October 25 TN News Digest

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

Health, Wellness Task Force to Chart Course for Healthy Lifestyles (TN Report)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the 16 members of his Health and Wellness Task Force, a group charged with developing an initiative to improve Tennessee’s health status by leveraging private and public resources. Tennessee currently ranks 42nd out of 50 in overall health, according to America’s Health Rankings, an improvement from previous rankings, but health care costs in the private and public sectors continue to hinder potential job growth in the state while also threatening budgets.

Haslam announces 16-member Health and Wellness Task Force (City Paper)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam Monday announced the 16 members of his Health and Wellness Task Force, a group charged with developing an initiative to improve Tennessee’s health status by leveraging private and public resources. University of Tennessee Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lacey III is chair of the 16-member task force, which met Monday for the first time.

Gov. wants task force to raise TN’s 42nd-place health ranking (Tennessean/Hall)

A new task force appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam is charged with raising Tennessee’s 42-place health ranking — an improvement from 44th in 2009, but one he says continues to hamper economic growth. The 16 members represent government agencies, healthcare systems, professional groups and insurance companies.

Health, Wellness Task Force Members Announced (WTVF-TV Nashville)

The members of a new state Health and Wellness Task Force were announced Monday. Governor Bill Haslam made the announcement during the task force’s first meeting. They are charged with developing an initiative to improve Tennessee’s health status by leveraging private and public resources.

Obesity Task Force pushes lean, mean laws to slim Tenn. (Tennessean/DeVille)

The statewide group in charge of slimming Tennesseans’ waistlines hopes the legislature will agree to a slate of new laws that could help. The Tennessee Obesity Task Force wants to ensure that all schools are complying with the state’s 90-minutes-a-week mandate for physical education, enact a tax on sugar-sweetened soft drinks, and increase fines for speeding in school zones.

Health And Wellness Task Force to Follow Education Model (WPLN-Radio)

Tennessee consistently ranks near the bottom of the nation in both the health of the state’s residents and educational achievements. In the last few years, state leaders have changed the way schools work, in hopes of getting better results. Now, Governor Bill Haslam wants to take a similar approach to health care.

Cleveland manufacturer Cormetech adds 30 jobs (Times Free-Press/Pare)

A Cleveland, Tenn., manufacturer is growing its air pollution control production operations as it creates 30 more jobs. Cormetech, which makes equipment for the coal power industry and refinery applications, plans to invest $2.6 million and create the manufacturing, warehouse and skilled trade jobs over a three-year period, officials said Monday.

Cormetech adding 30 jobs in Cleveland (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Pare)

Cormetech plans to invest in the air pollution control company’s Cleveland, Tenn., plant and add 30 jobs, officials said today. The company will invest $2.6 million and create the manufacturing, warehouse and skilled trade jobs over a three-year period, said Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.

Cleveland Company Expansion to Add 30 Jobs (WTVC-TV Chattanooga)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty joined with representatives from Cormetech Monday to announce plans by the company to expand its Cleveland facility. The company will invest $2.6 million and create 30 manufacturing, warehouse and skilled trade jobs over a three year period. “

Cormetech, Inc. Announces Expansion of Cleveland Plant (WDEF-TV Chattanooga)

A Cleveland company announced a big expansion today. Cormetech, Incorporated announced today they will invest $2.6 million and create 30 new jobs during the next three years at their plant in Cleveland, Tennessee. The new positions will be manufacturing, warehouse and skilled trade jobs.

Haslam visits National Civil Rights Museum today (Commercial Appeal/Loller)

Gov. Bill Haslam will join corporate leaders at the National Civil Rights Museum at 3 p.m. today for an announcement expected to involve the state’s approval last May of a $2 million contribution in connection with the museum’s ongoing renovation plans. Museum spokesmen would not comment on the announcement Monday, and the governor’s office did not return a telephone call.

State monies awarded to local law enforcement (Sparta Expositor)

Sparta Police Department and White County Sheriff Department are expected to receive a total of $30,029.60 from state grant funds as part of efforts by Gov. Bill Haslam and the Tennessee Department of Transportation to support highway safety in Sparta and White County. Sparta PD was awarded $4,999.95 for their High Visibility Law Enforcement Campaign in the city, while WCSD was awarded $25,029.65 for use in saturation patrols throughout the county. On Oct. 20, Haslam and TDOT Commissioner John Schroer announced more than $16.2 million would be granted to law enforcement agencies across the state.

Cain’s Tax Plan Could Hurt TN Retailers: Haslam (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Governor Bill Haslam continues to say he’s not ready to endorse any particular candidate in the GOP presidential primary. But the governor is critical of businessman Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan, saying raising sales taxes much higher could hurt Tennessee retailers. Part of Cain’s tax plan is a 9 percent federal sales tax. Tennessee already has a 7 percent sales tax. So Haslam says adding the two together could push Tennessee tax rates so high it undermines consumer demand.

Tenncare Won’t Get Money Without Help from Congress (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

According to Governor Bill Haslam, there only seems to be one option for getting all the federal money owed to Tenncare. But Haslam says the chances aren’t good. Last week, the state’s health care program the poor announced it won’t get all of the money that was budgeted to come from the federal government.

TennCare Cuts Expected, Haslam Wants Feds To Release Funds (TN Report)

On a day when he met with his health and wellness task force, Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday lamented the predicament the federal government has put Tennessee in on $82 million in TennCare funds. First, the feds said they goofed and owed the state the money due to an accounting error.

TDOT: No barrier needed at site of wreck off Interstate 81 (Times News)

No protective barrier needs to be built along Interstate 81 where a runaway tractor-trailer barged into a Colonial Heights neighborhood and plowed into an unoccupied home, according to a Tennessee Department of Transportation report. TDOT determined the actual crash rate for the northbound section of interstate is 75 percent below the statewide average for similar highways in its system.

State offers tips for action after storm damage (Jackson Sun)

Changing temperatures in the fall can result in severe storms, damaging homes and businesses. The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance offers tips for consumers about interacting with insurance companies and selecting contractors after suffering storm-related property damage.

List of Judicial Finalists Sent to Haslam (Memphis Daily News)

The Tennessee Judicial Nominating Commission has sent a list of three finalists to Gov. Bill Haslam for appointment to the West Tennessee vacancy on the state Court of Criminal Appeals. The finalists are Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Bobby Carter; Ross Dyer, managing attorney for the Memphis office of the Tennessee Attorney General; and Circuit Court Judge Roger Page of Medina, Tenn.

Two judges, attorney eyed for appellate post (Jackson Sun)

Two West Tennessee judges and one attorney have been recommended to Gov. Bill Haslam to fill a vacant spot on the state’s Court of Criminal Appeals. After meeting and interviewing eight applicants, the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission named Madison County Circuit Court Judge Roger Page, Memphis Criminal Court Judge J. Robert Carter Jr. and Tennessee Attorney General’s Office Managing Attorney J. Ross Dyer as choices to fill the vacancy created by the death of Judge J.C. McLin.

Three recommended for appellate court vacancy (Tennessean/Gee)

The Judicial Nominating Commission has chosen three candidates to recommend to Gov. Bill Haslam for appointment to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals. They are J. Robert “Bobby” Carter Jr., a criminal court judge in Memphis; J. Ross Dyer, head of the state attorney general’s Memphis office; and Roger A. Page, a circuit court judge in Madison County. A vacancy on the Court of Criminal Appeals was created by the death Judge J.C. McLin.

Charges reinstated against accused red-light camera shooter (N-S/Satterfield)

A state appellate court on Monday reinstated charges against a Knoxville man accused in the shooting of a red-light camera. In an opinion drafted by Appellate Judge Camille R. McMullen, the state Court of Criminal Appeals concluded Knox County Criminal Court Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz was wrong to toss out an indictment for felony vandalism and reckless endangerment filed against Clifford Clark in the November 2007 incident. It’s not clear, though, whether prosecutors will be able to try Clark.

Carr: TN unlikely to tighten up on tanning (Daily News Journal)

Rep.: Calif.-type ban for minors unlikely It’s unlikely that a law similar to the one enacted in California about two weeks ago that banned minors from indoor tanning will get drafted by Tennessee legislators anytime soon. That, however, doesn’t mean the issue won’t come up for discussion in the Tennessee legislature, according to State Rep. Joe Car, R-Lascassas.

Todd holding fundraiser 1 week after court date (Associated Press/Schelzig)

State Rep. Curry Todd has scheduled a fundraiser one week after his first court appearance on drunken driving and gun charges. The invitation to the $500-per-person event to be held at the home of Nashville businessman William “Tinker” Kelly on Nov. 8 was circulated by the Tennessee Lobbyists Association on Monday.

Todd’s No-Blow Shows He’s Wise to Ways of Beating DUI (TN Report)

It remains to be seen whether prosecutors will be able to prove Rep. Curry Todd was impaired when he was arrested in Nashville this month on suspicion of drunk driving and unlawfully possessing a firearm. But if the police affidavit filed after the arrest is accurate, the Shelby County Republican lawmaker violated a state law that requires motorists to submit to a blood-alcohol content test when asked to by law enforcement officials.

Voter Information Sessions Planned in Every County (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

New laws requiring photo ids at the polls have been at the center of much debate and some confusion recently. Now, election officials are responding with a set of hold information sessions to answer voter questions.

Hamilton Co. to tackle who’s in District 3 (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Haman)

About 700 registered Hamilton County voters should know soon whether they will be voting in next year’s Commission District 3 special election. Hamilton County commissioners are slated this morning to begin considering whether to run the March District 3 primary on recently drawn political lines or stay with the current map.

Commission picks redistricting plan that displaces two board members (CA/Donila)

The Knox County Commission approved a redistricting plan Monday that aligns both commission and school board districts, but it wasn’t one that officials who spent months studying the issue had recommended to the board. The proposal — dubbed Plan 1A — displaces school board members Cindy Buttry and school board Chairman Thomas Deakins.

Knox County Commission OKs 3 percent pay hike for workers (N-S/Donila)

After four years, Knox County employees will get a pay raise. County commissioners on Monday in a 10-0 vote agreed to give roughly 2,300 general government and Sheriff’s Office workers a 3 percent across-the-board salary increase, effective Jan. 1. Commissioner Amy Broyles missed the meeting due to a medical appointment. It will cost $1.58 million to cover the rest of the fiscal year, which ends June 30, and then create a $3 million recurring cost each year.

MTSU poll shows Tenn. thinks jobs top priority (Daily News Journal)

While Tennesseans consider the economy/jobs as the No. 1 problem facing the nation, most have a dim view of Washington politicians being able to work out a job creation bill, according to the latest MTSU Poll results released Monday. “I hope they do something about jobs,” said Ann Moore of Murfreesboro.

Dislike of Obama rises in TN (Tennessean/Sisk)

Tennesseans disapprove of President Barack Obama, approve of Gov. Bill Haslam and are evenly divided on the state legislature, according to a poll released Monday by Middle Tennessee State University. State residents also indicated they had heard of Tennessee’s new voter identification law but were unsure what forms of identification are acceptable, the university said. Obama’s approval rating dropped to 30 percent, the lowest recorded by MTSU, and nearly two-thirds said they disapprove of the president.

Tennesseans rate governor, president in MTSU poll (WBIR-TV Knoxville)

Three Republican frontrunners for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination would beat President Obama by double digits in Tennessee if the election were held now, according to a poll from Middle Tennessee State University. In head-to-head hypothetical matchups, the poll finds Mitt Romney leads President Obama by a margin of 44 percent to 29 percent in Tennessee.

MTSU Poll Shows Tennessee Is A Very Red State (WTVF-TV Nashville)

The latest numbers from the twice-a-year MTSU Poll were released Monday by the Murfreesboro university. The poll shows the majority of Tennesseans are increasingly leaning towards the right in the political views.

Some Troops Should Stay for Iraqi Stability: Alexander (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander says the U.S. should keep some troops in Iraq in case they’re needed. Right now troops there are set to come home at the end of this year. Senator Alexander doesn’t want the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq entirely, because it’s in a tough part of the world where the U.S. has already invested a lot of money, and a lot of lives.

School loan default lawsuits go back decades (Tennessean/Haas)

Constantine Coca thought the student loans from 20 years ago went away. They were for a small technical college in California, one he quit after deciding the instruction was less than credible and one that the federal government eventually banned from the federal student loan system.

States target prescriptions by ‘pill mills’ (USA Today)

When federal agents arrested a man with 6,000 oxycodone pills in a Stamford, Conn., hotel room in April, they stumbled onto an expansive criminal ring that exposed a growing trend: drug tourism. The man, whom the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has not identified because he is a witness in the case, told agents he traveled to Florida several times a week, taking advantage of lax laws governing pain clinics to purchase large quantities of prescription painkillers.

Erlanger revenue below projections (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Jagoda)

Erlanger Health System’s operating expenses exceeded its revenue by about $1.07 million in the first quarter of its fiscal year, according to budget figures. The system had budgeted revenues to be greater than operating expenses for the July through September 2011 quarter, and the first quarter of the previous fiscal year saw gains of nearly $39,000, according to financial statements.

Pinnacle Moves Mesaba’s HQ to Memphis (Memphis Daily News)

Memphis-based Pinnacle Airlines Corp. took another step in a plan to consolidate its three distinct regional air carriers into two brand names this week with word that Mesaba Aviation Inc. will close its headquarters in Eagan, Minn. Pinnacle Corp. bought Mesaba from Delta Air Lines Inc. for $62 million in 2010. Mesaba joined Pinnacle Airlines Inc. and Colgan Air Inc. under the Pinnacle Corp. umbrella.

Delay in charter school development may be sought (Associated Press)

The new unified school board in Shelby County is considering asking state legislators to stop the growth of charter schools while the board works out details of the school merger. Board member Jeff Warren said charter school expansion should be delayed two years in Shelby County while officials work out the merger between Memphis City Schools and the county school district, according to The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/njatKy).

Suburban Shelby County cities off anti-merger bandwagon (C. Appeal/Bailey)

Federal court ruling denies plea to intervene in suit over dual vote for consolidation Suburban Shelby County governments will not be allowed to intervene in a federal lawsuit challenging the state law under which consolidation votes must pass separately in Memphis and outside the city. The ruling, issued by U.S. Dist. Court Judge S. Thomas Anderson, is part of a lawsuit filed last October by eight prominent Memphians challenging the dual majority for merging Memphis and Shelby County governments.

Michigan: among 35 states vying for $500 million in early learning grants (M. Live)

Michigan is competing with 34 other states for federal grant money for early childhood education. Winners of the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, a $500 million competition, will be notified on or before Dec. 31. Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico are also vying for a share of the money.

Nebraska: Special Session Called on Pipeline (Associated Press)

Gov. Dave Heineman said Monday that he would call a special legislative session for lawmakers to consider challenging the planned route of the $7 billion Keystone XL transnational oil pipeline. With his decision, Mr. Heineman, left, a Republican, signaled that Nebraska did not intend to leave the matter to the federal government, which is expected to decide whether to approve the project by the end of the year.

Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Increases Its Hold Over Harrisburg (Wall St. Journal)

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett tightened the state’s grip on its cash-starved capital Monday, declaring a fiscal emergency in Harrisburg that he says is needed to ensure basic city services continue. The Republican governor’s move gives the head of the state Department of Community and Economic Development access to the city’s troubled finances.

Pennsylvania: Governor Declares Emergency (Bloomberg News)

Gov. Tom Corbett on Monday declared a fiscal emergency in Harrisburg, which allows him to assume financial control of the city and name the state’s first municipal receiver. Empowered by legislation he signed on Thursday, Mr. Corbett, left, said the capital city’s fiscal distress warranted such action.

OPINION

Editorial: Making Tennessee healthier state will make it a better state (J. Sun)

On Monday, Gov. Bill Haslam announced the makeup of a new Health and Wellness Task Force. Tennessee ranks 42nd out of 50 states in overall health. Improving this ranking is important to future economic development.

Times Editorial: Real vote tampering ahead (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Two elderly Tennessee women — one 96, the other 91, both regular voters for decades — can now testify directly as to how the state’s new voter photo ID law may deny vast numbers of Tennessee voters the elemental franchise of a supposedly democratic society — their right to vote. The law, passed this year by the state’s ruling Republican triumvirate, mimics similar laws also passed this year in 13 other Republican-controlled states, and in three others last year.

Sam Stockard: Reasons for voter photo ID get fuzzier when scrutinized (DNJ)

News flash: College students are making fake IDs so they can buy beer and get into clubs. That’s why the state Legislature decided not to let college IDs be used as identification for voting purposes for Tennessee’s voter photo ID law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2012. State Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, gave that explanation last week during a conference call with statewide media.

Editorial: Cramming for the test (Commercial Appeal)

It’s good to have role models, and Germantown seems to have found some good ones in East Tennessee if it decides to move forward with the founding of a new municipal school district. Meanwhile, small cities with their own school districts such as Oak Ridge, Maryville and Alcoa — all visited last week by Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy, City Administrator Patrick Lawton and three aldermen — have provided useful data for the study.

Sheila Butt: Education panel plans teacher evaluation hearings (C. Daily Herald)

Tennessee’s House Education Committee is set to hold hearings in early November on the state’s new teacher evaluation process. The 107th General Assembly passed major education reform legislation this past Session which changes a teacher’s probationary period before becoming eligible for tenure from three to five years as well as links tenure status to performance evaluations.

Guest columnist: Memphis schools’ progress is unraveling (Tennessean)

Politics, resistance to best practices cripple state’s largest district Memphis City Schools has never been a poster child for stability. But never before has the district been so precariously positioned on such shifting sand.

Editorial: Closing West High’s NJROTC program should be reconsidered (N-S)

The U.S. Navy plans to decommission the Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps at West High School but should reconsider its decision to scuttle the program. The Navy announced it would close the West program and 28 other chapters across the country at the end of the school year because they have too few active students.

Editorial: Mother Nature gets her way (Commercial Appeal)

A more sensible policy toward building in flood plains will save taxpayers money. A more responsible policy on floodplain development is a goal that can be reached with thousands of small steps in the right direction.