This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday that he is impressed by the resiliency of Lincoln County residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed by a tornado earlier this week. Haslam surveyed the damage to homes and a school by helicopter and on foot, telling reporters afterward that he was struck by the “horrible destructive nature of this and the randomness” of the tornado. “You’d see one house destroyed and another house 50 yards away, where not a shingle had been overturned,” he said. Two people were killed in the storm that hit the largely rural area near the Alabama line Monday evening.
Gov. Bill Haslam toured the heavily damaged area around South Lincoln Elementary School Wednesday and told those hit hardest that help was on the way. Across from the street from the school, he teetered in his cowboy boots as he surveyed Kaye Crowley’s home where a tree had crushed her rec room, the wind ripped the ceiling off her bedroom and her pool, where an RV had been tossed. “We’ll do everything we can to help you guys,” Haslam told her. She worried about the cost to replace the fence that surrounded 200 acres of her farmland, which wouldn’t be covered by insurance.
Governor Bill Haslam traveled to Lincoln County to survey the damage left by an EF-3 tornado that killed two people. The storm also destroyed 25 homes and an elementary school. Monday night’s tornado started near the Alabama line and cut a path to the northeastern corner of the county. Haslam was scheduled to view the damage both from a helicopter and on the ground Wednesday morning. Officials released the identities of the two people killed as John and Karen Prince. They were killed when their mobile home was thrown several hundred yards from its foundation. Lincoln County schools were closed for the second day as officials worked to figure out what to do with students at South Lincoln Elementary.
Gov. Bill Haslam traveled to Lincoln County Wednesday to survey the devastation wrought by a deadly tornado in Lincoln County. Monday night’s tornado started near the Alabama line and cut a path to the northeastern corner of the county, leaving two dead and at least 25 homes and one elementary school destroyed. Haslam viewed the damage both from a helicopter and on the ground Wednesday morning. Authorities on Tuesday identified the victims as John and Karen Prince. They were killed when their mobile home was thrown several hundred yards from its foundation.
Governor Bill Haslam spent time touring tornado damaged Lincoln County Wednesday morning. An EF-3 tornado swept county Monday night, killing two people, injuring seven others and trapping people inside their homes for hours. The fatalities occurred in the southern part of the county, which was one of the hardest hit areas. Lincoln County Sheriff Murray Blackwelder identified the victims as John Prince, 60, and his wife, 44-year-old Karen Prince. He said they were in a mobile home at the time.
The worst is behind us. And that’s good, because the Tennessee Valley took a beating this week. Strong winds, hail and even tornadoes were expected again Tuesday night, just 24 hours after families holed up in basements while severe storms swept through the South on Monday, killing two in Lincoln County, Tenn., and ripping homes apart in Alabama. But now Chattanooga’s weather looks good for the rest of the week, said David Hotz, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Morristown. The region may see a few leftover showers today, but that’s it. So it’s time to take a break from weather radios and the late-night alerts that sent residents scrambling for cover Monday when forecasters warned of a storm with prime tornado conditions.
On Tuesday (4/29/2014), Tennessee’s First Lady Crissy Haslam spoke to the Rotary Club of Murfreesboro. Much of her focus was on getting youngsters ready to start school and increasing the amount of total education persons in the Volunteer State receive. She told how after the State of the State address, Governor Bill Haslam was given a red Lego block by a Tennessee teacher. The first lady explained . . . Mrs. Haslam commented that she believed education was one of the best ways to move Tennessee forward. The education of our workforce is one of the primary areas corporations look at before making a decision to move a business into our state.
On Thursday afternoon, the Tennessee Board of Regents is expected to approve University of Memphis provost M. David Rudd as the university’s next president. Rudd was TBR chancellor John Morgan’s top recommendation for the job over three other finalists. But he ranked last when U of M faculty, students, staff and the community were asked about his overall qualifications for the job, according to the results of the online evaluation process obtained by The Commercial Appeal Wednesday.
For more than a year, state Health Department officials have sealed off from public view dozens of inspection reports for pharmacies and assisted living facilities. They never have explained why. But now legislation awaiting the governor’s signature could make the records public once again. The reports, which determine whether a licensed facility is in compliance with minimum state requirements for health and safety, are produced after mandated annual visits by state inspectors. State health officials say they have now decided those reports should be made public in the interests of transparency.
State Rep. Johnny Shaw says Gov. Bill Haslam has been hamstrung by the state legislature. Shaw spoke with The Jackson Sun’s editorial board Wednesday and raised concerns about a lack of interest by top state leaders in economic development in West Tennessee, a lack of leadership from Haslam on Medicaid expansion and the hijacking of the governor’s office by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, who is speaker of the Senate. “We have a leadership team that doesn’t trust their leader,” Shaw said. “We have a House and Senate that want to put their thumb on the governor.”
Sen. Bob Corker was the only Senate Republican to vote Wednesday to allow consideration of an increase in the minimum wage, breaking with fellow Tennessee GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander. By a vote of 54-42, the Senate rejected a cloture motion that would have allowed a vote on legislation to gradually increase the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour by 2016. The motion needed 60 votes to carry. Alexander voted against it; Corker joined Democrats in voting for the measure. In May 2007, the last time Congress raised the minimum wage, both voted for the hike. The increase that year was combined with emergency spending for the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina recovery and other matters.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker broke with his fellow Republicans and voted Wednesday to move forward on a bill to raise the federal minimum wage. GOP senators blocked debate on the bill, arguing the proposal was too expensive for employers and would cost jobs. The proposal would gradually raise the $7.25 hourly minimum wage to $10.10 over 30 months and then provide automatic annual increases based on inflation The vote to allow debate was 54 to 42, six votes shy of the 60 needed to proceed. Corker, of Chattanooga, was the only Republican to vote to move forward with the debate.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee and other Republicans called Wednesday for a strategic response to Russian aggression in Europe, including tougher new sanctions against Russian officials and increased U.S. and NATO support for the armed forces of key European countries. “Rather than react to events as they unfold, which has been the policy of this administration, we need to inflict more direct consequences on Russia prior to Vladimir Putin taking additional steps that will be very difficult to undo,” said Corker, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Nine months after she was nominated, University of Memphis administrator Sheryl H. Lipman has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the newest federal judge for West Tennessee. The Senate voted 95 to 0 on Wednesday to confirm Lipman, whom President Barack Obama nominated for the judgeship last August upon the recommendation of U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen. She replaces Jon McCalla, who announced last year that he was going on senior status. “I’m humbled by the confidence of Congressman Cohen, of the community members he involved in the selection process, and of the president,” Lipman said.
It may not feel like it, but the past five years have been a period of economic expansion. That means that states that have not adjusted their budgets to the economic cycle will have a very rude awakening when this “boom” period ends, as it will. “It’s been a slower expansion than we’ve seen in the other economic growth periods since World War II,” says Gabriel Petek, an analyst for Standard & Poor’s who co-authored a recent report on states’ fiscal recoveries since the financial crisis in 2008. He says that since the recession, many states have kept funding of programs at highly constrained levels even though the economy has technically been expanding.
When Orchard Knob native Darrell Freeman started his computer services business in 1991, the Tennessee Valley Authority was one of his first major contracts. Over the past two decades, Freeman’s Zycon business has continued to serve TVA even as his Nashville-based firm has grown into one of Tennessee’s top IT service and support companies. “TVA early on gave me a yes when I was getting no from a lot of other places,” Freeman said Wednesday during a TVA Diversity Summit in Chattanooga. “We’ve been able to build a successful relationship over the past 21 years and I think that has been valuable for TVA, for us and for the valley.”
Haywood County’s only hospital, Haywood Park Community Hospital in Brownsville, will end inpatient and emergency room services on July 31 and become an “urgent care” clinic offering treatment for minor illnesses and non-life-threatening injuries. The hospital’s chief executive officer, Joel Southern, notified community leaders in an e-mail late Tuesday afternoon that it will begin operating as Haywood Park Urgent Care on Aug. 1. It will also offer physicals, immunizations and outpatient services such as X-rays. Brownsville Mayor Jo Matherne said city and county officials will work with the hospital “to make the transition as smooth as possible” and to try to find an alternative for emergency medical care for residents.
This week brings a sobering reality to those who thought Tennessee hospitals were crying wolf about how bad things could get if the state opted out of expanding Medicaid. The announced closure of Haywood Park hospital in West Tennessee may be just the first, according to the Tennessee Hospital Association. “We’ve seen this coming since the state decided not to do expansion,” says THA president Craig Becker. “We anticipate that there will be other hospitals that will be closing as well.” THA hasn’t named names publicly. But it has said rural facilities are in a particular pinch.
One of the biggest hotels in Memphis could soon rise next to Graceland. Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc. is considering plans for a 450-room hotel alongside Graceland, the late music star’s mansion on Elvis Presley Boulevard. Presley Enterprises, which owns the brand for one of the most recognized American icons in the world, confirmed the proposal was presented Wednesday to the city. Full plans call for an upscale restaurant, sports bar and nearby movie theater, bringing the projected construction price including the hotel to about $70 million, according to city officials.
Elvis Presley Enterprises has filed paperwork with the Land Use Control Board to move ahead with the first part of a long planned expansion of Graceland. The filing with the LUCB Wednesday, April 30, is for construction of a 450-room hotel on the same side of Elvis Presley Boulevard as the mansion on a parcel of land EPE has owned since the mid 1990s. The plans surfaced five months after Authentic Brands Group LLC completed its purchase of a majority of Elvis Presley Enterprises from CORE Media Group.
After overcoming years of fiscal dysfunction that stemmed in part from an antitax ballot referendum, Gov. Jerry Brown is trying to call California voters to the ballot again — this time to approve a constitutional amendment requiring that surpluses be used to pay down municipal debt and create an emergency fund. The proposal comes as the state has ended years of multibillion-dollar budget gaps and is in the midst of another boom, bringing in billions more than it predicted in tax revenue this year and facing a budget surplus even more flush than anticipated just months ago.
Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a controversial bill that potentially criminalizes pregnant mothers who use illegal drugs. Following his careful consideration and study, we believe Haslam made the right decision. Some believe criminalization will dissuade pregnant mothers from seeking treatment for their drug problems. But the goal of the bill is not criminalization. While some pregnant mothers could find themselves facing the misdemeanor charge, we believe the bill will help get the message out in the strongest terms that using illegal drugs while pregnant is tantamount to a criminal assault against an unborn child.
Tennessee has a major problem with babies being born addicted to drugs, but recriminalizing pregnancy may worsen the problem. There are no rationalizations or explanations that excuse women who threaten the life and health of their unborn children by abusing drugs as they grow within them, so it is easy to understand the aim of Tennessee’s law that returns authority to prosecute that behavior on July 1. When Gov. Bill Haslam signed the legislation over the objections of a well-orchestrated protest from the medical and addiction treatment community, he parroted the punishment culture that pushed the bill through: “The intent of this bill is to give law enforcement and district attorneys a tool to address illicit drug use among pregnant women through treatment programs.”