Press Release from the Tennessee Artist’s Guild, Sept. 12, 2019:

Watertown, TN September 12, 2019 — Businesses and artists have come together to create a day to view visual arts and celebrate the season all around the city of Watertown on October 5, 2019.

The free event features several locations from artist studios and galleries to local businesses who will have at least one visual artist on site. Many of the locations have several artists whose work can be seen. Mediums range from paintings to fine crafts and the artists will be available for purchases or special commissions.

The time of the art walk will be 11 am to 6 pm on Saturday and will be complimented with live music by the Best Wurst Band and German style games at the gazebo. There will also be vendors at the pavilion near the rail road tracks.

Refreshments will be available. The event will support the Tennessee Artist’s Guild which is a non-profit dedicated to bringing opportunities to Watertown that feature visual artists, musicians, and theatrical performances.

Come to the Artizan Insurance and Gifts building at 214 Public Square to pick up a list of locations on the day of the event.

Visit www.tnartistsguild.org for more information or call Vickie Frazier at 615-697-5066.

Press Release from the State of Tennessee, Sept. 5, 2019:

Registration through September 8 for September 14-19 event

NASHVILLE – More than 275 cyclists from nearly 30 states will gather at Natchez Trace State Park and Montgomery Bell State Park on Sept. 14-19 for Tennessee State Parks’ annual Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee.

The 30th annual ride will guide riders through some of Tennessee’s most scenic and charming communities, including Huntingdon, Lexington, Parsons, Charlotte, and Kingston Springs.

Each day will feature out-and-back rides returning to stay overnight at Natchez Trace State Park and Montgomery Bell State Park. Riders will pass key attractions along the way including Mousetail Landing State Park, the historic Charlotte Courthouse Square, and Brown Creek Lake.

In addition to the ride, interpretive programs are held nightly that allow riders to explore the parks and learn skills from park rangers. Programs this year include a historic van tour of Montgomery Bell State Park, an introduction to primitive weapons, a birds of prey program, and more.

The ride is non-competitive and suitable for a range of skill levels. Riders can register for a one-, two-, three- or six-day ride through Sept. 8. Registration begins at $99 for a one-day trip and $599 for the full 331-mile trip. The fee includes a fully supported route, lodging at two state park campsites, hot showers, meals (breakfast and supper), live entertainment and interpretive programming as well as an event T-shirt. Cabin and RV campground lodging is also available for an additional fee.

The Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee is sponsored by Tennessee State Parks and benefits The Friends of Montgomery Bell State Park, The Friends of Natchez Trace State Park, The Friends of the Cumberland Trail, and the Tennessee State Park Rangers Association.

More information on the ride, including a map of the route and registration instructions, can be found at www.thebrat.org.

Press Release from the Office of Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury, Justin P. Wilson, Aug. 29, 2019:

Link: https://comptroller.tn.gov/office-functions/investigations/find.html

The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office, working in close cooperation with Middle Tennessee State University Audit and Consulting Services, has completed an investigation of questionable activity within the MTSU Athletic Department.

The investigation began after Athletic Department officials first detected potential problems.

Investigators determined that a former associate athletic director charged $3,500 to his university purchasing card to buy 100 copies of “A Guide to Etiquette for Student Athletes.” At the time of the purchase, the associate athletic director was listed as one of two incorporators of the company that produced the guide, and he was identified on the corporate website as the chief operating officer.

The former associate athletic director told investigators he purchased the etiquette guides for the football team and denied any association with the company. Although more than half of the football team recalled receiving an etiquette guide, the athletic director, football coach, and director of football operations told investigators they did not know about this purchase.

Athletic department officials could not determine whether the purchase of the etiquette guide was in the Athletic Department’s best interest.

Additionally, investigators found that MTSU Athletic Department staff used the university’s purchase credit with a sports and fitness company to obtain at least $34,084 in athletic shoes and sports apparel for friends and family.

MTSU had a contract with a sports and fitness company that provided a specified amount of retail purchase credit that enabled coaches and athletic staff to obtain free apparel and other items. The contract stated the free products and apparel were “for use by (or in connection with) the Covered [athletic] Programs, clinics, camps, Coaches, Staff and such other purposes as UNIVERSITY and/or Director of Athletics may deem appropriate.”

The Athletic Department neither monitored nor tracked purchase credit orders to determine if they were made in accordance with the contract terms, or the university’s acceptable use practices.

The results of this investigation have been communicated with the Office of the District Attorney General of the 16th Judicial District.

MTSU officials have indicated they are establishing new practices and procedures to correct these issues.

To view the investigative report, go to: https://comptroller.tn.gov/office-functions/investigations/find.html

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.