This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam’s office is exploring options to re-open Great Smoky Mountains National Park and three other areas closed by the government shutdown, Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Haslam’s administration is working with Tennessee’s congressional delegation to explore using state resources to open the parks. Governors in four other states have already sought authority to re-open parks closed within their borders, citing the shutdown’s impact on tourism. In response, the head of the U.S. Department of the Interior has said the government will consider offers to pay for park operations, but will not cede control of national parks to the states.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is exploring ways to reopen four state parks closed due to the partial government shutdown. October is the busiest month for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which means a lot of money left for businesses near the park. Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell offered local resources to keep open parts of the park but so far that offer has been rejected by the National Park Service. According to the Knoxville Sentinel, Governor Haslam is looking at using state resources to reopen these parks.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park remains closed to visitors, but that soon may change. The park’s closing is probably the biggest impact of the partial government shutdown felt in East Tennessee, causing business to forfeit tourism dollars during their busiest season. “To see us out of business or almost out of business is really disheartening,” explained the director of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park Association. Several state governors across the country have requested to use state funds to reopen their national parks.
Gov. Bill Haslam is working with Tennessee congressmen to assess the feasibility of using state government resources to reopen the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and three other areas closed by the partial federal government shutdown, a spokesman said Wednesday. “Our office is working with the congressional delegation to gather more information about this,” said David Smith in an email response to an inquiry. “One of the many factors to consider is that the four large national areas in our state straddle Tennessee’s border with a neighboring state,” he said.
Politicians in Tennessee concerned about the shutdown of the Great Smoky Mountains focused a lot of their attention Friday on Utah. That state struck a deal to reopen its national parks by agreeing to cover the cost of paying furloughed federal workers. Utah wired the federal government more than $1.6 million to seal the deal and get Park Rangers back on the job. Governor Bill Haslam and Tennessee representatives in Congress held discussions Friday to examine the potential for opening the gates at the Great Smoky Mountains and other national parks in the Volunteer State.
Ten days after the partial shutdown of the federal government shuttered the Statue of Liberty, Grand Canyon and other national parks, the Obama administration has offered to let states foot the bill to reopen parks within their borders. Here’s how states are reacting to the offer:… TENNESSEE Gov. Bill Haslam has been discussing reopening parks with the state’s congressional delegation, but the issue is complicated by the fact that four of the large national parks straddle state lines, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The closing of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has cost the regional economy more than $23 million in lost visitor spending through the first 10 days of the government shutdown, according to a report released today by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees. In addition, more than 257,000 tourists have been unable to visit the park since it has been closed and 11,766 jobs, including 11,367 local/non-park service jobs are at risk, CNPSR says. Nationwide, $750 million in visitor spending has been lost at the 12 national parks studied by the coalition.
U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. will participate in a congressional hearing next week on the closing of national parks during the partial government shutdown and would “very much support” use of state resources to reopen the Great Smoky Mountains National Park while the shutdown continues, a spokesman said Friday. Sen. Lamar Alexander, meanwhile, said that “the Smokies closing is like a BP oil spill for the Gulf” and that he is doing “all I can” to end the shutdown. State Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, sent what he termed an “urgent request” to Gov. Bill Haslam for prompt action toward reopening the Smokies through state funding.
The Governor’s Children’s Cabinet, co-chaired by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam, has awarded 137 children’s computers to public libraries and family childcare programs across Tennessee. In Claiborne County, two were awarded. The Barbara Reynolds Carr Memorial Library (Claiborne County Public Library) in Tazewell and Kiddieland Family Day Care in Tazewell, owned and operated by Rose Ann Clark, were recipients. The AWE Early Literacy Stations feature more than 60 educational software titles spanning seven curricular areas all focused on supporting early learning in children.
The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development recently announced its next 11 Select Tennessee Certified Sites, a distinction that recognizes select industrial parks, sites and other areas as having met international standards by leading site-selection firms Austin Consulting and The Foote Consulting Group. The Dyersburg Rail Site and the Lake County Industrial Site at Port of Cates Landing were named among 11 sites throughout the state in a press release earlier this week.
When she became the first person in her family to graduate from college, Virginia Hughes invited the three people she credited most with getting her to that milestone: her mother, her grandmother and a retired hospital administrator named Laura Harrill. Even though she’d been a perfect stranger until Hughes’s senior year in high school, Harrill helped her navigate the shoals of paperwork, financial issues and personal dramas that prevent many students from ever getting into, let alone completing, college. “I consider her an extension of my family,” said Hughes, of Maryville, Tenn., who graduated from Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville and is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in anthropology at the University of Tennessee.
Tennessee’s general fund tax collections fell $62 million short of projections in September, the second month of the state’s budget year. Finance Commissioner Larry Martin said in a release Friday that total revenues for the month were $1.1 billion, or about 5 percent below the budgeted estimate. Corporate franchise and excise taxes came in about $66 million short of projections, while the state’s sales tax collections came in about $2 million less. September tax collections reflect economic activity in the previous month.
For the sixth consecutive year, the master of business administration program at the University of Tennessee has been named one of the best MBA programs in the country by The Princeton Review, a top education service and evaluation company. The Review’s 2014 rankings, which were released earlier this week, are based on surveys of more than 20,000 students at 295 business schools. The 80-question survey asked students to rate their schools on several topics and report about their experiences. The UT business school’s curriculum and the real-world experience of tis faculty were recognized by the review.
Mid-South members of Congress were getting an earful from constituents and others as the government shutdown entered an 11th day on Friday, while cross-aisle comity between lawmakers was in some instances also growing thin. “It’s not quite as collegial, but you’re still friends with your friends,” said Memphis Democrat Steve Cohen, adding Rep. Michele Bachmann still gives him hugs. He said he has received “mixed” messages following floor speeches broadcast on C-Span and appearances on MSNBC.
Some federally funded state positions affected More state employees who work in federally funded programs will be furloughed come Monday. The state’s Department of Human Services said 112 employees in the division of Disability Determination Services will be furloughed — not reporting to work, nor getting paid until further notice — while the federal government remains shut down over a budget impasse in Washington. DHS spokesman Christopher Garrett said Friday the division is funded entirely by the federal government.
Nearly 500 Tennessee state employees whose jobs depend on federal funds are being furloughed until further notice because of the partial federal government shutdown. The Department of Labor and Workforce Development said late Friday afternoon it is being forced to furlough 369 of its workers because of the partial federal government shutdown while the Department of Human Services is sending 112 of its employees home beginning Monday. Both moves are the result of the federal budget impasse in Washington between President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans.
A notice at the top of Alabama State Parks’ online homepage says it all: “State Parks are not closed by Shutdown.” As the federal government’s shutdown enters its second week and states weigh potential options for running national parks themselves to stave off tourism losses, state park officials in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama are targeting the wandering travelers who can’t land at a national park. All three states, along with states all over the country, are pitching their own attractions as alternatives in the midst of the federal government’s partial shutdown and fall foliage season.
In nearly 30 years of business, Brian Anderson had never called a congressman — until last week. An order of protective sleeves intended for use in nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers sat ready to go in the Nashville offices of his company, Frham Safety Products. But the shipment had been grounded by the partial federal shutdown. “If they’re not allowing shipments to the Department of Defense, that’s a major concern,” said Anderson, the company’s director of sales. “We’re just saying, come on. Nobody’s concerned about who’s been at fault in the past. We need to resolve this.”
Barred by the Supreme Court from requiring proof of citizenship for federal elections, Arizona is complying — but setting up a separate registration system for local and state elections that will demand such proof. The state this week joined Kansas in planning for such a two-tiered voting system, which could keep thousands of people from participating in state and local elections, including next year’s critical cycle, when top posts in both states will be on the ballot. The states are using an opening left in June by the United States Supreme Court when it said that the power of Congress over federal elections was paramount but did not rule on proof of citizenship in state elections.
The high school equivalency exams taken by people who dropped out of school and immigrants seeking a foothold in the American education system are about to get harder and potentially more expensive, causing concern that fewer will take and pass the exams. At a time when a high school diploma — much less an equivalency certificate — is losing currency in the labor market, exams being introduced in January will start to be aligned with the Common Core, a set of rigorous academic standards for kindergarten through 12th grade that 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted.
Nearly five years after one of its worst environmental disasters, the Tennessee Valley Authority recovered another $42 million this week to help pay for the more than $1 billion expense of cleaning up the 2008 ash spill at the Kingston Fossil Plant. An arbitrator ruled that one of TVA’s insurers, Bermuda-based insurer Arch, had to pay for part of the cleanup expenses from the collapse of a coal ash pond where TVA dumped coal residues for decades at its Kingston plant. The arbitration award is the first of three pending cases between TVA and its insurers over the Kingston ash spill.
If Chattanooga’s Volkswagen plant lands a new product and hundreds more jobs, locals won’t stand in line behind United Auto Workers members from other factories to find work if the union gets in, a UAW official said Friday. Meanwhile, a group of VW workers trying to keep the UAW from organizing the plant said they have raised their anti-union petition count to more than 600 signatures of hourly employees. The activity engulfing the factory comes as top VW officials in Germany weigh whether to recognize the UAW using authorization cards purportedly signed by a majority of plant workers or require an election by secret ballot.
NovaCopy Inc. may build a 33,000-square-foot facility in Memphis that will create 30 new jobs and bring a $4.8 million investment if the company gets a four-year break in local taxes. The Nashville-based provider of copier and document services would provide 3D printing products, manufacturing and prototype services from a new facility at Appling Farms Business Park, at Whitten Road and Appling Farms. The average salary of the new employees would be $44,133. The Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) for Memphis & Shelby County is to vote on granting the payments in lieu of taxes at its next meeting on Wednesday.
Don’t call them middle schools anymore. They’re middle preps — and they have logos to show it. Borrowing terminology used by charter and private schools, Metro Nashville Public Schools are re-branding their collection of 40 middle schools as the “Middle Preps of Nashville” as part of a new plan to retain more students at the age when they often exit the district. Though an official announcement is still in the works, Metro has started rolling out the new label. Individual schools, which each have “prep” logos based on their school colors, won’t see new signs on marquees or buildings.
Gov. Bill Haslam’s overriding goal is to move Tennessee forward by becoming No. 1 in the Southeast for high-quality jobs. Public safety is a major factor in whether an existing business decides to expand or a potential new business chooses to locate in Tennessee. That is why the governor created a Public Safety Subcabinet — comprised of 11 departments and agencies within the executive branch that impact public safety — to identify and address our state’s toughest safety challenges with a specific action plan. The Chattanooga Times page noted in an editorial on Oct. 9 that, according to the latest FBI Uniform Crime Report, Tennessee ranked No. 1 in violent crime in 2012.
Because Memphis is near the New Madrid Fault, which unleashed a series of devastating earthquakes in late 1811 and early 1812, Memphians and Mid-Southerners hear a lot about earthquake preparedness. That means families, individuals and workplaces should be prepared to go it alone for days or maybe weeks if a major magnitude temblor occurs along any of the fault lines in the central United States. Roads would be impeded, cellphone communication would be unavailable, along with utilities and potable water. Food would be in short supply. But it is difficult to get people into the preparedness frame of mind, especially when this area rarely feels a temblor.
The federal government has been closed for 12 days, but for years in Tennessee, we’ve seen balanced budgets, higher revenues and tax relief, along with a steady stream of job announcements. More than 100,000 students have enrolled in college thanks to HOPE scholarships. Our successes in Tennessee are a contrast to the disorder in Washington. But if the shutdown persists, the effects will trickle down to our state, where one in four children already live in poverty. The effects will accelerate rising poverty, slow down the economy and prove catastrophic to the working poor and the communities where they live.