This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
State business officials say that outdoor power equipment company MTD Consumer Group plans to expand its operations in Martin, adding 225 jobs in the process. MTD makes both residential and commercial outdoor power equipment. The company’s operations in Martin include a lean manufacturing facility with stamping, welding and assembly, along with logistics. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty made the announcement in a news release Monday.
Governor Bill Haslam has signed a bill to require public notices to be published on newspaper websites. The measure maintains a requirement for public notices to be published in the print editions of newspapers. It would also create a statewide online clearinghouse for all notices. Sponsors said the Tennessee Press Association called for the changes in the interest of enhanced transparency. The House approved the legislation 94-1, and it passed the Senate 31-1.
Gov. Bill Haslam has signed two bills that seek to protect the health of high school and college students. One measure will require schools and other organizations with youth athletic programs to adopt concussion policies. It was overwhelmingly approved 93-3 in the House and the Senate unanimously passed it 30-0. The other legislation will require incoming students at public higher education institutions to show proof they have gotten a meningitis shot.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced that Finance and Administration Commissioner Mark Emkes will be leaving the administration at the end of May to enjoy retirement and spend more time with his wife in her home country of Spain. “I am grateful to Mark for the job he’s done as the state’s chief financial officer during the past two and a half years,” Haslam said. “We’ve presented three responsible, thoughtful and strategic budgets, and he has played a significant role in those efforts.”
State finance chief Mark Emkes is retiring after presiding over three annual spending plans, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration announced Monday. Emkes, a former CEO of Nashville-based tiremaker Bridgestone Americas, was one of Haslam’s highest-profile Cabinet choices following the 2010 election. As Department of Finance and Administration commissioner, Emkes, 60, has been responsible for budget matters and managing the state’s day-to-day finances.
Tennessee Finance and Administration Commissioner Mark Emkes will retire at the end of May, Gov. Bill Haslam announced today. Emkes, former CEO of Nashville-based Bridgestone Americas, has been in the governor’s cabinet since Haslam took office in January 2011. “I am grateful to Mark for the job he’s done as the state’s chief financial officer during the past two and a half years,” Haslam said in a news release. “We’ve presented three responsible, thoughtful and strategic budgets and he has played a significant role in those efforts.”
Mark Emkes, commissioner of finance and administration for the state of Tennessee, has announced his retirement effective May 31. Emkes has been in the position for two and a half years. Before joining Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration, he was CEO and president of Bridgestone Americas. He had been with Bridgestone for 33 years. “I will always be grateful to Gov. Haslam for giving me the opportunity to serve as commissioner of finance and administration,” Emkes said in a statement.
Tennessee Finance and Administration Commissioner Mark Emkes this morning said he will step down from his post at the end of May, two and a half years after being named to the position. Emkes, 60, said he plans to enjoy retirement and spend more time with his wife in her home country of Spain. He was named by Gov. Bill Haslam to lead F&A in late 2010, less than a year after he retired as chairman, president and CEO of Bridgestone Americas. “I am grateful to Mark for the job he’s done as the state’s chief financial officer during the past two and a half years,” Haslam said.
Mark Emkes, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration, will retire next month, becoming the third senior administrator to step down this year. Gov. Bill Haslam announced Monday that Emkes, 60, will resign on May 31. Emkes is leaving the state to spend more time with his wife in her home country of Spain, the administration said. “I am grateful to Mark for the job he’s done as the state’s chief financial officer during the past two and a half years,” Haslam said in a statement.
State finance chief Mark Emkes is retiring after presiding over three annual spending plans for Republican Governor Bill Haslam’s administration. Emkes, formerly the CEO of Nashville-based tiremaker Bridgestone Americas, will leave at the end of May to spend more time with his wife in her home country of Spain. He was one of Haslam’s highest-profile Cabinet choices following the 2010 election. As Department of Finance and Administration commissioner, the 60-year-old Emkes has been responsible for budget matters and managing the state’s day-to-day finances.
Tennessee’s budget guru is headed overseas. The office of Gov. Bill Haslam announced Monday that Finance and Administration Commissioner Mark Emkes would be stepping down from his post at the end of May, to retire and “spend more time with his wife in her home country of Spain.” Emkes, 60, helped oversee the drafting of three budgets under the Haslam administration. In a news release, the governor said he was thankful for Emkes’ work.
Tennessee and Mississippi have been named to another list, but this time, residents will feel no shame about it. Financial media outlet The Motley Fool compiled a list of six low-tax states, and the Volunteer State came in near the top at No. 3. The Fool touted the state’s 6 percent income tax that applies only to income derived from interest or dividend payments — not wages — as Tennessee’s “claim to tax fame.” Mississippi, meanwhile, tied for the No. 1 spot with Louisiana. Residents in Mississippi face a top income tax rate of just 5 percent and property taxes average out to about $850 per person.
Two bombs exploded in the crowded streets near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, killing at least three people and injuring more than 140 in a bloody scene of shattered glass and severed limbs that raised alarms that terrorists might have struck again in the U.S. A White House official speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still unfolding said the attack was being treated as an act of terrorism. President Barack Obama vowed that those responsible will “feel the full weight of justice.”
‘They just started bringing people in with no limbs’ The bombs that blew up seconds apart at the finish line of one of the world’s most storied races left the streets spattered with blood and glass, three dead, more than 140 wounded and maimed and gaping questions of who chose to attack at the Boston Marathon and why. Federal investigators said no one had claimed responsibility for the devastating attack on one of the city’s most famous civic holidays, Patriots Day. But the blasts raised alarms of another terror attack in the U.S. after the explosions at a public event among crowds of thousands of spectators.
A number of Tennesseans were running the Boston Marathon. More than 260 registered, with 157 completing their runs before multiple explosions halted the race. It’s not yet known if any were injured, but results posted online show a Nashvillian crossed the finish line less than a minute before the blasts occurred. Stuart Smith, 48, finished with 4:09:10 on the clock. Reporter Chris Conte of WTVF in Nashville ran as well and says he’s “fine.” “The two explosions happened right after I crossed the finish line,” Conte said in a tweet.
Amanda Hachey had just finished the grueling 26.2-mile Boston Marathon when she heard the loud blasts. “I was walking to get my medal and water and everything,” said Hachey, a research assistant at Lipscomb University’s Institute for Sustainable Practice. “I was on the phone and we heard it, it sounded like a cannon. We turned around and there was just smoke and there was another one immediately after.” Hachey completed the race in four hours and eight minutes. The explosives, which killed at least two people and injured dozens more, happened less than a minute later.
One of the MidSoutherners who ran the Boston Marathon Monday says she is still shaking by what she saw and heard. Angie Zinkus of Eads had finished the run when the first explosion went off. She was actually headed to the airport. She says everything turned chaotic. Seth Regenold, of Memphis was there too. He was in the post-race greeting area about two blocks from the explosion, when he heard the blast. Angie and Seth are both OK, but described the terror.
Kristopher Whitten is from Olive Branch, Mississippi and he is safe with his family at a Boston hotel after explosions rocked the Boston Marathon Monday afternoon. Whitten is staying about four or five blocks from where those explosions happened near the finish line. He tells Action News 5’s Michael Clark that he finished the race about an hour and a half earlier. He heard first responders from his hotel room, but was too far away to hear the actual explosions.
Bud Wisseman was a few miles from the Boston Marathon’s finish line. His race had begun like so many before. Eating pasta for dinner. Lacing up a pair of Nike running shoes. But this time — at his 24th consecutive Boston Marathon — things changed, the 74-year-old runner said. Police cars flew by. “I crossed the 25-mile marker at Fenway Park. I had just a mile to go at the finish line, and there were runners in the road,” Wisseman said while in a Boston hotel Monday afternoon.
At least 16 Chattanooga-area residents were entrants in the Boston Marathon that was rocked by two explosions this afternoon. Marathon participant and Ringgold resident Matthew Amick traveled to Boston with his wife, Angela. Amick told Nooga.com he completed the race at 1:42 p.m. and estimates he had only been gone from the area about 10 to 15 minutes before the explosions occurred. He said he learned of the bombings from Twitter while traveling back to his friends’ house.
At least 16 Chattanooga-area residents were entrants in the Boston Marathon that was rocked by two explosions this afternoon. Marathon participant and Ringgold resident Matthew Amick traveled to Boston with his wife, Angela. Amick told Nooga.com he completed the race at 1:42 p.m. and estimates he had only been gone from the area about 10 to 15 minutes before the explosions occurred. He said he learned of the bombings from Twitter while traveling back to his friends’ house.
Jim Stringham will remember the bare flagstaffs. Looking out his Boston Copley Place Marriott window, the Maryville resident brush-stroked the picture. “The flags are stripped off the poles,” the 52-year-old said in a telephone interview. Stringham was among at least 30 Knoxville-area runners to compete in Monday’s tragic 117th running of the Boston Marathon. Two bombs detonating near the 26.2-mile race’s finish line changed the course of the day. The aftermath left three dead and injured more than 100, according to The Associated Press.
Kingsport’s Scott Horton, 50, has been running competitively for more than 20 years, and says it was a “dream come true” to cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon. But approximately four hours later, while sitting in his locked down hotel adjacent to Monday’s fatal explosion, he conceded the event had turned into a nightmare. He said ATF agents were swarming the building while he and his wife, like the rest of the nation, attempted to glean what information they could from media reports.
Richard Meyers, a 46-year-old Piney Flats resident, was breathing a sigh of relief this afternoon after explosions rocked downtown Boston just after he’d crossed the finish line. “I had just come across the finish line in my first Boston Marathon,” Meyers said from his hotel. “My wife and 8-year-old daughter had just taken pictures of me. She left and began following me. She had been standing right at the spot where the first explosion went off.” That move may have saved their lives. Meyers said his family greeted him on a sidewalk near an intersection.
At first, Boston Marathoner Don Poston Jr. of Murfreesboro thought two loud explosions were fireworks related to the race. Then he thought it might be construction. He was wrong. As of press time, two explosions near the finish line at the Boston Marathon on Monday claimed the lives of three victims and injured more than 100. “It was pretty emotional,” said Poston from his Boston Hotel room Monday afternoon. Normally after a marathon, which is 26.2 miles, exhaustion is what the emotion runners feel.
Phil Young looked over his shoulder Monday afternoon as he walked away from the finish line at the Boston Marathon. The Siegel High cross-country coach heard a boom, turned and saw a lot of smoke. Moments later, another explosion shook the finish line area. Young was one of 10 Murfreesboro runners who participated in the Boston Marathon. Young, 50, was approximately two city blocks — or two-tenths of a mile — away at the time of the explosion. “It’s devastating,” Young said.
Scott Stader envisioned redemption Monday. He envisioned a sunny day where the finish line of the Boston Marathon lay beyond the turn on Boylston Street, a point along the race where feelings of elation swell in the hearts of the runners. But at 2:50 p.m. EDT, two bombs exploded near the Fairmont Copley Hotel in Copley Square, near the end of the race. What Stader experienced was tragedy. He said when he approached the last mile of the 26.2-mile race, all went to chaos.
No reports of local injuries so far Thirteen runners from Clarksville and two Fort Campbell soldiers were registered to run in the Boston Marathon when the explosions went off.cAmong the runners was Leaf-Chronicle sports reporter Luke Thompson, who was not in the area of the explosions.
Explosions seconds apart in Boston generated hours of terror in Tennessee as locals tried to track down loved ones they knew were running the marathon there, most of them eventually calmed by reassuring texts that got through even though cellphone service went down. But there’s a new concern just starting for Country Music Marathon organizers and Nashville police: how to ensure the safety of 30,000 runners expected at the starting line here on April 27. Top Metro Nashville police officials will talk with colleagues in Boston plus FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents to finalize security plans, Chief Steve Anderson said in a statement.
Organizers of the St. Jude Country Music Marathon say they are working to review safety and security procedures for the upcoming Nashville event after at least two people were killed and 90 injured in back-to-back explosions Monday near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. More than 30,000 people participated in the 2012 Country Music Marathon marathon, and thousands of runners are expected again in Music City on April 27. “We were shocked and saddened to learn of the tragedy in Boston today.
Nashville Metro Police Chief, Steve Anderson, said Monday’s Boston explosions will factor into security planning for the Country Music Marathon on April 27.The Nashville Police Department said they will be in contact with law enforcement in Boston and federal partners with the FBI and ATF prior to finalizing strategies for the Nashville marathon.In a statement released Monday, Chief Anderson said local police will be “absolutely committed to the safety and enjoyment of this event by runners, their families and race enthusiasts.”
“My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the horrific tragedy in Boston. Words cannot adequately express the sorrow our nation feels for the friends and families who have lost a loved one today. I am confident we will find who is responsible for this terrible act and justice will be served. Let us also take a moment to thank the first responders and law enforcement officials who helped to prevent further loss of life.
It’s a tragic scene in Boston, emotion extending from hundreds of miles away. One Chattanooga runner was supposed to be in today’s race, but instead stayed here. He and other local runners spent the afternoon talking about how something like this could happen. Alan Outlaw is especially grateful this evening. His name may be listed among those running on the Boston Marathon’s website, but we found him here in town at the Fast Break store on Chattanooga’s North Shore.
As news spread about the bombings near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, Jackson residents reacted to what they saw on the Internet and television. Locals who watched the coverage unfold said their hearts went out to those who were at the race in Boston and that they were angry the bombings occurred. But members of the Jackson community who spoke to The Jackson Sun said terrorist attacks would never keep them from doing what they love. Bruce Joy caught pieces of the news as he worked out at the LIFT Center in downtown Jackson.
The Department of Children’s Services is reorganizing following problems that led to the recent resignation of Commissioner Kate O’Day. One of the biggest changes includes teaming with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to better train child abuse investigators. Interim Commissioner Jim Henry said Monday that district attorneys sometimes are unwilling to prosecute a case because of problems with the investigation. Henry also said DCS is moving forward with a new process for reviewing child deaths that officials hope will be a “gold standard” for the nation.
The Department of Children’s Services has undergone a major shake-up, with three of the agency’s top six deputies reassigned or relieved of some of their duties and a fourth announcing his retirement. Two new deputy commissioners — one for child health and another for child safety — will come on board into newly created oversight positions that will focus on improving the training of DCS Child Protective Services workers and strengthening the agency’s own internal investigations into children’s deaths.
When a child in state custody dies, an outside doctor will be part of the team examining why. It’s part of the overhaul at Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services detailed Monday. Earlier this year the department’s commissioner stepped down, amid complaints DCS wasn’t accurately tracking child deaths. Interim Commissioner Jim Henry illustrated the department reorganization using a marker on a whiteboard. Among the changes, Henry actually brought back Debbie Miller, a top official fired in January.
After years of questions that intensified in the past year with reports of dying kids in state care and a new computer system failing to keep track of foster children, the acting commissioner of the Department of Children Services (DCS) announced a reorganization of the agency Monday. Interim DSC Commissioner Jim Henry promised “the first thing we are going to do is concentrate on child safety” and see change “within 90 days” in a briefing Monday afternoon with reporters.
Within the past two years, 25 children that were in direct custody with the Department of Children Services (DCS) died. That number was multiplied when considering non-custodial deaths. That was the reason why the department has come under fire in the last year and ultimately lead to the Commissioner resigning. Interim Commissioner Jim Henry used a white board to explain a complete DCS reorganization. “Now this might not be the organizational structure in eight months, after we get it working in a way we want to,” Henry said.
The Tennessee Department of Correction has awarded a new contract for state inmate dental care to a company which submitted a bid $16 million higher than a competitor. The wife of Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield works for the winning bidder, although not in an executive capacity and not in Tennessee. Only Centurion and Corizon submitted bids. According to The Tennessean, Latrese Schofield’s employment was not disclosed in Centurion’s $241 million bid. She works as an inmate re-entry coordinator in Georgia.
Pikeville and the Tennessee Department of Correction are working on a deal for the city to operate the water treatment plant at the former Taft Youth Development Center property on the Cumberland Plateau. “It does look very promising, but there’s nothing concrete,” Pikeville Mayor Phil Cagle said Monday. “It’s in the process of working out all the details and working out whether we’re going to work out a lease.” The city, TDOC and the Southeast Tennessee Development District are studying the idea, Cagle said.
Increased enforcement, cooler weather play into numbers Fewer people are dying on Tennessee roads this year. Tennessee Highway Patrol Col. Tracy Trott said increasing seat belt and DUI enforcement, along with cooler temperatures, may be helping save lives. On Monday, the traffic fatality count stood at 222, according to the Tennessee Highway Patrol. At this same time last year, 277 people had died. “There is no number of acceptable fatalities for us, and we’re never going to stop working on the problem,” said Trott.
University of Memphis President Shirley Raines said Monday that she is retiring effective June 30. Raines, who turned 68 on Monday, announced her retirement in a statement released by the university. Raines was hired as the school’s 11th president on July 1, 2001. During her tenure, the university’s enrollment has grown to more than 22,000 students, awarding more than 4,000 degrees last year. The university also has doubled the number of research grants and contract awards since she took over.
New U of M president search to start University of Memphis President Shirley Raines gave herself a present on her 68th birthday Monday, announcing her retirement and entertaining a steady stream of visitors who came to wish her well, ask questions, or deliver flowers. Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan will be on campus Tuesday to talk to the Faculty Senate and others about the national search that will be launched to find a replacement. Morgan plans to name an interim chief of the school this week.
After 12 years as president of the University of Memphis, Shirley Raines is planning to retire June 30. Raines, who was the school’s 11th president and the first woman to serve in the position in University of Memphis history, was responsible for growing the school’s enrollment to more than 22,000 students. The school awarded 4,033 degrees in 2012, the most in its history. The school is also wrapping up its Empowering the Dream capital campaign, which is working to raise $250 million by June 30.
Shirley C. Raines is retiring at the end of June after 12 years as president of the University of Memphis. Raines announced her retirement Monday, April 15. John Morgan, the chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, will name an interim president for the university possibly as early as this week for the transition. Raines termed her 12-year tenure, “12 of the most enjoyable, challenging and professionally fulfilling years of my life.”
Carter County woman was arrested over the weekend on a charge she used her TennCare benefits to illegally obtain a prescription drug and then sold the drug to an undercover officer. Krystal Nicole Huser, 29, 212 Jenkins Hollow Road, was arrested by Capt. Tom Smithi of the Carter County Sheriff’s Department on a March grand jury presentment charging her with TennCare fraud. According the grand jury presentment, Huser falsely obtained a subscription for Suboxone, a drug used to treat opiate addiction, on June 15, 2012.
Misappropriation charged in conservatorship A Nashville attorney whose law license already is under suspension for misappropriation of a ward’s funds is being accused in a civil suit of misappropriating at least $450,000 from a now-deceased elderly woman whom the courts had entrusted to his care. In the suit filed in Davidson County Circuit Court, John E. Clemmons has been charged with breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, intentional misappropriation of more than $450,000 and repeatedly failing to account for his handling of the estate of Nannie P. Malone.
The Tennessee House and Senate sent a bill permitting municipal school districts in 29 cities including the six suburban towns and cities in Shelby County to Gov. Bill Haslam Monday, April 15, for his signature. The legislation was approved 70-24 in the House before winning approval in the Senate on a 24-5 vote. The legislation lifts the 1998 ban imposed by the legislature on the creation of special school districts including municipal school districts. The ban is lifted statewide.
With little more than perfunctory debate, this year’s version of a municipal-schools bill (SB1353/hb1288) passed both chambers of the Republican-dominated Tennessee General Assembly with comfortable margins, thereby allowing the de facto secession from Shelby County’s soon-to-be “unified” school district that six suburban municipalities in the county have been seeking for at least two years. Mayors and other representatives of those suburbs — Germantown, Collierville, Bartlett, Lakeland, Arlington, and Millington — were on hand for the occasion and were introduced in the House by suburban GOP representatives before Monday’s vote.
With suburban mayors from Shelby County watching in support, both houses of the state legislature approved the bill allowing the six Memphis suburban cities to create new municipal school districts Monday. The House voted first, approving HB 1288 on a 70-24 vote. The Senate followed with a 24-5 approval. Gov. Bill Haslam, the former mayor of Knoxville, has indicated he will sign it into law. Once that happens, the city boards of Arlington, Bartlett, Collierville, Germantown, Lakeland and Millington can begin the process again of calling referendums to create the new systems, and then follow with elections for school board members to run the systems.
A measure that would allow cities to form their own school systems is scheduled to be heard on the Senate and House floors Monday evening. The legislation would lift a 1998 ban that forbids municipalities from starting their own school systems. The measure would benefit six Memphis suburbs seeking to bypass a merger of the Shelby County and Memphis school districts and run their own schools. The suburbs voted in August to create their own districts after the Legislature passed a narrowly crafted bill that allowed it.
Tennessee lawmakers overturned a 15-year-old ban on new city school systems Monday, following a dispute between Memphis and surrounding Shelby County. The state Senate and the House of Representatives both approved legislation to remove a prohibition on city-run school districts written into Tennessee law in 1998. The move would let Tennessee cities once again set up their own districts, provided they meet size requirements and have been approved by local voters.
Anticipating the General Assembly’s passage of the municipal school bill Monday, leaders of Shelby County’s six suburbs already are formulating the necessary steps to establish school districts in their respective cities. And the process should look familiar to last year when the suburbs first attempted to form their own school systems — all the way down to the general timetable for key decisions, both at the local legislative level and in the voting booth.
Suburban mayors say they are moving forward with plans to open schools by August of 2014. Of course that depends on the governor signing a state-wide municipal school bill into law. You could call it a case of deja vu. Lawmakers in Nashville signing off on a plan letting cities in Shelby County open their own school district. The difference this time is the bill applies to every county across the state not just Shelby County. “We would start the ordinance piece as early as our next meeting. So the earliest would be the end of April and the latest would be the first meeting in May that we would have our ordinances ready,” said Bartlett Mayor Keith McDonald.
Reaction to Municipal School District bill passing Billy Orgel, Shelby County Board of Education chairman: “I’m looking forward to an ongoing dialogue with the municipalities as we move forward. My hope is that we stay one unified system, but if not, I know we will all work together for the benefit of our students.” Ken Hoover, leader in Germantown municipal schools’ effort: “My fondest hope is . . . we can begin to look at how to work together rather than continue to — in effect — wage war on each other.”
A proposal that would allow school districts to hire individuals with prior law enforcement experience to handle security is headed for a full Senate vote. The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains passed the Senate Finance Committee 6-2 on Monday. The companion bill is set to be heard on the House floor on Tuesday. The proposal would allow schools to hire retired law enforcement officers after they meet certain requirements, such as completing a 40-hour school security course.
Legislation that would authorize at least two epinephrine auto-injectors be placed in all public and private schools in Tennessee is headed to the governor for his consideration. The Senate unanimously approved the measure 32-0 on Monday before the House passed it 90-0. The so-called EpiPen is a device designed to quickly treat serious allergic reactions. Under the proposal, a prescribing doctor or administering nurse would be protected from any injury to a child, unless there was “an intentional disregard for safety.”
State House debate on a bill that would allow whiskey distilleries in previously excluded places like Chattanooga sometimes took on the nature of an old-time bar room brawl before finally passing Monday night. After a nearly hour-long fight filled with attacks on the bill and sometimes on its sponsor, Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lacassas, members approved the bill on a 57-31 vote. That sends it back to the Senate, which previously passed the measure, to concur on changes in the overhaul of the 2009 landmark distillery bill.
After nearly an hour of discussion on the state House floor, legislators approved a bill that will allow leaders of Chattanooga Whiskey Company to make their product in Hamilton County. “We are not going to disappoint,” co-founder of Chattanooga Whiskey Tim Piersant said. “I guess a big question is ‘Once [the legislation] gets done, what is Chattanooga Whiskey actually going to do?’ And we’ve got a lot of good people around us that want to see everything happen as Joe and I would like, and I don’t think we will disappoint.”
The Republican-led House of Representatives is poised to weigh in on legislation pushed by a key GOP lobbyist tonight, but an outlier in the party is planning to make that vote difficult. Rep. Richard Floyd (R-Chattanooga), a teetotaller, wants to force his GOP peers to vote on requiring distilleries be kept away from schools, churches and daycare centers. “It’s a special treatment for a special few. That’s what it is. No other industry gets this same kind of treatment in state government,” said Floyd about the bill which creates a pathway for distilleries to open in a series of counties that were exempt in a 2009 liquor law, and address other unresolved issues.
State Sen. Jack Johnson said the proposed repeal of the state’s so-called “jock tax” on professional athletes will likely be tabled for the current legislative session. Johnson said he’d like to have a committee study the bill this summer. “I’d like there to be an actual legitimate summer study, not just a way to kill a bill,” he said. “We have the state of Tennessee collecting a tax, remitting it effectively back to the ownership of a professional sports team. That’s just not a way to run a tax code.”
An effort to require animal abuse whistle-blowers to quickly submit damning evidence to law enforcement has hit a snag in the state Senate over questions about the true intentions of the bill. The bill sponsored by Sen. Dolores Gresham of Somerville and fellow Republican Rep. Andy Holt of Dresden would require anyone recording images of animal abuse to submit unedited footage or photos to law enforcement within 48 hours. When the bill reached the floor last week, Gresham denied claims from animal protection activists including the Humane Society of the United States and others that the bill would have a chilling effect on whistle-blowers and prevent undercover operations from establishing an ongoing pattern of abuse.
An effort to require whistleblowers to quickly submit damning evidence of animal abuse to law enforcement has hit a snag in the state Senate over questions about the true intentions of the bill. The bill sponsored by Senator Dolores Gresham of Somerville and fellow Republican Rep. Andy Holt of Dresden would require anyone recording images of animal abuse submit unedited footage or photos to law enforcement within 48 hours. Gresham denies claims from animal protection activists like the Humane Society of the United States that the bill would prevent undercover operations from establishing ongoing patterns of abuse.
After its fifth round in the Tennessee General Assembly, a bill to make cockfighting a felony in Tennessee once again is lying limp in the ring. For the advocates battling cockfighting, the bill’s failure to pass was yet another letdown in their attempts to clamp down on the practice in Tennessee — one of only 10 states where cockfighting is not a felony. For the bill’s critics, it was another victory against what they say is a threat to Tennessee agriculture and cultural heritage.
Bills that championed telemedicine were introduced at state legislatures across the country this session. Several states, including neighboring Mississippi, passed and enacted the bills into law, most of which require insurers to cover telemedicine services to some extent, but in Tennessee, similar legislation has stalled in subcommittees. Rep. Karen Camper (D-Memphis) introduced HB 0923 in early February. Her bill would require health insurance coverage to include provider reimbursement for telemedicine services.
A bill that would allow Hamilton County to cremate residents whose families cannot afford burial costs has cleared the state Legislature, and Sen. Todd Gardenhire is asking the County Commission to return a favor. Gardenhire previously delayed the cremation bill, saying he wanted commissioners to hold an up or down vote on the private act proposed in February to restructure Erlanger hospital’s governing board. With the cremation bill awaiting the governor’s signature, now Gardenhire is asking the commission to vote on Erlanger.
Nissan North America can soon offer discounted vehicle leases to a growing part of its Tennessee workforce – temporary employees. The benefit required a change in state law, which is now awaiting Governor Bill Haslam’s signature after passing the General Assembly nearly unanimously. As long as Nissan has made cars in Tennessee, the leasing program has been limited to full-time workers. A lot has changed since vehicle production began in Smyrna 30 years ago.
State lawmakers are scheduled to vote Monday on a solar property tax bill. The bill would change the valuation of solar equipment for tax purposes. It’s intended to lower the threat of high taxes to solar industries. HB 0062 is an agreement worked out by Republican State Sen. Randy McNally and Democratic State Sen. Lowe Finney. It ends two years of debate over the proper valuation of solar equipment and clears up constitutional concerns raised by the state comptroller’s office.
On tax day, some East Tennesseans had a message for Gov. Bill Haslam: Use Tennessee taxpayers’ money to provide health care for people in Tennessee. The advocacy group Tennessee Health Care Campaign sponsored a 40-minute noon rally at Krutch Park annex in downtown Knoxville, urging the governor to finalize his health care plan before the Legislature adjourns for the session — and urging individuals to call or email Haslam and make their wishes known.
FBI agents have blocked the entrance at the Knoxville headquarters of Pilot Flying J, the truck stop business owned by the family of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and his brother, Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam.cThe Knoxville News Sentinel and WBIR-TV reported Monday that FBI agents refused to allow traffic to enter the headquarters grounds, wouldn’t answer questions and told reporters to leave. The FBI didn’t immediately respond to Associated Press requests for details.
The FBI on Monday locked down the Knoxville headquarters of Pilot Flying J, the multibillion-dollar convenience store and truck stop chain owned by the governor’s family. Federal authorities, however, would not say what they were investigating. An official with the FBI’s office in Knoxville said the action involved both the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service, but did not offer details. The company was founded by the father of Gov. Bill Haslam and Jimmy Haslam, who owns the Cleveland Browns.
Company ‘cooperating fully’ in investigation Dozens of FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents on Monday raided the West Knoxville headquarters of Pilot Flying J, operator of the largest travel center network in North America, while executing a search warrant.FBI supervisory special agent Marshall Stone said federal agents arrived at the corporate headquarters on Lonas Road as part of a “ongoing investigation.” Stone declined to provide specifics of the raid. “The FBI secured our headquarters today and informed us they are investigating Pilot Flying J,” Pilot CEO Jimmy Haslam said in an email statement Monday afternoon.
The FBI and IRS raided a business connected to Governor Bill Haslam Monday. Earlier this afternoon, agents searched Pilot Flying J headquarters in Knoxville. It’s a truck stop business owned by the family of Governor Haslam and his brother, Cleveland Browns owner, Jimmy Haslam. The governor has no position within the company but still has an unspecified holding in it. Knoxville-based pilot is the operator of the largest travel center network in North America. “Oh yea, it’s huge, it’s really big here a lot because our Governor is also connected to Pilot (Flying J),” said Chad Simmons, FOX Knoxville Sales Account Executive.
In a filing late last week in the New England Compounding Center bankruptcy case in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, the trustee for NECC asked the court to approve the hiring of the law firm that has previously represented the compounding firm. The motion by Trustee Paul Moore cites Collora LLP’s past experience in NECC’s regulatory issues and warns of the possibility that threatened adverse actions by state pharmacy boards across the country could deplete the limited funds available for the hundreds of victims of the fungal meningitis outbreak.
It took three meetings of the full Anderson County Commission and two committee sessions, but a project to put the national motto over the four courthouse entrances has now received final approval. Fourteen commissioners in Monday’s meeting voted in favor of placing “In God We Trust” in chiseled gold letters on black granite over the doorways, ending often emotionally charged debate. A last-ditch motion to put that motto over just one doorway and other familiar slogans over the other three entrances — offered by Commissioner Jerry Creasey — died when it wasn’t seconded.
U.S. Rep. Diane Black will raise questions about problems within the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development at a congressional hearing today on the implementation of federal unemployment reform across the country. Black said last week that she was concerned about a state comptroller’s audit that found an array of issues within the labor department. According to the audit, the state labor department has in recent years accumulated more than $73 million in unemployment overpayments and payments due to fraud.
In a political role reversal, Republicans are blasting President Barack Obama’s plan to consider selling the Tennessee Valley Authority, an icon of the New Deal long targeted by conservatives as an example of government overreach. Obama’s 2014 budget proposal calls for a strategic review of the TVA, the nation’s largest public utility with 9 million customers in seven states from Virginia to Mississippi. Selling the U.S-owned power company could reduce the federal deficit by at least $25 billion and “help put the nation on a sustainable fiscal path,” Obama says in a budget document.
State Sen. Jim Tracy has raised more than four times as much as the embattled congressional incumbent he is challenging in the Republican primary next year. According to campaign disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission on Monday, Tracy raised more than $436,485 in the first quarter, compared with U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais’ net of $104,532. DesJarlais, a Jasper physician, won a second term in November despite revelations that he once urged a patient with whom he was having an affair to get an abortion.
U.S. Rep. Scott Desjarlais, R-Tenn., finds himself behind a financial eight-ball in his 2014 re-election effort, raising just $104,474 during the first three months of this year, according to his latest disclosure filed Monday. After expenditures of $26,385, the Jasper physician reported having just $87,426 in cash on hand, according to his federal election commission filing. His GOP primary challenger, state Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, reported raising nearly $400,000, while state Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lacassas, reported raising about $205,000.
A FOX News report says Regal Cinemas is cutting back on hours for thousands of its employees due to Affordable Care Act requirements. The report says Regal rolled back shifts for non-salary workers to less than 30 hours a week. That’s because employees who work more than 30 hours could be considered full-time, meaning the company would have to provide pay for their health insurance under the act. The Knoxville Chamber says it has not heard anything about Regal’s specific situation, but it says the decision to cut part-time hours will vary from company to company.
Dr. Cecilia Di Pentima worries about the dwindling power of antibiotics because she knows the dangers posed by drug-resistant bacteria. She ensures that a limited arsenal of drugs is switched about so these bacteria have fewer opportunities to creep into Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, where she runs the antimicrobial stewardship program. She’s frustrated that farmers are using more antibiotics to grow livestock than doctors are prescribing to get people well.
The newly renovated Sugarlands Visitor Center has been rededicated in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson told The Mountain Press (http://bit.ly/YJJgOV ) there’s an updated sense of arrival now when visitors walk in. Among the changes were moving the information desk to the back wall to make it a focus of attention, updating the exhibits, installing LED lights to conserve energy, putting in new flooring and painting the interior a pleasing shade of green.
Short of votes for their compromise gun legislation, Senators Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, and Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, on Monday considered changes to their plan to expand background checks for gun buyers as they scrambled to win needed converts. One approach designed to entice lawmakers representing large rural areas, particularly in Alaska, would exempt residents who live hundreds of miles from a gun dealer. Lawmakers are hoping that they can attract support from both Republicans and Democrats who are weighing the political costs and benefits of a bill against the perception that they are chipping away at gun rights.
Charter schools have spread across the country while generally keeping organized labor out, with operators saying they can manage schools better when their staffs aren’t unionized. But labor groups are now making a big push to get a stronger foothold in this educational realm. Here in Chicago, a branch of the American Federation of Teachers is looking to organize one of the nation’s largest nonprofit charter-school groups. Under an agreement last month, the United Neighborhood Organization, which runs 13 charter schools in the city, agreed to provide the union with contact information for its 400 teachers and to let union organizers meet with them on school grounds, even as the charter-school group didn’t take a position on whether the teachers should organize.
The typical Chattanooga household will pay an extra $1.71 for electricity in May due to an increase in TVA’s monthly fuel cost adjustment, EPB spokesman John Pless said Monday. The Tennessee Valley Authority, which adjusts part of its power prices each month based upon its fuel expenses, is having to pay more for fuel this spring because of the below-average temperatures in March, which caused higher consumption and more use of higher cost fuel. “Essentially, March was colder than we expected so we had to purchase more fuel than planned to meet demand,” TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said.
A Germany-based automotive parts manufacturer is opening a new facility in McMinn County and bringing 200 jobs with it. HP Pelzer Automotive Systems, Inc. announced Monday plans to build a 185,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility at the Mt. Verd Industrial Park in Athens. Site preparation is going on now and the project is expected to be complete by Sept. 15 of this year. It’s expected to cost $28 million. The Athens location will supply interior products to multiple auto assembly plants, including several in the Southeast.
A German automotive company plans to hire 200 people in Athens, Tenn., where it will supply Chattanooga’s Volkswagen plant and add to a growing cluster of car-related jobs in McMinn County. HP Pelzer Automotive Systems plans to locate in a 185,000-square-foot facility and serve as the first tenant in Mt. Verd Industrial Park off Interstate 75, officials said Monday. The project’s investment is set at about $28 million, Pelzer said in an announcement Monday. A Knoxville group, Partners Development, is buying 23 areas in the industrial park and leasing the new building and the land to HP Pelzer.
The countdown is on for the grand opening of the Music City Center, and in just a little over a month the new convention center, nearly nine years in the making will open its doors. Planners billed the facility as the city of Nashville’s “front porch,” and one thing is for sure: the Music City Center is a head-turner. Many onlookers have already started to form their own opinions. “It’s huge. It’s immense. It’s not like anything I’ve ever seen before,” said Mike Childress, of Nashville. “You see a big hole in the ground and hope it’s going to be something monumental, and it is in its own way.”
Gary Alexander thinks back to the first weekend of May 2010. While a flood displaced thousands and took several lives, he, like many Nashville residents, was amazed at the outpouring of support as strangers raced to the side of those in need and provided help and comfort any way they could. “Everybody got engaged to help our community,” Alexander recalls. In 11-plus months he expects the same sense of community to pride to bubble over once again. And this time a natural disaster won’t be necessary.
More than 30 educators from across West Tennessee shared some of what they thought about the state’s education reform efforts during a meeting hosted by SCORE on Union University’s campus on Monday evening. SCORE Chief Operating Officer Sharon Roberts moderated the discussion led by the independent, non-profit and non-partisan group, which advocates research-based decisions in improving the state of education in Tennessee. SCORE is an acronym for State Collaborative on Reforming Education.
Anderson County commissioners on Monday tossed back to the county school system a request for funding for enhanced school security measures because a state funding requirement would have more than doubled the cost — and made it an annual appropriation. Sought was $151,000 for nine additional surveillance cameras and 15 front-door buzz-in systems where main doors are locked until visitors are allowed in. At present, only Claxton Elementary School has a buzz-in system.
Hawkins County Schools finance director Myron Dale told the Board of Education he needs more than $3 million to balance the 2013-14 school budget as it was presented during Monday’s workshop. That’s equivalent to about 30 cents in property tax revenue. Following Dale’s budget presentation Monday, BOE chairman Randy Collier told Dale to “crunch some numbers” and come back to the BOE in about two weeks with better alternatives. No one expressed confidence Monday that the county commission would consider a 30 cent property tax increase for education.
Providing students and teachers with the support they need while complying with state and federal mandates remain at the forefront of budget decisions, members of local school boards say. The Murfreesboro City Board of Education will resume a meeting it suspended last week at 11 this morning at the district’s central office, 2552 S. Church St. City schools officials have a proposed spending plan that calls for $58.277 million in expenditures for fiscal 2014, an increase of $3.44 million.
Williamson County students are a few steps closer to getting out of school earlier for the summer. The county school board unanimously agreed Monday to use stockpiled weather days to provide teacher training. This would mean that students’ last day would be May 21 rather than the half-day May 23 that was originally scheduled as the last day. Director of Schools Mike Looney said that Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman verbally approved of the idea if the days were used for professional development.
On the heels of news that the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development has been bleeding taxpayer money through fraud and error, we have learned that one of the areas the department thought it could point to as a success — job training — is just another example of what can go wrong when government lacks leadership and no one is paying attention. Along with findings that the department lost $73 million over six years by overpaying unemployment benefits and paying compensation to dead people, a comptroller’s audit found that some of the state’s 13 regional workforce training centers have been inflating the number of people participating in their training programs to avoid losing federal funds.
For nearly 12 years, Dr. Shirley Raines has steered the University of Memphis on a course that enhanced its profile as a major research institution, while increasing the university’s enrollment and collaboration with a host of entities working to make Greater Memphis and West Tennessee a great place to live, work and play. Raines, who on July 1, 2001, became the university’s 11th president and the first woman to hold that position, announced Monday that she will retire effective June 30. John Morgan, chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, is expected to name an interim president this week.
I subscribe to a blog called Eduwonk, a product of Bellwether Education Partners, a nonprofit with a mission to increase academic achievement and enhance policy improvement of and for students and communities faced with economic challenges. If you are interested in education data and policy, it would be worth your time to check it out Yesterday, Eduwonk told me that the new Education Insider survey data was released. Indulgences The official title of the report constructed by Whiteboard Advisors is “Tracking Measures, Common Core Materials and Other Timely Topics in Education.”
As the Tennessee General Assembly’s 2013 session speeds to its end, Capitol Hill watchers were quick to point out that, in its alacrity, the legislature managed to avoid passing the so-called “crazy bills.” The various ill-conceived nullification measures, the proposals designed to wrong-foot the Affordable Care Act and the John Birch Society-inspired anti-United Nations measures all died — undebated — in the musty basements of subcommittees. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey — a champion of so-called social conservatism — was praised by the Tennessee Equality Project, a LGBT rights group, for his part in torpedoing the latest incarnation of Don’t Say Gay and its insidious requirement that schools rat out gay students to their parents.
We think it’s a shame our elected officials feel as though they have to trash talk each other to get the support of their party and electorate. While we believe Sen. Lamar Alexander has shown a willingness to compromise and work with all sides on complex issues, his pre-campaign rhetoric of late has been a bit divisive. After making a brief speech at President Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony in January, he seems to be trying to shake off the moderate mantle that he wore, throwing negative verbal volleys the president’s way.
It’s becoming clearer each day that state Rep. Joe Carr is going to make the next Republican primary for the 4th Congressional District seat at least a three-way battle. Carr, whose congressional exploratory committee brought in nearly $205,500, said he expects to make an official announcement in a couple of weeks. “I didn’t want to do it before session,” said the Lascassas Republican, explaining that would have looked “potentially opportunistic.” If Carr runs, as expected, he’ll go head-to-head, with U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a physician from South Pittsburg, and state Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, who represents the eastern half of Rutherford County, also Carr’s stomping ground.
A long, exhausting day in Boston is going to end up being memorable to me for all the wrong reasons. My quads nearly gave out, and probably the only reason I didn’t walk more than I did was the encouragement I got from four strangers who absolutely refused to let me keep walking. Now I’m even more glad I did, considering I crossed the finish line less than 40 minutes before it was the site of two explosions that will shake Boston for years to come. As I type this Monday afternoon, Boston’s CBS affiliate, WBZ, is reporting two deaths and 51 injuries – a number that keeps growing – including eight people who have been reported critically injured.
I don’t know which hurts more, my head or my heart. My head throbs mightily as the casualty toll continues to mount in Boston. Two dead, 35 injured by bombs at the Boston Marathon? Or it is upwards of 100 hurt? The numbers change hourly, depending on who’s doing the reporting and attributing. Sadly, they become just that: numb statistics, as if completely disassociated from human connections. I found myself first wincing, then looking away, then finally changing the channel as CNN showed — over and over and over and over — the initial blast that struck one runner, spinning him to the pavement in obvious agony.
A marathon is the most unifying of sporting events. The city that shows up to cheer on thousands of runners doesn’t really know or care much about who wins; there are no sides to root for or against. Those who stand on the sidelines — as they have done in Boston since 1897 — come to celebrate runners from around the world. The country or neighborhood of origin of the competitors matters far less than their stamina. On Monday, the weather for the 117th running of the Boston Marathon was cloudy and a little chilly — just the way runners like it. Three hours after the winners had broken the tape, there were still many runners on the course, and hundreds of spectators on the sidewalk, when an explosion rocked the finish-line area on Boylston Street, across from the main viewing stand.
The potential for an atomic arms race in East Asia is real. Beijing must realize this. North Korea’s increased belligerence has alarmed the U.S. and its allies and heightened tensions in the Asian-Pacific region. As usual, though, the hand-wringing in Washington, Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul isn’t accompanied by any new ideas on what to do to solve the perennial problem of Pyongyang and its illicit nuclear weapons program. Most problematic, perhaps, is that nothing has altered the strategic calculus of China—the most influential player with respect to North Korea, and the one without which it is hard to see a resolution. North Korea was high on the agenda during my recent visit to Northeast Asia, but the reaction in Beijing to Pyongyang’s bluster and threats was markedly different than in Tokyo or Seoul.