This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Conduit Global officials were joined by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty on Wednesday in announcing the company will locate a new, 1,000-seat call center at the Goodlett Farms Office Park in Shelby County. Conduit Global, one of the world’s largest independent, fully-integrated business process outsourcing companies, will invest $8 million in building and infrastructure improvements and create more than 1,000 new jobs in Memphis. “We are grateful to Conduit Global for creating more than 1,000 new jobs in Shelby County.
As Tennessee schools move to a new nationally shared test under Common Core standards, the state’s Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman has taken a formal pledge that personal student information won’t be shared with the federal government as part of that transition. Huffman and 33 other school commissioners issued a letter sent to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Thursday to “confirm” that states taking one of two common assessments next year would not be sharing personally identifiable information with the U.S. Education Department or other federal agencies.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder regretfully announce the loss of Tennessee soldier Staff Sergeant Daniel Tyler Lee of Crossville. Lee was posthumously promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant. Lee was assigned to Company C, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was fatally shot while on patrol in the vicinity of Wazghar Parwan Province, Afghanistan on January 15. The 28-year old soldier served more than five years in the United States Army. According to family members, Lee grew up in Kentucky but moved to Tennessee in 2005.
Methamphetamine labs continue to be a huge problem for Tennessee and Sullivan County, and state Rep. Timothy Hill says he is “sick and tired” of the labels and the effect the illicit drug is having on law enforcement and families. Hill, R-Blountville, returned from Nashville and the General Assembly Friday to announce his sponsorship next week of House Bill 1661, which aims to add more dedicated days in jail for meth offenders with no chance of plea bargain or lesser sentence.
State officials are warning Tennessee residents to watch for potential price gouging as supplies of propane stay low. Attorney General Bob Cooper said that as the state government tries to stabilize the supply of propane gas, those with it should not take advantage of the situation and excessively hike prices. “While most Tennesseans would never take advantage of their neighbors, we are prepared to enforce the law against anyone who needlessly raises prices to take advantage of Tennesseans and visitors.”
A cold snap is stretching supplies of propane gas and causing transportation bottlenecks across a broad section of the United States, officials said Friday, sending everyone from rural educators to chicken farmers in search of enough fuel to keep warm. Governors and federal regulators already have taken the rare step of loosening transportation rules for about 33 states in the South, Midwest and East to allow additional hours for truckers to deliver propane and keep up with demand, according to Jeff Petrash, vice president of the National Propane Gas Association.
The Tennessee department that helps people with mental developmental disabilities is speaking out about trying to recover from massive budget cuts. There are currently 7,100 people on the waiting list to get help from the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. The department took a $37 million budget cut back a few years ago when the recession was at its worse. One of the ways they offset those budget cuts was to close the Arlington Developmental Center to patients back in 2010. The center was facing a lawsuit at the time, and it was just settled last month.
Tennessee state Rep. Matthew Hill announced Friday that pending an agreement, he will resurrect a committee vote on legislation that would allow localities to hold referendums on whether wine should be sold in grocery stores and other retail establishments. Hill, R-Jonesborough, made the announcement before 200 business leaders and elected officials at a regional chamber legislative breakfast held at the MeadowView Marriott. He cast the deciding “no” vote as chair of the House Local Government Committee to kill the wine-in-grocery-stores legislation in the last legislative session.
A Nashville Democrat proposes raising Tennessee’s tax on cigarettes to fund expansion of TennCare, a plan he says answers Republican claims that the state cannot afford to offer coverage. State Rep. Gary Odom is filing a measure that would increase Tennessee’s cigarette tax, currently among the lowest in the nation, by 44 cents a pack. Odom says the tax increase would raise about $175 million a year, more than enough to offset the state’s eventual share of TennCare expansion, while also taking aim at the harmful effects of smoking.
Rep. John Ragan, an Air Force veteran, says he expects to move “soon” for House approval of a proposed amendment to the Tennessee constitution that would allow veterans groups to hold charity gambling events. If approved by the House as expected, the measure (SJR60) will become the fourth proposed amendment to the state constitution appearing on the November ballot. The state Senate last year gave its final approval and only the House vote remains. Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, took over handling of the resolution in the House from former Rep. Charles Curtiss, D-Sparta, who resigned from his seat last month.
Ryan Loskarn, the former chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander who was charged with possessing and distibuting child pornography last month, was found dead in his home in Maryland of an apparent suicide, law enforcement officials said Friday. “At approximately 12 p.m. yesterday, Carroll County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to a private residence in the 6900 block of Kenmar Lane for a report of an unconscious male, believed to be deceased,” the sheriff’s office reported Friday morning. “Family members reported finding 35-year old Jesse Ryan Loskarn unresponsive in his basement where he’d been residing with family since this past December.
A little less than 40 percent of uninsured U.S. adults believe they will get health insurance in 2014, according to a study released this week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute. Only 31 percent of uninsured adults who are eligible for Medicaid think they are eligible for the program, and 35 percent of those who qualify for health care subsidies under the Affordable Care Act know that they are, the study said. The results show a need to further educate the uninsured of their options under the ACA, RWJF said.
Electricity use soared to a record peak in the Tennessee Valley on Friday when another Artic blast of cold weather pushed temperatures into single digits across the Tennessee Valley for the second time this month. After setting a new one-day record for power consumption on Jan. 7, TVA set a new winter peak record for electricity consumption at 7 a.m. EST on Friday when temperatures across the utility’s 7-state region averaged only 7 degrees.
The Tennessee Valley Authority received a record-breaking winter demand for electricity early Friday morning when temperatures were around 7 degrees, according to a release sent out today. It was TVA’s highest demand for power since the summer of 2007, and it is the third-highest demand in TVA’s history. It also surpassed the winter record set on Jan. 16, 2009, at 32,572 megawatts. This morning the estimated use was 33,345 megawatts. The all-time demand record was actually set in summer when temperatures hit 102 on Aug. 16, 2007, and 33,482 megawatts were used.
The anxiety has nearly vanished at Cornerstone Preparatory Academy in Binghamton. “We’re excited to say on a parents’ survey we conducted in the fall, 98 percent of our parents rated us an A or a B,” says Cornerstone executive director Drew Sippel. “We are thrilled that our parents are expressing their pleasure with the work we are doing in the building.” A year ago, the Department of Children’s Services had an open file on Cornerstone, and people were so mad, volunteers could pack a public meeting with a day’s notice. Stories that teachers took children’s shoes for punishment or refused to let them use the bathroom created vitriol and piercing images of what could happen when charters took over public schools that had been neighborhood institutions.
The Tennessee Lottery marked its 10th anniversary Tuesday and it is hard to argue against the positive impact it has had on thousands of Tennesseans. Lottery officials marked the anniversary by announcing another record quarter of sales and a total of $2.91 billion for education programs since 2004. There still are lottery critics who argue that poor people disproportionately buy lottery tickets while middle- and upper-income students disproportionately win the Hope scholarships funded by lottery proceeds. They have a point. Still, the lottery has put $6.8 billion in player prizes in people’s pockets and high school students who meet the relatively modest grade requirements can qualify for a lottery scholarship.