This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam is working on a plan to revamp how the state hires and pays employees, but it probably won’t be ready in time for next year’s budget. A handful of state government agencies presenting their budget plans to the governor this week said they want to hire more workers even though the governor is asking them to prepare plans for 5 percent cuts
Memphis and the Mid-South could gain a wave of reshoring jobs as China’s rising costs push U.S. manufacturers back to America, business analysts say. Chinese factory wages have climbed steadily, nearing U.S. levels. And oil prices have risen almost tenfold since trading at $10 per barrel in 1998, making shipping to the United States expensive.
Amazon.com Inc. for years has fought state efforts to force it to collect sales taxes from its customers. Now, instead of battling the tax man, the company is looking to profit — by hiring itself out as an Internet tax collector.
On the first Saturday that some Tennessee driver license centers opened to provide free photo ID to voters, 165 people in Hamilton County and Cleveland, Tenn., got the new cards. “It’s been highly advertised,” Department of Safety District Supervisor Caroline Walker said at the Bonny Oaks driver license center Saturday afternoon.
While an effort is under way to prohibit by law any negative action against teachers who fare poorly under a new evaluation system, House Education Committee Chairman Richard Montgomery hopes such action is unnecessary. “I don’t know that we need legislation,” he said after presiding over two days of hearings on a system that has brought an outpouring of complaints from teachers and principals.
Critics of a bill to create a school voucher system in Tennessee characterized the plan as a “bailout” for financially failing private schools while proponents hailed it as a needed new choice in education during a legislative hearing this past week. Rep Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, sponsor of the pending voucher bill, compared public school systems opposing the idea to the McDonald’s chain board of directors telling legislators, “We don’t think Burger King should be able to build anywhere near our restaurants.”
Tennessee students fell to near the bottom ranks in math and reading performance on a national test that compares school achievement across states. Results from the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, released last week, show no statistically significant change in Tennessee’s scores since the last tests in 2009.
UTC is putting together a committee to review preliminary results of a systemwide compensation study that found a gap between what the university pays faculty and staff and the pay at similar institutions, school officials said. Over the summer, the University of Tennessee commissioned a compensation and benefits market assessment to determine where faculty and staff statewide stood compared to their peer colleges, universities and organizations.
The county’s jobless rate remained unchanged in September, holding at 10.6 percent, according to preliminary figures released by the state’s department of labor and workforce development. Bedford County had an estimated 2,490 out of work, with 20,890 employed out of a workforce of 23,370.
The family of a 29-year-old woman who died while under treatment at the state’s largest drug treatment facility filed a second $32 million lawsuit late last week disclosing new details of her rapidly worsening medical condition during the last days and minutes of her brief life. The suit filed in Dickson County Circuit Court charges that the then-chief medical officer at New Life Lodge, Dr. Jonathan Butler, and two nurses failed to take proper action even as Lindsey Poteet’s blood pressure plunged and she became so weak she could not even stand up.
After two months, movement still lacks focus Ron White has been coming to Legislative Plaza nightly for a little over a week. Three years out of high school, jobless and unable to afford tuition, he rides into town nightly from Mt. Juliet with his mother, who works a night shift. He was one of the 49 people arrested when state police attempted to clear the plaza of the Occupy Nashville protest.
Night Court Commissioner Tom Nelson twice refused to issue criminal warrants Over the course of an unenviable graveyard shift, Thomas Edward Nelson was transformed from one of Nashville’s least- known judicial officers to a folk hero. While most of Nashville slept, the Davidson County Night Court commissioner stood his ground and refused to issue criminal warrants against 29 Occupy Nashville protesters even though the governor himself had signed off on their arrests for violating a state-imposed curfew on Legislative Plaza.
Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker raised $1.2 million in campaign money over the last three months, far outpacing his three registered challengers and bringing his balance to more than $6.5 million, according to his most recent campaign finance report. Industries that have contributed generously to the Chattanooga Republican in the past continued to send money his way.
Retooled federal program affects Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans For some of the 67,000 homeowners in Middle Tennessee whose properties are financially underwater or near it, partial relief could be close at hand, thanks to a retooled federal program affecting droves of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans. President Barack Obama late last month announced changes to a federal refinancing program that will allow hundreds of thousands of homeowners nationwide to refinance their mortgages, some of whom may be able to take advantage of historically low interest rates.
TVA is considering a power-line “superhighway” that would zip wind-generated electricity from Oklahoma to Tennessee — providing clean energy equal to about three nuclear reactors. The Tennessee Valley Authority signed a nonbinding understanding last month to continue exploring the possibility of the 800-mile project that would funnel masses of electricity into the TVA transmission system.
James Settles recalled there was something a little sad about walking the dikes at the Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash impoundment on Dec. 18, 2008. Settles, now retired from TVA, was thinking of the years he had spent as a foreman overseeing ash-handling crews at the facility.
Officials say regulations on removing trees and shrubs are stricter Tennessee Valley Authority workers are back in the Cordova and Germantown area tying pink “kill” ribbons around trees and shrubs that are near or within TVA’s easement of its transmission lines. Within the next few weeks, those trees or shrubs are expected to be cut down.
For James Michael Taylor, an evening bath became a death sentence. Mr. Taylor, who was 41 and a quadriplegic, had little more ability than a newborn baby to lift his head.
A 5.6 magnitude quake rocked central Oklahoma late Saturday after a day of smaller quakes, leaving cracked buildings and a buckled highway but no initial reports of major damage. The temblor was so strong it rattled a packed college football stadium 50 miles away and could be felt in Tennessee.
No one in their right mind would borrow money at a high interest rate to buy a lottery ticket. But that’s exactly what would happen if state lawmakers go through with a wretched idea: Allow people to purchase lottery tickets using their credit cards.
Cost, impact on other reforms must be addressed Reform-minded members of the Tennessee General Assembly want to turn around the fortunes of struggling students, and do it now. It’s a worthy goal, but not all proposals that are being put forward are fully baked.
The debate over school vouchers in Tennessee is akin to planting a plastic flower in a garden. While it may look good at first, it ignores the true, hard work needed for strong, healthy plants.
School boards in Tennessee’s largest districts have begun a furious public relations campaign to thwart attempts at democratizing education by offering school vouchers to some of the state’s poorest families in Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville and Memphis. In Tennessee as elsewhere, families are assigned to schools by ZIP code.
America has a history of citizen protests, and the conflict between Occupy Nashville protesters and state government writes another chapter in this ongoing civic lesson. In fact, protest is at the very foundation of our nation’s birth.
Protesting at the Legislative Plaza and the adjoining state capitol complex has a long history, and governors have traditionally dealt with the demonstrators through an attitude of benign neglect. Gov. Bill Haslam has broken that tradition. One suspects that he did so without a top-to-bottom review of the matter.
There’s an old adage: “Don’t swat a hornet’s nest.” That’s what the state of Tennessee did when it told a group of Occupy Nashville participants to get off public property, in this case the Legislative Plaza.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Chattanooga has rightly criticized a financial regulatory law that first threatened consumers with new debit card fees and now threatens them with a range of other new bank fees. The Durbin amendment to the Dodd-Frank law slashed the amount that banks may charge retailers when customers use debit cards.
Some of the most tragic victims of the housing bubble crisis are the good, honest homeowners who want to save their homes but can’t refinance their overpriced houses. So far, government programs have helped only a small percentage of troubled homeowners in the face of overwhelming demand.