This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
On Wednesday morning, I visited Fayetteville in Lincoln County, where we lost two Tennesseans as a result of Monday’s tornadoes. Crissy’s and my deepest sympathies and prayers go out to all affected by these devastating storms. One thing I always take away from a day like today is that even though this is an extremely difficult time for those who are impacted, seeing people come together to lift each other up and help each other rebuild their lives is always so encouraging. Earlier this month, the 108th Tennessee General Assembly adjourned for the year.
The National Weather Service says five tornadoes touched down in Tennessee during storms on Monday. The Tennessean says the weather service confirmed the information Thursday. Two people died in Lincoln County and about 40 homes and an elementary school were destroyed or substantially damaged there. The weather service says two tornadoes struck there, an EF-2 and an EF-3. An EF-2 was confirmed in Obion County and crossed into Kentucky, an EF-1 in White County and an EF-0 in Shelby County. The tornado ranking scale ranges from EF-0 with gusts of 65 to 85 mph to EF-5 with gusts of more than 200 mph.
Tennessee had five tornadoes that touched down from Monday’s storms, the National Weather Service confirmed this morning. An EF-2 and EF-3 both hit Lincoln County, where two people died from the storms and around 40 homes and an elementary school were destroyed or substantially damaged. Other tornadoes confirmed in Tennessee were: • An EF-1 in White County. • An EF-2 in Obion County that crossed into Kentucky. • An EF-0 in Shelby County.
Research of school funding in 30 states with high concentrations of charter schools shows a growing disparity in how they are funded, affecting programs they can offer and how much they can pay their teachers. Since 2005, when the last study was done, the funding gap has increased by 54 percent, which means that public charters now receive an average of $3,509 less per pupil than traditional schools, according the research released Wednesday by the University of Arkansas. But in Tennessee, the only state to earn an A in the report, the disparity flows the opposite way.
To help raise awareness of building safety, Governor Bill Haslam and the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office proudly proclaim May as Building Safety Month. Building Safety Month is a public safety awareness campaign to help individuals, families and businesses understand what it takes to create safe, resilient, affordable and energy-efficient homes and buildings. “When our building safety and fire prevention experts inspect buildings and review construction plans they help ensure that the places where you live, learn, work, worship and play are safe,” State Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak said.
Cheek to cheek, they danced so slowly their feet barely lifted from the floor, the cover band playing “When You Say Nothing at All.” The old country song is an apt description of Rosemary and Coy Maness’s love story as they celebrated their one-year wedding anniversary. It distills the essence of true love into its most basic expressions: a smile, a touch. “Without saying a word, you can light up the dark,” the lyrics say… There’s no policy set by the state Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, which provides care to 8,000 individuals.
Had his life not been influenced by a prominent psychologist as an undergraduate student, M. David Rudd says he could have ended up a helicopter pilot with the Army. The son of a U.S. Marine, Rudd, 53, attended Princeton University on a military scholarship and planned to have a military career like his father. Instead, he is slated to take the helm at the University of Memphis in two weeks as the university’s 12th president. The Tennessee Board of Regents on Thursday afternoon approved Rudd as the university’s next president. TBR chancellor John Morgan recommended Rudd over three other finalists.
David Rudd, provost of the University of Memphis, was approved Thursday, May 1, as the next president of the city’s largest higher education institution. Meeting in a telephone conference call Thursday afternoon, the Tennessee Board of Regents approved Rudd as the university’s president. Thursday’s vote follows a recommendation from Regents Chancellor John Morgan last week. Rudd assumes his duties May 16, succeeding Brad Martin, who has been interim president since Shirley Raines retired in July.
As expected, the University of Memphis has named David Rudd as its new president today after a vote by the school’s board of trustees. Rudd, currently provost of the university, was recommended by the presidential search committee to be named president. Rudd was one of four finalists announced in March to replace Shirley Raines, who retired last year. Brad Martin has served as interim president since last summer.
Tennessee is kicking off Motorcycle Awareness Month in an effort to decrease traffic accidents and deaths. A kickoff to the campaign is scheduled to take place at Opry Mills in Nashville on Friday, featuring Kendell Poole, director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Office, Transportation Commissioner John Schroer and Col. Tracy Trott, the commander of the Tennessee Highway Patrol. More than 2,800 motorcyclists crashed last year, resulting in 135 deaths. Since the beginning of this year, there have been 337 motorcycle crashes and 14 fatalities.
Nashville’s economy may be dominated by health care, but Tennessee’s health care landscape still ranks among the nation’s worst, according to the 2014 state health scorecard by the Commonwealth Fund. Overall, Tennessee ranked 40th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Scorecard ranks states based on five categories: access, prevention and treatment, avoidable hospital use and cost, healthy lifestyles and equity — meaning availability of services across racial and socioeconomic groups. The entire Southeast performed poorly. “In some areas, particularly in lower-income areas, people’s incomes haven’t been keeping up with premiums,” said Cathy Schoen, senior vice president for policy, research and evaluation at The Commonwealth Fund.
Eight candidates have applied to fill an upcoming vacancy on the state Court of Appeals caused by the Gov. Bill Haslam’s appointment of Judge Holly Kirby to the state Supreme Court. Kirby’s appointment to the state’s highest court is effective Sept. 1. All but one of the candidates, Madison County attorney Steven Wayne Maroney, are from Shelby County. They include Chancellor Kenny Armstrong, Circuit Judge Robert Lawson Childers and attorneys Frank S. Cantrell, Oscar C. Carr III, Stephen D. Crawley, Brandy Suzanne Parrish and Stacie S. Winkler.
Some 8 million people, including 151,352 Tennesseans, have enrolled in insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act marketplace, the government said Thursday. That’s just shy of half of the 305,628 Tennesseans the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services determined are eligible to enroll — 169,740 of them with financial assistance. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius noted a “surge” that “doubled” national enrollment between March 1 and the March 31 deadline to enroll for this year. Texas, Florida and Georgia had especially big increases, she said. Tennessee saw more than 91,000 enroll between Feb. 1 and March 31.
The number of Tennesseans enrolled in the federal health insurance marketplace nearly doubled from March 1 to April 19, according to data released today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In Tennessee, enrollment numbers jumped from 77,867 to 151,352, a 94 percent increase, during those seven weeks. Nationally, the total number of enrollees rose to a little more than 8.0 million, up from 4.2 million as of March 1. Tennessee’s enrollees account for 1.89 percent of the nation’s total. (View the government’s report here.)
More than 150,000 Tennesseans selected a marketplace health insurance plan during the month of March, more than tripling the state’s 77,000-plus enrollment as of the end of February. National enrollment topped 8 million, according to the Department of Health and Human Services latest report on enrollment figures, released Thursday. You can read the HHS report here and be sure to check back with NashvilleBusinessJournal.com Friday for a deeper look at national and local figures.
Federal regulators cited the Tennessee Valley Authority on Thursday for an emergency plan that failed to adequately staff the control room at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant in Alabama. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a white inspection finding against TVA for a license violation in the plant’s radiological emergency plan. NRC staff said the violations had “low to moderate safety significance” and issued an order confirming that TVA corrected the inappropriate changes in the Browns Ferry emergency plan. A white finding is the lowest in the NRC’s four-color enforcement action plan.
A Nashville charter school is closing its doors at the end of May. Boys Prep opened in 2012 and almost from the beginning had its share of problems. “I feel sad. I feel sad because I do feel like we let down the families and the students,” Chief Operating Officer Michelle Bouton said. “Board turnover was a big thing. Leadership turnover was another big thing. When you have that type of instability your foundation isn’t strong.” Last October NewsChannel 5 visited the charter after Metro Schools put them on probation, citing issues with academic, organizational and financial performance.
Your state legislature has wrapped up its business for the year, completing the 108th Tennessee General Assembly. Over the past two years, we have made substantial progress on policies that encourage job growth, ensure our students are obtaining the best education possible, and protect the rights and freedoms that Tennesseans value. As other states and Washington, D.C., deal with crushing debt, high taxes and an unfriendly business environment, Tennessee is on the right track. Our state’s debt ratio is the lowest in the nation, our budget is balanced and our taxes are low. This was a difficult budget year, but we actually cut the total budget by 2.4 percent by eliminating wasteful spending, instead of raising taxes on hardworking Tennesseans.
The expansion of East Tennessee Children’s Hospital in the Fort Sanders area will be good for Knoxville and East Tennessee. The $75 million project, expected to break ground in August, recently won unanimous approval from the state. The expansion will include a new five-story building on White Avenue at 21st Street to house an expanded 44-bed neonatal intensive care unit and perioperative surgery center. Children’s Hospital CEO Keith Goodwin said the Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency, the state agency that approved the expansion, was very supportive.