This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday named Appeals Judge Holly M. Kirby to join the state Supreme Court after Justice Janice Holder retires next year. Kirby has served on the Court of Appeals since 1995 and was previously a partner in the Memphis law firm Burch, Porter & Johnson. Her appointment means the state’s highest court will keep its current makeup of three women and two men. “We are fortunate to have someone with Judge Kirby’s depth of experience to serve on the Tennessee Supreme Court,” Haslam said in a news release. “Her impressive record of service will benefit Tennesseans.”
Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed Holly M. Kirby of Memphis to the Tennessee Supreme Court, effective next Sept. 1 when she will succeed Justice Janice M. Holder, a Memphian who will retire from the high court when her term expires at that time. Kirby, 57, has served as a judge on Tennessee Court of Appeals’ Western Section since 1995. She was the first woman to serve on that court and has authored more than 1,000 opinions on appeals from trial courts across the state. “We are fortunate to have someone with Judge Kirby’s depth of experience to serve on the Tennessee Supreme Court,” Haslam said Tuesday afternoon.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed Holly M. Kirby of Memphis to the Tennessee Supreme Court. Kirby will succeed Janice M. Holder, who announced her retirement from the bench on June 28, upon expiration of her term. Kirby, a native Memphian, has served as a member of the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Western Section, since 1995. She was the first woman to serve on that court and has authored more than 1,000 opinions on appeals from trial courts across the state. Prior to her appointment to the Tennessee Court of Appeals by former Gov. Don Sundquist, Kirby was a partner at the Memphis law firm Burch, Porter & Johnson.
Gov. Bill Haslam appointed Holly Kirby, the first woman to serve on the Tennessee Court of Appeals, to the Tennessee Supreme Court Tuesday. She will succeed Janice Holder, who will retire when her term expires. Kirby has served on the Court of Appeals since 1995, authoring more than 1,000 opinions on appeals from trial courts throughout Tennessee. “We are fortunate to have someone with Judge Kirby’s depth of experience to serve on the Tennessee Supreme Court,” Governor Bill Haslam said.
Parts supplier Aisin Automotive Casting Tennessee Inc. is planning a $54 million expansion in Anderson County and will add 81 jobs over the next two years. Company President Stephen Barnes said in a release Tuesday that the expansion in Clinton stems from increasing sales of engine components in North America. Aisin supplies parts to General Motors, Nissan and Toyota. The company’s 524,000-square-foot facility along Interstate 75 opened in 2004 and employs nearly 600 people. The plant casts, machines and assembles engine components likes pistons and water and oil pumps.
One of Anderson County’s biggest industries is about to expand again with a $53.8 million investment in more machinery for making auto parts at its Clinton/Interstate 75 Industrial Park facility. Aisin Automotive Casting Tennessee Inc.’s plans will include 81 new jobs over the next two years in Anderson County on top of some 25 positions added last year. Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty and company executives made the expansion plan announcement Tuesday. “I appreciate Aisin’s decision to further invest in Tennessee and thank the company for its continued confidence in our quality workforce,” Hagerty said in a news release.
The state of Tennessee has agreed to pay for credit monitoring for the some 6,300 Nashville teachers whose personal information, including Social Security numbers, was transferred to a personal computer without authorization by a former Department of Treasury employee. State Treasury officials have assured Metro teachers that 24-year-old Steven Hunter, who resigned from the department last Thursday, did not disseminate the information or use it for himself. As a precaution, though, the department plans to provide written notice to every affected teacher, informing them of plans to provide them identity theft protection with an explanation of how to sign up, Tennessee State Treasurer David Lillard informed Metro Director of Schools Jesse Register in a Tuesday letter.
The selection process for Tennessee appellate and Supreme Court judges is a major concern among the legal community, according to Charles Grant, the new president of the Nashville Bar Association’s board of directors. A proposed constitutional amendment, which will appear on the ballot next November, would replace the system of having a commission recommend judicial candidates to the governor with one in which the governor recommends candidates to the Legislature for approval. Grant, an attorney at Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz and the first African American president in the association’s 182-year history, said that while the new amendment is not perfect, popular election of appellate and Supreme Court judges must be avoided at all costs.
Neither of Tennessee’s Senators support the Budget compromise sent over from the House. But as the bill passed a procedural hurdle today, the pair of Republicans took very different approaches. Bob Corker characterizes the measure as a PR attempt by the House to make up for this fall’s government shutdown. He didn’t want to vote on it at all. “Look, after you sit down and the glow–the afterglow–of a bipartisan deal dissipates, we’re spending today and hoping someone down the road will do something more disciplined down the road, so I just can’t support it.” Lamar Alexander agrees that it’s a bad bill. Even so, he backed a procedural move that allows a floor vote.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander today said he will vote against the bipartisan budget deal that was recently approved by the U.S. House of Representatives. “I will vote against the budget agreement because it avoids the federal government’s most urgent need: reducing the growth of runaway entitlement spending,” The Tennessee Republican said in a statement today. “Instead, it spends savings that should be used to strengthen Medicare, pensions and the air transportation system.” Fellow Tennessee Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker has also said he will vote against the deal.
The videos produced by a notorious international child-porn ring helped snare not just U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s ex-chief aide but a former top official of the University of Tennessee Foundation, court records indicate. A federal search warrant unsealed Monday in a Washington courtroom lays out the trail U.S. postal inspectors followed that ended in last week’s arrest of Jesse Ryan Loskarn, 35, a respected congressional aide and Alexander’s former chief of staff, on charges of possession and distribution of child pornography. The senator fired Loskarn hours after federal agents raided the staffer’s apartment Dec. 11.
Federal officials have begun sending Medicaid applications to states so they can enroll people, beginning with a handful of places where technical problems that have marred the new insurance marketplace are expected to be less of an issue. Until now, the applications were not forwarded as promised to the states, which put the enrollment process in limbo for those who are eligible to get health care coverage through Medicaid. “This is a step forward,” said Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors. “We’re getting closer and closer.” The effort is the latest attempt to smooth the troubled rollout of the federally run insurance marketplace.
HCA plans to buy nearly 11 acres off Charlotte Avenue in the North Gulch area near downtown and will invest $200 million in new headquarters space for two of its subsidiaries. The move represents a dramatic shift in the more than year-long effort to bring more than 2,000 employees into the city’s core. The new deal also marks an end to HCA’s previous agreement for Parallon Business Solutions and Sarah Cannon Research Institute to anchor twin towers that developer Alex Palmer had planned at his West End Summit project in midtown Nashville. The hospital giant begin exploring other options this fall after Palmer ran into difficulties trying to obtain financing for the nearly $260 million project, which also included a 285-room InterContinental Hotel & Resort.
The Shelby County Schools board Tuesday voted move forward in its process to close 13 schools at the end of the school year, which means it will soon be holding community meetings to hear how the public wants to proceed. The schools on the close list are: Alcy, Riverview, Graves, Westhaven, Gordon, Klondike and Shannon elementaries; Lanier, Corry, Riverview, Vance and Cypress middle schools; and, Northside High. They are all in the southwest and northwest parts of town. Closing schools is the most emotional decision school boards make.
State Democratic leaders continue to lambaste Gov. Bill Haslam for “the worst moral and mathematical failure in a generation” by not expanding Medicaid in Tennessee. Revisiting recent history might help shine some light on this controversial issue. In the early 1990s, Tennessee pivoted to TennCare, our Medicaid equivalent. The goal was and remains noble. Help the poor access health care and enable our state to improve managing the growing Medicaid portion of our state’s budget. The reality was harsh, however. Riddled with bureaucracy, fraud and excessive costs, TennCare began to consume the state’s budget, eclipsing 30 cents of every taxpayer dollar. As fiscal sirens blared, Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, offered a tourniquet.
By adopting the Common Core State Standards for language arts and mathematics, the Tennessee Board of Education raised the bar for academic excellence. But higher standards alone will not be enough to raise achievement levels for East Tennessee students. Nor will it be enough to expect teachers to perform miracles, though many do so on a regular basis. The entire community needs to make excellence in education its top priority. Parents, business leaders, nonprofit support organizations, public officials — in essence, everyone — can play a vital role in ensuring students gain the skills they need to continue their education or enter the workforce.
The state Department of Children’s Services takes a step toward better accountability in 2014 with the initiation of a new policy calling for the release of information regarding child deaths. Individual cases will still be cloaked in anonymity. Only the age, gender and history of DCS involvement will be reported immediately, followed by a report of whether abuse or neglect was found. Eventually, when the case is closed, copies of the investigation files will be released — still with names redacted, but reflecting a far better level of transparency than under the previous policy. The agency’s secrecy prompted news organizations to file suit seeking the records of child deaths investigated by the agency, obtaining a court order last spring ordering the records released.
For years, Tennessee’s death penalty has been all but discarded and ignored. When Robert Glen Coe was executed by lethal injection on April 19, 2000, it was Tennessee’s first execution in nearly 40 years. Only five individuals, the last being in 2009, have been executed since then. Currently, 79 people await execution on Tennessee’s death row. After years of controversy over the drugs used in Tennessee’s lethal injection procedure, Tennessee is back on track. Two executions have been scheduled, and a full 10 are awaiting scheduling. While we are all God’s children and no one should wish for the death of another, from a policy perspective, the return of the death penalty to Tennessee is a good thing.