This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Brandon Green, 10, held down the STEMfinity station in Knowledge Quest’s STEM fair last week with the authority of a lawman and the grace of an angel. “Sure, you can try,” he told one of about 150 youngsters swirling from exhibit to exhibit in the Renaissance Center in South Memphis. “I’ll help you if you have trouble because it has to be done right.” On the tablet screen in his booth were pictures of the Erector Set-like parts and the steps for creating a robotic dragonfly. Judging by both the age and enthusiasm of the crowd, it is both an early and captivating introduction to the power of STEM.
The image of Paul Newman as the rebellious inmate in “Cool Hand Luke,” cigarette dangling from his lips, is as iconic as it is outdated, because most jails banned tobacco decades ago. But the new crop of so-called “e-cigarettes” may change that. Jails in Tennessee — including Sumner and Rutherford counties — are allowing inmates to smoke electronic cigarettes behind bars to help pacify what can be a rowdy population, but also as a revenue source. These disposable e-cigarettes, which usually cost the inmates between $9 and $15 each, contain no tobacco but instead use a low-voltage battery to deliver the key chemical in cigarettes, nicotine, while emitting only water vapor.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has confirmed a pair of state fishing records, one for a recently-caught Alabama bass and another for a spotted bass caught three years ago. According to the agency, the State Record Fish Program previously considered the Alabama bass to be a subspecies of the spotted bass. But the Alabama bass recently was elevated to species status. The change means that an Alabama bass caught by Shane McKee, of Cleveland, on March 10, 2014, now becomes the first record Alabama bass. The bass weighed 6 pounds, 15.5 ounces and was 23 inches long.
A look back at some of the legislation impacting business that was addressed by recently-adjourned 108th General Assembly: Diesel tax railroaded At the behest of Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration, lawmakers approved a bill that eliminates Tennessee’s 7 percent sales tax on diesel fuel used by railroads and replaces it with a 17-cents-per-gallon levy. The bill (HB1769), drafted by the state Department of Revenue, follows a U.S. District Court ruling in lawsuits brought by large railroad companies. The railroads contended the sales tax violated a federal law prohibiting states from discriminating against railroad carriers through tax laws.
State Rep. Joe Carr describes himself on his campaign website as a farmer and small businessman, but a financial disclosure form filed on Friday shows most of Carr’s income last year came from his salary and per diem allowances as a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports the Lascassas Republican who is hoping to defeat Sen. Lamar Alexander listed a salary from the state of a little over $28,000. He earned just over $2,000 from cattle sales and another $19,000 as a consultant for a Murfreesboro automotive repair company.
Americans have signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act in greater numbers than even the White House anticipated, but Republicans aren’t giving up their campaign to dismantle the law. President Barack Obama announced in mid-April that some 8 million Americans have signed up for health insurance through the exchanges created under the four-year-old “Obamacare” law, outpacing the initial goal of 7 million. The open enrollment period ended March 31. Before the White House celebrated the latest numbers, the Republican-led U.S. House voted for the 52nd time to either change or repeal the law.
Employment at the federal facilities in Oak Ridge has been surprisingly stable over the past several years, especially given the partisan chaos in Congress and the budget battles that crop up frequently with even greater fervor. The potential for some job losses certainly exists in the days and months ahead, although the threat is less compared to post-Cold War times. In the 1990s, the U.S. Department of Energy seriously trimmed its Oak Ridge payroll. A big transition is underway, however, at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant.
Dr. M. David Rudd, the University of Memphis provost who served as point man for interim president R. Brad Martin’s initiatives to cut costs, increase enrollment and graduate more students, will be at the university’s helm in about two weeks. The Tennessee Board of Regents on Thursday approved Rudd, 53, as the university’s 12th president. TBR Chancellor John Morgan recommended Rudd over three other finalists, all of whom outscored Rudd in an online evaluation of his qualifications for the presidency. Rudd also had strong backing from Gov. Bill Haslam and Martin, who was appointed by Haslam as interim president when Dr. Shirley Raines retired last summer.