August 18 TN News Digest

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

Ripley gets manufacturing plant to employ 120 (Associated Press)

A German company has announced plans for a manufacturing plant that will create more than 120 jobs over five years in Lauderdale County. State officials said Wednesday that Quaprotek USA will produce metal parts for vehicles, engines and power trains, investing $22 million in an existing 63,000-square-foot building in Ripley.

Quaprotek announces plans to open Ripley plant, hire 126 employees (CA/Sells)

Quaprotek USA will bring 126 jobs to Ripley with a $22 million facility to manufacture metal parts for automobile engines and drivetrains, the German company said Wednesday. The company will initially occupy a temporary space while it retrofits a 63,000 square-foot facility in Ripley.

Quaprotek To Open West Tennessee Plant (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Governor Bill Haslam was in West Tennessee today to announce the opening of auto supplier. Quaprotek USA plans to spend $22 million to retrofit a building in Ripley, Tennessee. According to an announcement from the state economic and community development office, the German-based manufacturer will create more than 120 jobs over the next five years.

MAHLE announces six year, $100 million expansion (Citizen Tribune)

MAHLE Engine Components USA, Inc., officially announced yesterday a two phase plan to expand its operations in Morristown. Over the next six years, the expansion will involve an investment of more than $100 million.

Morristown firm plans $100 million expansion; 140 new jobs (Times-News)

The Morristown Citizen Tribune is reporting that MAHLE Engine Components USA, Inc., has announced a two phase plan to expand its operations in Morristown. Over the next six years, the expansion will involve an investment of more than $100 million.

Tennessee granted $30 million in fed. funds to spur small biz innovation (Nooga)

The U.S. Treasury Department announced on Tuesday that Tennessee will receive almost $30 million in federal funding in an effort to enable private lenders to increase their lending capacity to small businesses. The funding came as a result of Tennessee’s application being approved for the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), a component of last year’s Small Business Jobs Act.

Sitel Unveils Call Center-Themed Children’s Book (Business War)

Sitel, a leading customer care outsourcing provider, announced today the unveiling of the Company’s first children’s book, “Agent D, Can You Help Me?” at its Asheville, North Carolina contact center facility on Wednesday, August 17 at 11 a.m. ET.

Tennessee moves up in ‘Kids Count’ rankings (Commercial Appeal/Locker)

At 39th place, it’s out of bottom 10 Tennessee has moved up to 39th among the states in a composite ranking of the well-being of children and teens, marking the first time the state has moved out of the bottom 10 states in the two decades of the “Kids Count” rankings issued by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The nationally recognized annual report compiles 10 key indicators of the health and social status of children, including infant and child death rates, teen birth rates and percent of children living in poverty.

State partially lifts blanket of secrecy from tax rulings (News-Sentinel/Humphrey)

Retreating from a position adopted during former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration, the state Department of Revenue has moved to partially raise a veil of secrecy that has covered official interpretations of Tennessee tax law since 2008. The so-called “letter rulings” are provided on request to taxpayers, typically companies, willing to pay a fee for an answer to questions on the state tax consequences in a given situation.

Tennesseans asked to help evaluate textbooks (Associated Press)

Tennessee education officials are asking the public for help in evaluating textbooks for the 2012-13 school year. Subjects are visual arts, music, theater arts, dance, spelling, literature, driver education, computer science, health sciences education, business technology, marketing education, technology engineering, education and trade and industrial education.

Abysymal ACT scores heighten urgency for educational reform (Biz Clarksville)

Whatever is going on in schools across America is not working, at least not according to ACT, one of the premiere college-testing services used by institutions of higher learning across the country. The report confirms what has already been amply discussed in media and by educators: America’s students are not keeping pace academically, with ever smaller percentages of students ready for the real challenges college will bring.

Report Shows Decline in Tenn. ACT Scores (Associated Press)

State education officials say a recent ACT college entrance exam report highlights the ongoing need for education reform in Tennessee. According to the report released Wednesday, results from the April 2011 test show the state’s public high school students’ composite ACT score dropped from 19.1 out of 36 in 2010 to 19 in 2011.

ACT scores have room for improvement (Knoxville News-Sentinel/McCoy)

Tennessee’s students are slowly making progress when it comes to being prepared for college but there is still room for improvement, schools officials said after annual ACT scores were released Wednesday. Knox County remained steady in its numbers, while Maryville City Schools celebrated a record-setting year with its scores.

ACT scores slide for Tennessee students (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Hardy)

Tennessee students who took the 2011 ACT college entrance exam continued a downward trend and finished second-to-last in the nation in overall scores. Results also show fewer of this year’s seniors will be prepared to take college classes next year, according to an ACT college and career readiness report released Wednesday.

ACT scores dip in Tenn.; Memphis, Shelby Co. schools lose ground (CA/Roberts)

Tennessee students scored slightly lower on the ACT test this year, a disappointment for a state trying to climb steep hills in education reform and spending tens of millions of dollars to do it. The average composite score fell from 19.6 in 2010 to 19.5. Nationally, it increased from 21 to 21.1.

Tennessee Ahead of Only Mississippi in ACT Scores (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

While across the country just one in four high school graduates taking the ACT is prepared for college, the figure is more like one in seven here in Tennessee. The state is just one spot from the very bottom when it comes to college-readiness.

City’s ACT scores down, higher than average (Johnson City Press)

The effect of higher state standards and more students tested has, as state officials predicted, resulted in lower ACT scores for Science Hill High School students who graduated in May. Johnson City’s crop of 2011 graduates’ composite ACT score dropped to 21.7 points, compared to last year’s score of 22.9 points.

Solar installers fear boom is over as grants run out (Tennessean/Tamburin)

Industry is unsure whether it’s ready to stand on its own Dan Ford loves a sunny day, because he knows it’s saving him money. Ford’s Williamson County roofing business installed a solar system earlier this month, and he said it’s already offsetting the business’ electricity costs by about 60 percent.

UT receives $18 million award to study nation’s power grid (NS/Boehnke)

The University of Tennessee is poised to be at the forefront of President Barack Obama’s plan to overhaul the nation’s energy grid thanks to a five-year $18 million federal award. UT has been chosen to lead a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center that will study the transfer of electrical energy.

UT Gets Major Grant to Improve Nation’s Power Grid (Associated Press)

The University of Tennessee has received a National Science Foundation grant to research the overhaul of the nation’s electric power transmission system. The $18 million grant is intended to help find ways to develop smart-grid technologies. UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek said the university has the experts and the tools to lead development of a greener, safer and smarter power grid.

UT president talks biofuels with White House (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Boehnke)

University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro took his message on the potential of switchgrass as a biofuel to Iowa Tuesday, where he touted the idea to the White House administration during a forum on rural economies. As part of his three-day Midwest bus tour, President Barack Obama stopped in Peosta, Iowa, where he listened to a group of about 100 farmers, small-town business people and community leaders to discuss the state of the economy in rural America.

Aluminum waste sparks problems in Murfreesboro (Columbia Daily Herald)

Waste from aluminum recycling at Tennessee Aluminum Processors Inc. and Smelter Services Corp. in Mt. Pleasant is causing concern at a Murfreesboro landfill. On March 28, authorities at Middle Point Landfill, located off East Jefferson Pike in Murfreesboro, reported an area of “elevated temperatures” in a section of the landfill where aluminum waste was deposited, according to a consent order issued by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation on July 22.

Tennessee Highway Patrol emphasizes safety in school zones (Nooga)

School is back in session, and the Tennessee Highway Patrol wants to make sure drivers are conscious that extra awareness is required in school zones across the state. Members of the Highway Patrol will be assisting local law enforcement efforts with a “Back to School” enforcement and education campaign, specifically focusing on people who speed in school zones and pass stopped school buses.

State comptroller to visit Dyersburg Friday (State Gazette)

State Rep. Bill Sanderson is welcoming Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson on Friday, Aug. 19 to Dyersburg for his first official visit to the region. Sanderson is providing local residents with a unique opportunity to meet Wilson during a breakfast event, which will begin at 7:30 a.m. at the Lannom Center to discuss important county and city government issues. Sanderson encourages residents to join him for this free event, which is open to the public.

Humane Society chief calls for tougher cockfighting law in TN (Tennessean/Young)

For Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, Tennessee’s stance on cockfighting isn’t harsh enough. The state is one of 12 that doesn’t make cockfighting a felony.

Tennessee legislator gets state’s top AFL-CIO job (Tennessean/Marsteller)

Gary Moore elected labor council leader in union shakeup The state AFL-CIO chapter has tapped a Nashville firefighters’ union president and state legislator to be its top leader as part of a top-management shakeup. State Rep. Gary W. Moore, D-Joelton, was elected president of the Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council during the union’s biennial convention in Nashville earlier this week.

Rep. Black ‘Arm-In-Arm’ With Tea Party, Despite Protest (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Tennessee Congressman Diane Black is defending her Tea Party credentials, one day after about fifty members of the movement protested outside her Murfreesboro office. The group said they’re frustrated with Black for voting to raise the debt ceiling.

Blackburn wants to scrap Obama health care reform, fire Tim Geithner (CA/Dowd)

Vowing to slash government spending while protecting the interests of small business owners, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., on Wednesday addressed an overflow audience at a meeting of the Area Action Council, the local arm of the National Federation of Independent Business. Blasting President Barack Obama’s healthcare plan, Blackburn said the program’s regulations handicap small business owners by forcing them to provide expensive coverage for workers or face hefty fines if they don’t.

Workers’ comp systems getting stricter (Stateline)

Montana has long had a workers’ comp problem. Its labor force is injured far more frequently and at greater expense to employers than is typical around the country.

Young Americans scale back dreams (Los Angeles Times)

Alicia Thomas, 20, had it all planned out: career at a nonprofit, married by 24, mortgage by 26. Then financial markets went on a wild roller coaster ride, portending that high unemployment and the stalled economy won’t be rebounding any time soon. “I don’t want to invest in something I can’t afford, given the economy breaking down,” said Thomas, who is majoring in political science at the University of California-San Diego.

TVA nuke construction and rates on board agenda (Associated Press)

Before Tennessee Valley Authority board members act on recommendations to finish the mothballed Bellefonte Nuclear Plant and possibly raise rates for the 2012 budget year, they are likely to get an earful from opponents of the new reactor. The Thursday meeting in Knoxville begins with a public listening session, and opponents of building the Bellefonte reactor say they are trying to stop or at least delay the 37-year-old project that they contend is dangerous and expensive.

NRC says stuck valve was TVA failure (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Sohn)

On the eve of a TVA board meeting and an expected vote on restarting construction at Bellefonte Nuclear Plant, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has turned down TVA’s appeal of a “red” rating at another nuclear plant. The NRC in May gave the Tennessee Valley Authority a “red” or “high safety significance” finding in connection with last fall’s failure of a cooling-water injection valve at Browns Ferry, the utility’s oldest nuclear facility.

Tennessee students loans up 6.5 percent (Nashville Business Journal)

A new report from CreditKarma.com shows that U.S. student loan debt is up six percent from a year ago, and the increase is even higher among Tennessee students. The average Tennessee student loan debt in July was $28,136.

Erlanger facing labor claims from former police officers (Times Free-Press/Carroll)

Several former Erlanger Health System police officers filed labor complaints Monday alleging the hospital wouldn’t pay them when they worked during their lunch periods. “Erlanger would deduct our 30-minute lunch if we took our lunch or not,” states a complaint written by Jerry Lawrence, one of four officers who submitted paperwork to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Loudon County officials ask Kimberly-Clark to address discharges (NS/Willett)

The Loudon County Air Quality Task Force is asking the Kimberly-Clark Corp. to take action to prevent repeated particulate discharges that local residents say leaves a fine coating of white dust on vehicles and homes downwind of the plant. Officials with Loudon County and the cities of Loudon and Lenoir City agreed earlier this week to approve a letter from the task force, asking for something to be done about the discharges.

New Memphis-Shelby Co. econ. development agency open for business (NS/Bailey)

EDGE makes its debut The Economic Development and Growth Engine board raised a few edgy questions Wednesday but steered away from local politics as usual on the first agenda item of its fresh history. The inaugural EDGE meeting seemed to raise the question: Will the pursuit of consensus and harmony for the sake of economic development sacrifice the healthy checks-and-balances of traditional politics?

New Economic Development Board Gets Started (Memphis Daily News)

The new Economic Development Growth Engine approved its existence Wednesday, Aug. 17, while also addressing some confusing technicalities. “The president is selected by both mayors – this seems cumbersome,” former Shelby County Commissioner and EDGE director Deidre Malone said at the organization’s inaugural meeting at City Hall.

Kruger Files $40 Million Loan for Memphis Plant (Memphis Daily News)

Canada-based manufacturer Kruger Inc., which has been considering several locales including Memphis as possible sites for a major capital investment, this week filed a $39.8 million construction loan for its existing Memphis facility at 400 Mahannah Ave., north of Downtown. The loan was filed Tuesday, Aug. 16, by Kruger affiliate K.T.G. (USA) Inc. through Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, one of Canada’s leading institutional fund managers.

Leaders of MCS, Shelby County Schools vow cooperation (CA/Connolly, McMillin)

Superintendents work toward city, county school merger As superintendents of Shelby County’s separate (for now) school systems pledged Wednesday to accelerate collaborations aimed at merging Memphis City Schools and Shelby County schools by 2013, attorneys for all parties involved in the merger lawsuit were evaluating settlement offers. MCS Supt. Kriner Cash and SCS Supt. John Aitken each appeared before a Shelby County Commission committee on education and said they would be meeting together on Monday.

Possible Mediation Expected In Schools Case (Memphis Daily News)

Before he rules on the second part of the schools consolidation case, federal Judge Hardy Mays might give mediation another try. Nothing had appeared on his court calendar as of Wednesday afternoon.

One More Hurdle (Memphis Flyer)

Only a week after he gave what was generally regarded as an evenhanded ruling on the complicated multiple litigations regarding the forthcoming merger of Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools, U.S. District Judge Hardy Mays must now evaluate various proposals for redistricting the electoral map for a soon-to-be-expanded Shelby County Schools system. Mays must also deal with a formal request for an interim solution from the Shelby County Commission, whose two optional seven-member school-district plans, both vetted by the joint city-county office of planning and development on the basis of 2010 census information, may well form the basis of an approved final plan.

No shots, no school for some (Daily News Journal)

It is possible nearly 175 seventh-grade students will not be allowed to attend classes today if they are unable to produce verification of having received two vaccinations. Rutherford County Schools spokesman James Evans said, as of Wednesday, 172 students had not submitted the proper paperwork.

Michigan: Michigan Courts Say Cuts Are Necessary (Wall Street Journal)

The administrative arm of Michigan’s highest court is recommending a highly unusual step to help address the state’s budget woes: Cut more than four dozen judicial positions. In a statement Wednesday, the state court administrative office suggested to the Michigan legislature that it slash 45 trial-court judgeships and four appellate-court judgeships, in a step toward “rebalancing the workload” of Michigan’s courts.

Ohio: Governor Offers to Change Anti-Union Law (Associated Press)

Gov. John Kasich and top Republican lawmakers said Wednesday that they were offering to change a new law limiting collective bargaining in an attempt to keep a repeal effort off the November ballot. The administration released a letter asking for a meeting on Friday to discuss a compromise with 10 union leaders authorized to negotiate on behalf of We Are Ohio, the group pushing for a repeal of the law.

OPINION

Editorial: 2010 Kids Count data show state is making progress (Jackson Sun)

Despite the decline in the nation’s economy that began in 2008, the prospects for children in Tennessee have improved, according to the latest national KIDS COUNT Data Book released Wednesday. Tennessee showed improvement in five out of eight categories, and only lost ground in two categories.

Times Editorial: Retail ‘job-creators’ at risk (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

The controversy over Amazon’s avoidance of Tennessee’s sales taxes won’t go away — and shouldn’t. In the past week, Gov. Bill Haslam has twice stirred the pot, saying first that he wants “a new relationship” with Amazon, and the next day that he wants the Internet retail giant to voluntarily collect state sales taxes on sales to Tennesseans sometime after it opens its three distribution centers in Tennessee.

Times Editorial: TVA: Let the zombies in (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Given the disastrous nuclear catastrophe at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear complex this year, it’s conceivable that TVA officials could be intimidated by some things nuclear. But we hardly expected the giant public utility to be afraid of a few “zombie” protesters.

Clay Bennett Political Cartoon: “TVA Ban” (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Editorial: Balancing act at City Schools (Commercial Appeal)

MCS has difficult decisions to make as it threads its way to a more effective faculty. With at least two years remaining before the merger with Shelby County Schools becomes final, Memphis City Schools still has much work to do.

Editorial: Debt agreement needed to avoid ‘doomsday cuts’ (News-Sentinel)

The GOP and Democratic leadership overlooked — snubbed would be the more accurate term — the Gang of Six when it picked the Senate half of the 12-member “super committee” that is charged with coming up with a $1.5 trillion savings plan by Thanksgiving. If the committee can’t agree or if Congress rejects their recommendation — and either one is a good bet — then $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts would automatically go into effect for fiscal 2013, which is only 14 months away.

Editorial: A Deal to Get Cheaper and Safer Drugs (New York Times)

Federal regulators and the generic drug industry are putting the final touches on an agreement that would help speed the approval of generic drugs in this country and increase inspections at foreign plants that export generic drugs and drug ingredients to the United States. The agreement calls for generic drug manufacturers to collectively pay $299 million in annual fees (adjusted for inflation in succeeding years) under a program that would have to be approved by Congress.