Friday, September 6

EPB vice president joins Lee cabinet as new insurance commissioner (Times Free Press) EPB Vice President Hodgen Mainda has been named as Tennessee’s new commissioner of Commerce and Insurance. Mainda, who joined EPB in 2017 after working in government relations and business development jobs in Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga, will fill the vacancy created when Julie McPeak quit as the state’s top insurance regulator in June to join a Nashville law firm. Mainda, who begins his new job in October, becomes the first Chattanoogan in the cabinet of Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee. LINK

Lee names new commerce and insurance commissioner (Nashville Post) Gov. Bill Lee has picked Hodgen Mainda to be his new commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance. Mainda joins the governor’s cabinet from Chattanooga, where he was vice president for community development at the Electric Power Board. He previously held positions with lobbying and consulting firm River Branch Strategies, a workplace health care provider based in Chattanooga and as director of legal operations, government relations and community outreach for a law firm. LINK

Lee names EPB vice president as new Commerce and Insurance commissioner (TN Journal) Gov. Bill Lee has named Hodgen Mainda, a vice president of Chattanooga’s Electric Power Board, as commissioner of the Department of Commerce and Insurance. He succeeds Julie Mix McPeak, a holdover from Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration, who left for a job in the private sector. LINK

Tennessee governor picks EPB vice president to lead TN Dept. of Commerce & Insurance (WTVC-TV) A Chattanooga man will be the new commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced the appointment of Hodgen Mainda on Thursday. Mainda now serves as the vice president for community development at the Electric Power Board (EPB) in Chattanooga. In his role with the EPB, Mainda built partnerships across the state and federal level and increased EPB’s role in regional economic development. LINK

Lee Appoints Mainda Head of Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (Insurance Journal) Hodgen Mainda has been appointed commissioner of Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance by Governor Bill Lee, effective Oct. 1, 2019. “Hodgen joins my cabinet after an outstanding career as a community leader in Chattanooga,” said Lee in a press release Thursday. “He is respected for his ability to build partnerships across multiple sectors and we welcome his leadership to such a multifaceted department like Commerce & Insurance.” LINK

Gov. Bill Lee names new chancellor for 5 West Tennessee counties (AP) Gov. Bill Lee has appointed a new chancellor to serve in a West Tennessee judicial district. Lee’s office says in a news release Wednesday that attorney Jennifer King of Carroll County will serve as chancellor of the 24th Judicial District. King replaces the Honorable Carma McGee, who now serves on the Tennessee Court of Appeals. The district includes Benton, Carroll, Decatur, Hardin, and Henry counties. King is co-founder and partner of the King & King law firm. She has experience as a mediator in family law and civil litigation. LINK

New taxes on internet sales shouldn’t replace shopping local, Johnson City leaders say (WJHL-TV) For Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock, the vacant Toys R Us building on North Roan Street is a harsh reminder of the changing retail environment. When local businesses close, sales tax revenue can suffer … To offset the impact of online shopping, Tennessee has long collected internet sales tax from businesses based in the state. After a key Supreme Court decision in 2018, a new Tennessee law now requires all online businesses with more than $500 thousand in sales to register with the Department of Revenue and remit sales tax, even if they don’t have a presence in the state. Out-of-state dealers must register before October 1, 2019. LINK

Tenn. Commissioner of Education visits Hawkins County: Principals speak out (Rogersville Review) As the Review reported in “Tennessee Commissioner of Education visits Hawkins County: New plans for the future” in the Midweek edition, the Tennessee Commissioner of Education, Dr. Penny Schwinn, paid a visit to Hawkins Co. principals during a principals meeting on Aug. 27. This visit was part of her statewide school tour designed to gather input from local students and educators. After explaining many of the new developments in the state DOE (Department of Education), Schwinn opened the floor to questions from the crowd. LINK

School officials to consider ‘adverse childhood experiences’ before discipline (Daily Memphian) Schools across Tennessee will start delving into traumatic experiences in students’ lives as part of a new law targeting “exclusionary” discipline under legislation sponsored by state Sen. Katrina Robinson, a first-term Memphis Democrat. Signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee, Senate Bill 170 requires school systems to come up with plans for assessing students who go through “adverse childhood experiences” and consider those circumstances when meting out major disciplinary measures such as suspension or expulsion, in-school suspension or alternative school. LINK

UTK ranked as Tennessee’s top public university in Wall Street Journal’s 2020 college rankings (WBIR-TV) The Wall Street Journal released its rankings for U.S. colleges in the Thursday edition. More than 800 colleges made the list. The rankings were determined by a few factors, including post-graduate outcomes, school spending on resources, engagement in classes, campus diversity, and the average cost to attend the school.The University of Tennessee in Knoxville was ranked as the best public university in the state of Tennessee, coming in at No. 270 and tying with Hampshire College in Massachusetts and San Diego State University in California. LINK

States to Launch Google, Facebook Antitrust Probes (WSJ) State attorneys general are formally launching separate antitrust probes into Facebook Inc. FB 2.01% and Alphabet Inc. GOOG 2.54% ’s Google unit starting next week, according to people familiar with the matter, putting added pressure on tech giants already under federal scrutiny … “The extreme concentration in the technology industry is bad for the consumer, and in our opinion it’s bad for America,” Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III said at a June hearing on antitrust concerns in the tech industry, flanked by two other state attorneys general. “The concentration has stifled innovation with market distortions [in] research and development, as entrepreneurs avoid competing with Google and Facebook and other tech giants. So we need to do something about that.” LINK

Tennessee Supreme Court hears arguments on pro-business law that caps awards by juries (News Sentinel) An attorney on Wednesday urged the Tennessee Supreme Court to send a message to state legislators: Butt out of a jury’s business. “The people reserved for themselves the right to be jurors,” attorney John Vail argued at a hearing before the high court held in Knoxville. “They did not delegate that function to their elected representatives.” Vail is asking the state Supreme Court to strike down as unconstitutional a business-friendly law that requires judges to cap monetary damages ordered in cases against bad corporate actors and civil wrongdoers no matter what a jury decides is just punishment. LINK

Mid-Cumberland Community Action Agency to cut 178 jobs (Daily News Journal) Mid-Cumberland Community Action Agency will lay off 178 workers over the next couple of months, the state reported Wednesday. The nonprofit agency notified the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development about the “permanent layoff.” Four of the layoffs will be effective Sept. 30, and 174 will be effective Oct. 31, according to the state. The agency led by Executive Director Debra Holmes provides services, including Head Start preschool, for low-income residents. LINK

New Tennessee House speaker visits Chattanooga, meets with local elected officials (Times Free Press) Tennessee’s new House speaker Cameron Sexton made his first stop in Hamilton County to meet with local elected officials and lawmakers Thursday. It was part of a multicity tour as the 48-year-old, who has been in office less than a month, works to rebuild trust among residents across the state after the resignation of former speaker Glen Casada. In a special session called by Gov. Bill Lee on Aug. 23, Sexton was elected speaker with no opponent and overwhelming bipartisan support. That followed weeks of controversy that saw Casada caught in a series of scandals that drew backlash from fellow Republicans. LINK

More TN school voucher debate expected next session (WKRN-TV) With one bill already planned to repeal what’s been passed, expect more school voucher debate when state lawmakers come back in January. “It does one thing,” says Nashville Democrat Bo Mitchell who is sponsoring the bill. “It repeals in its entirety the voucher section of the code and we go back to putting public dollars into public education.” The bill–formally called the education savings account or ESA– applies only to eligible students in underperforming Nashville and Memphis schools. LINK

Tennessee Sportsmen’s Caucus donates $5,000 to program providing food for needy (Times Free Press) The Tennessee Legislature’s Sportsmen’s Caucus has donated $5,000 to the nonprofit Hunters for the Hungry, which provides protein for the hungry. Caucus members presented the check Tuesday to the Tennessee Wildlife Federation during the group’s second annual dove hunt in Houston County. “Hunters for the Hungry is a great organization that makes it possible for Tennesseans in need to get healthy proteins necessary for a balanced diet,” said Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, co-chairman of the Tennessee Sportsmen’s Caucus. LINK

US House Democrats in Tennessee to hear about voting rights (AP) Democrats from the U.S. House Judiciary Committee are hearing from experts about barriers to voting caused by alleged racial discrimination. U.S. Reps. Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Jerrold Nadler of New York and Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas presided over a field hearing at the University of Memphis’ law school Thursday. Nadler said House Democrats are working to enact legislation restoring a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling essentially made the provision unenforceable. LINK

Ballad Health physician practices reduce charges (Kingsport Times-News) Ballad Health announced Wednesday a 17 percent overall average decrease in professional fees as well as a 77 percent discount on the same fees for patients without insurance. This announcement follows Ballad’s increase of the threshold for patients who are eligible for charity care to 225 percent of the federal poverty level from the 200 percent threshold in place prior to the Wellmont-Mountain States merger in February 2018. LINK


Guest column: Study confirms value of Tennessee Voluntary Pre-K (Daily Memphian) Vanderbilt University researchers, together with the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, have released a new working paper with major implications for early education in Tennessee. The research substantiates that Tennessee Voluntary Pre-K program (TN-VPK) students who subsequently experienced “sustaining environments” – meaning they attended high-performing K-3 schools and were taught by highly effective teachers – significantly outpaced their peers who also attended high-performing schools and had highly effective teachers but who had not attended TN-VPK. Academic outperformance by the TN-VPK group was significant in both third-grade English language arts/reading and third-grade math, the researchers conclude. LINK








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