NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — On Monday, Governor Bill Lee defended two of his commissioners after questions have been raised about their departments.
“We have numerous departments that everyone in state government and everyone in Tennessee knows are in disarray,” said Senate Democrat leader Jeff Yarbro late last week.
From a prison audit where inmate deaths were improperly reported to a K-12 education department with hundreds of educators leaving, Senate Yarbo pointed to areas where he says Governor Lee has no clear agenda yet.
“We hear a lot about criminal justice reform but we don’t know yet if we are getting the right information out of our prisons,” said Sen. Yarbro. “We hear education is a priority, but we see mass departures from the department.”
The Governor, who was at Martin Luther King holiday events Monday at Tennessee State University, answered questions about personnel change at the education department by saying he wanted Commissioner Penny Schwinn to challenge the status quo.
“I have asked her to do that, that is what she is doing,” said Governor Lee after the MLK event. “I have great confidence in her, in her team and the new folks in that department.”
As for the prison audit, the governor hopes a second straight pay increase this year for much-needed correction officers and changes underway answer some of the questions about the department.
“We are certainly very concerned about some of the challenges they found, but we are also very encouraged about the steps the department has already made prior to that audit,” added the governor.
Much of the governor’s agenda is typically unveiled during his annual State of the State address.
This year it’s scheduled for Feb. 3.