This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam touted the merits of national online sales tax legislation today in a call with Tennessee businesses hoping to alter what they consider an unfair playing field. The Republican governor said he supported their efforts to give states the option to require online retailers to collect sales taxes.
Joined by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell in the state capitol Wednesday, Gov. Bill Haslam announced a plan to add an amendment to the Tennessee Constitution and cement the process by which Supreme and appellate court judges are appointed. The resolution, which is still being drafted, would ensure that the state’s top judges would be installed under the same process as they are today.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam today approved the state House and Congressional redistricting map that already has caused one veteran House Democrat to throw in the towel. The map will whittle minority Democrats’ strength in the General Assembly even more.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, with the help of his wife, First Lady Crissy Haslam, announced Jan. 26 that he will issue an executive order refocusing and restructuring the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet, which they will co-chair together. This makes the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet the only one in the country co-chaired by both a governor and his or her spouse, according to the National Forum for Youth Investment, and the group, through collaboration and cooperation, will create a comprehensive strategy focused on issues such as children’s physical and mental health, education, safety and overall well-being.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam have announced the governor will issue an executive order refocusing and restructuring the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet, which they will co-chair. This makes the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet the only one in the country co-chaired by both a governor and the spouse, according to the National Forum for Youth Investment, and the group through collaboration and cooperation will create a comprehensive strategy focused on issues such as children’s physical and mental health, education, safety and overall well-being.
Suppliers set up shop as GM, Nissan ramp up production As Nissan and General Motors gear up to expand operations in Smyrna and Spring Hill, there is an often overlooked benefit: Auto suppliers that do business with the two giants often build nearby and bring additional jobs. For each direct new hire made by the automakers themselves, there will be as many as three new positions created by suppliers to the auto plants, many of which will locate close to the vehicle-assembly facilities, said David Penn, an economist at Middle Tennessee State University who tracks employment trends.
A more streamlined effort by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and State Board of Education is working behind the scenes to ensure that Tennessee students enter college ready and then leave prepared. The departments held their annual meeting Thursday, reviewing new legislative policies and federal Race to the Top efforts helping bridge the gap.
The State Collaborative on Reforming Education laid out its plan Thursday to gather feedback on Tennessee’s new teacher evaluation procedures and tenure rules. SCORE said it will hold eight roundtables, including one in Nashville on Feb. 23, for teachers, administrators and others to air their thoughts about the new system in which teachers are graded based on classroom evaluations and student test scores.
December unemployment rates dropped in more than half of Tennessee’s counties. Still, jobless figures remain in the double-digits in 40 counties.
The Memphis metro area’s unemployment rate continued its quick descent in December, dropping below 9 percent for the first time since December 2008. The Memphis MSA’s December 2011 jobless rate was 8.8 percent, down from a revised 9.2 percent rate in November, according to data released Thursday by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Unemployment in the eight-county Memphis metropolitan area fell to 8.8 percent in December. That represents a drop of four-tenths of a percentage point from November’s revised rate of 9.2 percent, the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said Thursday.
Knox County’s unemployment rate fell to 5.9 percent in December, down from 6.3 percent in November, the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said Thursday. Knox County had the lowest metropolitan jobless rate in the state. Rates in other major metro markets were also down. Davidson County’s December unemployment rate was 6.9 percent, down from 7.3 percent the previous month.
An air of stunned disbelief hovered in the Hamilton County Courthouse as news of the unexpected death of General Sessions Judge Bob Moon filtered through the halls Thursday. “You expect to see him like you would the walls of this building.
Lawmakers concerned about the Occupy Nashville encampment next to the state Capitol are promoting a bill that would criminalize camping on public property across the state. House Judiciary Chairman Eric Watson, who has a clear view of the 60-or-so tents from his office window, is sponsoring the legislation.
Two state legislators working to clear the “Occupy Nashville” protest group off the plaza at the state capital say they’ve gotten a green light from the Tennessee Attorney General’s office. Legislators often check with the state Attorney General for a fast, and free, opinion of whether a proposed law will stand up in court. State Representative Eric Watson and Senator Dolores Gresham, both Republicans, say the Attorney General’s staff did not raise any red flags on their bill.
A Middle Tennessee lawmaker has filed a new version of a bill meant to keep some statements made about homosexuality from falling under school anti-bullying policies. State Sen. Jim Summerville, R-Dickson, filed legislation Thursday that would require schools to write bullying policies that protect the First Amendment rights of students to express their beliefs.
Two bills have been filed in the Tennessee General Assembly lawmakers say would give teachers more authority and protection in disciplining students. According to a press release from the state, Senate Bill 3122, sponsored by Representative Joey Hensley, (R-Hohenwald), and Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham, (R-Somerville), would give teachers protection from civil liability when defending themselves or when they intervene in a physical altercation at school.
Tennessee State Rep. Curry Todd filed a bill that would transfer county school buildings to new municipal school districts, but would stick the countywide system with the remaining debt on the buildings. Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell said the recent bill filed by the Collierville lawmaker isn’t necessary.
Longtime State Senator Roy Herron says he won’t run for re-election this fall. Herron, a west-Tennessee Democrat, ran for Congress two years ago, but Republican Stephen Fincher won the contest. Herron was first elected to the state House about 25 years ago, and moved to the senate 10 years later.
A state Senate Democrat announced Thursday he won’t seek re-election in the wake of Republican-drawn redistricting maps that already have prompted a House Democrat to throw in the towel. Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden, announced he will not run again, ending a 26-year career in the General Assembly, first as a state representative and later in the state Senate, representing a rural West Tennessee area.
State Sen. Roy Herron, the Dresden Democrat who authored the Crime Victims Bill of Rights amendment to the Tennessee Constitution, announced Thursday he will neither run for re-election this year nor challenge U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher in the 8th Congressional District. Herron, 58, has represented much of Northwest Tennessee in both chambers of the legislature since 1986, when he won the first of five terms in the House seat vacated by the late Ned McWherter’s successful run for governor.
State Sen. Roy Herron said Thursday that he doesn’t plan to run for re-election or to run for Congress this year. “I do not intend to be on the ballot in 2012 for any position,” Herron, D-Dresden, said in a phone interview. Herron, who has served 16 years in the Senate, instead plans to lead the Ned McWherter Center for Rural Development in expanded efforts to help young people go to college and create jobs for Tennesseans, he announced in a news release.
Metro Police detective Gerry Hyder and his partner were staking out a known gang hideout in October when a suspect they were tailing suddenly emerged from the woods and opened fire on their unmarked truck. The bullets tore through their truck, but they sped away, unharmed.
Tennessee’s most powerful elected leaders want to amend the state Constitution to validate the current and, to some at least, controversial method of appointing high-level state judges. But some majority-party legislators aren’t so sure that’s a good idea — or that it’ll fly with voters.
License centers to open special time 2 Saturdays Rides are available to help people without photo identification get the documents they need to vote. A new Tennessee law requires people to present a photo ID in order to cast a ballot, and those who don’t have any ID can make a trip to a government office to get one for free. Shelby County Commission member Henri E. Brooks announced this week that her office is partnering with churches to transport people to get photo identifications on Feb. 4 and March 3.
Gloria Ray, president and CEO of the Knoxville Tourism & Sports Corp. said she isn’t offended by all the questions being raised about her $405,000 pay package. Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero has already said the pay appears excessive.
Davidson County Clerk John Arriola responded to a scathing state audit Thursday by saying his office had taken most of the steps recommended. Arriola said in a one-page statement that he had done everything requested by state Comptroller Justin Wilson before the audit’s release except for a recommendation that the clerk’s office turn over a $2 computer fee to the county trustee on a regular basis.
Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond told other county officials his office would need an additional $2.56 million in the coming year “just to keep our heads above water.” Hammond said the funding would increase his $27 million budget by about 8 percent.
Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee said proposed cuts to the defense budget that were announced this week would gut the nation’s military that is already spread too thin and leave thousands of troops unemployed. The plan announced Thursday includes reducing ground forces by 100,000 and limiting military pay raises and has drawn quick criticism from Republican lawmakers. Blackburn, who represents communities on the Tennessee side of Fort Campbell, Ky., said in a statement she has spoken with Maj. Gen. James McConville, the commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division, to assure him that she will push to protect resources for their soldiers and families.
You might expect Tennessee’s senators to clash with President Barack Obama on most of their congressional votes. After all, Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker are no fans of the president’s policies. After the president’s State of the Union address Tuesday, Alexander nicknamed the nation’s economic doldrums the “Obama economy,” and according to Bloomberg, Corker told its next-day breakfast panel the speech signaled “that for the next year we’re really not going to do much.”
U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. didn’t care much for most of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday, but he did hear something he liked. The Knoxville Republican is praising Obama for putting colleges and universities on notice that they risk losing federal dollars unless they hold tuition down to a reasonable level. Duncan’s office said the congressman first made the same proposal in a newsletter to his constituents in July 2009.
To hear Hamilton County Democratic Party Vice Chairman Rodney Strong tell it, “Do-Nothing Chuck, Little Prince Wamp and maybe The Milkman” can be defeated. Strong renamed the Republican U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann; his 24-year-old son-of-a-former-congressman primary challenger, Weston Wamp; and another potential GOP opponent, dairy mogul Scottie Mayfield, at the local Democratic Party’s executive committee meeting Thursday night.
The city received a record amount of federal grant money in the 2010-11 fiscal year, according to the latest audit. Ken Lay from the accounting firm Arnett, Kirksey, Kimsey, Pierce and Lay presented the annual audit to the Cleveland City Council this week. And on Thursday, Mayor Tom Rowland expanded on the economic situation during his annual State of the City address to the Cleveland Kiwanis Club.
Until recently, not many people in Colorado had ever heard of Mario Carrera. An executive at Entravision, which owns a number of Spanish-language TV and radio stations, Carrera’s world existed off-camera, far from the drama of politics playing out on the news on his stations. That changed last May when Carerra was appointed to serve as the lone independent on the state commission charged with handling state legislative redistricting in Colorado.
The government’s Oak Ridge security contractor confirmed that a security supervisor resigned Thursday after confessing to violations of company rules — including “dozing off” on the job and using a personal cellphone while on duty. Lee Brooks, senior vice president and general manager of WSI-Oak Ridge, the Department of Energy’s security contractor, said the security officer — a lieutenant on the protective force at Oak Ridge National Laboratory — came forward and acknowledged the violations after incriminating photographs were distributed anonymously to his employer and other organizations.
Small retailers say they’re at a disadvantage competing with Internet sellers who don’t usually charge sales tax. The issue gained traction in 2011 as Amazon.com expanded to Tennessee.
Dozens of Tennessee businesses are coming together in support of a level playing field between brick and mortar retailers and online retailers. Right now, online retailer don’t have to collect state sales tax. U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander is one of the sponsors of a Senate bill which aims to close the loophole.
When Terri Holley started selling shoes in high school, it was a simpler time for businesses. Chat with the customers, learn their clothing wants and fit them in the perfect pair of stilettos, boots or flats. When she opened Embellish, a Warehouse Row shoe and clothing boutique, customer service remained a top priority, but the smiles and friendly conversations with customers all too often changed to curt thank-yous and cool departures.
Tennessee’s small business owners say the state’s sales tax policy isn’t fair. They have to pay it but internet and out of state companies don’t. They want state legislators to close the online tax loophole.
Fewer than half of the students who graduated from a two-year chemical engineering program designed for Hemlock Semiconductor have been hired by the company. The program cost taxpayers more than $6 million.
Power equipment maker Briggs & Stratton has announced a consolidation that will close the company’s factory in West Tennessee. A news release from the Milwaukee-based company on Thursday announced the closure of the plant in Newbern, laying off about 240 regular employees and 450 temporary employees.
Briggs & Stratton announced on Thursday it would move existing manufacturing from its Newbern, Tenn. facility to its McDonough, Ga. facility, essentially closing the plant down. According to Laura Tim, Briggs & Stratton director of corporate communication, employees at the Newbern facility were delivered the news of the closing at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday at an employee meeting. “We gave the employees time to digest the news,” said Timm.
An Erlanger vice president and father-in-law to the public hospital’s former CEO has accepted a voluntary severance agreement that pays him a year’s salary in a lump sum, unused vacation time and provides health insurance for a year. Doug Fisher, who served as Erlanger’s vice president of government affairs, marketing and community relations, left the hospital on Jan. 13 as part of an executive restructuring.
Growers come to table for nutrition programs Area farmers met with state school nutrition experts here Thursday, working out the crop rotations and logistics it will take to have locally grown sweet potatoes, collard greens — even strawberries — on Memphis City Schools lunch menus by fall. “I haven’t seen an opportunity like this in a long time,” said Bob Levy of Willow Oaks Flower Farm in Brownsville, Tenn.
Company to spread merger message The Transition Planning Commission Thursday agreed to contract with the public relations firm Red Deluxe Brand Development, in partnership with Trust Marketing, to help develop and communicate with the public about a plan for the merger of Memphis City and Shelby County Schools. Total fees to be paid under the contract will not exceed $99,500. Communications and Community Engagement Committee chairman Jim Boyd said the company will go to work “as soon as possible” and will be on the job through all three phases of the commission’s work, which sets the stage for the two districts to combine operations in the fall of 2013.
Bartlett officials will head out on their own education field trip to the Tri-Cities region of East Tennessee early next week. With stops in Johnson City, Bristol and Kingsport, the entourage will try to get an inside look at the operation of schools similar in size to a potential Bartlett municipal school district.
A Davidson County grand jury has indicted three women for stealing more than $60,000 from the state Department of Human Services. Clarissa Jones, 34, Sharron Katherine Luckey, 40, and Shonnekia Peacock, 36, were each charged with one count of theft of $60,000 or more, one count of money laundering and two counts of identity theft.
A Crockett County attorney and former judge appeared in U.S. District Court in Jackson on Thursday for sentencing following his guilty plea last year on a methamphetamine charge. Shannon Jones testified at the sentencing hearing, saying once he started treatment for his drug addiction, it was a “relief” to have been discovered.
So much fog surrounds the selection process for Tennessee’s top judges that some light on the matter is welcome. Gov. Bill Haslam, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell have joined solidly behind an effort to clarify the legal status of the process.
End, once and for all, the confusion over how Tennessee should select its appellate judges, those who sit on state appeals courts and the Supreme Court. That’s the aim of Gov. Bill Haslam, who on Wednesday proposed a constitutional amendment that would in plain, no-contest language write the current Tennessee Plan into no-contest law.
Gov. Bill Haslam, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell are right to sponsor legislation to allow Tennessee voters to decide how best to select state Supreme Court and appeals court judges. Their bills to place a change in the state constitution on the ballot should be approved.
The annual luncheon with legislators hosted by the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists last Saturday was proving itself too routine, as in nothing newsworthy was emerging, when state Rep. Ryan Haynes, R-Knoxville, said closing Lakeshore Mental Health Institute was going to save the state $500 per patient per day. Afterward, I asked Haynes to confirm the number. And both he and state Sen. Becky Duncan Massey, the county’s new GOP lawmaker, assured me that they would both make sure that the money would stay local.
The second session of the 107th General Assembly convened Tuesday, Jan. 10, to face a full array of issues. During the first week, the issue of redistricting took center stage. Since 1790, the federal government has conducted a Census every 10 years.
This past Christmas, I did something I had never (shockingly) done before — I bought something from Amazon.com. I didn’t intend to make my purchase there.
It is great news for public education and some local students that Chattanooga High School Center for Creative Arts has been “Targeted” to receive a generous grant of $100,000. Target Corp., a prominent national retailer with a presence in our community, selected 50 schools across the country for a total of $5 million in grants.
Analysis says 558,000 in TN will gain coverage The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will have a profound impact on how health care is delivered in Tennessee. The most sweeping changes will be in access to health insurance for the uninsured.