October 8 TN News Digest

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

Tenn. tourism revenue spiked 6.3 percent in 2010 (Associated Press/Sainz)

Tourists spent more money in Tennessee in 2010 compared with the year before, a sign that the state’s history, culture and attractions can consistently generate precious dollars in the face of budget difficulties, officials said. Gov. Bill Haslam read off a list of awards given to Tennessee’s tourist attractions as he addressed state tourism professionals Friday at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

Tennessee to sell $584 million in bonds (Memphis Business Journal)

The state of Tennessee is issuing a record $584 million in bonds next week to help fund a variety of state-supported projects, including Electrolux Home Products Inc. in Memphis. The $200 million Electrolux project broke ground Wednesday at Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park. Funding for the project is coming from a variety sources, including $150 million in incentives from the state and Memphis and Shelby County.

Amazon picks Murfreesboro, Lebanon for distribution sites (Tennessean/Gonzalez)

Online retailer Amazon is deep into the process of selecting land for new distribution facilities in Murfreesboro and Lebanon, where officials offered strong incentive packages while competing with other communities for upwards of 1,500 jobs. Officials previously said a handful of communities in Tennessee and some in other states showed off industrial sites and approved tax breaks and other incentives for Amazon, which was looking to build in Tennessee under the name “Project Tango.”

Sources: Murfreesboro and Lebanon to get Amazon facilities (Nashville Biz Journal)

Online retail giant Amazon.com will pick Wilson and Rutherford counties as the sites for permanent facilities in Middle Tennessee, multiple sources have told the Nashville Business Journal. The company plans to have a million-square-foot “sort facility” built in Murfreesboro off Joe B. Jackson Boulevard that could create up to 1,100 jobs and bring a capital investment of $87.5 million.

‘Boro sort facility for Amazon?; No confirmation retailer behind proposal (DNJ)

Though no one will say outright that it is Amazon, Murfreesboro’s planning office received site plans Thursday for a proposed 1.25 million square-foot-distribution center to be built on Joe B. Jackson Parkway next to Interstate 24 in south Murfreesboro. A copy of the site plans obtained by The Daily News Journal Friday lists the owner/applicant as Corporate Woods, G.P. with a Shelbyville address and commercial real estate developer John Harney as the contact.

New Amazon Deal Praised As Improvement On Deal, Not Backtracking (TN Report)

When all was said and done in the announcement Thursday that Amazon will collect sales taxes in Tennessee beginning in 2014, the state was in a different place from its original agreement with the online sales giant. The original plan had been that Tennessee would get hundreds of jobs from two distribution centers in the Chattanooga area, so in return the state would let Amazon avoid collecting sales taxes on purchases.

Haslam to speak at Legacy Luncheon supporting open space (NS/McCloskey)

Gov. Bill Haslam is set to return to Knoxville Oct. 14 to address a crowd of at least 500 local business and civil leaders at the Legacy Parks Foundation’s annual Legacy Luncheon. The nonprofit works to create immediate and future natural recreation opportunities in Knoxville and to safeguard East Tennessee’s variety of natural resources.

Transportation head plans to continue making tours (Associated Press)

Commissioner John Schroer of the Tennessee Department of Transportation says he plans to continue making tours of projects across the state. He wrapped up weeklong tours last week.

Driver Service Center moves to Red Bank (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

One of the two state Driver Service Centers in Hamilton County will be moving Wednesday from Cherokee Boulevard to a larger, permanent space on Dayton Boulevard. But some folks aren’t too happy about it, especially since the center is one of the places where voters can get photo IDs now needed to participate in next year’s elections.

Eight Apply for Vacancy on Tenn. Appeals Court (Memphis Daily News)

Eight West Tennessee attorneys have applied for the vacancy on the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals created by the death of Memphian J.C. McLin. Applications to the Judicial Nominating Commission were due Friday, Oct. 7, and were limited to West Tennessee attorneys for the seat on the bench designated for West Tennessee.

Eight seek vacant seat on Tennessee criminal appeals court (CA/Buser)

Eight West Tennessee attorneys, including six from Shelby County, have applied to fill the judicial vacancy on the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals created by the death of Judge J. C. McLin. Applicants include Mischelle Alexander-Best, Richard Averwater, Criminal Court Judge J. Robert Carter Jr., J. Ross Dyer, Garland Erguden and James Thomas, all of Shelby County, and Circuit Court Judge Roger Page of Gibson County and John Stevens of Carroll County.

Finally free, Gaile Owens just wants to live life (Tennessean/Haas)

“That’s her!” a gasp shot out of the crowd standing outside the Tennessee Prison for Women on Friday morning. It was 9:17 a.m., and the group of about 20 people watched rapt as Gaile Owens emerged from the prison wearing a gray sweater and dark pants — a far cry from prison blue — and pushing a bright, yellow laundry cart with all of her possessions inside. She was flanked by a prison guard and Warden Debra Johnson, the woman who 26 years ago as an intake worker booked Owens into prison.

Former death row inmate Gaile Owens of Bartlett released from prison (CA/Buser)

Former death row inmate Gaile Owens of Bartlett was released Friday morning from the Tennessee Prison for Women in Nashville where she had spent the past 26 years for hiring someone to kill her husband. Owens, now 58, was met by more than a dozen friends and supporters, and said in a statement that she is “looking forward to leading a quiet and private, but productive life.”

TN Democrats pitch slate of job initiatives (Nashville Business Journal)

Tennessee Democrats are calling for $15 million in funding for technology centers that train workers — as well as a raft of other legislation — to spur job creation in the state after traveling Tennessee in recent days. A lineup of top Democratic legislators gathered on the Rolling Mill Hill property in Nashville overlooking the city’s downtown to discuss their legislation with media Thursday.

Knox County Election Commission certifies September primary (News-Sentinel)

Primary election certified, few changes The unofficial Sept. 27 local election totals are now official. The Knox County Election Commission met Friday morning to certify the results.

Residency and resources play in Memphis City Council Dist. 7 race (CA/Connolly)

University of Memphis law professor Lee Harris appears to have an edge in campaign finance over rival Kemba Ford, a former actress, as the candidates in the City Council District 7 race prepare for a Nov. 10 runoff. Between July 1 and Sept. 26, Harris raised about $38,400, including a $15,000 loan that he made to his own campaign, according to a campaign finance report.

Plaintiffs try again to halt mosque construction (Associated Press)

The construction of an Islamic center in Murfreesboro is being challenged once again by plaintiffs. The Daily News Journal reports that an attorney for the group opposed to the construction filed a motion earlier this week asking Chancellor Robert Corlew to look at whether the Rutherford County Planning Commission gave adequate public notice about a May 24 meeting where the mosque’s site plan was approved (http://bit.ly/qz8PSc).

NRC chief: Browns Ferry nuke plant needs work (Tennessean/Bewley)

The head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Gregory Jaczko, said his visit to the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Browns Ferry nuclear plant on Friday reassured him that TVA “clearly had a plan” to address the problems that led to an NRC investigation. But he said TVA must still upgrade some of its equipment at the plant 100 miles south of Nashville in Athens, Ala.

TVA, NRC to work together on safety (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Sohn)

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko said NRC and TVA will join forces to get Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant operating more safely. “We will work with TVA and put the plant back in the condition we want — that everybody wants — it to be in,” Jaczko said Friday in a telephone news conference.

Nuclear Regulator Says TVA is Fixing Problems at Brown’s Ferry (WPLN-Radio)

The chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says TVA is making progress in correcting safety problems at its Brown’s Ferry plant in northern Alabama, but the utility still has some work to do. Greg Jaczko toured the plant on Friday. The NRC just wrapped up the first phase of a comprehensive inspection of Brown’s Ferry.

TVA spill consultant says not hired to place blame (Associated Press/Poovey)

Plaintiff attorneys who contend the Tennessee Valley Authority should pay damages for the Kingston Plant coal ash spill Friday cross-examined a TVA consultant who testified he was hired to find the “mechanics’ of the cause, not to place blame. Geotechnical engineer William H. Walton was on the witness stand for a second day at the federal bench trial on damage lawsuits by property owners who contend TVA negligence in training, operations and construction caused the December 2008 disaster.

Clock’s ticking on Memphis solar farm project at Agricenter (C. Appeal/Bailey)

Proposal hits snag with financier as deadline looms Agricenter International wants to build a four-acre solar farm but must settle issues with a prospective lender by a drop-dead deadline Tuesday. The 4,000 solar panels for the 1 megawatt array would sit on a hillside just west of Ducks Unlimited and generate enough power for 200 homes or 20 businesses.

Seeing Success (Memphis Daily News)

On the surface, they don’t have much in common other than their home turf. They include everything from a venerable law firm, prominent regional investment companies, tech firms and even a business that manufactures food products like hot dogs and sandwich meats. But the 16 Memphis-area businesses on the 2011 Inc. 5000 list – a high-profile annual ranking of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. – have done something that seems to be eluding many companies right now, in addition to the overall economy.

Bradley seeks to prepare students (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Leach)

Internationally recognized academic programs for high school students were spotlighted this week in a presentation by Bradley County education officials to the Cleveland/Bradley Economic Development Council. The International Baccalaureate and Cambridge International programs will form key parts of the county schools’ mission to ensure its students are fully prepared for college or work upon graduation, said Patti Hunt, project director for Smaller Learning Communities grants.

Metro ID cards will let parents track students’ behavior (Tennessean/Hubbard)

Good for cafeteria, bus, library, they promote safety, too Metro Nashville freshman Zachary Jenkins has a hard time keeping track of his $500 district-issued city bus pass, school library card, student ID and the lunch number that he punches into a machine at school to eat. “It would make it easier to have one card instead of a bunch of different cards that students might lose,” said Jenkins, a student at Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Magnet High.

Six nabbed in meth raid (Jackson Sun)

Agents with the West Tennessee Violent Crime and Drug Task Force have arrested six people and seized two methamphetamine labs after executing a search warrant on the home of a University of Tennessee Martin instructor, according to a news release. Brent Cox, of Cades Atwood Road in Milan, holds a doctorate degree and is a history professor at UT Martin, according to the release. He is charged with conspiracy to manufacture meth, possession of meth with intent to sell or deliver, possession of marijuana with intent to sell or deliver, initiation of a process intended to manufacture meth, possession of drug paraphernalia and promotion of meth manufacturing.

Iowa: Iowa GOP Tentatively Sets Caucuses for Jan. 3 (Wall Street Journal)

Republicans look set to begin choosing their presidential nominee in the first days of 2012, after GOP officials in Iowa tentatively set the state’s caucuses for Jan. 3. Iowa’s caucuses, which start the nominating process, will occur more than a month earlier than expected, but on the same date as in the 2008 election.

Michigan: “Right to teach” bill debuts in Michigan Senate (Associated Press)

Republicans who control the Michigan Senate followed through Thursday on their plan to introduce so-called “right to teach” legislation, escalating a clash with the state’s largest teachers union. Public schools would not be allowed to require employees to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment under the Senate bill.

OPINION

Editorial: Deal improves with Amazon (Commercial Appeal)

The handwriting on the wall told Amazon that its privileges are withering. So the online retail giant has agreed to begin collecting taxes on its Tennessee sales in 2014. Technically, the agreement between the company and Gov. Bill Haslam doesn’t create a new tax for Tennesseans.

Editorial: First crack opens in tax standoff (Paris Post-Intelligencer)

Amazon has blinked. Months of discussion, back-room dealing and media campaigns have led the online merchandising giant to agree to begin collecting Tennessee sales taxes. The decision, announced Thursday, takes some pressure off Gov. Bill Haslam, who had defended the state’s soft-pedaling of the tax issue in return for Amazon locating distribution centers in Tennessee.

Guest columnist: Community pharmacies fill growing needs (Tennessean)

Americans have nearly 4 billion prescriptions filled each year but may be too busy to consider what’s happening behind the pharmacy counter. So, with thousands of community pharmacists gathering in Nashville this month for an annual national meeting, here is a pop quiz.

Free-Press Editorial: Raise taxes 5 percent? Now? (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

What do you think about raising income taxes 5 percent now, in the middle of an economic crisis? The immediate reaction from most of us might be an emphatic “No!”