This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
In February, during his State of the State address, Gov. Bill Haslam proposed something extraordinary. He introduced the Tennessee Promise, an initiative that will provide “last dollar” scholarships at community colleges within the state, providing the opportunity for every Tennessee high school graduate to attend college free. This program will cover the gaps between tuition costs and a student’s available financial aid and is a logical next step in our state’s commitment to raising educational attainment. Tennessee has been on the cutting edge of higher education reform in our nation, first with the passage of the Complete College Tennessee Act in 2010, and later with the launch of the Drive to 55.
In February, during his State of the State address, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam proposed something extraordinary. He introduced the Tennessee Promise, an initiative that will provide “last-dollar” scholarships at community colleges within the state, providing the opportunity for every Tennessee high school graduate to attend college for free. This program will cover the gaps between tuition costs and a student’s available financial aid and is a logical next step in our state’s commitment to raising educational attainment. Tennessee has been on the cutting edge of higher education reform in our nation, first with the passage of the Complete College Tennessee Act in 2010, and later with the launch of the “Drive to 55.”
Gov. Bill Haslam’s office announced on Friday that the federal government will provide financial assistance to eight Tennessee counties that were declared a disaster because of severe winter weather last month. Officials said the federal money will allow local governments and agencies in Carroll, Cheatham, Dickson, Haywood, Houston, Madison, Shelby, and Tipton counties to receive a 75 percent reimbursement for costs of the storm. Officials said state and local governments and utility companies have spent more than $12 million in preparation for, response to, and recovery from the storm’s impact.
The federal government will provide assistance to eight Tennessee counties that were impacted by winter storm in early March. The federal government issued a Presidential Disaster Declaration for governments and some non-profits in Carroll, Cheatham, Dickson, Haywood, Houston, Madison, Shelby and Tipton counties, which will allow those areas to apply for reimbursement of specific expenses related to disaster response and recovery. According to the office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, the state spent more than $12.2 million in response and recovery funding. After storms that lasted from March 2 until March 4, more than 75,000 residents were without power after frigid temperatures, snow, sleet and freezing rain.
The federal government will provide public assistance to Dickson County and seven other Tennessee counties due to the severe winter weather that brought snow, ice and sleet accumulations March 2-4, according to the governor’s office. The presidential disaster declaration will allow government entities and certain private non-profits in Dickson, Cheatham, Carroll, Haywood, Houston, Madison, Shelby and Tipton counties to apply for reimbursement of specific expenses related to disaster response and recovery.
If Gov. Bill Haslam is searching for clues about what kind of deal Tennessee might be able to cut with the federal government to expand Medicaid, he should look just across the Mississippi River. Arkansas was the first state to get a federally approved waiver allowing it to use Medicaid funds to buy private insurance for low-income residents. At least two other states — Iowa and Michigan — also have won federal approval to use the money for alternative programs tailored specifically to their needs. Several other states, including Tennessee, are negotiating with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for permission to set up state-specific health insurance programs instead of expanding traditional Medicaid.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation is facing funding uncertainty from several fronts, particularly from the federal level, which in part explains some of its activity around mass transportation in the state. In its most recent three-year transportation improvement plan(for 2015-2017), TDOT is investing around $1.5 billion toward infrastructure investments for 59 projects statewide. Its program is conservative due to questions on federal funding, and doesn’t feature any early engineering work on new projects. TDOT receives around half of its funding from the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which will run out of money by Sept. 30 unless new transportation funding legislation is passed in Washington, D.C.
Government relations consultant and media strategist Hillary Pate had some strong words on Facebook for Republicans who voted for Gov. Bill Haslam’s budget plan on Thursday. Unfortunately for her boss, state Rep. Joe Carr, those words could have been applied to him. The communications director for Carr’s campaign for U.S. Senate said on her Facebook page Thursday afternoon that Republicans who voted for the governor’s “bloated budget” had failed to represent their constituents. Pate noted that exactly two House Republicans — state Reps. Judd Matheny of Tullahoma and Jeremy Durham of Franklin — cast votes against the budget.
The House sponsor of a bill seeking to remove permit requirements to carry guns openly in Tennessee wants to bypass committees and hold a full floor vote on the measure. Republican Rep. Micah Van Huss of Jonesborough on Friday filed notice that he plans to make the unusual move Monday. The Senate passed its version of the open carry bill Tuesday, but supporters are concerned that the companion bill might not make it out of a House subcommittee before the legislature adjourns. If Van Huss makes the motion to call the bill to the floor Monday, the chamber would have to wait 24 hours before voting on the matter.
Radioactive technetium associated with debris from the K-25 demolition project infiltrated a sewer line earlier this year and ended up at the city of Oak Ridge’s Rarity Ridge Wastewater Treatment Plant on the other side of the Clinch River, where it became concentrated in the sludge. The elevated radioactivity was discovered in February, and steps were taken to block the sewer line at the U.S. Department of Energy site, known as the East Tennessee Technology Park, and slow the off-site migration of the radioactive material. Technetium-99, a product of nuclear fission, is a long-lived radioactive material that is of concern because of its mobility in the environment.