This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
The Tennessee Titans and Tennessee State Parks are meeting with Governor Bill Haslam at LP Field Friday afternoon, in recognition of the NFL Play60 challenge. NFL Play60 is the National Football League’s campaign to encourage kids to be active for 60 minutes a day in order to help reverse the trend of childhood obesity. This spring, Tennessee State Parks and the Tennessee Titans have partnered in a number of unique ways as part of an NFL Play60.
This spring Tennessee State Parks and the Tennessee Titans are partnering in a number of unique ways as part of the NFL Play60 effort, encouraging kids to stay active, eat healthy and become more physically fit – all while enjoying one of Tennessee’s great 53 state parks. Tennessee is the first state park system to participate in the NFL Play60 campaign, which features outreach into local schools and communities to engage children with messages and activities that promote outdoor experiences, the natural world, healthy lifestyles and fun.
Governor Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner Karla Davis have awarded $17,573 to Evers Construction Company, Inc. in Lawrenceburg. “If Tennessee is going to become the number one location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs, then we must offer a well-trained workforce to employers,” said Governor Haslam. “This kind of training grant not only helps educate workers, but also provides incentive to employers looking to relocate or expand in Tennessee.”
Gov. Bill Haslam told a crowd of local Republicans and other dignitaries on Thursday that state government is trying to operate more efficiently and effectively, while still creating a jobs-friendly environment for the state and improving education. Bedford County Republican Party’s annual Reagan Day Dinner drew a large crowd to the Blue Ribbon Circle on the Celebration grounds, including both die-hard Republicans and others, some of whom run for local office on a Democratic ticket.
Gov. Bill Haslam is standing up to the Wall Street Journal after a recent editorial he calls “wrong.” The editorial discussed the state’s efforts to reduce and one day completely repeal the estate tax, and the paper calls Haslam the main obstacle to estate tax reform in Tennessee. Haslam actually made raising the exemption limit one of his main agenda items this year, and now the state legislature has decided to completely eliminate the estate tax in coming years. Haslam said he felt compelled to point that out to the Wall Street Journal.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and the owner of Bristol Motor Speedway discussed potential state assistance for the NASCAR venue Friday, two days after plans were announced to renovate the struggling track. Haslam and Bruton Smith, the North Carolina-based owner of Speedway Motorsports Inc., met in Nashville to hold “preliminary discussions” about potential aid. Speedway Motorsports plans to resurface Bristol before its next race in August in response to declining attendance and fan complaints about the quality of racing at the state’s only Sprint Cup track.
State officials are hoping to collect millions of dollars in new business taxes under an initiative aimed at cracking down on rogue construction companies. Namely, Tennessee wants to join more than 35 other states that have proposed bills to bar firms from claiming they hire independent contractors when their workers are, in fact, full-time employees When they classify workers as independent contractors, construction companies are exempt from providing workers’ compensation and paying into the statewide unemployment insurance fund.
Some Tennessee investors say the Haslam administration’s $30 million INCITE fund to help startup companies has steep disclosure requirements that could keep some venture firms from participating. The INCITE fund, which draws on federal money to encourage private investments, is on the verge of making its first round of investments. But some venture capital firms remain concerned about requirements to identify limited partners, revenue figures and number of employees, among other disclosures.
Tennessee has more than 300 species of fish, with bass, crappie and catfish awaiting hungry anglers. The Smoky Mountains and the Appalachian Trail offer scenic spots for ambitious hikers. Or, you can shoot the rapids on the Ocoee River, or go camping just about anywhere across the state, including backcountry camping at 12 state parks. So it’s no wonder that the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development is promoting the state’s plentiful outdoor opportunities this spring. Elvis, Dollywood and the Grand Ole Opry are not Tennessee’s only attractions for the travel dollars.
Funding cut leads police to revise use of resources On any given night, there are 20 to 30 fewer Metro police officers than there were two years ago scouring the streets for impaired drivers. But Metro’s officers have been arresting drunken drivers at a surprising pace even though the state cut the grant money the department once used to put extra cops on the road for DUI patrols. The Metro Police Department and the Tennessee Highway Patrol have been coping with fewer resources but have increased the number of people arrested for DUI this year when compared with last year.
In the past two years there have been a minimum of 176 human sex trafficking cases in Northeast Tennessee, according to statistics from a survey completed in 2011 by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. That number could be as high as 360, the survey showed. Of the minimum cases, 60 involve minors. “That’s a lot,” said Yvonne Williams, executive director for the Tennessee chapter of Trafficking in America Task Force.
2-4-23-38-46, Mega Ball 23. If those are the numbers on your Mega Millions lottery ticket, you’ve won a jackpot worth a world record $640 million. At least one ticket matched those numbers following Friday night’s drawing – purchased in Maryland’s Baltimore County, lottery officials said early Saturday. Scores of wanna-be multimillionaires held their collective breath as the lottery numbers were drawn at 11 p.m. ET. Most exhaled as realism took hold: chances of winning were just 1 in 176 million.
Memphians hope to hit $640 million jackpot So what if the chance of winning the Mega Millions jackpot was 1 in 176 million. People weren’t playing the odds. They were betting on a dream. They withstood the knowing chuckles of killjoys and analysts who use odds of lightning strikes, car wrecks or airplane crashes to measure the foolishness of spending a buck on the chance to win a record $640 million jackpot. It didn’t matter if they won or lost, there’s no regret in trying. The one absolute: You can’t win a raffle if you don’t buy a ticket.
As the Mega Millions jackpot climbed Friday, ticket buyers flooded stores across the country. Many business owners saw a big boost in profits from the crowds. “It started about 6:30 this morning, and we have not stopped,” said Nipun Patel, who owns the Farragut Market in West Knox County. He says sales have skyrocketed. “A normal day is maybe, $1,200 in lottery sales. Today, so far, about $6,500, and about $4,000 yesterday.” Friday afternoon, the line at Patel’s store was several people deep. He says the ticket sales help other business, too.
In the history of the world, there’s never been a bigger lottery jackpot. Around noon today, lottery officials announced that so many people purchased lottery tickets – the MegaMillions jackpot increased dramatically to $640 million. No surprise, today at convenience stores everywhere around the TriCities we found people lining up for tickets, just for a chance at the record-breaking jackpot. But we found out the odds of actually winning aren’t that great. Math professors at East Tennessee State University say your likelihood of winning statistically isn’t very high.
Chances good that there will be a winner Across the country, Americans plunked down an estimated $1.5 billion on the longest of long shots: an infinitesimally small chance to win what could end up being the single biggest lottery payout the world has ever seen. But forget about how the $640 million Mega Millions jackpot could change the life of the winner. It’s a collective wager that could fund a presidential campaign several times over, make a dent in struggling state budgets or take away the gas worries and grocery bills for thousands of middle-class citizens.
Here’s a provocative question that could mean a hefty difference in your tax bill if you put solar panels on your company’s roof: What exactly did legislators intend back in 2010? In the ongoing debate over the treatment of solar installations for property tax purposes is a major question over what sorts of companies are relevant to current law. We dive into the issue more deeply for full subscribers in today’s print edition, for the first time finding consensus on the possible tax liability and revealing what will dictate how many businesses’ bills are at stake.
Tennessee lawmakers revive constitutional question To state Rep. Matthew Hill, his legislation authorizing local governments to display the Ten Commandments along with other historical documents is not about religion. It’s about history. Just look around his office, he said. There’s an original Tennessee state flag. A framed copy of a David Crockett letter. A painting of historic Jonesborough, his hometown. “We’re not talking about holding a church service. We’re not talking about having a Bible study at the courthouse,” said Hill, R-Jonesborough.
Tennessee grocers conceded defeat Friday in their efforts to persuade the Tennessee legislature to allow wine sales in grocery stores. It’s the sixth consecutive year that grocery-wine sales bills have failed in the statehouse. This year’s efforts have been on life support since early February when no state senator would sign on as a co-sponsor of a new bill by Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, to allow residents to petition for a local referendum on grocery wine sales in their cities or counties. Because bills must have sponsors in both chambers, that bill died by February’s bill-filing deadline.
This promises to be a busy week in Nashville – a year and two months after the General Assembly last dealt with the terms of schools consolidation in Shelby County. This week, two bills that would again change the terms of the local schools reformation saga could come to floor votes in the Tennessee House and Senate and go to the desk of Gov. Bill Haslam. As the Tennessee House Education subcommittee was meeting in Nashville Wednesday, March 29, it was where most of those involved were focusing their attention.
The Tennessee Senate has voted to replace a panel that oversees judges – one that has been criticized in the past several years for being too secretive and too lenient on judges. If you have a complaint about the way a judge handled your case, you can turn to a group called the Court of the Judiciary to investigate. But for years, people like Ginger Franklin have complained the process is broken. “It seems to me, to be a bunch of judges overseeing a bunch of judges. Is that the fox guarding the hen house?” Franklin says.
People on welfare in Tennessee may have to take drug tests before they can receive their benefits. Lawmakers are moving forward with the plan, even though the attorney general says it’s unconstitutional. Many lawmakers want to make sure those who receive public assistance are using the money as intended and not for illegal drugs. But, their plan is already facing hurdles in other states and could see the same issues in Tennessee. Tonette Fletcher receives welfare to help her pay for her children’s basic needs, and she says she has no problem with a plan to drug test people before they can receive benefits.
It’s an idea in Nashville that just won’t die. Certain state lawmakers say they’re not ready to give up on their plan to drug test welfare recipients, even though the attorney general says it’s unconstitutional. Lawmakers say they want to make sure those who receive public assistance are using the money as intended, and not for illegal drugs. The plan is already moving ahead in both chambers even though the attorney general says drug testing those on benefits violates the Fourth Amendment. Friday, Governor Haslam confirmed he also has concerns about moving forward with the bill.
School boards who want to use teleconferencing to let absent members participate in meetings could do so under a bill passed in the state House Thursday. The bill would let members of most school boards take part in meetings by way of teleconferencing, Skype, or a phone with a built-in camera. Absent members would have to provide good cause for not being present. Several opponents argued that school board members ought to have to meet face to face, and vote in the presence of audience members.
On Thursday, the state House passed a bill that would require all doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. State Representative Matthew Hill, a Jonesborough Republican, says his bill to put a new restriction on abortion practitioners is simply aimed at protecting women who develop complications after they leave the surgery center. “Right now you have women who have complications, they go to the emergency room, they present, and the doctors have to start from scratch there. The doctor that performed the abortion is not held responsible. In some cases the doctor is not even in this state any more.”
As state lawmakers consider legislation that would permit guns to be stored in vehicles on private property, area police chiefs are lobbying against the idea, including East Tennessee State University’s head of public safety. The Tennessee House and Senate each have bills designed to permit licensed individuals to store guns in their private vehicles in the parking lots of employers and the driveways of private citizens. Collectively, these bills are known as the Guns in Parking Lots legislation. If passed, students, employees and others would be allowed to have guns in their cars at ETSU, said Jack Cotrel, the school’s public safety chief.
Between district changes, seven voter precincts that are being closed and three more that are getting new polling places, about 18,000 Bedford County citizens will receive new voter registration cards within the next few weeks. For the most part, only those whose information is changing will receive new cards, according to Bedford County administrator of elections Summer Leverette. In a few cases, however, it was simpler to print out cards for an entire street or highway, even if some of those living on that street aren’t changing.
The Shelby County jail will no longer hold people for up to 48 hours if they haven’t been charged after state judges said police were violating the constitution for holding people without probable cause. Sheriff’s spokesman Chip Washington said in a statement on Friday that because the General Sessions Court will no longer hold probable cause hearings for detention orders, the jail will no longer accept prisoners being held for detention.
Practice violates Tenn. constitution, court finds Local authorities have suspended the practice of detaining people in jail for up to 48 hours without charging them with a crime. The move follows a scathing opinion by the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals at Jackson, which said the Memphis Police Department was routinely violating the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That amendment says authorities can’t make arrests or search and seize property without probable cause. The opinion also said the policy violates Tennessee’s constitution.
Residents could end up voting on some proposed changes to Knox County’s charter as early as August — and not have to wait until the end of the year. As the 27-member committee charged with reviewing and refining the county’s governing documents continues to move ahead, members said there may be dozens of amendments that could eventually go before voters. Initially, the plan was to put the questions on the November ballot. But, now members say some could get decided this summer.
Last year was a particularly difficult year for the Dyer County Budget Committee. It spent nearly two months ironing out the 2011-2012 budget that had a significant revenue shortfall from the previous year. It received feedback from state consultants suggesting that the county raise taxes in a year where the county government was avoiding placing any undue burden on its citizens who were struggling in the aftermath of two consecutive years of flooding However grim the financial situation looks for this coming year, the budget committee began the work on Thursday morning of discussing the 2012-2013 budget.
Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn took aim Thursday at Obama administration initiatives to protect consumers’ privacy as they surf the Internet. The administration’s proposals would constitute “a massive expansion of government … that would put some limits on our personal liberty,” said Blackburn, adding that American innovators might choose to work elsewhere if the government limits companies’ access to information. Blackburn spoke at a hearing by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on commerce, manufacturing and trade, of which she is vice chairman.
Bedford County will move from the 6th Congressional District to the 4th in this year’s election cycle, and U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who currently represents the 4th District, made his first local public appearance during Thursday night’s Bedford County Republican Party Reagan Day Dinner. DesJarlais is a physician from South Pittsburg who was first elected to the House two years ago, beating incumbent Democrat Lincoln Davis. It was his first time to seek or hold public office.
Scottie Mayfield is staffing up. On Friday, the Athens, Tenn., dairy executive announced Paul K. Brock Jr. will serve as Hamilton County finance committee chairman for Mayfield’s congressional campaign. Brock is an investment executive with a long history in Chattanooga. Mayfield is one of four Republicans challenging U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann in Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes Chattanooga, Oak Ridge and numerous rural East Tennessee counties.
The youngest person ever elected to the Chattanooga City Council said he’s more than a Democrat angling for higher office. “There are no Republican ideas and there are no Democratic ideas,” 32-year-old Andraé McGary said Friday. “I know there are many people who want to think of things that way, but I certainly do not. I ask one question: Are they good ideas?” Joined by his wife and three of his young children at a Friday morning news conference, McGary announced he’ll run against Hamilton County Board of Education member David Testerman in the Democratic primary for the 10th District Tennessee Senate seat.
Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign doesn’t want Tennessee Sen. Stacey Campfield to be a delegate at the GOP’s national convention. The Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/Ht9fyG) reports the campaign’s director of delegate access sent a letter to the Tennessee Republican Party’s State Executive Committee earlier this week concerning the Knoxville Republican. Campfield, who served as a state co-chair for Gingrich’s campaign, switched his support to candidate Rick Santorum days before the March 6 “Super Tuesday” election.
Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign is asking Tennessee’s Republican party to remove Sen. Stacey Campfield as a delegate to the GOP convention. The Gingrich campaign sent a letter to the state GOP executive committee to confirm the slate of delegates. The letter says Sen. Campfield does not have the consent of the campaign to be a delegate and he misled Tennesseans who voted early. Campfield had been Gingrich’s co-chair for his Tennessee campaign. Campfield said on the 6 News show Tennessee This Week that he stepped down from that post, throwing his support to Rick Santorum instead.
A cut in federal funding means the end of the Washington County, Tennessee Sheriff’s Office jail Residential Substance Abuse Treatment program. According to Sheriff Ed Graybeal, the U.S. Department of Justice recently stopped funding the RSAT program.WashingtonCountywas the last county jail in the state to receive the $100,000 a year grant money for RSAT, Graybeal said. “We worked since ’99 to keep it,” Graybeal said.
Buoyed by a pledge by President Barack Obama to sign into law the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, the legislation aimed at stimulating entrepreneurship across the nation is being greeted with cautious optimism by some business leaders in Memphis. The bipartisan JOBS Act that overwhelmingly passed in the House on Tuesday after being tweaked by the Senate paves the way for lots of small-money investors to use crowd-funding to help launch startups. That could boost the profile of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Texas Water-Pollution Suit Dropped; Third Recent Setback on Drilling for Agency The Environmental Protection Agency has dropped its claim that an energy company contaminated drinking water in Texas, the third time in recent months that the agency has backtracked on high-profile local allegations linking natural-gas drilling and water pollution. On Friday, the agency told a federal judge it withdrew an administrative order that alleged Range Resources Corp. had polluted water wells in a rural Texas county west of Fort Worth.
A handful of states say they are planning to press ahead and voluntarily implement a key part of the 2010 federal health-care law even if it is wiped out by the Supreme Court. The Obama administration’s law faced three days of skeptical questions from the court’s conservative majority this past week, increasing the odds that part or all of the law will be struck down. The justices met Friday for their weekly conference, where they were expected to take a preliminary vote and decide how to issue their written opinions on the case, but they aren’t expected to announce their decision until late June.
As the Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of the federal health care law, one option that had seemed unthinkable to its designers and supporters now seems at least possible: that the court could strike down the entire law. Although it would be folly to predict what the court will conclude, policy experts, insurers, doctors and legislators are now seriously contemplating the repercussions of a complete change in course two years after the nation began to put the law into place.
Even with a proposed 60 percent property tax break, a water and snow park would generate millions more in taxes for Nashville and its schools than undeveloped land, Gaylord Entertainment Co. and Dollywood Co. executives said Friday. “The money we want to get back doesn’t exist today,” Gaylord Chairman and CEO Colin Reed told The Tennessean’s editorial board. “We’re not taking from anybody.” Gaylord and Dollywood, working together as a company called Park Holdings LLC, plan to open a $50 million water and snow park near Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in the next few years.
Gaming tech company’s consolidation to bring 180 jobs to former LP facility Video Gaming Technologies Inc. is rolling its staff of casino gaming developers and engineers under one roof in Cool Springs. VGT, which is one of the biggest U.S. makers of gaming technology, will transfer about 180 of the 217 positions at its soon-to-be closed Ruckersville, Va., operation to Cool Springs by the end of the year. An exact figure about how many people VGT would eventually hire in Cool Springs was unclear because some Virginia employees still could agree to relocate, a company official said.
Hundreds attended a job fair Friday held by NYX, Inc. in Perry County, an area plagued by unemployment in recent years. “I was here at 6 a.m.,” said job seeker Rachel Maxime. “And I am just praying I will get one of the jobs,” she added after coming out of the job fair. Like many people in area, she got caught up in the ripple effect of the auto supplier Fisher shutting down its Perry County plant more than three years ago. “My dog breeding business just could not make it when so many others lost their jobs,” said Maxime.
Industrial sector weathers economy thanks to city’s logistics brawn As the industrial market approaches the end of the first quarter, a handful of deals have local brokers encouraged that the city’s bread-and-butter sector is poised for recovery. Recent notable industrial leasing transactions – all of which occurred in Class A bulk warehouses – include Trane U.S. Inc.’s 625,000-square-foot lease in Chickasaw Distribution Center; Kimberly Clark Corp.’s 556,000-square-foot lease in Airways Distribution Center; and Impact Innovations’ 275,000-square-foot space at Southridge Corporate Park.
Tennessee doesn’t have enough tools to attract movie makers, film advocates argue. In April, Nashville hosts the 10-year-old Film-Com event, which is aimed at attracting film makers to the region and helping them find capital for their projects. The Nashville Business Journal talked with event chairman Andy van Roon about what the state can do to attract more movie-making. What steps does Tennessee need to take to bring more film-related activity here?
One of the oldest industrial employers in Lenoir City will close its doors within the next year at a cost of over 200 local jobs. Yale Locks and Hardware Co., a fixture in Lenoir City since 1953, will cease local operations, according to an announcement from parent company ASSA ABLOY in New Haven, Conn. Yale will begin consolidating its operations into a factory in Berlin, Conn., during the coming year as part of a global factory footprint reduction, said Dan Krajewski, general manager. “They can’t fit the other factory into this factory but they can fit this factory into the other factory,” he said.
The mayor of Lenoir City says he’ll meet with council on Monday to come up with a tax incentive package to offer Yale Locks. The lock manufacturer’s parent company, Assa Alboy of Sweden, announced Friday it will close the Lenoir City plant. They say the move will cost Lenoir City more than 200 jobs. According to union President Joe Williams, the plan is to phase out operations starting in 60 days. The company says they expect to shut down in Lenoir City in a year’s time. But Mayor Tony Aikens hopes they can persuade the company to remain.
Millions of people across the country just lost the lottery. Here at home, 230 people could soon lose their jobs. Yale Locks and Hardware announced it’s closing it’s plant in Lenoir City. The company has been a mainstay and a big employer for 60 years. But before they lock their doors for good, the Lenoir City mayor says he’s gonna fight to keep the company here. “Shock, disbelief. Saddened dramatically,” said Cathy Ballard, a shipping coordinator. That’s how Ballard described her reaction to the news that her dream job for 24 years could soon be gone.
Layoffs to accompany sale to rival firm Raymond James Morgan Keegan & Co.’s merger layoffs will begin Monday in Memphis with 68 jobs cut away. Employees were told Thursday and Friday their jobs are ending. More layoffs are expected later this year in Memphis as the buyer identifies duties already handled by its Florida workers. Raymond James Financial Inc. of St. Petersburg, Fla., is buying its Memphis rival for $930 million. The deal was disclosed in January, and the sale is set to take place on Monday.
Board to meet today to discuss next steps The fate of the Knox Charter Academy is in limbo, with school officials facing a Sunday deadline to find an acceptable location. “We’ve been looking but we’ve been unable to identify one by April 1,” said Suzan Mertyurek, the academy’s board president. The school’s board will meet today to discuss its next steps, she said. Earlier this month, the Knox County school board denied the charter school’s planned location at 205 Bridgewater Road, a vacant church in West Knoxville.
The Plough Foundation has awarded a $1.7 million grant to the Memphis Talent Dividend College Attainment Initiative, whose purpose is to build a stronger city by increasing the number of college graduates in the Memphis metropolitan area by 1 percent over the next five years. Organizers say a 1 percent increase in college attainment, which would generate about 8,000 additional college graduates, would yield a $1 billion increase in personal income, giving the community a significant economic boost.
The way some on the schools consolidation planning commission see it, the group has some momentum going in its goal of selling a still-forming consolidated school system plan to parents – urban and suburban. But that momentum is in danger if suburban leaders favoring municipal school districts are able to resume a march toward their goal this year. And they could as the Tennessee Legislature is again showing an interest in the issue.
Editorially, The Commercial Appeal has supported the right of individuals to legally carry firearms. What we have questioned, however, is the appropriateness of individuals being able to carry firearms anywhere they want to, such as bars, parks and classrooms. In that context, we have serious misgivings about legislation moving through the General Assembly that would eliminate the rights of businesses, schools and universities to bar employees from storing firearms in parked vehicles.
Graduate Memphis will help Memphis raise its number of college graduates. When it comes to increasing the number of college graduates in Memphis, so much emphasis is placed on getting high schoolers college ready that another path toward reaching that goal has been overlooked. That path involves helping Memphis adults who didn’t finish their post-secondary education return to school and obtain their degrees. Through the generosity of the Plough Foundation, working with Leadership Memphis and the city of Memphis, officials want to reach some of the 200,000 Greater Memphis individuals who fit that description.
They say that knowledge is power. It can also be protection. A new tool will now allow Rutherford County residents to access custody information on county jail offenders, letting us know who’s still locked up and who’s been recently released. The Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office is using the Tennessee Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification system, which makes it possible for citizens to call or log in to learn the status of offenders. The system is offered 24 hours a day. The confidential service is available in English and Spanish, and interpreters are on hand in several other languages.
It is amazing, but a “revolution” in the lives of all of us, the American people, and our nation as a whole, is very near. We likely will have to wait until June to know the outcome, if we find out then. But it will affect us all! We do not believe the founders of our great and wonderful United States of America, the authors of our Constitution, anticipated any such a thing. But it’s at hand. Neither the president of our United States nor a majority of our elected representatives and senators in Congress will make the decision.