Monthly Archives: June 2017

12 TN counties covered by fed disaster declaration from May storms

News release from Tennessee Emergency Management Agency

Nashville, Tenn. – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced (Friday) evening 12 counties will receive federal aid assistance through a Presidential Disaster Declaration as the recovery process continues in several areas from the severe storms and straight-line winds of May 27, and May 28, 2017.

“Local, state, and federal partners came together in a collaborative effort to assess impacts rapidly so we could have accurate storm damage data and illustrate our need for a disaster declaration to President Trump,” Haslam said. “I am grateful to all the first responders, emergency managers, and community members who have united to help others recover from the impact of these storms.”

Tennessee counties included in the Presidential Declaration are:  Blount, Cumberland, Fayette, Knox, Loudon, Morgan, Putnam, Rhea, Roane, Sevier, Shelby, and Smith.

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Second state prison inmate pleads guilty to running tax refund scheme behind bars

A second Tennessee prison inmate has pleaded guilty to filing bogus federal income tax returns using the names of other prisoners and collecting tax refunds that, for the two men combined, total more than $310,000, reports the News Sentinel.

 Larry Steven Covington Jr., 38, pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court to conspiring to defraud the IRS while serving time in a Tennessee penitentiary and using fellow inmates’ Social Security numbers he apparently purloined…. Career criminal James Glenn Collins pleaded guilty in December 2014 to a similar scam, and court records suggest he may have taught Covington the ropes in deceiving the IRS.

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TN Hospital Association opposes both House and Senate versions of Obamacare repeal

The Tennessee Hospital Association is opposing pending Republican legislation to replace and repeal Obamacare, reports the Times Free Press. THA President Craig Becker says nine rural hospitals have closed or dramatically curtailed services over the past four years and spending cuts in both the House and Senate versions of the GOP proposals will make things worse.

“I think definitely, you’re going to see more rural hospital closures coming along, particularly as it relates to these Medicaid cuts coming down the pike,” Becker said after Republican Senate leaders unveiled their plan last week.

Becker said the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 fails to “adequately address the health care needs of Tennesseans and THA opposes the legislation.”

The hospital association is talking with the offices of Tennessee’s Republican U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker.

“We’ve told them we’re absolutely in opposition to the Senate bill as it is now,” Becker said. “It’s clearly going to do damage to the hospitals here.”

Becker said rural hospitals won’t be the only ones to feel the pain.

The Senate and House bills both would cap federal funding for Medicaid, which covers more than 70 million low- income people nationwide. Some 1.5 million pregnant women, children, disabled and elderly people receive Medicaid through TennCare.

Becker said the proposals “represent real, long-term cuts to Medicaid and present a major threat for the future of health care and hospitals in our state.”

He said planned changes to premium subsidies and dropping the individual coverage mandate would put at risk more than 200,000 Tennesseans who bought insurance on the Obamacare exchanges.

UT chancellor plans to bring back a director for LGBT Pride Center

University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport is making plans to bring back a director for its LGBT pride center, reports the News Sentinel.

For the last year, the job has been unfilled after the Tennessee legislature decided to redirect funds from the school’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion and the part-time position was eliminated, forcing students to run the center on their own with some administrative oversight from the dean of students.

Student and faculty groups such as the Pride Center Working Group have for the last several months called for UT and Davenport to hire a pride center director and put in place other initiatives aimed at promoting and preserving diversity on campus.

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Former Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey becoming a lobbyist

Former Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has announced he will become a lobbyist in the 2018 legislative session, reports the Kingsport Times News.

The retired lawmaker told a Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors (NETAR) legislative luncheon on Thursday that he’ll be lobbying for Realtors and others. Ramsey, a Blountville Republican who served as lieutenant governor and speaker of the Tennessee Senate for 10 years, noted a ban on him lobbying state lawmakers expires in November.

…Ramsey, a Realtor and auctioneer, said he’s been hired as a member of the Nashville-based Farrar and Bates law firm headed up by his old friend, Tennessee Association of Realtors lobbyist Russ Farrar.

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TBI investigating alleged voting violations in Bluff City elections

The TBI is investigating alleged voting law violations in the May 16 Bluff City municipal election for mayor and seats on the Board of Aldermen, reports the Kingsport Times-News.

Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus requested the TBI investigation after receiving information on possible election irregularities during the May election.

…”On June 19, I requested the TBI to conduct an investigation into the allegations,” Staubus said. “When the investigation is complete, I will review it and determine what action needs to be taken.”

Sullivan County Administrator of Elections Jason Booher said his office referred the matter to Staubus.

“It is the policy of the Sullivan County Election Commission to refer all perceived or alleged allegations of criminal behavior related to an election to the district attorney,” Booher said. “The integrity of elections are held to the highest standard in Sullivan County. I am not at liberty to comment on any matter that has been referred to the district attorney.”

TBI Spokeswoman Leslie Earhart confirmed the investigation and said no further comment would be issued because the investigation is active and ongoing.

Note: In the election, Mayor Irene Wells won another term with 138 votes to 130 for Carolyn Harris Payne and 35 for Cathryn Michelle Woomer, according to the county election commission website. Incumbent Aldermen Ray Harrington and Richard Bowling also won new terms.

Theft charge dismissed against former state Rep. Curry Todd in campaign sign theft

A theft charge against former state Rep. Curry Todd, who last year allegedly stole former state Rep. Mark Lovell’s campaign signs, was dismissed in Shelby County General Sessions Court on Friday, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Lovell’s failure to attend the hearing was cited as a reason for the dismissal. Todd was on hand, but declined comment.

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UT board raises tuition, DiPietro’s salary by a little bit (1.8 percent and $26K)

The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees approved Thursday a $2.3 billion budget for 2017-2018 that includes a 1.8 percent tuition increase for in-state undergraduate students and a $25,667 annual pay raise for UT President Joe DiPietro, reports the News Sentinel.

“This is the lowest (tuition) recommendation we’ve made in more than three decades,” DiPietro said during Thursday’s annual board meeting at the UT Institute of Agriculture. “We’re working hard to keep other fee increases low. I’m proud to be a national leader in efforts to hold down tuition increases in a time when stories of high student debt are making headlines.”

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Alexander, Corker refrain from embracing Senate plan for Obamacare repeal and replacement

Tennessee U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker both stopped well short of embracing the Senate plan for repealing and replacing Obamacare – they label it a “discussion draft” – in official statements.

Alexander, who was involved early in drafting the plan, does list “benefits for Tennesseans” in the proposal, but says he’s going to continue reviewing the matter, see how cost estimates develop and watch for amendments. His statement is HERE.

Corker just says he will be reviewing the proposal, seeking input from a “wide range of stakeholders” and “make a final decision based on whether this legislation, on the whole, is better than what is in place today.” His statement is HERE.

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Haslam headed to Europe for a week

News release from Department of Economic and Community Development

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe will travel to Europe from June 26 to June 30 for an economic development trip designed to strengthen ties with European businesses and increase foreign direct investment (FDI) in Tennessee.

During the weeklong trip, Haslam and Rolfe will pitch Tennessee’s advantages to a number of European businesses interested in establishing operations in the Southeast U.S. The trip will include stops in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Germany.

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