This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
The first time he went to jail for beating her wasn’t the first time he had stood before a judge. That first time in court wasn’t the first time she had called police on him, and the first time she called police on him wasn’t the first time he had hit her. Over the 14 years of their marriage, he grew gradually more violent. At first she thought he was “Mr. Wonderful,” but over time the man broke her down, belittling her bit by bit.
Teachers and students affected by increased accountability Tigrett Middle School eighth-grader Julia Veltman wasn’t thrilled to learn that her scores on her TCAP tests this year will count as 15 percent of her final grades. “I don’t think it’s fair,” said Veltman, who maintains an A average in her courses. “I was a little worried that if I bubbled in the wrong answer, that could mess up the whole test and pull my grades down.”
Matt Malone’s wife buys pretty much everything on Amazon.com. “Shoes, cologne, movies, books — she’d rather have it delivered to her door than have to go out and get it,” the Chattanooga man said. Online shopping offers more than convenience. Internet retailers such as Amazon don’t collect state sales tax on purchases, in effect giving a nearly 10 percent discount instantly to Tennessee shoppers. But that’s changing.
After state House members battled over the future of Taft Youth Development Center on Thursday but failed to save it, state Department of Children’s Services officials spelled out initial plans for the teens housed there as the facility’s closure approaches. A week ago, there were 62 student inmates at Taft, according to the department. In a prepared statement, Children’s Services spokesman Brandon Gee said Thursday that the state agency started diverting admissions to Taft in February in anticipation of shuttering the nearly 100-year-old campus — which has buildings dating from the 1940s to 2007 — when funding runs out June 30.
God rested on the seventh day, but state House members won’t be resting this evening as they race to finish their annual legislative session on Monday. The House is meeting in a rare Sunday session to advance a proposed amendment to the Tennessee Constitution. It adds veterans’ groups to the list of nonprofits able to conduct raffles. Under the state’s constitutional amendment process, Senate Joint Resolution 222 has to be read three times on the floor and then receive majority approval after the third reading.
Tennessee GOP warns filers they could face high fees Tennessee Republicans have a message for those filing civil lawsuits: You better make sure your facts are in order or you could be on the hook for up to $10,000 in attorney fees for the other side. Lawmakers last week approved legislation that would penalize people who file lawsuits that are later dismissed as baseless. They would have to pay up to $10,000 to cover court costs and their opponent’s attorney fees.
State Rep. Jeremy Faison caused a stir Tuesday during a Tennessee House of Representatives debate over a cyberbullying bill, when he argued that it is a failure to instill proper values, not bullying, that leads children to commit suicide. “We can’t continue to legislate everything. We’ve had some horrible things happen in America and in our state, and there’s children that have actually committed suicide, but I will submit to you today that they did not commit suicide because of somebody bullying them.
The state Senate on Friday passed a bill by state Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson, to increase the penalty for sex offenders convicted of stalking. “We must ensure that our punishments fit the crime in Tennessee, particularly when they involve sex offenders,” Finney said in a news release. Senate Bill 2438 would increase the penalty for sex offenders convicting of stalking from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class E felony, the release said.
Knox County is not unique when it comes to trying to explain the role, size and costs of its central office administration to the community. Whether from parents, teachers or elected officials, it’s hard to avoid the assumption by many that a school system, any school system, is top-heavy with administrators, said Patricia Carpenter, chairwoman of the Chesterfield County, Va., Public Schools’ school board. “I think no matter where you go, there is always a perception,” said Carpenter.
In an effort to cut costs in what figures to be a tough budget year, the Memphis Fire Department plans to take four ladder trucks and a rescue vehicle out of service, officials said Saturday. City Council members learned of the planned decommissioning of the vehicles as they opened hearings on Mayor AC Wharton’s proposed $628.3 million operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The first day of hearings focused on the fire and police department budgets, as well as council’s own expenses.
After spending a week on damage control amid a pair of video bombshells, GOP congressional hopeful Scottie Mayfield has a chance to set a policy-driven tone at an upcoming Chattanooga Tea Party debate. Except he’s not doing it. “Candidate Scottie Mayfield was invited and declined to attend,” according to a tea party news release. Chattanooga Tea Party President Mark West found Mayfield’s rejection “puzzling.”
Ward Baker, a political operative based in the Nashville area, has been named to the team coordinating activities between the Republican National Committee and the Mitt Romney campaign. Washington Post political blog “The Fix” reported last week that Baker will synchronize activities between the political and field teams for the RNC and Romney. The RNC and Romney are tightening ties for the November campaign as it becomes certain that Romney will be the party’s nominee.
The cities of Dyersburg, Newbern and Halls have been awarded grants by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to construct safe rooms in their respective communities capable of withstanding 250-mph winds of an EF5 tornado. These are the first community safe rooms to be federally funded in West Tennessee. The community safe rooms will be built according to FEMA standards.
Hunger risk real for many Memphis-area kids The month wasn’t nearly done, but Shalita Harris’ food stamps were. After feeding her four kids, she was left by early last week with just 50 cents on her electronic benefits transfer card, which she combined with some loose change to get herself something to eat: a bag of chips. “I haven’t had a full meal in a couple of days,” the 32-year-old Whitehaven resident said.
If the Supreme Court strikes down President Barack Obama’s health care law, employers and insurance companies — not the government — will be the main drivers of change over the next decade and maybe even longer. They’ll borrow some ideas from Obamacare, and push harder to cut costs. Business can’t and won’t take care of America’s 50 million uninsured, but for the majority with coverage, here’s what experts say to expect: Workers will bear more of their own medical costs as job coverage shifts to plans with higher deductibles, the amount you pay out of pocket each year before insurance kicks in.
The growth of health spending has slowed substantially in the last few years, surprising experts and offering some fuel for optimism about the federal government’s long-term fiscal performance. Much of the slowdown is because of the recession, and thus not unexpected, health experts say. But some of it seems to be attributable to changing behavior by consumers and providers of health care — meaning that the lower rates of growth might persist even as the economy picks up.
A Hamilton County teacher investigated in a possible state exam cheating case has been cleared by state and local officials. Tosha Shotwell-Bonds was under investigation after she called a teacher acquaintance in Memphis to get advice while preparing her daughter for a state writing test. Shotwell-Bonds said she wasn’t looking for answers but was just trying to ensure that her daughter did well on the exam.
State road officials should heed concerns of Shelby Farms officials that a proposed road could hurt access. Even if it means more delay, the Tennessee Department of Transportation should work cooperatively with the operators of Shelby Farms Park to make sure a proposed parkway is done right. Nothing should be done that would negatively impact plans for major park improvements or that would limit pedestrian and bicycle access to one of the nation’s premier urban parks.
We are disappointed that the Tennessee Board of Education voted to deny a charter school application to Connections Preparatory Academy in Jackson. It would have been Jackson-Madison County’s first charter school. At the same time, we are pleased that Connection’s officials immediately responded to the state that they would address concerns and resubmit their application. The school now looks forward to opening for the 2013-14 school year, and we wish the group the best of luck on its next attempt.
Apathy, cynicism guide residents, officials who discourage recycling For every reason that Tennesseans should recycle instead of throwing everything they no longer want into the trash, there seem to be two excuses not to recycle. The difference is that the reasons not to are pretty weak. Sadly, Tennesseans in large numbers continue to avoid taking personal responsibility for the mountains of paper, cardboard, plastic, glass and metal that they accumulate in their daily lives.
As an immigrant CEO of a 12-year-old membership organization dedicated to fostering integration, economic development opportunities and Hispanic business sustainability, I know firsthand the benefit what immigration brings to our local and national economies. I came here to make a better life for myself and my family, and continue working countless hours to achieve that goal. My story is not unique. It is repeated every day all over America. Immigrants to this country have had a powerful impact on our economy.
First, the good news: Erlanger Health System has adequate reserves on hand to pay its debts, and there is no reason to think it will stop providing the sound care for which it is known throughout our region. Now, the bad news: Erlanger has had more than $17 million in losses in just the first nine months of the current fiscal year — including a dramatic $4.1 million loss in March alone. Why? Count the reasons: • Doctors have moved revenue-generating surgeries to different hospitals. • Layoffs that will improve Erlanger’s finances to the tune of millions of dollars nonetheless came with a $900,000 bill for one-time severance pay. • Admissions were down in March. • And Erlanger has seen a sharp increase in uncompensated care.