boards and commissions

Former Democratic Rep. Shepard named UT trustee; one of 186 newly-listed Haslam appointees

Maybe the most notable name on Gov. Bill Haslam’s latest listing of new appointments to state boards and commissions – well, at least from a political junkie perspective – is former Democratic Rep. David Shepard of Dickson.

Shepard, who did not seek reelection to the House in 2016 after 16 years in office, was named by Haslam to a seat on the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees.

The listing also includes Haslam’s April appointment of Kenton pharmacist Richard Skiles to the Alcoholic Beverage Commission. A previous post on the Skiles appointment at the time (HERE) noted that a then-pending bill in the Legislature would let House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Randy McNally each make an appointment to the ABC board as well.

That bill passed the Senate unanimously earlier this year, but later died in the House State Government Committee with no member making the necessary seconding motion. The result was pretty much the same as occurred in the 2016 session, where a similar bill passed the Senate and was killed in the House State Government Subcommittee. (This time, it at least got out of the sub.) Thus, the ABC remains a three-member board with the governor making all appointments.

Here’s the governor’s news release and listing of all 186 appointment to 68 boards and commissions.

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Tennessee Human Rights Commission official charged with sexual exploitation

An official with the Tennessee Human Rights Commission was been arrested and charged with three counts of sexual exploitation of a child Tuesday, reports The Tennessean.

Christopher Matthew Stephenson is accused of possessing 226 items of material that includes minors engaging in sexual activity or simulated sexual activity.

One of the three felony charges has an aggravated enhancement related to the promotion, sale, distribution, transportation, purchase or exchange of such material. 

Stephenson serves as the Title VI Compliance Director on the Human Rights Commission and has worked for the organization for the last seven years. 

The commission exists to safeguard individuals from discrimination and to ensure the state’s compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Revised Haslam budget pays TVA $11.8M to keep Ocoee River rafting afloat

The state will provide $11.8 million to TVA to keep the Ocoee River rafting industry afloat for the next 20 years under the newly-revised version of Gov. Bill Haslam’s state budget for the coming fiscal year, reports the Times-Free Press.

The state money will reimburse TVA for the cost of power lost when the Polk County river flows freely during the spring, summer and early fall, allowing whitewater rafting operations. Otherwise, TVA diverts the river flow into a plume for electric power generation.

“It’s a huge win for Southeast Tennessee,” said Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, who along with Rep. Dan Howell, R-Georgetown, have been working with the whitewater industry and their representatives, Haslam, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, TVA, the U.S. Forest Service and others to come to an agreement.

Bell and Howell have legislation (HB74) moving in the General Assembly to create a new type of water authority, the Ocoee River Recreation and Economic Development Fund, to support recreational water releases on the Ocoee.

The new entity would be overseen by an 11-member board and all fees currently paid by whitewater rafting customers to TVA would go into the fund.

Note: TVA now receives funds to repay for loss of power generation through a fee tacked onto each ticket sold by rafting operations, but an agreement on the matter expires in 2018. Under the new deal, TVA gets its money up front, the new development fund gets the fees (expected to be about $4 per ticket) and repays the state over a period of years.

Old TRA/PSC/PUC building to be sold at auction by state

More than two acres of state-owned property in downtown Nashville, formerly used by the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (previously known as the Public Service Commission and soon to be known again by its ancient label of Public Utilities Commission), is being sold at auction on June 21, reports The Tennessean.

Chattanooga-based Compass Auctions & Real Estate LLC will oversee the auction… (of) two tracts on the north side of James Robertson Parkway and Gay Street … (including) a 45,294 square foot office building on the roughly 1.18 acres at 460 James Robertson Parkway (that) once housed the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (and)… the 0.87-acre parking lot site (nearby) will be offered in two separate, but adjoining, parcels and as a whole.

David Roberson, a spokesman for the state’s Department of General Services, said state law allows sale of properties by auction. “Because this is a high-profile property, we decided an auction would produce the highest and best price for Tennessee taxpayers,” he added.

Justin Ochs, vice president of national development for auction and real estate company Compass, said the property located near the NewsChannel 5 Network headquarters is already drawing interest from across the country.

“Downtown Nashville has become a place where families want to live and businesses want to operate,” he said.

Note: The TRA, once a major player on the Tennessee political scene under the name Public Service Commission, has become somewhat incidental in the overall lay of the state governmental landscape in the last couple of decades and is deemed no longer worthy of having a headquarters building (probably appropriately). The agency’s name is also being changed again in its days of dwindling significance to its original name — or, well, pretty close to it. See previous post HERE.

TRA to become TPUC (back to the future in names?)

The House has given final approval to a bill changing the name of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority to the Tennessee Public Utilities Commission. The measure (SB747) also declares that board member of the agency will be known as ‘commissioners’ rather than “directors.”

It was introduced at the request of officials of the agency, according to the sponsors, Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, and Rep. Pat Marsh, R-Shelbyville. On the House floor, Marsh told colleagues that Tennessee is “one of the few, if not the only” state in the nation where the agency vested with utility-regulating authority has board member known as directors.

As a matter of Tennessee history, the name change might be seen as a return to another era. The agency was initially established as the Tennessee Railroad Commission in 1897 with three elected “commissioners” to regulate fees charged by railroads. It’s duties were expanded to include broader oversight in 1919 and the name was changed to the “Railroad and Public Utilities Commission.”

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Lawsuit challenges requirement of license for horse massage

News release from Beacon Center of Tennessee

NASHVILLE – Today, the Beacon Center Legal Foundation announced that it has filed a lawsuit against the state Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. The Vet Board recently defined “animal massage” as a form of veterinary medicine, meaning that merely rubbing horses now requires a veterinarian license. The Beacon Center believes this law is unconstitutional and has filed suit on behalf of Martha Stowe and Laurie Wheeler of Franklin, as both of their careers and livelihoods depend on horse massage therapy. Continuing to practice horse massage therapy subjected them to fines and even potential jail time.

After giving the Vet Board warning that the horse massage rule is unconstitutional, the Board asked for an extra two weeks to reconsider the rule before the Beacon Center filed a lawsuit. Despite being given that time, the Board has decided to disregard the advice of the Beacon Center, leading to this lawsuit. 

Haslam offers thanks for legislature’s approval of new trustees

News release from the governor’s office

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today thanked the General Assembly for its swift confirmation of six local university governing boards, giving the higher education institutions increased autonomy to support student success as the state continues its Drive to 55 initiative.

The General Assembly approved all 48 of Haslam’s appointments to the governing boards of Austin Peay State University, East Tennessee State University, Middle Tennessee State University, Tennessee State University, Tennessee Technological University and the University of Memphis. The boards are the result of the governor’s FOCUS Act, enacted last year.

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Ann McGauran named TN state architect

The Tennessee State Building Commission has voted to appoint Ann McGauran, now with the Department of General Services, as Tennessee state architect. She succeeds Peter Heimbach in the position involving oversight of state building projects and real estate transactions.

McGauran is the first woman to hold the position, created in 1955.

The press release is HERE.

New executive director picked for TN State Museum

The Douglas Henry State Museum Commission has selected Ashley Brown Howell, the deputy director at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, to succeed Lois Riggins-Ezell as its executive director, reports Cari Wade Gervin for the Nashville Post.

It seemed like the first motion to hire Howell failed on a voice vote. But before the Commission could take a roll call vote to confirm the failure, chair Tom Smith called for a five-minute recess. When the body returned, Smith asked that the motion to hire Howell be withdrawn, even though one cannot withdraw a motion one has voted on. However, the members went along with the violation of parliamentary procedure, and then recessed for 40 minutes. Once the meeting resumed, the DHSMC voted unanimously (with two members abstaining) to hire Howell.

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Chattanooga State president picked as new Board of Regents chief

News release from Board of Regents

The Tennessee Board of Regents will meet in a special called session Tuesday, Dec. 27, to consider a recommendation for the appointment of Dr. Flora Tydings as the next chancellor of the Board of Regents system.

Tydings has been president of Chattanooga State Community College since July 2015, and was president of Athens Technical College in Athens, Ga., a campus of the public Technical College System of Georgia, from 2003 to 2015.

The Board of Regents will meet via a telephone conference call at 1 p.m. CST Tuesday to consider the recommendation by Gov. Bill Haslam for Tydings’ appointment. The governor is chairman of the Board of Regents and also chaired a 16-member chancellor search committee appointed by the Board in August, personally leading the search for the TBR system’s next chief executive officer.

“After a very deliberate search, careful thought and much input from the search committee and the TBR system and campus communities, I’m pleased to recommend Dr. Flora Tydings to lead the Board of Regents as it transitions under the FOCUS Act and continues its critical work ahead in the Drive to 55 effort to equip a majority of Tennesseans with post-secondary degrees, diplomas and certificates,” Gov. Haslam said today.

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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