U.S. Senate

WASHINGTON (AP) — A skeptical congressional panel led by Tennessee Senator Bob Corker will grill Secretary of State John Kerry today about the deal he struck this week with Russia for a ceasefire in Syria.

Kerry is scheduled to testify today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee amid nagging questions over enforcement of the truce and how violations of the agreement will be handled.

The cease-fire is to go into effect Saturday.

Congressional mistrust of Russia runs high on Capitol Hill and is sure to color the hearing.


MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WMOT)  --  WASHINGTON (AP) —  Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz released a new campaign ad Monday focused on the death of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia.

The ad warns conservatives they they’re "just one Supreme Court justice away" from losing on key issues including “marriage, religious liberty [and] the Second Amendment."

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP/WMOT) — Officials say less than 0.2 percent of Tennesseans who have applied for welfare since July 2014 have failed a drug test mandated for some.

Citing data provided by the Department of Human Services the Tennessean reports that 65 of 39,121 people applying for Families First cash assistance benefits tested positive for drugs since the law was implemented.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Vanderbilt University released the results of two surveys on sexual assault yesterday that reveal the problem is far more common than previously suspected.

The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/1VrhH6j ) reports the university asked students in spring 2015 to take one of two surveys on sexual assault. The results were released yesterday.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP/WMOT) — The Tennessee lawmaker who introduced a bill seeking to bar the state from following the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling says he is undeterred by a projected loss of $8.5 billion in federal funds if the Legislature enacts the measure.

State Rep. Mark Pody said at a rally at the state Capitol Tuesday that the proposal he’s dubbed the "Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act" is worth any cost, even though the Lebanon Republican disputed the estimated loss of federal funds.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Embattled Tennessee Rep. Jeremy Durham has survived an effort to oust him from his leadership role among state House Republicans.

Before discussing Durham’s fate, House Republicans voted to eject the media from Tuesday’s meeting. A secret ballot to remove Durham as majority whip then failed to reach the required two-thirds vote.

Prosecutors in 2013 sought charges against Durham on allegations that he had altered the dates on medical prescriptions, but a grand jury declined to indict him in 2014.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Chancellor John Morgan is stepping down as head of the Tennessee Board of Regents following Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's announcement that he wants to grant more autonomy to the six four-year universities in the system.

Haslam surprised Morgan and many others in the higher education community when he announced plans last month to re-focus the Board of Regents on the state's 40 community and technical colleges.


WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP/WMOT)  --  Tennessee’s Republican leadership was quick to pan new gun control measures announced yesterday by President Barack Obama.

Speaking at the White House, Obama defended his executive actions to tighten criminal background checks, saying he’s not plotting to take away everyone’s guns.

Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Ryan Haynes responded with a press statement saying that the president’s actions “could undermine our constitutional rights.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee lawmakers say they continue to get calls from their constituents expressing concern about the vetting process for allowing Syrian refugees in the state.

A joint legislative committee heard testimony yesterday from security officials and refugee advocates.

A highlight of the testimony came from David Shedd, former director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, who acknowledged there are some weaknesses in the federal vetting process.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Skilled trades workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga have given the United Auto Workers Union its first inroads into a foreign auto plant in the American south.

This past week the skilled workers who maintain the plant’s equipment and robots at VW's lone U.S. plant voted to have the UAW negotiate their collective bargaining agreements. The workers approved unionization by a vote of 108-44 over two days of voting that ended Friday.

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) — Members of a panel appointed to offer a recommendation about a Middle Tennessee State University building named after Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest will hold the first of two open forums on the topic today.

MTSU President Sidney McPhee announced in June he would engage the university community about the building's name. That followed a mass shooting at a historically black church in South Carolina that sparked debate about Confederate symbols.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WMOT)  --  Thousands of Tennesseans will have to find new doctors or pay higher fees following a decision by the Vanderbilt Medical system to opt out of a BlueCross BlueShield healthcare plan.

WSMV says Vanderbilt University Medical Center and affiliated practitioners are leaving the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Medicare Advantage program.

BlueCross says about 20,000 policy holders, mostly senior citizens, will be affected. A spokesperson for BlueCross tells the station Vanderbilt has simply gotten too expensive.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — State Attorney General Herbert Slatery says in a legal opinion that federal law prevents Tennessee from refusing entry to Syrian refugees.

In the opinion released Monday, Slatery notes that through the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, federal law pre-empts any rules the state may put into place regarding refugees.

But Slatery also says the state has every right to communicate to the federal government its preferences and concerns about the refugee resettlement program.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A two day unionization vote begins Thursday at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga.

Last year an election pushed by the United Auto Workers Union to gain bargaining rights for the plant’s entire workforce was narrowly defeated. This time around the union is trying to unionize just 165 skilled trades workers, not the entire 1250 blue-collar workforce.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio now has a full slate of Tennessee delegates lined up for next year’s Republican National Convention.

Former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp is Rubio’s state chairman. Wamp presided over a press conference in Nashville Monday to announce that the campaign has assembled a full slate of 82 delegates to represent Rubio at the convention.


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — It was a down to the wire kind of weekend for Tennessee football.

The Tennessee Titans blocked a New Orleans Saints field goal attempt and then scored in overtime to snap their six game losing streak with a 34-28 victory Sunday.

Rookie Marcus Mariota passed for 371 yards and four touchdowns, including the winning 5-yard scoring pass to Anthony Fasano in overtime.

In Knoxville on Saturday, Jalen Reeves-Maybin recovered a fumble deep in Tennessee territory with 32 seconds remaining to preserve the Volunteers' 27-24 triumph over South Carolina.


NEW YORK (AP) — You may soon see changes to your Comcast bill.  The cable company is expanding the use of data caps in select markets in 5 Southern states, including Tennessee.

The cable company is rolling out more data limits as the Internet becomes an increasingly popular way to watch TV. Streaming video eats up more data than surfing the Internet and reading email.

Public-interest groups criticize the caps, saying they hurt innovation and make it more difficult for people to go online.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators and the NAACP State Conference will host a town hall meeting Thursday to discuss mass incarceration and its impact on the community.

Tennessee Black Caucus chairwoman Brenda Gilmore says the symposium will focus on the results of mass incarceration in overall society, particularly in the African-American community.


WASHINGTON (AP) — Tennessee’s U.S. Senators have voted in favor of a cybersecurity bill that has some tech companies and privacy advocates concerned.

The Senate yesterday passed the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act 74-21. The bill seeks to improve cybersecurity by encouraging companies and the government to share information about hacking threats.

Some senators and technology companies, such as Apple and Yelp, are opposed to the measure, but Tennessee Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander voted in favor.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A national report shows that Tennessee has seen little to no change in fourth- and eighth-grade math and reading scores over the last two years.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the nation's report card, is given to a sample of fourth- and eighth-grade students every two years in all 50 states.

Gov. Bill Haslam says the news is still positive, because many states saw their scores decline while Tennessee remained roughly the same.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Schools in Cumberland County, Kentucky, have been canceled as police continue a massive manhunt for a man authorities say shot a Tennessee deputy.

Police raided a home in Burkesville, Kentucky, overnight looking Floyd Ray Cook, but the shooting suspect wasn’t there.

Putnam County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Beth Nelson says a deputy pulled Cook over near Allgood, Tennessee, on Saturday. When he asked Cook to show his hands, the suspect shot him. Nelson says the deputy was wearing a bulletproof vest, which saved his life.


MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP/WMOT)  -- A speaker at this week’s Holocaust Conference in Murfreesboro is calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s suggestion that a Palestinian convinced Hitler to exterminate Europe’s Jews, “nonsense.”

World War II scholar Gerhard Weinberg was a guest lecturer at Middle Tennessee State’s 12th biennial Holocaust Studies Conference. He told MTSU’s Gina Logue the holocaust was already well underway when the Palestinian leader in question visited Hitler.

Metro Schools

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A report card that tracks the achievement and growth of Tennessee schools shows the state's graduation rate improved to 88 percent, the third consecutive year it's increased.

The graduation rate is up 1 percent from last year’s 87 percent score.

Looking at Metro Nashville and the six surrounding counties, Metro was the only system to fall below the state average, with a graduation rate of 81.6 percent. Williamson, Wilson and Robertson counties all had graduation rates above 95 percent.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — If you’re in need of a lawyer but just can’t afford one here’s a heads up.

Lawyers across Tennessee are providing free legal services to qualified resident during the balance of October.

The Tennessee Bar Association says the initiative is in its seventh year and brings attorneys together with people who can't afford one.

Allan Ramsaur directs the Tennessee Bar Association. He says Tennesseans earning 150 percent of the poverty level qualify for free assistance. He calls the number of hours donated last year to this effort astounding.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WMOT)  --  Several hundred Christian conservatives held a rally on Legislative Plaza in Nashville Thursday morning.

The rally was sponsored by the Tennessee Pastors Network.

Topics addressed included what the association calls “a lax immigration system, weak terrorism laws, education, healthcare, religious liberty protections and traditional marriage.

A number of Tennessee state lawmakers were on hand for the rally. They told the crowd that a bill entitled the Tennessee Defense of Natural Marriage Act had just been introduced to the legislature.