This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
State officials recently kicked off a meth awareness campaign and have distributed an educational DVD to public middle and high schools across the state through an ongoing partnership between the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference and the Tennessee Department of Education, according to a news release. The initiative is an extension of the Meth Destroys campaign and follows a successful effort by the district attorneys earlier this year to pass legislation increasing penalties for producing meth in the presence of a child.
Time is of such essence at Cornerstone Prep, one of two Memphis nonprofit organizations approved to turn city schools into charter schools, that first-grade teacher Ali Hill wears a stopwatch to count seconds in the most mundane times. “Let’s see if you can turn these spelling tests in 20 seconds,” says Hill, a 20-something drill sergeant in Oxford blouse and pencil skirt, punching down the stem on the stopwatch.
In cities across the country, police are rousting Occupy Wall Street encampments. But Gov. Bill Haslam appears to have all but surrendered — at least for now — to Nashville’s version of the nationwide protest against corporate greed and wealth inequality. Last week, at the governor’s request, prosecutors dropped trespassing citations against 49 protesters who were arrested last month in Haslam’s failed attempt to clear Legislative Plaza.
Over the years, the city of Knoxville has acquired, mostly by gift, trade or lease, ownership or control of about 112 acres — more than half — of the land that Lakeshore Mental Health Institute has called home since its beginning more than a century ago. The future of the remaining state-owned portion and the city’s chances of being given any of it are unclear, following last week’s announcement that the Tennessee Department of Mental Health plans to close Lakeshore.
On page 10 of his recent budget presentation to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Doug Varney spelled out his intentions in big black letters: “Phase 2: System Transformation.” Varney, a former mental health services insider, is after major change moving toward his second year as the state’s mental health commissioner.
The funding mechanism that rescued TennCare is in the deficit reduction crosshairs, creating a billion-dollar worry for Tennessee hospitals that could turn into real health-care woes for the state’s poorest residents. “I just can’t imagine that the state of Tennessee or the federal government would want to see the health-care safety net eviscerated,” said Dr. Jeff Balser, the dean of the School of Medicine at Vanderbilt University.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency knows about a state audit that shows public disaster recovery money is getting paid slowly but a spokesman said there are three public assistance employees and the agency is working as fast as it can. The performance audit by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office said TEMA takes an average of three months, sometimes longer, to repay local costs for cleanup and repair of public property after a disaster.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is almost finished with its investigation into two state representatives accused of misconduct in a case involving three disciplined nurses, according to a spokeswoman for the law enforcement agency. Once the investigation is completed, it will be turned over to District Attorney Torry Johnson, who earlier this year requested the TBI look into the dealings of Reps. Tony Shipley and Dale Ford and the Department of Health.
Officials in Memphis want to make Elvis Presley Boulevard more attractive. The city has applied for a federal grant that would help fund $20 million worth of improvements along 1.6 miles of the street, The Commercial Appeal reported (http://bit.ly/t0MjiY).
The Savannah-Hardin County Airport is expanding with two new hangars and other improvements. According to a news release from USDA Rural Development, this now means Hardin County has the facilities and personnel to provide emergency medical transportation to regional medical and trauma centers.
Potential tuition increase could offset loss in state funding MTSU is making preliminary plans for a 5 percent budget reduction in state funding with Tennessee leaders calling for overall cutbacks, President Sidney McPhee said. Tennessee Higher Education Commission officials told the governor’s office last week that $55 million in higher education cuts are under consideration.
A local community college has purchased several new Internet addresses geared toward pornographic websites. But don’t expect to find adult content at columbiastate.xxx. It’s a strategic move made to defend the college’s academic reputation, said Emily Siciensky, associate vice president of information technology for Columbia State Community College.
With family behind her and constituents before her, Becky Duncan Massey took the oath of office as a state senator Sunday. Massey’s uncle, retired Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Joe D. Duncan, swore her in before a crowd of some 100 people inside the auditorium of Central High School on Jacksboro Pike in Knoxville.
Republican lawmakers and local officials aren’t rebuking or criticizing GOP state Rep. Rick Womick for saying Muslims shouldn’t be allowed in the U.S. military, but Democrats have strong words for his controversial remarks. “He’s way over the top,” state Rep. Mike Turner, chairman of the Democratic Party Caucus in the Tennessee House of Representatives, said Friday.
The Sullivan County Commission is expected today to take up the issue of reapportionment of commission districts. The county, like others across Tennessee, is under a state mandate to complete a once-every-10-years reapportionment, based on the 2010 census, by January. Mayor Steve Godsey formed a committee several months ago to develop recommendations.
Wall Street protesters in Nashville say they’re preparing for an indefinite stay at the Legislative Plaza as the state comes up with new rules for the grounds surrounding the state Capitol. On Thursday, a federal judge 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 across the street from the Capitol.
On a recent Friday afternoon, a brown-haired toddler was wobbling around Market Square with her father in tow. Matt Cummings was downtown for the Nov. 11 Occupy Knoxville protest and said his participation was motivated by “the common struggle against the political and social corruption within the country, and being a voice against that through unity.”
Tolls along the Eastern seaboard are going up so much, says Darrin Roth, that in four years, a semitrailer making the four-hour trip from Baltimore to New York City could pay as much as $209.25. The price of tolls, in other words, will be more expensive than paying for the driver and fuel.
Efforts to rein in health care costs are putting pressure on doctors to abandon outmoded or unnecessary practices and choose less expensive treatments, actions cost-control advocates say also can improve care. Health care systems, insurers and government agencies are using sophisticated data to identify doctors and hospitals operating outside medical norms.
Facing potential layoffs, Pilgrim Screw Corp. in September directed 11 of its 65 employees to cut their workweeks by one day. The move meant nobody at the small manufacturer lost jobs, while those with fewer hours now get a check from Rhode Island representing one-fifth of what they would make under full-fledged unemployment insurance.
Schools with highest student growth scores recognized Rutherford County Schools began a new tradition last week of honoring schools that have the highest schoolwide student growth scores during spring testing. The state Department of Education adopted a more rigorous annual Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, which tests students in grades 3-8 each spring, for the 2009-10 school year.
Before the school day begins, Brandon Munoz is already in the library. The Goodlettsville Middle School sixth-grader is averaging about 20 books a week. His favorites are graphic novels such as the Bone series, or popular fiction titles such as Diary of the Wimpy Kid or Darth Paper Strikes Back.
Within an hour after services at Overflow Church, chairs had been folded, the sound system disconnected and the curtains pulled down — the space slowly turning back into the gymnasium at Dogwood Elementary. Since August, the congregation has been renting the gymnasium space at the school to hold its services on Sunday mornings.
Local school officials announced that a neighborhood school would move further south. Fearing the loss, outraged parents and community leaders decided to take control of their beloved school system.
Seven people were arrested in two methamphetamine busts in Stewart County. Three men and two women were arrested at 9:40 p.m. Friday at 329 Bazzie Dock Rd. outside Dover. “It was an extremely dangerous lab,” said Agent Jamie Crow of the 23rd Judicial District Task Force.
High schools have displayed advertisements on football fields for years, but one metro Atlanta school district hopes to slap the logos of major national companies on cafeteria trays, auditorium seat backs and salad bar sneeze guards to bring in money. The proposal before the Douglas County school board would mean the district’s 37 schools could sell ad space pretty much anywhere in the building that’s not a classroom.
With Tennessee lawmakers sensibly having approved a bill to head off voter fraud by requiring photo ID at polling places, the state is also taking steps to reduce the possibility that a legitimate voter will be unable to cast a ballot. Recently, for example, the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security began opening nearly 20 driver service centers across the state one Saturday a month to smooth the path further for voters who need a state-issued photo ID.
The city elections have been over for a couple of weeks. We are safe from out-of-area and local phone calls advocating for one candidate or another; the mail is less bulky without the political ads; television commercials have returned to the usual products.
I have lived almost all of my 57 years in Murfreesboro. My mother’s family goes back five generations in Rutherford County. I attended Campus School, Central High School, MTSU and am a Vanderbilt University Law School-educated attorney engaged in private practice in Murfreesboro.
Memphis International Airport and Greater Memphis benefit from having Delta Air Lines as the airport’s major passenger carrier. That’s a fact, despite the higher airfares and the steady reduction of flights and destinations from here.
The Internet provides access to vast amounts of knowledge and information. New technology terms are part of everyday vernacular: apps, blogs and “cookies.”
There is no way to wrestle down the deficit without reining in Medicare costs. Ensuring that the program provides quality health care coverage to millions of older and disabled Americans is essential.
The First Amendment does not protect behavior that threatens health and safety. Last week, the New York City Police Department’s First Precinct issued the latest crime statistics.