Monthly Archives: June 2022

New TNJ alert: Starbuck stymied, Curcio’s transformation, and Fox’s departure

The Tennessee Supreme Court building is seen in Nashville on Dec.8, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Tennessee Journal is out with a new print edition after taking a break from the inferno-like temperatures of Nashville last week. Here is what’s in the latest version:

— Starbuck stymied by supremes, 5th District’s GOP field finally set.

— McWhorter comes back to succeed Economic Development chief Rolfe.

— Curcio kick-starts transformation from House chairman to lobbyist.

— Ubiquitous no more? Bill Fox hangs ’em up after 27 years as revenue and economic impact estimator.

Also: An overhaul of the Tennessee Municipal League board, Gerald McCormick’s ALS diagnosis, Franklin Haney pivots to solar, and Cooper laments curbside intoxicants in downtown Nashville.

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

Or subscribe here.

As a final look back to our summer travels, here is photo of Buoy the news retriever lounging on the Atlantic coast.

Guess who’s back? Chancery court sides with Starbuck

It all fits together somehow.

A Nashville judge has ruled the Tennessee Republican Party violated the state open meetings act when it kicked Robby Starbuck off the primary ballot in the 5th Congressional District race. In declaring the removal void, Chancellor Russell Perkins ruled that Starbuck’s name should be restored.

An appeal appears all but certain. But the the clock is ticking. According to the Attorney General’s Office, the deadline to finalize ballots is June 10.

The ruling follows below:

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New TNJ edition alert: Mugwumps, vouchers, and the death a player in the Rocky Top bingo scandal

The Tennessee Supreme Court building is seen in Nashville on Dec. 8, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest print edition of The Tenenssee Journal is out. Here is what’s in it:

— Revenge of the mugwumps? Party purity tests dog Republicans.

— From the courts: Nashville asks Supreme Court for redo on school voucher decision, $1M price tag for robocalls in mayoral recall effort.

— Political roundup: Harwell endorsed by anti-abortion group as poll tests lines of attack.

— Obituary: Former state Sen. Jim Lewis, top bingo advocate before FBI’s Rocky Top crackdown.

Also: Tax conviction may cost Joe Armstrong his radio license, Jack Johnson is getting ready for BBQ & Beans fundraiser, the TBI is taking applications for director, and a deep dive into what languages Tennesseans command.

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

Or subscribe here.

Programming note: The Tennessee Journal is on summer break next week. We will be back with a new edition on June 17.

Lee names McDonald as interim health commissioner

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference on Tennessee’s coronavirus response in Nashville on March 16, 2020, as then-Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey looks on. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee has named Morgan McDonald as the interim commissioner of the state Health Department. McDonald was previously the agency’s deputy commissioner for population health. She takes over from Lisa Piercey, who announced in April she planned to return to private practice.

Here is the release from the governor’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced the appointment of Dr. Morgan McDonald, MD, FACP, FAAP, as interim commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH), effective Friday, June 3.

“Dr. McDonald is a committed public servant, and I appreciate her continued leadership during this time of transition,” said Lee. “I am confident she will serve Tennesseans with integrity.”

McDonald is the Deputy Commissioner for Population Health at the TDH and formerly served as an Assistant Commissioner and the Deputy Medical Director for Family, Health and Wellness. McDonald earned her undergraduate and medical degrees from Vanderbilt University and completed her residency in internal medicine and pediatrics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

McDonald will serve until a permanent commissioner is named.

Hemp industry backs study of plant’s applications in automotive industry

The Hemp Alliance of Tennessee and the state Department of Agriculture are partnering on a project to study using fibers derived from the plant in the automotive industry and other sectors of the economy. The research will be conducted by the University of Tennessee.

Here’s the release from the from Hemp Alliance:

NASHVILLE, TENN. – June 1, 2022 –The Hemp Alliance of Tennessee (HAT) is leading a study on the feasibility of the production of hemp fiber in the state. The organization, comprised of hemp-industry colleagues who support, educate, and collaborate for a successful industry, partnered with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) to fund the research that will be conducted by the University of Tennessee.

The study will include an assessment of the feasibility of hemp fiber production for the Tennessee automobile industry as well as an overall assessment of hemp fiber for the development of the Tennessee economy. The research will take place from now through year’s end.

“We are proud to work with the TDA and the research team at the University of Tennessee to explore the potential hemp has to benefit our state’s economy,” said Frederick Cawthon, President of HAT.

“Our organization and its members are invested in realizing the potential of this plant, and our hope is that this study will prompt significant industry investment in Tennessee hemp and its diverse applications.”

The feasibility analysis will include developing a hemp fiber crop production budget for Tennessee farmers and an analysis regarding the costs, revenue, and profits of processing hemp fiber in Tennessee including transportation and supply chain logistics. The broad outlook portion of the study will assess the likelihood for successful Tennessee-based production and processing for the various major uses of hemp fiber.

“We are an agricultural state, and we are proud to be a hemp-producing state,” Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M. said. “This plant has numerous applications, and we believe fiber has potential to grow Tennessee’s industrial economy. We support this work led by the Hemp Alliance of Tennessee and look forward to reviewing the research conducted by the University of Tennessee to assess the potential scale of that growth.”

Hemp has been recognized as a valuable crop to support Tennessee’s agricultural and industrial economy. Tennessee was among the first states to create a hemp program under the 2014 Farm Bill allowing pilot programs for industrial hemp cultivation.

In 2015, the state had 49 producers licensed to grow 660 acres. In 2019, after the 2018 Farm Bill lifted the controlled substance designation of industrial hemp, the number of producers peaked at 3,957 licensed to grow 51,000 acres. As of May 2022, there are now only 1,041 producers of industrial hemp licensed to grow 5,682 acres. The shift in recent years illustrated the potential for scale and interest from the state’s farmers and cultivation experts.

“After the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, there was a gold rush of growers wanting to enter the emerging market for consumable hemp products,” said Frederick Cawthon. “Tennessee is capable of becoming a leader in this industry if we engage our innovators and the industries that can benefit from the plant – and our legislature continues to help make the right investments in the plant’s myriad applications.”

According to the USDA, the value of hemp production in the United States totaled $824 million in 2021. Industry analysts estimated the global industrial hemp market size at USD 4.13 billion in 2021 and is expect it to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.8% from 2022 to 2030.
Industrial hemp is grown for its seeds, fiber, shivs, flower, and oil. The applications for industrial hemp are varied including textiles, personal care, food and beverages, animal care, paper, automotive, construction materials, furniture, and more.

Formed in 2020, HAT aims to fortify Tennessee’s network of hemp industry players. The trade association is led by a business-minded board of directors who represent a diverse cross-section of hemp interests that operate in Tennessee and serve states across the country. The group is dedicated to increasing industry momentum and aligning industry professionals around a common understanding and guidelines for growing, processing, selling and consuming quality hemp and hemp products.

The organization prioritizes sustainable, eco-friendly agriculture and seeks collaboration regionally with the United States and Tennessee Departments of Agriculture, farmers, industry partners, elected officials, and law enforcement to continue building a safe, ethical, and long-lasting hemp economy.