This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Calling all creatives: Tennessee Wants You. That’s the message from Launch Tennessee via its statewide “Specialist Program” that aims to attract young professionals for summer internships. The concept, launched a couple years ago in Chattanooga, is now being expanded to include Memphis, Nashville and the Spring Hill/Tullahoma area. The program will allow college students or recent grads to spend a summer at a startup accelerator and learn how entrepreneurship works from the ground up. Launch Tennessee CEO Charlie Brock, himself a Chattanooga guy, told me that the program kicked off in his city in 2012 at the Gigtank accelerator with 11 participants and grew to 15 interns last year.
State archivists will be on hand this week at the Museum Center at Five Points to digitally record Civil War memorabilia presented by local residents. “The Civil War was a major event in our state’s history, so we need to take appropriate steps to make sure these treasures are properly preserved for future generations,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said in a recent announcement. The event, which will be conducted by representatives of the Tennessee State Library and Archives and the Tennessee State Museum, will use some of the recorded documents, photographs and artifacts in an online exhibit titled “Looking Back: The Civil War in Tennessee.”
Tennessee State Parks is offering free guided hikes at each of the 54 state parks on March 22. Officials say the 2014 Spring Hikes are designed for all ages and abilities. Some hikes will be approximately one mile in length and tailored for novice hikers, while others are lengthier and geared toward more experienced hikers. Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill says the hikes are a great way to get outside, exercise and enjoy nature with friends and family. For more information on the hikes, visit http://tnstateparks.com/about/special-events/spring-hike.
Cursive handwriting might be a dying art, but a measure before the Tennessee House of Representatives attempts to save it in an era of keyboards and keypads. House Bill 1697 would require all public school students in Tennessee to learn how to read and write in cursive, preferably around the third grade. State Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, authored the bill after being told by parents and teachers that kids today couldn’t read their handwritten notes. Butt frets that the day may come when Tennesseans will no longer be able to sign their names legibly or read the Bill of Rights in its original form. The House is scheduled to vote on the legislation tonight.
The Tennessee General Assembly is considering a bill that would require voters in partisan primaries to declare that the party they are voting for “most closely represents [their] values and beliefs.” “What this is meant to do is discourage those in opposing parties to cross over when their intent is to maliciously malign the election of either primary party,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lascassas, as the House Local Government Subcommittee discussed the legislation. The bill, HB 1833, passed out of the subcommittee on a voice vote and is scheduled to be heard in the full Local Government Committee on Tuesday.
The state House is scheduled to take up legislation Monday evening that would protect schools from lawsuits for allowing traditional winter celebrations, or religious displays. The Senate version of the bill was unanimously approved 30-0 last month. The legislation says schools can display scenes or symbols associated with such celebrations on school property, if the display includes more than one religion, or one religion and at least one secular scene or symbol. Messages that encourage adherence to a particular religious belief are prohibited.
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey says he has reservations about a bill that grants in-state college tuition rates to students who came to the U.S. illegally but attended Tennessee schools and graduated from high school. “I’ll have a problem with that,” Ramsey said of the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, and Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga. “Illegal is the key word … and they’re not supposed to be here to begin with,” the Blountville Republican said last week. He said he wants to look more closely at the proposal. Gardenhire’s bill is scheduled to be heard Wednesday in the Senate Education Committee.
Some states are going after multinational corporations which avoid state taxes by stashing some of their earnings in offshore tax havens, an effort aimed at recouping some of the more than $20 billion states lose to such gimmicks each year. Shifting income to subsidiaries in places like the Cayman Islands or Bermuda, which have minimal or no taxes, allows corporations to avoid U.S. and state taxes on those profits. Congress has been unable to thwart the practice at the federal level, but some states are taking action. Montana was first about a decade ago, followed by Oregon just last year. Now, Maine is looking at legislation modeled on the Montana law.
Knox County Schools officials say they are expecting to have a tight budget for 2015 based on early financial predictions. Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre said those projections — about $10.5 million in revenues and about $19.6 million in expenditures — show that the district is looking at a gap of about $9 million to balance the budget. The $9 million represents about 2 percent of the school system’s overall budget, he said, which is currently $419.75 million. “It’s going to be a tight budget,” McIntyre said. “I’m confident we’re going to be able to get to a place where we present an educationally sound fiscal year ’15 budget that is within the appropriate level of revenues.”
Shelby County Schools made some friends with its school rezoning proposals in the rural areas around Shelby Forest. The easy part is over. School officials are now preparing for gritty, emotional nights — like they encountered Thursday in Cordova — as parents see, close up, what it really means to live outside the cities and towns that will be running municipal schools next year. For Larry Wolowski, who’s raising a 6-year-old granddaughter, it’s a mix of disbelief and anger. He and his wife moved to South Cordova two years ago. When the area was annexed (he say’s illegally), his granddaughter had to change schools.
When it comes to limiting the amount of pseudoephedrine one person can buy, this past week’s squabbling over Gov. Bill Haslam’s bill vs. Tony Shipley’s version misses the point. Shipley, chairman of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, bypassed the governor’s bill and instead advanced his own. Yet neither is likely to significantly alter the problem both attempt to address: purchasing the commonly used decongestant for the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine, a powerfully addictive and destructive stimulant that is seeing an increase in abuse across Tennessee, and the Tri-Cities. Whatever the limits might be, the smurfs, those folks going store to store to buy as much as allowed, are likely to continue; they’ll just visit a few more stores.