Wednesday, June 24

Gov. Lee responds to Black Lives Matter movement in Tennessee (WBBJ-TV Jackson) Governor Lee is starting to have conversations with people across the state as Black Lives Matter protests continue. “I value those voices, I hear them, and listen to them. We know what the different asks are,” Governor Lee said in a press conference Tuesday. We’ve seen Black Lives Matter protests happening across the state. Just last week, Governor Lee visited Memphis on Juneteenth to talk with black faith leaders. “Folks that can inform me, particularly with experiences that I have not had, so that we can move forward as a state,” Governor Lee said. LINK

Gov. Bill Lee says he will “continue to fight for the unborn” (WVLT-TV Knoxville) Gov. Lee said he hopes Tennessee “becomes the most pro-family state in the country.” Governor Bill Lee thanked lawmakers for passing the heartbeat bill during a press conference on Tuesday. Gov. Lee said he hopes Tennessee “becomes the most pro-family state in the country.” Tennessee lawmakers advanced the anti-abortion bill on June 19 just after midnight. The bill includes some of the strictest restrictions in the country. Under the bill, abortions would be banned once a fetal heartbeat is detected – about six weeks into pregnancy. Similar legislation has been enacted in other states, including Mississippi and Georgia. LINK

Gov. Lee will not extend order allowing government bodies to meet electronically (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Lee will not extend his executive order allowing local governing bodies in Tennessee to meet electronically to conduct business after it expires June 30. Comptroller Justin Wilson notified government officials in a memo Tuesday that Lee has indicated to his office that beginning on July 1, officials must return to in-person public meetings. A spokesperson for Lee did not respond to a request for comment. Lee issued the original order March 20 because of the coronavirus pandemic and extended it to June when it was set to initially expire May 18. LINK

Lee: ‘Encouraging signs’ for economy as COVID-19 cases rise (WJHL-TV Johnson City) In a COVID-19 press conference update, Governor Bill Lee announced Tennessee was ranked number one in the country for economic recovery, Tuesday morning. The governor, alongside Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner, Dr. Lisa Piercey also touched on topics like helping small business owners amid the COVID-19 pandemic and acknowledging community spread. Governor Lee said Tennessee had its largest single day increase of COVID-19 cases last week. However, Tennessee health officials said hospitalizations and deaths remain stable, even as case counts increase. LINK

Tennessee leads the nation in COVID-19 economic recovery efforts (WVLT-TV Knoxville) Governor Bill Lee said Tennessee’s economy appeared to be bouncing back during a press conference Tuesday. Tennessee leads the nation in consumer spending at restaurants and hotels during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Harvard University’s Opportunity Insights Organization. From April to May, hotel demand in Tennessee increased by 54 percent. The state came in second in the country for apparel and general merchandise spending. LINK

Gov. Lee Says Implementing COVID-19 Liability Protections Should Be Done Via Legislation (WPLN Radio Nashville) Gov. Bill Lee has not yet decided whether he should call for a special session. But, the Republican told reporters Tuesday it might be needed in order for lawmakers to pass a measure that would protect businesses from COVID-19-related lawsuits. “As we all know, a special session is a tool that’s reserved for extraordinary circumstances,” Lee said. “But, protecting Tennessee’s small businesses and organizations and churches and schools is certainly an extraordinary circumstance and we’ll be looking to consider that decision.” LINK

Gov. Lee open to calling lawmakers back on failed lawsuit bill – if leaders agree (Times Free Press) Gov. Bill Lee said he is giving “serious consideration” to calling Tennessee legislators back to the state Capitol for a special session after the failure last week of a bill providing businesses, schools, churches and other organizations more legal protection against COVID-19 liability lawsuits. “I’m evaluating the best way to provide these protections for our businesses and that certainly includes a serious consideration of a special session,” the Republican governor told reporters Tuesday. LINK

Governor: More House-Senate conversation needed before special session might be called (WKRN-TV Nashville) Governor Bill Lee said conversations need to resume between Tennessee’s House and Senate on a key bill before he would call a special legislative session. His comments came today as further addressed race in his weekly briefing. For much of this month, protesters asked to meet with Governor Lee on a variety of race-related topics have maintained a presence in the shadow of the capitol on Legislative Plaza, but he’s resisted talking directly to them. LINK

Governor Lee, TN health department provide statewide update on COVID-19 (WBBJ-TV Jackson) With rising numbers of cases, the commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Health gives an update on COVID-19 across the state. Monday we saw 451 new cases of COVID-19 in Tennessee. That’s out of 14,500 tests. The average number of daily cases is also up. The past 14 days it was 615. The 14 days before that, it was 450. The state is also preparing hot spot plans as cities start seeing spikes in the number of active coronavirus cases across the state. “Most recently we’ve seen increases in Wilson and Hamblin Counties, and we’ll start developing those plans for those spots,” said Dr. Lisa Piercey, TN Department of Health Commissioner. LINK

Gov. Bill Lee says data shows ‘encouraging signs’ for Tennessee’s economy as COVID-19 cases rise (WJHL-TV Johnson City) Tennessee reported a record number of new COVID-19 cases on Friday, Gov. Bill Lee said in a press conference Tuesday morning that Tennessee’s economy appears to be bouncing back. Citing data from Harvard University’s Opportunity Insights organization, Lee pointed out that Tennessee leads the nation in consumer spending at restaurants and hotels, and takes second place behind West Virginia in consumer spending in apparel and general merchandise spending. LINK

State of Tennessee identifies Hamblen County as a COVID “hot spot” (Morristown Citizen-Tribune) When it comes to COVID-19, the state of Tennessee now considers Hamblen County a “hotspot.” Dr. Lisa Piercey, commissioner of the state’s Department of Health, was delivering an update on the state’s coronavirus situation during the Gov. Bill Lee’s press conference Tuesday afternoon. Piercey said the state’s new cases are starting to develop in “hot spots.” She said the state’s unified command group had been discussing developing a hot spot plan. “You’ll probably remember we did that in Hamilton County and Sevier County in the last couple of weeks when we saw increases there. Obviously that work continues,” she said. LINK

Tennessee tops list of restaurant and hotel spending as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted (WSMV-TV Nashville) Tennessee is leading the charge for economic recovery in the country, ranking second overall in consumer spending and topping the list for restaurant and hotel spending. On the 8th day of reopening, the J.W. Marriott is exceeding expectations. “The businesses has actually outperformed what I thought we would be doing,” GM Lukus Kindlesparker said. His hotel is right in line with the rest of the state. According to a report released by Opportunity Insights, Tennessee has seen a 2.8% increase in overall consumer spending, the second highest number in the country. LINK

As coronavirus rages worse than ever, Tennessee leaders forge ahead with reopening (Tennessean) Gov. Bill Lee and Nashville Mayor John Cooper are marching forward with plans to reopen businesses and lift coronavirus restrictions, despite a worsening outbreak infecting, hospitalizing and killing more Tennesseans than ever before. Lee and other state officials said Tuesday they are monitoring the spread of the coronavirus and developing “hot spot plans” for counties where infections were surging. But the governor didn’t provide specifics on if, or when, he would reverse the reopening of the state. When asked if his administration was treating the outbreak with an appropriate seriousness, Lee maintained they were not underestimating the virus. LINK

Criminal justice reform, teacher raises cut from revise Tenn. Budget (WVLT-TV Knoxville) Governor Bill Lee announced the Tennessee Senate passed the revised budget to keep the state on stable footing during an economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lee said several initiatives were shelved in order to meet the budget. Those initiatives include criminal justice reform and pay raises for state employees and teachers. According to Gov. Lee, the initiatives cut from the current budget are expected to be revisited in the near future. “We had to work together to make very difficult decisions to make tremendous compromises,” Lee said. LINK

Clarksville woman celebrates turning 103 years old, COVID-19 style (WTVF-TV Nashville) It was never a question of if, but how. How to celebrate Elizabeth Hill’s 103rd birthday, when her own health is fading and everyone else’s is uncertain due to a pandemic? “I told them to stay at home this year,” said Hill … Friends and family members across the country submitted birthday greetings via video, along with Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, musician Diana Ladio and a few familiar faces at NewsChannel 5. LINK

Some teachers believe TDOE guidelines for COVID return put too much responsibility on them (WZTV-TV Nashville) Teachers are keeping an eye on the number of COVID-19 cases being reported in the state. This comes as they prepare to possibly return to the classroom this fall. The Tennessee Department of Education COVID-19 task force released a list of guidelines that schools and teachers will be required to do to keep the classrooms and students safe. The list includes 15 requirements, including providing gloves and face coverings for them and students, using cones and tape to enforce social distancing, and to clean their classrooms between each class and sometimes during class, using specific products like Clorox and Lysol cleaning agents. LINK

Tennessee Board of Regents votes for no increase in Tuition, Fees (Clarksville Online) Students attending Tennessee’s public community colleges and colleges of applied technology will see no tuition or fee increase during the upcoming academic year as a result of action today by the Tennessee Board of Regents. The Board unanimously approved recommendations of TBR staff and the Board’s Finance and Business Operations Committee for no tuition or student fee increase – for both in-state and out-of-state students – in recognition of the economic conditions prompted by the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic and Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly maintaining state appropriations for higher education operating funding at current levels. LINK

Pandemic puzzle: ETSU piecing together budget amid major uncertainty (WJHL-TV Johnson City) The heads of East Tennessee State University’s colleges and major departments completed an unenviable task Friday – delivering fiscal 2021 budget proposals to President Brian Noland that envisioned cuts of up to 7.5 percent. “As with any contingency planning you plan for the worst case and then you work your way backwards from there,” Noland told News Channel 11 Monday. That interview came a few days after Noland received some initial news about the just-passed State of Tennessee budget that could avert a worst-case scenario. State dollars comprise nearly 40 percent of ETSU’s annual education and general budget, and he had heard at one point this spring to prepare for cuts that could be as high as 12 percent, or $8 million. LINK

Tennessee will have 2 sales tax holiday weekends this year with more tax-free items on the list (WBIR-TV Knoxville) When the General Assembly passed its budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year Friday, it included a new sales tax holiday for restaurants and a boost to the existing back-to-school shopping weekend. The sales tax holiday on clothing, school supplies, and computers will take place July 31 through August 2. The normal price limits on eligible items was doubled this year to encourage shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic. In previous years, the limits were $100 on clothing and school supplies and $1,500 on computers. In 2021, the eligible items include clothing and school supplies up to $200 or less. Computers and televisions $3,000 or less are exempt from sales tax. LINK

Advocates, families work to save state program that helps children, adults with severe disabilities (WBIR-TV Knoxville) Tennessee’s Family Support Program assists people with severe disabilities and their families. It gives them an average of $1,300 a year to help alleviate the financial strain. The new state budget cuts could defund the program. If that happened, a lot of people would feel the loss. The program under the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities supports 4,761 families statewide. 1,186 are in East Tennessee, 251 are in Knox County. 1,500 are still on the waiting list. LINK

COVID-19 update: 11,704 active cases (Nashville Post) With coronavirus cases on the rise, Gov. Bill Lee urged residents to go out and spend money at local businesses while acknowledging ongoing efforts to control the disease’s spread. “We are closely watching those numbers,” Lee said. “What we’re watching for are trends.” With a hot spot continuing in Hamilton County, Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said the state is now responding to flare-ups in Wilson and Hamblen counties. And though the state is working on adding contact tracers, Piercey said officials still don’t know where half of the new cases are coming from, which “tells us that we have more community spread,” she said. LINK

Report: Tennesseans Showing More Signs of Anxiety, Depression (Memphis Flyer) Tennesseans are showing more signs of anxiety and depression as the coronavirus pandemic continues, according to a recent report by a sociologist at East Tennessee State University. The results are based on the most recent Tennessee Poll, an annual poll conducted by ETSU’s Applied Social Research Lab (ASRL), which is led by Kelly Foster. The poll found that for the week of April 22nd through May 1st, 35 percent of respondents had symptoms of anxiety and 27 percent had symptoms of depressive disorder. LINK

More visitors are taking advantage of the outdoors at Tennessee state parks (Tennessean) “Sarg” Larry Hill, a regular at Montgomery Bell State Park for 26 years, golfed Tuesday at his favorite spot for the first time this season. “I’m normally out here sooner, but we were cooped up for two months and then I went back to work,” Hill, 79, said. “I finally told my wife today, ‘I’m going out and I’ll see you tonight.’ ” Hill is among many who have taken advantage of Tennessee’s state parks remaining open through much of the coronavirus pandemic. LINK

Regional Tourism Director: Pandemic has had ‘huge impact’ on tourism, race at Bristol ‘much-needed boost’ (Johnson City Press) Perhaps no industry has been harder hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic than tourism and hospitality, but Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association Director Alicia Phelps is confident the region can bounce back — something it, in some ways, already has done. “It was going to be a big year, it still can be a good year, and we’ve already seen a bounce-back, especially with our restuarants and hotels and things like that,” Phelps said. “It will be interesting to see what our fall and winter quarters will look like, but we’ll come back eventually and 2021 will be good and we’ll be even better in 2022.” LINK

Troopers remove items from protest area at Legislative Plaza; demonstrators remain (Tennessean) Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers removed all of demonstrators’ gathered and donated supplies from the protest area at Legislative Plaza. Witnesses say THP troopers left their post near the steps immediately in front of Charlotte Avenue, which protestors took as an invitation to move closer to the barricade in front of the Capitol. When troopers asked protesters to return across the street, protesters reportedly hesitated but did reluctantly retreat across the street. LINK

TN Dept of Safety and Homeland Security issues statement on Legislative Plaza protests (WZTV-TV Nashville) The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security has issued a statement regarding recent arrests made during events at Legislative Plaza and the Tennessee Capitol. Last week, the Tennessee Highway Patrol said 21 people were detained during protests outside the Tennessee State Capitol Monday night. THP said of those, 19 people were cited and two were arrested for public intoxication. On Tuesday, the Department of Safety and Homeland Security said troopers “once again addressed the protestors and read them TCA 39-14-414 and then removed the unauthorized items.” LINK

Plea deal offered in murder of prison administrator, documents claims (WSMV-TV Nashville) A plea deal has been offered to Curtis Watson, the man accused of the rape and murder of prison administrator Debra Johnson, according to a source close to the investigation as well as documents sent to Watson. The plea deal comes after a TBI agent testified during a hearing late last year that DNA was consistent with Watson and did not exclude him. That terminology means the DNA results did not rule him out from committing the crime. LINK

State reports increase of 750 cases on Tuesday; Statewide total now 36,303 (Tennessean) The Tennessee Department of Health announced there are at least 36,303 cases of the coronavirus in the state as of Tuesday afternoon, an increase of 750 in the last 24 hours. So far 542 people have died, an increase of 11 since Monday. At least 2,336 people have been hospitalized and 24,068 have recovered so far. LINK

TN Dept of Safety adjusts operations to continue offering services (WBBJ-TV Jackson) As businesses and agencies attempt to reopen, many have shifted how they serve customers. One of those is the Tennessee Department of Safety’s Driver’s Services Division. Due to COVID-19, they had to restrict their in-person driving tests, and they’re just now catching up. “It is difficult to impossible to maintain social distancing when you’re in the vehicle with a person,” said Paula Shaw, Driver’s Services Assistant Commissioner. “We are having to catch up the backlogged individuals who were displaced as a result of that period of time.” LINK

Long-term care residents make up nearly 40 percent of COVID-19-related deaths in Tenn., data says (WHBQ-TV Memphis) Assisted living, long-term care, senior residential, and skilled nursing facilities make up a lot of Tennessee’s health care facilities. According to the state, these more than 700 facilities employ more than 70,000 people and provide services to more than 70,000 residents. State data also showed nearly 40 percent of all COVID-19-related deaths in Tennessee have been long-term care residents. LINK

98% of Tenn. nursing homes complete COVID testing; Inside look at testing in Soddy-Daisy (WTVC-TV Chattanooga) Tennessee nursing homes are one week away from facing penalties if they don’t complete COVID-19 testing. According to the state health department, all Hamilton County facilities have completed their testing as of Tuesday. 98 percent of Tennessee nursing homes have completed testing, according to Governor Bill Lee’s office. Those that haven’t completed mass testing have one more week before their license could be suspended or face fines. We were there for the final round of testing at Soddy Daisy Healthcare Center. Once nurses swab, they put the sample in a test tube. Then they seal it in a biohazard bag. LINK

Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. provides tourism industry forecast amid COVID-19 pandemic (WKRN-TV Nashville) The Coronavirus pandemic has shaken Nashville’s tourism industry to its core. Restaurants, bars, and coffee shops are closing while others struggle to survive. Compared to this time last year, hotels are practically empty– the streets, in the thick of COVID-19, looked much different. When will the true Music City reappear? Will it ever? News 2 reached out to the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation Tuesday for their most recent data, how much money has the city lost due to COVID-19 and when can we expect conventions and meetings to return. LINK

Jackson mayor to cut 23 employees, including directors of farmers market and health and sanitation (Jackson Sun) Jackson Mayor Scott Conger will eliminate and consolidate 23 positions as the city attempts to cut costs heading into a financially uncertain year caused by coronavirus. “They’ve probably been a year in the making,” Alex Reed, Jackson Mayor Scott Conger’s administrative assistant said. “It was obvious from the council meeting (on June 16) that we are spending a lot on salaries and need to reinvest it in technology and infrastructure.” LINK

Most Tennesseans say ‘no, thanks’ to masks amid COVID-19 pandemic (Times Free Press) Tennesseans are among the least likely in the United States to wear face coverings — one of the few tools known to help stop the spread of the coronavirus — according to a report released last week. The lack of adherence to the mask guidelines comes despite infection of more than 36,000 people in the state, and at least 542 deaths in three months. LINK

Rise in consumer spending in Tenn. doesn’t mean the economy is back to normal, professor says (WHBQ-TV Memphis) A new study shows consumer spending is on the rise in Tennessee. The numbers had Governor Bill Lee saying the state’s economy is improving. FOX13 spoke to a professor at the University of Memphis about how the numbers do not mean the economy is back to normal. Elena Delavega is an associate professor of Social Work at the University of Memphis. LINK

Tennessee abortion ban: Planned Parenthood, providers ask judge to halt implementation (Tennessean) Tennessee abortion providers have asked a judge for a temporary restraining order that would stop the state from implementing strict new abortion restrictions recently passed by the legislature. The bill, part of Lee’s legislative agenda that was largely abandoned earlier this spring amid the coronavirus pandemic, found new life through last-minute budget negotiations between the House and Senate on Thursday. It passed the Senate 23-5 just after 12:30 a.m. last Friday on a party-line vote, after already passing in the House. Gov. Bill Lee has yet to sign the bill but is expected to do so. LINK

Tennessee abortion law to be challenged before Trump-appointed judge (TN Journal) When Tennessee Republican lawmakers passed a sweeping abortion ban last week, it was the the expressed hope the measure could be used to challenge precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision of 1973. A legal challenge filed in federal court in Nashville this week provides an early test as the case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Chip Campbell, whom President Donald Trump appointed to the bench in 2017. LINK

Special session on coronavirus business protections not likely until at least August, GOP leader says (Tennessean) With the dust still settling over last week’s adjournment of the 111th General Assembly, early talks of a potential special session aimed at providing businesses legal protections over COVID-19 continue to linger. But any special session is unlikely until at least after the August primary election, House Republican Caucus Chair Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, told The Tennessean. Faison and Gov. Bill Lee said Tuesday a special session could not occur until the House and Senate reach an agreement on the central issue: a bill aimed at providing businesses, schools and others protections from litigation related to COVID-19. LINK

Abortion Ban Rebuke (Memphis Flyer) One pro-choice leader called the Tennessee vote a ‘truly stunning display of hypocrisy.’ In the early hours of Friday morning, the Tennessee General Assembly passed what pro-choice groups are calling the most restrictive abortion ban in the country. The legislation criminalizes medical professionals who perform abortions after six weeks, while restricting the reasons a women can get an abortion. It also requires women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound, in which the doctor decribes the image and gives the woman the option to view the image. LINK

State senator backs Cooper primary challenger (Nashville Post) Longtime lawmaker Brenda Gilmore, a Democratic state senator from Nashville, is the first local elected official to endorse incumbent U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper’s primary challenger. Gilmore, who served in the state House and Metro Council before being elected to the Senate in 2018, on Tuesday endorsed Keeda Haynes, a former public defender challenging Cooper in the Democratic primary. “With the country and our state reaching a turning point for change, it is time that we have a leader in Congress who reflects the hopes and aspirations of the young people calling for change,” Gilmore said in a release. LINK

In Senate race, PAC backed by Sethi team member hits Hagerty (AP) In Tennessee’s open race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a political group backed by a member of GOP candidate Manny Sethi’s campaign is attacking his primary opponent, Bill Hagerty, and Alexander, calling the two “liberal” and “best friends.” The Conservative Outsiders PAC said the video was sent to more than 300,000 Republican activists and supporters in Tennessee, and said it plans more videos, ads on multiple platforms and ground operations as permitted. The group also set up an anti-Hagerty website. LINK

Sen. Alexander calls on Congress to prepare now for next pandemic, COVID-19 second wave (WATE-TV Knoxville) Congress should act now to prepare for the next pandemic according to Sen. Lamar Alexander. The health committee chairman made the remarks Tuesday as lawmakers try to decide how the federal government, states, hospitals, and health care providers should prepare for another wave of COVID-19 and future pandemics. “While the nation is in the midst of responding to COVID-19, the United States Congress should take stock now of what parts of the local, state and federal response worked, what could work better and how, and be prepared to pass legislation this year to better prepare for the next pandemic, which will surely come,” said Alexander, R-Tennessee. LINK

Congressional candidate Nichole Williams address issue could yield perjury charge (WJHL-TV Johnson City) She’s withstood an attempt to get her name removed from the First Congressional District Republican Primary ballot. Now Nichole Williams may face a perjury charge — she says for inadvertently signing election filing paperwork that included her former address. Sullivan County’s online court record system shows an open “State of Tennessee vs Nichole E Williams” case in Judge James Goodwin’s court with a June 4 filing date. Charges haven’t been filed but are listed as perjury with Tennessee Code Annotated 39-16-702 as the applicable code. LINK

VERIFY: Mail-in votes will not rig 2020 elections (WBIR-TV Knoxville) More Americans are requesting mail-in ballots than ever before as many fear voting in crowded places due to the coronavirus pandemic. Critics of mail-in ballots, including President Donald Trump and Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, have expressed concerns that the system is open to corruption. In Tennessee, a Nashville judge ruled the state must offer absentee voting to all registered voters during the pandemic. LINK

Voter registration deadline is July 7 in Tennessee, ahead of August election (WBIR-TV Knoxville) Even though the next state and federal primary election are months away, the deadline to register for it is fast approaching. People who are eligible to vote in those elections must register at least 30 days in advance of the election. This year, Election Day is on Tuesday, August 6. So, people must register by July 7 to be eligible to cast a ballot. LINK

Cookeville, Tenn. city council to vote on monument at city cemetery, Confederate flags (WTVC-TV Chattanooga) The Cookeville, Tennessee City Council plans to take up two resolutions that confronts the city’s past. The first resolution would disclaim a Confederate monument that is now at the Cookeville City Cemetery. Part of the resolution says that “glorifies a military that fought to protect the ideals of slavery.” LINK

Small earthquake hits near Madisonville (WVLT-TV Knoxville) According to the United States Geological Survey, a magnitude 1.9 earthquake shook Madisonville at around 2 p.m. June 23. According to an intensity comparison scale by the USGS, earthquakes that register as less than a 3.0 are classified as a level I. That means it is “Not felt except by a very few under especially favorable conditions.” Knoxville and surrounding areas do not sit on a traditional plate boundary, what we often think of as causing tremors. Instead, we sit along the East Tennessee Seismic Zone. Most local earthquakes are ‘weaker,’ but some people will still feel the ground shaking if the magnitude is 2.5 or higher. LINK


State Rep. Sam Whitson: Tennessee should create ‘Military Service Gallery’ to honor our state’s heroes (Tennessean) Tennessee does not have a dedicated gallery or specific location to recognize the significant contributions to the military arts and sciences of prominent Tennessee military leaders, or honor the extraordinary heroism of its citizens during armed conflicts. However, the contentious debate and ongoing controversy surrounding the General Nathan B. Forrest bust in our state Capitol actually offers an opportunity. In the spirit of reconciliation, not division, we can both honor the heroic actions and significant military achievements of two other distinguished Tennesseans and establish an appropriate setting to recognize them in context alongside other notable Tennessee military figures. LINK

Guest column: Tennessee’s unemployment system must improve for both job seeker and employer (Tennessean) Tennessee’s unemployment system continues to fail those who are unemployed through no fault of their own and who are actively seeking employment, as well as the business community that pays 100 percent of unemployment benefits. It’s not the fault of the good people who work within the Division of Employment Security—they’ve always been more than responsive and fair when it comes to the claim process. The challenge is the rules that they have to work within. LINK

Pam Sohn: Tennessee’s lawmakers can’t hear us; fixing them may require our votes to right theirs (Times Free Press) It would be easy to say our Tennessee state lawmakers are behind the times. But more to the point, they are simply far behind in hearing and acting on the interests of their constituents. There was the dropped public school teachers’ raises — while they voted to keep token education voucher funding. Never mind that a year ago, when legislators approved vouchers in the first place, 60% of Tennesseans told the Spring 2019 Vanderbilt University poll they did not favor vouchers. LINK

Jackson Baker: Nashville Shenanigans Cause Shelby County Budget Grief (Memphis Flyer) Don’t imagine that what goes on in the back rooms of the state Capitol in Nashville doesn’t directly impact the fate of local governments and livelihoods hundreds of miles away. In some ways, this is obvious: A case in point was when the state Senate’s Republican majority, in the wee hours of last Thursday night, long after they’d sealed the state budget, contrived to bring out a dormant anti-abortion bill and quickly got a climactic floor vote and final bill passage while Democratic resisters were still, as it were, getting their pants on. LINK

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