Monthly Archives: December 2019

Here are the most-viewed TNJ: On the Hill blog posts of 2019

Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) speaks to reporters in the House chamber in Nashville on April 17, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Here are the top 2019 posts in the TNJ: On the Hill blog:

1. Here are Gov. Lee’s proposed raises for state employees.

2. Who was at the closed-door DeVos meeting?

3. Lee announces Tennessee will keep accepting resettled refugees.

4. Report: Feds and TBI involved in probe of voucher vote.

5. Lee’s voucher bill: How they voted.

6. Lee to include repeal of ‘gym tax’ in budget proposal.

7. Ethics Committee member calls for Casada to resign over effort to ‘rig and predetermine’ report.

House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) checks his phone as he awaits the joint convention to hear Gov. Bill Lee’s first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

8. Lee and McNally weigh in on Casada text message scandal.

9. Here’s what is in the Senate version of the voucher bill.

10. Griffey defends caucus move after wife denied judicial post.

Rep. Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) attends a meeting at the legislative office building in Nashville on Dec. 20, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Elizabeth Warren names Tennessee staff

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren announced her senior Tennessee staff  includes Elizabeth Henderson as state director, Robin Alberts-Marigza as organizing director, and Sara Burklin as regional director for East Tennessee. (Henderson’s appointment was first reported by the Nashville Post’s Stephen Elliot in October.)

“Our campaign is committed to organizing everywhere and visiting parts of the state that are often overlooked in a Democratic primary. We are investing in communities from Memphis to Mountain City, connecting with Tennesseans on what Elizabeth Warren’s plans would mean for them,” Henderson said a statement.

The hires come on the heels of former New York Mayor Bloomberg naming Courtney Wheeler as the Tennessee director
for his Democratic presidential bid. Holly McCall is his state spokeswoman, and state Rep. London Lamar (D-Memphis) will serve as outreach director. Additional staffers include political director Ashford Hughes, digital director Spencer Bowers, and senior adviser Carol Andrews. Bloomberg visited Nashville and Memphis last week.

Billionaire Tom Steyer hired Tequila Johnson of The Equity Alliance and the Tennessee Black Voter Project as his state director.

Here’s the full release from the Warren campaign:

Nashville, TN – Today, Tennessee for Warren announced three senior staff hires, with over a dozen paid staff on the ground in Tennessee. The announcement follows months of outreach to voters across the state.
 
Elizabeth Warren was the first candidate of the primary cycle to visit Tennessee in March of 2019 when she held a town hall in Memphis. Over the past several months the Warren campaign became the first to open a field office in the state, and has held organizing events in every corner of Tennessee — including barnstorms in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga. Team Tennessee for Warren has already organized canvasses and house parties in over two dozen counties. The team has been on the ground since October 2019.
 
“Our campaign is committed to organizing everywhere and visiting parts of the state that are often overlooked in a Democratic primary. We are investing in communities from Memphis to Mountain City, connecting with Tennesseans on what Elizabeth Warren’s plans would mean for them,” said State Director Elizabeth Henderson. “Our team includes not just experienced campaign hands but also rural organizers, teachers, social justice organizers — grassroots leaders that have been on the ground fighting for working families in their communities for years. Together, we are building a grassroots movement to fight for big, structural change and put power in the hands of all Tennesseans.”

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House GOP congratulates Grills on special election win

Rusty Grills has won the special election to serve out the term of resigned Rep. Bill Sanderson (R-Kenton) in House District 77 in northwest Tennessee. And the House GOP is understandably thrilled about it.

Here is the celebratory release:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee House Republican leadership including House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville), House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland), and House Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) today congratulated Rusty Grills on his overwhelming victory during last night’s special election to fill the vacant District 77 seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives.

A current Dyer County Commissioner, Grills received 85 percent of the vote Thursday evening, overwhelmingly defeating democratic challenger Michael Smith and three independent candidates. He fills the vacancy created when former five-term State Rep. Bill Sanderson stepped down in early September.

“Congratulations to conservative Rusty Grills on his resounding victory during last night’s special election,” said Speaker Sexton. “Having campaigned with him, Rusty is committed to fighting for his constituents and upholding their conservative values. I know he will do a great job serving his community, West Tennessee, and our state. I look forward to working with him in Nashville, and I welcome him to our General Assembly.”

“It matters who governs, and the citizens of District 77 have overwhelmingly sent a true conservative to Nashville to serve them,” said Leader Lamberth. “We are excited to have Rep. Grills join our General Assembly, and I am confident Rusty will be a strong voice for his community.”

“I want to congratulate Rusty Grills on his victory and welcome the newest member of our House Republican Caucus to Nashville,” said Chairman Faison. “I have enjoyed getting to know Rusty over the last few weeks, and I know he will do a great job representing the men, women, and families of District 77.”

Rep. Grills will officially be sworn in when the new legislative year begins on Jan. 14, 2020.

Lee’s criminal justice task force releases recommendations

Gov. Bill Lee’s criminal justice task force has released its initial set of recommendations.

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

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Gov. Bill Lee’s Criminal Justice Investment Task Force released a comprehensive package of data-driven policy recommendations for upcoming legislative sessions that seek to improve public safety, increase reentry support and reduce recidivism, address unmet behavioral health needs and make Tennessee communities safer. 

“My administration is committed to addressing public safety and reentry throughout Tennessee, and I’m grateful to have the support of the members of this Task Force,” said Gov. Lee. “Dedicated leaders from across our state have come together to address this important issue, and I look forward to reviewing their recommendations.”

The Task Force’s 23 recommendations are aimed at:

  • Strengthening responses to individuals with behavioral health needs;
  • Equalizing the treatment of those housed in local jails with those housed in state prisons;
  • Tailoring our response to different types of offenses;
  • Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of community supervision; and
  • Minimizing barriers to successful reentry.

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Mayor Jacobs says Knox County to remain in refugee program

Gov. Bill Lee, right, and Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs meet at the state Capitol in Nashville on Feb. 4, 2019. (Photo: Gov. Bill Lee’s office)

Glenn Jacobs, the libertarian Knox County mayor best known for his role as WWE star Kane, is joining Republican Gov. Bill Lee in giving consent to the remain open to the federal refugee resettlement program.

“I have found, overwhelmingly, the people in this program come here to be contributors to society, to breathe the air of the greatest nation on the planet as free men and women,” Jacobs said in a statement.

Jacobs said 99 refugees were resettled in Knox County in 2018.

Here’s the full release from Jacobs’ office:

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.—Today Governor Bill Lee announced his consent to initial refugee resettlement in Tennessee in response to Executive Order 13888 issued by President Donald J. Trump in September. This Executive Order requires consent from both local and state governments to allow refugee resettlement.

Gov. Lee said, “The United States and Tennessee have always been, since the very founding of our nation, a shining beacon of freedom and opportunity for the persecuted and oppressed, particularly those suffering religious persecution.” He also expressed his consent to working with President Trump and his administration to responsibly resettle refugees.

A refugee is a person who has fled their country of origin specifically because of past persecution or a fear of future persecution based upon race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. A refugee does not include a person who has left their home country solely to seek a more prosperous life here.

Knox County has been welcoming refugees through Bridge Refugee Services since 1982. Ninety-nine refugees were resettled in Knox County in fiscal year 2018.

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Lee announces Tennessee will keep accepting resettled refugees

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a groundbreaking event in Nashville on Dec. 13, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

First-year Gov. Bill Lee says he won’t seek to opt-out of the federal government’s refugee resettlement program in Tennessee. President Trump in September issued an executive order giving state and local governments control over whether to continue to allow refugees to be resettled in their areas.

“The United States and Tennessee have always been, since the very founding of our nation, a shining beacon of freedom and opportunity for the persecuted and oppressed, particularly those suffering religious persecution,” Lee said in a release. “My administration has worked extensively to determine the best outcome for Tennessee, and I will consent to working with President Trump and his administration to responsibly resettle refugees.”

Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) issued a joint statement to say their preference would have been for Lee to reject further resettlement:

“Both our nation and the state of Tennessee have been extremely welcoming to immigrants throughout modern history. In 2016, the General Assembly adopted a resolution expressing the desire of our citizens to file a federal lawsuit to halt refugee resettlement in Tennessee. Our opinion has not changed on this issue since legal action was taken, and our personal preference would have been to exercise the option to hit the pause button on accepting additional refugees in our state. However, the federal order makes this the sole decision of the Governor, and he has made his call.”

Tennessee money cop Justin Wilson dons money suit

Comptroller Justin Wilson enters House budget hearings on Dec. 17, 2019 (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)State Comptroller Justin Wilson drew less attention at House budget hearings on Tuesday for what he said than for what he wore. Wilson and his deputy, former Rep. Justin Mumpower, donned matching suits with $100 prints on them.

Mumpower wore a tie with the same pattern on it, but the self-proclaimed “beloved comptroller” resorted to his old reliable Grinch tie.

State approves $69M in water infrastructure loans for Memphis, Johnson City, and Lebanon

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters following on Dec. 13, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee and  Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner David Salyers announced three cities will received $69 million loans for water improvements through the Tennessee Local Development Authority.

Memphis will receive $48 million under the program, $15 million goes to Johnson City, and $5.7 million heads to Lebanon.

The Clean Water State Revolving Fund loan will address wastewater treatment plant improvements in Memphis and rehabilitation of sewer interceptors in Johnson City and Lebanon.

The state’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund Loan Program has awarded more than $2 billion in low-interest loans since 1987.

‘Wildcat’ budget hearings hit 2nd week in House

House budget hearings head into their second week in Nashville on Dec. 16, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The state House is holding its second round of pre-session budget hearings starting on Monday. The hearings are unusual because Gov. Bill Lee has yet to present his annual spending proposal to lawmakers. But the meetings give lawmakers a chance to rake in a couple of weeks worth of per-diems before Christmas and to bask in the spotlight of media coverage in what could otherwise be a slow pre-Christmas news week. Some statehouse wags have taken to calling them the “wildcat” budget hearings (a reference, perhaps, to wildcat strikes, or to the wildcat formation in football).

Everything should be live streamed on the General Assembly’s website. Here’s the schedule:

Monday, House Hearing Room I

  • 9:30 AM – 10:00 AM General Services
  • 10:00 AM – 10:30 AM Military
  • 10:30 AM – 11:00 AM Veterans Services
  • 11:00 AM – 11:30 AM Alcoholic Beverage Commission
  • 1:00 PM – 1:30 PM Human Resources
  • 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM TACIR
  • 2:00 PM – 2:30 PM TN Human Rights Commission
  • 2:30 PM – 3:00 PM TN State Museum

Tuesday, House Hearing Room I

  • 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM Correction
  • 10:00 AM – 10:30 AM Board of Parole
  • 10:30 AM – 11:00 AM TRICOR
  • 11:00 AM – 11:30 AM Comptroller of the Treasury
  • 11:30 AM – 12:00 PM Treasury
  • 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM Secretary of State
  • 2:00 PM – 2:30 PM Finance and Administration
  • 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services

Wednesday, House Hearing Room III

  • 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
  • 10:00 AM – 10:30 AM Administrative Office of the Courts
  • 10:30 AM – 11:00 AM Attorney General and Reporter
  • 11:00 AM – 11:30 AM District Attorneys General Conference
  • 11:30 AM – 12:00 PM District Public Defenders Conference
  • 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM Office of Post-Conviction Defender
  • 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM Children’s Services
  • 3:00 PM – 3:30 PM Public Utility Commission

Thursday, House Hearing Room III

  • 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM Transportation
  • 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM Human Services
  • 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM Safety and Homeland Security
  • 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM TN Arts Commission
  • 12:30 PM – 1:00 PM TN Housing Development Agency
  • 1:00 PM – 1:30 PM Tennessee Corrections Institute

 

Korean power equipment maker buys Mitsubishi transformer plant in Memphis

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at an announcement that Korean electric power equipment maker HICO will buy a transformer plant in Memphis on Dec. 13, 2019. (Photo: Gov. Bill Lee’s office)

Korean electric power equipment maker Hyosung Heavy Industries is buying a Memphis transformer plant from Mitsubishi, which had planned to shutter the facility and lay off 160 workers. The HICO deal involves an $87 million investment and the creation of 410 jobs over the next seven years.

Here’s the release from state Department of Economic and Community Development:

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and Hyosung Heavy Industries (HICO) officials announced today that the company will locate its first U.S. production operations in Memphis.

HICO will invest $86.9 million and create 410 jobs in Shelby County over the next seven years.

Headquartered in Seoul, South Korea, HICO specializes in manufacturing electrical power equipment such as transformers, switchgear, flexible AC transmission systems and energy storage solutions. The company exports its products to customers around the globe and has established itself as one of the leading manufacturers in the power transformer business for the last 50 years.

Tennessee is home to more than 1,000 foreign-owned establishments that employ approximately 150,000 Tennesseans. Korea is among the top 10 countries for foreign investment in Tennessee, with Korean companies investing over $400 million in Tennessee since 2015.

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