Monthly Archives: January 2019

Mancini cruises to another term as chair of Tennessee Democrats

Mary Mancini has turned back a challenge from Holly McCall to be elected to another term as chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party. The Tennessean’s Joey Garrison was there:

Mancini got 70% of the vote, compared with 28% for McCall — a similar margin McCall lost by when she ran for the state House against Republican Sam Whitson in 2016.

The Democrats’ decision to keep Mancini in charge follows a move by Tennessee Republicans’ decision to keep Scott Golden for another two-year term as chairman.

Casada assigns House committees

House Speaker Glen Casada speaks to fellow Republicans in a caucus meeting on Jan. 10, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Here are your House committee assignments for the 111th General Assembly:

Agriculture & Natural Resources

  • Chair- Halford
  • Vice Chair- Todd
  • Chism
  • Clemmons
  • Holt
  • Hulsey
  • Keisling
  • Marsh
  • Moody
  • Reedy
  • Stewart

Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee

Kelsey out as Senate judiciary chairman in leadership shuffle

Sen. Becky Massey (R-Knoxville) and Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield) speak on the Senate floor on Jan. 10, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), who only narrowly won re-election in November over Democratic challenger Gabby Salinas, is out as chairman of the Judiciary Committee in a leadership shuffle by Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge).

The new judiciary chairman is Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville), while Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield) takes his place as chairman of Government Operations. Sen. Paul Bailey (R-Sparta) is the new  chairman of Commerce, while Sen. Becky Massey (R-Knoxville) takes over in his former role as chairman of Transportation. Sen. Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville) is the new chairman of the State and Local Government committee, which was vacated by Sen. Ken Yager (R-Kingston), who is now Republican caucus chairman. Sente Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) is the former Chairman of the Commerce Committee.

 

Lee places family HVAC and plumbing business in blind trust

Gov.-elect Bill Lee is stepping away from the Lee Co., placing his holdings in a bind trust while he runs the state.

Here’s a release from his transition office.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Today, Tennessee Governor-elect Bill Lee announced his departure as Chairman of Lee Company as he places his holdings of the company into a blind trust.

“As I said I would do on the campaign trail, I have officially stepped away from my company and placed all of my company holdings into a blind trust to eliminate any potential conflicts of interest,” said Lee. “I look forward to this new chapter of public service and I leave knowing that Lee Company is in good hands with CEO Richard Perko and the Board of Directors.”

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Lee releases inauguration details

Gov.-elect Bill Lee’s transition office has release some more details about next week’s inauguration schedule. Here they are:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The 2019 Inaugural Worship Service will feature some of the nation’s premier performers in a celebration of song to begin inauguration-day festivities as Bill Lee becomes the 50th governor of Tennessee.

Michael W. Smith, CeCe Winans, Steven Curtis Chapman, Nicole C. Mullen, Matthew West and other acclaimed performers will headline the worship service at Ryman Auditorium, January 19, 8:30 a.m. Tickets for the worship service are required and free to the public at BelieveInTN.com based on seating availability. Attendees are encouraged to arrive early and be seated for the start of the worship service.

“Bill and I have been friends for decades,” said Smith. “His dedication to his Creator, his family, our community and now our state is unmatched. Starting the day of his inauguration in prayer and worship is a sincere and honest reflection of the type people Bill and Maria are. They will be outstanding servant-leaders for the great State of Tennessee.”

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Photo gallery of House action as Casada elected speaker

Here’s a look at some of the action surrounding the election of Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) as House speaker on Tuesday.

Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) gestures toward former Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) after his election as speaker in Nashville on Jan. 8, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Cottontown) attends a Republican caucus meeting on the first day of the 111th General Assembly on Jan. 8, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Republican Caucus Chairman Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) attends a caucus meeting on the first day of the 111th General Assembly on Jan. 8, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

New House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) takes over the gavel from former Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) on Jan. 8, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) attends a rules meeting in Nashville on Jan. 8, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

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Lee names West Tennessee Appeals Judge Gibson as adviser

Brandon Gibson, a judge on the western section of the Tennessee Court of Appeals has been named senior adviser to Gov.-elect Bill Lee’s incoming administration. She will be focus on long-term initiatives like criminal justice reform and prioritizing the needs of rural communities.

Here’s full release:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Today, Tennessee Governor-elect Bill Lee announced his appointment of Brandon Gibson to serve as a Senior Advisor in the Office of the Governor, a cabinet-level position.

“Brandon is a principled conservative with deep rural roots in our state,” said Lee. “She is widely respected for her service on the Court of Appeals and I am honored that she will continue her commitment to public service in this administration.”

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Democrat Mackler to run for Senate in 2020

Democrat James Mackler, who was pushed out of the Senate race in December 2017 by former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s entry into the race, tells Jonathan Mattise of The Associated Press he plans to run the Senate again in 2020.

An announcement video suggests Mackler will run on an anti-Trump platform. “The 46-year-old says he’s not a politician and President Donald Trump is making life harder across Tennessee, citing health care, the tax law and the trade war,” according to the AP report.

Mackler is the first candidate to say he will run for the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville). Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has said he will decide about whether to mount a bid in the coming months, while newly-elected U.S. Rep. Mark Greene (R-Ashland City) has also been telling donors about potential plans to run.

 

Van Hilleary deregisters as lobbyist to take on Rose chief of staff role

Former U.S. Rep. Van Hilleary (R-Spring City), left, was named chief of staff for Rep.-elect John Rose (R-Cookeville), right. (Image credit: Rose’s office)

Former U.S. Rep. Van Hilleary, a former gubernatorial and U.S. Senate candidate in Tennessee, formally deregistered as a Washington lobbyist last week, Politico reported. Hilleary is now the chief of staff to newly elected Rep. John Rose (R-Cookeville).

Hilleary, formerly of Spring City, lobbied for six clients as a subcontractor to the Williams & Jensen firm. He terminated his registrations on Wednesday, Politico reported.

As The Tennessee Journal reported last month, Hilleary’s lobbying clients over the the past two years included the U.S.-Guatemala Business Council, Global Down Syndrome Foundation, News Media Alliance, Tennessee Valley Floating Homes Alliance, and Exxon Mobil Corp. More prickly, politically speaking, is Hilleary’s recent work on behalf of New American Economy, a group founded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to advocate for immigration reform.

Hilleary was registered to lobby on two Republican immigration bills that ultimately failed in the House in June. His client decried those measures (one of which was supported by President Donald Trump) as leaving “too many Dreamers in legal limbo” and threatening the economy by seeking drastic cuts in legal immigration.

Rose’s primary campaign against former Murfreesboro Judge Bob Corlew featured the Republican candidates trying to outdo each other on who could be the bigger supporter of Trump’s border wall and immigration rhetoric. “Stop the invasion,” demanded one of Rose’s online ads featuring images of menacing-looking gang members and a map suggesting the 6th District was about to be overrun.

Rose was sworn into office last week.

TNJ interview: Haslam discusses Cyntoia Brown decision

Gov. Bill Haslam announces on Nov. 13, 2018, that Amazon will locate its East Coast logistics hub in Nashville. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam in an interview with The Tennessee Journal on Monday discussed how he came to the decision to grant clemency to Cyntoia Brown, who will be released from prison after serving 15 years in August. Brown was sentenced to life in prison for a murder committed as a 16-year-old in 2004, after she had run away from home. She has said she acted in self-defense in shooting the man after she was forced into prostitution. Haslam said celebrity attention to the case led to his office receiving 100,000 calls from Brown’s supporters.

TNJ: How did you arrive at this decision?

Haslam: We have a lot of pardon and clemency requests in front of us, that’s really what I’m spending the majority of my last two weeks doing. So we wanted to be thorough on it. And No. 2, I think the thing that was so unusual about this was that, because it got such an extraordinary amount of publicity, we wanted to make certain we didn’t treat it any better or worse than any other case. We ended up getting 100,000 phone calls, which I think is the most that we’ve gotten on any issue. But while obviously that’s how democracy works, you don’t want to make decisions based on how many phone calls you get. So we wanted to set all that aside and say, what’s the right thing to do in this case? And in this case, it meant talking to everybody from her lawyers, to people who had been involved with her while she was in prison, to counselors who knew her, to try to make certain we were making the best decision.

TNJ: You had various options, you could have said she could have served 15, 20, 25 years or whatever amount of time.

Haslam: We thought about it a lot, and the governor does have incredible powers. You could say, I want her to be out in 15 minutes, or anything. I think you start out with, what’s the right thing to do, and what’s the best thing in her situation. For us, it was 15 years. A lot of people said, if that had happened today, she would have gotten 2nd degree, which would have been 15 to 25 years. And so that was one of the motivations of saying 15 years with 10 years’ probation.

TNJ: With all the celebrity attention, did that make it uncomfortable?

Haslam: There was so many cases that need that kind of review. But so many people follow Kim Kardashian, that if she tweets out ‘call the governor,’ we’re going to get a lot of phone calls. Or if it’s Rihanna, or Snoop Dogg, or whoever. For us it meant an added level of, let’s make certain we’re doing the right thing. And not penalizing because we had all these people calling us — we literally had people who couldn’t call here to get their TennCare dealt with because our phone lines were so full. So you don’t want to penalize her for that, but nor do you want to treat her any more special because 100,000 people called.

TNJ: Do you think there will be a political price to pay if you decide to run for the U.S. Senate in 2020?

Haslam: I honestly don’t know. Obviously there’s a lot of people who think it’s the greatest thing ever and some people who will be upset. I think you’ve got to shove all that aside. It’s part of why, when Corker’s seat came up, I said it’s just not right. Because I didn’t want to spend my last year-and-a-half as governor running for the Senate, and you couldn’t help but let things affect you. And that’s really why I said on this one, I’m not going to spend a lot of time thinking about it until we get out of here.