This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty along with Hankook Tire Co., Ltd. officials announced today the company will locate its first U.S. manufacturing facility at the Clarksville Corporate Business Park in Montgomery County. Hankook Tire, a worldwide manufacturer of superior quality and high performance radial tires, will invest $800 million in a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility and create 1,800 new jobs in Clarksville. The company is expected to break ground on the new plant by the end of 2014 and begin tire production by 2016.
Some educators who’ve adopted curriculum are zealous believers Cicely Woodard has the daunting task of helping eighth-graders understand and even enjoy math. Five days a week, she leads her students at Nashville’s Rose Park Magnet Middle School through the intricacies of graphs, formulas and equations. It’s knowledge she knows they’ll need to get into college. Even on tough days, she says, “There’s nothing in the world I would rather be doing.” Woodard thinks her mission became a little easier this school year because of the Common Core, a set of education standards for math and English language arts that have been adopted by Tennessee, along with 44 other states and the District of Columbia.
Tennessee has been at the epicenter of national education reform efforts in recent years, but there’s still debate about how much these changes have improved student learning. Test scores have been rising, according to the state Department of Education, but some teachers and administrators feel that the rapid pace of change has led to low morale. Now there’s a new player in town, the Common Core standards. While many educators have embraced them, others worry that their impact won’t be clear until 2015 or later.
Tennessee Commissioner of Children’s Services Jim Henry may lead the agency that works with abused, neglected and abandoned children but it’s his wife, Pat, who is helping its employees, families and private service providers understand why their work is important. She talks to them about their son, John, born in 1977 with a diagnosis of severe retardation and cerebral palsy, and how he taught himself to read and learned to communicate through typing. It was the only way for him to express himself because he was nonverbal. He died last year at age 34, but his spirit is alive today through his mother and her speeches.
Diane Black is a little more optimistic. The Republican congresswoman from Gallatin, named one of the negotiators on the conference committee, knows it won’t be easy, especially in the aftermath of a 16-day partial government shutdown that inflamed tensions on both sides of the aisle. But Black watched conservatives and liberals make progress this past year on the thorny issue of tax reform. She said the lawmakers negotiating a budget agreement may surprise skeptics when they begin meeting later this month. “I don’t want to set the expectation at any particular level since we have not met and talked about the details, but what I will tell you is that we can work together on these big issues,” she said.
For many Medicare patients at the hospital, phrases like “inpatient” and “observation status” can easily blend in undetected with all the other medical and insurance lingo echoing around the halls. After all, either of those labels may translate to a bed in an inpatient unit, physician care, scans, medications and hospital food. But when unexpected bills start arriving weeks later, that label could make all the difference. While Medicare patients in observation status may have been in a hospital for several days, they were actually in a kind of limbo: They received care, but they were never technically admitted as inpatients.
However, the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, continue to refuse to say how many people have actually enrolled in the insurance markets. Without enrollment figures, it’s unclear whether the program is on track to reach the 7 million people projected by the Congressional Budget Office to gain coverage during the six-month sign-up period. Obama’s advisers say the president has been frustrated by the flawed rollout. During one of his daily health care briefings, he told advisers that the administration had to admit there were no excuses for not having the website ready to operate as promised.
Beginning in April, Gibbs High School social studies teacher Dean Harned will stay nearly two hours after school with a group of students to help them be better prepared to take their Advanced Placement tests the following month. “It’s a real informal thing. We’ll do multiple choice questions together. We’ll write document based questions together,” he said. “We’ll talk about why an answer is correct or why an answer is wrong and things like that. I enjoy doing it and if it helps one kid do better, then it’s worth it.” That’s just one example of ways that teachers and school officials are working in Knox County to increase their numbers of students taking the more challenging courses and helping them excel on the yearly test, which test the ability of students to perform at a college level.
The Bradley County Board of Education has voiced strong opposition to any state initiatives to base teacher licensing on the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, an analytical tool used to measure student achievement and hold educators accountable for student progress. In a meeting Thursday, the board was given a standing ovation by more than two dozen faculty members and administrators after voting 7-0 to send a message to the Tennessee General Assembly and the Tennessee Board of Education. “This is not a good thing for our teachers in the state of Tennessee and it’s not good for our children, either,” said board member Charlie Rose, who championed the issue and presented the resolution.
In the windowless nerve center that resembles a campaign war room, Gov. Steven L. Beshear studied projections on a wall showing that 600 people were logged on to the state’s health insurance exchange. Some 34,000 had begun applications, and more than 11,000 had signed up for plans, making Kentucky one of the most successful state-run insurance marketplaces under the new federal health care law. “You are all doing a fantastic job,” Mr. Beshear told two dozen bleary-eyed workers. In a state where dislike of President Obama runs strong and deep, Mr. Beshear, a Democrat, has positioned himself as a champion of the Affordable Care Act, out ahead of public opinion.
John B. Brian A. Now, Jonathan Cunningham. These children have suffered physical, emotional or psychological problems from birth or caused by their biological parents — and their adoptive families suffer further because of the type of oversight that the state Department of Children’s Services provided. Most of the attention paid to DCS over the past year has had to do with children who died or nearly died on that agency’s watch. But the children and their families noted above have struggled with a different kind of anguish, from previous DCS administrators, that the agency could have helped assuage. Current Commissioner Jim Henry has imposed many institutional changes.
John Jay Hooker squared off with Deputy Attorney General Janet Kleinfelter on July 19, before a special supreme court in the matter of Hooker v. Haslam, over whether the Tennessee Plan of retention elections for appointed appellate and supreme court justices is in accordance with the state’s constitution. Ninety days have slid by without a peep from these jurists. It is time to hear their ruling. While they fiddle, the governor and his unlikely accomplice, Attorney General Bob Cooper, continue to flaunt their flawed view of Tennessee’s constitution. Cooper advised Gov. Bill Haslam that he could fill judicial vacancies even though the state legislature had allowed the authorization for the Judicial Nominating Commission to expire on June 30.
The partial federal government shutdown of recent weeks has been likened by some Tennesseans to a partial state government shutdown back in 2002, but it is submitted there were some fairly dramatic differences. “Over ten years ago when our state faced a budget crisis, state parks in key legislative districts were closed. This was a last ditch effort by liberals to scare Tennesseans into supporting higher taxes,” declared a letter sent by Republican state senators to President Barack Obama voicing “extreme displeasure” with “this so-called shutdown.” “Just like the old tax and spenders in Tennessee, the Obama administration hopes to intimidate opponents of Obamacare into capitulating and selling out their constituents — constituents who want the Affordable Care Act repealed and replaced,” the letter declared.
As much as we are relieved that Congress and the White house managed to end the government shutdown and prevent the nation from defaulting on its financial obligations, we are far from out of the woods. What the American people got was a 90-day government crisis-relief extension, not a solution to Washington gridlock. The settlement reached between Congress and the White House funds the federal government through Jan. 15, 2014, and lifts the debt limit through Feb. 7, 2014. But what the nation needs is an annual budget and a responsible agreement to pay the nation’s bills when they come due, without another political battle.
In recent days, with the official rollout of the Affordable Care Act, there have been multiple stories related to fraud and numerous other flaws in the system (Healthcare signup scams target seniors, Hourslong efforts end emptyhanded). Despite the investment of millions in taxpayer dollars, and despite more than a year of development and testing, Healthcare.gov, the Affordable Care Act website, has welcomed applicants with incredibly long wait times. These delays alone have made it abundantly clear that the system remains unprepared to fulfill the many promises that have been made to the American people about the ACA.
Stephen Fincher is a Republican congressman and farmer from Frog Jump, Tenn. Fincher’s actions on the recent farm bill are both instructive and disturbing. He supported up to $20 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps, but was adamant in retaining most of the subsidies geared toward corporate agribusiness. Farmer Fincher gets a lot of farm subsidies. The Environmental Working Group crunched the Agriculture Department data and discovered that from 1999 to 2012 he collected more than $3.5 million. In 2012 alone he received direct payments of $70,000.