This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Tennessee officials are halting work on a multi-million dollar computer project after years of missed deadlines and design defects. Leaders in the Department of Human Services informed employees Thursday that its contract with a software developer will be allowed to expire in June, discontinuing seven years of work on the Vision Integration Platform (VIP). The software was being put in place to modernize how the department handles its food stamp and Medicaid caseload. The system was also supposed to determine eligibility and connect with other state agency computers.
Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services has adopted a new plan for investigating child deaths that it says will be faster and more effective. DCS recently faced months of criticism for failures that included not knowing how many of the children in its care had died. That culminated in the February resignation of the agency’s commissioner. The department is involved in two lawsuits seeking more information about how it deals with child deaths and whether the current reviews are effective.
Fewer people are dying on the roads these days. According to the latest figures from the Tennessee Highway Patrol, 245 drivers and passengers have died from car crashes so far this year. At this time last year, 295 people had died. THP officials have theories about what is — and what isn’t — happening on the roads this year. But they are just that: theories. At this rate, 771 people will die in car crashes in Tennessee by the end of the year. Last year, 1,021 people died. In fact, if this pace keeps up, this year will be the tamest one since 1961.
Tieche says review seemed more ‘personal in nature’ Davidson County Election Administrator Albert Tieche survived to work another day after enduring sometimes testy questioning by his bosses, who took a scathing state review to heart but decided not to discipline him after a nearly five-hour meeting Friday. Tieche still could face a tough road if state Elections Coordinator Mark Goins, the author of the draft review, moves to decertify him once Goins presents his final report to state election commissioners next month.
In a settlement agreement announced Friday, Tennessee will receive approximately $40 million to distribute to charitable purposes after resolving litigation with two Murfreesboro-based public companies, National Health Investors (NYSE: NHI), a health care REIT company, and National Healthcare Corporation (NYSE: NHC), an operator of long term care facilities. The dispute, which goes back to 2007, relates to the dealings between NHI and NHC and two Tennessee non-profit corporations, SeniorTrust and ElderTrust.
County Commissioner Richard Briggs, a cardiothoracic surgeon, says he’s learning to use social media as he campaigns for the Republican nomination next year for the 7th District Senate seat held by incumbent Stacey Campfield. He’s enlisted GOP operative Ben Farmer and his wife, Jenny, to manage a website, www.votebriggs.com, and a facebook page, www.facebook.com/votebriggs, to help him raise money. “I wouldn’t have believed it,” he said.
Jim Littleton of Harriman proposes a solution for settling the Georgia-Tennessee border dispute: “We will turn over the contested piece of Tennessee to Georgia — if Georgia will agree to take Memphis.” Jim’s son, Eric, who lives in Sevierville, adds: “Maybe we should give ’em Vanderbilt too.” Possibly. But I recommend not even negotiating until some Georgia beachfront is on the table. Now that we have broached the ongoing subject of this spat, you may be surprised to learn it has happened before.
The next Davidson County election may be more than a year away, but a new voter advocacy group thinks the time is right to start signing people up to vote and making sure they know how. The group, called ConnecTN, is slated to have the first in a planned series of voter registration drives 10 a.m.-2 p.m. today at the Goodwill Industries building on Herman Street. Because Tennessee has one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country, members of the 5-month-old organization want to take as much time as possible to register and educate new voters, said Logan Davis, communications director for ConnecTN.
Warning they will have to live with the results of their decision, Davidson Circuit Judge Joe P. Binkley Jr. has given lawyers for some of the victims of the fatal fungal meningitis outbreak the go-ahead to depose three key witnesses. Binkley made the decision after two hours of sometimes heated testimony Friday during which attorneys on both sides accused each other of making “ludicrous” charges and delaying the proceedings. Dozens more clients Responding to questions from Binkley, other lawyers who were observing the proceedings disclosed that they represented upwards of 20 other victims who were likely to file suits.
A U.S. Senate committee with oversight of drug production laws unveiled a bill Friday intended to prevent another fungal meningitis outbreak. The legislation from the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee draws distinctions between traditional compounding pharmacies and compounding manufacturers, giving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration clear authority to supervise the manufacturers. “Last year’s meningitis outbreak was a nightmare for Tennesseans, and this legislation will help ensure that it never happens again,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, ranking Republican on the committee.
President’s voice captured on FBI tapes Jimmy Haslam has been the face of Pilot Flying J as it responds to a federal investigation, but one of the CEO’s top lieutenants also plays a significant role in an affidavit released by federal agents. According to the affidavit, a confidential informant that works at Pilot told the FBI that rebate fraud had occurred at the company with the knowledge of Haslam and Pilot President Mark Hazelwood. As the owner of the Cleveland Browns and the brother of Tennessee’s governor, Haslam is the company’s most prominent leader, but Haslam’s voice did not appear in the affidavit’s numerous transcripts of secretly recorded conversations.
Tax increase not part of Rogero agenda Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero on Friday unveiled her proposed spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, a budget that doesn’t call for a tax increase, yet “meets basic needs” and positions the community for “greater opportunities.” She said crafting the plan was like solving a puzzle that required the right balance of services, savings and achieving a “higher quality of life.” She set the general fund, which covers much of the city’s day-to-day operations, at $183.2 million — a mere 1.45 percent increase from the current budget.
In early April, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., joined a handful of other senators in drafting a letter in part about new rules of the road governing bank capital requirements. That letter was sent to Federal Reserve Gov. Daniel Tarullo, Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Martin Gruenberg. “We believe that we should not move forward with an overly complicated capital regime for smaller institutions,” Corker and the other senators wrote.
A bill to require Internet shoppers to pay sales taxes for online purchases may be cruising through the Senate but it will soon hit a roadblock in the House. “There’s a lot of political difficulty getting through the fog of it looking like a tax increase,” said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., a main sponsor of the House bill. The bill would empower states to reach outside their borders and compel online retailers to collect state and local sales taxes for purchases made over the Internet. Under the bill, the sales taxes would be sent to the states where a shopper lives.
Flight delays caused by the furloughs of air traffic controllers are coming to an end. The House cleared legislation Friday that allows the Federal Aviation Administration to shift $253 million from other accounts to end furloughs that began Sunday. The vote was 361-41. The Senate approved it Thursday night. The chairman of the transportation committee, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., supported the bill to “stop this needless pain on the American traveling public and the economy.” White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama would sign the bill.
It could soon be last call for some states’ restrictions on alcohol sales. New Hampshire is among a handful of states where lawmakers, looking to raise more tax revenue, are considering whether to make it easier for residents to order a martini after midnight or buy a six-pack on Sunday. The Texas legislature is considering lifting restrictions on Sunday sales in liquor stores, which would make it the 39th state to allow residents to buy beer, wine or spirits all weekend long. It’s unclear how many of these efforts will succeed.
Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhohkar Tsarnaev was moved from a hospital to a federal prison medical center, while FBI agents searched for evidence Friday in a landfill near the college he was attending. Tsarnaev, 19, was taken from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he was recovering from a gunshot wound to the throat and other injuries suffered during a getaway attempt, and transferred to the Federal Medical Center Devens, about 40 miles from Boston, the U.S. Marshals Service said.
A locally written social studies curriculum, Currents of Change, tells the story of the transformation of the Tennessee Valley by the TVA and is being used in high school classrooms throughout Hamilton County. Tennessee Valley Authority retirees who have personally lived this history are the ones who funded the creation of this curriculum through the nonprofit Bicentennial Volunteers Inc. The curriculum’s creation was inspired by the 2009 documentary the group sponsored, “Built for the People,” which tells the story of TVA’s impact on the valley.
Hospital care spending in Tennessee averaged $2,160 per person in 2009, a figure that is among the 10 lowest in the nation on a state-by-state comparison. Tennessee ranked No. 10 in the country for the states with the lowest hospital care spending, including services for outpatient care, operating room fees and the services of physician residents, data from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed. Nationally, hospital spending averaged $2,475 per person in 2009. That’s about 14.6 higher than the average per person hospital spending in Tennessee.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press will start charging to read the newspaper online next week for those who don’t subscribe to the print edition. The system will be a metered paywall, where readers will be allowed a number of free articles per month before having to pay. Breaking news stories, under the website’s “latest news” section, will remain free. Video and Associated Press stories also will be available on the Times Free Press website free of charge. Jason Taylor, president of the Times Free Press, said metered access will help the newspaper cover the costs of maintaining the region’s biggest newsgathering team.
David Reaves has never been for merging the city and county school districts. But when fellow unified Shelby County school board member Rev. Kenneth Whalum made a resolution this week to ask the judge to suspend the effort for a year, Reaves sharpened his pencil and went to work. Proceeding as two separate districts would cost $84 million more than merging, according to calculations Reaves member posted on his blog, Facebook and Twitter.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol has arrested two people on meth-related charges. The arrests stemmed from incidents that occurred in Henderson and Decatur counties on Thursday, according to a news release. The release said troopers Phillip Long and Dwayne Stanford stopped a Ford Taurus traveling west on U.S. 412 for speeding in Henderson County. Long noticed the driver of the car seemed to be extremely nervous. The driver was asked to step out of his vehicle and consented to a search.
It is budget time in Madison County, and no county budget is larger or more demanding than that of the Jackson-Madison County School System. This year’s request tops out at more than $102 million. That is about a $5 million increase, most of it driven by technology improvements throughout the school system. It will be a challenge to see if county commissioners are prepared to move the school system forward by investing heavily in new technology. If commissioners are serious about preparing students for today’s high-tech workplace and higher education, they will approve the increase.