This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Gov. Bill Haslam has advice for the national Republican Party. In his home state Thursday, he had the perfect audience. It was the Republican National Committee, gathered at The Peabody for its spring meeting. Beginning Wednesday, the Grand Old Party’s leaders convened in the place that calls itself the South’s “grand hotel,” conducting party business and, by the time it’s done, hearing from at least two men mentioned as potential 2016 presidential candidates. Haslam, speaking to a luncheon group in which he dined between RNC chairman Reince Priebus and Tennessee party chair Chris Devaney, urged the party to “have a stronger voice” in national conversations concerning the size of government and income inequality.
Thursday was a big day for Republicans in Shelby County. It was the second round of the Republican National Convention’s annual spring meeting, a three-day affair taking place at The Peabody through the auspices of Memphis lawyer John Ryder, the RNC’s general counsel. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam had earlier addressed an RNC luncheon meeting , and, as a culmination of the day’s activities RNC members from across the nation were girding to hear an evening speech by Florida Senator Marco Rubio, one of two bona fide 2016 presidential hopefuls on hand — the other being Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, scheduled to speak to committee members on Friday.
Gov. Bill Haslam assured reporters Wednesday he hasn’t given up on the prospect of the state accepting federal funding to expand taxpayer-financed health coverage for lower income Tennesseans. Speaking during a press conference at Lipscomb University in Nashville, the Republican governor stressed, as he has before, that his administration faces a daunting political challenge in fashioning a Medicaid-expansion policy acceptable both to the Obama administration and the GOP-run Tennessee General Assembly.
Two major players in Tennessee health care suggested Wednesday that Medicaid expansion in the state still has potential, but compromise won’t be easy. On Community Health Systems’ earnings conference call, Chairman, President and CEO Wayne Smith said he considered Tennessee on the list of non-expansion states that may turn toward the federal money after public opinion shifts. The federal government will pay for 100 percent of expansion costs through 2016, after which the state must pay 10 percent.
Middle Tennessee State University and Civil Air Patrol’s Tennessee Wing have agreed to partner in aerospace education for state high school students in the U.S. Air Force auxiliary’s cadet program. The agreement puts into play the educational resources of the university’s Department of Aerospace and College of Basic and Applied Sciences to engage cadets in science and technology pursuits. Aerospace education is one of the primary missions of the CAP, a 61,000-member volunteer civilian organization founded in 1941 and chartered by Congress to support the Air Force.
Public universities in Tennessee could be looking at tuition increases that range from 4 to 8 percent as the Tennessee Board of Regents prepares to make up for reduced state revenue. Formal tuition proposals won’t be ready until May 27. But at a TBR Finance Committee meeting Thursday, officials gave school-by-school estimates for maintenance fee increases based on needs and new requests articulated by the institutions. Dale Sims, TBR’s vice chancellor for business and finance, called the numbers “as much as anything a sharing of information” and stressed that none of the amounts has been recommended for a final vote.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is hosting the 2014 Becoming an Outdoorswoman workshop in Crossville. The workshop takes place June 6-8 and is an opportunity for anyone 18 or older to learn outdoor skills associated with hunting and fishing. Workshop participants will have the opportunity to take a variety of courses over the three days. Some of the classes on offer include firearms, fishing, all-terrain vehicle operation, archery, outdoor cooking, wild edible foray, nature photography, canoeing, map and compass skills, hunting and trapping, scuba, stream ecology and boat trailer basics.
TennCare fraud charges have been lodged against five people in Weakley County. The arrests were part of a four-month undercover operation involving officers from Dresden Police, the Weakley County Sheriff’s Office, and the Office of Inspector (OIG). All the charges involve people selling prescription drugs. The five arrested and charged with TennCare fraud: * Carl Gallimore, 67, of Dresden, charged with TennCare fraud in connection with using TennCare benefits to obtain the painkiller hydrocodone and later selling a portion of the drugs. He is also charged with sale of schedule III controlled substance to an undercover agent within 1,000 feet of a school zone.
The imprisoned Nashville attorney who has admitted to stealing from four clients who had been entrusted to his care has been disbarred from the practice of law by the state Supreme Court. In a two-page order issued this week, the court cited John E. Clemmons’ guilty plea to theft and fraud charges in cases filed in Davidson and Rutherford counties. Clemmons, 66, is now serving a combined 18-year sentence on those charges at the Charles Bass Correctional Center in Nashville. Clemmons is also being sued in pending civil cases in state court for the more than $1 million he took from clients.
A bill where cell phone privacy collided with personal safety awaits action by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. The measure pushed by Wilson County State Senator Mae Beavers calls for law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before officers look at cell phone data. “We are supposed to be free from unwarranted search and seizure,” said the lawmaker earlier this year while referencing the 4th Amendment. Law enforcement groups such as the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, along with sheriff and police associations, strongly voiced concerns about how the bill was originally written.
Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey says he doesn’t intend to put any of his own campaign cash behind his push to defeat three Democratic state Supreme Court justices up for yes/no retention votes on the August ballot. “No, none,” Ramsey told reporters Thursday after a State Building Commission meeting at Legislative Plaza. Ramsey has been meeting with business and other groups about tackling Chief Justice Gary Wade and fellow Justices Sharon Lee and Cornelia Clark. His staff also has prepared a campaign outline that seeks to portray them as soft on crime and anti-business.
Gov. Bill Haslam says a campaign against three Supreme Court justices may “muddy the waters” in a separate vote on a state constitutional amendment while Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey disagrees. “I have not talked to the governor about this but I cannot connect the dots on that one,” Ramsey told reporters Thursday when asked about Haslam’s comments a day earlier. Both men support a proposed amendment to the state constitution that will be on the November ballot. It is intended to validate the current system for selection of Tennessee’s top judges, which calls for the governor to make the initial appointment and voters to decide later whether a given judge gets a new term in a yes-no “retention election.”
Rep. Jim Cooper had to fight Thursday to put a stake through the heart of a government program he thought was already dead. As the House Armed Services Committee considered its annual bill authorizing national defense programs and policies, Cooper saw that $120 million was being added to a government program that was supposed to be shut down — a mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication plant in South Carolina. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., sought the additional $120 million even though President Barack Obama’s budget already included $196 million for closing the facility.
As TVA stokes its power plants with less coal, the federal utility is looking at generating more power from natural gas and building co-generation plants with local manufacturers. TVA directors Thursday authorized the utility staff to negotiate a partnership with an unnamed manufacturer in the Tennessee Valley to build a $157 million co-generation steam plant. TVA President Bill Johnson also said the utility should soon decide whether it will replace its 55-year Allen Steam Plant in Memphis with a natural gas plant or other power source.
The Tennessee Valley Authority’s president and CEO says the utility expects to decide the future of the coal-fired Allen Fossil Plant in Memphis sometime this year. Bill Johnson spoke with reporters Thursday after the TVA’s board meeting in Memphis. Johnson said the TVA will field public comment on the power plant’s future before a decision is made about whether to convert it to a gas-operated facility or retire it and replace it with a new gas plant. The Allen plant generates about 4.8 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, enough for 340,000 homes.
Meeting in Memphis for the first time in seven years, TVA’s board of directors this week took in Beale Street and the National Civil Rights Museum and also visited the most unlikely of attractions: a 55-year-old power plant on the edge of town. The Allen Fossil Plant, as it turns out, was the focus of many comments Thursday during the public listening session before the Tennessee Valley Authority board’s quarterly meeting. Several audience members weighed in on a pending decision by TVA as to whether it should outfit the coal-fired plant with pollution scrubbers or retire it.
Before my selection to lead the Memphis Division as the special agent in charge, I had the privilege to work in the FBI’s Operational Technology Division. During that time, I helped craft part of the FBI’s Next Generation Cyber Initiative. We laid out long-term plans for all of law enforcement to prepare for the future of crime, spying and terrorism. That future is now. The Internet has provided the means for hostile foreign nations, hackers for hire and criminal syndicates to steal our personal information, intellectual property, technology and state secrets.