Thursday, February 6

Gov. Bill Lee’s proposed budget includes largest state appropriation in ETSU’s history (WCYB-TV) Under Gov. Bill Lee’s proposed 2020-21 budget, East Tennessee State University would receive its largest state appropriation in the history of the institution at more than $122 million. Lee’s budget would send $1.1 million to ETSU’s Quillen College of Medicine for pediatric surgeons and specialists that would work in conjunction with Niswonger Children’s Hospital in Johnson City. For years, there has been only one pediatric surgeon serving the greater Tri-Cities region. 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

Feds suspend Tennessee from military surplus program for 60 days after gun goes missing (WTVF-TV) Tennessee law enforcement agencies receive more military surplus equipment through a federal program than any other state in the country. But last month the Department of Defense abruptly suspended Tennessee’s Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO) from the program after determining it was out of compliance. The sixty-day suspension is primarily because one county sheriff did not properly report a lost gun. But our investigation found it is not just one county that lost guns. LINK

Nashville set to announce voucher litigation (Nashville Post) Nashville Mayor John Cooper and his legal director, former state Attorney General Bob Cooper, are set to announce a legal challenge of Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s private-school voucher program. The mayor will address a special-called meeting of the Metropolitan Board of Education on Thursday at which the Coopers are expected to set forth their long-awaited litigation plan. MNPS communications officer Sean Braisted said he “looks forward” to the presentation. LINK

Metro teachers react to Mayor’s anticipated legal challenge over Governor’s school voucher program (WKRN-TV) On Thursday, Nashville’s mayor will announce a lawsuit against the state. An agenda for a special-called Metro School Board meeting states that Mayor John Cooper will be discussing a lawsuit against the state over school vouchers. News 2 spoke to the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association (MNEA) about the announcement. MNEA President, Amanda Kail, said they’ve long expressed disapproval of the voucher program. LINK

2 lawsuits being filed by school districts against state over school voucher bill (WSMV-TV) According to two independent sources, lawsuits will be filed in opposition to a bill signed into law by Governor Lee in the spring of 2019. The bill provides public funds to parents who un-enroll their children from public school districts, averaging $7,300 in public funds for private school, or other educational services. The annual reimbursements would come in the form of debit cards, pait for with tax dollars.The lawsuits will be filed in Davidson county, by Metro Nashville schools, and Shelby county as well. LINK

Nashville-Shelby lawsuit against private-school vouchers imminent (Daily Memphian) Metro Nashville officials are expected to announce a lawsuit Thursday, Feb. 6, against the state challenging its private-school voucher program, a legal move Shelby County Schools has said it will join. Nashville Mayor John Cooper and his legal director, Bob Cooper, are slated to go before the Metro Nashville School Board and likely will unveil the litigation, according to a Nashville Post report. “It’s a valid move to make, and I say hurry up, get it done, get it started because this whole situation is a mess. There’s no accountability,” said state Rep. Antonio Parkinson, a Memphis Democrat who voted against the education savings-account bill last year. LINK

Report: Tennessee needs $54.8B for infrastructure needs (AP) Tennessee’s annual estimated cost for needed public infrastructure improvements is at least $54.8 billion, a fourth-straight annual increase, according to a new report released this week. The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations report says the estimate is up by $4.8 billion — or around 9.7% — from last year. Transportation and utilities needs are the most expensive at $29.6 billion for projects that need to be in some development stage from July 2018 through June 2023, an increase of more than $3.7 billion. LINK

Controversial Nathan Bedford Forrest faces two-front war in Tennessee Legislature (Times Free Press) Tennessee Republican lawmakers this week forced a delay on a House Democrat’s effort to replace the state Capitol’s prominently displayed bust of controversial Confederate cavalry general and slave trader Nathan Bedford Forrest. Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Bill Lee hopes to charge through the GOP-led General Assembly with a bill of his own in regard to Forrest. LINK

Despite governor’s resistance, Rep. Hazlewood says she’ll continue championing Tennessee food sales tax holiday (Times Free Press) Tennessee House Finance Committee Vice Chairwoman Patsy Hazlewood says she intends to press forward with her proposed two-month sales tax holiday on grocery food purchases despite fellow Republican and Gov. Bill Lee’s resistance to the idea. The Signal Mountain lawmaker earlier this week confirmed in a Times Free Press interview that Lee had “flagged” the bill, citing philosophical opposition to it. LINK

Senator: Governor puts ‘pause’ on Memphis megasite (Daily Memphian) Gov. Bill Lee is holding up on work to complete the Memphis Regional Megasite in Haywood County until the state can identify a potential tenant for the project, state Sen. Paul Rose said Wednesday, Feb. 5. Rose said he and other officials, including county mayors, found out this week from Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe that “not only is it not shovel-ready, but the governor’s put a pause on putting anything in the ground.” LINK

Tennessee Lawmakers Question How Gov. Lee’s Proposed Fund For Student Mental Health Would Work (WPLN Radio) New details about one of Gov. Bill Lee’s education initiatives are raising some eyebrows in the legislature. Lee recently announced his plan to create a $250 million K-12 mental health trust fund. During his State of the State address Monday, Lee said the $250 million dollars will better support the mental health needs of Tennessee students. But his speech did not mention that the amount going directly to go school districts would be significantly less. Finance and Administration Commissioner Stuart McWhorter told lawmakers Tuesday the state has a different plan. LINK

Tennessee Republican introduces Medicaid expansion bill (WTVF-TV) Rep. Ron Travis (R – Dayton) has introduced a bill that would expand Medicaid in Tennessee. HB2529, which was filed on Wednesday, would provide medical coverage for the same population groups and services as former Governor Bill Haslam’s failed Insure Tennessee proposal, which would have extended coverage to 280,000 low-income Tennesseans. LINK

Tennessee Medicaid expansion bill introduced by Republican lawmaker (Tennessean) In a rare break from Tennessee’s conservative majority, two Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill that would make the Volunteer State the latest to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Rep. Ron Travis, R-Dayton, and Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, filed a bill Wednesday largely based on former Gov. Bill Haslam’s failed 2015 Medicaid expansion proposal, known as Insure Tennessee. LINK

Medicaid Will Be Focus of TN General Assembly (Memphis Flyer) As much as any other issue impinging on the fortunes of Tennessee is the imminent prospect of federal block grants to pay for the state’s Medicaid expenses. The Trump administration has indicated it intends to shift in the direction of block grants, and Republicans in Tennessee, from the time of former Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, have invoked a preference for the principle as their excuse for not committing to expansion funds under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). LINK

A Photo of a Tennessee Lawmaker Seemingly Chugging Chocolate Syrup Went Viral. It’s Not Quite What it Seems (TIME Magazine) On Monday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee delivered his second State of the State address to the General Assembly. Rep. Kent Calfee was among the lawmakers in attendance, and as he waited, he was seen pulling out a Hershey’s chocolate syrup bottle and appeared to drink straight from it. Look, we all need to do what we need to do to get through a long Monday, OK? Natalie Allison, a state politics reporter at The Tennessean, tweeted a photo of the moment, writing, “As he waits for the State of the State to begin, Rep. Kent Calfee takes a swig… from his Hershey’s chocolate syrup bottle, as he often does during #tnleg session.” LINK

Lawmakers want to allow college students to carry concealed handguns on campus (WTVF-TV) Two Tennessee lawmakers have introduced a bill in the Senate and the House that would allow college students to carry a concealed handgun on public campuses. Senator Janice Bowling (R – Tullahoma) and Representative Rush Bricken (R – Tullahoma) created the legislation. The bill says registered students at a public institution of higher education will be allowed to carry a handgun in a concealed manner on property owned by institution, if the student is a handgun carry permit holder and otherwise in compliance with state law. LINK

New bill looks to expand TBI’s Endangered Child Alert to 20 years old (WMC-TV) A new bill looks to expand the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s Endangered Child Alert to 20 years old — and it comes with full support from the family of Holly Bobo. At the time of Bobo’s disappearance, she was too old for AMBER Alert and for the TBI’s Endangered Child Alert. Bobo was 20 years old when she was last seen alive in 2011. For years the search for the missing nursing student turned up nothing. Then partial remains were found in the woods in 2014. LINK

Schools could deny graduation for some students with lunch debt, under GOP amendment (Tennessean) A Republican seeking to change a Democrat’s anti-lunch shaming legislation has passed an amendment allowing schools to prohibit high school students with jobs from participating in activities or graduating unless they first pay off their lunch debt. The amendment, filed by Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, was in response to HB 1589, legislation introduced for the third year by Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville. LINK

Companies offer rebuke of Tennessee’s anti-LGBT adoption law (AP) Almost three dozen big companies and more than 100 small businesses in Tennessee on Wednesday predicted economic backlash from a newly enacted state adoption law and other proposals that target LGBT people, with one company saying plans to add jobs in Nashville are “in doubt” over the legislation. The letter from the likes of Amazon, Nike and Nissan to state officials offered the biggest rebuke to date from the business community after GOP Gov. Bill Lee last month signed the adoption bill and made it effective immediately. LINK

Dozens Of Major Tennessee Companies Are Asking The Legislature To Stop Targeting LGBT Community (WPLN Radio) Thirty-five major Tennessee companies are calling on the General Assembly to stop targeting LGBT people. The businesses have sent a letter to the legislature and the governor’s office urging them to commit to “the values of innovation and growth.” Dell Technologies, Nashville Soccer Club and Warner Music Group are among the businesses that signed the letter. This is the second year in a row that corporations are expressing concerns over certain proposals, but this year, one is publicly saying the legislation is causing it to have doubts about expanding further in Tennessee. LINK

Amazon, Nike, others say anti-LGBT bills put Tennessee’s ‘economic success at risk’ (WTVF-TV) Several high-profile corporations are among those who signed a letter opposing Tennessee’s anti-LGBT adoption law. Earlier this year, Governor Bill Lee signed HB 836 into law, which assures continued taxpayer funding of faith-based foster care and adoption agencies even if they exclude LGBT families and others based on religious beliefs. LINK

Business leaders warn anti-LGBT legislation will harm Tennessee’s economy (Tennessean) Postmates, a food delivery company that came to Nashville in 2015 and employs 650 people, is considering expansion in Tennessee. One factor working against those plans is the prospect of more anti-LGBT legislation from state lawmakers and Gov. Bill Lee, said Postmates training director Donna Drehmann. “Postmates continues to be alarmed by the Lee administration’s anti-LGBTQ agenda, particularly as we consider expanding our presence in the Volunteer State,” Drehmann said at the Cordell Hull state office building Wednesday. LINK

Major corporations speak out against controversial adoption bill in open letter to Gov. Lee (WSMV-TV) Dozens of corporations and over 100 small businesses in Tennessee released an open letter to Governor Lee this morning that details the businesses’ opposition to the controversial adoption bill that the governor signed last month. The bill would provide legal protection for taxpayer-funded faith-based foster care and adoption agencies that exclude LGBTQ+ families and other groups based on religious beliefs. LINK

Bill would charge parents, doctors with child abuse for allowing kids to have sex change (Tennessean) A pair of Republicans has filed legislation to ban sex change therapy for children, to require three doctors’ approval for teens to receive any such treatment, and to put criminal penalties in place. The bill, filed by Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, and Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, would charge parents and medical providers with child abuse for taking part in the treatment process. LINK

Tennessee bill would let students have concealed handguns on public college campuses (Tennessean) Two Republican lawmakers want to allow students at Tennessee’s public universities and colleges to carry concealed handguns. Rep. Rush Bricken and Sen. Janice Bowling, both R-Tullahoma, have introduced a bill that would give students the ability to carry a weapon on campus. According to the legislation, HB 2102 and SB 2288, registered students authorized to carry a concealed weapon would be able to take them anywhere on property that is owned, operated and controlled by their public institution. LINK

Tennessee bill aims to have internet providers automatically block porn on all devices (WZTV-TV) A new bill in Tennessee is aiming to have internet providers block all porn on every device. Rep. James Micah Van Huss (R-Jonesborough) filed the “”Safer Internet for Minors Act,” or HB 2294, this week. It would essentially make those of age and wishing to view porn take extra steps to do so. LINK

HOA bill changes again, associations could ban rentals moving forward (WZTV-TV) A bill moving through Tennessee’s state senate will now allow Homeowners Associations to prohibit rentals moving forward as long as they do not prohibit current home and landowners from renting their property (because when they bought into the neighborhood, they did so because of current HOA rules). Senator Mike Bell’s bill has been debated heavily and drew a large crowd last week as he discussed it with the Senate’s Commerce Committee. Monday, Representative Mike Stewart even called into question why a Senator from the tiny town of Riceville in McMinn County would bring up this bill. LINK

Tennessee lawmaker renews call to make Holy Bible official state book (WZTV-TV) A Tennessee lawmaker is renewing the call to make the Bible the official state book of Tennessee. Rep. Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station), is sponsoring HB 2778 which was submitted in the Tennessee General Assembly on Wednesday. The bill would make “The Holy Bible” the official state book of Tennessee. The bill comes four years after similar legislation was vetoed by then Governor Bill Haslam. LINK

The Bible the official book of Tennessee? Four years after a failed effort, a Republican lawmaker tries again (Tennessean) Four years after sponsoring a bill to make the Bible the official book of Tennessee, Rep. Jerry Sexton is trying again. Sexton, R-Bean Station, filed a bill, HB 2778, Wednesday that is the same as his 2016 legislation — which was ultimately vetoed by former Gov. Bill Haslam. The measure was a hot-button issue at the time, generating significant debate in the House of Representatives as the body unsuccessfully tried to override Haslam’s veto. LINK

Rep. Timothy Hill files bill to allow unlicensed care providers to care for children in rural counties (WJHL-TV)  Representative Timothy Hill (R-Blountville) filed legislation Wednesday to attempt to provide more access to childcare services in rural counties in Tennessee. “The idea initiated with my constituents in Johnson County, they were having a tremendous issue with access to childcare,” Rep. Hill told News Channel 11. “The deeper we’ve looked into it, there’s been articles written about the entire state of Tennessee, as well as nationally, having a lack of access to affordable childcare.” LINK

State Rep. Timothy Hill calls proposed child care bill ‘a medium step’ (Johnson City Press) A bill proposed by state Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Blountville, to allow unlicensed child care providers in rural counties to furnish child care for up to 10 children has drawn some concerns from licensed providers, with one calling it “mind-boggling.” As written, the legislation, HB2689, would allow unlicensed child care providers to operate in counties with a population of less than 50,000 in hopes of increasing accessibility to child care in rural communities. LINK

Legislators call for Tennessee, Memphis to renew rivalry in football & men’s basketball (WATE-TV) A pair of Memphis legislators have introduced a joint resolution calling for the University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee to play each other in football and men’s basketball each year. Senator Brian Kelsey and Representative Antonio Parkinson are sponsoring SJR 881. The resolution calls for the Vols and Tigers to play on the field and the court at least once during their regular seasons. LINK

Resolution filed again to expel Rep. David Byrd from legislature over sexual assault allegations (Tennessean) A Democratic legislator has once again filed a resolution to expel Rep. David Byrd from the House of Representatives for allegations of past sexual abuse of minors. Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, on Wednesday filed House Resolution 220, which would expel Byrd, R-Waynesboro, who was accused by three women of sexually assaulting them when they were teenagers in the 1980s. At the time, Byrd was their teacher and basketball coach at Wayne County High School, where he went on to become principal. LINK

Rep. Phil Roe was ‘appalled at the behavior of Democrats’ at State of the Union (WCYB-TV) U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tennessee) said he was “appalled at the behavior of the Democrats” at Tuesday night’s State of the Union address. Roe, who served in the Army, criticized those who remained seated while veterans were honored at the event, calling the behavior “offensive.” Roe also criticized the actions of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) who tore up President Donald Trump’s speech. LINK

Tennessee delegation comments on Trump acquittal (TN Journal) Here’s what members of the Tennessee congressional delegation had to say about the Senate’s acquittal of President Donald Trump following his impeachment trial: LINK

Tennessee lawmakers, candidates react to President Trump’s acquittal (WTVF-TV) President Donald Trump was acquitted on both articles of impeachment by the Senate on Wednesday. As the president’s impeachment trial comes to an end, Tennessee lawmakers and candidates are reacting to the vote. LINK

Tennessee’s congressional delegation split along party lines in response to President Trump’s State of the Union (Tennessean) President Donald Trump gave his annual State of the Union address on Tuesday night, on the even of an impeachment verdict and amid an icy relationship with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Reaction to the president’s address among Tennessee’s congressional delegation fell largely along party lines. LINK

Alexander, Blackburn vote not guilty in Senate impeachment trial (Daily Memphian) Tennessee’s two Republican U.S. Senators voted Wednesday, Feb. 5, to acquit President Donald Trump in his Senate impeachment trial. Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn each made speeches from the floor of the Senate in advance of the 52-48 vote against removal. Blackburn, who has been critical of the process since it was an impeachment inquiry, said in the Senate that the House impeachment and the Senate trial were “a moment in history that should have been shrouded in the gravity of its potential consequences.” LINK

TN lawmakers react to President Trump’s acquittal (WATE-TV) President Trump was acquitted by the United States Senate Wednesday afternoon for both articles of impeachment he was charged with. Here’s how Tennessee lawmakers are reacting: LINK

Watch: Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander explains impeachment vote Wednesday (WTVC-TV) From the Senate floor, Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander explained his thinking behind his vote in the impeachment trial of President Trump Wednesday morning. Alexander says he plans to vote to acquit President Trump on charges he asked the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, his potential 2020 political rival, and charges that he obstructed justice by preventing Congress from seeing key documents and hearing from key witnesses. LINK

In US Senate bid, Manny Sethi wants Tennessee Republicans to ‘buck the establishment’ (Tennessean) Speaking to an audience of about two dozen people at a brewery in Clarksville on a rainy Tuesday evening, Republican U.S. Senate Manny Sethi touted his personal story. He highlighted a handful issues, criticized establishment Republicans while praising President Donald Trump and indirectly attacked his main opponent. As he campaigns, Sethi’s approach is noticeably different than his opponent, former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty, who is also seeking the Republican nomination. LINK

Poll: Trump has big advantage over any Democrat in Tennessee (TN Journal) New polling results suggest President Donald Trump doesn’t have much to fear in his efforts to carry Tennessee again in November. According to a survey by Mason-Dixon, Tennessee voters give Trump a wide advantage, regardless of who turns out to be the Democratic nominee. LINK

Trump solidly positioned to again carry Tennessee, new poll finds (Times Free Press) President Donald Trump is solidly positioned to again carry Tennessee in his run for re-election, according to a new. The four major Democratic presidential contenders are facing an uphill battle at this point in Tennessee’s November general election against Trump. Statewide, when matched against the leading Democratic contenders, Trump draws 55-57% of the vote in all instances and none of the Democrats draws support that crosses over the 40% threshold, the poll by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy found. LINK

Who will get that University of Tennessee hat Trump signed after the State of the Union? (News Sentinel) Yes, that brief flash of orange caught on camera at the end of the State of the Union address was Tennessee orange. And, yes, that was Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett of Knoxville pushing a University of Tennessee cap and a marker toward President Donald Trump for an autograph as he left the House chamber after his speech. And, yes, the president obliged with his signature. So who is the hat for? On Wednesday, Burchett’s office couldn’t say for sure. LINK

President Trump signs Vols hat for charity following State of the Union (WATE-TV) President Donald Trump took the time to sign a Tennessee Volunteers hat for charity following his State of the Union address on Tuesday. Following his 2020 State of the Union address on the Congressional floor, former Knox County Mayor and TN-02 Representative Tim Burchett approached President Trump to ask him to sign a Tennessee Volunteers hat for charity. LINK

Scott County residents face hour drive to closest hospital (WATE-TV) Scott County patients have been forced to travel about an hour in one direction for an emergency room after emergency services were starting to be diverted over the weekend. Scott County EMS crews said they are taking patients to either Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital, La Follette Medical Center or Tennova North Medical Center. LINK

Big South Fork Medical Center no longer accepting ambulances, Sen. Blackburn wants answers from Rennova (WATE-TV) Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals confirmed Tuesday that EMS patients were being diverted from Big South Fork Hospital. This, after a letter was sent by Senator Marsha Blackburn to rural hospital operator Rennova just last week. Mayor Tibbals saying he was notified Monday morning from the hospital that they stopped accepting ambulances. He’s also saying he’s not sure if they stopped accepting ambulances Sunday or Monday. For now, patients are being diverted to nearby hospitals, whichever one is closest to them. LINK

“Diversion of EMS patients” from Scott Co. hospital is ‘concerning,’ Blackburn says (WVLT-TV) On Tuesday afternoon, the mayor of Scott County confirmed that Big South Fork was diverting EMS patients from the hospital. According to Mayor Jeff Tibbals, the EMS director said the hospital stopped accepting ambulances over the weekend and is only accepting walk-ins as of February 4. Patients who need assistance will be diverted to LaFollette, Oak Ridge or Tennova North depending on their location, the mayor said. The diversion is “not a good sign,” Tibbals said. The hospital employs more than 100 people, and its potential closure would be devastating to the area, Tibbals said. LINK

Sync Space joins LaunchTN statewide partner network (Kingsport Times-News) Launch Tennessee, a public-private partnership that empowers a statewide network of resources supporting Tennessee’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, has announced Kingsport’s Sync Space as its newest network partner. The Tri-Cities accelerator kicks off its first cohort this spring. LINK

Sullivan County man indicted on tax evasion, forgery charges (WJHL-TV) A Sullivan County man has been arrested on several charges, including tax evasion and forgery. A Sullivan County grand jury indicted Richard Daniel Wolfe on four counts of tax evasion, four counts of forgery, two counts of theft, and two counts of perjury. Investigators with the Tennessee Department of Revenue say Wolfe made false entries when he registered two boats with the Sullivan County Clerk’s Office, forged the sellers’ signatures, and failed to remit use tax to the state. LINK


Jackson Baker: TN General Assembly 2020: Legislators Tackle a Multitude of Controversial Issues (Memphis Flyer) The 2020 session of the Tennessee General Assembly is underway, and in many ways its tone was set even before Republican Governor Bill Lee got to deliver his annual State of the State message Monday night. Lee, whose speech would dabble in much human rhetoric, had already expressed his compassionate side the week before when he declared forthrightly that “the United States and Tennessee have always been … a shining beacon of freedom and opportunity for the persecuted and oppressed, particularly those suffering religious persecution,” and vowed to continue offering resettlement opportunities in Tennessee to these displaced peoples. LINK

Editorial: Use state budget surplus for teacher pay increases (Columbia Daily-Herald) Tennessee will have a $917 million budget surplus this fiscal year, projections indicate. The state brought in $600 million more than it spent in 2019, $444 million more in 2018 and $2 billion more in 2017. We’re so flush with cash from robust sales and business tax collections, conservative Gov. Bill Lee proposed a $40.8 billion budget for 2020, nearly a 4% increase over 2019. Does it take a rocket scientist to figure out what to do with some of the extra money? Give as much as possible under the law to public school teachers, who deserve much more than they’re getting, especially in Maury County and southern Middle Tennessee. LINK

Guest column: History of Tennessee death penalty is just and fair (Tennessean) Rev. Joe Ingle, Tennessee’s most visible opponent of the death penalty, criticized Gov. Bill Lee for acting unChristian in not even visiting killers on death row and “praying with them, as they have requested.”  (Tennessean, Jan. 8, 2000). Don’t do it, governor.  But if you do, follow Gov. Frank Clement’s example. Listen to the guys give full and heartfelt confessions – you wouldn’t want to send an innocent man to die, right? Then let them meet their Maker with a happy heart. LINK

Editorial: Lee undermines public’s right to ‘beneficial’ info (Johnson City Press) “When there’s a reason for privacy — and certainly there is when there is a deliberation on policy or there’s a reason it would not be beneficial to the people of Tennessee to provide information — then certainly that privilege should be used and that deliberative process should be protected.” — Gov. Bill Lee. With all due respect to the governor, we disagree. States and the federal government have laws protecting public access to their meetings and the records they create. LINK

Editorial: Arithmetic Don’t Lie (Memphis Flyer) Former President Bill Clinton is considered to have given former President Barack Obama a serious boost toward re-election at the Democratic National Convention of 2012. There came a similar point of epiphany Monday night in the official Democratic response to Republican Governor Bill Lee’s 2020 State of the State address, delivered by state Senate minority leader Jeff Yarbro of Nashville. LINK

Guest column: Small-business owners need Medicare for All (Tennessean) As a small-business owner of 15 years, I’ve watched as health care costs have skyrocketed, taking more and more out of patients’ pockets and shrinking the bottom lines of small businesses like mine. Many presidential candidates have put forward health care plans that nibble around the edges, but without a comprehensive plan to overhaul health care, it’s just a Band-Aid on a broken system. It’s time we stopped pushing the costs of health care on patients and small businesses to line the pockets of giant insurance companies. We need a president who will fight for health care as a human right. That president is Elizabeth Warren. LINK

Otis Sanford: Lamar Alexander needed courage – and an editor (Daily Memphian) His statement contained 467 words, which was 437 words too many. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander needed only 30 of them to tell the nation what most of us already knew – that President Donald J. Trump was dead wrong to attempt a shakedown of a foreign government for his personal political gain, but that Alexander is not courageous enough to demand that we learn the truth under oath. LINK

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