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So what’s essential? A look at Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference on Tennessee’s coronavirus response in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Here are the details about which businesses are exempted by Gov. Bill Lee’s order for non-essential operations to shut down to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. It’s a long list, ranging from marinas to dry cleaners. It also includes “any other business or organization that operates at all times with ten or fewer persons accessing the premises.”

Here’s the full breakdown:

For purposes of Executive Order No. 22, Essential Services include:

1. Personnel identified on pages 5-15 of the Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response issued by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) of the United States Department of Homeland Security

2. Health Care and Public Health Operations. This includes, but is not limited to: hospitals; clinics; medical practices and services; mental health and substance abuse services; dental offices; pharmacies; public health entities, including those that compile, model, analyze, and communicate public health information; pharmaceutical, pharmacy, medical device and equipment, and biotechnology companies (including operations, research and development, manufacture, and supply chain components); organizations collecting blood, platelets, plasma, and other necessary materials; obstetricians and gynecologists; eye care centers, including those that sell glasses and contact lenses; home health care services providers; mental health and substance use providers; other health care facilities and suppliers; providers of any related and/or ancillary health care services; entities that transport and dispose of medical materials and remains; manufacturers, technicians, logistics, and warehouse operators, and distributors of medical equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE), medical gases, pharmaceuticals, blood, platelets, and plasma products, vaccines, testing materials, laboratory supplies, cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting or sterilization supplies, and tissue and paper towel products; veterinary care and all health care services provided to animals. This also includes any medical or administrative personnel necessary to operate those functions in this paragraph. Health Care and Public Health Operations shall be construed broadly to avoid any impacts to the delivery of health care, broadly defined. Health Care and Public Health Operations does not include any procedures that would violate Executive Order No. 18, which remains in effect;

3. Human Services Operations. This includes, but is not limited to: government or government-funded human services to the public through state-operated, institutional, or community-based settings; long-term care facilities; day care centers, day care homes, or group day care homes; residential settings and shelters for adults, seniors, children, or people with developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, substance use disorders, or mental illness; transitional facilities; home-based settings to provide services to individuals with physical, intellectual, or developmental disabilities, seniors, adults, or children; field offices that provide and help to determine eligibility for basic needs including food, cash assistance, medical coverage, child care, vocational services, rehabilitation services; developmental centers; adoption agencies; businesses that provide food, shelter, social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged individuals, individuals with physical, intellectual, and/or developmental disabilities, or individuals otherwise in need. Human Services 7 Operations shall be construed broadly to avoid any impacts to the delivery of human services, broadly defined;

4. Essential Infrastructure Operations. This includes, but is not limited to: food production, distribution, and sale; construction-related services, including, but not limited to, construction required in response to this public health emergency, hospital construction, construction of long-term care facilities, public works construction, school construction, construction related to Essential Activity or Essential Services, and housing construction; building management and maintenance; landscape management; airport operations; operation and maintenance of utilities, including water, sewer, and gas; electrical services, including power generation, distribution, and production of raw materials; distribution centers; oil and biofuel refining; services related to roads, highways, railroads, ports, and public transportation; cybersecurity operations; flood control; solid waste and recycling collection, removal, and processing; and internet, video, and telecommunications systems and services, including the provision of essential global, national, and local infrastructure for computing services, business infrastructure, communications, and web-based services. Essential Infrastructure Operations shall be construed broadly to avoid any impacts to essential infrastructure, broadly defined;

5. Essential Government Functions. This includes, but is not limited to: first responders, emergency management personnel, emergency dispatchers, and those supporting 911 and emergency services; legislators and legislative branch officials and employees, as determined by the Legislative Branch; judges, judicial branch employees, court personnel, jurors, and grand jurors, as determined by the Judicial Branch; law enforcement personnel; corrections and community supervision personnel; hazardous materials responders; election officials and operations; child protection and child welfare personnel; housing and shelter personnel; park personnel that provide admission, maintenance, and operation of park facilities that provide outdoor recreation; military; and other governmental employees working for or to support Essential Activity or Essential Services. Essential Government Functions also means all services provided by the State, the political subdivisions of the State, and boards, commissions, or agencies of government needed to ensure the continuing operation of the government agencies or to provide for or support the health, safety, and welfare of the public. Essential Government Functions also includes contractors performing or supporting such functions. Each branch of government and government entity shall determine its Essential Government Functions and ensure a plan is in place for the performance of these functions. This paragraph does not apply to the United States government; provided, however, that any employee, official, or contractor of the United States government shall not be restricted from performing their functions under law;

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In-person Tennessee court hearings suspended until April 1

Tennessee courts are suspending in-person judicial proceedings until April 1 in response to the Coronavirus outbreak. Courts will continue to conduct business, Chief Justice Jeff Bivins announced.

Here’s the release from the Administrative Office of the Courts:

The Tennessee Supreme Court today issued an Order stating all Tennessee courts will remain open during the coronavirus outbreak, but suspending all in-person judicial proceedings through March 31, 2020. Chief Justice Jeff Bivins declared a state of emergency for the judicial branch, which follows Governor Bill Lee’s Executive Order and declaration of a state of emergency on March 12, 2020. The Order applies to state and local Tennessee courts, including appellate, trial, general sessions, juvenile, and municipal courts.

“Each day across the State of Tennessee, thousands of people attend court proceedings in-person when they come to the courthouse as jurors, witnesses, litigants, or in another capacity. Public spaces in courthouses tend to be small, tightly packed bench seats that provide the type of situations public health officials have encouraged people to avoid during the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Chief Justice Jeff Bivins. “However, judges, court clerks, and others provide essential constitutional functions that must be carried on. In issuing this Order, the Court struck a balance in limiting the public’s exposure to the virus with continuing essential court functions judges must provide to ensure the administration of justice.”

The Order includes a substantial list of exceptions including proceedings necessary to protect constitutional rights of criminal defendants, such as bond-related matters and plea agreements for incarcerated individuals; civil and criminal jury trials that are in progress as of March 13, 2020; proceedings relating to orders of protection; proceedings related to emergency child custody orders; Department of Children’s Services emergency matters related to child protection; proceedings related to petitions for temporary injunctive relief; proceedings related to emergency mental health orders; proceedings related to emergency protection of elderly or vulnerable persons; and proceedings directly related to the COVID-19 public health emergency. In addition, other exceptions to the suspension of in-person court proceedings may be approved by the Chief Justice. Any permitted in-court proceedings will be limited to attorneys, parties, witnesses, security officers, and necessary persons as determined by the trial judge.  

“We are reducing the number of people physically in the courthouse each day while ensuring judges and court clerks have the ability to continue with their constitutionally required duties,” Chief Justice Bivins said.

The Court’s Order includes several other provisions to help alleviate hardships or unintended consequences caused by the suspension of non-essential, in-person proceedings. For example, deadlines set forth in court rules, statutes, and administrative rules, including statutes of limitations, that are set to expire between March 13 and April 6, 2020, are extended through April 6, 2020 and orders of protection that would expire between March 13 and April 6, 2020, are extended until April 6, 2020.

“This is new territory for everyone,” Chief Bivins said. “We encourage judges, court clerks, attorneys, law enforcement, and others to work together to develop creative solutions that work for their individual jurisdictions. The goal is to limit the number of people coming into court each day while continuing to meet our duty and administer justice. We may amend this Order as the situation evolves, and we understand more about the obstacles judges and court staff are facing.”

The order expressly does not prohibit court proceedings by telephone, video, teleconferencing, email, or other means that do not involve in-person contact. The Court’s Order also suspends any Tennessee rule, criminal or civil, that limits a judge’s or clerk’s ability to utilize available technologies, including telephone conferences, video conferences, and video arraignments, that can help limit in-person contact. The Order does not affect a court’s consideration of civil or criminal matters that can be resolved without oral argument. 

Read the Order

Battle of the ex-commissioners: Templeton, Walley to run for Gresham’s state Senate seat

Jai Templeton and Page Walley are announcing their bids to seek the Republican nomination to succeed retiring state Sen. Dolores Gresham.

Templeton is a former state agriculture commissioner, while Walley was once commissioner of the state Department of Children’s Services. Senate District 26 comprises Chester, Decatur, Fayette, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, McNairy, and Henderson counties.

Gresham was elected to the West Tennessee seat after John Wilder (D-Mason), retired after 44 years in the Senate — 36 of them as speaker. Gresham, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, has served as chair of the Education Committee ever since she joined the Senate.

Templeton, a former McNairy County mayor, lives in the Stantonville community, about 15 miles southwest of Savannah. Walley, of Hardeman County, served in the state House from 1990 to 2000. State Rep. Ron Gant (R-Rossville) plans to stay in the House.

Read the campaign releases after the jump.

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Second lawsuit seeks to block school voucher law

Another lawsuit has been filed in Nashville Chancery Court aiming to block Gov. Bill Lee’s signature school voucher law from going into effect.

The lawsuit was filed behalf Nashville and Shelby County parents by lawyers representing the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Education Law center.

A previous lawsuit was filed by the governments of Nashville and Shelby County.

Here’s the press release announcing the latest litigation:

Nashville, Tenn., March 2 – Public school parents and community members in Nashville and Memphis today filed suit in the Chancery Court for Davidson County challenging the Tennessee Education Savings Account (ESA) voucher law as an unconstitutional diversion of public education funding to private schools.

In the lawsuit, McEwen v. Lee, the plaintiffs contend that diverting millions of dollars intended for Memphis and Nashville public schools to private schools violates public school students’ rights to the adequate and equitable educational opportunities guaranteed under the Tennessee Constitution. The lawsuit also charges that the voucher law violates the constitution’s “Home Rule” provision, which prohibits the state legislature from passing laws that apply only to certain counties.

The Tennessee voucher program would siphon off over $7,500 per student – or over $375 million in the first five years – from funds appropriated by the General Assembly to maintain and support the Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) and Shelby County (Memphis) Schools, according to the lawsuit. The controversial state law could go into effect as early as the 2020-21 school year.

The voucher law passed by a single vote in May 2019, over the objections of legislators from Shelby and Davidson Counties, as well as others.

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Read the full text of Gov. Bill Lee’s second State of the State address

Gov. Bill Lee delivers his second State of the State address in Nashville on Feb. 3, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Here is the full text of Gov. Bill Lee’s second State of the State Address, as prepared for delivery on Monday evening:

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

It is an honor to once again be with you this evening.

Before I begin, Speaker Sexton, let me offer special congratulations to you on your election as Speaker.

I am looking forward to working with you during this session and in the years ahead as we make our state a leader in the nation.

Last year, I stood at this podium, newly inaugurated as the 50th Governor of Tennessee. It has been a rewarding year, far more rewarding than I could have ever imagined.

To serve Tennesseans, to help make their lives better, to help give them a better education, to help recruit and create good jobs, and to help make our state a leader in the nation, it has been a humbling and truly honorable experience.

To serve with you, the men and women of the General Assembly, has been a tremendous honor as well.

Thank you for your support during my first year, it means an awful lot to Maria and to me.

With all of the noise in our nation these days, whether it comes from Washington, or New York, or Hollywood, I can’t help but look across this room in Tennessee and be inspired.

Inspired by every man and woman in this chamber who sacrifices much and who is dedicated to their beliefs and to the service of their neighbors.

Thank you for what you do, and I look forward to working alongside each of you this session and in the years ahead.

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Lee to introduce sweeping bill to restrict abortions in Tennessee

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference about his plan to introduce sweeping legislation to restrict access to abortions in Tennessee. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee is proposing a sweeping bill aimed at restricting access to abortions in Tennessee. The bill would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected and would require women to undergo an ultrasound before seeking to terminate a pregnancy.

The bill includes a “ladder” approach of severerability clauses to that would keep provisions of the law in place if certain components are thrown out in court. For example, if the heartbeat provision doesn’t pass muster, the state could enact a ban at eight weeks, ten weeks or 12 weeks, depending what stands up in court.

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

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Gov. Bill Lee announced that he will submit comprehensive pro-life legislation to the Tennessee General Assembly this year, including the prohibition of an abortion where a fetal heartbeat exists. This legislation would make Tennessee one of the most pro-life states in the country.

“I believe that every human life is precious, and we have a responsibility to protect it,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “Today, Tennessee is taking a monumental step in celebrating, cherishing, and defending life at every stage. I’m grateful to be joined by so many leaders in our state who are boldly standing up for our most vulnerable.”

This legislation would build upon successes in other states while incorporating innovative approaches to enhance existing law, including provisions such as:

  • Prohibiting an abortion where a fetal heartbeat exists;
  • Requiring a mother to undergo an ultrasound prior to an abortion;
  • Prohibiting an abortion where the physician is aware that the decision to seek an abortion is motivated by the race, sex, or health or disability diagnosis of the unborn child. 

To protect against legal challenges, the new law would also include a creative “ladder” provision, modeled after Missouri law, of sequential abortion prohibitions at two-week gestational age intervals, along with severability clauses for each step of the ladder.

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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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Sethi touts immigration program in Senate race

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi is outlining a three-point immigration program.

“I’m tired of politicians who talk about illegal immigration, but don’t do anything about it. I want to actually stop it,” Sethi said in a release. “As the son of legal immigrants, we must protect the American Dream and that means standing up for American workers.”

Here’s the release from the Sethi campaign:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Republican Senate candidate and conservative outsider Dr. Manny Sethi’s campaign is releasing a 3-point Immigration Policy plan entitled “Protect the American Dream Plan” hot off the heels of his new TV Ad.

The ad, titled “Invasion,” aired nationally and statewide on October 15.

“I’m tired of politicians who talk about illegal immigration, but don’t do anything about it. I want to actually stop it,” said Dr. Manny. “As the son of legal immigrants, we must protect the American Dream and that means standing up for American workers, no matter what the left says.”

“Dr. Manny is the only candidate in this race who is proposing real solutions to our nation’s most pressing issue, not merely repeating talking points,” said Chris Devaney, Campaign Chairman. “He’s not afraid to tackle the illegal immigration issue head on, and this is the type of leadership we need to see more of in Washington.”

Below is Dr. Manny Sethi’s “Protect the American Dream” plan:.

1. Support President Trump and build the border wall.

  • In the month of May there were over 144,000 arrests of people crossing the border illegally. There would have been nearly a million crossings had it not been for President Trump getting a deal with Mexico to stop the caravans. In the past 12 months there have been more than a million arrests made at the border.
  • Our Border Patrol agents are essentially working in a war zone. Our ICE agents are overwhelmed with not only doing their job, but defending themselves from the liberal media who have made them a political target. We must fully support both and empathize with their great work to keep this country safe and uphold its laws.
  • Heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl are flowing across our borders. Violence comes along with it, and a border wall will keep both out.

2. End chain migration and return to a merit-based system.

  • We have a broken system today that favors chain migration. This leads to people coming here illegally, becoming welfare recipients, and then importing their family members who will also go on welfare. American citizens will pay the price for that.
  • We need to switch to a merit-based system that prioritizes highly-skilled immigrants, whose children will grow up understanding the American Dream, and whose presence will make America stronger.
  • Favoring higher skilled workers who will boost our economy is a win-win for our country. Allowing a family to make it in America and live the American Dream while also contributing positively to our economy is a great thing for our country. We must encourage this type of LEGAL immigration.

3. Put an end to birthright citizenship for illegal aliens.

  • We must put a stop to illegal aliens coming into our country, having kids who automatically become citizens, and are able to gain access to government programs. We must protect the rule of law, and end incentives for criminal behavior.
  • Our welfare system must put our veterans and low-income citizens ahead of illegal immigrants. We have to prioritize our own citizens.

 

 

Lee names EPB vice president as new Commerce and Insurance commissioner

Gov. Bill Lee has named Hodgen Mainda, a vice president of Chattanooga’s Electric Power Board, as commissioner of the Department of Commerce and Insurance. He succeeds Julie Mix McPeak, a holdover from Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration, who left for a job in the private sector.

Here’s the release announcing Mainda’s appointment from the governor’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced Hodgen Mainda will serve in his cabinet as commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance. 

“Hodgen joins my cabinet after an outstanding career as a community leader in Chattanooga,” said Lee. “He is respected for his ability to build partnerships across multiple sectors and we welcome his leadership to such a multifaceted department like Commerce & Insurance.”

Mainda currently serves as the vice president for community development at the Electric Power Board (EPB) in Chattanooga which is the first provider of Gigabit internet in the country. In his role with the EPB, Mainda built partnerships across the state and federal level and increased EPB’s role in regional economic development. 

In addition to his work with EPB, Mainda serves on several non-profit boards including the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Chattanooga Rotary Club, the United Way of Greater Chattanooga, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Chancellor’s Roundtable and the College of Business Advisory Board. Mainda is also a member of the Leadership Tennessee Class of 2019 and a 2018 graduate of the Harvard Business School Young American Leaders Program.

A native of Nairobi, Kenya, Mainda, moved to Tennessee in 1997 to study at Middle Tennessee State University. He is a graduate of the University of Eastern Africa and currently resides in Chattanooga with his wife and two children.

Mainda will begin at the Department of Commerce & Insurance on October 1, 2019.

Haslam to teach political science course at Vanderbilt

Gov. Billl Haslam speaks at an event at the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville on Aug. 28, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Former Gov. Bill Haslam is teaching a course at Vanderbilt University this fall. The Republican will join professor John Geer and author Jon Meacham in the course examining leadership strategies of U.S. presidents and of former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and civil rights leader Rosa Parks.

Here’s the full release from Vanderbilt:

Former Tennessee governor Bill Haslam has joined Vanderbilt’s faculty as a distinguished visiting professor of political science this fall.

Haslam, who served as mayor of Knoxville prior to his two terms as governor, will join John Geer, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science, and historian Jon Meacham, who holds the Carolyn T. and Robert M. Rogers Chair in the American Presidency, to teach a popular upper-level undergraduate course titled “Leadership.”

“I am excited about the opportunity to be in class with John Geer and Jon Meacham,” Haslam said. “This class will be a great forum for a lively discussion about leadership in today’s political environment, understood in a historical context. I look forward to sharing some observations and lessons learned from serving as a mayor and governor.”

‘Leadership’ examines the actions of political actors in the interest of better understanding how these individuals not only made important decisions but encouraged and inspired others to support their vision of the nation. In addition to the U.S. presidents, this year’s course will closely study the leadership strategies of former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor and civil rights leader Rosa Parks.

“Leadership is an intrinsic and yet mysterious force in human affairs, and the best way to prepare students for the responsibilities that await them, I think, is to consider how leaders of the past have struggled with the defining issues of the ages,” Meacham said.

“In this era of polarized political discourse, it is important to take a clear-headed look at leadership and its importance to the political system,” Geer added. “This course seeks to accomplish that important goal. Governor Haslam’s experience and insight offers important perspectives, because not only has he practiced leadership in his years of public service, he has given serious thought to the subject. With Jon Meacham’s historical insight, students will have multiple ways to engage with this critical topic.”

Gov. Haslam is a Knoxville native. Educated at the Webb School and Emory University, he was an executive at Pilot Corporation and Saks Fifth Avenue before pursuing public office. Haslam has also served as chair of the Republican Governors Association. He and his wife, Crissy, have three children and eight grandchildren, and split their time between Knoxville and Nashville.