Wednesday, October 14

‘An incredibly important, great day for Oak Ridge:’ Former uranium enrichment site cleaned up (WATE-TV Knoxville) Federal and state leaders came to East Tennessee on Tuesday to commemorate a historic environmental cleanup milestone. The Department of Energy (DOE) says Oak Ridge has become the first in the world to take down a former uranium enrichment site. The U.S. DOE Secretary, Tennessee’s governor and other top officials were all in town for a special event to mark the accomplishment. “This is an incredibly important, great day for Oak Ridge and for all of the volunteer state,” Governor Bill Lee said. LINK

Oak Ridge, Tennessee, site cleans up 75-year waste legacy (Times Free Press) More than two decades after the cleanup began — and over a half century after most of the gaseous diffusion facility here shut down in the 1960s — the U.S. Department of Energy on Tuesday declared the 2,200-acre site cleaned up and ready for industrial reuse. It is the largest completed cleanup project in Department of Energy history … Gov. Bill Lee said he hopes the East Tennessee Technology Park will serve as an incubator for the next phase of development in Oak Ridge, including a general aviation airport, a national park with a history museum and a nature preserve. LINK

Photos: Oak Ridge celebrates completion of 2,200 acre uranium enrichment complex cleanup (News Sentinel) LINK

Agee chosen as next district attorney for 28th District (Jackson Sun) Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced on Monday the appointment for a new District Attorney for the 28th District, and that selection will be coming from Kuwait. That’s because Trenton native Frederick Agee, the appointee set to replace the recently retired Garry Brown, is serving in the U.S. Army Reserve in Kuwait. “We came over in July, and I actually did my interview for the appointment with Gov. Lee in August via video conference call,” Agee said. LINK

State Board Of Education Takes On Oversight Duties For Third KIPP Nashville Charter School (WPLN Radio Nashville) Metro Nashville Public Schools is leaving one of its newest charters, KIPP Antioch High School, in the hands of the State Board of Education. The local school board made the decision after some members wanted to send a message about the burden charter schools are placing on the district. Board members initially rejected the school in April and again during a meeting in July. KIPP Nashville appealed to the state to overrule their decision this summer. The new high school was approved in September. LINK

Williamson Co. woman ordered to repay state after lying to get TennCare for 5 kids (WZTV-TV Nashville) A Williamson County woman has been ordered to repay the state after the Office of Inspector General (OIG) says she was convicted in a TennCare fraud case. Heidi Smith, 43, is accused of enrolling in TennCare by falsely reporting her household income. She is ordered to repay the state $44,404 for benefits received while she, her husband and their five children were on the program. LINK

Metro determining if religious event broke rules (WSMV-TV Nashville) The Metro Health Department continues to investigate a large religious concert that was held downtown Sunday night. Thousands of people showed up to Public Square for a worship event organized by California musician and worship leader Sean Feucht. However, Metro officials said the organizers didn’t apply for a permit.  Governor Bill Lee issued an executive order in May in which he prohibited local government from setting limits on places of worship. Houses of worship were exempt while at the same time, Lee urging people to cautious. LINK

Jonesborough Senior Center reopens today (Jonesborough Herald and Tribune) Jonesborough’s Senior Center is opening back up today. “We are thrilled,” said Center Director Mary Regen on Tuesday just prior to Wednesday’s reopening. When Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee issued the executive order allowing  senior centers in the state to reopen, Regen said staff and local seniors were more than ready to return to a new “normal.”  LINK

With US COVID-19 reinfection confirmed, 195,000 recovered Tennesseans aren’t out of the woods (Tennessean) With the confirmation someone inside the U.S. has become infected with COVID-19 twice, Tennessee doctors are warning the case shows the limits of our knowledge of a relatively new virus and the perils of pumping the brakes on measures like masking and social distancing. The case of a 25-year-old man in Washoe County, Nevada, who was confirmed to have had two separate COVID-19 infections less than two months apart, also underscores the importance of a vaccine and how difficult it could be to achieve herd immunity without one, said Dr. Steve Threlkeld, co-chair of the infection control program at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis. LINK

Health Official: “The Fall Wave of COVID-19 Is Here” (Memphis Flyer) The surge of COVID-19 cases reported around the state and the country has arrived in Shelby County, according to an official with the Shelby County Health Department (SCHD). David Sweat, SCHD deputy director, said, “the fall wave of COVID-19 is here,” on Tuesday during a regular briefing of the Memphis and Shelby County COVID-19 Task Force. For proof, Sweat pointed to the 347 new cases of the virus reported here since Monday morning. The number of new daily cases has not been that high in many weeks. LINK

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Tenn. nears all-time high (WTVF-TV Nashville) The Tennessee Department of Health reported an increase in current COVID-19 hospitalizations with 1,068 hospitalized. A total of 218,829 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Oct. 13, including 2,797 deaths and 196,940 people who have recovered. The positive percentage for Tuesday is 7.77% in Tennessee. LINK

Nashville State Community College Foundation receives funding to help students during pandemic (WSMV-TV Nashville) Financial support is coming to community college students in Nashville. The Nashville State Community College Foundation received $392,860 from the Tennessee Community CARES Program. This program is helping support those impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic. LINK

Austin Peay State University waiving standardized tests for summer, fall 2021 admissions (WTVF-TV Nashville) Because of challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, Austin Peay State University is waiving the standardized test requirement for student applications for the summer and fall 2021 terms. This includes both undergraduate and graduate admissions. Austin Peay first adopted the test-optional admission policy earlier this year, eliminating the requirement to submit an ACT, SAT or GRE score with applications. LINK

Gates Foundation gives $15M to expand COVID-19 testing at HBCUs, including Meharry (Tennessean) Meharry Medical College is among the Historically Black Colleges and Universities to receive a new wave of funding for COVID-19 testing. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced it would give $15 million to universities participating in the Just Project, which equips HBCUs to expand testing for their campuses and communities. LINK

Domestic violence groups transition to virtual and remote services during pandemic (WTVF-TV Nashville) During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are staying at home to limit their risk of contracting or passing on the virus. However, for some, staying at home can be a safety concern, especially if they’re living with their abuser. Advocacy groups have changed the way they operate in light of the pandemic so that victims can still get the services they need. Ashley Cathey with the Office of Family Safety says their organization has been keeping busy. LINK

Well-known Nashville businessman Jimmy Lewis dies after battle with COVID-19 (WKRN-TV Nashville) Well-known Nashville businessman and philanthropist Jimmy Lewis died from COVID-19, according to members of the Lewis family who spoke with News 2. Family members said Lewis died Tuesday morning from the virus at Vanderbilt Medical Center. He was 76-years-old. Lewis is survived by three children and his wife. There have been no funeral arrangements made at this time. No other information was immediately released. LINK

Tennessee judge reprimanded for sending inappropriate messages to law firm staff, litigants in his court (Tennessean/USA Today Network Tennessee) A Tennessee judge has been publicly reprimanded for sending inappropriate messages and pictures to law firm staff and litigants over a period of five years and now faces a suspension if he violates another judicial rule. He acknowledged his actions to the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct in its investigation into complaints against him, according to the court review. The messages he sent swayed the course of at least one of his cases, according to the board. LINK

Tennessee judges go through addiction crisis training created for healthcare workers (WZTV-TV Nashville) Hoping to better understand addiction in their courtrooms, a group of judges from across Tennessee is going through a new training on the opioid crisis. 13 judges are taking part in a pilot Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) initiative. The program hopes to educate the judges on issues like the physiology of addiction, evidence-based programming interventions, and medication-assisted treatment. LINK

As voters focus on the national election, school vouchers are an issue to watch in Tennessee legislative races (Chalkbeat Tennessee) For legislative candidate Jerri Green, Tennessee’s controversial school voucher law represents everything that’s wrong with lawmakers who passed the measure using tactics leading to the law being overturned this year in court. “The voucher law was emblematic of the dark money and backroom deals that we need to put an end to,” said Green, a Memphis Democrat, about campaign contributions from pro-voucher groups, as well as House leaders who limited the bill’s application to Memphis and Nashville in exchange for votes from lawmakers elsewhere in the state. LINK

Pervis Payne: Black Caucus joins request for death sentence commutation (Commercial Appeal) The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators has joined in the request that Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee commute Pervis Payne’s death sentence to life imprisonment. They are making their request because Payne is intellectually disabled, members of the caucus wrote in a letter to the governor sent Friday, and both the U.S. and Tennessee supreme courts have ruled against executing people with intellectual disabilities. LINK

Tennessee Black Caucus seeks clemency for death row inmate (AP) The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators is asking the governor to commute the sentence of a death row inmate scheduled for execution in December. In a Friday letter to Gov. Bill Lee, the caucus said Pervis Payne, who is Black, should not be executed because he is intellectually disabled. Executing inmates with intellectual disabilities is against state law, but there is no mechanism in the law for Payne to reopen his case and prove his disability. The caucus said it will introduce a bill to fix the problem in the next legislative session, which begins in January. LINK

Tenn. Black Caucus of State Legislators asks Gov. Lee to commute sentence of death row inmate (WTVF-TV Nashville) In a letter delivered to Governor Bill Lee last Friday, the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators (TBCSL) asks that he commute the life sentence of death row inmate, Pervis Payne. Payne was convicted of the 1987 murders of Charisse Christopher – of Millington – and her 2-year-old daughter, Lacie. Specifically, TBCSL urges Lee to change Payne’s death sentence to life in prison, due to his intellectual disability. LINK

Sports betting experts: Tennessee’s soon-to-launch platform unlike any other in the country (Tennessean) Tennessee is less than a month away from launching its online sports gambling platform, and sports betting experts from across the nation are keeping a close eye on the state’s fledgling industry. On Nov. 1, Tennessee will join 18 other states with legalized sports betting, but the state is the only one without brick-and-mortar gambling. Its casino-free landscape means Tennessee doesn’t require possession of a retail gambling license as a precondition for an operator license, a common qualifier in other states. LINK

Dickerson, Senate GOP face pushback over ad attacking Campbell’s support for Gideon’s Army (Tennessean) A new television spot taken out by state Senate Republicans has drawn criticism and calls for an incumbent lawmaker to denounce the ad, which attacks a well-known nonprofit focused on mentoring teens and reducing violence in North Nashville. The ad benefiting Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, highlights the support of his Democratic opponent, Heidi Campbell, for Gideon’s Army, an organization that primarily works with youth to prevent them from becoming caught in the prison pipeline. The group also receives funding from the state. LINK

State House District 6 Q and A: Brad Batt (WJHL-TV Johnson City) In light of the budgetary shortfalls caused by COVID-19, what are the most effective legislative approaches to expediting economic recovery in the district you’re hoping to represent? If you were to be elected what would you pursue as a key piece of legislation that you’d like to get passed and that would help constituents in your district? What is the most important legislative agenda you can pursue to guarantee all children in your full access to the best possible education? Should people wear masks in public places right now? LINK

State House candidates campaign to replace Micah Van Huss (WCYB-TV Bristol) Voters in the southern half of Washington County, for the first time in nearly a decade, are voting for someone new to represent them in Nashville. There was a big upset in August, when longtime incumbent State Rep. Micah Van Huss lost the Republican primary by a wide margin. Republican Tim Hicks owns a construction business. He’s the son of the late Bobby Hicks, who once held the seat. Fighting the drug addiction epidemic is his top priority. LINK

Education a key issue in Tennessee House District 83 general election contest (WMC-TV Memphis) One of the local races political pundits are watching closely Nov. 3 is Tennessee House District 83, which includes parts of east Memphis and Germantown, a key suburban voting block. Incumbent Republican Mark White is defending his seat against Democratic challenger Jerri Green, and education is a main issue. After a decade as a state lawmaker, Rep. Mark White said he’s still got work to do in Nashville. The first order of business is getting the state, as well as its students and teachers, through the COVID-19 pandemic. LINK

A helping hand: Tennessee leaders present local libraries with CARES Act grant money (WTVC-TV Chattanooga) Local libraries are getting a big boost as they try to navigate throught the pandemic. On Tuesday, State Senator Todd Gardenhire and Secretary of State Tre Hargett presented the East Ridge Library with grant money from the CARES Act. It was federal money passed by the government. Both tell us this will allow libraries to buy things like PPE and glass barriers so guests can stay safe. LINK

First woman to represent Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District inspires new generations (WJHL-TV Johnson City) This year marked the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote in the United States. Now, for only the second time in history, Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District may yet again be represented by a woman. Candidates Blair Walsingham and Diana Harshbarger are vying to represent Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District in Washington as the second woman to fill that seat. Their way paved by a woman elected decades ago – Louise Goff Reece. LINK

U.S. Senate candidates speak at TVA ahead of early voting in Tennessee (WATE-TV Knoxville) Tennessee’s Democratic candidate for the Senate Marquita Bradshaw held a press conference on Tuesday at the TVA headquarters. During the event, Bradshaw discussed what she describes as the dangers of the rolled-back coal ash regulations as well as TVA’s outsourcing and CEO salary controversy. She was joined by members of the Sunrise Movement, a group of young voters working to prioritize climate change across America and end the influence of fossil fuel executives on U.S. politics. Meanwhile, Republican candidate Bill Hagerty also spoke about the situation at TVA. “President Trump and his Administration are taking unprecedented steps to get our economy going again and keep people employed during this difficult period. LINK

Absentee mail-in votes surge in Hamilton County, at least 7,717 ballots already cast amid COVID-19 concerns (Times Free Press) With Tennesseans poised for early voting to start Wednesday in the Nov. 3 presidential election, at least 7,717 Hamilton County residents have already cast their votes through absentee mail-in ballots. That’s a 91.25% jump and nearly double the total 4,035 absentee mail-in votes cast in the county during the entire 2016 presidential election, according to figures obtained Monday from the Hamilton County Election Commission by the Times Free Press. LINK

Tennessee Secretary of State expects ‘heavy turnout’ for early voting first day (WDEF-TV Chattanooga) In-person voting in Tennessee starts Wednesday, and the Tennessee Secretary of State said that he is expecting “heavy turnout” for the first day. “What we saw in Georgia yesterday, they had heavy turnout. I expect it here as well,” Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. Hargett in Chattanooga for an event took questions on early voting. LINK

Report: Tennessee ranks 45th in voter engagement (Nashville Scene) As early voters prepare to head to the polls this week, a new study by personal finance site WalletHub finds Tennessee ranks sixth from the bottom in terms of voter engagement. The rankings place Tennessee above only West Virginia, Alabama, New Mexico, Mississippi, and Hawaii. The most engaged voters were found in Maine, Washington, Colorado, Maryland, and Wyoming. Tennessee’s rating was determined by looking at six categories as the compare with the rest of the country: LINK

Don’t expect to know who won the presidency on Nov. 3 — and why extra time to count is OK (News Sentinel) The infrastructure Americans use to elect the president of the United States is based on outdated blueprints. The curvy road to the presidency was cobbled together by people in the earliest days of the republic under pressure to keep democracy from crumbling. But as the country goes into an election stressed by the coronavirus pandemic and deep partisan divides, many of the structural weaknesses in the system are not being fixed. LINK

President Trump Wants Supporters To Be Poll Watchers. In Tennessee, Not Everyone Can Do It. (WPLN Radio Nashville) Early voting in Tennessee starts Wednesday, and voters heading to the polls might notice some people inside the voting room watching. This is not abnormal — and they are not random people. In fact, these “poll watchers” have an established role under Tennessee law. In recent days, WPLN News listeners have reached out to Curious Nashville with concerns about poll watchers after President Trump asked his supporters to not just vote, but to show up. “I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully because that’s what has to happen,” Trump said during last month’s presidential debate. “I’m urging them to do it.” LINK

Repairs coming to ‘the most dangerous stretch of rural two-lane road in Knox County’ (WATE-TV Knoxville) This week repairs are expected to begin on what’s been dubbed “the most dangerous stretch of rural two-lane road in Knox County.” Byington Beaver Ridge Road is a Karns-area, state-owned thoroughfare; Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs’ Office released information Tuesday on the upcoming project after a local resident and former police officer and traffic accident investigator told the county the road has been a problem for years. LINK


State Rep. Jeremy Faison: Donald Trump isn’t perfect, but he fights for America and I support him (Tennessean) Do you remember being a child and thinking how incredible it would be to be the president?  As a young child walking down Pennsylvania Avenue, I can still remember standing in front of the White House. I instantly became enamored with politics. Recently, I found myself in the Oval Office waiting to meet President Donald Trump. As I waited, I overheard the president make a crude joke to people in his office and curse multiple times. This was my first time meeting the president, and I wasn’t in the least bit shocked nor offended. LINK

Guest column: I served 15 years as general counsel for the Republican Party. Here’s why I’m voting for Joe Biden (Tennessean) I am a lifelong Republican and I am voting for Joe Biden. I don’t agree with some of Biden’s policy positions, but feel strongly that this election is about the soul of America. Our country cannot endure another four years of Donald Trump. I have never voted for a Democrat for president. I served for 15 years as the General Counsel for the Tennessee Republican Party. During my service to the party, we took control of the legislature for the first time since Reconstruction and eventually gained a Republican supermajority in both the Tennessee senate and house. LINK

Guest column: Voting in-person this election season is safe even with COVID-19 (Tennessean) In many corners of the country, Americans are being told in-person voting is dangerous because of the coronavirus. This is especially true, we hear, for senior citizens who are most at-risk of contracting the virus and suffering its gravest consequences. One Atlantic headline reads “The looming threat to voting in-person.” Don’t believe it. I’m a doctor, and I can confidently tell you that in-person voting does not pose a significant risk to those exercising their democratic rights. President Trump often reminds Americans that it is not dangerous to vote, and he is right. LINK

Guest column: Why Belmont University has persisted amid COVID-19 to host a presidential debate (Tennessean) Oct. 8, 2008 may be the quietest day I’ve experienced in my 20 years on Belmont University’s campus. Just 24 hours earlier, millions of eyes from around the world were glued to Belmont as then U.S. Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain participated in the 2008 town hall presidential debate, broadcast live from the Curb Event Center. In hosting that event, the first ever presidential debate to be held in Tennessee, we were given a front row seat to democracy in action. It was a historic moment, one we’ve been working hard to repeat ever since. LINK

State Sen. Raumesh Akbari: Senators Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn should put Tennesseans over partisanship (Tennessean) Life feels chaotic, scary and uncertain right now. In this moment of overlapping crises – a global pandemic, mass unemployment, systemic racism and climate change – the stakes of nominating and confirming a new Supreme Court Justice could not be higher. Supreme Court justices are appointed for life and, as the highest court in the country, their rulings shape all of our lives. Everything from health care, criminal justice, marriage equality, school funding to climate change and big money in politics has been affected by recent rulings. LINK

Column: Republicans Attack Heidi Campbell With Ad Demonizing Gideon’s Army (Nashville Scene) The Senate Republican caucus is spending loads of money to back up state Sen. Steve Dickerson in his race against Democratic challenger Heidi Campbell in Nashville’s Senate District 20. The district has been covered with mail pieces aimed at Campbell, but the latest attack is more notable because of who it attacks along with her. LINK

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