This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
On the morning of Oct. 6, about 660 ladies (and a few gents) from around the state gathered at The Tennessee Executive Residence for the First Lady’s Luncheon. It was started by Andrea Conte during her time as first lady, and current first lady Crissy Haslam is continuing the tradition of this bi-annual event, which raises funds for The Tennessee Executive Residence Preservation Foundation.
Last year, the state had two choices for Jacquilyn Thompson after she relapsed: Send her back to prison or send her to rehab. The state chose the latter, a decision Thompson says may have saved her life.
The availability of high-speed Internet is spreading throughout the state, with 64 percent of all adults now having access to broadband service at home. Meanwhile, the use of broadband by Bedford County residents has more than doubled over the past four years.
In Tennessee, drivers 60 or older can choose whether their driver’s license will have a photo on it. But a new Tennessee law that goes into effect next year mandates that people must have state or federally issued photo IDs in order to vote.
A local educator has been appointed to a state committee responsible for finding new teaching practices, according to school officials. Dr. Debbie Wiles, Maury County Public Schools supervisor of elementary instruction, was appointed chair-elect to the State Supervisor Study Council during the Tennessee Department of Education’s annual LEADership Conference held in Nashville in September.
Nearly 1,000 Tennessee state employees have such low salaries that they are on food stamps, according to the Tennessee State Employee Association. Association Director Robert O’Connell told WTVF-TV his group came up with that figure after a public records request (http://bit.ly/qfcZmM). O’Connell said that most of the 964 state workers on food stamps are employed fulltime, although he couldn’t give an exact number.
Rutherford County, because of its Republican leanings, is turning into a congressional hot potato as the state Legislature draws districts to meet demands of the 2010 census, according to state Rep. Joe Carr. “Nobody wants Rutherford County,” Carr said last week, at least not the whole county.
State Rep. Mike Sparks wants Rutherford County’s new House district to give the city of La Vergne greater representation in the Tennessee General Assembly. The new district, which is likely to go in the northwestern part of the county, would let a House member put more emphasis on north Rutherford rather than being spread too thin, Sparks said.
Critics of Tennessee’s guns-in-bars law say last week’s arrest of its primary state House champion on charges of DUI and possessing a gun while intoxicated should serve as a warning to gun advocates seeking to expand areas where handgun-carry permit holders can go armed. “I hope this would energize all the folks who stood up against it,” said Ladd Everitt, spokesman for the Washington-based Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.
In fall 2006, voters narrowly approved an upgraded pension plan intended only for uniformed officers in the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. A committee that met outside public view later expanded the eligibility rules, according to records.
Ben Harkins receives the Knox County Sheriff’s Office pension. But even after retiring as a West District captain in December 2009, he still has a part-time job.
When the local Fraternal Order of Police lobbied local leaders and the public for a better pension plan to benefit county deputies, members hammered on law enforcement mortality rates.They told commissioners, residents and the media that the average police officer lived to be just age 59. They said the information was based on a report by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Healthy food effort has been mixed bag The kids who visit Givens Community Market sometimes grab peaches instead of potato chips, grapes instead of grape soda. The cramped convenience store is being hailed as a health savior to many in its North Nashville neighborhood, considered a food desert because it lacks a full-sized supermarket and so many residents don’t have their own transportation.
Jobs, taxes and regulations — if you’re not fired up already, good luck getting excited about next year’s elections. That’s especially true in Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District, where U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann and his famously surnamed challenger, Weston Wamp, are discussing jobs, taxes and regulations in language that is nearly identical. According to their campaign websites, both Republicans oppose regulations on small businesses and support a “complete overhaul” of the nation’s tax code.
Solar panels placed 11 years ago at what is now the Adventure Science Center in Nashville aren’t looking so good these days. A large expanse of the south-facing array doesn’t glisten as it once did — or even appear operable.
When he steps into the pulpit at Unity Covenant Church, the Rev. Mark Stone loves to talk about the Bible. But that changes when he steps into his computer science classroom at Cheatham County Central High School.
When city school leaders approved the 2011-12 budget, it included three discretionary teaching positions. Those were to be filled if needed because of enrollment increases.
As public schools in Chicago have shifted their focus to online learning, the benefits have been blunted by the fact that home access to the Internet costs too much for some students, leading districts to look for different approaches to bring Internet access to the city’s poorest families. “We believe many of our students have computers at home, but that doesn’t mean anything if they don’t have Internet,” said Todd Yarch, principal of Voise Academy High School.
“Hi, Teresa,” said Phil Hayes, a high school social studies teacher. “I’m voting no on Senate Bill 5 because it can make my class size larger and can make it harder for me to be a teacher.”
Hidalgo County, situated along the border that separates Texas and Mexico, is home to one of the country’s fastest-growing but poorest populations. Largely Hispanic and Catholic, the county also has one of the highest birth rates in a state where Medicaid finances more than half of all deliveries.
People who think government should operate more like a business should be pleased by the state of Tennessee’s new relationship with giant online retailer Amazon.com. A business deal is truly a good deal only if it is good for everyone involved — and the recently announced deal is a huge win all around, bringing thousands of jobs to Tennessee while also addressing the thorny issue of online sales taxes in a thoughtful way.
It was alarming — though sadly understandable — when credit-rating agency Standard & Poor’s recently downgraded the United States’ rating from the top level, AAA, to AA-plus — for the first time in U.S. history. S&P and other rating agencies had warned of the possibility of a downgrade because of Washington’s failure to start getting our nation’s massive deficits under control.
Gov. Bill Haslam recently revealed that a story he often tells about his wife’s high school boyfriend, “Ernie,” was “borrowed” from another politician — possibly former President Bill Clinton. Now, he says his administration’s standards of openness and transparency are borrowed, too.
Time taken away from students Can it be that the fast-moving Race to the Top is getting its first gut check? Since the drive for federal funds to improve public education in Tennessee kicked into gear about 21 months ago, the developments have been dizzying: A special, two-week session of the General Assembly commits to a package of aggressive reforms.
Throughout the beginning of this school year, one of the most talked-about reforms in education has been the new teacher evaluation system. Some across the state like it; some are adamantly opposed.
Education is all about the students. That’s one thing on which we can all agree. Having an effective teacher in every classroom is the first step to providing a quality education for students, and evaluations should be designed to make sure that happens.
With Tennessee’s House Education Committee set to hold hearings in early November on the state’s new teacher evaluation process, we’re glad to see legislators are listening to the concerns of our educators. State Rep. Joe Carr, a Lascassas Republican who serves as treasurer of the committee, said last week he is inviting two Rutherford County principals to testify before the panel Nov. 1-2. We hope the committee goes in with an open mind.
We are surprised and disappointed that the Jackson-Madison County Board of Education voted not to renew its search for a new school superintendent. We urge the board to reconsider this decision.
Thank the Tennessee General Assembly for turning family planning in Shelby County into a political football. Voting nearly along party lines, the Shelby County Commission deadlocked 5-5 in a committee meeting last week on a proposal to give Christ Community Health Services a contract to provide family planning services for the poor.
You can’t really blame them. Opponents of allowing guns in bars were close to giddy when news broke last week that state Rep. Curry Todd, a gun-toting former Memphis cop who sponsored the controversial legislation, was busted for DUI with a loaded Smith & Wesson .38 Special tucked beside him in the car.
At a recent Knoxville fundraiser, a couple of hecklers told Texas Gov. Rick Perry to stay out of Tennessee, according to news reports, and the Republican presidential candidate responded that he’ll be back plenty of times. But, of course, in all probability Perry’s visits — and those of other aspiring presidents — will be only to collect money for real campaigning in other states where votes actually matter.
The economic headlines this fall make dire reading: U.S. unemployment remains high, and at current growth rates it will take many years just to regain the jobs lost during the recession. While the latest economic data suggest that the U.S. may have avoided a double-dip by a whisker, the next quarters will be difficult.