This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam addressed Hendersonville Rotary Club members Wednesday morning, speaking mostly of issues he’s tackled during his first year in office. When audience members were asked by Haslam himself what a governor’s job consists of, answers included: managing the state, providing leadership, creating jobs, promoting Tennessee, and submitting a budget to the state legislature.
Governor Bill Haslam has yet to officially endorse a presidential candidate, but says he considers Mitt Romney “clearly the frontrunner” after last night’s Iowa caucus. Romney won Iowa by just eight votes. The GOP pack has cycled through several leading candidates in the last few months, but Haslam says that’s not unusual.
The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development is urging employers across the state to begin complying with new requirements to ensure businesses are maintaining a legal work force. Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Karla Davis said the Tennessee Lawful Employment Act, signed in June by Gov. Bill Haslam, requires verification of employment eligibility of all newly hired workers through the online E-Verify program at www.uscis.gov/everify or requesting all newly hired employees to provide identity and employment authorization documents.
A Chattanooga woman has been arrested and charged with TennCare fraud after being on the run for five months. Gabrielle Allen, 26, was arrested this week after an investigation conducted by the state’s Office of Inspector General with the assistance of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, according to a news release.
The state of Tennessee has released guidelines related to immigration reform that was a hot topic for the business community last year. The Tennessee Lawful Employment Act is now in effect, requiring employers to follow new guidelines with all employees they hire after Jan. 1 of this year.
Lawyer didn’t have proper proof to ask for restraining order New statewide immigration screening rules may have temporarily survived a legal challenge on Wednesday, but the board that created them may attempt a do-over at its next meeting. Immigration attorney Elliott Ozment had asked a Davidson County chancellor to halt rules that require Tennessee jailers to screen the newly arrested for their immigration status, arguing that the Tennessee Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission created the guidelines in emails, not public meetings as required by law.
The state has issued about 9,500 photo IDs since July 1 as Tennesseans prepare to comply with a new law. The new statute requires citizens to present a federal or state issued photo ID to vote.
About 250 people filled a Bledsoe County courtroom to protest the proposed closing of a state juvenile detention center that provides 170 jobs. State officials have proposed closing the Taft Youth Development Center and transferring the teenage detainees in a $4.4 million cost-cutting move.
John Schroer spent his one-year anniversary as Tennessee Department of Transportation commissioner on Wednesday looking at Kingsport’s wish list of road projects. Schroer and an entourage of about 20 city, county and state officials rode a bus that drove to the location of each road project preferred by the Kingsport Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Bedford County Highway Superintendent Stanley Smotherman and Shelbyville Public Works Director Mark Clanton each say their departments are in good shape as the likelihood of severe winter weather approaches. Last winter, December snow caught Shelbyville before its salt delivery had arrived, and a heavy winter season had state and local officials worried by late January that their supplies would run out.
Three months ago, Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to look into why some people did not receive requested refunds for tickets purchased in advance of a GOP forum and dinner planned for Oct. 15, 2011, in Kingsport. On Wednesday, TBI spokes- woman Kristin Helm advised the investigation is still ongoing.
The first new engineering building on the University of Tennessee campus in nearly half a century will open to students next week, marking the end of nearly three years of construction on the $37.5 million project. Faculty have already begun moving into the state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly Min H. Kao Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building, named after the Garmin co-founder and UT alum who donated $12.5 million to the project.
Tennessee State University is blaming technology for the delay in getting diplomas to its most recent graduates. Two computer glitches, before and after the December graduation ceremonies, prevented some of the university’s staff from entering their students’ final grades into the system, but the issue has since been resolved and diplomas will be mailed before or on Jan. 20, a school spokesman said Wednesday.
New ethics rules for judges were adopted Wednesday, barring them from making political contributions and requiring them to step aside in some cases involving their own campaign contributors. The Tennessee Supreme Court set the rules against the backdrop of an upcoming battle in the legislature over the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary, an ethics panel for judges.
The Tennessee Supreme Court will impose new judicial ethics rules outlining new recusal procedures for judges and limiting their political activities. The changes, which will take effect July 1, represent the first major overhaul to the rules that govern judges’ conduct in 20 years and are based on 2007 American Bar Association recommendations that nearly two-dozen states have adopted.
Republican plans for Tennessee legislative redistricting released Wednesday would draw five black House members into three seats and place the top Senate Democrat into the same district as a GOP incumbent. The House plan was roundly criticized by Democrats, but Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville stressed that the proposal would keep the same number of districts where minorities make up a majority of the population at 13 of the chamber’s 99 seats.
New legislative districts would oust several Democrats Republicans in control of the Tennessee General Assembly proposed new district maps on Wednesday that would create five new open seats in Middle Tennessee and present steep challenges for Democrats across the state. Lawmakers did not unveil a new map for Tennessee’s congressional districts, but Speaker of the House Beth Harwell promised that would happen by the end of the week.
State House Republicans on Wednesday released a legislative redistricting plan that could end the political careers of at least a half dozen Democratic incumbents. It could also trigger a crowded race for a newly drawn, open seat in eastern Hamilton County.
The Republican state House redistricting plan unveiled Wednesday is designed to end the careers of at least six incumbent Democratic representatives while creating six new districts with no incumbent. The Senate redistricting plan, also made public Wednesday, will abruptly end the political career of one incumbent Republican senator and targets Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle for defeat by another incumbent Republican senator.
Shelby County loses two of its 16 seats in the state House and one of its six Senate seats under Republican-drawn redistricting plans unveiled Wednesday and headed for final votes next week in the GOP-controlled legislature. The three-seat loss results from Shelby’s slow population growth of 3.4 percent between 2000 and 2010 compared to the state’s overall increase of 11.5 percent.
Tennessee Senate Democratic leader Jim Kyle of Memphis and Republican state Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown are in the same Senate district under a redistricting proposal unveiled by Republican legislative leaders Wednesday, Jan. 4, in Nashville. What Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the Senate speaker, calls the “regional integrity plan” would also move District 33, now represented by Democrat Reginald Tate, to Middle Tennessee. The district that runs the entire southern border of Shelby County would be divided among the newly configured state Senate districts 29, 31 and 32.
Republicans publicly unveiled their new legislative maps for the first time Wednesday, and to Democrats’ surprise, it wasn’t as bad as they expected. That’s not to say they didn’t find aspects to complain about, though. The House proposal pits 12 mostly Democratic incumbents against each other in six districts and pencils in another half-dozen empty districts prime for open legislative races.
A dozen incumbent members of the state House – mostly Democrats – would have to run against each other in the redistricting plan released by Republicans Wednesday. One contest pits two Representatives in Davidson County. Antioch’s Sherry Jones and East Nashville’s Mike Stewart would represent the same district, and Stewart says the move is political.
Tennessee’s House of Representatives would have the same number of minority voting districts under a proposal released Wednesday, even if it results in fewer minority lawmakers. Republicans in charge of redrawing voting lines maintained the 13 districts where blacks make up half the population.
The Bradley County Commission does not want to see the county split by any redistricting plans proposed by the Tennessee General Assembly. In a 14-0 vote, the commission late Tuesday passed a resolution officially expressing that sentiment to the state’s Republican leadership, the state Legislature, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Sen. Mike Bell.
After many years, Dyer County will again be within the same Tennessee House district as Rep. Bill Sanderson (R-Kenton) announced Tuesday the Tennessee House Ad Hoc Committee on Redistricting will place all of Dyer County into House District 77. Sanderson announced the redistricting on Tuesday evening, after receiving word from Rep. Steve McDaniel (R-Lexington) who chairs the committee and is an area redistricting leader for rural West Tennessee.
Plan: North Rutherford gets House seat; Ketron’s Senate district stays in county Rutherford County will pick up a fourth full House seat in the northern part of the county, and its two Senate districts will undergo major changes under concepts unveiled Wednesday by state legislators. The Republican-controlled Legislature redrew the maps for the first time since taking control of both houses, and most of the impact in Rutherford was caused by its 30 percent growth rate over the last decade.
Senate majority Republicans’ redistricting plan seeks to draw bull’s-eyes on top Democrats, including Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga. But the plan also appears to put the kibosh on the career of one of Republicans’ own members in Middle Tennessee.
Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper wants his district to go back to the way it once was and include all of Davidson County. Cooper, a Democrat, made his proposal to the Republican-led legislative committee in charge of redistricting. House Speaker Beth Harwell says it would correct what she viewed as politically-driven map-making ten years ago.
Both Texas Gov. Rick Perry and ex-U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich underachieved at the Iowa caucuses, key Tennessee political operatives for the two GOP presidential candidates acknowledged during a meeting with the Times-News Editorial Board on Wednesday. Gingrich finished fourth and Perry landed in fifth place behind caucus winner and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; second-place finisher and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum; and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, who placed third. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, is the Tennessee chairman of Perry’s campaign.
With little discussion, the Hamilton County Commission on Wednesday unanimously passed formal rules and regulations for the public’s use of county-owned property. Now Occupy Chattanooga members and their legal counsel are waiting to see how and if the new rules are enforced against them.
Even though Occupy Murfreesboro no longer has an encampment set up on the Murfreesboro Civic Plaza, the movement still has plans to represent the “99 percent” locally, according to a news release. “Occupy Murfreesboro has not been disbanded … ,” the unsigned release sent to The Daily News Journal via fax late Tuesday reads.
Some Memphis City Council members want to at least slow the appropriation of local government funding to Electrolux North America Cooking Products if the company isn’t more responsive to hiring local for the construction of its Memphis manufacturing plant. At a dour discussion Tuesday, Jan. 3, however, most on the council agreed they can do little to require a higher percentage of the construction contracts go to locally owned firms including women- and minority-owned businesses.
Angela Parrish has known her husband since high school and the couple married in 2010. But Wednesday afternoon, moments before he returned from a 10-month combat deployment, nervous feelings fluttered inside her.
For the past year, Cristy Justice has raised her six boys alone, a task she says was every bit as difficult as it sounds. But on Wednesday afternoon, help arrived as her husband, David, returned from his deployment to Kuwait.
The Christmas tree is still up at Master Sgt. Robert Bowen’s house. He’ll be celebrating more than the holidays when he wakes up today.
Six years ago, Congress passed what is known as the Adam Walsh Act, aimed at protecting children from predators by collecting sex offender data in a national public registry and requiring those people listed in it to report their movements to law enforcement. Adam’s law required states to place convicted sex offenders in one of three tiers, based on the severity of their crimes.
Officials in Maury County, Tenn., hope to lure industry along Interstate 65. The Daily Herald quotes Brandom Gengelbach, president of the Maury County Chamber and Economic Alliance, as saying the county will try to acquire property near the interstate (http://bit.ly/t0Mmhw).
Hutcheson board members said they expect the beleaguered North Georgia hospital’s financial numbers to improve in December, as they met for the first meeting of the year Wednesday evening. The hospital lost more than $9 million in the first five months of the fiscal year, but board chairman Corky Jewell said they expect to see a gradual turnaround.
Macy’s Inc. says it will close five Macy’s stores, including the one at Hickory Hollow Mall, and four Bloomingdale’s stores that are underperforming. Clearance sales will begin at the stores Sunday and run for 10 weeks.
Hickory Hollow Mall is losing its last department store. Less than a week after Sears said it would leave the shopping center as part of a big round of store closures, Macy’s on Wednesday evening said it, too, will shutter its location there.
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston predicted Wednesday that lawmakers will need to trim state spending again this year, but not as severely as when the worst recession since the Great Depression forced mammoth reductions in the budget. Tax collections by the state have been increasing for more than a year as income and spending gradually rebounds from the recession that officially ended in June 2009.
Tennessee’s and Hamilton County’s commitment to living within their means has yielded some real benefits — one of the most recent being an improved outlook for the state’s and county’s credit ratings from ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service. Because a significant part of Tennessee’s budget is linked to the federal government, it was alarming several months ago when another credit-rating agency, Standard & Poor’s, downgraded the United States’ rating from the top level, AAA, to AA-plus for the first time in U.S. history.
Behind-the-scenes negotiations continue to get state Building Commission approval for a multi-million dollar bond issue for higher education campuses, including UT-Knoxville. The main issues are the amount and who gets what. Construction projects must be approved by the Building Commission, made up of the governor, the speakers, the constitutional officers, and finance committee members from the House and Senate.
The state says it can save about $4.4 million a year if it accepts Commissioner of Children’s Services Kathryn O’Day’s recommendation to close the Taft Youth Development Center in Pikeville. It implies, as well, that successful programs at Taft can be replicated at similar facilities that will remain open elsewhere in Tennessee.
Hopefully the General Assembly will have time to improve the quality of life for Tennesseans. One can always hope that the Tennessee General Assembly, which will convene Tuesday, will do something for Tennesseans this year.
With the second session of Tennessee’s 107th General Assembly set to convene Jan. 10, people already are beginning to consider legislation. A likely proposal we would urge caution on would require drug testing of people who get government assistance or workers’ compensation benefits.
Ever tasted Tennessee paddlefish caviar? Me neither. Not sure I want to. I’ve read it tastes both salty and buttery and, if it’s a bad batch, muddy.