This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday he was not swayed by celebrities opposing a bill that would make it a crime to video record animal abuse if it isn’t turned over to law enforcement authorities within 48 hours. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Andy Holt of Dresden. The bill was passed by Tennessee lawmakers and the Republican governor said he will decide whether he will veto it or let it become law with or without his signature after weighing constitutional questions and philosophical arguments. “We’ve gotten a lot of calls on this, some of them from Tennesseans, some of them from out of state people,” Haslam said.
Aluminum giant Alcoa Inc. is investing $275 million to expand its operations in East Tennessee’s Blount County, Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The investment will allow Alcoa to expand production of light aluminum sheeting for the automotive industry. In addition to 400 construction jobs, the expansion will create 200 new full-time jobs at Alcoa’s plant. “I have to think this secures our future for another 25-year cycle,” Alcoa Tennessee Operations Location Manager Ken McMillen told the News Sentinel.
Nearly 500 new customer service jobs are being created in Chattanooga as Convergys Corp. expands employment at a call center. The Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/157Jpzj ) reported the move will bring company employment in Chattanooga to about 1,300 people by midsummer. Convergys site leader Wendy Matchett in Chattanooga said the employees will handle inbound customer service sales calls. The company is based in Cincinnati and has global employment of about 75,000.
Grants totaling almost $3 million have been awarded to help create rental housing for people with mental health issues in eight Tennessee counties, including Madison, that were hit by tornadoes in February 2008, the state announced in a news release. On Feb. 5-6, 2008, a series of tornadoes crossed the state from Memphis through Jackson and then to the Nashville area and beyond. Straight-line winds and floods associated with the systems also caused damage and deaths across the state.
Austin Peay State University wants to bottle Clarksville’s entrepreneurial spirit and channel it into tangible things, and in so doing forge an even closer mutual bond between the campus and community. The focal point of creativity and innovation for this effort is the new APSU Center for Entrepreneurship that’s being rolled out this week, with a big announcement that was made on Friday in the APSU Kimbrough Building Gentry Auditorium.
The Department of Children’s Services was supposed to be keeping an eye on Eric Goodner on April 11, the day police say he fatally shot a fellow Pearl-Cohn High School student. But DCS had not seen or talked to the teenager since February, even though Goodner was under a home supervision program after being released in December from the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center. That April morning, police say, Goodner shot classmate Johnathan Johnson, 17, as he walked to his school bus stop on 10th Avenue North.
Members of the faith community are expressing their opposition to a bill that would make it a crime to video record animal abuse if it isn’t turned over to law enforcement authorities within 48 hours. The director of Clergy for Justice and another minister delivered a letter to Gov. Bill Haslam this week asking him to veto the bill, which is drawing opposition from other groups and even some celebrities. Clergy for Justice Director Kathy Chambers says more than 300 ministers and people of faith have said they’re against the proposal, dubbed the “ag gag” bill.
Judd Matheny, chairman of the Government Operations Committee in the Tennessee House of Representatives, has concerns about anti-American ideas percolating into taxpayer-funded schools. In the stated interest of addressing that potentiality, the Republican from Tullahoma sponsored successful legislation in 2012 giving local school boards the power to limit the number of foreign teachers working in Tennessee charter schools. The legislation was presented to Matheny by the Tennessee chapter of the Eagle Forum, a socially conservative lobbying group.
City Councilman Daniel Brown, who served as Knoxville mayor in 2011 after Bill Haslam was elected governor, is viewed among Democrats as a potential candidate for other elected positions if he can get resources behind him. Knoxville lawyer Dennis Francis, a former Knox County election commissioner who speaks to the Boyd Cloud Saturday Morning Democratic Club today, said Friday he will mention Brown as a candidate whom Democrats ought to get behind with money and support to help elect.
A damp weekend is on tap for Tennessee, which is already slogging through a soggy spring from Memphis to Bristol. Forecasters with the National Weather Service said Friday that rain by the inch was likely as a very slow-moving cold front was creeping eastward across the state. Recent rain has saturated soil and caused some minor lowland flooding as well as flash flooding that damaged roads in Middle Tennessee. NWS records show that Knoxville was 10.82 inches above normal from January through April, due in part to an extremely wet January.
With up to four inches of rain in the forecast for this weekend, rivers and streams around Middle Tennessee are expected to swell. On the anniversary of deadly flooding that swept the region in 2010, an official who helps manage area dams says he understands if people feel tense. Since last weekend’s heavy rains, the Army Corps of Engineers has been releasing water from dams to free up room if they need to hold floodwaters back. Engineer Robert Dillingham notes the National Weather Service expects the Cumberland River to rise within a few feet of floodstage.
Nashville’s wet spring is about to get wetter. For the second weekend in a row, the region is expected to receive heavy rain — with several inches possible by the time the storm leaves town. All that rain means a flood watch is in effect for all of Middle Tennessee throughout the weekend, the National Weather Service reported. “Our main concern is going to be the rising river levels,” said Sam Herron, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Nashville. “A lot of the rivers already are running high. We are going to see those levels going up through the weekend.”
Make sure your waders and umbrella are handy. Maybe the rowboat, too. The newly energized remnant of the same storm system that dropped feet of snow over the Rockies and parts of the Midwest this week will flood into the South this weekend. For Southeast Tennessee and upper North Georgia, that means 3 to 4 inches of rain across most of the area, according to national and local forecasters. “And there’s an outside chance of 6 to 7 inches in spots,” adds Paul Barys, chief meteorologist for WRCBTV-3.
It’s that time of year again when thick budget books dominate life for those in the Memphis and Shelby County governments. But this year’s budget season on both sides of the Civic Center Plaza is more than line items and bottom lines on paper. The deliberations that ultimately determine how much you will pay in property taxes and at what rate go beyond the plans in the books of estimates, projections and the recurring and one-time revenue sources.
The Tennessee Valley Authority on Friday reported a net income of $54 million in its second fiscal quarter, compared to a net loss of $94 million in the same quarter of 2012. “We ended the second quarter 2013 essentially on plan,” TVA President and CEO Bill Johnson said. “More normal weather had a favorable impact, as did employee efforts to reduce costs. We are focused on controllable factors that improve cost management and drive operational performance as we work to keep rates low.
Just as the Tennessee Valley Authority is looking to borrow lots of money this year, the cost of doing that is going up. It’s a reaction to the suggestion that TVA should be privatized. TVA carries $25 billion in debt, which is why the Obama Administration is considering putting it in private hands. That announcement last month sent the bond market into an uproar. The value of TVA’s bonds dropped sharply. Traders worry it has too much debt to be viable as a private company. CEO Bill Johnson was asked about bond prices today, in the very last question of a half-hour earnings call.
Some solar companies in Tennessee say they face possible closure as the Tennessee Valley Authority hits its cap on incentives for solar projects, The Tennessean reports. The utility recently announced it had reached its cap on projects it will provide financial incentives for in 2013. Gary Wolf, co-owner of Sundog Solar Energy LLC, told The Tennessean that means he won’t be able to sign up new customers until January. “I’ll probably just have to go out of business,” he told The Tennessean.
The Tennessee Valley Authority reported revenue of $2.74 billion and net income of $54 million from operations in the second quarter Friday In the second quarter of 2012, the TVA reported operating revenue of $2.60 billion with a net loss of $94 million. For the six months ended March 31, 2013, it reported a net loss of $191 million on revenue of $5.32 billion. That was an improvement for the public utility, which suffered a net loss of $267 million on operating revenue of $5.17 billion in the same six-month period a year ago.
TVA’s biggest backers fighting a proposed sale of the federal utility like the agency’s power but not necessarily its financial standing. Tennessee’s U.S. senators claim the Tennessee Valley Authority is probably worth less than the debt it owes, which for most businesses would land them in bankruptcy court. But TVA is no ordinary business. As America’s biggest government-owned utility created during the Great Depression by President Franklin Roosevelt, TVA is an independent federal corporation and enjoys at least the implied backing of Uncle Sam.
A water treatment plant in the heart of a nuclear weapons complex is the cornerstone of a new strategy to keep the toxic element mercury from seeping into a creek that flows through Oak Ridge. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander joined federal and state officials Friday in announcing plans to build the $120 million plant to filter mercury-contaminated water at the Y-12 National Security Complex. Mercury, linked to brain and nervous system damage, especially in unborn children, was used during the Cold War in the production of thermonuclear weapons.
While a new study shows the Nashville nonprofit sector packs a mighty economic punch, area nonprofit groups must find new sources of revenue beyond grants and donations in order to be sustainable in the future, officials say. The nonprofit sector contributed $20.9 billion to the regional economy in 2011, according to a study Middle Tennessee State University conducted on behalf of the Center for Nonprofit Management. “We typically don’t think of nonprofits as a big industry,” said Lewis Lavine, the center’s president.
Imagine that in front of you is a black button. If you push it, you’ll get a billion dollars, but a stranger somewhere will die. Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker threw that hypothetical a bit hyperbolic, not unlike him at nine middle-school students at Omni Prep Academy in Raleigh Friday afternoon. If you leaned close enough, you’d see something that standardized tests aren’t meant to measure brain-whirring, critical-thinking skills. Most of the students, tucked into a conference room to have a private audience with Booker, said no, they’d leave the button alone.
Lab items discovered in Grainger bust Four people, ranging in ages from 18 to 65, have been arrested and charged in connection with a scheme to manufacture methamphetamine in Grainger County, Sheriff Scott Layel said Friday. Those arrested were identified as Carroll Mayes, 65, Dylan Lusk, 18, and Marty Gratz, 47, all of Rutledge, and Christy Nicole Harris, 37, of Bean Station. Each was charged with violating a state law that prohibits “initiation of a process intended to result in the manufacture of methamphetamine.”
California proposed putting more inmates on firefighting crews and into space leased from county jails to help meet a court-mandated requirement that it reduce its state-prison population, in a plan California Attorney General Kamala Harris filed Thursday night. But the state also plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to release it from the requirement so it won’t have to take those steps or several others, according to proposals submitted to a California panel of three judges overseeing the state’s compliance with the mandate.
Lawmakers in South Carolina are trying to keep junk food out of the governor’s mansion. State senators inserted a clause in the 2013-14 budget plan that would bar Gov. Nikki Haley’s office and the Governor’s Mansion from buying junk food with public money, whether for employee treats or entertaining. The move was a response to state efforts to fight obesity by limiting what people can buy with money from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, known more commonly as food stamps.
There is always a reason, always a graph or charter that explains why something in a government budget can’t be cut. Ask why funding for something that may be nice to have but isn’t essential can’t be used for something that is essential and you might get the analogy about the money coming from a different pocket. Or you could just get an earful of double talk. For too long that has been the game when it becomes budget season in local government. Time is short in the march to the end of the fiscal year on June 30. So it really isn’t the place for a long-term review of why our city and county governments spend money where they spend it and in the amounts they spend.
Cable TV’s “Science Channel” has an interesting theme: Question Everything. It appears that some questions, attitudes or thought processes are said to be creating a ‘climate of denial’ at Oak Ridge High School. Unless they’re the proper questions. Or worded correctly. Or something. On March 28, an article appeared in the News Sentinel headlined “Climate of denial intimidating for science teachers, audience told.” The article, by Bob Fowler, reported on a March meeting of the Oak Ridge Forum on Religion and Science. Three ORHS teachers spoke at the meeting: biology teacher Beth Adler; math teacher Karla Mullins, and physics teacher Matthew Perkins.
Making a profit by delivering goods and services that consumers want to buy at a given price is the first goal of any business. If consumers aren’t interested, the business goes under. But that’s not the model the U.S. Postal Service follows. The agency has been running annual deficits since 2006, resulting in a net loss of $40 billion. Between 2006 and 2012, mail volume declined almost 25 percent due to the increasing use of email and e-commerce. Also, according to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, if the Postal Service were allowed to immediately cease making catch-up payments to its health care and pension plans, it would have an unfunded liability of nearly $100 billion by 2017.