This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam travels to Japan this week, where he will participate in the 35th annual meeting of the Southeast U.S. Japan Association. It is the governor’s first trip to Japan since taking office. While overseas, Haslam will spend three days participating in the meeting, held in Tokyo from Thursday to Saturday. In a news release, Haslam emphasized the importance of maintaining and strengthening relationships with each of the 133 companies that currently have operations in Tennessee.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s Chief of Staff Mark Cate and Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons were among several state officials to honor 24 individuals from across the state for their service as emergency first responders. The First Responder Awards Ceremony, held at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) headquarters, celebrated those who have dedicated their lives for the safety and security of all Tennesseans. The special ceremony has been held each year since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.
Bill Hagerty is stepping away from his role as commissioner of the Economic and Community Development Department to work for Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Hagerty will serve a member of the campaign’s presidential readiness team in Washington. He held a similar role in Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign four years ago. Gov. Bill Haslam praised Hagerty’s selection and said he expects him to “do a great job.” Claude Ramsey, the governor’s deputy, will also run the agency until Hagerty’s return after the election.
Gov. Bill Haslam today announced that Commissioner of Economic and Community Development Bill Hagerty will take a temporary leave of absence to volunteer as a member of the Romney/Ryan presidential readiness team in Washington, D.C. Hagerty’s unpaid leave will run from Monday, September 17 through Tuesday, November 6. Despite the scheduled time away, he will be in Nashville October 18 and 19 to oversee the Governor’s Conference on Economic and Community Development.
Tennessee’s economic developer chief will take a leave of absense for nearly two months to join Mitt Romney’s presidential readiness team in Washington, D.C. Commissioner of Economic and Community Development Bill Hagerty also served in a similar role for Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008. “Bill’s background makes him a logical choice to serve in this role,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said. “He will do a great job.”From the announcement: Hagerty’s unpaid leave will run from Monday, September 17 through Tuesday, November 6.
The state’s top economic development official will step down temporarily to take a post with presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s transition team, Gov. Bill Haslam announced Monday. Bill Hagerty, the state’s commissioner of economic and community development, will leave that role Sept. 17-Nov. 6 to serve on Romney’s “presidential readiness team,” according to a news release. “Bill’s background makes him a logical choice to serve in this role,” Haslam said in the release. “He will do a great job.”
Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty is taking a temporary leave of absence to volunteer for Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s “readiness team.” Claude Ramsey, deputy to Gov. Bill Haslam, will assume oversight of the department during Hagerty’s leave of absence, the governor said. Hagerty, a longtime Romney supporter who worked with the candidate at Bain Capital, will take unpaid leave beginning Monday through Nov. 6. Bill’s background makes him a logical choice to serve in this role,” said Haslam, a Republican.
Tennessee’s top economic development official has raised his hand for a temporary job with Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Commissioner Bill Hagerty – a longtime Romney supporter – is taking unpaid leave from his state job. Hagerty will be a volunteer on the Romney transition team led by the governor of Utah. He played a similar role in 2008 with then-nominee John McCain. Hagerty is currently in Japan on a state trade mission. But Economic and Community Development Department spokesman Clint Brewer says the commissioner sees his absence potentially benefiting Tennessee.
Tennessee Economic and Community Development commissioner Bill Hagerty will take an unpaid leave of absence from state government from Sept. 17 to Nov. 6 to join the Romney-Ryan presidential campaign. Hagerty will be part of the Romney-Ryan presidential readiness team in Washington D.C. Hagerty’s leave starts after the Tennessee delegation led by Governor Bill Haslam returns from a trip to Japan this week for the annual Southeast U.S./Japan Association meeting in Japan.
Eight state driver service centers will open on the first Saturdays of October and November to make it easier for would-be voters to get state-issued photo identification for the Nov. 6 election, according to Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security officials. In Hamilton County, the state’s driver service center at 6502 Bonny Oaks Drive will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 6 and Nov. 3. A state law that took effect in January requires Tennessee residents to present a federal or state-issued photo ID to vote.
Democratic state Rep. Sherry Jones has been waiting more than two months for the Department of Children’s Services to tell her how many children in state custody have died this year and how many deaths occurred among children for whom the agency had ever opened a case file. The Tennessean requested the same information Monday, but DCS was unable to provide any immediate answers. The information, Jones said, is critical to learning how well the agency is doing its job of protecting children. She called the lack of timely information “dangerous” and “ridiculous.”
The Health Department and the Department of Environment and Conservation are encouraging Tennesseans to observe Protect Your Groundwater Day on Tuesday. The day highlights the importance of the state’s underground water resources, which supply much of the state’s drinking water. Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau said there are a number of steps Tennesseans can take to protect the state’s groundwater. Those include properly maintaining home septic systems and abandoned wells through proper disposal of pharmaceuticals and hazardous household waste.
The original Emancipation Proclamation is coming to the Tennessee State Museum for just seven days early next year. The only way for any school to schedule a field trip is to enter a lottery. The museum estimates it can handle 400 schoolchildren an hour. But even at that pace, demand to see the executive order that freed more than 3 million slaves is likely to be more than the museum’s usual scheduling protocols can handle. Applications for a chance to plan field trips will be accepted through late November. The lottery is only open to groups from schools in Tennessee.
State officials are contemplating how to attract more people to Tennessee’s community colleges. And they say one way might be to start offering on-campus housing. Right now none of the state’s 13 community colleges offers housing – which might appeal to some students with lengthy commutes, like in rural northwest Tennessee at Dyersburg Community College. Officials there say during the spring semester some 700 students drove 35 miles on average to campus. Compared to other states, relatively few Tennesseans use community colleges, says Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan.
Middle Tennessee State University is doing some soul searching at the start of its second century. School officials are strategizing on how to attract more high-achievers. MTSU comes from humble beginnings in 1911, educating teachers as a so-called “normal school.” “We’re no longer ‘the little middle,’” says president Sydney McPhee. He notes that his university is nipping at the heels of UT. “We put out the second largest number of graduates for the state, the second largest without a major graduate program,” he says.
As Middle Tennessee State University students mourned the loss of a classmate and fraternity brother Monday, campus medical employees sought out anyone who might have had close contact with him. Freshman Jacob Nunley, 18, of Dyersburg, Tenn., likely succumbed to bacterial meningitis. He died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, prompting an investigation by the Tennessee Department of Health. The deadly disease is transmitted through kissing, coughing, sneezing and sharing drinking glasses, eating utensils or cigarettes — anything that would transmit saliva or nasal fluids.
Enrollment at East Tennessee State University is largely flat this semester after years of record enrollments, but the number of graduate students increased, the school reported Monday. Figures ETSU reported Monday indicate a total of 15,404 students are attending ETSU this semester. In fall 2011 there were 15,532 students attending ETSU, a decrease of 128 students. ETSU’s enrollment had increased every year for the past few years until now. In fall 2008 ETSU enrolled 13,841 students; in fall 2009 there were 14,677 students; and fall 2010 saw 15,234 students enrolled.
Cleveland State Community College has received two grants to help retain and graduate students in different areas. With a $102,000 grant, the college will buy equipment for emergency medical technician, nursing, anatomy and physiology programs. The college also will hire new part-time positions, including a computer applications academic coach and a high schools linkages coordinator. Cleveland State also received the Tennessee College Access and Success Network grant “Bridging the Math Divide.”
The National Federation of Independent Business’s Tennessee chapter has endorsed mostly Republicans running in state Senate and House races this fall. The group, which is comprised of smaller businesses, is only endorsing Republicans in Senate contests, including two races in Southeast Tennessee, according to a NFIB news release. Chattanooga Republican Todd Gardenhire, a financial adviser, picked up the NFIB’s endorsement in his Senate District 10 contest with Democrat Andraé McGary, a Chattanooga city councilman.
Sen. Beverly Marrero wears many hats. But as of Nov. 6, she’ll be wearing one less. After 10 years in the Legislature, Marrero lost her bid for re-election to her Memphis district in last month’s Democratic primary against Sen. Jim Kyle. Although Marrero said she’d like to be remembered for standing up for women, the environment and people with disabilities, she also realizes people will probably also remember her for her hats. “It takes a little bit of nerve to wear a hat,” she told TNReport.
Lauri Day, the Republican challenger to state Rep. John Tidwell, has a $46,000 lien against her McEwen home because of unpaid personal income taxes. Day had an unpaid personal income tax balance of $22,015 from 2003 and $24,082 from 2004, according to the tax lien filed with Humphreys County. Day, who beat Clarksville City Councilman Nick Steward in the Republican primary, said she has been open about her debt to the IRS and did not feel it inhibited her ability to run for office. “It wasn’t a matter of tax evasion or nonpayment. There’s nothing criminal about anything going on here,” Day said.
Knox County election officials will continue their efforts to recruit workers for the Nov. 6 election. Officials say they need more than 600 folks to help run a presidential election in the county, and that working in one “is a great way to serve our community.” Although the election is still a ways out, the Election Commission has already held two recruitment meetings and plans to hold one today and one on Wednesday. Today’s is set for 6 p.m. at the Howard Pinkston Branch Library on Martin Mill Pike in South Knox County.
Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and his wife of 31 years, Karyn, are splitting up. Court records show Karyn Frist filed for divorce on Friday, while an answer filed on behalf of Bill Frist states that he “admits, with sadness, that irreconcilable differences have arisen between the parties that will prevent them from living together as Husband and Wife.” Family spokeswoman Beth Seigenthaler Courtney declined to elaborate on the reasons for the split. “Dr. and Mrs. Bill Frist have decided to end their marriage,” she said in a statement.
Both Sequoyah and Watts Bar had unplanned reactor shutdowns last month. Both reactors had electrical problems that caused the power plants to scram — something akin to blowing a safety fuse, said Tennessee Valley Authority spokesman Ray Golden. In the shutdowns, the reactors — Unit 1 at Watts Bar and Unit 2 at Sequoyah — functioned as they were designed to, and neither the plants nor the workers or public were put at risk. Sequoyah tripped on Aug. 16 following an electrical short in one of the four reactor coolant pumps.
The TVA board of directors is considering scores of possible candidates to succeed Tom Kilgore as CEO, and TVA Chairman Bill Sansom said he is hopeful a pick can be found by the end of the year. “We started with about 70 names and are working that down,” Sansom said. “We will probably start interviews soon and by early October, I expect to end up with about 20 names,” he said. The board will then conduct interviews to narrow the field from there. Sansom said he has already done some preliminary talks to gauge some prospects’ interest in TVA and TVA’s interest in them.
Developers plan to lure an environmentally-friendly equipment supplier from Boston to Chattanooga with a $2 million Shallowford Road project. But nearby residents worry the project will bring nothing but noise and traffic to an already busy area. Mark Settles, vice president of Yerbey Concrete Construction, wouldn’t identify the business, but called the company “the Home Depot of environmental stuff,” such as energy-efficient lighting, needed for green projects. The company’s offices are already located in Chattanooga, but its distribution center is in Boston.
Nashville’s travel taxes are the ninth highest in nation, according to a release from Global Business Travel Association Foundation. The foundation’s 2012 annual study ranked the top 50 markets in the U.S. by overall tax burden, including general sales tax and travel taxes. Chicago and New York had the highest burdens, while Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Fort Myers had the lowest tax burdens. “Business travel is a key driver of economic growth, but overly burdensome taxes on business travel can often do more harm than good, especially when those taxes unfairly target visitors,” said Joseph Bates, vice president of research at the foundation.
That $100,000 Bartlett and Collierville each earmarked for legal fees in the municipal schools fight didn’t go very far. The two suburbs have already exceeded the $100,000 the respective Boards of Mayor and Aldermen authorized this summer and are seeking more money. Collierville aldermen approved adding another $100,000 for attorneys’ costs Monday night. Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald’s administration will ask that city’s board for more money Tuesday night — $250,000 more. “We all had a sense it would be expensive,” McDonald said.
Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell says the countywide school board isn’t moving fast enough on the transition to the August 2013 merger of Shelby County’s two public school system. “I’m not satisfied at this point,” Luttrell said on the WKNO television program “Behind The Headlines.” The show, hosted by Eric Barnes, publisher of The Daily News, can be seen on The Daily News Online, www.memphisdailynews.com. “The school board is a very fluid institution at this point, which troubles me. Consistency … is very difficult to obtain,” Luttrell said of the 23-member school board.
The Shelby County Commission appointed two people with no political experience to the unified school board Monday, choosing to focus instead on their intentions to benefit children. Mary Anne Gibson, 47, a Realtor with the family firm GaNelle Roberts in Germantown, was named to represent District 5, which includes Germantown and parts of Collierville. She is Republican. Oscar Love, 70, a longtime educator whose career included 14 years as principal in Memphis City Schools, was appointed to the District 3 seat to represent Bartlett.
Shelby County Commissioners appointed Mary Anne Gibson and Oscar Love Monday, Sept. 10, to the countywide school board. Love, a retired Memphis City Schools system principal, was appointed to the District 3 position of the old Shelby County Schools board which is a predominantly Bartlett district. Gibson, a realtor, parent and school organization volunteer, was appointed to the District 5 seat of the old Shelby County Schools board which is a predominantly Germantown district.
Metro Nashville Public Schools is eyeing the acquisition of 25-plus acres in Antioch to accommodate two new schools in the fastest growing part of Davidson County. The school board Tuesday is set to consider the $1.1 million acquisition of 25.2 acres on Smiths Springs Road, situated within the Antioch High School cluster. The land would be for a future elementary and middle school, though construction dollars would need to be carved out of a future year’s Metro capital plan. It is still unclear when MNPS would open the new schools.
A controversial charter school expected to be approved tonight by the Metro Nashville school board asks families in its Arizona schools to ante up a $1,200 gift, a separate $200 tax credit contribution, and a few hundred dollars in book and classroom fees. However, a Great Hearts Academies official says the schools are free and that even the book fees will be waived if necessary. “It is 100 percent clear to everyone in our schools that those are optional contributions,” said Peter Bezanson, president of Great Hearts Tennessee, the nonprofit management company set up for the five schools Great Hearts hopes to open in Nashville.
Dozens of students demonstrated several hours outside Carver High School early Monday, refusing to enter the school until administrators agreed to address scheduling problems, lack of air conditioning in some parts of the school and cuts to arts programs, including choir and band. “Basically, we used social media to try to reach everyone,” said Romero Malone, 17, who helped organize the peaceful protest over the weekend to call attention to a series of problems at the school. “One of the things that set off the protest is that in some of the classrooms there was no air-conditioning,” he said.
This city found itself engulfed on Monday by a sudden public school strike that left 350,000 children without classes, turned a spotlight on rising tensions nationally over teachers’ circumstances, and placed both the powerful teachers’ union and Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a risky, politically fraught standoff with no clear end in sight. Thousands of teachers dressed in red swarmed through downtown and marched outside of schools across the city in this, the nation’s third-largest school system, as families raced to find alternative child care — an available relative, a city-sponsored day-care program, anything — for classes they had learned were called off only hours before the week began.
A recently released study shows that Tennessee’s prison inmates have had some of the shortest stays in prison over the last 20 years when compared with other states. The report, released by the Pew Center on the States, measured the average length of incarceration for people sent to prison in 35 states and found that Tennessee inmates had the fourth-lowest average prison stay in the nation in 2009 — behind only South Dakota, Illinois and Kentucky. The initial reaction to this by most people probably is that Tennessee is soft on criminals. But in the wider sphere of punishment and rehabilitation, this question needs to be asked: How much time is enough time for a prisoner to pay his or her debt to society and leave prison prepared to become a productive member of society?
Some pieces of helpful legislation get passed and go into effect with little fanfare. Such is the case with this year’s Yellow Dot bill. This is a sensible program that involves minimal cost to the state and can help protect people and even save lives. What is the Yellow Dot program, you ask? Like many Tennesseans, we had not heard about this legislation until recently, despite it having been introduced by West Tennessee state Rep. Curtis Halford, R-Dyer. The Senate version of the bill was sponsored by state Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville. The legislation passed both sides of the General Assembly unanimously, and went into effect in April. The Yellow Dot program began in Sumner County in 2008. It involves people voluntarily submitting personal information regarding themselves such as emergency contacts and essential medical information to be recorded on a form that is placed in a vehicle’s glove box to be accessed in an emergency.
Perception is reality when it comes to politics. In one recent case, La Vergne Mayor Senna Mosley and her husband, Ronnie, were irritated with the Rutherford County Election Commission when they went there seeking changes in city polling places. Though the Mosleys had previously supported Republican state Rep. Mike Sparks in other elections, they were accompanied by his opponent in the coming state House election, Democrat Mike Williams, who made the presentation on their behalf to the Election Commission. Commissioners didn’t respond to their request because they weren’t on the agenda, but they did vote to place the matter of voter precincts on Monday’s agenda for discussion. Part of the problem is that La Vergne First Baptist Church was dropped as a polling place and many voters in La Vergne, including Mayor Mosley, were forced to drive to Smyrna to cast their ballots.
A new report from a panel of experts convened by the Institute of Medicine estimated that roughly 30 percent of health care spending in 2009 — around $750 billion — was wasted on unnecessary or poorly delivered services and other needless costs. Lack of coordination at every point in the health care system is a big culprit. The panel cited studies showing that 20 percent of patients reported test results or medical records that were not transferred from one place to another in time for an appointment, requiring additional tests or visits. One study found that a typical Medicare patient with Type 2 diabetes (without other medical conditions) saw five different doctors in a year. Another showed that the rate at which primary doctors referred patients to specialists doubled over the past decade. In one survey, primary care doctors who had Medicare patients coordinated with an average of 229 other physicians in a single year to care for those Medicare patients, blurring accountability.