This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Last week, Gov. Bill Haslam announced the schedule for upcoming state budget hearings for fiscal year 2012-2013. For the first time, two of the five schedule days of hearings are being held outside the state capitol.
Gov. Bill Haslam today kicks off the first in a series of public hearings on the upcoming 2012-13 state budget, which is expected to provide “tough” challenges to the administration, state lawmakers and some Tennesseans. Appearing in a recent online preview of hearings with state Finance Commissioner Mark Emkes, Haslam discussed some of the issues state government faces as it continues to struggle with the aftermath of the Great Recession.
Lascassas Elementary Principal Lyndal Duke likes a proposal by state Education Commissioner Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman to link two of the state’s mandatory teacher observations together, but said the process could go a step further. Huffman will propose Friday that the state Board of Education put two of the observations back-to-back, cutting out the required pre- and post-conferences provided for one classroom.
Tennessee first lady Crissy Haslam enlisted area businesswomen at a breakfast meeting here Tuesday in her efforts to improve student literacy. “In 2010, only 42 percent of third-graders were reading at a proficient level,” Haslam said in addressing members of RutherfordCABLE.
Two Tennessee projects, including the potential establishment of a wildlife refuge in Paint Rock River watershed, will be highlighted as part of the America’s Great Outdoors initiative report, state officials say. The other is an extension of the Riverwalk in Chattanooga.
Lawmakers supporting a private school voucher bill say Tennessee’s sweeping education reforms are helping but not fast enough for some of its neediest students. On Tuesday, the House Education Committee held hearings on the Equal Opportunity Scholarship Act proposed by Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville. It proposes to give low-income students in Davidson, Hamilton and Knox counties and the newly unified Memphis City and Shelby County school districts up to $5,000 in state funds to attend private schools.
While Tennessee’s scores on what is known as the Nation’s Report Card remained the same, the performance of other states improved, dropping the volunteer state’s national ranking. The Tennessee Department of Education on Tuesday released its results in the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, showing no statistical change in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math scores.
Tennessee’s fourth- and eighth-graders scored the same in math and reading as two years ago, Tuesday’s release of the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed. Twenty-six percent of the state’s fourth-graders are proficient in reading and 30 percent in math. Twenty-seven percent of eighth-graders are proficient in reading and 24 percent in math.
Tennessee Democrats are railing against the state’s new photo ID law every chance they get, and Rep. Debra Maggart, a Republican, says for that she’s grateful. Maggart, the House GOP caucus chairwoman who sponsored the law, said Tuesday that partisan debate on the issue has helped encourage people without a photo ID to get one. “Thankfully, even though the Democrats continue to complain, they’re actually helping us get the word out, and I appreciate that,” said Maggart, of Hendersonville.
Tennessee Elections Coordinator Mark Goins predicted Tuesday that nobody will be prohibited from casting a ballot next year because of the state’s new voter photo ID law. “I don’t anticipate anybody’s going to be disenfranchised,” Goins told about 25 to 30 people at a town hall meeting at the County Courthouse.
As the video clip above — from a public-information session on the new state Photo-ID law, held at the Vasco A. Smith County Administration Building on Tuesday night — makes clear, public response has been relatively meager to state government’s current campaign to publicize the ins and outs of the law, which goes into effect on January 1st. Officials of the Shelby County Electon Commission and the state Department of Safety were on hand for Tuesday night’s session, which also featured a prefabricated video of state Election Coordinator Mark Goins.
Jim Kyle, the Democrats’ leader in the state Senate and a longtime Shelby County legislator, says he woke up Tuesday morning without any particular thought about running for another office but started getting phone calls urging him to consider a race for District Attorney General next year. Bingo! “I hadn’t thought about it at all, but I had to respect the people who were talking to me about it, and I am thinking about it seriously.”
Credit his friends – and the inspiration of Ronald Reagan– with starting state Rep. Glen Casada on the road to public service. “I am of the Ronald Reagan generation,” said Casada, elected in 2001 to the Tennessee Legislature from Williamson County.
State Rep. Curry Todd R-Collierville, so far has not accepted a plea deal offered by prosecutors at a settlement hearing in Davidson County General Sessions Court on Tuesday. Todd, who sponsored a bill to allow handgun permit holders to take their weapons inside establishments that serve alcohol, was arrested Oct. 11 in Nashville on drunken driving and gun charges.
An hour after choosing to legally protest on the sidewalks in front of the Hamilton County Courthouse, two members of the Occupy Chattanooga movement announced they were willing to get arrested in an act of civil disobedience. Landon Howard and Heidi Davis, both of whom said they’d never been arrested before, decided that after the Chattanooga City Council told them they could not stay in a public park after 10:30 p.m., they would instead camp on the lawn in front of the City Council building at 1000 Lindsay St. Howard, 29, received his bachelor’s in social work from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2010.
Occupy Nashville is back and settling in for the long haul. Now that a federal judge has ordered the state to stop arresting and ousting the protesters from their encampment every night for violating a state-imposed curfew, tents and protest signs have sprung up on Legislative Plaza once again.
Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper of Nashville has taken six privately financed trips this year, with values adding up to more than $47,000 — the highest travel tab of any member of Congress, records show Three of the trips, sponsored by the nonprofit Aspen Institute, took Cooper and his wife, Martha, to San Juan, Puerto Rico; Barcelona, Spain; and Banff, Alberta. Topics included energy-security issues and education.
In 1996, freshman Congressman Zach Wamp rode the Newt Gingrich wave, breezing through an uncontested Republican primary and crushing the Democratic nominee to secure a second term. Fifteen years later, it’s a different freshman and a different story.
Complaints about Tennessee Valley Authority contractors spraying an endangered wildflower in a Southern Cumberlands right-of-way area have spurred an apology and a promise to be more careful. TVA said last week that it regrets the herbicide spraying in the Hawkins Cove Natural Area during July.
An attorney for property owners who are suing the Tennessee Valley Authority for damages from its 2008 coal ash spill has told a federal judge that hundreds of other property owners are looking to file lawsuits before a Dec. 22 deadline. Damage suits must be filed within three years of the Dec. 22, 2008, disaster at TVA’s coal-fired Kingston plant on the Emory River west of Knoxville.
Site Selection magazine lists Tennessee as having the eighth best business climate this year. The ranking is based on taxes, new and expanded business facility activity and a survey of corporate site selectors.
Authorities say a steroid ring uncovered in Ohio used drugs imported from China and processed at a secret lab in Tennessee to peddle to high school athletes and other customers across the country Warren County officials said Tuesday that a grand jury in Lebanon, north of Cincinnati, indicted 32 people in the operation, including a bank manager, a pro wrestler and a stay-at-home mom. Charges include engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, trafficking drugs and drug possession.
As bank robbers go, a federal judge and prosecutor agreed Tuesday, Daniel Fox was about as nonviolent as they come. Even the teller he robbed earlier this year shook his hand, gave him a hug and wished him well after telling the court that Fox apologized throughout the incident.
So far, the small number of local demonstrators who align themselves with the Occupy Wall Street movement have rejected the violent, disorderly tactics of all too many in the movement in other parts of the United States. The local demonstrators have not thrown bottles and stones at police officers.
Even as Gov. Bill Haslam backed down and claimed his goal was “not to remove people from the plaza. Never has been.
Democracy and the level of free speech and other constitutional rights we enjoy in the United States don’t always paint a pretty picture. But it is just these freedoms, and their exercise, that distinguishes the U.S. from most of the rest of the world.
Free speech isn’t always free. It can come with a price.