This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Atlanta television station WXIA sent a crew to Nashville last week to ask Gov. Bill Haslam the question on the tip of many Georgians’ tongues these days: Why won’t the Volunteer State give up water from the Tennessee River to slake Georgians’ voracious thirst? Haslam generally dismissed Georgia officials’ claim to a portion of the river in Marion County based on what they say was a faulty 19th century land survey. “We’re very satisfied with the situation the way it is now, for good reason,” a smiling Haslam told WXIA reporter Doug Richards.
Tennessee unveiled a new website for families that allows parents to search for information about programs and services available to help their children in a single place.The website, www.kidcentraltn.com, can also tell families about programs near where they live based on ZIP code, and will suggest related pages based on the search terms they type in. The new site collects information that has been spread across state government websites. In the next two months, the information will also be available in an app for mobile phones, officials said.
Rising tuition just part of problem, experts explain When Lexi Knoch watched signs pop up around the Middle Tennessee State University campus heralding new buildings and parking garages, all she could think about was her tuition bill. From Knoch’s perspective, expenses for buildings and new technology explained MTSU’s increasing tuition. But as Congress debates how to deal with rising interest rates on student loans, experts say the most visible signs of spending on campus are insignificant compared with the many factors affecting tuition.
Erin Thames has been going back and forth trying to decide between Apple’s iPad or Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD. While the 23-year-old college student has yet to make up her mind, one thing is certain: She plans to buy a tablet during the state’s sales tax holiday, set for Aug. 2-4. “This year, I marked it on my calendar so I wouldn’t forget,” said Thames, who has in the past either been out of town or too busy working to take advantage of the annual event. Since 2006, the state has held a sales tax holiday every year on the first Friday in August through the following Sunday night.
What started as a feel-good attempt to give families a break and stimulate the economy has turned out to be not so popular with the savvy parents of school-age children and not all that good a way to help the economy either. The season of “sales tax holidays” has arrived with stores in Tennessee giving consumers a break from paying sales taxes on Aug. 2-4 and in Mississippi on July 26-27. The timing is set to help parents pay for back-to-school supplies by eliminating sales taxes on everything from clothes to shoes to electronics.
New social studies textbooks for Tennessee public schools will be on display until September at 10 sites across the state. Tennessee Department of Education officials are seeking public comments on books, which proposed for use in K-12 classrooms in 2014-2015. Comment forms will be available at each display site. They must be submitted by Sept. 11. Morgan Branch, director of textbook services for the department of Education, hopes parents, teachers, families of students, and other members of the public will take part in the review process.
University of Memphis officials are working on a plan to recruit hundreds of talented students from the Mid-South and the nation by offering full scholarships paid in part by local corporations. Hit by enrollment declines in 2012, the region’s largest public university wants to compete with colleges throughout the nation for able high school graduates. Attracting high-caliber students and pairing them with suitable local companies could help slow the migration of well-educated people.
The U.S. Department of Education says Tennessee will receive a $9.8 million grant to continue efforts to turn around its persistently lowest achieving schools. The Education Department said the money comes to Tennessee as part of the department’s School Improvement Grants program. Tennessee, Alabama, California and Pennsylvania are among the newest states to receive continuation awards for the third year of implementing a School Improvement Grants program model.
Deanna Piotrowski wound up on the wrong side of the Kentucky-Tennessee border. She suffers from chronic conditions, cannot afford her medicine and is without health insurance. If she had settled 10 miles up the road, she would be getting Medicaid coverage. “That’s ridiculous,” Piotrowski said. “That’s really a shame.” Portland, Tenn., where Piotrowski lives, is not that different from Franklin, Ky., the next town up along a two-lane highway that runs past cornfields and modest homes. Kassandra Clark says she’s lucky to live in the Kentucky town.
More than 150 tea party and libertarian activists set up in front of the Smyrna Air Center Saturday to protest Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander because they say his voting record is not conservative enough to represent Tennessee. They are looking for a candidate to oppose his bid for re-election in 2014. “We feel that we are not being represented as conservative Tennesseans or just as Tennesseans,” said Katherine Hudgins, Rutherford County Tea Party representative and Rutherford County director of the 912 Project Tennessee.
What do The Pinnacle at Symphony Place, Nashville City Center, Regions Center, CMT Building and Renaissance Tower all have in common? They’re among high-profile downtown Nashville office buildings on the selling block or under contract to be sold. Add the Highland Ridge buildings and One Century Place near Nashville’s airport and the three-building Eastpark office complex in Brentwood, and as many as 16 area office buildings representing more than 5 million square feet of space valued at $817 million were in play before last week’s sale of downtown Nashville’s Bank of America Plaza.
T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital at Erlanger long has prided itself on its sophisticated facilities and physician specialists it says are more likely to be found in a city twice Chattanooga’s size. But Erlanger Health System CEO Kevin Spiegel said the 1970s-era facility is due for a major face-lift — or full replacement. He hopes to see such a makeover within the coming decade. “If it were to happen, we’re years away,” Spiegel said. “But we want to make people aware that this can happen in this community. … We can build something where patients would rather come here than somewhere else. That’s something we need to do in Chattanooga.”
Forty-seven new school security officers will not be considered full time until they graduate from a five-week training academy now under way. “Just being allowed to attend the training does not guarantee them the opportunity to become full-time school security officers,” said Gus Paidousis, Knox County Schools’ new security chief. All candidates have had to pass tests, get through some “screening tools” and then face the challenges of the recruit school, Paidousis said. Some who applied at the start of the process already have been let go.
Thursday, Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman visited The Daily News Journal for a few minutes to discuss various issues related to education in our state. It was a good conversation and a wide-ranging one, and I at least came away with the impression that he and the Tennessee Department of Education are trying to do the right things when it comes to our schools. In Rutherford County, we are blessed with two systems — Rutherford County Schools and Murfreesboro City Schools — that are academically driven and perform well. It’s not that way in all areas of the state, however.
Louie Lobbyist came by the cubicle the other day and, after making a couple of insulting remarks about the clutter, asked if we could speak privately for a moment. Sure, I said, and we walked across the hall to an empty legislative committee room. “What’s the governor paying Tom Ingram?” he asked as we settled into the staff seats in the center of the room. An undisclosed sum, I replied. How should I know? Tom was paid out of the governor’s own pocket until July 1, when he went on campaign payroll. That will be reported next Jan. 31 or so. But the governor tells us media types none-ya (none of your business) when his own money is involved.
Last week’s tragic crash that claimed the life of a woman in a wheelchair on U.S. Highway 41A North – commonly called Providence Boulevard and farther north, Fort Campbell Boulevard – points to the urgency of carrying out some long-promised improvements designed to help pedestrians and people with mobility challenges travel along and across the thoroughfare. After six pedestrians were killed on that stretch of roadway between 2007 and 2011, Councilwoman Deanna McLaughlin asked the Tennessee Department of Transportation – the body responsible for U.S. Highway 41A North – to launch a road safety study.
Margaritaville’s backers had $10 million to invest in iconic Lower Broadway, but they still had to move heaven and earth to get approval just because they wanted to change the historic windows. Roll forward three years, and suddenly all city officials — including historians and the mayor’s office — have quietly signed off on a giant “glass” hotel across the street that will take out historically significant buildings. Even with the architect’s effort to make sure the front of it is still just three stories tall, the back will tower over our signature streetscape and push us to look not like the Nashville you love, but more like Any Town USA.
The windows from which people view their world do a lot to explain the divide on the Memphis City Council over spending priorities and property tax rates. Those windows also shape the opinions of taxpayers over whether their tax dollars are being spent in the most efficient manner and whether their elected officials have spending priorities in the right order. Most people don’t want to see their taxes rise, but they also don’t want to see basic services, especially public safety, reduced to keep their taxes low. The divide has been clear in the contentious budget discussions that are taking place within the Shelby County Commission and the Memphis City Council.
On Wednesday morning, Jan. 17, 1979, Republican Gov.-elect Lamar Alexander was enjoying a brief respite from his five-year quest. He was sitting in his campaign offices on Hobbs Road, working on his speech for Saturday, when he, his wife, Honey, family, friends and supporters would celebrate the long, sole-wearing journey they had taken to Nashville. And then U.S. Attorney Hal Hardin called and ruined his day. And it was not just Lamar Alexander’s day that Hardin ruined. “It was the worst day of my life,” Honey has said of the next several hours that led to Alexander being sworn in by Justice Joe Henry in the Supreme Court chambers just before 6 that evening.
For at least the ninth time in three years, the Tennessee Valley Authority has been cited by federal regulators for violating safety standards at one of its three nuclear plants that operate in a half circle around Chattanooga. Perhaps we just hear it so much that we tune it out. Perhaps Tennessee is so engrained in the nuclear tradition — Oak Ridge, after all, is basically where nuclear power began — that we just automatically dismiss it. Perhaps we shouldn’t. Perhaps we need to look again without the rose-colored glasses. No matter how many times TVA and our politicians and the nuclear power industry chant that nuclear power is clean, safe, affordable energy, we shouldn’t just smile and nod.
Anyone who’s been struck in an airport must sympathize with Edward Snowden. As of this writing, the leaker of National Security Agency secrets is still on his layover in Moscow, where he’s been stranded for three weeks. Is he just wandering terminals, snatching naps on boarding-area benches and subsisting on Cinnabons and Sbarros? Probably not. More likely, Snowden’s chilling at the Novotel hotel within the Sheremetyevo airport, or, perhaps, less comfortably in one of the transit area’s Russian detention rooms. Sympathy for what Snowden did, however, is less than universal. Some congressmen have called him a traitor, likening him to Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen.
Over the course of the past century, advances in public health and medical care have led to improvements in life expectancy that our ancestors would not have been able to imagine. Average life expectancy for Americans born in 2013 is approaching 80 years. While we now live longer and typically spend most of these years in good health, many live with advanced and complicated illnesses. Health problems that once caused death are now controllable as chronic conditions. With these chronic conditions comes the risk of chronic illness and chronic symptoms. Our health care system is not well-suited to caring for the large and growing number of patients with multiple, complex chronic illnesses.