Memphis be the Silicon Valley of ag? (Daily Memphian) Back in December, if someone wanted a Caesar salad, they were out of luck. An E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuces out of California caused everyone from restaurants to grocery stores to throw it out. “We’re not recalling it just in Texas or Mississippi, but all of it because there’s no way to track it,” said Mark Pryor, CEO of local commodities software company The Seam, referencing the farm’s decision to recall all products that may have come into contact with water from a contaminated reservoir. LINK

​​​​​​​City Of Memphis Sues Pharmaceutical Companies Over Opioid Epidemic (WATN-TV) In a new lawsuit, the city of Memphis claims drug companies are not being upfront about opioids being addictive, and says that in many cases they being over-prescribed. The CDC says the opioid epidemic kills more people than car wrecks or suicides. “I was a football player from high school,” said Jordon Fostich. “Never would have happened to me, I thought.” Fostich is on his ninth day of treatment with Addiction Campuses. He was addicted to oxycodone for several years after a jaw injury. Fostich is one of the more than two million people the CDC says are addicted to opioids. LINK

City of Memphis suing 21 pharmaceutical companies after deceptive opioid marketing campaigns (Commercial Appeal) Twenty-one pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors are being sued by the City of Memphis citing opioid addictions ravaging the city, according to a lawsuit filed on March 7. The city cites a large significant increase in the use of prescription opioid pain medications as a result of the company’s “deceptive marketing campaign” and a failure to report suspicious orders of the medicine, according to court documents. Documents from the lawsuit said despite the knowledge of the risks of the drug, companies continued to market the drug by creating a “false perception” of safety for the drug in the minds of medical professionals and members of the public. LINK

City sues big pharma companies over opioid addiction (Daily Memphian) The city of Memphis is suing 21 opioid manufacturers and distributors in a federal lawsuit claiming “opioid addiction is ravaging Memphis.” The lawsuit, filed last week, alleges the list of corporations, led by Purdue Pharma LP, “manufactured, promoted and marketed opioids for the management of other forms of pain by misleading consumers and medical providers through misrepresentations or omissions regarding the appropriate uses, risks and safety of opioids. LINK

Trash filling creeks leading to Cumberland River (WSMV-TV) Weeks of heavy rains and flooding has led to tons of trash making its way into creeks, streams and eventually the Cumberland River. The amount of garbage itself is enough to take folks by surprise. When you get out into the creeks and along the river banks that feed into the Cumberland, it’s actually landfill proportions. Vic Scoggin is the president and founder of Save the Cumberland. He’s floated down the Cumberland River hundreds of times and has seen just how much garbage winds up in the water. LINK

Charter School Authorizer Bill Moves Forward Despite Bipartisan Concerns (WPLN Radio) Gov. Bill Lee’s proposal to overhaul how charter schools are approved in Tennessee now includes the creation of a new, nine-person commission that would let applicants skip local school districts entirely. That’s causing concern among Republican and Democratic lawmakers. The plan, which was presented Tuesday during a meeting of the House Curriculum, Testing and Innovation subcomittee hearing, would deviate from the process established by state lawmakers just two years ago. That gave charter schools that have been denied by a local school district the right to appeal to the State Board of Education. LINK

Governor’s charter school bill moves forward (Nashville Post) One of Gov. Bill Lee’s education priorities — a new state commission that would allow charter school applicants to skip the local school board when requesting authorization — passed out of a House subcommittee Tuesday as its sponsor promised further consideration of concerns from members of both parties. “We need disruption,” said sponsor Mark White, a Memphis Republican and chair of the House Education Committee. “It happens every day in the private world.” Lee, a first-term Republican, announced his intention to back such legislation in his State of the State address early this month, but the details, included in an amendment to a placeholder bill, were not disclosed until Monday. LINK

Despite nervousness, Tennessee House panel approves Gov. Bill Lee’s charter school authorizer bill (Times Free Press) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s proposal to create a new independent state entity for authorizing charter schools in the future cleared its first legislative hurdle Tuesday despite reservations among several of his fellow Republicans. The plan won approval from the GOP-run House Curriculum, Testing and Innovation Subcommittee on a voice vote. Several representatives worried that it could wind up stripping any control or input over approval of new publicly funded charter schools from local school districts. LINK

House Bill 951 heads for House floor vote (Cleveland Daily Banner) Part of Gov. Bill Lee’s legislative package, a move to deregulate the required state licensing of certain caregivers, is headed for a vote on the House of Representatives floor on Thursday. Shepherding House Bill 951 is state Rep. Dan Howell (R-Georgetown) who was asked to spearhead the legislation on the governor’s behalf by House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) and Assistant Majority Leader Ron Gant (R-Rossville). Under Howell’s stewardship, the proposed legislation advanced first through the House Mental Health & Substance Abuse Subcommittee, and early last week it earned the unanimous endorsement of the full House Health Committee. LINK

How little-known meetings in hard-to-find locations can make or break legislation in Tennessee (Tennessean) Jokes about escort services. Lobbyists introducing bills. Lawmakers swearing and saying how they will vote before legislation is taken up in committee. All are part of the world of legislative pre-meetings in the Tennessee General Assembly. To coincide with Sunshine Week, the USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee recently attended more than a dozen House pre-meetings — informal gatherings where lawmakers and stakeholders openly discuss legislation. Sunshine Week is a national, non-partisan effort seeking to call attention to the importance of open government. LINK

Bill allowing alcohol sales at concerts in Neyland, Thompson-Boling step closer to passage (Tennessean) A bill that could allow alcohol sales at University of Tennessee venues for concerts is headed to the floors of the House of Representatives and the state Senate. The legislation, aimed at attracting big-name acts to Thompson-Boling Arena and Neyland Stadium, was approved by the finance committees of both chambers on Tuesday. In the House Finance Committee, Knox County Mayor Glen Jacobs testified in favor of the measure, saying the area lost out out on at least six major acts in the last two years because of the current prohibition of alcohol sales in those venues. LINK

TN Bill to ban renting to tenants in US illegally advances (AP) Tennessee House lawmakers have advanced legislation to ban landlords from renting or subleasing housing to people in the U.S. illegally. Republican Rep. Bruce Griffey’s bill cleared the House Business Subcommittee on Tuesday. Griffey says the bill would penalize landlords for allowing residents in their property while knowing or recklessly disregarding that they’re in the U.S. illegally. First-time penalties would include a misdemeanor punishable by a $350 fine, with increasing penalties. The Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition said the bill denies communities basic human dignity and puts children at risk of homelessness. LINK

Bill would target landlords of people in U.S. without authorization (TN Journal) The House is advancing legislation targeting landlords who rent to people without proper authorization to be in the country, the Associated Press’ Jonathan Mattise reports. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) who saw the defeat of another one of his measures seeking to help fund President Donald Trump’s border wall through fees charged on international money transfers from people in Tennessee who can’t present a driver’s license. The landlord vote advanced out of the House Business Subcommittee on a 5-1 vote. It now heads to the full Commerce Committee. LINK

Tennessee bill requiring fees on money transfers to fund border wall fails in state House panel (Times Free Press) A Tennessee bill seeking to impose fees on money transfers and use proceeds to help fund President Donald Trump’s wall on the U.S./Mexican border failed Tuesday in a House subcommittee. House Banking and Investments Subcommittee members voted 6-1 against the bill, one of six measures introduced by freshman Republican Rep. Bruce Griffey of Paris which target undocumented immigrants.  Griffey’s HB562 would have imposed a fee of $10 on transactions less than $500 or 1 percent for any transaction in excess of $500 sent abroad. Money would have gone into a special fund. LINK

TN Sports betting bill getting makeover with touches from the top (WKRN-TV) A bill that would allow sports betting in Tennessee is being re-worked heavily with some input from the Lee administration. “We are looking at what type of vehicle we would use to manage sports betting,” said House sponsor Rep. Rick Staples of Knoxville. That means a series of amendments are being prepared for a bill that would still legalize sports betting, but how big, what kind of way it’s done and how much tax might be charged on wagers are some of what’s being re-evaluated. LINK

Sports betting bill getting a rework by sponsor (WTVF-TV) The sponsor of a bill that would allow sports betting in the state of Tennessee is taking a red pen to his own legislation. State representative Rick Staples said there’s some things he would like to clarify in the bill to make it easier to understand. Staples introduced the sports betting bill to help raise money for counties and cities across Tennessee. It would allow sports betting businesses and betting kiosks to operate. LINK

Proposed board would study impact of Alzheimer’s on state of Tennessee (WTVF-TV) An advocacy group is pushing for an “Alzheimer’s Advisory Council” that would study the effects the disease has on the population of Tennessee. According to the group, 120,000 people in Tennessee are afflicted with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. The advisory council would study that population, as well as provide suggestions to the state for treatment. “We can’t make real tangible changes until the government gets involved,” said Alexandra Soffer, an advocate whose father died recently of the disease. LINK

Bill letting faith-based entities decline adoptions advances in TN House (AP) A Tennessee House panel has advanced a bill that would allow faith-based orphanages and child-placement organizations to decline adoptions or foster care based on religious beliefs, including opposition to LGBT parents. The House Children & Families Subcommittee cast a favorable voice vote Tuesday on Republican Rep. Tim Rudd’s legislation. It was amended to apply only to faith-based organizations. Rudd said the bill aims to protect faith-based organizations from possible lawsuits when they refuse to place children due to religious beliefs. Rudd said that under his bill, LGBT people could still adopt through non-faith-based organizations and any faith-based ones that don’t object. LINK

Group protests for legalizing marijuana (WSMV-TV) Tennesseans showed up to legislature meetings on Tuesday making their plea for legalizing medical marijuana. A West Tennessee non-profit group descended on Nashville to speak to lawmakers. Part of the group went inside, the rest stayed outside to rally in the streets. Most of the group were former surgery patients, hoping their first-hand experience could sway votes. Lawmakers are debating several issues. Medical legalization, full legalization and decriminalization of marijuana. LINK

Bill to expand TennCare waiver for families with disabled kids moves through legislature (WZTV-TV) A bill moving through the Tennessee General Assembly aimed at helping children with severe disabilities is giving hope to families throughout the state. 16-month-old Adelaide Kauffmann has spinal muscular atrophy type 1. FOX 17 News first brought you her story in September 2018. Her motor-neuro disorder has led to loss of muscle control in her limbs, and the inability to cough or swallow. Adelaide is fed through a tube, and will likely be in a wheelchair for her entire life. LINK

Why The Possibility Of TennCare Converting To A Block Grant Has Opponents Growing Worried (WPLN Radio) A proposed change to how Tennessee’s Medicaid program is funded by the federal government has some health care advocates worried. The state could be one of the first to ask for a so-called “block grant” to pay for the health care of low-income residents. Conservatives want more flexibility in how to spend federal money. A block grant would be a lump sum with fewer strings attached, rather than having the federal government pay for two-thirds of the expenses for each of the 1.3 million beneficiaries. The legislation, HB1280/SB1428, would direct TennCare to negotiate for a block grant. Any deal struck with the Trump administration would likely have to come back to the legislature for approval. LINK

NRA ad criticizes Kelsey for posing with Moms Demand Action (Daily Memphian) State Sen. Brian Kelsey is downplaying a National Rifle Association graphic criticizing him for posing with members of Moms Demand Action, a group advocating for gun law reforms. The conservative website Breitbart published a piece on Kelsey with the NRA graphic and an Instagram picture of the senator from Germantown saying: “Tennessee Republican Brian Kelsey is teaming up with Bloomberg’s gun control lobby,” a reference to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a supporter of stronger gun control. In an Instagram post from March 6 when Moms Demand Action visited Capitol Hill in Nashville, Kelsey wrote: “I appreciate their passion for public safety and taking the time to share their mission with me.” LINK

Rose takes state Senate District 32 seat by wide margin (Daily Memphian) Covington business man Paul Rose is the new state senator from District 32. Rose was the winner over Democratic nominee Eric Coleman in Tuesday’s special general election for the seat, keeping it in the Republican column. As soon as Tuesday’s results from the eastern part of Shelby County and Tipton County are certified by the election commissions on each side of the county line, Rose will take the seat in the state Senate and begin serving the remainder of the term of Republican Mark Norris of Collierville. Norris gave up the seat last year when the U.S. Senate confirmed his nomination to be a federal judge. LINK

Paul Rose Wins Special Election For TN State Senate Seat For District 32 (WATN-TV) The votes are in, and Covington’s Paul Rose has won the special election to replace Mark Norris as the Tennessee State Senator for District 32. Republican Paul Rose and Democrat Eric Coleman faced off to fill the seat left open when Mark Norris was named a federal judge. Senate District 32 is a solidly Republican district that includes rural Tipton County and the eastern suburbs of Shelby County, including Collierville and Lakeland. Rose runs his family’s construction business. LINK

Republican Paul Rose wins Tennessee Senate District 32 seat (WREG-TV) District 32 voters elected Republican Paul Rose the Tennessee Senate District 32 seat on Tuesday. WREG projects Rose won with 87 percent of the vote. Democrat Eric Coleman had 13 percent. The seat as left empty when Collierville Republican Mark Norris left office to become a federal judge. District 32 includes all of Tipton County and parts of eastern Shelby County, including Collierville, Lakeland, Bartlett and Arlington. LINK

Alexander, Blackburn: New act expands Shiloh battlefield (WREG-TV) U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn say a law signed by President Donald Trump will expand Shiloh National Military Park in Tennessee. A news release from the offices of the Republican senators said Tuesday that a proposal making several battlefields near Shiloh part of the Civil War site was included in a law signed by President Trump. Unfolding over two days in April 1962, the battle between Confederate and Union forces along the Tennessee River at Shiloh resulted in 23,000 casualties. LINK

Fleischmann, Alexander vow to work to restore funding for Chickamauga Lock replacement. No money for project found in Trump budget plan (Times Free Press) President Trump is proposing to cut out federal funding for the Inland Waterways Trust Fund next year, which would stall further work on the partially built replacement lock at the Chickamauga Dam in Chattanooga. The White House budget plan for fiscal 2020 cuts overall spending for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Civil Works program by 31 percent, or $4.8 billion, from the $7.1 billion allocated this year for the Corps to maintain and upgrade dams, locks and other structures on America’s navigable rivers. LINK

East Tenn. congressman to question FEMA official following flooding (WATE-TV) FEMA Deputy Administrator Peter T. Gaynor is set to testify Tuesday afternoon before the House Appropriations Homeland Security subcommittee and a congressman from East Tennessee plans to ask questions regarding the recent flooding. Congressman Chuck Fleischmann’s office says he plans to question Gaynor about FEMA’s procedures for evaluating disaster areas. The testimony will stream live. LINK

Wording on Madison County lynching memorial sparks debate among commissioners (Jackson Sun) For the third time in less than a month, Madison County commissioners debated the placement of a lynching memorial on the courthouse grounds. “We’re working to memorialize the victims of lynching in Madison County not because we want to drudge up the past or make anyone feel ashamed,” Jackson-Madison Community Remembrance Project spokesperson Melanie Taylor said. “We’re doing this because those people deserve to be remembered.” The Madison County Commission’s property committee previously voted unanimously to recommend the memorial, but in February the full commission voted to table the issue and send it back to the committee for further discussion. LINK

2 shot in apparent domestic dispute at Nashville home (WKRN-TV) Two people were shot in an apparent domestic situation Tuesday night at a home on Chesapeake Drive, authorities say. Metro police responded around 8:30 p.m. to the shooting scene off Brick Church Pike. Officers said the preliminary investigation showed a woman was shot by a male, who then shot himself in the head. Both individuals were transported to a hospital in critical condition, police said. The identities were not immediately released. LINK

Turkey caught on video assaulting Oak Ridge police cruiser, no charges filed (News Sentinel) Maybe he saw his reflection in the shiny black paint, or maybe he simply isn’t a fan of law enforcement. Either way, a turkey was caught on video launching a savage assault on an Oak Ridge police cruiser Monday. “Officer Sweeten had an unexpected wildlife encounter when approaching his patrol vehicle yesterday,” the Oak Ridge Police Department wrote in a Facebook post containing the video. LINK


Guest column: Higher education is more than a degree. It’s about Tennessee’s quality of life. (Tennessean) Tennessee’s 111th General Assembly’s convened on Jan. 8. Our elected representatives now face finding solutions to some of Tennessee’s greatest challenges, including the state economy, health care and the opioid crisis. If they wish to address these issues effectively, our legislature must first change how they think about, and value, higher education. The University of Tennessee has in recent years been represented almost exclusively as a hotbed of conflict and controversy, with attention-grabbing headlines that bear little relation to the day-to-day work taking place on our campus. In many cases, these so-called controversies have been the inventions of people outside the university. LINK

Column: A Look at the House’s Abortion Legislation, Ripe for a Legal Challenge (Nashville Scene) A controversial abortion restriction — similar versions of which have been struck down by courts around the country — easily passed in the state House last week despite heated objections from Democrats and abortion-rights activists. But the state Senate, also controlled by Republicans, could effectively kill the bill, which even anti-abortion advocacy group Tennessee Right to Life said was misguided. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Micah Van Huss (R-Jonesborough), would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. LINK

Guest column: Reproductive health care patients deserve full scope of pregnancy outcome options (Daily Memphian) On Thursday, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed a bill to ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Access to reproductive health care in Tennessee is already bleak: 96 percent of counties in Tennessee don’t have a clinic that provides abortion care, meaning 63 percent of patients between the ages of 15 and 44 have to travel to seek care. Let’s be clear — this bill is more than another inflammatory attack. It’s an attempt to ban abortion entirely, plain and simple. As written, the bill prohibits abortion as early as six weeks, before many people even know that they’re pregnant. LINK


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