Monthly Archives: January 2020

New Manny Sethi ad focuses on faith

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi has released a new ad titled “Faith.”

“I gave my life to Christ after my dad died when I was 22 and realized my greatest calling is to serve others. So I went to medical school and became a trauma surgeon,” Sethi says in the spot. “I’ve tried to honor my dad’s memory, serving the Lord with medicine, trying to make a difference, working with the least of these. Now, there’s another place where I think I can make a difference: the United States Senate. ”

Here’s the ad:

Alexander open to witnesses in Trump impeachment trial

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) attends an event at the state Capitol in Nashville on Dec. 17, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) is open to hearing from additional witnesses during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. He also says he would vote against any motion to dismiss the charges against the president.

“I’m going to listen to the arguments, listen to the questions and then I’m going to decide whether I believe we need additional documents from additional witnesses,” Alexander said in response to a reporter in Washington. “That’s precisely what they did in the Clinton impeachment that was a hundred to zero vote for that procedure and I think that’s good precedent.”

Alexander added in a statement:

I think we should hear the case. We have a constitutional duty to do that. That means to me, number one, hear the arguments. Number two, to ask our questions. Number three, to be guaranteed the right to vote on whether we need additional evidence following hearing the case. Evidence could be witnesses, it could be documents.

 

An Easter adjournment? McNally hopes to make it so

Legislative leaders kick off the joint convention to inaugurate Gov. Bill Lee in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. From left at podium are House Majority Leader William Lamberth, Senate Speaker Randy McNally, Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, and then-House Speaker Glen Casada. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Senate Speaker Randy McNally tells colleagues he wants to get the legislative session wrapped up by the week of Easter, which falls on April 12 this year.

The Oak Ridge Republican acknowledged that sessions tend to last at least a week longer than targeted adjournment dates, but committees will be shutting down with an eye toward getting incumbents out on the campaign trail — and raising money (which is banned while the General Assembly is in session).

Last year’s adjournment fell on May 2, while lawmakers in 2018 got out of town on April 25.

“We set these dates and usually we get pretty close, but usually it runs over a week,” he said. “We’ll try to get all the bills on notice, the governor presents his budget on Feb. 1, and we should be ready to rock ‘n’ roll.”

Byrd confirms he won’t run for another term in House

Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) attends a House Republican Caucus meeting in Nashville on Jan. 14, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Embattled state Rep. David Byrd (R-Waynesboro) has confirmed to The Tennessean he won’t seek re-election this fall.

“At this point I’m still not running,” said Byrd, who pledged in a closed door caucus meeting in August he won’t run again.

Byrd has been under fire since former high school basketball players made sexual misconduct allegations against Byrd dating back to when he was their coach in the 1980s.

Byrd was overwhelmingly re-elected in 2018 despite the allegations. He has been the subject of regular protests. The lawmaker suggested that the demonstrators might get him to change his mind.

“If I get harassed and bullied, then I’ll definitely rethink my position about running.

Former Savannah City Manager Garry Welch announced earlier this month  he will seek the GOP nomination for the House District 71 seat currently held by Byrd. The district covers all of Hardin, Lewis, and Wayne counties and part of Lawrence.

Casada considering bid for vacant whip position

Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) greets colleagues during a House Republican Caucus meeting in Nashville on Jan. 14, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A proposal to allow the House majority whip position to remain vacant for the rest of the year has been abandoned and the caucus now plans to hold a vote on Jan. 27. Speculation immediately turned to whether Rep. Glen Casada, who was driven from the House speakership last year, might jump in the race.

Casada (R-Franklin) tells The Tennessee Journal he hasn’t yet made up his mind. But it wouldn’t be the first time he’s made a leadership rebound. Casada was widely seen as the Republican favorite to be nominated speaker in 2010, not least because of the fierce opposition by then-ascendant tea party forces to Beth Harwell’s bid. But Casada ended up losing to Harwell (R-Nashville).

Instead of sending him into internal exile, Harwell decided to keep Casada in the fold by naming him chairman of the Health Committee. He received high marks in that role but was soon back to focusing on politics over policy after winning back his former post as House Republican Caucus chairman two years later. But Casada increasingly became a thorn in Harwell’s side in that role (and later as majority leader) by encouraging GOP colleagues to pursue hot-button bills as he began preparing for his own speaker’s bid.

The House majority whip’s main responsibility in election years is to oversee incumbents’ reelection efforts. The position is open because of the resignation of Rep. Rick Tillis (R-Lewisburg) amid a caucus fight over anonymous Twitter posts. The post has previously been held by the likes of Rep. Timothy Hill (R-Blountville) and former Rep. Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin).

The latest edition of the Blue Book is yellow

This year’s version of the Tennessee Blue Book honors the 100th anniversary of the state’s ratification of 19th Amendment granting women  the right to vote. The book’s cover is yellow — the color of the women’s suffrage movement. It’s the first time the bianniel volume has appeared in a non-blue cover since the 2013-2014 edition, which was orange to honor Lady Vols basketball coach Pat Summit. About half of that year’s edition appeared with the orange cover, while almost all of the newest version will appear in yellow.

Blue Books had white covers for much of the 1960s and early 1970s. They changed over to the familiar blue covers for in 1975.

Here’s the release from the Secretary of State’s office.

Nashville, Tenn. – The 2019-2020 edition of the Tennessee Blue Book, released this week, honors the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote.
 
Initially introduced to Congress in 1878, the 19th Amendment was not submitted to the states for ratification for 41 years. On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th (and final) state needed to ratify the 19th Amendment, thereby making women’s suffrage legal in the United States.
 
“This commemorative edition honors the steadfast efforts of Tennessee suffragists and the pivotal role Tennessee played in ratifying the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “It is fitting to dedicate our state’s official historical reference, the Tennessee Blue Book, to this significant milestone.”
 
The cover of the 2019-2020 Tennessee Blue Book is yellow, honoring the symbolic color of the national women’s suffrage movement.
 
Published every two years, the Tennessee Blue Book is the definitive manual on Tennessee state government. It features detailed information about all three branches of government, Tennessee state history, biographies of elected and appointed state officials, census data, election statistics, and more.
 
The 2019-2020 Blue Book, published by the Secretary of State’s office, is available free of charge to any Tennessee resident through members of the General Assembly or the Division of Publications at (615) 741-2650 or publications.information@tn.gov.
 
Previous editions of the Tennessee Blue Book can be viewed at sos.tn.gov.

Company announces plans to build fiber optic system from DC suburb to Nashville

A fiber optic system would connect the Washington suburbs and Nashville under a plan announced Monday. Osprey Communications said it had struck a deal with the Virginia Department of Transportation to build the underground fiber line beneath highway rights of way from Haymarket to Bristol, Va. The company plans to continue that deployment across the state line and onward to Nashville.

Here’s the full release:

Blacksburg, Va.— Paul Elswick, Chief Executive Officer of Osprey Communications, LLC (Osprey) and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Commissioner Stephen Brich today announced that VDOT and Osprey have executed a Fiber Optic Resource Sharing Agreement.  This agreement and the accompanying permits enable Osprey to construct an underground, multi-conduit fiber optic system in the VDOT limited-access right-of-way from Haymarket, Virginia to Bristol, Virginia. From the Virginia-Tennessee border, Osprey plans to continue the deployment to Nashville, Tennessee.

“Since its inception in 1998, VDOT’s Fiber Optic Resource Sharing program has allowed communications providers to install fiber infrastructure in VDOT’s limited-access rights-of-way. In return, VDOT has received over 4,700 miles of fiber routes to support transportation operations across the Commonwealth.” said Commissioner Brich. “Our agreement with Osprey dramatically enhances our traffic management capabilities along the I-81 and I-66 corridors, while bringing significant savings to Virginia taxpayers.”

“Virginia is the key juncture in America’s fiber optic infrastructure. Connecting major growth centers utilizing diverse protected routes with low latency is key to the sustainable growth of the world’s data needs,” Elswick said. “Osprey is meeting that need with fiber and fiber conduits to fulfill the demands of data companies and telecommunications providers alike.”

VDOT’s Fiber Optic Resource Sharing program allows telecom providers to install fiber resources within limited-access rights-of-way, which are not congested with other utility installations. Additional efficiencies are gained as providers coordinate solely with VDOT along these routes rather than multiple landowners.  In exchange, VDOT can receive compensation in any combination of goods, services and/or cash.

“This program is a win for both parties.  VDOT gets access to incredibly fast fiber capacity and Osprey is able to build its network from Ashburn to Nashville utilizing VDOT’s rights-of-,way for the Virginia portion of their route,” said Brook Lunsford, President of Osprey Communications.  “We have constructed over 10,000 miles of fiber and look forward to this project,” he added. 

“With Governor Northam’s focus on broadband deployment in the Commonwealth, we believe this agreement will not only strengthen the broadband infrastructure in Virginia, it will likely provide access to underserved communities along the route,” said Cathy McGhee, Director of Research and Innovation for VDOT. 

Elswick noted that “In addition to this project updating our aging national fiber optic infrastructure, it is personally important to me and my family that we were able to bring this fiber construction through Southwest Virginia, and continuing to upgrade the ability of the region to access high quality, high speed connectivity.”

“Direct fiber optic connectivity to major cities will benefit every area of Virginia we pass through, but perhaps none more so than Southwest Virginia as it takes its place as an ideal location for data centers; no hurricanes, extremely rare earthquakes, electrically diverse power grids, and with this diverse long-distance fiber optic construction, it will be even more attractive,” he added. 

Sexton agenda as House speaker includes health care, sentencing, early childhood reading

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)

New Speaker Cameron Sexton gave a wide-ranging speech to the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce last week, outlining his agenda as he takes the reins of the Tennessee House of Representatives. The Crossville Republican took aim at health insurance companies for acting like “big brother” by blocking information about taxpayer-funded services and for having “absolute control over the marketplace.” He also called for stronger truth-in-sentencing laws, better funding for early childhood reading programs, and a long-term approach to spending Temporary Assistance for Needy Families reserves.

Sexton speech was in contrast to his predecessor, Glen Casada, who often appeared more driven by political considerations than political ones. Sexton also placed several stakes in the ground that could end up being at odds with the plans of Republican Gov. Bill Lee as he heads into his second session.

Here is a transcript of Sexton’s speech:

It’s great to be here this morning and see so many familiar faces as we look forward to what next week may bring. One of the question and I usually I get all the time is ‘When do you think we’re going to get out?’ I get 50 variations of the question because I usually won’t answer it, and they say, ‘Well, you know I’m planning and trip and it’s looking like this date.’ And my question back to them is: ‘well, is it refundable?’ We make no promises, but we’re hoping to have a very good session, a very productive session, and we’re hoping to announce in the coming couple days or week some processes and changes we’re making to hopefully make it more efficient and flow a little bit better.

I’d like to start out the day by saying, isn’t Tennessee doing great? The Tennessee Vols won the Gator Bowl and the Tennessee Titans beat the Patriots. And oh yeah, we have a pretty good economy in the state of Tennessee as well. But one of the things I have learned is it doesn’t really matter what’s going on, if the Tennessee Titans and Tennessee Vols are doing well, Tennessee is happy, so everything looks pretty good in the state and as long as we keep that going, we’re going to do very good. So everything looks like it’s settling in right into place four months into my speakership. Tennessee’s happy, so I’m happy.

But it’s an honor to be here today, and I very much appreciate this opportunity to speak with you. Back in 1994 – I know some of you know this and some you may not – I worked on my first political campaign after graduating from the University of Tennessee. It was a state Senate race and I worked for a great candidate, although have we ever really met anyone who says they hadn’t worked for a candidate – everybody’s candidate is great. But I can tell you this candidate was really, really good. And if you fast forward 26 years to today, I have this opportunity to lead the House, and I’m very fortunate to have this opportunity, but I do beside that very same state Senator I worked for in 1994, Lt. Governor Randy McNally, as he is preparing to lead the Senate, and I look forward to the partnership with him as we continue to move Tennessee forward.

We have been very fortunate as a state to have had many great leaders who have laid a solid foundation for us, and each one has passed the torch to the next person and everyone has taken it and continued to move. And now it’s is in our hands and we have to fill the purpose and the destiny that they helped us get to. 

But I don’t want to just hold serve, I don’t want to take a knee, and I sure don’t want to run out the clock. I believe we are tasked to accept it and make it shine brighter for all Tennesseans. Because isn’t that what America’s greatest generation did for us many years ago when they sacrificed and made things better for us?

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Former Kingsport Mayor Clark announces congressional bid in 1st District

John Clark (Photo credit: Clark campaign)

Former Kingsport Mayor John Clark has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to start raising money for his bid to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City). Clark’s announcement comes amid decisions by state Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) and state Sen. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) against running for the seat.

Clark told WJHL-TV on Monday that his decision to run for the seat wasn’t contingent on Roe retiring.

“I was going to move forward regardless,” he said. “But as it turns out Congressman Roe made it his announcement and the timing couldn’t be better.”

Here’s the full release from the Clark campaign:

Kingsport, Tenn.— Former Kingsport Mayor John Clark announced today his candidacy for Tennessee’s 1st District congressional seat. Clark has filed the required Federal Election Commission documents needed to compete in the August 2020 Republican primary election.

Clark served on Kingsport’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA) for seven years, three years as alderman and four as mayor. His term ended in July 2019. “During my time on the BMA, we worked with many community and business leaders to improve the quality of life for all residents, thereby ensuring a prosperous future for our city. We achieved a lot on both fronts and I’m very excited to do the same for the 1st District,” said Clark.

Clark said he is running for congress because, “I have a passion for public service. Making a positive difference in the lives of my fellow Northeast Tennesseans truly energizes me. My focus is on conservative Republican values with a special emphasis on jobs, healthcare, and expanded opportunities for veterans and farmers. I will be a strong voice in support of President Trump’s policies and will fight against big government and for expanded freedoms for all Americans.” 

Clark is a man of faith and a dedicated family man, businessman, and public servant. After a 36-year career in business, Clark said, “Community service is the most personally rewarding experience of my life. Working with people to improve the lives of others is a passion of mine. I would be honored to serve the people of the 1st District and am committed to giving my all to the residents of our region.”

Clark is excited to begin this campaign, which will be his fourth but first full-time campaign. His family, particularly his wife Etta, will be very involved in his campaign. Clark said, “I look forward to having my family and friends actively participate and experience this opportunity with me. I am ready to work hard over the next eight months to meet as many voters as possible throughout the 1st District. I’m all-in for the 1st District. We can do more and we can do better for our residents and businesses. I have the experience, passion, and energy to bring more high paying jobs to our citizens and ensure our freedoms are protected.”

Lundberg out of 1st District race, Crowe in?

State Sen. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) is the latest sitting lawmaker to bow out of the running for the 1st Congressional District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City).

I have been greatly humbled by the visits, phone calls, texts, messages and words of encouragement to run for congress. …

Posted by Jon Lundberg on Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Lundberg’s decision follows an announcement by state House Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison of Cosby that he won’t run for the seat.

Meanwhile, WJHL-TV reports fellow state Sen. Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) said he is now considering a bid after receiving several calls encouraging him to run.

“I believe I’ve helped improve the state of Tennessee for 30 years, and would be interested in the opportunity to work on the federal level and represent the district,” Crowe said.

Crowe, 72, wouldn’t have to give up his seat in the state Senate to run because his four-year term isn’t up until 2022. Lundberg wouldn’t have had that same luxury, as his seat is up for reelection this year.

The Tennessean reported last week  that former Kingsport Mayor John Clark has announced he will run. Former state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, former House Minority Leader Jason Mumpower, and former Safety Commissioner David Purkey said they won’t make a bid.