Tuesday, October 8

Tennessee soldier killed in Black Hawk crash honored, recognized by Gov. Bill Lee (WZTV-TV) A Tennessee Army Major killed in a Black Hawk crash is being honored by Governor Bill Lee and the Tennessee Department of Veterans Services on Friday. 33-year-old Major Trevor Joseph of Collierville was killed on September 26 while attempting to recover a soldier from training ranges at Fort Polk in Louisiana. Three other soldiers were injured in the crash, which is still under investigation. LINK

Star-studded start to Day 1 of Habitat’s Carter Work Project (AP) Former President Jimmy Carter and wife Rosalynn are in the Music City with the goal of building nearly two dozen homes in one week … Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and First Lady Maria Lee also participated in the build on Monday. For Maria Lee, it’s her third Habitat home build in six months. LINK

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee proclaims Official Day of Prayer, Fasting on Thursday (WZTV-TV) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is asking residents to pray and fast alongside him and the first lady this week. Lee posted a video message on Twitter back in September, saying that he and his wife had decided to proclaim Oct. 10 as an official day of prayer and fasting for the state. “On that day, Maria and I will take the day to offer prayers of healing, prayers of forgiveness, prayers of Thanksgiving and prayers of hope for our state and for the 6.7 million who call Tennessee home,” Lee said. “We invite all Tennesseans to join with us in their homes, in their communities and their places of worship to fast and to pray for God’s favor and blessing of people of Tennessee.” LINK

Business incubator gains $30K Three-Star grant (Shelbyville Times-Gazette) Bedford County will receive a $30,000 grant through the state’s ThreeStar program, which will be used towards development of a business incubator in unused space at Bedford County Business Complex on Dover Street … Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe announced last week the 59 counties that will receive ThreeStar grants. LINK

Grand Divisions Episode 70: A sit-down with finance Commissioner Stuart McWhorter on healthcare (Tennessesan) For months, reporters and healthcare advocacy groups have awaited details of Gov. Bill Lee’s “Health Care Modernization Task Force,” an initiative he announced at his first State of the State in early March. From the outside, there appeared to be little movement on the formation of the group, or on details about what the task force would be setting out to accomplish. Until now. While details are still limited, Lee’s administration on Tuesday is releasing a report on what a team of nine state department commissioners learned during closed-door listening sessions they held around the state this summer with medical providers, patients and other industry stakeholders. LINK

Lee administration gives first look at findings from health care meetings (TN Journal) Finance Commissioner Stuart McWhorter has written an op-ed for The Tennessean about what he has found out during a series of closed-door meetings about the state health care in the state. Details of Gov. Bill Lee’s health care modernization task force are expected to be released later this week. The placement of the op-ed is curious given that the paper’s own news staff was thwarted in its efforts to cover the meetings. McWhorter said the meetings involved the heads of eight state agencies and private sector experts to “explore improving rural health, reducing chronic conditions, improving transparency and helping to foster innovation.” The discussions are apparently separate from the Medicaid block grant proposal that was panned in a series of public hearings last week. LINK

Tennessee health care modernization task force’s proposals won’t include ‘Band-Aid fixes or political talking points’ (Times Free Press) With Republican Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday expected to announce members of his long-awaited “Healthcare Modernization Task Force,” his finance commissioner, Stuart McWhorter, says not to expect the group’s eventual recommendations to involve “Band-Aid fixes or political talking points. “We worked to understand some of the root issues preventing us from being a healthier, more prosperous state,” McWhorter said in an opinion piece about the months of closed-door meetings with health insurers, providers and various groups to identify issues and themes for task force members to tackle. That goal, McWhorter said, “was to listen and have candid conversations with Tennesseans who are the closest to the most complex issues in our health care system.” LINK

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee proclaims Oct. 10, 2019, as a voluntary day of prayer, humility, and fasting (WATN-TV) Governor Bill Lee is facing praise and backlash for asking Tennesseans to pray and fast alongside him and the first lady this week. Governor Lee signed a proclamation declaring Thursday a statewide voluntary day of prayer, humility, and fasting. The proclamation reads in part, “The people in Tennessee acknowledge our rich blessings, our deep transgressions, and the need to give thanks to God almighty.” Some people say the day of prayer is needed, but others think Lee should not push his Christian views on the entire state. We want to know what you think.  LINK

UT study shows many Tennesseans are misinformed about tornadoes (WBIR-TV) Autumn weather patterns are finally starting to settle in, and in the Southeast — the shifting patterns of cool and warm weather in October and November signal an elevated risk for instability that can create storms capable of spawning tornadoes. NOAA data shows Tennessee typically sees a slight uptick in tornado reports on average during this time of year, though the state is lower risk during the season compared to states in the heart of the ‘Dixie Alley’ along the Gulf such as Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. East Tennessee in particular is not as likely to see tornadoes as other parts of the state because of the topography, but it is still a possibility — such as when an EF2 tornado touched down and left destruction in McMinn County in late November 2016. LINK

TennCare schedules Memphis hearing on Medicaid block grant proposal (Daily Memphian)The public hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. that day in the University Center, UC Ballroom, 499 University St. Parking will be available at the center’s garage at 505 Zach Curlin St.  An event is set for Chattanooga the following day, and comments on the plan can be sent by email to public.notice.tenncare@tn.gov. House Minority Leader Karen Camper requested Gov. Bill Lee hold a Memphis hearing because of the large number of people who could be affected in Shelby County by the state’s block grant proposal. LINK

Memphis, Chattanooga to hold TennCare public hearings after concerns raised (Commercial Appeal) Memphis and Chattanooga will hold public hearings for proposed TennCare changes next week, not long after health care leaders and elected officials raised concerns about the initial lack of a Memphis meeting. The Division of TennCare updated its agenda to include two more public hearings, one at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 15 at the University of Memphis’ UC Ballroom A, and another at 2 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Downtown Branch of the Chattanooga Public Library. Both times are local. Public hearings have already been held in Nashville, Knoxville and Jackson. The schedule originally did not include Memphis, which is within the county that has more TennCare enrollees than any other county. LINK

Chattanooga to host Medicaid Public Hearing on October 16 (WRCB-TV) Chattanooga will host a public meeting next week on Governor Bill Lee’s Medicaid Waiver, which could impact thousands in Hamilton County. According to TennCare numbers, more than one-million Tennesseans are in the program, including 65,000 people in Hamilton County. That is why State Representative Yusuf Hakeem believes Chattanooga needs to be a part of this process. “The citizen input should have a great impact on what is presented, if anything, to the federal government from the state of Tennessee,” Hakeem said. Hakeem says TennCare continues to help thousands every day. LINK

Child care crisis impacting state economy (Johnson City Press) The high cost of child care is impacting more than young parents. A recently released report shows the lack of access to affordable child care for pre-school-aged children is costing Tennessee taxpayers, families and businesses a combined $1.34 billion annually. Cosponsored by the advocacy group Tennesseans for Quality Early Education and business and nonprofit organizations across the state, including the Chambers of Commerce in each of the Tri-Cities, the local Ayers Foundation and Ballad Health, the report identifies a lack of affordable childcare among the state’s greatest economic challenges. LINK

TN AG sues drug distributor accused of sending 8.5M Oxycodone pills to TN (WSMV-TV) The Tennessee Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit today against a drug maker accused of it’s role in the opioid epidemic. Attorney General Herbert Slattery III accuses AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, based in Chesterbrook, Pennsylvania, of contributing to America’s opioid epidemic. The suit, filed in Kox County Circuit Court Monday, alleges the company shipped more than 8.5 million oxycodone pills to one east Tennessee store, Food City store #674 located in Bearden. The state filed a complaint 230 pages long, and it noted that on just one day in November of 2010, Ameriource shipped 168,000 oxycodone pills to the store. LINK

Tri-Cities lawmakers vow to insure Medicaid block grant proposal doesn’t lead to cuts (WCYB—TV) While Gov. Bill Lee continues his push to increase support for a Medicaid block grant proposal, Northeast Tennessee lawmakers say they will closely watch to ensure the first-of-its-kind proposal doesn’t lead to hurtful cuts for Tennesseans. Under the proposal, which requires federal approval, Tennessee would receive a lump-sum payment of $8 billion from the federal government to serve the 1.4 million Tennesseans on Medicaid, known as TennCare. Tennessee would then have the ability to change the amount, duration and scope of coverage without federal approval. LINK

Deadline to register to vote in Tennessee in 2019 is Monday (WVLT-TV) Are you registered to vote? If not, here’s what you need to know to get prepared for upcoming elections: If you are: A U.S. citizen, A resident of Tennessee, 18 or older and not convicted of a felony, You have the right to vote in Tennessee. If you have a Tennessee driver’s license or Tennessee ID card you can register to vote online here. Think you might be registered already, but aren’t sure? Enter your information here to find out if you are registered, where to find your polling place, and other district information. Here are a list of upcoming elections and their deadlines to register to vote: LINK

U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a Trump ally, opposes president’s withdrawal of troops in Syria (Tennessean) Tennessee’s U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn joined a handful of other Senate Republicans on Monday in opposing President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from war-torn northern Syria. Blackburn, a loyal Trump ally in the Senate, released a statement following similar criticisms expressed earlier in the day by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida. “For the past several years, American forces have fought alongside our Kurdish allies in Syria to provide safety and security to the region,” Blackburn said. LINK

Tennessee Republicans Oppose Trump’s Decision To Withdraw Troops From Syria (WPLN Radio) Members of the Tennessee delegation in Congress have come out on Monday against President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. The announcement, made by the president on Sunday night, has received significant pushback in the U.S.  House and Senate, even among members of his own party. Rep. Mark Green, a U.S. Army veteran and frequent supporter of the president, tweeted on Monday that “withdrawing American troops from the Syrian border betrays our Kurdish allies and will only create more instability in the region.” LINK

Republican TN Senator Marsha Blackburn and Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen agree on key policy regarding troop withdrawal (WATN-TV) Here’s something you don’t see often. Republican Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn and Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen both agree on the same issue. They are against President Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from war-torn northern Syria. Blackburn, who is usually a loyal Trump ally, released a statement which reads in part, “As the Syrian people seek stability post-conflict, we ought not to give isis any room to regain territory. An American presence preserves the possibility for peace.” LINK

Sen. Blackburn joins artist Bill Dawson in support of Center for Living and Learning (WTVF-TV) Senator Marsha Blackburn has teamed up with singer-songwriter Billy Dawson for a good cause. She tweeted this photo out this morning saying she was glad to partner in the cause. “So pleased to join Billy Dawson in support of Center for Living and Learning, which provides care and job training to individuals suffering from mental illness,” she said. The center is located in Franklin. If you’d like to learn more, click here. LINK

Amid Trump controversy, Pence demands passage of new North American trade agreement (Daily Memphian) Calling on Democrats to drop political attacks, Vice President Mike Pence pushed Monday for passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement at a Tyson Foods plant in Goodlettsville. Considered NAFTA 2.0 by some observers, the plan purportedly would update what supporters call an outdated trade agreement with its two neighbors and expand U.S. exports. “This president, he’s impatient for it,” Pence told a crowd of mostly Republican supporters and plant employees. “The truth is we need Congress to approve the United States-Mexico-Canada (agreement), and we need them to approve it this year.” LINK

Ahead of Trump fundraiser, Vice President Mike Pence pushes U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal (Tennessean) A previous version of this story misspelled U.S. Secretary of Agriculture’s Sonny Perdue’s last name. It has been updated with the correct spelling. Vice President Mike Pence came to Nashville to tout a new trade deal on Monday during a public event before appearing at a private fundraiser for President Donald Trump. “I came to Tennessee today to say it’s time for Congress to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement and to pass it this year,” he said while speaking at the Goodlettsville Tyson Foods plant from where packaged beef and pork are shipped to grocery stores around the country. LINK

Pence asks Tennesseans to support Mexico-Canada trade deal (AP) Vice President Mike Pence on Monday urged a group of Tennesseans to call the state’s two Democratic congressmen and ask them to help pass the Trump administration’s trade deal with Mexico and Canada. Pence’s remarks came during a speech to several hundred people at a Tyson Foods plant in Goodlettsville, just outside of Nashville. The event was sponsored by Trade Works for America, a bipartisan coalition advocating passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. LINK

Vice President Mike Pence speaks on US-Mexico-Canada Agreement during Tennessee visit (WZTV-TV) The largest trade deal in American history is what Vice President Mike Pence says brought him to the midstate Monday. Speaking to a crowd of supporters at Tyson Foods in Goodlettsville, the Vice President drove home the message the Trump Administration is good for the economy, something that will likely be at the heart of his re-election campaign. LINK

Vice President Pence urges Congress to pass new trade deal at Goodlettsville event (WTVF-TV) Vice President Mike Pence visited Nashville Monday to headline an event on trade. Pence spoke to a group at a Tyson Foods facility in Goodlettsville alongside Gov. Bill Lee and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Vice President Pence urged Congress to move forward with the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement – a controversial new trade deal that will impact the lives of Tennessee farmers. LINK

Photo Gallery: Vice President Mike Pence visits Tyson Foods in Goodlettsville,, Tenn. (Tennessean) LINK

Sec. of Agriculture talks to local famers, pushes new trade deal (WTVF-TV) Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue spoke to farmers this afternoon after touring the Tyson Facility with Vice President Mike Pence. Farmers had the opportunity to ask the secretary several questions. Some soybean farmers said they were weary because of the tariffs China placed on U.S. Soybeans in response to tarifs the U.S. placed on Chinese imports. “Long term, I’m concerned that our markets are going to be displaced by other countries,” said farmer Bob Strasser. LINK

Williamson County Republicans claim ‘indoctrination’ in schools necessitates new board members (Tennessean) The Williamson County Republican Party is calling for new candidates to run in the upcoming Williamson County Board of Education election in August 2020. In an Oct. 2 newsletter, the party says it wants change and calls certain curriculum  taught in public schools “political indoctrination.” “Help us put an end to political indoctrination,” the recent newsletter header reads. The WCBOE is a nonpartisan position. Six odd-numbered seats on the 12-member county school board are up for reelection in 2020, for a four-year term. LINK

Task force for Ballad Health merger holds opening meeting (WJHL-TV) The Southwest Virginia Cooperative Agreement Task Force was created to oversee the merger that created the region’s largest hospital company. They held their first meeting Monday. The stated purpose of the task force – to give the public a chance to be heard when it comes to the Ballad Health merger. The task force is similar to the local advisory board in Tennessee. That group has been the liaison between the public and state officials monitoring promises made by Ballad to get state merger approval. Southwest Virginia leaders already are calling for more specifics from Ballad Health. LINK


U.S. Rep. Phil Roe: Impeachment a desperate attempt by Democrats to oust Trump from office (Elizabethton Star) Does this sound familiar? “The evidence is pretty clear that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) on November 17, 2018. On September 21, 2017, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said, “Here you have a president who I can tell you, I guarantee you, is in collusion with the Russians to undermine our democracy.” When Special Counsel Robert Mueller released his report, he stated, “…the evidence was not sufficient to charge that any member of the Trump Campaign conspired with representatives of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election.” However, this finding of no collusion didn’t stop 95 House Democrats from voting to impeach the president in July — three months after reading this conclusion from Mr. Mueller. Congressional Democrats clearly made up their minds without any evidence. LINK

Frank Cagle: Manny against the Machine (KnoxTNToday) It is a tangled tale; let’s try and sort it out. How does the cocktail party caucus retain control of the Republican political machine in the Age of Trump? The Republican establishment is determined that the state not elect another conservative like Marsha Blackburn to the U.S. Senate. It is doubtful that former Gov. Bill Haslam ever seriously considered running for the U.S. Senate. It is apparent now that his purpose was to keep U.S. Rep. Mark Green out of the race and clear the way for Bill Hagerty.    President Trump is blasting Mitt Romney as an “ass” because Romney finds Trump’s actions “appalling.” What will Trump do when he finds out that Mitch McConnell got him to endorse Senate candidate Hagerty, who is a Romney friend, business associate and fund-raiser. LINK

David Plazas: Gov. Bill Lee’s call to pray does not violate the law, but it creates a slippery slope (Tennessean) The way Gov. Bill Lee carefully worded his “Day of Prayer, Humility and Fasting” proclamation avoids violating the Tennessee Constitution. Nevertheless, there are some problematic passages in Lee’s proclamation for a day of prayer on Thursday that challenge the spirit of the Constitution’s religious freedom clause. That is because his words create the impression that the governor is speaking for all Tennesseans when it comes to their faith or lack of religious affiliation. LINK

Guest column: Governor’s prayer and fasting proclamation is inappropriate (News Sentinel) Gov. Bill Lee is doing a disservice to the Constitution — and his citizens — in declaring Oct. 10 as an official day of prayer and fasting. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits government sponsorship of religious messages, as the governor must know. The Supreme Court has explained that the “First Amendment mandates government neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.” By issuing a proclamation calling on Tennessee citizens to pray, Lee abridges his duty as a public official to remain neutral. LINK

Guest column: Use Oct. 10 as a day to pray for those who prey on others (Tennessean) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has proclaimed Oct. 10 as a day of prayer and fasting in this state. He invites people to join him in praying for “healing, forgiveness, thanksgiving and hope.” Lee, who touts his religious faith, says he is motivated by the number of people who tell him and his wife that they are praying for them. According to the Pew Research Center, Tennessee is the third most religious state in the United States, behind Alabama and Mississippi, respectively. The governor’s proclamation, then, may be a good political move for him. LINK

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