Press Release from the State of Tennessee, August 2, 2019:

Link: https://www.tn.gov/twra/news/2019/8/2/twra-leasing-fields-for-2019-dove-season.html

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is seeking fields to lease for the upcoming 2019 dove season. The first segment of dove season opens at noon on Sunday, Sept. 1.

Mourning doves are a popular game bird and one of the most widely distributed and abundant birds in North America. More mourning doves are harvested than all other migratory bird species combined in 39 of the continental states. In Tennessee, an estimated 19,000 hunters harvested approximately 334,000 mourning doves last year.

Landowners can earn up to $3,600 for providing a dove field for public hunting. These fields must be available for a minimum of three priority hunt dates in September.

TWRA began its leased dove field program in the late 1980s and the program has been very successful in providing quality hunting opportunities for hunters. In addition to leased fields, many public dove fields are provided on wildlife management areas in each TWRA region. The TWRA website will have specific information about WMAs and leased dove fields in each region beginning Aug. 15.

The standard fall leased field is a harvested grain field to which TWRA leases the hunting rights for three priority dates. The hunting access rate paid to landowners for fall leased fields may be up to $75 per acre for a maximum of 40 acres. Fields that are top sown with wheat are eligible for an additional $15 per acre. Interested landowners must sign up their fields in August.

Anyone interested in leasing a dove field to TWRA should contact their TWRA regional office. The TWRA has four regional offices across the state that interested landowners can contact: Region I (West Tennessee) 731-423-5725 or toll free 800-372-3928; Region II (Middle Tennessee) 615-781-6622 or toll free 800-624-7406; Region III (Upper Cumberland) 931-484-9571 or toll free 833-402-4698; Region IV (East Tennessee) 423-587-7037 or 800-332-0900.

Press Release from the Office of Tennessee State Comptroller of the Treasury Justin P. Wilson, July 8, 2019:

The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has created a new interactive web tool that provides important information about Tennessee’s Tax Relief program.

The Tax Relief program began in 1973 and provides property tax relief to qualifying low-income elderly and disabled homeowners, as well as disabled veteran homeowners or their surviving spouses. In tax year 2018, more than $41 million dollars was appropriated by the General Assembly to serve more than 140,000 homeowners across the state.

The new web portal combines important information with images and interactive maps. The portal displays key data, eligibility requirements, and local city and county contacts that will be helpful for anyone interested in learning more about the program.

“The General Assembly has prioritized property tax relief payments for Tennessee’s most vulnerable citizens and disabled veterans,” said Comptroller Justin P. Wilson. “This new web portal allows us to use visual communication and interactive maps to share even more information about this program.”

If you are interested in applying for tax relief in 2019, you can apply with your county trustee after you receive your 2019 county and/or city property tax bill. If your property is within city limits, you may also contact your city collecting official to apply.

To view the Comptroller’s new Property Tax Relief portal, go to:
https://comptroller.tn.gov/office-functions/pa/property-taxes/property-tax-programs/tax-relief.html

If you suspect fraud, waste or abuse of public money in Tennessee, call the Comptroller’s toll-free hotline at 800.232.5454, or file a report online at: www.comptroller.tn.gov/hotline. Follow us on twitter: @TNCOT

Press release from the Offfice of Tennessee Attorney General Herb Slatery III, July 2, 2019:

Link: https://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/news/2019/7/2/pr19-24.html

TN AG Reaches $5.8 Million Multi-Jurisdiction Settlement with LexisNexis under State False Claims Act

The company resold auto crash reports without paying for them

Nashville- Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III and local law enforcement agencies within the State, today announced the execution of a Settlement Agreement with LexisNexis Risk Solutions, Inc., and several affiliates (“LexisNexis”). The Settlement Agreement – which also was executed by the State of Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, and the City of Baltimore – resolves claims that LexisNexis underpaid certain fees associated with the purchase and resale of automobile crash reports and related crash data, which are owed to state and local law enforcement agencies by contract.

“The contract between LexisNexis and Tennessee’s law enforcement agencies was clear: the company agreed to pay for the sale of every crash report, which it did not do,” said General Slatery. “This Office will continue to pursue companies that do not honor their agreements with State agencies.”

Specifically, the investigation – which was conducted jointly with the Attorneys General of Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, as well as the City Solicitor of Baltimore –revealed that LexisNexis maintained an active database of all crash reports and crash-related data purchased from state and local law enforcement agencies on behalf of Lexis customers. While LexisNexis would pay the necessary fees to law enforcement agencies for the first sale of a crash report to a customer, it would not pay any additional fees for subsequent sales of the same report to other customers. This practice resulted in an underreporting of crash report sales to state and local law enforcement agencies, and underpayment of the requisite fees based on those inaccurate sales figures. This underreporting of sales and underpayment of fees violated the False Claims Act of the State of Tennessee, and similar statutes in the other affected jurisdictions.

In accordance with this settlement, LexisNexis must pay $5,811,708 to the settling parties. Of this amount, Tennessee and local law enforcement agencies will recover $1,122,821.99.

The lawsuit was brought by a whistleblower under the Tennessee False Claims Act, which allows private citizens to file civil actions on behalf of the government and share in any recovery. The whistleblower, a former employee of LexisNexis, will receive about $1.1 million for bringing this misconduct to light.

Press Release from the Beacon Center of Tennessee, June 26, 2019:

Link: https://www.beacontn.org/

New Beacon Lawsuit Looks To Reverse Unconstitutional Law Limiting Free Speech

Today, the Beacon Center’s legal arm filed its latest lawsuit against a law passed in the 2019 Legislative Session by the General Assembly.

The law would force most online auctioneers to be licensed by the state of Tennessee while exempting big online auction sites like Ebay. This law is not just unfair but is also unconstitutional, as it clearly violates the First Amendment. Beacon is suing the Tennessee Auctioneer Commission before the law takes effect on July 1st.

Beacon Vice President of Legal Affairs Braden Boucek stated, “Online auctions have not required a license for over a decade. Tennessee shouldn’t impose one now.  Online auctions are a safe and reliable business innovation that has blossomed free from licensure while protecting consumers.

“The state has no business applying its outdated licensing regime just to accommodate auctioneers who wish to hamstring the ingenuity of online auctioneers.” Boucek continued, “This law is not just unconstitutional, but it is bad policy. Tennessee will be chasing good employers out of the state. Employers like ‘Everything but the House’ have already left the state over this archaic approach to licensing and this is another step in the wrong direction. We should not be trying to license the internet.”

Jacquie Denny cofounded the online auction service, “Everything But the House,” in 2008.

After growing to 15 locations nationally, a decision was made by the executive team to “reset” the business model to better serve its clients, which meant investing in the locations that had the most potential for growth.

With pending legislation for rulings that would not be in the best interest of producing the maximum monetary results for the families served by the business, the decision was made not to invest in further growth in Tennessee.

“We love Tennessee, but the regulations put on online auctions would not make our business investment worthwhile,” Jacquie noted. “We’d love to open our doors if it made sense for us, but right now in Tennessee, the harmful regulations are keeping our business out of the state.”
The Beacon Center is proud to stand with business owners like Jacquie to ensure that Tennessee’s laws don’t put unconstitutional limits on businesses.

The Beacon Center of Tennessee empowers Tennesseans to reclaim control of their lives, so that they can freely pursue their version of the American Dream. The Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, and independent organization dedicated to providing concerned citizens and public leaders with expert empirical research and timely free market solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee.

Statement from Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, June 26, 2019:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee released the following statement regarding his signing of a Proclamation calling the Tennessee General Assembly into a special session on August 23:

“It is in the best interest of our State to select a new Speaker of the House, and so I am calling a special session of the General Assembly for August 23 to accomplish that purpose. I have also asked the General Assembly to take up approval of the recent amendments to the Supreme Court rules, in addition to settling these leadership matters. Any other procedural business would be at the discretion of the General Assembly.”

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, June 17, 2019:

New Electronic Platform for Tennessee Market News Service

NASHVILLE – To better assist Tennessee’s farmers and agribusinesses in making informed marketing decisions, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture are providing a new electronic data platform for the Tennessee Market News Service.

The Tennessee Market News Service allows producers, industry, and the public to view market price information for livestock, grain, and other commodities.

The new web-based platform, Market Analysis and Reporting Services (MARS), improves the transparency, speed, and accuracy of market news. The program facilitates the flow of data from more than 3,600 markets nationwide to Agricultural Marketing Service analysts, who then provide reports online.

If producers have previously bookmarked a link to market news, they will need to reestablish a new link through www.tn.gov/agriculture/farms/news.html. To view reports now, click on the pdf version, as the text files will be removed in next few months.

Tennessee currently has 4 trained market news reporters within TDA’s Business Development Division who gather and disseminate accurate, unbiased, and up-to-the-minute market information from 12 markets each week. A weekly market recap of this information can be found on TDA’s website.

TDA also provides timely and reliable market information through a toll-free hotline service that is updated daily. The number to call for this service is 1-800-342-8206.

To access and find more information about market news, visit www.tn.gov/agriculture/farms/news.html.

Press Release from Middle Tennessee State University, June 19, 2019:

Link: https://mtsunews.com/board-of-trustees-june2019-recap/

(Story by By Andrew Oppmann)

Middle Tennessee State University is the No. 1 choice of Tennessee Promise students who have transferred from one of the state’s community colleges to a four-year institution.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee made the announcement at the Tuesday, June 18, Board of Trustees meeting held inside the Miller Education Center on Bell Street.

McPhee shared with trustees recent data from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission that showed MTSU in the top spot for Tennessee Promise students seeking to earn a four-year degree.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, left, reports at the Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday, June 18, that MTSU was the top choice for Tennessee Promise transfers from community colleges who wanted to continue their educations at a four-year university. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

“More Tennessee Promise students have transferred to MTSU than any other state university,” McPhee said. “This is consistent with our standing as the No. 1 choice for transfer students overall.”

The data shows MTSU received 21.5 percent, or 542, of the 2,528 students who took advantage of the free community college tuition through the Tennessee Promise program to seek an associate degree.

MTSU’s partnership with Motlow State Community College was also the most productive relationship between a two-year college and a four-year institution, McPhee said.

Motlow sent MTSU 255 of its students, THEC’s 2019 report on the Tennessee Promise shows.

In other business, trustees approved a slight increase in tuition and fees this fall.

Undergraduate tuition and mandatory fees will rise 2.37 percent, still below the 2.5 percent cap set by the THEC. For a student taking 15 hours, combined tuition for the Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 semester will go from $9,206 to $9,424.

Joey Jacobs, chair of the Finance and Personnel Committee, said trustees “have given careful consideration to the impact that any increase will have on student affordability.”

He also said the committee “reviewed the tuition rates of other Tennessee public institutions, as well as peer institutions and found that even with the proposed fee increase, MTSU ranked as very affordable in comparison.”

MTSU has the lowest undergraduate tuition of the state’s three largest universities, behind the rates at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and the University of Memphis.

The measure passed Tuesday also raised graduate college tuition by 3 percent and set a special tuition rate for certain corporate relationships.

In other business, trustees approved a new academic program, Bachelor of Science in Public Writing and Rhetoric, a four-year interdisciplinary degree housed in the College of Liberal Arts.

Pam Wright, chair of the Academic Affairs, Student Life and Athletics committee, said the degree will be the first of its kind in the region.

“Similar to degrees offered at many institutions, the degree will provide students with in-depth training in writing and rhetorical studies,” she said.

Wright said the degree will prepare students “for a range of writing-focused careers that involve analysis, creation, and editing of texts as well as for graduate study.

Trustees also learned about the creation of the Free Speech Center, a First Amendment advocacy hub that will be led by Ken Paulson, who is stepping down as dean of MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment this summer.

“The center’s primary mission is one of public service, educating students and the public about the value of the First Amendment to a free society,” Wright said.

The center will be integrated into campus life and academics, fulfilling the university’s stated mission to educate students so that they “understand the proper role of free expression and civic engagement in our society,” she said.

Trustees also:

  • Unanimously approved the recommendation of McPhee and University Provost Mark Byrnes that 39 faculty be granted tenure and 75 faculty be promoted, effective Aug. 1.
  • Endorsed asking for state support in the next budget cycle for a new Applied Engineering Building for its Mechatronics Engineering and Engineering Technology programs;
  • Welcomed Mary Martin, a professor of mathematics, to a two-year term as faculty trustee; she replaces outgoing faculty trustee Tony Johnston, agriculture professor and fermentation science program director.
  • For agenda details, to view the meetings livestreamed or for other information, go to www.mtsu.edu/boardoftrustees.

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.

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.