This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
For Casey Gray, 37, the wake-up call to her addiction was when her stay in jail stretched to 47 days. It had been her fourth arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol, and this time there was no mercy. Her parents couldn’t scrounge up enough money for her bail, and she dried out in the Williamson County jail by default. So there the kindergarten teacher sat. Her mug shot was plastered over three broadcast news stations, her marriage was on the rocks, her parents were wracked with worry, and her future looked like it would be behind bars. “I was a functioning drunk,” Gray said. “It was bad. I couldn’t stop. I was chasing my last one to get to feeling normal.”
Rutherford County’s unemployment rate was at its lowest this year during November, according to state data, but some officials said they expect it to go back up next month. Last month, the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent, according to a report from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Previously, the lowest the unemployment rate dropped was to 6.2 percent in February, according to state data. The surge in jobs put Rutherford County in the lowest five counties in the state for unemployment, a spot it had not held since April.
The Bureau of TennCare awarded managed care contracts to AmeriGroup, BlueCare Tennessee and UnitedHealthcare. The apparent winners of the three-year contracts with possible one-year extensions were announced on Dec. 16, according to a news release. Following a 10-day inspection period the contracts were officially awarded and signed on Friday, beginning a one-year transition period. “We are pleased to continue our relationship with these organizations,” said Health Care Finance and Administration Deputy Commissioner Darin Gordon, in the release.
The railroad tracks that drivers often get stopped at through Gibson, Madison, Chester and McNairy counties may be in jeopardy. That short-line railroad, which connects Corinth, Miss., to Fulton, Ky., through West Tennessee, brings industrial and agriculture products to the areas it covers. It’s just one of 18 short-line railroads that run through Tennessee providing those services. Gibson County Mayor Tom Witherspoon said the money to maintain those short-line tracks comes from the state’s Short Line Equity Fund, which gets its money from the 7 percent tax Tennessee charges on diesel fuel for the larger, Class 1, trains.
Memphis’ U.S. Representative Steve Cohen made Politico’s “Most Embarrassing Tweets of 2013″ list. Cohen is a prolific Twitter user and that has led to several embarrassing moments. The most high profile was clearly the messages regarding a woman who he thought was his daughter (but was not) and a few praising Cyndi Lauper. But there were also moments like this one: “Told AfricanAmerican towdriver my week – father -DNA test not father reporter/attractive fallout. he (not aware of TN9) says, You’re BLack! Yo,” He later explained the tweet on MSNBC by saying, “He goes, ‘Man, you’re black.’ And I took it was a compliment. I hear it in Memphis all the time. My constituents don’t look at me as a white person, they say, ‘You’re one of us.'”
More than 18,000 Tennesseans are bracing for a post-Christmas jolt as extended federal unemployment benefits come to a halt today, entailing potentially significant implications for the recovering U.S. economy and setting up a tense battle when Congress reconvenes in the new year. For families dependent upon cash assistance, the end of the federal government’s “emergency unemployment compensation” will mean some difficult belt-tightening. Jobless rates could drop, but analysts say the economy may suffer as consumers will have less money to spend on everything from clothes to cars. Having let the emergency program expire as part of a budget deal, it’s unclear if Congress has the appetite to start it anew.
More than 1 million Americans are bracing for a harrowing, post-Christmas jolt as extended federal unemployment benefits come to a sudden halt this weekend, with potentially significant implications for the recovering U.S. economy. A tense political battle likely looms when Congress reconvenes in the new, midterm election year. For families dependent on cash assistance, the end of the federal government’s “emergency unemployment compensation” will mean some difficult belt-tightening as enrollees lose their average monthly stipend of $1,166.
The lawsuit filed by the Shelby County Commission late in the spring of 2012 to stop special legislation allowing suburbs to form their own districts is on the way to being settled. The agreements were finalized Monday. They have not been filed though because they must be signed by each municipal and county school board member, a total of more than 40. “We at the county commission decided we didn’t want to submit a request to the court to approve the order until everyone had signed everything,” said County Commissioner Mike Ritz.
A tall man and a slender woman wiggled into their white hazardous materials suits, putting on protective masks and gloves before venturing into the dark, two-story home where police say a methamphetamine lab recently exploded. Gary Siebenschuh and a helper used a yellow photo ionization detector to measure for meth residue, maneuvering around debris and a hole in the roof caused by the Nov. 6 fire that injured a young child. They took wipe samples of walls, ducts, window sills and other parts of the home, later sending them to a lab to be analyzed. “The process is extremely cumbersome but I think it’s necessary,” said Dick Cochran, owner of the Memphis home where a renter was charged with making meth and causing the fire and explosion.
Massachusetts, the first state to have an Obamacare-like health system, is also among the states struggling the most to implement the federal health law. The state’s website is such a morass that Massachusetts officials have so far only had to pay a fraction of the bill to contractor CGI Federal, a unit of CGI Group Inc., GIB.A.T -2.19% which to date has received just $11 million of a $69 million contract. Only 2,800 people have enrolled so far on the state’s new health exchange A board overseeing the exchange will meet next month to discuss the troubled website and “further accountability for the vendor,” according to a state spokesman. About 45,000 health-insurance applications are currently being processed in Massachusetts so enrollments are expected to jump in coming weeks.