This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is still not ready to decide whether to accept hundreds of millions of federal dollars for an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, TennCare, WPLN 90.3 FM reports. Under the Affordable Care Act, states have the option, but are not required, to expand their programs. Haslam said he’ll present his state budget proposal in about two weeks without having made a decision on the expansion. An expansion of TennCare would not require matching state funds for a few years, WPLN reports.
Gov. Bill Haslam remains undecided on whether Tennessee will expand its Medicare program under a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, more than one month after he opted against the state establishing its own health care exchange. Haslam told Nashville Public Radio station WPLN Thursday that he saw the choice on expanding TennCare—Tennessee’s Medicare program—to include those at 138 percent of poverty as not bearing any weight on budget decisions for this year.
Gov. Bill Haslam said this week it is too soon to determine whether Tennessee should require an armed police officer in every school following the Newtown shooting, The Associated Press reports. The National Rifle Association made the suggestion shortly after the shooting, and some Tennessee school systems have already begun the process of putting armed officers in each of their schools. One of the questions Haslam has on putting officers in schools, he said, is cost. “Most of those are being paid by local governments. Can they do that everywhere?” Haslam said, according to The AP.
The School of Public Health at the University of Memphis on Tuesday, Jan. 15, welcomed Tennessee Commissioner of Health Dr. John Dreyzehner and his health policy team to the Fishbowl Room inside the FedEx Institute of Technology for a “town hall” discussion of public health and economic issues that affect our community. The session, titled “Public Health is Everybody’s Business,” was led by Dr. Marian Levy, associate professor and assistant dean of students & public health practice, and Dr. Lisa M. Klesges, dean of the U of M School of Public Health.
The Convention Center Authority was ordered to hand over third-party employees’ addresses to a workers’ union following a Tennessee Court of Appeals decision filed Friday afternoon. Martin “Red” Patterson, business manager for International Union of Operating Engineers Local 369, initially requested employee addresses in 2011 to see what percentage of workers on the $600 million Music City Center were local. The CCA responded to his request for payroll documents, but redacted Social Security numbers and home addresses.
The Tennessee Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of congressional candidate Lou Ann Zelenik in a lawsuit that accused her of defamation for a campaign advertisement targeting rival Diane Black. The suit was filed by Aegis Sciences Corp., a drug-testing company owned by David Black. He is the husband of Diane Black, who won the election for the 6th District seat. The 2010 advertisement showed Diane Black, who was then a state senator, handing a $1 million check from “Tennessee Taxpayers” to her husband.
A Middle Tennessee lawmaker is renewing efforts to close off the state’s records of who can carry handguns, this time in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting. State Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown, has filed a measure that would make the state’s list of people with permits to carry a handgun in public off limits to the media and the general public, a move that could rekindle a debate that last erupted in the state legislature nearly four years ago. Lamberth, a former Sumner County prosecutor sworn into the legislature this month, said such information could be used by burglars to identify potential targets.
Rutherford County legislators accept 15-bill limit after initial reluctance Initially leery of a House bill limit, Rutherford County legislators are now OK with the 15-bill minimum set for this session of the General Assembly. “At first I was a little reluctant, a little hesitant,” state Rep. Mike Sparks said, explaining he believed the first proposal for a 10-bill limit would give too much power to lobbyists. Since a 15-bill limit passed the House last week, Sparks said he supports the measure because he believes it will “level the playing field” between lawmakers who carry large numbers of bills and those who don’t sponsor as many.
Two years after being charged with gun and alcohol counts, state Rep. Curry Todd pleaded guilty on Friday to driving under the influence of alcohol and illegally possessing a handgun. Todd’s charges arose after police in 2011 pulled over his SUV on 21st Avenue South for speeding and veering out of the traffic lane. Todd, a strident champion of gun rights who sponsored a bill allowing gun owners with permits to carry them into bars, agreed to spend two days in jail. For the next year, he will drive on a restricted license and be on probation under terms of the agreement brokered by his attorney and prosecutors.
A key architect of the state’s so called “guns in bars” law, state Rep. Curry Todd, pleaded guilty to drunken driving and illegally possessing a weapon Friday. With teary eyes, he told reporters he was sorry for the actions that led to his October 2011 arrest in Nashville, adding the experience has “greatly humbled” him as former law enforcement officer who found himself “painfully on the other side.”
State Rep. Curry Todd pleaded guilty Friday to DUI and possessing a gun while under the influence, charges that resulted from a 2011 traffic stop in Nashville. Todd, 65, R-Collierville, will serve 48 hours in jail, minus the eight hours he was jailed at the time of his arrest, pay a $35 fine, perform 24 hours of community service and lose the right to carry a weapon during a year of probation. He must have an interlock device installed on his car that prevents it from starting if his breath indicates he’s over the legal alcohol limit, complete an alcohol safety course and participate in a victim-impact panel conducted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
State Rep. Curry Todd (R-Collierville), pleaded guilty in a Nashville court Friday to DUI and gun possesseion charges relating to a 2011 traffic arrest in the state capital and was sentenced to 48 hours in jail and 24 hours of community service. As additional punishment, Todd, a former sponsor of guns-in-bars legislation, forfeits the right to carry a gun anywhere during a year of court-imposed probation. He was also fined $ 350. Along with state Senator Mark Norris, his fellow Collierville Republican, Todd was a sponsor the 2011 bill, familiarly known as Norris-Todd, which provided a framework for city-county school merger in Shelby County.
Some suburban governments in Shelby County have already received hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional revenues from the half-cent sales tax rate increase approved by residents last summer. And, in most cases, the money is being steered to legal costs and efforts to secure municipal school districts — districts endorsed by suburban voters in a referendum on the same Aug. 2 ballot where they approved the bump in local option sales taxes. Voters in five of the six suburbs passed referendums increasing the local option sales tax rate from 2.25 percent to the maximum of 2.75 percent.
House Republican leaders on Friday endorsed Rep. Jim Cooper’s proposal that members of Congress be denied pay if they fail to pass a budget on time every year. The government reform advocacy group No Labels announced that the idea had won the support of House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Cooper, D-Nashville, introduced the idea in the 112th Congress in December 2011 and attracted a bipartisan mix of 79 co-sponsors, while more than a dozen senators, including Republicans Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker of Tennessee, signed on as supporters of a similar bill in that chamber.
Site is home to many endangered species The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to create a new national wildlife refuge in Middle Tennessee. The refuge would cover about 25,000 acres in Franklin County near Estill Fork, Hurricane Creek and Larkin Fork. Dwight Cooley, who manages refuges in Alabama, said the tract is one of the most important in the Southeast with respect to natural resources. Living within it are at least 15 federally endangered or threatened species and several species considered endangered or threatened in Tennessee.
Some Schools Cut Hours of Hard-Pressed Adjuncts to Avoid Rules on Insurance The federal health-care overhaul is prompting some colleges and universities to cut the hours of adjunct professors, renewing a debate about the pay and benefits of these freelance instructors who handle a significant share of teaching at U.S. higher-education institutions. The Affordable Care Act requires large employers to offer a minimum level of health insurance to employees who work 30 hours a week or more starting in 2014, or face a penalty.
B & W-led protest could delay transition A bidding team headed by Babcock & Wilcox has filed a protest against the government’s contract award for managing the Y-12 and Pantex nuclear weapons plants. The contract, if all options are exercised over a 10-year period, has a potential value exceeding $22 billion. Nuclear Production Partners LLC, the B&W-led team that reportedly includes URS, Northrop Grumman and Honeywell, with specialty support from Shaw and EnergySolutions, said Friday it filed the protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
At first glance, the construction of a pair of hotels next to the city’s new $623 million convention center is just the type of ancillary private development that would make city boosters beam. But Nashville’s top tourism official — also charged with booking the city’s new Music City Center — is in dismay after learning of an Atlanta-based developer’s plans for two limited-service Marriott hotels at the doorstep of the most expensive municipally financed civic project in Tennessee history.
Superintendent Rick Smith said Friday administrators are rebuilding their teaching staffs at the five schools. Teachers of “core content” — math, science, reading and social studies — were asked to reapply for their jobs. If not rehired, tenured teachers will be guaranteed a position in another county school. Non-tenured teachers have no such assurance. Teachers were notified of the change before Christmas break, and principals are interviewing them now. To keep their jobs, teachers must receive a score of 3, 4 or 5 on the district’s five-point evaluation system, which combines administrator’s classroom observations with test scores and other student data.
Hamilton County Board of Education members hope to streamline the process of upgrading the district’s lagging technological infrastructure to maximize purchasing power and ensure security and equality across all 80 schools. The board’s newly appointed technology committee met Friday afternoon, kickstarting a likely years-long process of putting iPads into the hands of all 42,000 students. Early estimates put the cost of the iPads close to $18 million, with another $1 million needed to improve the district’s bandwidth infrastructure.
Kriner Cash resigns as Memphis City Schools superintendent after five years From the moment he became Memphis City Schools superintendent, Kriner Cash had competition. “I’ve been fighting since I got here,” he said in the early stages of what winds up as a five-year tenure that officially comes to an end July 31. Cash has been fighting for an education reform agenda whose primary goal has been to quantify – as objectively as possible – what makes an excellent teacher in terms of student achievement.
The Republicans may be in control of the Legislature but it doesn’t mean they agree on every issue even if a colleague proposes it. Take a proposal to let a statewide authorizer approve charter schools. At present, local school boards give approval for such schools, which are public, independent and free to innovate in ways that improve student achievement. State Sens. Randy McNally of Oak Ridge and Becky Duncan Massey of Knoxville, both Republicans, told the League of Women Voters of Knoxville-Knox County last week they do not support having someone at the state level approve charter schools. “There is a push to eliminate local control. Right now I think it’s essential,” McNally said.
In recent years, few issues in Memphis have attracted as much attention as developing, retaining and attracting talent, and rightfully so. The success of Memphis’ future is based on the talent, energy and pride of its people, especially its young people. Now more than ever, competition for this talent in cities across the U.S is intense. That’s why those of us at the New Memphis Institute are nurturing the connections that attach young professionals to our community. The good news is that the responses to Memphis’ assets are strong, and more talented young people are finding lives of meaning and purpose here that set us apart from other cities. Even better news is that we have a secret weapon in the competition for talent: We have a much larger percentage of young people than other metropolitan areas.
Kriner Cash carried the banner of specific and meaningful education reform far during his tenure. At times, his leadership style got in the way. It is not a new phenomenon in education or other endeavors where we have brought in highly qualified individuals from other places to hold key public positions. They sometimes come here believing methods that work in larger cities will fill in the hole here. It is just as understandable that if they really know what they are doing, they will be disabused of this notion after running head first a few times into the realities of a unique city with unique challenges. We think, despite the controversy and the turn in public opinion against him in the last year or so, that Cash was one of those rare individuals who got it.