Monday, January 11

Tennessee to launch coronavirus vaccine appointment system (AP) Tennessee officials are launching a statewide online scheduling system in the coming days for coronavirus vaccine appointments. The effort aims to prevent people from having to wait in line for hours, sometimes only to be turned away because there are no doses left, state Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey told reporters Friday. That’s been an issue in Chattanooga, for instance, where there have been long lines of people waiting in their cars after Hamilton County opened vaccine eligibility for those 75 and older. Some counties already have been using an appointment-based system. LINK

State: TN federal unemployment benefits’ distribution continues this weekend (WATE-TV Knoxville) The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development has been working throughout the weekend with its system vendor to implement the federal unemployment program extensions outlined in H.R. 133. Claimants who exhausted their federal pandemic unemployment benefits prior to December 26, 2020, should have new benefit balances added to their PUA and PEUC claims. If the claimant exhausted benefits on, or prior to December 26, they can attempt to complete a certification. If the claimant is unable to certify and the system prompts them to file a claim, they should proceed and complete the refiling process. LINK

Tennessee officials launching system for scheduling COVID vaccine appointments (AP) Tennessee officials are launching a statewide online scheduling system in the coming days for COVID-19 vaccine appointments. State Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said Friday that the change aims to prevent long lines of people who wait for hours in some areas where vaccines are now available to people 75 and older, sometimes only to be turned away because there were no doses left. On Thursday, Tennessee reported more than 215,400 COVID-19 vaccinations had been administered so far. That’s about 3% of the state’s population, compared to a 2% national rate reported by federal health officials. More than 4,500 Tennesseans have received second doses. LINK

More vaccines needed as yet another COVID-19 surge looms (Tennessean) The Tennessee coronavirus outbreak has begun to swell once again after a slight slowdown during the holidays, and it is possible the largest surge yet lies ahead. Tennessee was reporting nearly 6,100 new coronavirus infections more than 100 deaths per day as of Friday. The average positivity rate was above 20%, which means one in every five tests conducted in the prior week was positive. Infection numbers are expected to rise in the coming week as a widely-feared post-holiday surge begins to take hold. Tennessee reported its largest infection spike ever in the weeks after Thanksgiving gatherings, and it is possible an even larger spike will occur in the wake of Christmas and New Year’s Day. LINK

Lawmakers speak about goals for Tennessee General Assembly (WJHL-TV Johnson City) New representatives will be sworn into the Tennessee General Assembly on Tuesday, and we talked with a few of them about their goals. Former broadcaster Scotty Campbell is representing Tennessee House District 3 once again after not running for re-election in 2012. “I’m going to be focused on seeing that we have road improvements,” Campbell said. “There are many investments that need to be made here in terms of that infrastructure.” LINK

GOP attorneys general group sent robocall promoting Capitol march (Tennessean) An arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association sent out a robocall encouraging people to join the pro-Trump march to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, which eventually turned into a deadly riot. “The march to save America is tomorrow in Washington, D.C., at the eclipse in President Park,” the robocall from the Rule of Law Defense Fund, a fundraising arm of the Republican Attorney General Association said. “At (1 p.m.) we will march to the Capitol building and call on Congress to stop the steal. We are hoping patriots like you will join us to continue the fight to protect the integrity of our election.” LINK

Eric Munchel, accused of being ‘zip tie guy’ seen at Capitol riot, arrested in Nashville (Tennessean) A Nashville man who had expressed pro-Trump views, had worked in a bar in a popular entertainment district and was accused by online researchers of carrying plastic hand restraints in the U.S. Senate during the Capitol riot Wednesday, has been arrested. The man, Eric Munchel, 30, was being held in a local Nashville jail Sunday on a federal warrant, online records show. An FBI spokesperson, Samantha Shero, confirmed the arrest. LINK

Attorney: Munchel had been fired from Kid Rock’s bar in Nashville (WKRN-TV Nashville) Eric Munchel, the man arrested in Nashville earlier Sunday on charges related to the riot at the U.S. Capitol, had been fired from a job at Kid Rock’s Honky Tonk in 2020. The restaurant is operated by well-known businessman Steve Smith, whose attorney Bryan Lewis emailed a statement to News 2 regarding Munchel’s firing. “He was a former employee, but was terminated several months ago. Steve Smith nor any of his organizations condone or support the actions that took place at our nation’s Capitol,” the statement read. Munchel was taken into custody Sunday afternoon in Nashville for his role during the riots at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. LINK

Tennessee man known as ‘Zip Tie Guy’ arrested on federal charges after Capitol riot (WSMV-TV Nashville) A Nashville man known as ‘Zip Tie Guy’ was arrested Sunday afternoon in Tennessee following his actions in the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021. Eric Gavelek Munchel, 30, was charged with one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. According to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Munchel was allegedly inside of the U.S. Capitol carrying plastic restraints, an item in a holster on his right hip, a cell phone mounted on his chest with the camera facing outward, ostensibly to record events that day. LINK

FBI arrests Nashville zip-tie suspect from assault on U.S. Capitol (WTVF-TV Nashville) A self-described “hidden patriot” from Nashville, outed on social media as a rioter who invaded the U.S. Senate chambers Wednesday with a weapon and zip-tie handcuffs, was arrested Sunday on federal charges, NewsChannel 5 has learned. FBI agents took Eric Gavelek Munchel, age 30, into custody on a federal arrest warrant charging him with one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. He was booked into a Nashville jail at 2:50 p.m. LINK

Tennessee man suspected of storming the U.S. Capitol arrested (WZTV-TV Nashville) A Tennessee man believed to have entered the U.S. Capitol during Wednesday’s riot is arrested. Davidson County Jail arrest records show that 30-year-old Eric Munchel, of Nashville, was booked just before 3 p.m. Sunday. He is charged with one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. The FBI says Munchel turned himself in to Nashville police. LINK

Nashville Man Photographed With Zip Ties In Capitol Invasion Arrested On Federal Charge (WPLN Radio Nashville) FBI agents arrested a man in Nashville on Sunday for helping lead the mob that invaded the U.S. Capitol last week. Eric Gavelek Munchel, 30, is charged with unlawful entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, according to a statement from the U.S. Justice Department. The cases against the insurrectionists are being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, which says photos depict Munchel carrying plastic zip ties commonly used as restraints by law enforcement. Investigators say he also had a holster on his right hip and a cellphone camera mounted on his chest, likely to record the events of the day. LINK

FBI arrests Nashville zip-tie suspect from assault on U.S. Capitol (WVLT-TV Knoxville) A self-described “hidden patriot” from Nashville, outed on social media as a rioter who invaded the U.S. Senate chambers Wednesday with a weapon and zip-tie handcuffs, was arrested Sunday on federal charges, NewsChannel 5 has learned. FBI agents arrested 30-year-old Eric Gavelek Munchel Sunday around 2:50 p.m. based on an unspecified federal arrest warrant, WTVF reported. Munchel was booked into the Metro Nashville jail. LINK

FBI investigation throws curve ball as Tennessee General Assembly annual session kicks off Tuesday (Times Free Press) Members of Tennessee’s 112th General Assembly begin their annual session this week with some members of the GOP-led House under a cloud as a federal investigation erupted publicly last week when FBI agents searched homes and offices of three legislators and several current and former staffers. While federal officials haven’t publicly stated what they’re probing, a number of legislators believe that given the home and office of disgraced former Republican House Speaker Glen Casada of Franklin was among those searched, at least part of the focus could be on the controversial 2019 passage of Gov. Bill Lee’s school voucher bill. LINK

McNally: Lawmakers should resign if arrested (TN Journal) Senate Speaker Randy McNally, an Oak Ridge Republican who wore a wire for the FBI in the Rocky Top investigation in the 1980s, says state lawmaker who who had their homes and offices searched by federal agents should resign if they are arrested. “Of course nobody’s been arrested. They’ve just had search warrants,” McNally told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “But, if somebody’s arrested, I think they should resign.” The lawmakers who had their offices and homes raided on Friday include former House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin), Rep. Robin Smith (R-Hixson), and Rep. Todd Warner (R-Chapel Hill). The FBI is also looking into former top Casada aide Cade Cothren, interim House Chief of Staff Holt Whitt, and two legislative staffers. LINK

School districts look ahead to Tennessee legislative session (Daily Memphian/Chalkbeat) The leaders of Tennessee’s four largest school districts asked lawmakers last week to keep funding intact for education, raise teacher pay, and invest more in student mental health as the coronavirus pandemic tests school communities in unprecedented ways. They also talked about the need to accelerate vaccinations against the virus and praised Gov. Bill Lee’s administration for bumping up teachers and school staff on the state’s priority list for shots. In addition, Shelby County Schools Superintendent Joris Ray lauded the state for its newly released plan to invest $100 million of one-time federal funding in early literacy programs. “Literacy is life,” said Ray, noting that just one in four students in his Memphis district are reading on grade level. “If our students can’t read by the time they’re in third grade, we are in big trouble.” LINK

Tennessee Congressman proposes plan for online sports betting money to fund schools (WJHL-TV Johnson City) Tennessee congressman David Hawk said he plans to focus on education funding in the coming year at the general assembly in Nashville. Hawk told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais he plans to propose a piece of legislation to use funds earned through online sports betting, which was legalized in Tennessee November 2020, to fund school systems. Hawk expects Tennessee classrooms will look different when students return to in-person learning and that will cost money. LINK

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann tests positive for COVID-19 and is experiencing mild symptoms (Tennessean) U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann announced Sunday night he has tested positive for COVID-19 several days after learning he had come into contact with another lawmaker who had tested positive. In a tweet announcing his positive test, Fleischmann, R-Chattanooga, said he is feeling “okay” as he continues to self-isolate, something he’s done since he learned his roommate, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, a Florida Republican, received his positive results Wednesday night. Fleischmann’s spokesperson said the congressman is experiencing mild symptoms. LINK

Tennessee Congressman Chuck Fleischmann tests positive for COVID-19 (WTVF-TV Nashville)  U.S. Representative from East Tennessee Chuck Fleischmann has shared he has tested positive for COVID-19. In a statement, the Republican representative shared that he began quarantining Wednesday night, after a Congressional member he lives with tested positive. Fleischmann said he “currently feels okay” and is working remotely. LINK

Tenn. Congressman Chuck Fleischmann announces positive COVID-19 test (WATE-TV Knoxville) U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann (TN-03) announced on Sunday evening that he has tested positive for COVID-19. Fleischmann, who represents large parts of northeastern and southeastern Tennessee, released the following statement following his positive test: “Today, I learned that I have tested positive for COVID-19 after coming into contact with another infected Member of Congress, with whom I share a residence in D.C. I have been in quarantine since Wednesday night, which is when I learned the individual had tested positive, and following CDC guidance. I will continue work for my constituents while self-isolating. LINK

Congressman Chuck Fleischmann tests positive for COVID-19 (WBIR-TV Knoxville) U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) announced he has tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, Jan. 10. In a statement, Fleischmann said he has been in quarantine since Wednesday night when he learned another member of Congress, with whom he shares a residence in DC, had tested positive. “I will continue work for my constituents while self-isolating. I currently feel okay and remain in contact with the Attending Physician. I again, want to urge all Americans to continue to wear masks, practice proper hygiene, and follow CDC guidance as we work to combat COVID-19,” he said in a statement. LINK

Tennessee Rep. Chuck Fleishmann tests positive for COVID-19 (WVLT-TV Knoxville) U.S. Representative Chuck Fleishmann has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a release from his office and a post on his Facebook page. “Today, I learned that I have tested positive for COVID-19 after coming into contact with another infected Member of Congress, with whom I share a residence in D.C. I have been in quarantine since Wednesday night, which is when I learned the individual had tested positive, and following CDC guidance. I will continue to work for my constituents while self-isolating. I currently feel okay and remain in contact with the Attending Physician. I again, want to urge all Americans to continue to wear masks, practice proper hygiene, and follow CDC guidance as we work to combat COVID-19.” LINK

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann tests positive for COVID-19 (Times Free Press) U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tennessee, announced Sunday that he tested positive for COVID-19 after contact with another member of Congress he shares a residence with in Washington. “I have been in quarantine since Wednesday night, which is when I learned the individual had tested positive, and [am] following CDC guidance,” Fleischmann said in a statement. “I will continue to work for my constituents while self-isolating. I currently feel okay and remain in contact with the Attending Physician. I again, want to urge all Americans to continue to wear masks, practice proper hygiene, and follow CDC guidance as we work to combat COVID-19.” LINK

Congressman Chuck Fleischmann tests positive for COVID-19 (WDEF-TV Chattanooga) Congressman Chuck Fleischmann announced today that he has tested positive for COVID-19 after coming into contact with another infected Member of Congress. The Congressman has been in quarantine since Wednesday night. He released the below statement Sunday night: “Today, I learned that I have tested positive for COVID-19 after coming into contact with another infected Member of Congress, with whom I share a residence in D.C. I have been in quarantine since Wednesday night, which is when I learned the individual had tested positive, and following CDC guidance. LINK

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann tests positive for COVID-19 (WRCB-TV Chattanooga) U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN) announced on Sunday that he tested positive for COVID-19. Rep. Fleischmann was among lawmakers during the Capitol lockdown. Capitol Dr. Brian Monahan emailed those in the House who were present during the evacuation and said, “On Wednesday January 6th, many members of the House community were in protective isolation in a room located in a large committee hearing space. The time in this room was several hours for some and briefer for others. During this time, individuals may have been exposed to another occupant with Coronavirus infection.” LINK

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann tests positive for COVID-19 (WTVC-TV Chattanooga) U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann confirmed Sunday he is in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. Fleischmann released the following statement after receiving his test result:     “Today, I learned that I have tested positive for COVID-19 after coming into contact with another infected Member of Congress, with whom I share a residence in D.C. I have been in quarantine since Wednesday night, which is when I learned the individual had tested positive, and following CDC guidance. LINK

An early Republican Trump critic feels vindicated (Politico) Forgive Bob Corker if he sounds like he’s going to say, “I told you so.” The former senator was lonely as a Republican critic of President Donald Trump, beginning in 2017. While most GOP lawmakers kept quiet about their concerns, Corker warned the White House had become an “adult daycare” and that Trump’s Cabinet members “help separate our country from chaos.” He even held a hearing to scrutinize the president’s power to use nuclear weapons. Corker retired rather than run for a third term in 2018 amid a feud with Trump and potentially tough primary. But after a flood of GOP condemnation of Trump for inciting a deadly riot at the Capitol, the Tennessee Republican says he’s been vindicated. LINK

OPINION

Georgiana Vines: Sen. Hagerty taps former deputy governor Henry to direct state operations (News Sentinel) Jim Henry – deputy governor to former Gov. Bill Haslam, a former Kingston mayor, minority leader in the state House of Representatives and gubernatorial candidate – is the director of Tennessee operations for U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty. Henry said Thursday he will be based in Nashville although he will travel throughout the state, particularly to Knoxville. Hagerty’s Nashville office is where former U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s office was in a privately owned building at 3322 West End Ave., with the phone numbers being the same. Eventually Hagerty’s office will be in the Fred Thompson federal building being built in Nashville and expected to be occupied later in the year, Henry said. LINK

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