This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam has toured bases in Afghanistan and met with Tennessee troops stationed there, calling the U.S. role in that country a “tough, tough deal.” Haslam said in a conference call that Afghanistan presents a series of challenges to the U.S. mission there, including the high illiteracy rate and that the country has been at war for more than three decades.
Governor Bill Haslam flew into the cities of Kabul, Kandahar and Bagram today. The Tennessee governor is on a Department of Defense tour that took him to Afghanistan after visiting Kuwait and Iraq on Monday.
Gov. Bill Haslam is now visiting Afghanistan in his weeklong tour of military bases in combat zones overseas. Haslam said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday that he had visited Kabul, Kandahar and Bagram Airfield in the last day, after flying from Kuwait to Afghanistan.
On his second full day abroad in Asia, Gov. Bill Haslam received briefings in key Afghan regions and dined with troops on duty from his home state. The governor said he took a four-hour flight Wednesday from Kuwait to Kabul, the Afghan capital, where he and fellow governors from Kentucky, Utah and Nevada met with Gen. John Allen, commander of American forces in the country.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said it was so hot he felt like he was “living all day with your hairdryer on high and turned in your face.” It was so hot, he put the debt-ceiling debate in Congress on a backburner even though he had been in Washington Monday morning, Aug. 1.
Gov. Bill Haslam phoned reporters from Afghanistan on Wednesday, where he spent the day visiting servicemen and women from Tennessee. Haslam, who is on a Department of Defense sponsored trip to the Middle East this week, traveled to bases in Kabul, Kandahar, and Bagram.
Governor Bill Haslam is getting a firsthand look at the war taking place right now in Afghanistan and how Tennessee troops are holding up. He continued his Middle East Trip with a visit to several Afghan cities and bases Wednesday.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has toured bases in Afghanistan and met with Tennessee troops stationed there, calling the U.S. role in that country a “tough, tough deal.” Haslam said in a conference call that Afghanistan presents a series of challenges to the U.S. mission there, including the high illiteracy rate and that the country has been at war for more than three decades.
First lady Crissy Haslam is hosting a gathering at the governor’s mansion in Nashville for the spouses of deployed members of the Tennessee Army and Air National Guard. The Thursday evening event will also include Maj. Gen. Max Haston, the commander of the Tennessee National Guard; state Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder; and country singer Josh Thompson.
Tennessee retailers are bracing for an uptick in sales this weekend as shoppers ready to take advantage of the three-day sales tax holiday. Consumers in Memphis will save 9.25 percent — once state and local sales taxes are waived — on eligible purchases which include clothing items priced at $100 or less, school supplies priced at $100 or less and computers priced at $1,500 or less.
Tennessee shoppers are expected flood retail stores this weekend to take advantage of a three-day sales tax holiday, but don’t count Maureen Houston and her daughter among them. Maeve Houston, a fourth-grader at Bluegrass Elementary School, already has finished her back-to-school shopping and has her backpack filled and ready to go.
A three-day, tax-free shopping weekend that cranks up just after the witching hour tonight may get a few more back-to-school shoppers in a buying mood despite dismal economic news nationally. But most retail analysts don’t expect a huge buying spree here.
Some state government leaders got a preview Wednesday of Bradley Central High School’s new $3 million fine arts building. Tennessee Treasurer David Lillard, Secretary of State Tre Hargett and state Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, toured the 600-seat auditorium, band rooms and related classrooms.
Tennessee Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman and Tennessee’s Governor Bill Haslam recently submitted a request to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for a waiver from the No Child Left Behind law, after learning nearly half of the states schools did not meet the requirement. Two Giles County schools will be affected. The U.S. Education Secretary has signaled a willingness to grant waivers and asked congress to rewrite No Child Left Behind to avert what he calls a “slow motion train wreck for children parents and teachers.”
Kevin Huffman, state commissioner of education, spoke to a full room of teachers and administrators Wednesday at Christ Church in Brownsville about the true focus of education. Huffman, 40, spoke as part of the Haywood County Schools System’s annual state of the schools meeting.
A rare and lovely flower with a fondness for Tennessee’s harshest growing environments has been removed from the federal endangered species list. The Tennessee coneflower’s de-listing will be announced today at Cedars of Lebanon State Park in Lebanon, one of only a handful of sites in the state where the coneflower is known to grow.
Unemployment in the Memphis area ticked up almost a full percentage point in June. Memphis’ unemployment rate, according to preliminary non-seasonally adjusted figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, was 10.9 percent in June. That’s up from 10.1 percent in May and up from 10 percent in June of 2010.
A man convicted of raping a child is asking for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s files on the judge who sentenced him to 38 years in prison. Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner resigned from the bench in March after pleading guilty to buying prescription painkillers from a felon on probation in his court.
The quartet of defendants convicted in the January 2007 torture-slaying of a Knox County couple should have access to what other defendants and the public so far cannot — whatever secrets a probe of former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner revealed, prosecutors said Wednesday. Knox County Assistant District Attorney General Leland Price filed a motion Wednesday stating that he would not object to the release of the entire Tennessee Bureau of Investigation file on Baumgartner to the four defendants convicted in the slayings of Channon Christian, 21, and Christopher Newsom, 23.
A recent ruling from the Tennessee Court of Appeals has limited the immunity banks in the state once had when it comes to liability for withdrawals of money under powers of attorney. The July 26 ruling comes in the Memphis case of the estate of Robert Stokes West, which sued Regions Bank in 2008 over the issue.
Now that Tennessee Republicans are “large and in charge” of state government, as minority Democrats like to snidely put it, they seem to have lost their appetite for cutting the state’s sales tax on food. Even though Tennessee is looking at $62.3 million in excess revenues over the last 11 months, lowering the tax isn’t likely to happen any time soon, say powerful majority-party politicians.
A state House Democratic leader criticized Gov. Bill Haslam Wednesday for denying supposedly across-the-board pay raises to state employees who had been disciplined in the past year. “It’s wrong,” Rep. Mike Turner of Nashville said.
A top House Democratic leader today questioned whether Gov. Bill Haslam “usurped” legislative authority by unilaterally denying 1.6 percent pay raises to hundreds of state workers disciplined over the past year. “I think it’s wrong,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville told reporters.
Breath mints are usually refreshing, but a Knoxville legislator believes a University of Tennessee bookstore’s selling of novelty candies mocking President Barack Obama stinks. UT officials pulled the mints poking fun at Obama from store shelves after state Rep. Joe Armstrong, a Democrat, visited the bookstore and told the director he found the satirical mints offensive.
Four Republicans arrived at a Shelby County Commission meeting ahead of their Democratic colleagues Wednesday and delayed a plan to create a new committee to regulate the Republican-controlled county Election Commission. Commissioner James Harvey, the Democrat who proposed the new committee, wasn’t present and couldn’t object when Commissioner Mike Ritz moved to put off the matter for eight weeks.
The Rutherford County Democratic Party has accused the County Commission’s Steering, Legislative & Governmental Committee of “bowing to political pressure by recommending a highly partisan and politically slanted redistricting committee.” “This is likely to result in unfair and partisan districts in the county, which could result in additional expensive lawsuits against the Election Commission and Rutherford County,” local Democratic Party Chairman Justin St. Clair said in a news release Tuesday.
General Sessions judges appoint Stanton as interim General Sessions Court Clerk Otis Jackson, indicted on felony official misconduct charges, was suspended for 60 days with pay effective Friday by the General Sessions judges. They appointed Edward Stanton Jr. interim clerk. Jackson, a Democrat elected in 2008, was indicted last month on allegations that he coerced members of the clerk’s staff into giving money to his 2012 re-election campaign.
General Sessions Court Clerk Otis Jackson has been suspended for 60 days by the judges of the civil and criminal divisions of General Sessions Court. The suspension was announced Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 3.
Questions over how to control federal healthcare costs took a back seat to this summer’s deficit debate, but Tennessee Congressman Diane Black hasn’t dropped the issue. In a teleconference with constituents last night, Black renewed her support for the so-called Ryan plan to change Medicare.
Perhaps the oddest consequence of the entire debt-limit debacle is that U.S. senator Bob Corker, the Tennessean who did as much as anybody in Congress to re-orient thinking in Washington toward the preeminence of spending reduction as a goal, may have thereby cinched his place on the hit list of Tea Party extremists. On Monday, the very day that the U.S. House of Representatives passed a cuts-only deficit-reduction package permitting a raise in the nation’s debt ceiling, the D.C. newspaper The Hill carried an article that concluded thusly: “Republican senators who may face competitive primary challenges from the right include Senators Dick Lugar (IN) and Orrin Hatch (Utah).
With the Federal Aviation Administration in a partial shutdown, a handful of projects at the Nashville airport are in reimbursement limbo. It’s not clear if the agency will ultimately pay out grant money for work that’s done right now.
One federal program emerged with more money in the deficit-reduction deal signed into law this week: Pell grants, which help low-income students pay for college. The White House and its allies cited the increase when they urged Democrats to vote for the broader legislation, which was almost all about cutting government spending.
Federal spending cuts mean fewer dollars will flow to the states for unemployment benefits, education, health care, and other state-run programs. Many states will have to cut services or raise taxes.
A federal court further limited lawsuits seeking damages from the Tennessee Valley Authority for its huge spill of toxin-laden coal ash, but the judge ruled that claims related to property damages and reduced property values will go to trial. The court fight is over a Dec. 22, 2008, TVA dam collapse that spilled 5.4 million cubic yards of sludge in the Emory River and onto surrounding land in Roane County west of Knoxville.
Not even TVA can beat the heat. On Wednesday, the utility had to bring a third reactor at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant down to 50 percent power to avoid environmental sanctions because the water in the Tennessee River — where the plant’s cooling water is discharged — already was at 90 degrees. “When the river’s ambient temperature reaches 90 degrees, we can’t add any heat to it,” said TVA’s nuclear spokesman Ray Golden.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean is sounding confident that the new convention center will not go over budget, even if the city has to pay more for the land. Metro may have to pay a key land owner $15 million more than expected after a jury ruled in an eminent domain case last month.
A recent study concludes that the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s total economic contribution to the state of Tennessee amounted to more than $2.3 billion for the 2010 fiscal year. The main campus of UTHSC, which celebrates its centennial this year, is located in the Memphis Medical District.
In Chattanooga to test drive Volkswagen’s new Passat, a New York writer for a national auto magazine has taken the city’s downtown to task for what he called “the most incredible stench.” In a column in the September 2011 issue, Jamie Kitman, Automobile Magazine’s New York bureau chief, said the smell that at times hits downtown “makes recommending the city as a vacation destination — or as a place to locate your heavy industry — problematic.”
Nashville Superspeedway will host no major racing events in 2012 and the Wilson County track’s parent company is eyeing a sale. Dover Motorsports official on Wednesday notified NASCAR that they will not seek any 2012 race sanctions.
Dover Motorsports Inc. (NYSE: DVD) announced today that its Nashville Superspeedway subsidiary will not be seeking any NASCAR events for the 2012 season. “We have some extremely dedicated and talented employees who have made this track a great destination, but the reality is, after ten years of effort, we have to face the fact that without a Sprint Cup race and/or a significant change in the operating model for other events, we simply cannot continue,” said Cliff Hawks, vice president and general manager of Nashville Superspeedway, in a news release.
Seas of empty seats had spelled trouble for Nashville Superspeeday since it opened in 2001, and on Wednesday parent company Dover Motorsports announced it is giving up The company issued a statement saying it will seek no NASCAR races next year and will “evaluate all options for the track, including its possible sale.” The announcement could sound the death-knell for professional automobile racing in Middle Tennessee, a fixture for over a half-century.
The long-range future of Nashville Superspeedway and NASCAR-sanctioned racing in Middle Tennessee is clouded in uncertainty today, but the short-term future for both is clear. They do not exist.
A yearlong NBA lockout could send the fund used to pay off FedExForum bonds into the red by 2022, forcing the city and county to make up the difference. The shortfall could reach $10.6 million by 2029, or about $600,000 annually for each government.
To undo giving New York-based IQT Solutions tax incentives for previous plans to relocate to Nashville, the Metro Council will have to approve a resolution to rescind the prior agreement. Council attorney Jon Cooper told The City Paper a resolution has been filed that would officially renege on the $1.61 million in tax incentives offered to the call center company, a plan that blew up after Mayor Karl Dean and others learned of the abrupt closing of three IQT offices in Canada.
The man who will lead Metro’s turnaround efforts at 10 low-performing schools spent most of his career at a prestigious private school where some students’ biggest worry was whether they should choose Harvard or Stanford for college. No one else got a chance to interview for the new position.
Former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton has filed letters of intent with the state to open nine charter schools in Memphis and Shelby County by next year. Herenton, who served as the superintendent for city schools before being elected mayor, is proposing four high schools, three middle schools and two elementary schools for his W.E.B. DuBois Consortium.
While extensive school building upgrades are wrapping up at several Roane County schools, those construction projects won’t interfere with students’ scheduled return to classes on Aug. 8. So says Director of Schools Dr. Toni McGriff, who last week fretted that ongoing work might delay the resumption of classes at one elementary school in Harriman.
Science Hill High School students in grades 9-12 will not attend today’s scheduled first day of class due to lingering concerns by the state fire marshal’s office over two areas of the school where students must travel between the existing building and new construction. Science Hill is expected to be open for these grade levels on Friday, and students will be in class for a full day.
Democratic Rep. David Wu of Oregon resigned his seat late Wednesday, making him the fourth member of Congress to quit this year in the wake of a sex scandal. Wu, 56, already had announced his intention to resign after his hometown paper, The Oregonian, published allegations that he had an unwanted sexual encounter with an 18-year-old woman.
When the Madison County Commission meets in a special called meeting today, it will vote on whether to provide $3 million (including $1 million from West Tennessee Healthcare) toward the purchase of the former Lambuth University campus. The campus would be turned over to the Tennessee Board of Regents to create a University of Memphis campus in Jackson.
In Iraq, where Gov. Bill Haslam is making a surprise visit to U.S. troops, the temperature neared 130 degrees on Tuesday. At 9 p.m., when he spoke with reporters, it was still over 100. He was getting a taste of what the troops endure day after day.
In November, I applied for a spot in Governor’s School for the Humanities at the University of Tennessee at Martin. The humanities facility is just one school out of nine offered by Tennessee that provides summer programs to help enrich the minds of the most talented and gifted of the state.
Tennesseans are required to show photo identification for everything from making a purchase at the mall or boarding a plane to cashing a check, and we do it without complaint. So why shouldn’t we do the same for something as precious as the right to vote?
It’s time for Tennessee to tell the truth when it sentences criminals to prison. It’s time for career criminals who are sentenced to 10 years in prison to spend 10 years in prison.
It’s costing the country jobs and the government revenue, but lawmakers decide to take a rest. Congress didn’t need to prove how dysfunctional it was after staggering to a resolution of the debt ceiling crisis that failed to persuade anyone that the government was in steady hands.