This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
State officials say a locomotive manufacturer is establishing an assembly and fabrication plant in Knoxville, adding 203 jobs over the next three years. Officials say Knoxville Locomotive Works will establish the plant in Knoxville to satisfy new Environmental Protection Agency emission requirements for trains. The announcement represents an investment of $6.1 million. To support the plant, the company will buy eight acres and two buildings adjacent to its current shop, located north of downtown Knoxville.
Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty along with Knoxville Locomotive Works officials announced Thursday the company will build an assembly and fabrication plant in Knoxville expected to create 203 jobs over the next three years. KLW says it will be investing $6.1 million into the facility, purchasing eight acres and two buildings adjacent to its 300 W. Quincy Avenue shop in North Knoxville. The company will also renovate its current facility by extending the assembly line and installing indoor railroad tracks and new overhead cranes.
Knoxville-based short-line Gulf & Ohio Railways plans a $6.1 million expansion to become a producer of locomotives, creating 203 jobs in the process. The company announced Thursday that its Knoxville Locomotive Works operation off Central Street will be renovated and expanded to about double its size to begin producing locomotives based on its KLW 2250 Repower prototype. After improvements are made to the existing building, KLW will be able to produce about 20 locomotives a year, said Gregory Hall Jr., general counsel for Gulf & Ohio.
Knoxville Locomotive Works announced Thursday it will expand operations and create 203 new jobs over the next three years. “I want to congratulate KLW on this expansion and thank them for the additional investment and new jobs in Knox County and Tennessee,” Haslam said. “Existing industry expansions are critical to growing our state’s economy and help reinforce our goal of making Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.” To support the launch of its new value-added assembly and fabrication plant, KLW will purchase eight acres and two buildings adjacent to its 300 West Quincy Ave. shop, located north of downtown Knoxville.
State and local officials will cut the ribbon on the last piece of Tenn. 385 on the morning of Friday, Nov. 22, and the eight-mile stretch of road will open to motorists later in the day. The roughly eight-mile section between Macon Road and Tenn. 57 in Piperton is the final piece of a nearly 50-mile route that travels from Millington through Arlington and south through Fayette County and into Collierville before linking back to Interstate 240 in the city of Memphis. Work on the $74 million section began in November 2009.
The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development announced today the state’s unemployment rate for both September and October was 8.4 percent, down from the August mark of 8.5 percent. The national unemployment rate for October was 7.3 percent, up one tenth of one percentage point from the previous month’s mark. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides unemployment data to states each month including household and business surveys that contribute toward the monthly calculation.
Tennessee’s unemployment rate was 8.4 percent in September and October, the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development announced today. The state’s revised unemployment rate was 8.5 percent in August. The national unemployment rate was 7.3 percent in October, up from 7.2 percent in September. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides the employment data to states each month, but recently delayed the release of this data because of the federal shutdown. Normal monthly announcements will resume in December.
Tennessee’s unemployment rate for October was 8.4 percent, unchanged from September’s revised rate and down slightly from August, Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner Burns Phillips announced today. The national unemployment rate for October was 7.3 percent, up one tenth of one percentage point from September. Total nonfarm employment in Tennessee increased 8,000 jobs from September to October. The largest increases occurred in trade/transportation/utilities, accommodation/food services, and professional/business services.
Tennessee’s unemployment rate in October measured 8.4 percent compared to 7.8 percent in the same month last year, according to preliminary statistics released Thursday by the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development. Tennessee’s unemployment rate remains above the national rate of 7.3 percent for October. Nationally, the October rate dipped from 7.9 percent for October 2012, but rose from 7.2 percent in September. Tennessee’s September rate was also 8.4 percent. State unemployment figures for both September and October were released Thursday.
In the two years before two children were found dead in a hot car in Smyrna, the Department of Children’s Services twice investigated their mother for child neglect and found the two homes where the family was staying at those times to be safe and clean. Those homes weren’t where the children died on Aug. 2, 2012. Their bodies were found outside of a third home, at 9584 Old Nashville Highway — which was condemned after the deaths. Water leaks and utilities problems at the Old Nashville Highway home had displaced the family to a relative’s home in 2010, where DCS first investigated, the agency said this week, responding to questions after department records about the case became available.
The recent arrest of four people in North Clarksville on methamphetamine-related charges that stemmed from a Tennessee Department of Children’s Services investigation highlights the dangers children face in homes where drugs, both illegal and prescription medications, are used. DCS officials earlier this week asked law enforcement to accompany them to 3414 Pembroke Road, where members of 19th Judicial District Drug Task Force executed a search warrant and found components to produce methamphetamine, as well as some of the ingredients to make the highly addictive substance.
The public will have a chance to weigh in on the proposed transfer of state land to Metro for a new Nashville baseball stadium when a key state panel meets Monday. The State Building Commission’s executive subcommittee is scheduled to discuss the land transaction at 10:30 a.m. in Hearing Room 30 at Legislative Plaza. The state announced Thursday that there will be an opportunity for public comment — perhaps the only one throughout the process — before the subcommittee votes on the deal. Mayor Karl Dean wants the state to transfer 13 acres of land north of downtown to the city so it can build a stadium for the Nashville Sounds at the historic Sulphur Dell baseball site.
Long-delayed plans for a retail and student housing complex on Highland near the University of Memphis are on hold again after the state attorney general said the university lacks legal authority to enter an agreement with the project’s private developer. Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper said in an advisory opinion released Thursday that neither the U of M nor the Tennessee Board of Regents is empowered by state law to enter into a “student housing affiliation agreement” with the developer that would have put the University of Memphis’s name on the privately owned and operated apartment building for students, faculty and staff.
The Tennessee Senate’s foremost advocate of loosening state restrictions on where wine can and cannot be sold wants to restart the discussion in a straightforward manner when the Legislature convenes in January. Bill Ketron, a Republican from Murfreesboro, says the issue is no more complicated than this: Should local citizens decide? He said it’s the same as letting local voters choose whether to permit liquor stores or allow liquor-by-the-drink. To that end, Ketron said he’ll likely move to set aside any extraneous amendments now attached to a bill he’s sponsoring that grants locals the power through referendums to decide if grocery stores can sell wine.
The Memphis sales-tax referendum failed Thursday by an overwhelming margin of 60 percent to 40 percent, or 17,636 votes to 11,659, in the evening’s final unofficial tally. Only 7 percent of the city’s 417,174 registered voters participated. The result represents a victory for skeptics of the plan to raise the sales tax to expand preschool training and help reduce the property tax. “Apparently, if the numbers hold, The margin indicates that the will of the people is that they didn’t want to pay more sales tax for a partial Pre-K program, and I’m delighted by that,” said one of the main opponents of the tax, former school board member Rev. Kenneth Whalum Jr.
In the end, it was no contest — in either of the ballot matters that were before Memphis voters and were concluded on Thursday. Proposed City Ordinance 5495, the referendum for a half-cent increase in the optional local sales tax in order, primarily, to support a citywide pre-Kindergarten program and,, secondarily, to allow for the reduction of the city’s current property tax, was defeated: 60 percent no, 40 percent yes. And, despite expressed misgivings by Democratic activists that a projected low turnout might endanger the margin of Democratic nominee Raumesh Akbari, she handily defeated Libertarian candidate Jim Tomasik by an almost 9 to 1 ratio to become the successor to the late Democratic state Rep. Lois DeBerry.
For the second time in a year, Memphis voters have said “no” to a sales tax hike and Democrat Raumesh Akbari claimed the Tennessee House District 91 seat. The outcomes at the polls Thursday, Nov. 21, were the bottom line of the last two elections of 2013 in Shelby County and the last in a series of 11 elections in the county over the last three months. The half percent citywide sales tax hike lost big despite a well-funded push by proponents of the tax hike as a way to fund an expansion of prekindergarten in the city of Memphis.
Republicans are planning to use the troubled health law against Democrats in next year’s midterm elections, but the Affordable Care Act is increasingly dividing their party, too. At the annual meeting here of the nation’s Republican governors, the ones who are eyeing presidential runs in 2016 say they oppose the health care law. But there is sharp disagreement among those who have helped carry out the law and those who remain entrenched in their opposition. These early divisions reveal not only the difficult calculations of ambitious Republican politicians as they look to the next presidential campaign, but also the complexities of being a governor rather than a lawmaker at a time when the party’s base is hostile to those who cooperate with Democrats.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam sees a lot to like about New Jersey’s Chris Christie, who takes over as head of the Republican Governor’s Association this week. At the group’s annual meeting, many governors have been questioned about the potential 2016 presidential contender. Asked whether he’s cut from the same cloth as the New Jersey moderate, the trim and athletic Haslam responded with a weight joke, saying Christie’s “is cut a little larger than mine.” Aside from Christie’s much larger waistline, Haslam also points to his penchant for sparring with opponents. The mild-mannered Haslam calls Christie “very much a New Jersey guy.”
Tennessee Republican Bob Corker says Thursday was a “really bad day for the Senate.” Democrats narrowly voted to take away the GOP’s power to block judicial nominations with a filibuster. What’s called the “nuclear option” arose after Republicans vowed to stop the president from filling vacancies on a highly influential appeals court. Corker has sometimes butted heads over his own party’s tactics, but yesterday he accused Democrats of a pattern of going around Congress. “At some point you have to just throw up your hands and say, look, they’re going to use brute, raw force to get what they wish. Let’s face it. This is about the DC Circuit. That’s the place where all regulatory issues are dealt with.”
Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee called Senate Democrats’ move Thursday to limit use of the filibuster “an exercise of raw, partisan political power” resembling passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. By a 52-48 vote, the Democratic majority changed the rules of the chamber on filibusters — the use or threat of extended debate to prevent consideration of issues or appointments — on most presidential nominations to federal judgeships and other posts. Filibusters took 60 votes to overcome, but now they can be ended with 51 votes. Changing Senate rules through use of a simple majority vote has long been called the “nuclear option” and both parties have entertained the idea over the past decade as they alternated control of the chamber.
The U.S. House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs has begun an investigation into the Memphis VA Medical Center after an inspector’s report found three patients had received substandard care and died. A letter from the committee chairman, Rep. Jeff Miller, to the Department of Veterans Affairs on Wednesday mentions three patients who died in the hospital’s emergency room. The Florida Republican’s letter requests information from the department including action plans related to the patients, along with peer reviews, performance reports and disciplinary actions for the medical professionals involved in their treatment.
The Tennessee Valley Authority says unit 1 at the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant in Soddy Daisy is back online. During a recent refueling outage, workers tested more than 350 valves and pumps, as well as replaced 93 fuel assemblies. There was also scaffolding and insulation work. The agency said unit operators will be raising power output over the next couple of days until the 1,160-megawatt unit is at full capacity. It is one of six nuclear power generating units operated by TVA at three facilities.
Friday is the deadline for public comments on the Tennessee Valley Authority’s long-term energy resource strategy. The Integrated Resource Plan is being updated to reflect changes that include the availability of lower-cost natural gas, slower electricity demand growth, a new schedule for completing Watts Bar Nuclear Unit 2 and TVA’s decision to retire 26 older coal units. The agency is also taking comments on its Supplement Environmental Impact Statement. The two plans will address issues like the cost and reliability of power, the effects of power production on the environment and the use of renewable power and energy efficiency.
This week, Nissan Motor said it will increase production of its all-electric Tennessee-made electric car, the Leaf, after a price cut caused an increase in sales. Nissan dropped the U.S. price of the Leaf by more than $6,000 to $29,650 at the beginning of the year after a shift in production lowered the Leaf’s manufacturing costs. There was no announcement as to how much production is set to be ramped up at the plant in Smyrna, Tenn. According to Nissan, the company is selling more than 2,000 Leaf models a month, with more than 18,000 sold from January to October of this year.
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc.is planning a $4 million expansion of its Knox County operation which a company spokeswoman said will boost efficiency in filling customers’ orders. The expansion is not expected to create many new jobs, said corporate spokeswoman Sandy Yusen. It mainly involves the distribution operation, which makes extensive use of automated processes, she said. During a conference call with investors Wednesday, Green Mountain officials said the company will launch new products over the next year, including a next generation version of its Keurig coffee brewers and other lines called Keurig Cold and Keurig Water.
The Johnson City School District is among 31 finalists out of more than 250 districts competing for $120 million in federal Race to the Top funding. Greg Wallace, author of the grant proposal for the system, said the Johnson City district asked for $18.2 million over the next four years to pay for technology upgrades and 17 new academic specialists to work with at-risk students at the system’s 11 schools. “The biggest part of that is for providing academic specialists at every school to help with those students who are classified as tier two and three,” Wallace said.
West Tennessee teachers and students voiced strong opposition to the frequency of testing in the state’s schools during Thursday night’s forum in Jackson at Liberty Technology Magnet High School. The forum was hosted by the Tennessee Education Association, and the majority of the people in the crowd worked in the education field except for two parents and two student representatives serving on the discussion panel. The overwhelming sentiment among the teachers and students was that the amount of testing is “excessive” and is creating a “stressful” school environment.
The country is engaged in a fierce debate about two educational reforms that bear directly on the future of its schoolchildren: first, teacher evaluation systems that are taking hold just about everywhere, and, second, the Common Core learning standards that have been adopted by all but a few states and are supposed to move the schools toward a more challenging, writing-intensive curriculum. Both reforms — or at least the principles behind them — got a welcome boost from reading and math scores released recently by the federal government.
It was about time someone took a stand against the annual tuition increases that Tennessee college students must endure. Interim University of Memphis president Brad Martin and his team have a chance to reverse that course. The ultimate decision lies with the Tennessee Board of Regents, but Martin, not quite halfway through a one-year term in office, makes a credible argument that enhancing the university’s revenue production and increasing efficiencies can help make a tuition hike-free year an achievable goal. If the Martin team can produce a balanced budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year without raising tuition, their approach could serve as a model for the rest of the state’s institutions of higher learning.
Montgomery County taxpayers are subsidizing the Tennessee Department of Corrections by the whopping sum of $1.8 million this year to house state inmates in the county jail. Wisely, the County Commission’s Legislative Liaison Committee, has made relieving this unfair burden its top legislative goal for the coming session of the General Assembly, which convenes in January. The full commission will vote on the agenda in December, and should agree that this is a top priority. In an odd twist, it appears that Montgomery County is being punished for the having the foresight to plan for the future.