Blog Entries

Lee signs executive order in response to February flooding

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee has signed an executive order in response to widespread flooding, beginning the process for seeking a federal disaster declaration in the affected counties.

Here’s the full release:

NASHVILLE — Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed an executive order enabling further recovery efforts and beginning the process for declaring a federal disaster after record rains in February caused statewide damage.

“As waters recede and we are now able to fully review the extent of flooding damage across our state, I signed an executive order as a key step in working with the federal government for further recovery efforts,” said Lee. “We thank the first responders who are working diligently to keep citizens safe and deliver services.”

Currently, 83 counties have reported damage. The Department of Agriculture, Department of Transportation and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) have been coordinating with local authorities to collect the necessary data for further recovery efforts.

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Report: House payroll grows under Casada

The Tennessean’s Joel Ebert reports that new House Speaker Glen Casada has increased payroll costs in the lower chamber of the General Assembly, compared with his predecessor (a fellow Republican), in large part due to salary hikes for existing staffers and the hiring of more personnel.

Ebert’s analysis shows Casada presides over a $5.1 million payroll for employees in his office, House leadership, and committees. Last year at this time, that payroll stood at $3.8 million. Casada’s office says much of that change is due to reclassification of House employees.

That may not be the last of the increased spending: The General Assembly is in line to receive a $7 million budget increase under Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s annual spending plan introduced this week.

Casada said  House employees have been “under-compensated for the last several years.”

“With our new House leadership team in place, we are modernizing operations to fulfill our constitutional responsibilities to represent constituents effectively, and to craft and enact laws that provide solutions and meet the needs of our state,” he told the newspaper.

Salaries for the eight staffers in the speaker’s office this year total nearly $942,000. Last year, the five employees in then-House Speaker Beth Harwell’s office earned $545,000.

Read the full story here.

 

 

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

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Here’s a look at the $157 million in state employee raises Republican Gov. Bill Lee is proposing for the upcoming budget year:

1. State Employees Salary Pool:

a. 2% Salary Pool – Pay for performance – TEAM Act agencies: $28.8 million (effective 1/1/2020).
b. 2% Salary Pool – Across the board – Non-TEAM Act agencies: $6.7 million (effective 7/1/2019).
c. Market rate adjustment: $18.5 million. 

2. Higher Education Included in Funding Formula:

a. 2% Salary Pool – Formula Units: $22 million. 
b. 2% Salary Pool – Non-Formula Units: $8.5 million

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Did Lee’s State of the State speech set a modern record at 57 minutes?

Senate Finance Chairman Bo Watson (R-Chattanooga) and others check their watches awaiting the time for Gov. Bill Lee, right, to enter the House chamber to deliver his first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s first State of the State address clocked in at 57 minutes last night, leading to speculation about whether it set a record for length. Our deep-dive into the newspaper archives doesn’t provide a conclusive answer, but most examples we found have been much shorter.

Frank Clement, who was governor for 10 years in the 1950s and 1960s, is best-known for an evangelical oratorical style that culminated in his keynote address to Democratic presidential convention in 1956, which he punctuated with the phrase “How long, America, O how long?” The audience loved it, but the speech was panned by pundits. And the 43-minute speech came to be seen as ending Clement’s national political aspirations.

Clement’s State of the State addresses (which were then delivered to the Tennessee Press Association’s annual convention) tended to run between 1,500 and 2,000 words, or about 12 to 15 minutes, as prepared. Ad libs and asides would cause those speeches to expand to about 20 to 35 minutes on delivery.

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Here is your State of the State gallery

Here is a gallery of photos from Gov. Bill Lee’s first State of the State address on Monday evening.

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Senate Democratic Caucus Chairwoman Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) takes a selfie with colleagues and Gov. Bill Lee before the start of the State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee awaits his first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee walks up the stairs to deliver his first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee and legislators wait to enter the House chamber for the State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Senate Finance Chairman Bo Watson (R-Chattanooga) and others check their watches awaiting the time for Gov. Bill Lee, right, to enter the House chamber to deliver his first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House and Senate leaders read along to Gov. Bill Lee’s first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bobby Rolfe and Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn applaud Gov. Bill Lee’s first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) makes an announcement before Gov. Bill Lee’s first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Senate Clerk Russell Humphrey, left, helps fix a microphone for Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), center, and House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) before Gov. Bill Lee’s first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Finance Commissioner Stuart McWhorter, right, and Deputy to the Governor Lang Wiseman confer before Gov. Bill Lee’s first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Sen. Becky Duncan Massey (R-Knoxville) awaits Gov. Bill Lee’s first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Rep. Ron Travis (R-Dayton) confers with colleagues before Gov. Bill Lee’s first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

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)

Read Gov. Bill Lee’s first State of the State address

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his first State of the State address in Nashville on March 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Governor Bill Lee’s first State of the State address, as prepared for delivery on Monday evening:

Lieutenant Governor McNally, Speaker Casada, Speaker Pro Tem Haile, Speaker Pro Tem Dunn, Members of the 111th General Assembly, Justices, Constitutional Officers, friends, guests, fellow Tennesseans:

Tennessee’s voters and its constitution have given me the responsibility of delivering this address evaluating where we are as a state and recommending action to make us even better.

I am grateful for this opportunity to serve, and it is my high honor to be here tonight. There’s a scripture that encourages us to consider others as more important than ourselves.

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Lee previews State of the State address

Bill Lee delivers his inaugural address in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Gov. Bill Lee is previewing his first State of the State addresss with some excerpts, including his approach to the state spending plan, charter schools, public safety, and mental health.

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

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tonight, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee will give his State of the State address and present his conservative budget to a joint session of the Tennessee General Assembly at 6 p.m. CT on statewide television.

The following excerpts are from his remarks as prepared for delivery:

State of the State

“Now, I think we can all agree that while important things happen in the halls of government, it is actually what happens outside these walls that makes Tennessee truly great.”

“To our elected leaders in this room and the many Tennesseans watching from their homes, I am proud to report after seeing with my own eyes: the state of our state is hopeful, prosperous, and strong.”

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Bill Hobbs, onetime Tennessee GOP spokesman and provocateur, dies at 54

Bill Hobbs, a onetime spokesman for the Tennessee Republican Party and income tax protester, has died. He was 54.

The cause was cancer, according to Jeff Hartline, the vice chairman of the Wilson County Republican Party.

Hobbs specialized in viral political attacks on then-presidential candidate Barack Obama (and his wife, Michelle) while he was communications director at the state Republican Party. Before that, Hobbs was a prominent figure in the protests surrounding Republican Gov. Don Sundquist’s efforts to impose an income tax.

Hobbs, a former Tennessean reporter, was also forced out from his job as a spokesman for Belmont Unversity in 2006 after publishing a caricature of the prophet Mohammad on his person blog after the Islamic world condemned provocative cartoons published in a Danish newspaper.

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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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