Tuesday, August 6

Lee pinpoints cybersecurity as potential tool to stop shootings (Daily Memphian) Gov. Bill Lee said Monday he is analyzing gun control legislation in the wake of two mass shootings nationally but indicated he is most interested in cybersecurity to head off people who show signs of radicalism or mental “instability.” The governor predicted legislation dealing with “citizen safety” will be proposed in 2020 and said his administration is looking at “every option,” from background checks and waiting periods to red flag laws enabling authorities to confiscate weapons from people deemed to be dangerous. The Legislature approved about $45 million in the past two years to go toward school security personnel and campus improvements. LINK

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee looking for policy solutions after nation’s latest mass shootings (Times Free Press) Calling two weekend mass shootings in Texas and Ohio “tragic and evil,” Gov. Bill Lee said Monday his administration is seeking solutions in Tennessee to address what he says is a “very complex issue that involves mental health and radicalization, ideological radicalization.” “There are a lot of indicators early on for some of these folks,” the Republican governor told reporters after the shooting sprees in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that left at least 31 people dead and dozens of others wounded or injured. “We need to figure out how to get to them before they get to others.” LINK

Governor, lawmakers respond to weekend mass shootings (WTVF-TV) Two mass shootings occurred over the weekend. They have sparked conversations among Tennessee lawmakers on how to prevent something like this from happening here. Newschannel 5 caught up with Governor Bill Lee at the National Conference of State Legislatures. He called the events tragic and evil. He believes these shootings are about mental health and radicalization, and says Tennessee needs to find its own way to protect against this type of attack. LINK

Governor Lee reviewing policy possibilities after mass shootings (AP) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said Monday that his administration is looking at several policy options to increase public safety after two mass shootings over the weekend. However, the Republican declined to specify which policy proposal aimed at addressing gun violence he would push while working with a GOP-controlled Statehouse, which has been resistant to adopt gun control measures over the years. LINK

Gov. Lee Says He Will Take A ‘Deeper Look’ Into Solutions For Gun Violence, But Has No Plan Yet (WPLN Radio) Following the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, Gov. Bill Lee said his administration will weigh legislation that would address the issue of gun violence. But he’s not ready to offer specific solutions without first taking a “deeper look” at the issue. “I am a person who looks at options and considers the landscape that we are living in, and what it is that I believe would be the most effective way to protect citizens’ rights but protect our citizens at the same time,” Lee told reporters Monday. LINK

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee says it’s too ‘early’ to commit to enacting red flag gun law (Tennessean) Hours after President Donald Trump on Monday called for red flag laws to be enacted around the country in an effort to prevent potential mass shootings, Gov. Bill Lee said he still is not convinced of the correct path forward. Speaking to reporters on Monday at the National Conference of State Legislatures, Lee would not commit to supporting such a law in Tennessee, where the Republican-controlled legislature this session declined to take up the measure. “I haven’t analyzed that option yet,” he said. “It’s early for us to talk about which direction we want to go.” LINK

What your elected officials are doing to prevent gun violence (WRCB-TV) Many people in our viewing area have asked what elected officials in the Tennessee Valley are doing to prevent gun violence. Channel 3 reached out to each of them Monday to find out. Here is what the ones who got back to us had to say. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee responded saying, “[There is] a need to be vigilant about mental health and signs of domestic terrorism/radicalization. Just as this year we put $40 million into school safety, we will continue evaluating policies that protect Tennesseans and also respect individual liberties.” LINK

Dolly Parton answered questions Monday from one of her biggest fans: Gov. Bill Lee (Tennessean) On stage in front of thousands of state lawmakers and legislative staffers from around the country, Gov. Bill Lee on Monday made a joint appearance with one of his favorite Tennesseans: Dolly Parton. At the National Conference of State Legislatures’ annual convention held at Music City Center, Lee held a question-and-answer with Parton to kick off the gathering, which lasts through Friday. While the discussion started out focused on Parton’s Imagination Library, a program that provides free monthly books to children, the content briefly shifted to content that was more PG-13. LINK

Dolly Parton, Gov. Lee talk importance of reading (WSMV-TV) Dolly Parton and Gov. Bill Lee sat down at the Music City Center Monday to shed some light on the importance of reading and education. Parton sang “Coat of Many Colors” which is also the title of a book in her Imagination Library. Imagination Library is a nonprofit Parton started to gift books to children before they head off to school. Parton also added when she was a child, her mother sewed her a coat of rags since they did not have the money to afford a new one. LINK

Lee profile delves into surprise GOP nomination, first months in office (TN Journal) The latest edition of the Almanac of American Politics includes a profile of first-year Gov. Bill Lee that chronicles his surprise win in the Republican primary and the accomplishments of his first legislative session The folks over at the Almanac have graciously given the TNJ: On the Hill blog permission to post this sneak peak at the profile:  Businessman Bill Lee easily won the governorship of Tennessee in 2018, becoming the first Tennessee Republican to succeed a Republican governor since 1869. Lee’s victory shattered another longstanding pattern in Tennessee: Since the 1960s, partisan control of the governor’s office had changed with every new governor. This electoral habit finally came to an end as Tennessee became one of the most Republican states in the union. LINK

Oldest county resident turns 107 (Murfreesboro Post) Rutherford County’s oldest known resident, at age 107, was honored with several proclamations and a reception at NHC Murfreesboro recently. Martha Etta Dudney Jones on July 25, Centenarian Appreciation Day, was inducted into the Century Club of Rutherford County. She was presented a “centenarian award” signed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee. Murfreesboro Mayor Shane McFarland presented her with a proclamation. Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron did not attend the reception but sent a proclamation as well. LINK

FedEx Undertakes Additional Expansion at Hub in Memphis, Tennessee (Area Development) FedEx Corp. is making an additional $450 million investment to the $1.1 billion hub in Memphis, Tennessee. The modernization project was announced in March 2018. According to state officials, the investment will now exceed $1.5 billion over the next six years to facilitate construction of a new sort facility, installation of state-of-the-art systems and construction of a new bulk truckload building to support changing e-commerce needs. “Thank you to Governor Lee and the State of Tennessee for their support of FedEx and this transformational project at the FedEx Express World Hub in Memphis,” said Raj Subramaniam, president and chief operating officer of FedEx Corp. LINK

Despite California’s travel ban, lawmakers find ways to visit states with ‘anti-LGBTQ’ laws (LA Times) Three years after the California Legislature banned taxpayer-financed travel to states it saw as discriminating against LGBTQ people, lawmakers and university athletic teams are still visiting the boycotted states and finding other ways to pay for their trips … Tennessee’s Republican Gov. Bill Lee, who has seen California businesses including Mitsubishi decide to move operations to his state, believes the Golden State’s travel policy is a distraction. “Gov. Lee thinks it’s better to focus less on divisive politics and more on job creation,” said Chris Walker, a spokesman for the governor. “If leaders in other states adopted a similar perspective, perhaps companies wouldn’t be leaving those states.” LINK

Local, state agencies monitoring possible threats online amid recent attacks (WTVF-TV) Following two deadly attacks in less than 24 hours and the start of the school year, safety is being heavily stressed once again. In his speech addressing the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, President Donald Trump called for the Department of Justice to work with social media companies to develop tools and identify possible mass shooters. LINK

Cyntoia Brown’s Release Raises Questions About Tennessee’s Strict Sentencing Rules (WPLN Radio) Cyntoia Brown will be released from prison Wednesday, having served 15 years for killing a man while a victim of sex trafficking as a teenager. Former Gov. Bill Haslam granted Brown full clemency in January, saying her life sentence was too harsh. Brown’s case raises questions about the state’s strict sentencing guidelines. Brown was convicted of first-degree murder in 2006 after she admitted to killing Johnny Allen, a 43-year-old man who paid her for sex. Brown contends she shot Allen in self-defense when he reached for a gun. LINK

Cyntoia Brown to be released from prison Wednesday (WKRN-TV) The woman who was granted clemency from former Tennessee governor Bill Haslam will be released from prison Wednesday. Cyntoia Brown will be released to parole supervision on Aug. 7, exactly 15 years to the day when she was arrested in 2004. In preparation for her release, Brown met with counselors at the Tennessee Prison for Women to design a reentry plan, according to the Tennessee Department of Correction. The plan reportedly includes an updated risk/needs assessment, placement in the transition center and continuing her current course of study through the Lipscomb University LIFE Program. LINK

Tennessee sees high school college-going rate dip, but leaders say it isn’t cause for concern (Tennessean) Tennessee’s high school college-going rate dipped in 2018, the most significant decline since the state started its heralded college access scholarship program. The drop, however, isn’t likely a cause for concern as thousands of students statewide head back to college this fall. Instead, those who work to improve college access say the drop is a fluctuation marking a “new normal” after Tennessee Promise helped boost enrollment among recent Tennessee high school graduates. LINK

City of Memphis, U of M serve up $19M Leftwich Tennis Center makeover (Memphis Business Journal) The Leftwich Tennis Center in Audubon Park is getting a major facelift. City of Memphis and University of Memphis officials announced a $19 million dollar investment in the facility at a Monday, Aug. 5, press conference. The renovation of the facility will be accomplished through a partnership between the City, U of M, and Tennis Memphis. According to a release, $3 million will be coming from the City of Memphis and an additional $5 million from the University of Memphis. The remaining $11 million is being raised from private money. U of M president M. David Rudd said a little more than $10 million of that $11 million has already been raised. LINK

Want a UTHSC license plate? Preorders needed to launch production (Commercial Appeal) A specialty license plate for the University of Tennessee Health Science Center is ready to launch in Tennessee, but it needs enough preorders for production to begin. One thousand people need to preorder the license plate and pay a $35 deposit for production to start, according to UTHSC, which has its main campus in Memphis. UTHSC says it will cover the $35 deposit for the first 1,000 reserving the license plate, so those reserving early will only pay $26.50 for the first year instead of the standard $61.50 annual cost for specialty plates. LINK

Tennessee workshops offered on using spreadsheets in farming (AP) Farmers who want to learn how to create and use spreadsheets for farm records can attend one of the workshops offered by the University of Tennessee Center for Profitable Agriculture. The center’s Hal Pepper will present the workshops along with other instructors. The center said in a news release the workshops will include instruction on using spreadsheets to analyze direct marketing, food processing and agritourism enterprises. LINK

How farmers are also paying the price for the ICE raid on an East Tennessee slaughterhouse (News Sentinel) To hear James Brantley tell it, he was up against the wall. His father had died. His wife’s health had failed. The family business — a slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant on the rural outskirts of Bean Station in Grainger County — faced bankruptcy. So Brantley turned to a last resort, according to his lawyer — hiring undocumented immigrants desperate for work. “This case quite honestly isn’t like any other cases,” defense attorney Norman McKellar told a federal judge last week. “Mr. Brantley was trying to fulfill orders (for meat) as quickly as he could, the best way he could.” LINK

A month into Tennessee’s ban on cellphone use while driving, how many citations have been issued? (Tennessean) Hundreds of Tennessee drivers were fined in July under the state’s newly implemented distracted driving law that makes it illegal to hold a phone while driving, and state officials say they plan to ramp up enforcement further. The Tennessee Highway Patrol wrote 424 citations across the state under the law that took effect July 1. Only three of those were specific to Davidson County. But the Metro Nashville Police Department cited 46 drivers in the city last month. LINK

Battleground no longer: Here’s the Almanac of American Politics’ overview of Tennessee (TN Journal) The latest edition of the Almanac of American Politics declares Tennessee’s battleground days to be in the past … Tennessee, once a political battleground, is no longer. It has become one of the most solidly Republican states in the country, with just a few pockets of blue in its biggest cities. And while Tennessee has long been home to an influential strain of moderate Republicanism, two of the tradition’s prime exemplars — Sen. Bob Corker and Gov. Bill Haslam — are now out of politics, succeeded in 2018 by harder-edge conservative Republicans. LINK

Nashville lawmakers, activists rally for gun control on capitol steps after mass shootings in Texas, Ohio (Tennessean) Just days after two mass shootings rocked the nation, Nashville leaders and activists gathered on the steps of the capitol to urge national legislators to act on gun reform. “You need to do something,” Tennessee State Rep. John Ray Clemmons said. “This is more than thoughts and prayers. This is demanding action.” Clemmons co-hosted the vigil and rally on Monday afternoon with Safe Tennessee Project’s Beth Joslin Roth. LINK

Nashville gun control rally held following Dayton, El Paso mass shootings (WTVF-TV) Safe Tennessee Project, Representative John Ray Clemmons and local activists held a gun control rally in Nashville in response to two mass shootings over the weekend. Several people were killed in mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. Activists called it a vigil and rally to end gun violence – an effort to bring attention to gun control advocacy. LINK

Rep. Jerry Sexton joins race to replace Cameron Sexton as House GOP caucus chair (Tennessean) It’s now a three-man race in the House to determine who will replace incoming speaker Cameron Sexton as the Republican caucus chair. Rep. Jerry Sexton, R-Bean Station, confirmed Friday he is also in the running for the position. “I feel like that I can offer a lot and bring a lot of experience to the caucus with my background in business and leadership,” Jerry Sexton said. “We certainly need to be refocusing right now in our caucus, and I think we have a great opportunity to do that.” LINK

The Latest Proposal To Come Up In Tennessee’s Abortion Debate: A Complete Ban After Conception (WPLN Radio) Tennessee state senators are expected to consider a proposal that would ban abortions from the time a woman learns she is pregnant. It arises from the discussion of the so-called “fetal heartbeat bill” that has divided state lawmakers. The idea of the new legislation is to challenge abortion rights by taking an even more restrictive approach. LINK

Representative files resolution to oust Byrd from Legislature (Daily Memphian) A Knoxville House member filed legislation Monday to expel state Rep. David Byrd from the General Assembly over allegations of sexual misconduct with high school basketball girls 30 years ago. State Rep. Gloria Johnson, a Knoxville Democrat, put forth the resolution in advance of an Aug. 23 special session called for the main purpose of appointing a new House Speaker to replace state Rep. Glen Casada. In the resolution, Johnson calls for expulsion of Byrd from his 71st District House seat “for disorderly behavior as described by credible victims in multiple reports.” LINK

Sen. Alexander looks to fix college application program (WSMV-TV) Senator Lamar Alexander spent Monday afternoon in Nashville pleading for people to ask their lawmakers to fix the college application program. Senator Alexander did a show-and-tell with the FAFSA form at the NCSL Summit. More people fill out the FAFSA form in Tennessee than any other state because it’s the first step in getting two years of free community college. Over the last year, Alexander has been developing a bill that would cut the form from over 100 questions to just 24. Alexander says the bill has bipartisan support, but he is asking voters to get their own senators on board. LINK

One Man Could Decide Washington’s Response to Gun Violence: Mitch McConnell (NY Times) For two decades, through Columbine, Virginia Tech, Newtown, Orlando, Las Vegas and the rest, mass shootings have provoked only scant action in Congress. Now, after horrific back-to-back massacres this weekend, people in both parties agree that one man could change that: Senator Mitch McConnell … Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, one of the committee chairmen called into action by the majority leader, vowed, “I am ready to do more, especially on background checks, to identify those who shouldn’t have guns.” LINK

Roe stresses mental health treatment in wake of mass shootings (WJHL-TV) Rep. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City) says the country needs to focus on mental health following mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. Meeting with public housing leaders Monday in Johnson City, Roe said mental health care must be more accessible. “I think as a country we’re going to have to take a huge step back and say ‘how do we reconstruct our mental health capacity in this country?’” the congressman said. “Right now, its overwhelmed.” LINK

Rep. Roe says Senate should pass background check legislation that he voted against (WCYB-TV) While members of Congress remain in their home districts for the August recess, Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN 1) says he supports calls from Democrats to reconvene the Senate early to vote on background check legislation, in the wake of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. Two bills passed by the House in February — H.R. 8 and H.R. 1112 — addressed background checks and “red flag” laws. Roe voted against both pieces of legislation but told News 5 he hopes the Senate approved the measures. LINK

Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen calls for seat belts on school buses (WMC-TV) With a new school year on the horizon, a Tennessee Democratic congressman wants to make the school buses that thousands of Mid-South children ride on safer. U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen has introduced a bill alongside Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, which directs the U.S. Department of Transportation to implement new school bus safety rules. “The National Transportation Safety Board recommended this several years ago. We’re trying to get it passed through legislation to save kids’ lives. There’s no more precious cargo you’ve got than kids,” said Cohen. LINK

David Manning dies at 69 (Nashville Post) Former state, Metro finance official worked under McWherter, Purcell. David Manning, who served as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Finance and as Metro Nashville finance director, died Sunday at 69. Manning joined state government in 1974 as a budget analyst. He became deputy treasurer and ultimately finance commissioner under Gov. Ned Ray McWherter, during which time he was in part responsible for setting up TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program. LINK

David Manning, former state finance commissioner and Metro finance director, dead at 69 (Tennessean) David Manning, the influential political aide and government finance expert, died on Sunday. Manning was 69. Manning worked as commissioner of Finance and Administration under Gov. Ned McWherter in the 1990s. He is regarded as the architect of the state’s TennCare program, which provides health insurance program for low-income families, disabled people and pregnant women. In 1999, Manning was hired as the finance director for Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell. LINK

Energy Department wants to build nuclear test ‘fast’ reactor in East Tennessee or Idaho (AP) A new nuclear test reactor is needed as part of an effort to revamp the nation’s fading nuclear power industry by developing safer fuel and power plants, the U.S. Department of Energy said Monday. The federal agency said it will prepare an environmental impact statement as part of the process to build the test reactor in Idaho or Tennessee by the end of 2025. Public comments on the environmental review are being taken through Sept. 4. LINK

TVA completes upgrades at its oldest and biggest nuclear power plant, boosting output (Times Free Press) The Tennessee Valley Authority has completed a $475 million power upgrade at its oldest and biggest nuclear power plant that helped boost the plant’s output by 14% and boosted TVA’s overall noncarbon production of electricity to 58% of its power generation this spring. Over the past four years, by making more than 200 equipment modifications to the three reactors at its Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant, TVA added 465 megawatts of additional power at Browns Ferry, increasing its capacity enough to supply the energy needs of another 280,000 homes. LINK

Ballad Health announces plans for new services in Greeneville (Johnson City Press) Ballad Health announced today it has commenced the planning process for the implementation of new services for women who are pregnant and in need of certain mental health services, addiction treatment and other supports that will help ensure the strongest possible starts for their children. The new services are made possible through the recent consolidation of acute care, surgical and other services to Greeneville Community Hospital East Campus from the West Campus. LINK

Real ID, Real Problems: States Cope With Changing Rules, Late Rollouts (Stateline) In half a dozen states, including the most populous state of California, the Real ID rollout is a real mess. Technical glitches, delays and miscommunication are roiling the Real ID implementation in those states, calling into question whether residents will have the secure driver’s license needed to travel by air or enter government restricted areas after October 2020. LINK


David Plazas: Time for Tennessee to pass red flag law and keep firearms away from dangerous people (Tennessean) On Monday, President Donald Trump spoke about the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. The president gave his support to “red flag” laws that allow officials to remove firearms from someone who might be a danger to him or herself or others, following due process. Mass shootings have spurred red flag laws in 17 states, but Tennessee is not among them. A proposal (HB1446/SB1178) to enact a red flag law stalled in the Tennessee General Assembly earlier this year. It was sponsored by Rep. John J. DeBerry Jr., D- Memphis, and Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville. LINK

Frank Cagle: The Casada Lesson: You don’t work for the governor (KnoxTNToday) Former House Speaker Glen Casada certainly did enough to deserve being ousted from leadership, but the speed and the ease with which it happened could not have occurred had his colleagues not been resentful if not downright angry at the way they had been treated. The full-court press by Casada and Gov. Bill Lee to pass a voucher bill forced a lot of members to vote against the wishes of the folks back home. Threats and intimidation by Casada’s forces passed a bill that had failed over and over again over the years. Casada went all in for the governor, even when there was overwhelming opposition in his Williamson County district. Let’s examine how the governor paid him back. LINK

Column: Tennessee Is Set to Execute Its Fifth Prisoner Since August 2018 (Nashville Scene) Unless Gov. Bill Lee finds within himself the courage and mercy he could not summon before Don Johnson’s execution in May, Stephen West will get his final doses of powerful drugs on Aug. 15. First: 500 milligrams of midazolam, a sedative that medical experts have repeatedly argued is woefully insufficient for use as a general anesthetic. That will be followed by 100 milligrams of vecuronium bromide to paralyze him, and 240 milligrams of potassium chloride to stop his heart. Even one of the state’s own consultants told officials that because of midazolam’s relative weakness, the prisoner “may be able to feel pain from the administration of the second and third drugs.” Leading anesthesiologists have likened that pain to being buried alive and being burned alive. LINK

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