This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
At a time when an anti-regulations sentiment has taken hold at all levels of government, the Republican-controlled Tennessee General Assembly and Gov. Bill Haslam still found one industry this year worthy of unprecedented new government oversight. Thanks to a law passed with unanimous bipartisan support in the most recent legislative session, the state of Tennessee will formally begin regulating pain clinics on Jan. 1 in an effort to rein in the state’s out-of-control illegal prescription medication industry.
Eddie Davis takes notes at every death scene in Hamblen County. He’s served as coroner for 20 years. He counted 28 fatal drug overdoses in his county two years ago.
A 19-year-old Pellissippi State Community College student lay dead inside a house in Lonsdale. There were no obvious signs of physical injury, no hint of foul play. According to the lone witness listed in a Knoxville Police Department report, Amber Blizard simply passed out after an hours-long drinking binge and never woke up.
The pills took the first son 15 years ago, a granddaughter this year and nearly killed a great-granddaughter and her unborn baby this summer. Now Leona Wilbanks waits to bury the next son.
Four women died from drug overdoses inside a confessed morphine user’s Knox County home in eight years. But homeowner and admitted morphine user Ricky Carl Clark stands accused of only one — the January 2008 overdose by morphine injection of 40-year-old Penny Welch.
Pills killed more people in Roane County last year than guns, knives, car wrecks or plane crashes. Twenty-one men and women died of accidental drug overdoses here in 2010, according to preliminary statistics from the county medical examiner.
Longtime users get used to losing friends. Addicts take their lives in their hands each time they pick up a pill. The right dose and combination bring the high they crave — the wrong, certain death. Garry Lee didn’t even know it when a friend overdosed across the room.
THP urges folks to adhere to curfew A sometimes jittery group of protesters prepared to be arrested at Legislative Plaza late Sunday night and early Monday, but by 3 a.m. they had only encountered false alarms regarding the arrival of police. Some in the group chalked up the rumors to protesters who were new to the plaza and unfamiliar with the typical patrols of officers near the Capitol.
The ACLU is joining the fight for the right of Occupy Nashville protesters to stay in Legislative Plaza. The organization plans to file a lawsuit fighting for their right to stay Monday morning.
Nashville Scene reporter, Jonathan Meador, who was arrested early Saturday morning by Tennessee highway patrol officers during an Occupy Nashville protest, told an officer repeatedly that he was a member of the media, according to video and audio of the arrest captured by Meador’s camera and later posted on the Nashville Scene website. Meador was cited by the troopers later for public intoxication. In the audio from the video, Meador’s voice sounds clear and steady.
More than 50 people have been arrested in the Occupy Nashville protests, including three from Memphis. Now, one of them talks about the decision to walk away or go to jail. 22 year-old Elizabeth Drake, a nursing student at Southwest Tennessee Community College, is one of 3 Memphians recently arrested in the anti-wall street protests outside the State Capitol in Nashville on Friday.
After waiting eight hours in near-freezing temperatures for state troopers to arrest them for the third time in so many days for violating curfew, Occupy Nashville protesters were left undisturbed on Legislative Plaza last night “We didn’t come here to talk about guaranteed rights about freedom of assembly,” Occupy Nashville activist and organizer Michael Custer said of the movement. The real message of the movement is to call attention to and rally against “legalized corruption” in American politics.
Protesters in Denver and Nashville regrouped on Sunday, a day after dozens of arrests at demonstrations inspired by Occupy Wall Street in both cities. The demonstrators in Denver held a peace vigil in the evening.
TennCare to initiate financial sanctions A young woman goes to her family doctor with a cough and chest pain and is told the ailment is chest arthritis. Wrong.
An effort by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission to eradicate wild hogs is stoking a controversy in the Legislature over whether the commission should be transformed or even abolished. Earlier this year the Legislature approved a bill changing the legal status of wild pigs from a protected game species to a “nuisance” animal.
At the University of Memphis, where there’s smoke, there’s ire. Spurred by a student government petition last year, and consequent similar actions by the faculty senate and staff senate, the U of M decided last week to push toward a tobacco-free campus “by summer 2012, although there’s not a set date,” said Maria Alam, chief human resources officer for the university. The tobacco-free efforts have fallen to her, although, she joked, “I have no idea how I got put in charge of this.”
A ruling from the Tennessee Supreme Court has made it easier for homeowners to hold contractors responsible for shoddy work by subcontractors. The court has found that contractors have a duty to perform services in a “careful, skillful, diligent and workmanlike manner” that can’t be fully delegated to another contractor they hire.
Some Tennessee legislators are eying a reduction in prize payouts for Tennessee lottery players while letting them buy tickets with debit or credit cards. The proposals are among ideas that are being floated as a way to generate more money that can be used for college scholarships.
State Senate 6th District candidates Gloria Johnson, a Democrat, and Becky Duncan Massey, a Republican, facing off on the Nov. 8 ballot, were asked in separate interviews their views on a variety of issues and proposals that they are likely to face next year if elected. Lottery Question: Suggestions for dealing with a projected shortfall in the lottery-based college scholarship fund include: Raising academic standards to reduce the number of eligible students; reducing the number of eligible students by setting an income-based needs test; or simply reducing the amount of the stipend.
Event designed to educate on law Rutherford County Elections Administrator Nicole Lester doesn’t know how many people to expect at Tuesday’s town hall meeting on Tennessee’s voter photo ID law. Anywhere from five to 100 or more people could show up at the meeting set for 5:30 p.m. on the second floor of the Rutherford County Courthouse, she said.
Washington politicians often battle over what economic statistics mean and what to do about them. Now, they are fighting about the statistics themselves. House lawmakers, facing record budget deficits, have proposed cutting some funding for the Census Bureau.
Local entrepreneurs lead a wave of new dining options Even as national chain restaurants have pulled back on expanding in Middle Tennessee and elsewhere, Nashville’s food-minded entrepreneurs have gone rogue in a big way. Within the past six months, close to 40 new restaurants have opened within a three-mile radius of downtown.
Rental-car customers returning vehicles to Nashville International Airport starting Tuesday will be directed by signs to a new drop-off location as the airport opens a $70 million consolidated rental-car garage. The garage, under construction since February 2010, increases space at the airport for 2,400 rental cars, up from 1,400, and will accommodate the vehicles of nine rental agencies.
It’s time to start up, Memphis. From the federally sponsored Startup America Partnership to our homegrown Startup Tennessee collaborative to the Mid-South startup scene, there’s never been a better time to focus on entrepreneurship.
At least 65 workers still on layoff from Spring Hill’s General Motors plant will be forced to transfer to the automaker’s van factory in Wentzville, Mo., where a second shift is being added. The employees being sent to Wentzville are on indefinite layoff, meaning there has not been a date set yet for them to return to work in Spring Hill, said Mike Herron, bargaining chairman for United Auto Workers Local 1853.
Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre has recommended the school board reject two applications to start charter schools in Knox County. The district received applications from entities identifying themselves as the Booker T. Washington Academy and the New Consortium of Law and Business.
As the Knox County school system faces a major shortfall, one of the options the school board looked at was closing five of the smallest schools. However, Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre said he will not recommend the closings.
Three strikes and you’re out when it comes to students and cellphones in Hamilton County Schools. But that doesn’t sit well with school board Chairman Mike Evatt, who wants to re-examine the school district’s cellphone policy in search of something less punitive.
It is frustrating that Alabama, Georgia and a number of other states have had to enact their own laws to deal with the high costs of illegal immigration. They are being forced to take up the slack, because the federal government has all too often ignored its constitutional duty to fight illegal immigration.
Sipping a beer and killing time in the 15 minutes between races at Freehold Raceway one recent afternoon, the guy in the Jets hat pondered the possibility that he might one day be able to put $100 down on his favorite football team at the same time he plunked down cash on the next sure thing at the track. “There would be a lot more of us here, that’s for sure,” said Steve Kerrigan of Brick, who bears a passing resemblance to Jets coach Rex Ryan, and who wouldn’t mind a wager or two on Gang Green.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is right to take his time and study state employee salaries with the idea of making them more competitive with other state and local governments. The study should lead to a more professional and better-paid work force.
It’s the topic of discussion that just will not go away. As much as some Americans might like it to just disappear, the Occupy Wall Street movement simply continues to stand out among most everything that is taking place in the news at this point in time.
Efforts to build up the reserve fund for lottery scholarships should not take precedence over meeting achievement goals. When and if it becomes necessary to stabilize Tennessee’s lottery scholarship fund, the Senate Lottery Stabilization Task Force has a reasonable plan on the table to get the job done.
Over the past couple of years, Tennessee has become recognized as a leading state in reforming its education system. We were one of the first states to win a federal Race to the Top grant, because we were bold enough to pass new laws to change our education system.
Two recent articles in The Tennessean made it clear how poor the present state of public opinion is concerning public educators in the Volunteer State. The first, an opinion column by lawyer Alex Little, “New evaluations will foster teacher respect” (Oct. 18), criticizes Tennessee educators for not welcoming the new, highly detailed and time-consuming teacher evaluation system.
No one should begrudge efforts to ensure that schoolchildren don’t go hungry. But under a federal pilot program, all students in Detroit’s public schools — including youngsters from middle-class and wealthy families, as well as the poor — will get their breakfasts, lunches and snacks for free all this academic year.