NASHVILLE (June 9, 2021) — State Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston) was elected today as Chairman of the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR). The 25-member group is made up of public officials from state, county and municipal governments as well as two private citizens and two members of the executive branch. 

“I appreciate the confidence that the members have placed in me to serve in this leadership role,” said Senator Yager. “I look forward to continuing to build strong relationships between state, municipal and county governments to work on solutions to substantive issues that we face together as Tennesseans.”

Since 1978, TACIR has served as a forum for the discussion and resolution of intergovernmental problems.  The organization provides high quality research support to state and local government officials in order to improve government effectiveness in Tennessee.  In recent years, TACIR has provided significant research that helped formulate public policy on broadband expansion, education financing, public infrastructure, annexation and taxation. 

Senator Yager currently serves as Senate Republican Caucus Chairman.  He previously chaired the State and Local Government Committee in the Tennessee Senate.   Before being elected to the Senate, Yager completed 24 years of service to Roane County as County Executive.

“The overall goal of TACIR is to improve the effectiveness of the intergovernmental system in order to better serve the citizens of Tennessee, added Yager.  “I look forward to working with my fellow TACIR members to achieve this goal.”

###

KNOXVILLE – State Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston) today announced that Lamar Alexander Parkway has been extended to Oak Ridge as a result of legislation passed recently by the Tennessee General Assembly.  Yager said the extension is in recognition of the former Governor of Tennessee and U.S. Senator’s leadership and commitment to the Department of Energy’s missions in Oak Ridge.   

Yager made the announcement at the Tennessee Valley Corridor (TVC) Summit held in Knoxville where he presented Alexander with a copy of the sign marking the Parkway’s extension.  Under the new law, Lamar Alexander Parkway now passes by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Y-12 National Security Complex and near the East Tennessee Technology Park, the former K-25 site.

“As everyone who is aware of the history of the Tennessee Valley Corridor, knows it was former Governor Alexander’s vision of a science and technology corridor in the Knoxville metro area that has led to the Tennessee Valley Corridor we know today,” said Sen. Yager.  “In those days he famously said to people in East Tennessee, “You need to understand how important Oak Ridge is! Let’s talk about the Oak Ridge Corridor.” And he still says that today!”

“I was proud to sponsor the amendment to extend the designation of Lamar Alexander Parkwayfor the entire length of the highway to where it intersects with Oak Ridge Turnpike in the City of Oak Ridge in Roane County,” Yager added.

The four-lane highway, U.S. Highway 321, was constructed in Blount and Loudon Counties during Alexander’s service to Tennessee.  It connects the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Maryville and Lenoir City, previously terminating at Interstate 40 in Loudon County.  It was named for Alexander in recognition of his home town and ardent support for the National Park. 

“During Lamar’s service as Governor, President of the University of Tennessee, and United States Senator, he has had no greater priority than advancing the vision and ideas that are represented in the mission and goals of the Tennessee Valley Corridor, Yager said.  “With this designation, the Lamar Alexander Parkway, will serve as a permanent reminder of his service to Oak Ridge and his Corridor.”

###

Bill aims to prevent tragedies after horrific death of two adopted children in Roane County

(NASHVILLE) – The Tennessee Senate today unanimously approved legislation requiring adoptive parents receiving subsidies to annually provide the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) with medical or school enrollment records to ascertain a health check.  State senators cast their votes in favor of the legislation while standing in honor and remembrance of two children who suffered horrific deaths after being abused by their adoptive parents.  Senate Bill 270, sponsored by Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston), also authorizes DCS to initiate a face-to-face visit if the adoptive parent fails to provide the documentation and foul play might be suspected. 

“This was an abhorrent crime,” said Sen. Yager, who represents Roane County in the Tennessee Senate.  “About 99% of adoptive parents do an outstanding job.  However, there is a fraction who abuse children while pocketing their adoption subsidy, which is intended to help support the child’s needs.  That is who this bill targets.  We must do everything we can to ensure this never happens again.”

The arrest warrant said the children were fed a “starvation diet of light bread and water” by their adoptive parents.  They were also locked in a basement and caged in isolation.  Roane County law enforcement authorities found the body of one of the deceased children, a young girl, buried in the family’s barn in Roane County.  The second child, a boy, was found buried in the back yard of the adoptive parents’ adult biological son in Knox County.  Authorities believe the children were buried several years before discovery.  The adoptive parents continued receiving financial benefits for both children after their death. 

“This legislation would ensure that DCS receives an annual notification on any child when the adoptive parents are receiving subsidy payments,” added Sen. Yager.  “Most importantly, it provides DCS with the authority to check on the child when that information is not received and foul play is suspected to hopefully prevent such tragedies.”

The adoptive parents each face multiple counts of felony murder, abuse of a corpse, aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect. They also each face counts of abuse of a corpse, theft, TennCare fraud, and falsification of educational or academic records.  The adoptive parents had claimed the children were home schooled. 

Presently, DCS gives an incentive for foster families to adopt their foster children by promising a monthly adoption subsidy until the children are age 18 to 21.  Once the adoption is finalized, DCS caseworkers do not check back in. Parents are requested to sign an affidavit to promise they are adhering to the agreement every two years. 

The bill now must pass the House of Representatives, where it is sponsored by Representative Mary Littleton (R-Dickson), before it goes to the governor’s desk for his signature.  

###

(NASHVILLE) — A resolution allowing voters to change the way Tennessee’s Attorney General is selected was approved 25-7 on Monday evening by the Tennessee Senate.  Senate Joint Resolution 1, sponsored by Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Ken Yager (R-Kingston), calls for a transparent nomination process by the Tennessee Supreme Court in selecting the State Attorney General, followed by a confirmation vote of the nominee by a majority of both houses of the Tennessee General Assembly.

“This resolution calls for an amendment to the Tennessee Constitution to require the Supreme Court to nominate an individual in an open meeting with a recorded vote,” Yager said.  “It would further require a confirmation of that nomination by the General Assembly.  This retains an important role for the court in the selection process, while providing an oversight role to the General Assembly through the confirmation process.   It is consistent with the intentions of the authors of our State Constitution who wanted officials directly elected by the people to have a role in the appointment.”

The 1870 constitution required Supreme Court judges be elected by Tennessee voters.  Yager said the current system of appointing justices means the selection of the State Attorney General is twice removed from the public.  Tennessee is the only state in which the State Supreme Court appoints the attorney general.  The votes taken by the court on nominees currently are not disclosed to the public. 

“This compromise is an improvement over how Tennessee currently selects the State Attorney General,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Mike Bell (R-Riceville).  “It leaves the independence of the judiciary to nominate someone, makes it more transparent in the process, and then gives that confirmation to the people through their elected representatives.” 

Once the nomination is made, the legislature would have 60 days to go through the confirmation process. In the event that the candidate is rejected, then the court would have 60 days to make another nomination.

The resolution now goes to the House of Representatives where it must also receive a two thirds majority.  Once approved by the House, it will go to Tennessee voters in 2022 where it must receive a majority of votes cast in the gubernatorial election.

###

Bill aims to prevent tragedies after horrific death of two adopted children in Roane County

(NASHVILLE) — Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston) received approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee today for legislation requiring adoptive parents receiving subsidies to annually provide the Department of Children’s Services with medical or school enrollment records to ascertain a health check.  Senate Bill 270 comes after the horrific deaths of two Roane County children.  It  also authorizes DCS to initiate a face-to-face visit if the adoptive parent fails to provide the documentation and foul play might be suspected. 

“This was an abhorrent crime,” said Sen. Yager, who represents Roane County in the Tennessee Senate.  “These children lived in barbaric conditions which are hard for us to imagine in the worst of nightmares.  We must do everything we can to ensure this never happens again and that children in the state’s custody are adopted into loving homes, not those who would abuse them while pocketing their adoption subsidy.”

The arrest warrant said the children were fed a “starvation diet of light bread and water” by their adoptive parents.  They were also locked in a basement and caged in isolation.  Roane County law enforcement authorities found the body of one of the deceased children, a young girl, buried in the family’s barn in Roane County.  The second child, a boy, was found buried in the back yard of the adoptive parent’s adult biological son in Knox County.  Authorities believe the children were buried several years before discovery.  The adoptive parents continued receiving financial benefits for both children after their death. 

The discovery was made last summer when a third child was found walking on a Roane County road alone by a passerby who alerted law enforcement authorities.  The abusers had five adoptive children in which the state reportedly paid them an adoption subsidy. 

“This legislation would ensure that DCS receives an annual notification on any child when the adoptive parents are receiving subsidy payments,” added Sen. Yager.  “Most importantly, it provides DCS with the authority to check on the child when that information is not received and foul play is suspected to hopefully prevent such tragedies.”

The adoptive parents each face multiple counts of felony murder, abuse of a corpse, aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect. They also each face counts of abuse of a corpse, theft, TennCare fraud, and falsification of educational or academic records.  The adoptive parents had claimed the children were home schooled. 

Presently, DCS gives an incentive for foster families to adopt their foster children by promising a monthly adoption subsidy until the children are age 18 to 21.  Once the adoption is finalized, DCS caseworkers do not check back in. Parents are requested to sign an affidavit to promise they are adhering to the agreement every two years. 

The bill now advances to the floor of the Senate for final consideration.  It is also pending action in the House of Representatives where it is sponsored by Representative Mary Littleton (R-Dickson).   

###