Thursday, June 18

US Department of Energy Awards $20 Million to New Oak Ridge Institute at the University of Tennessee (UTK Tennessee Today) The U.S. Department of Energy today awarded $20 million to the new Oak Ridge Institute at the University of Tennessee to expand the university’s partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to train the next generation of American scientists and engineers. “Building a pipeline of well-trained scientists and engineers to solve today’s problems and prepare for tomorrow’s challenges is imperative as we prepare our workforce for the 21st century,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said. “This partnership between two exemplary institutions will make Tennessee and our country proud. I’m grateful to Sen. Alexander, Secretary Brouillette, Director Zacharia, and UT President Boyd for their steadfast leadership and making the Oak Ridge Institute a reality.” LINK

$20M grant will help make Oak Ridge Institute one of the top research facilities worldwide (News Sentinel/USA Today TN) The Oak Ridge Institute, in partnership with the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, announced today a $20 million federal grant designed to make the institute one of the world’s premier research centers. The grant from the Department of Energy is the foundation of $100 million the institute is seeking to raise from public and private contributors. LINK

Oak Ridge wins $20 million prize to propel research, training in East Tennessee (Times Free Press) A new partnership between the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee has won a $20 million prize to help propel a $100 million effort to recruit, train and utilize top scientists in East Tennessee. U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette awarded the federal grant Wednesday to the Oak Ridge Institute, a partnership created between UT and ORNL a year ago to train science and engineering leaders and create new ventures to tackle new energy frontiers. LINK

Gov. Lee appoints Hamilton County Mayor Coppinger to Tennessee Homeland Security Council (Times Free Press) State officials announced Wednesday that Gov. Bill Lee has appointed Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and two other new members to fill vacancies on the Tennessee Homeland Security Council. Also named were Cookeville Mayor Ricky Shelton and Metro Nashville Airport Public Safety Department police Chief David Griswold, according to a release from the Department of Safety and Homeland Security. “The insight and knowledge of these three selectees will be a great benefit in helping keep our homeland safe for the citizens of Tennessee,” said Safety Commissioner Jeff Long. LINK

Cookeville mayor named to Homeland Security Council (Cookeville Herald Citizen) Cookeville Mayor Ricky Shelton is among three new members appointed to the Tennessee Homeland Security Council Wednesday by Gov. Bill Lee. Lee’s office said Shelton, Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and Chief of Police David Griswold of the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Department of Public Safety were appointed to the council “after a thorough and aggressive search for candidates to fill these vacancies.” LINK

QTC Will Invest $5M To Establish Operations Center In Nashville (Business Facilities) The disability and occupational health exam services company will create approximately 410 jobs in Davidson County, TN over the next five years. QTC, a subsidiary of Leidos Holdings, Inc., will invest approximately $5 million to establish a new operations center in Nashville. The investment will create approximately 410 jobs in Davidson County, TN over the next five years. “QTC is excited to expand our operational services in Nashville,” said QTC CEO Grant Kim. “We look forward to joining the vibrant Nashville community, onboarding local talent and demonstrating our mission of making the world safer, healthier and more efficient with the surrounding community.” LINK

Readout from First Lady Melania Trump’s Call with Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee (Whitehouse.gov) Today, First Lady Melania Trump and Tennessee Governor Bill Lee held a call to discuss children’s well-being and Tennessee’s efforts to address mental and physical health for children and families. Penny Schwinn, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Education, also participated in the call. Governor Lee discussed the creation of the state’s COVID-19 Child Wellbeing Task Force and its focus on whole child care, going beyond academic support to include mental and physical health and well-being. LINK

TCAT to begin diesel training at Mountain City campus in September (Johnson City Press) The Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Elizabethton plans to launch its first diesel training program for adults in Mountain City in September. The announcement of the new program was made jointly on Wednesday by Dean Blevins, president of TCAT-Elizabethton and Herbie Adams, director of career technical education for the Johnson County School System. The program will be taught in the TCAT Addition to the Career and Technical Education Building Johnson County High School from 4-8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. LINK

U of M, Rhodes forego ACT and SAT testing requirements for upcoming applicants (Commercial Appeal) Memphis colleges are among the growing chorus of others nationwide who are not requiring upcoming applicants to submit scores for the SAT or ACT. In March, Rhodes College announced it would not require the test scores of students who would enter for the next three years, in the fall of 2021, 2022 and 2023. The University of Memphis announced Wednesday it would also be text-flexible for students applying to the university for the fall of 2021. LINK

UofM waiving ACT/SAT requirements for fall 2021 applicants because of pandemic (WMC-TV Memphis) Students applying to the University of Memphis for fall 2021 will not have to submit test scores from the ACT or SAT. The university announced the new one-year policy Wednesday, attributing it to disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic. Freshman applicants who submit an official GPA were but were unable to take the ACT or SAT will be reviewed holistically. Admissions and Orientation staff will use a test-flexible evaluation process by considering alternative factors, including pre-ACT, PSAT, dual enrollment grades and AP/IB grades. LINK

They live and work in Tennessee but may not qualify for unemployment from state (WSMV-TV Nashville) Tami Fick’s decision to come home to Tennessee in 2019 resulted in an unemployment nightmare for her a year later. “It was shocking and stressful, and I have a lot more grey hairs because of it,” Fick said. While moving to Antioch in 2019, Fick continue to work for a New Jersey-based company. In March 2020, she accepted a new job in Tennessee. But on April 23, as the pandemic swept across the nation, Fick learned she’d been unemployed. She filed for unemployment, expecting since she’d lived in Tennessee and her last job was in Tennessee, she would get unemployment in Tennessee. LINK

Tennessee on track to hit 1,000 concurrent COVID-19 hospitalizations by late summer (WKRN-TV Nashville) Across the state, nearly 400 COVID-19 patients were admitted to the hospital last week.​ That’s a 30% increase from earlier in June, according to a report published by the Vanderbilt School of Medicine. ​​Dr. Melissa McPheeters, a professor in the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt who contributed to the study, explained these projections are meant to inform the health care system so it can prepare for what’s to come.​ LINK

TN Black Caucus, state of Tennessee holding COVID-19 testing Juneteenth weekend (WZTV-TV Nashville) The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators, the state Department of Health and the Office of Minority Health and Disparities Elimination will be providing COVID-19 testing in Tennessee’s four most populated cities during the Juneteenth weekend. Juneteenth, also known as “Jubilee Day,” “Emancipation Day” or “Freedom Day,” is the observance of the ending of slavery in the United States, linking back to June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended and the slaves were free. LINK

Community Groups Call For Statewide Plan To Address COVID Disparities in Tennessee’s Latino Population (WPLN Radio Nashville) The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, along with more than a dozen other community groups, are calling on Gov. Bill Lee and local government officials to establish a plan to address COVID-19 disparities in the state’s Latino community. They’re asking for enforceable workplace protections, direct cash assistance for undocumented families who didn’t qualify for stimulus checks, and hotel accommodations where individuals residing in multigenerational homes can quarantine. LINK

Amid Pandemic, Groups Ask Government for Resources, Support for Latinos (Memphis Flyer) A group of Latino-serving organizations across the state sent a letter to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and local governments Wednesday asking for protection and resources for the immigrant community amid the coronavirus pandemic. Signed by 18 groups, including four based in Memphis, the letter urged officials to address the COVID-19 pandemic and the disproportionate effects it is having on the Latino community. While Latinos comprise 5.6 percent of Tennessee’s population, they represent 35 percent of the COVID-19 cases here, according to the letter. However, the Tennessee Health Department cites this number at 27 percent as of Wednesday. LINK

Knox County will align with state coronavirus reopening plan and abandon local guidelines (News Sentinel) The Knox County Board of Health voted Wednesday evening to keep its local plan in place for two weeks before aligning the county with most of the state in the way it continues to reopen from the coronavirus shutdown. Executive orders issued by Gov. Bill Lee over the course of the pandemic have allowed six counties with their own health departments — including Knox — to make their own rules about reopening. LINK

Knox County health leaders vote to move to Tennessee Pledge, end local reopening guidelines (WBIR-TV Knoxville) The Knox County Board of Health voted unanimously Wednesday to end issuing local COVID-19 reopening guidelines and to move to the state’s “Tennessee Pledge” guidelines moving forward. The vote will put Knox County’s reopening plans moving forward under the control of the Tennessee Department of Health. The Knox County Board of Health said the move will take effect on July 1. LINK

Knox County puts temporary hold on requests from businesses for bulk supplies of free masks (WBIR-TV Knoxville) Knox County Health Department has put a temporary hold on granting bulk requests for free masks from businesses and organizations, although individuals still can get a mask for themselves. Dr. Martha Buchanan, Health Department director, said Wednesday the department needs to get more cloth masks from the state because bulk requests have been so high. Some 300 businesses or organizations have asked for masks to hand out to employees and members, department officials said. LINK

City working out enforcement of mask rules (Daily Memphian) There were indications Wednesday, June 17, that the city’s new mask ordinance will face challenges. The measure took effect with Tuesday’s passage by the City Council, requiring that masks or face coverings be worn in most public indoor public places in the city. However, the ordinance won’t be enforced immediately and state Sen. Brian Kelsey asked for an opinion from the state attorney general. LINK

Tennessee arts organizations to get federal CARES Act funds (AP) The Tennessee Arts Commission said it plans to distribute federal coronavirus outbreak assistance funds to about 190 arts organizations and government entities in the state. The commission said in a news release Monday that it is receiving $534,000 from the federal CARES Act, the financial assistance package created in response to the new coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. LINK

For now: State budget divides Tennessee House and Senate (WKRN-TV Nashville) In the midst of continued Tennessee Capitol hill protests on a variety of racial issues, state lawmakers are divided over a final state budget. The House and Senate for the moment have different versions. It comes after two more protesters were warned about shouting from a House gallery before continuing and then being escorted from the chamber. The third such episode took place just as the House was finishing 18-amendments attached to one of the documents that make up the state budget. LINK

Tennessee House passes budget with teacher bonuses, sales tax holiday; Senate negotiations next (Tennessean) The Tennessee House passed its version of the budget Wednesday, hearing multiple hours of debate and amendments — including allegations of racism and protesters being removed from the gallery — as the chamber now prepares to face off with the Senate to come to an agreement. Like the Senate’s, the House’s $39.45 billion budget is significantly scaled down from one proposed by Gov. Bill Lee earlier this year, before coronavirus shutdowns hobbled the economy. LINK

House budget plan pulls $12M from Memphis/Shelby (Daily Memphian) A $39.4 billion budget that pulls money from Memphis and Shelby County made its way through the House Wednesday, June 17, but not before the atmosphere lapsed into one of finger-pointing and charges of racism. State Rep. Antonio Parkinson, a Memphis Democrat, raised questions about the number of black people who had real input into the budget. He noted it contained nothing to reform police policies in the state even though people are “screaming” for change in the wake of the George Floyd death by Minneapolis police. LINK

State subcommittee revises education funding after voucher program struck down (Johnson City Press) With state and local budgets affected by the ongoing pandemic, local school officials are paying attention to legislators’ efforts to bolster public education funding. The House Finance, Ways and Means Appropriation Subcommittee announced a revised 2020-21 education budget Tuesday that could include $68.4 million in new recurring state dollars for K-12 education. “We have had to make some very tough decisions this year due to COVID-19. Tennessee families have had to tighten their belts, and we have had to do the same thing as a state,” Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, said in an announcement. LINK

Rep. Hill wants to expand sales tax holiday (WJHL-TV Johnson City) Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) wants to temporarily expand Tennessee’s annual sales tax holiday. Hill is proposing a temporary sales tax exemption for the purchase of furniture, electronics, clothing, back-to-school supplies, and new and used vehicles during certain dates. There would also be a week-long sales tax holiday for restaurants. Tennessee’s current sales tax holiday takes place the last weekend in July and applies to most clothing, school supplies, and computers. LINK

House tries to find calm amid chaotic atmosphere (Daily Memphian) In the waning days of the 111th General Assembly, the House of Representatives descended into an atmosphere of chaotic uncertainty. The events forced House Speaker Cameron Sexton to call leadership from Republicans and Democrats to his office after Wednesday’s early session. “I expect what’s happening to end today,” Sexton said. Lawmakers got into a confrontation Tuesday night over a resolution honoring a slain Nashville teenager, then passed a resolution urging passage of a constitutional amendment ensuring the Senate takes up every bill it passes before adjournment. LINK

Local lawmakers divided over war memorial funding (WJHL-TV Johnson City) Funding for a war memorial in Johnson City has revealed a division among local state lawmakers. The Tennessee House’s budget includes $10,000 for the Washington County/Johnson City Veterans Memorial Park. According to The Tennessean, Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) asked for the funding to be included despite deep spending cuts. Sen. Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) said in a news release Wednesday that the state cannot afford any extras and believes the final budget will not include funding for the memorial. LINK

TN General Assembly passes key bill to address opioid crisis (WZTV-TV Nashville) Tennessee is taking action in the worsening opioid crisis. The General Assembly passed SB 1060/HB 0656 on Wednesday after two years of deliberations. SB 1060/HB O656 states: “As introduced, specifies that within 10 days of receiving the nonresidential buprenorphine guidelines and standards a health-related board that licenses any practitioner authorized to prescribe buprenorphine must post such guidelines and standards on the board’s website.” LINK

Effort to hide I-65 Nathan Bedford Forrest statue with trees fails in House (WTVF-TV Nashville) A budget amendment to hide a statue of Nathan Bedford Forest with trees failed in the House. The monument to the Ku Klux Klan leader sits on private property off of Interstate 65. It’s been vandalized numerous times over the years, but one state lawmaker says it shouldn’t have to be visible to the public at all. LINK

State Rep. isn’t giving up on blocking I-65 Nathan Bedford Forrest statue (WKRN-TV Nashville) The controversy over a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest continues, after an amendment that would block the statue on I-65 failed Wednesday. State Representative Jason Powell said he is not giving up on blocking the statue near mile marker 76 from the public’s view. “I find the statue is offensive, it’s hideous recently people have thrown paint on it and they’ve just totally let it go,” Powell explained. He said the statue, that is still covered in pink paint after it was vandalized several years ago, is not only offensive but it’s a safety hazard. LINK

Lawmakers Refuse to Remove Forrest Bust (Memphis Flyer) An all-white House committee voted down two proposals from a black House member to remove the bust of slave trader Nathan Bedford Forrest from the Tennessee State Capitol. Rep. Rick Staples (D-Knoxville) brought his ideas on removing the bust back to lawmakers after the Tennessee General Assembly broke earlier this year on COVID-19 concerns. LINK

Juneteenth: Leaders Explain Significance, Why It Should be Recognized (Memphis Flyer) Though Juneteenth is not designated as a federal holiday, 46 states have made the day either a state holiday or state holiday observance. Here, June 19th is neither. Rep. Antonio Parkinson is sponsoring a bill in the Tennessee House to change that. The legislation, HB 1626, would make June 19th a state holiday. “It’s very important for us as African Americans to recognize something that ended the biggest trauma toward black people in the United States,” Parkinson said. LINK

Black lawmakers’ frustrations erupt on Tennessee House floor (Times Free Press) Racial frustrations in the Republican-controlled Tennessee House boiled over for a second straight day Wednesday during floor debate on the state’s budget as black Democrats charged that they had no influence on the document and their constituents’ concerns are being ignored by the majority. The triggering factor was a series of unsuccessful efforts by Democrats to amend the budget, which is being revised amid a collapse of state revenues created by the coronavirus. LINK

Rep. Parkinson apologizes in effort to cut House tension (Daily Memphian) In a rare House moment, state Rep. Antonio Parkinson issued an apology Wednesday night, June 17, for using foul language during an outburst the previous evening as he tried to defend a slain Nashville teenager. “I want to apologize to Speaker Cameron Sexton for me using explicit language on the House floor. … I am a Marine. I learned from the best,” Parkinson said. The Memphis Democrat exploded with anger Monday when House Majority Leader William Lamberth urged others not to vote for a resolution memorializing Nashville teen Ashanti Nikole Posey, who was killed by gunfire earlier this year. LINK

TN House to vote on bill permitting alcohol sales at Memphis Zoo (WMC-TV Memphis) The Tennessee House of Representatives is set to vote on a bill that would allow the Memphis Zoo to sell alcohol Wednesday. The House resumed their 11 a.m. meeting at 5 p.m. Senator Brian Kelsey sponsored the bill and hopes revenue from alcohol sales will help the zoo recover from losses after the COVID-19 shutdown. The zoo says the money would go towards daily operations, exhibit upgrades and educational program expansions. LINK

Families say bill to limit COVID-19 lawsuits would give immunity to nursing homes (WTVF-TV Nashville) Tennessee lawmakers are close to approving legislation that would significantly limit Coronavirus-related lawsuits. Business groups say it will give them the protection they need to move forward, but families say it will make it nearly impossible to hold nursing homes accountable. Jamie Vinson has been outspoken since the beginning about how the Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing handled the COVID-19 outbreak in its facility. LINK

“You don’t know my daughter.’ Ashanti Posey’s mother on failed resolution, lawmaker’s comments (WTVF-TV Nashville) The uproar of emotions that ensued after a resolution to honor a teen shooting victim in Nashville failed rippled from the Capitol. Amber Posey said she was extremely angry after hearing comments by a representative about her 17-year-old daughter Ashanti. The Hillsboro High School senior died after someone opened fire on her silver Malibu at Whites Creek Pike and Green Lane in early April. LINK

I am the author of her story now’: Ashanti Posey’s mom places photo at Capitol after resolution fails (Tennessean) After the House declined to pass a resolution Tuesday memorializing Ashanti Posey, a Black Nashville teen who was fatally shot earlier this year, her mother placed a photo of her daughter at the Capitol with a clear message: her daughter will not be disparaged. Upon Republican lawmakers declining to pass the resolution, anger, frustration and chaos erupted on the House floor from both lawmakers and activists. LINK

Video: Mother of Ashanti Posey speaks to troopers in front of the Capitol (Tennessean) A resolution honoring Ashanti Posey, a 17-year old girl black girl shot and killed in Nashville, failed in the Tennessee House. LINK

“Speak her legacy; Not the narrative”: Nashville mother posts daughter’s picture on Capitol steps (WKRN-TV Nashville) A group of protestors camped along Capitol Hill chanted the name of 17-year old Ashanti Posey, as her mother laid a picture of her against a row of barriers guarding the Capitol steps. “This is my daughter,” Amber Posey said emotionally. “This is a human being. Not a drug dealer.” In April, Metro Police found the soon-to-be high school graduate shot to death while sitting behind the wheel of her car at the intersection of Green Lane and Whites Creek Pike. LINK

Grieving mother speaks up after resolution honoring daughter fails to pass (WSMV-TV Nashville) A grieving mother is making sure her daughter isn’t forgotten. On Wednesday, Amber Posey held a poster with a picture of her daughter, Ashanti, in front of the Tennessee State Capitol. The 17-year old was shot and killed in April. So far, no one has been arrested. “You will know who Ashanti Posey was. Not what the police say. Not what her passenger said. What I say because I am the author of her story now,” Amber Posey, Ashanti Posey’s mother said. LINK

Protesters made to remove support equipment, posters from Capitol grounds (WKRN-TV Nashville) Protesters at the Capitol had to dismantle their supplies and signage from state grounds early Wednesday morning. State troopers made protesters pack up their support equipment, including tents, canopies and generators, in addition to posters they had placed on fences and barricades. Lieutenant Bill Miller with the THP said crews with Metro Public Works need the area cleared so they can clean Legislative Plaza. LINK

Around 70 cars hold “Workers Caravan” ride around capitol to support and protect workers rights (WSMV-TV Nashville) Honking their horns with signs on their cars, a set of drivers Wednesday morning wanted to make their message perfectly clear: support and protect our workers. “Our purpose out here is today is to demonstrate around what workers need,” Vonda McDaniel, President of the Central Labor Council of Nashville and Middle TN said. Organizers with the Central Labor Council of Nashville and Middle TN, as well as STAND UP Nashville helped form the “Worker First” Caravan in Nashville for racial and economic justice. LINK

GOP senator on LGBT ruling: All Americans ‘entitled to dignity’ (AP) In reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision that protects LGBT people from employment discrimination, Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said Tuesday that every American is “entitled to dignity and respect.” The Tennessee lawmaker shared his reaction with reporters on a call Tuesday. “My reaction is that every American individual is entitled to dignity and respect, and that the Supreme Court has spoken, and now it’s the law of the land,” Alexander said. The court decided Monday by a 6-3 vote that a key provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that bars job discrimination because of sex, among other reasons, encompasses bias against LGBT workers. LINK

Congressman Fleischmann: ‘It’s time to play ball’ (WATE-TV Knoxville) A lawmaker from East Tennessee says, “It’s time to play ball.” Congressman Chuck Fleischmann says our nation has never needed baseball more than we do at this moment; this as major and minor league seasons were put on hold due to COVID-19. Fleischmann’s own love for the game is easy to see. The representative from Ooltewah plays for the Republican congressional baseball team. LINK

August ballot contenders and Capitol Hill rhetoric catch up to George Floyd protest (Daily Memphian) U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis says the concept of “defunding” police is “not a Democratic mantra.” “That was just a ruse,” Cohen said earlier this week of Republican criticism of Democrats in advance of the House and Senate returning to Washington to vote on police reform legislation. “It’s a call of the protesters,” the Memphis Democratic said. “Police are important for our communities. They should be refunded, not defunded.” Cohen, a former legal adviser to the Memphis Police Department, also said there should be better training of police, including sensitivity and racial bias training. LINK

TVA withdraws permit applications for coal ash storage at Bull Run (WATE-TV Knoxville) The Tennessee Valley Authority has withdrawn permit applications to store coal ash at the Bull Run power plant in Anderson County. A TVA release said Wednesday it has informed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation about the decision to withdraw. TVA purchased 200 acres of property next to the coal-fired power plant and first began the permit application process in 2013 under the assumption long-term electricity production at Bull Run would necessitate the need for a new landfill for Bull Run coal ash storage. LINK

TVA Employees protest layoffs and the outsourcing of jobs (WDEF-TV Chattanooga) Over the past year TVA has been working to improve their IT department with plans to better their software system. But, with this improvement comes big changes… Including layoffs. “We have to make this change. It’s what’s best for the Valley. But we are working with them to help find placement elsewhere,” says Malinda Hunter, TVA spokesperson. Through the process over 100 employees are losing their jobs. LINK

Trooper disciplined for secretly filming young woman, driving to Nashville to pick up personal records while investigating his boss (WBIR-TV Knoxville) An East Tennessee trooper used his cruiser camera to film a young woman he found attractive as she pumped gas, and he also made a personal trip to Nashville to pick up records when he was supposed to be on duty in Knoxville, documents show. The state investigated Trooper James McKilligan last summer for multiple alleged infractions. Authorities then suspended him for six days without pay, a term that’s since been reduced to three days without pay. LINK

Bristol business owners anticipate NASCAR fans to bring revenue the week of All-Star Race (WJHL-TV Johnson City) The countdown is underway to the biggest sports surprise in recent memory. The NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway moved out of Charlotte because of COVID-19 concerns. City mayors joined track management at the Bristol Chamber of Commerce to unveil the All-Star Race Countdown Clock, Wednesday afternoon. BMS joins Atlanta Motor Speedway as the only other facility, other than Charlotte’s, to host the All-Star event. LINK

OPINION

Georgiana Vines: Sen. Lamar Alexander: Bill that helps the Smokies is ‘most satisfying’ of his career (News Sentinel) Sen. Lamar Alexander said the anticipated passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, legislation designed to help with deferred maintenance in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and other federal properties, is the “most satisfying” of any legislation he’s worked on. “I have seen the difference when we’re all proper stewards of land and water,” he said. Alexander, who has worked on legislation for years to help with a $224 million maintenance program in the Smokies, said the vote was expected around noon Wednesday. The vote is expected to be lopsided, since a procedural vote last week passed 80-17. LINK

John Adams: Why Tennessee should honor Johnny Majors with a statue (Tennessean) The recent death of Johnny Majors was a sad reminder of Tennessee’s great sports tradition. So many people acted as though they had lost a dear friend — even if they had never exchanged more than a “hello” with Majors. I was surprised at how many of those fans emailed me and expressed their sorrow of his death. After all, he last coached at UT in 1992. LINK

David Plazas: Why would a Tennessee lawmaker bully a dead teen? (Tennessean) Usually, I allow ideas for columns to simmer for a few days because the emotions might get the best of me, but I could not help myself on Wednesday. On Tuesday night, I watched the USA TODAY Network Tennessee’s coverage of the state House of Representatives failing to pass a resolution memorializing a young woman from Nashville. LINK

David Plazas: Slain teen Ashanti Posey deserved better than being debased on the Tennessee House floor (Tennessean) At a time of civil unrest, anger and angst over systemic racism in this nation, compassion goes a lot further than condemnation. However, Tennessee state House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, chose the latter path when he besmirched a dead teenager on the House floor on Tuesday and effectively prevented a resolution memorializing her from passing. The state Senate previously unanimously passed this resolution without incident. LINK

Editorial: Supreme Court rules for LGBTQ equality, Tennessee should catch up (Johnson City Press) Our country took another step toward equality this week with the Supreme Court’s ruling ensuring protections from workplace discrimination for LGBTQ+ Americans. For us, it seemed a given that people shouldn’t be able to be fired because they love someone of the same sex or their sex doesn’t match their gender identities. There are an estimated 94,700 members of the LGBTQ community among the ranks of Tennessee’s workforce. They deserve to be their authentic selves, free from harassment or retribution, as they conduct their everyday lives. LINK

Betty Bean: Tennessee, we’ve got a lot to answer for (KnoxTNToday.com) If we had any sense, we’d be embarrassed. That’s rhetorical, of course. The assortment of bigots, self-dealers and Bible-bangers we send to Nashville to represent us in the House of Representatives is proof positive that we don’t, and we aren’t and we don’t give a damn. Take this last little stretch of the spring legislative session in Nashville, please. The low point of this chapter of the Forrest fight was a wildly incoherent speech by Rep. Jerry Sexton, R-Bean Station, who led the charge by defending the institution of slavery and linking the statue’s removal to abortion. LINK

Bill Freeman: Casada laughs, Dickerson distances, while viable candidates prepare to make their moves (Nashville Scene) Every day in Tennessee and in America, we hope to see good things from our political leaders. When they take office, our elected leaders take an oath to uphold our constitutions, federal and state. So when they don’t act in the best interests of the people they are sworn to represent, it is disturbing and shameful. LINK

Bill Hagerty: Now more than ever, we must defend precious right to life (Jackson Sun) Nothing is more important to me than my faith and my family, which have guided my Christian, conservative values. These are the same values my parents instilled in me, and they are the same values my wife Chrissy and I are instilling in our four children. I believe one of the most important principles we can pass on to our children is fighting for the right to life, and as I have traveled across the state, standing for the most vulnerable among us is clearly something Tennesseans value too. LINK

Otis Sanford: For political junkies, the race for TN House District 90 one will be a fun one (WATN-TV Memphis) With the twin crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and massive protests against deadly police practices, state election politics has been pretty much ignored in recent weeks. But that is about to change with a rather intriguing race shaping up for a state legislative seat in Memphis. The current occupier of that seat is Democrat John DeBerry, who has represented House District 90 for 26 years. But in April, the state party’s executive committee booted DeBerry off the Democratic primary ballot for voting too much with Republicans, who have a super majority in the legislature. LINK

Column: Smoking Weed Is Unacceptable Behavior to Colleague of Accused Sexual Abuser (Nashville Scene) Tennessee Republicans in the state House of Representatives rejected a resolution to memorialize a slain teenager on Tuesday night. Ashanti Harris was a high school athlete who hoped to play basketball at Western Kentucky University. She was openly gay and started a support group for LGBTQ students. She worked two jobs. On April 9, she was shot and killed. A group of representatives introduced a resolution to honor her, which came before the House after weeks of protests in Nashville and a weekend of demonstrations right outside the Tennessee State Capitol. The resolution had already passed unanimously in the Senate. LINK

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