This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Tennessee is one of the most competitive states in the country when it comes to job creation and business recruitment, according to Site Selection magazine. Tennessee came in at No. 4 on the annual list. Texas ranked No. 1, followed by Indiana and Georgia. To craft the list, Site Selection measured things like new and expanded facilities, the capital investment on new facilities, jobs created and tax climate, among other criteria. REPORT HERE.
Site Selection magazine named Tennessee one of the most competitive states in the country in terms of economic development prowess and attractiveness to site selectors, reinforcing the Volunteer State’s emergence as a prime location for development According to a newly released list from the publication, only Texas, Indiana and Georgia harbored more competitive ambitions through 2012. The list considers not only announced projects, but also investment and progress in workforce development initiatives, among other measures.
Where’s the best state to spend your retirement? According to Bankrate.com, it’s Tennessee. The website rated states in several categories, including cost of living, tax burden, climate, activities and availability of health care and found that the Volunteer State did well enough to easily outpace No. 2 Louisiana. In reviewing the list, CNN noted that the abundance of outdoor activities and the low cost of living — CNN said Tennessee was second in the country in that category — were driving factors in the selection. On the flip side, CNN also said that the Tennessee has one the highest crime rates in the nation. The Bankrate.com report can be seen HERE.
Tennessee is the best place in the nation to spend your retirement, according to a ranking by Bankrate.com. Bankrate ranked states for cost of living, tax burden, activities, climate and availability of health care. The Volunteer State came out on top, edging out Louisiana for the top spot. The top 10 states for retirees, according to Bankrate.com: Tennessee Louisiana South Dakota Kentucky Mississippi Virginia West Virginia Alabama Nebraska North Dakota.
Bankrate.com named Tennessee the top place to retire in the country. “Tennessee rates especially well in cost of living (second-lowest in the nation) and local tax burden (third-lowest),” Bankrate spokesman Ted Rossman said via email. “It also ranks among the best in the country for access to medical care, and its weather is warmer than average.” State leaders have a website dedicated to promoting the state as a great place to retire. According to the Retire Tennessee site, which cites the ACCRA Cost of Living Index, Tennessee’s cost of living is 10 percent less than the national average.
State officials say Williams Sausage Co. is adding 148 jobs at its Union City manufacturing facility. Tennessee’s Department of Economic and Community Development says the sausage company is investing $3 million at its headquarters in Obion County. Williams Sausage President Roger Williams says the jobs will be added over the next two years. Williams says Tennessee has a very friendly business environment. In a statement, Gov. Bill Haslam thanked the company for adding the jobs.
Americana Music Triangle marks the spots of roots music The music that changed the world started as the music of slaves, plowboys and outlaws in five states along the Mississippi River. Today, that roots music carries a host of names, such as Americana, which Grammy-winning songwriter Rodney Crowell can define succinctly, if a bit mysteriously. “I always say when people ask me, ‘What is Americana music?’ ” said Crowell, who is an Americana Music Association board member, “I would say it’s poetry driven.”
The Tennessee Arts Commission has reinstated its popular Arts Build Communities grant program. Through the program, the commission seeks to build communities by nurturing artists, arts organizations and arts supporters. Awards range from $500 to $2,000 and may be used for a variety of arts projects. Any projects that use ABC funds must be open to the general public. Applications are available at http://www.tn.gov/arts beginning May 31. They must be submitted online by July 1. Prior to submitting an application, organizations should discuss the project proposal with a Tennessee Arts Commission representative.
The Tennessee Department of Education plans to use nearly $4 million in federal education funds to pay for eight leadership development programs. The grants are part of the $500 million the state won three years ago in the national Race to the Top education grant competition. Officials said eight recipients received grants, which were awarded to organizations in partnership with one or more school systems. They are to be used to either develop or replicate programs aimed at increasing leader effectiveness and improving student outcomes.
The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services announced Monday it will create nine “recovery courts” to combat mental health and substance abuse issues in the state. Recovery courts are specialized courts or court calendars that incorporate intensive judicial supervision, treatment services, sanctions and incentives to address the needs of addicted nonviolent offenders, according to a news release from the state. The approved fiscal year 2013-2014 budget included $1.56 million for the nine new courts, the release said.
Agency says fee to release files on children is $8,896 Lawyers for the Department of Children’s Services say they will appeal a judge’s ruling limiting how much the agency can charge the public for records of children who died or nearly died after being brought to its attention. Instead of the 50-cent per page cost ordered by Davidson County Chancery Court Judge Carol McCoy on April 17, lawyers for the state Attorney General’s office said DCS intends to attach thousands of dollars to the cost of releasing 50 children’s records — including fees to hire, train and supervise outside paralegals to review the records before making them public.
The state Department of Children’s Services will appeal a Nashville judge’s ruling ordering the agency to release records at 50-cents per page. A group of media organizations including The Tennessean and The Associated Press is suing the agency for the records of children DCS was supposed to be helping who later died or nearly died. DCS originally said it would cost the media more than $55,000 for about 200 records. Last month, Chancellor Carol McCoy ordered the expedited release of 50 records.
Unless state workers hit a snag while clearing a rock slide, both lanes of westbound Interstate 40 in Roane County should be open this morning. Shortly after 9 a.m. Monday, emergency workers in Roane County were alerted to a slab of rock that had toppled alongside I-40 near the 343 mile marker. The slab of rock sent debris onto the far right westbound lane, forcing closure of one lane. Tennessee Department of Transportation spokesman Mark Nagi said state workers armed with a track hoe with a rock hammer attachment converged on the boulder.
The Tennessee Department of Health is urging people to protect themselves from viruses transmitted by mosquitoes. Last year Tennessee experienced 33 human cases of West Nile virus, including one in December. Four out of five people with West Nile won’t show symptoms, but others will develop severe illness that can result in permanent neurological damage or even death. A news release from the Health Department advises that people who think they may have West Nile virus should seek medical care immediately.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency wants to hear from people with concerns about the state’s hunting regulations. The TWRA is asking the public for comments on proposed regulations for the 2013-2014 hunting seasons. Officials say it’s an opportunity for citizens to share their concerns with the agency. Proposed regulations can be found on the TWRA website at tnwildlife.org. Members of the public can also send comments by mail to: 2013-2014 Hunting Season Comments, TWRA, Wildlife Management Division, P.O. Box 40747, Nashville, TN, 37204. The TWRA will be taking comments on the proposed regulations until May 27.
Despite millions spent on property, planning for new one in Nashville, GAO report says it’s unnecessary Although $26 million has been spent on planning and property acquisition for a new federal courthouse in Nashville, a nonpartisan federal oversight group now says the city doesn’t need one. That conclusion has angered U.S. District Judge William J. Haynes Jr., who cited safety and security concerns at the Estes Kefauver Building on Broadway and a growing caseload in a letter he sent to the Tennessee Bar Association.
Republicans in the state legislature will end a joint effort to raise money for the Senate and House of Representatives, following an end-of-session tiff among lawmakers. GOP leaders in the General Assembly have decided to pull out of the Tennessee Republican Caucus, which raised more than $843,000 for Republican lawmakers in the past two years alone. The decision comes after the two chambers torpedoed Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s and House Speaker Beth Harwell’s top initiatives on the final day of the legislative session.
State Rep. Judd Matheny has plans for a small group of fellow House legislators to start dissecting federal laws that affect Tennessee and analyzing them to determine whether they adhere to a strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Speaking to members of the strongly conservative Tennessee Republican Assembly last month, Matheny, who chairs the state House Government Operations Committee, said that even with a GOP supermajority in both chambers of the General Assembly, more work remains to be done to ensure that the Volunteer state “protects the rights and privileges of citizens,” from what he sees as federal overreaching.
The Channel 4 I-Team has uncovered a hefty bill – more than a half million dollars that every Tennessean is helping to pay – and the state could take a very simple step to reduce that cost. Many utility customers typically turn off their lights as much as possible to save money, but the lights never go out at one prominent state building. In her 20 years of working at Legislative Plaza, state Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, says she has seen the lights in the offices and hallways stay illuminated 24/7.
An 86-year-old Nashville woman has become the fourth victim of the fungal meningitis outbreak to file suit against Davidson County Circuit Court, attorneys for Virginia Neely charged that she was sickened after getting two injections of a tainted spinal steroid at the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgical Center. According to the complaint, she was referred to the outpatient center by Dr. Everette Howell of Howell Allen, the 50 percent owner of the neurosurgical center. Also named as defendants are Saint Thomas Hospital, Saint Thomas Health and Saint Thomas Network, the latter of which also half-owns the neurosurgical center.
When it comes to budget proposals, Hamilton County Commissioner Fred Skillern has a simple measure for success: Start with last year’s figure — and lower it if possible. “Zero is good; lower is better,” Skillern said of budget increases Monday as commissioners heard from 40 government officials or nonprofit groups seeking to gain pieces of Hamilton County’s 2014 fiscal pie. Despite Skillern’s sentiments, only 16 of those petitioning for slices Monday met the veteran commissioner’s standard.
Memphis City Council members take their first steps Tuesday, May 7, toward approving a city operating budget and property tax rate for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The council meets at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St. On the agenda for the first of three readings is an ordinance approving the operating budget and an ordinance approving the property tax rate. But at this early stage in budget deliberations, both ordinances amount to fill-in-the-blank actions that have no overall budget amount and no tax rate.
School officials presented their 2013-14 budget to the Montgomery County Commission’s Budget Committee on Monday to allow members and other commissioners an opportunity to ask questions before the School Board approves it. The $213.7 million Clarksville-Montgomery County School System budget, which is about $1.4 million less than last year, is balanced and does not generate the controversy of prior years when officials would request that the county make up the difference between expected revenues and projected spending.
Shelby County Commissioners voted down a resolution Monday, May 6, that would have backed the idea of state legislators and county sheriffs across the state “nullifying” federal gun control laws they consider unconstitutional. The debate about Commissioner Terry Roland’s “Second Amendment Preservation Resolution” dominated a short commission agenda that also included a resolution honoring Commissioner Steve Mulroy for donating a kidney last week to the Methodist Healthcare transplant program. Roland said he sponsored the Second Amendment resolution because his constituents wanted it.
At the same time a local group is calling for elimination of red-light cameras here, statistics show they could be reducing the number of wrecks at the city’s signalized intersections. Citizens Against Photo Enforcement (C.A.P.E.), led by MTSU student Axl David, is launching a petition to eliminate the cameras that catch motorists running red lights and plans to submit it to the City Council once it reaches 1,000 signatures. Among other complaints, the group argues that crash rates increase at photo-enforced intersections, that most tickets are issued for split-second violations and that the money from fines is sent to an out-of-state vendor.
It’s not your imagination — we have been getting more rain than normal. A lot more, in fact. So far, for all of 2013, Knoxville is nearly 12 inches ahead of the average rainfall. Last month, it rained nine days — and four of those days saw rainfall of an inch or more. It’s been a truly soggy weekend throughout the region. From Friday through Monday morning, 5 inches of rain fell at Ooltewah, 4 inches at Gatlinburg and 3 inches in Anderson County. And after the rainy weekend, don’t expect a true reprieve until midweek, if then, although the chance of rain does go down gradually.
The Nolichucky River spilled over onto roads and farmlands that lie along its banks in southern Washington County on Monday morning. Emergency Management Director Nes Levotch said the rain flooded pastures and roads near Tenn. Highway 107. “The Nolichucky River has crested and is going down at this time,” he said at about 2:30 p.m. Monday. “We had some flooding of fields. We had some things like yard barns being washed off their foundations, but no residents have been affected at this time.”
Tennessee Senator Bob Corker started his week on the golf course, playing a round with President Obama at Andrews Air Force Base. They were joined by two other senators – a Democrat and a Republican. Corker has been one of several GOP senators courted by the White House in recent weeks as potential deal-makers on issues ranging from deficit cutting to immigration. A statement released by Corker’s office says with major fiscal and foreign relations issues facing the country, “anytime you can get the president’s ear for a few hours, I think that’s a good thing.”
Just weeks after breaking bread with President Barack Obama during a rare dinner at a fancy restaurant near the White House, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker scored another rare invitation on Monday: A chance to golf with the commander-in-chief. The Chattanooga Republican was one of three senators invited to play golf with Obama — an invitation usually extended only to the president’s closest advisers and friends. The golfing party, which also included U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., arrived at the first green at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland around 1:20 p.m. under overcast skies.
Get ready, Amazon hounds and eBay fiends of America: Start Googling “Internet sales tax.” The phrase got closer to reality Monday thanks to some rare bipartisan consensus in a gridlocked Capitol. Senators voted 69-27 on a bill that would give states the ability to force all Internet retailers to collect sales taxes that online shoppers currently must pay but largely don’t. Those same retailers then would be forced to remit the proceeds to the state where the shopper lives. The Marketplace Fairness Act now heads to the House, where passage hinges on whether suspicious Republicans believe collecting an already-owed tax amounts to a new one.
Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker back Marketplace Fairness Act Senators from Tennessee found themselves among the majority of their colleagues Monday, voting 69-27 to approve legislation allowing for the taxation of online retail sales. The bill, called the Marketplace Fairness Act, was supported by both Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and now heads to the House of Representatives. The 11-page measure, which is also supported by the White House and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, would give states the option of levying tax on Internet sales from companies that don’t have a brick-and-mortar presence in the state where the purchase is made.
As the administration struggles to put in place the final, complex piece of President Obama’s signature health care law, an endeavor on a scale not seen since Medicare’s creation nearly a half-century ago, Democrats are worried that major snags will be exploited by Republicans in next year’s midterm elections. Many Democrats also want to to see a more aggressive and visible president to push the law across the country. This week Mr. Obama is returning to the fray to an extent unseen since he signed the law in 2010, including a White House event on Friday to promote the law’s benefits for women, the first in a series of appearances for health care this year.
During the recession and its aftermath, public schools took a hit as both state coffers and local property taxes shriveled. That showed up in shrinking employment, but also in teacher salaries. According to a report being released Tuesday, the vast majority of teachers in the nation’s largest school districts took a pay cut or saw their pay frozen at least one year between 2008 and 2012. The report by the National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonprofit group that advocates for tougher teacher standards, looked at salary data across 41 of the country’s 50 largest school districts.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean says he’s not worried about potential cost overruns for land seized to build the city’s new convention center. But increasingly it looks like Metro Government may have to pay more. Two courts have now sided with a real estate firm that owned a key lot in the footprint of the new Music City Center, meaning the city could owe an extra $15 million plus interest. That money was set aside when the legal dispute first went to court three years ago. And Mayor Dean says if it has to be paid, so be it.
Traveling out of Nashville from a convention at Gaylord Opryland or the soon-to-open Music City Center could get a little easier. Nashville International Airport officials are considering launching a remote baggage check-in service, allowing visitors to check their luggage at the convention centers or area hotels before heading to the airport. The service would cut down on lines at the terminal and potentially give visitors more time in Nashville, airport spokeswoman Shannon Sumrall said Monday.
Levy on hotels, motels would fund increased tourism Farragut is proposing a new tax on hotels and motels that would be used to fund increased tourism in the town. Under a proposal that passed the board of mayor and aldermen on first reading last week, hotel and motels within the town limits would pay a 3 percent tax. The tax would be in addition to the current 5 percent tax charged by Knox County. Based on legislation introduced in 2003, municipalities are allowed to charge a hotel/motel occupancy tax on top of an existing local tax if certain requirements are met.
If you shopped at a Mapco convenience store recently, your financial information may be at risk. The Tennessean is reporting that Mapco is warning that hackers may have gained access to customer debit card and credit card information. The Brentwood-based chain says customers who made credit card or debit card purchases at certain locations during three different time periods are at risk. Company officials say customers may be vulnerable if they used cards at those stores from March 19-25, April 14-15 and April 20-21.
Shelby County administrator replacing Mike Davis, pending contract approval The Wilson County school board approved a Shelby County Schools administrator Monday night as its top choice to lead its school system. On an initial 4-1 vote, the board agreed to enter into contract negotiations with Timothy Setterlund, 53, as the next director of schools, a position that comes open July 1. A final contract with Setterlund still must go before the board for final approval, either at the regular June meeting or at a specially called meeting, board chairman Don Weathers said.
Aldermen in five of the six suburban towns and cities in Shelby County began the move Monday, May 6, to a July 16 referendum date for a second round of referendums on forming municipal school districts possibly as early as the 2014-2015 school year. The referendum ordinances were passed on the first of three readings by each board of aldermen in Millington, Germantown, Collierville, Bartlett and Arlington. Lakeland commissioners approved first reading of their referendum ordinance in April with the same July special election date.
The meth epidemic is taking over families, overcrowding jails and killing users. Now, one more dark side to the chronic problem: it’s putting innocent people at risk. These are meth dump sites. There could be one down your street, near a playground, even at the end of your driveway. That’s what makes them so deceptive and dangerous. A late night bust is a familiar scene for Drug Agent Kris Lewallen. But when he first started, he just went in with his uniform, breathing deadly chemicals. “Back then the way to test a meth lab was just to pick up a bottle, and smell it and see what was in it,” said Lewallen. “
One of the toughest challenges Gov. Bill Haslam faced this year was whether to expand the state’s Medicaid program, TennCare. The expansion is tied to implementation of the Affordable Care Act to establish a national healthcare system where everyone would have access to health insurance. Haslam decided not to expand TennCare, and instead seek an alternative that would be offered through private insurance companies. Now, it appears the Obama administration is willing to consider such plans. While likely good news for Haslam, his headaches might just be beginning.
It is unimaginable that even a small fraction of Tennesseans would want to make investigating cases of animal abuse more difficult. And yet that is the intent of legislation before Gov. Bill Haslam, who has the option to sign, veto or, without taking a stand, allow the so-called “Ag Gag” bill to become law. One of the most blatantly misrepresented pieces of legislation in recent memory, House Bill 1191/Senate Bill 1248, which narrowly won legislative approval last month, would require photos or video recordings of horse and livestock abuse to be turned over to police within 48 hours of the recording, or allow anyone who gathers such evidence to face a fine and a jail sentence of up to 30 days.
If even nothing else that you’ve seen or heard about the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services has convinced you of the vitally important responsibilities of that agency, then consider the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Johnathan Johnson. The person who police and prosecutors say took Johnathan’s life as he walked to his school bus stop on April 11 — Eric Goodner, also 17 — was under DCS supervision. Except that he really wasn’t. Despite the many steps that DCS has undertaken in the past four months to boost its accountability, tragedy continues to arise within the system.
The state took away teachers’ collective bargaining process in 2011 when Gov. Bill Haslam signed the Professional Educators Collaborative Conference Act into law. Now, we feel, the least the Rutherford County Board of Education could do is fully cooperate in the collaborative process. Collaborative conferencing allows administrators and representatives of a teachers organization to “confer, consult, discuss and exchange information, opinions and proposals on matters relating to terms and conditions of professional service,” according to the Tennessee Department of Education.
Whether on purpose or not, it appears state Rep. Joe Carr is going for the Tea Party vote as he enters the race for the 4th Congressional District seat. During his announcement last week, Carr called for reviving the ideals of the Founding Fathers to stop the federal government from intruding on constitutional rights and state sovereignty. In point after point, Carr, a Lascassas Republican, put himself at odds with the Obama administration, and with Congress, saying he’s going against his own peers and the establishment wing of the Republican Party.
For longer than half a century, mercury from Cold War operations at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant has been seeping into a creek that flows through the city of Oak Ridge. Last week federal and state officials announced plans to build a $120 million plant to filter mercury-tainted water as part of a new focus on dealing with mercury contamination. Though long overdue, the effort represents a welcome step up in the multibillion-dollar cleanup of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Reservation. Mercury was used to separate lithium isotopes for the production of hydrogen bombs at Y-12 during the 1950s.