October 21 TN News Digest

This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.

Haslam to make jobs announcement in Union City (Associated Press)

The office of Gov. Bill Haslam says he is going to Union City to make an announcement about new jobs. Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty are scheduled to disclose details about the number of jobs and where the new employees will be working on Monday. Other state and local officials are also expected to attend the event. The announcement is expected to be good news for Union City, which lost 1,800 jobs after the 43-year-old Goodyear tire plant closed in July 2011. New jobs would also help offset the closing of a plant belonging to Nashville-based fireplace manufacturer Hearth Products next year.

Under promising and over delivering (Jackson Sun)

After 10 years and a total investment of $257 million, you have to wonder what the next decade will bring for Toyota Automotive’s Jackson-based Bodine Aluminum. The producer of engine blocks and automatic transmission cases, Bodine broke ground in 2003 at 301 James Lawrence Road. The company selected Jackson over a city in eastern Arkansas, and will celebrate its 10th anniversary at the facility Monday. Dignitaries including Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Osamu Nagata the president and chief executive officer of Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America, Inc., and Bob Lloyd, Bodine’s president/CEO will visit the manufacturing facility for the festivities.

Panel opens applications for judicial vacancies (Associated Press)

The application process for upcoming judicial vacancies is back underway after Gov. Bill Haslam created a new panel to vet applicants. Supreme Court Justice Janice holder and Appeals Judge David Farmer have announced they will not seek another term in the 2014 elections. Haslam last week signed an executive order creating the Governor’s Commission for Judicial Appointments, which largely mirrors the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission that lawmakers allowed to expire in June. The new panel will accept applicants for the two vacancies through Oct. 31, and hold public hearings with the candidates in November.

Guest columnist: Efforts afoot to lift state health ranking (Columbia Daily Herald)

Tennessee ranks 41st in the nation in health, according to a 2013 study released by “America’s Health Rankings,” a national organization which has tracked the health of states for almost a quarter of a century. Although the report shows improvement in chronic alcohol abuse and social support health services in Tennessee, we are 41st in the nation in smoking and 50th in physical activity. In 2005, Tennessee was ranked 48th in the nation. We must do better! The America’s Health Ranking report shows that Tennesseans are struggling to change unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, obesity, and lack of physical activity which are the root of many diseases.

First Lady Haslam to speak at Chamber’s Adopt a School annual meeting (H-C)

The Cookeville-Putnam County Chamber of Commerce will host its Adopt-A-School annual meeting on Thursday, Oct. 24, 11:30 a.m. at the Leslie Town Centre. First Lady Crissy Haslam will serve as keynote speaker for the luncheon providing educational insights to the program’s adopters and principals. “We are excited to have First Lady Haslam serve as keynote speaker for this year’s annual meeting,” said Kenneth Manis, Adopt-A-School chairman. “Her perspective and initiatives in education in Tennessee will provide great substance to the meeting’s program.”

Gun rights group takes aim at Common Core (Tennessean/Sisk)

The Tennessee Firearms Association waded into the controversy over Common Core testing standards with an email Wednesday claiming the standards are biased against gun rights. “We are already seeing textbooks and teaching assignments that are a part of Common Core intentionally or recklessly misrepresenting the Second Amendment in schools across the country and we want to insure that the liberal anti-gun agenda is not allowed to invade Tennessee schools,” John Harris, the group’s executive director, wrote in an email blast.

Ingram filings call him Haslam campaign consultant (Times Free-Press/Sher)

Gov. Bill Haslam and lobbyist and political consultant Tom Ingram have maintained for months that none of Ingram’s advice to Haslam, which the governor paid for secretly out of his own pocket, involved campaign consulting for his 2014 re-election bid. Rather, the two have said Ingram was personally retained by Haslam, elected in 2010, for professional consultation work related to the administration of state government. But a review of Ingram’s 17 state lobbyist registrations with the Tennessee Ethics Commission turns up three instances in the past 22 months in which Ingram’s relationship with Haslam is identified as either “campaign consultant to the governor” or “consultant to campaign for governor.”

Contractors See Weeks of Work on Health Site (New York Times)

Federal contractors have identified most of the main problems crippling President Obama’s online health insurance marketplace, but the administration has been slow to issue orders for fixing those flaws, and some contractors worry that the system may be weeks away from operating smoothly, people close to the project say. Administration officials approached the contractors last week to see if they could perform the necessary repairs and reboot the system by Nov. 1. However, that goal struck many contractors as unrealistic, at least for major components of the system.

TVA advisory council to hold first meeting (Associated Press)

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s new Regional Energy Resource Council will hold its first meeting on Wednesday. The TVA board established the council earlier this year to advise staff on energy efficiency and renewable energy, among other things. Council members represent environmental, industrial, business, consumer, educational and community interests. Their first meeting will be held at the TVA Central In-Process Training Center in Hollywood, Ala., from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The agenda includes a discussion of TVA’s long-term energy goals. The meeting is open to the public and will include a 30-minute listening session.

Metro Schools willing to expand pre-K as state remains undecided (TN/Garrison)

Frustrated by the state’s inaction on expanding preschool education, Metro Nashville school officials are proposing to bankroll it locally in hopes of covering most of the Davidson County 4-year-olds who qualify for it but lack seats today. Calling it a “move toward universal pre-K,” Metro Director of Schools Jesse Register said he intends to finalize a proposal next month to expand prekindergarten slots in Nashville by 1,300. The plan, dependent on school board approval and landing a place in Metro’s 2014-15 operating budget, would require an additional $6 million in annual local funds. It would extend access to preschoolers who have first priority to fill openings — children considered economically disadvantaged or at-risk — yet are turned away because of inadequate funding.

 

OPINION 

Guest columnist: Education key to economic growth, prosperity (Tennessean)

One of the most urgent national issues of our time is the state of public education in this country. This nation’s children are its future citizens, workers and leaders, and education remains the major tool by which people become empowered and the economic, social and personal well-being of all citizens in our society increases. The fact that so many students never complete high school has a deep and wide-ranging impact on this country’s long-term economic outlook. We should stop looking at education as a social issue and focus on it as being an economic issue. The U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics in 2011 reported that the median income of people ages 18 through 67 who had not completed high school was about $25,000.

Editorial: Comptroller’s letter a reminder that the city can’t lose focus (C. Appeal)

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and members of the City Council had to be pleased with the Tennessee comptroller’s letter commending Wharton and the council for making progress in bringing the city’s finances under control. But the Oct. 7 letter from Justin P. Wilson also contained a warning that city government must do more to build up its reserves and deal with its underfunded pension obligations. Wilson’s letter is a reminder that in the midst of proposals to fund redevelopment and economic development projects that impact the entire city or a particular council district, the mayor and council members must remain focused on the fact that the city’s revenue streams will not sustain its current levels of spending and debt obligations over the long haul.

Editorial: ET congressmen should not repeat recent mistakes (News-Sentinel)

The members of East Tennessee’s congressional delegation took opposite stances despite sharing Republican Party affiliation during last week’s showdown over the nation’s debt limit and the government shutdown. U.S. Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander exhibited statesmanship by voting to raise the debt ceiling. Corker and Alexander put the good of the country above partisan concerns, siding with the entire citizenry rather than pandering to tea-party conservatives. The same cannot be said of U.S. Reps. Phil Roe, John J. Duncan Jr. and Chuck Fleischmann. They voted against raising the debt ceiling, a misguided and counterproductive position.

Columnist: Lousy Medicaid Arguments (New York Times)

For now, the big news about Obamacare is the debacle of HealthCare.gov, the Web portal through which Americans are supposed to buy insurance on the new health care exchanges. For now, at least, HealthCare.gov isn’t working for many users. It’s important to realize, however, that this botch has nothing to do with the law’s substance, and will get fixed. After all, a number of states have successfully opened their own exchanges, doing for their residents exactly what the federal system is supposed to do everywhere else. Connecticut’s exchange is working fine, as is Kentucky’s. New York, after some early problems, seems to be getting there. So, a bit more slowly, does California.