This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
State officials say Sprint is moving its call center operations to Blountville, Tenn. The move will bring more than 600 jobs to Tennessee and represents a multimillion dollar investment in the state.
Eleven states applied for waivers exempting them from key provisions of the No Child Left Behind law by the federal government’s first deadline, promising in return to adopt higher standards and carry out other elements of the Obama administration’s school improvement agenda, the Department of Education said on Tuesday. Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee asked the department for relief from some No Child provisions, including the requirement that all students be proficient in English and math by 2014.
Hours before Tennessee submitted its final application to be granted a waiver from educational standards put in place by No Child Left Behind, Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said he was confident the state was well positioned among its peers to be approved for exemption from the decade-old program. The road to Monday’s application submission has been five months in the making.
The US Education Department said Tennessee is one of 11 states that has sought a waiver for the unpopular proficiency requirements in the No Child Left Behind law. The deadline for the first round of applications was on Monday.
Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday the state has no immediate plans to shut down Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute in Chattanooga as part of the state’s new “patient care transformation” initiative. “There’s nothing anticipated at all at this point in time,” Haslam said.
Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday he hopes to avoid the highest range of tuition hikes proposed by Tennessee public higher education officials for next year — 8 percent at the University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville — but said there will be some tuition increase. The chief executives of the state Board of Regents system, the UT system and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission delivered their budget requests for the 2012-13 school year to the governor and his finance staff.
At state budget hearings Tuesday, the Department of Mental Health explained to Governor Bill Haslam their reasons for recommending the closing of the Lakeshore Mental Health Institute in Knoxville. Last week, state officials proposed the closure of Lakeshore by June 2012, in an effort to reduce dependence on state institutes by shifting resources to in-patient and out-patient providers in communities.
In Tuesday’s budget presentation to the state Legislature, Department of Mental Health Commissioner Doug Varney made a case for closing Lakeshore Mental Health Institute in 2012 and contracting with private providers — because it costs less, he said, but also because “it’s morally the right thing.” The state spends $152 million annually to treat 10,000 people admitted to its five state institutes, Varney said, when the same amount spent in community-based programs could treat 250,000.
The state’s Department of Mental Health is using continued budget pressure as justification for restructuring the agency. The plan moves away from state-run psychiatric institutions, and the first to go is in Knoxville. The facility slated to close next year has fewer than 90 patients.
Governor Bill Haslam is asking agencies to consider the effects of a five percent cut to their budgets. The Department of Correction would close prisons and reduce capacity by more than 1,300.
The fate of about $242 million in federal dollars that the state health department depends upon could be in jeopardy if a special deficit committee in Washington proposes drastic cuts, the agency’s chief said Tuesday. Tennessee Health Department Commissioner John Dreyzehner gave the news to Gov. Bill Haslam and top members of his Cabinet during a series of budget hearings.
The state Health Department faces as much as $40 million in state funding cuts next year, which sharply could curtail services offered by dozens of primary health care centers for low-income Tennesseans. But Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner told Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday that his main fear is an even worse scenario.
Last year the state legislature approved a new funding scheme for higher education meant to reward schools that move students efficiently toward a degree. Now state-run schools are asking for the reward money, even as they’re supposed to propose cuts to their own budgets.
State budget hearings continued Tuesday on Capitol Hill with lots of talk about closing prisons, cutting programs and even raising tuition to state universities. Higher Education leaders met with Governor Bill Haslam late Tuesday afternoon.
The days of state lawmakers being unwilling to support a fuel tax increase to pay for needed transportation projects could soon be history. Officials in multiple states are deciding whether to wade into territory that has been unchartered for several years.
Officials have announced the 12th of 16 self-guided driving trails in the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program. It is the Tanasi Trail featuring 125 tourism sites in Bradley, Hamilton, Loudon, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe and Polk counties.
The number of uninsured children in Tennessee has declined compared to last year, while the number of adults without insurance has remained the same, according to a University of Tennessee, Knoxville, study released today. Increased enrollment in TennCare, the state’s medical assistance program for low-income children, parents, pregnant women, and elderly and disabled adults, and CoverKids, a program that provides low-cost, comprehensive health coverage for children eighteen and younger, are possible reasons for this decrease, according to the study.
LEAD Academy, a charter organization with an already-growing presence in Nashville, is one of three operators a new Tennessee Department of Education entity has hired to convert a traditional school to charter school as part of the state’s effort to turn around failing schools. The state’s newly formed Achievement School District –– modeled after the Louisiana Recovery School District and comprised of the lowest-performing schools across the state –– announced Wednesday LEAD has been selected to transform a Nashville middle school into a charter, similar to the way the same charter organization recently gradually “phased in” Metro’s Cameron Middle School to a privately operated charter called Cameron College Prep. Besides Cameron, LEAD also operates a middle and high school, and is planning to open a new middle and high school in Southeast Davidson County.
LEAD Academy charter school in Nashville will take over another failing Metro Nashville public middle school next fall, state officials announced this week. An announcement will be made in January about which Metro middle school will be taken over.
Tennessee Department of Education is ready to change three struggling schools into charters. Two will be in Memphis, the other in Nashville. The schools themselves have not been named, but the groups that will lead them have been chosen.
The commissions that nominate, evaluate and discipline Tennessee’s judges were all scrutinized at a legislative hearing Tuesday that set the stage for an expected fight next year over the future of the state’s judiciary. The Government Operations Joint Subcommittee on Judiciary and Government met Tuesday to discuss whether to retain the Court of the Judiciary, the Judicial Nominating Commission and the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission, or let them expire.
While there’s been much speculation about who did or didn’t report suspected child sexual abuse at the hands of a former Penn State University coach, the law in Tennessee is clear about that legal responsibility. The bottom line is that everyone has the responsibility to report suspected child abuse.
Overbrook School students gave Tennessee first lady Crissy Haslam 2,711 books last week to stock her statewide READ 20 program, which spreads the message to read daily for at least 20 minutes. The first lady has been visiting schools throughout the state to collect books for low-income students without books in their homes.
Request says cash will go to ‘one of the most efficient, money-on-the-target PACs’ in state . The political action committee formed in 2003 by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey is on a fundraising drive that promises your donation will get access to key members of the Tennessee State Senate.
The Tennessee Voters Assistance Coalition evolved to develop strategies to address a new state law requiring state-approved photo IDs to vote, while helping voters comply with that law. “We are a group of volunteers who are contributing our own money and our own time to help provide voter education and assist voters who need photo IDs,” state Rep. Joanne Favors, a Chattanooga Democrat and co-founder of the group, said Monday during a JFK Club luncheon.
After not having a meeting in October due to a lack of agenda items, there was no lack of agenda items during the Dyer County Commission’s meeting on Monday evening. The commissioners held their regular meeting to decide among other things on a redistricting plan to submit to the state of Tennessee before Dec. 31 of this year.
A flood of support for Wall Street protesters poured in after Gov. Bill Haslam imposed a curfew that led to the arrests of 55 people in Nashville, according to public records obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday. Of nearly 400 emails sent to the Republican governor’s office, only 11 supported his actions.
Anti-Wall Street protesters in Nashville woke up in soggy tents Tuesday morning to news that encampments from New York to Portland did not have such a peaceful night. Occupiers in Nashville are somewhat protected from arrests by a temporary restraining order that expires next week.
Hamilton County commissioners likely will take steps today to deal with the Occupy Chattanooga tent city that popped up last week on the courthouse lawn. Commission Chairman Larry Henry said County Attorney Rheubin Taylor is drafting a resolution that will allow a commission representative to coordinate with Sheriff Jim Hammond to take whatever actions are legally allowable to deal with protesters camping on the lawn.
Hamilton County commissioners are set to discuss a resolution tomorrow giving the sheriff’s department authority to deal with Occupy Chattanooga members that have camped on the courthouse lawn since last Wednesday. Commission Chairman Larry Henry said the county doesn’t want to violate the protestors’ First Amendment rights, but he fears setting a precedent will allow squatters to make a home on the courthouse lawn.
On Tuesday, the 30th day of its encampment at Civic Center Plaza, Occupy Memphis rallied in the dark to protest the pre-dawn eviction of Occupy Wall Street from Zuccotti Park in New York. Hundreds of New York police officers, outfitted in riot gear, removed hundreds of protesters early Tuesday morning, using batons and plastic shields.
Fifty-seven members, or roughly 11 percent, of Congress can count themselves among the top 1 percent of wealth, with an estimated net worth of $9 million, according to a USA TODAY analysis of personal financial disclosures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Sen. Bob Corker led the Tennessee delegates with an estimated net worth of more than $59 million. Tennessee Rep. Diane Black came next with an estimated net worth of $31 million, followed by Rep. Jim Cooper at an estimated $26 million and Sen. Lamar Alexander at an estimated $22 million.
Congressional challenger Weston Wamp announced his first fundraiser Tuesday, escalating a financial operation that includes 12 people who have already donated $23,000 to re-elect his opponent, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn. “There are a lot of people who maybe wrote a check to the incumbent,” Wamp, 24, said.
Cuts to Georgia’s HOPE scholarship nearly put a dent in Shondra Chester’s plan to return to school this fall for a bachelor’s degree. The 35-year-old single mother of two hopes that completing her degree in business administration at Mercer University in Macon will help her advance in her career working for the Secretary of State and serve as an inspiration for her two sons, particularly 14-year-old William, who wants to be an engineer.
The portion of American families living in middle-income neighborhoods has declined significantly since 1970, according to a new study, as rising income inequality left a growing share of families in neighborhoods that are mostly low-income or mostly affluent. The study, conducted by Stanford University and scheduled for release on Wednesday by the Russell Sage Foundation and Brown University, uses census data to examine family income at the neighborhood level in the country’s 117 biggest metropolitan areas.
Pharmacy Data Show a Big Rise in Antipsychotic and Adult ADHD Treatments The medicating of Americans for mental illnesses continued to grow over the past decade, with one in five adults now taking at least one psychiatric drug such as antidepressants, antipsychotics and anti-anxiety medications, according to an analysis of pharmacy-claims data. Among the most striking findings was a big increase in the use of powerful antipsychotic drugs across all ages, as well as growth in adult use of drugs for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder—a condition typically diagnosed in childhood.
Electricity-generating power plants in Tennessee and elsewhere put a burden on freshwater rivers, streams and underground waters that could only grow worse as droughts hit and populations increase, according to a report released Tuesday. “Our analysis revealed that coal-fired and nuclear power plants are stressing watersheds in the Southeast — including the Emory River in Tennessee — by using vast amounts of local water for cooling purposes,” said lead researcher Kristen Averyt of the Western Water Assessment at the University of Colorado-Boulder.
Farragut for the second time has been named the Most Business-Friendly City in Tennessee by the Beacon Center of Tennessee in the free market think tank’s annual ranking of the state’s 50 most populous cities. Farragut is the first city to receive the top ranking twice, having first been awarded the title in the Beacon Center’s inaugural rankings in 2006.
Titan Tire Corp. has released some details about its recent acquisition of the former Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. plant in Union City, Tenn., but will not decide on definitive plans for the facility until mid-2012. The Quincy, Ill.-based company invested close to $9 million in the 2.1 million-square-foot building, which sits on 480 acres.
Titan Tire Corporation officials appear to be in no hurry to release information concerning the company’s acquisition of the local Goodyear tire plant. Meanwhile, economic development officials at the local, regional and state levels continue to patiently wait to hear about the company’s plans for the former tire plant.
The new owner of the closed Goodyear plant in Union City said Tuesday that it bought the factory and its assets for $9 million. Titan Tire Corp. posted a statement on its website Tuesday saying that it has not yet decided how it plans to use the 2.1 million-square-foot plant located on 480 acres of land other than to warehouse farm and off-road tires.
Silicon Ranch, the solar venture tied to former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen and his economic development team, has begun work on what it says will be the state’s largest privately owned solar installation. The $5 million, 1.4 megawatt solar power plant in Pulaski will ultimately be part of a larger Pulaski Energy Park, according to a statement from the company.
Silicon Ranch, a solar startup launched by former Gov. Phil Bredesen and two of his top commissioners, is building the state’s largest privately owned solar farm in Pulaski, Tenn., the company said Tuesday. The 1.4 megawatt ground-based solar project will be part of a larger 25-acre campus called the “Pulaski Energy Park” to include administrative, classroom and other facilities.
The majority of Tennessean voters surveyed by a Vanderbilt University poll think teachers in the state are both underpaid and should be represented by unions. The university’s Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions polled 1,423 people between Oct. 28 and Nov. 5 to find that 71 percent believed teachers were underpaid.
Teachers fear effect on their evaluations Tennessee’s new teacher evaluation system has hit an unexpected snag. With teacher tenure and job retention riding on a top score, Williamson County is banning student teachers from working in core subjects in high school and suggesting individual principals not allow them in grades 3-8.
Ex-SCS board leader says unified ‘subdistricts’ possible Instead of one massive school district as some parents fear, school board member David Pickler suggested Tuesday night that the new unified Memphis and Shelby County schools “could have many smaller subdistricts.” “However we do it,” Pickler said, “we’ve got to do it right. Failure is not an option.”
A charter school operator and a private Memphis school got state approval Tuesday to set up shop in inner-city Memphis schools where student achievement has fallen short. By fall 2012, Memphis-based Gestalt Community Schools — which has run the Power Center Academy charter in Hickory Hill since 2008 — and private Cornerstone Prep in Binghamton will take over two unnamed Memphis city schools, starting with a grade or two and building until the private operators are running the whole school.
Government leaders throughout the five-county Knoxville Metropolitan Statistical Area are seeking help in charting a course for the community’s future through a process called Plan East Tennessee. Also known as PlanET, the effort aims to rely on citizen involvement to create a map for the future for Knox, Union, Anderson, Loudon and Blount counties.
New district plan in the works: With a better alternative available, the County Commission advances a proposal that lacks improvement. The Shelby County Commission is moving toward the adoption of a redistricting plan that essentially mirrors the current setup.
We’re waiting for someone in Tennessee’s Republican Party to rebuke state Rep. Rick Womick for attacking Muslims who would dare serve in the U.S. military. Five days after the Rockvale Republican told a reporter he doesn’t trust Muslims to serve in the military — because if they are “devout” they are “commanded to kill” him, he said — not one member of the Rutherford County legislative delegation, the House or Senate leaders has said a word to reject his statements.
An error in judgment was corrected this week when criminal trespass charges against 50 Occupy Nashville protesters were dropped. State officials were understandably concerned about safety and sanitary conditions at War Memorial Plaza.
Several cities around the United States have finally started dealing with the disorderliness and the health and safety hazards created by some of the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters and their affiliates. A handful of local protesters connected with the movement have fortunately not engaged in the kind of reckless behavior we have seen elsewhere, but it has become obvious that some cities needed to deal with disorderly demonstrations.
The Supreme Court’s decision Monday to review the constitutionality of the 2010 health care reform act, and its linchpin mandate requiring most Americans to purchase health insurance, puts in motion a trial of one of the nation’s most heavily freighted political controversies in decades, and will do so amid a heated presidential election. Whether that’s fair or good for the nation remains to be seen.
A huge decision on the future of U.S. health care — and on health care costs — is ahead. The decision will be made not by patients, doctors and insurers, but by the U.S. Supreme Court, which plans to consider a challenge to ObamaCare. It is entirely uncertain how the court will rule, after lower federal courts have issued split rulings.
Even if ObamaCare survives Supreme Court scrutiny next spring, its trials will be far from over. That’s because the law has a major glitch that threatens its basic functioning.