Governor Bill Lee was appointed the co-chair of the National Governors Association’s (NGA) Pandemic and Disaster Response Task Force on Wednesday. The other chair selected was Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont.
Lee and Lamont will oversee the Federal Emergency Management administration (FEMA), the National Guard, cybersecurity, healthcare, and all issues related to addressing and recovering from COVID-19, such as testing and personal protective equipment (PPE). Other members in the task force have yet to be announced; as of Wednesday, the two staffers on the task force were legislative directors Mary Catherine Ott and Maribel Ramos.
The Tennessee General Assembly convened for a special session to discuss learning loss and literacy reforms introduced by the governor’s office. State officials are proposing a series of reforms they dubbed “targeted intervention.” The first bill would establish a full-time tutoring core, after-school camps, learning loss bridge camps, and summer learning camps. Additionally, the second bill proposed a third grade “reading gate” to ensure students are prepared before entering fourth grade and that K-3 educators teach phonics as the primary form of reading, which would be complemented by a screening tool for parents’ use.
The impact of standardized testing also faces reforms. The third bill would keep the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) in place for the 2021 school year, but wouldn’t impose any negative consequences on student assessment. This would ensure that educators and families have a benchmark to assess student progress, but no teacher or district would face penalties based on those TCAP results. Under the fourth bill, the state would adjust the state budget to give pay raises to all teachers immediately.
Governor Bill Lee called out Tennessee for its recent Thanksgiving gatherings as selfish, indifferent, and foolish decisions. The governor issued these remarks during a press conference as some of the first COVID-19 vaccines were administered at Vanderbilt University.
“We do stand here and celebrate a tremendous breakthrough in this pandemic,” stated Lee. “But there is a darkness before the dawn that’s happening right here in Tennessee – we have to recognize that. Tennessee’s cases are surging. The holidays have caught up with us. Decisions that some made during Thanksgiving have a severe reality in this hospital and all across Tennessee today.”
Governor Bill Lee has officially extended the state of emergency for the remainder of 2020. The executive order followed Lee’s own quarantine due to exposure from the coronavirus. The extension of the order means that Tennessee will receive further federal funding, mayors can continue to implement their own guidelines, and government officials can continue to meet virtually.
Governor Bill Lee announced during the weekly Tuesday briefing that Tennessee will receive around 2 million rapid viral tests for COVID-19. The tests from BinaxNOW will come in staggered shipments throughout the end of the year. BinaxNOW tests are significantly more cost-effective and quicker at giving results. They are also more comfortable than the standard deep nasal swab. Instead of going up the nose and into the back of the throat, swabs will go just inside the nose.
The Davidson County Election Commission has recruited a legal team to sue the citizens’ group Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee (AFP-TN) for its December ballot tax cut petition. Former Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Bill Koch will serve as lead council, and Junaid Odubeko the co-council.
The Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled Governor Bill Lee’s educational savings account (ESA) program “unconstitutional” on Tuesday. The court’s decision upheld a lower court’s ruling on the school voucher program. The court of appeals ruled that the unconstitutionality of the ESA program is because “is local in effect, and applicable to Davidson and Shelby counties in their governmental capacity.” This decision references article XI, section 9, paragraph 2 of the Tennessee Constitution.
Nissan began efforts to move production to the United States on Tuesday by manufacturing the 2021 Rogue in Smyrna, Tennessee. Nissan predicts the Rogue’s longstanding popularity will lead to its “turnaround as the company’s top-selling U.S. model,” according to their press release.
Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – Leahy was joined in the studio by State Senator Kerry Roberts and on the newsmaker line by Tennessee State Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson.