This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Governor’s free tuition plan viewed as incentive for high school students (AP)
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s program to cover a full ride at two-year colleges for any high school graduate could be an incentive for students to perform better in school after a report shows most 12th-graders aren’t prepared for college, education experts say. Results released Wednesday on the National Assessment of Education Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card, show slightly fewer than four out of 10 students nationwide have the math and reading skills needed for entry-level college courses.
Editorial: Free college tuition plan can improve K-12 schools (Jackson Sun)
Gov. Bill Haslam has been busy this week with ceremonial signings of his Tennessee Promise legislation that offers free community college education to any Tennessee high school graduate. On Wednesday, he was in Jackson for a signing held at North Side High School. The much-touted legislation has the potential to change the education landscape in Tennessee like no other in the past. Signing the bill at Tennessee high schools across the state is the right place to start. Beginning in 2015, high school graduates will not have an excuse to not go to college. But will they be ready?
Haslam signs for free college tuition (Jackson Sun)
Tennessee high school students will soon have an additional incentive to attend college through the Tennessee Promise, a state law signed Wednesday by Gov. Bill Haslam in a ceremony in Jackson. The program will provide high school graduates with two years of community college or technical school education for free starting in 2015, Haslam told a group of 11th-grade students at North Side High School on Wednesday morning. “Through the Tennessee Promise, we are fighting the rising cost of higher education, and we are raising our expectations as a state,” Haslam said.
Governor Haslam Signs New Education Bill at North Side High School (WBBJ-TV)
Local students gathered in North Side High School’s auditorium on Wednesday as Governor Bill Haslam signed a bill that would send students to college for free. “We’re trying to let high school students who didn’t think they could afford college know that they now can in Tennessee,” Gov. Haslam said. According to Gov. Haslam, graduating high school seniors can attend two years of community college or a college of applied technology absolutely free of tuition and fees.
Haslam signs ‘Tennessee Promise’ law (Lebanon Democrat)
Gov. Bill Haslam held a ceremonial bill signing Tuesday at Tutco Inc. to sign the “Tennessee Promise” legislation into law. The historic proposal, which was approved overwhelmingly by the General Assembly, commits to providing two years of community college or a college of applied technology free of tuition and fees to graduating high school seniors on a continuing basis. “Through the Tennessee Promise, we are fighting the rising cost of higher education, and we are raising our expectations as a state,” Haslam said.
Governor makes stop at TUTCO to sign ‘Tennessee Promise’ bill (Herald-Citizen)
Cookeville was the first of seven stops Haslam will be making this week to sign the bill, which commits to providing two years of community college or a college of applied technology absolutely free of tuition and fees to graduating high school seniors on a continuing basis. “Through the Tennessee Promise, we are fighting the rising cost of higher education and we are raising our expectations as a state,” Haslam said. “We are committed to making a clear statement to families that education beyond high school is a priority in the state of Tennessee.”
Haslam Kicks Off ‘Tennessee Promise’ Signing Tour (TN Report)
Gov. Bill Haslam visited the floor of a factory in Cookeville Tuesday for a ceremonial signing of his initiative to provide free community college or tech school to all Tennesseans who seek it. The General Assembly put its stamp of approval on the Tennessee Promise legislation in overwhelming bipartisan votes last month. The measure passed 87-8 in the House and 30-1 in the Senate. This week Haslam’s touring the state to talk up the new program, which he calls “a bold promise” that shows the state under his leadership is “fighting the rising cost of higher education.”
5 cases of measles reported in Tennessee (Associated Press)
A spokesman for the state Department of Health says five cases of measles have been reported in Tennessee this year. Woody McMillin told The Jackson Sun that residents living in Madison, Gibson, Hardeman, Hamilton and Shelby counties have been diagnosed with the highly contagious disease. A statement from the department says it is the first time measles has been reported in Tennessee in three years. The disease has been considered eliminated in the United States since 2000 other than occasional outbreaks due to people traveling overseas, and then spreading it among those who aren’t vaccinated. For most of the past decade, the nation was seeing only about 60 cases a year. But since 2010, the average has been nearly 160.
Chattanooga sees first measles case in 12 years (Times Free-Press/Harrison)
Tennessee health officials are investigating five measles cases that have broken out over the last month — the highest count the state has seen in nearly 20 years. One victim of the highly contagious disease visited Chattanooga on May 7 and was likely contagious during the visit, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department officials said. The local case is the first the county has seen since 2002, said Margaret Zylstra, epidemiology manager at the department. The nation is seeing its highest number of measles cases this year in nearly two decades, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.
Measles cases put health-care providers on ‘heightened awareness’ (N-S/Nelson)
Five cases of measles in five Tennessee counties appear to be linked to a single traveler who was exposed in another country, the state Department of Health reported Wednesday. The health department is investing the cases, one each in Hamilton, Madison, Gibson, Hardemann and Shelby counties. The first case was linked to a traveler; the other four are in people known to have close contact with that person. Health department state is now investigating close contacts of those four people. “While the focus is currently on five counties, all Tennesseans should be aware of their vulnerability,” said Woody McMillin, spokesman for the health department.
Officials to launch ‘Click It or Ticket’ campaign (Associated Press)
The Governor’s Highway Safety Office is urging Tennessee motorists to buckle up. The agency will join the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the Hendersonville Police Department and the Sumner County Sheriff’s Office in Hendersonville on Thursday to kick off the “Click It or Ticket” campaign. Last year, officials say more than 360 fatal crash victims in Tennessee were not wearing a seat belt. So far this year, 128 fatal crash victims were unrestrained. The “Click It or Ticket” National Enforcement Mobilization efforts take place Monday through June 1.
Ex-lawmaker named to Tennessee Election Commission (Associated Press)
Former state Rep. Donna Rowland Barrett has been appointed to fill a vacancy on the Tennessee State Election Commission. The Murfreesboro Republican served in the state House for 10 years before retiring from the General Assembly in 2010, the same year she married Ronnie Barrett, founder of Barrett Firearms Manufacturing in Murfreesboro. She now runs the Barrett Group, which specializes in cost control strategies. Barrett fills the vacancy created by fellow former Republican state Rep. Tom DuBois of Columbia, who is running for circuit judge.
Donna Barrett named to Tennessee State Election Commission (TFP/Sher)
Former state Rep. Donna Rowland Barrett has been appointed to the Tennessee State Election Commission, Secretary of State Tré Hargett said Wednesday. Barrett is principal of The Barrett Group, a business consulting firm, and is from Murfreesboro. The Republican served 10 years in the state House representing part of Rutherford County. The seven-member State Election Commission appoints county election commissioners in all of Tennessee’s 95 counties and monitors their activities and performance.
Justice William C. Koch defends judicial appointments (Tennessean/Humbles)
A retiring Tennessee Supreme Court justice who will be the future dean of the Nashville School of Law wants to keep politics and the justice system separate as debate continues over how judges are selected and retained. William C. Koch spoke Wednesday in Lebanon at the 15th Judicial Bar Association’s regular monthly meeting and gave his personal thoughts about retention election, though it wasn’t part of his luncheon address. State Supreme Court justices and appellate judges now are appointed by the governor, and those judges are re-elected by a yes-no vote without opposition.
Most TN reps stay quiet about voting rights legislation (Tennessean/Barton)
With political heat intensifying about voting rights, most members of Congress from Tennessee are staying mum on whether the Voting Rights Act needs strengthening after a 2013 court ruling that many saw as eviscerating the landmark law. Republican Reps. Diane Black of Gallatin, Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood, Stephen Fincher of Frog Jump, Chuck Fleischmann of Ooltewah, John Duncan Jr. of Knoxville and Phil Roe of Johnson City declined to answer repeated questions put to their offices about whether they would support legislation addressing the Supreme Court ruling.
Group says TN liquor payment measure could hurt small restaurants (CA/Locker)
Restaurateurs in Memphis and across the state are urging Gov. Bill Haslam to veto a bill requiring them to pay wholesalers for liquor and wine shipments at the time of delivery, a change from state law giving them 10 days to pay up. The Memphis Restaurant Association says the provision “could put small restaurants out of business and puts the health of the entire Tennessee hospitality industry in jeopardy.” Liquor wholesalers who sought the change say most liquor-by-the-drink retailers already pay at the time of delivery and have always had to pay for beer at the time of delivery.
ACLU Calls On Haslam To Break Ties With Prison Company CCA (WPLN-Radio)
The ACLU plans to deliver a petition to Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday, asking that the state end dozens of contracts with Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America. It comes the same day the nation’s largest for-profit prison company has its annual shareholders meeting. The ACLU says CCA has a track record of cutting corners to save money. In a letter to the governor, it points to an FBI investigation into alleged lying about staffing levels at an Idaho prison. A former guard at the same facility claims in a lawsuit that he was given empty pepper spray containers and a radio without batteries – in addition to being assaulted.
Alexander questions wind energy transmission line (Times Free-Press/Flessner)
TVA could tap into the abundant wind energy of the Great Plains to help power the Tennessee Valley with carbon-free electricity if the federal utility agrees to support one of America’s biggest direct-current transmission lines. But two Tennessee Republicans in Congress are urging TVA not to get blown away too quickly by the claims offered by those backing the wind energy proposal. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., asked TVA Wednesday to carefully evaluate the reliability and security of importing wind energy over a 700-mile transmission line proposed to be built from Oklahoma to Tennessee.
Income Tax Yo-Yo Hits U.S. States (Wall Street Journal)
Many state governments were pulled out of the recession by a surge in tax revenue from their residents’ stock-market gains. But that money spigot has slowed, leaving budget holes and debates over the reliance on the wealthy just as many governors face re-election. While a number of states had forecast lower growth this year in personal income-tax revenue—which is derived in part from capital gains on investments—they failed to project the degree of the decline. Government figures show that state income tax collections nationwide slipped 0.4% in the first quarter, the first drop since the end of 2009, according to the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government. But the decline is magnified in some states.
Students Paying Bigger Share of Public College Costs (Stateline)
Once public university tuition goes up, it rarely, if ever, goes down. Since the Great Recession ended, states have been struggling to control tuition costs with a patchwork of tuition freezes, more student aid and additional state funds. Caught in the middle are students and their families, who have had to pick up a growing proportion of the cost of college by paying higher tuition. Average tuition and fees at public four-year colleges grew from $7,008 to $8,893, or 27 percent, from 2008-09 to 2013-14, according to a study by the College Board. State and local funding for public colleges and universities is finally on the rise again in many states, after hitting bottom in fiscal year 2012.
DOE transfers 25 acres for private development in Oak Ridge (N-S/Munger)
For the 12th time since 1995, the U.S. Department of Energy has transferred ownership of government property to a reuse organization, setting the stage for more private industrial development at the site of a former uranium-enrichment plant. Mark Whitney, DOE’s environmental manager in Oak Ridge, and Lawrence Young, president and CEO of the Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee, signed the documents Wednesday transferring two parcels — totaling about 25 acres — to CROET. A number of dignitaries — including U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., and David Klaus, DOE’s deputy undersecretary for management and performance — and business leaders were on hand for the ceremony.
VW looks ahead (Chattanooga Times Free-Press/Pare)
Volkswagen officials told Chattanooga air pollution regulators in an April letter that they were moving ahead with an initial factory expansion to support “existing and future product lines” and start “Phase 2” of the plant’s construction. The second phase at the plant could nearly double production to 300,000 units a year if it eventually is finished, the company has said. While Volkswagen officials said the addition cited in the letter to the Air Pollution Control Bureau relates to the existing Passat, it’s seen as a positive sign that the automaker is eyeing Chattanooga as it considers where to put production of a new sport utility vehicle.
National site selectors size up Nashville (Nashville Business Journal)
There’s a quartet in Nashville this week and each member has the potential to bring hundreds or thousands of jobs to the area. Four national site selectors addressed the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce Wednesday, the first of two days they’ll be in town. The foursome sized up the city’s pros and cons and gave a sense of how Nashville is stacking up compared to the competition across the country, and around the world. “Nashville is one of the few other places I would live. It just feels good. It feels like home, and that’s what I say to clients,” said Chris Lloyd, a senior vice president at McGuireWoods Consulting (Lloyd is a longtime resident of Richmond, Va.).
Knox County Schools to get $2.9M less from state (News-Sentinel/McCoy, Witt)
Knox County Schools is one of at least three school districts in the state affected by the most recent round of Basic Education Program estimates released by the state. The school system learned late last week that it could be looking at $2.9 million less in state funding than previously estimated, which could cause it to possibly re-evaluate its 2014-15 budget again. “It’s not the final BEP figure but if that BEP estimate from May holds, that could have a significant impact on revenues for the Knox County Schools for the coming year,” said Schools Superintendent Jim McIntyre in an interview with the News Sentinel.
Compromise between Shelby Schools, districts led to split of funds (CA/Bailey)
The approximately $1 million allocated to each suburban school system this week as part of the county’s capital improvement funds for public schools was the result of a compromise between county and suburban school leaders — two sides some think aren’t cooperating. The agreement was reached after the possibility arose that the six new suburban districts would not receive a share of the initial $53 million requested by Shelby County Schools for capital improvement projects this fiscal year. The question centered on opposing legal opinions on whether the municipalities qualified for an average daily attendance split of the money.
Two more Nashville charter schools get Gates Foundation grants (Tenn/Garrison)
Two Nashville charter schools — Knowledge Academies and RePublic High School — have earned planning grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation aimed at helping each develop similar schools down the road. The announcement, made Wednesday by the Gates-funded Next Generation Learning Challenges, comes on the heels of a third Nashville charter school, Valor Collegiate Academy, earning one of 16 Gates Foundation grants awarded last week to new or redesigned schools. That grant was valued at $450,000, plus a matching contribution of $650,000 from Nashville’s Tommy and Julie Frist.
Guest columnist: Common Core advantage, by the numbers (Commercial Appeal)
“One of the best ways to improve your math scores is to learn your times tables,” I told one of my junior honors students. “But that’s what the calculator is for!” he replied earnestly. Students today have been raised to believe that math means entering numbers and hitting keys on a calculator. As a high school teacher, it is painful for me to see students struggle because they lack the numbers sense and problem-solving skills they need. The beauty of mathematics — its logic and patterns, and the inherent problem-solving skills that come with mastery — has been lost.
Editorial: Too many die on Tennessee highways (Tennessean)
As the family of Michael Petrina prepares this week to lay the slain Metro Nashville police officer to rest, it is a time for mourning a young life lost — and a time to think about how hazardous Tennessee highways can be. Officer Petrina, 25 years old and only months out of the police academy, was directing traffic around the site of an overturned pickup on Interstate 65 at Old Hickory Boulevard when a motor home rounded a blind curve, adjusted to avoid hitting Petrina’s parked patrol car and a Tennessee Department of Transportation truck, but struck the officer.
Times Editorial: Let’s hope political ‘intangibles’ haven’t blocked our VW SUV (TFP)
In mid-February, mere hours before the Volkswagen-UAW vote was to commence in Chattanooga, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said an announcement could be expected in two weeks that VW would bring its new SUV production line here if — emphasis on if — the Chattanooga VW workers voted against unionizing. They did. The workers rejected the union with 712 “no” and 626 “yes” votes. Now it’s mid-May, going on 13 weeks later, and still there’s no announcement. First Corker and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and other state officials blamed the delay in bringing a second auto assembly line and at least 1,000 new jobs here on a UAW appeal.
Mike Bell: It is an election, isn’t it? (Chattanooga Times Free-Press)
Is it an election or not? You can’t have it both ways. Tennessee’s constitution says the state’s Supreme Court justices “shall be elected by the qualified voters of the state.” Although a “yes” or “no” retention vote is not my interpretation of this straightforward mandate, a special panel appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court found that it meets the state’s constitutional requirement. My personal view aside, a constitutional initiative will be on the ballot this November which will put to rest this four-decades-old question once and for all. But that is in November; let’s talk about what happens in August.
Frank Cagle: GOP’s Turn: Retention Vote is an Election? (Metro Pulse)
Those of us who have argued that Supreme Court justices should be elected, as the state constitution requires, have been told that electing judges introduces politics and money into the process, corrupting our judicial system. How is it then that war chests are being filled by both sides for the retention election scheduled for this August? Big money and politics being introduced into judicial races? Oh, the horror. Advocates for appointed judges say the constitution doesn’t really mean what it says. Having a retention election for justices, after eight years in office, serves the requirement of the constitution. How then are they horrified that the retention election in August is being treated like, well, an election?
Editorial: Veterans need full medical care access (Daily News Journal)
As the United States works to reduce its military engagements around the world, it also should work even harder to provide adequate compensation and services for those who have chosen to fight for this country. Investigations of care in Veterans Affairs medical facilities have brought allegations that veterans who may have survived combat died because they could not schedule necessary medical care in these VA medical facilities. Audits are underway at VA medical facilities in Murfreesboro and Nashville, and we hope their findings will show a more than adequate level of medical care for veterans, particularly in regard to access to medical services.