Wednesday, July 10

Video: Gov. Lee working to bring more jobs to Tennessee (WBIR-TV) Governor Bill Lee says he will continue to work to bring jobs to Tennessee. The governor recently returned from a trip to Japan to lure more companies to invest here. LINK

Video: Gov. Bill Lee visiting East Tennessee, two announcements planned (WATE-TV)  LINK

Gov. Lee talks revenue, criminal justice reform on visit to East Tennessee (WVLT-TV) Gov. Lee said he’s taking time this week to visit with people from across the state, asking what change they want to see. Lee told WVLT News that East Tennesseans are asking him about criminal justice reform. On July 9 at the Loudon County Courthouse Annex Building, a resident asked the governor how he can clear his record after serving time. The governor said one of the things he’s working on his lowering lowering expungement fees. LINK

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee urges flexible approach with Medicaid block grant (Times Free Press) Tennessee will submit an application this fall to the federal government for a block grant to replace the current Medicaid formula and give the state more flexibility to spend the money provided by the Affordable Care Act. Tennessee is the first state to request such a block grant and Gov. Bill Lee said Tuesday he thinks giving the state more flexibility in how it spends Medicaid dollars could improve the way the $12 billion-a-year Tenncare program runs in the Volunteer State. “We’re putting together that (block grant) application now,” Lee said during a visit to Chattanooga Tuesday. LINK

Chattanooga Red Wolves stadium work begins; soccer facility anchors huge development in East Ridge (Times Free Press) A year after launching the Red Wolves professional soccer team in Chattanooga, Utah developer Bob Martino said Tuesday he is beginning “the dream of a lifetime” by building a new $6 million stadium for his team in East Ridge. Martino joined with Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and more than a dozen state and local government leaders to ceremonially throw the first shovel of dirt for the 5,500-seat facility that will anchor what Martino hopes will grow into a $125 million development on one of the largest undeveloped parcels in East Ridge. LINK

Gallery: East Ridge city leaders break ground for new Chattanooga Red Wolves stadium (WTVC-TV) A brand new soccer stadium is on the way for the Chattanooga Red Wolves. It is one that may enhance the experience for thousands of fans just by the way it will be built. The team broke ground on its new facility Tuesday morning. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee attended Tuesday morning’s event. “Jobs will be created,” said Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, who participated in the groundbreaking ceremony. “Quality of life will be improved. So this is a stimulus to increase activity.” LINK

Coming soon the Chattanooga Red Wolves soccer stadium (WRCB-TV) The Chattanooga Red Wolves Soccer Club broke ground to start building the new professional stadium Tuesday. The $125 million dollar investment brought in local, state, and federal officials. The goal is to provide a fun atmosphere for 5,500 soccer lovers and boost the economy as well. “When this investment is made other surrounding retail, businesses and jobs will be created,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “The quality lot of life will be improved.” After a year of playing in a temporary location, the Chattanooga Red Wolves will be getting an official home soccer stadium. LINK

Governor Lee Takes Part In Groundbreaking For $125 Million Project In East Ridge By Red Wolves Owner (Chattanoogan) With the aid of shovels and team-sponsored attire, some of Tennessee’s political elite on Tuesday morning began what is hopefully a new era of soccer and economic success in the East Ridge area … Team owner Bob Martino was flanked by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and Rep. Esther Helton among other dignitaries. Standing near the makeshift stage was the Red Wolves team and their coach, Tim Hankinson, who listened attentively to each of the speakers. LINK

Groundbreaking set for Isaiah 117 House in Greene County; governor to attend (WJHL-TV)  The Isaiah 117 House in Greene County is getting closer to opening its doors. The group will host a groundbreaking for its Greeneville location at 9:30 a.m. on July 16th. According to founder Ronda Paulson, Governor Bill Lee will join county and town leaders for the event. In June, the ministry received approval from the Greeneville Historic Zoning Commission to build the new location. Isaiah 117 House started in Carter County after Paulson learned children who were waiting to be placed in foster care were forced to wait in a Department of Child Services office. LINK

Wesley Bray appointed as judge (Overton Co. News) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee on Monday, July 8 appointed Wesley Bray, of Putnam County, as the criminal court judge to the 13th Judicial District to fill the Honorable David. A Patterson’s vacancy. “Wesley brings extensive experience to this role and will serve the 13th district with integrity,” Gov. Lee said. “We welcome him to this role and appreciate his willingness to serve.” LINK

Bray appointed to 13th Judicial judge vacancy (Crossville Chronicle) As anticipated, Gov. Bill Lee late Monday morning appointed Cookeville attorney Wesley Thomas Bray as judge for the unexpired term of Judge David Patterson who retired effective June 30. Bray survived the application process, including interviews by the Tennessee Trial Court Vacancy Commission, to be one of three names submitted to the governor for consideration. Having sought election to the post held by Judge Gary McKenzie in the last election cycle, Bray ran a close race and was considered the front runner by many in judicial circles to replace Patterson. LINK

Availability of mental health services expands (Overton Co. News) More Tennesseans are now eligible for free mental health services through the state’s Behavioral Health Safety Net program. New, broader eligibility criteria tooke effect Monday, July 1, increasing the number of uninsured, underinsured, and indigent people who can receive services through the program. Governor Bill Lee proposed and the Tennessee General Assembly approved $5 million in new state funding to provide safety net services to about 7,000 more Tennesseans. LINK

Tennessee’s tax free weekend coming soon (WVLT-TV) It’s the time many shoppers in Tennessee wait for each year: tax free weekend. It kicks off at 12:01 a.m. on July 26 and continues through July 28 at 11:59 p.m. What is tax free? – clothing $100 or less – school supplies and school art supplies $100 or less – computers $1,500 or less You can get more information here. LINK

Tennessee charges seventh Alabama resident with TennCare fraud (Times Free Press) Yet another Bridgeport, Alabama, resident stands accused of TennCare fraud, bringing to seven the total number of people from the tiny Northeast Alabama town facing charges of defrauding the state’s Medicaid program. Tennessee’s Office of Inspector General and the Marion County, Tennessee, sheriff’s department say Crystal Price, 36, of Bridgeport, was charged with falsely reporting her residence to obtain TennCare health insurance coverage. LINK

Crystal Price Of Marion County Charged With TennCare Fraud (Chattanoogan) Crystal Price, 36, of Bridgeport, Al. has been arrested and charged with TennCare fraud for falsely reporting her residence in order to obtain benefits from Tennessee’s taxpayer-funded healthcare insurance program. The Office of Inspector General (OIG), with the assistance of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, today announced the indictment charging Ms. Price with TennCare fraud and theft of services over $2,500 but less than $10,000. Charges say she fraudulently reported her residency as Tennessee in order to appear eligible for TennCare, while living in Bridgeport.  LINK

Dead kitten, sick animals found at Cookeville home, investigators say (WVLT/WTVF-TV) Investigators went to a home in Cookeville to serve warrants for TennCare fraud and ended up rescuing more than 40 animals, according to CBS affiliate WTVF. A press release from the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office said deputies went to the home of 44-year-old Tara Neutzler and 53-year-old Donald Schoenthal to serve Neutzler with warrants for TennCare fraud and theft on May 10. While there, the sheriff’s office said deputies noticed a number of dogs and cats crammed in cages in the yard, WTVF reported. The residence had an odor of urine, feces and decomposition, investigators said. LINK

Putnam County couple arrested on aggravated animal cruelty charges (WSMV-TV) Investigators in Putnam County have arrested two people on aggravated animal cruelty charges after they rescued 40 animals from a reported inhumane breeding enterprise … The investigation of a Locust Grove Road home uncovered numerous dogs and cats crammed into cages in the yard and a distinct odor of urine, feces, and decomposition inside the home. Investigators went to the home to serve Neutzler a warrant on unrelated charges of TennCare fraud and felony theft when the animals were discovered. LINK

Sick & Filthy’ Two indicted in large-scale animal cruelty case in middle Tennessee (WZTV-TV) Two people have now been indicted in a large-scale animals cruelty case after authorities said 42 dogs and cats and a long-deceased kitten were found in filthy and inhumane conditions in Putnam County …Authorities said they were shocked to find over 40 animals in filthy conditions when serving a warrant for TennCare fraud at a home in Cookeville on May 10. Even more chocking, is that the couple arrested was free on bond from another pending animal cruelty case in Carroll County. LINK

New UT Chancellor, Donde Plowman, gives first address to Vol Nation (WATE-TV) On the job for one week, and University of Tennessee – Knoxville’s new Chancellor, Donde Plowman, took the time to address Vol Nation with where she sees the university heading, with service at the forefront. “I want the world to know what it means to be a Volunteer, I think people in the state of Tennessee know… I want the world to know,” Plowman said. “I want it to be true that when you leave here and go take a job wherever – whether it’s in a school in western Tennessee, or if you’re traveling abroad, or you take a job in Dallas – I want people when they hear you’re from Tennessee to say oh you’re a Volunteer so what was your Volunteer experience… and I would like every student to have an answer to that,” Plowman elaborated. LINK

New UT Chancellor Donde Plowman announces office hours, ORNL partnership plans (News Sentinel) Five days into the job, University of Tennessee’s new chancellor Donde Plowman has talked to nearly a thousand people: 14 internal one-on-ones, nine sit-downs with donors, two group meetings and a gigantic freshmen get-together with more than 700 incoming freshmen with their families. She’s not stopping there. Plowman said starting this week she plans to hold weekly office hours in the campus library to meet with students, staff, faculty, or anyone else who needs to bend her ear. LINK

Chris Young, MTSU reveal Chris Young Cafe, an event space and learning lab for students (Tennessean) Chris Young has charted 11 No. 1 songs, garnered 2 billion on-demand streams, sold 12 million singles, been named a member of The Grand Ole Opry and sold-out Bridgestone Arena since days as an MTSU recording industry student in 2005. Fourteen years later, the “Raised on Country” singer is still finding ways to give back. Young joined MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, Media and Entertainment Dean Ken Paulson and Chair of Recording Industry Beverly Keel on Tuesday to reveal the Chris Young Café, a renovated live entertainment venue on campus at Middle Tennessee State University. LINK

‘Chris Young Cafe’ opening to MTSU students this fall (WKRN-TV) MTSU is opening a new learning space and live music venue for recording industry students, dubbed Chris Young Cafe. The 32,000 square foot space formerly known as Cyber Cafe will be a teaching and practice place for student performers and technicians. “So much of our music right now is live. People want to go have a live experience so if our students want to get proficient at that they need experience so this is like a lab. It’s a place where they can practice doing songs, its a place where they can practice not just performing, but supporting performers,” MTSU Associate Professor John Merchant and Director of Chris Young Cafe told News 2. LINK

From student to country star: Chris Young unveils MTSU live entertainment venue (WZTV-TV) Multi-platinum country singer Chris Young announced a new way to help aspiring musicians at his alma mater Tuesday. The Middle Tennessee State University campus will be home to a newly renovated live entertainment venue named the Chris Young Café. The Grand Ole Opry member and Grammy nominee went to MTSU in 2005. He’s since supported students hoping to break into the industry with donations and an annual scholarship. MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee thanked Young on Tuesday for his new $50,000 contribution to the renovated center. LINK

Chris Young Cafe opening on MTSU campus in fall (WTVF-TV)  Middle Tennessee State University officials and country music star Chris Young unveiled plans for the Chris Young Cafe. The newly renovated on-campus entertainment venue will be a practice center for student entertainers by day and a performance venue by night. It is located in the Woodmore Building in what used to be known as the Cyber Cafe. It will be a community and dining space with two raised platform stages. It is surrounded by windows, allowing for natural light, and is an easy walk from the Bragg Media and Entertainment Building. LINK

ETSU College of Nursing programs receive accreditation (Elizabethton Star) The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) recently granted full accreditation to East Tennessee State University College of Nursing’s Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program and the joint Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program between ETSU and Tennessee Tech University (TTU). “We were extremely pleased that both of our programs received accreditation with no recommendations,” said Dr. Wendy Nehring, dean of ETSU College of Nursing. The College of Nursing began both of these new programs in 2017 in order to better meet the health care needs of the region and the state. LINK

U of M president says CFO misspoke on 4-5 year plan for minimum wage (Commercial Appeal) Monday night, University of Memphis leaders gave two answers for the time frame in which they plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. In a statement emailed to The Commercial Appeal Monday, Raaj Kurapati, the university’s chief financial officer, said the university’s plan is “to incrementally increase the hourly wage for our lowest paid employees to $15 over the course of the next 4-5 years.” On Tuesday, University President M. David Rudd said Kurapati misspoke. LINK

Fines, Jail, Probation, Debt: Court Policies Punish the Poor (AP) Johnny Gibbs has been trying to get a valid driver’s license for 20 years, but he just can’t afford it. To punish him for high school truancy in 1999, Tennessee officials told him he would not be able to legally drive until he turned 21. He drove anyway, incurring two tickets and racking up more than $1,000 in fines and fees. Like other low-income defendants in similar situations across the country, Gibbs couldn’t pay and ended up serving jail time and probation. That incurred another cost: a monthly supervision fee to a private probation company. LINK

Grand Divisions Episode 58: A look at a landmark Supreme Court case with Tennessee ties and gerrymandering (Tennessean) Late last month, the United States Supreme Court handed down two decisions related to partisan gerrymandering. That’s the term used for when lawmakers make political district maps based on partisanship to help protect the party in power. Some say the Supreme Court cases could open the floodgates to more political partisanship across the country while proving to be a watershed moment for the judicial branch. In 1962, the high court had a similar landmark case in front of it, which originated in Tennessee. LINK

With a war chest in excess of $500,000, here’s how House Speaker Glen Casada’s has spent his money recently (Tennessean) House Speaker Glen Casada spent thousands of dollars in campaign money to buy food and drinks, to pay for a political consultant who he hired as a state employee and to cover expenses on two trips that he used the state plane for, according to his latest disclosures. At the same time, Casada — who is set to resign next month — has not given any of his nearly $563,000 in campaign money at his disposal to his Republican colleagues and the state party. LINK

Banning campaign donations to legislators’ businesses would hurt at least one Memphis lawmaker (Daily Memphian) An East Tennessee legislator bothered by reports lawmakers are directing campaign funds to their personal businesses is prepared to sponsor a bill to stop the practice, a move that would affect at least one Memphis lawmaker. “There’s just nothing OK to have a (political action committee) or have your campaign account and let it pay you for your business. It’s just not alright. There’s nothing ethical about that. It might be legal, but that don’t mean it’s right,” said state Rep. Jeremy Faison, a Cosby Republican. LINK

Sex assault prevention group calls Tennessee lawmaker’s comments ‘strange’ (WKRN-TV) A Tennessee bill making it easier to prosecute some sex crimes is getting national attention. So is what the bill’s co-sponsor said in an interview. State Representative Mike Sparks invited News 2 to his office last week to talk about a bill he co-sponsored, which eliminates the statute of limitations for certain sex crimes. The bill, which is now law, makes it easier for survivors to prosecute their offenders. At the time, News 2 asked if he hopes more victims will choose to prosecute their offenders. “It’s uncomfortable for me, you know, to think that somebody could spend the rest of their life in jail,” he said. LINK

Tennessee GOP official Kelsey Ketron accused of ‘fraudulent’ practices, ordered to stop selling insurance (Daily News Journal) Kelsey Ketron, a Tennessee Republican Party official, committed “fraudulent” insurance agent practices, a state order contends, and she’s been ordered to stop selling insurance. Ketron “intentionally provided incorrect insurance information to a consumer’s bank for the sole purpose of personal financial gain, effectively canceled the consumer’s homeowners insurance policy without the consumer’s authorization, and lied to the consumer about the existence of the homeowners insurance policy,” states a May 29 cease and desist order from the Tennessee Commission of Commerce and Insurance.  LINK

Committeewoman with Rutherford GOP issued cease and desist order, under investigation (WZTV-TV) The daughter of Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron has been issued a cease and desist order by the Tennessee Insurance Division for fraudulent practices. Filed in May, the order claims Kelsey Ketron – currently the State Executive Committeewoman for the Republican Party of Rutherford County, engaged in fraudulent practices after her insurance agent’s license expired in 2016. LINK

10 most read TNJ posts of the year (so far) (Tennessee Journal) A breakdown of the attendees at a closed-door meeting with U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos was the most read post on the TNJ: On the Hill blog in the first half of 2019. Inspired — as always — by our friends at the Nashville Post, here are the 10 most read posts on the the TNJ: On the Hill blog through the first half of the year: 1 – Who was at the closed-door DeVos meeting? 2 – Here are Gov. Lee’s proposed raises for state employees 3 – Lee to include repeal of ‘gym tax’ in budget proposal LINK

Tim Burchett says Georgia fan who slammed Pat Summitt ‘needs a butt kicking’ (News Sentinel) U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett is going to bat for Pat Summitt. A recent video, posted on Facebook and circulated on Twitter, depicts what appears to be a Georgia fan standing by Summitt’s statue making disparaging remarks toward Tennessee and Summitt, including callous jokes about the legendary Lady Vols coach’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease. In the video, a Georgia hat rests on the shoulder of Summitt’s statue before falling off. The fan is not shown. Burchett responded to the video on Twitter on Saturday in defense of Summitt. “Somebody needs a butt kicking. Nobody disrespects Pat,” the former Knox County mayor wrote in a tweet. LINK

Holtec CEO was at center of inquiry that led to disbarment by federal agency (Politico) The head of a company that was awarded one of the largest corporate subsidy packages in New Jersey history was interviewed by investigators as part of an inquiry that ended with the company being temporarily banned from doing business with a federal agency. Holtec International CEO and president Krishna P. Singh, who failed to disclose the disbarment on his application for $260 million in New Jersey tax credits, was questioned as part of a criminal investigation at the federally-owned Tennessee Valley Authority, according to a previously confidential report disclosed on Tuesday. LINK

Fred’s sells Memphis headquarters (Memphis Business Journal) Fred’s Inc. has sold its 58-acre Getwell Road headquarters. Montreal-based Olymbec bought the property from the beleaguered discount retailer for $8.25 million. On site are a 758,000-square-foot warehouse, a 65,000-square-foot retail building, and two office towers totaling about 224,000 square feet, according to Olymbec. As of a May 3 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Fred’s was utilizing 90,000 square feet of the office space and 22,000 square feet of retail space. LINK

Mass shootings in Tennessee, Kentucky highlighted in Secret Service threat assessment (WZTV-TV) A mass shooting at a Nashville Waffle House is among the incidents included in the U.S. Secret Service report detailing the national threat assessment of mass attacks in public spaces. The U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center has released the Mass Attacks in Public Spaces 2018 report on Tuesday. The report is the result of a study conducted to identify key information which can help prevent mass attacks in public. The second such study of its kind, the report finds there were 27 mass attacks in public, 24 of them carried out using a firearm. LINK

Mastercard Debuts Card to Act as ID, Payment for Underserved (Government Technology) Many take for granted that electronic cards are a staple of daily life, whether for payment, identification or facility access. But there are still people who don’t use them, some of whom belong to underserved populations, and Mastercard is launching a new card to help cities address this. Under the auspices of Mastercard’s City Possible program to help cities develop sharable solutions to common problems, the company announced City Key last month at the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors in Honolulu. . LINK

Feds Don’t Regulate Election Equipment, So States Are On Their Own (Stateline) Behind nearly every voter registration database, voting machine and county website that posts results on Election Day, there’s an election technology company that has developed those systems and equipment. By targeting one of those private vendors, Russia, China or some other U.S. adversary could tamper with voter registration rolls, the ballot count or the publicly released results, potentially casting doubt on the legitimacy of the final tally. LINK

Today in History (AP) On this date:In 1925, jury selection took place in Dayton, Tennessee, in the trial of John T. Scopes, charged with violating the law by teaching Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. (Scopes was convicted and fined, but the verdict was overturned on a technicality.) LINK

OPINION

George Korda: Can speeders credibly support Tennessee’s cellphone driving ban? (News Sentinel) Tennessee as of July 1 made lawbreakers of, and is punishing, miscreants who pick up their cell phones while in their cars because “safety rules.” This Volunteer State law brought added emphasis to a discussion on Fox Business Channel’s July 1 edition of “Mornings with Maria.” A panel of two men and two women discussed a new Florida law banning texting while driving. LINK

Guest column: Alexander’s surprise medical billing legislation could drive up costs (Johnson City Press) Lawmakers in Washington, D.C., have finally heard enough complaints from patients who are frustrated with unexpected medical bills, and one of our local congressmen is leading the charge on a possible bipartisan solution. Last week, U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, M.D., R-Tenn., and Raul Ruiz, M.D., D-Calif., introduced the Protecting People from Surprise Medical Bills Act. The draft bill still needs to improve in some areas and will likely change as it moves through the legislative process, but, in principle, it would free patients from the burden of surprise medical bills by creating a fair process for healthcare providers and insurance companies to resolve payment disputes without involving the patient. LINK

Guest column: We University of Memphis custodians deserve to be paid a living wage (Commercial Appeal) This is an open letter to anyone who will listen. We are custodians at the University of Memphis. Some of us have been working here for only four years and some of us as many as 21 years. And we want to say that it’s past time for $15 an hour on campus.  There are 348 hard-working women and men that serve the University of Memphis, yet don’t make enough to keep the lights on consistently or save enough money for a rainy day. LINK

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