Thursday, April 4

MTSU welcomes Gov. Bill Lee to campus for celebration of MTSU’s ready-to-work degrees (MTSU Sidelines) MTSU rolled out the blue carpet to welcome Gov. Bill Lee to celebrate MTSU’s ready-to-work programs and the partnership with Siemens Digital Industries Software on Wednesday in the Miller Education Center. Also in attendance were MTSU Board of Trustees members, community members, local politicians and a group of MTSU mechatronics students. The celebration started with MTSU President Sidney McPhee thanking the governor for coming and thanking Siemens, a partner with the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, for donating software to MTSU’s mechatronics program. LINK

TN Governor Bill Lee and MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee Celebrate Siemens’ Grant for MTSU (WGNS Radio) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee joined Middle Tennessee State University’s president and trustees Wednesday to underscore several of the institution’s ready-to-work degree programs that have been tailored to fit the needs of the state’s workforce. Students in one of those programs, Mechatronics Engineering, are getting state-of-the-art training through an in-kind grant from Siemens Digital Industries Software, one of the corporate partners of MTSU’s College of Basic and Applied Sciences. The software gives students access to the same technology that companies around the world depend on every day to develop innovative products in a wide variety of industries. LINK

Lee’s charter authorizer clears more hurdles (Nashville Post) Gov. Bill Lee’s bill that would establish a separate charter school authorizing commission for the state passed in two more legislative committees Wednesday. Lee, a first-term Republican, has proposed establishing the commission to hear appeals from potential charter school operators whose applications are denied at the local level. The original bill, since amended, would have allowed charter operators to skip the local school board altogether and take their application straight to the new commission. The Senate Government Operations Committee and the House Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee both recommended passage of the charter bill at hearings Wednesday. LINK

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s charter school authorizer bill clears another legislative hurdle; Patsy Hazlewood voices concerns (Times Free Press) Gov. Bill Lee’s proposal to create a new Tennessee charter commission cleared another legislative hurdle Wednesday. But not before a Hamilton County lawmaker weighed in with concerns about who gets named to the powerful new authorizing body that would be empowered to overrule any local school board’s rejection of charter operators’ applications. “I’m going to support the bill here today, but I do have some concerns, perhaps suggestions, that I’d like to offer in terms of how that commission is made up,” House Finance Committee Vice Chair Patsy Hazlewood, R-Signal Mountain, said as the bill came through the House Finance Subcommittee. LINK

Charter commission bill rolling through Legislature (Daily Memphian) Legislation creating a charter commission with authority to overrule local school boards, even in districts with Priority schools, cleared two hurdles Wednesday in the Legislature. On voice votes, the Senate Government Operations Committee and House Finance, Ways and Means Subcommittee approved the legislation. The only clear opposition in those separate committees came from Sen. Sara Kyle, a Memphis Democrat, and Rep. Johnny Shaw, a Bolivar Democrat. LINK

Lawmakers lower income limit for Tennessee vouchers eligibility (Chalkbeat Tennessee) Fewer students from middle-income families would qualify for vouchers under an amended bill now working its way the Tennessee legislature. While Gov. Bill Lee’s initial proposal would have allowed families of four earning up to $93,000 a year to participate in the education savings account program, lawmakers last week revised the eligibility guidelines significantly. It now limits eligible households to those with an annual income that isn’t more than double what’s needed to qualify for free lunch under federal guidelines. That’s about $65,000 annually for a family of four. LINK

Megasite Sewer Line into the Mississippi River Causes Strife  (Memphis Flyer) Only human waste and sludge stand between the Memphis Regional Megasite (MRM) in Haywood County and a possible economic development grand slam nearly two decades in the making. Really. That’s it. At least, that’s the story according to Bob Rolfe, Tennessee’s Commissioner of Economic and Community Development (ECD). “The greatest challenge to the Memphis Regional Megasite is the lack of a wastewater discharge plan,” Rolfe told a committee of state lawmakers last year. “That is the pacing item. That is what all the site consultants tell us.” But Rolfe has a two-pronged plan to fix that problem. LINK

Victim’s daughter seeks mercy from Gov. Bill Lee for death row inmate Donnie Edward Johnson (Tennessean) Pastor Furman F. Fordham II, of Riverside Chapel Seventh-day Adventist Church, speaks during a news conference Wednesday asking Gov. Bill Lee to commute Donnie Edward Johnson’s death sentence. Johnson, 68, was sentenced for killing his wife in 1984. Cynthia Vaughn once condemned death row inmate Donnie Edward Johnson for killing her mother, but now she wants to meet with Gov. Bill Lee to make a case for mercy ahead of Johnson’s scheduled execution. Johnson, 68, is scheduled to die May 16 for killing his wife and Vaughn’s mother, Connie Johnson, in Memphis in 1984. LINK

Tennessee death row inmate begs governor to spare his life (WKRN-TV) Lawyers for the Tennessee man set to be executed next month in the 1984 murder of his wife have submitted a formal request to Governor Bill Lee asking for the death row inmate to be granted executive clemency and also urging the governor to meet with the daughter of the suspect and victim. Johnson was convicted of suffocating his wife in Memphis by stuffing a plastic garbage bag in her mouth. He was sentenced to death in 1985. In a 21-page letter written to Governor Lee on behalf of Don Johnson, his attorneys state “Don has been forgiven by Cynthia Vaughn, the only daughter of Connie Johnson, Don’s wife, the woman whose death Don caused.” LINK

Tennessee man sentenced to die for murdering wife seeks clemency after ‘redeemed by Jesus’ (AP) Supporters of a Tennessee death row inmate are appealing to Gov. Bill Lee’s Christian faith as they request clemency for a prisoner they say was redeemed by Jesus. A clemency petition sent Wednesday includes a plea from Cynthia Vaughn, the daughter of the woman Johnson was convicted of killing. Vaughn is also Johnson’s step-daughter. The petition quotes Vaughn’s own letter to Lee, describing a 2012 visit to Johnson in prison. Vaughn says she vented three decades of anger and pain on Johnson and then decided to forgive him. That decision changed her life. She’s asking to meet with Lee and share her story. LINK

Death Row Inmate Don Johnson Asks Gov. Bill Lee for Mercy (Nashville Scene) Near the end of their application for clemency on behalf of Don Johnson, the man Tennessee is scheduled to execute on May 16 for murdering his wife Connie Johnson in 1984, Johnson’s attorneys sum up their case for mercy. They cite his “remarkable transformation” and the forgiveness of the person closest to his crime, Connie’s daughter Cynthia Vaughn. “This is a case for which clemency was designed,” Johnson’s attorneys Thomas Dillard and Rev. Charles Fels write. “While, Don Johnson’s death sentence may be legally acceptable under all of the analytical considerations of dispassionate law, it is not morally right-in the words of Alexander Hamilton it would be “unduly cruel.” LINK

Georgia lawmakers pass bill claiming portion of Tennessee border, river (WTVC-TV) Georgia lawmakers have passed a bill seeking to claim land in Tennessee they believe belongs to their state. House Resolution 51 was passed in the Georgia Senate Tuesday and will now go to the governor’s desk. The resolution cites a flawed survey of Georgia’s northern border with Tennessee and North Carolina in its call to reclaim land which includes the Tennessee River’s southern-most bank and a portion of Chattanooga. At its core, the resolution states a survey performed in 1818 was a bit over a mile south of where it should have been and the state line really includes a portion of the Tennessee River. LINK

Austin Peay to cut out-of-state tuition by nearly half (WTVF-TV) Austin Peay State University announced Wednesday it would be cutting out-of-state tuition by nearly half. The 43.5 percent reduction was recommended by APSU Provost Dr. Rex Gandy. “The majority of our students are from the Clarksville-Montgomery County area,” Dr. Gandy said. “It’s important for us to attract students from other states who bring different perspectives, culture and knowledge to our campus.” The university says students living outside of Tennessee had paid about $11,000 per semester. The new rate cuts the price to less than $6,200 for 12 credit hours. LINK

ETSU’s Generation Rx committee finishes among best in the nation (Johnson City Press) East Tennessee State University Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy’s Generation Rx was recently named first runner-up for “best overall Generation Rx committee in the country” by the American Pharmacists Association — Academy of Student Pharmacists. For the past three years, they have won “best overall” for helping combat the opioid epidemic. The college’s APhA-ASP chapter, which includes the Generation Rx committee, earned second-runner up for Chapter Achievement, and two third-year students earned spots on APhA-ASP National Standing Committees, of which there are only 25 spots nationwide. LINK

TennCare shifts to coverage of longer-term opioid addiction treatment (News Sentinel) To Ed Ohlinger, Suboxone, methadone and other medications are important for treating addiction — but they’re only the first step. “The medication quiets the brain,” Ohlinger said — which then allows therapy and other methods to start to work. Ohlinger is chief operating officer for ReVIDA Recovery Centers, a Nashville-based company that in October 2018 bought seven outpatient Wautaga Recovery Centers in Tennessee and Virginia with an eye toward implementing its own brand of treating substance abuse disorder: looking at the whole person and measuring “recovery” through goals like attaining permanent housing, a job, a car, a bank account, custody of one’s children. LINK

If you lost insurance in the TennCare purge, there’s a number you can call for help (Tennessean) At least 128,000 Tennessee children have lost insurance coverage through the state’s government health insurance programs, a Tennessean investigation revealed this week.  Politicians in the wake of the revelation scheduled hearings, cast blame and promised to take steps to make sure families who need it get insurance coverage. But for parents whose children lost coverage — some of whom might not know it — immediate solutions were in short supply. The Tennessee Justice Center established a toll-free number designed to help families navigate the process. LINK

This week’s Dose of news: TennCare purges thousands of kids, and Nashville speaks for the trees (Tennessean)  LINK

Carr cleans up: Perennial candidate lands $135K job with Lee administration (TN Journal)Former state Rep. Joe Carr — the failed candidate for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House (twice), state Senate, and state Republican party chairman — has landed a job with Gov. Bill Lee’s administration. The Tennessean reports the job will pay $135,000 per year. Carr’s new position will be assistant commissioner of the state Department of Environment and Conservation, the Nashville Post first reported. LINK

Bill to create charter commission that could overrule local school boards advances in House (Tennessean) A Tennessee bill that would create an independent charter school board with the power to overrule local school board decisions faced far less scrutiny from a House finance subcommittee Wednesday than it did in its narrow passage by the chamber’s education committee. There appear to be continued reservations, however, as several members spoke briefly on House Bill 940. The bill will move to the full finance committee. The bill would create a Tennessee Public Charter Commission, which would have the power to authorize charter schools denied by a local school district. LINK

Bill allowing Tennessee teachers to carry guns in schools advances in House committee (Tennessean) A bill that would allow Tennessee teachers to carry guns in schools was approved Wednesday in a House subcommittee, despite a top law enforcement official, educators and Republican lawmakers expressing concerns. The legislation, House Bill 1380, sponsored by Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville, made its way out of the K-12 Education subcommittee by a voice vote and will move on to the full education committee. An effort last year led by Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, to arm teachers failed in the House. LINK

Bill to arm teachers receives tepid response in Tennessee (AP) A proposal that would allow teachers and others in public schools to carry concealed firearms is receiving tepid support from Tennessee lawmakers. A House education subcommittee agreed to advance the proposal on Tuesday. However, the vote came after several key Republican lawmakers — including the chair of the House Education Committee — raised objections and warned they could not support the measure. Multiple teachers and law enforcement officials testified against the measure, warning that the bill did not address the proper safety concerns. LINK

Domestic violence advocates, victims ‘terrified’ by Tennessee gun dispossession bill (WKRN-TV) Gun owners convicted of domestic violence lose their gun rights, under both state and federal law. Tennessee lawmakers want to eliminate a form that keeps offenders accountable. “Victims are terrified and terrorized when an offender has a firearm,” said Becky Bullard, Senior Director of Programs for the Metro Nashville-Davidson County Office of Family Safety. “These are not responsible gun owners. These are convicted, domestic criminals.” Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill two years ago requiring convicted domestic abusers fill out a dispossession form, which includes the model and the serial number of the guns they’re dispossessing or giving up. LINK

Tennessee Daylight Saving Time bill moves forward, could create issues for Bristol (WCYB-TV) Tennessee is one step closer to adopting Daylight Saving Time, permanently. The state committee in the House approved a bill that would do just that on Tuesday. It now moves on to the calendar and rules committee. A Senate committee postponed any action. Sponsor Rep. Rick Tillis, R-Lewisburg, said the bill is worded so that once the Federal Government allows states to choose whether or not to stay on Daylight Saving Time, Tennessee would choose to keep it year-round. Tillis said he has continued to receive immense support for the bill. The bill could provide problems for people who live in Bristol. LINK

Tennessee bill would allow some local instant runoff voting (AP) A proposal to let Tennessee’s four biggest cities decide whether to allow instant runoff voting in local nonpartisan contests is advancing. A House panel approved Republican Rep. Michael Curcio’s bill Wednesday, with a yet-to-be-completed amendment pending. Curcio said larger cities requested the bill, which is intended to be limited to Chattanooga, Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville. Implementation would require local charter amendments. Instant runoff voting lets voters rank choices, avoiding runoffs when no candidate tops 50 percent. LINK

Tennessee Faith Leaders Say New Adoption Bill Would Open Gates To Religious Discrimination (WPLN Radio) Private adoption agencies in Tennessee could soon be able to reject would-be parents based on their religious beliefs. Advocacy groups such as the Tennessee Equity Project have slammed the bill (HB836/SB1304), saying it opens the doors for discrimination against the LGBTQ community in Tennessee. But concerns are also being raised by some religious groups. Pointing at the history of discrimination against Jewish people, Rabbi Philip Rice, of the Brentwood-based Congregation Micah, says he believes in respecting religious differences. LINK

Nonprofit leader speaks out against controversial adoption bill (WKRN-TV) A controversial adoption bill is moving forward in the Tennessee legislature. While supporters argue it protects religious-based adoption agencies, a leader of one local non-profit believes it discriminates against the LGBT community. Located in Leiper’s Fork, the Gratidude Ranch serves as a bed and breakfast, event venue, and home of the nonprofit “S.A.F.E.” S.A.F.E. serves both foster kids and foster families alike, run by Jason Warner. LINK

Tennessee adoption legislation would allow agencies to deny same-sex couples: 4 things to know (Commercial Appeal) The Tennessee bill that would allow adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples is part of a national effort by conservative Christian activists aimed at infusing religion into the public sphere. Here’s an overview of that campaign and some other key things to know about the legislation, which passed in the Tennessee House of Representatives on Tuesday night. This adoption bill is linked to the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation’s drive to pass state legislation advancing religious issues. The effort, called “Project Blitz,” includes a detailed handbook for state and local advocates to “bring back God to America.” LINK

Tennessee Republicans vote to allow adoption groups to refuse same-sex couples (Salon) The Tennessee House of Representatives approved a Republican bill that would allow adoption agencies to discriminate against gay couples Monday. HB 836, which allows adoption and foster care agencies to refuse service to same-sex couples based on religious objections, passed 67-22 in a party line vote. The bill must still pass the Senate and then be signed by Gov. Bill Lee to be approved into law. The bill, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Tim Rudd, says that no adoption agency would be required to place a child with a family if it would “violate the agency’s written religious or moral convictions or policies.” LINK

First vote on Tennessee medical marijuana bill delayed (WKRN-TV) There were plenty of words about the first committee hearing this year of a medical cannabis bill late today on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill, but no vote. Instead, members of the Senate Health Committee heard short statements from both opponents and proponents of the legislation that has never passed beyond a subcommittee in previous years. Supporters of the medical cannabis bill, like co-sponsor Sen, Janice Bowling, came into the Senate Health Committee with a new 68-page plan known as the Tennessee Agricultural Medicine Act. LINK

Medical cannabis bill draws strong support, opposition on first day (WTVF-TV) The medical cannabis bill was revealed by the bill’s sponsor Wednesday afternoon, and already, both sides of the topic are debating its merits. During Senate Health Committee, Senator Steve Dickerson said this year’s bill is his best yet. He has sponsored legislation for medical cannabis legalization for the past five years. Each year, the debates last for hours in committees as many interested groups weigh the potential pros and cons of legalization. LINK

Supporters of medical cannabis bill clash with law enforcement during Tennessee Senate panel testimony (Times Free Press) Proponents of a bill to legalize medical cannabis in Tennessee clashed with law enforcement officials during and after testimony Wednesday in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. Supporters said the legislation would provide a safe alternative to opioids in a state that has high rates of addiction and fatal overdoses from the narcotic painkillers. “This is not recreational. This is medical,” said Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, an anesthesiologist and the bill’s sponsor. “This is a medicine bill to help Tennessee’s sickest residents. And I think it is time for Tennessee to take this step.” LINK

Lamar bill allowing pregnant students to keep Hope scholarship passes committee (Daily Memphian) Legislation by state Rep. London Lamar allowing high school students who become pregnant to maintain Hope scholarships for more than two years passed a key committee Wednesday. The House Education Committee passed House Bill 689 on a 14-6 vote, referring it to the Government Operations Committee for consideration. Lamar, a Memphis Democrat, said six months, the current time frame, is not enough to “build a bond with a child” and pointed out the bill would encourage girls to have their child if they become pregnant, start raising the child and then pursue their education.  LINK

Work it Out: State lawmakers advance repeal of tax on small gyms. (Memphis Flyer) A piece of legislation that would eliminate a 10 percent tax on small fitness centers in the state (and that is largely supported by local officials here) passed in the Tennessee Senate last week. The legislation, HB1138, would do away with the 10 percent amusement tax included in the membership fees for small fitness centers under 15,000 square feet. The sales tax currently applies to gyms and studios providing exercise, athletics, or other fitness services like cross training, ballet barre, yoga, spin, and aerobics classes. LINK

Hulsey’s truth-in-sentencing bill heads toward stern test in committee (Kingsport Times News) Tennessee state Rep. Bud Hulsey’s legislation to limit the use of jail sentencing credits by people convicted of three types of violent felonies passed on a voice vote in the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday, but it is headed toward its toughest test. Because the bill has a $7.1 million fiscal note in incarceration expenses, it will next be considered by the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee. The Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Sen. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, is scheduled to be on the final calendar of the Senate Judiciary Committee. LINK

Griffey’s anti-immigrant agenda finds little traction in the state House (Nashville Post) Freshman lawmaker’s proposed legislation has been met with opposition from even his fellow Republicans. Bruce Griffey arrived in Nashville with a splash during his first term as a state representative. The Paris, Tennessee, Republican appeared on Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle in February to talk about his state bill that would have taxed remittances to Mexico to help pay for President Donald Trump’s wall on the southern border. The Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition identified his legislative agenda, including the border-wall bill and a handful of other immigration-related proposals, as their lobbying priority for the year. LINK

Report: Democratic Rep. Staples faces sexual misconduct investigation (TN Journal) Democratic state Rep. Rick Staples of Knoxville is the subject of an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations, according to The Tennesseans’ Joel Ebert and Natalie Allison. A woman making the allegations tells the newspaper the lawmaker touched her inappropriately on a recent visit to the state Capitol complex. She says Staples made comments about her appearance before grabbing her and held on to her waist while standing behind her. The woman reported the details of the encounter to House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart of Nashville, but says she had to follow up with his office before receiving a reply. Stewart and Staples declined to comment to the Tennessean. LINK

Four Tennessee lawmakers in four years accused of sexual misconduct: What you need to know (Tennessean) Since 2016, four members of the Tennessee General Assembly have faced allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct. Allegations leveled against three of the four were related to the lawmakers’ time in office. Here’s a look at each of those lawmakers: LINK

Democratic Rep. Rick Staples faces allegations, investigation of sexual misconduct (Tennessean) Knoxville Democratic Rep. Rick Staples is facing disciplinary action after an internal investigation determined he violated the legislature’s sexual harassment policy, according to multiple sources aware of the inquiry. As a result, Staples is expected to be removed from the House Ethics Committee, to which Speaker Glen Casada appointed him in January. Although the official details of Staples’ violation of the policy are unclear, the allegations of improper conduct make him the fourth Tennessee lawmaker in as many years to face scrutiny for their conduct — including three for actions while in office. LINK

A ‘sad day’: News of Knoxville Rep. Rick Staples’ alleged sexual misconduct spreads (News Sentinel) News that State Rep. Rick Staples, D-Knoxville, violated the legislature’s sexual harassment policy after an internal investigation spread slowly through members of the legislature Wednesday afternoon. Staples’ mentor in the House, Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Bolivar, said he hadn’t heard anything about Staples’ investigation until a reporter called him.  “That’s a sad day at any rate … I mean, it doesn’t matter who it is. It’s sad,” Shaw said. LINK

Tennessee Dems mum on letter surrounding accused lawmaker (AP) Tennessee Democrats are remaining quiet on their involvement in the ousting of a Republican lawmaker accused of sexual misconduct from leading a legislative education panel. Last week, Republican Rep. David Byrd resigned as chairman of an education subcommittee at the request of House Speaker Glen Casada. Byrd has been accused by three women of sexual misconduct as a high school coach decades ago. LINK

State Senate candidates on the issues: Health care, education, roads (Leaf-Chronicle) Four candidates are running to replace now-U.S. Rep. Mark Green in his Tennessee Senate District 22 seat, vacated when he was elected to Congress. District 22 covers Montgomery, Stewart and Houston counties. A special election is underway, with early voting starting Wednesday, April 3. Juanita Charles, the Democratic candidate, is a Realtor and a U.S. Army veteran. She has a bachelor’s degree in Human Services Management. She serves on the City of Clarksville’s Human Relations Commission and the Government Affairs Committee of Clarksville Association of Realtors. LINK

Tennessee Senate race early voting begins in Montgomery County (Leaf-Chronicle) Early voting for the special election in the Tennessee Senate District 22 race kicked off Wednesday morning in Montgomery County, with all four candidates doing last-minute campaigning at Veterans Plaza. Early voting will continue through April 18 at the Election Commission office, 350 Pageant Lane, Suite 404. Hours are Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m., with special hours on Saturdays, April 6 from 9 a.m.-noon, and April 13 from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Hours are extended to 7 p.m. daily April 16-18. LINK

Obamacare fight obscures America’s real health care crisis: Money (Politico) The Obamacare wars have ignored what really drives American anxiety about health care: Medical costs are decimating family budgets and turning the U.S. health system into a runaway $3.7 trillion behemoth … Senate HELP Committee chair Lamar Alexander, the retiring Tennessee Republican with a reputation for deal-making, has reached out to think tanks and health care professionals in an attempt to refocus the debate, saying the interminable fights about the Affordable Care Act have “put the spotlight in the wrong place. The hard truth is that we will never get the cost of health insurance down until we get the cost of health care down,” Alexander wrote, soliciting advice for a comprehensive effort on costs he wants to start by summer. LINK

Prepare yourself — the Mueller redaction wars are coming (Politico) Next up in the fight over Robert Mueller’s final report: the redaction wars. House Democrats want to see everything related to the special counsel’s nearly two-year-old investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election … “I think there’s going to be a great number of redactions,” said Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democratic member of the Judiciary Committee. “We’ll have to have a court decide what’s proper and what we should see.” LINK

Bank hesitates to grant loan for Henderson County hemp farm, cites legal concerns (Jackson Sun) James Bates never had trouble getting a loan, but when he asked for money to buy equipment for his new industrial hemp farm, the bank started dragging its feet. A process Bates said usually took no more than two weeks has now stretched into a month as Bates waits for BancorpSouth’s legal department to decide whether or not to issue his loan. The problem, the bank told Bates, is his hemp license. “I’m just trying to navigate some new territory and I thought that this was just a normal loan, and I was just using my property as collateral,” Bates said. “Obviously my hemp license now plays a part in that. How it does, I don’t understand it.” LINK

Outgoing TVA CEO Bill Johnson hired to lead bankrupt California electric utility (Times Free Press) TVA President Bill Johnson has been picked to head California’s biggest electric utility out of bankruptcy. Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. announced Wednesday that Johnson, the 65-year-old head of the Tennessee Valley Authority for the past six years, was selected as PG&E’s next CEO and will take control of the San Francisco-based utility “as soon as practicable.” Johnson is retiring from TVA and will be replaced on Monday by former Ontario Power CEO Jeff Lyash, who worked with Johnson in the past when Johnson headed Progress Energy in North Carolina. LINK

Memphis Drinking Water Safe; TVA Says It Will Take 9 Years To Clean Up Coal Ash (WATN-TV) If there is one thing Memphis folks are proud of, it’s the water. Some of the best in the country. The champagne of municipal waters. Well, maybe not that good, but it’s good. So, Shelby County Commissioner Mick Wright told officials with the Tennessee Valley Authority, don’t mess with it. “I’m sure you understand our concern,” Commissioner Wright said, “… that our precious drinking water, which is probably the best in the country, if not the world. We have really great water.” There is a reason they are concerned. LINK

Poverty declines in Memphis, one year after MLK50 (WMC-TV) Thursday marks 51 years since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. Just before King died, he was about to launch his poor people’s campaign. For Memphis’ big MLK 50 celebration last year, the National Civil Rights Museum and University of Memphis authored a study looking at poverty and sparking a year-long discussion on how to make improvements. WMC Action News 5 went to the city’s poorest neighborhoods to see if all that talk has turned into any action. Dinner is served six days a week at at the Vance Avenue Youth Development Center. LINK

Sullivan BOE hears concerns about Islamic indoctrination, adopts textbooks (Kingsport Times News) Sullivan County’s school board on Tuesday voted 4-2 with one absent to approve a blanket five-year textbook adoption including a seventh grade social studies textbook. Board member Jane Thomas and four public commenters opposed the text because of its treatment of Islam and Christianity. The meeting at times took on the aura of a church service or tent revival, with audience members cheering on the commenters quoting the Bible and the Koran, and they also cheered Thomas. Spivey, however, said the bottom line is the system is “not stating a preference for any religion.” LINK


U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander: Rising above politics should not be a one-way street (Elizabethton Star) Rising above politics should not be a one-way street when it comes to allowing a president of the opposing party to staff his or her government. On March 14, the Democratic Leader came to the floor, and said the following words, “There are times when loyalty to America, to our Constitution, to our principals, what has made this country great, should lead members to rise above and rise to the occasion.” He was talking about the vote on the National Emergency Declaration that President Trump made. The Democratic Leader continued, “I hope, and I pray that this moment is one of those times when members choose country over party, and when members rise above politics for the sake of fidelity to our constitutional principles and this great United States of America.” LINK

Guest column: Tennesseans have reasons to celebrate, more work ahead on voter turnout (Tennessean) We celebrate Tennessee’s role in being the state that made the “perfect 36” required for the passage of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. In a tribute to the 100th anniversary of its passage, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett dedicated the 2019-20 Blue Book to that ratification. As members, we are especially proud because the League of Women Voters is the successor organization to the Tennessee suffragists who worked so tirelessly to pass the 19th Amendment. We commend Secretary Hargett for recognizing the significant role Tennessee played in our nation in guaranteeing all women the right to vote. LINK

Editorial: TN GOP Legislators Propose Another Voter Suppression Measure (Memphis Flyer) Those readers of even moderate faculties of memory will recall a pair of legal set-tos last year pitting the Shelby County Election Commission against plaintiffs who were charging either disproportionate voting processes favoring suburbanites or outright voter suppression. Both issues were decided in favor of the plaintiffs, against suppression, and for the maximum possible enabling of the voting franchise. The sad fact is — regarding this, as on a whole panoply of other matters — state government is attempting to intervene against the results of decision-making at the local level (in this case, against decisions in Shelby County Chancery Court). LINK

Jackson Baker: Shelby Democrats to Elect New Chairman; “Bathroom Bill” Peters Out (Memphis Flyer) Shelby County Democrats have a contest on their hands for the chairmanship of the party. In party caucuses at White Station High School last Saturday, members were selected both for the party’s local executive committee and for its grassroots assembly. And four people were nominated for the top job to succeed Corey Strong, who had indicated for some time, largely on account of his military reservist duties, that he would not be seeking re-election. LINK

Guest column: Fallout from Bean Station meat-processing plant raid devastating to children (News Sentinel)On April 5, 2018, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided a meat-processing plant in Bean Station, Tennessee. This would prove to be the largest workplace raid in the U.S. in the last 10 years. While nearly 100 adults were being arrested, 160 children were — unknowingly — about to learn that their parent was detained to face risk of deportation. These youth ranged in age from infancy to 25 years, and many were U.S. citizens. Their world was about to be turned upside down. LINK

Guest column: Come to Tennessee, but leave failed tax policies behind (Tennessean) America sits in the midst of a second great migration. Northern transplants increasingly flock to mid-sized Southern cities. I am one of these transplants. My girlfriend and I moved to Tennessee a year ago from Chicago. I want to share why we moved and warn others not to repeat the policy mistakes we fled. Tennessee attracted us for many reasons: The city of Nashville, the climate, but most of all, the cost of living remains low. The decision paid off and our quality of life improved immediately. I regained 4.95 percent of my income from state income taxes, I can drink a beer for less than $8, rent is cheaper, and besides Predators games, entertainment remains affordable to all, not just the rich. LINK

Guest column: Vouchers are a form of private-school choice. Here’s how they work. (Tennessean) Experience in other states, however, shows vouchers — grants to parents to pay for private-school tuition — put children in worse schools. In contrast, the governor has not proposed expanding preschools. Alabama has inspiring preschools. Let’s hope Tennessee will avoid vouchers and expand quality preschools. To see the effect of vouchers, look at careful studies in three statewide programs with tens of thousands of youngsters using vouchers. Children in these programs learn less than similar students who remain in public schools. LINK


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