This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
A well-traveled Gov. Bill Haslam said he and his economic development team met with companies that already have a presence in Tennessee as well as some the state is trying to attract on his New York trip this week. “It was good,” Haslam said Wednesday of the trip after speaking to a Nashville Downtown Partnership luncheon.
With one eye on the national economy that could stunt anything they do, economic development officials in the state are meticulously plunging ahead with a detailed regional jobs base plan, one of the key elements of Gov. Bill Haslam’s overall job creation agenda. Each of nine districts has a director and staff in place.
Seeking to face down concerns from Tennessee educators and state lawmakers, Gov. Bill Haslam and state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman are defending the state’s new teacher evaluation system but concede the controversial program is not without its flaws. “The system is not perfect, but it is a significant step forward, and the first step in an ongoing effort to refine and improve evaluation and support for educators,” Huffman wrote in an email sent to educators, obtained by the Times Free Press.
State Sen. Jim Kyle of Memphis said Wednesday that lawmakers should be looking at ways to increase lottery revenue rather than cut scholarships — and Gov. Bill Haslam said his administration is doing just that. A state Senate task force began last month reviewing a number of options for closing a $20 million a year gap between current lottery proceeds and the costs of the scholarship program, even though state higher education officials say there’s enough money in the lottery reserve fund, $373 million built up in the early years of the program, to avoid cuts until at least 2024.
The Senate minority leader is calling on fellow lawmakers to find ways to increase lottery revenues instead of cutting back on the scholarship program, while Gov. Bill Haslam has assigned his staff to consider a broad range of options for stabilizing the game’s finances. Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, said in a letter released Wednesday that while the Tennessee Higher Education Commission estimates that the lottery will deplete its sizable reserves by 2024, it also says annual losses could be stemmed with an 8 percent increase in ticket sales.
Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, is firing a shot across legislative Republicans’ bow, saying lawmakers should take a “jobs-centered” approach in ongoing discussions about Tennessee’s lottery-funded HOPE college scholarship program.
A new state task force will focus on increasing jobs in rural areas and building demand for farm and forest products. The group, announced Wednesday, will consist of forestry, regulatory and marketing officials within the Tennessee Department of Agriculture who will work with state and local economic development officials and others.
Factory workers at General Motors have overwhelmingly approved a new four-year contract with the company that has profit-sharing instead of pay raises for most workers and promises thousands of new jobs. The United Auto Workers union said Wednesday that 65 percent of production workers voted for the deal, while 63 percent of skilled-trades workers such as electricians were in favor.
In a highly competitive request for a grant from the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, the LEAP Organization was one of five recipients awarded $81,098. “The grant from TCCY will be used for mentoring, counseling and internship opportunities geared toward inspiring and empowering young people to develop positive goals and achieve them.
Pointing to possible expansion of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant, the automaker’s U.S. transportation manager said its key rail loading facility at the site is ready to grow with the factory. “We expect to have large volumes of growth in Chattanooga,” Scott Mabry, Volks-wagen Group of America’s manager of transportation, said Wednesday.
Wacker Polysilicon North America wants to fill about 60 more lead operator and supervisory posts in chemical and technical manufacturing areas for its Charleston, Tenn., plant. “We are looking for people with a mechanical, technical or chemical background who also have leadership experience in a manufacturing environment,” said Erika Burk, director of human resources for the Bradley County facility.
More than three-quarters of America’s major cities added jobs over the past 12 months, and Memphis can count itself firmly in the majority. According to figures released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics , Memphis has added 6,200 jobs since August 2010, the 38th largest raw change among the nation’s 100 largest metro areas.
When the Great Recession began in 2008, the health care industry was one of the few said to be recession-proof, but 2011 has proved otherwise, at least for medical device makers. The prolonged recession, a decrease in procedure volumes and delayed reimbursement are several factors that have led to corporate restructuring – including layoffs – in the medical device industry this year.
Legislation is awaiting a vote in the U.S. House Judiciary Committee – of which U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen D-Memphis, is a member – that would enable even more sharing of consumer information on Facebook. Facebook over the last several days rolled out major changes to its interface, including its shift toward a paradigm that’s based on what Facebook calls “frictionless sharing.”
After 29 years of meeting in homes, apartments and offices, the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro celebrated breaking ground for its future mosque on Veals Road Wednesday. “It shows the greatness of America,” said Essam Fathy, a founding member of the ICM in 1982.
The governor’s official proclamations are now available online at the secretary of state’s website. They are among a growing list of state documents posted at.
In the next 30 days, Gaile Owens will re-enter a much different world from the one she left behind in the 1980s. When she was convicted in 1986 and sentenced to die for hiring a man to kill her husband, the Internet was an obscure collection of research computers, cable television was largely a luxury and cellphones were heavier than bricks and the purview of only the wealthiest Americans.
Gaile Owens, once on death row for her role in the murder of her husband, has been granted parole. Owens received her first vote for parole from the board three weeks ago.
Tennessee had the second-lowest voter turnout rate in the nation in last November’s congressional election, according to a U.S. Census Bureau survey released Wednesday. Just 37.7 percent of Tennessee citizens over 18 voted. Only Texas, with 36.4 percent, had a lower rate.
State officials plan to distribute $300,000 to roughly 172 consumers nationwide related to complaints against a company accused of selling bogus health insurance. The money comes from funds recovered or collected by the court-appointed receiver that oversees United States Benefits LLC.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol reports making 39 percent more arrests for drunken driving this year. The THP said in a news release that troopers have arrested 3,407 people for drunken driving, up from 2,452 for the same period a year ago.
The Rev. Carl R. Resener, who steered the Nashville Rescue Mission’s massive growth and was a driven advocate for the homeless since the mid-1950s, died Tuesday. He was 81. “He started when the Mission was practically nothing, and he grew it to the size it is today,’’ said Charles Strobel, founding director of the Room In the Inn.
The U.S. Treasury Department announced that six Tennessee banks have received $54.2 million in its latest round of funding through the Small Business Lending Fund. That includes Avenue Financial Holdings Inc. of Nashville, which the Nashville Business Journal took a look at last week as among the first in Middle Tennessee to take the money.
Tri-Cities Regional Airport officials hope to raise $50,000 from the community so the Blountville, Tenn., facility can match a $250,000 federal grant and have a shot at convincing an airline to start serving the Dallas-Forth Worth Airport or other frequently requested hub. “We don’t need to have the cash in hand, we just need pledges that it will be there,” Airport spokeswoman Melissa Thomas said of the airport’s most recent recruiting effort.
The federal government has filed a new forfeiture complaint against renowned local guitar maker Gibson. In addition to now-two-year-old forfeiture of Malagay ebony sought by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Nashville icon now faces the civil forfeiture of Indian wood seized in late June, which led to a raid in August on the company’s Nashville and Memphis offices.
The economy grew slightly faster in the spring than previously estimated but remained dangerously weak in the face of high unemployment and higher gas prices. Many economists foresee slightly better growth in the current July-September quarter.
The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply last week, an encouraging sign that layoffs are easing. Weekly applications dropped 37,000 to a seasonally adjusted 391,000, the Labor Department said Thursday.
Retirement programs for former federal workers — civilian and military — are growing so fast they now face a multitrillion-dollar shortfall nearly as big as Social Security’s, a USA TODAY analysis shows. The federal government hasn’t set aside money or created a revenue source similar to Social Security’s payroll tax to help pay for the benefits, so the retirement costs must be paid every year through taxes and borrowing.
Supporters of Texas Gov. Rick Perry shelled out a minimum of $1,000 per person to have breakfast this morning with the Republican presidential candidate and party frontrunner for the 2012 election, at a campaign fundraiser at Fox Den Country Club in West Knoxville. Perry, 61, arrived in a two-vehicle motorcade at Fox Den Country Club, 12284 N. Fox Den Drive, at 8:45 a.m. for the breakfast, which was expected to last until 9:30 am.
A meeting set for Thursday evening to discuss concerns and issues over recent decisions steering the path of Tennessee State University will likely proceed without two key invitees. The group Save TSU Community Coalition, along with the NAACP, will co-host a “teach-in” meant to address issues the coalition sees as problems for the university.
U.S. District Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays issued a consent decree Wednesday that makes final the settlement agreed to by all parties in the schools consolidation lawsuit, and in so doing explains why there should be “no dispute about the fairness of the agreement.” The decree, which follows approval by all parties of a settlement deal reached on Aug. 24, was filed late Wednesday, just before the planned inaugural meeting today of a 21-person transition planning commission, at the Shelby County Code Enforcement offices.
Thousands of students and parents gathered at See You at the Pole events across Middle Tennessee, a time for student-led prayer around schoolyard flagpoles. In two counties that have faced lawsuits over church-and-state separation, teachers attended as well.
Crews are ready to start construction on a $327,000 bus garage that is expected to save the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System a significant amount of money. Chief Operations Officer Jim Sumrell said the facility behind the West Creek High School football field should be done in early 2012 and will complement a fuel station and paved parking area that will house 75 buses.
More and more gay Tennesseans are standing up to be counted in the federal census. And regardless of their legal rights in this state, one out of every five same-sex couples checked the “married” box on the census form last year.
A former Kingsport MetLife broker, who stole more than $6 million from MetLife customer accounts, has pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud and money laundering charges. Mark Edward Salyer, 47, pleaded guilty to the charges in U.S. District Court in Greeneville on Wednesday and faces up to 30 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
Some Hamilton County residents don’t want to see hunter orange in their green park. Controlled archery hunts designed to reduce deer overpopulation on 2,800 acres in what’s now the Enterprise South industrial park aren’t new.
A federal judge refused Wednesday to block key parts of a closely watched Alabama law that is considered the strictest state effort to clamp down on illegal immigration, including a measure that requires immigration checks of public school students. U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn wrote in a 115-page opinion finding some parts of the law that conflict with federal statutes, but others that don’t.
A 13-year-old boy who prosecutors say was playing with toy trucks and planes right before he shot and killed his parents was sentenced to seven years in juvenile detention on Wednesday after pleading guilty to murder. The boy was 12 in March when prosecutors say he shot Marilyn and Charles Long with a .357 Magnum revolver in Burlington, a small farming community about 140 miles east of Denver.
Jurors today saw text messages between two men charged with killing a woman and her two young daughters, including one in which one told the other he was “chomping at the bit to get started.” Prosecutors showed the texts that Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes sent to each other in the hours before the deadly home invasion in July 2007 in Cheshire.
Gov. Haley Barbour is scheduled to tour the Golden Triangle Regional Landfill on Thursday where local officials will be building an operation to capture methane gas to produce electricity. GE Energy, which is installing the engines to run the facility, says a ceremonial ribbon cutting for the facility has been tentatively scheduled for Oct. 11.
A prosecutor in New York is investigating whether students in other districts on Long Island took part in a cheating scam on college entrance exams that resulted in the arrest of seven current or former students at a prestigious high school. The arrests were made Tuesday on allegations that one of the seven associated with Great Neck North High School — a 19-year-old college student — took the SAT exams for the others in exchange for payments of up to $2,500.
It’s always great news when justice prevails. Justice certainly prevailed Wednesday with news that the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole had voted to release Gaile Owens from prison. As this newspaper has said previously, this is a case in which the original punishment for the now 58-year-old Owens would have exceeded the crime.
Earlier this year, Tennesseans spoke out. Under the leadership of Gov. Bill Haslam, they made it clear that the state needs civil justice reform as an important way to grow jobs. By overwhelming majorities, both houses of the General Assembly agreed, and the Tennessee Civil Justice Act will become the law of the land Saturday.
“A Bridge Too Far” may prove the best title for President Barack Obama’s photo op stop at a dilapidated river bridge linking Kentucky and Ohio, respective home states of Republican Congressional leaders Mitch McConnell and John Boehner. Both have disdained current White House budget and tax proposals as dead on arrival.
Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey is right to suggest that the Legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee also take into consideration the impact proposed legislation would have on businesses. We are not convinced, however, that adding this responsibility to existing staff is the right approach.