Friday, August 30

Gov. Lee worries about impact of U.S., China trade war on Tennessee farmers but says federal subsidies help offset impact (Times Free Press) Gov. Bill Lee says the continuing impacts on Tennessee farmers due to President Donald Trump’s ongoing trade war with China are worrisome. “It’s certainly concerning to see the impact that it has,” Lee, a Republican, told reporters Thursday. But he quickly added that he also finds it “encouraging to see the federal government mitigate some of that impact with subsidies to farmers.” The subsidies are “the reason that those farmers are able to continue to operate,” Lee said. With regard to “the duration of the impact,” the governor said, “we’ve yet to know. but I’m very concerned about the degree to which our farmers in Tennessee are impacted and we’ll just watch as it goes forward.” LINK

National Preparedness Month Emphasizes Replacing Fearfulness with Readiness (WGNS Radio) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is asking all Tennesseans to make disaster resilience a priority today with his proclamation recognizing September as National Preparedness Month. “September is preparedness month, and it is a good reminder to all Tennesseans that now is always a good time to be prepared,” said Governor Bill Lee. “Emergencies and disasters can happen anytime, often without warning and citizens need to take action to be ready for when the unexpected comes.” LINK

Lee selects Dollar to serve on TBR (Morristown Citizen-Tribune) Governor Bill Lee has chosen a Walters State sophomore to represent students on the Tennessee Board of Regents. Emily Dollar, a physical therapist assistant major from White Pine, will represent the 120,000 students attending the 40 colleges governed by the TBR. “We are proud that Emily was chosen for this role, which is both an honor and a responsibility. Emily is a campus leader and will do an outstanding job as a voice for students enrolled in the TBR system,” said Dr. Tony Miksa, president of Walters State. LINK

Domestic violence a major problem in Memphis, victim advocate says (WREG-TV) Two years ago, Joshua Wicks was accused of trying to use a broom to attack his sister at their Oakhaven home. The victim went on to tell police Wicks did manage to grab her by her head, dragging her across the hallway. Police say Quintaurus Howard attacked his girlfriend at a Lamar Avenue motel, allegedly grabbing her by the mouth, placing his fingers inside her jaw and spinning her head around. Both men are going before Shelby County judges, this week, two of the more than 20,000 domestic violence calls Memphis Police respond to each year. LINK

Proposed Opioid Deal With Purdue Drawing Pushback From States (WSJ) A proposed deal for Purdue Pharma LP to resolve more than 2,000 lawsuits over its role in the opioid crisis is facing pushback from a vocal group of state attorneys general who say it doesn’t bring in enough cash to satisfy their demands, according to people familiar with the matter … The current proposal emerged from a mediation held last week in Cleveland under the guidance of U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, who is overseeing some 2,000 lawsuits filed by local governments in federal court. The Cleveland meeting included state attorneys general or representatives from Ohio, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, North Carolina and Tennessee, people familiar with the matter said. LINK

Condemned TN inmate to learn whether sentence will be reduced (AP)  Tennessee inmate who faces execution in April signed an agreement Wednesday that could reduce his sentence to life in prison, if the judge approves it. The agreement comes after Abu-Ali Abdur’Rahman (ah-BOO’-ah-LEE’) (AHB’-dur-RAK’-mahn) filed a petition to reopen his case. Abdur’Rahman, who is black, argued the prosecutor deliberately eliminated black potential jurors from the jury pool, violating his rights under the U.S. and Tennessee constitutions. LINK

Audit reveals questionable spending in MTSU athletic department by former employee (Tennessean) An audit by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office revealed questionable spending activity within the Middle Tennessee State athletic department. The investigation focused on a $3,500 purchase by a former associate athletic director and another $34,084 in purchased credit with a sports fitness company, according to a report released Thursday by the agency.  According to the comptroller’s findings, MTSU officials first detected the irregularities. The report also noted that MTSU cooperated in the investigation. LINK

Girl Scouts honor state Senator Massey (WATE-TV) Hundreds gathered today to recognize, honor and raise money for the Girl Scouts of America.  Thursday marked the annual Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians Trefoil Society luncheon at the Cherokee Country Club. The afternoon was spent recognizing service in our community. This year’s honoree was State Senator Becky Duncan Massey, who is a former Girl Scout herself. Massey is a Republican member of the Tennessee Senate for the sixth district, which includes Knoxville and Knox County. LINK

Democrat Bo Mitchell Proposes Voucher Repeal (Nashville Scene) Protesters at the state Capitol earlier this yearProtesters at the state Capitol earlier this yearPhoto: Stephen ElliottThough the Tennessee General Assembly won’t return to session until January, Nashville Democrat Bo Mitchell is wasting no time trying to undo one of Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s signature accomplishments from his first year in office. Mitchell earlier this month filed a bill calling for the repeal of the governor’s education savings account pilot program. He says Memphis Democrat Sara Kyle will sign on as the Senate sponsor. LINK

One on one with Congressman David Kustoff (WATN-TV) Local 24 News anchor Richard Ransom goes one on one with Congressman David Kustoff. LINK

Former Gov. Haslam predicts Trump wins if Democrats continue leftward trend (Daily Memphian) Former Gov. Bill Haslam predicts a Trump victory in the 2020 presidential race if Democrats continue to trend leftward but otherwise sees a tight race in a “split” country. Yet, he still can’t seem to bring himself to say he will vote for the president. The former two-term Republican governor says it doesn’t matter whether anyone presents a GOP primary challenge to President Donald Trump. Illinois one-term Congressman Joe Walsh announced this week he is running against the president. LINK

Corker questions wisdom of China trade war (Daily Memphian) Former U.S. Sen. Bob Corker believes the United States’ trade war against China is “getting out of hand” because of the nation’s failure to bring allies into the fight. Meanwhile, Gov. Bill Lee is considering whether to build up the state’s $1.1 billion rainy day fund next fiscal year to cope with any recession that could hit. Many experts believe President Donald Trump’s tariffs are pushing the United States closer to recession after a decade of economic growth. And though the former Republican senator from Chattanooga shies away from directly criticizing the president after a very public blow-up last year, he doesn’t believe Trump’s tariff policy is working. LINK

Conservative commentator Steve Gill to be released from jail after agreement reached (Tennessean) Political commentator and conservative talk radio host Steve Gill was ordered to be released from Williamson County jail Thursday. Judge James Martin signed a release order Thursday, minutes after Gill and his current wife came to a divorce agreement. Last week, Gill’s wife filed a temporary order of protection against Gill. She also testified in a separate case involving Gill, in which his ex-wife, Kathryn, sought more than $170,000 in child support. LINK

Sean McMurray named Ballad Health’s vice president of market operations and service line integration and development (Elizabethton Star) Sean McMurray, an accomplished healthcare executive with more than a decade of leadership in the Appalachian Highlands, has been named Ballad Health’s vice president of market operations and service line integration and development. McMurray previously served as the vice president for Mountain States Health Alliance’s Northeast Market, following a successful tenure as chief executive officer of Johnston Memorial Hospital in Abingdon, Virginia. LINK

Saint Thomas gets approval for $48 million facility (Nashville Business Journal) Ascension Saint Thomas has been given the go-ahead to build a new rehab facility on its Midtown campus to care for a projected increase in neuroscience, cardiac and joint-replacement patients. The Health Services and Development Agency of the State of Tennessee granted certificate of need approval for a freestanding 98,237-square-foot, 40-bed inpatient rehabilitation facility, according to a news release. The $48 million project is a joint venture between Saint Thomas Health and Louisville-based Kindred Healthcare, with Saint Thomas owning 51% of the facility. LINK


Clint Cooper: Learning from UTC incident (Times Free Press) The Monday morning quarterbacking came surely and swiftly on a Wednesday afternoon following an incident near the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus when an individual was spotted with a gun. As it turned out, the individual was a Chattanooga Police Department officer carrying his rifle from his vehicle into his home to sleep after his shift. Before all was said and done, and the officer even wound up looking for himself in the search, public schools were locked down, reports were made of a person in a ski mask and tactical gear, roads were closed, other reports said a suspicious person was wandering through UTC’s Fletcher Hall and numerous people went into panic mode. LINK

Guest column: Nashville YWCA presents SHIFT Conference to reset culture (Commercial Appeal) It’s time to change the culture. If not, now, when? There is a cultural crisis of violence against women in our country. It is real, and it is deadly. It is playing out across the country in high profile mass shootings, such as those in Dayton, Ohio, Sutherland Springs, Texas and Orlando, where the shooters shared a common history of misogyny and assaulting wives and girlfriends. And it is playing out right here in Tennessee, where our state ranks fifth in the nation for the rate at which men kill women. It is also playing out in Nashville, where Metro police respond to a domestic violence call every 20 minutes.  LINK

Thursday, August 29

Education commissioner touts new strategic plan for ‘high quality public education’ (Kingsport Times-News) The Tennessee Department of Education will release its new statewide strategic plan within the next week or two, but Commissioner Penny Schwinn gave Hawkins County principals a sneak preview Tuesday. Schwinn said the new plan will be about “the most important thing: high quality public education.” LINK

Student loans and second jobs: Nashville teachers struggle to get by (Tennessean) There were many months last year when the balance in Nikki Deese’s bank account teetered at about $150 as she waited for her next paycheck … when Gov. Bill Lee approved more than $71 million in teacher pay raises across the state, Nashville — Tennessee’s largest school district — got just $1.4 million. Several school districts, including Nashville, are suing the state, saying it underfunds their needs. And statewide, Tennessee continues to lag behind. Average teacher pay ranks 35th in the nation, according to a 2019 survey by the National Education Association. LINK

Woman indicted, accused of 2 years of TennCare fraud (WMC-TV) A grand jury indicted a Memphis woman accused of defrauding TennCare for more than two years. Investigators said Duran Toney, 24, provided false documentation for TennCare services provided for a family member that were never received. Investigators said these false timesheets were submitted between January 2015 and February 2017. Toney is charged with one count of theft of property over $60,000 and one count of TennCare fraud of $60,000 or more. LINK

TSU now one of the safest colleges in the US thanks to new technology (WTVF-TV) Leading into the school year, Tennessee State University upgraded their security with new technologies, helping it become one of the safest colleges in the country. “For a person to do well and be successful, we need to create a safe environment for them to be educated in,” Curtis Johnson, TSU’s chief of staff, said. LINK

UT students concerned with dorm conditions (WVLT-TV) Students at the University of Tennessee said they’re starting off the school year with sickness–claiming mold and cockroaches can be found in their rooms. The university said they’ve tested the problem areas, but have not found any issues. “I’m absolutely concerned,” UT Freshman Piper Johnston said. Piper lives at Reese Hall on UT’s campus. “I’ve heard tons of rumors that mold has been coming through the vent,” she explained. She even taped off her air vent, “because a lot of my friends and I have been getting sick,” she explained, “But I woke up yesterday morning with a really sore throat and so I really don’t think that that’s a coincidence.” LINK

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus clear after report of man carrying firearm (Tennessean) The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Police and Chattanooga Police said they cleared the UTC campus after searching for a reported gunman on campus for several hours Wednesday. No person with an illegal firearm was found on campus, Chattanooga Police confirmed. Authorities had been searching after someone reported seeing a man armed with a weapon on campus mid-morning. At 12:53 p.m. the university tweeted police had concluded their investigation and that there was no threat to the campus. LINK

Tennessee ranked among most unsafe states for violent crimes; midstate cities safest (WZTV-TV) According to Tennessee’s statewide crime statistics, the state doesn’t look very safe. The state has the third-highest violent crime rate and the ninth-highest property crime rate in the nation. FOX 17 News looked at which areas are safest. As it turns out, a lot of those areas are in middle Tennessee. Germantown near Memphis is the safest overall, but several midstate cities made the top 10. LINK

How did one Murfreesboro pharmacy earn title of state’s largest purchaser of opioids? (Tennessean) Mention “Reeves-Sain” in Murfreesboro and people remember the former old-time drug store by that name and its soda fountain. “What our pharmacy can’t cure, our milkshakes can,” was its prized slogan.  But from a nearby building in the same strip mall, its owners ran a complex web of pharmaceutical businesses that purchased millions of opioid pills during the peak of Tennessee’s prescription opioid boom, while the overdose death rate was skyrocketing. LINK

Nashville’s opioid crisis lawsuit against Purdue Pharma could be settled in reported offer (Tennessean) Nashville’s lawsuit against the makers of OxyContin is one of thousands of suits that may be resolved by a sweeping settlement worth at least $10 billion, according to new media reports. Purdue Pharma and its owners, the billionaire Sackler family, offered to settle more than 2,000 lawsuits last week during confidential negotiations in Cleveland, where many suits have been combined into one big case, according to reporting by NBC News. LINK

A Tennessee law limiting how much money victims can receive was rejected in Williamson court, here’s what’s next (Tennessean) A Williamson County judge issued a ruling this month challenging a state law that limits how much money victims in tort cases can receive from those found responsible. Circuit Court Judge Michael Binkley struck down a cap on compensatory damages in a case that went to trial in March, ruling that the cap, first passed in the 2011 legislative session, is unconstitutional. LINK

Prosecutor wants to drop man’s death sentence months ahead of execution; judge to consider (Tennessean) District Attorney Glenn Funk said Wednesday he wants to vacate a death sentence handed down 32 years ago because of prosecutorial misconduct and racial bias during the 1987 trial. Abu-Ali Abdur’Rahman, 68, is scheduled to be executed April 16. If this agreement is approved, the execution would be canceled and Abdur’Rahman would remain in prison for the rest of his life. Criminal Court Judge Monte Watkins said he would consider Funk’s offer and make a decision Thursday. LINK

Tennessee death row inmate could have death penalty removed (WSMV-TV) A Tennessee death row inmate’s life could be spared pending a judge’s decision. Abu-Ali Abdur’Rahman is scheduled to be executed in April, but if a judge decides prosecutors acted with racial bias during the original trial, the death penalty could be dropped from his sentence. Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk and Abdur’Rahman’s defense attorney Brad MacNeal reached an agreement to sentence him to prison for life instead, pending Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Monte Watkins’ approval. LINK

Gambling council takes shape (Nashville Post) The new advisory council tasked with overseeing sports betting in Tennessee now has enough members to meet and conduct business — but you still won’t be able to wager on the opening weekend of college football. The speakers of the House and Senate and the governor each get three appointments to the Lottery Corporation Sports Wagering Advisory Council, set up by the Tennessee General Assembly when it decided to sanction sports betting in the state earlier this year. LINK

New Tenn. House speaker chooses words carefully on key issues (WKRN-TV) Glen Casada during his short tenure as speaker used to say “the House will lead,” but the man who has replaced him is taking a different tone. The subject came up as Speaker Cameron Sexton sat down this week for a wide-ranging interview about the direction the House that may be different from Casada’s tenure. “Together the house will lead,” said Rep. Casada back in early January during a speech moments after taking the House gavel from then-Speaker Beth Harwell. He was referencing the state budget which is the only thing that state lawmakers are constitutionally required to do. LINK

White, Leatherwood defend flight with governor for GOP event (Daily Memphian) State Reps. Mark White and Tom Leatherwood flew to Shelby County with Gov. Bill Lee for a Republican Party event Aug. 23, but both say it was no perk for their votes in favor of the governor’s education savings account bill during the regular session. Following last week’s special session, White and Leatherwood boarded the state plane with the governor to attend the Lincoln Day Gala at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis, then flew back to Nashville. They drove their cars back later to Shelby County. LINK

Sen. Alexander announces call boxes on Natchez Pkwy Bridge to prevent suicides (WZTV-TV) Senator Lamar Alexander said the state of Tennessee is in “the first phase” of helping prevent suicides at Natchez Parkway Bridge. Alexander announced the installation of call boxes at the Double Arch Bridge on Wednesday via a press release. “Several months ago Tracy Frist told me about Trish Merelo and the work being done by the Natchez Trace Bridge Barrier Coalition and Centerstone to prevent suicides on the Natchez Trace Bridge. We all began working together to solve an urgent problem,” Alexander said. LINK

Ex-Gov. Haslam won’t rule out future public sector position (AP) Ex-Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam isn’t ruling out a future run for office, though he says he isn’t currently planning on it. During an event Wednesday alongside former GOP Sen. Bob Corker, Haslam said he’d be sad if he never serves in some kind of public role again. Haslam told reporters it was a hard decision, but the right one, not to run to replace retiring Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander in 2020. LINK

Corker, Haslam talk GOP in 2020 — and how the Republican former governor will now vote for Trump (Tennessean) Two of Tennessee’s former top Republicans on Wednesday opined on the current state of politics in the United States, including shortcomings by their own party. Former U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and former Gov. Bill Haslam, both of whom left office in January, lamented the political polarization taking place between the country’s two major political parties. Both men are moderate Republicans who have previously been critical of President Donald Trump’s crass rhetoric. LINK

State approves seniors rehab hospital venture between Ascension, Kindred at Saint Thomas Midtown campus (Tennessean) A new, 40-bed rehabilitation hospital in the Ascension Saint Thomas and Kindred Healthcare network has been approved for midtown Nashville, the companies announced Wednesday. The new facility, which will replace Ascension’s current 24-bed Acute Rehab unit located at Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital, is to be named the Saint Thomas Rehabilitation Hospital. Its focus is on those in need of particular neurological and cardiovascular care after serious health events, according to a joint release from the companies. LINK

Why you could see a Saint Thomas doctor or nurse without leaving your couch (Nashville Business Journal) Hospitals are lifesavers for countless people each day, but given a choice, most of those patients would likely rather recuperate in the comfort of their home instead of a rehab facility or hospital room. That’s the vision behind a new partnership announced last month between Ascension Saint Thomas and Nashville-based Contessa. The new service, set to begin in October, brings elements of hospital inpatient care into patients’ homes.  LINK

Huge distribution facility linked to Amazon planned in Frayser (Memphis Business Journal) It appears Amazon is expanding its Memphis presence. Atlanta-based Seefried Industrial Properties filed a zoning application to construct a five-story distribution facility with 2,000 parking spaces in Frayser. On the application, the tenant is referred to as “Project Iris,” and the development as “AR SORT FC.” Project Iris application, which lists the tenant as “Project Iris” and “AR SORT FC.””AR SORT FC” is the same label that was used on zoning applications for “Project Arrow” near Milwaukee and “Project Rocket” in Gwinnett, Georgia — both of which turned out to be Amazon facilities. The label appears to stand for Amazon Robotics sortable fulfillment center. LINK

‘I’m terrified:’ Court files reveal allegations of abuse against radio host Steve Gill (Tennessean) After testifying against her husband in a child support hearing last week, Steve Gill’s current wife has filed a temporary order of protection against the political commentator and WLAC host. After that hearing, Judge James Martin had Gill taken into custody over his failure to pay $170,000 in child support to his ex-wife, Kathryn. Gill has spent the last nine days in the Williamson County Jail. LINK


Guest column: Bill Lee is playing politics and misinterpreting Jesus to justify executions (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Lee campaigned for office as a Christian. It was one of the key values he spoke about as he asked voters to elect him. He has implemented a mentor program for prisoners about to be released to help them adjust back into society. This is along the model of The Men of Valor program he championed. It is a clear example of the compassion that emanates from his Christian faith. LINK

Wednesday, August 28

Gov. Lee: U.S.-Japan trade deal is a win for Tennessee farmers (WATE-TV) Governor Bill Lee is calling a new trade deal between the U.S. and Japan a “win for Tennessee’s farmers.” The trade deal was announced over the weekend at the G7 Summit as President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sat side by side. The deal focuses on agriculture, industrial tariffs and digital trade. President Trump says it will be signed during a formal ceremony. Governor Lee’s tweeted, “This deal is a win for Tennessee’s farmers. Japan is by far our state’s largest direct international investor, providing over 52,000 high-quality jobs and investing 19 billion dollars into our economy, and we’re only getting started.” LINK

BGC board hears prison reform plans (Cleveland Daily Banner) Helping former prison inmates lead productive lives after prison is something the entire community should care about, state Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said on Monday. Bell and state Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, shared this message while serving as guest speakers at the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Ocoee Region’s monthly board meeting … He told how Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has volunteered to help men getting out of prison through a Nashville-based mentoring organization called Men of Valor. LINK

Nashville Senior Living Center Throws Party for 6 Residents Celebrating Their 100+ Birthdays (Southern Living) A senior living center in Nashville, Tennessee, hosted a party for the ages earlier this month. Six women living at Meadows Lakeshore Senior Living—Lena Carman, 101, Mary Lois Arnold, 103, Anelia Hardy, 104, Marion Lyon, 105, Marylyn Petr, 105 (not pictured), and Opal James, 105—were joined by family and friends to eat cake and celebrate their 100+ birthdays on August 15 … In addition to plenty of well wishes, each woman received a Centenarian Award from Governor Bill Lee and Nashville Mayor David Briley, as well as a proclamation from the Tennessee House of Representatives. LINK

Fresh Start: Paying it back, paying it forward (Claiborne Progress) The guys who are participating in the Fresh Start Program, an offshoot of Appalachian Promise, are paying their dues as they pay forward for the next generation of participants. Their accomplishments are setting the stage for the next group of Claiborne County Jail inmates to succeed … Tennessee Governor Bill Lee is looking at this pilot program – reportedly the first of its kind in the state. If all goes as planned, Fresh Start could go statewide. LINK

Local pastors send letter to Gov. Bill Lee seeking meeting over alleged police brutality (WRCB-TV) A group of pastors in Hamilton County wants a face-to-face meeting with Governor Bill Lee. It’s the same group of church leaders who called for Sheriff Jim Hammond’s job last month. They sent the following letter to Governor Lee, which also asks him to address alleged police brutality. That letter references the case of James Mitchell. Mitchell claims two deputies performed an illegal cavity search on him during a traffic stop. The Associated Press reports that Governor Lee plans to stay quiet. His office says due to a review of the investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment. LINK

Tennessee government is finalist for four national IT awards (Times Free Press) The Tennessee government is a finalist in four categories for the National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ awards involving information technology. Winners will be announced in October during a ceremony in Nashville. NASCIO selected 30 finalists across 10 categories for the State IT Recognition Awards. The Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration’s Strategic Technology Solutions division partnered with four state agencies to support the projects. Nominations were formally announced Tuesday. “We are dedicated to our efforts in partnering with departments and agencies in state government to help them deliver the highest quality service possible to their customers, the citizens of Tennessee,” Chief Information Officer Stephanie Dedmon said in a news release. LINK

Tennessee A Finalist In National IT Awards (Chattanoogan) Tennessee is a finalist in four categories for national awards that will be announced during a ceremony in October in Nashville. The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) selected 30 finalists across 10 categories for the State IT Recognition Awards. Strategic Technology Solutions in the Department of Finance & Administration partnered with four state agencies to support the projects.  NASCIO formally announced the nominations on Tuesday. LINK

What would Tennessee Medicaid look like under block grant funding? (Becker’s Hospital Review) Tennessee lawmakers approved in May a bill requiring the state to submit a plan to President Donald Trump’s administration to fund its Medicaid program through a block grant. As the state prepares this plan, The Tennessean took a look into what a block grant is and how it could transform Medicaid. States historically have not had big restrictions on the amount of federal Medicaid money they receive. But the federal government announced in January that it was working on a plan to allow states to receive fixed block grants for Medicaid spending in exchange for giving states more flexibility in implementing the program. LINK

Unemployment Uptick May Signal State Recessions (Stateline) National recession fears have intensified this month amid growing concerns about the U.S.-China trade war and the appearance of a normally reliable recession warning in the bond market that sent stocks tumbling. A significant spike in the national unemployment rate would be another ominous sign. That hasn’t happened nationally since the Great Recession, and almost certainly would signal a new recession, which is generally defined as declining GDP for at least two consecutive quarters. LINK

Roane State Community College hoping to tackle hunger on campus (WBIR-TV) Roane State Community College now has a food pantry for students in need. The new resource is a combined effort from Second Harvest, Kroger and The Mid-East Community Action Agency. “I’m glad that we are taking action because this food insecurity, this hunger that we know exists,” Roane State Community College president Chris Whaley said. The pantry is open to all students and they are welcomed to take anything from snacks to toiletry products and school supplies. It is a problem even the federal government recognizes. LINK

America’s rural hospitals are in crisis and it’s devastating Middle Tennessee (WTVF-TV) As the clot in the back of her neck began to move to her brain, the family of Lotie Crouch could see the signs that the 75-year-old was having a stroke. But from the time her symptoms started to the time she got to an emergency room nearly 120 precious minutes had passed. When Crouch’s granddaughter Haelee Stockton called 911 she knew the family’s options were limited. An ambulance came to pick the beloved grandmother up at her home in Pal Mal, Tennessee a small town in Fentress County. But with the closure of Jamestown Regional Medical Center, the county’s only hospital earlier this year, the closest ER was a 55-minute drive away. LINK

Johnson and Johnson opioid lawsuit: What lies ahead after $572 million Oklahoma court ruling (AP) Oklahoma’s $572 million judgment against Johnson & Johnson will likely be followed by more trials and legal settlements seeking to hold a drug company accountable for a U.S. opioid crisis that has ripped apart lives and communities. Monday’s ruling could help shape negotiations over roughly 1,500 similar lawsuits filed by state, local and tribal governments consolidated before a federal judge in Ohio. And as the legal cases against the opioid industry accelerate, so do concerns about how the money from verdicts or settlements will be spent. Following are questions and answers about the opioid crisis and what lies ahead. LINK

Tennessee Opioid Plaintiffs Buoyed By Oklahoma Decision (WPLN Radio) Hundreds of cities, counties and states now feel the wind at their back as they sue the makers of opioids. The $572 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson in Oklahoma was closely watched by plaintiffs around the country. Oklahoma argued that Johnson & Johnson created a public nuisance as it made and marketed addictive painkillers. And the judge decided the state made a convincing argument during the seven-week trial. LINK

Multiple opioid lawsuits pending in Tennessee (WSMV-TV) One local healthcare group is reacting to a landmark ruling against major pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson. Mark Chalos said the firm he is with is representing several Middle Tennessee counties and has taken on leadership roles in the national fight against dozens of opioid manufacturers. LINK

Court administrator Deborah Taylor Tate honored for fighting opioid crisis (Tennessean) A Tennessee nonprofit that pairs low-income and elderly people with legal services is honoring the head of the state’s administrative office of the courts for her work “to ensure the legal system is open and available to all.” The Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services selected Deborah Taylor Tate, the court administrator, to receive the Janice M. Holder Award, named in honor of the first female chief justice of the state Supreme Court. LINK

Grand Divisions Episode 65: Recapping the Tennessee legislature’s 60th extraordinary session (Tennessean) The Tennessee legislature’s 60th special session has come and gone and although it was brief, there was news aplenty. House Speaker Cameron Sexton was formally elected and sworn in as the chamber’s top post, Rep. David Byrd survived an expulsion effort and the lower chamber’s Republican caucus held three closed-door meetings in two days to discuss “family” matters. On this week’s episode we analyze the special session and the decision by the 73-member GOP caucus to close its latest meetings. LINK

GOP lawmaker who voted no on voucher bill faces attack ad (AP) A group that helped advance Tennessee’s newly enacted voucher law is targeting a lawmaker who voted against the contentious plan. The American Federation for Children, a school choice advocacy group, recently released an online ad criticizing Republican Rep. Mark Cochran for voting against expanding Tennessee’s education savings accounts. The group displayed a tweet from President Donald Trump endorsing the ESA plan and accused Cochran of turning “his back on President Trump” by voting no. LINK

Tennessee lawmakers look to expand ‘Slow Poke Law’ to more roads (WZTV-TV) Slow pokes should get ready to move over – Tennessee lawmakers will again be looking to expand the law to cover more roads in the state. Right now, the Slow Poke Law covers interstate and multi-lane divided highways with three or more lanes. Drivers can get fined $50 for driving in the far left lane if they’re not overtaking or passing slower vehicles. Earlier this year, a few lawmakers tried to expand the law to cover all Tennessee roads with two or more lanes. However, former SB1497 passed a little late in the Senate and the committee that was supposed to hear it in the House closed before the bill could come up. LINK

Casada appointed to Elections & Finance panel amid state audit of accounts (Daily Memphian) Despite facing a state audit of his campaign and PAC expenditures, state Rep. Glen Casada, who resigned the House Speaker’s post amid scandal, will serve on a subcommittee that handles campaign finance legislation. In one of several assignments made last week, new House Speaker Cameron Sexton appointed his predecessor to an Elections & Finance Subcommittee even though the Registry of Election Finance is auditing Casada’s campaign account and his political action committee CAS PAC.Before the special session, Sexton told The Daily Memphian: “It’s really about working with everybody and trying to put them in the slots we can get them and use the bulk of their skill sets.” LINK

Rep. Robin Smith named as new chair of Tennessee House Insurance Committee (Times Free Press) Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton has appointed Rep. Robin Smith, R-Hixson, as chairman of the House Insurance Committee, replacing Republican Rep. Ron Travis of Dayton. Sexton, R-Crossville, who was elected last week as the GOP-led chamber’s new speaker, said in a news release that Smith’s “knowledge and experience of the healthcare industry will be a guiding influence as she leads the House Insurance Committee.” He said he valued work by Smith, a former nurse, “in drafting and championing key components of our CARE plan, and I know she will be very successful in this new role.” LINK

Hicks named chairman of ‘Black Hole’ subcommittee (Kingsport Times-News) New Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton has named Rep. Gary Hicks, R-Rogersville, chairman of the powerful House Finance Subcommittee. The 14-person subcommittee, also referred to as “the Black Hole,” is responsible for all measures related to taxes and the raising of revenue, the appropriation of state funds, as well as the approval of the general appropriations bill before it is moved to the full House Finance Committee. LINK

Norris finds questions and comparisons in new life as a federal judge (Daily Memphian) In his transition from state Senate majority leader to federal judge, Mark Norris heard a lot about how isolated he might feel once out of the political fray. “I do not feel isolated,” Norris told the Memphis Rotary Club Tuesday. “What others consider as isolation is idyllic to me. I have time to think of one thing and focus on one job.” Norris took the oath of office as a U.S. district judge in January after his nomination to the bench by President Donald Trump was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in October. Norris was re-nominated by Trump after his first appointment stalled along with other judicial appointments in the Senate. LINK

Master Service founder sells company to start criminal justice reform foundation (News Sentinel) Master Service Companies owner Josh Smith has sold his company and will use the profits to create a foundation that will fund criminal justice reform initiatives. The Knoxville-based residential waterproofing and foundation services company sold for an undisclosed amount to Larry Janesky of Connecticut-based Contractor Nation, formerly known as Basement Systems, Inc. The deal was put together in just four weeks, Smith said. LINK


Guest column: How everyone can participate in Tennessee’s innovation economy (News Sentinel) At LaunchTN, we’re proud to showcase the success story of Tennessee’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Our seventh-annual festival shines the light on our state’s thriving innovative spirit … Gov. Bill Lee, whose administration has made innovation a priority, will discuss the critical role of entrepreneurs and startups in driving economic growth. LINK

Keel Hunt: History is now Cameron Sexton’s to write in post-Casada era (Tennessean) What kind of House Speaker will Cameron Sexton be? Watching him take the oath of office on Friday morning, then hearing him address the House that just elected him, I was struck by the tactical timeliness of his brief remarks. His words were few, but to the House members in the chamber they spoke volumes in the immediate wake of so much disorder. “The good news is we agree on a lot more than we disagree on,” he said. “Respect for those on the other side will make us better.” LINK

Guest column: UT should reverse decision to sell alcohol at its athletic facilities (News Sentinel) The decision to allow alcoholic beverages to be sold at University of Tennessee sporting events should be reviewed and reversed. The argument for this is not one of traditional temperance or teetotalling, but rather one of setting and maintaining high standards. The traditional keg at a rugby game is from Oxford and Cambridge, not Harvard and Yale. The “American” tradition was one of keeping sports at all levels as free of distractions and adhering to high standards, for fans as well as competitors, as possible. The fact that this high-minded goal has often been honored in the breach more than in practice is immaterial. It is a worthy aspiration and a time-honored UT practice. LINK

Column: Deadbeat Dad Quits Job (Nashville Scene) Steve Gill, a right-wing radio talker and political editor of the Diet Breitbart site The Tennessee Star, submitted his resignation yesterday from his jail cell. Gill, who remained locked up in Williamson County as of Monday afternoon, was jailed last week for $170,000 in back child support.  “Steve Gill is a good friend, a good man, and a great talent,” Michael Patrick Leahy, CEO of Star News Digital Media, says in a statement published by the Star. “We wish him well in his future endeavors.” LINK

Tuesday, August 27

Gov. Bill Lee: President Trump’s trade deal with Japan is a win for Tennessee (AP) Gov. Bill Lee tweeted that President Trump’s trade deal with Japan is a win for Tennessee. Trump and Japanese Prime Minster Abe Shinzo agreed in principal on Sunday to a new trade agreement. Lee tweeted Monday that the trade deal is a win for Tennessee, stating Japan is the state’s largest direct international investor. That investment provides 52,000 high-quality jobs and $19 billion to the economy, Lee said. Nissan, a Japanese-owned car company, is headquartered in Tennessee. LINK

Tickets on sale now for Hawkins GOP dinner featuring Gov. Bill Lee (Rogersville Review) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee will be the keynote speaker for the 2019 Reagan Day Dinner sponsored by the Hawkins Co. Republican Party and Hawkins Co. Republican Women. The event will be held Thursday, Sept. 19 at the American Legion Post on East Main Street in Rogersville. A social hour will begin at 5 p.m. with the dinner at 6 p.m. Tickets are $40 per person and, since seating is limited, must be purchased in advance from Nancy Barker at the Rogersville/Hawkins Co. Chamber of Commerce or from members of the GOP committee. LINK

Officials react to Lee’s Rural Opportunity Summit (Morristown Citizen Tribune) Tennessee officials met with representatives from the state’s 15 distressed counties this week to talk about ways the state can assist those counties. The Governor’s Rural Opportunity Summit looked at how state departments are serving rural areas, specifically distressed counties. Executive Order 1 issued by Gov. Bill Lee also required the departments to provide suggestions for future improvements. “With 15 distressed counties in the bottom 10 percent of the nation in terms of poverty, average income and unemployment, we have serious work to do and I believe we are up to the challenge,” the governor said. LINK

‘Critical Hour’: Hamilton Co. pastors want governor meeting over police brutality concerns (WTVC-TV) Dozens of Hamilton County ministers are calling on Governor Bill Lee to intervene in what they call a “critical hour.” The group wrote in an August 12 letter that they wanted to meet with Gov. Lee to address what they say is the “inhumane treatment” of citizens and abuse of power by law enforcement. The letter comes as they’ve called for Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond’s resignation over video showing an arrest and body cavity search of James Mitchell in Soddy-Daisy. Mitchell says the deputies used excessive force. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) and FBI launched an investigation. LINK

Hamilton County pastors, concerned residents call on district attorney to remove sheriff from power (Times Free Press) A group of Hamilton County pastors and concerned residents are calling on District Attorney Neal Pinkston to oust Sheriff Jim Hammond and prosecute two of his deputies seen on camera punching, kneeing and allegedly conducting a body-cavity search on a handcuffed man on the side of a road … The group calling for Hammond to be removed from office sent a letter to Gov. Bill Lee earlier this month asking for a meeting to find ways to “bring about changes” to address alleged law enforcement brutality. The group has not heard back from Lee, but his press secretary, Laine Arnold, later said that “with review of the independent investigation still ongoing, we feel it would be inappropriate to weigh in at this time.” LINK

Tennessee correctional officer salaries still lag behind despite recent pay raise (WMC-TV) Earlier this year, Tennessee lawmakers and Gov. Bill Lee teamed up to give state correctional officers a much-needed pay raise in an effort to help reduce the staffing shortage facing Tennessee prisons. But that may not be easy to do, even with the pay increase. Tennessee Department of Correction Commissioner Tony Parker told lawmakers in January that 61 percent of prison guards quit within their first year, often to take a better-paying job somewhere else. LINK

Lexington woman charged with 25 counts of TennCare fraud for doctor shopping for opiates (Jackson Sun) A Henderson County woman was charged with TennCare fraud after doctor shopping for controlled substances. The Office of Inspector General with assistance of the Lexington Police Department arrested and charged Julie Rae Smith, 38, with 18 counts of TennCare in Henderson County. In May, she was charged with one count of TennCare fraud in Decatur County and in November of 2018 she was with charge with six counts of TennCare fraud in Madison County. LINK

Henderson Co. woman charged with TennCare fraud for third time (WBBJ-TV) A Henderson County woman has been charged for the third time with doctor shopping for controlled substances and using TennCare as payment. Julie Rae Smith, 38, of Lexington has been charged with 18 counts of TennCare fraud in Henderson County. All 25 charges stem from an eight-month period in 2017, when authorities say Smith was treated on 54 separate dates by 32 providers over a three-county area. During this time, Smith is accused of using TennCare benefits to fraudulently obtain prescriptions for the painkillers hydrocodone, percocet, tramadol, codeine-phospate and Tylenol 3. TennCare fraud is a Class D felony punishable by up to four years in prison per charge. LINK

APSU student creates 3D campus map for blind and visually impaired (WTVF-TV) A student at Austin Peay State University has created a 3D campus map for students who are blind or visually impaired. The idea came about in 2017 after NASA brought a 3D map to campus that depicted the events of a solar eclipse using Braille, charts and maps. Campus officials shared the map with a student who is blind. After that, they decided to create a campus map and mount it on the wall outside Disability Services’ front door. LINK

Ruling on big pharma case sets potential precedent for other suits (WSMV-TV) One local healthcare group is reacting to a landmark ruling against major pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson. A judge in Oklahoma ruled the pharmaceutical giant had intentionally downplayed the dangers of opioids – all while extolling the benefits of the class of drugs that is blamed for the crisis that’s plagued communities across the country. The state of Oklahoma pursued the first case against a drug manufacturer. Judge Thad Balkman ruled the company would be fined $572 million, which could pay for a year’s worth of services needed to combat the epidemic in Oklahoma. LINK

Tennessee’s Obamacare Plans Should Be A Little Less Expensive In 2020 (WPLN Radio) Health insurance plans sold to individuals in Tennessee are dropping for a second year. State regulators have approved rate changes for 2020, and three of the five insurers are cutting their rates. The average reduction for next year is 1.1%, a reversal of the wild increases during the early years of the Affordable Care Act marketplace. Companies are now making enough money to balance out the relatively sick population they serve. LINK

State regulators approve rate cuts, modest increases 2020 Obamcare plans (Times Free Press) For only the second time since ObamaCare was adopted nearly a decade ago, individual insurance rates will decrease for some Tennesseans next year if federal regulators approve the final rates proposed for next year. Tennessee regulators said Monday they have approved rate cuts for individual insurance plans for 2020 by Cigna of 5.6%, by Oscar Health of 8.3% and by Celtic/Ambetter Insurance of 1.6%. LINK

Mid-South states ranked among worst to raise baby (WMC-TV) A new study says Mississippi is the worst state to have a baby. A study done by WalletHub looked at factors like infant mortality rates and daycare costs. Mid-South states ranked poorly as a whole. Out of 50 states plus Washington, D.C., Mississippi ranked 51, Arkansas ranked 45, and Tennessee is 38. Tennessee, unlike Arkansas and Mississippi, ranks low on cost for raising a child. Tennessee is 42nd, meaning it is one of the most expensive. Shelby County Health Department said it’s expensive to have and raise a child anywhere in the country, but said the state has some things in place to take the financial burden off parents. LINK

New Speaker promises to “make sure your voice is heard.” (WKRN-TV) In his first remarks as the new speaker of the Tennessee House, Rep. Cameron Sexton made one promise. “My promise as speaker is simple,” said Sexton shortly after being sworn in as speaker. “We won’t always agree on every issue but I will always make sure your voice is heard.” Keeping that promise is just one of the many things that makes up the intense spotlight of being speaker for the 99-member House which includes 73-Republicans. Rep. Sexton got a bit used to reporters often asking him questions during his brief nine months in one of the top leadership positions as House Republican caucus chair. LINK

Rep. Curtis Johnson of Clarksville named deputy House speaker (Leaf-Chronicle) Clarksville’s state Rep. Curtis Johnson has been named deputy speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives. House Speaker Cameron Sexton of Crossville appointed Johnson to the position, according to a news release. Johnson unsuccessfully ran against former speaker Glen Casada in a November caucus race and ran again for the position this summer when the caucus elected Sexton as its nominee. Johnson previously served as speaker pro tem under former Speaker Beth Harwell for six years. LINK

Hill out as deputy speaker, appointed chair of new subcommittee (Johnson City Press) State Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, will no longer serve as deputy speaker in the Tennessee House of Representatives, a position he was appointed to in January by embattled former speaker Glen Casada. A Republican caucus spokesperson said newly elected Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton, who was sworn in last Friday during a special session, has chosen Curtis Johnson, R-Clarksville, to take Hill’s place. LINK

Tennessee lawmaker wants school voucher program ‘deleted in its entirety’ (WCYB-TV) A Tennessee lawmaker has filed a bill calling for the end of Tennessee’s school voucher program. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed the school voucher bill into law on May 24. The program is expected to cost Tennesseans $25 million for five years for a total of $125 million. Under the bill, parents would be given state funds from tax dollars to be used for education savings accounts to attend private schools. To be eligible for the program, students would have to live in a zone where there are three or more schools in the bottom 10% and live with a family member with an annual income that is not over twice the federal income eligibility for free lunch. LINK

Hardaway guarantees House Judiciary will hold hearings on Byrd (Daily Memphian) Named to the House Judiciary Committee by new Speaker Cameron Sexton, state Rep. G.A. Hardaway says the panel will hold hearings on embattled state Rep. David Byrd no matter what the state attorney general opines. Hardaway, a Memphis Democrat, received the appointment last week after the House elected Sexton to the Speaker’s post in a 94-0 vote. Hardaway plans to ensure an investigation is conducted. “It’s got to be addressed. It can’t be allowed to fester,” Hardaway said, referring to a potential House Judiciary Committee probe of women’s allegations of sexual misconduct by Byrd when he was their basketball coach at Wayne County High School in the late 1980s. LINK

Special called General Assembly session marred by partisan rancor (WMOT Radio) Emotions ran high Friday as House minority Democrats tried to introduce new measures during a special called session of the Tennessee General Assembly. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee called the session to elect a new House speaker, following the resignation earlier this month of embattled Williamson County Rep. Glen Casada. Crossville Republican Cameron Sexton won the speaker’s seat with near unanimous support from both Republicans and Democrats. LINK

Execs claim Biden’s brother offered Biden’s help promoting business venture (Politico) Joe Biden’s younger brother told potential business partners that the former vice president would help their firm land business with court systems and would incorporate their health care model into his 2020 presidential campaign, according to new allegations made in a court filing in Tennessee. The allegations are consistent with others made over the years that relatives of Biden have sought to enrich themselves off of his public service. But they go further, representing the first explicit claims that James Biden offered to have the former vice president use his clout to further private business interests. LINK

Recently incarcerated pundit Steve Gill resigns as political editor of Tennessee Star (WZTV-TV) Conservative radio host Steve Gill has resigned from his position as the political editor of The Tennessee Star, according to a statement released on Monday by Star News Digital Media via the outlet’s website. According to the website, Gill also resigned from the Board of the Directors of Star News Digital Media. “Steve Gill is a good friend, a good man, and a great talent. We wish him well in his future endeavors,” Star News Digital Media CEO Michael Patrick Leahy said. LINK

Georgia Signs $25M Contract for Single Sign-On Capability (Government Technology) Georgia has contracted Unisys Corp., a global IT company based in Pennsylvania, for a wide-ranging cloud software upgrade to enable single sign-on capability for major software applications. Valued at up to $25 million, according to the news release from Unisys, the contract comes one year after Georgia Technology Authority, the state’s IT agency, signed its first contract with the company. Unisys announced a $218 million contract with GTA in August 2018 to provide five and a half years of hybrid cloud storage and security services. LINK


Guest column: How everyone can participate in Tennessee’s innovation economy (Tennessean) Today the Nashville music-tech startup and the AOL founder’s seed fund are “partnered … redesigning the biz of music,” as Cobb tweeted. “3 exits, 100s of jobs, millions raised, billions in transactions.” … AllianceBernstein CEO Seth Bernstein will share his take on the state of our fin-tech sector as a result of his firm’s move to Nashville. And Gov. Bill Lee, whose administration has made innovation a priority, will discuss the critical role of entrepreneurs and startups in driving economic growth. LINK

Jay Greeson: Let’s fight for answers to gun violence, too (Times Free Press) A group of Hamilton County pastors is determined to foster positive race relations among police officers and black people. Great. They have petitioned Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee. They have called for Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond to step down. They have had sit-downs with Chattanooga District Attorney Neal Pinkston. All of this is understandable, and anything we can do to help law enforcement officials do their jobs and eliminate discrimination is noble. That said, Hammond understandably does not want to act until all the information is gathered, despite how troubling his deputies’ acts caught on video earlier this month assuredly were. That is called investigating. LINK

Victor Ashe: Trump reportedly considering former Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell for TVA board (Shopper News/News Sentinel) Former House Speaker Beth Harwell is reported to be under consideration for appointment by President Donald J. Trump for the TVA board of directors. The suggestion likely came from one or both of Tennessee’s U.S. senators. Harwell would be solid and safe. Whether she would also be a change agent for TVA on transparency issues or community outreach is less clear. As House speaker, she was honest, knowledgeable but cautious on several controversial issues. LINK

Frank Cagle: Throw Byrd to the wolves? Understandable but rash (KnoxTnToday) It’s understandable that there is an impulse among some state House members to expel state Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, for sexually harassing young women basketball players when he was a coach 30 years ago. But sometimes you need impulse control lest you do something rash. Should the House decide the guilt or innocence of a member for behavior that occurred decades before his/her election to the legislature? Or should the body reserve its expulsion power for legislators who misbehave while in office? If it’s the former then where does it end? And what sort of behavior is included? LINK

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe: Common sense in E-Tenn. (Elizabethton Star) This month, I’ve been privileged to meet with East Tennesseans and listen to their ideas and concerns. I met with leaders from different groups in our communities including: housing officials, volunteer firefighters, women business leaders, students, educators, veterans, doctors, pastors, state legislators, county and city officials, national forest rangers, community health clinics, manufacturers and pharmacists — just to name a few. It’s always remarkable to me how many talented individuals we have in East Tennessee, and how many good ideas there are about how to make America stronger. LINK

Monday, August 26

Gov. Bill Lee keynote speaker for Republican Party of Shelby County Lincoln Day Gala (WATN-TV) It was standing room only at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn for the annual Lincoln Day Gala. The event is the primary fundraiser for the Republican Party of Shelby County. This year’s keynote speaker was Governor Bill Lee, who gave the guests a glimpse of the work his administration has done so far this year. Roughly 600 people were in attendance including state and local officials. Governor Bill Lee talked about some of the progress his administration has made. Governor Lee says our state has one of the lowest tax rates in the country. During his speech, the governor says right now there is roughly $1.1 billion in our rainy day fund. LINK

Lee touts ‘conservative values’ at Lincoln Day gala, Kustoff calls impeachment ‘giant time suck’ (Daily Memphian) The local Republican party will win elections again, the chairman of the Shelby County GOP vowed Friday at the party’s annual Lincoln Day Gala … Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee recalled attending the gala in 2016 as he began exploring a run for governor and coming back the next two years. Last year the gala, which was held in February, featured Lee’s two rivals for the Republican nomination – Diane Black and Randy Boyd. The Black and Boyd campaigns jockeyed for the spotlight at the gathering with a spirited argument behind the scenes at the gala when Black was allowed to speak and introduce keynote speaker and outgoing U.S. Sen. Bob Corker. LINK

Sawyer criticizes fellow Democrats Strickland and Herenton for attending GOP event (Commercial Appeal) Tami Sawyer, a Democratic Shelby County Commissioner running for Memphis mayor, castigated her two principal rivals, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and former Mayor Willie Herenton, for attending a Republican party function Friday evening … Strickland didn’t respond to a text message seeking comment, but Strickland campaign consultant Steven Reid said, “Mayor Strickland had a one-on-one meeting with Gov. Lee to discuss the increase of Highway Patrol officers in Memphis and to pursue a permanent presence here. Much like [Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner] and many other elected officials who attended, Mayor Strickland is mayor of all Memphians.” LINK

Gov. Lee visits Benton Elementary School (Cleveland Daily Banner) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee toured Benton Elementary School on Wednesday after receiving an invitation from state Rep. Dan Howell (R-Georgetown) during the governor’s visit to the area. Lee arrived at the school after attending a groundbreaking ceremony for the Bradley County Tennessee State Veterans Home in Cleveland. While at the school, Lee met several students who read essays they had written about the office of governor. Some also had the opportunity to ask him questions. Howell said seeing the students’ reactions to meeting the governor was a highlight of the visit. “They were zeroed in on everything he had to say,” he said. LINK

Pageant winner excited to meet Tennessee governor, travel to Los Angeles and visit Disneyland (WGNS Radio) Berlyn Gamlin is a kindergartner at Wilson Elementary School … She was recently named National American Miss Tennessee Princess at a pageant held July 26-28 and will now compete for the title of National American Miss … Berlyn will meet the Gov. Bill Lee in Nashville on Sept. 12 and U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn early next month as well. LINK

Pastors seek meeting with governor to address police brutality controversies (Times Free Press) A group of Hamilton County pastors wants Gov. Bill Lee to meet with them and find ways to “bring about changes” that will address alleged law enforcement brutality. In their Aug. 12 letter to the governor, the black ministers state: “We realize that there are good law enforcement officers, but there are too many who make their own laws and execute justice through usurping the power of the State laws.” The letter comes amid their calls for Sheriff Jim Hammond and two white deputies to resign over dashcam footage that captured the roadside arrest and apparent body cavity search of a 41-year-old black man. LINK

Governor Bill Lee ‘not compelled’ to witness execution (AP) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee says he has no plans to witness an execution as Tennessee continues to put people to death. Lee, a Republican, was offered a witness seat after he declined to stop the past two executions since taking over Tennessee’s top political office in January. Three more executions are scheduled to take place through early 2020. “I’ve certainly thought about if I would, but I have not felt compelled to do it,” Lee told reporters this week. While governors have a key role in deciding whether to intervene in a death penalty case, it is rare for one to witness an execution. Instead, executions are viewed by top prison officials, family members of the victims and inmate, attorneys and reporters. LINK

Photo Gallery: Take a look at the Tennessee state Capitol (Tennessean) LINK

Amendments continue for proposed Katie Beckett Program (WJHL-TV) Tennessee continues to move forward with implementing a program to help children with special needs get insurance coverage. The Tennessee Disability Coalition announced that the TennCare Bureau has helped them in correcting examples of premiums for Part A of the Katie Beck Program. The program will insure all children with special needs and long term disabilities will receive access to healthcare, no matter their parents’ income. If you’re interested in learning more about the program, a webinar is set for this week. That will be Thursday, August 29 from 5 to 7 p.m. LINK

UT is celebrating its quasquibicentennial. What the heck is that and how do you say it? (News Sentinel) Sept. 10 marks the 225th anniversary of the University of Tennessee, or the school’s quasquibicentennial. After UT-Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman introduced the UT community to “quasquibicentennial,” there have been tons of questions about where the incredibly hard-to-pronounce 19-letter word came from. Don’t worry. We’re here to help. We asked UT-Knoxville Spanish professor Gregory Kaplan to break the word down, including how to say it properly. Kaplan has done research on historical Spanish and Latin. LINK

New music center at University of Memphis to anchor arts corridor (Commercial Appeal) The University of Memphis has applied for a building permit for its new music center. The $35 million permit was filed for 3800 Central Ave., where the planned 40,000 square-foot Scheidt Family Music Center would anchor a “Central Avenue Arts Corridor” at the university. The Corridor is meant to establish the university’s arts department as a destination for both the campus and for the City of Memphis, said Anne Hogan, dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts. LINK

City leaders explain TN Education Savings Account qualifications to parents (WATN-TV) Next fall, parents in one of the state’s largest school districts will have the option to get funding for their children’s education. A longtime education advocate and state senator spoke to parents about the highly controversial education savings account program today. “We don’t just want her going to any kind of school we want her going to a school that is going to help her prosper in life,” said Tamika Jones. Jones is searching for the right school she can afford for her niece. She came to Saturday morning’s meeting to see if her family qualifies for an education savings account scholarship. LINK

Lebanon woman charged with TennCare drug fraud (Wilson Post) A Wilson County woman is charged with TennCare fraud in both Wilson and Davidson Counties in connection with doctor shopping for controlled substances. The Office of Inspector General, with the assistance of the Lebanon Police Department and Metro Nashville Police, announced the arrest of Datha Kimberly Robertson, 26, of Lebanon. In a Wilson County indictment, Robertson is accused of three counts of fraudulently using TennCare to doctor shop for the painkiller Oxycodone.  Upon posting bond, Robertson was arrested for the second time in Davidson County, where she faced an indictment charging her with two counts of TennCare fraud for doctor shopping for the painkiller Hydrocodone; and, one count of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.  LINK

Tennessee leaders want to transform TennCare with a block grant. But … what’s a block grant? (Tennessean) If you follow Tennessee health care news in the slightest, you’ve probably heard some politician or bureaucrat talk about a “block grant.” In response to a law passed earlier this year, Gov. Bill Lee’s administration is currently preparing a proposal to overhaul TennCare by converting its federal funding into a block grant. If successful, Tennessee would likely be the first state to try this transformation. The block grant proposal is complex, nuanced and – at least for the moment –hypothetical. The administration has not yet released details about its proposal. No other state has done this and the details remain largely unknown. If you don’t understand what’s going on, you are far from alone. LINK

Nashville’s Public Health Chief Calls Departure For Hospital Post Bad Timing But Perfect Opportunity (WPLN Radio) Nashville’s top public health official is leaving her post after just eight months on the job. Dr. Wendy Long will take over as CEO of the Tennessee Hospital Association in mid-October. Long says it was bad timing when the hospital association came looking to replace its retiring CEO, Craig Becker. She had just replaced Bill Paul after the Metro Board of Health decided it was time for leadership change. But the more she mulled it over, she says she felt like she couldn’t pass up a job she calls “tailor-made” for her skillset. LINK

THA names president and CEO (Nashville Post) The Tennessee Hospital Association has announced former Metro Public Health Department director Wendy Long as president and chief executive officer. Long will replace Craig Becker, who is retiring after 26 years of service to the association. Prior to her time with Metro, Long was deputy commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration, where she directed the TennCare program. She also had a stint with the Tennessee Department of Health, serving as an assistant commissioner and overseeing core public health programs administered by the department, as well as the operations of regional and county health departments. LINK

Nashville health director Wendy Long quits after 8 months to run Tennessee Hospital Association (Tennessean) Nashville’s top public health official is quitting for a new gig after only eight months on the job. Dr. Wendy Long, director of the Metro Public Health Department, informed employees this week that she is resigning from the agency to lead the Tennessee Hospital Association. Long will replace outgoing hospital association president Craig Becker, who is retiring after 26 years with the organization. Metro Health spokesman Brian Todd said the board received Long’s resignation but has not yet chosen an interim director or determined when Long’s last day will be. LINK

Analysis: As new era begins, House leadership looks to shore up divisions, reach across the aisle (Tennessean) After months of tumult, uncertainty and internal squabbling, the Tennessee House of Representatives is looking to turn the page. Since the start of the year, the lower chamber saw the rise and fall of a speaker, a growing chorus for action on a member who’s faced allegations of sexual assault and the controversial passage of a school vouchers bill. Last week, the chamber swore in Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, as its newest leader, while Republicans voted into leadership a member who this past session was relegated to irrelevancy. LINK

Federal, state authorities probing possible House voucher vote bribes (Daily Memphian) Despite a new House Speaker taking office, federal and state agents are still looking into allegations former Speaker Glen Casada made illicit offers in return for voucher votes this spring. The Daily Memphian has confirmed agents with the FBI and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation are talking to lawmakers about Casada and his staff and whether they tried to bribe members in connection with the governor’s education savings account bill. The day it deadlocked at 49-49, Casada held the vote board open for more than 40 minutes while working the chamber for one more member to pass the bill. LINK

Curcio to lead hearings on Byrd’s sexual assault allegations (Columbia Daily Herald) Michael Curcio, R-Dickson, the chair of the Tennessee House Judiciary Committee, will lead a hearing and investigation into claims of sexual assault against Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro. During a closed-doors caucus meeting Friday, Byrd said that he will not seek re-election in 2020 following more than a year of continuing allegations that he sexually assaulted three teenagers in the 1980s when he was their basketball coach at Wayne County High School. LINK

Lessons Learned from Federal Agency Cybersecurity Projects (Government Technology) In the spring of 2018, I spoke to Ryan Tappis about the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) and its adoption in the public and private sectors. Ryan is a managing director and cybersecurity practice lead for Northramp LLC — a management consulting firm based in Reston, Va. In his 15+ year career, Ryan has provided cybersecurity advisory services to clients across the federal government and commercial sector. LINK

Tennessee Valley Authority Envisions No Major New Plants (AP) The Tennessee Valley Authority board of directors has approved a 20-year plan that includes no new major generating plants. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports the plan approved last week envisions getting more power out of existing nuclear, gas and hydroelectric units. It also includes more solar, backed up by improved energy storage and other new technologies. TVA will also continue studying the possibility of building small modular nuclear reactors. Environmental groups are disappointed with the plan. LINK

Friends, foes trade barbs on plans for Tom Lee Park’s transformation (Daily Memphian) Owners of about 70 Downtown businesses, half of them restaurants, are publicly endorsing the Memphis River Parks Partnership’s $60 million plan to transform Tom Lee Park. The group this week released a letter sent to Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland on June 26 that declared, “We believe a revitalized Riverfront, and in particular, the effort to build a bold new Tom Lee Park, is critical to maintaining and capitalizing on (the city’s economic) momentum, and we believe the time to make that happen is now.” LINK

This Tennessee doctor helped defraud the military out of $65M — but he can keep his medical license (Tennessean) A Chattanooga-area doctor who admitted to writing at least 1,000 bogus prescriptions for expensive skin cream as part of a cross-country scheme to swindle the military will be allowed to continue practicing medicine in Tennessee. Dr. Carl Lindblad, 76, pleaded guilty to his role in a prescription fraud conspiracy last year. State health officials this month suspended Lindblad’s medical license for at least three months. He can have the suspension lifted at a later date if he completes an ethics course and agrees to have his medical practice monitored by an outside company, according to an order from the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners. LINK


Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton: Work together, respect each other, communicate (Tennessean) I am incredibly humbled and honored that my colleagues have chosen to support me as the next Speaker of the House of Representatives. I am proud to answer the call to serve in this leadership role so that we can continue to help create more opportunities and better the lives of all Tennesseans. Answering the call to serve has been a part of Tennessee’s history for centuries. For example, during the War of 1812, the federal government issued a call for 2,800 volunteers from Tennessee to preserve the honor and dignity of our country when the United States declared war on Great Britain.  LINK

Marta W. Adrich: Tennessee replaces its voucher-friendly House speaker with a voucher opponent (Daily Memphian) Gov. Bill Lee used his honeymoon with Tennessee’s Legislature to steer a controversial education voucher proposal into the law books, but their relationship may be less cozy with a leadership change in the House of Representatives, even under a Republican supermajority. The House overwhelmingly elected Rep. Cameron Sexton on Friday as its speaker to replace Glen Casada, who stepped down earlier this month. While both men are party loyalists, Sexton voted against the voucher bill that Casada strong-armed through the chamber before a series of scandals rocked him out of his leadership job. LINK

Guest column: Research shows pre-K provides solid foundation (Times Free Press) For years, parents and educators have increasingly recognized the importance of a child’s first years to promote his or her healthy physical, social, and intellectual development. A growing body of evidence validates the importance of sustaining high-quality learning environments for pre-K graduates and their peers inside Tennessee classrooms. The state’s Voluntary Pre-K (VPK) program began in 2005 when legislators in Nashville allocated $25 million in lottery dollars to establish quality pre-kindergarten classrooms through a grant process. In the years that followed, subsequent budgets increased state funding to expand the VPK program classes and reach a growing number of at-risk pre-K kids. LINK

Friday, August 23

Gov. Lee talks agriculture, rural economy at Wilson Co. Fair (WKRN-TV) Tennessee governor Bill Lee embraced his agricultural roots as speaker at a Farmers Appreciation Breakfast at the Wilson County Fair Thursday. Lee told the group agriculture is a significant industry in Tennessee, making up about 13% of the state’s economy. “Agriculture has a long rich history in Tennessee,” Lee said. “My family has been involved in Ag for many generations. What’s happening right here is really a celebration of agriculture not just remembering the past but talking about the future – Ag tech, emerging Ag food industry.” LINK

Gov. Bill Lee will speak at Hawkins Co. GOP Lincoln Day Dinner (Rogersville Review)Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee will be the keynote speaker for the Hawkins Co. Republican Party’s 2019 Lincoln Day Dinner. Hawkins GOP Chairman Billy Reeves told the Review that the event will be held Thursday, Sept. 19 at the American Legion Post on East Main Street in Rogersville. A social hour will begin at 5 p.m. with the dinner at 6 p.m. LINK

Gov. Bill Lee: ‘A great day for Cleveland’ (Cleveland Daily Banner) Wednesday was “a great day for Cleveland,” proclaimed Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, as well as an array of program participants at the groundbreaking ceremonies for the state’s newest veterans home. A capacity-plus crowd estimated at 500 to 600 attended the event at the construction site off Westland Drive in South Cleveland. The staff of Tennessee Veterans Services Commissioner Courtney Rogers had planned for 200 to 300 attendees, but the festive crowd almost doubled that number. Still, there was plenty of assistance and personnel to handle the overflow which surrounded three sides of the giant tent and listened in from a distance. LINK

Officials break ground on $47M Tennessee vets home (AP) Tennessee officials have broken ground on a $47 million state veterans nursing home. Gov. Bill Lee was among the ceremony’s attendees Wednesday in Cleveland, Tennessee. The single-story, 108-bed intermediate and skilled care nursing facility will span 110,000 square feet. It will include six 18-bedroom residential houses connected by interior shared support spaces. LINK

‘Bradley County, you’re looking good!‘ (Cleveland Daily Banner) In a tale of two commissioners — one incoming, one outgoing — Courtney Rogers and Many-Bears Grinder showed Wednesday why, to quote the late Maya Angelou, they are “more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” Emceeing the long-awaited groundbreaking ceremonies for the Bradley County Tennessee State Veterans Home, Rogers — Tennessee’s new Department of Veterans Services commissioner — humbly recognized the eight years of work by her predecessor, while also calling her a mentor. LINK

Meeting Heroes (Cleveland Daily Banner) Four of Bradley County’s surviving World War II veterans were visibly honored, and humbled, by recognition received at Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremonies for the Bradley County Tennessee State Veterans Home on Westland Drive in South Cleveland. A capacity-plus crowd turned out for the long-awaited event, and Tennessee Veterans Services Commissioner Courtney Rogers and her Chief of Staff James Amundsen scheduled a unique portion of the program for the four World War II honorees … The four veterans were recognized by participants on the program, and each received a handshake from Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, prior to his comments. LINK

It’s official! Gov. Bill Lee signs Smokey in as Tennessee’s state dog (WBIR-TV) Tennessee has officially recognized the bluetick coonhound as its state dog. That’s, of course, the breed of Vol fans’ favorite dog, Smokey. The Volunteer state actually didn’t have a state dog but after a bill was filed in the house February, it became pretty clear the bluetick coonhound was the right fit. You can thank Nashville-area Rep. Bill Beck and Maryville-area Sen. Art Swann for introducing the bill. Gov. Bill Lee held the ceremonial signing and recognition ceremony with Smokey X on Thursday in Nashville. Several other lawmakers were there as well to celebrate. LINK

Tennessee now has an official state dog (WSMV-TV) The State of Tennessee now has an official state dog. Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill Thursday afternoon proclaiming the Bluetick Coonhound as the state dog of Tennessee. Arguably the most famous dog of that breed is none-other than Smokey, the University of Tennessee’s mascot. Safe to say Volunteer fans near and far approve. LINK

Bluetick coonhound becomes official state dog as Smokey X plays starring role (Daily Memphian) University of Tennessee mascot Smokey X almost refused to look at Gov. Bill Lee, an Auburn graduate, Thursday before a bill-signing ceremony designating the bluetick coonhound as the official state dog. But he didn’t bite the governor, either. “I whispered in his ear a little bit a while ago about how proud I am of him,” Lee said shortly before signing the resolution. “Today’s a special day, Smokey. Certainly, bluetick coonhounds have been a representative of everything UT since 1953, when this tradition began. Checkerboards and power Ts and bluetick coonhounds mean everything regarding Tennessee football. LINK

Bluetick Coonhound officially the state dog of Tennessee (WATE-TV) With UT mascot Smokey looking on, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee officially signed a bill on Thursday making the Bluetick Coonhound the state dog. “Some days in this job are just a little more fun than others,” Lee said. “And this happens to be one of the lighter and more fun days.” LINK

Gov. Lee Convenes Cabinet for Distressed County Summit (Grundy Co. Herald) Last week, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee convened his cabinet for a meeting with local officials from Tennessee’s 15 distressed counties during the Governor’s Rural Opportunity Summit in Perry County. Representatives from Grundy County attended the summit. The meeting capped a state government-wide audit mandated under Executive Order 1 which examines how departments are serving rural areas, specifically distressed counties. Executive Order 1 also required departments to provide suggestions for improvements moving forward. “I’ve challenged my cabinet to think critically about how we are helping our rural areas,” said Lee. “With 15 distressed counties in the bottom 10 percent of the nation in terms of poverty, average income and unemployment, we have serious work to do and I believe we are up to the challenge.” LINK

Decatur woman charged with TennCare for fraudulent prescriptions, using enrollee’s name (WZTV-TV) A Decatur woman is accused of filling fraudulent prescriptions and using another person’s TennCare benefits as payment. Paula Hutcherson, 50, has been charged with two counts of TennCare fraud and five counts of obtaining and/or attempting to obtain a controlled substance by fraud in nearby Henderson County, according to the Tennessee Department of Finance & Administration. Hutcherson, who works in the medical field, called in a prescription for Ambien, a Schedule IV controlled substance, to a pharmacy by using the name of a provider without permission. LINK

Decatur Co. woman charged with TennCare fraud (WBBJ-TV) A Decatur County woman has been charged with TennCare fraud after allegedly filling prescriptions using someone else’s TennCare benefits. Paula Hutcherson, 50, of Parsons, is charged with two counts of TennCare fraud and five counts of obtaining or attempting to obtain a controlled substance by fraud, according to a news release from the Office of Inspector General. In a news release, investigators say Hutcherson, who works in the medical field, called in a prescription for Ambien to a pharmacy using the name of a provider without permission and the name of a TennCare enrollee to use their benefits as payment. LINK

Meharry Students Press Their Medical School On Why It’s Taking Money From Juul (Tennessean) Meharry Medical College is under fire from some of its own students for accepting money from Juul to study vaping. Anti-smoking advocates held a town hall meeting on campus Wednesday night. Many institutions have turned down money from Juul, which has also been lobbying black politicians. Public health researcher Phil Gardiner from the University of California said Meharry should consider returning the $7.5 million, despite its being one of the largest research grants in school history.  LINK

Local group hopes to prevent human trafficking online in Tennessee (WBIR-TV) While access to the internet means a gateway to information, it can also be a dangerous place for children if not used safely. “Some of them can seem like innocent apps put predators do use them to reach children,” Street Hope Educator Amanda Hicks said.  This is her topic of expertise. She travels to different schools to educate families about the risks online and how they can relate to human trafficking. “My goal is to equip parents with the necessary tools so that they can help their students navigate the internet safely,” she said.  LINK

Same-sex couple turned down by wedding venue at state park (WSMV-TV) A same-sex couple called a state park about a wedding venue. They were shocked when they were turned away. The state’s giving an explanation, but the couple says others need to be warned. “She and I met there,” said a woman who asked to be anonymous. “It’s the place we first laid eyes on each other.” The woman said there were sentimental reasons she wanted to be married at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church at Montgomery Bell State Park. When she called the park to book the church, she wasn’t expecting the response. LINK

Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration begins Thursday amid protests against soring (Times Free Press) Protesters shouted “big lick, big lie” as diesel trucks hauling trailers packed with horses whizzed past and through the gates of the Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration show grounds Thursday afternoon. This is the fifth time the Citizens Campaign Against “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty has protested outside the Tennessee walking horse breed’s biggest competition, held each year in Shelbyville since 1939. If they get their way, it’ll also be their last protest. LINK

Tennessee abortion waiting period lawsuit headed for trial (AP) Opponents to a Tennessee law requiring women to wait 48 hours before getting an abortion argue that such restrictions help perpetuate negative stereotypes about gender. The argument is part of a lengthy lawsuit challenging the legality of the waiting period rule, which Tennessee’s GOP-controlled Statehouse passed in 2015. LINK

Rep. Hazlewood bid for Tennessee House GOP Caucus chair falls short; Rep. Faison wins four-person contest (Times Free Press) Tennessee House Republicans picked Rep. Jeremy Faison as their new caucus chairman Thursday, with the Cosby lawmaker emerging as the winner on the third ballot of a four-person contest that included Rep. Patsy Hazlewood of Signal Mountain. Hazlewood fell in the second round, garnering 20 votes to Faison’s 27 and 24 votes for Rep. Michael Curcio of Dickson. Rep. Jerry Sexton of Bean Station was the first to go after getting nine votes in first-round balloting among the 71 GOP caucus members present. Speaking afterward, Hazlewood said she doesn’t regret having run. LINK

Rep. Jeremy Faison, a Casada detractor, is the next chair of the House Republican Caucus (Tennessean) On the eve of a special legislative session to formally elect a new speaker, the House Republican Caucus voted Rep. Jeremy Faison as its next chairman on Thursday — a member who had been one of former House Speaker Glen Casada’s most vocal detractors. The caucus held the meeting to elect a replacement for former Caucus Chairman Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, who is the Republican nominee for House speaker. Sexton, who will succeed Casada, R-Franklin, will be officially sworn in to House leadership role Friday during a special session called by Gov. Bill Lee. LINK

Republicans Pick New Caucus Chair Ahead of Special Session (Nashville Scene) House Republicans reconvened at the Capitol Thursday afternoon to pick a new caucus chair. The supermajority caucus settled on Jeremy Faison of Cosby to succeed Cameron Sexton, who is expected to be elected speaker of the House during the special session on Friday. The chain of events was initiated by former Republican Speaker Glen Casada’s resignation earlier this month. The candidates for caucus chair mostly stressed the need to reemphasize fundraising ahead of 2020 elections and restore trust in Republicans amid the fallout from the Casada affair. LINK

Faison picked to be House Majority Caucus Chairman (WSMV-TV) The House Republican Caucus selected Rep. Jeremy Faison to become the new majority caucus chairman in a meeting prior to Friday’s special session. Faison, R-Cosby, replaces Rep. Cameron Sexton, who will be elected as the new Speaker of the House during the special session on Friday. LINK

East Tennessee Rep. Jeremy Faison Elected Chair Of The House Republican Caucus (WPLN Radio) On the eve of the election of a new House speaker, Republican lawmakers chose to Rep. Jeremy Faison as the new caucus chairman. The East Tennessee Republican ran against three other members, including a member tied to former Speaker Glen Casada. The choice of Fairson for the third-highest position in the House appears to signal a different direction for the Republican lawmakers. “I want to walk away from 2019 with forgiveness and restitution in our hearts and a lesson learned,” Faison told his colleagues after winning the election Thursday. “And let’s look forward to 2020 where we are bringing everybody back.” LINK

House Republicans select Faison as caucus chairman (Daily Memphian) The House Republican Caucus, one day before a special session, chose Rep. Jeremy Faison of East Tennessee as its chairman for the rest of the 111th General Assembly, marking a departure from the heavy-handed style of former Speaker Glen Casada. Faison received 40 votes out of 71 in the final round of balloting against Rep. Michael Curcio of Dickson, a Casada supporter, to win a majority of votes for the post. The leadership position, which is largely responsible for raising money for caucus members’ re-election campaigns, came open when Cameron Sexton vaulted from the same position to become House Speaker nominee for Friday’s special session. LINK

Rep. Faison wins Tennessee GOP House Caucus vote (WATE-TV) State Representative Jeremy Faison is the new chairman of the State House Republican Caucus. The vote happening Thursday evening. Rep. Faison getting 40 votes, beating out Michael Curcio in the third round. The two had tied in the first round and Faison did not receive the 30 votes needed for an outright win in round two. This comes as the now-former GOP chairman, Rep. Cameron Sexton of Crossville, is expected to become the next House Speaker. He will replace Glen Casada, who stepped from from the post earlier this month. LINK

Tennessee GOP representatives elect new caucus chairman (AP) Tennessee Republican representatives have elected a new caucus chairman amid a long period of turmoil and turnover inside the GOP-dominated House. The House GOP caucus on Thursday elected Rep. Jeremy Faison of Cosby to the position. The position became open after Rep. Cameron Sexton was nominated to become the next House speaker. House members have worked to restore peace inside the chamber ever since House Speaker Glen Casada became embroiled in scandals involving explicit text messages about women. LINK

House Democrats demand GOP majority consider Medicaid expansion during Friday special session to elect new speaker (Times Free Press) Tennessee House Democrats are demanding majority GOP leaders agree to a vote on expanding the state’s Medicaid program as the Republican-dominated chamber prepares to convene Friday in a special legislative session to elect Cameron Sexton as the new speaker. On Thursday, Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart, of Nashville, denounced Republicans’ continued resistance to extend the health care program for the poor to some 300,000 Tennesseans under the federal Affordable Care Act, calling it “ridiculous.” LINK

House Democrats to push Medicaid expansion in special session (Daily Memphian) The House Democratic Caucus is set to push legislation to expand Medicaid in Tennessee in Friday’s special session of the Legislature, saying the state has lost out on more than $5 billion by refusing to take federal funds under the Affordable Care Act. During a press conference State Rep. Mike Stewart said the entire 26-member caucus and Republican state Rep. Kelly Keisling of Byrdstown signed a letter to House Speaker Pro Tem Bill Dunn urging a reconvening of the House following Friday’s session to expand Medicaid to the “maximum extent under federal law.” Stewart was flanked by photos of shuttered hospitals during the conference. LINK

Dems promise to use ‘every procedural tool in the book’ to discuss expelling representative (WTVF-TV) Tennessee state democrats promise to “use every procedural tool in the book” to have a resolution to expel Representative David Byrd from the state legislature during Friday’s special legislative session. In advance of the gathering to appoint speaker-select Cameron Sexton to the highest position in the state house, the democratic caucus met to make their demands clear. “We need to address the credibly accused, apologizing child molester that we have on the house floor. We can do it tomorrow,” said Knoxville Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson, who authored the resolution. LINK

Anonymous tweets. A peed-on chair. Control of the caucus campaign committee: The latest House GOP scuffle (Tennessean) A group of Republican lawmakers are squabbling over who ran an anonymous Twitter account, creating intraparty beef that became a matter of business at Thursday’s House GOP Caucus meeting. The Twitter account in question largely attacked Republican state House members and staff, branding itself as a source of building gossip for legislative insiders. The discussion came months after those scorned by the account launched an amateur investigation to identify which Republican lawmakers were behind it — and after one of their suspects found himself with a urine-soaked office chair. LINK

One Trend Tennessee’s New House Speaker Won’t End: State Lawmakers Overriding Local Governments (WPLN Radio) The man set to become the next Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives defended the role of state government in reversing local ordinances. In a recent interview with WPLN, Crossville Republican Cameron Sexton said overriding municipalities is sometimes necessary — especially if the law could be seen as going against the state constitution. Throughout the years, the Tennessee General Assembly has passed preemptions that range from prohibiting cities from banning plastic bags and straws and utensils, to curtailing the powers of Nashville’s newly-formed police oversight board. LINK

Tennessee man arrested after terrorist threats against ‘state capital’ over dislike of President Trump sent to news station (Tennessean) A man police say made terrorist threats against the Tennessee “state capital” was arrested Wednesday in Waverly, the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security said. It was not immediately clear if he meant the state capitol building in Nashville, or the city in general. Nathan Semans allegedly sent an email to WKRN-TV, NEWS 2 on Wednesday, threatening to “blow someone’s brain out” at the “state capital” over his stated displeasure with President Donald Trump, police reported. WKRN passed the email on to law enforcement. LINK

Tennessee one of friendliest states in country, New York least friendly per survey (WZTV-TV) A survey by a travel website ranks Tennessee as one of the friendliest states in America. Big 7 Travel surveyed their 1.5 million followers on social media to come up with the rankings. Based on user feedback, Minnesota was considered the friendliest state, followed by Tennessee. The travel site states Tennesseans “have a buzzing attitude and an eagerness to show off their city to out-of-towners.” LINK


Guest column: Rural America needs the Broadband Data Improvement Act (Tennessean)The Ford Model A rambled, shuddered and lumbered its way down a dusty country road. Driving the car was a man I never met but whose actions have helped me and countless others reach our destinations every single day. Over the course of several years, my great-grandfather, Oscar Denton Little Sr., hauled carloads of concerned citizens from Clarkrange, Tennessee, to Nashville to lobby their elected officials to construct modern roads and highways to serve their rural community. The construction of new and improved roadways meant access to urban markets for farmers and the opportunity for the community to have better access to higher education, health care and jobs. LINK

Thursday, August 22

Groundbreaking Held For New Veterans Home In Bradley County (Chattanoogan) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, Department of Veterans Services Commissioner Courtney Rogers and Ed Harries, executive director of the Tennessee State Veterans’ Home Board, were joined by federal, state and local partners Wednesday as they broke ground on the new Bradley County Tennessee State Veterans’ Home in Cleveland. U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, State Senator Mike Bell, State Senator Todd Gardenhire, State Rep. Dan Howell, State Rep. Mark Hall, Bradley County Mayor Gary Davis, Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks, Many-Bears Grinder, former Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Veterans Services, staff from the Bradley County Veteran Services Office and community members participated in the groundbreaking celebration. LINK

Ground broken for $47 million Bradley County state veterans home (Times Free Press) Vietnam War veteran James Goins was among more than a hundred people who celebrated Wednesday’s groundbreaking of a $47 million state veterans home in Bradley County, Tennessee … Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, who spoke at Wednesday’s ceremony, told the Times Free Press that the veterans home is an example of how government entities can work together with a common goal. “It’s a true partnership to serve those who have served us the most,” Lee said. “One of the most important things for us to remember is that really, government is not the answer to the greatest challenges we have. It’s when the people come together, then the challenges are met.” LINK

‘This is unbelievable’: Tennessee State Veterans’ Home soon coming to Cleveland (WTVC-TV) County and state leaders broke ground Wednesday on a $47 million project that will provide care for qualified veterans. The new Tennessee State Veterans’ Home is in Cleveland and will soon be built. Officials say it’s been 16 years in the making. LINK

Veterans’ home breaks ground in Bradley County (WDEF-TV) After years of waiting, people celebrated the groundbreaking of the veterans home in Bradley County. Doyle Rice served in Korea. He is from Cleveland, but is living two and a half hours away at the Veterans Home in Murfreesboro … On Wednesday morning, Governor Bill Lee attended a groundbreaking ceremony with others who helped make this possible. LINK

Foreign investment big part of Tennessee’s job picture (WKRN-TV) Think of names like Nissan, Bridgestone or VW that come with thousands of jobs for Tennesseans. Pursuing companies overseas is part of the job for Tennessee governors and a key state government department. When you talk about foreign investment in Tennessee, the words often begin on the 27th floor of a downtown Nashville state office building … She traveled in June with Governor Bill Lee on his first economic development trip to Asia. Its a yearly trek for Tennessee governors going back to Lamar Alexander in the 1980s when he led the effort to convince Nissan to build a huge auto plant just outside of Nashville in Smyrna. LINK

Montgomery County ranks second-highest of all Tennessee counties for tourism growth (Leaf-Chronicle) Montgomery County saw the second-highest growth rate in tourism spending of all 95 Tennessee counties during 2018. Direct travel spending in the Clarksville area increased 9.12 percent over 2017, for a record-high of $244.7 million. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and state Department of Tourist Development Commissioner Mark Ezell said the state hit a record-high $22 billion in domestic and international travel spending, up 6 percent from 2017. Travelers in Tennessee spend an estimated $60 million per day. LINK

Smokey to make special appearance at bill signing, making him TN state dog (WTVF-TV) Lawmakers passed a bill making the Bluetick Coonhound the state dog of Tennessee. NewsChannel 5 has learned that Smokey, the beloved University of Tennessee mascot, will visit the capitol Thursday. The hound will be there for the signing of the bill, which makes him one of the most import dogs in the state. Even though the Bluetick was just recently named the state dog, it’s had a strong connection to Tennessee since 1953 when the University of Tennessee picked a Bluetick Coonhound as their mascot. LINK

Dozens write Governor Bill Lee asking for exoneration of Adam Braseel (WRCB-TV) Adam Braseel filed an official petition last week, and the family has also been collecting letters on Braseel’s behalf. LINK

Governor Pledged Support for Rural Tennessee (Buffalo River Review) “What happens in rural Tennessee matters to every Tennessean. We are only as rich as our poorest neighbor,” Governor Bill Lee said last week to a group of elected officials and community leaders at the inaugural Rural Opportunity Summit, held in Perry County at Linden Valley Baptist Conference Center on Tuesday and Wednesday, August 13 & 14. LINK

Woman charged with TennCare fraud (Robertson County Connection) A Sumner County woman was charged in Robertson County with fraudulently obtaining TennCare benefits by falsely claiming her minor children resided with her in order to be eligible. The Office of Inspector General (OIG), with the assistance of the Robertson County Sheriff’s Office, recently announced the arrest of Amber N. Parrish, 35, of Goodlettsville. She is charged with TennCare fraud and theft of services over $10,000 in an indictment accusing her of making false and fictitious statements to the state, claiming her minor children as dependents in her household in order to be eligible for TennCare benefits.  Parrish received $10,357.66 in TennCare medical assistance benefits she did not qualify for. LINK

University of Tennessee’s student newspaper to focus on digital, cuts back print edition (News Sentinel) The University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s student-run newspaper, The Daily Beacon, is cutting back print production to once a week in an effort to focus more on its digital presence. The change was announced in a letter from the Beacon’s current editor-in-chief, Kylie Hubbard. The paper will now publish weekly on Wednesdays. In addition, the student media group will now focus more on publishing on its website, video production and production of Honey Magazine. LINK

One in three Tennessee teachers wants to leave the profession, survey says (Chalkbeat Tennessee) A third of Tennessee teachers say they would leave the profession for a higher-paying job and also would choose a different career if given a do-over, according to the results of a new statewide survey. At the same time, three-fourths of teachers who responded to the survey reported feeling positively about the way their school runs, and nearly 90% said they would recommend their school to parents. LINK

Tennessee could be one of the states examining antitrust issues with big tech companies (WZTV-TV) Multiple reports state big tech companies such as Facebook and Amazon could be facing investigations by multiple states to examine antitrust concerns. CNBC cites a top official at the Department of Justice as saying “a couple of dozen states” are examining concerns from consumers and businesses about online search, social media, and retail services. While no Attorneys General have confirmed if their states are part of the probe, Tennessee could be one of them. FOX 17 News reached out to the office of Attorney General Herbert H.Slatery III and the office could not confirm or deny potential involvement. LINK

Upgrades coming to Warriors’ Path State Park (WJHL-TV) Warriors’ Path remains one of the most popular state parks in all of Tennessee. But in order to keep up with growing visitor demand, the park will be receiving some major updates worth over $6.4 million. “We see 2 million to 2.4 million visitors per year, or visits per year,” said Sarah Leedy, Warriors’ Path State Park manager. “Consistently we’ve been hearing things like ‘your campsites aren’t big enough for today’s RVs, your marina is too small, we don’t know where the Visitor Center is, we don’t know where the park office is.’” LINK

Execution Shift (Memphis Flyer) Conservatives argue death penalty is a ‘prime example of bloated, broken government.’ State officials began executing death-row inmates again here last year — another just last week — but a group of conservatives is speaking out against the death penalty and says changes on it are afoot in red-state legislatures. Stephen Michael West was executed in Nashville last Thursday. He was convicted in the 1986 murders of a mother and her 15-year-old daughter in Union and for raping the daughter. LINK

Tennessee abortion waiting period lawsuit headed for trial (AP) Opponents to a Tennessee law requiring women to wait 48 hours before getting an abortion to argue that such restrictions help perpetuate negative stereotypes about gender. The argument is part of a lengthy lawsuit challenging the legality of the waiting period rule, which Tennessee’s GOP-controlled Statehouse passed in 2015. LINK

Tennessee General Assembly returns for an extraordinary session (Tennessean) Members of the Tennessee General Assembly will return to Nashville this week, where the House and Senate will gavel in for an extraordinary session. LINK

Your insider’s guide to everything happening during the Tennessee legislature’s special session (Tennessean) Members of the Tennessee General Assembly will return to Nashville this week, where the House and Senate will gavel in — more than three months after adjourning for the year — for an extraordinary session. The special session, called in late June by Gov. Bill Lee, is being held ultimately to allow the House of Representatives to officially elect its next speaker following the resignation of former Speaker Glen Casada from his leadership position. LINK

Tennessee AG asked to weigh in on possible lawmaker ousting (AP) A Tennessee legislative leader is asking the attorney general for guidance on whether the House of Representatives can expel a member for conduct that occurred decades ago. Rep. Cameron Sexton, who has been appointed by his Republican caucus to become the next House speaker, submitted the request Wednesday. Lawmakers will meet on Friday for a special legislative session to formally elect Sexton to the leadership position. However, advocates hope lawmakers also use the time to expel Republican Rep. David Byrd, who is accused of sexual misconduct by three women nearly 30 years ago. LINK

Incoming House Speaker Cameron Sexton asks attorney general for Rep. David Byrd-related expulsion opinion (Tennessean) With the legislature set to convene for a special session on Friday, the next speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives is asking the state’s top attorney for an opinion related to efforts to expel Rep. David Byrd. Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, asked Attorney General Herbert Slatery on Wednesday for an opinion about expelling a member of the chamber for conduct that occurred prior to them joining the legislature. Byrd has faced calls for his resignation for more than a year after WSMV published a story that featured three women who alleged the Waynesboro Republican sexually assaulted them when he was their high school coach in the 1980s. LINK

New House Speaker asks for Attorney General opinion on whether Byrd can be expelled (WSMV-TV) Speaker-elect Cameron Sexton is asking the Tennessee Attorney General for his opinion on whether embattled Rep. David Byrd can be expelled from office. Sexton, R-Crossville, said the allegations against Byrd, R-Waynesboro, are serious, describing the situation as complex and unprecedented. LINK

Presumed House Speaker Wants Attorney General To Opine On Efforts To Expel Rep. David Byrd (WPLN Radio) Presumed Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton is asking the state’s top attorney to issue an opinion on whether an embattled lawmaker could be expelled. The request is related to an effort to kick out Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, who has been accused by three women of sexual assault while he was their high school coach over 30 years ago. LINK

TN House speaker-select asks for opinion on removing Rep. Byrd due to misconduct before serving (WTVF-TV) Cameron Sexton, the speaker-select for the Tennessee House of Representatives, has sent a letter to the state’s Attorney General asking whether Rep. David Byrd can be expelled for actions prior to their election. The implication is whether the house could expel Rep. David Byrd, who has been accused of sexual assault from his time as a teacher and basketball coach at Wayne County High School . Specifically, the letter asks “May the House of Representatives expel a member for conduct which occurred more than twenty-five years prior to the member’s initial election to the House of Representatives and that is publicly known at the time of the member’s most recent re-election to the House of Representatives.” LINK

AG asked to opine on power to oust Byrd from House (Tennessee Journal) Rep. Cameron Sexton, the Republican nominee to be elected speaker during Friday’s special session, is asking state Attorney General Herbert Slatery about whether the chamber has the power to oust Rep. David Byrd over allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage basketball players when he was their coach in the 1980s. LINK

Sexton meets NRA leader but says no gun talk took place (Daily Memphian) Tennessee House Speaker nominee Cameron Sexton met National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre at a NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway over the weekend, but Sexton said they didn’t discuss gun policy. In spite of national debate surrounding gun control in the wake of two mass shootings, Sexton said he and LaPierre merely exchanged pleasantries when they were in one of the Bristol sky boxes. “No, it was merely, ‘Hi, nice to meet you. Thanks for being in Tennessee,’ ” Sexton said. LINK

House Speaker nominee requests attorney general’s opinion on member expulsion (Daily Memphian) House Speaker nominee Cameron Sexton is asking the state attorney general whether the House can oust someone for actions that took place a quarter-century before election, apparently referring to embattled state Rep. David Byrd. The Tennessee Journal, though, is reporting Attorney General Herbert Slatery won’t be able to give an opinion within the next two days. LINK

Panel on aging: Tennessee Rep. Mike Carter weighs in on excessive non-emergency 911 calls, committee efforts (Times Free Press) Tennessee Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, says he wants to help local fire departments and social service providers find long-term solutions to the high volume of non-emergency 911 calls from aging and disabled Tennesseans who’ve fallen through the care cracks. But immediate solutions are needed too, he said, especially in rural communities. Firefighters respond to almost all 911 calls, and increasingly — as the population ages — people turn to 911 for help with basic tasks such as getting down stairs, reaching the TV remote or turning on the lights. LINK

Abortion rights advocate responds to being removed from Senate hearing (Daily Memphian) A video of a Memphis-based advocate for women’s reproductive rights being cut off in a Senate hearing regarding a proposed abortion bill has gone viral on the web. And now the woman in the video is sharing the testimony she said she wasn’t allowed to share with a Tennessee Senate committee, before being escorted out by authorities. Cherisse Scott is CEO and founder of SisterReach, a nonprofit organization which specializes in outreach and awareness for women’s and girl’s reproductive rights. She met with leadership at Planned Parenthood Memphis Health Center on Poplar Wednesday morning to offer her reaction to being removed from the hearing. LINK

Tennessee Black Caucus to request TBI investigation into Casada, special prosecutor (Daily Memphian) The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators is set to request the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation look into potential “public corruption” in former House Speaker’s Office and also look into a special prosecutor from Coffee County handling a black activist’s case. State Rep. G.A. Hardaway, chairman of the Tennessee Black Caucus, is prepared to hold a press conference Thursday to ask the TBI to investigate the actions of former House Speaker Glen Casada, former House Chief of Staff Cade Cothren, Coffee County District Attorney Craig Northcott and possibly several others in connection with the case of Justin Jones. They also alleged possible bribery involving the education savings account vote. LINK

Fleischmann Report: Not interested in U.S. Senate seat (Cleveland Daily Banner) U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann told members of the Rotary Club of Cleveland Tuesday that he may be the only Tennessean serving on a congressional appropriations committee when Sen. Lamar Alexander’s term ends in 2021. The congressman is visiting Cleveland to attend the groundbreaking of the Bradley County Tennessee State Veterans Home on Wednesday. LINK

Progressive groups eye Jim Cooper for primary challenge (Nashville Post) Eli Motycka expected more from Jim Cooper, Nashville’s long-serving Democratic representative in the U.S. House of Representatives. Motycka is an organizer with the Nashville chapter of the Sunrise Movement, a political advocacy group focused on climate change. He grew up in Nashville, where he played on a youth baseball team coached by Cooper, who had a son on the squad. So when Motycka and like-minded Sunrise members met with Cooper earlier this year, he expected to respectfully encourage the congressman to co-sponsor the Green New Deal, an aspirational but nonbinding suite of policy proposals put forth by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). LINK

Nationwide nursing shortage impacting Ballad Health hospitals (WJHL-TV) A nationwide nursing shortage is impacting local hospitals, and healthcare professionals are trying to manage the problem. A 2019 report released by Nursing Solutions, Inc. estimated the shortage of registered nurses will reach 1.13 million by 2024. The U.S. Health Resources and Service Administration projected Tennessee will only be able to meet half of the demand for registered nurses by next year. “We have a great need for more nurses and there are multiple reasons for that,” said Lisa Smithgall, senior vice president and chief nursing executive for Ballad Health. LINK

Shelby County medical rides get a Lyft with new partnership (Memphis Business Journal) A new program hopes to give a Lyft to Memphians needing medical transport. Memphis-based Tennessee Carriers Inc. and Lyft Inc. launched a one-year pilot program in Memphis on Monday, Aug. 19. Tennessee Carriers brokers non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) for TennCare members statewide. The Lyft pilot program will roll out in Shelby County first, with plans to venture out to other Tennessee metros in the future. LINK

New TVA CEO shares vision for powering & empowering Tennessee Valley’s 10M customers (WBIR-TV) The number of miles new TVA President and CEO Jeff Lyash traveled in his first 2.5 months on the job would have taken him almost halfway around the world. “I think we calculated, we traveled about 10,000 miles across seven states here in the valley meeting with community leaders, elected officials, customers employees trying to learn from them what is important,” Lyash said.  Armed with the information he gathered, Lyash will go into his first board meeting on Aug. 22 with plans for the power producer and its 10 million customers. He will recommend to board members no rate increase for the coming year. LINK

Spouses, supporters of coal ash cleanup workers want TVA to fire contractor, provide health insurance (Times Free Press) Nearly 11 years after America’s worst coal ash spill in Kingston, Tennessee, the Tennessee Valley Authority is still having to deal with the legacy of the disaster and those who cleaned it up. With dozens of supporters standing behind them, spouses and other supporters of former contract workers who claim they were injured cleaning up the spill appealed to the TVA board Wednesday to do more to aid the hundreds of workers who removed more than 1.1 billion gallons of coal fly ash that spilled into the Emory and Clinch River from a broken TVA dike at TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant in 2008. LINK

Video: Coal ash spill workers and activists speak to TVA board (News Sentinel) LINK

Distribution center tax break leads to questions about wages required for public incentives (Commercial Appeal) Chinese e-commerce company Cherry Tree International Corp. has plans to open a Memphis distribution center at 3955 E. Holmes Road. The company, a subsidiary of Shanghai Lowen Group, currently has two U.S. distribution centers in California and Delaware. It plans to create 25 jobs at the Memphis location. The company requested a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes incentive that would lower its property tax obligation by 75% over the span of 10 years, according to documents from the Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) for Memphis and Shelby County. LINK

EDGE approves tax incentives for ‘Bluff City Law’ and e-commerce operation (Daily Memphian) The Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis and Shelby County (EDGE) approved incentives Wednesday, Aug. 21, for the filming of a TV series in Memphis and an e-commerce distribution facility for a China-based company near the Tennessee/Mississippi state line. The organization approved $1.4 million in property tax cuts for NBCUniversal in a Jobs PILOT (payment-in-lieu-of-taxes). The company is currently filming an hour-long legal drama, “Bluff City Law,” in Memphis. The show premieres at 9 p.m. on Sept. 23 on NBC. Starring Jimmy Smits, the series is about a Memphis law firm that specializes in civil rights cases. LINK

Tennessee ranked in top 10 states with most sex offenders per capita (WTVF-TV) The Volunteer State recently ranked in the top 10 states with the most sex offenders per capita, according to a report by AsecureLife. The study found Tennessee has 359 sex offenders per every 100,000 people. LINK


Bill Hagerty: Why I stood with President Donald Trump to represent America overseas (Jackson Sun) After leading Trump’s Tennessee Victory Team and serving as a senior leader on President Trump’s transition team, the president asked me to represent him as the United States Ambassador to Japan. It is a tremendous privilege to serve our nation as the president’s representative to another nation. When it is a country that is America’s strongest ally and a top economic partner, the honor takes on a new dimension of responsibility. LINK

Randy Body: Opioid addiction costs lives, it also costs economically (Elizabethton Star) If we keep going in the direction we are headed, by the year 2023 more people will die from opioids than all of our wars combined. Opioids and addiction are decimating families and communities across our state. As addiction springs from multiple causes, the fight against it must also come from different fronts. We must work together in order to stop this terrible disease. On Aug. 1, we started just that. The University of Tennessee System hosted the first Summit for Opioid Addiction and Response (SOAR). I was blown away by the magnitude and depth of discussions that were had regarding this important issue. LINK

Guest column: How conservatives are making the best case against the death penalty (Tennessean) Amy Lawrence is a conservative. She has worked for Republican campaigns in Tennessee from the state legislature to Congress. She used to support the death penalty. She now does not. “I had gone back and forth on it for years,” said Lawrence, who now heads up the Tennessee chapter of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, “but when I started looking at whether it made practical sense, it just didn’t add up to my conservative values.” LINK

Guest column: Expand medication-assisted treatment to prevent overdose deaths (News Sentinel) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a report breaking down drug overdose deaths in 2018 across the United States. While they were down nationwide, the data coming out of Tennessee tell a different, and alarming, story. Between December 2017 and December 2018, overdose deaths in the state rose by an estimated 4.8%. Not only does this go against the national trend, it is in stark contrast to the experience of neighboring states. LINK

State Sen. Jeff Yarbro: Tennessee General Assembly holds a ‘not-so-special’ session (Tennessean) This week, which began with the commemoration of the 1920 special session to ratify the 19th Amendment, will end with a far less consequential special session of the Tennessee General Assembly. On Friday, the House will convene to elect a successor to  Speaker Casada following months of scandals that engulfed the legislature and embarrassed the state. Then the legislature will adjourn, pretending all is well. LINK

Guest column: Court right to rein in Tennessee state officials’ cloaking of public records (Tennessean) The Tennessee Court of Appeals in a ruling this month put much-needed limits around the so-called investigative exemption that has been used by the state to cloak otherwise public records. “We hold that public records created in the ordinary course of business, which are non-investigative in nature, and which are otherwise accessible by Tennessee citizens under the TPRA (Tennessee Public Records Act), do not subsequently become exempt from disclosure because of the initiation of a criminal investigation in which those records become relevant,” the court ruled in Scripps Media Inc. v. Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. LINK

Wednesday, August 21

16 Years in the Making, A Dream Will Come True (Cleveland Daily Banner) In less than 24 hours, Cleveland will play host to an army of local and state dignitaries converging along the rolling hills of a wooded plot on the city’s southern end to break ground on the Bradley County Tennessee State Veterans Home. To begin at 10:30 a.m., the Westland Drive ceremonies will include an array of guest speakers, and delivering the keynote remarks will be Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee. The symbolic shovels in the dirt ceremony will take place immediately after the string of addresses. Not only will Cleveland, Bradley County and Tennessee government representatives lace the countryside event, but also a throng of local advocates who have labored 16 years to bring Wednesday’s happenings to fruition. LINK

Maria Lee encourages kids in community service (KnoxTNToday) When Bill Lee beat three better known contenders to win the Republican nomination for governor, many of us asked, “Who is Bill Lee?” Even more people must wonder about his wife. Who is Maria Lee? This week we learned one thing. She gets things done. In May, Lee launched Tennessee Serves, an initiative designed to encourage Tennesseans to volunteer in their communities. As a component of that initiative, Lee introduced the Tennessee Kids Serve Summer Challenge. Rising kindergarten through sixth grade students were tasked with completing a minimum of three to five service projects from eight categories, including serving the elderly, food-insecure and first responders. LINK

Competition fuels Tennessee’s pursuit of new jobs (WKRN-TV) Big companies coming to Tennessee always makes headlines, but just why are they coming here? “Every project today is enormously competitive,” says Commissioner Bob Rolfe, who heads the Tennessee Economic and Community Development Department. He says many nearby states such as the Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and Kentucky are Tennessee’s biggest competitors for companies with new jobs. “Its something about coming to the south where you have a much more pro-business friendly environment… and lower taxes.” adds the commissioner. LINK

Giant private company moving nearly 100 tech jobs from California to Tennessee (Memphis Business Journal) Asurion is taking a big step toward filling its new Nashville headquarters. The Nashville-based tech giant will move nearly 100 high-paying product development jobs to Nashville from San Mateo, California, company spokeswoman Nicole Miller said in an email. CEO Tony Detter will remain based in San Mateo along with about 50 employees, Miller said. The company has offered to relocate nearly three-quarters of the California employees whose roles are moving to Music City. Many are expected to make the transition by the end of the year … Last month, Gov. Bill Lee visited several Silicon Valley companies on a West Coast business recruiting trip. LINK

$35M permit filed for U of M music facility (Memphis Business Journal) A $35 million building permit was just filed for the University of Memphis’ new music facility. The permit for “new construction of music building” was filed Aug. 16 with Montgomery Martin Contractors LLC listed as the contractor and Archimania as the architect. The site address was for 3800 Central Ave. To see renderings of the project by Archimania with Fleming Architects, click the slideshow. A $40 million capital campaign for the project was launched back in 2014. The new facility, which will be called the Scheidt Family Music Center at the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music, is expected to be completed by summer 2021. LINK

UofM receives $2M in grants to fight opioid crisis (WMC-TV) The University of Memphis has announced it has received nearly $2 million in grant money to fight the opioid crisis. The university has been awarded two grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that will help treat patients addicted to opioids. A statement the university released says the more than $1.9 million will provide training and resources to students looking to help victims of the opioid crisis. LINK

High-profile rape allegations have forced other Tennessee universities to respond (Tennessean) Previous high profile rape allegations against student athletes prompted some Tennessee universities to undergo sweeping changes in their approach to prevention, education, punishment and public transparency when players are accused of misconduct. On Tuesday, Tennessee State University became the latest state campus confronted by sexual assault allegations against a star athlete. Quarterback Demry Croft was arrested and charged with six felony counts of rape and two counts of sexual battery stemming from a Dec. 1 incident. He is free after posting a $50,000 bond. LINK

University of Tennessee professor sexually harassed students for years, report says (News Sentinel) Henri Grissino-Mayer, the longtime University of Tennessee-Knoxville professor and tree ring expert who resigned last year amid a sexual misconduct investigation, repeatedly and frequently violated UT’s sexual harassment policy over many years, according to a yearlong internal probe. In response, Chancellor Donde Plowman is calling for an external review of UT’s sexual misconduct investigation process. LINK

Data-Driven Health Care Benefits Underserved Populations (Government Technology) In this month’s installment of the Innovation of the Month series, we explore Gainesville, Fla.’s Community Resource Paramedic program, which aims to address the social determinants of health and resolve the underlying issue of misutilization of the emergency system. MetroLab’s Ben Levine and Stefania Di Mauro-Nava spoke with Ariella Bak, program coordinator at Gainesville Fire Rescue, and Dr. Lisa Chacko, associate medical director at Gainesville Fire Rescue and assistant professor at the University of Florida College of Medicine, to learn more. LINK

Tennessee Democratic lawmaker vows to ‘work on every maneuver that’s possible’ to expel embattled Rep. Byrd (Times Free Press) A Knoxville Democratic lawmaker says she is “pursuing every option available” in her effort to expel Republican Rep. David Byrd from the Tennessee House during Friday’s special legislative session. Rep. Gloria Johnson’s comments came after a resolution she filed calling for the chamber to oust the Waynesville Republican was not included on a House calendar. “I’ll absolutely work on every maneuver that’s possible,” Johnson said of her pre-filed resolution to oust Byrd, a high school teacher and coach accused by three former female basketball players of sexually assaulting them decades ago. LINK

Resolution to oust Byrd won’t be on calendar. But is one even needed? (TN Journal) The Tennessean’s Natalie Allison reports that a resolution seeking to oust state Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) over sexual misconduct allegations dating back to when he was a girls’ high school basketball coach in the 1980s won’t be placed on the House calendar for this week’s special session. If Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) wants her resolution to be taken up, it would require a two-thirds majority to suspend the rules — the same margin required to oust a sitting member. LINK

The Tennessee House expelled a member by resolution in 1980. Will they do it again? (Tennessean) This week, when the Tennessee legislature convenes for a special session, House members could be faced with the prospect of expelling a third member in the last 40 years. Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, has filed a resolution seeking to expel Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, who for more than a year has faced resignation calls after three women said he sexually assaulted them when he was their high school basketball coach in the 1980s. LINK

Grand Divisions Podcast: Murder, an impeachment and wars. A look back at Tennessee’s long history of special sessions (Tennessean) The Tennessee legislature will convene this week for its 60th extraordinary session. The main task is two-fold: allow Rep. Cameron Sexton to formally take office as the next House speaker and approve a series of Supreme Court rules. At the same time, the session could feature additional intrigue given Rep. Gloria Johnson’s resolution seeking to expel Rep. David Byrd. On this episode, we sit down with legislative librarian Eddie Weeks to look back at Tennessee’s rich history of special legislative sessions. In the past, special sessions have covered everything from wars and ratifying amendments to the U.S. Constitution to impeaching a sitting judge and reapportionment. LINK

Camper backs resolution against neo-Nazis, white nationalists (Daily Memphian) With a special session of the Legislature three days away, House Minority Leader Karen Camper says the timing is right for a resolution condemning neo-Nazis and white nationalists in the wake of a mass shooting. The Memphis Democrat said she will support a resolution by Nashville Democratic state Rep. John Ray Clemmons calling out 37 white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups. The measure urges law enforcement to recognize them as terrorist organizations and go after their criminal elements with the “same fervor” they would other terrorist groups to protect the country. LINK

Air Ambulance Operators Rise Against Alexander’s Ban On Surprise Medical Bills (WPLN Radio) Air ambulance companies are fighting Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander’s effort to ban surprise billing. They argue that limiting what they charge would hurt access to lifesaving transportation in rural areas like Tennessee, where nearly a dozen outlying hospitals have closed in recent years. Nearly two-thirds of air ambulance rides are out-of-network for the patient, according to the Government Accountability Office. That means an insurer may cover only a fraction of the cost, leaving patients with the balance. That’s what’s often called a “surprise medical bill.” LINK

“Forget the things that are behind you,” Huckabee says at Bristol prayer breakfast (Kingsport Times-News) You should look at where you’re going rather than where you’ve been, former presidential candidate and ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told more than 700 business leaders and elected officials at a Bristol Community Prayer Breakfast on Tuesday. “Forget the things that are behind you. You can’t fix it,” Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, said. “Our life is perishable. … You can give it away or throw it away. … Sometimes we don’t want to trust God. We want to tell God how to do it. One of the toughest lessons is to trust God. … The worst thing for a believer is to spend his entire day looking behind at what was.” LINK

Mike Huckabee keynote speaker at 2019 Bristol community prayer breakfast (WJHL-TV)  A two-time presidential candidate was the guest speaker at an event Tuesday morning in the Tri-Cities region. Mike Huckabee was the keynote speaker at the 2019 Bristol Community Prayer Breakfast in Bristol, Virginia. Huckabee was the Governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007. He was a candidate in the Republican presidential primaries in both 2008 and 2016. Huckabee’s daughter, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was the White House Press Secretary for President Donald TGrump for more than three years before stepping down in June. LINK

Conservative commentator Steve Gill in jail for not paying $170K in child support (Tennessean) As of Tuesday night, conservative commentator and WLAC host Steve Gill has been booked into the Williamson County Jail. In May, Williamson County Judge James Martin ordered the Tennessee Star co-founder to pay $170,000 in child support to his ex-wife, Kathryn B. Gill. At the time, he was given 10 days to pay the money.  His bond to leave jail is $170,000, the same as the child support amount, according to Williamson County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Sharon Puckett. LINK


Otis Sanford: On Gov. Bill Lee’s tenure so far (WATN-TV) Local 24 News political analyst and commentator Otis Sanford shares his point of view on Gov. Bill Lee’s tenure so far. When Tennessee Governor Bill Lee was running for the office last year, he promised to put more emphasis on rural counties and their specific needs. But after some eight months into his tenure, there has been little evidence that the Governor is following through. He is now attempting to change that perception. Last week, Lee took his entire cabinet to Perry County, about an hour and half drive from Nashville, in an effort to address rural concerns. LINK

Roy Exum: Earn The Right To Vote (Chattanoogan) For a person to legally vote in Tennessee is astonishingly easy. Go to any election commission in Tennessee, show a valid and acceptable identification card and the whole process takes 4-6 minutes — tops. All of America wants you to vote and I will do anything I can to help make that happen. But in the last week or so, a flurry of lawsuits has been filed because our State Legislature is determined to make it harder for the louts – some who are clearly racists and white supremacists alike —to cheat. LINK

Tuesday, August 20

The No. 1 question Microsoft, Lyft and others ask Gov. Lee (Nashville Business Journal) Whether he’s recruiting companies in Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco or Japan, Gov. Bill Lee says executives ask the same top question when he meets with them. “Workforce development,” Lee told a crowd of 800 on Aug. 16, at the latest Nashville Business Breakfast event held at Lipscomb University. “That is probably the most common and serious concern companies have: Are we going to be able to provide the workers they want?” (Notably, the Nashville metro area has posted the lowest unemployment rate of the nation’s large metros in 13 of the last 21 months.) LINK

Surface Dynamics launches $10M expansion in Tennessee (AP) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has announced a nearly $10 million investment by Surface Dynamics LLC to expand its operations in western Tennessee. Lee made the announcement about the Bartlett-based company on Monday along with the Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe. The expansion will create approximately 110 jobs over the next five years, with the company planning to hire office, engineering and production jobs. LINK

Surface Dynamics to expand in Bartlett (Daily Memphian) Bartlett-based Surface Dynamics LLC will expand, creating 110 more jobs and investing $10 million in Bartlett over the next five years, the company announced Monday through the governor’s office. Operating in Bartlett since 2010, Surface Dynamics is part of the medical division of UnitedCoatings Group, which provides coatings, 3-D printing, and other services to orthopedic equipment manufacturers. Surface Dynamics, 3110 Stage Post Drive, plans to hire office, engineering and production jobs with its expansion. The release from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development did not identify incentives or support that the state of Tennessee committed to provide to Surface Dynamics. LINK

Bartlett company Surface Dynamics expanding, adding 110 jobs (WREG-TV) A Bartlett, Tennessee company that provides coatings, 3-D printing and other services for medical manufacturers is expanding, state officials including Gov. Bill Lee announced Monday. Surface Dynamics will invest nearly $10 million and create approximately 110 jobs in Bartlett over the next five years, according to a statement from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Surface Dynamics, which has operated in Bartlett since 2010, plans to hire office, engineering and production jobs. LINK

Surface Dynamics to expand operations in Bartlett (WATN-TV) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and Surface Dynamics LLC officials today announced that the Bartlett-based company will expand its operations in West Tennessee. Surface Dynamics will invest nearly $10 million and create approximately 110 jobs in Bartlett over the next five years. Surface Dynamics has operated in Bartlett since 2010. Surface Dynamics is part of the medical division of UnitedCoatings Group, a worldwide leader in providing coatings, 3D printing, and solutions to orthopedic original equipment manufacturers. As part of its expansion in Bartlett, Surface Dynamics plans to hire office, engineering and production jobs LINK

Surface Dynamics Investing Nearly $10M In Tennessee Expansion (Business Facilities) Surface Dynamics LLC will invest nearly $10 million and create approximately 110 jobs in in West Tennessee over the next five years. The Bartlett, TN-based company is part of the medical division of UnitedCoatings Group, a worldwide leader in providing coatings, 3D printing, and solutions to orthopedic original equipment manufacturers. “Tennessee’s pro-business climate and skilled workforce make our state an ideal place for companies like Surface Dynamics to invest and grow,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “The lives of Tennesseans are changed when quality jobs are created in our communities, and I’d like to thank Surface Dynamics for its commitment to expand in Bartlett and West Tennessee.” LINK

Groundbreaking ceremony for the new Bradley County/Tennessee State Veterans Home (Cleveland Daily Banner) The Tennessee Department of Veterans Services is releasing a completed guest list today for  Wednesday’s 10:30 a.m. groundbreaking ceremony for the new Bradley County/Tennessee State Veterans Home on Westland Drive in South Cleveland. State and federal dignitaries will be here, including Gov. Bill Lee. Members of the general public are also invited, and the event will be heavily attended by local veterans and representatives of area veteran organizations. The $47 million veterans home will be Tennessee’s fifth such complex. Other veteran facilities are located in Murfreesboro, Humboldt, Knoxville and Clarksville. LINK

Tennessee kids complete 1,400 hours of service during First Lady’s summer challenge (Williamson Herald) Tennessee First Lady Maria Lee announced on Monday that kids from across the state completed 1,400 hours of service during the first annual Tennessee Kids Serve Summer Challenge. “We are humbled and encouraged by the kids that devoted a portion of their summer break to serving others,” Lee said. “Our hope is that their love for service continues to grow and becomes a part of their everyday life.” In May, Lee launched Tennessee Serves, an initiative designed to encourage Tennesseans to serve one another and volunteer in their communities. LINK

Fate of rural health care, hospitals a worry (Crossville Chronicle) Lyndon Baines is blunt when it comes to health care. “This should be a bipartisan issue,” he declared. “No matter what party you’re in, you should care about the health of human beings.” … The pair have sought intervention all summer ― from Rennova, the Florida-based medical laboratory company that owns the hospital; from their representatives in the Tennessee General Assembly; and from Gov. Bill Lee during a meeting in his Nashville office. LINK

Report: Tennessee among states with best community colleges (WVLT-TV) Tennessee has some of the best community colleges in the country, according to a new report from WalletHub. The report said Tennessee ranks tenth for best community college systems in the country. The top community colleges in Tennessee are Walters State Community College, Roan State Community College and Columbia State Community college. WalletHub said it took into consideration factors of cost, education outcomes and career outcomes when developing the lists. According to the report, Washington has the best community colleges in the country overall while Pennsylvania has the worst. LINK

WalletHub: These are Tennessee’s best community colleges at the cheapest rates (Times Free Press) LINK

New University of Memphis program seeks to increase graduation rate for black male students (Commercial Appeal) The University of Memphis launched a new initiative in hopes of raising graduation rates among its black male students, the university announced Monday. The African American Male Academy will start with a group of black male students in middle school and pair them with peer and faculty mentors, provide textbooks and other educational supplies, and give them access to early academic and career preparation. “Most students are in good academic standing when they leave the U of M before graduation — they leave for financial reasons,” university officials wrote in a statement announcing the program, adding that 60 percent of its students work more than 20 hours a week and have to help provide for their families. LINK

UofM announces creation of new African American Male Academy (WMC-TV) The University of Memphis wants to continue being a national leader in graduating African American students with the implementation of their newly announced African American Male Academy. The university hopes to start young African American male students on the right path to a college degree early in their education. “It is not done at the expense of other groups,” said Chairman of the African American Academy Dr. KB Turner. “It’s done to address a population that has a documented, long historical history of challenged when it comes to academic success.” LINK

Experts: Ransomware attacks should be wake-up call for Tennessee (WSMV-TV) A “coordinated” ransomware attack just hit more than 20 government agencies in Texas, and experts say it should be a wake-up call for Tennessee. The attacks in Texas have knocked several systems offline. The attacks essentially locks down information so a company or agency can’t access it until a ransom is paid to cyber criminals. “I’ve seen different state agencies, local agencies around the country be attacked. This is the first time we’re seeing some sort of coordinated effort,” president of Kraft Technology Don Baham said. “I think it’s a wake-up call for Tennessee agencies to make sure that they’re paying attention.” LINK

Metro to Settle Lawsuit After Exposing Employee Social Security Numbers (Nashville Scene) A little more than four years ago, Michael and Margaret Abbott were notified by the Internal Revenue Service that someone had attempted to file a fraudulent tax return in Michael’s name. The former Metro employees were the victims of identity theft, and the explanation was pretty simple: Metro had put their personal information, including social security numbers, on the internet. In all, the social security numbers of 21 Metro employees were exposed after they were included in a Human Resources Department training manual that was on Metro’s public website from 2012 to 2016. LINK

States to Move Forward With Antitrust Probe of Big Tech Firms (WSJ) A group of states is preparing to move forward with a joint antitrust investigation of big technology companies, according to people familiar with the situation, adding another layer of scrutiny to an industry already under a federal spotlight. The effort involving state attorneys general is expected to be formally launched as soon as next month, the people said. It is likely to focus on whether a handful of dominant technology platforms use their marketplace powers to stifle competition. As part of the probe, the states are likely to issue civil investigative demands, similar to subpoenas, to tech companies and other businesses, the people said. LINK

Texas Towns Slammed in ‘Coordinated’ Ransomware Attack (Government Technology) At least 23 local government entities in Texas were hit by ransomware last week, in what officials are describing as a “coordinated attack.” The attacks, the majority of which are believed to have struck “smaller, local governments,” were reported Friday morning, according to the state’s Department of Information Resources (DIR), which is leading the response to the incident. “At this time, the evidence gathered indicates the attacks came from one single threat actor,” DIR said, in a press release. LINK

Tennessee House Democratic leader won’t be able to press Medicaid expansion, school voucher repeal during special session (Times Free Press) Tennessee House Democrats won’t be able to push efforts to expand Medicaid or repeal a controversial school voucher law during Friday’s special legislative session, according to the GOP-led chamber’s top Democratic leader. “I had a couple of resolutions to do that, but they were both substantive,” Minority Leader Karen Camper, of Memphis, said Monday. “So I’m really not able to file them unless they extend the special session at least by a couple of days so they could be heard and read into the record.” LINK

Groups seek to block Tennessee voter signup penalties law (AP) Several voter registration organizations are asking a judge to stop Tennessee’s new restrictions for signing up voters from taking effect in October, saying the law has already curtailed their ability to enroll voters in communities of color and other historically disenfranchised groups. In a Nashville federal court filing Friday, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law wrote that Tennessee’s new law has left the groups that filed the lawsuit with the choice of either halting or significantly scaling back voter registration efforts ahead of the 2020 elections because of the financial risks and exposure to possible criminal prosecution. LINK

Groups seek to block new Tennessee voter registration law (Tennessee Journal) Several groups are seeking to block a new Tennessee law placing restrictions on signing up voters from going into effect, the AP’s Jonathan Mattise reports. The law, which is presumed to be the only one of its kind in the nation, imposes penalties — both fines and misdemeanor charges — on groups submitting too many incomplete registrations. The law is scheduled to take effect in October.LINK

Death with Dignity: Movement to change laws in Tennessee, Kentucky continues (WZTV-TV) Right now if you live in Tennessee or Kentucky and have a terminal illness, you cannot end your life with the help of modern medicine. However, the movement started by Brittany Diaz in 2014 is gaining major traction in the five years since her death. Her husband, Dan Diaz, hasn’t stopped fighting to make her dying wish come true, to be able to die with dignity explaining, “The promise I made Brittany is to work on this legislation so nobody else would have to leave home like we did. For her that was the huge injustice. We packed half of our house in a UHaul truck and drove 600 miles North to Portland, Oregon just so that Brittany would have this option.” LINK

Moms Demand Action’ rallies for more gun control legislation (WBIR-TV) A conversation about gun legislation is happening on a national level, from San Francisco to El Paso to right here in Knoxville. “I’m here because of my son, his life mattered, all lives matter, it’s gun sense it has to stop,” Zanobia Dobson said. Dobson’s son Zaevion passed away trying to shield his friends from gunfire in 2015. Dobson and Terry Walker Smith, another mom involved with Moms Demand Action said they have something common they never thought they would. They’ve both lost sons to gun violence. “We are sister soldiers,” Smith said. “We’re angel moms.” LINK

A resolution to expel Rep. David Byrd is being excluded from calendar during special session (Tennessean) The likelihood of the House hearing a resolution calling for Rep. David Byrd’s expulsion on Friday is waning, though the Democratic lawmaker leading the effort says she is undeterred. Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, filed a resolution to be heard during Friday’s special legislative session that would oust Byrd, though the item will not be placed on the House calendar, according to Minority Leader Karen Camper, D-Memphis, who spoke Monday with the chief clerk. LINK

Legislator to call for vote on expulsion of Rep. Byrd at special session (WSMV-TV) A state representative will call for the ouster of a fellow lawmaker on Friday when the House of Representatives convene on Friday. The House will be in special session to select a new Speaker of the House after the resignation of Glen Casada, R-Franklin, that was effective on Aug. 2. Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, said she will call for a vote on her resolution to oust Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro. Byrd is accused by three women of sexual misconduct when they were teenagers and he was their basketball coach at Wayne County High School. LINK

Coley won’t use state campaign funds for China trip (Daily Memphian) State Rep. Jim Coley is calling off a legislative delegation trip to China in October after a state watchdog panel declined to determine whether lawmakers could use excess campaign funds to defray the costs. Coley, a Bartlett Republican, said “unless people want to pay out of the own pocket,” the trip is “probably off” for a group of legislators who planned to take an “educational” tour of China. Nevertheless, Coley said he will go to the Far East this fall, regardless of the indecision by the Tennessee Registry of Campaign Finance. The trip was expected to cost $2,500 to $3,000 per person, according to a letter from Coley, who has about $4,100 in his account and is not seeking re-election in 2020. LINK

Huckabee looking forward to speaking at Bristol Prayer Breakfast (WCYB-TV) Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee will be the keynote speaker for the annual Bristol Community Prayer Breakfast Tuesday. Leaders gathered in Downtown Bristol to preview the event. The annual breakfast has been happening for 20 years. “The purpose of the event is not a political one,” Huckabee says. “It is strictly a spiritual event to encourage people in their faith. To help talk about the importance of a faithful walk with God. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to be with people from all different faiths and denominations, even political parties. Nobody’s going to feel like they’re out of place at the prayer breakfast. It’s going to be a great event for Bristol.” LINK

Democratic presidential hopeful wants portrait of Andrew Jackson removed from White House (WZTV-TV) A candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination wants to remove the portrait of Tennessee’s Andrew Jackson from the Oval Office if she’s elected. Author and activist Marianne Williamson made the statement at the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum held is Sioux City, Iowa Monday and Tuesday. This is the first presidential forum held to address concerns of Native Americans. LINK

Local farmers feel strain of tariffs, late planting season (WBBJ-TV) Agricultural tariffs between the U.S and China along with bad weather conditions were two of the impacts that farmers across the country have dealt with this year. “Right now it looks like we’re going to be locked down on these tariffs and it’s going to affect the trade through the rest of the year,” said Johnny Verell of Verell Farms. With the harvest season only a few weeks away, local farmers are beginning to prepare, even with impacts like the current trade wars still on their minds. LINK

Struggling CHS Slapped With Another Shareholder Suit (WPLN Radio) Community Health Systems and the company’s top executives face another shareholder lawsuit as the hospital chain’s stock price hits historic lows. This time, officials are accused of misleading investors with an accounting change. Just before the Franklin-based hospital chain reported earnings for the end of 2017, it warned that a new method to account for unpaid hospital bills would lead to lost profits. In one day, shares in the company plunged 17%. And they’ve fallen much further since then, to around $2.00 per share. LINK

Removal of wooden stakes in Franklin ire Sons of Confederate Veterans (Tennessean) A complaint filed with the Tennessee Historic Commission alleges that wooden stakes marking the deaths of Confederate generals were improperly removed. The Franklin chapter for the Sons of the Confederate Veterans filed the complaint last week, claiming the City of Franklin removed six wooden stakes from Columbia Avenue. Each stake symbolized a Confederate general who died in the Battle of Franklin during Nov. 30, 1864. Stakes were installed in 1999, but the SOV said the removal violated the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act, according to the complaint. LINK


Justin Owen: Memphis reading results prove that kids need ESAs now (Daily Memphian) The saying goes, “First you learn to read, then you read to learn.” Sadly for the vast majority of third-graders in Memphis, they aren’t receiving the education that will set them up for future success. Recent TNReady results revealed that an astonishing 76% of third-grade students in Memphis aren’t proficient in reading. This will have dire long-term consequences, as third-grade reading level is one of the most important benchmarks for educational attainment. Fortunately for many Memphis families, not all is lost and their children will not fall through the cracks like so many before them. LINK

Guest column: Tennessee lawmakers urged to lead in fighting gun massacre epidemic (News Sentinel) This is an open letter to U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn and U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett on the gun massacre epidemic. We are asking for your help with one of the most critical issues of our time. As your constituents, we ask that you imagine your family member being in the line of fire of yet another unstable member of society — one who was able to purchase a gun legally. As so often is the case, this shooter has no legal or mental health record but has been smoldering silently until he decides to pay a visit to, say, Center Hill Brentwood Mall, Turkey Creek or West Town Mall. LINK

Frank Cagle: The myth of the ‘gun show loophole’ (KnoxTNToday) The Tennessee Valley Fair owns nine acres of property on the north end of Chilhowee Park. It’s where the livestock exhibits are located during the annual event. The property is near Zoo Knoxville. When a story surfaced that the Clayton Foundation was looking at alternative sites to build a $100 million science museum, it was one location being considered. Ah, what might have been. The science museum and the zoo side by side would have been a mutually beneficial attraction and a tremendous educational experience. It is also at an interstate exit. By Chilhowee Park. With parking. And it would have cost very little to knock down some wooden barns. LINK

Guest column: Rural hospitals are hollowed out and caught in a cycle of failure (News Sentinel) Small towns and rural counties in Tennessee have their unique stories to tell, but there are some commonalities that are plaguing many of the state’s non-urban communities. These include high rates of chronic disease, the opioid crisis, lack of access to good paying jobs, and health care disparities. One issue stands out: the continuing closure of community hospitals across the state, deepening the health chasm between rural residents and city dwellers. LINK

Guest column: Deportation shouldn’t be the only option of illegal immigration (Tennessean) As a high school government teacher, I use moral dilemmas to engage. Here is my favorite: “Imagine a loved one, say your mother, is dying of a disease and the only cure is Medicine X. Unfortunately, Medicine X is too expensive for you to buy. Which leaves you with two choices: Option A: Steal from the local Walgreens. Option B: Let your mother die. What should you do?” Almost invariably, my students commit to robbing the store; and that I would say is the moral choice. Now, let’s switch some key terms in the stimuli. Replace mother with daughter. Disease with drug cartel and rape. Medicine X with crossing the border. Steal with cross. Walgreens with America. LINK

Guest column: Citizens must fight for the soul of Tennessee (Tennessean) “Since Jesus Christ walked the earth, the world learned of the dignity and worth of man. Jesus taught us everyone is a child of God and that every individual has immeasurable value in the sight of God … “So why, then, is the world in such a desperate plight? …”Christ can save the world only when he lives in our hearts.” It is not what we claim to believe but what we do and what we do not do that points to whether or not we are true followers of gospel. Acts 17:11 tells us, “Let us have no imitation Christian love. Let us have a genuine break with evil and a real devotion to good.”  LINK

Jay Greeson: Betting legal now; betting legally not likely until 2020 (Times Free Press) For a lot of us, the perception of the season changes long before the weather. College football season starts Saturday with Florida taking on Miami in Orlando. So, while it may be 90-plus degrees, the boys of fall are here. What’s not here is the chance to bet on the boys of fall. Yes, Tennessee has legalized sports wagering. It was supposed to start on July 1. In a perfect world it would have been in place for the start of football season, easily the most popular sport to gamble on around around the country. LINK

Monday, August 19

Gov. Bill Lee took his Cabinet to rural Tennessee, where local leaders asked for their help (Tennessean) Gathered in small groups at round tables, the rural county mayors, school superintendents and local chamber leaders understood each others’ plights. They compared how many hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime their small counties were paying ambulance drivers each year as they lose EMTs to larger, higher-paying departments. They talked about lacking modern infrastructure. They commiserated that their hospitals are gone. And, for hours, they had the governor’s ear. LINK

High Hopes receives grant from Gov. Lee’s discretionary budget disbursement (Franklin Home Page) High Hopes Development Center in Franklin received a disbursement grant from Gov. Bill Lee’s discretionary budget during a special check presentation Friday. The grant, which totaled $25,000, will help further High Hopes’ mission to provide education, therapeutic services and loving support to children with and without disabilities. “High Hopes remains committed to serving children of all abilities throughout the state of Tennessee,” said Gail Powell, the nonprofit’s executive director. “We’re grateful for the support of our governor and state legislators who are actively making a difference in the lives of these children.” LINK

Nashville’s traffic is on Gov. Lee’s radar (Nashville Business Journal) Gov. Bill Lee used to run his family’s HVAC business in Franklin — so he told a business audience on Friday to trust him when he says “deferring maintenance is a terrible idea.” Lee told the 800 attendees at Friday’s Nashville Business Breakfast that he’s bringing that mentality to the state Department of Transportation. He was responding to a question about whether he would support changing a state law to allow Nashville more flexibility to tackle its growing transit and traffic issues. What that means as far as policy remains to be seen, as the governor is just seven months into his term. LINK

Video: Gov. Bill Lee gives a tribute at the funeral of Debra K. Johnson (Tennessean) LINK

Gov. Bill Lee touts transparency but faces criticism, bumps along the way (Tennessean) Since taking office in January, Gov. Bill Lee has sought to increase transparency and openness in state government. He’s issued an executive order mandating transparency, invited the public to comment on legislation and launched a webpage that gives additional disclosure on economic development grants. He signed legislation that helps protect people who criticize government officials and other public figures. At the same time, his administration has faced criticism on a lack of transparency in other areas, including weakening a bill that would have increased disclosure of economic incentives and hosting a series of closed-door meetings across the state on health care and criminal justice issues. LINK

Vaping Craze Prompts New State Taxes (Stateline) With young people taking up electronic cigarettes in epidemic numbers, numerous states are slapping hefty taxes on vaping products and raising the legal age to purchase them to 21. The twin actions are designed to reduce vaping among young people and to bring in revenue for the states. The moves have taken on added urgency since reports that dozens of young people who used vaping products have been hospitalized for respiratory problems in states including California, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Doctors who have reported the illnesses to their public health departments aren’t sure exactly what caused the problems. LINK

In public records win, Tennessee appeals court says state can’t block requests due to investigations (Tennessean) In a significant First Amendment win, the Tennessee Court of Appeals on Friday ruled the state wrongly kept routine public records from multiple agencies secret. The appeals court embraced and strengthened the state’s public records laws and said public documents stay public even when they are ensnared in an ongoing criminal investigation. The ruling came after the state attorney general’s office refused to release state travel records, emails and other public documents related to Jason Locke, former acting director of the TBI, and another public official while multiple agencies investigated allegations that the two were having an affair. LINK

Decision time yet again for Tennessee House Republicans this week as GOP Caucus chair election looms (Times Free Press) Four Tennessee House Republicans, including a Signal Mountain lawmaker, are set to square off Thursday in an election to become the new “face” of the House GOP Caucus. A relatively late entrant into the contest, Patsy Hazlewood of Signal Mountain is vying with Reps. Michael Curcio of Dickson, Jeremy Faison of Cosby and Jerry Sexton of Bean Station to become the new GOP caucus chair. LINK

After Months Of Scandals, Tennessee House of Representatives Set To Elect New Speaker (WPLN Radio) Tennessee lawmakers will come back to Nashville later this week to pick a new House speaker. The election will take place during Friday’s special session, which was called with specific guidelines on what can and cannot take place. Gov. Bill Lee announced the special session in June, and according to the Tennessee Constitution, he has established what can be discussed during the meeting. The main purpose is for the House to elect its new speaker. LINK

Towns working on legislation to repeal voucher law (Daily Memphian) Rep. Joe Towns confirmed he is drafting legislation to turn back the state’s new education savings account law and said he notified House Speaker nominee Cameron Sexton of his intentions. Towns, a Memphis Democrat, said the bill is being drafted and he plans to sponsor it during the 2020 session of the 111th General Assembly. He hoped to bring it up for a vote in the Aug. 23 special session, but with Sexton saying he expects the session to last only one day, Towns said he will wait until next year instead. A substantive bill would require three readings and couldn’t be handled in one day. LINK

Rep. White predicts Byrd expulsion resolution faces tough path (Daily Memphian) State Rep. Mark White believes a Knoxville House member’s resolution to remove embattled Rep. David Byrd from the House could hit a wall in the Republican-controlled chamber during a special session. Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson said she is “absolutely” going to bring the legislation to expel Byrd from office amid allegations of sexual misconduct by three women when he was their basketball coach at Wayne County High School in the 1980s. The resolution would be considered a procedural measure but would require two-thirds of the 99-member House for expulsion. Republicans hold a 73-26 advantage. LINK

Moms Demand Action’ rallies for more gun control legislation (WBIR-TV) A conversation about gun legislation is happening on a national level, from San Francisco to El Paso to right here in Knoxville. “I’m here because of my son, his life mattered, all lives matter, it’s gun sense it has to stop,” Zanobia Dobson said. Dobson’s son Zaevion passed away trying to shield his friends from gunfire in 2015. Dobson and Terry Walker Smith, another mom involved with Moms Demand Action said they have something common they never thought they would. They’ve both lost sons to gun violence. LINK

State Sen. Ed Jackson selected for the CSG 2019 Toll Fellows class (Jackson Sun) Tennessee state Sen. Ed Jackson is among the 48 state leaders from across the country selected to participate in The Council of State Governments’ 2019 Henry Toll Fellowship, the nation’s premier leadership development program for state government officials. The members of the Class of 2019 hail from 33 states and represent all three branches of state government. A committee of program alumni reviewed applications and selected the class. LINK

Ballad announces plans for Norton, Big Stone Gap hospital reorganizations (Kingsport Times-News) Ballad Health has submitted plans for state approval that will change where and how services are offered at the three hospitals serving Norton and Wise County. According to a report released Thursday by Ballad, Mountain View Hospital in Norton could see its emergency department shut down and folded into nearby Norton Community Hospital under a plan awaiting Virginia Department of Health approval. “It is important to know that all 3 facilities remain open and all services remain in the county,” the report states, “even if the specific location where these services are delivered may change.” LINK

U.S. Whiskey Exporters Struggle After Year of EU Tariffs (Reuters) When Europe’s tariffs on U.S. whiskey hit in June 2018, craft distillery Mountain Laurel Spirits LLC lost 10% of its sales overnight as its European distributor simply stopped buying its award-winning Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey … Large spirit producers have also been forced to adjust to the tariffs. Brown–Forman Corp, maker of the world’s most popular U.S.-made whiskey, Jack Daniels Tennessee whiskey, has lost $125 million due to the European tariffs. LINK

As Fred’s Dismantles, Pharmacy Patients Scattered Across Tennessee (WPLN Radio) Memphis-based discount retailer Fred’s is closing many of its stores and pharmacies. And as the troubled chain downsizes, patients across the Southeast are scattering. Fred’s specialized in small towns. So that means closures often hit harder, says Reginald Dilliard, executive director of the Tennessee Board of Pharmacy. “Usually there is more than one pharmacy in town. But there may only be two or three,” he says. “It does have some impact on patient care and patient safety, if a pharmacy closes unexpectedly and then patients are trying to figure out where to get their prescriptions filled.” LINK

Rally kicks off sales tax hike campaign (Daily Memphian) Leaders of the Memphis police and firefighters unions say the city is hiring more of both but isn’t keeping enough. Retention of public safety employees is the case both unions are making in their bid to get voter approval of a half cent city sales tax hike to restore city benefits to police and firefighters that the city cut five years ago. The campaign to support the ballot question on the Oct. 3 Memphis ballot kicked off Saturday with an outdoor rally along Poplar Avenue. The campaign headquarters is in a storefront across Poplar Avenue from East High School. LINK

Sons of Confederate Veterans says Tennessee markers improperly removed (AP) The Sons of Confederate Veterans, Tennessee division, has filed a complaint with the state Historical Commission alleging City of Franklin employees improperly removed six Civil War markers. According to the complaint, the markers commemorated the deaths of Confederate generals killed in the Battle of Franklin on Nov. 30, 1864. The markers were installed in 1999. Franklin administrator Eric Stuckey said in an email the wooden post markers were removed within the last year after extensive study by the city’s Civil War Historical Commission. Stuckey provided a memo from the city’s preservation planner that said commission members were unable to determine who had placed the markers and called them confusing. LINK

Curious Nashville: What’s Inside The Governor’s Old Fallout Shelter In The Woods? (WPLN Radio) Out in the ridges and thick woods of West Nashville rests an epic remnant of Cold War history. But it is largely unknown. It’s massive. Mostly underground. Once considered of the utmost importance to the state, but eventually ravaged by mold and vandals. It’s the defunct fallout shelter where Tennessee’s governors would have gone in the case of nuclear attack. The facility has rarely appeared in news stories. But it does get a mention on Wikipedia. And that was enough to spur a question to Curious Nashville: LINK


Keel Hunt: House Speaker-select Cameron Sexton a ‘pragmatic conservative’ with deep roots in Tennessee (Tennessean) Cameron Sexton of Crossville, who will become Tennessee’s new House speaker Aug. 23, comes from a notable political lineage of Tennessee Republicans. He was born in Lake City (now called Rocky Top) on Nov. 11, 1970. Folks who follow horoscopes might say that made him a Scorpio, but he definitely came into the world in an auspicious month of rising fortunes for the GOP in our Volunteer State. Just one week earlier, Winfield Dunn of Memphis was elected governor, the first Republican to do so in 50 years, defeating Democrat John Jay Hooker Jr., and Chattanooga’s Republican Rep. Bill Brock defeated U.S. Sen. Albert Gore Sr., Democrat of Carthage. LINK

Margaret Renkl: What Part of ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ Don’t We Understand? (NY Times) Thursday was an ordinary day at my house. All my loved ones were safely in the places where they should be. The hallucinogenic heat of the past week had finally broken. My husband was healing nicely from his recent surgery. Even so, I went through my usual tasks with a deep feeling of foreboding, a nagging sense that something was terribly wrong. I kept getting up from my desk, prowling around the house in an inchoate desolation I didn’t understand. Then I remembered: It was execution day in Tennessee. LINK

Guest column: Rural hospitals are hollowed out and caught in a cycle of failure (Tennessean) Small towns and rural counties in Tennessee have their unique stories to tell, but there are some commonalities that are plaguing many of the state’s non-urban communities. These include high rates of chronic disease, the opioid crisis, lack of access to good paying jobs, and health care disparities. One issue stands out: the continuing closure of community hospitals across the state, deepening the health chasm between rural residents and city dwellers. LINK