This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam will visit Blount County today for a ceremonial bill signing of HB 2337/SB 2199, which authorizes the Department of Children Services (DCS) to continue “Tennessee’s Transitional Youth Empowerment Act of 2010” and removes the program’s termination date of June 30, 2012. Sixty percent of DCS foster youth are teenagers, and 813 turned 18 last year without a permanent family, according to a media advisory from the governor’s office.
The path to boosting job growth in Tennessee is obstructed by federal regulations, a handful of state and federal GOP lawmakers told members of Congress at a field hearing in Murfreesboro Monday. State officials are paving the way for job growth at the state level, but there’s nothing more they can do when the federal government issues piles of regulations that discourage economic development, Commissioner Bill Hagerty told the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Republican lawmakers took aim at federal environmental, labor and financial regulations, blaming them for the nation’s slow job growth, at a congressional hearing Monday in Murfreesboro that blurred politics with policy. Gov. Bill Haslam, the state’s two senators and Middle Tennessee’s Republican members of Congress led a morning-long attack on federal regulations that they said have created uncertainty in the business world, leading many companies to cut staff and avoid hiring.
Tennessee Republicans assailed federal regulations in congressional testimony Monday, saying legislation and administrative rule making is choking business on countless fronts. “As a country, we need to be moving in exactly the opposite direction,” U.S. Sen. Bob Corker told members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee…Corker was joined by fellow U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, Gov. Bill Haslam and Commissioner Bill Hagerty of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.
Top Tennessee Republican elected officials tore into federal environmental, financial and other regulations Monday, charging they are creating uncertainty for business and slowing private-sector job growth. The setting was a congressional field hearing in Murfreesboro convened by U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., pushed for the hearing in Tennessee, Issa said.
Several Republicans from Tennessee’s Congressional delegation took shots at big government today at an event in Murfreesboro. It was billed as a ‘field hearing’ of the U.S. House Oversight Committee, although Chairman Darrell Issa of California and Tennessee Representative Scott DesJarlais were the only committee members there. Several of the Republicans present used the event to hone their attacks on cumbersome federal regulation. Representative Diane Black laid into rules from the Environmental Protection Agency, saying they can cost billions, without much benefit.
Tennessee’s new Chief Medical Examiner is located right here in the Tri-Cities region. Doctor John Dreyzehner, Tennessee Health Commissioner, announced Monday that Doctor Karen Cline-Parhamovich will serve in that capacity, effective July 1st. Cline-Parhamovich currently works as the Director of Forensic Pathology for ETSU’s Quillen College of Medicine. She served as the Interim Chief Medical Examiner and Deputy Chief Medical Examiner since December 2010.
A Rutherford County woman is charged with TennCare fraud for selling prescription drugs paid for by TennCare. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) today announced the arrest of Cheyenne Felts, 31, of Smyrna, after a joint investigation with the Smyrna Police Department. Felts is charged with three counts of TennCare fraud and three counts of sale of a controlled substance. Charges accuse her of using TennCare benefits to obtain prescriptions for amphetamine and the painkiller Buprenorphine, while planning to unlawfully sell a portion of the prescriptions.
Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey doesn’t think Republicans could’ve asked for much more from GOP lawmakers in the session that just ended. Ramsey sees that as one defense to tea partiers looking to unseat incumbents this year. Ramsey was a tea party favorite when he ran for governor two years ago. He says this summer primary challengers should just look at the current slate of Republicans’ most recent work. They undid collective bargaining for teachers, overhauled how the state deals with its workers…
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey told a Realtors group Monday of his plans to eliminate the state’s Hall Income Tax on investment income for those 65 years old and older. “If you think we’re retirement-friendly now, wait until we do that,” Ramsey, R-Blountville, said of killing the Hall Income Tax at the annual Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors (NETAR) legislative luncheon. The Hall Income Tax, enacted in 1929, has exemptions for people over 65 with total income less than $16,200 for a single filer or $27,000 for a joint filer.
“Rather than talk about the problem, I decided to do something about it and that is run for U.S. Senate,” says Brenda Lenard, a Conservative Republican running for Senate in the State of Tennessee. Lenard opened her campaign headquarters in Greeneville, Tennessee, Monday. Lenard is a single mother working toward a Doctorate in Political Science from the University of Tennessee. Now she’s a republican candidate for the senate, running against an incumbent Republican Senator Bob Corker, who many believe will be tough competition.
The removal of 11,000 voter histories from state voter rolls is either a routine cleansing for technical reasons or a sinister attempt to move voters off the rolls. It depends on whom you believe. Those wildly divergent interpretations will be put before a third-party arbitrator, which is about the only thing state election officials and Tennessee Democrats agree should happen to resolve a legal dispute over voter eligibility that played out before the state Election Commission on Monday. The state erased more than 11,000 voting histories, including 2,938 in Davidson County, which could leave those voters vulnerable to losing their eligibility, according to Democrats.
A tweaked version of Mayor Karl Dean’s budget — one that still includes a property tax increase — cleared the Metro Council’s Budget and Finance Committee Monday, giving it an edge at prevailing Tuesday for the full council’s final vote. The 17-member committee voted unanimously Monday to approve a Councilman Sean McGuire-sponsored $1.71 billion substitute budget that retains the mayor’s original 53-cent property tax hike, but makes cuts totaling $8.6 million from Dean’s plan that would be diverted to the city’s rainy day funds.
A key Metro Council committee gave overwhelming support Monday to a budget plan and property tax increase that closely follow Mayor Karl Dean’s original proposals, setting the stage for a final vote by the full council tonight. The Budget & Finance Committee wound up agreeing unanimously by voice vote to Chairman Sean McGuire’s substitute budget after rejecting seven proposed amendments, none of which received more than two votes.
Mayor’s tax call rebuffed by panel When the Memphis City Council convenes today and approves the minutes of its last meeting, the city’s operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 will be set. Two weeks ago, the council approved a roughly $609 million budget for city operations. Using a mix of one-time funds and budget cuts, the council set the city’s tax rate at $3.11 per $100 of assessed value. The council rebuffed Memphis Mayor A C Wharton’s call for a 47-cent property tax hike, and set the city’s overall tax rate 8 cents lower than the current $3.19.
At their first meeting since approving a city budget and city tax rate for the fiscal year that starts next month, Memphis City Council members have a full agenda Tuesday, June 19. It includes three proposed city charter changes for the Nov. 6 election ballot and lots of land use resolutions. The council meeting begins at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St. The council votes on two ballot questions that would amend the city charter if voters approve them in the November elections.
At least two Hamilton County cities are on the verge of passing tax hikes as budget season draws to a head this month. Red Bank will vote tonight on a 25 cent property tax increase, while Lookout Mountain, Tenn., is poised to approve a 20 cent property tax bump in July. “We’ve put it off to the point where we can’t put it off anymore,” said Lookout Mountain consultant Dwight Montague. He added that the town had not had a tax increase for eight years and, in that time, operating expenses have increased 20 percent.
There’s not much movement yet on development of a budget for Sullivan County government for the fiscal year that begins July 1. But county commissioners involved in the process have for the first time at least mentioned a property tax increase. A three-hour called meeting of the Sullivan County Commission’s Budget Committee on Monday ended with a 20-minute discussion about when to meet next. The group appeared to have concluded to meet again Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Zero residents showed up at Monday’s night’s public hearing to gripe about the county’s $442.5 million spending plans in the coming fiscal year without a property tax increase. “We are looking forward to not to have to raises taxes,” Rutherford County Commissioner Carol Cook said at the end of the meeting. Next year, though, could be different when officials will need up to an estimated $4 million more to operate the new Stewarts Creek High when it opens by August 2013 in southwest Smyrna.
Madison County commissioners on Monday voted not to raise the county’s property tax rate. The commission has not raised county residential property tax rates in 20 years. Commissioners voted 24-0 Monday to maintain next fiscal year’s county property tax rate at $2.15 per $100 of assessed value. Also on Monday, commission members held a moment of silence and prayer to remember Commissioner Dale Morton, who died suddenly over the weekend. Commissioners Mark Johnstone and Gary Deaton made brief remarks on the man who served his district for 10 years.
Clarksville’s budget for the 2013 fiscal year was approved on a narrow 7-6 vote in a special session of the City Council Monday night after three hours of discussion. Council members were divided over the general fund budget of $81,045,568, which is up by nearly $5.8 million over 2012. Mayor Kim McMillan broke the tie. Council members who voted for the general fund budget were Mayor McMillan, Candy Johnson, Marc Harris, Geno Grubbs, Joel Wallace, Jeff Burkhart and James Lewis.
A Democrat challenging U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., says she’s still campaigning despite a week-old internal memo describing her as “extremely ill.” Park Overall, the actress and environmental activist best known for playing nurse Laverne Todd in the NBC sitcom “Empty Nest,” confirmed Monday that an inner ear infection and diabetes have sidelined her for three weeks. Overall, 55, described the inner ear infection as a chronic problem she “was putting off.” She said political travel and a longtime bout with Type 1 diabetes worsened the dizziness, fatigue and other symptoms she was feeling.
Democratic congressional candidate Eric Stewart is accusing U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., of competing to become the “Junk Mail King” by taking the No. 2 spot in the 107th Congress when it comes to taxpayer-funded mass mailings and communications. Stewart’s campaign says DesJarlais, a Jasper physician, spent $455,308 in taxpayer funds so far in his first term of office representing the 4th District. “Washington is broken, Congressman DesJarlais isn’t part of the solution, he’s part of the problem,” said Stewart, a state senator from Winchester, in a news release.
A Johnson City man who is running in all 95 counties in Tennessee for the Democratic Party nomination for the United States Senate seat currently held by Bob Corker is also facing a felony charge in one of those counties. Thomas Kenneth Owens, 36, was indicted by a Carter County grand jury on May 14 on a charge of solicitation of a minor. Owens was arraigned in Criminal Court on May 31. When asked about his employment and financial status, Owens informed the court that he was a candidate for the U.S. Senate.
Former Sens. Bill Frist and Tom Daschle and ex- Gov. Phil Bredesen will discuss information technology in health care at a conference Tuesday in Nashville. Frist, of Nashville, is a former heart and lung surgeon. Bredesen was an executive with a health care management company before entering politics. The Forum on Transformation Through Innovation is sponsored by the Nashville Health Care Council and the Bipartisan Policy Center. The focus will be on policy in promoting greater coordination, efficiency and cost savings in health care.
Nothing has ever been simple in the great health-care debate, and there’s no reason to think the coming Supreme Court decision on the topic, or the political repercussions from it, will be simple either. When the court rules sometime in the next two weeks, the waves it sets off will be tricky for both parties to navigate. A ruling striking down all or part of the law—which is what conventional wisdom anticipates—would be bad news for the Democrats who championed the legislation.
Megan Silsby earned a biology degree last month from Virginia Tech, and she considers herself a full-time worker even though she hasn’t landed a job in this rough economy. Every day at 8 a.m., Silsby, 22, heads to a basement office in her parents’ home in Chantilly, Va. All day, she searches the Internet for openings, applies for jobs, follows up with phone calls. She has applied for more than 80 jobs, with no luck so far. “I’ve definitely kind of had to sit down sometimes and keep myself from getting discouraged, because honestly I feel if I get that interview …” and her voice trails, youthful optimism diluted by the fallout of the Great Recession.
Transition planners run into reluctance to accept closings, staff cuts, hard choices The school districts agree on dozens of the Transition Planning Commission recommendations for the new system. But at a briefing for unified school board members Monday, the ones color-coded red — for hot disagreement — could cut at the heart of the merger plan. Board members love the universal prekindergarten, plans to double the number of Advanced Placement courses and plenty of school choice in every neighborhood. But they also are going to have to agree to wholesale school closings, major cuts in central office staff, higher insurance costs for city school employees and perhaps larger class sizes.
When countywide school board members resume a still-preliminary discussion Tuesday, June 19, about who should be superintendent of the merged public school system to come, they will have another opinion to consider. In approving the first draft of a merger plan last week, the schools consolidation planning commission recommended the board pick a merger superintendent as soon as possible – no later than the end of the fall.
Knox County to survey teachers on new budget, ideas for future Knox County commissioners want to know what local teachers think about the recently approved school spending plan and what they’d like to see in future years. “Politicians, a lot of times, think they know what’s best for education,” Commission Chairman Mike Hammond said. “But if we’re going to affect test scores it will be the teachers who do it.” Hammond said he wants teachers to weigh in on how the county spends money to improve schools and education.
The Williamson County School Board voted Monday not to allow home-schooled students to participate in interscholastic sports on high school teams. The decision came after nearly a year of discussion and a work session last week where more than half of the 12-member board voiced their opposition or said they were torn on the issue. Still, board members discussed the topic for more than 45 minutes before voting 8-3 against allowing students educated outside the system to join teams at their zoned high schools.
The car given away at last year’s Dyer County Fair was recently quarantined and its occupants arrested after a Dyer County Sheriff’s Department investigator located a meth lab in it during a traffic stop. On Friday afternoon, Inv. Stoney Hughes had received information of people possibly cooking meth in the Tennemo community near the Mississippi River. After arriving in the area he reportedly stopped a 2011 Toyota Yaris on Highway 103 after observing a traffic violation.
As chairman of the Southern Growth Policies Board, Gov. Bill Haslam will be bringing together leaders from Southern states to talk about re-imagining workforce development in the South. They are set to meet in Chattanooga June 25 and 26. Few items should rank higher on Haslam’s to-do list for Tennessee than getting higher education professionals to rethink post-secondary education programs and how they meet the needs of business and industry. Haslam’s focus is to better align higher education with workforce development. This could create a higher quality workforce, which is a key factor in economic development and job creation.
We believe Gov. Bill Haslam was on the right track when he commissioned an education foundation to study the state’s current teacher evaluation system. Now that SCORE, or the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, is back with recommendations for improvement, we just hope adjustments are made quickly before we lose any more good educators. Last year was the first in which Tennessee teachers were subjected to an evaluation system rushed through the legislature as the state vied for federal Race to the Top funds for schools. States had to submit plans for education reform to qualify for the grant.
The field congressional hearing held Monday at MTSU was missing one thing: There was hardly a Democrat in the joint, unless you count the one sitting by himself in the corner of S102 of the Business and Aerospace Building. Blame it on the dramatic shift in Tennessee and Rutherford County politics over the last decade. Republicans control the state Legislature, governor’s office and congressional delegation. Or, you could sense the possibility that this was a political event. Considering that Republican U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa of California included a jab at President Barack Obama in the press release for the official event, it might have been a partisan affair.
The Metro Council should approve a budget that will invest in our public schools and public safety, even though an unpopular rate hike will result. The council is down to the vote that counts tonight on the 2012-13 budget after its two mandated, though perfunctory, votes over the past several weeks. Mayor Karl Dean and his supporters have worked hard to sell a budget that invests heavily in Metro Nashville Public Schools, maintains an increased police presence and gives Metro employees a wage increase. A hard sell has been necessary, because the investments will require a 13 percent tax increase.
I have taken time over the last several weeks to visit places in our city that will directly benefit from my proposed budget plan. I went to Stratford High School and several elementary and middle schools in Southeast Davidson County that greatly need expansions and renovations. I visited the Madison Police Precinct, which opened this past January and allowed us to reduce the North Precinct coverage area by one-third. Creating this precinct was only possible because of 50 officer positions we added under a federal COPS grant — positions we will need to fund starting with this budget if we want to keep the precinct open.
President Barack Obama’s announcement that his administration will halt deportations and start granting work permits to certain younger illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States as young children is a sensible response to a festering national issue. Predictably, no everyone agrees with the decision that could affect as many as 800,000 individuals. Predictably, the loudest protests about the executive order that establishes the policy came from the far right and from Republican stalwarts. Almost uniformly, those opposed to the decision say it is an unacceptable use of administrative authority, that it circumvents the will and wishes of Congress, that it rewards what remains an illegal act and that it is a blatant political act to win favor with a voting bloc vital to the president’s re-election.
It’s more than a tad galling for Alberto Gonzales, the former attorney general of the United States, to lecture Southeastern states on the fact that America’s “immigration process is broken, and our immigration strategy is at best outdated and at worst ineffective.” Of course, his statement is of the no-duh variety. But it’s galling because even as Gonzales, who served under President George W. Bush, and other officials at an immigration forum in Atlanta were acknowledging the sorry state of the federally run immigration system, they were telling the states to butt out of the issue. In their dreams.
American immigration policy has become skewed toward concentrating on the immigrants we don’t want at the expense of concentrating on those we do. One example: The best and the brightest from all over the world come here to study, especially in fields like engineering and the hard sciences where there’s a dearth of young Americans. The foreign students perform admirably and then, instead of making it easy for them to stay and put their talents to work here, we send them home, and then our bureaucracy makes it hard for them to return as permanent residents. Here’s a more down-to-earth example: Some young Hispanic adults, who have graduated from college with specialty degrees such as accounting, are opting to work in low-wage jobs or in construction, where background checks are not as stringent.