September 8 TN News Digest

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

Haslam Names Lottery Board Member (TN Report)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced his appointment of Craig Powers to the Tennessee Lottery board of directors. “Craig brings a great combination of business sense and a passion for education to the Tennessee Lottery board of directors,” Haslam said.

Weeks among three appointed to Tennessee Board of Regents (State Gazette)

Dyersburg’s own Linda Weeks was one of three appointed to serve the Tennessee Board of Regents by Gov. Bill Haslam, according to a press release issued on Monday by the governor’s office. Dyersburg State Community College Associate Professor of English Linda S. Weeks will join the board with fellow newcomer Donald Lee Gatts III.

Haslam reappoints Griscom to Board of Regents (Nooga)

Gov. Bill Haslam announced Tuesday the reappointment of Tom Griscom to the Tennessee Board of Regents, along with the appointment of Donald Lee Gatts III and Linda S. Weeks. Griscom, who represents the 3rd District on the board, is the former executive editor and publisher of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

SCORE announces finalist for reform award (Knoxville News-Sentinel/McCoy)

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education, also known as SCORE, has announced finalists for the first year of its SCORE Prize Award — which recognizes the elementary, middle, high school and district in Tennessee that has most dramatically improved student achievement in spite of challenges. Among the 12 finalists are several area schools and districts.

Law enforcement agencies crack down on synthetic drug sales (City Paper/Nix)

Law enforcement agencies Wednesday executed multiple search warrants in an effort to crack down on the retail sale of synthetic drugs in mid-state convenience stores. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, along with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, seized products sold at the stores, marketed under the guise of incense, plant food or bath salts.

Raids target illicit synthetic drugs (Gannett)

State, federal and local law enforcement agencies swarmed 36 convenience stores throughout Rutherford County Wednesday, enforcing the state’s newest laws on illicit synthetic drugs via “Operation Synful Smoke.” Headed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the effort targeted stores selling synthetic cannabinoid- and methcathinone-containing products similar to Vampire Blood and Molly’s Plant Food, but sold under a variety of trade names and marketed under the guise of incenses and bath salts.

Drugs in Stimulants Banned for a Year (New York Times)

The Drug Enforcement Administration will temporarily ban three synthetic chemicals found in recreational drugs known as bath salts. The stimulants have been linked to episodes of violence and extreme paranoia.

Davidson’s drug court faces an uncertain future (Tennessean/Gee)

As it marks its 15th year, the Davidson County Drug Court can look back and celebrate its evolution from an experimental program in a dilapidated former state mental hospital to a pioneering treatment facility that has garnered national attention. But as some of Nashville’s most prominent figures heaped praise on the court at an Aug. 24 fundraiser and roast of its presiding judge, Criminal Court Judge Seth Norman, one couldn’t help but wonder what happens next.

Cracker Barrel lawyer named to death row commission (Tennessean/Sisk)

Cracker Barrel’s top lawyer has been named to a new commission overseeing the budget for defense of death-row convicts. Forrest Shoaf, the Lebanon-based restaurant chain’s chief legal officer and a senior vice president, was appointed Tuesday to the Post-Conviction Defender Oversight Commission.

Enrollment up at UTC, down at Dalton State (Times Free-Press/Trevizo)

While UTC’s enrollment grew 6 percent this year, Dalton State’s fell by 8 percent. University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s 14th-day numbers show total enrollment increased to 11,429 students, up from 10,781 last year. Its biggest increases were in first-time freshmen and new transfers, which grew more than 11 percent each.

Kids can learn Chinese in MTSU program (Associated Press)

Tennessee students in grades two through five will be able to get lessons in the Chinese language through Middle Tennessee State University. “A Bridge for Better Understanding: Chinese Language and Culture’’ is a 16-lesson series beginning Tuesday and airing weekly through April 18.

State Democrats announce 6-day tour to focus on creating jobs (City Paper/Woods)

State House Republicans held hearings Wednesday into burdensome business regulations, and Democrats announced they will go on a statewide tour of Tennessee to talk to the public about how to create jobs here. “Across the country and here in Tennessee, we are stuck in a jobs crisis, and it’s going to take everyone working together to get us out of it,” House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh said.

Legislators focus on job creation (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Humphrey)

Panel meets small business owners Tennessee legislators have divided into partisan groups for separate proclaimed quests to find ways of helping create new jobs while Gov. Bill Haslam is in California this week with the same mission. On Wednesday, a House Republican Task Force heard testimony from small business owners on what can be done at the state level.

On the Job Hunt (Missouri News Horizon)

Tennessee Democrats say they’ll soon embark on a statewide policy-seeking tour to get to the bottom of how best to create jobs. Republicans say they’ve already figured out that the real problem with the economy is at the very top — and not of Tennessee, but the nation.

Tennessee ‘too easy’ on jobless, GOP lawmaker says (Commercial Appeal/Locker)

Matlock favors repeal of unemployment benefits extension The chairman of a state House Republican task force on jobs and economic growth said Wednesday that he favors repealing the 20-week extension of unemployment benefits enacted this year “to incentivize people to get back in the workforce.” The remarks from Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir City, came after the panel heard from several small-business owners summoned to present their views to lawmakers on how the state can help create jobs.

District lines all but finished (Daily News Journal)

The Rutherford County Commission’s Redistricting Committee unanimously approved proposed boundary lines Wednesday that will shrink some fast-growing commission districts. “I went from four schools to zero in my district,” said District 1 Commissioner Doug Shafer, a committee member who will have to give up some neighborhoods in northern La Vergne because of growth over the past 10 years.

Red Light Camera Citations Drop Sharply With New Right Turn Rules (WPLN-Radio)

New rules restricting the use of red light cameras have resulted in a sharp drop in citations. Drivers caught turning right on red without coming to a complete stop can no longer get one of the automated tickets in the mail.

12-cent tax increase OK’d for Unicoi Co. (Johnson City Press)

While a second reading must still be approved by the Unicoi County Commission before it becomes official, the commission approved setting the county’s property tax rate at a little more than $2.55 for the 2011-12 fiscal year in a special called meeting held Tuesday. Assuming the measure is passed on second reading without changes, the county’s exact property tax rate would be $2.5537 per $100 of assessed value.

E. Tenn. delegates wary of jobs talk (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Collins)

Obama to give speech to Congress today U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais says he’s trying to keep an open mind about the jobs package President Barack Obama will deliver tonight to Congress, but he suspects it’s politics, not the weak economy, that is motivating the White House to act. “I really don’t have high hopes this will be much more than a political stunt,” the Jasper, Tenn., Republican said.

Blackburn invites Gibson CEO to Obama speech (Nashville Business Journal)

Two weeks after his company was raided by federal agents — for the second time in two years — Gibson Guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz will be a guest at President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress Thursday. In a statement released this afternoon, Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn said Juszkiewicz will be her “special guest.”

Gibson CEO to attend Obama speech as Rep. Blackburn’s guest (CP/Garrison)

Two weeks ago, Gibson Guitar Corp. CEO Henry Juszkiewicz went on the offensive before reporters, bemoaning the “overreaching federal government” one day after U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents raided his Nashville facility. On Thursday evening, the Nashville Gibson executive will have a seat in the House gallery as President Barack Obama delivers a highly anticipated address on job creation in front of a joint session of Congress.

CEO of Gibson Guitars will be Blackburn’s guest at Obama’s speech (CA/Sullivan)

Gibson Guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz will be U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s guest at President Barack Obama’s speech on job creation tonight to a joint session of Congress, her office announced Wednesday. Juszkiewicz has said he felt “totally abused” when U.S. Fish & Wildlife agents searched the company’s Memphis and Nashville plants looking for illegal sawn ebony and rosewood used for fingerboards.

Gibson Guitar CEO to Join Blackburn for Obama Address (Memphis Daily News)

Gibson Guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz will be the special guest of U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn at President Barack Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress Thursday night, Sept. 8. The president is scheduled to unveil a jobs proposal.

Blackburn Makes Jobs-Case with Gibson (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Gibson Guitar is getting some support from elected officials after federal authorities raided its plants in Nashville and Memphis last month. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agents seized what is thought to be illegally imported rosewood.

Fleischmann mostly faces backers in town halls (Times Free-Press/Carroll)

When congressmen take to the town hall circuit, they often say they’ll talk with constituents from all walks of life to get a better idea of their district’s needs. U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann was no exception. In an Aug. 23 news release, the first-term Chattanooga Republican said he would meet residents from “all over the district” to “best represent them in Washington.”

Fleischmann letter seeks contributions (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Carroll)

In the same letter calling his political opponents “hired guns,” U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann asked supporters for campaign money so he’ll be “prepared to fight back.” The letter surfaced on the heels of an outdoor protest against the freshman Republican and shows the campaign is thinking about re-election — something Fleischmann’s staff said it wasn’t doing over the summer.

Howard-Hill plans to challenge Fleischmann in GOP primary (Nooga)

Two-time congressional hopeful Dr. Jean Howard-Hill said this week she plans to challenge Rep. Chuck Fleischmann in next year’s Republican primary. Hill casually ran for her party’s nomination in both 2008 and 2010.

States ask colleges to perform for money (Stateline)

Speaking to higher education leaders from across his state last month, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon laid out a new goal for public colleges and universities: funding based on student performance. “Our current funding approach is disconnected from statewide goals and needs,” the governor said.

Political odd couple head supercommittee (Associated Press/Kellman)

He’s a lanky Texas conservative who chose law school over chicken farming. She’s a liberal from Seattle with steel in the toes of her famous tennis shoes.

Primary-Care Doctors Push for Raise (Wall Street Journal)

Primary-care physicians are pressing the agency that oversees Medicare to change a payment system they say places a higher value on work done by specialists. The American Academy of Family Physicians has sent a letter demanding changes to a committee that plays a key role in Medicare’s process for setting physician payments.

TVA Downsizes Clean Energy Program (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Government incentives that helped fuel a sort of solar power boom in Tennessee are being pulled back. TVA says the cost has become unsustainable.

TVA exec to head Ladies Hermitage Association board (Associated Press)

A Tennessee Valley Authority executive has been chosen chairwoman of the board of the Ladies Hermitage Association, which operates President Andrew Jackson’s estate in Nashville. Emily J. Reynolds, senior vice president for government relations at TVA, was selected by her fellow board members.

Perry County gamble to attract jobs works (Tennessean/Marsteller)

Ailing area attracts company with development package Perry County’s high unemployment rate — just under 15 percent — has stubbornly persisted despite numerous efforts to combat it, from worker training to government-subsidized jobs. So, local officials have gotten more aggressive.

Bradley County defers support for industrial park (Times Free-Press/Leach)

The Bradley County Commission again this week stopped short of offering support to a proposed joint industrial development venture with the city of Cleveland and Cleveland Utilities. By an 8-6 vote, commissioners on Tuesday agreed to defer a resolution supporting the Spring Branch Industrial Park to the next work session.

U.S. leaders lack clear vision for job creation (Associated Press)

America’s sickly economy can be healed with jobs, jobs and more jobs. On that, everyone agrees.

Sumner schools budget cuts could mean loss of 91 jobs (Gannett)

There’s not enough money to operate the Sumner County school system the way administrators want to do it, so they have to cut millions of dollars and that means cutting jobs. The school board voted 6-5 to cut $5.3 million from its 2011-12 budget.

Charter school applicant ready to try again before Blount board (NS/Wilson)

Supporters of a proposed charter school in Blount County will see their plan go before the county school board tonight for approval. The application was denied at a meeting last month.

Elected Bodies Sign Off, Next Up Consolidation (Memphis Daily News)

The next step in the schools consolidation process is the appointment of seven members to the new countywide school board that takes office Oct. 1. With no debate, Memphis City Council members Tuesday, Sept. 6, gave the final approval necessary for the schools consolidation settlement to become a consent decree.

Commission picks 25 finalists for seven new school board seats (CA/McMillin)

Phrases like “clean slate” and “most important issue” and “bring people together” recurred time and again Wednesday during the Shelby County Commission’s marathon session of interviews of applicants for one of seven newly created county school board seats. But even as Memphians and non-Memphians stepped forward to volunteer for what will be a unified 23-member school board including Memphis City Schools board members and Shelby County Schools board members, city-suburban tensions continued to be stirred as the commission’s education committee vetted candidates.

County Commission Interviews School Board Applicants (Memphis Daily News)

It took Shelby County Commissioners nearly 10 hours Wednesday, Sept. 7, to interview nearly 100 contenders for seven appointments to the countywide school board that takes office Oct. 1. The general government committee session with the applicants is a good indicator of what is likely to happen Monday when the full commission makes the appointments.

Mike Carpenter Resigns County Commission to Head Education Group (M. Flyer)

After a tenure characterized by years of both controversy and achievement, Shelby County Commissioner Mike Carpenter has resigned his position on the commission and will be moving to Naashville to become state director of the StudentsFirst, a non-profit ad hoc organization devoted to educational reform. Carpenter, a Republican with notable independence from the party line, disclosed his intentions in a letter Tuesday to commission chairman Sidney Chism, the man whom he had expected to succeed this year.

Taking the Leap? (Memphis Flyer)

With school merger now a certainty, Memphis’ suburbs eye their own systems.With U.S. District Judge Hardy Mays having approved a plan for the merger of Memphis City Schools with Shelby County Schools, and with all relevant local parties having signed on to a court-approved memorandum of understanding, much attention is now focused on the long-range prospect of new municipal school districts in the suburbs as of September 2013, when the MCS-SCS merger is completed.

Booker T. Washington High School principal suspended for tampering (CA/Roberts)

Two years before President Barack Obama made Booker T. Washington High famous for grades and graduation, the school’s principal was home on unpaid suspension for fudging transcripts and faking attendance. Alisha Kiner was suspended for one week in July 2009 after administrators confronted her on five allegations, including that she tampered with attendance data, directed a change in enrollment status that meant several students’ test scores would not count against BTW and tweaked schedules so that an athlete’s transcript would conform to National Collegiate Athletic Association eligibility requirements.

OPINION

Free-Press Editorial: Flood damage might have been worse (Times Free-Press)

As alarming as the massive rainfall of the past few days was, what is perhaps more incredible is that it did not cause more harm than it did. The Chattanooga area got about 10 inches of rain in a short period of time, compared with nearly 13 inches in Charleston, Tenn., and about 8 inches in Athens, Tenn.

Guest columnist: Charters would have new overseer (Tennessean)

School board offers expertise, accountability In Tennessee, elected school boards are charged with governing the public schools and are held accountable not only by the voters but by a myriad of standards set by state and federal law. School boards exemplify local democracy at its most fundamental level — a forum for the public to debate, discuss, complain and decide — and all in full view.

Guest columnist: Most school boards lack evaluation skill (Tennessean)

A charter school is a public school funded by taxpayer dollars. It is a part of the local school system, just as any other school.

Joe Sullivan: All Online Sales Should Be Taxed (Metro Pulse)

The dispute over whether Amazon.com should collect sales tax on its online sales to Tennesseans needs to be resolved. But the solution needs to come from Washington, not Nashville, and it should apply to all online retailers, not just Amazon.

Times Editorial: Obama, jobs and the GOP (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

There’s widespread speculation that President Barack Obama will propose a variety of measures including an extension and perhaps expansion of payroll tax relief, possible extension of unemployment benefits, a federal program to underwrite major national infrastructure repair and construction and some business tax cuts to promote job creation in his speech to a joint session of Congress tonight. Common courtesy suggests that legislators listen to the speech before passing judgment on its content.