bill haslam

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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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.

Volkswagen chooses Chattanooga for electric vehicle production

Volkswagen has chosen its lone U.S. assembly plant in Chattanooga to build electric vehicles for the North American market. The German automaker said it will invest $800 million and create 1,000 jobs. The first electric vehicle is schedule to be produced in Chattanooga by 2022.

Here is a release from Gov. Bill Haslam’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe along with Volkswagen AG announced today that Chattanooga will be home to the company’s first electric vehicle manufacturing facility in North America.

The project represents an investment of $800 million by Volkswagen and the creation of 1,000 jobs in Hamilton County.

“The shift toward electric vehicles is a trend that can be seen worldwide, and Volkswagen’s decision to locate its first North American EV manufacturing facility in Chattanooga underscores Tennessee’s manufacturing strength and highly-skilled workforce,” Haslam said. “As one of Hamilton County’s top employers, these additional 1,000 jobs will have a lasting impact on the region. I thank Volkswagen for its partnership and also applaud the company for its ongoing commitment to education and workforce alignment, which helps Tennessee build a pipeline of talent for years to come.”

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Democrat Mackler to run for Senate in 2020

Democrat James Mackler, who was pushed out of the Senate race in December 2017 by former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s entry into the race, tells Jonathan Mattise of The Associated Press he plans to run the Senate again in 2020.

An announcement video suggests Mackler will run on an anti-Trump platform. “The 46-year-old says he’s not a politician and President Donald Trump is making life harder across Tennessee, citing health care, the tax law and the trade war,” according to the AP report.

Mackler is the first candidate to say he will run for the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville). Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has said he will decide about whether to mount a bid in the coming months, while newly-elected U.S. Rep. Mark Greene (R-Ashland City) has also been telling donors about potential plans to run.

 

TNJ interview: Haslam discusses Cyntoia Brown decision

Gov. Bill Haslam announces on Nov. 13, 2018, that Amazon will locate its East Coast logistics hub in Nashville. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam in an interview with The Tennessee Journal on Monday discussed how he came to the decision to grant clemency to Cyntoia Brown, who will be released from prison after serving 15 years in August. Brown was sentenced to life in prison for a murder committed as a 16-year-old in 2004, after she had run away from home. She has said she acted in self-defense in shooting the man after she was forced into prostitution. Haslam said celebrity attention to the case led to his office receiving 100,000 calls from Brown’s supporters.

TNJ: How did you arrive at this decision?

Haslam: We have a lot of pardon and clemency requests in front of us, that’s really what I’m spending the majority of my last two weeks doing. So we wanted to be thorough on it. And No. 2, I think the thing that was so unusual about this was that, because it got such an extraordinary amount of publicity, we wanted to make certain we didn’t treat it any better or worse than any other case. We ended up getting 100,000 phone calls, which I think is the most that we’ve gotten on any issue. But while obviously that’s how democracy works, you don’t want to make decisions based on how many phone calls you get. So we wanted to set all that aside and say, what’s the right thing to do in this case? And in this case, it meant talking to everybody from her lawyers, to people who had been involved with her while she was in prison, to counselors who knew her, to try to make certain we were making the best decision.

TNJ: You had various options, you could have said she could have served 15, 20, 25 years or whatever amount of time.

Haslam: We thought about it a lot, and the governor does have incredible powers. You could say, I want her to be out in 15 minutes, or anything. I think you start out with, what’s the right thing to do, and what’s the best thing in her situation. For us, it was 15 years. A lot of people said, if that had happened today, she would have gotten 2nd degree, which would have been 15 to 25 years. And so that was one of the motivations of saying 15 years with 10 years’ probation.

TNJ: With all the celebrity attention, did that make it uncomfortable?

Haslam: There was so many cases that need that kind of review. But so many people follow Kim Kardashian, that if she tweets out ‘call the governor,’ we’re going to get a lot of phone calls. Or if it’s Rihanna, or Snoop Dogg, or whoever. For us it meant an added level of, let’s make certain we’re doing the right thing. And not penalizing because we had all these people calling us — we literally had people who couldn’t call here to get their TennCare dealt with because our phone lines were so full. So you don’t want to penalize her for that, but nor do you want to treat her any more special because 100,000 people called.

TNJ: Do you think there will be a political price to pay if you decide to run for the U.S. Senate in 2020?

Haslam: I honestly don’t know. Obviously there’s a lot of people who think it’s the greatest thing ever and some people who will be upset. I think you’ve got to shove all that aside. It’s part of why, when Corker’s seat came up, I said it’s just not right. Because I didn’t want to spend my last year-and-a-half as governor running for the Senate, and you couldn’t help but let things affect you. And that’s really why I said on this one, I’m not going to spend a lot of time thinking about it until we get out of here.

Haslam grants clemency to Cyntoia Brown

Gov. Bill Haslam has granted executive clemency to Cyntoia Brown, who will be released from prison after serving 15 years in August.

“This decision comes after careful consideration of what is a tragic and complex case,” Haslam said.  “Cyntoia Brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16.  Yet, imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 years before even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps Ms. Brown has taken to rebuild her life.  Transformation should be accompanied by hope.  So, I am commuting Ms. Brown’s sentence, subject to certain conditions.”

Brown was sentenced to life in prison for a murder committed as a 16-year-old in 2004. She had run away from home and told the Board of Parole earlier this year that she acted in self-defense in shooting the man after she was forced into prostitution. Without modifications to her sentence, Brown wouldn’t have been eligible for parole until after 51 years in prison. Efforts to free her have drawn the support of celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, and LeBron James.

The Board of Parole had split three ways in making their recommendation to Haslam: Chairman Richard Montgomery, a former Republican state lawmaker from Sevierville, and former Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble, a finalist for TBI director, called for her to be granted clemency; Gay Gregson and Zane Duncan said her sentence should be reduced to 25 years, meaning she would serve 11 more years in prison; and Roberta Kustoff, wife of U.S. Rep. David Kustoff (R-Memphis), and former Rep. Barrett Rich (R-Somerville) said clemency should be denied.

“Thank you, Governor Haslam, for your act of mercy in giving me a second chance,” Brown said in a release. “I will do everything I can to justify your faith in me.”

See the full releases from Haslam and Brown after the jump.

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Haslam names state park after Lamar Alexander

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville), left, and Gov. Bill Haslam attend an event at the state Capitol in Nashville. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

 

Gov. Bill Haslam is renaming Rocky Fork State Park in Unicoi County after U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who has announced he won’t seek another term in Congress in 2020.

Rocky Fork became Tennessee’s 55th state park when it opened in 2015. Alexander had been influential in securing more than $30 million in federal funding to buy the 15-square-mile tract to add it to the Cherokee National Forrest.

Here’s a release from Haslam’s office:

FLAG POND – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam by executive order has renamed Rocky Fork State Park in Unicoi County as Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park, honoring Tennessee’s senior senator for his record of service and commitment to preservation.

“Senator Alexander has spent a lifetime serving Tennesseans and promoting Tennessee to the world,” Haslam said. “He loves the state from Memphis to Mountain City. His roots are in East Tennessee, and it is fitting that this special place in this special state bears his name. Tennessee’s state parks are indebted to him and his service both as governor and as senator, and visitors to this state park will be reminded of his work every time they visit.”

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Gov. Bill Haslam to give Senate bid ‘serious consideration’

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

Term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam tells Andy Sher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press that he was caught off guard by Sen. Lamar Alexander’s decision not to seek another term, and that he will give “serious consideration” about running for the seat.

“That’s obviously new news to me as well,” the Republican governor told the Times Free Press. “I will give it serious consideration and will have a better answer to your question in coming days. But for now this is a great time to honor Lamar.”

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke was coy when the paper asked the Democrat about whether he will run for the open Senate seat.

“There are many issues important to me that affect not just Chattanoogans, but Tennesseans as a whole. I am always looking for opportunities to focus on the issues that will help improve the quality of life in Tennessee,” he said.

Other potential candidates include U.S. Rep. Diane Black (R-Gallatin), who came in third in the Republican gubernatorial primary earlier this year; U.S. Rep. Mark Green (R-Ashland City); U.S. Rep. David Kustoff (R-Memphis); and Bill Hagerty, president Donald Trump’s ambassador to Japan and a former state economic development commissioner.

Ag tech company Indigo bringing 700 jobs to Memphis

A release from Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration:

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and Indigo Ag, Inc. President and CEO David Perry announced today that the agricultural technology company will establish the headquarters for its North American commercial operations in Memphis.

Indigo will invest nearly $6.6 million and create over 700 jobs in Memphis over the next three years.

“I’m extremely pleased to see Indigo create hundreds of corporate office jobs in Memphis with this expansion,” Haslam said. “Indigo is one of the fastest growing startups in the country, and the decision to make Memphis such a vital part of its future growth is a testament to Tennessee’s vibrant economy and skilled workforce.”

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Haslam names advisory boards for UT campuses

Gov. Bill Haslam announces on Nov. 13, 2018, that Amazon will locate its East Coast logistics hub in Nashville. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal )

A release from Gov. Bill Haslam’s office:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed 20 members to the new advisory boards for each of the four campuses within the University of Tennessee system: The University of Tennessee, Knoxville; The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; The University of Tennessee at Martin; and The University of Tennessee Health Science Center. The advisory boards were created under the UT FOCUS Act passed by the General Assembly last session.

“These board members will positively impact the multiple and diverse campuses that comprise the UT system,” Haslam said. “We wanted members who could focus their attention on the individual campuses and respond nimbly to the specific needs of each institution.”

The UT advisory board members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the General Assembly. Each board is comprised of five public members, one faculty member and one student member.

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