August 1 TN News Digest

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

Sales tax holiday exemptions include clothing, school items (C. Appeal/Locker)

Tennessee’s sixth annual summer sales tax “holiday” is Friday through Sunday. Shoppers won’t pay state and local sales tax totaling 9.25 percent in Shelby County on qualifying purchases of clothing, school supplies and computers.

Tax break comes at perfect time for parents (Times-Gazette)

With only a week of summer vacation left for Bedford County students, parents getting ready for the first day of school on Aug. 8 may take advantage of Tennessee’s sixth annual Sales Tax Holiday, scheduled Friday through next Sunday. During the designated three-day weekend, consumers will not pay state or local sales tax on select clothing with price of $100 or less per item, school and art supplies with a price of $100 or less per item, and computers with a price of $1,500 or less.

Haslam counters critics (City Paper/Woods)

In last year’s gubernatorial election campaign, his opponents dismissed Bill Haslam as an amiable featherbrain incapable of leadership. He seemed to play the role with TV ads revealing the candidate’s love of hard work, nice-guy politics, chocolate pie and very little else.

TN archivists seek to digitize Civil War mementos (Associated Press)

The words, drawings and musical instruments from Civil War veterans are being preserved by a technology unimaginable when Americans battled each other 150 years ago. Staff from the Tennessee State Library and Archives has been on an archival tour aimed at adding to the department’s digital collection.

Law enforcement steps up game as Web-based criminals become focused (CP/Nix)

Kim Eugene Norris began preying on two minor girls, his neighbors in a Madison condominium complex, two years ago. He left Valentine’s Day gifts for a 15-year-old girl and her younger sister on the back porch of their home.

Cost of tire disposal raises hackles for some TN counties (Tennessean/Gonzalez)

Buyers may take hit as Cheatham opts out of state program A handful of Tennessee counties are fed up with the state’s scrap tire disposal program and have opted not to take state reimbursements for collecting tires to be hauled off and recycled. Tire recycling will continue, as required by law, but instead of taking state money, Cheatham County and two others are looking for new ways to cover costs.

Judge orders geologist to testify in Marshall County landfill lawsuit (TN/Paine)

Despite attempts by the state attorney general’s office to keep a state geologist from testifying in a federal lawsuit, a judge has determined he will be required to do so. The decision opens the way for the geologist to speak about topics that include who pressured him to find ways to allow the expansion of an almost-full landfill in Marshall County into an area with a sinkhole and creek to move forward.

Tennessee Agency will inspect Lakeview park mobile homes (Herald-Courier)

Toni Mitchell brushed her finger against a wire inside her 38-year-old mobile home’s electric heater, setting off a bright white arc that lit up the narrow hallway leading to the back bedroom. “Everybody in this trailer park has had electrical problems,” Mitchell said as the arc’s sharp ozone smell dissipated into the rest of the Lakeview Mobile Home Park resident’s home.

Chattanooga State to offer housing through private venture (TFP/Trevizo)

Whether Chattanooga State Community College will be the first community college in Tennessee to have dorms sort of depends on semantics, said the college’s president. Technically, Chattanooga State isn’t allowed to have dorms, but that doesn’t mean it can’t bring in a private company to build and own housing that its students can use.

Legislators’ use of ‘Sunset Law’ questioned (Associated Press)

Recent disputes in the Tennessee legislature are once again raising questions about whether Tennessee lawmakers are using a 1970s anti-bureaucracy law to pressure regulatory agencies. The law created what is known as “sunset” provisions, aimed at ensuring agencies don’t run indefinitely.

State law singled out ‘injustice’ to retired Oak Ridger (News-Sentinel/Humphrey)

While Tennessee’s Constitution says that the Legislature has no power to enact a law for the benefit of a “particular individual,” Public Chapter 405 this year apparently did just that for an Oak Ridge man. “This bill is to correct an injustice,” said state Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, in his initial presentation of the proposed legislation, then known as HB719, to a House subcommittee.

Transportation projects facing funding hurdles (Knox. News-Sentinel/Humphrey)

Construction of roads — along with greenways, bike trails and other community projects — could be grinding to a crawl as the federal government cuts transportation funding and requires more local financial participation when handing out what’s left. The Federal Highway Administration this summer rescinded $51.9 million in promised funding for Tennessee roads and tightened the rules on providing “enhancement” money to other transportation-related projects.

New dynamic for municipalities, companies emerges (City Paper/Williams)

Tennessee is no longer in the planning business. Many of the 212 city and county governments in Tennessee — including, on occasion, Davidson County satellite communities Berry Hill and Forest Hills — have relied on the state Department of Economic and Community Development’s Local Planning Assistance office for help in matters ranging from stormwater management to street design.

Red light cameras to clear up evidence (Daily News Journal)

Accuracy to improve on citations New red light camera equipment being installed at six Murfreesboro intersections is designed to improve the accuracy of the city’s intersection enforcement program without changing the way police decide to issue $50 citations. The city in March contracted with American Traffic Solutions, Inc. to maintain and update traffic equipment at the intersections of South Church at Middle Tennessee Boulevard, Memorial Boulevard at Northfield Boulevard, Rutherford Boulevard at Mercury Boulevard, Old Fort Parkway at Thompson Lane, Broad Street at Church Street and Broad Street at Northfield Boulevard.

Memphis buries euthanized animals in landfill (Associated Press)

Animals euthanized at the Memphis Animal Shelter are being buried in a landfill after a city incinerator failed, officials said. The incinerator is operated by the Memphis Public Works Division.

 Corker calls out both parties for posturing on deficit (News-Sentinel/Munger)

When he first landed in Washington four years ago, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker’s critics dismissed him as a Republican Party shill who would go along with whatever dictum GOP leaders handed down. But the Chattanoogan has proven to be anything but.

Post office closures hinge on several factors (Times Free-Press/Pantazi)

Leondra Lloyd lives less than a mile from the South Chattanooga post office near St. Elmo and dropped by Thursday to mail a bill payment. She may not be able to do that for much longer.

Outsourcing the local library can lead to a loud backlash (Stateline)

Last month, three public libraries in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Clarita ditched the L.A. County public library system, the biggest in the nation. To save money, they turned instead to a little-known but fast-growing private competitor, the Maryland-based Library Systems and Services International (LSSI).

U.S. cities, states require large buildings cite energy use (USA Today)

Wonder how high the utility bills will be at that apartment you like? To help consumers and spur efficiency, U.S. states and cities are beginning this year to require that commercial buildings measure and disclose their energy use.

Funding may determine Titan’s greatness (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Humphrey)

Titan, which is supposed to replace Jaguar as Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s next great supercomputer, could be even better than advertised — if there’s enough money to support it. The Cray supercomputer has been under development for the past couple of years, using a hybrid design that incorporates Nvidia’s GPUs (graphics processing units) to boost efficiency and power for doing super-challenging science research.

Clean energy incentives under review (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Brass)

In TVA’s announcement that the utility is seeking to revamp its renewable energy programs, executives touted the agency and its distributors’ accomplishments in advancing the region’s solar industry. Those working within the industry, however, say it’s too soon to declare victory, and noted the gains thus far were done in tandem with state funds.

GM biggest recipient of job-training grants (Associated Press)

General Motors received nearly $17 million in job-training grants from the state of Tennessee nearly three years ago, tapping an unexpected source of cash at a time the automaker teetered on the brink of collapse, according to a published report. Those grants made GM the biggest single recipient of cash for job training from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, according to a database obtained by The Tennessean.

UAW revving up to unionize the South (Tennessean/Williams)

The United Auto Workers union is gearing up for a fresh push to organize workers at the new Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, in what union officials hope will be the first in a series of successes to gain a renewed foothold in the right-to-work South. Foreign carmakers — including Nissan in Middle Tennessee — have come South in recent years in search of less expensive labor and lower operating costs.

In Franklin schools, socioeconomic equity proves to be elusive (Tenn/Giordano)

It was back in October when Franklin Special School District leaders started to work on a plan to bring socioeconomic and ethnic balance to its seven schools and 3,800 students. More than nine months later, it’s still unclear what direction the district will take.

NewsChannel 5 sued for slander (Nashville Post/Nannie)

The owner of a home repair company recently investigated by local CBS affiliate NewsChannel 5 has filed a $3.6 million lawsuit alleging a myriad of illegalities by the television station, two of its reporters and a number of other folks — including past company customers and recently fired employees. On July 25, Adrienne Duhe, represented in her “Complaint for Injunction and Damages” as the owner of the American National Insurance Company, an alleged home repair business, filed a lawsuit against NewsChannel 5 LLC’s investigative reporting team of Jennifer Kraus and Kevin Wisniewski.

7 arrested after Hawkins County meth lab bust (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

Seven people are behind bars tonight after authorities busted a meth lab in Hawkins County. According to a Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office press release, deputies discovered the lab while responding to a home at 191 Melinda Ferry Road in Rogersville to serve a probation violation warrant on Nicholas Vincent Matroni.

Seven charged in bust of Hawkins County meth lab (Times-News)

Deputies were attempting to serve an arrest warrant Saturday at a Hawkins County residence just west of Rogersville but instead found an active methamphetamine lab and arrested seven people. At 3:23 a.m. Saturday, two Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office road deputies arrived at 191 Melinda Ferry Road to serve an active arrest warrant for a probation violation.

Florida: Opposing the Health Law, Florida Refuses Millions (New York Times)

When it comes to pursuing federal largess, most of the states that oppose the 2010 health care law have refused to let either principle or politics block their paths to the trough. If Washington is doling out dollars, Republican governors and legislators typically figure they might as well get their share.

OPINION

Guest columnist: EPA rule will mean cleaner air for Nashville residents (Tenn.)

Recently, with the finalization of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, the Environmental Protection Agency took an important step to protect the health of citizens in Nashville, the state of Tennessee, and the greater southeast. The rules are designed to prevent the drift of harmful, airborne pollution from a source in one state to the air people breathe in another state.

Times Editorial: Drought takes its toll (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Most area residents have been spared, so far, the worst of the historic drought that currently affects parts of the nation, but that does not mean they can avoid the long-term effects of the lack of rainfall. Their pocketbooks will feel the impact.

Editorial: Revisions to NRC rules important for nuclear safety (News-Sentinel)

A Nuclear Regulatory Commission task force, responding to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, has recommended sweeping changes to the nation’s nuclear industry and the commission’s role in overseeing an industry that is key to reducing our dependence on foreign oil. Issued July 12, the report calls for nuclear plants to ensure they can operate for up to eight hours on backup power, upgrade earthquake and flood protection and improve systems for dealing with spent fuel rods.