This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
The state has launched Transparent Tennessee, which is designed to make public data more readily accessible for taxpayers searching online. The new site will include a searchable checkbook that will allow users to find state agency-related expenses, travel reimbursements and other information. It will also include links to public meetings, records information and a page for feedback. Other features include links to state audits and the salary database for state employees. “A state government that is accountable to Tennessee taxpayers is an important part of being customer-focused, efficient and effective,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said.
Gov. Bill Haslam has appointed John D. Stites of Cookeville to the Tennessee Board of Regents. Stites is chief executive officer for J&S Construction Co. in Cookeville and served as a Navy lieutenant during a tour in Vietnam. The 67-year-old will represent the Sixth Congressional District. The Board of Regents oversees six state universities, 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology.
Tennessee Emergency Management Agency director Jim Bassham is retiring in April. Gov. Bill Haslam announced Thursday that Department of Safety and Homeland Security Assistant Commissioner David Purkey would serve as the interim director through June 30. The TEMA director is responsible for ensuring that state and local governments are prepared to deal with disasters and emergencies. Bassham has led TEMA since 2003. Before that he served as the assistant adjutant general-air for the Tennessee National Guard from 1995 until 2002. A permanent director will be named later.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the retirement of Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) Director Jim Bassham effective April 7, 2014. Bassham led TEMA through the response to hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Gustav; devastating tornadoes that ripped through Tennessee in 2006 and 2008; the Nashville floods in 2010; tornadoes through the southeastern part of the state in 2011; and the flooding of the Mississippi River in West Tennessee in May 2011. “Tennessee is grateful to Jim for his service through some of our state’s toughest times dealing with severe weather,” Haslam said.
Jim Bassham, who has led the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency since 2003, will leave the agency in April, the governor announced Thursday. “Tennessee is grateful to Jim for his service through some of our state’s toughest times dealing with severe weather,” Gov. Bill Haslam said. “Under Jim’s leadership, TEMA has become a national model for emergency management.” Bassham took over as TEMA’s director in July 2003 after having served as Assistant Adjutant General-Air for the Tennessee National Guard from 1995 until 2002.
Just a week after a union defeat at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Gov. Bill Haslam suggested Thursday his administration is open to recruiting automakers and other manufacturers whose workers are unionized. “It’s not like we have a litmus test saying we’re not going to work with any industry that’s unionized,” he said. Haslam, speaking in Washington about the state’s efforts to recruit high-tech industries, said he spoke out against the United Auto Workers’ campaign to unionize workers in Chattanooga because unionization would have made it harder to attract auto suppliers to Tennessee. But Haslam said he doesn’t think stopping unionization is essential to attracting or growing high-tech industries in the state.
Less than a week after the United Auto Workers failed in organizing efforts at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant, Gov. Bill Haslam denied Thursday that growing advanced industries requires stopping unionization efforts. “No, I don’t,” the governor said when asked if he thought unionization was incompatible with growing sophisticated-technology industries such as auto production. The response by Haslam, a Republican, came during the question-and-answer part of a forum on industrial policy at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. He participated in the forum along with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat.
A man honored by CNN last year for helping remove more than 7 million tons of garbage from the Mississippi River will kick off “Keep Tennessee Beautiful” month in March at the Franklin Theatre. Chad Pregracke, who was named CNN’s 2013 Hero of the Year, will speak March 7 about his years of work cleaning up the Mississippi River at an event that will bring Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam to the morning event. Founder of the East Moline, Ill.-based Living Lands & Waters nonprofit organization, Pregracke spends up to nine months a year living and traveling along the Mississippi River on a barge helping remove garbage and debris from the river.
Tennessee, Illinois and Iowa are receiving a grant to increase public safety by sharing criminal justice information. According to a news release from the National Governors Association, state-level reforms aimed at reducing recidivism, lowering corrections costs and improving safety may not work as well if states don’t have a good way of sharing corrections information with each other. The states receiving the grant will get guidance and technical assistance from the National Governors Association and experts in the private sector, research organizations and academia.
How well does your child’s school prepare him or her for college? Oak Ridge City Schools performed best this year in our list of area public school systems ranked by ACT Benchmark Scores. A new metric for this year on the Tennessee Department of Education Report Card, the ACT College Readiness Benchmark aims to measure the percentage of students in a school district who have reached the level of achievement needed to do well in first-year college courses. Students who meet the benchmarks have a 50 percent chance of obtaining a B or higher or a 75 percent chance of obtaining a C or higher in corresponding credit-bearing first-year college courses, according to ACT.
Funding sources for the Tennessee Department of Transportation are drying up to the point that no new road projects will be started next year, and a laundry list of long-awaited roadwork in Montgomery County will be generally faced with even more nagging delays. That was the sobering, but honest assessment shared Thursday in Clarksville by TDOT Commissioner John Schroer. He spoke to the Clarksville Urbanized Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) that’s currently chaired by Montgomery County Mayor Carolyn Bowers.
A years-long effort to allow wine to be sold outside of Tennessee liquor stores easily cleared what was expected to be its toughest hurdle on Thursday when the state House overwhelmingly approved the measure. The bill would grant authority to cities and counties that currently have package stores or liquor-by-the-drink sales to hold referendums on whether to allow wine to be sold in supermarkets and convenience stores. Debate lasted one hour and 15 minutes, with opponents raising the specter of Nancy Pelosi, crony capitalism and the undue influence of the liquor lobby to try to dissuade colleagues from voting for the bill.
The Tennessee House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that would let grocery stores sell wine, clearing the way for perhaps the biggest overhaul of the state’s liquor laws since the end of Prohibition. Lawmakers voted 71-15 to allow supermarkets, convenience stores and big-box retailers to start selling wine as soon as the summer of 2016, provided local voters sign off at the polls. The bill would also let liquor stores sell items other than alcohol and would let liquor wholesalers set up shop outside the state’s four biggest cities. The vote was not the final hurdle House Bill 610 has to clear before it heads to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk for signature.
Tennessee Senate leaders said the Senate will likely go along with the relatively minor changes the House of Representatives made Thursday in the bill allowing Tennessee food stores to sell wine, signaling its virtually certain passage. The bill won House approval by a surprisingly large margin, 71-15, given that it never made it out of House committee in the past seven consecutive years. But even if it becomes law as expected, Tennesseans must wait at least another two years before buying wine in food stores. The bill allow towns, cities and counties with liquor stores or liquor by the drink to start holding public referendums this November in which voters can decide whether to permit local food stores to sell wine.
The Tennessee House of Representatives passed legislation Thursday that will let local voters to decide on the sale of wine in grocery stores. Supermarkets would only be able to begin selling wine in July 2016 under the House measure. State lawmakers approved the bill by a vote of 71-15. The legislation would allow local jurisdictions with existing liquor-by-the drink or retail package liquor stores to hold referendum votes on wine sales in convenience stores, big-box retailers and grocery stores. The House rejected several amendments to its version, including attempts to remove a 20 percent markup on wine sold at supermarkets.
The Tennessee House of Representatives on Thursday approved a measure to allow local voters in counties and cities to decide if they want to allow grocery stores to sell wine. The Senate passed a similar bill last month and will have to sign off on the House’s version before the legislation heads to the governor’s desk. The vote in the House was 71 in favor and 15 opposed, with six members abstaining. Under the terms of House Bill 610, local voters could begin deciding wine-in-groceries referendums as early as this November’s general election. However, wine couldn’t actually be stocked on grocery store shelves until the summer of 2016.
The bill to let Tennessee grocery stores sell wine is now closer than it’s ever been to passing. The measure cleared the state House Thursday by a vote of 71 to 15, and could be on its way to the governor for a signature by next week. After years of political wrangling and an hour of debate and last-ditch efforts to stall it, the bill passed the House by a wide margin, with 20 votes more than needed. Just outside the chamber, the main senator backing the bill, Murfreesboro Republican Bill Ketron, was all smiles. “It’s not a done deal yet, but it will be, and we can put this one on the books.”
After years of debate and false starts in the state capitol, it looks as if Tennessee’s grocery stores will soon be allowed to sell wine. The attention-grabbing wine in grocery stores bill was approved 71-15 on the House floor and will likely head to the governor’s desk after reconciliation with the bill passed by the Senate last month. The measures approved by the legislative bodies set up a referendum process in cities and counties that currently allow either retail package stores or liquor-by-the-drink sales that will let residents decide if supermarkets, convenience stores and other defined retail food stores can begin selling wine in 2016.
A seven-year push to allow wine sales in grocery stores cleared its largest hurdle Thursday, but not before a behind-closed-doors political clash between Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and a major lobbyist. Ramsey dressed down Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Stores Association lobbyist Dan Haskell last week, accusing him of saying his office had little to do with the success of the wine in grocery stores bill. “I do think that our office did have something to do with passing this bill, and there were some people who disagreed with that so we all voiced our opinions,” Ramsey told the Post and laughed.
The House rejected Thursday an attempt to prohibit companies from firing employees who hold a handgun carry permit for keeping a gun in a car after House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick contended the proposal was not properly filed. The move came when McCormick’s bill to make a minor change in the “guns in parking lots law” enacted last year came to the House floor. Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, filed a proposed amendment — backed by the Tennessee Firearms Association — that substantially broadened the Senate-approved bill (SB1701).
Local state senators and representatives have gone back to the drawing board on legislation they say is crucial for the survival of Erlanger Health Services. Unlike last year’s bill, which was spurned by Hamilton County commissioners, the new bill isn’t a private act and therefore doesn’t require commissioners’ approval. The legislation instead changes a general state law. It would pave the way for the public Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority to create a nonprofit group whose board would contract out management of Erlanger.
Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant is approaching a couple of mile markers today that could help chart its future course. The United Auto Workers is closing in on a midnight deadline to file an objection with the National Labor Relations Board over last week’s election in which plant employees turned down UAW efforts to represent them. Also, VW’s powerful supervisory board meets in Germany and may get an update on a new sport utility vehicle for North America, though a decision isn’t expected today over whether Chattanooga or Mexico is the preferred production site. Labor lawyer Fred Feinstein, who was a general counsel for the NLRB in the 1990s, said the situation in Chattanooga regarding the controversy over the UAW election is “pretty unusual.”
As premier sponsor, plus host of the after party, Teach901 plans to dominate the biggest teacher job fair in Chicago this weekend, tag-teaming the crowd on the floor and sending leads back to its main booth at the door. “What we are trying to present is Memphis is the ideal community for the best teachers in the nation,” Teach901 founder John Carroll said this week between buzzes on his overactive cellphone. The nonprofit snagged a bus, paid registration fees for public and private Memphis schools that wanted to go and will pull out at 8 a.m. Friday with 25 teacher recruiters and principals on board, headed for the Illinois Network of Charter Schools teacher fair Saturday.
Tennessee General Assembly members are at it again. They are governing — or at least pretending to — in their clown suits. House Transportation sub-committee members OKed 7-2 a Gov. Bill Haslam-advanced bill to double fines for not wearing seat belts. What was $10 would be $25 for a first offense, and $50 on second and subsequent offenses. The proffered reason is to “save lives.” Historically more than half of traffic fatalities in Tennessee have involved individuals who do not wear seat belts. Now, it’s a no-brainer that everyone should wear seat belts, and authorities say 84 percent of us do.