Thursday, April 11

Gov. Lee signs Sgt. Daniel Baker Act into law (WTVF-TV) Tennessee is removing one state court’s review before executing inmates under legislation signed by Republican Gov. Bill Lee. With Lee’s approval Tuesday, Tennessee in July will begin skipping the state Court of Criminal Appeals and provide automatic state Supreme Court death penalty reviews. Lee spokeswoman Laine Arnold has said the governor was deferring to the Legislature’s will on the legislation. LINK

Gov. Lee signs law that will bring alcohol to East TN campus venues for concerts (WBIR-TV) Governor Bill Lee has signed a bill into law that will allow alcohol sales at Neyland Stadium and Thompson-Boling Arena. It’s a topic that’s long been discussed, especially when it comes to big events and concerts. Republican Senator Becky Duncan Massey of Knoxville introduced the bill in February that would allow alcohol at special events and concerts–but not games. That’s because of the SEC’s strict no-alcohol policy.  While the law went into effect immediately, UT will still need to create a policy for sales of alcohol on campus. LINK

Bill allowing alcohol sales at Neyland and Thompson-Boling signed into law (WVLT-TV) A bill allowing limited alcohol sales at campus venues such as Thompson-Boling Arena and Neyland Stadium for events that aren’t linked to NCAA competitions has been signed into law by Governor Bill Lee Monday. The bill was passed in the state house on a 70-21 vote. The bill passed in the Tenn. Senate on Tuesday with a 27-4 vote. Some of Tennessee’s largest public venues are located on the University of Tennessee Campuses, where alcohol sales are prohibited. Venue operators have long contested the largest concerts, major acts, and even conferences bypass campus facilities because of this alcohol policy. LINK

Governor Lee may sign bill that prevents local legislatures from regulating plastic bags (Vanderbilt Hustler) Legislation addressing the usage of plastic products has gained traction across the country, particularly within recent years. Enacted regulations have led to reductions in tens of millions of pounds of plastic waste per year, and in 2019 alone, state lawmakers have proposed over 95 bills pertaining to plastic bags. Nonetheless, in some states, these environmental efforts have been challenged, predominantly by members of the GOP. And Tennessee is no exception. According to a March Tennessean article, Governor Bill Lee reportedly plans to sign a bill that will prevent plastic bag regulations from being locally implemented across the state. LINK

Gov. Bill Lee fills vacancy on Tennessee Court of Appeals, Western Section (Commercial Appeal) Gov. Bill Lee has appointed Chancellor Carma Dennis McGee to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Western Section, replacing Brandon O. Gibson, who earlier this year was named senior adviser in the governor’s office. McGee, 48, has been chancellor of the 24th Judicial District since 2014 and was previously a partner with the law firm McGee & Dennis in Savannah, Tennessee. “Chancellor McGee’s experience and knowledge will make her an excellent judge on the Court of Appeals,” Lee said in a statement. “Tennessee is fortunate to have her in the Western Section, and I am grateful. LINK

Chancellor Carma McGee appointed appellate judge for West Tennessee (Paris Post-Intelligencer) Carma McGee, chancellor for the 24th Judicial District for the last five years, will be leaving that post after being appointed by Gov. Bill Lee to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Western Section. The appointment was announced Wednesday. McGee will replace Judge Brandon O. Gibson on the appellate court. Gibson was appointed as a senior adviser in the governor’s office earlier this year. McGee, who is from Savannah, has been chancellor for the district since 2014. The district includes Henry, Benton, Carroll, Decatur and Hardin counties. LINK

Rick Byrd, Gov. Bill Lee and mayor David Briley wave Predators rally towel for Game 1 (Tennessean) A few days into retirement, Rick Byrd swung by Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday. And he had company. Byrd, the former Belmont coach who announced his retirement last week, was joined by Nashville governor Bill Lee and mayor David Briley as the towel wavers before the Predators’ postseason opener against the Dallas Stars. LINK

Four finalists named for UT-Knoxville chancellor (TN Journal) Four finalists have been named to become the next chancellor at the University of Tennessee’s flagship campus in Knoxville. They will visit the school and participate in public forums between April 16 and April 18. Here are the finalists and times they will be on campus … The forums will be live-streamed. LINK

University of Tennessee-Knoxville names four finalists for chancellor (News Sentinel) The University of Tennessee-Knoxville has named four finalists for chancellor, including the president of East Tennessee State University and the provost at Auburn. The candidates will visit campus next week, April 16-18, to visit administrators, faculty, staff and students. Each candidate for the university’s top leadership position also will hold an open forum while on campus. The announcement of the finalists comes nearly one year after UT fired Beverly Davenport, the highest-paid chancellor in the school’s history who was earning a $585,000 annual base salary. LINK

UT considering ETSU’s Noland for chancellor (Johnson City Press) East Tennessee State University President Brian Noland is one of four candidates being considered as the next chancellor of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, ETSU announced Wednesday morning. “Earlier today, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville conveyed that I have accepted the nomination for consideration as its next chancellor. LINK

Community reacts to ETSU President Brian Noland named UT Chancellor Finalist (WJHL-TV) ETSU’s President Brian Noland is a finalist to become the next UT Knoxville Chancellor. Doctor Brian Noland has been named one of four finalists for the chancellor position. Noland earned a PH.D. in political science from the University of Tennessee and once was a finalist for the job of UT president. Eight-years-ago, he ended up at ETSU where he led the return of the school’s football program, and the construction of a new stadium and performing arts center. LINK

ETSU President Brian Noland a finalist for UT Chancellor (WCYB-TV) ETSU President Brian Noland has accepted the nomination for consideration of the position of Chancellor at the University of Tennessee, according to a statement he issued to WCYB on Wednesday. “I want to thank the ETSU community for your patience and support as my family explores this opportunity. I assure everyone that my focus remains on having an outstanding close to the spring semester, and I look forward to celebrating the accomplishments of our graduates at Commencement,” the president of the Johnson City school said. LINK

Next week will prove if Tennessee is ready for TNReady. Here’s how state testing is going so far. (Chalkbeat Tennessee) Following three consecutive years of testing problems, Tennessee is trying again. So far, students have taken about 43,000 state exams online this week. By Friday, that number is expected to reach 100,000, and about 700,000 by the end of the month. An additional 1.3 million tests will be completed on paper. “We’re starting much stronger this year than we did last year,” Tennessee’s Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn told reporters Wednesday. LINK

School bus ads: Lebanon and Maury, Putnam counties see payoff; should others follow? (Tennessean) The Lebanon Special School District is now among a handful of Tennessee school systems that make their buses available for advertising as a potential revenue source. Lebanon’s bus advertisements are outsourced to a company named District Solutions that handles the ad sales and renewals, design and application. The Lebanon Special School District keeps 55 percent of the bus ad revenue, with “very little effort on our part,” said Becky Kegley, the school system’s director of support services. Lebanon’s school board approved bus ads earlier this year. They have generated about $16,000 for the district so far with hopes revenue can max out around $35,000 annually for its approximately 30 buses. LINK

Rhea County woman arrested and charged with TennCare fraud (Times Free Press) A Rhea County woman is charged with TennCare fraud for falsely reporting her income and household composition in order to obtain TennCare benefits, according to a news release from the Tennessee Office of Inspector General. The OIG, with the assistance of the Rhea County Sheriff’s Office, on Wednesday announced the arrest of Kayla Hickman, 27, of Dayton. She is charged with TennCare fraud and theft of services over $10,000 for allegedly failing to report that the father of her two children lived in her home and contributed to the household income. Both factors made her ineligible for TennCare. LINK

Rhea County woman charged with TennCare fraud (WTVC-TV) A Rhea County woman has been charged with TennCare fraud for falsely reporting her income and household composition in order to obtain TennCare benefits. The Office of Inspector General (OIG), with the assistance of the Rhea County Sheriff’s Office, today announced the arrest of Kayla Hickman, 27, of Dayton. She is charged with TennCare fraud and theft of services over $10,000 for allegedly failing to report that the father of her two children lived in her home and contributed to the household income. Both factors made her ineligible for TennCare. LINK

Rhea Co. Woman Charged with TennCare Fraud (WIHG Radio) Aided by the Rhea County Sheriff’s Office, Inspector General Kim Harmon today announced the arrest of 27-year-old Kayla Hickman of Dayton on charges that could put her behind bars for up to ten years. Hickman is charged with TennCare fraud and theft of services over $10,000 because she falsely reported her income and household makeup. She allegedly failed to report the father of her children was living in the home and contributing to the household income, both of which would have made her ineligible for TennCare. LINK

Ecoli outbreak update: Cases now across Tennessee; finding source could be challenge (Tennessean) Finding the source of a multistate outbreak of E. coli will be a challenge for health investigators, a Vanderbilt University Medical Center physician said. So far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 96 confirmed cases of E. coli O103 in five states in the outbreak, including 26 in Tennessee. The bulk of those — 21, including nine in Knox County — are in the eastern part of the state, but there are now three confirmed cases in Middle Tennessee and two in West Tennessee, said Bill Christian, associate director of communications for the Tennessee Department of Health. LINK

Tennessee leads nation in medical bankruptcies (WTVF-TV) NewsChannel 5’s newest community initiative is “Medical Debt Rescue.” The goal of the project is to shed light on a lopsided medical debt system that has left thousands of Tennesseans with crippling debt and forced many into foreclosure. Michelle Johnson, Executive Director of the Tennessee Justice Center, stopped by OpenLine Tuesday night and gave some startling statistics. For example, Johnson says 70% of Tennesseans have some medical debt and the state leads the nation in medical bankruptcies. LINK

The State of Tennessee sues Franklin healthcare clinic in TennCare fraud case (WTVF-TV) The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee has made a public suit against ProHealth Rural Health Services, Inc. and its president and CEO, Ray White. The suit was filed by Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery. As a Federally Qualified Community Health Center (FQHC) Look-Alike, ProHealth – located in Franklin – provides healthcare to all patients, whether they can pay or not. That entitles ProHealth to receive prospective payment service (PPS) payments. PPS payments are a guaranteed minimum amount of money paid for each Medicaid patient visit. LINK

AG seeks $18 million from Franklin-based Proheath in TennCare-fraud case (Tennessean) The Attorney General is suing a Franklin health care clinic after the Tennessee Comptroller’s office found they had submitted more than $6 million in inaccurate claims. The suit seeks $18 million in damages. The filing said Dr. Ray White, the clinics’ chief executive officer, knowingly participated in the scheme, which involved using a software system to consistently overstate the number of patient visits. The audit, released Wednesday, revealed ProHealth Rural Health Services Inc. over-reported the number of TennCare patients that visited its Middle Tennessee clinics by 56,251 visits. LINK

TN governor’s education savings account proposal presses on (WMC-TV) TN Governor Bill Lee’s education savings account proposal cleared another hurdle Wednesday, but with some tweaks. The school choice plan would give some families the ability to use state funds to send their child to a private school. “There is no reason why we cannot give parents a choice in how they educate their children,” said Dolores Gresham, senator. A six to three vote moved Lee’s education savings account proposal through the Senate Education Committee. It came with changes that have already cleared the House. The approved amendment doubled the cap on the number of students who could participate to 30,000. LINK

Gov. Bill Lee’s education savings account plan advances, but Senate makes major changes to its version (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Lee’s proposal to bring education savings accounts to Tennessee cleared two legislative hurdles Wednesday, but not before the Senate made significant changes to its version of the controversial legislation. The latest amendment, introduced by Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Sen. Dolores Gresham, would permit up to 30,000 students in the six lowest-performing districts and the Achievement School District to use the program to attend private schools or cover other education expenses. LINK

Immigrant group says Lee’s voucher bill targets undocumented students and is ‘doomed to fail’ in court (Times Free Press) Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s education savings account legislation advanced in Senate and House committees on Wednesday, but an immigrant rights group is charging the governor’s bill is “bucking the Constitution” because it seeks to exclude undocumented children. “This bill suffers from serious constitutional and legal problems that will undoubtedly lead to costly tax-payer funded litigation that is doomed to fail in the courts,” reads a statement from Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus, policy director at the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition. LINK

Tennessee voucher-like bill version adds back homeschooling (AP) Gov. Bill Lee’s voucher-style proposal has restored the option of paying for homeschooling. A Senate panel advanced the Republican’s key school choice initiative Wednesday. The legislation, expected to cost $125 million over five years, has House and Senate committee stops remaining. The Senate version would double the cap on the education savings accounts to 30,000 students, instead of 15,000. LINK

Senate Education panel gives nod to education savings accounts (Daily Memphian) The Senate Education Committee approved Gov. Bill Lee’s education savings account initiative Wednesday, paving the way for public dollars to follow students to private schools. In a 6-3 vote, the committee sent Senate Bill 795 to the Senate Finance, Ways & Means Committee, with Sen. Brian Kelsey voting in favor of the measure and Senate Minority Chairman Raumesh Akbari opposing. The bill would allow parents to apply for education savings accounts for their children, about $7,300 in Basic Education Program funds, which could be used to pay for private school, home schooling, transportation, computer equipment, postsecondary courses, therapy and several other items. LINK

“It’s not a real choice.” Hamilton County School Board offers alternatives to voucher bill (WTVC-TV) On Wednesday, lawmakers debated an education bill that could change the way Hamilton County Schools function. Governor Bill Lee is pushing a voucher program that would give families $7,300 to send their student to a private school. That’s HB0939 and SB0795 which are education savings accounts. The bills are essentially a voucher program. The idea is to give families options of where they send their kids to school. But parents and grandparents in Hamilton County are not sold. They’re raising questions about who would actually benefit from a voucher program. LINK

‘The life he was dealt:’ TennCare bill for kids with severe disabilities now behind the budget (Tennessean) It would cost Ryan Tidwell’s parents nearly $2,000 a week — more than $100,000 a year — to pay for their son’s home health care out of pocket. Ryan was born with spina bifida. Because his spine didn’t form properly, he is unable to walk or sit up on his own. He depends on a ventilator to breathe. He is wheelchair bound. Ryan’s dad is a local police officer and a veteran who served in Afghanistan. His mom works in a doctor’s office. On April 15, they will lose Ryan’s TennCare coverage because their salaries are too high. LINK

Legislation cutting time Tennessee car owners have to claim towed cars goes to governor (WZTV-TV) Legislation shortening the time vehicle owners have to claim their vehicles if it gets towed is heading to Governor Bill Lee’s desk. SB 1493, sponsored by Senator Paul Bailey (R-Sparta) passed in the Senate in April and the House version, HB 538 was passed by the House on Wednesday. The bill cuts in half the time towing companies need to wait before placing a vehicle up for auction. Current legislation forces towing companies to wait 60-75 days before selling a vehicle and the current bill cuts that back to 30-45 days. LINK

Fiscal review changes advance in House, Senate (Nashville Post) Changes to the Tennessee General Assembly’s Fiscal Review Committee easily passed the House and the Senate State and Local Government Committee Wednesday. The bill’s supporters argue the measure will reduce political influence over the body that makes sometimes determinative cost estimates for proposed legislation. Critics argue just the opposite. The bill would give the speakers of both chambers, rather than the committee itself, the authority to hire the committee’s executive director. LINK

Tennessee Lawmakers Pass On Medical Marijuana For Another Year To Focus On ‘Grassroots’ Effort (WPLN Radio) The debate on medical marijuana in the Tennessee General Assembly has been postponed for at least one more year. The latest version of the bill — a compromise between four lawmakers with similar proposals — was not enough to garner support from the Republican supermajority. Nashville Republican Steve Dickerson, the measure’s sponsor in the state Senate, requested the delay. He’s hopeful the legislation could be embraced by more of his colleagues next year. LINK

Medical cannabis bill hangs out to dry (Daily Memphian) Sen. Steve Dickerson, a Nashville Republican carrying Senate Bill 572, said Wednesday he is “rolling” the legislation until 2020 after it ran into trouble in the House. Sen. Katrina Robinson, a Memphis Democrat, is a prime co-sponsor. The measure was to be heard Wednesday in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, but the timing on that meeting was disrupted by lengthy debate over the governor’s education savings account bill, which passed. LINK

Tennessee medical cannabis bill delayed until 2020 (Times Free Press) Efforts to legalize medical marijuana are dead for the year in the Tennessee Legislature after the main Senate sponsor said he was delaying the effort until 2020. Sen. Steve Dickerson, a physician, announced the decision as the Senate Health and Welfare Committee got underway Wednesday afternoon. The House sponsor, Rep. Bryan Terry, R-Murfreesboro, returned his companion’s bill to the House clerk’s desk. Prospects for the bill’s passage were dim. Dickerson and Terry’s legislation would have legalized cannabis for medical purposes, creating a highly regulated three-tier system of growers, processors and licensed dispensaries with pharmacists on staff. LINK

Tennessee medical marijuana bills are dead until 2020 (Tennessean) Tennessee lawmakers have abruptly delayed all efforts to legalize medical marijuana until next year, abandoning several bills moments before the controversial topic was expected to be debated for the first time. Sen. Steve Dickerson, a doctor who is one of the biggest advocates in the Tennessee legislature for medical marijuana, said during a Senate hearing Wednesday he was regrettably delaying all bills involving cannabis until 2020. The House also had rolled the bills until next year, Dickerson said. Less than an hour before that hearing, Dickerson had intended to amend an existing bill to introduce a detailed proposal to legalize and regulate medical marijuana throughout Tennessee. LINK

Medical cannabis bill fails in House and Senate (WTVF-TV) The battle for a medical cannabis bill has failed in the legislature. The Senate shot down the major piece of legislation pushing the issue. Lawmakers debated the bill which included a number of efforts to expand legal use across Tennessee Wednesday. One measure would have significantly expanded access to medical marijuana, but it was rolled to next year by the sponsor in an effort to get the bill to another subcommittee the sponsor thinks will be more favorable toward it. LINK

Video: Cannabis bills pushed back to 2020 by Senate Health and Wellness Committee (Tennessean) All bills concerning medical marijuana will not be moving forward this session in the Tennessee General Assembly. LINK

Moms raising LGBTQ kids gather in solidarity (Tennessean) When Sara Cunningham’s son came out of the closet, she went into hers. Cunningham belonged to a conservative Baptist church, one that believes homosexuality and suicide are unforgivable sins. She tried and tried to “pray the gay away.” She believed her son was going to hell. But when faced with choosing between her faith and her son, she chose her child. Cunningham is part of a collective of moms raising children who identify as LGBTQ. Most of these women come from Christian backgrounds. Nearly all were devastated when their children came out to them. The moms didn’t know where to turn. LINK

Tennessee House passes Rep. Robin Smith’s proton radiation therapy bill vetoed last year by then-Gov. Bill Haslam (Times Free Press) A bill requiring the state health insurance plan allow use of proton radiation therapy to treat cancer, vetoed a year ago by then-Gov. Bill Haslam, is now on its way to the desk of Tennessee’s new governor, Bill Lee, after winning overwhelming approval in the House on Tuesday. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Robin Smith, R-Hixson, cleared the chamber on a 94-0 vote with one member voting present. The measure previously passed the Senate. LINK

Dems’ Medicaid expansion plays done for the year (Nashville Post) Democratic lawmakers’ ongoing quest to expand Medicaid in Tennessee likely came to an end this week, at least for the year. Despite opposition from legislative leadership and new Republican Gov. Bill Lee, members of the minority party filed several bills that would have allowed Lee to negotiate Medicaid expansion with the federal government. A House subcommittee killed one proposal, from Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville), on Wednesday. She called her plan the “Mike Pence Medicaid Act of 2019,” in reference to the expansion of Medicaid under then-Indiana Gov. Pence, but Republicans were not amused. LINK

Meet ‘Nash’, the therapy dog of Tennessee’s Capitol Hill (WKRN-TV) People get pets for all kinds of reasons, but a Tennessee lawmaker never imagined what would happen to the dog he brought to Nashville. “He is someone I thank God is not running for office because he would win hands down, everybody would vote for him,” said Sen. Jon Lundberg about his white English lab. On their 20th wedding anniversary, Sen. Lundberg’s wife got the dog to keep him company at the capitol “because I live 300 miles away from Nashville” in Bristol. So, the lawmaker started calling the white lab “Nash.” LINK

Rep. Rick Staples facing ‘remedial measures’ after violating sexual harassment policy (Tennessean) Rep. Rick Staples has been directed to take “preventative action” and “remedial measures” after an internal investigation found he violated the legislature’s sexual harassment policy. According to a letter sent April 1 to House Speaker Glen Casada, R-Franklin, from the Workplace Discrimination and Harassment Subcommittee, part of the House Ethics Committee, the group met to review complaints filed against Staples, D-Knoxville. “Based upon the completed staff investigation, which included interviews with all parties, the Ethics Subcommittee finds that Rep. Staples violated the policy,” the letter reads. LINK

Knoxville Rep. Rick Staples Violated Legislature’s Harassment Policy, Committee Finds (WPLN Radio) A Democratic state representative has been found in violation of the legislature’s sexual harassment policy, but colleagues have stopped short of recommending his removal or any disciplinary action. A letter sent by the House Workplace Discrimination & Harassment  Subcommittee to Speaker Glen Casada earlier this month and released today, Knoxville Rep. Rick Staples was directed to take “preventive action” to “ensure the violation does not reoccur.” LINK

Ethics panel says Rep. Rick Staples violated sexual harassment rule (AP) A Democratic Tennessee lawmaker has been instructed to take “preventative action” after a House ethics panel found he violated the General Assembly’s sexual harassment policy. House Speaker Glen Casada’s office received a letter from the House Workplace Discrimination and Harassment Subcommittee on April 1, which said the panel had reviewed complaints against Rep. Rick Staples. The Associated Press has since obtained a copy of the letter. In it, the subcommittee directed the Knoxville Democrat to take actions to ensure the violation does not happen again and to report back to the subcommittee. LINK

Lawmaker’s son accused of trying to bribe the officer charging him with DUI (WDEF-TV) A Chattanooga man has been charged with second offense D-U-I and attempted bribery of an arresting officer. 30 year old Stephen Carter was arrested on Monday night. His first D-U-I was in 2008. Carter’s attorney Jerry Summers confirmed the charges, including an alleged attempt to bribe the arresting officer. Carter is the son of state representative Mike Carter. LINK

Sen. Alexander critical of Pres. Trump’s budget, says more Chickamauga Lock funding needed (WTVC-TV) Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander (R) says this year’s budget submitted by President Trump does not contain enough money to pay for ongoing construction at the Chickamauga Lock. Aging concrete has caused structural concerns at the current lock, and an upgrade project began back in 2005. Crews have been working to transform the lock from a 60 by 360-foot lock to a 100 by 600-foot lock with improved locking efficiency and restored structural issues since 2015. LINK

Roe: ‘What’s going on at the border is tough‘ (Kingsport Times-News) U.S. Rep. Phil Roe weighed in Wednesday on the change in leadership at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the surge of migrants at the southern border. “I know then-Secretary (Kristjen) Nielsen (who has resigned), shows it was a very, very tough job,” Roe, R-Tenn., said in a conference call with reporters. “I don’t know the issue with … the Secret Service head (who was fired by President Trump). I think it had something to do with what happened out at Mar-A-Lago, with this woman getting in there with electronic equipment who was basically a spy. … What’s going on at the border is tough. We’re going to do a town hall in the next couple weeks at home just on immigration and hear what’s on people’s minds about that issue. LINK

Roe plans to host immigration town hall in his district (Johnson City Press) U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, told reporters via conference call Wednesday that he plans to host an immigration town hall in his district in a few weeks. The town hall news came after Roe was asked about the departures of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Secret Service Director Randolph Alles. “I know then-Secretary Neilsen. She had a very, very tough job. I don’t know the issue with the Secret Service head. I think it had something to do with what happened down at Mar-a-Lago (with) this woman getting in there with electronic equipment. Basically, a spy. I don’t know what she was. That will have to be worked out and evaluated,” Roe said. LINK

Have questions for Rep. Mark Green? Here’s when his town halls are (Tennessean) At the end of the week, Rep. Mark Green will hold a Tennessee Seventh Congressional District town hall in Brentwood. Green announced the dates on Wednesday, and will kick off his tour on Friday at 3 p.m. in Brentwood. His last town hall in Williamson County was in December. “Town halls are invaluable to me as a member of Congress,” Green said. “Please bring your ideas and concerns so I can better represent Tennessee’s 7th District in Washington. Constituent input guides my legislative priorities in Washington, and I need to hear what is working and what is not working for us.” LINK

United Auto Workers officials want no ‘outside interference’ in proposed union election at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant (Times Free Press) United Auto Workers officials say they hope the focus of a proposed union election in coming weeks at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant is on the factory’s workforce and not on outsiders. During the 2014 election, there was “a lot of outside interference,” said Steve Cochran, president of UAW Local 42 in Chattanooga. “We hope that doesn’t happen like the last time.” Volkswagen and the United Auto Workers are waiting for the National Labor Relations Board to decide whether to approve the holding of an election for the Chattanooga plant. LINK

Coca-Cola Consolidated to move Memphis production facility to Arkansas, eliminate jobs (Commercial Appeal) Coca-Cola Consolidated, which makes, bottles and distributes more than 300 Coca-Cola products and employs about 450 people at its Memphis facility, will soon move a part of its operation to West Memphis, Arkansas. The company has plans to build a $33 million addition to its production facility in West Memphis that is expected to open in the last quarter of 2020, company spokesperson Brian Nick said Wednesday. Once the facility opens, the production team currently working in Memphis will move to West Memphis. LINK

If it wasn’t already clear, Nashville is officially no longer a hidden gem. It’s one of the nation’s best places to live.(Tennessean) Nashville has been named the 15th best place to live in the country — and it’s not because of the honky-tonks. Well, not just because of the honky-tonks. “Food is also a really big deal,” new U.S. News and World Report ranking said. Even with local gripes, many justified, about housing costs, commutes and too many tourists on scooters, the city on the Cumberland River made the list between San Jose, California, and Asheville, North Carolina, in an analysis of 125 metro areas nationwide. LINK

County opens new crisis center for crime victims (Memphis Flyer) Officials cut the ribbon last week on a new center for the victims of rape and other crimes. Operating on three floors in a rehabbed county building at 1060 Madison, the Crime Victims and Rape Crisis Center staffs victim advocates and counselors who provide comprehensive victim support with an array of services. The new center is a rebranded version of the two agencies, Sandy Bromley, director of the center, said. The Crime Victims and Rape Crisis Center was formerly located on Madison about a mile away from its new home. LINK

Nashville’s SAFE clinic exceeds expected number of rape exams (WSMV-TV) New numbers released by the Sexual Assault Center (SAC) reveal more people than expected in 2019 are requesting forensic rape exams at its newly opened SAFE clinic. Officials at the SAFE clinic, located at 101 French Landing Drive, tell News4 the city’s first and only stand-alone, non-hospital clinic has performed 112 rape exams since it opened in January, more than they were expecting all year. Statistics show every 98 seconds someone is sexually assaulted in the United States. LINK

KENTUCKY: Kentucky to use rapid DNA tests for sex assault cases (AP) Kentucky is helping to pioneer new crime-fighting technology that allows rapid DNA testing to more quickly identify sexual assault offenders and clear those falsely accused, officials said Wednesday. The equipment, known as the ANDE Rapid DNA system, can generate DNA identification from forensic samples in less than two hours, Kentucky law enforcement officials said. Kentucky is at the forefront nationally in embracing the technology, they said. “If you are a sexual predator in … Kentucky, we’re going to come after you,” Kentucky State Police Commissioner Richard Sanders said at a press conference. LINK


Bill Gibbons: Still BLUE-CRUSHing crime data in Memphis streets (Commercial Appeal) Data-driven policing involves smart use of crime data to deploy law enforcement resources in the right places at the right times to have a maximum positive impact on the crime rate. New York City was the first major city to implement such an approach in a day -to-day consistent fashion, beginning in 1994. Referred to us CompStat (short for Compare Statistics), it is credited with creating dramatic reductions in New York’s crime rate, moving it from having one of the highest crime rates among American cities to having one of the lowest crime rates. LINK

Bill Freeman: Casada finally takes a step in the right direction against Rep. Byrd (Nashville Scene) State House Speaker Glen Casada, who took too long do so, made the right move in late March when he removed Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) from the education subcommittee chairmanship position to which Casada had appointed him. Last year, multiple women said Byrd sexually abused them in the 1980s when he was their high school basketball coach. The public outcry over those accusations seemingly had grown too loud to ignore. Or maybe there were other political pressures that pushed the speaker to strip Byrd of his leadership position. LINK

Editorial: Sip slowly on campus, ETSU (Johnson City Press) Anyone who has ever attended a college sporting event or concert probably knows that alcohol makes its way in one way or another. Despite measures intended to keep out any number of things, including flasks and bottles, clever students find a way to sneak spirits into arenas and stadiums. But the inevitable is no reason to make something easy or to sanction it, especially given the number of college students under drinking age and the potential for alcohol-fueled arguments among fans. LINK

Column: Can Bounds bounce Dunn? (KnoxTNToday) There’s a storm a’coming if school board member Patti Bounds takes on state Rep. Bill Dunn in the Republican Primary of 2020. Dunn, 57, was elected in 1994. Bounds and others on the local school board are battling hard to stop legislation that Dunn is carrying to pay a state subsidy to children in private schools. Knox TN Today columnist Frank Cagle has written about problems with this bill here and here. You would expect public school leaders to oppose putting tax money into private schools. And you would expect Dunn, whose five kids were schooled at home and in church schools, to support vouchers. LINK

State Rep. John Holsclaw: Republican-led initiative to secure Tennessee schools passes House (Elizabethton Star) This week, Republican lawmakers passed House Bill 947, which will help secure our Tennessee schools and provide additional safety resources to protect our future leaders. The initiative proposes a $30 million investment for the school safety grant fund and additional changes to existing law to prioritize the distribution of these grants to help secure school resource officers and other safety measures. Total proposed funding for school resources officers and additional safety measures for FY 2019-2020 is $50 million. Approximately $10 million of this funding total was allocated last year, $30 million is new money as part of the Governor’s proposed budget. LINK

Jackson Baker: Shelby County Democrats: The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight. Again. (Memphis Flyer) In August, 2016, Tennessee  Democratic Party chair Mary Mancini announced that the state party executive committee had voted to disband the Shelby County Democratic Party, a hopelessly fractious organization that, as Mancini noted, had experienced “many years of dysfunction.” One year later, in August 2017, a reconstituted local party took shape at a convention that crowned months of focus-group activity in tandem with the state party. Corey Strong, a Shelby County Schools administrator and a military reservist, was elected chair of a new body that possessed both an executive committee and a larger “grassroots” council. LINK

Editorial: It’s no surprise — Sullivan County needs a new jail (Kingsport Times-News) It’s too soon to hire a project manager even before a consultant has reported on options for the overcrowded Sullivan County jail. But Commissioner Mark Vance’s early focus on what will be a costly undertaking is to be appreciated. Perhaps other commissioners should join Vance in discussing an aspect that will most certainly come from that report, and that is how to pay for what will be a significant cost for county taxpayers. LINK

Guest column: Stagnant funding forces young doctors to serve residencies in other states (Tennessean) If you’ve ever needed to see a doctor in Tennessee, odds are you’ve waited a long time for your appointment. It’s no secret that Tennessee has a shortage of physicians. This affects not only appointment availability, but also health outcomes. Access to care is a huge determinant to the health status of communities, and Gov. Bill Lee has recently supported expanding primary care across the state. At his State of the State address on March 4, Lee pledged upwards of $8.6 million towards Graduate Medical Education funding to support resident physicians in Tennessee’s rural communities. We support this initiative, and with the help of you and our state legislature, this funding will dramatically expand access to medical care in Tennessee. LINK


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