Press Release from the State of Tennessee, June 13, 2019:

  • Five-day economic development trip will include stops in Japan and South Korea
  • Trip will focus on recruiting additional foreign direct investment to Tennessee
  • First international trip for Gov. Lee since taking office in Jan. 2019

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe will travel to Asia June 17 through June 21 for an economic development trip designed to strengthen ties with Asian businesses and increase foreign direct investment (FDI) in Tennessee. This will be Gov. Lee’s first international economic development trip.

During the five-day trip, Lee and Rolfe will discuss Tennessee’s business advantages with a number of Asian businesses interested in establishing operations in the Southeast U.S. The trip will include stops in South Korea and Japan.

“I look forward to traveling to Asia next week on my first international recruitment trip and having the opportunity to meet with business leaders as we showcase the many advantages of doing business in Tennessee,” Lee said. “We are proud to be home to more than 1,000 foreign-owned companies and will continue to demonstrate our commitment to fostering a business-friendly environment that will help companies from around the globe grow and succeed in the Volunteer State.”

“More than 153,000 Tennesseans are employed by foreign-owned companies. By investing in a broader international footprint, we are ensuring that Tennessee is deeply rooted in the new global economy,” Rolfe said. “I am hopeful that this trip will further strengthen our partnerships with Korean and Japanese companies as we continue to promote international recruitment and expansions in Tennessee.”

Japan is Tennessee’s top country for foreign direct investment. There are nearly 200 Japanese companies that have invested $19.5 billion in the state. These companies employ over 53,300 people in 51 of Tennessee’s 95 counties.

Top Japanese companies located in Tennessee include Bridgestone, CalsonicKansei, DENSO, JTEKT and Nissan.

There are 15 Korean companies in Tennessee that employ a workforce of more than 3,100 and have invested over $1 billion in nine counties across the state.

Top Korean companies doing business in Tennessee include ATLASBX, Hankook Tire, LG Electronics, Sam Dong and SL Tennessee.

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, June 14, 2019:

Link: https://www.tn.gov/humanservices/news/2019/6/14/tennessee-offers-new-incentives-to-provide-equal-access-to-child-care.html

Tennessee Offers New Incentives to Provide Equal Access to Child Care

Extra money will help parents who live in child care deserts or work non-traditional hours

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) announced its second major change this year to help families participating in the Child Care Certificate Program access quality care.

Beginning in July, TDHS is adding a 15% bonus to child care payment subsidy rates in the below counties identified as either distressed or child care deserts. Availability of quality child care is vital to the economic prosperity of every community. TDHS is making a deliberate investment in these counties to incentivize child care providers in strengthening the quality of their programs, increasing access, and helping children get off to a strong start in life.

• Child Care Desert Counties: Shelby, Montgomery, Sumner, Robertson, Davidson, Warren, Sevier, Greene, Hawkins, Jefferson, Cumberland, Bradley, Rhea, White, Macon, Madison, Hardin, Chester, Lawrence, Marshall, and Rutherford.

• Distressed Counties: Lake, Lauderdale, Hardeman, McNairy, Perry, Jackson, Clay, Grundy, Van Buren, Bledsoe, Fentress, Morgan, Scott, Hancock, and Cocke.

Beginning in July, TDHS will also provide a 15% bonus above the current subsidy rate to providers who offer care during non-traditional hours. This means the child is receiving a majority of care between the hours of 6:00 P.M. and 6:00 A.M.

The Child Care Certificate Program provides assistance to parents with a variety of economic needs. The Smart Steps Program provides child care payment assistance to families who are working or pursuing post-secondary education and who meet certain income eligibility requirements. The Child Care Certificate Program also serves teen parents enrolled in high school through the Teen Parent Assistance for Child Care Program and families taking part in the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program known as Families First, parents transitioning off Families First, and children in foster care.

Under these changes, a child care provider in Davidson County that’s currently receiving $155 dollars a week for a toddler on subsidized care would receive an extra $23 dollars for operating in a child care desert and an extra $23 dollars if the child is receiving care during non-traditional hours.

“These changes recognize that access to quality affordable child care is an essential part of the thriving Tennessee we are building.” said TDHS Commissioner Danielle W. Barnes. “We know there is a need for child care during non-traditional hours to support parents who work in all industries in the state, especially manufacturing. Our research has also discovered that we can provide further support to providers who offer these essential child care services in counties considered to be deserts.”

The new bonus payments for non-traditional care and child care deserts follow another TDHS change announced earlier this year to incentivize more providers to participate in the Child Care Certificate Program by raising weekly reimbursement rates.

Tennessee has approximately 4,200 regulated child care agencies that are eligible to participate in the Child Care Certificate Program. Approximately 1,500 providers are currently participating. Providers who wish to join the Certificate Program should contact the state office nearest them https://www.tn.gov/content/tn/humanservices/for-families/child-care-services/child-care-assistance-office-locator.html

Parents seeking information about enrolling in the Child Care Certificate Program should visit the TDHS website https://www.tn.gov/humanservices/for-families/child-care-services/child-care-payment-assistance.html

To support parents, TDHS also provides tips for choosing child care and an interactive database where parents can search for providers in their area https://www.tn.gov/humanservices/for-families/child-care-services/find-child-care.html

Learn more about the Tennessee Department of Human Services at www.tn.gov/humanservices.

Use-permit and mandatory safety course under consideration for entry into gorge area after Sunday tragedy

Trails in and out of the Cummins Falls river-gorge area in Jackson County have been closed as a result of a fatal weekend flash flood that took the life of a 2-year-old boy.

Jim Bryson, deputy director of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, issued a memo Wednesday affirming that access to the Blackburn Fork River at Cummins Falls State Park will remain blocked “until we can evaluate the incident and review and implement additional safety protocols.”

The memo was addressed to David W. Salyers, commissioner of TDEC, which is the agency that oversees state parks and natural areas in Tennessee.

“At a minimum, the falls and gorge area will remain closed until the department conducts a full assessment of the circumstances and considers and implements additional protocols to address rain events in the watershed area,” Bryson wrote.

Trails around the state park in the forest above the river gorge are still open.

On Sunday, more than 60 people had to be aided by regional rescue personnel after becoming trapped in the rugged river gorge below Cummins Falls as a result of rising waters and increasingly rapid currents. Fourteen people required “swiftwater or rope evacuation” in order to reach safety.

The child who died, Steven Pierce of Eddyville, Ky., was reportedly separated from his family in treacherous currents and subsequently drowned. His body was located Monday morning “a couple hundred yards” downstream from the falls, a state parks official said.

The sudden stream surge — which arose in just a couple minutes — resulted from thunderstorms dumping rain upstream in the watershed, not over the state park itself, according to state park officials.

Four Tennessee state lawmakers who represent the surrounding region issued a sternly worded letter to Bryson on Tuesday, asking why additional safety measures promised in the past haven’t yet been implemented at the park, which has been the site of fatalities resulting from sudden water-rises before.

“In 2017, your department announced plans to install a warning system at Cummins Falls State Park to better monitor the gorge’s rising water levels,” stated the letter, written by Republican Sen. Paul Bailey of Sparta, House GOP Caucus Chairman Cameron Sexton of Crossville, Republican Rep. Ryan Williams of Cookeville and Democratic Rep. John Mark Windle of Livingston. “It is now June 2019, another life has been lost and the warning system has still not been installed.”

They said assurances were made following the last fatality that “a system would be implemented in an effort to prevent further deaths.”

“Why has this warning system not been installed at Cummins Falls State Park? It is past time to make installing a warning system a priority,” they wrote. “We cannot continue losing precious lives at one of Tennessee’s most visited state parks. We ask for your immediate attention to this matter and prompt installation of a warning system before more lives are lost.”

Bryson’s memo, sent a day after receiving the correspondence from the legislators, outlines a series of “ongoing actions” to improve safety in the gorge. He said an “After Action Report” will examine park polices and investigate park staff’s actions “before, during and after the incident.”

Bryson said TDEC is in communication with the National Weather Service to better monitor the watershed above Cummins Falls and develop “a new protocol for warning of potentially dangerous situations.”

Also, water-level measuring devices will be placed upstream to alert park staff to surge hazards, he said.

“An emergency procurement authorization has been secured to purchase and install a water flow monitoring system as an early warning system,” wrote Bryson, who was just last month appointed to the TDEC position in which he now serves. “It will be installed with all possible speed.”

In the future, the Cummins Falls State Park may establish “a permit requirement that will help us manage the visitation and ensure visitors have attended the safety program before going down into the gorge.”

Cummins Falls park staff, he added, “will be set up to have monitors for regular weather updates and the ability to receive notification from the flow meters that we are working with (Tennessee Tech University) to implement.”

Press Release from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, June 13, 2019:

TVA must move material from coal ash ponds to a lined landfill or recycle it

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III today announced a settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) of a lawsuit against TVA and the management of coal combustion residuals at its Gallatin plant.

“We are pleased to bring this matter to a positive conclusion,” said David Salyers, commissioner of TDEC. “This settlement will resolve environmental issues at the Gallatin Fossil Plant and we look forward to continuing our work with TVA and non-governmental organizations to further protect our environment and our citizens.”

“We are very pleased with the diligence and hard work from all parties involved in reaching this compromise and settling the matters in dispute,” said Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III.

The settlement requires TVA to remove approximately 12 million cubic yards of coal combustion residuals (CCR) from its active coal ash ponds at the Gallatin Fossil Plant, as well as remediate the area, in accordance with Tennessee law. Under the agreement, TVA may either place the excavated material in a lined, permitted landfill or recycle the material for beneficial reuse in concrete or other construction materials.

The settlement announced today also requires TVA to complete a final environmental assessment report to identify the extent of soil, surface water and groundwater contamination at the facility.

“This agreement to resolve the Gallatin litigation with the State and TDEC underscores TVA’s commitment to safety and the environment,” said Jeff Lyash, TVA’s President and CEO.

“After a thorough review of the scientific evidence, and with the availability of an onsite lined landfill, TVA worked with TDEC to determine that it is the best interest of our customers, the State of Tennessee, and most importantly, our neighbors in the Gallatin community to remove the ash from the existing wet impoundments. We will continue to work with TDEC and other regulators to determine site-specific solutions that are in the best interest of all those we serve, not just at Gallatin, but at all our sites.”

TDEC filed the lawsuit in Davidson County Chancery Court in 2015, alleging violations of the Tennessee Solid Waste Disposal Act and the Tennessee Water Quality Control Act as a result of TVA’s coal ash disposal practices at the Gallatin plant. In November 2014, the Tennessee Clean Water Network and the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association sent a 60-day notice of violation letter to TVA, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and TDEC under a provision of the federal Clean Water Act, alleging multiple violations at the Gallatin plant related to its operations of the ash ponds at the site.

“After years of tireless advocacy by our clients, Tennessee Clean Water Network and Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association, we’re pleased to have been able to work with the State of Tennessee to achieve a resolution that will safely remove and clean up coal ash from TVA’s leaking, unlined pits at Gallatin,” said Amanda Garcia, Managing Attorney for SELC’s Tennessee office. “This case has helped to protect the Cumberland River, a precious resource for drinking water and recreation in Middle Tennessee.”

TVA will have to close units at its coal ash pond complex in Gallatin by removing coal combustion residuals and remediating the area consistent with the Tennessee Solid Waste Disposal Act. Under the agreement, TVA must develop a plan for the removal of the material and submit the plan to TDEC for approval.

TVA must submit its plan by no later than September 30, 2020. TVA must also provide a copy of its proposed plan for removal to the Tennessee Clean Water Network and the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association. The citizens groups will have 30 days to provide comments on the proposal and provide a copy of their comments to TVA.

TVA must complete removal of the ash pond complex within 20 years of TDEC’s final approval of the plan.

TVA began operation of the Gallatin plant in 1956. Coal combustion residuals generated at the plant have been sluiced and treated in a series of on-site, unlined settling and stilling ponds.

The settlement of the lawsuit allows TVA to conduct a treatability test and field demonstration at the facility’s legacy CCR disposal site for five years. At the conclusion of the project, TVA will submit a corrective action/risk assessment plan to TDEC outlining corrective measures for closure of the legacy site and remediation of groundwater contamination.

The case has been before Davidson County Chancellor Russell T. Perkins.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture has announced that updated rules and modified permitting requirements are being applied to the state’s budding hemp-growing industry.

In a department press release issued Monday, state ag commissioner Charlie Hatch said hemp regulations have been changing at the federal level, and as a result Tennessee is “updating our program rules to be more consistent with how other crop programs are managed.”

The 2018 Farm Bill passed by Congress and signed by President Trump removed hemp from the federal controlled-substances list. Nevertheless, it’s still against federal and state law to grow even nonpsychoactive cannabis without a state-issued license.

In wake of the federal government’s loosening of hemp-growing restrictions, there’s been a massive expansion of interest in growing hemp just over the last year.

This year, the department has licensed more than 2,900 hemp growers  — whereas in 2018 TDA issued just 226 licenses.

Last season, Tennessee growers produced a state total of 1,034 acres of planted legal cannabis strains. Tennessee’s largest field was a 250-plot grown for fiber in Macon County, according to the department.

Tennessee hemp farmers last year spent on average about $2,301 per acre cultivating their crops, a 2018 TDA survey reported.

“The three top expenses were land, equipment and labor,” the survey found. “Growers spent the least on acreage fees, inspections, and interest. The largest market appears to be in hemp oil high in cannabinoids.”

Department of agriculture officials say the new changes to the hemp program will “better serve hemp producers.”

Among the regulatory shifts is an elimination of application-period deadlines for obtaining a license to grow hemp. That process is now open year-round.

In addition, the state will no longer issue certifications for seed breeders. However, anyone marketing seed should seek licensing through TDA’s Ag Inputs section.

Also, hemp processors — unlike growers — won’t in the future be required to register through the state. Growers, on the other hand, will not only need to acquire “movement permits” when transporting rooted live plants, they’ll also be required to obtain official government permission and paperwork for transporting harvested hemp from a grow site.

Tennessee lawmakers in 2014 authorized the state Department of Agriculture to develop a licensing and inspection program for the production of hemp in Tennessee.

“Hemp has been an important crop throughout the history of the U.S., and to a certain extent in Tennessee,” according to TDA’s website.

In the 1800s, hemp fields were a common sight in Middle Tennessee.

“Although industrial hemp contains very little of the hallucinogenic properties of marijuana, production and processing declined after World War II with the passage of state and federal laws aimed at regulating the narcotic varieties of Cannabis,” says TDA’s hemp history info page. “Its decline was further accelerated with the development and availability of cheap synthetic fibers. Also, the resurgence of cotton production in the deep South was likely a contributing factor to hemp’s decline.”

Following a no-confidence delivered by the Republican caucus of the Tennessee House of Representatives yesterday, Speaker Glen Casada has announced he will no longer serve as the the lower-chamber’s top legislative officer.

Casada, R-Franklin, issued a statement Tuesday saying he wants to “facilitate a smooth transition” to a new speaker.

Gov. Bill Lee, who said Monday night he’d be willing to call a special session of the House in order to remove the scandal-beset speaker, lauded Casada’s announcement.

“Speaker Casada has made the right decision, and I look forward to working with the legislature to get back to conducting the people’s business and focusing on the issues that matter most to our state,” the Republican governor tweeted.

The Tennessee Senate’s speaker, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, also applauded Casada’s move. McNally had been among those suggesting Casada should step aside in wake of a scandal involving the House speaker’s former chief of staff.

McNally, a Republican from Oak Ridge, wrote on Twitter: “Speaker Casada announcing his intent to resign is the right decision for the legislature, the @TNGOP and the state. I commend him for it. Now we move forward. I am committed to working with leadership in the House to help restore the trust that has been lost in any way I can.”

On Monday, Republican lawmakers gathered in Nashville to vote on whether Glen Casada, the politically besieged GOP speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, retains enough support to continue on in his role as the the chamber’s presiding officer.

Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada, R-Franklin

The results went markedly against the Williamson County Republican, who was elected to serve as speaker just this year.

On a 45-22 vote, the House Republican Caucus delivered a no-confidence motion, signaling that faith in Casada’s ability to effectively run the legislative body is critically in doubt.

The outcome of the vote was seen as something of a surprise, given that only a handful of the 73-member House Republican Caucus had previously given any public indication that they want to see Speaker Casada step down or be removed in wake of revelations that one of his former staffers sent racially disparaging and sexually explicit text messages in years past, in addition to boasting about using illegal drugs.

Some of the electronic private messages at issue were received by Casada himself, who apparently made no effort to reprimand or take disciplinary action against the employee — and later promoted him to chief of staff after Rep. Casada was elected speaker.

Monday’s vote appeared to mark a dramatic shift in Casada’s political fortunes — with some of the state’s most powerful and prominent GOP politicians and operatives now pushing for his removal as speaker.

“The vote of no confidence by the Republican caucus sends a clear message; it is time for the Speaker to heed the advice of the majority of his fellow legislators and step down from his position of leadership and allow someone else to begin the process of restoring the trust of all Tennesseans,” Republican Party state chairman Scott Golden said in a statement Monday.

Also on Monday, Governor Bill Lee said he’d be open to calling a special session of the House of Representatives to strip Casada of his leadership post if the embattled speaker refuses to go voluntarily.

House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, has joined calls for Casada to step aside as well.

“Regardless of how long ago, regardless of what the behavior is, we take this type of allegation very, very seriously,” Lamberth told reporters following the vote. “And I think that has been stated very clearly by this caucus today.

Republicans in both the Tennessee House and Senate enjoy supermajority control of their respective chambers, meaning their voting bloc is large enough to set agendas and conduct business irrespective of the wishes of Democrats, who enjoy little popularity and support outside the state’s major urban areas.

House Democrats have been calling for Casada’s removal since the scandal broke earlier this month.

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, May 13, 2019:

Link: https://www.tn.gov/commerce/news/2019/5/13/tdci-commissioner-mcpeak-announces-departure-for-private-sector.html

TDCI Commissioner McPeak Announces Departure for Private Sector; Governor Bill Lee Names Deputy Commissioner Carter Lawrence as Interim Commissioner

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak announces today she is leaving Tennessee state government in order to pursue career opportunities in the private sector. Her last day as commissioner will be June 14, 2019. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has named TDCI Deputy Commissioner Carter Lawrence to serve as the Department’s Interim Commissioner until a permanent commissioner is selected.

“We thank Julie Mix McPeak for her over eight years of service and her tireless commitment to her Department and to Tennessee. We wish her the best in her future endeavors,” said Tennessee Governor Bill Lee. “Carter Lawrence has ably served as Deputy Commissioner at the Department of Commerce and Insurance, and I look forward to serving alongside him as he steps into the role of Interim Commissioner.”

McPeak, who was first appointed commissioner by Governor Bill Haslam in 2011, is the immediate past president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), the U.S. standard-setting and regulatory support organization created and governed by the chief insurance regulators from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. The former executive director of the Kentucky Office of Insurance, McPeak is the first woman to serve as chief insurance regulator in more than one state.

“Tennessee is a special place, and it has been a distinct privilege and honor to have served the Volunteer State,” McPeak said. “It’s been an amazing journey. At the end of the day, I’m enormously proud of our accomplishments on behalf of Tennesseans. I believe the Department has helped play a role in transforming Tennessee into a national and international destination for families and businesses. I am excited about the next chapter of my life and my career in Nashville – and I’m equally excited about what’s in store for Tennessee.”

Under McPeak’s leadership, the Department’s multiple divisions undertook numerous initiatives and programs that have improved Tennessee, including:

  • Accreditation of the Department by the NAIC. As part of the NAIC’s accreditation program, state insurance departments must undergo comprehensive, independent review every five years to ensure they meet financial solvency oversight standards. States that maintain their accredited status demonstrate that the current means of regulatory monitoring is intact and continues to work effectively.
  • Creating and implementing the “Get Alarmed, Tennessee!” free smoke alarm program. Since its inception in 2012, the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office and its Tennessee fire service partners have distributed over 198,000 smoke alarms statewide. Smoke alarms installed through the program are credited with saving 265 Tennesseans from fire danger, so far.
  • Modernizing Tennessee’s captive insurance laws, resulting in Tennessee domestic captive insurance companies exceeding $1 billion in written premiums in 2017 for the first time. Its efforts resulted in Tennessee being named Domicile of The Year (Less Than 200 Captives) at the 2018 U.S. Captive Review Awards for its achievements.
  • Streamlining the process of issuing professional licenses, enabling Tennessee professionals to obtain their license in a more timely and efficient manner.

A full bio and photo of McPeak can be found here.

Lawrence previously served as TDCI’s Deputy Commissioner overseeing the Department’s administration as well as the Division of Regulatory Boards. While managing the Division of Regulatory Boards, he oversaw nearly 40 fee reductions across the division’s 27 program areas, benefitting many of the more than 250,000 licensees across the Volunteer State.

A native of Williamson County, Lawrence is an attorney and studied law at the University of Tennessee, where he also obtained a Master of Business Administration. For undergraduate studies, Carter obtained a Bachelor of Arts at Wheaton College (Wheaton, Ill). He and his wife, Amy, are the proud parents of two boys and are members of Church of the Redeemer, where he serves as a vestryman.

Said Lawrence: “Commissioner McPeak leaves a legacy of sound management practices and continually challenging the Department’s executive staff and our team members to strive for their best as they serve the public. Following her example, I will champion Governor Lee’s vision for Tennessee during my service as Interim Commissioner. I thank Governor Lee for the opportunity to serve Tennessee in this role.”

A former Republican state senator and candidate for governor has been selected to oversee Tennessee’s system of state parks and natural areas.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation announced Monday that Nashville entrepreneur and marketing specialist Jim Bryson, who in 2006 ran an unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign against incumbent Democrat Phil Bredesen, will replace Brock Hill as deputy TDEC commissioner.

Jim Bryson

Hill, a Cumberland County native, was let go earlier this year following allegations of “workplace misconduct.”

The department’s press release is below:

TDEC Announces Bryson Deputy Commissioner for Parks and Conservation

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner David Salyers today announced the appointment of Jim Bryson as deputy commissioner of Parks and Conservation at TDEC.

“Jim’s experience in business, state government and community involvement, coupled with his passion for the outdoors, makes him uniquely qualified for this position,” Salyers said. “I look forward to working with Jim to make Tennessee State Parks the best run state park system in the nation.”

“I am honored to be chosen for this role and I look forward to serving Tennessee in this capacity,” Bryson said. “We have an outstanding record in parks and conservation in Tennessee, and I am committed to building on that success alongside the incredible staff. This is a special opportunity for us to preserve and enhance enjoyment of the great natural wonders of our state.”

Bryson is founder and president of 20/20 Research Inc., a market research consulting, project management and technology firm based in Nashville. The business launched in 1986 and is a global leader in online qualitative research software and services. Its QualBoard research platform is used by clients in over 90 countries and in more than 30 languages. Bryson served three terms as president of the Qualitative Research Consultants Association, an international association of research professionals.

Elected in 2002, Bryson served four years as a senator in the Tennessee General Assembly, representing Williamson and Davidson counties, and was his party’s nominee for governor in 2006.

Bryson’s love of the outdoors began in rural Arkansas, living near Lake Dardanelle and Lake Dardanelle State Park. He spent many days and nights in the park, on the lake or in the woods hiking, camping, hunting and fishing.

Bryson is founder and president of The Joseph School, providing a globally competitive education for poor and orphaned children in Haiti. He was a founding board member of the Marketing Research Education Foundation, focused on improving global childhood education. He is a member of the Nashville Downtown Rotary Club and First Baptist Church in Nashville. He received a master’s degree from Vanderbilt University after graduating from Baylor University. He and his wife, Carol, have four children and two grandchildren.

Yahweh non grata in Democrat-controlled U.S. House

Fresh off his widely-panned fried chicken-noshing schtick contrived to mock the U.S. attorney general for declining to attend a pre-prepped political searing in the House of Representatives, Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen has once again cooked up a recipe for national attention and controversy.

Recently, United States Rep. Steve Cohen labeled Attorney General William Barr a “chicken” for refusing to testify before House Democrats regarding the Mueller Report. Fearing the subtlety of his barb might be lost on the American body politic, the Democratic congressman from Memphis sought to further illustrate the point by using props.

This time, though, the seven-term Shelby County Democrat is in the news not for the powerful Trump administration names he’s hankering to grill in committee hearings, but for a higher-power name Cohen and fellow majority-party members want henceforth excluded from formal congressional proceedings.

Upon orders from House Democrat leaders, who seized gavel-handling dominion from Republicans in wake of the 2018 election, the words “So Help Me God” have been removed from the swearing-in oath administered to committee witnesses.

Cohen was quoted in a Saturday New York Times article indicating he’s apparently divined the Divine’s Will, and the Ruler of the Universe no longer wants His name invoked as an attestation of testimonial truth.

Here’s an excerpt from the story headlined, “‘So Help Me God’ No More: Democrats Give House Traditions a Makeover”:

In the House of Representatives, to the winner go the spoils, and Democrats, the new decision makers, control everything, including what legislation gets a vote and the minutiae of procedural choices, such as whether witnesses must utter the traditional plea for divine aid.

Democratic chairmen and chairwomen of several key committees have deemed no such entreaty is necessary.

“I think God belongs in religious institutions: in temple, in church, in cathedral, in mosque — but not in Congress,” said Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

What Republicans are doing, he continued, “is using God.”

“And God doesn’t want to be used,” he said.