This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
The person who knows Bill Haslam best took a few minutes to describe the man most only know as the governor of Tennessee. “For him, the glass is not half empty or half full,” Crissy Haslam said. “It’s full all of the time.” Crissy Haslam joined her husband in the conference center at the Humboldt Medical Center for the Governor’s Luncheon during the 77th annual West Tennessee Strawberry Festival on Friday. “He understands he cannot please all the people all of the time,” the first lady said. “Originally, he wanted to be a teacher, and he sees education as a solution for so many problems in our state.”
Speaking to members of the Republican National Committee at a Peabody luncheon during the second day of the RNC’s spring meeting in Memphis on Thursday, Governor Bill Haslam did his best to counter the image of the GOP as anti-government and may, in the process, have — incidentally or on purpose — furthered his prospects for consideration on a Republican national ticket somewhere down the line. “We need to spend more time talking about what we’re for rather than what we’re against,” Haslam told the RNC members, and a good starting point, he said, was to do away with the idea that government is a “bad” thing.
Gov. Bill Haslam has signed into law bills requiring Tennessee schools to teach cursive writing and political parties to give 180 days advance notice of a primary. Both measures cleared the state House and Senate during sessions in mid April. Under the cursive writing bill — proposed by state Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia — the state board of education and local education boards must include cursive writing as part of curriculum standards at the appropriate grade level. In the second bill, the county executive committee of a statewide political party would have to notify a county’s election commission of a called primary at least 180 days before the candidate qualifying deadline.
A change in the way unemployment insurance rates are assessed for new companies moving to the state of Tennessee may provide a nice boost to the state’s corporate recruitment. In fact, state officials estimate it attracting five more companies to the state per year. Previously, companies relocating to Tennessee were charged a new employer rate for their first three years in the state, typically a much higher premium than established companies with a good employment history. This session, the General Assembly passed a bill removing that practice, replacing it with a model that takes into account a newly relocated company’s employment history in its former state.
New guidelines for prescribing controlled substances will change some doctor-patient relationships in Tennessee. Men with chronic back pain may have trouble getting their usual amount of hydrocodone. Women who suffer panic attacks can expect to be asked about birth control before getting Xanax. The actions are being taken because of rampant pill popping. The number of babies born dependent on drugs grew tenfold from 2001 to 2011. And Tennessee ranks second in the nation for having the highest per capita rate for opioid use. Unintentional overdose deaths increased more than 250 percent from 2001 to 2011.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s push to topple three Tennessee Supreme Court justices will use the death penalty as a cudgel. Ramsey’s office on Friday provided a copy of a 31-page PowerPoint presentation summarizing a growing push to oust Justices Gary Wade, Cornelia Clark and Sharon Lee in August elections, in part trying to paint the trio as “soft on crime” by highlighting two death penalty cases. But Ramsey’s presentation paints a simplistic picture of two complex capital punishment cases that didn’t end in the death chamber. At worst, one prominent Republican attorney says, it’s an outright misleading portrayal.
Harlan Mathews, who was appointed to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Al Gore after he was elected vice president in 1992, died Friday. He was 87. A family spokesman said Mathews died at a hospice in Nashville with his wife, Pat, by his side. He had recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Lamar Alexander, a former two-term governor who succeeded Thompson in the Senate, said Mathews was a much loved figure in state government. “Except for his great friend Ned McWherter, no one had more friends around the state Capitol than Harlan Mathews did,” Alexander said.
Harlan Mathews, a longtime state official and right-hand man to a governor, a man who preferred to work behind the scenes but was briefly thrust into the limelight as a U.S. senator, died this morning, a family spokesman said. He was 87. The cause of death was brain cancer. He died about 6 a.m. Mr. Mathews was a fixture at the Capitol for all but a couple of years from 1950 into the 1990s, serving under four Democratic governors and holding the constitutional office of state treasurer — a position elected by the General Assembly — from 1974 to 1987.
Former Democratic US Senator and Tennessee State Treasurer Harlan Mathews has died. He had a long tenure in state government. His tour of duty began in the 1950s, when he worked as an assistant to Governor Frank Clement. Mathews served as state Finance Director from 1961 to 1971. He was elected State Treasurer by the General Assembly in 1974. He later served as deputy governor under Ned McWherter. In late 1992, McWherter appointed Mathews to the US Senate, taking Al Gore’s place after he became Vice President. “Some people claim I have been working in state government since James K. Polk was governor,” Mathews quipped at a press conference announcing his appointment.
Harlan Mathews, the one-time U.S. Senator who spent much of his life behind the curtain of Tennessee state government, died today. He was 87. Doctors recently diagnosed Mathews with a brain tumor. He died at Alive Hospice. Funeral services have not yet been finalized. Mathews’ political history spanned nearly half a century, winding throughout much of the executive branch of state government before eventually leading him to replace Al Gore as Tennessee’s U.S. Senator in 1993. Appointed to the post by Gov. Ned McWherter, Mathews served in the Senate for two years. He never sought election to political office.
A decision on where Volkswagen will build a new SUV could come as early as Monday, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The paper quotes an unnamed source saying the VW supervisory board will meet and could be ready to pick either Chattanooga or a plant in Mexico. Tennessee had extended a $300 million incentive package but withdrew the offer as workers were voting on unionization at the plant. Governor Bill Haslam said this week there has been very little communication with VW since the failed union vote.
It was sobering news on Wednesday when the latest assessment of the “nation’s report card” disclosed that only about one-quarter of high school seniors performed well in math. But it also further demonstrates why Tennessee and other states need the Common Core State Standards. The 2013 exam given by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) showed little change from 2009, when it was last given to 12th-graders. Twenty-six percent of students in a national sample of 92,000 public and private school students reached “proficient” or higher.
Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has shown there is good reason why the state’s appellate judges should not be selected by popular elections and why it is not wise to give the General Assembly a say in the selection of those judges. The Blountville Republican is spearheading an effort to defeat state Supreme Court justices Cornelia Clark, Sharon Lee and Gary Wade in their Aug. 7 retention elections. The national Republican State Legislative Committee has indicated it may join the campaign. Several out-of-state conservative interests groups are considering funding it. The justices’ sins, according to an ouster strategy plan? The cliched conservative attack phrases that they are “soft on crime” and “anti-business.”