Monday, February 10

The envy of many… Governor Lee delivers State of East Tennessee address at ETSU (Elizabethton Star) Tennessee Governor Bill Lee stood before a large gathering inside the Millenium Center on the campus of East Tennessee State University on Thursday evening and gave a recap of some of the legislation that will be presented in 2020 and accomplishments from 2019 as he updated those in attendance during the State of East Tennessee address. The Governor stated that although much of what he was sharing during the address came from his remarks during his State of Tennessee address, he felt that it was important to visit different regions in the state and look into the eyes of those from throughout the state as he shared his vision for the state. LINK

Gov. Lee delivers State of East Tennessee Address at ETSU (East Tennessean) Gov. Bill Lee visited campus on Thursday to deliver the 2020 State of East Tennessee Address at the Millennium Center. Lee described Johnson City as “a jewel in this part of the state” and outlined his proposed $5 million commitment into the renovation of the courthouse and post office as well as the continuous development of downtown Johnson City. “We are the envy of many states because of our economic activity; because of things that are happening here,” said Lee. “And we’re not just getting noticed by our fellow Southern states. We’re also being noticed by people all across the country.” LINK

Gov. Bill Lee earns favorable job rating in new poll, Republicans poised to hold Alexander’s Senate seat (Times Free Press) Gov. Bill Lee receives high job performance marks from Tennessee voters, according to a poll released Friday by Jacksonville, Florida-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy Inc. Meanwhile, respondents appeared to overwhelmingly prefer the two Republican candidates vying to fill Lamar Alexander’s seat in the U.S. Senate. Statewide, 55% of respondents said they approved of Lee’s job performance to date, while 27% said they disapproved and 18% were not sure. LINK

Poll: Gov. Bill Lee has 55% approval rating (TN Journal) Republican Gov. Bill Lee has a 55% approval rating going into his second year in office, according to a new Mason-Dixon poll. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they disapproved of the governor’s performance, while 18% were unsure. Lee’s popularity was highest among fellow Republicans, 79% of whom viewed him favorably, while 26% of Democrats had a positive view of the governor. About half of independents approved. LINK

Tennessee This Week: State of State to State of the Union (WATE-TV) Tennessee This Week tackles the Gov. Bill Lee State of the State address and the state budget and President Donald Trump’s impeachment acquittal and the State of the Union speech. LINK

Dissecting Gov. Lee’s Criminal Justice Reform Plan For 2020 (WPLN Radio) Gov. Bill Lee has been talking about plans to reform the criminal justice system in Tennessee since the campaign trail. He studied the issue during his first year in office with the expectation that this would be the year for legislative action. But WPLN’s Sergio Martínez-Beltrán says the proposals are less sweeping than expected and some are a bit tougher on crime. LINK

New ETSU humanities building at bottom of list for state funding (East Tennessean) Following the release of Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s proposed state budget, many ETSU students, faculty, staff and supporters noticed a distinct lack of funding regarding the new humanities building that has occupied headlines on campus and in the community. The proposed project would cost roughly $72 million with the vast majority of the funding coming from state revenue. While providing potentially record funding across campus, Lee’s budget makes no mention of the project outside of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s Capital Projects Recommendation for the coming year. LINK

Tennessee’s female Supreme Court justices to speak at Lipscomb University (WRKN-TV) Tennessee’s six female Supreme Court justices will be together speaking at an event in Nashville Monday. It’s being hosted by Lipscomb University’s Fred D. Gray Institute for Law, Justice, and Society. That department is named after the civil rights attorney and activist who represented Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “What we hope the students gain is that you know anything great has to be worked for and pushed through,” said Steve Joiner, Dean of the school’s College of Leadership and Public Service. LINK

Tennessee’s first female African American State Senator talks 28-year tenure (WKRN-TV) News 2 is celebrating Black History Month with a special report Sunday on “Tennessee’s Hidden History.” We’re sharing stories of our area’s past, including those of history-making trailblazers like retired Tennessee State Senator Thelma Harper. “There was so much that we needed to be done,” Harper said. After serving on Metro Council, she spent 28 years on the hill working for constituents in Senate District 19. “I really thought I could make a difference,” Harper said. LINK

Tennessee TANF: $221 million in state funds used in place of available federal TANF funding (Tennessean) Tennessee has spent $221 million more in state funding than necessary on the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program since 2013 — rather than using available federal funding, according to the Tennessee Comptroller. Instead, the Department of Human Services accumulated $732 million in federal funds intended for poor, working parents. TANF, a federal anti-poverty program, provides cash and other assistance to low-income parents while they find jobs or get an education. LINK

Tennessee lawmaker proposes making Holy Bible official state book — again (WBIR-TV) Two Tennessee representatives introduced a bill that would make the Holy Bible Tennessee’s official state book. Sen. Mark Pody and Rep. Jerry Sexton introduced HB2778/SB2696 on Feb. 5. This isn’t the first time Tennessee has seen such a proposal — Former Gov. Bill Haslam vetoed a similar bill in April 2016. Back then, Haslam told 10News there were religious and legal reasons to veto the first bill. “To put the Bible on the state, the same level as the state rock or the state tree, that’s not what the Bible is,” Haslam said in 2016. LINK

Tenn. bill would raise THC limits for state drug tests (WVLT-TV) A new bill filed to the Tennessee legislature aims to change the state’s requirements for drug tests. The new bill ( HB 2054/ SB 1944), sponsored by Rep. Bryan Terry, would increase the limits for THC. The current law states that 50 ng/ml of THC would trigger a positive drug test. The proposed bill would increase the limit to 150 ng/ml. The bill would impact drug tests for government employees, students, people who receive government benefits and people who are on parole or bail. LINK

Memphis senator taking Democratic lead on bipartisan Medicaid expansion bill (Daily Memphian) The Memphis lawmaker said in a statement this week she will be the “leading” Democrat in the state Senate for a bipartisan effort to expand Medicaid, a move similar to then-Gov. Bill Haslam’s failed Insure Tennessee plan five years ago. “Whether you live in Orange Mound or Knox County, no family should face financial ruin because a loved one got sick or hurt in an accident, but that’s exactly what’s happening,” Robinson said in a release. “Everyone should be able to see a doctor when they need to without going broke, and this Medicaid expansion effort puts us one step closer to that goal.” LINK

‘Trump took a grenade to Washington,’ Roe tells Hawkins Chamber (Kingsport Times-News) President Trump has “taken the boot” off business by removing regulations and is giving the nation the best economy ever, U.S. Rep. Phil Roe told a Rogersville/Hawkins County Chamber of Commerce legislative breakfast on Saturday. “Trump took a grenade to Washington,” Roe, R-Tennessee, said. “The only thing (constituents) tell me is they wish (Trump) wouldn’t tweet as much. … If you want a job, you can get a job. … This is the first time in my life the unemployment rate has been where it is.” LINK

Congressman Duncan paid $115,000 for lawyers with leftover campaign funds in 2019 (News Sentinel) Former Knoxville Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. is still spending his campaign war chest and in 2019 it went mostly towards attorney fees. Since leaving office January 2, 2019, Duncan has spent $115,592 on legal fees. Duncan is required by Federal Election Commission rules to detail campaign dollars spent. He has roughly $700,000 left in his account, according to the latest FEC filings. The payments were first reported by the Tennessee Journal, which also recently reported former Duncan staffers have been interviewed by federal investigators. LINK

OPINION

Editorial: Refugees are welcome; prejudices are not (Johnson City Press) Washington County leaders were right to politely put aside a request made Thursday by state Republican Executive Committeewoman Anita Hodges Taylor for the county to officially oppose refugee resettlement. Taylor, like other party officers elsewhere in the state, asked Health, Education and Welfare Committee members to advance a resolution saying the county “does not consent” to a decree by Gov. Bill Lee for Tennessee to continue accepting refugees from other countries. Thankfully, the commissioners turned Taylor away instead of the refugees. LINK

Curtis Johnson: News from the Tennessee Capitol (Clarksville Online) This week in Nashville, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee delivered his second State of the State Address. The governor’s comments focused on recent Republican accomplishments and shared legislative and budget priorities for the 2020 legislative session. Key focus areas this year include public education, economic and workforce development, public safety, and an emphasis on our rural Tennessee communities. LINK

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