This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Tennessee television viewers may have seen Gov. Bill Haslam starring in a dramatic new public service announcement. The $50,000 spot from the Governor’s Highway Safety Office was produced by The Tombras Group, a Knoxville advertising agency. The ad was paid for with a grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The ad features the story of “Jessica.” Haslam holds a framed photo of Jessica and her family, which he drops to the floor. The commercial then cuts to an image of the picture shattering, followed by a message from the governor encouraging seat belt use amid a cascade of falling picture frames.
The number one American Legion Boys’ State program in the nation began its 49th year today at Tennessee Tech University and runs through Saturday. The program ranks as the best in the country because of the opportunities given to about 600 high school juniors from across the state. During the week they will receive instruction and advice from the state’s governor, military leaders and government officials…This year’s session also will feature an address from Gov. Bill Haslam.
Three separate consent agreements were issued and fines totaling $39,200 were imposed following an inspection of the Tennessee compounding pharmacy suspected to be the cause of a cluster of illnesses in two states. Records released Saturday by the state health department show the identical agreements and fines were imposed in March as a result of a Nov. 19, 2012, inspection of the Main Street Family Pharmacy. Two of the consent agreements were issued against the pharmacy and one against the pharmacist in charge, Christy Newbaker.
An outside 2010 evaluation of the Tennessee Department of Correction’s program to prevent inmates from getting raped by other inmates or staff members found the program was ineffective. That’s the same program that a 34-year-old rapist was enrolled in as an inmate classified as a high-risk sexual predator. A year after his release, he raped a teen and killed his wife on a single day. “One of my biggest of criticisms of the program was it was just an educational program. It didn’t have much of a mental health component,” said Rosevelt Noble, a senior lecturer in the sociology department at Vanderbilt University who conducted the evaluation three years ago.
Walter Thomas Durham, Tennessee’s state historian for the past decade and author of 24 books on Tennessee history, who left a lasting mark especially in his hometown of Gallatin, died on Friday at the age of 88. Mr. Durham, a longtime Gallatin businessman and a walking encyclopedia of Tennessee and Sumner County history, was appointed state historian in 2002 by then-Gov. Don Sundquist. He had already served as president of the Tennessee Historical Society, founding president of the Tennessee Heritage Alliance (renamed the Tennessee Preservation Trust) and chairman of the Tennessee Historical Commission.
“The Daily Show” has been in town again, filming footage last week at Tennessee Justice Center for an upcoming political spoof, according to an email sent out by Michele Johnson, a staff attorney at the center. Johnson didn’t give away much about the segment, but she did indicate that the topic was Tennessee’s dialing-for-health-care program, the TennCare Standard Spend Down. Tennessee launched Spend Down in 2010 to help people with low incomes and high medical bills who would not normally qualify for the state’s Medicaid program gain access to TennCare.
Last December, 16-year-old Texas resident Emily Bauer smoked synthetic marijuana with her friends. Hours later she found herself in the hospital fighting to stay alive. Bauer suffered from multiple strokes, which left her in a psychotic-like state, CNN reported. The teenager’s sister reportedly said Bauer was urinating on herself, running into walls, hallucinating and acting violently after she smoked the drug. Her family took her to the hospital when she complained of an extreme headache.
House Speaker Beth Harwell will help lead a national effort to elect more Republican women to state office. Harwell was named Thursday as co-chair of Republican Women, Right Now, an initiative of the Republican State Leadership Committee. She will share duties with Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman.
Twenty Cleveland intersections will receive a new GPS-based traffic signal pre-emption system this summer, and the Cleveland Fire Department will be the first emergency responder enabled to use it. The Cleveland Utilities board recently voted 4-0 to approve a $120,600 purchase to install GPS radiodevices in the intersection traffic signals and equip 10 fire department vehicles with control units. The new system works in long-range zones, which makes it easier to clear intersection bottlenecks before the vehicles arrive, Cleveland Fire Chief Steve Haun recently told city leaders.
Recently, the family of a mentally ill man went to Chancery Court, hoping that a judge would order him to participate in an outpatient treatment program. It was the first — and so far the only — such petition filed under a new law passed this past July that set up a mental health pilot program for Knox County, administered by the Helen Ross McNabb Center. The Court Ordered Assistant Outpatient Treatment (AOT) law set aside $125,000 per year in funding for two years.
Chip Saltsman, a former Tennessee Republican Party chairman and manager of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign, has joined state Rep. Joe Carr’s congressional bid as its campaign director. Saltsman, who also managed U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann’s campaigns in 2010 and 2012, will “manage all facets” of the Lascassas Republican’s 4th Congressional District campaign, a spokesman said. Carr so far faces incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-South Pittsburg, and state Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville.
Ten years ago, the executives of Smyrna-based Wearwell made a decision to concentrate on making their ergonomic floor-covering products in the United States, bucking the trend to send manufacturing to China or other low-cost foreign countries. Despite struggling through the recession, Wearwell has seen its commitment pay off, and the company has been on a growth spurt, adding workers and running two or three shifts a day at its modern, 150,000-square-foot plant next to the Smyrna airport, said President and CEO Elliot Greenberg.
Teams, moms, supporters come ready to spend Spring Fling brought high school athletes from across the state to Murfreesboro this past week to compete in TSSAA sports, such as track and field, softball, baseball, tennis and soccer. It also brought a boost to Rutherford County – an extra estimated $3.5 million economical impact over the four-day event, according to Paul Latture, president of the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce. “That’s great news for our county,” Latture said. He said he sees it as a way to introduce out-of-towners to Murfreesboro and gain their business on a more permanent level.
All six Memphis suburbs have set a July 16 date to hold referendums on establishing municipal school systems. WMC-TV (http://bit.ly/11jsNCA) reports the Shelby County Election Commission approved the date during a meeting on Friday. The action came after all six suburbs passed ordinances calling for a referendum on the issue on that date. Residents in the communities voted last year to approve the municipal school districts, but a judge struck the decisions down.
Tennessee’s educators are on notice: Failing to report possible sex abuse, even among students, could land you in court or jail. Three Robertson County educators learned that the hard way last month, when prosecutors charged them with failing to report possible student-on-student sex abuse at East Robertson Elementary School. Those charges, possibly the first filed in Tennessee against educators, herald a new reality for teachers and school employees who are increasingly finding their responsibilities expanding.
The mile-wide tornado that left 24 dead in the Oklahoma City suburbs shredded whole subdivisions, tossed cars around like toys and captivated America for days. But perhaps the most heartbreaking scene in the heartland was at Plaza Towers Elementary School, where seven children died in the twister’s assault. The devastation led to calls for mandatory tornado shelters in schools and raised questions why kids were there when the threat of severe weather was apparent. That’s why the Plaza Towers story is different.
After years of grueling battles over state budget deficits and spending cuts, California has a new challenge on its hand: too much money. An unexpected surplus is fueling an argument over how the state should respond to its turn of good fortune. The amount is a matter of debate, but by any measure significant: between $1.2 billion, projected by Gov. Jerry Brown, and $4.4 billion, the estimate of the Legislature’s independent financial analyst. The surplus comes barely three years after the state was facing a deficit of close to $60 billion. At first glance, the situation should be welcome news in a state overwhelmingly controlled by Democrats, who have spent much of their time slashing programs they support.
Some of the findings in this month’s Vanderbilt University poll suggest that the Republican supermajority Legislature may be a bit out of sync with the overall Tennessee electorate — at least in comparison with Gov. Bill Haslam. In general approval ratings, Haslam came in with 63 percent; the General Assembly at 51. Both a lot better than President Barack Obama at 40 percent, much less the U.S. Congress at 21 percent. The multi-question Vandy poll results from surveying 813 registered voters earlier this month raises the possibility the differences could actually be in tune with issues on occasion.
That a recent review that found more than 50 candidates — including some of the Legislature’s top leaders — failed to report contributions from political action committees or corporations is more proof that Tennessee disclosure laws should not be undermined. The Registry of Election Finance found the discrepancies during an annual “crosscheck” review mandated by state law. The review matches donations listed on candidates’ disclosure forms with donations listed on PAC and corporate disclosure forms. A bill sponsored by House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada would do away with the requirement for disclosure by corporations, which would cripple the crosscheck process.
Last year’s fungal meningitis outbreak was a nightmare for Tennesseans. Our state alone suffered 152 cases, including 15 deaths. The tragedy would have been much worse if not for the heroism of state officials with the Department of Health who discovered the problem and helped to identify the cause. Their work prevented more people from getting sick and saved countless lives. Last week, the Senate’s health committee completed work on legislation I sponsored to try to make sure this never happens again. The next step is consideration by the full Senate.
During the Memphis City Council’s capital improvement project budget discussions Tuesday, a council committee denied a $1.1 million request to restore the historic riverfront cobblestone landing, choosing instead to use $800,000 to improve a neighborhood park in Frayser and $300,000 for repaving projects. There is no doubt the Denver Park improvements and street repaving projects are important to those Memphis citizens who have a direct interest in them. But it is worth asking whether the council should have to make an “either/or” choice between the park and the cobblestones that pits two very different projects against one another — one a grass-roots park improvement aimed at enhancing safety and expanding recreational opportunities for a Frayser neighborhood, the other a long-planned historic restoration effort for a segment of the city’s high-profile riverfront.
A lot of Tennessee conservatives are hoping for a change. They want an option; a principled, limited government, free market advocate to run against U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and his liberal voting record in the 2014 Republican primary. For proof, you only have to look to the Nashville Tea Party. In just a few short weeks well over 5,000 Tennesseans have signed an online petition organized by the group calling for a “true conservative candidate to oppose Lamar Alexander,” and arguing that “Alexander is NOT a conservative and the people of Tennessee should have a Senator who will fight for conservative values.”
It was one of the first questions raised — mostly by students — when the notion of merging Memphis City Schools with Shelby County Schools surfaced more than 2½ years ago. Will students be required to wear uniforms after the districts consolidate? After months of waiting, we finally have an answer. And it’s similar to most other answers provided by this behemoth school board of late — yes and no. The official pronouncement likely will come this week when the 23-member unified board meets for the first time since the school year — the last one for Memphis City Schools — ended last week.
Note: The news-clips will resume Tuesday, May 28.