This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam today lauded the approval by U.S. Department of Education officials of Tennessee’s waiver request from certain portions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Tennessee was the first state to request a waiver and was one of only 10 recipients of the first round of waivers.
Members of the education community got the opportunity to air their thoughts on the successes and failures of Tennessee’s teacher evaluation system. The State Collaborative on Reforming Education held the first of eight regional roundtables in Cookeville Thursday.
Nominating Commission Recommends Three Attorneys for 26th Judicial District Circuit Court Vacancy Jackson, Tenn. – The Judicial Nominating Commission met in Jackson today to review the 4 applicants for the judicial vacancy in the 26th Judicial District created by the appointment of Roger A. Page to the Court of Criminal Appeals. After holding a public hearing and interview for each applicant, the Judicial Nominating Commission has recommended the following three candidates to Governor Bill Haslam: Dale Conder, Jr. Partner Rainey, Kizer, Reviere & Bell, PLC Jackson, TN Nathan Pride Sole Practitioner Jackson, TN Lloyd Tatum Private Practice Chester, TN The governor may now appoint one of these candidates.
Candidates vie for seat vacated by Roger Page Three local attorneys were named as recommended candidates to fill the vacant spot in Circuit Court left by Judge Roger Page earlier this year. Those candidates are Dale Conder Jr., a partner at Rainey, Kizer, Reviere & Bell PLC in Jackson; Nathan Pride, in private practice in Jackson; and Lloyd Tatum, in private practice in Chester County. Harold F. Johnson, a sole practitioner in Jackson, also applied for the position.
Calling all recently retired professionals and engineers: The city of Kingsport needs your help. Speaking to the Kingsport Kiwanis Club on Friday, Kingsport Chief Service Officer Clarence “Bunky” Seay unveiled a plan called “Impact Kingsport,” issuing a challenge for recent professional retirees and other interested parties to step up to the plate to help Kingsport bolster its economic recruiting efforts…In particular, the tapping of key volunteers to impact economic development is designed to dovetail with Gov. Bill Haslam’s new Jobs4TN economic development strategy, focusing on six key business clusters where Tennessee has substantial competitive advantages, while also strengthening the recruitment process and leveraging the ability of existing industries to lead the state in job creation.
Standing before a roomful of Tennessee newspaper publishers and editors Thursday, Gov. Bill Haslam declared he still believes school officials need more legal latitude to adjust student-to-teacher ratios to suit their particular circumstances. But he acknowledged he’s facing an uphill fight to convince key political constituencies that in some cases a larger classroom size is not necessarily a surefire recipe for lowering student learning potential.
A determined group of high-achieving teens is pressing lawmakers and leaders to shake up the state Department of Education and restore funding for a state position. Otherwise, 16-year-old Katherine Wheeler warns, upcoming state and national Technology Student Association conferences will be “imperiled.” Anything other than success in their mission “will be unacceptable,” adds Jae-Young Son, 17. Wheeler, an Oak Ridge High junior, is the statewide sergeant at arms for the TSA, while Jae-Young (“Call me Jay,” he says) is the president and a Hardin Valley Academy senior.
Top state officials say it’s fine for them to meet in private, as well as to keep some dealings with businesses secret. Some city and county governments want to relax requirements that they meet in public – rules that state lawmakers don’t have to adhere to themselves.
Tennessee recorded $1.01 billion in tax revenue in January, $37.1 million more than had been budgeted, Finance and Administration Commissioner Mark Emkes announced this week. January’s tax collections reflected consumer spending during the December holiday season. “For nearly two years, we’ve seen growth in sales tax collections, with January being the 22nd consecutive month in which sales taxes have recorded positive growth,” Emkes said in a press release.
As grumbles mount about unfunded mandates, Tennessee’s top public safety officials said they are looking for ways to ease the financial burden on counties expected to pick up the cost of jailing more repeat domestic violence offenders. The heads of Tennessee’s departments of correction, health, mental health, parole and probation, and state investigations met Friday withThe Tennessean’s editorial board to discuss Gov. Bill Haslam’s sweeping public safety plan, which includes harsher punishments for abusers, felons and gang members, in addition to changes to the way the state supervises felons and monitors prescription drugs.
Tennessee students are paying a bigger percentage of what it costs to run universities and taking out millions more in student loans to do it. At Middle Tennessee State University, for instance, just over half of the 28,000 students took out loans to pay tuition, fees and other expenses.
The Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center has announced the suspension of its HIV-testing program due to state funding cuts to Planned Parenthood, its collaborator in the screenings. Officials with Planned Parenthood told MGLCC on Wednesday that because the state had denied it access to grants for HIV prevention, continued testing for the disease at the center was no longer financially possible. The group did not give direct funding to MGLCC, but did provide medical equipment and personnel for the screenings, as well as handle legal documentation, including the reporting of test results and statistics to the state.
There’s reason for optimism down on the farm, providing that’s a beef cattle operation in Tennessee or Kentucky. The two states are the center of cow-calf beef production east of the Mississippi River. Kentucky ranks eighth nationally and Tennessee is ninth.
The Department of Environment and Conservation is accepting nominations for the Governor’s 2012 Environmental Stewardship Awards. The honors recognize Tennesseans for exceptional efforts to protect the state’s diverse environment.
Tennessee’s appeals court says a local judge made no mistake in sentencing a Bedford County man to 17 years in prison for selling crack. Larry Thomas Johnson had appealed his guilty-pleaded convictions for the sale of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine and possession with the intent to sell.
Amazon.com is planning to open a call center in Tennessee to work with customers in its online retail shipping operation, according to state Sen. Bill Ketron. Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, made the comment at the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce Capitol Connection breakfast, a monthly gathering of the county’s legislative delegation with local business people to discuss legislative developments and answer questions. Gov. Bill Haslam worked out an agreement in late 2011 for Amazon.com to start paying Tennessee sales taxes in 2014 on items it ships from facilities here, Ketron pointed out.
A plan backed by Tennessee judges that would change the ethics panel that disciplines jurists is at odds with arguably the judiciary’s biggest critic in the legislature — Sen. Mae Beavers. The differences in opinion came out this week at a debate before the Tennessee Press Association between Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, and Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Jeff Bivins.
State Rep. Joanne Favors says she was “stunned” to learn that state Rep. Tony Shipley had been legislatively honored for “heroic actions” in helping a man suffering a seizure at a Nashville hotel. Favors, D-Chattanooga, a nurse by profession, said she was one of the first to rush to the aid of the man at a downtown Nashville hotel after “I heard the sound of an airway obstruction” and turned to see a man “obviously having a generalized seizure.” Favors said she had a bystander call 911 while she helped turn the man on his side to facilitate breathing and checked to see that there was no obstruction in his mouth.
The Senate has voted to name the eastern red cedar as Tennessee’s official evergreen tree. The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Mike Faulk of Kingsport was unanimously approved 31-0 on Monday evening. Faulk has said that the state already has a state tree in the tulip poplar, but no official evergreen.
A judge invoked a decision he made more than a year ago — later overturned by a higher court — to stop the recall election of Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield for a second time. Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge Jeff Hollings-worth used his October 2010 decision to stop the recall effort as the basis for his ruling Friday that it should not continue. In the previous ruling, Hollingsworth said state law trumped the City Charter, so the 9,000 petition signatures gathered by recall groups — enough signatures under city law — weren’t enough under Tennessee law, which says more than 15,000 are needed.
Knox County Commissioner Amy Broyles wants the government’s workforce to look like its community. She’s sponsoring a resolution that would direct the Human Resources Department to publish a quarterly report that breaks down payroll demographics.
Sen. Bob Corker added to his already impressive campaign bank account in the final months of 2011, making it tougher on Tennessee Democrats seeking a viable challenger to take him on. Corker’s catering bills during the last three months of the year totaled more than the money raised during the entire year by all of the other candidates running for his seat so far. He raised just over $1 million from October through December, bringing his year-end fundraising total to more than $6.7 million, according to reports recently released by the Federal Election Commission.
He likes President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, but he would tweak it. He doesn’t think Congress should be a “cushy job you never want to leave,” but he won’t set term limits on himself.
Public-opinion researchers’ jobs have never been easier, or never been harder, depending on how you look at it. Reaching people by phone and convincing them to answer a 20-minute poll is a bigger challenge than ever.
Cold weather for the weekend means we’ll be cranking up the heat and cranking up the power bills. One Johnson City man doesn’t have to worry about it, because he’s living off the grid. Michael Stirling is one of 18 residential customers of Johnson City Power Board who doesn’t just use power. He makes it.
Shelby County commissioners debated 90 minutes at a special meeting Friday before voting 7-5 to approve a symbolic resolution on school building transfers. Even the item’s sponsor, Commissioner Walter Bailey, says he doesn’t expect it to make a big difference in the ongoing debate.
Shelby County Commissioners approved Friday, Feb. 10, a resolution authorizing Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell to negotiate with the countywide school board on the terms of a transfer of school buildings in the event suburban municipal school districts are formed. The resolution was a different version of a resolution that was voted down Monday by the commission. Commission chairman Sidney Chism called Friday’s special meeting after confirming that commissioner James Harvey would be present.
Knox County school officials announced two promotions on Friday that will take effect next school year. Clifford Davis, who currently serves as supervisor of secondary education, has been appointed to executive director of secondary education. He will replace Ed Hedgepeth, who is retiring at the end of the school year. Davis, a former principal of South-Doyle and Karns high schools and Cedar Bluff Middle School, took over the role of supervisor of secondary education after the position was created as part of the reorganization of the central administration.
Agents with the Dyer County Sheriff’s Narcotics Unit arrested a suspect at a local motel Sunday that allegedly had two meth labs inside his room. Agents received information that suspect Kelvin Flatt, 26, 4668 Elbridge Obion Road, Obion, Tenn., was allegedly cooking meth inside Room 118 of the Colonial Inn on Highway 51 Bypass.
Ohio, which has one of the nation’s busiest death chambers, has been forced to put capital punishment on hold as prison officials review procedures for lethal injections. The U.S. Supreme Court left standing this past week an order by a lower federal court to stay the execution of convicted murderer Charles Lorraine while Ohio officials look at departures from procedure during the state’s latest lethal injection.
Now that Tennessee is free of NCLB rules, it still has to strive just as hard to make sure students are learning. Now that the weight of federal No Child Left Behind requirements has been lifted, Tennessee has the chance it wants to push forward with education reforms it has put in place to lift up failing schools. That is not, however, a cause for celebration. It puts more pressure on the state, in collaboration with academically troubled school districts, to make sure reform efforts increase the number of students who demonstrate proficiency on math and reading tests and narrow the achievement gap between high- and low-performing students.
There was a lot of unfortunate contention when Tennessee lawmakers considered and passed a bill requiring voters to present valid photo ID at the ballot box. There were unfounded allegations, for instance, that the law was secretly intended to keep minorities or others from voting.
Senate Bill No. 2508 and House Bill No 2638 are moving fast toward passage in the next few days, and there appears little opposition. I write to express such.
Judge Jeff Hollingsworth’s welcome decision Friday to cancel the pending August recall election for a successor to Mayor Ron Littlefield was expected, and correct. Hopefully it will end the cantankerous and misguided mission of a small minority of voters who would have wrongly ejected the mayor for reasons of fiscal and administrative policies — annexation, a modest and long-needed property tax increase, and an unavoidable fee to meet state and federal mandates for control of storm-water run-off.
However the recall effort against Mayor Ron Littlefield turns out, there will be no real winners. The mayor won a round Friday with a ruling by Judge Jeff Hollingsworth halting the planned August recall election.
After the 2008 election, Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and, of course, the presidency. They used that victory to push through an agenda as radical as any seen in this country since FDR—unprecedented deficit-financed stimulus spending, more regulations, a new health-care entitlement, etc. In 2010, the Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives and seven Senate seats in a startling reversal of fortune.