Monthly Archives: July 2017

TNReady scores improve over last year

News release from Department of Education

NASHVILLE—Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced today that Tennessee high school students improved across all subject areas – English, math, science, and U.S. history – on the 2016-17 TNReady end-of-course exams. Thousands of additional students are meeting course expectations compared to last year, and the state reduced the percentage of students scoring at the lowest achievement level across all subject areas.

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Legislators seek AG opinion on judge reducing jail time for vasectomies or birth control implants

News release from Senate Majority Leader Lee Harris

 MEMPHIS – Sen. Lee Harris and Rep. G.A. Hardaway have asked state Attorney General Slatery to give his opinion on whether Tennessee judges have the power to impose, reduce, or vary a defendant’s criminal sentence based on whether the defendant undergoes a medical procedure that would permanently or temporarily limit the defendant’s ability to have children.  They released the following statements in response to Judge Sam Benningfield’s efforts to reduce sentencing for inmates who choose to receive a vasectomy or implant in the White County jail.

Sen. Lee Harris said, “We depend on our judges to administer justice fairly, not to use their position of power to coerce vulnerable populations to give up their God-given rights to have children or not have children. Reproductive health care options should be available to all, in prison and out. However, those options should always be offered on a voluntary basis. These options should not come with strings attached or through coercion.”

 Rep. G.A. Hardaway said, “Offering incentives in exchange for someone’s reproductive freedom is not only unethical, I’m pretty sure it’s unconstitutional. It appears the inmates in White County are being targeted and they are not in a position to reject this coerced offer. Senator Harris and I have asked state Attorney General Slatery to opine on this matter and we look forward to his prompt response.”

Also signing the letter are Rep. Harold Love, Rep. Larry Miller, Rep. Antonio Parkinson, Rep. Johnny Shaw, and Rep. Joe Towns.

Note: Previous post on the subject HERE.  All those signing the request are Democrats. Shaw is from Bolivar, Love from Nashville with the others from Memphis.

Corker advice to Trump: Stop criticizing Sessions, don’t fire Mueller

Sen. Bob Corker says President Trump should cease his criticism of the U.S. attorney general and forget any inclination to fire the leader of an investigation into the president’s dealings with Russia, reports the Washington Post.

 “I wish it would stop,” Corker told Washington Post columnist David Ignatius in a live interview, referring to Trump’s public criticism of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“I don’t get any sense that the president is going to take steps to actually fire Sessions,” Corker said. “I think they understand that’s problematic — highly problematic.” He added, “I know of no professional reason for Jeff to step down.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the Russia investigation, has faced similar criticism from the president.

Corker said any move by the Trump administration to fire Mueller would be a “major mistake” and a “major miscalculation.”

“I cannot imagine a serious conversation taking place in the White House about firing Mueller,” Corker said.

“Discussing it publicly,” he added, “is, I hope and believe, an unnecessary waste of time.”

Corker, who said he has a “very close relationship” with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, also addressed speculation that the former ExxonMobil CEO might be considering stepping down — rumors that Tillerson shot down on Wednesday.

“I don’t think Tillerson is on the verge of resigning,” the Tennessee Republican said. “I don’t see that.” Corker said he views the secretary of state as “a patriot.”

Alexander and Corker split (again) in Obamacare repeal voting

Tennessee’s two U.S. senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, voted on opposite sides again Wednesday in the continuing Senate saga of trying to do something on repeal of Obamacare.

Wednesday’s key vote was on what some called a “clean repeal,” basically jettisoning the Affordable Care Act – two years from now — under the theory Congress can come up with a replacement plan by then. The proposal failed on a 45-55 vote with Alexander one of seven Republicans voting no with all Democrats. Corker voted yes.

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Shelby County Mayor Luttrell backs Boyd for governor

From the Commercial Appeal:

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell on Wednesday endorsed Randy Boyd in the Tennessee gubernatorial Republican primary election.

Standing next to Boyd at Evolve Bank & Trust on Poplar in East Memphis, Luttrell emphasized Boyd’s business background, emphasis on education and heritage in West Tennessee. Boyd, who formerly headed up state economic development efforts under Gov. Bill Haslam, was born in Knoxville but has family on this side of the state.

Luttrell said he and Boyd became friends as they worked together on development and education initiatives for Shelby County. Boyd, who resigned as commissioner of Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to run for governor earlier this year, managed Haslam’s “Drive to 55” and Tennessee Promise education initiatives as an un-paid adviser.

“Randy Boyd is an entrepreneur who has a passion for education,” Luttrell said before quipping that they were probably the only two people in the room who knew the location of Fruitvale, a small town northwest of Jackson.

From the Boyd campaign

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TN Planned Parenthood leader stepping down after 17 years

Jeff Teague, long-time president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, has announced he is leaving the group Friday to “explore other opportunities,” reports the Times Free Press.

The group provides reproductive health services, including abortion, and has been at the center of any number of political and court battles in Tennessee over the years. It operates centers in Nashville and Knoxville.

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Memphis boosts grants to 1968 sanitation strikers to $70K

The Memphis City Council voted Tuesday to increase the grants going to city workers who participated in the city’s 1968 sanitation strike, reports the Commercial Appeal.

The council voted 10-0 to give the 10 retirees and four active employees $70,000 grants, with all taxes paid by the city. The council voted two weeks ago to approve Mayor Jim Strickland’s proposal to give the strikers all-taxes-paid $50,000 grants.

The council also amended the wording of the grants resolution to allow active employees to collect their grants immediately as opposed to when they retire.

Sen. Bowling questions report that forced resignation of community college president

State Sen. Janice Bowling is questioning a state Board of Regents report that led to the resignation of Motlow State Community College President President Anthony “Tony” Kinkel amid allegations of “autocratic” leadership, reports Sam Stockard. She’s asking the state comptroller to conduct an audit.

Bowling, a Tullahoma Republican, said she felt a lengthy probe of Kinkel’s presidency was inappropriate considering he’d been on the job for only a couple of years. In addition, she pointed out the report by the Board of Regents, which oversees Tennessee’s community colleges, did not take Motlow State’s performance under Kinkel into account before he was forced to resign in mid-June.

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Alexander, Corker back holding ‘vote-a-rama’ on Obamacare repeal, then split on first follow-up ballot

Tennessee’s U.S. senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, stuck with a big majority of their Republican colleagues in voting Tuesday to open debate on Obamacare repeal and/or replacement legislation. Only two Republicans voted no in the opening round of what Pollitico calls a “vote-a-rama.”

But on the second key vote, Corker was one of nine Republicans breaking ranks with the GOP Senate majority and voting no with all Democrats. The overall vote was 47 yes, 53 no, effectively killing – for the time being, at least — what The Hill describes as “the GOP repeal and a replace bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, as well as proposals from GOP Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Rob Portman (Ohio).”

The vote-a-rama continues today.

A further excerpt from The Hill story:

GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Dean Heller (Nev.), Mike Lee (Utah), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Rand Paul (Ky.) voted against the repeal-replace proposal on the procedural hurdle. No Democrats voted for it.  

The proposal was the first amendment to get a vote after senators took up the House-passed healthcare bill, which is being used as a vehicle for any Senate action, earlier Tuesday.

…Tuesday night’s vote doesn’t prevent GOP leadership from offering another repeal and replace amendment, or another version of BCRA. It could also help GOP leadership get rank-and-file senators on the record, as they try to figure out a path forward.

A vote on an amendment that would repeal much of ObamaCare is expected on Wednesday.

Note: See also the AP story Wednesday morning, HERE, which has more details. Both Tennessee senators sent out similar press release statements on their support for the first vote to open debate — Corker  HERE; Alexander HERE.

Duncan one of three congressmen voting no on Russia, Iran and North Korea sanctions bill

From Politico:

The House on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved new sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea, with the GOP-controlled chamber advancing a significant new constraint on President Donald Trump’s foreign policy.

The sanctions legislation, which allows lawmakers to block Trump from any attempt to roll back sanctions against Moscow, is expected to pass the Senate in similarly bipartisan fashion before next month’s recess.

… The House’s 419-3 vote on the sanctions bill saw only three dissenters: GOP Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan, John Duncan of Tennessee and Thomas Massie of Kentucky. Even Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), Russia’s staunchest defender on the Hill, revealed hours before the vote that he would support the measure out of support for its penalties against Tehran and Pyongyang.

Full story HERE.