This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam was welcomed to two events in Dyer County on Tuesday, Oct. 16. The governor spent the afternoon congratulating local students and educators at two Dyer County schools for earning Reward School status. From the stage in Fifth Consolidated Elementary School’s new building, Haslam interacted with students and congratulated local educators on the hard work needed to earn the designation. The busy Haslam then traveled to downtown Newbern to announce grant funding in the amount of $300,000 for the purchase of a new pumper-tanker truck for the Newbern Fire Department.
FedEx, Volkswagen and Nissan have helped make Tennessee one of the top destination states for jobs, CNBC reports. Tennessee ranks No. 7 with 141,845 people moving here for work during 2009-2010. “Tennessee was one of only 15 states whose unemployment rate went down in 2009-2010. Of the 141,845 people who came into the state that year, many came from Florida, Georgia and Mississippi, all of whose unemployment rates had increased,” CNBC says.
These days communities need every tool to prepare children for the future. Lights On Afterschool Day recognizes one tool that enhances learning and keeps children safe and less likely to engage in risky behavior – afterschool programs. Governor Bill Haslam has named October 18th as Lights On Afterschool Day in Tennessee. The proclamation, which was requested by the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth (TCCY), marks the 13th annual national Lights On Afterschool Day.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has named October 18 as Lights On Afterschool Day in Tennessee. Afterschool programs are recognized as one tool that enhances learning and keeps children safe and less likely to engage in risky behavior. In a press release, Haslam said afterschool programs “build stronger communities by involving our students, parents, business leaders and adult volunteers in the lives of our young people, thereby promoting positive relationships among children, youth, families and adults.”
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and over 1,400 cyclists took it to the pavement last Saturday, October 13th on a soon-to-be-opened section of State Route 840 to celebrate the completion of the 26-year project. The day of free fun included several bike ride options for all ages and experience levels, from a four-mile “Family Fun Ride” to the 100-mile “Gran Fondo” that took cyclists around the rolling hills of Middle Tennessee. The event kicked off with a welcome from Governor Haslam, who rode 100 miles as leader in the Gran Fondo and TDOT Commissioner John Schroer, who led the Family Fun Ride.
Gov. Bill Haslam delivered good news Tuesday of more than $3.6 million in state grants to benefit northwest Tennessee communities. Among the communities awarded grants Tuesday were to South Fulton and Samburg. South Fulton received a $250,000 Local Park and Recreation Fund grant that will be used for what will be the city’s first park facility. The state funds will be used to develop a walking trail, a pond, playground picnic pavilion and stage. “These funds allow communities to invest in their future,” Haslam stated in a news release.
In time for Election Day, the Tennessee Secretary of State has unveiled a program that allows voters to honor current and former members of the military as they cast their ballot. It’s called the Tennessee Honor Vote program. Those who pledge to vote in the upcoming election can name a member of the military on the Secretary of State’s website alongside their own name and declare that they will be voting in honor of that service member. “We developed it, set up a website where people can go and log and name the soldier,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said.
A Woodbury company that designs and manufactures metal products has been awarded the Governor’s Award for Trade Excellence. The state Department of Economic and Community Development announced today that Global Industrial Components, Inc. would receive the award, which honors Tennessee companies “who have achieved excellence in engaging in global trade.” GIC designs and builds metal products such as screws, nuts, bolts, springs and petrol-based products such as coolants, hydraulic oils and greases.
Pharmacists in Tennessee are trying to hit the brakes on a rush to regulate the compounding business. The Massachusetts company blamed for the deadly outbreak of fungal meningitis is one of at least 50 compounding pharmacies at work in the state. Compounding pharmacies are treated just like corner drugstores in Tennessee and most other states. But some of these businesses – like New England Compounding Center – act like drug manufacturers, shipping mass-produced medicines around the country.
The death toll from fungal-meningitis cases rose to 19 people Wednesday as fallout from the outbreak appeared to put one pharmaceutical deal on hold. Health officials said Wednesday that about 250 patients have contracted fungal meningitis tied to a steroid injection from the New England Compounding Center of Framingham, Mass. A planned purchase by Baxter International Inc. of a privately held drug-compounding company, Pharmedium Healthcare Corp., was put on hold in the wake of the meningitis cases.
The widow of a prisoner who died of cancer is suing the Tennessee Department of Correction and prison officials for $80 million, saying they are responsible for the wrongful death of her husband. In the suit filed Monday, Teresa Pendergrass claimed her husband got a lung X-ray in September 2010 that showed a “mass warranting suspicion of cancer.” A subsequent MRI was misplaced, and it was not until April or May that a biopsy was performed. By that time, the cancer had spread to Preston Pendergrass’ brain.
The state has told Bedford County it wants a plan of action towards alleviating overcrowding at the county jail, and current state officials say previous officials should not have raised the jail’s rated capacity some years back. The state has asked county commissioners and law enforcement to attend a meeting on Dec. 5, and will also make a presentation at the January county commission meeting. The jail issue was reported during Tuesday night’s meeting of Bedford County Board of Commissioners’ law enforcement committee.
Domestic violence in Tennessee has declined just slightly in the past three years, according to a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation study released in a report last week. The study took numbers from the Tennessee Incident Based Reporting System, a program that stores crime data and is open to the public. The study analyzed instances of domestic violence that took place between 2009 and 2011. The study used the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s definition for domestic violence, which states that domestic violence includes “the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner against another.”
Three people have been arrested and charged with TennCare fraud after a round-up that resulted in 37 people arrested on indictments for drug charges in Dyer County. State investigators identified the three people arrested for TennCare fraud as: -Jay Lee Burton, 54, of Dyersburg, charged with TennCare fraud and selling Hydrocodone, a Schedule III controlled substance. Burton is accused of using TennCare to obtain the painkiller, later selling a portion to an undercover agent. -Charles D. Gray, 51, of Bogota, charged with TennCare fraud and selling Baclofen, a muscle relaxer.
Tennessee’s top elected officials have endorsed state Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, for re-election in Anderson County’s 33rd Legislative District, according to a news release from Ragan’s office. Gov. Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Speaker of the House Beth Harwell made their endorsements of Ragan this week, the news release states. Ragan is seeking a second two-year term and faces tough competition from Jim Hackworth, the Clinton Democrat he unseated in 2010.
Bo Mitchell is running for state House District 50 as a Democrat, but he won’t say whether he plans to vote for President Barack Obama. Pressed last week for his presidential preference at a candidates forum, the Bellevue-area Metro councilman was noncommittal: “If it doesn’t create a job, or educate a child, as a state representative, you do not need to be addressing it,” Mitchell told a room of voters. He’s not the only Democratic candidate in Democratic-leaning Davidson County who has struggled with this question.
Tens of thousands of Tennesseans turned out for the state’s first day of early voting, even though Barack Obama and Mitt Romney barely campaigned in the largely red state. Hair-stylist Regina Rhodes came out for President Obama, though she conceded in statewide races Democrats don’t have good odds. “It seems like they never win, but it didn’t stop my vote, so I don’t care whether he wins in Tennessee or not; I just care that my vote counted and that he wins the presidential election.”
African-American women were at the front of a line that stretched out the door Wednesday, for the start of early voting at the Davidson County Election Commission. Representing the local chapters of a variety of civic organizations and wearing black, they noticeably made up the majority of voters who showed up within the first hour of the polls being open. “We all decided we were going to be here the first day, dressed in black, business attire, because we thought this was serious business,” said Lorraine Greene, who wore pins for Delta Sigma Theta as well as the Coalition of 100 Black Women.
Thousands of Middle Tennesseans cast their ballots on the first day of early voting Wednesday, leaving long lines at some polls along with a smattering of voters frustrated by other issues. A total of 10,263 people went to the polls at locations throughout Davidson County, a drop-off of nearly 39 percent from the first day of early voting four years ago, when President Barack Obama won the county while losing the state to Republican nominee and Arizona Sen. John McCain. More than 10,000 voted Wednesday in Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties combined.
Both the young and old, the liberal and conservative, the t-shirted and the crisply collared lined the halls of the Shelby County Office Building on Poplar Wednesday, chatting mostly about the weather as they waited up to an hour to cast a ballot on the first morning of early voting in this year’s federal, state and municipal elections. In fact, the only thing most of them seemed to have in common — other than a strong desire to avoid even longer lines on Nov. 6 — was a photo I.D. at the ready. By the end of the day, 13,610 had voted in Shelby County.
Even as debates go on at the presidential and other levels and almost a month remains before election-day voting on November 6th, early voting has started in Shelby County. It began on Wednesday and will continue through Thursday, November 1st. As usual, the Flyer will have a detailed pre-election article before election day. Meanwhile, here is basic information on the early voting process. In an email bulletin to her network, election commissioner Norma Lester, one of two Democrats on the five-member oversight body, expressed optimism: “I hope you’ll find comfort in me saying there should be no major issues with this election!”
For many on the first day of Tennessee’s early voting period, there was no debating what they were going to do — go vote. According to area election administrators, plenty of people made their way to the early voting booths. “We had long lines and we were glad to see that,” Maybell Stewart, Washington County’s administrator of elections, said. “It looks like we are going to have over 1,600 voters today.” She said the crowd that came into the Gray, Johnson City and Jonesborough precincts was a mix of older and younger voters who seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Mike Tiano wanted to beat the crowd on the upcoming Nov. 6 presidential election day when he joined others in voting early Wednesday. Tiano said he’s mostly worried about the economy and Medicare, but he preferred not say who got his vote. “I like to keep my political views to myself,” said Tiano, who resides in Murfreesboro. “It helps me keep friends.” Murfreesboro resident Latrice Akridge, though, wasn’t bashful in her support of Democratic President Barack Obama.
Madison County voters kept poll workers busy on Wednesday, making it a record-breaking first day of early voting. Administrator of elections Kim Buckley said there were 612 absentee votes sent into her office earlier in the week and 1,642 people who voted in person on Wednesday. Many voters showed up with their voter and state-issued photo identification on the first day of voting. “We didn’t have any issues with the photo identification requirement,” Buckley said. “Overall, it was a wonderful day.”
Eager voters lined up early Wednesday morning to be among the first to vote in Montgomery County. 2,396 people cast ballots on the first day of early voting at the Election Commission office in Veterans Plaza on Pageant Lane That’s a big turnout considering that 1,775 people voted on the first day of early voting during the Barack Obama/John McCain presidential election. The turnout was steady all day, with a long but fast-moving line outside the office doors. “If you see a long line, don’t be scared, because we’ll get you through in a hurry,” said Vickie Koelman, administrator of elections.
Wilson County is one of Tennessee’s fastest growing counties, and resident J.M. Kuno sees the effects every day. When he’s not battling traffic congestion near Providence Place, he’s wondering when his property will get a sewer line. “Nobody seems to know,” said Kuno, 66, a retired teacher. “That is a concern to me in terms of property values.” His 5.5 acres are just outside Mt. Juliet city limits and back up to the Breckenridge Estates subdivision. From road and bridge repairs to additional water lines and sewers, Tennessee needs $38 billion in public improvement between now and 2015, a recently released state report shows.
Knox County leaders are ready to overhaul a government watchdog panel, particularly after its members in a much criticized move reappointed two of their own this month while giving little consideration to 23 other applicants. “This doesn’t seem right, the way it rode itself out,” Knox County Commissioner Sam McKenzie said during Monday’s work session. “I think this process wasn’t as open and transparent as it could have been, should have been.” At issue are two appointments the Knox County Ethics Committee made Oct. 10.
At the end of a long night at City Hall with a relatively short agenda, Shelby County Commissioner Sidney Chism told Memphis City Council members that their meetings looked like more “fun” than the commission’s meetings. The council ended at least one part of a contentious and emotional political discussion about a non-discrimination ordinance that includes protection for gay and transgender citizens in city government personnel decisions. They approved on third and final reading an ordinance Tuesday, Oct. 16, that forbids the city from discriminating in hiring, firing or promotion based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
What’s an award from a Japanese emperor worth? It might be hard to place a specific value, depending upon your affinity for high honors from foreign leaders, but there are some ways to quantify it. How about this: investment by 170 Japanese companies, employing 35,000 Tennessee workers. That’s the amount of economic activity U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said ties back to Tennessee’s relationship with the Japanese. It’s a relationship he famously minted as governor of Tennessee on a trip to Japan in 1979, and one he said is a credit to the state overall for welcoming the Japanese just in time for a wave of economic development.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander is receiving a decoration conferred by Japanese Emperor Akihito in recognition of his dedication to Japan-U.S. relations. Alexander will receive the “Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star” Wednesday evening from Motohiko Kato, the consul general of Japan in Nashville. While Alexander was Tennessee governor and economic competition between the U.S. and Japan was tense in the early 1980s, he led numerous trade missions to Japan. The recruitment resulted in Nissan building the first Japanese auto assembly plant in the U.S. at Smyrna.
U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher heads into the Nov. 6 election with a legislative success to talk about. What remains to be seen is whether most 8th District voters also see it that way. The Tennessean’s Washington bureau reported the freshman Republican’s Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act was supported by business groups because its aim is to make it easier for small, private firms to get venture capital through initial public offerings. “Let the job creators create jobs,” Fincher said. “Ninety percent of job growth occurs after companies go public.”
The forge of politics creates its own steely cliches. The well-worn “October surprise” was born in the Vietnam era, its origin tied to both Lyndon Johnson’s ultimately false claim that peace was coming in ’68 and to Richard Nixon’s more veracious — if also a bit shallow — announcement of the same four years later. In the modern Steroids Era of breaking news, the preferred term for such events is “game changer,” a newer phrase in the parlance but still as tired a trope as its predecessor. But some turns of phrase are hackneyed because they are appropriate and no other words will do.
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais is battling to hang onto his seat after revelations that he pressed a patient with whom he’d had a relationship to go ahead with an abortion. DesJarlais, R-South Pittsburg, has launched an extensive television ad campaign at least part of which hits his Democratic opponent and worked to reassure supporters of his commitment to anti-abortion efforts amid evidence that some voters might be wavering on him. The moves come as one conservative organization has called for him to resign and the campaign of state Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Belvidere, released results of a poll that seems to show a spike in DesJarlais’ unfavorability rating.
Democrat Eric Stewart’s campaign says its new poll shows his race with Republican Congressman Scott DesJarlais is now a “dead heat” following revelations that the physician urged a patient whom he once dated to get an abortion a dozen years ago. Pollster Andrew Myers said the survey of 400 likely voters shows Jasper congressman leading state Sen. Stewart of Winchester by 49-45 percent. That’s a “dead heat,” he said because it falls within the poll’s 4.9 percent margin of error.
A Democrat-sponsored poll shows Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais’ popularity plunging after publicity over the 4th District congressman’s sexual relationship with a former patient and a conversation about her having an abortion. The poll of 400 likely voters, conducted Oct. 14-15 and outlined Wednesday by pollster Andrew Myers, showed DesJarlais still ahead, 49 percent to 44 percent. But that was an 11-point drop for DesJarlais since a June poll, Myers said, and means the race is now “a dead heat.”
Sen. Bob Corker’s fundraising total for year exceeds $11M, FEC filings show In the most competitive Middle Tennessee congressional race, Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais raised $80,000 more than his Democratic opponent, Eric Stewart, in the most recent campaign fundraising period, Federal Election Commission records show. The two are competing for the 4th Congressional District seat. DesJarlais, the Republican incumbent from Jasper, raised $194,748 between July 14 and Sept. 30, bringing his total for this election cycle to $1.14 million.
The conversation surrounding the 7th District Congressional race features a myriad of complex federal issues with no easy answers, but Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Democratic challenger Credo Amouzouvik are more than willing to jump in the fray. Blackburn of Williamson County, now 60, and the newcomer Amouzouvik of Clarksville, 34, are both confronted by a range of national issues that include a $16 trillion federal debt, continued military operations in troubled middle Eastern war zones, the never-ending challenge of education funding and the escalating question of the environment.
When states received $2.5 billion from big banks in a mortgage-foreclosure settlement earlier this year, the expectation was that most of it would be used to aid distressed homeowners. But so far, less than half of the money has been designated for that cause—with much of the rest going to help close state budget gaps, says a report scheduled for release Thursday. In March, 49 states reached a $25 billion settlement with five of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders over charges that they had improperly processed foreclosures.
On August 12, Steve Tilley was speaker of the Missouri House and one of the most influential political figures in the state. On August 13, he left the legislature entirely, having resigned his seat with five months left in his term. Within weeks, Tilley, a Republican, had registered as a lobbyist. In making this switch, Tilley had company. His Democrat counterpart, Minority Leader Mike Talboy, had made the transition from legislator to lobbyist in the spring. The career path of Tilley and Talboy is unusual. Most Missouri legislators, of course, aren’t suddenly becoming lobbyists. Most aren’t leaving the legislature early.
After the NHL made an offer calling for a 50/50 revenue split that would not roll back existing contracts and would preserve an 82 game season, businesses and those in the sports industry cheer the progress in the league’s ongoing lockout.”We’re playing hockey,” said Robin Henderson, senior vice president of the sports and entertainment division for CapStar Bank, predicted. “I don’t think if you asked anybody really who is in the know that it would break this fast. I think the players are ready to play hockey.”
Volkswagen officials gave an incorrect estimate when they originally calculated some emissions for the Chattanooga plant, and the company is seeking a 20 percent hike over its initial projection. Documents filed with city regulators also show new details for potential plant expansion that would double production with the addition of new assembly, body and press shops. Bob Colby, who heads the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Air Pollution Control Bureau, said VW used “an incorrect number” when it originally sought an emissions permit in 2008 while the plant was still under design.
The number of jobs an intermodal facility is expected to bring to the Marshall County area impressed Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., during a fact-finding tour Wednesday afternoon. “It’s going to be a wonderful economic boom,” said Wicker, reflecting on information reported to him by the developer. “When you talk 10,000 to 15,000 jobs, you’re talking about real economic activity.” Workers broke ground on the Norfolk-Southern intermodal yard in Fayette County, Tenn., abutting Marshall County, last year.
Area struggles to keep up with student growth Tennessee schools need $8 billion to satisfy building and renovation demands into 2015 — and Metro Nashville schools and neighboring systems need more than $1 billion of that, according to a recently released state report. The study authored by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations shows school infrastructure improvements need to be in some stage of development between 2011 and 2015 for the state’s K-12 school systems.
Gov. Bill Haslam has proclaimed today “Lights On Afterschool Day.” The designation marks the 13th annual national event and highlights the importance of this valuable education and community development tool. Nowhere could this be more important than in Jackson-Madison County schools. Our community needs every tool available to improve student performance and to help guide and develop students into the best young people they can be. After-school programs are a proven method of enhancing public education, guiding students and building a stronger community. The “Lights On Afterschool” program is a project of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth.
“When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose.”Can Bob Dylan say it, or what? There’s a useful paraphrase to this line from Dylan’s 1960s classic “Like a Rolling Stone” in relation to first-term U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais and his initial official response to reports that more than a decade ago he encouraged a woman with whom he’d had an affair to get an abortion: “When you ain’t got no good defense, you got no good defense to use.” There are four basic political defenses: 1. I didn’t do it. 2. I did it but I can explain (or it’s not what you think). 3. I did it and I’ll never do it again. 4. The person who says I did it is a rat.