Blog Entries

Harwell orders ‘active shooter’ training for House staff

House Speaker Beth Harwell has directed House staffers to attend mandatory classes on how to survive an “active shooter” incident and how not to commit sexual harassment, reports the Times Free Press.

The active-shooter training comes as legislative workers prepare to settle into their new Cordell Hull Building home, where handgun-carry permit holders will be allowed to go armed.

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Judge gets reprimand for granting jail sentence reductions for vasectomies

White County General Sessions Jud Sam Benningfied has been reprimanded by the state Board of Judicial Conduct for offering jail inmates 30 days off their time behind bars for getting vasectomies or birth control implants, reports The Tennessean.

Bennifield’s order authorizing sentence reductions for long-term birth control measures was issued in May and rescinded in July after protests. It has led to at least two lawsuits against the judge and the White County sheriff, who oversees the jail in Sparta.

A letter posted on the Board’s public website (HERE) says the judge’s actions threatened confidence in the judicial system.

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Eight TN properties added to National Register of Historic Places

Press release from Tennessee Historical Commission

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Historical Commission today announced the addition of eight properties to the National Register of Historic Places.

“The latest National Register of Historic Places listing reflect Tennessee’s unique heritage and honor a diverse group of places worthy of being recognized and appreciated,” said Executive Director and State Historic Preservation Officer Patrick McIntyre.

The sites recently added to the National Register of Historic Places are:

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Haslam appoints new Davidson County Criminal Court judge

Press release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed Angelita Blackshear Dalton of Nashville as Criminal Court Judge for the 20th Judicial District, replacing retiring Judge J. Randall Wyatt.

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TN Supreme Court affirms death sentence in Memphis triple murder

Press release from Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Supreme Court has affirmed the convictions and sentences of death for Sedrick Clayton for the murders of Arithio, Patricia, and Pashea Fisher and the conviction for attempted murder of A’Reco Fisher in Memphis.

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Burchett offered check (declined) and apology (accepted) after Saudi teen’s attack

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, a candidate for the 2nd Congressional seat being vacated by Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan, was one of several motorists who came under attack from a Saudi Arabian citizen who recently enrolled at the University of Tennessee to study nursing, reports the News Sentinel. The youth’s lawyer says he suffered “an unexpected mental breakdown” in the episode, which warrants say involved pounding on cars and grabbing at the drivers as they passed him on a street near the UT Knoxville campus.

“Did they screen this guy at all for mental health issues?” Burchett said Friday of 19-year-old Nofl Hassan Alatyah. “I’m not getting any answers, and I’m very frustrated.”

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Haslam: Virginia election is ‘a wake up call’ for GOP governors

Excerpt from a New York Times report datelined Austin, Texas:

For nearly a decade, meetings of the Republican Governors Association were buoyant, even giddy, affairs, as the party — lifted by enormous political donations and a backlash against the Obama administration — achieved overwhelming control of state governments.

But a sense of foreboding hung over the group’s gathering in Austin this past week, as President Trump’s unpopularity and Republicans’ unexpectedly drastic losses in elections earlier this month in Virginia, New Jersey, and suburbs from Philadelphia to Seattle raised the specter of a political reckoning in 2018.

“I do think Virginia was a wake-up call,” said Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee, who took over here as chairman of the governors association. “There’s a pretty strong message there. When Republicans lose white married women, that’s a strong message.”

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Former ETSU tennis coach indicted on fraud and theft charges

Press release from state comptroller’s office

The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has released an investigation that has resulted in the indictment of Yaser Zaatini, the former Director of Tennis and coach at East Tennessee State University (ETSU). The investigation was initiated after the ETSU Department of Internal Audit reported financial discrepancies in the tennis program.

Investigators determined that from September 2011 through February 2017, Zaatini misappropriated at least $45,540 from ETSU and often provided fabricated or altered documents to the ETSU Athletics Department. Zaatini used a variety of methods to misappropriate the money. Zaatini fabricated and submitted at least 65 fraudulent student athlete per diem documents, which often appeared to contain copies of student athletes’ signatures. The student athletes told investigators that they had neither signed the documents nor received the per diem payments. Zaatini received money to which he was not entitled.

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State’s October tax revenue $1.3M under budget estimate

Press release from Department of Finance and Administration

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee revenues for October exceeded revenues from the same month a year ago, but were marginally less than the budgeted estimate. Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin reported today that October revenues were $1.0 billion, which is $31.1 million more than October of last year and $1.3 million less than the budgeted estimate. The growth rate for October was 3.16%.

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Corker reported critical of Secretary of State Tillerson

From a Politico article:

Sen. Bob Corker, having already turned on the president, has a new target for his frustration: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The Tennessee Republican and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman has voiced concerns about Tillerson’s management of the State Department and his still-fuzzy plans to restructure it. At a Senate hearing earlier this week, Corker agreed with several criticisms of Tillerson and his team expressed by Democrats, adding that lawmakers need to be “much more focused on holding them accountable.”

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