Monthly Archives: February 2021

Report ranks Tennessee 20th for transportation electrification (UPDATED)

Gov. Bill Lee attends a groundbreaking ceremony for an electric vehicle expansion of the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga on November 13, 2019. (Image credit: State of Tennessee)

While automakers with assembly plants in Tennessee are ramping up plans to churn out more electric vehicles, the state is receiving middling grades for policies promoting zero-emissions transportation.

According to the report released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, Tennessee ranks 20th in the country. Top-rated California received 91 out of 100 possible points, followed by New York (64.5 points), the District of Columbia (59 points), Maryland (56 points) and Massachusetts (54.5 points).

Tennessee received 30.5 points on the group’s scale, placing it behind Virginia (36 points) and North Carolina (31.5 points) in the Southeast.

Tennessee was awarded seven of 17 possible points for planning an goals, 9.5 of 30 for incentives for electric vehicle deployment, one of 12 for transportation system efficiency, 5.5 of 10 for electric grid organization, two of 10 for equity, and 5.5 of 21 for outcomes.

UPDATE: The state and the Tennessee Valley Authority on Wednesday announced a partnership to develop a statewide electric vehicle fast-charging network. Under the agreement, charging stations will be located every 50 miles along interstates and major highways.

The full release follows.

Continue reading

Paperwork for mystery vendor appears to have been improperly filed in registered agent’s name

Phoenix Solutions, the campaign vendor that has come under scrutiny following an FBI raid on Tennessee lawmakers last month, appears to have improperly filed its application to do business in the state.

A Spokane, Wash.-based company called Northwest Registered Agents LLC had been hired to originally register Phoenix Solutions in New Mexico in November 2019. When the company filed its papers with the Tennessee Secretary of State four days later, it submitted an electronic signature in the name of the same Northwest employee, Morgan Noble. The problem is that Noble did not submit the latter filing for Phoenix Solutions, according to her employer.

“We did not do that,” Jed Smith, a spokesman for Northwest Registered Agent LLC, told The Tennessee Journal. “It was unauthorized.”

The company remains a client of Northwest in both New Mexico and Tennessee, but Smith said “we weren’t hired” for registration purposes in the latter.

Phoenix Solutions did $231,144 worth of business with Tennessee Republicans — almost entirely from House members — in the year since emerging on the scene. Rep. Robin Smith of Hixson, a former state GOP chair and then a freshman lawmaker, was a chief proponent of directing caucus business toward Phoenix Solutions.

Smith, newly elected Rep. Todd Warner (R-Chapel Hill), and former House Speaker Glen Casada (R-Franklin) had their homes and offices searched by federal agents. Smith and Casada have declined to answer questions about whether they or former aide Cade Cothren (whose home was also searched) had any financial ties to Phoenix Solutions.

A phone number for Phoenix Solutions listed in invoices filed with the Tennessee General Assembly is disconnected.

Beginning of the end? Senate sets Feb. 11 bill-filing deadline

House members attend a floor session in Nashville on Jan. 12, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The deadline to file bills in the Senate will be on Feb. 11, three days after Gov. Bill Lee delivers his third State of the State address. The House cutoff follows at close of business on Feb. 17.

While the deadline should theoretically set the parameters for the proposals lawmakers will take up this session, the proliferation of “caption bills” — legislation that opens broad sections of the code while leaving specific policy proposals to be made at a later date — means it’s never quite certain what will be debated until lawmakers adjourn for the year.

The bill filing cutoff is nevertheless a major milestone for each session, as it signals that lawmakers (who officially gaveled into the 112th General Assembly on Jan. 12) are finally preparing to go about their business.