This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
The new head of a Tennessee agency that inspects and certifies jails will have authority over the jail run by her husband, Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe. Gov. Bill Haslam appointed Beth Ashe to be executive director of the Tennessee Corrections Institute, an agency devoted to training, maintaining standards and inspecting jails in Tennessee.
Kruger Products L.P. today announced the expansion of its existing Memphis mill, investing $316 million to implement state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment, thereby increasing its production capacity by 18 percent. The expansion will create 100 direct jobs in Memphis, as well as protect 2,400 existing jobs in the company’s facilities in both the U.S. and Canada.
Thanks to federal Race to the Top funds in Tennessee, a local school official says a “sea change” is in progress regarding how teachers are re-creating the classroom environment. “We have to keep student achievement in the forefront,” said Martin Ringstaff, the new director of Cleveland City Schools.
Tennessee has launched a $65 million pilot program meant to cut driving costs for state workers by leasing up to 500 cars from an Orlando, Fla., vehicle-leasing firm. The state has signed a three-year contract with Mears Motor Leasing, a division of Bancorp Inc., to lease 500 Ford Fusion sedans for use by child welfare agents, inspectors and other state employees.
The heavily traveled Interstate 65 just north of downtown Nashville is going to be widened. The Federal Highway Administration awarded $3.7 million for the project, which covers the section between Trinity Lane and Dickerson Road just north of the Cumberland River.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation has several projects in the works linked to Maury County. John Schroer, commissioner of TDOT, spoke to the Kiwanis Club on Friday to discuss these projects and some economic problems that TDOT is facing.
When the once meandering Beaver Creek at Halls Community Park was straightened in the 1930s to make room for more usable farmland, people probably didn’t foresee the trouble that would follow. Creeks and streams naturally meander, which provides much of the structure that’s necessary for a healthy underwater ecosystem to thrive with a wide variety of fish and algae.
In her senior year at Collierville High School, Lauren Poole, 18, got only about halfway through her application to the University of Memphis before she stopped, realizing, she said, that she was doing it only to please her mother, who wanted Poole to stay close to home. She instead focused her energy on applications to the Chattanooga and Knoxville branches of the University of Tennessee system, with fingers crossed that she would be wearing Vol orange this semester.
Options for a long-term tuition plan will be among the issues University of Tennessee trustees discuss Wednesday when they meet in Murfreesboro for their annual summer work session. After a 12 percent tuition hike in Knoxville this year and a 9.9 percent increase in Chattanooga and Martin, trustees are brainstorming ideas on how to handle tuition in the future, including the possibility of continuing differential tuition plans and projecting tuition costs for students’ entire four-year enrollment.
Tennessee lawmakers collected 11 percent less in daily pay and expense reimbursements in 2011 than their counterparts did a year ago, according to records released by the state legislature. State lawmakers received a combined $2.2 million in daily “per diem” payments and reimbursements in the first half of the year, an average of about $17,000 per session for each senator and representative.
Staring at a $13 million shortfall this year, Hamilton County chose to cut millions of dollars from its budget, laying off 36 workers, freezing 20 jobs and ending some services. Just 12 months earlier, Chattanooga looked at its own potential shortfall and raised property taxes by 37 cents.
A refusal from Mt. Juliet and Wilson County to increase funding could inhibit the growth of Middle Tennessee’s only commuter train. With the Music City Star breaking ridership records this year, Regional Transportation Authority officials say it could soon be time to add cars.
The Shelby County Democrats held two fundraising events the past week, one looking back and other looking ahead. and drew decent crowds and presumably decent cash at both. The first event, held Wednesday night at Alfred’s on Beale, was a fundraiser for the party’s ongoing legal challenge of the 2010 countywide general election, during which the Democratic slate — somewhat unexpectedly, given the demographics — was swept by the Republicans.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., says he sees no chance of Congress increasing taxes to solve the nation’s deficit woes. But the former Chattanooga mayor believes a tax reform package that chokes off many current loopholes could garner enough bipartisan support to pass.
Republican Sen. Bob Corker again ranked among the wealthiest members of Congress in 2010, with a net worth of at least $13.6 million, according to his most recent personal financial disclosure form. Corker and his wife, Elizabeth, listed assets of at least $26.6 million and debts totaling between $5.5 million and $13 million.
State-budget officials from around the U.S. were huddled in Utah earlier this month for an annual meeting when someone glanced at a BlackBerry and announced that the Dow Jones Industrial Average had fallen 500 points. “It was one of the worst moments of the week,” said Scott Pattison, executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers.
With billions of dollars cut from education budgets across the country, students are confronting some major changes as they return to school this year. Schools have been facing cuts for the past several years, but federal stimulus dollars softened the blow.
Financing designed to insulate taxpayers, officials say While acknowledging that the project carries risks, Memphis officials and financial planners say the deal to fund The Pyramid’s transformation into a Bass Pro Shops destination store has been structured to provide several layers of protection for taxpayers. Conservative estimates regarding the major financing component — state sales tax revenues from a Tourist Development Zone covering all of Downtown and the Medical Center district — indicate that there should be ample funds to repay bonds issued for the project, they say.
Until recently, medical files belonging to nearly 300,000 Californians sat unsecured on the Internet for the entire world to see. There were insurance forms, Social Security numbers and doctors’ notes.
When the nearly 300 students of the Irene-Wakonda School District returned to school this week, they found a lot of old friends, teachers and familiar routines awaiting them. But one thing was missing: Friday classes.
After Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican in his first months in office, announced early this year that he wanted to cut collective bargaining rights for public workers, relations between political parties in his newly red State Capitol fell into a long, deep frost. But after six months of bruising partisan fights, Mr. Walker seemed to issue an utterly different message this month.
Tennessee’s moniker as the “Volunteer State” will be taking on greater meaning than ever. As the nation begins to come to grips with government spending cuts, many important services will feel more than just a pinch to their budgets, and some programs could be lost altogether. If many of these valuable community services are to continue, they will have to rely more heavily on donations and volunteer efforts.
Until we can conserve energy or produce it with alternative means, coal generation will have to do. The Tennessee Valley Authority’s decision to install about $600 million in scrubbers at the Allen Fossil Plant is not an easy decision to live with in Memphis, its largest municipal customer, but it’s the right thing to do.
It has been more than three months since a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit accused the Department of Veterans Affairs of “unchecked incompetence” and unconscionable delays in caring for veterans with mental health problems. Instead of working with the plaintiffs to address the court’s concerns, the V.A. is appealing the ruling.
OVER the next few weeks, millions of Americans will be heading off to college, and despite the promise of need-blind admissions, more of them than ever will be struggling to pay for it. It’s not just the economy’s fault: even as they publicize lavish financial aid packages, colleges and universities are making it harder for average American families to afford higher education, while making it easier for the wealthy.