This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
After a couple of years of recession in which the county saw its unemployment count grow into double digit percentages, Rutherford is on a rebound thanks in large part to businesses like Nissan and Amazon.com. Amazon is constructing a new fulfillment center on Joe B. Jackson Parkway in south Murfreesboro, where it will create more than 1,100 new jobs. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Amazon.com Inc. made the announcement official in January after months of speculation that the big online retail distributor was coming to town.
Gov. Bill Haslam’s staff solicited input from nearly a dozen regulated utilities or industry associations about the administration’s controversial legislation to overhaul the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, records obtained by the Chattanooga Times Free Press show. But the governor and his legal counsel Herbert Slatery are refusing to divulge some of the advice they received or who provided it.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has praised Tennessee and Colorado for going “the extra mile to ensure the accuracy of infection data reported by their hospitals.” Tennessee is also one of 21 states that experienced a significant decrease in central line-associated bloodstream infections. The Tennessee Hospital Association worked closely with the state Department of Health to lower the infections, which typically occur in intensive care units.
The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Adult Education division is preparing for major changes to the General Educational Development test to take effect in 2014, according to a news release from the state. “We encourage eligible Tennesseans who have not earned their GED to do so now,” said Commissioner Karla Davis. “Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, the GED test will cost more, must be taken on a computer, and will contain significant content changes.”
The first of three workshops on agricultural marketing to restaurants and grocery stores is Thursday in Chattanooga. The workshops will focus on packaging, pricing, invoicing, certification or audit requirements, insurance requirements and other needs of these potential customers. They continue Friday in Nashville and Saturday in Memphis. The workshops are coordinated by the University of Tennessee Extension Center for Profitable Agriculture and funded, in part, by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.
Nina Hodge waits to bury her son as her questions go unanswered. The autopsy report is still pending on James “Mike” Hodge, 53, who died after being attacked by his roommate on April 19 at Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute. She can’t understand how the incident at the state-operated facility could have happened. “You might think I am just angry right now, which I am,” said Hodge, who lives in Hendersonville. “My real anger is that I trusted my son’s life.”
Cleveland Utilities has launched a number of projects intended to improve traffic flow along major roads and provide safer school zones in a number of areas around the city. Last week, the utility board discussed progress on emergency signal planning and traffic-lighting initiatives on Paul Huff Parkway, Mouse Creek Road and Raider Drive. Cleveland Utilities has implemented an emergency notification system with state and local agencies in the event of an unexpected closure on Interstate 75, with the intent of mitigating traffic congestion and alerting emergency and law enforcement services, officials said.
Tennessee lawmakers edged closer Sunday to adjourning several weeks earlier than usual, but they are also engaging in end-of-session wrangling that has been as intense as ever. Budget disagreements between the two chambers led to the first conference committee on the spending plan since the acrimonious debate over the income tax more than a decade ago. The Republican majorities in both the House and Senate have reached an agreement on the budget, but several contentious matters could still crop up before the 107th General Assembly concludes its business.
Budget bickering within Republican ranks, determined Democratic effort to make political points and a bipartisan desire to let veterans gamble combined to thwart leadership plans to adjourn the 107th General Assembly last week. The fallback plan of legislative leaders calls for an unusual Sunday evening session today to deal with the veterans issue, followed by Monday meetings of the House and Senate wherein reunited Republicans will presumably vote down the determined Democrats.
A controversial law on “cyberbullying” that was enacted last year will be revised in an attempt to assure its constitutionality under a rewrite sent to the governor by the Senate. Senators debated the bill (HB2641) only about 10 minutes before giving it unanimous approval. The House had a prolonged and spirited debate that included defeat of disabling amendments by Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge. The rewrite bill was brought by Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, Rep. Charles Curtiss, D-Sparta, who had sponsored the 2011 law that drew heavy criticism after passage.
Legislators have sent the governor a bill, drafted by a conservative Christian organization, that makes classroom instructors who promote or condone “gateway sexual activity” subject to a $500 fine. The phrase in SB3310, which was given final approval Friday when the Senate signed off on a minor House amendment, was the subject of much legislative debate. On the House floor it ranged from joking to impassioned oratory and a reference to the phrase being lampooned by Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert and subject to criticism in The New York Times.
Kindergarten teachers from three local school systems say the General Assembly’s passage of legislation for some children to start kindergarten a year later may be a good move. But they also indicated that having a mechanism that allows some 4-year-olds to start their academic career on the original deadline is good, too. The Tennessee House Wednesday and Senate Thursday approved a bill that for 2013-14 would move the eligibility age for kindergarten from turning 5 years old at the end of September to the end of August.
Give it to Mark Norris: The Senate Republican Leader from Collierville has managed to pull off his deftest maneuver yet, one whose enormous consequences for the future of education in Shelby County cannot be overstated. In steering legislation through the General Assembly at what was literally the eleventh hour to enable Memphis suburban municipalities to vote this year on creating their own school districts, Norris has probably advanced the schedule for creating such districts by a full year, and that is crucial.
Federal probe of Memphis’ youth system cites shortcomings in discipline, suicide prevention Detainees at Memphis’ juvenile jail have been subjected to harsh disciplinary tactics for years and aren’t properly protected from harming or even killing themselves, a federal investigation into the Shelby County Juvenile Court found. Detention officers have used restraint chairs to strap down juveniles and pressure-point control tactics, such as bending a youth’s wrist backward to induce pain, according to a three-year investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The curtain call for Mayor Ron Littlefield draws near. With one year left, the Chattanooga mayor who has faced controversy and criticism over the last seven years expects to wind down his term with his sleeves rolled up. “We don’t expect to back off or slack off,” Littlefield said. Major issues still are coming down the pike — including an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that could lead to hundreds of millions of dollars in repairs to the city’s sewer system.
Obama, GOP tie rate to other issues In the political campaigns still taking shape, President Barack Obama, Republican challenger Mitt Romney and lawmakers of both parties say they want to protect college students from a sharp increase in interest rates on federally subsidized loans. Agree, they might, and act they surely will. But first, they settled effortlessly into a rollicking good political brawl. In less than 72 hours, what might have looked like a relatively simple matter mushroomed into a politically charged veto showdown that touched on the economy and health care, tax cuts and policies affecting women.
More Americans are collecting food stamps than ever before, but fewer needy mothers are using another federal government program that offers free baby formula and food for young children. There isn’t one answer to explain the recent decline in the number of women and young children in the program, commonly known as WIC, which the government officially calls the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
Nashville hotel, A.O. Smith say negligence led to flood losses Gaylord Entertainment plans to file a lawsuit today against the federal government, alleging U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and National Weather Service negligence led to major damage to its luxury hotel during the Cumberland River flood two years ago. The suit will contend that the Corps was negligent in opening the spillway at the Old Hickory Dam on May 2, 2010, and the Weather Service failed to notify the public that water levels would reach the 100-year flood levels that devastated homes and businesses.
The trial to decide whether Metro Nashville’s 2009 school redistricting plan catered to white families and rezoned black students out of affluent, higher-achieving schools could set a national precedent. Families have sued school districts from Tuscon, Ariz., to Louisville, Ky., in recent years over school assignment and seeking equal resources, but there hasn’t been a clear remedy to solve complaints. Spurlock v. Fox is set to begin Tuesday in Nashville. The judge on Friday certified the case a class-action lawsuit, meaning it now represents as plaintiffs all black North Nashville families affected by the rezoning.
Officials with the Knoxville Charter Academy are asking for a six-month extension to their agreement with Knox County Schools to allow them to continue to look for a location for the school. “We have continued our search to identify a building within the area that the Knox County Board of Education prefers, such as central Knoxville, downtown, east or north Knoxville,” Suzan Mertyurek, the academy’s board president, wrote to the school board on April 1.
The second-floor passageway between the side-by-side central offices of Memphis and Shelby County Schools has gotten a workout since Memphis voters decided to merge the two systems last March. Unified school board member Betty Mallott recently asked for a list of projects on which the two administrative staffs have collaborated and got what she expected — a long list. “I knew that they were already beginning to collaborate on information technology,” Mallott said after the 51/2 -page report was distributed at last Tuesday’s board meeting.
The Lenoir City school system is again under fire from a secular organization that alleges it recently promoted an inappropriate religious assembly. In a letter dated April 11, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation claimed the school’s hosting of the “Spin-Tacular Basketball Show” in the gymnasium March 12 violates Supreme Court rulings that prohibit promotion of religion.
Suppose you opened a restaurant and hired two chefs: Mathilda and Ingrid. Over a period of months, you notice that Mathilda is inattentive, often burning entrees, and that she regularly shows up late for work. You warn her about these habits, yet they continue. Ingrid, by contrast, takes great pride in her work, producing meals that win compliments from patrons. She also is punctual. Eventually, you give Ingrid a raise in recognition of the financial benefit that her good efforts bring to your business.
It may be frustrating that a previously reached deal on Tennessee’s $31.4 billion budget was at least temporarily derailed a few days ago over disagreements about some of the spending it included. But the spotlight that the debate threw onto the kinds of things on which tax dollars are spent is both wholesome and necessary. It’s not that the projects in themselves are necessarily bad. Some may well be highly desirable, in fact.
The new bridge project at the Fort Loudoun Dam is among those improvements in the state’s infrastructure that are needed as the bridges and highways of the last 40-50 years show their age. The project near the Fort Loudoun Dam, however, is a much bigger undertaking than merely upgrading, repairing or replacing existing structures. This one involves three bridges in the same vicinity and a partnership between two agencies — the Tennessee Valley Authority and the state Department of Transportation.
Physicians for Social Responsibility, among many other environmental and health groups in the U.S., are standing up to the nuclear power industry and their special-interest groups. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker are intent on offering billions in taxpayer subsidies and loan guarantees to the nuclear industries. At issue is keeping Americans safe. These same government officials have failed to take action to address major safety concerns at existing nuclear power plants.
The most frequently asked question these last few months about the merger of city and county schools has boiled down to this: What will it take to keep the mostly white suburban communities of Shelby County engaged in the massive Memphis-Shelby County schools reorganization plan? That question has stood out because the suburban communities of Germantown, Bartlett and Collierville first strenuously opposed the merger, and lately have actively pursued the idea of forming their own separate suburban school districts.