This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has been named chairman of the National Governors Association’s Health and Human Services Committee. Haslam was named to the post by Govs. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma and John Hickenlooper of Colorado, the NGA’s chair and vice chair. The NGA’s health panel is one of five standing committees. The others are economic development and commerce; education and workforce; homeland security and public safety; and natural resources. Haslam previously served as vice chairman of the NGA’s education panel.
The National Governors Association (NGA) has tapped Gov. Bill Haslam to chair its Health and Human Services Committee, one of five standing committees. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, will serve as vice chair. According to the NGA website, the committee handles issues related to Medicaid, federal-state safety net programs such as TANF, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance and other social services. This is the second health related appointment Gov. Haslam has gotten from the NGA this year.
The National Governors Association (NGA) today announced the new leadership of NGA’s five standing committees for the 2013-2014 year. NGA Chair Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and NGA Vice Chair Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper made the following appointments: Economic Development and Commerce Committee Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, chair West Virgina Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, vice chair Education and Workforce Committee Kentucky Gov. Steven Beshear, chair Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, vice chair Health and Human Services Committee Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, chair Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, vice chair.
Governor Bill Haslam and officials with Leisure Pools announced on Wednesday that the company will be opening a new manufacturing facility in Knoxville. According to a release, the $6.2 million investment will create 240 new jobs in Knox County and the new facility will become the company’s corporate headquarters. Leisure Pools is scheduled to officially close on the property later this year. The company said it’s looking for employees with skills in fiberglass composite manufacturing, transport, accounting, sales, marketing and administration.
Governor Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty officially announced Leisure Pools will open a new facility in Knox County, meaning a $6.2 million investment and the creation of 240 new jobs. The facility will be the first for Leisure Pools in Tennessee and will service increased demand along the east coast. “I want to thank Leisure Pools for their significant investment and the valuable jobs this new facility will bring to Knox County and Tennessee,” Haslam said.
Apparently Leisure Pools is moving its corporate headquarters away from New Braunfels and taking it to Tennessee. Various media outlets in the Knoxville, Tennessee area are reporting that Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Leisure Pools officials announced yesterday that the company will be opening a new manufacturing facility in Knoxville with a 6.2-million dollar investment creating 240 new jobs for that area. And company officials added that the new facility would become their new corporate headquarters.
When it comes to science, eighth-graders in Tennessee are doing better than their peers around the globe. A study being released Thursday compared every state, the District of Columbia and Defense Department schools against 38 countries and nine additional subnational education systems. Researchers took eighth-grade test results in math and science from the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress to predict performance on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. Tennessee scored 524 in science, but got a 490 in math, one of three states that scored below the international average of 500 in that category.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation announced today the creation of a Multimodal Access Fund, which will support the needs of mass transit users, pedestrians and bicyclists through infrastructure projects that address existing gaps found within the state’s highway network. TDOT will fund 95 percent of multimodal projects, with local matching funds to cover the other 5 percent. Total costs per project are not to exceed $1 million. The agency has $30 million in the fund to start but will need $10 million worth of eligible projects to begin using it.
Tennessee transportation officials announced Wednesday the startup of a new funding program to help support local construction of sidewalks, bus shelters, park-and-ride facilities as well as bicycle lanes. “This fund is designed to help communities provide transportation choices for people across Tennessee,” Transportation Commissioner John Schroer said in a news release. “Improving the facilities for walking, biking and transit is essential to the continued growth and success of our towns and cities.” The Multimodal Access Fund will receive 95 percent of its money from the state with local matching funds accounting for the remaining 5 percent.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation expects its newest welcome center on Interstate 26 in Kingsport to open in July 2014 and serve about 400,000 visitors each year. TDOT officials made this announcement during a groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday at the site of the new welcome center, with dozens of state, city and county officials in attendance. “People used to say it’ll be a cold day when you open a welcome center in Kingsport. Well, it’s a cold day,” said Mayor Dennis Phillips, a nod to the cold, windy weather at the time of the ceremony.
For the 7,100 to get off the waiting list and get care, they must be in ‘crisis’ At 19 years old, suffering from autism, severe speech and language disorders and other intellectual disabilities, Grace Walker Goad has been on a waiting list for services from the state Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities for more than half her life. She cannot cook, drive, take public transportation or communicate. In the past, she has tried to injure herself. Federal rules allow her to attend public school until she is 21.
A pair of state commissioners went on the defense today, standing up for the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Yesterday, an audit knocked the DIDD for failing people who might be able to hold a job or lead a normal life if they just had a little more help. Only the most severely disabled Tennesseans receive any kind of help from the state. That was true before the department was formed in 2011, and it’s still the case now. Former Commissioner Jim Henry estimates there are least 20 thousand more people who need assistance beyond those getting it now, and he warned a legislative panel that the numbers will only grow as the cases of autism rapidly increase.
A Tennessee state trooper with a history of discipline issues has been fired after an investigation turned up misconduct and brutality during a traffic stop in Shelbyville, officials announced Monday. Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Tommie Boleyn, of the Lawrence District, has been on leave since Sept. 9 and will be terminated effective Oct. 31. In announcing the termination, officials said they would also refer the case to the district attorney for possible criminal prosecution. Authorities said Boleyn made a DUI stop in Shelbyville on Aug. 31, during which time he violated multiple department policies.
The Bradley County Finance Committee has recommended that the proposed Cleveland/Bradley County State Veterans Home and the public water fund be considered priorities for the county’s Healthy Communities Initiative. The Healthy Communities program is intended to support capital improvements to “the health care, wellness and quality of life of the citizens of Bradley County,” according to the county’s government website. On Wednesday, the panel voted 5-0 to put the recommendation before the full County Commission for consideration.
U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Memphis Democrat, introduced legislation Wednesday to expand the number of places where people could obtain the photo identification required for voting in Tennessee. Cohen said the bill, known as the Voter ID Accessibility Act, would amend the nation’s “motor voter law” by ensuring that state and federal offices that already let visitors register to vote would also tell them about state voter ID requirements and give them the chance to obtain a free ID.
Responding to last week’s ruling by the Tennessee Supreme Court unanimously upholding the state’s Voter ID law, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen on Wednesday introduced legislation to circumvent it. The 2011 Voter ID law requires voters to present government-issued photographic identification in order to cast ballots in state or federal elections. In response to the law, the City of Memphis Library began issuing photo IDs, but voters Daphne Turner-Golden and Sullistine Bell were prevented from using their library cards in the August 2012 primary elections, and subsequently filed suit.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker says the six-story, 12,000-square-foot climbing wall in downtown Chattanooga doesn’t really compare to the mountain he’ll have to climb in Washington over the next few months. But he’s confident Republicans and Democrats will find common ground. “As long as we will focus on our country’s fiscal issues in the next few months, I think we will get some good work done,” Corker said. Corker toured the High Point Climbing & Fitness gym on the 200 block of Broad Street on Wednesday and kept most of his comments about the facility itself.
Stalled work on the new lock for Chickamauga Dam in Chattanooga is expected to ultimately get a boost after a normally divided U.S. House on Wednesday gave a whopping bipartisan approval to a major water infrastructure bill. U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., hailed the measure as a “step in the right direction” toward restarting construction on the new lock that ran out of funding in September. The Water Resources Reform and Development Act, which is the first authorization measure of its type in six years, passed on a 417-3 vote.
As technical failures bedevil the rollout of President Obama’s health care law, evidence is emerging that one of the program’s loftiest goals — to encourage competition among insurers in an effort to keep costs low — is falling short for many rural Americans. While competition is intense in many populous regions, rural areas and small towns have far fewer carriers offering plans in the law’s online exchanges. Those places, many of them poor, are being asked to choose from some of the highest-priced plans in the 34 states where the federal government is running the health insurance marketplaces, a review by The New York Times has found.
The Tennessee Valley Authority is gathering public input on a long-range plan for the type and mix of energy sources it needs to provide power to the region. Finding the right mix of coal, nuclear, natural gas, hydro-electric, renewable energy and efficiency programs is the goal of the 18-month-long planning process, TVA Vice President Joe Hoagland said. “It takes a very long, strategic look at the assets TVA needs to provide low-cost electricity for the people in the Tennessee Valley,” Hoagland said in an interview.
Cheaper and more abundant natural gas, declining electricity demand and other significant changes have pushed TVA to update its long-range energy use plan sooner than planned. The Tennessee Valley Authority will hold a public meeting 7-8:30 p.m. Thursday at its Knoxville headquarters to get public input on its Integrated Resource Plan. The public can take part in the meeting in person or through a simultaneous webinar at www.tva.gov/irp. TVA completed an update of the plan in 2011 and intended to revisit it in five years, however enough has changed in that time that federal utility has decided an update is needed after only two years.
A United Auto Workers drive to organize workers at the Volkswagen Passat plant in Tennessee is turning into a critical battle in labor’s drive to breach the wall of foreign automakers who have flocked to the American South and other right-to-work states in recent years to open nonunion plants. But in a twist of typical labor-management game plan, the UAW fight is not with the German-owned Volkswagen, where some executives have indicated they are more willing to work with the union, but with the plant’s workers, Tennessee state officials and anti-labor advocacy groups who fear the precedent a successful organizing drive could set.
An influx of new restaurants and the grand opening of Omni Nashville Hotel have combined to create an unexpected challenge for Nashville’s hospitality industry: hiring quality employees. Tennessee Hospitality Association President and CEO Greg Adkins said the industry anticipated a bit of a hiring pinch, but the problem has been greater than industry leaders expected. Culinary and housekeeping staffers are in especially high demand, and some hotels and restaurants are considering applicants without hospitality experience to meet the demand.
In health care, there are patients and doctors; machines and medicines; office staffs and insurance companies. And binding them all together is paper. In a given day, thousands of sheets — lab results, referrals, billing information — will change hands at a facility like University Surgical Associates in Chattanooga. The facility, home to 32 surgeons, spends close to $1,200 a month on paper. That’s why, for health care providers, entering the digital age is no small feat. The shift from paper to digital has happened more slowly in medicine than in other industries.
The proposal for Shelby County Schools to keep control of three Germantown schools has so infuriated five members elected last year to the municipal school board that they are preparing a counter plan. “We are working feverishly on something we would present Monday night or sooner,” said Paige Michael, candidate for the Germantown school board and one of five who were elected last year but were never sworn in after a judge nullified the election. Under a recommendation the SCS board is expected to vote on Monday, 14 schools located outside municipal boundaries, plus Germantown Elementary, Germantown Middle, Germantown High and Lucy Elementary in Millington would remain in the county district.
It was the issue that didn’t get a lot of public discussion in the initial move to form suburban school districts in Shelby County. Suburban leaders envisioned that their six school systems would retain attendance zones and incorporate agreements that allowed all children attending the schools in their cities and towns to continue attending those same schools. That included thousands of children who live in unincorporated Shelby County including the Memphis annexation reserve area as well as their own reserve areas. And it included children in one suburban city who attended school in another suburban city.