This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Synthetic drug sellers and makers now face felony jail time and fines up to $5,000 following a ceremonial legislation signing by Gov. Bill Haslam in front of Tennessee High School’s student body Monday. Two bills sponsored by state Reps. Jon Lundberg and Tony Shipley — which address both synthetic marijuana and bath salts similar to controlled substances — are now law. Shipley’s bill took effect Monday, while the effective date of Lundberg’s legislation was April 27.
Synthetic drugs are now banned in Tennessee. Governor Bill Haslam signed three new bills, Monday, that make it a felony to possess or distribute synthetic drugs including “bath salts.” The governor signed the bills into law at a high school in Bristol. Lawmaker say these laws came after months of community petitions and protests. “People in communities decide what’s best for their community, they come to government and we try to figure out how to solve a real problem,” Haslam said.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Karla Davis today announced a new jobs database to help connect job seekers with Tennessee employers. Jobs4TN Online is a virtual recruiter, automatically notifying job seekers when jobs they may qualify for are posted and notifying employers when candidates who fit their needs register. The online database contains positions from job orders placed directly by Tennessee employers, from corporate Internet sites, and from major job search engines.
Tennessee’s new online jobs database went live Monday as a new tool for job seekers and employers alike. The database — https://www.jobs4tn.gov — fulfills a campaign promise by Gov. Bill Haslam, who announced the site today with state Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Karla Davis. The website has a searchable list of private-sector jobs, and visitors to the site can register to be notified of potential jobs in their fields. It also notifies employers when job applicants fit their needs.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Karla Davis today announced a new jobs database to help connect job seekers with Tennessee employers. Jobs4TN Online is a virtual recruiter, automatically notifying job seekers when jobs they may qualify for are posted and notifying employers when candidates who fit their needs register. The online database contains positions from job orders placed directly by Tennessee employers, from corporate Internet sites, and from major job search engines.
A new state jobs database called Jobs4TN Online was launched Monday. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, along with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Karla Davis, announced the launch of the database as being mutually beneficial to both employers and employees. The website, which will help connect employers with residents searching for jobs, will offer labor market information such as in-demand occupations, education requirements and salaries, and labor force projections, Jeff Hentschel, communications director for the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, said.
Gov. Bill Haslam on Friday signed into law a bill aimed at making it more difficult for people to “doctor shop” and abuse prescription drugs. “Prescription drugs are our No. 1 problem,” Haslam said during a Friday morning ceremony held on the front terrace of the Anderson County Courthouse. “There is an epidemic of prescription drug abuse in Tennessee and East Tennessee might be the worst,” Haslam said after signing the Tennessee Prescription Safety Act of 2012.
Gov. Bill Haslam stopped in Knoxville for a Leadership Knoxville luncheon and announced that we was taking one of the city’s most well-known businessmen with him back to Nashville. Haslam on Monday announced the hire of Larry Martin, the former chief of staff when Haslam was Knoxville’s mayor, as a special adviser for human resources. His salary will be $140,000 a year. “Larry has an incredible background, from running this part of the state for First Tennessee (Bank),” Haslam said at the luncheon at the Knoxville Convention Center.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced that Larry Martin will join his staff to oversee implementation of the Tennessee Excellence and Accountability Management (TEAM) Act His responsibilities will include coordinating and collaborating throughout state government agencies to effectively begin recruiting new employees on all levels, updating performance evaluations in all departments, and a review of employee compensation that includes the salary study funded in the governor’s FY 2013-2014 budget.
A new call center in Clarksville is expected to create roughly 500 jobs over the next year or so. Massachusetts-based Agero (eh-JUR-oh) handles roadside assistance and claims management for car insurance. Officials say the call center will start hiring in July, and finish building its workforce after it opens this fall.
Montgomery County’s newest corporate citizen will officially begin business Oct. 29, company officials said Monday after a news conference in which it was announced that Agero is indeed coming to town. Agero has selected Clarksville over Florence, S.C., for an $8.2 million roadside assistance call center that will create a total of 500 jobs, with 250 of those employees to be hired this year and the remainder in 2013.
The Medford, Massachusetts based company, Agero, a global leader in driver assistance services and vehicle connectivity innovation, announced today that they have selected Clarksville, Tennessee as the next site for its sixth North American driver assistance call and data response center. “I am excited to welcome Agero to our state and look forward to watching the company grow in Tennessee,” Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam said.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty, along with company officials, announced today Agero, a leading provider of connected vehicle services including roadside assistance and claims management, will open a call center in Montgomery County. This announcement brings with it a capital investment of $8 million and the creation of more than 500 jobs. “I am excited to welcome Agero to our state and look forward to watching the company grow in Tennessee,” Haslam said.
The city of Clarksville announced that Agero, a leading provider of connected vehicle services will open a call center in Montgomery County bringing over 500 jobs to the area. The Massachusetts-based roadside assistance company held job fairs in January to gauge interest in the jobs. Clarksville was in the running with Florence, South Carolina. “I am excited to welcome Agero to our state and look forward to watching the company grow in Tennessee,” Gov. Bill Haslam said.
The Nation’s Report Card shows Tennessee students making slight gains in science. State education officials say the latest results from the National Assessment of Education Progress shows eighth-graders scoring higher in science than they did two years prior. Nearly 31 percent of students scored at or above average in science when the kids were tested in 2011, compared with 28 percent in 2009. Tennessee ranks 32 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in NAEP science results.
Tennessee students posted small gains on a national eighth-grade science test, an encouraging fact given the state will start using science scores for its own grading system, Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said. Scores on the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, which tests samples of students in each state to allow comparisons across the nation, came out Monday. The percentage of Tennessee eight-graders scoring at or above proficient rose from 28 in 2009 to 31, and the average score rose from 148 to 150 – both measures about the same as the nation as a whole.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam told a crowd, “I never dreamed that 2 months and one day later that Lowell would be here with us today, would you stand? It was a jaw dropping moment for over 800 people. A Knoxville leadership banquet honoring those in the workplace whose strength, character and determination led them to great successes. It’s here Russell was welcomed back. A far cry from early March when a big rig crushed his patrol car.
Tennessee’s First Lady Crissy Haslam spoke about the importance of reading to children for 20 minutes daily and the impact of books offered through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library on Monday at the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce. Haslam said the Imagination Library has a partnership with the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation. She said the library is a non-profit organization that provides children with a book a month from birth until age 5, a total of 60 books. “Children need to be read to,” she said.
A Houston County woman is charged with TennCare fraud for selling prescription drugs paid for by TennCare. The Office of Inspector General announced the arrest of Carrie Dianne Adams, 50, of Erin, after a joint investigation with the 23rd Judicial District Drug Task Force and the Houston County Sheriff’s Office. Adams has been charged with one count of TennCare fraud for using TennCare to obtain a prescription for the painkiller Hydrocodone, later meeting with a confidential informant and selling a portion of the drugs.
A Stewart County man is charged in Montgomery County with TennCare fraud involving “doctor shopping,” or going to multiple doctors in a short time-frame to obtain prescription drugs. The Office of Inspector General, with assistance from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, announced the arrest of William B. Singleteary, 39, of Big Rock. He is charged with three counts of fraudulently using TennCare to obtain a controlled substance by “doctor shopping,” in this case, for the painkillers Oxycodone and Morphine, with the physician office visits paid for by TennCare.
Funding for Family Resource Centers have been restored in Governor Bill Haslam’s budget, although the amounts have been cut somewhat. Family Resource Director Nancy Spiers made the announcement to the Stewart County School Board at its regular meeting held May 10. She said that the state’s portion of the funding would be $29,000 next school year, down from $33,000 this current year. The county provides an in-kind match. However, Spiers was relieved since originally the program was going to get cut entirely.
Interstate bridge repairs east of downtown Nashville are continuing on schedule, despite a couple inches of rain over the weekend. The road work near LP field is on a tight timeframe to finish in August, before Titans football season gets underway . This past weekend was one of the most ambitious on the schedule. Concrete doesn’t mix well with heavy rainfall, which often forces delays to road projects. But the Transportation Department’s B.J. Doughty points out much of the I-24 bridge work isn’t so much pouring as just fitting in pre-made blocks.
Bridges repairs on the interstate east of downtown Nashville this weekend could complicate an already busy Saturday in the area. State transportation officials say they’ve tried to be accommodating in scheduling closures for I-24, but they can’t postpone the repairs forever. The two-mile stretch of road work runs right past LP field, where this weekend tens of thousands of car fans will head to a hot-rod show.
East Tennessee natives and out-of-towners alike can experience all the region has to offer on the newest driving tour in the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development’s Discover Tennessee Trails and Byways program. The “Rocky Top: Smoky Peaks to Crafts and Creeks Trail” will be announced today at a launch party in Gatlinburg, according to officials from Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corp. who are also assisting in the program.
Will Alexander, son of Tennessee’s senior U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, has been tapped to become the new chief of staff for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development under Commissioner Bill Hagerty. Alexander replaces Brad Smith, who will leave the office by the end of this month. Until now, Alexander has been assistant commissioner for strategy.
Former Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Detective Brad Depew was hospitalized Monday night after suffering a gunshot wound that is now being investigated by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Depew, 43, 251 Barrett Lane, Church Hill, has been indicted by the Hawkins County grand jury on 72 charges related to him allegedly stealing narcotics from the HCSO evidence locker on multiple occasions in March and April 2011.
The state is making a last-ditch effort to block retrials in cases presided over by disgraced former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner. Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper is asking the state Supreme Court to grant an appeal of Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood’s decision to upend convictions in the January 2007 torture-slayings of Channon Christian, 21, and Christopher Newsom, 23. The move comes after a midlevel appellate court — the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals — refused in a 2-1 vote to allow an appeal and just weeks before the alleged ringleader in the Christian/Newsom case, Lemaricus Davidson, is set to be retried.
A Nashville pastor, public education activist and former Metro councilman have formed a new alliance to help Mayor Karl Dean make his case for a proposed 13 percent property tax increase. Moving Nashville Forward, billed as a “grassroots coalition,” hopes to mobilize citizens to support the mayor’s tax increase plan, which the group says is essential to make key investments in public education and safety.
Mayor Karl Dean’s proposed property tax hike, which has already drawn the ire of the Nashville Tea Party, has reverberated up to the conservative-backed Americans for Prosperity political advocacy organization. Arlington, Va.-based Americans for Prosperity, an advocacy group that professes to educate citizens on education policies, has highlighted Dean’s tax proposal as its top story on its website.
Davidson County’s election administrator was formally reprimanded by state officials Monday for failing to open the polls on a Saturday during the early voting period for the March 6 presidential primary. But the State Election Commission decided not to pursue further disciplinary action against Albert Tieche after he acknowledged his mistake without a fight and said he had not intended to break state law.
Memphis City Council members take the second of three votes Tuesday, May 15, on a city budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 as well as a property tax rate for the fiscal year to come. But the council is still weighing its options and gathering information through a budget committee that continues meeting Tuesday morning at City Hall. The council meeting begins at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St.
Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, a Republican who serves on the Senate Banking Committee, has called for a hearing on the $2-billion trading loss by JPMorgan Chase & Co., saying that “policies are going to be derived out of what’s happened.” Corker, who was a key participant in the debate over the 2010 financial reform law, said it was important for policymakers to get the facts about the situation and whether pending regulations would have prevented it.
Scottie Mayfield celebrated U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann’s voting record Monday, downplaying a shared political philosophy between himself and the man he wants to beat. “I haven’t studied his votes enough to tell you that I would vote significantly different,” Mayfield told the Hamilton County Pachyderm Club. “He has voted conservative, and I praise him for that.” Along with Chattanooga businessmen Ron Bhalla and Weston Wamp, Mayfield is challenging Fleischmann in the GOP primary in Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District.
Obama’s Support Has Some Democrats Keeping Their Distance as Party Tries to Hold Chamber President Barack Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage has put a new wrinkle in the Democrats’ battle to retain control of the Senate, with many of the party’s candidates in conservative states keeping their distance from the president on the hot-button issue. Sen. Jon Tester in Montana, Sen. Claire McCaskill in Missouri and former Gov. Tim Kaine in Virginia have declined to support same-sex marriage, even as Mr. Obama’s backing has galvanized the party’s liberal wing and activist ranks.
Congress passed the 848-page Dodd-Frank law two years ago to try to prevent another financial meltdown like the one that sent the economy into a tailspin in 2008. It rewrites many of the federal rules covering banks and insurance companies to prevent businesses from becoming “too big to fail.” Many of those changes give the federal government more power, and state regulators worry about encroachment onto their territory.
The mild winter helped cut power bills this year for most Chattanoogans, but the Tennessee Valley Authority will take back some of those savings next month with another increase it its monthly fuel cost adjustment. TVA is planning to boost its electricity charges by 0.7 percent in June — the third consecutive month of higher fuel costs boosting the monthly light bill for residential and industrial power users in TVA’s seven-state region.
Think of the Tennessee River as a 652-mile interstate highway. Imagine the creeks and smaller river tributaries as nearly 350 miles of secondary and community roads. Now visualize getting from the interstate to your home along those secondary roads without road signs, traffic signals and safety markers. Making sure the river system’s 350 miles of channels are marked and navigable is the job of TVA’s service vessel Sideview.
Despite recent rain, an early spring and several months of dry weather are making it difficult for TVA to get its system of reservoir lakes ready for the summer recreation season, which starts June 1. If TVA can’t get the lake levels as high as they need to be, boaters and others using the waters may have more worries about obstacles lurking in shallower waters. “We will still have a good recreation season, but the impacts will be lower levels,” said Charles Bach, general manager of river operations for TVA.
Metro Nashville’s Director of Schools Jesse Register testified Monday that he’s not in favor of achieving school diversity by forcing inner-city students on buses to predominantly white schools in the suburbs. Register took the stand Monday in the Spurlock vs. Fox rezoning trial in federal court. He said two other school districts he headed, including Chattanooga, also moved away from forced busing in similar student assignment plans while he was there.
Politicians continue to call for more students pursuing science, technology, engineering and math – what have become known as the STEM disciplines. Women are particularly underrepresented. An afterschool program in Nashville tries to stir up female interest in science by way of art. It’s almost a bait and switch. You like art? How about the science behind it? “Nothing wrong with being an art teacher,” says Art3STEM coordinator John Hawkins. “But you could also be a graphic designer.”
A $75,000 grant from Disney will help the Tennessee Performing Arts Center develop theater programs in Nashville schools. The grant was awarded by Disney Theatrical Group, a philanthropic arm of the entertainment company, to provide greater access to theater education to inner city youth. It is the first of its kind awarded outside New York City. Through the grant, five Metro schools will receive performance rights and educational support from TPAC and Disney.
Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre has appointed a new principal at Sequoyah Elementary School. Beginning next school year, Alisha Hinton, now assistant principal at A.L. Lotts Elementary, will take over as principal. Hinton was a member of the inaugural class of the Principal Leadership Academy and has been with the district since 2003. She started at New Hopewell Elementary as a third-grade teacher.
Those planning the new consolidated countywide school system to come in August 2013 now have a list of seven elementary and middle schools that will be part of a federally funded “innovation zone.” The $14.7 million federal education funding over three years will begin with the 2012-2013 school year and continue into the next school year, which is the first year of the merger. The schools in the zone to be run by the Memphis City Schools system and to use new practices, including extended learning time and new technology, are Chickasaw, Hamilton and Geeter middle schools as well as Fairley, Ford Road, Lucie E. Campbell and Magnolia elementary schools.
Sullivan North Middle School will “definitely” be a base school for the new STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) platform school in Bloomingdale, Sullivan County Director of Schools Jubal Yennie said Monday. A base school is where students would return about 12:30 p.m. each school day to have related arts as well as band and after-school activities, including athletics and cheerleading. On the other hand, Yennie said Holston Valley Middle School in the far eastern end of the county likely won’t be among a group of four or five county base schools.
Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island on Monday ordered all state agencies to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere and to afford those couples many of the same rights and benefits that heterosexual couples get. By issuing an executive order, Mr. Chafee, an independent, reaffirmed a 2007 opinion by the state attorney general, which he said state agencies had followed inconsistently. An effort to legalize same-sex marriage in Rhode Island failed last year, with the legislature approving civil unions for gay couples instead.
A panel of judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th District has rejected a Tennessee Technological University policy restricting outside speakers on campus as being unreasonable and in violation of the First Amendment. The decision, filed April 23, properly supports free speech rights of visitors to Tech’s Cookeville, Tenn., campus. The three-judge panel reversed Tech’s initial victory in U.S. District Court for Middle Tennessee and ordered the district judge to reconsider the case in light of the appellate court decision.
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. That rule was proven last week when after Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess gave assurances that $l.6 million in proposed employee pay raises could be accomplished next year without a property tax increase, he changed his tune when the county school system presented a budget plan that doesn’t balance. Burgess told the Rutherford County Commission’s Budget, Finance & Investment Committee on May 7 that a pay upgrade plan for about 1,023 workers would not require a property tax increase.
For much of last month, I visited marketplaces and business enterprises throughout Europe and Asia. What is happening in countries around the world is testimony to the incredible speed with which things are changing in the world of health care, often through technology and innovations created here in the U.S. Imagine hospital beds capable of reporting patient data directly to clinicians; futuristic materials for furniture and furnishings that are resistant to bacteria and infection; virtual operating rooms where surgeons can collaborate with other clinicians around the world to perform surgery on a patient in a remote location; sophisticated diagnostic tools available at home and at a lower cost than through weekly trips to a physician’s office or hospital.
One of the most recent authoritative reports on health care showed that more than one of out of five Tennesseans between the ages of 18 and 65 — 857,000 people, or 22 percent of the 18-to-65 population segment — did not seek health care when they needed it in 2010. And that’s just the number of uninsured Tennesseans in that age group — a rise of 57 percent in the ranks of the uninsured since 2000. If a proportional number of 18-to-65-year olds received TennCare — the state’s Medicaid program insurance for people below the federal poverty level — then the number of uninsured Tennesseans who avoided seeking needed health care because they couldn’t afford it would have been more than one in four adults between 18 and 65.