This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder today announced the upcoming construction for the Montgomery County Tennessee State Veterans Home. Haslam was also joined by U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Speaker Pro Tem Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville), Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan, Montgomery County Mayor Carolyn Bowers, Tennessee State Veterans Homes Director Ed Harries and Tennessee State Veterans Homes Board Chairperson Mary Ross as well as several members of the Tennessee State Veterans Homes Board.
National, state and local leaders – including Senator Lamar Alexander and Governor Bill Haslam – lined up behind a row of golden shovels on Friday afternoon and broke ground, at long last, on the soon-to-be-realized Montgomery County Tennessee State Veterans Home. “Could you feel the excitement in the air?” asked Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder, walking up with a broad smile before the question was asked. Short answer: You could, indeed.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder announced the upcoming construction for the Montgomery County Tennessee State Veterans Home. Haslam was also joined by U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Speaker Pro Tem Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville), Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan, Montgomery County Mayor Carolyn Bowers, Tennessee State Veterans Homes Director Ed Harries and Tennessee State Veterans Homes Board Chairperson Mary Ross as well as several members of the Tennessee State Veterans Homes Board.
Gov. Bill Haslam has signed into law a bill changing liquor distillery laws and opening the way for Chattanooga Whiskey Co. to begin manufacturing its product in the city it calls home. Online legislative records show Haslam signed the bill Thursday. Hamilton County was excluded from a 2009 law that made it easier to begin producing alcohol in counties without first holding a voter referendum for approval. Under the new law, distilleries will be legal in any city where voters have approved both liquor by the drink and retail package store sales.
Tennessee’s First Lady Crissy Haslam recently hosted HGTV at the Executive Residence to film the establishment of the kitchen and cutting garden as part of a larger renovation project on the residence grounds. The kitchen and cutting garden will promote local agriculture and farm-to-table sustainability. HGTV filmed the groundbreaking of the garden, as well as interviews with Governor and First Lady Haslam, the Tennessee Residence chef and the project’s landscape architect. The garden will be featured on HGTVGardens.com and in a special, “HGTV Yard Takeover,” to air in May 2013.
Newscasts, nonprofit say new clues have surfaced State investigators on Friday blasted a Brentwood-based nonprofit’s work on missing Tennessee woman Holly Bobo’s case, saying bad information it released could jeopardize legitimate detective work. Internal emails turned over to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation by women’s advocacy group Without Warning indicate the group knew some of its findings were false but put them out anyway, TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm said.
Agency says private investigative team didn’t follow law enforcement standards The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said on Friday that the non-profit group Without Warning didn’t investigate the disappearance of nursing student Holly Bobo to law enforcement standards, as reported by Nashville news station Channel 4 WSMV. WSMV broadcast a series on the apparent findings from Without Warning, a private investigative team hired by the Bobo family, as well as a special documentary on the private investigation that aired on May 12.
Third-, fourth- and fifth-graders struggling to read can beef up their skills this summer before they head to back to school, thanks to the University of Tennessee. Low-income children who have completed grades three through five but read below grade level can participate in a free summer tutoring program. Students must have received free or reduced-price lunch during the most recent school year to be eligible. The program, which is also a research project, is being facilitated by the Department of Theory and Practice in Teacher Education’s Special Education Program and the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling.
Less than 10 months after three tickets split a world-record lottery prize, the jackpot for Saturday’s Powerball drawing was nearing historic territory once again. Should nobody pick the correct six numbers, the prize money will roll over to next week’s drawing and almost certainly eclipse the $656 million doled out to winners in Illinois, Kansas and Maryland in the Mega Millions game in March 2012. But the record could fall Saturday night too if a flurry of last-minute ticket purchases pushes the jackpot much above its current $600 million level.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: Step right up. By the end of today, you might turn $2 into $1 million. Or maybe even $600 million. The Powerball lottery jackpot is soaring high, higher than it ever has before. $600 million. Powerball officials are going to draw six numbers tonight, and if they happen to be your six numbers, you could start shopping for a fleet of Ferraris. Or maybe tickets for a space voyage on the Virgin Galactic. Or maybe you want to buy Nick Saban’s mansion on Lake Burton in Clayton, Ga.
Another record lottery jackpot has thousands of Americans dreaming of Powerball riches. But the numbers say that even with a nine-figure potential payout, a ticket still isn’t a good bet. Lottery officials on Friday estimated the potential jackpot in Saturday’s Powerball drawing at $600 million. The twice-weekly game—which is played in 43 states, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands—is a progressive lottery: If no one wins the jackpot Saturday, the money will roll over to Wednesday’s drawing.
Members of the state Senate Higher Education Subcommittee were at the Capitol for a hearing Thursday and Knoxville Republican Stacey Campfield seized the opportunity to spar with administrators from the state’s public university systems over how schools allocate student activities money. Top on the agenda for Campfield, an outspoken social conservative who seems to never stray far from the limelight, was the so-called “Sex-Week” put on by student groups at the University of Tennessee Knoxville back in March.
The Clarksville-Montgomery County School System has received a $40,000 grant to pay for STEM Academy and Middle College High School’s students’ fees for dual enrollment in college courses. The Tennessee College Access and Success Network awarded a total of $412,426 this week to six schools, two higher education institutions and four nonprofits in its third annual grant competition, raising the total amount of Race to the Top funds awarded by the Network to more than $1.6 million.
Is a 40-member Metro Council needlessly expensive and haplessly ineffective or just right? Davidson County residents can weigh in on the size of Nashville’s governing body — long derided for being the third largest local council in the nation — and other budgetary issues at a “roundtable” meeting Saturday at the Hermitage Police Precinct at 3701 James Kay Lane. It begins at 2:30 p.m. “It’s a subject that keeps coming up — both pros and cons,” said Councilman Steve Glover, one of its hosts. A separate area likely to receive attention Saturday involves salary-step increases for Metro employees, which they haven’t received in several years.
The Tennessee Valley Authority signed an agreement Friday with the federal government and the states of Tennessee and Georgia to provide $2.7 million to keep three national fish hatcheries operating. The agreement will provide the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with $900,000 annually for the next three years to raise trout at its hatcheries in Tennessee and Georgia. The trout are provided to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources for stocking in streams and lakes in both states.
Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander is again coming to the aid of fishermen. At a press conference Friday, he announced that he “brokered” a deal to save the state’s federal fish hatcheries. Federal budget cuts put three hatcheries in the state at risk, including one on Dale Hollow Lake, which produces over 60% of all trout stocked in Tennessee annually. It is the only source for brown trout and lake trout in Tennessee – TWRA says its hatcheries do not have the water quality or space these species require.
By Thursday, after a week of fallout from a growing IRS scandal and the Department of Justice’s raid on journalists’ records, Tennessee’s senior senator wasn’t the first Republican to link President Barack Obama with President Richard Nixon — he of the enemies list, secret tapes and Watergate. But unlike many of those Republicans, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., once worked for the disgraced president he took pleasure in linking with Obama. As a young lawyer in 1969, the future Tennessee governor worked for Bryce Harlow, Nixon’s executive assistant.
Knoxville lawyer Pamela Reeves faces more intensive investigation by federal agencies and a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee since being nominated Thursday by President Barack Obama to be the first woman to serve as a federal judge in the Eastern Tennessee District. She has been vetted by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary and been investigated by the FBI. Those familiar with the process said further inquiries will be made by the FBI and other agencies.
Homebound senior citizens will soon feel the sequester’s sting as the series of massive federal budget cuts trickles down to the Mid-South, jeopardizing up to 18,000 Meals on Wheels deliveries this year. The Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association slashed its annual budget to accommodate a four percent reduction in federal assistance to four of its elderly outreach programs, including a $108,000 loss to Meals on Wheels. “We didn’t know when we started this strategic planning process two years ago that sequestration would hit us this way,” said Dot Gilbertson, MIFA’s chief operating officer.
A coalition of environmental groups filed a lawsuit Thursday claiming federal agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, unlawfully approved surface mining on Tennessee mountains. The Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club and others sued the agencies in U.S. District Court in Nashville for not considering how pollution from the mining would impact endangered fish — in particular, the blackside dace and Cumberland darter. “Extinction of endangered species is too high a price to pay for surface mining,” said the Sierra Club’s Mary Anne Hitt.
The architects of the Music City Center are admiring their own work ahead of this weekend’s grand opening. They say the 1.2 million square foot building represents an evolution in how people think about convention centers. “Once upon a time, convention centers were referred to as a ‘box with docks,’” says TVS Design principal Andy McLean. “There was not a lot of architecture going on.” McLean’s Atlanta-based firm has put its stamp on more than 60 convention halls all over the country, including a recent facelift to the Cobo Center in Detroit.
A North Carolina trucker has filed a class-action lawsuit against Pilot Travel Centers in U.S. District Court in Florida, piggybacking on charges disclosed in an FBI affidavit detailing evidence of a rebate skimming scheme. The suit, the eighth to be filed in state and federal courts in the past month, charges Pilot violated fraud and consumer protection statutes by reducing promised rebates without customers’ knowledge. Other suits have been filed in Illinois, Arkansas and Alabama. A suit also was filed by a Georgia trucking firm in circuit court in Knoxville.
As states across the nation begin to consider lowering the allowable blood alcohol content level for drivers from 0.08 percent to 0.05 percent, Tennessee is taking steps to rein in drunken drivers by expanding the use of ignition interlocks. Gov. Bill Haslam’s signature on Monday ensures that anyone convicted of exceeding the 0.08 threshold, and who has his or her license suspended, will be required to equip their vehicle with a breath-test ignition interlock device before they will be allowed to drive under a restricted license. The new law is a step in the right direction that will help make Tennessee roads safer and better protect innocent drivers and passengers.
The Shelby County Election Commission made the right call this week when it rejected a referendum request from Cordova residents who want to de-annex their community from Memphis. The commissioners, acting unanimously, were guided by the position of the state coordinator of elections and other legal experts who said a city — not its citizens — must initiate any de-annexation effort. The attorney for the citizens group interpreted the statute differently. Beyond the legal question about who can initiate a de-annexation action, however, lies the festering city-suburban acrimony that, frankly, will keep Greater Memphis from being great.
When schools across Shelby County open on Aug. 5, the consolidation of the city and county public school systems will remain a work in progress. And that is not the way this was supposed to work. Maybe it was naïve to believe the sentiment expressed over and over that the merger would be about creating a new school system with new expectations and new possibilities. But settling for clinging to the same school experience does not represent the middle ground in the array of sentiments that most parents have experienced in the last two years. It may be comforting to parents in some parts of Shelby County.
The Rutherford County Commission is making the right move by supporting a major project at the Smyrna Airport. All told, the airport will need about $9 million for a 24,000-square-foot hangar, office space and site preparation. The airport will borrow about $2.4 million of that from the county. It’s a win in the truest sense of the term as the project includes preparing an open field of 35 acres for additional economic development by aviation companies seeking long-term leases. It’s also not exactly a tough decision. The county owns 60 percent of the airport with Smyrna owning 40 percent.
Twenty-one Republicans voted with 46 Democrats (and 2 Independents) recently to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act, a long-overdue bill allowing states to require online retailers to collect sales taxes and remit them to the state where the customer lives. Will the House be so rational? It’s a long shot. Speaker John Boehner has said he probably will not support the bill because compliance would be a “mess,” even though the bill requires states to provide free tax-collection software and take other steps to ease compliance.