This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Furniture company England Inc. announced today it will expand its New Tazewell, Tenn., presence with a $17.5 million investment that will create 300 new jobs over the next five years. Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty joined company officials in making the announcement, “Tennessee’s reputation is synonymous with quality workmanship around the world. We are known for a level of craftsmanship that is increasingly more difficult to find. England has tapped into our high quality workforce where the Tennessee tradition of pride and commitment to excellence remains second to none,” Hagerty said in a statement.
Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty along with England, Inc. officials today announced the furniture company will celebrate its 50th anniversary in Tennessee by expanding their presence in New Tazewell. England will invest $17.5 million and hire 300 new employees over the next five years in Claiborne County. “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great day for Claiborne County and a great day for England Furniture,” said Rob Barger, chairman of the Claiborne County Industrial Development Board, in his opening remarks.
England, Inc., a subsidiary of La-Z-Boy furniture, is celebrating its 50th anniversary in East Tennessee by expanding the company’s New Tazewell, Tenn., plant and adding 300 employees over the next five years. The furniture maker, already one of the largest employers in Claiborne County with 1,050 workers, announced Thursday it will invest $17.5 million in its Tennessee plant as part of its commitment to keep production in the United States. During the recent economic downturn, England accelerated its investment in technology and transportation equipment to gain an edge on the competition, according to England, Inc. President Otis Sawyer said.
Furniture company England, Inc. announced Thursday it is celebrating its 50th anniversary in Tennessee by expanding their New Tazewell facility. The expansion means an investment of $17.5 million dollars and the hiring of 300 new employees over the next five years. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty were on hand for the announcement Thursday afternoon. “Tennessee’s reputation is synonymous with quality workmanship around the world. We are known for a level of craftsmanship that is increasingly more difficult to find.
Launch Tennessee has partnered with PandoDaily, an influential Silicon Valley news startup, to produce the second annual Southland conference, according to a news release. The conference, a blend of tech startups and Southern culture, is set for June 9-11. “The first Southland conference was a big success for Tennessee because it brought together entrepreneurs and investors from all over the country to exchange ideas and experience our state’s hospitality and culture,” Gov. Bill Haslam said in a news release.
Launch Tennessee announced today that the second annual Southland conference, scheduled for next June 9-11, will be a joint venture between Launch Tennessee and PandoDaily, a technology startup news platform known as “the site of record for Silicon Valley.” The first Southland conference, a unique blend of tech startups and Southern culture, drew more than 650 entrepreneurs and investors to Nashville in June. “The first Southland conference was a big success for Tennessee because it brought together entrepreneurs and investors from all over the country to exchange ideas and experience our state’s hospitality and culture,” Gov. Bill Haslam said.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has announced a grant award of $843,000 for Northeast State Community College to fund needed equipment for advanced technology programs at the school. The governor proposed and the General Assembly approved $16.5 million in this year’s budget for equipment and technology related to workforce development programs at Tennessee colleges of applied technology and community colleges. These strategic investments resulted from the governor meeting with businesses and education officials across the state last fall to better understand workforce development needs.
Tennessee’s First Lady kicked off the first annual Celebrity Reader Day at Northshore Elementary School. First Lady Crissy Haslam read to third graders Thursday morning. She read a passage from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. That’s the Read20 Book Club book of the month. Haslam encourages all Tennessee children to read 20 minutes everyday. “Reading 20 minutes or 30 minutes a day, that’s one of the best things they can do to become stronger readers and to be more prepared for the future and the upper grades as they go on,” said Crissy Haslam.
Tennessee’s first statewide count of school bullying incidents found 5,478 cases last school year, shocking the lawmaker who asked for the study. The Department of Education report turned up 7,555 reports of bullying. Investigations confirmed acts of bullying in 73 percent of reports. “The numbers, they’re quite shocking,” said Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro. “I was thinking there’d be less than a thousand reports of bullying captured. Over 5,000? That’s huge. And that’s just what was reported.” Ketron and Rep. Charles Curtiss, D-Sparta, passed legislation requiring the statewide study in 2012 in the wake of two high-profile bullying-related student suicides in Middle Tennessee.
A first-of-its-kind state report finds 5,478 confirmed cases of bullying in Tennessee schools last year with 255 or 4.6 percent of them occurring in Hamilton County. The Department of Education’s Bullying and Harassment Compliant Report, required under a 2012 law, says 7,555 cases were reported statewide during the 2012-13 school year with 72.51 percent of the bullying and harassment confirmed. Tennessee’s public schools have more than 935,000 students. Hamilton County schools, meanwhile, reported 345 cases with 255 of them confirmed.
About 72 percent of the 7,555 reports of bullying in Tennessee public schools last school year were confirmed when administrators investigated them, according to a report by the state Department of Education. Shelby County Schools reported 265 confirmed cases of bullying in the 2012-13 school year. The report does not have a separate tally for the old Memphis City Schools. Metro Nashville Public Schools had 812 confirmed cases. The biggest number of reported cases statewide, 695, was based on sex- or gender-discrimination, followed by 321 that were based on race, color or national origin, and 168 involved a student’s disability, according to the report.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation has created a fund to support the transportation needs of public transit users, pedestrians and bicyclists. According to the department, projects eligible under the new Multimodal Access Fund include sidewalks, pedestrian crossing improvements, bus shelters, park-and-ride facilities and bicycle lanes. Projects cannot exceed $1 million in total cost and require a 5 percent local match. Projects requests for funding should be submitted to TDOT through local Rural and Metropolitan Planning Organizations.
The government agency charged with providing care and services to “some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens” isn’t living up to its mission, according to a performance review by the Tennessee comptroller’s office. A report by the comptroller’s Division of State Audit outlined a number of “serious problems” in the way the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities is being run. The DIDD provides care and protection services for more than 8,000 Tennesseans with debilitating health conditions.
Tennessee is set to have its first execution in nearly five years in January and the first using a new single-drug method. State Department of Correction spokeswoman Dorinda Carter told The Associated Press on Thursday that 55-year-old Billy Ray Irick is scheduled to be executed on Jan. 15. According to the state Supreme Court clerk’s office, the order for the execution was filed Tuesday. Irick has been on death row since 1986 for the rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl. Tennessee announced last month that it’s switching from a three-drug lethal injection method to using only the sedative pentobarbital to put an inmate to death.
Tennessee has moved death row inmate Billy Ray Irick to the front of the line to be executed in Tennessee. The Tennessee Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered Irick to be executed by lethal injection on Jan. 15, putting him ahead of death row inmate Nickolus Johnson, who is scheduled to die April 22. Johnson, who killed Bristol Police Officer Mark Vance in 2004, was the first person scheduled to die in Tennessee in more than a year and a half. Irick raped and killed a 7-year-old Knoxville girl he had been baby-sitting in 1985.
Brentwood Congressman Marsha Blackburn – who has spent countless cable TV interviews railing on Obamacare – remained relatively reserved Thursday. In hearings on the flawed launch of the health insurance exchange website, Blackburn simply asked questions, primarily about the security of patient information. “Were you all trained in HIPAA compliance prior to beginning your contract? I’ll just go right down the line. Ms. Campbell?” The executives who testified said they were trained in protecting sensitive data. Blackburn is vice chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Nashville Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper cut to the chase in an interview for NPR’s Tell Me More this week, telling host Michel Martin “Most people are actually pretty decent as individuals. The problem with Congress is when we get together we behave terribly.” Cooper appeared alongside Republican Congressman Reid Ribble of Wisconsin. The two are members of a three year-old organization called No Labels, whose mission is to promote bipartisan collaboration. Both men said they had productive communication with each other throughout the shutdown and debt ceiling debate.
TVA kicked off an effort Thursday to get its long-range energy use plan “back in the middle lanes of the highway,” as planner Gary Brinkworth described it at a public meeting at the agency’s Knoxville headquarters. “We’ve kind of gotten in the right-hand lane and a little close to the shoulder,” he told about 15-20 people gathered to discuss TVA’s effort to update its Integrated Resource Plan. Brinkworth is a senior manager in charge of updating the plan. As he explained it, the plan sets a path for the Tennessee Valley Authority in terms of its energy resource mix but is supposed to provide flexibility. It is like a highway but with a choice of lanes.
Drivers on interstate highways through Tennessee might have noticed the daily death count on electronic bulletin boards. If not, they should see them soon enough. The numbers are in the 800s — and high is not good. The grim figures serve as a reminder to slow down, drive safely and don’t become part of the count. The electronic message boards are posting on a daily basis the number of traffic fatalities in the state. Previously, those figures had been posted only on Friday. Then, the death toll hit 800 for the year on Thursday, Oct. 17 — the same day one year ago when the fatality numbers reached 800, according to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.