This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
State officials say medical device company Enovate Medical plans to expand its operations at its U.S. headquarters in Murfreesboro, adding 410 jobs in the next five years. The company said Wednesday that the expansion in Rutherford County represents an investment of $13.1 million and stems from the consolidation of operations at its facility in Canton, Mich. Enovate Medical President and CEO Nick Mendez said the expansion will include the company’s corporate headquarters, and manufacturing and research and development facilities in Murfreesboro.
Michigan-based Enovate Medical will relocate its corporate headquarters and 410 jobs to Murfreesboro, company officials announced Wednesday. The company will relocate its corporate headquarters, manufacturing and research and development facility from Canton, Mich., to its existing facility at 1152 Park Avenue in Murfreesboro, Enovate CEO Nick Mendez said. “The team at Enovate Medical is excited to announce the next step in our journey — the expansion of our operations in Middle Tennessee,” Mendez said at the announcement Wednesday morning at the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce.
Health care equipment maker Enovate Medical on Wednesday said that later this year it will move its headquarters and other operations to Murfreesboro from Canton, Mich., creating 410 new jobs in Rutherford County over the next five years. The company will close its plant, headquarters and research facilities in Michigan and consolidate them at the Enovate plant on Park Avenue in Murfreesboro by October, said Nick Mendez, Enovate’s president and CEO Relocating the company to Tennessee will eliminate 140 jobs at the Michigan location.
A Murfreesboro-based company that makes computer carts for doctors and nurses has announced plans to expand. Enovate Medical is consolidating its operations in Michigan and moving the jobs to Tennessee. While the Nashville area is home to many hospital companies, CEO Nick Mendez points out that only a few Tennessee firms make equipment. “We believe this marks the entrance of a market-leading medical device player on the scene.” At the announcement, Governor Bill Haslam said medical device manufacturing is an area of focus for economic development officials.
Medical device company Enovate Medical is moving its operations to Murfreesboro from Canton, Mich., the company announced today. The company, which merged with Stinger Medical last summer, develops, manufactures and markets mobile clinical workstations and medical devices. Through the move, Enovate will “invest in its headquarters and grow its team,” according to a release. Stinger had been based in Murfreesboro prior to the merger. “This move underscores Enovate’s commitment to achieve our long-term strategy and improve competitive position and performance,” Nick Mendez, Enovate president and CEO, said in the release.
Enovate Medical CEO Nick Mendez says the company’s expansion in Tennessee makes sense because of Nashville’s massive health care economy. The Nashville Business Journal caught up with Mendez after Enovate announced a $13.1 million expansion of its U.S. headquarters in Murfreesboro, which is to create 410 jobs over the next four years. Although Nashville’s health care community traditionally falls more on the hospital management and provider end of the spectrum, Mendez said being near that side of the industry is a big advantage for a company like his. “Those folks are our customers,” Mendez said.
The state Senate is poised to vote on a $32.4 billion spending plan for the budget year beginning in July. The Senate Finance Committee voted 9-2 on Wednesday to advance the budget plan to a full Senate vote. The plan removes previously planned salary increases for teachers and state employees to make up for flagging state revenue collections. Senate Democratic leader Jim Kyle of Memphis argued that the spending cuts would not have to be as deep if officials were willing to tap the more than $1.7 billion stored in various reserve funds. The House version of the budget is also awaiting a floor vote.
Republican legislative leaders have seemingly blocked Democratic efforts to include pay raises for state employees and teachers — contrary to Gov. Bill Haslam’s wishes — only to have a new effort launched from within the majority party’s ranks. House and Senate floor votes are scheduled today on Gov. Bill Haslam’s $32.4 billion state budget for the coming year. Legislative leaders plan to adjourn the 2014 session next week, perhaps on Tuesday. Both chambers generally followed Haslam’s wishes on the budget bill (HB2501), including his recent decision to eliminate pay raises for teachers and state employees that he had proposed in his February first draft.
Tennessee lawmakers overwhelmingly approved tight new limits on some cold and allergy medications after a lengthy debate over how to combat meth production in Tennessee. The state House voted 81-17 to pass legislation that would lower the maximum amount of pseudoephedrine that can be bought without a prescription to 48 tablets a month and 240 tablets a year. Lawmakers turned back an effort to impose even tougher limits, but they nonetheless agreed to slash the current cap of about 75 tablets a month. The vote followed more than 90 minutes of debate over how to regulate pseudoephedrine in ragweed-rich Tennessee.
A hard-fought compromise to restrict the allergy medicine used to make meth passed the state House Wednesday. It’s not as tough as what the governor or many senators would like, but a more restrictive version could still end up getting through. House lawmakers argued for more than an hour, pitting concerns of law-abiding allergy sufferers against efforts by police to crimp meth production. The House version would limit people to a 24-day supply of the maximum daily dose of pseudoephedrine each month, for up to five months each year. It’s twice the amount the governor wants, which failed in an amendment on the House floor, but which could still pass the Senate.
How transparent is the Tennessee government with its spending? While it’s not among the eight leading states, Tennessee is showing improvement on providing online record of where taxpayer money goes. Tennessee got a B rating on its spending transparency, according to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund. That’s an increase from last year’s C grade in the organization’s annual “Following the Money” report, which assesses how well state’s provide online access to government-spending data.
University of Memphis officials notified at least 20 administrative employees their jobs are being cut as part of an effort to wring $20 million out of the university’s 2014-15 budget. The Commercial Appeal confirmed that 18 employees in the physical plant department, which includes landscapers and electronic shop managers, and three employees in extended programs received notices that their positions are being eliminated in 90 days, as part of an effort to trim administrative support jobs by 12 percent. The staffers have been told they can apply for new positions that will more “efficiently and effectively” meet the mission of the university, said U of M spokeswoman Linda Bonnin.
Gov. Bill Haslam says his administration is carefully examining the ramifications of a bill passed by the Senate that would allow Tennesseans to openly carry guns without state-issued permits. The Senate passed the bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet on Tuesday. The measure would keep the current training and background check requirements to carry concealed firearms. Haslam told reporters after an economic development announcement in Murfreesboro on Wednesday that he will reserve judgment on the measure until “safety and security concerns” have been evaluated.
The news came Tuesday afternoon from our veteran Nashville Bureau reporter, Richard Locker: The Tennessee Senate, by a vote of 25-2, approved a bill that would allow citizens who can legally possess guns to carry them in the open without a permit. Here are five things you should know about the issue: 1. This isn’t a done deal. Not to return to your civics class, but consider this a reminder that a Senate vote doesn’t necessarily mean passage. An instructive line from Locker’s story reads as follows: “To become law, the bill must also win approval in the House of Representatives and then be signed by the governor.”
Though a bill allowing universal gun-carry in Tennessee, SB2424 by state Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), unexpectedly swept through the state Senate on Tuesday by a 25-2 vote, indications are that the House intends to put on the brakes — long enough to evaluate statewide reaction — and will delay acting on the measure until Monday or Tuesday of next week. That means that, as the legislature focuses on budget measures for the duration of this week, the gun-carry bill will be one of the last measures taken up by the General Assembly before its anticipated adjournment on Tuesday, April 15.
Some state lawmakers want Tennessee gun owners to carry their weapons in public with no permit required, but even some gun supporters worry that goes too far. The open-carry proposal already passed the state Senate while the House version sits in a finance committee. At the Nashville Armory gun range, many of the patrons value Second Amendment rights. They say they also value proper training and gun permits. “If a person is responsible, they want to have the training where you have a certificate or permit that they had the training, and they are responsible enough to carry a firearm, according to Tennessee state law,” said Leroy Farris, a master gun trainer and former Brentwood police officer.
An East Tennessee Republican is asking lawmakers to give teachers and state employees pay increases by moving around money in the budget. In a meeting with his fellow GOP lawmakers, Rep. Matthew Hill proposed to do a combination of things to boost pay, including re-allocated some money and counting on additional tax revenue next year. The last-ditch proposal would push back the demolition of the Cordell Hull office building, wait on fixing the capitol’s leaky tunnel roof and take away money from a standardized test related to Common Core. With those savings – and assuming tax revenues go up – Hill says that will be enough to give teachers and state employees a 1 percent salary boost, and a one-time $500 bonus.
A measure to allow assault charges against Tennessee women who harm their fetuses with drug use while pregnant awaits only the governor’s signature to become law. House Bill 1295 cleared the House on Wednesday by a 64-30 vote. The Senate companion bill passed earlier this week. If signed into law, the proposal would again give law enforcement the power to charge women with assault if their babies are born drug-dependent because of the mother’s use of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine or other narcotics. Those women could have their records expunged if they complete treatment.
Tennessee farmers are a signature away from growing industrial hemp after a bill allowing it sailed through the state Senate this afternoon. That’s not to be confused with marijuana — hemp’s psychoactive cousin. Hemp is the stuff of shoes, rope, paper and plastics. Health-food enthusiasts eat its seeds for protein and omega-3 fats. All are money-making products that prompted Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, to champion growing it here. At least nine other states have industrial hemp laws. The bill passed after amendments defining industrial hemp and requiring the Department of Agriculture to start writing rules 120 days after passage. It now will go to Gov. Bill Haslam for his signature.
The Tennessee Senate on Wednesday took a historic step and approved legislation allowing a limited hospital study of whether cannabis oil is effective in treating certain types of intractable seizures. Senators voted 23-4 for the bill, sponsored by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga. The House bill is set for a floor vote today. Gardenhire said the bill will be restricted to an oil produced from marijuana with very low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). That’s the ingredient that gives pot smokers their “high.” The plant will be bred by Tennessee Tech and will have less than 0.01 percent THC.
The state Senate passed legislation on Wednesday sponsored by Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, to protect elderly and adults with disabilities from abuse. Senate Bill 1852 increases punishment for adult abuse, exploitation or neglect from a Class E to a Class D felony. Crowe, the Senate Health and General Welfare Committee chairman, said the move will help district attorneys prosecute the crimes without having to meet the higher evidentiary standard required under the state’s adult abuse laws reserved for more serious crimes.
The number of uninsured children in Tennessee declined 4.4 percent between 2008 and 2012, according to a report released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. And their ranks are likely to have declined even more because of the impact of the Affordable Care Act, researchers said. Federal officials recently reported that an addItional 1,386 children qualified for TennCare as of February when compared to last summer. That follows a trend noted in the report released Thursday. Coverage by public insurance programs increased as coverage by private plans went down. Private coverage for children sank to 59 percent in 2012, compared to 64.2 percent in 2008.
In March, PepsiCo shut down production in its Collierville plant, citing a decline in demand for soft drinks. They weren’t kidding. Carbonated soda sales declined by 3 percent last year, more than double the decline from 2012. Pepsi took it particularly hard, as soda sales fell by 4.4 percent. Coca-Cola sales decreased by a smaller, but still significant, 2.2 percent. Today, the news got even worse. Morgan Stanley released a note showing that soft drinks, especially diet soft drinks, are falling out of favor with the younger generation. In 2005, more than 61 percent of children aged 12 to 17 drank at least one regular cola.
The United Auto Workers has issued subpoenas to U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, Gov. Bill Haslam and 18 other officials as part of a challenge of a vote rejecting union representation at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga. The subpoenas, dated Wednesday, demand written communications and other documents concerning the union in the weeks preceding the three-day vote at the plant in February. The UAW lost that election 712-626. The union alleges that Republican politicians interfered with a fair outcome by stating that a UAW win could imperil state incentives for future expansion of Volkswagen’s lone U.S. plant.
Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker were among several Tennessee politicians subpoenaed as part of the United Auto Workers’ appeal of the failed union vote at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga. The union this week sent out subpoenas for Haslam, Corker and others involved in the case to require their attendance at an April 21 hearing in Chattanooga. The results of that hearing will determine whether there will be a new election at the plant. Also on the list of those subpoenaed were Bill Hagerty, the state’s commissioner of economic and community development; state House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, state Sen. Bo Watson; House Speaker Beth Harwell; Matt Patterson, president of the Center for Worker Freedom; and some Chattanooga officials.
The United Auto Workers is serving subpoenas on 24 people, including Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, for a planned hearing on its appeal of February’s Chattanooga Volkswagen plant vote. Also, the UAW is seeking communications and documents of those subpoenaed relating to VW, the UAW and government incentives from Jan. 1 to the present, a filing with the National Labor Relations Board shows. In addition to Haslam and Corker, most of the Hamilton County legislative delegation, including state House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, and state Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, R-Hixson, have been named as witnesses for the April 21 NLRB hearing.
Attorneys for the United Auto Workers are trying to make U.S. Senator Bob Corker and Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam testify later this month. The National Labor Relations Board is investigating whether there was a coordinated effort to prevent unionization at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant. In all, 20 subpoenas were issued Wednesday. Beyond Haslam and Corker, the state’s economic development commissioner is named, two lawmakers from Chattanooga, several aides and even anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist. The common thread is that they all spoke publicly against organizing at Volkswagen.
Addition of 410 jobs to Rutherford County is a sufficient reason for area residents to welcome good news, but the economic-development announcement of Enovate Medical Wednesday morning included even more positive developments for the community. Enovate Medical, which recently merged with Murfreesboro-based Stinger Medical, plans to relocate its corporate headquarters from Michigan to Park Avenue in Murfreesboro, and this further fulfills the goal of local officials to place such headquarters here. This relocation plan also will keep 130 jobs in Murfreesboro, so the company will have a total workforce of more than 500 here.
Spring has finally arrived in Tennessee after months of exceptionally harsh weather. With all the flowers at their best, it is making me miss cherry blossom flowers in Japan. They are called “sakura” in Japanese and mean a lot to Japanese people. In Japan, spring is the season of a fresh start; for example, the academic year and the fiscal year start in April. Sakura give us joy and hope at each turning point of our lives. Furthermore, sakura are traditionally associated with the concept of “treasuring the moment,” for it may never recur. The wonderful friendship that exists between Japan and Tennessee is just like sakura in full bloom.
One of the more logical reasons Tennessee legislators have used to support the idea that qualified residents should be able to carry a gun anywhere they choose is the requirement that people who wish to go armed in public must obtain a gun-carry permit. Getting that permit requires a specified amount of firearms training and a firearms-safety course that, among other things, lays out when it is OK to use the weapon and the legal liabilities if the weapon is misused. That training, said ardent Second Amendment supporters, guarantees responsible gun ownership.
The problem with special interests is that they can’t ever declare victory and go home. Without keeping members in a mindless frenzy they can’t keep the dues coming in to support their lavish lifestyle. Tennessee is Exhibit A on what’s wrong with the special-interest lobbies at work today. We first had the gun lobby outraged at our Legislature. After they passed bill after bill legalizing carrying guns everywhere except Sunday School, they went nuts when conservative Republicans hesitated to override an owner’s property rights and forbid them from asking employees not to bring guns to work. The latest craziness is the anti-tax boys. Grover Norquist and the head of Americans for Prosperity have been in Nashville.