This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam’s state budget hearings continue in Nashville with presentations by officials for transportation, children’s services and other departments. As the hearings opened Tuesday, Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said he wasn’t asking for funds to expand pre-kindergarten classes. However, Huffman said expanding enrollment in schools and inflation will require an additional $2 million in routine cost increases. According to The Commercial Appeal (http://bit.ly/XjgSlz ), Haslam told his cabinet to develop plans for a 5 percent cut in spending as a fallback.
Governor Bill Haslam expects the budget he started hearings on Tuesday to be his hardest yet, even though state revenue has been stable over the last year. Haslam says departments that have endured years of stagnation or cuts are now clamoring for more money. Pointing to rising costs like health benefits and corrections, Haslam has asked each department what it would be like to cut another 5 percent. After years of tight budgets, the Department of Environment and Conservation said it couldn’t just lay people off, but would have to shutter some parks for lack of workers to run them.
The state’s top education official said Tuesday he’s not asking to fund additional pre-kindergarten classrooms next year, but the existing 934 classes across the state will need nearly $2 million to cover routine cost increases. Overall K-12 school funding next year will increase by about $45 million due to enrollment and inflationary cost increases. State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman was among the first state agency and department heads to present their budget requests to Gov. Bill Haslam for the state’s fiscal year that starts next July 1.
One of the governor’s top commissioners is suggesting the state charge drivers a convenience fee for renewing their licenses online or in the mail. It would be the first increase in driver’s license costs since the 1980’s, according to state officials, and one Finance and Administration Commissioner Mark Emkes says is due. “If you’re giving them a more convenient service, I think most citizens would be willing to pay a little bit more for that,” Emkes told The City Paper following a string of budget hearings with Gov. Bill Haslam and other high-ranking state officials.
Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman is proposing only a 2 percent increase in education spending to accommodate growth and inflation in the next year, but he is already thinking two years ahead, when significant federal funding dries up. On the first day of departmental budget hearings in front of Gov. Bill Haslam, Finance and Administration Commissioner Mark Emkes and state Budget Director David Thurman, Huffman proposed an increase in state education spending of nearly $47 million for the 2013-14 budget year.
Tennessee’s education commissioner says schools need to decide soon how to spend their Race to the Top money. The state won half a billion dollars from the federal government two years ago and all of it has to be spent by 2014. Tennessee was one of the first states awarded Race to the Top money. Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman told Governor Bill Haslam that some school systems haven’t spent their share of the money, and the clock is ticking. “At this point, 18 months out, we’ve heard from districts ‘well, we’re not there yet, but we’re going to spend the money.’ That’s fine now, but it becomes less fine with each succeeding quarter.”
Flat Creek Water Cooperative will receive a $450,000 community development block grant (CDBG) for water line extension, Gov. Bill Haslam announced on Monday. Because CDBGs must be applied for by a municipality — a city, town or county — Bedford County applied for the grant on Flat Creek Water Cooperative’s behalf, as it also does for Bedford County Utility District, alternating between the two as necessary. Local funds The $450,000 grant will pair with local funds in the amount of $92,169 to fund a $542,169 project.
Call him the Secretary of Tweet. Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett is hitting the ‘go’ button on a revamped website where voters can see live, up-to-the-minute election results from across the state. The site, which can be found at elections.tn.gov, will show election results not only by each political contest but by county and precinct, too. Featured races will include the presidential and Congressional elections as well as state Senate and state House. “One of the things you’ll see this evening for the first time … is the percentages of votes instead of just raw vote numbers,” Hargett told TNReport.
University of Tennessee administrators are taking applications for its newest vice president position — this one for communications and marketing — and hopes to have it filled by early next year. The school released a job description for the position Tuesday, which was created when UT President Joe DiPietro opted to split the responsibilities previously held by Hank Dye, vice president for public and government relations. Dye retired in June, and UT opted to promote Anthony Haynes to vice president for government relations.
A Tennessee state employee charged with giving licenses to unqualified applicants pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal bribery counts in federal district court in Nashville. The defendant, Larry Murphy, 54, who worked for the Department of Safety, had been accused of issuing state drivers licenses in exchange for more than $5,000 in bribes over five months ending in April. U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp told Murphy, of Antioch, that he faces a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a $250,000 fine.
Tennessee Republicans have now clinched what some are calling a “mega-majority” in the state legislature. They flipped six seats from blue to red in the state Senate, and at least that many in the state House. Republicans have had an easy time passing their agenda the last couple years, but it’s the first time in Tennessee’s history they’ve held a position so dominating. Now State GOP Chairman Chris Devaney says Republicans can pass legislation, even if Democrats refuse to show up at all.
Democratic incumbent state Reps. Barbara Cooper and Larry Miller won re-election Tuesday in Shelby County’s only two contested state legislative races, but elsewhere across Tennessee, Republicans strengthened their majorities in both houses of the General Assembly. The GOP won a “super majority” — at least two-thirds of the membership — in the state Senate and appeared likely late Tuesday to do the same in the House of Representatives. That status allows the GOP to alter legislative rules and procedure at will and to maintain a quorum to pass legislation even if no Democrats were present for floor sessions.
Tennessee Republicans achieved the state legislative supermajorities they coveted as a result of Tuesday’s general election. They were helped by a near-sweep of state Senate and House seats in Northeast Tennessee. Before the election, the GOP held a 20-13 majority in the state Senate and a 64-34 House majority with one independent — state Rep. Kent Williams of Elizabethton. Tuesday’s statewide election results moved the majority to 26-7 in the Senate. House Republicans were expecting up to a five-seat gain late Tuesday night.
Now that Republicans have a so-called “mega-majority” in Tennessee’s legislature, some are more worried about infighting than about interference from Democrats. It’s been 35 years since any party held such a dominating majority in Tennessee. Republican leaders are loath to squander it, so Senate Caucus Chair Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro says they’ll look to curb any bickering. “It’s very easy to offend each other, because there’s a lot of egos, believe it or not, down at the state capitol. It’s easy to get mad at each other.”
Steve Dickerson declared an early victory Tuesday night in Senate District 20 and led the way to a historic majority for Republicans in the upper house of the state legislature. Republicans won 15 out of 16 state Senate contests, picking up six seats for a total of 26 to the Democrats’ seven. The two-thirds “super majority” will allow them to pass legislation at will, rendering Democrats effectively irrelevant. The only Senate race Republicans did not win Tuesday night was the one in which they didn’t run — District 30, where Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, who made a deal with Republicans during redistricting in order to avoid facing Republican opposition, ran unopposed.
In a series of apparent upsets, three Davidson County Democrats narrowly fought off Republicans in traditionally blue state House seats, bucking a GOP trend which saw the party construct super majorities in the State Capitol. Tuesday’s election turned the Tennessee House of Representatives overwhelmingly Republican, giving the chamber a 70-28 majority with one Independent and the GOP power to legislate without Democrats. “Tennessee voters affirmed tonight that our state is heading in the right direction,” said Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney in a statement late Tuesday.
Republican Steve Dickerson won a historic victory Tuesday in the battle for a Senate seat representing a large swath of Nashville. Dickerson, an anesthesiologist, defeated Democrat Phillip North and will succeed Sen. Joe Haynes, a Democrat who is retiring after 28 years, in District 20. Dickerson will be the first Republican senator from Davidson County that anyone can recall, joining veteran Democrats Thelma Harper and Douglas Henry in the county’s delegation in the General Assembly’s upper chamber.
Democrat Bo Mitchell has apparently defeated Republican Charles Williamson for the District 50 state House seat in a hotly contested race that was as much about Williamson’s residency in the district as it was about the issues. The victory allowed the state Democratic Party to retain one of its House seats and gave Mitchell three election wins since 2007. “I come from a very meager background,” Mitchell said. “I’m the son of a drywall man. This is just more than I ever expected.”
Todd Gardenhire became the first Republican in four decades to win Tennessee’s 10th state Senate district, soundly dispatching Democrat and Chattanooga City Councilman Andraé McGary by eight percentage points. Gardenhire, 64, won a four-year term that pays $19,000 annually. He’ll succeed Sen. Andy Berke, a prominent Democrat, and become a freshman member of a Republican Senate that will begin January’s new session with a filibuster-proof “supermajority.”
Blountville Republican Timothy Hill was elected Tuesday to Tennessee’s District 3 House seat, easily defeating Democratic opponent Leah Kirk for a two-year term in Nashville. “It’s been a long campaign, so I’m blessed to see it end in success,” Hill said during a victory party at his parents’ Blountville home. “I’m looking forward to working hard for the people of District 3.” The district covers all of Johnson County, some of Carter and a portion of Sullivan County, including Bristol, Blountville and Bluff City.
Hamilton and area counties returned four incumbents to the Tennessee House of Representatives Tuesday, along with two new lawmakers. Republicans Mike Carter of Hamilton County and Ron Travis of Rhea County will be the new lawmakers in delegation when the Tennessee General Assembly convenes in January 2013. Incumbents returning will be Republicans Vince Dean, Richard Floyd and Gerald McCormick, along with Democrat JoAnne Favors. House District 31 Ron Travis, 57, a Dayton businessman, had no Democratic opposition for House District 31.
Independent incumbent Kent Williams overcame a large deficit in Unicoi County by sweeping every precinct in Carter County to claim a fourth term as the 4th District representative to the Tennessee House of Representatives. Williams defeated Republican candidate Thom Gray by a vote of 9,110 to 6,334 in unofficial results in Carter County. “That was the largest margin we have ever had in Carter County,” Williams said. It was done without the support of some of his traditional strong areas such as Hampton and Tiger Creek, which were lost to the 3rd District in the latest redistricting.
Republican Dawn White won election to Rutherford County’s newest state House seat, easily beating Democratic opponent Bob New for the 37th District seat on Tuesday. For complete election results, see the election widget on the right side of The DNJ’s homepage. POSTED EARLIER With only 497 absentee votes tabulated as of about 9:45 p.m. Tuesday, Republican Dawn White was edging out Democratic rival Robert “Bob” New with 65 percent of the vote in the 37th District race.
Republican State Reps. Mike Sparks and Rick Womick won reelection to their House seats, holding off challenges by Democrats Mike Williams and Luke Dickerson, respectively. For final numbers from Rutherford County voters, see the election widget to the right side of the dnj.com homepage. POSTED EARLIER The race for the state House of Representatives 49th District had one similarity from the race two years ago — it featured the same candidates, but the outcome may not be known until Wednesday.
Incumbents won re-election Tuesday in state House and Senate races across West Tennessee, including Rep. Jimmy Eldridge in Madison County’s District 73. Jimmy Eldridge, R-Jackson, defeated his Democratic opponent Corey Currie, also of Jackson. Eldridge received 19,045 votes, while Currie garnered 7,946 votes, according to unofficial final election results. “I’m honored to go back to Nashville and continue doing the good things that improve the quality of life for citizens of Madison County, West Tennessee and the entire state of Tennessee,” Eldridge said.
Dr. Mark Green pledged to work “tirelessly” for the people of Montgomery, Stewart and Houston counties as the next state senator from District 22. Green, a Republican, beat out Democratic incumbent Sen. Tim Barnes by more than 3,700 votes on Tuesday in a highly contested race. “We promise to serve you and work as hard as we possibly can — tirelessly — to continue to make this district the very best in Tennessee and the best place to live and work in all of the nation,” Green said after thanking voters from the district’s three counties.
State Rep. John Tidwell, D-New Johnsonville, has won a ninth term in the Tennessee House, but without a victory in his new territory of Montgomery County. He won handily, though, in Houston and Humphreys counties, enough to wipe out his nearly 700-vote deficit in western Montgomery County to challenger Laurie Day. Tidwell, who worried that a strong Republican performance nationally and statewide might translate to a closer race, was noticeably relieved when the late numbers rolled in.
Tennessee lawmakers are preparing for a pitched battle over education in the upcoming session — specifically, who’s best at providing it and whether it’s right to put public education into private hands. Republicans will offer up bills that would strip local school boards of authority to approve charter schools and would grant private-school vouchers to families who couldn’t otherwise afford to pay tuition. Democrats oppose both, but the GOP heavily dominates both the state House and Senate. Democrats hope to gain allies among rural Republicans in counties where charter schools haven’t taken hold.
Absentees delay Rutherford results Sheer numbers of voters overwhelming polling places in Middle Tennessee, plus the extra step added by the state’s new voter ID law, created a frustrating Election Day for hundreds. Rutherford County won’t get vote totals until today after election officials there failed to get 3,000 absentee ballots counted. The computer system won’t compile Election Day votes until it gets the absentee total, said Rutherford County Elections Administrator Nicole Lester.
People made mountains out of molehills when complaining about long lines and voting machine malfunctions at some voting sites in Hamilton County, according to the administrator of the election commission. The voting machine at the Bethlehem Center in Alton Park did jam, but it was repaired quickly, said Charlotte Mullis-Morgan. While there were some long lines at polling places, no one was turned away from voting, although some people might have grown tired and left, she said.
A wheel tax hike to fund schools in Sumner County failed overwhelmingly. More than 60 percent of voters were against the $25 tax increase, even after a budget stalemate led to a two-week delay in the opening of schools this year. Joann Brown is a retiree from Westmoreland who doesn’t believe the school system is in such dire need. “The school can find money if they want it. There are senior citizens that don’t have a very big income and still have to pay it, and I don’t think it’s right.”
Chattanooga voters overwhelmingly approved a city charter amendment Tuesday that would mirror state laws when it comes to recalls of elected officials. Voters approved the ballot referendum 39,272 to 13,991, with 100 percent of the votes counted, according to unofficial results. The City Council approved putting the measure on the ballot in July. The referendum came after two years of legal battles concerning whether and how Mayor Ron Littlefield should be recalled from office.
The votes have been counted and Tennessee will return the same congressional delegation to Washington. Incumbents from Memphis to Mountain City, Democrat Steve Cohen in Memphis to Republican Phil Roe in Johnson City will go back to the U.S. Capitol to represent their constituents in the same manner they have done for the last few years. Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, whose election was never in doubt, was returned to office as well, winning more than 65 percent of the vote against Mark Clayton, a controversial Democrat who was disavowed by his own party.
After barely winning his U.S. Senate seat in a $33 million slugfest six years ago, Bob Corker coasted to one of the easiest re-elections of any U.S. senator on Tuesday. Corker, a 60-year-old former Chattanooga mayor, won a second term by outpolling Democrat Mark Clayton by more than a 2-to-1 margin. Seven other candidates on the ballot trailed far behind. “It’s certainly a lot different tonight than it was six years ago, but I’m probably more energized and enthusiastic than I have ever been,” Corker said Tuesday night during an election night victory party in Nashville.
Tennessee Senator Bob Corker is hoping a deficit deal can shake loose in Congress, now that the election is past and the so-called “fiscal cliff” is looming. Corker handily won a second term last night. Corker has often said he couldn’t go back to the U.S. Senate if he didn’t think a deal was within reach, amid the ongoing standoff over federal spending. Many of his fellow Republicans have refused to consider raising taxes. But Corker sees room to bargain for lower tax rates, in exchange for closing loopholes, particularly where they affect the well-to-do.
A Tennessee Republican congressman won re-election on Tuesday overcoming revelations that he once had an affair with a patient and urged her to get an abortion. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a Jasper physician before going to Congress, beat Democratic challenger Eric Stewart on Tuesday. With 76 percent of precincts reporting, DesJarlais had 111,988 votes, or 57 percent, compared with Stewart’s 83,835 votes, or 43 percent. DesJarlais, who opposes abortion rights, largely withdrew from public sight a month ago after news accounts based on his 2001 divorce emerged.
Voters in the 4th Congressional District shrugged off a sex scandal and gave U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais a second term. DesJarlais defeated state Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Belvidere, by a double-digit margin, nearly matching his upset win two years ago. Stewart conceded the race at 11:30 p.m., with about half of the results finalized in Rutherford County, where tallies were delayed by an election night snafu. “The voters have spoken. I’m proud of the campaign we ran,” he said.
Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais held a strong lead over Democrat Eric Stewart late Tuesday in an election dominated by revelations about the Jasper physician’s decade-old extramarital affairs and acknowledgment he once pressed a patient he dated to seek an abortion. Unofficial state tallies showed DesJarlais ahead of Stewart, a state senator from Winchester, with nearly 60 percent of the vote in the 16-county 4th Congressional District. DesJarlais and several legislative candidates gathered at a law firm in Winchester, Stewart’s backyard, awaiting results.
In the only hotly contested congressional race in Tennessee, Scott DesJarlais pulled out a victory, despite a second election cycle marked by unsavory details from his past. Two years ago, his opponent released descriptions, lifted from decade-old divorce records, of DesJarlais threatening violence against his ex-wife and himself. This time, the news was a recorded phone call, also from the time of his divorce, in which the pro life Republican pressured his mistress to have an abortion. DesJarlais referenced both rounds of mudslinging as he thanked supporters.
As an incumbent Republican with a 10-to-1 money advantage, Chuck Fleischmann strolled into a second term in Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District. Fleischmann, 50, a Chattanooga attorney, took 61 percent percent of the vote against Democrat Mary Headrick, a Maynardville acute-care physician. “It’s a tremendous win for us tonight,” Fleischmann said in a telephone call from his victory party at Chattanooga’s DoubleTree hotel. “We’re very thankful that my message of fiscal and social conservatism has been accepted well in the new 3rd District.”
Republican U.S. Rep. Phil Roe cruised to re-election victory Tuesday. Roe collected 76 percent of the vote in the 1st Congressional District, according to unofficial numbers late Tuesday. Democratic challenger Alan Woodruff collected 20 percent. Green Party candidate Robert N. Smith garnered 1 percent of the vote, while independents Michael D. Salyer received less than 1 percent and Karen Sherry Bracket received 2 percent. Roe easily won Sullivan County with 76 percent of the vote.
Some of the best fireworks in the 9th Congressional District race took place on election night as incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen accused rival Dr. George Flinn of running the “most deceptive, deceiving campaign possible.” Cohen singled out for criticism a last-minute robocall jointly endorsing Republican Flinn with the nation’s best-known Democrat, President Barack Obama. The effort linking a long-term Republican to a popular Democrat fell short of its goal as Cohen took the election in a landslide.
President Barack Obama carried Shelby County in unofficial Nov. 6 election returns as his Republican challenger Mitt Romney took the state’s 11 electoral votes. Voter turnout in the most popular election cycle among Shelby County voters was 61.9 percent, about the same percentage as four years ago. But the 371,256 voters is fewer than 2008 when more than 400,000 Shelby County voters cast ballots. The percentage is about the same because there are fewer registered voters in Shelby County than there were four years ago after a purge by election officials.
At a press conference held jointly Tuesday with Shelby County Democratic chairman Van Turner, 9th district congressman Steve Cohen called attention to what he said were “disturbing” indications that Shelby County voters may have have been given “intentional” misinformation in an effort to dissuade them from voting. Speaking to reporters at his Union Avenue campaign headquarters, the congressman was following up on comments made by Turner concerning anecdotal reports that people on a list of “inactive” but eligible voters prepared by the Shelby County Election Commission may have been told by poll workers that they were not allowed to vote.
Long before the polls closed Tuesday night, Timothy Dixon of Germantown, running as a Democrat against well-heeled Republican freshman Stephen Fincher for the 8th Congressional District seat, wasn’t sounding optimistic. “Of course it was obvious months ago,” he conceded after the race was called for Fincher Tuesday night. But Dixon said since Fincher took office, he has gone from “that hard right group” to talking about bipartisanship, “and if he sticks to it, that would be great for all of us.”
Republicans retained control of the House in Tuesday’s elections, ensuring that Democrats will have a tough time getting their way in Washington even if Democrats retain control of the Senate and President Barack Obama is re-elected. Early results led networks to project that Democrats would fall far short of the 25-seat gain they needed to take back control of the House, which they lost to Republicans two years ago. Democrats, may in fact, lose seats. “For two years our House majority has been the primary line of defense for the American people,” House Speaker John Boehner said.
While President Obama cruised to victory in the Electoral College, he lost Tennessee by an even wider margin than in 2008. People like 69-year-old Henry Haynes of south Nashville voted Republican this year.“Well, because I don’t think he did the job we elected him to.” Only four Tennessee counties went for Obama this year, compared to six in 2008. Davidson County remained supportive of the President with the help of student and bartender Jessica Hough. “While I liked Romney’s business past, I came down to a lot more of the social issues with Obama that I agreed with. So that was kind of the tilting factor for me.”
As expected, Tennessee voted resoundingly for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor secured the Volunteer State’s 11 electoral votes in a comprehensive victory. Romney bested President Barack Obama across the state, with the Democratic incumbent winning traditional strongholds in Nashville and Memphis, plus a smattering of rural counties in southwest Tennessee. Unlike its neighbors Virginia and North Carolina, Tennessee was never really a factor in the election, with both candidates largely ignoring the state spending precious little money and holding an insignificant number of campaign events here.
Shelby County remained that speck of Democratic blue near the center of county-by-county U.S. presidential election maps, and, on state-by-state maps, Tennessee for a fourth-straight cycle stayed Republican red. In the 2012 presidential election, that dynamic was so deeply presumed that most of the local involvement involved calling or visiting voters in other states, with Iowa receiving a strong emphasis from Memphis-area Republicans and North Carolina from Memphis-area Democrats.
Work focus is on East Fork Poplar Creek Several Recovery Act-funded cleanup projects at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant were reportedly completed ahead of schedule and under budget, creating a pool of savings that’s now being used to fund other cleanups at the Oak Ridge plant. Most of the savings — reported to be somewhere between $26 million and $32 million — are being applied to U.S. Department of Energy projects that will help reduce the plant’s mercury discharges. Toxic mercury is a pervasive legacy of Y-12’s Cold War role in developing thermonuclear weapons.
Small businesses won’t budge on some major decisions until after today’s election results are revealed. So says a new survey released by Insperity Inc. that shows small-business owners are worried about the election’s outcome — and massive cuts to federal spending — that may affect their bottom line. “With the exception of plans to increase employee compensation in the next few months, business owners are standing firm awaiting the results of the 2012 election,” said Paul J. Sarvadi, Insperity’s CEO.
Novare Digital, a marketing and communications firm, has moved its headquarters to Nashville, according to a news release. The firm currently employs seven people in Nashville, with plans to rapidly expand over the next six months. The company’s operations center is based in Warsaw, Poland, where the company employs about 60 people. As part of the announcement, Novare also announced a $500,000 project with the Tennessee Democratic Party to, among other things, redesign nearly 60 websites.
Thomas Nelson Inc.’s local warehouse operations are set to lose an unknown number of jobs following the announcement that parent company HarperCollins is closing its last two U.S. warehouses. In July, HarperCollins finalized its purchase of Thomas Nelson, the headquarters and warehouse for which are located near Nashville International Airport. In late 2011, the two entities agreed to the deal, which was worth about $200 million. Thomas Nelson had been under the wing of private-equity firm Kohlberg & Co. since mid-2010.
The board of the United Methodist Publishing House will close its network of Cokesbury retail stores by next spring and is investing more in its website, call center, direct sales and event presence. Cokesbury’s 38 full-line stores and 19 seminary stores — which are concentrated in an area from Texas to Pennsylvania — will shut their doors by April 30, officials said. A recent survey showed that just 15 percent of the division’s customers shopped only its retail stores. That, they said, has made the locations “no longer financially viable.”
The United Methodist Publishing House plans to close its Cokesbury retail bookstores nationwide, including in Nashville, to focus on selling online and through its call center. From January through April, all 38 standalone retail stores, including the one off Eighth Avenue South near downtown Nashville, and 19 stores at seminaries across the country will close, the company announced Monday. Across the chain, about 185 full-time employees plus more than 100 part-time workers will lose their jobs as the company redirects its resources toward other sales channels as part of an initiative it calls CokesburyNext .
Knox County school board members asked questions and expressed concerns Tuesday night with the district’s proposed elementary rezoning plan in the southwest corner of the county. Looking at current and proposed enrollments, Thomas Deakins focused in on Hardin Valley Elementary School, one of seven schools to be affected by the plan. “My concern on Hardin Valley is that we’re really tight at 1,100 (students) right now,” he said. According to the proposed plan, five of seven schools such as Hardin Valley Elementary would see enrollments go down by about 200 students after students are shifted.
Gov. Bill Haslam began his annual state budget review on Tuesday. While the state’s financial picture looks better than it did two years ago when he took office, Haslam faces pressure to increase spending in key areas, including the Department of Correction and higher education. Recent lean years have seen state department budget cuts that Haslam now must begin to reconcile to ensure departments can deliver effective and efficient public service. Haslam’s budget hearings are open to the public and will be held through Thursday in Nashville. The open hearings offer insight into state budget needs and priorities. The governor has asked departments to submit budget requests that include 5 percent reductions, though he is optimistic that might not be needed thanks to steadily increasing state revenue.
The riveting drama of the presidential election aside, area Tennessee voters had good reason last night to pay attention to the outcome of local and state legislative elections. Three contested state House seats and the 10th state Senate District seat here were at stake. And so was the lamentable likelihood of Republicans gaining a super-majority in both legislative chambers in Nashville, though nothing could be worse for reasoned lawmaking. As it turned out, there were no surprises here. Todd Gardenhire won the only serious legislative contest, taking the 10th state Senate District by a margin of more than 5,000 votes over Chattanooga City Councilman Andrea McGary, according to Associated Press reports for 98 percent of precincts.
Election Day 2012 was further proof that Tennessee is one of the reddest of all Red States. In addition to Mitt Romney’s drubbing of President Obama here, Republicans took supermajority control of both houses of the Tennessee General Assembly for the first time in state history and Sen. Bob Corker and all seven GOP U.S. House members were returned to Washington. Even local races and ballot initiatives demonstrate Tennessee’s tilt towards conservative principles and free market, limited government policy solutions. DesJarlais wins despite controversy While Sen. Bob Corker and Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District were expected to be re-elected handily, few could predict how embattled 4th District Congressman Scott DesJarlais would fare.
Tennesseans spoke with one voice on Tuesday. It was no surprise for those of us who have been out in neighborhoods going door to door and listening to the concerns of our citizens. Tennesseans are a thoughtful population who trust God, believe in our families and do not view the government as the be-all and end-all in society. While that may come as a shock to some in the media, those principles were reflected in the vote on this Election Day. Volunteer State voters soundly rejected a president whose singular focus has been defined by an ever-expansive view of government. At the same time, they gave a major vote of confidence to the Tennessee General Assembly. In the Tennessee House of Representatives, Republicans now enjoy a supermajority — the likes of which has not been seen since 1977.
Discussions about which institutions do the best job of preparing classroom teachers have been the subject of two recent stories in The Commercial Appeal. The Memphis Teacher Residency program and Teach for America-Memphis earned high marks on a report card based on three years of study by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. The two teacher training programs, according to the data, outperformed 12 other Tennessee programs, including the one at the University of Memphis. The U of M countered that it has jettisoned its old teacher education program — beefing up students’ entry requirements, including GPA, rewriting the curriculum and turning student teaching into a residency like those in medical schools.
A year ago, Mitchell-Neilson Elementary Principal Robin Newell didn’t know which direction her school was headed. At that point, it was in its second year as a High Priority School, and she was forced to tell parents they could take their children elsewhere if they wanted. Instead of a mass exodus, just about all of them stayed, and Newell promised “things would change.” A year later, Mitchell-Neilson went from average and failing grades for value added scores for school progress to an A, two B’s and only one D, according to the state’s 2012 report card. In short, she kept her word. Making progress at a time that teachers are being required to go through seemingly constant evaluations is difficult.
One of the most frightening days of my life came on that fateful May day in 2010, when my husband and I got wind that our beloved Nashville was flooding. We had spent a couple of days at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and I turned on the TV in our hotel room late on Sunday afternoon to see Jim Cantore with the Weather Channel near our neighborhood. Not good. Not at all good. We started making calls to find out about our neighborhood, but couldn’t get through to anyone who knew anything — power was out and all phone lines, including cell systems, were down. We looked at Facebook and Twitter, and got lots of information, but nothing specific to whether our street was under water.
A long, difficult period in America is over. After nearly two years of campaigning and billions of dollars spent, voters have made their choice, giving President Barack Obama a second term. It would be nice to be able to look back and say Election 2012 was an invigorating, affirmational experience. Instead, it was fraught with rancor, frustration and deception. We have fought over our beliefs and our loyalties — even over how we vote. The voting is over, but in their push to put election victory ahead of solving the country’s problems, the major parties have left us teetering on a fiscal and emotional cliff. With the election behind us, we have the opportunity to try a different way to lead over the next four years: cooperation.
President Barack Obama clinched a hard-fought re-election Tuesday by out-dueling Mitt Romney in the key battleground state of Ohio, but his biggest challenge lies ahead. The campaign — for the White House and for congressional seats — was bitter and divisive, but now it is important that Republicans and Democrats work together to resolve the most vexing of the nation’s ills. Now is the time to govern. Now is the time for Obama to lead. For starters, Congress must arrive at some sort of consensus during the lame-duck session to avoid going over the so-called fiscal cliff, the artificial deadline that triggers massive budget cuts and ends tax breaks if a spending agreement is not reached. Going over the cliff would be catastrophic.
Can protests prevent nuclear war? That was a question that came to mind after reading a motion filed by U.S. attorneys in advance of the trial for three Plowshares protesters who infiltrated the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant July 28 and intentionally defaced the plant’s storage facility for bomb-grade uranium. The government’s attorneys presented a number of pretrial counterarguments to the “justification” defenses sometimes used by protesters to explain why their actions were necessary for the greater good to prevent the continued production of nuclear weapons and the possible annihilation of the planet.