Tuesday, February 11

Visit from award-winning high school manufacturing program students sets example for Tennessee industry (Tennessean) When Brianna Rodriguez walked into her first high school drafting class, she saw a room filled with “only dudes.” … The Desert View manufacturing program, Edwards said, is a model for what can come out of legislation such as Gov. Bill Lee‘s GIVE vocational training initiative — an effort meant to identify “skills gaps” in local workforce pools and develop work-based learning and apprenticeship opportunities for students to address those needs. LINK

Why Tennessee’s Governor Wants To Help Pregnant Women Go To The Dentist (WPLN Radio) Tennessee’s governor wants to expand health coverage for pregnant women and new mothers on TennCare. And that includes dental benefits because a mom’s mouth has a surprising connection to the health of a baby. In the last decade, there have been studies that have found some of the harmful bacteria in a pregnant woman’s mouth can end up in the stomach of their newborn. And it’s even been linked to important health indicators and risk factors for infant mortality such as pre-term births and low birth weights. LINK

Grand Division Episode 86: Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn on teacher raises, taxing of ESAs (Tennessean) Penny Schwinn, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Education, is “ecstatic” about this year’s budget. Schwinn, who has now completed her first year as the state’s education commissioner, during the State of the State last week was frequently the first to rise in applause at Gov. Bill Lee’s budget announcements. On the podcast this week, we talk to Schwinn about some of those budget recommendations: LINK

New report by TACIR sheds light on infrastructure needs in Tennessee (WJHL-TV) Tennessee needs about $55 billion worth of public infrastructure improvements over a period ending in June 2023, according to a report by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR). This increase is for transportation and utilities from road projects being developed as part of the “Improve Act.” One of the biggest fiscal challenges elected officials face is dealing with aging infrastructure. Pheben Kassahun spoke with officials on how this study by TACIR helps to speed up the process for improvements in the Tri-Cities. LINK

Doctors with criminal history still practicing in Tenn. (WMC-TV) Criminal convictions often keep people from landing jobs they may otherwise be qualified for, but that’s not always the case when it comes to the people we entrust to care for us. WMC Action News 5 found dozens of doctors and medical professionals with criminal histories who are licensed to practice in Tennessee. When visiting the doctor, the last thing that may be on most people’s minds is whether that doctor has a criminal history. Some people say they’d want to know. “Yeah, I would like to know everything, as much as I could about my doctor because I trust the doctor for my health and my life,” said one Memphis man. LINK

State overturns MNPS decision, allows Nashville Classical Charter School to expand enrollment (Tennessean) Nashville Classical Charter School will be allowed to expand its maximum enrollment by 77 students after the state’s education board overturned a November local decision. The decision by the Tennessee State Board of Education marks the third time in recent months that it has overturned a Nashville school board charter school decision. The state board unanimously voted on Friday to overturn the decision. The charter school asked Metro Nashville Public Schools in November for the expansion as part of a contract amendment after seeing an uptick in families that wanted to remain at the school into middle school. LINK

Melania Trump shares story of Tennessee teen’s suicide in discussion about cyberassault (AP) Melania Trump on Monday cited the influence of “Achy Breaky Heart” singer Billy Ray Cyrus as she asked spouses of the nation’s governors to address cyberassault in their states. “I know the many issues associated with online safety will be hard to stop, but there is a need now more than ever to teach our children healthy behavior to secure a safer future for all of them,” the first lady said before she sat down with the spouses for a cozy lunch in the White House Blue Room. LINK

DCS joins investigation into baby’s remains at Knoxville apartment (WBIR-TV) The state Department of Children’s Services has joined an investigation into the discovery of a premature baby’s remains found last week at a West Knoxville apartment. Jennifer Donnals, DCS spokesman, said Monday she could release few details about the review. “I can confirm that DCS has opened an investigation, but state privacy protection laws prohibit me from making any further statements or providing any additional information,” she said in a statement Monday night. LINK

Strickland urges tax revenue shift to bolster city budget (Daily Memphian) Hamstrung by the shrinking Hall tax, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland is urging passage of legislation designed to fill a widening hole in the city’s budget with $12 million in sales tax revenue. Strickland recently told Shelby County legislative delegation members his main request for the session is “permanent recurring dollars” to make up for losses in the tax on dividends and investments, which will be phased out Dec. 31 and  repealed Jan. 1, 2021. Complete loss of the Hall tax will cut more than $260 million from the state budget, though it is not hurting with a projected $408 million surplus in fiscal 2020-21. LINK

Capitol Notebook: How does Trump perform against top Democratic candidates in Tennessee? (Tennessean) Super Tuesday is just weeks away, so how does President Donald Trump perform against the top Democratic candidates?  Plus, it is 2015 all over again — at least in terms of one new bill filed in the Tennessee General Assembly. Here’s the latest politics news. The House approved the measure with a 55-38 vote in April 2015. The Senate delayed action until 2016 when it approved the bill with a 19-8 vote. LINK

Proposed bill would create statewide public registry for repeat DUI offenders (WKRN-TV) Sex offenders have to be listed on a state registry, and next could be drunk drivers in Tennessee. The bill was sponsored by State Representative Glen Casda and Senator Todd Gardenhire and will be debated by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. “I think this is very important and it would be very helpful in identifying those repeat, DUI offenders,” said Representative Casada. LINK

Nashville Democrat wants comptroller to look into Education Savings Account program contract (Tennessean) A Nashville Democrat wants the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury to look into whether there were any violations related to an education department contract that will help administer the state’s Education Savings Account program. Rep. Bo Mitchell, D-Nashville, said during a House government operations committee that he believes the $1.2 million per year contract with ClassWallet is irregular and that it may have violated state laws. State lawmakers earmarked $771,000 for the program in this year’s budget. LINK

Right to Work’ amendment sails through Tennessee Senate (AP) A resolution seeking to change the Tennessee’s Constitution to enshrine the state’s “right to work” law is gaining momentum. The GOP-controlled Senate passed the measure on Monday and must now go before the similarly Republican-controlled House. The resolution’s main sponsor, Republican Rep. Brian Kelsey, says the constitutional amendment is needed because it will make it harder to repeal or weaken. Supporters point to Virginia as warning, where Democrats recently took over the Statehouse and are now looking to repeal its “right to work” law. LINK

Here’s a look at the fundraising sweepstakes among legislative incumbents (TN Journal) New House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) was the top fundraiser among legislative incumbents in 2019 with $349,701, followed by freshman state Rep. Bob Freeman (D-Nashville), who raised $227,881. On the other end of the spectrum is embattled Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro), whose $1,500 was the least amount raised by an incumbent up for re-election in 2020. Byrd, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by former players when he was  high school basketball coach in the 1980s, appeared to be waffling on an earlier pledge not to run again, but has ultimately said he won’t seek another term. LINK

Tennessee bill that would add rapists younger than 14 to sex offender registry advances (Leaf-Chronicle) A bill that would allow rapists younger than 14 to be placed on the sex offender registry has moved forward in the Tennessee House. Rep. Jason Hodges, D-Clarksville, filed the legislation in response to a case in which a Clarksville girl was held down and raped on camera by two 13-year-old boys. In October, the two boys pleaded guilty and received only six months of probation. The teens were not added to the sex offender registry because an offender has to be at least 14 at the time of the offense to be placed on the registry. LINK

How the ‘TenneSwim’ study inspired a proposed ban on single-use shopping bags (WATE-TV) Tennessee lawmakers are taking aim at single-use shopping bags, with some inspiration from a study done by a German scientist on the water quality of the Tennessee River. A bill filed in the state legislature would ban stores from giving out single-use bags, paper or plastic, for free. The movement toward reusable bags has spread around the country, with bans and fees, ordinances and laws. The bill (SB 2131) was filed in Nashville on Feb. 3 and is sponsored by Knoxville lawmakers Senator Richard Briggs and Representative Dave Wright. LINK

‘Bible bill’ debate renews church and state issues for Tennessee lawmakers (WKRN-TV) Another attempt to make the Bible Tennessee’s official state book is certain to draw the same church and state debate this year just like there was before the measure was vetoed by then-Governor Bill Haslam in 2016. A top state Republican lawmaker even referenced the devil the last time the “Bible bill” was brought up for votes. “All I know is that I hear Satan snickering” said Sen. Republican Leader Mark Norris. “He loves this kind of mischief. Its unnecessary, its inappropriate, its really belittling if not demeaning to the Bible.” LINK

Tennessee adopts ‘The Volunteer State’ as official nickname (AP) State lawmakers have approved a resolution officially designating Tennessee as “The Volunteer State.” The resolution received unanimous approval from the GOP-controlled House on Monday after receiving the same approval in the GOP-controlled Senate the week before. Tennessee first became known as “The Volunteer State” during the War of 1812 due to its prominent role of sending 1,500 volunteer soldiers. LINK

Memphis senator proposes bill to help end “child care deserts” (WMC-TV) Memphis Senator Sara Kyle proposed a new law that would increase daycare options for state employees to help fill what she calls daycare deserts. The newly filed Senate Bill 741 would allow state agencies to provide childcare services for state employees within state-owned office buildings. On average, Tennessee families pay roughly $7,400 a year for child care. Senator Sara Kyle referenced that number in a Monday press conference, and that it breaks down to $600 a month. LINK

Kyle backs bill for state workers to deal with ‘child care deserts’ (Daily Memphian) State Sen. Sara Kyle wants to give state departments the option to set up day care centers near their offices to keep employees from wandering in “child care deserts.” Kyle, a Memphis Democrat, is sponsoring Senate Bill 741, enabling the Department of Human Services to contract for child care services if state departments feel it would help them hire and keep good employees. Competitive bids would be taken from private vendors to run the centers, which could be located in state-owned or state-leased buildings and privately-owned facilities. LINK

Lawmaker hopes ‘child care desert’ bill will make a dent in child care needs (WTVF-TV) To combat the growing daycare needs in Tennessee, one lawmaker has proposed state departments could set up their own child care services. The bill targets “child care deserts” which are areas where child care is limited or wait times make it difficult to find care. State Senator Sara Kyle (D- Memphis) proposed the bill which would give permission to state departments to start their own programs. LINK

Facing $65K in penalties, Towns searching for ‘miracle’(Daily Memphian) State Rep. Joe Towns – assessed $65,000 in civil penalties and bumping up against an April 3 deadline to pay – filed his late campaign finance reports and is negotiating with the Attorney General’s Office, hoping for a “miracle.” Registry of Election Finance Executive Director Bill Young confirmed Monday, Feb. 10, that Towns turned in campaign finance reports, which dated back to early 2018, and is working to resolve the civil penalties meted out by the Registry. LINK

Greeneville Rep. David Hawk ‘leaning’ toward run for Congress (WCYB-TV) State Rep. David Hawk of Greeneville is ‘leaning’ toward a run to replace Rep. Phil Roe, who announced his retirement last month. Hawk has yet to formally announce a campaign for Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District but said he will make a decision very soon. Former Kingsport Mayor John Clark, state Sen. Rusty Crowe of Johnson City and former Roe intern Nichole Williams have already announced their campaigns. Hawk, 51, has served 18 years in the state legislature. He has significantly more risk in running than Crowe, who is in the middle of a Tennessee Senate term and could return to the chamber if his campaign is unsuccessful. LINK

Chattanooga Assistant Police Chief Glenn Scruggs announces state Senate District 10 bid (Times Free Press) Chattanooga Assistant Chief of Police Glenn Scruggs on Monday announced his candidacy for the Tennessee Senate District 10 seat held by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga. “For 25 years, I’ve served my community as a police officer,” said Scruggs, who is running as a Democrat, in a campaign release. “Now I’m hoping to continue that service in the state Legislature, bringing the voices of the people of District 10 to the Capitol.” LINK

Early voting in Tennessee kicks off Wednesday; view a list of voting locations and hours (Times Free Press) Early voting for Tennessee’s March 3 Presidential Preference Primary/County Primary Election begins Wednesday and will run through Feb. 25. Meanwhile, Georgia voters will be able to cast their early votes in the state’s Presidential Preference Primary and Special Election from March 2 through March 20. Hamilton County voters will weigh in on party nominations for president of the United States, while also selecting a candidate for the county’s assessor of property. LINK

Early voting in Tennessee presidential primary begins this week (WATE-TV) While New Hampshire is set to hold its primary on Tuesday, Tennesseans will get their chance to make their voices heard this week as well. Early voting for the Tennessee primary begins Wednesday, Feb. 12, and runs through Feb. 25. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Tuesday, Feb. 25. Click here for a Knox County absentee ballot application. Click here for all Knox County voting locations. Precinct 68E has been moved to the Cedar Bluff Branch Library at 9045 Cross Park Drive in Knoxville. LINK

Bloomberg to kick off Tennessee early voting with Wednesday trip to Chattanooga, Nashville (Times Free Press) Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg will make his first campaign trip to Chattanooga on Wednesday for a rally marking the start of early voting in Tennessee for the March 3 Super Tuesday primary elections. Tennessee, Alabama and North Carolina are among 14 states and a U.S. territory participating in Super Tuesday 2020. That includes mega-states Texas and California. LINK

Investigation: Cookeville’s Only Hospital Sues Thousands Who May Be Insured But Still Can’t Pay (WPLN Radio) Thursdays are reserved for debt collection in Putnam County’s courthouse. Some owe a landlord. Others fell behind with a payday lender. And many have unpaid medical bills with Cookeville Regional Medical Center. A WPLN News investigation finds the city-owned hospital has sued more than 11,000 patients over two decades and has no intention of changing its ways. One after the other, a judge asks patients of Cookeville Regional to stand. From their pew in the crowded courtroom, they acknowledge that they owe the hospital various amounts — $583.43, $1,649, $9,634.69. LINK

Chattanooga couple among those quarantined on cruise ship near Japan (WTVC-TV) A couple from Chattanooga has endured a vacation they certainly weren’t expecting. In fact, they have been on it since the year 2020 began. The trouble is, they can’t come home. At least not yet. John and Constance Buecker are among the 3,711 passengers currently quarantined aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Japan because of possible exposure to the deadly new strain of coronavirus, which has already killed hundreds of people in the Wuhan province of China. LINK

Chattanooga ranks among the worst U.S. cities for healthy food options, consumption (Times Free Press) As one of its biggest health food grocers in Chattanooga prepares to close its stores in East Brainerd and Hixson, a new study ranks Chattanooga among the 10 worst major U.S. cities for healthy food options and consumption. In a new assessment of America’s healthiest cities, the online financial web site WalletHub compared all cities in nine measurements of how much healthy food is available and what the diet and obesity is in each city. Chattanooga ranked as the 10th worst city among the 174 metro areas studied. LINK


Frank Cagle: Mid-state growth can impact ET congressional districts (KnoxTNToday) It’s easy to see that the explosive growth of the Nashville metro area has had a major impact on the city and county governments in adjoining counties. What is not so obvious is the effect the growth will have on Knoxville and East Tennessee. Let’s just say you may need to pay attention to who gets elected to Congress from the 1st District, and if you live in a suburban county to Knoxville you may lose the services of the popular fist-bumping Carhartt-wearing Rep. Tim Burchett. Congressional districts in East Tennessee could be shifting to the west. LINK

Michael Nelson: The conservative case for moving Forrest’s bust (Daily Memphian) Brilliant. Brave. Charismatic. That was Nathan Bedford Forrest. Cruel. Racist. Treasonous. That was Nathan Bedford Forrest, too.It’s just a few days until the Tennessee Capitol Commission meets on Feb. 20 to decide whether to begin the process of moving Forrest’s bust out of the state Capitol building in Nashville. If it votes to recommend removal, the matter will end up in the hands of the Tennessee Historical Commission, where a two-thirds vote to take out the bust would be needed. LINK

Guest column: Responsible gun ownership on the line with proposed gun permit legislation (Tennessean) Last year, I stood with a coalition of firearms instructors against a bill that removed live training requirements from the permit system. I was disappointed when it passed – but this session, lawmakers are trying to go one step further. They want to remove the permit system altogether. If last year’s bill was bad, permitless carry is worse – and I intend to appeal to lawmakers to oppose this. Every step we take away from a proper permitting system is a step away from responsible gun ownership. LINK

Editorial: Unlicensed child care not a solution to shortages (Johnson City Press) Finding suitable and affordable child care undoubtedly is a struggle for many working families, particularly those without abundant resources. We applaud state Rep. Timothy Hill, R-Bountville, for seeking a solution, but we can’t agree with the details of his proposed legislation that would allow for more unlicensed care in rural counties. As Press Staff Writer Jonathan Roberts reported in Thursday’s edition, Hill’s bill would allow unlicensed child care providers to furnish child care for up to 10 children in counties with a population of less than 50,000. LINK

Guest column: How Sen. Lamar Alexander had his ‘Howard Baker moment’ during the Trump impeachment trial (Tennessean) At virtually every turn of the impeachment proceedings against President Trump, members of the media, political pundits, and Democrats were speculating: When would U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander have his “Howard Baker moment?” For the Washington chatter class, this meant turning on a president of his own party, as they believe the late Senator Howard Baker did when he famously asked about President Nixon during the Watergate scandal “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” LINK

Richard Ransom: The devastating reality of food deserts and what can be done about them (WATN-TV) As Local 24 News anchor Richard Ransom discusses in Monday’s Ransom Note, food deserts are having devastating consequences for tens of thousands of people in the Mid-South. LINK

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