tennessee

Get your 225th Tennessee birthday posters here

Gov. Bill Lee has unveiled new posters commemorating Tenenssee’s 225 years of statehood.

They are available by request from the state at https://www.tennessee225.com/posters

See details below.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee unveiled three limited-edition posters highlighting each Tennessee grand division to celebrate 225 years of statehood. Tennesseans are invited to share an untold story and request a poster at www.Tennessee225.com.

“From the Mississippi River to the Great Smoky Mountains, our grand divisions reflect their own unique character and represent the best of Tennessee,” said Gov. Lee. “I invite Tennesseans to submit untold stories that celebrate every corner of our state as we commemorate 225 years of statehood.”

The limited-edition posters, designed by famed artist Justin Helton of Knoxville, highlight the culture and beauty of each Tennessee grand division.

White House declares major disaster in TN counties affected by February storms

The White House has declared a major disaster in 13 Tennessee counties rocked by a winter storm in February.

Here’s the release:

Today, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. declared that a major disaster exists in the State of Tennessee and ordered Federal assistance to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by severe winter storms from February 11 to February 19, 2021.

Federal funding is available to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe winter storms in the counties of Bedford, Cannon, Coffee, DeKalb, Fentress, Jackson, Moore, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Scott, Shelby, and Smith.

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

Robert J. Fenton, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the 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.

Additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments. 

Tennessee sports betting jumps 17% in January

About $211 million in sports bets were placed in Tennessee in January, a 17% increase from the previous month. Payouts were $190 million.

The state’s tax haul was $4.3 million, bringing the total to $9.7 million through the first three months since gaming went live in November.

Preliminary figures show $15 million worth of bets were placed on the Super Bowl, though final numbers won’t be available until the February numbers are released late this month.

For the first three months of gaming, Tennessee sportsbooks have taken $524 million in bets and paid out $476 million. While the law requires payouts to be no more than 90 cents on every dollar wagered, sportsbooks have been averaging closer to a 9% hold.

Here are the monthly betting numbers to date:

NovemberDecemberJanuary
Wagers$131 million$181 million$211 million
Payouts$118 million$168 million$190 million
Privilege Tax$2.4 million$3.1 million$4.3 million

State BlueCross stops short of sweeping donation ban

The state Capitol on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The national BlueCross BlueShield Association made waves this week by announcing it would suspend political donations to lawmakers who objected to the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s election as president.

“In light of this week’s violent, shocking assault on the United States Capitol, and the votes of some members of Congress to subvert the results of November’s election by challenging Electoral College results, BCSBA will suspend contributions to those lawmakers who voted to undermine our democracy,” the federation of 36 independent BlueCross companies said in a statement.

Chattanooga-based BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee doesn’t appear to be taking the same blanket approach toward its PAC donations to state candidates.

“An internal committee routinely reviews any potential PAC contributions before they are made. As part of this process, the committee examines the actions and records of elected officials on a campaign-by-campaign and candidate-by-candidate basis to determine whether they’re consistent with our mission, beliefs and goals,” the company said.

“BlueCross, like many other companies, will continue closely scrutinizing PAC contributions. As we always have, we will continue to look particularly close at candidates who take positions that differ from their stated core values, and how their values align with our own,” according to the statement.

The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee PAC made $200,600 in state contributions during the last election cycle, of which $15,500 went to six Republicans who signed a Dec. 30 letter urging Congress to reject the presidential election results. A total of 18 representatives and five senators had signaled their support for the letter.

Tennessee top state in COVID cases per million

Source: Covidexitstrategy.org

A graphic making the rounds on social media paints Tennessee in an unflattering light when it comes to the spread of COVID-19. Eric Topol, the founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, tweeted two charts showing Tennessee and Ohio as the only places in the world where the infection rates have hit 1,000 per million.

The CovidExitStrategy.org map and a Financial Times chart come from data compiled by the Covid Tracking Project.

UPDATE: Arizona has since been added to the list of states with more than 1,000 infections per million.

The New York Times also has this chart of the cities where infections are rising the fastest, which includes eight in Tennessee:

Here is the schedule for your 2020 Tennessee state budget hearings

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference on Tennessee’s coronavirus response in Nashville on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee’s administration is holding annual budget hearings with the heads of Tennessee agencies next week. The hearings will be live-streamed at www.tn.gov.

Here’s the schedule of events.

Monday, November 9

9:30-10:00 a.m. – Opening presentation from Department of Revenue and Dr. Bill Fox regarding Tennessee’s financial outlook.

10:00-10:30 a.m. – Revenue

10:45-11:30 a.m. – Health

1:00-1:15 p.m. – Labor and Workforce Development

1:45-2:45 p.m. – Economic and Community Development

3:00-3:30 p.m. – Military / TEMA

3:45-4:15 p.m. – Tourist Development

Tuesday, November 10

9:30-10:30 a.m. – Education

10:45-11:45 a.m. – Higher Education

1:00-2:00 p.m. – TennCare

2:15-3:15 p.m. – Children’s Services

3:30-4:30 p.m. – Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

Thursday, November 12

9:30-10:30 a.m. – Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

1:00-2:00 p.m. – Human Services

2:15-3:15 p.m. – Correction

3:30-4:00 p.m. – Veterans Services

Friday, November 13

9:30-10:30 a.m. – Safety and Homeland Security

10:45-11:15 a.m. – TBI

11:30 a.m. -12:00 p.m. – Finance & Administration

1:00-1:45 p.m. – General Services

2:00-2:45 p.m. – Human Resources

Monday, November 16

9:30-10:00 a.m. – Financial Institutions

10:15-10:45 a.m. – Commerce and Insurance

11:00-11:30 a.m. – Agriculture

1:30-2:15 p.m. – Transportation

2:30-3:15 p.m. – Environment and Conservation

3:30-4:00 p.m. – Education Lottery Corp.4:00 – Governor Bill Lee Media Availability

Report: Tennessee ranks 45th in voter engagement

As early voters prepare to head to the polls this week, a new study by personal finance site WalletHub finds Tennessee ranks sixth from the bottom in terms of voter engagement.

The rankings place Tennessee above only West Virginia, Alabama, New Mexico, Mississippi, and Hawaii. The most engaged voters were found in Maine, Washington, Colorado, Maryland, and Wyoming.

Tennessee’s rating was determined by looking at six categories as the compare with the rest of the country:

  • Percentage of registered voters in 2016 presidential election: 37th.
  • Percentage of electorate who voted in 2018 midterm elections: 39th.
  • Percentage of electorate who voted in 2016 presidential election: 48th.
  • Change in percentage of electorate who voted in 2016 elections vs. 2012 elections: 33rd.
  • Total political contributions per adult population: 30th.
  • Voter accessibility policies: 35th.

Tennessee implements hiring freeze for state government

The state Capitol was closed to visitors on March 16, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

New Finance Commissioner Butch Eley has announced a state hiring freeze in a memo to department heads. Exceptions include “mission critical areas necessary for the public welfare.” Promotions, demotions, and transfers within agencies are not covered by the freeze unless they lead to an increase in the employee count. Departments are also instructed to put off equipment purchases not related to the COVID-19 response or work-from-home initiatives

Here’s the full memo sent out late last week:

To: All Agency Heads, Budget Officers, and Human Resources Officers
From: Butch Eley, Commissioner of Finance and Administration
Juan Williams, Commissioner of Human Resources
Date: April 23, 2020
Subject: Financial Management Policy

The economic effects of the worldwide public health crisis brought on by COVID-19 will ripple through the state’s economy and have a negative impact on the state budget. Prudent financial management therefore requires that each agency begin to restrain discretionary spending for the balance of fiscal year 2019-2020 and until further notice. Effective immediately, state agencies shall adhere to the following financial management policies.

  1. Hiring Freeze – A hiring freeze is imposed on vacant positions. Exceptions will be allowed in mission critical areas necessary for the public welfare and for the welfare of persons under care or custody of the state. Approval of a separate freeze exception justification letter by the Commissioner of Human Resources is required before filling any vacant position, unless blanket freeze approval is granted by the Commissioner of Human Resources for the two categories specified above. The hiring freeze does not apply to promotions, demotions, and transfers within an agency, provided that there is no increase in the employee count within the agency as a result of such transactions.
  2. Temporary Services Contractual Services – The hiring freeze also is imposed on hiring of temporary services workers through the statewide temporary services contract. The provisions of item 1 above shall apply as to exceptions and the process for approval.
  3. Equipment Purchases – A freeze is imposed on equipment purchases not necessary for the state’s COVID-19 response and working from home initiative. Agency heads should review equipment purchases in process and those planned for later in the current and next fiscal years to determine if they are required to address an emergency or otherwise essential circumstance. Justification of equipment purchase requests requiring approval of the Commissioner of Finance and Administration or the Budget Office should be limited to the circumstances stated in this paragraph and must be accompanied by a justification letter from the agency head. The justification letter should be addressed to the Commissioner of Finance and Administration and be submitted to the Budget Office at the time the requisition or purchase order is submitted.
  4. Other Program Requirements — Agencies must manage the expenditure of all other program funds as conservatively as possible. Agency heads should restrain any discretionary spending which will not disrupt mandatory program service delivery, and which will not circumvent the legislative intent in the appropriation of funds.

Thank you for your efforts during these difficult times.

Trump says he will visit Tennessee on Friday following deadly storm

President Donald Trump says he plans to visit Tennessee on Friday in the aftermath of a deadly storm that left at least 25 dead.

“I want to send my warm wishes to the great people of Tennessee in the wake of the horrible and very vicious tornado that killed at least 19 people and injured many more,” Trump said in remarks at the National Association of Counties meeting in Washington on Tuesday.

“It’s a vicious thing, those tornadoes, I’ve seen many of them over a three-year period and I’ve gotten to see the results and they are vicious,” Trump said. “If you’re in their path, bad things happen.”

 

 

So are Tennessee-Georgia state line protesters a thing now?

A man waves a sign outside a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg in Chattanooga on Feb. 12, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The larger-than-expected crowd that came to see Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg in Chattanooga last week included a handful of protesters unhappy with the former New York mayor’s past positions on stop-and-frisk policing and for not being sufficiently supportive of legalizing marijuana. But one man stood out by hoisting a sign reading: “Move the Tn./Ga. state line.”

It’s unclear why the man chose that venue to publicize his demands. As far as we know, Bloomberg has not taken a position on the issue stemming from a more than 200-year-old surveying error that denied Georgia access to the Tennessee River.

Congress in 1796 designated the 35th parallel as the southern border of Tennessee. But the surveying team sent by Georgia to chart the state line in 1818 missed the mark by 1.1 miles. Correcting that error today would slice off the southern portion of Chattanooga — and do the same to Memphis in the west.

Georgia lawmakers have nevertheless passed resolutions calling for the maps be corrected, demands that have largely been ridiculed in Tennessee.