This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Last year, the top 10 medical prescribers in Tennessee wrote prescriptions for more than 20 million doses of restricted pain medication, with the top prescriber in the state doling out more than one-quarter of those. That is more than three pills for each of the state’s 6 million-plus residents, but it’s only a small fraction of the doses handed out by more than 30,000 medical prescribers statewide. Together, all prescribers in the state wrote nearly 18 million prescriptions for controlled substances such as Oxycontin and hydrocodone, according to an April report to the Tennessee General Assembly.
The short Jackson Avenue ramps up to Gay Street and down again hold equal parts fascination and decrepitation. Built in 1919, the tee-beamed concrete structures seem holdovers from another era. Only small, torn-up patches of asphalt dot the red brick pavement. Cement railings are crumbling in spots but offer architectural design not seen in most bridges. Underneath, more large cracks, a tunnel to an alley, an iron fence to discourage vagrants and a musty, mysterious aura.
After winning a decades-long struggle for control of the Tennessee General Assembly in 2010, many Republican incumbents are discovering a downside to their success this year. Twenty-three lawmakers are fending off election challenges — not so much from Democrats as from fellow Republicans. Twenty of the 64 House Republicans — almost a third — face intra-party challenges from opponents of varying degrees of ability, support and financial resources.
Republican domination of the state Legislature and the redistricting plans enacted earlier this year have apparently combined with intra-party philosophical and personal disputes to produce an unprecedented surge in challenges to incumbent state legislators in this summer. Twenty-three incumbent Republican legislators face opposition in the Aug. 2 primary election. That compares to just five primary challenges to GOP incumbents in both 2010 and 2008.
Emails to Dean may signal fireworks at next council meeting There’s passion: “I’m OUTRAGED over the possibility of you raising taxes,” Patricia Martin writes. There’s economic insecurity: “I cannot take on any more expense without it being a heavy burden at this time, especially at this time,” writes Kelly Evans. And sometimes there’s a glimmer of support: “I place my trust and confidence in your vision and fully support your efforts to make Nashville one of the best places in America to live, work and play,” Kenneth Wilson writes.
If history repeats itself, it will take hundreds of thousands of dollars to even be considered a candidate for Chattanooga mayor. And state Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, is firing the first shot on fundraising. “We know we’ll need the resources to compete,” Berke said last week. “We think we’ll be able to do that.” Election records over the last decade show it has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars to be noticed. Bob Corker, now Tennessee’s junior U.S. senator, holds the record for fundraising in a Chattanooga mayoral race.
A Rutherford County judge’s ambiguous ruling in a high-profile mosque case has left him open to charges of discrimination from religious freedom and First Amendment experts, who say the local Muslims and a community newspaper are being treated unfairly. Chancellor Robert Corlew’s decision last week that county officials violated Tennessee’s Open Meetings Act has thrown open the issue of whether government officials have a special duty to tell constituents about matters that might upset them — even if there have not yet been any complaints.
In the 2008 presidential election, when Shelby County counted a record 401,081 votes cast on the Nov. 4 ballot, the final turnout of 66.9 percent was considered strong but still meant some 33 percent of the nearly 600,000 people on the county’s voter rolls chose not to participate. Was it apathy? Or, as recent aggressive moves by the county Election Commission suggest, was it something more simple — absence.
It has been a tumultuous week for the Dyer County Budget Committee, which finalized the 2012-2013 budget on Wednesday and recommended a 9-cent reallocation of revenue from education into the debt service fund. The move has been met with mixed reviews, as the county could not continue to ignore the debt service fund, which would be out of money by 2015, but the fund was made solvent through 2017 at the expense of education. Or was it?
As summer heats up and Election Day draws near, opportunities to hobnob with Tennessee lawmakers won’t be hard to find. Supporters can go shooting with Rep. Stephen Fincher, spend a weekend in Nashville with Sen. Lamar Alexander, cheer on the Nashville Sounds with Rep. Jim Cooper, dine at Ruth’s Chris Steak House with Rep. Scott DesJarlais, or head to the Honors Course in Ooltewah for a golf weekend with Sen. Bob Corker. But the price tag isn’t cheap.
Cohen cast himself not only as a candidate for reelection but, in both subtle and overt ways, as an organizing figure in local Democratic politics. “We want to have a ballot this year that takes the best people into office,” said Cohen in words that echoed the longtime practice of one of his predecessors, former congressman Harold Ford Sr., who published sample ballots at election time indicating his preferences for various positions.
U.S. Senate candidate Zach Poskevich said he will take the servant-leader approach toward the people if he is elected to office. Poskevich, of Hendersonville, is running in the Republican primary against U.S. Sen. Bob Corker on Aug. 2. He stopped in Jackson on Saturday morning at the Madison County Courthouse for a meet-and-greet as part of his tour of the 8th District in West Tennessee. Poskevich is a veteran of the U.S. Army. He has worked in finance, information technology and management.
One of the qualities Bill Haslam brought to the table when he was elected governor of Tennessee was his business experience. Haslam has used his business skills to better organize the state government’s sprawling bureaucracy. In addition to making inroads to smaller government, his reorganization plan should make state government more efficient and accountable. Haslam recently signed bills passed during the 2012 General Assembly making major changes to the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, merging numerous boards, commission and licensing programs and transferring oversight of prison parolees from the Board of Probation and Parole to the Department of Corrections.
The Chattanooga area, and the state of Tennessee overall, are a great showcase of the global community that is expanding business to include this region and our tremendous resources. Competition in the business world no longer stops at your county. Every business is touched by markets from every direction of the compass rose. One of Italy’s leading universities has announced a plan to “kit out its students with the right stuff to gain access to the global jobs market,” a Reuters story from Milan reported. Politecnico di Milano, a 149-year-old university established in Milan, Italy’s business capital, will kick off its 2014 academic year teaching all its graduate courses in English.
A recent Vanderbilt University poll found that, if you count people who don’t bother to register for voting, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are locked in a dead heat for carrying Tennessee in this year’s presidential election. The pollsters reported — to the noted wonder of various political bloggers — that a survey of 1,002 people living in Tennessee with a telephone showed that 42 percent supported Republican Romney and 41 percent favored Democrat Obama, with the remnant undecided or refusing to answer the question. If you narrowed that sampling to those who are registered to vote, however, the margin widened to 47 percent Romney and 40 percent Obama, the pollsters duly reported.
U.S. total approaches $1 trillion, threatens standard of living for generations Today, perhaps more than at any time in our nation’s history, the generations who control most of America’s wealth and run most of its institutions — generally, those age 30 and older — appear willing to let younger Americans twist in the wind. This in spite of their own rhetoric, now clichéd, proclaiming that we must adopt this position or reject that policy “for the sake of our children and grandchildren.” It is almost never “we must hear each other out and work toward a consensus” for those future generations.
TVA’s decades-long history of nuclear plant planning debacles, horrendous cost overruns and stunning delays in bringing plant construction to completion has accustomed the agency’s ratepayers to mutely accepting just about any new setback related to the nuclear program. Every time a new mind-boggling revelation arises, ratepayers’ armor of imperturbability just seems to get thicker. The latest TVA inspector general’s report on the delays and cost overruns at TVA’s Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor should at last provoke ratepayers’ ire. The reactor was originally expected to be completed by October of this year at a cost of $2.5 billion.
The squabble that has arisen over Memphis City Schools Supt. Kriner Cash’s contract didn’t have to happen. Because of the actions of some Shelby County unified school board members, including chairman Billy Orgel, the perception has been created that there is a movement within the 23-member board to pave the way for county schools Supt. John Aitken to lead the new merged city-county school district. Civil rights leaders and African-American clergy have weighed in with support for Cash, saying the process is unfair and calling Aitken the shoo-in for the top job. This is a controversy that didn’t have to be. For one thing, neither Cash nor Aitken has publicly or expressly asked for the job, according to some school board members.
Tomorrow will be an important day in the future of Knox County. County commissioners will have the opportunity to make a major investment in the school system, an investment that will cost everyone who pays property taxes a little extra but should pay big dividends in improved student performance in the years to come. The school system is asking for an additional $35 million each year above natural revenue growth. The money would go toward renovating some of the most dilapidated school buildings without adding to the county debt, hiring more teachers, establishing a teacher incentive pay plan, expanding the community schools program to increase participation of parents and community members in school life, an ambitious technology program and other needed efforts.
Chancellor Robert Corlew’s decision to void approval of a mosque construction project is a harsh blow for local Muslims because it infringes on their First Amendment rights to worship freely. Only six weeks or so from completing the building on Veals Road just outside Murfreesboro, the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was prepared to invite the entire community to a grand opening. That date is in limbo now that Corlew ruled that Rutherford County violated the Open Meetings Act by failing to provide adequate notice for the meeting in which the Regional Planning Commission considered the ICM site plan. Local Muslims are “shocked and saddened” by the decision because they see it as singling them out and attacking their rights as Americans. After all, they followed the rules the county put before them.