This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the appointments of 152 Tennesseans to 58 state boards and commissions. “I appreciate the willingness to serve the state and the commitment of these men and women,” Haslam said. “Tennessee will be well-represented on these boards and commissions, and I look forward to continuing our review to make sure Tennesseans have a government responsive to them.” The governor continues his review of the state’s complete range of boards and commissions to determine other potential reforms that might be made to improve efficiency, effectiveness and accountability.
Gov. Bill Haslam will have a re-election kick-off reception Jan. 7 in Knoxville, the night before the General Assembly convenes in Nashville, with nearly 200 people as hosts. The $1,000-per-person event for Knoxville’s former mayor will be 6-7:30 p.m. at Scripps Networks Interactive, 9721 Sherrill Blvd. Among the hosts is Ken Lowe, chairman of the board, president and CEO of Scripps Networks. The company is separate from The E.W. Scripps Co., which owns the News Sentinel. Haslam, a Republican, is in the midst of his first term as governor.
When Eric Kaler became president of the University of Minnesota last year, he pledged to curb soaring tuition by cutting administrative overhead. But he hit a snag: No one could tell him exactly what it cost to manage the school. Like many public colleges, the University of Minnesota went on a spending spree over the past decade, paid for by a steady stream of state money and rising tuition. Officials didn’t keep close tabs on their payroll as it swelled beyond 19,000 employees, nearly one for every 3½ students.
With statewide traffic fatalities on the rise compared with the same time last year, Friday marked the first day of a five-day enforcement campaign by the Tennessee Highway Patrol leading up to New Year’s Day. “Every available trooper will work the next five days. You will see a Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper at some point or go through a checkpoint,” said THP Lt. John Harmon, referring to the 11 checkpoints scheduled over the holiday in the Chattanooga district. “The goal is for everyone to celebrate the New Year safely.”
‘No Refusal’ campaign Five people lost their lives in vehicular crashes on Tennessee roadways during last year’s New Year’s Eve holiday period. Sixty percent of those fatalities occurred in alcohol-related crashes, according to a news release from the Tennessee Highway Patrol. That’s why the Tennessee Highway Patrol will join with local law enforcement agencies to conduct another “No Refusal” DUI enforcement campaign during the 2012-13 New Year’s Eve holiday, that began at 6 p.m., Friday, and will conclude at midnight on Tuesday, according to the release.
Law-enforcement officers to crack down on traffic laws today through Jan. 1 County, city and state law-enforcement agencies announced they’ll be aggressively enforcing traffic laws during the New Year’s holiday through Jan. 1 as part of a “Crash no more on I-24” initiative. “We’re here to save lives,” Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold said during a press conference Friday near his office’s shooting-range. “Our number one goal is to prevent any more fatalities or injury accidents on (Interstate) 24 in Rutherford County through the end of this year and to send a message as we bring in the new year,” he said.
Senator wants to help party move forward Outgoing state Sen. Roy Herron confirmed Friday that he’s running for chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party, joining a crowded field of candidates looking for the chance to steer the party onto more solid footing in the state. Herron, who did not seek re-election to the Senate in November, said he decided to jump into the chairmanship race after a family member’s health issue was resolved late last week. He said he didn’t think it was too late to win this election, which the state party’s 72 executive committee members will decide on Jan. 26.
Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker is keeping up the media blitz for his plans to deal with the so-called fiscal cliff, despite a looming deadline. Congressional leaders and the President trying to reach their own deal behind closed doors. Over the last two months, Corker has made numerous appearances on TV news shows and written newspaper editorials. His push continued today with an interview on CBS This Morning, a conference call with reporters, and a Capitol Hill press conference. That’s where Corker admitted his bill hasn’t gone far, even though he’s shared his ideas with leaders on both sides of the aisle.
Middle Tennessee lawmakers expressed no regrets Friday about voting for the process that now confronts the nation with a dramatic end-of-the-year deadline to avoid massive spending cuts and tax increases. Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker also said some of the drama surrounding the “fiscal cliff” is overblown. Congress will act within days or weeks — perhaps even this weekend — to stem any increase in income taxes for almost all Americans in response to an inevitable public outcry, both lawmakers said.
Despite stalled negotiations over the “fiscal cliff,” U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker predicted Friday that “almost all Americans” won’t see an increase in their federal income taxes. “We know that’s going to be dealt with,” Corker said. But when asked what the household income cutoff should be for Bush-era tax cut extensions — $250,000, $400,000, $1 million or a threshold that hasn’t been suggested yet — neither senator weighed in during a conference call with reporters. Both Tennessee Republicans deferred to congressional leaders and President Barack Obama.
Plan would cut $1 trillion in Medicare cuts U.S. senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker said Friday taxes will not increase for most Americans and insisted “fiscal cliff” negotiations will either address pending hikes before Monday’s deadline or through retroactive legislation in the new year. With that confidence, Tennessee’s senators turned to spending cuts and offered a proposal to exchange a $1 trillion reduction in entitlement spending — mostly from Medicare — for a $1 trillion rise in the federal debt ceiling. “Taxes is not the biggest uncertainty,” Alexander said.
Tennessee Republican Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker today called on the president and Congress to address issues with funding Medicare. During a conference call with reporters, they urged enactment of their plan “focused on helping Americans avoid falling off the fiscal cliff no one wants to talk about, the looming bankruptcy of Medicare.” The “Corker-Alexander Dollar-for-Dollar Plan” would reduce the growth of entitlement spending (Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security) by nearly $1 trillion in order to improve the programs’ solvency.
Obama, lawmakers optimistic amid looming budget deadline “The hour for immediate action is here,” Obama said after meeting with Senate and House leaders at the White House. “It is now.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and GOP counterpart Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said they hope to have a plan ready when the Senate and House reconvene Sunday — just ahead of the “fiscal cliff” deadline. “We’ll be working hard to try to see if we can get there in the next 24 hours,” McConnell said on the Senate floor, adding that he and other leaders had a good meeting with the president.
Confused about the federal budget struggle? So are doctors, hospital administrators and other medical professionals who serve the 100 million Americans covered by Medicare and Medicaid. Rarely has the government sent so many conflicting signals in so short a time about the bottom line for the health care industry. Cuts are coming, says Washington, and some could be really big. Yet more government spending is also being promised as President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul advances and millions of uninsured people move closer to getting government-subsidized coverage.
Charleston, S.C., has long held the reputation as the Southern food capital of the U.S., but the epicenter could be shifting to Nashville, according to the Charleston City Paper. With Nashville’s “unique character and civic identity,” in addition to local favorites Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack and Arnold’s Country Chicken, the city may steal the Southern food destination title, according to writer Robert Moss. Celebrity chef Sean Brock, known for McCrady’s and Husk restaurants in downtown Charleston, is opening Husk Nashville in spring 2013, adding to Nashville’s rapidly growing food scene.
Spurred by the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school this month, Nashville school officials are moving quickly to require all district workers to wear standardized identification badges while at work. The mandate already applies to central office employees of Metro Nashville Public Schools as well as personnel and students at middle and high schools. The updated policy will now apply to Metro’s 73 elementary schools, extending it to the school district’s entire workforce. Elementary school students will not be required to wear badges.
For decades most public colleges and universities received their funding based on a simple model: enrollment. More students meant more money. But success rates were dismal, with more than half of students failing to make it to graduation. Now, as states face new economic pressures, a growing number are turning to performance-based funding, rewarding institutions that help students — and the state’s economy. While many states have adopted this approach, Tennessee has developed and tweaked a comprehensive formula and now is leading the way in performance funding.
Voter turnout among young people tends to be the lowest of any age group, so wouldn’t you think Tennessee would make it easy for us to vote? The answer might surprise you. I am a native Nashvillian, and I was denied the right to vote on Nov. 6. The 2012 election would have been my first time voting, but a difficult-to-navigate state law prevented me from receiving an absentee ballot. Let me start from the beginning. Because I attend college at Stanford, I knew I would need an absentee ballot, so I researched how to request a ballot almost two months before the election. I learned that a voter must have previously registered or voted in person before requesting an absentee ballot. Although I could have registered and voted in California, I spent my entire life in Nashville before going to college. I felt my vote should be counted here.
For transportation geeks, this one makes your head spin. After years of talk about how construction of the Interstate 69 segment from Memphis to the Kentucky border is the most important road project in West Tennessee, state officials have put the project on hold. I-69 was presented as a golden highway of sorts that would speed the movement of goods from Canada to Mexico through Memphis — a roadway essential to West Tennessee’s economic development, the last of the great American interstates.That was the pitch for years, But now it’s stopped because the federal government hasn’t dedicated more funding to the seven-state I-69 project.
Note: The news-clips will resume Wednesday, Jan 2.