Wednesday, September 11

Speakers push collaboration in Northeast Tennessee (Johnson City Press) Area business, government and education leaders met at the Millennium Center on Tuesday to discuss stagnant population and anemic economic growth figures for the region and to explore ways to reverse those numbers … Gov. Bill Lee also helped to wrap up the afternoon conference, which was was hosted by East Tennessee State University, by telling the more than 400 attendees that the region should speak with a “unified voice.” Doing so, he said, would release the “economic power” of Northeast Tennessee. “Your real strength as a region is you are a collection of valuable assets,” Lee said. “When brought together in a regional approach, it will be a powerful marketing tool.” LINK

Regional economic forum calls for collaboration to address challenges (WJHL-TV) Hundreds of local leaders attended East Tennessee State University’s Regional Economic Forum on Tuesday to discuss a future of collaboration on economic development in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia … Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said his administration is committed to helping rural areas improve. He said his first executive order was to ask all 23 departments of state government to make a strategic plan on how it could positively impact distressed counties. Lee praised Tuesday’s forum as a positive step for the region. “One of the reasons this particular meeting is valuable is because when you convene…you elevate the conversation,” said Lee. LINK

Regional economic forum focuses on unified approach, future agency to represent brand (WCYB-TV) Hundreds of leaders from Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia came together Tuesday in a forum to address how to overcome regional challenges … Gov. Bill Lee of Tennessee made an appearance, too, saying he still believes strongly in the state’s rural communities. “Folks need to engage all over this community with a unified voice over what are the priorities here,” Lee said. LINK

Leaders meet at forum to address region’s stagnant population and economic development growth (Bristol Herald Courier) A forum held Tuesday in Johnson City was a call to action for local business, industry and higher education leaders to address the region’s stagnant population and economic development growth … One of the last speakers was Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee. He told the crowd what they’d heard was most likely nothing new to them but that change has to occur for the state to prosper, and the government’s job is to provide that environment while local leaders carry out the work. LINK

‘Selfless heroes’: Gov. Bill Lee praises TN emergency personnel (WBIR-TV) Tennessee deployed a total of 172 emergency personnel to Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina to manage Hurricane Dorian’s effects. “We are fortunate to have such dedicated emergency professionals in Tennessee who think nothing of putting themselves in harm’s way to save lives,” Gov. Lee said in a Tuesday press release. “We are proud to call these selfless heroes our family members, neighbors, and friends.” LINK

Tennessee Responders Show Volunteer State Spirit in Hurricane Dorian Response (WGNS Radio) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is praising the work of Tennessee’s emergency managers and first responders who provided critical, life-saving help to the southeastern states threatened by Hurricane Dorian. Emergency workers from Rutherford County and the City of LaVergne are two of 39 groups that responded to the disaster sites. “We are fortunate to have such dedicated emergency professionals in Tennessee who think nothing of putting themselves in harm’s way to save lives,” Gov. Lee said. “We are proud to call these selfless heroes our family members, neighbors, and friends.” LINK

HCtec to add 100 new jobs in Lewis County (WSMV-TV) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced new jobs for Lewis County on Tuesday. HCTec is expanding its healthcare operations with a $500,000 investment over the next five years and will create more than 100 jobs in Lewis County. The expansion will create new jobs in a specialized IT field. The Brentwood-based company said it’s key to develop Tennessee’s workforce. HCTec helps hospitals nationwide reduce operating costs, improve quality and optimize labor forces with highly specialized IT skills staffing, project-based consulting and application-managed service support. LINK

Health IT firm to add 100 jobs in Lewis County (Nashville Post) Brentwood-based health care IT workforce service provider HCTec has announced a plan to expand operations in Hohenwald, a move that would invest more than $500,000 and create 100 jobs in Lewis County … The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development played a role in HCTec’s expansion decision. State-offered incentives for the expansion have not yet been announced. LINK

HCTec Creating More Than 100 Jobs In Tennessee (Business Facilities) HCTec will continue to expand its operations in Hohenwald, TN with a more than $500,000 investment. The healthcare IT workforce service provider will create over 100 jobs in Lewis County over the next five years … “We are dedicated to creating great jobs in our rural communities, and with the investment from HCTec, Lewis County will continue to see economic growth,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “I thank HCTec for creating more than 100 jobs in Hohenwald and look forward to seeing this company continue to succeed in Lewis County.” LINK

Tickets still available for Hawkins Co. GOP Reagan Day Dinner (Rogersville Review) Tickets are still available for the 2019 Reagan Day Dinner, hosted by the Hawkins Co. Republican Party and Hawkins Co. Republican Women. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee will be the keynote speaker for the Thursday, Sept. 19, event 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

JMCSS board votes Johnson in as chair, takes steps to establish ethics committee (Jackson Sun) Other news: Gov. Bill Lee is tentatively scheduled to visit Jackson Central-Merry Early College High as well as Stanley Black & Decker to look at L.O.O.P. on Sept. 18 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. LINK

Extradition warrant signed for murder suspect: Southaven Walmart (WJTV-TV Southhaven, MS) Governor Bryant signs an extradition warrant for the man accused of killing two employees at the Southaven WalMart. Martez Abram, 39, has been fighting extradition from Tennessee. He was taken to a Memphis hospital after being shot by police during the incident. Tennessee governor Bill Lee also needs to sign the warrant, to get Abram back to Mississippi. Abram’s next hearing is set for September 13. LINK

As Tennessee pursues a Medicaid block grant, some hospitals are worried the plan could backfire (Tennessean) Two major Tennessee hospital companies say a plan to convert billions of federal Medicaid funding to a block grant may weaken health insurance for poor families or cause TennCare to run out of money during an economic recession. A third hospital company said that a block grant could potentially run dry, but insisted that state leaders were too savvy to make this mistake. Instead, a hospital executive said, a block grant will allow TennCare to improve coverage for the poor. LINK

TennCare Designs Block Grant Proposal With Expansion Of Services In Mind (WPLN Radio) Tennessee’s Medicaid program is preparing to finalize the country’s first block grant application within days. The plan would reimagine the way the federal government funds health care for low-income Tennesseans, and according to TennCare officials, it envisions expansion of service rather than cuts. The block grant proposal is not just a request for a lump sum, as critics feared. TennCare has come up with a formula that gives the state even more incentive and flexibility to keep medical costs down. That’s something TennCare has already done better than most state Medicaid programs. LINK

Tennessee suffered third-largest increase of uninsured people in the nation, Census reports (Tennessean) About 46,000 more Tennesseans were without health insurance last year, one of the largest increases in the rate of uninsured residents in the nation, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau report. Tennessee’s uninsured rate rose 0.6 percent in 2018, the Census report states. Although the percentage may seem small, it tied with Alabama and Arizona for the third-largest rate increase nationwide. Only Idaho and South Dakota had larger increases. LINK

Tennessee renews debate on how to judge schools (Chalkbeat Tennessee/Daily Memphian) Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn has raised eyebrows — and ruffled some feathers — by floating possible changes to the way the state judges its schools. Currently, schools across the state are evaluated heavily on a “growth model,” which measures learning over time, regardless of whether those students are proficient. Under the possible changes, which borrow from an approach in place in Texas, where Schwinn previously served as chief of academics, schools could choose to be judged based solely on proficiency, or how many students meet a certain threshold on state tests. LINK

APSU’s Eriksson College of Education developing relationship with Jordan’s Yarmouk University (Leaf-Chronicle) On a hot July morning in Irbid, Jordan, while cars weaved past the city’s khaki-colored buildings, Dr. Dana Christman enjoyed a cup of Turkish coffee in Yarmouk University’s air-conditioned campus. The Austin Peay State University professor had traveled more than 6,000 miles to visit the school, and with the small jolt of caffeine spurring her on, she helped develop a new relationship between her home campus and the Jordanian university. LINK

Pellissippi State dedicates new center to retired state representative (WATE-TV) Pellissippi State Community College is dedicating its new career education center for manufacturing and technology to retired state representative Harry Brooks. During his time in the legislature, Brooks championed career and technical education programs, advocating for workforce training and dual enrollment opportunities for students. Inside the new career education center, Pellissippi is opening up its expanded cyber operations and welding center Tuesday. LINK

Road deaths involving drunk drivers up 11.5% in Tennessee (WTVF-TV) They are staggering new numbers that show the depth of the drunk driving problem in Tennessee: Delphi Behavioral Health has released those new numbers — which say that in just one year, roadway deaths involving drunk drivers increased 11.5% in Tennessee. Larry Tomlin oversees a special program called a Victims’ Impact Panel in Williamson county. He says if programs like his could talk to more students before drinking becomes a problem those stats could change. LINK

Data shows earthquakes on the rise in Tennessee, but what does that mean? (Tennessean) Tennessee has recorded four “significant” earthquakes in the past 25 years, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Two of them were this year. But that’s not necessarily a reason to worry. Tennessee geologist Ronald Zurawski said the state may not have more earthquakes. It could just be that more residents are reporting that they felt them.  “We have more seismic sensing devices than we used to,” Zurawski said. “We are picking up smaller earthquakes, and people are becoming more aware of the hazard.” LINK

House Speaker Cameron Sexton rips Nashville Mayor David Briley’s sanctuary cities order (Tennessean) House Speaker Cameron Sexton on Tuesday blasted Nashville Mayor David Briley’s recent executive order related to sanctuary cities.  “Mayor Briley’s dangerous executive order is a last minute political ploy and a slap in the face to all law abiding citizens and to our local law enforcement agencies,” Sexton said in a news release. “We are a representative republic of law and order, and no city or local mayor has the power to circumvent state or federal law.” LINK

House Speaker threat against Nashville mayor similar to threat against Shelby County (Daily Memphian) Two days before Nashville’s mayoral runoff election, new House Speaker Cameron Sexton has injected himself into local politics by criticizing Mayor David Briley over his recent actions related to immigration. Sexton’s threat of withholding state money from the city is the same threat applied earlier this year to Shelby County by Tennessee’s lieutenant governor over immigration issues. Sexton, who was elected to the House Speaker’s post during a special legislative session last month, said the state might look at withholding economic development money in Tennessee’s capital city. LINK

Tennessee speaker floats cutting state funds to Nashville (AP) Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton is warning Nashville officials that he might attempt to withhold state funding due to the city’s recent executive order discouraging local cooperation with immigration officials. Sexton, a Republican, first made the comments while talking to a local radio show Tuesday morning. A House GOP spokesman later confirmed Sexton’s comments to The Associated Press. Last week, Mayor David Briley signed an executive order criticizing Tennessee’s anti-sanctuary cities law as “immoral” and “dangerous.” Briley is up for reelection on Thursday. LINK

TN House Speaker calls Mayor Briley’s sanctuary city executive order ‘last minute political ploy’ (WTVF-TV) Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) called Mayor David Briley’s recent executive order to make Nashville a sanctuary city a “last minute political act and a slap in the face to all law-abiding citizens.” Sexton says he and his Republican colleagues are committed to enforcing immigration laws already on the books. LINK

Tennessee House Speaker calls on Nashville mayor to follow ‘anti-Sanctuary city’ law (WZTV-TV) Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) is calling on Nashville Mayor David Briley to follow Tennessee’s law when it comes to Sanctuary cities. Last week, Briley issued an executive order calling out HB2315, a Tennessee law that prohibits local and state governmental entities from adopting ‘Sanctuary City’ policies. He wants Davidson County to challenge the law in court. The law become effective on Jan. 1 of this year. LINK

Tennessee lawmaker who called for removal of higher education says he was joking (AP) A Republican Tennessee lawmaker says he was clearly joking when he called in a radio broadcast for the abolishment of higher education in order to cut off the “liberal breeding ground.” However, Sen. Kerry Roberts of Springfield said in a statement Tuesday that he stands behind his critique of liberal arts education in America “one hundred percent.” Roberts initially spoke in favor of eliminating higher education while speaking about attending a recent abortion legislative hearing on his conservative radio talk show on Sept. 2. The comments were floated on social media by The Tennessee Holler, a progressive-leaning organization. Roberts has since said his listeners understood it was hyperbole. LINK

State Lawmaker Says Call to Get Rid of Higher Education Was a Joke (Memphis Flyer) The Tennessee lawmaker who said higher education is a “liberal breeding ground” and should be eliminated last week is now saying his comments were made in jest. Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield) said on his weekly radio talk show, “The Kerry Roberts Show,” last week that getting rid of higher education would “save America.” Roberts’ comments came as he was detailing the events of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing last month on legislation that would essentially ban abortion outright in Tennessee. LINK

Senator Roberts backtracks, says calling colleges “liberal breeding ground” was hyperbole (WTVF-TV) State Senate Kerry Roberts back tracked on comments he made about institutions of higher education last Monday on his talk show. The republican from Springfield said America would be better off without colleges and universities and that such schools were a “liberal breeding ground” . “Here we are as legislators paying for this garbage to be taught to our children and we’re not doing anything about it,” Senator Roberts said. “In all of these red states across America we allow it to exist and it’s absolutely unbelievable. And this is the price we pay, the murder of over half a million innocent lives every year with people sitting their justifying it to their last breath.” LINK

Tennessee Lawmaker Slams Districts For Naming Underperforming Student Groups (WPLN Radio) A letter sent to parents by some Tennessee school districts puts a target on students of color, a state legislator claims. Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, says the content and language of the document sent over the summer to inform parents their children’s school is underperforming could cause bullying, because it names student groups that are falling behind. The letters were sent to meet a federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act. It requires districts to notify parents in low-performing schools why they are receiving state intervention. LINK

Voucher sponsor Bill Dunn draws GOP primary challenger (TN Journal) Rep. Bill Dunn, the lead House sponsor of this year’s school voucher bill, has drawn a primary challenge from Patti Bounds, a former teacher and Knox County school board member, Knox TN Today reports. “I opened the bank account today,” Bounds told the publication.  “And now it feels real.” Bounds opposes the “Education Savings Account” measure enacted at first-year Gov. Bill Lee’s behest. Dunn has been a longtime supporter voucher proposals. He has served in the General Assembly since 1994. He currently serves as speaker pro tem, the ceremonial No. 2 position in the House. LINK

State election board violates its own rules to reconsider $60,000 in fines against Bill Ketron (WTVF-TV) Is Bill Ketron getting special treatment again? At its last meeting, the Tennessee Election Registry voted unanimously to audit the campaign accounts of Ketron, a former state senator and current mayor of Rutherford County. But it’s what happened before the meeting, behind the scenes that caught the eye of NewsChannel 5 Investigates. Last year, Bill Ketron was fined $60,000 for failing to file campaign finance forms for both his senate campaign and political action committee. LINK

Pelosi Energizes Battle to Lower Drug Prices (NY Times) A draft proposal by Speaker Nancy Pelosi would empower the federal government to negotiate lower prices for hundreds of prescription drugs, not only for Medicare but for the private market as well, injecting new urgency into Washington’s efforts to control the soaring price of pharmaceuticals … Another bipartisan team, Senators Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, and Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, introduced a bill in June that is largely focused on ending so-called surprise medical billing. LINK

‘I believe climate change is real,’ Sen. Lamar Alexander writes in op-ed (WTVF-TV) Sen. Lamar Alexander (R – Tennessee) has a plan to fight climate change. In an op-ed published in the Washington Times , the outgoing U.S. senator proposed a five-year project that would “use American research and technology to put our countr and the world firmly on a path toward cleaner, cheaper energy.” He called it a new Manhattan Project for Clean Energy. LINK

Strikes, protests planned in Tennessee for ‘Global Climate Strike’ (WZTV-TV) Several Middle Tennessee locations will be the site of a global day of protest against climate change. The ‘Global Climate Strike’ will be held in cities across the globe, calling for those supporting an end of fossil fuel use to walk out of their homes and workplaces to demand action. LINK

Progressive veterans group backs Democrat James Mackler’s Tennessee US Senate bid (Tennessean) A progressive political action committee aimed at helping veterans nationwide has endorsed Democrat James Mackler’s U.S. Senate campaign. VoteVets, which was formed by Iraq War veterans in 2006, announced the endorsement Monday, calling Mackler an exceptional American. LINK

Sethi on Hagerty’s entry into Senate race: It’s on. (TN Journal) Vanderbilt surgeon Manny Sethi in a fundraising email welcomes former U.S. Ambassador Bill Hagerty to the U.S. Senate race, casting himself as the “conservative outsider” versus the “consummate insider.” The challenge for Sethi will be to try to somehow drive a wedge between Hagerty and his endorsement from Trump without alienating the president’s supporters in the Republican primary. LINK

From Sarah Huckabee Sanders to Al Franken, Politicon brings eclectic group to Nashville (Tennessean) A nonpartisan political convention is bringing quite the crew of politicians, commentators and celebrities on both sides of the aisle to Nashville in late October. Al Franken, James Comey, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Sean Hannity will all be in attendance at Politicon, a non-partisan “unconventional political convention” that is moving to Nashville from Los Angeles for its fifth year. Participants will “banter and spar over the most topical issues in smart and entertaining ways that often poke fun at both sides of the aisle,” according to a news release. LINK

Report: Consolidating elections may not boost voter turnout in Tennessee (AP) As Tennessee grapples with how to improve its consistently dismal voter turnout, a newly released state government report warns that requiring cities to move their local and school elections to coincide with statewide elections wouldn’t necessarily address the problem. Instead, the report encouraged the GOP-controlled Legislature to continue allowing cities to set their own dates. LINK

RCS celebrates Reward School, Exemplary School District designations (Rogersville Review) For the second time in eight years, Rogersville City School earned the distinction of being named both a Tenn. Dept. of Education Reward School and an Exemplary School District, and as a Reward School for the third time in nine years … RCS now has an official Facebook page she said, and Ballad Health is working on last-minute details to get the school’s Telehealth services up and running. LINK

OPINION

U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett: Arbitration process would fix problem of surprise medical billing (News Sentinel)Tennessee’s health care system is in rough shape. Our state has lost 1 out of every 6 doctors and nearly 20% of its hospitals in just 10 years. Today, 2.5 million Tennesseans lack adequate access to care. This is a looming crisis for Tennessee. Our families, friends and neighbors must receive medical care when they need it. They should be able to do everything they can to meet their health care needs, with as little government intrusion as possible. LINK

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