This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam tonight delivered his 2012 State of the State address before a joint session of the General Assembly in which he shared his vision for the state and called upon those watching and listening to “believe in better.” “We can believe in better for how state government serves Tennesseans,” Haslam said.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s annual spending proposal calls for raises for state employees, more spending on construction on college campuses and tax cuts on food and inheritance. The governor’s $31.08 billion proposal relies on rebounding revenues to avoid more drastic cuts the state would have faced otherwise.
Tennessee’s economic prospects have improved, but its government needs to work more efficiently, Gov. Bill Haslam said in a speech to the General Assembly on Monday night. Unveiling a $31 billion spending plan that would raise pay for state workers by 2.5 percent, fund a new science building at Middle Tennessee State University and cut more than 1,100 state jobs across Tennessee, Haslam said his administration is intent on improving service, lowering unemployment, bettering the education system and reducing the cost of government.
While Tennessee is doing “great” in many respects, Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday in his annual State of the State address that the state needs to do even better when it comes to efficiency and serving citizens’ needs. “Is the current state of our state good enough?”
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam tonight delivered his 2012 State of the State address before a joint session of the General Assembly in which he shared his vision for the state and called upon those watching and listening to “Believe in Better. “We can believe in better for how state government serves Tennesseans,” Haslam said.
Gov. Bill Haslam is proposing a budget he says will make the state more efficient, but it is actually bigger than the one he proposed last year. But his budget plan — complete with a 2.5 percent pay boost for teachers and state employees and more than a quarter billion dollars for higher education and capital improvements — is still 2.7 percent less than the current year’s spending plan.
This month, we’ve been taking a look at state budgets. They remain in crisis for populous states like California and Illinois. But in Tennessee, the governor will deliver his State of the State address tonight with some extra money in his pocket – enough money that he’s talking about tax cuts. From member station WPLN, Blake Farmer reports. BLAKE FARMER, BYLINE: Twelve months ago, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam paraded into the Capitol behind a marching band blasting “Rocky Top.”
The more than $330 million Gov. Bill Haslam has appropriated for capital projects and maintenance at the state’s colleges and universities is a good start considering they haven’t received sufficient funding in nearly four years, state officials said Monday. The Republican governor stressed the importance of adequately funding higher education’s capital plans in his State of the State address on Monday evening, saying “access is critical to a successful education program.”
Gov. Bill Haslam proposed a $31.08 billion state budget Monday night that cuts 1,166 state worker positions, gives remaining workers and teachers a 2.5 percent raise and funds the most significant building program since the Great Recession decimated state revenue four years ago. The construction money includes more than $43 million for major projects at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, the University of Memphis and Southwest Tennessee Community College.
For the first time since 2008, capital projects for higher education are proposed to be funded in Tennessee, and as 11 Connects learned the governor budgeted money for one local college but not another. Aubrey Fulkerson and Danielle Beeler are all too familiar with crowded lab classes at Northeast State. “When I first walked in they were actually out of chairs,” says Fulkerson.
Middle Tennessee State University President Sidney McPhee was ready to do a dance Monday. After 12 years on a waiting list for a new science building, he learned Monday that Gov. Bill Haslam proposed to fully fund the $126.7 million project as part of $335 million in higher education facility upgrades. “As communities like the Middle Tennessee area strive for high-tech jobs and try to attract business and industry, particularly in the life sciences area, a facility like this will go a long way for us attracting students,” McPhee said of the 250,000-square-foot building, likely to take 18 to 24 months to complete.
Middle Tennessee State University applauded Gov. Bill Haslam’s announcement Monday night that the University’s $126.7 million Science Building project has been included in his proposed 2012-13 budget. “In our 100th anniversary, what a way to kick off our second century,”MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee said.
Under the theme “believe in better,” Gov. Bill Haslam proposed Monday a $31 billion state budget for the coming year that provides a 2.5 percent pay raise for state employees while abolishing 1,166 government jobs. The budget also allocates $263 million toward the $2.1 billion in construction on college and university campuses that the higher education system had proposed and seeks $70 million in additional state funds to give businesses expanding or relocating in Tennessee.
Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday released his proposed state budget for the coming financial year, ending more than a thousand jobs across the government but also cutting taxes modestly and paying for major construction projects on college campuses. Tennessee’s citizens are projected to send $9.4 billion to the government to pay for state services, returning the treasury to its pre-recession level for the first time in six years.
When Governor Bill Haslam presents his State of the State address tonight, he’ll outline a budget for next year that includes a pay hike for state employees. But if Haslam also gets new civil service rules approved this year, it might be the last across-the board increase for workers.
Gov. Bill Haslam hopes more cold, hard cash will sway more companies to expand in or relocate to Tennessee. His proposed fiscal 2013 budget contains $20 million for an expanded FastTrack, the state’s primary economic-development program.
With help from two-year-old daughter, Claire, Heather Wilson will spend just shy of $150 at the Signal Mountain Bi-Lo Monday. That’s a typical week’s grocery bill for their family of five “Just the entire bill is what I’m focused on, and the fact that groceries have gotten so expensive,” Wilson laments. Tennessee sales tax accounts for five-and-one-half percent of that total. But Governor Bill Haslam wants to cut the rate to five percent over several years.
In the days of extreme couponing, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has drafted his own plan to save your family money at the grocery store. He wants to cut the sales tax you pay on groceries.
“We simply have to keep tuition increases in Tennessee to a minimum so that we can encourage more access to more students.” Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam wants his state to produce more college graduates.
Tennessee counties will be expected to pick up about a $9 million tab for housing domestic abusers under the governor’s plans to punish repeat offenders with mandatory minimum jail sentences. Gov. Bill Haslam on Monday released his proposed state budget, part of which included about $6.8 million in new spending designed to increase penalties for gang-related crimes, gun violence, drug abuse and repeat domestic violence offenders.
Doctors and other health-care providers would avoid a proposed 1.25 percent payment decrease for seeing TennCare patients in Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed budget. While the figure may appear small, it carried big consequences.
The environment — air, land or water — wasn’t mentioned in Gov. Haslam’s address, but his budget backs the intended use of the Real Estate Transfer Fund. The $17 million fund, whose money has been diverted to the general fund at times in the past, has provided a way to acquire sensitive wetlands, parklands and greenways, supporting conservation interests of all kinds.
The budget Gov. Bill Haslam presented Monday night includes funding for a long-sought bill that extends unemployment benefits to the spouses of Fort Campbell soldiers. State Sen. Tim Barnes, D-Adams, and State Rep. Joe Pitts, D-Clarksville, announced Monday that the big barrier to passing the legislation – funding – was removed with the governor allocating $250,000 for this benefit. “We’re very pleased this was in the budget,” Barnes said.
Regional lawmakers from both parties are objecting a provision in Gov. Bill Haslam’s $30.08 billion spending plan that closes Taft Youth Center in Pikeville. Rep. Bill Harmon, D-Dunlap, called the proposal, which area lawmakers hoped to keep from being included in the budget, a “total mistake.” Everyone across the state is “jumping up and down about the gang problems,” Harmon said Monday.
The National Federation of Independent Businesses would like Tennessee to join the 27 states that don’t impose an inheritance tax. The group is happy, however, with Governor Haslam’s plan to make gradual cuts.
When Republican Governor Bill Haslam delivers his state of the state address Monday night, he may get at least some applause from every corner of the House chamber. The agenda he’s unveiled so far isn’t giving Democrats much to complain about.
When Governor Bill Haslam lays out his agenda in this year’s State of the State address Monday night, one part is sure to perk up the ears of teachers. Haslam’s been talking about giving local school boards more leeway to set classroom sizes and teacher salaries. Haslam says he wants to give school districts more flexibility in terms of staffing.
Reactions and impressions about Gov. Bill Haslam’s second annual State of the State address on Monday evening: ___ “It was an excellent speech, it was upbeat, it was forward thinking and he’s remaining true to the things he ran for this office for.” — House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville. —- “It is a bold plan to change the way Tennessee government operates, to improve the economy here by creating a climate for economic prosperity, so we’re excited about his plan.”
One of Tennessee’s largest farming communities could soon be hit by budget cuts. Now, Bedford County farmers are fighting back to keep what they call, “a great resource.”
Judges are appointed in Tennessee. A nominating commission draws up a list of names, then the Governor picks from that list. Governor Haslam wants to enshrine this system in the Tennessee Constitution.
The Manhattan skyline, the streets of San Francisco and the theme parks of Orlando, Fla., were among the sights the Cleary family had taken in during previous trips to the United States. For its 11th U.S. trip, the family from Cambridgeshire, England — Mike; his wife, Mary; and their 23-year-old daughter, Amanda — opted for a destination less well known to overseas tourists: namely, Nashville. “We’re here for the country music,” Mike Cleary said as they waited for a tour at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum earlier this month.
The state of Tennessee on Monday appealed a ruling that would have allowed artwork by the late painter Georgia O’Keeffe move between Fisk University — which is looking to generate money from the collection — and an Arkansas museum every two years. O’Keeffe stipulated that the collection could not be sold or broken up. But Fisk has argued it has a financial need to complete a $30 million deal to sell a 50 percent stake in the collection to the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Ark.
Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper Jr. filed an application to appeal the court-approved cash-for-share of Fisk University’s prestigious Stieglitz Collection on Monday, further extending the years-long legal battle over the collection of modern art. Fisk is attempting to sell a half-share of the collection, donated by artist Georgia O’Keefe, to Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas for $30 million to help the school climb out of a dire financial situation.
The legal battle over Fisk University’s famed Stieglitz art collection will continue. The state asked the Tennessee Supreme Court late Monday to overturn an appeals court decision allowing Fisk to sell a stake in the collection to an Arkansas art museum. “Such a statement from this state’s highest court is necessary to avoid the chilling effect on future donor gifts created by the Court of Appeals’ decision to ignore the donor’s express intent in this case,” Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper wrote in his 32-page filing.
The Harpeth Wetland Bank has donated about 220 acres of rural property in Rutherford County to Middle Tennessee State University. The land in the Rockvale community about a 20-minute drive from campus will be used as an environmental field laboratory for programs in biology, environmental science, botany, conservation and other sciences.
Jackson State Community College’s SMART Math Center is earning accolades for increasing student achievement and course completion with its usage of the computer software MyMathLab Plus. “Our lab really focuses on individualized instruction,” said Linda Rainer, an adjunct professor.
TennCare has had a 48 percent increase in narcotics prescriptions over the last four years despite efforts to end abuse. Those efforts include a program called lock-ins, which forces a patient to fill prescriptions at a specific pharmacy.
TennCare administrators admit to an increase in spending on narcotics prescriptions, but insist reforms to cut fraud are working in Tennessee. From 2007 to 2011, the amount TennCare as spent on narcotic prescriptions has increased by 48%.
An overnight rock slide is blocking traffic on I-40 westbound in Cocke County. TDOT officials say a rock the size of a car fell around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, blocking one lane near mile marker 450.
TDOT officials say they are preparing to close both westbound lanes of I-40 at the 451 mile marker in order to deal with the aftermath of a rockslide near the North Carolina state line. The interstate is currently clear, but geologists are worried about a much larger rock that is in jeopardy of falling on the interstate.
Tennessee Deparment of Transportation crews are on the scene of rock slide on Interstate 40 in Cocke County. It happened at Mile Marker 450 and one westbound lane is closed.
Under current law, Tennessee has “open primaries.” Voters can choose which party primary they want to vote in on Election Day, but there’s a move to change that. On election day, the voter tells the clerk which primary he wants. The clerk marks a box on the voting slip, and the citizen walks toward the ballot machine.
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton on Monday condemned a pair of bills in Nashville that could significantly affect future annexation and suburban growth in Shelby County. Wharton believes race and the fact that Memphis is a majority black city played a large role in two bills introduced by a trio of East Shelby County Republicans.
In an uncanny echo of the situation a year ago, when City of Memphis officials, threatened with state action to overpower local options on school merger, unified in opposition, Mayor A C Wharton and the City Council stand ready on Tuesday to expedite the emergency annexation of the still unincorporated Gray’s Creek suburban area. The action, in response to two new bill introduced by Republican legislators Mark Norris and Curry Todd curtailing Memphis’ powers of annexation, will begin with a meeting of the Council’s personnel, intergovernmental, and annexation committee at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The Rutherford Education Association and Murfreesboro Education Association are set to hold a legislative forum Thursday at Blackman High School to discuss bills affecting teachers. Scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. in the school’s auditorium, the event is designed to give local teachers an opportunity to ask questions of the county’s legislative delegation or make comments about pending legislation, according to Allen Nichols, chairman of the Rutherford Education Association’s Fund for Children in Public Schools. State Sens. Bill Ketron and Jim Tracy and state Reps. Joe Carr, Rick Womick and Mike Sparks have made commitments to attend the event, Nichols said.
Outrage over state Sen. Stacey Campfield’s remarks on AIDS could be leading to a recall movement — even though state law won’t recognize any such effort. About 680 people liked the Recall TN State Senator Campfield page on Facebook by Monday night, about a day after its creation.
The owner of a Knoxville restaurant ordered a Tennessee state senator to leave her establishment Sunday. Republican State Senator Stacey Campfield has made headlines with controversial remarks and bills, including his so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation.
The owner of Bistro at the Bijou in downtown Knoxville booted state Sen. Stacey Campfield from her restaurant Sunday over his controversial comments on homosexuality and the origin of AIDS. The sign in front of the Bistro on Monday read, “Today’s Special: Fried Chicken.
Late yesterday morning, State Senator Stacy Campfield was taking three others to brunch at the Bistro at the Bijou when he was approached by the owner and told to leave. The owner told Local 8 News she wanted him to know how it feels to be discriminated against like he was doing to others by his outspoken views.
Spreading misinformation about HIV could actually increase the spread of the virus itself, said some local HIV advocates. They’re worried recent statements by state Sen. Stacey Campfield about the origins and transmission of HIV could keep people from taking precautions.
The chairman of the Maury County Democratic Party said he is considering running for the newly created 28th state Senate district seat. Guy Z. Derryberry, a Columbia resident who ran unsuccessfully three previous times for seats in the state Legislature, said he has decided to form an exploratory committee to determine whether he should vie for the new seat.
County won’t request additional poll workers for March 6 primary While counties across the state will be employing extra poll workers during Tennessee’s presidential primary in March, Montgomery County will proceed with business as usual. The Tennessee General Assembly approved funding that would cover more poll workers, but Vickie Koelman, Montgomery County’s administrator of elections, said the county’s roster of about 250 poll workers is well equipped without extra help.
30% of homeowners reject Metro’s offers Given a chance to move out and move on from her Bordeaux home, which took on 4 feet of water less than two years ago, Margreat Dillon would hear nothing of it. “It wasn’t about the money,” she said.
The ball is back in the Hamilton County Commission’s hands after Occupy Chattanooga filed a motion to dismiss a complaint the commission filed against it earlier this month in federal court. The commission must respond within 21 days to the group’s argument that the county’s action against it is premature and inappropriate for federal court to hear.
Judge Don Ash, attorney Joe Brandon Jr. trade allegations A defense attorney in a high-profile Middle Tennessee murder case and the presiding judge are engaged in a war of words and likely headed for an election battle against each other. Rutherford County Circuit Judge Don Ash and attorney Joe Brandon Jr. have traded allegations of bias and professional misconduct, and now Brandon has said he intends to run against Ash in a 2014 judicial election.
Southaven Mayor Greg Davis, who appeared Monday for the first time in weeks, said he won’t resign amid questions over his spending and that the only thing he deceived aldermen about was his sexual orientation. Wearing a dark pinstripe suit and looking thinner, the embattled mayor stood behind a podium inside City Hall and read from a 2 1/2 -minute prepared statement.
Southaven Mayor Greg Davis returned to public life in the North Mississippi town Monday, Jan. 30, by announcing he has “no intention of resigning,” despite a federal criminal investigation into his spending of taxpayer money and a critical review of the same expenses by the Mississippi auditor’s office. “I felt certain questions will be answered with factual data,” Davis said in a brief press conference at Southaven City Hall in which he took no questions.
As students, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama flunked the no-smoking class. The three states racked up a row of F’s from the American Lung Association’s annual report card that grades states on their efforts to curb cigarette usage. The State of Control report looks at four categories: tobacco prevention, control and spending; state smoking restrictions; cigarette tax rate; and state cessation coverage.
Growing mistrust from Marion County residents about the upcoming wheel tax referendum has county commissioners pushing to persuade the public. In October, the commission avoided a possible special election by voting to put the wheel tax question on the March ballot.
Barely a week after it was rejected by President Barack Obama, Republican senators are aiming to take the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline into their own hands. Along with 42 of their fellow Senate lawmakers, Tennessee Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker announced their support of a plan to get the 1,700-mile pipeline passed without the approval of the president.
Candidates in Tennessee’s 3rd District race boasted their fourth-quarter fundraising hauls over the weekend. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, who is seeking re-election for the first time as an incumbent, announced raising more than $320,000 between October and January, bringing his cash-on-hand total to nearly $620,000.
In its initial review of No Child Left Behind waiver requests, the U.S. Education Department highlighted a similar weakness in nearly every application: States did not do enough to ensure schools would be held accountable for the performance of all students. The Obama administration praised the states for their high academic standards. But nearly every application was criticized for being loose about setting high goals and, when necessary, interventions for all student groups — including minorities, the disabled and low-income — or for failing to create sufficient incentives to close the achievement gap.
A year after a coterie of new Republican governors swept into the statehouses and put in place aggressive agendas to cut spending and curb union powers, sparking strong backlashes in many places, many of them are adopting decidedly more moderate tones as they begin their sophomore year in office. The efforts to weaken unions have not ended — witness the recent events in Indianapolis, where the longtime Republican governor, Mitch Daniels, supports making Indiana the first state in the industrial Midwest with so-called right-to-work legislation.
House Republicans are expanding their probe into the Obama administration’s energy programs, investigating $500 million in green job training grants that placed just 10% of trainees in jobs, according to a government report. The program’s goal was to train 124,893 people and put 79,854 in jobs.
Great American Steamboat Co., the enterprise that’s newly headquartered Downtown in One Commerce Square and which is bringing riverboating back to the Mississippi River, is planning to hire more than 300 new employees for “the grandest, most opulent riverboat in the world.” That’s according to Great American Steamboat senior vice president of sales, marketing and product development Tim Rubacky, who wrote on the company’s blog that a career fair will be held in Memphis during the third week of February, with details forthcoming.
AGC Glass Company North America will restart an idled production line at its Church Hill plant, bringing back 100 jobs. In an announcement Monday, company President and CEO Mark Ishiko said the G1 float line will manufacture automotive glass as demand is increasing.
Residents can sound off Wednesday The city’s overdue Murfreesboro Airport plans on a $5.2 million runway upgrade will add 1,102 feet and help MTSU’s aviation needs, officials said. “We’re just trying to keep up with the demand at our airport,” said George Huddleston Jr., chairman of the Murfreesboro Airport Commission.
A new reports says Tennessee is struggling to teach students about science. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute gives Tennessee a grade of “D” in science. It said Tennessee’s science standards are clearly written but the wide selection of high school courses makes it tough to determine what students really know about science when they graduate.
The dues-paying membership of the Tennessee Education Association has dropped more than 10 percent since the state legislature limited the union’s power last year. TEA’s rolls have declined from 52,000 to 46,000.
An aspiring chef, Dominique Burney knows he doesn’t need a high score on the ACT for his dreams to come true. But he still puts in hours of work after school each week to ensure that he scores better the next time he takes the test.
If a charter school rents or buys an existing public school building in Tennessee, it would have to be at fair market value under one of numerous charter school bills expected to be filed in the Tennessee Legislature this year. Members of the countywide school board will consider supporting such a bill Tuesday, Jan. 31, when they vote on the set of bills and legislative proposals they will back and oppose this year in Nashville.
Memphis educators earn the highest average paychecks in Tennessee, according to a new analysis of federal data by On Numbers, a Memphis Business Journal affiliate. Memphis educators make an average of $44,050 a year, On Numbers found, using U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Knox County’s 12 high schools will now reap the benefits of what others sew. Superintendent Jim McIntyre announced Monday the completion of a trademark deal that will allow the schools and the district to financially benefit from the sales of apparel and other merchandise that bears logos and school names. After Monday’s school board meeting, McIntyre said he was getting tired of going into stores and seeing products featuring school mascots and names getting sold, but the district not seeing any of the revenue.
Cleveland city school board and council members met over lunch Monday to decide on a new school location: Hardwick Field or Hardwick Farm. They also discussed the growing urgency of building another elementary school and where the money to do so will come from.
Stewarts Creek, Eagleville schools moving along Recent rainy days have not significantly impacted two Rutherford County Schools construction projects. Ground was broken on the 350,000-square-foot Stewarts Creek High, located in southwest Smyrna, in late August, followed by a 13,600-square-foot expansion for high school students at Eagleville School.
As oil prices go, so goes the fate of Alaska. With prices averaging over $110 a barrel, Alaska is experiencing a revenue boom unlike any other state, allowing it to recover from the recession as “a rock of stability,” as Governor Sean Parnell puts it. Alaska’s budget surplus and reserves are nearing $17 billion, enough to cover any emergency for 10 years.
Few elected officials would ever dare say, at least within earshot of a microphone, that voters making public policy decisions through ballot-box referendums are less capable or wise than legislators deliberating under a capitol dome. But now a federal lawsuit challenging Colorado’s 20-year-old taxpayer-controlled state budgeting process, known by its acronym, Tabor, is speaking truth to power, plaintiffs say, and challenging the assumption that voters always know best.
The decennial redistricting process for the state of Tennessee is finally complete. I have to admit, I’m relieved. The Republican majority’s fair and legal map was a tremendous achievement, the road to which was paved with long hours and hard choices. In September, I invited members of the public and legislators to submit their own plans for district lines.
State Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, and Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, have filed HB 2638/SB 2508, bills that would curtail the First Amendment rights of Tennesseans and deprive unhoused people of most of the few safe places where they may live. A 24-hour, seven-day-a-week presence is the signature expression of dissent against the status quo by Occupy groups across the United States and around the world.
How schools should merge is better left to local officials, not interlopers back in Nashville. Merging Memphis and Shelby County schools is tough enough without having state legislators interfering in the process.
The continually changing landscape at Middle Tennessee State University may be proof of the old adage that change is the only constant. And the exception that proves that rule could well be parking on campus.
In the end, state Sen. Bill Ketron apparently decided what he wanted wasn’t necessarily what he needed, or vice versa. The result: He won’t run for Congress, even though the newly-drawn 4th Congressional District looks as if he drew it — with help from U.S. Rep. Diane Black of Gallatin. Ketron, a Murfreesboro Republican and former county commissioner, has been aching to run for Congress for years, and it’s still probably his ultimate goal.
Many of our poorest citizens live in the rural areas of our state and depend on small utility districts for their water, gas, and in a few instances for sewage treatment. In most cases, the commissioners on these utility districts are chosen by county mayors and tend to stay on these boards for decades, whether the ratepayers like it or not.
A joint retreat involving members of the Knox County Commission and the Knox County Board of Education last weekend resulted in an ambitious goal — to make Knox County Schools the best public school system in the Southeast. The goal is lofty, the challenges daunting. The boards plan to meet four times a year, including one session during April after the school board approves its budget, to work together to improve education for Knox County’s 56,500 students.
It is a painful fact that costly, unrealistic collective-bargaining agreements were part of the cause of severe financial troubles at major U.S. automakers in recent years. Ultimately, some automakers needed huge, taxpayer-funded bailouts as a result. So it was noteworthy recently when Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels mentioned Tennessee’s ability to attract the big Volkswagen manufacturing plant now in Chattanooga as a reason why he supports a right-to-work law for Indiana.