This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean are engaging in a food drive competition that is part of an effort to provide 10 million meals during the holiday season. The governor and mayor are scheduled to appear at the Second Harvest Food Bank in Nashville on Monday to announce whose office collected the most food between Nov. 28 and Dec. 14. Last year’s friendly “food fight” was won by the governor’s office. The competition collected a total of more than 62,000 pounds of food, enough for nearly 49,000 meals.
Model shows next 50 years hotter, wetter More intense heat waves, a drastic increase in precipitation and an uptick of severe storms could come to the eastern part of the U.S. in the next 50 years, a new University of Tennessee study shows. Engineering professor Joshua Fu and his collaborators used supercomputers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to analyze climate models and predict weather changes in major U.S. cities east of the Mississippi River. Those models show that a continued reliance on fossil fuels will lead to hotter, wetter weather in this part of the country, Fu said.
There is more to Debra Maggart than guns. As one of the leading Republicans on Capitol Hill, she hammered into law issues like mandating voters show their photo ID to cast a ballot, stripping away teachers’ collective bargaining rights and beefing up the list of convicts who can be added to sex-offender lists. But what she’ll be remembered for is the gun rights lobby taking her down. Arguably one of the most powerful women in the state legislature, Maggart lost to a political newcomer by 14 percentage points after the Tennessee Rifle Association and other interest groups poured in more than $100,000 to unseat her in the August Republican primary election.
With the stated goal of helping departments “reorganize and streamline operations,” Mayor Karl Dean is offering nearly 2,595 eligible Metro employees an incentive to retire. The Metro Council is expected to give final approval this week to the voluntary buyout program Dean proposed last month. The program has faced no opposition — and garnered no discussion — in two appearances before the council, and several council members told The City Paper that their questions about the specifics of the program had been sufficiently answered in committee.
Bradley County Sheriff Jim Ruth and county commissioners again are discussing staffing levels for the Corrections Department. Ruth recently told commissioners he’s concerned about jail staffing in light of a growing inmate population and previous sheriffs’ shifting of corrections positions to patrols and court services. “That’s the way I see things have been done in the past by prior sheriffs who have moved and shuffled [personnel] where they need to … and using the corrections budget to do so at times,” he said. The corrections budget is funded for 92 corrections officers, but the department employs only 78.
Legality of appointments questioned Representatives of the Lenoir City Housing Authority and federal officials will meet with Mayor Tony Aikens today to discuss the appointment of new commissioners to the housing authority. The meeting at City Hall was scheduled after LCHA Executive Director Debbie Cook requested that legal counsel review the dismissal of several housing authority commissioners and the appointments of their replacements. Representatives from the Knoxville offices of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will attend the meeting, and a member of HUD’s office in Nashville will participate by phone.
Terry Jones believes it is time he took over as mayor of Millington. He won the election Nov. 6. The Election Commission certified the results late last month. He says that under the new city charter adopted this year, he’s entitled to take office now. “Once the governor signed that into law, which was on April 27, and our board approved it on May 5, it is the law,” Jones said Wednesday. “So, we are operating under that charter.” Problem is, interim Mayor Linda Carter has a different interpretation, contending she doesn’t have to leave until Dec. 31.
Plan would raise eligibility age for programs Advocacy groups and prominent congressional Democrats continue to take aim at Republican Sen. Bob Corker’s proposals to raise eligibility ages for the nation’s two biggest entitlement programs, Social Security and Medicare. From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to the AARP and liberal voices on MSNBC, sources alarmed by such ideas are growing more vocal, in part out of concern they might end up as part of the deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, the combination of sharp federal spending cuts and income tax increases taking effect Jan. 1 unless Congress and the White House agree on an alternative deficit-reduction plan.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker wants an end to what he calls a “massive ‘bed tax’ gimmick” that he says states use to “bilk the federal government” to fund their Medicaid programs. But critics warn the move would wreck programs in Tennessee and many of the other 46 states that use health-provider taxes to draw federal matching dollars for indigent care. Tennessee’s taxes on nursing homes and health maintenance organizations and a 4.53 percent assessment on hospitals’ net patient revenues raise $837.8 million for TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program.
U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, re-elected last month to a sixth term, was appointed to the House Budget Committee Thursday by the Republican House leadership. The decision, made after House Speaker John Boehner stripped two tea party-affiliated members from the Budget Committee earlier this month, was seen as an effort to put a “team player” on the panel that will have to work with Democrats to cut the deficit in the coming year. Blackburn, whose district currently includes parts of Shelby County but won’t come January, retains her vice chairmanship of the full Energy and Commerce Committee, said her spokesman, Mike Reynard.
Millions of families and businesses will get hit by big tax increases sooner than many realize if Congress and the White House don’t agree on a plan to skirt the year-end fiscal cliff of higher tax rates and big government spending cuts. More than 70 tax breaks enjoyed by individuals and businesses expired at the end of 2011. If Congress doesn’t extend them retroactively back to the beginning of this year, a typical middle-class family could face a $4,000 tax increase when it files its 2012 return in the spring, according to an analysis by H&R Block, the tax preparing giant.
If a nuclear accident occurred at Sequoyah Nuclear Plant, would you know what to do? The 100,000-plus people who live and work within 10 miles of the plant can get tips from their 2013 Sequoyah emergency calendars, recently mailed. Others can find the calendar on the Tennessee Valley Authority’s website.Did you know, for instance: If you must evacuate your home, you should tie a white cloth or towel on the front door to signify to emergency responders that the home is empty?
Flood seals protecting the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant near Soddy-Daisy were found to be degraded last week, just before TVA met for a second time with nuclear regulators about plans to add new protections against a potential giant flood. Tennessee Valley Authority officials on Wednesday filed an “event” notice with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The utility said testing had shown that both reactors at Sequoyah were “at risk of flooding” because conduit junctions were not water-tight. Sump pumps in the emergency raw cooling water station building would not be able to keep up with a flood, according to the event notice and spokesman Ray Golden.
Melanie Brooks Settles has heard customers reminisce about the days in the 1970s and ’80s when Brainerd Road was the place for shopping. She wants to bring those days back. When Hamilton Place went up in East Brainerd and downtown development started, people who once came to Brainerd flocked instead to the larger mall and eventually to downtown. But Settles has a vision for the mile stretch from the Brainerd Road tunnel to the Conoco gas station. “We want to make it like the next Frazier Avenue,” said Settles, referring to the main drag in North Chattanooga.
School districts across Middle Tennessee say they welcome input about their safety procedures following Friday’s mass shooting in Connecticut. In Clarksville, parents are being encouraged to talk to principals about their concerns. Metro Schools wants students to tell the staff about potential security lapses. Natalie Mayes is a kindergarten teacher at Nashville’s Cole Elementary and says the Newtown tragedy exposes the relatively minimal security in lower grades. “We don’t have security guards. We don’t have metal detectors or anything like that. We don’t see a need for them. But it’s just that easy for someone to get in if they want to.”
Friday morning’s tragic shooting in Newtown, Conn., hit close to home for many local parents and teachers, who hugged the children in their care a little tighter that usual. “As an art educator, when I heard about what happened, I immediately began picturing the faces of the kindergartners I teach,” said Andrea McTigue of Southside Elementary. “I thought about the terror that those poor babies experienced right before they died so senselessly, about the hero teachers who put on brave faces and tried to protect their students as best as they could.”
Capping a year in which the growth of charter schools dominated education discourse in Davidson County, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce has made publicly financed, privately led charters its primary focus in its latest annual education report card. The chamber’s 2012 Education Report Card calls on the Metro school board to “create and implement a comprehensive strategy for integrating charter schools into the district” as part of an overall strategic plan that connects all reform efforts. Instead of simply reacting to charter proposals, the plan would identify the types of charters Metro wants operating here.
As Republican leaders in Washington grappled after the election with their failure to unseat President Obama, Dick DeVos, one of Michigan’s wealthiest men, began dialing up state lawmakers in Lansing. Although Mr. Obama won Michigan handily, Republicans had kept control of the Legislature. A union-backed ballot measure to enshrine collective bargaining rights in the State Constitution was defeated, thanks to an aggressive campaign against it that was financed in part by $2 million of DeVos family money.
Since the presidential election is over, much of the news out of Washington lately has been about budget deficit reduction talks and efforts to avoid having the country go over the so-called “fiscal cliff.” While there is much uncertainty about how those talks will be resolved, two things are likely to happen: Congress will cut spending and adopt some sort of tax reform plan. If no agreement can be reached before the end of the month, then the federal government will adopt a series of previously-announced tax increases and spending cuts. Now, congressional leaders are discussing with President Obama some alternatives to those increases and cuts that would also achieve the goal of reducing our nation’s overall budget deficit.
State lawmakers should learn important lessons from the results of Vanderbilt University’s poll released last week. Tennesseans overwhelmingly want them to compromise on issues, not draw lines in the sand. And they care about jobs, not fringe social issues aimed at clamping down on gay rights or unholstering gun rights (the poll was taken before Friday’s horrible shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, the kind of event that legislative ideologues tend to ignore but which often inspires rethinking among the rest of us). The poll — Vanderbilt’s political polling has proven to be spot-on in recent years — showed 74 percent of those surveyed want legislators to work with those on the opposite side of the party aisle, with only 22 percent saying lawmakers should pursue their own values and priorities.