This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
The Tennessee Technology Development Corp. and state government have unveiled a five-year strategic plan to push Gov. Bill Haslam’s agenda on business innovation. TTDC will become the “lead advocate for the state’s innovation agenda,” according to a news release from the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development. The new initiative comes as Leslie Wisner-Lynch, TTDC’s interim president and CEO, anticipates stepping down by May 31 to pursue other opportunities.
Gov. Bill Haslam and the nonprofit Tennessee Technology Development Corp. touted the potential benefits of a five-year program announced Thursday designed to help rising entrepreneurs create more jobs. The initiative, dubbed LaunchTN, anoints the Tennessee Technology Development Corp. as a key advocate for the state government’s agenda to promote innovation as way to build a workforce of the future. “LaunchTN is another piece in our plan to make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs,” Haslam said.
State leaders announced a new five-year economic initiative called LaunchTN on Thursday. “LaunchTN is another piece in our plan to make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs,” Gov. Bill Haslam said in a prepared statement. “This initiative will help set Tennessee apart as a state where entrepreneurship and innovation are valued as key economic development tools in our effort to make our state even more business-friendly.”
Charmaine Bradford endured more than a year of the abuse. He controlled her, threatened her. Pushed her, choked her. And she thought she had no way out. “I felt as though I had no one but the Lord,” she said. On April 29, 2011, she says the Lord saved her when her boyfriend pulled a 12-gauge shotgun, told her she would never leave him and fired a shot into her face. He racked another shell and fired a second shot into her shoulder as she tried to call 911. S
Many of Gwen Turner’s scars are physical. “I have scars I will take to my grave. I have cigarette burns on my backside. I have 20 percent of hearing in one ear,” Turner said. But Turner said her emotional scars run deep. “It was not easy to tell somebody I’m getting beat for breakfast lunch and dinner,” she said. “I lived under this mask for over 20 years. My parents never knew.” But eight years ago Gwen went from victim to survivor. Today she works helping other women at Shelby County’s new Family Safety Center.
Standardized tests have put pressure on teachers, school districts and states for years. But this year, some of that pressure is on the backs of Tennessee students. New legislation requires schools to factor test results into students’ grades. While it’s been a long-standing practice for high school students, this is the first year the tests have counted for elementary students, who take assessments in grades four through eight. Educators have tried to raise student test scores since the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act and its stringent benchmarks were implemented.
The Tennessee Department of Education is putting the work of the Common Core transition into the hands of those who know best — the state’s top teachers. As Tennessee gears up to implement the Common Core State Standards in grades 3-8 math next school year, more than 200 teachers from across the state will spend their summer as Core Coaches, helping colleagues in their districts navigate the transition to the rigorous standards.
To help 7th-graders be prepared, stay in Tennessee and six other states have been awarded competitive grants to coach students who typically do not go to college into the ranks. The state received $29.5 million in a Gear Up grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The money will be used over seven years to help 7,500 students in next fall’s seventh-grade class get to college and stay beyond the first year, according to Troy Grant with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
A proposal that would prohibit students from dressing in an “indecent manner” at school has been signed by the governor. Gov. Bill Haslam signed the measure this week. The legislation prohibits students from exposing “underwear or body parts in an indecent manner that disrupts the learning environment.” A stricter version of the proposal failed to pass the Legislature three years ago. That measure targeted individuals who wear pants below the waistline and imposed a fine of up to $250 and 160 hours of community service.
A Hawkins County woman has been arrested for TennCare fraud after allegedly “doctor shopping” to acquire a painkiller, using the state’s insurance program to pay for the drugs. Lisa Faye Burchfield, 54, of 1712 East Main Street, # C, Rogersville, was arrested Wednesday by the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office. A warrant for her arrest was obtained following an her indictment by a grand jury.
A 54 year-old Hawkins Co. woman is facing up to two years behind bars after being accused of “doctor shopping,” according to the Office of Inspector General’s office. Lisa Faye Burchfield is accused of going from doctor to doctor to get prescriptions for the painkiller Hydrocodone and using TennCare to pay for the drugs, an OIG spokesperson explained. “The unauthorized use and abuse of prescription drugs is a serious public health and criminal threat,” Inspector General Deborah Faulkner said.
Cases of tick-borne Rocky Mountain spotted fever are up 533 percent this spring compared to the same period last year, the Tennessee Department of Health said Thursday. The state agency is advising people to take extra precautions when outdoors. A mild winter and a warmer-than-normal March brought out ticks earlier this year. “We’ve documented 38 cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, compared with only six by the same time last year,” said Abelardo Moncayo, with the agency’s division of communicable and enviromental diseases.
On Saturday the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation will have a collection point at its headquarters for anyone who wants to properly dispose of expired, unused and unwanted prescription medications. As part of the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration the free event will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 901 R.S. Gass Blvd. in Nashville. There, the public can anonymously drop off unwanted prescription drugs for safe disposal that would otherwise be potentially dangerous if left in a medicine cabinet.
Those close to him and those who worked with him agree that the efforts of the late Zane Whitson were instrumental in bringing a Tennessee welcome center to Unicoi County. Later this week, the facility that Whitson worked to bring here will officially be named for him. The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development and the Tennessee Department of Transportation have announced that a public rededication ceremony in honor of Whitson will be held this Friday at the Unicoi County Welcome Center beginning at 11 a.m.
The House on Thursday passed Gov. Bill Haslam’s $31.4 billion spending plan after rejecting efforts to restore funding for several programs and to make a greater reduction in the state’s sales tax on groceries. The chamber voted 66-30 to pass the bill. It excludes $125,000 for the Memphis Oral School for the Deaf, $200,000 in “seed money” to help Somerville plan a higher education facility, and five other projects that are in the Senate version of the budget.
The state House of Representatives passed the state’s $30 billion budget Thursday afternoon, after a lengthy and emotional battle over the fate of a youth prison. House lawmakers approved the 2012-13 budget 66-30 in almost a party-line vote, with Republicans on the winning end. Approval came after more than 3½ hours of debate, much of it over whether to go ahead with plans to close the Taft Youth Development Center in Bledsoe County. The vote clears away a major hurdle to passage of the budget, but an even bigger one still lies ahead.
A budget amendment aimed at blocking Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s closing of Taft Youth Development Center temporarily threw the House into a tizzy Thursday. But the effort to save Taft eventually failed on a 60-38 vote. The Republican-controlled chamber also defeated several Democratic attempts to change the budget and later approved Haslam’s proposed $31.4 billion spending plan on a 66-30 vote. The House version, however, has ignited a furor in the Senate because it deletes several Senate Republican “pork barrel” projects.
House Republicans on Thursday soundly defeated a raft of Democratic attempts to revise their plans for state spending of $31.4 billion in the coming year and, by a closer margin, put down a rebellion against closing the Taft Youth Center. The result was a 66-39 vote for HB3835, the budget bill submitted by Gov. Bill Haslam. It includes virtually everything that Haslam wanted, along with some additions. The additions, however, are in conflict with Senate plans and leave uncertain the prospects for enactment of the budget in time to adjourn the 107th General Assembly this week as leaders had planned.
Tennessee Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey is accusing the House of deal breaking, after House members voted to nix several Senate-approved projects from the proposed $31 billion state budget, Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The House Finance Committee approved Wednesday several amendments from House Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington, that nixed funding for local projects several members considered to be “pork barrel.”
Legislative bickering over special “pork barrel spending” amendments to Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed $31 million-plus budget brought progress on Tennessee’s state government spending plan to a temporary standstill Wednesday. Budget talks in the House ground to a crawl when Democrats on the chamber’s Finance Ways and Means Committee began to challenge some of the funding requests made by Republicans in the Senate.
Debate on the state budget shuttered to a halt in the House today. The Governor’s proposed budget would close Taft Youth Development Center, a maximum security facility in Bledsoe County. The cut upset Democrats and rank-and-file Republicans. Republican Cameron Sexton tried to add back the funding for the Taft Youth Development Center in his district. Democrats and some Republicans voted with Sexton and refused to back down from the House Republican leadership.
House Republicans today defeated Democrats’ efforts to accelerate cuts to the state’s sales tax on groceries. The proposal was tabled on a 62-33 vote. The bill dealt with legislation affecting the state budget. Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, earlier argued for the amendment, saying he doesn’t think Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan for reducing the state’s sales tax on groceries goes far enough. Haslam is proposing to cut the tax from 5.5 percent to 5.25 percent in the budget taking affect July 1.
The state House of Representatives approved one of two municipal school district bills Thursday night after a vigorous debate that included assertions it will lead to racial re-segregation of schools in Shelby County. The bill won Senate approval April 2, but goes back to that chamber for likely approval of a House amendment that alters its effective date. Also, a House-Senate conference committee agreed Thursday on a separate bill to allow referendums this year in the Memphis suburbs on creating new municipal school districts.
A handful of state Senate Republicans jumped ship and joined ranks with Democrats this week to narrowly defeated a GOP-driven measure to change how the state picks its top lawyer. The proposed constitutional amendment would have stripped away the Supreme Court’s power to appoint the attorney general and given it to the governor and the Legislature. The measure fell short by one vote Monday after three Republicans voted against the bill and another two refused to weigh in.
A proposal to change the Tennessee Constitution to give the legislature power to reject the governor’s appointments to the state Supreme Court cleared the House on Thursday. The House voted 70-27 in favor of the resolution. The Senate passed the measure 23-8 earlier this week. Under the current Tennessee judicial selection method, a commission nominates appeals judges and Supreme Court justices, the governor appoints them and voters cast ballots either for or against keeping them on the bench.
A proposal that would allow legislators to confirm appointed judges is alive for next year’s General Assembly. House leaders also expect one last try to create a completely different system. The House approved Republican Jon Lundberg’s proposal for a constitutional amendment. It would allow the governor to appoint, and the legislature confirm, appellate judges. To be on the ballot beforeTennessee voters in 2014, the legislature would have to approve the amendment’s language again next year.
Proposals that increase penalties for making or selling imitation drugs are headed to the governor for his signature. Both proposals, which are similar, unanimously passed the Senate on Wednesday. The measures, which are part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s crime package, were also unanimously approved in the House. One imitation drug authorities are trying to crack down on is called bath salts. Sponsors say the drug is not marketed for ingestion and can be purchased in convenience and tobacco stores.
The state House Thursday night debated how to protect Christian groups from having to follow a university rule intended to prevent discrimination. Both sides claimed Jesus Christ was on their side. But the sponsor finally dropped the bill into parliamentary limbo. Vanderbilt earlier this year told campus organizations they couldn’t discriminate when students wanted to join. Christian groups said it kept them for being sure their members and leaders followed the faith.
Vanderbilt University’s controversial ‘all-comers’ rule remains under fire in Tennessee’s House of Representatives. The policy says campus groups must include members regardless of their beliefs – for example a religious group would have to let atheists join, and be eligible for leadership. The House is poised for a vote to bar public universities from adopting ‘all-comers’ rules of their own. Now a proposed add-on would specifically target Vanderbilt – a private school – by threatening to cut off money from lottery scholarships.
The state Senate Thursday night passed a proposed law to change the eligibility date for a child to enter kindergarten. Under the bill, which now goes to the governor for his signature, a child would have to turn 5 years old by August 31st in order to start kindergarten that fall. Currently children born in September can qualify. Now September birthdays will be in the next year’s class. However, the law change also lets children as young as four enter kindergarten if they score well on a standardized maturity test.
A proposal to help Tennesseans get off unemployment and find a job has passed the Senate. The legislation, called the “Tennessee Works Act,” was unanimously approved 33-0 on Wednesday. The companion bill is awaiting a vote in the House Finance Committee. The bill creates a pilot program to provide employers with grants to pay for training expenses for recently laid-off workers or workers whose jobs have gone overseas. In order to continue receiving the grant funds, employers agree to hire a portion of the employees trained.
The governor could soon sign off on a bill to overhaul state unemployment compensation. Yesterday Tennessee’s Senate passed the measure, which House members had already approved a week ago. Under the bill, people collecting unemployment could lose it for a few reasons – if they turn down a job offer to avoid a drug test, for instance. Those who’ve been out of work for awhile would also have to start looking for jobs that pay less than their old one.
A measure to require drug testing as a condition for receiving welfare has passed the Senate. The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville passed 24-9 Wednesday. The legislation requires new welfare applicants to undergo a special screening process. If suspicion is raised after the screening, then the applicant would be drug tested. The proposal differs from an original version that would have required blanket testing.
A proposed new law could put a rift between doctors and those considered mid-level providers such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants. The state Senate today approved tighter rules over who can give injections near a patients’ spine to treat pain. Some see the issue as a “turf fight” between doctors and their surrogates. Lawmakers supporting the measure say mid-level providers might lack proper training for spinal injections. So the bill would require supervision from a physician.
To most, it’s known as Nonconnah Parkway. But that’s not its name. Or one of its four names. Tennessee 385 — the eastern semicircle roadway linking the Memphis suburbs — was given a fourth name Thursday, thanks to a state Senate bill: the Governor Winfield Dunn Parkway. It’s in honor of the former Memphis dentist who in 1970 was elected Tennessee’s first Republican governor in 50 years. Which name is correct depends on where you are on the roadway.
Sen. Stacey Campfield cast the sole vote against Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to begin giving corporations cash grants for expanding or locating in Tennessee after declaring they could be a step toward “crony capitalism.” The bill (HB2344) was approved by the Senate 29-1 and now goes to the governor for his signature. It was approved 96-0 in the House. The “FastTrack” grants would be in addition to tax credits and infrastructure improvements that no go to companies moving into Tennessee.
Republican Ben Mallicote kicked off his Tennessee 2nd House District campaign Thursday by getting public support from Kingsport Mayor Dennis Phillips and former Alderman Ken Maness. Mallicote, a former Kingsport alderman, also attacked his GOP primary opponent — two-term incumbent Kingsport Republican state Rep. Tony Shipley — in front of about 50 supporters at a rally held at the Kingsport Higher Education Center.
The storm rushed through in a matter of seconds at Franklin’s Jim Warren Park on Thursday. Chris Holt was just getting his wife, Leslie, and their two children into their pickup truck to head home after umpires called off the rest of his son’s baseball game when the storm came out of nowhere, he said. “There was a lot of debris flying around. It wasn’t really circular at first, but within a matter of seconds, it became more concentrated, into a defined cone, and a maple tree disintegrated before my eyes,” he said.
MTSU survey shows mixed outlook on U.S., local economy Talk about a split personality, but at least it’s largely a more optimistic one. Middle Tennessee residents appear to be of two minds about the economy, based on results of the latest Middle Tennessee State University survey of consumer attitudes. Overall, consumer confidence is up sharply from January based on a survey of 404 randomly selected residents of Davidson, Williamson and Rutherford counties done Monday and Tuesday this week.
The still unresolved question of how to redistrict the Shelby County Commssion, which has dragged on for months and tied commissioners and various county support staffs in knots, has risen to an even more complicated level. Lawyer Ron Kreslstein, the special attorney hired at year’s end by Shelby County Attorney Kelly Rayne to represent the County Commission in pending hearings before Chancellor Arnold Goldin, has been asked to withdraw.
Tennessee’s first-term House members are donating thousands of dollars to other freshmen lawmakers, a move political experts say may help them advance up the rungs of party leadership. Republican Rep. Stephen Fincher of Frog Jump has donated more to his fellow freshmen than all but two other first-term lawmakers, according to data published Thursday by the Capitol Hill newspaper Politico. Fincher’s political action committee, called Funding Republicans Supporting Opportunity and Growth (FROG) Jump PAC, has given $22,500 to freshmen since December, campaign finance records show.
Work on the stalled replacement lock at the Chickamauga Dam in Chattanooga could be revived next year if Congress adopts a Senate plan to change the way the Army Corps of Engineers funds its inland waterway projects. But without earmarks to designate funding and without the change in a House-passed budget plan, it still will require congressional conferees and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to agree to reactivate the stalled lock project.
Scottie Mayfield apologized to U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann “and to the voters” after his 33-year-old son confessed to slashing a Fleischmann staffer’s tire at a Mayfield campaign event. “I am truly sorry and embarrassed,” wrote Mayfield, who’s challenging Fleischmann in Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District Republican primary. “This kind of activity has no place in campaigns and we are regretful that it happened.”
Health insurers are expected to give rebates of more than $1 billion to consumers and employers this year, under a provision of the federal health overhaul that forces them to offer refunds if they don’t spend enough of the premium dollars they take in on health care. An early picture of the effects of the requirement, one of the aspects of the health law that drew the most concern from the insurance industry, is emerging from new analyses based on estimates that insurers filed with state regulators.
Hawaii in recent years has been good to the solar industry, and that’s not just because the state’s geography promises a steady supply of rays. Aided by a slew of generous tax credits to homeowners and companies, including up to 35 percent returned to homeowners who buy and install solar energy units, solar business on the islands is booming. The number of installations of solar energy projects doubled between 2009 and 2010 and has since continued to grow.
The board of the Tennessee Valley Authority spent Thursday’s meeting hearing about low power demand and tight finances. Then they voted unanimously to spend an additional $2 billion completing a nuclear reactor in Spring City. TVA’s management described to the board a “diet” program to get through what they call a “rough patch.” Mild weather has led to lower electricity sales, which is good for consumers but bad for TVA’s bottom line. To conserve cash, the agency is scaling back some of its construction projects, but not Watts Bar Unit 2.
TVA, under fire for nuclear construction overruns, is on a road to having its first ever net loss year, its board was told Thursday. “TVA expects to end fiscal year 2012 with revenues between $500 million and $600 million below plan,” Chief Financial Officer John Thomas said, blaming unusually mild weather and a slowly recovering economy for sluggish power sales. In addition, the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority and the utility’s president and CEO were put on the defensive by public criticism of its $2 billion cost overrun on the Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor and its “nuclear addicted” management.
A former chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority says the federal utility has had a “love affair” with nuclear power that should end. David Freeman addressed the board at its meeting Thursday morning. The 86-year-old Freeman says TVA still feels compelled to be the country’s leader in nuclear power. But he says that’s not in the interest of its 9 million rate payers. “Just recognize that there is an influence on you here that is not business-like, and I know it. I felt it when I was on the board.”
Assurion, which already has a staff of 2,400 in Tennessee, says it will add more jobs in in downtown Nashville. The cell phone insurer moved its headquarters to Nashville from California in 2003, setting up shop in Grassmere Park, near the Nashville Zoo. In announcing the additional jobs Monday, Asurion officials say the company will keep its headquarters at that location, while opening what it calls a “technology products office” in the SoBro area of downtown, with more than 500 new employees.
Mayor Karl Dean and Asurion CEO Sean McKinless held a joint press conference Thursday morning in SoBro’s Ragland Building announcing that the company plans to bring jobs to downtown. Asurion will lease the 92,000-square-foot building. Housed there will be what were described as 500 hi-tech professionals. According to McKinless, these positions will include positions such as management and coders, among others.
Erlanger trustees approved resolutions to establish a search committee for a new CEO and hire a consulting team to address operational improvements during their monthly meeting Thursday evening. Neither resolution included an estimated cost. The public hospital has had a difficult financial year, losing $17 million in the last nine months. It expects to lose more money in April. Former CEO Jim Brexler resigned in December, and Charlesetta Woodard-Thompson has served as interim CEO.
With one new elementary school already under way, Hamilton County Superintendent Rick Smith took a major step Thursday toward beginning another one to replace East Brainerd Elementary School. A majority of county commissioners signaled that they’ll vote officially next week to form a committee to pick an architect to design the school. Commissioners Chester Bankston, Greg Beck, Tim Boyd, Jim Fields and Larry Henry said they support selecting an architect.
Proposal would require tax increase Knoxville’s business establishment has lined up squarely behind an effort to boost education spending. The board of the Knoxville Chamber voted Thursday to support an education budget proposal that would likely require a tax increase. The Knox County school system is seeking a budget increase of $48 million — which includes a $35 million boost above the natural revenue growth — that would enhance instructional technology, add instructional time, expand performance pay for teachers and fund capital improvements, among other things.
The Transition Planning Commission stepped carefully into the thorny thicket of school closings at its regular weekly meeting Thursday. Reviewing a proposed recommendation from its Logistics Committee — closing an unidentified 10 elementary, seven middle and four high schools in northwest and southwest Memphis — members of the commission planning the transition to a consolidated county school system recognized that the process would be painful but it would help the district stay within its anticipated budget of $1.23 billion.
KIPP Memphis, which currently educates 500 students in grades five through nine at two schools, has embarked on an ambitious expansion plan that will include opening 10 collegiate schools educating roughly 4,500 students in North and South Memphis by 2016. “We’re currently operating two schools, and we definitely felt like we needed to broaden our impact based on the need here in Memphis,” said KIPP Memphis executive director Jamal McCall.
Connections Preparatory Academy officials aren’t wasting any time reapplying to open a public charter school in Jackson-Madison County and have already resubmitted a letter of intent to apply one week after the state upheld the local board’s decision to reject their application. The state must receive letters of intent by Aug. 2. According to the letter, Connections officials are proposing to open the school in the 2013-14 school year.
Drug agents have arrested 10 people and are searching for one person in a pseudoephedrine diversion operation that was performed Wednesday in cooperation with local pharmacies. The operation, conducted by the Jackson-Madison County Metro Narcotics Unit, targeted people purchasing pseudoephedrine for the purpose of manufacturing methamphetamine, according to a news release. Pseudoephedrine is the primary ingredient in decongestant cold medicines that have to be purchased through a pharmacy and not over-the-counter.
A federal court in Miami ruled Thursday that Gov. Rick Scott’s order to randomly test a majority of state employees for drugs is unconstitutional, saying there is not a compelling enough reason to do so. In her ruling, Federal District Judge Ursula Ungaro said the governor’s policy constituted an unreasonable search and seizure and must be stopped. Last March, Mr. Scott, a former health care executive, ordered random drug testing for about 80,000 state employees who work for the 15 agencies that report to him.
In Tennessee, we have a long, proud heritage of entrepreneurism. Entrepreneurs are the true job creators; the lifeblood of Tennessee’s economy and critical to the nation’s long-range success. Companies like Federal Express, Hospital Corporation of America, Petsafe, Dollar General and Autozone demonstrate the ability of Tennesseans to create enormous entrepreneurial value. These companies have changed the course of American business. Under Gov. Bill Haslam, our department added an entrepreneurism agenda to our economic development mission.
According to national crime reports, Tennessee ranks second in the nation in domestic violence and fifth in the nation in the number of women murdered by men as the result of domestic violence. One would think it would be relatively easy to pass tougher domestic violence criminal penalties in Tennessee. But that is not the case. Fortunately, Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration helped negotiate a compromise on proposed domestic violence legislation that led to its passage this week. Given the state’s grim reputation for domestic violence, and all types of criminal violence, Haslam included tougher criminal penalties for repeat domestic violence offenders in his 2012 legislative anti-crime package.
Creating a Veterans Court: There may be other ways to help veterans charged with crimes beyond creating a special court for them. Military veterans who undergo the stress of repeated combat can leave service with mental health issues. It’s estimated that some 20 percent of combat veterans, researchers said, suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Others suffer varying degrees of brain damage resulting from combat injuries. Those conditions can manifest themselves in domestic violence, assaults, alcohol and drug abuse, or worse. It’s in that context that a coalition of veterans and their advocates is seeking $100,000 from Shelby County to create a special Veterans Court program to help former warriors who are facing criminal charges.
If all goes well, and well is certainly in the eye of the beholder, the Tennessee Legislature will be wrapping up its 2012 session and heading home this week. Yet for most of time its members have been in Nashville jabbering this year, it seems they’ve been dealing more with fantasy than they have reality. That sense has truly been driven home by some stark headlines about Tennessee realities in the last few weeks. It started with Forbes earlier this month with “The Most Unfair Cities to be a Working Woman: Gender Pay Gap by the Numbers.”
The intent of government should be to provide as much public notice as possible about government meetings — not to save money. By turning its legal ads and public notices into a financial issue six years ago, Rutherford County government put itself in a precarious situation. County Mayor Ernest Burgess acknowledged this week that the county decided to start advertising its public notices and legal ads in the Murfreesboro Post because it was substantially cheaper and other governmental entities were already doing it. The state attorney general had also issued a decision that the Post qualified as a newspaper of general circulation.
The Knoxville Chamber’s board of directors unanimously voted to endorse the Knox County Schools’ budget proposal that would boost education spending by $35 million a year. The Chamber’s endorsement should add some momentum to the proposal, which is aimed at upgrading facilities, improving teacher pay, investing in technology and improving student performance. “The community with the best schools wins” Chamber Chairman Mitch Steenrod said in a statement after Thursday’s vote. Chamber officials, Superintendent Jim McIntyre and school board members are lobbying Knox County commissioners to sign off on the $432.7 million plan.
Tennessee Valley Authority ratepayers, say hello to your new nuclear reactor. Watts Bar Unit 2 in Spring City, Tenn., is, at least technically, yours, since you will be paying for this 1,100-megawatt unit which, as of Thursday, had a price tag of $4.5 billion. That is, if there are no further cost overruns and delays, and if you are willing to wait another 3½ years for the reactor to be finished. You, the ratepayer, have every reason to be skeptical. Work began on Unit 2 in the 1970s, before many of TVA’s 9 million customers across seven states were even born.
We’ve made promises we can’t keep. From the city of Knoxville’s pension plan to Knox County’s Uniformed Officers Pension Plan to Social Security, we are awash in an ocean of obligations that will eventually overwhelm us. Taxpayers will drown as the red tide rises. The trustees of Social Security and Medicare this week released their annual report. The Social Security trust fund will run out of money by 2033. Medicare will drain its reserves by 2024. Federal disability insurance, a part of Social Security, will be bust by the next presidential election in 2016.