COVID Vaccine Available for All Tennessee Adults on April 5

According to Gov. Bill Lee (R), all people over age 16 will be eligible to receive the coveted COVID-19 vaccine no later than April 5.

“The federal government has asked us to make sure every adult can receive access by May 1, and Tennessee will beat that deadline,” Lee said in a Monday press conference. 

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Poll: Gov. Lee Popular Among GOP Primary Voters, But Several Decisions Very Unpopular

According to a Tennessee Star poll of 1001 likely Republican primary voters in Tennessee conducted by Triton Research from March 5 to March 10, Gov. Bill Lee (R) is fairly popular, but many of his policies are not. 

Lee has a 69.9 percent favorability rate among those likely voters. That number is 20 points shy of former president Donald J. Trump’s 89.7 percent favorability – the highest ever for the forty fifth president in a Star poll – but still relatively high. 

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Trump Hits All Time High in GOP Favorability in Tennessee

According to a Tennessee Star poll of 1001 likely Tennessee Republican primary voters, former President Donald J. Trump has all-time high approval rating among the GOP in the state, more than two months after leaving office.

The poll found that 89.7 percent of those voters have a favorable impression of the 45th president, compared to 7.4 percent who view him unfavorably.

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Tennessee National Guard Troops Deployed to Middle East

After an airstrike in Syria at the end of February, the Biden administration is mobilizing the National Guard – including one unit from Tennessee – for deployment to the Middle East. 

“Soldiers from the Tennessee National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 181st Field Artillery Regiment, deployed on Sunday for a 10-month tour of the Middle East,” Associated Press reported. 

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Bill Lee Among the 17 Republican Governors Calling on President Biden to Rescind Executive Order Halting New Oil and Gas Leases on Federal Land

A group of Republican governors sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Monday asking him to rescind an executive order that halts new leases for oil and gas development on federal land, arguing that it will have a negative impact on their economies and will cost consumers. 

Biden signed the lease moratorium Jan. 27 as part of a broader series of executive actions seeking to curb climate change. The executive order, which applies to offshore leases, does not apply to existing leases for development on federal lands or leases on tribal land.

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Lee Denounces Biden Executive Order, Says Transgender Athletes ‘Will Destroy Women’s Sports’

Responding to a bill in the Tennessee Legislature that would ban transgender individuals from participating in girls’ middle school and high school athletics, Gov. Bill Lee said Wednesday that trans participation would “destroy women’s sports.”

Speaking to reporters at the state Capitol on Wednesday, Lee stopped short of voicing support for a Tennessee bill that would prohibit trans students from participating in middle and high school girls’ athletics, but he spoke to the issue.

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Tennessee Democrats Call for $1B Investment in a ‘Path to Recovery’

Tennessee Senate Democrats are calling for a $1 billion investment in public health clinics, school renovation, clean energy jobs and broadband internet expansion ahead of Gov. Bill Lee’s State of the State address Monday.

In a statewide address Friday aired virtually from her home in Memphis, Senate Democratic Caucus Chairwoman Raumesh Akbari proposed a plan dubbed the “Tennessee Path to Recovery” and called on Republican colleagues to work together to address issues facing Tennessee’s working-class families.

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Tennessee Ranks 33rd Among States in Percentage of COVID-19 Vaccine Doses Administered

Tennessee ranks 33rd of the 50 states for the percentage of COVID-19 vaccines it has distributed versus the number of doses it received, data show.

The ranking was revealed by Becker’s Hospital Review, and is available here. Becker’s updated the data on Tuesday.

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Gov. Lee ‘Very Disappointed’ over Treatment of Tennessee National Guard Troops in D.C.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) said he was “very disappointed” with the way the state’s National Guardsmen were treated when they were deployed to Washington, D.C. for President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

“It’s time to welcome our TN National Guard soldiers & airmen home today after their mission in DC. Very disappointed in the way this mission came to a close & the overall treatment of the National Guard in DC. Tennesseans are proud of our men and women in uniform,” he said Friday on Twitter.

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Gov Bill Lee Proposes Education Bill Package to Address Learning Loss, Literacy Proficiency

Gov. Bill Lee has unveiled legislation to address learning loss among Tennessee students caused by pandemic-related school closures and extended time away from the classroom.

A series of Lee-backed bills include proposals to provide summer school and after school tutoring, require school districts to use phonics-based literacy curriculum and suspend test-related accountability measures for teachers and schools this year. Lee said he’ll also propose pay raises for teachers, but those details have not been released.

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Tennessee Legislature Convenes Tuesday with Education Issues at Forefront

Tennessee lawmakers will return to Nashville to begin the 2021 legislative session this week and soon will take up legislation on key education issues.

House and Senate speakers will gavel in the new session of the Tennessee General Assembly at noon Tuesday. The first week of session largely will be organizational, with House and Senate speakers swearing in newly elected legislators and announcing committee chair and committee assignments.

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Tennessee Democratic House Caucus Chairman Questions Need for Legislature to Hold Special Session on Education Challenges

One Democratic leader in the Tennessee House is questioning the need for a special session to address education topics.

State Representative Vincent Dixie (D-Nashville), chairman of the Democratic House Caucus, is skeptical, Fox 17 News reported.

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Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles Forms ‘Andy’s Army TN’ Facebook Group to Promote Liberty

Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles formed a Facebook group called “Andy’s Army TN” for “patriots and Fans of Andy Ogles who believe in taking a stand for our Constitution and Liberties.”

The private group’s page is here. Since it is a private group, people have to request to join. Facebook showed the membership to be approximately 1,800 as of Monday.

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Commentary: The Political Ambush of State Rep. John DeBerry

The year 2020 will go down as being known for COVID-19, social-distancing and the political ambush of State Rep. John DeBerry by the Tennessee Democratic Party.  DeBerry, a Memphis Democrat and respected statesman in the House of Representatives, was ousted by his own party back in May by a 41-18 vote by members of the Tennessee Democrat Executive Committee.

Rather than letting voters take him off the ballot, a committee of Democrats who probably never visited his district cast him out for being conservative on social issues.

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Lawmakers to Discuss Tennessee $741 Million Welfare Windfall

When state lawmakers return to Nashville next January, one topic for consideration will be what to do with Tennessee’s $741 million surplus funds from a welfare program for the working poor – a larger surplus than any other state in the nation.

The surplus of funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) welfare program, also known as Families First, was first reported by the Beacon Center of Tennessee and the Tennessean last year. The program is administered by the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS).

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$20 Million Literacy Program Endorsed by Common Core Set to be Implemented in Tennessee before 2021 legislative session

Tennessee House Republicans have said childhood literacy is a top priority for 2021, but one literacy initiative endorsed by a drafter of Common Core standards and designed to encourage 40 school districts to comply with state standards is on track to be implemented before lawmakers return to Nashville.

The Tennessee Department of Education’s (TDOE) Comprehensive Literacy State Development program is designed to raise literacy achievement in 40 lower performing school districts.

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Sports Betting Projected to Net Millions in Tax Revenue for Tennessee

Sports fans in Tennessee placed the first legal sports bets in the state this week, as sports wagering became legal Sunday.

Sports wagering is estimated to generate up to $4.5 billion in revenue each year, according to a study by Oxford Economics. The state will collect about 20 percent of that revenue – the second-highest tax rate on sports betting in the country – to support scholarships in the state.

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Cumberland County Board of Education Chairman Shrugs off Question About Lifting Mask Mandates in Schools

Cumberland County students and teachers are stuck wearing facial coverings for the foreseeable future after the local school board chairman cited procedure as a reason not to reconsider their mask mandates.

During an October 22 Board of Education meeting, member Anita Hale asked if the body would ever reconsider its mask mandate. A recording of the board’s videoconference meeting is available on the Cumberland County Board of Education’s Facebook page here.

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Citizens Groups Hold Rallies in Franklin, Knoxville to Declare ‘We Will Not Comply’ With Mask Mandates

Grassroots movements combating Tennessee’s never-ending mask mandates are gaining steam.

Tennessee Stands held a “Mask Free Tennessee Rally” Saturday on the Public Square in Franklin. A similar rally was held Sunday in Knoxville by No Mandates Tennessee.

Tennessee Stands organizers on Saturday evening posted on their Facebook page, “So thankful to all of the patriots that showed up today for the Mask Free Tennessee Rally today in Franklin! Our voices are louder together. We will not give in to the mob. We will not relinquish our liberty. We. Will. Not. Comply.”

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Federal Prompts for Gov. Bill Lee to Issue Statewide Mask Mandate Begs Question of Who Is Behind the Idea

Tennessee is ranked fourth in the nation for COVID deaths per 100,000 people, WUOT reports, citing the White House Coronavirus Task Force’s red zone report, which calls for Gov. Bill Lee to implement a statewide mask mandate.

The controversial report is from earlier this month. The task force issues frequent red zone reports.

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Tennessee Republican Party Leaders Plan Road to Victory Bus Tour to Get Out the Vote

Tennessee legislative leaders, as well as Gov. Bill Lee, plan to stage a number of bus stops around the state for much of the rest of October to get out the vote.

The statewide Road to Victory bus tour is meant to encourage citizens to vote and to elect Republican candidates, according to a press release from the Tennessee Republican Party.

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UTK Law Professor Glenn Reynolds Talks to Legislative Ad Hoc Committee about Tennessee Governors’ Emergency Powers

University of Tennesse at Knoxville (UTK) Law Professor Glenn Reynolds on Thursday spoke to members of the Tennessee General Assembly about various topics, including a governor’s use of executive orders and the reasoning behind him having such power.

His appearance was before the Legislature’s Ad Hoc Committee to Study Emergency Powers.

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Tennessee Once Again Extends COVID-19 State of Emergency

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has once again extended the state of emergency until the end of September.

Lee, a Republican, initially imposed the state of emergency on March 12 in order to free up funding and relax rules regarding the treatment and containment of COVID-19. He extended the order on Friday, the day before it was set to expire.

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Gov. Lee Signs Bill Making Illegal Camping a Felony

Tennessee protesters will face harsher penalties, including losing the right to vote, for breaking certain laws during demonstrations under a law enacted by Gov. Bill Lee.

The Republican governor quietly signed off on the bill Thursday. Lee has previously conceded there were portions of the bill he “would have done differently” but ultimately agreed to make the proposal law effective immediately with his signature.

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People Speak Out Against Big Brother Style Child Wellbeing Check Run by Tennessee Department of Education

Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles says, “NO!!!” to Gov. Bill Lee’s Big Brother-style child wellbeing program that plans to send government officials to families’ homes to do welfare checks of children.

The Tennessee Department of Education says it released a toolkit on child wellbeing checks to ensure the needs of children are being met during and after extended periods away from school. It is promoted as protecting children.

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Governor Lee Signs Executive Order Allowing Contact Sports, Extending Local Authority to Mandate Masks

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has signed an executive order that permits contact and noncontact sports in the state, extends the authority of local governments to mandate face coverings, and extends liability protections for health care providers.

No sports are now prohibited in Tennessee, as long as participants follow safety guidelines from their governing bodies or Tennessee Pledge COVID-19 safety guidelines.

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Federal Court Immediately Blocks Tennessee’s Heartbeat Bill Hours After Governor Bill Lee Signed into Law

Hours after Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on Monday signed the Heartbeat Bill into law, a federal judge quickly blocked the measure.

U.S. District Judge William Campbell in Nashville opted to wait for the bill to become law to rule on whether to block it. In granting the temporary restraining order Monday, he wrote that he’s “bound by the Supreme Court holdings prohibiting undue burdens on the availability of pre-viability abortions.”

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COVID-19 Liability Reform Measure Flounders in Tennessee

Just a few weeks ago, Tennessee looked like a sure bet to become the latest state to protect businesses and other organizations from lawsuits by people impacted by the coronavirus in the push to reopen the economy. Republican Gov. Bill Lee had talked up the change and touted his advocacy on tort reform as a businessman, and he had GOP lawmakers in supermajorities lined up to seal the deal.

That was before negotiations among lawmakers broke down so badly in the hectic waning hours of legislative work that the generally mild-mannered Senate Speaker Randy McNally accused two House leaders of working with “a cabal of Democrats and attorneys to defeat the legislation and place our entire economy in danger.”

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Gov. Lee Will End Use of Electronic Governmental Meetings After June 30

One hallmark for the pandemic scare in Tennessee has been the heavy governmental use of electronic meetings, facilitated by Gov. Bill Lee signing executive orders allowing them.

The meetings often were on Zoom or a similar format, and as the state began reopening, sometimes meetings would have participants both in person and participating electronically.

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Gov. Lee Considers Calling Special Session of Legislature to Pass Bill Giving Businesses Protection From COVID-19 Lawsuits

Gov. Bill Lee is thinking about calling the Legislature in for a special session to pass a bill to provide retroactive COVID-19 legal protection for businesses, the Chattanooga Times Free Press said.

The General Assembly ended their session on Friday without the House passing the Tennessee Recovery and Safe Harbor Act. It received 46 of 50 votes needed. House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) questioned whether the measure was legal under Tennessee’s Constitution regarding the impairment of contracts. (The Senate had approved the bill.)

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Gov. Lee Announces ‘Strong Mask Movement’ to Make Wearing Face Masks ‘Fun’

Gov. Bill Lee announced a new “TN Strong Mask Movement” Thursday with the goal of making face masks more “fun.”

According to a press release from the governor’s office, the Economic Recovery Group developed the new program along with more than 30 “flagship brands” across the state, including Amazon, Bridgestone, Bristol Motor Speedway, Graceland, Jack Daniel’s, several professional sports teams and universities, and many others.

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Tennessee State Senate Hurriedly Approves Major Abortion Bill Just Before Legislature Adjourns, Gov. Lee Says He Will Sign into Law

Major pro-life legislation was approved by the Tennessee Legislature in Friday’s early morning hours just before legislators wrapped up their year.

Passage — and the end of the session — came as a surprise because Senate leaders had said they would not take the abortion measure up in this condensed year, according to a story by The Tennessee Journal: On the Hill. The publication also reported the Senate did this to persuade the House to back off of making changes to the budget proposal the Senate had approved.

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Gov. Lee Shares His ‘Child Wellbeing Plan’ With First Lady Melania Trump

Gov. Bill Lee spoke by phone Wednesday with First Lady Melania Trump on a new task force to address children’s mental and physical health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The White House said Penny Schwinn, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Education, also participated.

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Nashville Health Department to Continue Sharing COVID-19 Patient Data with Law Enforcement

The Metro Public Health Department in Nashville will still provide COVID-19 patient information to first responders and law enforcement.

Metro Public Health Director Michael Caldwell said the practice is “temporary,” but that it’s working, WPLN reported Thursday.

“This is an emergency,” he says. “This is critical, timely, life-saving information that has reduced and contained the spread of this disease within our medical institutions and within our jails. I’m puzzled by why the state reversed course.”

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Tennessee Businesses Need Legislators Back in Nashville to Assist Them with COVID-19 Aftermath, Local GOP Leaders Say

Nearly 30 GOP officials from throughout Tennessee this week urged Gov. Bill Lee to end all COVID-19-related restrictions, and they also urged that the state’s General Assembly members return from their current recess.

They submitted an open letter this week requesting just that.

In their letter, they told Lee that while he is Tennessee’s chief executive “he is not the representative of the people.”

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Commentary: Minority Communities Stand to Lose the Most Because of Judge’s ESA Decision

Next time you hear progressives talk about how they are the ones who are sticking up for minority communities, ask them to square their opposition to educational freedom – or the ability for families to customize their child’s education.

Progressives cheered this week as Nashville Chancellor Anne C. Martin ruled that the state’s education savings account program is “unconstitutional” because of an obscure section in our constitution where it talks about “home rule.”

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Gov. Lee’s Advisor Who Provided COVID-19 Patient Information to Police, Promoted to COO

The woman behind Tennessee providing COVID-19 patient data to first responders has been promoted.

Brandon O. Gibson, a senior advisor to Gov. Bill Lee, was promoted to the state’s chief operating officer (COO), the governor’s office announced Tuesday.

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Knoxville Opts Out of Controversial Practice of Sharing Personal Data of COVID-19 Patients with Police

The City of Knoxville said Tuesday it will opt-out of sharing the names and addresses of COVID-19 patients with law enforcement following a statewide controversy over the practice.

Mayor Indya Kincannon and Police Chief Eve Thomas said that the Knoxville Police Department will leave a state program that allows law-enforcement officers across Tennessee to access a database of persons who have tested positive for COVID-19.

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Black Lawmakers Want State to Stop Giving Names, Addresses of COVID-19 Patients to Police

The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators wants the state to quit giving names and addresses of COVID-19 patients to police.

The caucus made the request to Gov. Bill Lee and the Tennessee Department of Health, WATE reported, citing a press release from Democratic Caucus Chairman Ken Jobe. Lee sent letters to Tennessee police offering to provide personal information to their departments once they’ve entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the state.

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Judge Rules Tennessee Must Allow ‘Constitutional Right’ of Abortions

  A panel of federal judges ruled 2-1 that Tennessee must allow the “Constitutional right” to abortion during the Chinese Coronavirus pandemic. The decision came Friday from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati, available online here. Ruling in favor of abortion were Judges Karen Nelson…

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Tennessee Says Unemployment Filings Went Down in Second Week of March, But That Was Before the Lockdown

In a “what the heck” moment, the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development on Thursday said unemployment filings for two-thirds of counties went down for the second week of March.

The filings were for March 8-14, just before the Chinese coronavirus took a toll.

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