This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Mohawk Industries will build a new ceramic tile production facility and distribution center in Dickson County, bringing 320 jobs to the area over the next four years. The 1.4 million-square-foot facility will be located in the Dickson County Instruction Park and represents a $180 million investment. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty joined senior leaders from Mohawk Industries for Thursday’s announcement. Mohawk Industries is the largest manufacturer of ceramic tile in North America, selling under well-known Daltile, Marazzi, American Olean, Mohawk and Ragno brands, according to a release.
Mohawk Industries, which creates flooring products and ceramic tiles, plans to build a production and distribution facility in Dickson County, creating 320 jobs over the next four years. Gov. Bill Haslam helped make the announcement Thursday at the Renaissance Center, where he said the company’s investment in Dickson County amounts to about $180 million. “One of the things we love about this announcement is it reinforces one of the things we intend to say,” said Haslam. “In Tennessee, we still make things.” “I think it’ll be a big boost for Dickson, the city and the county,” said Dickson resident Vance Smith.
Mohawk Industries has announced plans to build a new ceramic tile production facility and distribution center that will bring 320 jobs to Dickson County. Governor Bill Haslam made the announcement Thursday, along with Bill Hagerty, Commissioner of Economic and Community Development, and senior leaders from Mohawk Industries. Mohawk Industries is said to be the world’s largest flooring manufacturer and the largest manufacturer of ceramic tile in North America. The company said it will invest $180 million and create 320 jobs over the next four years.
Dickson County is getting a $180 million ceramic tile plant and distribution center that will create 320 jobs over the next four years. Georgia-based Mohawk Industries announced plans today for a 1.4-million-square-foot plant in the Dickson Industrial Park that is slated to open in the fourth quarter of 2015. The plant is expected to be used by Dal-Tile Corp., a Dallas-based division of Mohawk and producer of ceramic tiling and stone flooring. Mohawk Industries is among the world’s largest flooring manufacturers, with other product lines in carpeting and hardwood flooring. Its Dal-Tile division employs more than 8,500 in North America and operates several manufacturing facilities in the United States.
When the final stretch of State Route 840 was completed a year and a half ago, Dickson County officials were confident that the project would help boost the area’s appeal to companies seeking sites for manufacturing or distribution operations. On Thursday, they expressed hopes that an announcement by the world’s largest flooring manufacturer of plans to invest $180 million in a ceramic tile plant and distribution center is the first of many more to come. The plant for Mohawk Industries’ subsidiary Dal-Tile will create 320 jobs over the next four years. It should open late next year at the Dickson County Industrial Park.
Mohawk Industries, the world’s largest flooring manufacturer and biggest tile manufacturer in North America, will build a $180 million ceramic tile plant in Dickson County, Tenn., to meet growing demand for hard surfaces here in the U.S. The Calhoun, Ga.-based company announced the proposed 1.4 million-square-foot plant on Thursday. Mohawk said the facility will employ 320 workers in the production of Dal-Tile, Marazzi, American Olean, Mohawk and Ragno brands. When Mohawk’s ninth ceramic plant in the U.S. is fully operational within four years, the company’s global tile production capacity will exceed 2 billion square feet annually.
A company that makes ceramic floor tiles will build a new plant in Dickson expected to create more than 300 jobs over the next few years. The new facility will be within a short drive of where Mohawk Industries gets some of its raw materials. Mohawk is based in Georgia, not far from Chattanooga, with operations on five continents. John Turner, president of its North American ceramic business, Dal-Tile, says part of the reason they chose Dickson is west Tennessee is a major source of clay. “We basically take that clay, combine it with other raw materials—basically all natural, organic raw materials out of the ground—and we basically create a slurry, we spray dry it into powder, we turn it into tile. And it happens in a two-hour period of time.”
Gov. Bill Haslam, R-Tenn., issued the following news release: Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today appointed Carma Dennis McGee of Savannah as chancellor in the 24th Judicial District. She replaces Chancellor Ron E. Harmon, who died September 14, 2013. McGee will serve immediately upon her appointment and be up for election this August. The 24th Judicial District serves Decatur, Henry, Carroll, Benton and Hardin counties. “The people of the 24th District will benefit from Carma’s vast experience,” Haslam said. “We are fortunate to have her on the bench, and I appreciate her serving in this capacity.”
Gov. Bill Haslam wants state lawmakers to do things his way when it comes to tamping down on Tennessee’s meth problem. This week a House subcommittee sidelined the governor’s proposal to restrict access to the cold medicine used to make meth. Haslam wants to limit people to about a two months’ supply each year of the medicine, known as pseudoephedrine. Instead, the House bill moving forward would allow more like seven months’ worth—too high an amount to meaningfully crimp the supply for meth cooks.
The Volunteer State’s unemployment rate fell to 7.2 percent in January, down from December’s revised rate of 7.7 percent, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The national unemployment rate for January was 6.6 percent, down from 6.7 percent in December. Over the past year, Tennessee’s unemployment rate has fallen from 8.1 to 7.2 percent. The national unemployment rate, meanwhile, has fallen from 7.9 to 6.6 percent.
After a year in which employment was nearly stagnant or worsening, Tennessee’s unemployment rate is moving in a positive direction. Tennessee Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner Burns Phillips announced today that the Volunteer State’s preliminary unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in January. That marks an improvement over December’s rate of 7.8 percent Tennessee unemployment is now at its lowest level since September of 2008. The biggest job gains were in the trade, transportation and utilities sector, which improved by 2.6 percent from December to January.
Unemployment in Tennessee and Georgia fell to the lowest level in more than five years in January and state economists expect the jobless rate to continue to decline this year. But the unemployment rate in both states remained above the U.S. level at the start of 2014 and economists expect the jobless rate to remain at historically high levels compared with most economic recoveries. January’s jobless rate fell 0.5 percent in Tennessee to 7.2 percent, while unemployment in Georgia decreased by one-tenth of a percentage point to 7.3 percent, according to government figures released Thursday.
Tennessee’s unemployment rate edged down in January to 7.2 percent from 8.1 percent a year earlier, according to a preliminary report Friday by the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development. Compared to January 2013, the state has gained 37,800 nonfarm jobs. The number of people unemployed statewide in January, 218,900, is as low as it’s been since September 2008, when the recession was still gathering force. December’s jobless rate measured 7.7 percent statewide, below Greater Memphis’ 8.6-percent rate.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation’s plan to widen Concord Road is continuing as drivers have noticed an increase in workers slowing traffic. To help with the increasing traffic problem in the area, the road will be widened from Nolensville Road to Sunset Road. When the project is complete, it will have two 12-foot lanes, a continuous turn lane, and a 10-foot bike and walking path. Crews are moving the water and sewer lines and building culverts to bring the roadway up to a new elevation. News 2 discovered that traffic could be shifted again in April to work on the other side of Concord Road.
The Governor’s Commission for Judicial Appointments has selected three finalists to fill an upcoming vacancy on the state Supreme Court. The panel selected Appeals Judge Jeffrey Bivins of Franklin, attorney Linda Knight of Nashville and Shelby County Juvenile Court Administrative Officer Larry K. Scroggs of Memphis. Justice Bill Koch announced in December he will retire in July to become dean of Nashville School of Law. The vacancy is the second for Gov. Bill Haslam to fill on the five-member high court since taking office in 2011.
A proposal that requires Gov. Bill Haslam to secure legislative approval for any potential deal to expand Medicaid in Tennessee has passed the Senate even though the Republican governor has already said he would consult with lawmakers. The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown was approved 23-6 on Thursday. The House passed the legislation 69-24 last month. Haslam has pledged that he would seek legislative approval to expand TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program that provides health care for 1.2 million Tennesseans.
Gov. Bill Haslam says he doesn’t feel threatened by legislation passed by fellow Senate Republicans that requires him to obtain legislative approval on any deal he may cut with the Obama administration on expanding Medicaid. “I think we said all along before we did anything we would seek the Legislature’s approval,” Haslam said following an economic development announcement in Dickson, Tenn. “So like I said, we didn’t feel like the legislation really changed anything, and we’re still continuing to pursue an answer [from Washington].”
The state Senate approved a bill Thursday requiring the governor to do what he’s already pledged to do: win legislative approval before expanding Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act. House Bill 937, sponsored by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, is a watered-down compromise version of legislation that, as originally written, would have blocked Tennessee from participating in any kind of Medicaid expansion that’s optional for the states under the ACA, or “Obamacare.” Gov. Bill Haslam has said repeatedly he will not try to implement any expansion that he might negotiate with President Obama’s administration without first winning approval of the General Assembly.
Republican lawmakers are poised to make the governor get their approval for any deal to expand Medicaid in the state as part of the federal Affordable Care Act. Thursday, Senate Democrats managed to tack on an amendment — if such a vote requires a special session, lawmakers won’t get paid for their time. Democrats made several arguments, saying the requirement shows Republican lawmakers don’t trust their own governor, who’s already said he’d seek their approval. Most of the amendments were swatted aside, like ones to expand TennCare to uninsured veterans and intellectually disabled people.
The Tennessee Senate approved Thursday a resolution to request Congress call a convention of the states to draft an amendment to the U.S. Constitution requiring a balanced federal budget. SJR 493, sponsored by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, passed the full Senate, 28-0, with no debate. “Seventeen trillion of debt is what the federal government has right now,” Kelsey said on the Senate floor. “$17 trillion of debt is the number one threat to national security. We have to do something about this. The federal government has to learn to live within its means, and that’s why SJR 493 is before you.”
Tennessee will become the 22nd state to formally call for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution requiring a balanced federal budget under a bill approved Thursday by the Senate and expected to win approval as well in the House on Monday. The Senate voted 28-0 for the measure (SJR493), which is intended to call a convention of delegates from the states to draft and propose a constitutional amendment requiring balanced federal budgets “in the absence of a congressional declaration of war or an economic recession.”
A proposal to strip local government control over whether to allow people with handgun carry permits to be armed at parks, playgrounds and sports fields has cleared its first legislative hurdle in the House. The House Civil Justice Subcommittee advanced the measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Tilman Goins of Morristown on a voice vote. The companion bill passed the full Senate on a 26-7 vote last month. The measure has advanced despite the misgivings of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who as Knoxville mayor in 2009 supported a city council vote that kept in place a ban on handguns in some of the city’s parks.
A Franklin legislator hopes a bill he sponsored in the General Assembly will prevent accidents like the one police say happened Thursday morning at a Unicoi County bus stop. In that incident, Tennessee State Troopers said a 6-year-old boy and his grandmother were struck by an SUV as he crossed the road to get on a county school bus. State Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, said four similar accidents occurred last year in the state when drivers either didn’t notice, or outright disobeyed, the flashing red lights on school buses indicating students are nearby.
The Tennessee House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday to allow a local government to offer driver’s license renewal and photo ID services. “I’m hoping the city of La Vergne will participate,” state Rep. Mike Sparks, a Smyrna Republican who is the sponsor of the House version of the bill, told his fellow representatives before the vote at the State Capitol. The bill also permits an entity contracting with the Tennessee Department of Safety to charge an additional fee of $4 for administrative costs related to the issuance, examination and renewal of driver licenses. The $4 added fee is not mandatory, Sparks said.
The Senate unanimously passed Amelia’s Law (SB1962/HB1759) Thursday, sending it to Governor Bill Haslam’s desk for final approval. Named after Amelia Keown, who died in August, 2012, the bill allows a judge to order offenders and parolees to wear a monitoring devices if alcohol or drugs played a role in their crimes. According to investigators, John Perkins was out on parole and speeding in Maryville when he crashed head on into Keown, who was heading home after school to pick up pom poms for dance practice. Toxicology reports showed oxycodone and methamphetamine in Perkins’ system at the time of the crash.
Tennessee lawmakers are moving forward with a plan to place stiffer penalties on drunk drivers. The change would be in honor of a teenager who was hit and killed on her way home from school. Senators voted Thursday to pass Amelia’s Law, which would allow judges to more widely use high-tech monitoring to keep dangerous drivers off the road. Judges could order offenders and parolees to wear a “transdermal monitoring device” if alcohol or drugs played a part in the crime. The device can track alcohol or drugs through a person’s skin and report it immediately to police or the judge.
A family from East Tennessee is feeling a sense of relief after the Tennessee Senate passed Amelia’s Law. The law passed Thursday is named 16-year-old Amelia Keown, who was killed by a driver high on drugs at the time of the crash. Amelia’s law lets judges place trans-dermal monitoring devices on persons on probation or parole who have a history with drug or alcohol abuse. The man who killed Amelia had a nine page Tennessee criminal history with numerous felonies. “Had this law been in effect in august 2012 or even before that Amelia would still be with us,” said Wayne Keown.
House Speaker Beth Harwell says she supports an effort to slow the Amp high-speed bus line and gave the legislation her blessing before it was unveiled suddenly at a hearing this week. Harwell, R-Nashville, told The Tennessean Thursday afternoon that she had worked with House Transportation Committee Chairman Vince Dean to draft legislation that would block the Amp specifically. She said the move did not amount to interference because the Amp would follow the route of state highways. “I don’t favor the Amp project. I think that we have a lot of other priorities, and perhaps the location could be different,” she said.
State Rep. Curry Todd is criticizing the Germantown school board’s decision to charge nonresidents tuition. The state legislature last year passed bills allowing municipalities to start their own school districts, but charging a fee or tuition for currently enrolled students was not part of the plan, Todd said. “That was not the agreement. That was not the intention,” said the Collierville Republican. Todd said Dr. Jim Mitchell, retired Shelby County Schools superintendent and now school consultant, and others testified there would be no tuition or fee for those currently enrolled in schools that would be included in municipal districts.
Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey is fired up about an event at the University of Tennessee known as “sex week,” and he’s not mincing words. “When you have people running around, let’s just say it like it is, dressed like a penis and dressed like a vagina, that’s in your face to see how far you can go, that is absolutely ridiculous. It is,” Ramsey said. “I don’t see how anybody with any sense of decency would want your tax dollars going to that.” Organizers of “sex week” say it’s designed to open up a conversation on campus, but many lawmakers say they’re appalled by some of the events.
Hundreds of advocates for Tennessee children are expected to descend on the state Capitol on Tuesday and Wednesday to lobby lawmakers to preserve programs for children that have seen steep budget cuts in recent years — and may again this year. The annual event is organized by the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. This year advocates will ask representatives to increase funding for youth detention centers, expand Medicaid, and expand funding for pre-kindergarten and mental health services.
Her mother, Felicia Harris, calls her, “a new face of the medical marijuana debate,” referring to Lexy Harris, 6, who suffers from intractable epileptic seizures as a result of Dravet Syndrome, currently being treated with other drugs. The other anti-convulsant drugs the Harris family has tried – including experimental and non-FDA approved Stiripentol, which costs $2,000 a month – have a host of possible side effects, including damage to major organs and developmental delays, that parents of children with severe forms of pediatric epilepsy, along with many doctors, say are nearly as bad long-term as the disorders their children suffer from daily.
The Rutherford County School Board is tired of the state government not listening, members of the governing body said Thursday at a regularly scheduled board meeting. The Monday following a school board meeting on Feb. 20, the board hand delivered a resolution with its concerns about current legislation to the Tennessee General Assembly. The board’s resolution expressed disagreement with the Tennessee General Assembly bills “aimed at privatizing the state of Tennessee’s free public education system.” The only response the board heard was from state Sen. Bill Ketron, who sent a basic form letter stating he had received the resolution and would consider the board’s thoughts.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has launched its own investigation into the alleged abuse of Prince Bradley, a 24-year-old man with intellectual disabilities whose beating was captured on a cellphone video obtained by The Tennessean. The TBI confirmed it had opened an investigation Wednesday into two separate incidents involving Bradley. One involves the Sept. 23 videotaped beating reported last week by The Tennessean. In the video Bradley can be seen cowering while being hit in the face and head at least four times, allegedly by one of his longtime caretakers.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker said today that the National Labor Relations Board has never overruled an election due to so-called interference by politicians as the United Auto Workers wants done at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant. “It would be unprecedented if the NLRB overrules an election for that reason,” Corker said during an interview on Fox and Friends. He said the UAW has been given until Friday to file additional arguments to its appeal of the VW vote. In February, VW workers voted 712 to 626 to not align with the UAW. Nearly two weeks ago, the UAW asked the NLRB to set aside the election and call for a revote.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker will be the keynote speaker at a celebration of President Andrew Jackson’s 247th birthday. The commemoration takes place at Jackson’s home, The Hermitage, on March 15. The museum is offering half-off admission for the special event. It will include educational activities for visitors of all ages, as well as birthday cake and a wreath-laying ceremony at Jackson’s tomb. More information is available at http://www.thehermitage.com .
National Park Service officials say more than 8 million visitors to national parks in Tennessee in 2012 spent $541 million, and more than 7.3 million people who visited Georgia’s national parks had an economic benefit of more than $343 million. Alabama’s national parks had nearly 718,000 visitors in 2012, and they spent $26.5 million. In a news release, National Park Service Southeast Regional Director Stan Austin said the parks are a significant economic driver and have returned $10 for every $1 invested on a national level.
The 52nd Ordnance Group at Fort Campbell is getting a new commander and command sergeant major. The change is taking place Friday morning at the sprawling post on the Kentucky-Tennessee state line. Col. Marue R. Quick and Command Sgt. Maj. Harold E. Dunn are scheduled to relinquish command to Col. Marty L. Muchow and Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory T. Miller. The unit’s website says its mission is to deploy and conduct explosive ordnance disposal operations for military and civilian authorities.
The number of previously uninsured consumers buying coverage under the health law has risen sharply in recent weeks, according to new research, a nascent signal of progress in the law’s goal of reducing the ranks of the uninsured. The overall share of uninsured people gaining coverage remains low, but the trend suggests more people could get coverage as the enrollment period approaches its final weeks. Most people must pick health plans by the end of March. About 27% of 395 consumers surveyed in mid-February who enrolled in health-law coverage previously were uninsured, according to consultancy McKinsey & Co.
Once again, a budget proposed by President Barack Obama raises the idea of selling TVA, leaving those in the federal utility and outside TVA observers to ponder the implications. TVA board members reached for comment said the utility should remain under public ownership, although who controls it is worth discussion. Meanwhile, some observers outside the agency offered different ideas. Victor Ashe, a former Knoxville mayor and former ambassador to Poland, noted that Congress would have to approve the sale of TVA, but felt that putting the utility to some sort of state control might not be a bad idea.
Facing uncommonly severe winter weather, states are moving to give school districts extra days off without facing the loss of funding or other sanctions. States often give school districts a number of “calamity days,” which they can take off for severe weather or other reasons without penalty. The number allowed ranges by state. Many states also require districts to form a plan for making up instructional time if they exceed a certain number of days. While it’s not uncommon for state legislatures to give flexibility to districts to make up days lost to snow or to relax the required number of instructional days, this year adds new geographic scope to state efforts.
Gov. Bill Haslam’s Tennessee Promise proposal to provide free community college tuition to high school seniors beginning with the 2015 graduating class demonstrates his commitment to building an educated workforce. As the governor told The New York Times, “College is not for everybody, but it has to be for a lot more people than it’s been in the past if we’re going to have a competitive workforce.” Tennessee Promise will go a long way toward reaching the governor’s Drive to 55 initiative, which seeks to boost the number of college degree or certificate holders from the current 32 percent to 55 percent by the year 2025.
The University of Tennessee recently adopted a new speakers policy as the result of a federal court ruling, but some misguided members of the Tennessee General Assembly want to dictate such policies from Nashville. The new policy stems from a legal challenge from John McGlone, a Kentucky-based preacher who also has successfully sued Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville. UT officials relied on two policies when ordering McGlone off the Knoxville campus in 2010, and the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the policies were vague and could be applied arbitrarily and with discrimination.
As if anyone needed proof of the severity of her condition, just days after The Leaf-Chronicle published a special report on Lexy Harris, she had another severe seizure. The 6-year-old girl spent more than a week in the ICU at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital on a feeding tube with pneumonia that resulted from her aspirating on her own saliva. The Harrises also found out the prescribed medications they’d been using to treat Lexy’s condition were damaging her liver, and that ongoing seizures have weakened her legs to the point she now needs a wheelchair. Lexy has Dravet’s syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that causes severe and repeated seizures resulting in developmental delays. Any rational person would look at this situation and agree, surely there’s something we can do. There is.