This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Governor Bill Haslam says he’ll propose a budget for next year without deciding whether to accept hundreds of millions of federal healthcare dollars. The move would not require matching state funds for a few years, so Haslam says he’ll decide later. As part of last year’s Supreme Court ruling on the federal healthcare overhaul, Tennessee can choose whether to expand its Medicaid program TennCare. Tough call, Haslam says, but not critical to the budget he’ll propose later this month.
A new method of teaching children in Tennessee could change education across the country. The Achievement School District is now running the worst 5% of schools in the state and is experimenting new techniques on hundreds of children in Memphis. Corning Achievement Elementary Is five months into its first year as an achievement school. Governor Bill Haslam says the education experiment is creating several changes to the traditional school model, “A lot of it is about giving more autonomy. It’s about letting principals in school buildings and teachers in the classroom make more decisions because they have a better sense of how to do that than we do on Capitol Hill.”
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. called the Electrolux Memphis manufacturing plant a “monster plant” this week after a tour of the $266 million manufacturing center in Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park…The state incentives come with different terms than those offered by the Bredesen administration. Gov. Bill Haslam, in his first two years in office, has moved the state to “statutory incentives” that do not come with a contractual agreement. Companies instead qualify for what are called “FastTrack” grants from the state.
Tennessee’s unemployment rate for December was 7.6 percent, a figure that remained unchanged from the November revised rate of 7.6 percent, Karla Davis, Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development commissioner, announced today. This compares to the national December unemployment rate of 7.8 percent. That figure also was unchanged from the previous month’s number. The state’s December unemployment rate is the lowest Tennessee unemployment number since that of October 2008.
Tennessee’s unemployment rate for December was 7.6 percent, unchanged from November’s rate, the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development announced today. The national unemployment rate was 7.8 percent in December, also unchanged from November. According to state data, the 235,700 unemployed Tennesseans in December is the lowest number since October 2008. The number of employed Tennesseans, 2.9 million, is the highest since March 2008. A year ago, Tennessee’s unemployment rate was 8.5 percent.
Tennessee’s unemployment rate in December was 7.6 percent — unchanged from November’s revised rate, which is the state’s lowest jobless rate since October 2008, the state Department of Labor & Workforce Development reported Thursday. The national jobless rate for December was 7.8 percent and was also unchanged from the previous month. The state agency said the number of unemployed Tennesseans looking for work was 235,700 in December, the lowest since October 2008, while the number of employed residents was 2,879,600, the highest since March 2008.
Unemployment stagnated in Tennessee and edged up in Georgia at the end of last year. Tennessee’s jobless rate in December was unchanged at 7.6 percent — the lowest rate in more than four years. In Georgia, the jobless rate rose one-tenth of a percent to 8.6 percent in December after falling for the previous three months also to a four-year low. The sluggish December job market mirrored the U.S. economy, which ended last year with unemployment unchanged for the month at 7.8 percent.
With the latest intersection crash data in hand, Knoxville police will be deactivating a third red light camera because of a reduction in wrecks at that location. “All crashes are down from the previous three-year study,” said Knoxville Police Department Capt. Gordon Catlett, who oversees the red light camera enforcement program. “All the data is going in the right direction.” The intersection of Henley and Main streets fell from the ranks of the top 40 crash sites from a 2007-09 study to a 2010-2012 study. The intersection, with 34 wrecks in the 2007-09 study, was listed at number 35 among the top 40 intersections for wrecks.
If one Tennessee legislator gets his way, federal agents could be arrested for enforcing any potential assault weapons ban. But the concept of a state trying to cancel out federal measures was already tried 180 years ago. And the president who squashed that effort was one of Nashville’s most famous residents. In 1832, the hot-button issue wasn’t guns, but tariffs–taxes on imported goods which many Southerners considered constitutionally suspect. South Carolina went so far as to declare the tariffs null and void, bar anyone from collecting them within that state, and even threatened to secede.
Legislation designed to prohibit “mountaintop removal” coal mining in Tennessee — killed in a House subcommittee for five consecutive years — is back for another try in 2013 with a new sponsor and a new committee to decide its fate. The “Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act” (HB43) is the first bill filed by freshman Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson of Knoxville, who serves on the 19-member Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee that will rule on the proposal under a committee realignment for 2013 by House Speaker Beth Harwell.
A state law in Tennessee that prevents the use of an anesthetic for the pre-euthanasia of animals at animal control agencies or animal shelters has some animal rights advocates in Montgomery County concerned. In 2009, Tennessee legislators barred the use of ketamine, an anesthetic, by technicians at animal control agencies and animal shelters in the use of pre-euthanasia. According to Tennessee Code Annotated 63-12-141, “The only drugs approved by the Board for the pre-euthanasia of animals by a certified animal euthanasia technician in a certified animal control agency shall be acepromazine and xylazine.”
A strongly worded letter from Hamilton County lawmakers warns Erlanger Health System trustees for the second time in weeks to slow down their CEO search. All seven members of the local delegation signed the letter warning that rushing the hire “would be premature” and could lead to “a [CEO] contract that would be expensive and disruptive to terminate,” according to the letter dated Tuesday. State Rep. Gerald McCormick, House majority leader and head of the delegation, said Thursday the lawmakers acted after hearing from Erlanger trustees that the CEO vote might be moved up from late March to as soon as next week.
Under Tennessee law, a victim of statutory rape can be considered an accomplice in the crime against her, though that might not be the case for long. The state Supreme Court has agreed to take on a case involving a 14-year-old girl from Arkansas and a Memphis man, which could lead it to dust off and possibly overturn the arcane interpretation of the law. The rule, which has gone unchallenged for more than a century, emerged from an 1895 incest case in which a Tennessee court found no “evidence of force” in a case involving an uncle having sex with his niece.
When Pigeon Forge votes yet again on liquor by the drink, opponents plan a very different campaign, while supporters plan to concentrate on getting the vote out. And the anti-liquor group Concerned Churches and Citizens of Pigeon Forge says it wants to find an independent agency to monitor the election. The Sevier County Election Commission voted on Thursday to set March 14 for the new referendum. Liquor by the drink was approved on Nov. 6, but that referendum was voided by Chancellor Telford Forgety after a lawsuit brought by CCCPF.
U.S. Reps. Scott DesJarlais, Chuck Fleischmann and Tom Graves collectively raised more than $30,000 from New York and New Jersey residents during their 2012 re-election campaigns. But when the Northeast needed them most, the local Republican trio said “no.” On Tuesday, DesJarlais, Fleischmann and Graves voted against a bill that’s expected to provide billions to Hurricane Sandy victims. The House passed the $50 billion final bill 241-180, with 49 Republicans voting “aye.” None came from Tennessee or Georgia.
The recent mass killings in Tucson, Aurora and Newtown have sparked public conversations about the deficiencies in state-run mental health systems across the United States. But few states are poised to spend their own money to reverse as much as a decade of budget cutbacks in those areas. Instead, many of them are counting on an infusion of federal mental-health dollars. Because Medicaid includes mental-health benefits, those states that opt into the Medicaid expansion included in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act will be able to make mental health coverage available to thousands of their citizens who do not now have it.
Environmentalists challenge relocation, threaten lawsuit In the shadows of TVA’s Gallatin power plant, David Sims has toiled away for years in hopes of helping some of Tennessee’s most endangered animals. Sims runs a program to propagate freshwater mussels. Now, the mussels might have to be moved to make way for another competing environmental interest: clean air for Middle Tennessee residents. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency took over an abandoned catfish hatchery on the power plant property in the late 1990s and began trying to reproduce the mussels.
The security makeover in Oak Ridge continues. The U.S. Department of Energy on Thursday awarded a five-year, $181.7 million security contract to National Strategic Protective Services LLC. The new contractor — a joint venture between Triple Canopy Inc. and Securiguard Inc., with Sante Fe Protective Services Inc. as a subcontractor — will provide protective force services at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, East Tennessee Technology Park and the Joe L. Evins Federal Building in Oak Ridge. DOE said the contract has a three-year base, with a two-year option.
Two General Motors plants 90 miles apart will be utilized to build the newest incarnation of the Chevrolet Corvette sports car. The vehicle is assembled at the GM plant in Bowling Green, Ky. The Tennessean reported that, for the first time, some body components will be manufactured at the carmaker’s plant in Spring Hill, Tenn. “We will be making the front and rear fascias and sending them up to Bowling Green,” said Spring Hill plant spokeswoman Lee Ann Williams-Maley. The facias are essentially the front and rear bumper assemblies, which will be manufactured of a plastic composite material in special injection molds.
It’s not a stable time for United States’ clean energy sector, as evidenced by Hemlock Semiconductor’s decision this week to lay off most of its Clarksville workforce. Hemlock’s $1.2 billion plant was to produce the polysilicon needed for solar panels, but the start of production there has now been delayed indefinitely. But the industry isn’t simply hurting due to increased overseas competition; it’s also hampered by uncertainty in national policies, according to a new report from The Pew Charitable Trusts, a think tank.
Viewership for ABC’s “Nashville” is on the rise, with more than 6.54 million viewers tuning in last night to see the fallout of Juliette Barnes’ altar pumpfake, up from 5.8 million viewers last week. Competing shows saw their audience numbers rise also, however, so the show’s ratings remained steady, with 4.5 percent of households tuned in, compared to 4.4 percent Jan. 9. The show ranked below CBS’ “CSI,” with a 7.4 rating, and above NBC’s “Chicago Fire,” with a 2.7 rating, SpoilerTV reports, citing data from Nielsen Media Research.
Some suburban leaders believe that the ongoing schools negotiations may have hit a snag. After mediation sessions that pointed toward apparent agreements on a broad “conceptual” framework for more autonomous suburban schools, mayors on Thursday were not as optimistic after seeing legal drafts spelling out the details — which to this point no party has been willing to divulge. “It’s frustrating in the fact that everybody on both sides has put in a lot of effort, and we thought quite a bit of progress had been made,” Arlington Mayor Mike Wissman said.
Districts Face Tight Budgets, Worries Over Armed Security on Campus as They Respond to the Massacre at Sandy Hook A month after a gunman massacred 20 students in Newtown, Conn., school districts nationwide are struggling with safety issues and taking widely divergent approaches. In one rural Ohio district, officials plan to arm four school staffers with concealed weapons. In a Florida beach town, teachers suggested a provision in their new contract that bars them from carrying guns on campus. And the cash-strapped resort community of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, plans to ask voters to approve a property-tax increase for security upgrades including fences at its 17 school buildings.
Police say three people are facing drug charges following a Wednesday disturbance on Weaver Pike in Bristol, Tenn., where officers located an accused laptop thief hiding in a building with an active meth lab. A press release from the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office says deputies responded to an argument at 3760 Weaver Pike at 11:30 a.m. A woman at the residence called police because John Carrier, 35, had allegedly stolen her laptop computer a few days prior. She reportedly said the theft occurred while she was letting Carrier stay at her home, adding that he was currently hiding inside an outbuilding on a neighboring property.
The State Supreme Court sided on Thursday with the governor and lawmakers and ruled as constitutional a 2011 law that overhauled the state pension system, requiring a 3 percent payroll contribution by state workers. Reversing a lower court decision by a 4-to-3 vote, the Supreme Court said the 2011 law did not violate the state Constitution as argued by labor unions battling the pension changes. The lower court determined that the Florida Retirement System overhaul, which passed two years ago as policy makers wrestled with a $3.6 billion budget gap, unlawfully broke a contract and violated the rights of government workers to bargain in unions.
Gov. Bill Haslam announced Monday that he will be pushing for vouchers for low-income students in “lower-performing schools.” Details are yet to come, but from here it appears the plan is destined to be problematic. Let’s say that once this voucher plan is in place a family with a child at Sarah Moore Greene Elementary School wanted to take advantage of this voucher plan. The Knox County school is on the state’s priority list, so presumably would qualify for the “lower-performing schools.” The next question would be how to define low-income students. Most likely it would be some level of the federal poverty guidelines — which has some pros and cons for the rest of the scenario, so keep that in mind.
The state Comptroller’s Office issued an inconclusive report last week on the efficacy of Tennessee’s new pseudoephedrine tracking system aimed at stemming the rising tide of methamphetamine production. The report states that meth lab incidents between January and September 2012 actually increased by 6 percent over the same period in 2011. The Comptroller’s Office cautioned that it is difficult to draw too many conclusions from the report because of the short time frame and the limitations of drug use data. One conclusion that should be clear is more must be done to combat meth production in Tennessee. Among the possible remedies offered by the Comptroller’s Office report are lowering purchase limits for pseudoephedrine, residency requirements for purchase and requiring prescriptions for medicines containing pseudoephedrine.
If the crisis is not solved in a mature, thoughtful and solvent way, then Erlanger hospital as we know it will not make it out alive. Its slow death will affect the healthy and sick, the poor and wealthy, the you and the me of Chattanooga. Like a small city in the middle of Chattanooga, Erlanger employs thousands, operates a mighty budget that chuckles at the Honey Boo Boo-sized budgets of others, and has as its mission the well-being of anyone who walks through its doors. Yet a train can only run one set of tracks. A puppet can only respond to so many puppeteers. And the identity — the soul — of the hospital is being tugged and pulled in many different directions.