This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday that while the crime rate is showing an overall decline in Tennessee, instances of aggravated assault, prescription drug abuse and domestic violence remain major concerns for his administration. The Republican governor said at a meeting of more than 400 public safety officials that domestic violence accounts for about half of all crimes committed in the state each year. “If you look at the chart this year in terms of total crime we really show good progress on everything except domestic assault,” Haslam told reporters after speaking to the group.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and state Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder today announced December 7, 2012 as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. On December 7, 1941 more than 3,500 Americans serving in the United States military stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, were killed or wounded in an unprovoked attack by the Air and Naval forces serving Japan. Images of burning battleships and the grief of lives dominated the entire country and American allies.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and state Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinde today announced December 7th, 2012 as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. On December 7th, 1941 more than 3,500 Americans serving in the United States military stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, were killed or wounded in an unprovoked attack by the Air and Naval forces serving Japan. Images of burning battleships and the grief of lives dominated the entire country and American allies.
Press reports from Nashville and East Tennessee indicate that a guns-in-parking-lots bill which caused a major schism in Republican ranks in the 2012 legislative session and never got to the floor may be cocked and ready for passage in 2013. According to Eric Schelzig of the Associated Press, Governor Bill Haslam said Tuesday that he expects to see a compromise measure passed in the forthcoming session of the General Assembly but one that precludes storing firearms in vehicles on college campuses.
Tennessee health officials are once again alerting patients who received tainted steroid shots after finding that some have infections at the injection site that could lead to fungal meningitis. Tennessee Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner said Thursday that since Thanksgiving, officials have identified 22 new cases of these localized infections and one case of meningitis without a localized infection. Two patients with the injection-site infections also showed early signs of meningitis. Dreyzehner said the infections are under the skin, so patients do not see them.
Fungal infections soared 27 percent in Tennessee since Thanksgiving after state health officials redoubled efforts to identify new illnesses in the national outbreak, Health Commissioner Dr. John Dreyzehner said Thursday. The surge is due to a new wave of localized infections at the injection site among people who got spinal epidurals with moldy medicine produced by New England Compounding Center. Massachusetts, where the company is located, continued actions Thursday to revamp and improve oversight of pharmacy labs, while a judge in that state issued an important ruling for people suing the company.
People who received tainted steroid injections aren’t in the clear just yet, according to Tennessee’s health commissioner. His comments come as health officials are seeing new types of infections linked to the shots The new illnesses aren’t lethal, like the fungal meningitis outbreak that’s sickened more than 80 in Tennessee and caused the death of 13 others. They include soreness around the injection site. It can be treated with medication, if caught soon enough. State health commissioner Dr. John Dreyzehner says these conditions extremely rare and unusual, and he acknowledged that creates more uncertainty for people exposed to the contaminated shots.
Health officials in at least two states are reporting waves of new infections from contaminated steroids linked earlier this fall to a deadly outbreak of fungal meningitis, but say the latest cases aren’t life-threatening. The new infections are mostly abscesses in the spines of patients who received steroids produced by a specialized Massachusetts pharmacy that were recalled this fall after they were found to be contaminated with fungal material, officials said. The infections haven’t developed into fungal meningitis, but could if left untreated, they said.
People can walk in, roll up their sleeves and get free flu shots at county health departments throughout Tennessee. Health officials decided to offer free vaccinations because flu season arrived early this year, and Tennessee is among the states with the most reported illnesses. Flu is circulating most widely in Tennessee and four other southeastern states: Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas. The free vaccinations will be offered until the state runs out of doses, said Health Commissioner Dr. John Dreyzehner.
Spending by Tennessee and Georgia to prevent children from starting to smoke and to get grown-ups to quit is low and getting lower, according to a national report released Thursday. The report from a coalition of health groups says Tennessee is 45th among states for funding smoking prevention and cessation, down from 44th in the last fiscal year. Georgia’s ranking dropped from 40th to 43rd, said the report, “Broken Promises to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 14 Years Later.” Tennessee now spends just $222,267 on prevention and cessation efforts.
Caseworkers charged with protecting abused and neglected children for the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services need better training. The department needs better data.Special report on Tennessee Department of Children’s Services And the way the entire legal system handles child abuse cases needs to function with equal vigor in every county. A diverse group of about 40 experts on protecting children raise those concerns in a draft plan recommending dozens of steps the state should take to more effectively combat child abuse in Tennessee.
Barfield Road driver Erin Poole hopes no one dies while waiting on road crews to make improvements to the winding street that go beyond simply straightening out damaged guardrails. “They are not in shape to prevent someone from getting killed,” Poole said last week while pointing out the bent guardrails that are supposed to prevent drivers from crashing into the Stones River, just below the road. “You can see that was a collision with the guardrail.” No one has died there in the last 10 years, but there have been plenty of crashes with injuries.
No. That is Senior Judge Walter Kurtz’s response to accused torture-slaying ringleader Lemaricus Davidson’s bid to put on hold a hearing next week on whether Davidson should have been granted a new trial. Kurtz’s order is a scant paragraph devoted to whether a stay should be issued to allow Davidson’s defenders to seek a Tennessee Supreme Court review of a midlevel appellate court’s decision to boot the judge who last year ordered up a new trial and allow a second set of judicial eyes to review that order.
Allan Pope is seeking to appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court his conviction by a local jury of theft over $10,000 (but under $60,000) during his time as Sullivan County highway commissioner. Earlier this year an appeals court overturned some of the criminal convictions which prompted Pope’s departure from office in 2010, but affirmed others, including the felony conviction he is appealing and which alone could bar his return to office. In a decision released in early October, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals remanded the Pope case back to Sullivan County Criminal Court “for entry of judgments consistent” with the higher court’s decisions.
Tennessee’s top House Republican doesn’t think Uncle Sam is prepared to run a statewide health exchange, but he’d rather “the feds” implement the program than the state. “I can use any number of examples of bad things we could do more efficiently than the federal government. That doesn’t mean we should do them,” House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said after a speech to the downtown Chamber of Commerce. McCormick represents a conservative faction at odds with Republican Gov. Bill Haslam in a deadline-driven fight over health insurance markets required by the Affordable Care Act.
Left leaning website Mother Jones has put together a list of the worst — read craziest — state legislatures in the U.S. and the Volunteer State takes the No. 1 spot on the list. Mother Jones writer Tim Murphy doesn’t have any methodology to back up his rankings, sarcastically stating they are “scientific,” but he does put together a summary of recent Tennessee lawmaker gaffes.
While other Middle Tennessee Republicans in Congress expressly oppose raising tax rates as part of any solution to the looming “fiscal cliff,” the state’s two GOP senators appear to be leaving negotiating room. When asked specifically this week if they would rule out increasing tax rates for those making $250,000 and above — rather than just modifying deductions and exemptions — Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker stopped short of such a declaration. “I am still waiting for the president to do his job, which is to recommend a specific plan to restrain entitlement spending so that Congress can go to work on fixing the debt and getting the economy moving again,” Alexander said in a statement, offering no further comment.
Only three states let illegal immigrants drive, but the Obama administration’s decision to stop deporting some undocumented students, veterans, and recent high-school and college graduates will give them driving privileges in more than a dozen additional states. Most of the states did nothing on their own to grant the immigrants driving privileges—California is the only one that changed its laws to explicitly permit the expansion. On the contrary, officials in a handful of the affected states have scrambled to block the licenses from being issued, prompting a political backlash in Michigan and yet another immigration-related lawsuit in Arizona.
Tennessee Valley electric ratepayers may be finding themselves on the bench in a game of partisan football in coming weeks. Five nominations for the nine-member board are pending congressional action. President Barack Obama made one nomination in February and four more in September. Yet the Senate has not acted, even though Sen. Lamar Alexander serves on the Environment and Public Works Committee responsible for moving the nominations. Now three of the nine positions have been vacant for a year, and the terms of two other directors will end later this month.
Taylor Swift didn’t waste a second promoting Nashville’s tourism offerings to a national audience at the Grammy Awards nominations concert at Bridgestone Arena Wednesday. “We have so much to do. We can go to the Country Music Hall of Fame, we can go to the wax museum, a honky tonk, the Grand Ole Opry,” Swift said to co-host LL Cool J as the show opened — explaining that a honky tonk is like a club. The Grammy nominations concert brought industry executives from Los Angeles and New York and locals from Smyrna and Spring Hill under the same roof at Bridgestone, emphasizing Nashville’s growing reputation as a multi-genre city.
Erlanger Health System posted a nearly $730,000 surplus in October, Chief Financial Officer Britt Taber said in a budget and finance meeting Thursday night. The health care network earned an extra $726,527 in its October operating budget, financial reports show, which is a major turnaround from a year ago. In October 2011, Erlanger posted a more than $2 million loss, spokeswoman Pat Charles said. The financial gain comes in part because of higher than normal surgical admissions, Taber said.
Shelby County’s suburban leaders accept that a federal judge’s ruling has thwarted their hopes of having municipal schools by next August, but they are not acquiescing to being part of the unified school system in nine months. “Absolutely not. We don’t surrender,” Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald said with a slight chuckle when asked if the suburban mayors were surrendering to the idea that their only option is to be part of a unified system. McDonald’s statement — echoed by other mayors — demonstrates the suburbs’ resolve to avoid becoming part of the unified schools configuration.
Once a bedrock for organized labor, Michigan is now on the path to loosen unions’ ability to in effect compel workers to join their ranks. Michigan’s governor and legislative leaders on Thursday declared their support for a right-to-work bill that would ban labor contracts requiring employees to pay union dues whether they join or not. The state Senate and House of Representatives passed different versions of the legislation after lawmakers introduced bills in both chambers, with supporters predicting final passage by the end of the year.
The transformation continues for Metro Nashville Public Schools, and it may not be pretty. Even though the district has undergone what for many systems would constitute radical reform, the challenges only get tougher for Metro, which continues to grapple with below-grade-level reading and math skills for most of its 80,000 students. On Tuesday, Schools Director Jesse Register announced dramatic steps the district will undertake as the result of a study by consulting firm Tribal Education. The group found that in Metro’s 34 lowest-performing schools, only one in five lessons are good enough to engage students; and the best teachers lack opportunities to pass along what they know to struggling teachers, which results in student performance that is uneven from class to class and from school to school.
This is serious. It is about an issue of great importance to homeowners, potential homeowners and real-estate professionals. With the presidential election behind us, the political focus has now turned to the deficit anthe “fiscal cliff.” The Washington-speak is difficult to decipher with all of the trial balloons, posturing statements and behind-the-scenes maneuvering. Right now, with all of the financial discussion at almost a fever pitch, and proposals and counter-proposals flying around like snowflakes in a winter storm, we are at risk of having another multi-page bill that few have read and even fewer understand, though we have had plenty of time to address the issue and chosen not to do it.
Looking from afar at the unfolding merger of school districts in Shelby County from a strictly educational perspective, a public education advocate might see the potential for a transformational success. Within our own community, however, the drama of political and legal questions has overshadowed the promise this opportunity offers. In the wake of the recent ruling by a federal judge forestalling the creation of municipal school districts, the current moment provides the chance to reverse that. By shining a bright spotlight on education, the merger triggered a comprehensive evaluation of best educational practices within our community and enabled unprecedented sharing of ideas and strategies across the old district lines.