This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
A new report shows Tennessee is on pace to meet a goal of a 90 percent high school graduation rate by the Class of 2020. The report released Monday by the education advocacy group America’s Promise Alliance shows the state increased its graduation rate 17 percentage points from 2003 to 2010, and has continued to make progress with a graduation rate of 87 percent in 2012. American’s Promise set the 90 percent goal for the nation in 2010. The report also highlights Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s free tuition plan at two-year colleges, saying other states should note Tennessee’s efforts to increase access to college- and career programs and consider similar legislation.
Grants from the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs give early stage startups — especially those based on academic research — another vehicle through which to seek funding. In today’s competitive financing environment, these grants can help entrepreneurs who wouldn’t otherwise receive the money they need to start their businesses. Launch Tennessee is in the second year of the Phase 0/00 Program, which was named for the Phase I and Phase II awards given to successful SBIR/STTR applicants.
With spring in full swing and summer right around the corner, the state fire marshal’s office is providing tips on storm safety and how to prevent fires caused by lightning. Changing temperatures increase the likelihood of storm activity, so it’s important to take the necessary precautions to prevent the risks posed by lightning, said Katelyn Abernathy, director of communications at the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. Abernathy advises those who are outside during a storm to look for shelter in a home, large building or hard-topped vehicle. Trees and open water should be avoided.
Thousands of Montgomery County students will join students across the state to examine their knowledge in TCAP (Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program) testing. On Friday, many schools held pep rallies and gatherings to encourage and excite students to do well on the tests. Northeast Elementary was no different. The whole school moved into the gymnasium and was greeted with hand shakes and hand slaps from Zaxby’s mascot “Little Zach.” Students were already pumped up, with some already covering their ears. Principal Gina Biter introduced a Nashville reggae band, Roots of a Rebellion, and the students went wild.
Talks continue between Gov. Bill Haslam’s staff and federal officials about how Tennessee can receive Medicaid expansion money, but time is running out for the state to get the full benefit. Tennessee began losing out on $6.1 million a day on Jan. 1, when the federal government began picking up all the cost for covering people who newly qualify for Medicaid under expanded guidelines — an offer that goes away at the end of 2016. Accepting the federal offer would provide health insurance to an estimated 161,560 Tennesseans, who account for 24 percent of the uninsured adults in this state, according to Kaiser Health News. But some Tennessee lawmakers believe taking the federal dollars would eventually cost the state more than it can afford.
Future Hamilton County employees won’t get the cushy deal in place for current workers if the county follows a move by the state to modernize its retirement benefits. Now, county employees don’t contribute a dime to their retirement, and county taxpayers pay an additional 14.08 percent of each worker’s pay to cover their retirement, according to county financial records. In fiscal 2013, local taxpayers contributed $14.3 million to retirement for working county employees. In the same year, already retired workers received $89 million in benefit payments, according to Tennessee Department of Treasury records. But starting July 1, big changes are happening to the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System, and they could trickle down to county governments.
Executives from the ABC television series “Nashville” have explored moving the production to other states, amid ongoing talks with local officials about an economic incentive package for a third season. There’s little doubt that if ABC picks up “Nashville” for a third season, the combined economic incentives from state and local government will be less lucrative than the show received for the first two seasons. To date, the state has carried the heaviest load when it comes to subsidizing the show’s Nashville-based production. This season, for instance, the state contributed $12.5 million, Metro gave $500,000 and the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. added $125,000 to the current incentive deal. But the legislature just approved a trimmed annual state budget that left only about $3 million in the Tennessee film incentives fund.