This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Tennessee’s sales tax revenues grew 6.5 percent in the first quarter of the budget year, and general fund collections have come in at $57 million above projections. Finance Commissioner Mark Emkes in a release Wednesday called the sales tax growth the “best indicator of economic recovery.”
Tax collections in Tennessee last month offer bright signs for the state’s economy, though the Haslam administration continued to strike a cautious note. Revenue for October was $791.5 million, Commissioner Mark Emkes of the Department of Finance and Administration reported in an announcement today.
Tax collections in Tennessee beat estimates in October and grew for the 16th consecutive month, state officials said Wednesday. The state collected nearly $791.5 million in October, an increase of 8 percent from a year ago.
The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development has received a $3.4 million National Emergency Grant that will help train and reemploy 850 of 1,983 workers that were laid off when Goodyear Tire And Rubber Co. shut down its Union City manufacturing facility. The company announced the facility would be shut down in February and anticipated it would take until the end of the year to end operations.
Public universities, colleges face increases of 3% to 10% Students at the University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, face tuition increases of 5 to 8 percent for the 2012-13 school year under recommendations to be considered today by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. The staff recommendation to the commission also calls for tuition hikes of 3 to 6 percent at the state’s other public universities and community colleges, and 5 to 10 percent at the Tennessee Technology Centers.
The Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs has reversed a decision that halted cremation burials in the East Tennessee Veterans Cemetery on Lyons View Pike. When the state opened its new 70-acre East Tennessee Veterans Cemetery on East John Sevier Highway on Sept. 15, the intention was to continue cremations at the Lyons View facility, known as Lyons View Veterans Cemetery.
State troopers and Metro police officers conducted undercover operations in order to infiltrate Occupy Nashville protesters in the days leading up to the controversial arrests last month, according to records reviewed by The Tennessean. Responding to increasing reports of illegal and lewd behavior among Occupy Nashville protesters, Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers dressed in street clothes and mingled among the crowd, according to the documents. Unmarked vehicles also made regular rounds of the public square above the Legislative Plaza office building, where the protests have taken place every day since early October.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates has obtained emails sent by state officials as they launched two nights of arrests at Occupy Nashville. Perhaps most stunning those emails show concerns that all the manpower put into the arrests could end up causing more deaths on the roads. Those emails — more than 250 messages in all — were released late Wednesday under Tennessee’s public records law.
The state is investigating reports that at least one staff member on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill has been urinated on from above a Legislative Plaza courtyard just a few yards from where dozens of Occupy Nashville members are continuing their protest. A memo has gone out from the director of the Legislative Administration warning staffers to be “aware of their surroundings when in the courtyard area.”
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has served a search warrant seeking information about the operation of the office of Davidson County Clerk John Arriola. WTVF-TV reported Wednesday that investigators are checking whether there has been a “ghost employee” at the office (http://bit.ly/rUlnQ4).
Two Lewis County highway officials have been charged with misconduct and other felonies following a month-long probe by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Lewis County Road Superintendent Ronnie Darnell, 58, of Summertown, was indicted by a county grand jury Monday on five counts of official misconduct, one count of theft over $10,000, two counts of theft over $1,000, one count of theft under $500 and one count of unlawful disposal of hazardous waste, the TBI said.
Head of Consumer Affairs warns against fraud schemes Gary Cordell, director of Consumer Affairs for Tennessee, hopes to hear the phones ring more and see the stack of consumer complaints rise at his office. To him, those are signs that his department’s efforts to educate the public about spotting scams of all kinds are working.
Jim Kyle, the Democrats’ leader in the state Senate and a longtime Shelby County legislator, says he woke up Tuesday morning of last week without a thought about running for another office, but he started getting phone calls urging him to consider a race for district attorney general next year. Bingo!
The vendor providing equipment for Knoxville’s red light camera enforcement program is suing the city because it no longer issues citations for improper right turns on red. American Traffic Solutions Inc., filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Knox County Chancery Court.
Two citizens groups that normally disagree on issues surrounding the city have agreed the county’s proposed redistricting plan for school board zones is not in the community’s best interest. The group known as This is La Vergne was named after a community blog created in 2006.
An earthquake expert said the 2.7 magnitude earthquake that hit Dalton, Ga., Wednesday and a 2.5 tremor in Dyersburg, Tenn., point up a need for further quake research in the East Tennessee Seismic Zone. “At the end of the day, it’s the second-most-active seismic zone in the eastern United States, but we just don’t know a lot about it,” said Gary Patterson, director of education and outreach for the Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Memphis.
But stronger than most plans in public sector A large number of retirements and investment losses caused by the financial crisis have weakened Shelby County’s employee pension fund, said Ed Koebel, an actuary with Cavenaugh Macdonald LLC, a firm with offices near Atlanta. As recently as 2009, there was more money in the plan than it needed to pay what it owed to retirees, Koebel said.
Tennessee’s U.S. senators are cosponsoring a bill that supporters say will solve a national dilemma over online sales tax collection and generate up to $500 million in new tax revenue for the state. In a conference call with reporters this morning, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Republican, discussed the Marketplace Fairness Act he helped develop. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is among the 10 senators, evenly split among Republicans and Democrats, supporting the bill, Alexander said.
Online sales tax bill could bring $400 million to Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander introduced a bill Wednesday that would let states collect sales tax on items sold online, a measure that could bring Tennessee about $400 million next year. Currently, retailers without a physical presence in a state don’t have to charge sales tax on products they sell there.
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators, including Tennessee Republicans Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, introduced a bill Wednesday that allows Tennessee, Georgia and other states to require online retailers to collect sales taxes. “It ends a subsidy for some businesses over others,” Alexander said. “It ends a subsidy for some taxpayers over others.”
The push for a new federal law that would give states the right to collect sales and use taxes on online purchases from out-of-state retailers appears to be gaining momentum. A bipartisan group of 10 U.S. senators, including Tennesseans Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, said Wednesday they are filing legislation that would allow, but would not require, states to collect taxes they are owed on online purchases.
Shoppers who expect to avoid paying sales taxes for online purchases may see those savings disappear if a bill introduced Wednesday by both of Tennessee’s senators becomes law. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, both Republicans, co-sponsored a measure that would require online retailers to begin collecting and remitting state sales taxes.
It may not be long before people in Tennessee have to start paying sales tax on nearly all online purchases, according to Senator Lamar Alexander. He’s co-sponsoring legislation aimed at ending what’s seen as a tax loophole.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander denounced deregulation this week, bucking a conservative colleague’s plan to weaken a key air quality rule. “Pollution makes our Great Smoky Mountains more like the Great Smoggy Mountains,” Alexander said Monday evening on the Senate floor.
Veterans in Middle Tennessee have some of the longest wait times in the nation for a new patient mental health appointment, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Department of Veterans Affairs data. The analysis determined that nearly a third of the nation’s VA hospitals had wait times longer than the agency’s goal of seeing patients in 14 days or less.
Ohio’s repeal of a law restricting collective-bargaining rights is the latest sign that voters in battleground states have a limited appetite for dramatic efforts to reshape government. Tuesday’s voting followed intense struggles over the last year in a number of key states that offer a view of the forces likely to shape the 2012 election.
A major downtown employer apparently is looking for more suburban pastures. The Kimberly-Clark Corp., which owns an office building at the corner of Summit Hill Drive and Locust Street, said Wednesday it is evaluating relocation of those operations to another site in the Knoxville area, which would be “sized appropriately for our employee population.”
One of the biggest construction projects in the state has dramatically changed pace. Hemlock Semi-Conductor in Montgomery County says it’s postponing three of its four phases of building.
The Putnam County Board of Education plans to look into the use of biodiesel fuels for its school buses. According to the Cookeville Herald-Citizen, education officials are reviewing alternatives because of fluctuating fuel costs and tight budgets (http://bit.ly/vfSoA3 ).
Jefferson County, Ala., which owes more than $3 billion on a failed sewer deal, filed Wednesday for what would be the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history after a tentative rescue plan with creditors unraveled. The county, home to Alabama’s biggest city, Birmingham, filed its Chapter 9 petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court less than an hour after county commissioners voted 4-1 to do so.
Tennessee lawmakers have enacted some needed education reforms, including a more rigorous system of evaluating teachers. Among other things, the new system calls for an expanded number of teacher evaluations, based in part on student test scores and other achievement measures and in part on more frequent classroom observations.
Once state officials came to their senses — with the help of a federal judge — and allowed Occupy Nashville to continue its presence in the Legislative Plaza, a curious thing occurred: The free exchange of ideas broke out. The face-to-face discussions held Nov. 3 when the Young Republicans of Vanderbilt University engaged in a counterprotest against Occupy Nashville advocates presented compelling evidence that the curfew and protesting restrictions imposed by the Haslam administration were illegal at worst and counterproductive at best.
Public. Private. We often associate the first word with “government,” the second with “business.” But when it comes to “government business,” the first word should always apply.
Either a Republican victory in next year’s presidential election or an adverse U.S. Supreme Court decision could undermine implementation of the landmark federal health-care law that’s due to take full effect in 2014. But given the long lead-times needed to put in place everything that’s required to make it work, officials can’t afford to wait on these uncertain outcomes before pushing ahead with preparations.
Most people probably agree it is desirable to have medical insurance. Lack of insurance can have costly consequences.