This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Governor Bill Haslam says that the most important thing he can do this year is change civil service rules for the state’s 46,000 workers. The proposal was met with sharp criticism from the state employees association. But with a few tweaks, the TSEA announced last week it would be able to support the amended bill. The legislation is likely to get final votes this week, though it hasn’t exactly sailed through the state House. WPLN’s Joe White talks to Blake Farmer about why.
Tennessee is among a few other states that have enacted or are proposing legislation that aims to push parents to get more involved in the children’s school performance. One bill advancing in the Legislature would encourage school districts to develop a parental involvement contract, while another proposes what are commonly referred to as parent report cards. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the contract legislation is similar to a proposal passed in Michigan in 2001, and Louisiana is currently considering legislation to grade parent participation.
It was the type of conversation that Dr. Claire Trescott dreads: telling physicians that they are not cutting it. But the large health care system here that Dr. Trescott helps manage has placed controls on how painkillers are prescribed, like making sure doctors do not prescribe too much. Doctors on staff have been told to abide by the guidelines or face the consequences. So far, two doctors have decided to leave, and two more have remained but are being closely monitored.
TDOT begins work on final part of Highway 66 project Three-phase project will wrap up in ’14 Since 2009, business owners, visitors to and residents of Sevier County have dealt with the challenges of road construction as workers have revamped state Highway 66 from downtown Sevierville to Interstate 40. The Highway 66 Improvement Project is scheduled to wrap up Oct. 31, 2014. The three-phased project that began in July 2009 will create three lanes of traffic in each direction between I-40 and the North Parkway (state Route 448) in downtown Sevierville.
The Interstate 40 welcome center in Smith County will be closed for about a week while repairs are made. The Tennessee Department of Transportation said the center at mile marker 267 will be closed for both directions, beginning Tuesday through April 17. Workers will make repairs to the wastewater treatment facility for the center. The entire center, including restrooms and vending machines, will be closed. TDOT says the center is one of the state’s busiest with nearly 2 million visitors a year.
UTC is taking applications for a new, free program that aims to teach military veterans how to start a successful business. The Veterans Entrepreneurship Program application deadline is April 27. Those accepted will begin the first phase of the yearlong program in June. Dr. Robert Dooley, dean of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s College of Business, brought the program model with him from Oklahoma State University when he arrived in Chattanooga last summer.
The routine daily functions that most folks take for granted never came easily for Edi Deaver. In fact, everyday tasks such as getting in and out of his wheelchair and into bed, and simply putting his shoes on and taking them off had increasingly become a nightmare for Deaver, an engaging and upbeat 73-year-old resident of North Knoxville who is living with cerebral palsy. Thanks to a team of graduate students from the University of Tennessee’s Department of Industrial Engineering, Deaver, who began using a wheelchair full time in 2002, has increased mobility, a reduced dependency and a renewed vigor for tackling his simple but unique challenges of daily life.
Charles Widener and his wife believe being personally involved in their children’s academics is essential to the youngsters succeeding — not just in school but in life. “It’s very important for us to be involved with our children,” said Widener, whose 9-year-old and 5-year-old attend a Nashville magnet school. “You have to show them that education is important.” Tennessee is among a few states that have enacted or are considering legislation that aims to spur parents to get involved in their children’s school performance.
State’s giant trees dying off faster than expected Only a small portion of the state’s hemlocks — many that are hundreds of years old and stand 10 stories or higher — are expected to survive a scourge of tiny insects that has advanced here from the Northeast. Chemical treatments are needed one tree at a time, and there’s only so much money and time available. Many of the long-lived evergreens already have died or are dying in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and elsewhere, leaving needleless gray hulks that no longer shade creeks and threaten to fall on whatever is nearby.
A cloudless sky overhead, freshly turned soil beneath their orange flip-flops and Crocs, a dozen inmates at the Bledsoe County Detention Center pick clumps of grass and rocks from the dirt to ready the jail’s first garden for planting. The prisoners, all nonviolent offenders who have good behavior reports, talk excitedly about having a garden to tend and the vegetables they hope to plant. Cody Leach, 18, from Franklin County, said the garden will give prisoners productive work and help lighten the local tax burden by producing food for the jail’s 90 to 100 inmates.
Tipton to search all detainees after Supreme Court ruling Just days after the U.S. Supreme Court gave the OK for jailers to strip search anyone who’s arrested — regardless of how minor their offense — the sheriff in Tipton County decided that every incoming detainee will be strip searched. “It’s not meant or intended to be degrading, it’s meant to save lives,” Tipton County Sheriff J.T. “Pancho” Chumley told WHBQ-TV FOX13 in Memphis.
With the economy slowly reviving, an executive from Atlas Van Lines recently visited Louisville, Ky., with good news: the company wanted to hire more than 100 truck drivers ahead of the summer moving season. But a usually reliable source of workers, the local government-financed job center, could offer little help, because the federal money that local officials had designated to help train drivers was already exhausted.
Interviews begin today for those under consideration to be the next director of Rutherford County Schools. Emerging as the top candidates from 17 applicants were Paula Barnes, assistant superintendent of human resources and student services for Rutherford County Schools; Stan Curtis, director of transportation, maintenance and custodial services for Cheatham County Schools; Don Odom, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Rutherford County Schools and Donna Wright, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Knox County Schools.
Anyone familiar with Medicaid’s financial woes will tell you that the traditional way of paying health providers—the so-called fee-for-service method—is a big part of the problem. It encourages doctors and hospitals to rack up fees by ordering tests, office visits and procedures that may not always be needed. As a result, most states are flocking to managed care plans, in which a health care organization under contract with the state agrees to a flat monthly fee for covering each Medicaid beneficiary, regardless of the actual costs.
Gov. Bill Haslam uses the word “clarity” when discussing the proposal to affirm by constitutional amendment the state’s method of selecting justices for the Tennessee Supreme Court and appeals courts. And Haslam is right. “Clarity” is a good term for the proposal that also has the support of Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell. Some lawmakers, however, can’t resist trying to fix things that are not really broken but might need only the clarification offered by the state’s top three Republicans.
The state of Tennessee has moved aggressively to expand the role of charter schools in public education, and we have been supportive of those moves. Now, additional legislation is being debated in the General Assembly to ensure that charter schools adhere to state open meetings and open records laws. These bills are an absolute must, as charter schools are paid for with public funds. Two bills in the House and two in the Senate (HB 2699, HB 3359, SB 2575 and SB 3178) propose to hold charter schools to the same open meetings and open records laws as other public schools.
State Rep. Curry Todd used his own experience recently to make a point about providing services for those in need. The Collierville Republican revealed that he has a rare, slow-growing form of cancer during a committee debate about a bill that would require insurance companies to provide the same level of benefits for oral anti-cancer drugs as they do for injected chemotherapy. Insurance companies oppose the bill, saying the expanded benefits would result in high premiums. The bill is scheduled to be discussed again this week.
Nearly 87 years since the beginning of the Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tenn., the state is once again barreling toward being the battleground state for the debate between supporters of the theory of evolution and intelligent design. Tremors of tension regarding the subject are already being felt throughout the nation. Following reports that Gov. Bill Haslam is likely to sign a bill that would allow teachers to discuss “scientific weaknesses” of theories such as biological evolution, global warming and cloning, news outlets from MSNBC to The Los Angeles Times to The Wall Street Journal have had their hands on the developing story.
While I was home for spring break from UT-Knoxville, I made a big decision. I came out of the closet to my family — as a thinker. Growing up in the Bible Belt, and being schooled in small Christian academies, does not exactly encourage thinking outside the box. But now, as a student at a public university I am surrounded by a wide variety of cultural, religious and political views. Every day on campus I walk past someone petitioning for something.