This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam and first lady Crissy Haslam are inviting Tennesseans from across the state to a free holiday open house at the Executive Residence during the next two weeks. There will be self-guided tours to see the holiday decorations at the residence and Conservation Hall this week through Friday and Dec. 12-16. Christmas trees at the residence were donated by the Tennessee Christmas Tree Growers Association and Pick Tennessee Products.
Gov. Bill Haslam and first lady Crissy Haslam are hosting free open house tours at the executive residence. There will be morning self-guided tours to see the residence in its holiday finery today through Friday and Dec. 12-16.
It’s time to start up, Memphis. And keep our momentum going. Last month, Gov. Bill Haslam and Bill Hagerty, state commissioner of Economic and Community Development, announced plans to establish nine business accelerators to spur entrepreneurship in the state. These “Regional Entrepreneurial Accelerators” will be in each of the Jobs4TN Jobs Base Camp regions, guided by the mission of helping entrepreneurs develop business plans and launch companies that have the potential to create new jobs.
You’ve heard the laments about gridlocked, dysfunctional government with leaders unable to make hard decisions needed to get America back on track. But turn your attention away from Washington and you’ll see plenty of bold leadership in America’s state capitals: drastic spending cuts leading to balanced budgets, slashed public employee pensions and education reform measures bucking powerful teacher unions.
Tourism officials in Tennessee are counting on football games and special events to keep the travel business steady during the usually slow month of December. December is not a key month for Tennessee tourism, a $14 billion-a-year industry.
On the north end of the Nashville State Community College campus, a row of seven gray trailers comprises the M Buildings. Most of the small modulars are tinged with rust along the outside edges, but students pursuing associates degrees and technical degrees attend classes in them every day.
The lingering aftershocks of 2008’s Great Recession are changing the face of Tennessee government, particularly its size. Most state functions are operating with almost 10 percent fewer workers now than before the downtown.
The Tennessee Arts Commission has added three regional contests to the “Poetry Out Loud” recitation competition for high school students. They will be Feb. 4 at Overton High School in Memphis; Feb. 10 at the Renaissance Center in Dickson; and Feb. 17 at Hardin Valley Academy in Knoxville.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee is one of five recipients of the “Catalyst Award,” an honor from the Regents Online Campus Collaborative for efforts to make post-secondary education accessible online for all Tennesseans. In the span of a single year, McPhee and his fellow honorees set into motion major decisions on: a degree framework; course-development plan and articulation; a revenue-sharing model; a new Learning Management System; substantive change notification for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools; credit transferability between institutions; financial-aid eligibility; a common calendar; critical student-support services; faculty development; and a marketing plan.
As many as 130 students at Carson-Newman College could receive a reduced lottery scholarship if a new proposal to tighten the requirements to receive the $4,000 per year HOPE award are implemented, officials there estimate. About 45 of this year’s freshmen at Maryville College would not have qualified for the full scholarship under the new recommended criteria.
The U.S. Constitution gives Americans the right to voice their opinion on the issues of the day. When it comes to making zoning decisions, though, a state court has found that evidence — not opinion — is the key ingredient.
At their own political peril, Tennessee Republicans are getting behind a business lobby campaign to make it harder for workers to collect unemployment benefits. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey already has drawn heavy criticism in the liberal blogosphere and elsewhere for painting many jobless people as slackers on the dole.
Rumblings among Republican state legislators about imposing new restrictions on unemployment benefits, inspired by anecdotal complaints from employers, appear unlikely to advance beyond the talking stage. An idea pushed by Democrats that could be seen easing restrictions for some laid-off workers, however, may have a better chance of surviving the upcoming legislative session.
Hamilton County officials will meet with their state delegation today to propose legislative changes for next year’s session of the General Assembly. County Mayor Jim Coppinger released a draft of his priority list to county commissioners Thursday for comment.
Motorists advised to be cautious in areas with high water Heavy rain is expected around much of West Tennessee today, leaving some residents affected by May 2010 flooding concerned about whether disaster could strike them again. The Clark family lives in a low-lying area on Lambuth Boulevard that experienced flooding last year.
Police have arrested four more Occupy Nashville protesters and briefly detained a journalist who was trying to cover their activities. The protesters were cited for disorderly conduct because police say they refused to leave the middle of the road and protest on the sidewalk, according to The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/v47Xvw). Matthew Hamill, who hosts This Occupied Life on 107.1 WRFN-LPFM, Radio Free Nashville, told the newspaper that he was rounded up while videotaping the protesters, but released about 30 minutes later without being charged.
A few months after the Memphis City Council imposed an 18-cent property tax rate hike to balance the budget, Mayor A C Wharton is proposing the spending of $5 million to give city employees a holiday bonus. Wharton outlined his proposal Sunday, saying he wants to give each city employee a 1.5 percent bonus, or a minimum of $600 each.
Knox County Superintendent Jim McIntyre has recommended that the board approve a proposed policy and fee structure for the community’s use of school facilities. In a memo to the board on Dec. 1, McIntyre said he expects the revisions to recoup more than $200,000 in operational costs for the school system.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and others in Congress who are pushing for a federal law that will allow states to collect sales taxes on online purchases from out-of-state retailers know what they are up against. “This is not a new tax — this is a tax that is already owed,” the Maryville Republican said emphatically when supporters rolled out the legislation.
Here’s a delicious irony for those following the Internet sales tax wars. Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos built the world’s largest Web retailer in part by exploiting a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling (Quill v. North Dakota) holding the Constitution’s commerce clause prevents state officials from requiring retailers who have no physical presence in their states to collect their sales taxes. Now, two leading law professors have concluded that the concessions Amazon recently extracted from South Carolina and Tennessee before opening large “fulfillment” warehouses in those states, are themselves likely a violation of—you guessed it—the Constitution’s commerce clause.
Behind in the polls a day before he lost Tennessee’s Republican gubernatorial primary last year, former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp skewered the eventual nominees — Bill Haslam and Mike McWherter. “Both of them are really running on their daddies’ fumes,” Wamp told supporters near Nashville. l
Facing bankruptcy, the U.S. Postal Service is pushing ahead with unprecedented cuts to first-class mail next spring that will slow delivery and, for the first time in 40 years, eliminate the chance for stamped letters to arrive the next day. The estimated $3 billion in reductions, to be announced in broader detail on Monday, are part of a wide-ranging effort by the cash-strapped Postal Service to quickly trim costs, seeing no immediate help from Congress.
In Commencement Bay, a slice of Puget Sound just outside Tacoma, Washington, environmental officials haven’t found it easy to purge the toxic remnants of more than a century of chemical-belching industry. Washington State and the City of Tacoma have spent almost $100 million trying to clean up pollutants discharged by the lumberyards and processing plants that once thrived along the waterfront.
The fourth-graders in portable classrooms at Binkley Elementary School will just have to wait to get into the same building as the other students. It’s a similar story for students who ride Metro Nashville’s 35 oldest school buses.
Franklin Special School District board members, principals and parents for more than a year have been trying to solve a problem that large, urban school districts have wrestled with for decades. The district serves about 3,800 students in its seven schools, but two of those schools have a significantly higher concentration of poorer children.
The Jackson-Madison County School Board will discuss priorities for the 2012-13 budget and the strategic plan during its monthly work session at 6 p.m. this evening. The meeting will be held at the Board of Education, 310 North Parkway. Members of the public will be allowed to address any questions and concerns to board members during the first 30 minutes of the meeting.
Just in time for the Christmas season, residents of Tennessee and Georgia got a bit of good economic news recently: Unemployment fell in the two states — albeit only slightly. In Tennessee, the unemployment rate dropped from 9.8 percent in September to 9.6 percent in October.
Millions of students attend abysmally weak school systems that leave them unprepared for college, even as more jobs require some higher education. The states have an obligation to help these students retool. More than 35 percent of students need remediation when they reach college, according to the federal government.
In the effort to save money or curb unpopular programs, politicians can miss the long-term view that cuts now can eventually result in higher costs in the future. In a way, that is what’s happening with Tennessee’s lottery-funded scholarships.
2011 was an active year for the Tennessee Legislature. In addition to tort reform, there have been several changes were made in the workers’ compensation law that are worth noting. For qualified employers under the Tennessee Drug Free Workplace Act, the presumption of intoxication has been strengthened.
The state of Tennessee needs to get its house in order on the issue of paying benefits to those who are unemployed. The jump in the state’s unemployment rate during the Great Recession that began officially about four years ago apparently overwhelmed the state’s 40-year-old mainframe computer, one official contends, but surely that reason cannot cover the entire problem.
Let there be no doubt: Bob Pope is a gun-packing Republican. The sixth-generation Tennessean is a Newt Gingrich-supporting Second Amendment advocate who ran gun shows for 25 years.