Legislature

Needle exchange programs getting underway in TN after recent legislative authorization bills

Health officials say a new needle exchange program in Johnson City will be only the second of its kind in Tennessee and will help limit infections spread by the increasing rate of intravenous drug use in the area, according to the Johnson City Press.

The report comes after the legislature has, without much media attention, moved to authorize more needle exchange programs statewide. The 110th General Assembly approved two bills on the subject – one in 2017 that allows private and nonprofit organizations to run needle exchange programs subject to Department of Health approval, and another this year that lets all local governments do the same, again subject to DOH approval.

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State paying $17.5M to New York firm for moving to Nashville — along with targeted tax break

The state Department of Economic and Community Development has agreed to give $17.5 million to AllianceBernstein for moving its headquarters from Manhattan to Nashville, reports the Nashville Business Journal.   A bill approved by the legislature this year also gives the company a tax break that served to “sweeten” state support for the move, says the state’s ECD commissioner.

The Beacon Center of Tenessee, which has been crusading against “corporate welfare,” had urged that AllianceBernstein get nothing in the way of taxpayer-funded incentives. The global financal firm announced with Gov. Bill Haslam last month that it will bring 1,050 jobs to the state’s capitol city, investing about $70 million.

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Judge’s rejection of TN refugee resettlement lawsuit appealed

The Thomas More Law Center, which is representing the state legislature in a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s resettling of refugees in Tennessee, is appealing a judge’s dismissal of the case. The Tennessean reports a formal notice of appeal to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was filed Thursday with approval of lawmakers involved in the matter.

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Haslam declines to sign (or veto) legislation authorizing moving bodies of James K. Polk and wife from TN Capitol grounds

Gov. Bill Haslam has declined to sign a resolution giving the legislature’s approval to moving the bodies of former President James K. Polk and his wife, Sarah, from the state Capitol grounds to his parents’ home in Columbia, reports the Daily Herald.

Haslam’s press secretary, Jennifer Donnals, confirmed the governor’s decision to let the measure take effect without his signature in an email to The Daily Herald Tuesday. (The legislature’s website says SJR141 was “returned by governor without signature” on April 18. ) The governor had previously said he would prefer the bodies not be relocated.

Polk lived in Columbia after graduating college in 1818 until 1824. Polk owned the home after his father’s death in 1827. His mother stayed in the home till her death in 1852. Polk himself died in 1849.

“This is the only other home than the White House that James K. Polk ever lived in [that still stands],” (former Polk Home and Museum curator Tom) Price said. “James K. Polk was a president for all of us, and I think he’d appreciate the democratic process we’re going through, wanting to hear both sides of this argument.”

Now that Haslam has made his choice, the matter will go before the Tennessee Historical Commission and The Capitol Grounds Commission. After that, a Chancery court judge in Davidson County will hear the issue.

’11th hour’ TNReady legislation may have violated federal law

Legislation approved in the waning hours of the General Assembly’s 2018 session –”while the sky seemed to be falling down around Tennessee’s computerized test” – may have violated federal law, reports Chalkbeat Tennessee.

The 11th-hour bills were a response to public outcry over TNReady, the state’s problem-plagued standardized assessment, including concerns that daily interruptions to the online version had made the results unreliable. The intent of the legislation was clear: “No adverse action may be taken” against any student, teacher, school, or district based on this year’s results.

Now, staff members with the state Department of Education are in daily talks with federal education officials over whether the legislation has put Tennessee out of compliance with the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal law that is also tied to funding. They expect to have an answer by next week.

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Black urges Haslam to sign ‘anti-sanctuary cities bill;’ rally urges veto of ‘mass deportation bill’

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, who is running for governor, issued a press release Thursday calling on current Gov. Bill Haslam to sign an “anti-Sanctuary Cities” bill that requires state and local law enforcement officers to assist federal immigration officials in detaining undocumented immigrants.

The Tennessee Immigration and Refugee Rights Coalition, on the other hand, held a rally at the state Capitol Thursday evening to call for a veto of the group calls a “mass deportation bill.” TIRRC says “hundreds” attended, reports The Tennessean. And the Southern Poverty Law Center sent Haslam a letter saying the bill is unconstitutional.

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Haslam vetoes proton therapy bill (Updated)

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday vetoed a bill to require the state employee health insurance program to cover hypofractionated proton therapy, an alternative cancer treatment.

The measure sponsored by Sen. Mark Green (R-Ashland City) and Rep. Bob Ramsey (R-Maryville) cleared the Senate on a 29-1 vote and the House by 82-13. Haslam said in his veto message that the bill circumvented the state’s established process for deciding insurance coverage for state employees.

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Doctor who advised TN legislature decries ‘overzealous’ raid on home, offices

The Johnson City home of Dr. Tom Reach, an addiction treatment physician who has been involved in developing Tennessee legislation, and the eight recovery centers he operates in Virginia and Tennessee were raided Wednesday by federal agents, reports the Johnson City Press. Reach says the action was an “overzealous” move tied to the “current political environment” —  and noted several local politicians have visited his facilities.

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Davenport out as UT-Knoxville chancellor

Beverly Davenport, the first female chancellor of the University of Tennessee flagship campus in Knoxville, is being demoted. The UT system announced Wednesday that Davenport will become a faculty member in the College of Communication and Information on July 1.

Davenport had been criticized by some for her handling of UT’s botched football coaching search, her rejection of Gov. Bill Haslam’s outsourcing initiatives, and (especially among lawmakers) for the ongoing student-led Sex Week activities on campus.

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Shelby County Commission to Haslam: Veto anti-sanctuary cities bill

Shelby County commissioners approved a resolution Monday that urges Gov. Bill Haslam to veto a bill that would require local and state law enforcement agencies to work with federal immigration agents on immigration matters, reports the Memphis Daily News.

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