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Haslam grants final set of 20 pardons, 3 commutations

Gov. Bill Haslam delivers his final State of the State address on Jan. 29, 2018 in Nashville. (Photo credit: Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Haslam has granted his final set of clemency orders, issuing 20 pardons and three commutations. That brings his total to of nine commutations, 35 pardons, and one exoneration before he leaves office on Saturday.

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

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today granted executive clemency to 23 current or former Tennesseans.

“These individuals receiving pardons have made positive contributions to their communities and are worthy of the forgiveness that may help them restore their rights or obtain employment. Those receiving commutations will gain another chance to become contributing members of society,” Haslam said.  “Clemency requires attempting to balance mercy and justice, and my legal team and I have taken this responsibility seriously during a thorough review of many cases.”

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Inauguration to be moved indoors

Gov.-elect Bill Lee speaks to a Chamber of Commerce event in Memphis on Dec. 6, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee’s inauguration is being moved indoors because of rain and thunderstorms forecast for Saturday.

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

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, The National Weather Service issued a special weather statement forecasting numerous showers and thunderstorms in Middle Tennessee on Saturday. Due to these conditions, the inaugural ceremony of Bill Lee as the 50th governor of Tennessee will be moved to War Memorial Auditorium in downtown Nashville.

“While the weather doesn’t seem to be cooperating, we are looking forward to a fantastic inaugural weekend,” said Lee. “I encourage Tennesseans to be safe, but still also feel welcome to attend this historic event. We are making every effort to accommodate overflow space for those wishing to attend because I want to ensure no Tennessean is turned away who wants to join us for the festivities.”

The Inaugural Ceremony, free and open to the public, will begin at 11 a.m. CST. Admittance to the event will be based on venue capacity of War Memorial Auditorium, 301 6th Avenue North. The event is historically held outdoors on the adjoining Legislative Plaza.

All other inaugural events will proceed as planned. Event details can be found at BelieveInTN.com.

The inauguration will occur in a joint convention of the 111th General Assembly convened by Lt. Governor Randy McNally and Speaker of the House Glen Casada. The oath will be administered by Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins.

Lee names Schwinn as education commissioner

A release from Gov.-elect Bill Lee’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Today, Tennessee Governor-elect Bill Lee announced the appointment of Penny Schwinn to lead the Tennessee Department of Education.

“Penny leads with students at the forefront and I believe her experience is exactly what we need to continue improving on the gains we have made in the past few years,” said Lee. “As a former teacher and seasoned administrator, she will help make Tennessee a leader in the nation on education.”

Schwinn currently serves as the chief deputy commissioner of education at the Texas Education Agency. In this role, she pursued a series of reforms including the transformation of a failing state assessment program. She also implemented the expansion of statewide externships and pathway development for improving students’ career readiness upon graduation.

Additionally, Schwinn oversaw the development of open-source instructional materials to empower teachers with high-quality resources for teaching. Prior to serving in the Texas Education Agency, Schwinn was the chief accountability and performance officer for the Delaware Department of Education where she led efforts to conduct a testing audit, which led to nearly a 20 percent decrease in student testing time.

A former teacher, Schwinn taught with Teach for America (TFA) from 2004-2007 with work in Baltimore City Public Schools and Los Angeles. She is also the founder of Capitol Collegiate Academy, a charter school that serves low-income students in South Sacramento.

Lee names commissioners for Health, General Service, Intellectual Disabilities

Gov.-elect has named three more commissioners for his incoming administration:

• Lisa Piercey – Department of Health.
• Brad Turner – Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
• Christi Branscom – Department of General Services.

Here is the release from Lee’s transition office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Today, Tennessee Governor-elect Bill Lee announced three appointments to his cabinet for the Department of Health, the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and the Department of General Services.

“We have been committed to building a team that represents each Grand Division and I am pleased to add appointees who represent West, Middle and East Tennessee at the table,” said Lee. “I look forward to working together to implement a conservative vision for Tennessee.”

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Lee won’t lift gun ban within state Capitol

Gov.-elect Bill Lee won’t lift the ban on firearms within the state Capitol when he takes office.

That’s according to Sam Stockard over at the Daily Memphian.

“I think the regulations as they are will stand. I’m not going to change that,” Lee said.

As of the start of the year, 628,427 Tennesseans had state-issued permits to carry firearms in public. The state suspended or revoked 2,252 permits for criminal charges or orders of protection in domestic violence cases. Another 2,882 permit applications were denied.

The General Assembly began allowing handgun carry permit holders to bring their firearms into the new Cordell Hull legislative office complex when it opened last year. But outgoing Gov. Bill Haslam maintained the ban within the Capitol.

Permit holders must present themselves to state troopers at the Cordell Hull entrances, and are required to keep their guns holstered all times within the building.

New House Speaker Glen Casada told the publication he sees no reason to change the policy.

“I support the current policy in place allowing citizens to go armed in the Cordell Hull building,” he said. “An armed, law-abiding citizen creates a safer environment for all Tennesseans.”

Democratic state Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis), a former Marine, said Lee’s decision to keep the ban in place is unsurprising.

“I think he wants to keep himself safe,” Parkinson said.

Lee’s inaugural worship service moved to Grand Ole Opry House

Gov.-elect Bill Lee speaks at a press conference at the state Capitol in Nashville on Nov. 7, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov.-elect Bill Lee’s inaugural worship service is being moved from the Ryman Auditorium to the Grand Old Opry House due to increased demand.

Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Nicole C. Mullen, and Matthew West are among those scheduled to perform at the the 8:30 a.m. event on Saturday.

Tickets are required, but free. They are available at BelieveInTN.com.

 

Rep. Clemmons to run for Nashville mayor

Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons tells The Tennessean’s Joey Garrison he will run for Nashville mayor this year.

“I’m prepared to provide that strong, decisive leadership that Nashvillians expect and deserve,” Clemmons told the paper.

Clemmons, 41, will challenge incumbent David Briley, who was elected to fill the unexpired term of former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry last year. Because it is an off-year election, Clemmons won’t have to give up his House seat to run.

Clemmons defeated incumbent Rep. Gary Odom, a former House Democratic leader, in the 2014 primary for House District 55.

 

Lee names 3 more commissioners

A release from Gov.-elect Bill Lee’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Today, Tennessee Governor-elect Bill Lee announced three appointments to his cabinet for the Department of Transportation, the Department of Environment and Conservation and the Department of Human Resources.

“I am pleased to announce three additions to our cabinet who bring a high level of expertise and deep knowledge of our state,” said Lee. “I look forward to working closely with these appointments as we build forward-thinking solutions for Tennessee.”

The Governor-elect named the following appointments today:

  • Clay Bright – Department of Transportation
  • David Salyers – Department of Environment and Conservation
  • Juan Williams– Department of Human Resources 

Clay Bright, of Davidson County, currently serves as the vice president of Brasfield & Gorrie, one of the nation’s largest privately held general contractors. Bright has worked with the company for 36 years and was instrumental in opening the Nashville office of Brasfield & Gorrie. He managed some of the most complex projects in Tennessee including the construction of the AT&T Building. 

David Salyers, of Madison County, currently serves as the executive director of the West Tennessee River Basin Authority, a division of the Department of Environment and Conservation. Salyers is a registered professional engineer, geologist and certified professional hydrologist who has worked with WTRBA for more than 20 years to develop conservation solutions for West Tennessee streams and rivers. During Salyers’ tenure, he has helped secure millions in federal grants for Tennessee and was also instrumental in developing the statewide water plan known as TN H2O. 

Juan Williams, of Davidson County, currently serves as the operations manager for the Duke Energy Nashville Resource Center where he advises managers, supervisors and employees on matters including operations and workplace culture. Previously, Williams served as the Director of Change Readiness for Duke Energy, with focuses on business process, talent management and restructuring. In addition to nearly 17 years of human resources and operations experience, Williams is an active member of the community and serves on the Pencil Foundation Board of Directors

Green to host swearing-in fundraiser featuring Lee, legislative leaders

It’s never too soon to start raising money. Especially in newly-elected U.S. Rep. Mark Green’s case, given that he’s made no great secret about mulling a bid to succeed Sen. Lamar Alexander in 2020.

Green is holding a fundraiser “celebrating the swearing-in” of the congressman on Jan. 23 — 20 days after he was actually sworn in. Also attending are Gov.-elect Bill Lee, Senate Speaker Randy McNally, House Speaker Glen Casada, and Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson.

It will be interesting to see whether any of those legislative leaders distance themselves from Green if term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam decides to jump into the Senate race.

She’s back! Kurita selected as interim state senator

Former Sen. Rosalind Kurita, whom Democrats stripped of their party’s nomination after she broke ranks to vote for Republican Ron Ramsey to become Senate speaker in 2007, has been appointed as an interim replacement for Sen. Mark Green (R-Ashland City) after his election to Congress.

The Leaf Chronicle of Clarksville reports Kurita emerged the winner Monday after 13 rounds of voting by the Montgomery County Commission.

“It feels wonderful to be selected by the County Commission, and I appreciate the support I have received here this evening,” Kurita told the paper.

Kurita is expected to caucus with the Republican supermajority. She said she won’t be a candidate in the special election to fill the remainder of Green’s term (the primary is March 7 and the general election is on April 23).

The year after voting for Ramsey (the chamber was tied 16-16 with one independent at the time, making hers a crucial vote), Kurita survived a primary challenge from fellow Clarksville Democrat Tim Barnes by all of 19 votes. Barnes filed a challenge with the Democratic Executive Committee, with his attorneys contending that “Republicans crossed over en masse.”

Kurita’s lawyers argued the crossover wasn’t out of the ordinary. But after a day-long hearing that also included allegations that Barnes voters were directed to vote in the Republican primary and that Kurita had violated the 100-foot barrier in polling place (to go to the restroom, her attorneys said, deriding the allegation as “potty gate”), the Democratic panel voted 33-11 to strip Kurita of the nomination on the basis of the outcome of the primary having become “incurably uncertain.” She mounted a write-in
campaign, but lost to Barnes, 62% to 39%.

Kurita was a candidate for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination in 2006, but bowed out before the primary.

Ramsey appears pleased with Kurita’s appointment: