This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced today the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has granted his disaster declaration request for Stewart and its surrounding counties after severe storms and flash flooding occurred April 26, 2013. The declaration includes Benton, Henry, Houston and Montgomery Counties, and an SBA disaster declaration makes homeowners and businesses affected by the disaster eligible for low-interest loans.
Gov. Bill Haslam says the U.S. Small Business Administration has granted his disaster declaration request for five counties after last month’s severe storms and flash flooding. A statement from the governor’s office released Friday says the declaration makes homeowners and businesses affected by the disaster eligible for low-interest loans. The declaration includes Benton, Henry, Houston, Montgomery and Stewart counties. Stewart County and surrounding areas were hit by strong storms April 26.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has requested assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to help individuals and businesses in Stewart County, and its contiguous counties, recover from the severe storms and flash flooding that occurred on April 26. The additional Tennessee counties that would be eligible for SBA loans are Benton, Henry, Houston and Montgomery as damage to homes and businesses occurred in multiple locations.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and state Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder today announced May 10, 2013 is Military Spouse Day. The day of recognition for military spouses is observed throughout the country to include Tennessee. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed a day of observance to recognize and honor the contributions and sacrifices of military spouses. The United States Armed Forces now set aside the Friday before Mother’s Day each year to pay tribute spouses who continue to take care of their families and homes while their uniformed loved ones answer the call to serve their country.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam held a ceremonial bill signing at Clarksville Foundry, Inc. for his workers’ compensation reform legislation, HB 194/SB 200, approved by the Tennessee General Assembly. Workers’ compensation premium rates for employers in Tennessee are higher than the national average and higher than all of Tennessee’s bordering states, and the state is one of only two that adjudicated workers’ compensation claims in the trial courts, often delaying benefits to employees and producing inconsistent results.
It took only one semester of classroom visits for Sarah Eakes to consider abandoning her pharmacy school plans in favor of teaching biology to middle-schoolers. Eakes was intrigued by a free, introductory teaching course at the University of Tennessee worth one credit hour. The course was designed to encourage students in science and math disciplines to consider teaching as an alternative career path by giving them a chance to job-shadow teachers in local middle and high schools. “I really liked it, and I was like, ‘Uh-oh,’” Eakes, who was a junior at the time, recalled this week.
A Nashville judge on Friday said that after seeing case files of children who were killed as a result of abuse and neglect, it’s clear that some social workers with the state Department of Children’s Services should have done more to protect them and questioned whether the young victims would ever get justice. “There have been balls dropped by several individuals,” Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy said at a hearing where she released 42 records of cases of children who died or nearly died after being under the supervision of DCS at some point earlier.
After reviewing dozens of Department of Children’s Services records on kids who died or nearly died across Tennessee, a state judge on Friday suggested that crimes were committed against children but their abusers were never prosecuted. She called into question the basic competency of the $630 million child welfare agency. Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy said in some instances it took the government up to six months to perform an autopsy on a dead child. Though she acknowledged that DCS doesn’t handle autopsies, she expressed outrage that the state hadn’t followed through.
Ninety days after he stepped in as interim commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, Jim Henry thinks he’s identified most of the “cracks in the system.” “Now we’re working on remedying them,” said Henry, commissioner of the state Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Henry was in Knoxville on Friday with two of his employees and Larry Martin, special assistant to Gov. Bill Haslam, to meet with area media about his plans to make broad changes to DCS.
Social workers with the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services had been involved with a now-deceased infant and her mother prior to the child’s November death, a spokeswoman has confirmed. Lekeenta Henry, the mother of now-deceased Ke’Zaria Machelle Henry, was indicted Monday and arrested Wednesday on charges of felony murder, child neglect and child endangerment in relation to her daughter’s death. Murfreesboro Police have contended that Henry’s severe neglect of the 1-year-old either on or some time prior to Nov. 16 resulted in her death at Venture Point Apartments in Murfreesboro, according to incident and arrest reports obtained this week.
Alyssa Schroeder had such faith in a new University of Tennessee sustainability program, she started pursuing it before it was actually available. This week she became one of the program’s first two graduates. “We were just crossing our fingers that it would be passed and there would be no problems with it, and we’d graduate with the right degree,” Schroeder said, referring to others who also took courses toward the major that did not yet exist at the time.
Tennessee’s top lawyer has declared that a controversial measure purporting to prevent animal cruelty is “constitutionally suspect.” Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has said he wouldn’t decide whether to sign the legislation until after he got state-sponsored legal advice. Attorney General Robert Cooper issued the opinion Thursday. Cooper and his staff wrote that the much-debated legislation potentially violates principles of freedom of the press and the right against self incrimination.
A state lawmaker whose vehicle was shown speeding by a traffic camera in upper East Tennessee co-sponsored a bill to take that camera down this year. Rep. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) was cited for driving 60 miles an hour in a 45 mile-per-hour zone while driving in Bluff City in 2010, just weeks before voters elected him to a third election. The photo-enforced traffic cameras did not show images of the driver, and Lundberg said an employee of his public relations firm was driving the company vehicle at the time.
Tennessee’s Republican Senate and House speakers insist things are now fine between the pair, really they are, despite the end of this year’s rollicking legislative session in which each leader saw his or her top priorities dashed in the other’s chamber during the final days. “There’s zero problem between me and Beth,” Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, told reporters Thursday after he and House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, were seen at the State Building Commission’s meeting.
As one Democratic state senator from Nashville plans to hang it up, another is gearing up for her next run. State Sen. Thelma Harper, a titan in Nashville’s political scene for decades, said Friday she will run for re-election in 2014 for Senate District 19, a seat she has held since 1988. “Sure,” Harper confirmed. “Why not?” Her decision to make re-election plans public follows District 21 state Sen. Douglas Henry’s announcement this week that he would not be seeking a 12thterm in the seat he has occupied since 1971.
Speaking on Capitol Hill, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander boils down the debate as he argues for online sales tax collection. “Two words,” the Tennessee Republican booms. “States’ rights.” State lawmakers, the 72-year-old former governor says, are better equipped to handle their coffers than Washington politicians. And beyond money management, he adds, the debate is about equal treatment: Why should a website dodge a rule the local mom-and-pop store must obey at the cash register?
The online sales tax issue not only divides Tennessee Republicans, in some cases it divides them from campaign contributors. Sen. Lamar Alexander and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, offer the best example. Alexander is one of the Senate’s leading advocates for the implementation of Internet sales taxes, while Blackburn, routinely rated as one of the most conservative members of the House, strongly opposes the idea. Alexander, for his 2014 re-election, has gathered at least $23,000 in campaign contributions from brick-and-mortar retail interests that want their online competitors to have to worry about collecting the taxes as well.
U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper’s proposal to stop lawmakers’ paychecks if the United States defaults on its debt was approved by a large majority of House members today. But Cooper and every other House Democrat then voted against his plan by opposing the Republican-backed debt ceiling bill it was attached to. That was approved by a much smaller margin, largely along party lines. Cooper’s “Stop Pay for Members Act” was an amendment to the debt ceiling bill.
The U.S. Postal Service’s $1.9 billion loss in the second quarter proves that Congress “can’t afford to wait any longer” to pass postal reform legislation, said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. Carper, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, has been the main force in Congress behind changing the Postal Service’s business model. That could include allowing the Postal Service to restructure its retirement health benefits payments, continue reducing its number of facilities, finding new sources of revenue and possibly cutting Saturday mail delivery.
Timing of Wind-Down Is Uncertain, but Focus Is on Managing Unpredictable Market Expectations Federal Reserve officials have mapped out a strategy for winding down an unprecedented $85 billion-a-month bond-buying program meant to spur the economy—an effort to preserve flexibility and manage highly unpredictable market expectations. Officials say they plan to reduce the amount of bonds they buy in careful and potentially halting steps, varying their purchases as their confidence about the job market and inflation evolves.
U.S. District Judge Amul Thapar issued an order Friday that will keep the convicted Y-12 protesters in jail until their Sept. 23 sentencing hearings. At a hearing Thursday, Thapar discussed case law with federal prosecutors and attorneys representing the three protesters — Sister Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed. At that time, the judge indicated he would receive information until Tuesday before deciding whether the new felons would be eligible for release under any circumstances.
If you can’t get enough of Rayna James, Juliette Barnes and primetime views of Nashville’s skyline, you’re in luck. ABC is renewing the Music City drama for a second season, the network announced through social media Friday evening. Ratings have fallen throughout the season, but were up 3 percent for this week’s episode, with two weeks until the season finale. For several weeks, the show has been stuck in third place for its time slot, behind “CSI: Las Vegas” and “Chicago Fire.”
When storied vacuum cleaner maker Oreck filed for bankruptcy on Monday, founder David Oreck was saddened. The 89-year-old vacuum cleaner magnate is hoping to get the company back in the family after selling it to venture capitalists in 2003. On Thursday afternoon, Oreck spoke to the Post via phone and from his Mississippi farm.
A federal appeals court has upheld a judge’s prior finding that Metro Nashville Public Schools’ controversial student assignment plan did not represent deliberate racial resegregation, though it stopped far short of calling the plan a success. The opinion, issued Friday by the U.S.Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, reaffirmed U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp’s ruling last summer, agreeing that the rezoning plan — one the school board approved by a contentious 5-4 vote in 2008 — did not have a “segregative intent” and passes constitutional muster even though it led to more racially divided schools.
It all started with a permission slip. The one Mitzi Yates found among the papers in her fifth-grader’s backpack. If she signed it, it would allow him to bring home a copy of the Gideon New Testament from McConnell Elementary. Wary of religious coercion, she asked the school not to send the texts home, even if parents asked for it. And now, national groups are weighing in on whether such an act is appropriate for a public school, and the Bible could become the next installment in our region’s battle over the proper role of religion in the public square.
Tennessee got plenty of good press last week from various national business publications, proving that our state remains a desirable place for commerce and is poised for continued economic growth. Chief Executive magazine, in a survey of business executives, ranked Tennessee the fourth best state for business for 2013. Among Tennessee’s strengths, the report said, are a high-quality workforce, low tax burden and low cost of living. The magazine also cites a pro-business environment and recent worker’s compensation reforms, which Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law right here in Clarksville last week, as making the state “shine even brighter.”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam should veto the so-called “ag gag” bill, which grew out of the federal conviction of one of Tennessee’s top walking horse trainers and now seems shaped by the walking horse industry to block future investigations. Haslam spokesman Dave Smith said the governor will review the bill and probably make a decision Monday or Tuesday about whether to sign or veto the bill that requires anyone who photographs or videotapes abuse of an animal to give a copy to police within 48 hours. Proponents say the bill is aimed at protecting animals. But critics such as the Humane Society of the United States say it is really an “ag gag” bill aimed at blocking investigators from obtaining detailed documentation of abuse.
The news release from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development in late April instantly ruffled my feathers. Instead of admitting the real reason the department was shutting down 34 career centers in the most hard-hit economic areas of the state, the spin was the department was “restructuring its career center network to more effectively serve Tennessee citizens within current budget constraints.” The budget constraints were alleged to be a drop of $32 million in federal dollars since 2004.
The unified Memphis and Shelby County school board gets a lot of grief, in this space and elsewhere, for what seems like a slow, unsteady lurch toward consolidation of the two districts, which, if miracles are possible, will be finalized on July 1. There is no question that the sheer size of the 23-member board and the pursuit of personal agendas have made the board look unsure of itself and frustrated the public. Two members of the board who have worked hard and purposefully in the midst of this chaos defended the board’s work in a recent morning television appearance, pointing out correctly that on a number of occasions it has risked political consequences and made some tough, businesslike decisions on matters with budget implications.