This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Emphasis by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration on creating more homegrown companies from technology developed at the state’s institutions is leading to a reorganization of tech-transfer efforts at the University of Tennessee and a new investment by a Knoxville company. The announced retirement of Tom Ballard, a longtime University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory executive, and his intentions to lead a new Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiative at Pershing Yoakley & Associates has also resulted in new leadership of the lab’s tech-transfer efforts.
Gov. Bill Haslam recently appointed 104 people to various boards and commissions. “I want to thank these men and women for their commitment to serving our state,” Haslam said.
Complete College America is a national movement, largely funded through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Lumina Foundation. The nonprofit organization was founded in 2009 and its mission is to “work with states to significantly increase the number of Americans with quality career certificates or college degrees and to close attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented populations.”
Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman is opposing calls by some teachers and state lawmakers to delay using new evaluation scores to gauge educators’ effectiveness. The skeptics say the annual evaluation system, especially its classroom observation component, is helping send educators’ morale crashing in a state that won a $500 million federal Race to the Top grant last year.
Last year, when Tennessee was named one of the first two states to win a federal Race to The Top grant, worth $501 million, there was great joy all around. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who has the job of implementing President Obama’s signature education program, praised Tennessee officials for having “the courage, capacity and commitment to turn their ideas into practices that can improve outcomes for students.”
It’s an unthinkable crime that happens every day in Tennessee: children and adults bought and sold in an underground sex trade. Human trafficking is now the second fastest growing crime in the country, and in just the past two years, thousands of cases were reported to law enforcement and the Department of Children’s Services.
The state Division of Elections has developed a town hall video about a new law requiring voters to show a state or federally issued photo ID at the polls next year. The video provides information about the acceptable forms of photo identification. It lists the options for voters who do not have such a valid ID.
But state’s cardiac disease rate for those 18 and over outpaces nation’s Despite rising obesity rates, Tennesseans reported a significant decline in heart disease over the past four years. Heart disease dropped 16 percent from 2006 to 2010, according to data recently released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A recommendation is expected later this week on who to name as the ninth president of East Tennessee State University. The candidates have been narrowed to three, all of whom visited the campus and met with various groups including the presidential advisory search committee.
Months after the announcement, Tennessee State University’s move to eliminate six degree programs and consolidate others is drawing complaints from alumni, neighbors and faculty — and an ongoing investigation by the local NAACP. On Saturday, the state chapter of the NAACP discussed asking for the Tennessee Board of Regents, which oversees TSU, to reverse all the changes.
Cleveland State Community College is “exploring” the idea of becoming an “All-Steinway School” in an effort to potentially gain new students, expand their humanities offerings and garner international attention. The All-Steinway School designation is given to an institution directly by world renowned piano makers Steinway & Sons and is a distinction currently held by only 135 institutions throughout the world, according to Fred Wood, dean of the college’s Humanities and Social Sciences Division.
The teachers’ union and the state’s school boards were at each other’s throats in the last state legislative session over the new law ending collective bargaining for employment contracts. But in the upcoming session, the two pillars of public education have joined forces against what they see as a common enemy.
An intersection where two teenagers were killed and two others were injured is under review by the state to determine whether it needs safety improvements. State Rep. Sheila Butt met Tennessee Department of Transportation officials near the U.S. Highway 43 and First Avenue intersection in Mt. Pleasant to discuss how to increase safety at the intersection.
Two weeks ago, few in Nashville, or the country at large, had heard much about the fledgling Music City wing of the Occupy Wall Street protests, Occupy Nashville. After a well-attended, and widely covered, weekend rally a month ago, the group began occupying Legislative Plaza on Oct. 8, setting up tents and announcing plans to stay there indefinitely. But on Oct. 19, no more than two-dozen of the most devoted occupiers gathered between the columns of the War Memorial Auditorium.
As politically and emotionally charged discussion continues to swirl regarding the Occupy Nashville protests, more than 50 people still have court dates set following arrests on Oct. 28-29. Night Court Judge Tom Nelson found no probable cause in the arrest of protesters on Legislative Plaza on two consecutive nights, but Tennessee Highway Patrol officers still issued written citations.
It is not your typical cast of protesters: 66-year-old Nancy Pi-Sunyer, a retired teacher from Long Island; numerous 8-year-old school children; and a Christian high school dropout in Boaz, Ala., waving a sign that reads, “Do not rob the poor just because you can.” The Occupy Wall Street movement leans left, young and urban, yet one of the defining features of the protests has been its lack of definition.
Like many states and local governments struggling to cut costs, Michigan hopes to replace some government employees with contract workers who will do the same job for less. Ginny Townsend, 41, took a job in January as a nursing assistant in the state-run home for veterans here.
On September 24, 1980, a few weeks before Ronald Reagan was elected president, Alaska Governor Jay Hammond signed into law a bill abolishing his state’s personal income tax. In the past 31 years, no other state has taken that step.
Farm expected to start in 2012 The construction of a solar farm in West Tennessee has been delayed. The West Tennessee Solar Farm in Haywood County is now expected to go online early next year, according to the Memphis Daily News.
First the dot.coms popped, then mortgages. Are student loans and higher education the next bubble, the latest investment craze inflating on borrowed money and misplaced faith it can never go bad? Some experts have raised the possibility.
At the Board of Education office complex off Hollywood, where Memphis City Schools and the Shelby County Schools have coexisted side by side for more than four decades, there is a second-floor walkway connecting the two districts. Staffers are using it, says SCS Supt. John Aitken, for the first time in years if not decades. In the past, the path was completely blocked and used as a storage area, Aitken said.
At 2:30 in the afternoon, it’s been four hours since lunch, and Will Adams, 11, needs more than a snack to get through his day, which ends at 6 p.m. when after-care closes. He and hundreds of other students got a meal ticket upgrade last week when Memphis City Schools rolled out after-school supper in 70 schools — free to students in its after-hours enrichment programs.
As governor of Kentucky, Democrat Steve Beshear has presided over a state with large budget shortfalls and a jobless rate well above the national average. He also appears headed for re-election on Tuesday.
Gov. Bill Haslam is understandably cautious about investing the state’s money in building projects on state university campuses during uncertain economic times. Nevertheless, largely because of these times, a decision about issuing bonds for those projects needs to move to the fast track.
The Republicans running the Tennessee state government these days, for the most part, campaigned for their present positions by reciting the mantra that government should be run more like a business. Actually, some Democrats repeated that mantra, too, back in the days when they ran state government.
It’s been said many times before by those involved in the merger of Memphis and Shelby County schools, but it was good for Memphis City Schools Supt. Kriner Cash to say it again last week. As part of his presentation to the schools merger transition committee, Cash reminded members that the consolidated school system that emerges in 2013 will have to be committed to “educate all the children.”
It would be quite a feat if Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and Memphis tourism officials could lure the annual convocation of the Church of God in Christ back home. Wharton; his chief of staff, Bobby White; Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau president Kevin Kane; and CVB vice president John Oros headed to St. Louis on Friday to try to entice COGIC back to Memphis in 2013.
The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge office received a lot of money from the Recovery Act — about $1.9 billion, all told (of which $1.2 billion stayed in Oak Ridge) — and reportedly saved or created more than 3,000 jobs during the past couple of years. Most of the attention has focused on the big projects, such as the demolition of old and contaminated buildings at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Y-12 National Security Complex and the East Tennessee Technology Park, as well as construction of a new Chemical and Materials Sciences Building at ORNL.
The way the job market is going, it will never be robust enough to bring down the unemployment rate, now at 9 percent, or 13.9 million people. Monthly job growth has slowed to an average of just 90,000 new jobs a month over the past six months, a pace at which growth in the working-age population will always exceed the number of new jobs being created.