Wednesday, February 5

Gov. Lee provides update on funding during State of the State address (WBBJ-TV) Gov. Bill Lee gave his second State of the State address in Nashville Monday night. “You may have heard rural Tennessee is a priority of mine,” Gov. Lee said. And Gov. Lee proved that during the address on Monday night. Last year the state invested $20 million in broadband expansion for rural areas. “And this year I’m pleased to announce a recommended $25 million in broadband expansion,” Gov. Lee said. He is also recommending an additional $2 million dollars for UT extension agents in distressed rural counties, and he plans to help bring more people to what rural Tennessee has to offer. LINK

Governor Lee’s proposed budget would provide millions in funds for repairs, increases at ETSU (WJHL-TV) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s proposed budget for the 2020-2021 Fiscal Year included proposed funding for projects at East Tennessee State University. According to the budget, the proposed capital appropriations for maintenance at ETSU from bonds, current funds and other revenues for the next fiscal year totals $6,770,000. Of that amount, $3,470,000 is appropriated from the state, while the remainder comes from other revenues. The budget says the $3.47 million from the state is to be used in the first phase of HVAC repairs on campus. LINK

Governor Lee includes funding for new Chatt State building in budget (WDEF-TV) Governor Bill Lee includes funding for a new building for the Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Chattanooga State in his budget. Students are hard at work, at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Chattanooga State. Nathan Christian wants to be an ironworker. He says this program gives him that practical experience. “It is hands on. It is not just book work or slides. You are actually are going out there, ‘if this doesn’t work, I will try this. Works pretty good.’ It is definitely hands on,” Christian said. LINK

East TN educators, counselors say Gov. Lee addressing student mental health is step in right direction (WATE-TV) A focus on education is one of many goals Governor Bill Lee shared on Monday during his State of the State address. These initiatives address a range of issues from teacher pay to literacy. One that caught our attention was a plan focused on student mental health. Governor Lee’s proposal will put $250 million into a trust fund dedicated to mental health in Kindergarten through 12th-grade schools. The state would first assess each district’s needs before deciding how to spend that money. LINK

As Gov. Bill Lee’s office pushes bill to end Forrest Day, resolution to move Confederate bust stalls (Tennessean) As Gov. Bill Lee pushes forward a bill to put an end to the state requirement that he proclaim an annual Nathan Bedford Forrest Day in Tennessee, a separate resolution calling for the removal of a bust of the Confederate general has stalled. As part of the governor’s package of legislative priorities this session, the majority leaders of both chambers on Monday filed a bill that would change state law to no longer require that Forrest Day be designated as a special observation. LINK

TennCare waiting list for disability services would be slashed in half by governor’s budget (Tennessean) A TennCare waiting list of more than 5,000 disabled Tennesseans could be slashed nearly in half by a new budget plan from the administration of Gov. Bill Lee. Lee’s budget proposal would add $104 million of state and federal funding to TennCare’s Employment and Community First Choices program, which provides support services to about 3,000 people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. LINK

Funds for Ashe Street Courthouse included in governor’s budget (Johnson City Press) Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock believes Gov. Bill Lee’s decision to place $5 million grant in his proposed $40.8 billion state budget for renovations to the 109-year-old Ashe Street Courthouse is “great news” for both historic preservation and economic growth along the West Walnut Street corridor. “It’s really exciting,” the mayor said Tuesday, adding the grant will help refurbish an important building in the city’s plans to create “an eco-system” where young entrepreneurs can build new businesses. “This will help us save a historic building from deterioration, and helps us to leapfrog the redevelopment of the West Walnut Street corridor,” she said. LINK

Gov. Bill Lee sets aside $5 million in proposed budget to renovate old JC courthouse (WCYB-TV) Gov. Bill Lee has set aside $5 million in his proposed state budget to renovate an old courthouse and post office in the Walnut St. corridor of Johnson City. Johnson City, Washington County and members of the community have advocated for months to restore the 110-year-old building which was previously home to county emergency services and requires substantial repairs. LINK

Teacher lobbyist hopeful State of the State educator pay raises will become a reality (WTVF-TV) One of Governor Bill Lee’s most ambitious and well received plans for the state in 2020 is a more than $117 million increase to the education budget meant for teacher pay increases. However, some wondered if teachers would ever see that money. In the past, school districts used money distributed by the state for other budget items than teachers. This year, one of the state’s top lobbyists believes teachers will see the money in their paychecks. LINK

Teacher’s Union wants to ensure proposed pay raises actually goes to teacher paychecks (WMC-TV) Education was a key focus of Governor Bill Lee’s State of the State address. Lee laid out a plan with “record-setting” teacher salary increases and expansions for mental health programs. Though some educators remain cautiously optimistic, knowing the promised money isn’t necessarily guaranteed to go to their paychecks. “This year I am proposing the largest investment in K-12 teacher salaries in Tennessee history,” Gov. Lee said Monday night. LINK

Grand Divisions Episode 85: Analyzing Gov. Bill Lee’s second State of the State and proposed $40 billion budget (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Lee delivered his second State of the State address Monday, calling for a record-setting investment for teacher pay raises, setting aside money for the state’s reserves and creating a new $250 million trust fund for K-12 mental health. The significant proposals were among the main highlights of Lee’s nearly 50-minute address. Like his speech last year, Republicans largely praised the governor’s speech while Democrats said Lee’s various education investments should only be one step in a multi-year effort to increase funding for schools. LINK

The 901: Four takeaways for Memphis from Tennessee’s State of the State (Commercial Appeal) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee didn’t give Shelby County a shout-out in his “State of the State” last night in Nashville — but what he said could deeply impact the state’s largest county. Our sister paper, The Tennessean, recaps the speech (read the full transcript here) and gives us a rundown of what’s in Lee’s proposed budget, released ahead of the address. Lee also plans to extend TennCare’s postpartum insurance, saving mothers’ lives. LINK

Tennessee governor wants to change the way teachers are paid (WRCB-TV) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee wants to see big changes in the way teachers are trained and paid. He revealed the way he wants to fund those changes in his state of the state address. The topic of education was a big one for Lee, dedicating 16 of his nearly 50 minute speech to the topic. He talked about school safety, mental health support in schools and literacy, but the biggest take away was how he wants to support teachers. He received a standing ovation after announcing he wants to make the largest investment in teachers in Tennessee history. LINK

Governor Bill Lee Focuses On Supporting Education During State Address (Cannon Courier) Monday, Gov. Bill Lee delivered his State of the State address, showcasing Tennessee’s progress over the past year and outlining his legislative and budget priorities for the coming year. Key highlights are noted below, and the full speech as prepared for delivery is available on Governor Lee’s website. The proposed budget is available on the Department of Finance & Administration website. The governor’s address focused on one of his core priorities, supporting public education. The proposed budget includes the largest investment in K-12 teacher salaries in Tennessee history, and a series of initiatives designed to ensure that Tennessee is recruiting, retaining and training the best teachers in America. LINK

Hamilton County’s Education Association reacts to Gov. Bill Lee State the of State address (WTVC-TV) Over the course of the next two years, teachers across the state of Tennessee could be seeing a pay raise. This comes after Governor Bill Lee spoke at his Second State of the State address Monday. That raise includes teachers right here in Hamilton County, but not everyone thinks it’s enough. Gov. Lee recommended moving the minimum annual salary for a teacher in Tennessee from $36,000 to $40,000 but that would be over the next two years. LINK

Tennessee mom still concerned over Governor Lee’s block grant proposal (WRCB-TV) Health care was one of Governor Bill Lee’s biggest talking points during his State of the State address on Monday night, including his block grant proposal which would allow the state more power when deciding who is covered under TennCare and how much the state will pay for them. But several recipients voiced their concerns last year how it could affect their coverage. Rosalie Howes from Lebanon, Tennessee says she worries about children with disabilities under the block grant like her 8-year-old son Hyrum. He suffers seizures daily and the medication is expensive. LINK

No ETSU humanities building funding in governor’s budget (Johnson City Press) East Tennessee State University did not receive funding for a new humanities building, but was allocated $3.47 million for HVAC repairs across campus in Gov. Bill Lee’s proposed budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year. In a statement to the Johnson City Press Tuesday afternoon, ETSU President Brian Noland highlighted what the institution will receive, but did not address not receiving funding for the proposed $72 million humanities building. LINK

Teacher Pay Raise Amount Questioned After Lee Announcement (AP) A day after Gov. Bill Lee boasted he was proposing the largest investment in teacher pay in Tennessee history, top administration officials acknowledged the addition wouldn’t necessarily result in big pay raises for the state’s educators. Finance and Administration Commissioner Stuart McWhorter told lawmakers Tuesday it was Lee’s “intent” for teachers to receive a 4% raise under the governor’s recently unveiled spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year. However, due to the state’s complicated school funding formula, teachers could get a smaller pay bump. LINK

Tennessee Education Association questions if teachers will actually see Gov. Lee’s proposed 4% pay raise (Times Free Press) While Gov. Bill Lee is proposing to spend an additional $117 million on educators’ pay in his new budget, with his administration projecting it would generate a 4% salary increase, Tennessee Education Association officials say the percentage increase will be less. The Republican governor announced the proposal Monday night during his annual State of the State address to the GOP-led General Assembly. He called it the state’s “largest investment in K-12 teacher salaries in Tennessee history.” LINK

Education nonprofit SCORE takes aim at Tennessee literacy rates in latest priorities list (Tennessean) After over a decade of work focused on literacy, a little more than a third of Tennessee’s students are reading on grade level. The rate also has stalled since 2013. That’s why a focus on addressing the state’s literacy crisis is one of four priorities released on Tuesday by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, a statewide nonprofit focused on improving student achievement. “We must continue to push harder to achieve the bold goals we’ve set,” said Bill Frist, SCORE founder and chairman. LINK

Board of Regents to discuss student fees for next year (AP) A Tennessee Board of Regents committee set three meetings to discuss student fees for the next academic year. The board that governs Tennessee’s 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology said Monday that the Committee on Finance and Business Operations will discuss possible changes to student fees at a meeting on Friday. Two other meetings to discuss incidental and mandatory fees other than tuition for the 2020-2021 academic year are scheduled for Feb. 20 and March 10. LINK

Child exploitation arrest prompts questions about Tennessee sex offender registry (WTVF-TV) Not all sexual offenses can automatically land a defendant on the sex offender registry in Tennessee. The state has a long list of convictions that warrant registering including sexual battery, aggravated rape and indecent exposure with three or more convictions. However, state laws can give the judge discretion to decide depending on certain charges such as statutory rape. LINK

Curtis Watson indicted on 15 counts, including murder of Debra Johnson (WSMV-TV) Curtis Watson, accused of raping and killing TN Dept. of Corrections administrator Debra Johnson, has been indicted by a grand jury on 15 counts.Watson has been indicted by a grand jury on the following counts: Watson escaped West Tennessee State Penitentiary on August 6th. He subsequently went into a property on the prison grounds, where Debra Johnson was subsequently raped and killed. LINK

Anti-lunch shaming bill sponsor concerned amendments ‘defeating the purpose’ of legislation (WTVF-TV) The proposed Tennessee Anti-Lunch Shaming Act sponsor is concerned amendments passed in the K-12 subcommittee defeat the purpose of his legislation. HB 1589 was filed by Representative John Ray Clemmons and aims to keep public schools across the state from punishing students with lunch debt. Specifically, it states schools are not allowed to require students with lunch debt to do chores, miss school activities, or even graduation. LINK

Lawmaker pushes back on Spencer Bristol Act, says some African Americans ‘running for their lives’ from police (Tennessean) A bill in memory of a Hendersonville police officer fatally struck by a car late last year advanced in a House committee on Tuesday, but not without a representative sharing concerns about its possible effect on African Americans fearing police brutality. House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, has brought legislation he dubbed the Spencer Bristol Act, named after the Hendersonville officer who died Dec. 30 after running into oncoming traffic on Interstate 65 while chasing a suspect. LINK

Bill aims to cut ties between nurse practitioners and physicians (WTVF-TV) A bill before lawmakers could potentially increase access to health care in rural communities by no longer require nurse practitioners to work with a physician. Currently, nurse practitioners have to be overseen by a doctor – something the Tennessee Nurses Association says limits care. They say allowing nurse practitioners to work alone would make it easier for people in rural areas to get medical care. But some doctors argue that’s dangerous and nurse practitioners should continue to be supervised. LINK

Tennessee Nurses Reignite Battle For More Autonomy From Doctor ‘Control’ (WPLN Radio) Roughly half of U.S. states allow nurse practitioners and other advanced nurses to work without a physician looking over their work. After a three-year truce, Tennessee nurses are battling for the same kind of independence here. The last time nurse practitioners, midwives and nurse anesthetists pushed Tennessee lawmakers to loosen physician oversight, things got so testy that both sides agreed to a ceasefire. Now nurses are back with a similar plan (SB2110/HB2203) that doctors still don’t like. LINK

Tennessee Nurses Association pushing law makers to pass new legislation (WZTV-TV) Renee Collins said her private practice in the small told town of Cleveland, Tennessee focuses on serving patients who are 65 and older, battling chronic diseases. “Many of my dementia patients cannot get in the doctor’s office and have a two hour wait to visit a doctor for 15 minutes,” explained Collins. Collins is a doctor of nursing practice. She provides access to healthcare in communities desperate to fill a void. “Nurses are not wanting to be doctors,” Collins said. “We’re not wanting to be physicians. We are simply wanting to fill the gap for access.” LINK

Lenders: HOA bill could affect your property value (WZTV-TV) A proposed bill in the Tennessee legislature that would strip Homeowners Associations of their ability to prohibit rental properties could have an effect on your property value. If neighborhoods change from largely owner-occupied to largely rented homes, lenders report a potential impact to property values and neighborhood market comps. Two lenders that spoke to FOX 17 News confirmed a “worst case scenario” is unlikely. That worst case scenario would include being unable to secure a loan because too many of the single-family homes in the neighborhood are rented. LINK

No more paper or plastic! Proposed law would ban TN stores from giving throw-away bags to customers (WBIR-TV) A new proposal by a Knoxville lawmaker would ban one-time-use bags at grocery stores. SB 2131 was filed by Sen. Richard Briggs this week and would prohibit grocery stores, retail stores, and foodservice businesses from providing free paper or plastic bags to customers. There are some exceptions to the law, including bags meant to prevent contamination, to carry unwrapped or hot food items, or bags for drycleaning and prescriptions. LINK

Tennessee reps decide not to decide on Confederate statue (AP) A Republican-led legislative panel has decided not to decide, for now, whether it thinks a bust of a former Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader should be removed from the Tennessee Capitol. A House committee voted Tuesday to delay consideration of the nonbinding resolution about Nathan Bedford Forrest until the panel’s last meeting, likely months away. Republicans said the delay allows Tennessee’s Capitol Commission to weigh in first. Democratic resolution sponsor Rep. Rick Staples said he fears the commission members won’t act unless lawmakers urge them to. LINK

Bid to remove Forrest bust from Capitol runs into opposition (Daily Memphian) Legislation to push for replacing the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust in the State Capitol was postponed Tuesday, Feb. 4, as at least one lawmaker said he couldn’t find where the Confederate general and slave trader had done anything wrong. The Naming, Designating and Private Acts Committee voted to “roll” House Joint Resolution 686 until its final meeting of the session, which could be in March and would be held after a Feb. 20 Capitol Commission meeting when moving the Forrest bust will be discussed. LINK

House Committee Delays Vote on Forrest Bust to End of Session (Memphis Flyer) A resolution to remove a bust of slave trader Nathan Bedford Forrest won’t be heard by a state House committee until sometime closer to the end of the year’s legislative session. Members of the House Naming, Designating, and Private Acts committee approved a motion from Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) to suspend any further votes on the move until the last meeting of that committee later this year. Rep. Rick Staples (D-Knoxville) brought a resolution to the committee last week. It would remove the bust, “replacing it with tribute to a more deserving Tennessean.” After hearing from the state commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and a historian last week, the committee decided to hold the vote for one week. LINK

New CBD bill to raise THC drug testing thresholds (WKRN-TV) A new bill aims to protect Tennesseans when it comes to use of CBD. For Van Hays, taking CBD daily has become life-changing. “Started to use the oils to stem the migraines,” said Hays. “Immediately, I found relief. It was like night and day.” But that relief has put jobs in jeopardy when Tennessee employers drug test for THC, the psychoactive ingredient found in CBD, which is legal, and marijuana, which is not. “It’s a yes or no pass fail type test and the way the tests currently are is so low of a threshold that it’s a rebuttable presumption that you are guilty of taking an illegal substance when you’re not,” said State Representative Bryan Terry (R-Murfreesboro). LINK

Photos: Disability Day on the Hill (Tennessean) LINK

Tennessee lawmakers propose Holly Bobo Act in honor of slain nursing student (WATN-TV) Tennessee lawmakers are working to expand the Tennessee endangered persons alert program in memory of Holly Bobo. The 20-year-old nursing student was kidnapped from her Henderson County home in 2011. Her remains were found three years later. The Holly Bobo Act was filed Tuesday in Nashville. If passed, it would allow the TBI to  issue endangered persons alerts for someone younger than 21 years old. LINK

‘Holly Bobo Act’ would change age range of Endangered Child Alerts (WTVF-TV) The Holly Bobo case gripped the nation. At the time of Bobo’s disappearance in 2011, the 20-year-old was too old for either an AMBER Alert or an Endangered Child Alert. Now, a state lawmaker is introducing a bill that would expand endangered child alerts in Tennessee so they would cover someone as old as Bobo at the time of her disappearance. LINK

Shelby County lawmakers propose Community Terrorism bill to battle drive-by shootings (WHBQ-TV) Two state lawmakers from Shelby County say enough is enough after the deaths of six-year-old Ashylynn Luckett, ten-year-old Jadon Knox, and 16-year-old Lequan Boyd. All three were victims of drive-by shootings in the span of less than 30 hours last month. Now Representatives G.A. Hardaway and Jesse Chism are working to increase the punishment for drive-by shootings that hurt children. They call these crimes ‘community terrorism’. “We’re not going to stand by and allow our children to be murdered. It’s just a barbaric thing that happens,” said Rep. Chism. LINK

Burying children is ‘saddest thing,’ Hardaway says in touting new law (Daily Memphian) State Rep. Jesse Chism broke down after finding out two innocent Memphis children died this year in an indiscriminate shooting. “I wept in my office, because it’s needless. It’s hurtful to everyone involved,” the Democrat who represents District 85 in South Memphis said Tuesday, Feb. 4. He spoke about the difficulty families and classmates face in dealing with the deaths, one involving 6-year-old Ashlynn Luckett and 16-year-old Lequan Boyd in his district and another that claimed the life of 10-year-old Jadon Knox in state Rep. G.A. Hardaway’s District 93 in Central Memphis. LINK

Tri-Cities lawmaker proposes capping monthly cost of insulin to $100, local family reacts (WJHL-TV) In a joint press conference Tuesday, Tennessee Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, and Rep. Jason Hodges, D-Clarksville, announced a bill that would set a price cap on the cost OF insulin at $100 for a 30-day supply. The two lawmakers said that the manufacturing costs of insulin are between $2 and $3.50, yet the average cost patients pay in the United States is around $475. “We’re very happy to announce the introduction of House Bill 1931, which will when passed, will cap insulin prices at 100 dollars per 30-day prescription this is something that representative Hodges and I feel is long overdue,” Rep. Hill said. LINK

Lawmakers in Tennessee, Virginia push price caps for insulin (WCYB-TV) Legislation being considered in the Tennessee and Virginia legislatures would lessen the burden of purchasing insulin for diabetic patients. Tennessee state Reps. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) and Jason Hodges (D-Clarksville) announced legislation on Tuesday that would cap the cost of insulin at $100 per month. This on the same day the Virginia House of Delegates approved a bill that would cap the cost of co-pay insurance on a monthly supply at $30. LINK

Insulin Prices Might Be Capped In Tennessee Under Bipartisan Plan (WPLN Radio) The price of insulin would be capped in Tennessee under a new bi-partisan plan. The state would join just two others that have tried to restrict what pharmaceutical companies can charge. This legislation (HB 1931/SB 1939) makes it so all patients, whether they have insurance or not, pay no more than $100 a month for insulin. The state has more than 600,000 people with diabetes, and many rely on the life-saving drug to moderate their blood sugar. LINK

State lawmakers propose bill that would cap the price of insulin (WSMV-TV) Tennessee State Representatives Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) and Jason Hodges (D-Clarksville), announced Tuesday morning that they are co-sponsoring a bill that would set a cap for the cost of insulin, a drug used to treat diabetes. The bill, which you can read here, would set a price cap at $100 for a 30-day supply of the drug. “So many rely on insulin to survive and the cost has skyrocketed at an alarming rate in recent years,” Hill said Tuesday morning. LINK

Tennessee lawmakers want to cap out-of-pocket insulin costs at $100 per month (Tennessean) Tennessee lawmakers have introduced multiple bills that would cap the price of a month-long insulin prescription at $100. Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, and Rep. Jason Hodges, D-Clarksville, announced Tuesday their bipartisan bill would cap insulin prices from the manufacturer to the pharmacy, insuring that diabetics without health insurance would pay no more than $100 for the drug. Anyone with insurance would almost certainly pay less. LINK

Legislation would keep ‘HOPE’ alive for pregnant students (Daily Memphian) Students who become pregnant could keep their HOPE Scholarships and take time to have a child before enrolling in college under legislation sponsored by state Rep. London Lamar. A year after being sent to a summer study session, House Bill 379 passed the Higher Education Subcommittee on Feb. 4 and will go to the full House Education Commission for consideration. The measure requires the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation to designate pregnancy as an approved medical leave of absence for receiving the Tennessee HOPE Scholarship, up to $1,750 per semester for freshmen and sophomores and $2,250 per semester for juniors and seniors. LINK

New bill aims to crack down on porch pirates by increasing penalties (WTVF-TV) Unfortunately “porch pirates” are a new reality in our online shopping world. A new bill that’s been filed aims to put Tennessee ‘porch pirates’ in prison for more than a decade. Under Senate Bill 2062, the rules would stay the same for a first-time offense; the thief would have to pay back the value of the stolen item. But the bill lays out a harsher punishment for a second offense. It would make it a class D felony with up to 12 years behind bars and you could face a $5,000 fine. LINK

Why was a Tennessee lawmaker drinking out of a Hershey’s syrup bottle? We’ve got answers. (Tennessean) A Tennessee state representative found himself in the spotlight Monday night for drinking out of a Hershey’s chocolate syrup bottle while on the House floor. You had a lot of questions after the photo of Rep. Kent Calfee went viral on Twitter, so we decided to get some answers. If you’re just now catching up, a Tennessean photo of Calfee was widely shared on Twitter on Monday evening, showing the Republican from Kingston drinking from a chocolate syrup bottle while waiting for Gov. Bill Lee’s second State of the State address to begin. LINK

Casada to run for state House seat again in 2020 (TN Journal) Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) the center of a scandal that brought down his House speakership last year, plans to run for his legislative seat again later this year. Here’s what Casada said on his Facebook page: After much prayer and consultation with family and friends, I have decided to run for re-election to the Tennessee House of Representatives. I am honored to serve as your voice in Nashville and remain committed to the conservative principles that make Tennessee the absolute best state in the nation. LINK

Ex-House Speaker Glen Casada running for reelection in 2020 (WTVF-TV) Rep. Glen Casada announced he’s running for reelection in 2020 after a text messaging scandal led to his resignation as House Speaker in 2019. Casada made the announcement Tuesday morning via social media, saying he decided to run after “much prayer and consultation with family and friends.” LINK

Casada launches re-election bid (Nashville Post) Former House speaker, now relegated to rank-and-file, wants to keep representing Williamson district. Former House Speaker Glen Casada will seek re-election to his House District 63 seat later this year after publicly weighing retirement. Casada, a Franklin Republican, assumed the top spot in the House at the start of 2019, but lost the job just a few months later amid a spiraling scandal involving text messages sent to and from his chief of staff, Cade Cothren. LINK

After scandal, Glen Casada will run again for seat in 2020 (Tennessean) After a short tenure as Speaker of the House, Rep. Glen Casada said he will run again to represent Williamson County. The Republican legislator told The Tennessean before the new year he was still contemplating his next steps in state politics. Earlier in 2019, Casada resigned from his leadership role after a scandal involving racist and sexist text messages engulfed him and his staff. In his announcement on social media, Casada said he decided to run after consultation with his family and prayer. LINK

Facing primary challenge, Jim Cooper boosts fundraising (Nashville Post) Congressman more than triples total from same period in ’18 cycle. U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) is ramping up his fundraising apparatus as he faces a multifront challenge for the Democratic nomination. Cooper raised $166,910 in the fourth quarter of 2019. That’s a sizable increase from the less than $50,000 he raised during the same period in the 2018 cycle, when he faced no competition for the nomination. LINK

Democratic presidential contenders look toward Tennessee (Daily Memphian) With lots of Democratic presidential contenders waiting into late Tuesday morning for delayed results from Monday’s Iowa caucuses, the candidates began looking toward the March Super Tuesday presidential primaries. For most of the contenders, the day after the caucuses began with a barrage of endorsements in some of the Super Tuesday states including Tennessee. Former Vice President Joe Biden announced he has the backing of several Democratic state legislators including state representatives Barbara Cooper and Jesse Chism of Memphis. LINK

Health leaders on state-wide campaign to inform public, hospitals about reducing MRSA (WBBJ-TV) West Tennessee Healthcare is participating in a state-wide initiative in conjunction with the Tennessee Department of Health and the Tennessee Hospital Association to reduce MRSA, a common skin bacteria.  Hospitals across the state are taking measures to reduce this form of bacteria. Health experts were in Jackson, Tuesday to talk about reducing the number of bacteria on the skin to help prevent infections while hospitalized or when having surgery. LINK

Energy-saving experimental geothermal battery that heats homes came out of Oak Ridge (News Sentinel) A modern remix of old technologies that cuts home energy bills has the potential to utterly transform homes in the future, and the system was created in East Tennessee’s own Oak Ridge National Lab. Scientists have developed prototype geothermal “batteries” that, unlike conventional batteries, actually tap and store the heat energy of the Earth to provide heating, cooling and hot water. The really attractive side? Unlike natural gas or oil furnaces, there are no emissions and no household pollutants like carbon monoxide. LINK

Chattanooga saw spike in domestic violence killings last year (Times Free Press) The number of people killed in domestic violence incidents in Chattanooga doubled last year. Since 2015, there had been no more than three domestic violence killings each year. That is, except for 2019. Six people, including a 4-week-old, were killed in domestic violence incidents last year. The first homicide of 2019 was the killing of Taja Whiteside. She was strangled by her boyfriend, 31-year-old Kameron Leslie, on Jan. 11, according to police. He is awaiting trial in that case. LINK


Otis Sanford: Education focus in Lee’s budget is good news for entire state (WATN-TV) Not everything in Governor Bill Lee’s new $41 billion budget and legislative agenda is rosy … Lee should get plenty of support for his budget proposals on traditional public education. The governor is calling for a $117 million increase in education funds for teacher pay raises. That amounts to a 4% jump in teacher pay and would raise the starting salary for teachers to $38,000 a year. Still not great, but it’s about $2,000 more than starting salaries now. And it represents the largest increase for teacher pay in state history. LINK

Guest column: Kelsey amendment aims blow at Dr. King’s work in Memphis (Daily Memphian) On Jan. 20, some members of the Tennessee Legislature shared memorials to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., celebrating his inspirational civil rights work on the holiday bearing his name. But what good are social-media tributes from people who assault the values Dr. King lost his life defending in Memphis? In addition to campaigning for racial equality, the civil rights icon was a fierce advocate for America’s workers. King saw the rights of workers as key to achieving full civil rights and reducing poverty. LINK

Guest column: Advancing our schools through a strong teacher workforce (Gannett Tennesee) Every day teachers dedicate their time and energy to prepare the next generation for success in college and the world beyond. To meet that challenge, teachers must be well versed in the content they’re covering, the best ways to deliver it, and the science of learning and connection. In Tennessee, we want to make sure every teacher has the chance to master those skills, no matter how they reach the classroom. LINK






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