This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
A near capacity audience of Republicans gathered Friday night in Downtown Elizabethton to hear an address from Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. Haslam spoke to the Carter County Republican Party’s Reagan Day Dinner celebration at the Coffee Company on East Elk Avenue. Many elected officials from Carter County and Elizabethton City government, as well as state-level officials, were on hand for the annual event.
State is rebounding faster than others but has ways to go Tennessee collected more tax revenue last year than it did in 2010, a sign the state’s economy is rebounding from the recession. Tax revenue grew by 8.5 percent in Tennessee during the fourth quarter of 2011 compared with the same period a year earlier, according to a report released last week by the Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany, N.Y. Sales and income tax revenues grew in 2011, but the state’s share of property taxes probably fell last year, the Census Bureau said in a recent report.
The state has stopped three of TennCare’s top 10 prescribers of commonly abused pain and mental health drugs from filling prescriptions through the health-care program for the poor and uninsured among other steps to cut down on overprescribing drugs. TennCare Director Darin Gordon outlined steps under way to cut down abuse and fraud in a letter to U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who is investigating the over-prescription of drugs in the federal Medicaid system.
In a state with a trashy reputation among the green set, changes are under way. Charlie Wetherington couldn’t readily explain why he throws away his aluminum cans, newspapers and plastic bottles instead of recycling them. “I guess I’m just lazy,” the South Nashville resident finally said, admitting his green recycling cart has sat in his driveway for months because remodelers put debris in it. “I’m all for recycling. I did it (through a mandatory curbside recycling program) when I was in Florida, but I guess I got out of the habit here. I’d get back into it if I knew how.”
This weekend marked the beginning of the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Interstate 24 bridge replacement project, and drivers should expect to see 12 more weekends just like it, maybe worse. On Friday night, after the Nashville Predators’ victory over the Detroit Red Wings, Metro police dispatch reported nine injury accidents as people tried to leave downtown Nashville with fewer routes than usual available on a rainy night.
Like a herd of thirsty cattle catching a whiff of water, Tennessee lawmakers appear ready to start their annual stampede toward what leaders hope will be the final week of session. House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, is keeping his fingers crossed that lawmakers can finish up on Friday. “I think we’re going to,” McCormick said. “Of course, I’ve never been right before when I’ve predicted that.”
God, guns, gays and money are scheduled debate topics for the 107th Tennessee General Assembly in its windup week. Enactment of a state budget for the coming fiscal year, a duty formally assigned to the Legislature by the Tennessee constitution, is clearly the most substantive issue remaining as legislative leaders push to adjourn the session by Friday. The $31 billion budget plan submitted by Gov. Bill Haslam is generating some disputes.
The House has approved legislation creating tighter rules for collecting unemployment benefits and reducing payments to laid-off workers who turn down jobs at lower salaries than their former positions provided. The bill (HB3431) is titled the “Unemployment Insurance Accountability Act” and grew out of Republican “task force” hearings chaired by Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir City, who sponsored the measure.
Measure has failed for 30 years; critics call it inefficient While most see the glass as either half-empty or half-full, Marge Davis sees it as recyclable. The Mt. Juliet woman has been the driving force behind efforts to pass a beverage container deposit law, or bottle bill, in Tennessee. But although the measure has been filed repeatedly in the General Assembly for more than 30 years, it has failed every time. Davis, who took up the effort after moving here from Maine in 1979, isn’t ready to give up.
State Rep. Harry Tindell, a Knoxville Democrat who’s retiring this year, received a General Assembly flag after the state House of Representatives passed a resolution describing him as a “dedicated and well-informed legislator” who worked “tirelessly” for his 13th District constituents. It’s not any ordinary General Assembly flag. The banner was designed by Sheila Adkins, a fellow Fulton High School classmate, in 1978 for a contest sponsored by the late Rep. Ted Ray Miller. Tindell represents Miller’s old district.
Legislator maintains he lives in home in district Collierville resident and former Germantown alderman Carole Hinely doesn’t think Rep. Curry Todd lives in the 95th District he represents in the state Legislature. Todd maintains he does, living with a high school buddy after vacating his Collierville home following a divorce that was final last year. Also, despite his name not being listed as owner, he said he has a bed and clothes in a home on Handforth Cove in Collierville.
If Tennessee voters are as dissatisfied with President Barack Obama as Republicans say they are, a state that was already “red” could make the General Assembly even redder this fall, a shift accelerated by legislative redistricting. The state’s Republicans believe they’re poised to add to their sizable majorities in the House and the Senate in the November elections. Rep. Glen Casada, a Williamson County Republican, said the GOP, which now controls 64 of the 99 House seats, should have 69 to 72 in the next two-year legislative session.
GOP leaders say party ready to gain more seats in state House, Senate Candidates and constituents mingled at the annual Republican Party of Rutherford County Ronald Reagan Day Dinner Saturday night, with their sights clearly set on winning even more seats in this year’s elections. Held at the Park Place reception venue, attendees were encouraged to wear “Polished Boots and Pearls” in celebration of Reagan’s life, politics, his legacy and the future of the party.
The 3 1/2 feet of water that poured into her home and wrecked her walls, ceiling and hardwood floor drained away months ago, but for Thelma Williams the great flood of 2011 isn’t really over. The woods behind the home she shares with her son on Old Millington Road are strewn with refuse carried by floodwaters. Just down the road, some 100 moldy, flood-wrecked mobile homes lay abandoned, while the two brick houses on either side of her are empty.
Saturday was a day for people who live in Bradley County to celebrate their differences. Cleveland State Community College capped off its Multicultural Week with a fair that began with a parade of flags and spotlighted foods and information about the new residents’ home countries. “We started the idea from the cultural diversity class I taught,” said project director Jana Pankey. “It started as an internal event, just students and faculty,” she said.
Like father, like son. U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., who two decades ago did what he once thought was unimaginable and was elected to succeed his father in Congress, is about to reach another political and personal milestone. This week, the Knoxville Republican will surpass his father’s time of service in the U.S. House. On Thursday, Duncan will have held Tennessee’s 2nd Congressional District seat for 23 years, 5 months and 19 days — the same amount of time in the same seat previously held by his father, the late John J. Duncan Sr.
The Senate has begun laying the groundwork for a half-trillion-dollar farm and food bill that would end unconditional subsidies to farmers, but House Republicans’ resolve to cut its biggest component — food stamps — by $13 billion a year dims its prospects of passing Congress. The current five-year farm bill expires at the end of September, and the Senate Agriculture Committee on Friday released a draft of its plan to redesign safety nets that help farmers weather bad times while achieving some $23 billion in deficit reduction.
The pen is said to be mightier than the sword, and on Saturday a group of folks gathered at the Y-12 National Security Complex to apply that principle in protest of the Uranium Processing Facility proposed for the site. More than 70 people participating in the rally that included music and a drama production on the lawn outside the Y-12 entrance as Y-12 security personnel stood inside the entrance.
A new approach to teaching high school students about the high-tech world of farming will get a test run this summer. The Leaf-Chronicle reports that the three-day course called “Conception to Consumption” will be offered to students involved in the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program. Students will spend most of their class time on a farm.
It’s TCAP week in Tennessee, and local students will begin participating in the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program on Tuesday morning. “The end of year TCAP tests are very important and allow teachers to identify learning gaps and also areas of strength for each individual student,” said Janice Womble, secondary instruction supervisor. “This data can also be used to project student academic success as they move through the grades.”
Parents, teachers, fellow students work together for success The parade at Byrns Darden Elementary was colorful and full of energy as students marched to the beat of their teachers’ drum. Students showcased handmade vocabulary words on posters, hats and signs. Teachers wore vocabulary-themed costumes. All of this matched up with words that may appear on the upcoming Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) Achievement Test.
How is it that 88 out of 95 counties in Tennessee have some type of automotive-supply industry? I started reflecting on this when Senator Lamar Alexander recently donated his pre-Senate papers to Vanderbilt University. In conjunction with the donation and an exhibit, Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management hosted a panel discussion called “The Auto Industry Comes to Tennessee.” The panel emphasized the importance of bipartisan cooperation, partnerships, collaboration and localization to economic development in our state.
If Legislative Politics 101 were a college-level course, the following language would almost certainly be on the syllabus: “One key objective of this course is to explore the fine art of grandstanding and hubris by duly elected legislators — and the lobbyists who seek to unduly influence their actions — particularly when the cause they are pushing has no chance of succeeding.” And if I were teaching such a course this semester, I would point my students to the debate that won’t seem to die in the Tennessee legislature over allowing loaded guns in every parking lot imaginable — public and private — in the state.
If the 2012 Tennessee legislative session were a horror movie, it would be called The Things That Wouldn’t Die. Two bad proposed laws — the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and the “guns in trunks” legislation — continue to head toward floor votes despite widespread opposition. If Gov. Bill Haslam, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey are the vampire killers, they need sharper sticks. This is the week the bills live or, one can only hope, die.
Recent events illustrate that the art of compromise, historically valued in the world of politics, remains a constant in the new normal of Republican rule in Tennessee government. So does the belief that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Gov. Bill Haslam, in his titular head role as overseer of our state’s Republicans, called last year for a one-third reduction in legislative bill filings in 2012. At the outset of the 2012, the governor thereupon introduced a legislative package of 54 bills, compared to his 24-bill package of 2011 — somewhat shy of a 33 percent reduction.
As retired generals and residents of Tennessee, we are very concerned that military service is now out of reach for a significant majority of young adults in Tennessee and, indeed, nationwide. Without question, poor performance in school is one of the leading reasons why so many young people are unfit to serve. Consider this: the Defense Department estimates that 75 percent of our young adults are not qualified to join the military.
Talks have begun between Jackson-Madison County school officials and the county commission about next year’s school budget. While the budget is critical every year, it takes on even more importance this year as the school system seeks to begin implementation of its strategic plan for improvement We see financial evidence of that plan in a $240,000 request to improve academic performance at Northeast Middle School.
And so it begins — the annual battle over the city budget. Tuesday, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton presented his administration’s 2012-2013 operating budget to the City Council. The mayor, who began his first full four year-term January 1, is asking the council to approve what he said will be a one-time 47-cent assessment that, finally, will let the city cover the cost of a court-ordered school funding mandate. The mayor said his spending plan does not call for layoffs or salary reductions.
After almost two years of sideshow antics, the lawsuit aimed at stopping construction of the local mosque is finally set to go to trial this week. I hope the plaintiffs win. You read that right. I hope Kevin Fisher, Henry Golczynski and the other plaintiffs represented by attorney Joe Brandon are successful in their lawsuit against Rutherford County. While I have certainly been quite vocal in my criticism of the mosque opponents who have repeatedly shown that their true objections are religious in nature and that their goal was fomenting Islamaphobia, I have always believed their misguided attempts might serve a greater purpose of clarifying legal guidelines for adequate public notice.