This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam discussed several key education issues impacting Tennesseans and the state’s economy during a trip to Knoxville Friday morning. Haslam said improving the education system will not only help young people, but it would foster job growth as well. He made it clear that the only way the state will see economic progress is if improvements are made in the classroom.According to the governor, one of the biggest challenges the state faces is building a trained workforce. With automakers like Volkswagen, Haslam said these types of industries want more skilled workers in Tennessee for positions.
Gov. Bill Haslam speaks with attorney Kenan Smith with the Knoxville firm Hodges, Doughty & Carson after Friday’s breakfast meeting sponsored by the Knoxville Chamber. The politics of Medicaid may be changing, but Gov. Bill Haslam indicated Friday that the shift may not impact the debate in Tennessee. Haslam was the featured speaker at a breakfast meeting sponsored by the Knoxville Chamber, and his remarks focused on topics including education, job creation and health care.
The GOP governor of Tennessee on Friday chalked up his party’s national stumbles in November to messaging and ground game problems as he reflected on the election. “I don’t think we did a good job explaining ourselves,” Gov. Bill Haslam said at the third annual State Solutions Conference, sponsored by POLITICO and Microsoft. He said that President Barack Obama “was able to say, ‘Listen, if you all would just tax rich people, problem solved’” — and that the Republican Party failed to push back successfully.
The nation’s governors are becoming prominent voices in the fight to cut the federal deficit, warning that Capitol Hill’s latest budget stalemate is radiating fresh waves of uncertainty that threatens economic progress in their states.Gathered in Washington for the annual meeting of the National Governors Association, Republican and Democratic state leaders joined on Friday to condemn massive spending cuts — known as the “sequester” — set to begin on March 1. White House officials warned that inaction could lead to widespread flight delays, shuttered airports, off-limit seashores and hundreds of thousands of furloughed employees spread across dozens of states.
Thousands of Tennessee homeowners have received more than $161 million in loan relief as part of a landmark multistate settlement with five U.S. banks over foreclosure abuses.Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper’s office said Friday that the relief went to about 4,000 homeowners in the state between March 1 and Dec. 31. Tennessee is among 49 states involved in the $25 billion National Mortgage Settlement. Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank and Ally Financial entered the agreement last year with the states and the federal government.
Tennessee’s state prisons are full. Its county jails struggle to find open beds for those prisoners. The governor has had to pump in tens of millions in extra money to fill the gap. Lawsuits already are alleging civil rights violations of prisoners because of overcrowding. It’s beginning to look a lot like the 1980s. Back then, Tennessee was forced to overhaul its entire criminal justice system in the wake of civil rights lawsuits and federal intervention over abysmal conditions in prisons. And while Tennessee isn’t quite there yet, it has nearly 5,000 felons stuck in county jails because there aren’t enough prison beds.
The officials now heading up the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services say they’re seeking swift, but deliberate solutions to problems that have plagued the agency. Interim Commissioner Jim Henry said he can’t give a definitive answer about how many children who have come into contact with DCS have died. Henry and Larry Martin, a longtime aide to Gov. Bill Haslam, met with reporters at The Tennessean to talk about the agency. Henry said a $27 million computer system used by DCS to track children appears to be improving as glitches are found and fixed.
Plenty of people want assistance when dealing with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, whether they’re trying to keep custody of their kids or worrying about a child abuse investigation. But only some find the man who might help. For more than a decade, Gerald Papica has worked as the state’s ombudsman for children and families, fielding questions and investigating complaints related to DCS. But as the sole ombudsman — he lost an assistant last year to budget cuts — Papica says he’s been cautious about publicizing his role.
Middle Tennessee State University has been recognized for its marketing and communications excellence, including its “I am True Blue” efforts, by The Council for the Advancement and Support of Education at the District III conference in Atlanta. The university received eight awards, which included two Grand Awards, given by the Council’s CASE District III competition, according to an MTSU news release.The competition recognizes communication efforts in public and private universities in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
The University of Memphis has filed a $43.5 million building permit to build a new 285,300-square-foot dormitory at 3615 Central Ave. In January, the Daily Helmsman reported that due to poor amenities and a failure to meet new seismic codes, the Richardson Towers dorms are likely to be demolished and rebuilt. Lisa Namie with Fleming Associates Architects is listed as the project architect. There will be significantly more choices for student living in the U of M area in the coming years.
Grocers and liquor retailers — and perhaps a wine consumer or two — will gather again in a legislative hearing room Monday to tell lawmakers how allowing Tennessee grocery stores to sell wine will help or harm their businesses and consumers. For the seventh consecutive year, the state legislature is considering a wine-in-grocery-stores bill. And in several previous years, committees have heard testimony from the affected interests whose representatives turned out by the dozens wearing “Yes” or “No” lapel stickers displaying their positions on the issue.
An effort to make cockfighting a felony has been put off until next month. The proposal’s sponsor says he’s waiting until he can get law enforcement authorities to testify in person. Rep. Jon Lundberg of Bristol says lawmakers on the fence need to hear from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation about drugs, gambling and gangs associated with cockfighting rings. “I think they need to hear also that we are bringing in people from out of state because our laws are so weak. We do not need to be the Mecca for cockfighting.”
Doubt and disagreement are circulating in the state Legislature over the scope and particulars of a bill designed to grant some legal security to permitted Tennessee handgun carriers who choose to keep a firearm in their car while at work. The stated intent of the legislation is to allow the states more than 370,000 gun-carry permit holders to commute to-and-from work with a firearm in their possession. As the law stands now, a person is committing a crime by having a gun in his or her car on private property where guns are expressly prohibited.
On the eve of a weekend retreat for the Shelby County Commission at which school matters will loom large and a Monday status conference on school litigation called by U.S. District Judge Hardy Mays, several pieces of legislation directly affecting the school impasse were hanging fire in the Tennessee General Assembly. On Tuesday night in Nashville, members of the Shelby County Unified School Board held a reception for legislators at the downtown Sheraton. This was in conjunction with a meeting in Nashville of the Tennessee School Boards Association.
$1.2 trillion in federal budget cuts slated to take effect next week are a loud “wake-up call” to the country’s spending ills, Tennessee’s junior senator said Friday. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Chattanooga, said he expects the cuts to go into effect Friday. The United States, he said, would be “better off as a nation if we let the sequester kick in than we would to continue to sweep this problem under the rug.” Still, the cuts, dubbed sequestration, are “a ham-handed” way to curb spending, Corker told a group of Chattanooga business people and others.
U.S. Senator Bob Corker discussed the country’s impending sequester as well as his thoughts about defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel during an appearance today at the University of Tennessee’s Haslam Business Building. Corker, speaking for more than an hour, stated that he does not support filibustering to delay a vote on Hagel and does not believe the former Nebraska GOP senator will be filibustered when the Senate meets again next week to vote. “This weekend I’m going to finish going through the transcripts of the hearing,” said Corker, who served with Hagel on the Foreign Relations Committee, “but I’m leaning against supporting him as a nominee.”
The overnight shift for air traffic controllers at McGhee Tyson Airport could be eliminated if federal budget cuts set to kick in March 1 are allowed to take effect, the Federal Aviation Administration said Friday. Another 100 control towers at smaller airports across the country could be shut down completely, and travelers to major cities such as New York, Chicago or San Francisco could experience delays of 90 minutes or more because fewer air-traffic controllers will be on duty across the country, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warned.
Smyrna Airport is among three regional airports in the state that could see its air traffic control tower closed April 1. Federal transportation officials plans to close 100 airports with 150,000 flights or fewer each year, if automatic spending cuts go into effect as scheduled March 1. Decisions on which ones will be closed will come out of meetings the Federal Aviation Administration has with air-traffic controllers and airlines. As many as 200 airports could be affected, with closures to take place by April 1.
If automatic government spending cuts take effect March 1, the control tower at McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport is at the heart of the matter in West Tennessee. The Obama administration is warning the cuts will result in travel delays at major airports and require traffic-disrupting shutdowns of air-traffic control towers at smaller facilities. McKellar-Sipes is on a list of 200 smaller airports from which the U.S. Department of Transportation will select 100 and close their towers by April 1 if the cuts take effect.
States are increasingly alarmed that they could become collateral damage in Washington’s latest fiscal battle, fearing that the impasse could saddle them with across-the-board spending cuts that threaten to slow their fragile recoveries or thrust them back into recession. Some states, like Maryland and Virginia, are vulnerable because their economies are heavily dependent on federal workers, federal contracts and military spending, which will face steep reductions if Congress allows the automatic cuts, known as sequestration, to begin next Friday.
Americans want Congress to delay steep spending cuts to give the economic recovery more time to take hold, according to a Bloomberg News poll. When Washington does confront the deficit issue, Americans back a compromise that includes more tax revenue and fundamental changes to Social Security and Medicare, a deal that would require give-and-take by both Republicans in Congress and President Barack Obama. Fifty-four percent of poll respondents favor postponing $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts during the next nine years beginning on March 1, compared with 40 percent who say Congress should act now before the deficit gets out of control, in the poll conducted Feb. 15-18.
Butch Spyridon, president of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp., loves the national media attention and travel rankings Nashville has been receiving in the past year. But don’t call Nashville the next “it” city, he said in an interview this week. “I love the rankings, but I am offended by words like The New York Times’ ‘it’ city,” Spyridon said. “It’s temporary. It’s flash in the pan. We are built on a stronger foundation than that. I think we are here to stay.” Nashville has enjoyed the limelight from GQ, Bon Appetit, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and most recently by Conde Nast Traveler as a top five place in the world to go in 2013.
A former Erlanger employee has asked Hamilton County Circuit Court to compel the hospital’s board of trustees to release what he says are public records and to stop trustees from hiring a new CEO. At close of business Friday, Patrick Kellogg, who is not an attorney, filed a petition with the court seeking access to public records, including meeting minutes, agendas, emails and other documents produced as a result of the April 2012 appointment of a search committee to find a replacement for former CEO Jim Brexler.
Going to college while you’re still in high school? Sounds like a good idea to us. Thanks to a new partnership with Motlow State Community College and a lot of hard work from the leadership at La Vergne High School, LHS will begin offering a Dual Enrollment Academy next year that will help students earn up to 27 hours of college credit in courses such as Spanish, English and algebra, history and psychology. That means that a student from La Vergne High could almost be a sophomore in college by the time they receive a high school diploma. Pretty neat. It also means that La Vergne High School might be the place to be for students looking to excel academically.
This is the South. This is a place where guns are part of everyday culture. So the fact that only 5 in 100 Hamilton County residents have handgun carry permits while just one store here sells more than a dozen guns a day speaks volumes to the fantasy that there already is too much gun control in our country. The real Remington reality here — and around the country — is that we have a lot of gun disconnect. Here are some facts: • You don’t need a permit to own or buy a handgun or long gun in Tennessee. If you’re buying from a dealer, you have to show a driver’s license and let them run a background check to see if you have ever been convicted of a felony. • If you buy from an individual, you don’t even have to do that. You just have to fork over the money.