November 29 TN News Digest

This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.

Haslam has ‘firm hope’ to avoid 5 percent TennCare cut (Associated Press/Schelzig)

TennCare officials on Monday again proposed eliminating counseling services to hospice patients and their families if the state’s expanded Medicaid has to reduce spending by 5 percent, though Gov. Bill Haslam stressed that it’s his “firm hope” that the deepest cuts can be avoided. The Republican governor has asked each agency to plan to spend 5 percent less for the upcoming budget year.

TennCare Budget Hearing Explores $343 Million Cut (WTVF-TV Nashville)

Monday night, the latest budget numbers revealed $343 million could be cut from TennCare, which could impact benefits for the 1.2 million people on the program, but NewsChannel5 has also learned cuts talked about in the past could also be part of the future of the state-run Medicaid program. The governor has asked TennCare and other departments to identify what a five percent budget cut plan would look like, but it turns out, additional cuts hinge on a key decision by hospitals across Tennessee.

TennCare again targets hospice counseling for cuts (Associated Press)

TennCare officials are again proposing to eliminate counseling services to hospice patients and their families if the state’s expanded Medicaid has to reduce its spending by 5%. A similar proposal was averted for the current budget year when lawmakers used 1-time savings to cover those costs.

Cuts to TennCare Could Hit Provider Rates (WPLN-Radio Nashville)

TennCare could cut into how much it pays healthcare providers if it has to trim its budget next year. That’s as Governor Bill Haslam wrapped up a round of budget hearings where he asked each department what a 5 percent cut would look like.

State Budgets Improve Slowly (Wall Street Journal)

After four years of recession-induced tumult, states are finally getting a handle on their finances. But they are in for more lean years.

Gov. and Mrs. Haslam light Capitol Christmas tree (Associated Press)

Gov. Bill Haslam has lit the Capitol Christmas tree in a ceremony moved inside because of rain. He and his wife, Crissy, lit the 27-foot-tall Norway spruce Monday evening in the first such ceremony for the governor, who took office last January.

Gov. Bill Haslam and First Lady kick off “Christmas in the Capitol” (WVLT-TV)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam tonight hosted “Christmas at the Capitol” Monday night. The governor’s lighting of the Capitol Christmas tree kicked off the event which included hot chocolate, cookies and cider along with a visit from Santa Claus.

Haslam announces $500,000 infrastructure grant (Crossville Chronicle)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty recently approved a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant to assist in infrastructure improvements in Crossville. “As we work to make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs, the proper infrastructure must support existing and future businesses,” Haslam said.

No Child Left Behind waivers require big changes fast (Stateline)

When New Jersey applied to the federal government for a waiver from the No Child Left Behind law, Governor Chris Christie used the opportunity to tout elements of his education reform agenda that had been languishing in the state legislature for months. “For a new accountability system to be effective and successful in benefitting children, we must have all of the tools that are provided for in this legislation,” the Republican governor said in a statement released November 16.

Public invited to tourism forum (Mountain Press)

A committee tasked by the governor with rethinking the relationship between the state and tourism is holding a forum at the Sevierville Events Center from 9-10 a.m. Wednesday in hopes of getting input from locals in that industry. The gathering, which will be led by board Chairman Colin Reed and Tourist Development Commissioner Susan Whitaker, has two goals: Educating members of the public about the effort and inviting them to be part of it.

Whitaker fighting for tourism dollars (Mountain Press)

Tennessee Tourist Development Commissioner Susan Whitaker pleaded with Gov. Bill Haslam and state budget officials last week to preserve her department’s advertising budget as she faces a potentially devastating 75 percent cut. Whitaker was backed by local tourism industry leaders as she addressed the governor in a first-of-its-kind budget hearing at the University of Tennessee.

Tennessee to plug its agriculture, forestry products (Tennessean/Marsteller)

Effort seeks growth in rural incomes State agriculture officials are exploring various ways to promote Tennessee farmers’ and foresters’ products as part of a broader effort to spur economic development in rural areas. Among the ideas on the table: targeting agribusiness recruitment efforts, marketing lesser-known commodities and seeking “green” certification for building products from Tennessee.

TN may reduce HOPE lottery scholarship awards (Tennessean/Sisk)

For Emmanuel Akuffo, a lottery scholarship was the difference between going to college and staying home. The Tennessee State University freshman says he would not have been able to afford college had it not been for a $4,000 HOPE scholarship.

Tennessee Archives preservation project protects ‘tapestry of life’ (TN/Gee)

Tennessee State Library and Archives painstakingly saves old state Supreme Court records Wearing a heavy apron and armed with scissors, a brush, a sponge, pliers and a magnifying glass, Todd Wallwork huddles over a table in the basement of the Tennessee State Library and Archives and tends to a seemingly endless flow of Tennessee court records dating back more than two centuries. Delicate work with fragile, largely handwritten documents isn’t what Wallwork had in mind when he accepted a position as a digital materials librarian, but such is the importance of the library and archives’ efforts to preserve 10,000 boxes of Supreme Court cases from the state’s birth to the 1950s.

Occupy billed $1,045 for security before arrests (Associated Press/Loller)

The state Department of General Services billed Occupy Nashville $1,045 to provide two troopers for security the night before they began arresting the protesters and clearing their encampment. The invoice was part of a public records request to the department from The Associated Press.

Federal report looks at Tennessee’s improper payments of jobless benefits (AP)

A U.S. Department of Labor report has questioned how well Tennessee is overseeing unemployment payments to an estimated 120,000 people as the state’s jobless rate lingers at near historic high levels. The report shows that Tennessee has one of the highest “improper payment” rates in the nation, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.

Road departments prepare for winter (WKRN-TV Nashville)

City and county road departments are stocking up on road salt ahead of time for winter weather in Middle Tennessee. Last winter, the weather was so harsh nationwide it caused a shortage in the amount of road salt available for roads departments to purchase.

Flooding widespread across Chattanooga region and North Georgia (TFP/Benton)

Most counties in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia had widespread flooding but no major problems after relentless rains began Sunday, officials said. Across the region, Rhea County reported the most problems early on, with flooding in the Spring City area and the closure of schools across the county.

Shelby County studies updating debt guidelines (C. Appeal/Connolly)

Proposal seeks limits on borrowing to control amount owed, now at $1.6 billion The Shelby County government has a truckload of debt, and top finance official Mike Swift has prepared an updated set of guidelines to help the government control it. The County Commission is scheduled to debate the new guidelines on Wednesday and might approve them as soon as Monday.

Next ETSU president ready to learn all he can about university (J. City Press)

The next president of East Tennessee State University visited campus Monday with his wife and son and said he would devote all his energy to learning everything he can about the 100-year-old institution before beginning work in January. Brian Noland will take over the presidency of ETSU in mid-January, succeeding Dr. Paul E. Stanton Jr., who has been the school’s eighth leader for about 15 years.

Cleveland, Tenn., city employees to get $700 holiday bonus (TFP/Higgins)

All full-time city employees are getting a one-time $700 bonus just in time for Christmas. The city could not afford raises again this year, City Manager Janice Casteel said two weeks ago when the proposal was made, but the budget did allow for the one-time bonus.

Recipe for Middle-Class Jobs (Wall Street Journal)

As the nation grapples with stubbornly high unemployment, Texas’s political and high-tech capital shows one way to create good jobs for people who didn’t go to college: Attract highly skilled entrepreneurs, and watch the companies they start hire lower-skilled workers. Praxis Strategy Group, an economic-development consultancy, estimates Austin added 50,000 “middle-skill” positions in the past decade.

As Public Sector Sheds Jobs, Blacks Are Hit Hardest (New York Times)

Don Buckley lost his job driving a Chicago Transit Authority bus almost two years ago and has been looking for work ever since, even as other municipal bus drivers around the country are being laid off. At 34, Mr. Buckley, his two daughters and his fiancée have moved into the basement of his mother’s house. He has had to delay his marriage, and his entire savings, $27,000, is gone.

In Tennessee’s virtual schools, everything is homework (Tennessean/Hubbard)

Student-teacher interaction isn’t face to face, but involvement is required Kevin Dockery trudges through the rain under his red umbrella, back to his two-story home on a quiet cul-de-sac in Williamson County. He has seen his freshman son out the door and ushered his 11-year-old daughter to the bus stop, and it’s only 7 a.m.

Countywide Schools Board Fighting Old Cultures (Memphis Daily News)

Aside from its looming battle with the state over charter schools, the countywide schools board is fighting conflicting meeting cultures of the old Memphis City Schools board and the old Shelby County Schools board. Board chairman Billy Orgel has a new parliamentarian for the board – Dr. Charles Schultz – to help in the matter.

Six pick up meth charges in raid of Stoney Creek home (Johnson City Press)

Six people were arrested by the Carter County Sheriff’s Department on methamphetamine charges Saturday following a search of a residence at 197 Lina Harvey Road in the Stoney Creek community. The raid at 3 a.m. was to the residence of Rodney Alan Adkins Sr., 45, and JoAnn Adkins, 42.

Illinois: New Calculation: Math in Preschool (Wall Street Journal)

Chicago Teachers Add Principles of Arithmetic to Early-Childhood Education, Laying Base for Higher-Level Skills Later On Scores of preschool and kindergarten teachers across the city are embedding math concepts into daily classroom activities, in a promising new program that gives students a foundation for more complex math and logical-thinking skills in later grades. The Early Mathematics Education Project at Erikson Institute, a nonprofit graduate school in child development, has already trained about 300 Chicago preschool and kindergarten teachers at 150 schools, funded by grants from local foundations and Chicago Public Schools.

OPINION

Editorial: Outdated office of constable needs to be abolished (News-Sentinel)

The outdated office of constable is slowly withering away in Tennessee. It’s time to extinguish it altogether.

Editorial: Cooking up savings (Commercial Appeal)

The government has found a new way to save the taxpayers money. In the case of meth lab cleanups, deprivatization turns out out to be the path to greater efficiency.

Editorial: Foreclosure program a good step in turning tide (Daily News Journal)

Fingers of blame can be pointed in nearly every direction for the country’s current foreclosure crisis. Let’s start with too many overzealous homebuyers and greedy mortgage lenders who issued too many risky loans.

Times Editorial: Secrecy on bullying wrong (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)

Public schools here may not be entirely able to prevent students from bullying other students, but they certainly can go a long way toward that goal by being clear, certain, committed and transparent about the rules against bullying and the punishment for violations of that policy. Yet Hamilton County school officials and the principal at Hunter Middle School apparently are not operating by that standard.

Free-Press Editorial: Rhode Island crashes into fiscal reality (Times Free-Press)

You can add Rhode Island to the list of states that are painfully having to overhaul their public worker pension programs because they have made financial promises they cannot keep. Democrats overwhelmingly control the Legislature of Rhode Island, and they have long maintained close relations with Big Labor, in part by offering unionized government workers lavish pension benefits.