Monthly Archives: February 2019

Lee to keep State of the State party going in Knoxville, Memphis

Bill Lee is inaugurated as Tennessee’s 50th governor on Jan. 19, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee is scheduled to give his first State of the State address in Nashville on Monday. But he’s not stopping there. The new governor has announced plans to hold similar regional addresses in Knoxville and Memphis later in the week.

The addresses are dubbed the State of East Tennessee and the State of West Tennessee, respectively. What, no State of Middle Tennessee?

Here’s the full release from Lee’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, in an effort to reach new audiences outside the state capital, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced plans to deliver regional addresses following the State of the State speech next week.

“I look forward to delivering my first State of the State address on Monday during a joint session of the legislature in Nashville, however, I am excited to have these special events in Knoxville and Memphis,” said Lee. “As we present our budget and outline priorities for the next year, we want to engage with as many Tennesseans as we can.”

Gov. Lee will deliver his State of the State address to the General Assembly and members of the public on Monday, March 4 at 6 p.m. CT in the House Chamber of the Tennessee General Assembly in Nashville. The joint session will air statewide.

State of the State occurring in Nashville, and the addition of these two events, he will deliver an address in each Grand Division.

Details for the State of East Tennessee address and the State of West Tennessee address are listed below. The events are free and open to the public with tickets available at https://www.tn.gov/governor/sots. Tickets are needed for entry.

State of East Tennessee
Tuesday, March 5, 2019
6:00 p.m. ET
University of Tennessee – Knoxville
Clarence Brown Theatre
1714 Andy Holt Ave.
Knoxville, TN 37996

State of West Tennessee
Thursday, March 7, 2019
5:30 p.m. CT
University of Memphis
University Center Ballroom
499 University St.
Memphis, TN 38152

Hargett announces domestic violence safety program

Secreatary of State Tre Hargett has announced that Tennessee will join more than 35 other states in keeping the addresses of victims of domestic violence confidential.

Participants will get a government-managed substitute address that will forward correspondence to them.

Here’s the full release from Hargett’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett today was joined by members of the General Assembly, advocates for domestic violence victims and other stakeholders to announce the introduction of the Tennessee Safe at Home Address Confidentiality Program. Tennessee now joins the more than 35 other states offering similar domestic violence safety programs.

Safe at Home launches March 1 and aims to protect Tennessee victims of domestic violence, rape, human trafficking, stalking and other related crimes from their abusers by keeping their address concealed from public records. According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), 18 of the 84 domestic violence-related murder victims in Tennessee in 2017 were repeat victims or had reported domestic abuse prior to their deaths.

“Our goal is to shine a bright light on the problem of domestic violence in our state and help protect those Tennesseans who have been victimized from becoming victims again,” Hargett said. “Safe at Home provides victims and their families with a tool to help heal from their abuse, begin new lives and finally feel a sense of security in their communities.”

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Lee outlines criminal justice plans in advance of State of the State address

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business in Nashville on Feb. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Gov. Bill Lee is outlining his plans for criminal justice reform in advance of his first State of the State address on Monday.

“We will focus on helping individuals to ensure there is a pathway to a productive life beyond crime and ultimately make our state a safer place,” said Lee.

Here’s the release from the Lee administration:

Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced comprehensive plans to address criminal justice and public safety ahead of his State of the State address on Monday.

“We must significantly improve public safety in our state and I believe that starts with our criminal justice system,” said Lee. “We will focus on helping individuals to ensure there is a pathway to a productive life beyond crime and ultimately make our state a safer place.”

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Casada’s office orders removal of women protesting Rep. Byrd

House Speaker Glen Casada’s office ordered troopers to remove six women holding signs protesting Rep. David Byrd’s chairmanship from a committee meeting.

The Associated Press reports the women sitting in the audience held signs at face-level reading “Enough is enough,” “Take a stand,” and “Protect constituents.” Three women have accused Bryd of sexual misconduct when they were teenage basketball players and he was their their 28-year-old high school basketball coach.

One of the women, Christi Rice, has since recorded a call to Byrd in which the lawmaker apologizes for unspecified transgressions. He has denied anything happened with other students.

“I wish I had a do-over because I promise you I would have corrected that and that would’ve never happened,” Byrd said in the recorded call. “But I hope you believe me when I say that it’s one of those things that I think about it all the time, and I always ask forgiveness for it and I hope you forgive me.”

Casada’s predecessor, Beth Harwell, had demanded Byrd’s resignation after the allegations were first aired by WSMV-TV last year. But Casada has deemed the allegations to be “fake news” and appointed Byrd chairman of an education subcommittee after he was overwhelmingly re-elected in November.

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Gov. Lee announces $15M mental health initiative

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business in Nashville on Feb. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday announced a $15 million initiative to address mental illness in Tennessee.

Here’s the full release:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced three priorities to increase access to mental health treatment and expand suicide prevention efforts across the state.

“The mental health of our citizens is foundational to all other goals we seek to accomplish in education, job growth and public safety,” said Lee. “By prioritizing our mental health safety net and suicide prevention, we are caring for more Tennesseans and building healthier communities.”

Gov. Lee is proposing $11.2 million in new funding to expand access to services for Tennesseans living with serious mental illness. This investment seeks to cover an additional 7,000 uninsured Tennessee adults through the state’s Behavioral Health Safety Net program, which provides several essential mental health services.  Additionally, the investment addresses increasing costs at the state’s four regional mental health institutes and ensures that those facilities will continue to provide high quality care to Tennesseans with the most significant psychiatric needs.

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Health partnership lauds bill targeting ‘bad drug’ ads

A bill targeting “bad drug” television advertisements is drawing the praise of  the Partnership to Protect Patient Health and Vanderbilt surgeon Manny Sethi, a potential Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate next year. The measure passed the upper chamber on a 24-6 vote on Monday evening.

Here’s the full release from the Partnership to Protect Patient Health:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Partnership to Protect Patient Health today joined Manny Sethi, an orthopedic trauma surgeon in Nashville and founder of statewide non-profit Healthy Tennessee, in applauding introduction of legislation to safeguard Tennesseans from deceptive “bad drug” advertisements.

“I applaud Senator Briggs and Representative Sexton for their work to protect Tennesseans from deceptive ‘bag drug’ commercials – truth in these advertisements is critical to protect patient safety,” said Manny Sethi, an orthopedic trauma surgeon in Nashville and founder of statewide non-profit Healthy Tennessee. “Research shows, and I have seen firsthand, that these commercials lead patients who have been prescribed critically important medications to doubt or discontinue their treatment regimen without consulting a physician, putting patients’ health at risk. Without limiting or banning drug-injury advertisements, this common sense legislation will ensure vulnerable populations are protected and that they have the information needed to make the best decisions for their health. I thank Senator Briggs and Representative Sexton for their leadership and look forward to SB0352 and HB0352 becoming law.”

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Blackburn donor among those caught in Fla. prostitution sting

John Childs, an equity firm owner and prominent Republican donor who has given to U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) and the National Republican Senate Committee, was among those charged with soliciting prostitution at a Florida spa tied to an international human trafficking ring, TCPalm reports.

Law enforcement issued warrants for 173 people on charges ranging from human trafficking to racketeering to soliciting prostitution. (Police have also charged Robert K. Kraft, the owner of the NFL’s New England Patriots in the investigation.)

Blackburn last year succeeded Sen. Bob Corker (R-Chattanooga), who made combating human trafficking a major policy objective of his time in office.

 

It’s ‘Nacho Libre’ time in the Tennessee House

Republican Reps. Micah Van Huss and Debra Moody are hosting a viewing party for the movie “Nacho Libre” at the legislative office complex on Monday night. The event first reported by The Tennessean’s Natalie Allison is getting the full treatment by Van Huss’ hometown newspaper, The Johnson City Press.

“It might read like satire, but it’s not,” writes the paper’s Zach Vance. Here’s more:

“We’re going to get together, have some pizza and watch ‘Nacho Libre,’ one of my favorite movies,” Van Huss said.

“I just like ‘Nacho Libre.’ I just like that (type) of comedy, it’s like ‘Napoleon Dynamite.’ It’s just some off-the-wall humor, and I like it.”

Van Huss also said no taxpayer dollars would be involved in hosting the event, and unfortunately, the public is not invited to the exclusive assembly.

“All 99 (House) members and 33 senators have received an invitation and their staff members. So everybody is invited that is members and staff. I can’t invite the public because then I’d have to hire security,” Van Huss said.

Lee proposes $40M for school safety officers

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business in Nashville on Feb. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Gov. Bill Lee is proposing a $40 million grant fund to pay for more school resource officers around the state.

Here’s the full release from Lee’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced a new investment in school safety to better protect teachers and students and prepare against the threat of violence.

 

“The safety of our children and teachers is a top priority for my administration, and this investment ensures that school districts will have the resources they need to better protect our schools,” said Lee.

 

Gov. Lee is proposing a $40 million investment for the school safety grant fund. Legislation filed will provide additional changes to existing law to prioritize the distribution of these grants to school resource officers.

 

Approximately 500 Tennessee schools do not currently have SROs, and changes to the law will enable them to fill these positions. The proposal also accommodates underserved counties working to secure schools and fill SRO positions by adjusting limited match requirements to be proportional to districts’ fiscal capacity.

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Lighting strikes Tennessee Tower

Looks like the Tennessee Tower, the largest state office building, just got struck by lightning. Yikes!