This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
During my annual State of the State address, I was excited to announce a new proposal called the Tennessee Promise. The Tennessee Promise is an ongoing commitment to Tennessee students — from kindergartners to high school seniors. We will promise that high school graduates can attend two years of community college or a college of applied technology absolutely free of tuition and fees. As we urge more Tennesseans to continue their education, we know we have to remove as many barriers as possible. For many Tennessee families, cost is the biggest hurdle to further education. Through the Tennessee Promise, we are fighting the rising cost of higher education, and we are raising our expectations as a state.
The Tennessee Promise is an opportunity for all graduating high school seniors—regardless of socioeconomic status or academic performance—to obtain a TCAT certificate, diploma or associate’s degree free of tuition and fees. The Tennessee Promise will provide students with a last-dollar scholarship, which means it will bridge the funding gap for a student after all other financial aid is applied. While removing the financial burden is key, a critical component of the Promise is providing individual guidance to each participant through a statewide network of volunteer mentors.
Many people dread waiting in long lines at Tennessee Department of Safety driver centers, but a new plan could make that wait almost obsolete. On any given day, more than half of the people in line are waiting for a license renewal, duplicate or replacement. Now, state law has been expanded to allow local governments help with the lines. “It provides more options for customers. If they can go to facilities, to go to an existing infrastructure or government, to get those simple transactions conducted,” said Michael Hogan, with the Department of Safety.
The Tennessee Board of Regents this week narrowed its search for the next University of Memphis president to four finalists. The 24-member presidential search advisory committee met behind closed doors at the U of M on Thursday before naming the finalists: Guy Bailey, former president and a current professor at the University of Alabama; Sharon Gaber, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Arkansas; George Hynd, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the College of Charleston; and M. David Rudd, provost at the University of Memphis.
Four finalists have been named for president of The University of Memphis. Candidates for the position, currently filled by interim president R. Brad Martin, have been narrowed down to the following four candidates by the Tennessee Board of Regents presidential search advisory committee. M. David Rudd, current provost at the University of Memphis George Hynd, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs for the College of Charleston Sharon Gaber, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Arkansas Guy Bailey, former president and current professor at the University of Alabama The finalists will be in town March 17-21 for interviews.
Tennessee manufacturers shed 3,400 jobs in January, a sign the state’s industrial resurgence has eased. Factories ramping up after the recession helped revive the state economy. Since 2009, manufacturers had added almost 38,000 jobs in Tennessee through December. Rather than rely on local clients for orders, manufacturers generally ship to customers in other states and nations. Once plants scale up and add employees, spending by factory workers can spur more jobs in local shops and stores. Manufacturing exports are still rising throughout the nation.
Monday is the deadline for submitting photographs of fish, wildlife, and fishing and hunting scenes for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s annual calendar. Winning photographers will receive $60, and photos will appear in Tennessee Wildlife Magazine and the calendar in July. Submit high-resolution digital images on disk by mail to Tennessee Wildlife Magazine, P.O. Box 40747, Nashville, TN 37204.
When Tennesseans spring ahead this weekend, it could be the last time they change clocks. That is, if a bill sponsored by state Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, goes through. Todd’s bill calls for the state to stay on daylight saving time all year round. As usual, people are advised to set their clocks ahead one hour as the time change goes into affect at 2 a.m. Sunday. If the bill is written into law, it would be the last time adjustments would be made and no more clock changes would occur. The bill was originally set to be voted on late this month, but has since been delayed.
Most of the country will spring forward this weekend, moving clocks up one hour. However, if a Tennessee lawmaker has his way, it will be for the last time. Rep. Curry Todd, a Republican lawmaker from Collierville, Tennessee, proposed to a House subcommittee that Tennessee join Hawaii, Arizona and parts of Indiana in rejecting standard time. States with two time zones are allowed to make the change. Todd told committee members that his proposal would be better for farmers and for school kids who stand at the bus stop in the dark. Todd said after doing research, he found that 80% of Tennesseans were in favor of making the switch.
Roughly 650 student letters, some handwritten and all addressed to lawmakers, went in the mail Friday. The University of Tennessee’s Nashville office blasted an email to alumni Thursday, urging them to write to lawmakers as well. Faculty Senate President David Golden said he has received dozens of responses to his own appeal to colleagues to make their voices heard. It was all part of UT’s largest effort in three years to marshal students, faculty and alumni to push back on proposed legislation — this time protesting two bills inspired by Sex Week that are scheduled to come up in the state Legislature next week.
Faculty members and administrators from the University of Tennessee said they have concerns over two bills affecting the funding for guest speakers on public university campuses. “If people realize we’re an institution that doesn’t allow outside speakers, I think that could have a significant impact,” UT Faculty Senate President David Golden said. “I can think of no better place for contradictory, conflicting, controversial ideas to be presented than on a university campus.” Both bills are sponsored in the State Senate by State Senator Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville. One bill would distribute student fees for guest speakers based on the size of the student groups. The other bill would prohibit the use of student fees to pay for any guest speakers.
The Shelby County Democratic Party censured four of its members Thursday night, including two members of the General Assembly. Party chairman Bryan Carson said Friday that the party’s executive committee censured state Sen. Reginald Tate, Rep. Joe Towns and state executive committee member Hazel Moore for attending a fundraiser for Circuit Court Clerk Jimmy Moore, a Republican who is running for re-election. The committee also censured County Commissioner Sidney Chism on claims he tried to talk Democratic sheriff candidate Bennie Cobb out of running, Carson said. Chism denied trying to discourage Cobb’s candidacy.
Rep. Scott DesJarlais says state Sen. Jim Tracy, his main Republican primary opponent, can’t hide from his role in bringing to Tennessee the Common Core education standards, an emotionally charged political issue for tea party conservatives. A Tracy spokesman says DesJarlais distorts history as he runs a “desperate campaign lacking substantial support in his own district.” In January 2010, the Tennessee legislature approved the state’s First to the Top education reforms, a package needed to obtain grants under President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program for school improvements.
The United Auto Workers and Volkswagen Group of America have filed their opposition to two groups supporting some Chattanooga VW workers who want to intervene in the union’s appeal for a new election at the plant. The two groups fired back Friday, with an attorney for one saying the union is doing “everything it can to make sure that no one can speak out in opposition to the UAW.” Volkswagen, in its first official statement since the UAW filed the National Labor Relations Board appeal Feb. 21, said the company doesn’t support efforts by Southern Momentum and the National Right to Work Foundation to intervene in the appeal.
It’s time for a bold move by Gov. Bill Haslam to put the health of Tennesseans ahead of politics. The governor announced nearly a year ago he would not seek the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, an option the Supreme Court gave the states when it ruled in 2012 on the constitutionality of what has become known as Obamacare. Haslam said he, instead, would seek federal approval for what he call his “Tennessee Plan,” which he said would be financially better for the state in the long run. However, he has never submitted a formal plan to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and suggested last month the HHS come up with a plan he can accept.
It’s time for Tennessee to stop playing partisan games with the Affordable Care Act because our red-state lawmakers don’t like the president and the party he represents. The games have gone far beyond rhetoric and they’re hurting Tennesseans and our hospitals — especially Erlanger, which treats the lion’s share of Chattanooga’s uninsured charity patients. Many of those charity patients would have insurance if Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam had expanded Medicaid under the ACA and accepted the 100 percent federal payment for it. Instead, Erlanger’s charity care amounts to more than $92 million this year — up from $86 million, thanks largely to a perfect storm of health care funding changes and the state’s failure to act.
The person who sits in the president’s chair at the University of Memphis holds one of the most important jobs in Greater Memphis. As the major four-year institution of higher education in the Memphis area, the U of M plays an essential role — through research, services and its eclectic workforce — in helping the community grow and prosper. The Tennessee Board of Regents on Thursday narrowed its search for the next University of Memphis president to four finalists: M. David Rudd, 53, provost at the University of Memphis; George Hynd, 66, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the College of Charleston; Sharon Gaber, 50, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Arkansas; and Guy Bailey, 63, former president and a current professor at the University of Alabama.