Around The State

Farm Bureau seeking scholarship applicants

Hamblen County Farm Bureau has established a $500 scholarship for a college junior, senior or graduate student from the Lakeway Area who is majoring in an agriculture-related field. The scholarship will be awarded for the 2021 Spring semester.

For an application, contact Jenny Herrod at the Hamblen County Farm Bureau office, 723 W. Main St., Morristown. The deadline for application is Nov. 20.

Northwest Elementary to remain online only

Cocke County school officials have announced that classes and extracurricular activities at Northwest Elementary School will continue to be offered remotely on Monday.

All schools in the county will be closed for the election on Tuesday and classes at all schools are expected to resume in classrooms on Wednesday, November 4.

In-school classes at Northwest were offered beginning October 21 after six individuals tested positive for COVID 19. Offering of remote classes has been extended several times since the initial announcement.

In record year, half of voters have voted already

NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee officials say a record of nearly 2.3 million voters have already cast their ballots ahead of the Nov. 3 election, making up just more than half of the state’s registered voters.

The 51% turnout total to date accounts for the full 14-day in-person early voting period that concluded Thursday and absentee ballots returned during that timeframe. Both have surged amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office says turnout from early and absentee voting in Cheatham, Davidson, Loudon, Rutherford, Williamson and Wilson counties has already surpassed total turnout in the 2016 presidential election year.

More than 2.5 million Tennesseans voted in the 2016 general election, including nearly 1.7 million early and absentee votes.

Voters can find Election Day polling locations, hours and more with the GoVoteTN app or at GoVoteTN.com.

The deadline to request an absentee ballot was Tuesday.

Completed absentee ballots must be received by local election commissions via mail by Election Day’s close of polls. Officials are urging voters to drop off ballots inside the one post office designated in each county by 3 p.m. on Election Day so that county election officials have time to pick up ballots. Postage is required.

Tennessee updates virus cases as system gets upgrade

MEMPHIS (AP) — After saying it may not provide updated COVID-19 case data this weekend as it upgrades its national electronic disease surveillance system, Tennessee reported an increase of more than 1,180 cases statewide on Saturday.

The Tennessee Department of Health announced in a news release late Friday that it may not be able to update its virus case data on Saturday and Sunday due to the upgrade. Tennessee usually updates the number of coronavirus-related cases, deaths and other data on the department’s website on a daily basis.

The department’s website was updated Saturday afternoon. Tennessee reported an increase of 12 deaths, raising the state’s total to 3,353. The state has seen more than 260,600 cases since the new coronavirus pandemic began, health officials said.

The upgrade will not affect test result notification for patients, the health department said.

There may be a slight delay of less than 24 hours in case investigation and contact tracing efforts of newly identified cases, officials said.

Shelby County, the state’s largest by population, reported 284 additional COVID-19 cases and two additional deaths on Saturday. More than 37,700 cases and a total of 573 deaths have been reported in the county that includes Memphis.

Realtor achieves national recognition

Lisa McBride with Clinch Mountain Realty & Auction has been awarded the Accredited Buyer’s Representative designation by the Real Estate Buy’s Agent Council of the National Association of Realtors.

McBride joins more than 25,000 real estate professionals across the globe who have earned the ABR designation. All were required to successfully complete a comprehensive course in buyer representation and an elective course focusing on a buyer representation specialty, both in addition to submitting documentation verifying professional experience.

Tennessee’s online-only sports betting to start on Sunday

NASHVILLE (AP) — Sportsbooks are set to accept the first bets in Tennessee’s unique online-only sports betting program starting early Sunday, the Tennessee Lottery announced Friday.

Three of the four initial operators — DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM — have completed all the requirements to launch Sunday, according to the lottery, and each has said it is ready for a day-one start.

The lottery said the fourth operator, Tennessee Action 24/7, has system testing planned for Saturday. The Tennessee-based sportsbook plans to start up Sunday, said Tennessee Action 24/7 President Tina Hodges.

A flurry of advertising has already begun ahead of the start of sports betting in Tennessee, which companies can offer starting at 12:01 a.m. Central time before Sunday’s NFL games. The kickoff comes more than a year and a half in the making.

Sports betting barely passed in Tennessee in spring 2019, and Republican Gov. Bill Lee let it become law without signing it due to his opposition to more gambling in a state without casinos. After the law took effect that summer, plenty of legwork followed for the lottery, which was tasked with coming up with rules and vetting operators and others looking to get into Tennessee’s industry. Now, the lottery will regulate how sports betting is carried out.

“This Sunday will represent the culmination of an enormous amount of work and due diligence to bring online-only sports wagering to Tennessee, the only state in the nation to do so,” lottery President and CEO Rebecca Hargrove said in the release.

Three additional operators have applied to run sportsbooks in Tennessee: Wynn Resorts, William Hill and Churchill Downs, said lottery spokesperson Dave Smith.

Sports betting in Tennessee is restricted to people 21 and older who are physically in the state when they place bets. Under the law, 80% of privilege taxes collected for sports betting will go into the lottery for education account, 15% to local government infrastructure projects and 5% for mental health and substance abuse services.

Sportsbooks have already begun jockeying for Tennessee bettors’ business, with various promos for bettors and marketing pushes through billboards, TV commercials and social media ads.

Chattanooga officer shoots, kills man who fired at police

CHATTANOOGA (AP) — A police officer in Chattanooga, Tennessee, fatally shot a man who fired a gun at the officer during a foot chase, authorities said.

The Chattanooga Police Department said officers went to the scene of a vehicle crash on Friday afternoon and a man involved in the crash began running away.

An officer chased the man to a gas station, police said. An officer shot the man when he began firing a gun at the officer, police said.

The man was taken to a hospital, where he died, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. He was identified as Brandin Keith Davis, 27.

Authorities said Davis had active warrants for attempted murder, domestic assault and other charges from Anderson County.

The officer has been placed on administrative leave. The officer was not immediately identified by authorities.

Report: State commissioner faced sexual misconduct complaint

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee insurance commissioner who submitted his resignation this week faced an investigation over allegations of sexual misconduct by one of his department’s employees, records show.

According to a Department of Commerce and Insurance investigation summary report, there was “insufficient evidence” to substantiate the allegation against Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Hodgen Mainda stemming from a February conference in Florida.

The report of possible sexual harassment was received Sept. 15 and was referred to Gov. Bill Lee’s office on Sept. 23. Mainda offered his resignation on Monday, expressing his plans to return to Chattanooga and the private sector. His last date as commissioner is Nov. 13.

On Friday, Lee spokesperson Laine Arnold said, “The governor is aware of the investigation and has accepted the commissioner’s resignation.”

According to the investigation summary report, the employee said that during the conference, Mainda “rested his hand on her rear end while at a bar.”

Additionally, the employee said Mainda invited her into his hotel room multiple times, despite her denying his request more than once, and said he kissed her three times outside his hotel room.

“Accused did not recall this occurring, and denied any inappropriate conduct on his part during the conference,” the report states.

An attorney for Mainda declined to comment on the allegations to multiple news outlets.

A witness said the employee told him Mainda made her uncomfortable by inviting her into his hotel room after dinner, but the witness acknowledged he didn’t report what she said to anyone else, the report says. The witness, who is in a supervisory role, said he didn’t have firsthand knowledge of the incident and told the employee to report it herself.

The investigation found sufficient evidence that the witness failed to report possible sexual harassment under the state’s workplace discrimination and harassment policy, the report says.

Dove Awards name for KING & COUNTRY top artist

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Brother duo for KING & Country earned their first artist of the year award at the Gospel Music Association’s Dove Awards, which aired on Friday without an audience due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The awards show changed up the format during its telecast on Trinity Broadcasting Network to focus on performances and stories of hope. The awards show has normally been held at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Luke and Joel Smallbone, who perform as for KING & COUNTRY, also picked up an award for short form video of the year for their duet with Dolly Parton. Tauren Wells won contemporary Christian artist of the year and pop/contemporary album of the year.

Tasha Cobbs Leonard won gospel artist of the year and rapper Kayne West, who is on the ballot in some states as a presidential candidate, won for rap/hip hop recorded song of the year, his first Dove Award.

The band Skillet won rock/contemporary album of the year and rock/contemporary recorded song of the year. New artist of the year is We the Kingdom.

The song of the year award went to the song “Way Maker,” written by Osinachi Kalu Okoro Egbu, a Nigerian singer, songwriter and worship leader who also goes by Sinach. The song was originally released by Sinach in 2015, but it re-gained popularity in the last year after being covered by Michael W. Smith and others.

Sinach performed the song during the awards show with Leeland and Mandisa.

Lee recognizes Alexander

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee issued a proclamation honoring U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander for his outstanding work in support of the country’s 419 national parks with the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act.

Spearheaded by Sen. Alexander, the Great American Outdoors Act was signed into law in August and represents the most significant conservation and outdoor recreation legislation in 50 years. The bipartisan legislation will preserve federal lands and strengthen national parks for generations, including America’s most visited park, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in East Tennessee.

“Senator Alexander’s devotion to preserving the beauty of Tennessee and protecting our natural resources across the country will have a lasting impact for generations to come,” said Gov. Bill Lee. “Tennessee’s natural treasures including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are key economic drivers in Tennessee and welcome millions of visitors each year. I am proud to celebrate the Great American Outdoors Act which will support conservation and outdoor recreation, and I thank Senator Alexander, one of Tennessee’s most dedicated statesmen, for his commitment to restoring our nation and our state’s irreplaceable riches, our great outdoors.”

“The Great American Outdoors Act truly is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise truly dismal year,” said Sen. Alexander. “This new law is the most important and significant conservation and outdoor recreation legislation in 50 years. It is the largest federal investment in national parks since the Eisenhower years. It’s especially welcome at a time when everyone’s all cooped up, and we want to get outdoors. This law will cut in half the $12 billion maintenance backlog in our national parks and national forests and other public lands, fixing pot holes, leaky roofs, trails, roads, visitor centers and campgrounds. For the Smokies that means substantially reducing a $224 million backlog, which is ten times the Smokies’ annual budget. I am glad to have been a part of the bipartisan parade that made this happen.”

The legislation provides funding for much-needed maintenance and infrastructure in national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, recreation areas and American Indian schools.