Monthly Archives: November 2021

Hold the Parsley: Chattanooga lawyer drops state Supreme Court bid

Bob Parsley, a lawyer with the Miller & Martin law firm in Chattanooga, has withdrawn his application to fill a vacancy on the state Supreme Court caused by the death of Justice Connie Clark.

Parsley was one of 11 attorneys and judges who applied for spot on the bench of the state’s highest court by the Nov. 19 deadline. The Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments meets Dec. 8 and 9 to interview the remaining candidates before deciding a slate of three finalists for Gov. Bill Lee to choose from.

Parsley, who heads his firm’s appellate practice group, served as the last clerk hired by the late Justice Frank Drowota in 2004 and 2005.

Wiseman to leave Lee administration on Friday

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

Lang Wiseman, the deputy to Gov. Bill Lee and the administration’s chief legal counsel, is stepping down on Friday. Wiseman’s plans to leave had been announced earlier, but he had not given a firm date for his departure. Lee has yet to name a successor.

Wiseman is a former University of Tennessee basketball star who went on to earn a law degree from Harvard University. He is also a former Shelby County Republican Party chair who later served on the reconstituted UT board. Wiseman’s departure coincides with a changing of the guard in the chief of staff position. Blake Harris, who was a top Lee campaign adviser, is being succeeded by Joseph Williams, who previously handled outreach to conservative activists.

Here’s is an email sent by Wiseman on Monday:

After announcing a number of weeks ago that I would be transitioning back to the private sector, I wanted to confirm that my last day of service in the Governor’s Office is scheduled for this next Friday, December 3rd.  I wanted also to take moment to say what an honor and privilege it has been to serve alongside you these past few years.  I will certainly miss the meaningful work and opportunity to serve, but I will miss most the people with whom I’ve been so fortunate to walk this journey, and I hope and expect to continue our friendship.  Thank you so much for your many kindnesses, assistance, understanding, and patience shown to me along the way.

My plan is to stay here in Nashville and, after a few weeks off to recharge, to start my next professional endeavor in January (the specifics of which I am still mulling over).  […]  Please do not ever hesitate to reach out. 

Looking forward to keeping in touch.

New TNJ edition alert: Randy Boyd settles in UT role, Lee administration’s warnings about mask bill

Randy Boyd, right, and Bill Lee attend a gubernatorial forum at the Nashville library on Feb. 1, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

This week’s print edition of The Tennessee Journal is shipping early because of the holiday weekend. Here’s what’s in it:

— Randy Boyd hits his three-year anniversary as UT president on Friday. He sits down with The Tennessee Journal talk about his gubernatorial bid, “completing the mission” on advancing education opportunities, and shutting down his political action committee.

— The Lee administration warned lawmakers of legal problems with the omnibus COVID-19 bill, but the governor signed it anyway.

— Tennessee general fund revenues grew by 16% last year. The State Funding Board sees next year’s increase falling to a more modest 2.25%.

Also: Jeremy Durham’s latest legal setback, Todd Gardenhire takes aim at party fees to run in GOP primaries, Jimmy Haslam drops a half million to federal candidates (including two Dems), and the law banning satirical attacks in campaign literature is back on the books.

As always, access your copy of the TNJ here or subscribe here.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Lee declines to sign nullification resolution passed during special session

A statue of President Andrew Jackson is seen in front of the state Capitol in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee has declined to sign a resolution passed during a recent special session touting the state’s purported right to pass laws to nullify federal COVID-19 vaccination and mask requirements.

The Republican governor does not appear to have transmitted a statement to lawmakers about why he is allowing the resolution to go into effect without his signature.

The Senate version passed 24-6, while the House vote was 64-17.

Rep. John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge) carried the measure on behalf of House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville).

“The nullification theory was first broached in 1832 when Tennessee’s own Andrew Jackson was president,” Ragan said in floor comments. “The state of South Carolina began it, and President Jackson threatened to invade with federal troops to settle the issue. However, the federal government ultimately backed down.”

Ragan’s statement drew a retort from Rep. Michael Curcio (R-Dickson).

“I wanted to make sure the record was clear: the federal government didn’t back down, South Carolina quit,” said Curcio, who voted against the resolution. “But they continued in their behavior until eventually Fort Sumter was fired on, creating a tragedy for this country. I want to remind everybody that emulating such behavior is very, very serious.”

The full language of the resolution follows.

Continue reading

Report: Sewanee president to be nominated as ambassador to South Africa

Reuben Brigety II, the president of Sewanee in Monteagle, is being nominated to serve as U.S. ambassador to South Africa, according to SABC News.

Brigety is a former U.S. ambassador to the African Union and served as dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University before being named the first black president of Sewanee in 2020. The school is also known as the University of the South.

Brigety in February spoke out against repeated vandalism and threatening messages left at his home at the school. He had received pushback from students for imposing strict COVID-19 mitigation efforts and for clamping down on alcohol and drug use on campus.

The university’s board of regents last year issued a statement acknowledging the school “was long entangled with, and played a role in, slavery, racial segregation, and white supremacy—forces that found particular and painful expression in the Confederacy and, later, in the ‘Lost Cause’ mythology of the white South.”

Here’s who is in the mix for the Tenn. Supreme Court vacancy

The deadline to apply for the Tennessee Supreme Court vacancy was noon Friday. The Tennessee Journal has learned 11 people applied. They are:

  • William Blaylock, chief hearing officer on the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s unemployment appeals tribunal.
  • Sarah Campbell, associate solicitor general and special assistant to the state attorney general.
  • Kristi M. Davis, state Court of Appeals judge.
  • Timothy L. Easter, state Court of Criminal Appeals judge.
  • Kelvin Jones, Nashville circuit judge.
  • W. Neal McBrayer, state Court of Appeals judge.
  • Doug Overbey, former U.S. attorney and state senator.
  • Robert F. Parsley, Chattanooga attorney in private practice.
  • Jonathan T. Skrmetti, chief deputy state attorney general.
  • Gingeree Smith, Smyrna attorney in private practice.
  • Jeffrey Usman, Belmont University law professor.

New TNJ edition alert: Kelsey hires new legal team, Griffey confirms departure, Sethi a no-go for Congress

Former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry and state Sen. Brian Kelsey’s new lawyer.

In this week’s edition of the print edition of The Tennessee Journal:

— Kelsey’s new legal team previously represented a certain mayor and some high-profile murder defendants. Trial has been scheduled for January.

— The uncertainty principle: Rising inflation complicates revenue projections.

— From the campaign trail: Griffey confirms departure from state House, Sethi won’t run for new-look 5th Congressional District.

— Fallings out: New books detail ousters of NRA lobbyist, Trump’s defense secretary.

Also: Miss Tootie passes away, Biden names Memphis attorney to 6th Circuit and Sewanee president to ambassadorship, the megasite loses its Memphis designation, and Lee rolls out the red carpet for out-of-state law enforcement.

As always, access your copy of the TNJ here or subscribe here.

Lee to let state of emergency expire nearly 7 months after declaring end of public health crisis

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters outside the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville on Jan. 19, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee in April declared COVID-19 no longer presented a public health crisis in Tennessee. Now, 206 days later, Lee is announcing he won’t renew a state of emergency related to the pandemic when it expires Friday night.

Here’s the statement from the governor:

For almost 20 months, this tool has provided deregulation and operational flexibility for hospitals and industries most affected by COVID’s challenges. Should our state face any future surges, we will consider temporarily reinstating this tool, but in the meantime, we are evaluating opportunities for permanent deregulation.”

Since the governor’s springtime announcement, Tennessee experienced a sharp increase in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations due to the spread of the delta variant. But the state’s numbers have eased in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles, a potential Republican primary challenger to Lee’s re-election bid next year, issued his own state of emergency in an effort to “secure the liberties” of health care workers who don’t want to adhere to vaccination mandates, The Daily Herald of Columbia reported.

Ogles was joined in his Facebook announcement by state Reps. Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka), Brandon Ogles (R-Franklin), Clay Doggett (R-Pulaski), and Todd Warner (R-Chapel Hill).

(Image credit: Screengrab from Facebook Live)

Nashville-London flight is back. More Euro destinations to come?

A rendering of the planned international arrivals facility at Nashville International Airport. (Image credit: BNA)

The nonstop British Airways connection between Nashville and London is being reestablished after a 632-day absence. The flight resumes on Dec. 9, according to Nashville International Airport.

As The Tennessee Journal reported last month, state officials are considering using federal COVID-19 relief funds to help spur more nonstop connections between Tennessee and Europe. The Department of Tourist Development is specifically eyeing Nashville-Paris and Memphis-Amsterdam flights. The latter would restore service between Memphis and the Netherlands first established by Northwest Airlines and its Dutch partner KLM in 1995. The flight was canceled in 2012 after the carrier’s takeover by Delta, which decommissioned the former Northwest hub at the Memphis airport the following year.

American Airlines launched a nonstop flight between Nashville and London to great fanfare in 1993, but the service lasted only a year. The link was recreated by British Airways in 2017 with the help of $1.5 million in incentives from the state and a $500,000 “stop gap” guarantee from the city to cover any potential losses. Nashville International Airport kicked in another $2.6 million in marketing and two years’ worth of waived airport fees to seal the deal.

The London flight was billed as giving Tennessee a gateway to Europe, but Britain’s subsequent withdrawal from the European Union complicated onward travel to the continent. Flights to Amsterdam and Paris would place business and leisure travelers within the 26-country zone without border controls and sharing a common visa policy.

Here’s Thursday’s release from BNA about the restored Nashville-London flight:

NASHVILLE  – Fancy a hop across the pond? After a 632-day absence, the highly anticipated return of the British Airways transatlantic flight from Nashville International Airport® to London Heathrow will resume December 9, 2021. The service, which originally launched on May 18, 2018, ceased operations on March 17, 2020, due to restrictions related to the Covid-19 virus.

“This is a tremendous milestone on our road to recovering the air service we lost due to the pandemic,” said Doug Kreulen, president and CEO of BNA. “As passenger confidence continues to increase, it was important for us to reinvest in British Airways to regain the nonstop service we previously enjoyed to London, England, and the world. We anticipate that business and leisure travelers from Nashville and Middle Tennessee will once again embrace this opportunity to explore England and all of Europe.”

The flight will be available three times per week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. The aircraft is a Boeing 787-800 Dreamliner with 214 seats (35 business, 25 premium economy, 154 economy). It’s a 4,182-mile flight to London, which takes approximately eight hours from BNA.

Marie Hilditch, British Airways’ Head of North America sales, said: “We can’t wait to welcome our customers back on board our Nashville flights, and we are honored to be playing our part in reuniting families and friends with their loved ones after such a long time apart.

“The safety of our customers and colleagues has always been at the heart of everything we do. We know some customers won’t have flown for a long time. We can assure them we have a range of Covid-19 preventive measures in place to provide stress and hassle-free travel.”

For details about travel requirements for this flight, visit the Covid-19 Travel Hub section of the British Airways website at https://bit.ly/3ogU5aS.