This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Growth in Tennessee’s economy is anchored by Rutherford County and creating a business friendly environment, Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday. “Rutherford County is the real growth engine here that helps the rest of the state,” said Haslam as he addressed a crowd at the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce Luncheon sponsored by Pinnacle Bank. The governor, who is facing re-election next year, said he has made economic growth a cornerstone of his tenure in office by making Tennessee the No. 1 destination for job growth in the Southeast.
“We have a serious shortage for skilled and industrial jobs,” Paul Latture, Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce president, said after the announcement Tuesday. “This investment by the state will benefit many and go far to meeting the challenge of developing the state’s workers.” The grant for TCAT-Murfreesboro at the school’s Old Fort Parkway campus will address needs for equipment for instruction in mechanical systems, electronics, industrial motor controls, hydraulics, pneumatics and wiring. The school will be able to purchase several pieces of high-tech training equipment.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced a grant of $625,007 to fund equipment needed at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Murfreesboro. 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, part of Haslam’s “Drive to 55” effort to increase the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary credentials.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam will honor victims of homicide at the 11th annual Tennessee Season to Remember. Families and friends of people who lost their lives to violent crime are invited to attend the Thursday event and hang ornaments in memory of their loved ones on memorial wreaths. The ceremony takes place at 5:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church in downtown Nashville. After the event, the wreaths will be moved to the Tennessee State Capitol, where they will remain on display throughout the holiday season. T
Dr. Dan T. Meadows has been appointed to the Tennessee Board of Dentistry by Gov. Bill Haslam. Meadows, who has a private practice on Walnut Grove Road, will serve as the Rotating Dentist member through June 2016. Hometown: Memphis Experience: B.A., University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.), University of Tennessee, Memphis; private dental practice since 1979 Family: Wife, Amy (since 1976); three grown daughters: Catherine, Ginny, Beth; one son-in-law: Robert Favorite quote: “How blessed is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding.” – Proverbs 3:13 Favorite movie: “Patton” (and old Christmas movies).
Employees in the University of Tennessee system will see a dollar increase in hourly pay by next June. Officials say the minimum starting pay rate for regular full- and part-time employees is expected to go from $8.50 an hour to $9.50 an hour by June 30. The increase will be incremental. The rate will increase to $9 on Jan. 1, then to $9.50 six months later. Officials say UT campuses and institutes are reallocating existing funds to cover initial costs associated with the increase, estimated to be about $273,000. The increase will affect about 223 employees working across the state.
University of Memphis provost Dr. M. David Rudd said Tuesday he sees health services as one area where investments are likely to pay off because student demand will remain high. Other than that, a discussion about the future of the university and how to close a projected $20 million budget gap stuck to generalizations as Rudd met with the Faculty Senate in its chambers in the University Center. Rudd said he would welcome three or four members of the Senate to a budget committee whose first meeting is scheduled for next week.
Former state Rep. Jim Gotto announced Tuesday that he’ll run next year to reclaim the House District 60 seat, which he lost in 2012 to Democrat Darren Jernigan. A vague fundraiser announcement on Monday had raised questions about what Gotto was running for and whether the lack of specifics violated state law. The Hermitage Republican cleared up the confusion Tuesday with a speech to a Republican group and a news release. “I am running because I believe the citizens of Donelson, Hermitage and Old Hickory need conservative leadership that will remain focused on creating an environment for economic growth and further maintain fiscal sanity in state government,” he said in the release.
The U.S. Senate is not functioning as it should, and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Maryville, blames one person: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat. Speaking to the News Sentinel editorial board Tuesday, Alexander said Reid erred when he engineered a rule change that Republicans referred to as the “nuclear option.” It takes away a senator’s ability to filibuster presidential appointments — except U.S. Supreme Court nominees — by eliminating the need to get 60 votes before a measure can reach the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote.
Two members of the Tennessee congressional delegation have found a new way to challenge President Barack Obama’s health care reforms. Reps. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, and Phil Roe, R-Johnson City, are part of a friend-of-the-court brief filed in November that contends the various taxes in the 2010 Affordable Care Act are unconstitutional because they were put there by the wrong chamber of Congress. The brief, filed in the case of Sissel vs. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, argues Congress violated the “origination clause” of the Constitution in passing health care reform.
Chattanooga-area navigators and brokers say they are finally gaining traction on HealthCare.gov — with some navigators being able to walk consumers through the entire signup process for the first time in the two months since the site was launched. Nancy Ridge, a navigator with the Medical Foundation of Chattanooga, said she gauges the site is showing “75 percent improvement” from where it was Oct. 1. “We are able to finally able to help people start shopping,” said Ridge. She has noticed steady progress since last week, but said the site’s performance is still not completely reliable.
Insurance commissioners in most Republican-led states have agreed to a request from President Barack Obama to allow carriers to extend many insurance plans slated for cancellation, while regulators in Democratic states remain divided, The Wall Street Journal has found. At least 21 of 30 states with GOP governors have said they are willing to let insurers extend policies through 2014 that otherwise would be canceled because they don’t comply with the new federal health law. Many of the Republican-led states are allowing renewals that would extend coverage well into 2015.
The High Flux Isotope Reactor has had a good record for reliable operations in recent years, but that’s going to be challenged by the current shutdown of the research facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The scheduled Nov. 19 restart of the nuclear reactor was postponed until January because of a pipe leak identified in the cooling tower return line. Ron Crone, ORNL’s reactor chief, said the line carries chemically treated potable water from the secondary coolant system to the reactor’s cooling tower for heat removal. “We are planning to repair the pipe in place,” Crone said, noting that the problem did not involve any radioactivity or pose a threat to the environment.
Shelby County Schools officials are asking employee to recheck areas for missing property and are reaching out to inventory experts at AutoZone and FedEx Corp. to tighten processes an outside audit suggests are highly porous. “Obviously, when you are missing assets of any amount that were purchased with taxpayer dollars, it is disturbing, it is alarming and it is unacceptable,” Supt. Dorsey Hopson said in a news conference. “Now, we have do a deep dive. The audit still has unanswered questions.” Evidence suggests equipment was transferred due to school closures. But theft is also an obvious concern.
The Illinois legislature on Tuesday ended a day of emotional debate and fierce back-room arm-twisting by passing a deal to shore up the state’s debt-engulfed pension system by trimming retiree benefits and increasing state contributions. With one of the nation’s worst-financed state employee pension systems — some $100 billion in arrears — Illinois has been the focus of intense attention across the country as states and municipalities struggle to come to grips with their own public pension problems. The compromise reached in Illinois, a staunchly blue state with a strong labor movement that had successfully resisted previous efforts to trim pensions, could provide a template for agreements elsewhere.
As the economy has undergone a transformation in the past decade, so has the face of Middle Tennessee’s workforce. And by the looks of it, Gov. Bill Haslam is making the right steps to keep the state in the best position to create new jobs — and to ensure that local workers are prepared to do those jobs. On the heels of a major announcement over the summer that Tennessee Board of Regents is scheduled to open a $35 million training facility in Smyrna by 2015, Haslam announced a $625,007 grant to fund equipment needed at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology-Murfreesboro.
Three distinct voices share the meaning of Tennessee Season to Remember, to be held Thursday night at 5:30 at First Baptist Church Downtown in Nashville. • Andrea Conte, former first lady of Tennessee, crime survivor and founder of You Have the Power, a victim advocacy foundation: Losing a family member or friend to homicide is life-changing for those left behind, and the holidays can be especially painful. It may be true there is not an abundance of natural justice in the world, but there is a strong thread of spirituality woven into our lives.
Sevier County escaped Black Friday with no major shopping melees, no knockouts over big-screens, no scrums over sales items. In fact, the official start of the Christmas shopping season seemed sort of calm to a guy allergic to mall crowds. National reports estimate shopping traffic was heavy but spending lighter on in-person gift-getting. Some blame the frugality on uncertainty born of the lingering limpness of the job market. Others say the tentativeness comes from the uncertainty brought on by a certain major Washington project with a sputtering launch. Said project rhymes with “ObamaScare.”
The U.S. Department of Energy has pledged to spend a minimum of $1.5 million per year over the next three years to map the extent of groundwater pollution from its Oak Ridge sites. The evaluation will be used to guide cleanup options and funding priorities for future years. Of particular concern are plumes of contaminated groundwater that have migrated away from the federal nuclear facilities. The initiative places more of a focus on addressing pollutants that have moved off the reservation and into the community, a welcome shift in cleanup priorities. The Energy Department has a responsibility to correct environmental damage in the community that has supported its operations since World War II.
In September 2013, the Food and Drug Administration issued final guidance indicating its intent to regulate some mobile applications as medical devices under section 201(h) of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. While this move would allow the agency to regulate all mobile medical apps, FDA announced its intention to use enforcement discretion to regulate only a subset of all mobile medical apps, including those that are used as an accessory to a regulated medical device or transform a mobile platform into a regulated medical device. As we have seen in Tennessee, the health care sector is innovating at a pace more rapid than ever before.