This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
As the unemployment rate has improved in Tennessee, so has job creation. Governor Bill Haslam said in his State of the State speech this week that his economic policies are working. “In 2011, there were more than 28,000 new Tennessee jobs created and over $4 billion dollars in capital investment.”
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development helped create more than 28,535 jobs over the last year, according to the department’s 2011 Annual Report, released today. The report, available here (PDF), says ECD projects created 28,535 new jobs in Tennessee, representing more than $4 billion in investment. ECD called it “one of the most productive years in the state’s history,” and a validation of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Jobs4TN economic development plan, which emphasizes growth among existing Tennessee businesses.
Glimmers of economic optimism. Concerns about jobs and health-care costs. These are among the recurring themes as governors across the nation deliver their annual State of the State addresses. Overwhelmingly, the speeches are focusing on fiscal issues, mostly in cautious tones.
The state of Tennessee is adding a second car model to its electric vehicle rebate program, which so far has drawn fewer participants than expected. WSMV-TV reported Wednesday that the state will soon begin offering $2,500 rebates to owners of the Chevrolet Volt, an electric hybrid car.
Department of Children’s Services Commissioner Kathryn O’Day is defending Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s decision to close the Taft Youth Development Center in Bledsoe County. O’Day appeared before the House Government Operations on Wednesday to answer a series of questions from a bipartisan group of lawmakers who oppose closing the juvenile detention center in Pikeville.
State Children’s Services Commission Kathryn O’Day found herself on an hour-long hot seat today in the House Government Operations Committee as regional lawmakers tore into Gov. Bill Haslam’s plans to shut down Taft Youth Development Center in Pikeville. With an overflow crowd of upset Taft employees as well as officials from Bledsoe and Cumberland counties officials, Rep. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, challenged O’Day on projected savings from closing the facility and her assertions that the facility is the most inefficient among the state’s five youth centers.
Despite strong opposition from local authorities, the State of Tennessee will close the Taft Center in Bledsoe county this year. Phasing out that facility may leave a big hole in the local criminal justice system.
It’s a question many baby boomers are starting to face. When do you put your loved one in a nursing home? TennCare is proposing changes that could make that decision for you — and someone you love.
Pinched by economy, many seek new start at school Susan Boase never aspired to be an administrative assistant, but she was still devastated when she was laid off from her job at a drug and alcohol treatment center two years ago. Unemployed at 54, the Franklin resident is scared. Her unemployment checks are dwindling.
The University of Memphis will receive $13 million of Tenn. Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed budget of roughly $31 billion, if approved by the General Assembly this spring. Of the money allotted to The U of M, roughly 10 percent is for planning and design of a new biochemistry and biology facility and 30 percent will be received for improvements to the Lambuth campus.
The University of Tennessee has a new branding campaign: “Big Orange. Big Ideas.” According to The Knoxville News Sentinel, the slogan will be used in UT’s local and national advertisements and on its new redesigned website (http://bit.ly/w8xPlP).
Students lined up beneath a giant banner outside John C. Hodges Library on Wednesday, waiting patiently for free T-shirts, buttons and stickers that all read the same thing: “Big Orange. Big Ideas.” It’s the new slogan for the University of Tennessee, meant to marry big-time sports with big-time academic goals in branding the school under one message.
More than 14,000 students are enrolled at East Tennessee State University this semester, according to the school. ETSU announced Wednesday 14,466 students were attending classes for the spring 2012 semester.
The trooper grabbed his gear and ran to the blazing car — not to save a life, but to put on a show. “I got out and got my fire extinguisher just to make it look good,” Trooper Charles Van Morgan told Tennessee Highway Patrol investigators.
After Tennessee’s top three elected officials put the issue front-and-center last week, opinions about the state’s judicial selection process are still shaking out on Capitol Hill. And while the issue has divided state legislators, it has not necessarily done so along partisan lines.
The Republican sponsor of a proposal to reduce the sales tax on groceries in Tennessee says he’s open to working with Democrats who have a similar measure if it will help the legislation’s passage. The bill by Rep. Glenn Casada of Franklin was placed behind the budget in the House Finance Subcommittee on Wednesday.
One measure causes concerns over its pricetag Three key measures in Gov. Bill Haslam’s public safety plan sailed through a subcommittee Wednesday, including unfunded mandates that would force counties to pay to lock up repeat domestic violence offenders. The Tennessee House Judiciary Subcommittee took up the bills briefly, passing all three without any discussion or questions.
Gov. Bill Haslam, who wants to expand taxpayer-funded grants to business, is also suggesting that extra information collected to pick the winners be kept hidden from public view. “Due diligence” documents such as corporate financial statements, budgets, cash flow reports and ownership information would be reviewed by politicians and agency staff but would not be open under a measure, Senate Bill 2207, that advanced out of a Senate committee Tuesday on an 8-0 vote with little debate.
Tennessee’s deal with Amazon.com to put off collecting sales tax is moving quickly through the legislature. When the Internet retailer began building distribution centers in Tennessee last year, competitors complained that they have to collect sales tax while the on-line store was home free.
Amid mounting controversy, Tennessee lawmakers from both parties and opposite ends of the state are eager to fix the state’s new teacher evaluation system. Nearly 20 bills by legislators rushing to make changes were filed by Wednesday’s deadline, and while Gov. Bill Haslam has urged the General Assembly not to tinker with the system yet, lawmakers say at least some of the bills probably will make it through.
Tennessee’s legislature could take a hands-off approach to setting up a state insurance exchange, as part of the federal healthcare law. A conservative lawmaker says his peers might simply leave the details to the governor. Franklin Republican Glen Casada says many of his colleagues find it “unpalatable” to switch on part of the federal healthcare overhaul.
A proposal that seeks to prevent Occupy Nashville protesters from staying overnight on the plaza next to the state Capitol is advancing in the House. The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Eric Watson of Cleveland was approved on a voice vote in the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Wednesday.
Tennessee lawmakers moved Wednesday toward ousting the Occupy Nashville encampment from the grounds of the state Capitol, after a legislator said action is needed to stop the “theft” of a public place. A subcommittee in the House of Representatives approved a measure that would bar camping on state property without permission, taking the first step toward giving Gov. Bill Haslam the legal authority to remove the approximately four dozen tents erected on War Memorial Plaza.
State Rep. Dale Ford is defending his legislation to exempt Tennessee golf course operators from paying state and local sales taxes on golf carts and course maintenance items. Ford’s bill was deferred Wednesday for one week in a House Finance Subcommittee at his request.
State Sen. Andy Berke raised a little more than $100,000 in campaign contributions last year that he can use to run for re-election to the 11th District seat or possibly shift to a 2013 race for Chattanooga mayor. On Tuesday, Berke, a Chattanooga Democrat, reported to the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance that he raised $105,517 between July 1, 2011, and Jan. 15.
The new wedge-shaped 37th House District stretches from eastern La Vergne through part of Smyrna all the way to East Main Street in central Murfreesboro, according to recently-released maps, creating an open field for Republican and Democratic candidates. But nearly a month after the Legislature approved House, Senate and congressional district lines for reapportionment, only one candidate has emerged officially, with an April 5 qualifying deadline approaching.
After more than a year of tourist traffic that surpassed expectations, Metro officials will reserve $15 million of excess tax revenues so they can cover land acquisition costs for the Music City Center project if the city loses its appeal of a costly court ruling. The move should keep the $585 million construction project within its budget, said Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling, who plans to tell the city’s convention center authority about the plan today.
The first official discussion of General Sessions Judge Bob Moon’s replacement came Wednesday in the Hamilton County Commission meeting. But under their breath, commissioners talked about “vultures” who’ve been circling his empty chair since news of his death broke last Thursday.
Even as Memphis city government finds itself locked in a high-stakes struggle with a suburban/state government agenda, and as public attention begins inevitably to turn in that direction, the Shelby County Commission continues to be mired in a dispute over redistricting that seems no closer to resolution than ever. It took the better part of two hours on Wednesday, and immersion in a stupefying amount of both detail and rancor, but the Commission’s general government committee did manage two votes — one of 6-6 on redistricting map 3C, which posits 4 three-member districts and 1 single-member district; and another of 6-4 with 2 abstentions on 2J, a map dividing Shelby County into 13 single-member districts.
Tennessee Senator Bob Corker stood with more than twenty Republican colleagues from the U.S. House and Senate today to oppose what they call budget gimmicks. Federal budgeting involves a lot of smoke and mirrors.
A new highway bill introduced by U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. would allow states to increase weight restrictions for tractor-trailers and allow one truck to haul three trailers. The American Energy Infrastructure Jobs Act, which encompasses a wide array of transportation legislation and would spend $260 billion over five years, is up for a committee vote this morning.
Tennessee’s U.S. representatives were stocking up on campaign cash well before the election year began, recently released campaign finance reports show. When it came to flexing their fundraising muscles in 2011, three Tennessee lawmakers stood out: Republican Reps. Diane Black of Gallatin, Stephen Fincher of Frog Jump and Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood.
Forty percent of U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann’s total re-election contributions of more than $700,000 came from political action committees, a fact one of his primary opponents pounced upon Wednesday. “You have to question who Fleischmann’s allegiances are with, based on him taking all this PAC money,” said Weston Wamp, 24, the son of former congressman Zach Wamp.
Two years after it was implemented, a 10-hospital collaborative in Tennessee — including Erlanger Health System — has seen improved patient care and millions of dollars in savings through its focus on surgical outcomes and best practices. A study published Jan. 23 in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons finds the Tennessee Surgical Quality Collaborative had significant improvements in various surgical procedures from 2009 to 2010, including lower rates of acute renal failure, superficial site infection and wound disruption.
Health care analysts who were bullish about Nashville-based hospital chains last year are picking those stocks to do well again in 2012, even though their predictions were wrong last year. The Nashville Health Care Council gets a group of big name analysts together annually.
While the rain may have kept a few people away from Wednesday night’s Town Hall meeting, about 500 Germantown residents came to show their support for a separate municipal school district. But some made it clear that they’re reluctant to pay for the education of students outside the city limits. A recent feasibility study shows that a proposed Germantown school system would have 8,142 students under the existing Shelby County school boundaries, which encompass areas outside city limits.
We ain’t seen nothing yet. Concomitant with this week’s surprise move by state senator Mark Norris and state representative Curry Todd, both of Collierville, to co-opt Memphis’ agreed-upon annexation reserve on behalf of the suburbs and the city’s hurry-up response to annex the Gray’s Creek area, was another ticking time bomb. This one was courtesy of former longtime Shelby County Schools board chairman David Pickler, a key member now of both the interim Unified School Board and the Transition Planning Commission established to guide city/county school merger.
Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, who had once said that he did not wish to add a “right to work” provision to the state’s labor laws, signed a bill on Wednesday doing just that. The legislation, which bars union contracts from requiring non-union members to pay fees for representation, makes Indiana the first state in more than a decade to enact right to work legislation and the only one in the Midwestern manufacturing belt to have such a law.
The State Supreme Court said late Wednesday that it would take up the legal challenge to the pardons approved by Gov. Haley Barbour before he left office, scheduling a hearing for Feb. 9. State Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, wants to invalidate dozens of the 198 pardons that Mr. Barbour, a Republican, handed out before his term ended Jan. 10. Mr. Hood says only about two dozen of the people pardoned followed the State Constitution’s requirement to publish a notice about their reprieves in their local newspapers for 30 days. He wants the others invalidated.
It’s in the governor’s budget. Whew. Gov. Bill Haslam delighted the MTSU community this week when he unveiled a budget that includes $126.7 million for the long-awaited, much anticipated MTSU Science Building project. The General Assembly must give final approval for Haslam’s proposed expenditures, but it appears this needed improvement to the Blue Raider campus is on its way to becoming a reality.
When it came to his State of the State speech, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam deserved credit for calling it like he saw it instead of depending on an old standby assessment. He could have said that under his executive management this past year, the state of the state is great. Instead, he asked the question, “Is the current state of our state good enough?”
When Bill Haslam, then the mayor of Knoxville, was kind enough (like most of the other gubernatorial candidates) to drop by our offices during the 2010 campaign and discuss governance with our editorial staff, we were impressed — as much by his generous, evenhanded demeanor as by specific policy points. He was a likable fellow, made even more so by the contrast with his GOP opponents, Zach Wamp and Ron Ramsey. As far as policy points, we got what we pretty much had expected from Haslam — talk of well-intentioned initiatives and reforms that corresponded with Republican Party “lean-government” bromides and, up to a point, with common sense.
Huh? A special panel of the state Supreme Court has ruled that the state’s appellate justices are being properly elected to office by being appointed by the governor then one day facing a retention election. This in spite of the Tennessee Constitution, which says judges are to be elected by a vote of the people.
Raise my damn taxes. Or pass the hat. If one-third of the people in Tennessee sent in one dollar each, we could do it. Cut the death penalty out of the state budget. It costs millions to fund. Do something. Just keep Taft Youth Center open. Taft Youth Center is — literally — the most effective youth development center in the state of Tennessee.
The majority leaders of both houses of the Tennessee Legislature have filed bills to expand the availability of photo identification cards, a tacit acknowledgement that the state’s new law requiring the cards is flawed. The bills also could impose new costs on cash-strapped counties so their residents can comply with the controversial law that was passed last year. Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, are sponsors of bills that would authorize county commissions to issue free photo ID cards.
Suburbs strike back: Annexation bills aimed at slowing Memphis’ growth could cause a land-grab fight that’s better avoided. After 13 years of annexation peace between Memphis and its suburban neighbors, legislation has been introduced in Nashville that could blow up the peace treaty. It’s a fight that is not worth renewing and can only exacerbate the divisive atmosphere that permeates Memphis-versus-the-suburbs animosity.