politics and Government

Thomas R Machnitzki

  NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — School voucher advocates are asking the Tennessee Supreme Court to take over the legal battle challenging the constitutionality of a program that would allow parents to use public tax dollars on private school tuition.


The Tennessee attorney general’s office, as well as pro-voucher groups representing parents seeking to enroll in the program, filed their motion with the high court this week.



NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne)  --  Metro will move to Phase Two of its Roadmap for Reopening Nashville on Monday.


Metro COVID-19 Task Force Chairman Dr. Alex Jahangir made the announcement Thursday morning. Dr. Jahangir notes that modifications have been made to the original Phase Two plan based on what the Task Force has learned implementing Phase One.


Among the Phase Two guidelines, small group gatherings will be allowed to expand from 10 to 25 people. Restaurants and retail outlets will be permitted to admit customers at 75 percent capacity.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne)  --  Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn continues to escalate her running feud with the leadership of Communist China.

Blackburn yesterday joined U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in congratulating Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen on the beginning of her new term in office. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) 


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne)  --  A new poll shows Tennesseans fairly evenly divided over the question of allowing all registered voters the option of voting by mail or absentee ballot in this year’s elections.

It has been suggested that voting by mail could help prevent or reduce the spread of coronavirus at polling stations. However, the issue has taken on a partisan tone. President Trump and many Republicans oppose the idea. Many Democrats favor it. 


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (MIke Osborne) -- Tennessee’s Driver Services Centers are preparing to re-open, but it’s going to be complicated.

In-person driver knowledge tests, new resident services, and license reinstatement will begin again on May 26. Road skills tests will be offered again beginning June 15.

However, all in-person services will be by reservation only.

On the day of your appointment, expect to que by waiting in your car, wear a mask when called inside, and then answer health screening questions and have your temperature checked at the door.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne) -- Nashville COVID-19 Task Force Chairman Dr. Alex Jahangir is pushing back hard against national media reports listing Nashville as a coronavirus hot spot.


NBC News reported Monday on what it described as “undisclosed data” from a White House report on infection rates. The report shows Nashville infections jumping 129 percent last week.



NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne) -- Gov. Bill Lee said Tuesday he’s ready to reconsider his decision to share the state’s list of virus positive residents with first responders.


The policy has received unusual, bi-partisan pushback from Tennessee Democrats and conservative Republicans united by privacy concerns.


Lee told reporters Tuesday he made the decision to share data on quarantined Tennesseans in an effort to protect the health of police and EMTs.



NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP/WMOT) -- Gov. Bill Lee said Tuesday he wants to make Tennesseans “comfortable” with voting in-person despite their coronavirus fears.


Lee was reacting to Monday’s announcement by State Elections Coordinator Mark Goins that fear of contracting the virus will not be accepted as a valid reason for voting by mail.


Gov. Lee said the state plans to expand early voting options and adopt social distancing measures at the polls to make voters more comfortable with turning out in-person.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne) -- The Tennessee Department of Labor is again warning workers they could lose pandemic jobless benefits if they refuse to return to work.


State Labor Commissioner Jeff McCord in April assured workers they would not lose benefits if they feared returning to work might mean contracting coronavirus. One week later, McCord walked that statement back.



NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne) -- The City of Nashville closed streets to through traffic in eight neighborhoods over the weekend.


It’s part of an effort to give residents more room to walk, run and bike while maintaining social distance.


Local traffic and deliveries are being allowed to continue. Signs noting the closures went up on Saturday.


The first eight closures will be in the following neighborhood locations:


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne) --  Gov. Bill Lee said this week that Tennessee’s most vulnerable residents will be his focus for coronavirus testing during the month of May.

During a press briefing Thursday, Lee told reporters he’s directed health officials to target four groups for mass assessment.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne)  -- Mayor John Cooper said Thursday he will launch Phase One of his plan to restart Nashville’s economy on Monday, even as the daily average of new COVID-19 cases trends higher.

Mayor Cooper made the announcement during his daily pandemic press briefing. He acknowledged that not all of the city’s coronavirus metrics are trending in a positive direction. Health officials have reported an average of more than 100 new infections per day over the past week. Thirty-five residents have died, including five on Tuesday alone.

Mayor John Cooper (Twitter)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne) -- Mayor John Cooper has extended his “Safer-at-Home" order for Nashville residents for another week Thursday morning, citing a rising number of new COVID-19 infections.


Cooper provided a chart showing the number of new confirmed infections climbing over the past two weeks from a “moving average” of 40 cases a day to 80 cases a day.



NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne)  --  Nashville Mayor John Cooper says his proposed 32 percent increase in property taxes is the only way to fix the city’s pandemic battered budget, but a number of Metro Council Members beg to differ.

Mayor John Cooper made a grim budget proposal to the City Council Tuesday afternoon. He began the virtual presentation by noting that the March 3 tornado and the ongoing health crisis will cost the city $192 million in April, May and June alone.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne) -- The Speakers of the Tennessee House and Senate have received an opinion by the State Attorney General that fellow Republican Gov. Bill Lee does have the authority to force the state’s largest cities to open pandemic idled businesses.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne) -- The Tennessee Department of Labor says the state will begin paying unemployment benefits to self-employed workers this week.


The announcement comes more than a month after Congress authorized the aid and workers still may not receive all the benefits they’re entitled to.


Mayor John Cooper (Twitter)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (Mike Osborne) -- Middle Tennessee's March 3 tornado survivors have one week to complete an application for a federal disaster grant.


The Federal Emergency Management Agency will close the application period on Monday, May 4.


During a recent press briefing, Mayor John Cooper noted that 645 Nashville homeowners and renters have already applied for aid. He says nearly $2 million in individual assistance has been approved.



NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A federal appeals court says Tennessee must continue allowing abortions amid a temporary ban on nonessential medical procedures during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The ruling follows a U.S. District judge’s order last week that abortions could proceed during the pandemic.

The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued its opinion Friday. The justices wrote that courts must give governments flexibility to respond to a crisis but that does not include “abdicating responsibility, especially when well-established constitutional rights are at stake."


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Lee says that restaurants in Tennessee will be allowed to open Monday for dine-in service with reduced seating capacity as part of his effort to reopen large swaths of the state by the end of the month.

Lee announced earlier this week that he would not extend his mandatory safer-at-home order, which expires April 30. Instead, the Republican said businesses in 89 out of the state’s 95 counties will be allowed to reopen.

That did not include the state’s biggest cities, including Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga and Knoxville.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — When Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee ordered a halt to non-emergency medical services last month due to the coronavirus, many Republican lawmakers questioned how it impacted abortion.

The Republican governor publicly said he intended to restrict abortions with the order. But emails obtained by The Associated Press through public records requests show conservative lawmakers and anti-abortion advocates pressed him to make the order explicit, saying clinics were still performing the procedure.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nashville is adding 20 tornado sirens in a system upgrade that will let the warnings go off in specific areas, instead of throughout all of the city.

The Metro Office of Emergency Management said in a news release Tuesday that it will begin work this week on the next phase of a $1.9 million upgrade to Nashville's tornado warning system alongside Metro Information Technology Services.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Some of Tennessee’s biggest cities are not committing to reopen their economies by Gov. Bill Lee’s stated goal of May 1.


Nashville Mayor John Cooper said Tuesday that he could see the first phase of an economic reopening in early May if criteria are met on transmission rates, new cases, testing and equipment, and contact tracing.


Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon said the gradual lift of restrictions will be based on data, not dates.




NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne) -- Mayor John Cooper has a stark warning for Nashville residents. Get ready for a sharp increase in property taxes.


Cooper last week told WTVF-TV a tax hike of 20 percent or more is possible in the coming fiscal year.



NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne) -- Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander says it's time to “pull out all the stops” in an effort to ramp up coronavirus testing.

The Senator says the nation can’t be safely reopened ”without adequate testing.” Alexander calls the Trump Administration's promise to deliver two-and-a-half-million test kits a week by mid-June “impressive  -- but not nearly enough.”


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Mike Osborne) -- Opinions are sharply divided over Gov. Bill Lee’s announcement Monday that he plans to lift pandemic restrictions May 1.


West Tennessee Republican Bruce Griffey demands in an open letter that the governor reopen the state immediately. Griffey says Lee’s restrictions are causing widespread “destruction.”