This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam told Bristol Chamber of Commerce members Friday morning that his legislative agenda for 2012 will push for more efficiency and improved results in numerous areas. “My job is to make sure you get great [government] service at the lowest price,” Haslam told some 150 political and civic leaders during a chamber breakfast meeting downtown at 620 State.
Crown College held its annual Faithful Men’s Meeting Saturday night. The event is designed to inspire men to be the right kind of husbands and fathers needed in the community.
A big victory for the Vols on the court didn’t take the spotlight off the honoree of the night: Pat Summitt. All this week, the SEC sponsored “We Back Pat” week at both men’s and women’s basketball games to bring awareness to Alzheimer’s.
Plan specifics still in works Don’t expect to go sledding down a snow-packed water slide when a proposed water and snow theme park opens near Opryland in a few years. While Opryland owner Gaylord Entertainment and Dolly Parton’s Dollywood Co. released few details in announcing the $50 million joint project last week, they already have some ideas of what it might look like.
Gov. Bill Haslam and Mayor Karl Dean were happy to join Dolly Parton on stage, sing her praises, give her birthday flowers and offer their governments’ support as she announced plans to build a water and snow park with Gaylord Entertainment Co. But the mayor and governor weren’t as expansive when reporters started asking exactly what that support would look like. And that made taxpayer advocate Ben Cunningham unhappy.
Students unprepared for fast-growing jobs Tennessee has become the first state in the nation to form a legislative caucus to address science, technology, engineering and mathematics issues in education. Knowledge of those subject areas, collaboratively known as STEM, are required for 27 of the top 30 fastest-growing occupations projected for 2018, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor.
State Sen. Mike Faulk is pitching his legislative proposal to modify Tennessee’s teacher evaluation system amid criticism of the current setup coming from the Tennessee Education Association. Faulk, R-Church Hill, trotted out his bill last Wednesday to allow teachers and principals with superior value-added growth data to use those scores to constitute 50 percent or more of their evaluations.
The Bible tells its readers to obey the law, but it also tells them to welcome strangers and foreigners. That has left Christians divided over the issue of immigration reform, and the fight has come to Middle Tennessee.
Republican state legislators say they don’t have much problem with occasional skirmishes between Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey. Area legislators were gathered for a luncheon Saturday afternoon at Calhoun’s on Bearden Hill, and answered numerous questions about bills on the table in Nashville and other issues.
Republican leaders in the General Assembly may have been pleased with the speed by which they completed redistricting, but their efficiency came at a price: Lawmakers left Tipton County out of their redistricting plan for the state Senate. The mistake, which was caught when clerks went to certify the redistricting bills for transmission to Gov. Bill Haslam, was especially embarrassing for Republicans because Tipton will become part of the Senate district represented by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, who shepherded redistricting through the Senate.
Turns out the state Senate redistricting plan, as originally enacted, had a major omission. Tipton County, which will be part of Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris’ district under the new plan, was not included in the bill’s language and thus, theoretically, would have had no state senator.
Metro Councilman Darren Jernigan announced that he plans to run this year for a seat in the state House of Representatives — the seat now held by his former colleague Jim Gotto. Jernigan, a Democrat, has appointed a treasurer for a campaign for his party’s nomination for the House District 60 seat.
With the economy tanking and unemployment in double digits, Bill Haslam built his 2010 gubernatorial campaign around jobs. He called it “Jobs4TN” and repeated his promise to “make Tennessee the No. 1 state in the Southeast for high-quality jobs” more times than the Pride of the Southland Band plays “Rocky Top” at a Tennessee football game.
Something didn’t seem quite right to Tyler Adams as he talked with the man who wanted to buy a gun from him. The customer admitted he did not have a permit to carry a concealed weapon in Tennessee.
Despite a lawsuit and temporary shutdown, speed cameras in Bluff City have become a significant revenue generator that netted the city nearly $1.6 million. An audit obtained by the Bristol Herald Courier shows that in the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the city’s general fund earned $2.6 million, which included $1.9 million in fines and forfeitures that primarily came from tickets issued by cameras along U.S. Highway 11E (http://bit.ly/yIBHK1 ).
News that Gloria Ray, the top official at the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corporation, earned more than $400,000 in 2010 was a surprise to many local residents — including several members of the nonprofit agency’s own board. During the fiscal year that ended in June 2010, Ray received $405,583 as president and CEO of the KTSC, according to records filed with the Internal Revenue Service.
Fourteen years after opening, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame still uses public funds to meet costs and makes more from weddings and receptions than it does from tourists. Visitor levels are far below anticipated when it opened. And recent leadership and land issues could affect the Hall of Fame in uncertain ways in the future.
In many ways, the Tennessee Democratic Party’s Latino Summit on Saturday was everything someone might expect heading into an election year. There were discussions about how to register people to vote, calls for volunteers to get involved with different aspects of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and reminders about upcoming Tennessee Democratic Party events.
With a $1 billion lease-purchase agreement on its John Sevier Combined Cycle Plant now in hand, TVA is setting a course to make greater use of such alternative financing arrangements to meet capital funding needs without drawing closer to a $30 billion debt ceiling. That’s according to TVA Chief Financial Officer John Thomas, who last week helped oversee the deal.
A $3.9 million loss in December brings Erlanger Health System’s budget shortfall to $10.3 million for the first six months of the fiscal year, one of the biggest deficits in recent years at the public hospital. Last month’s financial report notes the hospital has 79 days of cash on hand, compared to 103 days last December.
The big Mississippi firm picked to build the Memphis Electrolux plant calmed a political storm last week by recruiting a handful of minority subcontractors from the Mid-South. But with an array of local companies still angling for different parts of the building project, tension might simmer in Memphis for weeks.
Finance committee studies ways to pay for education As a member of Shelby County’s schools merger team, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell came straight to the point at a Jan. 9 meeting of the Transition Planning Commission’s finance committee. If county taxes for education must go up — primarily to make up for the $68 million Memphis will no longer be obligated to contribute to schools after administration of Memphis City Schools is transferred to the county by 2013-14 — the task will fall to him to make the political pitch.
ACT measure predicts 7 percent of local students are ready for college North Side High School junior Samuel Hennings was anxious and unsure when he took the ACT last month. “I was nervous because the test can make or break you,” Hennings said. “
Hamilton County public school teachers, administrators and support staff will be honored this spring in a new award program intended to highlight top-performing educators. The 2011-12 Excellence in Public Education awards, presented by the Hamilton County Department of Education, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and the Chattanooga Times Free Press, are intended to encourage and recognize efforts and successes, officials said.
Five suspects were taken into custody by Dyer County Sheriff’s deputies this week after an alleged meth lab was discovered at a residence on Lenox Nauvoo Road. Julie Smith Ables, 42, 8428 Bradley Road, Finley, Tenn.; Charlette Dykes, 40, 518 Troy Ave., Apt. C, Dyersburg; Wesley Street, 39, 4383 Johnson Road Grove, Bells, Tenn.; Anthony Griggs, 40, 1314 Cedar Road, Ripley, Tenn.; and Steven Pennington, 35, 2349 Snider Bluff Road, Ripley, Tenn., were all arrested on meth-related charges at a residence at 1192 Lenox Nauvoo Road on Tuesday. The arrests occurred after Deputy Cody Crawford received information that a meth lab might be at the residence and he and two other officers went to the residence to investigate the allegation.
The defunct Opryland USA theme park was much like your first high school boyfriend: Reliable. Safe. The ending was hurtful. But eventually, thinking of him makes you awash with nostalgic memories.
If you’re one of the thousands of public school teachers across the state of Tennessee, you have to be wondering when the bull’s-eye will disappear from your back and you can focus solely on the important work of educating our children. After several months of outcry from educators throughout the state, including those here in Rutherford County, about the cumbersome new teacher evaluation process, what does Gov. Bill Haslam do to jump-start the latest legislative session?
Do you wonder what is all the fuss over teacher evaluations? Does the community think teachers are afraid of being evaluated? No, in fact, educators routinely study and use test data in terms not only pertaining to their own students, but also in terms of themselves. Most educators are trained in test design.
There’s a saying that only two things in life are certain — death and taxes. If you’re an online retailer, however, you may be able to avoid the latter. At least you would be able to avoid collecting state sales taxes.
While the national media has reported at some length on the powers of the new “Super PACs” in presidential politics, state Sen. Bill Ketron may have illustrated that Tennessee leadership PACs have some super powers, too. Maybe previously unappreciated.
Knox County’s charter is going into the repair shop, but whether it’s just for a diagnostic check or a major overhaul will be up to a 27-person committee and, ultimately, the voters. Thanks to the state Supreme Court, this will be the first time a charter review committee will look at the county’s governing document with a full understanding of its power to restructure Knox County government.
It would be wise for the suburbs to wait for the completion of a merger plan before starting school districts. It should not have been a surprise that a consultants’ study said Shelby County’s suburban cities could afford to establish their own school systems.
We are stunned by comments from board members at Thursday’s Jackson-Madison County Board of Education meeting about soliciting support from the business community. Where have these people been for the past six months?
Could things possibly be any worse at the Shelby County Commission? Is there any hope of reconciliation with this group of elected “leaders,” or will the verbal jousting — leading to near fist-fights — continue indefinitely? Here’s your answer.
It is happening all across the country. From Montana to Michigan, Texas to Pennsylvania, and in Cheatham County in Tennessee, cases of bullying are getting lots of attention. It’s about time. The attention isn’t necessarily that more schoolkids are getting taunted and hazed now than in the past.
Nasty rhetoric, nightly television commentator rants, from every political spectrum, as well as the deluge of sarcastic, cynical attitudes make me believe something is terribly wrong with the way people speak to and treat each other. It infects and numbs us.
“Sticks and stones will break your bones, but words will never hurt me” was a saying I grew up hearing and repeating on numerous occasions throughout grade school. I would painfully learn upon entering middle school a truer version of the original: “Sticks and stones will break your bones, but words will scar your soul.”
Those who argue that construction of the Keystone XL pipeline should be approved by the president because it would support tens of thousands of jobs get the story backwards. The jobs should be created because the product delivered by the pipeline is highly valued by potential customers.