This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam spent Thursday selling his plan to dramatically increase the number of adults with degrees or technical training, setting the bar at 55 percent by 2025, surpassing the national norm by 13 percent. “Every percentage we fall short of 55 percent is percentage of jobs that aren’t going to be filled by Tennesseans or will go somewhere else,” he told The Commercial Appeal editorial board. “That is the bottom-line issue.” Georgetown University research shows that 55 percent of the jobs in the state in 2025 will require training after high school; 32 percent of Tennessee adults have some kind of degree or certificate today.
Gov. Bill Haslam is hoping his “Drive to 55” initiative will provide Tennesseans with an associate’s degree or higher and lead to more job creation in the state. Haslam visited with The Jackson Sun’s Editorial Board on Thursday afternoon to discuss the challenges, goals and hopes for the initiative’s success. “My biggest concern is changing the perception in rural and urban communities that college isn’t necessary,” Haslam said. “We have to get the message out there, the career expectations have changed and that pursuing and completing higher education is important.”
Gov. Bill Haslam announced Thursday a new fellowship program geared at the state’s recent graduates, which would place them under the guidance of Tennessee’s top leaders. The nonpartisan program, called the Tennessee Governor’s Management Program, is open to applicants who are within two years of graduating from an undergraduate institution or graduate program. Describing the fellowship as “prestigious” and “highly competitive,” the governor’s office said it planned to select five fellows for the first round of the program.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam has created a fellowship program for college graduates. The Tennessee Governor’s Management Fellowship is for applicants who want to learn under state government’s top leaders. Applicants must have graduated from an undergraduate institution or graduate program between December 2011 and August 2014. Officials say they must demonstrate outstanding academic achievement, a passion for serving their communities and outstanding character and leadership abilities.
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the Tennessee Governor’s Management Fellowship program for exceptional applicants who wish to serve and learn under Tennessee state government’s top leaders. The nonpartisan program offers a competitive salary and is open to recent graduates demonstrating outstanding academic achievement, a passion for serving their communities and outstanding character and leadership abilities. “This is a chance to identify and nurture some of our finest recent graduates and team them with executive leadership in state government,” Haslam said.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Fifteen municipalities in Tennessee are receiving funds to encourage elementary and middle school students to walk and bike. Gov. Bill Haslam announced the $2.1 million in Safe Routes to School grants this week. The Safe Routes to School program is a statewide initiative designed to make bicycling and walking to school a more appealing and healthier alternative for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The funds will be used to make improvements to sidewalks, crosswalks and signs, as well as safe walking and biking educational activities.
NASHVILLE — After five years in search of a buyer, a University of Tennessee board of trustees committee voted Thursday to sell the former residence of UT’s president for $2 million even though that is below the appraised value of the Cherokee Boulevard home. The purchaser is Magnolia Trust, which UT Chief Financial Officer Charles “Butch” Peccolo said includes Knoxville businessman Joe Fielden and members of his family. Peccolo said the buyers plan to invest a “substantial amount of money” in renovations and use the house as a residence.
In the early morning hours of Aug. 1, emails flooded into the Tennessee Valley Authority’s computers from homeowners and companies vying for a spot in the federal agency’s small-scale solar energy program. Moments after the application process opened at 7 a.m., space had run out, and it was back to a waiting game for the hundreds of applicants who didn’t make it in. “They keep dangling this carrot in front of you, and then they take it away,” said Darren Metz, CEO of Novacopy, a Nashville-based distributor of commercial printers and copiers that wants to get into the program.
While David Keene spoke as the former president of the National Rifle Association at Lipscomb University Thursday night, Second Amendment issues were far from his most prominent topic. Instead, Keene focused on the evolution of modern American conservatism and the coalition he believes is necessary to keep it together. Keeping social, fiscal and military conservatives united and working together for common causes has become even more important as the political movement has grown in popularity, Keene told dozens at a lecture series led by renowned Tennessee lobbyist Tom Ingram.
‘Even as longtime state Sen. Doug Henry nears the end of his decades in elected office, thanking the people he represents for recognizing his work hasn’t gotten old. Catholic Charities of Tennessee honored the Nashville Democrat as one of the non-profit’s eight Volunteers of the Year at a ceremony at their White Bridge Road offices Thursday evening. Eileen Beehan, the Catholic Charities department director who nominated him for the award, commended the 87-year-old’s advocacy for issues such as family preservation, Medicaid and child abuse since he was elected to the state Senate in 1970.
Wilson County parents who want to know how their kids wrapped up the year need either a computer or an envelope and a 46-cent stamp. Now that the school district puts report cards on ParentConnect, a website that logs student performance all year, district leaders see little need for the traditional hard copy — although they’ll still mail quarter- and semester-end report cards, for now. Tim Setterlund, director of Wilson County Schools , said he’s looking at that practice, too.
They don’t plan to break the rules, but members of the Knox County Joint Education Committee are leaving it to themselves to follow their own respective interpretations of the state’s open meetings laws. “I’m willing to risk that individual punishment,” Knox County Commissioner Sam McKenzie said during the committee’s meeting Thursday. The individual punishment, according to a 2007 permanent injunction by Chancellor Daryl Fansler, could be a fine or jail time. Commissioner Dave Wright said he is not willing to face that potential punishment, though he remained on the committee as of Thursday.
That’s the question several Hamilton County school board members are asking since their finance director discovered Chattanooga hasn’t paid the schools’ share of liquor-by-the-drink taxes for nearly a decade. The shortfall totals $11.4 million — money that could have funded nearly a whole elementary school, pay raises or some 20 additional teachers each year. “I would still like to know the answer,” said school board member David Testerman. “If this has happened for so long what else is going on?”
Would-be authors of federal tax reform will bring a summer tour to Greater Memphis Monday with stops in Fayette County and the FedEx Express World Hub. Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and House Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., will be making the fourth stop on their national tax reform tour. Baucus and Camp are leading a bipartisan, but decidedly uphill battle to reform the U.S. tax code by simplifying regulations, lowering rates, eliminating certain tax breaks and providing greater incentives for investment.
Only one new case of infection from a fungus-tainted spinal steroid has been reported nationally in the past month, but two Tennessee victims of the national outbreak have been identified for the first time in newly filed federal court cases. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that the one new case was reported in an Indiana patient, who has an infection at the site of the steroid injection. That pushed the total number of cases since the outbreak was first reported last October to 750 patients affected by the contaminated steroid shipped from a now-defunct Massachusetts drug compounding pharmacy.
UBS Tower will be the new name for the former Regions Center after the downtown building changed hands and the new namesake global banking giant signed a lease to occupy 98,000 square feet of space. Nashville-based Rubicon Equities paid $14.5 million for the 29-story skyscraper at 315 Deaderick St. that has been largely vacant since former namesake Regions Bank left two months ago. Closing of that transaction coincided with the lease signing by UBS that’s expected to boost occupancy to 40 percent.
Volkswagen’s top managers in Chattanooga have started communicating with plant employees about the automaker’s confidential talks last week with the United Auto Workers, telling them in a letter that a works council labor board “can only be realized together with a trade union.” “This is the reason why Volkswagen has started a dialogue with the UAW in order to check the possibility of implementing an innovative model of employee representation for all employees,” said the letter signed by Frank Fischer, who heads VW’s Chattanooga operations, and plant human resources Vice President Sebastian Patta.
Did you go shopping during the recent Tennessee sales tax holiday? Odds are you did. Thousands of Tennesseans went shopping that weekend all across the state at small and large retailers. It’s a chance to shop for certain items and save money by enjoying a “holiday” from sales tax. The success of the annual tax-free holiday is proof that consumers will shop whenever and wherever they can save money. It’s common sense. The tax-free holiday is just one weekend a year. Imagine how Tennessee’s brick-and-mortar retailers feel about the federal government giving online-only retailers a 365-day-a-year pass on collecting sales taxes.
Last week, my friend Bruce Dobie penned a column in this newspaper that contained a few errors. Rather than get into a point-by-point rebuttal, let me just lay out the facts about the budget for Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) and the plan to expand school choice for students and families. First, some context. This year, the Tennessee House passed a measure to let appointed state officials overrule local elected school boards in deciding whether to approve new charter schools — taxpayer-funded schools operated by private groups. MNPS attorneys said the legislation violates the Tennessee Constitution.
Seriously? The University of Tennessee has a $2 million home for sale? On cultured, cultivated, clubby Cherokee Boulevard, no less. The UT Board of Trustees voted Thursday to approve the sale of the president’s mansion in an “austerity” move. UT’s bubble has been burst, given the manse was first marketed for $5 million, dropped to $2.9 million in 2011 and now is a mere $2 million. A 60 percent discount may seem like a scalping instead of a haircut, but dropping $3 mil is nothing compared to the many more millions UT pays former coaches. Here’s a question: Why would a land grant university sink so much into stately digs on such prime land?