Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam is appealing to officials from Tennessee cities and towns to help influence what he describes as a "changing Legislature."

The Republican governor said in a speech to the Tennessee Municipal League in Nashville on Tuesday that local officials need to get directly involved in engaging with state lawmakers on important issues.

Haslam told reporters after the speech that once powerful institutions like lobbyists, the media, chambers of commerce and hospitals no longer carry as much sway with the General Assembly.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has named anti-Shariah activist Kevin Kookogey as his state chairman for Tennessee.

Kookogey, a former chairman of the Williamson County Republican Party, was unsuccessful in his bid to coalesce tea party support for a primary challenge to U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander last year.

Kookogey in 2013 decided against mounting that long-planned campaign after former state Rep. Joe Carr decided to get in the race. Carr ended up losing to Alexander by fewer than 10 percentage points.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — One of the most sacred live music rooms in the country has just become a little sleeker.

The Tennessean reports ( ) Nashville's Ryman Auditorium is ready for its grand reopening after a yearlong, $14 million expansion.

Beginning Tuesday, visitors can tour the historic theater, where upgrades include a renovated lobby, more concessions, more bathrooms and more space.

The venue's new restaurant, Cafe Lula, sits outside the theater next to an expanded outdoor box office.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Accident investigators say a Tennessee school bus driver was texting at the time of a crash that killed two young girls and an aspiring teacher last year.

Knoxville police said in a statement Friday that driver James Davenport had sent and received multiple text messages around the time the two buses collided in December. The investigation file has been turned over to county prosecutors.

GALLATIN, Tenn. (AP) — A judge has added 20 years to the life sentence a Middle Tennessee teenager will serve in the 2012 sledgehammer beating death of his mother.

Multiple media outlets reported Sumner County Criminal Court Judge Dee David Gay sentenced 17-year-old Zachary Davis to 20 years each for attempted first-degree murder and aggravated arson for a fire at the house while his brother was asleep. Those sentences are to be served concurrently but consecutive to the automatic life sentence Davis received for his first-degree murder conviction.