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 testify in front of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday where he will voice support of federal legislation granting states the power to make all online retailers collect sales taxes. “He’ll be testifying about the Marketplace Equity Act and leveling the playing field between online retailers and brick and mortar businesses,” Haslam spokesman David Smith said in an email. Many states, including Tennessee, have been clamoring for years to persuade Congress to resolve problems arising from a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision.
Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty and Representative Debra Maggart (R—Hendersonville) today joined with MGM Industries executives to announce expansion plans for the company’s Hendersonville facility. The expansion represents an investment of $3 million and the creation of 75 jobs during a three-year period. The additional jobs will include production, engineering and maintenance positions. “Congratulations to MGM Industries on their commitment to Sumner County,” Hagerty said.
To fix the biggest economic development challenge facing Tennessee, business leaders will need to engage themselves more vigorously with the state’s K-12 school systems, ECD Commissioner Bill Hagerty said Thursday. Speaking to a crowd of about 100 at a gathering in E|Spaces’ Cool Springs location, Hagerty said the skills gap between what the state’s schools turn out and what many employers need is the main objection from companies looking to expand in or relocate to Tennessee. Fixing that will be a long-term story, he added, that requires direct input from business leaders being elected to school boards.
Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman has formally signed off on the part of the local schools consolidation plan that required state approval. And he has said the state is not likely to provide additional post merger funding. In a letter to the schools consolidation planning commission dated Monday, July 16, and released Friday, Huffman said the plan meets requirements in state law that such a schools merger continue existing rights and privileges of teachers in each system.
Zip lining left Devonda Byrd with a spinal cord injury — and she wasn’t even the one riding. As she stood on a zip line platform, eager to snap a photo of her husband descending through the air during a vacation in Mexico, he struck her, sending her 25 feet to the ground. Now the Goodlettsville resident thinks zip lines should be banned. “They were supposed to stop him, but with him being 300 pounds, they just couldn’t,” she said. “I don’t think they can make it a safe thing for people.” As zip lines have grown in popularity in Tennessee, so have concerns about safety.
Tennessee’s sales tax holiday, a weekend to help families with back-to-school purchases, could be compared to Black Friday for retailers that sell computers. Stores as big as Best Buy and as small as KC Computer on Summer Avenue are gearing up for an expected crush of business in two weeks. The annual tax holiday, which runs from Aug. 3-5 this year, enables shoppers to save nearly 10 percent in local and state sales tax on school-related items, including computers and tablet computers.
Tennessee’s annual sales-tax holidays may be an economic wash for the state, The Tennessean reports (subscription required). According to the report, economists believe that consumers aren’t spending more than they would normally. Instead, they make purchases they would’ve made anyway in a more concentrated period. “What the consumer saves on taxes reduces government spending, so the net effect is zero,” Malcolm Getz, an economist with Vanderbilt University, told The Tennessean.
In March, 34-year-old attorney Rachel Bell amazed many local watchers when she shot past incumbent candidate and former Metro Councilman Mike Jameson in the primary battle for General Sessions judge. Bell, a Democrat, is now contending with independent candidate Michael Rowan in the Aug. 2 general election. The winner will serve as a judge in General Sessions Court for the next eight years. Rowan, 45, a plaintiff’s attorney originally from West Meade, started his own firm in 2006. According to the Rowan Law Firm website, he works with “economically disadvantaged clients who have been wrongly accused and unjustly treated.”
In less than two weeks, Tennessee voters will nominate Republicans and Democrats for legislative races to conclude in November. If you know what district you live in, you’re probably ahead of most people. But if you think that’s good enough, you’re wrong — that is, if you want to understand how the elections will affect scores of business-related debates in the Tennessee General Assembly for the next two years. With that in mind, we talked dozens of races with observers and insiders in business and both parties, in order to give print subscribers today our top five races to watch.
The Sevier County Republican Party has “no sentiment” for passing a resolution that criticizes Gov. Bill Haslam for actions and personnel decisions. Although eight county GOP organizations — mostly in the middle to western parts of the state — reportedly have passed such a resolution, “we are not going to,” Sevier County Chairman Sonny Coane said Thursday. He said he doubts the local party would ever feel strongly enough about the issue to go on record in that manner, as a handful of other counties have done. “That’s not to say if this picks up steam down the road, we wouldn’t look into it,” Coane said.
More than 10,000 people in the Nashville area have already voted early before the August election, even as its most populous county has one of the area’s lowest turnouts. According to the Davidson County Election Commission, 1,611 people voted early through Thursday since polls opened at the election commission’s office last Friday. More voters have turned out in each of four surrounding counties — Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson — during the same period. Davidson County Election Administrator Albert Tieche said he was unsure why Davidson County has lower turnout than other counties, even though turnout can usually be attributed to how popular individual races are.
If you don’t vote now, you can’t complain later —- that’s Chattanooga resident Sherrie Ford’s voting philosophy. She cast her ballot Friday for the upcoming Aug. 2 elections and is one of a growing number of Tennesseans to visit the polls before election day. In fact, this year’s early voting turnout is on track to surpass the last two comparable August elections, Tennessee Election Commission Coordinator of Elections Mark Owens said. More than 117,000 people already have voted across Tennessee, and Owens expects that number to climb during the next week.
Democrats running in their party’s state House District 30 primary say they’re in the contest in part because of concerns over where the Republican-led General Assembly is taking Tennessee. Brock Bennington, Sandy Smith and Brian White of East Ridge are vying for their party’s nomination in the Aug. 2 primary. They acknowledge that whoever wins will face an uphill fight to unseat Republican Rep. Vince Dean, also of East Ridge, in November. Bennington and Smith said they decided to run when it appeared Dean would run for the state Senate and the House seat would be open.
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is always a joyful time for believers, but a Tennessee congregation is feeling especially blessed this year. Opponents spent two years trying to halt construction of a new mosque for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. A federal judge ruled this week the congregation has a right to worship there as soon as the building is ready. His ruling came just in time, because a Tennessee judge had intended to stop construction, according a court order filed Friday.
A Muslim congregation fighting for two years to open its new mosque won a round in federal court just in time, because a Tennessee judge had intended to stop construction, according a court order filed Friday. Members of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro are pushing to get into their new 12,000-square-foot building before the holy month of Ramadan, which began at sundown Thursday, ends in August. Opponents have waged a two-year court battle to stop them, challenging the county’s approval of the mosque building plan.
With outright repeal efforts nowhere, the GOP is attacking president’s signature health care law piece by piece, and two Tennessee Republicans believe they’ve found a way to unravel the legislation. The Affordable Care Act gives states like Tennessee a choice: set up your own health care exchange or the federal government will do it for you. Low and middle income earners can get a tax credit to help buy insurance off the exchange. But the text of the law only explicitly allows the tax credit for people in a state exchange.
A hint of bi-partisanship has emerged in one Tennessee congressional race – albeit unspoken. Rep. Diane Black’s latest campaign ad refers to legislation introduced by a neighboring Democrat. Walking toward the camera on a factory floor, Rep. Black of Gallatin describes her frustration at Congress for not passing a budget in three years. “I argued. I begged. I even got mad. Now I’ve found the answer – cut their pay.” The first-term Republican says her plan would cut the pay of lawmakers when they miss budget deadlines.
While Third District Congressman Chuck Fleischmann canceled campaign rallies Thursday with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Huckabee will still headline Saturday the Tennessee Republican Party’s leading fundraiser of the year, the “Statesman’s Dinner” in Nashville. Fleischmann said he would attempt to reschedule a campaign event with Huckabee later. The Thursday events were scrapped when the U.S. House scheduled a vote on the U.S. Department of Defense budget that night, creating a time conflict.
United States Postal Service employees moved furniture from the Crosstown Station at 1520 Union on Friday, while people checked P.O. boxes and stood in line to buy stamps for the last time before the station’s permanent closing. Starting Saturday, Crosstown customers will use an office a mile and a half north, at 1325 Autumn Ave., off Cleveland near the old Sears building. The change dismayed regular customers “It stinks,” said Kirk Willis, who paid his bills at the Union office, which had been open since 1977.
TVA has been overcharged $4.1 million for pressure-washing services, underpaid $3.6 million by a Memphis electric power customer and did not follow proper procedures in implementing a new expense management system, according to the agency’s Office of the Inspector General. Those were the conclusions of three reports the OIG posted online Thursday. TVA generally agreed with the OIG’s recommendations, although it did not agree with all the findings. One report concluded that a vendor called Pressure’s On Inc. overbilled TVA for pressure-washing various buildings.
TVA has agreed to pay Anderson County $24,000 a year for property it obtained for an expanded coal ash landfill in the Claxton community, according to Anderson County Mayor Myron Iwanski. That’s comparable to total property taxes paid annually by the owners of 155 acres and 24 residences that TVA acquired for the landfill expansion, Iwanski said. “This would be a permanent arrangement that will provide a recurring source of revenue,” Iwanski stated in an email Thursday.
The first day at a new school is always a little nerve-wracking. But students at Hamilton County’s new science, technology, engineering and math school will know most of their peers and teachers when school begins on Aug. 13. About 60 of the 75 ninth-graders in the STEM school’s inaugural class attended a three-day camp this week at Chattanooga State Community College, also the site of the under-construction high school. While students participated in hands-on projects like building robots and designing video games, they also got acclimated to peers and teachers.
Most of Nashville and its surrounding areas remain in cleanup mode today after Thursday’s storms brought down power lines, toppled trees and flooded several streets. But there was some good news that came out of the severe weather. The rainfall made a big dent in the Middle Tennessee drought situation, forecasters said. Nashville International Airport recorded more than 2 inches of rain on Thursday, bringing the July rainfall total to 8.43 inches, an above-average amount for the month, said Bobby Boyd, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Nashville.
Record-setting temperatures and widespread drought are spelling disaster for the 2012 corn crop in Tennessee, and officials say there’s little chance of enough rain the rest of the summer to even raise hopes for a rebound. Despite recent rains, Tennessee agriculture officials say farmers will lose about half of their corn yield this season — a crop typically valued at $280 million to $300 million a year. The loss will have an effect felt all the way to grocery store cash registers.
High temperatures, drought bring disastrous season for region’s farmers The daily hustle and bustle of city life makes it easy for Memphians to forget that the urban pocket they call home sits amid one of the nation’s richest agricultural regions, one that’s suffering the economic impact of unusually high temperatures and a nationwide drought. Although the recent rains have brought some relief to the nation’s farmers in the midst of what’s been called the worst drought in nearly 25 years, it may have come too late to salvage some crops, especially corn.
Hardly a day goes by without an infomercial, news announcement, documentary, etc., drawing public attention to the “obesity epidemic,” particularly in the huge numbers of overweight children. A July 9 Tennessee Voices op-ed by Charles Baum, chairman of the MTSU economics/finance department, searched for an answer to this national dilemma. All of the well-intentioned pundits and prominent figures, from Baum to first lady Michelle Obama, are missing the crux of the problem. Baum, musing about a decline in cigarette smoking, came to no definitive conclusion, while Michelle Obama reflects on a lack of exercise and unhealthy eating. What is missing in these studies and campaigns is the iron-clad link between poverty and obesity.