This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Fierce wind, hail and rain lashed Tennessee for the second time in three days, and at least 15 people were hospitalized Friday in the Chattanooga area. No fatalities were immediately reported. At least 20 homes were ripped off their foundation in Hamilton County and several houseboats were damaged at the Island Cove Marina, with some sunk by the high winds. Extensive damage also was reported in Bradley, McMinn and Dickson counties and in Tellico Plains southwest of Knoxville. Blaine Lawson and his wife Billie were watching the weather report on the news when the power went out in the Cleveland home they’ve shared for 49 years.
Don Benton stared across the Savannah Bay from his home that no longer had walls. The 78-year-old stood near his kitchen, where the fridge was tilted on its side with the door ajar. His study still had books on the shelf but rubble for a floor. Instead of a roof he had open cloudy skies above. A retired Navy lieutenant commander and fighter pilot, he put photo albums, insurance papers, tax forms and a model airplane in a small pile. His was one of the first communities to be raked by storms and tornadoes Friday in the second fierce outbreak of tornadoes to this region in less than a year.
Less than one year after tornadoes razed portions of Hamilton County, another band of severe storms plowed through the Harrison community, leveling at least 20 homes and severely injuring six to eight people. Zeroing in on the eastern shores of Harrison Bay, the whirlwind barreled through Island Cove Marina, folding dock canopies and strewing boats before continuing down Hunter Road. Severe damages were sustained on Short Tail Springs Road, where several residents took refuge in basements as their homes collapsed around them. Miraculously, no fatalities were reported.
Just when it appeared the Knoxville area had dodged damage from severe storms Friday, high winds downed power lines and trees, and there were reports of pea-sized hail in some parts of the city. The system that came through Knoxville around 10 p.m. toppled trees and power lines throughout the area. In the early minutes after the last storm swept through, power lines were reported down in at least nine locations and trees were reported toppled in at least 22 locations throughout the city and county. The Knoxville Utilities Board also reported at least 21,000 customers without power.
Nearly 4,200 homes or businesses were without power this morning in the Knoxville area in the aftermath of storms that downed trees, destroyed homes and left nearly 30 dead from from Indiana to Virginia. KUB crews worked overnight to restore service. Friday evening some 21,000 KUB customers had been out of power. The National Weather Service office in Morristown has psoted preliminary storm reports for the violent storms that ripped across the region on Friday and into Friday night. Please post your storm damage photos to im.knoxnews.com. Along the Tennessee-Virginia border in the Harrogate, Tenn., and Eeing, Va., areas, the storm left a two- to three-mile path of destruction that leveled at least one home.
Friday night’s storm devastated parts of Claiborne County. In just a few minutes, close to a dozen homes suffered major damage in the town of Harrogate. A possible tornado left certain damage for the town’s residents. In an instant, homes and lives were transformed by Mother Nature. “I didn’t even know it was a tornado. I couldn’t hear anything but wind, it was there and it was gone,” said Jason Bowman, Harrogate resident. “It was maybe 30 seconds, it wasn’t that long, I guess but seemed forever,” said James Smith, Harrogate resident. Around 9:30 p.m. Friday, rescue crews responded to pockets of damage in different parts of town.
An outbreak of severe weather hit East Tennessee early Friday and well into the night, with hail, heavy rain and high winds causing damage to several homes and injuring residents. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said unconfirmed reports of tornadoes were received by officials in McMinn and Monroe counties in the WATE viewing area, as well as nearby Bledsoe, Bradley, Franklin, Grundy, Hamilton, and Polk counties. The National Weather Service meteorologists will examine damage and debris left behind by the storms to determine if tornadoes were the cause.
The Tellico Plains area was one of the hardest hit areas in East Tennessee Friday afternoon. The area suffered extensive damage to power lines, trees, and some houses. Dozens of residents hunkered down at the Tellico Plains Junior High School to ride out the storm. Officials gave people the all-clear to head back to their homes by 10 p.m. They had been restricting access to much of the downtown area due to downed power lines. Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Bryan Graves says power was restored to some households. Much of the downtown area was without power or water since the storms touched down. Estimates say about 25-30 residents were displaced. Displaced residents can stay in Tellico Plains High School overnight.
The area between Etowah and Delano near highway 411 was heavily damaged during Friday evening’s storms. A number of people suffered minor injuries, including a small child. Among the victims of the tornado was Josh Aly. The remnants of his garage, cinder blocks, were scattered across his front yard. He didn’t care about the garage itself, but what was inside it: a 1994 Accord. He was getting it customized in memory of his mother. “I wanted to do something breast cancer wise, for my mom who died in 2011,” explained Aly. “Since then, I strived ever since to get it done and today, it’s completely destroyed.”
TN mostly spared brunt of fatal tornadoes Middle Tennessee was spared the anguish other parts of the nation faced Friday, as storms that raked through took homes and possessions but no lives. Other parts of the nation are grieving the lost and sorting through piles of debris that used to be homes. Authorities reported 14 deaths in southern Indiana, where Marysville was leveled and nearby Henryville suffered extreme damage. There were 12 deaths in Kentucky and one in Ohio. In Tennessee, Jackson County was among the hardest hit, leaving families separated by blocked roads late into the night. Several people were stuck in a darkened church in the Dodson Branch community north of Cookeville late Friday, cut off by roofs, trees, power lines and other debris.
Severe storms moved across Middle Tennessee on Friday bringing widespread reports of damage from large hail, strong winds and tornadoes. The storm system moved from west to east Tennessee at speeds of 50 miles-per-hour. All of the tornado warnings ended at 7 p.m. There were reports of heavy rain, wind and hail throughout Davidson County, but the Office of Emergency Management told Nashville’s News 2 there were no reports of damage. Many drivers caught in the hail storm sought shelter under bridges. The number of people in Davidson County without electricity reached as high as 2,000 people Friday night. Power has been mostly restored.
Several people were injured and dozens of homes and businesses reported damage Friday evening as a series of severe storms moved across Middle Tennessee. Some of the worst damage was reported along the Cumberland Plateau region, where the Jackson County sheriff says it was nothing short of a miracle that no one was seriously injured or killed in the Dodson Branch community. Sheriff Brad Stafford says four people had to be rescued after becoming trapped in the debris, 20 people were hurt, but those were each minor injuries and at least 25 to 35 homes there were destroyed or damaged.
West Tennessee escaped relatively unscathed, with no injuries reported, after several rounds of tornado warnings were issued Friday afternoon. The most serious structural damage reported was a roof torn off a building in downtown Bolivar. The thunderstorms also left a trail of blown-down trees and power lines, and several counties reported nickel- to golfball-sized hail. Funnel clouds were sighted by trained spotters in McNairy and Hardin counties, but no touchdowns were confirmed, and officials in those counties reported little damage. Zulfat Suara, owner of Advance Business Consultants, at 108 W. Market St. in Bolivar, said the building next door to her, which she also owns, was damaged.
Major storm damage reported in East Tennessee Anthony Q. Allen, 43, was relaxing inside his Wallace Boulevard mobile home Friday afternoon as the wind howled outside amid deceptively sunny skies. “I was sitting there watching ‘The Godfather’ and it sounded like someone was jumping on the roof,” Allen said. “I went outside and called my landlord. He made it to the front yard and the roof just blew off.” The roof hit a mobile home behind Allen’s. Clarksville Fire Rescue responded to the neighborhood minutes after the call came in at 1:34 p.m. Allen stood in shock surveying the damage to his home, as exposed insulation insulation fluttered in the stiff breeze.
Several local residents took shelter in the Murfreesboro City Hall parking garage in anticipation of Friday’s forecast severe weather that never materialized here. Many residents brought their children (city and county schools let out early), lawn chairs and even their pets to seek safety. Many mingled with police officers on the first floor of the parking garage, while others stood out near the South Church Street entrance to the garage to keep their eyes on the sky. Bobby J. Patterson said he has been parking at City Hall for years when severe weather threatens, partially due to an agreement he made with his now-deceased wife. “We promised each other that we’d always come over here to get out of the bad weather,” he said.
The death toll from the tornadoes that slammed through southern Indiana, Ohio and northern Kentucky on Friday rose to 29, and authorities feared the number would rise as daylight broke on Saturday’s search for survivors. Homes and businesses were leveled in those states and in Tennessee and northern Alabama. In Henryville, Ind., crews worked through the night to clear roads and prepare for daylight rescue efforts after a tornado gashed through this town of 2,000, destroying the high school and tossing a school bus into a local restaurant. A path of carnage extended from Interstate 65 through Henryville Junior/Senior High School, where the tornado wrapped six cars into gnarled steel beams draped with insulation.
A frantic day and night of fast-moving tornadoes and severe thunderstorms churned across the South and the Midwest on Friday, leaving behind at least 27 deaths, hundreds of injuries and countless damaged buildings in several states. The storm systems stretched from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes and were so wide that an estimated 34 million people were at risk for severe weather, said Mike Hudson of the National Weather Service regional office in Kansas City, Mo. At one point, the storms were coming so fast that as many as four million people were within 25 miles of a tornado. Although 17 states were under some kind of weather threat, the heart of the first wave of storms zeroed in on southern Indiana, northern Alabama and sections of Kentucky and Tennessee.
Bill Haslam was mayor of Knoxville the last time Mitt Romney was on the Tennessee presidential primary ballot in 2008. His economic development commissioner, Bill Hagerty, was then and is now among those in the state’s Republican and business establishment trying to put the former Massachusetts governor over the top. With one weekend left to campaign before the March 6 primary election, Hagerty was discounting polls showing a lead in the state for GOP rival Rick Santorum. It was a much different weekend before the 2008 Super Tuesday primaries.
Governor Bill Haslam, addressing a pro-Roimney rally in Memphis Thursday night, was his usual genial, upbeat self. Early in his remarks, he said,: “: I’m not somebody who’s a president basher. A lot of Republicans think our job is to tear down the president. Actually, I don’t think that. I talked to the president today. He called me about some storms in middle Tennesseed. We had three fatalities, and he called me and made sure FEMA was doing everything they should. ..When he called me, I was actually visiting one of our prisons in southeast Tennessee. He said, ‘Gooveror, did I interrupt you? Where did I catch you?’’I said, ‘I’m in prison.’”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and other leaders supporting Mitt Romney’s GOP presidential bid insisted Friday that Romney is making up lost ground against Republican rival Rick Santorum leading into Super Tuesday. A Middle Tennessee State University poll released last Wednesday showed Santorum, a former Pennsylvania U.S. senator, with a 20-point lead over Romney in Tennessee. Haslam, a Republican and state chair of Romney’s Tennessee campaign, assured a Holiday Inn gathering of about 100 Romney supporters that the gap between Romney and Santorum is closing. “This primary is a little different than most,” Haslam told reporters.
Former presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty and Gov. Bill Haslam urged Knoxville residents on Friday to throw their support and their vote behind Mitt Romney in Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary. “He (Romney) is the most capable, most knowledgeable and, importantly, most electable candidate on the Republican side,” said Pawlenty, a former Minnesota governor. Pawlenty, Haslam and Bill Hagerty, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, spoke to about 150 people during a pro-Romney rally at the Turkey Creek Public Market. Romney himself will court local voters on Sunday when he appears at West Hills Elementary School.
Occupy Nashville was given a seven-day warning on Friday to take down its encampment on the War Memorial Plaza next to the state Capitol. Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law the measure that makes it illegal for anyone to camp on state-owned land that is not specifically designated for that purpose. Bill sponsors say the law is aimed at evicting Occupy Nashville protesters. But homeless advocates worry that it will lead to the arrest of homeless people camped far from the Capitol. Violators can face nearly a year in jail or a fine of up to $2,500 or both. “The punishment is unbelievably extreme,” said protester Jane Hussain. “The worst part about this bill is that it criminalizes the homeless.”
Haslam signs bill; some protesters plan to defy ban The Haslam administration gave Occupy Nashville protesters seven days to clear out on Friday, renewing an effort to remove the group’s encampment at the Tennessee Capitol five months after it moved in last fall. Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill Friday morning banning unauthorized camping on public grounds, and administration officials moved immediately to put the law into effect, posting 120 signs at state buildings across Tennessee officially warning that campers could be prosecuted. The administration said it would begin enforcing the new law, which punishes unauthorized camping with up to a $2,500 fine or nearly a year in jail, next week.
It’s official: It is now illegal to pitch tents outside the Capitol Building or any other state-owned property not explicitly permitting camping. Department of General Services says it will give Occupy Nashville protesters a week to clear off War Memorial Plaza, a marble topped public square the demonstrators have called home since the fall. Gov. Bill Haslam signed the legislative measure into law Friday, giving the state authority to begin enforcing the law today. However, Haslam has said he’s not interested in playing a game of “gotcha” with protesters and wants to give them a heads up before he puts the statute into play.
Tennessee’s flu season started in the last few weeks. It’s the latest start to the season in over two decades. About 200 cases have been reported so far. State Epidemiologist Dr. Tim Jones says there’s no real rhyme or reason as to why flu season has started so late. “There’s been a lot of speculation about the weather. I’m not sure anyone has any evidence that’s made a difference this year. No matter what we predict, we’re wrong every year.” Jones says he hopes the late start will mean a mild flu season, but states like Colorado and California are seeing widespread cases. He says it’s not too late to get a flu shot in case there’s a flare up here.
Schools in Overton County are closed today. Hundreds of students are sick with a stomach illness. It’s scientific name is Norovirus, but it’s commonly known as Stomach Flu. It’s not a flu virus, but the symptoms are similar. They’re also severe, including diarrhea and vomiting. It spreads fast, and school systems on the either end of the state have closed because so many kids have gotten sick. Dr. Tim Jones is the State Epidemiologist. “We have no real good information on why it happens in some areas rather than others. But once it’s in a region, it spreads so quickly that it’s not unusual to see it pop up in different schools or different towns in the same region.”
The Tennessee Department of Transportation acknowledges cutting down dozens of trees — some dedicated to the deceased — that an East Nashville neighborhood group planted to try to beautify a downtrodden area near the interstate. Three years ago, the neighborhood organization Rediscover East! paid $10,000 to plant trees on the state’s right-of-way property on Woodland Street near the onramp to Interstates 24 and 65. The state granted them permission. But last Friday, bulldozers showed up to raze the grassy area, and workers tore down the trees –– all 60 of them in the quadrant. “My phone started ringing and emails started flying through,” said Carol Norton, chair of the transportation and public spaces committee for Rediscover East!.
Only a fifth of two-year college students get out of school with a degree, and for black men entering community college, the probability of dropping out is even higher, data shows. Of the 221 black men who entered Chattanooga State last year as freshmen, 124 came back this spring on academic probation and 10 were suspended, said Elaine Swafford, vice president of student affairs. “A lot of these students are underserved and underprepared,” Swafford said. “They come in needing relationships, needing high expectations set for them and help building their self esteem. … We have to retool them.” Community colleges and universities have been hemorrhaging minority males from the higher education ranks for years.
The Tennessee attorney general’s office has obtained a federal court order that temporarily halts operations of east Tennessee telemarketing companies accused of scamming consumers out of thousands of dollars. The state sued Mountain Area Communications and American Publisher’s Service and three Morristown owners of the companies. The telemarketing companies are accused of calling consumers and telling them that they’d won a gift card but requiring them to sign up for free magazines and pay a shipping and handling fee to get the card.
The state is making a last-ditch effort to stave off new trials in one of Knoxville’s most horrific crimes and perhaps prevent a massive upheaval in Knox County’s judicial system. The Tennessee Attorney General’s Office confirmed Friday it will ask the state Court of Criminal Appeals to put on hold new trials already awarded in the wake of revelations that former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner was himself a criminal. The Attorney General’s Office also is asking the appellate court to grant what’s known as an “extraordinary” appeal of rulings by two judges in different cases in which new trials have been ordered.
Chattanooga developer Greg Vital said Friday he plans to run for the state Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Andy Berke. Meanwhile, state Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, is reconsidering a run for Berke’s Senate seat after the two top House Republican leaders told him they want him remain in the House, where Dean serves as floor leader. Vital, 56, said he plans to file his qualifying petition next week to run in the 10th Senate District Republican primary in August. “I waited until Andy made his decision, looked at the map and decided to run for what will be an open seat newly created because of redistricting,” said Vital, who is president of Independent Healthcare Properties in Collegedale.
Chattanooga expects its budget to jump by about $3 million next fiscal year to accommodate the rising cost of gas, pensions and medical expenses. The city released its annual budget requests, which show that, with no increases at all, the budget would be $206 million in the next fiscal year, which runs from July 1 through June 30, 2013. Total budget requests from departments and agencies totaled $215 million. “It’s not a final budget,” said Daisy Madison, the city’s chief financial officer. The budget will be closer to $205 million, Madison said. The city’s current budget is about $202 million. Revenue growth is expected to be about $3 million. A budget of $215 million is just too much, she said. “I don’t see that we’re going to find $13 million in additional revenue,” she said. Budget request documents show the city expects an increase of about $1.5 million in pension and health costs.
Knox County needs to come up with almost $14 million in the upcoming fiscal year budget — and that’s just to keep services at the current level, Mayor Tim Burchett said. The administration has already met with most of the departments that fall within the executive branch. In the upcoming weeks leaders expect to have more formal discussions about just what they expect in the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1. The budget, which will include funding for the school system, will be presented in early May. School officials are expected to talk about their portion, which amounts to about two-thirds of the overall spending plan, later this month. Funding for Knox County Schools then will be incorporated into what the administration puts together.
With new leadership at the helm, the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corp. is looking to create some distance between itself and the entity that oversees the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. Kim Bumpas, KTSC’s acting president, said Friday that David Conklin has taken over as interim president of Sports Management Inc., the tax-exempt entity that is responsible for the Hall. Until recently, KTSC’s former president and CEO, Gloria Ray, had also served as president and CEO of SMI. She stepped down from both roles in the wake of intense criticism of her compensation package, which exceeded $400,000 annually. KTSC works under a contract with Knox County and the city of Knoxville to promote tourism in the area and to attract sporting events.
For the second time in a week, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann found himself on the wrong end of the schedule. He was set to deliver the keynote speech Friday at the McMinn County Lincoln Day dinner at Tennessee Wesleyan College, but he left early to inspect damage from tornadoes that lashed several counties in the 3rd Congressional District. Last week, when GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum arrived 30 minutes early to a stop at a Chattanooga Tea Party event, organizers bumped Fleischmann’s pre-Santorum speaking spot to the end of the program. As the freshman Republican congressman belatedly took the stage, hundreds swarmed Santorum for an autograph or walked out the door.
For many who work in the central business district here, the morning routine includes a walk to the post office annex. Bankers, lawyers, businesses, charitable agencies and local government offices send somebody across Broad Street to empty their post office boxes. These days postal patrons are worried that the downtown branch might disappear as the U.S. Postal Service trims back locations across the country. No verdict is expected for another month. “There are plenty of reasons to keep it open,” said Christy Griffith of Bank of Cleveland, “but it’s our central business district. We and others use the post office branch two or three times a day.”
The military won’t be intimidated by attacks on U.S. soldiers in protests over Quran burnings, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Friday as he visited Fort Campbell, Ky., where hundreds of soldiers will deploy this year as a part of a new Afghanistan advisory mission. The burnings on Feb. 20 sparked days of deadly demonstrations in Afghanistan, and six U.S. troops have since been killed by Afghan security forces or militants disguised in their uniforms. During a question-and-answer session with troops, Panetta was asked about the effectiveness of the Afghan government and its military. “Frankly, since the Taliban has not been effective at regaining territory at conducting combat operations, since they have been weakened in their capability to do that, they are going to use this type of tactic to undermine our position,” he told the soldiers at the military installation on the Tennessee-Kentucky state line.
Vows no retreat in Afghanistan, no return to a ‘hollow force’ Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta visited Fort Campbell today, where he told an audience of Air Assault School students and key leaders of the 101st Airborne Division of his belief in the post’s continuing importance to national defense. Panetta visited the Sabalauski Air Assault School as the first stop of Friday’s whirlwind tour, which included conducting a video teleconference and a later visit to post headquarters, where he met with Gold Star families of fallen Fort Campbell soldiers. Panetta was also scheduled to talk to soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team who will deploy later this year to Afghanistan as part of a mission to advise and mentor Afghan military leaders.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says U.S. forces cannot be intimidated in light of recent attacks by partners in Afghanistan. Six American service members have been killed by their Afghan partners in recent days. Panetta spoke to soldiers at Fort Campbell, on the border between Tennessee and Kentucky. It’s not far from Paducah, the home of an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who was shot dead inside the Afghan Interior Ministry last week. The Taliban claimed responsibility. Panetta called the recent spate of such attacks “isolated incidents,” stressing U.S. partners in Afghanistan are carefully screened. “I think since the Taliban has not been effective at regaining territory, at conducting combat operations, since they’ve been weakened in their capability to do that, they’re going to use this kind of tactic to try to undermine our position there.”
Gingrich, Romney to visit state before Super Tuesday Newt Gingrich is coming back to Tennessee after surrogate visits by his daughter and former rival Herman Cain. Mitt Romney is coming through for the first time, following on the heels of another former presidential contender who’s in his camp. A group of socially conservative women barnstormed on a bus tour Friday for Rick Santorum. And supporters of Ron Paul continue to play their ground game. As the four remaining Republican candidates enter the final weekend before Tennessee holds its presidential primary Tuesday, their campaigns are taking different approaches to sealing the deal in the Volunteer State, which could play a significant role in the results of the 11-state bonanza known as Super Tuesday.
Republican presidential candidate leads in campaign contributions — $205K Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney collected 58.4 percent of the money raised by Republican presidential candidates in the Memphis area through the end of January, records show. He also raised the most per contribution, averaging $1,566. A summary of the contributions aggregated from Federal Election Commission filings by the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based good government group that tracks the influence of money in politics, shows President Barack Obama collected the second- largest share of contributions so far, at $64,925, and averaging $438 each. Contributors from Shelby, DeSoto, Crittenden and Tipton counties amounted to a total of $416,305 through Jan. 31.
Herman Cain, no longer in the race for the Republican nomination for president, brought his charismatic style to Williamson County on Friday night in hopes of drumming up votes for Newt Gingrich. For an audience of fewer than a hundred, he stumped fervently on Gingrich’s behalf while also taking shots at President Barack Obama, the media and the “character assassination” that forced him from the contest — all of which played well with the crowd. “Today, we have a dishonest president,” Cain said, wrapping up his unscripted remarks. “There. I said it.” The rally in downtown Franklin was part of a tour with one of the candidate’s daughters, Jackie Gingrich Cushman, that will take them into Chattanooga, Cleveland and Knoxville over the weekend.
College students go from devoted to disenchanted Daniel Berg voted for President Barack Obama four years ago, but now he’s not so sure — and he thinks a lot of people his age feel the same way. “Our generation … maybe we’re getting sick of the political system,” the Middle Tennessee State University senior said in an interview this week. “We got involved, and then what? We got stuck.” Berg blames the fierce partisanship of Congress, but shook his head and frowned when asked if he’d support Obama again. “Really, it just doesn’t seem to make a difference.” Young voters as a group moved strongly to the left from 2000 to 2008, but there are indications they might not stay there.
Access to in-home health services declines as need rises For many senior citizens, access to homemaker services – such as housekeeping and grocery shopping – enables them to continue living in the comfort of their own homes for as long as possible. Melanie Keller, executive vice president of Meritan – a Memphis-based nonprofit that provides a vast array of services for seniors – said as little as two two-hour visits each week can mean the difference between placing a senior in a hospital or nursing facility. “It makes good, common economic sense to invest in some of these in-home services,” she said. “I would even classify meal delivery and homemaker services as preventative. If you have good nutrition and a clean home environment, then your health status is going to be better overall.”
Installation of a new high-security wireless system at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant is reportedly ready to resume after an undisclosed security concern put the project on hold. Y-12 is one of four key facilities in the U.S. nuclear weapons complex that are getting wireless systems designed to be “ultra-secure,” with a specialized architecture that’s supposed to allow wireless use by employees at the government installations as well as visitors. Federal spokesman Steven Wyatt said Friday that security issues had been resolved at Y-12 and at the Pantex warhead assembly plant near Amarillo, Texas, another facility that’s receiving the new wireless system.
In the GOP race for president, “repeal Obamacare” has become a well-worn applause line. But there’s at least one group of card-carrying Republicans abstaining from the cheers – those in Nashville’s health care industry who are finding reform is good for business. The health care sector drives the local economy. It employs more than 200,000 people. They represent wide-ranging political views. But it’s an industry that has tended to align with the GOP, a party that uses “Obamacare” like a curse word. “On one side I’m saying hey, we don’t need more rules and regulations,” says entrepreneur Chris Redhage. “But at the same time, if these are rules and regulations, I’m figuring out a way to ease the burden.” In other words, if there are regulations, Redhage says he’s going to find a way to make money off of them. “Isn’t that what entrepreneurs are all about?” he asks.
A Nashville-based company that installs solar-panel systems is opening a branch office in Memphis. “We believe Memphis is a wonderful market,” said David Weiler, marketing and sales director for LightWave Solar. It’s the same firm that is building the million-kilowatt solar farm at Agricenter International. But its customers here will be residential as well as institutions, businesses and nonprofit groups. “Anybody who’s interested in solar,” Weiler said. “Any for-profit that’s looking at it as an investment to get the advantages of tax credits. We also have good funding solutions so even nonprofit and churches can participate. We’ve got access to funding sources that would love to invest in solar installations for churches and nonprofits.”
Anderson County manufacturer Becromal of America Inc. said today it is closing its Clinton plant and laying off 30 workers. Layoffs will start in April and the plant will close by the end of September, according to a news release. All employees will be offered a separation package, the company said. The closing is part of a streamlining of Becromal’s global businesses. Becromal of America is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Becromal S.p.A., headquartered in Milan, Italy. “Through the restructuring measures Becromal is streamlining its worldwide operations and thus will be able to leverage its core competencies and improve its cost performance,” the company said.
As Shelby County suburbs move through the process of holding May 10 referendums on establishing respective municipal school districts, one of them could be left out under state law. Counties are limited to six school districts. With the merged unified school system, that leaves only five more spots for the six suburbs in Shelby County. Millington is one that could be stymied by the regulation. And that city — the only one still awaiting a consultant’s feasibility report — won’t be holding a May 10 referendum on establishing a municipal school system, interim mayor Linda Carter said Friday. “Somebody is going to be left out,” Carter said of the six-district limit.
Despite solid evidence the Hope Scholarship program isn’t close to going broke, some state lawmakers are still using that fear as an excuse to rein in the number of students who receive the scholarships. State Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, is one of those. She chairs the Senate Education Committee, which heard an updated financial report Wednesday from Tennessee Lottery executives. Proceeds from the lottery fund the scholarships. Despite being told about record lottery sales and a $366 million reserve fund, which is potentially adequate to cover $10 million annual deficits for more than 30 years, Gresham said she will push ahead with a plan to make it more difficult for students to earn the $4,000 scholarship.
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” — Lord Acton As a professor of accounting and certified public accountant (retired), I taught thousands of college students the principles underlying the ethical management of efficient and effective organizations. A number of my former students are now top executives in major organizations. My 50 years of professional experience is used herein to perform a comprehensive comparison and analysis of these two important public documents: “The Tennessee Excellence, Accountability, and Management (TEAM) Act of 2012” (HB 2384/SB 2246); and “Issues Regarding the Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Fairness of Hiring and Promoting Individuals Through the State of Tennessee’s Current Civil Service Process” (special report, Comptroller of the Treasury, February 2012).
Americans don’t like being told, “No, you can’t.” We believe that bold action — not passivity — is the way to solve tough challenges. That’s why, even in these difficult economic times, most Tennesseans and Americans remain confident that we can get our economy moving again through creative thinking and technology. In Perry County, we have tackled the job-creation problem by choosing action over gridlock. After a report prepared for the county by Strategic Development Group of South Carolina portrayed an uphill battle in attracting a new traditional manufacturing facility to Perry County because we lack a four-lane highway, we chose another route toward economic revitalization and job creation.
This year is positioned to be very interesting in the world of health care. From the Supreme Court hearing in March until the presidential election in November, health care is guaranteed a place in the news for the rest of the year. In addition to the big stories, some smaller health care stories will also grab some of the limelight as the medical industry deals with changing trends and developments. In March, the Supreme Court is scheduled to listen to arguments regarding health care insurance and the requirement that Americans buy insurance or pay a penalty. The court has set aside almost six hours to hear the oral arguments and the outcome will most likely have an impact on the presidential election later this year.
Democratic activist Steve Barr thinks he’s found a solution for improving schools without jettisoning collective bargaining: Reformed unionism. Is this an oxymoron or the real deal? “You can’t go into and change an 80-to-90 percent unionized industry without unionized labor,” Mr. Barr explains. Toyota and Honda might beg to differ, but Mr. Barr is determined to prove that unions can be forces for good in education. A former national finance chairman of the Democratic Party, Mr. Barr established the charter-school organization Green Dot in 1999 to help fix a system in which nearly half of the city’s public-school students don’t graduate. And he wanted to do so with unionized teachers.
State and local governments everywhere are in sticker shock over the rising cost of public-employee pensions and scrambling to manage those obligations. New York State has taken a reasonable approach that allows public employers to pay a portion of their yearly contributions to New York’s $140 billion public pension fund and to pay the remainder in installments, with interest, over a decade. Critics say this program is a borrowing sleight-of-hand that only postpones the problem. We were also skeptical when the idea was first raised. But the state comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, has persuasively argued that the program is transparent and helps smooth out payments in tough times, without undue risk to the fund.