Tennessee

Judge Won't Order Tennessee to Give More Money to Schools

Sep 26, 2016
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A judge has denied a request from Metro Nashville Public Schools that she order the state to provide more money for education.

The school district's petition said lawmakers did not provide enough money for Nashville to hire the legally required number of teachers and translators for its English language learners.

The state has said the funding formula is just a goal.

The Tennessean reports Chancery Court Judge Ellen Hobbs Lyle on Thursday declined to issue an order to the state, saying the issue needs to be adjudicated first.

Nashville school board Chair Anna Shepherd said the response was disappointing. She has asked Metro Legal to prepare a list of options.

Shelby County and a cluster of seven counties that includes Hamilton are suing the state over education funding.

Blake Farmer/Nashville Public Radio

Jack Daniel's is a historic brand built on stories and legend. To this day, all of the whiskey is made in the hills of little Lynchburg, Tenn. And as part of its 150th anniversary, the company is highlighting a lesser-known part of its story: how a former slave played a key role in its founding.

The story of Nearis Green first got national attention earlier this summer, when The New York Times ran an article about his role in Jack Daniel's history based on a pitch from the company.

Until now, the story usually told about the firm's founding was this: Jack Daniel left home as a young teen, went to work for Dan Call — ironically, a pastor — and ended up helping with Call's whiskey. That's where he learned his trade — perhaps under the tutelage of Green, who was then a slave belonging to Call.

It's not clear exactly what parts of the process Daniel's picked up from Green. "There's a lot of mystery there," says Jack Daniel's company historian Nelson Eddy. "We don't know exactly what he taught Jack. But we do know that Jack had a great deal of respect for that family. Because I think the best part of this story is the photograph."

The photograph he refers to is one that shows Jack Daniel, with a gray goatee, around 1895, surrounded by his crew, including two African-American men believed to be the sons of Nearis Green.

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Facing a $60 million penalty from the federal government, Tennessee lawmakers have repealed an underage drunken driving law that ran afoul of zero-tolerance standards.

The Senate passed the measure 31-1 on Wednesday and the House later followed suit on an 85-2 vote.

The state law that went into effect in July had raised the penalties for driving under the influence by 18- through 20-year-olds. But by also raising the maximum allowable blood alcohol content from 0.02 percent to 0.08 percent for those drivers, the state stood to lose 8 percent of its federal road funding money on Oct. 1

Gov. Bill Haslam called lawmakers into a special session this week to return the 0.02 percent rule along with the more lenient penalties for drivers below the legal drinking age.

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Forty seven Republicans were joined by 23 Democrats to vote to oust GOP Rep. Jeremey Durham from the Tennessee state Legislature.

The 70 votes Tuesday were four more than the minimum needed to meet the constitutional threshold of two-thirds of the members needed for the House to eject a sitting member.

Two Republicans voted against the ouster. Fourteen GOP members abstained, along with two Democrats. Ten members were absent.

Durham faced allegations of sexual harassment detailed in a state attorney general's report. He denied most of them.

The ouster marks the first time the Tennessee Legislature has ejected a sitting member since 1980. The only previous expulsions came when six members refused attend a special session to ratify the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1866.

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Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam says he'll call a special session of the General Assembly to try to fix the state's drunken driving law and save $60 million in federal highway funds.

The move Friday comes after the U.S. Transportation Department determined state law doesn't comply with a federal "zero tolerance" drunken driving statute. The governor's office said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicated Tennessee would permanently lose $60 million if it remained out of compliance as of Oct. 1.

Under federal rules the maximum allowable blood alcohol content for drivers under 21 is 0.02 percent. The new Tennessee law raised that limit to 0.08 percent for 18-to 20-year-olds but added tougher penalties for violators. The 0.02 standard remained in place for drivers through age 17.

Tennessee Voter Guide for Thursday Primaries

Aug 3, 2016
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Tennessee voters go to the polls Thursday to decide the Republican and Democratic nominees for Congress and the state Legislature.

With the GOP holding wide majorities in both the congressional delegation and the Tennessee General Assembly, many of the most spirited primary contests are among Republican candidates.

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OPEN CONGRESSIONAL SEAT

Three-term U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher's decision to retire from his 8th Congressional District seat this spring set off a frenzy of activity to succeed him in the heavily Republican district ranging from suburban Memphis through rural northwestern Tennessee.

The most active candidates have been radio station owner George Flinn of Memphis, state Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown, former U.S. Attorney David Kustoff of Germantown and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell of Memphis.

Activists File Suit Challenging Tennessee Counseling Law

Jun 8, 2016
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Two gay rights activists have filed a lawsuit challenging a new Tennessee law that lets therapists decline to see patients based on religious values and personal principles.

Bleu Copas is an Anderson County man who says he was discharged from the Army under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Caleb Laieski is an activist from Virginia. Their lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Anderson County Chancery Court. It claims the new law targets gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, violating the right to equal treatment guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution.

Gov. Bill Haslam's spokeswoman, Jennifer Donnals, says the governor's office is unaware of any lawsuits challenging the counseling law and has not seen the Anderson County suit.

The American Counseling Association last month canceled a planned conference in Nashville because of the law.

Elaine Thompson/AP

Texas, joined by a number of other states, has filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration in response to its directive that public schools allow students to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity.

The plaintiffs include Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, Georgia, the governor of Maine and the Arizona Department of Education.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, says the federal government has "conspired to turn workplaces and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over commonsense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights."

The LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign called the move a "shameful attack on transgender youth."

The sponsor of a resolution to require Tennessee to sue the federal government over its refugee resettlement program is unhappy with Republican Gov. Bill Haslam for refusing the sign the measure.

Haslam last week allowed the resolution to go into effect without his signature, saying that he had concerns about one branch of government telling another one what to do. The governor also asked the state attorney general for a legal opinion on whether the Legislature has the power to hire its own attorney to sue over the matter.

Senate Republican leader Mark Norris of Collierville in a letter to Haslam on Tuesday said the governor had mischaracterized the resolution and that the federal government has not provided enough information to determine whether refugees could be linked to terrorism.

Kevin Willis, WKU Public Radio

The Tennessee chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is asking the federal government to intervene over a school district's policy prohibiting transgender students from using restrooms corresponding to their gender identity.

A letter from the ACLU asks the U.S. Department of Education to require that the school system in Sumner County make accommodations for transgender students.

The letter was written on behalf of a high school student who is a transgender girl.

Officials told the student's family that she would be disciplined if she continued to use the girls' restroom.

An attorney for the school system said in a statement that transgender  students are provided access to private unisex facilities.

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The American Counseling Association has cancelled its plan to hold a conference in Nashville next year in protest of Tennessee passing a counseling law that allows therapists to decline to see patients based on religious values and personal principles.

The ACA made the announcement on Tuesday that it had cancelled the already booked expo in the Music City.

The ACA, which has condemned Tennessee's new law as a "hate bill" that discriminates against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, has called the legislation an unprecedented attack on its profession. The organization says no other state has passed such a law.

Supporters of the law have said that it keeps the government from forcing people to counsel others to act in ways that conflict with a therapist's moral beliefs.

Danielle Atkins /Courtesy of Spring House Press

Nashville Hot Chicken is showing up everywhere lately, from fast-food marquees to trendy restaurant menus. But to find the real thing, you might start in a nondescript strip mall on the northeast side of Nashville, Tenn.

Here at Prince's Hot Chicken Shack, people line up long before the doors open to get their fix.

"Need my hot chicken," says construction worker Jose Rodriquez as he approaches the kitchen window to place his order. "I'm going to get two hot of the breast quarters."

Old-fashioned wooden booths line the walls of the small dining room. When a clerk calls out your order number, you pick up your paper plate of chicken, served on a red cafeteria tray. Drinks come from a vending machine on the back wall.

"Prince's is the ground zero for hot chicken," says Timothy Davis, author of The Hot Chicken Cookbook – the Fiery History and Red Hot Recipes of Nashville's Beloved Bird.

Mark Humphrey/AP

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has signed legislation that allows mental health counselors and therapists to refuse to treat patients based on religious objections or personal beliefs.

Critics of the law say it could result in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. As Nashville Public Radio reported earlier this month:

"A group representing gay and lesbian Tennesseans [asked Haslam] to veto the legislation. ...

"The Tennessee Equality Project, an LGBT advocacy group, says the measure will make it harder for gays and lesbians to find counseling — particularly in rural parts of the state where religiously conservative therapists are common."

Haslam, however, said in a statement that he decided to sign the bill because it addressed two of his concerns. He said:

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The sponsor of bill seeking to designate the Bible as the official book of Tennessee has formally announced his bid to override Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's veto of the measure.

Haslam last week vetoed the bill over constitutional concerns of a government endorsement of religion and because he believes it "trivializes" the Bible. Supporters argue that measure seeks to honor the historic and economic significance of the Bible in Tennessee.

Republican Rep. Jerry Sexton of Bean Station filed notice of his intention to re-pass the bill during Monday night's House floor session, setting up a vote Wednesday.

The bill received 55 votes when it passed the House and 19 in the Senate. A veto override would require 50 votes in the 99-member House and 17 votes among 33 senators.

WKU Public Radio

Tennessee’s Attorney General is warning that the state could lose federal funding if a controversial bathroom bill clears in the General Assembly. 

The bill would require Tennessee students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate.  Supporters say the legislation is necessary to protect the privacy of students.  Opponents argue the bill is discriminatory. 

State Attorney General Herbert Slattery issued an opinion Monday saying the bill would violate Title IX, which means the state could lose millions of dollars in federal funding. 

The Tennessean reports that Governor Bill Haslam and the state Education Department have raised similar concerns, but the Governor has not said if he would veto the legislation should it reach his desk.  The bill has so far cleared a House committee.

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