Lee staffs up his legislative team

Gov.-elect Bill Lee speaks to a Chamber of Commerce event in Memphis on Dec. 6, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A release from Gov.-elect Bill Lee’s office:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Today, Tennessee Governor-elect Bill Lee announced four additions to his staff in the Office of the Governor, all of whom will have responsibilities connected to Legislative Affairs.

“Working with the legislature is one of the most important jobs a governor has,” said Lee. “These four talented and qualified individuals will do a tremendous job representing my administration and the State of Tennessee at the Tennessee General Assembly. I am grateful they are joining our team.” 

The Governor-elect named the following to his staff today:

  • Chris Devaney– Special Assistant to the Governor
  • Brent Easley– Legislative Director
  • Liz Alvey– Legislative Counsel
  • Brittany Collins – Senior Legislative Liaison

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Woodson stepping aside as head of education group founded by Frist

Former state Sen. Jamie Woodson (R-Knoxville), who Gov. Bill Haslam recently appointed to the board of the University of Tennessee, is stepping down as head of the head of SCORE, the education group founded former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Nashville). Woodson will remain with the group as a senior adviser, and David Mansouri will be promoted to president and CEO.

Here’s the full email from Bill Frist:

I am writing today to share exciting news about SCORE and steps our Board of Directors have taken to continue the momentum of our organization and the historic educational gains Tennessee students are making.

Without a doubt, the progress Tennessee has made in student achievement has been unprecedented. The state has become a national leader in education improvement. I am so proud that under the strong leadership of Jamie Woodson, SCORE has played such a major role as an advocate for student-focused, research-backed policies that have helped Tennessee educators produce these historic gains for our students.

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Haslam names advisory boards for UT campuses

Gov. Bill Haslam announces on Nov. 13, 2018, that Amazon will locate its East Coast logistics hub in Nashville. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal )

A release from Gov. Bill Haslam’s office:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed 20 members to the new advisory boards for each of the four campuses within the University of Tennessee system: The University of Tennessee, Knoxville; The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; The University of Tennessee at Martin; and The University of Tennessee Health Science Center. The advisory boards were created under the UT FOCUS Act passed by the General Assembly last session.

“These board members will positively impact the multiple and diverse campuses that comprise the UT system,” Haslam said. “We wanted members who could focus their attention on the individual campuses and respond nimbly to the specific needs of each institution.”

The UT advisory board members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the General Assembly. Each board is comprised of five public members, one faculty member and one student member.

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Yarbro, Akbari elected to lead Senate Democrats

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), right, and Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) attend a hearing on open records exemptions in Nashville on Jan. 30, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A release from the five-member Senate Democratic Caucus:

NASHVILLE – State Sens. Jeff Yarbro and Raumesh Akbari were elected to head the Senate Democratic Caucus in leadership elections Tuesday.

“This caucus will fight for every Tennessean to have a shot, a shot at a good education and a good job, not one where you just make a living, but can build a life,” Sen. Yarbro said.” Our caucus will bring new energy, new ideas, and be united to meet the challenges of the coming session.”

Sen. Yarbro of Nashville will serve as Senate Minority Leader, and Sen. Akbari of Memphis will serve as Democratic Chairman for the caucus.

“Democrats are picking up momentum around the state, and I am honored to serve in this role with such a phenomenal group of Senators,” Sen. Akbari said. “The energy is undeniable, and I know we can kick it up a notch for 2020.”

Both elections were unanimous. In addition, Sen. Brenda Gilmore was elected Democratic Floor Leader; Sen. Sara Kyle was elected Caucus Vice-Chair; and Sen. Katrina Robinson was elected Democratic Whip.

Lee chooses Charlie Hatcher as his agriculture commissioner

A release from Republican Gov.-elect Bill Lee’s transition office:

FRANKLIN, Tenn.At the Tennessee Farm Bureau Annual Convention, Tennessee Governor-elect Bill Lee announced that Dr. Charlie Hatcher will join his cabinet to serve as Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

“Charlie brings tremendous perspective about our state’s rural resources and agricultural way of life,” said Lee. “What happens in rural Tennessee matters to all Tennesseans and Charlie has the experience to carry out the administration’s key priorities in agriculture and rural economic development.”

Since 2009, Dr. Hatcher has served as the State Veterinarian for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture where he protects the health and welfare of animals within the state, as well as promoting the marketability of animals and animal products.

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Johnson elected Senate majority leader, Yager wins caucus chairmanship

Senate Republicans have elected Jack Johnson of Franklin as majority leader and Ken Yager of Kingston as Republican caucus chairman. Sen. Randy McNally was unopposed for another term as speaker.

Johnson defeated Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville, while Yager won on the first ballot against Sens. Becky Duncan Massey of Knoxville and Brian Kelsey of Germantown.

The majority leader position was vacated by former Sen. Mark Norris of Collierville, who has become a federal judge in Memphis. The caucus chairmanship was open because former Sen. Bill Ketron was elected Rutherford County mayor.

The next scramble will be over who replaces Johnson as chairman of the Commerce Committee and Yager as chairman of the State and Local Government Committee.

Here’s a statement from Speaker McNally:

Jack Johnson will be an outstanding Senate Majority Leader. He has the experience, temperament and policy expertise to lead our caucus and the Senate to new heights. Jack has been intimately involved in the progress we have made as a state. Beginning with his transformation of the Government Operations Committee to his strong leadership on the Commerce Committee, Jack has put conservative ideas into action on behalf of the people of Tennessee. As we embark on a new era in Tennessee state government, Jack’s leadership will be critical. Congratulations, Leader Johnson.

Ken Yager has the depth of skill and breadth of experience to excel as chairman of our Senate Republican Caucus. As a county executive and chairman of the Senate State and Local Committee, he has demonstrated an ability to lead under pressure. Our caucus has achieved much success both in policy and in politics. I expect that success to continue under Ken Yager’s leadership. Congratulations, Chairman Yager.

The Senate is fortunate to have a membership full of capable and talented leaders. I am confident the team we have elected today will work together with Governor Lee and the state House to keep Tennessee the best state in the nation in which to live, work and raise a family.

 

TennCare director Wendy Long leaving for Nashville post

TennCare Director Wendy Long is leaving her position with the state to become director of health for the Metropolitan Board of Health of Nashville and Davidson County.

Here’s the full release from Gov. Bill Haslam’s office:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced TennCare Director Dr. Wendy Long will leave state service in January. The Metropolitan Board of Health of Nashville and Davidson County has selected Dr. Long as the new director of health, pending contract approval by the Metropolitan Council.  

Haslam appointed Dr. Long in June 2016 as the director of TennCare after she previously served in other executive positions within the agency including deputy director and chief medical officer. Dr. Long has 14 years of service to TennCare and more than 30 years to Tennessee State Government. Dr. Long’s state service includes working as assistant commissioner at the Tennessee Department of Health where she oversaw a wide variety of programs and services including maternal and child health, communicable disease control, and the operation of local and regional health departments throughout the state. 

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Tennessee GOP wants to require party registration to vote in primaries

Republican members vote during a House GOP caucus meeting in Nashville on Nov. 20, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The Tennessee Republican Party’s state executive committee met over the weekend to re-elect Scott Golden as chairman and to make several policy recommendations to the GOP-controlled General Assembly. They include a call to require party registration in order to vote in primaries. The proposal comes on the heels of 792,888 people voting the Republican gubernatorial primary in August.

Democrats oppose the move.

“No Tennessean should be required to join a political party in order to exercise their constitutional right to vote, including independent voters,” Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini said in a statement. “And as the share of independent voters continues to increase in Tennessee, this move would suppress them from making their voices heard in the primary process.”

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Casada wants to restore 3 oversight committees

Rep. Glen Casada, the Republican nominee for House speaker, wants to restore oversight committees for prisons, children and families, and TennCare, The Tennessean’s Joel Ebert reports. Those oversight committees — and eight others — were eliminated through an initiative of former Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) and outgoing House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) in 2011.

Former anchor Demetria Kalodimos sues WSMV-TV

(Handout photo.)

Former news anchor Demetria Kalodimos is suing WSMV-TV for gender and age discrimination in federal court.

Here’s the full release from the Lieff Cabraser law firm:

Nashville, Tenn. — The national plaintiffs’ law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein announces the filing of a gender and age discrimination employment lawsuit in federal district court in Nashville on behalf of “Face of Channel 4” news anchor Demetria Kalodimos against Meredith Corporation d/b/a WSMV Channel 4 (NBC).

The action, filed under the Tennessee Human Rights Act and Disability Act, Tennessee common law, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 alleges a continuing policy, pattern, and practice of gender and age discrimination. After an extended campaign of biased treatment against her, Channel 4 terminated Ms. Kalodimos’s employment after nearly 34 years of award-winning journalism by leaving her a one-page letter at the Channel 4 reception desk.

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