Wednesday, November 6

Governor Bill Lee joins Google to open Tennessee Data Center in Montgomery Co. (WKRN-TV) Google is set to open its new Tennessee Data Center in Montgomery County. According to reports, the data center is a $600 million capital investment in Google’s technical infrastructure. In attendance will be Governor Bill Lee, Commissioner Bob Rolfe, Google Data Center lead Enoch Moeller,TVA’s Jeffery Lash, Deputy Speaker of the House Curtis Johnson, Senator Bill Powers, Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett, Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts, and other elected officials. The event will take place on Wednesday, November 6th at 2 p.m. LINK

Frustration with Washington vented at governor’s transportation hearing (WKRN-TV) Frustration with Washington over transportation projects was heard loud and clear Tuesday at Governor Bill Lee’s budget hearings. Much of it involved the uncertainty of federal lawmakers passing new funding laws that help provide money for projects in states like Tennessee. “I want to discuss the predicament we are in today,” said Deputy Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Joe Galbato at Governor Bill Lee’s state budget hearings. LINK

Tennessee preparing to launch disabled insurance program (AP) Tennessee would no longer be the only state in the country that does not have a program offering coverage for children with significant disabilities living at home under a proposal currently being reviewed by the federal government. Commissioner Brad Turner, who oversees the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, said Tuesday the state submitted a waiver in September asking the federal government for approval to allow disabled children to get Medicaid assistance whose families wouldn’t otherwise qualify in the state. LINK

Tennessee’s colleges propose $87 million spending increase (Tennessean) Tennessee’s colleges could see a flat to 2% tuition increase in the 2020-21 year, the lowest tuition proposal for the state’s higher education institutions in the past 30 years. “That will be among the lowest tuition ranges in the nation, almost certainly,” said Mike Krause, Tennessee Higher Education Commission executive director. “Most importantly for our Tennessee families, it will push affordability even further.” The commission helps oversee the state’s college institutions. The ability of the state’s colleges to propose such a low tuition increase is made possible by better outcomes at colleges across the state, according to Krause, who presented on Tuesday the proposed 2020-21 budget of the state’s colleges to Gov. Bill Lee. LINK

Proposed $21.9 million building for Chattanooga State ranks No. 2 on state’s higher education funding wish list (Times Free Press) A proposed $21.9 million advanced manufacturing building for Chattanooga State’s Tenneessee College of Applied Technology ranks No. 2 on this year’s wish list of building projects recommended by state higher education officials. The proposed 50,000-square foot building is among eight new capital projects totaling $354.9 million pitched Tuesday by Tennessee Higher Education Commission Executive Director Mike Krause during Gov. Bill Lee’s public budget hearings. LINK

Tennessee still struggling to fill jobs in state prisons and probation offices (WMOT Radio) Tennessee Department of Corrections officials say the state’s probation officers are quitting at an alarming rate. Governor Bill Lee is holding budget hearings on Capitol Hill this week. During TDOC’s presentation Monday, officials noted that one probation officer in four leaves state employment each year. Even more concerning, TDOC HR Director Brian Hughes told the governor the rate of attrition is accelerating. LINK

Cooper falls short of Lee transparency mark (Nashville Post) Nashville Mayor John Cooper, who promised transparency during his successful campaign, is falling short of an open records benchmark set by Republican Gov. Bill Lee. Cooper’s staff has declined multiple requests to review job applications submitted to his post-election transition team, leaving murky the process by which he built the team now running the city. “The requested records do not meet the definition of public records as contained in T.C.A. Section 10-7-503(a)(1)(A), but more importantly, we are taking measures to strike a balance between government transparency and the privacy of our citizens,” Cooper spokesman Chris Song wrote. LINK

Local town getting public Wi-Fi (WBBJ-TV) A West Tennessee town now has a new way to get and stay connected. Alamo’s downtown recently launched its free Wi-Fi.  The new internet source is part of the governor’s rural broadband initiative, and thanks to Gibson Connect and USDA Rural Development. To get online simply pick City of Alamo Public Wi-Fi from your device’s Wi-Fi options next time you are downtown. Alamo Mayor John Emison explains what he hopes the downtown Wi-Fi does for his constituents, and especially the businesses around court square. LINK

Gov. Lee visits Livingston TCAT (Overton Co. News) Governor Bill Lee and Tennessee Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn visited Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) Livingston campus on Wednesday, Oct. 30. Livingston TCAT President Myra West and her staff shared with Gov. Lee information about workforce development and student success at the college. Gov. Lee took the opportunity to tour the Welding Technology program, the Automotive Technology Program, and the Industrial Maintenance Program. West said, “We were honored to have Gov. Lee and Commissioner Schwinn on our campus. TCAT Livingston staff and faculty appreciated the opportunity to showcase the training we are doing in the Upper Cumberland.” LINK

Governor Lee Visits TCAT (Livingston Enterprise) On Wednesday Governor Bill Lee and TN Commissioner of Education Dr. Penny Schwinn visited the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) in Livingston. TCAT president Dr. Myra West and her staff discussed workforce development and student success at the college. Governor Lee toured the Welding Technology, Automotive Technology, and Industrial Maintenance programs. LINK

Knoxville voted to accept refugees — but it could mean nothing if Tennessee says no (News Sentinel) The Knoxville City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to continue allowing refugees to settle in Knoxville and urged Gov. Bill Lee to allow the same for all of Tennessee. The resolution was passed in response to an executive order from President Donald Trump, which requires consent in almost all cases from both local and state governments to allow refugees to settle there. Lee told reporters two weeks ago that he has not discussed Trump’s Sept. 26 executive order with his team and will not make a decision until there is more clarity from the federal government. LINK

UT Promise scholarship now available for current students (WBIR-TV) The UT Promise scholarship is now available for University of Tennessee undergraduate students currently attending a UT campus, the university said in a release Tuesday. UT Promise is a scholarship program that offers free tuition and mandatory fees for qualifying Tennessee undergraduate students with a family household income of under $50,000 after other financial aid is received (such as Pell Grants, HOPE Scholarship or other institutional scholarships) at UT Knoxville, UT Chattanooga, UT Martin and UT Health Science Center. LINK

Education commissioner outlines plan to move state forward (WSMV-TV) Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn outlined her plan for how to move Tennessee’s education system forward on Tuesday. Schwinn spoke at a three-day conference at the Music City Center where teachers can come and learn what initiatives they will be asked to put in place in the classroom. “Every single student gets the support they need,” said Schwinn. “We’ve got to focus on our educators to make Tennessee the place people want to come and stay a teacher so they can accomplish the dreams they set for themselves.” LINK

Tennessee Department of Education promotes plan that’s ‘Best for All’ (WTVF-TV) The Tennessee Department of Education unveiled a strategic plan that establishes a framework for the department’s goals and priorities. The plan, called “Best for All” was presented to more than 1,000 educators statewide at the 2019 LEAD conference by Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “We want to ensure that every student is on a path to success,” Schwinn said. LINK

Employees concerned at TN Education Department that state is unprepared for TCAP (WZTV-TV) Governor Bill Lee’s appointed commissioner of the Department of Education comes to Tennessee from Texas with big ideas on how to rectify what has been a pedestrian education system over the years. A FOX 17 News investigation into her redesigns of the department have uncovered a lot of angst and worry from employees — current and former. An employee that recently quit wrote in an email to FOX 17 News, “The current state of the department is very worrisome in terms of staffing numbers and staffing qualifications.” LINK

In Tennessee’s New Education Strategic Plan, Career Exploration Will Start In Pre-K (WPLN Radio) Career exploration for all ages will be a new focus of the Tennessee Department of Education, according to the agency’s new strategic plan released Tuesday. This comes after state officials visited 70 school districts and received over 35,000 comments from teachers, administrators and students. Commissioner Penny Schwinn told reporters Monday that high schoolers were part of the creation of the “Best for All” plan. And, she said, older students in the state worry high school is too late to learn about what fields they might be interested in. So, the state will address career readiness sooner, Schwinn said. LINK

Driverless roadside safety vehicles undergo testing in Tennessee (WKRN-TV) Driverless attenuators are a new type of technology to Tennessee that residents could soon see on the roads. TDOT and the University of Tennessee Knoxville are testing out the new technology this week and News 2 got a first look during a test run at TDOT’s test track in Dickson. Put to the test were two trucks. They were driving at the same speed, same direction, making the same sharp turns, but there was one big difference – The second truck had no driver in sight. LINK

Tenn. could now have $1 billion in unspent funds for families, including $300M for child care (Tennessean) A Tennessean review of how the state manages federal dollars intended to help working families shows that unspent funds could top $1 billion. The state has not spent roughly $300 million from a federal Child Care and Development Fund that provides subsidies to working families, according to experts. That’s in addition to the $732 million in stockpiled funding from the federal government known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF that is intended to lift parents out poverty. LINK

Here’s how Tennessee accumulated $732 million in reserves for working families (Tennessean) For years, Tennessee has been stockpiling its federal funds earmarked for needy families, but federal data shows that around 2014 the reserves started climbing dramatically. Gov. Bill Lee has said the state could tap the fund during a recession, and that his administration is working on a plan to spend some of the money sooner. Here’s a look at the federal grant expenditures and reserves since 2010 for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, or TANF. LINK

Tennessee infant mortality rate drops; still exceeds US rate (AP) Tennessee health officials say the state’s infant mortality rate dropped in 2018, but it still exceeded the national rate. According to the Tennessee Department of Health, there were 38 fewer infant deaths in the state in 2018 than in 2017. LINK

‘Is Nashville’s juvenile crime problem a health crisis?’ (WTVF-TV) An adviser to former Nashville mayors Megan Barry and David Briley says Nashville’s juvenile crime problem should be declared a public health crisis. Ashford Hughes Sr., who worked on equity and inclusion issues for the two mayors, told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that there was discussion during both administrations about officially declaring a crisis, directing resources to begin to solve the complicated underlying issues that have hit portions of the African-American community. “As a city for us to firmly address it, it needs to be considered a health crisis,” Hughes said. LINK

Tuesday night election results in Tennessee (TN Journal) Former school board member Indya Kincannon defeated businessman Eddie Mannis in Knoxville’s mayoral runoff. While it was technically a nonpartisan race, Kincannon is a Democrat and Mannis is a Republican. Kincannon was elected mayor with 52% of the vote, while Mannis received 48%. Of the 25,460 votes cast in the election, 47% came in the form of early or absentee ballots. Rusty Grills won the Republican nomination in the special election to succeed former state Rep. Bill Sanderson (R-Kenton) in state House District 77. LINK

Clarksville councilman is pushing a petition to cap the prices of insulin in Tennessee (WTVF-TV) As many states are looking to lower the price of life-saving drugs like insulin, one dad is asking local lawmakers to do something here for his son and the thousands of people in Tennessee living with diabetes. Clarksville Councilman Richard Garrett is used to advocating on behalf of his constituents but this time he’s fighting a different fight for his son. Garrett’s son, Trevon was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 4. Garrett says he’s grateful his family has insurance to help cover his son’s insulin. However, that’s not the case for everyone. LINK

State Sen. Brian Kelsey faces federal probe over complicated trail of campaign donations, current and former lawmakers say (Tennessean) State Sen. Brian Kelsey is the subject of a grand jury probe into a complicated money trail related to his failed congressional bid, according to three people who have been interviewed by federal investigators. Federal investigators, according to the three people interviewed, are asking questions about campaign finance transactions Kelsey made in 2016 when he sought the Republican nomination for Tennessee’s 8th Congressional District. LINK

State Sen. Brian Kelsey faces federal probe over campaign finances: What you need to know about the case (Tennessean) Federal investigators are probing the campaign finances of state Sen. Brian Kelsey, particularly as it relates to a complicated money trail during his failed 2016 congressional campaign. Here’s what you should know about the case so far. Who is Brian Kelsey? Kelsey is a Germantown Republican who represents Senate District 31, which includes parts of Shelby County. He has served in the state legislature since 2009. Around the statehouse, Kelsey is known for his support for school vouchers, opposition to the Affordable Care Act and efforts to repeal the state’s Hall Income Tax. LINK

Former Senate speaker among those interviewed by feds in Brian Kelsey probe (TN Journal) Former Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey is among officials interviews by federal officials investigating fundraising related to state Sen. Brian Kelsey’s failed 2016 congressional bid, The Tennessean reports. That Kelsey’s campaign money matters are under the federal microscope has been known since this spring. But the newspapers Joel Ebert is first to reveal some of the name of who agents have contacted in the matter. Ramsey told the paper he was interviewed by an FBI agent in May or June. “They wanted to subpoena me to appear before a grand jury,” Ramsey said. LINK

Video: State Sen. Kelsey faces probe over complicated trail of campaign donations (Tennessean) LINK

Former lieutenant governor confirms feds investigating Kelsey (Daily Memphian) Former Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey confirmed Tuesday that federal agents questioned him this year for a grand jury investigation of state Sen. Brian Kelsey, a Germantown Republican facing a federal complaint that his 2016 congressional campaign used “straw buyers” and illegal donations to support his candidacy. Ramsey, who is no longer in the Legislature, said Tuesday an FBI agent called and asked him to testify before a federal grand jury in Nashville, which was prepared to issue a subpoena compelling him to answer questions surrounding Kelsey’s federal campaign. LINK

Kelsey Ketron faces 70-plus charges related to insurance fraud, Murfreesboro police say (Daily News Journal)A Rutherford County grand jury indicted Kelsey Ketron on Monday amid an ongoing insurance fraud investigation in which she faces at least 70 separate felony charges.  At issue is the former state Republican official’s practices when she served as vice president of Universal International Insurance, a family business owned by her father, Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron. She eventually resigned from her state post and the insurance company within days of having her home and offices searched by local and federal law enforcement agencies. LINK

Kelsey Ketron indictments reveal money laundering, perjury, forgery. What do the charges mean? (Daily News Journal) Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron’s daughter, Kelsey Ketron, was indicted by a grand jury Monday and faces more than felony 70 charges related to insurance fraud. She was arrested at her home Monday evening around 7 p.m., police said, and is being held at the county jail on a $100,000 bond. Kelsey Ketron’s attorney, Trey Harwell, said she’s cooperated with authorities from the start. LINK

Daughter of Rutherford County Mayor arrested amid ongoing fraud investigation (WKRN-TV) The daughter of Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron has been arrested amid an ongoing fraud investigation involving the insurance company owned by her father. Kelsey Ketron was booked into the Rutherford County jail Monday night on charges related to three indictments, a spokesperson for the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office said. Her bond was set at $100,000. News 2 obtained copies of the indictments which show the 29-year-old faces at least 72 charges, including 30 counts of impersonation of a licensed professional, 14 counts of money laundering, 12 counts of aggravated perjury and eight counts of fraudulent insurance acts. She is also charged with multiple counts of theft and forgery. LINK

Kelsey Ketron indictment: More than $130K taken from Bill Ketron’s campaign accounts (Daily News Journal) Indictments show that Kelsey Ketron, daughter of Rutherford County Mayor Bill Ketron, allegedy stole over $133,000 from her father’s political campaign funds and pocketed insurance money from policyholders at her family insurance company Universal International Insurance. Ketron, who served as treasurer for three political campaigns — including her father’s state Senate and Rutherford County mayoral campaigns, and the Quest Political Action Committee — illegally withdrew money and spent in on personal items, the indictments reveal. LINK

Ketrons’ insurance agency resolves breach-of-contract lawsuit, lawyers say (Daily News Journal)The insurance agency where Kelsey Ketron worked has reached an undisclosed lawsuit settlement with a Shelbyville couple who filed a criminal fraud complaint against her, an attorney confirmed Monday. “All I can tell you on the record is that the case has been resolved,” said Heather Parker, a Murfreesboro lawyer representing Susan and Charles Daniel Calvin in their lawsuit against Universal International Insurance. LINK

Rep. John Rose misses House impeachment rules vote as wife, family mourn death of anticipated second child (Tennessean) U.S. Rep. John Rose and his family are mourning the death of their anticipated second child after fatal complications in his wife Chelsea’s pregnancy kept the legislator from an important House vote last week. Rose (R-Cookeville) was not present to vote in last week’s roll call floor vote on the procedures for the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Rose’s office shared Monday that he and his wife, Chelsea, had been expecting their second child, but complications in the pregnancy were ultimately fatal to the baby. LINK

Rep. Roe hosts economic development round table with area leaders (WJHL-TV) Congressman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) hosted an economic development round table in Kingsport Tuesday to highlight some of the region’s assets and liabilities and identify opportunities. Rep. Roe invited several leaders from around the region to discuss areas for improvement within the realm of economic development. After a recent visit to Hancock County, Roe said community leaders have welcomed new businesses and implemented infrastructure to implement high-speed internet availability. This, he said, is what he aims to achieve for the First Congressional District in Tennessee. LINK

Former Tennessee governors talk bipartisanship at forum (AP) Two prominent former Tennessee governors from separate political parties lamented on Tuesday the lack of bipartisanship in current politics and agreed that getting stuff done in government sometimes requires straying from the political party line. Govs. Phil Bredesen and Bill Haslam participated in the forum hosted at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, marking the first time the two high-profile political leaders had publicly shared the stage since GOP Gov. Bill Lee’s inauguration in January. Bredesen is a Democrat who served as governor from 2003 to 2011. Haslam, a Republican, served from 2011 to 2019. LINK

Former Tennessee governors discuss bipartisanship in politically divisive times (WTVF-TV) As the highly-politicized governor’s race in Kentucky has split voters almost exactly down the middle, a crowd gathered in Nashville Tuesday with the goal of bringing Republicans and Democrats together. Both Phil Bredesen and Bill Haslam — Democrat and Republican, respectively — took part in a forum at Vanderbilt University on bipartisanship. The former governors said they think a big reason for the political divisiveness in Tennessee and across the country is because people are too focused on national issues rather than what’s happening closer to home. LINK

Knoxville mayor election breakdown: Indya Kincannon didn’t give up and it paid off (News Sentinel) Indya Kincannon’s party inside the Press Room on Tuesday night didn’t come with a batch of victory balloons or party poppers. No need — there was plenty of noise from supporters. Instead, behind the stage where she gave her victory speech were handmade signs. One summed up the last year-plus: “She will never give up!” Two months after finishing second to Eddie Mannis in the primary, the mayor-elect received a concession phone call from Mannis before 9 p.m., even before Election Day results were posted online. Unofficial results gave her a 52.4% edge, more than enough to prompt the quick concession. LINK

New Bill Would Require Schools to Monitor Social Media (Government Technology) A newly introduced federal bill seeks to heighten security at American schools by encouraging districts to adopt social media monitoring programs. The controversial practice, which uses algorithms to crawl and index public profiles of popular sites like Twitter and Facebook, has grown in popularity over the last several years, as administrators look to new and emergent technologies to heighten school safety — and potentially head off the next mass shooting. LINK


Guest column: TennCare block grant will serve as blueprint for the country (Tennessean) Tennessee has a plan to revolutionize health care for its low-income residents. The Volunteer State is petitioning the federal government to fund its Medicaid program, TennCare, with an annual lump-sum payment. That’s great news. The Medicaid funding status quo, wherein the federal government matches every dollar a state spends on the program, encourages reckless spending and ensnares states in red tape. Despite all that spending, the program fails to provide beneficiaries with quality coverage. Tennessee’s proposed block grant, by contrast, would empower state officials to cut costs and experiment with new ways to care for Medicaid beneficiaries. It could serve as a model for the rest of the country. LINK

Guest column: Alexander urged to protect Dreamers’ access to higher education (Tennessean) Every day, students pass through the doors of Maryville College to improve themselves, enrich their lives through higher education, and master the skills necessary to go on to be community leaders and productive members of the workforce. We have students from all backgrounds and from all over the world who call the foothills of the Smokies their home, and over the past several years that has expanded to include Dreamers, or young people brought to the United States as children. LINK

Guest column: Let’s put an end to surprise medical bills – the right way (Times Free Press) When patients face a medical crisis, the emergency physicians, nurses and others who staff emergency departments are always there for them, no questions asked. That fundamental fact is true across America. Every patient, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay, has the right to emergency medical care. As emergency physicians, that is a professional obligation we take on with pride. And thanks to a federal law known as the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), that ethical obligation has also been the law of the land since 1986. LINK

Guest column: Let’s get the real facts out about the vaping health crisis (Tennessean) America is indeed in the middle of a public health crisis, but when it comes to vaping, the real culprits are the marketing and sales group who targets underage minors – and the illegal and unregulated tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) cartridges being sold through the black market, not the regulated e-cigarette products legally sold to adults in Tennessee’s vape shops. On Oct 25, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced THC liquid containing products are associated with almost all of the nearly 1,600 illnesses and recent deaths among patients experiencing lung injury in the United States. LINK

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