This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed Hamilton County lead prosecutor Lila Statom as a General Sessions Court judge. “I’m very happy, I’m very pleased with the governor’s decision,” she said. Statom will replace Judge Ron Durby, who left the bench for medical reasons Oct. 4. She said she got the call from the governor’s office around 3:45 p.m. Friday. She hopes to be sworn in as soon as possible. “I’m ready to go to work very quickly,” she said. Statom holds a master’s in law from Emory University and spent nine years working with the district attorney in Nashville before moving to Chattanooga in 1998.
Gov. Bill Haslam said he is surprised by revenue estimates from local economists who predict the state could expect up to 4 percent growth in the next budget cycle In a rare appearance, Haslam joined the State Funding Board on Capitol Hill Friday to hear experts forecast tax collections used to map out next year’s roughly $31.5 billion state spending plan. Haslam said statistics from the economists were “a little more encouraging than I was expecting, to be honest. The economy feels a little more nervous out there than what the statistics were showing.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam announced Monday the state will not operate a state-based healthcare exchange under the federal Affordable Care Act. Haslam made the following statement on the issue: “Tennessee faces a decision this week about health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act. “I’m not a fan of the law. The more I know, the more harmful I think it will be for small businesses and costly for state governments and the federal government.”
Tennessee will soon change how it pays the private companies and nonprofits that provide care to about half of the state’s foster children, officials announced Friday. After more than a year of waiting for answers, private providers who make up the Tennessee Alliance for Children and Families heard details of the changes during a 55-minute meeting with Department of Children’s Services Commissioner Kate O’Day and her senior staff. Many providers reacted gratefully to the announcements, first thanking DCS officials for finally agreeing to the meeting and then for addressing some concerns that have been building for months.
Four Pigeon Forge businesses have been issued licenses to serve liquor by the drink, effective today. The state Alcoholic Beverage Commission today confirmed that licenses were issued to Tony Roma’s, 2050 Parkway; Mellow Mushroom Pizza Baker, 2485 Parkway; Johnny Carino’s Italian, 2425 Parkway; and Blue Moose Burgers & Wings, 2430 Teaster Lane. Applications for three more businesses are pending and could be approved sometime next week if all the required information is obtained, an ABC official said.
Gun owners could be asked to place their carry permits on file with their bosses in exchange for having the right to keep their weapons in their vehicles while on the job under a bill in the works in the state legislature. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said his office is working on a measure that would require employers to allow firearms in their parking lots. But businesses that provide secured parking for their employees would be able to demand that their workers show them they have a valid permit to carry a handgun and could keep that registration on file.
State Rep. Curry Todd’s Nashville trial on DUI and gun-possession charges was postponed again Friday, to Jan. 11, and his attorney said discussions with prosecutors about a possible plea agreement are continuing. Todd, R-Collierville, did not appear in court but his lawyer, Worrick Robinson Jr., asked Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Mark J. Fishburn to reschedule the trail “for continued discussions,” which the judge approved. Robinson declined further comment and the Davidson County district attorney’s office said it cannot comment on such discussions.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam could see a 2014 challenge from state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, a Nashville newspaper reported Thursday. The City Paper reported that Fitzhugh is planning to run, citing sources. “I wouldn’t rule it out at all,” he told the City Paper. “I’ve got some experience, good, bad or otherwise,” he said. “And feel like I understand the issues of this state, understand the budgetary process and just am concerned with some of the fundamentals of our state. Before we step too far back, we just need to keep things moving forward.”
Its no surprise Tennessee’s senators are the ones going out on a limb and talking specifics about what they could live with in a fiscal cliff deal. A Vanderbilt political science professor says they won’t be the ones making a tough vote. After laying out his own plan to dodge the fiscal cliff, Republican Senator Bob Corker has gained particular notoriety for his willingness to raise taxes on the top two percent of Americans. Senator Lamar Alexander has said he would go along too. But Professor Josh Clinton – who studies the U.S. Congress – says it’s a little easier to make concessions in the upper chamber, where the GOP is the minority.
Chip Saltsman’s imminent departure as U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann’s top aide transforms the Chattanooga congressman’s inner circle, leaving the Republican lawmaker without his bluntest political weapon. Fleischmann’s office announced Friday that Saltsman would leave his job as chief of staff Jan. 1 after a successful, high-profile and sometimes controversial three years as a confidant, campaign consultant and office supervisor. “Chip has been an incredible asset for the last two years,” Fleischmann said in a news release.
Former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist and his ex-wife Karyn finalized their divorce last week — and court documents lay out the marital dissolution agreement. Karyn filed for the divorce due to “irreconcilable differences” in November. Documents filed in Davidson County Circuit Court reveal that she will receive a $2.1 million lump sum of cash, along with a split of other assets. The ex-senator will retain the couples’ vacation homes in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Nantucket, Mass., while Karyn has the option of occupying the “marital residence” on Bowling Avenue for the next five years.
When millions of uninsured Americans go online next fall to buy health plans, far more of them will use marketplaces run by the federal government than was envisioned when the health overhaul passed in March 2010, raising the stakes for the Obama administration as it seeks to make the law work. Some 18 states had agreed ahead of a Friday deadline to set up their own insurance exchanges. The marketplaces implement a key provision of the law aimed at helping Americans choose an insurance policy and apply for federal subsidies toward the cost of premiums for plans that start in 2014.
The Obama administration said Friday that more than half the states had rejected its pleas to set up their own health insurance exchanges, dealing a setback to President Obama’s hopes that Republicans would join a White House campaign to provide health insurance to all Americans. Friday was the deadline for states to notify the federal government of their plans, and administration officials had been hoping that Mr. Obama’s re-election would overcome resistance to the new health care law. Federal officials said they knew of 17 states that intended to run their own exchanges, as Congress intended.
The details are finally clear: International Paper Co. is planning to build a $90.2 million, 235,000-square-foot tower at 6430 Poplar Ave. in East Memphis. The company is seeking a 15-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes incentive for the project, which will add 101 employees to its local roster. Overall, International Paper plans to invest $361 million, but most of that would not be subject to any tax incentive. International Paper (NYSE: IP) plans to lease and fully occupy the new, 10-story tower, identified as Tower IV in its PILOT application.
International Paper Co. says it needs incentives to remain in Memphis and expand because the city is “by far the most expensive option under consideration.” In an application for payment-in-lieu-of-tax (PILOT) breaks from the Industrial Development Board of Memphis and Shelby County, the company said Memphis “would not be the option selected unless government incentives, including those provided under the PILOT program, can significantly reduce the cost gap between it and other locations.”
IP deal underscores incentive measures cities take to attract, retain companies At week’s end, International Paper Co. appeared ready to move forward with officially applying for a package of tax incentives as part of a plan to expand the company’s headquarters in the city. Not that it’s much of a surprise, because, the Memphis-based paper and packaging giant’s intentions already have attracted plenty of attention. In return for keeping its headquarters in Memphis and expanding here instead of somewhere else, IP early in the process floated the possibility of seeking a 30-year tax break.
A few dozen elected officials and business leaders helped launch the opening Friday of the new home for one of the region’s largest employers. In one year, the new Sprint call center was constructed and now employs 600. “This has been a fast and furious year for us,” said Sprint Director Deb Domer. “It seems like only a while ago we would come by here and the bulldozers were moving dirt.” The call center is on state Route 394 near the Food City. Sprint operated a facility in Bristol, Va., but was looking to relocate and expand.
Metro Nashville Schools are double-checking safeguards after today’s tragic mass-shooting in Connecticut. MNPS prepares with emergency responders, and says each school keeps a crisis plan up to date. In a statement Metro says psychologists and social workers are available – and that being with friends and teachers in school can help children regain a sense of normalcy.
As Americans hear details from the nation’s deadliest elementary school shooting in Connecticut, local schools are reacting. “You cannot put yourself in their shoes, realistically,” said Maryville City Schools Communication Director Sharon Anglim. “Because the chaos and sadness and fear must’ve been overwhelming.” She said that should such an event befall schools there, administrators in the central office and principals in schools have an action plan ready. “Details are relayed to their staffs at the school so that they’re are aware of any changes,” Anglim said.
“Sick” and “sad” are the words local schools officials and parents used when sharing their feelings about the shooting at a Connecticut school that left nearly 30 people dead or wounded Friday morning. Vandy VanMeter, president of the Stewartsboro Elementary PTO in Smyrna, followed the news on her smartphone all day. She said a random act of violence is one of the things she least thinks about when taking her children to school each morning. “When I first saw the update come through, I thought there was no way it happened at a school. But the first thing you think is ‘Are my babies safe?’ It’s just a sad, sad thing” said VanMeter, who has been involved with the school’s PTO for 12 years.
Officials of the Achievement School District tagged six additional schools Friday for inclusion in its statewide district during a ceremony at an ASD school in Frayser where a parade of speakers made partnerships in public education the theme of the day. ASD Supt. Chris Barbic made the official announcement that the ASD would operate Whitney and Georgian Hills Elementary Schools next year, while the California-based Aspire Public Schools, a charter school group, assumes management of Hanley Elementary.
The state will take control of six more schools in Memphis, and try to turn them around after years of dismal test scores. The move doubles the number of schools in Tennessee’s Achievement School District. The ASD aims to take schools steadily ranked in the state’s worst 5 percent, and make them among the best in just a few years. In Metro a half dozen schools were eligible, along with about 70 in Memphis – all with lots of poor students. “This is a very tough scenario across Memphis, what we’re seeing.”
Killer, 20, apparently commits suicide First, he killed his mother. Then, the unimaginable followed. Nobody knows why 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot his mother, why he then took her guns to Sandy Hook Elementary School and murdered 20 children and six adults. Nancy Lanza’s body was found at their home on Yogananda Street in Newtown — after the carnage at the school. A quiet New England town was scarred forever by unthinkable tragedy; a nation seemingly inured to violence found itself stunned by the slaughter of innocents.
Each slaughter of innocents seems to get more appalling. A high school. A college campus. A movie theater. People meeting their congresswoman. A shopping mall in Oregon, just this Tuesday. On Friday, an elementary school classroom. People will want to know about the killer in Newtown, Conn. His background and his supposed motives. Did he show signs of violence? But what actually matters are the children. What are their names? What did they dream of becoming? Did they enjoy finger painting? Or tee ball? All that is now torn away. There is no crime greater than violence against children, no sorrow greater than that of a parent who has lost a child, especially in this horrible way. Our hearts are broken for those parents who found out their children — little more than babies, really — were wounded or killed, and for those who agonized for hours before taking their traumatized children home.