This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Tourism in Tennessee is a major industry, much too important to take for granted these days. Thus, it is a good thing that state officials have no intention of allowing this industry to rest on the laurels it has earned in the past. Instead, they want to move it forward into the top 10 states for tourism, and they are developing a plan to do that. Gov. Bill Haslam noted the potential for tourism early, forming the Tennessee Tourism Committee shortly after he took office in 2011. Moreover, he committed an additional $8 million in the current state budget for tourism.
Tourism leaders from around Tennessee are hoping a new strategic plan will attract more visitors to the state and turn it into 1 of the nation’s top 10 travel destinations. The Tennessean reports the plan, which was released Wednesday, was put together by the Tennessee Tourism Committee, which was formed by Gov. Bill Haslam shortly after he took office in 2011. Some recommendations in the plan include establishing a Tennessee-specific brand for tourism attractions, developing a market plan that focuses on key markets and encourages longer stays, and putting together a network of festivals and events that focus on music.
The Unilever USA plant in Covington should be the largest ice cream manufacturing plant in the world by 2016, following an $108.7 million expansion announced last week in Covington. But when the global company began making ice cream in Covington in 2011 at what used to be a SlimFast plant, it was not a promising beginning. Larry Gibson, manufacturing director at the plant – which produces ice cream under the Klondike, Ben & Jerry’s and Popsicle brands, among others – had his doubts about the workforce, and he took them directly and publicly to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam at a business roundtable in Memphis that summer.
For those who may be unaware, one of the most valuable resources for local entrepreneurs is the local chapter of SCORE that offers myriad services — most of them free — to folks contemplating small business ownership. A couple examples of the organization’s outreach occur this week when Memphis SCORE offers a double dose of programming with free business planning workshops outlining what it takes to launch and sustain a profitable startup. Topics to be covered include preparing business plans, managing cash flow and marketing strategies.
Tennessee’s chief road safety official has been re-elected as head of the national Governors Highway Safety Association. Kendell Poole, the director of the Tennessee Governor’s Highway Safety Office, was voted in to a second yearlong term at the association’s annual meeting in San Diego last month. Poole was named director of the Tennessee road safety office by then-Gov. Phil Bredesen in 2006, and continues to serve in that role under current Gov. Bill Haslam. Poole said in a release that his priorities will be addressing impaired driving, occupant protection and speeding.
Republican opponents of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s re-election bid are complaining that the Tennessee Republican Party broke its own rules with an implicit endorsement of the senior senator in a fundraising letter. But the state party’s executive director, Brent Leatherwood, said the language was a vendor error and that Chairman Chris Devaney has spoken with Alexander’s challenger, state Rep. Joe Carr, to explain the mistake. A website called Tennessee Fully Exposed has posted a copy of a letter, dated Aug. 30 and signed by Devaney, that appeals to Republicans to donate to the state party to help win a majority in the U.S. Senate.
Home health care providers in Tennessee are sorting out the potential effects of a new federal rule that will mandate that home care workers receive at least minimum wage and get overtime pay protection. For nearly 40 years, direct-care workers, who provide home care for people with disabilities or elderly patients, have been exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act, which outlines standards for minimum wage and overtime pay. Until now, these workers were placed in the same category as babysitters.
Federal officials often say that health insurance will cost consumers less than expected under President Obama’s health care law. But they rarely mention one big reason: many insurers are significantly limiting the choices of doctors and hospitals available to consumers. From California to Illinois to New Hampshire, and in many states in between, insurers are driving down premiums by restricting the number of providers who will treat patients in their new health plans. When insurance marketplaces open on Oct. 1, most of those shopping for coverage will be low- and moderate-income people for whom price is paramount.
Some states are already embracing deep cuts to the food stamp program similar to those passed by House Republicans in Washington, ending the food subsidy for tens of thousands of low-income Americans regardless of what Congress does. Spurred by the ballooning cost of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the GOP-dominated House voted Thursday 217-210 to cut $39 billion in the food assistance program over 10 years. Among the changes: Ending waivers for states that during the recession allowed as many as 4 million people to collect food stamps who otherwise would not have qualified.
At 370 feet tall, the new chimney set to rise in the coming weeks over the Tennessee Valley Authority’s coal-burning power plant near Gallatin will be visible for miles around. Rather than serving as a reminder of the pollution expelled daily from the plant, this towering stack will serve a different purpose: a symbol of potentially cleaner skies. Workers are set to start pouring concrete this week for the chimney that’s part of a $1.1 billion project to cut certain emissions at TVA’s Gallatin Fossil Plant by as much as 96 percent.
A federal safety board has concluded that cracks in the exterior of Y-12’s uranium storage facility are nothing to worry about — at least not at this time. In response to questions from the News Sentinel, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board generally agreed with the assessment of B&W Y-12, the government’s managing contractor at the Oak Ridge nuclear weapons plant. Two experts from the safety board were at Y-12 in early August to observe B&W’s survey of cracks at the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, which houses the nation’s primary stockpile of weapons-grade uranium.
An innovative, student-driven program to raise ACT scores among seniors is about to sprout wings. Already more than $86,000 has been raised, which will be matched by the business community to purchase the laptops needed to put in the hands of students who will tutor and be tutored. School officials hope to kick off the program Oct. 1. The Williamson County school board approved the budgetary mechanisms last week to receive the money and to maneuver other funds to help pay for the program, which would purchase up to 801 Chromebook laptops.
During his life on earth, Jesus fed the poor, cured the sick, and blessed the children. He admonished his followers, “I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it [given food, drink and comfort] unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40). Yet in our so-called “Christian” nation, last week the U.S. House of Representatives voted to withhold both food and healthcare from America’s poor. Our own Rep. Scott DesJarlais voted right along with his party to support these heartless measures. If these bills were to become law, just imagine what it would mean for the 4-plus million people, already living on the edge, who would be dumped from the food assistance program.