This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today lauded the three bond rating agencies for maintaining the state’s solid credit ratings, a testament to Tennessee’s leadership and conservative fiscal management. The state will keep its Aaa rating from Moody’s Investor Service and Fitch Inc. and its AA+ rating with a positive outlook from Standard & Poor’s.
Rating agencies have decided not to downgrade Tennessee’s debt after the state submitted a detailed game plan for how each agency would respond to deep federal spending cuts. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday cited a “proven history of fiscal responsibility” in announcing that Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings have reissued their top ratings to Tennessee and that the state will remain one notch below Standard and Poor’s best grade.
Following a mid-September trip to New York to participate in meetings with bond and credit rating agencies, Gov. Bill Haslam returned optimistic, saying he expected to hear results from the trip in “about a month.” It took less than three weeks.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam Tuesday said Tennessee will maintain a high rating from the nation’s three bond-rating agencies, something he attributed to “Tennessee’s leadership and conservative fiscal management.” The state will keep its Aaa rating from Moody’s Investor Service, its AAA rating from Fitch Inc. and its AA+ rating with a positive outlook from Standard & Poor’s.
Rating agencies have decided not to downgrade Tennessee’s debt after the state submitted a game plan for how each agency would respond to deep federal spending cuts. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday cited a “proven history of fiscal responsibility” in announcing that Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings have reissued their top ratings to Tennessee and that the state will remain one notch below Standard and Poor’s best grade.
Tennessee lawmakers likely took a big sigh of relief Tuesday after the state was assured it will maintain its AAA bond rating. One state leader Channel 4 contacted says the credit agencies realize how well Tennessee is run.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty and Dickson County officials joined with representatives from MetriCan to announce plans by the company to expand its Dickson facility. The company will invest $6.3 million and create nearly 60 manufacturing, warehouse and skilled trade jobs.
Governor Bill Haslam says the state’s new teacher evaluation system may need some tweaking, but for now he’s asking educators to “live with it.” The new law requires teachers to spend five years on the job instead of three before they have a shot at the job protections of tenure.
Gov. Bill Haslam has added a new detail to his oft-told anecdote about his wife Crissy’s high school boyfriend. He acknowledged Tuesday the story isn’t true. Haslam has been warming up crowds before his speeches with a story about a chance encounter with a former boyfriend named Ernie who’s now a convenience store clerk.
Big businesses are hoarding cash that could be going toward hiring people, but Tennessee’s economic development chief says he isn’t about to tell them what to do with their money. Commissioner Bill Hagerty would rather entice them to hire more people by remaking the landscape for capital investment.
Bedford County has achieved re-certification under Tennessee’s Three-Star program for excellence in economic development. As a result, the county is now eligible to receive additional incentives under the guidelines of the state’s Three-Star program.
One of Nashville’s most distinctive mid-20th century buildings will soon be for sale, with its future very uncertain. Located at 2204 Charlotte Ave. and once home to the Tennessee Department of Highways and Public Works (a precursor to the Tennessee Department of Transportation), the 1950s-era governmental structure has sat largely unused for years.
A group of parks and recreation professionals from across the state got some encouraging words from the head of the state parks program. Robert Martineau Jr., commissioner of the state Department of Environment and Conservation, was one of the speakers welcoming the Tennessee Recreation and Parks Association during a program at the Krider Performing Arts Center Monday night.
An Alabama couple has pleaded guilty to TennCare fraud for misrepresenting their residency in order to obtain healthcare insurance benefits through TennCare. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) today announced the sentencing of Christopher T. Smith, 31 and Brittany J. Smith, 23, both of Bridgeport, Alabama. Each of them pleaded guilty to one count of TennCare fraud, and ordered to repay the state over $16,000 for medical benefits received while they were on the program.
A Chattanooga man serving an 18-year sentence in state prison died in his cell Sunday morning, according to the Tennessee Department of Correction. Gary Dewayne Thompson, 33, was found dead at the Morgan County Correctional Complex in Wartburg, Tenn., said TDOC spokeswoman Cindy Dunning.
The University of Tennessee will help train food safety officials at the local, state and national levels. The school’s Center for Agriculture and Food Security and Preparedness will join with others in the training.
The University of Tennessee has hired an expert environmental microbiologist from UC-Berkeley to serve as the school’s Governor’s Chair for environmental biotechnology. Terry Hazen, who worked at a nearby national lab run by UC-Berkeley, will become the 10th Governor’s Chair, a position in the program established by UT and Oak Ridge National Lab to attract top researchers to joint positions at the university and the lab.
Columbia State Community College has nearly finalized purchase of a parcel of land that will be home to a new Franklin campus. The 36-acre piece of property is located on Liberty Pike, east of the Liberty Pike-Carothers Parkway intersection.
An association of brick-and-mortar retailers says a legal opinion from state Attorney General Bob Cooper should cancel a sales tax exemption for online merchant Amazon.com. The opinion released Tuesday does not specifically refer to Amazon, but argues that “as a general rule” the state cannot waive requirements to collect sales taxes on items sold in Tennessee without specific legislation being passed by the Legislature.
Tennessee’s attorney general says online retailers do have to collect sales taxes if they open warehouses in the state, in a ruling that could complicate the debate over the tax treatment of Amazon. Attorney General Robert Cooper said in an opinion released Tuesday that current state law already requires retailers that open distribution facilities or warehouses in Tennessee to collect sales taxes on their customers.
A coalition of brick-and-mortar retailers contends a new Tennessee attorney general opinion clearly establishes that Amazon must collect state sales taxes once it opens two distribution centers in Hamilton and Bradley counties. “The AG opinion effectively reverses the situation in the legislature,” said former Deputy Attorney General Bill Hubbard, who has been retained by the Retail Industry Leaders Association, a group that includes Wal-Mart.
An association of retailers says a legal opinion from state Attorney General Bob Cooper could require a sales tax exemption for online retailer Amazon.com to be revoked. The opinion released Tuesday does not specifically refer to Amazon but argues that “as a general rule” the state cannot waive requirements to collect sales taxes on items sold in Tennessee.
A new opinion from the state attorney general is raising the volume in the ongoing fight over whether Amazon.com has to collect state sales tax. Some businesses who compete with Amazon are claiming it as a victory, but the opinion seems to leave plenty of questions unanswered.
Tennessee judges and attorneys have joined forces to create a program geared to educating the public about the legal system. The Tennessee Judicial Conference and Tennessee Bar Association developed the GAVELS program, which stands for Gaining Access to Valuable Education about the Legal System.
State Rep. Eric Watson has resigned from his job at the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office, but a legislative spokesman said he is exploring other job opportunities. Sheriff’s Office spokesman Bob Gault told WTVC-TV in Chattanooga that the sheriff received his resignation letter on Monday and more details would be released later (http://bit.ly/nPDyF6 ).
The Bradley County Sheriff’s Office hasn’t released any information on why a 20-year department veteran and state representative abruptly resigned Monday. Capt. Eric Watson handed in his resignation, but the sheriff’s office is waiting for him to make a statement today before commenting, said sheriff’s office spokesman Bob Gault.
A coalition of groups opposed to requiring photo identification to vote in Tennessee hopes to repeal the new law during the next legislative session. On Tuesday, members of the “No Barriers to the Ballot Box” campaign announced a petition drive that they hope will convince lawmakers that the requirement is unpopular.
Claims of ‘barriers,’ ‘misinformation’ fly Opponents of a new law requiring voters to show identification at the polls launched a petition drive urging legislators to reconsider, but state officials fired back, accusing foes of spreading misinformation about the law’s impact. A coalition of groups that includes the League of Women Voters, the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP said Tuesday that the state’s new voter ID law “will create artificial and insurmountable barriers to the ballot box,” particularly for the elderly, the disabled and other groups who tend not to drive.
A new coalition was launched Tuesday with the goal of repealing Tennessee’s law requiring a photo ID for voting, but legislators instead raised the possibility of enacting revisions that would ease the path to the polls for some. Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron, who sponsored the original photo ID law approved by the Legislature earlier this year, said he and other Republicans would adamantly oppose the repeal sought by a coalition called No Barriers to the Ballot Box.
The Bradley County Election Commission is trying to get in front of any complications that may crop up during March’s elections because of Tennessee’s new voter identification law. Every voter must have a photo identification to vote.
Dorothy Cooper is 96 but she can remember only one election when she’s been eligible to vote but hasn’t. The retired domestic worker was born in a small North Georgia town before women had the right to vote.
Hundreds of kids kept home from school today, all because of some paperwork and a new law in Alabama. Local 8 News found out the same immigration laws could be considered in Tennessee.
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann will have a special guest at a Chattanooga fundraiser meant to boost re-election efforts: House Speaker John Boehner. The Walden Club, the high-rise downtown restaurant, will host the Oct. 27 fundraiser.
House lawmakers voted by a bipartisan majority Tuesday to extend existing government funding through mid-November, resolving the latest round in the this year’s congressional budget fight. The outcome of the 352-66 vote wasn’t in doubt, as the measure enjoyed backing from both parties’ House leaders.
Another engineer at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s coal ash trial has questioned the utility’s training of its ash pond inspectors and their familiarity with its inspection policies. Testifying as an expert for property owners whose lawsuits contend TVA negligence caused the December 2008 spill, Dan Marks said TVA employees who inspected the coal ash storage pond and dike “obviously were not trained inspectors or well informed about the existing TVA policies and procedures on inspections.”
It’s not clear yet what impact the restarting of assembly operations at the General Motors Co. plant in Spring Hill will have on Bedford County, but officials say that when the plant was at its peak, it had a definite impact on growth in the northwestern portion of the county. Unionville is about a 45-minute drive from Spring Hill.
After opening three months ago, business at Erlanger’s multimillion dollar Volkswagen Drive health and wellness facility continues to grow steadily. “I don’t have a hard and fast number (of patients), but I do know we are increasing incrementally pretty much week by week, which is what we had both expected and hoped for,” Dr. Susan Rapp, who moved from California to work at the facility, said.
Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead is expected to reveal plans for a new arena and shopping center on Wednesday. Craighead and other community leaders are meeting at the Roxy Theatre for a news conference at 11 a.m. As Channel 4 News first reported on Monday, the development will include a facility for ice hockey and a large retail space.
Veteran educators criticize mandates Sherrie Martin, former teacher of the year at a Metro school, is questioning whether she really belongs in the classroom after scoring low on the state’s new teacher evaluation. In Sumner County, Summer Naylor left her third-graders behind last month, resigning after eight years teaching.
Improvement seen through new approach Barbie bungie jumping at Montgomery Central High School, making denser Three Musketeers bars at Northeast Middle School, and creating a socially acceptable predator to deer at West Creek Elementary School are just some of the projects students are working on this year across Montgomery County. All of the projects are part of the districtwide STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) program that Clarksville-Montgomery County School System Academic Advisor B.J. Worthington said is bringing a new kind of learning and teaching in all 36 schools during its second year.
Martavius Jones didn’t stumble over his introduction at all Monday, Oct. 5, as seven new members of the new countywide school board took the oath of office. “I used to be president of the Memphis City Schools board,” he said to a crowd of 400 that included officials of the two still separate school districts as well as family and friends of the new school board members.
It was dinnertime and a Tuesday and several hundred people were streaming into Hamilton High School, wanting to prove that if it’s support that’s needed, this South Memphis institution can pack a hall. Rumors have been rampant — and insistent — for more than a year that Hamilton, already co-managed by the state, will be taken over by the state or, at the least, by a charter school company the state selects.
Its name is a pun. Dive Bar may sit along Sacramento’s struggling K Street pedestrian mall, but far from sheltering scruffy boozers, the bar caters to the trendy young.
Two weeks after Georgia put to death Troy Davis despite an outcry from supporters who claimed his conviction was based on faulty eyewitness testimony, state officials are preparing to execute another death row inmate who insists he did not commit the crime. Prosecutors say they have no doubt Marcus Ray Johnson raped and stabbed Angela Sizemore to death outside an Albany nightclub in March 1994, and appeals courts have upheld his conviction and death sentence.
Gov. Tom Corbett announced a plan today to impose the first-ever fees on companies drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania and to use the revenue raised to cover costs related to gas production. Under Corbett’s proposal, drillers would pay up to $160,000 per well, spread out over the first 10 years of the well’s production, though they could earn credits of up to 30 percent by investing in natural gas fueling stations or gas-powered buses.
West Virginia’s acting governor, Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin, beat a Republican businessman Tuesday in a special gubernatorial election that became largely about national issues. With 94% of the votes counted, Mr. Tomblin led 50% to 47% over Bill Maloney, who had never held political office and who characterized the election as a referendum on the policies of President Barack Obama, who lost the state in 2008 and remains unpopular there.
The effort put forth by the Bill Haslam administration on behalf of the state’s credit rating is paying off. Tennessee’s credit standings from the major bond-rating agencies remain unchanged at AAA from Moody’s Investors Service & Fitch Ratings — and AA-plus with a positive outlook from Standard & Poor’s. Tennessee officials had traveled to New York City to present the state’s plans for dealing with the possibility that federal funds could be cut as much as 30 percent.
Let’s hear it for Gov. Bill Haslam’s economic team, apparently successful in its campaign to keep the state’s high-quality bond rating. The nation’s three major bond-rating agencies have all indicated that they will step back from downgrading Tennessee bonds, an action they had considered because of the state’s high level of dependence on federal funding.
The job market is tight, and no one can argue that. Jobs are tough to come by in some sectors.
Tennessee’s Republican state officials, like those in other Republican-controlled states that recently passed strict new laws on voting and voter photo IDs, generally claim that such restrictions are not a problem for most voters. In any case, they say, the restrictions are worthwhile because of the voter fraud they may prevent, regardless of new difficulties they pose to voters and voter-registration drives.
With the economy the way it is, a lot of folks have long since lost their dream of retiring at age 50, spending their golden years at the beach or traveling the globe with a special friend. In fact, many people are postponing their retirement plans while trying to figure out — belatedly — a way to make it work in a fiscally plausible way.
Many states have been deeply frustrated by the federal government’s failure to uphold laws against illegal immigration. In fact, the Obama administration has actively sought to have potentially hundreds of thousands of deportation cases dismissed against suspected illegal aliens who were already in our legal system.
Costs continue to rise: No major progress can be expected as long as Congress remains locked into partisan positions. The high profit margins reported by insurance companies make a bitter pill of the rising cost of health insurance.