This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Lawmakers have mulled for years whether to restructure gasoline taxes to make up for consumer shifts to fuel-efficient vehicles, but the House Transportation Committee chairman says there’s little desire to tackle that right now. “There’s no political will for a gas tax increase when you’re dealing with gas over $3 a gallon,” said Chairman Phillip Johnson, R-Pegram, adding options could include charging drivers a tax based on their mileage.
Word is finally coming about what new vehicles the General Motors Spring Hill plant will assemble first, when work will begin, and other details of the planned restart of the facility promised by the automaker in its new national contract with the United Auto Workers union. GM and UAW officials from Detroit will announce the plans at 10 a.m. Monday at the facility with plant workers and government leaders on hand.
General Motors has scheduled a press conference for 10 a.m. Monday at its Spring Hill manufacturing plant where company officials are expected to announce what type of new vehicle will be built there and as well as when workers will be called back to the assembly lines. “It’s going to be a positive announcement for the Middle Tennessee area, that’s all we can say at this point, “said Mike Herron, bargaining chairman of the United Auto Workers Local 1853.
Tennessee’s education commissioner says it’s unjustified for critics of the new teacher evaluation system to suggest the department is favoring principals’ feedback over teachers’. “I actually don’t think that’s fair. We’ve actually talked to thousands of teachers across the state,” Commissioner Kevin Huffman said Wednesday after speaking before a legislative committee about the evaluations.
Tennessee’s newest driving trail is the Tanasi. Starting in Chattanooga, the trail winds through six counties chock-full of history, scenery and attractions. Tennessee Tourism Development Commissioner Susan Whitaker and local government leaders from the region launched the trail Thursday. Named for the Cherokee word that eventually became the state name, it is one of 16 driving trails in Tennessee.
Tennessee’s unemployment rate fell slightly in October, dropping to 9.6 percent from a reported 9.8 percent in September, according to a report released today by the state Commission of Labor & Workforce Development. “The drop in the unemployment rate from September to October is attributable to an increase in employment and fewer people looking for jobs,” Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner Karla Davis said.
Tennessee’s October unemployment rate of 9.6 percent dropped slightly from the previous month. The September rate was 9.8 percent.
The state is offering energy management workshops for K-12 schools in the next few weeks in Jackson, Knoxville and Murfreesboro. The free workshops by the energy division of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development are titled “Energy Management + Energy Education (equals) Energy Savings.”
Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan has recommended Brian Noland to be the ninth president of East Tennessee State University. The board is scheduled to vote on Morgan’s recommendation on Monday.
Brian Noland is expected to be named the ninth president to lead East Tennessee State University pending approval by the Tennessee Board of Regents on Monday. The Board will meet via telephone at 1:30 p.m. CST on Monday, Nov. 21, to consider TBR Chancellor John Morgan’s recommendation for Noland to replace Paul Stanton, who will retire from ETSU on Jan. 14 after leading the campus for some 15 years.
Brian Noland is expected to be the next president of East Tennessee State University, provided the Tennessee Board of Regents approves him in a vote scheduled for Monday. If the Board approves him in a 2:30 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time) telephone meeting Monday, Noland will succeed Dr. Paul E. Stanton Jr. as the ninth president of the school.
While Occupy Wall Street camps across the country are being evicted, Nashville protesters are staying put, at least for the time being. On Thursday, federal judge Aleta Trauger signed an order for a preliminary injunction barring the state from enforcing a hastily drawn-up curfew policy that was used to briefly dislodge the encampment.
Federal Judge Aleta Trauger Thursday signed an order extending the Oct. 31 temporary order prohibiting the state from enforcing a curfew policy that targeted Occupy Nashville protesters’ use of the War Memorial Plaza. On Wednesday, attorneys for both sides presented the court with a proposed order converting the temporary restraining order to a preliminary injunction at least until further court action.
Injunction bars the state from enforcing curfew A federal judge on Thursday signed an order indefinitely barring the state from enforcing a curfew on Legislative Plaza, in the War Memorial courtyards and around the Capitol. David Briley, one of three attorneys representing Occupy Nashville, called Thursday’s action a victory for the protesters.
Occupy Nashville protesters will likely be able to keep camping at the state legislature through the end of the year, thanks to an agreement in federal court today. That’s in sharp contrast to other cities, where this week hundreds of occupiers have been arrested and numerous encampments evicted.
Occupy Memphis protesters rally in opposition to police violence among other metro encampments Occupy Wall Street supporters in Memphis held a demonstration rally Tuesday to show support for protesters in many other U.S. cities where police actions have turned violent. According to group members, Occupy Memphis takes much of their symbolism and instruction from the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and is a nonviolent movement.
Occupy Memphis member Mallory Pope had just finished telling a group of about 75 tea party followers Thursday night that politicians should not allow themselves to be influenced by lobbyists and unions when she received an unexpected invitation. “It sounds to me that y’all ought to be joining us,” said Jerry Rains, a 64-year-old computer programmer and tea party member.
Thousands of people massed near Wall Street and marched elsewhere in Manhattan to mark the Occupy Wall Street movement’s two-month anniversary Thursday, blocking streets and resulting in scores of arrests and more than a dozen injuries, as similar protests arose around the country. In Los Angeles, hundreds of people marched in the financial district downtown, resulting in 27 arrests.
A local Tea Party takeover attempt could be a portent of things to come in 2012. With the 2012 election cycle approaching, and with much local attention focused of late on the generally left-of-center Occupy Memphis effort, how active is the right-leaning Tea Party in Shelby County politics?
Bacteria can outsmart drugs when overused Too many people in Tennessee are asking for antibiotics and too many doctors are prescribing them — a practice that renders once-powerful drugs ineffective against infections, according to a recently released study. Tennessee ranks third — behind West Virginia and Kentucky — for retail pharmacy sales of antibiotics, according to the Extending the Cure project, which aims to curtail their use and stem the spread of drug-resistant bacteria.
Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield’s detractors have won the latest round in their long-running bid for a recall election. The Hamilton County Election Commission voted Thursday to certify recall petition signatures that have been the subject of a court fight.
Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield was formally recalled Thursday when the Hamilton County Election Commission accepted a long-disputed recall petition and set a mayoral election for August 2012. “This was a microcosm of open government here today,” Jim Folkner, one of the original supporters of the recall movement, said.
City Council members are busy trying to make sense of city charter language that contradicts how and when to remove Chattanooga’s now-recalled mayor. Richard Beeland, media relations director for Mayor Ron Littlefield, said the city charter’s conflicting language is part of the legal complexities that surround the recall effort.
Most of Tennessee’s House delegation will vote for a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution today, saying the measure is key to reining in the country’s $15 trillion debt. All of the state’s House members except Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis have signed on as co-sponsors of the amendment, which would forbid the federal government from spending more than it raises in revenue in any fiscal year unless three-fifths of the members of each chamber of Congress vote for an override.
After 10 years of working alongside Sen. Lamar Alexander, current Chief of Staff Matt Sonnesyn will be stepping down from his post “to pursue private interests.” Sonnesyn also served as policy director for Sen. Bob Corker’s 2006 senate campaign. In a news release, Alexander thanked Sonnesyn for his service.
State Sen. Eric Stewart announced Thursday that he is running for the 4th Congressional District, taking on first-term incumbent Rep. Scott DesJarlais. Stewart, a Democrat who has represented the 14th Senate district since 2009, said there is widespread dissatisfaction with DesJarlais, a Republican physician with no prior political experience who pulled off a surprising win last November over Democratic Rep. Lincoln Davis.
Calling Congress “broken” and in need of repair, state Sen. Eric Stewart of Franklin County said Thursday he is running for the Democratic nomination in Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District. Stewart, D-Belvidere, promised in a news release to set partisanship aside and work to protect the nation’s “commitment to seniors” as well as create jobs to revive the economy and reduce the federal deficit.
State Sen. Eric Stewart announced today that he will run to represent Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, pledging to put partisanship aside and protect the nation’s commitment to seniors, create jobs to revive the economy and reduce the massive deficit. “Congress is broken and all we see is fighting, political posturing and gridlock from the folks we sent there to work on our behalf and solve the serious problems we face,” said Stewart, a Belvidere Democrat.
A Democrat in Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District announced today he’d take on Republican freshman Scott DesJarlais, who was elected to Congress last year. DesJarlais surprised many political watchers when he upset incumbent Lincoln Davis of Pall Mall, a popular and conservative Democrat who had served four terms.
House and Senate lawmakers approved legislation Thursday that would end the latest threat of a government shutdown, passing a measure that also set in place the fiscal 2012 budgets for several agencies. The bill goes now to President Barack Obama, who must sign it into law before midnight on Friday, when the measure currently funding government operations expires.
Employers in 20 states will have to shell out more in taxes next year as a penalty for the states not paying back federal loans that kept unemployment programs afloat during the recession. Altogether, states still owe $37.6 billion to the feds that they borrowed when their unemployment insurance trust funds sank to zero.
The Tennessee Valley Authority board voted Thursday to freeze executive pay for a second straight fiscal year, including President and CEO Tom Kilgore’s base salary and incentives in an annual compensation package that will again exceed $3.5 million. Kilgore is among the highest paid federal employees in the U.S., but members said he is not among the highest paid CEOs of major utilities.
TVA President and CEO Tom Kilgore, in reporting TVA performance to the Tennessee Valley Authority board members Thursday, gave what he called a failing grade to the utility’s nuclear group. “I gave it a D. We did not make our original construction and startup timetable dates for Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, and that’s unacceptable,” he said. Thursday’s board meeting was the last one of 2011, and Kilgore’s report on the year’s accomplishments included his grading of TVA performance toward reaching goals set earlier this year and in 2010.
The City Council will consider an agreement brokered by the administration giving two prominent developers a $300,000 credit on their share of Veterans Parkway construction. The decision will come several weeks after city officials reached an agreement with developers Mel Adams and Bob Parks of Adams and Parks Land Holding LLC for early payment on $1.57 million the partnership owed toward Veterans Parkway, which cut through the back side of their development, Marymont Springs.
A Minnesota company wants to establish in Memphis a smaller version of now-closed Cleo gift-wrap operation, and employ 25 people. Impact Innovations will seek a seven-year tax break when the EDGE board meets at 3 p.m. Monday at Boyle Investment Company, 5900 Poplar, according to documents filed with EDGE.
IDEXX Laboratories completes $13.5M expansion IDEXX Laboratories Inc. has completed a $13.5 million expansion of its Memphis reference laboratory and distribution center at 6100 E. Shelby Drive. The Maine-based company on Wednesday, Nov. 16, welcomed a crowd that included local politicians, community and economic development leaders, clients and suppliers to an open house featuring both Memphis soul music and lobster stew made from 26 pounds of fresh lobster flown in from Maine for the occasion.
The entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Knoxville area is still evolving, but many of the essential elements for success are already in place, according to a panel of business experts at the Entrepreneurial Imperative Conference held at the downtown Crowne Plaza hotel earlier this week. Amy Nolan, editor and publisher of the Greater Knoxville Business Journal, moderated the discussion and asked the four-member panel if Knoxville has what it takes to become a center of entrepreneurial excellence.
Charters, state likely to divert hundreds of pupils The quiet undercurrent in the school consolidation effort is the possibility that hundreds of students in the poorest performing schools in Memphis won’t initially be part of the merged district. Hundreds more enrolled in charter schools also won’t be in the mix, nor presumably will the hundreds of others that charter school operators plan to recruit for schools opening in two to three years.
Cyberschools, the fastest-growing alternative to K-12 public education, are almost totally unregulated and in immediate need of oversight, according to research from the University of Colorado. More than 30 percent of the nation’s 16 million high school students have taken at least one online class — Memphis City Schools now requires it for graduation.
Bradley County commissioners reviewed long-range plans for funding $38 million in capital projects in a Wednesday evening meeting with county and city school officials. The current proposal calls for more taxes, one way or another, but the school systems may not receive the funding until 2014.
Officials at the Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences and from the Hamilton County Department of Education are scrutinizing the events surrounding a fight at the magnet school that resulted in 14 students being suspended. The fight between two high schoolers broke out in the parking lot of the school last Friday afternoon, according to Robert Sharpe, assistant superintendent of secondary education for the school system.
The groundbreaking for a new school in Greenback on Saturday will mark the construction of the first new school in Loudon County in 27 years, but for those who fought a six-year battle to fund the new building, the event means a lot more. For Greenback parent and school board member Lisa Russell, it’s verification from the people of Loudon County that their children deserve safe and up-to-date educational facilities.
The Jackson-Madison County School Board voted 6-2 to reject a charter school application for Connections Preparatory Academy during a called meeting held Thursday night. Board members Bob Alvey, Maria Mitchell, George Neely, Bill Baxter, Rebecca Gordon and chairman David Clifft voted in favor of rejecting the application while members Carol Carter-Estes and Joe Mays were against the motion.
This week’s testimony in Congress by a couple from Murfreesboro, Tenn., probably won’t help get the state’s new voter identification law repealed. Lee and Phyllis Campbell did manage, however, to show what effect the new law could have on future elections: fewer voters.
We recently celebrated Veterans Day with various community events and services to express our thanks to those who have served, fought and died for our country over the years. They indeed are many, and unfortunately the brutality of war leaves scars — mentally, physically and emotionally — that require years of treatment following those tours of duty and time in uniform.
Knox County commissioners are moving forward with a proposal to regulate where so-called “pill mills” — clinics that operate in the shadows of legality and dispense pain medication as their sole business — can set up shop. Commissioners should approve the zoning changes, and their counterparts on the Knoxville City Council ought to follow suit.
Once again, the American people have made known their displeasure with ObamaCare socialized medicine, which Democrats pushed through Congress last year with zero Republican support. Only 42 percent of Americans surveyed by Gallup want ObamaCare to remain in place, while 47 percent said they want the law repealed. Majorities of Republicans and independents alike favor repeal of the law; only Democrats want to keep it.
With neighborhood post offices long having been something of an institution in the United States, it is painful to see the dire financial woes that the U.S. Postal Service is now suffering. The Postal Service reported recently that it lost more than $5 billion during the fiscal year that ended in September.