This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam may be fairly faulted on occasion — well, actually on a fairly regular basis — as seemingly prone to prognostication, vacillation and general decision dodging. But he does seem to have an overall agenda, which may be simplistically summarized as promotion of business interests, and sometimes the apparent dearth of boldness may be a display of his knack for methodically dealing with complex policy matters in businesslike fashion. An evolving case in point is the governor’s handling of what amounts to a crisis in the state system for selecting judges of the state Supreme Court and appeals courts.
9to5 Seating announced Monday they will relocate their manufacturing operations to Union City. The announcement represents an investment of $39.5 million and will create 510 new jobs over the next five years in Obion County. Tennessee Gov.Bill Haslam and ECD Commissioner Bill Hagerty joined company officials in making the announcement. “I want to congratulate 9to5 Seating on this announcement, and I thank the company for its investment and commitment to Union City and Tennessee.
It is a model designed to bring lots of help for victims of domestic violence to one location, and recently, agencies from across the Upper Cumberland gathered to celebrate the formation of a Family Justice Center here. Thanks to a grant from the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner as part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Family Justice Center initiative, the Upper Cumberland Family Justice Center will serve as a co-location for victim resources. The center, which will be based in Cookeville initially, will serve the entire 13th judicial district, which includes Cumberland, White, Putnam, Clay, DeKalb, Pickett and Overton counties.
Its price has nearly doubled, and test-takers who haven’t finished will have to start all over again. The new GED exam doesn’t look good on paper — and it’s not even a paper test anymore. But it could mean a tremendous, 20 percent growth in Tennessee’s workforce as soon as next year. Roughly 67 percent of Tennesseans who previously took the classic, paper-format GED passed it, according to Pearson-Vue, the for-profit company that now owns the GED name. Come Jan. 4, the test’s administrators expect more than 87 percent of Tennesseans who take the new, computer-only format — complete with two free retakes — to pass and be prepared for 2014’s limited job market.
Middle Tennessee State University received a $1.5 million grant Friday to help with the construction of its new science building. The donation from the Rutherford County-based Chrissy-Houston Foundation will help the Murfreesboro college complete its state-of-the-art science building by its scheduled opening in spring 2015. The facility’s focus on the sciences, especially those related to health care, spurred the foundation to give funding to the project, said foundation president Bob Mifflin. “It’s the most important building I think that has ever been built on that campus. We understand that nearly every student that attends MTSU will go through the science building,” Mifflin said in a release.
The associations representing the state’s doctors and nurses are jointly calling for Gov. Bill Haslam and the legislature to expand TennCare, the Medicaid program in Tennessee. Dr. Chris Young, president of the Tennessee Medical Association, and Jill Kinch, immediate past president of the Tennessee Nurses Association make an economic argument for expansion. They are asking state leaders to make pragmatic decisions until future elections determine the final fate of the Affordable Care Act. The repercussions of not expanding Medicaid will affect Tennesseans of all incomes, they said.
In the weeks that led to the huge across-the-board cuts to federal spending early this year, Obama administration officials warned of dire consequences for the Justice Department: F.B.I. agents dropped from investigations, United States marshals pulled from their beats, federal prison guards furloughed. Then when the cuts known as sequestration hit, the Justice Department suddenly found more than half a billion dollars in unspent money from the previous year. Furloughs were called off. The Boston Marathon bombing investigation proceeded unhindered. In short, there were few of the predicted calamities, although several antipoverty and science programs like Head Start and the National Institutes of Health suffered damage.
Most of us will never be flown to a regional trauma center after a horrible car wreck, or depend upon the neonatal intensive care provided to premature babies, or receive state-of-the-art treatment for cancer. But as a society, we are comforted knowing that these resources are available. Tennessee faces some critical choices in the months ahead that will affect the availability and quality of health care for our residents. Unfortunately, health care faces an unprecedented financial crisis as a result of changes in regulations, and it threatens the very existence of a reliable network of providers and facilities to take care of Tennesseans, while demand for health care services is expected to increase.
Exhibiting a disturbing hubris, Tennessee correctional officials have quickly set dates to execute two men on death row early next year, based on the state’s decision that it will change its lethal drug of choice. Even if it made sense for Tennessee to get back into the practice of capital punishment, an assumption that is losing ground with each passing year, correctional officials are leaping into uncertain territory by planning to use the anesthetic pentobarbital to put to death first Billy Ray Irick in January and then Nickolus Johnson in April. Ohio and Texas switched to pentobarbital and weathered some court challenges. Its predecessor was a three-drug cocktail designed to make the inmate unconscious before the lethal drugs ended his life.
Honestly, is there any single one of Tennessee’s elected state officials who has a heart bigger than the size of a pea? Perhaps that’s a little harsh. But it’s hard not to be critical when an audit found that 7,100 of Tennessee’s most severely disabled citizens are spending years of their lives on a waiting list for help. Not just one or two years, but, in many cases, decades. All because Gov. Bill Haslam and the state legislature cannot and will not give the state Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities enough money to help pay for badly needed care. This is a population that cannot take care of themselves. We’re talking about basic human needs: feeding and dressing one’s self, using the bathroom, walking and talking. Some are people with extremely low IQs.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander has taken some unfair flak for inserting a provision that would fund an Ohio River dam repair project into the bill that reopened the government and raised the debt ceiling. The provision has commonly been perceived as a gift to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky in exchange for his delivering Republican votes to avert the fiscal crisis that would have come had the bill not passed. But Alexander did more than just help a fellow Republican; he also took a step toward preserving a vital link in East Tennessee’s transportation infrastructure. By securing more funding for the Olmsted Locks and Dam project, Congress freed up funding for other inland waterways projects — including a vital new lock for Chickamauga Dam in Chattanooga.
Germantown, you have a problem. You want desperately to launch your own school system next year. You’ve been spending money, raising taxes and putting together a cogent plan to get it done. Your friends in the state legislature have eliminated most of the roadblocks. And on Nov. 7, you will elect a five-member board to govern your new district. But a not-so-funny thing has happened on the way to independence. Shelby County Schools is making your plans difficult, if not impossible. A proposal unveiled last week by county schools Supt. Dorsey Hopson means Germantown likely won’t have some of the school buildings and — worse — many of the students it needs to make a separate school district work the way city leaders want.