Friday, June 28

Gov. Bill Lee calls Aug. 23 special session to elect new House speaker to replace Glen Casada (Tennessean) The Tennessee House of Representatives will vote on its next speaker Aug. 23, when Gov. Bill Lee is calling lawmakers to return to Nashville for a historic special legislative session, the 60th in state history. Lee signed a proclamation making the call Thursday, saying a special session to elect a new speaker was “in the best interest of our state,” according to a statement provided to The Tennessean. Current House Speaker Glen Casada, R-Franklin, will resign from his leadership position Aug. 2 — his 60th birthday — though his likely replacement will be determined in a July 24 House Republican Caucus meeting. LINK

Video: Gov. Lee commends Vanderbilt baseball, Tyler Brown as role models (Tennessean) Governor Bill Lee calls Vanderbilt baseball player Tyler Brown and “inspiration” for how he overcame adversity and his care for his young daughter. LINK

Governor Lee calls for special session in wake of Casada scandal (WKRN-TV) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has called for a special session of the General Assembly to select a new Speaker of the House. The session will convene on Aug. 23. Gov. Lee said in a statement he has asked the General Assembly to take up the approval of the recent amendments to Supreme Court rules, in addition to selecting a new Speaker. Previously, Gov. Lee released a statement after the House Caucus held a “no confidence” vote on House Speaker Glen Casada. “Today House Republicans sent a clear message, and I’m prepared to call a special session if the Speaker doesn’t resign.” Speaker Casada released a statement after the vote: LINK

It’s Official: Special Session To Replace Tennessee’s House Speaker On Aug. 23 (WPLN Radio) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has officially set a date for a special session to replace embattled House Speaker Glen Casada. In a tweet on Wednesday morning, Lee said he’s asking the legislature to reconvene for a special session on Aug. 23 at 10 a.m. Lee’s announcement comes weeks after top GOP leaders requested him to call for the meeting to replace Casada. He told reporters this month he intended to do, but his action Thursday made it official. LINK

Gov. Lee calls for August special legislative session to replace House Speaker Glen Casada (Times Free Press) Tennessee lawmakers will head back to the state Capitol on Aug. 23 after Gov. Bill Lee set the date for a special legislative session so the GOP-led House can elect a new speaker. Lee, a Republican, issued the call on Thursday, saying “it is in the best interest of our state to select a new Speaker of the House, and so I am calling a special session of the General Assembly for Aug. 23 to accomplish that purpose.” The move comes amid Republican Speaker Glen Casada’s expected resignation. The governor also said he has asked the General Assembly “to take up approval of the recent amendments to the Supreme Court rules, in addition to settling these leadership matters. Any other procedural business would be at the discretion of the General Assembly.” LINK

Gov. Bill Lee sets date for special session to replace Casada (WTVF-TV) Governor Bill Lee has called for a special session to select a new Speaker of the House to replace Glen Casada. Lee tweeted Thursday morning that he’s set the session date for August 23. Lee also released a statement, saying: “It is in the best interest of our State to select a new Speaker of the House, and so I am calling a special session of the General Assembly for August 23 to accomplish that purpose. I have also asked the General Assembly to take up approval of the recent amendments to the Supreme Court rules, in addition to settling these leadership matters. Any other procedural business would be at the discretion of the General Assembly.” LINK

Governor calls special session to name speaker (Nashville Post) Republican Gov. Bill Lee said Thursday he will call the House back to Nashville on Aug. 23 to name a new speaker. Lee was previously hesitant to call a special session, but Republican leaders urged him to do so after the majority caucus in May approved a no-confidence resolution related to Republican Speaker Glen Casada. “It is in the best interest of our State to select a new Speaker of the House, and so I am calling a special session of the General Assembly for August 23 to accomplish that purpose,” Lee said in a statement. LINK

Lee sets special session for Aug. 23 (TN Journal) Gov. Bill Lee has scheduled the special session to replace House Speaker Glen Casada for Aug. 23. The House Republican Caucus is scheduled to meet on July 24 to nominate the next speaker. LINK

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee sets special session for August 23 (AP) Gov. Bill Lee has announced when he’ll call a special legislative session in order to allow the GOP-controlled House to elect a new speaker. Lee said Thursday that lawmakers will be called to the Tennessee Capitol on August 23. The special session will follow a House GOP caucus meeting where Republican members will nominate a speaker in advance on July 23. House Speaker Glen Casada has said he’ll resign August 2 following a series of scandals that were first reported earlier this year as the regular legislative session was concluding. LINK

Governor schedules Aug. 23 special session to replace House speaker (Daily Memphian) Gov. Bill Lee has called an Aug. 23 special session, setting the time frame for the House of Representatives to replace resigning House Speaker Glen Casada. “It is in the best interest of our state to select a new Speaker of the House, and so I am calling a special session of the General Assembly for Aug. 23 to accomplish that purpose. I have also asked the General Assembly to take up approval of the recent amendments to the Supreme Court rules, in addition to settling these leadership matters. Any other procedural business would be at the discretion of the General Assembly.” LINK

Republicans meet July 24 to nominate speaker; Special Session set for Aug. 23 (Brentwood Home Page) State House Republicans will meet July 24 to pick a nominee for speaker, and a month later the full House will have a chance to vote on that choice at a Special Session of the Legislature. Gov. Bill Lee announced the Special Session Thursday morning on Twitter. “It is in the best interest of our State to select a new Speaker of the House, and so I am calling a special session of the General Assembly for August 23 to accomplish that purpose,” Lee wrote. The caucus voted last month in favor of a no-confidence resolution regarding the leadership of Speaker Glen Casada. LINK

Fighting words: (LA Times) The governor of Tennessee is now openly bragging about luring businesses east to his state. “It is a beautiful day in Tennessee, but I gotta tell ya, as governor, today, I’m California dreaming,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said in a video posted to Twitter. In the last six months, four California companies have announced their move to the Volunteer State, including (as we mentioned yesterday) Mitsubishi Motors. The Tennessean LINK

Economic development; Lee says rural broadband is key for state (The Tomahawk) Improving rural broadband connectivity took center stage when Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee spoke to members of the newly renamed Tennessee Broadband Association earlier this month in Franklin, TN. Lee associated prosperity and leadership with the availability of broadband Internet speeds in rural communities stating, “all areas of the state need to prosper for Tennessee to be an economic leader, and is a key to helping rural Tennesseans thrive.” With that, Lee pledged to help foster solutions for rural broadband expansion in the future. “What happens in rural Tennessee profoundly impacts every Tennessean,” he said. LINK

Hundreds celebrate Vandy Boys’ College World Series championship (WTVF-TV) Excitement filled the Vanderbilt Recreation and Wellness Center Thursday afternoon as fans packed the facility to congratulate the College World Series-winning Vanderbilt baseball team … Fans heard from Mayor David Briley and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, who both congratulated the Vanderbilt players and coaches. “Everybody in the state of Tennessee is proud of you and we’re grateful,” Lee said. LINK

Pilot.Com, Inc. to locate account management headquarters in Nashville; Mitsubishi to open operations in Franklin (Pride Publishing) Mitsubishi Motors North America will relocate its corporate headquarters from Cypress, California to Franklin, Tennessee. Pilot.com plans to create more than 450 new jobs in the Nashville area over the next 5 years. The company was founded in San Francisco in 2017. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and Pilot.com, Inc. officials announced on Tuesday that the company will locate its new account management headquarters in Nashville, which will be the company’s second location. The software-based bookkeeping company plans to create more than 450 new jobs in Davidson County. LINK

Mike Griffin Settling in as Chamber President (Cleveland Daily Banner) Although new Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Mike Griffin said he is still getting settled in his office, it is already filled with mementos from his many years working in banking, as well as serving on various nonprofit organizations. Griffin succeeds Gary Farlow, who retired earlier this year after leading the Chamber for 10 years.  Taking the helm at the Chamber comes during a pivotal time in Cleveland as the city prepares to implement its Downtown Revitalization Master Plan … According to a recent article in the Cleveland Daily Banner, $1 million in funding for the project was included in Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s 2019-20 budget. However, the project is expected to cost millions more, with Phase 1 costing $2.5 million and Phase 2 costing up to $12 million. LINK

Stovall attends Governor’s School (Winchester Herald-Chronicle) Huntland High School rising senior Natalie Stovall is attending the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Agricultural Sciences at the University of Tennessee-Martin. The goal of the TGSAS is to offer a unique learning experience to high school students to inspire their interest in agriculture and natural resources by providing classes and experimental learning opportunities in a college setting … She said she was honored to meet Tennessee Governor Bill Lee as he joined the students for one tour. Gov. Lee also joined them for dinner following the tour. LINK

Motlow librarians move state vision forward as literacy advocates (Winchester Herald-Chronicle) Sharon Kay Edwards and Paige Hendrickson are branch librarians at Motlow State’s McMinnville and Smyrna campuses, respectively. While they provide critical service and support daily to patrons who need to access information through the library, they also have become literary advocates who are leaders in moving Tennessee forward in library awareness with elected officials and state organizations. Working within state and federal legislative infrastructures to increase literacy awareness is a primary focus for Edwards … “Through library advocacy efforts this year, I was able to secure an official proclamation for Library Week from Governor Bill Lee.” LINK

State OKs three incentive packages worth more than $12M (Nashville Business Journal) The state attracted two high-profile California companies to Middle Tennessee this week, and now we know the price tag for one of those deals. The Tennessee State Funding Board approved $773,500 in job training assistance to San Francisco-based Pilot.com Inc. Thursday. The state Department of Economic and Community Development offered the deal in exchange for Pilot.com creating 455 jobs and making a $6.2 million investment in Nashville as part of the company’s new account-management headquarters, announced Tuesday. LINK

UT research backs need for hands-free cellphone law (WBIR-TV) With only a few days left before the new hands-free cell phone law goes into effect, the University of Tennessee is pushing for drivers to take it seriously. UT’s Center for Transportation Research says its research backs the need for a law like this to be in place. A study they conducted in 2012 found 88% of Tennessee drivers believe texting and driving is a huge threat to their safety. “They felt less safe driving than they did five years ago,” said Tammy Enix, research associate with UT’s Center for Transportation Research. LINK

U of M’s private subsidiary plans to expand (Memphis Business Journal) The University of Memphis is expected to announce today it will expand and relocate its private, for-profit subsidiary. UMRF Ventures Inc. is expected to relocate to the university’s Park Avenue campus. The company began in 2017 to offer U of M students a well-paying, white-collar job while also giving the university a new revenue stream. The Park Avenue facility, formerly the Defense Audit Building, is expected to house an expanded Level 1 and a new Level 2 call center to handle IT support calls for FedEx Corp. The center will employ 130 students and be operational from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., 365 days of the year. LINK

APSU awarded $100,000 grant to host Veterans’ Reconnect Conference (Leaf Chronicle) The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) recently awarded Austin Peay State University a $100,000 grant to host a two-day Veterans’ Reconnect Conference on the University’s campus. The conference, “Bridging the Gaps: Tennessee Institutions Leading the Change for Military/Veteran Transition,” will take place Oct. 14-15 at the University’s Morgan University Center. The event will bring in academic leaders from across Middle and West Tennessee to provide attendees with resources and training for supporting military-affiliated students on their campuses. LINK

11 Memphis charter school applications rejected (Daily Memphian) With scant public discussion, Shelby County Schools board denied 11 new charter school applications this week. The denials at Tuesday night’s board meeting were not unexpected, since district staff recommended changes to the applications, said Shelby County Schools Chief of Strategy and Performance Management Bradley Leon after the board meeting. “The state has pretty clear criteria for what an academic plan should look like, what an operational plan should look like and what a financial plan should look like. None of those schools really met that criteria,” Leon said. Applicants have 30 days to amend their proposals before a second and final school board vote expected in September. LINK

Another Hacked Florida City Pays a Ransom, This Time for $460,000 (NY Times) Even the phones went down in the government of Lake City, Fla., after hackers launched a cyberattack that disabled the city’s computer systems. For several days after computer systems were paralyzed by a ransomware attack, the staff of the small North Florida town worked with the F.B.I. and an outside security consultant to restore phone lines, email and online utility payments. But in the end, city leaders called an emergency meeting this week and reluctantly approved paying the hackers the ransom they demanded: 42 Bitcoin, or about $460,000.  Police departments in Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts and Tennessee have all opted to pay the ransom demands to get back their data. LINK

SCOTUS ruling on TN liquor law could impact local stores (WTVF-TV) The nation has seen several big U.S. Supreme Court decisions come down from Washington this week, and one of them had its origins in Tennessee. The Supreme Court ruled that a law requiring people to live in the state for two years before being allowed to open a liquor store was unconstitutional. The decision to now allow outsiders, including big corporate chains, to immediately open a liquor store in Tennessee has local owners worried. “It’s almost an impossibility for me to compete with 4000 square feet, and they don’t have to make a profit off a store here, they can make a profit off their store in Georgia to offset here, said Bard Quillman, owner of Red Dog Wine & Spirits in Franklin. LINK

Supreme Court lets states continue gerrymandering unchecked (Daily Memphian) The impact of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in which it declined to set limits on partisan gerrymandering could be felt in Tennessee when it starts redistricting in two years. Controlling Republicans in the Legislature will be able to continue to draw political district lines as they see fit, based on the 5-4 decision led by conservative justices, enabling them to hold an advantage over minority Democrats. The ruling leaves decisions on partisan gerrymandering up to states and comes almost 60 years after the high court’s decision in Baker v. Carr, the Tennessee case that led to the “one person, one vote” standard. LINK

Tennessee Democrats criticize, Republicans praise Supreme Court ruling allowing partisan gerrymandering (Times Free Press) Tennessee Democrats are condemning Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court 5-4 ruling that closes the door to federal courts blocking even the most extreme partisan gerrymandering, in which the majority party that controls a state legislature draws political maps to benefit its candidates. U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tennessee, charged the Supreme Court’s decision was “shortsighted and dangerous for our country.” LINK

Sen. Lundberg of Bristol spent $125,000 in campaign donations with his companies (WCYB-TV) A WCYB investigation continues to examine how some Tennessee lawmakers spend campaign donations with companies they own in what is a legal, and not uncommon, practice in the General Assembly. Since 2006, Sen. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) has spent $125,738.70 in campaign donations for services with his companies, Corporate Marketing and The Corporate Image. Under Tennessee law, candidates can legally pay companies they own with campaign donations as long as services were performed specifically for the campaign at a market rate. Lundberg says a majority of the money used went directly to pay for campaign services, with little left over for his companies. LINK

Hands Free in Tennessee: What drivers need to know about the new phone law (WZTV-TV) Life behind the wheel is about to change for Tennessee drivers. We’re just days from Tennessee’s Hands Free law going into effect on July 1. Similar to a law that went into effect in Georgia a year ago, the new law makes it illegal to hold a phone in your hand – or with any other part of your body – while driving in Tennessee. Instead, you’ll have to either use Bluetooth or simply put your phone on speaker. LINK

New Move Over law going into affect in Tennessee (WDEF-TV) The Hamilton County Office of Emergency Management and E-M-S want you to “Move Over” anytime you seen flashing lights for emergency vehicles. They say be following this law can result in saving someone’s life. LINK

Safe Haven Laws: The differences between Georgia and Tennessee (WRCB-TV) Georgia and Tennessee have Safe Haven laws that allow mothers to surrender their babies without fear of prosecution. Cries from the woods alerted neighbors to a baby in a plastic bag on the side of a road in Forsyth County, Georgia. This newborn nicknamed “Baby India” could have been surrendered under the Georgia Safe Haven Law with no consequence to the mother. Sarah Koeppen is the Executive Director of The Hope Box, a Safe Haven Alliance in Georgia. She said this happens too often. “I can tell you this, we’re not reaching enough. In 2017 we had 478 abandonments.” said Koeppen. LINK

Tennessee’s favorable hemp laws help entrepreneurs get into the game (TN Ledger) Full spectrum is a term one often hears regarding the strength of CBD oil, one of the popular extracts derived from hemp. Simply put, it means the product has everything in the cannabis plant – all the cannabinoids and terpenes but no more than 0.3 percent THC – that can provide therapeutic relief to users. But that phrase might also be used to describe the gulf between Mike Solomon and Ben Dixon, who are at opposite ends of the hemp industry spectrum. Solomon is both a licensed Tennessee hemp grower and an extractor who previously was a licensed medical cannabis grower in California, while Dixon is a Nashville horror filmmaker and theater owner who is seriously contemplating the idea of becoming a hemp farmer. LINK

30 percent of states still use paperless voting machines, EAC survey says (Politico) Nearly one-third of states still use electronic voting machines that produce no paper vote records, according to the latest federal survey of election technology nationwide. In addition, nearly 8 in 10 states use ballot-marking devices, computers that print out paper records but are vulnerable to hacking, according to the Election Assistance Commission’s 2018 Election Administration and Voting Survey report, which was published today … The states where more than half of election jurisdictions used paperless voting machines in 2018 were Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey, South Carolina, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, according to the EAC. LINK

Survey: 2018 Turnout High, Voters Embrace Expansive Options (AP) More than 120 million Americans cast ballots in the 2018 midterm elections, with turnout surging to that of a typical presidential year in some states and the highest percentages of voters in places that have expanded access to the polls, according to an analysis of data released Thursday by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission … The six states with the lowest percentage of voter turnout were Hawaii, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Texas and Tennessee. LINK

Congressman Roe to inspect immigrant holding centers (Johnson City Press) U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, will join other members of the GOP doctors caucus on a tour Friday to see the conditions at immigration centers near the southern border. Roe said he and seven other physicians who serve in Congress will inspect detention facilities housing mostly Central American refugees crossing from Mexico at McAllen, Texas. Those holding centers have come under scrutiny following news of deteriorating conditions and the harsh treatment of children. There are also reports that children have died while being held in U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s care. “It always helps to put eyes on the problem,” the Johnson City lawmaker told reporters during a conference call Thursday. “It will give me an idea of how significant the problem is.” LINK

Blackburn talks ‘heartbreaking’ border conditions, Iran conflict, military funding bill (Johnson City Press) The recent deaths of 25-year-old Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria have been another tragic entry in the ongoing national debate about immigration at the border between the U.S. and Mexico. “It is just absolutely heartbreaking to hear these stories and see the conditions on the Southern border,” U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said during a conference call with reporters on Thursday in response to a question about the deaths. The senator took a trip to the border in early June. “This is why it’s imperative that we change these asylum laws.” LINK

Burchett, Fleischmann suit up for Congressional Baseball Game in losing effort (News Sentinel) Doubling the number of East Tennessee congressmen didn’t put the Republican team over the top in the 58th annual Congressional Baseball Game Wednesday night. Instead, the Democrats won again, the 10th loss in 11 years. U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett joined Rep. Chuck Fleischmann and the GOP team this year and the combined effort ended in a 14-7 loss, a better showing than last year’s 21-5 wallop. The two are the only two members from Tennessee who play. Wednesday was Burchett’s first game and Fleischmann’s ninth. LINK

Congress advances legislation against surprise medical billing (Johnson City Press) Legislation against surprise medical billing and high health care costs for patients is advancing in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. The Lower Health Care Costs Act passed the Senate Health Committee Wednesday by a 20-3 vote. Committee Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, said the legislation aims to end surprise medical billing, create more transparency with the medical billing process for patients and increase prescription drug competition through bipartisan provisions that aim to expand patient access to cheaper medications. LINK

Senate Health Committee votes for bipartisan health care cost bill (Maryville Daily Times) The Senate Health Committee chaired by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, has voted 20-3 in favor of a bill aimed at reducing health care costs. The bill that cleared the committee Wednesday was called by political observers an unusual act of bipartisanship in this era of divided government. The Lower Health Care Costs Act of 2019 includes 54 proposals from 65 senators representing 29 Republicans and 36 Democrats. Alexander, who formally introduced the act June 19 with Ranking Member Patty Murray, D-Washington, said the legislation helps reign in health care costs in three major ways. “It ends surprise billing, creates more transparency and increases competition to bring down prescription drug costs,” said Tennessee’s senior senator from Maryville. LINK

TVA turns to the sun, natural gas to replace aging coal plants; federal utility plots future with diverse portfolio, less carbon (Times Free Press) The Tennessee Valley Authority was created 86 years ago to harness the power of the Tennessee River, but the federal utility will be looking to the sun for more of its power in the future as it continues to phase out its aging fleet of coal plants. A new 20-year power plan scheduled to be unveiled today calls for TVA to add up to 14 gigawatts of solar generation, up to 5 gigawatts of battery storage and between 2 to 17 gigawatts of additional natural gas-generated power over the next two decades to replace more of TVA’s coal power plants being shut down. LINK

Thousands of acres of west Tennessee farmland underwater (WREG-TV) Thursday’s storms created a disaster of another sort for farms in the Mid-South. Along Highway 19, west of Ripley, Tennessee, farmers are moving expansive equipment to higher ground while some are building earthen levees to keep the rising Mississippi River from invading farmland. It’s a battle many in the Lauderdale County “bottoms” have fought before. “I lost a lot in ’15, lost in ’11, lost in ’18 and we’ve lost in ’19. So we’re just constantly getting flooded out,” farmer Keith Webb said. Webb is one of forty farmers trying to find a dry space of land in what’s considered a “high risk” area. He usually farms cotton and soybeans, but his land now looks more like a beach front property. LINK

Nashville tourism exec reflects on Music City’s ‘explosion’ during 47-year career (Tennessean) Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp.’s Terry Clements is retiring this month after 47 years of promoting tourism in Music City. Clements’ first tourism job was as general manager for Gray Line Tours in 1972. In 1976, he became director of tourism for the Nashville Chamber of Commerce. For the last 14 years, he has served as vice president of government and community relations for the visitors corporation. Clements, 70, is credited with being a driving force behind the explosive growth Nashville tourism has experienced during his career.  LINK

Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley TML Mayor of the Year (Johnson City Press) Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley has been named the Tennessee Municipal League’s 2019 Mayor of the Year. She was presented the award Tuesday at TML’s annual conference in Memphis. Back home Wednesday, she gave credit to the county’s Joint Economic Development Board, Erwin Utilities, RISE Erwin, TVA, the USDA office of Rural Development and other grant funding partners and community volunteers and supporters who worked together to move the town forward. LINK

OPINION

Editorial: Get safety right at Cummins Falls (Cookeville Herald-Citizen) If the Cummins Falls Overlook remains open but the Gorge remains closed, how will the rangers be absolutely certain that nobody finds their way from the Overlook down to the Gorge in order to swim? I hope Mr. Cutcher has thought of this. Now, perhaps I need to rethink my position about closing the park forever. Install the early warning high water system by a certified agency. Spare no expense. A until this system is installed and checked and certified as functional, keep the Gorge closed. The, periodically, once a month, check the system to ensure it’s working. I’m not sure how a dummy load placed on the system would work, but there are people who do. Also, a siren warning system should accompany the high water monitoring system. A permitting means has to be installed as Mr. Cutcher has said. LINK

Guest column: Life jackets needed at Cummins Falls (Cookeville Herald-Citizen) A suggestion for water safety at Cummins Falls. First, a rule that all persons who do not know how to swim and all children under a certain age use flotation devices. Put up large notice signs at the park entrance, at the parking area, at the entrance to the path down to the water and at the entrance to the water. Add some signs reminding visitors that they swim at their own risk, there is no lifeguard on duty, and the state is immune from lawsuits. A tally board of “Rescues” and “Deaths or injuries” might make the point for some folks. Similar notices on the TDEC website for the park and in state publications that refer to the Park. LINK

Guest column: Socialist drug price controls won’t help Tennesseans (News Sentinel) Tennessee’s own U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander is one of Congress’ most vocal patient advocates. For two decades, our senior senator has fought for better, cheaper health care. When he endorses a bill or regulation, it’s typically a sign that the proposal will help patients. Let’s hope Alexander opposes a misguided plan from the Trump administration to cut drug spending. Though well-intentioned, the proposal would impede patients’ access to crucial medicines and stifle future medical research. The plan would affect Medicare Part B, which covers drugs administered in a doctor’s office or hospital. LINK

Guest column: Tennessee workers need Lamar Alexander to step up on minimum wage (Tennessean) According to Washington insiders, the U.S. House will by August vote on the Raise the Wage Act, which would increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024. The Senate, however, has no plans to lift wages for the millions of working Americans struggling to get by on the current minimum wage of just $7.25 an hour, and a large portion of the blame for this inaction lies on the shoulders of our very own Sen. Lamar Alexander. Alexander is a good American and a great Tennessean, but when it comes to the minimum wage law, he is like a lost child. He naively thinks that we should have no minimum wage law at all, that all employers would then pay their workers fairly. LINK

Guest column: Tennessee Constitution protects against government deciding the value of lives (Tennessean) Forty years ago, automotive executives sold cars with gas tanks that caught fire in even low-speed accidents. The executives knew about the danger before the cars hit the market. They decided it was more profitable to settle court cases when people died than to install safety equipment to prevent fires. The cost of that safety equipment? About $10 per car. Juries told the executives that putting profits over people’s lives was unacceptable.  More recently, nursing home executives raised profits by cutting their nursing staff, even below the minimum under federal regulations. Fewer caregivers means less time to check on patients, and patient health deteriorating. Again, it was juries who held the nursing homes accountable. LINK

Guest column: Rural hospitals at risk (Johnson City Press) As compared to city-dwellers, rural citizens struggle more to afford and to have access to healthcare. Closure of a local hospital increases that struggle. But the closure of a hospital is not just a healthcare issue. When a community loses its hospital, that is just the beginning of the losses. Family lives and work schedules are disrupted by the need for long-distance travel to another community. I’ve had patients tell me they missed their doctor’s appointment because they didn’t have the gas money for the trip. LINK

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