This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Cookeville’s Stacey Logsdon saw it as a one-chance opportunity: She took her children out of school to tour the governor’s mansion. The four boys and one baby girl — ages 10, 7, 5, 2 and 9 months — gamely posed in their holiday frocks in front of a tall Christmas tree decorated all in gold.
State agencies are scrambling to save hundreds of long-vacant positions set to be axed next year, warning that abolishing some could harm services for Tennesseans most in need and, in one case, risk federal penalties. The move comes in response to a directive from Gov. Bill Haslam that state departments eliminate frozen positions vacant for more than a year unless they can “buy” them back by making cuts in less vital areas
UT preparing for proposed budget shake-ups Mixed messages from the state have the University of Tennessee-Knoxville preparing for the possibility of budget increases or cuts — which could amount to as much as a $12.5 million swing. UT-Knoxville could see as much as a $6.1 million reduction in state appropriations should Gov. Bill Haslam decide to implement the full 5 percent cut his office asked all agencies to prepare for in September.
The Anderson County Health Department likely won’t have to close its primary care clinic, but its services could be scaled back, if a proposal from state officials is approved by Gov. Bill Haslam and the state Legislature Art Miller, director of the Anderson County Health Department, said the state Department of Health commissioner has been tasked with cutting 5 percent in the department’s budget for the next fiscal year. The proposal includes “scaling back” services at 10 Health Department-based primary care clinics across Tennessee, Miller told the Anderson County Commission.
A state agency is investigating the circumstances that led to the injury of an elderly mentally disabled woman being cared for at a Madison residence under a state contract. Holly L. Tramil, spokeswoman for the state Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, said the case was the subject of an ongoing investigation.
Tennessee Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak reminds homeowners that smoke alarms should be tested at least monthly. The suggestion is listed in a safety checklist she provided with the onset of cold weather.
A one-day course at the University of Tennessee is for individuals who use a domestic kitchen to prepare and sell food to the public. The course Wednesday is designed to ensure that facilities meet regulations of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.
Middle Tennessee State University says its athletics department has received a $1 million donation from the estate of Jeff Hendrix. The school says the gift is the largest unrestricted donation in athletics history.
Money will go to build football stadium club What Jeff Hendrix did so generously in life, he did even more so in death. Hendrix, an Middle Tennessee State University athletics booster, posthumously donated $1 million for the construction of a football stadium club at Floyd Stadium, as announced at halftime of the MTSU women’s basketball game Sunday afternoon.
In changing the scope of the proposed Chattanooga State campus in Kimball, county commissioners must redo some of the project’s groundwork. At the November meeting of the Marion County Commission, board members unanimously approved a new wetlands study, a new geotechnical soils study and gave Mayor John Graham the power to sign a revised architect’s contract so the bid documents for the project can be completed.
Two state legislators say former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner exploited a loophole in state law to collect a $58,800 annual pension and they want to close it. Sen. Randy McNally and Rep. Bill Dunn have also asked officials for investigations into whether Baumgartner should face further charges and into whether the payments he authorized for defense attorneys in the 2007 Channon Christian-Christopher Newsom murder trials are valid.
As state officials look to shutter Lakeshore Mental Health Institute, some local leaders are wondering whether it should instead be expanded. Knox County Commissioner Jeff Ownby is sponsoring a resolution that asks the state to delay closing the facility for up to two years and possibly build a much-debated safety center to serve as an alternative to incarceration for the mentally ill.
At its Thursday meeting, Washington County’s Joint Education Committee approved a resolution that would place a public referendum on a quarter-cent sales tax increase on August election ballots. The resolution will face the full County Commission’s approval at its Dec. 19 meeting; if passed there, the referendum could be placed on the ballot in August to be decided by voters.
More than half a dozen states, including Tennessee, have passed new laws to reduce early voting, setting up a clash with civil rights groups and Democrats who claim the rules could disenfranchise minority voters in the 2012 election for the White House and Congress. Among states with new restrictions: Wisconsin and Florida, presidential swing states that also are key battlegrounds in the fight for control of the U.S. Senate, where Democrats hold a narrow advantage.
Half a million students across the country and thousands in Tennessee and Georgia could lose their federal Pell grants for college if a proposal in Congress passes during the next few weeks of Washington budget talks. Many more students in Tennessee and Georgia and beyond could see their awards trimmed, officials said.
It is a quirk of a busy calendar that a school-merger forum with Charlotte-Mecklenburg (N.C.) Schools leaders hits this afternoon, just three days before the county’s Transition Planning Commission body holds a “Vision Meeting” aimed at charting its course. As a vision for what’s possible, on paper at least, Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s 136,000-student district appears to provide a compelling model for the 21-member commission, which is charged with creating a plan for merging Memphis City Schools with Shelby County Schools.
Hawkins County authorities were already investigating an alleged meth lab operation north of Rogersville on Hickory Cove Road on Thursday evening when two of the three suspects were arrested during a traffic stop. The residence under investigation was 1332 Hickory Cove Road, the home of Phillip David Williams, 46, and Donna Carol Vaughan, 51.
Recipients of state money in California are bracing for as much as $2.5 billion in new budget cuts prompted by a revenue shortfall in the nation’s most populous state. The cuts expected to be announced this week by Gov. Jerry Brown could include a seven-day reduction of the school year, projected to save $1.5 billion.
Immigration was a dominant topic during the last legislative session in Georgia, and while it’s likely to surface again when lawmakers return to the Capitol next month, it probably won’t take as large a share of the spotlight. Georgia lawmakers, like their counterparts in several other states, passed a tough law targeting illegal immigration earlier this year.
One of Albuquerque’s charter schools, Academia de Lengua Y Cultura, offers a dual-language middle-school curriculum, with teachers in some classes giving lessons in English and Spanish on alternating days. Across town, the Cottonwood Classical Preparatory School, which takes students from sixth grade through high school, emphasizes seminar discussions and offers advanced international diplomas
A report released Thursday by the Tennessee Solar Institute paints a positive picture and a potentially bright future for the solar industry in Tennessee. But Tennessee faces competition from other states such as North Carolina and Georgia.
The Tennessee County Commissioners Association is advocating a change in the state open meetings law that would essentially gut the nearly 40-year-old statute. The public should be extremely wary of a measure that will be touted in the halls of the state Capitol next year as a more efficient and effective way to conduct the public’s business.
The state of Tennessee is facing a potential 5 percent budget cut next year, and that will mean less in state funding for higher education. The budget cuts are being considered during the same time that a special legislative committee is pondering a reduction in the amount of lottery funds that help Tennesseans earn a college degree.
Recently, a city fire department refused to douse a fire outside the city limits because the homeowners had chosen not to pay for fire service. There was a simple and well-publicized contract between the city and the rural community.
It’s terribly easy for Washington to impose rules and regulations on the states but not provide the money to implement those rules. That is what has happened with public school lunch programs.