This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
These may be the lazy days of summer, but there’s an underground movement afoot preparing for an impassioned legislative battle next year. This next fight isn’t over guns, or abortion or even charter schools. It’s about the standards teachers use to teach children, and the issue has the potential to be just as charged — if not more so — than the typical fodder that drives politics in an election year…At the state level, leaders including Gov. Bill Haslam point out the state has “come out pretty strong” in support of the Common Core, and he plans to keep it that way.
As of July 1, the Tennessee Technology Center at Jackson was renamed to the Tennessee College of Applied Technology – Jackson. While the name changes, the mission remains the same, according to a news release. The new name just more accurately reflects the post-secondary training provided, said Jeff Sisk, Director of the TCAT in Jackson: “The Tennessee Technology Centers have received nationwide attention for our completion and placement rates and our instructional delivery model is being highlighted throughout the nation.
A decision by the state Board of Education to change how teachers are paid has led to a social media push to remove Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. The Tennessean reports the creation of two Facebook pages calling for Huffman’s ouster as well as a Change.org petition that has hundreds of signatures. Huffman’s ouster would be unlikely, as Gov. Bill Haslam, state education board chairman Fielding Rolston and outside education advocates came to his defense. Rolston noted it was the board’s decision, not Huffman’s.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has struggled almost from the start of his administration to fulfill a campaign pledge to avoid handling matters relating to Pilot Flying J, the family-owned truck stop chain run by his brother, Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam. Now, an FBI investigation of alleged fraud by the sales staff at the nation’s largest diesel retailer has brought increased scrutiny of the company and raised more questions about links between the governor and Pilot. T
An Aug. 1 hearing has been scheduled for the Tennessee Ethics Commission to consider whether Tom Ingram and an Ingram Group colleague, Marcille Durham, should face civil penalties for failing to register as lobbyists for Hillsborough Resources, a company that wants to mine coal on state property. The commission earlier voted to hold a hearing, but had set no date. Durham says failure to register for two years was “an inadvertent oversight” and has now filed the required paperwork. Gov. Bill Haslam recently told reporters he still has no intention of disclosing how much he has personally paid Ingram for consulting services.
Two more counties have joined the Retire Tennessee program, which recruits retired people to live in the state. Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty said Hamblen County and Rhea County have joined, bringing the number of recruiting communities to 16. Hagerty said Tennessee has the lowest cost of living in the Southeast and second-lowest in the nation. He said low property taxes and a strong health care system make the state a desirable location for retired persons.
Tens of thousands of sandhill cranes descend on southeast Tennessee every winter. With wingspans of up to 6 feet, they are some of the largest migratory birds around. Tourists and bird watchers travel from around the country to Tennessee to view them. A whole festival in January is devoted to the birds. Now, they could be in the sights of hunters, too. The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission — for the second time in three years — is considering a sandhill crane hunting season. If the commission approves the hunting plan at its August meeting, Tennessee would become the 16th state to allow crane hunting.
The Tennessee Department of Correction has added an automated fee payment system for court-ordered fines, fees and restitution. There is a charge to use the online or telephone payment system, but the vendor isn’t charging the state for the service. Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield said the system will free up probation/parole officers to spend more time supervising offenders in communities. He said it also will result in fewer people going back to jail for failing to pay fees.
As more schools consider arming their employees, some districts are encountering a daunting economic hurdle: insurance carriers threatening to raise their premiums or revoke coverage entirely. During legislative sessions this year, seven states enacted laws permitting teachers or administrators to carry guns in schools. Three of the measures — in Kansas, South Dakota and Tennessee — took effect last week. But already, EMC Insurance Companies, the liability insurance provider for about 90 percent of Kansas school districts, has sent a letter to its agents saying that schools permitting employees to carry concealed handguns would be declined coverage.
Dozens of Cheatham County government employees turned out in force at a recent County Commission budget workshop where officials discussed a 10 percent pay raise in next year’s budget. The raises are being proposed because employees have not received one in seven years. The county recently completed a salary study to determine how local paychecks compare with those of other government entities in the region and Southeast. The study showed that Cheatham County employees are behind on average by 18 percent when compared with other counties.
Heavy rains are suspected of causing a portion of Jefferson County High School’s roof to collapse Sunday, among several weather-related incidents over the holiday weekend. Emergency responders arrived at the Dandridge campus to find an estimated 5,000 square feet of the vocational building’s roof caved in after a passer-by reported the collapse about 12:30 p.m., said Dandridge Fire Chief Andy Riley. Firefighters also discovered standing water more than a foot deep at the opposite end of the roof, as well as a drain cover clogged with debris, he said.
Conservative and tea party activists were abuzz Wednesday over a rumor that state Sen. Mark Green, a well-regarded first-term Republican lawmaker from Clarksville, had withdrawn his endorsement of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander. An email from the Middle Tennessee tea party group Sumner United for Responsible Government stirred things up by saying Green had canceled a July 20 appearance in Smyrna over Alexander’s vote on immigration reform. Alexander and fellow Sen. Bob Corker were among the few Republicans to favor the bill that passed the Senate late last month. The implication was that Green might be stepping forward to take on Alexander.
When Allbritton, the media company that owns Politico, put its seven television stations up for sale this spring, analysts quickly singled out one as the most attractive: WJLA, the company’s ABC-affiliated station in Washington, D.C. It is the biggest of the bunch, the best known and, perhaps most important, a magnet for political spending. WJLA took in $33 million in election-related and issue advocacy advertising last year. Only three stations in the United States earned more for political ads, and two of those were also in Washington.
Nine months remain before the first NCAA Division I national championship comes to downtown Nashville. While excitement builds for the Women’s Final Four next April, city officials hopes the women’s basketball championship offers Music City an opportunity to become a regular title town. “I think we are now in a position that whatever the event is we can compete for it,” Mayor Karl Dean said recently. “There is just a good buzz about the city and we should not be afraid to talk about it.”
Hospitals and other entities under Saint Thomas Health, including Middle Tennessee Medical Center in Murfreesboro, are getting new names under a rebranding initiative. “With changes in health care delivery, it’s important for people in the region to understand the size and scope of Saint Thomas Health,” Saint Thomas spokeswoman Rebecca Climer said. The decision is part of a strategic direction and based on research of public awareness of the Catholic-owned hospital system’s health ministry, she said. Climer declined to reveal the new names of the system’s area hospitals, but she said they should be announced this week.
Some Sumner County high schools have drug tested students for decades even though the Board of Education doesn’t have a formal policy on the practice. How high schools across the county handle drug testing is inconsistent, and the issue needs to be addressed before school starts in August, Director of Schools Del Phillips and Portland school board member Glen Gregory said at a recent board meeting. Five Sumner high schools are randomly drug testing students involved in extracurricular activities, while Merrol Hyde Magnet School, Station Camp High and Beech High are not, according to Jeremy Johnson, spokesman for Sumner County Schools.
Knox County Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre is asking the school board to establish a career and technical education magnet high school that, if approved this week, would be housed at the Strawberry Plains campus of Pellissippi State Community College. “I believe the creation of a CTE magnet high school … will serve our community well and expand the multiple pathways to success that we offer students in the Knox County Schools,” McIntyre wrote in his memo to board members. “It will also help us to achieve our ambitious goal of excellence for all children as we strive to serve the needs of our diverse population of students.”
It’s quite possible one of the first changes kids will see in the merged district this fall will be a quinoa-oat cookie — sweetened with local sorghum — and served free with juice and milk in the classroom. Quinoa and sorghum are the work of Tony Geraci, director of food service in the new district and a maverick when it comes to rolling out ideas. Foodservice Director magazine this year named him among the top 20 people making the biggest impact on noncommercial food service. A few hours before dinner is served in most Mid-South homes, Geraci will also be serving free supper to every student involved in sports or other after-school programs, starting on “Day One.”
Recent cuts to personnel in Sullivan County’s school system will impact the classroom, two education officials said. Last week, the Sullivan County Board of Education approved a budget with $3 million in cuts. The reductions included the elimination of 25 teachers and 33 part-time teacher aides. Director of Schools Jubal Yennie said the total number of positions eliminated throughout the system, including those in the central office, will be approximately 60. Sullivan County Education Association President Lloyd Putney said the cuts will hurt students and harm teachers’ ability to provide an education.
Sullivan County Board of Education member Todd Broughton has requested a BOE vote on terminating Director of Schools Jubal Yennie’s employment if he declines to resign. But because of Tennessee law and the board’s normal review schedule, school leaders won’t consider his employment until early September. BOE Chairman Dan Wells said the request the week of June 24 came too late for a required 15-day public notice in Tennessee law.
No Republican should vote for legislation that perpetuates amnesty for more than 11 million people illegally in our country, leaves our southern border open for even more illegal immigration, and stifles economic growth.That is why we were two of the 68 senators who voted for the immigration bill that takes the most dramatic steps in history to secure our border, ends perpetual amnesty, and encourages job creation. Since there is so much emotion surrounding the immigration debate, we appreciate this opportunity to offer the reasoning behind our votes: • Securing our border. The first thing to do with the current immigration mess is to stop more people from coming here illegally.
The possible expansion of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga automobile manufacturing plant could hinge on establishing a German-style works council, bringing into sharp relief the differences between German and American labor relations. The plant is in the running for an added assembly line to build a sport utility vehicle, but some VW officials are insisting the plant establish a works council first. Works councils are made up of employees who work with management to make key decisions in plant operations. American labor laws, however, require union representation before a formal employee-management panel can be formed.