This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday morning stressed during a Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce event that “business is good” in Tennessee, a reference to the chamber’s new marketing campaign. Speaking at the Sheraton Nashville Downtown Hotel Tuesday morning for the chamber-organized Outlook Tennessee, Haslam said the state’s economic health is stable. He noted Tennessee saw 28,000 new jobs in 2011 and that the state’s unemployment rate, after many months, is lower than that of the nation’s average. “One of our roles is to set the environment for the [state’s] economy to grow,” the governor told the approximately 350 attendees.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam expressed optimism about the economy today while pushing his legislative agenda, including a now controversial bid to rework economic development incentives. Speaking in Nashville before dozens of business, nonprofit and education leaders, the Republican governor pointed to various signs that economic conditions are improving. He also pivoted with that message toward his own agenda, which he says can help create the right business environment while things look up. “I think the economy is definitely moving in the right direction,” Haslam said.
Governor Bill Haslam says the state could save money by giving cash to companies it wants to recruit. A proposal to make that easier is in a holding pattern in the state legislature. One of the state’s main tools for attracting businesses is tax breaks. But Haslam argues many companies would prefer cash up front, even if it’s for a smaller amount, because they want to spend it right away. Haslam says that could save Tennessee money. “It’s not just the cash value of money. Usually, if they’re expecting something, they need – it’s a capital question for them: do they have enough funds to make it work? So what we’ve found is companies put a lot more value in that dollar now than they do two dollars two years from now.”
Gov. Bill Haslam is in danger of suffering a rare setback in the Republican-dominated legislature with his proposal to make secret the names of the owners of companies asking for millions of dollars in tax money to build or expand in Tennessee. The governor and his Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty insist confidentiality is necessary to help Tennessee compete with other states seeking new jobs. The governor plans to expand the state’s “Fast Track” incentive program for businesses to pay not only for roads, utilities and worker training, but also to build and equip industrial plants.
Gov. Bill Haslam offered a broad defense Tuesday of his efforts to shift the state’s business-development incentives from tax credits toward direct cash grants and to keep secret the owners of companies who win taxpayer funding. Speaking to the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, Haslam acknowledged the two bills he has asked lawmakers to approve have set off a public debate, but said he believes giving businesses cash to move to or expand in Tennessee will cost taxpayers less and be more “transparent” and more effective over time.
Businesses’ property rights clash with 2nd Amendment rights Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that he has hopes for common ground in the debate over guns in parking lots, but he said recent words by a gun-rights group’s leader could make compromise more difficult. Haslam didn’t directly mention the controversial bill while addressing several local business leaders, including some who oppose the measure that would allow employees to bring guns closer to their workplaces. But he told reporters after his appearance that he’s still hopeful legislators can strike a balance between what he sees as competing rights.
Gov. Bill Haslam said he “needs to understand why” efforts to toughen eligibility requirements for state lottery-funded college scholarships appear to favor home-schooled students over pupils attending traditional public and private schools. The governor told reporters he only learned of the differences from news accounts this week. “I would need to understand what the reason is for the distinction, which I haven’t heard yet,” Haslam said. Senate Republicans say tougher eligiblity requirements are necessary to save the lottery, which is spending some $17 million to $19 million annually out of its reserve fund to meeting scholarship obligations.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation arrested a Springfield woman Monday on 100 counts of charges related to illegally obtaining prescription drugs in Davidson and Robertson counties. Ann Margaret Choate, 30, was indicted by a Robertson County grand jury Feb. 15 on 31 counts of obtaining prescription drugs by fraud, 28 counts of forgery and 28 counts of identity theft. Choate was arrested on those charges Feb. 23. She was indicted in Davidson County last week on one count of obtaining prescription drugs by fraud, 10 counts of identity theft and one count of TennCare Fraud for allegedly using the benefits of other persons, which led to pharmacies charging the state on forged prescriptions.
A Springfield woman was arrested on 100 counts of charges that relate to obtaining prescription drugs illegally in Davidson and Robertson counties, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Ann Margaret Choate, 30, of Cross Plains Road in Springfield, was indicted in Robertson County on Feb. 15, on 31 counts of obtaining 31 counts of obtaining prescription drugs by fraud, 28 counts of forgery and 28 counts of identity theft. She was arrested Feb. 23, and booked into the Robertson County Jail on $20,000 bond. Choate was also indicted in Davidson County on March 2, on one count of obtaining drugs by fraud, 10 counts identity theft, and one count of TennCare Fraud for using TennCare benefits of others causing the pharmacy that filled her prescription to bill TennCare for the forged prescriptions.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation on Monday arrested a Springfield woman on 100 counts of various charges related to obtaining prescriptions drugs illegally in Davidson and Robertson counties, after she was indicted by grand juries in both jurisdictions within the last month. On Feb.15, Ann Margaret Choate, 30, of 3833 Cross Plains Road, was indicted in Robertson County on 31 counts of obtaining prescription drugs by fraud, 28 counts of forgery and 28 counts of identity theft, according to a news release on Tuesday from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. She was subsequently arrested on Feb. 23 and booked into the Robertson County Jail on $20,000 bond.
Outdoor burning is a good way to get rid of trash or clear a field, but first, you need a permit. The burning permits are free and are required in all parts of Tennessee until May 15, when the vegetation greens up and reduces the threat of wildfires. Not having a permit when conducting outdoor burning is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine not to exceed $50. This year, the Tennessee Forestry Division is making permits for small-scale burning available online for the first time. The permits may be obtained by visiting http://www.burnsafetn.org. The website also is a good source of information for safe outdoor burning practices. Permits also may be obtained by calling your local Division of Forestry office, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
The Tennessee Education Lottery Corp. reports record sales of $130 million in February. Lottery officials Tuesday said it was an 11.4 percent increase over the previous record of $116.7 million last March. They attributed the record to strong growth in instant games, a restructured Powerball and new games. The lottery has been selling tickets since January 2004.
In an outcome few Metro observers expected, Rachel Bell handily won the Democratic primary for a Davidson County General Sessions judgeship, knocking off Mike Jameson, who was appointed to the bench in the fall. Bell, a 34-year-old attorney who has practiced law for seven years, beat Jameson, a former two-term Metro councilman, in a relatively wide vote margin, 8,649 to 6,294 (54 percent to 39 percent). Jack Byrd finished a distant third, with 1,203 votes (7 percent). When contacted by The City Paper, Bell cited her favorite Biblical expression. “But God,” Bell said.
All the name recognition, political connections and support from the legal community didn’t help former Metro Councilman Mike Jameson win the General Sessions judgeship he sought. Instead, attorney Rachel Bell, hoping to bring diversity and transparency to Davidson County’s legal system, won the Democratic primary spot and will go on to the general election. Bell, if elected in the August election, would be only the second black female judge in Nashville. Nashville attorney Jack Byrd came in a distant third. The Circuit Court judgeship primary proved less surprising, with Phillip Robinson sailing to a comfortable victory.
Phillip Robinson, appointed Davidson County Circuit Court judge two weeks ago, rolled to victory in the Democratic primary for that position Tuesday, beating attorney Stan Kweller by a near 3-to-1 spread. Robinson, a longtime family law attorney, beat Kweller for the Division 3 circuit court Democratic nomination Tuesday, 11,011 votes to 3,837 votes (74 percent to 26 percent). The election is for the seat formerly held by Judge Barbara Haynes, who retired in the fall. Gov. Bill Haslam appointed Robinson to the judgeship on Feb. 23. Robinson could face an independent challenger in the general election in August, but he would be the heavy favorite to win.
Mike Binkley, an attorney who touted celebrity endorsements during his campaign, easily led a three-way contest for a judicial post in Williamson County. Unofficial results showed Binkley with a comfortable lead over his opponents, Judy Oxford and Derek Smith. Supporters began gathering to celebrate Binkley’s presumed victory at Mickey Roos, a barbecue restaurant on Hillsboro Road in Franklin, about an hour after polls closed at 7 p.m. The crowded room was in good spirits as a band played country tunes on stage. Binkley enjoyed endorsements from former Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher and racing legend Darrell Waltrip that were touted in direct mail pieces to voters.
Ed Stanton Jr. moved a step closer to making his temporary job as Shelby County General Sessions Court clerk permanent, narrowly winning the Democratic primary with 37 percent of the vote over Sidney Chism, who received 36 percent. Stanton will face Republican primary winner Rick Rout on Aug. 2. With all precincts reporting, 245 votes separated Stanton, with 8,422 votes ahead of Chism’s 8,177 votes. “Being qualified, with experience and having the integrity and the accountability and a proven record of administering an office efficiently and effectively” resonated with voters, Stanton said. “We ran on a grassroots campaign with family and friends and associates who were sincere and pulled together an effective campaign,” he said.
A local race in Hawkins County Tuesday included a judge who is currently the focus of an investigation. In February, Judge James “Jay” Taylor declined to respond to four formal theft charges filed by the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary. Agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations also executed a search warrant at Taylor’s office last month. In the Hawkins County Republican primary, Taylor finished third in the race for General Sessions Judge. The victor, Todd Ross, defeated Taylor and a third nominee, Buddy Baird. Ross garnered 49 percent of the vote. 11 Connects reporter George Jackson spoke with the two men seeking to succeed the embattled judge.
A lawsuit claiming local officials in Sevier County have violated open meetings laws has been rejected by the Tennessee Court of Appeals. According to The Mountain Press (http://bit.ly/zjBR9N ), the legal effort had been filed by a group fronted by former County Commissioner Arlie “Max” Watson. It included a host of claims in an effort to force the negation of a 2008 meeting and the removal of local officials. The three appeals judges, in an opinion written by Judge Charles Susano Jr., upheld the ruling of a lower court
Some of Tennessee’s largest corporate voices headlined a broad blitz against a pair of gun bills in the Tennessee General Assembly today. The companies — including Nashville’s Bridgestone Americas Inc. , FedEx Corp. of Memphis and Volkswagen’s Chattanooga presence — appeared alongside representatives of numerous industries before two legislative committees. Their message: Bills that the National Rifle Association are pushing compromise companies’ constitutional property rights, jeopardize employment policies and create the potential for workplace tragedy.
Volkswagen Chattanooga’s security chief told state senators Tuesday that the company is “very concerned” with National Rifle Association-drafted legislation that would let gun owners store guns in their locked vehicles on employers’ parking lots despite companies’ wishes. The two bills “would take away our right to control our property and interfere with our ability to take necessary actions to ensure the safety of all our employees,” Reid Albert, VW’s general manager of security, told Senate Commerce Committee members. Albert and representatives of some of Tennessee’s biggest employers, including FedEx, are objecting to two bills dealing with guns on parking lots.
An epic political battle is under way between two key Republican constituencies as Tennessee’s largest business groups and gun-rights advocates square off over property rights vs. gun rights. At issue is a push by gun advocates for laws enabling gun owners to keep firearms in their locked vehicles on their employers’ parking lots regardless of company policy. The two bills they’re backing have few restrictions on who can carry and where they can carry. They’re not restricted to handgun-carry permit holders, and public and private college and university parking lots, for example, are not exempted.
A dozen representatives of the state’s largest employers today urged state lawmakers to turn down an attempt to let employees carry guns on company property – even if the weapons are locked in car trunks. Business representatives opposed to the “guns in parking lots” bill talked for an hour, but Mark Hogan, security boss for FedEx, stated the general position. “We should be able to say what is allowed, and not allowed, on our private property. We believe that a property owner’s right to provide a safe environment for others on the premises, trumps an individual’s right to possess a firearm on the premises.”
Following a groundswell of Metro-led opposition, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce has retracted its support of controversial state development bills that critics fear would undermine local planning and zoning authority. Previously lobbying for the Republican-backed legislation, the chamber is now “neutral,” Marc Hill, the Nashville chamber’s chief policy officer, told The City Paper Tuesday. “We’re now re-focusing our efforts to solve as many of these challenges as we can at the local level over the remainder of the year,” Hill said. “The legislative environment is a dynamic one,” Hill said when asked to explain the new stance.
State Rep. Frank Niceley wants to get the attention of the Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission. So much, in fact, that he’s introduced legislation that would abolish the office and turn all its duties, functions and responsibilities over to the Knox County Commission — a plan its own chairman says he doesn’t support Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, said he’s upset with the planning panel and thinks it’s time for a change. “We want to let them know that the Legislature created them and if they get out of hand, then the Legislature can uncreate them,” he said, adding that his proposal stems from conversations he’s had with local developers who were upset about the MPC’s support of the Ridgetop and Hillside Protection Plan.
Rutherford County election poll workers went through a thorough voter photo ID checking process in Tuesday’s presidential preference primary, in some cases meeting voters at the door to abide by a new state law. By around 6:30 p.m., only one person had cast a provisional ballot because of the failure to show the proper photo ID, according to Administrator of Elections Nicole Lester. That woman apparently had just gotten out of the hospital and didn’t take her driver’s license with her to the polls, Lester said, adding she came to the Election Commission office later in the day to show her photo ID. Beginning Jan. 1 this year, all voters were required to start showing a state or federal photo ID containing their name, whether on election day or in early voting.
An East Nashville voter balked at showing a photo ID at his polling place today, then protested the law requiring one. The former Marine contends making voters produce IDs doesn’t line up with what he tried to do during his military service. Tim Thompson is a tall, skinny guy in his mid-50s. He was wearing a baseball cap with the logo of the United States Marine Corps. A couple of hours after he was turned away from his polling place on McGavock Pike for failing to show a photo ID, Thompson was at Legislative Plaza to vent to lawmakers. And he was still upset. “The thing that sticks in my craw is, I took the oath. I took the oath to prevent these kinds of law from being in effect, that discriminate against certain people that they’re supposed to protect.”
A group hoping to oust Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield has filed a notice of appeal in the state Court of Appeals in Knoxville. Jim Folkner, leader of Citizens to Recall Mayor Littlefield, filed the notice Tuesday through the Hamilton County Circuit Court Clerk’s office. The group has hopes of holding an August election to replace Littlefield, who has one year remaining in his second term. By law, he cannot run again. “With an expedited appeal, we feel like it could be done in August. We feel like it is worth it to stop the stuff Littlefield is still doing. He’s still wasting our money,” Folkner said as he stood on the courthouse steps with two others who signed the appeal.
Metro Nashville Councilman Brady Banks acknowledged Tuesday that his attempt to solicit a prostitute last month was a strike against his credibility — but vowed to continue serving on the council. “I am sorry, very sorry, for the hurt that I’ve caused my family, my friends, my neighbors, but most of all my wife,” Banks said. “I’ve caused tremendous damage to the relationships that matter most in my life and I’ve made a big mistake and it’s the worst mistake I’ve ever made.” An agreement reached with prosecutors will send Banks to a class for first-time offenders that will lead to the dismissal of the patronizing prostitution charge against him, his defense attorney said.
Sumner County voters made it clear Tuesday they did not want an additional $25 increase in the annual wheel tax to create more funding for schools, voting the referendum down. County commissioners voted in November to let voters decide if the wheel tax should be raised to $75. The additional $25 per car tag would go to local schools and create $3 million more in funding for the system each year. Commissioners say the measure was in response to multiple requests from school board members for more money, but added they are disappointed that school officials did not support the referendum. “I’m not surprised that it didn’t pass – there was never any support from the school board,” Commissioner Jerry Stone said.
A proposal to combine Columbia and Maury County’s governments failed by a wide margin of votes Tuesday, ending a three-year campaign peppered with negativity. In order to pass, the measure required a majority of the vote in both the county and Columbia. Of the 13,393 votes cast, 84 percent of county and 68 percent of Columbia residents who made it to the polls said no to adopting a metropolitan form of government, according to complete but unofficial results. “I’m not disappointed at all,” Spring Hill Mayor Michael Dinwiddie said about the final vote at the Maury County Election Commission Tuesday night.
Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero said Tuesday she’ll appoint her top two deputies to address solutions for the city’s pension system, which she said is “not sustainable.” The city budgeted $11 million in its current spending plan to fund a pension shortfall that’s expected to grow to up to $23.4 million in 2018. And they don’t have much time. A change to the pension plan requires a city charter change, and a charter change must go before voters in November or wait two more years for another statewide election. Rogero said in a City Council meeting she wants to “ultimately place a new plan on the November ballot.”
The Air National Guard in Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville would lose 160 jobs by October 2013 under a plan the Air Force released Tuesday. The Guard in Nashville would lose 30 jobs, or 27 percent of its staff. The Guard in Memphis would shed 86 jobs, or 7 percent, and McGhee-Tyson in Knoxville would cut 44 jobs, or 3 percent. Arnold Air Force Base would lose 19 jobs, including 18 civilian positions the Air Force announced it would cut last fall. The base has said it will manage those losses through attrition. They bring the state’s total job losses under the Air Force plan to 179.
A federal appeals court is set to hear a case brought by three white men who say the Nashville Metro Police Department discriminated against them when it came time for promotions. Two of the officers sought promotion to lieutenant and a third sought a boost to sergeant in 2006. All three were passed over and claimed that the department, under then-Chief Ronal Serpas, improperly used a method that allowed minority and female applicants who scored lower on testing to get the promotions. The city says the police chief has the discretion to select officers for promotions. The city also says that the supervisors of the complaining officers did not feel they were ready for a promotion. A federal judge in Nashville dismissed the lawsuit in 2010.
Rick Santorum cruised to a victory in Tennessee’s Republican presidential primary on Tuesday with a platform of social and religious issues that resonated with conservative voters. With 95 percent of precincts reporting, the former Pennsylvania senator had 37 percent to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s 28 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who won his home state of Georgia, was unable to replicate his success in neighboring Tennessee despite several visits and a barrage of television ads. He was running third with 24 percent, followed by U.S. Rep. Ron Paul’s 9 percent. Santorum appeared in Chattanooga, Knoxville and Memphis in the days before the primary, often in religious settings.
Sen. Rick Santorum was the choice of voters in the Tennessee Republican primary on Tuesday. The former Pennsylvania senator led Gov. Mitt Romney by roughly 10 percentage points and 39,000 votes with 75 percent of the state reporting at 9:30 p.m. Santorum was leading or won in 86 of Tennessee’s 95 counties at 9:30 p.m. He had 37.3 percent of the vote, followed by Romney with 27.8 percent and Gingrich at 23.9 percent with 81 percent of the state’s precincts reporting. Romney won Davidson, Williamson and Loudon Counties by less than 5 percent, while Gingrich won Marion County in southeastern Tennessee.
An exit poll of voters in Tennessee’s presidential primary revealed Rick Santorum beat Mitt Romney on Tuesday thanks to strong support among born-again Christians — about three-quarters of those who went to the polls on Tuesday. Santorum also led Romney by more than 3-to-1 among those who said it mattered a “great deal” that a candidate shared their religious beliefs. Mary Cecil, a retiree voting in Sevierville, said she was concerned about the economy, but the deciding factor in casting her vote for Santorum was: “I would like to have a true Christian in the White House.” With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Santorum had 37 percent of the vote to Romney’s 28. Newt Gingrich received 24 percent and Ron Paul got another 9 percent.
Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania won Tennessee’s Republican presidential primary by a decisive margin Tuesday, withstanding a late charge by Mitt Romney and slowing Romney’s push for their party’s nomination as the South appeared to resist his appeals. Santorum, who had led polls taken during early voting by an approximately 2-to-1 margin, was winning with 37 percent of the vote to Romney’s 28 percent after 97 percent of the state’s precincts were counted. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was third, with 24 percent, and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul finished fourth, with 9 percent. Turnout appeared to be down from 2008.
Rick Santorum may not have the endorsement of politicians like Gov. Bill Haslam or U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, but his conservative credentials spoke loudly to average voters in Tennessee, who gave him the win in the presidential primary Tuesday. With 90 percent of precincts reporting, Santorum had 37 percent to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s 28 percent, despite endorsements from a number of key state leaders. In Hamilton County, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, Santorum took 31 percent of the vote while Romney took 29 percent. “Tennessee voters are traditional conservatives who support constitutional, limited government, fiscal conservatism and traditional social values,” said Mark West, head of the Hamilton County Tea Party, who supported Santorum.
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum carried Shelby County and the state of Tennessee in the Tuesday, March 6, Republican Presidential primary. And incumbent but suspended General Sessions Court Clerk Otis Jackson finished a poor third in a Democratic primary battle for the clerk’s office that was won by interim clerk Ed Stanton in the closest contest of the night over County Commission chairman Sidney Chism. And Republican Steve Basar won a close primary race over former commissioner Marilyn Loeffel for an open seat on the county commission. Overall, 72,100 of the county’s 611,000 registered voters voted early or on election day for an 11 percent voter turnout.
Rick Santorum won Tennessee’s Republican presidential primary on Tuesday, where his platform of social and religious issues resonated with conservative voters. With 76 percent of precincts reporting, Santorum had 37 percent to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s 28 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who won his home state of Georgia, was unable to replicate his success in neighboring Tennessee despite several visits and a barrage of television ads. He was running third with 24 percent, followed by U.S. Rep. Ron Paul’s 9 percent.
Just 40 minutes after the polls closed in Tennessee, former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum checked the state off his list of victories in a crusade to become the Republican presidential nominee and to hopefully square off in November with President Barack Obama. Santorum’s focus on religious and social issues may have been an advantage in Tennessee. “Santorum is very conservative and has a lot of appeal with evangelical Christians across the state,” John Rambo, Washington County Republican Party chairman, said late Tuesday. “I think voters looked closely at both (former Massachusetts Gov.) Mitt Romney and Santorum.”
Maury County voters have selected Rick Santorum as the top candidate for the Republican presidential primary Tuesday, followed by Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Of the 13,689 residents who voted in the primary, Santorum received 4,152 votes, or 39 percent, and Mitt Romney came in second place with 2, 545 votes, or 24 percent. Newt Gingrich followed closely behind Romney with 2,429 votes, or 23 percent, according to complete but unofficial results. Election official Mike Franks said morning voting was slow but by about 1-2 p.m., voters began to show up more steadily.
Santorum hailed as ‘one of us’ by Montgomery County voters Montgomery County voters largely sided with other Tennesseans on Super Tuesday, giving Rick Santorum a boost while other states helped Mitt Romney maintain a sturdy lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Herma Hayes, a 71-year-old retired woman, said she voted for Santorum on Tuesday because of his strong ties with middle class families. “I like his values,” said Hayes, who voted at Clarksville High School. “He’s one of us.” The final county numbers came in with Santorum winning 37.24 percent of the vote. Mitt Romney was not far behind with 29.23 percent. N
Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum picked up an easy win in Tennessee, the state with the third most delegates at stake for Super Tuesday. The Associated Press called the race less than an hour after polls closed. Santorum’s win could set the tone for other southern states like Alabama and Mississippi, which hold their primaries next week. The former Pennsylvania senator wasn’t heavily organized in Tennessee, but he made multiple campaign stops around the state, telling voters it was in his “wheelhouse” for Super Tuesday. Bill Dunn, one of Santorum’s backers in the state House of Representatives, credits values voters, with whom Santorum plays particularly well.
Last night’s Republican primary contest in Tennessee could set the tone for several other southern races later this month. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum won the state, but officials with Mitt Romney’s campaign were quick to point out he didn’t go down without a fight. Romney had the backing of the governor and a slew of representatives in Congress and the state legislature, but it wasn’t enough to fend off Santorum. State Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty is also a senior adviser for Romney’s national campaign. He says Santorum leaped far ahead during early voting, and he credits Romney with doing what he could to close the gap and pick up delegates. “Tennessee is going to stand as a beacon for the south – that we will be able to reach beyond, we’ll play very hard in the south. Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana are looking very good for Mitt Romney.”
Texas Congressman Ron Paul didn’t visit Tennessee prior to Super Tuesday, but he still received nearly 10 percent of the vote. Paul supporters turned out, despite his long-shot odds to win the Republican nomination. Nashville retiree Bob Fajardo sums up the sentiment from many Ron Paul fans. “I don’t think he has a snowball’s chance of getting elected. I just get tired of voting for somebody I don’t like that much.” Paul supporters say he’s the GOP candidate who best understands the country’s fiscal trouble. Viki Mammina, who is a portrait artist, says she voted for Paul during the last primary and doesn’t expect him to do any better this go round.
Regardless of the financial condition of their state, voters in Tuesday’s Republican primaries considered the economy the top issue influencing their choice. And even though the debate in the last few weeks has often involved other issues — like contraception, or women in combat, there was very little evidence of a gender gap among the leading candidates in several of the major states in play on Tuesday, and very few voters mentioned abortion as a deciding factor. In Ohio, Mitt Romney was favored by better-educated, more affluent and older voters. Very conservative voters and those who strongly support the Tea Party backed Rick Santorum.
A crowd of angry parents came looking for Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith to provide documents and answers — anything that could tell them why their children may have be forced to change schools. But the 40 or so parents who marched into the Hamilton County Department of Education on Tuesday with protest signs in hand didn’t make it past the front desk. After the groups asked for Smith, a receptionist rose to her feet and stayed on the phone for several minutes, though no one ever addressed the parents. “I think this displays exactly what we’ve been saying. It’s callous behavior,” said parent Ryan Ledford, who led the group.
With three days remaining until the end of the legislative session, Florida lawmakers are moving forward with a $70 billion budget that would create the state’s 12th university and cut hefty amounts of money from higher education. The House and the Senate are expected to vote this week on the budget, which also includes a $1 billion increase for prekindergarten through high school, a priority of Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican. Mr. Scott’s position on the overall budget bill, with its plan for a new university, is unclear. For weeks the budget has been tangled in a disagreement between State Senator JD Alexander, the Republican chairman of the budget committee, and the University of South Florida.
The extent of the damage from last Friday’s tornadoes, hail and severe storms is still being calculated, but here are some preliminary numbers on the disaster and its toll in our region: • At least six tornadoes, stretching from Marion County, Tenn., to Murphy, N.C., were confirmed. The strongest was an EF3 that hit near Harrison in Hamilton County and then entered Bradley County. • There were an as-yet-undetermined number of serious injuries. • Damage exceeds $19 million in the region. • Seventy-seven homes in Harrison and Ooltewah were destroyed, and 40 homes were destroyed in McMinn County. Damage was also heavy in Bradley County.
It says something about Whirlpool Corp.’s faith in the workforce of Bradley County that the company has invested $200 million in a 1 million-square-foot factory to replace its existing appliance-manufacturing facilities in the county. The new facility is Whirlpool’s biggest plant project ever. It covers an area equal to 28 football fields. Whirlpool will add 130 workers to the 1,500 it now has in the county. Work is also under way or planned for a 400,000-square-foot distribution center and a 41,000-square-foot research and development center. That’s good news for Bradley County — and the rest of our region.
State tourism slogans have a way of infiltrating the zeitgeist, turning into collective earworms so effectively even the most cloying pop chanteuse would be jealous. Try to think about Massachusetts tourism … and now spend the rest of the day trying not to sing “The Spirit of Massachusetts.” Until last week, Tennessee’s slogan was “The Stage Is Set for You,” and had been thus since 2004. For some reason — and whoever figures out which slogans work and which don’t will be taking their vacations in a far more appealing locale than Bucksnort — that particular slogan didn’t quite have the sticking power of “Tennessee: Sounds Good to Me” or “Follow Me to Tennessee” (there’s another jingle that’ll get stuck in the collective brain for a few hours).
We support our right to own a gun. But when did the rights of gun-carrying citizens outweigh the rights of others? What aspect of the decision by a property owner forbidding the possession of a firearm on their property denies the right to own a gun? What aspect of the decision by a business owner to ask a prospective employee if they carry or keep a firearm in their vehicle denies the right to own a gun? In fact, by pushing legislation that authorizes punitive damages against businesses and property owners that “knowingly and willfully” deny someone from having a gun on their property, the gun lobby is saying that my rights as a gun owner trump your rights as a property owner. No, they do not.
“Employee Safe Commute” laws exist in about 17 states. They require balancing of rights. Opponents claim that it impairs property rights. That is a shallow objection. The real issue is how to balance apparently competing rights. Historically, there was no right to absolute ownership of real property. Real property rights were absolute only in the government. It is a modern secular belief that citizens have “rights” to individual ownership and control of real property. Even now, there is no constitutional provision declaring that citizens’ rights in real property “shall not be infringed.” Juxtapose rights in real property to the instinctive, fundamental right of self-defense, which exists in all sentient beings.
When coal companies go to blast the tops off Tennessee’s mountains and high-line ridges to extract coal once gotten by underground miners, they generally use the coal industry’s whitewash euphemisms. They talk of “mountain top removal” and clearing a mountain’s “overburden,” as if a mountain’s higher elevations and ecosystems can be surgically excised without destroying its life. What they actually do in Appalachian states, including Tennessee, with the mountain’s “overburden” is this: They clear-cut the forest and then use tons of dynamite to blast off the top of the mountain and all its remaining meadows, wildlife, boulders and earth, which typically slide down into the streams and valleys below, poisoning downstream waters, habitat and extended ecosystems.
Giving teachers a liability shield is good, but mandating that a principal fully support the teacher goes too far. A bill moving through the Tennessee legislature that would lessen the liability for teachers and other school personnel if they have to forcefully deal with unruly students is a step in the right direction. But it goes a half-turn too far by requiring principals to fully support teachers in taking action when it is done according to policy. The bill (SB3116/HB3241) requires local school boards to adopt policies authorizing teachers and others to temporarily relocate a student with “reasonable or justifiable force,” if required, or for the students to remain in place until law enforcement or resource officers arrive.
Tennessee’s Republican party is a divided mess. There was a chance for the Super Tuesday primary to push voters to recover the heart and soul of the party, but it didn’t happen. Gov. Bill Haslam endorsed Mitt Romney, as did heavy hitters in the state’s GOP elite, such as House Speaker Beth Harwell. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said he voted for Romney, but stopped short of labeling it an endorsement — faint praise, that. But instead of firmly yanking the party back to its traditional roots, which attracts cross-over and independent voters, the winner by a hefty margin was far-right conservative Rick Santorum.
The 10-Year Site Plan for the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge makes a number of assumptions in projecting the plant’s workload over the next decade. The first assumption on the list is: “Life Extension Program production will be at or above the current level.” That’s of interest because it appears there are changes in the works for the LEP for the W76 (Trident warhead), which is a major mission at the Oak Ridge plant. For the past several years, Y-12 was either in preparation or production mode for the program that refurbishes warhead components for the W76, a mainstay of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
Experts have long argued that computerized patient records will save the health system money by helping doctors reduce the number of redundant or inappropriate tests they order. A new study published in Health Affairs, disputes that, suggesting that office-based physicians who have access to electronic records of patient care are actually more likely to order additional imaging tests and laboratory tests than doctors who rely on paper records. There are many other studies that support the value of computerization. But this one raises an important cautionary note for the federal government, which is spending billions of dollars to encourage the adoption of digital medical records.