This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
StonePeak Ceramics has announced a $15 million expansion of its state-of-the-art porcelain tile manufacturing facility in Crossville, Tennessee. The expansion will add a new product line to the facility as well as allow for increased storage space of its finished product and bring 50 new jobs to the community. “StonePeak Ceramics’ announcement is another example of Tennessee’s business friendly climate, and I thank company officials for their decision to grow in the Crossville community,” Governor Bill Haslam said. “Existing industry expansions are the key to growing our state’s economy and will help make our goal of becoming the number one state in the Southeast for high quality jobs a reality.”
Volkswagen Chattanooga is making an employment-related announcement Thursday. Gov. Bill Haslam, VW Chattanooga CEO and Chairman Frank Fisher and other VW executives are scheduled to attend a news conference at a VW conference center about the development. The company employs about 2,500 workers at its Chattanooga plant and has announced plans to hire 200 more. VW builds 35 cars per hour at the plant, which surpassed 50,000 vehicles in February.
Volkswagen will announce today that it will add 800 jobs at its new Tennessee plant, the latest sign that rebounding car sales are boosting the manufacturing sector. The new hires at the Chattanooga plant, just opened last year, will push total employment past 3,000, 50 percent more than the German automaker promised when it came to town. The hires will let VW run the plant 10 hours a day, six days a week. The 800 new jobs follow 200 hires VW announced earlier this year. VW employs 2,200 people there and 500 more through contractor Aerotek. VW joins automakers boosting production and hiring at plants across the Midwest and South as demand for new cars grows.
In a last-minute move today, Republican legislators took a large step toward fully repealing Tennessee’s inheritance tax by the year 2016. The House Finance Subcommittee voted by unanimous voice vote today to amend a bill by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration to increase the exemption on the tax, which conservatives and business groups argue chases capital investment out of the state. Instead of shifting the exemption from $1 million to $1.25 million in the next year, the administration and its fellow Republicans have decided to put into law a gradual repeal.
A proposal to repeal the state’s estate tax is advancing in the House. The measure passed the House Finance subcommittee on a voice vote Wednesday. The companion bill is awaiting a vote in the Senate Finance Committee. Under the proposal, the tax — also called the “death tax” — would be gradually phased out over the next four years. Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville said the proposal is beneficial because the death tax “drives people, capital and jobs out of the state.”
Tennessee farmers flooded the state Capitol for Ag Day on the Hill Tuesday, in part to show off their livestock and the impact of farming on the state’s economy — but also to urge lawmakers to eliminate the so-called “death tax.” The tax applies to inheritances, which to them means paying thousands to tens of thousands of dollars if they are left the family farm and its value exceeds $1 million. “I already paid for it once. And I already pay taxes on it every year to keep it,” said Mark Klepper, a farmer and former Greene County board member for the Tennessee Farm Bureau.
Governor Bill Haslam says the state’s evaluations of teachers should be confidential. A bill to close teacher performance reviews to the public is moving in on its way to a floor vote in the state senate, and passed out of a House subcommittee today. Haslam says the point of evaluations is to help teachers improve, and he figures if reviews are made public then classroom evaluators will be less honest. And Haslam argues if bad job reviews look like a kind of punishment, it could turn off young people from becoming teachers.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder posthumously awarded Sergeant First Class Dennis Murray the first Tennessee Fallen Heroes Medal. SFC Murray’s mother, Wanda Maxy, accepted the medal on behalf of the Murray family. “We are grateful and humbled by SFC Murray’s heroism and sacrifice,” Haslam said. “On behalf of Tennesseans, we want to express appreciation to his family for his service and to let them know he won’t be forgotten.” Murray was killed when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device (IED) November 21, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan.
A Red Boiling Springs soldier has been awarded the first Tennessee Fallen Heroes medal, honoring service members killed in the line of duty. In a Wednesday ceremony at the Capitol, Gov. Bill Haslam and Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder honored Sgt. 1st Class Dennis Murray, who was killed in November by a roadside bomb while serving in Afghanistan. Murray was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division out of Fort Riley, Kan. His mother, Wanda Maxey, accepted the award on behalf of the family. Survivors include his wife, Shelee Murray, and two children.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder posthumously awarded Sergeant First Class Dennis Murray the first Tennessee Fallen Heroes Medal. SFC Murray’s mother, Wanda Maxy, accepted the medal on behalf of the Murray family. “We are grateful and humbled by SFC Murray’s heroism and sacrifice,” Haslam said. “On behalf of Tennesseans, we want to express appreciation to his family for his service and to let them know he won’t be forgotten.” SFC Murray was killed on November 21st, 2011 when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device (IED) in Kandahar province, Afghanistan.
A sad first for state officials today: the governor and commissioner of Veterans Affairs presented a new medal to the family of a Tennessee soldier who died in combat. WPLN’s Daniel Potter reports on the award for Sgt. 1st Class Dennis Murray. CHORUS: “Glory, glory alleluia…” Murray was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan last fall. He was from Red Boiling Springs, northeast of Nashville near the Kentucky border. During the ceremony at the state capitol his family asked not to talk with reporters, but Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder spoke with Murray’s mother.
Fallen service members in Tennessee will now receive a special honor from the state. Governor Bill Haslam and other state leaders presented Sergeant First Class Dennis Murray’s family with the first “Tennessee Fallen Heroes Medal” on Wednesday. Murray, of Clay County, Tennessee, was killed when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device on November 21, 2011. Murray was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division out of Fort Riley, Kansas.
Imagine starting a new public school from scratch in a few months. And imagine it is jointly operated by two local school systems through a single governing body. Those images are to become reality in August for Sullivan County and Kingsport school officials. “That’s pretty novel,” Sullivan County Director of Schools Jubal Yennie said. From how the principal and teachers will be hired to who pays their salary and which calendar and school day the school has and transportation issues, details about the grades 6-8 STEM platform school to be operated jointly by Kingsport and Sullivan County in the county’s Brookside Elementary School building in Bloomingdale are to be hashed out in coming weeks.
The State Collaborative on Reforming Education—SCORE—released its 2011-12 report card for the state of education in Tennessee Tuesday, outlining the impact of reforms made last year and offering a handful of goals for the future. SCORE, founded in 2009 by former Sen. Bill Frist, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that exists to play a supporting role in improving education efforts across the state. The report underlines the need for maintaining momentum as new policies begin to take the shape of tangible achievement gains “As the link between producing an educated workforce and economic growth remains of critical importance, it is imperative that we focus on the important work of implementation—of turning policy successes into real student achievement gains,” Frist said in a news release.
Janet Cooper is awarded Women’s Economic Council Foundation scholarship Janet Cooper, assistant leader with Girl Scout Troop 10068, recently won a $1,000 scholarship from the Women’s Economic Council Foundation and a new laptop donated by Dell. Tennessee first lady Crissy Haslam made the presentation during the annual Women’s Economic Summit in Nashville, organized by the Foundation and the Tennessee Economic Council on Women. Cooper was the West Tennessee winner, one of three non-traditional recipients of the sixth annual WECF scholarships. Joining in her presentation was Cordia Harrington, CEO of The Bun Companies and a scholarship donor.
Collecting unemployment benefits will come with more strings attached beginning in April, the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development announced this week. New requirements for the state’s 56,000 claimants will include in-person case management and documented work searches. “The reality is that as the state unemployment rate drops there will be fewer weeks of unemployment available,” said Tennessee Labor Commissioner Karla Davis. “These new requirements will make sure claimants are on track to find employment and not get caught off guard when their benefits expire.”
The state of Tennessee announced new requirements for those drawing unemployment benefits. Starting in April, “significant changes” to Tennessee’s unemployment insurance system will require in-person case management and documented work searches for nearly 56,000 claimants. Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Karla Davis said that as the state unemployment rate drops, there will be fewer weeks of unemployment available. “These new requirements will make sure claimants are on track to find employment and not get caught off guard when their benefits expire,” Davis said.
Authorities in Tennessee say two men, including a former prison guard, have been arrested in a plot to break out Tennessee’s lone female death row inmate. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Kristin Helm said Wednesday there was no imminent danger of an escape by Christa Gail Pike, but “there was plan in the works and money changing hands. Pike, originally from West Virginia, was sentenced to death in 1996 for the slaying of a fellow Knoxville Job Corps student.
There’s always tension with planning and UTC’s latest master plan is no exception. Wednesday’s public forum to discuss the latest version of the master plan that will be used to plan for about 15,000 students in the next decade included many questions that ranged from parking and housing to the potential impact to local communities. “We are trying to make sure [these plans] serve the needs of the university, but also minimize the negative impact of surrounding communities,” said Richard Brown, chief financial officer for UTC, after the two-hour meeting at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center. And growth, if planned for correctly, is good, he said.
Officer, others battled clock to save wounded THP trooper The officer’s voice blares through the static — measured, tense and deathly serious. “Is the officer out of the car?” a dispatcher asks. “No, he’s not,” comes the answer. “We need the fire department here now!” Tapes of the E-911 radio traffic after the crash that nearly killed a Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper last week tell a story of rescuers quietly working against the clock and desperately struggling to stay calm. Officials made the tapes public Wednesday, a week and a day after Knoxville police officers, a pair of McMinn County emergency medical workers and the trucker whose rig hit him pulled THP Sgt. Lowell Russell from his burning cruiser on Interstate 40.
A Tennessee attorney general’s opinion says the state can’t broadly drug test people as a condition of receiving welfare. The opinion, which was issued this week by Robert Coopers’ office, is a response to several bills pending in the state legislature that seek to drug test welfare recipients. The opinion says the requirement would violate federal laws regulating Social Security, the federal food stamp program and the state Medicaid plan. In addition, the opinion says it would violate the constitutional rights of welfare recipients who have a right not be drug tested unless there is suspicion that they are taking illicit drugs.
A House subcommittee quickly and unanimously joined a Senate committee Wednesday in transforming a “caption bill” into legislation that will block public access to teacher evaluation records. Sponsors of SB1447 say the move assures that state’s new evaluation system is used as an “internal tool” to help teachers improve rather than create public controversy. They expect the bill, approved without debate on a voice vote in the House panel Wednesday, to move forward rapidly to passage by the full House and Senate.
Teachers may be the biggest single factor in a student’s success, but how they rate is moving closer to being off limits in Tennessee. With little discussion, a bipartisan state House subcommittee in Nashville on Wednesday approved an amendment that would make teacher scores private. The same bill passed unanimously in the full Senate State and Local Government committee on Tuesday. “These evaluation rankings are based on a system (in which) the vast majority of teachers have very little confidence,” said Jerry Winters, lobbyist for the Tennessee Education Association.
Tennessee lawmakers took up a bill Wednesday that would tighten the state’s abstinence-first sex education standards, turning to the measure after a long controversy over discussing homosexuality in the classroom. A House subcommittee approved a bill that would narrow what activities would be considered abstinent and would create new legal penalties for instructors who encourage students to go outside those bounds. Described as the first update to the state’s abstinence-based program in two decades, the measure would make it harder for the Tennessee State Board of Education to make changes to Tennessee’s sex education program.
A subcommittee in the State House has approved a new bill that would redefine sex education. The sponsor is a Representative from Nashville. Jim Gotto proposed the legislation after a different bill, nicknamed “Don’t Say Gay,” was fought to a standstill in the General Assembly. Gotto’s new sex education bill would spell out what the legislature expects schools to do in teaching a “family life” program that already requires abstinence be the primary goal.
A proposed amendment in the Tennessee Legislature that would have published the names of doctors who perform abortions and required statistical information about women who receive abortions has been withdrawn amid controversy. The measures got national attention and were opposed by the Tennessee Medical Association and the only physician in the state legislature. Both opponents and supporters of legalized abortion feared that publishing the names of the doctors on the Internet would put them in danger. Critics worried the latter measure could inadvertently identify women
A controversial proposal to post details about each abortion performed in Tennessee on a state website has been withdrawn, with its chief sponsor accusing opponents of spreading lies about it and inciting threats of violence against him. Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, told members of the Legislative Health and Human Service Committee on Wednesday the threats came after news of his proposal went viral this week — including being debated on MSNBC and dissected by national bloggers who suggested it would endanger women and their doctors.
A bill that would have posted online the names of physicians performing abortions and what opponents charged was potentially identifying information about women undergoing the procedure was stripped of the provisions in a House panel Wednesday amid growing controversy. The sponsor, Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, accused critics of “spreading lies” on national television and slandering him by characterizing “me as a terrorist, murderer and more.” That has led to physical threats, he told House Health and Human Resources Committee members.
Abortion rights activists feared that an effort to publish the names of doctors who perform abortions could be used to identify individual women who had the procedure. In response, the sponsor of the state legislation cut those parts out. Gone is language that would have required publishing a list of demographic identifiers for the woman – race, age, marital status. Opponents feared the information could be used in very small counties to “out” individuals as having gotten an abortion. Rep. Matthew Hill, a Jonesborough Republican and Christian broadcaster by trade, told a House committee the bill has been simplified.
State Rep. Matthew Hill admitted receiving threats before he advanced his amended legislation Wednesday to prohibit Tennessee physicians from performing an abortion unless the physician has hospital privileges locally or in a contiguous county. Hill, R-Jonesborough, attacked opponents for “spreading lies on national news” about the bill, named the “Life Defense Act of 2012.” “Not only have they used their 15 minutes worth of fame to slander my character on a national scale, they have vilified the good people of Tennessee who love and value life,” Hill claimed.
A proposal that would drug test people as a condition of receiving welfare advanced Wednesday evening in the Senate. The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville passed the Senate Health and Welfare Committee 7-1. The legislation is different from an original proposal that would have broadly tested people. In an opinion this week on that proposal and other pending bills that seek to drug test welfare recipients, Tennessee’s attorney general said the requirement would violate federal laws regulating Social Security, the federal food stamp program and the state Medicaid plan.
A local representative is sponsoring a new synthetic drug bill in Tennessee that merges previous bills that aimed to ban synthetic drugs. Tony Shipley says all three bills in the State House that make synthetic drugs illegal have made advancements this week and now fit hand in hand with one another. Shipley says he made an amendment to his bill this week that references both Rep. Jon Lundberg’s bill and Rep. Ryan Williams’ bill. His amendment gives District Attorneys the option of which bill or law to choose when prosecuting.
An all-encompassing legislative amendment containing elements of three anti-synthetic drug bills has been drafted and is moving forward, state Rep. Tony Shipley said Wednesday. Shipley, R-Kingsport, said the amendment has been tacked on to his anti-synthetic drugs bill and will become the “coordinated legislative package” attacking sellers, distributors and users. Shipley’s legislation with the new amendment advanced out of a House Judiciary Subcommittee on Wednesday. “It’s now a completely deconflicted and coordinated bill,” Shipley said of the amendment with merged pieces of two other bills, including one filed by state Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol.
Another member of the Tennessee state Legislature has had a run-in with the law. State Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, spent a night in jail in Greene County this past weekend on a charge of domestic violence. He had to stay in jail, under the domestic violence law, until he could see a judge on Monday morning. He pleaded not guilty and the complaint stated his wife had a black eye, according to press reports. Earlier this session, state Rep. Curry Todd, a Republican committee chair from Memphis, was arrested for drunk driving and having a gun in his car. Todd was the sponsor of several gun bills in previous sessions.
The new House district in Northwest Knox County has been gathering candidates. As the deadline draws nearer for filing, look for former Sheriff Tim Hutchison to file for the seat. Hutchison has been visiting and calling around the county to gauge support for his bid. Also, the more candidates in the race the better chance for someone with the name recognition of Hutchison to win a plurality in a Republican primary.
Knox County grew enough since the last census to warrant another House district, negating the need to have part of the county in a House district with Jefferson County. State Rep. Frank Niceley thus gave up his constituents in Bearden, Sequoyah Hills, and South Knox County. His district got a chunk of Sevier County instead. But in the meantime, state Sen. Mike Faulk announced he would not seek re-election to his senate district. It includes three contiguous counties to Knox—Jefferson, Grainger, and Union counties—and continues northeast to include Claiborne, Hancock, and Hawkins counties.
Representatives from Occupy Chattanooga, whose tents were removed from the Hamilton County Courthouse lawn on Monday, appeared before county commissioners Wednesday to challenge the actions of Chairman Larry Henry and Sheriff Jim Hammond. Beth Foster, the group’s spokeswoman, said Occupiers had no notice the eviction was coming and were not given an opportunity to comply with county rules. “We have done everything possible to comply with everything the sheriff asked us to do,” Foster said. “What is left of the First Amendment is ground into the patch of grass on the County Courthouse lawn.”
Rhea County commissioners this week agreed to borrow $1 million for county schools and $250,000 to improve county fire departments, with the school board pledging to cover its debt. County Fire Chief Jacky Reavley also pledged $10,200 per year toward the $27,600 finance cost for the fire department loan to reduce the financial impact on the county budget. The school loan will be used to install an artificial turf surface for the high school football field, construct a track around the field and build a multipurpose building to support the high school’s baseball and softball programs.
“I remember going by this one piece of property in Mechanicsville,” Polly Doka says. It was an empty, abandoned house, and she noticed two people hanging out by the side of it. The next time Doka drove by, she saw a group of people hanging out on the porch. “They had just taken it over,” Doka says. Not long after that, she noticed the aluminum siding disappearing from the house, sold for profit. Then the boards of the house itself began to disappear, burned for fuel to keep warm in the winter. Meanwhile, neighbors sat by powerless, unable to do anything, until finally one day when the house was torn down.
Halts referendums, says efforts are ‘procedurally defective’ After moving confidently and rapidly toward forming municipal school districts, suburban officials received notice Wednesday that their efforts are “procedurally defective.” The Shelby County Election Commission voted 5-0 to deny requests from Arlington, Bartlett, Collierville, Germantown and Lakeland to hold referendums on May 10 to authorize the formation of municipal districts. The election commission vote was based on recommendations from commission lawyers John Ryder and Monice Hagler, who on Wednesday conferred with the state’s coordinator of elections and Atty. Gen. Robert Cooper’s office.
The Shelby County Election Commission says requests to put referenda on the ballot May 10 to create municipal school districts are “procedurally defective.” The unanimous voice vote by the commission Wednesday, March 21, sets the stage for a possible legal challenge of the decision by suburban leaders in Chancery Court. The commission acted on the advice of its attorneys who based their advice on Tuesday’s legal opinion by the Tennessee Attorney General on the issue. Attorney General Bob Cooper wrote that any referendum to form a municipal school district cannot be held before the merger of Shelby County’s two public school systems at the start of the 2013-2014 school year.
The schools consolidation saga is moving into déjà vu territory with a new legal opinion from the Tennessee attorney general on a schools ballot question and legislation affecting the process moving in Nashville. Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper says the move to municipal school districts separate from a countywide school system cannot move forward with May or August ballot questions because that would violate the 2011 law governing the Shelby County schools merger. Based on that opinion, the Shelby County Election Commission voted Wednesday, March 21, to reject the requests for referenda on municipal school districts as “procedurally defective.”
One day after being staggered by Tuesday’s announcement of an adverse opinion regarding municipal school districts by Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper, the cause of those suburban districts in Shelby County experienced two more dramatic setbacks on Wednesday. First, a legislative measure that would have moved up the date of eligibility for new municipal school districts from August 2013 to January 1, 2013, was denounced by opponents as racially motivated, then postponed, without action being taken, when it came up in a House subcommittee in Nashville.
Will the lifting of the ban on special school districts for Shelby County, the key final provision of the Norris-Todd bill of 2011, be extended statewide, permitting new districts everywhere in Tennessee? That was the prospect spoken to in a weekend talk at the Dutch Treat Luncheon, a conservative discussion group, by Shelby County Uniform School Board member Mike Wissman, who doubles as mayor of Arlington, one of the six suburban municipalities scheduled to hold May 10th referenda regarding the establishment of their own municipal school systems.
Rutherford County residents now have “fast access” to custody information on county jail offenders, thanks to the Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association and annual funding from the state of Tennessee, according to a sheriff’s news release. The sheriff’s office has joined the Tennessee Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification system, an automated service in which citizens can access a 24-hour-a-day notification system about the status of offenders, either by telephone or on the Internet. “Protecting the citizens of Rutherford County is always one of our highest priorities,” Sheriff Robert Arnold said, via the release.
Republican lawmakers from Tennessee have pledged that if they can’t repeal the entire 2010 health-care reform law at once, they’ll try to unravel it piece by piece. That’s what they plan to do today when they’ll vote to abolish a panel the law created to curb rising Medicare costs. Republicans have slammed the Independent Payment Advisory Board, whose 15 members haven’t been appointed yet, as an unaccountable panel that would ration health care to seniors. This week, the House is expected to pass legislation introduced by Republican Rep. Phil Roe of Johnson City, a physician, to repeal the board.
Tennessee lawmakers are getting a deadline extension for setting up a health insurance exchange, as part of the politically sticky federal healthcare overhaul. The idea behind an exchange is states should offer a website like Expedia, but for health insurance plans. For Tennessee’s Republican-controlled capitol, the exchange has meant tens of millions in potential costs, with a looming deadline for federal grants to cover them. And there’ve been election-year fears of being tainted by the touch of ‘Obamacare,’ as well as GOP hopes Washington might undo the law.
Victims of severe weather in 10 Tennessee counties have until May 31 instead of April 17 to file their tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service. According to an IRS news release, taxpayers in the counties also have until May 31 to file for an extension of the deadline and to make a contribution to an IRA for 2011. The counties are Bradley, Claiborne, Cumberland, DeKalb, Hamilton, Jackson, McMinn, Monroe, Overton, and Polk. The IRS also said affected taxpayers may be able to claim a casualty loss for property damage from the storms. The claim can be done on their 2011 or 2012 returns.
Time and money are running out for Knoxville residents to get rebates on Energy Star appliance purchases made since Aug. 3. “Funding is running out, and the program deadline is April 2,” said Stacy Gloss with Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee Housing and Energy Services. She said that the ideal applicants are those who already bought an appliance, not those who intend to soon. “I’ve been telling people that they still have funding in the program,” Gloss said. “It is going quickly.” The program, funded through federal grant money, encouraged people to install solar panels and buy efficient appliances via rebates.
Two years after Congress passed President Barack Obama’s health-care legislation, despite all the assertions about what it will or won’t do, no one really knows how it’s going to work. The U.S. has rarely attempted anything of this scale before. If the law survives the Supreme Court and Republican repeal efforts, its impact turns on what Paul Keckley, head of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, a unit of the accounting firm, calls “four big bets”: Will the mandate that individuals buy insurance pull healthy, uninsured “young invincibles’” into the insurance system? Will employers choose to pay a penalty rather than offer insurance? Will cash-strapped states implement their piece of the program? Will the changes restrain costs over time or increase them?
In Garden City, a sprawling blue-collar town on the western plains of Kansas, local businesses struggle to find enough workers. At the end of last year, the unemployment rate in the county stood at just 3.9 percent. Western Kansas, known for its meatpacking plants, is also seeing growth in other agricultural areas, not to mention wind power and the oil and gas industries. Local dairy farmers try to lure new workers with decent salaries and benefits, but they find no takers, says Renaldo Mesa, who has served as president of the local chamber of commerce and as Garden City’s mayor.
The number of women-owned firms in Tennessee has grown more than 50 percent over the past 15 years, according to figures released today by American Express. Tennessee overall has roughly 155,600 firms currently run by women, ranking it 17th in the nation. Those companies employ 121,100 people and generate about $23.5 billion in sales. The number of firms is an increase of more than 13,000 from 2007, and more than 55,000 since 1997. Nationally, the number of women-owned firms has grown by 54 percent over the past 15 years, employment is up 9 percent and revenue has increased by 58 percent.
Union leader files complaints against school board, director Metro Nashville Public Schools Director Jesse Register and all nine members of the school board were hit with ethics complaints on Tuesday by a local labor union leader who charged that they have been violating Metro financial disclosure laws. Register went two years without filing financial disclosure forms, which was a violation of the terms of his contract with the school board. After The Tennessean questioned his lack of disclosure, Register filed statements for 2010 and 2011.
Two people, one of whom works as an airport security officer, were arrested for methamphetamine-related charges after a visiting probation officer smelled the drug in the duo’s apartment. According to a report from the Maury County Sheriff’s Department, Erin Barger, 29, and James Andrew Wall, 34, were arrested at Hampshire Apartments on Hampshire Pike Tuesday. Both were charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, initiation of process to manufacture methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine for resale in a drug-free zone and manufacture of methamphetamine in a drug-free zone.
School officials are moving quickly to renovate a site, hire a principal and staff and start the student application process for Hamilton County’s new science, technology, engineering and math high school. Such speed is necessary if the STEM school and an associated hub to house its business and community partners are to be operational at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year. Much of the planning for the school and an adjacent STEM hub run by the Public Education foundation, is in place. That work was part of the successful application to the state that earned a $1.85-million grant to open the facilities.
However well-intentioned, it is not a good idea to hide teacher evaluation scores from the public; for our children’s sake, the legislature should drop the attempt to do so. The reasons teachers cite for hiding their evaluations are sympathetic, and in the near term, disclosure will be discomforting. Discomforting, primarily, because it will be an unpleasant sensation to have strangers, some with possibly unfriendly intent, pawing through their performance scores. Yet the benefits that accrue to public access far outweigh the fears of these teachers; and the benefits that will accrue to all teachers will also greatly outweigh those fears.
Tennessee has well over a decade of value-added scores for teachers, but the state has always refused to make teacher scores public—if parents discover their kid’s teacher has low scores it can cause much turmoil. But with the advent of No Child Left Behind and scores being collected by states nationwide, media organizations have been forcing the release of scores by using the Freedom of Information Act. Newspapers in Los Angeles and New York have won suits forcing the release of individual test scores and it would appear to be just a matter of time before it occurs in Tennessee The Haslam administration is “jawboning” media organizations to leave the issue alone.
The post-election battle between Law Director Joe Jarrett and Law Director-elect Bud Armstrong has been more entertaining that the election itself. Jarrett resigned and invited Armstrong to go ahead and take office, since he has no Democratic opponent. This would put Armstrong in a position of advising the current Charter Review Commission, which is likely to make several controversial recommendations for the voters in November. Armstrong, however, didn’t bite. He had several reasons not to step into that trap, but one legitimate one is that the charter group may need to decide whether to let the voters decide if the elected law director position ought to be abolished.
West Tennessee faces many challenges — a high unemployment rate, an under-skilled labor force, an uncertain fuel supply and rising energy prices. These factors keep us from moving ahead with economic development to make our state a better place to live and work. However, we have a unique opportunity to take charge of our future and make our children’s prospects better than ours by positioning ourselves to take advantage of the next energy wave. In spite of claims to the contrary, increased domestic drilling and building pipelines to carry Canadian crude south will not result in energy independence or low fuel prices in either the short or long term.
County Commission chairman Larry Henry would not tell a reporter for this newspaper Monday why he suddenly dropped a federal lawsuit contesting First Amendment rights for Occupy Chattanooga demonstrators before asking the county sheriff and park workers to move their tents and belongings to the sidewalk. But from all appearances, there’s an obvious answer: He and other commissioners just got tired of footing their outside lawyers’ legal bills for a question over their constituents’ free speech rights, and they just got tired of seeing the demonstrator’s tents on the courthouse lawn.
There is no question that broadband Internet access is necessary for success in today’s technology-based economy. In particular, high-speed broadband provides important social benefits, including access to innovative health-care, education and job-creation tools. While universal broadband access is a noble goal, not all policies for getting there are equal, especially in tight fiscal times. State and local governments across the country are considering tough budget decisions such as potential layoffs of police officers, firefighters and teachers.