This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Governor Bill Haslam is looking to lure more Japanese-owned businesses to Tennessee. The undervalued dollar has prompted carmaker Nissan to shift more production here from Japan, and Haslam sees room to add more, having wrapped up a business trip to Japan earlier this month. “We’ve done well historically there – we have 33 thousand jobs in Tennessee from Japanese-owned companies; we think there’s some more headway to make.” Besides Nissan, the state has enjoyed favor from a few other big Japanese manufacturers, like Bridgestone tires.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and state Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder have declared this week as Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Recognition Week. Since 2011, the week beginning with the third Friday of September and extending through the following Thursday is designated to remember and pay tribute to service members captured by the enemy and those still missing in action.The state said in a news release that more than 83,000 Americans and more than 200 Tennesseans are still missing or unaccounted for since World War II.
Gov. Bill Haslam has made another attempt at setting up a special Supreme Court panel to hear the appeal of a lawsuit challenging the way Supreme Court judges are regularly selected. The governor appointed a five-member special Supreme Court in July only to have three of the members recuse themselves after John Jay Hooker, the octogenarian lawyer and frequent political candidate who filed the lawsuit, pointed out they had an apparent conflict of interest as members of an organization that support the present judicial selection system.
Metro still hopes to regain state funds A meeting Friday afternoon between state and local school officials didn’t result in any immediate action, but talks will continue as Metro schools try to deflect a potential $3.4 million penalty by the state. Metro school board Chairwoman Cheryl Mayes met with Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman for just more than an hour. Afterward, Mayes said in a prepared statement: “We have no change in status at this time. We will continue to talk with the state.”
How charter operator lost, political fallout, what happens now. As newly minted Metro school board chair Cheryl Mayes tallied the votes of her eight colleagues on the night of Sept. 11, it became apparent a split show-of-hands had emerged on Great Hearts Academies. The next vote — which belonged to her — would swing things one way or the other: a reluctant go-ahead for the Phoenix-based charter organization that rode confidently into West Nashville but faced repeated resistance over student diversity concerns, or yet another rejection, which would defy a state board of education order to authorize.
First-term state Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, cast a “shameful vote” against a bill to prohibit convicted child abusers from contacting their victims, a Tennessee Democratic Party official claims in a news release. Ragan is seeking re-election and is opposed by Jim Hackworth, a Democrat from Clinton who previously held the 33rd House District seat, in the Nov. 6 election. The district encompasses most of Anderson County. Ragan in April 2011 was the only member of the House who voted against the bill that also was unanimously approved in the Senate.
Sen. Barnes, Green share policy ideas The 178,768 people of Montgomery, Stewart and Houston counties will decide one of Tennessee’s most competitive races this November when they choose between incumbent state Sen. Tim Barnes and Dr. Mark Green for Senate District 22. Barnes was elected to the Tennessee Senate in 2008 after he beat write-in candidate Rosalind Kurita. A legal battle fought by the Democratic Party made him the party’s nominee instead of Kurita, the incumbent.
There were signs of trouble in Chattanooga’s state House District 27 race over the weekend. Democratic candidate Frank Eaton, who is running against Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, charged that Rep. Gerald McCormick took down two of Eaton’s campaign signs on Highway 153. McCormick, a Chattanooga Republican who serves as House Majority Leader, acknowledged removing the signs Saturday in a telephone call he made moments after a confrontation with Eaton. The lawmaker said the signs were illegally posted on the public right of way in front of a shopping center that he partially owns and manages.
Knox County officials last week tentatively signed off on more than $1.2 million in new spending. But they might not be done. Knox County commissioners during today’s official voting meeting will revisit a series of funding requests they approved during last week’s work session. They also will take up a request to reinstate their discretionary accounts, or what opponents call “slush funds.” The money — a combined $55,000 cut equally 11 ways — will be used to fund small community groups in their districts. Members for years each received $6,000 to spend on projects and initiatives that helped residents and neighborhoods.
If Rep. Jim Cooper and some of his Middle Tennessee colleagues had their way, members of Congress would be on the verge of seeing their paychecks disappear. Cooper, D-Nashville, introduced legislation late last year that calls for congressional pay to stop if lawmakers don’t get the next year’s federal spending decided by Oct. 1, which just happens to be the start of the federal fiscal or budget year. That means the House and Senate having agreed on a budget outline and filling it in with the 13 appropriations bills needed to fund the various departments and agencies of the federal government.
U.S. Rep. Phil Roe has a bad taste in his mouth regarding new federal standards for school meals. “It’s just more overreach of government,” Roe, R-Tenn., said of the standards in a recent conference call with reporters. The standards were announced last January by first lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who both said the revamped school meals will be healthier for 32 million kids across the nation. “As parents, we try to prepare decent meals, limit how much junk food our kids eat, and ensure they have a reasonably balanced diet,” Obama said in a prepared release.
Josephine Lemmons believes it when critics of the Affordable Care Act say President Obama cut more than $700 billion from Medicare to pay for the law that takes effect in 2014. Lemmons, 84, who has Medicare Advantage, contends the federal law has had a detrimental impact on her health care treatment, forcing her to choose another primary care doctor and also costing her items such as rides to her doctor at Murfreesboro Medical Clinic. “And it’s been told on TV, and it’s true, he’s taken $500 billion to $700 billion out of Medicare to pay for Obamacare,” Lemmons said recently.
Democratic challengers in Tennessee’s 3rd and 4th congressional districts vow that if voters send them to Washington in November, they won’t follow the well-worn path of making money by lobbying Congress after leaving office. Dr. Mary Headrick, who faces Republican U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann in the 3rd District, and Eric Stewart, a state senator challenging 4th District Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, both signed an anti-lobbying pledge circulated by Rootstrikers, a national network of activists fighting what it calls the “corrupting influence of money in politics.”
Committee ranks top choices for new veterans cemetery location The steering committee for a new veterans cemetery in West Tennessee has chosen its top three potential areas for the cemetery’s location, one in Madison County and two in Henderson County. The committee met and voted on Thursday and designated a property near Law Road as its No. 1 choice, said Chris Dangler, chairman of the steering committee. The property is west of Law Road and near Interstate 40, U.S. 412 and Matheny Road.
Like many Republican governors, Jan Brewer of Arizona is a stinging critic of President Obama’s health care law. When the Supreme Court upheld it in June, she called the ruling “an overreaching and unaffordable assault on states’ rights and individual liberty.” Yet the Brewer administration is quietly designing an insurance exchange — one of the most essential and controversial requirements of the law. Officials in a handful of other Republican-led states say they are also working to have a framework ready by Nov. 16, the deadline for states to commit to running an exchange or leave it to the federal government to run it for them.
Seven months pregnant, Lacy Gamrin sat in a shaded spot on the sidewalk of Nashville General Hospital waiting on a friend to give her a ride. “The safety of my child, that’s all I’m worried about,” she said. Taxicabs, buses and vans wheeled past. Not as many people who come here drive as those who go to other hospitals. They can’t afford cars a lot of the time, and most of the time they can’t afford to pay their medical bills. This is what the end of the line looks like. A hundred years after the first charity hospital opened here on the Meharry Medical College campus, Nashville General’s days as a full-service provider are waning.
On a December night in 1945, Grand Ole Opry member and mandolin master Bill Monroe invited a young banjo picker named Earl Scruggs to join him on stage at the Ryman Auditorium. The sound of Scruggs’ three-finger style of picking was broadcast into millions of homes on WSM-AM — a moment that defined, if not birthed, modern bluegrass music. Through the decades since, bluegrass has had a hot-and-cold relationship with Music City. And now, the next verse is being written. This week will mark the end of Nashville’s six-year tenure as the host of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s annual World of Bluegrass week — which features the genre’s pre-eminent fan festival, conference and awards show.
Arkansas ranks near the bottom among states in health and income. But it’s much closer to the top when it comes to rising health care costs — they’ve doubled in just the past decade. Reduced benefits and lower provider fees have not halted the escalation. Last year Governor Mike Beebe decided to try something entirely new. “We had no choice,” he told Stateline in an interview. “Huge, huge cost increases were driving a greater percentage of people into the uninsured category every year.” On October 1, Arkansas will launch what’s called the “Health Care Payment Improvement Initiative,” aimed at taming runaway costs by offering doctors financial incentives to provide more efficient care.
In the struggle to fix the nation’s public schools, the old red-state, blue-state idea is looking as dated as Dick and Jane. You can hear the change in the voice of Gov. C. L. Otter, a Republican here in one of the most deeply conservative corners of the country, when he expresses a brotherhood bond with Rahm Emanuel, the Democratic mayor of Chicago and former Obama administration chief of staff. “I could empathize with Rahm and what he was going through,” Mr. Otter, better known as “Butch,” said about the recently settled teachers’ strike in Chicago during an interview here in the State Capitol.
As the campaign season shifts into full gear, one of the key groups of people that will be courted by presidential campaigns will be voters ages 18-29, otherwise referred to as the millennial generation. In 2008, this group of voters went to President Obama by 34 percentage points (66-32) according to exit polls, and a recent Harvard IOP poll shows the president with a 17 percentage point (43-26) lead over Mitt Romney. While the president will almost certainly win this demographic, the size of his victory and the level of turnout by millennials could be a deciding factor in states with a close race. There are many factors that could affect the size and scope of the youth vote in 2012. Like other Americans, millennials have lost faith in trust in the institutions of power, with the only 27 percent of millennials reporting trust in the federal government, and only 23 percent saying they trust Congress.
Jeff Maples was right. Most people who drive along Henley Street would not notice the change to the University of Tennessee’s Conference Center. Maples, UT senior associate chancellor for facilities and administration, was talking about the restoration project on the old Rich’s and later Miller’s department store building across Henley from the Knoxville Convention Center. The building recently underwent a $1.3 million face-lift when the green tiles — part of the original building in the mid-1950s — began falling off. The best thing about not noticing the change is this: We weren’t necessarily supposed to notice. The goal was to keep the building within its old historical, architectural context. And that’s what has happened, thanks to several people and agencies that showed an appreciation for the building and worked together to restore it.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation continues to make an educational impact in Memphis. The foundation awarded the National Civil Rights Museum a $549,547 grant to help the museum become a platform for a national dialogue on education and its role in earning power, career success and other quality-of-life issues. Museum officials said the couple visited the museum and then invited the institution to apply for the grant. The foundation has also awarded the Memphis City Schools district a $90 million grant for a Teacher Effectiveness Initiative designed to get great teachers in classrooms. City and county education officials hope the foundation will donate another $10 million to add about 3,200 county school teachers to the program.
Congress has recessed for the next two months. Some would argue that the nation is better off with Congress out of session than with it in session, and we are tempted to agree. But we elect those 535 members to do an important job, and to do it in the best interest of the nation and all Americans. And on that note, they have failed wretchedly. With the presidential election coming down the home stretch, members of Congress are going home to campaign for those running for re-election and, we are certain, anxious to stay out of political trouble that could have a negative effect on the presidential campaigns or on the respective parties. Many representatives and senators will merely lie low while still collecting their salaries at the rate of about $30,000 per month.