joe biden

See you in August? Lee’s special session call faces delays

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters after a bill signing ceremony in Nashville on May 24, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee made a big splash by announcing the night the legislature adjourned for the year that he was going to call lawmakers back into a special session to take up his proposal to curb access to firearms by people with significant mental problems. Many expected the governor to issue the call by the middle of May.

But amid tepid support for the Lee’s proposed language, several Republicans tell The Tennessee Journal they now expect the special session won’t take place until August – or even September.

Even Lee’s backers are wary of having the measure labeled a “red flag” law, which gun rights supporters argue infringe on Second Amendment rights. Democratic President Joe Biden didn’t help matters for Tennessee Republicans when he commended Lee in the aftermath of the Covenant School shooting for expanding background checks and “calling on the Tennessee statehouse to pass a red flag law.”

GOP leaders in the House and Senate are understood to have warned Lee that calling them into session next month would result in either the bill failing outright – or enough absences to deny a quorum for proceedings to get underway.

It remains to be seen whether Lee takes heed of concerns raised by lawmakers or presses ahead with a bill even if it’s doomed to failure. Lee and his wife, Maria, were close friends of one of the teachers fatally shot at the Covenant School and may want to demonstrate they were willing to try to do something, even if lawmakers don’t go along. Some observers liken the situation to when Gov. Bill Haslam pressed ahead with his Medicaid expansion proposal in 2015 despite a widespread recognition that it was unlikely to pass.

See where in Tennessee student loan forgiveness has been most popular

Close to half a million Tennesseans applied for President Joe Biden’s student loan debt relief program, according to an analysis of data obtained by Politico under the Freedom of Information Act.

About 486,500 state residents submitted applications — about 2% of the nationwide total — during the four weeks the program was live last year before being halted by federal court orders. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide in the coming months over the fate of the initiative seeking to provide up to $20,000 in debt relief to borrowers earning less than $125,000 per year.

Here is a breakdown of how many applications were filed in each county and what percentage of the adult population submitted paperwork:

[UPDATE: Due to a spreadsheet sorting error in an earlier version of this story, Maury and Madison counties ended up with a much higher percentage than they actually had. The correct figures are 11.1% and 10%, or fifth and sixth in the state, respectively).

CountyApplicationsPercentage of Adults
Anderson4,3557.2%
Bedford1,9725.3%
Benton6124.8%
Bledsoe3162.5%
Blount7,0176.5%
Bradley6,7277.9%
Campbell1,5294.9%
Cannon4463.9%
Carroll1,3296%
Carter1,8274%
Cheatham2,5898.1%
Chester7305.4%
Claiborne1,7626.8%
Clay1101.8%
Cocke1,0303.6%
Coffee2,7896.4%
Crockett5815.5%
Cumberland1,8513.7%
Davidson68,77512.1%
Decatur3043.4%
DeKalb6504.1%
Dickson2,9447%
Dyer1,9557%
Fayette2,3606.9%
Fentress4403%
Franklin1,3173.8%
Gibson3,3058.7%
Giles1,3885.8%
Grainger7373.9%
Greene2,4784.4%
Grundy1281.2%
Hamblen2,9736%
Hamilton28,94010%
Hancock1392.6%
Hardeman1,3326.5%
Hardin7163.4%
Hawkins2,0794.6%
Haywood1,2739.2%
Henderson7793.6%
Henry1,5215.9%
Hickman8854.5%
Houston4156.4%
Humphreys9086.1%
Jackson2422.6%
Jefferson2,7356.2%
Johnson3942.6%
Knox34,3239.1%
Lake1202%
Lauderdale1,4777.6%
Lawrence1,9555.9%
Lewis3964%
Lincoln1,3024.8%
Loudon2,6145.9%
Macon7383.9%
Madison7,84210.2%
Marion1,3756.1%
Marshall1,7256.6%
Maury8,58411.1%
McMinn2,4385.8%
McNairy1,1685.8%
Meigs6796.7%
Monroe2,0185.5%
Montgomery21,60613.4%
Moore1112.1%
Morgan5993.5%
Obion1,2975.4%
Overton5543.1%
Perry2283.5%
Pickett1423.4%
Polk4723.3%
Putnam5,3328.5%
Rhea1,5486.1%
Roane1,9704.5%
Robertson5,2639.5%
Rutherford29,77011.6%
Scott8545.1%
Sequatchie5694.5%
Sevier4,3845.6%
Shelby95,22413.7%
Smith3922.5%
Stewart7376.9%
Sullivan8,4396.6%
Sumner12,9348.6%
Tipton4,3509.4%
Trousdale4114.3%
Unicoi6984.8%
Union5623.6%
Van Buren1593.2%
Warren1,6875.4%
Washington9,4508.8%
Wayne3102.3%
Weakley1,7176.5%
White1,1775.5%
Williamson12,4586.9%
Wilson10,0198.9%

Biden grants clemency to 78, including 5 with Tennessee ties

Democratic President Joe Biden has granted clemency to 78 people. Here are the details on five with ties to Tennessee:

Jose Luis Colunga – Juniata, Nebraska

Offense: Conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana (Eastern District of Tennessee).

Sentence: 240 months of imprisonment, 10-year term of supervised release (July 13, 2010).

Commutation Grant: Sentence commuted to expire on October 26, 2023, leaving intact and in effect the 10-year term of supervised release.

Virgil Goodman, Jr. – Lexington, Tennessee

Offense: Possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute (Western District of Tennessee).

Sentence: 262 months of imprisonment, six-year term of supervised release (June 30, 2005).

Commutation Grant: Sentence commuted to expire on August 24, 2022, leaving intact and in effect the six-year term of supervised release.

Brandon Jermaine Huguley – Chattanooga, Tennessee

Offense: Conspiracy to distribute 280 grams or more of cocaine base (Eastern District of Tennessee).

Sentence: 235 months of imprisonment, five-year term of supervised release (August 20, 2012); amended to 188 months of imprisonment, five-year term of supervised release (May 22, 2017).

Commutation Grant: Sentence commuted to expire on April 26, 2023, with the remainder to be served in home confinement, leaving intact and in effect the five-year term of supervised release.

Bethel Cheyenne Mooneyham – Spencer, Tennessee

Offense: Conspiracy to manufacture and distribute 50 grams or more of actual methamphetamine and 500 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing methamphetamine (Eastern District of Tennessee).

Sentence: 240 months of imprisonment, 10-year term of supervised release (June 13, 2011).

Commutation Grant: Sentence to expire on August 24, 2022, leaving intact and in effect the 10-year term of supervised release.

Jesse Alan Trimue – Burton, Michigan

Offense: Conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute 5 grams of actual methamphetamine and 50 grams or more of methamphetamine mixture, a schedule II-controlled substance (Eastern District of Tennessee).

Sentence: 120 months of imprisonment, eight-year term of supervised release (June 6, 2016).

Commutation Grant: Sentence commuted to expire on April 26, 2023, with the remainder to be served in home confinement, leaving intact and in effect the eight-year term of supervised release.

White House: Tenn. nets $130M in energy assistance funds from ARP

President Joe Biden’s administration says Tennessee has received more than $130 million in energy assistance for low income homes as part of the American Rescue Plan.

Here’s the release from the White House:

Today, the Biden-Harris Administration announced that due to passage of the American Rescue Plan, Tennessee has received a record $130.4 million for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) available this fiscal year (October 2021 to September 2022). As part of a state-by-state breakdown of funding, the Administration reported that in addition to an annual appropriation of $66.1 million for Tennessee, the state received an additional $64.3 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan – close to double the state’s typical annual funding.

The total of $130.4 million is the highest amount Tennessee has ever received in LIHEAP to help families struggling with the costs of home heating.

• The American Rescue Plan More Than Doubled LIHEAP Funding Nationally: In 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration and Congressional Democrats delivered $8 billion in LIHEAP funding nationally, more than doubling typical annual appropriations due to $4.5 billion provided by the American Rescue Plan. This is the largest appropriation in a single year since the program was established in 1981. These resources are already allowing states across the country to provide more home energy relief than ever before.

• The American Rescue Plan Provided Additional Historic Resources for Utility Relief Including the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) Program and State & Local Fiscal Recovery Fund: The American Rescue Plan provided other critical resources that states and localities can use to address home energy costs. ERA programs, which received an additional $21.5 billion in funding from the American Rescue Plan, can provide help with past-due utility bills or ongoing assistance with energy costs to help distressed renters avoid shut-offs and keep current on expenses. State & Local Fiscal Recovery Funds can also be deployed to help deliver energy relief to families.

To ensure that these historic resources are distributed swiftly and equitably this winter, the Administration has taken action, including:

• Called on States to Plan Early: In November, the White House called on states, localities, and tribes to plan early to distribute American Rescue Plan funds to address home energy costs this winter.

• Secured Commitments from Utilities to Avoid Shut-offs and Expedite Aid: The White House called on utility companies to prevent devastating utility shut-offs and help expedite the delivery of unprecedented federal aid. So far, 14 major utility companies and a delivered fuel trade association have responded.

• Called for Coordination of LIHEAP and Emergency Rental Assistance Relief to Families: To maximize the impact of home heating assistance, the White House called for states, localities, and tribes to coordinate across programs including LIHEAP and ERA. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Treasury Department have issued guidance and co-hosted webinars on LIHEAP and ERA best practices that have attracted over 500 administrators – collectively representing 47 states, the District of Columbia, and 72 tribal governments. More than 50 percent of these administrators now report they are coordinating across these programs.

White House declares disaster for 9 tornado-stricken Tennessee counties

President Joe Biden has declared a disaster in nine Tennessee counties hit by tornados and other strom damage over the weekend. The affected area includes Cheatham, Decatur, Dickson, Dyer, Gibson, Lake, Obion, Stewart, and Weakley counties.

Here is the release from the White House:

Today, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. declared that an emergency exists in the State of Tennessee and ordered Federal assistance to supplement State and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from severe storms, straight-line winds, and tornadoes during the period of December 10 to December 11, 2021.

The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the counties of Cheatham, Decatur, Dickson, Dyer, Gibson, Lake, Obion, Stewart, and Weakley.

Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency.  Emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent Federal funding. 

Deanne Criswell, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named Myra M. Shird as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected areas. 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION MEDIA SHOULD CONTACT THE FEMA NEWS DESK AT (202) 646-3272 OR FEMA-NEWS-DESK@FEMA.DHS.GOV.

White House details how Biden plan would affect Tenn.

The White House is outlining how President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better program would affect Tennessee.

Here’s the full release:

President Biden’s Build Back Better framework will bring down costs that have held back families in Tennessee for decades by cutting taxes and making child care, home care, education, health care, and housing more affordable. These investments will provide new learning opportunities for children, help parents and especially working parents make ends meet, and position the economy for stronger growth for years to come. The framework will create good- paying jobs for residents of Tennessee, combating climate change, giving our kids cleaner air and water, and making America the leader in global innovation and 21st century manufacturing.

The Build Back Better framework will:

Deliver the largest investment in child care and early education in history.

• Provide access to affordable child care. Child care is a major strain for families in Tennessee, where the average annual cost of a child care center for a toddler is $9,998, meaning that a Tennessee family with two young children would on average spend 24% of their income on child care for one year. The lack of affordable options also makes it difficult for parents, and especially mothers, to remain in their jobs, contributing to the 21% gender gap in workforce participation between mothers and fathers in Tennessee. The Build Back Better framework will enable Tennessee to provide access to child care for 421,870 young children (ages 0-5) per year from families earning under 2.5 times the Tennessee median income (about $191,121 for a family of 4), and ensure these families pay no more than 7% of their income on high- quality child care.

• Provide universal, high-quality, free preschool for every 3- and 4-year old in America. Today, only 11% of the 165,717 3- and 4-year-olds in Tennessee have access to publicly-funded preschool, and it costs about $8,600 per year for those who can’t access a publicly-funded program. The Build Back Better framework will enable Tennessee to expand access to free, high-quality preschool to more than 148,048 additional 3- and 4-year-olds per year and increase the quality of preschool for children who are already enrolled. Parents will be able to send their children to the preschool setting of their choice—from public schools to child care providers to Head Start—leading to lifelong educational benefits, allowing more parents to go back to work, and building a stronger foundation for Tennessee’s future economic competitiveness.

Address the existential threat of climate change.

• Make the largest effort to combat climate change in American history. From 2010 to 2020, Tennessee experienced 40 extreme weather events, costing up to $20 billion in damages. The Build Back Better framework will set the United States on course to meet its climate targets—a 50-52% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030—in a way that creates good-paying union jobs, grows domestic industries, and advances environmental justice. The framework represents the largest ever single investment in our clean energy economy—across buildings, transportation, industry, electricity, agriculture, and climate smart practices in our lands and waters. And the framework will create a new Civilian Climate Corps that will enlist a diverse generation of Tennesseans in conserving our public lands, bolstering community resilience, and addressing the changing climate, all while putting good-paying union jobs within reach. In clean energy and in other sectors, the Build Back Better framework will also strengthen domestic manufacturing and supply chains for critical goods, benefiting American businesses, workers, consumers, and communities.

Continue reading

McNally: Special session won’t make Biden order any more unconstitutional

Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) wields the gavel during a floor session to adjust the course of the legislative session in response to the coronavirus pandemic on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) appears unmoved by calls from fellow Republicans to hold a special session on COVID-19 mandates.

Here’s a statement from McNally spokesman Adam Kleinheider:

Lt. Governor McNally’s position has not changed. He does not see an urgent need for a special session. President Biden’s unconstitutional executive order does not change that. The General Assembly cannot pass any state law that would make what President Biden has done any more unconstitutional. It is already the height of federal overreach. As soon as Biden’s actual rules and regulations have been adopted, our attorney general, in conjunction with other states attorneys general, can challenge this order in the courts, the arena where this issue will ultimately be decided.”

Feds clamping down on COVID-19 antibody treatments in states like Tenn.

President Joe Biden’s administration is imposing new limits on COVID-19 antibody treatments in states like Tennessee where governors have relied on the drug instead of imposing stricter mitigation efforts, Politico reports.

Until now, the federal government has shipped the monoclonal antibody drugs on an as-needed basis, and seven Southern states — Texas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Louisiana and Alabama — have accounted for 70% of the orders this month.

Under the new approach, the drugs would be allocated to states on a proportional basis rather than where outbreaks happen to be the worst. Critics say the current demand in states with high per-capita infection rates reflects a political resistance to vaccines and masks.

Tennessee Health Department spokeswoman Sarah Tanksley tells Politico the new scrutiny of state orders has resulted in delays getting the drugs to providers.

Biden declares major disaster following Tennessee flooding

Damage from heavy flooding in seen in Waverly on Aug. 22, 2021. (Image credit: State of Tennessee)

President Joe Biden has declared a major disaster following the fatal flooding in Humphreys County over the weekend.

Here’s the release from the White House:

Yesterday, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. declared that a major disaster exists in the State of Tennessee and ordered Federal aid to supplement State and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by a severe storm and flooding on August 21, 2021.

The President’s action makes Federal funding available to affected individuals in Humphreys County.

Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Federal funding is also available to State and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures in Humphreys County.

Lastly, Federal funding is available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.

Deanne Criswell, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named Myra M. Shird as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected areas.

Damage assessments are continuing in other areas, and more counties and additional forms of assistance may be designated after the assessments are fully completed.

Residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties can begin applying for assistance tomorrow by registering online at http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION MEDIA SHOULD CONTACT THE FEMA NEWS DESK AT (202) 646-3272 OR FEMA-NEWS-DESK@FEMA.DHS.GOV.

White House details how much Tennessee would receive from infrastructure bill

President Joe Biden’s administration is detailing how Tennessee would stand to benefit from the $1 trillion infrastructure bill pending in the U.S. Senate.

Here’s the release from the White House:

— Repair and rebuild our roads and bridges with a focus on climate change mitigation, resilience, equity, and safety for all users, including cyclists and pedestrians. In Tennessee there are 881 bridges and over 270 miles of highway in poor condition. Since 2011, commute times have increased by 7.7% in Tennessee and on average, each driver pays $209 per year in costs due to driving on roads in need of repair. Based on formula funding alone, Tennessee would expect to receive $5.8 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs and $302 million for bridge replacement and repairs under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act over five years. Tennessee can also compete for the $12.5 billion Bridge Investment Program for economically significant bridges and nearly $16 billion of national funding in the bill dedicated for major projects that will deliver substantial economic benefits to communities.

— Improve healthy, sustainable transportation options for millions of Americans. Tennesseans who take public transportation spend an extra 67.9% of their time commuting and non-White households are 5.6 times more likely to commute via public transportation. 21% of transit vehicles are past useful life. Based on formula funding alone, Tennessee would expect to receive $633 million over five years under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to improve public transportation options across the state.

— Build a network of EV chargers to facilitate long-distance travel and provide convenient charging options. The U.S. market share of plug-in electric vehicle (EV) sales is only one-third the size of the Chinese EV market. The President believes that must change. The bill invests $7.5 billion to build out the first-ever national network of EV chargers in the United States and is a critical element in the Biden-Harris Administration’s plan to accelerate the adoption of EVs to address the climate crisis and

— Help connect every American to reliable high-speed internet. 5.9% of Tennesseans live in areas where, under the FCC’s benchmark, there is no broadband infrastructure. Even where infrastructure is available, broadband may be too expensive to be within reach. 17% of Tennessee households do not have an internet subscription. Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Tennessee will receive a minimum allocation of $100 million to help provide broadband coverage across the state, including providing access to the at least 402,000 Tennesseans who currently lack it. And, under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, 2,009,000 or 30% of people in Tennessee will be eligible for the Affordability Connectivity Benefit, which will help low-income families afford internet access.

Over the coming days and weeks, we will expect to receive additional data on the impact of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in Tennessee.

ABOUT THIS BLOG

Posts and Opinions about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.