September 22 TN News Digest

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

Improvements in Student Achievement Honored at SCORE Gala (TN Report)

Mt. Juliet High School, the charter school Power Center Academy in Memphis and Fairview Elementary School in Anderson County were big winners Tuesday night at an awards ceremony hosted by the Tennessee nonprofit State Collaborative on Reforming Education. Each of the schools won a “SCORE Prize” against two other finalists in their categories — high school, middle school and elementary school — and winners received $10,000 each to reward the schools’ achievements.

Mallory Alexander Among Tenn. Cos. Honored for Trade Excellence (AP)

Companies in Memphis, Fayetteville and Jackson have won the Governor’s Award for Trade Excellence. Mallory Alexander International Logistics of Memphis, Copperweld Bimetallics of Fayetteville and Paradoxe Corp. of Jackson were announced as the winners Wednesday and will receive their award Friday.

Memphis-based Mallory Alexander receives gov’s award for trade excellence (CA)

Mallory Alexander International Logistics LLC today was named one of three GATE Award winners, recognizing excellence in growing global trade. The Memphis company won in the large company category.

GATE Awards presented at Governor’s Conference (Business Clarksville)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty today announced that Mallory Alexander International Logistics, LLC in Memphis, Copperweld Bimetallics, LLC in Fayetteville and Paradoxe Corporation in Jackson are the recipients of the Governor’s Awards for Trade Excellence (GATE). The GATE recognition honors large, medium and small-size companies who have achieved excellence in engaging in global trade.

Winchester gets funding for roadway landscaping (Times Free-Press)

Winchester, Tenn. is among six communities to get a share of more than half a million dollars in grant funding for roadway landscaping improvements, according to a state news release. Gov. Bill Haslam and John Schroer, commissioner of the state Department of Transportation, announced the funding awards today, which includes $120,000 for Winchester in Franklin County.

Tennessee to help determine science education (Associated Press)

Tennessee will be involved in a national project to improve science education for all students. State education officials said Wednesday that Tennessee will join 19 other states to develop Next Generation Science Standards, designed to determine what students will need to learn from kindergarten through high school.

2 top Tenn. budgeting officials leaving positions (Associated Press)

Two key members of Tennessee’s budget planning process are leaving their positions. Bill Bradley, head of the Finance Department’s budget office for the last 14 years, is moving into a new role as senior adviser.

Tennessee budget office director Bill Bradley steps down (Times Free-Press)

Tennessee’s budget office director is headed into a “senior advisory role.” Bill Bradley is making the change for “personal reasons” following about three decades of helping manage state finances, Finance Commissioner Mark Emkes announced today. Emkes has named David Thurman, 45, who has been director of the office of Legislative Budget Analysis since 2007, to succeed Bill Bradley. Bradley, 64, has headed the state budget division in the Department of Finance and Administration for 14 years, including some of the most difficult economic years in Tennessee history, according to a news release.

State Budget Director, Fiscal Review Head Move On (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

A man credited with keeping the state’s nearly $30 billion budget ship-shape is moving on just as the head of an office that puts price tags on proposed laws jumps to the private sector. Bill Bradley has worked for the state 37 years, serving as budget director under three governors.

Questions Raised Over How Tennessee Will Enforce Fracking Regulations (MP)

In late August, the Tennessee State Oil and Gas Board voted to institute significant changes in the regulations that govern how the industry operates in the state. The board’s acceptance of the proposed changes had been seen as a foregone conclusion; still, the changes had been criticized by environmental groups for months, most notably for the lack of any regulation of fracking.

Juvenile detention gets good scores (Cleveland Daily Banner)

The Bradley County Juvenile Court detention center has been given its third perfect score from the Tennessee Department of Children Services. Juvenile Court Director Terry Gallaher told the Bradley County Juvenile Committee about the distinction during a meeting Tuesday.

Great wait at the DMV (Johnson City Press)

In the wake of a new state voting law, seniors waiting to get a photo ID at the nearest driver service center could soon be waiting much longer. State records indicate that the Driver Services Center in Johnson City has an average wait time of 86.78 minutes — the longest official wait — according to the Associated Press.

MTSU ready to tackle Ready2Teach (Daily News Journal)

Mentoring critical to new program MTSU is one of six Tennessee Board of Regents universities that will soon be changing the way prospective teachers are trained in the College of Education. The Tennessee Board of Regents has launched a five-year effort to overhaul and upend its teaching curriculum in an initiative it dubbed “Ready2Teach.”

12 attorneys apply for judicial spot (Tennessean/Adams)

A dozen local attorneys who wouldn’t mind wearing a black robe to work each day are vying to fill a vacancy in the Circuit Court of the 21st Judicial District. The seat was recently held by Judge Jeff Bivins, who was nominated to the Court of Criminal Appeals in August.

Lawmakers propose changes to judiciary court (Associated Press/Johnson)

State lawmakers said Wednesday they plan to move forward with proposed changes to the commission that disciplines Tennessee judges. Republican Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet led two hearings this week concerning the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary.

TN legislators push to overhaul board that disciplines judges (Tennessean/Gee)

At the conclusion of a two-day review of the state’s judicial discipline system Wednesday, lawmakers said they are satisfied that they have plenty of evidence to justify an overhaul. While some of the proposed changes to the Court of the Judiciary — the body that investigates ethical complaints against judges and decides whether to punish them — would bring the commission more in line with its counterparts in other states, other changes would be unusual.

Push to Overhaul Court of Judiciary Could Portend Broader Fight (WPLN-Radio)

While a state lawmaker continues her push to overhaul the board that disciplines judges in Tennessee, the stage could be set for a broader conflict over that judicial body. State Senator Mae Beavers says next year she’ll bring an updated proposal to rework the Court of the Judiciary.

Sanderson presents Newbern charter amendment (State Gazette)

State Rep. Bill Sanderson was a guest at the city of Newbern Board of Mayor and Alderman regular monthly meeting on Tuesday evening to present the city with a finalized charter amendment changing the election structure for the city of Newbern and giving the mayor the authority to appoint the chief of police and the city recorder. The delivery of the amendment by Sanderson, which was signed by Secretary of State Tre Hargett, was a formality after the board approved the change to the election structure by majority vote in June.

Hamilton County Clerk joins state’s photo ID effort (Times Free-Press/Haman)

Hamilton County soon will begin waiving its $4 fee at the courthouse for those 60 and older who want to add photos to their driver’s licenses so that they can vote. “We don’t have a dog in this fight,” Clerk Bill Knowles said Wednesday of the new state law requiring voters to have photo IDs to cast ballots.

Clarksville Mayor: Departments need to prepare for cuts (Leaf Chronicle)

In preparation for substantial cuts in federal and state funding and city debt, Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan asked city department leaders to prepare to cut up to 5 percent from their 2011-2012 budgets, according to a press release. McMillan made the announcement at a Sept. 14 meeting.

Clarksville Mayor Makes Early Budget Moves (Clarksville Online)

At the monthly City Department Head meeting held on September 14th, the current state of the economy was the major topic. After discussing the delays in the economic recovery, the possible substantial cuts in both the Federal and State budgets and the future increased obligations on the General Fund because of refinancing of bonded indebtedness in previous budgets, Mayor McMillan asked the Department Heads to look for cuts of up to 5% from their current 2011-12 budgets.

Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker high on Congress’ rich list (TFP/Carroll)

They’re not the wealthiest in Congress — that distinction belongs to a Texas lawmaker worth at least $294 million — but Tennessee’s senators certainly aren’t hurting for cash. According to the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, both Republicans, hold the 14th and 27th largest fortunes out of 535 members of Congress. Lowball estimates place Corker’s holdings at $21.1 million and Alexander’s at $10.2 million.

Fincher called one of ‘most corrupt’ in Congress (Tennessean/Bewley)

A government watchdog group named Rep. Stephen Fincher one the “most corrupt” members of Congress this week, citing errors he made on financial disclosure forms. The Republican from Frog Jump “lied and cheated his way to an electoral victory,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group known for taking a hard line against lawmakers accused of ethics violations.

Young Adults Make Gains in Health Insurance Coverage (New York Times)

Young adults, long the group most likely to be uninsured, are gaining health coverage faster than expected since the 2010 health law began allowing parents to cover them as dependents on family policies. Three new surveys, including two released on Wednesday, show that adults under 26 made significant and unique gains in insurance coverage in 2010 and the first half of 2011.

TVA inspector general testifying at coal ash trial (Associated Press)

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s inspector general whose report on the disastrous coal ash spill said it could have possibly been prevented is set to take the witness stand as the trial on damage lawsuits continues in Knoxville. TVA Inspector General Richard Moore following a study after the December 2008 spill described TVA management’s decision to allow TVA lawyers to hire a consultant and limit his focus as a “litigation strategy.”

TVA president defends coal ash inspections (Times Free-Press/Sohn)

VA president and CEO Tom Kilgore had some testy comments during his testimony Wednesday in the fourth day of the trial over the 2008 Kingston ash spill. Kilgore became irritated by questions from plaintiffs’ attorney Jeff Friedman about the failure of the landfill dike that led to 1.2 billion gallons of toxin-laden sludge being dumped onto the land and rivers near TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant.

Engineering expert: TVA inspection ‘was a sham’ (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Marcum)

TVA President and CEO Tom Kilgore, testifying Wednesday in the Kingston coal ash spill lawsuit trial, acknowledged TVA’s responsibility for the safe operation of its facilities but admitted no blame on the part of the federal utility for the Dec. 22, 2008 environmental disaster. Later in the hearing, an acknowledged expert on civil engineering, hydrology and dam safety, Dr. Bruce A. Tschantz, blasted the inspection TVA did on the coal fly ash holding cells at the Kingston fossil plant as severely lacking.

Officials lay out scenario for nuclear disaster at Watts Bar (TFP/Garrett)

The scenario for this pseudo nuclear emergency was written much earlier, and most of the 700 people responding had no idea how it would play out. It was all just a drill, but at the Tennessee Valley Authority building downtown officials were role playing as if the emergency was the real thing.

GAO: Y-12 contracting plan built on uncertainties (Knoxville News-Sentinel/Munger)

The U.S. Government Accountability Office this week released a report that raises questions about the projected cost savings — about $895 million over 10 years — that could be achieved by combining the management contracts at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge and the Pantex Plant, another weapons production facility in Texas. The National Nuclear Security Administration has said greater efficiencies can be achieved by managing the two plants together, streamlining operations and providing uniform training, information technology practices, payroll and finance systems, and human resources.

Analysts: GM deal could spawn 6,000 additional jobs across TN (NBJ/Batiwalla)

The return of 1,700 jobs to a revived General Motors plant in Spring Hill would be just the start in terms of economic impact from the proposed agreement between the company and United Auto Workers union. The spin-off effect of the proposal could result in a net gain of nearly 6,000 jobs for Tennessee, economists say.

GM Announcement Lifts Spring Hill Spirits (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Spring Hill is celebrating today. The UAW has now outlined its contract agreement with GM, which includes a commitment to build two midsize cars at the former Saturn plant. Some 1,700 jobs will be restored after a long two years for some workers.

Even with New GM Spring Hill Jobs, Some Consider Leaving (WPLN-Radio Nash.)

Many GM workers in Spring Hill are weighing whether it’s time to leave the company, even as UAW members consider a new contract that includes 1,700 additional jobs at the plant. The automaker is still trying to shed its most expensive employees. When the assembly line at GM Spring Hill was idled two years ago, hundreds with the most seniority remained behind making plastic parts and building engines.

Bridgestone expanding in Clarksville (Associated Press)

Bridgestone Metalpha plans a $75 million expansion to its site in Clarksville, creating 45 jobs. The location, the U.S. corporate headquarters for steel cord production, now has 418 employees plus 46 contractors on site.

Metalpha plans expansion in Clarksville (Leaf Chronicle)

Bridgestone Metalpha’s radial tire steel cord plant in Clarksville is rolling out a $75 million expansion. Wednesday afternoon, the company formally announced a 123,077-square-foot addition that will create another 45 jobs on top of the roughly 420 there now.

Bridgestone investing $75M in Clarksville (Nashville Post/De Lombaerde)

A division of Bridgestone Americas is investing $75 million in its Clarksville plant making steel cord, a move that will create 45 jobs. Bridgestone also said it is plowing more than $1 billion into a new off-road tire plant at its complex in Aiken County, S.C., that will use the steel cord made in Clarksville.

Bridgestone expands in Clarksville (Nashville Business Journal/Johnson)

Bridgestone Metalpha U.S.A. announced plans today to pump $75 million into its operations in Clarksville, where the company produces steel cord for tires. Bridgestone Metalpha is a subsidiary of Nashville-based Bridgestone Americas Holding Inc. BMU has been in Clarksville since 1994 and currently employs 418 workers.

Memphis-Shelby Co. schools merger team has a smooth beginning (CA/McMillin)

Let it be noted that on Wednesday, Sept. 21, at 5:55 p.m., Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell informed those charged with guiding merger of the county’s public schools that they had already achieved something remarkable — they almost all were seated ahead of time for a public meeting. “I think that’s a first,” Luttrell said. Members of the 21-person schools merger transition commission and what will be the 23-member unified county school board convened at the University of Memphis’ FedEx Institute of Technology, along with many of the key administrators with both Memphis City Schools and suburban Shelby County Schools.

First Schools Consolidation Session Sets Calendar For Merger Groups (MDN)

The first meeting Wednesday, Sept. 21, of the schools consolidation transition planning commission and the new countywide school board took less than an hour. But the joint meeting of the two groups included a tight time frame of a year to come up with a blueprint for a schools merger and an already busy schedule of more meetings for each body starting next week with the planning commission.

Shelby County Schools moves forward for full accreditation (CA/McMillin)

Board also looks at Collierville rezoning In the final work session leading to what will be next week’s final board meeting of the suburban Shelby County Schools board, its seven members on Wednesday looked forward to welcoming an international agency in the final stages of giving the district full accreditation. Beginning Oct. 30, AdvanceED will make visits to the district offices and schools and deliver a report to what will by then be a combined 23-member unified school board.

Local man sues WSMV Channel 4 group for $4M (Nashville Post/Nannie)

A local man has given law enforcement, local codes officials and the state’s judiciary fits in recent years by continuously filing lawsuits espousing his “rights” as a citizen of the putative Republic of Tennessee, while simultaneously bucking the state’s governance and authority at every turn. Now, in a $4 million lawsuit filed Sept. 15 in Davidson County Circuit Court, Charles Maxwell, a self-described “good guy” who “enjoys a good status and reputation both generally and in all endeavors,” is suing Meredith Corp., the parent of WSMV Channel 4, as well as news reporter Dennis Ferrier, Gannaway Web Holdings LLC and others of negligence libel, slander, defamation and breach of contract.

OPINION

Editorial: Revenues easy to find in plugged tax loopholes (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

The new mantra among lawmakers who don’t want to face up to the necessity of tax increases or the rapidly diminishing returns of spending cuts is tax reform: Let’s eliminate the unnecessary loopholes, the tax breaks, deductions and credits for people and businesses that probably shouldn’t have had them in the first place. That makes for great political rhetoric, but it will be a suicidal politician who storms out of the partisan trenches to lead that particular charge.

Columnist: Could I have been wrong about Governor Haslam? (C. Daily Herald)

As a child, I was taught to beware of strong drink, foul language and East Tennessee Republicans. There were Confederate veterans around, not to mention a lot of grandparents, who remembered the loving care of the Yankee invaders and occupiers during the late unpleasantness between the states, and during Reconstruction.

Joe Sullivan: Alignment Needed In County Redistricting (Metro Pulse)

Of the 64 counties in Tennessee that have a single countywide school system, Knox County is one of only four in which school board districts are not aligned with County Commission districts. One of the other outliers is Davidson County, whose unwieldy 40-member Metro government council precludes congruity with its nine school board districts.

Columnists: If You Win The Big One (Memphis Daily News)

Winning the lottery has more problems than joys for most recipients. Why?

Charlie Daniel Political Cartoon: “Lamar’s Closet” (Knoxville News-Sentinel) 

Guest columnist: Can Lamar Alexander move the Senate? (Leaf Chronicle)

Is Lamar Alexander’s decision to leave his party leadership position in the U.S. Senate a sign that Washington is at last beginning to move away from polarized politics? We can hope so.

Free-Press Editorial: Chattanooga’s solid hotel, tourism figures (Times Free-Press)

Our Chattanooga community is known far and wide as a manufacturing and commercial center, with industry and a variety of stores providing not only a vibrant economy but many jobs. Chattanooga also has been important for many years as a tourist mecca.

Guest columnist: Schools enter digital conversation (Tennessean)

With the beginning of a new school year, our children face new situations, from moving to a different location to meeting new teachers or deciding who to invite to homecoming. In this digital, high-tech, always-on world, they also face a whole new set of challenges of cyberspace.

Guest columnist: Metro schools, families connect online (Tennessean)

On a cold Sunday night in December 2010, the city watches snow fall in greater and greater amounts. The inevitable question comes: Will Metro Nashville Public Schools close tomorrow?

Gail Kerr: Music can change kids’ lives, if bureaucrats let it (Tennessean)

Glee, meet Metro. Mayor Karl Dean announced he wants Nashville to be the world leader in teaching music education in public schools. He’s raised a half-million dollars so far for “a revolutionary new approach” that would reach every last public school kid.