Legislature

Black says she was sexually harassed as a state legislator

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, now a candidate for governor, says in a column written for Townhall that she suffered episodes of sexual harassment from “the good ol’ boy culture” while a state legislator years ago.

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Legislators hear criticism of CoreCivic, call for improvement within a year

A legislative committee has voted, in effect, to give the state Department of Correction another year to show improvement after a hearing Tuesday centered on an comptroller’s audit that found multiple problems prisons operated by CoreCivic under contract with the state.

A joint Government Operations Subcommittee had earlier balked at granting approval of continued operations by the Department of Corrections as required periodically under the state’s “sunset” law  – something that normally happens as a matter of routine. After Tuesday’s hearing, the panel voted to extend the department’s life for just one year.

From WPLN:

Inmates, family members and even former employees have publicly called out conditions inside prisons like Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Hartsville. The allegations came shortly after it opened last year.

Ashley Nixon was employed as a guard at Trousdale Turner for seven months before resigning. On top of 12 to 16 hour work shifts, she describes a continuous disregard for inmates’ health.

“I witnessed two deaths during my time there of prisoners due to medical neglect,” says Nixon. “Both experiences changed me and both deaths will haunt me for the rest of my life.”

One of those people was a diabetic who often didn’t receive his insulin shots. Nixon says he screamed in pain for days before he died. The second inmate attempted suicide by swallowing dozens of blood pressure pills. According to Nixon, the medical staff didn’t believe him. By the time they reacted, it was too late.

Speaking to lawmakers, Nixon said she heard similar complaints from guards borrowed from other CoreCivic facilities.

“I don’t believe these conditions are unique to Trousdale,” says Nixon. “I came here to beg you to bring an end to the violence and deliberate indifference of this company.”

… Though the head of the TDOC, Commissioner Tony Parker, insists that subsequent inspection of the facilities has shown marked improvement, some lawmakers berated him for failing to levy financial penalties against CoreCivic for the violations outlined in the audit.

Parker confirmed that CoreCivic was asked to pay a $43,000 fine this summer, for two separate violations regarding prison counts, and that there is no plan to seek monetary damages for the staffing violations.

See also the Tennessean’s report, including this quote from Parker:

“We may not have taken action when we should have in some cases,” Tennessee Department of Correction Commissioner Tony Parker said after the hearing.

“But, again, going forward, it’s clear that they have a contractual obligation to follow, and the department is committed to ensuring they meet those obligations. If they fail to meet those obligations, we’ll follow the rule in the contract to seek … damages.

Legislator proposes to stop $30M in fees paid by local governments to state Dept. of Revenue

State Rep. Jason Zachary, working with Knox County Commissioner  John Schoonmaker, is making plans to eliminate a fee charged local governments by the state Department of Revenue for collecting local sales taxes and distributing the money to counties and cities, reports the News Sentinel.

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Art Swann picked as interim successor to Sen. Doug Overbey

The Blount County Commission voted today to name state Rep. Art Swann of Maryville to temporarily fill the state Senate District 2 seat vacated by Doug Overbey, who resigned to become U.S. Attorney for East Tennessee.

Swann received 14 votes from commissioners to three for Scott Williams, who lost to Overbey in the 2016 Republican primary, according to County Clerk Gaye Hasty. Four commissioners were absent at the meeting.

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Overbey sworn in as U.S. attorney, resigns state Senate seat

Former state Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, resigned his Senate seat effective 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Tuesday, Nov. 21, and was sworn in as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee at 3:30 p.m., reports the Maryville-Alcoa Daily Times.

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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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Harwell: Serving as House speaker while running for governor ‘will work out well’

Citing a comment by Gov. Bill Haslam that he found serving as mayor of Knoxville a distraction when he ran for governor in 2010, the Kingsport Times News asked House Speaker Beth Harwell whether her legislative leadership role would be a distraction while she runs for governor.

“I don’t think so. We’re not in session right now. Actually this would be a good opportunity to talk about the state’s issues. I think the difference was the governor was a local official trying to get about the state. I’m a state official involved in state politics.”

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Haslam sticks to his guns in banning firearms at Capitol

Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday he has no intention of changing his administration’s stance on barring handgun-carry permit holders from bringing their weapons into Tennessee’s state Capitol even though they will be allowed in the Cordell Hull Building where state legislators have offices and hold hearings, reports the Times Free Press.

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Tracy resigns, triggering special election in Senate District 14

News release from Lt. Gov. Randy McNally’s office

NASHVILLE — Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) today announced he has resigned as Senator of the 14th District and Speaker Pro Tempore of the Senate effective immediately. President Donald Trump appointed Tracy to the position of Tennessee State Director for Rural Development late Friday. Tracy has accepted the appointment and under the Tennessee Constitution is required to relinquish his Senate seat.

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Speakers OK guns at the legislature — after move to Cordell Hull quarters

Handgun permit holders were prohibited from bringing their weapons into the Legislative Plaza, but when the General Assembly relocates to the remodeled Cordell Hull building, permit holders will be able to keep their guns when visiting lawmakers or attending committee meetings.

House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Randy McNally announced the new policy in a joint statement to media:

“Carry permit holders will be allowed to carry their firearms into the Cordell Hull Building, the new home of the Tennessee General Assembly. Tennessee carry permit holders are among the most law-abiding demographics in our state. To receive a permit, a citizen must be fingerprinted, submit to a background check and receive firearm training. Permit holders wishing to carry their firearms into Cordell Hull will be required to present their permit at security. A thorough screening process will determine the validity of the permit. Once that validity is established, a permit holder will be allowed exercise their Second Amendment while visiting their state government.”

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