Monthly Archives: July 2019

Tennessee to allow weed investment to go pot

The “policy implications” of the state’s retirement fund’s investment into a company operating in the marijuana sector has Treasurer David Lillard ordering the shares be sold, according to a report by Andy Sher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

That’s despite a 26% gain in share price of San Diego-based Innovative Industrial Properties Inc. since the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System’s small-stock fund bought 7,009 shares in April or May.

The company is a real estate Investment trust that bills itself as the “leading provider of real estate capital for the medical-use cannabis industry.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Tennessee was among more than dozen states that stood to benefit from Illinois’ new recreational marijuana. Illinois is one of 11 states where Innovative Industrial Properties does business.

Michael Brakebill, the pension fund’s chief investment officer, told the Times Free Press that the investment into the company was part of a small-company stock index the state created.

Lillard said it’s difficult to evaluate every stock that’s part of an index, but that “we’ve got to figure out a way to do that and deal with it because it highlights the fact that you know what you’ve got in portfolio.”

The investment in Innovative Industrial Properties is worth about $720,000 out of the state’s $52 billion retirement system.

“The bottom line is I have ordered Michael and his staff to sell this investment, and we won’t have it after today or tomorrow, whenever the transaction goes down,” Lillard told the paper.

Tennessee lawmakers have balked in recent years to join states legalizing medical or recreational cannabis.

 

Will Sexton tap the brakes on early roll-out of voucher program?

Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) speaks to colleagues before a House Republican Caucus meeting to nominate a new speaker on July 24, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Count Rep. Cameron Sexton, the Republican nominee for House speaker, among the skeptics of Gov. Bill Lee’s push to roll out the school voucher program a year early.

“I do not think it needs to be accelerated at this point,” Sexton told The Tennessean, adding that his colleagues feel the same way.

Read the full story here.

Sexton retains Gilmer as chief of staff

Scott Gilmer

Cameron Sexton, the Republican nominee to succeed Glen Casada as House speaker next month, has named Scott Gilmer as his chief of staff.

Sexton (R-Crossville) said Gilmer represents his goals of “stability, policy, and consistency” as head of the chamber. Gilmer was former Speaker Beth Harwell’s chief of staff. He was also a top adviser to Casada.

Here’s the full release:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Republican Speaker Select Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) announced today that Scott Gilmer would serve as his Chief of Staff if he were to be elected Speaker of the House during the special session in August.

“My vision as Speaker of the House of Representative is stability, policy, and consistency, and Scott Gilmer exemplifies those three categories,” said Republican Speaker Select Sexton. “Scott’s experience and institutional knowledge will provide a steady hand and a smooth transition as we move forward and continue to build upon our successes.”

Scott Gilmer has served in the General Assembly for over ten years, seven of which has been in the Chief of Staff role for previous speakers.

Upon accepting the position, Gilmer stated, “I thank Speaker Select Sexton for this opportunity, and I look forward to continuing to serve the great people of Tennessee.”

Kustoff won’t run for Senate

U.S. Rep. David Kustoff (R-Memphis) has decided against running for the Senate next year. President Donald Trump has tweeted that U.S. Ambassador Bill Hagerty will seek the seat being vacated by Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville). Vanderbilt surgeon Manny Sethi joined the race before former Gov. Bill Halsam announced he wouldn’t run.

Meanwhile, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports another doctor, Josh Gapp, is running as a Republican.

Former lawmaker, ex-GOP chairman, and current lobbyist Ryan Haynes was surprised to see his name floated among potential Senate candidates. He’s not running.

 

Sexton prevails in House GOP caucus vote for speaker

Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) speaks to the House Republican Caucus after winning their nomination for speaker on July 24, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Cameron Sexton of Crossville has won the Republican nomination for House Speaker. He prevailed after four rounds of voting on Wednesday.

In the final round of balloting, Sexton won 41 of 70 votes over Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville). Matthew Hill of Jonesborough was eliminated in the third round and Mike Carter of Ooltewah and Ryan Williams of Cookeville were dropped after the second round. Jay Reedy of Erin failed to clear the first round of voting.

Sexton pledged not to rehire anyone who had left the employment of the House during the Rep. Glen Casada’s time as speaker. He added that others may not be retained going forward. Casada is scheduled to resign on Aug. 2.

Here’s how the voting played out:

Round 1 Round 2  Round 3 Round 4
Sexton  18 17 27 41
Johnson 16 19 23 29
Hill 16 16 20
Carter 11 9
Williams 8 9
Reedy 1

Sanderson to resign from state House

Rep. Bill Sanderson (R-Kenton) speaks with colleagues at a House GOP Caucus meeting in Nashville on July 24, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Rep. Bill Sanderson is resigning from the General Assembly. The Kenton Republican said he wants to spend more time with his family and on his business.

His resignation will be effective at noon Wednesday, meaning he could still vote for speaker in the House Republican Caucus meeting to nominate a new speaker earlier in the day.

Sanderson, who owns White Squirrel Winery, said it’s become increasingly difficult to juggle his business and legislative responsibilities. He told The Tennessean he lost 135 peach trees this year while serving in Nashville.

“It requires a full time,” he said. “I’m going to have to be at home more.”

Sanderson said he’s been considering stepping down for two months, but decided on a date after the “whole Casada thing came about.”

His resignation now will allow a special election to take place to replace him, rather than having the county commission decide.

Sanderson rejected rumors circulating around the legislative office building that Casada might be trying to pressure him with compromising information.

“Hell no,” Sanderson told The Tennessean.

“If there’s anything up here on me, I’m unaware of it,” he said.

UPDATE: Writer Cari Wade Gervin reports Sanderson was active on the Grindr same-sex dating app. Sanderson says the messages were faked. Read the full account below:

Former gubernatorial candidate Dean rescued following sailboat fire in Arctic

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Karl Dean speaks to a business group in Nashville on March 20, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, the Democratic nominee in last year’s governor’s race, was rescued in the Arctic following a sailboat fire, The Tennessean reports.

Dean and fellow travelers were told told to evacuate at about 4:30 a.m. local time on Sunday because of large amounts of smoke developing below deck. Two Norwegian rescue helicopters arrived to rescue them after about 10 minutes in life boats.

“Our job really in the moment the smoke was discovered was to do what we were told,” Dean told the newspaper in a phone interview. “We were very good at doing that. And we were very confident that we were going to be OK.”

Read the full account here.

Casada denies he offered inducements for voucher votes

Rep. John Mark Windle (D-Livingston) speaks with House Finance Chair Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet) in the House chamber on April 23, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Speaker Glen Casada, who is resigning next week following the loss of a no-confidence vote, has put out an unusual statement to deny that he offered infrastructure funding or a National Guard promotion in exchange for a positive vote on the controversial school voucher bill.

Democratic state Rep. John Mark Windle of Livingston, who voted against the voucher legislation, confirmed to WTVF-TV that Casada had suggested he might be promoted from a colonel in the Guard if he changed his vote.

“In response to your question, your characterization of the conversation is correct,” Windle said in a statement to WTVF.

“I voted against the bill as a matter of principle, and that vote decision did not change. The people of Fentress, Jackson, Morgan, and Overton counties are fiercely independent, and their vote is not for sale.”

Republican Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver of Lancaster, who also opposed the bill, said Casada suggested a new Interstate interchange at the Carthage-Gordonsville exit might be on the table.

“My reply was, ‘You know that’s bogus. You know you can’t do that,” Weaver told the station.

And Rep. Bob Ramsey (R-Maryville) said Casada’s team hinted there might be funding for a jail expansion in his district if he voted for the bill. He refused.

 

Sethi charges GOP establishment in Tennessee, DC sought to ‘scare’ him off of Senate race

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi says in a new Facebook post that unnamed persons “at the highest levels of Tennessee and DC politics” sought to dissuade and even attempt to “scare” him out of running for Tennessee’s open seat.

The Nashville trauma surgeon, who ignored them and announced on June 2 his bid to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, specifically cites the National Republican Senatorial Committee as among them.

“I’ll never forget it — I was at my son’s 6th birthday party when I started getting texts and phone calls from people at the highest levels of Tennessee and DC politics,” Sethi writes in the post. “They were trying to talk me out of running — telling me I had no right to even run, that I would never raise any significant money, that I was wrong to even think of getting in the race.

“Even Mitch McConnell’s National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) in Washington DC called, which was weird, considering they’re ‘neutral’ in GOP primaries. It was like this all weekend: every few hours, someone trying to persuade me or scare me out of announcing.

After formally entering the race, Sethi said, “things quieted down some — until this last week. Our team announced last Wednesday that we had put over $1.5 million dollars in the bank. A great start.”

Sethi begins the post saying, “what I’m about to say might make some folks uncomfortable, but Tennesseans have a right to hear it. Part of why the GOP Establishment is powerful is because regular people don’t know how they really operate. I think Tennesseans should know what happens behind closed doors then make their own decisions.”

Sethi so far is the only major announced candidate, but U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty plans to announce after he officially leaves his post, which he hopes to do by the end of July.

Hagerty’s candidacy was announced earlier this month by his boss, President Donald Trump who also endorsed him and said he would do all he can to help him.

In the post, Sethi also describes his parents’ impoverished background in India where he said they “lost their homes because of sectarian violence. Despite this, they both went on to become doctors” and legally emigrated to America.

Haslam talks about Senate race, Gov. Lee, and UT in wide-ranging interview

Former Gov. Bill Haslam has tackled a wide variety of issues in one of his first extensive interviews since deciding against running for the U.S. Senate. In his sit-down with WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Haslam discusses how he came to that decision, as well as about his successor Bill Lee’s performance through the first six months of his time as governor, the ongoing saga surrounding the honoring of Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest, and Randy Boyd’s job as interim president of the University of Tennessee.

Take a look here: