This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
A manager for an automotive supplier says Tennessee is rapidly becoming a major hub for the industry. Brad Pepper of Topre America Corp. said that choosing the Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tenn., for a new company location was an obvious choice.
The leader of a charter school company from out of state asked Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam in Memphis last week if there is anything he and other charter school leaders in the room should know about Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools. Haslam laughed along with others from the area in the room at the New Consortium School of Law and Business on the north side of Court Square.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam pitched his 2012 legislative agenda — focused on creating jobs, lowering two taxes, and reforming government employment and education — to members of the Times-News Editorial Board Tuesday. Haslam’s agenda includes more than 50 non-budget bills, but the Republican governor and former Knoxville mayor pointed out there’s “always a ton of attention” paid to the state budget.
During a Tuesday morning interview session at the Bristol Herald Courier, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam presented a wide-ranging list of legislative proposals that his administration will pursue in 2012 – and said the plan solidly supports his goal to provide state residents with more efficient services. “My primary job is to provide the best services to [Tennesseans] at the lowest cost to taxpayers,” Haslam said during a nearly 40-minute session with the Herald Courier’s editorial board, newspaper executives and WJHL Channel 11 news anchor Josh Smith.
Governor Haslam’s agenda for the 2012 session includes changes to the way the state hires workers and a cut in the grocery tax.
Employees of the National Weather Service near Nashville will survey an area of North Lamar Road this morning to determine whether a tornado touched down between the 3000 and 4000 block there Tuesday afternoon. While some damage was done to homes, trees and even a recreational vehicle in the area, no injuries were reported, according to Rutherford County Emergency Medical Services spokesman Randy White.
An area between the 3000- and 4000-block of North Lamar Road suffered damage when a possibly tornadic storm ripped through the area around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. Rutherford County Emergency Medical Services spokesman Randy White told The Daily News Journal that several homes and a recreational vehicle was damaged as a result of the storm, but no injuries were reported.
The state said it has found “no validity” at this point to a series of allegations levied against an Oak Ridge waste processor on a national hotline for reporting nuclear and chemical incidents. Among allegations in the anonymous complaint to the National Response Center was that IMPACT had illegally disposed of radioactive materials at the Chestnut Ridge Landfill in Anderson County.
The Bradley County Commission has agreed to a funding deal proposed by the Cleveland City Council that will launch a delayed road improvement project linked to the Whirlpool relocation to Benton Pike. Tuesday morning, commissioners voted 10-3 to accept city help in paying for rights-of-way acquisitions and improvements for segments of Benton Pike, Durkee Road and Michigan Avenue. While the county still will have to pay an estimated $1 million as its share of local costs for the work, the agreement allows the county to pay the city back in four years instead of funding the debt up front.
For the past 15 years Dr. Paul Stanton occupied the president’s office at East Tennessee State University. Today a new president Dr. Brian Noland took over as the leader at the region’s largest university.
MTSU President Sidney McPhee used Skype on his iPhone for a more personal conversation with the Hangzhou Normal University president, working out the details of shipping 500 plants from China to Murfreesboro for research. But McPhee’s technophile side doesn’t end with smartphones.
Republican leaders are seeking to avoid the traditional lull in the first few weeks of the legislative session as they turn their attention from redistricting to the business of budgeting and lawmaking. While there was little evidence of enhanced urgency in the halls of legislative office complex on the first day back from the holiday weekend on Tuesday, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey have expressed confidence they can conclude the session even sooner than last year, when they wrapped up their business in late May. Gov. Bill Haslam’s agenda has so far found little criticism among fellow Republicans.
The Tennessee legislature hits the ground running today, the second week of its 2012 session. When the gavel bangs at noon, the Senate Judiciary Committee will take up two bills that address widespread drug abuse in the state – so-called “designer drugs,” and methamphetamine.
Some drivers’ practice of ignoring Tennessee’s mandatory liability-insurance law would come to a screeching halt under a proposed bill to create a state electronic compliance system. The measure would create a database and let county clerks check it to see if drivers meet financial responsibility requirements before registering or renewing their vehicle registrations.
A measure that seeks to ban Tennessee public schools from teaching about gay issues is once again before lawmakers. The proposal, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, is sponsored by Republican Rep. Joey Hensley of Hohenwald and is scheduled to be heard Wednesday in the House Education Subcommittee.
Thought Tennessee’s arduous redistricting process was over? Not so fast. Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris confirmed Tuesday that Tipton County was inadvertently omitted from the upper chamber’s redistricting measure passed last week. The missing county is part of Norris’ redrawn Senate district. The Legislature will need to pass the measure again to correct the error, Norris said.
Tennessee lawmakers finished the once-in-a-decade effort to redraw the state’s political maps Friday, approving the Republican-authored plans after making a handful of adjustments to accommodate incumbent lawmakers. Both chambers of the General Assembly approved a reapportionment plan for the Senate’s 33 districts, and state senators signed off on plans for the state House of Representatives and Congress that state representatives had passed Thursday.
As the issue of redistricting the Shelby County Commission remains unresolved and bounces back and forth between a divided commission and Chancery Court, nerves of commissioners are fraying and disagreements hit the danger level. A few days after Commissioner Terry Roland was confronted by several of his Republican colleagues at a meeting of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, a reprise of sorts occurred Tuesday night at a meeting of the Collierville Republican Club at the La Hacienda Restaurant on Highway 72/Poplar Avenue in Collierville.
Shelby County Commission members will start over with their once-a-decade redistricting process Wednesday, Jan. 18, with a committee session and a special meeting of the entire body to pass a plan on the first of three readings. The committee session on redistricting is at 10:45 a.m. at the Vasco Smith County Administration Building, 160 N. Main St. A special meeting of the full commission will follow at 2:30 p.m. Commissioners voted last week to start over with a redistricting process that ended in a deadlock when none of the top three plans under consideration had the necessary nine-vote, two-thirds majority that was necessary to pass on third and final reading.
State lawmakers on Friday approved redistricting plans for congressional and state legislative districts, and Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to sign the proposal. The biggest change for Bedford County is that the county moves from the 6th Congressional District, currently represented by Rep. Diane Black (R-Gallatin), to the 4th, currently represented by Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-South Pittsburg).
Dickson rep not concerned about redistricting Dickson County will have two representatives in the state House beginning in 2013. One of those could be 12-year incumbent Rep. David Shepard, should he decide to run again.
A Tennessee lawmaker wants to require anyone getting government assistance to be tested for drugs. That includes anyone on welfare and employees of any business getting government money.
To former Tennessee state Sen. Rosalind Kurita, an election certified by state officials, even a party primary, reflects the will of the people and shouldn’t be nullified at the whim of political party officials. The Tennessee Democratic Party and the state, though, say party primaries are just that — party functions in which the state has no role.
Since the devastating floods of 2010, more than a hundred Nashville homeowners have sold their badly-damaged property to the city. Another 78 in the floodplain are still waiting to close on their buyouts.
Memphis and Shelby County should soon be seeing the proceeds of the Memphis Depot Business Park sale from last year. The Memphis Depot Redevelopment Corp. will vote tomorrow to authorize sending $24.4 million from the sale to the city and county.
With representatives from all areas within Metro government gathered in one room, Finance Director Rich Riebeling told Metro department heads Tuesday to explore what effect a 2 percent reduction would have on their budgets. The 25-minute outing marked Metro’s “budget kickoff,” the first public line of communication with department leaders on an upcoming budget the 2012-13 fiscal year.
Kicking off a budget process sure to be shadowed by the question of whether Mayor Karl Dean will seek a property tax increase, Dean’s finance chief asked city department heads Tuesday to plan for 2 percent cuts in the next fiscal year. Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling also asked department leaders to “evaluate all revenue options” as they spend the next few weeks looking for ways to reduce spending slightly in the 2012-13 budget year, which starts July 1.
Billboards are popping up alongside a new but unopened stretch of Volkswagen Drive and Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield says the city’s plan for a “scenic corridor” has been “degraded.” But there’s nothing he can do to stop it.
A proposal to bring a small events center to Lebanon failed a City Council vote Tuesday night. Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead had proposed that new tax revenues created by a retail development called the Cumberland Center be used to fund a $40 million events center near Interstate 40.
Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper says state legislators shouldn’t wait long before taking a role in the federal healthcare overhaul. Some lawmakers have talked about putting such a move off until after the Supreme Court decides if the law can legally make people buy health insurance.
Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper says the U.S. and its European allies aren’t looking for a fight in Syria. Cooper sits on the House Armed Services Committee, and says despite the Syrian government’s deadly crackdown on protesters, there’s not much appetite to get involved.
Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District Democratic primary officially became a race Tuesday. Dr. Mary Headrick, an internal medicine physician from Maynardville, Tenn., told the Chattanooga Times Free Press she would oppose businessman Bill Taylor in August’s Democratic primary.
While the federal government’s newest safety guidelines are meant to be a system to make our nation’s highways safer, many in the transportation industry feel there are a lot of bugs to be worked out. Comprehensive Safety Analysis, also known as CSA, is a program the U.S. Department of Transportation ’s Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration launched in December 2010.
It has been more than four decades since states began putting numbers runners out of business by starting their own legal lotteries, which now yield them close to $18 billion a year. Now several states are thinking about trying to plug budget gaps by profiting again from their residents’ optimism — by legalizing, licensing and taxing Internet gambling.
The Tennessee Valley Authority said Tuesday it has completed the financing needed to lease the John Sevier plant in Rogersville, Tenn. The federal utility said it will receive $1 billion for leasing the plant to John Sevier Combined Cycle Generation LLC. TVA will complete the 880-megawatt natural gas-fired plant, then lease it for 30 years.
TVA announced Tuesday that it has completed a lease-purchase agreement in which it will lease the use of its John Sevier Combined Cycle Plant for 30 years in a deal that will provide the agency with $1 billion in financing. Under terms of the transaction, TVA will lease the plant near Rogersville to John Sevier Combined Cycle Generation LLC, a limited liability company, and in return will receive $1 billion.
The Tennessee Valley Authority completed a lease-purchase transaction on Tuesday that provides $1 billion in financing to support TVA’s vision of national leadership in low-cost, cleaner energy by 2020. TVA will lease the John Sevier Combined Cycle Plant in Rogersville, Tenn., to John Sevier Combined Cycle Generation LLC, a limited liability company, for which it will receive $1 billion in proceeds.
More than $1 billion in private investment was made in Memphis and Shelby County during 2011 that resulted in the creation of 3,709 jobs. The figures were released Tuesday morning during a joint event by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell Jr. and Greater Memphis Chamber president and CEO John Moore.
2011 was a billion-dollar year for Memphis and Shelby County. Last year, private businesses poured almost $1.2 billion in capital investment into the city and county, a figure touted Tuesday, Jan. 17, as a major accomplishment for the area at a time of prolonged strain in the local, state and national economy. That total was announced Tuesday by Greater Memphis Chamber president and CEO John Moore, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell.
In a statement released this morning, Electrolux Home Products Inc. outlined $15.3 million of contracts currently awarded to subcontractors involved in building the company’s North American Cooking Products manufacturing facility at Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park in Memphis. Despite calls for concern by a handful of local legislators worried about local and minority participation in the project, the release iterates Electrolux’s commitment to “ensure [that] construction dollars go to Shelby County minority firms” and demonstrates the company’s willingness to award contracts to both local and minority-owned businesses.
One of the companies benefiting from the Electrolux project is CDA Inc., an African-American-owned security guard company in Memphis. “For us, it’s definitely a much-needed opportunity that would create jobs, of course, on our end,” said vice president Darryl Dates.
Electrolux North America executives said Tuesday, Jan. 17, the company has awarded $6.3 million of the $15.3 million in contracts so far for construction of its new Memphis plant to local minority-owned firms. Overall, $14.5 million of that $15.3 million total has been awarded to local companies.
Anti-piracy legislation backed by Nashville’s music establishment is facing mounting opposition, with a planned Internet protest today by tech companies, the White House signaling opposition and lawmakers postponing a key vote that would have moved the measure forward today. The measures — known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate — have been key priorities for Nashville’s record labels and songwriters, who have lobbied hard since last summer to get the legislation ready for a final vote.
Board encourages teachers to be part of process Knox County Schools has completed 48 percent of its teacher evaluations for this school year using a new tool and early results show that nine out of every 10 teachers are at least meeting expectations. This is the first year for the Tennessee Educator Acceleration Model, which requires every teacher be evaluated every year.
A municipal school district could be established in Germantown provided the city keeps all of its current students, including those who live outside Germantown but inside its school attendance zones. That’s what educational consultants told the Germantown Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Tuesday night.
The local discussion about changes to Shelby County’s two public schools systems has shifted this week to efforts by leaders of the county’s six suburban towns and cities to form their own school system or systems. And the first public review of the reports Tuesday, Jan. 17, by the Germantown Mayor and Board of Aldermen indicated the leaders were encouraged by a report that concludes a suburban school district would not have to pay the countywide school system to get buildings within the boundaries of a separate school district they might form.
A charter school operator from Arizona wants to be one of the first in the state to open a publicly financed school that’s not designed just for low-income kids. Representatives from Great Hearts Academies will meet with prospective parents Wednesday and Thursday nights.
Teachers have embraced the Cleveland/Bradley Public Education Foundation’s minigrant program, according to the foundation. Sixteen grants were awarded for the current school year to city school applicants, and another 38 were granted to Bradley County schools.
The Maury County Public School district is surveying students, parents and others for information to be used in a self-evaluation report on the district’s school performance, as part of the application process for accreditation by AdvancED. Local education officials say district accreditation supports individual school improvement while unifying school performance and aligning it with overall district goals.
The Bible tells its readers to obey the law, but it also tells them to welcome strangers and foreigners. That’s left Christians divided over the issue of immigration reform, and the fight has come to Middle Tennessee. Members of Nashville-based Clergy for Tolerance say that any new immigration laws have to mix justice with compassion.
Is reclaimed water a basic public resource or a privately manufactured product? That’s the question before the Florida legislature this session, as it decides how to classify the state’s large supply of wastewater that’s treated and used again, often for lawn irrigation or recharging aquifers.
The state’s enhanced power to take over financially troubled cities has drawn the ire of Democrats and labor unions in Michigan, and such interventions have sparked fights across the U.S. in places like Harrisburg, Pa. But here in Flint—once an icon for industrial might and organized labor—emergency manager Michael Brown has received a warmer-than-expected reception even as he took early steps such as stopping the pay of the mayor and city council and shutting several city departments.
Wisconsin Democrats handed in one million signatures on Tuesday calling for the recall of GOP Gov. Scott Walker, but Republicans have succeeded in delaying any election, likely improving the governor’s chances of surviving the bruising and widely publicized battle. Republicans recently won a court order requiring the Government Accountability Board, which is responsible for counting signatures, to check for duplicate and fake signatures.
On the first day of 2012 session of the ?Tennessee General Assembly, Gov. Bill Haslam rolled out his legislative package. Despite his insistence in the run-up to the gavel that tax cuts were not in the offing, the governor indeed proposed cutting the estate tax and the sales tax on food. Haslam said he’d like to cut the food tax from 5.5 percent to 5.3 percent this year with an ultimate goal of a flat 5 percent rate.
Gov. Bill Haslam is proposing Tennessee take some baby steps toward tax reform this year by beginning to lower the sales tax on groceries and raise the amount exempt from the state inheritance tax. Haslam announced both measures last week when he unveiled his agenda for this year’s legislative session.
The attack on Tennessee’s open meetings law is over for now, thanks to three key Republicans who quickly squashed this effort like a pesky bug. Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell joined Gov. Bill Haslam and state Sen. Ken Yager to stand behind a law that for nearly 38 years has assured taxpayers that their business would be done in public, not in secret.
Even in the best economic times, when businesses are hiring workers and government revenue is growing from an expanded tax base, there still will never be enough tax dollars to fund every good idea. That is doubly true in a difficult economic period, such as the one that Tennessee and most of the rest of the nation are enduring.
Based on comments I’ve received, some employees at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant clearly felt like they’d been victimized by the pay freeze at U.S. Department of Energy plants. Those feelings seemed to grow and amplify after it was reported that B&W Y-12 received an award fee of about $56 million for its management of Y-12 in fiscal year 2011.