Press "Enter" to skip to content

AP: State

Ashley Judd talks about mental health after mother’s death
May 12, 2022
The Associated Press undefined
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) — Ashley Judd encouraged people to seek help for their mental health and talked about her grieving process after the loss of her mother, country star Naomi Judd.
In an interview aired on “Good Morning America” on Thursday, the movie star said she wanted to address her mother’s struggle with depression. Judd said she was with her mother at her home in Tennessee on the day Naomi died on April 30.
Judd also encouraged anyone who was having thoughts of harming themselves to reach out to The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Naomi Judd died at the age of 76, a day before she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame with her duo partner and daughter Wynonna Judd. In a statement provided to The Associated Press, the family said they had lost her to “the disease of mental illness.”
“When we’re talking about mental illness, it’s very important, and to be clear and to make the distinction between our loved one and the disease,” Judd said in the interview. “It lies. It’s savage. And, you know, my mother, our mother, couldn’t hang on until she was inducted into the Hall of Fame by her peers. I mean, that is the level of catastrophe of what was going on inside of her because the barrier between — the regard in which they held her couldn’t penetrate into her heart. And the lie that the disease told her was so convincing.”
Ashley Judd said that her mother shot herself with a gun, but asked for privacy on other details of the death. Naomi Judd wrote openly about her depression and anxiety in her memoir “River of Time” and daughter Ashley said it was because of this that she cherished every moment she spent with her mother.
“I really accepted the love my mother was capable of giving me because I knew she was fragile,” Judd said. “So when I walked around the back of their house and came in the kitchen door and she said, ‘There’s my darling, there’s my baby.’ And she lit up. I savored those moments.”
Naomi and Wynonna Judd scored 14 No. 1 songs in a career that spanned nearly three decades. The red-headed duo combined the traditional Appalachian sounds of bluegrass with polished pop stylings, scoring hit after hit in the 1980s. Wynonna led the duo with her powerful vocals, while Naomi provided harmonies and stylish looks on stage.
TheJuddsreleased six studio albums and an EP between 1984 and 1991 and won nine Country Music Association Awards and seven from the Academy of Country Music. They earned a total of five Grammy Awards together on hits like “Why Not Me” and “Give A Little Love,” and Naomi earned a sixth Grammy for writing “Love Can Build a Bridge.”

Fed utility weighs coal plant switch options, climate impact
May 12, 2022
By JONATHAN MATTISE Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The nation’s largest public utility plans to shut down a massive coal-fired power plant, but wants to replace it with natural gas. That would put the federal Tennessee Valley Authority out of step with President Joe Biden’s administration goal of a carbon-pollution-free energy sector by 2035.
Officials with the utility argue the natural gas move would help pave a path toward more renewable sources and away from coal, while continuing to keep rates low and the electric grid reliable. But environmental groups warn the agency could squander the chance to get away from carbon-producing fossil fuels that drive climate change.
The impending decision for the Cumberland Fossil Plant in Tennessee was a focal point at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s board meeting Wednesday, where CEO Jeff Lyash argued the agency is attempting a balancing act. TVA has set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2035, compared to 2005 levels.
Scientists, meanwhile, have warned that failing to meet Biden’s 2035 target will only lead to more intense and more frequent extreme weather events, as well as droughts, floods and wildfires. Teams of meteorologists across the world have predicted there is nearly a 50-50 chance that Earth will temporarily hit a global warming temperature threshold international agreements are trying to prevent within the next five years.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Lyash reasoned that electricity use could as much as double by 2050, due in part to a shift to electric-based technology aimed at carbon emissions, including more electric vehicles — a technology the independent federal utility has focused on in recent years.
TVA is spearheading plans for proposed charging sites across its region and has set a goal of 200,000 electric vehicles in its area by 2028. It is laying out a large-scale transition to electric for its own workforce fleet and has teamed up on economic recruitment efforts that led Ford to choose Tennessee for its electric truck facility in a package deal also bringing a partner company’s battery plant.
Lyash has said TVA will not be able to meet the 100% reduction goal without technological advances in energy storage, carbon capture and small modular nuclear reactors, instead aiming for 80%. The utility has its own aspirational goal of net zero emissions by 2050.
“That’s what we know we can execute and deliver, without raising prices and impacting reliability,” Lyash said during the meeting at Young Harris College in Georgia. “It doesn’t change our aspiration of achieving net zero and of going farther faster. But we have to be transparent and honest: Going farther faster will take research, development and the deployment of technologies that we don’t have at a commercially competitive price.”
Environmental advocates have said a switch to gas at the Cumberland plant — one of five coal plants left in TVA’s power system, which ranges from nuclear to hydroelectric generation — would leave it producing climate-warming greenhouse gases for decades.
“In order to fight climate change and better serve its 10 million customers, TVA must scrap its gas plans and should instead use this opportunity to become a national leader in the clean energy transition by investing in renewable energy options – like solar power, wind power, and battery storage – that are affordable, effective, and available right now,” said Eric Hilt of the Southern Environmental Law Center, who added that prices of those renewable sources are dropping.
TVA officials have said their preferred option would be natural gas-based at Cumberland. Another of the alternatives in their proposal centers on solar power with storage. In-person open houses to discuss the options are scheduled for May 17 and 18, as the agency contemplates a final decision in the coming months.
The utility already has plans to add 10,000 megawatts of solar power to its system by 2035. They have teamed up on projects with several prominent industrial customers who want their operations tied to renewables.
Lyash said supply chain issues have helped create setbacks of late. Issues with solar panel availability have led to delays of up to a year for some TVA projects, Lyash said.
TVA powers provides electricity to local power companies serving 10 million people in Tennessee and parts of six surrounding states.

Bahamas calls on US labs to help solve deaths of 3 tourists from Tennessee and Florida
May 9, 2022
By DÁNICA COTO Associated Press
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Samples taken from three tourists from Tennessee and Florida who died at a resort in the Bahamas under mysterious circumstances have been sent to a lab in the U.S. to expedite results and help authorities understand what happened, officials said Monday.
The police commissioner of the Bahamas, Paul Rolle, said officials also collected samples from the rooms where the tourists were staying and the surrounding property to determine whether any contaminants were present.
“We really want to know what caused this,” he said.
He identified the victims as a married couple from Tennessee, Michael Phillips, 68, and Robbie Phillips, 65, and a resident of Florida, Vincent Paul Chiarella, 64. Rolle declined to provide their hometowns.
Chiarella’s wife, Donnis, was flown to a hospital in Florida and remained in serious condition, Rolle said.
Their bodies were found Friday morning at the Sandals Emerald Bay resort in Exuma, where the couples had been staying in two separate villas.
The Phillipses apparently owned a company called Royal Travel, and Robbie Phillips, who called herself “The Sand Lady,” specialized in arranging trips to Sandals resorts. She posted photos of the resort’s beach on her Facebook page Thursday, saying she was there with her husband.
The couple had three children and six grandchildren, according to the company website.
The samples taken from the victims were sent to a lab in Philadelphia, with results of the toxicology study expected in about a week, Rolle said. He noted that the Bahamas’ Department of Environmental Health and police officers are still at the resort.
When asked what he thinks might have caused the tourists’ deaths, Rolle said: “I’m not going to speculate.”
He noted that all four tourists went to a doctor the night before their bodies were discovered and they had complained of feeling ill. He said they went at different times and had eaten different things.
Meanwhile, Sandals Resorts said it would not comment further beyond its original statement, which noted that it is supporting the investigation and the families of those affected.
“Out of respect for the privacy of our guests, we cannot disclose further information at this time,” the company said.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price also confirmed three American citizens had died and offered “heartfelt condolences to the families and the other loved ones of those who have passed.
“We are closely monitoring local authorities’ investigations into the cause of death, and we stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance,” he added.
The deaths come seven years after a Delaware family became seriously ill at a resort in the U.S. Virgin Islands. U.S. authorities determined that methyl bromide, a highly toxic pesticide banned for indoor residential use in 1984, was to blame and had been used at that resort several times.


Associated Press reporter Michael Catalini in Trenton, New Jersey, contributed.

University of Tennessee to resume requiring test scores
May 9, 2022
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Students applying to attend the University of Tennessee next fall will be required to submit standardized test scores, the school said.
The university stopped requiring test scores during the height of the coronavirus pandemic when testing centers closed down to mitigate the spread of the virus but has decided to return to its pre-pandemic policy of requiring students to submit scores from the SAT, ACT or both, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports.
The announcement follows months of discussion about how to handle standardized test scores moving past the pandemic. Campus admissions leaders had explored the idea of keeping the test optional.
University President Randy Boyd said in a statement that he was thankful for the “very thorough engagement” on the issue but said officials decided not to make changes.
“Based on our review and the thoughtful conversations at our recent board meetings, the campuses do not intend to bring forward any proposed revisions to the university’s admissions policies,” he said.

Tennessee holding primary elections in county races
May 3, 2022
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — It’s voting time again in Tennessee, as candidates from the Democratic and Republican parties compete in county primary elections Tuesday.
Voters will make selections in primaries for county races such as mayor, district attorney, school board and judicial openings.
Voting locations open Tuesday morning in 74 counties. Some people already registered votes during an early voting period that ran from April 13 through April 28.
Primary winners in each race will be candidates in the county general election on Aug. 4. That is also the date of primary elections in state and federal races. The general election for state and federal races is Nov. 8.
In Davidson County, current district attorney Glenn Funk is facing Sara Beth Myers and P. Danielle Nellis in the Democratic primary.
A key Hamilton County primary features Republicans Matt Hullander, Sabrena D. Smedly and Weston Wamp in the race to succeed Mayor Jim Coppinger.
Former Republican state Rep. Glen Casada is running for Williamson County clerk. Casada resigned as House speaker in 2019 amid scandals after serving only months in the position.
In Shelby County, Democratic Mayor Lee Harris is opposed by Kenneth Moody.
Election information can be found on websites for the secretary of state and county election commissions.

Tennessee governor signs new K-12 funding formula into law
May 3, 2022
FRANKLIN, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed into law Monday an overhaul he proposed for the formula for funding the state’s multibillion-dollar K-12 education system.
The Republican signed the law at Franklin High School, where he attended school. Lawmakers in the Republican-supermajority General Assembly passed the bill last week. There were some crossover votes, with Democrats supporting it and Republicans opposing it.
“What’s unique about this piece of legislation and this funding formula is that it considers students above all,” Lee said.
Under the new school funding plan, Tennessee would join nearly 40 other states that attach a set amount of money per student. This has alarmed critics who argue the plan could potentially punish school districts because they might receive less funds over time. However, supporters counter the current decades-old funding mechanism — made up of about 45 components — is overly complicated and makes it difficult to track how the money is spent.
The bill states that schools will receive a base dollar amount of $6,860 per student with options to increase that amount depending on the student’s location and needs under a matrix known as “unique learning needs.” For example, schools with students with dyslexia or a disability would receive more funding — as well as those students in small districts or where poverty is concentrated, calculated using an algorithm outlined in the legislation.
Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn has said schools could receive as much as $15,600 per student depending on how many “unique learning needs” a student meets.
So far, Lee is expected to sign off on giving $750 million more annually to fund the new education formula starting in the 2023-2024 school year. The money would first be available for other one-time education uses in the upcoming budget year. Another $100 million has been allocated to give schools incentives to reward high reading schools and students who have strong college and career readiness. An additional $125 million will be added to boost teacher salaries, moving the minimum salary from around $35,000 to $46,000 by 2026.

School library bill advances, sponsor suggests book burning
April 28, 2022
By KIMBERLEE KRUESI Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Republicans advanced legislation Wednesday that would place more scrutiny over what books are placed in public schools libraries, moments after the bill’s House sponsor said any inappropriate book should be burned.
The measure is just one of several proposals introduced in Tennessee this year designed to impose more scrutiny and transparency in public school libraries amid a national spike in book challenges and bans. School librarians have become the target of scorn from Republican lawmakers pushing for more oversight on materials provided to children — particularly those that touch on racism and LGBTQ issues.
Republican Rep. Jerry Sexton, from Bean Station, introduced a last-minute amendment this week to a school bill that would give the state’s textbook commission — which is made up of politically appointed members — veto power over what books end up on school library shelves. Schools would have to provide the commission a list of their library materials.
Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons, from Nashville, asked Sexton what he would do with books deemed to be inappropriate.
“You going to put them in the street? Light them on fire? Where are they going?” Clemmons asked.
“I don’t have a clue, but I would burn them,” Sexton said on the House floor.
Later, he amended what he had said on the floor to note that he wasn’t a member of the textbook commission and didn’t think any book-burning was likely to occur.
Earlier this year, Sexton had lashed out at librarians during a legislative hearing that included testimony from some who alleged without proof that educators were attempting to “groom” children with sexually explicit materials found in libraries.
“I don’t appreciate what’s going in our libraries, what’s being put in front of our children and shame on you for putting it there,” Sexton said at the time.
Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson, from Knoxville, said the legislation aimed at libraries was taking “Tennessee in a dangerous direction.”
Librarians have countered throughout this debate that schools already have policies in place for parents and educators to review school library books. They stress the need for better resources and possibly adding a state library coordinator to promote literacy and education across the state — which the General Assembly has advanced this year.
The Republican-supermajority House approved the bill on a 66-26 vote, but time is running short in the 2022 legislative session. The GOP-controlled Senate has advanced a separate version that would simply instruct the textbook commission to provide library guidance to schools.
Book banning put Tennessee in the national spotlight recently after a rural school board in McMinn County voted unanimously to remove “Maus,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, from the district’s curriculum. Meanwhile, in Williamson County, an affluent region just south of Nashville, school board members agreed to remove “Walk Two Moons” — a book that depicts an American Indian girl’s search for her mother — after parents complained about it.
Republican Gov. Bill Lee has also fueled this debate, targeting school libraries in a speech earlier this year and introducing his own legislation that he said would ensure students consume “age appropriate” content. The bill, which Lee has since signed into law, requires school libraries to post their contents online and regularly review their policies to make sure the materials are “age-appropriate” and “suitable” for the children accessing them.

Tennessee nears overhaul of K-12 education funding formula
April 28, 2022
By KIMBERLEE KRUESI Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s Republican-dominated General Assembly neared the finish line Wednesday of an overhaul of the state formula for funding its multibillion-dollar K-12 education system, angering Democratic lawmakers who were abruptly blocked from floor discussion of one of this year’s most sweeping pieces of legislation.
The state House and Senate each passed versions of the plan Wednesday, and would need to sort out differences as they near an anticipated end of their monthslong session.
Rewriting Tennessee’s school funding system has been a priority for Republican Gov. Bill Lee, who urged lawmakers to sign off on his plan this session. Republicans jumped to the task, but some education advocates and Democratic lawmakers unsuccessfully pleaded for more time to flesh out the details involving the state’s most expensive budget item.
GOP House leaders infuriated Democrats on Wednesday by blocking floor debate on the school funding mechanism being proposed. At the time, Democratic lawmakers were attempting to pass a long list of possible amendments, some of them submitted by lawmakers’ constituents.
Earlier in the week, Republican House members used similar procedural maneuvers to cut off debate on several controversial LGBTQ-related bills.
While such maneuvers are allowed, lawmakers generally shy from doing so in order to provide transparency to the public wanting to know what their General Assembly is approving or spiking.
Rep. John Ray Clemmons, a Democrat from Nashville, quickly called his Republican peers “cowards” in a tweet and said they were “too scared” to defend their bills.
The school formula measure passed 65-27 in the House with Republican Rep. Mark White, the bill’s sponsor, later quipping he had prepared remarks to defend the overhaul but didn’t have an opportunity to give them.
The Senate went through a lengthier debate before voting to pass the bill 26-5.
Under the new school funding plan, Tennessee would join nearly 40 other states that attach a set amount money per student. This has alarmed critics who argue the plan could potentially punish school districts because they might receive less funds over time. However, supporters counter the current decades-old funding mechanism — made up of about 45 components — is overly complicated and makes it difficult to track how the money is spent.
The bill states that schools will receive a base dollar amount of $6,860 per student with options to increase that amount depending on the student’s location and needs under a matrix known as “unique learning needs.” For example, schools with students with dyslexia or a disability would receive more funding — as well as those students in small districts or where poverty is concentrated, calculated using an algorithm outlined in the legislation.
Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn has said schools could receive as much as $15,600 per student depending on how many “unique learning needs” a student meets.
So far, Lee is expected to sign off on giving $750 million more annually to fund the new education formula starting in 2023-2024. The money would first be available for other one-time education uses in the upcoming budget year. Another $100 million has been allocated to give schools incentives to reward high reading schools and students who have strong college and career readiness. An additional $125 million will be added to boost teacher salaries, moving the minimum salary from around $35,000 to $46,000 by 2026.
Other bills still pending include a proposal to regulate delta-8 THC, which is a psychoactive chemical cousin of marijuana’s main intoxicating ingredient. The Senate and House are currently at odds over the bill’s details with some encouraging an outright ban as concerns have been raised about its explosive popularity in a state where recreational marijuana is not legal. Others say regulating the product will better help reduce the risk of children being exposed to it.

Austin Peay University says ransomware attack contained
April 28, 2022
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A ransomware attack hit campus computers at Austin Peay University, but school officials said it was contained.
The school announced the attack in a campus alert and on social media Wednesday afternoon, calling on students and staff to shut off computers immediately. About an hour later the university said it was contained, according to media reports.
The university’s technology staff is investigating the incident, and the attack won’t alter any schedules, the university said. Wednesday was the last day of classes, and exams begin Friday.
Ransomware attackers typically seize control of a network using encryption to block access and demand a ransom in exchange for encryption codes.

Smokies announces synchronous firefly viewing dates, lottery
April 27, 2022
GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) — The annual lottery to view the synchronous fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park opens on Friday.
Every year in late May to early June, thousands of visitors gather near the Elkmont Campground to observe the Photinus carolinus, a firefly species that flashes synchronously. Since 2006, access to the area has been limited during the eight days of predicted peak activity in order to reduce congestion and minimize the disturbance to the fireflies during their peak mating period.
This year, park scientists predict that period will be June 3-June 10, according to a park news release. Those wishing for a vehicle pass can enter the lottery by visiting www.recreation.gov and searching for “Great Smoky Mountains Firefly Viewing Lottery.” A total of 800 vehicle passes, 100 passes per night, will be issued.
All lottery applicants will be charged a $1 application fee. Successful applicants will automatically be awarded parking passes and charged a $24 reservation fee.

Man sentenced to death for killing deputy adds life sentence
April 27, 2022
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A man sentenced to death for fatally shooting a Tennessee sheriff’s deputy in 2018 before setting fire to his patrol car with his body inside is now facing an additional federal sentence of life in prison.
The sentence was handed down Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Nashville for Steven Wiggins. Last August, a jury sentenced Wiggins to death in state court in the May 2018 killing of Dickson County Sheriff’s Sgt. Daniel Baker.
The federal government had been seeking the death penalty as well. U.S. Attorney Mark Wildasin’s office says Wiggins pleaded guilty last month under a plea deal including a life sentence to the federal charges.
The federal sentence doesn’t change the state death sentence.
The grisly slaying set off a two-day manhunt.

Wild finish for teams still trying to get into NHL playoffs
April 26, 2022
By STEPHEN HAWKINS AP Sports Writer
FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Things got wild in a matter of seconds for Western Conference teams still trying to get into the NHL playoffs — for those on the ice and those watching at home.
“Interesting. It’s why you play the full 65 minutes,” Dallas Stars coach Rick Bowness said Monday, a day after playoff-contending teams Vegas and Nashville both gave up last-second goals to lose home games after regulation.
Dallas, which didn’t play Sunday, can now clinch one of the two wild-card spots with a win in regulation at home Tuesday night against the Golden Knights, something Bowness said he realized “right away” after those two strange finishes Sunday night.
“It’s obviously what you want as a player and a team is to not rely on somebody else to do your job,” Stars captain Jamie Benn said.
Vegas, which as an expansion team in 2017-18 went to the Stanley Cup Final, is now in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in its brief history. The Golden Knights will be without starting goaltender Robin Lehner after the team said Monday he will have season-ending shoulder surgery.
Vegas blew a 4-2 lead in the final 2:06 Sunday night against San Jose, which forced overtime on Timo Meier’s goal with 0.9 seconds left in regulation. The Sharks won 5-4 in a shootout.
That was after Nashville lost 5-4 at home to Minnesota when Dmitry Kulikov scored with 1.3 seconds remaining in overtime.
“A tough one obviously,” Predators defenseman Dante Fabbro said. “But you have to look at some bright sides. We got one point out of it, kind of just got to wipe the slate clean here and focus on Calgary. … It was definitely a playoff game out there.”
The Stanley Cup playoffs start next Monday. All eight playoff teams for the Eastern Conference are set and things are getting closer in the West.
If Dallas beats Vegas, Nashville could wrap up the other wild-card spot with a win at home against Calgary.
Going into Tuesday night when each team plays the first of three games over four nights to wrap up the regular season, Nashville sits at 94 points, Dallas 93, Vegas 90 and Vancouver 87. The Stars-Golden Knights game on Tuesday is the only head-to-head matchup remaining among that quartet.
The Canucks still have a slim chance to make the playoffs. They would have to win their remaining three games, and Dallas would have to lose its last three in regulation. Vegas, which would have to beat Dallas in that scenario, would then have to lose its final two games at Chicago and St. Louis in regulation.
Dallas is coming off a 3-2 win at home Saturday night over Seattle, a welcome result for the Stars after an 0-3 road trip that included a 6-2 loss at Vancouver and ended with a long, miserable trip home because of extended travel issues.
The Stars practiced for only about 15 minutes Monday, and didn’t plan to have a morning skate before the potential clinching game against the Golden Knights, who are 2-0 against Dallas this season. Bowness, who wants his players to be able to rest as much as possible, likened it to trying to close out a playoff series.
“The toughest win in any playoff series is getting that fourth win. And that’s what we’re facing tomorrow,” Bowness said. “These guys know if they lose to us in regulation, they’re out, and it’s the same as in a playoff series. … The way they lost (Sunday) night, you know, they’re going to be coming at us very, very hard.”


More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Tenn. center that hosted 1996 Olympics events burns down
April 26, 2022
COPPERHILL, Tenn. (AP) — A fire early Tuesday destroyed Tennessee’s Ocoee Whitewater Center, which served as the host site for paddling events during the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, officials said.
Polk County Emergency Management Agency Director Steve Lofty told the Chattanooga Times Free Press the blaze had engulfed about 90% of the structure by the time a full fire response got to the scene on the Ocoee River.
“It’s a huge loss to the community here,” Lofty said.
Firefighters were already in the area working on extinguishing a separate tractor-trailer fire when the another driver reported seeing flames at the Whitewater Center, he said.
“Initial crews that were down there responded to the Whitewater Center and then we requested mutual aid from about 12 other departments,” Lofty said.
“Over half the structure was on fire before we ever got there,” he said. “We just didn’t have enough water and enough resources to control it. It was so far along before we knew it was burning, there wasn’t really any hope.”
Located in the remote hills of the Cherokee National Forest, the Ocoee Whitewater Center was built to host events such as kayaking and canoeing during the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics.
Polk County County Executive Robby M. Hatcher said Tuesday it’s a blow to the entire community.
“The Whitewater Center was a sought-after destination for tourism in our county, and this’ll be a big loss,” Hatcher said.

Tennessee Aquarium celebrates 30 years, touts $4.9B impact
April 25, 2022
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Chattanooga’s Tennessee Aquarium, the city’s biggest tourist draw, is celebrating its 30th anniversary.
When the $45 million privately-funded riverfront attraction opened as the world’s largest freshwater aquarium, backers projected that it would attract about 600,000 visitors a year to an area of town that had been in decline, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.
In its first year, the aquarium more than doubled that projection, drawing 1.5 million visitors to quickly emerge as the region’s biggest tourism draw. The aquarium’s success has since spurred the addition of other riverfront attractions, restaurants, hotels and housing developments. A new economic study estimates the aquarium has pumped nearly $4.9 billion into Chattanooga’s economy since 1992.
Barry White, president of the Chattanooga Tourism Co., said the aquarium has helped propel Hamilton’s tourism industry and improve life for local residents.
“The level of impact the aquarium has on conservation efforts, educational reach, revitalization of our downtown and ongoing economic impact is incredible,” White said in a report on the aquarium’s 30th anniversary.

2 finalists chosen in search for new college president
April 25, 2022
ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (AP) — Two finalists have been chosen to participate in interviews to become the next president of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology Elizabethton.
A search committee chose the finalists, who are David J. Hicks, superintendent of Bremen City Schools in Bremen, Georgia, and adjunct professor at Piedmont University in Demorest, Georgia; and Daniel Ray O’Quinn, vice president of TCAT Elizabethton.
The finalists’ resumes and information about the search are available online.
The interviews are open to the public and will be held May 3 at the college’s main campus. The interviews will also be recorded and posted online.
The new president will succeed President Dean Blevins, who is retiring in June.

Tennessee governor calls off execution, citing oversight in plan
April 22, 2022
By JONATHAN MATTISE Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s governor on Thursday called off what would have been the state’s first execution since the pandemic began, granting a temporary reprieve to the oldest inmate on death row for what was called an “oversight” in preparations for the lethal injection.
Republican Gov. Bill Lee didn’t elaborate on what exactly forced the surprise 11th-hour stop to the planned execution of 72-year-old Oscar Smith. But Amy Harwell, an attorney with the federal public defender’s office representing Smith, said her office received a notice that the issue dealt with “mishandling” of the drugs — though no further specifics were provided to her office.
The inmate had been scheduled to receive a three-drug injection only a short while later at a Nashville maximum security prison.
“Due to an oversight in preparation for lethal injection, the scheduled execution of Oscar Smith will not move forward tonight. I am granting a temporary reprieve while we address Tennessee Department of Correction protocol,” Lee said in a statement promising further details once available.
Kelley Henry, another attorney with the federal public defender’s office, called for an independent entity to investigate, saying no execution should happen until questions are answered.
Henry said the governor did the “right thing” by stopping the execution which would “certainly have been torturous to Mr. Smith.”
Smith was convicted of the 1989 killings of his estranged wife and her two teenage sons. Shortly before the governor intervened, the U.S. Supreme Court had denied a last-hour bid by Smith’s attorneys for a stay.
His reprieve is in effect until the beginning of June.
Dorinda Carter, a Department of Correction spokesperson, said the state Supreme Court would need to reschedule the execution. She said Smith would be removed from death watch and returned to his death row cell.
State officials declined to provide further information.
Just before learning of his reprieve, Smith had received communion from his spiritual adviser, who was going to be allowed in the execution chamber.
Hours earlier, Smith had been served what was supposed to be his last meal, including a double bacon cheeseburger and apple pie.
Tennessee had planned for five executions this year, including Smith’s. It has been seeking to resume its quick, pre-pandemic pace of putting inmates to death. Heading into Thursday, the five pending death warrants tied Tennessee with Texas for the most nationally this year, according to the Washington-based nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.
Texas, however, executed its oldest death row inmate on Thursday evening. Carl Wayne Buntion, 78, was put to death for the June 1990 fatal shooting of a Houston police officer, James Irby, during a traffic stop.
Smith had initially been scheduled for a June 2020 execution, one of several dates delayed because of the pandemic.
Smith was convicted of fatally stabbing and shooting Judith Smith and her sons Jason and Chad Burnett, 13 and 16, at their Nashville home on Oct. 1, 1989.
Smith has maintained he is innocent. In a clemency filing, rejected Tuesday by Lee, Smith’s legal team claimed problems with the jury in his 1990 trial. His attorneys were earlier denied requests to reopen his case after a new type of DNA analysis found the DNA of an unknown person on one of the murder weapons.
Tennessee has not conducted any executions since February 2020, when Nicholas Sutton died in the electric chair for the killing of a fellow inmate in an east Tennessee prison. Of the seven inmates Tennessee has put to death since 2018 — when Tennessee ended an execution pause stretching back to 2009 — only two died by lethal injection.
Smith had earlier declined to choose between the chair and lethal injection, so lethal injection became the default method.
Tennessee uses a three-drug series to put inmates to death: midazolam, a sedative to render the inmate unconscious; vecuronium bromide, to paralyze the inmate; and potassium chloride, to stop the heart.
Officials have said midazolam renders an inmate unconscious and unable to feel pain. Expert witnesses for inmates, however, say the drugs would cause sensations of drowning, suffocation and chemical burning while leaving inmates unable to move or call out. The assessment has led to more inmates selecting the electric chair over lethal injection.
Tennessee’s moves to continue with lethal injections come amid shortages of execution drugs in other states. For one, South Carolina has cited its struggles to obtain lethal injection drugs in recent years — a problem in many states because pharmacies and manufacturers have refused to supply their medications for executions — as it forges ahead with plans for a rare U.S. firing squad execution. That execution has been delayed as well.
Lawmakers in South Carolina have failed to pass the kind of law to keep its execution drug suppliers confidential that Tennessee has in place.
In Oklahoma last October, an inmate executed using the same three-drug lethal injection convulsed and vomited after receiving midazolam. Oklahoma has carried out three lethal injections since, without similar reactions reported.

Tennessee man admits using federal COVID-19 aid for himself
April 22, 2022
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee man has pleaded guilty to receiving more than $600,000 in COVID-19 aid and using it for himself, a federal prosecutor’s office said.
George Thacker, 59, of Spring City, pleaded guilty to wire fraud on Thursday, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Tennessee.
Thacker applied for and received over $600,000 in paycheck protection program and economic injury disaster loan proceeds, the prosecutor’s office said in a news release.
Thacker certified that he would use the funds to pay employees and for other operating expenses but instead used the money for himself, buying cryptocurrency and funding personal investment accounts, the release said.
He is to be sentenced Sept. 22 and faces up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

Police arrest man accused in stabbing deaths of parents
April 21, 2022
COLUMBIA, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee man has been charged in the stabbing deaths of his parents, police said.
Demondra Gaines, 27, was arrested Tuesday night on charges of murder, aggravated assault resulting in death and theft of a vehicle, news outlets reported, citing a statement from the Columbia Police Department.
The bodies of Christopher and Katrina Gaines were found Monday in their Columbia home with multiple stab wounds and evidence at the scene pointed to the suspect, police Capt. Jeremy Haywood said during a news conference.
“It appears to be domestic-related, however, we are open to any aspects,” Haywood said.
Gaines was caught at a motel in Memphis with a car that was reported stolen, police said.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether he has an attorney.

Tennessee plans 1st COVID-19-era execution, more scheduled
April 21, 2022
By JONATHAN MATTISE Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee is set to execute its first inmate Thursday since the start of the pandemic, planning a lethal injection procedure that has become less common in the state than the electric chair in recent years.
Oscar Smith, 72, is scheduled to die for the 1989 killings of his estranged wife and her teenage sons. The execution, using the state’s preferred method, would come as some other states struggle to secure lethal injection drugs because pharmacies and manufacturers have refused to supply their medications for executions.
In Tennessee, secrecy laws prevent the public from determining just how the drugs for Smith’s execution were obtained.
Smith has argued he should be executed by firing squad — a method South Carolina has been preparing to use in a now-delayed execution, as that state struggles to find execution drugs. Smith reasoned that it is less painful than Tennessee’s two options, but his lawsuit was denied.
His execution would be the first of five planned by Tennessee for 2022, resuming its quick, pre-pandemic pace of putting inmates to death. The five pending death warrants tie Tennessee with Texas for the most nationally this year, according to the Washington-based nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.
Smith had initially been scheduled for a June 2020 execution, one of several dates delayed because of the pandemic.
Smith was convicted of fatally stabbing and shooting Judith Smith and her sons Jason and Chad Burnett, 13 and 16, at their Nashville home on Oct. 1, 1989.
Smith has maintained he is innocent. In a clemency filing, rejected Tuesday by Republican Gov. Bill Lee, Smith’s legal team claimed problems with the jury in his 1990 trial.
“There is one thing I know for a fact,” Smith told The Associated Press in a phone interview Monday. “I know where I’m going from here. With my faith and belief, I’ll be with my savior and my family that’s deceased.”
His attorneys were denied requests to reopen his case after a new type of DNA analysis found the DNA of an unknown person on one of the murder weapons.
The state has not conducted any executions since February 2020, when Nicholas Sutton died in the electric chair for the killing of a fellow inmate in an east Tennessee prison. Of the seven inmates Tennessee has put to death since 2018 — when Tennessee ended an execution pause stretching back to 2009 — only two died by lethal injection.
Smith declined to choose between the chair and lethal injection, so lethal injection became the default method.
Tennessee uses a three-drug series to put inmates to death: midazolam, a sedative to render the inmate unconscious; vecuronium bromide, to paralyze the inmate; and potassium chloride, to stop the heart.
Officials have said midazolam renders an inmate unconscious and unable to feel pain. Expert witnesses for inmates, however, say the drugs would cause sensations of drowning, suffocation and chemical burning while leaving inmates unable to move or call out. The assessment has led to more inmates selecting the electric chair over lethal injection.
In Oklahoma last October, an inmate put to death using the same three-drug lethal injection convulsed and vomited after receiving midazolam. Oklahoma has carried out three lethal injections since, without similar reactions reported.

Man gets house arrest for pointing laser at Memphis planes
April 20, 2022
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A Mississippi man has been sentenced to house arrest and probation for pointing a green laser at FedEx airplanes flying into Memphis International Airport in Tennessee, federal prosecutors said.
Eugene Conrad of Michigan City, Mississippi, was sentenced April 7 to nine months of home confinement and three years of probation in Memphis federal court, the U.S. attorney’s office said Tuesday.
Conrad, 52, had faced up to five years in prison after pleading guilty in December to aiming a laser pointer at aircraft.
The Federal Aviation Administration told the FBI in July that airplanes flying into the busy Memphis airport from the east were being hit in the cockpit and cabin by a green laser coming from Hardeman County in Tennessee and Benton County in Mississippi.
Officials reported 49 strikes, mainly on FedEx airplanes, from January to July, prosecutors said.
Agents identified the origin of the lasers and found Conrad in front of a Benton County home. They found a green laser pointer in an outdoor trash can.

Boyd Foundation to offer dog park grants across Tennessee
April 20, 2022
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Twenty communities across Tennessee will be awarded $25,000 to help build or enhance existing dog parks, said Randy and Jenny Boyd, with the Boyd Foundation.
According to a news release, the Boyd Foundation is accepting applications for dog park grants until May 31. Winners will be announced in late July.
“Jenny and I are amazed at how our Tennessee communities have rallied together to improve their communities for our residents and their pets,” Randy Boyd, president of the University of Tennessee, said in a statement.
Since 2018, the Boyd Foundation dog park initiative has helped build 100 parks across the state in more than 80 communities.
“Dog parks not only improve the health and quality of life for our pets, but for their owners too,” said Harrison Forbes, grant administrator for the dog park initiative.
Interested applicants are encouraged to fill out an application online.

School district to pay $145K to settle masking lawsuit
April 19, 2022
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee school district has agreed to pay $145,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by parents who objected to the district’s decision to drop mask requirements this year during the coronavirus pandemic.
The agreement was reached Monday after hours of mediation, news outlets reported. The money from the Knox County Board of Education will go to pay attorney fees for the parents who filed the lawsuit on behalf of students with disabilities for protection against COVID-19. Neither party admitted wrongdoing.
The Knox County board adopted a mask mandate during the 2020-21 school year but chose not to this year despite COVID-19 numbers that remained high when classes began.
Senior U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer ordered the school system to adopt a mask mandate in September to help protect children with health problems more susceptible to the coronavirus pandemic. He temporarily lifted the requirement last month after the Knox County Board of Education and families involved in the lawsuit requested it amid decreasing virus cases.
The dismissal means Greer’s order has expired and there will no longer be any mask rules in the school district.

IRS offers extra time for Sumner and other counties’ taxpayers affected by disasters
April 18, 2022
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Income tax returns are due this week, but Tennessee residents and businesses in 14 counties hit by disasters in the past year will get some extra time.
The Internal Revenue Service is giving them until May 16 to file returns and make payments.
Tennessee was hit by severe weather, including strong winds and storms in some areas of the state, in December.
People in affected areas may also be able to waive fees and costs related to reviewing previous returns, WPLN reports.
People outside the designated disaster areas can call the IRS disaster hotline at (866) 562-5227 to request an extension.
Eligible counties are Cheatham, Davidson, Decatur, Dickson, Dyer, Gibson, Henderson, Henry, Lake, Obion, Stewart, Sumner, Weakley and Wilson.

Construction worker dies in trench collapse in Tennessee
April 18, 2022
SPRING CITY, Tenn. (AP) — A construction worker died after he was trapped in a trench that collapsed while he was working on a home in Tennessee, authorities said.
The man, who was not identified, was working in the garage of a home under construction when a trench dug as part of the project collapsed Saturday afternoon in Rhea County, said Det. Rocky Potter, a spokesman for the county sheriff’s department.
Rescue crews from Chattanooga, Knox County and other jurisdictions were called in to help with a rescue attempt. Crews dug with hand tools such as shovels because there was no room in the garage for mechanized equipment, Potter said.
The man was found dead at about 1 a.m. on Sunday, Potter said. Seventy to 100 rescue workers and members of law enforcement and fire departments worked on the scene of the rescue attempt, Potter said.
The home is located near Spring City, which is about 55 miles (88 kilometers) north of Chattanooga.

Tennessee moves bill limiting shackles on pregnant inmates
April 15, 2022
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee lawmakers are advancing a bill strictly limiting the shackling of pregnant inmates.
The Republican-led state Senate passed the legislation by Democratic Sen. Raumesh Akbari without opposition Thursday.
The bill would generally prohibit restraints of a pregnant inmate. More specifically, a pregnant inmate’s ankles, legs or waist couldn’t be shackled during labor or delivery. It also would not allow a pregnant inmate to be shackled behind the back or to be attached to another inmate.
Some exceptions allowing restraints on a pregnant inmate would be when the inmate is moved within or outside of a facility, if the inmate is an immediate flight risk, if the inmate poses a self-threat or threat to the fetus or others, or if the classification level of the inmate requires restraints.
In those cases, the bill says only the least restrictive restraints necessary should be used.
The legislation still needs a vote from the House.

Tennessee tree planting grants applications available
April 15, 2022
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s Community Tree Planting Program is accepting applications for its cost-share program that pays half the cost of trees and associated expenses for public tree planting projects.
The grants can be used for planting on public property, rights-of-way and private nonprofit land with public access, according to a news release from the Tennessee Agriculture Department. Funds can be used for purchasing and shipping trees, contracted planting, mulch, irrigation, and tree labels and signage. Grant recipients are required to use Tennessee-grown trees.
Grants can also be used for planting in riparian areas on private property, although those grants are not available to individual landowners.
Proposals can be submitted by emailing Forestry.Nashville@tn.gov. The deadline for applications is 3:30 p.m. CDT on June 3. More information is available at www.tn.gov/agriculture/forests/urban.

Officer shoots man who pointed gun during pursuit
April 14, 2022
BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) — Police fatally shot a man who pointed a gun at an officer during a pursuit Thursday, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said.
The man was seen driving erratically near a high school and a deputy with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office attempted to make a traffic stop, the bureau said in a statement. The driver reportedly fired shots out the window and fled, firing more shots as he encountered more officers, the statement said. At one point, he drove into the yard of a residence, exited the vehicle and ran behind a home.
An officer with the Bristol Police Department attempted to make contact, but the man reportedly pointed a gun at the officer and the officer fired, killing the man, the statement said. He was pronounced dead at the scene. No officers were injured.
Agents with the bureau are working to independently determine the events that led to the shooting. No further details were immediately released.

Homeless camps on public land risk felony in Tennessee bill
April 14, 2022
By JONATHAN MATTISE Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee lawmakers are close to sending Republican Gov. Bill Lee a proposal that would threaten felony penalties against homeless people who camp on local public property — including in parks — and misdemeanors for camping around highways.
The Tennessee Senate voted 20-10 Wednesday to advance the bill, with four Republicans joining Democrats in opposition. The House already passed a version of the legislation last year. Both Republican-dominated chambers need to hash out differences in what they approved.
Opponents have said the legislation does nothing to help reduce homelessness, while potentially making it harder for homeless people to rise out of extreme poverty if they have a felony on their records.
“When we allow our legislators to turn those who are society’s most beaten down into criminals, we reject the very thing that gives us the right to call ourselves civilized: our capacity for compassion, for justice rooted in love for others rather than hate,” Father Charles Strobel, founding director of homeless aid organization Room In The Inn, wrote in a newspaper guest column this week.
The Senate bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Paul Bailey, said it would be left up to the local authorities whether to enforce the law. He argued that the bill does not criminalize homelessness.
The bill adds local public property to the existing felony penalties that are possible for camping on state property, as long as the place is not designated for people to camp there. The felony is punishable by up to six years in prison. Felony convictions in Tennessee result in the revocation of an individual’s right to vote.
The penalties for camping on state property were increased from a misdemeanor to a Class E felony in 2020, when Republican lawmakers were responding to overnight protests on Capitol grounds calling for racial justice reform.
State law broadly defines illegal camping as certain activities during overnight hours. They include putting up a tent or furniture, storing personal belongings or food, cooking, sleeping or setting down something to sleep on, and starting a fire.
Arrests on local public property would have to be preceded by a warning at least 24 hours earlier. Items used to camp could be confiscated by authorities for 90 days, or longer if they are needed for evidence in a criminal case.
The bill also introduces a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a $50 fine — which could be waived — and community service, for camping along highways, including under bridges or overpasses, or within an underpass. Violations in those locations would not be limited to overnight hours under the bill. Authorities would need to first offer a warning for people in violation.
The bill passed by the House goes further. It would add soliciting on or near a highway to the new misdemeanor violation.
Bailey, the Senate bill sponsor, said “lots of churches” testified against the bill, but said he thought they would have “open arms” to welcome them in if a rescue mission couldn’t take them.
“I don’t have the answer for homelessness,” Bailey said. “Those that oppose this legislation, they don’t have all the answers for homelessness. Those that support this legislation, they don’t have all of the answers for homelessness.”
Democratic Sen. Heidi Campbell, who said her Nashville district has a homeless camp that has been highly scrutinized, likened the approach to “putting a Band-Aid on cancer.”
“I think we need to actually address the fundamental, root problem with these camps,” Campbell said.

Nashville to make Juneteenth a paid holiday
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nashville Mayor John Cooper says he plans on signing an executive order to make Juneteenth, which celebrates the end of slavery in the U.S., an official paid holiday for city employees.
According to a news release, Cooper will sign the directive on Thursday.
Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day and Freedom Day, commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers told enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, that they were free. It was two months after the Confederacy surrendered and more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
A proposal to make Juneteenth an official statewide paid holiday stalled in the GOP-controlled General Assembly earlier this year. The bill has failed to gain traction even though Gov. Bill Lee set aside funds for the measure in his proposed spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year.
The federal government made it an official holiday last year.

Copyright, 2022, TheSettler.online All content is property of the author.