This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
State workers – at least those surveyed by the Haslam Administration – want civil service rules to change. The governor proposed legislation this week that would loosen hiring restrictions and make pay more flexible.
Gov. Bill Haslam unveiled a legislative agenda Tuesday afternoon that changes economic development incentives, eases taxes on two fronts and pushes a range of educational initiatives. Surrounded by members of his administration, legislators and others, the Republican governor delivered an agenda that throws down an early marker in trying to steer the legislative session of the Tennessee General Assembly , which reconvened Tuesday.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam today announced his priorities for the 2012 legislative session during a press conference where he was joined by legislators in the Old Supreme Court Chamber of the Capitol. His legislative agenda is designed to move Tennessee forward by supporting his goal to make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs through economic development efforts, meaningful education reform, a more efficient and effective state government and improved public safety.
Package of bills targets jobs, education, taxes and crime The opening day of the Tennessee General Assembly included Gov. Bill Haslam’s submission of his 2012 legislative agenda, a package of 55 non budget related bills focusing on jobs, education, efficient government and lowering taxes in two specific areas. Along with the agenda, Haslam launched a new website detailing his ambitions for the year.
Gov. Bill Haslam says his plan to spur economic development by providing more grants to companies that invest in the state will be a transparent process, yet he’s also filed a bill that wouldn’t allow the public to see the information used to make the grant decisions. “Fast track grants are more transparent than tax credits and don’t commit state dollars on a long-term, multiyear basis like tax credits do,” Haslam said in announcing his legislative agenda this week.
Corporations relocating to Tennessee could soon be eligible for cash instead of just state tax credits. Governor Bill Haslam introduced 55 bills Tuesday as part of his legislative package.
The Tennessee Regulatory Authority – which oversees private utility rates – has nothing to say about a proposal to do away with its four full-time directors. The TRA is one of 22 boards and commissions Governor Bill Haslam wants to overhaul.
The state of Tennessee is buying five Nissan LEAF electric vehicles as part of a clean energy initiative. The cars, for the state fleet, have zero emissions.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has announced that he is being endorsed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. Romney supported Haslam in the state’s 2010 governor’s race, and Haslam’s father and brother had already assumed leadership positions in the presidential candidate’s Tennessee operations.
Gov. Bill Haslam has given his formal endorsement to Mitt Romney, making the Tennessee governor the latest in a string of prominent state Republicans to back the former Massachusetts governor. The Romney campaign announced Haslam’s endorsement in a statement released Wednesday, the day after Romney won the New Hampshire primary and as attention shifts to the first contests in the South.
Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to free local schools from a state-mandated teacher pay schedule that currently rewards seniority and training is drawing fire from the state’s largest teachers’ group. Tennessee Education Association President Gera Summerford called Haslam’s proposal, unveiled Tuesday, a “blatant attack on Tennessee’s public schools.”
The Tennessee Regulatory Authority has announced Tim Schwarz has joined the agency as chief of communications and external affairs. Schwarz’s primary focus will be to lead the agency’s legislative efforts as director of legislative affairs.
The state will spend millions of dollars over the next few years to upgrade insulation, switch to more efficient lights and heaters, and effectively cut air pollution. And it will dole out millions more in grants – for businesses, local governments, utilities, and others to do the same, or add wind or solar power.
Tennessee has a Prescription Monitoring Program, also known as a PMP, but the problem with doctor shopping still exists. Many people are charged each year with TennCare Fraud, one form of doctor shopping But two local attorneys are using education to fight the issue.
A Cookeville woman has been arrested for TennCare fraud after being indicted by the Putnam grand jury for allegedly cheating in the state’s health care program for the needy, according to an announcement made yesterday. Kristin Nicole Waggoner, 20, of Kenway Street, Cookeville, is accused in a two-count indictment of taking a forged prescription for medication to a local pharmacy and using TennCare benefits to pay for the prescription, which was for the painkiller Lortab.
A new ethics code for Tennessee judges may increase the public’s confidence in the judiciary, but some changes come at the expense of judges’ First Amendment rights, critics warn. The revamped Code of Judicial Conduct bars judges from making political donations and imposes tighter restrictions on when judges must step down, or recuse themselves, from cases because of conflicts of interest.
The last time the ethics rules for Tennessee judges were rewritten the Soviet Union still existed and Tennessee Supreme Court justices ran in contested elections. The Tennessee Supreme Court this month ended a two-year review of the state court system’s code of judicial conduct by adopting the new rules for the conduct of judges across the state.
Tightening standards for unemployment benefits and taking a whack at the inheritance tax are shaping up to be lead priorities for the state’s top small business lobby. The Tennessee chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business released preliminary results of its member ballot this morning, with those priorities rising to the top.
Bradley County Republican lawmakers and Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, made common cause Wednesday in last-ditch efforts to alter GOP plans that will split Bradley in state Senate redistricting. With a House vote scheduled this morning and Senate vote Friday, Republicans on Wednesday night appeared largely resigned to changes.
The new state Senate redistricting plan, which likely will be enacted into law on Friday, divides the city of Knoxville among three senators in a move some Democratic legislators say will dilute city influence. That criticism is disputed by Republicans and, along with other complaints, has been set aside as GOP majorities in House and Senate committees approved the bills drawing new lines for Senate, House and congressional districts statewide.
Roland, 4 other members in Arlington confrontation A lunch meeting of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday became a tense spectacle as Shelby County Commission member Terry Roland angrily sparred with four other commissioners who had showed up to confront his statements on redrawing commission districts. At one point Roland described the issue in stark terms.
The General Assembly convened this week in Nashville, and one of the first orders of business was to consider redistricting plans agreed upon by the current Republican speakers of the state House and state Senate, Beth Harwell and Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey, respectively, and as advised by Memphis’ own John Ryder, an attorney and redistricting maven who happens also to be a Republican national committeeman from Tennessee. This was the first opportunity ever for Republicans, who now control both chambers of the legislature as well as the governorship, to preside over the redistricting process.
Departments load up on material to keep roads clear Some county road departments came uncomfortably close to running out of the salt needed to keep roads clear last winter. This year, many of those same offices are ordering more salt — just in case.
Bradley County commissioners would like a little more information before they make any decisions about a proposed $32 wheel tax intended to fund $36 million to $38 million in school projects. The current plan calls for the wheel tax — assessed each time a vehicle is registered in the county — to be put before voters as a referendum item on the August 2012 ballot.
The standoff between the Hamilton County Commission and Occupy Chattanooga over tents on the lawn of the County Courthouse has moved to the federal courthouse. On Tuesday, Commission Chairman Larry Henry filed suit in U.S. District Court, asking for a declaration that new rules governing public use of county land are compatible with the First Amendment and can be applied to protesters who’ve been on the lawn since November.
The agency that administers farm subsidies and other farm-support programs in Tennessee wants to close nine of its 68 county offices as part of a nationwide effort to save money. Congress has cut the Agriculture Department’s budget about 12 percent since 2010, leading the agency to announce this week that it’s considering closing 131 Farm Service Agency offices across the country.
Taxpayers can’t itemize if Congress doesn’t renew A federal provision that provides more than $1 billion in tax breaks to Tennesseans each year is in danger of disappearing. State taxpayers who itemize their federal taxes will no longer be able to deduct the state and local sales tax they pay if Congress doesn’t renew the benefit, which expired Dec. 31.
Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dowd commands the U.S. Army’s 1st Sustainment Command. The command oversaw operations for the troop withdrawal from Iraq, which included the recently returned 230th Sustainment Brigade out of Chattanooga.
Several states that won a slice of the U.S. Department of Education’s $4.3 billion Race to the Top competition have had to delay plans to implement ambitious reforms and two could possibly lose money if they don’t get back on track. Officials released state reports Tuesday detailing the progress of all 12 winners in the first year of implementation and found only three are on schedule with their plans.
It took nearly a year for Dale Kleinert to negotiate his first teachers’ contract. When Kleinert started his job as schools superintendent in Moscow, Idaho, the talks were already underway. Then, discussions reached an impasse.
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton defended the decision to award major economic development incentives to Electrolux Home Products even though the company has come under fire for not awarding enough construction contracts to local and minority companies Some Memphis City Council members publicly have criticized the heaping on of incentives without specific requirements on local and minority hiring “I take responsibility for whatever weaknesses may be in that contract,” Wharton said. “It was a simple proposition of looking at 1,240 jobs possibly going somewhere else.
City manager Kathy Dillon of Union City, Tenn., says the full impact of the closure of the Goodyear plant has probably not been felt yet. According to the Union City Daily Messenger, sales revenues for 2011 have been consistent with 2010, probably because of the benefit packages former Goodyear employees received (http://bit.ly/xq1NoR ).
Morgan Keegan & Co.’s new owner could keep hundreds of workers employed in Memphis, sparing the city from wholesale layoffs in an era of sluggish job growth, government officials say. Regions Financial Corp. announced Wednesday that an agreement was in hand to sell the Memphis investment firm early this year to Raymond James Financial Corp. of St. Petersburg, Fla. Regions, a Birmingham bank, had sought a buyer for the Memphis business icon for months, raising fears of mass layoffs at a time when the jobless rate in the eight-county Memphis metropolitan area is 9.2 percent. Those worries eased Wednesday after city and county officials were informed that the buyer intends to keep three key operations of Morgan Keegan running in Memphis.
Wonder Bread and Hostess Honey Buns will continue rolling out of a historic Memphis bakery despite the parent company’s bankruptcy filing Wednesday. The bakery’s 251 employees braced for a new round of givebacks, particularly in pension and health care benefits, after Hostess Brands Inc. filed for Chapter 11 reorganization.
An executive shake-up is under way at Erlanger Health System, including a reorganization of vice president positions and elimination of some positions, according to Erlanger officials and board trustees. No names or positions of those affected were released by late Wednesday evening. In an emailed statement, interim CEO Charlesetta Woodard-Thompson said the new organizational chart will be posted internally once all those affected have been notified.
About 1,000 employees were informed Wednesday that Food Lion is closing dozens of grocery stores in Tennessee and cutting jobs, including two Murfreesboro locations and a Smyrna store. Statewide, the grocery chain is closing 25 stores, including nine in Middle Tennessee.
District sent letter of invitation only to those with low scores, sources say More than 750 teachers were to report to American Way Middle School this afternoon for a serious talk about their futures. The meeting was canceled Wednesday afternoon after sources said the district realized it had invaded employee privacy by sending a blanket e-mail invitation to all low-performing teachers, identifying them by name and certification number.
The decision of whether Knox County will have another charter school added to its roster is now in the hands of the State Board of Education. The New Consortium of Law and Business, whose application was denied twice by the Knox County school board in the fall, appealed the decision and pleaded its case to the state Wednesday.
Also passes first reading of revised community facility use The Knox County school board Wednesday night approved a $15.5 million contract with Rouse Construction to build Southwest Elementary School but said in the future they want to look at better ways to bid for construction projects instead of only having the option to pick the lowest one. “What happened at Dogwood was a travesty and it’s my sincere hope that these folks have learned from their mistakes.
It is encouraging that Gov. Bill Haslam is promoting cuts in the sales tax on food and in the unjust death tax on inheritances. We have to pay taxes to provide for the necessary functions of government. But taxes should be few, low and fair.
Republicans in charge of state government indicated Tuesday that they plan to move swiftly and pay little attention to Democratic suggestions. They see, in the words of The Tennessean in Nashville, “a fast, focused session that will wrap up earlier than last year’s mid-May adjournment date.”
Because of their importance in teachers’ performance reviews, a way must be found to complete classroom observations. The best-laid plans can look good on paper, but there are occasions when actually making the plan work is another matter.
It was in a meeting with the editorial board of this newspaper about 18 months ago that Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, then a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, gave his succinct philosophy on sharing power in government between political parties: “To the victor go the spoils.” It’s not an original phrase, but it came as his party was on the verge of taking control of both houses of the General Assembly for the first time since Reconstruction, and the governor’s office, to boot.
As is required every decade to account for shifts in population, the redistricting of congressional and legislative boundaries is under way in Tennessee. And not too surprisingly, that has prompted a proposal by state lawmakers to revise significantly the shape of congressional districts — including the 3rd District, in which Chattanooga is situated.
In 1994 the Tennessee Republican Party won a big victory. The Republicans elected a governor, Don Sundquist, two senators, Fred Thompson and Bill Frist, and took a 5-4 majority in the House delegation.
Today marks the official University of Memphis flag raising on the former campus of Lambuth University in Jackson. Dignitaries, public officials, community leaders, residents and students will hail the official beginning of a new era for the campus, the University of Memphis and the Jackson community.
The U.S. Postal Service’s nearly $10-billion deficit last year may be compounded this year by even greater losses if drastic cutbacks in services and operations are not made. So it is hardly a surprise that post office officials held another series of public meetings here this week to discuss the possible closure of one or more local facilities.
Health care spending in the United States increased at the slowest rate in half a century in 2009 and 2010, essentially keeping pace with the growth of the economy, according to the latest federal data. That looks like good news after decades of soaring health care spending that outpaced economic growth.