July 31 TN News Digest

This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.

Governor on Hand as Spring Hill Gets Sidewalk Grant (Columbia Daily Herald)

Gov. Bill Haslam presented Spring Hill a $69,000 grant to help pay for a walkway that will connect the city to Thompson’s Station. The grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation will be used to build an elevated walkway at the entrance of the Tanyard Springs subdivision.

Haslam asks Wilson leaders for ‘feedback’ (Lebanon Democrat)

Gov. Bill Haslam made two public stops in Lebanon yesterday soliciting “real-life feedback” from business executives and educators. The business representatives, joined by a number of elected officials, met at Cumberland University’s Baird Chapel where Haslam told them he and his staff “spend the majority of time thinking about jobs.

Federal Cuts Could Hit Tennessee Hard (Times Free Press/Sher)

Regardless of how the debt-ceiling fight is resolved, there’s a consensus that the upshot of this year’s budget wars is less spending by Uncle Sam. That’s likely to have a major impact on states such as Tennessee, where federal spending is often derided even as state government, U.S. installations and residents themselves profit from it.

Tennessee is OK for 6 weeks if debt ceiling not raised (Associated Press)

State Finance Commissioner Mark Emkes said Tennessee has a contingency plan if Congress misses the deadline for raising the national debt ceiling. Emkes told the Knoxville News Sentinel the state can go for more than six weeks without major financial problems, even if there is an impasse in Washington.

Week in Review (Tennessean)

Tennessee will be the first state to ask for a blanket exemption from federal No Child Left Behind requirements, Gov. Bill Haslam said Friday. Only half of Tennessee’s schools were able to meet the performance requirements last year, despite gains across the state in reading and math.

Humorist Scott McNutt: Corporate-sponsored Secession Mulled by Haslam as Debt Response (News Sentinel)

Even if President Barack Obama and congressional leaders resolve the United States’ budget crisis, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam says he is prepared to act if the nation defaults on its debt in the future. The governor’s idea? Corporate-sponsored secession.

State Moving on Second Phase of 40-240 Interchange Revamp in East Memphis (Commercial Appeal/Charlier)

Designed in 1964, the obsolete and over-capacity interchange is the scene of major traffic jams each morning and afternoon, and often during even non-rush-hour periods. A two-phased project to totally revamp it has remained idle following the completion of the initial segment nearly eight years ago.

THP Names New Bureau Chief (Tennessean/Sisk)

Lt. Col. Danny Wilson, head of the Tennessee Highway Patrol’s Support Services Bureau, will retire on Sept. 1, the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security said Friday.  Wilson will be replaced by Maj. Dereck Stewart, an assistant to THP Col. Tracy Trott.

GM Collected $17 for jobs, then left (Tennessean/Sisk)

As General Motors teetered on the brink of collapse nearly three years ago, it was able to tap an unexpected source of cash: the state of Tennessee. The automotive giant received nearly $17 million — most of it in the week after executives disclosed the cash crisis that ultimately led to a federal bailout.

Legislation Ends, Lawsuits Begin (News Sentinel/Humphrey)

In the aftermath of this year’s legislative session, a pretty good litigation session is under way in Tennessee.  The latest lawsuit came when the Constitution Party and the Green Party went to U.S. District Court at Nashville to challenge a law passed in response to a judge’s ruling last year.

Buying Influence: State, local governments spend more than $1 billion to lobby Congress (Scripps Howard)

Americans pay members of Congress $174,000 a year — more than $93 million in all — to represent them in Washington. But taxpayers pay millions more to private lobbyists to promote the interests of their city, school, water district or public college.  More and more state and local institutions are hiring professional lobbyists in Washington — alongside their members of Congress — to bring home the bacon.

Dems, GOP disagree on Rep. Fincher’s Actions (Tennessean/Bewley)

Rep. Stephen Fincher and federal election officials agree on this much: The Tennessee Republican violated campaign finance laws last year by inadvertently misreporting the source of a $250,000 bank loan to his campaign. But they disagree on a central question in the now-closed case: Could he have corrected the error more quickly?

Tennessee Lawmakers Oppose Reid Bill (Nooga.com)

Republican congressmen from East Tennessee joined many fellow GOP representatives on Saturday in voicing a collective “no” to legislation proposed by Sen. Harry Reid to raise the U.S. debt limit.  The bill’s rejection, which came in a 173-246 vote, pushed the U.S. closer to defaulting on its obligations and a possible credit downgrade.

Behind an Anti-Shariah Push (NY Times)

Tennessee’s latest woes include high unemployment, continuing foreclosures and a battle over collective-bargaining rights for teachers. But when a Republican representative took the Statehouse floor during a recent hearing, he warned of a new threat to his constituents’ way of life: Islamic law.

Taking a Closer Look at the Results of a Downgrade (NY Times)

As political leaders race to avoid a default on the nation’s debts by striking a deal to borrow more money, there is a growing chance that a secondary goal, preserving the nation’s pristine credit rating, might slip beyond reach.  A downgrade to the nation’s credit would probably increase the cost of borrowing for the federal government and for everyone else.

Data Show Economic Recovery Far Off for Metro Memphis (Commercial Appeal)

America’s recession ended two years ago, but the recovery has missed Memphis.  Employers in metropolitan Memphis have shed 17,000 positions since summer 2009 — one of the largest losses of any big Southern city.

OPINION

Why We Still Need Nuclear (NY Times/Tom Kilgore)

In two weeks the Tennessee Valley Authority, America’s largest public power producer, will decide whether to complete construction of a long-deferred generating unit at the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant, in northeast Alabama. If we proceed, Bellafonte 1 would become the T.V.A.’s third nuclear unit brought into service in the 21st century. This is, understandably, a controversial issue.

Why Any Debt-Ceiling Deal will Squeeze the States (Washington Post)

No matter how the debt-ceiling fight is resolved in Congress, it’s going to end poorly for the states.  If the country defaults, the states will be plunged into an immediate financial crisis: Investor confidence in government assets across the board would plummet — including the municipal bonds that states and local governments have traditionally relied upon to pay for new schools, roads, utilities, sewage systems and other basic infrastructure.

Tennessee Could Lose a lot in Debt Fight (Tennessean/guest columnist)

If Congress and the Obama administration don’t agree on a plan to raise the debt limit by next week, the impact on Tennessee’s residents, businesses and local governments could be staggering.  Even if lawmakers reach a compromise, the spending cuts involved could damage Medicare, Social Security, college grants and other popular programs that receive federal funds, according to some think tanks and Tennessee organizations.

Parole System Should Use Modern Techniques (Daily Times)

The news was alarming: Some convicted murderers on parole in Tennessee report via phone to a computer rather than meeting face-to-face with a parole officer. It’s true.

It’s Time to Fix Public Records Problem (Tennessean/Lewis)

It’s obvious: Taxpayers have a right to know how tax dollars are spent.  That’s why it is disturbing that anyone searching for public records about the quality of health care at a Tennessee drug and alcohol rehabilitation center is out of luck.

Try to Balance right to privacy with need for transparency (Tennessean/Varney)

As commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and member of Gov. Haslam’s leadership team, I am very much committed to providing transparency throughout our department.  Our department is dedicated to ensuring that all individuals we serve are receiving the best services in the most appropriate setting for their needs.