Bill Lee

Lee holds Cabinet meeting to launch distressed counties summit

Gov. Bill Lee welcomes delegates to a summit on economically distressed counties in Linden on Aug. 13, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee has convened his Cabinet in Perry County to kick off a summit on economically distressed counties

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

LINDEN, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee convened his cabinet for a meeting with local officials from Tennessee’s 15 distressed counties during the Governor’s Rural Opportunity Summit in Perry County.

The meeting caps a state government-wide audit mandated under Executive Order 1 which examines how departments are serving rural areas, specifically distressed counties. Executive Order 1 also required departments to provide suggestions for improvements moving forward.

“I’ve challenged my cabinet to think critically about how we are helping our rural areas,” said Lee. “With 15 distressed counties in the bottom 10 percent of the nation in terms of poverty, average income and unemployment, we have serious work to do and I believe we are up to the challenge.”

23 state government departments submitted significant analysis that showed rural areas will benefit from the improved coordination of services and overall alignment of departments in serving rural Tennessee. Additionally, departments provided innovation recommendations for potential programs and solutions to be considered by the Lee Administration.

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Cagle: Casada downfall a reminder that lawmakers don’t work for governor

House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin), right, meets with colleagues on the Senate floor on May 1, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Frank Cagle, the former Knoxville News Sentinel managing editor and spokesman for Republican Van Hilleary’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign, says there’s a clear lesson for lawmakers in the implosion of Rep. Glen Casada’s speakership:

Anybody who thinks about going all-in for the governor instead of listening to the folks back home needs to remember Casada. Perhaps it’s good for Casada to hang around in the House as a walking object lesson. If you sold your soul on the voucher vote because Casada offered you incentives, where are your incentives now?

Cagle had his own run-in with the forces of Casada this year. A day after he wrote a Knox TN Today column blasting the voucher bill, his nomination to the state Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission was killed in the House. Eight weeks later, the voucher bill had been signed into law, Casada was on his way out, and Cagle was back on the textbook panel as a recess appointment by Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-
Oak Ridge).

Read Cagle’s full column here:

The Casada Lesson: You don’t work for the governor

Lee profile delves into surprise GOP nomination, first months in office

Gov. Bill Lee and his wife, Maria, clap along to “Rocky Top” at his inauguration celebration in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest edition of the Almanac of American Politics includes a profile of first-year Gov. Bill Lee that chronicles his surprise win in the Republican primary and the accomplishments of his first legislative session The folks over at the Almanac have graciously given the TNJ: On the Hill blog permission to post this sneak peak at the profile: 

Businessman Bill Lee easily won the governorship of Tennessee in 2018, becoming the first Tennessee Republican to succeed a Republican governor since 1869. Lee’s victory shattered another longstanding pattern in Tennessee: Since the 1960s, partisan control of the governor’s office had changed with every new governor. This electoral habit finally came to an end as Tennessee became one of the most Republican states in the union.

Lee, a seventh-generation Tennessean from Williamson County south of Nashville, earned a mechanical engineering degree at Auburn University, then returned home to join the Lee Co., a business founded by his grandfather in 1944 that specializes in HVAC, electrical work, and plumbing. Starting in 1992, Lee served as president and CEO; by the time of his gubernatorial run, the company was employing 1,200 people and earning annual revenues of more than $220 million. The company collected $13.8 million from state contracts between 2012 and 2018, but it stopped signing new state contracts during his campaign, and Lee put his holdings into a blind trust. Separately, Lee helped operate the Triple L Ranch, a 1,000-acre farm founded by his grandparents with 300 head of Hereford cattle. Carol Ann, Lee’s wife and the mother of their four children, died in a horse-riding accident in 2000. Lee eventually became close to a third-grade teacher of one of his children, and in 2008, they married. Bill and Maria Lee attended a conservative, charismatic church, and Lee served as a board member of the Men of Valor prison ministry.

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Will Sexton tap the brakes on early roll-out of voucher program?

Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) speaks to colleagues before a House Republican Caucus meeting to nominate a new speaker on July 24, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Count Rep. Cameron Sexton, the Republican nominee for House speaker, among the skeptics of Gov. Bill Lee’s push to roll out the school voucher program a year early.

“I do not think it needs to be accelerated at this point,” Sexton told The Tennessean, adding that his colleagues feel the same way.

Read the full story here.

Haslam talks about Senate race, Gov. Lee, and UT in wide-ranging interview

Former Gov. Bill Haslam has tackled a wide variety of issues in one of his first extensive interviews since deciding against running for the U.S. Senate. In his sit-down with WBIR-TV in Knoxville, Haslam discusses how he came to that decision, as well as about his successor Bill Lee’s performance through the first six months of his time as governor, the ongoing saga surrounding the honoring of Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest, and Randy Boyd’s job as interim president of the University of Tennessee.

Take a look here:

10 most read TNJ posts of the year (so far)

A breakdown of the attendees at a closed-door meeting with U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos was the most read post on the TNJ: On the Hill blog in the first half of 2019.

Inspired — as always — by our friends at the Nashville Post, here are the 10 most read posts on the the TNJ: On the Hill blog through the first half of the year:

What’s happening with the Medicaid block grants? Lee still ‘exploring’

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters on March 19, 2019, about his proposal to introduce an education savings account program in Tennessee. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee is assembling a Health Care Modernization Task Force, but appears not to have decided whether to pursue a Medicaid block grant from the federal government, the Daily Memphian reports.

Lee told the publication that his office is putting together the task force made up of health care industry members, providers, and patients to come up with ways to cut costs and “increase access and affordability for everybody.”

The governor is still “exploring the idea” of block grants, he said at a recent event in Shelbyville.

“If we pursue [a block grant], we’ll be the first state in the country to do it,” Lee said. “And that is to take federal funding for our TennCare-Medicaid population and spend it in a way that allows us to do it more effectively in Tennessee than the way the federal government tells us we have to.”

 

House Minority Leader Karen Camper, who served on former Speaker Beth Harwell’s 3-Star Healthy Task Force, questioned the point of another group to study the issue.

“Now we are in a different General Assembly, with new leaders and a new governor. Not only have the players changed, but we are also working in the shadows of the Medicaid block grant waiver, which was passed by our General Assembly. We do not yet know the consequences of this legislation and how the federal government will respond to this waiver request,” she told the Daily Memphian.

 

Lee sets special session for Aug. 23

Gov. Bill Lee has scheduled the special session to replace House Speaker Glen Casada for Aug. 23.

The House Republican Caucus is scheduled to meet on July 24 to nominate the next speaker.

Carter Lawrence sworn in as interim Commerce & Insurance commissioner

Gov. Bill Lee has sworn in Carter Lawrence as the interim commissioner of Commerce & Insurance. He succeeds Julie Mix McPeak, who left to take take a job in the private sector.

Lawrence, of Williamson County, had served as deputy commissioner for the department’s administration and for regulatory boards. He has law and business degrees from the University of Tennessee.

McPeak was a holdover from Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration.  Greenberg Traurig announced last week that she is founding the law firm’s new Nashville office — the company’s 41st location worldwide and 31st in the U.S.

McPeak was president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners last year.

Editor’s note: The Tennessee Journal is on summer break next week. Blog posting will be lighter than usual until July 1. 

Gov. Lee to call special session on Casada replacement in mid-August

House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) presides over a floor session in Nashville on April 23, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee plans to call a special session for a House vote to replace Speaker Glen Casada in mid-August.

The governor announced his decision to call the special session in a press conference before the state Republican Party’s annual Statesmen’s Dinner on Saturday.

Casada (R-Franklin) has said he plans to plan resign on Aug. 2 after losing a vote of confidence among members of the House Republican Caucus last month.

House Republicans expect Casada to keep to his original resignation date, meaning Speaker Pro Tem Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) would preside until a permanent replacement is elected during the special session.

A House Republican Caucus meeting to nominate the next speaker could be held in the latter half of next month.