March 2 TN News Digest

This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.

 

TN official says parole checks more efficient (Associated Press/Johnson)

The commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Correction said he has addressed problems found in a performance audit by the state comptroller’s office that showed at least 82 people who parole officers claimed they checked on were actually dead. In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Derrick Schofield talked about the audit and how his department was faring since it took responsibility for certain services in the Board of Parole. The audit released in October found problems with parole checks that had been reported between January 2011 and May 2012.

Kingsport officer named THP “Trooper of the Year” (WJHL-TV)

KINGSPORT, TN – A local Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper, who went to great lengths to save a person’s life, was named “Trooper of the Year.” According to the Highway Patrol, Trooper Nathan Hall prevented a possible suicide attempt by a juvenile last December in Sullivan County. According to the Highway Patrol, Hall found a juvenile on a rock cliff about 60 to 70 feet high and scaled the cliff while keeping the person calm. According to the THP, he then handcuffed himself to the juvenile and helped the person down from the cliff.

National group may launch ads for TN school voucher plan (AP/Schelzig)

A national group advocating for a large-scale school voucher program in Tennessee is launching a massive media campaign to persuade lawmakers to expand the program proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam. An official familiar with the plans told The Associated Press on Friday that the state chapter of the American Federation for Children is spending $800,000 on broadcast television, cable and radio advertising — a vast amount for political advertising or issue advocacy in the state.

Bill Haslam says he’s eyeing concerns about Brown (Times Free Press/Sher)

NASHVILLE — Gov. Bill Haslam says he wants to get to the bottom of GOP senators’ concerns jeopardizing his nomination of William “Chink” Brown to the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission. “All that happened while I was out of town over the weekend,” Haslam, a Republican, told reporters this week. “So we’re in the middle of trying to understand what some of the concerns are in the Senate and try to find out more of the background.” Asked whether he can salvage Brown’s nomination, Haslam said, “I need obviously to understand the concerns. Right now, I don’t understand what all the concerns are.”

Is Haslam ready for national stage?

When Republicans look for reasons to be optimistic about future White House bids, they often focus on candidate possibilities offered by their stable of attention-getting governors. Names frequently mentioned include Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Chris Christie of New Jersey and Mitch Daniels of Indiana. And now, some political analysts say, it may be time to add Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam to the list. The latest talk about Haslam paints him as mixing a mild-mannered style with achievements in areas long of vital interest to conservatives, including reforms related to teacher-tenure, charter schools, tort law and the state’s civil service system.

DCS says computer system is mostly fixed (Tennessean/Wadhwani)

The Department of Children’s Services’ glitchy computer system has improved significantly, Commissioner Jim Henry wrote in an emailed progress report on Friday. All major problems have been fixed and a list of 1,700 defects identified a year ago have been whittled down to 383 minor ones that remain, he said. Henry took over the state’s $650 million child welfare agency nearly one month ago after former chief Kate O’Day resigned. O’Day’s departure came as a series of controversies emerged at the agency, including its inability to accurately account for the deaths of children in its care.

Exclusive: DCS Head Vows to Fix Problems Quickly (WREG-TV)

Nashville – James Henry spent most of his life as a lawmaker and politician, but as the interim head of an agency facing intense scrutiny, he knows this role will be that of a fixer. In his first television interview since taking over at the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, Henry says he has spent his first few weeks on the job just listening. “We’ve talked to a lot of judges, we’ve talked to a lot of parents, we’ve talked to a lot of legislators and we’ve talked to a lot of people on the front lines about the problems,” says Henry.

TN inmate accused of sending ‘anthrax’ letters to Haslam, others is indicted (TN)

A Johnson City, Tenn., man was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday in Nashville on 10 counts of sending threatening letters, including to Gov. Bill Haslam, that falsely claimed they contained anthrax, according to U.S. Attorney Jerry E. Martin. Branden Frady, 32, is accused of sending six threatening letters between Sept. 10 and Sept. 18 to government officials from his prison cell at Riverbend Maximum Security Institute in Nashville. Four of the six letters contained white powder that Frady claimed was anthrax, a deadly bacteria used in a series of bioterrorism attacks after Sept. 11, 2001. But none of the letters actually contained the deadly spores.

Governor Haslam Gets $4 Million New Ride (WTVF-TV)

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and members of his Cabinet spend a lot of time criss-crossing the state, doing the public’s business. Now, the state has added a $4 million aircraft to the fleet that’s used to fly the governor around. The King Air 350, a 2007 twin-engine turboprop purchased back in December, is now the lead plane in the fleet operated by the Tennessee Department of Transportation. “The governor is always the first priority for this aircraft,” said Lyle Monroe, the state’s chief pilot.

Tell Tennessee regulators what you really think in new survey (NBJ/Snyder)

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is seeking small businesses’ help in identifying the obstacles companies face in complying with state regulations. According to a news release, the department plans to use responses to a new survey “to make changes at TDEC that can help small businesses protect the environment and comply with the environmental laws that regulate them.” The 10-question survey, available online here, will run through March 15.

Rep. Curry Todd lived rent-free in lobbyist’s home (Tennessean/Rau)

State Rep. Curry Todd lived rent-free for an undisclosed amount of time in the expensive Nashville home of a prominent lobbyist in 2011. State ethics law forbids lobbyists from providing gifts, including housing, to lawmakers. The lobbyist, Chuck Welch, regularly worked on legislative issues that passed through the House State and Local Government Committee, which Todd, R-Collierville, chaired until he was removed in late 2011. That came after Todd, who had sponsored legislation allowing guns in places that serve alcohol, was arrested on DUI and gun charges in October 2011.

Mike Carter moves anti-annexation battle in Nashville (Times Free Press/Sher)

NASHVILLE — Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, has placed one controversial anti-annexation measure on hold but is moving ahead with another in a House subcommittee next week. The bill requires voter approval in advance before any city can annex territory within its existing urban growth boundary. Carter’s measure is scheduled to be heard in the Local Government Subcommittee on Wednesday. Carter also has filed legislation requiring municipalities to provide all promised public services in their borders before annexing more property.

Guns in parking lots: What’s allowed? (Johnson City Press/Barber)

Just because you may soon be allowed to keep a handgun in your car on the campus of East Tennessee State University, that doesn’t mean you will be able to remove that gun and carry it around on campus and you certainly won’t be able to even take it on the Veterans Affairs campus. According to The Associated Press, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is likely to sign into law a bill to allow the state’s nearly 400,000 handgun carry permit holders to store firearms in their cars no matter where they are parked.

TN Beer Tax Reform (WDEF-TV)

Free beer samples at Mellow Mushroom brought out a quite the crowd, but that is not the only reason for the gathering. They were supporting new legislation called Fix the Beer Tax. Representative Cameron Sexton of Crossville helped create the bill. “The problem is we’re having is Tennessee is the only state that taxes beer based on price instead of based on volume, and so what we’re trying to do is go back in and change the tax structure,” said Sexton.

Concerns surround ‘Chattanooga Whiskey’ bill (WBIR-TV)

Lawmakers are considering a bill that has a Gatlinburg distillery concerned. The bill is designed to give Chattanooga Whiskey the right to make its product in Chattanooga, but it would change who has the authority to approve a distillery in a community. Currently, the county has exclusive authority, and that would change. It would allow the operation of distilleries in cities where voters have approved liquor by the drink and local package referendums, even if the county is dry.

Volkswagen and Chattanooga State Offer Associates Degree (WDEF-TV)

Students like these now have the opportunity to earn their Associates Degree in Applied Science through Volkswagen and Chattanooga State. It’s a hands on program that’s a step up from the technical diploma. Ilker Subasi, Manager of the Mechatronics Program and Assistant Manager of Technical Training, completed the same program 13 years ago in Germany. Subasi says “I tell also to my instructors and to my students, here I say okay, I’m a living example. You can make your own career, not after three years but you can work on it and Volkswagen is giving you that opportunity.”

More units make early return to Fort Campbell (Leaf Chronicle/Grey)

FORT CAMPBELL, KY. — Fort Campbell welcomed 102 soldiers and a friend on Friday evening as members of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, became the latest troops to receive an early flight home from Afghanistan. The returning soldiers represent elements of the 2/17 Cavalry Regiment, 96th Aviation Support Battalion and 6th Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade.

Tennessee Army National Guard unit coming home to Chattanooga (TFP)

A local Tennessee Army National Guard unit will return to Chattanooga on Wednesday. The 1st of the 181st Field Artillery unit returned from a one-year deployment in the Middle East to Camp Shelby, Miss., a few days ago, according to a news release. The 193 soldiers are scheduled to arrive in Smyrna, Tenn., Wednesday. Then the Chattanooga-based soldiers will return to the unit’s armory headquarters on Holtzclaw Avenue.

Fort Campbell supporters rally on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON — Supporters of Fort Campbell descended on Capitol Hill late this week to urge steps that would mitigate the impact of the federal budget sequester on the base. The group Citizens for Fort Campbell, made up of 30 residents from nearby areas of Tennessee and Kentucky, talked to lawmakers from Wednesday through Friday about the need to pass legislation that would give the military flexibility about where to make cuts rather require across-the-board that could hurt the facility.

TN schools have until fall before cuts kick in (Tennessean/Sisk)

Tennessee stands to lose millions of dollars in education funding from sequestration, but parents and students will not see an impact until school doors reopen next August, officials say. The state will see cuts to special education programs, technical education and funding for high-poverty schools, a fact that Gov. Bill Haslam said last week has him concerned. But because education funding for the 2012-13 school year already is set, those cuts will not go into effect until the next budget year begins July 1.

Clinics, researchers brace for gradual affliction (Tennessean/Wilemon)

The sequester’s impact on public health will be more like a slow infection than a sudden plague, according to Tennesseans who run community clinics and do medical research. Clinics will stay open. Research will continue. But the cutbacks will hasten a steady erosion in funding for programs that prevent illnesses, promote the quest for new cures and provide care for senior citizens and the disabled. While Medicaid — the federal health insurance program for the poor — is spared from the $85 billion in mandatory cuts this year, Medicare, the program for seniors, is not.

Fort Campbell, schools to take huge hit from cuts (Tennessean/Wilemon)

As President Barack Obama and Republican congressmen blamed one another for the paralysis in Washington that led to the across-the-board cuts known as “sequestration,” federal workers and the folks who depend on them in Tennessee braced for the unknown. Some agencies ordered staff to crunch numbers. Others awaited clearer guidance. And while the full impact of the cuts won’t be known for some time, almost everyone agreed that there ought to be a better way to manage government than a sweeping order of 5 percent cuts to nonmilitary programs and 8 percent cuts to defense spending.

Fort Campbell cuts: ‘They protected us … why should they lose out?’ (TN/Tamburin)

Steep budget cuts associated with the sequester are poised to affect hundreds of thousands who depend on services at Fort Campbell, from veterans to the soldiers’ children who go to school there. Almost all civilian workers on post, including teachers, face the possibility of up to 22 days of furloughs, which are needed to offset at least $55 million in budget cuts scheduled to hit the home of the 101st Airborne Division, Col. David L. “Buck” Dellinger said Thursday. “We’re still in the planning stage and hoping we do not have to implement these plans,” Dellinger said.

Steve Angle’s UTC appointment official (Times Free Press/Jett)

Steve Angle’s day was more efficient than yours. Angle, his wife and two children boarded a University of Tennessee private plane in Dayton, Ohio, Friday morning, landed in Chattanooga around 10 a.m., drove straight to the UTC campus, sat through meets and greets and news conferences and photo ops, then flew back home by 4 p.m. And in between, around 2 p.m. Friday, the UT board of trustees voted to approve Angle as the next chancellor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Memphis Not Miserable in Eyes of Forbes (Memphis Daily News)

Memphis has landed on a lot of lists over the years, some of them positive, lots of them cringe-inducing for Memphians and many of them based on seemingly arbitrary findings. Forbes’ Most Miserable Cities list is one that’s particularly drawn the ire of Memphians, including Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. In 2010, when the city was given a prominent spot on the list, Wharton wrote an open letter to Forbes Inc. CEO Steve Forbes in response. “The sun shines here 230 days a year,” he wrote. “Memphis is a city of joy.”

Cumberland County parents sue, say school employee handcuffed child (TN/Kubis)

A Cumberland County family filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against the Cumberland County Board of Education after their young child was aggressively disciplined for his behavioral problems. According to court documents filed by Gregory and Camie Hoskins, a school resource officer handcuffed their son, who had been diagnosed with behavioral disorders, for more than 40 minutes because the child refused to participate in gym class.

 

OPINION 

Free Press Editorial: Liberals hide truth about sequester (TFP)

The sun still came up, Anne Hathaway is still annoying and it still takes 45 minutes to get a stack of pancakes at Aretha Frankenstiens. Fears that the federal budget sequester, which went in to effect last night, would end life as we know it have been greatly exaggerated — as have the actual cuts that that will result from sequestration, and the impact of those cuts. That hasn’t stopped lefty lawmakers and pundits, and their sycophants, from breaking out in “Harlem Shake”-style freakouts as they perpetuate the myth that sequestration would significantly affect government services, bureaucrats’ jobs and federal spending.