Wednesday, May 15

Gov. Bill Lee champions agriculture sector, vocational education in Memphis trip (Commercial Appeal) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee visited Memphis on Tuesday. Here are six things he spoke about. The future of food: Lee came to The Peabody to speak at the Davos on the Delta conference, a meeting dedicated to new ideas about agriculture, technology and food systems. The trade show section of the conference highlighted high-tech gadgets including a remote-controlled drone that can spray crops from the air and a startup company that’s working on robotic tractors. LINK

TN Governor & local mayors announce new training in trades for Shelby County School students (WATN-TV) Shelby County Schools students who want to learn a trade are getting a big boost. Tuesday morning, Mayor Jim Strickland, along with Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, Governor Bill Lee, and others announced a new program for Shelby County Schools. Working with the Tennessee Home Builders Association, two schools will give students opportunities to get needed training to receive certificates in trades. LINK

Gov. Lee, mayors tout homebuilding curriculum in Shelby County Schools (Memphis Business Journal) Gov. Bill Lee and the mayors of Memphis and Shelby County gave high praise Tuesday, May 14, to a program that will bring residential construction curriculum into Shelby County Schools classrooms. The program, which the Memphis Business Journal reported on last month, will begin at Trezevant and Sheffield high schools this fall, with room for 200 students. “I have long known that there is a shortage of those skilled [technical] workers because we have left that part of education out of our school system for decades,” said Lee, who ran a plumbing and electrical company prior to becoming governor. LINK

Addressing home builder gap, two Shelby County high schools offer construction curriculum (Commercial Appeal) Building industry and school officials joined Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday to debut a new nonprofit that hopes to combat a home builder shortfall through a freshly approved high school curriculum. The Tennessee Builders Education Foundation organization will bring building and construction classes to Shelby County’s Trezevant High School and Sheffield High School beginning in the upcoming 2019-20 school year. The program will look to address a 1,700 skilled worker shortage in West Tennessee’s building industry while developing high school students for a sturdy career path, officials said at the press conference at Shelby County Schools Teaching and Learning Academy. LINK

Governor Lee, Mayor Strickland weigh in on Bluff City Law filming push (WMC-TV) It’s crunch time for NBC producers as they decide where to shoot the new legal drama Bluff City Law. “We certainly will consider any economic activity opportunities like filming,” Governor Bill Lee said on Tuesday. He also says he’s well aware of the push for incentives to produce Bluff City Law locally, but Lee’s comments came without a secure promise they’d happen. “I’m very intrigued by that opportunity. It’s certainly an exciting one for this city,” he said. LINK

Report: Trade war taking toll on Tennessee exports (WMC-TV) The global trade war is not just causing concern on Wall Street, but across Tennessee. A new report from Middle Tennessee State University said the Volunteer State lost almost $500 million dollars in exports in the last quarter of 2018, which it called it “one of the worst quarters in recent memory.” … The report doesn’t mention agriculture, but Governor Bill Lee says he’s concerned about farmers. “I think that we’re very concerned about particularly about the impact it has on grain crops, producers for example,” said Lee. LINK

New Memphis program encourages more students to pursue careers in construction (Chalkbeat Tennessee) About 200 more Memphis students will be able to work toward certification in construction jobs next year thanks to a two-year state grant and an additional curriculum announced Tuesday. The after-school program, known as Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training, or PACT, is Gov. Bill Lee’s latest push to train more high school students to enter careers straight out of high school in areas such as masonry, carpentry, landscaping, painting, plumbing, and construction technology. LINK

Tennessee’s new governor named charter school champion by national group (Chalkbeat Tennessee) Gov. Bill Lee has been in office for less than six months, but he’s already been named a champion of the charter school movement by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Lee — who pushed through new funding and legislation for the state’s growing charter sector — was the only Tennessean and sole governor among 17 local, state, and federal officials named Tuesday to the organization’s 2019 class of “Champions for Charters.” LINK

Governor won’t intervene in execution of Donnie Johnson (Daily Memphian) Gov. Bill Lee announced Tuesday evening he will not stop the execution of death row inmate Donnie Johnson, who is set to be put to death Thursday. “After prayerful and deliberate consideration of Don Johnson’s request for clemency, and after a thorough review of the case, I am upholding the sentence of the state of Tennessee and will not be intervening,” Lee said in a statement. LINK

Gov. Bill Lee denies clemency for Donnie Edward Johnson; execution set for Thursday (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Lee will not stop the first execution of his term, rejecting a plea for mercy from death row inmate Donnie Edward Johnson, who is scheduled to die Thursday. Johnson, 68, was convicted in the 1984 murder of his wife Connie Johnson in Memphis. He suffocated her by stuffing a trash bag down her throat. But Johnson’s application for clemency said he had changed behind bars, from a murderer and con man to a devoted man of faith. He serves as an elder in the Seventh-day Adventist Church and ministers to his fellow inmates. LINK

Governor Lee denies clemency request for condemned inmate Don Johnson (WKRN-TV) Governor Bill Lee has denied a request for clemency in the execution of Don Johnson. The Governor released a statement Tuesday: After a prayerful and deliberate consideration of Don Johnson‘s request for clemency, and after a thorough review of the case, I am upholding the sentence of the State of Tennessee and will not be intervening. Johnson is scheduled to be executed Thursday at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville. Johnson’s legal team released a statement after the governor’s announcement:   LINK

Gov. Lee says he won’t intervene in Donnie Johnson execution (WTVF-TV) Gov. Bill Lee announced that he won’t stop the execution of Donnie Johnson, scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, all but assuring the execution will take place. Lee released the following statement Tuesday: “After a prayerful and deliberate consideration of Don Johnson‘s request for clemency, and after a thorough review of the case, I am upholding the sentence of the State of Tennessee and will not be intervening.” LINK

Governor Denies Clemency for Don Johnson (Nashville Scene) Gov. Bill Lee has denied Don Johnson’s request for clemency, and will not intervene to stop Johnson’s execution on Thursday. “After a prayerful and deliberate consideration of Don Johnson‘s request for clemency, and after a thorough review of the case, I am upholding the sentence of the State of Tennessee and will not be intervening,” Lee said in a written statement. Johnson was convicted in 1985 for the murder of his wife, Connie Johnson. But Connie’s daughter, Cynthia Vaughn, is now pleading for the governor to grant him clemency. The two reconciled in 2012. LINK

Governor Bill Lee denies clemency for death row inmate Donnie Johnson (WZTV-TV) Governor Bill Lee has denied clemency for death row inmate Donnie Johnson. “After a prayerful and deliberate consideration of Don Johnson‘s request for clemency, and after a thorough review of the case, I am upholding the sentence of the State of Tennessee and will not be intervening,” Governor Lee said. Johnson was moved to death watch Tuesday. He is slated to die Thursday. LINK

Gov. Lee: No clemency for death row inmate (WVLT-TV) Governor Bill Lee announced he will not grant death row inmate Don Johnson clemency. Johnson was moved to death watch Tuesday morning ahead of his scheduled execution set for Thursday night. Johnson is scheduled to be executed Thursday for the 1984 murder of his wife, Connie Johnson. Her daughter, Cynthia Vaughn, has forgiven Johnson and joined in the request for clemency, but other relatives sent a letter to the governor asking that the execution move forward. LINK

TN Governor Bill Lee will not halt execution of Memphis death row inmate Don Johnson (WATN-TV) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee released the following statement regarding death row inmate Don Johnson: “After a prayerful and deliberate consideration of Don Johnson‘s request for clemency, and after a thorough review of the case, I am upholding the sentence of the State of Tennessee and will not be intervening.” Statement of lead clemency counsel Rev. Charles Fels on behalf of the Don Johnson clemency team: LINK

Tennessee governors recall their agonizing death row decisions (News Sentinel) Bob Clement remembers walking past his father’s bedroom inside the governor’s mansion when he was a boy. Gov. Frank Clement was on his knees leaning against his bed, praying. A man was about to die. The life-or-death decisions placed on the shoulders of Tennessee’s governors weighed mightily on the men in the moment and, for some, throughout their lives. Donnie Johnson is on death watch, scheduled to die by lethal injection Thursday for suffocating his wife with a 30-gallon trash bag just two weeks before Christmas in 1984. LINK

Tennessee Gov. Lee monitoring House speaker scandals (AP) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee says he is continuing to monitor the scandals surrounding House Speaker Glen Casada but says that it’s up to the House to determine its leader’s fate. Lee made the remarks Tuesday in Memphis. The first-term Republican governor has previously said that if Casada were in his administration, he would ask him to resign but has declined to say whether Casada should step aside from his leadership post. LINK

Monroe County woman charged with Tenncare fraud after selling painkillers (WATE-TV) A Monroe County woman is behind bars Tuesday after she was caught selling painkillers she received using Tenncare. Brenda Lou McNabb, 51, is now charged with one count of Tenncare fraud and two counts of sale and delivery of a schedule 2 controlled substance. Investigators say McNabb obtained two separate hydrocodone prescriptions and was caught selling some of the pills to an informant. LINK

Officials: Sweetwater woman used TennCare to pay for drugs, sold them (WVLT-TV) The Office of the Inspector General announced charges for a Monroe County woman related to TennCare fraud. Brenda Lou McNabb, 51, was charged with one count of TennCare fraud and two counts of sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance. McNabb is accused of getting a hydrocodone prescription and selling some of the drugs to “a confidential informant.” According to the Inspector General, she paid for a clinical visit and the prescription using TennCare benefits. LINK

Henderson Co. woman charged with TennCare fraud (WBBJ-TV) A Henderson County woman is charged in nearby Decatur County with doctor shopping for prescription drugs and using TennCare as payment. Julie Smith, 38, of Lexington is charged with one count of TennCare fraud by doctor shopping, according to a news release from the Office of Inspector General. Smith is accused of using TennCare to doctor shop for the painkiller hydrocodone, the release says. LINK

More than 40 animals removed from home, crews call conditions neglectful (WSMV-TV) Authorities said 42 dogs and cats have been removed from a home here. Representatives for the Animal Rescue Corps said the animals were living in neglectful conditions and this isn’t the first time the owners have done this. “Their condition was sad,” said neighbor James Dial of Cookeville. The animals were with the Animal Rescue Corps in Lebanon, TN, on Monday … The animals were spotted by the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department while they were serving a warrant to homeowner Tara Neutzler for felony theft and TennCare fraud. LINK

Tennessee sues second Big Pharma giant for pain pill claims (News Sentinel) Tennessee’s attorney general sued another painkiller producer Tuesday as an “unconscionable” accomplice to the state’s epidemic of opioid abuse. Endo Pharmaceuticals and Health Solutions knowingly marketed the drug Opana as a safe, more effective and less addictive alternative to such painkillers as Oxycontin, in spite of blatant evidence otherwise, according to the lawsuit filed in Knox County Circuit Court Court under the state Consumer Protection Act. LINK

Rep. Dunn: Culture of paranoia exists under Speaker Casada’s leadership (WTVF-TV) State Representative Bill Dunn called for Glen Casada to step down from his role as House Speaker, citing recent controversy and a culture of paranoia surrounding. Lawmakers are continuing to speak out about the culture of state legislature under Speaker Casada’s leadership – state troopers in the hallways of the Cordell Hull building, people thrown out of committees, House chamber doors locked to keep members inside, paranoia about staffers eavesdropping on conversations. Rep. Dunn is the second and would temporarily take over Casada’s role as speaker of the house should he choose to step down. LINK

Republican rep says Casada support dwindling to fewer than fifth of House (Daily Memphian) State Rep. Jeremy Faison, one of the first House Republicans to call for Speaker Glen Casada’s resignation, said Tuesday fewer than a third of the 73-member caucus supports Casada. “I think he has less than 20 votes,” Faison said. The total would give Casada support among fewer than a fifth of the 99-member chamber, including the 26-member Democratic Caucus, which already has called for him to step down. Faison, a Cosby Republican from East Tennessee, said he and other members took unofficial surveys of the Republican Caucus and came up with the figure. LINK

More GOP Lawmakers Call For Special Meeting To Discuss Future Of Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada (WPLN Radio) At least 10 Republican lawmakers in Tennessee have publicly called for a caucus meeting to discuss the fate of House Speaker Glen Casada. According to GOP Caucus bylaws, that’s the minimum number of lawmakers needed to trigger a special meeting. One of the latest Republicans calling for the meeting is Ron Gant, the House Assistant Majority Leader. He says the caucus needs to discuss its direction. LINK

Glen Casada used state plane for 5 trips in 3 months. His predecessor used it twice in 8 years (Tennessean) House Speaker Glen Casada spent nearly $7,900 in taxpayer money for 10 flights on a state airplane in the last three months, according to state records. The frequency and cost of Casada’s flights are significantly more than those of his predecessor and Senate counterpart. And at least one of the taxpayer-funded trips Casada took included attendance at a Republican political dinner. Casada’s taxpayer-funded travel included round trips to Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis and Fort Campbell. LINK

Report: Casada makes liberal use of state plane (TN Journal) The Tennessean reports that House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) used the state plane on five round trips since coming into office in January. That compares with two trips predecessor Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) took over her entire eight years as speaker. Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) has used it only once since 2017. Casada’s flights to and from Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis, and Fort Campbell cost nearly $7,900. Another trip planned for Sparta was cancelled amid the test messaging scandal enveloping Casada’s office. LINK

Reps. Johnson, Weaver latest Republicans to call for Speaker Casada’s resignation (WKRN-TV) More names of House Republicans are being added to those who want fellow party member Glen Casada to resign as their speaker. Rural middle Tennessee Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver and Montgomery County lawmaker Rep. Curtis Johnson are two of the latest who have come out publicly asking that Speaker Casada to “step aside.” LINK

House Majority Leader addresses allegations against Speaker, staff (WSMV-TV) Tennessee’s House Majority Leader William Lamberth is addressing the latest allegations against House Speaker Glen Casada. Lamberth said he called Casada’s former Chief of Staff Cade Cothren right after learning Cothren was accused of sending racist and vulgar text messages and pursuing interns. “I made the phone call to Mr. Cothren before he stepped down and recommended that he do so,” Lamberth said. “Actions certainly have consequences and his actions were wildly inappropriate.” LINK

Reps. Johnson, Moon make it 9 Republicans to call for Casada resignation (TN Journal) Reps. Curtis Johnson of Clarksville and Jerome Moon of Maryville  have joined the call for Glen Casada to step aside as House speaker following a text message scandal. That brings the number of Republicans to nine making appeals for Casada to resign from the chamber’s top leadership role. “We need to restore the trust that has been lost,” Johnson told The Tennessean. “He has become a political liability to the members of the House and to the state. I would urge the speaker to step down.” LINK

Gant: ‘We can all recognize the severity of what is happening’ (TN Journal) Republican Rep. Ron Gant, the assistant House majority leader, is issuing a call for a caucus meeting to discuss the fallout from the text messaging scandal enveloping Glen Casada’s speakership. “With all the vitriol playing out before our eyes; personally, I find myself thinking that if this is what public service has come to then I may want to serve the community that I love in another way,” wrote Gant. It’s unclear whether Gant’s call for a caucus meeting differs from once sought by Rep. Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville), which the latter has described as involving a “vote of confidence” for the speaker. LINK

Grand Divisions Episode 52: House Speaker Glen Casada faces a growing chorus of calls for his resignation (Tennessean) For the second week in a row, House Speaker Glen Casada continued to face the fallout of a scandal involving his former chief of staff. The scandal started after a series of news NewsChannel 5 reports detailed racist text messages and drug use by Cade Cothren, Casada’s former chief of staff. But it accelerated after The Tennessean reported on sexually explicit text messages between Cothren and Casada. LINK

Is this what Casada meant by ‘nothing else?’ (TN Journal) Seeking to shore up support among the Republican caucus last week, House Speaker Glen Casada assured colleagues “there’s nothing else to come out” in the text message scandal that threatens to topple him from the chamber’s top leadership position. But new revelations emerged on Monday, as WTVF’s Phil Williams reported that Casada and his now former chief of staff exchanged text messages about whether two young women were at the legal age of consent. LINK

Glen Casada controversy opens old wounds from 2018 Hamilton County state House GOP primary (Times Free Press) A Chattanooga Republican who blames 2018 attacks by Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada for his state House GOP primary loss to fellow Republican Esther Helton says “it is time for Speaker Glen Casada to step down.” Jonathan Mason also says it’s time for Rep. Helton, R-East Ridge, to speak up on where she stands with regard to the embattled Casada, who faces multiple controversies stemming from sexist and racist texts sent by a former top aide, along with other eruptions. LINK

Conexión Américas announces successor to longtime leader Renata Soto (Tennessean) Juliana Ospina Cano will take over as executive director for longtime Conexión Américas leader Renata Soto. Soto will step down at the end of the month after co-founding the nonprofit 17 years ago. Ospina Cano is a former staff member who has also worked at Metropolitan Nashville Public School’s Office of English Learners and served as STEM Preparatory Academy’s founding director of family and community engagement. LINK

Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman: Hard for moderate Republicans to find home in current GOP (Tennessean) In her visit to The Hermitage on Wednesday, New Jersey’s former governor will speak on why when honoring our history we should look at the “good, the bad and the ugly.” Christine Todd Whitman said her speech takes place in an appropriate place to talk about the historical context of The Hermitage and former President Andrew Jackson’s legacy. The goal, she said, is not to turn away from our history but also be careful how we judge the past. LINK

Nissan warns of sharp drop in profit as sales fall in major markets (NY Times) Nissan warned on Tuesday that sales would continue to drop in major markets and forecast a sharp fall in operating profit, another blow for the automaker as it tries to shore up its management approach after the arrest of its former chairman, Carlos Ghosn. The company expects its operating profit to shrink nearly 28%, to 230 billion yen ($2 billion) for the fiscal year ending in March 2020. It blamed diminishing sales in the United States and Europe. “We hope to hit the rock bottom in 2018 and 2019 and reverse the trend in the coming years,” the company’s chief executive, Hiroto Saikawa, told reporters. LINK

Memphis, Tenn., Earns Accolades for Its Evolving Data Work (Government Technology) After winning an accolade for its efforts to improve data-driven governance, Memphis, Tenn., is pushing its data practice even farther. Memphis was one of four new jurisdictions granted silver certification by What Works Cities, a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative that supports the use of data and evidence-based management within local government. Cities obtain these certifications by hitting a series of benchmarks determined by the group, which develops a set of 45 criteria related to the work, including things such as whether they use data to set goals and track progress. It was a prestigious award, given that nearly 100 cities applied and so few were chosen. LINK


Guest column: House Speaker Glen Casada has history of abuse of power (Tennessean) Before he even took on the role of Speaker of the House, Glen Casada behaved as if he were the emperor of Tennessee. Time and again he circumvented the law and common decency to achieve his goals. There has been no act too low, no punishment too petty to give him pause. Thankfully, like the Roman emperor Caligula, it appears that his behavior has finally reached such a level of outrageousness that even his most dedicated supporters can no longer ignore it. At least he didn’t have time to make his horse a senator. LINK

Guest column: Tennesseans should tell legislators Casada must resign (Tennessean) Glen Casada has to go. Not just from his speaker position but from the Tennessee House of Representatives. Now. For good. If he won’t go willingly, then Gov. Bill Lee should call a special session and the General Assembly should vote him out the door. Such a dismissal is long overdue. For years, Casada has tolerated and even nurtured a climate on Capitol Hill that is toxic toward women. The unsavory tweets between him and his former chief of staff, Cade Cothren, were less of a revelation than confirmation of what everyone up there already knew. LINK

Editorial: Tennessee moves to sabotage its own health-care system (Washington Post) REPUBLICANS FAILED to undermine the Medicaid program, the federal-state partnership that provides health-care coverage for the poor and near-poor, when they tried to repeal Obamacare two years ago. But the Trump administration might have found a way — by issuing waivers allowing states to volunteer for “block granting.” Tennessee lawmakers decided this month to make their state the first to try. That’s a bad decision for Tennessee and an alarming portent of the next potential assault on the nation’s safety net. Under the current Medicaid program, states and the federal government share the cost of caring for those who are covered — in Tennessee, the feds pay about two-thirds — and there is no cap on federal spending in any given state. LINK

Guest column: My life could have ended on death row. Inmates deserve mercy too. (News Sentinel) I was born in prison. I learned this at the age of 40 after receiving my birth records from the state of Tennessee. This was quite a sobering discovery. I assume most adoptees have a fantasy of how they were brought into the world. Beginning life with a drug addled, incarcerated mother does not fit the illusion. My biological mother gave birth to me at 18. I was her fourth child. She shot her husband and was charged with the homicide in 1973, more than a year before my birth. LINK

Column: The truth about Obamacare’s numbers you won’t hear from Roe (Johnson City Press) Rep. Phil Roe’s latest messaging on healthcare is petty. He rehashes worn propaganda on Obamacare and the Medicare for All proposition but offers no new thing. He even sinks to a misleading dig about England’s National Health Service. He says Democrats “predicted 27 million Americans would gain coverage by 2019, but the actual number was only 11.4.” What he doesn’t tell you is that his number doesn’t include those who stay on parents’ plans until age 26 and those millions who are now covered under Medicaid expansion. LINK

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