This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Make plans now to attend the Southern Growth Policies Board 2012 Chairman’s Conference hosted by Gov. Bill Haslam on June 25-26, 2012 in Chattanooga, Tenn. at The Chattanoogan Hotel. The conference will examine job and workforce trends, with a view towards re-imagining tomorrow’s educated worker. This will include exploring tough questions, such as: How can we determine the skills needed for future jobs when we’re not sure what those jobs will be? How can we raise awareness of potential career paths and opportunities?
Throughout the 107th General Assembly, numerous bills made statewide – even national – headlines in newspapers, as well as some comments by television pundits and comedians. While some of these bills passed, not all of them did. Gov. Bill Haslam used his veto powers for the first time in his administration to kill one piece of legislation that passed after a long, arduous debate and discussion in the waning hours of the Tennessee House of Representatives’ final session, while others simply died in committees in the waning days of the session that ended last month.
Tennessee First Lady Crissy Haslam launched a statewide book club on Friday, The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The Read20 Family Book Club encourages families to read 20 minutes per day this summer. A book will be featured monthly on the its website, where children and families can find reading ideas, activities and tips. The book club’s goal is to encourage parents to engage in their children’s academic lives and promote early child literacy.
Twice a month, Kenny Thielemeyer and Danny Munson deliver meals for MIFA and glue newspaper articles on paper for the library. They and other volunteers like them may have Down syndrome, autism or other special needs, but they can give back to the community. That is the kind of voluntarism that state officials want to see replicated within the population as a whole. Both are clients at the Bartlett-based West Tennessee Family Solutions.
Additional costs plus computer knowledge to be part of process When Amelia Patterson was in 11th grade, the pressure to stay in high school, work and take care of her newborn baby became too much to handle. The Franklin resident ended up dropping out of school, unable to finish what she started until 14 years later, when she signed up for classes at the Williamson County Adult Education offices in Franklin. “There were always obstacles in my way,” Patterson said. “I didn’t give up, I just had a lot going on.”
GED graduate relied on program’s support It took one year for Jessica Mikanna Davis, 18, to complete her GED, but on Saturday, she was one of 85 recipients of the academic achievement from the Clarksville/Montgomery County School System. Davis said she had dropped out of school and was living in Alabama with her father. Life was proving to be very difficult for her. “I did not like school and was not doing well in school either,” she said. “I was getting in trouble and that made things even worse.”
TN man blames hepatitis B on 2006 colonoscopy at Murfreesboro VA hospital Years after thousands of veterans learned they may have been exposed to infections at government-run hospitals, many are still mired in legal battles seeking compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs. In the latest legal setback, a federal appeals court has ruled against a Tennessee veteran who claims he contracted hepatitis B after employees at the Murfreesboro VA hospital negligently failed to properly clean colonoscopy equipment.
One lane of Interstate 75 South and both lanes of Interstate 75 North are due to reopen at 8 o’clock this morning in Campbell County. Since March 8 the section of I-75 near the Stinking Creek Road interchange has been proving troublesome for the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the more than 28,000 drivers who daily use that portion of road. First, the southbound lanes were obliterated by a slope slide that ate away at a 180-foot drop in the hillside. Then authorities had to close one of the two northbound lanes because of continued deterioration of the slope.
23- and 28-year-old Democrats don’t feel age hurts them As Luke E. Dickerson introduces himself to supporters at a local Democratic fundraiser, it only gradually becomes apparent that the 28-year-old is not just an aide or campaign volunteer doing legwork for someone else. He’s the candidate. While Dickerson may be green in terms of experience compared with other candidates statewide, he is the oldest candidate in the primary election for a Murfreesboro state House district set for August.
The area designated by state law as House District 89, today geographically covering a part of urban Memphis and represented by one of the few acknowledged liberal Democrats remaining in Tennessee, will be transformed on Nov. 6. On that date, House District 89 will certainly become, geographically, a rural-suburban enclave within Knox County 300 miles away, thanks to the new state legislative redistricting plan enacted to change state law earlier this year by the General Assembly.
Shelby County voter rolls have shrunk by about 180,000 names due to aggressive moves by the county Election Commission to move many voters to inactive status and purge others. The Commercial Appeal reports the spring cleaning of the publicly available voting rolls has shrunk from nearly 612,000 to just over 431,000. The commission said more than 151,000 voters were changed to inactive status because they hadn’t voted in the last two federal elections. Those people remain eligible to vote, but are no longer included among active voters listed in county voting statistics.
While redistricting is going on statewide, its results — including new precinct and district boundaries — are having a particularly profound effect on Anderson County voters, administrator of elections Mark Stephens said. Some 45 percent of the county’s more than 49,000 registered voters — or 22,000 residents — are getting letters notifying them of the changes. About half of the letters have gone out, and the rest will be mailed this week, Stephens said Friday. “It’s been quite a process,” he said.
In case you hadn’t heard, Mayor Karl Dean occasionally rides the bus. Just Wednesday morning, the mayor made his way from his house in Green Hills to the nearest shelter on Hillsboro Pike, waited alongside other commuters and took the Metro Transit Authority bus to his downtown office. “Every morning that I take the bus, I get to work in a better mood than when I don’t,” Dean told The City Paper. “So, the staff encourages me to take the bus.”
Knox County Commission faces several proposed tax hikes today Knox County officials haven’t signed off on a property tax increase since June 1999. That could change today. The Knox County Commission this evening plans to vote on Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett’s budget, although it may not look much like the $673.7 million plan he proposed in early May. Officials today will discuss other options, and almost all of them — if approved — would increase property taxes, something Burchett said he will veto.
Sen. Lamar Alexander was in the audience at Nashville’s famed Ryman Auditorium for a performance of “A Prairie Home Companion” a few weeks back when, at one point during the show, singer Steve Wariner held up his rosewood guitar and Garrison Keillor wandered aloud whether the federal government might seize it. Keillor might have been playing for laughs. But to some musicians, this is serious stuff. Federal agents have raided Gibson Guitar Corp. offices in Nashville and Memphis in search of ebony and rosewood that the government says might have been imported illegally from India.
Republican congressional candidate Ron Bhalla appears to be in violation of federal campaign finance law, but he calls it an innocent mistake. Bhalla is a Chattanooga businessman challenging U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann in Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District Republican primary. On April 14, Bhalla submitted his first campaign finance report to the Federal Election Commission. Late Friday, Bhalla’s 11-page report included just one expenditure — a $14,145 lump-sum disbursement to himself without any additional information.
States are looking for new ways of taxing motorists as they seek to pay for highway and bridge repair and improvements without relying on the per-gallon gasoline tax widely viewed as all but obsolete. Among the leading ideas: Taxing drivers for how many miles they travel rather than how much gasoline they buy. Minnesota and Oregon already are testing technology to keep track of mileage. Other states, including Washington and Nevada, are preparing similar projects. The efforts are being prompted by the fact that gasoline taxes no longer provide enough money to pay for roads and bridges — especially when Congress and many state legislatures are reluctant to increase taxes imposed on each gallon.
Some colleges are dropping student health-insurance plans for the coming academic year and others are telling students to expect sharp premium increases because of a provision in the federal health law requiring plans to beef up coverage. The demise of low-cost, low-benefit health plans for students is a consequence of the 2010 health-care overhaul. The law is intended to expand coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans, but it is also eliminating some insurance options.
Texas had an unusually high Medicaid orthodontics bill in 2010. At $185 million, the state was reportedly spending more than the other 49 states combined. Claims data showed that it had led the nation for three consecutive years in total dollars spent to help children with crooked teeth. Or at least that’s what state and federal regulators thought. As it turns out, Texas did not have a higher percentage of children with orthodontic needs. Nor was the Medicaid program doing a better than average job of providing dental care for the poor.
It almost feels like the 1970s and ’80s again with so much news about every new and under-construction nuclear plant registering cost overruns and delays. Five reactors are under construction, and all are reportedly over budget and behind schedule. What that ultimately means to electric rates remains unclear. • Unit 2 at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in Spring City, Tenn., is up to $2 billion over budget and three years behind, according to the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Old utility poles from the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge didn’t end up in a landfill: They are being used by state forestry officials. According to a news release from the complex, the poles are now being used at Lone Mountain State Forest’s parking lots. Some will be used as structure posts for a pavilion to provide cover for Morgan and Roane County firefighting equipment. Others will block motorized vehicles from using horse trails at the site. More than 100 poles were hauled away to the state forest.
As the state’s five-year, $70.5 million investment in the Tennessee Biofuels Initiative comes to an end in June, Genera Energy will take on a more focused role as a biomass supply company for biofuels producers. At the same time, the University of Tennessee will spin off a second company, TennEra, based on the Genera model, to pursue related opportunities to transfer university technology to the marketplace, according to Kelly Tiller, Genera president and CEO.
The Knox County school board will begin talking this week about what to do with the Historic Knoxville High School. The building houses the district’s GED and Adult Education programs, the Knoxville City Federal Credit Union, the Knox County Museum of Education, some administrative offices and storage. Several months ago, rumors circulated in the community that employees and departments were being moved from the building, located at 101 E. Fifth Ave., and the facility was to be sold.
Regardless of what the unified school board decides about Memphis City Schools Supt. Kriner Cash’s contract, he has already outlasted the average school superintendent of a large urban district, who is either pushed out or packs up of his own accord after about 31/2 years. On July 1, Cash will have been in Memphis four years. In that time, the city has risen to the forefront of national school reform efforts, and helped pave the way for Tennessee’s prominence on the same scene.
California has some of the toughest antismoking laws in the country — it is illegal, in some places, to smoke in your own apartment — and boasts the second-lowest per capita smoking rate in the 50 states. But for all the disdain toward smoking, it has been 14 years since California raised its cigarette tax, a tribute to the power of the tobacco industry here and the waning of this state’s antitobacco dominance. That may be about to change. An array of health and anticancer groups has rallied behind a ballot initiative to impose a new $1-a-pack cigarette tax to finance cancer research.
Georgia officials are exploring whether the state could expand its use of for-profit companies to hold down ballooning Medicaid costs and better coordinate care, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Sunday. The program, which costs about $21 million daily, provides care for the needy, aged, blind and disabled and low-income families with children. Some 1.7 million residents are enrolled. “The current Medicaid program design cannot be sustained,” said David Cook, the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Health.
Two bills on business taxation that were part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s legislative package this year provide an interesting contrast both in presentation and outcome. The most interesting was a proposed rewrite of the state’s business tax code that appeared relatively late in the session, then was dropped like a proverbial hot potato after complaints arose. The idea, according to some folks involved, was to try to address some legal concerns about inequities in the business tax, a local government levy that requires businesses to be licensed and taxes paid. Businesses obtain licenses through their county clerks, but since 2009 have been required to send their taxes to the Department of Revenue instead of the clerks.
When The Jackson Sun’s editorial board met with U.S. Sen. Bob Corker last week, we were encouraged by his cautious optimism that Congress is poised to tackle the nation’s fiscal problems and “do something great for the nation.” We have come to know Corker as a realist not given to pie-in-the-sky political rhetoric. We only can hope, along with countless other Americans, that he is right. The day after our meeting with Corker, we were greeted with a disappointing national jobs report that saw a paltry 69,000 jobs created, and the national unemployment rate rise to 8.2 percent. That led Corker to reiterate his plea for Congress to act and to move toward passing pro-growth tax reform, sensible entitlement reform and responsible deficit reduction.