This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
When Gov. Bill Haslam was trying to sell his idea of letting students attend community colleges for free, he pointed to Pellissippi State Technical Community College’s Tennessee Achieves scholarship program. “We were able to sell it because of the success you’ve had,” he said Saturday night during the Knoxville community college’s spring commencement exercises at the University of Tennessee’s Thompson-Boling Arena. “You are the role model and foundation.” The governor was referring to his “Drive to 55” campaign, part of which will allow Tennessee high school graduates to attend a state community college or technical school for free through the Tennessee Promise scholarship program.
Thirty years ago Memphis adopted the economic development marketing slogan “America’s Distribution Center” to accentuate its transportation and logistics strengths. A new report by the Brookings Institution suggests that more than any other metropolitan area in the nation, Greater Memphis should broaden its view and look to “infrastructure jobs” to help spur growth and attack an 8.2-percent unemployment rate. The report, “Beyond Shovel-Ready: The Extent and Impact of U.S. Infrastructure Jobs,” finds that 99,140 jobs in Greater Memphis, or 17.8 percent, can be broadly linked to infrastructure.
In 2008, Shelby County went for Barack Obama by more than 100,000 votes. In 2012, it went for Obama by nearly that much. How, then, to explain this: Republicans up and down the county’s roster of elected officials, led by Mark Luttrell (mayor) and Amy Weirich (district attorney general). “It’s a pretty big accomplishment — it has been a pretty big accomplishment to have all of those Republicans elected countywide,” Chris Devaney, the chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, said. Devaney said this Thursday at The Peabody, where he was something of a host of a significant gathering — the Republican National Committee’s spring meetings.
The form is too darn long. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, East Tennessee State University’s spring commencement keynote speaker, let a federal financial aid form fall from above his head to the ground Saturday before graduation to show the amount of information and effort put into filling out forms for entry into college. Alexander, a Republican and former secretary of education in the early 1990s, said he basically wants to water down the multi-page form to just two questions: how many people in your family and how much income does your family collectively make.
Seven-year-old Jordan Lisle, a second grader, joined his family at a packed after-hours school event last month aimed at inspiring a new interest: computer programming. “I’m a little afraid he’s falling behind,” his mother, Wendy Lisle, said, explaining why they had signed up for the class at Strawberry Point Elementary School. The event was part of a national educational movement in computer coding instruction that is growing at Internet speeds. Since December, 20,000 teachers from kindergarten through 12th grade have introduced coding lessons, according to Code.org, a group backed by the tech industry that offers free curriculums.
Rayna Jaymes, Juliette Barnes and the rest of the “Nashville” gang haven’t played their last song. The ABC television network announced late Friday that “Nashville” has been renewed for third season — with a full run of 22 episodes — ending months of speculation about the future of the locally produced prime-time drama. As “Nashville” has been considered “on the bubble” between renewal and cancellation throughout its second season, Friday’s news came as a relief to the show’s devoted fans, as well as its cast and crew. “It’s another Nashville victory,” said actor Ed Amatrudo, who plays artist manager Glenn Goodman on “Nashville” and has called the real Music City home for the last 10 years.
BlueCross higher profits, reserves position insurer for growth in new health market Tennessee’s biggest health insurer helped insure its own financial health last year by rolling up record profits. The not-for-profit BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee boosted its net income in 2013 by 15 percent to a record high of $256 million. The income helped swell BlueCross total reserves at the end of 2013 to $2.3 billion, including $1.8 billion immediately available for paying claims — more than 36 percent above the state-required minimum. BlueCross officials say the extra income and reserves last year helped position the Chattanooga-based insurer for this year’s challenging expansions under the new health care reform law.