August 25 TN News Digest

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


Jobs, Education focus of Haslam’s Chattanooga address (WRCB-TV Chattanooga)

Jobs and education reform were the focus of Governor Bill Haslam’s address to the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. Governor Haslam addressed a packed house of nearly 1,500 area business leaders at the Chamber’s Annual Luncheon. “Here’s the biggest challenge, we need to improve education and training through education,” the Governor says.

Gov. Tells Biz Community Chattanooga is Helping State Attract Industry (WDEF)

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam today praised southeast Tennessee for leading the way in industrial development and job creation. But he still faced more questions about his support for the Amazon. Com sales tax agreement.

Haslam says workforce training has long way to go (Times Free-Press/Pare)

Saying he has talked with more than 1,000 business chiefs in his first eight months in office, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam told Chattanooga leaders Wednesday the state’s workforce is too shallow in engineering and technical skills. Haslam said many company CEOs have told him the state needs to bolster its education achievement for its workforce.

Tennessee Governor Facing Big Challenges (WTVC-TV Chattanooga)

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam tells a record crowd at the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce annual meeting Wednesday he wants Tennessee to be the economic driving force in the south. One way to do that, he said, is to do a better job educating Tennessee children for future jobs.

Haslam: TN will honor word on Amazon tax deal (Associated Press/Schelzig)

States competing for industrial investments would be “dead wrong” to claim that Tennessee doesn’t keep its commitments in economic development deals, Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday. The state is keeping its word with on waiving a requirement for the online retailer to collect state sales taxes on items sold through distribution centers being built in Tennessee, the Republican governor told reporters before a speech to the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

Haslam: We’re keeping our word to Amazon (Times Free-Press/Pare, Sher)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday the state is keeping its word to Amazon over sales tax collections and people in other states are “dead wrong” if they say otherwise. Speaking in Chattanooga, he also said he’d like to have a long-term agreement with Amazon on the issue by the time the Legislature meets in January.

Haslam Considers Amazon Tax Deal (WRCB-TV Chattanooga)

Governor Bill Haslam addressed a crowd at the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce on job growth in the Tennessee Valley despite economic uncertainty. “What is coming out of Washington is giving no one confidence that says we have the sort of environment that is worthy of investing capital.”

Replay today’s live coverage of Gov Haslam’s address to Chattanooga (TFP/Keely)

Follow live photoblog coverage of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s address to Chattanooga from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Haslam is the keynote speaker at the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce annual meeting at the convention center today

ECD announces grant opportunities for nine regional entrepreneur centers (NBJ)

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development has announced it will award nine competitive grants for regional business accelerators across the state, a program aimed at spurring innovation. The department is accepting applications for the $250,000 grants.

State seeks applications for business grants (Tennessean/Marsteller)

State economic development officials announced plans Wednesday to award $2.25 million to boost entrepreneurism. The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development said it is seeking applications for nine $250,000 grants, which will be used to support regional business accelerators throughout the state.

Haslam names Court of Criminal Appeals judge (Nashville Post)

Gov. Bill Haslam today named Franklin’s Jeff Bivins to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals’ Middle Section of Tennessee. The 50-year-old Bivins is judge for the 21st Judicial District, which includes Hickman, Lewis, Perry and Williamson counties.

Haslam taps judge for Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals (City Paper)

Williamson County Circuit Court Judge Jeff Bivins was appointed Wednesday to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals. “While all of the applicants we considered were top notch, the breadth and depth of Jeff’s experience was distinctive,” Gov. Bill Haslam said in a release that announced the appointment.

Haslam appoints Judge Bivins to criminal appeals court (Tennessean/Gee)

Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed Williamson County Circuit Judge Jeff Bivins to the state Court of Criminal Appeals. Bivins, 50, was one of the three people that the state Judicial Nominating Commission recommended in June to fill a vacancy on the court created by the retirement of Judge David H. Welles.

Ireland-based company has sights on Kingsport for business expansion (H-C)

One of Ireland’s top entrepreneurs has set his sights on Kingsport for a business expansion promising millions of dollars in investment and hundreds of new jobs. C&F Group owner and CEO John Flaherty was the 21-year-old son of a sugar beet farmer when he began his business in 1989 making such specialty tools for companies as sewing-machine parts.

Celebrating Pick Tennessee Products – Local farmers enjoy dinner with gov. (DPA)

McMinn County residents were among those invited to dinner with Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam, celebrating the 25th anniversary of Pick Tennessee Products.

AT&T Funding State Community College Scholarships (TN Report)

AT&T put another exclamation point on the state’s overall education reform agenda Wednesday, plunging $130,000 into scholarships for Tennessee community colleges. The company announced that $10,000 will go to each of the state’s 13 community colleges.

UTHSC Unveils New Pharmacy College (Memphis Daily News)

For more than a century, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Pharmacy has served as center of pharmacy education, practice and research in the Mid-South. And on the eve of UTHSC’s September Centennial Gala, the College of Pharmacy – previously housed in six buildings on the sprawling, urban campus on Madison Avenue – is finally getting a home of its own.

Nashville State Community College to open Clarksville satellite campus (C. Paper)

Nashville State Community College is opening a satellite campus in Clarksville, officials announced Wednesday. The executive subcommittee of the State Building Commission this week approved the first step by approving plans for Nashville State to acquire the former Saturn dealership on Wilma Rudolph Boulevard in Clarksville.

Nashville State Community College adding campus in Clarksville (Leaf Chronicle)

For almost two years, the lot at 1760 Wilma Rudolph Boulevard — once the home of the Clarksville Saturn dealership — has sat vacant. Wednesday morning, state Rep. Joe Pitts, state Sen. Tim Barnes and other officials announced the Nashville State Community College-Clarksville Center would be opening on the site, bringing jobs and opportunities to the community.

Vol State chief picked for Regents post (Tennessean/Young)

Warren Nichols, president of Volunteer State Community College, will be recommended for appointment as vice chancellor for community colleges at the Tennessee Board of Regents. Nichols was selected out of a pool of candidates from across the United States.

Chattanooga State names dean (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Chattanooga State Community College named Barry Jennison as dean of the Business and Information Technologies Division. As dean, Jennison will be responsible for overseeing programs in accounting, business, information technologies and paralegal studies, according to a news release.

Study details peer, UT pay disparity (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Boehnke)

Faculty on the University of Tennessee’s Knoxville campus make about 84 percent of the salaries of their peers across the nation, according to an outside study on the market values. Trustees heard a presentation today on a study conducted by a human resources consulting firm during a board workshop in Murfreesboro.

TDOT blows Clarksville bridge to cheering crowd (Leaf Chronicle)

To the cheers of a crowd chanting “blow that bridge,” the 1931 Lynnwood Tarpley Bridge over the Red River was blown up Tuesday. Just before midnight, over 50 people stood on the hillside overlooking the bridge watching as safety crews made the final connections and removed safety cables before the explosions lit up the bridge.

TN Court of Judiciary faces new scrutiny (Tennessean/Gee)

Legislators criticize disciplinary body The commission that disciplines Tennessee judges for ethical violations is on the hot seat again. For the second year in a row, a small committee of state lawmakers will meet outside the regular legislative session to scrutinize the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary.

In the Running: Meet the Candidates for 6th District State Senate (Metro Pulse)

There are any number of ways to break down the race to fill former state Sen. Jamie Woodson’s seat in the 6th District. All four candidates are women.

6th District State Senate: The Candidates on the Issues (Metro Pulse)

We asked each candidate the same set of questions about legislation and issues that have been a source of concern with many of our readers this year. Here’s what the candidates said.

Former House speaker says Northern Connector not dead yet (Johnson City Press)

Rep. Kent Williams said the reports are not true that the Tennessee Department of Transportation has shelved plans for the Northern Connector project. “I spoke with the project manager, John Barrett, on Tuesday afternoon and he told me everything is still on the table for the (Tenn.) Highway 91 improvements, including the Northern Connector and the Elk Avenue improvements,” Williams said.

Census shows Knox County’s vacancy rate up slightly (News-Sentinel/Ahillen)

If you’re looking for a ray of sunshine from the U.S. Census Bureau on the bleak housing picture well, the picture is still plenty foggy. The bureau released Summary File I information today, and the results show housing vacancies in Knox County have gone up slightly from 2000 to 2010.

Group open to district seat options (Daily News Journal)

The Rutherford County Commission Redistricting Committee decided Wednesday to remain flexible on whether to retain 21 district seats on the County Commission. “I think this group needs to be as flexible as possible,” Commissioner Rhonda Allen said in urging the majority of the committee in a 6-5 vote to reject a proposal to set the number at 21.

Tax Reform Revisited (Memphis Flyer)

Bob Corker, the junior U.S. senator from Tennessee, made it clear Monday, in a talk to the Memphis Area Association of Realtors on Poplar, that he doesn’t think the spending cuts provided for in the last-minute congressional settlement of the debt-ceiling crisis were sufficient. Corker, a Republican, was the author of a spending-cap bill — “the only bill that was bicameral and bipartisan” — that, over a 10-year period, would have trimmed the nation’s deficit by some $5 trillion, a sum he contrasted with the $4 trillion figure that many in Congress had regarded as “the magic number” for reduction and with the $2.5 trillion in cuts, now and later, that was actually mandated by the final bill.

Corker: We can get budget balanced (Daily News Journal)

Spending cuts may lead to tax reform U.S. Sen. Bob Corker said Wednesday voting for an early August debt ceiling-budget cutting deal was “like kissing your sister.” But he told a crowd at Five Senses restaurant he learned quickly in Washington that any time someone agrees to cut spending, “never say no.”

Uncertain Future for GM’s Spring Hill Factory, Corker Says (WPLN-Radio Nash.)

It’s been more than two years since GM announced it would idle car production at its factory in Spring Hill. Tennessee Senator Bob Corker said yesterday he’s not certain what to expect for the plant going forward. Corker was taking questions from constituents at a luncheon in Murfreesboro when someone asked what he sees as the future of Spring Hill.

Corker Will Look for ‘Flexibility’ as TVA Weighs Reactor Sale (WPLN-Radio Nash.)

U.S. Senator Bob Corker says he’ll sit down and talk with the Tennessee Valley Authority about how it will pay to finish its Bellefonte nuclear plant. TVA is looking at selling a different nuclear reactor and leasing it back in order to afford the $5 billion Bellefonte project in Alabama.

Corker: Cooperative Transition Will Be Key in Libya (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Tennessee Senator Bob Corker says the best case scenario in Libya would be for rebels taking control there to handle the transition without infighting. Corker says if tribes in Libya fracture, it opens to the door to destabilization, corruption and potentially terrorism.

Protesters target Rep. Fleischmann’s job creation record (TFP/Hightower)

A grassroots group in Chattanooga said U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann has not done enough to create or to help his constituents find good-paying jobs. “This job thing’s going to hit us all, and we’re going to tell him,” said Ash-Lee Henderson, a board member for Chattanooga Organized for Action, which held a small protest Wednesday across from the Chattanooga Convention Center, where Fleischmann, R-Tenn., was attending a speech by Gov. Bill Haslam.

Fleischmann receives guilty verdict from protest group (Nooga)

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann was found guilty of killing jobs, falsely impersonating the working class, and neglecting his own constituents by a group of about 30 protesters who rallied outside the Chattanooga Convention Center on Wednesday morning. The demonstration, billed as “The Trial of Chucky,” was co-sponsored by Chattanooga Organized for Action and the Service Employees International Union, and included a stand-in for Fleischmann who sported a “Child’s Play” horror mask.

DesJarlais speaks with constituents (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Carroll)

As an aide recorded the moment with a digital camera, U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais strode into the Sequatchie County Courthouse, shook hands and began a “listening session” with the Republican faithful. But there wasn’t much listening.

Gibson Guitar raided but lips zipped (Tennessean/Wahwani, Paine)

Ongoing troubles plague guitar firm Federal authorities conducted simultaneous raids at Gibson Guitar offices and factories in Nashville and Memphis on Wednesday in the latest of a series of legal woes to strike the legendary guitar maker. Gibson has been the subject of an ongoing federal lawsuit and a separate investigation into whether it illegally imported endangered ebony woods to use in its sought-after instruments.

Federal agents close Gibson Guitar plant in search for ebony (CA/McKenzie)

Federal agents with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service shut down the Gibson Guitar factory in Downtown Memphis on Wednesday to serve search warrants in an ongoing investigation. Nicholas Chavez, special agent in charge for U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Region 2 in Albuquerque, said agents also served search warrants on Gibson locations in Nashville.

Dyersburg, Ripley Guard units leaving next week (State Gazette)

Tennessee National Guard Military Police units from Ripley and Dyersburg are scheduled to leave Thursday, Sept. 1, bound for Camp Shelby, Miss. The MP buses will depart from the Ripley armory at 7 a.m. At the Mississippi post, soldiers will undergo a brief period of specialized training before deploying overseas.

Quake Renews Call to Enforce Pill Law (Wall Street Journal)

It has been nearly a decade since Congress passed a law promoting distribution of pills to people living near nuclear plants that would minimize one potentially lethal effect of accidental radiation exposure. But the law still hasn’t been implemented.

Online Enterprises Gain Foothold as Path to a College Degree (New York Times)

Harvard and Ohio State are not going to disappear any time soon. But a host of new online enterprises are making earning a college degree cheaper, faster and flexible enough to take work experience into account. As Wikipedia upended the encyclopedia industry and iTunes changed the music business, these businesses have the potential to change higher education.

Can taxing trucks by the mile help save transportation funding? (Stateline)

Transportation researcher Richard Mudge is looking for ways to make sure states can afford to fix and build roads and bridges, even as gas taxes become less effective. Like other experts, he wants to start taxing vehicles for how far they drive, instead of the current system based on how much gas they use.

Earthquake didn’t damage any TVA facility, agency says (Associated Press)

The Tennessee Valley Authority says it has found no problems with its dams or coal ash impoundments in the wake of the East Coast earthquake. TVA spokesman Travis Brickey said Wednesday that the inspections of 15 dams and impoundments were completed Tuesday evening and no deficiencies were identified.

TVA Checking Dams After Earthquake (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

The Tennessee Valley Authority is inspecting its dams closest to the epicenter of yesterday’s earthquake on the eastern seaboard. Engineers are performing visual checks of TVA’s coal ash storage sites as well. Only Tellico Dam near Knoxville recorded any shaking, so says to the utility’s chief operating officer.

NRC says sale of TVA reactor won’t hamper licensing (News-Sentinel/Marcum)

If TVA goes through with plans to sell its Unit 2 reactor at the Watts Bar nuclear plant near Spring City, the unusal move probably would not cause any glitches in the review and licensing process of the reactor project, a Nuclear Regulator Commission official said Wednesday. That is, as long as whoever buys the reactor has the funds to maintain and operate it in accordance with NRC guidelines.

TVA tells NRC Watts Bar Unit 2 to operate in 2013 (News-Sentinel/Marcum)

Construction of Watts Bar Nuclear Plant’s Unit 2 reactor is about 70 percent complete and TVA expects to begin commercial operation in spring 2013, a TVA official told members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission during a public meeting here today. David Stinson, who is in charge of construction at Watts Bar, said engineering is 89 percent complete and several milestones have been reached, including partial filling of the reactor vessel.

Memphis reaches tentative plan for makeup of board during merger (AP/Sainz)

School officials in Memphis and Shelby County reached a tentative agreement Wednesday about the makeup of a 23-member board of education that will oversee the merger of the two systems. The deal announced Wednesday afternoon by Memphis and Shelby County school board members and city and county commissioners provides a framework for the board that will handle the transition to a unified school system with 150,000 students, and sets the number of commissioners who will govern the new system after the two districts finally merge in September 2013.

Deal puts new 23-member board in control of schools (CA/McMillin)

After nine months of argument and acrimony, after a $1 million referendum and another $1 million in legal costs, the end to Shelby County’s schools consolidation standoff came quickly Wednesday. The settlement U.S. District Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays approved and began reading in his courtroom just before 3 p.m. calls for a 23-member unified countywide board to take over Oct. 1. It will oversee the winding down of operations of Memphis City Schools and the currently all-suburban Shelby County Schools, while also assuming responsibility for adopting a transition plan for a consolidated school system that begins with the 2013-14 school year.

Local Litigants Bypass State Resistance, Concur on New School Board Plans (MF)

Although stout and unexpected resistance from the state Attorney General’s office threatened to derail it and managed to delay it for several days, a final agreement was reached on Wednesday between the various parties involved in the long-running school-merger case. (One observer close to the negotiations attributed the State’s resistance to the state Education Department, one of the many organs of government the A.G serves.)

Schools Settlement Complex and Fast Moving (Memphis Daily News)

All sides in the schools consolidation lawsuit have reached a tentative and complex settlement that will create a 23 member city-county school board in just over a month, leave the two superintendents in place for now, hold elections for a seven member countywide school board in Aug. 2012 and allow the county commission the option of creating a 13 member countywide school board in the future. The settlement, announced in Memphis federal court Wednesday, Aug. 24, by federal Judge Hardy Mays came after private mediation talks that began Friday, Aug. 20.

Greater Memphis reacts to the school merger settlement (Commercial Appeal)

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell: “I do think the 23-member board is sizable, maybe too big, but we can still look at that as a way to move through the transition and move to a more permanent board and if that will help us avoid the appeals, I think it’s a step well-taken.” State Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville: “As I said from the beginning, unification without unity defeats its purpose and you’ve got to have unity and a plan.

Plans, cost nix longer school day for Memphis City Schools (C. Appeal/Roberts)

The much-heralded longer school day for students in the most troubled city schools ended after one year, a casualty of cost and planning uncertainties. Instead, students in the eight schools where an hour was added last fall will be referred to after-school tutoring if their grades at midterm aren’t up to snuff.

Cleveland board steps up search for site to add more school space (TFP/Higgins)

It is time to speed up preparations for another elementary school, Cleveland City Schools officials said Wednesday. Dr. Martin Ringstaff, city schools director, said he has met with Johnny McDaniel, county schools director, about county discussions to pay for a new county elementary school and an academic building at Lake Forest Middle School.

Knox County expands TAP schools (Knoxville News-Sentinel/McCoy)

When Kristi Mitchell began teaching 14 years ago, she felt like she was on an island. “Starting as a first-, second-year teacher I felt isolated,” said Mitchell, who teaches social studies at Holston Middle School.

Immunization issue worries Metro Schools (Tennessean/Hubbard)

Metro Nashville school officials are worried that more than a third of seventh-graders have not turned in required immunization forms for school this year and may be sent home. As of late Tuesday, among Metro’s 5,416 seventh-graders, 2,103 are missing forms, said Fred Carr, the district’s chief operations officer.

California: Budget cuts to courts reignites judges’ war (Sacramento Bee)

When Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature took another bite out of the state court system to balance the state budget – on paper, anyway – they reignited a political war between rival factions of judges over financial priorities. The fight began when rebel judges organized themselves as the Alliance of California Judges and opposed former Chief Justice Ron George’s commitment of vast funds to a statewide computer system with chronic operational shortcomings while trial courts were being forced to curtail operations.

Missouri: Ban meth, not common sense, when formulating drug policy (KC Star)

In fighting the scourge that is methamphetamine abuse, we as Missourians are all in this together. We are aware of the drug’s impact in our state, as well as the notoriety Missouri has attained from being the national leader in meth lab incidents for who knows how many years running.

Pennsylvania: Driver’s license test fee good start toward needed funding (P-N)

Pennsylvania’s road are in a dire state. In May, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave our roads a “D-,” citing road conditions and highway congestion. Nearly half of our roads were in poor or mediocre condition.


Free-Press Editorial: Gov. Haslam salutes Chattanooga (Times Free-Press)

Tennessee’s able and enthusiastic Gov. Bill Haslam honored our wonderful people and the city of Chattanooga on Wednesday, as he presented an upbeat keynote address during the annual meeting of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. Fortunately, there is much to praise, and to give thanks for, in our fabulous and ever-improving community.

Editorial: Graduation path (Commercial Appeal)

Tennessee has a long way to go in its effort to keep college students in school until they reach their academic goals. With a six-year graduation rate of about 50 percent, the state ranks 34th in the nation.

Frank Cagle: Nobody Is for Amazon Deal Except Amazon (Metro Pulse)

Given the forces arrayed against him, Gov. Bill Haslam faces a major policy defeat during his first year in office. In addition to getting bad advice, his natural tendency to avoid confrontation and make everybody happy is putting him in an untenable situation.

Times Editorial: The voter-ID card scam (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Rising public anger, concern and frustration with the state’s new voter photo-ID law was entirely predictable — and as a needless as the law itself. Voter fraud, the Republicans’ pretext for passing the law in Tennessee and a number of other newly Republican-controlled state Legislatures, is and has been exceedingly rare in Tennessee and most states.

Clay Bennett Political Cartoon: “Voter ID” (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Guest columnist: Some worry as solar grants fade (Tennessean)

Suppliers, growing demand will buoy the industry The Volunteer State Solar Initiative was intended to provide seed funding to encourage the implementation of solar technologies and spur the growth of Tennessee’s solar industry. In less than two years, its impact is evident across the state.

Guest columnist: Expect positive renewable trend to continue (Tennessean)

As an active professional in Tennessee’s solar industry, I am frequently asked if renewable energy can compete with other more traditional energy sources without federal or state grants. A seemingly simple question ought to have a simple answer, but then there is nothing simple about U.S. energy policy.

Guest columnist: TN needs more women to be leaders (Tennessean)

Tennessee effectively gave women the right to vote when, in 1920, it became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment. It was a close vote, coming down to a young McMinn County legislator, Harry Burns.

Times Editorial: The reality of earthquakes (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

The earthquake that jolted much of the East Coast on Tuesday wasn’t the “big one,” but it was strong enough to unnerve people in the nation’s capital and surrounding area, to be felt from Canada to Georgia and to remind those who experienced it of the prodigious power of the fundamental forces of the physical world. The quake, measured at magnitude 5.8, hit at 1:51 p.m. Its epicenter was near Mineral, Va., a tiny town about 84 miles southwest of Washington, D.C., not too far from Fredericksburg and Richmond.