This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
The average person ate about 4,000 calories on Thanksgiving day. But before you think about loosening your belt to the next hole, you may want to join a statewide movement encouraging Tennesseans to exercise, eat right, and not to smoke. It’s called Healthier Tennessee starTNow, which was initiated by Gov. Bill Haslam. You should get at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like a brisk walk, a week. You can also get 1.5 hours of vigorous activity like jogging.
For decades, teachers have entered the classroom in their early 20s and stayed in front of the blackboard for 25 years, 30 years or longer. But that traditional model is changing. Many educators leave teaching after just a few years — some estimates say half leave within the first five years. But other factors are changing teacher retention, too. In the last several years, regulations governing who can become and who can stay a teacher have tightened, especially in Tennessee, even as a generation of baby boomer teachers is retiring. Other would-be educators are entering the profession later in life, after careers as scientists, engineers or accountants.
More details on the University of Memphis’ plan for closing a projected $20 million budget deficit for 2014-15 could emerge Tuesday when Provost Dr. M. David Rudd expects to meet with an ad hoc committee of the Faculty Senate. Rudd is working with college deans to develop more cuts beyond the $7 million in reductions previously revealed. Those include reducing administrative costs, tapping unexpended tuition reserves, cutting graduate assistant stipends, combining the School of Nursing, the School of Public Health, the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders and the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences into two schools and turning control of the Communication Sciences and Disorders’ speech therapy clinic to the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.
Sometimes, all it takes is a $7 burrito gift cardto get high school seniors to submit their college applications early. “You always have some students who say, ‘I don’t want to go to college,’ but they don’t realize (that) whatever it is in life, they need to go to college for it,” said Martin Copeland, adviser at Theodore Roosevelt High School in the District of Columbia. “They don’t realize it until May. For those students, these incentives work.” President Barack Obama’s goal is that by 2020, America will again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.
As a small coterie of grim-faced advisers shuffled into the Oval Office on the evening of Oct. 15, President Obama’s chief domestic accomplishment was falling apart 24 miles away, at a bustling high-tech data center in suburban Virginia. HealthCare.gov, the $630 million online insurance marketplace, was a disaster after it went live on Oct. 1, with a roster of engineering repairs that would eventually swell to more than 600 items. The private contractors who built it were pointing fingers at one another. And inside the White House, after initially saying too much traffic was to blame, Mr. Obama’s closest confidants had few good answers. The political dangers were clear to everyone in the room: Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.; Kathleen Sebelius, the health secretary; Marilyn Tavenner, the Medicare chief; Denis McDonough, the chief of staff; Todd Park, the chief technology officer; and others.
In an era of sluggish power demand, cheap natural gas and rising construction costs for nuclear power, Franklin L. Haney may be the only American pushing to try to personally finance a new atomic reactor. But as he has throughout his life, the 73-year-old attorney sees opportunity where others see only problems. And he doesn’t quit. Last month, the Tennessee Valley Authority seemed to shut the door to Haney’s latest $10 billion proposal to help TVA finance completion of one of America’s last unfinished nuclear plants — the twin-reactor Bellefonte plant in Northeast Alabama.
Some West Tennessee residents look at their local hospital as a fixture in their community, but changes in health care threaten operations at many hospitals, especially small hospitals in rural areas. Jeff Blankenship, chief financial officer at West Tennessee Healthcare, said hospitals that serve a disproportionate share of Medicare, Medicaid and uninsured patients are particularly at risk under the current scenario in Tennessee. Hospitals that are not part of a larger organization are even more at risk, he said. “In order to offset significant reductions in revenue, both services and jobs could be at risk for the future depending on what each hospital has to do in order to sustain itself going forward,” Blankenship said.
It was a major effort, but Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes said a clandestine methamphetamine “super lab” was cleaned up and cleared in time for officers and agents to enjoy their Thanksgiving. Mathes said state officials believe it may be the largest such lab in state history. Mathes said officers completed the cleanup of the vacant house at 8377 Highway 19E in Roan Mountain at approximately 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. He said the cleanup was conducted over 36 hours. In addition to 20 officers from the sheriff’s department, Mathes said many other groups assisted in the effort.
Political bickering and uncertainty in Washington has many Americans frustrated and angry. While most of the dysfunction falls along political party lines, it also has real world consequences that affect the “folks back home.” From sequester spending cuts to the Obamacare disaster to Congress’ and the White House’s unwillingness to compromise and pass a national budget, political stubbornness is costing Americans in many ways. The latest uncertainty befalling Tennessee involves the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Tennessee is one of only five states that don’t borrow money to build and maintain highways.
Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration is standing fast with a private real estate firm that is raking in millions of taxpayers’ dollars despite a critical audit written by the state comptroller. Among the audit’s criticisms: The firm, Jones Lang LaSalle of Chicago, makes a commission when private office space is leased for use by state employees. Under the contract, the state and JLL share the commissions paid by real estate firms that win rental contracts for state offices. The whole thing starts with the governor’s complex program called Transforming Tennessee for Tomorrow (T3), which is aimed at saving the state $100 million over 10 years by consolidating state offices, closing outdated state buildings and leasing private office space.