September 19 TN News Digest

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

Haslam eyes area education (Columbia Daily Herald)

Improving education and preparing Tennesseans for the workforce were the key topics of Gov. Bill Haslam’s address to Maury County Kiwanis and Rotary Club members during a combined meeting. Club members estimated about 200 people were in attendance at the luncheon hosted at the Memorial Building in Columbia Friday.

TeamHealth expansion means $180 million investment, new jobs (Blount Today)

TeamHealth is expanding and that means more jobs are coming to Alcoa. The Blount Partnership took advantage of a packed house at the Clayton Center for the Arts at the Business Excellence Awards breakfast to make the announcement.

Farmers meeting Columbia to discuss industry (Associated Press)

Tennessee agricultural officials and farmers from all over the state will be meeting in Columbia to discuss the current status of the industry and its challenges. The meeting on Monday at First Farmers & Merchants Bank will include Tennessee Commissioner of Agriculture Julius Jones and University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro and the new chancellor of the UT Institute of Agriculture, Larry Arrington.

Didds commisioner and state officials visit local agency (Leaf Chronicle)

Progressive Directions, Inc. based in Clarksville, recently welcomed state officials including state Department of Intellectual Disability Services Commissioner James Henry along with state Sen. Tim Barnes, state Reps. Joe Pitts and Curtis Johnson, Deputy Director of Constituent Services DIDDS Susan Bailey-Moss, and Director of Public Affairs DIDDS Missy Marshall.

UT reps meeting with high school counselors (Associated Press)

Representatives from the University of Tennessee are going across the state beginning Monday to meet with high school guidance counselors. They will discuss higher education changes and programs affecting high school students.

U of M law school’s relocation puts students in sights of employers (CA/Morgan)

It is joked that, as a matter of principled equality, the law forbids both rich and poor alike from stealing bread. Similarly, it is equally frowned upon for either a law firm partner or a first-year law school student to get hammered in public on their 25th birthday.

Student loan defaults up (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Garrett)

Defaulting on a student loan can haunt you — standing in the way of a new job, buying a house, renting an apartment, going back to school. But recently released national education data show more students coming out of Chattanooga-area colleges and universities aren’t making payments on their debt.

Unpaid state fines making penalties pointless for many (News-Sentinel/Humphrey)

A new legislative report shows the severity of fines imposed by Tennessee courts has been eroded by inflation over the past 22 years, but some involved in the process say that really doesn’t make much difference. “I’m not sure the amount of the fine is important anymore,” said Knox County District Attorney General Randy Nichols.

Tennesseans must have photo ID to vote (City Paper/Woods)

which could minimize fraud or disenfranchise many To the many critics of Tennessee’s new law requiring photo ID for voters, this state’s Republicans respond with two words: Rhode Island. That’s because, even though Democrats run Rhode Island, they still joined Tennessee and five other Republican-run states in adopting a photo ID law of their own this year.

‘Misery spreads’ as Memphis’ budget woes force cutbacks (C. Appeal/Lollar)

For 9-year-old LeDarius Dennis, city budget cutbacks that reduced hours at Ed Rice Community Center meant making a hard choice between judo classes and tutoring. For Millennium Maddness, an award-winning drill team, cutbacks at Hickory Hill Community Center lopped two days from the team’s demanding practice schedule and meant looking for outdoor rehearsal sites to help keep its national ranking.

City revamps departments (Jackson Sun)

Cleaner streets in Jackson is administration’s goal Jackson city officials are working to implement city restructuring today that will create a stormwater operations facet. The restructuring that goes into effect today will reapportion responsibilities among the health and sanitation, engineering and street departments as part of a city-led push for cleaner Jackson streets.

Alexander introduces bills aimed to “fix” No Child Left Behind (Nooga)

Sen. Lamar Alexander announced a series of new bills Wednesday aiming to remedy problems within No Child Left Behind standards, the latest round in several calls from Tennessee lawmakers to change the way the federal government measures school achievement. The four-piece legislation, filed jointly with Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., would give states and local school districts more flexibility in measuring teacher accountability, encouraging professional development, tailoring federal education programs to needs at the local level and expanding successful charter school models.

New Corker opponent says “Tennessee deserves better” (Nooga)

The latest Tennessean to announce a bid to unseat Sen. Bob Corker isn’t balking at being labeled a novice when it comes to political experience. Zach Poskevich, a 41-year-old resident of Henderson, has never held public office before.

States slow to dole out loan help (USA Today)

Only 7,500 homeowners have received aid in first 16 months A $7.6 billion federal program to help homeowners avoid foreclosures had distributed about 1 percent of its money to distressed owners 16 months after its creation, government reports show. The Obama administration awarded the funds last year to 18 states most affected by unemployment and fallen home prices.

GOP-led states change voting rules ahead of 2012 (Associated Press/Sanner)

After years of expanding when and how people can vote, state legislatures now under new Republican control are moving to trim early voting days, beef up identification requirements and put new restrictions on how voters are notified about absentee ballots. Democrats claim their GOP counterparts are using midterm election wins to enforce changes favorable to Republicans ahead of the 2012 presidential election.

Hospitals gear up to fight fed cuts (Gannett/Bewley)

Layoffs and closures feared Tennessee’s hospitals have a message for the congressional “super committee” charged with cutting the federal debt by more than $1 trillion over a decade: Don’t look here. “It seems to me that we are turning into the piggy bank,” said Craig Becker, president of the Tennessee Hospital Association, which represents 154 hospitals.

TVA bets on rising demand (Tennessean/Paine)

Less electricity use could increase costs As the Tennessee Valley Authority prepares to add more nuclear energy to its portfolio, it is betting on slightly more than 1 percent growth in electricity use each year, even as demand nationwide is expected to shrink. If the public power producer’s forecast misses the mark — as it has on occasion — ratepayers’ electricity costs could rise. TVA’s debt is still bloated from high expectations of power demand that fell through in the 1970s and 1980s.

Testimony starting in trial on TVA coal ash suits (Associated Press)

Attorneys for more than 230 property owners suing the Tennessee Valley Authority for damages from its huge coal ash spill in 2008 are set to begin calling witnesses at a trial in Knoxville. U.S. District Judge Thomas Varlan held an opening session with attorneys Thursday.

Spring Hill booms out of the recession (Tennessean/Wiersma)

Walmart to compete with Kroger, Target for south Williamson dollars There was a time, not too long ago, when a Main Street auction barn was one of the main places in southern Williamson County to shop and mingle. With the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., moving forward with plans to open a supercenter on that 35-acre site by early 2013, those days are gone.

Erlanger will weigh two Southside options (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Carroll)

If Erlanger trustees approve a strategic plan to build a new Southside Community Health Center, they have two options: build their own facility for $1.3 million up front, or ask a developer to do the work for $2 million spread over 15 years of lease payments. A hospital business plan indicates they’ll be steered toward the latter option, owing partly to the fact that Southside and Dodson Community Health Centers have reported operating losses for three of the last five years.

Memphis and Shelby County School merger groups to meet (C. Appeal/McMillin)

Orientation set for transition team, board They will meet Wednesday at the University of Memphis, all 44 of them residents of Shelby County, some of them well-known but many others complete newcomers to public service. The people charted with determining the future of public education in the county will technically fall into two separate groups, one a 21-member schools merger transition commission and the other a 23-person unified school board.

Middle Tennessee school systems view social media differently (TN/Anderson)

Sumner County sees bigger role; Wilson toughens its policies Middle Tennessee school districts are taking different approaches to social media. While one has halted their use for official school business, another is building a fan base.

Police: Meth lab caused explosion that injured 2 (Associated Press)

Metro Nashville Police say two people have been severely burned from a flash fire and explosion that occurred while methamphetamine was being cooked in an apartment. Police say 28-year-old Jason Scott and his girlfriend, 22-year-old Jessica Biggs, are being treated at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Two severely burned in Madison meth lab explosion (Tennessean/Quinn)

Randy Road apartment complex evacuated for clean-up The man and woman who police say were severely burned in a meth lab explosion inside a Madison apartment are in critical condition today in Vanderbilt Medical Center’s burn unit. Jason Scott, 28, and Jessica Biggs, 22, were cooking methamphetamine in the bathroom of a unit at the Cedar Crest apartments at 98 Randy Road, Metro police say, when something set off a flash fire and explosion.

Michigan: As MI passes pension tax, Maine considers repealing one (Stateline)

Republican governors Rick Snyder of Michigan and Paul LePage of Maine were both elected in 2010 on a wave of anti-tax sentiment. But on one important tax question — what to do about pension income — they have taken dramatically different positions.

OPINION

Guest columnists: Honor those who help students reach higher (Tennessean)

Local heroes get credit they deserve We are proud to recognize excellence! In a time of noisy national conflict and public concern about our basic institutions, two local organizations are quietly stopping tomorrow night to honor and recognize achievement.

Guest columnist: TVA backs renewable energy – with an eye on cost (Tennessean)

A recent opinion article criticized the Tennessee Valley Authority for scaling back a renewable energy program and claims that our action could “derail’’ jobs in the solar industry. TVA has indeed played a pivotal role in developing this region’s thriving solar industry, and changes to our Generation Partners program will allow us to continue supporting solar and other forms of renewable energy as well as the jobs associated with these technologies.

Columnist: Voters Want State Government Reform (Wall Street Journal)

Americans believe that bold action to restrict spending is necessary to stabilize the finances of state government. Last month, in a wide-ranging national survey of 1,000 randomly selected, registered voters, and in 10 polls in individual states each with 400 responVoters Want State Government Reformsdents, my polling company found that voters strongly favor measures to pare the compensation of current and future public employees.

Free-Press Editorial: Ridiculous federal job security (Times Free-Press)

There is no doubt that many federal workers perform their duties with every bit as much integrity and dedication as employees in the private sector. But there have been understandable frustrations over the years with how difficult the federal bureaucracy and federal worker unions can make it to remove badly performing government employees, whose salaries are paid by taxpayers.

Guest columnists: A Digital Promise to Our Nation’s Children (Wall Street Journal)

Student achievement and educational attainment have stagnated in the U.S., and a host of our leading economic competitors are now out-educating us. In a knowledge economy, such stagnation is a slow-acting recipe for obsolescence.