Wednesday, October 9

Governor on ESA school vouchers: “most important is we get it done right” (WKRN-TV) Republican Governor Bill Lee remains “hopeful” and “excited” that his signature education savings account (ESA) or voucher plan is up and running next year, but he maintains “most important is we get it done right. “ The controversial ESA voucher plan narrowly passed the House earlier this year before passing the Senate by a slightly wider margin. “We hope to have that program up by next fall,” reiterated the governor after a ceremony at a Nashville charter school last week. LINK

Gov. Bill Lee promoting geoscience awareness with Earth Science Week in Tennessee (WBIR-TV) Next week is all about the Earth. On Tuesday, Gov. Bill Lee proclaimed Oct. 13 to 19 as Earth Science Week in Tennessee. This is the 22nd annual observance of the week in the state, which is designated by the American Geosciences Institute to help the public gain a better understanding and appreciation for the field.  Local science teachers might be able to celebrate the new week with a free geoscience toolkit. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation will distribute a limited number of Earth Science Week toolkits to science teachers across the state. LINK

Gov. Bill Lee decrees next week “Earth Science Week” (Brentwood Home Page) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has proclaimed Oct. 13-19 Earth Science Week in Tennessee to promote awareness of the importance of geoscience. As part of Earth Science Week, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), in partnership with the American Geosciences Institute, will distribute a limited number of Earth Science Week tool kits to science teachers across the state. “We are glad to have the opportunity to share these resources with educators,” David Salyers, commissioner of TDEC, said. “Earth Science Week is an excellent way to make students aware of all the exciting aspects of this important field.” LINK

Pence Back on the USMCA Stump (Politico) Vice President Mike Pence visited a Tyson Foods processing plant in Nashville on Monday, where he again called on Congress to ratify the new NAFTA agreement. The event was funded by Trade Works for America, a group pushing for the deal’s passage, and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee were also on hand. LINK

Governor’s Conference set for October 24-25 (Overton County News) Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development announced Monday, Sept. 9, that Governor Bill Lee and Donald Miller, CEO of StoryBrand, will be keynote speakers at the 2019 TNECD Governor’s Conference in Nashville. Donald Miller will be the keynote speaker during the Commissioner’s Luncheon on Thursday, Oct. 24, and Gov. Lee will headline the Governor’s Luncheon on Friday, Oct. 25. This will be Governor Lee’s first appearance at the conference as governor. LINK

Henderson factory expanding operation with $13 million investment (WBBJ-TV) A Chester County business is expanding their operations after a more than $13 million investment. Henderson Stamping and Production is a manufacturer of metal stampings and assemblies for appliances and automotive industries, according to a news release from the Tennessee Department of Economic Development. The release says Henderson Stamping is currently located in a 100,000-square-foot facility.  LINK

ThreeStar Grant Awarded (Livingston Enterprise) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe announced 59 counties that will receive ThreeStar grants. In total, TNECD is awarding $2.4 million in funding to Tennessee communities through this round of the ThreeStar grant program. LINK

Tennessee Governor shares testimony in chapel (Trev Echoes) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee shared his personal faith experience, including the death of his first wife and his journey from businessman to politician, with the Trevecca community in Tuesday’s chapel service. The Tennessee governor agreed to share his testimony when a Trevecca student invited him to speak in one of university’s worship services. Lee told students about the tragic death of his first wife when their four children were young and how that time solidified his faith. “The Lord does his most powerful work, I’m convinced, in the midst of struggle and difficulty and pain,” he said. LINK

Gov. Bill Lee proclaims new day dedicated to prayer in Tennessee (WHBQ-TV) This week, Gov. Bill Lee is asking Tennesseans to voluntarily pray and fast. The Governor proclaimed Thursday as a “Day of Prayer, Humility, and Fasting.” “We invite all Tennesseans to join with us in their homes, in their communities, in their places of worship to fast and to pray for God’s favor and blessing on the people of Tennessee,” said Lee (R-Tenn.) in a video posted on Twitter on Sept. 18. The Governor posted his proclamation on Oct. 4. LINK

Gov. Lee Defends Day Of Prayer, Saying It Provides An Opportunity For Unity (WPLN Radio) Gov. Bill Lee is defending his decision to declare Oct. 10 a “day of prayer, humility and fasting.” The announcement of the declaration has been received with mixed emotions, and some groups are pushing back on it. Lee says the idea of a day of prayer is to create unity across the state. “Providing an opportunity for people to come together and to unite around asking for blessing for our state and for the people of this state is valuable,” Lee told reporters. “It’s historically something that presidents and governors have done through history.” The reality is that Lee is not the first governor to declare such observance. LINK

TN Gov. Receives Praise and Backlash for Declaring Day of Prayer, Humility, and Fasting (CBS News) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee recently issued a proclamation declaring Oct. 10 as a voluntary “Day of Prayer, Humility, and Fasting.”  “Everywhere that Maria and I travel across this great state we’ve met with countless number of people that come up to me and say, ‘Governor, we’re praying for you and for Maria and for your family’,” the governor said in a video posted on Twitter.   “We know that prayer accomplishes much,” he said. “Prayer strengthens our families and it strengthens our communities. It strengthens our relationship with our neighbors. It strengthens our relationship with God himself.” LINK

Tennessee Korean War soldier missing for 69 years to be laid to rest tomorrow (WZTV-TV)  Tennessee soldier will be laid to rest 69 years after he went missing in the Korean War. Army Captain Rufus J. Hyman of Memphis went missing on July 30, 1950 while engaged with the North Korean People’s Army. The then 23-year-old went missing and a year later, a search and recovery team with the American Graves Registration Service Group found remains where he was last seen. Attempts to identify the remains as Hyman’s were unsuccessful and the remains were buried in Hawaii as ‘Unknown X-1575.’ LINK

Former LifePoint CEO Bill Carpenter to help state modernize health care (Nashville Business Journal) Gov. Bill Lee has tapped a familiar face from Nashville to help lead a new task force aimed at improving the health of Tennesseans. Former LifePoint Health Chairman and CEO Bill Carpenter will co-chair the Governor’s Health Care Modernization Task Force, alongside Tennessee Finance and Administration Commissioner Stuart McWhorter, according to a state news release. The task force will hold public discussions in order to find “options for consideration to address some the state’s major health care issues,” particularly access to care. LINK

Former LifePoint CEO to co-chair Tennessee’s healthcare modernization task force (Kaiser News) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s administration has formed a task force of industry stakeholders to work together to address the state’s healthcare issues. The administration announced the task force Oct. 8, saying that Bill Carpenter, former chairman and CEO of Brentwood, Tenn.-based LifePoint Health, will co-chair the group with Tennessee Finance and Administration Commissioner Stuart McWhorter. “Working together, with patients, providers and payers, we can establish Tennessee as a world-class healthcare market for our people,” Mr. Lee said. “I would like to thank Commissioner McWhorter and Bill Carpenter for agreeing to lead this effort that will help move Tennessee toward better health outcomes and toward being a leader in the nation on healthcare.” LINK

Lee Administration Listening Tour Finds Tennesseans Have Trouble Getting To The Doctor (WPLN Radio) Trouble with transportation to and from a health care visit was the surprise takeaway from a round of health care listening tours over the summer. They were led by Tennessee Finance Commissioner Stuart McWhorter. The five insights compiled by consulting firm Navigant also pinpointed untapped opportunities for telehealth, significant barriers caused by rural hospital closures, concern about social determinants of health and demands for more transparency in health care billing. LINK

BlueCross BlueShield executive, area lawmakers on task force aimed at tackling health care access issues in Tennessee (Times Free Press) Tennessee Finance Commissioner Stuart McWhorter on Tuesday announced members who will serve on Gov. Bill Lee’s 25-person Health Care Modernization Task Force, a group charged with recommending short- and long-term answers to problems in a state long plagued by underserved areas, as well as cellar-level health rankings among its citizens. Task Force members include Dr. Andrea Willis, a senior vice president and chief medical officer for Chattanooga-based insurer BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. Also named by Lee to serve on the panel are three area lawmakers: state Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bo Watson, R-Hixson, Rep. Robin Smith, R-Hixson, and Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton. LINK

Five from Memphis to serve on health care task force (Daily Memphian) Memphis will have a strong contingent on Tennessee’s Health Care Modernization Task Force, charged with forming policies to improve one of the unhealthiest states in the nation and Shelby County, which ranks in Tennessee’s bottom fourth. State Sen. Raumesh Akbari and state Rep. John DeBerry, both Memphis Democrats, were named Tuesday to the panel, one of Gov. Bill Lee’s plans for pulling Tennessee out of its 42nd position in overall health rankings nationally, including 43rd for early deaths, 44th for low birthweight babies and 47th for adults smoking. Akbari and DeBerry are the only legislative Democrats on the panel, though DeBerry’s bona fides have been questioned by his colleagues. LINK

Lee announces membership of Health Care Modernization Task Force (TN Journal) Gov. Bill Lee has announced the membership of his Health Care Modernization Task Force. Here is who’s on it: LINK

Tennessee healthcare organizations call on lawmakers to ban flavored vaping products (WZTV-TV) Tennessee healthcare organizations are calling on Gov. Bill Lee and state lawmakers to ban flavored vaping products. E-cigarettes are facing backlash as health officials investigate a growing number of people with vaping-related lung illness, along with an exponential increase in the number of teens using the devices in recent years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported more than 1,000 lung injuries and 18 confirmed deaths. Concerns are most prominent surrounding flavored products that mimic candy, juices or other kid-friendly products and are marketed to juveniles. LINK

Tenn. healthcare organizations call on Gov. Lee for restriction of vaping products (WTVF-TV) Some of the largest healthcare organizations in the state have signed and sent a letter to Gov. Lee, urging that he and the Tennessee General Assembly take action against vaping products. Coordinated by the Tennessee Medical Association and signed by 16 organizations in the state, the letter calls out the rise in illnesses linked to vaping, including a number of cases in Tennessee. LINK

Tennessee health care groups call for flavored e-cigarette ban (Times Free Press) Some of Tennessee’s largest health care advocacy organizations are urging Gov. Bill Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly to ban flavors in electronic cigarettes, or vaping devices, in response to emerging public health issues. In a letter sent Tuesday, more than a dozen associations petitioned the Governor to implement “an emergency temporary measure to restrict Tennessee youth from obtaining vaping products,” and encouraged the Tennessee General Assembly to “take more permanent legislative action when it convenes in 2020,” according to a news release from the Tennessee Medical Association, which initiated and coordinated the letter. LINK

Domestic violence resources in Middle Tennessee: Signs of abuse, who to call, where to go (Tennessean) The latest Violence Policy Center report finds that Tennessee ranked fifth in the nation for the rate of women killed by men after an analysis of 2017 data, a year where nearly 2,000 women were killed under those circumstances. One in four women will be a victim of domestic abuse in her lifetime. In 2018, Metro Nashville Police responded to over 25,000 domestic violence calls. LINK

Flowers on the Water: Helen Ross McNabb Center battles domestic violence by helping victims break their silence (WBIR-TV) More than ten million people deal with some sort of physical abuse every year in the U.S., according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Women between 18 and 24 are most likely to face abuse. Domestic violence hotlines receive an average of 20,000 phone calls every day. Every nine seconds, a woman in the U.S. is assaulted by a current or ex-significant other, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.  LINK

Cybersecurity and Democracy Collide: Locking Down Elections (Government Technology) When asked at a congressional hearing if Russia would attack U.S. election systems again in 2020, Special Counsel Robert Mueller was unequivocal: “It wasn’t a single attempt,” he said. “They’re doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it during the next campaign.” Presidential campaigns are now underway, and election systems are still vulnerable. From voter registration databases to result-reporting websites to the voting machines themselves, researchers have identified soft spots across the system for hackers to exploit, meaning cybersecurity is now a front line of defense for American democracy. LINK

Opioid safe havens at Chattanooga fire stations exceed expectations in first month (Times Free Press) The new joint effort between the Chattanooga Fire Department and the Hamilton County Coalition to provide 24-hour assistance for those seeking opioid addiction treatment exceeded expectations in its first month, according to Chattanooga Fire Chief Phil Hyman. Seven people with substance use disorders came to fire stations for help in September and were connected to free treatment through the coalition’s Nu-Start program, Hyman said. LINK

TN AG estimated damage caused by opioid distributor to be in “hundreds of millions” (WATE-TV) A seven-page memorandum, filed in Knox County Circuit Court, provides a closer look at the argument Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III has formed against AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation in a civil lawsuit. The full 230-page complaint, filed Monday, is still sealed in Knox County Circuit Court, but could be publicly available as soon as next week. The lawsuit alleges Amerisource violated the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act as well as the Tennessee Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. LINK

Tennessee voters appeal ruling in election security lawsuit (AP) A group of voters is appealing a judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the security of voting machines in Tennessee’s largest county and calling for a switch to a handwritten ballot and a voter-verifiable paper trail. Lawyer Carol Chumney says Shelby County Advocates for Valid Elections has filed an appeal to U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker’s ruling last month that their lawsuit failed to show that any harm has come to them and that they have no legal standing. LINK

Local builder, son of former rep ‘seriously considering’ primary run against Van Huss (Johnson City Press) When he was growing up, Timothy Hicks, 56, said his father gave him a recurring piece of advice. “My father always used to tell me, of course, it was a different time than now, but he said, ‘Tim if you learn a trade, you’ll always have a job,’” Hicks said Tuesday. Hicks is the son of Bobby Hicks, a former two-term state house representative for District 6 who also served for 12 years as a Washington County commissioner. Bobby Hicks died in 2007. LINK

Renee Hoyos announces run against Rep. Burchett (WATE-TV) Renee Hoyos announcing Tuesday she is launching her campaign for Tennessee’s 2nd congressional district in the 2020 election. In a release, Hoyos stating she’s entering the 2020 race prepared to fight for East Tennesseans over powerful, outside special interests. “East Tennesseans deserve a Congresswoman who knows how to fight against powerful, outside special interests, who threaten our healthcare, threaten our clean water, and threaten our way of life,” said Hoyos. “I fought against those powerful interests for years while cleaning up Tennessee’s water, and I’ll do the same in Washington.” LINK

‘Way over the line’ – Rep. Cooper discusses support of impeachment inquiry against President Trump. (WTVF-TV) When Representative Jim Cooper (D-TN) came out in favor of an impeachment inquiry, he didn’t take it lightly. “The tragedy for America is that it’s happening at all,” were some of the first words out of the Congressman’s mouth when he sat down for an interview with NewsChannel 5. “The Bible says we should be slow to anger, and I think that’s right. I have tried to be patient. But the President has overstepped so many bounds it’s really almost pointless to list them at this point. When you see someone cozying up to foreign dictators, some of the worst people in the world, and at the same time betraying some of our closest allies that’s very scary,” said Cooper. LINK

Politicon set to make Music City debut later this month (Tennessean) Later this month, politicians, politicos, journalists and others with gather in Nashville as Music City serves as a first-time host of Politicon. Started in 2015, Politicon is an annual convention that hosts dozens of panel discussions on politics. This year, which will feature discussions on everything from impeachment to guns, will see several big name speakers in attendance, including former U.S. Sen. Al Franken, former FBI director James Comey, former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. LINK

TVA asks for public input on coal ash at former Allen Fossil Plant (Elizabethton Star) The Tennessee Valley Authority is moving forward with plans to remove coal ash stored at the former Allen Fossil Plant in Shelby County, Tenn., and to demolish the plant structures. The public is invited to comment on a draft Environmental Impact Statement which will look at the potential environmental effects of various options for removal of coal ash stored at the site. That document is available at LINK

TVA leaders outline plan to reuse old Allen Fossil plant site (Daily Memphian) The 60-year-old Allen Fossil plant is scheduled for demolition  in 2022, Tennessee Valley Authority President and CEO Jeff Lyash said Tuesday as leaders got a look at possible future uses for the 500-acre site. The general plan for the old plant site was unveiled at a luncheon meeting. Among those present were TVA board members and Memphis attorney John Ryder, several city council members and John Zeanah, director of the Memphis-Shelby County Division of Planning and Development. LINK

GM strike ripple effect: Auto parts shortages and layoffs hit Tennessee (Commercial Appeal) With the UAW strike now in week four, car dealers report parts shortages and some independent suppliers have resorted to layoffs until General Motors ramps up vehicle production again. Independent factories that make parts for strike-bound GM plants have laid off employees across Tennessee, UAW officials said. Output also has been slowed for replacement parts for GM vehicles. Dealers handling GM’s brands — Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC — report they are scrambling to find auto parts for their vehicle service departments. LINK

A rural hospital fights for survival. A Tennessee town hangs in the balance. (Tennessean) Mayor Lonnie Norman, 78, awoke at 2 a.m. with shooting pain in his chest and arm. He wondered, just for a moment, if this was the end. Then Norman realized help wasn’t far away. He climbed out of bed and hurried to his car, then drove down the dark streets of the small town where he has lived his entire life, he recalled. Norman swerved into the parking lot of Unity Medical Center, where familiar faces welcomed him inside the small, aging facility. LINK

Video: As rural hospitals struggle, Unity Medical Center evolves to survive (Tennessean) Unity Medical Center, a small hospital in Manchester, is seeing fewer patients and financial losses every year. LINK

Feds will cut off rural Tennessee hospital that is too broke to keep the lights on (Tennessean) Federal authorities announced Wednesday they are ending Medicare and Medicaid payments to a rural Tennessee hospital that has become so woefully broke that it cannot pay its employees, its vendors or even keep the lights on. Portions of the hospital lost power last month because a $33,000 electricity bill had not been paid. Federal officials also allege the hospital has withheld taxes from employees’ paychecks but then kept the money instead of paying it to the government. LINK


Editorial: Burchett’s job isn’t to defend Trump (News Sentinel) At U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett’s Grainger County town hall on Oct. 1, he stated does not believe President Donald Trump has committed an impeachable offense or put our country in danger. Burchett should look deeper into the White House transcript of Trump’s request for a “favor” from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to provide dirt on Trump’s political rival, Joe Biden, in order for Ukraine to receive the desperately needed U.S. military aid that was approved by both houses of Congress. The context of this conversation implies Trump’s intent to have a foreign country interfere in our 2020 election. LINK

Guest column: Lee, state GOP have shown they can’t be trusted with Medicaid block grant (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Lee’s possibly illegal Medicaid block grant proposal would put billions of dollars Tennessee’s most vulnerable citizens depend on in his hands and the hands of the Tennessee Republican supermajority with few strings attached. The plan gives them the incentive to spend as few of those dollars as possible by finding “savings” the state would then keep a portion of. LINK

Mary Mancini: Join in Tennessee’s Day of Prayer to pray for the poor, the marginalized and for better leadership (Tennessean) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has declared Thursday a “Day of Prayer and Fasting.” As alarming as a government-issued proclamation which specifies “prayer and fasting” as a collective action may be (see the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment), our country does have a tradition of publicly declaring days of prayer. With this in mind, and in keeping with our other traditions of equality and inclusion, I urge Tennesseans of all faiths, as well as Tennesseans with no organized religious affiliation, to choose what works for you — prayer, a moment of silence, private meditation, etc. — and join in. LINK

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